Wednesday, October 23, 2019

All He Wrote

Ambassador William Taylor spent nearly nine hours in closed session with the House committee yesterday.  His opening statement can be read here, and you can download it here.

From the Washington Post:

America’s top diplomat in Ukraine delivered a forceful blow to President Trump’s account of his “perfect” dealings with that nation, telling lawmakers Tuesday that the White House had threatened to withdraw much-needed military aid unless Kyiv announced investigations for Trump’s political benefit.

The explosive, closed-door testimony from acting ambassador William B. Taylor Jr. undermined Trump’s insistence that he never pressured Ukrainian officials in a potentially improper “quid pro quo.” It also offered House investigators an expansive road map to what Taylor called a “highly irregular” channel of shadow diplomacy toward Ukraine that lies at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.

In a 15-page opening statement, obtained by The Washington Post, Taylor repeatedly expressed his shock and bewilderment as he watched U.S. policy toward Ukraine get overtaken by Trump’s demand that newly elected president Volodymyr Zelensky “go to a microphone and say he is opening investigations of [Democratic presidential candidate Joe] Biden and 2016 election interference.”

“ ‘Everything’ was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance,” Taylor said he was told by Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union.

A seasoned diplomat, Army veteran and meticulous note taker, Taylor told lawmakers that former national security adviser John Bolton and other officials from the Pentagon, the State Department and the CIA tried unsuccessfully to get a meeting with Trump to persuade him to release the money — nearly $400 million intended to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia.

But Trump’s hold on the aid extended well into September, and Taylor said he found himself considering resignation. “I could not and would not defend such a policy,” Taylor said.

The blockbuster testimony came hours after Trump escalated his attack on the impeachment inquiry, tweeting that it was a “lynching” and drawing swift condemnation from Democrats and some Republicans for equating the constitutional process with the barbaric killing of African Americans.

Cue up the attacks from the White House and let slip the lapdogs of toadyism to try to discredit Amb. Taylor — “Okay, who’s gonna believe a seasoned veteran and career diplomat over a sleazy real estate grifter?” — and then claim that because Ukraine finally got the money, there was no quid pro quo.  Yeah, no; if you walk into a bank and pass the teller a note demanding cash and they arrest you before you actually get the loot, you’re still guilty of attempted robbery.

So, Amb. Taylor’s statement has basically corroborated the testimony of Trump and the rough transcript he released of the call to President Zelensky and supports the conclusion of acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.  All that’s left now is to watch and be entertained by the Republicans trying to explain it all away and figure out a way to save their own asses after defending the indefensible.  At some point they have to decide it’s us or him, and when they do, it’s won’t be pretty for Trump.  One can only hope.

As for the “lynching” comment, that was purely aimed at the base of the party (like this fine example) who have been so put-upon for the insufferable oppression they’ve been under for not being able to use certain words and the utter shame of having to share a lunch counter with someone who doesn’t look like them.  Oh, the humanity.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Annals Of Irony — Part Infinity

Hey, remember how when there was a mass shooting — yes, there have been so many — the gun nuts blamed violent videos for causing people to grab their AR-15’s and commit slaughter?  Something should be done about that.

Via the New York Times:

The creator of a gruesome video that showed a fake President Trump killing journalists and political opponents and that was played at a meeting of a pro-Trump group over the weekend is part of a loose network of right-wing provocateurs with a direct line to the White House.

The unidentified creator of the video operates under the name “The GeekzTeam” and has proclaimed on Twitter to be a “red blooded American with ZERO tolerance for the liberal agenda.” Like many such amateur agitators, the GeekzTeam specializes in creating pro-Trump internet content, often by remixing the president’s image into clips from popular movies and television shows.

Another of the provocateurs, Logan Cook, who often has posted videos on MemeWorld, his website, participated in a social media summit at the White House in July and took his children to meet the president in the Oval Office, accompanied by Dan Scavino, the White House social media director.

But background checks and banning certain weapons would be an assault on our liberties.

As If To Prove The Point

Yesterday’s post about the inability of conservatives and Trumpers to use humor was made glaringly clear by the Trump campaign’s tweet to Elizabeth Warren.

Unless you think this is their idea of punching up and admitting that Sen. Warren is superior than they are. Otherwise, as Digby notes, let’s all freak out about how mean she was to the God-fearing Jesus-shouters who have an unnatural obsession with other people’s private lives and how it might ruin her chances for winning over the MAGAnauts.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Little Twerp Is Back

Ralph Reed, the flaming hypocrite of “Christian” family values, is peddling a new screed that instructs all true believers to back Trump because… oh, who cares.  He’s never been anything more than just a grifter and a con man who’s gotten by on his quickly-fading rent-boyish charm who, instead of selling Earth Shoes or swampland in Collier County, Florida, happened on the flocks of pigeons who will gladly fork over their savings for his brand of Jesus.

This little twerp made his name screaming about Bill Clinton’s penis and is now telling us that pussy-grabbing is “low priority” because he thinks he’s getting what he wants from Trump.  Apparently he’s crafty enough to sell this to the foolish and the weak, but not smart enough to know that Trump will use him like he has everyone else and then never look back.

He’s got nothing to do with god or Christianity.  He and Trump deserve each other.

More From The Stable Floor

Sheesh.

Trump said Wednesday that it would be “easy” for the United States to form new alliances if Syrian Kurds leave the fight against the Islamic State to fend off a Turkish attack, noting that “they didn’t help us in the Second World War, they didn’t help us in Normandy” and were only interested in fighting for “their land.”

“With all of that being said, we like the Kurds,” he said in response to questions about Turkey’s incursion into Syria.

He got this talking point from some right-wing nutjob.  Who needs the State Department when you’ve got the blogosphere?

For more background on the history of the Kurds and our constant betrayal of them, read this post by Adam L. Silverman.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Multiplication Table

Via the Washington Post:

An attorney for the whistleblower who sounded the alarm about President Trump’s pressure on Ukraine said Sunday that “multiple” whistleblowers have come forward, deepening a political quagmire that has engulfed the president as well as several of his Cabinet members.

The news comes as House Democrats are accelerating their impeachment inquiry and subpoenaing documents related to Trump’s efforts to push foreign countries to investigate one of his political opponents, former vice president Joe Biden.

“I can confirm that my firm and my team represent multiple whistleblowers in connection to the underlying August 12, 2019, disclosure to the Intelligence Community Inspector General,” the whistleblower’s attorney, Andrew Bakaj, said in a tweet. “No further comment at this time.”

Not unlike the Harvey Weinstein case where at first it was he said/she said, now with the “multiple whistleblowers” coming forward, it’s going to be that much harder for Trump’s supporters to say it was just one misguided traitor.  Granted, it won’t stop them from trying, but it’s going to make them look even more desperate, more claiming it’s all a vast conspiracy, and it will shorten the fuse on the inquiry.

And it may even get the pundits and the both-siders to put a stop to their chin-stroking and tolerance of the bullshit.  Hey, if Chuck Todd can finally show some backbone and exasperation, there’s hope yet.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Going For The DNA

Via the New York Times:

The Trump administration is moving to collect DNA samples from hundreds of thousands of people booked into federal immigration custody each year and to enter the results into a national criminal database, an immense expansion of the use of technology to enforce the nation’s immigration laws.

Senior officials at the Department of Homeland Security said Wednesday that the Justice Department was developing a federal regulation that would give immigration officers the authority to collect DNA in detention facilities across the country that are currently holding more than 40,000 people.

The move would funnel thousands of new records to the F.B.I., whose extensive DNA database has been limited mainly to genetic markers collected from people who have been arrested, charged or convicted in connection with serious crimes.

There have long been calls to collect immigrant DNA records to help identify criminals who have previously been in immigration custody but may not otherwise be known to the authorities. Congress passed a law authorizing a broad collection of DNA data in 2005, but at the time an exemption was put in place to protect immigrants.

A homeland security official said in a call with reporters on Wednesday that the exemption was outdated, and that it was time to eliminate it.

And tattooing them on the forearm is a bit too on the nose.

Pro-trump anti-immigrants advocates will argue that it’s no different than taking a mug shot or fingerprints.  That’s true, but that’s only done when someone has been arrested and placed in custody.  The only crime these people committed was seeking legal asylum during the time of Trump.

Since I’m not a lawyer I can’t say whether or not this is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure, but I’m pretty sure there’s an attorney out there who can make the case and a judge who will enjoin the practice, much in the same way they did against drug testing applicants for welfare.  There is no probable cause for the unwarranted taking of a DNA sample, and assuming these people will commit a crime in the future opens the door for the state to take a DNA sample every time someone is stopped for speeding.  Try that and see how it goes over.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Keep A Civil Tongue

I’m hearing second-hand about the outbreak of in-fighting at Fox News between the various hosts and pundits and wild-eyed guests who are all attacking each other for not supporting Trump enough or daring to offer the opinion that what he did with Ukraine was anything but full-on perfect.

Then Trump retweeted something by a hack evangelist about starting a civil war if the House impeached him and now we’re getting into incitement.

I get it that going to extremes in a Twitter thread is what it’s all about, but at some point one of those borderline readers is going to take it seriously and load up a van with bombs and go after a news crew or a member of Congress and then…

Oh, right…

A Florida man accused of mailing pipe bombs to a number of prominent Democrats and Trump critics, as well as CNN, has pleaded guilty before a federal judge in New York.

Cesar Altieri Sayoc, 57, was arrested in late October and was scheduled to go on trial in July on charges related to using weapons of mass destruction and transporting explosives. None of the devices exploded. He has been held without bail since his arrest.

This was a year ago.  Imagine what could happen when the House actually gets around to doing something.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Lying And Dividing

Anyone who’s watched law and order TV shows, including the actual “Law & Order” series and their offspring (all over cable TV if you look beyond the paid programs for skin cream and boner pills) knows the drill: a suspect will first deny any knowledge of the alleged crime.  “I had nothing to do with it; it’s all bullshit.”  Then under questioning and faced with the evidence, the line will shift to “Well, maybe I did know something, but it wasn’t me.”  Then with more evidence, such as pictures or recordings, it becomes “Well, yeah, okay, but there was nothing wrong with it; it was just two people talking.  Can I see my lawyer now?”

I think we’re getting to that last part now with Trump and the whistle-blower and Ukraine.  He’s gone from claiming it never happened (“Fake News”) to admitting — boasting — that he did bring it up more than once in his phone call in July with the president of Ukraine.

“The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, was largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place, was largely the fact that we don’t want our people, like Vice President Biden and his son, creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine,” Trump told reporters Sunday morning. “And Ukraine, Ukraine’s got a lot of problems.”

And while Trump and his minions may try to cling to their stories as well as their Miranda rights, a large number of Republicans are making tracks.

Since Trump’s inauguration, a Washington Post analysis shows, nearly 40 percent of the 241 Republicans who were in office in January 2017 are gone or leaving because of election losses, retirements including former House speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.), and some, such as [Rep. Paul] Mitchell, who are simply quitting in disgust.

As the article in the Post notes, as they go, the party is remaking itself in the image of Trump.  That means that for every Republican that retires or quits, there’s a bench of MAGA-hat wearing xenophobic evangelical hypocrites and know-nothings who will rush in to fill the void, especially in blood-red districts where fear and loathing of Others runs rampant even as their businesses and crops go rotting thanks to Trump’s tariffs and immigration deportations continue.

That scenario may be making it easier for the Democrats to take control of the House by a wider margin than they have now, and take back the Senate.  But that’s more than a year away, and meanwhile, we have a White House that is being run like a bad spinoff of “The Sopranos.”  And our adversaries are watching it.

Friday, September 20, 2019

This Could Be The Big One

Via TPM, it’s looking like the whistleblower complaint to the DNI has to do with Trump’s attempt to pressure Ukraine by withholding military aid unless they helped him go after Joe Biden and assist in Trump’s reelection.

Fierce denials from the White House, but they’re doing everything to keep anyone from investigating it, including courting contempt of Congress, so it sounds like we’re skating really close to the truth.

And then Rudy Giuliani let the cat out of the bag.

“No, I didn’t!  Yes, I did!”

Wow.  Happy Friday.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

He’ll Get His

I watched some of Corey Lewandowski’s sideshow yesterday on Capitol Hill.  My first thought was that he’s mastered the art of being a smug douche and was performing for an audience of one.  That point was proved by glowing praise tweets from Trump.  He’s got a great career coming as a pundit on some cable show running on Sinclair channels after he gets his ass handed to him in his run for the Senate.

But my second thought was that I’ve seen his kind of snotty behavior and disrespect for what he perceives as enemy interrogation before; specifically when John Ehrlichman testified before the Senate Watergate Committee in July 1973 and his combative, sneering attitude.  Watching him joust with Senate Majority Counsel Sam Dash made my blood boil back then, and I remember thinking that somehow, some way, the universe and karma will get their due.

They did.  Ehrlichman was convicted of conspiracy and other Watergate related crimes, went to jail, and spent his post-jail time and the rest of his life trying to make a buck off his experience and parlay his bitterness about not being pardoned by Reagan into a living until he died in 1999.  He wrote a lot of books and sold a made-for-TV movie.  That seems to be the way this sort of career ends up.

As for Mr. Lewandowski, he will exploit his Trumpian period by punditry and grifting, making appearances at the alt-right versions of Comic Con, signing books and autographing old MAGA hats, later to be sold on E-bay for $5.99.  Maybe, like Ehrlichman, he’ll grow a beard, become contemplative in his old age, and live in a hogan outside of Santa Fe.  Whatever.  He’ll get his.  Karma always delivers.

Gathering Nuts

Via the Miami New Times:

A veritable who’s who of right-wing con artists, alt-right media hounds, and outright racists apparently plan to hold some sort of Art Basel for Grifters conference in Miami this month. An avalanche of some of the worst pundits online — including at least one fascist — say they’ll hold a “Demand Free Speech” rally Saturday, September 28, on an undisclosed yacht somewhere in the Magic City.

The event’s top billing? Serial con artist Jacob Wohl, who is charged in California with a felony for unlawfully selling investments in a company called Montgomery Assets, will apparently debate Nick Fuentes, a self-described “American nationalist” who has appeared on white-nationalist programs and at one point was recorded going on an anti-Semitic rant about a fellow conservative blogger by calling him a “race traitor” and saying he “worked for Jews.” It’s unclear what Wohl and Fuentes might actually debate, but the event seems designed more to generate protests and controversy than to conduct intellectual discussions.

The grifters have yet to announce a location for the event, likely to avoid protests before the so-called debate occurs. So far, the event pages simply states it will happen “on a four-decker yacht in the legendary Miami Harbor” and will include “heated debates, a stimulating panel, based and red pilled entertainment, food, drinks and much, much more.”

But tickets are being sold on the website 1776.shop, which is run by Enrique Tarrio, a Miami native who leads the neofascist Proud Boys group. “Early-bird” VIP tickets cost $150 for whatever reason. Among the other guests, the group says Zoe Sozo, an ambassador for the campus conservative group Turning Point USA, will also attend. This would be far from the first time TPUSA operatives have brushed elbows with far-right nationalists such as Fuentes: In 2018, New Times caught students in the Florida International University TPUSA chapter making rape jokes, sharing racist Pepe the Frog memes about Syrian refugees, and referencing “Jew hating” and neo-Nazi Richard Spencer in leaked WhatsApp chats.

The event’s webpage also appears to include artwork seemingly stolen from Elizabeth Kolbert’s 2015 New Yorker article “Miami Is Flooding.” Spokespeople for the New Yorker did not immediately respond to a message from New Times today.

And I’m going to miss all the fun; I’m gonna be out of town that weekend.  Oh darn.

This is the first time I recall hearing about such a gathering here in South Florida.  This part of the state isn’t really known for harboring a whole lot of white nationalists; that’s the Panhandle’s shtick.  It sounds like one of those scams that someone like Trump would gin up to sell more crap with his name on it.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Just Another Grifter

Amanda Marcotte in Salon explains why the news about Jerry Falwell, Jr. and his secret life as a South Beach hipster wanna-be and sex pervert won’t dissuade the Jesus-shouters from sending him money.

On Monday morning, Politico published a major exposé on Jerry Falwell Jr., the religious right’s most influential supporter of Donald Trump and the president of Liberty University, an evangelical institution formed by his father, Southern Baptist minister Jerry Falwell. Writer Brandon Ambrosino paints a damning picture of the younger Falwell as a man unrestrained by his own religion’s teachings on sexual morality or any other kind of Christian ethics.

The laundry list of malfeasance and inappropriate behavior is impressive, “from partying at nightclubs, to graphically discussing his sex life with employees, to electioneering” and “directing university resources into projects and real estate deals in which his friends and family have stood to make personal financial gains.”

The most titillating story, previously reported by the Miami Herald, concerns the fact that Falwell and his wife, Becki, seem to have have an interesting sex life involving sharing naked photos with other men — men who, likely not coincidentally, enjoy healthy levels of financial assistance from the Falwells and Liberty University. For instance, Politico reports that Falwell sent pictures of his wife in “a French maid costume” to their personal trainer, Ben Crosswhite. They also used Liberty funds to set Crosswhite up as the owner of a lucrative gym.

There’s a lot more of this sort of thing, making it quite clear that Falwell is a first-rate hypocrite who poorly hides a love of power, luxury and sexual freedom behind a facade of Christian piety.

But it’s foolish to imagine that any of this will affect Falwell’s political power or standing with the larger white evangelical community. The pretense that the religious right was motivated by faith and morality was dropped — or should have been — when white evangelicals flocked to vote for Trump in greater numbers than they did for George W. Bush, who if he was convincing about little else, was convincingly a man of faith.

Here’s the thing: The real purpose of the Christian conservative movement is to uphold white supremacy and patriarchy, full stop. As long as Falwell Jr. keeps that up — as his father did before him — his flock will stick with him just as they’ve stuck with Trump, a thrice-married chronic adulterer who has bragged about sexual assault on tape.

So calling out the Falwells for being flaming hypocrites and wondering why the so-called Christian evangelicals don’t turn on him is a waste of energy.  They’re just doing what they were hired to do, just as the late Jerry Falwell, Sr. did: maintain the white man’s death grip on power by whatever means necessary, and if it meant selling out their faith and their followers to do it, so what?  They never cared about them in the first place as long as the money kept coming in.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Stormy Weather

Josh Marshall:

Remarkable development here in the Alabama imbroglio. The headline is that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, one of the most corrupt of President Trump’s Cabinet secretaries, threatened to fire NOAA leadership over the Alabama dispute. (I hesitate even call it a “dispute.”) What struck me more is that administration officials are putting out word that staffers at the Birmingham office of the National Weather Service were simply trying to embarrass the President rather than acting out of concern for public safety. In the Times’ words: “That official suggested the Twitter post by the Birmingham forecasters had been motivated by a desire to embarrass the president more than concern for the safety of people in Alabama.”

This entire dispute is so stupid, so frivolous and ridiculous, that it’s easy to just dismiss it as another Trump shiny object. But it is actually rooted in something deeper and more ominous. There’s what the President says, whether true, whether on purpose. And everyone has to fall in line — government scientists, government safety officials, everybody.

There’s something very stark and ominous here. Ground level government scientists and weather officials, who play a critical role in public safety, are doing just what they’re supposed to: make sure people have the most accurate information about the weather. They’re not just contradicted. They’re accused of being the President’s enemies.

This is how authoritarianism works, folks.  Everything, from the foreign policy to the weather report, must bend to the will of the dictator.

And if you think I’m being alarmist by calling this administration authoritarian and dictatorial, look at what happened when the acting head of Customs and Border Patrol tried to offer humanitarian solace to Bahamians seeking refuge from Hurricane Dorian.

Early Monday afternoon, acting Customs and Border Protection head Mark Morgan offered some peace of mind to Bahamians seeking humanitarian relief in the United States in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, following the news that some were turned away for not having visas.

“This is a humanitarian mission,” Morgan assured. “If your life is in jeopardy and you’re in the Bahamas … you’re going to be allowed to come to the United States, whether you have travel documents or not.” He said the processing would be handled expeditiously.

Then President Trump offered a very different message.

In a later Q&A with reporters, Trump emphasized that “very bad people” could exploit the process and warned against welcoming Bahamians.

“We have to be very careful,” Trump said. “Everybody needs totally proper documentation. Because, look, the Bahamas had some tremendous problems with people going to the Bahamas that weren’t supposed to be there.”

The president added, “I don’t want to allow people that weren’t supposed to be in the Bahamas to come into the United States — including some very bad people and very bad gang members.”

So, shortly after Morgan said people didn’t need to have documents, Trump said they did. And shortly after Morgan emphasized a quick process, Trump suggested it would need to be very thorough.

The president’s comments shouldn’t be a surprise. This is his default response, after all, to accepting people into the United States on humanitarian grounds. He did it during the 2016 campaign, arguing against welcoming refugees from Syria and even calling for a complete ban on Muslim immigration. When he came into office, he privately railed against a deal between the Obama administration and Australia on taking in other refugees.

More recently, this has been Trump’s attitude toward asylum seekers, suggesting that gang members and even terrorists are exploiting the process to gain access to the United States.

Trump emphasized Monday that, “believe it or not,” many parts of the Bahamas were not hit hard by Dorian, suggesting the humanitarian need isn’t that great. The capital of Nassau and southern parts of the Bahamas sustained significantly less damage.

His comments, notably, suggest not just that some refugees are gang members but that they might pose other problems. He even seems to suggest that people might have gone to the Bahamas so they could pose as refugees to gain admission to the United States. Trump has often spoken in this manner about potential terrorists. It’s not clear whether he was saying they went to the Bahamas before the hurricane or somehow got there afterward.

The Bahamas, notably, contain many people of Haitian descent — as many as 1 in 10 residents — and they tend to be among the island nation’s poorest residents. Trump has in the past privately referred to Haiti as a “shithole country” while deriding protections for immigrants from it.

Other Republicans — particularly in Florida — have taken a more compassionate tone when it comes to welcoming Bahamians. “As hundreds of thousands of Bahamians seek refuge or start to rebuild after Hurricane Dorian, we cannot have the kind of confusion that occurred last night in Freeport,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has encouraged Trump to waive some visa requirements.

This is on the level with any tinpot despotism you can come up with: people who have lost virtually everything and depending on the grace and generosity of a country that was founded by refugees is now turning them away because they didn’t have the foresight to apply for a visa when a tropical storm turned into a Category 5 in one day.

This isn’t just authoritarianism; it’s just plain cruelty.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Not A Good Idea

Via Axios:

Trump has suggested multiple times to senior Homeland Security and national security officials that they explore using nuclear bombs to stop hurricanes from hitting the United States, according to sources who have heard the president’s private remarks and been briefed on a National Security Council memorandum that recorded those comments.

Behind the scenes: During one hurricane briefing at the White House, Trump said, “I got it. I got it. Why don’t we nuke them?” according to one source who was there. “They start forming off the coast of Africa, as they’re moving across the Atlantic, we drop a bomb inside the eye of the hurricane and it disrupts it. Why can’t we do that?” the source added, paraphrasing the president’s remarks.

Here’s why that’s a bad idea, according to NOAA:

During each hurricane season, there always appear suggestions that one should simply use nuclear weapons to try and destroy the storms. Apart from the fact that this might not even alter the storm, this approach neglects the problem that the released radioactive fallout would fairly quickly move with the tradewinds to affect land areas and cause devastating environmental problems. Needless to say, this is not a good idea.

Now for a more rigorous scientific explanation of why this would not be an effective hurricane modification technique. The main difficulty with using explosives to modify hurricanes is the amount of energy required. A fully developed hurricane can release heat energy at a rate of 5 to 20×1013 watts and converts less than 10% of the heat into the mechanical energy of the wind. The heat release is equivalent to a 10-megaton nuclear bomb exploding every 20 minutes. According to the 1993 World Almanac, the entire human race used energy at a rate of 1013 watts in 1990, a rate less than 20% of the power of a hurricane.

If we think about mechanical energy, the energy at humanity’s disposal is closer to the storm’s, but the task of focusing even half of the energy on a spot in the middle of a remote ocean would still be formidable. Brute force interference with hurricanes doesn’t seem promising.

In addition, an explosive, even a nuclear explosive, produces a shock wave, or pulse of high pressure, that propagates away from the site of the explosion somewhat faster than the speed of sound. Such an event doesn’t raise the barometric pressure after the shock has passed because barometric pressure in the atmosphere reflects the weight of the air above the ground. For normal atmospheric pressure, there are about ten metric tons (1000 kilograms per ton) of air bearing down on each square meter of surface. In the strongest hurricanes there are nine. To change a Category 5 hurricane into a Category 2 hurricane you would have to add about a half ton of air for each square meter inside the eye, or a total of a bit more than half a billion (500,000,000) tons for a 20 km radius eye. It’s difficult to envision a practical way of moving that much air around.

The short answer is that not only would it do nothing to dissipate the storm, it would, in turn, spread radioactive fallout as it grew and traveled across the ocean.

Speaking of tropical storms, Dorian is ginning up in the Atlantic.

Not to worry; we’ll just nuke the shit out of it and spread fallout all over South Florida.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Even Then

Steve M argues that Trump is not — even now — losing his marbles despite Kevin Drum’s check list.

Understandably, there’s more “is Trump losing it?” talk today than usual. I’ve seen the speculation. I agree with some of the armchair diagnosticians. (Malignant narcissism? Yeah, he’s got that.) But I don’t believe we’re seeing manifestations of dementia, and I don’t think he’s lost “control of his faculties.”

First, dementia. Yeah, I’ve seen the comparison videos. Maybe, if you watch a long-ago Trump interview on Larry King’s show, he seems calmer and a touch more polysyllabic. But he can seem that way these days in an interview that takes place in what he considers a safe space.

But what persuades me that he’s not losing his grip is the way he performs at his campaign rallies. He’s still an effective insult comic. His jokes are terrible and obnoxious, but he lands them nearly every time. That riff about wind power, with the guy who’d like to watch television, but he can’t because there’s no breeze outside? It’s ignorant, but it kills. Trump delivers it with comedy timing every time out. He doesn’t forget where he is in the joke halfway through. The deplorables love it.

I’ll go even further than Steve M and say that even if Trump was to exhibit even more outward manifestations of mental disease or defect beyond what we see whenever he stops by to chat with the press on his way to Marine One, the base will stay with him.  The polling has had him within 40% of the popular vote since Day 1 and it’s not going anywhere.  The Republican leadership knows this, which is why their response to these piteous outrages has been [crickets].

There’s nothing to be gained by them raising red flags or primary challenges to Trump or even expressing concern about the soaring budget deficit, his invoking anti-Semitic tropes, even his claiming his divinity (“I am the chosen one”) because they know that he can easily turn his fire — and his base — against them.  Trump could win his second term by running not against Elizabeth Warren or Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg but by running against the mainstream GOP.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Desperadoes

Aside from the blatant bigotry that it exposes on the part of both Trump and Netanyahu, the move to bar two U.S. members of Congress from visiting Israel strikes me as a truly desperate move.

Trump is being his usual infantile self, striking out at Rep. Ilan Omar (D-MN) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), the only two Muslim women in Congress.  Getting Netanyahu to go along with him shows that the Israeli prime minister, already in a precarious position in his upcoming election — called because he couldn’t form a government after the last one — is not only a sniveling bigot — not a shock — but is Trump’s puppet, dancing to his tune.  How does that convey strength?  All it tells the Israeli electorate is that Bibi is under the thumb of a foreign power, and a manifestly dangerous one at that.  That’s how he conveys strength?  Oy.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Trump And Evangelicals: Thick As Thieves

Via the Washington Post, a lot of evangelicals are just fine with supporting an adulterous misogynistic homophobic narcissistic con man: they’re in the same racket.

Trump enjoyed overwhelming support from white evangelicals in 2016, winning a higher percentage than George W. Bush, John McCain or Mitt Romney. That enthusiasm has scarcely dimmed. Almost 70 percent of white evangelicals approve of Trump’s performance in office, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center poll.

Interviews with 50 evangelical Christians in three battleground states — Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — help explain why. In conversation, evangelical voters paint the portrait of the Trump they see: a president who acts like a bully but is fighting for them. A president who sees America like they do, a menacing place where white Christians feel mocked and threatened for their beliefs. A president who’s against abortion and gay rights and who has the economy humming to boot.

I’ve always known that those evangelical Christian preachers were less about spreading their mythology and more about controlling other people’s lives and picking the pockets of their flock, and they’ve been peeing on the campfire of mainline Christians ever since they realized they could get away with it.

Their hypocrisy is legion: they hate abortions but won’t support a child once it’s born (or gladly pay for their mistress’s abortion with a credit card to get travel points). They bemoan marriage equality and rights for the LGBTQ community because it threatens “traditional values,” but are proud to destroy their own family when it turns out they have a gay son or lesbian daughter or brother or sister or mom or dad by throwing them out. Or better yet, check their Grindr profile and hook up with “HotDiscreteMusclBoy” at the Courtyard by Marriott over by the interstate.

They’re all too happy to tell other people how to live their lives but do nothing to help their own community struggling with poverty and opiod addiction or domestic violence or mass shootings because “thoughts and prayers” are good enough.

They detest immigrants from other countries, especially the brown ones who don’t speak their language, which is ironic in the supreme because the messenger they believe is the son of their god was basically an anchor baby born out of wedlock to an immigrant woman who was most likely a person of color and couldn’t come up with enough money to afford decent health insurance.

And they’re happy to support and vote to re-elect a charlatan who embodies everything they purport to deplore because he’s conned them into thinking they’re gonna get rich. Isn’t there a passage somewhere in their book of fables about the love of money being the root of all evil? It’s just another lesson they completely forgot, along with the ones about love thy neighbor as thyself, feed and clothe the stranger, and judge not lest ye be judged.

I get it that they feel mocked and threatened for their beliefs. That’s because their beliefs are hateful, anti-democratic, and authoritarian.  It’s not surprising that they’re mocked and threatened: they brought it on themselves. Martyrdom only works if you’re willing to sacrifice for the greater good of humanity.  But if all you’re suffering for is being a controlling and vacuous gasbag, go ahead and drop dead for all anyone cares.

But, Karma, thou art a heartless bitch. It is a concept that transcends religious boundaries. It’s Newtonian: what goes around, comes around. At some point, sooner hopefully rather than later, both Trump and these sniveling Jesus-shouting bigots and hate-mongers will get their comeuppance. The sad part is that the lesson will be lost on them and they’ll come weeping and wailing about how they were so blind to be taken in by Trump and the preachers that went along with him and were in on it. It will be hard to refrain from mocking them. Maybe we should offer them “thoughts and prayers.”

Monday, August 12, 2019

Gee, Ya Think?

The New York Times is on the case.

Tucker Carlson went on his prime-time Fox News show in April last year and told his viewers not to be fooled. The thousands of Central Americans on their way to the United States were “border jumpers,” not refugees, he said. “Will anyone in power do anything to protect America this time,” he asked, “or will leaders sit passively back as the invasion continues?”

When another group approached the border six months later, Ann Coulter, appearing as a guest on Jeanine Pirro’s Fox News show, offered a dispassionately violent suggestion about what could be done to stem the flow of migrants: “You can shoot invaders.”

A few days after, Rush Limbaugh issued a grim prognosis to his millions of radio listeners: If the immigrants from Central America weren’t stopped, the United States would lose its identity. “The objective is to dilute and eventually eliminate or erase what is known as the distinct or unique American culture,” Mr. Limbaugh said, adding: “This is why people call this an invasion.”

There is a striking degree of overlap between the words of right-wing media personalities and the language used by the Texas man who confessed to killing 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso this month. In a 2,300-word screed posted on the website 8chan, the killer wrote that he was “simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion.”

It remains unclear what, or who, ultimately shaped the views of the white, 21-year-old gunman, or whether he was aware of the media commentary. But his post contains numerous references to “invasion” and cultural “replacement” — ideas that, until recently, were relegated to the fringes of the nationalist right.

An extensive New York Times review of popular right-wing media platforms found hundreds of examples of language, ideas and ideologies that overlapped with the mass killer’s written statement — a shared vocabulary of intolerance that stokes fears centered on immigrants of color. The programs, on television and radio, reach an audience of millions.

In the four years since Mr. Trump electrified Republican voters with slashing comments about Muslims and Mexicans, demonizing references to immigrants have become more widespread in the news media, the Times review found.

Sometimes the hosts are repeating the president’s signature phrases. Sometimes the president appears to take his cues from television pundits. The cumulative effect is a public dialogue in which denigrating sentiments about immigrants are common.

But Tucker Carlson and Rush Limbaugh will tell you it’s violent video games and Barack Obama wearing a tan suit that drove them over the edge; banning assault weapons and doing real background checks will do nothing to save America.  And anyone who thinks otherwise is the REAL RACIST, not them.

Trump kept returning to hit back at the “fake news” media attacks on him, saying of claims from the Democrats that he is a racist, “That is the only ammunition they have.”

Trump also made fun of US allies South Korea, Japan and the European Union — mimicking Japanese and Korean accents — and talked about his love of dictators Kim Jong Un and the current ruler of Saudi Arabia.

It kind of makes one wonder where anyone who might listen to AM radio or watch Fox News might get the idea that we’re being invaded by brown hordes and that Hillary Clinton not only killed Jeffrey Epstein, ran a child porno ring out of a pizza joint, and the remains of the Lindbergh baby were found in her crawlspace, and that they might go all Rambo and drive ten hours to shoot up a Wal Mart.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Willkommen In Nürnberg

Via TPM:

Ahead of his visit to the sites of two mass shootings that killed more than 30 people over the weekend, President Trump on Wednesday swatted away questions from reporters about the impact of his rhetoric.

The President claimed that his remarks in the aftermath of the shootings were unifying, rather than divisive, before pivoting to talk about his ongoing trade war with China.

“No I don’t think my rhetoric has at all, I think my rhetoric — it brings people together. Our country is doing incredibly well, China is not doing well if you look at the trade situation.”

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