Browsing the blog archives for May, 2018.


Global Themonuclear Trade Wars!

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Trump Maladministration

Well, maybe. Today The Creature went on a tear about tariffs again.

The first shot in President Donald Trump’s trade offensive against American allies will be fired at midnight.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced Thursday morning that hefty tariffs on aluminum and steel imports from the European Union, Mexico, and Canada will go into effect Thursday at midnight. Steel imports from those places will be taxed at 25 percent and aluminum imports at 10 percent. Those are huge numbers; the average tariff rate on US-EU traded goods is under 3 percent.

The targeted countries responded almost immediately. Mexico announced it will impose tariffs on American imports in retaliation. EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said in a statement that Europe would “impose rebalancing measures,” likely meaning some kind of retaliatory tariff on US imports, and take any other “necessary steps to protect the EU market.” Possible European targets for tariff increases include American bourbon, jeans, and motorcycle exports.

This is a big deal. The EU, Canada, and Mexico are (respectively) the United States’ first-third-, and fourth-largest trading partners. While steel and aluminum tariffs alone aren’t the end of the world, a trade war — defined as the two sides getting locked in a cycle of retaliatory tariff increases — is.

What the bleep is wrong with this man? There must be an angle in there somewhere in which Trump thinks a trade war will make Trump the Company some money, but I cannot imagine what it is. Trade experts are baffled and see no point to what Trump is doing.

I understand that the global steel market is currently screwed up mostly because of overproduction in China, but Trump is not messing with China. Well, China just gave Ivanka a bunch of trademarks, after all.

The immediate impact of these tariffs will be mixed, but probably on net negative. US steel and aluminum industries will now face less international competition, which means they’ll be hiring and producing more.

But it’ll be bad for all the other US industries that depend on cheaper steel and aluminum — little things like construction and manufacturing. One study, from the Council on Foreign Relations, estimates that the steel tariffs will destroy 40,000 jobs in America’s automobile manufacturing industry alone, one-third of the entire domestic steel industry.

Speaking of the automobile industry,  there’s this:

President Trump wants to impose a total ban on the imports of German luxury cars, according to a new report from CNBC and German magazine WirtschaftsWoche.

Several U.S. and European diplomats told the news outlets that Trump told French President Emmanuel Macron about his plans last month during a state visit.

Trump reportedly told Macron that he would maintain the ban until no Mercedes-Benz cars are seen on Fifth Avenue in New York.

In 2017, 21 percent of Mercedes Benz cars sold in the U.S. were made in the U.S. That’s a lower percentage than a lot of car companies, but it’s not zero. BTW, the only 100 percent American-made car is Tesla. A lot of U.S. based companies are manufacturing cars overseas and importing them. Only 17 percent of Lincolns are made in the U.S., while 33 percent of BMWs are made in the U.S. Go figure.

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Bad Coverage of Greitens Resignation

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I have been disappointed so far with the national coverage of Gov. Eric Greitens’s resignation. The television nightly news and most other outlets have focused on the sexual misconduct allegations against him, which in fact are the least of his problems. Those charges had been withdrawn, and few people in the state think they will ever be prosecuted, mostly because the evidence is hinky and the woman doesn’t want to pursue the case.

Why Greitens resigned today: The Missouri House has been investigating Greitens as it moved toward possible impeachment. Today a court ordered that Greitens had to turn over documents from his dark money political group to the House committee doing the investigation. It took him an entire hour after that to announce his resignation. One suspects that court order had more to do with the resignation than the affair, which we found out about several weeks ago.

The dark money group, A New Missouri, was formed right after Greitens was elected to support his agenda. It’s called “dark money” because it is set up so that the names of donors don’t have to be disclosed. The problem is that there is no apparent firewall between the governor’s office and this dark money group. That means there could be massive conflicts of interest, with people giving money to the group in order to get state contracts or get laws passed that favor their business.

In possibly related charges, the Governor and his staff were caught erasing emails and using a phone app that destroys emails, in violation of state “sunshine” laws.

It is unlikely the Republican House will pursue further investigation of Greitens now that he’s resigned, but he could still face criminal charges. He’s still under indictment for finance violations. There is a lot of speculation on local news that his resignation was part of a plea deal with the prosecutor. We may learn more tomorrow.

Here’s some basic background into his other problem:

Lawmakers from both parties immediately began questioning whether Greitens could continue to lead the state. The House authorized the legislative investigation a week after the indictment.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley also launched an inquiry into a veterans’ charity Greitens founded. Federal law bars 501(c)(3) charities such as The Mission Continues from intervening in political campaigns on behalf of candidates.

The Associated Press first reported in October 2016 that Greitens’ campaign had obtained a list of individuals, corporations and other nonprofits that had given at least $1,000 to The Mission Continues. The AP reported that Greitens raised about $2 million from those who had previously given significant amounts to the charity.

Hawley, a Republican running for U.S. Senate, turned evidence over to Gardner, saying April 17 that he believed Greitens had broken the law. Her office charged him with tampering with computer data for allegedly disclosing the donor list without the charity’s permission.

A May 2 report from a special House investigatory committee indicated that Greitens himself received the donor list and later directed aides to work off it to raise money for his gubernatorial campaign. A former campaign aide testified that he was duped into taking the fall when the campaign tried to explain how it had gotten the list.

I don’t think the alleged affair with the hairdresser really has much to do with his resignation today.

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Rosanne Barr, Eric Greitens, Puerto Rico

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Trump Maladministration

Today there is important news and unimportant news. The unimportant news is that ABC canceled the new Roseanne series after Roseanne Barr tweeted about Valerie Jarrett of the Obama Administration: “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj.” Barr’s agent dropped her also.

The tweet prompted swift outcry online, including from members of the Hollywood community. The outspoken, controversial Roseanne creator and star initially defended her words as “a joke,” then later issued an apology: “I apologize to Valerie Jarrett and to all Americans. I am truly sorry for making a bad joke about her politics and her looks.”

But the damage was done. Roseanne writer and consulting producer Wanda Sykes on Tuesday tweeted her resignation from the show, and a little over an hour later ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey canceled the hit comedy, whose first revived season set viewership records and prompted a swift renewal for season two.

I haven’t watched any of the series, so I cannot comment on its merits. But I have no problem with sending Rosanne Barr into retirement.

Now, on to important news.  Matt Shuham at Talking Points Memo reports that Missouri Governor Eric Greitens is expected to resign any minute now. Sending him into retirement wouldn’t bother me, either. He’s been increasingly embarassing. Most recently he’s been running a demented television ad blaming George Soros for the charges against him. I’m serious. If I can find a video of the ad I’ll post it sometime. It’s fascinating, in an oh look at the road kill kind of way.

Update: Yep, he just resigned.

The announcement came hours after damaging testimony by a former campaign aide to a House committee investigating Greitens, and a separate ruling by a judge forcing the governor’s campaign to reveal fundraising information.

This is in relation to impeachment hearings, so by resigning I assume he can avoid revealing the fundraising information, at least for now. The Lieutenant Governor who will step into the govenor’s job also is a Republican, so I’m not expecting anything to improve.

A Harvard study estimates that at least 4,645 died in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Marie and the inadequate response to it. The Trump Administration still claims that only 64 people died. This is from WaPo:

A new Harvard study published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine estimates that at least 4,645 deaths can be linked to the hurricane and its immediate aftermath, making the storm far deadlier than previously thought. Official estimates have placed the number of dead at 64, a count that has drawn sharp criticism from experts and local residents and spurred the government to order an independent review that has yet to be completed.

Many of the deaths were caused by disruptions in medical services to the chronically ill and the loss of electricity and clean water.

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Memorial Day 2018

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Trump Maladministration

On this Memorial Day, I am reflecting on my two great x 4 grandfathers who fought in the Revolution; my several great-great grandfathers in the Civil War (among them, one was a prisoner at Andersonville; another marched through Georgia with Crazy Bill Sherman); my grandfather, who was a machine-gunner in the trenches in France when my father was born in 1918; my dad, in uniform in World War II; my dad’s brother, Uncle Harry, who spent all of World War II as a Japanese POW; my brother, who earned a Bronze Star and Army Air Medal in Vietnam and is now permanently deployed to Arlington Cemetery; and his son who is about to retire from the Army and who was in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And I’m thinking that none of them served so that Donald Trump could manipulate U.S. foreign policy so that Ivanka can get a bunch of trademarks.

China this month awarded Ivanka Trump seven new trademarks across a broad collection of businesses, including books, housewares and cushions.

At around the same time, President Trump vowed to find a way to prevent a major Chinese telecommunications company from going bust, even though the company has a history of violating American limits on doing business with countries like Iran and North Korea.

The story goes on to say that the timing of the two events might be a coincidence. Bullshit, I say.

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Beautiful Lives and What Trump Is Doing to Them

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Trump Maladministration

Just for starters, does anybody have a clue what The Creature is bleating about here?

Seriously, I have no clue what “young and beautiful” lives he’s talking about. Who went home in tatters?

And then there’s this one, from yesterday:

Put pressure on the Democrats? to end the horrible law? This is your bleeping policy, you bleeping moron. 

Mother and son at Mexican-American border.

In case anyone is confused, this is what’s happening: There has long been a policy that when unaccompanied minors enter the U.S., they are put into the custody of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Refugee Resettlement, and from there they are either sent to relatives legally living in the U.S., if such can be found, or put into some kind of foster care. Once placed, Homeland Security takes no more responsibility for the children. It supplies no subsistence benefits for them and does not keep track of them. I would think they should at least keep track of them, but apparently they don’t. Again, my understanding is that’s been the process for awhile, and it could have used more scrutiny before Trump became president.

What’s new and unique to the Trump Administration is that the Trump Administration (via Terminal Prick Jeff Sessions) has directed border patrol to prosecute parents caught making unauthorized border crossings with their children. When that happens, and the parents are taken into custody, the children become unaccompanied minors. Got that? They weren’t really unaccompanied until Trump’s border patrol took their parents away. This directive wasn’t issued officially until recently, but the New York Times reported in April that 700 children, over 100 of them younger than four years old, had been taken from their parents at the border since October 2017.

And then, it was learned in a congressional hearing that Homeland Security has lost nearly 1500 children.

From October to December 2017, ORR [Office of Refugee Resettlement] attempted to reach 7,635 UAC [unaccompanied alien children] and their sponsors. Of this number, ORR reached and received agreement to participate in the safety and well-being call from approximately 86 percent of sponsors. From these calls, ORR learned that 6,075 UAC remained with their sponsors. Twenty-eight UAC had run away, five had been removed from the United States, and 52 had relocated to live with a non-sponsor. ORR was unable to determine with certainty the whereabouts of 1,475 UAC.

So we don’t know if those children are being trafficked or living on the streets or even still alive, and many of them actually came to the U.S. with at least one parent, who now has no idea where her or his children are. So, to keep out nasty street gangs — and I’m fine with keeping out nasty  street gangs — we’re tearing up families that are not part of street gangs, many of whom are fleeing the violence of street gangs. And Trump is responsible for this, not the Democrats. The Democrats have absolutely no power to reverse Trump’s decision.

Trump may be attempting to use lost and traumatized children to blackmail Democrats into providing funds to build his stupid wall, but the ripping apart of those families is still on him. Hostage-takers who kill the hostages can’t blame their victims.

Oh, but Trump tries. He also said,

“We have the worst immigration laws of any country, anywhere in the world,” Trump said at the roundtable held at the Morrelly Homeland Security Center. “They exploited the loopholes in our laws to enter the country as unaccompanied alien minors.”

Trump added: “They look so innocent. They’re not innocent.”

http://fox2now.com/2017/03/03/dhs-considering-proposal-to-separate-children-from-adults-at-border/

We’ll have to disagree about who is innocent and who is not.

But Trump was at his most brilliant yesterday when he tweeted that a White House aide who had given an official briefing to many members of the press did not exist.

But most of the bleeping White House press corps was there and heard this White House official say what he said.  See articles from the Washington Post, New York magazine, and CNN, just for starters.

Apparently Trump hasn’t yet given up on his Nobel Prize and is clinging to a fiction that the June 12 meeting that he canceled is going to happen anyway. There is a word for people like Trump. It is “moron.” Actually there are several other words; I believe you can think of a few.

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Guns and Responsibility

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Trump Maladministration

There was another school shooting today, this time in Indiana. Fortunately, no one was killed, although two were wounded. An unarmed science teacher saved the day.

Seventh-grader Ethan Stonebraker said the science teacher likely prevented even more injuries by confronting the shooter, who he said pulled out a gun and opened fire while the class was taking a test.

“Our science teacher immediately ran at him, swatted a gun out of his hand and tackled him to the ground,” Stonebraker said. “If it weren’t for him, more of us would have been injured for sure.”

We don’t know where the shooter got his gun. But we’ve had a number of recent circumstances in which shooters used their parents’ guns, or who were not supposed to have guns according to a court but were indulged by a parent.

I’d like to direct your attention to a post at a blog called Stonekettle that I have found recently. The blogger describes a conversation between himself and someone opposed to gun control laws. The blogger argues that there should be enforceable laws making the owner of a gun legally responsible if that gun is used in a crime, including a mass shooting. The other person objects:

If someone takes my car without permission and runs someone over with it, am I liable? The same answer applies to if someone took one of my guns without permission to murder someone else.

YES.

Yes. You can be held liable depending on circumstance.

Tony might want to check the laws of his state.

You see, in many states failure to properly secure your vehicle does make you liable under the law – not to mention, being grounds for claim denial by your insurance company.

For example: In nearly every state it is illegal to leave a running car unattended, even on private property, even if the the door is locked, and in some states even if you use a remote starting system with anti-theft lockout capability.

If you leave your car unsecured, with the keys in the ignition, you can be held liable for its theft and subsequent use in a crime.

Likewise, if you loan your vehicle to somebody unauthorized to operate it, or who is impaired, or who is not covered under your insurance, then you are liable for whatever happens with that vehicle. You are most certainly liable if your kids take your car and kill somebody because you left the keys where they could get them. You’re responsible for both the kids and the car.

However, if you take reasonable steps to secure your vehicle and to keep it out of the hands of unauthorized users, then the law generally does not hold you accountable if someone steals your car.

This is no different whatsoever from what I suggested.

Very simply, if you own a gun, you are responsible for it. If you leave it where your child can get it, and your child takes it and shoots up his science class with it, you should bear some legal responsibility. Likewise if a loaded gun is left where a toddler can get it, and the toddler kills himself or a sibling, that is not an “accident.” The owner of the gun is responsible for that shooting, and he or she should be legally responsible also. If you can document that you keep your guns in a safe or secure, locked cabinet, and a master thief gets into your house, picks the locks and steals the gun, and you report this to police, then you are not liable. Otherwise, you are. And if there are soft headed judges who routinely hand out suspended sentences for irresponsible gun ownership, maybe we can talk about mandatory sentences.

I do think that if gun owners get the message that they can get hit with serious fines and jail time for what is done with their guns, I suspect we’d see a lot fewer school shootings, at least.

Further, gun violence — including the costs of law enforcement and medical bills — are estimated to be costing U.S. taxpayers $100 billion a year. Gun owners should be required to pay for liability insurance to help pay for that. I’d tack additional sales taxes onto gun sales as well.

Are there any sensible arguments why this isn’t a good idea?

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Trump Chickens Out on the Singapore Summit

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Trump Maladministration

This morning, The Creature officially canceled the meeting with North Korea:

President Donald Trump will not meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un next month for what would have been a historic diplomatic summit, he announced in a letter to Kim released by the White House Thursday morning.

“I was very much looking forward to being there with you. Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting,” Trump wrote. “Therefore, please let this letter serve to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place.”

And that Nobel Prize had been so close. Well, maybe some other time.

There have been a number of headlines in the past few days about how Trump is getting played by Kim Jong Un. I don’t doubt some people on the teevee have said this also, meaning this might have gotten back to Trump.

Go back to John Bolton’s comment about the Libya Model that almost scuttled the talks a few days ago. We all know that the Libya Model didn’t turn out well for Muammar el-Qaddafi. The last thing Kim Jong Un wants is to disarm himself of nuclear weapons (assuming he ever really considered that) and then have western powers roll over him anyway and put videos of his lifeless carcass being mutilated on YouTube.

So Pyongyang was not thrilled with the Libya Model talk, and Trump walked it back a few days later. The White House was at least dimly aware that talk of Libya was not conduicive to intra-national harmony.

But then, Aunt Lydia Pence went on Fox News to warn North Korea that Trump wouldn’t be played.

Aunt Lydia continued,

Pence said that the Clinton and Bush administrations “got played” in the past by offering concessions to Pyongyang if the country promised to dismantle its nuclear-weapons program, only to see those North Korean promises broken.

Trump isn’t concerned about a public-relations disaster if the June 12 meeting falls apart or doesn’t go well, even with a commemorative coin already struck. Trump, rather, is “thinking about peace,” the vice president said.

Pence added that Trump has made clear that the back-and-forth with North Korea will ”end like the Libyan model, if Kim doesn’t make a deal.”

By late yesterday North Korea was reacting with extreme indignation.

North Korea fired some highly charged statements toward US Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday, all but torching what had been an otherwise conciliatory mood that the White House hoped to carry into a historic planned summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Choe Son Hui, North Korea’s vice minister of foreign affairs, called out Pence in a scathing statement and threatened to scuttle the Trump-Kim meeting set to take place in Singapore on June 12.

“Vice President Pence has made unbridled and impudent remarks that North Korea might end like Libya, military option for North Korea never came off the table, the US needs complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization, and so on,” Choe said in a statement, according to North Korea’s leading propaganda outlet.

“As a person involved in the US affairs, I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing out from the mouth of the US vice president,” Choe said.

Choe don’t know Pence very well, do he? But I doubt very much that Pence said anything he hadn’t been instructed to say. I bet Trump was aware that people thought he was being played. He’d rather blow up the summit than let it be said he was being played. And if anyone was going to call of the date, it would be Trump. Nobody jilts Trump.

So for now we’re being spared the ghastly prospect of the cartoon character in the White House actually negotiating nuclear disarmament with anybody.

Even now, CNN is reporting that North Korea had appeared to blow up its nuclear test site, although there had been earlier reports that the nuclear test site had already collapsed, and not intentionally.  This was supposed to be showing North Korea’s good intentions before the summit.  But I’m sure we’ll hear more details about what happened as the day goes on.

Update: Here’s another take. After noting that Trump had “accepted” North Korea’s non-invitation to a summit on impulse, Josh Marshall wrote,

It was clear to anyone who was really listening and who knows North Korea’s history that there was little reason to think the North Koreans were seriously considering giving up their nuclear deterrent. Indeed, why would they? They’ve made immense sacrifices to achieve it and see it – quite reasonably – as a guarantee that they will never face violent regime change from the United States or South Korea.

The planned meeting was based on a clear misunderstanding between the two parties, albeit a willful one to some degree and one each seem to think it could square in person or use to overawe the other party. We can rehearse all the reasons this fell apart. But fundamentally this was a massive goof by the President that ended up blowing up in his face. There’s simply no other way to put it. It’s not clear that we’re in a worse place now than we were before the meeting was announced. But we soon may be. It is notable that this report suggests the White House released this letter before informing the North Koreans of the decision. That was a bad, dangerous mistake. It seems, based on their initial response, that Trump had not consulted extensively and perhaps not at all with the South Koreans either. The South Korean government’s first response, as reported by Yonhap News Agency was that the President of South Korea would convene his top officials and was “trying to figure out what President Trump’s intention is and the exact meaning of it.”

JM notes that Trump’s letter is full of emotional neediness. Trump is one big bag of emotional neediness, frankly.

Update: Fred Kaplan:

By canceling his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, President Donald Trump has proved his lack of skill as a negotiator, handed the world’s most brutal dictator a win, and further isolated the United States as a world power.

In a letter to Kim, released at the same time as Western reporters were witnessing the destruction of North Korea’s nuclear test site, Trump wrote that proceeding with a summit would be “inappropriate,” given the “tremendous anger and open hostility” in Kim’s recent statements. He thus revealed how little he knows about the history of diplomacy with Pyongyang—a true expert could have told him that fiery rhetoric is par for the course—and about Kim’s long-standing position on the issues that were to be discussed.

Yep, mostly Trump has been making a fool of himself over North Korea, but unfortunately that reflects badly on all of us.

Trump’s big mistake was accepting Kim’s invitation to a summit without first discussing its potential risks and opportunities with people who know something about these things. His second, bigger mistake was hyping expectations, tweeting that a peace treaty was on the horizon and that he should win the Nobel Peace Prize simply for agreeing to meet. These absurd remarks only heightened his own stake in the summit’s success—and Kim’s leverage in the negotiations.

It’s also the case that Bolton and Pompeo were against the summit and probably were behind persuading Trump to torpedo it. And if Trump thinks Kim will come crawling back to the table, he can kiss that off. Kim has already won in the court of international public opinion, and no doubt realizes it.

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I Can’t Keep Up

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Trump Maladministration

First, be sure to read Will Bunch’s How the Trump family sold U.S. foreign policy to the highest bidder. He sums up a lot of stuff I’ve just been sputtering about.

In spite of the fact that the Kim-Trump summit may not happen — I’d bet against it — the White House had some fancy commemorative coins made to celebrate the great achievement of something something  denuclear something Nobel Prize. And some people don’t like them.

Part of the problem is the design. An official American coin with a likeness of Kim Jong Un on it that refers to him as “Supreme Leader” feels off, to say the least, given that his government is currently holding at least 120,000 of its own people in vicious camps designed specifically to hold and punish political prisoners. The coin also depicts Trump and Kim looking at each other eye to eye, as if they’re on equal footing — exactly the kind of status boost that the pariah regime in Pyongyang wants to achieve in this summit.

Not to mention the fact that it’s a tad premature to celebrate whatever it is that Trump thinks he is accomplishing that hasn’t happened yet. He had some sort of public appearance today in which he admitted the summit is not a sure thing. So the rendezvous in Singapore could fizzle, but we’ll always have the coin. See also How Trump Got Punked by Kim Jong Un.

And what about that Elliott Broidy? Paul Waldman explains,

A new article from the Associated Press lays out a remarkable campaign that Broidy and his partner George Nader waged in 2017 in order to obtain huge consulting contracts from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, in exchange for which they would use Broidy’s connections to the new president to help the Saudis and the UAE in their conflict with Qatar, a U.S. ally that houses a critical American military base.

And as the Daily Beast reports, after years of trying with almost no success to obtain federal military contracts, in 2017, Broidy’s company, Circinus LLC, received millions of dollars in defense work. The Trump presidency has been very good to Broidy, and he may have also been very good to President Trump himself.

You might remember that Broidy is the guy for whom Michael Cohen paid  $1.6 million to a Playboy model, who then aborted his baby.

From the start, many parts of this story didn’t quite add up. Broidy is a very rich man, but not necessarily someone who has occasion to hang out with Playboy models, unlike some people you might be familiar with. And he was not a public figure, which makes the $1.6 million payoff seem wildly excessive. To put it bluntly, $1.6 million is “Keep this out of the papers because it’ll be a huge story” money, not “Don’t tell my wife” money. And why would Broidy, who has access to the most high-priced and discreet legal talent in the country, retain someone like Cohen to take care of this delicate matter for him?

See also Paul Campos, Hey, Look: More Evidence That Broidy May Have Been Covering for Trump in That Playmate Affair.

Today the EPA barred the Associated Press, CNN and an environmental group from covering a national summit on water contamination. Why? We all know Trump doesn’t like CNN, and the Associated Press broke the scoop about Broidy yesterday. That’s just a guess, though.

Evgeny A. Freidman, a major business partner of Michael Cohen, just agreed to cooperate with Bob Mueller as part of a plea deal.

See also Trump’s Lawyer’s Lawyer Is (Was) a Foreign Agent for Qatar. Sometimes I think the entire Trump Administration are just surrogates for Persian Gulf nations working through their issues. And Russians.

Earlier, the question of the day was, Did Rod Rosenstein cave? By now you’ve heard about how Rosenstein agreed to investigate the Russia investigation and possibly turn documents related to it over to the White House.  Or is he playing Trump like a five-cent violin? Charles Pierce:

For the moment, I’m going to give Rosenstein credit for being a gifted bureaucratic infighter and survivor who has played the president* like a five-cent violin. (There are precedents supporting this view to be found just this morning.) There are a dozen ways for Rosenstein to slow-play the review of any classified documents. I think the president* got played on behalf of all of us.

I hope so. Jennifer Rubin (Jeez, what got into her?) has an even-handed explanation of what might be going on with Rosenstein and Wray. And then she writes,

I would suggest a third take on the meeting: Wray and Rosenstein, with Mueller’s full backing, might be setting up Trump. We know Mueller is already pursuing an obstruction-of-justice inquiry that might relate to acts such as Trump firing former FBI director James B. Comey, falsely accusing him of illegally leaking confidential material, pressuring Comey to drop the investigation into Michael Flynn, helping draft a phony cover story to explain the June 9 Trump Tower meeting and conducting an extended campaign to smear, discredit and disrupt the work of the FBI and the special counsel. In that vein, wouldn’t a meeting directly ordering Wray and Rosenstein to conduct what amounts to a wild goose chase and to put confidential material into the hands of congressional allies be part of the pattern of possible obstruction they are investigating?

The latest is that a meeting has been set up with Devin Nunes and Trey Gowdy, but with no one from the White House, and Director of National IntelligenceDan Coats, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General Ed O’Callaghan, about these documents and the expanded investigation. I don’t yet know what to make of this.

Okay, what have I left out?

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Is This Who We Are?

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Over the weekend the Lt. Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, blamed just about everything on the planet for the Santa Fe High School shooting except, you know, guns.

The Republican lieutenant governor also said, “We can’t sit back and say, ‘It’s the gun.’ It’s us as a nation, George … On this Sunday morning, when we all go to church and pray or go to synagogue or the mosque or wherever we go, let’s look inward at ourselves as a nation.”

Stephanopoulos asked, “But when we look inward, sir, aren’t we going to find that guns are more available here in greater numbers, in greater lethality, than any other developed country in the world?”

“They are, George,” Patrick said, “and here’s the reality: They are a part of who we are as a nation. It is our Second Amendment.”

I’m all for looking inward at ourselves as a nation. And when we do, we ought to be honest with ourselves that “we” have a problem with guns. And by “we” I mean our fellow citizens who harbor a toxic mix of aggrieved entitlement, masculinity issues and firearm fetishism.

Josh Marshall wrote a couple of days ago (please read all of this):

School shootings are a contagious phenomenon in American society which virtually always involves boys in late adolescence who have histories of rage and alienation and play that out in mass atrocity attacks at their school, which for them is their social world.

We can all see that they are highly choreographed, often using the same set of strategies to maximize fatalities, sometimes with new innovations which are then folded into the ritual of attack. What we call extremist ideologies are really just the languages these guys glom onto to articulate and understand those impulses. This doesn’t mean extremist groups and extremist ideologies don’t matter. For some, they clearly provide a language and a rationale and even a sense of righteousness to their actions. For some that helps bridge the path between extreme rage and actual violence.

But if that’s absent, it’s no mystery. Because it’s a mistake to see them as the real driver. Again, this happens all the time. The motive is pretty clear: angry and alienated young man, a late adolescent consumed with rage and alienation who lives in the United States and thus has become a devotee of the cult, the ideology of the redemptive school shooting atrocity. The ideology is really the cult of the mass shooting, in which the gun, with all its cultural and political omnipotence, plays a central role. Every school shooter learned from the history of school shootings, mimicked the strategies, was in a sense acting out a ritual which has become deeply rooted in our culture. We know the motive. We know the ideology: rage and alienation transmuted through mass gun violence. [Emphasis added]

And if the boy manages to grow up without killing anybody, he turns into the specimen in the photo above, in which he expresses his identity, his sense of manhood, through guns. We are threatened by a cult of the gun, which has become culturally and politically omnipotent. And supporting this is one big, toxic, twisted, neurotic sickness that has replaced any sense of honor, decency or responsibility in many American men.

Back in 2013 I wrote a post titled “Gun Culties vs. Everybody Else” about a man who had sheltered some children during the Sandy Hook shooting who was being harassed by “truthers.” The die-hard culties are buggier than road kill in August. They get catered to becausee they are single-issue voters backed by a powerful lobbying organization that many legislators fear. See also “Guns as Sacred Objects.”


I agree with Charles Blow, that we must all become single-issue voters where it comes to gun control.

People seeking common sense gun control must become single-issue voters on gun control. Support for more restrictions may not be the only reason to vote for a candidate, but it must be sufficient to vote against one.

We have to stop waiting for politicians to display courage and instead start to instill fear in them.

We must not let these weenies with guns continue to terrorize us and slaughter our children.

I’d like to make one more point. Dimitrios Pagourtzis, the Santa Fe shooter, is believed to have gone on his rampage because he wouldn’t take “no” from a girl.

Sadie Rodriguez, a mother of one of the victims, Shana Fisher, said that the shooter approached her daughter in class. Rodriguez told the Los Angeles Times that Fisher “had four months of problems from this boy” and “he kept making advances on her, and she repeatedly told him no.”

She said the the boy became more and more aggressive, according to The Times, which wrote that he “continued to get more aggressive, and she finally stood up to him and embarrassed him in class” a week before the shooting.

I haven’t found any details about how Pagourtzis had been “embarassed.” It sounds as if the late Ms. Fisher tried to let him down easy and finally was driven to calling him out. Did she report him to school authorities? If she had, would they have done anything (I am skeptical)?

For a subset of our citizens, guns have become the totem through which their cartoonish notions of “manhood” are actualized. And as long as that’s the case, we’re all in danger. Our message to them has to be, No, this is not who we are.

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A Tale of Two Media Obsessions

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Trump Maladministration

While most of us are wallowing in the latest twists and turns of the investigations of Trump, the Right is holding its breath waiting for an Inspector General’s report on — you guessed it — Hillary Clinton.

The completion of a long-awaited watchdog report on the FBI and DOJ’s Hillary Clinton investigation during the 2016 presidential campaign has put Washington on edge, as the clock counts down to its potentially explosive release.

“We’re all anxiously awaiting this report,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, told Fox News’ “Hannity.”

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz announced the draft report was done in a letter to members of Congress on Wednesday. He did not say when the results of the review will be officially released to the FBI, DOJ and congressional committees.

We’ve had so many “final” reports on whatever it was the Clintons are being investigated for at the time, and they never amount to anything. It would almost be a relief if the IG report found the Clintons guilty of something; at least, it would shut up her die-hard supporters, who are a continuing drag on the Democratic Party, IMO.

However, it’s my understanding that the anticipated Inspector General’s report is about why the FBI screwed Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016 but treated Donald Trump with kid gloves.

This month, the Justice Department inspector general is expected to release the findings of its lengthy review of the F.B.I.’s conduct in the Clinton case. The results are certain to renew debate over decisions by the F.B.I. director at the time, James B. Comey, to publicly chastise Mrs. Clinton in a news conference, and then announce the reopening of the investigation days before Election Day. Mrs. Clinton has said those actions buried her presidential hopes.

Those decisions stand in contrast to the F.B.I.’s handling of Crossfire Hurricane. Not only did agents in that case fall back to their typical policy of silence, but interviews with a dozen current and former government officials and a review of documents show that the F.B.I. was even more circumspect in that case than has been previously known. Many of the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly.

We all remember the infamous New York Times story of October 31, 2016 declaring that the FBI did not see a connection between Russia and Trump. I suspected at the time that was a lie. But my post of October 31, 2016 was about the damn emails. With this graphic:

Conservative writer and novelist Roger Simon, who is not the Roger Simon who is a journalist, writes at PJ Media (another blast from the past) that “The Inspector General’s Report Will Expose the MSM as Treasonous.” His “premise,” if you can call it that, is that by focusing so much on Trump and leaks from Trump’s administration, while ignoring the evil machinations of the Clintons, the mainstream media is guilty of treason.

He even compares today’s treasonous media to the “good” media that exposed Watergate, because the Watergate reporters (according to Simon) didn’t need leaks. Seriously, he said that. He even ran an image from the film All the President’s Men, which he apparently didn’t watch. (Un, Deep Throat, folks? For that matter, Pentagon Papers?) In fact, it was Nixon’s obsession with leaks from his own administration that led to his ruin, this article says.

The IG report may be very, very bad for James Comey, a man about whom I am ragingly ambivalent. But other than that, I doubt the Right is going to be very happy with it.

Stuff to Read:

Jennifer Rubin, Trump’s team underestimates the extent of his exposure

NY Times, F.B.I. Used Informant to Investigate Russia Ties to Campaign, Not to Spy, as Trump Claims

Washington Post, The GOP’s campaign against the FBI makes the nation less safe

Also, Trump Blinks; he’s caved to Kim Jong Un rather than risk his Nobel Prize.

Update: The Trumprettes weren’t just colluding with Russia. The New York Times is reporting that an  emissary from crown princes of Saudi Arabia and the UAE also met with Donald Trump Jr. in Trump Tower in August 2016 and offered to help Trump win the election.

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