Thursday, May 30, 2024

The Worst Gets Some Convictions


I get it about the reading disability, but he should be able to ask one of his lawyers

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— Yastreblyansky ( May 30, 2024 at 1:53 PM

You'd think he'd have figured some of it out by now: It's illegal to falsify business records in New York State. Just three or four months ago Trump was found liable for $355 million worth of falsified business records, has he forgotten about that? That was a civil case (for Trump; it was a criminal case for his company and its CFO Allen Weisselberg), and the thing that made it important was the sheer magnitude of the crime, but it's basically falsifying business records, the financial statements Trump put out for the bankers and insurance brokers who needed to know how much risk he posed:

falsifying business records, and conspiring to falsify business records, in order to issue a false financial statement and commit insurance fraud. (In some cases, notably that of his primary lender Deutsche Bank, the corporate culture was so corrupt that they didn't care how much of the company's money they were throwing away, but that doesn't make it OK, as they try to tell you by calling it a victimless crime.)

Today's verdict was in a criminal case, and involved a tiny amount of money in comparison (though it would be an awful lot of money to me, and pretty much everybody I know), but it too was all about falsifying business records, at bottom, the records of Trump's payments to his New York fixer Michael Cohen, disguising them as a regular attorney retainer—

Literary Corner: Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa

by Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States

It’s a disgrace. Mother Teresa
could not beat those charges.
These charges are rigged.
The whole thing is rigged.
The country's a mess
between the borders
and fake elections and
you have a trial like this,
where the judge is so
conflicted he can’t breathe.
He’s got to do his job.
It's not for me,
that I can tell you.
It's a disgrace. And I
mean that. Mother Teresa
could not beat these charges.
But we'll see. We'll see how we do.
It’s a very disgraceful situation.

Actually, I've been trying to give some thought to this—to the idea of Mother Teresa, learning that adult film star Randy Jackhammer has been pitching a story to the National Enquirer, "My One-Night Stand With Mother Teresa", recounting their years-ago tryst, with some vivid detail, even anatomical. Which did not happen, as far as I know, but if it did. 

Sunday, May 26, 2024

In the Unlikely Event

5/27: Updated version at the Substack

I hate the hypercorrect "whom" in that headline: a headline is a truncated sentence, and surely the truncated question it's answering is "Who is the presidential candidate voters say they'll support?", not "Whom do voters say they'll support as a presidential candidate?"

It's something from the Other Nate (Cohn, at The Times) that I'm taking a personal interest in, because I've been asking somebody with the resources to do it for a long time: going in search of the unlikely voter. Except he doesn't know that's what he's doing.

That is, when he was looking into the factors that might be associated with voter preference for Biden, he found that people who were otherwise likely to vote for Biden—self-identified Democrats, people who voted for Biden in 2020, minority members, the relatively young—it was those who didn't vote at all in the 2022 midterms, who were more likely to express a preference for Trump or no preference at all:

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Moral Equivalence

Larry Thomas and Bret Mendenhall in Uwe Boll's 2008 Postal, via The New York Times.

On the prospect of the International Criminal Court issuing arrest warrants on Yahya Sinwar (the head of Hamas in Gaza), Ismail Haniyeh (head of the Hamas Political Bureau), Mohammed Deif (commander-in-chief of the Qassam Brigades), and the Israeli prime minister and defense minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Yoav Gallant, there's been a lot of angry talk about the ICC prosecutor practicing "moral equivalence", including from President Biden

The ICC prosecutor’s application for arrest warrants against Israeli leaders is outrageous. And let me be clear: whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas.  We will always stand with Israel against threats to its security.  

A truly weird error in this connection from NBC News, which ran an interview with Netanyahu yesterday in which the prime minister complained that he was being given a "bum rap" (Trump's language choices are a bad influence, now Bibi too sounds like a 1950s gangster):

Echoing Biden's comments, Netanyahu said Khan's decision to seek arrest warrants for both Israel's and Hamas' leaders reflected a "false symmetry" that he said was comparable to the arrest warrants that were issued for both President George W. Bush and Osama Bin Laden following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Remember when ICC put out a warrant on Bush? I was so startled I looked it up, but of course it didn't happen (the court did open a preliminary investigation of war crimes in Afghanistan after the country ratified the Rome statute in 2003, but after 11 years of that, from 2006 to 2017, it took until 2020 for them to decide to move on to a full investigation, upon which Trump put sanctions on them, which Biden has reversed). And Netanyahu didn't say it did. You can get a more accurate report of what he said on NBC from The Times of Israel:

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

My "Unified Reich" T-shirt is raising many questions that are answered by my "Unified Reich" T-shirt

Image via Finescale Modeler.

Trump's mind going totally blank, you really have to watch it: 

The background music is the original audio, a track Trump has been using for a couple of years, at rallies and in campaign videos. It's been identified as "WWG1WGA"—a reference to the QAnon slogan "Where we go one, we go all" (when the song comes on in the rallies, Q aficionados in the audience make the Q index finger salute), by a tech house composer known as "Richard Feelgood"—

Richard Feelgood is a compelling Electronic and Tech House artist from Enschede, Netherlands. Feelgood has established himself as a leading figure in the electronic music industry thanks to his distinctive style and contagious beats. His work skillfully combines aspects of electronic music with the rhythm and energy of tech house, creating a distinctive and dynamic sound that captivates listeners.

Saturday, May 18, 2024

For the Record

TV lawyers keep fretting about how key witness Michael Cohen is a noted liar—he's even got a felony conviction for it—so juries might have trouble believing him. I don't know, if it's a "he-said-he-said" between him and Trump and he's explaining the deceit Trump was paying him to practice...

Also, the only important Cohen lie in this case is the one COVERING UP FOR TRUMP in his guilty plea, when he claimed he'd made an illegal campaign contribution (the Stormy payment), hiding the fact that Trump had reimbursed him (as Cohen proved in 2019 with the canceled checks).

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— Yastreblyansky ( May 16, 2024 at 9:34 PM

(cite from Politico in August 2018

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— Yastreblyansky ( May 16, 2024 at 9:41 PM


Monday, May 13, 2024

Right to Defend


Village of Atatra, Northern Gaza, October 21, 2023. Satellite image by Maxar Technologies, via AP

A "centrist" Israeli parliamentarian on BBC was less uncomfortable to listen to than the rightwingers generally are, soft-spoken with a kind of Central European vocal quality unlike the shouty, hectoring Likudniks or the coldly domineering IDF spox, who all seem to have been trained in BBC announcer school themselves, but the message wasn't really any different: all about Israel's unquestioned "right to defend itself" (as if that were what they've been doing over the last six months, as opposed to creating an unending supply of future Hamas fighters thirsting for revenge from now into perpetuity) and the prosecution of a "just war". I'll get to that, and St. Thomas Aquinas, later. I just want to point out how deeply unimaginative the Israeli "center" is, like everywhere else, while I keep focusing on Netanyahu and his unspeakable fascist partners, and how unwilling the center is to even try to think outside the conservative box, and sometimes worse than that: like Defense Minister Yoav Gallant's proposal to build a shiny new settler city, Ariel, the capital of "Samaria":

“There needs to be a large and significant city developed there, following what is happening in the mountain ridge of Ariel, because this is the most central junction that allows us to shift Israel’s population eastward,” explained the defense minister.

To which I responded

Drang nach Osten. Fulfilling the Likud slogan "from the sea to the river [Jordan]" Honestly Gallant and Gantz have swung so far right themselves they might as well just join Likud.

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— Yastreblyansky ( May 11, 2024 at 1:52 PM

I'm running a little late on things because I spent too much time on the wrong State Department report (the 2023 Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Israel, West Bank, and Gaza, which lays out many facts on misconduct by Israeli, Hamas, and Palestinian Authority forces through the end of last year but doesn't offer any opinions on the legal position or what Congress should or shouldn't do about it), before Just Security posted the one I've been waiting for, its Report to Congress under Section 2 of the Natonal Security Memorandum on Safeguards and Accountability with Respect to Transferred Defense Articles and Defense Services (NSM-20), a very valuable, though frustrating, document. 

The purpose is to examine assurances from seven recipients of US arms aid that are currently engaged in conflicts (Colombia, Iraq, Israel, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia, and Ukraine) that they will 

Monday, May 6, 2024

What's Going On


Tips of 15mm artillery shells and howitzer on the Israel-Lebanon border. Photo by Jalaa Marey/AFP via Getty Images from Axios.

Activity on the Gaza front continues to intensify, not in Gaza itself, of course, where it's the same rhythm of lower-level Israeli attacks killing families in Rafah, though not the threatened major attack, and the death toll continuing to inch toward 35,000, and reports of "full-blown" famine from the director of the UN's World Food Program, Cindy McCain, yes, that Cindy McCain, but on the diplomatic side, where Haaretz (that's a gift link) reported yesterday that Hamas had agreed to Egypt's proposed ceasefire, while Israel issued a denial that this had happened. 

This round of talks in Cairo seems to be definitely over, with Haniyeh and Netanyahu blaming each other, of course, though CIA director William Burns is still shuttling around Tel Aviv, Doha, and Cairo as if it weren't, but the shape of the deal as reported makes it look to me like it's Israel that turned it down: a 118-day deal in three phases, during the second of which (34 days in)

the parties will start enacting the principles that will lead to a prolonged cease-fire, including the withdrawal of the IDF to the borderline. Not all of these principles are reported.

and in the final 42 days,

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Newsletter: Summer of 2024

This looks like the development I've been imagining for the last five months among the Israeli public, as the hostages become more and more salient and the need for revenge less and less so. It's evidently connected to the video released a little over a week ago by Hamas of the American-Israeli hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin (Hersh was my dad's Yiddish name, as it happens), in which he denounced Netanyahu for abandoning the hostages and made the claim that 70 of the hostages have been killed, so far, by Israeli bombs, which may well be true (I've expected from the start that IDF would kill more hostages than Hamas would), even though the video is plainly released for propaganda purposes, and it seems that a lot of Israelis believe it.

The really curious thing is it seems to be where the Hamas leadership is at too, asking for a permanent ceasefire and release of many prisoners in Israel in return for release of hostages held in Gaza. The odd man out is Binyamin Netanyahu, who can't accept the permanent ceasefire, which would prevent IDF from killing everybody in the Hamas leadership.

I know, I know, Hamas is bad (but "you don't make peace with your friends," as a wise man once said, "you make it with very unsavory enemies"). At the same time, if you think about it, you can understand why they might be reluctant to get killed. That's definitely not the most evil thing about them. It's even kind of normal. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Teh Stupid

It's now possible to embed Bluesky posts! I guess it has been for a while, but I haven't given much thought to posting threads here the way I used to do with Twitter threads. Then yesterday everybody was talking about that Trump interview in Time, and I thought I might use some of mine. At least these, which have a more threadish form:

I think Josh is literally incapable of understanding how stupid Trump is. He's probably never met anybody that stupid. On the NATO issue, Trump is unable to comprehend what the issue is. It's like his inability to comprehend that a tariff is an import tax...

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— Yastreblyansky ( Apr 30, 2024 at 5:36 PM

Trump doesn't know that the 2% rule is about the countries' individual defense budgets. He has made up a story for himself that makes sense to him--that all the NATO countries are supposed to pay some kind of fee to the US and they're all deadbeats. And it makes him really mad!

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— Yastreblyansky ( Apr 30, 2024 at 5:41 PM

It's the only way to make sense out of things like this latest version. "You got to pay your bills."

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— Yastreblyansky ( Apr 30, 2024 at 5:44 PM

I'm sure aides like Kelly have tried to explain it to him over and over again, and he just can't get it. Kudlow explained tariffs to him too, but he's still talking like this in the Time interview:

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— Yastreblyansky ( Apr 30, 2024 at 5:49 PM

As Philip Bump has said, what he's doing in the interview is largely refusing to say what he might do in a second term because he hasn't thought about it and doesn't want to, and trying to interpret it as representing Trump's plans, as Eric Cortellessa does in his report of it, is a mug's game: 

a lot of what Trump is reported as planning to do is constructed from murky, noncommittal answers Trump offered to specific questions. The interview is very revealing about Trump’s approach to the position in that it strongly suggests he hasn’t thought much about important issues, and makes clear how relentlessly he relies on rhetoric to derail questions