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Well this helps explain why James Comer has a privileged air about him. Story and video on Daily Kos: Looks like Jared Moskowitz seriously got under James Comer's skin, two weeks ago. Talking about his LLC which owns property and how "it manages thou– over a thousand acres of land for hunting purposes. It owns different properties." Emphasis on it for some reason. Not him, the company. Not a shell company, though! Don't call it that. But then it is about him, naturally.
"I'm one of the largest land owners in my home– area, okay? I went to the bank and I borrowed money and I bought that land."
From his father's estate, ok. But not with "wires" mind you.
"My family doesn't get wires. Ok? Never loaned my brother money. Don't have an LLC. [sic] But you and [Rep. Daniel] Goldman, who is Mr. Trust Fund, continue to try to..."
Moskowitz attempted to reclaim the time he loaned to the chairman of the House Oversight Committee and assistant witch hunter. Comer wasn't done.
"No, I'm not going to give you your time back, we can stop the clock. You all continue to, you all look like a Smurf here just goin' around and all this stuff but now listen"
A Smurf, what? Ok, Moskowitz' blue plaid suit was pretty ugly, but it seems to have provided a useful distraction? He was not listening, how he's talking, and they're both talking, and never mind the "bullshit"ting, this Comer dude has lost the plot on chairing a committee. It's like they're drinking at the bar on the corner and havin' a good old boy pissin' match.
It's a lot tougher crowd than when Comer shows up on Fox News or Newsmax. He needed a handicap, for sure.
COMER: You've already been proven a liar–
MOSKOWITZ: Who's proven me a liar? You?
MOSKOWITZ: Your word means nothing Mr. Chairman.
COMER: Go to my hometown, there's a camera crew there today, an opposition research crew there today...
Mercifully (for the chairman), the ranking member (Kweisi Mfume I think it was, sitting in for Jamie Raskin) raised a point of order for the committee to return to something approaching regular order. If only.
Up there where Comer said "Don't have an LLC," maybe he meant "shell company" and misspoke, but maybe he was thinking about how he and his wife missed the due date for their annual report again last year, and it has been "administratively dissolved" for more than a year now.
H/t to Philip Bump for his description of the clown show and that detail, for the Washington Post. Looking up Farm Team Properties, LLC on the Kentucky SOS site, I see its last annual report was Aug. 31, 2021 (which also missed the 60 day grace period, if the requirement is June 30, like Idaho's), its Status is Inactive and its Standing is Bad. It was suspended in 2020, also, after missing that year's filing deadline. The only officers shown are JAMES S Richardson COMER, and Tamara Jo Comer; how hard could it be?
After today's first post (below), I wondered about my own use of the F-word, whether I'd overdone it and all. Found sixteen hits in almost two and a half decades. Doesn't seem excessive, but you be the judge. In March, 2003, Norman Mailer, "fascism is more of a natural state than democracy." Dark assessment, but non-specific (as far as I looked. Four months later, Richard Falk giving his definition. The next May, 2004, a Matthew Fox think piece about Mel Gibson's ick, "open[ing] a door on fascist piety" with the word in the title (and a blasted stale link; here now).
Then that June, a quarter of the way into my review (and as far as I went), something called The Project for an Old American Century (catchy! but alas, the domain's gone up for grabs), on "the traditional features of fascism," starting with powerful and continuing nationalism and ending with fraudulent elections which checks out. 2004 is a long time ago, what was up then? Oh right, the war in Iraq, with Donald Rumseld's hands on the dials fine-tuning torture for terrorism suspects, and George W. Bush having "no recollection" of those memoranda. Poking around with the Wayback Machine, I found a link on Democracy NOW!, which moved to here: The Pinochet Principle: Bush Defends Torture in the Name of National Security. John Ashcroft, remember him?
Searching for the catchy alliteration fast forwards to the end of the second Bush II term in The Atlantic (making our subscription pay today), and The Pinochet Principle, by "The Daily Dish," which was Andrew Sullivan's thing, I gather. He was dishing Philippe Sands from 2008, without a paywall, finally, 10 years of the Pinochet principle. Stuff out of Jack Goldsmith's book, which you can look up, but here's the money quote, my emphases sprinkled into it:
"[I]t seems that Pinochet's case caused concerns at the highest levels of the Bush administration, as described in [Jack Goldsmith's book]... [D]uring 2002, Henry Kissinger found himself on the sharp end of the Pinochet case. Reportedly livid, a rattled Kissinger complained to his old chum Donald Rumsfeld, who was already worrying about "lawfare" (the use of law to achieve operational objectives). Rumsfeld instructed the chief lawyer at the Pentagon, Jim Haynes, to address the problems posed by this "judicialisation of international politics". Haynes passed the assignment on to Goldsmith, whose memo reached the National Security Council, which also worried about the threat of foreign judges. According to Goldsmith, the NSC couldn't work out what to do about the problem.
"We now know that while this was going on, Rumsfeld and Haynes and others at the Pentagon were secretly circumventing international laws like the Geneva conventions and the torture convention and removing international constraints on the interrogation of detainees at Guantánamo and in Iraq. Torture and other international crimes followed. So did the Abu Ghraib photos. Amid the welter of legal opinions received by the administration none, it seems, bothered to examine the consequences of the House of Lords judgment for senior US officials.
"The legacy of the arrest warrant [for Augusto Pinochet] signed in Hampstead on [Oct. 16, 1998], is the Pinochet principle, that no one is above the law. It may one day come to haunt the very people who sought to set it aside. If, that is, they ever dare to set foot outside the United States.
ICYMI, "lawfare" is so old it's new again, and when Trump gets past perseverating about how everyone and everything is "very unfair" to him, he occasionally remembers someone fed him that term to sprinkle into his outside-the-courtroom press cons.
Heard Tom Nichols interviewed on Amanpour out of my overnight notices, talking about his latest piece for The Atlantic, and I thought the name sounded familiar. Searched back through the blog to see what I might have responded to of his. (There's a lot of Tammy Nichols in the way, given her election to the Idaho House in 2018, and ascension to the Senate in 2022, representing Middleton; bit of an ironic name for the Treasure Valley bedroom community in far-right Canyon County.)
I found one item from five years ago, before the demise of Twitter, where he was @RadioFreeTom, and quoting Rudy Giuliani's infamous "Truth isn't truth" appearance on Meet The Press. "Right now, even Pontius Pilate is facepalming this one," Nichols wrote. The day after Paul Manafort's jury started deliberating, as it happened.
Anyhoo, that was then, this is now. Nichols talking about the recent rhetoric from the former guy, and how it appears that "an actual fascist has shown up." The intro notes that Liz Cheney, in her new memoir, called FG "the most dangerous man to inhabit the Oval Office." In The Atlantic... two weeks ago, the headline is Trump Crosses a Crucial Line. "Americans can still choose a better path," is a ray of hope in the dek, but this:
"The former president, after years of espousing authoritarian beliefs, has fully embraced the language of fascism. But Americans—even those who have supported him—can still refuse to follow him deeper into darkness."
Nichols "dug in [his] heels" against using the F-word over the years since the escalator started down, because Benito Mussolini's term has "a distinct meaning," denoting "a form of government that is beyond undemocratic."
"Fascism is not mere oppression. It is a more holistic ideology that elevates the state over the individual (except for a sole leader, around whom there is a cult of personality), glorifies hypernationalism and racism, worships military power, hates liberal democracy, and wallows in nostalgia and historical grievances. It asserts that all public activity should serve the regime, and that all power must be gathered in the fist of the leader and exercised only by his party."
It sounds so... familiar right now. Our "wannabe caudillo," "outer-borough tough guy," "obnocious and racist gadly, perhaps..." Perhaps? The thing was, in the 2016 run, Trump was
"just so obviously ridiculous; fascists, by contrast, are dangerously serious people, and in many circumstances, their leaders have been unnervingly tough and courageous. Trump—whiny, childish, unmanly —hardly fits that bill. (A rare benefit of his disordered character is that his defensiveness and pettiness likely continue to limit the size of his personality cult.)"
Nichols does not get around to mentioning Stephen Miller by name. But the man fluffing Trump's vocabulary into more than just his "usual crazy talk" is almost certainly providing "specific words that are being fed to [Trump]" (he's not just "picking it up somewhere"). We've moved from the inchoate anarchy of Steve Bannon's "drain the swamp" anti-government libertarianism, to specific programs. If Bannon ever got on the themes of vermin or poisoning the blood of our country, it went under my radar. Whereas, those are vintage Miller themes.
Nichols mentions the specific idea of invoking the Insurrection Act on (new) Day One, for example, "not because they're worried about civil disorder, but simply (!) to intimidate American citizens and to put down any protests against his inauguration if God help us he is reelected..." It's the hoped-for ultimate battle between the brownshirts and antifa that January 6 failed to provide. The head man has ample rage for the humiliations of his past, but not so much the organized mind to actually lead. He's more of a watch it on TV in the mess hall sort. That's where Miller, and fixers like John Eastman, Giuliani, Kash Patel, Jeffrey Clark, and congressional quislings Tommy Tuberville, Ted Cruz, J.D. Vance, Jim Jordan, James Comey, Mike Johnson will come in. With links in the original:
"Add the language in these speeches to all of the programmatic changes Trump and his allies have threatened to enact once he’s back in office—establishing massive detention camps for undocumented people, using the Justice Department against anyone who dares to run against him, purging government institutions, singling out Christianity as the state’s preferred religion, and many other actions—and it’s hard to describe it all as generic “authoritarianism.” Trump no longer aims to be some garden-variety supremo; he is now promising to be a threat to every American he identifies as an enemy—and that’s a lot of Americans."
As for "choosing a better path," the media's "normalcy bias" needs to be overcome when describing abnormality. The Overton window needs to be shifted back toward sanity and civility, so that "voters who have decided not to take things seriously" wake the eff up. In the interview:
"If you're a citizen in a democracy, you should have at least enough bandwidth to know that a major party candidate is talking like a fascist. You don't have to spend all day watching the news to be an involved-enough citizen, but I think people kind of shrug and they say it's fun, it's reality TV. People who voted for him the first time, many of them said point blank, 'I just wanted to see what would happen... they said 'well how bad could it be' and they don't realize how close we came... and Trump himself just got us used to it, there's a kind of frog boiling here you know... Trump got us used to [him] saying crazy things and I think a lot of people now they hear him talk about vermin and extermination and they say well what are you going to do, that's the way he talks, and that's a dire mistake..."
Fast forward to yesterday, and after Hunter Biden called Comer's bluff, he's flailing. Biden said he'd testify at a public hearing, but no, he wasn't going to come into a closed-door one so that Comer and the boys could twist it the way they did with Biden's former business partner, Devon Archer.
The House Republicans can convince Sean Hannity and Maria Bartiromo and whoever's on at Newsmax of pretty much whatever, because GOP media doesn't let standards or facts get in the way.
Below Philip Bump's analysis (recommended reading) with the pithy headline— Biden impeachment push nears end of runway — with no signs of takeoff—there's a stack of MORE FOR YOU items, which capture the Zeitgeist pretty well. If you're not a WaPo subscriber, just enjoy the headlines, I guess.
I'm used to the comfort of pretty much everyone around me speaking "my" language, and can remember the sometimes acute discomfort of not being able to communicate with someone. My Polish grandmother, when I was a teenager and she came to live with us, for example. And last week when I was out for a bike ride, and I stopped to see if a fellow with his bike, a tire, and a couple of tubes spread around one of the tool stations on the greenbelt. I wanted to check to see if he had what he needed to get his bike fixed, and I found out that the only English he knew was how to say "I can't speak English."
I was disappointed in myself for not having the faintest idea how to converse about bicycles in Spanish. We did have some comic gesticulations, ending with him showing me that he had a new inner tube, at least, giving me enough reassurance that I could ride on without guilt. (He'd taken things apart, so I figured the chances were good he could put them back together.) Not all of those tool stations' air pumps are in good working order; I saved someone's day at another one earlier this year. That young woman was kind of amazed that I had a pump with me on my bike, which I almost always do, along with a patch kit and spare tube, calculating "how far am I willing to walk (or maybe, hitchhike) if I get a flat tire?"
To read that a poll in 2019 found that one in five Republicans said it would bother them “a lot” to hear someone speaking another language; and 27% more said it would bother them “some” is astounding to me. They should get out more.
But anyway, speaking of that Jordan/Comer Tit for Tat show, the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, Jamie Raskin, fired for effect once again.
“After wailing and moaning for ten months about Hunter Biden and alluding to some vast unproven family conspiracy, after sending Hunter Biden a subpoena to appear and testify, Chairman Comer and the Oversight Republicans now reject his offer to appear before the full Committee and the eyes of the world and to answer any questions that they pose? What an epic humiliation for our colleagues and what a frank confession that they are simply not interested in the facts and have no confidence in their own case or the ability of their own Members to pursue it.... Chairman Comer’s insistence that Hunter Biden’s interview should happen behind closed doors proves it once again. What the Republicans fear most is sunlight and the truth.”
Just imagine what Jordan and Comer might dig up if they had an iota of curiosity about the Trump family dealings. Or sex abuse at the Ohio State University, for that matter.
When I read Joyce Vance's blog headline this morning, I thought it said John Eastman Wants to Go to Jail rather than to Trial, and I thought "fair enough." The pleading proposes splitting the remaining Fulton County defendants into two groups, absent former the headman, because various nonsensical reasons, and mostly for (or with the certain effect of) (1) pushing Trump's trial out past the election, and (2) providing two, count 'em two chances for Mr. T's lawyers to see the prosecution plan before they have a go at a defense. The next election plan is certainly "heads I win, tails you lose"; either an electoral college win, somehow, or a more successful insurrection this time.
A year ago June, just after Eastman's star turn in front of the United States House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol the LA Times featured his long, strange trip to the heart of January 6, and thence to an early "retirement" from Chapman University. One choice tidbit: When Eastman was serving as dean of Chapman's law school, he "invited his friend John Yoo, a former lawyer in George W. Bush’s administration and a tenured professor at UC Berkeley, to come teach, offering Yoo a break from blowback over his involvement with what came to be known as the torture memos." We remember those days.
You may remember Eric Herschmann's deposition, not quite so long ago? After the failed insurrection, Herschmann told investigators Eastman was still talking about legal challenges, and this:
ERIC HERSCHMANN: I don't want to hear any other F-ing (ph) words coming out of your mouth other than orderly transition. Repeat those words to me. And eventually, he said, orderly transition. I said, good, John. Now I'm going to give you the best free legal advice you're ever getting in your life. Get a great F-ing criminal defense lawyer. You're going to need it. And then I hung up on him.
Very good advice. Especially now that Eastman's last whack at a SCOTUS bailout has fizzled.
Wilmer Parker III's name is at the bottom of Eastman's opposing the August 5, 2024 trial date in Fulton Co., and I'm not sure he's a great F-ing criminal defense lawyer, but he makes a passable factotum with this gratuitous clause, behind the defendant they're trying to put last in line for trial:
"...absent former president Trump who at the present may be said to be the presumptive Republican nominee for the office of President of the Unites States."
Cute. On Eastman's "please help me pay for my lawyers" site, after the increasingly stale pitch jumps from 3rd person narrative of his cancellation to how "last month, radical Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney indicted me," there is one statement he and I can agree on:
"We, as Americans, need to push back against illegal conduct in elections."
My vague recollection of the "Fractured Fairy Tales" segment of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show is now agumented with the Fandom wiki's catalog of 91 tales over four seasons. My goodness. (Was it just four seasons? Did I see it the first time around? Big wiki says 1959-1964, so yes.) Big wiki also reminds me of (Mister) "Peabody's Improbable History," coming at me when I was learning about theory of mind, and the like. Formative years, before Sesame Street (and its 53 season run) was available.
Two versions of "Thanksgiving" bring that to mind this morning. Heather Cox Richardson's skips over the Pilgrims and Wampanoags lightly, given that the moment of sharing the fall harvest in 1621 was "forgotten almost immediately, overwritten by the long history of the settlers’ attacks on their Indigenous neighbors." Until it was revived more than two centuries later, in a bid to "ease similar tensions building between the slave-holding South and the free North" with a national holiday. It was left to the Civil War to complete the motivation. 1863 had two national Thanksgiving Days (presumably ignored down south), the second one 7 days after Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address.
The following year, Lincoln proclaimed another day of Thanksgiving, this time congratulating Americans that God had favored them not only with immigration but also with the emancipation of formerly enslaved people. “Moreover,” Lincoln wrote, “He has been pleased to animate and inspire our minds and hearts with fortitude, courage, and resolution sufficient for the great trial of civil war into which we have been brought by our adherence as a nation to the cause of freedom and humanity, and to afford to us reasonable hopes of an ultimate and happy deliverance from all our dangers and afflictions.”
We're still working on all that. Over on the improbable and fractured side of reality, George Rasley, the editor of Conservative HQ has thoughts, centered around debunking "soft-headed liberal nonsense" about immigration being part of the story. He wants us to know that Thanksgiving Is A Celebration Of Pioneers, Not Immigrants. In no way about "immigration," he insists. "Faith in God, perseverance, brotherhood in the face of hardship or even the value of goodwill among diverse people," yes. But since the Pilgrims did not consider themselves to be “immigrants,” no way that.
The Pilgrims were pioneers – colonizers who undertook a voyage for “the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our king and country.”
Yay Pilgrims, God, Honor, King (?) and Country. Which country was that again? They'd fled England to exile in Holland, escaping religious persecution, sailed for the "new world" in a complicated business deal. Rasley boils it down to one simple word: Pioneers. Glory, advancement, honor... which should never be confused with today's immigrants!
"If today’s immigrants come to America with those goals – and there’s plenty of reason to believe that many legal and illegal immigrants from Muslim countries do – then we should certainly not see their arrival as a reason to celebrate, because they represent an existential threat to our way of life."
Pioneers are righteous, enterprising, rugged individuals beholden to no one. Coming for "liberty and of necessity to wrest a living (and riches if they could find them) from Nature and from a wild and often unforgiving land; sometimes they fought, sometimes they negotiated and traded, but no one gave them anything."
They took stuff, you know. It's the blank canvas on which Manifest Destiny was eventually writ, the genocide of the existing inhabitants air-brushed away. The only native individual mentioned is with a sneer, a crooked dealer who was "a practitioner of power politics straight out of Machiavelli." (Bad if you're a native, ok if you're a Pioneer.)
Rasley's footer keyword list is larded with non sequiturs after three vaguely relevant ones. Inflation; Joe Biden economy; Bidenflation; fuel prices; transportation prices; wholesale prices; cost of living. All enemies of the Pioneers. Happy Thanksgiving 2023!
Catching up on email (a bit; it's an ever-failing enterprise), I found Heather Cox Richardson's letter for November 22, the 60th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It's a sobering, and powerful remembrance. After recounting one story from the battles for civil rights, over the federal mandate to allow army veteran James Meredith to enroll at the University of Mississippi, and how it was conflated with "communism" by racists intent on maintaining segregation, this:
On the morning of November 22, 1963, the Dallas Morning News contained a flyer saying the president was wanted for “treason” for “betraying the Constitution” and giving “support and encouragement to the Communist inspired racial riots.” Kennedy warned his wife that they were “heading into nut country today.”
The two notes below her text are a link to Lady Bird Johnson's audio diary, and a book citation, Edward H. Miller's Nut Country: Right-Wing Dallas and the Birth of the Southern Strategy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015).
(At least) One of her paid subscribers adds the obvious comment: "We are still in nut country." Not just "the south."
The leading contender for the 2024 Republican nomination for president sent out Thanksgiving Day greetings, I guess you'd call them? The projection and tells are in the title case, the all-caps, the quotation marks. Is it art, or psychosis? No reason why it can't be both. It's not subtle. FLEE, "Psycho," ME, "tiny" Fraction, Fraud, Crooked, WEAPONIZED, go to HELL, Lunatics, DESTROY OUR COUNTRY.
The property tax bill came the other day, with the pleasant surprise that our Republican overlords had actually made good on their promise of "reduction," which is to say undoing the long-term shift set in motion by (checks notes) decades ago. I've made it kind of a habit not to complain too much, because considered in mythical "constant dollars," our bill has been remarkably steady. It was definitely on the way up four years ago when the market was hot, interest rates were low, and the general populace was taking notice, and complaining. (Back when Bill Barr was studiously neutering Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion, "and a series of contacts between Trump Campaign officials and individuals with ties to the Russian government” were covered up by a series of lies, both to the special counsel and to Congress. The good old days.)
We didn't need a CPI calculator to see the difference this year: after topping $2 grand in 2019, hovering a bit during the pandemic, and then reaching an all-time high last year, the bill is down a whopping 28% this year. (Our total assessed value was down half that much; taxable value, after the homeowner's exemption, accounted for 3/4ths of the reduction.) In current dollars, we're back to 2018; in 1991-constant dollars, the bill is lower than it was through the 1990s and 2000s until the nadir of the Great Recession in 2011-2013.
That's top of mind as I scheduled the e-payment for next month, and after seeing a Boise property pop up in the NYT "What you get" weekly real estate feature. Nov. 1, 2023's number was a smooth, round $1,000,000 and Boise's entry, at 1610 Harrison Boulevard is "still available." (The NYT description says it's "just off" the prestigious boulevard, oddly, given the address.)
It's a "charmer," to be sure, a small house (1,076 sq. ft. plan) approaching its centenary, on a storied old street in the heart of the north end. According to the Times, and the realtor's slide show, it has 3 bedrooms; the county assessor hasn't got wind of the third one yet, now "the primary suite" on the "lower level," what you might know as the basement. At the turn of the millennium (before its lovely updating), this place was assessed just under $200k, when our place was deemed half as good, so we're not keeping up with that. Neither are our taxes, about one-fifth of its $8,457.76 bill for 2023.
I had a vague notion that the Times' weekly feature was representative in some way, but economics is dismal, and speculation is more fun. We have plenty of people in and around Boise already, so maybe it's for the best that outsiders get a highball view of what's on offer.
Then there's the gloomy piece in the Business section about the problem with America's weird, 30-year mortgages, the housing market "broken" because "owner's don't want to give up their cushy old loans." A first time for everything, there: "cushy" as an adjective for a loan.
"Prices, already sky-high, have gotten even higher, up nearly 40 percent over the past three years. Available homes have gotten scarcer: Listings are down nearly 20 percent over the same period. And now interest rates have soared to a 20-year high, eroding buying power without — in defiance of normal economic logic — doing much to dent prices."
But "none of which  is a problem for people who already own homes." Trying not to gloat about the "starter home" we've been in for four decades come next summer. The story is, the "one-sided bet" of long-term mortgages with fixed rates and no early payment penalty favors, well, "incumbents," and now there are apparently too many of us. Resentment of boomers' economic advantages will be a staple for some time to come. For what it's worth, the 15-year loan we agreed to with our seller back in 1984 had a 10.5% interest rate, so we have paid some dues over the years. And now...
“Affordability, no matter how you define it, is basically at its worst point since mortgage rates were in the teens” in the 1980s, said Richard K. Green, director of the Lusk Center for Real Estate at the University of Southern California. “We sort of implicitly give preference to incumbents over new people, and I don’t see any particular reason that should be the case.”
We give explicit preference to contracts made. Not "sort of." Interest rates used to be very high, then they got very low, now they've increased. Here's what I didn't know, having been out of the market for so long, in the "historical accident" section, my emphasis:
"After the [mid-2000s housing] bubble burst, the adjustable-rate mortgage all but disappeared. Today, nearly 95 percent of existing U.S. mortgages have fixed interest rates; of those, more than three-quarters are for 30-year terms."
And oh look, there's another anecdote from Boise, a buyer who slid in under the wire a year ago spring at 4.25% a couple weeks or months before "rates approached 6%."
And so we enter the age of the Madman. That's Javier Milei's nickname, I learned from the latest Letter from an American, Argentina's newly elected anarcho-capitalist libertarian extremist (in his own characterizations). Congratulated by Trump, and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, "two far-right former presidents who launched attacks against their own governments."
With inflation running 140%, up from 100% in April, the highest in more than 3 decades, and 40% of the populace living in poverty, people were ready to try something new. From "unanchored expectations," something has to change. Maybe promote the US Dollar from de facto benchmark to the official currency? I searched for a capsule history, and in that story, it says "generations and generations" have come to believe 30% inflation was "the norm." Now it's a lot worse.
Yet this nationwide confusion about what anything should cost has done nothing to dampen the Argentine enthusiasm for spending.
"You'll go to restaurants in Buenos Aires that are full, not because people are thriving financially but because they say, 'quema la plata', meaning 'burn the money'"...
And so many Argentines spend like it's the end times, buying everything from towels to televisions in installments.
"In Argentina, the world is back to front. Houses are bought in a single cash payment; small items are paid over one or two years in fixed monthly instalments," Guido says.
The Wikipedia time series is scaled from 0 to 1,000% to accommodate the 1970s, 80s, 90s. (The text section labeled "Present" only goes up to 2018, even though the time series continue to this year.)
Speaking of cash, the story also suggests Argentinians may have more US currency than any country outside the US. A crisp new $100 bill with the "Big-face Benji" "commands the best [exchange] rate." The largest home note, 1,000 pesos, was "currently worth less than US $2.40 on the black market" in April. A 2,000 peso note said to be "on the way" last spring won't get much done either. They need to start adding zeroes, not just doubling.
The USA is not anywhere near such calamity yet, might never will be, but misery is relative. The appeal of our own tawdry El Loco seems unabated. Our local paper ran the AP story with headline Sour Sentiment today; I see it on a Delaware news site with the promise of explanation in the hed: Why Americans feel gloomy about the economy despite falling inflation and low unemployment, even though "inflation has reached its lowest point in 2 1/2 years, the unemployment rate has stayed below 4% for the longest stretch since the 1960s. And the U.S. economy has repeatedly defied predictions of a coming recession."
Polls and surveys say, we've got "a glum view of the economy," because... "the lingering financial and psychological effects of the worst bout of inflation in four decades." It's just a hangover? We like what things used to cost (and of course we'd still like higher income, too). Anecdotes follow. Then this:
Karen Dynan, a Harvard economist who served in both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, noted that distinct swings in economic sentiment occur after a new president is inaugurated, with voters from the party opposed to the president quickly switching to a more negative view.
“The partisan divide is stronger than it was before,” she said. “Partly because the country is more polarized.”
Shorter: The Steve Bannon "flood the zone" strategy is still working, giving cover for the smash and grab strategy, as summarized by HCR in her opening paragraphs (WaPo link and emphasis added):
"Yesterday, David Roberts of the energy and politics newsletter Volts noted that a Washington Post article illustrated how right-wing extremism is accomplishing its goal of destroying faith in democracy. Examining how “in a swing Wisconsin county, everyone is tired of politics,” the article revealed how right-wing extremism has sucked up so much media oxygen that people have tuned out, making them unaware that Biden and the Democrats are doing their best to deliver precisely what those in the article claim to want: compromise, access to abortion, affordable health care, and gun safety.
"One person interviewed said, “I can’t really speak to anything [Biden] has done because I’ve tuned it out, like a lot of people have. We’re so tired of the us-against-them politics.” Roberts points out that “both sides” are not extremists, but many Americans have no idea that the Democrats are actually trying to govern, including by reaching across the aisle. Roberts notes that the media focus on the right wing enables the right wing to define our politics. That, in turn, serves the radical right by destroying Americans’ faith in our democratic government."
The person-on-the-street sentiment gauging (they call it the "Bellwether County" series) was done in the geographically unique Door County, the stray "finger" that separates Lake Michigan from Green Bay. When it was my stomping grounds for a while, 50 years ago, I imagined the economy was primarily tourism, with agriculture in second place, but I wasn't paying close attention to all that. Wikipedia's numbers (for 2020) shows manufacturing #1, surprisingly, real estate a close second, "government" (?), retail, and then "arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation and food services" fifth, with the top 5 of 18 categories comprising two-thirds of the $1.3B GDP.
It's a "swing" county (the "swingiest," it says), in a "swing" state, so the story starts with... a psychic. And since the county "picked the winner" in the the last six presidential elections (counting George W. Bush as "the winner" in 2000), why not poke around with some tea leaves?
"They long for compromise. They want to feel heard and understood. Most Americans, for instance, desire access to abortion, tighter restrictions on guns and affordable health care. Many wonder why our laws don’t reflect that."
Oh my god. They're swinging between "a redder expanse of dairy farms" in the south, and the "bluer enclave of lakefront vacation homes" up the peninsula, scratching their head about "Why aren’t there better options?" as we stumble into christofascism.
Markos Moulitsas, the "kos" of Daily Kos, weighed in on the WaPo feature, too: Republican chaos is purposefully designed to dampen voter engagement, noting that a more honest headline would’ve been, “In a swing Wisconsin county, everyone is tired of Republican politics.”
"[T]he article shouldn’t be about how people are disenchanted with politics, but with how Republicans are poisoning the electorate that otherwise supports the core Democratic agenda."
It's not exactly breaking news, either. Thom Hartmann's Monday take outlines the illegitimacy of the last six Republican presidents, working toward "power at any cost." Nixon's treason; the unelected Ford capping the effort; Reagan's treason with Iran; covered up by Bush I (back when you could still say "Merry Christmas," 1992: BUSH PARDONS 6 IN IRAN AFFAIR, ABORTING A WEINBERGER TRIAL; PROSECUTOR ASSAILS 'COVER-UP'); Bush II installed with the help of brother Jeb purging Florida's voter rolls, a compliant Supreme Court, Ginni Thomas, and on down the line; and then for Trump in 2016, more wreckage in voting rights, collusion with Russian oligarchs and the Russian state; leading up to the attempted insurrection in 2021.
Ken White fires for effect with his latest Popehat Report: My Free Speech Means You Have To Shut Up. More specifically, the episode is about Elon Musk, and the enduring appeal of "criticism is censorship." Following a quoted thread of Stephen "He Ought to Know" Miller darkly hinting that since "fraud is [sic] both a civil and criminal violation" and "there are 2 dozen+ conservative state Attorneys General" so you do the math, Mr. X strokes his chin, and then Attorney General Andrew Bailey announces "My team is looking into this matter."
Just as the tree of liberty must occasionally be refreshed with the blood of patriots and tyrants, freedom of speech must occasionally be protected by an unemployed ghoul and a personality disordered Boer persuading a bland FedSoc apparatchik to pester journalists for questioning billionaires.
It would be easy to blame this contemptible nonsense on Elon Musk being socially inept, proudly ignorant, and grotesquely petulant. But when it comes to thinking that the right to free speech includes the right to silence others, Elon learned it by watching us, okay? He learned it by watching us.
The rollicking fun peters out soon enough, and it turns out to be a serious defense of clarity (even to the point of pedantry) in service to the wider good.
Melon Usk's "thermonuclear lawsuit" (threatened against Media Matters for reporting that X is placing ads for Amazon, NBA Mexico, NBCUniversal, and others next to content with white nationalist hashtags), on his way to driving the thing formerly known as Twitter all the way down to the fully anerobic mud at the bottom of the authoritarian swamp will most certainly fail to arise to the level of tempest in a teapot, but hey, another Monday morning, and look who's the talk of the town.
Shortly after 8 this morning, the phone rang. A 208 number with a Twin Falls infix, not in my contacts. Could it be...? Yes, "Senior Advisors" again. Word apparently has leaked out that I'm of a certain age, and, well, it's Open Enrollment time, and I'm an attractive commodity.
"Good morning!" I said, loudly and clearly, so that the auto-detect-connect would know it had a live one. After another tentative "Hello?" the next step, of introduction. "Sadie, from Senior Advisors" said something, perhaps "How are you doing today?" as one does, and waited for my reponse. She was on speakerphone as I continued putting breakfast together.
"Good morning, Sadie," I said cheerfully, "are you a human being?"
There was a bit of a pregnant pause; was she expecting a more a voluble old fart? Then to launch the pitch on a positive note, "That's great!"
We laughed and laughed.
Some old white guy leads into the ad I didn't ask for ahead of the YouTube video I did ask for, and authoritatively (I guess it is, for some people) says something about "these woke revolutions" and I'm like whaaaa? Can't rewind the dang thing, but I can see it's for Hillsdale DVD-education that I can Order now. Ermergerd. For the first time in maybe forever, I want to take the ad-jump, but not as much as I want to go back to the beginning and see the script and slow down the fast cuts flashing at me. Rioting, flags burning, wokeness, fire, abolish the police, "the people who control us in the corporate boardroom, and Hollywood and professional sports..."
Eventually I saw who it was talking, Victor Davis Hanson, our prospective college professor, with a course "based on his new book" (spoiler alert), The Dying Citizen: How Progressive Elites, Tribalism, and Globalization Are Destroying the Idea of America.
The "people who control us" include Ellen Degeneres, Bradley Cooper, Megan Rapinoe with her pink hair, Colin Kaepernick with that giant afro, "the people on Wall Street,the people in Silicon Valley," some guy, Zuckerberg, John Kerry, Bill Gates and Justin Trudeau (get back up to Canada where you belong!), Tim Cook "have found a way to siphon the profits from 7 billion people on the planet" (it's 8 billion now, but ok, Larry Page, Matt Damon, Jeff Bezos, Ben Affleck—oddly, Melon Usk does not appear) "on the planet that [sic] have an iPhone or an email account, or a Google search to an area of about 80 square miles." So... concentration of wealth bad?
"If we don't wake up, the elite who don't believe in the American experiment will hijack our government."
Wait, I thought WAKING UP was a bad thing. Different flavor of woke? I don't remember seeing Kaepernick, Rapinoe, Gates or Trudeau mobbing the Capitol on January 6, 2021 in Washington D.C. trying to hijack our government.
Turns out I can't actually order the thing, but I can give a "gift" to Hillsdale College, and if I bust out $100, they'll send me their new online course, “American Citizenship and Its Decline,” in a handsome DVD box set. It promises to (or exhorts me to) "Teach Americans how citizenship and free government are under attack," as if, what, I'd been in a coma for eight years?
"In this course, Americans will learn the history of citizenship in the West and the challenges it faces from the deep state, progressive economic policies, illegal immigration, and more. Knowledge of the nature and scope of these challenges is vital for everyone who wishes to defend freedom in America."
They take pains to express their "independence," no pun intended.
"Because we accept no government funding—not even indirectly in the form of federal or state student grants or loans—we can remain true to our 179-year-old mission: to provide “sound learning” of the kind needed to preserve “the inestimable blessings of civil and religious liberty.”
"Our independence from government funding frees us from many corrupting and unconstitutional federal regulations. But it also means that we are entirely dependent on the support of citizens like you, who understand the importance of education to liberty."
It's "the very best liberal arts education in the land" you'll be helping promulgate. Imagine that in these waning days of all things liberal, including our own founding fathered liberal democracy.
Below the buttons and the form for YOUR DONATION, starting at $50 (for which IDK, you get a thank-you email?), $100, $200, $250 or fill in the blank, below the web, donor services email, and street addresses, a cheery bit of fine print, not bold-faced at all: Hillsdale is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. All donations are tax-deductible.
So there's that. Having searched for, and found the 2 min. "official trailer," I can tell you how it starts:
you have these woke revolutions, it requires all of us at some point to say: 'No! Not going to do this!' A nation has to have civic education. They have to know what the Constitution is, they have to know what the First Amendment is..."
Halfway in, those fast cuts. Fire at the barricades, a toppled bronze with white and red paint on it, "1619" graffiti (zoom in, to make sure you get it), ABOLISH THE POLICE, a flag burning (protected First Amendment "speech," ICYMI), all in 5 seconds.
Dr. Fauci makes an appearance later, naturally, a World Economic Forum splash (quite dated, back when Bills Clinton & Gates were youngish, Tony Blair, Bono), the immigrant horde, barbarians storming our walls (no, not the J6 barbarians). The basic message is LEARN CITIZENSHIP OR DIE, the way, uh, Joseph Warren did in the third and final attack by the British of Breed's Hill, three days after he was appointed a Major General, but still serving as a volunteer private on June 17, 1775. (Just one of the inspirational images out of Hanson's trailer.)
This morning's quoted quartet from the conclusion of Heather Cox Richardson's latest Letter from an American sent me looking for the complete text out of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit on WhiteHouse.gov, where I found the joint statement from the US-EU Summit last month instead. Same theme, different summit: partnership; securing peace, stability, and prosperity; reinforcing multilateralism and international cooperation; and so on. The "situation in the Middle East" and "Russia's War Against Ukraine" are top of mind, followed by Africa, the Indo-Pacific, China, security and defense, emerging economies, strengthening cooperation, promoting "rules-based trade" and fair competition, expanding people-to-people contacts. (HCR notes that "APEC economies make up almost half of world trade and about 62% of global gross domestic product," so the latest summit was a big deal even without the face-to-face with China's General Secretary slash dictator Xi Jinping.)
I see I could have also just looked at the bottom for the links HCR provides every issue: Remarks by President Biden at a Welcome Reception for APEC Leaders | San Francisco, CA.
Stepping up to the top of the Briefing Room section, I see it's a busy feed, and search engines struggle to keep up: 7 items just this morning, and 888 more big print pages for its index. Last item dated yesterday was the readout of the Biden-Xi meeting, distilled to a positive summary of the "candid and constructive discussion." Definitely beats a private meeting with a dictator, with no notes.
Then there's that old joke about the opposite of progress being Congress, brought to mind by the Republican firebrands shutting down House business yesterday—let's just go home for Thanksgiving, eh?—"by refusing to pass a procedural vote to take up a spending bill, as they had threatened to do in retaliation for the passage" of another continuing resolution, now halfway through the second month of the new fiscal year.
“We’re sending a shot across the bow,” caucus chair Scott Perry (R-PA) told reporters. “[W]e are done with the failure theater here.”
But are you, really? Out here in the cheap seats, this looks exactly like failure theater, taking more time off while the Middle East and Ukraine are burning, and the dog ate your homework again.
Representative Chip Roy (R-TX) angrily said to his colleagues: “One thing. I want my Republican colleagues to give me one thing. One. That I can go campaign on and say we did. One! Anybody sitting in the complex, if you want to come down to the floor and come explain to me, one material, meaningful, significant thing the Republican majority has done besides, ‘Well, I guess it’s not as bad as the Democrats.’”
As if... a spanner in the gearbox is not the heart of the Republican program? I'm old enough to remember when Matt Gaetz led the charge to depose Kevin McCarthy with a fit of pique just... 6 weeks ago, and dark hilarity ensued. That debacle was payback for a so-called "clean CR," meaning one that didn't do things like slash food stamps, child benefits and funding for the IRS. (Jay Kuo provides more detail in The GOP Ate Its Own Face Again.)
But enough with the bad news, good things are happening, and HCR spells them out. I guess first on the list is that we "won" another round of "chicken" and WE AVERTED ANOTHER GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN just in time for the holiday the rest of us will observe next week. Let us give thanks. Try not to think about how "archconservative deficit hawks and mainstream appropriators are worlds apart on spending levels in the House, foreshadowing problems in finding a compromise that both chambers can accept" in the new year.
From back in the day when the Democrats had a slim majority and a capable leader who enabled "a series of sweeping bills that are already changing the country," The Bipartisan Infrastructure Act turned 2 yesterday, and a more than $1 trillion investment in roads, water systems, electrical grids, broadband, and bridges is underway.
More than 37,000 projects across the country have been started, "creating hundreds of thousands of jobs." It's going so well that plenty of Republicans (who voted against it) are taking credit.
"The investment in infrastructure is part of what has created a booming U.S. economy. Growth is far better in the U.S. than in Europe or China, where a property bubble and local government debts have led to deflation."
The tour of my swampy spam bucket today includes (2 copies of) Steve Scalise's plan to "snatch victory from the jaws of defeat" (by sending *him* money?!), (2 copies of) John Kennedy with a subject line "All due respect" (nuff said), and a "Breaking News Alerts" from Texans for Ronny Jackson who implore every TRUE TRUMP REPUBLICAN to go on record right now and say, "DROP ALL CHARGES AGAINST PRESIDENT TRUMP!!"
The grand ol' party of lawlessness, disorder, and nested grifting. I'm not the betting sort, but I'd put my money on the teamster.
Sucked into the maelstrom of "Court Battles News" (now a category on The Hill's website) by the motion for a mistrial in NY fraud trial (which appears more than likely an end run around the gag order), the trailer teasers include "emotional testimony" from the guy who attacked Paul Pelosi, with the pull-quote "he was never my target," so that's fine. Hunter Biden wants to subpoena Donald Trump and Bill Barr. Not baseball-Ty Cobb calls orange man's rhetoric "off the rails," and surmises that it could land him in jail. And the Supreme Court's toothless "ethics code" that "does little to satisfy Democrats."
Is it just Democrats, though, really? Republicans are ok with the Sam Alito vacation plan, private jetting to Alaska? And Clarence Thomas, omg.
"At least 38 destination vacations, including a previously unreported voyage on a yacht around the Bahamas; 26 private jet flights, plus an additional eight by helicopter; a dozen VIP passes to professional and college sporting events, typically perched in the skybox; two stays at luxury resorts in Florida and Jamaica; and one standing invitation to an uber-exclusive golf club overlooking the Atlantic coast."
It's an embarrassment and a (bad) joke that "if you were handed a copy of the new code and its attached commentary, and were unfamiliar with the fact that this code arrives after seven months of painstaking reporting into Thomas’s corruption and his relationships with many wealthy Republicans who give him expensive gifts, you would have no idea that these scandals even exist."
Joyce Vance's Civil Discourse blog has an important, and succinct post, starting with what seems to me an unnecessary request for indulgence for "thoughts less formal than usual." It's the ongoing story of this dangerous moment: Trump Drops the Pretense of Democracy, with "increasing openness in proposing a fascist future for America. He no longer couches it in the language of democracy, and there is no pretense that his America is one with a place for all of us. It is a moral imperative to stay engaged."
Heather Cox Richardson's Letters from an American spoke to Trump's vile language delivered on Veterans Day, and reiterated in his private social media rant.
"The use of language referring to enemies as bugs or rodents has a long history in genocide because it dehumanizes opponents, making it easier to kill them. In the U.S. this concept is most commonly associated with Hitler and the Nazis, who often spoke of Jews as “vermin” and vowed to exterminate them."
As prelude to a new religion-based travel ban, deporting 10 million people, ending birthright citizenship, and, as Trump's Leni Riefenstahl, Stephen Miller put it, "the most spectacular migration crackdown."
Vance includes a link to an Axios story I hadn't seen, the specifics of the pre-screening of loyalists for a 2025 power grab. After the wholesale cleansing—"as many as 50,000 federal workers" on top of 4,000 presidential appointments—of the "deep state" that Steve Bannon rants against daily. The "unitary executive" fever dreams of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld have come to life and are metastasizing into a dictatorship. If you elide the gaslighting from the "vermin" speech, you get the tell: We pledge to you that we will ... lie and steal and cheat on elections [and] do anything, whether legally or illegally, to destroy America.
Over eighty partners in "Project 2025," which says it's being organized by the Heritage Foundation, and includes Charlie Kirk's Turning Point USA, and Russ Vought's "Center for Renewing America." Which reminds me: Jonathan Chait wrote about The Authoritarian Right’s Code-Phrase: ‘Do You Know What Time It Is?’ and its sinister implications. I saw that just after quoting Vought using it in regard to the Federalist Society (not knowing), earlier this month. Chait:
"A conservative who knows what time it is recognizes that the left is poised to permanently seize power, and that the old rules of politics (following the traditional norms of liberal democracy) no longer apply in the face of this emergency."
That's "liberal democracy" in the sense that our founders instantiated in our Constitution, "the wider philosophical tradition of liberalism dating from Locke, Mill, and so on, which treats individual rights and the rule of law as foundational." The "traditional norms" that have been upended by Trump, his toadies and foot soldiers for most of a decade now. From Axios' outline:
Why it matters: Hundreds of people are spending tens of millions of dollars to install a pre-vetted, pro-Trump army of up to 54,000 loyalists across government to rip off the restraints imposed on the previous 46 presidents.
So I don't suppose I'll be getting a recruitment notice mixed in with the regular spam from Mike Johnson ("The Lord is testing us, Patriot"), James Comer, 50X Trump Cash Blitz, Nikki Haley, Ted Cruz, Kash Patel, Kari Lake and the rest.
Between the lines: Trump doesn't hide his intentions. It's important to tune out the theatrical language that drives social media and cable TV, and focus intently on the directional guidance of his second term.
He's telling us exactly what he intends to do — like it or loathe it. And this time, he'll have prefabbed institutional muscle to turn pugilistic words into policies and action from the get-go.
Finally, in case you missed Saturday's speech, Charles P. Pierce provided a cogent summary for Esquire: Nazi-Curious Madman Currently Under Indictment For 91 Felonies Gives Speech. "Trump's rhetoric, coupled with his stated plans for his next presidency, should clarify for any thinking human being the fact that he must not be elected next year."
Robert Reich's latest blog post is a sobering read, connecting the dots on a timeline slightly longer than my own, between the stain on Wisconsin in the mid-1950s to the stain on the whole nation nearly 70 years later. Have they no sense of decency?
He starts with the ethics complaint against Judge Arther F. Engoron, just filed by the House Republican Conference Chair, third most rank of the leadership. Not coincidentally, Rep. Elise Stefanik is also in my Sunday spam bucket, addressing me as "Patriot," of course, gaslighting to beat the band about "inappropriate bias and judicial intemperance" [drink!], making "a mockery of our legal system," a "slander machine," the "playbook of a Marxist regime," and "Your own rights are on the line too." Her wind-up is to "please, make a contribution to help defend President [sic] Trump from this blatant corruption," by sending money to Team Elise, a joint fundraising committee authorized by and composed of Elise for Congress and E-PAC. (Ha ha, blatant corruption, get it?)
Anyway, for any younger readers who may not recognize the question of Reich's blog headline, it was raised by Joseph Welch back in the day, and it broke the fever of the witch hunt for Communists in the summer of 1954. I did not remember Welch was defending his staff attorney against Senator Joseph McCarthy's attempted character assassination, and needed to be reminded of McCarthy's sorry end: "Three years later, censured by his Senate colleagues, ostracized by his party, and ignored by the press, McCarthy drank himself to death, a broken man at the age of 48." (I see Stefanik hasn't hit 40 yet; she was born in 1984.)
Forty-eight! And of course the through-line of Roy Cohn, McCarthy's chief counsel for the senate debacle, who "reinvented himself as a power broker in New York who proved useful to a young real estate developer named Donald Trump, then undertaking several large construction projects in Manhattan, who needed a fixer." Read the original if you need the refresher, no spoiler (or belaboring) here. Cohn came to a sorry end, too, before turning 60.
"Crime boss" used to be some distant, sepia memory in the fog between tawdry fiction and American history, with "fixer" a supporting role. Now we're living the story, thanks to Cohn, David Pecker, Michael Cohen, Bill Barr, and Rudy Giuliani, just off the top of my head. Frontline featured Cohen 5 years ago, and here, Law & Crime dishes more on the "Wild" WSJ story (the original behind their paywall), dated January 10th, 2020, while Trump was still president, not quite a year before his attempted coup d'état. We see it was "adapted from a forthcoming book," by Joe Palazzolo. A bit long in the tooth now (the last 3 years!), but you can find it at your local library, maybe, as I just did. You might have to wait until I'm done with it if you're in Boise. (It might not take me long.) The Fixers: The Bottom-Feeders, Crooked Lawyers, Gossipmongers, and Porn Stars Who Created the 45th President. We're reminded of another infamous character, the one who fixed the Supreme Court, Don McGahn.
"[I]n one passage of Robert Mueller’s Russia report, Trump asked former White House Counsel Don McGahn why he told Mueller about a directive to have the special counsel removed. McGahn said that he couldn’t hide behind attorney-client privilege in this case. “What about these notes?” Trump responded. “Lawyers don’t take notes. I never had a lawyer who took notes.”
McGahn said that a “real lawyer” takes notes and Trump said great lawyers like Roy Cohn never took notes. “I’ve had a lot of great lawyers, like Roy Cohn. He did not take notes,” Trump said.
Those stories are now so old, they seem a little sepia, too, the paper deteriorating and foxed. Michael Cohen was still in prison for his supporting role in big Don's criming to catch and kill the story of the Stormy Daniels affair. He started telling the truth about his old boss, so no pardon for him, unlike those who got off after contempt, fraud, retaining secrets, false statements and perjury ("Scooter" Libby after all these years!), violation of the White Slave Traffic Act, arson, raketerring, lots of obstruction of justice, grifting, theft, murder, robbery, embezzling, money laundering, stalking and harassment, extortion, espionage, right up until his last half-day in office, when he gave clemency to Albert J. Pirro Jr. for conspiracy to defraud the United States, tax evasion (4 counts), and fraud (29 counts). It's one hell of a list.
Robert Reich's last word for today:
In his first and best-known book, The Art of the Deal, Trump drew a distinction between integrity and loyalty. He said he preferred the latter.
Trump compared Roy Cohn to “all the hundreds of ‘respectable’ guys who make careers out of boasting about their uncompromising integrity but have absolutely no loyalty ... What I liked most about Roy Cohn was that he would do just the opposite.”
Uncompromising loyalty and absolutely no integrity. What could go wrong? Perhaps the campaign address from Cadet Bonespurs on Veteran's Day (written by Stephen Miller, I would guess) gives a clue.
"We pledge to you that we will root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and radical left thugs that live like vermin with the confines of our country, that lie and cheat and steal on elections..."
The first rule remains, "no learning." The new boss, even more extreme than the old boss, had a simple plan. Two spending bills a week for 4 weeks, and boom, done. Shutdown averted. With one week to go, there have been exactly zero bills passed, unless I missed some big news. (Certainly none passed that had a prayer of making it through the senate.) The senate majority leader provided timeless advice that showed no indication of being followed:
“I implore Speaker Johnson and our House Republican colleagues to learn from the fiasco of a month ago,” Mr. Schumer said. “Hard-right proposals, hard-right slashing cuts, hard-right poison pills that have zero support from Democrats will only make a shutdown more likely. I hope they don’t go down that path in the week to come.”
The NYT story that prompts me to write mentioned 12 appropriation bills, so maybe my arithmetic is off, but zero is still zero. And god bless "influential conservative" Chip Roy, giving the game away,
"said he would only support a stopgap spending bill with deep cuts and conservative policy priorities attached — legislation that could not survive in the Democratic-led Senate. “Certainly not anything that would resemble a so-called clean C.R..”
Thom Hartmann cuts to the chase, and answers his own question. Why Are Republicans Fiddling with Fascism While the Shutdown is Looming?
"It turns out they actually want the chaos they’re creating, the government defaults, the mass shooters, the fights on school boards and city councils, the racist, antisemitic, and homophobic vigilantes. They think it will all work to their advantage: none of this is accidental."
"They think it will discourage voters by amplifying American cynicism and discouragement, making it easier for them to take over."
It's "by far — the most scandalous allegation that has come out of the Jamie Comer and Jim Jordan-led effort to gin up an impeachment of Joe Biden." Chuck Grassley had the dirt on... wait for it...
"In an October 2016 email not involving Hunter Biden (who had a role in setting up the relationship with [Blue Star Strategies], but not once they were brought in), BSS noted — and took credit for — Ukraine halting the investigation into Zlochevsky.
"According to Chuck Grassley, by that point, DOJ under Obama had opened its own investigation into Zlochevsky.
"In spring 2019, Zlochevsky said he had no dirt on Joe Biden but — again according to Lev Parnas — he said he could get dirt, possibly in the form of a laptop, if Rudy could do something to “curry favor” at DOJ. And then, in the same month that DOJ obtained a Hunter Biden laptop, DOJ shut down the investigation into Zlochevsky. And around the same time, Zlochevsky randomly offered up to an FBI informant, for the first time, that he had bribed Joe Biden.
Zlochevsky was the founder of Burisma, and "[had] long been pursued by Ukrainian authorities on corruption and money-laundering charges and was hoping to avoid additional scrutiny by the U.S., Parnas said," according to the Oct, 2020 report in Politico linked in the original. If that's a bit too much to follow, cut to the chase from Marcy Wheeler:
"Bill Barr’s DOJ shut down a bribery investigation into Mykola Zlochevsky in December 2019. And then days later, on January 3, 2020, he set up a way to get a claim that Mykola Zlochevsky had bribed Joe Biden injected into the investigation of Hunter Biden."
The real drama in Sherman, Texas, is behind the scenes, where—BREAKING NEWS—the independent school district board learned that a certain musical was found to have "mature adult themes, profane language, and sexual content." Who knew? Rodgers and Hammerstein somehow snuck it on to Broadway 80 years ago and the original production was shut down after only 2,212 performances. (The film adaptation, as old as me, won an Oscar. The pernicious record album was a staple in the household of my depraved youth. And you want mature adult themes, just wait 'till Hugh Jackman gets a hold of this thing. OMG.)
There is "courtship" for heaven's sake, and a young woman dreams of ballet, and her feelings about two men. Ado Annie is a girl who caint say no. There's an itinerant Persian. We wouldn't want our high school kids to know about that kind of stuff.
Turns out the Sherman Independent School District doesn't actually have a gender assignment policy, but they decided that "As it relates to this particular production, the sex of the role as identified in the script will be used when casting." After casting had been done?! They don't mention him in the presser, but it's a bill of attainder for senior Max Hightower. They came up with a new version of the old excuse: THERE'S NO REASON FOR IT, THERE'S JUST NO POLICY.
So many levels of embarrassment here, it's hard to know where to start. Postponing the play for more than a month, after reaching in to arbitrarily screw it up? Gee wilikers!
ICYMI, the "show opened on Broadway to raves from the critics, sold out, and won a special Pulitzer Prize. Brooks Atkinson wrote in The New York Times that the show's opening number, 'Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'' changed the history of musical theater: 'After a verse like that, sung to a buoyant melody, the banalities of the old musical stage became intolerable.'"
Also, sex and violence figure prominently in the plot, unlike most of the entertainment our kids see these days. The Sherman ISD just wants their sex and violence to be regular.
My Election Day plans where up in the air yesterday, and surely would have included some blogging were it not for the mid-morning call to fill in for a poll worker who was too ill to complete their assigned shift. Jeanette and I did the training in October, and she'd been assigned to our precinct's poll (combined with another), but I was left on the bench. Monday morning, I was told they'd keep me on the list, "someone might drop out," but after Jeanette left before Tuesday morning sunrise, and no word, I figured I'd have the day to myself, and went attending (leisurely) to my to do list. I'd just finished the couple items I most needed to get done for the day when Jeanette called to tell me one of the folks for the next-door precinct had gone home ill, and I was on!
I grabbed my (prepacked) lunch and dinner ("we ask that you remain at your polling place the entire day") and trotted over to the Library! at Cole and Ustick, with the sun well up in a clear sky, and where the precinct was two hours into the 8am to 8pm opening. The "full day" for regular poll workers is fourteen hours, 7am to 9pm, give or take, including set up and take down. It's a paid gig, with the flat rate not as much as you could get flipping burgers for 12 hours these days. Unlike those flipping burgers, we swear an oath to support the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution and laws of the State of Idaho, and to faithfully discharge the duties of a Poll Worker (to the best of our abilities).
Given that it was my first go at it, I volunteered to do what seemed the easiest job, that of Receiving Clerk, looking after the optical scanners atop the ballot boxes that are the last step in the voters' process. As a bonus, that station was set up closest to the generous south windows, and I had the warm sun at my back for the rest of the morning and into early afternoon.
My job was to instruct voters to (privately) insert their ballots into the scanner ("the long way," and "any way will work," four ways to win), wait for the long beat of "processing," and the (hoped-for) "success" with a little chunk of the ballot being sent into the box, ask their name (for at least the third time in the whole process), and cheerily announce "Jane Doe has voted!" and proffer a choice of "I voted" stickers.
All but one of the people I interacted with over the course of the long day seemed pleased with the experience, often with multiple expressions of gratitude between us. It felt good to give, and it felt good to receive, sharing our civic duty. The recently upgraded voting technology (returning workers had to go through a training session along with newbies) is fast, effective, efficient, and secure, from everything I could see. One voter even brought in some frosted sweet bread, and a veggie tray for us, in gratitude.
The "one" less pleasant was a Skeptic about the machines I was looking after. How could she know that the machine scanned and tallied what she had marked on her ballot? The scanner does recognize and spit back ballots that are undervoted, overvoted, or visibly spoiled. It doesn't display who and what it discerned you voted for. And even if it did that, how could you know what it relayed back to central? Turns out that trust in the elected and appointed officials up and down the rather large process is required. The physical ballots provide a fully auditable trail, in case of dispute. But there's no facile answer for She Who Would Not Be Convinced. She grudgingly went through the process, airing one final, generic, unfounded complaint about "machines."
In this off-year election, we had a super-short ballot, which did run to both sides of one sheet, thanks to a bond issue for the county jail (which needed 2/3rds to pass, and looks to have come up 866 votes, 0.83% short; with more than 2,000 of the ballots cast not voted either way). That, and we voted for Mayor, and one districted City Council seat. A prepared voter could do the job in a careful minute. Our poll was never crowded, although we did have a couple of waves that produced a small line at check-in. One young man, manspreading at his booth, whipped out his phone to consult... something. For quite some time, but not more than 5 minutes. Another voter spent a remarkable amount of time at a booth. More than 10, maybe 15 minutes. I wondered how long it would go on before one of us would have to see if they were ok, but eventually they finished, and delivered their ballot to the scanner just the same as everyone else. At 4:30pm, a smoker had voted, the second one of the day. It's amazing how much stink you carry around with you when you do that.
We had all ages, some children bringing their parents in to vote (as our Assistant Chief Judge enjoyed saying at the check-in desk, thanking them for doing so). When one couple fed their ballots into the two scanners about the same time, and I announced their having voted together, their son between them made a follow-up announcement, "THESE ARE MY PARENTS," which everyone appreciated.
For some folks, getting to the poll, and walking through the process was no small thing. One of those very experienced voters asked me after I'd announced he'd voted whether I "had to" do that? I said yes, and explained further that it was for the benefit of poll watchers, which we did not have (and which are very seldom seen of late). I did it once, 19 years ago now. It's a curious anachronism, rather shouting into the void, but I enjoyed it. Pressing those who only gave me their first name, as if we were meeting at a party, "And...?" I would ask, waiting with a smile on my face. "There's more than that, right?" I'd press if need be, "and your last name?" if they still hadn't caught on. I liked the challenge of complicated-sounding, "foreign" names best, did a pretty good job of echoing whatever they gave me, and delighted when it made them beam to hear the statement of their having done their civic duty.
At Jeanette's poll, one voter staunchly refused to divulge her name, and so it was announced "A VOTER HAS VOTED" and people laughed. Jeanette told me "she waited outside as the man who was next said 'her name is Kim.' Of course I announced that KIM HAS VOTED."
The dark came, early here in November, and the traffic dwindled in the last hour and a half. When 8:00 came and the doors locked (automatically, that's handy), and we shut everything down and printed the final tallies, 400 voters in precinct 1614 had voted on Election Day, and we had 3 spoiled ballots. We had used 403 ballots from our supply of 600. Plenty of stickers left for next time.
As fate would have it, on the same day that I went out to take a picture of our little red oak, reduced to a bush, but not done in by decapitation, and then noticed that the big old white oak stump has sprouted Turkey tail conks (Trametes versicolor), I came across the story from September about Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, late of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, in Gower, Missouri.
She died at age 95, four years ago, and after the sisters decided to move her body from her grave, into a place of honor inside their church, they found "what looked and even felt remarkably like Sister Wilhelmina herself. Her face was recognizable, even after years in a damp coffin, and the sisters said that her beloved habit was “immaculate.”
It could be a miracle! Or something. First I've heard of "incorruptibles," but it's a good thing we don't all stick around that way. Also, who would want to spend part of their afterlife as a tourist attraction?
After my grade schooling (and one year of high school) run by Dominicans, and with only one bad apple in the bunch that I experienced, I have some happy memories of women in orders. Oh, and The Sound of Music, of course. So it's nice to hear that one group is still doing ok, growing even.
The story in the "Across the Country" feature has ample photographs to satisfy my curiosity, and one unfortunate composition choice at the end. There's a high school senior who said she's been to see Sister Wilhelmina three times, pictured at the Hy-Klas (seriously) grocery store, where she works, with a red MEAT and American flag in the blurred background. Not to, ah, put too fine a point on it.
We're back on standard time, leaves are flying on a morning zephyr after rain, and it's the day that our newsiest senior, Donald J. Trump, will be testifying—under oath!—about his fraudulent business empire in New York. At issue is "how much profit they will to disgorge in light of the fraud," as Joyce Vance puts it in her Civil Discourse blog.
"This is a civil, not a criminal case. No one goes to prison at the end of it. But the case is on track to put an end to the myth of Trump as a high flying, successful businessman."
You think? If any event, demented utterance, or set of proven facts could put an end to the myth, we have yet to see it. The True Believers' will to believe has only been reinforced by all that's come before. And they keep sending money to a guy who says he's "really, really rich," Go figure. But that doesn't make the spectacle any less riveting.
"When Trump takes the witness stand, we’ll get a sense of whether he has the ability act in his own best interest with his back against the wall—Jack Smith and Fani Willis will undoubtedly be watching to see what kind of a witness he makes in his own defense."
And then on Wednesday, Ivanka will have to tear herself away from a school week, and... we don't know what happens next.
"Ivanka hasn’t been deposed by the Attorney General, and unless she’s secretly cooperating—and that would have to be a very well kept secret at this point—the government doesn’t know what she’ll say when she takes the witness stand. Lawyers in the Attorney General’s position typically live and die by the rule that you don’t ask a question in court unless you know the answer. If you ask that question, you run the risk of suffering a fatal blow to your case. So, what testimony does the Attorney General expect to extract from Ivanka that’s worth the risk? One possibility is that the Attorney General expects to elicit damaging admissions from Ivanka, and possesses written confirmation, perhaps more emails like the ones used with Eric Trump last week, to confront Ivanka with if she’s not forthcoming. Still, it’s risky to ask questions you don’t know the answers to."
Robert Reich's substack Note, responding to the House GOP proposal to "reduce the deficit" by defunding the IRS spells it out in just four sentences:
"Republicans are lying when they say slashing IRS funds will lower the deficit. For each extra $1 the IRS spends auditing rich tax cheats, it can collect $12. Defunding the IRS will INCREASE the deficit.
"They want to help their rich donors cheat, while the rest of us pay for it."
A dismal update from Heather Cox Richardson's latest letter fired me up to write my Congressman, Mike Simpson, one of the group who rejected Jim Jordan's bid to be Speaker, but then got in line for the unanimous acceptance of a less well-known extremist.
I appreciated you being among the public dissenters to electing Jim Jordan as Speaker of the House. The fever of the extremists in the Republican caucus looked for a moment as if it would break, even as those publicly opposed to them were subjected to contempt and even threats from the far right.
Then the unanimous acceptance of Mike Johnson, a relative unknown who turns out to have a closet full of skeletons.
With the narrow Democratic majority in the Senate, and a Democratic President, there is a pressing need for the House to work in a bipartisan manner. Early returns are not good.
A ban on Palestinians? Slashing more than a third of the EPA budget, and 13% from the National Park Service? Cutting salaries for the EPA, BLM and Secretary of the Interior to $1? Close friends with Marjorie Taylor Greene and Thomas Massie? A former Fox News executive for his communications team?
And we're still talking about the false claims of a stolen election, and plans for an even more lawless second Trump administration, abetted by more attacks on voting rights.
Is this the legacy you're prepared to support, Mike? When are you going to say "enough"? You've been in Congress too long to just be a follower. We need leadership.
There's a NYT piece from the Trump beat team of Jonathan Swan, Charlie Savage and Maggie Haberman, teased in email with the anodyne subject line, "If Trump wins, his allies have a plan to ensure his agenda isn’t stymied." Of course. Naturally. Why wouldn't he? The headline online is a bit more direct, but still skipping around the concoction of authoritarian lawlessness that will be on offer. If Trump Wins, His Allies Want Lawyers Who Will Bless a More Radical Agenda. HCR summarized it, my emphasis added:
"Trump was frustrated in his first term by lawyers who refused to go along with his wishes, trying to stay within the law, so Trump's allies are making lists of lawyers they believe would be “more aggressive” on issues of immigration, taking over the Department of Justice, and overturning elections.
"They are looking, they say, for “a different type of lawyer” than those supported by the right-wing Federalist Society, one “willing to endure the personal and professional risks of association with Mr. Trump” and “to use theories that more establishment lawyers would reject to advance his cause.”
"John Mitnick, who served in Trump’s first term, told the reporters that “no qualified attorneys with integrity will have any desire to serve as political appointees” in a second Trump term. Instead, the lawyers in a second term would be “opportunists who will rubber-stamp whatever Trump and his senior White House staff want to do.”
The Federalist Society team is deemed insufficiently radical now. Everyone's "weak" and "stupid" in the big man's opinion. “The Federalist Society doesn’t know what time it is,” said Russell T. Vought, formerly head of the OMB in the Trump administration, and now running a think tank.
Leading the push, the undead Stephen Miller, and John McEntee. Steve Bannon didn't get a mention, but you know he's shouting in the shadows.
The proposed Lava Ridge Wind Project in south-central Idaho's Magic Valley envisions up to 400 hundred turbines with capacity of over a Gigawatt, 1,000 MW. That Wikipedia page notes that "there are already 170 wind turbines within 30 miles of the project area with a total generating capacity of 280 MW," but the proposed expansion would get "the farm" into the top 10 in the nation, and roughly double Idaho's installed capacity. WINDExchange's "Potential" map suggests that doubling would allow us to capture about 1% of the resource at hand.
For a state built on resource exploitation, this idea is apparently striking a lot of people as a bridge too far. Idaho Reports talked to Idaho's Sen. Jim Risch who said this about what he's hearing from his constituents:
"Well, they are unanimously [sic] opposed to it. Only a handful that we’ve been able to identify in favor of it are the people that have a financial interest."
He goes on to say unanimously, unanimously, and "it is unanimous." Except for, you know, that "handful" that he acknowledged? There are multiple arguments against it, and no one in the conversation arguing in favor. We've seen enough from Risch over the years to make me a little bit dubious about his level of uncertainty, and raise an eyebrow at what he said there.
For example, the Magic Valley, being "much like the Treasure Valley only smaller." The eight county Magic Valley region comprises about an eighth of the state's population; the (seven county) Treasure Valley has about half of it, four times more people. His comparison to nuclear power chipped in: "You can generate a lot of electricity on a very small, actually postage stamp sized piece of land, compared to this."
Perhaps his franking privilege gives him an oversized notion of how big postage stamps are. "Less than one acre" he goes on to say. For comparison, the Idaho National Laboratory is on an 890 square mile site, more than half a million acres. Within the INL site, there's a 462-MWe Carbon-Free Power Project in the works, with Utah spearheading the first-of-a-kind small modular reactor (SMR) project, with startup and commissioning hoped for the end of the decade. Modern Power Systems has a schematic site view showing 34.5 acres within the protected area fence, and that "within an approximately 1000-acre plot."
Risch goes on to breezily dismiss the Bureau of Land Management. "The BLM is made up of a lot of different people. And when it comes to the people, you can have a legitimate conversation. When it comes to the institution, I don’t get a good feeling on this.... [but] I think at the end of the day, we’re going to win one way or another." Where "winning" means no Lava Ridge Wind Project.
And perhaps a template for NIMBY actions generally, with our whole 4-person congressional delegation supporting a “Don’t Develop Obstructive Infrastructure on our Terrain Act.” The Don’t DO IT) Act, get it?
The latest issue of Civil Discourse with Joyce Vance, Late Breaking Trump News is about the special counsel prosecutions in D.C. and Florida. Of course, Orange Man is in the news (and court?) every. single. day., but what Vance deems worthy seems worthy of attention to me. She outlines three developments: D.C. Judge Chutkan scheduling preparations for assembling a jury; Trump appeals the restraining order from Chutkan; and the Special Counsel's office filed “Notice of Defendant’s Motion To Stay Proceedings In The District Of Columbia” with Judge Eileen Cannon in Florida, presiding over the stolen documents case. Just in case she wasn't following closely enough to notice the "disingenuous, if not deceitful, strategy by the Trump camp."
To the spluttering point that "No court in American history has [ever before] imposed a gag order on a criminal defendant who is actively campaigning for public office" (which I'm guessing was inadequately researched), Vance responds:
"No other leading candidate has been under indictment during a presidential campaign, making demeaning comments about prosecutors and witnesses, knowing that some of his followers have violent tendencies. So, perhaps, in response to Trump’s lawyers, Jack Smith might just say there’s never been a need for such an order before in our nation’s history, because no former president nor candidate has been so criminal-minded."
And more directly: "A defendant who cannot restrain himself can be restrained by the court." And should be.
The more we try to learn about our new Speaker of the House, the curiouser and curiouser he gets. Says his views on race were shaped by "raising a black child" who has been out of the picture (and Mike Johnson biography) for some time, when not in use as a talking point (in favor of "systematic, transformative change," hoping to "push the politics aside," give him that). Johnson did give a shout-out to then-president Donald Trump, between the George Floyd killing and the Lafayette Square Bible stunt (which was after the first impeachment, incidentally):
"What I've seen from the President, and I truly believe that he sees everyone equally, he loves everyone as Americans, and he does his best to act in accordance with that."
Truly. Later in the 2020 interview, how Trump genuinely cares about all Americans. (And, given these challenging times, how we should pray for the president, "whoever he [sic] is." So at least we can be sure Johnson will be praying for President Biden now?) He also expressed grave concerns about the extremist wing of the Democratic Party.
Now we find out that this guy with a 6-figure salary, and a $half million home doesn't have enough money in a bank account that bears mention in his legally required financial reporting?! How is that even possible? He keeps cash under the mattress? Gold bars in the crawl space?
Jay Kuo has more about the many unanswered questions, on his blog.
"The more the press digs, the more curious things they find out about “MAGA Mike” Johnson. We already know that things with him are not as they appear, and that the past is not something the Johnsons want us to know about. The thing is, the more they try to hide things, the more suspicious things seem."
Actually, through the rainbow, and nowhere. Jason Kottke's kottke.org ("one of the oldest blogs on the web", and once judged among the world's 50 most powerful blogs) provides a blurb and link to Why Some of the Rainbow Is Missing, a beautifully executed instructional video on the Be Smart channel. I mean, it's right there: be smart. Why wouldn't you?
Before watching, I knew some things about spectroscopy, and absorption lines (and enjoyed it joggling the memory of Quantitative Analysis lab, way back when), but I learned more just now, and had a good time doing it. Imagine a galaxy headed our way at 300 km/s, due to arrive in a scant 4.5 billion years. Or that Eureka! moment when Gustav Kirchhoff and Robert Bunsen realized that the emission lines they were seeing from burning stuff turned out to line up (!) exactly with the absorption lines that Joseph von Fraunhofer had documented, the colors missing from the rainbow.
Tom von Alten