Monday, May 29, 2023

For the Record: Joe Did That

As I was following the television coverage of the debt ceiling

I got a communication from a distressed leftist who's even older than me:

Sunday, May 28, 2023

On Not Negotiating With Terrorists

American hostages in Tehran, 1979, via Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

From comments on Friday's post (in which it looks like I turned out to be right):

Any money cut from the increased IRS funding will actually cost multiples of the amount cut with wealthy individuals and corporations getting away with continued cheating.

    Actually, we always deal with terrorists and extortionists. As you're reading this, there's probably somebody in Washington thinking about the next step in trying to get that Wall Street Journal reporter out of Lefortovo prison. Evan Gershkovich. And whoever is stuck in Iran. Every major police force has people specifically trained to talk down bombers and hostage takers. As far as I know, it's actually effective sometimes, and when it is, it saves lives, sometimes on a massive scale. I was thinking about this the whole time, even as I was using the expression myself, cheering Democrats on in their justified anger, but I wasn't thinking hard enough.  

    "We don't negotiate with terrorists" means something, but it isn't exactly what it sounds like. It means more or less "This negotiation isn't going anywhere if you can't give me some reason to think of you as not a terrorist."

    Friday, May 26, 2023

    Joe Did What? State of the Hostage Situation


    Poster by TaoJones42, available from Redbubble for $15.56.

    As somebody or other said you can never make a deal until you do, and it looks, according to reporting from Jim Tankersley and Catie Edmondson for The New York Times last night, corroborated this morning by the Washington Post, like we're just about there with the debt ceiling, and details are starting to emerge from the process in a way they weren't before. I think we need to fold up the way we feel about the existence of the debt ceiling and keep it for next time Democrats have majorities in both houses of Congress, and take it out then and put a wooden stake through that stupid law's heart and cut off its head and fill its mouth with garlic and bury it at a crossroad (using the reconciliation procedure as needed). I may not be alive by then (last time there was a real chance was probably 1993), so I'm telling you now.

    Meanwhile, we might as well turn our attention to what we're going to get instead, which Josh Marshall says is unexpectedly good: it lifts the debt ceiling, rather than increasing it to a given number, for the next two years, until out beyond the next presidential election, so that we won't have to think about it again until 2025, and the budget cuts, as far as is currently understood, are less violent than feared, keeping the veterans' money as is and freezing the rest of the non-defense discretionary spending at 2023 rather than 2022 levels, or just a bit less:

    Wednesday, May 24, 2023

    Interesting Times

    Interesting Times

    How many criminal convictions on Trump's platter by November 2024? I'm guessing at least two. And he'll still be the nominee.

    MAY 24, 2023

    Republican Clown Car, 2015, by Donkey Hotey (via Wikimedia Commons).

    As Steve M is saying, Republicans seem to be doing everything they can to force themselves to renominate Trump next summer, particularly the ones who are most ostensibly anxious not to, calling up an implausibly crowded carful of non-Trump nonentities, like it’s 2015 all over again. Which it will be, at this rate.

    Ron DeSantis has now entered the campaign, or almost. He’s signed the special Run Ron Run bill overturning the Florida law that requires governors running for president to resign from the governorship, It’s been announced that he’s filed the paperwork, and eventually today....

    New Substack post

    Monday, May 22, 2023

    Theater of Ron

    Another day, another appalling story about Ron DeSantis—his "law enforcement relocation plan" that has spent $13.5 million luring anti-vaxx cops from other states to move to Florida with no vaccine mandate ad $5,000 payments up front has recruited some really bad officers:

    They include a former trainee deputy with the Escambia county sheriff’s office charged with murdering her husband; an officer with the Miramar police department fired for domestic battery and kidnapping; and a former member of the New York police department (NYPD) who was hired by the Palm Beach police department having once been accused of an improper sexual proposition.

    That officer, named by the Daily Dot [which is responsible for the reporting] as Daniel Meblin, was also part of a $160,000 settlement by the NYPD for violence at a 2020 protest against the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd in which officers were accused of beating Black males without provocation.

    Sunday, May 21, 2023

    Opera in Black and White

    Kind of a big Substack post—long, anyway.

    For the Record: Texas Trolls

    Via National Women's History Museum.

    Gish Galloped from Eleanor Roosevelt to Pudding Fingers DeSantis

    Saturday, May 20, 2023

    For the record: Epistemic Closure


    Oh yeah? Well you're canceled.

    Friday, May 19, 2023

    You Never Talk to Rudy About a Pardon

    Donald and Rudes at the groundbreaking of the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Columbus Circle in 1995, the year (The New York Times notes) he would declare losses of $915.7 million in his federal tax return. Photo by Francis Specker/New York Post Archives, via NYP Holdings, Inc., via Getty Images.

    A note on Rudolph and the claim of his rape victim Noelle Dunphy that he told her he was selling presidential pardons at two million dollars a pop and then splitting the proceeds with the president: I remembered some talk of pardon lobbying among the scandals of Trump's last month in office—of people taking money to intercede with Trump for a pardon, with no guarantees—in the informal process, run by Jared Kushner, of doling them out to Trump allies like Manafort and Stone, somehow including Kushner's father, and was Giuliani involved in that?

    In fact I did a pretty good post myself about it at the time, which repays rereading (especially the bit about Trump's former personal attorney John Dowd, who also seems to have been in charge of offering pardons to criminals from Mike Flynn to Lev Parnas in exchange for silence on the subject of their activities on Trump's behalf), and sure enough, there was Giuliani in the mix, marketing a pardon to John Kiriakou, the CIA officer who'd been busted for outing the name of a fellow officer involved in the torture of an Al-Qa'eda fighter captured in Pakistan in 2002, for which he served 30 months in 2013-15. What's especially interesting right now is Giuliani's price tag:

    Wednesday, May 17, 2023

    What's Next on the Debt Ceiling?

    Random denomination. too. Via.

    So Joe Biden, having sworn never to yield to McCarthy's blackmail and negotiate appropriations under the threat that the House could refuse to do its constitutional duty and pass a rise in the debt ceiling and allow the nation to default on its debt for the first time in our history ...

    ... has started negotiating appropriations under the threat that the House could refuse to pass a rise in the debt ceiling, and so forth. Have we got that right?

    Possibly not. David Dayen at The American Prospect, who certainly knows more about these matters than I can even imagine, has come up with a more benign way of looking at it, anyway, based on the fact that McCarthy really did pass a rise in the debt ceiling, in his own peculiar way, even though it was in a bill the Senate and White House couldn't possibly agree to; that changed the situation, as Dayen said:

    I do believe there was some inkling, at least within the White House, that McCarthy would never get that bill passed. It took a fairly superhuman effort for him to thread the needle of his caucus and find a majority, and then only when two Democrats missed the vote. You can’t fight something with nothing; if McCarthy couldn’t get consensus, at some point he’d have to acquiesce to a clean debt ceiling increase. That would have been humiliating and reasonably possible. It was worth going for from the Democrats’ perspective. 

    I remember thinking that way myself, and it came agonizingly close to being true. But in the end it wasn't, and Democrats (and Mitch McConnell) had to turn to a different approach. What they're up to now is negotiating, but politely disagreeing on what they're negotiating about: the debt ceiling is "off the table", say Schumer and Biden; the debt ceiling is "off the table", says McConnell; "No it isn't," says Kevin, and it's a free country, so he has a right to his opinion. But the fact remains that when the solution comes, over the next couple of weeks, it will include a rise in the debt ceiling.

    Tuesday, May 16, 2023

    More Perverts


    People, I've been reading the Complaint in the $10-million suit filed in Manhattan court yesterday against Rudolph Giuliani by Noelle Dunphy, who worked as his Director of Business Development from January 2019 to January 2021, at a salary of $1 million a year plus expenses, which he never paid her, because this was during the protracted process of his third divorce, and

    he told Ms. Dunphy that her pay would have to be deferred and her employment kept “secret” until the divorce proceedings finished. He claimed that his “crazy” exwife and her lawyers were watching his cashflow, and that his ex-wife would “attack” and “retaliate” against any female employee that Giuliani hired. Giuliani promised Ms. Dunphy that his divorce would be resolved “any day now,” and therefore the deferral of her pay and the need to keep her employment secret would soon end.

    And that's not all, as you've probably heard by now; he started sexually harassing her from the first day—

    As he was preparing to leave, Giuliani told Ms. Dunphy that since they would be working from different locations that week, he would like it if Ms. Dunphy sent him some flirtatious photos.

    and in the first week, in New York on a business trip, insisted that she stay at his apartment (he has a guest suite), got her drunk, and forced her to give him oral sex, before taking her out to dinner with Lev Parnas (remember him? this is all happening as we're building up to the Ukraine scandal and the first Trump impeachment, and Lev is around a lot). Before you knew it, this had become a major part of her job:

    Monday, May 15, 2023

    For the Record: Debt Ceiling


    Hostage situation. Photo by Matthias Weinberger, 2006.

    Sunday, May 14, 2023

    The Other Big Lie


    This thing I saw on Twitter Thursday afternoon

    is in the first place an egregious deception, because that photo of a caravan from Honduras marching through Arriaga in Chiapas state (credited to AFP/Getty) is from October 2018, in the middle of the Trump Administration, and has no connection to anything that is happening now, and my first thought on seeing it was that posting it is some kind of Republican dirty trick. Were they spreading the story of open borders in the hope of encouraging more migrants to come, with the purpose of making the Biden administration look bad? Working to create a genuine crisis for a political profit?

    As the declaration of an end to the COVID emergency approached, and with it the Title 42 provisions allowing the border patrol to bar migrants more or less at random on the grounds that they might spread the virus, which they started using to bar asylum seekers under the Trump administration (as if they had more chance of bringing COVID to Texas than of catching it there themselves) and continued doing after courts blocked Biden from stopping the policy, and the policy was thus going to be blocked more or less automatically on Thursday, a remarkable chorus of doomsaying Republicans began to arise, like these from the Twitter account of @sentedcruz:

    Thursday, May 11, 2023



    Via NBC News.

    To my amazement, I find I've never written a blogpost on Congressman George Santos. How could that be?

    I've given him plenty of attention on Twitter, in any case, mostly to the effect that his hilarious tall tales, from the story of his having been on a championship Baruch College volleyball team to his having been a producer of the doomed Spiderman musical to his mother's having actually died on two separate occasions, a pretty unique experience, are of far less importance in the broad scheme of things than the corruption involved in his getting into Congress, the fraudulent fundraising, the misuse of campaign funds for his own personal enjoyment, and the feeding of really large amounts of money from secret sources, all of which play roles in the federal indictments that arrived today from New York's Eastern District in an Islip courtroom.

    Wednesday, May 10, 2023

    Back in Ukraine


    I don't regard Sushko, the Ukrainian racedriver turned advocate, as a reliable source of information— just because it's propaganda for an admirable cause doesn't mean it's not propaganda—but there, nevertheless, was Yevgeny Prigozhin, screaming at the Russian military in the most appalling language with a threat to pull his private army troops of the "Wagner Group" or "Wagner Orchestra" (honest to God, Оркестр Вагнера) out of the parts of Bakhmut it occupies, on May 10, the day after Russia celebrates the 78th anniversary of the German surrender, because his men aren't being supplied with adequate ammunition and are dying in excessive numbers; the suggestion is that the official Russian forces have changed their priorities from holding Bakhmut to coping with the coming Ukrainian spring offensive. 

    Monday, May 8, 2023

    News in Centripetality

    Image via Wikipedia.

    Oh, Axios! Oh, Kraushaar! 

    The big picture: For all the talk of a No Labels third-party effort, the reality is that politicians —and by extension, many of their constituents — are still in a no-compromise mood.

    • Donald Trump is barreling his way to the Republican nomination, gaining more momentum by the day. President Biden, who has made some moves to the centerhasn't won over many swing voters for his efforts.
    • Moderating forces in the Senate like Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) are facing long odds returning after 2024, despite their bipartisan appeal.
    • partisan gerrymander is now likely in North Carolina (after a new state Supreme Court ruling), jeopardizing the prospects of some of the most-moderate Democratic lawmakers in the House.
    • If Trump is at the top of the ticket, the 18 House Republicans in districts Biden carried will face existential danger. One House GOP strategist told Axios another Trump nomination would shrink the battleground map and limit the party's appeal in the suburbs.

    No, the "No Labels third party effort" is not an effort at "compromise". What's it going to compromise with?  The plan is to offer voters an unpolarized presidential ticket (on the order of Manchin-Sinema) so they don't have to compromise with their deeply held principles and vote for an extremist candidate like Biden. As the No Labels founding chairman, former senator Joe Lieberman put it,