Tuesday Morning Open Thread: BE BEST

Bess Levin, at Vanity Fair“White House Detainee Melania Trump Actually Has Great “Affinity” for the President, Insists Friend”:

Over the past 15 months, you may have gotten the impression that First Lady Melania Trump doesn’t like her husband, 45th president Donald Trump, very much. You may have gotten that impression because she didn‘t actually move into the White House until five months after the inauguration, or because she and her husband often travel separately to the same destination, or because she looked happier among the targets of her husband’s ire than she has during the entirety of her marriage, or because she would apparently rather do a stint at Gitmo than touch any part of her husband’s body for any length of time. And new reporting from The Washington Post will probably do little to dissuade you of the notion that the First Lady hates the president about as much as half the country.

According to the Post, the Trumps “are often apart even during their free time,” holidays, and weekends, rarely even eating together when they‘re both at the White House. “They spend very little to no time together,” said a longtime friend of the ex–real-estate developer. Trump, by his own admission, got his wife a s–tty birthday gift. And when they are both under the same roof—where they keep separate bedrooms—Melania goes out of her way to avoid her husband, having “erected a de facto wall between the East Wing,” where her office is, and the West Wing, where Trump lingers when he’s not busy watching TV or whatever else “Executive Time” entails. “She seldom sets foot in the West Wing,” said a person with firsthand knowledge of the situation…

Yet despite doing nothing to dispel the notion that she fantasizes about scaling the White House fence in the middle of the night and getting the first plane out of Dulles back to Slovenia, sources close to the couple insist this is a love story for the ages. “They have an unspoken affinity,” Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, Melania’s longtime gal pal and former adviser told the Post. Without directly commenting on the cornucopia of porn stars and Playboy models the president allegedly banged earlier in the marriage, including the one his lawyer allegedly paid $130,000 to keep quiet, Winston Wolkoff said the First Lady “is a dignified, private person, and she’ll deal with her personal life in private and it’s no one’s business.” …

 
I’d almost feel sorry for her, if only she’d woman up and dump the creep. Yeah, I figured for a long time she was trying to protect her kid’s share of the inheritance, but now — what’s that gonna amount to, something south of 20% of the outstanding civil suits, plus whatever’s left in the Club Fed commissary account when King Donald drops over dead and unmourned?



King Knut Knew What He Was Doing. These Bozos Don’t

Today’s climate change updates in the LALALALALALALA I Can’t Hear You file…

Exhibit A:

National Park Service officials have deleted every mention of humans’ role in causing climate change in drafts of a long-awaited report on sea level rise and storm surge, contradicting Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s vow to Congress that his department is not censoring science.

The document was supposed to report results of studies on the risks to National Park properties from sea level rise, which is one of the major proximate consequences of anthropogenic global warming.  Stuff like this:

The report, titled, “Sea Level Rise and Storm Surge Projections for the National Park Service,” reveals that national treasures will face severe flooding if global greenhouse gases keep increasing. Some of its projections, according to the drafts, include:

  • In North Carolina, the Wright Brothers National Memorial has the highest projected increase in sea level among parks nationwide – 2.69 feet by 2100 under a scenario of high growth of greenhouse gases. Along with Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras national seashores, the memorial could face significant permanent flooding. “Future storm surges will be exacerbated by future sea level rise nationwide; this could be especially dangerous for the Southeast Region where they already experience hurricane-strength storms,” the report says.
  • In Virginia, three parks – Colonial National Historical Park, home of Historic Jamestowne; Fort Monroe National Monument; and Petersburg National Battlefield – face the biggest potential sea level increases in the park service’s Northeast region – 2.66 feet by 2100.
  • Parks in the Washington, D.C., region could experience some of the greatest sea level increases – 2.62 feet by 2100. “Storm surge flooding on top of this sea level rise would have widespread impacts,” the report says.
  • If a Category 2 hurricane hit Florida’s Everglades National Park, the entire park could be flooded, with most of it under several feet of water.

This is the kind of information that would be useful — complete with an analysis of causes and mechanisms — to anyone trying to think how to protect America’s parks, and/or mitigate the damage that human action has set in train.  Interior Secretary Zinke and his staff — and the Trump administration as a whole, and the GOP in toto — seem to think that not saying certain words means that what those words name won’t happen.

Sadly, of course, carbon dioxide don’t care if Mr. Zinke doesn’t want to pay attention to its radiative properties. The atmosphere in bulk isn’t somehow going to get rid of the last 20 years of CO2 ppm increase just because Republicans shout at it.  The ocean isn’t going to turn around in its tracks because Deadbeat Donnie, the orange hemorrhoid-cream salesman now sadly infesting the White House wiggles his ample posterior over a putt (that he’ll miss) on some seaside golf course.

King Knut knew better, even if he had to make the live demonstration to prove it too his court.

And then there’s Exhibit B:

Dead Man Walking Trump/GOP Corruption Poster Child Scott Pruitt won’t be dynamited out of his office at the EPA without attempting to gut one more Obama-era accomplishment, the increase in fleet fuel efficiency requirements for American light trucks and cars:

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt announced Monday that he would revoke Obama-era standards requiring cars and light trucks sold in the United States to average more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025, a move that could change the composition of the nation’s auto fleet for years.

This is no surprise from Pruitt, of course, who never met a fossil he didn’t want to burn (and whose long term livelihood and political ambitions turn entirely on making sure Big Carbon loves them some Scott).  It will be challenged in court, and California may yet save the day.

Before that gets settled, though, two thoughts:

First: this is a reminder that you cannot trust oligopoly capital under any circumstances. The new standards were negotiated over a quite a long time with the big automakers, and they signed on to the Obama deal. As soon as Trump was elected, they reneged:

Pruitt’s decision reflects the power of the auto industry, which asked him to revisit the Obama administration’s review of the model years 2022-2025 fuel-efficiency targets just days after he took office.

The Auto Alliance (these guys) will tell you that they’re all about clean transportation — just look at their home page!  But it took them less than a month (see p. 4) into the new guy’s term to write to the Trump administration and seek a do-over.  You could have had these guys put up Agamemnon’s pledge and they’d have backed out on this deal as soon as they got the chance.

So:  moral one. Don’t trust anyone with that much cash on the line until you have at least one of their kidney’s in pawn. And maybe not even then.

Moral two: this is how big US industries die.  I’m sure it will be nice for those who pay for their hookers and blow by selling SUVs that the gravy train will run a few years longer.  But the rest of the world isn’t completely ignorant of climate change and, more immediately, the insane and expensive toll that air pollution takes on their cities.

I’m old enough to remember the ’70s, when the Big Three US automakers discovered in a shocking short time just how destructive it could be to miss the next technological and design shift.  Fuel efficient and alternate fuel vehicles are not just coming; they’re here. If the US-based auto industry wants to let China or whoever get one, two, three generations ahead of domestic production, that’ll happen.  And those companies and vehicles will roll, and ours will straggle behind.

Again: our kleptocratic leaders can say what they want. Shortsighted corporations can grab for the next dollar, and miss next year’s millions. Don’t change a thing.

So, in sum: this is one dumb move on every level, and puts yet more pressure on an already breaking climate system. But I don’t think that a change in US fleet standards is nearly as big a deal as Pruitt et al. wish it were.  Much of the world doesn’t give a shit about our stupidity, and the creation of a more efficient transport system is already on rails (sorrynotsorry).  ISTM that this move is mostly a surrender of crucial industrial ambition and opportunity to other regions and will have only a minor effect on emissions going forward.

IOW: Trump, Pruitt, the Republicans and Big Auto just punched America in the nuts, for all the joy it brings them.

Also too: King Knut was a pretty smart guy.

Images: Joseph Mallord William Turner, Calais Pier1803.

Jan Steen, The Sacrifice of Iphigenia1671.



Trump’s War Against Amazon / Bezos: Here Comes the Grift!

Grant Trump this very specific talent: Not many people could get monopoly-suspicious liberals and technology-suspicious conservatives *all* cheering for Amazon’s further success. Gabriel Sherman, in Vanity Fair:

For the first time in Donald Trump’s presidency, the West Wing soap opera appears to be in hiatus… Currently, there’s one star—a situation Trump is obviously enjoying—and his new freedom is used to focus ever more closely on his perceived enemies and obsessions. Amazon, whose owner, Jeff Bezos, also owns The Washington Post, is currently the main target. Trump has ripped into Amazon in recent days, claiming in a series of tweets that Jeff Bezos’s tech giant benefits from billions in subsidies from the U.S. Post office while skirting sales taxes. “Unlike others, they pay little or no taxes to state & local governments, use our Postal System as their Delivery Boy (causing tremendous loss to the U.S.), and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business!” Trump tweeted. On Monday, he wrote: “Only fools, or worse, are saying that our money losing Post Office makes money with Amazon. THEY LOSE A FORTUNE, and this will be changed. Also, our fully tax paying retailers are closing stores all over the country . . . not a level playing field!” The tweets caused Amazon’s stock to plunge 5 percent on Monday.

Now, according to four sources close to the White House, Trump is discussing ways to escalate his Twitter attacks on Amazon to further damage the company. “He’s off the hook on this. It’s war,” one source told me. “He gets obsessed with something, and now he’s obsessed with Bezos,” said another source. “Trump is like, how can I fuck with him?”…

Advisers are also encouraging Trump to cancel Amazon’s pending multi-billion contract with the Pentagon to provide cloud computing services, sources say. Another line of attack would be to encourage attorneys general in red states to open investigations into Amazon’s business practices. Sources say Trump is open to the ideas. (The White House did not respond to a request for comment.)

Even Trump’s allies acknowledge that much of what’s fueling Trump’s rage toward Amazon is that Amazon C.E.O. Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post, sources said. “Trump doesn’t like The New York Times, but he reveres it because it’s his hometown paper. The Washington Post, he has zero respect for,” the Republican close to the White House said. While the Post says that Bezos has no involvement in newsroom decisions, Trump has told advisers he believes Bezos uses the paper as a political weapon. One former White House official said Trump looks at the Post the same way he looks at the National Enquirer. “When Bezos says he has no involvement, Trump doesn’t believe him. His experience is with the David Peckers of the world. Whether it’s right or wrong, he knows it can be done.”…


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Sunday Evening Self-Indulgence Open Thread: Left Behind / Unraptured

Merriam-Webster on the derivation of the word fiefdom:

A fief (/fi?f/; Latin: feudum) was the central element of feudalism and consisted of heritable property or rights granted by an overlord to a vassal who held it in fealty (or “in fee”) in return for a form of feudal allegiance and service, usually given by the personal ceremonies of homage and fealty.

There’s a PhD treatise waiting to be written on the modern American gated community as the latest form of fiefdom, where the vassals hold their perceived “rights” — to not be ruffled by the appearance or actions of anyone who isn’t exactly like them, mostly — in return for their fealty in faithfully voting for the local Republican overlords, however incompetent or venal. God bless the Squire and his relations, and keep us all in our proper stations!

Vox interviews the author of yet another study on the Forgotten American Heartlanders and their sturdy “moral values”. This guy, at least, seems to have some idea of just how shoddy and meretricious those “values” really are…

Robert Wuthnow, a sociologist at Princeton University, spent eight years interviewing Americans in small towns across the country. He had one goal: to understand why rural America is so angry with Washington.

Wuthnow’s work resulted in a new book, The Left Behind: Decline and Rage in Rural America. He argues that rural Americans are less concerned about economic issues and more concerned about Washington threatening the social fabric of small towns and causing a “moral decline” in the country as a whole. The problem, though, is that it’s never quite clear what that means or how Washington is responsible for it…

Sean Illing: In the book, you argue that the anger we’re seeing in rural America is less about economic concerns and more about the perception that Washington is threatening the way of life in small towns. How, specifically, is Washington doing this?

Robert Wuthnow: I’m not sure that Washington is doing anything to harm these communities. To be honest, a lot of it is just scapegoating. And that’s why you see more xenophobia and racism in these communities. There’s a sense that things are going badly, and the impulse is to blame “others.”

They believe that Washington really does have power over their lives. They recognize that the federal government controls vast resources, and they feel threatened if they perceive Washington’s interest being directed more toward urban areas than rural areas, or toward immigrants more than non-immigrants, or toward minority populations instead of the traditional white Anglo population.

But that’s just racism and cultural resentment, and calling it a manifestation of some deeper anxiety doesn’t alter that fact.

I don’t disagree with that. I’m just explaining what I heard from people on the ground in these communities. This is what they believe, what they say, not what I believe.

Fair enough. The title of your book, The Left Behind, rubbed me the wrong way. It seems to me that many of these people haven’t been left behind; they’ve chosen not to keep up. But the sense of victimization appears to overwhelm everything else.

I make it very clear in the book that this is largely a choice. It’s not as though these people are desperate to leave but can’t. They value their local community. They understand its problems, but they like knowing their neighbors and they like the slow pace of life and they like living in a community that feels small and closed. Maybe they’re making the best of a bad situation, but they choose to stay.
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Open Thread: Trump’s Wannabe Reality Show, Omnibudget Episode

Of course Trump signed the budget bill — after dragging out the ‘suspense’ at least one installment & most of another too long — because his handlers told him no signing, no golfing. And he’d already missed one kickin’ Mar-a-Largo party over the last “shutdown” kabuki.

Also of course, he had to be both a showboater and a pissant about the whole thing. Per the Washington Post, paper of record for the company town whose industry is national politics:

President Trump jolted Washington on Friday when he began the day tweeting that he might veto a massive spending bill needed to prevent a government shutdown — and then appearing in front of cameras five hours later to say that he had signed the legislation.

Trump ripped into the $1.3 trillion funding package in remarks at the White House shortly after 1 p.m., calling it a “ridiculous situation,” filled with overspending yet lacking enough money for his border wall or a deal to resolve the future of the young, undocumented immigrants known as “dreamers.” He said he was only signing the bill because it contained a boost for the military…

Friday’s five hours of confusion showed once again how nothing is certain in Trump’s Washington and any deal is at risk of being blown up by the mercurial president. On Thursday, administration officials and congressional leaders said that the president would sign the bill — even though for days he had privately complained about the package in late-night phone calls and early morning rants — and the White House issued a news release touting its accomplishments.

It also highlighted Trump’s desire to be seen as his own political entity and still an outsider, separate at times from the Republican Party he leads. During his remarks at the White House, Trump sought to distance himself from a bill unpopular with his base but that his aides helped craft and the GOP-led Congress passed. At times he went so far as to portray himself as being almost helpless and having little choice but to accept the spending package…
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IANAL: Hold my beer edition

I am not a lawyer but is this as dumb as trying to ford the Amazon during flood season with an open wound or dumber than that?

Lawyers — what is the dumbest thing that you can reveal without breaking confidentiality/ethics rules that a client has ever done against your advice?

Open thread



Schadenfreude Open Thread: Neither the Best, Nor the Brightest

Meanwhile, the “intellectual” wing of the Republican Party has decided to champion Carter Page as… too dumb to be an actual conspirator. As Jonathan Chait reports sarcastically in NYMag, “Republicans: If Poor Carter Page Can Be Wiretapped, Who Among Us Is Safe?”

There were reasons for the FBI to notice Page. Described as an “energy executive,” he lived for a time in Russia, was always trying to drum up business, often in Russia, and his name popped up in a case against three Russians who in 2013 were posing as businessmen and trying to recruit Americans to become Russian agents. The Russians apparently wanted to enlist Page, who in the end was not accused of any wrongdoing and has denied any contacts with the Russians beyond ordinary business communications. For their part, the Russians came to view Page as something less than a prize; one of them was captured on a wiretap calling him an “idiot.”

So Page was no Russian agent, nor did he ever appear to be in danger of becoming a Russian agent. Nevertheless, the case put Page on the FBI’s Russia radar screen…

One reason some Republicans cite for their interest is based in civil liberties: If they’ll do it to Page today, they’ll do it to you tomorrow.

But another motivation for some Republicans is the growing suspicion that the FBI simply botched a critical aspect of the Trump-Russia investigation, that the bureau acted without sufficient reason to believe Page was a significant figure in any alleged Trump-Russia collusion…


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