Friday, September 18, 2020

For the Record: Stupid Economist Tricks

Nice example of what Bos called a "Marshall McLuhan moment" ("You know nothing of my work," said the Canadian sage, appearing out of nowhere in the ticket line):

Fairly clear what happened here: Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute (where he edits Downsizing Government) is testifying before the Congressional Oversight Commission, a new body set up in April to monitor the workings of the CARES act, of which Bharat Ramamurti, just off his service as one of the top economic aides to Elizabeth Warren's presidential campaign is the only so far appointed commissioner, and he is explaining that according to this extremely authoritative paper by Valerie Ramey, government spending does not grow the economy very much, and Ramamurti says well, how about this spot in the paper where it says it does, and Edwards says, approximately, "Homina homina homina—uncertainty!—homina homina," and Ramumurti, says, approximately, "Because I called her up the other night and she said, yeah, that's exactly what she meant."

But that's not how the economics frat boys saw it: they saw Ramamurti as having sprung some kind of dishonorable trap on the witness:

Thursday, September 17, 2020

It's the Bribery, Stupid

In 2018, according to Dan Alexander at Vanity Fair, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), 70% owned by the Chinese government, or, as the Republicans have taken to (inaccurately) calling it, THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF CHINA, which had been renting some 20,000 square feet on and around the 20th floor of Trump Tower for its US headquarters for some years, certainly well before Trump got into politics, took out a lease on 99,000 square feet a few blocks away in Paramount Plaza, on Broadway at 51st Street, leaving the market to assume they'd be moving out of Trump Tower, but they didn't:

“They are keeping a couple of floors,” Eric Trump conceded onstage at a business conference weeks before the original lease was scheduled to expire [in 2019]. According to the Trump Organization’s own marking materials, the floors inside Trump Tower contain roughly 15,000 square feet. So by keeping “a couple of floors,” the Chinese bank was apparently staying in most—if not all—of its previously occupied 20,000 square feet. These days, it’s unclear exactly how much the China-owned bank is paying the president. If the rent is the same as it was before, then Trump will collect $7.8 million from the bank by the end of his first term in office. 

Alexander calculates that this represents about $1.2 million in profits for the Trump Organization for the first two years (2017-18), when Trump donated $343,000 to the Treasury as his "total profits from foreign governments" for those two years, with no specifications as to where the number came from. Since his profits from one single foreign-government tenant were nearly three times that, you can get a feeling for how dishonest this plan always was.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

My Vote Is a Precious Thing


Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute, in the Washington Post:

In 2016, I never considered voting for Donald Trump. The Johnny-come-lately Republican and his nasty schoolyard jibes seemed to me the worst degradation of American politics.

Well, yes, though she didn't do anything to stop him from getting elected in 2016,

"[W]hile I will never vote for a Democrat in wolf’s clothing like Trump, I will also never vote for a candidate as dishonest, as rapacious, as Hillary Clinton," Pletka told Politico's Michael Crowley in an email. "My vote is a precious thing."

and started softening on him the weekend before Election Day, wriggling toward Just-the-Tip-Trumper status,

Donald Trump is probably going to lose the election Tuesday. For many Republicans and conservatives, that will be a blessed release from an annus horribilis. But we will make a fatal error going forward if we do not acknowledge what Trump got right and attempt to fix the problems that enabled his hostile takeover of the GOP.

Consider the Trump themes that resonated deeply with tens of millions of Americans: We don’t win anymore. We have no strategy to fight our enemies. Our allies aren’t paying enough freight. Defense cuts and feckless leadership are projecting American weakness. Trade deals help only some Americans. Washington doesn’t work. Separate the bill of particulars from Trump the person, and the reality is, these complaints make sense.

Funny, they hadn't made that much sense to her in June 2016, on the allies paying freight:

Monday, September 14, 2020

Stiffing the Social Contractors

Image via National Compass.

Steve M
has brought up this Atlantic essay by Shadi Hamid ("The Democrats May Not Be Able to Concede: If Trump wins, especially after losing the popular vote, the left may draw the wrong conclusions"), which offers a curious kind of funhouse mirror image of what some of us fear might follow Biden's likely victory in November, a "populist" rejection of the results by some of Trump's fanatical armed white followers, Proud Boys and Bikers For Trump, Three Percenters and Patriot Prayer, the Minnesota Patriot Alliance and the Michigan Militia, while Trump himself dithers in the White House and refuses to accept that he's lost the election denouncing its imaginary "rigging" by an army of millions of ballot forgers stealing people's ballots out of their mailboxes, a possibility of real violence. 

To Hamid, bothsiderist compulsion suggests a comparable rising of fanatical Bidenites:

A loss by Joe Biden under these circumstances [combined with a popular vote victory, because it's clear Trump won't obtain that] is the worst case not because Trump will destroy America (he can’t), but because it is the outcome most likely to undermine faith in democracy, resulting in more of the social unrest and street battles that cities including Portland, Oregon, and Seattle have seen in recent months. For this reason, strictly law-and-order Republicans who have responded in dismay to scenes of rioting and looting have an interest in Biden winning—even if they could never bring themselves to vote for him.

This may be meant as a sort of arch, amused way of urging proper, non-fanatical conservatives to vote for Biden (unnecessary; all 14 of them, writing for The Bulwark and appearing nightly on CNN and MSNBC, are backing Biden already), but it's pretty offensive, to both parts of the Venn diagram covering Biden-supporting Democrats-as-Democrats and protesters under the general Black Lives Matter umbrella, which is not engaged as such in electoral politics. Nobody who's been smashing shopwindows and setting fires in Minneapolis or Kenosha or the Bronx or anywhere else is either voting for Biden or accepting BLM nonviolent discipline, let alone both. The most politically conscious troublemakers, the guys who get into fistfights with white nationalists and regard themselves as "antifa", are neither, and they don't tend to do anything so counterrevolutionary as voting.

Sunday, September 13, 2020



Web of Deceit: Deadly Sands, by Big Fish Games.

Sometimes with Trump it's really fish in a barrel:

Not to mention that the contributions in question were given only to Jill McCabe's campaign, not to "him and his wife" (way to acknowledge that you do regard campaign contributions as personal income, to be spent any way you choose, Donald, which is what young Duncan Hunter got 11 months for doing, and I do hope laundering campaign money into your wallet through your businesses is one of the things you get charged with), nor in any sense illegal, and had nothing to do with Hillary Clinton but were from Terry McAuliffe, the incumbent governor of Virginia. It's at least mildly amusing that he doesn't remember he's the one who gave McCabe the job.

I'm pretty much running out of what passed for a sense of humor since what is to my mind the most sinister of Trump's confessions to Woodward, on the order of Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman to a team of his thugs to murder the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, spiriting away the remains after dismembering them with a bone saw, in October 2018:

Friday, September 11, 2020

Hi It's Stupid: Rudy

Painting by Burhan Dogancay,1998, via WikiArt.

Hi, it's Stupid to say Rodolfo Giuliani really had no idea Andrij Derkach was a Russian agent. No, hear me out!

Giuliani had been hanging out last December with Derkach, a Ukrainian MP formerly from the Russia-backed Party of Regions and supporter of the corrupt president Viktor Yanukovych, now in exile in Russia, and Ph.D. graduate of the KGB's Higher School in Moscow (his dissertation was on the "Organization and Conduct of Meetings With Secret Agents"), and Derkach had supplied him with edited audio of phone conversations between Ukraine's former president Petro Poroshenko and then–Vice President Joe Biden, which Giuliani believes, or claims to believe, are evidence of some kind of corruption on Biden's part, though The Washington Post was not convinced in May:

The recordings played at the news conference Tuesday [19May] shed relatively little new light on Biden’s actions in Ukraine, which were at the center of President Trump’s impeachment last year. They show that Biden, as he has previously said publicly, linked loan guarantees for Ukraine to the ouster of the country’s prosecutor general in 2015. But Derkach used the new clips to make an array of accusations not proven by the tapes...

The tapes released in Kyiv offered no evidence to back Giuliani’s long-standing accusation that Biden pushed for the prosecutor general’s ouster to help his son. At the time, Hunter Biden was earning between $50,000 and $100,000 a month on the board of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma, whose owner, a former government minister, was under investigation in Ukraine. Still, the tapes gave Trump’s allies a chance to recycle that allegation closer to the 2020 election.

Derkach did not say he had gotten the tapes from the FSB, but rather than he got them from unnamed "investigative journalists" who had in turned obtained them from recordings made by President Poroshenko himself, which is not quite easy to believe .

But in a startling twist yesterday, it turned out that Derkach is a Russian agent! According to the US Treasury Department, which has slapped him with sanctions: 

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Literary Corner: Crisis of Con- Con- Confidence


Dorothea Tanning, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (1943), via Artsy.

Leadership Is All About Confidence

by Donald J. Trump

Well, I mean, you didn’t — you didn’t really
think it was going to be to the point where
it was. All of a sudden, the world was infected.

The entire world was infected. Everyone was
scrambling around, looking where to buy facemasks
and all of the other things. We’ve opened up factories.
We’ve had tremendous success with facemasks
and with shields and with the ventilators.

We’re now supplying the rest of the world.
We have all the ventilators we can use.
And remember this: The ventilators were
very important. Not one person that needed
a ventilator didn’t get it. And these are
very complex, expensive machines to make.

We opened up something like hadn’t been
done since the Second World War. We —
honestly, we’ve done a — an incredible job.
But we don’t want to run around, screaming, shouting,
“Oh, look at this. Look at this.” We have to show
leadership. And leadership is all about confidence.
And confidence is confidence in our country.

The $3-billion project to ramp up the production of ventilators, the breathing machines that keep intubated patients alive, is actually one of the most farcical episodes in the whole history of the Trump response to Covid-19, because it took too long to get going, while the favored treatments for the disease evolved and changed, and doctors stopped doing so many intubations, and by the time General Motors and Ford, General Electric and Philips had finished establishing supply chains, engineering models, and training workers, and were making all the ventilators needed, they weren't in fact needed any more:

Wednesday, September 9, 2020



Jeez, this new Bob Woodward book, Rage, covering the last two years of the Trump administration, previewed in the WaPo by Robert Costa and Philip Rucker. People are focused on a couple of big revelations—first, that Trump deliberately downplayed the danger of the coronavirus 

“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” Trump said in a Feb. 7 call [with Woodward]. “And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu.”

“This is deadly stuff,” the president repeated for emphasis.

The Post story has audio of that: it's a response to a question on what he learned from Xi Jinping about the virus, direct from the leader of the country he'll be denouncing for its secrecy and deception a few weeks after that.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Do They Even Math, Bro?

Honest to god that's the column ("How Many Lives Would a More Normal President Have Saved?"). Maybe a great president would have been OK, the monsignor allows, but an ordinary president would have been more or less as bad as our psychopath, therefore maybe he's really not so bad, or so he implies (not saying, just saying).

the peer-country evidence suggests that to take the pre-emptive, creative and draconian steps that might have actually suppressed the virus, and in the process saved that hundred thousand or more extra lives, would have probably required presidential greatness, not merely replacement-level competence. We can say without a doubt that Trump whiffed when this call for greatness came. But distinguishing between Trump’s incompetence and what an average president might have managed is harder, so long as so many peer-country death tolls look like ours.


The column isn't worth fisking in detail, because this stupidity makes it nonsensical, but I had to say something. If US Covid-19 deaths per million in today's official figures are 571.61 and Italy's are 588.32, then Italy's numbers are not much worse, but Italy is basically at the end of its wave and has been for some time, since late May, while ours is continuing to climb and about to bypass theirs; that's a curve that hasn't flattened at all.

According to the projections of the so far pretty reliable Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), the US is on a path to add another 225,000 deaths between now and 1 January, for a cumulative total of 410,000 by then, or a rate of around 1,240 per million, more than twice as high as Italy's (which will be a bit higher by then, no doubt, but not a lot).

That's a slightly pessimistic projection, based on the assumption that vigilance will keep relaxing as it has been doing. It could be a lot worse, or a lot better, depending on what we choose to do:

  • If a herd immunity strategy is pursued, namely no further government intervention is taken from now to January 1, then the death toll could increase to 620,000 by January 1. Compared to the reference scenario, this would be 210,000 more deaths from now to the end of the year.  

  • Increasing mask use remains an extraordinary opportunity for the US. Increasing mask use to the levels seen in Singapore would decrease the cumulative death toll to 288,000, or 122,000 lives saved compared to the reference scenario. This would be a 30% reduction in the deaths expected from now until the end of the year.  

But even in that best-case Singapore-style scenario we'd be hitting about 873 deaths per million, or still a hell of a lot more than Italy will have by that point, to say nothing of France (currently 470.73 per million) or the deservedly maligned Sweden (577.96), and almost certainly beyond the horribly handled UK (612.11) too. And it still won't be over!

Douthat's transparent desire to make excuses for the president would be funny, but he's also such an idiot.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Labor Day Miscellany


I can't really get over the fact that Trump really did this. What kind of person is that?

Yeah, exactly. That kind of person. 

Sunday, September 6, 2020

For the Record: Tough on China


Illustration by Javier Zarracina/Vox.

Rafael trying to come out plus trompiste que le Trompe:


Saturday, September 5, 2020

Felonious Bunk

Via Home Depot.

Via NPR:

On Fox News this week, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf admonished state and local leaders there and elsewhere for failing to restore law and order, and he touted the administration's response.

"We've seen about 300 arrests across this country regarding civil unrest and protest, violent protesting, I'd say criminal protesting, criminal rioting," Wolf said. "About 100 of those have been in Portland specifically, and I know the Department of Justice has charged about 74 or 75 individuals in Portland there with different federal crimes."

Question to Radio Yerevan: Is it true that there have been around 100 arrests in Portland, Oregon for what Chad Wolf would regard as criminal protesting or criminal rioting, with 74 or 75 being charged with different federal crimes?

Answer: In principle, yes, but

  • first of all, the (illegally) acting secretary's views on what constitutes criminal protesting and rioting may not be an actual thing;
  • second of all, of the 74 federal cases brought in Portland over the ongoing unrest as of 28 August, only 23, or 28.3%, were for felonies—there were 11 citations (equivalent of a traffic ticket), and 42 misdemeanors, including 19 class C misdemeanor cases of failing to comply with a lawful order (such as an order to disperse), and a similar number of class A misdemeanors, typically for non-physical assault on a federal officer, such as yelling at him or "pretending to throw an object"; and
  • third of all, since most of the 20 serious felonies involved physical assaults on federal officers such as hitting a deputy US marshal with a baseball bat or hitting a deputy US marshal with a hammer (there are also some arson cases, which is very deplorable), it seems clear that if there had been no federal officers sent to Portland under the (illegally) acting secretary's orders, there would have been virtually no federal crimes at all.

That last is my observation, not NPR's.

You could make the same case for the horrible killing of Patriot Praying Aaron J. Danielson in Portland last week, which seems indeed to have been perpetrated by that "100% antifa" guy, Michael Reinoehl, now slain himself by police in what looks like a justified self-defense on the cops' part. 

Antifa law is made like sharia, by any anti-fascist imam in good standing who wants to issue a fatwah, so I'd like to take the opportunity to say that Reinoehl should not have been carrying a firearm on either occasion, and you can take that as official (strictly speaking, nobody should be carrying a baseball bat or a hammer either, but maybe you need to be prepared for a pickup game or spot of emergency carpentry).  Nevertheless, the Patriot Prayer shouldn't have been there either, and certainly shouldn't have been heavily armed (Danielson was openly carrying a loaded Glock at his waistband when Reinoehl popped out of a parking garage and shot him, though the evidence suggests he never drew it; he may have pulled a can of "bear attack deterrent" on Reinoehl, though, since the medic who attended Danielson found such a can, struck by a bullet, alongside an expandable metal baton, on the pavement where Danielson lay):

“You have this kind of culture where the right-wing vigilantes, though much smaller in number, are better armed and are calling for violence,” said Joseph Lowndes, a professor of political science at the University of Oregon. Whenever they appear, they are inevitably confronted by Antifa or other anti-fascist movements in Portland, and, he said, “you end up with this cycle of continuing confrontations.”

And if they hadn't been there, looking for a fight, and probably intent on generating video for Trump campaign ads, nobody would have been killed.

Friday, September 4, 2020

For the Record: Quiet Part Update

Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, Belleau, when it actually is rainy. Sean Gallup/Getty Images Europe, via Bloomberg.

Interesting bit of disinformation formation  going on around the unlovely figure of former national security adviser John Bolton, from The Hill

John Bolton says he didn't hear Trump insult fallen soldiers in France

to Fox

It appears the anti-Trump memoir from former national security adviser John Bolton is undercutting a bombshell report from The Atlantic that laid out damning claims against President Trump and his canceled 2018 visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in France.

and around the bend to The Federalist, which is ready to assert that Bolton has proved the allegations are false

But it struck me that there was something missing there, like, why would Trump have been talking about this to Bolton in particular?

Quiet Part Out Loud

Veterans For Trump, not merely Astroturf but an open dependency of

Before it falls entirely into the hands of the righteous harrumphers, I want to make sure to post my own reaction to Jeffrey Goldberg's remarkable report in The Atlantic of Donald Trump's actual views, as opposed to pious gestures, on people who do military service:  

Trump rejected the idea of the visit [to the Aisne-Marne American cemetery in 2018] because he feared his hair would become disheveled in the rain, and because he did not believe it important to honor American war dead, according to four people with firsthand knowledge of the discussion that day. In a conversation with senior staff members on the morning of the scheduled visit, Trump said, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump referred to the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as “suckers” for getting killed.

Which shouldn't be a surprise to anybody that remembers his spiteful remarks on John McCain's generally agreed heroism as a POW in the Hanoi Hilton ("I like people who didn't get captured") or one of the few cases of actual sarcasm in his repertoire, his boast back in the day that avoiding STDs was his own personal Vietnam. For that matter, his hair anxiety was pretty widely reported at the time and the subject of some memorable tweets

and the joyously prophetic

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Eviction Notice


Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, via Los Angeles Daily News.

What's with the CDC moratorium on evictions, which will allow renters to delay paying their landlords between now and 31 December, under certain conditions (they have to earn less than $99,000 for single income or $198,000 for couples, and they have to sign a statement saying they can't afford to pay and would be forced by eviction into homelessness or congregate housing)?

On the one hand it sounds like establishing a really important and somewhat radical disease control principle, that homelessness isn't just a social justice problem but also a public health problem—

“In the context of a pandemic, eviction moratoria — like quarantine, isolation, and social distancing — can be an effective public health measure utilized to prevent the spread of communicable disease,” the CDC’s unpublished order said.

—and on the other hand a really profoundly stupid way of doing it, since there's no rent forgiveness: the tenants, up to 40 million of them, will just be getting four months further in debt, and forced on 1 January to work out a plan to pay the money back or get evicted after all, leaving the landlord, and that includes 10 or 11 million mom and pop landlords renting an average of two properties apiece, possibly out for the four months, with unchanged utility and tax bills and mortgage payments, and uncompensated. Unlike in the previous moratorium proclaimed in the CARES Act, which offered (only for properties under federally-backed mortgages) support for unpaid rent from the local height of the pandemic in April through July.

Which is of course the problem: Congress is now unable to act, because Mitch McConnell won't do anything until Trump tells him to, and Trump's people don't like the Maxine Waters Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act, allocating $100 billion to the problem and passed by the House in June.

A clue to what's going on is the way it was announced, not by the CDC or the White House (though it's an executive order), but by treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin (who just happens to have gotten filthy rich on thousands of evictions himself, as the former "foreclosure king" CEO of OneWest Bank), in a hearing with Waters's Financial Services Committee on Monday, where he was apparently reopening the negotiations that broke down early last month between the administration and the House on that second stimulus plan. What the CDC order does is to put on some pressure, I guess, toward getting it done (Mnuchin is a bad man, but a good negotiator, and he's increasingly looking to me like the last competent person in the cabinet), and a sign, perhaps, that he's serious. But the thing itself is not serious, and I'll bet it's not going anywhere except to the extent Congress gets engaged.

As to eviction and homelessness being a public health issue, that's long been a CDC position (like the view, hated by congressional Republicans, that gun violence is a public health issue), as in this put out in March 2017, when it was still a relatively independent agency:

On any given night, hundreds of thousands of people are homeless in the United States.1 These people might be chronically homeless, have temporarily lost their shelter, be fleeing domestic violence, or facing any number of other issues.2 Homelessness is closely connected to declines in physical and mental health; homeless persons experience high rates of health problems such as HIV infection, alcohol and drug abuse, mental illness, tuberculosis, and other conditions.3 Health problems among homeless persons result from various factors, such as barriers to care, lack of access to adequate food and protection, and limited resources and social services.4 As each of these factors have legal underpinnings, legal and policy interventions have often been used to attempt to address homelessness, although not always from a public health perspective.

But it's not a position that is likely to endear itself to Republicans, calling for interference in the free market and, you know, helping people with taxpayer money. Whichever bureaucrat in Atlanta managed to sneak it into Mnuchin's toolbox deserves congratulations.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Literary Corner Bonus: Soup for my Family

Heaving once—heaving twice—
heaving chicken soup with rice!

Big Bags of Soup

by Donald J. Trump

In cities across the nation,
we’ve also seen police officers
assaulted with bricks, rocks, bats,
Molotov cocktails, frozen bottles of water.
Somebody said last night, one of the protesters —
I saw it — he said, “It’s only water.
How can water hurt you?” Yeah, they
don’t say it’s frozen, in a bottle
the size of a football. And they
throw it at the police. It’s unbelievable.

“It’s water.” And then they have cans
of soup. Soup. And they throw the
cans of soup. That’s better than a brick
because you can’t throw a brick; it’s too
heavy. But a can of soup, you can really put
some power into that, right? And then, when
they get caught, they say, “No, this is soup
for my family.” They’re so innocent. “This is
soup for my family.” It’s incredible. And you
have people coming over with bags of soup —
big bags of soup. And they lay it on the ground,
and the anarchists take it and they start
throwing it at our cops, at our police.
And if it hits you, that’s worse than a brick
because that’s got force. It’s the perfect size.
It’s, like, made perfect. And when they get caught,
they say, “No, this is just soup for my family.”

And then the media says, “This is just soup.
These people are very, very innocent. They’re
innocent people. These are just protesters.
Isn’t it wonderful to allow protesting?” No,
there’s — and, by the way, the media knows it
better than we do. They know what’s going on.
I don’t know what’s wrong with them. They’re doing
our country a tremendous disservice — I’ll say that.

H/t Christopher Ingraham.

Literary Corner: Gothic American


Garbage truck outside Kenosha courthouse. Photo by Chuck Quirmbach via WUWM radio. I like the way the background hints that the square may not be a burnt-out wasteland, though the treatment of the truck itself was clearly pretty terrible.

Interviewed by Laura Ingraham on Fox, Emperor Trump took a deep dive into Gothic narrative, of all things. Fiction has always been an important element of his work, of course, but mostly in the uncomplicated form of news items ("Portland has been burning for many years, for decades it's been burning"), scientific reports ("Paint is not—paint is a defensive mechanism. Paint is not bullets"), and of course the first-person memoir. This new venture, the painstaking construction of an atmosphere of dread in which his characteristic vagueness heightens the tension, is pretty remarkable:

Big Damage

by Donald J. Trump

"Who is pulling Biden's strings?"
                —Laura Ingraham

People that you've never heard of.
People that are in the dark shadows.
They're people that are controlling
the streets. We had somebody
get on a plane from a certain city
this weekend. And in the plane,

it was almost completely loaded
with thugs, wearing these dark
uniforms, black uniforms, with gear
and this and that. They're on a plane!
I will tell you some time, but
it's under investigation right now.

But they came from a certain city,
and this person was coming to the
Republican National Convention,
and there were like seven people on the
plane like this person, and then a lot of
people were on the plane to do big damage.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Counterintelligence Matters

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, from a May 2019 piece by Murray Waas in New York Review of Books suggesting—with receipts, as they say—that Rosenstein really should not have been supervising Mueller's work in the first place, before Barr took over; because of a conflict of interest, since he was apparently a central witness in the special counsel's inquiry.

The New York Times's Michael Schmidt, who broke the story of Hillary Clinton's improper email storage habits and also of James Comey's memos on Trump attempting to shake him down to stop the Flynn investigation, has a book about to come out (Donald Trump v. The United States: Inside the Struggle to Stop a President—stop him, that is, from threatening the rule of law, and Schmidt doesn't seem to have adopted the GOP view that he shouldn't be stopped), and the big scoop, in today's paper, is that the FBI has no counterintelligence investigation into Trump's Russia connections.

That is, there was such an investigation, as we've been supposing (for me most embarrassingly here, where I suggested that I knew more about it than Jeffrey Toobin), but Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein shut it down days after acting FBI director Andrew McCabe opened it, just after appointing Robert Mueller special counsel, leaving McCabe under the false impression that Mueller would be taking it over: 

Friday, August 28, 2020

Literary Corner: Haiku


Hashimoto Gahō, 1866–99, Chōkarō Sennin Releasing His Mule from a Gourd (detail). Via Minneapolis Institute of Arts.


by Donald J. Trump

You know what I say?
Protest this, your ass. I don’t
talk about my ass.

For the Record: Land of Greatness

Because it took a certain amount of greatness to watch some of the four-night extravaganza, which was even more boring than many had feared, with its relentless repetition of the four or five talking points and its deadly limitation on formats (person at the center of a stage rants to empty auditorium; person at the center of a tastefully curated background rants to camera; with the double climax Wednesday and Thursday of person at the center of a stage ranting to an audience uttering faint cries of approbation). So I did do a bunch of live tweeting last night, some of which contains some possibly useful information, and I'll try to lay some of that out.

On speaker Ann Dorn, widow of the 77-year-old African American retired St. Louis police captain David Dorn, who was murdered on 2 June, during the looting that occurred in the first couple of nights of protest over the killing of George Floyd, as he was watching out for a pawnshop owned by a friend, to express her support for Trump for offering "federal help to restore order in our communities" and for his recognition that "we need more Davids in our communities, not fewer" and that "we need to come together".

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Blog in the Strict Sense of the Term


The Angel Mom decided to post this tweet (since deleted) promoting a thread on the vast conspiracy led by Soros and Rothschilds and the Elders of Zion to enslave all the "goyim" the day of her planned appearance on the soft and feminine night of the Republican convention, but she got canceled, not by cancel culture but by the Trump campaign. She later claimed not to have read the thread herself, or at least not all of it, but it wasn't exactly inconsistent with her own writing, like this from June 2019 on invading caravans of Central American migrants:

“These are the violent types of people that SOROS, the ROTHCHILDS (sic) and the United Nations have NO problem using as pawns and uprooting them and bringing them to the USA to accomplish their ONE WORLD GOVT!” Mendoza tweeted. (via Daily Beast, collected before she put her account under protection)

She also is or was a member along with Kris Kobach, Erik Prince, Tom Tancredo, and ex-sheriff David Clarke, of the board of the We Build the Wall scam, which collected money ostensibly for the private construction of a wall on the Mexican border to keep out those same violent pawns but in fact to enrich the chairman, Stephen Bannon, and founder Brian Kolfage and a couple of their associates who covered up their misdeeds by "creating sham invoices and accounts to launder donations and cover up their crimes" and are now under indictment in the Southern District of New York.

My objection to the whole concept of "angel families", Americans united by having experienced the tragic loss of a child because of the actions of an undocumented immigrant, mostly in road accidents, is that thousands of Americans lose children every year, and it's just as tragic when the killer is an American citizen or permanent resident, as it is in the overwhelming majority of cases. "If that man hadn't come illegally into the country my baby would still be alive!" Well, maybe, and maybe if we had adequate public transportation so people wouldn't have to drive home from bars. Or maybe if the guy in question hadn't been rushing to make a late delivery and avoid getting fired from the job that feeds his six children, what do I know? But the only thing that would have a particular application to undocumented immigrants would be for a driver in one of the 35 states where the undocumented can't get a learner's permit, let alone a license, and who therefore didn't have any training. In which case it's the state's fault for crazy misplaced priorities (licensing is supposed to be for safety, not for a system of rewards and punishments). 

I have much the same problem with people who don't want undocumented immigrants, or in some cases any immigrants, to have help getting access to affordable health care. What part of public health don't you understand?

Meanwhile young people are getting killed by doctors and pharmacists running pill mills, all of them legal residents. Focusing on the very small number of bad drivers who are undocumented immigrants seems insane, given how many truly terrible drivers there are altogether. And such an odd narcissism, anyway, in the implicit claim, "My pain is worse than anybody else's because it involved an illegal border crossing."

I'm not sure what I'm trying to tell you here, but I think these things all hang together, the misinformation, the racism, the paranoia expressing itself in conspiracies, and the extreme egocentrism.

Monday, August 24, 2020


 Who says Trump doesn't have a second-term agenda? He does so! It just arrived this morning!

President Trump: Fighting for You!

Looks like the boys pulled an all-nighter getting it together. Here's what we're getting on jobs:


  • Create 10 Million New Jobs in 10 Months
  • Create 1 Million New Small Businesses
  • Cut Taxes to Boost Take-Home Pay and Keep Jobs in America
  • Enact Fair Trade Deals that Protect American Jobs
  • "Made in America" Tax Credits
  • Expand Opportunity Zones
  • Continue Deregulatory Agenda for Energy Independence

Does that mean he's going to get everything done in 10 months, and then head down to Palm Beach in November 2021 and we'll never see him again? 

Because if the million new small businesses are in the jobs agenda, they must be the kind of small businesses that have employees, and the average number of employees in a small business that has employees is 10, so that's your 10 million jobs right there.

Then there's another million jobs being re-imported from China, and we're already beating expectations!

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Gloom and Boom


Photo via Dawn (Pakistan).

Steve M picks up on the Republican campaign strategy as outlined at the Washington Post

Republicans will open their national convention Monday with an urgent mission: To convince voters pessimistic about the state of a country battered by the novel coronavirus, economic recession and racial upheaval that President Trump deserves four more years at the helm.

Convention organizers say the president and his surrogate speakers will showcase optimism and inspire hope in a time of worldwide despair, with programming planned around themes of “promise,” “opportunity” and “greatness” for the United States in a second Trump term.

“The big contrast you’ll see between the Democrats’ doom-and-gloom, Donald Trump-obsessed convention will be a convention focused on real people, their stories, how the policies of the Trump administration have lifted their lives, and then an aspirational vision toward the next four years,” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in an interview Saturday.

and wonders how a candidate like "American carnage" Trump is going to manage an approach like that, concluding that he probably won't.

I think they've settled on this line because new campaign head Bill Stepien is trying to run the campaign in a traditional way, and you're supposed to settle on some coordinated line of attack after the other guys' convention. So this is it.

Part of the problem is that Trump can't sustain a positive, optimistic tone and doesn't want to.

But I think Trump's situation is worse than that. 

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Another Opening, Another Show

Benjamin Bar & Lounge at Trump International, via OpenTable.

Now that the 2020 Democratic Convention is out of the way, providing Republican planners with some valuable ideas on how to run a virtual convention which they can attempt to copy following the defeat of the party's plans to hold a more conventional convention in Charlotte, or Jacksonville after Charlotte turned them down, torched by the unwillingness of both cities and most people in general to go along with what would certainly condemn some   attendees to death or the obloquy of helping with the spread of pandemic in their own communities, in spite of the president's assurances that the pandemic would go away very soon and leave them alone—now that there's only the weekend left to figure out what they're going to do, they're buckling down to the very real work of preparing eight hours of television communicating to voters why they should feel fired up and ready to vote, possibly by mail, for the Trump-Pence ticket.

Which should be plenty of time for the professionals who have been behind this crackerjack political operation for the past four or five years.

I'm not in a position to tell you exactly what's going to happen, but there's a fine Wikipedia page on the subject, and combining that with my own deep knowledge of how the party works, I can offer some educated guesses.

First, the basic facts:

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Useful Idiot in the Strict Sense of the Term


And the reason they held the meeting was so they could run a photo of the meeting. Duh. From Trump's Twitter account via USA Today.

Live-blogging volume 5—

Of what some have decided to call the Rubio Report, after Senator Marco, who has pulled a Billy Barr in this connection:

There is, as you can imagine, evidence of "collusion" in the report, some of it new, as in SSCI's certainty that Manafort's assistant Konstantin Kilimnik was a Russian intelligence officer, something previously only described as a possibility: