Monday, February 18, 2019

Cheap Shots: Saturday Night

Hmm. You don't suppose the SNL crew is colluding with Russia, do you?

OK, so they make Putin better looking. What else do you have?

Got Paranoia? Puppet Puppet

Via Truiceman.

We're hearing a lot about Andrew McCabe's story, as retailed on CBS Sixty Minutes, of Trump telling his intelligence briefers, "I believe Putin", which doesn't seem like news to me at all—he's been telling us all himself for at least a couple of years. But NPR's interview with McCabe helpfully laid out the context, from which I think we can learn something new, and possibly a whole lot: I think we can tell exactly when and where Putin could have told him this, on an extremely significant day, and in that way corroborate that the story is true and fill in some important details of the conspiracy hypothesis, if you'll follow along:
Exhibit A: an FBI briefing with Trump that had "gone completely off the rails from the very beginning."
McCabe said the topic was supposed to be how Russian intelligence officers were using diplomatic compounds inside the U.S. to gather intelligence on American spy agencies. Those compounds were closed as part of the long diplomatic chill between the two countries.
"Instead the president kind of went off on a diatribe," McCabe told NPR, explaining that Trump changed the subject to his belief that North Korea had not actually launched any missiles because Russian President Vladimir Putin told him that the U.S. intelligence assessment was wrong and that "it was all a hoax."
The diplomatic compounds, officially home-away-from-home dachas for Russian diplomats missing their own dachas, were closed on a very specific occasion, on 28 December 2016, as part of the new sanctions imposed on Russia by the Obama administration as retribution for Russia's interference in the presidential election, along with the expulsion of 35 personnel.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

For the Record: The Rhetoric of Emergency

Screenshot by BBC, May 2018.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

The emergency is still emerging

A funny thing happened to Trump on his way to declaring a national emergency in the Rose Garden yesterday, according to Mark Krikorian at National Review—he signed a bill into law that ensured he can't build any wall, at least not for the moment:
That’s because the bill allows the fencing to be built only in the Rio Grande Valley Sector in South Texas. It’s surely needed there [says Krikorian, wrongly], but real barriers are also needed elsewhere, such as the parts of the Arizona or New Mexico borders where there’s only vehicle fencing.
But the Democrats had a reason for this limitation. The bill states:

Friday, February 15, 2019


Image by Justin Metz via The Economist.

Silliest response to the Amazon decision to give up on their Long Island City project was, I'm sorry to say, from Senator Professor Warren:

So now you're going to complain about corporations not taking bribes? There's just no satisfying you!

That said, it looks like the decision was for all the right reasons, and speaking as a New Yorker I'm feeling more and more not sorry it's ended this way:

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Word to the Wise Guys

From Ralph Bakshi's 1972 Fritz the Cat.

The most incoherent bit in The Atlantic's excerpt from Andrew McCabe's book, when he's describing his weird interactions with Trump and McGahn just after the firing of James Comey, when McCabe was the FBI's acting director, and Trump had this idea that he wanted to pay a formal visit to the Bureau, where he was convinced he was deeply loved, and McCabe wished he wouldn't, but was afraid to say so. Trump somehow doesn't believe his assurances:
I knew what a disaster it could turn out to be if he came to the Hoover Building in the near future. He pressed further, asking specifically, Do you think it would be a good idea for me to come down now? I said, Sure.
He looked at Don McGahn. The president said, Don, what do you think? Do you think I should go down to the FBI and speak to the people?
McGahn was sitting in one of the wooden chairs to my right. Making eye contact with Trump, he said, in a very pat and very prepared way, If the acting director of the FBI is telling you he thinks it is a good idea for you to come visit the FBI, then you should do it.
Then McGahn turned and looked at me. And Trump looked at me and asked, Is that what you’re telling me? Do you think it is a good idea?
It was a bizarre performance. I said it would be fine. I had no real choice. This was not worth the ultimate sacrifice.
What on earth is this about? Why would they be pressing him like this, to say something he's already said? Is it that they see his reluctance in his eyes? Or are we reading this—is McCabe reading this—completely backwards? Is McGahn actually begging McCabe to tell Trump no? Aware that it's a terrible idea, as anti-Trump emotions in the FBI rise to fever pitch, but afraid to tell the wicked old tyrant himself and looking for backup, which McCabe, equally frightened or just clueless or both, fails to provide? It's very odd. And then,

What "environmental" means

You know those coastal élites who think it's funny to be preoccupied with cow farts and the like? I guess they just think the 40% of all US land that's devoted to agriculture, as Purdy notes, producing 9% of our carbon emissions (in the very conservative EPA figures), is just flyover country. Seriously, those people love to talk about the "heartland" and their deep connection with the rural population, but they don't really believe it exists outside of their sentiments. Photo via University of Minnesota Extension

Another approach to the thing I wanted to say about the Green New Deal from Jedediah Purdy-Britton in the Times ("The Green New Deal Is What Realistic Environmental Policy Looks Like") and its roping of everything from indigenous rights to combating monopolies into the same structure:
this everything-and-the-carbon-sink strategy is actually a feature of the approach, not a bug, and not only for reasons of ideological branding. In the 21st century, environmental policy is economic policy. Keeping the two separate isn’t a feat of intellectual discipline. It’s an anachronism.
Because all these factors are literally built in to the situation:
Our carbon emissions are not mainly about the price of gasoline or electricity. They’re about infrastructure. For every human being, there are over 1,000 tons of built environment: roads, office buildings, power plants, cars and trains and long-haul trucks. It is a technological exoskeleton for the species. Everything most of us do, we do through it: calling our parents, getting to work, moving for a job, taking the family on vacation, finding food for the evening or staying warm in a polar vortex. Just being human in this artificial world implies a definite carbon footprint — and for that matter, a trail of footprints in water use, soil compaction, habitat degradation and pesticide use. You cannot change the climate impact of Americans without changing the built American landscape.
So the proposals to retrofit buildings, retool transportation and build a clean-energy system are simply ways of tackling the problem where it starts. They are public-works projects because large capital projects — especially ones that, like highways, involve widespread public benefit — have always required public money. They are jobs programs, unless robots do the work, so the jobs might as well be good.
The deeper point is that any economic policy is a jobs policy. The oil and gas sector provides at least 1.4 million American jobs, more if you believe industry estimates, and depends on public subsidies and infrastructure. You might say that producing the disaster of global climate change has taken a lot of economic policy and produced a lot of jobs programs. Reversing direction will take the same.
And so on. It's kind of what "environmental" means, isn't it?

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Literary Corner: Very, Very on Its Way

Image via Pixabay.

I Can't Say I'm Happy
by Donald J. Trump

I. I Can't Say I'm Happy
I can't say I'm thrilled,
but the wall is getting built regardless,
because we're doing other things
beyond what we're talking about here.
I have to study it.
I'm not happy about it.
It's not doing the trick,
but I'm adding things to it.
Am I happy at first glance?
I just got to see it.
The answer is no.
I'm not. I'm not happy.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

It's Green and it's New

Harold Lloyd, Royal Slyness (1920), via somebody's Pinterest.

Tom Friedman's 2007 idea of a Green New Deal (adopted, as he points out, in the 2008 Obama campaign, but melting after the financial collapse and the Obama election into the $800-billion vastness of the American Recovery and Readjustment Act, of which it formed a very successful $90-billion component but didn't seem anything like a full-blown New Deal any more) is moving out of the realm of Friedmanian fever dream and into the world of maybe, and I'm starting to believe it could really happen, judging from the panic with which it is being greeted by David Brooks ("How the Left Embraced Elitism"):
Under the Green New Deal, the government would provide a job to any person who wanted one. The government would oversee the renovation of every building in America. The government would put sector after sector under partial or complete federal control: the energy sector, the transportation system, the farm economy, capital markets, the health care system.
The authors liken their plan to the New Deal, but the real parallel is to World War II. It is the state mobilizing as many of society’s resources as possible to wage a war on global warming and other ills. The document is notably coy about how all this would be implemented. Exactly which agency would inspect and oversee the renovation of every building in America? Exactly which agency would hire every worker?
I can answer about the renovation of every building: that would be overseen by the same state agencies that enforce the energy efficiency building codes that already exist and report to the federal DOE. Brooksy picturing this unforgiving federal servant on every building site, carrying a clipboard no doubt, is imagining things. The plan will grow state governments more than it does the federal one.