Saturday, August 11, 2018

Friday, August 10, 2018

Space Farce

I’m sure there are legitimate reasons to want to come up with a way to protect our satellites and other space-borne entities, but this isn’t the way to do it.

Vice President Mike Pence promoted a proposed Space Command on Thursday as “an idea whose time has come” in comments at the Pentagon to unveil a few more details about President Trump’s plan to create another military force, this one for outer space, and for it to be in operation by 2020.

Mr. Trump’s space dreams still have to go through a divided Congress to come true, but initially reluctant Pentagon officials have lined up behind the proposal and now say that they will do what they can to bring it to fruition.

“The time has come to write the next great chapter in the history of our armed forces, to prepare for the next battlefield where America’s best and bravest will be called to deter and defeat a new generation of threats to our people, to our nation,” Mr. Pence told an audience at the Pentagon. He called for Congress to allocate an additional $8 billion for space security systems over the next five years.

Mr. Trump, for his part, posted on Twitter on Thursday: “Space Force all the way!”

And capping it off with a GOP fund-raising appeal by voting on the logo just makes it even sillier.

Aside from the fact that Congress would have to vote on it and that weaponizing outer space would violate a number of treaties that the U.S. has signed (not that that would stop Trump), it would be a lot easier and more efficient if they just let NASA and the United States Air Force do their job rather than start up a whole new branch of the military-industrial complex.

I’m pretty sure that this is just another “Oh, look at the kitty!” moment for Trump and his team.  The Mueller investigation is getting intense for them, Paul Manafort is in the dock, Democrats are building up for a blue wave in November, and congressmen and cabinet members are finding out that grifting has its downsides.  No wonder launching ourselves into outer space to take on the Romulans is sounding like a nice diversion.

But I don’t think this is what Sir Patrick Stewart had in mind when he signed up for a reboot of his role as Captain Jean-Luc Picard.

“Please don’t make it so.”

Thursday, August 9, 2018

On This Date

August 9, 1974.

Where were you?

I was in Perrysburg, Ohio, a month out of my NOLS program and three months after graduating from Miami, getting ready to go up to northern Michigan for a couple of weeks before finding a job. On that very day I had a dentist appointment but I got back in time to watch Nixon’s Lear speech to the staff and Ford’s swearing in.

The Best People

Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), the first member of Congress to endorse Trump for president, is under arrest for insider trading.

Here’s what’s laid out in complaints from the Securities and Exchange Commission and the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York (Collins has pleaded not guilty):

Collins sits on the board of Innate Immunotherapeutics, an Australian biopharmaceutical company in which he is also the largest shareholder.

On June 22, 2017, Collins learned that Innate’s main drug had failed clinical trials, a grave outcome for Innate’s financial condition.

Literally seconds after learning this news, Collins contacted his son, Cameron, who at the time owned 2% of Innate.

Over the following four days, Cameron Collins and several other associates of the Collinses proceeded to liquidate their positions in Innate before the public announcement of the drug failure on June 26, after which the stock fell 92%. They saved approximately $750,000 by selling before the announcement.

Innate is not an especially large company. As a result, per the SEC: “The sales by Cameron Collins, his girlfriend, and her parents, including Stephen Zarsky, made up more than 53% of the stock’s trading volume [on June 23] and exceeded Innate’s 15-day average trading volume by more than 1,454%.”

Erik Loomis at LGM wonders why Collins wasn’t appointed to Trump’s cabinet.

Maybe because his grifting was small potatoes compared to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

It is difficult to imagine the possibility that a man like Ross, who Forbes estimates is worth some $700 million, might steal a few million from one of his business partners. Unless you have heard enough stories about Ross. Two former WL Ross colleagues remember the commerce secretary taking handfuls of Sweet’N Low packets from a nearby restaurant, so he didn’t have to go out and buy some for himself. One says workers at his house in the Hamptons used to call the office, claiming Ross had not paid them for their work. Another two people said Ross once pledged $1 million to a charity, then never paid. A commerce official called the tales “petty nonsense,” and added that Ross does not put sweetener in his coffee.

There are bigger allegations. Over several months, in speaking with 21 people who know Ross, Forbes uncovered a pattern: Many of those who worked directly with him claim that Ross wrongly siphoned or outright stole a few million here and a few million there, huge amounts for most but not necessarily for the commerce secretary. At least if you consider them individually. But all told, these allegations—which sparked lawsuits, reimbursements and an SEC fine—come to more than $120 million. If even half of the accusations are legitimate, the current United States secretary of commerce could rank among the biggest grifters in American history.

That’s how you get to be in the Cabinet.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Evil, Pure And Simple

When I see ideas like this one, I really begin to wonder what decade we’re in.  And if somehow we got caught in some kind of time-loop throwback, why we landed in Germany in the 1930’s.

Via NBC News:

The Trump administration is expected to issue a proposal in coming weeks that would make it harder for legal immigrants to become citizens or get green cards if they have ever used a range of popular public welfare programs, including Obamacare, four sources with knowledge of the plan told NBC News.

The move, which would not need congressional approval, is part of White House senior adviser Stephen Miller’s plan to limit the number of migrants who obtain legal status in the U.S. each year.

Details of the rulemaking proposal are still being finalized, but based on a recent draft seen last week and described to NBC News, immigrants living legally in the U.S. who have ever used or whose household members have ever used Obamacare, children’s health insurance, food stamps and other benefits could be hindered from obtaining legal status in the U.S.

Immigration lawyers and advocates and public health researchers say it would be the biggest change to the legal immigration system in decades and estimate that more than 20 million immigrants could be affected. They say it would fall particularly hard on immigrants working jobs that don’t pay enough to support their families.

So legal immigrants, who pay taxes just like everybody else, who contribute to their community by holding jobs that perhaps others wouldn’t, and who, by the way, represent the entire history of this nation because they’re immigrants, would be denied a chance to become citizens because they availed themselves of some of the benefits they paid for with their taxes because they’re immigrants?

I just spent five minutes staring at the monitor trying to figure out a way that anyone who has a soul could possibly justify this.  I can’t.  It’s just plain evil, pure and simple.  Which is pretty much how you can describe the people that came up with this.

Ten Million Mustangs

1965 Ford Mustang 2+2

A bit of automotive history has been made.

When Samuel Crawford’s grade-school teacher asked her students what they wanted to do when they grew up, his classmates said they wanted to be doctors, lawyers and accountants. Sam said he wanted to build Mustangs, and his classmates laughed.

“The ’64 Mustang had just come out,” Crawford said. “All I could think about was that brand new pony car.”

Of his 31 years at the Flat Rock Assembly Plant, Crawford, has spent the last nine putting racing stripes on Mustangs. Today, he will join thousands of Ford workers celebrating production of the 10 millionth Mustang.

“I do what I said I wanted to do,” he said. “I didn’t know how they were built, but I knew I wanted to be a part of it. And I have worked on 4,000 or 5,000 Mustangs.”

The iconic vehicle has been America’s best-selling sports car in the last half century and the world’s top selling sports car three years straight.

[…]

The 10 millionth Ford Mustang is a high-tech, 460-horsepower 2019 Wimbledon White GT V8 six-speed manual convertible equipped with driver assist technology and built at Flat Rock. The first serialized Mustang (VIN 001) produced in 1964 was the same color and model with a three-speed manual transmission and 164-horsepower V8.

I’ve had three, so in some small way, I’m part of the parade.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Nice Guy

Dahlia Lithwick in Slate doesn’t think that just because you’re a nice guy qualifies you to be on the Supreme Court.

Niceness is nice. I’d even go so far as to venture that niceness is very, very nice. But it’s not the basis from which to offer someone lifetime tenure on the highest court in the land. And I am still waiting for the Republican appellate lawyers, D.C. lobbyists, and operatives to stand up and tell us how “nice” Judge Garland was. Because I would submit that he was just about equal in “niceness” to Kavanaugh, and yet it mattered not one bit to anyone two years ago, since at that time, niceness was irrelevant. At the very least, then, we should be able to agree that if Garland’s kindness to small animals and assorted D.C. charities was immaterial in 2016, Kavanaugh’s warmth of character should not be an issue in 2018.

[…]

Ask any law clerk at the Supreme Court to name the warmest, kindest justice on the bench and they will tell you Clarence Thomas is that guy. Every time. That’s not nothing, but it isn’t anything close to everything. Being lovely to people around you isn’t a proxy for judicial ideology and methodology. Let’s please respect Kavanaugh enough to stop talking about his mad carpooling skills. It’s insulting to him as well as to the rest of us. He is being elevated to a lofty office. Let’s take a page from the Supreme Court and start appreciating the enormity of that office itself. The state of Brett Kavanaugh’s niceness is not a constitutional question.

This is a preemptive to the line we’re going to hear from Republicans who want to prevent any chance that Mr. Kavanaugh will be Borked.  “You shouldn’t do that because he’s such a nice guy!”  And there will be concern trolling from some Democrats who are worried that when it’s their turn to nominate someone to the court, they’ll get Borked in return.  News flash: Merritt Garland.  He got stealth-Borked by Mitch McConnell, and the question of his niceness never came up.  And neither did his chance to get on the court.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Deal Or No Deal

Booman is feeling magnanimous.

Would you approve a deal that immunized all members of the Trump family from prosecution in return for President Trump’s voluntary resignation?

I definitely would if it did not include the president himself. I’d let him save his children though.

Not unless the entire cabinet, including the vice president, went as well.  Mike Pence is Torquemada without the charm and the rest of them are grifters and toadies.  Wait until after the mid-terms and there’s a Democratic House and we’ll talk.

I’d also include a provision that the immediate Trump family go into exile and sign a gag order.

“Totally Legal”

The Washington Post:

Trump on Sunday offered his most definitive and clear public acknowledgment that his oldest son met with a Kremlin-aligned lawyer at Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign to “get information on an opponent,” defending the meeting as “totally legal and done all the time in politics.”

So, if it was “totally legal,” why has he and his minions spent the last year making up fake news — and probably obstructing justice in the process — to cover up something that’s “done all the time in politics”?

Adam Davidson in The New Yorker:

The tweet contains several crucial pieces of information. First, it is a clear admission that Donald Trump, Jr.,’s original statement about the case was inaccurate enough to be considered a lie. He had said the meeting was with an unknown person who “might have information helpful to the campaign,” and that this person “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children.” This false statement was, according to his legal team, dictated by the President himself. There was good reason to mislead the American people about that meeting. Based on reporting—at the time and now—of the President’s admission, it was a conscious effort by the President’s son and two of his closest advisers to work with affiliates of the Russian government to obtain information that might sway the U.S. election in Trump’s favor. In short, it was, at minimum, a case of attempted collusion. The tweet indicates that Trump’s defense will continue to be that this attempt at collusion failed—“it went nowhere”—and that, even if it had succeeded, it would have been “totally legal and done all the time.” It is unclear why, if the meeting was entirely proper, it was important for the President to declare “I did not know about it!” or to tell the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, to “stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now.”

The President’s Sunday-morning tweet should be seen as a turning point. It doesn’t teach us anything new—most students of the case already understand what Donald Trump, Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner knew about that Trump Tower meeting. But it ends any possibility of an alternative explanation.

I’m not sure Mr. Mueller needs to interview Trump.  All he needs to do is download his Twitter feed.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Sunday Reading

Suckers — Rick Wilson in The Daily Beast.

Conspiracies are hard. They’re even harder when you’re stupid.

They are, however, deeply compelling. Some people need a single, grand unifying theory of why the world refuses to line up with their expectations. When difficult realities confront people without the intellectual horsepower to understand and accept the truth, some turn to conspiracy theories to paper over the holes in their worldview. No matter how absurd, baroque, and improbable, conspiracies grow on their own like mental kudzu where inconsistencies aren’t signs of illogical conclusions, but of another, deeper layer of some hidden truth, some skein of powerful forces holding the world in its grip.

After Donald Trump’s rally in Tampa this week, the notorious QAnon scam became America’s conspiracy of the moment. And why not? In the face of Trump’s daily meltdowns, mood swings, and unmedicated rage episodes in which he lashes out at every target in reach, his base is desperately looking for a version of reality that gives them some comfort and stability.

This Q conspiracy is filling the political bloodstream of the Trumpentariat and has been bubbling up inside the right for the last few months, and while Will Sommer and others have covered the story, there seemed to be a media shock moment after the Qbots showed up at Trump’s Tampa rally.

Conspiracies—this one in particular—give their devotees a sense of coherence that is lacking in everything Trump does. QAnon presents Trump as the character he plays on TV; bold, commanding, strategic, and brilliant…as opposed to the real Donald Trump, who displays the dignity, intelligence, and honesty of a strip-club tout with tertiary syphilis.

In Q’s world, Donald Trump is courageously leading an effort to round up and punish—I’m not exaggerating—tens of thousands of child predators who occupy the highest reaches of government.  Q and Don, side by side, doling out the secret knowledge to the new elite. Instead of getting a clearance, all you need to do is check out 4chan, Reddit, or YouTube.

Some even believe Q composes these messages for their eager consumption and interpretation at Trump’s direction, the amanuensis to an orange Nostradamus whose quatrains appear on the same image boards that feature bronie porn, hentai spank-bank material, and tween Neo-Nazi shitposter incels, instead of penned on parchment.

They’re desperate to believe “Q” is a senior official cleared at the highest levels (as one former NSA official jokingly called it, “TS/SCI NOSEBLEED”) who is busily leaking cryptic messages to them. Set aside that the Q clearance is a Department of Energy designation, and is for access to particular nuclear weapons matters, not the Bondian highest-reaches-of-government shenanigans to which Q claims access; this entire thing reeks of enough bullshit to fertilize Mars.

The claims of Q-Anon make Nostradamus look like Hemingway. Naturally, they’re elliptical, variable, and impossible to cross-check. Hundreds of YouTube videos, blog posts tweets, Facebook items, and speculation follow each post, a Confederacy of Dunces that ramifies this idiocy out into dumber and dumber dead ends. QAnon asks its believers to “follow the breadcrumbs” and fill in the blanks. Those blanks get filled with epic idiocy.

The glee with which the followers of this absurdity latch on to imaginary deportations of Hillary Clinton, John Podesta, and others to Gitmo is notable. Several times, Q has promised them that any moment now the rest of the Deep State will occupy the darkest holes of the American prison system. QAnon tells them that retribution is at hand, and they’re ravenous for more. Lurid and exciting for the rubes, but as of yet, Hillary Clinton walks free. If that even is Hillary Clinton, and not a shapeshifting reptilian overlord.

Those of us with the unfortunate awareness of the clownishly risible QAnon conspiracy cult have been reveling in the comedy gold, lavishly overwrought, dangerously stupid proclamations of Q for months. We’ve alternated between laughter and wide-eyed shock at how credulous Trump’s Army of Cletuses must be to fall for such an obvious, ludicrous con. Then again, Donald Trump put the “con” in “conspiracy” as far back as his embrace of birtherism.  If the puzzle surrounding QAnon is a fever dream wrapped in an enigma, coated with nougat, rolled in nuts and filled with a creamy center of delusional paranoia, Trump’s own role in fostering it is right out of the Lil Tots’ First Book of Authoritarian Strategy.

For actual authoritarians and the merely dictator-curious, building a separate, hermetic truth defined only by the Dear Leader is 101 stuff, and goes hand in hand with the relentless attacks on the free press an enemy of the people.

Of course, it’s just trolling. It’s just a prank by some chan-autists. It makes me shake my head to explain to people that the idea of a conspiracy this grand and elaborate has as much chance of working as Skeeter’s plan to cook meth in the WalMart bathroom.

Why has Q eaten the Trump-right’s minds? Why does it work on them when it’s so obviously, evidently a gigantic pyramid of digital horseshit?

It works because stupid people are stupid and because Donald Trump’s Administration loves what QAnon does to stoke the fires of paranoia, resentment, and division. QAnon works for Trump because people who are not knowledgeable about the world, politics, government, the intelligence community and reality more broadly are desperately looking for confirmation that they’re on the winning team. Q tells them that they’re on the right side of history and that for once in their dreary little lives they and only they possess the secret, hermetic knowledge from inside the esoteric cult.

Q represents where the former GOP has gone in the era of Trump; possessed the desire to have a private space that makes even Fox News look mild in comparison, grasping desperately for a different reality.

When even aggressive conspiracy-pusher faux-journalist loons and alt-lite thought leaders Mike Cernovich and Jack Posobiec find QAnon too crazy to promote, it should make you pause. Both men were aggressive promoters of the Pizzagate theory, in which a Washington D.C. restaurant was falsely alleged to be the center of a global child sex-trafficking, cannibalism and prostitution ring. Both were all-in on the cruel and false Seth Rich story, and a raft of other pro-Trump efforts to mainline fantasy conspiracies into the American body politics.

If it’s too crazy for those edge cases, it’s too crazy.

No, Trump fans, the storm isn’t coming. There is no Great Awakening. “Where we go one we go all” is a path to disappointment and madness, not to some brave new future where Donald Trump’s genius and his army of secret soldiers purge America of a vast, secret deep state of hostile insiders and pedophiles.

Q is a meta-hoax, a recursive scam in service of a scam called the Trump Presidency. The “drops” are meaningless claptrap, noise without real signal, and most certainly not the signs of the new reality its eager marks desire.

Doonesbury — Mission: Impossible.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Friday, August 3, 2018