Sunday, September 30, 2018

Consider where we are

Brews Wayne, I believe, via DrunkenDorkPodcasts.

Maybe that's as good a place to start as any. Judge Kavanaugh is accused by various women described as "credible" (including by the president of the United States) as having perpetrated various revolting assaults on them when he was in a state of extreme drunkenness and by a range of witnesses of both sexes as frequently drinking to excess and getting notably aggressive and nasty when he does, including his own apology to a bunch of buddies—
—and then denies under oath that he ever drinks to excess, while consistently evading more specific questions on the subject, even to the extent of turning them around on his questioners—"Have you ever had an alcoholic blackout, Senator Klobuchar?" "What do you like to drink, Senator Whitehouse?" I think the question is relevant on its face, I don't see how there can even be any question.

This is the man, by the way, who advised his boss, Kenneth Starr, to ply the president of the United States in his Special Counsel interview with questions such as,

Friday, September 28, 2018

High-Tech Lynchings Then and Now

Uncredited photo from a post by BJ's Mistermix, April 2014 (he said it was Andrew Sullivan and Conor Friedersdorf, but I think that must be some of that satire).

Steven Roberts/New York Times, 8 November 1987:

Under enormous pressure from Administration officials and his own conservative supporters on Capitol Hill, Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg today asked President Reagan to withdraw his nomination to the Supreme Court.
The judge announced his decision only nine days after he was chosen to fill the seat vacated by the retirement of Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. He acted after disclosures about his personal and ethical conduct stirred a storm of criticism.
The disclosures, which culminated Thursday with Judge Ginsburg's admission that he had smoked marijuana several times, embarrassed Mr. Reagan, who had called his confirmation ''vitally important to the fight against crime.'' 
It was the media that sunk Ginsburg—I didn't remember that. He was outed by Nina Totenberg of NPR (who had weekly lunches, still does for all I know, with that Times reporter's spouse, Cokie Roberts, and Linda Wertheimer). There was a bipartisan outcry from the nation's young  potheads, from Claiborne Pell (D-RI) to Newton LeRoy Gingrich (R-GA), including potential presidential candidates Bruce Babbitt and Al Gore, but fearful conservatives begged him to withdraw (he was also accused of "handling a cable television case when he was an investor in a cable company" as a DOJ official, which looks practically innocent by today's Republican standards), and he did, and the nominator named Anthony Kennedy to be vitally important to the fight against crime instead.

Hey, it was a simpler time.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Literary Corner: Somebody Else Came Up

Via Observer.

How I Realized That Peace Between Israel and Palestinians Is a Very Important Thing
by Donald J. Trump 

When we had in Saudi Arabia, we had
one of the great conferences in history.
Many of you were there, probably all of you
were there. It was one of the most beautiful
two days, that and China, two of the most
incredible events I have ever seen.
I have never seen anything like it.
And we had, I believe,
58 Muslim countries, the leaders, the kings,
the emirs, the absolute leaders from every —
there was nobody in second place. They
were the leaders of the whole thing.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

What Happens at Prep

Wait, isn't that what conservatives want? (No, they just want a room with no women.)

A really great piece at Slate by Lili Loofborouw (a name that's harder to spell than mine!) gets Kavanaugh precisely to rights:
For what it’s worth, and absent evidence or allegations to the contrary, I believe Brett Kavanaugh’s claim that he was a virgin through his teens. I believe it in part because it squares with some of the oddities I’ve had a hard time understanding about his alleged behavior: namely, that both allegations are strikingly different from other high-profile stories the past year, most of which feature a man and a woman alone. And yet both the Kavanaugh accusations share certain features: There is no penetrative sex, there are always male onlookers, and, most importantly, there’s laughter. In each case the other men—not the woman—seem to be Kavanaugh’s true intended audience.
Abuse of this type isn't about heterosexual relations with women at all, in fact, it's about homosocial relations with men, at the expense of women. Kavanaugh assaults Blasey Ford only because Mark Judge is there to watch, and to roar with appreciative laughter. And then a male omertà protects him: "What happens at Prep stays at Prep."

This jibes with another story (from Emily Peck/HuffPost via Lemieux) about the abominable Judge Alex Kozinski, for whom Kavanaugh clerked in the early 1990s:

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

General Assembly

I know, everybody's talking about this.

I want to ask, first, is it whatever meds he's on or is his reading disorder (S-RCD) getting perceptibly worse? He sounds completely unable to guess what's coming next as he sounds out each word, and I don't think he knew what he was saying here until the sentence was over and the audience started laughing, even though the writer (most will think Bolton, because of the "sovereignty" theme but I'd say Miller, who believes the same garbage anyway) did a good job of putting it in his own voice.

The affable-sounding response to the laughter, "Didn't expect that reaction but that's OK," is extremely angry, I think. In the assertion that he's the one who decides whether it's OK or not. He often says things like that when he's frightened by his own rage—a favorite is when he's calling out some opponent's disrespect and says, "And that's fine." I can't stop myself from suspecting that Miller or whoever put the sentence in there on purpose, knowing how it would be received, to start moving Trump to think about withdrawing the country from the UN altogether ("The Atlantic Charter was the worst deal every made in history!"). The way somebody else tried last Friday to start Trump thinking about firing Rod Rosenstein. It's only the second best way to manipulate him, using his anger, but whoever it is is looking for results that flattery won't achieve.

Also see Aaron Blake/WaPo.

Wanker of the Week: Frank Bruni

Well, no, Bruni does not think the presidential candidacy of actual billionaire Michael Bloomberg can deliver the United States from the presidency of faux billionaire Donald Trump:
Bloomberg, 76, probably doesn’t stand a chance. He has all the va-va-voom of a ficus tree, all the populism of a Bermuda golf course. And he’s hardly the perfect suitor for a party whose loudest voices are on the left.
Bruni wants a ficus tree to run. He's taunting it to put some fire in its belly.
"Bite me, Bruni, I got more va-va-voom than you ever will!" Photo via Desert Dream Gardens.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Goodbye to All That

Via DepositPhotos.

There was some news from Britain with a kind of family resemblance to good news, if you read it all together, starting with the report this morning from The Mirror, as members of the Labour Party converged on Liverpool for the annual party conference, that leader Jeremy Corbyn is ready to accept the party's will on the question of whether to have a second Brexit referendum, what they're calling a "People's Vote", if they demand it at the conference, as they apparently will; confirmed later on in the Telly Graf:
Labour is poised to back a second referendum after Jeremy Corbyn confirmed he is prepared to commit to a major policy shift if the party’s members vote for it.
On the eve of Labour's annual conference, Mr Corbyn said he was "bound by the democracy of our party" and would "adhere" to "what comes out of conference", although he insisted he would rather bring about a general election.
The general election in question was one he was said to be planning to force by joining with the violent Conservative faction of Jacob Rees-Mogg to defeat Prime Minister May's "Chequers proposal" for the Brexit, in which Britain was going to get a relationship with Europe something like Canada's, except for Northern Ireland, which would sort of remain in Europe for certain purposes—a proposal which, I should add, has already been totally rejected by the European Union, as well as May's own Secretary of Brexit, which seems to be a new cabinet department, Dominic Raab, so don't ask me why the hell Parliament should be voting on it. I know, as we anglophiles like to say, a dead proposal, and I'm looking at one right now. That proposal is definitely deceased. Its metabolic processes are now history! It's off the twig! It's kicked the bucket, it's shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain, and joined the bleeding choir invisible!! THIS IS AN EX-PROPOSAL!!!

Sunday, September 23, 2018


So now apparently it's going to be Friday night all week long from here on in, and I'm just clutching onto Twitter. Kavanaugh has a calendar from 1982 on which he recorded all his major engagements, tutoring sessions, football practices, debutante balls, and whatnot, which he will submit in evidence to Senate Judiciary, and it apparently does not indicate any small drinking parties at friends' houses where he attempted to rape anybody, which could indicate that he didn't go to any, or that he had some reason for not writing it down. There's a Drudge rumor that Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer have another Kavanaugh accuser lined up, with a story that involves a "dildo" (Drudge's quotes, I believe). Drudge may be leaking the news in an effort to lessen the impact of whatever it is. And then there's this, from Washington Post's Philippe Reines h/t Lulu Lemew):
Oh, really? It was Raj Shah who knew the name of Kavanaugh's accuser, Professor Blasey Ford, when Senator Feinstein was keeping it secret, apparently because—what other explanation could there be?—the White House has known all along, presumably because Kavanaugh told them himself ("Oh, the other thing you need to watch out for, this girl I—well, I wouldn't say I assaulted her exactly, but she might say something like that, you know how girls get") enabling them to prepare, as with the list of 65 women from his high school social circle who were willing to vouch for his character (except to the extent they weren't, which is hard to determine, but it's clear Fox and AP weren't able to get statements from the very large majority) and Republican propagandist Ed Whelan's carefully worked out, though in the end unsustainable, theory, apartment floor plans and all, of the Doppelgänger resembling Kavanaugh who made Blasey Ford imagine that Kavanaugh had attacked her.

The actual Farrow and Mayer story, with no dildo, just a "gag plastic penis" being wielded by somebody else and a flesh one wielded by Kavanaugh, is from the nominee's Yale years:
After six days of carefully assessing her memories and consulting with her attorney, [Deborah] Ramirez said that she felt confident enough of her recollections to say that she remembers Kavanaugh had exposed himself at a drunken dormitory party, thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away. Ramirez is now calling for the F.B.I. to investigate Kavanaugh’s role in the incident. “I would think an F.B.I. investigation would be warranted,” she said.
Kavanaugh denies that such an incident took place. The New Yorker piece also has a new and very unpleasant high school gang-rape anecdote about Mark Judge, not featuring Kavanaugh. And lawyer Michael Avenatti, last seen representing adult film star Stormy Daniels or running for president, as the case may be, has a client with something else to report about Kavanaugh and Judge, who he says is not Deborah Ramirez. I would think firing all the writers on this show would be warranted. I'm expecting to wake up in the morning to hear that Bobby Ewing is still alive, and if I don't I'm going to be really pissed off. 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Literary Corner: Look at What's Going On

Wassily Kandinsky, Sky Blue (1940), via Wikipedia.

At the rally in Springfield, MO, in a segue from urging people to vote against Senator McCaskill to what seems to be the story about Rod Rosenstein's reaction to the events of May 2017:

They're All Gone
by Donald J. Trump

So Claire McCaskill will never ever
vote our way because she loves
the swamp. She's part of the swamp and we have
a true swamp in Washington.
Just look at what is now being exposed
in our Department of Justice and
the FBI. Look at what's going on.
Look at what's going on.
And I want to tell you, we have great people
in the Department of Justice. We have great people.
These are people, I really believe—
you take a poll, I've got to be
at 95 percent—but you've had some
real bad ones. You've seen what's happened
at the FBI. They're all gone.
They're all gone. They're all gone.
This is a much more controlled use of repetition, I think, than we usually see from Trump. It's as if each stanza had its own internal subject, "swamp", "what's going on". "great people", and "all gone". I wonder if these experiments in formalization signal some new discipline, some move away from the slackness that sometimes mars his work.

I also wonder—none of the content commentators are asking about this—if he really means to claim that he'd get a 95% approval rating if they did a poll of attitudes in the DOJ, and that's what demonstrates that they're great people, or would demonstrate it if it were true, which isn't very likely. I think that's exactly what he means, and it's a pretty interesting instance of the way Trump, to Trump, is the measure of all things.

And if the bad ones are all gone, with such completeness that he needs to say it three times, does that mean he's definitely not firing Rosenstein, even after the election (Sean Hannity has warned him not to do it, "It's a trap!", and Laura Ingraham deleted her tweet ordering him to)? Or does that only apply to the FBI, from which Comey, McCabe, Strzok, and Page have all been liquidated, while Rosenstein and Ohr continue to survive at Justice?

And in Red Wave news

Red Wave. Photo by Cadouri Si Perle, via Wide Open Spaces. Roger Stone used the same shot at his blog a month ago, not about politics but, oddly enough, a standard Republican propaganda account of how Florida's red tides are perfectly natural and nothing to be concerned about, cropped so as to cut out the shore, presumably to make it look less malignant.

This guy caught in Springfield, Missouri, by NPR's Don Gonyea:
GONYEA: Though Trump's prediction of a big red wave is an unusual way to ward off the kind of complacency many GOP leaders are worried about this year as they try to avoid the kind of midterm losses Democrats suffered during the Obama administration. Twenty-three-year-old Ben Lewis stops by the booth in search of buttons and a new Trump flag. At first, his enthusiasm also appears to be through the roof.
BEN LEWIS: I'm definitely a hundred percent more fired up now because I am really excited to have someone that's going to piss a bunch of people off because it's the truth and that's what they need to hear.
GONYEA: But when I ask him about November, he has little to say. He's not even sure who's running. Turns out he's fired up about Trump and re-electing him in 2020, but he has no plans to vote this year. He's just not interested.
But the 2018 election - don't really care?
LEWIS: It's not really my thing. I'm sorry. I just don't really care.
He's not a sample, just one guy, and not even demographically typical, being so young, but to me he's key, bringing together what we know most about the Trump voter, that owning the libs, pissing a specific bunch of people off, is the overwhelming central issue, with what I've been sure of, that they're really not voters.

And nonvoters (yes, I'm riding on my same hobby-horse here of denying the significant existence of Obama-to-Trump voters) were a key part of the Obama electorate too, but not the same ones: less homogeneous ethnically, of course, and skewing younger and poorer, but in particular inspired by hope, not spite.

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Calls Are Coming From Inside the (White) House

Rupert Murdoch, Jared Kushner, and friends in a less stressful period, at the Met Museum Costume Institute gala, 2011. Photo by Joe Fornabaio/New York Times

Smoking hot takes on the Rosenstein ruckus reported by Adam Goldman and Michael Schmidt in the New York Times and Devlin Barrett and Mark Zapotosky in the Washington Post shortly afterwards; I'll say straight out that I believe the WaPo story does much better service to the story and the readers in its treatment, in the first place in the way the Times makes the lede about a particular individual and his surprising language and emotions
WASHINGTON — The deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, suggested last year that he secretly record President Trump in the White House to expose the chaos consuming the administration, and he discussed recruiting cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office for being unfit.
The extreme suggestions show Mr. Rosenstein’s state of mind in the disorienting days that followed Mr. Comey’s dismissal. Sitting in on Mr. Trump’s interviews with prospective F.B.I. directors and facing attacks for his own role in Mr. Comey’s firing, Mr. Rosenstein had an up-close view of the tumult. Mr. Rosenstein appeared conflicted, regretful and emotional, according to people who spoke with him at the time. 
and the Post about the institutions of government responding to a moment of crisis through its principal documentary source:

Literary Corner: Pinocchios for Brett

Enzo Pazzagli, Tre Pinocchi, steel and plexiglass, 1990. Via Artnet. 

The Universe of Memos; or, Three Pinocchios
By Brett Kavanaugh

No, Senator. That’s correct.
I’m not aware of the memos.
I never saw such memos that
I think you’re referring to. I mean,
I don’t know what the universe
of memos might be, but I do know that
I never received any memos and
was not aware of any such memos. So,
I just want to correct that premise
that I think was in your question.
Cited from Senate Judiciary Committee proceedings in Salvador Rizzo, "Brett Kavanaugh’s unlikely story about Democrats’ stolen documents", Washington Post, 20 September 2018. My poetic response:

If memos exist,
Then these would be
Among the memos
I did not see.

But if I saw them,
As I recall,
Those memos did not
Exist at all.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

D'Stort D'Newsa: The Puerilizing of Political Discourse

Used this picture a couple of years ago.

Alice B. Lloyd writing for The Weekly Standard explains why former young conservative firebrand intellectual Dinesh D'Souza has turned into old conservative mendacious toad D'Vorce D'Spousa (thanks Tengrain!). Follow the money!
He doesn’t whisper when he cops to the mercenary nature of his support for Trump.  Back during the 2016 primaries, he and his second wife, Debbie, a Republican activist, favored Ted Cruz, whose father married them that year. (They met on Twitter in 2014: She DM’d him clips of Bill Ayers, and he asked her for help getting his movies screened in Texas public schools.) D’Souza prefers to avoid publicly backing any candidate and to keep his focus on antagonizing the other side. “I was making a movie on Hillary, right? And I thought, I’m not going to get into an internecine Republican debate.” But Hillary’s America did only $13.1 million at the box office where 2016: Obama’s America had managed $33.4 million in 2012. D’Souza saw the writing on the wall. “I completely jumped on the Trump bandwagon after he was the nominee,” he says. It was a solid business play: The Big Lie was a big bestseller. 
Money, and influence! He thought he'd have more of an impact if he focused on influencing people who don't have enough information to argue with him:

Wednesday, September 19, 2018


The thing is, they may well believe it themselves.

A good con man always believes the spiel, at some level, as in the thing I wanted to talk about, the plan Trump announced Monday for declassifying a host of Mueller-relevant documents, where I think they've really gaslit not just their followers but themselves—Nunes and Gaetz and Trump himself in particular. Once again, as with the Glenn Simpson testimony and the Peter Strzok testimony and the first unveiling of the Carter Page FISC application, they're going to open up a box without knowing what's in it, because they've gone and persuaded themselves, for at least the fourth, fifth, and six times during this circus, that they do know.

I'll tell you what's in pages 10-12 and 17-34 of the application for the third renewal of the FISA surveillance order on Trump's former "foreign policy" "adviser"  Carter Page, Ph.D., dated June 2017 (starting on p. 392 of the application as published in July), as demanded in Trump's order, if you want.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Annals of Privilege

Somehow I find myself imagining this YA novel:
Nobody knows this—they don't release juvenile offenders' names, and expunge the records once you've done your time—and now that I'm on the Supreme Court, it probably sounds a little weird, but I was pretty messed up before I went to college. In fact I killed a man in Reno just to watch him die. It was really bad judgment, what can I say? I still feel bad about it all the time, to be honest. But it's important for kids to understand that you can rise above the mistakes you make in life, and if you go to the right law school and clerk with the right judges, there's no limit to what you can accomplish. So I've decided to tell my story...

No Evidence [Narrator: There is some evidence]

Pablo Picasso, Nous Autres Musiciens, 1921, via Wikipedia.

I love the galloping rhythm of these jaunty couplets composed in a moment of adversity:

Song of the Illegal Witch Hunt
By Donald J. Trump

The illegal Mueller Witch Hunt
continues in search of a crime.
There was never Collusion with Russia,
except by the Clinton campaign,
so the 17 Angry Democrats are looking
at anything they can find.
Very unfair and BAD for the country. ALSO,
not allowed under the LAW!
I'm sorry, Donald? There was a dog not barking, and it was so loud I couldn't hear what you were saying!

The dog I mean being, of course, Paul Manafort's guilty plea on Friday and agreement to cooperate
fully, truthfully, completely and forthrightly with the Government and other law enforcement authorities identified by the Government in any and all matters to which the Government deems the cooperation relevant.
Rodolfo Giuliani came out posthaste with a covfefe denial that there was anything serious here, so instantly and easily falsified that none of the commentators even bothered to make fun of his drunk-typing:

Saturday, September 15, 2018

For the Record: Why lie about Maria?

Photo by Getty Images, via The Hill, from its report last week on the GAO finding that FEMA was grossly understaffed and overwhelmed by last year's hurricane season; that was before we learned Trump had diverted $10 million from the emergency management agency to ICE and the persecution of undocumented immigrants away from the border.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Jew Hear That?

Jerusalem Post.
I had Dr. Google looking for "Trump shekel -Eric" to filter out references to the current scandal. Most of the results were about a commemorative coin, a half-shekel, being issued in a grift operation of the "nascent Sanhedrin and the Mikdash (Temple) Educational Center", with Emperor Trump's profile laid over that of Cyrus the Great, getting rendered into Caesar as it were, but then there was that really useful bit on the 2016 rallies. I'll get back to it at the end.

The current scandal being, you know, this one:
"Don't you think people look through the fact that you can write a sensational, nonsense book, CNN will definitely have you on there because they love to trash the president," Eric Trump said on Wednesday's "Fox and Friends," the network's morning show, when asked about Woodward's book. 
"It will mean you sell three extra books, you make three extra shekels," Eric Trump added. "Is that really where we are? I think people see through this." (CBS)

Thursday, September 13, 2018

For the Record: Sanctions Rise Again

So the White House has announced a new order sanctioning any country that interferes in US elections, or more precisely "enabling" sanctions, as if they weren't already enabled by legislation Congress passed over a year ago. BooMan explains that it's a fraud, the purpose of which is actually to stop Congress from putting more pressure on the administration, but I wanted to tack on a few words on the background:

For the Record: Anonymous Sources

Some imbecile was proving to me that Bob Woodward's use of anonymous sources was connected to the fact, not previously known to me, that the "MSM" and Hillary Clinton were in conspiratorial cahoots in the 2016 campaign:

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

For the Record: It's Complicated

Dinesh asking the big questions:

One of the things that make him look especially stupid here is the apparent belief that there's some kind of open competition going on—as if, from some point in time or other in history, people had been inspired every few years to put another head on the rock, debated it, and gotten to work, and as if there might still be some room up there. Guess who else is that stupid:
[Rep. Kristi] Noem, who is also running for governor of South Dakota, relayed a conversation she had with the president during her first visit to the Oval Office soon after he took office in January 2017. Speaking with Vermillion resident Mitchell Olson during the filming of a carpool karaoke show, Noem described her first brush with the concept of "Mount Trumpmore" being erected atop the 77-year-old Keystone, South Dakota, landmark.
"He said, 'Kristi, come on over here. Shake my hand,'" Noem said, according to an Argus Leaderreport. "I shook his hand, and I said, 'Mr. President, you should come to South Dakota sometime. We have Mount Rushmore.' And he goes, 'Do you know it's my dream to have my face on Mount Rushmore?'"
Noem recalled that only one of them thought it was a joke. “I started laughing,” said the state’s lone U.S. representative. “He wasn’t laughing, so he was totally serious.”
But Maureen McGee-Ballinger, public information officer at Mount Rushmore, said it’s not possible to add Trump’s facial carving into Mount Rushmore to join George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.
"There is no more carvable space up on the sculpture," McGee-Ballinger told the Argus Leader.... (Benjamin Fearnow, Newsweek

New York note

State Senate candidate Robert Jackson.

I'll start with the hardest part in Thursday's New York state primary: what to do about the attorney general race, which features two candidates I really like and have voted for in other campaigns, Fordham professor and corruption expert Zephyr Teachout, who ran in a quixotic campaign for governor against Andrew Cuomo four years ago (and more seriously in my old upstate House district for Congress in 2016) and New York City public advocate Letitia James, who was the first New Yorker to win an election as a member of the Working Families Party, for a Brooklyn Council District in 2003, and as a Democrat ever since has been a thorn in the side of abusive developers, abusive police, and Michael Bloomberg; and before that served as a public defender and an assistant attorney general for Brooklyn under Eliot Spitzer, in 1999, when she was noted for combating predatory lenders. (The Working Families Party has for once avoided making the wrong decision by endorsing both.)

And then there's the (just barely and well within the margin of error) front runner Sean Patrick Maloney, congressman from the Hudson Valley, who I don't really like at all for reasons that have little to do with the attorney generalship:
In 2012, during his first run, he refused to say whether he would have voted for the Affordable Care Act. In 2014, Maloney said he voted against Obama more than 40 percent of the time on “86 critical votes” during his first two years in Congress.
He was one of 39 Democrats in 2013 to vote for the Keep Your Health Plan Act, which would have let insurers continue to sell plans that did not meet Obamacare’s minimum requirements — a move Democrats at the time worried would undermine the nascent exchanges.

Sunday, September 9, 2018


During a meeting with a small group of staff, Kelly is alleged to have said about Trump: “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.” (Newsweek)

To the tune of:

President wants to start a little war
Till Mattis shoves him through the copter door
Tonight he won't recall it any more
Cause he's in
Cray cray cray
Cray cray cray
Cracky-wacky cray-cray Crazytown

Saturday, September 8, 2018

How did you get Trump?

Got me a Trump
Just about yea big
With a stomach bump
And a tangerine wig

And when I get my Trump
To the garbage dump
Gonna kick that pig
In the tangerine rump

Friday, September 7, 2018

Literary Corner: The World Will Little Note

US Embassy in Arnona. Photo by Reuters, via Jerusalem Post.

Too Flowery. And He Died.
by Donald J. Trump

Do I get credit for saving a million,
billion bucks? Not really. Someday.
You know when Abraham Lincoln made that
Gettysburg Address speech, the great speech,
you know he was ridiculed? He was ridiculed.
He took the horse and carriage up
from the White House and wrote it
partially in that carriage and partially
at a desk in the Lincoln bedroom which is
incredible by the way in the White House,
and he went up to Gettysburg and delivered that speech.
And he was excoriated by the fake news.
They had fake news then. He was excoriated.
They said it was a terrible, terrible speech.
They said it was far too short. It’s not long,
many of us know it by memory. It was far too short
and it was far too flowery. Four score and seven
years ago, right? Too flowery. And he died.
Fifty years after his death they said
it may have been the greatest speech
ever made in America.
(Text via Grabien. H/t Jordan for title.)

Thursday, September 6, 2018

I AM A PART OF all that I have met

Galactic heroes via Target.

I think it was watching Lawrence O'Donnell on the TV claiming to have discovered that the author of the I AM PART OF THE RESISTANCE letter was old Dan Coats that convinced me I knew who it really was, because all his reasons were wrong, and it obviously wasn't Coats, who may well be pretty distressed over Trump's stupidity and mercuriality but—particularly if he is actively resisting anything—is too smart to express it in such a futile, self-defeating way as this invitation to Trump to become more paranoid and ungovernable than ever.

My theory, fed by narrativium, is that it must have been TV economist Larry Kudlow, who took over the National Economic Council from Gary Cohn in April, after Cohn fled, not in protest against Trump's admiration for the murderous neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan demonstrators in Charlottesville, August 2017 (though we understand Cohn threatened to resign at the time) but in recognition of his inability to persuade Trump to listen to reason on the subject of steel and aluminum tariffs. As we now begin to learn from Bob Woodward's research, Cohn was the heart and soul of the RESISTANCE in his time, or at least convinced Woodward that he was—the guy who stole papers off the sacred presidential desk.

Cohn's a believer in a conventionally conservative kind of economics, who wasn't bothered by the radical Trump overhaul of corporate and pass-through income and other taxes on the very rich, or the push toward radical deregulation in the finance industry and de-fanging of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but is genuinely bewildered and upset by Trump's hatred of international cooperation, especially on trade (and as you know I don't like it either and don't @ me to tell me I'm a neoliberal). That's what he was resisting, in fact: the paper he stole from the Resolution Desk was an order to dissolve the US-South Korea Free Trade Agreement. And Kudlow is the same kind of economist, or has played one on television, and so is I AM PART OF THE RESISTANCE:

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Literary Corner: Bannon

Image by David Parkin from The Economist, November 2016, via Southfront.

Since the Twitter Mob, in the form of Kevin Kruse, Chelsea Clinton, and New Yorker staff writer Kathryn Schulz, not to mention Jimmy Fallon, has driven the magazine's timid editor David Remnick into the shadows and convinced him to rescind his invitation to that Gray-Green Eminence Stephen Bannon to share the stage at the Ethical Culture Society's digs on West 64th St., I thought I should give readers an opportunity to see what they're missing—what Bannon's performance under courteous but firm questioning is like.

Below the fold, from a conference at the Vatican of the Human Dignity Institute, 27 June 2014, on the subject of "Poverty and the Common Good", from Bannon's contribution via Skype ("Should Christians Impose Limits on Wealth Creation?"), apparently representing the Tea Party movement, is his complete response to a question from Benjamin Harnwell, the Institute's founder, asking him to explain the relationship between his European allies, Ukip and the French Front National, with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

I think he's saying that Farage and Le Pen needed (in the summer of 2014) to "look at" Putin's philosophical "traditionalism", notwithstanding Putin's being an "imperialist" and the "state capitalist of kleptocracy" and his views being in some sense the precursors of Italian fascism, because he's "very, very, very intelligent", and people like the "nationalism" part, and something to do with the so-called Islamic State, and "first things first".

Or, shorter still, we should adopt Putin's "Eurasianist" philosophy as part of our public relations strategy for combating ISIS first, and worry about whether it turned us into fascist kleptocrats afterwards.

This could have some relevance to us today, come to think of it. Have a look:

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

All the President's Mess

Amphora painting of Odysseus blinding Polyphemus, Eleusis Museum, via Wikipedia.

That's the thing. It strikes me Woodward is like the little man in the forest in a Grimm story. Each brother in turn runs into him and he asks them to share their sandwich and pot of beer and rewards them with a magical object or a bag of gold pieces hidden in the tree stump; but the last brother who's rude and refuses gets a curse instead and henceforward every time he opens his mouth a frog leaps out of it, or something like that. Woodward's just responding to what he gets, and for the first time in 40 years he looks like he's done something.

The good news (and as you can tell from the title,  Fear, there's not a lot of it) is that Trump isn't president, as I've said. He's not authorized to speak for the White House. Kelly and Conway and the rest of the household retainers made huge and successful efforts to keep Trump from talking to Woodward until after the manuscript was submitted, because that would have been too embarrassing to bear, but a pretty accurate picture of the White House is emerging from the Wapo excerpts, and Trump isn't effectively in it, although he makes plenty of trouble trying to make decisions on the few matters that sort of interest him and sometimes getting away with it. But he doesn't know enough about what's going on, or care enough about it, except for the hopeless desire for protection against the Mueller investigation, to impose his will on it in general, and there's been what Woodward calls an "administrative coup d'état", where the staffers work as clearly as they can and Trump howls from the East Wing:


Photo via PoliticsUSA.

It's clear to me that Brett Kavanaugh is an extremist on the abortion issue, soaked in the rhetoric of the movement, from his conduct in the Jane Doe case, as Mark Joseph Stern wrote at Slate:
Under Casey, the government cannot impose an “undue burden” on a woman seeking an abortion before viability. Yet the Trump administration had imposed a flat ban on abortion for undocumented minors in federally funded shelters. (It maintained that minors who wished to terminate their pregnancies should either find a sponsor in the U.S.—a near impossible task for many without family here—or leave the country.) Kavanaugh held that this position did not constitute an undue burden, in a ruling which would have forced “Jane Doe,” a 17-year-old who was already 15 weeks pregnant, to continue her unwanted pregnancy. [Unable to leave Texas and its almost complete ban on abortion after 20 weeks, she'd soon have no legal choice.]
The full D.C. Circuit swiftly overturned Kavanaugh’s ruling and granted Doe access to abortion. In response, Kavanaugh penned a furious dissent that brimmed over with anti-abortion rhetoric. The majority, he sneered, had granted Doe “abortion on demand”—a phrase that, as Irin Carmon notes, is deployed by the right to “denote women capriciously making decisions for themselves.” He claimed that Doe was not mature enough to make this “major life decision” on her own, even though she had already received the necessary judicial bypass from a state court. And he asserted, incredibly, that the Trump administration was being unlawfully forced to “facilitate” Doe’s abortion by merely stepping aside and letting her obtain it. (This argument is fundamentally theological, not legal.)
I don't know what he told Senator Collins, and I actually don't care. I don't want to see him promoted to a court where the judges are allowed to make up their own precedents if he behaves like this on the circuit court, mansplaining Texas law to Texas judges and insisting that the White House has the right to force a stop to a completely legal medical procedure when there's no constitutional issue involved (I thought that was settled when the Bush administration lost the Terry Schiavo case and the poor woman was allowed to die in peace).

Monday, September 3, 2018

Annals of Culture Change: Kaepernick to Bannon

I think the Kaepernick news, if true, that the Nike company is using the otherwise unemployed quarterback and effective protester against police brutality against the black community as an ad model, is very cool.
It looks like former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick is starring in a new ad campaign for Nike. He shared an image on his Twitter Monday of a close-up of his face with the words: "Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything." Nike's Twitter account later retweeted his post. Nike has represented Kaepernick since 2011, but hasn't featured him in ads for two years...
Not, I mean, that it's going to convince me that Nike is the corporation that will save the world from not having nice corporations, though for all I know the long struggle to get them to provide decent working conditions for the people in developing countries who make their products may well have paid off to some extent—Wikipedia's bibliography on the subject pretty much comes to an end in 2011, but includes an article from 2018 reporting (on the basis of research published in 2009) that

It's the stupid, economy: Update

Image via Medscape.

Yet more new findings on bad air quality making people stupid or, if you want to look on the bright side, good air quality making people smart. And I do want to look on the bright side. This study examined 6.9 million Medicare patients over a 15-year period to correlate when (or if) they started suffering from dementia with the counties they lived in and how the EPA scored the county for compliance with the Clean Air Act:

We test whether long-term exposure to air pollution degrades human capital by causing dementia. We link fifteen years of Medicare records for 6.9 million adults age 65 and older to the EPA’s air quality monitoring network and track the evolution of individuals’ health, onset of dementia, financial decisions, and cumulative residential exposure to fine-particulate air pollution (PM2.5). Our instrumental variables framework capitalizes on quasi-random variation in pollution exposure due to the EPA’s 2005 designation of nonattainment counties for PM2.5. We find that a 1 microgram-per-cubic-meter increase in average decadal exposure (9.1% of the mean) increases the probability of receiving a dementia diagnosis by 1.3 percentage points (6.7% of the mean). This finding is consistent with hypotheses from the medical literature. We conclude that regulation of air pollution has greater benefits than previously known, in part because dementia impairs financial decision making. We estimate that the dementia-related benefits of the EPA’s county nonattainment designations exceeded $150 billion. We also find that the effect of PM2.5 on dementia persists below current regulatory thresholds. (Kelly C. Bishop, Jonathan D. Ketcham, and Nicolai V. Kuminoff, "Hazed and Confused: The effect of air pollution on dementia, NBER Working Paper No. 24970, August 2018. Paywall.)

PM2.5 meaning atmospheric particles of less than 2.5 micrometers, the same ones that were found to cause drops in language and test scores in Chinese people the last time we talked about this (the effects in that one being strongest in men, elderly people, and those with relatively low education). It apparently causes early dementia too.

The good news is evidence that we have evidence here that regulating air quality has a a direct beneficial effect on people, making them less likely to succumb to premature dementia, and not only that, it's a benefit you can describe in strictly economic terms, so the EPA really has to pay attention to that, right? Like the EPA is required by law to take the economic consequences of environmental regulation into account, right?
EPA uses economic analysis to meet statutory obligations and Congressional mandates. National decision-makers increasingly request economic information prior to making important regulatory decisions. EPA strives to improve the environment without imposing unreasonable costs on society by grounding its policy proposals in sound economic analysis. Cost-effectiveness and market-based incentives are critical when developing regulations and policies.
Well, maybe, but an editorial at Science by Kevin Boyle and Matthew Kotchen suggests that's being interpreted in a peculiar way in the Trump administration:
many economic analyses that support the Trump administration's regulatory rollbacks conflict with the EPA's previous findings. The 2017 analysis for eliminating the Waters of the United States rule turned favorable only after excluding all benefits of protecting wetlands. Eliminating the Clean Power Plan is supported in another 2017 analysis only after changing assumptions about the scope of climate damages, the measurement of health effects, and the impact on future generations. Differing assumptions also underlie the economic justification of the administration's 2018 proposal to roll back automotive fuel economy standards.
At an institutional level, the EPA also issued a proposal in June to revamp its approach to benefit-cost analysis. Many observers are concerned that this is an administrative move to institutionalize the agency's practices in the economic analyses noted above. This could result in the elimination of counting significant co-benefits. For example, a regulation that targets carbon dioxide emissions from power plants can simultaneously reduce other harmful pollutants, and the resulting co-benefit would not be counted.
Apparently they only meant to consider the economic analysis that gives results that would appeal to Charles and David Koch.

h/t/ John Voorheis for all the sources.