Another CPAC Open Thread: There Is No Bottom, Only An Abyss

Look, I try not to overwhelm y’all with the far-fringe ‘Wanna See Me Eat A Bug?’ performers like Dinesh D’Souza, Charlie Kirk, and Gary ‘What Is Aleppo?’ Johnson. But in the decade or so since I first discovered CPAC (through Dave Weigel’s then-hilarious reports), it’s become increasingly clear that this year’s rabid hate-monger at CPAC is next year’s high-paid mainstream media figure — or even presidential candidate. It’s like screening for skin cancer; you don’t have to admire those weird scaly lumps and unhealing scabs, but you need to know about them.

Dan Dale, continuing his yeoman work for Toronto’s The Star:

Early in U.S. President Donald Trump’s speech Friday to the Conservative Political Action Conference, he paused to ask the audience a question.

His prepared text, he said, was “a little boring.” Would they mind if he went “off script a little bit”?

In truth, he had not been very on-script even before that. What followed the crowd’s endorsement, though, was the kind of rambling, inflammatory, oft-inaccurate, and captivating discursion he performed at his 2016 campaign rallies…

It is impossible to do the speech justice by summarizing a few key points. Here is a minute-by-minute account of what happened:

10:17 a.m. — Trump notes that he once faced skepticism about his conservative credentials. “I think now we’ve proved that I’m a conservative, right?”

The audience applauds heartily.

10:18 — Trump notices his image on a big screen to the left of the stage. He gives himself a compliment.

“By the way, what a nice picture that is. Look at that. I’d love to watch that guy speak.”

People laugh. Then he turns around and pats his hair. Then he does some rare self-deprecation.

“That’s a — I try like hell to hide that bald spot, folks. I work hard at it. It doesn’t look bad. Hey, we’re hanging in.”…

10:24 — Trump reiterates his theory of midterm elections: happy supporters of the president are less motivated to vote, “so you end up not doing that well because the other side is going — they’re crazed.” He adds that his opponents are “crazed anyway, these people.” He tells his supporters, “Don’t be complacent.”

10:28 — Trump says “somebody got on television recently” and said Trump “may be the only person that actually fulfilled more promises than he made.”

He was the one who said this on television recently.

10:29 — Trump says, “We have a very crooked media. We had a crooked candidate, too, by the way.” He is, of course, referring to Clinton, whom he beat 15 months prior.

A group of students starts a “lock her up” chant.

Trump continues: “Boy, have they committed a lot of atrocities when you look.”

He does not say who “they” are.

10:30 — Trump mocks Sen. John McCain, who is home dealing with brain cancer, for his vote against the repeal of Obamacare.

“Except for one senator, who came into a room at 3 o’clock in the morning and went like that” — he mimicked McCain’s thumbs-down gesture — “we would have had health-care, too.”

The crowd boos the party icon. Trump continues the mockery.

“I don’t want to be controversial, so I won’t use his name,” he says. “OK?” …
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Listen To The Women – Anita Hill Edition

Jill Abramson goes back to reporting and gives us a long-form look at Clarence Thomas’s other accusers. She refers to Moira Smith’s story, very similar to Anita Hill’s, which was published in Fall 2016, just before James Comey made his news.

Abramson wrote a book in the mid-nineties about “ three other women who had experiences with Thomas at the EEOC that were similar to Hill’s, and four people who knew about his keen interest in porn but were never heard from publicly.”

A good case can be made that Thomas lied to the Senate during his confirmation hearing. Some Democrats, during the 2016 campaign, wanted to bring up the issue of his possible impeachment.

Before we consider impeachment, though, we have to consider how Thomas might be replaced. So it’s not for now.


Buzzfeed outed another abuser today. Lawrence Krauss is a professor of physics at Arizona State University and a well-known (among those folks, anyway) proponent of scientific atheism. He’s also been whispered about by women for a long time. Melody Hensley’s story is featured in the article, but others are mentioned.

Krauss is a cosmologist, and he is heading up a multidisciplinary effort on “the origins of the universe, life, and social systems.” I am a chemist who has had to deal with far too many know-it-all physicists, but my observation of physicists in positions like this is that they try to devolve everything to physics, while claiming a broad view. It’s tiresome.

He has denied any wrong-doing with women, but there are quite a few incidents listed in this article. I find them persuasive, along with the whispers.


Early Morning Open Thread: Yesterday’s Leftovers

Michael Cohen says that he paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 hush money out of his own pocket, just because he’s a good guy.

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Repub Venality Open Thread: Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, Still A Monster

While everyone was busy gawking at the noisier acts in Donny Dollhand’s Thirteen-Ring Circus, the Malevolent Leprechaun decided to cosplay Marcus Welby, M.D. The current uptick in white suburban narcotic deaths doesn’t change the party line for Sessions’ biggest fans: Addicts are weak-willed parasites, led down the wrong path by swarthy drug cartels and shuffling ghetto drug pushers!

For the rebuttal, Julia Lurie at Mother Jones:

At a Heritage Foundation event celebrating Ronald Reagan’s birthday this week, Jeff Sessions made a familiar argument: Easy access to marijuana is helping fuel the opioid epidemic. The Drug Enforcement Agency says that the vast majority of heroin addiction starts with prescription painkillers, he acknowledged, but “We think a lot of this is starting with marijuana and other drugs, too.”

Accordingly, last month, Sessions rescinded the Obama-era guidance to deprioritize prosecuting dispensaries in states that had legalized marijuana.

But a growing body of evidence suggests that legal access to medical marijuana could in fact help reduce overdose deaths. The latest study, published by the RAND Corporation this week, found that states that allowed liberal access to marijuana through legally protected dispensaries saw reduced deaths from opioid overdoses. States that legalized the drug but didn’t allow dispensaries didn’t see the same pattern.

Among states with dispensaries, those that legalized medical marijuana before 2010 saw larger reductions in opioid deaths than those that legalized it afterwards. The authors hypothesize that’s because the late adopters tend to have more stringent rules that make it harder to get marijuana, requiring patients to take additional steps such as registering with the state or repeatedly seeing a doctor to confirm a need for medical marijuana. (The researchers examined state-level data from 1999 to 2013, so weren’t able to gauge the effects of legalizing recreational marijuana altogether.) “The key feature of medical marijuana law that facilitates a reduction in overdose rates is a relatively liberal allowance for dispensaries,” the researchers concluded…

Schadenfreude Open Thread: Actions Have Consequences (Eventually)


If there were a bright side to this unfolding fustercluck, it would be that some small percentage of the most venal / incompetent / demented Republican parasites might be scraped out of their secure nests within the party…
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An Article of Impeachment Against Donald J. Trump

David Leonhart has a carefully put together article of impeachment, based on Trump’s obstruction of justice. Ten points are based on publicly available evidence. Mueller has more.

Of course, the Republican House will not act on this. Which is why we must flip the House this November.

Impeachment is a political act. I’ve been trying to step back from the immediate furor and look at the bigger picture. There are a great many problems beyond obstruction of justice. A responsible Republican Party would form a delegation to talk with Trump about coming clean or resigning. Fortunately, the Mueller investigation continues; in any case, they have more information on these issues than I do.

I jotted down some notes over the weekend. Here’s my list of those problems.

Did the Russians route money to the Trump campaign through the NRA? Why were there so many contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russians? Paul Manafort? Michael Flynn? George Papadopoulos and the mysterious Dr. Mifsud? Carter Page? What were the functions of Papadopoulos and Page on the campaign team? What was the June 9, 2016, meeting with Russians about? Was Cambridge Analytica part of this? What about the connections between a Trump computer and Alfa Bank?

Why did Trump share highly classified Israeli intelligence with the Russian ambassador?

Then there are the conflicts of interest – the family businesses, including Ivanka’s investments in Azerbaijan and business in China; the hotels and other properties. That gets into the emoluments clause and the use of those properties for government business.

So many people had access to highly classified information, more than previously given access to President’s Daily Brief. Michael Flynn. Jared Kushner’s inablity to get a security clearance.

And the constant lying. What are they hiding?

The Republicans in Congress have some problems of their own, which, in addition to their tribal loyalties, may have been holding them back from saying much to Trump. There are indications that they may have partaken of Russian help in their campaigns. Why are some who might have been the equivalents of Barry Goldwater speaking to Richard Nixon, like Lindsay Graham and Thom Tillis, suddenly turning around?

And what role does Fox News play in all this beyond supplanting the President’s Daily Brief?

Looks to me like there is more than enough for impeachment, certainly for a stern talk by any Republican legislators who are not implicated in Trump’s crimes. I find it helps to look at the bigger picture from time to time, even if it is depressing.


The Protection Racket

Trump has a pattern: take something that is working well – DACA, S-CHIP, JCPOA (the Iran nuclear agreement) – break it just a little, then “negotiate.”

So much of the current crisis atmosphere is due to his love of chaos and his mistaking a protection racket for negotiating.

He broke DACA and set up a six-month timetable for Congress to do something about it. The Republicans in Congress refused to reauthorize S-CHIP.

One of the concessions to the Republicans in Congress in the JCPOA was that the president would have to certify that Iran was in compliance every three months. Trump has used that to call into question the United States participation in the deal. Meanwhile, opponents of the deal are explicitly using Trump’s position as a protection racket to get the Europeans to take steps that would damage the deal.

They are particularly active today on Twitter, perhaps because a helpful article by Philip Gordon and Robert Malley was just published. It’s stuff like this:

It’s others, not them, of course, who want to “blow up the deal.” What Dubowitz and others advocate is a “fix” to the “fatal flaws” of the deal enacted by Congress, with no consultation with Iran or the other parties to the JCPOA. That’s not how it works. What Dubowitz and his allies want Congress to do is to enact a bunch of things that will put the US in violation of the deal. They believe, and are tweeting, that this will give Donald Trump leverage to destroy the deal unless the other parties accede to their demands.

Nice store you got there. Would be a shame if it got trashed, the windows broken.

They also are peddling a bunch of lies.

You can find lies on Dubowitz’s timeline too. The US harbors a bunch of people, evil or stupid, who back the deal because they want to “give” (they often use that word) Iran a “massive nuke capability”. Well, no.

They object to a number of things about the JCPOA. That it was not negotiated for all eternity, as no other agreement ever has been. That it does not take every vestige of nuclear technology from Iran. That it does not punish Iran for whatever it is they feel a punishment is warranted.

Those conditions would have made the JCPOA impossible to negotiate. Iran was a party to the negotiations, and no nation will give up everything.

What is it these opponents of the deal want? Ultimately, it looks to me like they want Iran gutted and laid out to die. In the more immediate future, they are moving toward a war with Iran, although they strenuously deny that.

The IAEA inspectors find no breaches by Iran of the agreement. The other parties to the agreement – Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia, and the EU – are satisfied with that. Additional agreements can be negotiated on missiles (explicitly not a part of the JCPOA, because there never would have been an agreement), further nuclear issues, and other issues of concern. But the opponents focus on “fixing” the JCPOA by destroying it.

Looks to me like some bad faith there.

The article by Gordon and Malley is worth reading for more specifics on the JCPOA and its opponents. I recommend it.


Cross-posted to Nuclear Diner.