Late Night Open Thread: It’s Hard Out There for A Grifting ‘Populist’


 
Just as he was looking for a headwind from Michael Wolff’s new book…

Italy’s cultural heritage ministry announced on Friday (May 31) that it would revoke a lease granted to Bannon after reports of fraud in the competitive tender process. The former Breitbart chief and aide to US president Donald Trump was reportedly paying €100,000 ($110,000) per year to rent the 13th Century Carthusian monastery, but now will have to search for another spot.

The Italian state allowed the conservative Catholic organization Dignitatis Humanae Institute (DHI) to use the building early last year. Bannon happens to be a trustee of the institute, and planned to convert the space into a “gladiator school for cultural warriors,” where students would learn philosophy, theology, history, and economics, and receive political training from the former Trump aide himself.

But earlier this month, Italian newspaper Repubblica reported that a letter used to guarantee the lease was forged. The letter had the signature of an employee of Danish bank Jyske, but the bank said that employee hadn’t worked there for years, and called the letter fraudulent…








Blowback Begins Open Thread: Maybe Gen. Mattis Wasn’t the ‘Mad Dog’ in the Room


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Associate Rapey Justice Kavanaugh?

So, even though we’ve been properly busy dealing with the fact the Carolinas are washing out to sea and Manafort is doing his best canary impression, there has been yet more news out there that needs some appellate Jackal review.

Brett Kavanaugh, it seems, has some “boys will be boys” ‘splaining to do:

A secretive letter shared with senators and federal investigators by the senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee charges that a teenage Brett M. Kavanaugh and a male friend trapped a teenage girl in a bedroom during a party and tried to assault her, according to three people familiar with the contents of the letter.

The letter says that Mr. Kavanaugh, then a student at Georgetown Preparatory School in suburban Washington and now President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, had been drinking at a social gathering when he and the male friend took the teenage girl into a bedroom. The door was locked, and she was thrown onto the bed. Mr. Kavanaugh then got on top of the teenager and put a hand over her mouth, as the music was turned up, according to the account.

This would have been roughly thirty five years ago (Kavanaugh is 53), and it would seem a hard charge to substantiate. And yet Kavanaugh and his GOP allies are clearly running scared.  There is a letter signed by sixty five women who were high school contemporaries with Kavanaugh (not “classmates” as GOPsters have said, and some outlets report — Kavanaugh went to an all-male school).  The letter basically says that the young right-wing thug-to-be was a prince of a young fellow.

Here’s the odd bit, though:  how do you find sixty five women who knew Kavanaugh as a kid back in the eighties and would be willing to vouch for him? Grassley’s office says this was all organized by the nominees former clerks, starting at five last night. You weigh the odds that this is bullshit.  For me, it seems very clear that the GOP has known this might drop and has been prepping for it for some time.  Recall that Senator Hirono asked Kavanaugh about any sexual harassment claims made against him as a legal adult — as in out of high school. The framing of that question looks interesting now.  It also suggests that some noise around this potential obstacle to Kavanaugh’s nomination was already buzzing. The GOP knew; can’t prove it (yet) but I’d be stunned if they didn’t.

Similarly, the “male friend” referenced above and has tried to give his wing man some cover. Steve M. over at No More Mister Nice Guy gives the necessary background on this mook:

Judge is identified as “a writer in Washington, D.C.” But Judge is not just any writer. As Elon Green notes on Twitter, he wrote a notorious (and implausible) 2012 Daily Caller piece titled “The End of My White Guilt.” In it, he says his bicycle was stolen in a predominantly black D.C. neighborhood, after which he was infuriated when “a liberal friend” told him not to pursue the thief. “That person needs our prayers and help,” the friend said, according to Judge. “They haven’t had the advantages we have.” Result: “My white guilt died.” [all links in the original]

Judge doesn’t write about sex on a regular basis, but when he does, it’s clear he’s part of the “Help! Help! I’m Being Repressed!” school of conservative punditry.

[Go read the whole thing; the good stuff — as in the repulsive bits — are all there.]

So here’s the deal: there is an uncorroborated accusation against Judge Kavanaugh that claims he was a high school attempted-rapist. There is a very rapid circling of the wagons. Senator Collins is getting increasingly testy about people who harsh her mellow about voting for a perjurious goniff who has made it clear in all kinds of ways he’s going to vote down Roe v. Wade.  Most of his paper record is still chucked down the memory hole. There may be, and I certainly hope there will be more shoes to drop.  And Grassley’s determined to hold a committee vote next Thursday.

All of which allows me to begin to think there’s a non-zero chance Kavanaugh might crash and burn.  It’s not odds-on yet, not by any means, but this confirmation process has been a shitstorm from day one.  I’m even just starting to believe that even if Kavanaugh gets onto the court he might not last long there.  That paper trail is not going to stay hidden forever — and if this attempted rape account proves to be true (and I have no reason to doubt it), well…one thing’s become clear over the last several years.  When a guy twists this way, most often, it’s never just one woman to be treated as prey.

We live in waaaaaay too interesting times.  And the Republicans are, once again, shown to be waaaaaay more interested in power, and the immediate win, than doing even the minimally right thing (which in this case would be swapping out a non-rapey reliable right wing vote for the rapey one).

Have at it, fellow jackals!

Image: Giuseppe Crespi, Tarquin and Lucretiac. 1695-1700








Another Chemical Attack

It looks like Bashir al-Assad dropped another bunch of chemicals on civilians in East Ghouta again today. Horrible photos of the dead are circulating on Twitter. It’s not clear whether this was Sarin or chlorine, or Assad’s trademark mixture of the two. Early reports are that over 100 people have been killed.

It is exactly a year ago today that Donald Trump sent 59 cruise missiles into Syria to respond to a similar chemical attack.

There’s a continuing argument among strategists about deterrence. One side says that if you whack someone like Assad hard enough, he won’t do it again. The other says that Assad will choose to do what is best for him strategically and take his lumps if necessary, or take the chance that there won’t be retribution. I tend toward the second

It’s that argument that continues around Barack Obama’s “red line” for Syrian chemical weapons use. One side says that taking the deal to disarm Syria of most of its chemical weapons instead of whacking Assad led to the belief that Obama was soft, hence Putin’s incursion into Ukraine and all other evils since then. I think that putting aside a strike that would have killed more civilians and been far from taking out all the chemical warfare facilities in favor of peacefully removing most of the chemical weapons was a sign of good judgment.

And, contrary to some of what I’m seeing in response to Assad’s strike today, nobody expected that every single drop of chemical agent would be removed from Syria. But most of it was, and the facilities for making more disabled.

 








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.