Sunday, March 31, 2019

For the Record: Channel Your Paranoia

Not waving but drowning, via Dr. Sophie Hay.

I went to a lot of political meetings in my youth, which is as I've noted somewhere one reason I can never truly get behind Bernie (every meeting had one, barking a bit, a few years older than the rest of us and deeply convinced of his rightness, never entertaining an idea he hadn't already had, dismissive of the hippies and shouting down the women), and it came to be a personal signature thing I would do to tell the others to "channel your paranoia"—limit the range of things you're going to be panicky about to those you've got a plan for, not that you're accepting the other awfulnesses, but you're not going to look as if you're desperate and drowning.

Nobody really paid any attention, usually. But while I'm up, I want to post a little experimentation I've been doing on the Twitter on the tone with which one talks about Trump, meant in the first place to sound less "hysterical" without minimizing the horror of what's going on:

For the Record: Alexandria Duet

Ancient Alexandria as imagined by the 16th-century Netherlandish painter Maarten van Heemskerck, via Short History.

Wingnuts went crazier than usual when Alexandria Ocasio-Córtez seemed to be saying that after overwhelming Democratic majorities pushed through the New Deal the Republicans stopped FDR from winning a third election by passing term limits, which makes no sense (how could they, if Democrats had overwhelming majorities?) and is also historically not true (that's the part the wingnuts noticed). Hahahaha, is your cute congresswoman really that ignorant?

Sadly, no, as a great blog team used to say. She's not perfect, but what she did was to blow a line she's been using correctly since well before her election:

Saturday, March 30, 2019

It's Kairos time again, you're gonna leave me

Outtakes from yesterday's Brooks that I can't process but can't quite let go of.

1. More on kintzugi:
I don’t know about you, but I feel a great hunger right now for timeless pieces like these. The internet has accelerated our experience of time, and Donald Trump has upped the pace of events to permanent frenetic.
Please don't eat the teacups.

"Timeless" has to be one of the most vicious words in the advertising lexicon. I remember especially from my magazine days how it used to be applied to watches. You'd be talking about this grotesquely ugly $30,000 diamond-studded time-keeper and the copy would be gushing over the "timeless masterwork". The hell you say. And there's nothing more time-ful than a kintzugi bowl, with all the vicissitudes of its life literally glowing through its body like streaks of pure pain.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Literary Corner: The Internet Cleanse Cycle, Part I

Korean tea bowl, 16th century, with gold kintsugi repair work, Ethnologisches Museum Berlin, via Wikipedia
From David Brooks, "Longing For an Internet Cleanse":

By David F. Brooks
They look like they have golden veins
running through them, making them more
beautiful and more valuable2 than
they were in their original condition.
There’s a dimension of depth3 to them. You sense
the original life they had, the rupture and then
the way they were so beautifully healed.
And of course they stand as a metaphor4
for the people, families and societies
we all know who have endured their own
ruptures and come back beautiful,
vulnerable and whole in their broken places.5
1 The Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer colored with the dust of precious metals, so that the break remains visible as a gold or silver seam, and the associated philosophical view that an object has its own life, of service, which is not ended by breakage, and can be restored.

2 In the first wave of its popularity in the late 15th century, it's said collectors often smashed valuable pieces for the opportunity to turn them into kintsugi bowls, the way our wealthy philanthropists vote against a government-run social safety net in order to ensure a supply of broken people they can fix.

3 Unlike unmended bowls, which are always two-dimensional?

4 Of course! In reality, making the thing into a metaphor is the most un-Japanese thing you can possibly do with it. The deepest idea of the kintzugi philosophy is that of the mono no aware, the poignancy of things, in themselves, not as representatives of something else; as deserving the same tenderness we want for ourselves.

5 "The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places." Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms. Most, I think the point is, aren't. The old tea bowl is in fact as strong as ever after the kintsugi work, though the Japanese beauty of the gold seam consists in its reminder of past suffering; the damaged human rarely is. You can send your broken human to the shop to see what they can do, but it really would have been better if it hadn't happened.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Designed to Lose

Ten-minute drawing by Bonnie-Hop/DrawCeption, November 2016.

Piggybacking on Steve's post yesterday on the new Trump Justice Department policy on the Affordable Care Act—and the ongoing appeal process over the December ruling by federal judge Reed O'Connor of Fort Worth in a suit brought by 18 Republican state attorneys general announcing that the whole law, including mandatory coverage for pre-existing conditions, coverage of children up to age 26 on their parents' policies, regulations requiring insurers to give some kind of value for money, and health insurance for some 17 million people through the Marketplace and expanded Medicaid programs, is invalid—

That was OK with President Chucklehead, of course, who thinks consequences are for little people—
President Donald Trump was quick to take a victory lap, and pressed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and the presumed incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to fix the problem. The president tweeted Friday night: "As I predicted all along, Obamacare has been struck down as an UNCONSTITUTIONAL disaster! Now Congress must pass a STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare and protects pre-existing conditions. Mitch and Nancy, get it done!"
—but the DOJ announced it would be defending part of the law, though not the pre-existing conditions part, presumably under the advice of lobbyists for insurers anxious to get around the Obama regulations against junk insurance that doesn't cover much of anything.

Now they've changed their minds and decided not to defend any of it at all, which seems like a pretty weird move from the political standpoint; healthcare is the most important issue on voters' minds, and they like what the ACA provides, though most of us really wish there was more of it. They showed it pretty clearly in the November elections, too, as seemed instantly clear the day after the elections:

Tuesday, March 26, 2019


Alfred Hitchcock, The Lodger, 1927.

David F. Brooks wishes to inform the public that it's another bothsides case: "We've All Just Made Fools of Ourselves—Again".

Democrats, or at least former congressman Beto O'Rourke and former CIA director John O. Brennan, need to make a public apology to the president for calling him something like a traitor (and O'Rourke said he did the treason "ham-handedly", which is just mean) when they "lacked the evidence". Republicans need to apologize to Washington for calling it a swamp. Everyone concerned should adopt "an attitude of humility and honest self-examination."

I love it to death when David F. Brooks starts talking about honest self-examination. He, of course, is the exception, regarding himself as having no self to examine, an affable, ego-free void.

Also it's all because of Watergate:

Monday, March 25, 2019

Mueller Said to His Man. II

Image via Xavier High School Xpress.

In a progressive meaning-degeneration like a game of telephone, Robert Mueller:
"[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities."
William Barr:
The Special Counsel's investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
David Greene/NPR:
The investigation did not find any like evidence right I mean there wasn't any collusion I mean do Democrats really sort of want to keep sort of beating this I mean dead horse?
That last one may not be verbatim, but the network really does keep saying the investigation "found no evidence" of collusion or of "conspiracy and coordination" if they're being a tiny bit more careful and "there was no collusion" (Rachel Martin at 6:09 repeated at 8:09) when they throw caution out the window, and that is absolutely not the case, and Barr absolutely did not say anything of the sort.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Mueller Said to His Man

Tony and John, encountered at many folk festivals in days gone by, the greatest.

Honest to god this is the stupidest thing I've ever seen. Barr's letter to the judiciary chairs and ranking members, Graham and Nadler, Feinstein and Collins
to advise you of the principal conclusions reached by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III and to inform you about the status of my initial review of the report he has prepared.
You've heard the conclusions by now, that the Special Counsel "did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election" and was unable to decide whether Trump obstructed justice or not. They might as well have put it the other way around, that it didn't find that Trump obstructed justice and couldn't decide if the campaign conspired, because it amounts to the same thing, or for that matter that it didn't find that the campaign didn't conspire or coordinate and couldn't decide if Trump was innocent. Or you could say Barr has been unable to determine what the Special Counsel did at all, which I think is unlikely, but he'd rather that's what we thought, but the evasiveness of it is just amazing. There are literally zero conclusions!

The only positive findings are the things we've known since the indictments of the St. Petersburg troll farm Internet Research Agency in February 2018 and the GRU email hackers in July. As to whether Trumpies had anything to do with these, at first you get the impression that they were looking for signs of the Trump campaign helping out with the trolling and hacking—"Hey Donald, you weigh 400 pounds and you're always on a bed, you should be good at this"—

If you've got the Mueller, I've got the beer

Backlit photo (is Trump trying to stop us from seeing his eyes?) from Kid Rock's Twitter via People.

OK, on reflection and some reading around, and an unbelievably tedious fight with a Greenwald acolyte (Glenn called it a "simple fact" that "not one single American was charged, indicted or convicted for conspiring with Russia to influence the 2016 election" by the Mueller team or, so far, in any of the spinoff cases, and I pointed out that until we saw Mueller's explanation for his declination decisions we could not know how simple the fact was and the acolyte called me a "conspiracy theorist"), I'm inclined to keep working on that bone we got thrown Friday night, by way of preparing myself and anybody who wants to join in for what is clearly not going to be a great big catharsis moment, but will be something nevertheless, when we start learning what's in the report.

One thing that fits in my normal frame of mind is a tweet from Richard Nixon's Michael Cohen, the ineffably proper and wholly rehabilitated John W. Dean:

Saturday, March 23, 2019

The Idiocy of Rural Life

Mary Pickford in Sparrows (1926), by William Beaudine. Via Fritzi.

Shorter David F. Brooks, "What Rural America Has to Teach Us", New York Times, 22 March 2019:
What rural America has to teach us is that we should all live in a county with under 1,000 residents, or so few people that everybody has to double up on official functions in government and civil society and amateur sports as well as being bank presidents or owners of a Michelin-star bakery, which fortunately takes up no more than half your time, which will go along with an insane work ethic and "intentionality", which means having a pervasive civic mind-set. Then everybody will be just about perfect, leaving their doors permanently unlocked and going to meetings all evening, except the kids who get good grades and have to leave town to find something to do, and the local immigrants who dismember our hogs, who won't go on Facebook for fear of what they might find out about our political views.
Honest. I made up the Michelin star (in the column it's a James Beard Award), and the town he's visiting has 7,700 people, it's a bunch of other Nebraska counties that have fewer than a thousand, and the hogs are an educated guess, but other than that it's pretty much all in there: even unto

Friday, March 22, 2019

Mueller Lite? Or Mueller Heavy?

Drawing via English Update.

Took a personal day to attend to some business, leaving a quarter-finished post on some boring topic or other, and spent a few hours not looking particularly at any news, and this thing happens in the most unsatisfying way it could, of course, with a notice that there are no further sealed or forthcoming indictments from the special counsel's office, which doesn't mean nobody else is going to get indicted—ongoing investigations by the various US attorneys' offices and state attorneys general will certainly yield something—but does mean that The Report or the Principal Conclusions we might be invited to look at this weekend probably don't include any statements of culpability on the part of Junior, Kushner, and the Emperor in particular; as Rosenstein has written,
"Punishing wrongdoers through judicial proceedings is only one part of the Department's mission.... We also have a duty to prevent the disclosure of information that would unfairly tarnish people who are not charged with crimes."
If they aren't charged, we won't learn about the stuff they aren't charged with.

On the other hand, attorney general William Barr notes, the report is specifically supposed to be a report "explaining the prosecution and declination decisions", meaning that it's supposed to explain why they decided not to prosecute some cases, and a confidential report, that is one that may disclose such matters on the understanding that they aren't intended for the public, and Ari Melber (I'm live-blogging TV at this point) suggests that what actually gets released is negotiable: Mueller's gig is over, but Barr will consult him (and Rosenstein, who seems to have put off his widely reported plans to leave DOJ for at least some weeks) as to what confidential information can be revealed, with a preference, at least that's what they're saying, for revealing more rather than less.

And the congressional chairs, most notably Adam Schiff of the House Intelligence Committee and Jerry Nadler of Judiciary, are very determined.

There's this long list of questions that look like they aren't being resolved at this point, anyhow, starting with Trump's long series of lies about his Russian business interests—the Papadopoulos behaviors, the Manafort attempts to cash in on his relation to Trump, Junior and the 9 June meeting, the inexplicable anti-Ukraine Republican platform change, Kushner and the Erik Prince matter, Manafort and the Tony Fabrizio matter, Kushner and Trump and the Mike Flynn matter, the lies of so many Trump staffers about their Russian connections, Trump's in-plain-sight secret meetings with Kislyak and Lavrov and so many times Putin himself, the endless Trump efforts to defy Congress over Russia sanctions, and so on. Are we seriously not going to learn anything about these? Just not ready to believe that. But we're not learning it today.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Well, Ari lied, anyhow

Baghdad, 2003. via a valuable article at Strategic Culture.

It's the 16th anniversary of the Iraq invasion, and Ari Fleischer, the artist formerly known as the most dishonest presidential press secretary in American history (until Sarah Huckabee Sanders ran away with the title), couldn't restrain himself from weighing in:
Immediately I'm suffused with the same old helpless rage and can't think about anything else. Ari goes on, of course, for a dozen and more tweets, explaining that when "the intelligence services of Egypt, France, Israel and others concluded that Saddam had WMD" they all made a mistake, but that's not the same as lying—not mentioning, naturally, that the intelligence services of Egypt and France certainly didn't convince their governments from there that a war was necessary:

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Conqueror Worm

Via Fritzi, Mae Busch in Rupert Hughes's Souls For Sale, 1923.

Shorter David F. Brooks, "Cory Booker Finds His Moment", 18 March 2019:
If you're tired of violent, angry demagogues like Donald Trump and Kamala Harris, you should be glad that Cory Booker is in the race, because although he's another socialist, so I couldn't actually vote for him myself, he is patriotic, religious, and grateful, which is what I need on my TV in this unpleasant moment. 
Comically, he doesn't provide any evidence that Booker is grateful, only that he should be, because his "family story" is a "success story", unlike Donald Trump or Kamala Harris I guess:

Monday, March 18, 2019

The Reprehensible and the Comprehensible

Two separate warnings this morning, from former US attorney Preet Bharara on NPR (doing a book promotion) and Georgetown Law professor and former OLC staffer Martin Lederman in Washington Post (cited in Raw Story): Mueller's report, to the extent there is one, is not going to contain a nicely wrapped case for the indictment of Donald Trump for crimes committed in the collaboration with Russian agents in the 2016 election.

For more than one reason, but the main thing is that it isn't in their remit to do such a thing, given the Justice Department ruling that a sitting president isn't supposed to be indicted, as Lederman concludes:
it would be surprising if it included any express conclusions about whether Trump’s conduct did or did not satisfy the elements of any particular criminal offenses. As long as Trump is in office, it will be up to the committees themselves — and Congress as a whole — to (in the words of the Jaworski road map) “determine what action may be warranted . . . by [the] evidence” presented in Barr’s notification.
That's probably too categorical; they could signal an opinion on his chargeability in indictments of other people, as an unindicted co-conspirator, as they've already done in regard to Michael Cohen and the Paramour Payoffs (can't decide whether that's the first novel in my detective series featuring a troubled metropolitan lawyer or a band name). But that will be ancillary to what I do hope will be an indictment of Donald Junior, if anything. I still believe he would be indicted in a case where his guilt was transparently unarguable—if he really killed that guy on Fifth Avenue—but this isn't one of those cases. The language in which he agreed to the basic bargain of Russia's assistance with the Moscow hotel and US election projects, if Mueller has it (and we know what he has from Cohen, not too damn much, and we know Manafort and Junior have said little and nothing respectively) will be couched in code, like all those mobster communications, and the way he tried to live up to his end by removing sanctions obscured inside a web of plausible deniability, opinions from foreign policy advisers and lawyers that he's entitled to do what he wants so he can argue he was just doing what he was told.

I guess I'm beginning to understand how unlikely it is that our story is going to have any kind of clean ending, where the public gasps, "OMG he did that?" and the president just has to leave.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

For the Record: The End of Omar

Under pressure of extreme irritation from some Twitter guy I assembled a lengthier set of thoughts starting with Representative Ilhan Omar and carrying it somewhere I haven't entirely been before. It probably duplicates some stuff I've said before, especially in the earlier bits, but I'd like to keep it here for the record in this format.

I probably should have realized at this point that I wasn't going to be able to make him understand what I was talking about.

The End of Meritocracy

Architects' rendering of plans for a parking lot in Harvard Yard. Just kidding: prank picture from the Harvard Satyrical Press, March 2009, attributed to the Committee For Endowment Preservation by Any Means Necessary.

Looks like the competition for which New York Times opinionist will be first to come out in defense of the millionaires who bribed their kids into Stanford and USC has a winner, and it's not David Brooks, as I was predicting—

—or Bari Weiss, but Harvard's finest, Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street ("The Scandals of Meritocracy"). Oh, he doesn't quite come out and say it, and he adds a trollish recommendation for racial quotas just to keep you confused as to whether he's joking or not, but I think that's what it is:
The “more meritocracy” argument against both legacies and racial quotas implicitly assumes that aptitude — some elixir of I.Q. and work ethic — is what our elite primarily lacks.
But is that really our upper class’s problem? What if our elite is already diligent and how-do-you-like-them-apples smaht — the average SAT score for the Harvard class of 2022 is a robust 1512 — and deficient primarily in memory and obligation, wisdom and service and patriotism?
In that case continuity and representation, as embodied by legacy admissions and racial quotas, might actually be better legitimizers for elite universities to cultivate than the spirit of talent-über-alles. It might be better if more Ivy League students thought of themselves as representatives of groups and heirs of family obligation than as Promethean Talents elevated by their own amazing native gifts.
That's extremely interesting, the view of what problem "meritocracy" is supposed to solve, the problem of practical improvement, or building an elite of higher quality.

I mean interesting to me, at least, because I've literally never thought of it before, not that it doesn't make some kind of chilly sense.

Literary Corner: Area Man Bites Reality

Willem De Kooning, Inerchange, 1955, via Wikipedia.

In the press availability with the Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Thursday morning, our poet branched into a strange and dark new territory in which reality really begins to dissolve:

Songs of Zero Tolerance
by Donald J. Trump

I. Are Your Immigration Policies Cruel?
No, I don’t think they’re cruel,
I think they’re the opposite of cruel.
They become cruel because they’re so
ridiculous and it hurts people. It actually
does the reverse of what they’re supposed
to be doing. But no, they’re actually meant
to be the opposite. And they’re hurting people,
they’re really hurting people. A lot of people.

Friday, March 15, 2019


Dinesh D'Souza's response to the terror attacks on Muslim Friday prayers in Christchurch: Even though it's true and his story is imaginary, it's of the family of "fake news" because he feels it has the wrong emotional resonance. In this way he's the real victim, because now everybody's missing the point he would like to have made.

I sent him a question and he replied, in fact, after googling an example of a church that got attacked as proof that the media don't care:

Thursday, March 14, 2019


Caucus Race. Emily Carew Woodard, 2015, via Classic FM.


A little literally breaking news on BBC News Hour, reporting on ongoing debates in the House of Commons: what the government is proposing to do after they lose the next vote they're going to lose, which will be to seek a longer extension (beyond 29 March) to the Brexit process than the one they were seeking before, and to use "the first two weeks" of that extension to try to "find a majority" either for her deal (which will be trotted out as a zombie, I guess, since it's pretty clear there will never be a majority for that) or for some unnamed cross-party alternative, as if the parties themselves were going to stand down from the debate and the MPs take over as individuals.

As if it were starting to sink in for them what we've all been seeing from the outside, that the deepest problem is the political incompetence of all the UK political parties as currently constituted, but who knows what's really going on. May herself has evidently understood that just asking for more time isn't a solution, so that's progress.


Also in semi-breaking news from Washington, the return of the rumor that the Mueller investigation is about to end, this time more convincing than usual, as the top money-laundering prosecutor, Andrew Weissmann, leaves the team:

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Just Deserts

A kind of poignant thing about this college admissions scandal is the way the kids themselves were protected, in many or most cases, from knowing that they were involved in a fraud:
Sitting very still and wearing a dark suit, [master criminal William Singer] described how he arranged for students’ SAT and ACT results to be falsified by sending them to take the exams in Houston or Los Angeles, where he had bribed test administrators. He described the students as believing they were taking the tests legitimately, but said that his test proctor would correct their answers afterward. Mr. Singer said he would tell the proctor the score he wanted the student to get, and he would achieve that score exactly....
Mr. McGlashan’s son was unaware of the scheme, according to court documents....
Mr. Singer told Mr. Caplan that his daughter would not know that her standardized test scores had been faked.
“Nobody knows what happens,” Mr. Singer said, according to the transcript of the call. “She feels great about herself.”
Some students may have been directly slipped test answers, but more of them just were given to understand that they'd succeeded in the test on their own, whether a confederate was changing their answers or simply retaking the test to replace their original scores; some participated in photo sessions where they were posed as star athletes, but they didn't necessarily know what the purpose of it was, and others were just entirely in the dark while their parents photoshopped their faces onto stock pictures of high school sports, but neither they nor the college administrations were aware that they were supposed to be star athletes, and nobody questioned why they didn't sign up for the soccer team or crew.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

A little horse-race pablum for the junkies

Colonel John C. Frémont, Republican candidate for the presidency in 1856, in a campaign lithograph, via.

So Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, is back on the theory that Donald Trump is Jimmy Carter.

No, really, this has been going on for a couple of years. Just around the time of the inauguration, Julia Azari, Scott Lemieux, and Corey Robin wrote pieces suggesting that the Trump presidency was likely to be what Steven Skowronek called a "disjunctive" presidency, that is one that takes place at the time when an old order or "regime", the long-term ordering of the ideologies and interests on which the politics depends, is falling apart and a new one is not yet clearly emergent; like Buchanan's, before the cataclysms of the Civil War and Reconstruction, or Hoover's, before the New Deal, or Carter's, before the beginning of what you might call the Era of Miniature Government.

Ross, with an authoritarian's inability to grasp a discussion of systemic factors, took this to mean that Trump must be personally like Carter in some respect, as in this from his contribution to the Times inauguration coverage, committed to the proposition that Trump is as smart as Carter was, with a "vision" that is similarly "new", though unlikely to succeed:
One such president was Jimmy Carter, who tried to maintain the creaking New Deal coalition while also grasping at a new vision for liberal governance. He failed because his party simply couldn’t accommodate the tension, and he himself couldn’t effectively blend the old and new.
Right now Trump looks like he might be similarly disjunctive. Like Mr. Carter with the ’70s-era Democrats, he has grasped — correctly — that Republican politics desperately needs to be reinvented. But his populist-nationalist vision has seemed too racially and culturally exclusive to win him majority support, and it’s layered atop a party that still mostly believes in the “populism” of cutting the estate tax.
Combine those brute political facts with Trump’s implausibly expansive promises, and a Carter scenario — gridlock, disappointment, collapse — seems like the most plausible way to bet. 
Which is pretty amusing in retrospect: whatever we may think about Trump's intelligence and vision, he's turned out to have an amazingly firm hold on his party, in spite of the claims to independence of a few crabby pundits. Today, anyway, Ross isn't going for retrospection, but instead prefers to look ahead, toward the question of who's going to play the "reconstructive" Reagan in this remake ("Bernie Sanders, Socialism's Reagan?"):

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Timelines: A Buried Lede

Image via Irish Examiner.

Here's a peculiar one, brilliantly reported by Christina Willkie at CNBC (but not so well edited, the story is extremely hard to follow), about one of the more purposeless-sounding lies Paul Manafort told prosecutors when he was pretending to cooperate after the first trial, about the origins of a payment of $125,000 that went to one of his lawyers in June 2017.

The money was obtained, it seems, from an old comrade called Laurance Gay who Manafort had put in charge of the Tom Barrack–created superPAC Rebuilding American Now (where he seems to have done exceptionally well, raising $24 million, the best performance of any Trump superPAC, though three quarters of the money came from just four donors—wrestling entrepreneur Linda McMahon for $6 million; Home Depot co-founder Bernard Marcus for $5 million; Hollywood real estate tycoon Geoffrey Palmer, not previously a well-known donor, though his experience in campaign money laundering goes back to 1991, for another $5 million; and the Arkansas poultry magnate Ronald Cameron, whose experience with campaign money laundering through his "Jesus Fund" is very extensive, for $2 million).

Gay got it from a company, Multi Media Services Corporation, or MMSC, which earned $19 million as the chief ad buyer for the Trump campaign, and whose silent owner turned out to be Tony Fabrizio, another old Manafort associate and the Trump campaign's main pollster, with whose company Gay had a slightly dodgy-sounding relationship:

Otherwise Blameless Life: Postscript

Andrew "Chef" Glick, ex-president of the Cape May branch of the Pagan Outlaws Motorcycle Club, knew enough about the 2012 hired killing of April Kauffman, a local radio host and doctor's wife who had threatened to expose the illegal opioid prescription racket her husband was running with the Pagan Outlaws, that he could have been arrested as an accessory. Cops instead charged him with crimes unrelated to the murder plot, illegal possession of methamphetamines, cocaine, and weapons, for which he could have gotten up to 40 years, according to the Philly Voice, and he testified against the murderers and did no time in his own case. That's what Manafort was supposed to do. It's not that complicated.

Also on the Manafort subject, I hope this isn't too obvious, but the fact that none of the crimes with which Michael Flynn, Michael Cohen, and Paul Manafort and Rick Gates have been charged with  feature direct collaboration in a Russian conspiracy doesn't mean they never committed any crimes on those lines.

Indeed, we know at least two cases in which Manafort and Flynn absolutely did collaborate in a Russian conspiracy: Manafort in that cigar bar meeting with Kilimnik of August 2016 when he passed him the 75 pages of polling data, Flynn in those phone calls with the Russian ambassador in December 2016 when they spoke about sanctions. That seems like a clear violation of the 1799 Logan Act

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Socialist Surrealism

Drawing most likely from the time of Milwaukee's first Socialist mayor, Emil Zeidel,  1910-12, though the city had two more of them, from  1916 to 1940 and 1948 to 1960. Via Milwaukee Independent.

Six weeks ago there was presidential candidate-flirt Michael Bloomberg:
Speaking with reporters after a second New Hampshire event, Bloomberg was asked about the wealth tax proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. He said the presidential contender's plan was potentially unconstitutional, and compared it to socialism. "It's called Venezuela," he added.
Only there are no wealth taxes in Venezuela.

Then around the same time there was Mr. Bret Stephens, economic theologian, laying down the catechism of orthodox socialism ("Yes, Venezuela is a Socialist Catastrophe"):

Friday, March 8, 2019

The Rightness Lag


David Brooks has changed his mind ("The Case for Reparations"):
Nearly five years ago I read Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Atlantic article “The Case for Reparations,” with mild disagreement. All sorts of practical objections leapt to mind. What about the recent African immigrants? What about the poor whites who have nothing of what you would call privilege? Do we pay Oprah and LeBron?
But I have had so many experiences over the past year — sitting, for example, with an elderly black woman in South Carolina shaking in rage because the kids in her neighborhood face greater challenges than she did growing up in 1953 — that suggest we are at another moment of make-or-break racial reckoning.
Then he calms down a bit. He's got the theological idea, which I really do, no snark, appreciate, that systemic racism is a sin, for which white society needs to atone, but he's more interested in Christian confession and absolution for himself than Jewish atonement and repair for the victims: looks like it's not the money that he expects to do the job, but the process of talking about it:
Reparations are a drastic policy and hard to execute, but the very act of talking about and designing them heals a wound and opens a new story.
It'll make him feel all tingly, as David Brooks might say. So that's nice, and better than what his friends have done with the Universal Basic Income idea (used it as an excuse for planning the devastation of the social safety net), but it's pretty Brooksish in the end, and I'm not swooning.

Also it occurs to me that at the beginning of the week he seems to have read something about the Sanders "Medicare for All" proposal with "mild disagreement" and "all sorts of practical objections" and concluded that it was an "impossible dream". Does this mean that sometime in 2024 he's going to decide that it needs to be done, or at least discussed, after he has a conversation with an elderly diabetic who's been condemned to death by the price of insulin?

Come to think of it, wasn't it around 2008 that Brooks decided George W. Bush had made some "bad calls" at the beginning of the Iraq war? (He was applauding the "courageous and astute" 2007 surge)? Is Brooks installed with some kind of five-year rightness lag?

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Otherwise Blameless Life

Obligatory: Manafort, Stone, and Atwater, 1985. Photo by Harry Naltchayan/Washington Post.

I have to laugh at Judge Ellis remarking that Paul Manafort had led an "otherwise blameless life" except for the period between 2004 and 2018 when he committed all the crimes he's charged with in the Virginia and DC cases. Does he believe Manafort went to Ukraine and suddenly became a professional criminal at the age of 55?

I have my doubts, above all over his work for Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos, reported by Ken Vogel in Politico Magazine back in June 2016, not long before Manafort's promotion from convention manager to campaign manager (the article was published literally the day after the meeting in Trump Tower with the anti-sanctions campaigner Natalia Veselnitskaya where he was reported to have fallen asleep, seemed later to have been taking desultory notes on his phone, and possibly, as Emptywheel pointed out, recorded the whole thing, which would now be in the hands of the Special Counsel, with Manafort's other electronic devices):

Thursday, March 7, 2019

November 2020

Not linking, but you can buy these little God-Emperor guys from Amazon. I like how his left hand in particular looks bigger than his head.

After Michael Cohen's testimony last week repeated the story that Trump didn't expect to or want to win the 2016 election, various people raised an issue they hadn't particularly raised the first time evidence of that was brought out, in Michael Wolfe's book, as here in The Hill, where it's used to suggest that Trump must be innocent in the Russian conspiracy:
On Russia: Cohen wouldn’t even venture to say that Trump “colluded” with Russia and said he was unaware of evidence that would prove such a thing occurred. Cohen claimed that Trump didn’t want to win the presidency, and didn’t think he would win. That undercuts the notion that Trump would have also conspired with Russian President Vladimir Putin to win.
Well, sure, except if that wasn't the conspiracy—if the conspiracy from Trump's point of view, at least initially, was rather, as some of us have been saying, and as Cohen's testimony completely reinforces (see Emptywheel), for Trump to follow Putin's playbook in contributing maximum publicity to the debate over Ukraine and sanctions, in return for which he'd get that Trump Tower Moscow built at last. He wasn't supposed to get elected in that scenario, but he was still Trump, and he'd still need desperately to look good. He can't bear to be laughed at. He constantly courts humiliation and dreads it more than anything, at the same time. I'm sure he wanted to come close to winning. Ideally, there'd be an outcome where he and his adoring following would feel he'd won, but he wouldn't have to move to Washington and go to all those meetings and be president in those horrible respects.

So what occurred to me then is that that explains all the talk toward the end of the campaign about how the election was going to be rigged in Clinton's favor, as his fabulation on Election Day itself, in a Fox interview:

Less information for you and me, more information for whoever Jared writes to

In my email, from Foreign Policy:

Trump to Cease Reporting Drone Deaths
Trump to Cease Reporting Drone Deaths
Top News: U.S. President Donald Trump has revoked a 2016 Obama-era executive order which required intelligence officials to publish the number of civilians killed in drone strikes outside of designated war zones, in places such as Libya, Yemen, and Pakistan.

The requirements were a bid to increase transparency around drone strikes, which increased ten-fold under Barack Obama. U.S. President Donald Trump looks to be on course to exceed that, launching substantially more drone strikes than Obama did in his first two years in office.

The Trump administration described the rule as “superfluous” and “distracting.”

But at least Trump can be relied on not to use improper methods of email storage, since he doesn't know how to use email, what better assurance could you have, though I guess we can't say that for Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, and Stephen Miller—you don't suppose they'd ever send classified information to the wrong places, do you?

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Dual Loyalty Postscript

Also Kevin McCarthy is the most classic Elders-of-Zion believer in the House. Him accusing anybody of anti-Semitism is like Joe McCarthy calling somebody a drunk.

I'd completely forgotten about that ghastly meme of the three Jewish billionaires (Steyer's only half-Jewish, like me) threatening to buy the entire US political system which you could only save by sending Kevin McCarthy money, #MAGA.

And he's never apologized, unlike Ilhan Omar, merely denied:
Asked by Fox News Channel’s Harris Faulkner about his October tweet, McCarthy responded, “Well, that had nothing to do about faith; that was about Republicans versus Democrats.”
"Nothing to do about faith"! "Faith"! That smarmy word. No indeed, it was about race. Speaker Pelosi, please reprimand this man.