Wednesday, July 18, 2018

New York Note

Our very good blogfriend Jim Tarrant asked, in a comment on yesterday's post,
Sorry, not from NY. What’s the WFP? (White Freedom Party?)
I thought I'd share the response up front here, for the instruction of all you out-of-staters:

Sorry about that! It's the Working Families Party, a hopefully leftist NYS group (to which I've contributed, full disclosure) whose strategy is to offer ballot endorsements in return for policy endorsements from the candidate. It's worth talking about because it's generally been a good example of what a third party in the American system can do to exert progressive pressure on the election process. Generally they endorse the Democrat after the primary, and it's nice to vote on their line instead of the Democrats' to let the latter know you're not pleased with them at the national level.

They need to be very careful about endorsing candidates at the primary level, because they'll make somebody angry, and in 2014 they did this in a huge way, allowing themselves to be pressured into endorsing Andrew Cuomo over progressive hero Zephyr Teachout and enraging about three quarters of their voters and a hell of a lot of their contributors (I wrote it up here). This year they did the same thing, endorsing the Democrats' machine candidate, Joe Crowley of Queens, over the wonderful progressive Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of the Bronx, only worse, because she won.

Now Crowley—

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Identity politics with David Brooks: The wolves are in the henhouse

National Geographic lightweight house via Daily Mail
David Brooks's hot take on the Trump-Putin summit ("The Murder-Suicide of the West", taking off from Jonah Goldberg's new title but adding the murder part for added drama, apparently)  was that it was like when C.S. Lewis's mother died, not that he was there, it was in 1908, but he's read about it, and it's pretty sad, she had cancer and the kid was only ten, and they shipped him off to a boarding school with a psychotic headmaster afterwards, so that it may not sound exactly like the Trump-Putin summit to you, but the thing is Trump has broken up with Europe, and Europe is our mother, as Americans, the source of democracy, universities, good manners, luxury hotels, and public parks! Trump is taking our Mom away! He's stuck her in an assisted-living facility and he's dating that trampy little Russia!

I'm barely kidding:

What Happened

Emperor Napoleon welomes Tsar Alexander to the floating pavilion on the Neman near Tilsit, 25 June 1807. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Interpreting what happened yesterday in Helsinki is handicapped by the news media's reluctance to consider whether Donald Trump is guilty of something or not. Which is totally understandable! They're not supposed to judge! But they can't even allow themselves to consider what kind of crime we'd be talking about with any specificity, and this leads to a kind of sentimental muddling of the story, as in this report from The Times:
“You have been watching,” said the disembodied voice of Anderson Cooper, “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president at a summit in front of a Russian leader that I’ve ever seen.”
Perhaps Mr. Cooper had briefly forgotten the mores of his profession — stolidity and a Cronkite-ian cool — in the heat of a surreal live event: a public pas de deux on Monday between President Trump and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, in which the president criticized United States intelligence agencies and declined multiple opportunities to blame Mr. Putin for interfering in American elections.
Disrespect for the intelligence community? Failure to blame? Is it having inappropriate beliefs, that Putin knows more than the IC or is more reliable? Is it disgraceful to have those beliefs, or is it stupid? Or is it disgraceful or stupid to express them, would a decent president keep his weird beliefs silent?

Monday, July 16, 2018

Mr. Trump is Not Authorized to Speak For the Trump Administration, part 42

Art by Jim Cooke via the late lamented Gawker, March 2016, from a lovely and prophetic Ashley Feinberg piece.

Kenneth Adelman, of all people, Ronald Reagan's UN ambassador and lead arms control negotiator and, as I just learned, author of Shakespeare in Charge: The Bard's Guide to Leading and Succeeding on the Business Stage—but also a Republican who managed to denounce the Iraq invasion by 2006 and vote for Obama in 2008—showed up on both NPR and BBC this morning to provide some advance panditry on the Trump-Putin summit or whatever it is.

He said something I thought was kind of interesting: NPR's interviewer, Noel King, was confronting him with the line that the Trump administration had after all been very tough on the Putin regime, sanctioning them in various ways, and Adelman just said no; the US government did that stuff—I guess he meant primarily Secretary Mattis and the Congressional leadership—and he welcomed it, but Trump himself wasn't working in the interests of the US government, but his own, the political interest of satisfying his base. He could have gone further, I think, and said that Trump has worked consistently against the US government on the Russia issue, trying to stop the sanctions or counter them in any way he can, and he could have suggested that Trump works in his financial interests too, funneling taxpayer money into his businesses and continuing to look for opportunities: I'm absolutely convinced he hasn't given up on the idea of that Trump Tower Moscow. What else could he have meant in that bizarre pair of tweets?

Specific Chemical Materials

Is David Sanger of the New York Times playing a Michael Gordon/Judith Miller role in building up a case for hostility to Iran? Massive story in which Sanger shares a byline with the Yedioth Ahronoth analyst Ronen Bergman, reporting Israel's raid last January of an Iranian storage facility stealing documents from 2003, which Prime Minister Netanyahu himself reported last April as part of his personal effort to push Emperor Trump into abandoning the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran's nuclear activities, which paid off a few days later when Trump indeed left. The documents reveal that the Iran nuclear weapons program was more advanced in 2003 than somebody or other thought it was, though it's also clear that Iran totally dismantled it that year, as they claimed.

Why is The Times reporting it now, six months after the raid and three months after the news? Because the Israeli government invited them over for a junket, pumped up with thrilling detail about the bravura of Mossad in the break-in:
TEL AVIV — The Mossad agents moving in on a warehouse in a drab commercial district of Tehran knew exactly how much time they had to disable the alarms, break through two doors, cut through dozens of giant safes and get out of the city with a half-ton of secret materials: six hours and 29 minutes.
The morning shift of Iranian guards would arrive around 7 a.m., a year of surveillance of the warehouse by the Israeli spy agency had revealed, and the agents were under orders to leave before 5 a.m. to have enough time to escape. Once the Iranian custodians arrived, it would be instantly clear that someone had stolen much of the country’s clandestine nuclear archive, documenting years of work on atomic weapons, warhead designs and production plans.
The agents arrived that night, Jan. 31, with torches that burned at least 3,600 degrees, hot enough, as they knew from intelligence collected during the planning of the operation, to cut through the 32 Iranian-made safes. But they left many untouched, going first for the ones containing the black binders, which contained the most critical designs.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Literary Corner: England, My England!

Trump's redecoration of Air Force One, as reported by (update: fake, this is a known bad source).

In his interview with the so-called newspaper The Sun (via CNN) the other day, Emperor Trump was musing on how England doesn't seem to be England any more, at least toponymically: "You don't hear the word 'England' as much as you should. I miss the name England. I think England is a beautiful name. And you don't hear it very much anymore. But (the football team at the World Cup is) playing as 'England'. That's very interesting. That's good." Apparently not aware that Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland field teams (none of which made it to the Round of 36, like the US, this year) as well. Then, during his exclusive tarmac interview aboard a grounded Air Force One with the hack Piers Morgan for the Daily Mail,
Under the TV are three digital clocks. They permanently display the same three times – Washington DC, local time and time in the next destination [I presume the displays of the local time and next destination are not permanent but change, in fact, as the location and intinerary of the plane change]. To the right of the TV was a brown leather sofa. Two hi-tech phones were behind it.
‘Can I pick one up and call someone?’ I asked, reaching down to phone Lord Sugar and boast about where I was.
‘NO!!!!!’ exclaimed another aide. ‘Do NOT touch those phones… please. Thank you, sir.’
The President’s staff all exude an air of delightfully polite menace. Next to the phones was a black leather bound menu containing that night’s culinary fare [as opposed presumably to the entertainment options and the locations of the emergency exits].
as Trump worked to slide away from revealing that he doesn't have any idea what Britain's industrial products might be, in advance of making a trade agreement with that ancient and distinguished country in which the United States might replace the European Single Market in Britain's economy, he got into toponymy again, but that turned out to be a dangerous subject too:

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Nothing is easier than getting an indictment

Trying to imagine how an investigation team that had a bunch of flashy assertions with no evidence managed to compose a couple of paragraphs like these from the indictment (from the money laundering count 10):
59. ...To further avoid creating a centralized paper trail of all of their purchases, the Conspirators purchased infrastructure using hundreds of different email accounts, in some cases using a new account for each purchase. The Conspirators used fictitious names and addresses in order to obscure their identities and their links to Russia and the Russian government. For example, the domain was registered and paid for using the fictitious name “Carrie Feehan” and an address in New York. In some cases, as part of the payment process, the Conspirators provided vendors with nonsensical addresses such as “usa Denver AZ,”'“gfhgh ghfhgfh fdgfdg WA,” and “1 2 dwd District of Columbia.” 
60. The Conspirators used several dedicated email accounts to track basic bitcoin transaction information and to facilitate bitcoin payments to vendors. One of these dedicated accounts, registered with the username “gfadel47,” received hundreds of bitcoin payment requests from approximately 100 different email accounts. For example, on or about February 1, 2016, the gfadel47 account received the instruction to “[p]lease send exactly 0.026043 bitcoin to” a certain thirty-four character bitcoin address. Shortly thereafter, a transaction matching those exact instructions was added to the Blockchain.
Like this?

Friday, July 13, 2018

Bogus Logjam

The four-mile log jam at Taylors Falls on the St. Croix River, "so spectacular that excursion trains traveled from Duluth to see it," 13 June 1886, via Minnesota Historical Society.

Shorter David Brooks, "The Quiet Death of Racial Progress", New York Times, 13 July 2018:
I was planning to write a column about all the tremendous progress that has been made in achieving racial equality in the United States since 1960, with black unemployment at historically low levels, but the more research I did the more I learned something totally unexpected, which is that the progress mostly stopped in around 1980 and nobody seems to have noticed. So I'll take twelve paragraphs to lay out these shocking facts, which will leave me four paragraphs to give my prescriptions. I'd say, if anybody asked me, that we should go with all the experts I know who feel that we have two basic problems, structural and cultural. Only unfortunately those people don't exist, we only have leftists who blame society in general for  the structural racism of society in general and rightists who blame black people for not adopting the bourgeois norms of serving in the military, getting married, and going to church, and therefore we are clearly in need of compromising on this because both sides are right because oops I'm out of space again.
Yes, it looks like David Brooks has been making a lot of progress himself in his understanding of the issues, and he's now ready after 30 years of denial to admit that systemic societal racism, including residential and educational segregation and the starkly different treatment of black people, especially men, by the criminal justice system from the beat cop to mass incarceration, holds black people, especially men, in a disadvantaged position relative to people of other races—but only if we'll admit that it's their fault because why won't they be more bourgeois?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Goodlatte lies so baldly you'd expect his hair to fall out

An encouraging squeeze from the Padrone, from the chairman's Facebook page.

Bob Goodlatte addresses the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees on the occasion of Peter Strzok's testimony, 12 July 2018:
"For those who think we are wasting time in this committee, suppose all of this had been said about candidate Obama before he was elected, or even more topical, about Hillary Clinton while she was running in the same election. Would we be where we are today? The only honest answer is an absolute affirmative, "YES"! Of course we would be here because every single Democrat would be protesting bias and discrimination against their preferred candidates by an out-of-control FBI and DOJ. So please stop saying this doesn't matter and is only the product of conspiracy theory," Goodlatte told the committee.
Former attorney general Loretta Lynch testifies for the FBI inspector general on her meeting with former FBI director James Comey, 31 October 2016, as the phony investigation of the Huma Abidin laptop was getting leaked to the public a week before the 2016 election:
And then I said, "Now, we’ve got to talk about the New York office in general." And he said, "Yes." And I said, "We both work with them. We both know them. We both, you know, think highly of them," I said, "but this has become a problem." And he said, and he said to me that it had become clear to him, he didn’t say over the course of what investigation or whatever, he said, "It’s clear to me that there is a cadre of senior people in New York who have a deep and visceral hatred of Secretary Clinton." And he said,  "It is, it is deep. It’s..." and he said, he said it was surprising to him or stunning to him.
You know, I didn’t get the impression he was agreeing with [the New York office's Clinton hatred] at all, by the way. But he was saying it did exist, and it was hard to manage because these were agents that were very, very senior, or had even had timed out and were staying on, and therefore did not really feel under pressure from headquarters or anything to that effect. And I said, "You know, I’m aware of that...."
Is every Democrat protesting bias and discrimination against their preferred candidate by an out-of-control FBI as witnessed by the attorney general and FBI director in sworn testimony that is now public? As information that those very same New York FBI had sat on for a month, failing to act, suddenly became public through a leak that seems to have been engineered by them and Jason Chaffetz, the then chairman of the House Oversight Committee, in an October surprise that almost certainly played a principal part in Hillary Clinton's unexpected defeat in the election?

I'm not hearing a whole lot of that, frankly. Certainly not as much as is merited. There's some hope that the inspector general is looking at it.

Is the House Judiciary Committee on it? How many subpoenas has Goodlatte issued? Give me a fucking break. "The only honest answer"? NO, as Goodlatte might put it. These liars need to be driven out of office and made to work for a living. They are really bad people.

More from Bethesda1971.

Nothing Happened

Nuts of Fury Breakfast brown ale, made with local grain from Appalachian Malting and fresh Vienna Roast coffee from Iron Star Roasting Company, from the Fury Brewing Company of Huntingdon, PA, via untappd.

So it was all bullshit. The Breakfast of Fury was a performance, as Steve notes, for Trump's base in the United States to watch their God-Emperor filling the hearts of the foreigners with fear and trembling, and what actually happened at the NATO summit in Brussels was, precisely, nothing.

That's not what he said at his own press conference, of course (via Telegraph):
Mr Trump refused to deny that he had threatened to pull the US out of the organisation, and said the atmosphere in the meeting was "a little tough for a little while," but cordial after the spending commitments went up "like a rocket ship".
"Everyone in the room thanked me," he said. "There is a great collegial atmosphere in that room, that I don't think they've had for many years."
Asked directly whether he had threatened to withdraw, he replied: "I told people I'd be very unhappy if they didn't up their commitment. Yesterday I let them know I was extremely unhappy."...
"Nato is much stronger than it was two days ago," Mr Trump declared.
"We had a fantastic meeting at the end. Germany has increased very substantially what it is doing. I brought it up, no one brought it up but me.
"And frankly maybe everyone is going to have a good relationship with Russia."
It's just nonsense, as we learn from the AP report of the press conference of the president of France: