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19.Sept.19 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Impeachment hearings at work Permalink to this item

Dahlia Lithwick, on Corey Lewandowski’s Self-Immolation in front of the House Judiciary committee (with emphasis added):

"This is next-level gaslighting. The same witness who announced to the world that he owes a duty of truth under oath, but that he may lie to the press with impunity, is launching a run for high office. The person who spat the words “fake news” at his hearing, in response to questions he didn’t like, boasted about actually creating and disseminating fake news when caught in a lie. There is a special grade of nihilism required to dismiss all unflattering media stories as fake, but the nihilism of dismissing one’s own lies to the press as justified is truly astounding.

"Going forward, any news program that books Lewandowski should be shunned, unless he comes with a chyron that read[s] “Possible Liar.” No serious news reporter should ever quote him again without noting that he testified under oath that he is untruthful in his dealings with the press. His political campaign should be covered with the presumption that every press interview may be false. Let’s be clear: Lying to the press is the same as lying to the public. The press asks questions as proxy for the public. It’s not a defense to say you don’t like the press, or the segment of the population that consumes that press, because you are now not just a public official lying to the public, but a public official admitting to and condoning lying to the public."

Well. "Possible" liar is a lot more benefit of the doubt than I'm prepared to give him after the confession in his contemptible performance yesterday.

18.Sept.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Lock Him Up Permalink to this item

House Judiciary Counsel Barry Berke, a white-collar criminal defense attorney, and acting as a member of the House Judiciary staff, questioned Corey Lewandowski yesterday and established beyond a shadow of a doubt that Lewandowski is a privileged asshole who cannot be trusted about anything.

While complaining about the "fake news media" Lewandowski proudly admitted he feels perfectly free to lie freely. It was his sworn testimony that when he's under oath, he's always told the truth (except when he won't answer questions). The rest of the time, you can't believe a word he says.

"I have no obligation to be honest with the media," he said, being a smart ass. So now, here under oath, and "the media" is C-SPAN.

That's a tricky ambit, lying most of the time, and only getting around to telling the truth once in a while. It makes it super hard to keep your stories straight.

Asked (effectively the same question) about his lying to the public, he said no "to the best of my ability" and then he said "I don't know."

Asked if he'd ever represented his work for the president, Lewandowski searched his mind and "couldn't think of an incident where that occurred." Counsel was helpful. "Let me show you an interview you did..."

Giving him another chance to flippantly express his contempt for "the media," which means the public, everyone, anyone.

He's got a stay-out-of-jail-free card in hand from the White House, "I can't discuss conversations with senior staff because" blah blah blah, and he has the expectation (at least) of getting pardoned if he does screw up too badly.

He claims his book is accurate, even though it contradicts some of what he told Congress yesterday.

I just have one remaining question. Is this contempt, perjury, or both, sir?

Oh, and stay for the comedic after-party when Rep. Doug Collins declares he'll be "staff" for the minority, and gets all squeaky and soprano in clown show indignation that the Chairman will not accept him, the Ranking member! as "staff." The Chairman gave him one minute to get his act together. And... mirabile dictu, he does not.

Back in order? Nope. "I cannot go along with the chairman's sham and the majority's sham in this hearing and designate a staff member." You wouldn't have thought it was that hard, but the Ranking Member failed to do his homework.

17.Sept.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

We're Number One Permalink to this item

The statistics for the most expensive prison on earth are mind-boggling. The one thing I take as good news is that the number of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay is down to 40. But spending is more than $13 million apiece. Per year. Not counting the classified stuff. There are "around 1,800 troops to the detention center, or 45 for each prisoner."

"The prison's staff members have their own chapel and cinema, housing, two dining rooms and a team of mental health care workers, who offer comfort dogs."

After seeing that "the trial of the men accused of plotting the Sept. 11 attacks is scheduled to begin in early 2021," I had to search it up to find that it's the 6th Amendment that calls for "a speedy and public trial" for all criminal prosecutions. (When it comes to the Global War on Terror, that apparently does not count.) But they have good health care while they wait:

"Health care for detainees is handled by a group of about 100 Navy doctors, nurses and medics who also staff the trooper clinic. The 100-member medical team had a $4 million budget last year.

"But when a prisoner needs specialized care, such as a colonoscopy and spine surgeries, the military brings special teams to Guantánamo at a cost the military declined to disclose."

Mr. I Alone Can Fix It Permalink to this item

Slippity digit, this guy tweets what he's thinking, before he's thinking, the same way he reads a TelePrompTer: he's in the neighborhood, but something is always just a bit off. Peter Baker's and David E. Sanger's news analysis on the verge of more war for oil: With Oil Under Attack, Trump’s Deference to Saudis Returns.

We're locked and loaded, POTWEETOH said to the world. Just tell us where to shoot! he said to MBS. Let's make another deal. Like the one he called for back in 2014.

"Since taking office, Mr. Trump has made Saudi Arabia his closest ally in the Middle East other than Israel, and has strongly supported its multifront struggle with Iran for dominance in the region. He has also left little doubt about the primacy of money in the relationship, openly citing the value of arms contracts in explaining why he would not criticize the Saudi government for Mr. Khashoggi’s killing."

No, seriously, that actually happened. Less than three months ago. He's a president like you've never seen before.

"Some national security conservatives were willing to give the president the benefit of the doubt," Baker and Sanger observe, dryly. Such as, I'm sure, Idaho's shy Senator who chairs the Foreign Relations committee. Jim Risch has made it crystal clear he's not going to criticize the president in public—for anything. Because of all the influence he has whispering in private? He claims, with that deadpan seriousness of his. Imagine rising to the pinnacle of your career, and having nothing to say about the epic corruption and stumbling incompetence before us.

16.Sept.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Malleus Maleficarum Permalink to this item

That name came to mind right next to the malleability of memory. In our modern day encyclopedia, it says that treatise was "written by [a] discredited Catholic clergyman" with a pseudonym and "first published in the German city of Speyer in 1487," when treatises, Catholic clergymen, human culture, the city, and "German" were something entirely different than today and anything we can conjure up from direct experience. Which is not to say that we've progressed overmuch beyond that dark age.

"The Malleus elevates sorcery to the criminal status of heresy and prescribes inquisitorial practices for secular courts in order to extirpate witches. The recommended procedures include torture to effectively obtain confessions and the death penalty as the only sure remedy against the evils of witchcraft."

Hello, Guantánamo Bay, minus the burning alive at the stake. "The book had a strong influence on culture for several centuries" is an understatement for our times.

Charles P. Pierce brought the problem of memory to mind by pointing out that the Kavanaugh nomination corrupted everything it touched. Replaying the Q&A between cool-as-ice Senator Amy Klobuchar and then Judge Kavanaugh, the question was, "was there ever a time when you drank so much that you couldn't remember what happened, or part of what happened the night before?"

From the image by Doug Mills/NYT

Kind of a no-brainer for a man who used to be a teenager and drank a lot. The truthful answer is "yes," and then... all bets are off, aren't they? I mean if you can't remember what happened, or part of what happened, anything might have happened, right? And you'll need to throw yourself at the mercy of the court, or other people who weren't blackout drunk at the time.

Don McGahn and the team would have certainly coached the witness against an appeal to mercy. The best defense is to be offensive in our current National Fuckery League. In another headline we wish was The Onion, but is not, we see that "Team Kavanaugh" is to be given the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service. No fucking joke. Pardon my Anglo-Saxon.

In exemplary rape culture fashion, Kavanaugh applied what I imagine he thought was brilliant jurisprudential jujitsu. "I don't know. Have you?" Klobuchar asked the question again, giving him one last chance to come clean. His big lie was just a throw-off word in his continuing, indignant counterattack.

KLOBUCHAR: Could you answer the question, Judge? I just — so you — that's not happened. Is that your answer?

KAVANAUGH: Yeah, and I'm curious if you have.

Klobuchar neatly kicked him in the crotch for that ("I have no drinking problem, Judge.") but her time expired before Kavanaugh's perjury and past bad acts could be explored more fully. The salient question was not whether that ever happened, but how often it happened, and what he learned about what all happened while he was blackout drunk, by talking to his friends. Time also was made to expire on the Federal Bureau of Investigation by the corruptly-led and so-called "Department of Justice."

We needed a replacement Justice appointed for a lifetime in a hurry, for some reason.

With the benefit of all time in the world, or at least more than what Republican insiders allowed to get the result they were after, Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly put together some news analysis for the Sunday New York Times, which I'm sure you've heard about, adapted from their forthcoming book on the subject. The publication date of The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation is tomorrow. From the NYT piece:

"Ms. Ramirez’s legal team gave the F.B.I. a list of at least 25 individuals who may have had corroborating evidence. But the bureau — in its supplemental background investigation — interviewed none of them, though we learned many of these potential witnesses tried in vain to reach the F.B.I. on their own."

When the less than esteemed hack currently chairing the Senate Judiciary Committee declared, summarily, that "there is no corroboration of the allegations made by Dr. Ford or Ms. Ramirez," it was aspirational in the first case, and a purposeful elision in the second. The FBI found no corroboration, because they were Barred from looking. That was enough, just barely, to squeak through a 50-48 confirmation vote, one shy of a Mike Pence tiebreak, and two shy of the correct result.

And so our Supreme Court sits, bookended by Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh, a monument to deceit, and the persistence of Catholicism in power, among so many other things.

11.Sept.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Remembering Permalink to this item

Eighteen years ago, the world was a very different place than it is now. I went back to see what I wrote here in the blog that day, before I had headlines on individual snippets. Blogging was a new, new thing, and there weren't a lot of rules. (There still aren't a lot of rules, but I do have post headlines and permalinks now.) The observation from that day still stands:

When young men (16 to 25 years old or so) do not see hope for the future, it creates the potential for horrific violence. Think of incidents of civil unrest, riots, civil war within this framework and I think you'll agree. Hunting down specific perpetrators and trying to punish them does not solve this underlying problem. What punishment can deter suicidal fanaticism?

There is also the opinion my dad put in print, 9 days after the attack: The Real Challenge Facing America. Had he lived past early 2007, he would have celebrated his 100th birthday this past Monday. On Sept. 20, 2001, just after he'd turned 82, we were all still coming to terms with a disrupted world order, a disturbance in the end of history, and in the hegemony of the sole remaining superpower. If he could edit it, I'm sure he'd change a few things, or have more thoughts to add. But this still stands in truth:

"The enemy is not concentrated in a far-off Asian country. It is planted among us, and the eventual victory will be won with the ideology of freedom and not with weapons of destruction."

9.9.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Demanding action on climate change Permalink to this item

Nice to see former Idaho Supreme Court Justice Robert Huntley's effort to publicize the need for climate action get some attention. I was one of the people who chipped in to buy a two-page spread in the Idaho Statesman, and after it ran in the Idaho Press, their reporter, Betsy Russell wrote about the effort. (Her shorter blog version is not paywalled.)

The ad calls on Idaho’s congressional delegation, governor, all state legislators, county commissioners and city councilors to answer four questions about climate change, including whether they’ll agree to take action to protect Idaho's citizens from its effects.

“Unless today’s leaders act swiftly, comprehensively and correctly, it is very likely that the quality of life for all will be greatly compromised and we will see land loss and even more powerful storms along our coasts, and inland, fires, floods and drought, heat stroke deaths, accelerating extinctions, mass starvation, mass migrations, wars, social collapse and more.”

Hotwire UX Permalink to this item

Rented my share of cars over the years, but haven't done a lot lately. Of course booking via the web is the thing these days, and I started with Kayak out of habit and previous success, and then... well, it's a bit pear-shaped. À la carte pricing has entered yet another realm, first of all. Lots of fees and add-ons produce a final number that bears surprisingly little resemblance to the low, low clickbait price. (Did you want wheels with that?) And car companies are now wanting their money up front, like the airlines have it, and really, modified reservations are such a pain in the butt, how about if we just do away with those, too?

The process seemed all wrong and unpleasant the first time through, and I decided I wanted an old-school reservation. I went name brand, United to Hertz, the HEY YOU KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN demographic. That was quick and easy and $100 more. I considered that amount, split with my sisters over four days and figured what the hell, we can afford it.

The next day, email from Kayak with screaming hot deals on rental cars in Denver I was looking for. They knew I didn't complete the process through their channel the day before. "Just for fun," I took a look. "Just for fun," I actually continued down the Hotwire path, a company name that sounds like a bad joke, but it gets attention? The process seemed like a bad joke too, really, "we won't tell you what company this is through until you commit to the reservation and pay us." Do people really like this sort of thing? Just how many hoops will I jump through for a hundred bucks?

HotWire Hot Rate graphic

In the light of a new day, a $100 bill dangling in front of me was enough incentive to give a try. What the hell. How badly could it go wrong? It's just a car rental, for pete's sake, it's not rocket science. Also, it listed the companies it might be, and they all had decent and upstanding brand names. Hertz, Avis, Budget, Thrifty maybe it was. I figured I'm ok doing business with any of those. Just before my rental company was revealed, the splash screen made me think of a one-armed bandit. Hotwiring a car for me.

Worst case, it's "only" $180 of my money at risk, right? New, prepaid, unmodifiable, and cheaper reservation in hand, I went back to United and easily cancelled my old, not prepaid, modifiable, more expensive reservation. And then noticed that whoops, at some point in what turned out to be a chain of e-commerce from Kayak to Hotwire to Thrifty, my pickup and drop off times had snapped back to the default of 12:00 pm and those weren't right. The dropoff will be earlier, I figured that's not a problem, but we won't be there to pickup until 3:00 pm.

I don't remember when I noticed that mistake, but it didn't seem too consequential, until now, close to go time. I should probably let them know, just be sure. They gave me Thrifty's number (disguised with letters; THRIFTY, get it?), and what turned out to be their number. The Hotwire answer-bot recording reiterates the policy they'd mentioned a month ago: NO CHANGES on this prepaid deal, capiche? I thought I was calling Thrifty, so I hung up and used the other number, and it didn't take long for the Thrifty rep to tell me "because this reservation was made through Hotwire, no changes are possible."

Called Hotwire back and proceeded past the recording to a rep who didn't have to get very far down her script to tell me that no changes are possible.

There has to be some flexibility in this business, what with airplanes not always being on time. But if any of Kayak, Hotwire and Thrifty had mentioned how much flexibility, it was in unperused fine print. And that "All Hotwire Hot Rate® bookings are final. No changes or refunds are allowed." text was in bolder print.

The Hotwire agent told me that the rental company would hold the reservation for 24 hours, so no big deal if I showed up three hours past the reserved pick-up. I asked her to send some customer feedback up her chain of command about how completely unsatisfactory the process was to me, and she offered instead to call Thrifty for me and get their reassurance. (Hotwire has Allman Brothers for some of their hold music, that was nice.) She did that, came back and gave it to me, offered to connect me so I could hear it directly (yes, please), and so now we're all set. Probably.

If all goes well (the most likely scenario), we will have saved a hundred bucks. If we miss the flight, or plans change, or some other more-than-24-hours delayed circumstance arises, we'll lose twice as much money as we stood to save, is that the way this works? Given a non-zero probably of something going wrong between booking and fulfillment, there are more than a few customers on the losing end of this gaming enterprise. 5%? 1%? Even at one-in-a-hundred, I have to think those are going to be some very unhappy customers, a lot more dissatisfied than me.

It's hard to see how this could be a sustainable business model. But then I guess that's the new, new (and old, old) thing: take the money and run.

Update: I've been ignoring the follow-on spammage from Hotwire, but this morning's caught my eye. Congrats! You've earned an extra $20 off your next hotel, the subject reads. Inside, the "FLASH SALE" big red print promises (up to) 60% OFF + $20 OFF ($100 or more). Maybe one of the previous tries emphasized the way-larger 60%? The deadline is... midnight on my departure date. "Hurry." I could book three star hotels in Chicago, Orlando, Los Angeles or Houston. Also, I could "Save up to 40% with Hot Rate® Flights**". The double asterisk punch line, in fine, gray print:

"Hot Rates are different from retail rates. With Hot Rates you enter the date, origin, and destination. Airline and travel times revealed only after booking. All bookings final."

6.Sept.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Ammon Don't Get Your Gun Permalink to this item

From his video

In local wingnuttery, Ammon Bundy is making news out of his tribulations in keeping himself armed. Given how much time the FBI has spent keeping track of him, it's understandable the background check was a bit pear-shaped, but then it did come through, except... not to his satisfaction.

He got hinky about signing the ATF Form 4473 (it seems), "because I do not agree with any of the process." Was it the reading, and understanding? Or the certifying that the information in Sections B and D is true, correct, and complete? Or just another opportunity for airtime, "in protest."

Whatever the reasons, I expect the good people of Emmett, Idaho, are resting easier knowing that the BATF is on the job, and Ammon's Facebook feed will go on forever. Sample comment, from "Jason Prophet":

"That FBI made a misteak and not liablty"

Or, in a not-so-funny vein, "Ben Miller," emphasis added:

"Im the guy from Illinois that the FBI approved with a Wisconsin driver's license but then was sent to prison for not having a FOID card in Illinois becuz I own property in both states. It's clearly a civil war. My cousin is the General of Tennessee and sent in special forces from Switzerland and Mexcio and Tennessee to engage the treason pigs and its now a barbecue."

As Ammon puts it in a Sept. 4 video to the world, opining from his truck, "Awww... I'm sorry that I keep having to do these videos." Also, "I got a bunch of attention on that."

NOW YOU HAVE TO SIGN THIS DOCUMENT like everyone else who wants to buy a firearm from a dealer was a bridge too far for him.

5.Sept.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Dorian actual Permalink to this item

Looking through the National Hurricane Center graphics archive just now, the main page shows a time sequence map of the actual track, and the extent of tropical storm force wind (39+ mph) and hurricane force (Cat 1 starts at 74 mph; Cat 5 at 157 mph), from 11:00am AST August 24 (one step before it was on the map), to 5:00pm EDT today (as it rides up and wreaks havoc on the Carolinas' coast, having narrowly missed Puerto Rico and after nearly totally devastating the northern end of the Bahamas Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday).

Over the course of 50 advisories (so far), starting on the morning of August 24, the NWS showed their mapped forecast of hurricane force wind speed probabilities, looking 5 days forward. 12 days ago, Puerto Rico was estimated to have a 5-10% chance of getting hit, then down to below 5% the next day. On Tuesday, Aug. 27, the highest probability (10-20%) was between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, and a more distant bubble of 5-10% showed up over Great Abaco and Grand Bahama, more than 600 miles to the NW. By the end of that day, that bubble had expanded from north of the island of Hispaniola, to the Florida coast, spanning nearly a thousand miles.

Eight days ago yesterday afternoon, when Dorian was just east of Puerto Rico, various islands in the Bahamas were given 5 day probabilities from below 5%, to 40-50% for Grand Abaco, and the 5-10% band extended all the way into the Gulf of Mexico on the other side of Florida. By last Friday, Aug. 30, Grand Abaco was almost surely in the 5-day crosshairs, and the outer band of the one-in-ten chance was just short of Alabama. 12 hours later, though, the models were predicting the storm to turn and go north up the Georgia and Carolina coast.

Forecast/Advisory #28, for the 5 days from 2 AM EDT SAT AUG 31 to 2 AM EDT THU SEP 05 showed the expected turn to the north, a full day and a half before Dorian crashed into Grand Abaco.

NWS graphic

As of this afternoon, a Statement from the Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor, Rear Adm. Peter J. Brown seems to only be available as an image on Twitter, but said advisor is prepared to fall on his sword. He says the Sept. 1 presidential blurt about Alabama was "based on that morning's Hurrican Dorian briefing." Brown then talks about the forecast from the evening of Tuesday, August 27, which would have been Forecast/Advisory #15, when the center of the storm was hundreds of miles SE of Puerto Rico.

With millions of people watching the weather, wondering whether they should put in supplies, hunker down, or run for their lives, a Homeland Security guy and his boss' boss were cluelessly talking about a 4½ day old forecast. None of the three of them are the sharpest tools in the shed, as CNN highlighted last week, and Kevin Liptak noted today.

Sunday morning, Sept 1, 2019 was when @NWSBirmingham weighed in to assure Alabamians that the President of the United States and/or the acting advisors feeding him information did not know what they were talking about. Four days later, the president's agenda is full up with I KNOW YOU ARE BUT WHAT AM I.

There ought to be a law Permalink to this item

Actually, there is a law. There ought to be a body enforcing it. Call it, idk, the Department of Justice or something. It might seem a small thing, were it not for the potential to put hundreds of thousands of people at risk, but 18 U.S. Code § 2074 provides that

"Whoever knowingly issues or publishes any counterfeit weather forecast or warning of weather conditions falsely representing such forecast or warning to have been issued or published by the Weather Bureau, United States Signal Service, or other branch of the Government service, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ninety days, or both."

It's hardly the first, and certainly not the highest crime committed by the petulant psychopath now running the most powerful country in the world aground, but it is an actual crime. Add it to the list, eh.

Amee Vanderpool covered it all pretty well yesterday on her blog, with A Map, a Sharpie and Trump Walk Into a Bar..., which I picked up with other tragicomic moments on the hashtag #TrumpSharpie this morning. (Given the devestation of the Bahamas, and the continuing drama of Hurricane Dorian, some comic relief is needed? Maybe?)

So many lessons, so little time. Yesterday, with the Resolute Desk peppered with more papers than it has ever been during his term in office, Donald Trump used the head of the Department of Homeland Security as his prop boy, and held up a poster of an almost week-old forecast that he had marked up with a Sharpie, because, (a) who else would have had the temerity (and stupidity) to do such a crazy thing, and (b) the Stable Genius had something to prove. He's smarter than all the Generals, and all the weather forecasters, and all the casino owners, and really, everyone. He is like really, really smart.

This actually happened

"Actually, we have a better map than that," he said. He explained that there were "many lines" and that "each line is a model," two true statements. "In all cases, Alabama was hit," he added, a laughably false statement. "Alabama was hit very hard" he said, conflating his misinterpretation with his alternate reality. Rest assured.

"Everyone's going to be in great shape [sic], because we're going to take care of it regardless [sic], regardless. But the original path [sic] was through Florida [sic]. That was probably three days I think that's probably three, four days old [sic], the original path [sic] that most people [sic] thought [sic] it was going to be taking as you know was right through Florida, where, on the right would've been Georgia, Alabama, [sic] etc."

Hey, what about that effing Sharpie mark-up? Caught with his pants down around his ankles and the graffito on the stall wall, he said:

"I don't know, I don't know, I don't know." [sic, sic, sic]

Then he called for his pipe and his slippers and accepted apologies from everyone who had doubted him, tweeted out that "better map," an even older amalgamation of forecast models compiled by the South Florida Water Management District, showing the storm most likely running up the Florida and Georgia coast, but "uncertainty," as always. "As you can see," Trump said, and proceeded to illustrate his utter inability to interpret a stale forecast, or come up with a defense for his original gaffe. Nice that the image somone else provided him to tweet had a disclaimer:

"[National Hurricane Center] Advisories and County Emergency Management Statements supersede this product. This graphic should complement, not replace, NHC discussions. If anything on this graphic causes confusion, ignore the entire product."

That should be the caveat for the whole Trump presidency.

Speaking of the trumpian "tell," Jeanette notice at 0:12 in that 1:27 video from the WaPo, Trump makes the same arm motion as he used to put that arc on the posterized forecast map with his Sharpie.

Seriously, Spanky McSharpie?

You're STILL on this nonsense about Alabama? At this point, even your most ardent supporters want you to shut up about this.

Take the "L." No amount of spin or #TrumpSharpie can erase your total buffoonery on this.

You are *marked* for failure.

— BrooklynDad_Defiant! (@mmpadellan) September 5, 2019


Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007