Friday, June 14, 2019

Pompeo shoots self in foot

Whatever the object is in the spy film released by the Secretary of State to demonstrate Iranian guilt in the tanker bombing, it isn't a ship-killing mine.

One man handled it without straining, so it cannot have weighed more than 30 pounds or so.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Book Review 411: Joe Alsop's Cold War

JOE ALSOP'S COLD WAR: A Study of Journalistic Influence and Intrigue, by Edwin M. Yoder Jr. 220 pages, illustratedl. U. of North Caroina Press, $29.95.

I started reading Joe Alsop's newspaper column in the summer of 1966.  I thought he was an idiot.  He was, too.

I did not then understand how rank the stupidity was or how far back it went. It began in China during World War 2 when Alsop was on the staff of the crackpot aviator Claire Chennault. Chennault's fantasy of defeating an industrial state by random terror bombing was destroyed by infantry attack but Alsop remained a believer to the end of his life.

That 400,000 Chinese peasants were killed in the process did not affect his views.

After the war Alsop made a fine career as a sort of global village idiot specializing on foreign policy and military security.

He claimed often to have invented the domino theory, although Edwin Yoder is skeptical. If he wasn't the father, he was the doting godfather although anyone with a school atlas in the 1950s could have seen that if there was a domino effect, it ran in the opposite direction from the one Alsop and hisRless colorful brother Stewart spent 14 years flogging.

The Red Army stopped in its tracks as soon as it had defeated the fascists of Germany and Japan and never took another goose-step forward, until 1979 in Afghanistan. It even retreated from Finland, Austria, Iran, Korea and Manchuria.

This very obvious fact did not deter Alsop from bleating constantly about the dangers of Soviet imperialism although if any country was sending imperial armies into new territory in the '50s and '60s it was the United States.

People who knew Alsop intimately considered him stupid. It is impossible to argue with this opinion although Yoder, a personal friend, does his best to prettify the sordid scene.

After Chennault, Alsop maintained a lifelong predilection for tough talking fools in military uniform. He was a deeply closeted homosexual, a precious queen clinking his china tea cups and smoothing his custom made Italian silk shirts. Yoder does not speculate about Alsop's attraction to such crude milites gloriosi, but there is a distinct flavor of Tom of Finland here.

The Alsop brothers pretended to be real reporters and claimed always to have at least one previously unreported fact in each of their columns. They made much of their trips to see things for themselves.

However like other men of their time and class -- they were near kin of the Roosevelts and heirs to a Connecticut progressive Republican tradition -- they did not believe that colored people could or should govern themselves, and when they went to a foreign country it would never have occurred to them to speak to anyone who lived there. Their idea of getting the facts was to quiz diplomats, foreign businessmen and others who they believed to be in the know.

As a result they maintained a colonialist mentality.

Joe Alsop was especially smitten by William Westmoreland and was unwaveringly certain that the Republic of South Vietnam was going to prevail despte its complete lack of political legitimacy.

And yet despite their silliness overseas, back home the Alsops worked bravely and effectively, openly and deviously, against McCarthy and McCarthyism . Though not a fan of the somewhat dumpy Dwight Eisenhower -- one the few generals Joe did not admire -- Alsop did tell friends in 1952 that he was afraid that if the Republicans were kept out of the White House for another four years they would turn into a native fascist party.

He was right about that although premature.

Since "Joe Alsop's Cold War"  is subtitled "a study of influence," Yoder tries to assess whether the Alsops really exerted any influence. It is clear that they did in the counterattack of the regular Republicans against the McCarthyites. Yoder is skeptical that they had much impact on their chosen area of foreign relations.

Waiting for the news

So, Trump says we (meaning he) got 'everything we wanted' from Mexico, and he will be annoucing the additional goodies soon. Can we assume that this means Mexico is paying for The Wall?

Wasn't that one of the things he wanted?

Prediction: his besotted adorers will give him a pass on this one, too.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

The failure of anti-fascism

A cannonade of blather has been launched over beaches of Normandy today and many salvoes of freedom and democracy light up the sky there. Let's state the obvious: The great antifascist crusade in Europe failed.

The displacement of Italy and Germany succeeded, but fascism had already taken over nearly all of Europe before September 1, 1939; in the few states purported to represent democracy, democracy was a strange and phony system. No one in Egypt thought England was a democracy; no one in the East Indies thought the Netherlands were a democracy; no one in Congo thought Belgium was a democracy; no one in Vietnam thought France was democracy.

To the Russians who did most of the fighting and dying in the supposed antifascist movement, when that wing of the antifascist drive got to the German-speaking , it areas did not distinguish between fascists and antifascists; if you spoke German, you were a fascist.

Though it was fought with ideological weapons, from the perspective of 2019 it is hard to see the war an Europe is anything but a continuation of the struggle for national hegemonies that had been going on for 500 y.ears

For 50 years after the war ,fascism was suppressed except in Iberia and Greece but only suppressed. People who lived in Europe did not reject it. It's more than a little ironic that the place where antifascist political sentiment is strongest today is probably Germany.

The '30s were low, mean decade. The present time is not yet as low or as mean but we're on the same path.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

News you may not want to use

Every news outlet I use, print or digital, has been leading with the traffic jam on Mount Everest where climbers patiently wait to die.

 As my son-in-law likes to say: first world problem.

* * *

Meanwhile, in the least surprising news report of this or any other week, Roman Catholics are a accused of spreading false information about sexuality.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Reason enough to remove

Even setting aside all his other crimes and misdemeanors,  Trump's attacks on the judiciary warrant his removal from office.

For a president whose single achievement has been to secure many appointments to the bench, establishing a precedent that decisions of judges are to be disregarded if they were appointed by a president you dislike seems remarkably stupid, even for him.

What we celebrate

Sen. Tom Cotton has written a memoir of his days doing play-party dress-up in the Old Guard at Arlington. (I own a farm in Arkansas and so have learned the local dialect.)

In interviews promoting his book he waved the bloody shirt more shamelessly than any politician that I can remember. He was unable to say "dead veterans," but could only call them "fallen heroes," a phrase he repeated obsessively.

So since no one else is going to say it this Memorial Day, let me state the obvious: Most of the men buried at Arlington did nothing more heroic than fold blankets at a supply depot, and most of them did not fall; they died from the diseases of old age.

I sympathize with the losses of men who were dragged away or induced to leave their homes for years, but not everything they did away from home was worth celebrating. Why are we celebrating the Marines who fought to suppress democracy in Central America, or the Zippo raiders who burned the homes of subsistence farmers in Vietnam, or the B-52 pilots who flew terror bombing missions against Cambodia?

Not everything the Americans have done with their military power is worth celebrating, although all of it is worth remembering. Glory is no substitute for morality.

I would also like to state the obvious about the Founders. Today's self-styled conservatives -- who are not really conservative -- cry the loudest about both Originalism and about serving their country, with the subtext that the only real way to serve is in the uniformed formations, but that was never the view on the Founding Fathers.

Those men who had just come through the most brutal war feared and distrusted armies and celebrated the life of the civilian. Men, as Jefferson said, who cultivated their own vines and fig trees.

The Founders loathed navies even more than armies. Jefferson was so fearful of navies that he withdrew America's warships and replaced them with 170 rowboats for coastal defense in order to prevent temptations into adventurism.

Among the things that worried the Founders was the rise of an hereditary officer caste, which in their experience would be a threat to democracy. The United States is come along way toward having that, too.

Even in 1789 the Founders' ideal of an unarmed nation isolated from the tumults of foreign disputes was ridiculous. It wasn't the Continentals who defeated the British at Yorktown, it was a French navy and a French army who did that.

Still, the Founders were right to be worried about military formations. American National Guardsmen proved just as willing to shoot down workers as the tsar's Cossacks were.

America as a whole  can take credit for fighting the fascists, although to state the obvious again, that large fraction of the population who did not want to fight the fascists were the political ancestors of the Tom Cottons of today.

I grew up celebtaing two Memotrial Days: the national one and Confederate Memorial Day.

Confederate Memorial Day is dying out at last, but maybe we should still have two memorial days: one for the poor soldiers who suffered; and another for the poor civilians who suffered from them.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Lighter fare

If you haven't been following the story of Jerry Falwell Jr., Mrs. Falwell, the pool boy and naughty pictures, you should.

Pool boys don't come cheap.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Diagnosing a name

Measles is not an adequate name. It should be called Stupid Parent Disease.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

An exception

Colorado, one of the most loaded gun nut states, attempts to attract tourists with the slogan 'come to life.'  Except you Kendrick Castillo. You stay dead.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

A crowd under the bed

First, National Security Adviser Bolton spotted a Russian under  Maduro's bed, then Secretary of State Pompeo spotted both a Russian and an Iranian under Bolton's bed. It's time for sharp elbows down there.

It's hard to know what Pompeo is up to, although the fact that he finished first on his class at the Military Academy suggests he wouldn't know either. Bolton is trying to force war with Iran. Chickenhawks do that.

If I had a child serving on the Lincoln or the Stennis -- the two carriers  in the 6th Fleet, and was there ever a pair less felicitously named/ -- I would be extremely worried about his safety. Bolton talks tough but his never displayed the slightest military knowledge, which is not surprising in a chicken-- hawk.

The big winner here is at least potentially -- if it sees its opportunity -- China. China is an ally of sorts of Iran's, although it is hard to believe that the Chinese are very deeply invested in Iran for Iran's sake. Nevertheless, for a very small investment and if they can control the hotheads among the Iranians and the Iranians' stooge groups, the Chinese can take the US Navy 7th Fleet off the board in the Western Pacific.

Here's how that's done:

The Chinese we know have intermediate range ballistic missiles that can hit a steamer trunk size target traveling at 15,000 miles an hour. A thousand foot long aircraft carrier maneuvering at 40 miles an hour will not provide much of a challenge, especially as the carriers' Aegis defense system has never worked in operational settings in its 30 year history.

So all the Chinese have to do is to move two or three or four IRBMs to some remote spot -- and Iran has lots of those -- and wait for Bolton's saber rattling to produce a pretext. And then the Iranians  launch IRBM strikes against the 6th Fleet which has no chance against them.

Within 60 minutes the 7th Fleet will be skedaddling for Sasebo never to emerge again.

Gardening advice

Everyone likes to sit on the porch and watch the deer browse through our yard, but with the deer come deer flies.

I was working in the woods planting flowering trees like hawthorn, redbud, dogwood, crabapple and crape myrtle because the deer have browsed out almost all of the understory. The deer flies were annoying.

I put on some DEET although I've never had much success with it against mosquitoes, midges and that sort but I am here to endorse it against deer flies. I could hear the little buggers coming for my ears like Luke Skywalker attacking the Death Star but DEET worked like a force shield on the flies. When they got within a few inches they skittered off.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

How to know whether you're a fascist

If you are whooping it up for regime change in Venezuela but not whooping it up even more for regime change in Equatorial Guinea, where conditions are even worse, you're a fascist.

 Trump is a fascist; he's not interested in democracy. Pompeo is a fascist; he's not interested in democracy.  Bolton is a fascist; he's not interested in democracy. Abrams is a fascist; he's not interested in a democracy.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

A prybar under the lid

Will Atty. Gen. Barr shoot himself tonight? If he doesn't, he'll have to go before Congress and explain why he lied to the Senate while under oath.

I don't expect he will shoot himself. That would require self-respect.

On a more interesting front, Sen. Cory Booker, candidate for the democratic nomination for president, has called for eliminating the plutocratic preference for capital gains in paying federal taxes.

RtO has already explained why this is the proper thing to do, but it does not correct the impolitic and unjust transfer of wealth over the past many decades. In order to have that more perfect union the Founders spoke about, it wil be necessary to undo the plutocratic preference.

One way to go about this is to form a monte di pieta (mountain of piety) --as the Venetians called called it -- which is a forced loan from the rich for the benefit of the state. It worked well for the Serene Republic although I have no more expectation that it will be put into effect than I do that Barr will find self-respect and shoot himself. It's still an excellent idea.

It was used to raise money to protect the Venetian Empire from the attacks of the Ottoman Turks and while it did not ultimately preserve the empire, it saved it for many years.

One of the things I like about a monte di pieta is that the mulcting was done in the form of interest-bearing bonds. After about 100 years the republic redeemed the bonds at a paltry eight ducats per hundred with no interest, but it did recognize them as a liability of the fisc. Better yet, to forestall what today we call vulture capitalists, if the bond was no longer held by the family to whom it was originally issued, the republic bought them in at two ducats.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Real fake news

You paid for it.

Does it never occur to ICE or similar agencies that these tactics mean nothing they say that they want accepted as real will be? For example, that they treat migrants humanely. Nobody believes that, both because of extensive reporting to the contrary and also because ICE lies.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Moral test

It is moral test time for Republican lawyers. Which will initiate a complaint aiming at disbarment for Kirstjen Neilsen?

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Funnier than Charles Schultz

Not only is Howard Schultz a con artist, he is stupider than Donald Trump.

Hard to believe but the camera does not lie.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

No Barr's holding!

At least as regards national security or classified material, Barr's objections to releasing the report are absurd since the administration of which he is a high officer allows random dudes on the street to see secret documents and hands out clearances with the same amount of vetting that Cracker Jack uses to hand out its prizes.

In memoriam

Thoughts and prayers for the Republican health care proposal, aborted by Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump in the 9th year of its gestation.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019


So, I was scrolling through Politico, where I seldom open the ads, and I saw this one. I could not believe my eyes.

Does Whirlpool think Politico readers are too ignorant to recall how it shipped jobs to Mexico after forcing American workers to train their replacements?

(The url suggests this ad was mainly for Wall Street Journal readers, and as a former subscriber to that paper, I can well believe its readers --or at least the ones who write letters to the editor --are that ignorant.)

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Turning a blind eye

I feel sure that Juan Guaido is a fascist. The United States has never supported anyone but fascists in Latin America. This is not a complaint merely against the administration of Baldy but of every administration since April 13, 1945; and not just in Latin America. Dispatch of the sinister Elliot Abrams confirms it.

I have no objection in principle to knocking over brutal despots although the American record and practice has been disastrous not only for us but even more so for the people that we claimed to be helping. But if you knock over only leftists and democratic regimes and never interfere with rightists and fascist regimes your country is fascist.

The list of democratic regimes attacked by the United States since Roosevelt died is sad and long. It includes Iran, Guatemala,  Congo and Chile; the list of countries where we supported the fascists against leftist and democratic regimes is 10 times longer. Racism was often part of the mix. I remember attending movies in the South in the '60s where the feature was preceded by little documentaries about how if we did not support South Africa the Communists would take over. The proof? Photos of a fishing trawler in the South Atlantic.

Meanwhile democracy is under attack in a country that used to be that oight to be at least as much a concern to North Americans as Venezuela, but there is less about this country in the Post and Times then there was when the big issue was imports of frozen orange juice. Of all the newspapers that I read, the only one that is taking Brazil seriously is The Guardian. In the last few days it has run  stories about glorification of the murderous rightwing dictatorship and a lengthy background story about what that dictatorship was like.

Today's story occurred during the administration of Jimmy Carter even though he probably had more genuine concern for democracies than any president since Roosevelt. But he was unable -- if he tried and I do not know that he did -- to surmount the ignorant, hysterical, brutal national security apparatus.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Nobody in control

I used to think, when I was a very young business reporter,  that no really big corporation would ever manage itself into oblivion. I thought then that a $100 billion corporation -- which was as big as the biggest got then -- would always be able to afford good management.

I was wrong. I did not understand then what an older business reporter was trying to tell me when he said companies choose directors according to whom the existing directors play golf with.

It took me even longer to learn that corporations do not even value good management. They would far rather have managers who are comfortable to get along with than managers who are able to do their jobs. (This explains, in part, their refusal to put brown people or women at the top.)

Take Boeing. Please.

Has there ever been a clearer example of incompetence?

If I were a plaintiffs lawyer taking depositions in the Max cases, I'd ask, did Boeing have an acceptable limit of crashes with the 737 Max? If so what was the limit?

We know the answer to the first question is yes. And we know the answer to the second question is more than two.

The rarity of contact with terrain events these days appears to have blinded managers to the significance of any such event. Barring a shoot down, every crash should be all hands on deck incident.

That was not how Boeing responded to the loss of a few score Indonesians. 'Nothing to see folks,  move along.'

The fact that pilots were reporting continual failures with he autopilot -- both to the formal NASA reporting system and to the informal crowd sourcing system -- did not either bother Boeing's leadership or cause it to wonder if perhaps it had a problem. (Another question I'd ask in depositions: did Boeing monitor the crowd sourced reports? My guess is the answer to that one is no. The Boeing claim that it adheres to industry standards is telling: Boeing is a monopoly. Industry standards are Boeing standards, and it is evident that the marketing department -- which controls policy -- did not want to know about problems. Marketing departments never do.)

Following the crash in Africa it was evident to everyone except Boeing management and the Federal Aviation Administration that there was a problem. Boeing and the FAA stoutly insisted there was no proven or evidently even any hypothesized similarity in the two crashes although there was at least one: both involved contact with terrain.

It did not occur to the geniuses operating Boeing that if there really was no causal similarity in the two crashes, Boeing had not one but two serious safety failures on its hands

Instead it acted like it did not have any. The FAA, playing the role of Pontius Pilate to Dennis Muilenburg's Caiaphas, also insisted that it had not noticed any incidents that required it to do anything

Boeing continues to maintain it cannot imagine any connection between the two contacts with terrain.
We know why the company won't consider a connection and why the FAA was also reluctant. After all, half a trillion dollars is the biggest sales deal in history.

Why interfere with the good thing when there's money to be made?

We do not know yet if there were any consequential similarities between the crashes aside from contact with terrain, although extensive news reporting has suggested a number of possible scenarios about how there might be, given Boeing's desperation to outsell Airbus. Its corporate policy -- which is obviously not what Muilenburg's mealymouthed statement says it is -- that a few dead customers is no big deal; and its reputation as one of the most corrupt American corporations (the most corrupt nonfinancial corporation) explain why it blew off safety questions, but we must look somewhere else for an explanation of why it made its bet-the-company mistakes following the Lion crash and numerous other critical failures.

Still it should not have required a billion dollar executive to figure out that every step that Boeing has taken since the Lion Air crash offered the company nearly unlimited downside against very small upsides. Perhaps CEOs, like medieval kings (another class of overpaid and incompetent bosses), should keep a jester to prompt them whenever they're doing something more than usually silly.

UPDATE Tuesday

Just keep 'em flying. What could go wrong?

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Punk rocks

Not too many people have a sense of humor when it comes to the Great Wall of Trump, but these guys  do.

But thieves in the city of Tijuana have made a mockery of Donald Trump’s attempts at beefing up border security by stealing the razor wire and reselling it to local residents in Mexico.

Residents of barrios abutting the border told XETW 12 television in Tijuana that entrepreneurial individuals have offered to sell them the stolen concertina wire and install it for just 40 pesos per home – barely $2.

. . .

 One resident, identified as VerĂ³nica, told El Sol de Tijuana newspaper that the man selling the wire was clearly not from Mexico. “It was an American punk: blue eyes, blond hair. He didn’t speak Spanish very well,” she said.

Good enough for Texas

Report from Deer Park:
Officials from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and local emergency management agencies are continuously monitoring air quality, which are still at acceptable levels.
Acceptable for Texas is not the same as acceptable.

Many years ago, I took the free tour of the Houston Ship Channel on the Sam Houston. As we passed a 48-inch pipe, a small stream of dark effluent was pouring into the channel. One of the tourists commented on how horrible that was.

The guide replied:

"You should have seen it before regulation. The companies love to show off that pipe now."

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Kevin Downing retires

He must have gotten a very big fee, because after his performance in the Manafort case -- where he managed to get his client to admit to felonies for which he'd gotten a hung jury, then was called out by a judge for lying  -- who's going to choose him to be a mouthpiece now?


As Instapundit (is he still a thing?) would say.

Hat tip to Wonkette.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Box scores

What are the odds that a (purported) R Kelly sex tape that shows up in a box in the basement of some random guy in Pennsylvania is the sole and unique copy of that tape/

Who has the other ones?

* * *

Who has killed more Americans this year, illegal immigrants or Boeing?

Monday, March 11, 2019

Mirror, mirror . . .

Some researchers claim, controversially, that some apes show signs of self-awareness. If so, that puts them further along the evolutionary path than any elected Republican.

You cannot make this stuff up.

Repeated tips of the chapeau to Juanita Jean.

Lure of the Golden State

It turns out that high taxes are not driving the rich out of California.

“Substantially more rich people are moving into California than moving out,” says Cristobal Young, a Cornell University sociology professor. He teamed with others at Stanford University’s Center on Poverty and Inequality to write a research paper on “Millionaire Migration in California.”

Nor, although the LATimes story does not say so, are businesses fleeing California. 

This will surprise only Arthur Laffer (who I saw on teevee today claiming the Laffer Curve really does work; no, really, and big tax cuts reduce the deficit. I was surprised to find out he isn't in a home for the mentally-impaired.)

It must puzzle rightwingers that one result of Brexit (failed or unfailed) is that businesses are reluctantly leaving London. If you believe rightwing voodoo economics, they should all have left long ago.

Fantasies in Washington

. . . State that is, not District of Columbia.

Start with Howard Schultz, Democrat running for president. Very rich Democrat.

Schultz took the advice of H.L. Mencken who said that no one ever went bust underestimating the taste of the American public. He sold crappy coffee-flavored drinks to people who don't even like coffee.

Just another American success story. But Schultz is either a phony or a crook. In 2013 Starbucks was one of many companies that had to pay a settlement to Kona coffee farmers for selling mislabeled coffee.

Kona coffee costs 10 times what the cheap stuff does. Starbucks' customers don't have a clue about what the differences it, so it was easy peasy. Capitalism in all its shiny glory. Wall Street loves Howard Schultz perhaps more than any other capitalist.

Starbucks legal defense was that is it actually bought Kona coffee.

The problem with this defense was that growers in Kona produce 2,000,000 pounds of coffee a year and the defendants were selling 20,000,000 pounds a year.

So Schultz either cannot tell the difference between Kona coffee and the cheapest Central American coffee or is a crook. Take your pick.

The settlement was an American success story, too. The crooked retailers included Costco, Amazon and Walmart among others beside Starbucks. They were selling 20 million pounds of fake coffee at $20 a pound for years and settled the lawsuit for $1 million.

Dr. Evil should do so well.

(Just this month a new lawsuit was filed alleging misbranding of Kona coffee. This one has not yet been adjudicated but some of the big firms in the previous lawsuit are named in this one. Not Starbucks, though. So maybe Starbucks learned something.)

Another Washingtonian running as a Democrat for president is Jay Inslee, once the governor. He's a single-issue candidate and his issue is that we are the last generation that can do something about climate change.

There's another player besides us in that game though. Inslee seems to think the usual or natural climate of Washington state is what we have seen over the last couple hundred years. This is as strange a belief as Howard Schultz's belief that there are 20,000,000 pounds of Kona coffee in the world.

The usual condition for Washington State over the past several million years has been that the western part of it has been buried under a mile of ice while the eastern part has been repeatedly flooded by the collapse of ice dams -- possibly a mile high -- on Lake Missoula.

Anybody who's been to eastern Washington can see the results -- the famous scablands.

RTO is all for cleaning up environmental insults, unlike the Republican policy which is to keep wallowing in our own filth. However, climate change really is coming and it really will be devastating, though there's little hope that we can put enough carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to  prevent it.

Friday, March 8, 2019

A coarser grind

When I was a very young reporter, I occasionally covered sentencings at the US District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia, where yesterday Judge Ellis gave a derisory sentence to Paul Manafort, saying that he had led "a blameless life." (This sentence was in Alexandria; I reported from the courthouse in Norfolk.)

Lying, cheating, stealing, supporting murderous dictators, subverting democracy and that sort of stuff. Some judges find some things easy to overlook.

The judge in my day in the Eastern District was "20 years Kellam" who I believe was the last Federal judge to be appointed who had not attended law school. He was a small-town banker and political power broker who was appointed by Kennedy as a political payoff, one of the numerous reasons that I have never worshiped at the cathedral in Camelot.

Judges have their predilictions. Just as Ellis has a soft spot in his heart for decrepit tax frauds, Kellum had a hard spot in his heart for anyone who would rob a bank. He was limited to 20 years for a bank robbery, so that's what he gave out.

It is said the mills of the gods grind slowly yet they grind exceeding fine. Nowadays the gods can dial in a coarser setting and so they do.

Manafort's sentence was rather less than what guys in hoodies get for robbing a 7-Eleven where the typical take is a couple hundred bucks. I do not want to minimize the heinousness of robbing 7-Elevens with a firearm where minimum wage clerks end up getting shot because of our worship of guns.

On the other hand, Manafort stole somewhere in eight figures.  To get that much, the guy in the hoodie would have to knock over upwards of 100,000 7-Elevens.

Monday, February 25, 2019

A long history of extremism

While the rest of the press corps was slavering over Jusse Smollett (who I had never heard of) Rachel Maddow was using her time to reveal some newly-discovered Spiro Agnew documents.

There were two sets.

In one, Vice President Bush, in a close race with Mike Dukakis, turned for campaign advice to Agnew. It seems in character. Following his recent death, we were all invited to admire how decent he was, compared to today's politicians. I didn't buy it then, I always thought he was mean as a snake.

The Agnew letters confirm it.

The others had Agnew  seeking money from the Saudis in order to attack Jews. No surprise there, except perhaps that at that late date in his sordid life it seems overoptimistic for him to have thought anybody would care about him. Poppy Bush excepted, of course.

 Comes now  E.J. Dionne to weep crocodile tears over the sad decay of decency among the Republicans. While I suppose there must have been some decent Republicans in the past, the overall tenor of the party during all of my lifetime has been ignoble, vicious and racist.

I tend to agree with some political scientists who think FDR's electoral success drove the Republicans out of their minds, although that does not explain 1) why the Democrats did not do likewise during the long GOP ascendancy from 1860 to 1932; or 2) why the Republicans did not regain their equilibrium during their ascendancy since 1952.

Look at the record. Endless investigations in Congress intending to prove Roosevelt plotted to have Pearl Harbor attacked.  McCarthyism. "Twenty years of treason." Southern strategy. Whitewater. And now Trump, who really was a Democrat (to the extent he was anything but a Trump) most of his life.

It should have been so easy for the party -- if it had some decent core that only Dionne seems to be able to palpate -- to have brushed aside Trump and forced him on the Democrats.

Proverbs 26:11.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Purity leagues

A Jewish friend called to ask to ask what I thought about Congresswoman Omar's remarks about AIPAC. I said I understood her to be saying that AIPAC is an effective lobbying organization. I suppose AIPAC would be disinclined to disagree.

I said I thought the ever vigilant heresy hunters were going a step too far by declaring that to be anti-Semitic. He agreed. There are many American Jews -- himself included--  who support the state of Israel without liking the policies of the government of Israel.

I am not a fan of alternative history but sometimes I wonder idly what would've happened had the Arabs in Palestine -- there were no Palestinians in those days -- met the Jewish settlers from Europe not with sticks and rocks but by working and dealing with them as has been customary in that part of the world for 3,500 years. since Elam laid down comprehensive regulations for getting along economically with foreigners.

It is well to remember that when the European Jews showed up, the Arabs were being oppressed and had been oppressed for 400 years by colonizers -- not Europeans, the Turks.

Having chosen to go down the path they did choose, today no one can stand the Palestinians. The closer people are to them the less they can stand them. Egyptians, Saudis, Jordanians and Lebanese want nothing to do with the Palestinians, and the Jordanians and Lebanese fear them, for good reasons.

Turks have no more use for them then any of the other parties in the area, although they have chosen to cynically manipulate them. This is not done the Palestinians any good, although it might be hard to find the Palestinian who has figured this out yet.

You might suppose the historic oppressors of the Arabs in Palestine would meet with more skepticism about the political intent of the Turks toward them, but the political imbecility of the Palestinians is boundless.

And not only te Palestinians.

This past week the Turks decided to be the champions of the Uigers against China and accused China of ethnic suppression. Human Rights Watch, not much more politically sentient than the Palestinians, praised the Turks.

The Turks in this respect are even worse than the Chinese. China is attempting to assimilate the Uighurs, the Tibetans and other minorities but not necessarily to eliminate them, whereas the Turks have devoted themselves to exterminating the Armenians and the Kurds and to extinguishing other minorities within their territory.

Some years ago I made a passing reference in this blog to the Turk suppression of Bulgarian speaking residents of Turkey who are. for example, not allowed to give their children Bulgarian names. I cannot believe that I have any readers in Bulgaria but thanks to Webcrawlers I got a good many approving responses from Bulgarians.

You might suppose Human Rights Watch would know about this but apparently not.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

The only truth about immigration 'reform'

I have been thinking about posting this truth for some time. I don't know why I didn't, except that I have carpal tunnel syndrome which makes it difficult to type (why my posts are so short lately).

The truth is immigration laws are never changed --  and certainly are never 'reformed' -- except to benefit employers.  Employers are happy with the situation we have now -- Trump is an employer, and has been caught numerous times profiting from it.

Neither Ms. Cruz nor the other former workers received benefits like health insurance or a pension, as other golf club employees did, Mr. Romero said. Most of his clients came into the country through Mexico, Mr. Romero said, and were originally from countries such as Mexico, Ecuador and Honduras.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Fun with guns

RtO hasn't mocked gun nuts recently. But this one has it all.

It's not surprising when the gun nuts consider that teaching gun safety is unconstitutional.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Wilbur Ross doesn't understand

And Lara Trump thinks unpaid workers should take one for their grandchildren.

All my life, I have heard the Republucan Party described as the party of rich people who do not care about he working man (or, latterly, woman).

Ain't it the truth?

Wilbur Ross, a billionaire, does not "quite undestand" why slave workers are not just taking out loans to cover their bills, since that's virtually guaranteed by the government. (He'd know about shifting respoPsibiity for debts.)

perhaps he is unaware that some workers were pretty well borrowed up before getting kicked in the teeth. Not every lender would look at them. And, in fact, as I know from my time as a pawnbroker, for people seeking small amounts of money, except for pawnbrokers, the lending system does not want to hear from borrowers who want a few hundred dollars.

Harry Hopkins made what is perhaps the profoundest  political statement in our history: "People don't eat in the long run,  they eat every day."

That's as true now as it was in 1933.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Spirit of Drancy 2

Just when you thought that Trump and his nazis couldn't sink any lower, they disprove any residual optimism.

A 16-year-old Syrian refugee who was disfigured in a bomb attack on her home has been refused a visa to get medical treatment in the US because of Donald Trump’s travel ban, the Guardian can reveal.
As long as we are in Syria let's note the Dumbo Trumpo said the USA should get out of the country because there is nothing there but "death and sand." I rather expected Trump's critics and the press to jump on that because everybody -- except perhaps Trump and his fellow graduates of the brat school his parents exiled him to -- is taught in school that Syria was part of the Fertile Crescent where agriculture was developed. Indeed, it has deserts, but it is also has had agriculture for longer than anyplace else in the world. It is a famous garden.

Trump, who because of his dyslexia and fundamental stupidity, is unable to read gets all of his information from movies, television and people talking to him. He is a perfect repository of the numbskull Americans' bottomless fund of misinformation.

And as long as we're talking about Baldy and his nazis, it was an explosion of navel gazing amongst the guardians of the press over the Steve King interview in the New York Times. Could responsible journalists simply refer to King is a racist and his syaements racist or did they have to find someone else to say so?

As a journalists I've been in the school of calling a spade a spade if you know it's a spade. Yes, King is a racist, he's always been a racist and is not known for anything else. Every supporter of his is also racist.

And as long as we are calling what they are, maybe we could stop calling the abduction of the immigrant children from their parents along the border "family separation" and start calling it what it really is, kidnapping.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Basic economics

The other day I heard a right wing publicist attack the socialist system in Venezuela because "Venezuelans cannot get shoes."  I agree that any system thar cannot get shoes on the feet of its people is seriously flawed, but for most of its history Venezuela had a capitalist economic system and are people in Venezuela could not get shoes then either.

If there is a problem in Venezuela it may be corruption, so often an outcome when a resource-rich nation lets technical entrepreneurs begin to exploit the resources before political maturity has had a chance to develop.

In rather less politically charged but equally imbecilic commentary, I noted that reporting on the most recent (December) economic statistics presented a 3% gain in average hourly wages over the year 2018 as something that American workers should feel happy about. Perhaps they do, but they might keep in mind that that the capitalist class would consider any investment that returns only 3% annually as contemptible.

The American system delivers shoes for everybody although almost all of them are flimsy anduncomfortable even when the price tags are high.

This was not always so. America was a large manufacturer of shoes. Up until about 1970 you could get well-constructed, long-wearing, comfortable shoes. They were not as cheap relative to real income as the Chinese and Brazilian footwear we are forced to wear today, but they were better bargains for most people

It is possible to get a pair of well-made American-made shoes but they'll cost you a day's pay. If you want them to be stylish as well, make that two days' pay,

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Engineering the wall

An engineer friend linked to this report about the border wall.

Still, the question remains: how could a process that solicited the best designs the world had to offer have turned out such flawed prototypes?

One possible answer is the chaos surrounding the bid submission process. CBP opened its call for proposals in March 2017, and gave potential bidders just 12 days to submit their proposals (in comparison, the industry standard is 30 days).  During those 12 days, CBP added seven amendments to its original requests for proposals, and extended the deadline just hours before the original deadline.
Imaginary problems beget imaginary solutions.

However, even a hogwire fence on slopes of over 30% is an expensive proposition.  Haleakala National Park built some of these near my former home on Maui, and it meant lots of helicopters just to get the workers in. (Hogwire fences work pretty well against hogs, who do not have opposable thumbs.)

Evidently, part of the southern border would require building on 45% slopes.


Then there is this.

A union that represents Border Patrol agents recently deleted a webpage that said building walls and fences along the border to stop illegal immigration would be “wasting taxpayer money.”

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Was she effectively ordained?

The Roman Catholic Church argued in federal court that a grammar school teacher was a "minister" of its doctrine? Hmmm.

So, was she effectively ordained?

At St. Pis X High School our religion class was very clear that only ordained priests ministered the sacraments.

At this school, the pupils received an array of life-sustaining lessons: the principal -- who fired the minster for getting cancer -- is now charged with embezzling upwards of $500,000.

Young minds are so retentive. That's why the Bishop of Nashville taught that Catholic parents who did not send their children to church school were going to Hell.

Opportunity knocks

Politico reports:

The indefinite postponement could throw a wrench in U.S.-Russia space cooperation and represents a setback for Vladimir Putin’s efforts to undermine U.S. sanctions.

The proposed visit, which was supposed to have taken place some time early this year, faced mounting backlash this week from Senate Democrats who threatened congressional action to block it in response to a Tuesday POLITICO report about plans for the visit.
This would offer a swell opportunity to back out of the disastrous Reagan Space Station/Space Shuttle boondoggle, which has cost upwards of $50 billion and a dozen lives for zero return.

Voter drive

A week into his shutdown, Trump said the unpaid gummint workers were mostly Democrats. If he wasn't correct then, he will be soon.