Thursday, October 31, 2019

Cleaning up the Jefferson monument

Jefferson Memorial aims to clean up a microbial colony of algae, fungi and bacteria that has tarnished the monument’s dome. (Kirk D. McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Grand Duchess Ivanka Donaldovna reminding her papa that other great men have had it just as tough as he has:
Somebody was thinking it would be pretty amusing if the "inventing where facts fail them" Jefferson was complaining about was a reference to the campaign slur claiming he had fathered a child on an enslaved woman, which was actually true, of course (actually six children, and it's hard to imagine Martha didn't know about it; the woman in question, Sally Hemings, was her mother's half-sister, and a very central person in the household after her mother's death).

Is Ivanka quoting a sinful president begging for sympathy over wicked and salacious accusations that are in fact true as she seeks to console another one?

Sadly, no, as a great blogger used to say:

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Gaps

Rosemary Woods and Richard Nixon in the Oval Office, via ABC News

Well, I'm damned. Of all the things I could have picked to be dead wrong about, the ellipsis-gaps-in-the-phone-call wasn't one I was expecting to hear about from the testimony of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, but that's where he went, according to three people who spoke to The New York Times:
The omissions, Colonel Vindman said, included Mr. Trump’s assertion that there were recordings of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. discussing Ukraine corruption, and an explicit mention by Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, of Burisma Holdings, the energy company whose board employed Mr. Biden’s son Hunter.
That is, contrary to what I've been telling everybody for weeks, at least one of the three ellipses in what The Times is now calling a "reconstructed transcript" (i.e., a transcript created by a committee, not from a recording but from a robot transcript and two or three sets of notes taken by people who listened in, and group-edited by other people who listened—Vindman, as the NSC's senior Ukraine expert, was one of the editors) really represents something that's been left out, the one in the last line below:

Monday, October 28, 2019

Sir Story

It would be remiss of me not to note how much of the president's account of the adventure was fictional:
Q    Did you have to make any decisions in the moment, while troops were on the ground?
THE PRESIDENT:  No, they had it just incredible.  We were getting full reports on literally a minute-by-minute basis.  “Sir, we just broke in.”  “Sir, the wall is down.” “Sir,” you know, “we’ve captured.” “Sir, two people are coming out right now.  Hands up.”  Fighters. Then, the 11 children out.  Numerous people were dead within the building that they killed.
Then, it turned out, they gave us a report: “Sir, there’s only one person in the building. We are sure he’s in the tunnel trying to escape.” But it’s a dead-end tunnel.  And it was brutal. But it was over.
It's apparently not the case, as Obama White House photographer Pete Souza was suggesting, that Trump wasn't even in the situation room as the drama unfolded; he left the Sterling golf course around 3:30 in the afternoon, and the raid began around 5:00. So while it's not certain that he watched the whole "movie" {"I don’t want to say how, but we had absolutely perfect — as though you were watching a movie") in real time, there's no reason to believe he missed it (see Snopes for details).
Though Souza was clearly right to point to the difference between the awful picture (by Shealah Craighead, not that it's her fault) of the men in neckties looking Very Serious over a very odd tangle of colorful but unconnected Ethernet cables



and Souza's own justifiably famous photo of the situation room during the killing of Osama Bin Laden


On the other hand, he was certainly there for the "movie"; they didn't let him in until they were safe from him trying to make a decision, as he says. Also, it wasn't the movie he described:

And Trump's main contribution over the long preparation period was getting in the way with his whimsical deal-making:

Literary Corner: Today Donald Trump Didn't Become President


Image by Adam/Know Your Meme.
I'm seeing a lot of skepticism on today's big story of the operation to kill the former Caliph of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,  that it was a wag-the-dog operation to distract the public from the horrible testimony of the last couple of weeks demonstrating that Trump really did attempt to extort cooperation with his personal political agenda from the Ukrainian government. Or even that it killed not Baghdadi but some innocent set extra, or was entirely staged.

But I still like the view I held immediately after hearing the news this morning, that not only did it really happen, but Trump himself was the one getting bamboozled: by the Kurdish-led Syria Democratic Forces and the US military, who kept him more or less in the dark until he got back from the golf course, when they informed him that he had just won the formerly endless war. They were in the right:
Armed with that initial tip, the C.I.A. worked closely with Iraqi and Kurdish intelligence officials in Iraq and Syria to identify more precisely Mr. al-Baghdadi’s whereabouts and to put spies in place to monitor his periodic movements. American officials said the Kurds continued to provide information to the C.I.A. on Mr. al-Baghdadi’s location even after Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw the American troops left the Syrian Kurds to confront a Turkish offensive alone.
The Syrian and Iraqi Kurds, one official said, provided more intelligence for the raid than any single country.

That is, I think the Kurds and US may have been working together to defeat Trump's ill-timed move to remove American troops from Syria and allow Turkish troops to begin seizing a huge strip of Syrian land along their border. Using Trump's well-known desire to "take the oil" wherever there's a war in the Middle East, they've talked him into reversing the decision (rather late, as Turkish forces are already there) and maintaining an American force in the region, starting with the move of Senator Lindsey Graham and General Jack Keane, on 14 October, to accomplish something he believes Bush and Obama failed to accomplish:

Sunday, October 27, 2019

For the Record: Out Like Flynn

Image by Trumped Up Flicks/Kos.

This kindhearted troll concerned for General Flynn's family was so daunted that he never responded at all, but I think there's some value in laying out something about his legal situation, apart from his 2015 work in support of RT television and violation of the retired officers' version of the emoluments provision, with a new and especially delusional lawyer, who may be advising him this year to break his annual customary guilty plea

Saturday, October 26, 2019

But it's better to be immoral than unconstrained

Wall Street Journal isn't complaining about Singapore dim sum in spite of the tipping policy.

I was going to skip yesterday's Brooks ("The Tipping System Is Immoral"), because it has so little relevance to the ongoing intellectual wildfires that threaten to kill us all—he's like a schoolkid who has to write an essay to be graded by some randomly selected teacher and whose main concern in choosing the topic is to make sure no matter who it is they won't be offended, and I didn't even think I disagreed with his ostensible conclusion on a first quick reading:
Tipping inflames a sexist dynamic. Some men use their tips as leverage to harass female servers. Young blond women are tipped more than older brunettes. Male Uber riders tip female drivers 12 percent more, but only if they are young.
Tipping inflames a racist dynamic. African-American and Latino servers get much smaller tips. In a 2005 study of more than 1,000 tips to taxi drivers in New Haven, black drivers were tipped about a third less than white drivers.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Barr's Zombie Investigation

From the CDC's Zombie Preparedness site.

I think I know what this story
Justice Department officials have shifted an administrative review of the Russia investigation closely overseen by Attorney General William P. Barr to a criminal inquiry, according to two people familiar with the matter. The move gives the prosecutor running it, John H. Durham, the power to subpoena for witness testimony and documents, to convene a grand jury and to file criminal charges.
—is about. It's about Trump, and the idée fixe of Trump's increasing paranoia: that he must get to his enemies by using their weapons, of saying "bad things" and getting "dirt". Investigate them all! Lock them up! And its failure so far, which has been accelerating in recent weeks, as Barr's meta-investigation falls apart.

That is: Barr's task, as you'll remember, is to find that there was something wrong with the FBI's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, which eventually became, after Trump fired the FBI director, an investigation of Trump himself under the direction of Special Counsel Mueller. Trump has been complaining about this since long before it was understood that he had anything to do with it, whether because it was suggesting "bad things" about V.V. Putin, or because it was depriving him of Manafort's services, or after the election because it was suggesting his victory wasn't legitimate, or because it was forcing him to let Flynn go, or because "they were spying on me!" And trying in secret to put a stop to it, as chronicled in Mueller's volume II.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Shark Jump

The Fonz representing the end of a cultural moment. Via inews.co.uk.

Roy (subscription) ties the ongoing shift in public opinion on impeachment to a phenomenon he's been interested in for a while:
The What Liberal Media has us a bit brainwashed with its endless thinkpieces about the how weird and alien and unreachable Trump voters are supposed to be, and the Nazi goblins and dinner-table racists who make up a large chunk of his base certainly are. But most Trump voters are no more weird than other Americans like you and me. I think we spend so much time worrying about how to convince them of the error their ways that we forget most of them are normal adults, able to make judgments on their own. They didn’t need our input to find out that Trump was not a good long-term investment. He was indeed like the pet rock, or maybe more to the point Big Mouth Billy Bass — a funny joke that over time got obnoxious, then disgusting, and had to be taken down.
Which gives him some hope that the bottom could really be dropping out of the Trump market and the Republicans could be forced to ditch him, the sooner the better (for them, not us).

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Literary Corner: I Have Seen Numbers

Man Ray, Endgame, 1946, via Washington Post.

So the Emperor had a cabinet meeting yesterday morning, opened with a grace, though it wasn't a meal, from Secretary Carson, and a remarkable rant—somebody clocked it at 13,000 words, including the grace and the press questions—from his imperial loquacity, duly published online by the faithful whitehouse.gov. What you've mainly heard is how he revealed that he doesn't know what an "emoluments clause" is (it's one of article I, section 9, paragraph 8, or article II, section I, clause 7, of the United States Constitution) but suspects it's "phony", but the whole thing was really in top form from the bard-in-chief.

This bit, with its florid repetitions, almost like an abstract arabesque pattern, and its fantastical segue from the poet's TV contemplation of pundits talking about the Middle East to a rhapsodic view of the median household income dissolving into a kind of arithmetical plasma, is extraordinary:


Nobody Has Ever Seen Numbers
by Donald J. Trump

But I sort of have to smile to myself. I was telling
a couple of people — I’m watching these people
that I’ve been watching for 20 years. I’ve been
watching the same faces; they’re just a little bit
older and a little bit grayer. I’ve been watching them
for 20 years, saying about the Middle East. And they’ve
been wrong on everything they’ve ever said. 

Sunday, October 20, 2019

For the Record: M4A



I feel as if I may have been getting confusing lately on the subject of health care coverage, speaking positively about a "Medicare For All" model I've never liked that much, but then you have to ask, compared to what?

For instance, compared to the chaos that will commence if the Supreme Court finds for the plaintiff in Texas v. Azar (for which we should be getting a ruling from the Fifth Circuit Appeals Court sometime fairly soon) and the entire Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act is voided overnight, we won't have any ACA around to improve, and Medicare For All looks pretty good. Not that it's at all likely to happen. It would be a worse economic disruption than hard Brexit, and John Roberts wouldn't let it happen. And I don't think he could lay down some kind of structured settlement in which the ACA is gradually disassembled rather than being wiped out instantly; he'll just have to find it's constitutional, which is not that much of a stretch, because it clearly is constitutional.

Got Paranoia? Giuliani and John Solomon

Emperor Calus of the Cabal Empire, via Destinypedia.

A detail brought up by emptywheel the other day caught my attention, on the subject of the SDNY investigation of Rudolph Giuliani's activities in Ukraine: when Giuliani was supposedly working with the prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko on a list of imaginary crimes committed by Ambassador Marie Yovanovich, Hunter Biden, Joe Biden, and other Americans regarded as Trump enemies (allegations Lutsenko now denies he ever made), the procedure he followed, as reported in The Times:
Mr. Lutsenko initially asked Mr. Giuliani to represent him, according to the former mayor, who said he declined because it would have posed a conflict with his work for the president. Instead, Mr. Giuliani said, he interviewed Mr. Lutsenko for hours, then had one of his employees — a “professional investigator who works for my company” — write memos detailing the Ukrainian prosecutors’ claims about Ms. Yovanovitch, Mr. Biden and others.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

And in current psychopathy...

Yesterday, here in Trumplandia, the Emperor got his feelings wounded in a telephone conversation with a person in space, one of the two astronauts who just performed the first all-female spacewalk operation in history, which he referred to in his initial remarks as "the first time for a woman outside of the Space Station... the first-ever female spacewalk". When they finally got a chance to speak one of them, one of them, Dr. Jessica Meir, noted that it wasn't actually the first spacewalk a woman has ever performed, in justice to the great women who have done it in the past, and a shadow crossed his face, and he gave that brave astronaut the finger, disguised as an innocent scratch, in a cowardly fifth-grader's attempt to slip it past the teacher's attention or maintain plausible deniability

(my screenshot). Because nobody's allowed to tell the Emperor he's wrong in public, ever.

Meanwhile in Westminster, the House of Commons dealt Prime Minister Johnson a blow today by passing the Letwin Amendment, requiring him to send Brussels a letter requesting a three-month extension on the Brexit deadline before they'd vote on the deal he brought home from Brussels this week, and he swore he'd never do it, as he's been swearing for weeks he'll never ask for an extension and the nation will leave Europe as scheduled on Halloween no matter what, though in fact he had to do it before midnight tonight.

So
Boris Johnson has sent a request to the EU for a delay to Brexit – but without his signature.
The request was accompanied by a second letter, signed by Mr Johnson, which says he believes that a delay would be a mistake.
The PM was required by law to ask the EU for an extension to the 31 October deadline after losing a Commons vote.
(BBC via Lemieux) he sent it anonymously. With a cover letter denouncing it. Presumably so his fans will believe he kept his promise.

I just was struck by the immensity of the petulance of these two psychopaths, one of then in the pettiest possible position of doing a photo op at an occasion that means nothing to him, the other in a matter of extraordinary moment, both so drowning in their own amour-propre that they can't even see what's going on around them.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Two Cheers for Brooks



Well, two restrained cheers for David Brooks ("If It's Trump Vs. Warren, Then What?"): He's wrong about Warren in general, but he's right that he wouldn't want to vote for her if he understood what she was up to, and he's right that, if Trump and Warren are the nominees, he should vote for her nevertheless, for reasons that I think are pretty solid:
Politics is downstream from morality and culture. Warren represents a policy wrong turn, in my view, but policies can be argued about and reversed. Trump represents a much more important and fundamental threat — to the norms, values, standards and soul of this country.
I'd like to return the favor with an inverse pledge, but it's really hard to imagine a Democrat against whom I'd vote for, say, Willard Mitt Romney or even William Weld, because Democrats don't run like Trump. If Rod Blagojevic got nominated, I'd know he has a pretty bad reputation, but he has a sense that these institutions exist outside of him. If Jared Kushner or Ivanka Trump was to run as a Democrat, I'd easily vote for Weld, but that's not going to happen either. Nor is empty-eyed cult member Tulsi Gabbard, for that matter. Nobody like that is going to get the Democratic nomination. Ever.

Everybody makes fun of Democrats for being obsessed with "electability", but it's true we always look for a candidate who only tells lies for a good reason and doesn't have a dangerous personality disorder. We're not going to nominate somebody like Blagojevic for the presidency, or even like Reagan, let alone Scrooge McAsshole and his brood of ducklings. We won't even nominate Steyer or Bloomberg. It might be interesting to ask why Republicans are so careless about electability and still exist as a party. They have such objectively horrible people at all levels, from Mitch McConnell to Matt Gaetz and Duncan Hunter, people you really wouldn't want to let in your house, and yet they carry on.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Literary Corner: Recep, Don't Be a Tough Guy

President Trump being castigated by the Speaker of the House, enlarged from the picture in his Twitter feed.

Letter to his Excellency the President of Turkey
by Donald J. Trump

I
Dear Mr. President:
Let's work out
a good deal!
II 
You don't want to be responsible
for slaughtering thousands of people,
and I don't want to be responsible
for destroying the Turkish economy —
and I will.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Debate blogging

Lord Chatham (Pitt the elder) collapsing during a debate on American independence in the House of Lords, 1778, via NewEgg

Monsignor Ross Douthat, apostolic nuncio to 42nd Street, says Klobuchar and Buttigieg won the debate by giving people who like Biden a reason not to necessarily vote for Biden, I think:
they’re problem-solving Midwesterners with realistic policy blueprints who can win swing states, and (less explicitly) that they’re like Biden in their practicality and electability but unlike him in their relative youth and lack of baggage.
I hardly noticed either one of them. My notes praise Klobuchar for explaining that anti-trust law is about encouraging competition—
Start talking about this as a pro-competition issue. This used to be a Republican and Democratic issue, because America, our founding fathers, actually wanted to have less consolidation. We were a place of entrepreneurship. We are seeing a startup slump in this country. (WaPo running transcript)
and laugh at Buttigieg for "a plan for 'depoliticizing' Supreme Court that's so Baroque the National Review might like it"

Monday, October 14, 2019

He sure as hell misjudged Lindsey-Woolsey

Funeral Monday for five Syrian Democratic Forces fighters killed in battles against Turkish-led forces. Photo by Delil Souleiman/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images, via The New York Times.

When I was trolling the trolls yesterday with my apocalyptic prediction

I wasn't expected it to be fulfilled before nightfall (I mean nightfall in New York, not Syria), but that's what happened, more or less.

Violent imagery


Kathy Griffin and photographer Tyler Shields, via Slate.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

For the Record: Some Troll

Syrian Arab and Kurdish civilians reaching safety in Hakassah. Photo by Delil Souleiman/AFP via Getty Images via The Guardian.

This sequence covers mainly two bases: the fecklessness of Trump's failure in northern Syria and some of the details of his financial peculations. Some of it's new, or at least new sources, so I'm posting it here:



Saturday, October 12, 2019

A Yarn Ball as Big as China

Junior, unnamed friend, Parnas, and Fruman at some Trump property in May 2018, Facebook screenshot via Financial Times.

So I was having the craziest dream, all bound up, naturally, with the impeachment inquiries, and the House Intelligence Committee attempt to get witnesses and Trump and Barr trying to make then all refuse, and there were these two respectively Ukrainian- and Belarus-born Florida business guys, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who had worked in some capacity for the president's personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, in the Ukraine matter, refusing to testify or provide documents, only they did it by mail, in the form of a letter from their lawyer, John Dowd, who used to be Trump's personal lawyer, only the letter was in Comic Sans

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Springtime for Erdoğan

Kurdish fighters on the Syria-Iraq border, September 2013. Photo by James Gordon/Flickr via Foreign Policy in Focus.


So I was at least partly wrong and Operation Peace Spring (Barış Pınarı Harekatı; the "spring", pınar, is a spring of water, it's not that they don't realize it's October) has begun, against what the announcement refers to as "the PKK/YPG and Daesh terror organizations" (slipping in the false assertion that PKK, the militant Kurdish group in Turkey, and YPG, the Syrian Kurdish army that has been fighting the Da'esh in Syria for years with US support, are the same thing) and aiming, says BBC, to establish a "safe zone" on the Turkish-Syrian border and eventually repatriate about two million of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees now living in camps in Turkey.
The old "ancient hatreds" argument used, as it so often is, to evade the responsibility the US bears for the fighting of recent years launched by the senseless invasion of Iraq, not to mention the other powers allied with Trump (Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Russia) and not (Iran).

Trump seems to have the idea that all the Da'esh soldiers in Kurdish custody in the area are recruits from Europe, but in fact it's about 2,000 out of 10,000, according to BBC, and not, as he believes, mostly from Belgium, Britain, and France, but Chechens from Russia. He's become obsessed with them in recent months, apparently feeling that they are costing the US a lot of money, which is nonsensical, as Brett McGurk has explained, and sometimes suggests he's just going to bus them all from northern Syria to Belgium and let them out:

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Great and Unmatched Wisdom

Democratic Underground, using art by Sal Buscema & Mike Esposito from Captain America #227 (1978).


Funny bit of a buried lede in NPR's story on Trump and Erdoğan and the Syrian Kurds this morning, the angle of which was Pentagon sources telling Tom Bowman how entirely blindsided the Defense Department was by the development: they said that the Trump-Erdoğan call on Sunday had been what White House staff refers to as a "bad call", which I immediately took to mean the kind of call where Trump loses his temper, screams, and makes a rash decision in the hope of punishing everybody (as right at the beginning of the presidency, when he had those crazy interactions with Malcolm Turner of Australia and Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico).

It startled me because I'd been imagining something quite different—like so many of us I've got Leader calls and quids pro quo on the brain at the moment, and just assumed Trump was greenlighting a Turkish attack on the Syrian Kurds in return for something from Turkey, or somebody else who had something he wanted, like "dirt" on an opponent or maybe just cash, and spent much of the day speculating on what it might be. When I should have been reading down to the bottom of the stories we already had, like this in The Times from Peter Baker and Lara Jakes:
In this case, Mr. Trump seemed to be responding instinctively to an unexpected comment by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey near the end of a telephone call on Sunday that otherwise focused on trade and defense assistance. Mr. Erdogan, who has long threatened to send troops over the border against Kurdish fighters allied with the United States, told Mr. Trump that he was finally moving forward.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

What Got You Trump

Continuation from yesterday
Photo via Garrett Bridger Gilmore, "David Brooks's Imaginary Friends", at The Outline.

Why NeverTrumpers Keep Trumping

An imagined conversation with Capitol Hill Opinionist.
Upper West Side Blogger: I hope you read the transcript of that Trump phone call with the Ukrainian president and the whistleblower complaint and the WhatsApp messages among the various flunkies. Trump clearly used his power to withhold defensive weapons from a foreign ally to ask the ally to forge documents incriminating his political opponent. This is impeachable. Not to mention trying to give some kind of official status to Rudy Giuliani's tinfoil hat theories about how Russia didn't interfere with the 2016 elections and Paul Manafort was wrongly convicted and everything in Volume I of the Mueller Report was apparently some kind of hallucination. I don’t see how you can deny the facts in front of your face.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Voyage into the Heart of Whiteness, Revisited

The death of Cleopatra, by Domenico Riccio, via Daily Beast.
An imagined conversation with Flyover Man.
Opinion Columnist
Honest to god, and then he gets offended when people make fun of him for offering an argument-by-fiction.
That's only 3.5 states per week so far, sorry. And last week you only went to three.

It's not so much the quantity of contact as the quality, my dear David. You may talk to all kinds of people, but you show few signs of having listened to them. And then when it's time to write it up you give us an "imagined conversation", as your dek text puts it, instead of a real interview, and answer your question by making it up.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Ukraine Puzzle Piece

Tolerance puzzle, via United Nations Development Program Ukraine

On the surface, so far, it's starting to look like the most explicit Emperor story yet.

All the allies, all the political parties, all the experts are agreed, Ukraine needs those weapons. Congress appropriates $391 million for the purpose, and the administration says it's releasing the funds on 28 February, but it doesn't happen. Then—after the presidential election in April installs a reformist TV actor in power there—the administration announces again that it's releasing the funds on 23 May. And again on 18 June. But it keeps on not happening! Why?

Apparently the bureaucratic bottleneck is in Mick Mulvaney's domain in the Office of Management and Budget (the State Department evidently sent OMB a notification on 21 June and never got a response), but the real sticking point is Donald Trump, who just doesn't want to, for reasons he's unable to clarify. Sometimes it's the sense that Ukrainian corruption makes him hesitate (which is hilarious, he's never shown any interest in that in his foreign policy decisions before), or that other NATO members don't contribute enough, which is simply wrong (Trump has variously said the US provides "the bulk" of Ukraine military assistance or even "all" of it, but Europe pays about two thirds).

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Lowlife

President Sauli Niinistö has a #MeToo moment, via.

Chairman Schiff paraphrasing Trump's message in the 25 July phone call to President Zelenskyy, via PolitiFact:
Shorn of its rambling character and in not so many words, this is the essence of what the president communicates: ‘We've been very good to your country. Very good. No other country has done as much as we have. But you know what? I don't see much reciprocity here. I hear what you want. I have a favor I want from you, though. And I'm going to say this only seven times, so you better listen good. I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent, understand? Lots of it. On this and on that. I’m going to put you in touch with people, not just any people. I’m going to put you in touch with the attorney general of the United States, my attorney general Bill Barr. He’s got the whole weight of the American law enforcement behind him. And I’m going to put you in touch with (presidential attorney) Rudy (Giuliani). You’re going to love him, trust me. You know what I’m asking and so I’m only going to say this a few more times, in a few more ways. And by the way, don’t call me again. I’ll call you when you’ve done what I asked.’
Donald Trump, on Schiff's paraphrase, in yesterday's press availability with President Niniistö, via rev.com:
It should be criminal. It should be treasonous. He made it up. Every word of it, made up and read to Congress as though I said it, and I’ll tell you what, he should be forced to resign from Congress. Adam Schiff. He’s a lowlife. He should be forced to resign. He took a perfect conversation, realized he couldn’t read it to Congress because it was perfect. It was a very nice conversation.
Trump paraphrasing former president Obama, in yesterday's press availability with President Niinistö:

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

You Can't Douthat

Cypress-Tupelo Swamp, via Tulane University.

Monsignor Ross Douthat, apostolic nuncio to 42nd Street (who seems to have quietly replaced David Brooks in the Tuesday slot—last time Brooks produced a Tuesday column was 2 September) writes a piece on "The Corruption Before Trump" with the sole purpose, as far as I can tell, of equating the fortune Dick Cheney earned running the war machine at Halliburton between his two stints as defense secretary (estimated between $19 million and $86 million) to "the extraordinary post-presidential buckraking of the Clinton family and their foundation’s global funding stream", meaning making a comparable amount of cash on the paid-speech circuit, writing best-selling books, and establishing a really pretty successful charitable organization with their earnings, in paragraph 5; and mentioning in paragraph 9 that "Hunter Biden’s sinecure at a Ukrainian energy conglomerate represents the crassest form of this mentality".

Adding in paragraph 11 that
the strongest defense of Trump’s possibly impeachable conduct vis-à-vis Hunter Biden and his father isn’t some sort of careful “no quid pro quo!” parsing of the president’s words. It’s the more straightforward argument that, as Dan McCarthy wrote for The National Interest over the weekend, this was what Trump was elected to do — to “use all legal means at his disposal to strike at business-as-usual among the political elite,” even if that requires trampling over norms that would normally prevent a U.S. president from encouraging a foreign investigation into his rival and his rival’s family.
Although young Biden is in fact the only business-as-usual practitioner Trump has actually attempted to strike at, and isn't even especially rich by today's Hypergilded Age standards, so I don't think that amounts to a lot of evidence that this is Trump's plan (shaking off the dew pooled in a water lily leaf on the surface of the swamp is not draining the latter).

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Jessye Norman RIP




The great soprano, maybe the greatest musician I've seen, who died yesterday. I never saw enough of her, and I think this is the performance that I regret missing most, in the 1988 Ariadne auf Naxos with Tatiana Troyanos (who died really young) and Kathleen Battle and James King. I saw her in the part in 1993 but in a hateful, silly, too-busy production where she got a bit buried.

Literary Corner: That Hat

Photoshop by the Brazilian artist PSHoudini via Tom Banwell, 2011.

This enchanting piece from the president's remarks at the the US Mission to the United Nations, last Thursday, on the release of the whistleblower report:

That Hat Wouldn't Work For Me
by Donald J. Trump

I say, “Steve, what happens when
you come off a vice presidential
plane, it’s called Air Force Two,
your father’s with you, you walk
into a room in China and they
give you a fund of $1.5 billion,
billion, you make hundreds of
thousands of dollars and millions
of dollars off that. And that’s probably
not all they gave him. They gave
him plenty more, I’m sure.
We might never find out."