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unraveling

30.Sept.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Donald Trump is a pathetic thug Permalink to this item

The man threw a bucket of water over his own head and he's blaming his meltdown on anyone and everyone he can, coming after individuals with the full power of... tweets.

Yesterday, he launched a lollapalooza, 68 I saw one person said, but I neither counted them nor read them all. Life is full of more interesting things. I did see (and respond to) some of them.

Today's coverage of how he's seeking the whistle-blower's identity, in spite of the person's anonymity being protected by law, describes yet another crime. He says he wants the chairman of the House Intelligence committee investigated for "Fraud & Treason," after an accurate summation of documented events at issue. (Earlier today, he just floated the question, "Arrest for Treason?") Not even Bill Barr is going to chase after that lunacy. (Stephen Miller, maybe? Invoke the Deep State bogeyman?)

This afternoon, Trump tweeted a Fox News video bite of himself, again and again insisting his phone call with the president of Ukraine was "perfect." If "perfect" meant perfectly suited to kicking impeachment into high gear, yup. If it means, idk, unimpeachable, well that's just crazy talk.

Never mind the extortion and/or attempted bribery of the president of the Ukraine, if you wanted to do something to make this man look really, really unhinged (to say nothing of unfit for office), this remarkable 1 minute 48 second parade of petulance would suffice.

28.Sept.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The cancer on the presidency Permalink to this item

(The message I just sent to our member of the House, Rep. Mike Simpson.)

It's hard to select one issue for this message. In addition to Homeland Security and Intelligence, it's about National Defense and Military, Foreign Affairs, the Judiciary, Government Operations, Congress, Campaign Finance and Election Reform, Banking and Finance, Crime, and Ethics Reform.

It's about the impeachment inquiry and what that will bring in the coming days and weeks.

Much of the depth and breadth of the corruption in the Trump administration has been in the public view from the very beginning, even if the detailed evidence had been concealed.

Now that concealment is unraveling. Thanks to a true patriot and whistleblower and the people who spoke to him about their concerns, and corroborated by the memorandum of the conversation between the new president of Ukraine, and President Trump, we are beginning to see the details.

The events back in May, 2017 were amply shocking to me. The day after the president fired FBI Director James Comey, he met with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador to the US in the Oval Office, with US media excluded, but a Tass photographer there to document the occasion. In that meeting, we learned that the president disclosed classified information about foreign intelligence regarding the Islamic State. What we didn't learn until just now, more than 2 years later, and thanks to Washington Post's reporting, is that the president also assured the Russians that we weren't concerned about Russian meddling in our election.

In May, 2018, the New York Times reported that Ukraine's interest in military assistance led them to stop cooperating with the Mueller investigation, under the direction of their previous president.

I appreciate your point that there is important work that the Congress needs to attend to, but I disagree that that work is more important than the questions that have been raised about President Trump's actions.

Our national security is at stake. The integrity of our elections is at stake. The future of the Republican Party is at stake.

So far, the GOP has been content to cover for the president, no matter how outrageous his public behavior has been, and no matter how suspicious his private behavior. The nature of the latter is that for as much as he has tried to conceal some of his interactions, there are ample witnesses, and many of them have recognized the moral, ethical, and legal transgressions, and begun to speak out. There will be much, much more to come.

Congressman, I hope you will think very seriously which side of history you want to be on in this matter. Time is running out.

A now infamous meeting Permalink to this item

The hits keep coming. Yesterday evening, the Washington Post reported that in that much-remarked, but kept-mysterious Oval Office meeting between Trump, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and a TASS photographer, the day after Trump had fired the FBI Director to get "this Russiar thing" off his back, he told the Russians "he was unconcerned about Moscow's interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election because the United States did the same in other countries."

It had been previously reported that Trump coughed up some "highly classified information that exposed a source of intelligence on the Islamic State," for which the supposed defense was, well, the president can declassify anything he feels like.

"A memorandum summarizing the meeting was limited to a few officials with the highest security clearances in an attempt to keep the president’s comments from being disclosed publicly, according to the [three] former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters."

In other words, the people around him recognized what seemed outrageous and nearly incomprehensible at the time for what it was, and did their damndest to keep the details of it hidden from the American people.

Photo courtesy of the Russian Foreign Ministry

The Russians were free to use the information shared, and about what happened in the meeting any way they wanted to. Yesterday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri S. Peskov said he hoped the White House would be more discreet about the records of their phone calls than they were with Ukraine's, thankyouverymuch and большое спасибо.

“We would like to hope that we would not see such situations in our bilateral relations, which already have plenty of quite serious problems,” he said in a conference call with reporters.

And how precious was it to have Sergey Lavrov himself holding a news conference at the United Nations and invoking "traditions and manners" to keep his and our president's intrigues private? Let us "presume a certain level of confidentiality."

Lavrov referred to his "mom" too; if he figures out a way to work in some apple pie, I think Trump might be ready to award him the Medal of Freedom.

27.Sept.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Our Sergeant Schultz quartet Permalink to this item

Yesterday, Idaho's junior Senator, Jim Risch, had some things to say about the news of the day. As one fourth of the "largely steadfast" congressional delegation, he told us he found the transcript [sic] and whistleblower report "not compelling," as Cynthia Sewell reports for the Idaho Statesman.

“I know evidence when I see it, and the Democrats are going to need more than this if they want to build an impeachment case. But, don’t take my word for it — every American should read the report, which is easily understood, and make up his or her own mind.”

Rest assured we won't be taking Risch's word for anything, starting with how compelling that whistleblower complaint and the memorandum of the call between Trump and Zelensky was. We won't be taking ID-1's Rep. Russ Fulcher's word for anything, either, as he echoes the GOP talking point that it's Vice President Biden who has something to answer for.

Our other Senator, Mike Crapo, was more measured than average. He's still interested in the outcome of the investigation, imagine that.

Our representative in the House, ID-2 Congressman Mike Simpson, put out a perfunctory statement on Wednesday (a tweet with an image of text, because apparently whoever runs his official website is having trouble figuring out how to post press releases, or use the blog feature), echoing the story arc the GOP has been harping on to drown out the growing body of evidence as best they can.

“To date, I have seen nothing that warrants impeachment, and there have certainly been ample opportunities to analyze their many accusations during their countless investigations. However, they have their constitutional right to proceed in their relentless endeavor.”

And besides, we have some real issues we need to be working on, immigration reform, cyber-security, and funding for FY2020, as if we might actually get that done by October 1st for a change?

For anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear, this chewy morsel from NPR dated Wednesday might have been a little drowned out in the other news of the day: Pentagon Letter Undercuts Trump Assertion On Delaying Aid To Ukraine Over Corruption. In outline form:

1. In May the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy "certified that the Government of Ukraine has taken substantial actions to make defense institutional reforms for the purposes of decreasing corruption [and] increasing accountability." That was a legal precursor to releasing $250 million in security assistance.

2. In mid-June, the Defense Department announced it would be sending the $250 million in security assistance to Ukraine.

3. The White House blocked that assistance in July, prior to the now-famous phone call in which Trump said "I NEED YOU TO DO US A FAVOR, THOUGH."

4. The aid did finally get released (it was reported), after a bipartisan outcry two weeks ago. The NPR story adds this kicker: "It must be spent before Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year." Imagine how smoothly that's going to go, $250,000,000 to spend, in just a matter of days, or a couple weeks.

Portrait of a perfectly failed presidency Permalink to this item

There's no shame in being a late adopter of technology, just as there's no virtue in being an early one. The flood of gadgetry is more than anyone can keep up with, so we all have to pick and choose our way through. Donald J. Trump's technological world seems to be limited to television, cellphones and TelePrompTers. I expect he can work a remote control, he uses Twitter, after a fashion, and he can stumble his way through a prepared speech when he absolutely has to.

Scraped from the Washington Post

This morning, incredibly (and I have to say, "not The Onion"), he used Twitter to complain about CNN's modification of his insulting name for the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, now in his 10th term. It was the first tweet of his day, just after 7:00 Eastern time, with more than a dozen to follow as I write. In subsequent tweets, he said that Peter Baker of ("the Failing") New York Times "should not even be allowed to write about me," talked about his "simple and very nice call with the new President of Ukraine, it could not have been better or more honorable." It's just the "Fake News Media and Democrats, working as a team" making it look bad. "[I]t was very legal and very good. A continuing Witch Hunt!" And, quoting... himself, in an echo chamber it seems, he all caps'd that “IT WAS A PERFECT CONVERSATION WITH UKRAINE PRESIDENT!”

"Fraudently" (and "fraud") came up more than once, a subject the president is very familiar with. "Honorably," not so much. And, weirdly, his obsession with "PERFECT." The PERFECT is the enemy of the good, one might say.

He proceeded to call for Adam Schiff's resignation, broadly castigate the Democrats as the "DO NOTHING PARTY!" and resume his attempts to discredit the "Whistleblower" and anyone who might have shared information about the criminal behavior of the president. But back to the first, and most amazing tweet out of today's Executive Time:

To show you how dishonest the LameStream Media is, I used the word Liddle’, not Liddle, in discribing Corrupt Congressman Liddle’ Adam Schiff. Low ratings @CNN purposely took the hyphen out and said I spelled the word little wrong. A small but never ending situation with CNN!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 27, 2019

Should someone wrest the phone away from POTWEETOH and get that deleted, @RealPressSecBot has posterity covered:

A message from the President: pic.twitter.com/KLSycJQgQR

— Real Press Sec Bot (@RealPressSecBot) September 27, 2019

We should note that Adam Schiff is above average height, and looks to be in good shape. Trump has lied about his own height (along with pretty much everything he's ever talked about), imagining perhaps that it would increase his stature. He's lied about his weight as well, and everyone can see that he's wearing more than a few extra hamberders.

We might also note that CNN is not obligated to accurately transcribe the president's childish nickname insults, that the apostrophe doesn't make any sense, and that no one in their right mind would confuse an apostrophe for a "hyphen." But we'd be losing sight of the plot to do all that, wouldn't we? Here's what's front-page news on CNN this morning:

That's Watergate journalist and now CNN political analyst Carl Bernstein, who knows a thing or two about fraud and corruption.

"Today is a historic day, because we are seeing both in real time, with the President's remarks and also through documentary evidence, his corruption. Certainly in terms of what he's tried to do to undermine the free electoral process in this country, we see his temperament in an extreme, perhaps even greater than we've ever seen before in terms of his remarks, he's talking about 'treason' and executing people, the other day he was talking about the electric chair, that must have been on his mind for the past few days, so we're watching an unraveling in front of us, both factually and also temperamentally, in terms of the conduct of the president of the United States."

Lest you think @RealPressSecBot is over the top, turning @realDonaldTrump tweets into official statements from the White House, there is also the more official(?) @POTUS twitter account, which has been configured to auto retweet everything emanating from the @realDonaldTrump account.

And apart from the unraveling of the mind of one of the greatest conmen to walk the face of the earth, I have a point about technology. Donald Trump wouldn't know a server from a set-top box, so when some number of as-yet unnamed "officials" decided that they better move the transcript of this call to Ukraine into the most secure storage system, the president's fingerprints would be nowhere to be found on any of the hardware, let alone the decision-making. Even without his tweets as evidence, he told everyone who would listen before the sanitized (we have to assume) "memorandum" of the call was released that it was PERFECT.

Look to Fox News for the best transcription of Trumpian disinformation. Just two days ago (time is flying), see here, Trump [said] he will release transcript of call to Ukrainian president.

"I am currently at the United Nations representing our Country, but have authorized the release tomorrow of the complete, fully declassified and unredacted transcript [sic] of my phone conversation with President Zelensky of Ukraine," Trump wrote. "You will see it was a very friendly and totally appropriate call. No pressure and, unlike Joe Biden and his son, NO quid pro quo! This is nothing more than a continuation of the Greatest and most Destructive Witch Hunt of all time!"

What was unclassified and released was not, in fact, the "fully declassified and unredacted transcript" of the call. We're still waiting for that to be extracted from that top secret storage, where those WH officials sequestered it, knowing that it would be a bombshell providing evidence of the president's criminality. Trump thought it was fine, perfect, nothing to see here. They thought OMG we need to bury this where no one can find it, pronto. Indeed, even the weaker memorandum—augmented by the whistleblower's complaint, for which it provided corroboration—was sufficient to kick the impeachment process into a higher gear. Today, more than 300 former officials called Trump’s actions with Ukraine a "profound national security concern."

Speaking of technology, and impeachment, here's Robert Reich's artful 4-minute video, IMPEACHMENT EXPLAINED.

26.Sept.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Criminal acts are not privileged Permalink to this item

Let's talk about the legal fiction of "executive privilege." It's not Constitutional, so if you're an Originalist, you won't be having it. Nor has Congress passed any laws creating it.

In US v. Nixon (Tricky Dick keeps popping up!), SCOTUS held that a *qualified* privilege, once invoked, creates a presumption that the party seeking documents or testimony must make a "sufficient showing" that the "presidential material" is "essential to the justice of the case." The ruling had to do with a subpoena from the judiciary, not from Congress. SCOTUS hasn't ruled on a case about the latter. But never mind that.

It's not a Stay Out of Jail Free card; there is no privilege for misconduct. Cornell Law School spells it out succinctly: this privilege does not extend to information germane to a criminal investigation.

Dylan Matthews gave a brief guide to what executive privilege is, and isn't in the middle of 2017, when the Trump administration's artful dodgers were avoiding questions from Congress the first time around. (And, sadly, mostly getting away with it.) Stab from the past: that was when then Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified before the Senate on Russia ties, and his "testimony problem [kept] getting worse," with the smell of perjury in the air. Somehow, he dodged personal trouble, and was eventually replaced my an even more invidious choice for AG.

Executive Privilege is back on my mind today, because acting DNI Joseph Maguire, testifying before the House Intelligence Committee today mentioned it as one of the "complicated and sensitive issues" that the whisteblower's complaint "touched on." We can all agree that "this matter is unprecedented." Not even Richard Nixon was as untethered to the law or his oath of office at his nadir as Donald Trump has been from Inauguration Day. Maguire was trying to cover his butt, but the idea of this credible, urgent complaint against the president being run by the president before being turned in to Congress is a lot of butt to cover.

The office of the White Counsel is supposed to be for the office, not its occupant. Just like the Attorney General is of the United States, not the president's personal lawyer. But almost no member of the Trump administration seems trustworthy at this point. Maybe our acting DNI is one; that would be a good thing. If Maguire's testimony was truthful, it's useful to note that he offered a timely reminder: Trump is a liar.

"...Trump has been fighting back in his usual manner of denying reality and disseminating false narratives and charges—that is, gaslighting. And a key component of his counter-attack has been denigrating the anonymous whistleblower....

At the Maguire hearing, the acting DNI was asked about the whistleblower—whose identity remained a secret. Is the whistleblower a “political hack,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the chairman of the committee queried. Maguire replied, “I believer the whistleblower is acting in good faith.” Schiff followed up: “You don’t have any reason to accuse them of disloyalty to our country?” Maguire provided an unequivocal response: “Absolutely not…I think the whistleblower did the right thing.”

And unlike the president, he followed the law in doing the right thing.

Update: One other thing, a friend just reminded me about. There's a verbatim transcript of the whole call between Trump and Zelenksy locked away in the White House. The "memorandum" that was released was missing about half or more of the 30 min. call.

It's the ghost of Rose Mary Woods.

25.Sept.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Some devils in the details Permalink to this item

NBC News correspondent Ken Dilanian points out that "the part about CrowdStrike and servers suggests Trump still doesn’t believe the FBI when they tell him the Russians hacked the DNC. This was in private, not some campaign rally. Amazing."

Clapping for POUTS at the SOTU

Sheryl Gay Stolberg's analysis starts with yesterday morning's phone call between the Speaker and the President taking an abrupt turn. “Mr. President,” she declared, according to a person familiar with the conversation, “you have come into my wheelhouse.” She has a "quarter-century of experience with intelligence matters in Congress." He is a failed casino owner, serial bankrupt, reality TV star, and the head of a corrupt crime syndicate who stumbled into office under suspicious circumstances.

And in the "nice to have everyone on the same page" department, the White House mistakenly sent its Trump-Ukraine talking points to Democrats. We know about the "mistakenly" part because they then sent "a follow-up email recalling the message," except you probably already know that email doesn't work that way (unless you're all on the same server, and aren't paying close attention). The unfortunate Tori Q. Symonds, Special Assistant to the President and White House Director of Government Communications let everyone know that what we need to know is that "This complaint was handled absolutely by the book and it was properly determined that no further action should be taken."

I WOULD LIKE YOU TO DO US A FAVOR THOUGH Permalink to this item

The wheels of justice grind slowly, but fine. That timeless aphorism comes from the days when everyone would know about grinding grain, I imagine. Here, now, in the days of light-speed global communication and social media amplification, we could employ another earthy, manufacturing based metaphor: when the hammer of justice comes down, it happens all of a sudden.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was roundly criticized by Democrats who felt she was dragging her feet on this impeachment thing. (Not that you would have noticed, but I was keeping still, and still flying my "welcome back" tweet pinned @fortboise.) Then within just days, we found out about a whistleblower complaint (still don't have its full details, but wait a minute), and the illegal obstruction of the complaint by the Bill Barr-led Department of Justice, and as the real news media busted out one damning detail after another, Pelosi moved. Just yesterday afternoon, she announced an official impeachment inquiry, and directed "six committees to proceed with their investigations under that umbrella." "The president must be held accountable," the Speaker said. "No one is above the law."

What tripped the hammer of impeachment on Richard Nixon (never mind that he ducked out by resigning, and Gerald Ford pardoned him for his crimes) was Nixon's own words, captured on tape. This time we have Trump's own words, captured in a just-unclassified "rough transcript," supposedly based off "notes and recollections" of NSC and Situation Room officials, but a hell of a lot more specific than that would make you think, as it turns out. It was the day after Robert Mueller testified to Congress. Five pages. Bottom of page 2, top of page 3:

President Zelenskyy: [sic] "...I would also like to thank you for your great support in the area of defense. We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps specifically we are almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes."

The President: "I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike... I guess you have one of your wealthy people... The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation. I think you're surrounding yourself with some of the same people. I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it As you saw yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueler, an incompetent performance, but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine. Whatever you can do, it's very important that you do it if that's possible."

Zelenskyy offers that he just recalled their ambassador from the US and will replace him....

President Zelenskyy: "...I will personally tell you that one of my assistants spoke with Mr. Giuliani just recently and we are hoping very much that Mr. Giuliani will be able to travel to Ukraine and we will meet once he comes to Ukraine. I just wanted to assure you once again that you have nobody but friends around us. I will make sure that I surround myself with the best and most experienced people. I also wanted to tell you that we are friends. We are great friends and you Mr. President have friends in our country so we can continue our strategic partnership. I also plan to surround myself with great people ·and in addition to that investigation, I guarantee as the President of Ukraine that all the investigations will be done openly and candidly. That I can assure you."

The President: "Good because I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that's really unfair. A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved. ..."

That "very good prosecutor" who was shut down was Viktor Shokin, removed by a vote of the Ukrainian Parliament in March, 2016, more than three years before Zelensky was elected and took office. Back when

"The United States and other Western nations had for months called for the ousting of Mr. Shokin, who was widely criticized for turning a blind eye to corrupt practices and for defending the interests of a venal and entrenched elite. He was one of several political figures in Kiev whom reformers and Western diplomats saw as a worrying indicator of a return to past corrupt practices, two years after a revolution that was supposed to put a stop to self-dealing by those in power."

That was before the US had elected a buffoonish comedian to its highest office, before said buffoon fired the FBI director to get out from under "that Russiar thing," before he continued to obstruct justice in myriad ways, and before he got rid of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General to replace him with a tawdry facsimile of Roy Cohn.

Jennifer Rubin gets to the punch line faster than me. Trump's call with the Ukrainian president should seal his fate. And he should have lots of company.

"Moreover, given the Justice Department’s explicit role in approving this eye-popping betrayal of the American electoral system, Attorney General William P. Barr must be recused from further involvement and should himself be the subject of an impeachment inquiry. Remember, Barr intentionally mischaracterized the Mueller report to protect the president; now he has been caught enabling Trump’s enlistment of a foreign power. ...

"It appears that Trump is taking the “Emperor Has No Clothes” to a whole new level, attempting to persuade the country that such conduct, plus the enlistment of his private attorney to dig up dirt on a political opponent, is perfectly fine. It is not. ...

"Trump has been caught red-handed. It is a measure of his ignorance that he did not recognize how damning this is."

24.Sept.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Your data for sale (by you) Permalink to this item

From the NYT's Privacy Project: Jaron Lanier Fixes the Internet. It's the considerably more user-friendly version of his and E. Glen Weyl's paper in the Harvard Business Review from a year ago, A Blueprint for a Better Digital Society. (HBR ain't giving it away, past the first 30 days. In addition to the paywall, they serve up a splash-over ad before telling you they're not going to show you the article.)

I watched the set of videos from my paid-for daily NYT email link comprising querystring parameters for {nl,emc,campaign_id,instance_id,segment_id,user_id,regi_id}.

Screenshot from the NYT video

It's about your data and how much it's worth. "To you, it's a mystery, so you pretend it's nothing, but it isn't nothing," Lanier tells us, before leaning into the three thousand foot view of how advertising "became this crazy behaviorial manipulation scheme," and how we can fix it.

"In a world where the manipulation machine is shut down..."

That great leap forward hasn't quite been scheduled yet, and I wonder if it's possible. There are so many embedded interests motivated to fight changes every step of the way, there's too much value in the output. Politicians are embedded in the machine, enabling it, benefiting from it. The 2016 election showed us the power of the machine, and the opposite direction we're headed.

(Maybe we could try something simpler for starters, fixing the healthcare insurance system?)

It ends with answered criticisms, that's good. One is that "my data isn't worth anything" (or very much).  A "small family's data" worth $20,000 a year, maybe? Not sure what "small" means in that sentence, but the value—to someone—has to do with the economic value of a family (or an individual).

Consider the "small truck" market, those family cars on steroids. Pay attention to the big sales events where they dangle large sums of money to induce you to buy. $3,000 cash back! Save $6,500! Let's go shopping (in a private window) to see... CASH OFFER 2019 RAM 2500 LIMITED CREW CAB SAVE UP TO $15,227 OFF MSRP.

Here's how to read those messages: We are making So Much Money on these overpriced items that yeah, we can sell them for many $thousands cheaper and still be amply profitable. Let's make a deal! We'll just take FIFTEEN THOUSAND BUCKS OFF THE STICKER PRICE, no problem.

If your data are worth $20,000, that would be because someone stands to make all that and then some by glomming on to it, and manipulating it (with your paid-for blessing). Lanier suggests that "when you pay for stuff, it gets better!" But does it really? Seems a bit facile.

"I'm certain that a dignified data economy is not an option, but a necessity."

I hope he's right that this is possible, and that it will happen.

Equinox #2, 2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Really bad for business Permalink to this item

It's not the latest on the subject, but it was on the front page of the New York Times a week ago Sunday, and it's been sitting in front of me for some days. SAUDI OIL SUPPLY IS PUT IN DANGER BY DRONE STRIKES was the top right headline in the fit to print edition, Sept. 15. Subhead POMPEO POINTS TO IRAN.

Saudi Press Agency photo

Sur-@realDonaldTrump's tweet to the world that we were "waiting to hear from the Kingdom" about "under what terms we would proceed!" came later that same day. As if the one about how we were just going to look the other way over Jamal Khashoggi's gruesome murder, because of all the, you know, $billions worth of arms sales we do with the kingdom. Not even a year ago, Trump told us MBS denied involvement, and that was good enough for him. Mike Pompeo was there for that episode, too. $110 billion in arms sales, if a 1% tip to the president is customary, he could finally be a billionaire.

But back to the current story, and the ongoing development of asymmetric warfare in the middle east, driven by those hundreds of billions' worth of arm sales. Drone attacks on the sitting duck of Saudi oil installations were claimed by Yemen's Houthi rebels. Turns out hundreds of miles of open desert aren't buffer enough.

Is there any, uh, context for this? Four years of "intervention" by the kingdom, with "the Saudi-led bombing campaign [having] devastated the impoverished country and exacerbated the world’s worst humanitarian crisis," perhaps?

With made-in-the-USA weaponry. "American and Saudi officials suspect that Iran has dispatched technicians to Yemen to train the Houthis on drone and missile technology," because, you know, we do that sort of thing too. Service beyond the sale.

We've got a long history of selective outrage. Back before we'd destroyed Iraq because its targets were easier to find than those in Afghanistan (which we'd already blown up retaliating for the 9/11 terrorists who came from Saudia Arabia, oddly enough), we played Iraq and Iran against each other in their war, and were actually just fine with Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons if it seemed to serve our ends. Keeping that essential, and very profitable oil flowing, first among them.

It wasn't completely out of the blue then that Hussein thought we'd give him a wink and a nod for attacking pesky little Kuwait over slant-drilling. He was all about keeping the oil flowing. The first Bush made it very clear that was a bridge too far, but not so much that we needed to go full overthrow (yet), just a strong message. Hussein was like "hold my beer," let me show you how we do scorched earth in my part of the world, and had his boys light six or seven hundred oil wells on fire, no need for drones.

The fact that half a thousand oil wells on fire didn't trigger immediate global climatic disruption was the good news? Allowing us to carry on to new levels of idiocy for the next round, represented by Donald Rumsfeld (again) and Paul Wolfowitz telling us the next Iraq war would pay for itself. How'd that all work out? The Christian Science Monitor had an assessment in 2011. Was Iraq a war for oil? Spoiler alert: yes. And we had Twitter already, available for one way to observe that "this was the least successful war for oil in history."

So here we go again. The problem is, that as bad as resource wars are for some business, they're also good for other business. Jared Kushner's desperate business to climb out of the burning money pit of 666 Fifth Avenue, for example, a semi-miraculous $1.2 billion "handshake" (with some side-winking and nodding, I'm sure).

"Kushner unsuccessfully lobbied the Qatari government to invest in 666 Fifth a month before he reportedly signed on to a U.S.-approved economic blockade of Qatar early last year."

A year ago May, it was Timothy L. O'Brien's opinion that a "foreign bailout of a Trump in-law's building wouldn't necessarily be tainted," that's precious. "This may just be another day in the New York real estate market," O'Brien wrote. "Nobody will be able to make that call, however, until the terms are made public." Which (checking), when did that happen again?

Maybe the subheadline writer and O'Brien weren't totally on the same page, as that piece ended with a delicate cliff-hanger

"Is this yet another of the unseemly collisions between private deal making and public policymaking that have tainted the Trump White House and its occupants?"

An unseemly taint, yes, that might be all it is. Just another day in the Trump crime family real-estate business.

Meanwhile, in Yemen, fatalities are running more than two thousand a month, totaling more than 90,000 in the last four or five years. Thirty 9/11s if you will. More than a few of them have been delivered by air raids from the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition that started "intervening" in March, 2015, after the Houthi takeover of the capital Sanaa the year before.

19.Sept.19 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Impeachment hearings at work Permalink to this item

Dahlia Lithwick, on Corey Lewandowski’s Self-Immolation in front of the House Judiciary committee (with emphasis added):

"This is next-level gaslighting. The same witness who announced to the world that he owes a duty of truth under oath, but that he may lie to the press with impunity, is launching a run for high office. The person who spat the words “fake news” at his hearing, in response to questions he didn’t like, boasted about actually creating and disseminating fake news when caught in a lie. There is a special grade of nihilism required to dismiss all unflattering media stories as fake, but the nihilism of dismissing one’s own lies to the press as justified is truly astounding.

"Going forward, any news program that books Lewandowski should be shunned, unless he comes with a chyron that read[s] “Possible Liar.” No serious news reporter should ever quote him again without noting that he testified under oath that he is untruthful in his dealings with the press. His political campaign should be covered with the presumption that every press interview may be false. Let’s be clear: Lying to the press is the same as lying to the public. The press asks questions as proxy for the public. It’s not a defense to say you don’t like the press, or the segment of the population that consumes that press, because you are now not just a public official lying to the public, but a public official admitting to and condoning lying to the public."

Well. "Possible" liar is a lot more benefit of the doubt than I'm prepared to give him after the confession in his contemptible performance yesterday.

18.Sept.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Lock Him Up Permalink to this item

House Judiciary Counsel Barry Berke, a white-collar criminal defense attorney, and acting as a member of the House Judiciary staff, questioned Corey Lewandowski yesterday and established beyond a shadow of a doubt that Lewandowski is a privileged asshole who cannot be trusted about anything.

While complaining about the "fake news media" Lewandowski proudly admitted he feels perfectly free to lie freely. It was his sworn testimony that when he's under oath, he's always told the truth (except when he won't answer questions). The rest of the time, you can't believe a word he says.

"I have no obligation to be honest with the media," he said, being a smart ass. So now, here under oath, and "the media" is C-SPAN.

That's a tricky ambit, lying most of the time, and only getting around to telling the truth once in a while. It makes it super hard to keep your stories straight.

Asked (effectively the same question) about his lying to the public, he said no "to the best of my ability" and then he said "I don't know."

Asked if he'd ever represented his work for the president, Lewandowski searched his mind and "couldn't think of an incident where that occurred." Counsel was helpful. "Let me show you an interview you did..."

Giving him another chance to flippantly express his contempt for "the media," which means the public, everyone, anyone.

He's got a stay-out-of-jail-free card in hand from the White House, "I can't discuss conversations with senior staff because" blah blah blah, and he has the expectation (at least) of getting pardoned if he does screw up too badly.

He claims his book is accurate, even though it contradicts some of what he told Congress yesterday.

I just have one remaining question. Is this contempt, perjury, or both, sir?

Oh, and stay for the comedic after-party when Rep. Doug Collins declares he'll be "staff" for the minority, and gets all squeaky and soprano in clown show indignation that the Chairman will not accept him, the Ranking member! as "staff." The Chairman gave him one minute to get his act together. And... mirabile dictu, he does not.

Back in order? Nope. "I cannot go along with the chairman's sham and the majority's sham in this hearing and designate a staff member." You wouldn't have thought it was that hard, but the Ranking Member failed to do his homework.

17.Sept.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

We're Number One Permalink to this item

The statistics for the most expensive prison on earth are mind-boggling. The one thing I take as good news is that the number of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay is down to 40. But spending is more than $13 million apiece. Per year. Not counting the classified stuff. There are "around 1,800 troops to the detention center, or 45 for each prisoner."

"The prison's staff members have their own chapel and cinema, housing, two dining rooms and a team of mental health care workers, who offer comfort dogs."

After seeing that "the trial of the men accused of plotting the Sept. 11 attacks is scheduled to begin in early 2021," I had to search it up to find that it's the 6th Amendment that calls for "a speedy and public trial" for all criminal prosecutions. (When it comes to the Global War on Terror, that apparently does not count.) But they have good health care while they wait:

"Health care for detainees is handled by a group of about 100 Navy doctors, nurses and medics who also staff the trooper clinic. The 100-member medical team had a $4 million budget last year.

"But when a prisoner needs specialized care, such as a colonoscopy and spine surgeries, the military brings special teams to Guantánamo at a cost the military declined to disclose."

Mr. I Alone Can Fix It Permalink to this item

Slippity digit, this guy tweets what he's thinking, before he's thinking, the same way he reads a TelePrompTer: he's in the neighborhood, but something is always just a bit off. Peter Baker's and David E. Sanger's news analysis on the verge of more war for oil: With Oil Under Attack, Trump’s Deference to Saudis Returns.

We're locked and loaded, POTWEETOH said to the world. Just tell us where to shoot! he said to MBS. Let's make another deal. Like the one he called for back in 2014.

"Since taking office, Mr. Trump has made Saudi Arabia his closest ally in the Middle East other than Israel, and has strongly supported its multifront struggle with Iran for dominance in the region. He has also left little doubt about the primacy of money in the relationship, openly citing the value of arms contracts in explaining why he would not criticize the Saudi government for Mr. Khashoggi’s killing."

No, seriously, that actually happened. Less than three months ago. He's a president like you've never seen before.

"Some national security conservatives were willing to give the president the benefit of the doubt," Baker and Sanger observe, dryly. Such as, I'm sure, Idaho's shy Senator who chairs the Foreign Relations committee. Jim Risch has made it crystal clear he's not going to criticize the president in public—for anything. Because of all the influence he has whispering in private? He claims, with that deadpan seriousness of his. Imagine rising to the pinnacle of your career, and having nothing to say about the epic corruption and stumbling incompetence before us.

16.Sept.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Malleus Maleficarum Permalink to this item

That name came to mind right next to the malleability of memory. In our modern day encyclopedia, it says that treatise was "written by [a] discredited Catholic clergyman" with a pseudonym and "first published in the German city of Speyer in 1487," when treatises, Catholic clergymen, human culture, the city, and "German" were something entirely different than today and anything we can conjure up from direct experience. Which is not to say that we've progressed overmuch beyond that dark age.

"The Malleus elevates sorcery to the criminal status of heresy and prescribes inquisitorial practices for secular courts in order to extirpate witches. The recommended procedures include torture to effectively obtain confessions and the death penalty as the only sure remedy against the evils of witchcraft."

Hello, Guantánamo Bay, minus the burning alive at the stake. "The book had a strong influence on culture for several centuries" is an understatement for our times.

Charles P. Pierce brought the problem of memory to mind by pointing out that the Kavanaugh nomination corrupted everything it touched. Replaying the Q&A between cool-as-ice Senator Amy Klobuchar and then Judge Kavanaugh, the question was, "was there ever a time when you drank so much that you couldn't remember what happened, or part of what happened the night before?"

From the image by Doug Mills/NYT

Kind of a no-brainer for a man who used to be a teenager and drank a lot. The truthful answer is "yes," and then... all bets are off, aren't they? I mean if you can't remember what happened, or part of what happened, anything might have happened, right? And you'll need to throw yourself at the mercy of the court, or other people who weren't blackout drunk at the time.

Don McGahn and the team would have certainly coached the witness against an appeal to mercy. The best defense is to be offensive in our current National Fuckery League. In another headline we wish was The Onion, but is not, we see that "Team Kavanaugh" is to be given the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service. No fucking joke. Pardon my Anglo-Saxon.

In exemplary rape culture fashion, Kavanaugh applied what I imagine he thought was brilliant jurisprudential jujitsu. "I don't know. Have you?" Klobuchar asked the question again, giving him one last chance to come clean. His big lie was just a throw-off word in his continuing, indignant counterattack.

KLOBUCHAR: Could you answer the question, Judge? I just — so you — that's not happened. Is that your answer?

KAVANAUGH: Yeah, and I'm curious if you have.

Klobuchar neatly kicked him in the crotch for that ("I have no drinking problem, Judge.") but her time expired before Kavanaugh's perjury and past bad acts could be explored more fully. The salient question was not whether that ever happened, but how often it happened, and what he learned about what all happened while he was blackout drunk, by talking to his friends. Time also was made to expire on the Federal Bureau of Investigation by the corruptly-led and so-called "Department of Justice."

We needed a replacement Justice appointed for a lifetime in a hurry, for some reason.

With the benefit of all time in the world, or at least more than what Republican insiders allowed to get the result they were after, Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly put together some news analysis for the Sunday New York Times, which I'm sure you've heard about, adapted from their forthcoming book on the subject. The publication date of The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation is tomorrow. From the NYT piece:

"Ms. Ramirez’s legal team gave the F.B.I. a list of at least 25 individuals who may have had corroborating evidence. But the bureau — in its supplemental background investigation — interviewed none of them, though we learned many of these potential witnesses tried in vain to reach the F.B.I. on their own."

When the less than esteemed hack currently chairing the Senate Judiciary Committee declared, summarily, that "there is no corroboration of the allegations made by Dr. Ford or Ms. Ramirez," it was aspirational in the first case, and a purposeful elision in the second. The FBI found no corroboration, because they were Barred from looking. That was enough, just barely, to squeak through a 50-48 confirmation vote, one shy of a Mike Pence tiebreak, and two shy of the correct result.

And so our Supreme Court sits, bookended by Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh, a monument to deceit, and the persistence of Catholicism in power, among so many other things.

11.Sept.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Remembering Permalink to this item

Eighteen years ago, the world was a very different place than it is now. I went back to see what I wrote here in the blog that day, before I had headlines on individual snippets. Blogging was a new, new thing, and there weren't a lot of rules. (There still aren't a lot of rules, but I do have post headlines and permalinks now.) The observation from that day still stands:

When young men (16 to 25 years old or so) do not see hope for the future, it creates the potential for horrific violence. Think of incidents of civil unrest, riots, civil war within this framework and I think you'll agree. Hunting down specific perpetrators and trying to punish them does not solve this underlying problem. What punishment can deter suicidal fanaticism?

There is also the opinion my dad put in print, 9 days after the attack: The Real Challenge Facing America. Had he lived past early 2007, he would have celebrated his 100th birthday this past Monday. On Sept. 20, 2001, just after he'd turned 82, we were all still coming to terms with a disrupted world order, a disturbance in the end of history, and in the hegemony of the sole remaining superpower. If he could edit it, I'm sure he'd change a few things, or have more thoughts to add. But this still stands in truth:

"The enemy is not concentrated in a far-off Asian country. It is planted among us, and the eventual victory will be won with the ideology of freedom and not with weapons of destruction."

9.9.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Demanding action on climate change Permalink to this item

Nice to see former Idaho Supreme Court Justice Robert Huntley's effort to publicize the need for climate action get some attention. I was one of the people who chipped in to buy a two-page spread in the Idaho Statesman, and after it ran in the Idaho Press, their reporter, Betsy Russell wrote about the effort. (Her shorter blog version is not paywalled.)

The ad calls on Idaho’s congressional delegation, governor, all state legislators, county commissioners and city councilors to answer four questions about climate change, including whether they’ll agree to take action to protect Idaho's citizens from its effects.

“Unless today’s leaders act swiftly, comprehensively and correctly, it is very likely that the quality of life for all will be greatly compromised and we will see land loss and even more powerful storms along our coasts, and inland, fires, floods and drought, heat stroke deaths, accelerating extinctions, mass starvation, mass migrations, wars, social collapse and more.”

Hotwire UX Permalink to this item

Rented my share of cars over the years, but haven't done a lot lately. Of course booking via the web is the thing these days, and I started with Kayak out of habit and previous success, and then... well, it's a bit pear-shaped. À la carte pricing has entered yet another realm, first of all. Lots of fees and add-ons produce a final number that bears surprisingly little resemblance to the low, low clickbait price. (Did you want wheels with that?) And car companies are now wanting their money up front, like the airlines have it, and really, modified reservations are such a pain in the butt, how about if we just do away with those, too?

The process seemed all wrong and unpleasant the first time through, and I decided I wanted an old-school reservation. I went name brand, United to Hertz, the HEY YOU KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN demographic. That was quick and easy and $100 more. I considered that amount, split with my sisters over four days and figured what the hell, we can afford it.

The next day, email from Kayak with screaming hot deals on rental cars in Denver I was looking for. They knew I didn't complete the process through their channel the day before. "Just for fun," I took a look. "Just for fun," I actually continued down the Hotwire path, a company name that sounds like a bad joke, but it gets attention? The process seemed like a bad joke too, really, "we won't tell you what company this is through until you commit to the reservation and pay us." Do people really like this sort of thing? Just how many hoops will I jump through for a hundred bucks?

HotWire Hot Rate graphic

In the light of a new day, a $100 bill dangling in front of me was enough incentive to give a try. What the hell. How badly could it go wrong? It's just a car rental, for pete's sake, it's not rocket science. Also, it listed the companies it might be, and they all had decent and upstanding brand names. Hertz, Avis, Budget, Thrifty maybe it was. I figured I'm ok doing business with any of those. Just before my rental company was revealed, the splash screen made me think of a one-armed bandit. Hotwiring a car for me.

Worst case, it's "only" $180 of my money at risk, right? New, prepaid, unmodifiable, and cheaper reservation in hand, I went back to United and easily cancelled my old, not prepaid, modifiable, more expensive reservation. And then noticed that whoops, at some point in what turned out to be a chain of e-commerce from Kayak to Hotwire to Thrifty, my pickup and drop off times had snapped back to the default of 12:00 pm and those weren't right. The dropoff will be earlier, I figured that's not a problem, but we won't be there to pickup until 3:00 pm.

I don't remember when I noticed that mistake, but it didn't seem too consequential, until now, close to go time. I should probably let them know, just be sure. They gave me Thrifty's number (disguised with letters; THRIFTY, get it?), and what turned out to be their number. The Hotwire answer-bot recording reiterates the policy they'd mentioned a month ago: NO CHANGES on this prepaid deal, capiche? I thought I was calling Thrifty, so I hung up and used the other number, and it didn't take long for the Thrifty rep to tell me "because this reservation was made through Hotwire, no changes are possible."

Called Hotwire back and proceeded past the recording to a rep who didn't have to get very far down her script to tell me that no changes are possible.

There has to be some flexibility in this business, what with airplanes not always being on time. But if any of Kayak, Hotwire and Thrifty had mentioned how much flexibility, it was in unperused fine print. And that "All Hotwire Hot Rate® bookings are final. No changes or refunds are allowed." text was in bolder print.

The Hotwire agent told me that the rental company would hold the reservation for 24 hours, so no big deal if I showed up three hours past the reserved pick-up. I asked her to send some customer feedback up her chain of command about how completely unsatisfactory the process was to me, and she offered instead to call Thrifty for me and get their reassurance. (Hotwire has Allman Brothers for some of their hold music, that was nice.) She did that, came back and gave it to me, offered to connect me so I could hear it directly (yes, please), and so now we're all set. Probably.

If all goes well (the most likely scenario), we will have saved a hundred bucks. If we miss the flight, or plans change, or some other more-than-24-hours delayed circumstance arises, we'll lose twice as much money as we stood to save, is that the way this works? Given a non-zero probably of something going wrong between booking and fulfillment, there are more than a few customers on the losing end of this gaming enterprise. 5%? 1%? Even at one-in-a-hundred, I have to think those are going to be some very unhappy customers, a lot more dissatisfied than me.

It's hard to see how this could be a sustainable business model. But then I guess that's the new, new (and old, old) thing: take the money and run.

Update: I've been ignoring the follow-on spammage from Hotwire, but this morning's caught my eye. Congrats! You've earned an extra $20 off your next hotel, the subject reads. Inside, the "FLASH SALE" big red print promises (up to) 60% OFF + $20 OFF ($100 or more). Maybe one of the previous tries emphasized the way-larger 60%? The deadline is... midnight on my departure date. "Hurry." I could book three star hotels in Chicago, Orlando, Los Angeles or Houston. Also, I could "Save up to 40% with Hot Rate® Flights**". The double asterisk punch line, in fine, gray print:

"Hot Rates are different from retail rates. With Hot Rates you enter the date, origin, and destination. Airline and travel times revealed only after booking. All bookings final."

6.Sept.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Ammon Don't Get Your Gun Permalink to this item

From his video

In local wingnuttery, Ammon Bundy is making news out of his tribulations in keeping himself armed. Given how much time the FBI has spent keeping track of him, it's understandable the background check was a bit pear-shaped, but then it did come through, except... not to his satisfaction.

He got hinky about signing the ATF Form 4473 (it seems), "because I do not agree with any of the process." Was it the reading, and understanding? Or the certifying that the information in Sections B and D is true, correct, and complete? Or just another opportunity for airtime, "in protest."

Whatever the reasons, I expect the good people of Emmett, Idaho, are resting easier knowing that the BATF is on the job, and Ammon's Facebook feed will go on forever. Sample comment, from "Jason Prophet":

"That FBI made a misteak and not liablty"

Or, in a not-so-funny vein, "Ben Miller," emphasis added:

"Im the guy from Illinois that the FBI approved with a Wisconsin driver's license but then was sent to prison for not having a FOID card in Illinois becuz I own property in both states. It's clearly a civil war. My cousin is the General of Tennessee and sent in special forces from Switzerland and Mexcio and Tennessee to engage the treason pigs and its now a barbecue."

As Ammon puts it in a Sept. 4 video to the world, opining from his truck, "Awww... I'm sorry that I keep having to do these videos." Also, "I got a bunch of attention on that."

NOW YOU HAVE TO SIGN THIS DOCUMENT like everyone else who wants to buy a firearm from a dealer was a bridge too far for him.

5.Sept.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Dorian actual Permalink to this item

Looking through the National Hurricane Center graphics archive just now, the main page shows a time sequence map of the actual track, and the extent of tropical storm force wind (39+ mph) and hurricane force (Cat 1 starts at 74 mph; Cat 5 at 157 mph), from 11:00am AST August 24 (one step before it was on the map), to 5:00pm EDT today (as it rides up and wreaks havoc on the Carolinas' coast, having narrowly missed Puerto Rico and after nearly totally devastating the northern end of the Bahamas Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday).

Over the course of 50 advisories (so far), starting on the morning of August 24, the NWS showed their mapped forecast of hurricane force wind speed probabilities, looking 5 days forward. 12 days ago, Puerto Rico was estimated to have a 5-10% chance of getting hit, then down to below 5% the next day. On Tuesday, Aug. 27, the highest probability (10-20%) was between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, and a more distant bubble of 5-10% showed up over Great Abaco and Grand Bahama, more than 600 miles to the NW. By the end of that day, that bubble had expanded from north of the island of Hispaniola, to the Florida coast, spanning nearly a thousand miles.

Eight days ago yesterday afternoon, when Dorian was just east of Puerto Rico, various islands in the Bahamas were given 5 day probabilities from below 5%, to 40-50% for Grand Abaco, and the 5-10% band extended all the way into the Gulf of Mexico on the other side of Florida. By last Friday, Aug. 30, Grand Abaco was almost surely in the 5-day crosshairs, and the outer band of the one-in-ten chance was just short of Alabama. 12 hours later, though, the models were predicting the storm to turn and go north up the Georgia and Carolina coast.

Forecast/Advisory #28, for the 5 days from 2 AM EDT SAT AUG 31 to 2 AM EDT THU SEP 05 showed the expected turn to the north, a full day and a half before Dorian crashed into Grand Abaco.

NWS graphic

As of this afternoon, a Statement from the Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor, Rear Adm. Peter J. Brown seems to only be available as an image on Twitter, but said advisor is prepared to fall on his sword. He says the Sept. 1 presidential blurt about Alabama was "based on that morning's Hurrican Dorian briefing." Brown then talks about the forecast from the evening of Tuesday, August 27, which would have been Forecast/Advisory #15, when the center of the storm was hundreds of miles SE of Puerto Rico.

With millions of people watching the weather, wondering whether they should put in supplies, hunker down, or run for their lives, a Homeland Security guy and his boss' boss were cluelessly talking about a 4½ day old forecast. None of the three of them are the sharpest tools in the shed, as CNN highlighted last week, and Kevin Liptak noted today.

Sunday morning, Sept 1, 2019 was when @NWSBirmingham weighed in to assure Alabamians that the President of the United States and/or the acting advisors feeding him information did not know what they were talking about. Four days later, the president's agenda is full up with I KNOW YOU ARE BUT WHAT AM I.

There ought to be a law Permalink to this item

Actually, there is a law. There ought to be a body enforcing it. Call it, idk, the Department of Justice or something. It might seem a small thing, were it not for the potential to put hundreds of thousands of people at risk, but 18 U.S. Code § 2074 provides that

"Whoever knowingly issues or publishes any counterfeit weather forecast or warning of weather conditions falsely representing such forecast or warning to have been issued or published by the Weather Bureau, United States Signal Service, or other branch of the Government service, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ninety days, or both."

It's hardly the first, and certainly not the highest crime committed by the petulant psychopath now running the most powerful country in the world aground, but it is an actual crime. Add it to the list, eh.

Amee Vanderpool covered it all pretty well yesterday on her blog, with A Map, a Sharpie and Trump Walk Into a Bar..., which I picked up with other tragicomic moments on the hashtag #TrumpSharpie this morning. (Given the devestation of the Bahamas, and the continuing drama of Hurricane Dorian, some comic relief is needed? Maybe?)

So many lessons, so little time. Yesterday, with the Resolute Desk peppered with more papers than it has ever been during his term in office, Donald Trump used the head of the Department of Homeland Security as his prop boy, and held up a poster of an almost week-old forecast that he had marked up with a Sharpie, because, (a) who else would have had the temerity (and stupidity) to do such a crazy thing, and (b) the Stable Genius had something to prove. He's smarter than all the Generals, and all the weather forecasters, and all the casino owners, and really, everyone. He is like really, really smart.

This actually happened

"Actually, we have a better map than that," he said. He explained that there were "many lines" and that "each line is a model," two true statements. "In all cases, Alabama was hit," he added, a laughably false statement. "Alabama was hit very hard" he said, conflating his misinterpretation with his alternate reality. Rest assured.

"Everyone's going to be in great shape [sic], because we're going to take care of it regardless [sic], regardless. But the original path [sic] was through Florida [sic]. That was probably three days I think that's probably three, four days old [sic], the original path [sic] that most people [sic] thought [sic] it was going to be taking as you know was right through Florida, where, on the right would've been Georgia, Alabama, [sic] etc."

Hey, what about that effing Sharpie mark-up? Caught with his pants down around his ankles and the graffito on the stall wall, he said:

"I don't know, I don't know, I don't know." [sic, sic, sic]

Then he called for his pipe and his slippers and accepted apologies from everyone who had doubted him, tweeted out that "better map," an even older amalgamation of forecast models compiled by the South Florida Water Management District, showing the storm most likely running up the Florida and Georgia coast, but "uncertainty," as always. "As you can see," Trump said, and proceeded to illustrate his utter inability to interpret a stale forecast, or come up with a defense for his original gaffe. Nice that the image somone else provided him to tweet had a disclaimer:

"[National Hurricane Center] Advisories and County Emergency Management Statements supersede this product. This graphic should complement, not replace, NHC discussions. If anything on this graphic causes confusion, ignore the entire product."

That should be the caveat for the whole Trump presidency.

Speaking of the trumpian "tell," Jeanette notice at 0:12 in that 1:27 video from the WaPo, Trump makes the same arm motion as he used to put that arc on the posterized forecast map with his Sharpie.

Seriously, Spanky McSharpie?

You're STILL on this nonsense about Alabama? At this point, even your most ardent supporters want you to shut up about this.

Take the "L." No amount of spin or #TrumpSharpie can erase your total buffoonery on this.

You are *marked* for failure. pic.twitter.com/G7ZfEnnC5j

— BrooklynDad_Defiant! (@mmpadellan) September 5, 2019

raveling

Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007