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31.Aug.2018 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Were you born in a barn? Permalink to this item

What Eugene Robinson said: "It is hard to be shocked anymore..." The hits keep coming.

"In the borderlands of southern Texas, the State Department is denying passports to hundreds and perhaps thousands of men and women who have official birth certificates demonstrating they were born in the United States."

The Washington Post reported that immigration lawyers "say there has been a dramatic surge in passport denials," based on the suspicion that maybe in spite of having an apparently valid birth certificate, it really isn't valid. A particular case involves a man who served three years in the U.S. Army, was a cadet in the Border Patrol, and now works as a Texas state prison guard.

The current administration is accusing "hundreds, and possibly thousands, of Hispanics along the border of using fraudulent birth certificates since they were babies, and it is undertaking a widespread crackdown."

Imagine having to provide "additional documentation" establishing where you were born. Maybe while you're in a detention center. Or in another country and denied re-entry. Evidence of your mother's prenatal care? Your baptismal certificate? Rental agreements from when you were a baby? Attorney Jaime Diez in Brownsville told the Post "in some cases, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have arrived at his clients' homes without notice and taken passports away."

"The denials are happening at a time when Trump has been lobbying for stricter federal voter identification rules, which would presumably affect the same people who are now being denied passports — almost all of them Hispanic, living in a heavily Democratic sliver of Texas.

“That’s where it gets scary,” Diez said.

"For now, passport applicants who are able to afford the legal costs are suing the federal government over their passport denials. Typically, the applicants eventually win those cases, after government attorneys raise a series of sometimes bizarre questions about their birth.

“For a while, we had attorneys asking the same question: ‘Do you remember when you were born?’ ” Diez said. “I had to promise my clients that it wasn’t a trick question.”

Not a trick question? No one "remembers" when they were born. Everyone relies on someone else to produce a document, or tell them.

28.Aug.2018 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Old man yells at TV Permalink to this item

It's not exactly news, except when the doddering grampa is somehow occupying the White House and barking mad at 5:30 in the morning, it does garner some commentary. Says there, it seems some b.s. from PJ Media lit him up, so appropriately enough for his early morning Executive Time. As if he weren't strange enough to begin with, it seems that the president wanted to rewrite his timeline, too. The original tweeets were time stamped 5:30, and... deleted. And replaced at 7am. Apparently with no changes.

Economic advisor Larry Kudlow says we'll take a look at that, maybe this is the one thing that we still need to regulate.

Of course I had to try Googling "Trump News" for myself. Top row, CNN something, Fox News something about CNN, and this, from USA Today: Billboard for new documentary calls Trump an 'idiot,' sparks outrage in New Jersey town.

That seems to be working normally.

Doddering grampa also made news when word of his off the hook meeting with evangelical leaders showed up in the New York Times, replete with absurd fabulations and the threat of fire and fury the likes of which the world has never seen if—is it too soon to say "when"?—Republicans lose control of Congress.

When the Democrat overlords arrive, a catalog of more than 100 investigations to giddy-up has been helpfully assembled by the Republicans. That's more than one per evangelical leader that got treated to the private harangue and bad advice about the so-called Johnson amendment.

26.Aug.2018 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Who's got religion? Permalink to this item

Good Sunday morning, that once a week when we (might) give a thought to bettering our behavior, a dollop of contrition on the pancakes before visiting a house of worship. Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe provides food for thought in the midweek NYT piece examining the question of the moment, When Is an Offense Impeachable? This:

“The felonies of which Cohen, in statements that were self-incriminating and thus particularly trustworthy, accused his former client, the president, didn’t literally involve bribery,” he said, referring to Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former lawyer, “but certainly involved criminal conduct designed to reduce the risk that disclosure of his extramarital affairs and dalliances on the eve of the election would cost him the votes he ended up needing in places like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.”

It seems more certain that could have mattered in the upper midwest of my half-century old memories, but then the adults that populated it would never have voted the bounder into office in the first place. Manufacturing was the heart of the working class. Unions were at their peak strength. I see here that Wisconsin went with Nixon every chance it got, and got suckered into the Reagan wagon train, but before 2016, it had gone blue 7 straight.

In the wrong track election of 2016, didn't we know enough awful things about Trump from the get-go, that first slide on the de-escalator, and on down into the sub-basement through summer and to the fall?

We did. But we also learned that there is a narrow tipping point for mob incitement, for racism, for misogyny, for political dirty tricks, and the newer subject of Russian monkeywrenching. We still have more to learn about those.

With 2 years' more experience, we really have no idea whether "disclosure of his extramarital affairs and dalliances" would have been a plus, a minus, or a "meh" among his so-called base. They shook off a hell of a lot.

We pretty much know what Tricky Dick did that led him to resigning before being impeached (and like as not convicted). Likewise Tawdry Bill, who did stick it out to get acquitted. And here's the thing: we know more than enough about what the Flaming Orange Narcissist did to know it far exceeds the high and low crimes of his impeachable predecessors. But we have enough congressman and women still convinced they can get something out of going along with the gag that we're not ready to seal the deal. After the midterms... the questions will be more interesting.

How fitting that John McCain's death makes the razor-thin margin in the Senate more tenuous than ever. Any one or two Republican senators have the power to change everything. (If not to tip an impeachment trial to conviction: that requires a two-thirds majority, a significant measure of bipartisan consensus.)

It might not be a Sunday, but when the D.C. elite gather for McCain's send-off in the National Cathedral, and Mike Pence gets another opportunity to act presidential, while the current president* goes golfing, or whatever, minds may wander from the rafters to future responsibilities, and the judgment of history.

22.Aug.2018 Permanent URL to this day's entry

You have claims paperwork. Best be sitting down Permalink to this item

Regular readers may recall the post from the last day of last month, Gesundheit, but probably not, because OMG what a month, eh. Anyway, if you don't care to review, that was about my first "well adult exam" in a long time, and what 50 minutes' worth of medical-industrial complex felt like to someone who hasn't been inside much, lately.

Two of three resulting insurance claims have been processed, and posted for my review. The items in myChart looked like duplicates, maybe, and so I read the first one thinking it might be the whole deal. $287.00, that seems like a lot, for what, an hour? (50 minutes, I said.) But lab tests and stuff, so maybe that's reasonable enough. "Total member responsibility" $0, so yay.

But wait, there's more! The other item was not a duplicate, but additional charges for that same 50 minutes (and stuff): $522.11. From the doctor. Again, member responsibility $0.

Screenshot from Regence myChart

And in the way of "cost containment," the insurance did not pay the whole $809.11 St. Lukes and its partner doctor requested for my one-hour give-and-take physical, it pared the payout to $458.50 for the doc, and $150.53 for ST LUKES REG MED CENTER, "only" $609.03, a 25% "savings" you might say.

The myChart database does not expose any medical details that I could see. There were test results that had previously flitted by... all good, from what I could deciper, including this just in from Exact Sciences, OCCULT BLOOD X 1, STOOL - Negative. (There were two of those, seeming duplicates to my eye.) The claim from Exact Sciences Laboratories LLC is still "processing," but I anticipate $0 member responsibility for that, too, it being way cheaper (to say nothing of more convenient) than a colonoscopy, and supposedly as good as.

No need for me to trouble about procedure and billing codes. In short, I have nothing to complain about. My avoided bills are less than two months' premium these days, so the insurance company has nothing to complain about. The doctor and everybody I interacted with at the clinic seemed in good spirits, and it seems they're well-compensated. Don't worry, be happy. (Which is also better for your health.)

I have health insurance, so I didn't just get a bill for $809.11 (plus whatever Exact Sciences Laboratories LLC is going to bill for their work). We are not among the 4 in 10 adults who, "if faced with an unexpected expense of $400, would either not be able to cover it or would cover it by selling something or borrowing money." (The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2017 - May 2018 goes on to say that "This is an improvement from half of adults in 2013 being ill-prepared for such an expense.")

Update, 8/29: The bill from Exact Sciences was $649.00. Insurance paid $508.87, "member responsibility" $0. So, my 50 minute visit and tests added up to $1,458.11 billed (pending anything for the shingles vaccine, still on backorder a month later), and $1,117.90 paid. 23% "off" for having insurance.

21.Aug.2018 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Ok, it's a somethingburger Permalink to this item

Even before we get to that June, 2016 "it was about adoptions" meeting with the Russians. So many takes, it's hard to know where to start. Oh, how about David Corn:

"I'm waiting for all those Republicans who thought Bill Clinton should be impeached for lying about sex to weigh in on what to do about a president who allegedly conspired to violate federal law to hide a sex scandal."

Hush-money payments made to the would-be president's liaisons dangereuses, yes, “at the direction of the candidate,” “for the principal purpose of influencing the election.” What Dan Pfeiffer said:

"Amidst all the noise, the pleas, the convictions, the split screens, etc, here's what matters -- Michael Cohen stood in court and said that the President of the United States directed him to commit a crime."

In other news, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort found guilty of 8 charges in fraud trial (and a mistrial declared in the other 10, so do-over on those?). 5 counts of tax fraud (3 years max), 2 counts of bank fraud (30 years max), failing to file a foreign bank account (5 years max).

this is what happens when you touch the orb

— Sarah McLaughlin (@sarahemclaugh) August 21, 2018

How's POTWEETOH going to get on top of the news cycle? He's got a rally in Charleston, West Virginia. Live pardon of Manafort?

"Upon arriving in West Virginia, Trump told reporters it was very sad what had happened to Manafort and noted that it had nothing to do with Russian collusion. Trump did not respond to questions about Cohen."

Tap into the live stream if you dare. Just now, there's a warm-up act assuring us that Trump "is exactly who he says he is." OMG.

The dominant theme of the Trump years: He is what he seems to be. The people around him? They are as they appear. What's going on? Just what it looks like. It's all right there. It's just taking everyone a long time to believe/accept that it is what it is.

— David Roberts (@drvox) August 21, 2018

(Back in West Va., the Governor set up a chant by bringing up the Nutty Professor. Not making this up.)

But let's give John Dean the last word, while they iron out their audio difficulties.

BIG DAY: We have learned that we have a criminal President of the United States, who was elected by deceiving the American people. And a man who does not respect the foundation of our nation — the rule of law.

— John Dean (@JohnWDean) August 21, 2018

19.Aug.2018 Permanent URL to this day's entry

"Much ado about nothing" Permalink to this item

Apparently, Rudy is still coming up to speed and so we should cut him slack for saying things that are so demonstrably untrue. And jaw-droppingly stupid. As reported in the New York Times in July—2017—Rob Goldstone's June 3, 2016 email to Don Jr.:

"Emin [Agalarov, one of Russia’s biggest pop music stars] just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting.

"The Crown [sic] prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.

"This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump - helped along by Aras and Emin.

"What do you think is the best way to handle this information and would you be able to speak to Emin about it directly?

Donnie got right back to Rob. 17 minutes later, the famous "if it's what you say I love it especially later in the summer" reply, sent from his iPhone.

How do we know all this? Because Junior shared it with the world on Twitter, imagining (stupidly, you have to say) that it was exculpatory.

The subject of the original email that caught Junior's eye was Russia - Clinton - private and confidential.

Thirteen months and a couple weeks later, the president's? lawyer? on Meet the Press:

"She didn't represent the Russian government! She's a private citizen. I don't even know if they knew she was a Russian at the time. All they had was her name. ..."

Ignorance is strength Permalink to this item

Former America's Mayor and current Bad Lawyer Joke Set-up Man Rudy Giuliani won the internet today with his appearance on Meet the Press, and a line that would make Bill Clinton blush: "Truth isn't truth."

CHUCK TODD: This is going to become a bad meme.

RUDY GIULIANI: Don’t do, don’t do this to me.

CHUCK TODD: Don’t do truth isn’t truth to me.

RUDY GIULIANI: Donald Trump says I didn’t talk about Flynn with Comey. Comey says you did talk about it, so tell me what the truth is.

Oo, I can help. The truth is Donald Trump did talk about Flynn with Comey, because that is exactly who Trump is. We have the documented contemporaneous account of the Director of the FBI, shared with others in the Bureau at the time.

Other than that, in the he said/he said contest, how can we tell whom to believe? Well... which man has made a career out of lying? And which man has made a career out of law enforcement?

RUDY GIULIANI: No, we have, we have, no, no, no, let me finish. We have a credibility gap between the two of them. You’ve got to select one or the other.

Exactly. An ENORMOUS credibility gap.

Right now, even Pontius Pilate is facepalming this one.

— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) August 19, 2018

18.8.18 Permanent URL to this day's entry

What is happening Permalink to this item

Paul Manafort's jury started deliberating this week... and then had the weekend off, unsequestered. Were they instructed to steer clear of talking about the trial with friends, family, press, Russians? Stay away from the news? TV? Social media? Dunno. Do know the judge said he's received threats and said he fears for the "peace and safety" of the jurors, and he doesn't intend to make their names public when the trial is over. Look both ways before crossing the street.

The judge has U.S. marshals looking after him.

For his part, the president was barking sad out on the south lawn on his way to another weekend of helicopter rides, emoluments, and golf. And making up "national security" nonsense to work his way down his enemies list.

CNN screenshot from Friday

“I think the whole Manafort trial is very sad. When you look at what’s going on there, I think it’s a very sad day for our country. He worked for me for a very short period of time. And you know what? He happens to be a very good person. I think it’s very sad what they’ve done to Paul Manafort.”

The attacks on the Russia probe coming at him mirror his anxiety, no doubt. The media are watching and reporting on the "exaggerated, misleading and flat-out false claims" emanating from Lord Orange, and you won't be surprised to see they're ramping up.

Daniel Dale of the Toronto Star noted a week ago Thursday that the president had shattered his previous dishonesty record (set in June): 132 false claims on a week, 280 for the month of July. The "usual exaggerations" and some "major new lies about a startling variety of subjects."

Toronto Star histogram of Trump's false claims, by week

And hey, look who's talking: presidential counsel Don McGahn. Says there he's "cooperated extensively with Mueller's obstruction inquiry," prompting POTWEETOH to falsely claim the sentence fragment "Most transparent in history."

17.Aug.2018 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The other Agent Orange Permalink to this item

That's the 50/50 mix of the herbicides 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) and 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T), which the US used in chemical warfare to defoliate some 12,000 square miles of Vietnam, along with some overspray in Laos and Cambodia back in the day. Apart from the (intended) defoliation, it was problematic for the mutagenic properties of the dioxin contaminant in 2,4,5-T, mostly on the indigenous population, but also some of our military personnel.

Living in the age of reality TV, this comes to us through the lens of Francis Ford Coppola, the closest our draft-dodging president came to the war (not counting his battle with venereal disease, that is). Early in his reign, he put his memory of "events" up against actual veterans' for some strange reason, in a pissing contest between A.O. and that older chemical weapon, jellied gasoline.

It's back in the news thanks to Omarosa Manigault Newman's new season, and the flashback to when she was momentarily on point for the White House on veterans' issues. (She was a chaplain with the California State Military Reserve once.) Eric Levitz bundles it up in the Daily Intelligencer.

"In the many months since this encounter, the president has matched his failure to do right by Vietnam veterans on the minor matter of respecting their superior recall of Apocalypse Now, with betrayals on issues of greater import. On the controversy over privatization of the VA, Trump has allowed three of his golf buddies to override the preferences of most veterans organizations — going so far as to force the ouster of a VA chief who refused to prioritize the wishes of Mar-a-Lago members over those of American servicemen and women. Meanwhile, the administration is finalizing plans to weaken enforcement of the Military Lending Act, which bars predatory lenders from duping financially desperate veterans into usurious loans."

The good news is that local officials in D.C. managed to convince Art O'Deal they were going to take him to the cleaners, and so he should go somewhere else for his military parade. Vive la France!

Enemies list Permalink to this item

Adm. William H. McRaven (ret.): "I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency."

"A good leader tries to embody the best qualities of his or her organization. A good leader sets the example for others to follow. A good leader always puts the welfare of others before himself or herself."

The statement is brief, and delivered with military precision. The embed video clip, less than a minute of the admiral speaking at UT-Austin, brings up this "enemy of the people" meme that Agent Orange has been working lately to distract from the investigation of his collusion with a foreign power in the 2018 election.

Maybe you saw some of the 300+ nationwide editorials on that subject? If not, here's CNN's selection of 16 of them.

Yesterday, the US Senate agreed to S.Res. 607 by unanimous consent, reaffirming "the vital and indispensable role that the free press serves to inform the electorate, uncover the truth, act as a check on the inherent power of the government, further national discourse and debate, and otherwise advance the most basic and cherished democratic norms and freedoms of the United States."

Oh, and on the topic of security clearances, there's this:

Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian AND lying about literally being a secret Turkish lobbyist.


— jordan (@JordanUhl) August 17, 2018

13.Aug.2018 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Just the fax, ma'am Permalink to this item

Last time I needed to send a fax was... just last week, oddly. Before that, it was pretty much forever ago. Our old phone line doesn't play "phone" anymore, just DSL, although if we did have phone service, our all-in-one printer could act like a fax. But who needs it?

When I did, I looked up how to send a fax by internet, and settled on one of the free services, which might have worked, but how would I know? No sign of results from the vendor, but it could be one of those "allow 4 weeks for delivery" things, given that they're doing business with fax. If I get an indication that it worked, I'll tell you who it was. Also, are my data secure? Ha ha, why would they be? But it was just this once, maybe I'll be fine.

All the instructions that start with "simply plug a phone line into your PC" are not so simple, eh. I see PCMag has a review of the best online fax services of 2018, if I'd wanted to pay. 3 to 12 cents per page? I had two pages. Where's the slot for my quarter?

But on the same day I'm reading about a bunch of people in a nearby city getting sick because the backflow preventer between their subdivision's non-potable irrigation water and potable water was put in backwards, there's this piece about a code exploit that allows malware in (and your stuff out) through an all-in-one and a phone line. I'm thinking english is not their first language, so let me rewrite their headline, and lede:

Your fax machine could be a backdoor for malware. Fax is still in surprisingly wide use today. All-in-one printers connected to a phone line, and to home or corporate networks with Ethernet, WiFi, Bluetooth, etc. can leave your systems exposed to malware, and your data vulnerable to theft.

They describe their "long and tedious research" in more detail than I was prepared to follow, but not quite giving away the essence of the recipe for free.

Something to think about the next time your all-in-one says it's got a firmware update ready: you should probably say yes.

Image from Checkpoint Research

Morning brief Permalink to this item

You mean it's not really that popular?
YouTube stats for sale. Call it... #FakeViews.

Beijing is trying to up the birth rate, after decades of restrictions. What the People's Daily editorial board said, according to the Irish Times: “To put it bluntly, the birth of a baby is not only a matter of the family itself, but also a state affair.”

Don't get cute with us.
"We are rabid Americans, so we believe that our industry should remain in our country." Some die-hard fans are questioning the loyalty of an iconic brand. And Sturgis, in a nutshell: "It's like a pilgrimage of misfits."

Waiting for the end of the world
In other rust belt news, morale at Carrier is through the floor, due to "a looming sense that a factory shutdown is inevitable." Or maybe it's because "the company has been running the factory hard—up to 60 hours a week with mandatory overtime, six days in a row."

"WTF. How could I be blindsided by this."
The man with the ostrich jacket, when his biggest problem was his tax bill for 2014. "Like nearly everyone else hired by the campaign, Mr. Manafort was not vetted." The rise and fall.

New item for the shopping list
Bulletproof backpack inserts. Made in the USA. Also, intruder-resistant glass.

It's nice to be recognized sometimes
Even Anonymous Coders Leave Fingerprints. And get this: "it's possible to de-anonymize a programmer using only their compiled binary code."

12.Aug.2018 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Air conditioner fixed Permalink to this item

For the moment, anyway. After some pleasant high clouds took the edge off the sun through the morning, we still climbed up into triple digits yesterday, but not as far. Overnight, the "regular" 40°F drop was heavenly, and the humidity popped up to 50%, just where we were 7 days ago.

NWS data

Idaho Fire Incident Map Update: I thought of pointing out the humidity lows, matching the temperature highs. See there 10% and lower during the day, and only up to 30% the last several nights. That's how you spell F-I-R-E S-E-A-S-O-N, which has been in the news a lot lately, what with California's smoke spreading across the country. We've had our share of that smoke, but no big fires in our immediate vicinity. But it depends on how you define "vicinity." My friend in the NIFC mentioned one new one started: the Goose Rapids Fire, 21 miles south of Lewiston, burning up the grass on the Idaho side of Hells Canyon. 600 acres (so far), but "small" fires can go big quickly in this kind of weather.

"Critical fire weather conditions are expected again today. Very hot temperatures in the 90s to 100s and red flag warnings are in effect until 8pm, with sustaining west winds of 10-20 mph.

"Seven engines, two bulldozers, two hand crews are on scene. Approximately ten aircraft including one Air Attack, three helicopters, two Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs), and four large air tankers will continue suppression of the fire and logistically support the ground resources."

11.Aug.2018 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Consumer protection is so outdated Permalink to this item

The president of Career Education Colleges and Universities, the for-profit industry’s trade association says the problems have all been fixed, thanks to the Obama administration's accountability measures, and the "implosions" of ITT Technical Institute and Corinthian Colleges, along with more than 2,000 for-profit and career programs.

“The other side should declare victory and go home,” he said. “The reality is every school that has a program that was failing gainful employment metrics — and they knew it couldn’t be fixed — they’ve already closed. The sector today is so much better.”

We can stipulate "better" and still want an independent assessment. The Secretary of Education has made a hobby career out of advocating privatizing schools for fun and profit, never mind results, and a plan to rescind existing regulations and rewrite some new ones later is a pig in a poke. Speaking of which, this, in Erica L. Green's report for the New York Times:

"Ms. DeVos has brought into her administration former for-profit leaders who are known for their strong opposition to the industry’s regulation.

"Ethics filings show that Diane Auer Jones, a senior adviser on postsecondary education, lobbied against funding the rule while working for an operator of for-profit schools, Career Education Corporation. Another top-ranking official, Robert S. Eitel, who joined the department from a for-profit operator, Bridgepoint Education Inc., when it faced multiple government investigations. Mr. Eitel, who has also opposed the gainful employment regulations, recused himself from weighing in on the rule."

This on top of 18 state attorneys general suing the department for delaying its enforcement of existing rules.

10.Aug.2018 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It's not the humidity, it's the heat Permalink to this item

Second day running record temperatures here for the date. We'd cleared the bar (105°F, set in 1986) by 2:15 pm MDT (which is right about solar noon at 116.24°W). Kept going, up to 109° just after 5pm. And our overnight air conditioning is out of whack. Last night's low only down to the mid-70s, probably not getting that cool tonight.

Temperature graph

Started the day comfortably cool, anyhow, splashing around Lucky Peak Reservoir on my sailboard, on the best morning wind of this year. In Chris Lee's quickie data-graphic, the dashed line at 18 mph is the fun threshold for our particular gear. 18 to 25 gusting to 30 is very good, from dawn to a little after 9am.

Wind graph from today

9.Aug.2018 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Maybe he thought it was Noah Permalink to this item

This just in, the so far unindicted U.S. Secretary of Commerce issued a statement "direct[ing] the National Marine Fisheries Service to facilitate access to the water needed to fight the ongoing wildfires affecting the State of California." In keeping with POTWEETOH's recent non sequitur about how California is letting "vast amounts of water" be "diverted into the Pacific Ocean."

Fisheries, Commerce, I can see that connection. But who knew the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is part of Commerce too? SecComm says "NOAA satellites [are] providing vital weather information and National Weather Service employees [are] providing on the scene information to fire officials," which, sure, has been part of their job since Hector was a pup. Anything else? This directive:

"Consistent with the emergency consultation provisions under the [Endangered Species Act], Federal agencies may use any water as necessary to protect life and property in the affected areas. Based on this directive, NOAA will facilitate the use of water for this emergency. Going forward, the Department and NOAA are committed to finding new solutions to address threatened and endangered species in the context of the challenging water management situation in California."

NOAA Fisheries works to protect endangered species. But water management? Well, digging around that site, I do find that the 2018 Water Management Plan of the Bonneville Power Administration, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which talks about how they "consulted with NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the effects of operating the 14 Federal multi-purpose hydropower projects in the Federal Columbia River Power System on fish species listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act," so they're in the mix. But they don't manage the water.

CBS in Sacramento explains that "NOAA’s fisheries operation oversees many critical portions of California’s water infrastructure, including the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project. It also handles endangered species consultations in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta." BuRec operates the Central Valley Project and half a dozen dams.

Local officials are perplexed by the idiocy of the administration's "helpful" suggestions. (It's like the president says, "Think of California with plenty of Water – Nice!" Except... it would probably get even more crowded, you know.)

They also aren't making plans for having "plenty of Water"; the 450 square mile Mendocino Complex fire is now the largest in state history. (The previous record was set just eight months ago, in southern California.)

"California’s firefighting costs have more than tripled from $242 million in the 2013 fiscal year to $773 million in the 2018 fiscal year that ended June 30, according to Cal Fire.

“We’re in uncharted territory,” Gov. Jerry Brown warned last week. “Since civilization emerged 10,000 years ago, we haven’t had this kind of heat condition, and it’s going to continue getting worse. That’s the way it is.”

The effects of climate change are just getting started.

7.Aug.2018 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Like you like me Permalink to this item

I'm reading about controversy
there was intense criticism, and
I'm already indisposed, a little headache
and I'm wondering if impersonation is just over.

Some advice for someone who tried it was
"don't even try it." "Know your lane."

Know your memes, too. "It's a trap."
Something fishy about that,
but Akbar was on the right side,
the white uniform, don't you know.

I was a poetry editor once,
my job was mostly saying "no,"
or "huh." I remember saying "yes!" once.
A real poet wandered by
and blew my socks off.

Choose your words carefully
enough to stand behind them
when they come for you.

6.Aug.2018 Permanent URL to this day's entry

We could have saved the planet Permalink to this item

My bumblebee photo

A friend invited us to visit the Orma J. Smith Museum of Natural History at the College of Idaho in Caldwell last weekend, prompted by my photo swarm of bees in lavendar shared on Facebook recently. They have a big collection of bees, and I could maybe identify some of the not-sure ones I'd seen? It was the monthly workday, which includes a noon seminar on a topic of interest. This month's speaker was Dr. Patrick Fields of Olivet College and the museum's director of paleontology and geology, and research associate in paleobotany.

We came in through the sort-of back door as it happened, and the first person we met in and amongst the towering sample cabinets and occasional stuffed musk ox was none other than Pat, puttering in the middle Miocene fossil floras from the Western Snake River Plain of western Idaho and eastern Oregon that he's been digging up, breaking apart and studying since he was an graduate student. I was acquainted with some of the northern Idaho fossil finds, and I guess it's not too surprising to find out that before the last neighborhood orogeny, there were redwoods growing where Boise is now, but still: to poke my nose into a fossilized leaf set in blue ash gave a thrill.

Pat comes out to Idaho from Michigan for part of the summer to carry on his field work, and August is traditionally his month to give the seminar. He said was worried about boring people by always talking about his primary passion, so this year, he picked a general interest topic: "A Look at the Evidence for Climate Change Throughout Time—and why what's happening now should be of concern."

I could have learned a lot I didn't know about middle Miocene fossil floras; as it happens, the talk about climate change was notable mostly in that I was pretty familiar with all of what he had to say. Reading this week's New York Times Magazine special feature explained why. From the Prologue of Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change:

"Nearly everything we understand about global warming was understood in 1979. By that year, data collected since 1957 confirmed what had been known since before the turn of the 20th century: Human beings have altered Earth’s atmosphere through the indiscriminate burning of fossil fuels. The main scientific questions were settled beyond debate, and as the 1980s began, attention turned from diagnosis of the problem to refinement of the predicted consequences."

"[I]t might not be too late to preserve some semblance of the world as we know it."

In spite of a remarkably effective propaganda campaign to sow doubt and confusion, continuing with a variety of useful and disingenuous idiots to this day, the main questions remain settled, and the inferences and predictions made 30 and 40 years ago are being proved correct.

A few of the characters in the story are familiar; others were new to me, and all are carefully placed into the puzzle of what just happened. One who takes on an outsized role in sabotaging efforts to do something about the problem, in Nathaniel Rich's telling, is former NH Governor and George H.W. Bush's Chief of Staff John Sununu. Most generously, Sununu applied his personal incredulity and butt-headedness to tip the balance toward our human propensity for ignoring consequences too far removed from the present moment, especially if they cost us inconvenience of any sort. Fate just happened to put him in the way at the ripest opportunity for all of the countries in the world to agree on action in late 1989.

Did he have any second thoughts? None that made it to print.

"When I asked John Sununu about his part in this history — whether he considered himself personally responsible for killing the best chance at an effective global-warming treaty — his response echoed [the German physicist-philosopher Klaus] Meyer-Abich [who "argued that any global agreement would inevitably favor the most minimal action"]. “It couldn’t have happened,” he told me, “because, frankly, the leaders in the world at that time were at a stage where they were all looking how to seem like they were supporting the policy without having to make hard commitments that would cost their nations serious resources.” He added, “Frankly, that’s about where we are today.”

Except today is 0.6°C warmer, and we're 30 years deeper into this slow-motion catastrophe, with political polarization driven by climate-induced refugee crises, and a self-obsessed Manchurean president who thinks he's a negotiating genius. Anti-science denial is more set in stone than ever. (Sununu had "a rudimentary, one-dimensional general circulation model" installed on his late-80s vintage PC, and had decided that "the models promoted by Jim Hansen were a lot of bunk." Hansen at that point had "ten years’ experience in terrestrial climate studies and more than 10 years’ experience in the exploration and study of other planetary atmospheres.")

It's a long read for the web, but the inserted imagery from George Steinmetz breaks it up. It was a long read in print, too, but well worth the time. Highly recommended.

5.Aug.2018 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Something very interesting Permalink to this item

Who says Sunday has to be a slow news day? Not the @realDonaldTrump! He lit up the airwaves this morning with this remarkable tweet:

Fake News reporting, a complete fabrication, that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower. This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics - and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 5, 2018

and hilarity ensued. A sampling.

Derp Digler: That time when he admitted his kid colluded with a foreign power to influence our elections

Palmer Report: Donald Trump's day so far:
- He’s been melting down for hours
- Admits Trump Tower meeting with Russia was “to get information on an opponent”
- Trump just sent himself and Don Jr to prison
- Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow may go down for obstruction of justice
- It’s still only 10am

Ben Rhodes: I'm old enough to remember when this meeting with Kremlin agents was about adoption.

Amy Siskind: Lest we forget Donald Jr had dinner with indicted Russian spy Maria Butina and her handler Alexander Torshin at an @NRA event in May 2016, weeks before June 9 Trump Tower meeting.

Glenn Kessler: Don't forget: Hope Hicks, after a Russian government official was quoted as saying the Russians had contact with members of Trump's entourage before the election: “It never happened. There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign.”

(The same former White House communications director Hope Hicks spotted boarding Air Force One at a New Jersey airport ahead of the president's flight to go campaign in Ohio a couple days ago? Yup. Bill Palmer's got an interesting think piece wondering who's she batting for now?)

Josh Marshall: Hearing a lot of people saying we’ve arrived at the “I am not a crook” phase of Trump/Russia. More like “being a crook is not a crime!”

And a reminder of the year-later drop of campaign emails about the meeting, including this inimitable one from Rob Goldstone, "entertainment publicist":

On Jun 3, 2016, at 10:36 AM, Rob Goldstone wrote:

Good morning

Emin [Agalarov] just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting.

The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.

This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump - helped along by Aras and Emin.

What do you think is the best way to handle this information and would you be able to speak to Emin about it directly?

I can also send this info to your father via Rhona, but it is ultra sensitive so wanted to send to you first.

Rob Goldstone

And in sports news, the First Lady released a statement:

"It looks like LeBron James is working to do good things on behalf of our next generation and just as she always has, the First Lady encourages everyone to have an open dialogue about issues facing children today. As you know, Mrs. Trump has traveled the country and world talking to children about their well-being, healthy living, and the importance of responsible online behavior with her Be Best initiative. Her platform centers around visiting organizations, hospitals and schools, and she would be open to visiting the I Promise School in Akron."

Update: This news news item, on the precarious moments in presidency: Privately brooding and publicly roaring.

We're not even talking about how he's campaigning as much as working, or how an "11-day working vacation" at "his New Jersey golf estate" is epic grifting. Rudy Giuliani is still a topic of conversation, though. Trump's personal attorney says his client "doesn’t think they have anything, and he wants the country to move on."

Doesn't think they have anything? Au contraire, mon frère! The hits just keep coming.

Update #2: Adam Davidson, for the New Yorker, The Day Trump Told Us There Was Attempted Collusion with Russia, reminds us that it was 44 years ago today, August 5, that Dick Nixon gave up the smoking gun tape and sealed his fate. Today's smoking gun shoots these bullet points:

And the question at the bottom of it: What do we do when a President has openly admitted to attempted collusion, lying, and a coverup?

4.Aug.2018 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Credit where due Permalink to this item

While I was reading this NYT piece about Mueller’s Digging Exposes Culture of Foreign Lobbying and Its Big Paydays, Jeanette noted that there's some swamp-draining going on, and the president should get some credit for that.

Author's photo, 2018

Who knew the Foreign Agents Registration Act has been sitting around for 50 years with not much to do? Just seven cases pursued from 1966-2015, and now it turns out to be quite useful for surfing "the waves of foreign money washing through American politics." Deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein promised stepped up enforcement just a couple weeks ago, when the indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers and Maria Butina were freshly dropped. With the 2016 election influence "just one tree in a growing forest," there's plenty of work to do. (That was before the Helsinki meet-up plumbed the murky depth we're in; time flies.)

"The Justice Department report identified five types of foreign influence operations intended to harm the American political system, including attacks on voting infrastructure, theft and weaponization of data, secret assistance of politicians in damaging their opponents, the spreading of false information and propaganda, and unlawful lobbying efforts."

Meanwhile, my Saturday morning read was off in a different (if related) direction: the president's topsy turvy whining about "unfairness" and "What That Means For The Rest Of Us" as NPR's subhead for Domenico Montanaro's analysis put it. It doesn't strain credulity so much as irony. Poor little rich kid who skidded into home with a Russian tailwind, a draft-dodging "invalid" giving a commencement address to cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy last year.

"No politician in history — and I say this with great surety — has been treated worse or more unfairly. You can't let them get you down. You can't let the critics and the naysayers get in the way of your dreams. I guess that's why I ... I guess that's why we won."

Really, you guess that's why? That was May of last year, barely 100 days into the job, and apparently before he locked down the channel changer to Fox News.

"His sense of fairness, or unfairness, really, has driven him, his rise in politics — and his priorities for the country. He has capitalized on grievance, especially that of white Americans chafing at the culture of a demographically changing country, and has expressed his view of what's unfair — everything from trade and immigration to the court system, Obamacare's individual coverage mandate, the IRS, the plight of political allies and, of course, the news media."

The media, uniquely positioned in our Constitution, is working overtime to shine a light into the swamp, and it's having a beneficial effect overall, even as it takes a toll on the people doing the work.

Showing up, rally after rally, being put in cages (shades of children at the border) and used as a prop for malicious incitement of spluttering mobs is no small thing.

3.Aug.2018 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Basher al Atrump Permalink to this item

The revised commandments

The First Daughter is now on record, "I do not feel that the media is the enemy of the people." The president's press secretary, speaking for her boss, and for herself could not bring herself to do that much. realPOTWEETOH tweeted that his daughter's answer was "correct," and that it was "the FAKE NEWS, which is a large percentage of the media, that is the enemy of the people!"

He waves his stubby hands in the general direction of all of them, and is very pleased with himself campaigning, ever campaigning, amplifying "fake, fake disgusting" and feeding off the drooling mob's responsive boos, jeers and laughing. They love his good relations with dictators.

"Outside Washington — where his former campaign chairman is on trial for fraud and the special counsel is scrutinizing his Twitter activity — the president was at ease in front of an adoring crowd waving American flags and wearing Trump-branded apparel. Here, with supporters that included followers of QAnon and a Santa Claus, he controlled the narrative."

The press quietly tabulates as he fabulates, and the base does not care. They love his lies. They love that lying is now OK.

"As for the Ukraine amendment, excellent work." Permalink to this item

That's the title of chapter 12 of Russian Roulette, a quote from Carter Page to his handler in the Trump campaign, J.D. Gordon, July, 2016. One of our local characters shows up in the narrative. ICYMI, before Michael Flynn's famous "LOCK HER UP" speech, and Mike Pence's vowing that Trump would "stand with our allies," and Jeff Sessions and others hob-nobbing with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and then Trump's NYT interview saying honoring our treaty obligation to the NATO alliance depended on us being "properlty reimbursed," there was the GOP platform committee, and veteran Texas GOP activist Diana Denman's amendment condemning "Russia's ongoing military aggression in Ukraine."

"Her measure called for maintaining and possibly intensifying sanctions against Russia. And it proposed 'providing lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine's Armed Forces.'..."

which was more than the Obama administration had done, but in line with "the view of almost all Republican foreign policy leaders in Washington," as Josh Rogin put it for the Washington Post, reporting on the platform committee's doings. (Trump campaign guts GOP’s anti-Russia stance on Ukraine, July 18, 2016)

"Immediately, Denman could tell something was wrong. Two men who were watching from the side quickly stood up and and headed over to Steve Yates, the head of the Idaho GOP who was co-chairing the national security subcommittee, and began discussing the language of her amendment."

The two men were J.D. Gordon, and someone else from the Trump campaign who told Denman the wording would have to be "cleared" with "New York." Gordon had Yates put the brakes on the proceedings, and "a new version of the amendment was crafted and approved," omitting the call for supplying weapons to Ukraine.

Yates has turned up on my blog here and there, for example in December, 2016, when we learned that half of our Electoral College Electors (that he was responsible for putting on the ballot, as state party chair) turned out not to be actually eligible.

Yates tried to parlay his work in Idaho, for the NSA, and for V.P. Dick Cheney to the Lieutenant Governor's chair this year, but came up second in a 5-way primary, losing to Janice McGeachin, an undistinguished, self-term limited legislator from eastern Idaho, who has been reliably Republican, mostly, but with a powerful dollop of Braveheart, as captured in an intimate campaign talk with the Bard of American Redoubt. It's "time we reclaim our heritage and we fight back" against the federal budget supplying 35% of the state's budget.

1.Aug.2018 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Who is this, REALLY? Permalink to this item

The Special Counsel's team is not getting a summer recess, and with the Manafort trial underway, el Presidente's "real" Twitter feed has been LIT UP the last couple of days. Today's barrage includes an attempt to provide a character witness for the accused by name-dropping "Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and many other highly prominent and respected political leaders," in the middle of a sporadic three-hour spray (so far): 9:03........ .....9:15.... 9:24 ..9:34 10:01 11:35 11:56 EDT.

The sentence structure is not Donald Trump's own. Is it Stephen Miller writing these things? The last in the series quotes Marc Thiessen, who writes op-eds for the Washington Post these days. It took two tries, after the gun came out "smocking" at first. Wikipedia helpfully informs that Thiessen was a speechwriter for GWB and Rumsfeld, and that he started in DC "with five years at Lobbying firm Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly." What a surprising coincidence to circle back to Paul Manafort (and Roger Stone) thisaway.

But the capstone tweet was in the middle, earning mention in the NYT as the writer declared what the U.S. Attorney General "should" do:

..This is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further. Bob Mueller is totally conflicted, and his 17 Angry Democrats that are doing his dirty work are a disgrace to USA!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 1, 2018

That's, uh, kind of a big deal, isn't it? Or just a big nothingburger?

"The president’s lawyers, Rudolph W. Giuliani and Jay A. Sekulow, said in a telephone interview that Mr. Trump was not ordering the inquiry closed but simply expressing his opinion.

“It’s not a call to action,” Mr. Giuliani said, adding that it was a sentiment that Mr. Trump and his lawyers have expressed publicly before.

"Mr. Sekulow said: “He doesn’t feel that he has to intervene in the process, nor is he intervening.”"

Just some 400-pound guy in his basement outside of New Jersey, maybe.

Market cap Permalink to this item

It's been a long time since I paid much attention to an obsession I had during the dot com bubble, when easy online access to stock prices was shiny and new. (Now I see you can watch the price change in real time.) Last I checked the Top 100 was more than 8 years ago, when AAPL passed MSFT, still second to Exxon Mobil, the three of them worth a quarter trillion each in very round numbers. Well up from the depth of the Great Recession, news is that Apple all by itself alone is about to be worth a $trillion. "Consumers kept buying iPhones and paying more for them," and the company made $11.52 billion profit in its most recent quarter.

June, 2018 photo

They now have more cash than they know what to do with, most of it still parked offshore. They're planning to buy back $100 billion worth of the stock, on top of the 1.6%-ish dividend. Back in January they made news about accelerating US investment and job creation. Their most recent news, about Q3, notes a highlight of a "tax rate of approximately 15 percent before discrete items," and has a disclaimer section longer than the top content. (But ok, the full PDF if you like that sort of thing.)

They might want to think about paying some protection to stay out of the Ire of the Orange Lord; if he gets wind of all their manufacturing in China, he might launch a tweetrum against them and queer the deal.

Anyway, I see Yahoo's stock screener now has a new category above small, medium and large cap: "Mega cap." On my way to capturing a snapshot and updating the index page, I noticed an oddity in the top 5: Alphabet Inc. appears twice, as GOOG and GOOGL. Investopedia explains that there are two share classes, A (GOOGL) and C (GOOG), as well as insider B shares that aren't traded publicly (and that get 10 votes to A shares' one, and C shares' none). The A and C share prices are kept close together, such that you might think the near-duplicate price and market cap ($1,230-ish per share, and $850-bil-ish each) that you might imagine the tabulation was a misprint.

It's a nice way to fly under the radar? Without considering those "B" shares, the two Alphabets combine to a whopping market capitalization of $1.7 trillion, far ahead of poor little rich kid Apple at not-quite-a-trillion, and Amazon and Ecopetrol SA and Microsoft, merely in the $800-billions. After Facebook's fresh haircut, Mr. Z is slumming in the half-trillion range with Berkshire Hathaway (A), Alibaba and JPMorgan Chase & Co. Now 11th-place Exxon Mobil is ticking along, but its third-of-a-trillion, $341B market cap doesn't seem so high and mighty.

Corporate giants come and go. IBM is still in the middle of the list, sandwiched by merchants of death Philip Morris and British American Tobacco. GE in the 60s, my old employer Hewlett Packard divided itself up and the pieces out of the top 200.

The top 10 corporations tally up $7.5 trillion between them, and the top hundred round about $21 trillion, a good bit more than double what they were in May, 2010.

Update: Jack Nicas for the NYT, next day with the uptick: Apple is worth $1 Trillion, says it's the first such company, "the most valuable public company in the world." No mention of Alphabet, or Google. Does Yahoo! have it wrong? Do I have Yahoo! wrong?

The too-cute animated feature shows Amazon, Google and Microsoft together as $2.456 trillion, and in that, Alphabet (Google) at $853.2 billion. Is that so?

I asked Google "what is alphabet worth" and it shows me the market summary of Alphabet Inc Class A, closed at $1,241.13 (up 2/3rds% on the day, $8.14), with a Mkt cap of 854.49B. You'd think they'd get their own market cap right, right? So, do they combine the class A and class C shares somehow? Their own "compare" chart and table suggests they do, although without explanation.

So, I guess I need to redo the chart, at least. Ima leave the apparently errant blog post above as-was.


Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007