Sunday, July 14, 2019
Fairly large (7.3) earthquake in
Indonesia today. It's in a fairly isolated corner of the nation,
an island with about 450,000 people, north of Ceram and midway
between the outstretched peninsulas of New Guinea and Sulawesi.
Probably not much news on this, unlike last week's similar-sized
earthquakes near Ridgecrest, California.
On the other hand, quite a bit of news attention to
Hurricane Barry, slowly moving today through north Louisiana
and into Arkansas, dumping a lot of rain over already flooded
terrain. Two things worth noting here. One is that this is still
very early in the season (nominally June 1 to November 30). For
a record fifth year in a row, the first named storm (Andrea)
appeared before the season officially started. June was quiet,
but it's still very rare to have hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico
in July. Odder still, where most hurricanes start as low pressure
zones over West Africa, then pick up strength crossing the width
of the subtropical Atlantic Ocean, this one started in Tennessee,
then curved in a clockwise motion through Georgia and Florida
before intensifying over the Gulf. I've never seen a storm follow
that trajectory, or for that matter one that spent so little time
over water developing to hurricane level. Granted, it only briefly
achieved level 1 strength, but that doesn't bode well for later
storms that traverse much more of the still warming Gulf (currently
86°F). [PS: The Wikipedia page suggests several similar hurricanes,
but the only one that comes close is
1940 Louisiana hurricane, which formed in early August off the
coast of Georgia, crossed Florida and covered a much longer stretch
of the Gulf before making landfall in southwest Louisiana. It is
regarded as "the wettest tropical cyclone in state history," with
a peak rainfall of 37.5 inches. Barry is forecast to produce up
to 25 inches of rain. Actual rain so far appears to be much less -- see
Barry downgraded to a depression but still brings risk of flooding from
Louisiana to Arkansas. This article also notes that the average date
for first hurricane of season is August 10, and that this is the first
July hurricane in continental US since Arthur in 2014, and only the 4th
in Louisiana history according to records going back to 1851.]
Some scattered links this week:
The riptide of American militarism.
Donald Trump's origin story suffers another severe blow:
The new report by Kranish also recalls perhaps the biggest revelation
undercutting Trump's self-published origin story: how he became wealthy
in the first place. While Trump has claimed he got only a $1 million
loan to start out with, the Times detailed how the younger Trump
"received at least $413 million in today's dollars from his father's
real estate empire, much of it through tax dodges in the 1990s." The
paper said these tax dodges included "instances of outright fraud."
And when it comes to Trump's education, he has apparently gone to
great lengths to obscure the record and seems to have tapped powerful
connections in the process, as The Post's Marc Fisher detailed in March.
The New York Military Academy, which Trump attended before college,
moved its Trump files to a more secure location amid pressure from
wealthy Trump allies. Around the same time that was revealed, former
Trump attorney Michael Cohen, who flipped on Trump and pleaded guilty
to several crimes, released a 2015 letter he wrote threatening Fordham
University with legal action if Trump's records were released.
The combined picture is one of a president who may not have been
able to attend Penn or assemble anywhere close to such a fortune
without familial connections.
Trump is poised to sign a radical agreement to send future asylum seekers
Joe Biden, Closet Republican: "He's the liberal Bob Dole, the looser
Mitt Romney, the supposedly safe bet who's owed a shot." I'm not a Biden
fan, but this is pretty unfair. For starters, it vastly understates how
despicable the vast majority of Republican politicians have become --
ironically, a trait that Biden and Bruni seem to share. Biden has been
a reasonably successful politician during the 40-year Reagan-Bush-Trump
era, at least in part because he's often been willing to bend with the
wind. That bending may have helped lend credence to the Republicans, and
that's reason enough to doubt him as a candidate. Still, there's a big
gap between Democrats like Biden and supposedly respectable Republicans
like Dole and Romney. Bruni's not doing us any favors by papering over
Trump launches racist attack against 'progressive Democrat
congresswomen'. Related: Peter Wade:
Of course, Fox News delighted in Trump's racist tweet. The question
Fox raised on the screen was "DEMOCRATS DIVIDED?" Actually, the reaction
there was pretty united: it speaks volumes that the one thing every
Democratic politician in America agrees on is that Trump is a racist,
and that it's fair game to put it that explicitly.
President Trump says only Trump supporters deserve free speech.
Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost was a member of secret Facebook group.
FTC fines Facebook $5 billion over Cambridge Analytica scandal.
How US tech giants are helping to build China's surveillance state.
Same deal here:
Middle East dictators buy spy tech from company linked to IBM and Google.
David A Graham:
The best way to get fired by Trump: "The president's new strategy
for getting rid of scandal-tainted aides: Quickly accept their resignations,
but heap praise on them as they leave."
Amy McGrath is challenging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. She's
everything wrong with the Democratic Party. Yeah, but if I was
misfortunate enough to be represented by McConnell, I'd cheerfully vote
for her anyway. Note that she wound up correcting her faux pas on the
The Fed's new message: The economy can get a lot better for workers:
"A rejection of what had been a consensus view of the relationship between
the jobless rate and inflation."
It's always the oil: The missing three-letter word in the Iran
What Donald Trump got right, and Justin Amash got wrong, about
conservatives: "Conservatism is an identity more than an ideology,
and Trump knows it."
The case for declaring a national climate emergency.
While Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez's calls for a climate-emergency declaration
are not solving any problems, they are providing the language that needs
to dominate the national conversation. And that matters. The United Nations
recently warned that climate disasters are happening at the rate of one per
week. This past June was the hottest on record. At the end of the month,
a freak storm buried Guadalajara, Mexico, in hail, and on Thursday morning
news outlets reported that freak hailstorms in Greece killed seven people.
A month's worth of rain fell on Washington, D.C., in an hour on Monday
(while Trump completely ignored the climate crisis in his speech on the
environment), then more flash floods drowned New Orleans, which is now
preparing for a tropical storm that could dump another twenty inches of
rain and test the city's levees. The warming that happens over the next
few decades could kill all of the world's coral reefs, lead to even more
severe storms and wildfires, and set off the sorts of tipping points that
most concern scientists -- specifically, the irreversible dissolution of
the Greenland ice sheet, where, in June, a heatwave set off melting
across half of its surface.
Rudy Giuliani, Joe Lieberman team up for Albania MEK conference.
Why the GOP might learn to love putting price controls on drugs.
How to dramatically reduce gun violence in American cities: Based
on a new book by Thomas Abt: Bleeding Out.
AOC's policy adviser makes the case for abolishing billionaires:
Interview with Dan Riffle.
How Trump swallowed the GOP whole and exposed Paul Ryan's craven moral
failings. Refers to a forthcoming book by Tim Alberta: American
Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise
of President Trump. For more, see:
Conservatives pretending to be suppressed by social media dominated
Of course Boris Johnson wants a royal yacht. He's the king of
Why they fear Ilhan Omar: "Donald Trump and Tucker Carlson don't
think she's dangerous. They hate that she's full of potential."
Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta has no good answer for cushy Jeffrey
Epstein plea deal. Acosta wound up
resigning, after Trump swore,
"I'm with him". For more, see:
Going home with Wendell Berry: Interview. Sample quote I should save
and maybe use some time: "Every generation is a bridge between something
that's past, and something that's coming."
Charles P Pierce:
Nancy Pelosi's leadership now constitutes a constant dereliction of
duty. Pierce is the kind of pundit I'd expect to go to the mat
defending Party leadership like Pelosi, so I'm impressed first of all
that he snapped, second that he snapped this direction. What this
shows is that AOC and her "gang of four" have struck a chord that
extends even to middling Democrats. Maybe that's because they're
scoring points while Pelosi, Schumer, Hoyer, et al. look like mere
bystanders. Another non-radical suddenly soured on Pelosi: Andrew
Hey, Nancy Pelosi: Please stop coddling Donald Trump.
Lies about Iran killing US troops in Iraq are a ploy to justify war.
Trump's census citizenship question fiasco, explained. Related:
The long history of the US government asking Americans whether they are
Coal left Appalachia devastated. Now it's doing the same to Wyoming.
House report shines light on multiple infants under one separated from
How Trump doubled down on the crazy claim he's immune from oversight.
Paul Sonne/Karoun Demirjian/Missy Ryan:
Sexual assault allegations complicate confirmation of Trump's nominee
for military's No. 2 officer: Air Force Gen. John E Hyten, commander
of US Strategic Command, nominated to be vice chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff.
Ross Perot had the last laugh. The business mogul and third-party
presidential candidates (1992/1996) died last week, at 89.
Elizabeth Warren shuns conventional wisdom for a new kind of campaign:
Key sentence: "She's largely rejecting DC's consultant class."
As the world heats up, the climate for news is changing, too.
"Trump is quite easy to buy off": how Trump is putting American foreign
policy up for sale: "Want to understand Trump's foreign policy? Just
follow the money."
Biden releases video blasting "the Trump Doctrine" of foreign policy.
Defines "five core elements of what Biden calls 'The Trump Doctrine'":
- Embrace dictators
- Threaten war
- Rip up international agreements
- Launch trade wars
- Embarrass the US
Lots of problems here, starting with the assertion that what Trump's
doing is coherent and consistent enough to imply a "doctrine" (especially
when no such thing has been stated). He's pretty selective about which
dictators he "embraces," favoring those who align with his worldview,
especially those who cater to his personal finances. And while he has
no personal interest in democracy, international law, and/or concern
for human rights, he's willing to slander his enemies (and only his
enemies) for their shortcomings there. Similarly, his treatment of
international treaties and trade agreements is unprincipled, riding
almost exclusively on his personal (and partisan) economic interest.
He's a committed bully, and feels that by virtue of its wealth and
power America is entitled to threaten and cajole the little countries
around, but he has yet to act as recklessly as his rhetoric suggests.
Of course, he's a huge embarrassment. But aside from being somewhat
less of an embarrassment, one wonders what Biden would do differently.
US foreign policy has been remarkably consistent across parties, both
in the Cold War and post-Cold War eras, as if presidents don't actually
have many real options. In his long career, Biden has very dependably
gone along with whatever the prevailing "wisdom" dictated, so there's
little reason to think he won't continue to serve the same interests
US foreign policy has long followed.
The US has a risky new plan to protect oil tankers from Iranian attacks.
New leak claims Trump scrapped Iran nuclear deal 'to spite Obama'.