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20.July.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Some good, wholesome news for a change Permalink to this item

Photo of our compost pile just now

Just over a month into the new city composting program, things are going gangbuster. 1,716 tons of "very, very clean" material that will not be going into the landfill, but will gracefully decompose mostly at the city's Twenty Mile South operation, along with the "biosolids" out of the city's wastewater treatment plants. Says there, collection is running about 50% higher than expected, 66 T/day instead of 45. There were some grumps to begin with:

"Ever since the Idaho Statesman first reported Boise’s composting plans, people complained this was yet another big-government program that would accomplish little more than separating people from their money. Especially vocal were Boiseans who already compost their own organic materials and saw no benefit whatsoever."

But we don't know those people. There has pretty much always been a compost pile were I live, and we'll keep that going just fine, along with ample reason to fill up a bin with leaves and shrub and tree trimmings that are more than we want or can use.

Let my words speak for themselves Permalink to this item

Ain't no two ways about it, the Electoral College installed a clown for president. A bad clown. He was never an attractive person for my money, but it's only gotten worse since he's achieved his supposed ambition. It hasn't solved the problem of his unhappy childhood. The ghost of Fred Trump haunts the country. The world.

Who knew health care was so complicated? He had no idea. Who knew that Mitch McConnell's capacity for obstruction would come around and bite him in the ass? And who knew Trump could be so nasty, as well as stupid?

Your president wants more people to die so he can embarrass Obama.

— John Legend (@johnlegend) July 18, 2017

We could have guessed. The toxic rump that still supports him—85% of Republicans!—apparently likes this sort of behavior. They got theirs, screw the lot of you.

He promised the moon—the most beautiful healthcare, lower premiums, everybody gets a toaster, it'll be So Easy. Now he's delivered... well, nothing. Not even some moldy green cheese. Do his supporters care? Some probably do, and if they can't get their daily dose of opioids, they could be getting nasty too.

Everything is secret, and nothing is. Trump has the follow-on meeting with Putin, no whisperers, no translator of his own, for god knows what, and we find out about it within a week or two. It was... "just pleasantries." Or... "I actually talked about Russian adoption with him!" That's a coincidence. Maybe Junior can talk about that some more when he's testifying next week. Oh, and we're ending covert aid to Syrian rebels trying to topple Assad, just like Vladimir Vladimirovich wants us to.

In other headlines, Trump loans from Deutschebank face regulatory scrutiny, Manafort owed about $17 million to pro-Russia interests and still, no one in the Internal Revenue Service has gone Snowden for us and released Trump's tax returns. Maybe Bob Mueller's looking them over.

We love the not-failing New York Times, and even though it's mostly creepy to have Trump off-script and on the record for an hour (except for the nice vignette with his granddaughter), please Do Not Give Him Any Ideas.

Asked if Mr. Mueller’s investigation would cross a red line if it expanded to look at his family’s finances beyond any relationship to Russia, Mr. Trump said, “I would say yes.” He would not say what he would do about it. “I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia.”

Hmm? Russia? Also, "Mr. Trump said Mr. Mueller was running an office rife with conflicts of interest." He interviewed for the FBI job! He wanted something. Funny/not funny that Trump sees that as a sin.

What one of the interviewers said (in "The Daily"): "This odd coincidence that we were not able to make sense of in real time." Kind of the story of the Trump administration. This is not normal. It doesn't make sense outside the orbit of the Sun King.

We are now moving into the paranoid raving stage of the psychodrama, the lead actor's memory being reshaped by the daily Fox News takes on events, men in black scrubbing his recollection with a flash of their pen, as he slips into out-of-body third person. Can't even remember shooing everybody out of the room and having that one-on-one with FBI Director James Comey. We hardly talked! The guy's obviously a showboating liar with a dozen corroborating witnesses who are all in on this, too.

And that conniving Jeff Sessions, after Trump gave him that nice job as General something, recuses himself! and leaves this meddlesome priest. "Frankly," Mr. Trump said, "I think that was very unfair to the president."

"Extremely unfair, and that's a mild word, to the president."

Update: "Challenge accepted." Mueller expands probe to Trump business transactions.

7.16.17 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Creature from the fake news lagoon Permalink to this item

Ezra Klein organizes the best of Fox News explanations for Junior's Russia meeting for us in a nice little video.

Joshua Green in today's NYT Sunday Review: No One Cares About Russia in the World Breitbart Made. Front-page bombshell and dire threat to the presidency? FUHGEDABOUDIT!

"On Fox News, host Lou Dobbs offered a representative example on Thursday night, when he described the Donald Trump Jr. email story, with wild-eyed fervor, like this: “This is about a full-on assault by the left, the Democratic Party, to absolutely carry out a coup d’état against President Trump aided by the left-wing media.”

I'd take exception to Green's follow-on that "Mr. Dobbs isn’t some wacky outlier." No matter how Republican-central the fringe Dobbs inhabits may have become, he most certainly is a wacky outlier from normalcy.

"One reason that an alternative view of reality has taken such deep root among Republicans is that they seem to be focusing more on the broader culture. Last week a new Pew Research Center poll showed that a majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents now believes that colleges and universities — the flash point of our current culture wars — have a negative effect on the country. This number is up sharply from the 45 percent who agreed with this same statement last year."

Colleges and universities. The alternative being... making America great again with a system of grift, cons and real-estate branding, the Trump University of economic development.

Gallup polls of presidential job approval over the years

The jump to Gallup's latest shows Trump's most recent weekly average approval rating at 38%, the lowest of the last 10 presidents, going back to July, 1953, when 71% of the country liked Ike. The tranche of Republican-identifying Americans is all that crazy and more for the Donald, however: their approval remains at a solid 85%. THAT is some collusion.

And delusion. 85% of a scant half of the country are not going to benefit from having a narcisistic, greedy bully in the White House. 85% of 1% of the country might, at least for a little while, but even that seems high. The Trump clan is in it for themselves.

The meta-media analysis of the day is from Josh Marshall, in the Talking Points Memo editor's blog: The Trumpers don't hate media. They are media creations. Or creatures. Or sensations. (Props to Carolyn Kaster/AP for the perfect photo to accompany that story, BTW, and scariest meme for this year's Jack-o-lanterns.)

"Trump himself is a self-creation of the 80s and 90s New York City tabloid culture. His comeback in the early part of this century was driven more than most people understand by the success of The Apprentice. Why else do you think people in the Philippines or Kazakhstan paid millions to license Trump’s name? It was the brand driver of the licensing empire which allowed Trump to become the 45th President."

Well, that and the decades-long media campaign to demonize Clinton, the Russian effort to make a mockery of our occasionally democratic system, the collusion of so many in and around the campaign to collude with them, James Comey's possibly well-intentioned free-lance honesty turning into unwitting collusion and the best/worst/surprisiest October surprise ever. But a quibble. Marshall's point is well taken: this is all about the media, and its manipulation.

"Steve Bannon was a publisher. Before that he was a movie producer. Jared Kushner bought a newspaper and used it to fight his battles in the press. On down the list they are all media people. They don’t hate the media. Indeed, they can only understand most battles in media terms. You see this in Kushner’s frenzied and inane demands to deploy communications office staffers to battle cable news producers over chyrons or “unleash surrogates immediately”, as a Politico story this afternoon has him demanding of Sean Spicer and Sarah Sanders.

"They don’t “hate” the media anymore than fish hate the water. Shouting and messaging and attacks are the only language they really understand. What they hate is that they feel like they’re losing on the terrain they believe is the only one that really matters."

The endless campaign for ruler of Oceania, golf and watching cable TV are the primary occupations of our titular president. And his adoring claque is eating it up, as they pay for the wall they're building around their epistemic bubble.

$13.9 million in the second quarter. Of 2017. "The campaign" spent $4.37 million over the same period, about half on "digital services," and a nice 5% tranche to Trump businesses. The legal fees are adding up. $50,000 flowed to Alan Futerfas to represent Junior, an advance paid last month before his scandal got legs. Slightly pale in comparison to the $677,826 in payments described in filings as “legal consulting” between April and June. Think on this: "Trump has spent more than $4.5 million of campaign funds on legal costs since the beginning of his campaign."

Back to that Pew Research Center report, on the Sharp Partisan Divisions in Views of National Institutions. As astounding as divide on colleges and universities is that on "the national news media." Democrats/Lean Dem are split down the middle: 44% positive, 46% negative on the question on its effect on the way things are going in the country. Republicans/Lean Rep said 10% "positive," 85% "negative."

Yeah, that same fraction, 85%. Josh Marshall said it's "too straightforward to be a paradox," but that poll result has to make you wonder. The same swath that supports these creatures of the media think the media is having a negative effect on the country.

They're exactly right.

Bastille Day, 2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Ba da Boom Permalink to this item

We're still way in the black, but there's trouble in sight. The 2017 OASDI Trustees Report is available for our perusal.

First, the good news: benefit payments going to more than 60 million people; More than 170 million paying in. Total expenditures in 2016 of $922 billion, against income of $957 billion. Asset reserves grew to $2.85 trillion at the end of last year. "Short-range" projected results—the next 5 years—are that the total income is projected to exceed total cost, "as it has for every year since 1982."

If you're the glass half-empty sort, you can wring your hands about the fact that the net income of $35 bil was courtesy of the $88 billion in interest earnings. (We're getting about 3% on our nearly $3T trust fund loan.) And with the current assumptions, just past the short-term, we start spending down the trust fund, and it gets to zero in 2034.

Which seems a long way off still, but knowing that Congress can barely get its act together for annual budgeting, and handling the debt ceiling without shooting itself in the foot, it might not be too soon to worry. The "highlights" all in text are a sort of blessing; when you take the jump to Figure II.D2, OASDI Income, Cost, and Expenditures as Percentages of Taxable Payroll, there's that cliff up ahead. If we have to start living within our means—taxes paid by (a.k.a. "non-interest income" from) current workers—"scheduled" benefits won't all be payable. 77 cents on the dollar will be available, which is more than nothing, but might seem a little short if it's your ends you're trying to make meet.

Figure II.D2 of OASDI Trustees Report, 2017

The next figure, "Number of Covered Workers Per OASDI Beneficiary" tells the tale of the end of the Baby Boom. '65 + 65 = 2130, when what used to be more than 3 workers per retiree, down to 2.8 last year, settles down to about 2. "Covered" workers are the ones paying payroll taxes.

Simplified figure II.D3, # of 'covered' workers per beneficiary

It's still early, but it's getting later all the time. The conclusions tell us there is "a broad continuum of policy options that would close or reduce Social Security's long-term financing shortfall. Cost estimates for many such policy options are available."

Increase "revenues" (taxes) "by raising the tax rate or the maximum level of taxable earnings, or by dedicating revenues from other sources"; lower benefits for some or all beneficiaries; or some combination of the two.

"The Trustees recommend that lawmakers address the projected trust fund shortfalls in a timely way in order to phase in necessary changes gradually and give workers and beneficiaries time to adjust to them. Implementing changes sooner rather than later would allow more generations to share in the needed revenue increases or reductions in scheduled benefits and could preserve more trust fund reserves to help finance future benefits. Social Security will play a critical role in the lives of 62 million beneficiaries and 173 million covered workers and their families in 2017. With informed discussion, creative thinking, and timely legislative action, Social Security can continue to protect future generations."

Sounds ok, except... we can't remember the last instance of "informed discussion, creative thinking, and timely legislative action."

7.13.17 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Nothingburgers Permalink to this item

The Department of Justice had been investigating the owner of a Russian real-estate company, Prevezon, son of the former vice governor of the Moscow region (should that title be hyphenated, or not, I wonder), and here's news that the case was settled, a couple months ago. As in any settlement, everyone claims victory.

A spokesman for the US attorney's office touted how much time and expense was saved by not going to trial. A spokesman for Prevezon's attorneys said "It was a surprise."

"We were getting ready for opening statements and fully expected to try the case. In fact, we were looking forward to it. We reluctantly agreed to accept the government's offer when it became clear that the fine proposed was no more than we would have spent fully litigating the case, and that no admission of guilt, forfeiture, or continued seizure of any assets was required. Essentially, the offer was too good to refuse."

A week ago, you wouldn't have recognized the tongue-twisting moniker of the Russian lawyer, but this week, she's about famous: Natalia Veselnitskaya. (Sounds like... this.)

The other previously not-household-now-kind of famous name associated with this case was the U.S. Attorney who was prosecuting the case before the Trump administration said "You're Fired!": Preet Bharara.

And huh, here's the DOJ defying a court order to release Beauregard's SF86 with any part relating to contact "with any official of the Russian government."

Snapshot of the tableau public presentation of Siskind's list

H/t to Amy Siskind for the link to the Business Insider piece, and past time to catch up with her weekly feature inspired by experts in authoritarianism who advise us to keep a list of things subtly changing around us so we'll remember.

(Copyrighted, and just nominated for The Library of Congress's Public Policy Archive.)

Week 34: July 8, 2017 seems like ancient history already. Remember the Voter Fraud Panel? Heads exploding for the 4th of July when NPR tweeted the Declaration of Independence? The Speaker of the House dictating women must wear sleeves? The Wisconsin assembly passing a bill to block students from protesting conservative speakers on college campuses? The dystopian carnage speech in Poland? Or these items, two-thirds of the way through:

64. US Intel estimates that Russia has 150 operatives in the US. Since the election, many have tried to sneak in under the guise of business.

65. Strangely, the State Dept reportedly continues to grant temporary duty visas to suspected Russian intelligence officers, despite knowledge.

The list is also available as a tableau public database with a histogram UI, there's a new idea. And on the entertainment side...

non-trivial possibility that if you had literally dressed up as boris and natasha you could have gotten a meeting with donald jr.

— Mazel Tov Cocktail (@AdamSerwer) July 11, 2017

The downfall of a presidency is going to be televised, and it's going to have the best ratings. Believe me.

"About the only administration stalwart not remaining silent is the vice-president, whose statement following the release of the Donald Jr. emails let it be known that he was “not aware” of the Trump Tower meeting and that it had taken place before he joined the campaign. Mike Pence has clearly been boning up on Gerald Ford, and may already be brooding about the risks entailed if he should eventually be in the position to pardon the 45th president."

7.11.17 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Famous first family Permalink to this item

It's so weird when you read about what's going on in whole, coherent sentences. David A. Graham, in The Atlantic:

"In other words, Trump Jr. admitted (while acknowledging a prior lie) that he was open to receiving damaging information about Hillary Clinton from the Russian lawyer; he was just frustrated that she didn’t seem to have it. If there was no collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump inner circle, it was not because top Trump aides were against it."

Also floating by this morning, in a friend's periodic "thought of the day" email, an excerpt of James Comey's sworn testimony on this June 8:

"There should be no fuzz on this whatsoever. The Russians interfered in [the USA] election during the 2016 cycle. They did with purpose. They did it with sophistication. They did it with overwhelming technical efforts. It was an active measures campaign driven from the top of that government. ... It’s not a close call. That happened. That’s about as unfake as you can possibly get."

What could possibly go wrong with a clan of credulous bumpkins obssessed with gold-plated décor, put in charge of the world?

"Trump’s modus operandi throughout his life has been to break rules and then beg forgiveness. ... The president, a political newcomer, seems to be under the impression that he can do the same in his new line of work. But as I have written before, there’s no option to declare bankruptcy in politics. Nor will Robert Mueller agree to an out-of-court settlement if he decides the president (or his family members) have committed crimes."

Robert Mueller must have such an interesting job right now. Presumably someone on staff has gone through and collected @realDonaldTrump's fascinating Twitter history? It seemed banal and irrelevant for so many years, but now... less irrelevant.

Mother Jones dredged up this June, 2013 gem to go along with David Corn's piece on How a Music Publicist Connected Trump’s Inner Circle to a Russian Lawyer Peddling Clinton Dirt. Dishing dirt! Smackdown! It would be heelarious entertainment if so many millions of people's lives and livelihoods weren't casually hanging in the balance.

Do you think Putin will be going to The Miss Universe Pageant in November in Moscow - if so, will he become my new best friend?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 19, 2013

Tacky celeb entertainment aside, props to the superb reporting from the New York Times to dig up evidence to start to force some dribs and drabs of truth from Junior (who is pretending to laugh this off, and hired a new lawyer). The hits keep coming (my emphasis added):

"The June 3, 2016, email sent to Donald Trump Jr. could hardly have been more explicit: One of his father’s former Russian business partners had been contacted by a senior Russian government official and was offering to provide the Trump campaign with dirt on Hillary Clinton.

"The documents “would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father,” read the email, written by a trusted intermediary, who added, “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.

"If the future president’s elder son was surprised or disturbed by the provenance of the promised material — or the notion that it was part of an ongoing effort by the Russian government to aid his father’s campaign — he gave no indication.

"He replied within minutes: “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”

And met with Natalia Veselnitskaya just 6 days later.

This morning, Junior corroborated the NYT reporting, by putting out "to everyone, in order to be totally transparent," "the entire email chain of [his] emails" about the meeting. That makes for another update needed to the explainer on how key Trump associates have been linked to Russia.

If irony weren't so dead already, we'd point out that the bait was "some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia."

The NYT editorial board poses the essential question: If a culture of dishonesty takes root in an administration, how can Americans believe anything its officials say?

Update: As far as the entertainment news angle goes, my blogging doesn't hold a candle to Stephen Colbert's treatment for The Late Show. Pretty much the same report, with better production values, and mentions the Russian billionaire oligarch I didn't get around to.

10.July.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Found poetry Permalink to this item

In the bottomless bucket of spam, momentarily led by Antonia Riddle, cleverly aimed at Tennis Enthusiasts List, but they also have data for Basketball Enthusiasts, Boxing Enthusiasts, and so on down the alphabet (I would assume, without opening it). Tactical Flashlight wants my attention. DraftKings. Bill O'reilly finally speaks and drops a BOMBSHELL (came upon one of the sled-dogs oblivious to all, his eyes filled with vision, continued: to get on with). Nutrition and Healing, Reverse Mortgage Expert, Nugenix (GNC's #1 Vitality Product - A Shocking Boost For Men), thirty minutes or more (Stop taking this for blood pressure), Travel Agent, Fungaway, Life Love Daily, Sunless Tan, Navajo Medicine, Gun Holster, Biblical Nutrition Group (Secret- to-20/20- Vision- Hidden-- in--the-- Bible (to her plan, she at last Some of the girls screamed and ran back, but General Jinjur bravely stood dispositio), InstantHookup (NSFW!), Warranty Center, Warranty Administrator, Match (Are You Online?? Browse Singles Over 40 In Your Area - Are you, unable to examine the AD at all? You'll need-to Visit right here Are You Online ? Browse Singles).

Voiceover: that Men's Warehouse guy, "I guarantee it."

9.July.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It's like draining the swamp Permalink to this item

New-fangled style. VeePence quietly courting big donors and corporate executives, with government-catered soirées at home at the Naval Observatory. One of the fellows who helped raise money for Pence said hey, he's also met with some people other than donors. Like the cheap novel we're now living in, this guy's name is Robert T. Grand. Bob Grand.

Mike Brown/Reuters

“There were a lot of folks who, if you were vice president, you would want to meet,’’ Mr. Grand said. “Corporate executives, other government leaders, people from past administrations, not just donors.” He added that “any administration, past and present, has an interest in getting to know folks. If you’re an incumbent president and vice president, then that’s part of what you do.”

Geico should make a commercial out of that one. Getting to know folks. When you're vice-president, it's what you do.

"Mr. Pence’s office declined to release the lists of guests invited to the dinners, which have not appeared on schedules released by the vice president’s office to the news media. Marc Lotter, Mr. Pence’s press secretary, called the dinners 'private' and said that the vice president had not held any political fund-raisers at his residence, which would be complicated by a law barring the solicitation of political contributions in government buildings."

Yes, that would be complicated.

First family of collusion Permalink to this item

We're left to imagine Junior's disappointment after the meeting at Trump Tower 13 months ago today.

“After pleasantries were exchanged,” he said, “the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton. Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.”

Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner sat in on it. Junior had denied meeting with any Russians. Then pretended oh, it was just about adoptions. Not that "just" actually works in the context.

That's one hell of a blockbuster in the New York Times. Just in case there are too many distracting details, Jonathan Chait boils it down: the "denials" are actually confessions. Just think of what all Bob Mueller and his team know by now.

8.July.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Over the edge Permalink to this item

Among the topics I did not expect to come up for discussion in 2017 is whether or not the earth is flat, but here's news from what I would imagine is a credible outlet, The Denver Post, with a byline for Graham Ambrose, and a dateline that's not April 1, saying that the Flat Earth movement is growing in Colorado. "Thanks to technology and skepticism about science," no less.

"The Fort Collins group — mostly white and mostly male, college-age to septuagenarian — touts itself as the first community of Flat Earthers in the United States. Sister [sic] groups have since spawned in Boston, New York, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Chicago."

Just to keep it fair and balanced, there's a parenthetical note: "(All scientists and educators consulted for this story rejected the idea of a flat earth.)"

The top of the world on Christopher's/Gleason's map

If we can believe what we read in the Post, a once "shambolic rump of mostly silent believers" has been turned into "a fledgling movement that spans the country." Seriously?

"The Centennial State has been the cradle of the American flat earth renaissance since birth. The first Flat Earth International Conference, which will be in Raleigh, N.C., in November, features a number of Colorado-based Flat Earthers, including Sargent, Knodel and Matthew Procella, or ODD Reality, a Denver-based rapper and YouTuber with 75,000 subscribers and nearly 7 million video views."

(Bad news though: FE Early Bird, FE Early Saver, FE Regular, and FE VIP tickets are ALL SOLD OUT. The only thing left is BYO seat and internet connection for the $17 FE Early Bird Online deal.)

In a twist that would have confounded the original author, Alexander Gleason's patented time chart built on J.S. Christopher's North Pole-centric circular projection of the globe from 120-some years ago is now "frequently cited as the most accurate projection." Maybe it's the curved title text, New Standard Map of the World, Scientifically and Practically Correct AS "IT IS," that they find convincing?

It's just the reporter's bias to say that the flat-earthers take a shine to the "projection," since the nice thing about a flat earth is that you wouldn't need a projection at all. Or a "time chart," for that matter.

Square's square and fair's fair. Some enterprising FE-er could bolster his case in the "cradle of the flat earth renaissance," a conveniently rectangular state, by measuring Colorado's northern and southern borders and show that they're the same length. And certainly not about 22 miles shorter up north. Any old yardstick should be accurate enough to check that within 5%.

4.July.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The stupid bully Permalink to this item

Three weeks ago, Lizze Crocker was wondering Whatever Happened to Melania Trump’s Anti-Bullying Crusade? on the occasion of FLOTUS moving to Washington, because school's out, I suppose. There's a helpful link to the "closing pitch" from then would-be first lady, on the eve of the election, announcing she would work to stop cyberbullying, if only. It was header-hashtagged #IRONY, and the vein has only gotten richer. The bruising, crazy, no-holds-barred campaign and all, and then the interregnum, the inauguration, and... we continue to await "becoming presidential" for more than a TelePrompTered moment. Another writer deemed the campaign "the most absurd," but I would dispute the adjective. The consequences are too great to consider it that. Surreal is more like it. Alarming. Disturbing. Dangerous. Incredible.

Up at the lake this morning

More than seven months (!) later, there was no sign of follow-up, and lots of signs of a widespread problem with bullying quite close to the FLOTUS. After her husband went after a couple of talk show hosts who'd stopped being sufficiently sycophantic, no word from her, just a spokeswoman to put words in her mouth: “As the first lady has stated publicly in the past, when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder.”

Given that her spokeswoman had previously said the first lady is “continuing to be thoughtful about her platform,” perhaps this was intended as a statement of the problem rather than some sort of excuse? She's not talking, and I can't blame her. She can't fix what's broken here.

Sarah Holder has a thoughtful piece of "Trumpology" for Politico, how the psychology of cyberbullying explains the tweeting.

"Technically, the term cyberbullying usually refers to teens—young adults sitting behind computer screens, nastily messaging peers things like, “You’re fat!”—so Trump, at 71, is about 55 years too old to be considered a cyberbully, says Parry Aftab, a lawyer who specializes in cyberbullying and digital privacy. But, she says, his behavior fits into other similar categories of grown-up hassling online: “flamers,” “trolls” and “cyber harassers.” Flamers use inflammatory language and profanity in hopes of eliciting a reaction. Trolls are a bit more sophisticated, starting full-blown arguments by saying derogatory or offensive things about certain people or groups. And cyber harassers engage in those same types of behaviors but repeatedly target the same individuals. “Trump has participated, based on my observations, in all three,” Aftab says."

Not sure I buy that "technical" distinction, but perhaps Melania was talking about that narrower problem. We'd have to hear something meaningful from her to know. What isn't in dispute is that her husband has some serious behavior issues.

The president's favorite medium, Twitter, has rules. "We do not tolerate behavior that crosses the line into abuse, including behavior that harasses, intimidates, or uses fear to silence another user’s voice," it says there. Their business model remains a mystery to most observers, but it seems certain they're getting too much flow from the president's bully pulpit to just say no to him.

(It would be an absolutely brilliant move though, I have to say. Even if not immediately profitable.)

Beyond abusive and hateful behavior, there are legal matters, and Jennifer Rubin's blog post ("from a conservative perspective") for the Washington Post last month makes an important point: when the bluff about "tapes" was called, the president revealed another self-inflicted wound.

How droll that Trump's tweet stumbled upon the idea of "hope" for plausible deniability. (He didn't say there were recordings. And 'quotes' around the word 'tapes.' Just kidding!) But he's not sly like the tawny fox that lives on his head, he's crude and rather stupid like the guy who walks into women's dressing rooms and talks about sexual assault (while being "recorded") to impress credulous twerps.

So he had to brag that yeah, it was a ruse, and see how well it worked! "I think his story may have changed," Trump said.

And former FBI Director James Comey said... he felt the need to get his story out there, so that a Special Prosecutor would be appointed to get to the bottom of all this.

Somehow Trump thinks he won the exchange. He fired the guy, right? It's not just stupid, it's criminal obstruction of justice-stupid. To which Trump confessed. And couldn't help himself from adding, “Well, it wasn’t very stupid.”

The smattering of members of the GOP who edged, ever so briefly, away from their Stockholm syndrome to condemn a few of the most risible recent tweets are not doing anything to hold the president accountable.

But there will come a time.

3.July.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The beginning of the end Permalink to this item

As ripe as the swamp odor emanating from foggy bottom and certain brand-name golf clubs may be, it'll be getting riper still. Frank Rich advises us to Just Wait. Watergate wasn't built in a day.

"The skids of Trump’s collapse are already being greased by some of the same factors that brought down his role model: profound failings of character, disdain for the law (“If the president does it, that means that it is not illegal,” in Nixon’s notorious post-resignation formulation to David Frost), an inability to retain the loyalty of feuding White House aides who will lawyer up to save their own skins (H. R. McMaster may bolt faster than the ultimately imprisoned Nixon chief of staff H. R. Haldeman), and dubious physical health (Trump’s body seems to be bloating in stress as Nixon’s phlebitis-stricken leg did). Further down the road, he’ll no doubt face the desertion of politicians in his own party who hope to cling to power after he’s gone."

But that was a whole week ago. What happened since? The National Circus catches us up. With the links:

"[T]he news value of last week’s tweets should not be underestimated. There’s nothing new in Trump letting loose with a nasty misogynistic blow like the one he landed on Brzezinski. What is new is the back story of an alleged blackmail effort by Trump and/or Jared Kushner to use the threat of a National Enquirer expose on Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough as a cudgel to win favorable Trump coverage on “Morning Joe.” Scarborough has tweeted that he has phone records and texts from Trump’s “top aides” to prove this. It is incumbent on him and MSNBC to release that evidence now, particularly given the prominent role “Morning Joe” played in boosting Trump’s candidacy when it counted most, in the early stages of the campaign."

And the WWE/CNN send-up? Dialing up the red meat for the base, aaaand...

"[T]he new level of Trump mental instability dramatized by this tweet is notable. The escalating violence of his tweets at a time when his and the GOP’s entire agenda is on life-support makes you wonder if a complete breakdown is arriving sooner than I and others have thought. The wrestling tweet is batshit crazy, comparable to a drunk Nixon talking to the pictures on the White House walls during his final meltdown."

1.July.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Timely feature Permalink to this item

Kris Kobach was just featured in the NY Times Magazine last month, and here he is making a big splash with a conspiracy-theory inspired demand to all 50 states to cough up

"publicly available voter roll data, including, if publicly available under the laws of your state, the full first and last names of all registrants, middle names or initials if available, addresses, dates of birth, political party (if recorded in your state), last four digits of social security number if available, voter history (elections voted in) from 2006 onward, active/inactive status, cancelled status, information regarding any felony convictions, information regarding voter registration in another state, information regarding military status, and overseas citizen information."

One can only imagine how many Idaho heads would have exploded if President Obama's Vice Chair for the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity had made such a request during his time in office. Or hell, if there had even been a Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity formed. Haven't heard of any resistance in this state, but plenty of others are pushing back. 22 had "partly or completely rejected the commission’s request" as of yesterday, according to the NYT.

"[A] growing number of state election officials have indicated—sometimes politely, sometimes brusquely—that they will not or cannot comply. Among them, ironically, were Mr. Kobach himself and a second member of the commission, Secretary of State Connie Lawson of Indiana, both of whom disclosed on Friday that privacy laws prevented them from furnishing some personal voter data."

Is that "irony" or "nuts" that Kobach is refusing his own demand?

Wisconsin said they'd do it for $12,500.

And hooray for bipartisanship: states from Mississippi to California are among the resistance.

Bizarro world Permalink to this item

From CNN's Brian Stelter's newsletter, via the quote in Jay Rosen's PressThink blog:

And more, all about this new not-reality show we stumbled into. Talk about your asymmetric warfare; while the count of golf clubs with trumped-up fake Time magazine covers on display keeps rising (8 was the last I heard), one retraction (for unexplained reasons) by one legitimate media outlet is taken to confirm a yachtload of unhinged nonsensical spew. The need for unending public displays of dominance, as Josh Marshall puts it.

Why is this happening? "Trump is not trying to win the support of anyone who is not naturally allied with him."

This is abnormal. So much is abnormal, we can't keep up.

There's a lot more than the daily press briefing that's in trouble.

"Time to start planning for unforeseen events. When all forms of access and all avenues for questioning are choked off, journalism can still thrive. But it needs to become smarter. This is why I have been saying since January: send the interns. Redirect your most experienced people to outside-in reporting. They cannot visit culture war upon you if they don’t know where you are. The press has to become less predictable. And it has to stop volunteering as a hate object."

How to reform healthcare, in one sentence Permalink to this item

Just yesterday

It's not like he pointed out that the Emperor's ego is a pathetic, insatiable mewling toddler, but standing up the Senate's dog's breakfast of a healthcare was definitely a thing, and the GOP partisans are hopping mad about Nevada's Dean Heller putting the breaks on BRCA till some time after the 4th of July. I say, if Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn are mad at you, you must be doing something right. Tycoon FOTs upset, why on earth should we care?

The constant bombardment of stories about the horse race of legislation, trumpeted at the moment by one man's desperation for so much winning seems to be everything at the moment. In the meantime... we continue to be taken to the cleaners by the tycoons, and by the business of providing medical goods and (mostly) services. Thanks to Elizabeth Rosenthal (have you read American Sickness yet? You should) for the link to Saurabh Jha's Chargemaster explainer on The Health Care Blog.

It's a well-told tale, with the punchline in fewer than 140 characters, because, you know. Jha's Healthcare Reform in a Tweet:

Thou shalt not charge un- or under-insured more than Medicare rates for services rendered in any hospital which accepts Medicare.


Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007