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February 15, 2020

Hal Brown blog Feb. 15, 2020 to-

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This is a blog with my own opinion plus some of today's stories that piqued my interest. Click on my photos to enlarge them. They are meant as moments of zen. Email Hal Brown (

Back to early February
My Valentines Day Trump story

Feb. 20, 2020

Feb. 19, 2020

Neat that Chauncey DeVega follows my tweets.

New parody website from Samantha Bee:
This is my reply to Sam Bee:

Julian Assange says he was promised a Trump pardon if he would lie about Russia’s DNC hacking

and who conveyed this promise? This guy:
The Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher would tell you he’s just a regular guy who loves his country and wishes he had more time to go surfing. But for 30 years, his southern California constituents have also dubbed him “crazy Dana”.

He’s a guy who, in the days of the Soviet Union, signed up for a week to fight alongside the mujahideen in Afghanistan. A guy who, in the early 1990s, got into a drunken arm-wrestling match with a young Vladimir Putin. Putin “put me down in a millisecond”, Rohrabacher recalled years later. “His muscles are just unbelievable.”

He’s notorious for making an ill-advised link between “dinosaur flatulence” and global warming; for his open disdain of homosexuals and undocumented immigrants; for welcoming a notorious Holocaust denier to Washington; and for thinking that the Oklahoma City bombing – widely regarded as a conspiracy of homegrown far-right radicals – was an Islamist plot cooked up by Middle Eastern radicals in the Philippines.

Just a gripe: If the Daily Beast charges a fee for select articles at least they can make a better photoshop than this:
This and a story by Sam Stein are behind a paywall which costs $35 a year. They are two of their best regular columnists, but do I want to add yet another online subscription to The New York Times (which just raised their rate to $17/mo) and The Washington Post? For me it is a matter of principle. 

What can Rick Wilson say, albeit in his usual acerbic style, beyond the title and first three paragraphs?

President Donald Trump, noted corruption fighter, on Tuesday sent a crystal-clear message to anyone considering public malfeasance or exploiting the power of their public trust: Not on my watch. In a thunderous East Room speech, Trump blasted anyone who would besmirch the noble calling of public service with even the hint of corruption, self-dealing, fraud, deception, tax avoidance, or abuse of power. 
The president condemned in the harshest terms any government employee who would borrow money from foreign lenders, lie on security questionnaires, and continue to manage their private businesses while in office. Corruption, he said, was fundamentally corrosive to America’s norms, institutions, and values.

FEB. 18, 2020

Breaking News:

The top lawyer for the intelligence community, whose decision to block a whistleblower's complaint about President Donald Trump and Ukraine from reaching Congress helped jumpstart the impeachment inquiry, is resigning from his post, officials confirmed.

Jason Klitenic, the general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, will depart early next month, according to an agency spokeswoman. His exit comes as the acting DNI, Joseph Maguire, nears a March 11 deadline to depart as well. Federal law prevents Maguire from serving in an acting capacity beyond that date, meaning a new director must be nominated and confirmed by then, or Trump must pick a new acting official.
My Daily Kos story
Several months ago, Michael Sean Winters, who “covers the nexus of religion and politics” for the National Catholic Reporter, wrote of “the seven deadly sins of Donald Trump.” One after another, the author ticks them off—greed, lust, gluttony, sloth, envy, wrath, and pride—and comments, “What we see with President Donald Trump and his cast of sycophants and co-conspirators . . . is a rare thing: All seven deadly sins on display at once.”

Trump tyranny: Chin-thrusting, one-man rule

For what seems an eternity, millions of rational observers scratch their heads: why are Trump’s absurd statements and destructive actions so belligerently, needlessly over the top? What kind of deviant narcissist self-anoints himself, without irony, a “stable genius”? Why reek of racism, sexism, and sneering, winner-take-all pugnacity? Why turn pathetic whining into a major league obsession? Why blast away at laws and norms with ludicrous, demeaning personal insults (mocking a foe’s size, gender or appearance)? 

Why in short contradict tested political conventions, falling over yourself to offend all but slavish fans? Or this week why overplay the dictator card, rampaging by overtly leveraging corrupt favoritism against Justice Dept. penalty recommendations on Roger Stone? Why constantly shoot the moon over issues large and small, devoid of context or strategy? It’s not just derangement or narcissism: being a chin-thrusting a-hole has been Trump’s raison d’ĂȘtre from the start.

In fact, gross bravado channels the tyrant’s way of declaring victory: think Mussolini. Glorying in seeming prowess, the idea is to humiliate all opponents (real and imaginary) by rubbing their noses in the dirt. Dictators don’t just win rigged elections; they invent lopsided, phony majorities, like 80%, when voters are split down the middle. Ditto, Trump “wins” the ’16 popular vote were it not for widespread “fraud.” Thus the 16K Trump lies: pathological lying exposes the void of inhibitions for juvenile acting out, with this clear message: the ruling “king” can say whatever he wants and escape all penalties.  This is no metaphor, per Trump’s boastful “survival” tweet after acquittal, invoking Emerson, “When you strike at a king, you must kill him.”
Profiles in courage are hard to come by in Trump's government.

However, late Monday, something happened that may be even more important than a restive DOJ:

A national association of federal judges has called an emergency meeting Tuesday to address growing concerns about the intervention of Justice Department officials and President Donald Trump in politically sensitive cases, the group's president said Monday.

As with so many other moments in this scandalous administration, this all may pass with yet another institution gravely weakened and the president carrying on as if nothing happened. But federal judges have lifetime appointments and no fear of angry voters. If the judiciary no longer believes the Justice Department is operating in good faith, it's hard to see how William Barr can remain attorney general.

How loudly may they scream to be heard?

‘Bill Barr is un-American’: The AG’s ex-boss

From Salon
This is behind the Daily Beast paywall but this is what you can read for free:

Dear Democrats: Your winning candidate is staring right at you. Stop being a bunch of dopes. Vote for her and be done with it!
If this call for coalescing around Amy Klobuchar sounds blunt, that’s because it is. That’s because it has to be. That’s because, after a year of kicking the tires, it’s time to close the deal. Now. Today. Yesterday, even. As Gen. George Patton put it, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”

But why choose Amy? Because she’s the good plan. She’s the Goldilocks candidate. She’s young, but not too young. She’s philosophically moderate (for today’s Democratic Party), but won’t lose progressives (OK, she’ll alienate Sandernistas, because they’re alienated by everybody who isn’t Sanders, but normal, Warren style progs will warm to her.)

Feb. 17, 2020

Breaking News

Starting a rumor:

Before Trump even stepped foot inside the massive racetrack, he grabbed the attention of the sold-out stadium with an Air Force One fly-by.
“NASCAR fans never forget that no matter who wins the race, what matters most is God, family and country,” Trump said in remarks to fans before the race, reprising a line he has used before at the White House. “Tires will screech, rubber will burn, fans will scream, and the great American race will begin...[drivers will] make their play for pure American glory.”

Then he delivered one of the most famous lines in sports, “Drivers, start your engines!” to roaring motors and cheers from the crowd, kicking off the Super Bowl of stock-car racing with a dramatic display of patriotic pomp. 
Trump also showed off his own fancy piece of machinery — the presidential limousine known as “the Beast,” with a lap on Daytona’s track. While it clocked in at a much slower speed than the other high performing vehicles that later followed, the circuit was still met with roaring applause by the stadium.

A company that heavily lobbied President Trump is part of the lucrative business of constructing the new steel wall along the border in Arizona.
An up-close look at the 30-foot-tall, rust-colored steel poles that make up the wall recently erected along the border in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument reveals the words “Atlas Tube” on them.
Atlas Tube is the Chicago-based division of Zekelman Industries, a company run by Barry Zekelman, a Canadian billionaire who led a wide-ranging effort to urge Trump and other officials to place tariffs and import quotas on steel. That effort included a $1.75 million donation to a pro-Trump super PAC and meeting with Trump and others in April 2018.
The $891 million in contracts to build 43 miles of wall on Organ Pipe and part of the adjacent Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge were awarded in May to Southwest Valley Constructors, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. Southwest Valley Constructors is a New Mexico-based affiliate of construction giant Kiewit.
So far, the wall in Organ Pipe stands along 5 to 10 miles of the border about 150 miles southwest of Tucson. Each panel of bollards contains eight 6-inch-wide bollards 4 inches apart. With those measurements, more than 30,000 bollards would be needed for the 43 miles of wall on Organ Pipe and Cabeza Prieta.
The rest of the wall on Cabeza Prieta will be built by Fisher Sand and Gravel, which is under scrutiny by the inspector general of the Department of Defense. The company’s head, Tommy Fisher, led what he called a “whirlwind media campaign” and paid lobbyists more than $100,000 to discuss the wall with lawmakers..

Feb. 16, 2020

CNN exposes depth of Trump associates buying rally attendance and votes for cash

Shameless Self Promotion:
I tweeted about Chauncey DeVega from Salon and to Stormy Daniels earlier today, and they both "liked" my tweets a few hours later. 
DeVega liked this rather raunchy tweet:

  •  DeVega: For more than three years, you and many other experts have been trying to warn the American people about how dangerous and destructive Donald Trump would be as president. Few if any people heeded the warnings. He is on the precipice of being re-elected to a second term. There have been no sustained mass protests. How do you explain this?

    Frank: Many Americans identify with transgressors on a very deep level. This is true of Trump supporters and other Americans as well. We idealize people who break things they don't like, who break limits, who break rules, and who break regulations. Trump celebrates doing such things. Trump's delinquency is public. It is not done in private. It's out in the open and his delinquency is out in the open. I'm a family therapist. One of the things I have noticed when working with families where the children are delinquent is that some of the parents have a secret smile — they take pleasure — when they are talking about how upset they are that their child has done something wrong, and in some cases even broken the law.

    On an unconscious level, the parent enjoys what the child has done. This is something that's deep inside of all of us. Trump's corruption is one of the ways that he charms people. Trump's corruption is also one of hist greatest powers. There are people who are excited by what he is doing. It is an illicit thrill, like going into your mother's pocketbook or father's wallet and stealing money when you were a child. There is something about Trump's bad behavior and transgressions which is very appealing to many Americans and others.

  • Hal Brown Q: Trump keeps getting everything he wants. The Republicans have now made him a de facto king or dictator. Will Trump ever be satisfied?

    A: No. In part, Trump is never satisfied because of his greed. Partly he's never satisfied because he has an empty part in his soul, in his heart, that constantly needs to be filled. But partly he can never be satisfied because he's paranoid. The more powerful a person like Trump becomes the more they demand absolute loyalty — and the more they are afraid of being killed. That is generally true of many powerful people. But for a malignant narcissist like Donald Trump, this behavior is on steroids. Trump is very desperate to attack any perceived critic. He will always find people to attack and there is no end to that behavior. There are no bounds to this. He will never be satisfied.

  • Hal Brown Q: Is Donald Trump capable of having moments of internal peace?

    A: Donald Trump is not capable of that behavior. Having a good day for Donald Trump is very challenging and complicated, because he never feels safe or at peace. The only time Trump feels good and positive is when he's at one of his rallies and there is a reverberation of adoration for him from his supporters. He needs to feel venerated to feel good. Trump and his supporters have a shared hatred of all outsides, the Other. But the real desire is a wish to destroy anybody who says anything against Trump in the form of the outsider.

  • "He would say, 'I've never heard of any of these people (on the CIE priority list). What about Hamza bin Laden?'" one former official said.
    "That was the only name he knew," a Pentagon official added.
    Although Osama bin Laden's youngest son was not believed to be planning attacks, the U.S. ultimately carried out an airstrike that killed him in 2018,according to current and former officials familiar with the matter. At first, officials weren't sure of his fate, but in July, NBC News was the first to report that U.S. officials believed he was dead.
    An examination of the process that led to the strike against Hamza bin Laden puts a spotlight on how Trump has approached what is among the most weighty responsibilities of the U.S. president in the post 9/11 era: deciding which of America's enemies should be marked for death.

    More than 1,000 sign DOJ Alumni Statement on the Events Surrounding the Sentencing of Roger Stone

    More than 1,100 former prosecutors and officials who served in Republican and Democratic administrations signed this open letter condemning the president and the attorney general over the Stone case.

    This would make a good movie

    Stormy Daniels has one million Twitter followers. She has a comedy tour and is proving to have a wry biting sense of humor. Most of her tweets these days are about soon to be jailbird Michael Avenatti.  I shamelessly am trying to get her to retweet something I send her. For example complementing her on a tweet she made (scroll down).

    Feb. 15, 2020


    Donald Trump’s formidable campaign for a second term points to a watershed moment for American conservatism — the brand he has trashed and then remade — and highlights the challenge for American democracy and Western world politics.

    After surviving the impeachment process Trump returned fire in his “Great American Comeback” manifesto delivered as his State of the Union address — a speech that infuriated Trump’s critics but was rhetorically devastating. It shows how powerful and effective will be the Trump pitch for re-election.

    Trump’s rule-breaking narcissism and vindictiveness — so far — have not brought him undone. Just the reverse, and his re-election manifesto must be seen with brutal realism: Trump is a master of politics as reality television and, for many Americans, a credible huckster for national economic revival and patriotic assertion. Trump extremism has had another dividend — it drives much of his Democratic Party opponents towards a self-lacerating madness.


    Consider the consequences — a re-elected Trump will claim vindication, forever. His authoritarianism and dangerous “American First” ideology will gain fresh life. The risk to global politics and American allies such as Australia will only intensify. Trump is no longer the untested outsider. He speaks as a transformational leader and a second term suggests that transformation may become embedded — that means a further decline in US global leadership, more rupture of the US alliance system, the likely demise of the liberal trading system (witness his mercantilist bargain with China) and an America dangerously divided within.


    Trump is running a cultural campaign appealing to the nobodies against the somebodies. Peggy Noonan, speechwriter to Ronald Reagan, said in The Wall Street Journal: “This was the President putting the Republican Party on the side of the nobodies of all colours as opposed to the somebodies. (Van Jones on CNN had it exactly right: Trump is going for black and Hispanic men and the Democrats are foolish not to see it.) This is a realignment I have supported. I very much regret that the President is a bad man and half mad because if he weren’t I’d be cheering.”


    In politics extremism breeds extremism but Trump’s skill in managing the politics of polarisation far exceeds anything seen from the Democrats so far. The party is yet to decide whether to endorse a moderate or an ideological left-winger. But if the Democrats stage an ideological war against Trump they will be cut to pieces and risk giving him a more comfortable majority.


    Like every past president, Trump claims ownership of the transition he has wrought and presents himself as the embodiment of the American spirit. Witness his speech: “America is a land of heroes. This is a place where greatness is born, where destinies are forged and where legends come to life. This is the home of Thomas Edison and Teddy Roosevelt, of many great generals including Washington, Pershing, Patton and Mac­Arthur. This is the home of Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Doug­lass, Amelia Earhart, Harriet Tubman, the Wright brothers, Neil Armstrong and so many more. This is our glorious and magnificent inheritance. America is the place where anything can happen.”
    The last sentence is true in a way Trump didn’t intend: the anything that happened was the Trump presidency! His pitch may sound corny but this is the presidential vernacular. The Democrats and their supporters face a decisive test. Anti-Trump populist frenzy and Nancy Pel­osi’s theatrical tearing up of Trump’s speech is no substitute for a moderate, resolute, tough-minded appeal to the middle ground of America.

    A second Trump term will shake the world. The idea that Australia will escape is remote — and we are simply unprepared for what that might involve.

    • The man who stands before those rallies and encourages such idolatry isn't merely running for president. He is calling, directly and without apology, for the kind of obedience and loyalty demanded by dictators. He is commanding worship and submission. It must be why he attracts so completely the support of evangelical Christians. He truly is the false idol their Bible warned them against. They have fallen for him in the same way the most conspicuously devout worshipers commit sins. The inevitability of Trump and his evangelical masses is jaw-dropping, and yes, biblical. 
    • Donald Trump is an existential threat to the virtues of the democracy we have enjoyed for more than two centuries. He is a real threat to the things we have thought we shared as Americans: the love of variety and dissent, and a belief in the consent of the governed. The capacity of all citizens to respect each other's opposing positions, even amid vigorous disagreement. A respect for the disadvantaged and a scorn for the absolutism of the strong. A universal contempt for the public lie. Trump stands in outright opposition to all of this, and he is a threat to us all.
    • We're there again. It's time for another Moratorium march (i.e. Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam), this time against Donald Trump. It's not enough to vote against him in November. We're sliding into a fascist dictatorship. The time to act is now.
    To be sure, Trump’s peace plan should be renamed
     “the travesty of the century” for which Israelis
    and Palestinians will pay with their blood.


    Whereas he consulted with the Israelis ad nauseum on every provision of his Deal, he completely ignored the Palestinians. Notwithstanding the fact that the Palestinians severed direct talks with the US as a result of Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, at a minimum he should have initiated back-channel contacts with Palestinian leaders and considered their requirements that could ensure some receptivity rather than outright rejection.
    Moreover, for Trump to unveil his grandiose Deal standing side-by-side Netanyahu sent an unambiguous message as to where he really stands and to whom he is appealing. This scene alone was enough to disgust even moderate Palestinians, who otherwise would have at least paid lip service to the Deal. But that was not on Trump’s agenda. On the contrary, he did so deliberately for his targeted audience—and in that, he succeeded.


    Even in the late-‘80s, however, The Stones didn’t want to be associated with Trump. So they cut a deal with him, stipulating he wouldn’t be involved in any promotional capacity outside of Atlantic City and, amazingly, wouldn’t be allowed at the show itself.

    This story, told last summer and resurfaced on social media this week, illustrates just how deep the animosity went.


    There’s Donald Trump giving a press conference, in our room!”
    According to (tour manager) Cohl, Trump then tried to convince him that “they begged me to go up, Michael.”

    “Stop it,” Cohl replied. “Don’t make a liar of yourself.”

    Thinking he’d extinguished the fire, Cohl returned to the dressing room only to get word five minutes later that Trump (being Trump) had found his way back to the mic.


    Again to the dressing room. Again word that Trump is promoting. This time guitarist Keith Richards offered his help:
    “Keith pulls out his knife and slams it on the table and says, ‘What the hell do I have you for? Do I have to go over there and fire him myself? One of us is leaving the building – either him, or us.’”

    “One of two things is going to happen,” Cohl told Trump. “You’re going to leave the building and, at 6:40, The Rolling Stones are going to speak on CBS News, or you’re not going to leave the building and I’m going to go on and do an interview to explain to the world why the pay-per-view was canceled”

    Then, while literally telling Donald Trump “You’re fired,” Cohl noticed Trump’s “three shtarkers he’s with, in trench coats, two of them are putting on gloves and the other one is putting on brass knuckles.”

    Cohl signaled his head of security, who “got 40 of the crew with tire irons and hockey sticks and screwdrivers,” effectively sending off Trump and his goons.

    “And that was the night I fired Donald Trump,” Cohl concluded.

    The science behind past tobacco industry efforts to branch into medicine haven't always matched the hype. Though nicotine has been shown to improve memory in pre-dementia patients, one highly touted treatment failed in four clinical trials — and some efforts to expand research into other conditions haven’t borne fruit.

    I used to amuse myself with friends by coming up with easy ways people could get over Trump's glorious wall. I liked the method involving rope ladders being hoisted after someone shot an arrow with a light rope and grappling hook over the top to then pulling up the ladder. This is an even easier method. ‘Camo Ladders’ Now Being Used To Scale Border Wall