R.l.P. Gregg Allman

Allman died today of unspecified causes after several years of health issues. He co-founded the Allman Brothers Band with his brother Duane in 1969 and cut several hugely successful albums. The band suffered the loss of Duane to a motorcycle accident in 1971 and then the loss of bassist Berry Oakley at almost the same location in 1972, also in a motorcycle accident. The group soldiered on but broke up in 1975, reforming fifteen years later and touring regularly until 2015.

In his honor here’s one of his greatest songs:

Trump as Mole?

Josh Marshall thinks the following: “Putin wants a fragmented Europe; Trump does too.”

Marshall bases that on Trump’s behavior today at the NATO meeting, as well as his and his team’s behavior at a meeting of NATO/EU leaders where he berated the Germans for selling too many cars in the United States. (Use Google Translate.) Apparently he isn’t aware of just how many BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes and Volkswagens are assembled in this country.

To Trump, everything is transactional. There’s no policy, there’s simply “I want that, you want this, let’s do a deal.” He and his team don’t even seem to know who they’re trying to do deals with in Europe: “Apparently, it was unclear to the guests that the EU countries concluded trade agreements only jointly.”

I’m really beginning to wonder whether Trump’s obvious liking of Russian and Putin is something more than just admiration for a strongman. Maybe these investigations really will turn up some sort of unspoken and unholy alliance. That would explain why Trump continues to try to discredit them at every opportunity, and why he continues to try to figuratively bill NATO countries for what he seems to think of as dues for their membership in the club.

Candidates, don’t do this

On the eve of a special election (literally; Montana votes tomorrow) the last thing a candidate for office should do is assault a reporter. Apparently the reporter had the temerity to ask Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate for the House seat vacated by newly-elevated-to-Secretary-of-the-Interior Zinke, just how he felt about the Republican plan to replace “Obamacare” now that the Congressional Budget Office had scored it. Gianforte took exception and body-slammed the reporter, the Guardian’s Ben Jacobs, to the ground and began punching him. A Fox News camera crew and reporter were in the room and gave this account:

Faith, Keith and I arrived early to set up for the interview in a room adjacent to another room where a volunteer BBQ was to take place. As the time for the interview neared, Gianforte came into the room. We exchanged pleasantries and made small talk about restaurants and Bozeman.

During that conversation, another man — who we now know is Ben Jacobs of The Guardian — walked into the room with a voice recorder, put it up to Gianforte’s face and began asking if he had a response to the newly released Congressional Budget Office report on the American Health Care Act. Gianforte told him he would get to him later. Jacobs persisted with his question. Gianforte told him to talk to his press guy, Shane Scanlon.

At that point, Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the reporter. As Gianforte moved on top of Jacobs, he began yelling something to the effect of, “I’m sick and tired of this!”

The Fox crew went on to say that at no point had Jacobs been aggressive toward Gianforte.

Two Montana papers, The Billings Gazette and The Missoulian immediately pulled their previous endorsements of Gianforte for the House office.

If you’re Rob Quist, the Democrat in the race, you’re hoping this is enough to pull some Republican support away from your opponent, but you also are aware that half of Montana’s voters may have already sent in their ballots in early voting. All you can do is hope the publicity from this very ugly incident is widespread.

Echoes of 2001-2003

Reading this section of Trump’s speech to the heads of Arab countries the other day takes me back to the period immediately following the 9/11 attacks.

But no discussion of stamping out this threat would be complete without mentioning the government that gives terrorists all three—safe harbor, financial backing, and the social standing needed for recruitment. It is a regime that is responsible for so much instability in the region. I am speaking of course of Iran.

From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds, arms, and trains terrorists, militias, and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region. For decades, Iran has fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror.

It is a government that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing the destruction of Israel, death to America, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room.

Remember the insidious and seemingly inevitable march to the Iraq War? Here’s a timeline. The first public speech George W. Bush made to give his reasons for targeting Iraq was on September 28, 2002 when he said:

The danger to our country is grave and it is growing. The Iraqi regime possesses biological and chemical weapons, is rebuilding the facilities to make more and, according to the British government, could launch a biological or chemical attack in as little as 45 minutes after the order is given. The regime has long-standing and continuing ties to terrorist groups, and there are al Qaeda terrorists inside Iraq. This regime is seeking a nuclear bomb, and with fissile material could build one within a year.

Iraq has already used weapons of mass death against another country and against its own citizens. The Iraqi regime practices the rape of women as a method of intimidation, and the torture of dissenters and their children. And for more than a decade, that regime has answered Security Council resolutions with defiance and bad faith and deception.

We know that the Iraqi regime is led by a dangerous and brutal man. We know he is actively seeking the destructive technologies to match his hatred. And we know that he must be stopped.

Here’s Trump earlier this week:

Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations of conscience must work together to isolate Iran, deny it funding for terrorism, and pray for the day when the Iranian people have the just and righteous government they deserve.

I would love to be wrong, but I think Trump really wants to go to war against Iran.

Mulvaney’s Budget

Let’s not kid ourselves. The budget that’s going to be announced tomorrow was prepared by OMB Director Mick Mulvaney and his staff with little if any input from the President.

It’s a real horror show for the social safety net Americans have grown accustomed to, but more than that it’s built on lies. Follow this Twitter thread:

Click it to read it in its entirety. Here’s Tweet #11:

Putting $5.5T in tax cuts for wealthy ppl & corps alongside ~$4T in cuts to progs serving low & middle-income people wld not be popular.

So what did they do? They left the $5.5 trillion cut out of the document!

Despite all the lies we’ve heard from the Republican party and its promoters at Fox News and elsewhere over the years, that’s unbelievable.

Emoluments, you say?

This may not quite be bribery. It is certainly hypocrisy.

Also, for a family so concerned with their name and brand, shouldn’t they realize how it would look for Ivanka and her old man announcing this at the same time he’s signing an arms deal with the country which provided 19 of the 20 perpetrators of the 9/11 murders?

They’ve got the PR sense of rabid weasels.

Whining is not a good look

Have you noticed how often Trump whines that things are “not fair” or that he’s being treated poorly? The most recent example of this happened today, when he was giving a commencement speech to the graduates of the Coast Guard Academy and complained that “”No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly.”

That’s another thing. Everything has to be about Trump, all the time. Instead of giving a speech full of platitudes like most commencement speakers, he had to talk about himself. Rather than say “you ladies and gentlemen are going to change the world, etcetera” as almost every other speaker at a graduation ceremony does, he opted for self-aggrandizement and grumbling.

It’s not the first time he’s done this. Every trade deal the United States has signed in the last 30 years has been one which “treated America unfairly.” Hell, he thinks the North American Treaty Organization (NATO) treats America unfairly. Forget the fact that NATO has helped keep the peace in many places, and that peace is a lot more conducive to trade than war is.

Part of this is his unshaken belief that he’s the best deal maker in all of history, a belief unshaken despite the fact that many of his deals have flamed out or have been built on the backs of contractors unpaid and promises unkept. Most con men are at least honest with themselves, if not with anyone else. Trump has managed to con himself as much as any of his other victims.

Now that there’s a special counsel appointed to investigate his and his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia’s government and/or its oligarchs, he may really have something to whine about.

Notes v. Tapes

Who ya gonna believe? Trump and his Twitter threat?

Or Director Comey and his contemporaneous notes of the conversations between himself and the President?

I don’t like what Comey did to Hillary Clinton at all, but I trust him on this a lot more than I do the con man he helped get elected last fall.

Anybody want to bet it’ll be a cold day in July before there will be more than half-a-dozen Republicans in Congress who consider Trump’s apparent attempt to get Comey to stop the FBI investigation into Flynn what it is — attempted obstruction of justice?