The wheels on the bus go thump, thump, thump …

The Ring of Fire / YouTube New Poll Proves Republicans Are Living 1570365943.jpg...
The Ring of Fire / YouTube

Round and round and round, he goes, and who he blames, nobody knows! Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, after days in which it looked like Rudy Giuliani was destined to be the first speed bump under the big Trump Never Takes Responsibility bus, the actual answer now appears to be … Rick Perry.

That’s right, under the P—and the smart glasses—it’s Rick Perry being shoved to the front of the line for potential fall guy.

Perry seems to have been the only person not in the room for Trump’s call to the Ukrainian president. Perry never got mentioned in all the texts flying around Europe as Trump’s “diplomatic” team wrote ransom notes for the missing military aid. Perry wasn’t along for any of Rudy Giuliani’s Vizzini the Sicilian tribute tour. Perry’s name didn’t come up when all those Ukrainian MPs, diplomats, prosecutors, and legislators who were roped into this mess were talking about Trump, and Pompeo, and Pence. And … wait. How exactly is it Rick Perry? Well, it goes like this: Trump said so. And that’s it. Long explanation over.

No. Really. That’s all there is. Donald Trump had a private meeting with some House Republicans—Republicans who were (rightly) concerned that this ship is making the Titanic look water tight—and Trump told them that he never would have called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky if he hadn’t been egged on by, you guessed it, Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

How could Rick Perry possibly be to blame when every person with “ambassador” in front of their name had been texting Zelensky for weeks, telling him to get on the stick with announcing an investigation into Joe Biden if he didn’t Kyiv to be renamed Putaningrad? Uhhh… And how could Rick Perry to blame when Rudy Giuliani was propaganda-bombing the State Department with enough conspiracy theories to require a whole new alphabet? Ummm … How could Rick Perry be to blame when Mike Pompeo had been lining up Giuliani’s arm-twisting sessions and double checking to make sure everyone was ready to sing? Well … How could Perry be at fault when the actual phone call turns out to be just a single note in this whole 25th Amendment Symphony? Look, he just is.

There is this—when both Trump and Mike Pence backed out of attending Zelensky’s inauguration, they sent Rick Perry to represent the team. Perry gave this fantastic response to a question about why he was selected. “Oh, I think it’s because I’m just such a darned good Cabinet member, and very capable, and probably pretty knowledgeable about the energy industry.” That, ladies and etc. is an actual quote from Rick Perry. So why is Rick Perry going under the bus first? Because with a quote like that he’s practically volunteering.

Come on, folks. Let’s go read some pundits.

Joan Walsh says the next two speed bumps could be Pompeo and Pence.
The Nation

Donald Trump came completely unglued twice on Wednesday. But pay no attention to the man behind the meltdown. All the real action in his rapidly escalating impeachment crisis took place outside the White House. (We are all Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, however.)

Wednesday morning, after ducking the question repeatedly, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo admitted he was on Trump’s thuggish phone call with Ukrainian President Vlodymyr Zelensky in July. But you had to be paying close attention to catch it, given the way Pompeo rushed through and eventually swallowed the admission: “Was I on the phone callIwasonthephonecall.” Just after that, House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff said that rather than merely going to court over Pompeo and other Trump toadies’ stonewalling subpoenas, he would wrap the many counts of defiance into articles of impeachment, under “obstruction of justice.” The day ended with a Washington Post bombshell showing how Trump used Vice President Mike Pence in his efforts to pressure Zelensky to “investigate” Hunter Biden. Team Pence, uncharacteristically, pushed back on Team Trump’s claims.

Trump and Pence could gnaw each other’s arms off, while the rest of the Republican Party breaks down into Lord of the Flies leader-free madness and it still wouldn’t make the last three years worth it. But it would be a start.

Finally, Democrats are acting quickly in the face of GOP defiance—and I hope they target some of the major players who ignored subpoenas to testify about Robert Mueller’s revelations last spring, especially former White House counsel Don McGahn, who was reportedly asked by Trump to tell then–Attorney General Jeff Sessions to un-recuse himself from the Russia probe—and then told to tell the media he was never asked any such thing.

That reminds me of a quote. But then, everything reminds me of a quote. Or a cereal commercial. Anyway, here’s Sam Houston trying to convince his fellow southerners not to get involved in that first Civil War. “They are not a fiery, impulsive people as you are, for they live in colder climates. But when they begin to move in a given direction, they move with the steady momentum and perseverance of a mighty avalanche; and what I fear is, they will overwhelm the South.” In this case, “They” are Democrats and Trump is the South. Keep that avalanche rolling.

Jonathan Chait on America’s most cowardly senator — and that’s saying something.
New York Magazine

In 2016, Donald Trump, who had directed secret efforts to obtain stolen Hillary Clinton emails, made a public televised request to Russia. That night, Russia made an attempt to hack into her email. Nevertheless, Republicans consistently dismissed Trump’s message as a joke.

In 2019, backed by a monthslong diplomatic pressure campaign, President Trump asked Ukraine’s president to investigate Joe Biden in a phone call, and has repeatedly affirmed his right to do so. Yesterday, he stood on the White House lawn and asked Ukraine and China to investigate Joe Biden, and followed that up with a tweet reaffirming his “absolute right” to ask any country to investigate anybody he deems corrupt.

Senator Marco Rubio was asked about the new request to China. Rubio suggested it was probably just a joke and not “a real request” — “just him needling the press.”

I’m saying this with all seriousness: Marco Rubio does not even deserve to be a Florida Man. At least the guys in all those headlines that begin with “Florida Man…” usually did something involving an alligator, or an armadillo, or flames. Or flaming alligadillos. Marco Rubio could never even manage that much. In the words of Little Bill Daggett, “I can’t abide them kind … without any sand or character. Not even any bad character.” That’s Rubio all over.

Trump has made his position completely plain: Any country that can produce dirt on his domestic enemies, plausible or otherwise, will be diplomatically rewarded. … Republicans of principle will object to this flagrant abuse of power, but nobody considers “Republicans of principle” to be a category that includes Marco Rubio.

And nobody ever will.

Michael Tomasky on Trump making an offer that apparently everyone can refuse.
Daily Beast

Of course Donald Trump roped Mike Pence into the Ukraine plot! It’s one of the oldest Mafia tricks in the book, featured in a hundred movies starting in the 1930s right up through today. You’re a mob boss, you’re about to do something big—move on another family’s turf, order a hit. What do you as you prepare for it, within your own circle?

You get everyone dirty. You make them complicit—part of the plot. That way, they can’t sing on you. If they’re part of plot, they’re guilty, too, and they have to clam up and take part in the cover-up. It’s Corleone 101.

It is honestly hard to tell if Pence is just biding his time to make a move on Trump, or dumber than Rick Perry. Despite all the people who were three years ago telling me “Pence is like Trump, only competent” he’s done an excellent job of looking out of his depth in a mud puddle.

The president of the United States is a mob boss, and this is how he operates. And the president’s lawyer, once-upon-a-long-ago-time a mafia fighter, is now a mob henchman, just like his father, who was an enforcer for his brother-in-law’s loan-sharking operation. It doesn’t take much imagination to picture the two of them, talking in the time-honored code as they plotted their Ukraine move and considered what to do about the vice president:

Didn’t Michael Cohen already explain the code? There was a recording, and footnotes, and everything.

Will Bunch on the Injustice Department and William Barr’s irreparable damage.
Philadelphia Inquirer

It felt like a stunning breach of those fading and soon-to-be-forgotten things that Americans call “norms” when the U.S. Attorney for Philadelphia, William McSwain, responded to a nationally televised standoff in which a gunman wounded six city cops by lashing out … not at the gunman, but at Philadelphia’s Democratic district attorney, Larry Krasner.

The culture of the DOJ has been turned into a mirror of what would have been the most extreme alt-right fringe three years ago. Or, as Trump would say, Barr has staffed the place with Very Fine People.

Want to complain to McSwain’s boss about his over-the-top politicization of American justice here in Philadelphia? Heh, well, good luck finding Attorney General William Barr, who spent a good chunk of his summer on an itinerary more befitting a ’70s hippie college backpacker, jetting to Rome, London, and God knows where else. Presumably, the nation’s top law enforcement official was working with his international counterparts to smash a global terror ring, or stop the transoceanic flow of drugs, right?

Well, actually, how William Barr spent your summer vacation was largely chasing down insane conspiracy theories that live largely on the Fox News Channel and inside the muddled brain of America’s 45th president. He was trying to jump-start an investigation meant to show that what eventually became Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was the result of a vast FBI/CIA/”Deep State” conspiracy — and not the well-established fact that Russia actually did interfere in our election and there were a lot of weird contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians.

Barr is all in. He knows by this point he either comes out being the emperor’s right hand toadie, or marching straight to jail, do not pass go. There’s nothing too extreme for him at this point, because any moderation means getting fitted for an orange jumpsuit.

Art Cullen on what farmer think of being told they’re obsolete.
Storm Lake Times

In America, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told Wisconsin dairy farmers last week, the big get bigger and the small go out. That’s the way it goes. No tears for the vanquished. Another ethanol plant just shut down in Sioux County, in part because of the trade wars with China and Mexico, in part because of broken Trump promises, in part because production overshoots demand as the corn industry does so expertly. Oh well. John Deere is laying off 160 workers in the Quad Cities because of steel tariffs and slack demand as world trade screeches to a halt. They could just move to where the jobs are in, say, San Jose. This is no rose garden, kids, so buck up. Creative destruction.

Or just destruction. Not every business, farm, and small town destroyed means flowers sprouting somewhere else. Sometimes it’s just the end of a story, not a new beginning.

More people and capital drain from the rural Midwest, along with better prospects for us all. Spray some more anhydrous and watch the Gulf of Mexico die. It is the natural cycle.

Perdue speaks with a sort of resignation that is all too familiar to sons and daughters of Iowa shoved out of the door by their parents for the suburbs of Chicago.

It shouldn’t have to be this way.

It shouldn’t. But it will be so long as we elect people who respect capital ownership over labor, and wealth over work.

Charles Pierce on the nightmare that won’t end tomorrow, even if Trump does.

If you have been concerned, as any thinking person would be, by the conservative project of salting the federal courts with specimens from the various wingnut welfare terrariums, then Friday was one of the days that you’ve been properly dreading. The Supreme Court agreed to hear a case from Louisiana challenging that state’s restrictions on reproductive rights, a case that leaves open to destruction at least the “undue burden” standard present since 1992 in the Court’s Casey decision, if not the entire structure of reproductive rights that has been under assault ever since the Court ruled in Roe v. Wade. From NPR:

Like the Texas law that the court previously struck down, the Louisiana law requires any doctor performing an abortion to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital; it also requires that clinics that provide abortions be, in effect, mini-hospitals, with everything from wide corridors to expensive equipment.

And thereby hangs the decision. It’s Justice Boof’s big chance, and it’s one of the primary reasons people fought so hard for his confirmation. His vote to uphold the Louisiana law is as predetermined an outcome as any in the history of the Court. If the law is upheld, then states will be emboldened to demolish a woman’s right to choose by degrees, as many states already are doing. Roe will not be overturned. It will be completely cored out and useless as practical law. This is another part of the conservative project that will not stop if and when this administration* is sent packing. And Brett Kavanaugh is 54 years old.

Restructuring may be the only option.

Dana Milbank repeating the obvious, but worth repeating.
Washington Post

At the core of the impeachment inquiry — indeed, at the core of almost every complaint about this president — is one simple truth: Donald Trump is not a patriot.

I don’t question that on some level he loves his country. I just know that he loves himself more. Again and again, he has harmed the nation’s interests to further his own.

Geopolitical archrival China, fighting us in a trade war, now knows that to secure good relations with the U.S. administration, it should produce dirt on Trump’s prospective Democratic opponent. That’s not in the national interest (it’s flatly against the law). It’s in Trump’s personal interest.

Likewise, Trump temporarily left Ukraine without U.S. military assistance against Russian aggression while requesting a “favor” — furnish dirt on that same political opponent, Joe Biden. That compromised national security for Trump’s electoral purposes.

Someone please ask Donald Trump for a time when he has placed the nation’s interest ahead of his own. Then ask when he has placed any interest ahead of his own. Ten to one the question only confuses him.

Leonard Pitts on that film shot entirely in a Florida prison without the knowledge of the guards.
Miami Herald

Over a period of years, the convicted drug trafficker used specially rigged, almost cartoonishly oversize eyeglasses fitted with hidden cameras and a hollowed-out Bible with a lens peeking through the O in HOLY to capture the gritty, ugly, violent world inside Martin Correctional Institution, one of Florida’s more notoriously dangerous prisons.

Whitney filmed men brawling or ready to swing locks at each other, inmates passed out on synthetic drugs, mold covering the walls of the kitchen like a coat of dark paint, easily accessible drugs smoked in plain view, makeshift knives traded for a few dollars’ worth of food and other scenes from daily life in a Florida prison.

In addition to sentencing reform, we need something like an “orange new deal” that completely rethinks the design, staffing, experience and purpose of prison in America.

Although Whitney had been filming since 2015, only clips from 2017 onward were successfully smuggled out. He gave the Miami Herald permission to post them online.

The Department of Corrections was asked multiple times to comment on this story but did not do so before online publication. After the article appeared on the Miami Herald’s website, the department sent an unsigned statement, which read, in part: “The department is aware of the video and takes this information seriously. The FDC Office of Inspector General has an ongoing investigation into this video.”

By which they don’t mean they’ll make things better. Just make it harder to see how bad they are.

Some TV news … As of 5AM, no White House staffers were booked for any of the Sunday morning political talk shows. Neither were any Republican leaders in the House. Neither were any Republican leaders in the Senate.

Hmm. Wonder why?

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