a break

I’m going to post this Vice video here just so we’re all clear about the kind of people Trump is crawfishing about condemning unambiguously and outright.

And to make it clear, though why in the hell that should be necessary and Donald J Trump can go fuck himself, that there is no such thing as a “good person” who will march alongside assholes waving swastikas and chanting WW2 era German Nazi slogans.

 

We’re off somewhere north of here to camp a few days and take a break. We’ll camp somewhere quiet along the path of the total eclipse, cook some cowboy food and throw a ball for the dog. Maybe catch a few fish and try out the new Beretta on some pop cans.

I have some thinking to do, not least because at some point it’s probably inevitable that some dipshit waving/wearing a swastika is likely to appear in my personal space, and I want to decide what I might have to do about that.

Nothing is not an option.

The only option is resistance, and it’s time for me to understand what that would mean, for me personally, in the presence of people like the ones who appear in this video. Enough is enough.

If there’s any wifi in Wyoming, I might use it.

Then again I might not.

Meanwhile, keep the lights on and try not to break the furniture, OK?

Hasta pronto.

 

 

the big gamble

It’s no secret that I continue to think that Trump, by and large, is still being underestimated. Clearly there are powerful forces aligned against him, and ongoing investigations into his connections with Russian shenanigans continue to loom threateningly on his horizon, but I’m by no means ready to assume that US political and judicial institutions will withstand Trump’s current attempts to re-shape, and in some case completely dismantle them.

Trump’s game face. As an experiment, try to reproduce this facial expression yourself, then pay attention to the kind of thinking it engenders.

The increasingly popular portrayal is that of an attention whore with the attention span of a hummingbird who is essentially in reaction mode, blundering extemporaneously from one outrageous statement to the next. And recently from one internationally dangerous provocation to the next.

I don’t think that’s what’s going on at all. I could spend all day writing about Trump’s defects of character, but it must also be said he’s bold and he’s a fighter and—this is the important part—he’s willing to undertake big gambles. And I think I see where he might be gambling now, and in a big way.

After threatening to visit “fire and fury” upon North Korea in response to further provocations and scaring the media half to death (and thus, once again, controlling them), he doesn’t back away but doubles down.

This is worth noting. He always doubles down. Always. If there is a historic example of him retreating I’m unaware of it. So I don’t think this is just Trump shooting from the hip, it’s classic Trump operating strategy.

Consider this; what if Trump actually can manage to make some “progress” with North Korea, which, to most Americans, probably means getting them to shut the fuck up and behave like we say they should. What if, as I think Trump is calculating, Kim Jong Un can be made to understand that if he, Kim, doesn’t back down he really will be destroyed, because this crazy American with another weird haircut really is not bluffing.

Listen to Trump talk about Kim Jong Un here;

“He has disrespected our country greatly. He has said things that are horrific. And with me he’s not getting away with it. He got away with it for a long time, between him and his family. He’s not getting away with it. This is a whole new ballgame.”

This is a whole new ballgame is not an off-the-cuff remark. Trump really means it.  He’s been advocating playing hardball with North Korea for years. Here he is again doubling down on the “fire and fury” thing;

“Maybe it wasn’t tough enough. They’ve been doing this to our country for a long time, for many years, and it’s about time that somebody stuck up for the people of this country and for the people of other countries. So if anything, maybe that statement wasn’t tough enough.”

Kim has figured, correctly so far, that he can talk smack all he wants, which helps him domestically, without the US going ape-shit. Trump now says those days are over. There is no rational reason not to believe he really means it.

This is not the extemporaneous babbling of someone with no idea where he’s headed, these are the remarks of somebody who thinks of himself as precisely that “somebody” he’s talking about, the long awaited no-nonsense clear-sighted leader he sees himself as and whom, in his mind, we’ve all been waiting for. And I think he’s figured that however this plays out, for him personally this can be win-win.

If Kim backs down, Trump wins a victory which has eluded all the diplomatic heavy lifting for decades.  That makes Trump a winner, and on the back of that victory he can really get some traction domestically. We can hear him crowing from here, can we not? “I was right again, and all the establishment “experts” were wrong.”

There will be rallies and cheers, and accolades all around.  The media will pivot back to calling him “presidential” again. Because of course they will. Then, if Mueller’s investigation does not incontrovertibly prove election collusion, he’s home free, because any shady business dealings won’t engender enough animosity to undo him. Not in this scenario they won’t.

Now on the other hand, if Kim does not back down, Trump deploys a military strike of some kind, I’d guess conventional weapons targeted at launch facilities and military installations and maybe Kim personally.  He has to, otherwise Trump’s the one who looks like he’s backing down, and that’s just not possible. He’s never done it in his life and he’s not about to start now. So now we have a war, which drowns out everything—Mueller, Russia, shady business dealings, everything—and Trump will have no problems with that, no matter the human cost, because of course he won’t.

I’d suppose that scenario number one would be Trump’s preference, because that would bring more accolades and invoke less opposition, but I think he’s figured that either outcome helps him more than it would hurt him, and that, after all, is the principle which has guided him his whole life.

There’s still time, I suppose, for other options to emerge, perhaps with participation of third parties (Paging China. Paging the Peoples’ Republic of China. White courtesy telephone please). But if they do, they will be have to be options which give Trump a way out that he can characterize as a win, like maybe North Korea “cancelling” the Guam thing, otherwise there’s almost certainly going to be a war.

Reality Check

In the absence of much trace of understanding, in any faction of our news media, of the basics of physics and the technical side of weapons systems, here is a list of what the Dear Young Leader has – and what he does not have.  This list is based solely on public media reports and the Internet, NSA please note.

He has:

  • Nuclear bombs, apparently about 60, has enough material to manufacture more, and he’s tested them at least nine times.  So, he has bombs.
  • Missiles to throw them with, he’s demonstrated a long reach now, could reach perhaps anything in the western USA – such as the mountains of Colorado, or Las Vegas.  (Probably not Vermont, yet.)
  • And according to an intel estimate revealed yesterday, they have – reportedly – now compressed their bomb design into a package small enough to fit on top of a missile.

But.
What he does NOT have, yet:

  • A warhead (enclosing capsule) for the top of said missiles, with proven capability to be guided to land at or anywhere near a desired location, when flung on a flat long-reach trajectory.
  • A warhead with proven capability to survive re-entry into the atmosphere on that flat trajectory.  (Time is a factor here.)
  • A bomb design inside that warhead with the proven capability to detonate at the precise fraction of a second that it needs to, just before it slams back into the Earth – or indeed, to detonate at all after the rigors of re-entry.  (These are not trivial – both vibration and heat are abundant.)

Until these are acquired, they don’t really have ICBM’s – but we do.

How long will it take for the DYL to acquire these latter capabilities?

I don’t think that anyone knows.  One guess is one to two more years.  And acquiring those latter capabilities will require very  public testing.  So, we will know.

For comparison, our Trident missiles carry up to 8 warheads each, and each can be independently targeted at separate targets, with reasonable reliability.  The acronym for this is MIRV.  By contrast, the last I checked the Chinese have one big bomb on each of their missiles; they recently  tested a MIRV (with 10 warheads) but there is no evidence that this capability is deployed, e.g. installed on a weapon in a silo.

In summary, for nuclear weapons we have a sharp sword capable of inflicting precise damage in many locations at once, the Chinese have larger blunt instruments capable of hammering enormous damage upon fewer locations, and the Hermit Kingdom has nothing.  Yet.

 

speaking of art…

…which someone around here was, somewhere, sometime in the last month or so, here’s August’s cover of Mad magazine.

As someone who cut his political teeth on Mad way back when they were taking the piss out of Kennedy—to the tune of  “When I was a Lad” from Gilbert and Sullivan no less;

…and he tousled his hair so carefuleee

that now he is the ruler of the whole countreee…

I have to say it looks like they got their groove back.

You want art?  I gotcha art right here.

 

hatchet man

If you had asked me yesterday morning whether Scaramucci might not be Charley McCarthy to Trump’s Edgar Bergen, I’d have rolled my jaundiced eyes at you. I’d have repeated what my mother, the assistant shrink, always tried to preach to my father and me: stop trying to find deep reasons behind acts that are simply stupid and incompetent.

Because stupidity is one of the most powerful forces in the universe, and of all the varieties of stupidity there are, willful stupidity is the most powerful of the lot. By a very wide margin. Because ordering yourself not to think is the very easiest command you’ll ever be given. And since Donald Trump is the most willfully stupid man you’ll ever meet…

That is what I’d have been thinking, and that is what I would have told you, and man would I have been wrong. Right on schedule Priebus gets the boot up his butt and the scales fall from my eyes.

would you buy a used car from this man?

The Mooch is a hatchet man, the very epitome of one, and the hatchet-mooch was sent out to chop the GOP down to size. And to send a very loud message “to encourage the others”, as the man said. A message I once again imagine I can hear loud and clear…

Okay, you told me a couple of things, and even though I knew better I took you at your word. You told me all would be roses between us if I made your guy my chief of staff – just listen to Reince Mr President, just take his advice, and together we’ll make your most important promises come true, you’ll see.

First off we’ll get rid of that damn Obamacare, just like you promised, and after that we’ll be off and running. So I played along – I knew I shouldn’t trust you but I played along anyway. And you couldn’t even get your own damn people to do their simple fucking job, which was just to say yes when they were told to. Have I got that right? Did I miss something? No, I don’t think so either. So fuck you, okay? Fuck you one and all.

You can drop by any time you like to pick up what’s left of your boy. He’ll be sitting out on the curb with his sorry balls in his mouth.

From now on, when the Mooch speaks I’ll be paying attention. And so, I think, will a lot of other people.

trout in the milk

Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk. —Henry David Thoreau

I was struck by a remark in an earlier comment thread which basically suggested that Trump is a narcissistic boor and con man and a few other things, but that, at least so far, the accusations of collusion with Russia to get a leg up in the election, along with other malfeasance concerning money laundering and mob connections are not supported by the evidence at hand, and for that needle to be moved significantly it will be necessary for Mueller’s investigation to come up with something incontrovertible.

Even a moderate effort toward fair-mindedness and adherence to the principle of innocent until proven guilty must result  in an acknowledgment of that.  But that does not mean the evidence already available is trivial or unpersuasive.

Yes, it’s circumstantial, but when all that evidence is documented in one place, as a timeline, it’s extremely difficult to propose scenarios which align with that evidence and don’t involve both illegalities and seriously deep financial entanglements with Russian oligarchs. And nobody in their right mind believes that it’s possible to be entangled with Russian oligarchs without being entangled with Vladimir Putin and the Russian state.

Happily, Steven Harper over at Bill Moyers’ place has done exactly that with a constantly updated timeline of All Things Trump going back  to 1979 when he first met Roger Stone right up to the present day.

It’s a big piece of work, but fascinating reading. Trump’s history with Russia dealings goes back a long way, especially for someone who insisted throughout his campaign and to the present day that “he has nothing to do with Russia”. Here’s a brief cherry-picked single narrative thread from Harper’s piece. It’s just one among many, many others;

1984: David Bogatin, a 38-year-old former Soviet Army pilot and Russian émigré who arrived in America seven years earlier with just $3 in his pocket, pays $6 million for five condominium units in a luxurious new Manhattan high-rise, Trump Tower. At the time, Russian mobsters were beginning to invest in high-end US real estate as a way to launder money from their criminal enterprises. Three years later, Bogatin — eventually revealed to be a leading figure in the Russian mob in New York — pleads guilty to a money laundering scheme. According to prosecutors, the scheme involved a network of Russian and Eastern European immigrants acting with Michael Franzese, an admitted captain of the Colombo organized-crime family. (In 1986, Franzese pleads guilty and receives a 10-year sentence for the scheme.) In 2003, Bogatin’s brother, Jacob, is indicted for allegedly running a $150 million stock scam and money-laundering scheme with Semion Mogilevich, whom the FBIconsiders the “boss of bosses” of Russian organized crime.

August 1998:Russia defaults on its debt and its stock market collapses. As the value of the ruble plummets, Russian millionaires scramble to get money out of their country and into New York City, where real estate provides a safe haven for overseas investors.

October 1998: Demolition of a vacant office building near the United Nations headquarters is making way for Trump World Tower. Donald Trump begins selling units in the skyscraper, which is scheduled to open in 2001 and becomes a prominent depository of Russian money. By 2004, one-third of the units sold on the 76th through 83rd floors of Trump World Tower involve people or limited liability companies connected to Russia or neighboring states. Assisting Trump’s sales effort is Ukrainian immigrant Semyon “Sam” Kislin, who issues mortgages to buyers of multimillion-dollar Trump World Tower apartments. In the late 1970s, Kislin had co-owned an appliance store with Georgian immigrant Tamir Sapir, and they had sold 200 television sets to Donald Trump on credit. By the early 1990s, Kislin had become a wealthy commodities trader and campaign fundraiser for Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who in 1996 appoints him to the New York City Economic Development Corporation. Meanwhile, Sapir makes a fortune as a New York City real estate developer.

2002: Efforts to sell Russians apartments in Trump World Tower, Trump’s West Side condominiums, and Trump’s building on Columbus Circle expand with presentations in Moscow involving Sotheby’s International Realty and a Russian realty firm. In addition to buying units in Trump World Tower, Russians and Russian-Americans flood into another Trump-backed project in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida. In South Florida alone, members of the Russian elite invest more than $98 million in seven Trump-branded luxury towers.

July 2008: As the Florida real estate market began to crash, Trump sells a Florida residence to a Russian oligarch for $95 million, believed to be the biggest single-family home sale in US history. The Russian oligarch never lived in the house and, since then, it has been demolished. Three years earlier, Trump had bought the home at auction for $41 million.

Read the piece, it’s meticulously researched and when all the details are presented as a timeline—details like the Kushners’ visit to Moscow and being squired around, upon Donald Trump’s request, by people he later claimed “not to know, not really”—it comes together in a way which induces fair-mindedness to wonder if we’re not just dealing with a trout in the milk, but an entire school of fish.

One last comment about fair-mindedness.  Trump and people like him don’t respect fair-mindedness and they don’t regard it as an essential ingredient, or even a valuable ingredient, in a civil society. They regard it as a weakness to be exploited.

Nine Was on the Money

Trump’s team is floating the idea of pardons, including self-pardons. Seeing what level of outrage it inspires. Starting the process of getting people used to it, in hopes that when he does it, at least his base will feel like it was a.) inevitable and b.) normal.

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/343059-trump-lawyers-discussing-presidential-pardon-powers-possible-mueller

This along with his comments to the Times fawners about Sessions: Mueller must now be digging where Trump knows it hurts.

 

and yet another one…

Christ, it turns  out that Uday’s meeting that originally never happened was attended by yet another character from central casting, one Rinat Akhmetshin, a former Soviet military officer and nowadays a “Russian American lobbyist” whatever the hell that is.

Anyway, the latest defense narrative from Uday’s camp is that the meeting didn’t actually involve discussions about the promised dirt on HRC, and was such a “nothingburger” that Uday had ‘forgotten about almost before it was over”, which

from the department of good ideas

explains the previous assertions of  never having met any Russians at all, apparently.

But Brother Rinat says that narrative may also be, and I know this is hard to believe, somewhat economical with the truth ;

In his first public interview about the meeting, Akhmetshin said he accompanied Veselnitskaya to Trump Tower where they met an interpreter. He said he had learned about the meeting only that day when Veselnitskaya asked him to attend. He said he showed up in jeans and a T-shirt.

Veselnitskaya brought with her a plastic folder with printed-out documents that detailed what she believed was the flow of illicit funds to the Democrats, Akhmetshin said. Veselnitskaya presented the contents of the documents to the Trump associates and suggested that making the information public could help the campaign, he said.

“This could be a good issue to expose how the DNC is accepting bad money,” Akhmetshin recalled her saying.

Trump Jr. asked the attorney if she had sufficient evidence to back up her claims, including whether she could demonstrate the flow of the money. But Veselnitskaya said the Trump campaign would need to research it more. After that, Trump Jr. lost interest, according to Akhmetshin.

“They couldn’t wait for the meeting to end,” he said.

Uday is what my mother, who had a keen eye for snakes, would have called “a greasy wide-boy”.

By the time we get to the bottom of this I’d not be surprised to find the Rockettes were there too, as the opening act for Ted Nugent.

BBC PROMS IN PROPER SOUND

I mentioned the BBC Radio 3 ‘FLAC’ lossless compression stream a little while back, but it was turned off  almost at the same time. However, it’s back for the Proms Season, and broadcasting R3 live from this afternoon until (at least) the Last Night September 9th.

Click on the link above and you should get to the  ‘Radio 3 Concert Sound’ page; click on ‘Try it’ and you should see the player above. Though the pretty picture will probably change from time to time.

As before, you’ll need Firefox v.54 (for a Mac, anyway, or whatever a recent—post April 2017—Windows version is) since it’s still the only browser that includes the decoder. (I can’t test it yet, but I’m doubtful whether Firefox on an iPad will work. Didn’t earlier this year.) Believe me, it’s pretty good sound: a lot better than the iPlayer, better than DAB but not as good as my FM tuner . . .But then, my tuner’s the same as the one the Beeb used to use for off-air monitoring.

If you can cable up your computer to any good hi-fi* it’ll sound even better . . .

*Ideally from a co-ax or optical digital output on your computer to a digital-analogue converter for conversion to analogue sound to your hi-fi. Or just take the stereo analogue sound output from the computer. (I know nothing about Windows sound cards, but I do know Macs’ D-A converters are very good.) Or, listen on a pair of good headphones.

At some time, we are all going to have to register with the BBC to get at the iPlayer (I suspect this is leading to some kind of ‘Pay per View’ for people outside the UK) but as far as I can see, there’s no restriction on the FLAC stream.

Can’t resist: the first encore of this Proms season was Liszt’s piano transcription of the’Ode to Joy’ . . .received with (first laughter as 6,000 people realised what it was) and great applause . . .