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17.Nov.17 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Go, or stay? Permalink to this item

As everybody knows by now, Al Franken did something not-so-funny back when comedy was his day job. Kind of a god-send for the never-been-funny Roy Moore, weirdly. Reactions in my feed have been "Oh no, not Al Franken!" followed by calculation about how, ok, well then, we have to apply the same new standard of decency that's going to apply to everyone, right? Otherwise, that'd be hypocritical.

The new standad, roughly, is, if you've been a man with a lot of power, and a serious creep for long enough, to enough women, you've got to be fired, and go away. Bill O'Reilly, check. Roger Ailes, check. Harvey Weinstein, check. Louis C.K., ck. Kevin Spacey? Ok, tighter new standard: if you been a creep even once, you're anathema. (At least if you were creepy enough.)

Steve Davis photo for the UI Argonaut, 1977

I've scoured my memory as best I can, and honestly (and I don't mean Beauregard III "I can't recall" honestly, but the real kind) can say that I'm innocent of stuff that could get me featured on the police blotter, let alone the front page. I suspect I'm not the only man who can claim basic decency. I was front page news once, for a cute pose in service to Warren Farrell's promotion of the "subtle process" of male liberation. In 1977, the aspirational goal was to have men "learning to look inside themselves and learning to listen."

That was 4 years after my own #meToo moment, a fellow who picked me up hitchhiking when I was 17, and plied me with alcohol. He's not famous (AFAIK) and I couldn't identify him in any case. 44 years on, he's most likely dead.

In the current episode, Michelle Goldberg had her say in a NYT op-ed, and concluded that Franken Should Go, ending with a backhand homage to the Charlottesville Nazi-wannabes and perhaps inviting the "fierce and ugly backlash" it's not too hard to imagine, "as men — but not only men — decide we can’t just go around ruining people’s lives and careers by retroactively imposing today’s sexual standards on past actions."

Barely a decade ago, you might remember that "comedians enjoyed wide cultural license to behave offensively." (Except... in the same year as Franken's fault, Michael Richard's show at the Laugh Factory went right off the rails. A lot of bad comedy is forgettable, whether or not it's forgiveable.)

And now... you have to be Donald Trump to get away with that kind of stuff. (Trump has been creepy enough, for long enough, that the allegations are categorized, on their own Wikipedia page.)

I think maybe Franken should go, but maybe not. The woman he abused accepted his apology and opined that she didn't think he should resign, for one thing. The Senate ethics committee can have a look at his behavior before (and after) he was elected to that august body while they contemplate electoral and post-electoral maneuvers to keep Roy Moore from joining their club.

Given the considerable backlog, it's important to prioritize truth and reconciliation. Let's start at the top, shall we? What Goldberg said: "The question isn’t about what’s fair to Franken, but what’s fair to the rest of us."

If we rely on decent men to do the right thing to make amends, the job's going to be a lot less than half done. The indecent men are going to need outside help.

Update: Ezra Klein's take includes a worthy insight about the tipping point:

"...Weinstein was a powerful Democratic donor, and that was actually important. After Trump, Democrats were primed to take allegations of sexual abuse seriously. And since Weinstein was a Democrat, Republicans didn’t respond by rallying around him or trying to change the subject. Thus, the Weinstein affair broke the normal forces of polarization and made this something more than red versus blue."

And about the big, gray elephant in the oval room:

"It is a good thing for the country and our future that we are taking sexual assault so seriously. But it is a very, very bad thing if the one exception is the most powerful, prominent abuser in the world."

16.Nov.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The right's new religion Permalink to this item

It could go without saying, but Charles Blow makes the point memorably: the “religious right” as an idea is dead. Our present "incarnation of conservatism has burned its cross and erected the golden calf of Trumpism in its place."

Send money. Pray. Permalink to this item

Brooke Pendley introduced herself to me this morning as "a fire-breathing young female conservative patriot," and cute, to boot. Almost as exciting as those ladies whose email keeps going into the spam folder for some reason. This wasn't that kind of personal, though, it was because she wants to save Judge Roy Moore.

In her capacity as Treasure for the CLUB FOR CONSERVATIVES PAC NOT AUTHORIZED BY ANY CANDIDATE OR CANDIDATE'S COMMITTEE, all hail Citizens United.

To her fellow conservative, she offered a "brief trip down Memory Lane," and the boundless liberal hypocrisy exposed "as the lies and smears on Judge Roy Moore intensify." It's the Moore Feminazi Hypocrisy, don't you know.

You want some seamy, sordid history, let's make this about Bill Clinton, Juanita Broaddrick, Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, Jennifer Flowers, Monica Lewinski, James Carville and that "feminist" Gloria Steinham. (Her tour did not include the cul de sacs of Newt Gingrich, Henry Hyde, Bob Livingston and Denny Hastert for some reason. We've come a long way, baby.)

"Today the Left sings a different song, and RINO losers like Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and John McCain are singing it with them.

"Today they say that a West Point graduate, a Viet Nam veteran, a distinguished jurist, and a faithful husband of 33 years must abandon his candidacy for the United States Senate because the unfailingly liberal Washington Post claims that 40 years ago Moore liked to date younger women."

Also, these are "very suspiciously timed, unsupported allegations that his taste ran toward younger women 40 years ago before he was married."

"We all know what is going on here.

"Mitch McConnell and John McCain and the rest of the establishment are still butt-hurt from the licking they got from Alabama’s great conservative voters in the primary, and they have been looking desperately for weeks for an excuse to bail on Judge Moore. And the Washington Post gave it to them."

And then on about John McCain's dodgy record, ok.

"I don’t for one minute believe the salacious claims being made about Judge Moore. But even if they WERE completely, 100% true, why not give the liberals a dose of their own medicine? Why not take Gloria Steinem’s advice and say “we simply cannot afford to lose this particular conservative nominee.” There is simply too much at stake in the battle for our country and in the internal battle between conservatives and RINOs for the Republican party’s future. ...

"There are simply some things the campaign cannot say and do on its own behalf, and there has never been a time when an aggressive conservative organization like ours was more desperately needed.

Alrighty then. In closing?

You will not find a a better steward of your financial gifts.

Please pray today for our country, and for the success of conservative values and candidates in every state. With high hopes for our country’s future I remain,

Very truly your conservative friend,

Brooke Pendley
Treasurer

Not that I don't trust Ms. Pendley completely, but I did take a gander and try to find this CLUB FOR CONSERVATIVES PAC without a lot of luck. Another blogger posted a different sample of her fundraising prowess (tied inexplicably to Rep. Louie Gohmert) on politicaljack.com yesterday. Just in case my excerpts aren't enough for you. And that cute little thumbnail picture of her.

Politico's Tipsheets rundown from a month ago noted CFC as one of three new PACs, but nothing more about it there. That was enough of a hint to make me suspect the Federal Election Commission tracks these things, and sure enough:

CLUB FOR CONSERVATIVES has been assigned ID: C00658302, and reported its clubhouse in Lexington, Kentucky, and Ms. Brooke Pendley as its Treasurer. She's also the Custodian of Records. She's banking with Wells Fargo (headquartered in that left coast den of iniquity, San Francisco). Just filed a month ago tomorrow, too soon for there to be any financial reports.

Excerpt of image used by supportroymoore.com

The email has two different names in the "From" field: "Roy Moore for Senate Super PAC" (which is not found on the FEC site; searching for Roy Moore turns up only "ALABAMA 2017 SENATE VICTORY COMMITTEE, A JOINT FUNDRAISING COMMITTEE COMPRISED OF JUDGE ROY MOORE FOR U.S. SENATE AND THE ALABAMA REPUBLICAN PARTY," "JUDGE ROY MOORE FOR US SENATE" and "FRIENDS OF ROY MOORE") and the purported sender, info@supportroymoore.com. That domain exists, and has one-page set up with WordPress so far, lovely old picture of Roy with an eagle pecking at his ear, before he was stripped up of his judicial robes for the second time, and an embedded form to send your email. You, too, could receive future messages from Ms. Pendley.

It's like she said: "You will not find a a better steward of your financial gifts."

Update: turns out I received the "Louie Gohmert" version of Pendley's fundraising, too, routed directly to Spam. He appears in the subject: Louie Gohmert: Allegations are "grossly unfair" & "completely suspicious", and nowhere else.

15.Nov.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Sketchy recollections Permalink to this item

The Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, introducing the 2017 annual oversight session yesterday, decried the 2016 hearing as "beyond disappointing" for Attorney General Loretta Lynch's "least fulsome and least transparent testimony" that he could recall in all his born days.

Contrary to his expectation for our current A.G., Hon. Sessions did not really prove to be "more willing to answer questions candidly," although we will give Sessions credit for being more fulsome.

On the left, Ranking Member Conyers noted that he's seen this show before. He was on Richard Nixon's "enemies list." And he noted that for the forty letters the minority members have sent to the DOJ under the current administration, including more than a dozen directly to the A.G., "we have not received a single substantive response."

Hours later, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries questions' for the Attorney General at yesterday's House Judiciary Committee meeting kicks off with this incomparably funny/not funny Q&A (3:12:46 in the 5h50m committee video record), talking about Sessions' previous appearance before a House committee:

Mr. Jeffries: ...you stated under oath 'I don't recall' in some form or fashion 29 times, is that correct?

Hon. Sessions: I have no idea.

Similarly, about 36 times before the Senate. And at least 20 times today. Fair to say? "I have no idea."

Mr. Jeffries: "...You also stated during that Lou Dobbs interview that 'the intentional failure to remember can constitute perjury.' Mr. Attorney General, do you still believe the intentional failure to remember can constitute a criminal act?"

The look on Sessions' face when he's answering the question about whether he said (HE JUST SAID IT) that "your story had quote never changed," verrry carefully, "I believe that's, ah, fair to say."

Hon. Sessions: We might could, er, we've added, we've added things that I did not recall at the time. So my statement at the time was my best recollection of the circumstances and, uh, I, as things are brought up...

So just to be clear, your story has changed, "as things are brought up." And I have a couple of questions to follow-up.

Sir, did you prepare for your appearance before this committee today?

How did you prepare?

Because your rather comprehensive failure to remember facts (other than an occasional exculpatory nugget) really does seem to be intentional, and perjurious.

Then there are those things that he might or might not remember, but for which he won't say, because... well, he's just making up his own special privilege.

Hon. Sessions: Uh, Mr. Miller is a, uh, a 'high government official', ah, close to the President of the United States and I'm not at liberty to reveal the na-, the nature of any conversation we may have had.

He's not claiming executive privilege (which he does not have). He's following "a long established policy of the Department of Justice."

That led to a "parliamentary inquiry" about whether this was a gaggle of toothless old pols, or what. Chairman Goodlatte very generously recognized that "senior officials from both administrations [sic], the current and past, and long-standing before that have long stated, uh, their, uh, ability to not answer questions regarding communications at the highest level of our government."

One can only imagine how similarly unctuous he was to A.G. Lynch last year.

Throwing radionuclides "away" Permalink to this item

A new 9V battery did not revive our smoke detector. I assumed it had, must've given the test button a try and got a sufficient bleat, but the next alarming opportunity, something about me spending too much time in the shower, it could only manage a pathetic periodic whimper. At first I thought it must be a bum battery, but another new one didn't improve matters.

So yesterday, when I saw the household hazardous waste operation in the nearby library parking lot (2nd Tuesday of the month, don't you know) I took that and some spent compact fluorescents over to turn them in.

"We can't take these," one of the two attendants told me about the smoke detector. So what should I do with it? "Well, the easy thing is to just throw it away." SRSLY? "Otherwise you could try to contact the manufacturer and see if they'll send you a box for it..."

While still mulling the next step, today's inbox had one of the too-many promos from Staples, offering me $10 off a purchase of $30 or more for using their "free recycling" during America Recycles Day [sic], all week, starting November 12. Limit of one coupon per customer, not per item recycled, so they're not going to dent our dogpile much. Smoke detectors are not on the "WHAT WE CAN RECYCLE" list, nor are they on the "WHAT WE'RE UNABLE TO ACCEPT" list, but I can guess they won't accept ours.

Looking up the topic on the web, I see that our FEMA has something, the 2nd edition of their Tech Talk newsletter, December 2009. There are two types of smoke detectors most commonly encountered, that tells me, before describing three: ionization, photoelectric and combination. Ours is... ionization, with (it says on the label) 1 μCi of Americium-241, taking its time spitting out alpha particles and low-energy gamma rays "much of [those] absorbed by the case of the detector," and turning into Neptunium-237. It probably contains "about 0.28 micrograms" of the radionuclide with a 432.2 year half-life. Not much to see here. (Not to be confused with some older smoke detectors sold for industrial use with 80 microCuries' worth.)

"The Americium-241 used in smoke detectors is bonded to a metallic foil, which is sealed inside the ionization chamber. According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), this presents no hazard to users as long as it is undisturbed. The NRC advises that the amount of radiation that escapes from a modern smoke detector is roughly 3,000 times less than the normal background radiation exposure rate when measured 1 meter (3 feet) from the detector. Background radiation consists of the radiation from everyday sources such as the sun, rocks, soil, air, etc."

The EPA is similarly reassuring, and says "when disposing of a smoke detector, follow manufacturer instructions or check with your local fire department for instructions." They also have the children's version if you don't get enough reassurance from the adult page. In the What you can do section,

"Throw away outdated ionization smoke detectors. Your community may have a separate recycling program for them."

Or not. "Throw" is bold-faced like that, "away" is not. Where is "away," anyway? Maybe... our 4-star Ada County Landfill qualifies as "away."

Like a lot of Fire Departments, Boise's promotes the devices, because "Smoke Alarms Save Lives!" But they do not say anything about disposing of alarms expected to last "8 to 10 years."

Oddly enough, the United States Postal Service seems to be the best organized on this topic, and encourages us to Dispose of Smoke Detectors Properly. Our accidental brand preference was Firex, and there's an 800 phone number, and an address in El Paso, Texas, and a web address, www.firexsafety.com which now goes to Kidde's Fire Safety page, Kidde having acquired Firex in 2009, and a part of UTC Climate, Controls & Security, a unit of United Technologies Corp.

They offer a "not our problem" answer to the FAQ, How do I throw away my alarms and fire extinguishers? Don't recycle, that says. Check with your local municipality (if, ah, you have one). "Typically, alarms may be disposed of in your regular residential trash."

University of Nottingham Periodic Video

In the meantime (and practically, forever after), our 0.28μg legacy of the Manhattan Project will keep spontaneously fissioning at individually unpredictable times, such that by 2439, a predictable 350 trillion of those Am-241 atoms will have become Np-237, while an equal number of alpha particles will have calmed down and picked up some electron hitchhikers to become Helium, and floated off into the atmosphere. (Then what happens? Half of the Neptunium decays into Protactinum in a couple million years, and so on.)

If that hasn't satisfied your curiosity, consider the University of Nottingham's Periodic Video featuring the once top-secret Americium.

14.Nov.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The awkwardness of being Jeff Sessions Permalink to this item

Jeff Sessions' fragmented memory is coming into focus v e r y  s l o w l y, but he does indignation more readily. Did he meet with Russians? Just that encounter at the convention... and then that one meeting that he didn't used to recall, or maybe it was in his Senatorial capacity. 45 or 50 minutes. They had an argument about Ukraine, all of a sudden he remembers!

Here's part of today's testimony I missed in the livestream. Rep. Ted Lieu had a question: "Were you lying then, when you filled out the [SF-86 security clearance] form, or are you lying now?" The AG says his executive assistant told him none of his contacts as a member of Congress counted, who knew? He did not know.

"Lying" is such an awkward word. Let's just say he was painting a rosier picture.

And as for the obvious conclusion, that whoops, he mis-stated the facts, at the very least, now he wants his "no" to mean that "no, he wasn't meeting on a continuing basis with Russian officials."

And let it be known that he's outraged at any implication that he's come up a little short on the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Irregular order Permalink to this item

Pity the man two heartbeats from the Presidency, in a job he said he didn't want, illustrating the Peter Principle on a regular basis. Not that flat-out incompetence is the best description of what's going on. Highway robbery would be closer.

If Paul Ryan's schedules the vote in the House on tax deform later this week, it means the whip count tells him the GOP can pass their bill, cooked up behind closed doors and rolled out to the public on November 2nd. That would make it a nice, round two weeks from introduction to passage, never-you-mind a hearing.

Michael Tomasky points out that the last time we had genunine tax reform, 1986, it came 2½ years after Reagan's 1984 State of the Union call, and 16 months after the bill was introduced in May, 1985.

"The House Ways and Means Committee held hearings for months and took testimony from 450 witnesses. The Senate Finance Committee held a full month of hearings. Then both committees spent months drafting bills. There were several points at which the whole effort looked like it was going to die, because that’s what the legislative process does sometimes to a complicated bill. It took a ton of dialogue and compromise, and 16 long months, to get it done."

Like the old saying goes, time is of the essence. If this doesn't get done quickly, it probably can't get done at all. Certainly not with the ram-it-through program it's on now. Full-on CBO scoring of the 5 and 10-year sleight of hand involved in coming up with the money for the donor class would be the kiss of death. Minus $25 billion for Medicare in the first year? That's just the beginning.

Senate Republicans now move to turn their version of the tax bill into a half-assed Obamacare repeal, eliminating the coverage mandate to come up with $300 billion more. How's that?

"Because getting rid of the mandate would lead to a decline in the number of people with health coverage, the government would spend less money on subsidized health plans."

That's Tom Cotton's plan, and makes Rand Paul happy. Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowsi? John McCain? Hard to tell if this is a serious proposal, or if they all not-too-secretly want it to fail.

The Jeff Sessions show Permalink to this item

Another @SethAbramson Twitter thread reminded me that our Attorney General is testifying before the House Judiciary Committee this morning. Tapped into the live stream just as Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California was leaning in. Asked if he'd had any discussion about the dramatic changes in the GOP platform, "Hon. Sessions" said "I don't recall."

Ms. Lofgren pointed out that he was in charge, and Hon. responded, wryly, "that may be a bit of a stretch."

Which stretch, again? Lofgren stuck to her prepared questions, rather than investigating bits of stretch.

"We were not a very effective group, really," Sessions said.

"I don't recall" was Hon's favorite answer.

16/ Given my preceding tweet, it's important to say every House Judiciary member in that room knows Sessions is lying. No one believes he's as aloof, incompetent and disinterested in his areas of policy specialization as he now so desperately claims—but they'll pretend otherwise.

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) November 14, 2017

19/ Every testimony by Sessions before Congress has been a farce, and *this* testimony is a farce.

Sessions pretends to misunderstand questions; answers questions he's not asked instead of those he is; plays dumb; "can't recall"—it's all an embarrassment to Congress and America.

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) November 14, 2017

Knee deep in the big muddy Permalink to this item

Imagine living in a reservoir and not knowing it. Say... what? All that and more from the alt-universe of the Texas gulf coast in the Sunday NYT's front-page feature about Lessons from Hurricane Harvey.

"One estimate puts recovery from Hurricane Harvey at $81 billion, much of which will end up shared by taxpayers across the country."

The images are better online—way better—than in print, from the sepia-tinged skyline to the datagraphic of the 100-year floodplain vs. buildings damaged (and the buildings damaged). Both of those data categories are works in process. There have been three "500-year floods" in the last three years.

The Vox explainer from late August helps parse the statistical confusion, and illustrates that "it’s clear that something is deeply wrong with how the US judges flooding risk." Something about denial, and bailing. As Michael Kimmelman put it for the Times,

"Houston is also built on an upbeat, pro-business strategy of low taxes and little government. Many Texans regard this as the key to prosperity, an antidote to Washington. It encapsulates a potent vision of an unfettered America."

Josh Haner/The New York Times

So unfettered, in fact that the Legislature isn't scheduled to meet again until 2019. Unless there is another emergency on the scale of gender-neutral bathrooms. Until then, business as usual:

"Houston’s affordability leans on loosely regulated, low-cost immigrant labor providing an abundance of cheaply made, slab-on-grade, single-family houses that sprawl on all that open land, in areas like the Katy Prairie.

"And it relies heavily on American taxpayers providing government tax credits, mortgage interest deductions, gas subsidies, artificially low flood insurance rates, highway construction money — and emergency relief, including buying out homeowners to remove their properties from harm’s way."

12.Nov.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Offensive Permalink to this item

Highlighted in the Conservative HQ daily screed: House Conservatives Go On Offense Against Mueller. I'm struck by the projection embedded in the posturing of these "principled conservatives"; they can't imagine anyone actually investigating wrong-doing without partisan intent.

They are the president's team of useful idiots however, constructing "conflicts of interest" and reasons to fire the special counsel. And then what? Nothing to see in that stoopid Russian influence investigation, we can get right back to Hillary Clinton!

"It should surprise no steady read [sic] of CHQ that this lengthy “Special Order” received no coverage in the establishment media – despite the fact that it covered in great detail the conflicts of interest and cover-up that intertwine the Clintons, James Comey, Robert Mueller, the Uranium One pay-to-play scandal and Fusion GPS."

I'm guessing that (a) Fox will be all over it, feeding the fever of El-Tweetoh with the juiciest excerpts, not to be confused with the straight C-Span recording of the rump right talking to themselves in the otherwise empty House. "Mr. Biggs" put it together, I like that. Tap into a taste of Ted Yoho (and a bottle of rum?) of Texas:

"After the previous election, a lot of people were angry and they came to our office, demanding special investigations into the Trump campaign and uh the Russia probe. And I forewarned them then and I'll make this prediction now that if it goes there, and it leads to the previous administration or Hillary Clinton, are you willing to go down that rabbit hole? And here we are today..."

This is definitely a man willing to go down a rabbit hole after the scent of Hillary Clinton. To KaZACKistan if he has to. "And we could go on and on about this." #Truth "Very interesting."

"Why did the Clinton Foundation change its name to the 'Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation?' Ah, it is summized [sic] that it was because the public and large corporation donors had backed away from the questionable if not onethical [sic] and possibly legal, ah, illegal activities."

In other words, such a name change would totally fool @RepTedYoho.

11.Nov.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A glowing first year performance report Permalink to this item

Russian President Vladimir Putin is pleased.

Mr. Putin said that Mr. Trump behaved at meetings “with the highest level of good will and correctness,” adding, “He is a cultured person, and comfortable discussing matters related to work.”

For his part, Mr. Trump said Vlad really, really means it when he said he didn't meddle. He's fine with throwing the last administration's intelligence teams under the bus. It's getting kind of crowded under the bus, in fact.

Headline news Permalink to this item

Seems like the world is going a little crazy these days. Taking the jump to The Hill's story about a federal judge dismissing lawsuits from conservative groups trying to force the State Department to continue The Quest for Hillary's emails, and scanning down the rail:

The Lebanon prime minister resigned, announcing it from Saudi Arabia.

The State Department is taking a page from the corporate downsizing playbook, offering early retirement buyouts (for not much of a premium, I have to add; $25,000). Apparently the crippling of diplomacy by reducting senior positions isn't proceeding fast enough.

Speculation still swirling around Michael Flynn in Mueller's investigation.

And an air traffic controller was arrested for having weapon of mass destruction, what?! In the good old days, we'd call a "pipe bomb" a pipe bomb, but now a "WMD" is "any explosive, incendiary, or poisonous weapon containing an explosive or incendiary charge of more than four ounces." It was at the guy's home... and supposedly given to him by a neighbor who "was involved in an ongoing dispute," but thought better of that sort of settlement. Bad deal for the North Carolina air traffic controller, though. (What was he thinking?)

It's the whole trickle down again Permalink to this item

Robert Reich, posted on Facebook two days ago:

It has been said that in Washington, a “gaffe” occurs when a politician tells a truth that everyone else in official Washington knows to be truthful but the public isn’t supposed to know.

Today, Gary Cohn, Trump’s lead economic advisor committed a gaffe. He said in an interview with CNBC that “the most excited group out there are big CEOs, about our tax plan.”

Republican Rep. Chris Collins committed a similar gaffe a few days ago when he said, about the tax plan,“my donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again.”

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham also committed a gaffe today when he said if Republicans failed to pass tax reform, “the financial contributions will stop.”

Republicans charged with raising money from fat-cat donors are saying the same. According to Steven Law, head of the Senate Conservative Fund, a super PAC connected with Mitch McConnell, “(Donors) would be mortified if we didn’t live up to what we’ve committed to on tax reform.”

Which is also why secret front groups that don’t disclose their donors, like 45Committee (founded by Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino oligarch, and Joe Ricketts, the billionaire owner of the Chicago Cubs), American Action Network, America First, the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners, plan to spend at least $43 million on a campaign to pressure specific members of Congress to pass the bill, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Make no mistake: The Republican tax plan won’t reduce the taxes of the middle class. It is designed for one purpose and one purpose only: to reward the Republican Party’s donor class. The rest of America will be shafted.

In that CNBC interview, after singing the praises of the economy during the first year of the current administration, which is to say taking credit, somehow, for the 16-year low unemployment rate, two consecutive quarters of "over 3 percent [annualized] GDP growth with hurricanes in the last quarter" and the raging stock market, John Harwood wonders why we need tax reform then.

"We have not had wage growth in this country. So, we've got a lot of Americans finding work, but they're finding work at stagnant wages," Cohn responded. "We have to find a way to really drive wage growth. What our tax plan is really aimed at doing is creating wage growth."

The make-believe "number one" principle is to deliver "middle-class tax cuts." Harwood pushes back with the details of the actual components of the tax plans revealed so far. Cohn proceeds to say up is down, and down is up.

"John, if you look at what we're doing for middle-class taxpayers, the reality is kind of simple. The median-income family in the United States, the family that earns about $60,000 in the United States, the Speaker [Paul Ryan] talked about them getting a $1,182 tax cut. That family is now paying a marginal tax rate [sic] of less than 1 percent. They're paying less than $500 of total taxes in the system. So a $60,000 earner, family of four, is paying less than $500. We have cut their taxes significantly. You can't go much further in the tax system."

Maple, fall 2017

We can't lower middle-class taxes, because they're already zero, what? It will, no doubt, come as a big surprise to that family earning about $60,000 they gee whiz, they're hardly paying any taxes atall! If their income is from employment, the $4,590 they're paying in payroll taxes (and the additional $4,590 their employer is paying in payroll taxes) doesn't count? State taxes? Sales tax? Property tax? Gas tax? Phone tax?

But Cohn goes further than that. "It's not our intention to give the wealthy a tax cut," he said. It's... an accident? One that doesn't upset him. Because there will be "the whole trickle-down through the economy."

Harwood: But you know no tax cut's ever paid for itself.

If you just can't get enough of this Gary Cohn guy, take the jumps for "more" at the end of the first tranche. There's this, in the estate tax piece:

Cohn: Gary Cohn doesn't care about the estate tax, I can guarantee you. I can guarantee you.

Harwood: You're the one who said only a moron pays the estate tax.

Cohn: I can guarantee you Gary Cohn doesn't care about the estate tax.

Junior rocket man Permalink to this item

Highlighted in the last category of the weekly "Good, bad and ugly" feature of the Conservation Voters for Idaho, news that a 21-year-old eastern Idaho man has been ordered to pay $1.7 million in restitution for starting a fire that burned just shy of 53,000 acres, almost 83 square miles, for 10 days a year ago August. Turns out that bottle rockets and late summer in the desert are a bad combination.

"He told investigators he and his friends tried to extinguish the blaze but failed."

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

Boss Denney's election integrity shortfall Permalink to this item

A member of Trump's supposed voter fraud commission has filed suit, claiming "the commission has violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) by preventing certain members of the commission from substantively participating in the work it does, as well as from accessing documents made available to some members and prepared for or by the commission."

"The lawsuit names Commission Chair Vice President Pence, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who serves as vice chair, and the commissioner’s designated federal officer Andrew Kossack as defendants along with the General Services Administration, the Executive Office of the President and the Executive Office of the Vice President."

The commission is the outgrowth of the line of bullshit that Kobach successfully fed the administration—that millions of illegal voters accounted for Trump's wide losing popular vote margin in last November's election—toward a demonstrable purpose of selective voter suppression.

Politico reports that "Kobach issued a statement saying the suit is without merit." The lawsuit is "baseless and paranoid," there's nothing to see here, they've just been busy with administrative matters. Such as... "He blamed the burden of defending against eight federal lawsuits challenging aspects of the panel's activities, the arrest of a commission staff member on child pornography charges, and the death of [former Arkansas state legislator David] Dunn[, another Democrat on the commission]."

Kobach's previous enterprise, the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, used manufactured fear of voter fraud to justify collecting enormous amounts of public, semi-public, and private voter data. The fact that there has been almost no proven cases of malfeasance has not prevented the program from raising obstacles for legitimate voters, most often minority, most often likely voting Democratic.

When Kobach's "good idea" went federal, ostensibly under the Vice President, and put out a call for every states' voter data, there was fierce pushback, not least here in ruby red Idaho. Our Secretary of State, former Speaker of the state House Lawerence [sic] Denney assured us that the commission could have only the voter registration information available under Idaho law—name, address, party affiliation and election-participation history—and they'd have to fill out a form and pay $20 just like anybody else would.

And Denney's office took the trouble to document the TIMELINE & DETAILS OF THE EVENTS SURROUNDING THE PRESIDENTIAL ADVISORY COMMISSION ON ELECTION INTEGRITY, sneering at the Idaho Democratic Party's concerns and actions in the matter.

That was the July 3–July 27, 2017 timeline.

Now we find out from reporting in the Idaho Statesman that our Secretary's indignant act was disingenuous: Kobach's Voter Crosscheck system already has Idahoans' private voter data.

"In February, Denney gave Kobach information on all registered Idaho voters, including two pieces of voters’ non-public personal information — their birth dates and abbreviated Social Security numbers.

"And that was not the first time. Kobach received the same information about Idaho voters in 2014, 2015 and 2016."

In case we missed it, a link to ProPublica's report a couple weeks ago that the sloppy security at Kobach's Crosscheck program put millions of people's information at risk.

"[F]iles are hosted on an insecure server, according to its own information. Usernames and passwords were regularly shared by email, making them vulnerable to snooping. And passwords were overly simplistic and only irregularly changed."

The ftp/sftp terminology is slightly garbled (which transfer protocol is used doesn't say anything about how the server itself is or is not protected), but they're close enough for government work. And this:

"Through a public records request, the Idaho Statesman obtained emails between the Crosscheck program and Idaho officials. The emails confirm that Crosscheck has repeatedly sent the server’s address and login information, all in one email, to more than 50 people around the country. The practice was followed as recently as this year.

"The unredacted login information was clearly visible in the documents the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office gave the Statesman."

In other words, Idaho already did what Denney said it would not do, on systems less secure than what you use to pay your utility bills. It's ok because the state was voluntarily participating in an ad hoc (and stupidly insecure), multistate agreement? Perhaps those two little words in our Secretary of State's July declaration deserved greater scrutiny.

"I will look to fulfill the requirements of the law under Idaho Statute while continuing to protect both the Idaho Voter, their nonpublic, personal information," Denney said in his press release.

He'll "look to" it. He didn't say he'd do it. It seems the law had already been broken on four occasions, three of them after Denney became Secretary of State, in January, 2015.

The Statesman reports that Idaho House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding "said he would introduce legislation next session to remove Idaho from the Crosscheck program, citing voter privacy, cybersecurity issues and other concerns."

“I think it is time for the Legislature to look at whether or not we want to be sending our information into a system that a majority of the surrounding states of Idaho don’t participate in, so finding substantial voter fraud is highly unlikely, and at the same time increases our vulnerability to hackers.”

Things you thought would go without saying Permalink to this item

But here it needed to be said, by the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and executive director of the Billy Graham Center: No, Christians Don't Use Joseph and Mary to Explain Child Molesting Accusations.

And from the news organization that broke the story, James Hohmann's Daily 202 details the tale of two Republican parties emerging after Roy Moore declines to step aside. Take your pick out of the grab-bag for pull-quote of the day. This one caught my eye:

The Republican National Committeeman from Alabama, Paul Reynolds, said that he trusts Vladimir Putin more than Moore’s accusers. “My gosh, it's The Washington Post. If I’ve got a choice of putting my welfare into the hands of Putin or The Washington Post, Putin wins every time,” he told The Hill. “This is going to make Roy Moore supporters step up to the plate and give more, work more and pray more.”

There's a lot to pray over. For his part, Moore isn't about to quit now. The Statute of Limitations is all on his side, along with his notion of God, joined in "a spiritual battle with those who want to silence our message."

There's also a dose of the Senate's Republican graybacks grinning their fool heads off with no comment, until Chuck Grassley blinks with a circus parade wave and "goodbye everybody. Goodbye."

Update: Oh wait. Looks like there is not a Statute of Limitations on his side.

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

Don't you hate rhetorical questions? Permalink to this item

NRCC merchandising bulk email

Today's mailbag includes something from "Alexi" (which... isn't that kind of Russian? Just saying), a.k.a. info@nrccvictory.com, touting "patriotic" merchandise for the purpose of increasing the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The subject line question is a good one: Why are they still protesting? We might ask "them" directly. Or listen to what they have to say. Or... declare our steadfast opposition to whatever. In a way that violates the codified norms of actual respect. Decisions, decisions...

U.S. Code > Title 4 > Chapter 1 > § 8
4 U.S. Code § 8 - Respect for flag
...
(j) No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. ...

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

Local color Permalink to this item

Betsy Russell runs down the election results from around the state in her Eye on Boise blog for the Spokesman-Review. The one incumbent running for Boise city council, T.J. Thomson, was re-elected fairly easily (46.8% to Naomi Johnson's 38.4%, with two also-rans splitting 15%), and we added former state Rep. Holli Woodings (52.3% to Caleb Johnson's 28.8% in a 4-way), and Lisa Sanchez (44.1% to next-best 25.4% in a 5-way race).

The re-do of the misdrafted foothills open space levy garnered a whopping 83.4% of the pretty lame turnout (24,810 ballots vs. 118,434 registered voters, 20.9%), and only needed a simple majority. If nothing else, Boiseans overwhelmingly love open space in our foothills, and are willing to pay for it. Numbers off of the Ada Co. "live results" interactive, with all 88 reporting show a majority in favor in 87 of the 88 precincts. The one dissenting group was precinct 1804, furthest removed from the foothills, and 5-to-3 opposed. (That's the ratio and the tally. All 8 registered voters in the precinct cast ballots.) Consider the geography of our precinct map the next time you see one of those "counties across the country" datagraphics. 1804 is literally "fly over" country, although I guess you'd have to call it "takeoff and landing country" too; it comprises the Boise airport and its industrial surround, the handful of desert ranches down Pleasant Valley Road on the way to the penitentiary, and the "Blue Valley" mobile home park, where few or none of the inhabitants have registered to vote.

Ada Co. 2017 election results datagraphic

We got to move these color TVs Permalink to this item

There weren't a ton of races to be decided yesterday, but the headliners seem to have gone to Democrats. Reliable Republican operative Ed Gillespie either failed to turn himself Trumpian enough, or faced the turning tint of Virginia, and will have to go back to whatever he used to do in the swamp.

Whupping details from David Leonhardt include more than a dozen of the 100 seats in Virginia’s house of delegates, full control—legislature and governorship—in New Jersey and Washington State, Maine voters effectively overriding their (whack job) governor with a referendum on Medicaid expansion, and Dems winning two traditionally Republican legislature seats in special elections in Georgia. Your morning Fox News Schadenfreude:

"Sean Hannity, whose Fox show airs at 9 p.m. EST, devoted just six seconds of coverage — six seconds! — to the Virginia and New Jersey results, dismissing them as “not states Donald Trump won.” Hannity carried President Trump’s 34-minute speech to South Korea’s National Assembly live and in full."

And Trumpians across the land are trying to figure out how they can change the subject. Conservative HQ headlines wonder "Why Does President Trump Keep Hiring Anti-Trumpers?" and tout "A Hidden Scandal Worse Than Uranium One," which hasn't turned out to have much for legs.

From the bulk email ad for them

But what really caught my eye was the first ad in the CHQ bulk mail, a shouty-sized font set off with ample whitespace,

KitchenAid Mixers That Must Sell Are Going for Next to Nothing

and in such a handsome cross between avocado and lime sherbet, too.

Election Day Permanent URL to this day's entry

Let's boil this down Permalink to this item

Contrary to what you may have read on the intertubes, in a print publication (ha!) or as seen on TV, IT IS NOT TOO SOON TO TALK ABOUT WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON in this country with mass mayhem. We'll take a break from the questions of transportation used to kill people, and consider the epidemic of gun violence.

Max Fisher and Josh Keller in the New York Times start with a chart of countries with more than 10 million people and at least one mass public shooting with four or more victims. You won't be surprised to learn that U.S.A. U.S.A. WE'RE NUMBER ONE. But still, with zero-based axes:

NYT infographic
The New York Times | Source: Adam Lankford, The University of Alabama (shooters); Small Arms Survey (guns).

Why is the USA exceptional in the mass shooting category?

"Perhaps, some speculate, it is because American society is unusually violent. Or its racial divisions have frayed the bonds of society. Or its citizens lack proper mental care under a health care system that draws frequent derision abroad.

"These explanations share one thing in common: Though seemingly sensible, all have been debunked by research on shootings elsewhere in the world. Instead, an ever-growing body of research consistently reaches the same conclusion.

"The only variable that can explain the high rate of mass shootings in America is its astronomical number of guns."

And this remarkable statistic: "Americans make up about 4.4 percent of the global population but own 42 percent of the world’s guns." In second place for the rate of gun ownership, and first place for the rate of mass shootings, Yemen. Thanks for that.

NYT infographic
The New York Times | Source: Adam Lankford, The University of Alabama (shooters); Small Arms Survey (guns).

Another infographic from another source, the Wall Street Journal's plot of the increasing frequency and lethality of mass shootings:

WSJ infographic

What seemed like an outlier in the middle of the 1960s, Charles Whitman's killing spree that started with his mother and his wife in their homes, and proceeded to the University of Texas at Austin's tower, was an exceptional event, standing alone for almost 2 decades. (Never mind the assassinations of those good old days.)

In our latest episode, there was a good guy with a gun who interrupted the shooter, and with another upstanding Texan chased the bad guy out into the countryside where he eventually shot himself and crashed his car. But that happened after more than two dozen of the people at Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church had been fatally shot. Mad at his mother-in-law, it seems.

On the side of the argument where it's always too soon to ask the question whether 42% of the world's guns are enough to have in American hands, there's only one lesson to learn: yay, guns. And trucks.

There was a massacre, sure, but it was stopped!

Update: More infographics, and a far more useful opinion piece, from Nicholas Kristof: How to Reduce Shootings. "So let’s not just shed tears for the dead, give somber speeches and lower flags. Let’s get started and save lives." He lists a dozen proposals, almost all with strong majority or super-majority support.

Carter Page gets a LOT more interesting Permalink to this item

Tweet #24 of 110 in Seth Abramson's thread noted that he's called Carter Page "a perjury machine." As illustrated by the 243-page transcript of Page's day-long testimony to the House Intelligence committee. Carter said he "never" spoke to Manafort, then retracted it a moment later.

25/ He goes from I "never" emailed him to—in effect—"I sent him a lengthy detailed email about Russia." In two questions. Very reckless man.

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) November 7, 2017
The NY Times brief has a link to the lengthy transcript, and this gem, with my emphasis:

“I’ll send you guys a readout soon regarding some incredible insights and outreach I’ve received from a few Russian legislators and senior members of the Presidential administration here,” the former adviser, Carter Page, wrote in a July 8, 2016, email to campaign staff members after he spoke with Arkady Dvorkovich, the deputy prime minister.

The New York Times first reported the fact that Mr. Page notified campaign officials about his meetings in Moscow, but the transcript, which is over 200 pages long, discloses the names of those advisers — Tera Dahl and J.D. Gordon — and the identity of the Russian official, Mr. Dvorkovich. Mr. Page’s testimony also revealed that more campaign staff members were aware of his July 2016 trip to Russia than had previously been disclosed, including Jeff Sessions, who is now the attorney general.

That's all well and good, but they didn't enumerate MAJOR REVEALS and BOMBSHELLS the way Abramson did for us last night. T'wit:

31/ MAJOR REVEAL #4: The WH says NatSec met once; Page says it met so many times Papadopoulos only attended "some" of the "group sessions."

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) November 7, 2017

and

49/ BOMBSHELL #1: Page *lied to FBI investigators and Congress*. He in fact *told the campaign he had a private meeting with the Deputy PM*. pic.twitter.com/k8tHrZ46Ck

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) November 7, 2017

which, as detailed in tweets 50-54, means

(a) Page went to Moscow as a Trump rep and lied about that;
(b) had a private meeting with Kremlin agents and lied about it;
(c) during that secret meeting he later lied about talked Trump's Russia policy with Russia's Deputy PM;
(d) told the campaign about it;
(e) many members of the campaign then lied as to whether they knew Page had this secret contact with the Kremlin on Trump Russia policy;
(f) the aim of this significant Kremlin contact Page and the Trump campaign/administration lied about was to *negotiate Russia policy*.

[Thus] "establish[ing] that Page's dissembling is *consciousness of guilt* and *not* what otherwise could seem like personal issues."

Wilbur Ross gets more interesting Permalink to this item

When that homage to the fabulously well-to-do, Forbes, threatened to take him off their list he claimed he moved $2 billion into dark "trust" (no pun intended), "between the election and nomination." Then what happened?

"[A]fter one month of digging, Forbes is confident it has found the answer: That money never existed. It seems clear that Ross lied to us, the latest in an apparent sequence of fibs, exaggerations, omissions, fabrications and whoppers that have been going on with Forbes since 2004. In addition to just padding his ego, Ross' machinations helped bolster his standing in a way that translated into business opportunities. And based on our interviews with ten former employees at Ross' private equity firm, WL Ross & Co., who all confirmed parts of the same story line, his penchant for misleading extended to colleagues and investors, resulting in millions of dollars in fines, tens of millions refunded to backers and numerous lawsuits. Additionally, according to six U.S. senators, Ross failed to initially mention 19 suits in response to a questionnaire during his confirmation process."

That from Dan Alexander, of the Forbes staff, in The Case of Wilbur Ross' Phantom $2 Billion. Both the Secretary and his Commmerce team were given questions and the opportunity to respond. Which they did by saying "any misunderstanding from your previous conversation with Secretary Ross is unfortunate."

6.Nov.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Spooky Permalink to this item

Gal who flipped off the presidential motorcade got fired for violating her employer's "code of conduct" policy, even though you wouldn't know who it was unless she told you.

Funny/not funny thing is, says she "was in charge of the firm’s social media presence during her six-month tenure there" and recites an incident when a senior director at the country really did go antisocial, and who did not get walked out the door.

So, what about this company, Akima, LLC? After reading the WaPo story I went to see their website, and found it... offline. Their LinkedIn profile survives. They're about "Defense & Space" and specialize in Cyber Security, Government Contracting, Defense Contracting, IT Communications, Base Logistics, Protective Services, Construction, Technical Services, Facilities Management, Consulting, Space Mission Systems, C4ISR and C4IM, with 5,001-10,000 employees, based in Virginia, spittin distance from Foggy Bottom.

Wouldn't want to give our Duffer-in-Chief the middle finger, eh!

And... they're back. Complete with a link to their Code of Conduct featured on their About page, I'm quite sure I have n.e.v.e.r seen that before.

From Akima's Code of Conduct, Fair Use excerpt for commentary

I was expecting some dry legal-ese, but no! the 25 page PDF has a glossy corporate feel about it, starting with a little non sequitur antler art, and their whooshy, logo/trademark and subhead, "A NANA Company."

Which is... a fascinating offspring of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), signed into law by Richard Nixon in 1971, and recipient of 36,000 miles of surface and subsurface rights in NW Alaska. That's "roughly the size of the state of Indiana."

NANA now comprises a list of LLC companies as long as your arm, including Akima Construction Services in Maryland; Akima Facilities Management, Akima Logistics Services, Akima Support Operations, and Akima Technical Solutions in Charlotte North Carolina; Akima Infrastructure Services, Akima Global Services, Akima Intra-Data and plain old Akima LLC in Virginia, all a long, long way from Alaska and its natives. Maybe there's a useful affirmative action angle to awarding contracts to them? Can't tell, their investor relations info is limited access, "due to regulatory restrictions." (Yet another "never seen that before.")

At any rate, they brag up contracts with the Army, Navy, Air Force, NASA, DOD, Defense Logistics Agency, DOJ, DOE, Homeland Security, FBI and the Defense Information Systems Agency.

Moral of the story: you can apparently unsee an intemperate “You’re a f------ Libtard a------” (with or without the dashes) from a Senior Director guy, but you can't unsee the backside of an unidentified cyclist gal giving the presidential motorcade the middle finger.

Bad neighbor Permalink to this item

There was that one time skiing that found me cross-wise with a (small) tree, and sore as all get-out after the toboggan ride down the hill and a visit to the X-ray machine. Nothing was broken in my case (I like to say "air bags saved my life"), but just breathing was guarded, laughing was not funny, and for the first night, I had to sleep as best I could sitting up. "Bruised ribs" might not sound like that big a deal if you haven't had the experience.

Broken ribs are considerably worse, I'm sure, and involve more than just a couple of uncomfortable nights. The attack that was swallowed up in larger news cycles caught my eye this morning: that weird "assaulted by a neighbor at his Bowling Green home on Friday" left Senator Rand Paul with 5 fractured ribs, three of them displaced. Unlike me bouncing off a tree, he's not quite a spring chicken, either. I was 30-something back then; he's now 50-something.

And here's legal nicety I don't understand:

"Authorities say Paul’s neighbor, Rene Boucher, tackled the senator from behind at 3:21 p.m. on Friday, leaving Paul struggling to breathe and bleeding from cuts around his mouth. Boucher, 59, has been charged with one count of fourth-degree assault, a misdemeanor that can carry up to one year in prison."

Who knew there was a "fourth degree," and this is only a misdemeanor? Kentucky Statutes list 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th degrees, which are Class B, C and D felonies, and the Class A misdeamor, respectively. The attack didn't seem "wanton" enough? Didn't involve a weapon? But however it was done, this is "serious physical injury." The 3rd degree sort has a list of specially protected roles (starting with "state, county, city or federal peace officer") but didn't think to mention U.S. Senator.

Update: Is Landscaping Drama at the Root of Rand Paul’s Assault?

Mr. Paul had just stepped off a riding lawn mower on Friday when Rene Boucher, a retired anesthesiologist who lived next door, charged and tackled him. Because Mr. Paul was wearing sound-muting earmuffs, he did not realize Mr. Boucher was coming... Authorities on Monday were considering raising the charge to a felony, given the severity of Mr. Paul’s injuries.

5.Nov.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Haunting Boise Permalink to this item

Heading into town today, I noticed a pickup truck coming along behind me, two big flags flapping in back. "Game day" was yesterday, what up? After a while he got close enough for me to see a triangle-folded flag in the dashboard, coming from a funeral with military honors?

Then I noticed the big US flag in the back was upside down. He was staying at or below the speed limit on the I-184 connector into town, but my luck, in the lane I gave way next to me at 13th St., he pulled up alongside. LaVoy Finicum's brand on the side window, the alt-flag was Benjamin Franklin's 1754 "Join or Die" cartoon.

Plastered across the back window, an insistent "IN DISTRESS NOT DISRESPECT" along with various tokens of the resistance. After a lot of miles at 60 mph, both flags are indeed showing a little distress. "One Right That Secures Them All" and "FREEDOM" bumper stickers, don't recognize the "M43" thing. (43rd State Make-believe militia?) Should I call 9-1-1 to get help for him? Join the parade?

Seen in Boise today

Good old palace intrigue Permalink to this item

A bit of respite from our own, as the panoply of Saudi princes are rearranged on the chessboard. 32 y-o Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is cleaning house in inimitable style, hours after being put in charge of a a new anti-corruption committee, with "the right to investigate, arrest, ban from travel, or freeze the assets of anyone it deems corrupt."

Saudi Press Agency photo

"The Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh, the de facto royal hotel, was evacuated on Saturday, stirring rumors that it would be used to house detained royals. The airport for private planes was closed, arousing speculation that the crown prince was seeking to block rich businessmen from fleeing before more arrests."

Free-wheeling billionaire Alwaleed bin Talal is the headliner, his wings clipped along with "at least 10 other princes, four ministers and tens of former ministers." Let's just say that $32 billion he planned to go to charity after his death is probably going to be redistributed sooner. Of course there are jolly connections with our own royal family:

"At least three senior White House officials, including the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, were reportedly in Saudi Arabia last month for meetings that were undisclosed at the time."

Travel and security funded by your tax dollars at work and play. Given how regularly our judiciary thwarts his whims and fiats, we imagine our president is jealous of this:

"Saudi Arabia is an executive monarchy without a written Constitution or independent government institutions like a Parliament or courts, so accusations of corruption are difficult to evaluate. The boundaries between the public funds and the wealth of the royal family are murky at best, and corruption, as other countries would describe it, is believed to be widespread."

We're not there yet, but on the way! In our palace we just get to read juicy stories about epic corruption, but don't (yet) have the means for rounding them all up in the royal hotel.

This just in (for example): get a gasload of our Crown Prince of Commerce (and "king of bankruptcy"), Wilbur L. Ross Jr., usefully connected with friends of Valdimir Putin. Our crème de la crème is not as well-endowed as the Saudi Royal family, but network of connections is deliciously (and profitably, you can be sure) complicated. Good luck chasing after the mere $2 to $10 million stake he retained on shipping Navigator Holdings,

"held by a chain of companies in the Cayman Islands, one of several tax havens where much of his wealth, estimated at more than $2 billion, has been tied to similar investment vehicles. Details of these arrangements surfaced in a cache of leaked files from Appleby, one of the world’s largest offshore law firms, which administered some 50 companies and partnerships in the Caymans and elsewhere connected to Mr. Ross."

You can visit Navigator on the web, contemplate the view astern some member of their fleet, covering the zodiac to move petrochemicals around our earthly orb, under flags of convenience.

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

Just one more big lie Permalink to this item

The big tax "reform" bill has a lot of sausage-makings that need to be ground finer before it's done, but everyone's curious about how much they'll save, right? My big picture guess is that if you're struggling to make ends meet (and thus are in most need of relief), there's pretty much nothing in it for you. Them that's got shall have, as ever.

Doubling the standard deduction is making headlines. That would eliminate the tedium of itemizing deductions for even more of us (than the 70% who get a better deal with the standard deduction now), right? Not making headlines: eliminating personal exemptions, which mostly wipes out the benefit of the higher deduction. "Doubling" is not the half of it. Families with multiple children will be worse off, deduction-wise. Boiling down one of the six charts the NYT offers to explain the tax plan:

Filing status Current
deduction
+ exemptions
GOP
proposed
deduction
Single, no children $10,400 $12,000
Married, no children $20,800 $24,000
Married, two children $28,900 $24,000

Artificially simulated animals Permalink to this item

March 2003

Who knew? I did not know. Idaho Fish and Game is using robot deer to lure hunting violators into violation. "Some can move their heads, blink or even wag their tails." I hope they've got some with red noses, don't you?

Each time a [robot] deer is used, a thorough plan is devised and officers will be off on the side waiting for the violation to occur.

"We set these things up in a safe manner with a safe backdrop so the bullet will be captured by the decoy or pass through a safe backdrop," he said.

He said there is inherent risk while putting the ASA's out there because hunters will have some kind of weapon, whether it is archery equipment, a rifle, a muzzle loader or whatever it is they are "trying to address."

"Our first son cost us approx. $50,000" Permalink to this item

One of the inexplicable elements of the draft GOP tax "reform" bill is elimination of the adoption assistance program. Pro-life? Pro-family? Brandon Jones provided his personal story, on Twitter. "I can say with absolute confidence that eliminating that credit WILL prevent people from adopting. No question. Because it's EXPENSIVE."

"[R]ealistically we're just creating more foster kids, which is definitely a bigger drain on govt. resources than the adoption credit. And in the meantime good families go without children and kids go without permanent homes. There's zero up side to this. And for what? So the wealthy can pass on their fortunes to their kids tax free?"

2.Nov.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

They knew all along Permalink to this item

In the morning mailbag, something from the Dems this time, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, to be specific. They want money (of course), and they want me to sign a petition DEMANDING that Congress investigate Trump.

The message seems different than the ones I get from the Republicans. It's strident, of course; urging me to action. But it's written intelligently, formatted well, readable. No footnotes, they don't want me to get distracted by going off to nytimes.com, and in fact, that is a distraction. There are lots of headlines pushing this now three-day old story down the stack: Trump Campaign Got Early Word Russia Had Democrats’ Emails, by Scott Shane, Oct. 30, 2017. Isn't this a BOMBSHELL?

Court documents revealed that Russian officials alerted the campaign, through an intermediary in April 2016, that they possessed thousands of Democratic emails and other “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

"I’d prefer that nobody speak about this again." Said to have been said by Jeff Sessions, March 31, 2016.

That was two months before the Russian hacking of the DNC was publicly revealed and the emails began to show up for all the world to see. As for the petition, I've made some attempts at DEMANDING that Republicans in Congress do something, and they generally don't go well. The fundraiser/goad says Politico reported that "Republican lawmakers say they’re approaching the end of their investigations." Three days older still, ancient news. It's not as if the committees are exactly done and dusted, though:

"Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) has suggested his panel’s investigation will end early next year, emphasizing that he wants to wrap up by February, ahead of the first 2018 primary elections."

It's a "mathematical equation," don't you know. So many witnesses, the calendar, the immovable deadlines for the real business they're all about, getting re-elected. The Republican leaders of the two bodies are said to want to "generally align their reports." How's this for unintended humor?

Wildly divergent conclusions, he said, could “embarrass the institution” and could send mixed messages about the urgency of the Russian threat.

Seems late in the day to be worried about embarrassing Congress. And the estimable junior Senator from Idaho, reliable sycophant to the president is quoted for attribution:

“We’ve hit the point of diminishing returns long ago,” said Sen. Jim Risch. “We’ve looked at lots of stuff. At some point in time, the jury needs to reach a verdict.”

Let's not get the cart before the horse. We need the House's impeachment before the whole jury—yes, including Jim—gets to hear the case.

It was back in the age of the dinosaur conventions, when up was still up, that Donald Trump said this, remember?

"Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let's see if that happens, that'll be next."

And tweeted it, how could he not have?

If Russia or any other country or person has Hillary Clinton's 33,000 illegally deleted emails, perhaps they should share them with the FBI!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 27, 2016

David Axelrod responded in that medium to suggest the Russians maybe could hack Trump's taxes, pointing to the Huffington Post story which has an especially glossy shine after Paul Manafort's indictment for conspiracy against the United States (and some other things) on Monday. Those were the days. When Manafort was Trump's campaign chairman. And talking to “CBS This Morning” and stuff, without a lawyer to speak for him.

“Mr. Trump has said that his taxes are under audit and he will not be releasing them,” Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, said.

Addressing questions about whether Trump has financial ties to Russia, Manafort said Trump’s decision to break with tradition and not release his taxes “has nothing to do with Russia, it has nothing to do with any country other than the United States and his normal tax auditing process.”

Truth be told, how could Manafort answer a question about ties to Russia off the top of his head? His personal entanglements would make his head spin. He'd just have to boil it down to this:

WATCH: In light of AP story re Manafort - take a look at his response to a simple question re Russian oligarch ties https://t.co/getQDJUZZG pic.twitter.com/Ic85K4fAE0

— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) March 22, 2017

Whether or not the Russians got a hold of Trump's tax returns, we can imagine that Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III has them. That should be interesting. Because this has a.l.w.a.y.s been about the money.

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

"I alone can fix it" Permalink to this item

New month, new dimensions of abnormality redound, as we contemplate our country on the verge of authoritarianism. The headline echo of last year's Republican National Convention comes to mind from the second item in Greg Sargent's Morning Plum, about the "seething" president needing to be talked down from lashing out at Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, and the quote from the CNN report:

"Trump grew increasingly frustrated as he viewed cable news coverage of his onetime campaign chairman arriving at the FBI field office in downtown Washington, believing his former aides’ roles were being inflated."

On the way in, every hopeful advisor was "the best people." On the way out, they're pathetic, useless sycophants who were never anything to him. The really rich, really smart, smarter than the Generals, really naked emperor always saw himself the mastermind.

But that's just sideshow to the center ring that Sargent describes to a tee, Trump and his allies laying the groundwork for a Saturday Night Massacre:

"Let’s be clear on what’s happening in our politics right now. President Trump and his media allies are currently creating a vast, multi-tentacled, largely-fictional alternate media reality that casts large swaths of our government as irredeemably corrupt — with the explicitly declared purpose of laying the rationale for Trump to pardon his close associates or shut down the Russia probe, should he deem either necessary. ...

"The Associated Press reports that people who have spoken to Trump say that he has recently revisited the idea of trying to remove Mueller, now that Mueller appears to be digging into Trump’s finances. Meanwhile, CNN reports that former Trump strategist Stephen K. Bannon is privately urging Trump to try to get Republicans to defund Mueller’s probe.

"Monday night, Sean Hannity delivered perhaps the most perfect expression yet of efforts to create the rationale for such moves. Hannity dismissed the news of major allegations against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and the cooperation of adviser George Papadopoulos as big nothingburgers. He also hit all the high points of the new Trump/media campaign, points that Trump himself and the White House have made repeatedly in public statements. Those include reviving the made-up scandal that Hillary Clinton approved a deal for a Russian nuclear agency to gain access to U.S. uranium extraction rights in exchange for kickbacks, and the absurdly exaggerated claim that the Clinton campaign, having paid through various intermediaries for research that ultimately led to the “Steele Dossier,” actually colluded with Russia to interfere in the election. These have been extensively fact checked and debunked."

As if, fact checking and debunking worked anymore. Visit any free-for-all forum (comments on a local newspaper picking up the straight national story, for example) to see the Trump/Hannity talking points tirelessly parroted. Imagine if Clinton had won the electoral college as well as the popular vote and was now in office! The Bannon/Breitbart/Trump/Fox News/GOP Congress/Trollbot army times twenty.

Hannity has one thing spot on: “We are at a real crisis point in America tonight.”

Update: The estimable Rush Limbaugh is all over it, too: "None of this is real." Note the projection as well—from summer 2016's chants of LOCK HER UP to this:

"This is the coup. If Hillary had been elected, none of this would be happening, other than they still put Trump in jail as a message to the outsider: Don't dare try this."

raveling

Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007