Sunday, July 30, 2017

Immortal ideas

When I moved to Hawaii in 1987, there were several studies under way. One was from the state Department of Business and Economic Development, and it predicted that deepsea mining of minerals like manganese was "25 years away."

The other was by the county, for a garage to expand parkng space at the Wailuku Municipal Lot.

The undersea mining study was re-issued a few times but that idea has, thankfully, faded into the history of undoable things.

The parking garage, on the other hand, is still having money wasted on it. Today's Maui News has a story about a proposed $75 million stucture that would add a net 246 spaces.

That's just an estimate, but the estimate comes to $304,878.05 per stall.

It'll never happen.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Why is this business operating?

Why has the state of South Dakota not canceled the charter of Wells Fargo bank?

It is nothing but a continuing criminal enterprise, and if Jeff Sessions were sincere about cracking down on criminals, he'd be using the RICO statute to shut Wells Fargo down.

Of course, Wells Fargo is not run by brown people, so Sessions cannot recognize criminality in white people.

UPDATE, August 5

 More chicanery at the bank. At some point, and Wells Fargo is far past it, there can no longer be a presumption that the managers were attempting to conduct a legitimate business.

I  note, as well, that this is perhaps the greatest success of a business pursuing the "fireproof hotel" scam ever. While corruptly enhancing its bottom line as compared with legitimat banks, Wells became the biggest bank in the world.

Time to shut it down.

Book Review 394: Out of the Flames

 OUT OF THE FLAMES: The Remarkable Story of a Fearless Scholar, a Fatal Heresy and One of the Rarest Books in the World, by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone. 353 pages, illustrated. Broadway, $24.95

You wouldn’t guess it, even with help from the lengthy subtitle, but “Out of the Flames” is about the loss that all people suffer from religious bigotry.

Michael Servetus suffered directly, roasted alive at Geneva in 1553. The rest of the world, or at least the European part of it, lost because this remarkable man had discovered the pulmonary circulation of the blood, described in a few pages of a book about theology — specifically, an anti-trinitarian study.

Because religious believers hate ideas, the sentence against Servetus condemned all his books to be burned as well, and most were. Only three copies of the “Christianismi Restitutio” survived.

The medical pages were not recognized until much later, putting off the recognition of circulation and — as the husband and wife team Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone say — the modernization of medicine for 75 years.

Servetus deserves to be better known. He was among those brave thinkers who lifted the cloud of superstition that blinded men’s eyes (still does, for millions) and made modern life possible. He ought to be honored along with Lorenzo Valla, Galileo, Voltaire and Darwin, but not many know even his name.

It is a measure of the hold that superstition and hatred still hold over too many people that when a monument to Servetus was proposed at Geneva, the city authorities turned it into a monument to his murderer, John Calvin. This was as late as the 20th century.

Even without the moral lesson, Servetus’s life was a riproaring tale, worthy of Dumas. He was condemned to atrocious death by both Catholics and Protestants, yet lived and worked clandestinely under their noses for over 20 years.

Servetus was probably the finest scholar of his time. He knew Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Arabic and so was able to read the Scriptures as they were. He concluded — as all equally well-equipped scholars (like Newton) have — that there is no warrant for the Trinity in Holy Writ.

That idea was confected at the Council of Nicaea in 325.

Obviously, no Christian church, reformed or not, could allow such an idea to escape. Thus, murder and book burning.

On a human level, one of the second-best scholars of the time was Calvin, but  Calvin was no match for Servetus and he hated and feared the Spaniard. The Goldstones’ account of the trial focuses on the irregularities.

Calvin used his religious position to override all the protections in the law. Servetus, a scholar of law as well as of theology and medicine, pointed out the highhandedness, but the Christian community was thoroughly immoral. No one had the courage or morality to speak out. Even the Catholics, who normally would have happily burned Calvin, were pleased to cooperate.

The first 200 pages of “Out of the Flames” concerns the murder of Servetus. The remaining third is a bibliographical whodunit. (The Goldstones had written earlier books about books.)

Both stories proceed at a leisurely pace. The authors surmise, correctly, that almost all of this will be unfamiliar to most.

Thus, when a Hungarian count visits London and picks up a copy of “Christianismus Restitutio" and takes it back to Transylvania, there is a digression about the background of Transylvanian Unitarianism, with bits about Habsburg politics and much else besides.

The book concludes with a review of a better-known story, the introduction of scientific medical schools in the United States by William Osler, a bibliophile who sought his own copy of “Christianismus” but never found one.

In fact, all the copies destined for the market were destroyed. The three survivors were all connected with the trial, including Calvin’s copy.

Servetus was too brave and honest to live. He really believed in the Bible, which makes him different from today’s evangelicals, none of whom believe it. The Goldstones write: “But much as Salman Rushdie was to discover four and a half centuries later, underestimating the zeal of one’s religious opponents can be dangerous.”

Tough talk

Regular readers of RtO may recall an exchange about whether WBD encouraged violence at his campaign rallies. (He did.) He's done it again, but when he did it to cheering Republican crowds nobody in the party had the guts to call him on it.

This time, a different group had a different reaction.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The funniest news story ever

Anthony Scaramucci Called Me to Unload About White House Leakers, Reince Priebus, and Steve Bannon

Funnier than the guy who drowned in a vat of melted chocolate and almost equally fatal.

Funniest line:

Scaramucci said he had to get going.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Who WBD admires

This guy.

"Get out of there, I’m telling the Lumads now. I’ll have those bombed, including your structures,” the president said. “I will use the armed forces, the Philippine air force. I’ll really have those bombed … because you are operating illegally and you are teaching the children to rebel against government.”
Waiting to hear someone, anyone in the U.S. government say our country needs to cease military cooperation, including selling munitions, to this murderer.

Anyone want to start a pool on how long I will have to wait?

I pick "forever."

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Incompetent fools

I have long contended that American military commanders are incompetents and have been since at least 1950. The United States hasn't won a war since 1945 despite always having more money and bigger guns.

That is reasoning backward: If you have the best of everything else, it must mean you have the worst of leadership. (I don't spare the civilian leadership, either.)

There is also overwhelming evidence of the reasoning-forward type.

Here is a fine example, just out:
The Pentagon raised no objections with The Times before the article was published, and no senior American official had complained publicly about it until now. Some officials expressed hope at the time that some of the details in the article would sow fear in the ranks of the Islamic State by demonstrating that the United States could penetrate the group’s secrecy.
And another, also just out. This one is a broadcast (on National Public Radio), so I cannot copy the ridiculous assertion, but if you listen at around the 8:40 mark you'll hear Andrew Exum, a junior Army officer with combat experience and now an academic (and formerly assistant deputy secretary of defense for policy), casually claim that "we" "defeated" "al Queda" in Iraq in 2007-8.

We lost that war. So badly that the world's  most expensive, most powerful army was afraid to drive from the Baghdad airport to its fortress a few miles away.

It's like the American officer corps is personified by the Black Knight in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail."

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Who will be Trump's Bork?

It wasn’t until later that the weirdness of the scene imposed itself on me.

Three of us, two Americans and a Briton, were sitting at a table overlooking the sea, sharing a basket of pappadums and drinking beer and lassi and asking: Will Trump fire Mueller?

We were all old enough to remember the Saturday Night Massacre, 44 years ago, when Nixon fired Attorney General Elliott Richardson and his deputy, William Ruckelshaus, for refusing to fire Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor.

Cox was fired. Do you remember who, I asked the others, fired him? They didn’t. 

It was Robert Bork, the darling of the rightwingers.

Richardson and Ruckelshaus had promised Congress they would not allow interference with the special prosecutor, but Bork had not. So, when it comes down to it, we have no evidence that — absent an explicit promise — any Republican would have had the self-respect or integrity to stand up to a lawless president. When Nixon went shopping for a pliant courtier, he had to take only one step: Bork.

Bork later said he hesitated, not wanting people to think he would do the bidding of an out-of-control president just to keep his job. (He could not have hesitated long.)

No, it wasn’t job security that concerned Americans who believe in representative democracy. It was the supremacy of the law.

Neither Bork nor any other Republicans ever got that, and Bork’s career was made by his lack of a spine.

So, the answer to my question is: Whoever is first in line to be instructed.

Will Trump ask someone to fire Mueller? That’s hard to say. Has he built a wall and forced Mexico to pay for it?

But he needs quite a bit of cooperation on the wall. He needs only one person to cooperate in firing Mueller, and as we just demonstrated, finding that one person in the Republican Party will be the easiest thing in the world.

Will Whiny Baby Donald do it?

I think he will. He never controls his impulses for long, and the motivation is as powerful as Nixon’s.

Nixon was ordered to turn over the White Hose tapes, and he knew what they revealed. Trump is worried that Mueller will look at the finances of the Trump Organization (that is, Trump) and he knows that will reveal, at a minimum, money-laundering. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Under the influence

Thanks to Samantha Bee for mining C-SPAN for an enlightening few minutes with the 3 of the 4 most despicable members of Congress -- Rohrabacher, Gohmert and King. Des Jarlais wasn't there

Rude, crude and unglued

If you perhaps thought that Whiny Baby Donald's stupid behavior toward Madame Macron was his worst display of sexism this month, you're wrong.

President Trump says he went over to chat with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a dinner in Germany this month because his seat mate, the wife of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, didn't speak any English.

Akie Abe “doesn’t speak English … like, not ‘Hello,’” Trump told the New York Times in an interview Wednesday.

Not so.

Mrs. Abe, the daughter of a wealthy Japanese family, attended a private Roman Catholic international school in Tokyo before she attended college.

The elementary-through-high-school academy, the Sacred Heart School, includes rigorous English-language instruction as part of its curriculum.

Social media swiftly found clips of the 55-year-old Abe making speeches in somewhat accented but perfectly serviceable English.

WBD is like a mooncalf in his adoration of  Vlad.

AFTERTHOUGHT: If he and Mrs. Abe had stayed together, the one with greater command of English would have been Mrs. Abe

Monday, July 17, 2017

Under pressure

Hmmm. So repealing Obamacare depends upon the level of sophisticated health care available to an 80-year-old man.

Golly, if I were a rightwing kook,  I'd hope he has good insurance.

UPDATE: Christians awake!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The conservative liberals

This post expands on the previous one about how the major parties switched their orientation. From the beginning, it has not been simple to determine whether Americans, or any particular American, was liberal or conservative.

In this discussion it is useful to stick to left/right, even though those terms did not come into use until the seting arrangements at the French National Assembly in the 1790s provided a handy discriminator. Rather than trying to tease out whether a party (or a person) is authoritarian/permissive; creditor/debtor etc., the general tendencies left/right serve well.

The draft constitution presented  to the 13 states in 1787 was novel and frightening to foreign eyes, and radical to almost all of them. But that was not how the drafters saw it.

In world terms, the U.S. Constitution was (and is) radical and liberal — notably, it is the attempt by a society to govern itself via an elected magistrate rather than an anointed king, and without a state religion — or any kind of religion at all.

There were some partial models, of which the most relevant contemporary ones were the Dutch and Venetian republics. (There were other king-less governments in Europe, as in Switzerland; and there is a myth that the American constitution was based on Indian practice, but neither in structure, philosophy nor in goals does the U.S Constitution have anything to do with the convocations of the Five [or Six] Nations.)

However, the foreign model of most importance to the Framers was the Roman Republic, something that most of them had studied in detail (and in Latin).

The models of most importance were the several state constitutions.  Every state had rewritten its constitution in the years before the Philadelphia convention, some more than once; and the convention presents a unique example of a constitution being written by men who had had long experience of writing and then trying to govern with other constitutions.

This can most easily be seen in Article VI, where religion is written out of the government. The Framers had had bad experiences with religion.

However radical the American organic law appeared elsewhere, to the men who wrote it, it was conservative.

By 1787, Europeans had been occupying the Atlantic seaboard for seven generations, and the men who wrote the Constitution were conscious that their great, great, great grandfathers had had, as Lincoln later put it, brought forth a new nation.

Though beholden to the British Crown and Parliament, distance and distaste had allowed the colonists to establish and operate local government much as they wished. King’s agents there were, but few and easy to evade.

Thus, to American sensibilities, elected magistrates, elected assemblies, a more even suffrage, relative freedom from excisemen etc. were customary, not revolutionary. The Patriots revolted to preserve what they had, not to create a new polity.

We are now 16 generations into that liberal experiment. Nearly half the electorate deems it a failure.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Jumping the rails

A reader says, “Republicans used to be liberal, Democrats conservative.

“Conservatives are the new RINOs.

“I understand that it was a Southern Democrat who killed President Lincoln.
Democrats, conservative and Republicans, liberal.  I was having an identity crisis
and confused.   I am independent or would like to think so.
I believe in both conservative and liberal thinking.”

And he asks me to explain how that happened. That’s a good idea, because lying, racist rightwingers have made a habit of jeering at Democrats for being the party that started the Ku Klux Klan. The claim is so stupid it is hard to believe anyone could make it honestly, but then rightwingers are really stupid. But also really dishonest, so I cannot decide.

It is not correct to say that Republicans were liberal and Democrats conservative. It would be ore correct to say that both were mostly conservative for most of their existence. And not in the good sense that the word conservative can be used.

To back up, the first parties, Federalists and Democratic-Republicans, were reactionary and revolutionary, respectively, at least philosophically. (In the context of the time, both were radical — no king.) Or, if you prefer, the Federalists were the party that defended property, the Democratic-Republicans the party that aspired to bring those with no property into the propertied class — always excepting that neither pary had any intention of seeing colored people enjoy any of it.

You might say that the Federalists were the party of creditors (Hamilton and his crooked friends) and the Democrat-Republicans were the party of debtors (Jackson and his antibank friends).
Have vs. have-nots is a universal split, but in America slavery jumbled up the normal alliances. The Whigs (successors to the Democratic-Republicans) splintered over slavery, and the antislavery faction formed a new party in 1854 dedicated to free labor, free soil and free men.

These were the first Republicans, but they were not in other respects particularly liberal. They tended to be against free trade, while the proslavery Southern Democrats liked low tariffs but were in most other respects reactionary.

The proslavery Northern Democrats tended to straddle. Thus in 1860, there were 4 major candidates for president, each faction representing an uncomfortable mix of antagonistic desires.

Early Republicans were not racial liberals but hardly anybody was then.

After 1865, the Republicans divided sharply between the punish-the-South Radicals and the business-oriented (and pro-tariff) regulars. There we no liberal presidents elected before
Roosevelt in 1936. (It is forgotten that FDR ran as a conservative Democrat in ’32.)

The only Democratic president in the postwar, Cleveland, was solidly conservative.

Liberals (though not usually racial liberals) after the Civil War had to form a new party (several, actually), who called themselves Progressives (or Greenbackers or Free Silver etc.). They had sympathizers within the conservative parties (Teddy Roosevelt among the Republicans) and  took over the Democratic Party (at the presidential level only) leading to the three failures of William J. Bryan.

Thus, although the main parties were still primarily conservative, the United States elected three consecutive Progressive presidents in 1904,1908 and 1912 — although Wilson was a queer mix of Progressive and racist policies.

The Progressive moment, such as it was, was submerged in the rightwing, antiliberal war hysteria of 1917.

For historical reasons, the reactionary South voted Democratic, even though following the collapse of both progressive policies and the economy in 1921 (when the Depression started for the 40% of Americans who were still linked to the agrarian economy), the rump of Progressive voters stuck with the Democrats in most of the West, Midwest and parts of the north. (There were odd outliers still within the Republican Party like Hiram Johnson in California.)

It was FDR’s political acumen that welded an electoral coalition of racist Southern Democrats, northern blacks, and liberals. It wouldn’t have happened, however, if Coolidge Prosperity hadn’t wrecked the economy.

The Southern Democrats were split between poor whites, who could be induced to vote for liberal programs like TVA if race were not at issue, and better-off whites. The national Democrats, led by Truman, headed off in a liberal direction. The Southern racists were distressed and began moving toward the Republican Party, their natural philosophical home,  in the ‘50s. (They did not go directly but through the John Birch Society.)

In 1964, only 5 states voted for Goldwater, 4 of them because they hated the liberal, civil rights direction of the Democratic Party. The Republican Party had been, mostly ineffectively, for civil rights from its start, but the Goldwaterites were more concerned about communism than rights.

Nixon recognized this and with his Southern Strategy he made a naked appeal to racism. (Nixon was a profound if circumspect racist.) It worked and all subsequent Republican leaders have made their peace with the white racists. (Romney was a partial exception, and he lost.)

That is, by feats of electoral coalition-building in both parties, the insurgents in each managed to detach a disaffected portion of its opponent’s coalition: the Democrats shed their racists, allowing the liberal elements elbow room; and the Republicans absorbed the racists, simultaneously driving out their racial liberals (who had successfully catered to minority voters — Jews and blacks — outside the South).

(Similar flips occurred in other democracies; in France the onetime Radicals became a conservative party without changing their label.)

So in 2017, the Democratic Party ends up uniformly racially liberal and somewhat less uniformly liberal in other respects — and therefore the minority party in a self-satisfied conservative society; while the Republicans find themselves in the predicament faced by the Democrats up through the ‘30s — a hardcore of virulent racists (represented by the Tea Party and the Freedom Caucus) and a mass of members who are willing to stay with the racists for the sake of an electoral coalition.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Femme fatale

From time to time, RtO has to state things itself, since nobody else is saying it first. This is one of those times.

What did Natalia Veselnitskaya want? All the reporting and commentary has focused on what Whiny Baby Donald's idiot son wanted -- dirt on Clinton. But why did Veselitskatya want to meet him? Not because of his pretty eyes.

And not because of adoptions. That is certain.

Around the world, the American middle-class hobby of scooping up poor infants is deplored, or worse. Bolivia forbids it. Russian patriots, who want to be regarded as equal to the biggest players, have no reason to like having to give up babies their country cannot manage to take care of. The idea, enunciated by Trump the Less, that some free-lance wanted to talk to him about renewing this humiliation is one reason we can confidently call him an idiot.

So, commenters leap to the conclusion that her purpose was to talk about removing the Magnitsky Act that sanctions some Russians bigwigs.  That makes no sense.

Putin had reason to believe that WBD would be amenable to removing Magnitsky if he could be elected. Possibly, he wanted Veselnitskaya to confirm that this would be a WBD priority.

But there was no need to contact the idiot son. Putin already had campaign manager Paul Manafort on speed dial. He could just have called him.

Even if, for some reason, an approach to Idiot Son was preferred, tempting him with dirt on Clinton and then being unable to deliver was a worse than clumsy way to go about it. WBD is notoriously touchy, and promising dirt and then not delivering would, most likely, be the item that remained in the front of his tiny mind, not Putin's anxieties about Magnitsky. (I saw a commenter refer to WBD's "goldfish-like attention span. That was funny.)

Veselnitskaya  and Putin must have had something else in mind.

My guess is that she came to remind (or perhaps reveal to) WBD that Putin has tapes of golden showers (or something similar) and that, if he should be elected, he had better follow the Kremlin line.

That's a message that would not have taken long to deliver, so Idiot Son may not be lying when he says it was over in 20 minutes.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Book Review 393: Siege: Malta 1940-1943

SIEGE: Malta 1940-1943, by Ernle Bradford. 304 pages, illustrated. Morrow, $19.95

A few years ago, I would have predicted that sieges were a thing of the past. Under 21st century conflict conditions, with  light-armed guerrillas usually having the upper hand, there seemed hardly any opportunity for an army to mount a siege.

That turned out to be incorrect. In Syria and Iraq, we have seen the unexpected sight of guerrillas mounting successful sieges, and, almost as surprising, armies besieging guerrillas.

There were two very long sieges during World War II. The siege of Leningrad has been widely covered; the siege of Malta much less so. Yet the (second) Siege of Malta presents some interesting phenomena, worth reviewing in the context of 2017.

Ernle Bradford’s history is short on statistics and details but usefully informed by a man who lived on Malta for 10 years, although after the war. Bradford, a sailor who wrote extensively about places in the Mediterranean, understands that Malta’s survival depended, in principal part, on its geography:

Two small islands (Malta is about four times the size of Manhattan and had a population of about 250,000 in 1940) made out of limestone. Easy to tunnel into, hard to disturb with high explosive. Hard to storm, with steep cliffs on the south and small beaches and wide creeks (what Americans would call inlets) on the north, fairly easy to defend, especially when indestructible forts had accumulated over 400 years.

As a result, and because of a vast overestimation of the capabilities of air power, Malta became the first place to be besieged almost entirely by air. (Submarines and light naval forces were used to cut off relief ships, but air attack was where the heavy fighting occurred.)

The Royal Navy, the Fleet Air Arm and the Royal Air Force took enormous casualties to keep supplies flowing to the island, and by the end of 1942 the island was on very short rations. (Nothing like as stringent as the besieged at Leningrad or Japanese bases in the Pacific faced.)

The story of the Pedestal convoy, and especially of the two civilian seamen who reboarded the abandoned tanker Ohio and fought off the Luftwaffe by themselves, would have dressed up “Malta” a great deal, but Bradford does not tell it. (Sam Moses does, in a 2007 book, "At All Costs.")

The inspiring story he does tell is the staunch stand of the Maltese, who had come to like their position as the home of the Mediterranean Fleet over generations. (This did not keep the from choosing independence after the war.)

Of interest in the light of the sieges of Aleppo or Mosul is the list of diseases that exploded in the undernourished population: vitamin-deficiency diseases like pellagra, ulcerative stomatitis, rickets and even — on an island that grew lemons — scurvy; trachoma and eye diseases (blamed on dust from explosions); tuberculosis, typhoid and dysentery.

Those were expected. Also expected were mental breakdowns, including what is now so popular, post-traumatic stress disorder.

That did not happen. Mental cases went down.

This despite absorbing the greatest weight of aerial bombs of any target during the war.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Inoperative statements

Younger readers may not know about it, but before rightwingers called their own lies alternative facts, they called them inoperative statements. That was back in Watergate days, and it resulted in the departure of a crooked, crazy president in disgrace.

A cautionary tale, one might think.

Anyhow, the press did not expose Watergate in a single story, decorated with attributed statements and buttressed with verifiable documents. That's not the way political corruption stories are exposed.

At the start, the malefactors scream and holler about journalistic propriety and holes in the story. It is a useful, if not ironclad guideline that the louder the screams and hollers, the dirtier the crooks.

This weekend, we came to the point where suspicions start to solidify into allegations. There's still time for Trump fans to abandon ship, but not much. Stick with Whiny Baby Donald and become one of his tools and fools. As my mother used to say, lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.

It is significant that Donald the Less the Elephant Slayer, Manafort and Kushner did not volunteer their conspiracy to gather dirt on Clinton but were forced into the guilty admissions by the steady pressure of partial revelations.

What did we know and when did we know it? We know the Trump campaign conspired to use Russian dirty tricks to influence the campaign's outcome -- that's what they have admitted -- and we have known it since July 8.

UPDATE July 10

Runnin' scared


Ruth Marcus asks te right questions. Washington Post commenters add important points:

The multiple choice options at the beginning should have included a 4th option: contact the FBI to report a contact from an agent of a foreign country that is hostile to the U.S. regarding unethical if not illegally obtained information concerning your father's political opponent as a candidate for the office of President of the United States.

But aren't sanctions against Russia somehow connected to adoption?

James Moylan
I am an Aussie lawyer who works as an academic and have spent quite a bit of time researching electoral laws across the western world.
I thought I might comment as many who are adding their voice to these threads don't seem to understand the significance of this story in legal terms.
In the statement released by Trump Jnr. he admits to an intention to meet with a person known to be a foreign national and who might have “information helpful to the campaign” - namely that "the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton".
The reason why Trump Jnr's press release is of significance is because it was so badly written that it actually forces those investigating these matters to investigate further. It is a very very odd document (in legal terms). Either no lawyer looked at the PR or those who did were utterly incompetent.
By making these statements Trump Jnr is forcing those who are investigating these matters to (at the very least) interview him to clarify the precise nature of the encounter and determine his intentions regarding the meeting.
This obligation is triggered simply because it is possible to construe the statements in the press release as being indicative that an offense may have been committed. The physical circumstance which is known to have occurred (a meeting with a foreign national) when coupled with a proscribed intent (a 'mens rea') can constitute a crime. However the press release was so badly worded and inappropriately focused (if it was intended to act as a legal justification) that it left the possibility that Trump Jnr may have been entertaining a proscribed intent at the time of the meeting open.
The Trumps' never cease to amaze.

No. 2 from bobbiji appears to be the most important point.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Fools rush in

Tricia and I like to watch a Youtube channel called "18th Century Cooking with Jas Townsend & Son." The host, Jon Townsend, (and occasionally his young daughter Ivy) have an infectious enthusiasm for 18th century foodways; and, somewhat unusually for the re-enactor community, he does solid research.

However, we missed the July 3 episode, from Mount Vernon, on a dessert called "Orange Fool." Unfortunately, a howling mob of ignorant rightwingers, drawn by some Reddit idiot (but I repeat myself), descended on the channel.

Townsend has eliminated their comments (presumably they reside somewhere on the Internet but I have not searched them out; I can imagine them easily enough). But from his subsequent anguished commentary, they exhibited the mix of venom, stupidity, ignorance and absence of humor that characterize the Trumpeters.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Book Review 392: Lincoln at Gettysburg

LINCOLN AT GETTYSBURG: The Words that Remade America, by Garry Wills. 315 pages. Simon & Schuster, $23

As usual, when Garry Wills takes a closer look, American myths get debunked.

In “Lincolh at Gettysburg” we learn that our most eloquent president did not scratch out his Gettysburg address on an envelope on the train ride to the battlefield but (of course) labored over it for some time. That it was received well at the North and was not disparaged or belittled. That Edward Everett’s centerpiece address, though long, was not windy or tedious and was welcomed also as  summation of the conflict up to that time.

Those points, however, are not the thrust of Wills’s book, which was written in 1992 but has more punch now than it did 25 years ago, if only for this summation of Lincoln’s argument against Stephen Douglas in the quarrel about slavery:

“Government by the people cannot exist where those who believe in equality are asked to sacrifice that belief (and its expression) in the name of social concord.”

Still less, we might think, when the sacrifice is being demanded in the name of social discord, as today.

However, as trenchant as that page is, it is not the main thrust of Wills’s argument, which is that Lincoln, with a three-minute statement of aims and beliefs, “altered the document  (the Constitution) from within by appeal from its letter to the spirit, subtly changing the recalcitrant stuff of that legal compromise, bringing it to its own indictment.”

It was not easily done.

Today, liberals often criticize Trumpeters for waving the “treason flag.” This is entirely correct but it is not a claim that Lincoln was able to countenance. His goal, in war, was preservation of the Union, not abolition or any other good. Politically, he had a delicate task: to keep the four slave states that had not seceded from leaving the Union.

Therefore, Lincoln, formerly the lawyer for the nation’s biggest corporation (the Illinois Central Railroad (now owned by Canadians, how’s them apples?), argued that states had no legal capacity to secede. Therefore, the Confederate States of America had only a fictive existence, and, consequently, its adherents, even if in rebellion against the national government, had not given allegiance to another state and so could not be traitors.

This argument is bogus in every respect but, we may think, was an act of great political wisdom. Or, we may equally as well think, by allowing the white supremacists (who really were traitors in their own hearts) back into communion with the Union as equals, Lincoln’s policy, as expressed in the post-Reconstruction years, did end up sacrificing equality in the name of social concord — among whites. Blacks, browns and yellows did not experience much concord.

Wills writes, too optimistically:

“Lincoln does not argue law or history . . . He makes history. He does not come to present a theory, but to impose a symbol . . . No other words could have done it. . . . In his brief time before the crowd at Gettysburg he wove  a spell that has not, yet, been broken.”

Monday, July 3, 2017

Tillerson lies

To Congress. It's like it's part of the job description for Trumpeters.

Mr. Tillerson’s testimony notwithstanding, the programs explicitly promise that fellows will be able to join the Foreign Service if they successfully complete the fellowship. Zaid Zaid, a former Pickering fellow, said that Mr. Tillerson’s claim that no one had promised the fellows jobs in the Foreign Service was “patently false and ridiculous.”

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Left behind

In the New Yorker, an illuminating interview with the only doctor in one of the poorest counties in Georgia.

Dr. Karen Kinsell sounds like a nominee for sainthood, although the interview is deficient in explaining exactly what the economic structure of her clinic is.

Nut grafs:

“Most people are so poor and kind of out of it that they don’t expect anything. They mostly just expect to not have insurance.

"This morning, we had a lady with post-menopausal bleeding, which could be cancer. The absolute best thing to do is have her checked out by a gynecologist, but we really don’t have a way to do that that she can afford. The health department has some programs, but they generally require a diagnosis of cancer before their programs can pick up. So that’s a problem.

"People constantly have a problem being able to afford their medicines. I use generics all the time. And prescription-assistance programs, which are a tremendous amount of paperwork, which people have trouble doing. We use samples from drug reps.

“There’s no mental-health care in the county, which is crazy. I just had an eighteen-year-old who needed some mental-health medications renewed, so I did that. There just isn’t what you’d expect to have in America down here."

It sounds a lot like Maui County, except we're rich. But we don't have any mental health care at the hospital, and not even any private mental health care for young people.

And it sounds even more like the rural parts of the state, like Kona.

It raises a question, whose answer is, to me, easy:  Do Americans in the hollowed-out parts of the country get any medical care?

RtO has pointed at this problem before; the review of "Wide Ruins," for example, referred to "wild rides." Those were to get sick people to the neares medical help, about 140 miles away over unpaved tracks.

It is out of the question to expect modern medical services nearby for people who live so far out in the sticks, but Clay County, Georgia, is not that remote. It even has a "chicken plant."

The New Yorker report does not explain it, but Georgia has small counties, a hangover from an old-time voting system called the county-unit, which gave rural voters excess voice in the Legislature, on the same principle that the U.S. Senate does to small states. The county-unit system is gone but Georgia  has never rationalized it tiny counties. It might, perhaps, be somewhat simpler to deliver medical care if Clay and nearby counties were combined into a larger county with greater total resources.

Anyway, Clay County seems to have benefited little from Obamacare, but the Republican approach  -- as exemplified by the idiotic Sen. Ron Johnson -- would just dump the rural poor into the hands of root-doctors.