Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Keep Yapping, Man


"I don't really care, do u?" Seated between grand duchesses, the empress feels safer with her mask on. Photo by Jim Watson/AFP via Business Insider.

What are those debates supposed to be for, incidentally? Does anybody remember? I'm recalling this concept of how you'd have your candidates discuss the issues and voters would be able to use the discussion to make up their minds who to vote for. Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas in the 1858 Illinois Senate contest, in several meetings where one speaker gave a 60-minute presentation, the other responded with 90 minutes (rebuttal and presentation), and the first returned with 30 more, and the texts were published in all the newspapers (no broadcasting yet), and the citizens decided they were OK with allowing slavery in the northern territories (changing their minds when the two ran for the presidency two years later and the issues, or perhaps the reality of the new Republican Party, had become clearer). 

Nothing like that could have happened last night, since one candidate did not know how to discuss any issues, and the other one did not have any opportunity to, because the first one kept interrupting him and trying to shout him down whenever he tried to. 

JOE BIDEN: You're not going to be able to shut him up.

JOE BIDEN: Donald would you just be quiet for a minute.

CHRIS WALLACE: If I may ask my question, sir.

CHRIS WALLACE: [crosstalk] when I finish I'm going to give an opportunity-

CHRIS WALLACE: You're debating him not me. Let me ask my question.

CHRIS WALLACE: Mr. President, I'm the moderator of this debate and I would like you to let me ask my question and then you can answer.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Small Ball

Seven Springs Estate near Mt. Kisco; after local authorities refused to let him build a golf course and 15 private houses on the estate, Trump used not-developing it as a conservation easement charity deduction, probably inflating its value, while writing off the property taxes as a business expense. Photo by Craig Ruttle/AP, with a report on how New York attorney general Letitia James is looking at the setup from a criminal standpoint.

Total Fake News

by Donald J. Trump

I didn’t call on you. I’m talking
to him. You should be more respectful
of this gentleman. You’re very rude to him.

But I will tell you that I look forward to
releasing that. I look forward to
releasing many things. I’m going to
release many things, and people will
be really shocked. But the New York Times
has been doing — it’s fake story after
fake story. I’ve never seen anything like it.

And people understand it, and people —
that’s why the — the media has such a
low approval rating now because of
what they’ve done. It’s really a shame.

Well, then, that's not fake news, is it? In a unique feat of reporting, The New York Times has uncovered evidence backing up one of Trump's most idiotic-sounding claims: that audit that his taxes are always under, year in and year out, really exists—

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Triliteral Commission

If there was an intersection between students of linguistics and conspiracy theorists, one of the things they could fantasize about would be a Triliteral Commission of people trying to dominate the world by spreading the use of three-letter short names for famous people like GBS, BHL, JFK and LBJ, and so on, which would account for Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, who's out today ("The Meaning of Amy Coney Barrett") rejoicing in advent of justice-to-be Amy Coney Barrett not as human being but as cultural symbol replacing the Notorious RBG—

if elevated to the Supreme Court, she will probably enjoy more celebrity than the typical justice. She’ll be more of an R.B.G.-style cultural symbol — as A.C.B., Glorious or Notorious — with her own distinctive, if considerably smaller fan base, plus a certain type of critic who regards her fecundity as threatening or irresponsible, her claim to any kind of feminism a cheat. (Obviously if she plays a role in changing the court’s abortion jurisprudence, the latter antagonism will be sharpened.)

And what she's going to be a symbol of is "conservative feminism":

Friday, September 25, 2020

More Prognostication


Pearl White shooting an episode of "The Perils of Pauline", via Palisades Interstate Parks Commission.

Really heartened to see the decision by Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose reversing the Commerce Department's crazy attempt to cut the 2020 census head-count off a month early. Not just because it means that in all likelihood we will get the most accurate count possible, but because it openly recognizes the bad faith and inadequate grounding of the original decision, clearly made under intense pressure from the politicals,

Justice Department attorneys have attempted to present speeding up the count as a way for the Census Bureau to meet the Dec. 31 legal deadline for reporting results in light of Congress not giving the bureau more time.

Koh noted, however, that explanation "runs counter to the facts."

"Those facts show not only that the Bureau could not meet the statutory deadline, but also that the Bureau had received pressure from the Commerce Department to cease seeking an extension of the deadline," the judge wrote in the order, which cites multiple internal emails and other documents the administration was required to release for the lawsuit. (NPR)

and characterizing it as "arbitrary and capricious".

In this it goes along with Chief Justice Roberts's decision on the DACA program, which made the same complaint about the Trump administration's attempt to curtail the program, upending hundreds of thousands of lives for no real reason, or rather no real reason the administration was able to express. This is an important point to remember: while we often think of tyranny in terms of cruelty, but the element of arbitrariness—the tyrant doesn't need to offer a reason for anything he does—is equally important and always has been to the discussion, arbitrariness as opposed to rule of law. 

We can't expect Roberts to be concerned with cruelty, he's absolutely a Republican, but we can hope he will oppose arbitrariness, because it's bad for business. This is my take on Roberts, anyway, ever since his original 2012 decision on the Affordable Care Act, in which poor people in the states whose governments objected to expanding the Medicaid program were thrown under the bus but insurance companies and healthcare providers were preserved: he maintained the parts of the act that provided stability and profitability to the giants and their shareholders, as long as it didn't involve a lot of taxpayer dollars, though in a tricky way that would encourage Republicans to keep working on a "repeal and replace" project.

Literary Corner: No Comment

Augustus St. Gaudens, GriefI, via.

In the Ninth Month

by Donald J. Trump

Right now
in a number of states
the laws allow
a baby to be born
from his or her mother's womb,
in the ninth month.
It is wrong,
it has to change.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Got Paranoia? Barton Gellman's Nightmare

Via Robert Graham

So yesterday was the day of Barton Gellman's nightmare 3 November scenario in The Atlantic ("The Election That Could Break America"), for the series of developments that will lead to a worse crisis than you've successfully imagined:

  • Biden wins the election, but not in anything like a landslide, thanks in part to the suppression of Black and youthful votes, and, crucially, not so the networks can call on the night of 3 November itself, as the in-person votes get counted and the vast number of mail-in ballots take longer—perhaps Trump is actually well ahead in the count as we're going to bed, in a case of the "red mirage" reflecting the difference in the way Democrats and Republicans are voting in the pandemic;
  • Trump refuses to concede when the election is called, claiming vast fraud in the mail-in vote, as he's been preparing to do in speech after speech since 2016;
  • an army of Republican lawyers slows the count down to glacier speed, contesting every postmark and signature, and around the most contested states disorder spreads, beginning with 2000-stye "Brooks Brothers riots" and devolving into competing demonstrations with fistfights at the margin;
  • Trump declares an emergency, and DHS forces take custody of the uncounted ballots;
  • by 35 days after the election, on 8 December, when states are required to submit their lists of electors, certain Republican state legislatures where Biden is now ahead in the still unfinished count, under cover of the suspicion of fraud spread by Trump forces over the past four years, move to name their own sets of Trump-loyal electors, as nothing in the Constitution prevents them from doing (the tradition of naming the electors on the basis of the state's popular vote is one of those norms we haven't been able to stop Trump from breaking, enshrined in most state laws, but in this horror movie, the legislatures can overcome that)—think Texas, Georgia, Florida, Arizona, but also North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania;

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Grassley Misleading

Senators Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) hunting for vital information and not doing anything related to the Trump campaign in any way, shape, or form, of course, because that would be wrong. Via Tennessee Star.

As one of the first to lodge a complaint about young Hunter Biden failing upward into the Ukrainian energy business and making the Obama government look bad for no conceivable reason (May 2014, as soon as the news came out, and I don't know what Chuckles Grassley was up to at the time—actually I do, he was all in a dither about an imaginary "secret hands-off list" that supposedly forced CBP agents to allow a Muslim Brotherhood member to enter the US)—

As one of the original Hunter critics, I was saying, I feel I have a kind of proprietary interest in the story and its second life as a shiny object in the Quest for the Trumpy Grail of some kind of scandal associated with the name of Joe Biden, including the latest effort from the Republicans of the Senate Homeland Security and Banking Committees, which the chairman of the first, stupidest person in the Senate Ron Johnson, has just released. But it's really pretty pallid stuff, as Josh Kovensky/TPM says

The report — which purports to document the effect that Hunter Biden’s position on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma had on U.S. foreign policy — is a rehash of long-debunked allegations that served as the focus of President Trump’s impeachment last year.

But Senate Republicans summed up the result of their probe as well as anyone: “The extent to which Hunter Biden’s role on Burisma’s board affected U.S. policy toward Ukraine is not clear,” the report reads....

And the Wall Street Journal

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

For the Record: Airborne

Photo by Reuters, via.
Story on today's Morning Edition:

Monday, September 21, 2020

Literary Corner: Supreme Court Nominations


Song of Barbara Lagoa, Whom I Might Nominate to the Supreme Court

by Donald J. Trump

She's excellent.
She's Hispanic.
She's a terrific woman
from everything I know.
I don't know her.
Florida. We love Florida.

Again the way he has no idea that you're supposed to pretend, when nominating somebody who might serve on the Court until 2055 (that's when Lagoa turns 87), that you have some reason other than swaying some votes in a key state in an election six weeks away. Text via Daniel Dale.

Earlier, ex-NeverTrumper Rich Lowry, heir to William F. Buckley, Jr., as editor-in-chief of the National Review, also known as "Ol' Starbursts", after his erotic attachment to ex-governor Sarah Palin, whose stupidity is as shameless as any Republican senator you might want to mention, really enraged me with this example of conservative priorities:

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Shoe Dropping

Chuck C. Johnson making what looks like a white nationalist hand sign and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Ecuadorian Embassy, London, August 2017, via DCCC.

Don't know if you'll remember the story from about 80 years ago, wait no I mean in February, about how then-congressman Dana Rohrabacher (representing Orange County CA for the United Russia Republican party) had traveled to London to meet in the Ecuadorian embassy with Mr. Assange with a proposal:

Assange’s lawyers alleged that during a visit to London in August 2017, congressman Dana Rohrabacher told the WikiLeaks founder that “on instructions from the president, he was offering a pardon or some other way out, if Mr Assange … said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC [Democratic National Committee] leaks.”...

Rohrabacher denied it, of course, but in a curious way:

Saturday, September 19, 2020

For the Record: Ginsburg

Photo by AP.

Some reaction to the inevitable, but almost unbearably sad, loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, degenerating mostly into politics:

Friday, September 18, 2020

For the Record: Stupid Economist Tricks

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

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

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

Thursday, September 17, 2020

It's the Bribery, Stupid

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

My Vote Is a Precious Thing


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 14, 2020

Stiffing the Social Contractors

Image via National Compass.

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 13, 2020



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

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

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

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

Friday, September 11, 2020

Hi It's Stupid: Rudy

Painting by Burhan Dogancay,1998, via WikiArt.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Literary Corner: Crisis of Con- Con- Confidence


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

Leadership Is All About Confidence

by Donald J. Trump

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 9, 2020



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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Do They Even Math, Bro?

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 7, 2020

Labor Day Miscellany


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

Yeah, exactly. That kind of person. 

Sunday, September 6, 2020

For the Record: Tough on China


Illustration by Javier Zarracina/Vox.

Rafael trying to come out plus trompiste que le Trompe:


Saturday, September 5, 2020

Felonious Bunk

Via Home Depot.

Via NPR:

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

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

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

Answer: In principle, yes, but

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

That last is my observation, not NPR's.

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 4, 2020

For the Record: Quiet Part Update

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

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

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

to Fox

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

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

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

Quiet Part Out Loud

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

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

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

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

and the joyously prophetic

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Eviction Notice


Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, via Los Angeles Daily News.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Literary Corner Bonus: Soup for my Family

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

Big Bags of Soup

by Donald J. Trump

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

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

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

H/t Christopher Ingraham.