Thursday, May 31, 2018

Literary Corner: A Duet

Shepherd Piping to Shepherdess, ca. 1750, François Boucher, via Wallace Prints.

In a remarkable new departure, the poet-president has been projecting his imagination inside the persona of another person, a woman in fact, in a new piece published under the pseudonym "Melania Trump". I thought it seemed a little wan and thin, to tell the truth, until I found myself looking at it in conjunction with some recent stuff in his more familiar personal manner, and the two kind of lit each other up. I've taken the liberty, as editor, of splicing them together, as follows:

Duet: Working Overtime
by Donald J.  Trump

I see the media is working overtime
speculating where I am & what I'm doing.
The corrupt Mainstream Media is working overtime
not to mention the infiltration of people, Spies (Informants),
into my campaign! Surveillance much?
Rest assured, I'm here at the @WhiteHouse w my family,
feeling great, & working hard on behalf of children
& the American people!
Not that it matters but I never fired James Comey
because of Russia! The Corrupt Mainstream Media
loves to keep pushing that narrative, but they know
it is not true!

For the Record: The Horrible Law

Image via Youth Radio.

This thread elaborating and clarifying a point that may have gotten a bit buried in the second post on Trump immigration policy, dealing with the question of asylum seekers at the Mexican border and the plan to break up families. I made an effort to really lay it out and tell the story with no smartass tricks, because I was in a rage at how the muddiness of Trump's mind keeps him from knowing what he's doing, and the Twitter audience has liked it a lot.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

For the Record: Say it ain't so, Scott!

Kind of pleased with this; other undertweeters gave him hell for the lies, but I seemed to be the only one who knew it was the boxer Jack Johnson Trump pardoned:

Actually Trump can't pardon Joe Jackson—only MLB (which banned him for life in the Black Sox scandal) can do that.

And in honor of Trump's rally in Tennessee on behalf of a Republican congressman down there:

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Merit Badge

The summer 2017 intrern class. Photo by Pedro Martínez Monsivais/AP, via Glamour.
Shorter David Brooks. "The Strange Failure of the Educated Elite", New York Times, 28 May 2018:
Now that we're ruled by a new aristocracy of merit, the smartest people with the highest IQs and of all colors and genders and committed to equality and recycling, things are really going badly, with inequality rising and social trust decreasing and government not working at all. What on earth happened? As I've been saying for 20 years, like the books I enjoy, which are the books that agree with me, this is the fault of the ideology of meritocracy, which overvalues intelligence, autonomy, and diversity, and has a misplaced notion of the self and inability to think institutionally. Why can't we go back to the way these awkwardnesses were dealt with when our society was controlled by stupid but well-bred white men? I mean I'm grateful that the meritocracy is here to stay, but we need a different set of reasons for having it.
Oh jeez, who's going to tell him? David, we haven't gotten rid of stupid but well-bred white men yet.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Memorial Day isn't "Nice!"

Is Obama the same as Trump?

Via Wikipedia.

While I'm up on the issue, I think I need to devote a few words to President Obama, in response to the thing that's going around like this:


To me that first tweet has that libertarian kind of "Hey man I'm just being honest" vibe that makes me crazy. At this particular historical moment "Obama is bad" means exactly "There's no difference between Obama and Trump", as you go on to demonstrate when you assert that the same one-word description, "indefensible", applies equally to both, "frankly", in respect to the immigration issue. Why else would you bring it up, except in the service of a claim that it doesn't make any difference and electing Trump wasn't such a bad thing?

In addition to the fact that the one piece of evidence adduced there is just not true, and that's not a secret.

Important: Missing Children Announcement

William Blake, "The Little Boy Lost"

They aren't missing. That's the announcement. This is one of those awful things floating around the Internet spreading rage and distress in its wake that just isn't true. It is not the case that the government has lost 1,475 children.
The story is, rather, that on 26 April 2018 Steven Wagner, acting assistant secretary of the HHS Administration for Children and Families (and you can see by the "acting" that it's another job Trump hasn't managed to fill, so this is a professional you can trust) was testifying to the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, on Office of Refugee Responsibility care and placement of "unaccompanied alien children" (UAC), that is children who surrendered to immigration authorities at the border when they were unaccompanied by their parents or adult family members (so the government did not separate them from their families; these children, in contrast to the ones violently mistreated by the new Jeff Sessions policy, were already separated when they got here).

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Literary Corner: Elegy or Dance of Triumph?

Diablada puneña, Puno, Peru.

The president-poet seems to be giving vent to a plangent melancholy in the new gem showing up on the Twitter this morning:

by Donald J. Trump

Who’s going to give back
the young and beautiful lives
(and others) that have been
devastated and destroyed
by the phony Russia Collusion
Witch Hunt?
They journeyed down
to Washington, D.C.,
with stars in their eyes
and wanting to help our nation...
They went back home
in tatters!

For the Record: Haberman Takes a Stand

So Maggie Haberman got upset with the actor John Cusack, because that's how things are nowadays.

It is wrecking her enjoyment of a 1989 movie!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Turn on, tune in, drip out

Image via Reddit.

Local Man Who Believed Saddam Hussein Had an Advanced Nuclear Weapons Program and Still Thinks Lincoln Unified the United States and If We Show Respect to Rightwingers It Will End School Shootings Among Other Things Complains that Under Trump America Is Descending Into Fantasy

In "Donald Trump's Magical Fantasy World", New York Times, 24 May 2018,  and with reference to the recent deaths of the writers Tom Wolfe and Philip Roth:
I’d say the crucial pivot was in the early 1960s. Hugh Hefner created a fantasy version of masculinity. Ken Kesey created a fantasy image of an acid-dripping New Age.
The two great writers who died this month tracked the explosion of fantastical thinking. In 1961 Philip Roth wrote an essay for Commentary called “Writing American Fiction,” in which he endorsed Benjamin DeMott’s observation that America was then experiencing a “universal descent into unreality.” Roth would go on to make the most of it. “Making fake biography, false history, concocting a half imaginary existence out of the actual drama of my life is my life,” he told The Paris Review.
I'd say if it happened in the early 1960s you probably shouldn't be blaming it on Trump. I never expected to be defending Trump against the vicious assaults of David Brooks, but fair is fair.

"Acid-dripping" is superb, though. If you figure out what it means drop me a note.  Or drip me a note.

And perhaps what he really meant was to blame it on Roth, caught in that quote deliberately confusing himself with the non-existent Nathan Zuckerman, who in turn confuses himself with "Philip Roth", and literally profiting from his imposture. Don't speak ill of the dead, but maybe Roth, alongside Ken Kesey, Hugh Hefner, and Tom Wolfe, was the key agent in creating the conditions in which the rise of Trump, a glamorous international businessman/jewel thief who disguises himself as president in order to insinuate himself into the company of his fabulously wealthy but gullible marks, was virtually inevitable.

Then again, you know what else happened in 1961. It's just possible that our genuine and severe problems derive from the fact that for the past 57 years we have all been perceived by David Brooks, and our connection to reality has become more and more tenuous as a result, day by day. That's so heavy, man.

Driftglass suggests "fantasy" may not be exactly the right word.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Who do you think you're fooling?

From the manga JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Vento Aureo (1996)

Shorter Mr. Bret Stephens, "Did the F.B.I. Save Trump's Presidency?", New York Times, 24 May 2018:
My smoking hot take is that Trump should really be grateful to the FBI for purging his administration of the Russian stooges he was totally unaware of in his innocence because he's completely innocent right I mean this is obviously the case unless it isn't and he's actually dangerously complicit of which there's a maybe 49% probability in my opinion so sue me am I supposed to write this whole thing all over again?
It's two columns simultaneously, slightly at odds with each other, what you might call exoteric and esoteric if you know what I mean Only it's not so easy to tell which is which: the one of the headline, in which Trump's innocence is an assumption that doesn't even need to be mentioned,  and the one of the opening grafs, in which he scrambles to lay out some proof that Trump is innocent, not very satisfactorily in my view:
There has always been a relatively innocent and eminently plausible interpretation for why Donald Trump’s presidential campaign had so many suspicious ties to Russia. Let’s review:
First, the candidate himself took an indulgent view of Vladimir Putin. This was naïve, but it was no crime: Barack Obama also sought rapprochement with Moscow in 2008, despite Russia’s invasion of Georgia that year and the Kremlin’s notorious human-rights abuses.
One of the things about the Obama "reset" that is virtually always ignored is that it was founded in part on the possibility that you could ignore Putin. There was a nominally new government in Russia at the moment, from May 2008, under President Dmitry Medvedev, who had nothing to do with the Georgia war as it happens

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

For the record: Miscellany

Messing around too much with the Twitter again, no time to concentrate on anything.

Update: That turned out to be a little truer than I was expecting, didn't it?

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Would you like spies with that?

Kilauea eruption, 1983, via Hawaii Volcano Expeditions (When I write about Greenwald, as I haven't done in a while. I like to illustrate it with volcano pix in tribute to the special qualities of his prose).

An odd thing in relation to the scandal du jour over the weekend, and the revelation that the FBI had asked an academic in England to try to worm some information out of both George Papadopoulos and Carter Pageon their knowledge of the conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian state (and, as it later turned out, Michael Flynn as well, though that was possibly just in 2014, and Papadopoulos's and Page's boss in the campaign, Sam Clovis, who talked to him about relations with China), or as Donald Trump put it, sounding more and more hysterical every day, put it,
Yipes! Though I didn't see any reason why they shouldn't have had an embedded informant in the heart of this criminal conspiracy, as they might inside a mafia family, there was no reason to supposed that they did in fact have one. As we soon learned (apparently The Daily Caller was the first to report it), what they had was Stefan Halper, a veteran of Republican administrations who has been for some time a Fellow of Magdalen College and was director of Cambridge's American Studies program, who enticed Papadopoulos to talk by commissioning a bona fide research paper from him and engaged him over dinner and drinks and apparently failed to get him to talk about the tens of thousands of incriminating Hillary emails; and had what Page described as "benign interactions" with that person.

Republicans, of course, decided to go with the Deep State Infiltrates Spy Into Trump Campaign line, where they were joined by our old friend Glenn Greenwald, as I learned from LGM, has been at work reinforcing that in The Intercept, demonstrating how especially sinister Stefan Halper is, with the allegation that he

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Cokie's Camp

Cokie's Luxury Fishing Camp in Cocodrie, LA, via homeaway.

The other day, in response to the David Brooks column describing the founding of Israel as 
a historic achievement involving a historic wrong — the displacement of 700,000 Palestinians
I wrote that it was "a place where a little bothsiderism is welcome for a change."

This apparently presented a problem for some readers. I should have written something like the following:

Ex-conservative "centrists" like David Brooks and Matthew Dowd are frequently accused of what blogger Driftglass characterizes as "both siderism" (I close up the two words, others spell it with a hyphen), that is insisting in theory that everyone should always take care to see the good and bad on both sides of a partisan divide, but applying it in practice only to cases in which Republicans look bad (but Hillary is corrupt too! How about those emails?) or Democrats look good (but Ryan has a health care plan as well, tax-free savings accounts!).

This is not a misleading reference—I will never knowingly mislead you—to the hysterical centripetality of writers who always take every difference of opinion to be the endpoints of a spectrum on which they anxiously seek the centerpoint. Nor to Atrios's related concept introduced in 2007-08 of "high Broderism", after the magisterial above-it-all antipartisanship of the late Washington Post opinionist David Broder, which I don't generally use as a technical term (Broder died in 2011, and I kind of don't think anybody remembers who he was, and old jokes don't make good technical terms), and which means something overlapping but different, the belief that partisan differences are really an illusion and we all basically agree on everything if we'd just be sensible about it, as in this case, the earliest example I can find, 24 July 2007:

Friday, May 18, 2018

West of Eden: We've Captured Brooks

Tear gas at the Gaza border. Photo by Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images via Toronto Globe & Mail.

I'm in the unexpected position of being grateful for a David Brooks column, enough to want to not criticize it (very hard), on this week's Gaza demonstrations ("The Gaza Violence: How Extremism Corrupts"):
I see the situation through the “extremism corrupts everybody” narrative. My narrative starts with the idea that the creation of the state of Israel was a historic achievement involving a historic wrong — the displacement of 700,000 Palestinians.
For two generations, in what we can call the Yitzhak Rabin era, the leaders of Israel and of Palestinians tried, sometimes dysfunctionally and bloodily, to address this wrong and find two homelands around the pre-1967 borders.
But sometime in the 1990s, a mental shift occurred. Extremism grew on the Israeli side, exemplified by the ultranationalist who murdered Rabin, but it exploded on the Palestinian side. Palestinian extremism took on many of the shapes recognizable in extremism everywhere.
That's a very remarkable concession in the top paragraph, from someone of his position, and a place where a little bothsiderism is welcome for a change. His critique of the current Israeli government, sort of projected, not wrongly, from his critique of Trumpian conservatism—
By and large, Israel has taken the former path. The shift from the politics of Rabin and Shimon Peres to that of Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman is a move from pluralism to ethnocentrism, from relentless engagement to segregation. It’s a shift from tough realism to the magical thinking that Palestinians are somehow going to go away.
—is well founded, and more accurate (when he's talking about US Republicans, he's evading his own and his friends' responsibility for the disaster, and when he's talking about Likud he's not).

I disagree, obviously, with the specific bothsides balance Brooks finds here—I think failing to recognize the gigantic aymmetry of financial and military power between the sides spoils the analysis, and I think he's specifically wrong about what happened to Palestinians after the 1994 Oslo accord and the murder of Yitzhak Rabin, which was not a march to extremism but a confused variety of reactions of despair, including the shockingly un-Palestinian growth of gloomy religiosity. They were in despair at what we might now realize was an increasing rejection on the Israeli side of the peace process altogether—the growth of Israeli extremism was exemplified not by one assassination but by the slow death of the Labor Party and the successive governments of Netanyahu, Sharon, and Netanyahu abandoning the promise of Oslo and instituting what amounts to an apartheid system, with the difference that South African whites provided jobs to black Africans, and Israeli Jews prefer importing Filipinos.

The way Brooks makes the contrast—
Yasir Arafat was once a terrorist, but at least he used terror to win practical concessions. The actions today — the knife attacks, the manipulation of protesters to rush the border fence — are of little military or strategic value. They are ventures in suicidal theater.
—is wry, but slips over the chronology in an unhelpful way: the "suicidal theater" of the Gaza border rush is an echo of the First Intifada of 1987-91, which is as close as Palestinians ever came to a Ghandian practice of nonviolent resistance, and also the most politically effective strategy they ever employed [update: and as Ten Bears notes in the comments, "manipulation" is bullshit]. What happened on Tuesday, horrible as it was because of the hysterical IDF response, was a look back to that effectiveness—it's even shaken Brooks!

For the Record: Shapiro Goes Godwin

After the 1903 pogrom in Kishinev, state-sponsored gang violence that convinced my grandfather to  come to North America. Nobody in America was worried he might be a gang member, though they may well have worried he could be a Communist. In fact he was too cynical for that.
So as you know the Mare Salvatrucha or MS-13 gang, which arose among criminals of Central Americn origin in southern California prisons in the 1980s, and expanded to Guatemala and Honduras and El Salvador when the Reagan administration started deporting them to their homelands, is a big issue in the mind of the president, who seems to believe all Central American immigrants (who are at this point and for a couple of years now mostly fleeing from gangs of the MS-13 type at home) belong to the thing, as his dad no doubt believed all Italian immigrants were members of the dread Sicilian Mob (as some of them, especially the ones the Trumps worked with in the real estate business, unquestionably were), and he was saying, "They're not people, they're animals!"

How do you know, Ben? Maybe your parents didn't tell you great-great-grandpapa was a horse thief back home in Bessarabia. My zeydi was a draft dodger and a socialist and an atheist who made bubbi cry every Passover by singing obscene parodies of the sacred songs, and she was actually illiterate, in three different languages. I don't know any MS-13 members, but I'll bet most of them don't do the gross things you're worried about.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Whiggery Pokery

So, David Brooks ("The American Renaissance is Already Happening"):
People who read this column know my political ideology: I’m a Whig. If progressives generally believe in expanding government to enhance equality, and libertarians try to reduce government to expand freedom, Whigs seek to use limited but energetic government to enhance social mobility.
Back in the 19th century, during their heyday, Whigs promoted infrastructure projects, public education, public-private investments and character-building programs to create dynamic, capitalist communities in which poor boys and girls could rise and succeed.
Last time Brooks announced he was a Whig, in January 2014, he was inviting Barack Obama to be a Whig too. I wrote:
I must say, I'm extremely stimulated by the concept of Obama as American Whig, in the mold of Clay and Webster and young Abraham Lincoln, a proponent of powerful Congressional government engaged in industrial planning through the massive expansion of publicly supplied education and government-funded infrastructure, and rejecting idiotic imperial adventures like the conquest of Texas. The only big thing missing is the bedrock Whig insistence on high taxes through the protective tariff, something Obama (and Brooks and Yglesias) would be unlikely to support (then again the old Whigs themselves might have turned free traders as the industrial economy matured, and probably would have warmed to the income tax as an alternative way of funding their big-government programs).
I don't quite get how Brooks sees himself as Whiggish in this sense, though, or how he gets to reproach Obama for failing to be a Whig, except that alcohol prohibition was a popular idea in segments of the Whig tendency, and Brooks has always been big on morals legislation.  Perhaps he is a little confused by the other, trans-Atlantic Whiggery, that of his beloved Edmund Burke, ancestor of the free-trade Liberals of 19th-century England.
Fictional history from the Ill Bethisad wiki.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

For the Record: These Goulish Things Remind Me of You

West of Eden: Clueless on Gaza

What Prime Minister Netanyahu likes to refer to as Israel's "eternal, undivided capital", with a stretch of the separation wall that divides it in the foreground (photo by Haaretz/Olivier Fitoussi). It's not eternal either, obviously. It was the administrative-religious center of an Israelite polity for much though nowhere near all of the time from the 9th century BCE to the 1st century CE, most often under the patronage of Egyptian, Persian, Greek, Seleucid, and eventually Roman overlords, but frequently totally destroyed and its inhabitants banished; when Romans or Christians were in charge Jews were not allowed to live there at all, so it was better for the few remaining local Jews, after Muslims were invented in the 7th century, to have them in charge, but the only Jewish state that existed anywhere between the last total destruction in 70 CE and the founding of Israel in 1948 was the kingdom of the Khazars extending from what's now Ukraine south and east to the Caucasus, who whimsically decided to become Jews by religion in the 8th or 9th century and lingered as a power until near the end of the 10th. Let's also remember that these were the days memorialized in the oldest parts of the Arthur cycle and the Nibelungenlied of the great Völkerwanderungen when the Franks pushed the Gauls our of France and the Goths took Iberia and most of Italy and the Saxons and others got Britain and the Finns and Ugrians and Turks pushed into their modern territory and the Mongols seized China for a couple of centuries and Arabs took control of practically the whole Mediterranean and nobody ended up with the homeland they were expecting, just saying.
She's a rabbi, so she has to be kind, but she's allowed to be angry. IDF soldiers have killed at least 58 Gazan demonstrators—reports keep saying they "died", as if the bullets were just hanging there to be wandered into—and shot more than 1,300, attempting to hit them in the legs so that they're merely disabled, putting the Gaza hospital system into terrible crisis, because they're just not equipped to handle that many shooting victims at once. In Washington, deputy press secretary Raj Shah suggests they're dying on purpose, just to make the Israelis look bad:

Monday, May 14, 2018

For the Record: D'Souza's wrong about something.

Egyptian-born singer Dalida congratulating socialist François Mitterand on his plans to seize the leadership of the revolutionary proletariat, Château Chinon, May 1981. Pinterest.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Hi, it's Stupid: Bari Weiss

2008 edition of a work originally published in 2001, whose authors "had the ability to take an everyday menu of spaghetti and waffles and transform biblical, practical wisdom into a word picture that has encourage, equipped, and inspired couples worldwide." I haven't read it, but I think the idea of the central metaphor is that we guys are furnished with many tiny pockets in which butter and syrup collect, whereas for helpless gals it just runs off their backs, which explains why they have to do what we tell them to do or go without butter and syrup altogether, because that's how God planned it.

Hi, it's Stupid to suggest Bari Weiss in her notorious piece about those outlaw intellectuals was really writing about her own grievance at the way mean leftists have been treating her since she ascended to The New York Times—

Meet the Renegades of the Journalismic Dark Web

By Skari Speiss

Here are some things that you will hear when you sit down to dinner with the vanguard of the Journamalismic Dark Web: Both sides do it. Just because a president is ignorant, narcissistic, and venal, that doesn't mean we shouldn't give him credit for the numerous things he's doing right. Identity politics is a toxic ideology that is tearing American society apart. And we’re in a dangerous place if these ideas are considered “dark.” 
Though nobody actually calls it "dark" except the five or six members of the J.D.W. themselves, who made it up because they thought it was funny. Still, if people reading this sure-to-be-controversial article start using the term, that will be chilling.
A decade ago, as the situations in Afghanistan and Iraq and New Orleans seemed to be on the point of stabilizing, though the U.S. economy was in free fall, none of these now-dark ideas would have seemed even surprising. Today, people like the members of the J.D.W. who dare venture into this “There Be Dragons” territory on the intellectual map have met with outrage and derision — even, or perhaps especially, from people who pride themselves on openness, such as powerful bloggers, late-night television comics, and J-school professors.
And yet I have a feeling she was, in a way. As we know, the official subject was not Times journalists but intellectuals much worse off than she is, so abject and marginalized by the scorn of the majority that they can't even get Times gigs, and are forced to squeeze by on the charity of well-wishers—

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Guys, I have an idea where that money may have come from

Doonbeg Golf Course, County Clare, via RTE.

Among all the week's crazy news stories,  this one, from Jonathan O'Connell, David A. Fahrenthold and Jack Gillum at the Washington Post last Saturday (and reinforced by the WNYC/Pro Publica Trump Inc. project), got a little lost:
In the nine years before he ran for president, Donald Trump’s company spent more than $400 million in cash on new properties — including 14 transactions paid for in full, without borrowing from banks — during a buying binge that defied real estate industry practices and Trump’s own history as the self-described “King of Debt.”
Trump’s vast outlay of cash, tracked through public records and totaled publicly here for the first time, provides a new window into the president’s private company, which discloses few details about its finances.
It shows that Trump had access to far more cash than previously known, despite his string of commercial bankruptcies and the Great Recession’s hammering of the real estate industry. 
Eleven golf courses and resorts from Aberdeen (2006) through Doonbeg and Turnberry (2014), a winery-resort, a hotel, and five houses, almost entirely paid with cash, from a man who used to boast that the secret of his success was Other People's Money.

Friday, May 11, 2018

It takes a thief

Green-headed tree agama, via San Diego Zoo.

David F. Brooks finally starting to give in to his inner sycophant, as he contemplates Donald Trump's and Michael Cohen's histories with organized crime. Maybe it's a feature-not-a bug! At least from the foreign policy perspective ("Donald Trump's Lizard Wisdom"):
I can’t help but wonder if that kind of background has provided a decent education for dealing with the sort of hopped-up mobsters running parts of the world today. There is growing reason to believe that Donald Trump understands the thug mind a whole lot better than the people who attended our prestigious Foreign Service academies.
"Hopped-up" (1920s slang for "maniacal in a drug-induced kind of way") makes it art.

The Brooks hypothesis is that just as it takes a thief to catch a thief, so it takes somebody who's practiced on Fat Tony Salerno to equip a chap to deal with Kim Jong-un, Xi Jinping, and Ayatollah Khamenei, and the Trumpian triumphs of recent weeks demonstrate that. Not that Brooks is advocating the Trump doctrine!
Please don’t take this as an endorsement of the Trump foreign policy. I’d feel a lot better if Trump showed some awareness of the complexity of the systems he’s disrupting, and the possibly cataclysmic unintended consequences. But there is some lizard wisdom here.
It's just the Douthat electric slide: "I'm not saying, I'm just saying."

I think there may be a couple of flaws in this argument, one being that none of these eggs are actually chickens at present, as in the North Korea case:

Thursday, May 10, 2018

For the Record: Is Rosie O'Donnell a criminal?

Jaywalking 1940, via HowStuffWorks.

Spoiler: No. During this year's primary campaign, it's alleged, the actor and former talk show host has been donating compulsively on ActBlue, clicking like a slot machine addict, animated as many of us are by fear and hatred of Trump but also so wealthy she doesn't have to think about how much money she's spending, and she didn't think about it, and ended up donating a lot more money than you're allowed to donate in some of those campaigns:
“If $2,700 is the cut off — [candidates] should refund the money,” she told the Post. “I don’t look to see who I can donate most to… I just donate assuming they do not accept what is over the limit.”
The Post found that she gave $2950 to Adam Schiff’s primary campaign, $3450 to Omar Vaid’s primary campaign, $3600 to Conor Lamb’s special election campaign, $4200 to Lauren Underwood’s primary campaign, and $4700 to Doug Jones’s special election campaign.
I'm guessing from those names she's got MSNBC on the TV while she's doing it, too. She's donating the way Trump tweets, in TV-driven bursts. But although this conduct is against the law, it doesn't even rise to the level of a misdemeanor; it is not handled by the court system but the Federal Elections Commission, and the appropriate penalty is that the candidate refunds you the excessive money. I haven't yet found a case of anybody having to pay a fine.

Our old fascist friend Dinesh D'Souza, however, is seeing or pretending to see an equivalence between this and his own notorious crime in 2012 of funneling money through straw donors—including his wife and his mistress of the moment, I've just learned, or as the DOJ report coyly put it "a woman with whom D'SOUZA was romantically involved":


Body language, 20 September2017. Photo by AFP via Getty Images/Brendan Smialowski, from Newsweek.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has tendered an "unreserved" apology to a Libyan couple, the Islamist politician and military leader Abdel Hakim Belhaj and Fatima Boudchar, for the UK's participation (giving a tip to the CIA) in a "rendition" operation in 2004, when they were kidnapped in the Kuala Lumpur airport, hooded and shackled, and flown by "Coalition of the Willing" forces to a black torture site in Thailand and thence to a Qadhafi-run prison where they were tortured and Belhaj was held for six years (Boudchar, who was pregnant at the time of the kidnapping, was released after she'd given birth), and offered them a compensation of £500,000, although they hadn't actually asked for a settlement.
“The UK government’s actions contributed to your detention, rendition and suffering. The UK government shared information about you to its international partners. We should have done more to reduce the risk that you would be mistreated. We accept that this was a failing on our part.
“Later, during your detention in Libya we sought information about and from you. We wrongly missed opportunities to alleviate your plight. This should not have happened.”
She said: “On behalf of her majesty’s government I apologise unreservedly. We are profoundly sorry for the ordeal that you both suffered and our role in it. The UK government has learned many lessons from this period. We should have realised much sooner the unacceptable practices of some of our international allies, and we sincerely regret our failures.”
Note that this is notwithstanding that Belhaj really was a Taliban affiliate who'd been engaged in training Arabs to fight in Afghanistan. That's not why he was kidnapped anyway; it was to gratify Muamar al-Qadhafi:
Two weeks after the couple were taken to Libya, Tony Blair paid his first visit to the country, holding a now infamous summit in the desert with Gaddafi and announcing that Libya had joined the fight against extremism and terrorism. Simultaneously, a lucrative gas exploration deal was signed by the Anglo-Dutch oil company Shell.
It is really striking to me that May makes this gesture of rejecting the practices of US spy agencies in the Iraq War on moral principle in the week Trump's candidate for DCI, Gina Haspel, testifying in the Senate on her fitness to hold the position, is unable to do that. And rejects that the UK should have cooperated with those practices in even the smallest way, in the week that Trump cuts out of the P5 + 1 agreement, like a formal declaration of the outlaw status of the United States. She, and her government, have "learned", later than they should have, that US practices are "unacceptable", not regrettable or deplorable or what have you.

The timing is probably coincidence—these things take a while to prepare and don't get trotted out spontaneously—but it still sounds like a breakup letter.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

West of Eden: Deal Away

Chahar Bagh School, or School of Sultan Hossein's Mother, Isfahan, 19th-century drawing by Pascal Coste, via Wikipedia.

Money quote, for my money, from the press questions after Trump's announcement:
REPORTER: Mr. President, how does this make America safer? How does this make America safer?
TRUMP: Thank you very much. This will make America much safer. Thank you very much.
Oh, that's how. In a much kind of way. Not somewhat or a bit. It's the muchness, stupid.

I didn't listen to the speech, but the way folks were describing his delivery (somebody on Twitter said he was "reading it phonetically") made it sound clear that he'd spent even less time reading it ahead of time than he normally does, which means around zero, and had no idea what it said. Though you can see a dim understanding floating by in a couple of Trumpy interpolations, like
In other words, at the point when the United States had maximum leverage, this disastrous deal gave this regime — and it’s a regime of great terror — many billions of dollars, some of it in actual cash — a great embarrassment to me as a citizen and to all citizens of the United States.
the reference to $1.7 billion as "many billions" and "actual cash" as if there were something particular sinister about that (cash was important to them as it would take some time for international banks to lift the sanctions), or his cute attempt to put himself in Ayatollah Khamenei's place—

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Literary Corner: Rhyme!

Roy Lichtenstein, Cubist Cello, 1997. Via Guy Hepner.

Spring is here at last, the president had a chance to play golf in a state that isn't Florida (with his hilariously incompetent bug-eyed new attorney, Rodolfo Giuliani, on the Trump course in Sterling, Virginia), and in a new, comically erotic piece he unexpectedly breaks into rhyme, although the main reason for that could be his fear of trying to spell the name "Strzok".

Lisa Page
by Donald J. Trump

Lisa Page, who may hold the record
for the most Emails in the shortest period
of time (to her Lover, Peter S),
and attorney Baker, are out
at the FBI as part of the Probers
getting caught? Why is Peter S
still there? What a total mess.
Our Country has to get back to Business!
You can read the Times account of all the things that are factually wrong with the poem, and the suggestion that Page's and James Baker's resignations have any connection to the Russia investigation or the "Probers". I just want to enjoy the light, leaping line and the weird Victorian capitalization, which together call to mind the great nonsense poet Edward Lear.

Thanks, Obama!

Via Top 10 Kids Who Survived the Impossible.

There's also some unexpectedly cheering news, which is that my favorite part of Obamacare, the part nobody else cares about which I regard as the gateway to a European-style universal health care system—the employer mandate—has survived!
While the individual mandate may be dead, the employer mandate — the requirement that many companies offer health insurance to their workers or pay a penalty — is very much alive. Under Mr. Trump, the Internal Revenue Service has been pursuing companies that fail to comply with the mandate and, according to the agency, was sending penalty notices to more than 30,000 businesses around the country.
Former IRS commissioner John Koskinen explained:
“The I.R.S. does not have the authority not to collect the money,” Mr. Koskinen said in an interview, adding that there was no reason to hold off on penalizing companies. “Delaying wouldn’t accomplish anything except delay.”
So it's another abject failure on the part of our emperor and his ministers in the Congress.