Monday, February 27, 2017

Modest Proposal

Dr. E.W. Prichard, an ex-naval surgeon who settled in Scotland as a G.P., convicted of murdering his wife and mother-in-law by poison, the last person to be publicly executed in Glasgow, in 1865. He may have killed a servant-girl as well.

Now that we're going to get rid of the Dodd-Frank fiduciary rule requiring investment advisors to act in their customers' best interests—I actually heard some Republican hack on the radio saying that the rule was a limitation on consumer freedom of choice ("But I might want to choose an investment adviser who will use me to push up the the price of a stock that's going to collapse so he can make more for the firm, or himself, by shorting it!")—

Now, I say, maybe we should think about applying this in some other places. I notice that was a big part of the Republican opposition to the Affordable Care Act too. When Obama said "If you like it you can keep it," he wasn't thinking about all the ordinary Americans who prefer their insurance to suck up their premiums and never give them any payback unless a motorcycle accident turns them into paraplegics. Obama thought we'd like to get rid of those in favor of plans that give you preventive care without a copay. And worried about poor people who couldn't afford any insurance instead of Silicon Valley libertarians who don't need insurance because they know they're immune to cancer. (Nobody's immune to cancer.)

Anyway, why don't we start licensing physicians who decline to take the Hippocratic Oath? What about my right to choose a doctor who doesn't mind doing a little harm? Harmful physicians could probably cut costs a lot, which is so important in health care for poor people, in line with the Ryan proposals.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Annals of Derp: A point of parliamentary privilege

Illustration by Ken Priebe for his poem "The Parliament of Owls", a very nice lyrical treatment of collective animal nouns.
A little fake news from Jazz Shaw of the aptly named Hot Air website:
This is a story which would never take place in the United States, at least not yet and not with the official permission of the government. The European Union has obviously become increasingly alarmed over trends in popular sentiment rippling through their member countries. This started with Brexit, but has more recently cropped up with the candidacies of Marie Le Pen and Geert Wilders. Clearly such rabble rousing is not to be tolerated in the largely socialist paradise so something had to be done. The solution? The EU has passed new rules which will allow them to cut the broadcast of any “hate speech or offensive material” and then purge such speech from the official record. (Associated Press)
One of the reasons this sounds so alarming is the unclarity of the writing (and Le Pen's name is "Marine".) The official record of what, Mr. Jazz?

That's the key: It's the official record of debates in the European Parliament, the elected body that governs the EU, which, like other parliaments, has an absolute and unquestioned right to set the standards of acceptable speech inside the body and to suppress unacceptable language—including, obviously, the houses of Congress in the United States, where we're all familiar with the idea of representatives' remarks being "stricken from the record" or having their "words taken down".

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Chair and chair alike

I'm so old (as we say on the Twitter) I remember when the self-denominated progressive faction was looking on Labor Secretary Tom Perez as a kind of savior against those terrible corporate Democrats, maybe ten months ago—when somebody was talking him up as a vice presidential candidate for Hillary Clinton. Didn't work out, but that's another story. But Perez did have a very progressive reputation: "The most radical cabinet secretary since Henry Wallace headed agriculture," howled Breitbart before he'd even been confirmed. Bankers hated him for fighting racial discrimination in housing mortgages at the Department of Justice, and the representatives of capital (such as Sam Batman writing for The Hill) for his work at Labor:

The Lake of Labor

The Allen River enters Lake Chauekuktuli in Southwest Alaska. Photo by Robert Glenn Ketchum, via Bristol Bay Land Trust.

Verbatim David Brooks, "The National Death Wish", February 25 2017, offering a novel version of the "lump of labor" fallacy, to explain why immigration does not lower wages:

Cotton and Perdue’s position, which is now the mainstream Republican position, is based on the unconscious supposition that American society is like a lake, with a relatively fixed boundary. If you cut the supply of fish coming from outside, there will be more food for the ones born here.
The problem is that American society is actually more like a river. Sometimes the river is running high, with a lot of volume and flow, with lots of good stuff for everybody, and sometimes it’s running low.
This has to be one of the worst analogies in literary history, especially insofar as the point he'd like to be making, if only he knew how, is a valid one.

A healthy lake actually provides an analogy for how a society prospers with a steady flow of immigration; lakes are fed by rivers bringing them oxygen, nutrients, and, yes, more fish, some of which are food for fish that live there. Ecologically rivers and lakes form integrated systems; a lake that isn't getting fed is the aptly named Dead Sea.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Wretched Access

I. F. Stone not deciding what to wear to the White House Correspondents' Dinner, via
Just a note on the CPAC massacre of the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Guardian, Politico, CNN, and whoever else was barred from Sean Spicer's press gaggle, presumably because they are the outlets developing the most damaging stories on the new administration, to punish them, and outside the issue of whether this development represents the coming of fascism, not to say that it doesn't—
—to say that what this is a blow to in particular is access journalism, the (obviously false) idea that you can get the information your readers need by huddling in a room with all your competitors hearing what the press secretary wants you to hear.

Showing up for the gaggle, being in the reception line for the soup Sean Spicer is dishing out, because it you might get your question noticed is playing their game. I can't understand complaining, as people like David Sanger always did, that Obama was closed to the press because he didn't like to do gaggles and because he preferred his own photographer to 300 photographers watching him play with the dog, when in fact Obama was available to give really detailed interviews on policy, even to relatively stupid people like Chuck Todd and enemies like Jeffrey Goldberg, which provided a far more precise and elaborated view of his views than any herd conference could possibly have obtained.

The most pernicious habit in Washington political journalism is the addiction to access, which leads the papers to pull punches on stories for fear they might not get invited to the next party. This is not how effective journalism is done. As everybody knows, No More Mister Nice Blog's titulary grandfather deity, and literal grandfather to our own beloved blogfriend Aimai, I.F. Stone, hardly ever met any powerful people but mostly sat in his office reading and making the occasional phone call, and his work was more important than that of a thousand Chris Cillizzas and Mike Allens.

I'd like to express the hope that today's disinvitation signals some kind of moment in which access journalism begins to decline, and serious journalism of the kind that got the Timeses and Guardian into trouble begins to come back into its own. That's good trouble. If you know you're not getting invited to the next party, why not let it all hang out and tell us what you know, not from spokesman cocktail parties but from traditional legwork and the Google?

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Eve of Deconstruction

Image by Todd McLellan.
Philip Rucker's Bannon interview, in the Washington Post:
Atop Trump’s agenda, Bannon said, was the “deconstruction of the administrative state” — meaning a system of taxes, regulations and trade pacts that the president and his advisers believe stymie economic growth and infringe upon one’s sovereignty.
“If you look at these Cabinet nominees, they were selected for a reason, and that is deconstruction,” Bannon said.
So it's easy to laugh—obviously my first instinct. As in, too bad Jacques Derrida is dead, he would have made such a great Secretary of State. Or maybe Commerce, or the head of Faith-Based Programs.

It won't go away that easy

Obamacare won't be riding into the sunset, Republicans will. Image via EvilSpeculator.
I've long been convinced Republicans would not be able to repeal the Affordable Care Act because they don't have any ideas for that promised replacement—they can't come up with any ideas virtually by definition, because the parts their constituents want to keep are dependent on the parts they're committed to getting rid of—but I haven't been smart enough to see how it works out in a practical sense, in the sausage-making process. This is now coming clear, in a series of Tweets by the genial young Matthew Chapman, a Texas video game designer who's turned out since the election to be one of the great Twitter ranters.

It starts with the Congressional Budget Office, which must review the budgetary consequences of the repeal. Apparently they've done this with a Ryan-sponsored proposal:

(Topher Spiro runs health policy analysis at the Center for American Progress.)

It's going to cost hundreds of billions to get rid of it, as you probably knew already. Which doesn't mean much on its own, since as you also already knew, Republicans only care about deficits when a Democrat is president.

But in an almost evenly divided Senate there are no ways of passing it.

Since no Democrat will vote for repeal, they can't use the normal procedure, in which the Democrats would kill it with a so-called filibuster (refusing to close debate and move to a vote). Instead, they must use the budget reconciliation process, for which (according to the Byrd Rule) the bill either has to be budget-neutral, or contain a sunset provision, where the new law expires after some fixed period and the older law comes back into effect, and the deficits are pushed out by mathematical manipulation into the fictional time after the law expires (this is what happened with the Bush tax cuts that led to the famous Fiscal Cliff massacre of 2013). So it's back to the drawing board.

Meanwhile insurance companies have to know by April whether the ACA is going to continue to exist or not so they can start devising their policy offerings for 2018. Since Congress isn't going to be able to manage repeal by then no matter what, they'll have to put it off for at least a year while Ryan attempts to whip up a Plan B. And Republican congresspersons continue getting more and more spooked by constituents' unexpected affection for the law. And the problem of how you get rid of the thing in a budget-neutral way or a way you can successfully pretend is budget-neutral (that's what the sunset provision really is) remains as insoluble as ever.

Stay tuned, but I don't think it's ever going to happen.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

It's not the same

Washington, September 12 2009. via Fox News.
I'm seeing a lot of traffic on the Twitter, including from some distinguished journalists, drawing an equivalence between these town hall meetings where Republican legislators are getting screamed at and the Tea Party agitation of 2009-10, much of it with the optimistic view that this could augur one of those big waves in the 2018 elections:

Or even pessimistic, worrying that protesters are making themselves obnoxious, and nobody likes that:

And for counterpoint the breezy Cillizza dismizza:

And then there's this:

It struck me there's an enormous difference between these protests and those of seven or eight years ago, in that these are about reality.

The Tea Party was complaining about taxes going through the roof and masses of Mexicans invading our country when taxes had in fact been going down for years and Mexicans had started migrating in the opposite direction. Not that most of them were lying, I think they really didn't know. They hadn't gone to the trouble of putting two payslips together and figuring it out, and they didn't live in places where there were any Mexicans, and they didn't know what they were talking about, just what Rush and Sean were telling them, and our beloved mainstream media didn't seem to know either—the Chris Cillizzas and Adam Nagourneys who don't feel they're being paid to know anything about real life since how does that impact the horse race anyway?

This week's town hall protesters, in contrast, are talking about access to lifesaving medical care and Donald Trump's tax returns, and it carries a certain conviction. Anyway it feels a lot different to me.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Mom, the century's broken! I wasn't even TOUCHING it!

No idea what the source of this is. Via.

David F. Brooks, "This Century is Broken", February 21 2017:

Most of us came of age in the last half of the 20th century and had our perceptions of “normal” formed in that era. 
This turns out to be true, although it's extremely close. Due to a dwindling birth rate, the median age is 38 (it was 31 as recently as 1985), so about half of us turned 21 before 1999, and if we agree that the 21st century began in 2001 (and in fact I'm not putting up with any disagreement on this, so shut up), then it's clear that a majority are immigrants from the 20th. But it's a very narrow one, which will have vanished before the next presidential election.

I'm not finding any sources for this odd little fact, and it's possible Brooks just made it up; the fact that it's true would be just a coincidence.

It was, all things considered, an unusually happy period. No world wars, no Great Depressions, fewer civil wars, fewer plagues.
It might be more accurate to say that the previous half-century had been an unusually sad period, since it experienced most or all of the world wars (I think the French wars of 1792 through 1814 count as one, but the authorities don't seem to) and all of the Great Depressions in human history.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Annals of Derp: What's the Matter with Sean Hannity?

Thanks to some research conducted with friends on Twitter, I am now in a position to say what's wrong with Sean Hannity, which is that he is unfortunately locked in what the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget referred to as the preoperational stage of cognitive development, typical of children ages 2 to as late as 7.
As a fan, Mortal Wombat/Purveyor of Truth ("What is up with Media Pushing Popular Vote"), explains at the Hannity Forum, "this map shows to me that more of the country wanted a change. But the Libs really need to stop talking about the Popular vote. It keeps fueling the flames of the rioters."

Monday, February 20, 2017

Cheap shot: If at first you don't succeed


So I followed this guy under the impression that he must be a dadaist:

Apparently not, he's just another 4chan creep who does this kind of thing not because he has a sense of humor but because he doesn't have one.

Anyway later on, rushing to the defense of our president's opinion that something terrible involving Muslim migrants had happened in Sweden last night, or at any rate some time...



Sadly, no. A little research revealed that this video depicts a quaint native Malmö custom where the indigens get a little drunk on the evening of December 31. And some of the guys end up shooting fireworks at each other, which would be rowdy and crude and something you would not see in, say, Stockholm or Uppsala. But I don't think you'll find any immigrants in that video. They feel it's too dangerous.

The quid for the quo

Evromaidan, November 2013, via Wikipedia. Of course some people will still tell you this was arranged by George Soros and Victoria Nuland. But they're the same people that think Putin is a leftist.
So the stakes Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin is playing for just clarified themselves, in a big way, in this Times story by Megan Twohey and Scott Shane: It's not just relief from sanctions imposed on the Russian Federation over its seizure of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine, though that's included; it's really the restoration of the Russian Empire (not the USSR, which aspired toward socialism, but the older, murkily religious and violently patriarchal thing, where Moscow used to refer to itself as the "Third Rome", the successor to Byzantium, the uniter of Europe and Asia under the banner of Christ and Orthodoxy).

Which has to go somewhat beyond the story Twohey and Shane (constricted by the rules of proper journalism) are telling, which is basically about palace intrigue in Washington, and a proposal for lifting sanctions that was working its way through the National Security Council at the time old Flynn got himself fired:

Sunday, February 19, 2017

You can keep recycling this article, but you can't make it be about something else.

Image by Mabel Amber/Pixabay.
Everybody's dumping on poor Sabrina Tavernise and her Times "analysis" about how we liberals are never going to convert any Trump voters if we keep being so mean-ass about it and wounding their tender feelings (who's a snowflake?), by making fun of their #MAGA caps and refusing to go on dates with them.

I don't have much to add to Steve's take, in particular, except I think everybody (including Vacuumslayer and Roy) is missing one vital detail about 72-year-old Syracusan Ann O'Connell, one of Tavernise's three examples of the "moderate conservatives" we should be making nice to—a loyal Democrat (why, she voted for a Democratic presidential candidate as recently as 1996!) who has

Latest News on the Trump-Is-a-Liberal Front

Right, Ross. And when Francis denounces Trump's policies on immigration and refugees he's just trying to distract us. After all, the Vatican City already has a wall. Photo by Karen Olson of the Meandering Kiwis.
Shorter Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, "The Trump Era's Catholic Mirror", New York Times, February 15 2017:
Forget about that Stephen Bannon and his relationship with Cardinal Raymond Burke and the other reactionary forces within the Roman Catholic hierarchy openly conspiring to unseat Pope Francis with charges of heresy if that's what it takes; the real Trumpista in the Vatican is the vulgar, populist Pope himself. I am not a crank.

It's not a Japanese internment order

Screen shot from Evan Salcido/YouTube.
Executive Order 9066, signed by President Roosevelt 75 years ago today, is often thought of as an order to put ethnic-Japanese residents of the United States, including US citizens, in detention camps, treating them all as enemies of the state, just because that's what actually happened.

But by Trumpian logic that's totally unfair. It didn't apply to all Japanese, just "any or all" of those in "military areas". Not including Hawaii, for instance, where 40% of the population was of Japanese origin, and where the real-life Japanese attack on the United States had occurred (from Japan, not from anybody living in the territory), but only a few thousand were interned, and not including anybody east of the Mississippi except some Italians and Germans (including German Jewish refugees, because it was thought they might be German agents abusing Americans' natural sympathy for refugees, does that sound familiar at all?).

In fact it really didn't apply to Japanese at all; the word "Japanese" isn't used anywhere in the order. Just "persons", at the discretion of the designated commander:
I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of War, and the Military Commanders whom he may from time to time designate, whenever he or any designated Commander deems such action necessary or desirable, to prescribe military areas in such places and of such extent as he or the appropriate Military Commander may determine, from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion. The Secretary of War is hereby authorized to provide for residents of any such area who are excluded therefrom, such transportation, food, shelter, and other accommodations as may be necessary, in the judgment of the Secretary of War or the said Military Commander, and until other arrangements are made, to accomplish the purpose of this order.
So how can you possibly call it a Muslim ban Japanese internment order? It was just Keeping America Safe. </sarcasm> Or an invitation to racial discrimination and arbitrary tyranny, depending on how you look at it, you know, but I have an idea which, based on the way it turned out.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Song

Very classy! And huge! Bedminster.
Inspired by the Politico story featuring a leaked video of President Donald J. Trump entertaining the guests at the Bedminster Golf Club by inviting them to interview candidates for cabinet positions—hey, they're paying good money to be the president's personal guests!

To the tune of:



In today's weasel news

Weasel, via Dreams of Animals.




Brooks consults the Kristol ball

Not finding a credit for this image. Anybody?
David Brooks, pulling out his Kristol ball, finds the future is fuzzy: he can't imagine how the Trump administration will survive for the whole quadrennium ("What a Failed Trump Administration Looks Like"), but he can't imagine how it will meet its demise either.  Gone are the good old days when you could rely on the nation to unite in the effort to get rid of a criminal president:

I have trouble seeing exactly how this administration ends. Many of the institutions that would normally ease out or remove a failing president no longer exist.
There are no longer moral arbiters in Congress like Howard Baker and Sam Ervin to lead a resignation or impeachment process. There is no longer a single media establishment that shapes how the country sees the president. This is no longer a country in which everybody experiences the same reality.
Funny thing about Howard Baker, ranking Republican on the Senate Select Committee investigating the Watergate burglary, and how he asked his famous question:

Friday, February 17, 2017

Limerick

Photo by Stephen Crowley/New York Times.
There once was a toady called Pruitt
Who was terribly anxious to do it.
   But instead of a chick
   He inserted his dick
In a rare Chinese vinegar cruet.
Bonus: That time I caught Scott Pruitt lying in court (had nothing to do with the EPA, either; it was Obamacare). I'd forgotten all about it.

Funny business

Yevgeny Rybolovlev, Donald J. Trump, and the Palm Beach estate the former bought from the latter for $95 million, said to be the most expensive residential property sale in US history, though he hasn't shown any interest in moving in or renting the place out in the nine years he's owned it. Via Politico.
Just laying this out:


There's a non-barking dog in Kumar's story in the form of a name that's missing from it—one that I've gotten very interested in recently:

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Cheap shots: The Well-Tempered Trumpichord


Annals of Derp: Failing Obamacare or Failing Rightwing Arithmetic?



Oh, hai, Heritage Foundation,  it's been a while! What you been up to?
One of America's drug problems: Heritage Foundation economists are taking too many of them. Image via Newstarget.




In particular because that isn't—um—what the source says. Because in the first place the Milliman numbers aren't what that family pays. It's the cost of health care, according to their calculations, for the "typical family of four on a standard average PPO plan" as paid by the family itself, their employer, their insurer, and/or the government. What that "typical family" paid in 2015 was not $24,671, the total Milliman costs, but quite a bit less than half of that:

Cheap shots: If Adele is Trump, who's Beyoncé?





Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Some of what Tom's smoking

It's always even worse when you feel a certain amount of sympathy with what Friedman wants to communicate, and yearning for a world where his fantasies would have a chance of coming true.

Moustache Fleuri, via.


Shorter Tom Friedman, "President Trump. Will You Save the Jews?", New York Times, February 15 2016:
Dear Mr. President, I implore you, by all that's sacred, you must stop Prime Minister Netanyahu from allowing any more illegal Jewish settlements from being built in the Palestinian West Bank where even President Rivlin is saying that Israel's behavior is making a legal cacophony and causing Israel to be seen as an apartheid state, which of course it isn't, seen as an apartheid state I tell you, and destroying forever the chance of a two-state solution. The projected land grab is an act of moral turpitude that will undermine the moral foundations of the state! It is about right versus wrong! It could tear apart every Jewish synagogue, charitable organization, campus club, and Jewry around the world, the way Woodmont Golf Club was almost torn apart when President Obama wanted to join and the board thought he was too pro-Palestinian because of the administration's failure to veto the UN Security Council resolution condemning the settlements only fortunately the decent members prevailed! Please consider your legacy and do the right thing!

Conjectural Donald J. Trump, in response:

Trump Twitter Fail of the Day: #FakeQuotes

So it wouldn't be the first time.


Yet once again the reading disability is going to be the banana peel on which he slides toward his doom. And his own personal fake news suppliers at Breitbart, perhaps, or Ms. Hicks and her pile of clippings ready for him to circle phrases he likes with his Sharpie [Update: It was Fox News Twitter feed, see Comments.].

If you read Lake's piece on "The Political Assassination of Michael Flynn", as Trump clearly didn't, you'll wonder why the servants allowed him to call attention to it. A couple of points:

1. That Lake calls Trump a liar, with some detailed exemplification—

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Cheap shot: Out like Flynn

General Mike Flynn confronting Chuck Todd, with some bewilderment, in November. Screen capture via Raw Story.

Flynn:
I am tendering my resignation, honored to have served our nation and the American people in such a distinguished way.
Maybe "distinguished" isn't quite the mot juste, General.

David Brooks joins the #Resistance

Alongside that hero of insurrection, Gerald R. Ford. I'm not even kidding.

John Banner as Sergeant Schulz.
Shorter ("How Should One Resist the Trump Administration?"):
There are three models for resistance to the tyranny of Trumpery: anti-Nazi dissident Dietrich Bonhoeffer, monastery organizer Benedict of Nursia, and President Gerald R. Ford. We're in a Ford moment.
It's so weird, but so deeply Brooksian, how he moves more or less unconsciously from the "one" of his title, which you'd think would refer to you and me, the footsoldiers in whatever it's going to take to deal with the present emergency, to the "One" Great Man, the leader who will show us the way. (But not in an ill-mannered way like Donald "I Alone Can Fix It" Trump.) He promised to tell us what to do but slid immediately into looking for somebody else to tell us. His first instinct, in asking how to cope with the threat of authoritarianism, is to call the authorities.

Thus we might need a Bonhoeffer to resist the threat of incipient fascism. Or St. Benedict? Wait, what? In fact, his first instinct is to argue that authoritarianism isn't the problem:

Monday, February 13, 2017

Trump Twitter Fail of the Day

Via.


The Post doesn't have a number for the supporters, but they seem to have consisted mainly of the knot of eight or nine you see briefly on the video (which I originally posted here, but I find it's an autoplay, so I killed it; you should be able to see it here) on the north side of Southern Boulevard in front of a Cuban restaurant, led by a man in a yellow shirt waving an old-regime Cuban flag; the camera operator pans back and forth and zooms, working really hard to do it justice. The protest crowd, on both sides of the street, wasn't exactly huge either, but it did have well over a hundred people. Maybe as the emperor rode by he thought the "NO DAPL" signs were attacking Obama's immigration policy (Deferred Action for Parents of Legals?).

Some corroboratory material just came on at Addicting Info.

Overwhelming Minority

Guadalupe GarcĂ­a de Rayos. Photo by Rob Schumacher/Arizona Republic, via Will Bunch at Philly.
That's what Governor Chris Christie calls the non-felons being snatched up in raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement around the country, like dolphins caught in a tuna net, in the Los Angeles area some 25% of the total according to ICE, or 40 of the 160 people they acknowledge busting, alongside who knows what percentage of the hundreds more in Atlanta, New York, Chicago, and cities in Florida, Texas, Kansas, Virginia, and North and South Carolina, an "overwhelming minority":
I can tell you, Jake, from having run a government for seven years and been involved for many years as a U.S. attorney, things always don't go perfectly. And so you are going to have some people who also, by the way, have violated the law, but don't fit that one category. But that will be the overwhelming minority in all this. And what -- what people should focus on is what the president is trying to do, which is to keep a campaign promise on making sure that violent criminals who are here illegally are taken out of the country in order to make America's streets safer. 
So one of the overwhelming minority is Guadalupe GarcĂ­a de Rayos, as we learn from Will Bunch:

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Emperor and the Two Fairies

Image by Beedlejuce at DeviantArt.
Once upon a time there was a wicked emperor, which had nothing whatever to do with the Republican Party's history over the previous three decades, why do you even ask, and one day when he was out hunting he got detached from the party and found himself alone, in the middle of the forest, where an old lady was fetching water from a well.

"Give me something!" he said, with a threatening gesture. "I'm the fucking king!"

But the old lady was actually a good fairy, name of David F. Brooks ("A Gift for Donald Trump"), and she said, "All right, I shall give you the gift of prudence. Now, when somebody tells you you can get another marshmallow if you wait 15 minutes to eat the first one, you will be able to do it and and end up with two marshmallows. Now instead of just doing the first thing that comes into your head you will be more goal-oriented, and take things a step at a time, and you'll be able to attain your heart's desire!"

"Fantastic!" said the emperor. "I want every last fucking marshmallow! Nobody gets another marshmallow but me, ever!"

Trump attacks foot

Drawing by John Deering, February 2016.
Donald blows it again, spreading some fake news perhaps from Alex Jones or Stupidest Man on the Internet Jim Hoft or my favorite Russia tool Tyler Durden:

The show was Friday night, so Trump seems to have been brooding on this for a day and a half (unless SNL was so devastating he's desperate for a distraction from that). It's pretty clear CNN wasn't trying to silence Senator Sanders. If anything, they were taking some unseemly glee in what Bernie was saying. Unfortunately what Bernie was saying has gotten a little bit lost in the excitement, and as a public service I'd like to reproduce some of that below. I'm a little surprised the Donald wants to call attention to it!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Russia thing just got more interesting—and less

"No Puppet Man That's Illegal" by QhaZomb at DeviantArt.




That was Thursday, and then on Thursday night a new angle from the Washington Post on the five (5!) telephone calls General Michael Flynn had with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak on December 29, just after President Obama slapped Russia with a new set of sanctions and diplomatic expulsions, in retaliation for Russia's evident interference with the US presidential contest. And the day before President Putin startled the world by quixotically declining to retaliate against the retaliation (just a few hours after Foreign Minister Lavrov had announced the opposite), a behavior so weird nobody could come up with a case of its having happened before.

The new story being that, according to nine (9!) current or former senior officials at various departments at the time the calls were made, Flynn and Kislyak talked during the calls about the sanctions, and Flynn seemed to be making

RIP Nicolai Gedda

The great Swedish tenor, who rose from a childhood as the son of an unmarried teenage waitress to become an incomparable master of languages and styles, died January 8 at the age of 91.



Friday, February 10, 2017

Incompetent malevolence and its friends

Marion Davies and William Haines in King Vidor's Show People (1928). 
So the Ninth Circuit Court has upheld the temporary restraining order on the imperial decree to Not Order a Complete and Total Ban on Muslims Entering This Country Until We Figure Out Just What in the Hell Is Going On but Something That Reminds People of That.

Conservative Trumposceptics are having a hard time processing it. On the one hand, because it's Trump, they've given themselves permission to see one aspect or another of how bad the decree was, its terrible drafting, its incompetent execution, even some of its hideous consequences; but on the other hand, the court decision is an example of dread JUDICIAL ACTIVISM, or a violation of the sacred constitutional principle that judicial review applies only to the actions of Democrats, and thus ipso facto bad in its own right. So how is a true conservative to respond to a dilemma like that? What would Cato the Censor do?

Jonah Goldberg on NPR offered some dizzying footwork trying to manage the problem, which I may get to after the transcript comes up, but the funniest thing of the morning is a piece by Benjamin Wittes of Lawfare, which Trump thought, embarrassingly enough, was on his side. The piece acknowledged that

Thursday, February 9, 2017

No puppet! No puppet! Chris Cuomo's the puppet!

Mrs. McMahon's Senate campaign in 2011 inspired Labor's Pains to download this picture. She does look a little like Barbara Billingsley as June Cleaver, and the Beav, I think, is who Donald would like to be when he's eight or nine, though he never can.



This is such a dense example of the technique, I want to unpack it.

Trump has to know, for starters, that it's no longer a question of what Senator Blumenthal reported—that Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch finds Trump's constitutionally illiterate critique of the judiciary "disheartening and demoralizing"—since Judge Gorsuch's official White House–provided spokesman confirmed its accuracy half an hour after Blumenthal reported it, followed by independent confirmations from #NeverTrump-but-reactionary Senator Ben Sasse and by former Senator Kelly Ayotte, who is Gorsuch's White House–provided liaison to the Senate.

Ayotte's statement allows her to avoid mentioning Trump by name—

Lie like a Trump: Update

February 2016—he's a brand-new freshman, which makes me wonder why NPR went to him as an authority (update: maybe the senior members are getting more and more reluctant to defend the Trump). Also wonder what lie he was telling when he made this weasel face?
The transcript of that interview with Mike Johnson (R-LA) is up:
INSKEEP: One other thing, Congressman, before I let you go, the president made a statement the other day. He was talking at Central Command - United States Central Command. And he said that the media were hiding terrorist attacks, not reporting terrorist attacks. It was a false claim. The White House was asked for evidence that there were hidden terrorist attacks. They came up with a list of many attacks, like the attack on Paris or Nice, France, that we've covered extensively, that other people have covered extensively. It's just a false claim.
But that leads to my question. If the president's policies are right, why does he have to make false statements to defend them? Why can't the truth suffice?
JOHNSON: Well, listen, I think the truth is out there. I think NPR does a fair job in objectively covering that. But, you know, I would point out Fordham Law School's Center on National Security. Their new report - they released a report on ISIS prosecutions in the U.S. They determined that nearly 20 percent of alleged facilitators in ISIS prosecutions, in our country, do involve refugees and asylees. I mean, those kinds of facts are not as widely publicized, but they should be. I think the American people have a right to know that.
"The American people" have a right to not be abused by this kind of bald prevarication. Note the particular gesture by which he sidesteps Inskeep's question by suggesting the president's mendacity doesn't do any harm: "the truth is out there." It's OK to him that the president lies, because NPR is there and you can always listen to them instead if you want. Everybody playing her or his own part.

And further evidence that this is a Republican phenomenon, not a uniquely Trumpian thing, when he proceeds to dump a falsehood (see previous post) on NPR, one that makes the president's falsehood sound more plausible. Inskeep is perfectly likely to come up with a correction on this sooner or later, but the damage will have been done. It really enrages me.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Lie like a Trump


Syrian refugees in Lebanon, July 2013, via CNN.
Listening to Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) on NPR, who argues how the #MuslimBan isn't a Muslim ban because there are 40 Muslim-majority countries that aren't on it, and wishing as usual that somebody would explain: just because it will fail to ban most Muslims doesn't mean it's not a Muslim ban; it's just an ineffective one—it's aimed more at gratifying Trump's fans and giving the false impression that Trump has kept a campaign promise than anything else. It is a fake Muslim ban; a con, like everything Trump does. Nevertheless it plainly discriminates against Muslims. Just not all Muslims (and not any Muslims with whom President Trump has business dealings, as has been pointed out).

Anyway, Inskeep woke me by asking Johnson, to my surprise, why it is that Trump feels he needs to use untrue statements—I'll get the exact wording when they put up a transcript—and Johnson replied not with an answer to the question or a denial of its premises (why bother?) but some whataboutism, proffered with Kellyanne swiftness and aplomb; well, there are a lot of facts out there, and they don't get publicized, for instance this Fordham University study where they found that most 20% of people in the US charged as ISIS supporters were in fact refugees.

A little Googling revealed what he was talking about:

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Dinner with David

Pamplemousses Botanical Garden, Mauritius. Photo by RomeoDesign.
Shorter David Brooks, "Where History is Being Made", New York Times, February 7 2017:
James and Deborah Fallows, as I think of them, since I'd like to emphasize that I habitually encounter them together at dinner parties rather than separately in the articles and books that each of them writes, have lived in many interesting places, such as Japan, the District of Columbia, and China, at times when important historical events were taking place in those locations, for instance in the 1980s when the Wall Street Journal dumped me in Brussels, the bastards, which is why everybody thinks Fallows is cooler than me. 
Nowadays they just fly around America in their Cirrus 435SR, because James is a pilot, so that they're frequently absent from dinner parties I go to, allowing me to ask the other guests, as a clever conversational gambit, "Where would you live if you were James and Deborah Fallows?" The beautiful thing about this is it doesn't really matter what they say, because I have so many answers myself.

Monday, February 6, 2017

What Tengrain calls a midday palate cleanser



Pleased to learn via NYTimes that the Senate historian, who I bet is a pretty good historian and all-round fine person, is named Betty K. Koed. That's a dumb excuse for posting a YouTube, and a dumb excuse is better than no excuse at all.

Lede, buried

Drawing by xpapajus at drawception.

Paragraph 23 of the Thrush-Haberman Times story on the White House atmosphere: Emperor Trump is really pissed off with Bannon—"You took too long to tell me what I think!"

Namely, when Trump ordered that Bannon replace the two top national security advisers at meetings of the National Security Council, nobody informed him what he was ordering.
for the moment, Mr. Bannon remains the president’s dominant adviser, despite Mr. Trump’s anger that he was not fully briefed on details of the executive order he signed giving his chief strategist a seat on the National Security Council, a greater source of frustration to the president than the fallout from the travel ban.
Though not enough to demote the grisly eminence from his current spot in the minuet lineup. And it's not that Trump thinks this is an ill-advised plan—he's sticking with it (though he's decided it's OK for the CIA director to come to the meetings too; there is also some hope that Democrats will be able to stop the plan by insisting Bannon's presence on NSC must be subject to Senate confirmation). He just wants "to be looped in earlier" as the teaser copy puts it.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Alex sez: Don't push dark things through super bowels

This is really the greatest moment in the history of Twitter. Screenshot; original is here if he hasn't deleted it, which I bet he hasn't.


The Designated Liar

Another courageous thing Fred Hiatt did once, in 1999. Fortuitously it should help him manage Wapo's opinion coverage of the Trump White House.

Fred Hiatt joins the #Resistance!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Why didn't you say so in the first place?



Instead they let themselves get carried away by some of those establishment-elite types like Rudolph Giuliani and their subtle and sophisticated machinations. SAD!

Photo by Reuters via The Independent.