Monday Reads

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

Pop Culture generally trolls political figures with good reason. Will Ferrell’s George Bush on SNL was always a treat as the word garbling, incurious George who bumbled us into two wars. Ferrell’s recent performance filled up twitter for at least a day and is still a subject of discussion.

“Saturday Night Live” opened last night with a hilarious sketch of Will Ferrell reprising his role as President George W. Bush. Having worked on SNL’s production staff for most of the Bush years, I can say that this was one of the best Bush sketches the show has served up in terms of laughs. But I have to disagree with SNL’s implication that Bush was as bad, if not worse, of a president as Donald Trump. It’s no comparison — Trump is far worse.

SNL’s Bush cold open kicked off with a few jokes that reminded us of the way the iconic comedy show portrayed the 43rd President as a bumbling but likable guy. There was Will Ferrell as Bush telling us: “You might remember, the W stands for wassssup!” and adding that lately he had been working on his oil paintings and earning an online MFA from the University of Phoenix.

The show then turned to the politics of today. “Bush” boasted that his approval ratings are at an all-time-high, referring to recent news that his favorability has drastically increased since he left office. (When Bush left office, he was saddled with a dismal 33% favorability rating.) Ferrell then joked, “That’s right. Donny Q. Trump came in, and suddenly I’m looking pretty sweet by comparison. At this rate, I might even end up on Mount Rushmore, right next to Washington, Lincoln and I want to say, uh, Kensington?”

But then SNL pivoted to remind us how bad Bush was as President, with Ferrell laughingly reminding us: “I was really bad — like historically not good.”

“Don’t forget: We’re still in two different wars that I started,” he added. Ferrell then paused before delivering a killer line: “What has two thumbs and created ISIS? This guy!” and pointing at himself.

“Bush” also highlighted how awful the economy was when he left office. He held up a chart that showed the stock market tanking and joked: “Now I’m no ‘economer’ but even I know that was ‘no bueno.'”

SNL was right that Bush had earned his horrible approval ratings. But what SNL missed — perhaps even intentionally to spark a debate — is how horrific Trump is in terms of trying to divide us by race, religion and even immigration status as compared to Bush.

For example, during Trump’s presidential campaign he despicably ginned up hate against Muslims with his comment that he thinks “Islam hates us” and his call for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” And as President, he has tried to implement an immigration ban primarily directed at a number of Muslim majority nations.

What a contrast to Bush and his words only weeks after the 9/11 terror attack committed by Al Qaeda. With the nation watching, Bush didn’t try to stoke hate against Muslims. Instead, he declared: “The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends.” Bush then added about Islam, “Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah.”

Then, the Grammys trolled Trump with celebs reading excerpts from “Fire and Fury”. Hillary Clinton was the surprise ending for this gag reading the part about Trump’s obsession with being poisoned and trusting that won’t happen with a Big Mac.

Bruno Mars beat Jay-Z for the top Grammy Awards on Sunday, but the surprise star of the night was former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton reading from Michael Wolff’s controversial book “Fire and Fury.”

A taped parody sketch saw Grammy Awards host James Corden audition celebrities, including John Legend, Cher, Cardi B and Snoop Dogg. They read excerpts from the deeply critical book about President Donald Trump’s first year in office, ostensibly as contenders for a spoken word Grammy.

The Twitter erupted with all kinds of things including upset tweets from Nikki Haley and Drumpfling Jr.

This raises a concern in my mind. Granted, Smothers’ Brothers or SNL or any myriad of Talk Shows have always done sketches on Presidents. Some of the parodies and bits probably bothered them because they were generally unflattering but we’ve not had a President that’s such a toddler and so narcissistic that it makes me wonder if we’re not playing into it and feeding the monster? Toddlers generally find any attention to be worth doing whatever to get it. KKKremlin Caligula seems to find a way into everything media oriented this day to the point I just want to shut it all off. I’m beginning to not be entertained by this stuff at all. I’d just like them to ignore him for awhile. This man is a bottomless pit of ego needs. I’d like to hear about just about any one else for a change!

Except, the stuff like this that should be EVERYWHERE!!!

Today, all Democratic Members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent a letter asking Chairman Trey Gowdy to issue a subpoena to finally compel the Department of Homeland Security to produce documents it has been withholding from Congress for months relating to Russian government-backed efforts to monitor, penetrate, or otherwise hack at least 21 state election systems in the 2016 election.

and this from Politico: “Mark Warner: ‘We’ve Had New Information That Raises More Questions’. The top Democrat on the Senate’s Russia investigation says he’s worried about what he’s just learned.”

Congress late last year received “extraordinarily important new documents” in its investigation of President Donald Trump and his campaign’s possible collusion with the 2016 Russian election hacking, opening up significant new lines of inquiry in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s probe of the president, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) says in an exclusive new interview.

Warner, the intel committee’s top Democrat, says “end-of-the-year document dumps” produced “very significant” revelations that “opened a lot of new questions” that Senate investigators are now looking into, meaning the inquiry into Trump and the Russia hacking—already nearly a year old—will not be finished for months longer. “We’ve had new information that raises more questions,” Warner says in the interview, an extensive briefing on the state of the Senate’s Trump-Russia probe for The Global Politico, our weekly podcast on world affairs.

and this which the placeholder in the oval office has twitted as a good idea.

Congress is in disarray too. Are they really prepared to go down the road of an oncoming constitutional crisis?

The 115th Congress owes its historic turnover to the confluence of two events, one normal and one abnormal. First, there’s the start of a new presidential administration. Five of the first six members to resign this session1 did so to accept jobs in President Trump’s administration. That’s not unusual. It’s similar to the seven members who resigned in 2009 to join the Obama administration2 and the five members who left in 1993 to join Bill Clinton’s.

But in addition, three of the four most recent members to resign from the 115th Congress did so because they were accused of unwanted sexual advances: John Conyers, Trent Franks and Al Franken. (Ruben Kihuen, Blake Farenthold and Pat Meehan have announced they will not run for re-election for the same reason. However, a retirement from Congress at the end of one’s regularly scheduled term is not the same as a mid-session resignation, which is what we’re looking at here.)

The extraordinary string of sexual misconduct allegations over the past few months has led many people to conclude we are in the midst of an unprecedented cultural moment. In the political world, at least, the data bears that out. There has never been a concentration of sexual misconduct allegations that has caused as much public fallout before: The number of resignations over non-consensual sexual overtures in the last two months (three) has nearly matched the number in the preceding 116 years (five).3And it seems to be a recent phenomenon — the first member to resign for this reason was Bob Packwood in 1995. Admittedly, the data may be skewed; we’re relying partly on news reports for divining members’ reasoning, and sexual misconduct wasn’t exactly a big topic of media coverage for most of the 20th century. Even so, it shows a public reckoning like never before.

We have a midterm election coming up. Can we be certain that the Russians won’t be actively hacking key states again? Has social media gotten to the problem of the Russian Bots? Here’s something from UK’s Independent.

Russian bots retweeted Donald Trump nearly 500,000 times in the 10 weeks leading up to and directly following the US presidential election – 10 times more than they retweeted his rival, Hillary Clinton.

The findings come from Twitter’s latest report to the Senate Judiciary Committee, as Congress attempts to assess the effect of Russian social media activity on the 2016 election.

Twitter found that Russia-connected, automated accounts sent more than 2m election-related tweets between 1 September and 15 November 2016. The tweets came from more than 50,000 Russian bots, and accounted for approximately one per cent of all tweets sent at the time.

The bots engaged more heavily with Mr Trump than his opponent, accounting for more than 4 percent of the retweets he received. They accounted for less than 1 per cent of retweets received by Ms Clinton.

The bots also engaged heavily with Wikileaks, the organisation that first released emails hacked from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. Russian bot accounts retweeted Wikileaks some 200,000 times over the 10-week timespan. They were responsible for nearly 5 per cent of tweets using #PodestaEmails.

I think it’s time we get more serious about these ongoing threats to our country and to democracy. It’s easy to laugh at the Reality Star occupying the White House but that part of him is the side show. The real threat is out there. It just needs more attention.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

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56 Comments on “Monday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

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  2. bostonboomer says:

    Secret Memo Hints at a New Republican Target: Rod Rosenstein

    • palhart says:

      It’s time for Adam Schiff to make public the minority Intelligence Committee report, protecting the classified sections as much as possible. Mueller, if/when he’s fired, should find a similar route for disclosure, or refuse to leave, or do something, fighting fire with fire. We, citizens of this country, deserve the truth. Or, like Charlie Pierce, I have long worried that no one would stand up to this thug president. Our democracy is on life support, (and I’m not being melodramatic). Jill Wine-Banks(?) said on All-In, as of today, that she’s worried about any safe-guards holding with this reckless Congressional Republicans.

    • NW Luna says:

      Saturday Night Massacre — just spaced out over a longer time.

  3. Pat Johnson says:

    I am sick to death of Trump, the GOP leadership, his family, his stupid surrogates, his apologists, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and all the lies, lies, lies, that is this criminal administration.

    I have no intention of listening to that SOTU speech and sitting through an analysis of whether he conducted himself in a presidential manner. Just another lie filled 2 hours of gibberish while the nation at large watches democracy replaced with insanity.

    I am so sickened by scurrilous reports against the FBI and its members, the press, NFL athletes, minorities at large, the indifference to Puerto Rico, the breakdown of civil law, the appointments of unqualified people, the fight to maintain adequate healthcare, the discrimination against DACA, the rollback of necessary regulations, the meaningless vacancies at Dept of State, the endless tirades on Twitter, that I often find it difficult to concentrate.

    When will it end? How close is Mueller? How much more of this criminality are we to be forced to endure before it all goes to hell?

    This man is a traitor. A greedy, lying, indifferent, incurious, ignorant slob without one ounce of integrity who is being allowed to get away with enriching himself without any form of accountability and he is doing it with the complicity of a corrupt and bankrupt party of thieves and liars bent on “protecting” him at all costs.

    It’s way past time for someone to announce “the party is over” and put an end to this shameful episode in American history.

    This travesty cannot endure.

    • RonStill4Hills says:

      I agree, EMPHATICALLY with everything you say, except for one thing.

      I don’t think he is indifferent. I truly believe that he is intentionally and pathologically malicious.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I won’t be turning on the TV tomorrow–or Wed. if they’re still talking about it.

  4. bostonboomer says:

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    • bostonboomer says:

      From the second link:

      The day after President Donald Trump fired James Comey as director of the FBI, he became so furious watching television footage of Comey boarding a government-funded plane from Los Angeles back to Washington that he called the bureau’s acting director, Andrew McCabe, to vent, according to multiple people familiar with the phone call.

      Trump demanded to know why Comey was allowed to fly on an FBI plane after he had been fired, these people said. McCabe told the president he hadn’t been asked to authorize Comey’s flight, but if anyone had asked, he would have approved it, three people familiar with the call recounted to NBC News.

      The president was silent for a moment and then turned on McCabe, suggesting he ask his wife how it feels to be a loser — an apparent reference to a failed campaign for state office in Virginia that McCabe’s wife made in 2015.

      McCabe replied, “OK, sir.” Trump then hung up the phone.

  5. dakinikat says:

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  7. bostonboomer says:

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  8. bostonboomer says:

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  9. NW Luna says:

    Government by the corrupt.

    Republicans vote to release memo alleging FBI missteps in surveillance of Trump campaign operative

    Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) says the House Intelligence Committee vote to release documents alleging abuse in the FBI’s Russia probe marks a “very sad day.”

    The House Intelligence Committee voted Monday to release a memo detailing alleged surveillance abuses by the FBI and the Justice Department, escalating a political fight between conservatives and the nation’s intelligence agencies.

    The vote, which proceeded along party lines in the Republican-controlled committee, means that President Trump now has up to five days to review the material and decide whether to keep it secret, though he could agree to the release anytime before that deadline. If he does nothing, the committee can release the memo publicly.

    The Intelligence Committee also voted along party lines Monday against releasing a rebuttal memo from the panel’s Democrats, who denounced both moves upon leaving the closed-door hearing.

    • NW Luna says:

      Other WaPo headlines this a.m.:

      You want fake news? Watch the State of the Union. — Jennifer Rubin

      Names of campaign donors to be flashed during live stream of Trump’s speech

      Nine questions about Trump’s businesses and possible [sic] conflicts of interest

      Democrats are united against Trump — but not on impeachment [WTF?]

      …and the biggest headline is about egg freezing and women’s “biological clocks” (because wimmenz must do all the childcare if they’re too poor to have nannies.)

      • Enheduanna says:

        Luna – I think the Dems wavering on impeachment are thinking logistically and not that he doesn’t deserve it. Do we really want Pence? Do we want Congress embroiled with impeachment hearings from here on out? GOPers will fight dirty to say the least.

        It’s not that he doesn’t deserve it – but is it the right move? My fear is he’ll start a nuclear war to stay in office.

        • NW Luna says:

          Enheduanna, that’s a realistic concern. Pence is up to his neck also but the GOP will want to keep him.

        • quixote says:

          Being practical is important. But taken too far, it becomes the practicality of the damned. It’s like the old joke about the office doing away with cubicles because they’re just going to velcro the workers to the walls, and you’ll keep your work in a shopping cart. So the practical worker races off to snag a good cart before they’re all gone.

          The Repubs in retaliation for Nixon used impeachment against a blowjob and took about 95% of the meaning away from the process. If we’re now so practical we don’t use impeachment for high treason, forget rule of law. We’re just a plain old dictatorship in a Facebook dressing.

          What I’m trying to say is you’re right about the practicalities of it all. But there comes a point where you’re so far into the dark side, you have to stand and fight or lose it all. I don’t know where that point is, of course.

          • NW Luna says:

            We’re sliding so fast into totalitarianism that I worry delayed reaction will be too late.

          • palhart says:

            The time is now to push back hard in the media and elsewhere and to form an army of resistance. Applaud proaction not regret, excuses, or retreat. Advance!

  10. Enheduanna says:

    Digby makes the point that McCabe is now free to speak. I would have thought there was some NDA retiring FBI officials have to sign/follow.

    It’d be nice if he could pay tRump back for that nasty “loser” comment.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Comey spoke. McCabe and the others will still be witnesses against Trump in the obstruction investigation. I’m sure they’ve already spoken to Mueller.