Thursday Reads: Is This Reality or a Twisted Dr. Strangelove Remake?

Good Morning!!

Is anyone else getting the feeling that we’re living in an even crazier remake of “Dr. Strangelove?” Except in this version, the “president” is complete nincompoop who resembles a combination of Gen. “Buck” Turgidson and Brig. Jack D. Ripper.

Despite Trump’s appointment of Gen. John Kelly as WH chief of staff, the leaks are still streaming out of the place Trump calls “a real dump.”

Yesterday NBC News revealed that threw a tantrum in a meeting with generals because they haven’t been able to “win” the war in Afghanistan despite the fact that Trump has refused to sign off on a strategy to do so. I guess he thought a 15-year war could be wrapped up in his first few months in office simply because he was now in charge.

President Donald Trump has become increasingly frustrated with his advisers tasked with crafting a new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and recently suggested firing the war’s top military commander during a tense meeting at the White House, according to senior administration officials

During the July 19 meeting, Trump repeatedly suggested that Defense Secretary James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford replace Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, because he is not winning the war, the officials said. Trump has not met Nicholson, and the Pentagon has been considering extending his time in Afghanistan.

Over nearly two hours in the situation room, according to the officials, Trump complained about NATO allies, inquired about the United States getting a piece of Afghan’s mineral wealth and repeatedly said the top U.S. general there should be fired. He also startled the room with a story that seemed to compare their advice to that of a paid consultant who cost a tony New York restaurateur profits by offering bad advice….

Trump’s national security team has been trying for months to come up with a new strategy he can approve. Those advisers are set to meet again to discuss the issue on Thursday at the White House. The president is not currently scheduled to attend the meeting, though one official said that could change.

Here’s a reaction form Kevin Drum at Mother Jones: Afghanistan Plan Killed Because ‘21’ Closed For Remodeling 30 Years Ago. This Is Not a Joke.

Trump chatted with a few soldiers who were unhappy about this and that—after all, it’s the God-given right of every buck private in the Army to know exactly how the brass are botching things up—and therefore decided to reject his generals’ plan. And before you all start yammering about how Trump said last year that he already had a plan ready to go, that was for Iraq. He never said he had a plan for Afghanistan. OK?

And now, for some more comic relief, here’s an inside look at how Trump comes up with these bright ideas:

To underscore his view that the veterans who fought in the war may be better positioned to advise him on an Afghanistan strategy, Trump compared the policy review process to the renovation of a famed New York restaurant in the 1980s, officials said. Trump told his advisers that the restaurant, Manhattan’s elite ‘21’ Club, had shut its doors for a year and hired an expensive consultant to craft a plan for a renovation. About renovation, aa remodels is known as one of the most trusted remodeling company. They’ve been operating over the years and if this interests you, see more work here at aaremodels.com.  After a year, Trump said, the consultant’s only suggestion was that the restaurant needed a bigger kitchen.

Officials said Trump kept stressing the idea that lousy advice cost the owner a year of lost business and that talking to the restaurant’s waiters instead might have yielded a better result.

The ‘21’ Club, which has been one of Trump’s favorite New York spots, closed for two months in 1987 while it underwent a full renovation and reopened to great fanfare.

Consensus reality is that the run-down 21 Club closed for two months after it changed ownership,¹ and then reopened after a big renovation. Trump reality is that his favorite haunt was closed forever and they didn’t even fix whatever petty gripe he probably had at the time. Because of this, he rejected the new Afghanistan plan. That’s quite the butterfly effect, isn’t it?

Actually the restaurant closed for three months, but definitely not a year. Poor Donnie really missed eating out in that place, and now it’s his metaphor for what’s wrong in Afghanistan. Maybe he should try actually visiting Afghanistan instead of golfing all the time. He could stop in Iraq on the way back to the dump. Trump claims he didn’t say that, but according to a witness, At least 8 people heard Trump call the White House a ‘dump.’

Alan Shipnuck told Golf Magazine that eight or nine people heard Trump call the White House a dump.

Shipnuck published a report about Trump’s golfing hobby in Sports Illustrated this week, which included the revelation that Trump called the president’s house a “real dump” compared to his New Jersey country club.

Shipnuck told Golf Magazine that a White House spokeswoman called him to demand a retraction for the statement, but that he would not do so because he heard it from multiple people and that he believes they are credible sources.

“It might be inconvenient for her boss and she might wish he didn’t say it, but it’s not a lie,” he said.

“They definitely don’t waste any time trying to be charming or friendly, these people in the White House communications department,” he added.

During the White House briefing yesterday, one of Trump’s white supremacist aides attacked the Statue of Liberty. Slate: Stephen Miller Doesn’t Care for Your Stupid Poem, Statue of Liberty.

White House senior adviser for policy Stephen Miller spoke at the daily press briefing on Wednesday to tout Donald Trump’s newly announced plan to cut legal immigration in half and make it harder for non-native English speakers or low-skill workers to enter the country

When he was challenged on this part of the proposal by CNN reporter Jim Acosta, Miller decided to explain who America’s real enemy was: The poem on the Statue of Liberty.

Acosta asked:

The Statue of Liberty says “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” It doesn’t say anything about speaking English or being able to be a computer programmer. Aren’t you trying to change what it means to be an immigrant coming into this country if you’re telling them you have to speak English? Can’t people learn how to speak English when they get here?

And Miller’s response:

I don’t want to get off into a whole thing about history here, but the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of liberty enlightening the world; it’s a symbol of American liberty lighting the world. The poem that you’re referring to that was added later and is not part of the original Statue of Liberty.

(For those interested, here is a brief history of how that poem came to become synonymous with the Statue of Liberty and this country’s assimilation of immigrants.)

Acosta and Miller then got into a lengthy back-and-forth about what it means to be an immigrant to this country. Acosta accused the administration of attempting to limit immigration in a way that was “trying to engineer the racial and ethnic flow of people into this country.” Miller responded that Acosta betrayed his “cosmopolitan bias” and “ignorance” by suggesting that the administration was trying to limit immigration to certain types of people.

By the way, “cosmopolitan” is term that was historically used to attack Jews. Charles Pierce: The Historical Significance of ‘Cosmopolitan’ as an Insult.

The way Miller leaned into the word “cosmopolitan” while answering Acosta has a long and ignoble history in 20th century authoritarianism, especially the anti-Semitic variety. During World War II, for example, the Soviet government under Stalin used to rail regularly at “rootless cosmopolitanism,” especially in the arts. The Nazis were fond of tossing it around, too. There is no context in which Miller’s use of the word against Acosta makes sense except as a historical signaling device.

Also, Miller doesn’t know dick about Emma Lazarus and the Statue of Liberty. She wrote the poem, “The New Colossus,” from which the famous lines on the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal were taken in 1883 for the purpose of raising funds for … wait for it … the Statue of Liberty.

How do you put this uninformed goon in front of the camera? Jesus, these really are the fcking mole people.

This morning we got more juicy leaks from The Washington Post. They somehow obtained transcripts of Trump’s January calls with Mexican and Australian leaders. You can read them at that link, and/or check out this article: Trump urged Mexican president to end his public defiance on border wall, transcript reveals.

From the Mexico call:

President Trump made building a wall along the southern U.S. border and forcing Mexico to pay for it core pledges of his campaign.

But in his first White House call with Mexico’s president, Trump described his vow to charge Mexico as a growing political problem, pressuring the Mexican leader to stop saying publicly that his government would never pay.

“You cannot say that to the press,” Trump said repeatedly, according to a transcript of the Jan. 27 call obtained by The Washington Post. Trump made clear that he realized the funding would have to come from other sources but threatened to cut off contact if Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto continued to make defiant statements.

The funding “will work out in the formula somehow,” Trump said, adding later that “it will come out in the wash, and that is okay.” But “if you are going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want to meet with you guys anymore because I cannot live with that.”

A little more:

Trump seemed to acknowledge that his threats to make Mexico pay had left him cornered politically. “I have to have Mexico pay for the wall — I have to,” he said. “I have been talking about it for a two-year period.”

“On the wall, you and I both have a political problem,” Trump said. “My people stand up and say, ‘Mexico will pay for the wall,’ and your people probably say something in a similar but slightly different language.”

Trump seemed to acknowledge that his threats to make Mexico pay had left him cornered politically. “I have to have Mexico pay for the wall — I have to,” he said. “I have been talking about it for a two-year period.”

 

New Hampshire voters will love this from the call with Nieto. CNN: Trump argues he won New Hampshire because it is a ‘drug-infested den.’

During the call, according to the Post, Trump lashed out at Peña Nieto for the quantity of illegal drugs that come into the United States from Mexico.
“We have a massive drug problem where kids are becoming addicted to drugs because the drugs are being sold for less money than candy,” Trump said.
He later bragged that he won the Granite State because of the opioid epidemic.
“I won New Hampshire because New Hampshire is a drug-infested den,” he said.

Trump doesn’t even know that drugs come into NH from Canada.

The Hill on the call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull: Trump to Australian prime minister: ‘Putin was a pleasant call, this is ridiculous’

Trump argued with Turnbull over an agreement on refugees he thought was unfair during their first conversation following his inauguration.

“I have had it,” Trump told his Australian counterpart during the Jan. 28 call, according to a transcript obtained by The Washington Post and published on Thursday. “I have been making these calls all day, and this is the most unpleasant call all day.”

Trump also told Turnbull that his conversation with the Russian leader was far more enjoyable. “Putin was a pleasant call,” Trump said. “This is ridiculous.”

I’m going to work my way through these two transcripts, but I may wait awhile, because I spent a long time yesterday reading Trump’s insane interview with the Wall Street Journal, and I don’t want to have that Twilight Zone/Dr. Strangelove feeling all day today.

What stories are you following today?


Saturday News Potpourri

Draper-Pot_Pourri

Good Morning!!

I have quite a few articles to share this morning, a real Saturday potpourri! So let’s get started. First up, on Thursday Attorney General Eric Holder gave a wide-ranging interview to Ari Melber of MSNBC, and quite a bit of breaking news came out of it. Here are some of the resulting headlines: NY Daily News: Eric Holder: Could talk deal with NSA-leaker Edward Snowden, but no clemency

Holder told MSNBC that the Obama Administration “would engage in a conversation” about a resolution in the case, but said it would require Snowden acknowledge wrongdoing…. At a University of Virginia forum, where Holder was asked about Snowden, he  elaborated on his position, saying, “If Mr. Snowden wanted to come back to the United States and enter a plea, we would engage with his lawyers. We would do the same with any defendant who wanted to enter a plea of guilty, so that is the context to what I said.” But he stressed that the NSA leaker would not walk. “We’ve always indicated that the notion of clemency isn’t something that we were willing to consider.”

eric-holder-marijuana

Seattle PI: Holder: Marijuana banking regulations on the way

Attorney General Eric Holder says the Obama administration is planning to roll out regulations soon that would allow banks to do business with legal marijuana sellers. During an appearance Thursday at the University of Virginia, Holder said it is important from a law enforcement perspective to enable places that sell marijuana to have access to the banking system so they don’t have large amounts of cash lying around. Currently, processing money from marijuana sales puts federally insured banks at risk of drug racketeering charges. Because of the threat of criminal prosecution, financial institutions often refuse to let marijuana-related businesses open accounts.

There’s a good piece about this at Forbes, but they won’t even let you copy their headlines anymore. Mediaite: Eric Holder: Voter ID Used to ‘Depress the Vote’ of People Who Don’t Support GOP

Attorney General Eric Holder sharply criticized state-level voter identification policies and said that he believes those policies are a “remedy in search of a problem.” He added that, while some may be arguing for voter ID in good faith, he believes that most are advocating for this policy in order to “depress the vote” of those who do not support the “party that is advancing” voter ID measures. “I think many are using it for partisan advantage,” Holder said of voter ID. “People have to understand that we are not opposed to photo identification in a vacuum,” he continued. “But when it is used in — certain ways to disenfranchise particular groups of people, whether by racial designation, ethnic origin, or for partisan reasons, that from my perspective is problematic.” He added that “all the studies” show that in-person voter fraud “simply does not exist” at a level that requires a legislative solution.

Politico: Eric Holder: Timing of Robert Gates book release ‘a mistake’

Attorney General Eric Holder waded into the controversy over former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s new book Thursday, calling it “a mistake” for Gates to have published his recollections before President Barack Obama left the White House. “It’s my view that it’s just not a good thing thing to write a book about a president that you served while that president is still in office,” Holder said during an appearance at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. “From my perspective I think the world of Bob Gates, but I think that the publication of that book — at least at this time — was a mistake.” [….] In the course of offering his critique of the timing of Gates’s book, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” Holder twice praised the former defense secretary for his leadership. “I like Bob Gates a great deal. He was a good secretary of defense,” the attorney general said.

LA Times: Holder says no bank ‘too big to indict,’ more financial cases coming

“I think people just need to be a little patient,” Holder said, according to a transcript of an interview with MSNBC to air at noon Pacific time Friday. “I know it’s been a while. But we have other things that are in the pipeline.” [….] Holder has taken heat for telling a Senate hearing last year that some financial institutions were “so large that it becomes difficult to prosecute them” because criminal charges could hurt the U.S. and even world economies. Since then Holder has tried to emphasize that the Justice Department is not intimidated by the size of a financial institution and would bring any charges it believed it could prove.

As I said, quite a bit of news out of one interview. Good job by Ari Melber.

In other news . . .

The Economist has a brief article that provides some background on the situation in Ukraine: On the march in Kiev –The protests turn nasty and violent, but the president is not giving ground. ukraine-protests-2

JANUARY 22nd was meant to mark Ukraine’s unity day, a celebration of its short-lived pre-Soviet independence. Instead, it was a day of civil unrest and perhaps the biggest test of Ukraine’s post-Soviet integrity. After two months of largely peaceful encampment on the Maidan in Kiev, the protests turned violent. Five people were reported killed and hundreds were injured. An armoured personnel carrier pushed through the streets. Clouds of black smoke and flames mottled the snow-covered ground. Never in its history as an independent state has Ukraine witnessed such violence. It was triggered by the passage of a series of repressive laws imposing tight controls on the media and criminalising the protests of the past two months. One law copied almost verbatim a Russian example, including stigmatising charities and human-rights groups financed from abroad as “foreign agents”. If Russian human-rights activists denounce their parliament as a “crazy printer” churning out repressive legislation, says Oleksandra Matviichuk of the Centre for Civil Liberties in Kiev, Ukraine has a “crazy photocopier”. The clashes show vividly the refusal of the protesters to heed such laws.

Brian Glyn Williams, the U. Mass Dartmouth professor who interacted with Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and recommended some sources of information on Chechnya for a report Tsarnaev was writing, has a post up at HuffPo on how the history of Chechya and Dagestan is coming back to haunt the Winter Olympics in Russia: The Dark Secret Behind the Sochi Olympics: Russia’s Efforts to Hide a Tsarist-Era Genocide. Here’s the conclusion:

The twin bombings in Volgograd in late December 2013 and an earlier one in October are clearly meant to show the Russians that the Chechen-Dagestani terrorists have reignited their terror jihad. They are also meant to remind the world of the tragedy that befell the Circassians of the Caucasus’s Black Sea shore exactly 150 years ago this winter. This is the dark secret that Russia’s authoritarian leader, Putin, does not want the world to know. Putin has thus far been very successful in conflating Russia’s neo-colonial war against Chechen separatists with America’s war on nihilist Al Qaeda Arab terrorists. Any attempt to remind the world of Imperial Russia/Post-Soviet Russia’s war crimes in the Caucasus is a threat to Putin’s pet project, the whitewashed Sochi Olympics. This of course not to excuse the brutal terroristic acts of the Caucasian Emirate or the Chechen rebels, but it certainly provides the one thing that Putin does not want the world to see as he constructs his “Potemkin village” in Sochi, and that is an honest account of the events that have made this the most terrorist fraught Olympic games since the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.

erik prince Remember Erik Prince, the Michigan millionaire who founded Blackwater? Guess what he’s doing these days? The WSJ has the scoop: Erik Prince: Out of Blackwater and Into China. Erik Prince —ex-Navy SEAL, ex-CIA spy, ex-CEO of private-security firm Blackwater —calls himself an “accidental tourist” whose modest business boomed after 9/11, expanded into Iraq and Afghanistan, and then was “blowtorched by politics.” To critics and conspiracy theorists, he is a mercenary war-profiteer. To admirers, he’s a patriot who has repeatedly answered America’s call with bravery and creativity.

Now, sitting in a boardroom above Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour, he explains his newest title, acquired this month: chairman of Frontier Services Group, an Africa-focused security and logistics company with intimate ties to China’s largest state-owned conglomerate, Citic Group. Beijing has titanic ambitions to tap Africa’s resources—including $1 trillion in planned spending on roads, railways and airports by 2025—and Mr. Prince wants in…. “I would rather deal with the vagaries of investing in Africa than in figuring out what the hell else Washington is going to do to the entrepreneur next,” says the crew-cut 44-year-old. Having launched Blackwater in 1997 as a rural North Carolina training facility for U.S. soldiers and police, Mr. Prince says he “kept saying ‘yes’ as the demand curve called—Columbine, the USS Cole and then 9/11.” In 100,000 missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, he says, Blackwater contractors never lost a U.S. official under their protection. But the company gained a trigger-happy reputation, especially after a September 2007 shootout that left 17 civilians dead in Baghdad’s Nisour Square. At that point, charges Mr. Prince, Blackwater was “completely thrown under the bus by a fickle customer”—the U.S. government, and especially the State Department. He says Washington opted to “churn up the entire federal bureaucracy” and sic it on Blackwater “like a bunch of rabid dogs.” According to Mr. Prince, IRS auditors told his colleagues that they had “never been under so much pressure to get someone as to get Erik Prince,” and congressional staffers promised, “We’re going to ride you till you’re out of business.”

Awwwwww…..Poor little rich boy. Where’s my tiny violin?

a09bc_worlds-smallest-violin

Speaking of entrepreneurs, Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ plans for his latest acquisition–The Washington Post–are becoming clearer, as he hires more right wing libertarians for the op-ed page. Now Pando Daily reveals what Don Graham is up to now that he’s dumped the family business: The company formerly known as WaPo moves into tech apps.

Today, the company formerly known as WaPo — now called Graham Holdings – has announced a new business endeavor in journalism. Surprisingly, said endeavor doesn’t have much to do with actual journalism at all — it falls squarely in the tech camp. It’s a content discovery app called Trove. Trove fits in the now-torrential trend of such applications. Companies like Flipboard,Prismatic, Rockmelt, and N3twork have all tread this ground long before Trove. They’re all convinced that places like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS readers are not good enough for finding the best stories…. The two men behind Trove have rich and storied histories. Vijay Ravindran, the CEO of Trove, served as The Washington Post’s Chief Digital Officer before the sale, and ran ordering at Amazon for seven years before that. Reuters oped columnist Jack Shafer even divpredicted (incorrectly) that Ravindran would be named the new WaPo publisher after the sale. The other Trove heavyweight is product lead Rob Malda, who is also the co-founder and former editor-in-chief of Slashdot — the predecessor of every user-focused news aggregator since, from Digg to Reddit to Hacker News.

Read all about it at the above link.

A few short takes:

In other tech news, CSM’s Security Watch reports that Booz Allen, Snowden’s old firm, looking to help US government with ‘insider threats’. Author Dan Murphy asks, “Are defense and intelligence contractors the best choice to manage a threat they’ve contributed to?” Read it and weep.

According to Fox News, gun manufacturers Smith & Wesson and Ruger will no longer do business in California because they don’t want to comply with a new CA law that allows law enforcement to trace bullets to the individual gun they came from. After all, why would gun companies want to help police catch murderers? Unbelievable!

Did you know that this month is the 50th anniversary of Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant satire, Dr. Strangelove? IMHO, it is one of the funniest movies of all time. Well, Eric Schlosser has a not-so-funny article about it at The New Yorker: ALMOST EVERYTHING IN “DR. STRANGELOVE” WAS TRUE. Don’t miss this one; it’s a must read!

Apparently the latest food craze to emerge from San Francisco is “artisanal toast.” How did toast become the latest artisanal food craze? Ask a trivial question, get a profound, heartbreaking answer. John Gravois writes about it at Pacific Standard: The Science of Society. Weird.

A silly test to take at Buzzfeed: Which Pop Diva Are You? I got Pink. I know nothing about her…but she looks kinda cool. PINK

Finally, I posted this link in the comments recently, but I don’t know if anyone looked at it. I’m posting it again, because I think it’s absolutely adorable. It’s some glamour shots of elderly people having fun dressing up and posing as various movie heroes and heroines. Here’s just one example:

"Easy Rider": Walter Loeser (l.), 98, & Kurt Neuhaus, 90

“Easy Rider”: Walter Loeser (l.), 98, & Kurt Neuhaus, 90

I hope you found something to tickle your fancy in this potpourri of articles. Now it’s your turn. Please post your recommended links in the comment thread, and have a wonderful weekend!