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Heard tales... and warnings. All the rental cars in town are apparently spoken for. Some eastern Idaho farmer had to run off some yayhoos who thought they'd camp out in a planted field. And at the gas stations... well, there wasn't a line at midday, and they had enough gas to top off our tanks, but the price had been run up 15 or 20 cents in the last week or so.
I heard from a friend who spent a couple of days up in the mountains around Stanley, that there are lots and lots of "viewing areas" designated, with lots and lots of Portapotties lined up for those in need.
Which explains why the host for the group of 30 or 40 we'll be joining couldn't find one to rent. We'll just have to make other arrangements as best we can.
Can't comment on every damn thing the Conservative HQ team comes up with, but the just the headlines flitting by between Inbox and trash are something, even without the "message from one of our advertisers" about the collapse of the Dollar, #1 Drink for Alzheimer's, Turmeric as natural remedy of the century and The $20 Bitcoin Investment Jackpot Could Generate Massive Fortunes by July 28th. That last one went out on July 27th, so pay attention next time if you want a jackpot. Lots of flogging of Newt Gingrich's pathetic paean to Lord Tweetrum.
Two days ago, "Mr. President, Steve Bannon Is Your Last Best Link With Your Base" teased as if it were from Viguerie himself, but no, the byline is CHQ Staff. Punchline in the blurb:
"Call the White House today at 202-456-1111 or contact President Trump through Twitter at @realDonaldTrump or @POTUS and tell him Steve Bannon's continued service is essential to keep the winning Trump coalition together."
I've tried that "contact through Twitter" some, and I don't think it works too well. It's a noisy channel.
This morning, same "personal" tease and staff byline, under the title Viguerie Launches Campaign To Support Steve Bannon
Which did not work out so well. Starts to feel like Viguerie is politically impotent or something.
Later in the day, they went full-on IMMEDIATE RELEASE with the headlining question, Personnel is Policy: Does Bannon's Departure Signal the End of Trump's Commitment to Govern as a Conservative?
The good news is that we have a scapegoat?
My item headline came from a stray hyphen left in the keening quotation of Viguerie in his own house organ:
"It seems that the West Wing is now being run by the liberal Democrats," said Mr. Viguerie. "Gary Cohen, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, General John Kelly, H.R. McMaster, and the Obama holdovers at the NSC, have all survived and thrived, while the conservatives like Steve Bannon, Derek Harvey, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, Rich Higgins, and even the establishment Republicans like Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer, have been run-off."
West Wing run by liberal Democrats, whaaaa? Blame it on bad personnel choice all you want, but the GOP totally owns this.
You won't believe what happened yesterday. Oh. My. God.
For just a moment, the decent people of the nation seemed united in disgust and horror at the spectacle they had wrought, but it says here that "by prime time, TV's usual divides had returned." The redoubtable Tucker Carlson brought up Plato's slaves.
If you need an exemplar of white privilege beating the crap out of an army of straw men, check that out.
Liberals. Fanatics on the left. Needless to say there is literally no limit. Let's be honest. If we're going to judge the past by the standards of the present we had better be prepared for the consequences of that. And if you buy this steaming load of reductio ad absurdum, you'd better be prepared for some absurdity.
Meanwhile, Baltimore cleaned house last night.
Apparently, the president was not happy about having to delete that tweet, or to read that fauxpology off the TelePrompTer. He's back baby! It's both sides! Excuse me! I get to talk now, off script.
Stephen Mnuchin and Elaine Chao standing there, hmm, endorsing the unbelievable words out of this guy's mouth? More of a deer in the headlights feel, they thought the questions would be about infrastructure, right?
Dear Leader does not do irony.
"The statement I made on Saturday, the first statement, was a fine statement but you don’t make statements that direct unless you know the facts. It takes a little while to get the facts. You still don’t know the facts. It is a very, very important process to me. It is a very important statement. So I don’t want to go quickly and just make a statement for the sake of making a political statement. I want to know the facts. If you go back to my statement, I brought it. I brought it. ... Here is the thing. When I make a statement, I like to be correct. I want the facts."
He does do some dark comedy. Meanwhile, off to the side, Chief of Staff John F. Kelly captured by Al Drago's photo for the NYT makes it look like he is reconsidering what he's gotten himself into.
Is there a question about infrastructure? Anybody? Bueller?
Oh, David Duke's got more to say, if he can keep from drooling all over himself.
Only fake news & libtards call this man a "racist" - the Jewish man and Asian lady by his side don't seem to agree with (((fake news))) 👌🏻 pic.twitter.com/nRlEQcc947— David Duke (@DrDavidDuke) August 15, 2017
Trying to scale back on obsessing over our Tweeter-in-Chief, but ok, today's meta-Twitter-news has a twist. Not the retweet of somebody's goofy cartoon of "the Trump train" smashing senseless boards and a CNN logo-Minotaur (caption: "Nothing can stop the #TrumpTrain!!"), but the detweet.
The original barreled down the track warmed up by tiny fingers punching "the #Fake News Media will never be satisifed...truly bad people!" after his two-days late condemnation read from a TelePrompTer was measured unsatisfying by most everyone.
Did it occur to him that the parallel between a cartoon train smashing CNN-man and a domestic terrorist killing a young woman with his car was too much this time? The very faintest wisp of empathic recognition?
Or did John Kelly see what he did and say GODDAMN IT, GIMME THAT THING and delete it himself?
"A White House official said early Tuesday that the tweet of the train was posted inadvertently and was deleted as soon as it was noticed."
History may or may not record which anonymized third person did the noticing and deleting.
Silver coins were still circulating when I was a kid. 1964 was that last magical year they were minted, but that came and went without anyone around me marking the occasion. What mattered was what you could trade coins and bills for, which is still pretty much the deal, even though fewer of our trades involve actual cash. Just bits floating by in moneyspace.
You can still buy a "1964" Silver Dollar, issued 50 years later, but going by the US Mint website, if you have to ask how much it costs, you probably can't afford it. They mention a $10 surcharge for a worthy cause, at least. 90% of its 26.730 nominal grams are silver, which, at today's price of $17.11 an ounce (Troy ounce?) would make its silver nominally worth... less than they're charging. It's a special coin, after all. It's worth a dollar at least, it says so, right there.
The magic of money comes to mind while reading that the price of Bitcoin is surging after some sort of software update agreement. Software. And that image of a "mining operation in China" from Gilles Sabrie for The New York Times, a dingy rack of computers spinning electricity into gold, somehow.
Surging, you say? "The price of a Bitcoin has risen nearly 50 percent since the beginning of the month."
As measured in... dollars, of course. Which don't have nearly the intrigue, warring internal factions with a history of animosity, aficionados, or "core developers," "a few dozens programmers who maintain the basic Bitcoin software, generally on a volunteer basis."
The excitement is about "scaling," spinning off "services" from the base layer of the limited-by-fiat original for which "rules of the network dictate that only 21 million will ever be created," rather like the limited stock of gold in Fort Knox, or wherever.
There are other "virtual currencies" competing for mindshare. One called "Ethereum" mentioned there, "has more programmable features than Bitcoin."
"Investors are buying Ethereum and Bitcoin to invest in so-called initial coin offerings, a new method of fund-raising in which entrepreneurs create and sell their own virtual currencies."
Try your luck!
“Racism is evil,” Mr. Trump said [today]. “And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the K.K.K., neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”
When Merck CEO Ken Frazier resigned from the president's American Manufacturing Council this morning, on the other hand, Trump found the temerity to counterattack within the hour.
The first one is by CHQ editor, George Rasley, and he makes a pretty good argument for honoring Robert E. Lee's place in American history. The email teaser was his conclusion:
Erasing Robert E. Lee from history – or celebrating him as a symbol of “white nationalism” – is a grave error; not only does it distort history to suit the purposes of elements in society that Lee abhorred, it misuses one of the greatest symbols of the social compact that reunited the country after four years of brother against brother bloodshed and hatred.
No doubt there are others with less sanguine takes, but if it's accurate history that Lee "became a voice of moderation and patient compliance" and wrote for publication that "all should unite in honest efforts to obliterate the effects of war and to restore the blessings of peace" and vowed to do "all in my power to encourage our people to set manfully to work to restore the country, to rebuild their homes and churches, to educate their children, and to remain with their states, their friends and countrymen," it seems a decent argument.
Certainly in the aftermath of the war, when continuing guerilla war, sabotage and what-not were possibilities, it would have made a difference.
150 years on, a new wave of ignorant bigotry seems to threaten the resurgence of what Lee said he wanted to avoid. "White nationalists" rallying around a statute of Lee and cooking up domestic terrorism are not advancing Lee's (or Rasley's) argument, but rather its antithesis. (The Confederate battle flag would be a clue. Also David Duke. And the swastikas.)
More certainly on the wrong side of history, the "CHQ Staff" declares their peremptory judgement that torture artisans Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell are "among the heroes who prevented another 9/11."
They trot out the opinion of inevitable "friends," this time from the Gatestone Institute you never heard of, currently chaired by one of the last fellows to enjoy a recess appointment to something, former Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton. It looks like Giulio Meotti's piece extolling Jessen's and Mitchell's "heroism" that the CHQ leveraged into its own staff editorial. The potpourri of unsupported claims that torture worked a treat in the War on Terror, ignoring all evidence to the contrary, is followed by the equally inevitable bogeymen:
"The reason the lawsuit against Jessen and Mitchell is going to trial is that Judge Quackenbush is catering to the Far Left and its political agenda, not the law and certainly nor the national security interests of the United States."
They skip over "the law" so easily, and slide from there to "the witch hunt of a Western media and judicial system." If only they could deliver this with a talking head on Fox News, the president could run with it and drive them some more ad views.
Update: Adam Serwer's piece for The Atlantic covered the myth of the kindly General Lee two months ago.
"Lee had beaten or ordered his own slaves to be beaten for the crime of wanting to be free, he fought for the preservation of slavery, his army kidnapped free blacks at gunpoint and made them unfree—but all of this, he insisted, had occurred only because of the great Christian love the South held for blacks. Here we truly understand Frederick Douglass’s admonition that "between the Christianity of this land and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference."...
"Lee died in 1870, as Democrats and ex-Confederates were commencing a wave of terrorist violence that would ultimately reimpose their domination over the Southern states. The Ku Klux Klan was founded in 1866; there is no evidence Lee ever spoke up against it. On the contrary, he darkly intimated in his interview with the Herald that the South might be moved to violence again if peace did not proceed on its terms. That was prescient."
Thanks to a friend's share on Facebook, took a gander at the Be Informed resources offered by the Department of Homeland Security. Top of the stack is the system for Emergency Alerts that I remember experiencing recently, complete with the "unique sound and vibration, both repeated twice." Says there, they come in three flavors: imminent threat, AMBER, and presidential.
How long do you suppose it's going to be before President Tweetoh learns that he has a bigger megaphone at his disposal?
But anyway, you might like to Be Informed about one or more of those 27 kinds of emergencies, arranged in alphabetical order. And Plan Ahead. The Topic du Jour is Nuclear Blast.
Taking shelter during a nuclear blast is absolutely necessary. "Remember that any protection, however temporary, is better than none at all, and the more shielding, distance and time you can take advantage of, the better."
Nice to have a basement. Or a sub-basement! And bricks are good. Better than sticks. Definitely better than straw.
And those eclipse glasses could come in handy, if you can get them on in time.
Shampoo yes, conditioner no:
"Wash your hair with shampoo or soap and water. Do not use conditioner in your hair because it will bind radioactive material to your hair, keeping it from rinsing out easily."
Our president's "maybe that wasn't tough enough," counter-bluster to North Korea is not the only furious fire in town. While the head man is off on his "working vacation," Robert Mueller and his team are spinning their grindstone, and interesting sparks are shooting off of it.
On top of July's FBI-executed search warrant, now there's subpoenas of Paul Manafort's bank records in the news. "A history of doing business with oligarchs and politicians in Ukraine and Russia," "with payments routed through foreign banks and investments in U.S. real estate" has to be a fascinating, complicated study.
It seems former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara's old investigation wasn't retired when he was. Real estate, laundries, late filings to comply with the foreign-agent registration act, stuff like that. Story says Manafort is "cooperating with congressional requests for information about the campaign" but a spokesman declared last month that Manafort was not a "cooperating witness." Yet. Still, "cooperating." (What exactly are the alternatives to cooperating when the FBI barges in shouting "SEARCH WARRANT"?)
"As a practical matter, the blitz of recent subpoenas to global banks poses a challenge to Manafort’s ability to continue his day-to-day business activities as a consultant and investor, said one of the people familiar with the matter."
One would think.
James Risch talking to Wolf Blitzer (from Boise, Idaho, it says, who knew? He's keeping a low profile during his August recess):
"Well I don't know that he's threatening war..."
What part of the plagiarized Harry S. Truman threat made after the detonation of a nuclear bomb over Hiroshima and just before a similar bomb detonated over Nagasaki was somehow ambiguous, Senator?
"...a person who says what's on his mind..."
You say that like it's a good thing.
"...he's very clear on what he's thinking..."
Minute to minute. That's actually the scary part. Most people have some sort of cognitive filter between the REM state randomness and what they actually put out in the world.
"Obviously we have a Secretary of State... we have a really good Secretary of State..."
As opposed to, you know.
"...this is a Very Serious Situation..."
No shit, Sherlock. Ah, but the president is "very dedicated" to protecting the country, "he has a passion for it, he means it."
"...you have a despot over there, like Saddam Hussein..."
Uh, sure, let's talk about Saddam Hussein, as you and any other half-sentient life form who followed the last 3 or 4 decades of world history would know was never any meaningful threat to this country and who was an ally of convenience in maintaining the balance of power in the Middle East, who we turned into a bogeyman for our political purposes, and then overthrew, creating, hello, utter chaos and devastation in the region which continues to this day.
"...believe their own baloney..."
Whoops, I lost focus. Who's believing what baloney just now?
WB: Given an unstable, unpredictable regime in Pyongyang, is it smart for the president to be issuing a red line warning like this?
Also, given an unstable, unpredictable regime at the Bedminster G.C.
JR: Well, Wolf, I'm not going to sit here and criticize the president. He is the president of the United States. He has said what's on his mind.
CNN teased the interview as "explosive," but my god, this is like the gal reading the nightly propaganda for the DPRK, without the production values.
And the stupid, that could burn. We're "facing a situation that could be just as extreme as, uh, what the United States was facing at the time President Truman did that."
Well that was August, anyway. 1945. After half a decade of World War.
When it suits him, Jim Risch can be as tight-lipped as a clam, but asked to comment on sur-@realDonaldTrump retweeting what used to be classified information touted by Fox ∧ Friends, another statement of the blindingly obvious:
"Those of us that deal with classified information every day really are not authorized to discuss it, comment on it, confirm or deny it or anything else. There's only one person who can do that, and that's the president of the United States. ... By simply uttering it, he does declassify it."
"It's the job of the president to use classified information in the most appropriate manner he deems..."
What do you think of the job the president is doing, Senator? Is it appropriate? Blitzer pressed.
"I don't have to make that decision," Risch weaseled away from the tough question.
A self-absorbed man, promoted three stations beyond his mental capacity, his tiny hands tucked around his back has now promised fire and fury, the likes of which the world has never seen if North Korea blusters another threat.
Forget which wag pointed out that we now have the opposite of T.R.: a man who speaks loudly, and carries a small stick. Delivering his pronouncements to reporters, from one of his golf clubs.
The effable alliteration will be featured in days to come, I'm "frankly" sure.
Except for the fact that we do have an arsenal comprising fire and fury, the likes of which the world has never seen. 72 years ago Sunday, and tomorrow, we gave the world the prequel, over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The Schadenfreude is running fast and thick for "Pharma Bro" Martin Shkreli, convicted on three (of eight) counts in federal district court. 20 years in prison could adjust your outlook.
Contrary to his earlier prediction, he was not "so innocent" and none of the judge, jury and prosecutors are poised to apologize to him afterward.
And none of the counts had to do with his price up on Darprim, from $13.50 to $750 per pill, but karma works in mysterious ways. In this case, defrauding his hedge fund investors was enough, even if they weren't all that sympathetic as victims—and not even all that victimized?
"Jared Kushner" chipped in a good word for him, at least:
He seemed like a really good guy. Hopefully he’ll be able to straighten his life out.— Jared Kushner (@jaredkushnr) August 4, 2017
Before the trial was quite done and dusted, this Dealbook piece, colorfully prepped the wrap-up:
"To the closing arguments in the trial of his client, Martin Shkreli, the lawyer Benjamin Brafman brought a tale about a wild dog and a wagon, a metaphor about himself as a lifeguard, a Texas accent to mimic an investor, a poster that asked in all caps, “WHERE ARE THESE WITNESSES?” and a bag of Ruffles as a prop.
"The government brought a PowerPoint presentation. ..."
And took four hours to summarize their 33 binders of evidence.
Did you hear the one about the latest "real news" network? Facebook broadcast hosted by POTUS d-i-l you never heard of, Lara Trump? (That'd be Eric's wife.) You can believe it's true, because Snopes is covering it.
"...her first story concerned the president donating his second-quarter salary to the Department of Education.
"But not only did she not specify the amount of the donation ($100,000), she—unlike other outlets—failed to mention that her father-in-law has proposed cutting $9.2 billion in cuts to the same department."
Lord Tweetoh giveth, and Lord Tweetoh taketh away. Lord Tweetoh cannot negotiate space rent with the Secret Service, but says here taxpayers are dropping $130,000 a month for security at his "home" in NY, which he's been too busy golfing to visit much lately. So every month, we're losing ground to his quarterly salary donations. Even at $0, seems like he's being overpaid, and expenses are running wild. Are we going to run this like a business, or not? When does the Congress tell him "you're fired!"?
But nonsense from an alt-news network stood up by yet another Trump relative isn't quite as gob-smacking as the officially unending campaign:
"We contacted the White House press office seeking more information, but were referred to Michael Glassner—the executive director of the president’s 2020 campaign committee—for “campaign-related questions.” It is unclear what the connection is between the show and Trump’s re-election plans."
Re-election. Can you imagine the spluttering indignation from the GOP talking heads if the first year of a Democratic candidate was all about re-election? They would need better health insurance.
Half a year into the Fyre Festival presidency, our Commander in Tweet thus declared order had been restored. And indeed, one could imagine 4-star Marine John Kelly making it so, giving the Mooch a swift kick out the back door and bringing some military discipline to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This isn't a military coup, is it? It's back on the rails, albeit with this disturbing parallel:
"Mr. Kelly, the first former general to occupy the gatekeeper’s post since Alexander Haig played that role for President Richard M. Nixon during Watergate..."
Good old in-control Al Haig. Watching that chestnut moment, I was struck by how... normal it seems, in retrospecti, even if General Haig muffed the order of succession. He wasn't saying he took over, just that things were ok. Under control.
If only that feeling could suffuse the present day, what with North Korea launching missiles like the 4th of July, the never-ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, our capitulation to Russia and Assad in Syria, and China stealing our lunch money.
She's not quite as striking as that gal with the pink kimono in the DPRK, but I guess Sarah Huckabee-Sanders is now acting Communications Director?
“General Kelly has the full authority to operate within the White House, and all staff will report to him,” Ms. Sanders told reporters later. But she added that Mr. Trump would decide how that would work.
"Decide" is an interesting choice of word. Do you think? Determine, seems likely, with that anti-Midas touch of his.
Everyone who comes in contact with Donald J. Trump is soiled, sooner or later. Mostly sooner.
Sarah Ellison's take on The Enablers in the August issue of Vanity Fair is an interesting read just now, after one of the six white guys got voted off the island, and another gave that gasp-inducing thumbs-down on the supposedly signature sabotage effort of Repeal & Replace or Just Repeal. On Paul "The Opportunist" Ryan:
"The bargain Ryan has made is clear—it’s the one spelled out by Grover Norquist back in 2012, when Norquist defended the choice of Mitt Romney by saying he’d also have endorsed a monkey, a plate of lasagna, or a potted plant. All Norquist wanted was “a Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen” to sign legislation. Ryan wants to gut the safety net for the poor and cut taxes for the wealthy, and believes that with Trump he can do that. He said recently that he had dreamed of cutting Medicaid since his keg-drinking days."
Ellison chose "the Cynic" for McConnell, but that seems too sweet. I'd go with Saboteur, but then maybe that's not specific enough. Self-interested Hack?
Priebus, the apparatchik "Stooge" from Kenosha, is no more. His torch of "assuag[ing] differences, to keep as many people on board as he can, and to allow Trump to continue to be viable" will have to be carried by larger men. Requiat in pacem.
We expected Lindsay "The Instutionalist" Graham to stand up on his hind legs before the Maverick, so there is still the possibility of surprise in all this while we wait to see if the show is renewed for the fall season.
The most important man in the set is of course the Vice President, a.k.a. "The Accomplice," biding his time, absorbing the blows, dismissing one lie after another as inconsequential, his "personal agenda [of] a vaulting ambition somewhat masked by a placid half-smile and a demeanor of practiced sincerity." He has the best practiced sincerity. Also, he's been tweeting up a saber-rattling storm on his Eastern European tour, "strongly condemn[ing] Russia's occupation of Georgia's soil," for example, with someone artfully branding "VICE PRESIDENT PENCE ON SOCIAL MEDIA" with quotes and bold-face and photos and hashtags. (Hint: find a picture with him looking Right At The Camera next time, like his profile pic, not that semi-squinting side-eye.)
This merry-go-round is a bit too spinny all at once. VF's Hive has its Farewell to Reince, Sessions hanging on for dear life, Trump going multi-armed Vishnu death panel on the Affordable Care Act, "trying to both implode and explode Obamacare simultaneously," and in the August print issue, a retrospective on swamp devil Roy Cohn and another on our very Goldman White House.
But it's Michael Lewis' explanation of Why the Scariest Nuclear Threat May Be Coming from Inside the White House that is the most arrestingly chaotic item in the trend list. Lewis describes a Deep State of deep incompetence, driven by willfully ignorant ideology.
From the "Whoops" fork in his presidential ambitions, Eagle Scout Rick Perry is now in charge of the agency he could not name.
"Since Perry was confirmed, his role has been ceremonial and bizarre. He pops up in distant lands [and the Jamboree!] and tweets in praise of this or that D.O.E. program while his masters inside the White House create budgets to eliminate those very programs. His sporadic public communications have had in them something of the shell-shocked grandmother trying to preside over a pleasant family Thanksgiving dinner while pretending that her blind-drunk husband isn’t standing naked on the dining-room table waving the carving knife over his head."
It gets worse. Like all of Lewis' work, it's thoughtful, readable, meticulously researched, and worth your attention. Especially for those of us in, around, downwind or downstream of the Hanford Reach, and those of us who use electricity, and science, and enjoy comfortable lives assembled through competent engineering, and project management.
There are alternatives being explored.
Tom von Alten