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21.Jan.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Morning phone calls Permalink to this item

Helpfully goaded by Daily Kos, I gave my two Senators' offices a call this morning. Just to get on the record with them, you know. I wrote down what I wanted to say ahead of time; maybe makes it a bit stilted, but I wanted to be specific. You might give them (or yours) a call, too. Idaho's numbers are: Senator James E. Risch, (202) 224-2752 and Senator Mike Crapo (202) 224-6142.

I'm calling from Boise to say that I believe it is imperative that the Senate hold a fair and public trial with witnesses and evidence in the impeachment case against President Trump.

I'm alarmed by the Majority Leader's statement that he plans to "coordinate" with the president. That violates the his oath to do impartial justice.

I'm hoping the Senator will honor his oath, and reject any attempt to cover-up what the president has done.

Those two numbers are in my phone's contact list; not quite speed-dial, but the next best thing. For the first call, the staffer asked me, "are you still at [my address]" and I confirmed that I was; so I'm in their contact list, too. Crapo's staffer addressed me as "Thomas" at the end of the call, so he must've looked me up too. I'd identified myself as "Tom" (etc.) at the beginning of the call.

My expectations are low. But it feels good to let them know we're paying attention.

19.Jan.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The vanishing point Permalink to this item

It comes as a bit of a shock to see that Charlie Sykes' book, How the Right Lost Its Mind is already more than two years old. (Amazon's page shows Max Boot's Corrosion of Conservatism, Joshua Green's Devil's Bargain, and Davd Frum's Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic for more in the genre.)

On the eve of Trump's impeachment trial in the Senate, most likely to be a sham, but also certain to spell out the solid case for conviction and removal, Marc Johnson's latest column brought the remnant right back to mind. The GOP Prairie Fire..., Johnson's title from this Sykes quote:

“Did I – did we – contribute to this prairie fire of bigotry and xenophobia that seemed to grip so many on the right? How did the elites miss the signs of division that turned to schism that became a veritable civil war? Did we play with fire, only to see it spread out of control? Did we ‘make’ Donald Trump? Or is he merely a cartoonish bizarro version of conservative values?”

It's a "yes, and" moment. Yes, and "seemed" is too genteel, and too past tense. Tomorrow, on the federal holiday honoring the Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., the "Virginia Citizens Defense League" is going to mark that state's "Lobby Day" with a big rally "about gun rights and nothing else." The FBI has been rounding up members of the "Base" to try to increase the odds that this isn't the start of a new Civil War, the "boogaloo" the ammosexuals are itching to get going. Virginia's Governor declared a state of emergency as a pre-emptive measure, temporarily banning weapons, including firearms, from the grounds of the State Capitol. The VCDL tried to fight that in court; the Virginia Supreme Court upheld the ban.

Johnson's focus is on two of Idaho's members of Congress, one gone, and one still there. Raúl Labrador came in "with the Tea Party class of 2011, helped lead the Freedom Caucus and the GOP off a political cliff," before imagining he could be Governor and finding out that he could not. And Mike Simpson, our current Representative "an affable, capable, serious legislator who learned his brand of get something done politics in the Idaho Statehouse," and an occasional voice of reason.

That reasonable voice has been more and more distant of late. In late September, when the facts of Trump's impeachable abuse of power for his private interest were becoming known in ample detail, Simpson and the other three members of Congress from Idaho all came out with various statements about There is Nothing To See Here, Let's Just Move Along.

The punchline for me in Johnson's piece was the quote from Simpson, given after Trump had undercut members of his own administration and backed out on an immigration deal a year ago. "Simpson said the president couldn’t be trusted not to renege on any commitment," Johnson writes. (If the double negative is confusing, tl;dr: "the president couldn't be trusted.")

“The one thing you’ve got when you come into this place is your credibility,” Simpson said, “and once you lose it, it’s gone and it’s gone forever. He’s lost it.”

Yes, and. He's not the only one. The solidarity of the Republicans, the supposed "Grand Old Party," and the party of Abraham Lincoln is not a virtue, nor a badge of honor. It is a sickening cancer on the body politic.

On Tuesday, north of Richmond, up past Fredericksburg and across the Potomac, the impeachment trial of Donald John Trump gets underway, pitting the House Managers against Trump's Three to Five Stooges: our White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, weirdly (and possibly illegally) serving the private interest of Individual 1; Jay Sekulow; Alan Dershowitz; Ken Starr (yes, that Ken Starr); and Robert Ray, Starr's cleanup man in the 1990s Bill Clinton investigations.

At the bottom of the brief

As in his previous spewing, Cipollone is confused about his role. In the answer to the impeachment charges, he's put himself down as "Counsel to the President." The opening paragraph starts the parade of lies that follow, and sets the tone of the defense we can expect. Categorical and unequivocal denial of everything, there are no facts. All is "poisonous partisanship," right down to Cipollone's overblown signature. In the December 17 "final" (if only) letter to the Seaker of the House, Cipollone's hand was evident in Trump's "I Know You Are, But What Am I?" defense.

"By proceeding with your invalid impeachment, you are violating your oaths of office, you are breaking your allegiance to the Constitution, and you are declaring open war on American Democracy. You dare to invoke the Founding Fathers in pursuit of this election-nullification scheme—yet your spiteful actions display unfettered contempt for America's founding and your egregious conduct threatens to destroy that which our Founders pledged their very lives to build. ...

"Your first claim, 'Abuse of Power,' is a completely disingenuous, meritless, and baseless invention of your imagination. You know that I had a totally innocent conversation with the President of Ukraine. ..."

Cipollone's unfettered and egregious verbal styling is handily amplified by Mr. Superlative. That call (and all the swirling intrigue of Rudy and Lev and Igor and Gordo and Rick and Devin) wasn't just "perfect," it wasn't just "innocent," it was totally innocent. It was four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten times totally innocent.

More than a few GOP Senators are going on the record to dispatch their credibility, mock the oath of impartiality they just signed, and to demonstrate their incompetence as legislators. Witnesses, you say? You need witnesses?! The Articles of Impeachment aren't complete and sufficient in every particular?! This is so extraordinarily irregular, John Cornyn gasped through his vapors. Why if there is a need for witnesses, that “seems to undermine or indicate that they’re getting cold feet or have a lack of confidence in what they’ve done so far.”

For his part, Dershowitz quickly made it clear that he wasn't any part of the Sekulow/Cipollone brief (he kept his briefs on!), but that sure, he'd come up with some cockamamie argument for why even if all the damning facts were true, they somehow don't rise to impeachable offenses.

If any Senators imagine this will give them cover for acquittal, their imaginations are more substantial than their integrity.

Two questions for every Senator:

“If a witness came along whose testimony would completely EXONERATE President Trump, would you vote to call that witness?”

“Did you take an oath to do IMPARTIAL JUSTICE in all things appertaining to the trial of Donald Trump?”

— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) January 18, 2020

Our former Chief Justice of the Idaho Supreme Court, and Attorney General Jim Jones spells out the obvious response to the disingenuous Sunday talk show palaver of the Senate's Majority Whip: How can you have a fair jury trial without witnesses?

"Trump has loudly and repeatedly proclaimed his innocence of the charges and has implied that those close to him in the decision-making process would support his innocence. It would be far better for the President to call those people as witnesses to support his claims of innocence. By putting them under oath and having them truthfully testify, he could clear his name. Senator McConnell and others who vigorously oppose calling witnesses, particularly people like Mulvaney and Bolton who worked closely with the President, are giving the impression that Trump has something to hide. An innocent man should have nothing to hide."

17.Jan.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Spam, spam, spam, spam and spam Permalink to this item

Thanks to cryptogram.com

My new email wiring is now sending most of the political stuff to one of two spam buckets, which is nice. Top of one bucket sits Liz Cheney for Wyoming, subject "Nancy is unfit for office," teasing me with a trigger "Warning: It's disturbing yet not surprising."

Sort of like having the daughter of Richard B. "Dick" Cheney a member of Congress. Unintended humor though: the big reveal is on my screen is white text on a baby blue background,
imgbb.com bandwidth limit exceeded
Sad.

NRSC tries the bad cop approach, "Your status will be marked as inactive," oh dear. NRCC the sad trombone: "Important: Expired Membership. Immediate action requested" and this even sadder trombone from the NRSC: "Trump needs you." Joni for Iowa is "Waiting to hear from you."

And a slightly less believable pitch from the NRSC: NEW: Trump Valentine’s Day Cards. Seriously? Seriously!

"Get a laugh out of your friends, family or that special someone in your life with these Trump Valentine's Day Cards! These will only be around for a limited time -- so you need to act now to ensure you get your cards."

The NRSC delivers!

16.Jan.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The beginning of the end Permalink to this item

Sure, let's use this senator from Indiana you never heard of, mentioned in Carl Hulse's analysis, as an example.

“The far left has been desperate to get rid of President Trump since Day 1, and that has been made abundantly clear throughout this process,” said Senator Todd Young, Republican of Indiana, who nevertheless said he would try to weigh the merits of the case. “Now that the articles are being delivered and a trial will be held in the Senate, I will uphold my duty as an impeachment juror and carefully evaluate the legal arguments.”

After conflating the "far left" with the not-all-that-extreme body of Democrats in the chamber, and thumping the fake talking point about "Day 1," I'm sure he will be TOTALLY impartial as he carefully evaluates the legal arguments and concludes that while something might be a little stinky in the atmosphere, he was not the one who farted, and no one can prove that Donald John Trump did either, so Russian interference with our elections, all the crimes on record for which he can't be indicted for while he's in office, the porn star hush money, the documented obstruction of the Special Counsel's investigation, the bribery and extortion in Ukraine, the wake of associates indicted, found guilty, and staying at the crossbar hotel, and all the "coincidences" of serving Russian interests more than our own, gosh, it just doesn't add up to reason to remove a Republican from the presidency.

If it were a Democrat in the office, I'm just sure Senator Young would just as confidently come to the same conclusion.

Oh, and the Senate Majority Leader, the perfidious Mitch McConnell, he's "confident this body can rise above the short term-ism and factional fever and serve the long-term best interests of our nation."

The Senate's reputation is indeed on the line. If the GOP follows McConnell's stated plan, to "coordinate fully" with the man on trial and his team of legal hacks, it will be a disaster.

15.Jan.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

YES THAT WAS BECAUSE OF THE OBSTRUCTION OF CONGRESS Permalink to this item

Amy Vanderpool dryly notes that "welp, we can see Susan Collins is already planning on pulling a Susan Collins with her vote.

Susan Collins throws cold water on new Lev Parnas evidence. “I wonder why the House did not put that into the record and it’s only now being revealed.” Told it was just turned over, she says: “well doesn’t that suggest that the House did an incomplete job then?” @Phil_Mattingly

— Manu Raju (@mkraju) January 15, 2020

Things are suddenly WAY more interesting Permalink to this item

Joseph "Murfster35" Murphy declares The Trump dam of invincibility has broken, and Susan Collins is the stone that came spurting out of the wall of the dam. Be still my heart, and I'll believe it when the vote is actually cast and she's on the right (as in "correct") side of something for once. But maybe! It was in the Bangor Daily News on Friday, after she spoke to reporters at the end of her visit to the Fruit Street School. Collins said she had been working all week with a "fairly small group" of Republican senators and party leaders to ensure trial rules would allow House impeachment managers and Trump’s lawyers to call witnesses.

"Impeachment is about cleansing the office."–1999 Lindsey Graham

A "fairly small group" of Senators coming out of the GOP wagon train with their hands in the air will be quite enough. If the facts come out, the long-imagined foregone conclusion of acquittal might not be so foregone.

Speaking of facts, what's new? A new cache of materials courtesy of Lev Parnas, you say?

In handwritten notes on a piece of stationery from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Vienna, Parnas wrote, “get Zalenksy [sic] to Annouce [sic] that the Biden case will be Investigated.”

Parnas "helped coordinate Giuliani's outreach to Ukrainian sources," as the Washinton Post piece puts it with the old, Poroshenko administration, too, "directly communicating with an array of top Ukrainian officials."

"Among them was Yuri Lutsenko, at the time Ukraine’s top prosecutor and a close political ally of then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who was running for reelection.

"Lutsenko wanted to get rid of Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador, in part because she had been critical of his office and supported a quasi-independent anti-corruption bureau he despised."

And what do you know, our ambassador was sent home just like Lutsenko wanted. Former acting solicitor general, and Georgetown law professor Neal Katyal and former Justice Department and National Security Council lawyer, and executive director and professor of law at Georgetown’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection Joshua A. Geltzer think the latest evidence effectively demolishes the fig leaf that our most corrupt president in history was really just interested in rooting out corruption. (It was never much of a fig leaf to begin with.) "The documents released Tuesday show what Trump has been so afraid of."

"Both of us served in high-ranking Justice Department positions; we’ve never heard of an investigation that is kept from the Justice Department, given to a private lawyer and then publicly announced — investigations work best when done in secret. If Trump, as he has long claimed, was truly interested in pursuing anti-corruption efforts in the bizarrely specific form of a single investigation of a single American citizen, then he would have wanted an actual investigation. Instead, he was fixated on the public announcement of one — which, if anything, would have harmed the investigation by tipping off its subject. The public announcement would have helped only one thing: Trump’s personal political prospects."

On your way out Permalink to this item

Something about a pumpkin, the Heart of Darkness, it's in that vein. In honor of the last day of support for the good old operating system on two of our computers in regular use, I left my desktop in the off position for the Whole Day yesterday. Uncharacteristically. But I had other things to do, first and foremost driving up the hill to enjoy some of the steady wave of snow storms our mountains have been catching this month. I did make sure to check Windows Update on Jeanette's computer and upload the one pending on the 13th, and I thought mine was up to date, as we transition into the End of Support Life.

"On January 14, 2020," the announcements had said, and I took them at their word. There had been two warnings. They were clear enough. No more tech support (ha ha), no more software updates, no more security updates or fixes (not so funny). I'd been meaning to do something about it, but hadn't got around to the significant inconvenience, disruption and uncertainty of trying to update a computer to Windows 10, or (much more likely to be successful) getting a new one. Microsoft even helpfully suggests some retailers I might visit. And stuff about low cost, long battery life, large and touchy screens to provide more incentive.

And it's not the End of the World after all, it's just the end of support for the O/S. Jeanette had used her computer yesterday and didn't say she'd seen anything unusual. So I wondered if this was going to pass quietly, with remark? Perhaps by "on January 14" they actually meant "after January 14"?

Windows Update

The first thing I saw this morning was... the Windows Update notice. They have another gift for me! Did not see that coming! Something for Microsoft Security Essentials (which, I guess they could keep that going?), two for Office 2013 (likewise), and three for Windows 7: 2020-01 Security and Quality rollup for 9 version of .NET Framework (at least two of which I imagine I have, but I couldn't tell you which two of the top of my head); 2020-01 Security Monthly Rollup for x64 systems; and January 2020's Malicious Software Removal Tool. Good stuff, which I'm happy to get, have and install.

Before I could take the jump from the "updates available" popup to see the list details, my right screen went white (that's different), and then it went black at the same moment the left screen when blue. As in, that blue, the Blue Screen of Death that Windows 7 almost made a thing of the past. In this case it was not Death, only Dying. It's not quite the same effect in this a blog-sized screen scrape as it is in wall-to-wall 1920x1200, but this (with, I note "as of" yesterday's date):

Windows 7's Blue Screen of Dying

The never-out-of-date Wikipedia tells me that Win7 came out in 2009, superceding Vista, and that it had gone out of "mainstream support," whatever that means, five years ago already. Now, the end of "extended support."

"In contrast to Windows Vista, Windows 7 was generally praised by critics," Wikipedia says. It was considered "a major improvement over its predecessor" for various good reasons, including "increased usability and functionality." It was, justifiably "a major success for Microsoft."

We hate to let it go.

There's a note at the end of the "Suport lifecycle" section of that Wikipedia page:

"In September 2019, Microsoft announced that it would provide free security updates for Windows 7 on federally-certified voting machines through the 2020 United States elections." Footnote 111 points to a blog post from last September by Tom Burt, Corporate VP, Customer Security & Trust. It's part of Microsoft's "Defending Democracy Program" don't you know.

Burt's breezy blurb casts us back to the dawn of the Win7 era, "the same year the Palm Pre launched, Twitter took off, mobile phone navigation was just coming to market, and floppy disks were still selling by the millions."

But wait, there's more!

Upon installing those updates and obligatory reboot, it came back with yet another Update for me. Servicing stack update for Windows 7 for x64-based Systems KB (KB4536952). My first inclination was to skip it, because, is this how they're going to cut us off? The KB page says it will "enable the installation of SHA-2 signed packages," and provide "the latest servicing stack update (SSU)."

The ADV990001 | Latest Servicing Stack Updates Security Advisory was first published more than a year ago, updated yesterday. There are 42 products affected, 16 different articles about "Defense in Depth." Mine is KB 4523206, which replaced KB 4516655, and is not particularly forthcoming. "This update makes quality improvements to the servicing stack..."

Meaning, what, exactly?

10.Jan.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

'Cause that's where the money is Permalink to this item

How nice not to be traveling over New Year's Eve and trying to exchange currency at one of those boxes forced offline by a ransomware attack. Miscreants want $6 million. "Travelex said it contained the threat..." but, ahem. In their investor relations p.r., things are still a bit sketchy.

"Whist Travelex does not yet have a complete picture of all the data that has been encrypted, there is still no evidence to date that any data has been exfiltrated."

My photo from Romania, 2018

In the oddly worded 2nd graf on NYT, we read that "the disruption has also affected banks like Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland and HSBC, which have been unable to fulfill foreign currency orders for their customers." I suppose "like" the three listed means those three banks, and maybe more? (Further down, it's "banks including" those three.)

Two days after the presser, "the hackers told the BBC ... that they had downloaded five gigabytes of sensitive customer data since gaining access to Travelex six months ago" and

Wait, what? GAINED ACCESS SIX MONTHS AGO?!

Elaborating that Travelex is an "infrastructure" company, Bob Sullivan, cybersecurity expert, offers a jolly animal metaphor:

“A big payment company that has tentacles into hundreds of institutions: It’s a reminder of how fragile these systems are.”

Speaking of tentacles, the big reveal at the end of the story, which you thought was all limey and London-based:

"Travelex said it did not anticipate any “material financial impact” for its owner, Finablr Group, based in Abu Dhabi. But Finablr shares fell more than 15 percent on the London Stock Exchange after Travelex confirmed the attack."

9.Jan.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Lest we forget other offenses Permalink to this item

With the barrage of offenses in the daily news, it's all too easy to lose track of underlying themes. Such as the need for Attorney General William P. Barr to be removed from his office for cause, ASAP. The New York City Bar Association spells it out better than I could, in a 6 page letter to Congressional leaders, calling for them to "expeditiously commenc[e] formal inquiries into Mr. Barr’s conduct."

"Mr. Barr’s recent actions and statements ... reinforce a broader pattern of conduct during his tenure in which he has created, at a minimum, an appearance of partiality in how he understands and carries out his role as Attorney General. In a troubling number of instances, Mr. Barr has spoken and acted in a manner communicating an impression that he views himself as serving as the Attorney General not for the entire nation, but more narrowly for certain segments of society—whether defined in terms of religion, ideology (his own “side,” to borrow the language of Mr. Barr’s Federalist Society speech) or party affiliation."

the NYC Bar Association cites Barr's October speech at Notre Dame, his November speech to the Federalist Society's National Lawyers Convention, and other recent appearances in describing its cause for alarm. About the speech to the Federalist Society, Ruth Marcus answers Barr's supposedly unanswerable rhetorical question about just what Trump has done to "shred constitutional norms and ignore the rule of law" with the obvious lowlights:

"...attacking federal judges; ignoring congressional subpoenas and instructing underlings not to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry; having his lawyers declare that he is absolutely immune not only from indictment but also from investigation; telling aides to have the special counsel investigating him fired on bogus conflict-of-interest grounds; misleading federal courts about why he wanted to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

"Oh, and holding up aid to an ally in an effort to secure an investigation of his Democratic rival."

8.Jan.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Sitting here in Limbo Permalink to this item

The Senate Majority Leader, "Moscow" Mitch McConnell has a simple plan for a sham impeachment trial: opening statements, just a l'il bit of cross-examination, NO NEW EVIDENCE, and a quick vote for acquittal. Plenty of his GOP rank and file have signaled they're good with pretending what evidence is already known isn't quite enough to convict. "We just don't see it," they'll say. "Most partisan ever." "What about them Bidens?!" (And Hillary!) "This is an attempt to overturn the 2016 election."

Marco Rubio, once a contender, now just another lickspittle, made up an imaginary legal basis for hearing, seeing, and speaking no evil. "The testimony & evidence considered in a Senate impeachment trial should be the same testimony & evidence the House relied upon when they passed the Articles of Impeachment," he tweeted. NO NEW EVIDENCE!

Evidence of fire

"Our job is to vote on what the House passed,not to conduct an open ended inquiry," he concluded under the headline, "Worth repeating." Trump projected the NO DUE PROCESS he was getting in the House while he obstructed subpoenas and witnesses from testifying. Now Rubio imagines all you were able to get is all we can consider.

The not-funny thing is, what the House did get should be more than enough.

But even the slightly principled Senators known for asking questions, Romney, Murkowski (don't count Susan Collins, ever), they're now saying they'll be fine with let's just get started under McConnell's shameless game-playing, and we'll see whether we might want a witness or something later.

They're all just fine with Trump and his corrupt family being above the law, because they think they can get some of the loot too, or because they're deathly afraid their fundraising and reelections will dry up if IMPOTUS tweets at them.

It's time for the House of Representatives to do more. John Bolton's asked for a subpoena, let's get him talking. The Secretary of State and the Acting Mick should be testifying as well. Not that the preponderance of evidence leaves any real question about what happened last year, but the BODY OF EVIDENCE needs to be brought forth for all to see, and for the people of this country to hold the GOP's feet to the fire.

The Articles of Impeachment need to more fully detail Trump's high crimes and misdemeanors so that the Senate will be compelled to override the perfidious Majority Leader and remove the lawless psychopath from office.

7.Jan.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The nightmare is real Permalink to this item

In round numbers, our sunrise has been 8:18 am local time since December 28. In 3 more days, it finally ticks back to 8:17, and (very) gradually picks up speed moving earlier, toward summer. Perhaps because we slept in a bit this morning, it just felt earlier today, though. We take what reassurance we can.

Fireworks from the foothills, years ago

As Michelle Goldberg opined yesterday, the reign of mad king Donald has reached the nightmare stage: "Unstable and impeached, the president pushes the U.S. toward war with Iran." Action taken with "little discernible deliberation," abetted by the lying stooge we have for Secretary of State, a man not just looking forward to Armageddon, but apparently prepared to make things happen. The Twitter account foreshadowed everything:

"The president is a master of projection, and his accusations against others are a decent guide to how he himself will behave. He told us, over and over again, that he believed Barack Obama would start a war with Iran to “save face” and because his “poll numbers are in a tailspin” and he needed to “get re-elected.” To Trump, a wag-the-dog war with Iran evidently seemed like a natural move for a president in trouble."

Nothing Trump or his chief henchman tell us can be trusted, and there is no "consultation" with allies, or Congress in the abject dysfunction and deterioration of the national security process under Trump. We don't have to choose between "an impetuous act of self-indulgence" or "a calculated attempt to bury his domestic political troubles"; it was surely both of those things.

There's no surprise that he didn't consult Congress. The reliable toady chairing the Senate Foreign Relations committee, Idaho's junior Senator Jim Risch, said he was "notified," but wouldn't say when. Lindsey Graham apparently got a heads-up while out golfing with IMPOTUS.

It also isn't surprising that the "imminence" of the threat was tacked on after the fact; the Secretary of State stumbled over his talking point at first, to say "there was in fact, an imminent attack taking place." In fact? Almost as quintessential as Richard B. "Dick" Cheney assuring the world that "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction."

He's now taking it to the next level, laughing as he redefines "imminence" into absurdity in a way artful enough to make Humpty Dumpty proud. It was a perfect assassination, you might say. As we prepare to set a new benchmark for "worst foreign policy disaster in American history."

Susan E. Rice, the last National Security Advisor before the Trump parade began with Michael Flynn, considers the consequences of haphazard policy driven by a psychopath with no aptitude for strategy, let alone coherent strategy. Can we avoid a worse-case scenario? Escalating war in the middle east, and mestasizing terrorism around the world? The global economy imperiled? Trump the Intimidator shoots us all in the foot again.

"From his first days in office, Trump has acted on the apparent belief that he could easily intimidate foreign governments — that they would quickly fold and allow themselves to be humiliated. That is, he imagined that he faced a world of Lindsey Grahams, willing to abandon all dignity at the first hint of a challenge."

The problem may be about a lack of object permanence: "Trump has a hard time grasping the fact that other countries are real." And with the largest military in the history of the world at his disposal, why not adhere to the Rule of Lawlessness? It's getting him plenty of attention, and no one seems able to say no to him. Will the Pentagon at least learn not to include a preposterous, extreme alternative to make others appear reasonable? Reason is not in play.

"Trump officials seem taken aback by the uniformly negative consequences of the Suleimani killing: The Iranian regime is empowered, Iraq has turned hostile and nobody has stepped up in our support. But that’s what happens when you betray all your friends and squander all your credibility."

We'll see how long our latest defense secretary lasts after contradicting the president's latest plan to target cultural sites (announced on Twitter, of course, now the official channel for notifications to Congress), and saying that "We will follow the laws of armed conflict." Never mind the irony of the British prime minister making "a statement through an aide warning against targeting antiquities."

But at least we're not talking about Trump's impeachment for a moment.

Epiphany, 2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Foreign ports Permalink to this item

The Sea of Marmara came to my attention this morning, not a name I knew (although Jeanette remembered it). From the context—something something Marshal Ustinov—it was clear it was to the Black Sea side of the Bosphorus strait. Looking it up on Wikipedia, before the text and labels, I could fill in left, right and center, and curiously dredge up "the Dardenelles" from my own memory. (Euphony goes a long way.) The shape reminded me of good old Lake Mendota, where I learned (and taught) small-craft sailing, but I suppose it's bigger than 5 by 2 miles or so? Yes. It's 174 x 50, more than 4,000 square miles, or 400 Mendotas. Not as big as my other reference body of water, Lake Michigan, at 22,000+ sq mi, but big enough to float a Slava class cruiser and its dozen torpedoes and hundred+ guided missiles.

While we're touring bodies of water, how about the Chicago River, made to turn around and connect the Great Lakes with the Missouri-Mississippi River?

Perihelion.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The dark of the year Permalink to this item

Antony J. Blinken, from not quite a year ago: "Senator John McCain liked to remind us that it is always darkest before it goes completely black."

"No administration in modern memory has been less prepared to deal with a true crisis than this one."

People, process, policy.

There is no "policy" to speak of. There is no process. There is only Trump, his narcissism, pique, petulance and tantrums.

There weren't that many good people brought on board. Unfilled positions, "acting" heads, purposely hollowed-out and sabotaged agencies.

The Ukraine affair proved too much for John Bolton, but now he's apparently happy because he has a book deal, and most of a war with Iran.

It was bad enough a year ago. Now it is darker still.

3.Jan.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Tumblegeddon Permalink to this item

The Spokesman Review got my attention with a "Your Morning Review" email, hoping for subscription business, and making a go of it with this awesome click-bait: ‘Tumblegeddon’: Drivers ring in the new year trapped under tumbleweeds, rescued with snowplows. It's a joke, right? Not if you're stuck in your vehicle for New Years, under "tumbleweeds stacked 20 to 30 feet high," I don't suppose. WSDOT "crews estimate there [were] 9 million cubic yards of tumbleweed debris." What's that, Dr. Science?

"A tumbleweed is the name for a structural part of a plant that – when mature and dry – detaches from its stem or root and rolls in the wind, dispersing its seed. There are a few tumbleweed plants, but the tumbleweeds in this situation are likely Russian thistle, said Drew Lyon, Washington State University endowed chair of Small Grains Extension and Research, Weed Science."

Good lord, if you've got 9 million yards of perpetration, shouldn't we get a positive ID? Says here there are plants in ten families that have taken to tumbling. Word of the day is "ruderal" (ruder than all? No, Latin rudus, rubble), perfect for "opportunistic agricultural weeds." And Lyon's likely suspect is Kali tragus, aka prickly Russian thistle, windwitch, common saltwort, and fka Salsola tragus, Salsola kali ssp. tragus (L.), et al. Latin salsus, salty. Formerly a Chenopode, now swept into the Amaranth family.

Still scraped from Twitter-posted video

Researchers in Hawaii noted that "seeds require loose soil to germinate and do not need much moisture," hello. "[L]arge plants may produce up to 100,000 seeds," and a large plant might be a cubic yard (before put in the compactor), so... 900 billion seeds, give or take, sown across eastern Washington's channeled scablands. A good proportion of them will be the glyphosate-tolerant sort that are popping up, just in case you were thinking a Roundup at the OK Corral would get 'er done.

Washington State Patrol's public information officer Trooper Chris Thorson's Twitter feed is off the hook. Imagine you were out on New Year's Eve, a bit lubricated, and you went off the road and into this and you clawed and scratched your way out and idk, got a ride from somebody? and the orange-suit boys dug down to find your license plates the next morning so they could tell you to come get your car now.

2.Jan.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Half a billion animals Permalink to this item

Low-key start to my new year, I found enough time to start a software hobby project, and promptly got lost in it for most of four days. The ends don't justify the means, but it was an interesting thing to do, and it was actually a welcome distraction from politics, and other news. I still kept up with headlines, but not a lot of attention deeper than that.

Having done enough on that for the moment, and taking a look around, I see that global climatic disruption probably won't be laying low for the new decade, giving us time to figure out is this real? and should we maybe try to do something about it? while we carry on business as usual.

The New Year's news from down under is apocalyptic: Half a billion animals perish in bushfires. An area the size of Belgium has burned to the ground. Entire species may be wiped out.

"Ecologists from the University of Sydney now estimate 480 million mammals, birds and reptiles have been lost since September.

"That figure is likely to soar following the devastating fires which have ripped through Victoria and the [New South Wales] South Coast over the past couple of days, leaving several people dead or unaccounted for, razing scores of homes and leaving thousands stranded."

It's Jan. 3 over there, and two days' more recent news: Mass evacuations amid NSW bushfire emergency. "Terrified motorists have been stuck for up to seven hours, as one of the biggest evacuations in Australia's history continues. Emergencies have been declared in NSW and Victoria." And more, mass evacuations.

"Huge blazes in Victoria’s northeast and in southern NSW are threatening to merge within days as temperatures rise above 40C and northerly winds increase, creating a monster inferno.

"The grim forecast comes as several thousand people prepare for a mass exodus from cut-off Mallacoota in Victoria’s east, in one of the biggest evacuations in the nation’s history."

Fires are raging outside every major city in Australia right now.

FireWatch interactive, link to live site

raveling

Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007