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Audrey Dutton went to the hospital and came home with a really cute baby, and the material for an arresting story on the medical-industrial complex. She found it to be "convoluted, secretive and occasionally magical," "opaque and so power-imbalanced that the sane option is to give up." And of course, quite expensive. Doctors and hospitals and anesthesiologists, oh my. Lots of bundled charges for her new bundle of joy, north of $40 grand at retail.
As chance would have it, I saw a doctor today, and it all went swimmingly, other than that it was 8am, and the best morning wind of the summer was happening up at the lake, without me sailing and swimming in it. Bad planning on my part.
There are two new buildings at the satellite clinic affiliated with one of the two giant hospital systems in our area, and my prizes were behind Door Number Two. I'd already done my "e-check in" a day or two ahead, was I still with Regence? Yes. They needed my signature on a document I couldn't see. (They offered to print out the HIPAA notice if I wanted. I did not want, preferring to hope this won't ever matter.) One sheet, two sides with YES / NO questions about conditions I might have, hadn't finished it before the nurse came and got me. (She assured me I'd have some more wait time to finish it.)
Long story short, after my first physical ("well adult exam" they call it now) in a decade and a half, I'm fine. Doc said I had the something "of an 18 year old," that was nice to hear. (Apparently not "short-term memory.") Couple of shots, donated some blood and urine for lab tests, a shingles vaccine to pick up at the drug store, and a stool-based DNA test on its way to the house, in lieu of a colonoscopy. They remembered that prescription I got back in 2007, was I still taking it? (No; how could I be? It said NO REFILLS.) Did I need more? (No.) A little more weight, a little less height, still that remarkable slow resting pulse (high 40s, credit to bicycling and soccer), and none of my mother's high b.p.
I was out the door in about 50 minutes, with one piece of paper (about the Cologuard on its way), and nothing in the way of a report or bill. Gal at check-out offered to print the story, could she email it to me? "We can't email, do you have myChart?" Yes. It's the same thing that's on that, she said, so I said no to the printed copy. Seven hours later, logging in, I see the most recent thing in the system is my appointment reminder. No medical history on file.
Ya don't say! That must be the "occasionally magical" part of the system.
Anyway, I like my doctor, I got to keep my doctor, and he says he's probably good for another 10 years, as am I.
Michael Isikoff's and David Corn's bestseller took over the top of my summer reading list. It's an amazing read, assembling the many plot twists and sensations that flitted through the news cycle, and were overwhelmed by subsequent layers of swamp goo, day after day, week after week. I'm through a third of the 21 chapters, just finished "Felix Sater, boy, I have to even think about it," and "He's been a Russian stooge for fifteen years."
The pull quote-title for chapter 6 was Trump's response to AP reporter Jeff Horwitz asking about Sater in December, 2015. "In a subsequent call, Alan Garten, the Trump Organization's chief lawyer, confirmed for Horwitz that Sater had been an adviser to Trump's company for six months in 2010." But apparently didn't mention that Trump and his fixer Michael Cohen were just then—fall of 2015, while Trump was hijacking the Republican Party in the presidential campaign—working on another attempt at a big real estate deal in Russia.
And for chapter 7, the "he" in the quote from Victoria Nuland, then assistant secretary of state who oversaw Russia policy, was Paul Manafort, then the new "senior strategist" and soon-to-be manager of the Trump campaign until Steve Bannon elbowed him aside. "Once again, Trump had failed to do the most minimal due dilligence."
Next week, Manafort's bank and tax fraud trial gets underway, with a witness list including accountants and bankers, and of course Rick Gates, "Manafort’s right-hand man," "expected to be the star witness for Mueller."
That expectation because the double-barreled, 32-count indictment was aimed at both Manafort and Gates, and Gates worked out a plea deal in exchange for his cooperation. Even Fox News will be watching United States of America v. Paul J. Manafort, Criminal Action No. 1:18-cr-83 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division. (Their beat will be focusing in on possible embarrassing information about several Democratic political consultants who worked on Bernie Sanders' campaign, because somebody has to, right?)
Last month, Manafort was sent back to the poky after a federal judge revoked his $10 million bail based on witness tampering charges.
To say the story is "complicated" beggars understatement; that's the whole idea of the network of shell corporations and hard-to-follow transactions. Isikoff and Corn made a good run at telling the story most of the way up to their March, 2018 publishing date. I'm confident Bob Mueller and his investigators were avid readers when it came out, right through to the 14 pages of dense notes about the sources.
This is going to be a hell of a show.
Seems like a solution in search of a problem, was it just the inevitable headline that made this story irresistable? The Ordinary License Plate’s Days May Be Numbered. Ho ho.
First they came for the embossing, now they're coming for the static print, too. The upside is that "the screen can display anything," which, aside from actually defeating the purpose of visual identification, is impossible to resist, right? Switch designs. Amber Alerts. THIS CAR IS STOLEN. Advertising. Funny videos (only for use when stuck in traffic, of course). And ok, sure, whatever, an RFID tag, so there is still some identification to it.
And so affordable!
"The consumer version of the RPlate, sold through auto dealers, will cost $699, plus $99 for the first year and $75 a year after that to connect to the system’s cellular network. (The fleet version costs $299, plus a $20 monthly fee.) Mr. Boston expects the upfront cost for consumers to drop by 30 percent in less than a year, and the company’s goal is to eventually get it down to $150."
Virgina Kruta, Associate Editor at The Daily Caller Skypes into Fox News with an alarming report about the Democratic Socialists (as seen on "A Closer Look" with Seth Myers):
"They talk about things that everybody wants, especially if you're a parent. They talk about education for your kids, health care for your kids, the things that you want, and... you know, if you're not really paying attention to how they're going to pay for it, or, the rest of that, it's easy to fall into that trap, and say 'my kids deserve this.'"
Myers also provides the clip of that attractive young CNN reporter who got crosswise with the P. and Bill Shine for shouting questions in a press gaggle; such good questions, too:
"Did Michael Cohen betray you, Mr. President?"
"Mr. President, are you worried about what Michael Cohen is going to say to prosecutors?"
"Are you worried about what is on the other tapes, Mr. President?"
"Why has Vladimir Putin not accepted your invitation?"
In the annals of "come to work every day prepared to be fired," that's definitely in the highlight reel. Speaking of highlight reels, h/t to NYT's "Best of Late Night."
Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska was on the Newshour Tuesday, pushing back on the lose-lose proposition of the trade war Donald Trump has single-handedly created out of pure ignorance. He had both strong criticism, and something positive to say, sort of:
"One of the things I want to commend the president for is, he definitely has a listening ear. He’s always willing to talk with you. And he and I have a pretty healthy wrestling match on these topics. We obviously don’t see eye to eye on trade. I’m arguably the most pro-free trade senator in this body."
Getting pretty much nowhere, it seems. So, the "businessman" with a trail of bankruptcies and making off with other peoples' money is blowing up the economy. Who could have seen that coming?
The news director for Iowa's KNIA and KRLS explains how Trump has no idea what his tariffs have unleashed for farmers. A third of Iowa farmland is owned by people 75 or older; more than half by people 65 years or older.
"Rural America is about to undergo a major demographic shift. President Trump didn’t start it, but he has accelerated a crisis that might have taken a generation or two to play out. Now it might take only a few years."
Charles S. Pierce tackles "the Goobers and Gomers claque" with aplomb: Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan Should Be Laughed Out of the House for This, "this" being the livy-livered articles of impeachment, which, struggling to keep up here, have apparently already been set aside. Just 11 of the 236 Republican members (slightly more than 200 short of what they'd need to proceed to trial in the Senate) had signed on.
House Oversight Committee chair and star of the Benghazi witch hunt, Trey Gowdy had a good question: "Impeach him for what?"
"In the end, however, Meadows decided not to carry out that threat — for now, at least. He did not file a privileged motion for impeachment, and House Republicans announced Thursday morning that they would not vote on the matter before they leave for a month-long recess."
First things first!
After recess, maybe they'll settle for a contempt declaration, and Jim Jordan running for Speaker of the House, a position that keeps getting set below a lower bar.
But you know who really ought to be kicked out of his job, is Devin Nunes. Don't take my word for it, listen to Norm Ornstein of the conservative American Enterprise Institute. He figures Meadows and Jordan have only been "utterly reckless," and they don't have the leadership post that Nunes does, head of the House Intelligence Committee. (Which, while he's in charge, you can't spell without "oxymoron." As of yesterday, he still had not read the FISA application for surveillance of Carter Page.)
We totally get why a reporter might want to get off Twitter, especially one who has managed to become a lightning rod for criticism. The NYT gave Maggie Haberman op-ed space to explain why she needed to "pull back" from the medium. Nine years and 187,000 tweets later.
"The viciousness, toxic partisan anger, intellectual dishonesty, motive-questioning and sexism are at all-time highs, with no end in sight. It is a place where people who are understandably upset about any number of things go to feed their anger, where the underbelly of free speech is at its most bilious."
It's "an anger video game for many users," she wrote. Case in point: our so-called president this morning, firing for effect with ALL CAPS TO BRING UP THE CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. I mean, truly, no leader of a modern nation-state has has ever suffered this consequence before, being trolled like a boss on Twitter. Ghost writer-turned Trump media analyst Tony Schwartz notes the eight tweets since 6 a.m., "every one false or misleading. Plus last night's deranged Iran tweet."
In that last regard, one wag loosely translated for us: "Manafort's trial starts this week." That's former Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort. And it's the first of two trials. News is, the judge has pushed it out another week, and unsealed the names of five people given immunity.
Also, we keep finding out more about the epic role of the Internet Research Agency in the 2016 US election. Somehow the head MAGA's insistence that it had nothing to do with his very surprising win is feeling less and less plausible. Also, his grip on reality.
Scrolling down his Twitter feed is the bleakest dystopian novel you would want to read. Illustrated, of course. There's the re-tweet of Dan Scavino Jr.'s share of the Daily Herald running an op-ed about the "phenomenally successful" administration, in Mike Pence's humble opinion. Lots of MS-13 scare-mongering and tatoos. The campaign advert for Junior (and "special guest Judge Jeanine Pirro") stumping for Ron DeSantis for Florida governor. The "very nice note from Chairman Kim of North Korea." And this perfect bit of shade, courtesy of Doug Mills and the New York Times:
.@realDonaldTrump's shadow is reflected on the wall as he makes a statement and answers questions as he departs the NATO Summit in Brussels, Belgium. Also reflected is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton. pic.twitter.com/5kDKWplpH4— Doug Mills (@dougmillsnyt) July 12, 2018
Trump retweeted that. He loves everything about himself, including his shadow. But enough about him, what about her? This "Jake" fellow worked up a long thread and earned thousands of new followers by exploring the question of "Where are people getting the impression [Haberman] is an access journalist and Trump shill?" He provides sample output from the last 7+ years, which apparently includes "20 on record exclusive interviews" with the guy she's supposed to be covering. And fifty-three articles on Hillary's emails, did she really? (Or was she just an also-ran in the multi-reporter bylines?)
Remind us why there were fifty-three articles on the emails again, was there something that mattered? Evidence of unfitness for office? Dishonesty? Memory loss? Rampant corruption? Nepotism?
Update: The Hill has a short take under the CNN video of a discussion with Brian Stelter that has Haberman speaking for herself (well enough, I'd say).
Her "for instance" is Trump's giving an interview to the British tabloid, The Sun and having... well, what he said kind of blow up. They don't get into that very much, and the point she was making that Trump "often tells he truth," which is to say some of the seemingly stupid things he says are him candidly revealing his ignorance and lack of self-awareness. ("What's the big deal?" about saying our intelligence agencies told him one thing, but Vladimir Putin was "very powerful" in denying what they said.)
Which doesn't have a lot to do with telling the truth about matters of substance, or having a clue about economics, foreign relations, trade, statecraft, or basic human decency.
Being a member of Congress is a good gig, I guess; a lot of the people who get in there seem willing to do whatever it takes to stay on. There's the possibility of doing good or even great things, of course, but so little of that seems to be trickling down from Capitol Hill in recent years. I understand that fundraising is a big part of staying in place, but doesn't running on a treadmill get old after a while?
Bob Corker of Tennessee said he never imagined serving more than two terms anyway, but after he had the temerity to criticize the president's truly awful response to the violence triggered by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia a year ago, his departure seemed more assured. That opened the door for Idaho's diminutive Senator, Jim Risch, to head the Foreign Relations committee, next in line by virtue of seniority. That is, so long as the GOP keeps its super-slim majority.
In addition to enjoying his retirement-on-the-job, Risch has been a reliable toady for the president, endorsing the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, saber-rattling against North Korea, gutting Dodd-Frank, moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, withdrawing from the Iran deal and more.
As for the current set of foreign relations debacles, Betsy Russell reports that Risch could only offer two sentences. Russia is "no friend of the United States" was part of one of them.
"The United States must stand from a position of strength in our relationship with Russia and in defense of our allies and shared values."
That's probably coded well enough to escape the notice and ire of our Tweeter-in-chief, subtlety not being his strong suit. What our Representative, Mike Simpson had to say was plain-spoken enough to get more attention:
"We're tired of being disappointed by the way members of our leadership tie themselves in knots to excuse Trump's buffoonery, especially when it's something as important as protecting our process of democracy."
Charlie Sykes, former talk-show host in Wisconsin and author of “How the Right Lost Its Mind,” had an op-ed in yesterday's NY Times, calling for Republicans to Don’t Just Tweet About It. Do Something. Shows us that you're more than "merely constitutional potted plants," why don't you?
"In just a few days, President Trump undermined the global world order, weakened our alliances, cast doubt on our commitments to NATO, sided with Vladimir Putin over our own intelligence agencies and suggested that the Russians be allowed to interrogate a former ambassador to their country. Despite the attempted walkbacks, clarifications and various obfuscations about dropped contractions, the damage is real. And now Mr. Trump wants Mr. Putin to come to Washington."
Sykes has a bullet list of proposals. Let's skip the intelligence agencies "reaffirming" resolution, but one for censure of the president would be in order. Legislation for new sanctions in response to any future attacks would be good. (Including what's currently underway.) Legislation to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Legislation to stop the idiotic trade-war tariffs in the absence of genuine national security issues. Give dishonest Devin Nunes a well-deserved boot out of the House Intelligence Committee chairmanship.
"In addition, Congress could draw on the model of the post-Watergate era and adopt bipartisan legislation limiting the abuse of presidential power and strengthening public integrity and anti-corruption legislation. This would include requiring the release of the tax returns of presidential candidates, the extension of conflict-of-interest laws to the president and members of his immediate family, requiring the divestment of ongoing business investments and a ban on the acceptance of foreign emoluments."
"the President should be excused from some of the burdens of ordinary citizenship while serving in office." and "We should not burden a sitting President with civil suits, criminal investigations, or criminal prosecutions."
You may have already seen our Director of National Intelligence's candid response to hearing the news—while on stage at the Aspen Security Forum—the the Russian president would be visiting the White House the month before the 2018 election? If not, here, in the Washington Post.
Coats said he would have advised against Trump and Putin’s private meeting in Helsinki, which worried U.S. security officials because no notes were taken and only two interpreters were present, but that he had not been consulted. Underscoring how little is known about the meeting, Coats acknowledged that he has not been told what happened in the room. Asked whether it was possible Putin had secretly recorded the more-than two-hour meeting, Coats answered, “That risk is always there.”
Risk. Always there. Let me ask the question a different way. What do you think the chances are that Putin and/or his translator did NOT record the meeting in Helsinki?
I'm guessing zero.
In another candid assessment, "one senior White House official," speaking "on the condition of anonymity to provide" it, said "Coats has gone rogue." Because maybe he was laughing at the president? That wasn't how I saw it. I saw the nervous laughter of a man in an important position who just had his chair pulled out from under him and is embarrassed to be land on his ass on the floor.
"Explaining that Trump does not take kindly to slights and that he nurses grudges, one official predicted that Coats’s Aspen interview could bother the president more than the many ethical blunders of Scott Pruitt, who was ousted as Environmental Protection Agency administrator."
For his part, "Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also defended Trump, saying in an interview with Fox News Channel that allegations that the president came across as weak in Helsinki are “absurd.”"
Will Hurd, a former CIA officer and now a Republican representing the Texas 23rd in the House, had an op-ed in yesterday's NYT: Trump Is Being Manipulated by Putin. What Should We Do?
"By playing into Vladimir Putin’s hands, the leader of the free world actively participated in a Russian disinformation campaign that legitimized Russian denial and weakened the credibility of the United States to both our friends and foes abroad."
Hurd has a number of specific proposals for what Congress should do. He's on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, so well-positioned to put those into action, right? There's a hearing coming up next week, on Cyber-securing the Vote: Ensuring the Integrity of the U.S. Election System.
You may recognize the name of that committee as one of the two that Peter Strzok just testified to. Its chairman, Trey Gowdy had something to say about the most recent indictments from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and on the debacle in Helsinki.
"I am confident former CIA Director and current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, DNI Dan Coats, Ambassador Nikki Haley, FBI Director Chris Wray, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and others will be able to communicate to the President it is possible to conclude Russia interfered with our election in 2016 without delegitimizing his electoral success."
The thing is, regardless of the president's personal needs, and fatuous declarations such as John Cornyn's about what "nobody disputes," the legitimacy of Trump's "electoral success" remains very much in question. The deeper we dive, the murkier the swamp gets. And then after his election, things went pretty much off the "legitimacy" rails.
As Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov put it, "You are kidding! You are kidding!"
Daniel Henninger's column, "Wonder Land" seems aptly named for the present circumstance. He's the Deputy Editorial Page Director of the Wall Street Journal and a Fox News contributor. In his latest edition, he wonders This Is the Art of the Deal? The "controversy" erupting out of Helsinki suggests to him that this is "a moment to step back and assess the nonstop maelstrom called the Trump presidency."
Not to get all Biblical, but I believe said "maelstrom" is the whirlwind we're reaping from the Republicans having sown the wind.
In Trump's psychopathology (I use the word advisedly), e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g in his purview boils down to what it means to him, personally.
Thus, intelligence professionals can tell him facts until they are blue in the face, and he will be happy to walk away and contradict everything they said to anyone who wants to cheer. (In broad, non-operative generalities, not because he's crafty that way, but because he can't manage even quite simple details. Such as spelling, capitalization, or reading simple sentences verbatim from a piece of paper or a teleprompter.) What Mr. Henninger said:
"No one—from the individuals who work daily in the White House to friends and enemies in foreign capitals—knows what he may do next."
This is not brilliant deal-making. It is artless madness.
"Boarding his plane for the meetings in Europe, Mr. Trump said, “Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all.” That confident insouciance can be endearing...."
To say nothing of alarming. Trump thought it would be "easy" because Putin clearly likes Mr. Trump a great deal. He's always very friendly, and smiling, and says nice things about our president. (More than a year ago, CNN made a list of 80 times Trump talked about Putin.)
March 21, 2016, Trump said "Putin says very nice things about me. I think that's very nice and it has no effect on me other than I think it's very nice."
Trump said Putin called him a "genius"! So, what is not to like?
In Helsinki, we saw on TV what happens when a practiced, professional liar meets a compulsive, narcissistic liar.
Mr. Henninger lists some of the adminstration's picks as "first-rate people":
"To revive the economy [sic], they included economic advisers Gary Cohn and Kevin Hassett, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney. On taxes, Paul Ryan and Kevin Brady provided a detailed template. The economy raced to full employment. The stock market boomed."
Never mind the post hoc ergo propter hoc swamp Henninger swims in (while skipping blithely over the recovery from the Great Recession taking place before Trump had a hand in anything), Scott Pruitt and Mick Mulvaney are not "first-rate." Pruitt is gone for excellent reasons, and may be needing a pardon to avoid criminal prosecution for his grifting while he was briefly in office. (If only installing a Cone of Silence and flying First Class were the worst of what Pruitt did—his on-agenda actions to gut the work of the EPA will take a long time to repair, if they even can be fixed.)
Mick Mulvaney is the embodiment of the Peter Principle, a bomb-throwing TEA Party back-bencher who landed on third base and he thinks he hit a triple. Cohn and Hassett haven't been in the news, but it must be time to pay closer attention to them, too.
So, take Henninger and the WSJ editorial page with a dose of salt. But do note that they're getting jaded about the thrill of a booming stock market and the historic reduction of taxes on those most able to support the enterprise of government. What has Trump done for them lately? Kim Jong Un still has nukes. Everybody else is making trade deals, and all we got are tariffs on our t-shirts. And Russia.
Well, maybe Russia could deliver another Republican win in 2018, against all odds. That would be a thing.
Update Just in case your head hasn't exploded lately, get a load of this: 43% of 825 self-identified Republicans/lean Republican just polled by Axios/SurveyMonkey said they "strongly approve" of the way Donald Trump handled his conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday. 37% said "somewhat approve."
Apparently Biff was pretty sure he'd knocked that stand-up routine with Vlad right out of the park, until the chorus of dropped jaws started flapping. I mean, even the Fox & Friends trio took him to task. It was so bad... how bad was it? It was so bad that he felt compelled to try to walk back the damage.
This is a man who stumbled into a treasure trove and has been too busy stuffing his pockets (and turning the rest of his family loose to stuff theirs), the dream of a lifetime of grifting, to understand what is happening.
He's sitting on top of the world! And farting.
People are beginning to talk. Perhaps one of his closest advisors said "Mr. President, you've got to fix this!" Too bad that closest advisor didn't give him more specific instructions (or, equally likely, he couldn't bring himself to follow them).
Let's see, what's the least I could do to turn that perfectly ridiculous performance around? Maybe I could add a word—just one—and fix it right up. "Not," I'll say, and all those fake news whiners will have to admit okie dokie, that makes sense. Or maybe even "N't," a contraction. It'll be like verbal jujitsu, and my base will hoot and holler.
And that, my children, is how a Meme Was Born.
"I'll just say this," the leader of the free world said, with the lights blazing and the mics hot, "I don't see any reason why it would be."
Call me a glutton for punishment, I wanted to see the whole walkback thing. Again. Could this really have happened? It could. CNN's coverage rolls it at 1:20 in this 10 minute clip. "I say, 'Peace Through Strength,'" he said. Then how 'bout that $44 billion he found in NATO's couch cushions, actually "hundreds of billions of dollars over the coming years," fostering "great unity."
"There's a great spirit that we didn't have before."
Did he mention that he met the Queen? "Who is absolutely a terrific person." "She was very very inspiring indeed." Reviewing her Honor Guard. "For the first time in 70 years they tell me."
And so on. I'm sure somebody transcribed this whole crazy dog's breakfast, but let's cut to the chase.
"The press covered it quite inaccurately, they said I insulted people, well if asking for people to pay up money that they are supposed to pay is insulting, maybe I did, but I can tell you, when I left, everybody was thrilled, and, uh, that's the way this was too."
Yes, everybody was thrilled when you left, we can certainly believe that.
"...because we haven't had relationships with Russia for a long time. Aaand... we started."
"Let me begin," he continued, 4 minutes into the performance, "by saying that, uh, once again, the full faith and support for America's intelligence agencies, I have a full faith in our intelligence agencies..."
At which point, the lights went out.
"Whoops, they just turned off the lights, that must be the intelligence agencies."
The lights came back.
"There it goes. Ok! You guys ok? Good. That was strange. But that's ok.
"So I'll begin by stating, that"
(and now, finally, he reads the script carefully)
"I have full faith and support for America's great intelligence agencies, always have, aaand"
(here he's lost his place after tossing in that provably false embellishment)
"I have felt very strongly that while Russia's actions had no impact, at all on the outcome of the election, let me be totally clear in saying that—and I've said this many times, I accept our intelligence—community's conclusion that Russia's meddling in the two thousand sixteen election took place—could be, other people also, uh, there's a lot of people out there, uh there was no collusion. At all. And people have seen that, they've seen that strongly, the House has already come out very strongly on that, a lot of people have come out strongly on that.
"I thought that I made myself very clear by having just reviewed the transcript. Now I have to say, I came back and I said 'what is going on, what's the big deal? So I got a transcript, I reviewed it, I actually went out and reviewed a clip of, uh, an answer that I gave, aand, I realized that there is a need for some clarification.
"It should've been obvious, I thought it would be obvious, but I would like to clarify just in case it wasn't. In a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word 'would' instead of 'wouldn't.' The sentence should have been 'I don't see any reason why I wouldn't—or why it wouldn't be Russia.' So, just to repeat it, I said the word 'would' instead of 'wouldn't' and the sentence should have been—and I thought I-it would be maybe a little bit—unclear on the transcript, or unclear on the actual video, the sentence should've been"
(now he tries reading carefully once again)
"'I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia.'
"Sort of a double negative. So, you can put that in, and I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself."
At this point, a new idea pops into his brain. Maybe I should just read what's on the paper now.
"I have on numerous occasions noted our intelligence findings that Russians attempted to interfere in our elections. Unlike previous administrations, my administration has and will continue to move aggresively to repeal any efforts—and repel. We will stop it, we will repel it."
That's kind of a problem, he's not much of a reader.
"Any efforts to interfere in our elections. We're doing everything in our power to prevent Russian interference in—2018. Aand, we have a lot of power. As you know, President Obama was given, uh, information just prior to the election, last election, 2016, and they decided not to do anything about it, the reason they decided that was pretty obvious to all, they thought Hillary Clinton was going to win the election. Aand they didn't think it was a big deal, when I won the election, they thought it was a big deal. And all of a sudden they went into action but it was a little bit late.
"So he was given that, in sharp contrast to the way it should be."
Riiight. It went on a while ("no collusion!") but I think you get the picture pretty good.
The president, talking to his two remaining friends, said "I thought it was a really amazing time" yesterday. Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson "get it." No collusion! Putin confirmed it!
Retired Navy submariner Joel Kennedy points out that Trump didn't quite get to literal treason in Helsinki, contrary to what quite a few more prominent commentators said yesterday. We are not at war with Russia, in spite of the mounting evidence that they attacked the integrity of our electoral process, and other things.
The last time Congress stood up on its hind legs and "declared war" was in 1942. (Against Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania, if you can believe Wikipedia.) The Constitution does not specify exactly what constitutes a declaration, and we've had ample "extended military combat" authorized by Congress over the years. (That list, ending with the Iraq War and H.J.Res.114, March 3, 2003, is followed by one of "Military engagements authorized by United Nations Security Council Resolutions and funded by Congress," which include the so-called Korean War (still in a "time-out" from the 1953 Armistice Agreement), and so on.
S.J.Res.23 of the 107th Congress, September 14, 2001, just after you-know-what, is the effective omnibus opening and blank check for a Global War on Terror, which, when you look down the list of opponents, might as well be called the Tenth Crusade. That was "in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations, or persons," which covers a wide latitude.
President Quisling has made it quite clear that he's got no beef with Russia or its president-apparently-for-life. Putin says nice things about him, and he really likes flattery.
One the news analysis side, Ezra Klein has a rundown of what we do know, after the Thank You tour in Helsinki.
"Russia orchestrated a massive theft of information from the Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign, and used that information to help Donald Trump win the election."
"Trump associates, like Roger Stone, appeared to have advance warning of the release of the hacked emails."
"Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, and Donald Trump Jr. eagerly took a meeting with Russian operatives promising dirt on Clinton."
"Trump himself dictated the statement lying about that meeting (and that the WH later lied about him dictating that statement)."
Trump told us directly that he fired the director of the FBI to end the "whole Russiar thing." And that he wanted to fire both his attorney general and his deputy attorney general because they’ve failed to protect him from the investigation. We know Trump's business ambitions in Russia go way, way back beyond when Junior told the world that "Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets" in 2008. And that in 2014, Eric said “We don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.” We can see how some of that funding came in, through shady real estate deals. Naturally.
"We know that Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, was deep in debt to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch closely connected to Putin. We know after Manafort got the job, he asked Deripaska, “How do we use [it] to get whole?”
The hits keep coming. Beyond hacked emails, the social media campaigns, the attempt to hack voting machines, the changes to the Republican Party platform, the secret back channel Jared Kushner tried to set up, Mike Flynn lying to the FBI, Trump personally working to stop sanctions against Russia for invading Ukraine and interfering with the election, pulling support from NATO and the EU, to "forge a closer personal relationship with Putin." And finally,
"Imagine it’s 2012 and someone described to you everything we would know in 2018. Would this sound like a hazy, unclear state of affairs? Or would it sound like we actually knew more than enough — indeed, a terrifying amount?"
I looked up the press conference in Helsinki on CSPAN and see that it started with a lengthy, detailed address from Putin, celebrating the "negotiations" he and our president just had, and looking forward in regard to our mutual interests. (You know, the creeping stress of terrorism, transnational crime, environmental risks, maintaining international nuclear security and nonproliferation, keeping weapons out of space, counterterrorism and maintaining cyber security (ha ha), the regional crisis in Syria, reining Iran's nuclear ambitions and the like.)
Vlad averred that "the Russian state has never interfered and is not going to interfere into internal American affairs, including the election process." If "any specific material" should arise, they'd be happy to work with us to sort it out.
Did he mention that "recently we hosted the American congressman delegation"—for the 4th of July, now less—"and now it's perceived and portrayed almost as a historic event..." Yes, he did.
And when Putin had finished, 11 minutes in, Trump whispered, "Thank you. Thank you very much."
As Trump recited the statement prepared for him, things got weird.
"[O]ur relationship has never been worse than it is now. However, that changed as of about four hours ago. I really believe that. Nothing would be easier politically than to refuse to meet, to refuse to engage. But that would not accomplish anything. As President, I cannot make decisions on foreign policy in a futile effort to appease partisan critics or the media, or Democrats who want to do nothing but resist and obstruct."
Never been worse than now. Give that a moment's reflection. Never. Worse. Except... in these last four hours, since he took over, "the first steps toward a brighter future." (And not to get all presumptuous or anything, Trump figured that he could speak on behalf of Russia, too.)
Question time. "Mr. President, you tweeted this morning that it's U.S. foolishness, stupidity, and the Mueller probe that is responsible for the decline in U.S. relations with Russia. Do you hold Russia at all accountable for anything in particular? And if so, what would you consider them - that they are responsible for?
The president's answer as shown in the CSPAN transcript (which it attributes to the White House, a link that's 404 just now):
"Yes, I do. I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we've all been foolish. We should have had this dialogue a long time ago - a long time, frankly, before I got to office. And I think we're all to blame. I think that the United States now has stepped forward, along with Russia. And we're getting together. And we have a chance to do some great things, whether it's nuclear proliferation, in terms of stopping - because we have to do it. Ultimately, that's probably the most important thing that we can be working on.But I do feel that we have both made some mistakes. I think that the probe is a disaster for our country. I think it's kept us apart. It's kept us separated. There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it. People are being brought out to the fore.So far, that I know, virtually none of it related to the campaign. And they're going to have try really hard to find somebody that did relate to the campaign. That was a clean campaign. I beat Hillary Clinton easily. And frankly, we beat her - and I'm not even saying from the standpoint - we won that race. And it's a shame that there can even be a little bit of a cloud over it.People know that. People understand it. But the main thing, and we discussed this also, is zero collusion. And it has had a negative impact upon the relationship of the two largest nuclear powers in the world. We have 90 percent of nuclear power between the two countries. It's ridiculous. It's ridiculous what's going on with the probe."
Yes, it's a real shame that there is "even a little bit of a cloud over" that election, amirite?
For his part, Putin offered his country's help for our investigation of how members of the Russian military hacked the election. Very generously.
"We can offer that the appropriate commission headed by Special Attorney Mueller - he can use this treaty as a solid foundation, and send a formal, an official request to us so that we would interrogate - we would hold the questioning of these individuals who he believes are privy to some crimes. And our law enforcement are perfectly able to do this questioning and send the appropriate materials to the United States."
One of the professional contrarians in the Senate, that other guy from Kentucky, is often good for an unexpected take on things. When push comes to shove, he usually gets right in line with the rest of the Republicans, so his "principled" stands always seemed a bit suspect. On last night's Newshour, he showed his teeth, with a causual, breezy statement of support for Trump in Helsinki. Judy Woodruff served up John McCain's opinion—he "called it the most disgraceful performance he’d ever seen by an American president"— for an opening round.
"Well, John McCain's been wrong on just about everything for the last 40 years," Paul began, and elaborated on the grudge he's been nursing for quite some time, before getting to praise for the president being "different than many leaders we have had." Maybe we're about to have a breakthrough. Or a break-in.
"So, I think this really shows people — hatred for President Trump more than anything."
That was easy. We're all "deranged" by what's going on. (Thank goodness someone has been able to keep his sanity.) Just like the president, Paul has a "healthy dose of skepticism towards our intelligence community," and has another grudge he wanted to talk about. (He didn't discuss how he felt about the rule of law.)
Weirdly, he says Russian meddling has "actually backfired, because there can be no rapprochement with Russia, no engagement with Russia because of the meddling in the election." The Donald and the Vlad seemed pretty engaged yesterday. Of course, we have no idea what they talked about in their private meeting.
Sen. Paul's argument for why Putin didn't get the better of Trump is that our big stick is WAY bigger than his.
"[W]e dwarf all other powers now. Europe’s army, I think, is 13 times bigger than Russia’s army. Us plus Europe, we’re probably 30, 40 times bigger. We spend more on the military than the next 10 countries combined. There’s not even a real comparison between the two. We are the sole remaining superpower. But I still think engagement is good, even when you are the sole remaining superpower."
You know who else has a much, much smaller military than we do? The Taliban in Afghanistan. ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Iran. North Korea. What me worry?
U.S. Intelligence agencies or the Russian President?
"President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today."
"He condemned the Justice Department’s investigation of his campaign’s ties to Russia as a “disaster for our county.” He suggested that the F.B.I. deliberately mishandled its investigation of Russia’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee. And he labeled an F.B.I. agent who testified about that investigation before Congress as a “disgrace to our country.”
"In the fiery, disruptive, rules-breaking arc of Mr. Trump’s statecraft, the president’s remarks in Helsinki on Monday marked an entirely new milestone, the foreign policy equivalent of Charlottesville....
"Rather than defend America against those who would threaten it, he attacked his own citizens and institutions while hailing the leader of a hostile power."
"So disorienting was Mr. Trump’s performance that at times, it fell to Mr. Putin to try to cushion the blow."
The long twilight approaches Helsinki, after the "Treason Summit," but a different headline with the phrase above caught my eye. The NYT's "Trump brings his own style to a day of damage control in Britain."
Is that what they call it now, damage control? When the president calls his own interview "fake news"? I'm not seeing it, not seeing the "control" element. It's just damage. We are undergoing saturation bombing of unhinged narcissism drawing all attention to the black hole of itself.
While House committees tag-teamed to pillory an FBI manager whose (in)actions spoke louder than his words of contempt for an unfit candidate last week, the so-called leader of the free world was busy blowing up a 70-year-old alliance and preparing to go golf-emolumenting on the weekend before meeting with the autocrat who has ruled Russia with a murderous hand for two decades. (He said “I will absolutely firmly ask the question,” so there's that.) Anything else going on?
Oh right, right, right, the indictment returned by a D.C. grand jury, charging 12 Russian military officers by name for conspiring to interfere with our 2016 presidential election. Here's one "curious detail":
The indictment revealed that on [or about] July 27, 2016, Russian hackers tried for the first time to break into the servers of Mrs. Clinton’s personal offices. It was the same day that Mr. Trump publicly encouraged Russia to hack Mrs. Clinton’s emails.
“I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Mr. Trump said during a news conference in Florida. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
The indictment explains that "the Conspirators attempted after hours to spearphish for the first time email accounts at a domain hosted by a third-party provider and used by Clinton’s personal office. At or around the same time, they also targeted seventy-six email addresses at the domain for the Clinton Campaign." Maybe that will come up in the conversation in Finland? It's come up in the tweeting already.
Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 16, 2018
To which the official Twitter account of Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded, "We agree".
That came after the blaming of the Obama administration.
The stories you heard about the 12 Russians yesterday took place during the Obama Administration, not the Trump Administration. Why didn’t they do something about it, especially when it was reported that President Obama was informed by the FBI in September, before the Election?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2018
Check with Mitch McConnell on "Why didn't they do something about it." Asked and answered while Obama was still president:
"[T]op White House officials gathered key lawmakers—leadership from the House and Senate, plus the top Democrats and Republicans from both houses’ intelligence and homeland security committees—to ask for a bipartisan condemnation of Russia’s meddling. The effort was stymied by several Republicans who weren’t willing to cooperate, including, reportedly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. (On Sunday morning, a bipartisan statement condemning the hacks came from incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Jack Reed, a Democrat, and Republicans John McCain and Lindsey Graham.)"
Also, check with Michael Beschloss for some historical perspective:
On December 1972 tape, Nixon told Kissinger, “The press is the enemy, the establishment is the enemy, the professors are the enemy."— Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) July 15, 2018
Oh, here's an idea:
"Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the transcript of the Trump-Putin meeting. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press."— David Corn (@DavidCornDC) July 16, 2018
They'd write it to suit themselves, of course, and whatever Trump said in response would just be more fake news. Russia is rewriting history, and our man is blubbering nonsense.
Back to the indictment, allegation #20 states the Object of the Conspiracy without quite getting to the point. To "hack into the computers of US. persons and entities involved in the 2016 US. presidential election, steal documents from those computers, and stage releases of the stolen documents to interfere with the 2016 US. presidential election"... to what end? Sow fear, uncertainty and confusion, for sure, but very specifically to help the "Republican" candidate by torpedoing the Democratic candidate. (It goes without saying for the moment.)
Manner and means included spear-phishing, URL-shortening services, good old spoofing, and useful idiots such as Roger J. Stone Jr. ("explained" at length by Andrew Prokop, for Vox), who has not—yet—been specifically named or indicted. (People who know better than I do suggest he's the "person" mentioned in allegation 44.)
After the initial efforts got them into DNC and DCCC systems in the spring of 2016, malware implanted into those systems gave them the capability of monitoring activity, including capturing keystrokes and screenshots, and thus extending their infiltration into dozens of computers and their exfiltration of tens of thousands of stolen emails and documents. The clone army of fake accounts and Bitcoin payments to grease the skids is mind-numbing. As the allegations reach the 70s, we read that "the co-conspirators researched domains used by U.S. state boards of elections, secretaries of state, and other election-related entities for website vulnerabilities." They managed to hack into at least one state board of elections, "and stole information related to approximately 500,000 voters, including names, addresses, partial social security numbers, dates of birth, and driver’s license numbers." Later, they went spearphishing after county election administrators, in Georgia, Iowa and Florida.
After you catch your breath from all that, I recommend visiting Marc Johnson's Many Things Considered blog, and his new piece, What Putin Wants... To stay in power, sure, and here's an idea on that question from Julia Ioffe, writing in The Atlantic, back in January, in Marc's words:
"[M]any Russians think the political hacking effort was, at least initially, less a strategic operation than a spontaneous reaction to the release of the Panama Papers, the trove of secret banking information that detailed, among other things, how Putin and his cronies have become very rich while looting the Russian economy. And remember Putin is, if he’s anything, an opportunistic, improvisational former KGB spy."
You forgot about those Panama Papers, didn't you?
So much winning for the Russians, eh? Brexit. A trade war and populist movements destabilizing global alliances and the global economy. The North Korean Keystone Kops show, co-starring Mike Pompeo. NATO teetering on dissolution and impotence.
"[Putin] must be surprised at how completely this strategy has prevailed in the United States. A recent Pew study found that 25 percent of Republican voters now have a favorable opinion of Putin, up from just 11 percent in 2015. A political party that once defined itself by its full-throated support for NATO and its embrace of world trade, a party that would have relegated to the dustbin of history a preening, ignorant con man like its current leader now cheers his every move, including a private meeting with Putin."
Trump hijacked the Republican Party with the help of Russian spies and credulous sleazeballs like Roger Stone and Paul Manafort, and now the Russia spymaster has hijacked our fatuous, self-absorbed stable genius, with flattery and spycraft.
With access to a digital facsimile of all the world's information traveling around in our pockets these days, an artifact recalling the good old days comes to hand. One of the donations to the Boise Public Library! that neither the donor nor the library has room for, and an odd slice: volume 10 of Compton's Pictured Encyclopedia and Fact-Index, promising itself to be "Interesting - Accurate - Up-to-date," and with the purpose
"to inspire ambition, to stimulate the imagination, to provide the the inquiring mind with accurate information told in an interesting style, and thus lead into broader fields of knowledge."
It is the 1951 edition, copyrighted by F.E. Compton & Co., with "translation into foreign languages, including the Scandinavian, specifically reserved." It was previously copyrighted in 1922 and every one of the intervening 29 years. At the start, and never mind alphabetical order, it provides a categorized list of things "Here and There in This Volume," for those "odd times when you are just looking for 'something interesting to read," without any special plan in mind."
"[Y]ou may visit faraway countries and watch people at their work and play, meet famous persons of ancient and modern times, review history's most brilliant incidents, explore the marvels of nature and science, play games—in short, find whatever suits your fancy of the moment."
There are Napoleon, Nashville, the Naval Academy, and indeed, the Navy, Nebraska, Neutrality, New Jersey, New York, North America, Nursing, Nylon, Ohio, and Opera. It devoted 16 pages to Ohio, including a two-page map and its index, featured as "a Panorama of Modern Industry" (as compared to Oklahoma, headlined with "Indians and Whites in Oklahoma's History"). The caption for a full page of photo-montage with "glimpses of Ohio's industrial life" notes that the state "has, perhaps, the most varied industries of any state in the Union."
Such a beautiful book that no one wants any more. It was headed for the chop box. We held it briefly, but it's headed for recycling again. What can you do?
Wikipedia ("the free encyclopedia") tells us more about Compton's comings and going over almost a century. Its rights were bought by Britannica, sold, and eventually bought back. It created the first "multimedia" version in 1989. (Wikipedia also has a list of lists of encyclopedias, if you can't get enough of this sort of thing.)
It's slightly mind-boggling that the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform Committees meeting in joint session are carrying on, but here we are. After nearly 11 hours in closed session, FBI agent and former Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok had his time in open session today, except that part where the members of the majority walked through the GOP talking points attacking the Russian election meddling investigation one more time. (The 13 Democrats, and stuff.)
(That's in addition to leaking those portions of the "secret" session's transcript that further their agenda.)
After the opening statements' accusations by innuendo, Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte "welcomed" the witness. Warmly, you might say.
Rep. Trey Gowdy had the first round of questioning, which was not exactly covered in legislative glory. It devolved into theater of the absurd, with points of order being raised, and dismissed, and appealed, and the appeals ignored. There was eventually a motion to table the appeal of the ruling of the of the chair, and I'll bet you $10 to a donut that fewer than a dozen of the members gathered actually knew what they were voting on other than R = AYE and D = NO, and the Ayes had it.
After he'd had his inglorious moment of expressing his high dudgeon, and selective partisan outrage, Gowdy got to say "I don't give a damn what you appreciate, Agent Strzok, I don't appreciate having an FBI agent with an unprecedented level of animus working on two major investigations during 2016."
And then Agent Strzok was given an opportunity to answer one question more completely, and he totally stole Trey Gowdy's lunch money. This is going to be a big block of text, my transcript (aided by the closed-captioning text stream, and as best I could type it) in a paragraph-free format the way it was delivered. (I recommend watching it.)
"Sir, I think i think it's important when you look at those texts that you understand the context in which they were made and the things that were going on across America. In terms of the texts that 'we will stop it,' you need to understand that that was written late at night off the cuff and it was in response to a series of events that included then-candidate Trump insulting the immigrant family of a fallen war hero and my presumption, based on that horrible, disgusting behavior, that the American population would not elect someone demonstrating that behavior to be president of the United States. It was in no way—unequivocally—any suggestion that me, the FBI, would take any action whatsoever to improperly impact the electoral process for any candidate. So I take great offense and I take great disagreement to your assertion of what that was or wasn't. As to the 100 million to 1, that was clearly a statement made in jest and using hyperbole. I have of course recognized that millions of Americans were likely to vote for candidate Trump. I acknowledge that as absolutely their right. That is what makes our democracy such a vibrant process that it is. But to suggest somehow we can parse down the words of shorthand, text actual conversations like they're some sort of contract for a car is simply not consistent with my or most people's use of text messaging. I can assure you, Mr. Chairman, at no time in any of these texts did those personal beliefs ever enter into the realm of any action I took. Furthermore, this isn't just me sitting here telling you, you don't have to take my word for it. At every step, at every investigative decision, there are multiple layers of people above me, the assistant director, executive assistant director, deputy director and director of the FBI and multiple layers of people below me, section chief, supervisors, unit chiefs, case agents and analysts, all of whom were involved in all of these decisions. They would not tolerate any improper behavior in me any more than i would tolerate it in them. That is who we are as the FBI. And The suggestion that I and some dark chamber somewhere in the FBI would somehow cast aside all of these procedures, all of these safeguards and somehow be able to do this is astounding to me. It simply couldn't happen. And the proposition that is going on, it might occur anywhere in the FBI, deeply corrodes what the FBI is in american society, the effectiveness of their mission and it is deeply destructive."
Update: Pretty good analysis (with four reporters in the byline) from Time: 3 Moments That Actually Mattered at the Peter Strzok Hearing. #3 is the one I highlighted. #1 was James Sensenbrenner's focusing in on the change of description of Hillary Clinton's email handling from "grossly negligent" to "extremely careless," which Strzok said was driven by counsel, and the specific legal meaning of the former term.
Sensenbrenner asked if that was “Hillary’s ‘get out of jail free card’,” and gave Strzok "four Pinocchios" for saying no. All those decades of trying to get Mrs. Clinton into jail, and all they have to show for it is sounds bites. And that timeless LOCK HER UP chant, of course. Led by Michael Flynn.
But anyway. "Her emails" are an indefatigable talking point—this was part of the ongoing investigation into her emails, remember, not actually about an investigation into Russian meddling with our elections. The House Judiciary or Oversight and Government Reform committees have shown that they think "her emails" are the important thing.
Our man-child continues to leave chaos in his wake, barging to the front of the group for a photo opportunity and saying one stupid thing after another. Lacking any capacity for originality and positivity, he dances for his base, cheering with sticks and torches. But no amount of shaming and blaming will bring him Geppetto's love. Sad!
"The president has upended generations of American diplomacy, antagonizing and belittling traditional allies over issues like defense and trade, while refraining from criticizing Russia, traditionally an adversary."
I appreciate the German Chancellor's cool response, "polite-but-firm" and "show[ing] no sign of irritation," not bothering to point out the factual blundering, while "[making] her position clear," by the NYT's report.
Merkel "offered a reminder that she learned firsthand, growing up in the former East Germany, what it means to be a “captive” nation. Modern Germany, she said, is not one.
“I have experienced myself how a part of Germany was controlled by the Soviet Union,” she told reporters who asked about Mr. Trump’s comments as she entered the NATO leaders’ meeting. Now “united in freedom,” she said, Germany “can make our own policies and make our own decisions.”
With Fred pushing up daisies, Vlad is the man whose admiration Trump now longs for. He'll get his performance review in Helsinki next week.
Surprised it took as long as it did for Trump to grant executive clemency to Dwight and Steven Hammond, the ranchers convicted of arson on federal land in Harney County, Oregon. They were the nominal cause célèbre for the Cliven Bundy clan's takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in January, 2016. We'll come back to that in a moment.
The White House statement glosses over the arson by saying that the fire "leaked onto a small portion of neighboring public grazing land." If you know which end of a Pulaski to hold on to when you clean your toenails, you'd know that fires on western rangeland don't "leak." They typically rage.
The White House statement also mininizes the conviction by saying that the jury acquitted the Hammonds on "most of the charges." The October 7, 2015 press release from the U.S. Attorney in the District of Oregon—fetch your copy quick before it's flushed down the memory hole—is worth revisiting, to understand what the hell this is about.
"The jury convicted both of the Hammonds of using fire to destroy federal property for a 2001 arson known as the Hardie-Hammond Fire, located in the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Area. Witnesses at trial, including a relative of the Hammonds, testified the arson occurred shortly after Steven Hammond and his hunting party illegally slaughtered several deer on BLM property. Jurors were told that Steven Hammond handed out “Strike Anywhere” matches with instructions that they be lit and dropped on the ground because they were going to “light up the whole country on fire.” One witness testified that he barely escaped the eight to ten foot high flames caused by the arson. The fire consumed 139 acres of public land and destroyed all evidence of the game violations. After committing the arson, Steven Hammond called the BLM office in Burns, Oregon and claimed the fire was started on Hammond property to burn off invasive species and had inadvertently burned onto public lands. Dwight and Steven Hammond told one of their relatives to keep his mouth shut and that nobody needed to know about the fire.
"The jury also convicted Steven Hammond of using fire to destroy federal property regarding a 2006 arson known as the Krumbo Butte Fire located in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and Steen Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Area. An August lightning storm started numerous fires and a burn ban was in effect while BLM firefighters fought those fires. Despite the ban, without permission or notification to BLM, Steven Hammond started several “back fires” in an attempt save the ranch’s winter feed. The fires burned onto public land and were seen by BLM firefighters camped nearby. The firefighters took steps to ensure their safety and reported the arsons."
The Hammonds have been bad actors for a long time; the record of incidents goes back more than three decades. (Peter Walker noted on Facebook today that the birdbrain occupiers stole the 682-page file of correspondence between refuge staff and the Hammonds from the early 1980s to the 2000s, and uploaded it to the cloud, with one risible sample shown.)
It's a record of poaching, lying, arson, and bullying, sufficient for a jury in Pendleton, Oregon to have convicted each of them of crimes which carried a 5-year sentence. (They also lost a civil suit and had to pay $400,000 for their bad acts.) Maybe 3 or 4 years in jail for what they were finally convicted for is enough. But the Grifter-in-chief's gloss-over seems to be more about the general acceptance of anti-government criminal activity on the part of right-wing nut jobs and resource thieves, and the desire to poke a finger in the eye of past administrations.
An argument could be—should be—made that the mandatory minimum sentences are generally a bad idea, and that we need to allow for the thoughtful discretion of judges. The Trump White House didn't make such an argument. They simply applied executive override for one particular case that suited their narrative, criticizing "the previous administration," for "filing an overzealous appeal."
This administration will certainly feel free to be underzealous when it suits them, even as it is overzealous when it wants to be. Cue Jeff Sessions for how much he hates to be cruel, but the Bible told him he has to enforce the law, so fiddle-dee-dee.
As for the legacy of the Bundys, I expect it to be about as important a chapter as spaghetti westerns are documentaries of the 1800s. Harney County has found a better way forward, and had more than a decade of productive collaboration between residents and agencies by the time Ammon and his pals rode into town. May that continue, in spite of the lawlessness that presently pervades the swamp of Foggy Bottom, and may Dwight and Steven Hammond learn to live more peaceably with their neighbors and resource managers, as they return home and to their livelihood on public land.
Never mind the MS13 boogie-man: we've been overrun with stupid, cruel bullies. We have four decades of research, but you hardly need those to verify that eons of evolution make mother's milk the healthiest choice for mammalian offspring (including, yes, humans), but here was the U.S. delegation at the World Health Assembly arguing against, "embracing the interests" of commercial formula manufacturers.
"American officials sought to water down the resolution by removing language that called on governments to “protect, promote and support breast-feeding” and another passage that called on policymakers to restrict the promotion of food products that many experts say can have deleterious effects on young children.
"When that failed, they turned to threats, according to diplomats and government officials who took part in the discussions. Ecuador, which had planned to introduce the measure, was the first to find itself in the cross hairs.
"The Americans were blunt: If Ecuador refused to drop the resolution, Washington would unleash punishing trade measures and withdraw crucial military aid. The Ecuadorean government quickly acquiesced."
These would be "trade measures" enacted by our dictator based on "national security" justification no doubt, just one more enormous lie among the parade of whoppers coming from our head grifter, and blessed by Congressional silence and vapors. (Here's the Senate Majority Leader saying he does declare that he is "not a fan of tariffs," but imagining he is helpless. Mitt Romney is likewise "not a fan." And helpless. "The president does have the right to do what he's doing," McConnell said.) Just declare "national security" and whatever, no matter how stupid and self-defeating.
McConnell's not exactly a rocket scientist, but he can state the obvious. "Nobody wins" a trade war. Nobody wins with him in charge of the Senate, either.
One bit of good news, on the breast-feeding front: the Russians stepped in to introduce the measure, and gee, the Americans did not threaten them. (They did, according to the NYT report "[seek] to wear down the other participants through procedural maneuvers in a series of meetings that stretched on for two days, an unexpectedly long period."
Couple of local towns mentioned on the radio along with the Secretary of Agriculture, what? "Colfax" and "Moscow" caught my ear. It seems Sonny Perdue is on a marketing tour, promoting the... harmlessness of a trade war.
Absolutely nothing to see here. It's right there in Bill Spence's lede for the Lewiston Tribune. "President Donald Trump won't leave American farmers holding the bag."
"The president told me, 'You assure American farmers that we're not going to let them bear the brunt of these trade disruptions,'" said Perdue. Never mind those retaliatory tariffs from China, Mexico and Canada on hundreds of food and agricultural products. (In case you wondered, this ISDA infographic shows that almost half of Idaho's ag exports go to Canada and Mexico. And 8% to China.)
What, are you nervous? "It makes me nervous," he said.
Perdue "also said he expects to release a 'mitigation strategy' this fall, outlining what the administration will do to shield farmers and ranchers from the negative consequences of the current trade disputes.
"Perdue didn't provide any details on what such a strategy might entail."
Long (lead-up to the) story shorter, someone helped themselves to our credit card number the day we flew home from Europe last month, and when I found out about it (the next day, thinking I was just checking the account to see what exchange rates had been), I had to fix all the autopayment stuff hung on the now bad number.
US Bank did a great job cancelling the card while the fraudulent transactions were still pending authorization. (They also cancelled the last VALID transaction, which I'm trying to ge them to undo, but another story.) And they overnighted new cards to us just in time for my next trip out of Boise. (June was kind of wild.)
I fixed all the autopay stuff I could right away, with one or two left to fix "later," on longer than one month billing cycles. Or at least I thought I'd done that. Today, email from CenturyLink with "Just a reminder" that "we haven't received your payment." As someone who is a bit obsessive about paying bills, this was not jolly. It said the payment was due on June 29, and "we haven't received" it. That's a week ago, and almost two weeks since I thought I'd taken care of the problem.
Logged into CenturyLink, verified that yup, there's my new credit card on file. Looked for contact means in the email, which included a phone number "to pay through our interactive voice response system." Just shoot me now. Of course I can't just reply to the email (I assumed). Chat? That always sounds so nice. Let's chat.
First, with "CTL Virtual Agent." I told it "You said I didn't pay my bill. You have a problem." That got me to a "specialist" for whom I elaborated, after authentication:
"You sent me email saying you hadn't received my payment, presumably because of a problem with my credit card. The number was taken and used fraudulently, the card cancelled, and replaced. I provided the replacement card, on or before the 24th. The bill should have been paid with that new card (verified as on file just now), but was not. This is your problem. Please fix it."
Agent X: I can get you to my financial service team to process a one time payment, so next month the auto pay bill be in effect and resume as normal.
Tom: How about, you just have your financial service team use the information ON FILE to do what's necessary. Otherwise, it seems reasonable for me to do nothing.
Agent X: Ok.
Ok? Great, we're done. But wait, there's more.
Agent X: Please wait while I transfer the chat to the best suited operator.
(Handoff and chat phatic)
Agent Y: Unfortunately, Tom, there was no order to change your information for autopay in June. If you want to re-enroll in autopay, I can send you a link to set that up or you can do that in your profile. Which do you prefer?
Tom: I prefer you to fix this problem. My CC was stolen, replaced, and I changed the billing information at the VERY FIRST OPPORTUNITY I HAD, and before the bill was due to be paid, the information was in place. You talk of "order to change my information," this is some internal problem you have. I would like you to fix your problem.
Agent Y: Do you have an email confirmation of the change to your autopay information?
Tom: I do not. What I have is what I can see on your complicated website. I added my new card, and deleted the old one. I gather from your response that your web process did not do ALL THAT IT SHOULD HAVE. I had to change billing for half a dozen different companies, and CenturyLink's was not the best in terms of making the task simple and obvious. "Replace credit card" is the task. Your web process botched it.
Agent Y: Perhaps you added the card to the section of your profile where customers who do not want autopay can save payment information so they don't have to manually enter it in each time when the come online to make a one-time payment. That would explain why I show no order and you have no email confirmation of the change. Would you like me to send you a link via email to re-enroll in autopay with your new card?
Tom: If you think that will be better than me trying to find it in the navigation, I suppose so. And you want me to make a special payment because of your failed web design, is that right? We do mutually understand that this sort of thing happens ALL THE TIME, right? And that there has been a failure, right? And now you are telling me *I* need to spend time fixing your process, do I have that right?
Agent Y: You can opt to let the autopay in late July cover the two bills together if you prefer. As long as you enroll in autopay today, you won't be penalized. If you want me to show you how to do it in your profile, I am happy to direct you if you sign in. If you prefer the emailed link that directly sets you up without having to sign in, that is ok with me too. You tell me what you want.
Tom: Email me the link, please. (I *did* login to check the CC... and finding the "contact us" link to do this chat, the site loses my credentials and shows me a "sign in" link... another web design failure.
Agent Y: The email has been sent. Do you want to keep the chat open while you set up the autopay with your new card so that I can confirm it for you?
Tom: might as well
Agent Y: OK
Tom: The setup screen asks me to RE-ENTER MY CREDIT CARD NUMBER. How is this not a simple SELECT THE NUMBER I'VE PUT ON FILE?
Agent Y: The autopay system is totally separate from where customers can save information for one-time payments. That ensures that customers do not accidentally sign up for autopay when they do not intend to.
Tom: That sounds like a good explanation, but is not very satisfying. Thank you for your help. I've set it up. Now, please use this chat transcript to send the FAILURE INFORMATION up the chain of command, and GET THIS PROBLEM FIXED AT THE SOURCE. If someone's credit card goes bad, they are likely under stress about it. Your site should make it easy to REPLACE THE CREDIT CARD ON FILE FOR AUTOPAY. Agreed?
Agent Y: It is easy if you follow the link in the profile which I offered to do for you. I am sorry that you have had trouble with the website. Without you being signed into the profile, I can't really see what the problem was for you, but I am glad that you have re-enrolled in autopay. I see the order in the notes: R85478490. You will also have an email confirmation of that change.
And now for the chat pièce de resistance:
Agent Y: Is there anything else that I can help you with today?
Tom: I design web interfaces professionally. Please do not dismiss the problem I experienced with your website as MINE. ("It's easy....") If it were EASY and WELL DESIGNED, we would not be having this chat, would we? Again, this customer issue -- credit card needs replaced, want autopay to stay in place without interruption -- is 100% predictably going to happen to many people. Your website should make it EASY TO REPLACE THE CREDIT CARD NUMBER FOR AUTOPAY. Instead what it (apparently) does is to DISCONTINUE AUTOPAY WHEN A CREDIT CARD ON FILE IS DELETED, and require additional action beyond putting a new number on file. If you do not acknowledge that there is a problem, it will never get fixed. My dealings with CenturyLink suggest that you don't really care about owning problems. Please show me that I'm wrong.
I think she misread that invitation... she proceeded to try to show that I was wrong that they were in any way responsible for the problem.
Agent Y: Autopay was not removed as a result of you deleting the old card from your online wallet for ONE TIME PAYMENTS. Autopay was removed due to the attempted payment declined on a now-inactive card. If you sign into your profile, the link for autopay management is in the billing preferences section of the account. I offered to show it to you so that you would see how to do it in the future in case you had to get another payment, you refused that offer.
Tom: You're not getting this. BEFORE THE PAYMENT WAS TO BE MADE, I made sure that the bad card number was removed. So, if you attempted payment on that card, you screwed up. Let's start with that.
She was still intent on demonstrating my error.
Agent Y: You didn't remove the card from the autopay section of your profile.
Agent Y: There are two sections regarding payments on your profile - one time payments and autopay.
Agent Y: They are separate.
Agent Y: If you had just removed the old card from the autopay section, there would have been an order to remove autopay from the account and an email confirmation of that change.
Agent Y: Changing the section where you save payment information for one-time payments does not require a service order on your account.
Agent Y: That's why you didn't get an email from us when you did that.
Tom: Good -- now we get to the design fault. I'm done here -- you all need to fix this, starting with UNDERSTANDING THE PROBLEM, and focused on SATISFYING (hint: that means DO NOT BLAME) THE CUSTOMER.
Probably not the last word, but this, in the acknowledgement of my autopay setup request. They're "in the process" of setting it up, the breezy email says.
"Also, so you can be sure everything is good to go, we'll send you another email after we've finished adding AutoPay to your account. In the off chance there's a problem, we'll send you an email about that too. Either way, you'll hear back from us within 10 days."
No hurry! Next bill due date isn't until the end of the month.
There is a loss of dignity in following a shameless, sociopathic grifter. His exultation in lying—freely, casually, even stupidly—debases us all.
Thousands of lies. More than half a dozen a day, on average, when he isn't golfing. (Since he golfs quite often, that means his "working" days have to make up for the downtime. 35, 45, fifty-three at worst.)
Propaganda requires repetition. Perhaps you've heard about his predecessor's "disaster" or the "like never before" or the "very, very big." Authoritarianism requires confusion. Contradiction is not a bug, it's a feature. Just shout back whatever he says, today.
“Not that it matters but I never fired James Comey because of Russia! The Corrupt Mainstream Media loves to keep pushing that narrative, but they know it is not true!”
“Look, I want to find out if there was a problem with an election having to do with Russia. Or by the way any—but—any—anybody else. Any other country. And I want that to be so strong and so good. And I want it to happen.”
And what he told the Russians in the Oval Office:
“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
For this 4th of July, with a platoon of Republicans sending holiday tweets from Russia, with love, Senators Richard Shelby (AL), John Kennedy (LA), John Hoeven (ND), Jerry Moran (KS), Steve Daines (MT), John Thune (SD), Ron Johnson (WI), and Rep. Kay Granger (TX) meeting with Sergey "you are kidding!" Lavrov, have a look at Jim Wright's view from the noisome swamp of Folly, Vice, and Madness we are mired in:
Trump says democrats are “demeaning” our “great law enforcement.”
You see it, right?
You should respect authority simply because it is authority, because it wears a uniform. Not because it is worthy of respect.
Speaking out against abuse of power is unpatriotic. Militancy is necessary, authoritarianism is necessary, oppression is necessary, for safety, for security, for the public good.
I mean you see it, don’t you?
You hear the echoes of all the worst regimes from history in that rhetoric, do you not? You can hear the tromp of jackboots and the screams from the concentration camps, can’t you? For the public good. For safety. For security.
Update: In case you didn't follow the link to all those tweets, and notice that huh, Steve Daines' looked like he was in D.C., this:
That’s a photo from last year. We know you’re in Russia. What are you doing there and why post a photo pretending you’re in the U.S.?— Myrna E (@itsreallymyrna) July 5, 2018
Google's claim to fame has always been a really, really simple user interface (except for, well, everything about Google Docs or Drive or whatever they call it today) that just did the right thing. In their Photos design, however, they did something really egregiously wrong. When photos were auto-uploaded into the cloud, they forged a link between the original and the uploaded copy. If you then deleted the copy, Google reached back into the source device (i.e., my phone) and deleted the original, too.
That might be a good thing, if you want to do that. But if you don't want to do it, sorry, there is no other option. Which seems flat-out crazy to me, to begin with, but it gets worse: if you come close to or over the cloud storage limit, Google Photos "saves space" by switching to what they call "High quality," which is to say not original quality, which is to say what Google thinks is high enough for a deadbeat like you.
The "limited free storage," shared between Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Photos is currently set at 15GB. (100GB goes for $20/year, and 1TB for $100/year, comparing sort of favorably to Amazon Prime's storage, if all you used it for was photos.) I did come close enough to the limit to have auto-uploads downgraded to "High quality," and it took me a while to realize what had happened, first of all, and then to figure out how to work around the design fault. I cleaned up duplicates that I'd already downloaded to my "permanent" desktop storage (which I back up separately), and got away from the 15GB threshold, and made room on my phone for incoming, during our June travels.
There were 2+ months where I was running in "degraded" mode, and to rescue those (without the painfully tedious one-at-a-time phone-to-desktop transfers), the key was to DISABLE GOOGLE PHOTOS on my phone, so that deleting from the Cloud would not delete originals. Maybe I could have removed the defective copies, and then turned Google Photos back on with enough space available, and re-upload April's and May's originals at full res, but maybe not, and I wasn't willing to run an experiment that might have deleted a bunch of originals. It was simpler and safer to try a different service (available at no marginal cost to me, for the moment). Hence, Prime Photos.
It has some faults, starting with a rather crazy login process for the app. Having logged in to Amazon once, it insisted I login again, and to do that, I had to satisfy a CAPTCHA, which (a) was damn hard to read and echo, and (b) was made harder still by the fact that it was on an unscrollable screen where the pop-up keyboard would cover it up. It eventually came to help from a phone agent (facilitated by a "call me" button on the Amazon site) who gave me a CAPTCHA override sequence, twice, after something still didn't work on my first try.
Hopefully I never have to login that way again.
The good news is, it does what I want, and leaves it at that:
a) upload all my photos and videos to the cloud;
b) make it easy to download my photos and videos by date grouping;
c) allow me to manage my cloud storage and phone storage independently.
Oh, and don't modify any of my stuff from "original" to "high" quality, thankyouverymuch and shouldn't that go without saying?
Google, if you're listening (and—more importantly, given that you're always listening to everything any more, aren't you?—paying useful attention) here's a better idea to managing the threshold for free/paid storage: if the customer runs out of space, DON'T UPLOAD A DEGRADED COPY OF THE PHOTO. Let them fix the problem before you create an irrevocable link between an original and a degraded copy of it.
P.S. After writing all this, it occurred to me that I never bothered to try just plugging my phone into my desktop, and do a direct transfer from the phone's filesystem. I bet that's crazy easier.
Not to put too fine a luster on Toady News, here comes "Bill Shine, a former Fox News co-president who helped create the look and feel of the channel’s conservative programming," "expected to be hired as the president’s new deputy chief of staff, overseeing communications." That seems perfect. Anything else?
"He was recommended to Mr. Trump by a mutual friend: Sean Hannity..."
Mr. Shine might as well keep the same office for his new job.
Which seems more alarming, that Don the Con "is the beneficiary of a sustained three-hour block of aggressive prime time punditry" every day, or that there are millions of credulous viewers tuned in to it?
Give them credit for one point, though: those attacks on media as the “enemy of the American people.” Fox's line-up makes a credible argument for that. Also, and this was news to me, it was Fox & Friends that gave Trump his weekly shot of attention, starting back in 2011, providing a friendly echo chamber for the Birther trope. Now, as one wag has put it, we have the full-blown MAGAphone.
Irony is not dead in this Bizarro World: Hannity's take on the special counsel's investigation is that it's a "crime family" conspiracy. Perhaps they could have Don Jr., Ivanka, and Jared to join a discussion panel on that topic. Flesh it out with Betsy DeVos and Erik Prince if need be. (Save a slot for a cameo with co-host of "The Five," Kimberly Guilfoyle, now dating Junior.)
You might think (or ok, you might not) that a retired Army officer "with an expertise in United States-Russia relations" would be kept very busy, but you would be wrong. Lt. Col. Ralph Peters (ret.) recently quit because he was "asked ever less frequently to speak about anything that touched Trump and Russia." Has there been some news involving those two? Peters succinctly assessed the network as "a propaganda machine." And props for the weirdest non sequitur in a compliment category:
Mr. Peters called Mr. Shine “a brilliant choice” for the White House. “He doesn’t spend all his day reading Milton and Dryden, but he’s very perceptive,” he said.
Thomas J. Sugrue's NYT Op-Ed: White America’s Age-Old, Misguided Obsession With Civility. In it, he quotes long-time tool of the establishment David Gergen, "adviser to every president from Nixon through Clinton," and now a commentator for CNN, "comparing the anti-Trump resistance unfavorably to 1960s protests:
“The antiwar movement in Vietnam, the civil rights movement in the ’60s and early ’70s, both of those were more civil in tone — even the antiwar movement was more civil in tone, but certainly the civil rights movement, among the people who were protesting.”
You don't say.
Gergen has a 13 year headstart on me, so he's old enough to know better. What was he smoking back then?
In the 1 minute CNN excerpt on YouTube, we hear that "we're adrift" and "on boil." People on both coasts think "Trump is totally unethical," while his base is... totally ok with that. The press is "carping," and BOTH SIDES are SO FRUSTRATED. That was his lead-up to how the civil rights movement was so much "more civil."
The urban riots entry of Wikipedia at the moment includes Rochester, Harlem, Philadelphia, Watts, Cleveland, Omaha, Newark, Plainfield, Detroit, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Chicago, D.C., Baltimore, Cleveland again.
My home town didn't make the grade, but perhaps Gergen could do a little homework and opine on the 11 nights the Youth Council spent at the home of Circuit Judge Robert Cannon in Wauwatosa, Wis. in 1966, protesting his refusal to resign his membership in the whites-only Eagles Club, or the "civil disturbance" the next summer which didn't reach riot status, because only one policeman and three civilians were killed, only one hundred-some injured, and only 1,740 arrests were made. Still, the National Guard was called out under a declared state of emergency. A month later, when NAACP Youth Council protestors occupied and vandalized the Mayor's office (he refused to meet with them), the damages "thought to exceed $3,000" seemed like a big deal.
Maybe Gergen could explain how the current situation compares to the September 11, 1967 White Power Rally on the south side, when two hundred opponents of "open housing" (not having real estate boundaries where black people need not apply) rallied, and later that evening, "more than a thousand" on one side and 650 on the other mixed it up. Only 32 people arrested that time.
I don't remember which of the 200 (!) fair housing marches led by Father James Groppi I joined with my parents. I don't imagine it was the the last one, just a month before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. I do remember singing. There is this exceptional example of civility from the time, quoted in the UWM March on Milwaukee timeline, April 8, 1968:
"While violent riots erupted in other cities across the country, the Milwaukee NAACP Youth Council and its Commando unit persuaded Milwaukeeans to honor Dr. King's nonviolent legacy by demonstrating peacefully. On Monday, April 8, 1968, fifteen thousand people of all races gathered in unity and marched through Milwaukee's Inner Core and downtown area. The march was preceded by a memorial service for King held at St. Boniface Church. This demonstration was the largest civil rights action in Milwaukee's history. For the most part it was a silent march, except for the occasional singing of the civil rights anthem "We Shall Overcome."
I was at the Idaho state capitol on Saturday, 50 years on, with a couple thousand others, peacefully protesting the horrific actions of the Trump administration separating families at the border with Mexico, a move which the president has characterized as deliberately cruel (to discourage illegal immigrants who somehow follow his Twitter feed), and as a bargaining strategy to get money from Congress for his Great Wall.
Millions of people gathered in similar demonstrations in cities across the country this weekend, and those protests were overwhelmingly peaceful.
Things did go off the rails a bit in Portland, if not to the level of calling out the National Guard, thanks to the deliberate agitation of Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys holding a "Freedom & Courage Rally," pretty much designed as an invitation to violence. "After the speeches we will march the streets where it will not be safe because it is a dangerous city," they promised in their Facebook announcement. They also complained that the police set them up for a beating from Antifa.
The deputy chief of police said they were cool with the 1st Amendment and everything, but "once projectiles, such as fireworks, eggs, rocks, bottles and construction equipment were thrown and people were injured," the party was over.
Tom von Alten