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The king of chaos

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Chris Hayes put together a must-watch mashup of how Donald Trump used his patented Trump University flim-flam to win the White House. Watch it here

The lawsuit against Trump University ended yesterday in a settlement for his victims:

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel ruled in favor of a $25 million settlement between President Trump and customers of his defunct Trump University, NBC reports. Trump and his lawyers reached a settlement shortly after the election; Trump did not admit to wrongdoing in the case, but nevertheless agreed to settle.

“This never was a university,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos last June. “The fraud started with the name of the organization. You can’t just go around saying this is the George Stephanopoulos Law Firm/Hospital/University without actually qualifying and registering, so it was really a fraud from beginning to end.”

One wonders how the rest of us can collect damages as victims of what was never a presidency. The sort of glitz and bamboozlement that worked for Trump in his business dealings is failing him horribly on the world stage. Leaders of world powers are not so easily bamboozled, Trump being the exception that proves the misrule. Trump’s poll numbers in his first 100 days have sunk lower than Obama’s lowest, and Obama is the president Trump seems most eager to best.

At Axios, Mike Allen writes:

President Trump brought his chaos-and-loyalty theory of management into the White House, relying on competing factions, balanced by trusted family members, with himself perched atop as the gut-instinct
decider. He now realizes this approach has flopped, and feels baffled and paralyzed by how to fix it, numerous friends and advisers tell us.


The chaos dimension has created far more chaos than anticipated. Come nightfall, Trump is often on the phone with billionaire, decades-long friends, commiserating and critiquing his own staff. His most important advisers are often working the phone themselves, trashing colleagues and either spreading or beating down rumors of turmoil and imminent changes.

This has created a toxic culture of intense suspicion and insecurity. The drama is worse than what you read.

Neal Gabler admits he, like many others, got Trump wrong. While Trump may dsiplay the style of fascist leaders and have the temperament, he lacks the skills:

It’s not Trump’s ability to marshal the forces of repression that should terrify us. It’s his inability to marshal forces to conduct even the most basic governance. Trump really is a presidential Joker. He knows how to wreak havoc, but he doesn’t seem to know how to do, or seem to want to do, much else.

The threat from Trump isn’t fascism, Gabler believes, but anarchy. From an anarchist leading anarchists, in fact. Exhibit A: the Republican insurance plan that was doomed to fail:

Just think about it for a moment. The Republican replacement was really a non-insurance bill, by which I mean it flew in the face of the most fundamental principle of insurance — the healthy pay for those who aren’t. It is the sort of community of interest that is anathema to conservatives who believe it is every man for himself.

The upshot is that you cannot have “conservative” insurance. It isn’t tenable. When you have freedom of choice with every person getting to choose whether to be insured or not, and with those who are insured getting to choose what they want to have covered, you do not have a viable insurance system. You have anarchy. Anarchy was built right into the Republican plan.

Built in because it was never a plan at all. Like Trump, Republicans never had any interest in one. But huge tax cuts for the already rich is a hill they will die on.

When you come down to it, Republicans are really anarchists dedicated to undermining government in the furtherance of an economic state of nature where the rich rule. What we saw these past few weeks was not the failure of Republicanism, as so many pronounced on Friday, but its logical and inevitable conclusion. Republicans are great at opposing things, destroying things, obstructing things, undoing things. They are really, really terrible at creating things because they have no desire to do so.

The rich ruling explains Trump’s fascination with Vladimir Putin as much as theories about Trump’s Russian business connections. Putin is the total package. Money plus the authoritarian muscle Trump lacked. For his royalist legions — more Tory than T-party — Trump is the king they secretly long for. It’s all the same to them if he is a mad king.

Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner have tried to sell the Trump White House’s serial failures as the normal glitches experienced in any tech startup. It’s a sign of Trump’s entrepreneurial derring-do.

Yesterday, Trump walked out of an executive order signing ceremony without signing the executive orders.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Capitalism offense

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Charlie Pierce:

If there is one element that cannot be turned over to whatever people believe market forces to be, it’s water. It should never be commodified or sold off to make some investor wealthy far from the people who need it. That this ever needs to be argued is a measure of how far we’ve allowed corporate power to change us as a nation.

Pierce was commenting on an effort by Nestle to get its corporate mitts on 200,000 gallons of water per day drawn from Kunkletown, PA:

Kunkletown residents organized against Nestle’s attempts to move in. They formed an informal community group and five residents retained a lawyer. Last December, a group of five filed a lawsuit against the Eldred Township Board of Supervisors alleging the area’s zoning rules were unfair.

Earlier this year, the Eldred Township Planning Commission held a public meeting with Nestle representatives and attorneys in attendance to present on the project and answer questions. During the meeting, residents challenged Nestle and their actions.

In March of this year, the planning commission voted unanimously to recommend that the township zoning board deny Nestle’s application.

Like the Terminator, they’ll be back.

As mentioned earlier, the North Carolina legislature’s forced transfer of Asheville’s water system to a regional authority goes before the state Supreme Court tomorrow. Over 50 cities and towns across the state and the N.C. League of Municipalities condemned the state’s legislative appropriation of the system fearing theirs could be next. According to the city’s brief, 360 municipalities in the state run their water systems. The health and safety issues raised by the lead contamination of the Flint, Michigan water system after the state took control in Flint will play a part in the city’s arguments tomorrow.

When it’s not obsessing over its citizens’ bathroom habits, North Carolina’s GOP-led legislature is ogling any public infrastructure that generates revenue for state cities. Take it away and you cripple the economic base of those centers of blue-leaning voters. Which happens to coincide with the interests of international corporations in getting control of “their water” out of the hands of not-for-profit public agencies.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Fracking Falters

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Wind power is cheaper than natural gas in some states, reports the Dallas News. Solar is approaching that milestone:

“U.S. solar and wind power generating capacity is expected to see double-digit growth in 2016,” said Adam Sieminski, the head of the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

This comes as America’s fracking boom is starting to falter. The crash in oil prices is shrinking the profits for drillers. Estimated U.S. crude oil production dropped by 120,000 barrels a day last month and is forecast to keep going down for most of the coming year at least.

Coal continues its downward spiral. Even coal areas that weathered past hard times, such as Indiana and western Kentucky, are having a tough year, and major coal companies are going bankrupt.

Meanwhile, in North Carolina:

Amazon, which is building a network of wind farms and also testing Tesla storage batteries, announced the project Monday. The Amazon Wind Farm US East, to be built in Perquimans and Pasquotank counties, will power the online retailer’s cloud-computing division, Amazon Web Services, as part of a corporate goal of achieving energy sustainability.

The sprawling 34-square-mile wind farm will start with 104 turbine spires rising from the state’s eastern flatlands. The $400 million energy project will be built by Spanish wind farm developer Iberdrola Renewables and will start generating electricity for Amazon’s data centers in late 2016.

With wind coming into its own and a new solar farm just up the road in Leicester, NC, times they are a-changin’. If that’s bad news for fracking, all the better.

[h/t Wonkwire]

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Thinking of you, Bob Inglis

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The Village media are only slowly, maybe, opening their eyes to the fact that the T-party shock troops in the House really are off their nuts. (“Sie haben nicht alle tassen im Schrank,” as German friends used to say. They don’t have all their cups in the cupboard.) Frank Bruni describes them this way:

Those bomb throwers are mirrors of the voters who are saying no to Jeb Bush, no to Chris Christie, no to John Kasich, no to anyone who was once or could soon be the darling of the northeastern Acela corridor.

That’s describing GOP electeds and their constituents politely.

Digby already posted the transcript and video of Republican congressmen Charlie Dent and David Brat going at each other yesterday on Meet the Press. What was astounding was watching conservative talk-show host Hugh Hewitt dress down both of them:


A pox on both your wings. I am very and desperately hoping that Paul Ryan is praying about it and accepts this and here’s my question. Yesterday a Russian jet was set down in Turkey. Yesterday almost 100 people were killed in Ankara, Turkey. The world is on fire. How dare you, with the American people waiting for leadership, paralyze the House? Charlie, you have to stop going on CNN and blasting David. And David, there are like 15 of you people. The Freedom Caucus is, like, 15 people. Paul Ryan’s is like by 225 Republicans. Get with the program, guys.

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Taking on the fundamentalists

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Quotes from Pope Francis’ speech to Congress yesterday are all over the Net this morning: The 9 most notable; The 10 most important; The 10 Most Political, etc.

One passage that is getting less attention than those more easily spun as partisan is the section on fundamentalism:

All of us are quite aware of, and deeply worried by, the disturbing social and political situation of the world today. Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind. A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms. But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place. That is something which you, as a people, reject.

Or we would like to think so. Some Iraqis might argue otherwise.

People will hear that passage according to their own proclivities. With the international press focused on ISIS and on Al Qaida, most Americans will hear it as a warning against Islamist terror. But “any other kind” and “simplistic reductionism” are not limited to those.

The thing that most people miss about fundamentalism is this: fundamentalism is not about what you think, but how you think. Having spent many years in the American South among religious fundamentalists, having watched the Midas Cult’s callous disregard for the common good in blind obeisance to its economic ideology, and having on occasion encountered left-wing fundamentalists, I find they all have this in common: you are either with them or against them. They are rigidly ideological, doctrinaire, single-minded, obsessed with purity, and not much fun to be around. They see the world, as the pope said, in black-and-white terms: “the righteous and sinners.” They simply disagree about who is whom.

Loss of the ability to laugh at yourself is the first warning sign of fundamentalism. So when it comes to religion, or to economic or political ideology, yeah, they are pretty humorless, too.

Francis continued:

The challenges facing us today call for a renewal of that spirit of cooperation, which has accomplished so much good throughout the history of the United States. The complexity, the gravity and the urgency of these challenges demand that we pool our resources and talents, and resolve to support one another, with respect for our differences and our convictions of conscience.

A couple of weeks ago, some volunteers showed up to do some building and grounds work at the local Democratic headquarters. Overnight, the front doors had been spray painted with “Death to the DNC.” Pretty inside baseball. Your typical wingnut would have used “libtards” or “Democracks.” Check your fundamentalism.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Francis arrives: The Midas Cult goes ballistic

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Pope Francis arrived in the United States yesterday and the Midas Cultists were out somewhere rending their Brunello Cucinellis. Their media toadies reacted as if the pope had stolen the Cucinellis they don’t have to rend. It might be useful this morning to revisit just why (2013, emphasis mine):

In his strongest remarks yet concerning the world’s economic and financial crises, the pope said, “Money has to serve, not to rule.

“We have created new idols,” Pope Francis told a group of diplomats gathered at the Vatican on May 16, and the “golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal.” According to Pope Francis, a major reason behind the increase in social and economic woes worldwide “is in our relationship with money and our acceptance of its power over ourselves and our society.”

Blasphemy! Get a load of the intensity of the cultistsoverreaction:

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Weakness: The ultimate RW insult

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If you want a perfect encapsulation of the conservative world view, you need look no further than “A Boy Named Sue,” a song made famous by Johnny Cash and (ironically) written by the late Shel Silverstein, a writer of children’s books.

“Son, this world is rough, and if a man’s gonna make it, he’s gotta be tough…

It’s the name that helped to make you strong”

Not a good father. Not a good husband. Not a good citizen. But strong. It’s all that matters.

That’s why blustering manhood and guns and codpieces play so well on the right. It is also why weakness is both a cardinal sin and the ultimate RW insult. Weakness evokes the same makes-my-skin-crawl response the Nazi Shliemann had in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” to “the thought of this — (spitting it out) — Jewish ritual.”

So Donald Trump dumping on Jeb Bush in a Horton-esque new attack ad and on the Bush family in an interview is an especially low (and potentially politically fatal) blow:

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The Anchor Baby Around Their Necks

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Had to go find the column behind this:

The takeover of American conservatism by evangelical Christianity, Fox News and a handful of shadowy billionaires has transformed the Republicans into the party of wilful ignorance: doctrinal purity is more valued than intelligence; tolerance has been supplanted by persecutory moralising; paranoia has replaced realism.

This process may be reaching its logical conclusion with the emergence of property billionaire Donald Trump as the front-runner for the party’s presidential nomination.

Trump personifies everything the rest of the world despises about America: casual racism, crass materialism, relentless self-aggrandisement, vulgarity on an epic scale. He is the Ugly American in excelsis.

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Not so Smart Objects

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Adam Pope playing Zaphod Beeblebrox in an Amateur Production of The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy,
By Hypermusic (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

One morning in Glacier National Park years ago, I walked through a campground past a teepee. In the next campsite you could see through the picture window of his RV a guy reading the paper and drinking coffee as the news played on TV. People who can’t enjoy nature without their experience being mediated by an internal combustion engine always puzzled me. Getting out into the woods for them means ATVs or dirt bikes. Going for a swim means personal watercraft. Quiet simplicity seems foreign.

Then again, tech junkies shouldn’t talk, constantly checking our phones and computers. Connectivity, baby.

How much tech is too much? How much anything is too much? It is almost un-American to ask.

Zeynep Tufekci, assistant professor at the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina, wonders if Smart Objects, the Internet of Things, is a dumb idea. A hacked car (or cars) or airliner, for example, would be a safety nightmare:

The Internet of Things is also a privacy nightmare. Databases that already have too much information about us will now be bursting with data on the places we’ve driven, the food we’ve purchased and more. Last week, at Def Con, the annual information security conference, researchers set up an Internet of Things village to show how they could hack everyday objects like baby monitors, thermostats and security cameras.
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The courage of our exceptionalism

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MEDITERRANEAN SEA (Oct. 17, 2013) Distressed persons are transferred from the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17) to Armed Forces of Malta offshore patrol vessel P52. San Antonio provided food, water, medical attention, and temporary shelter to the rescued. San Antonio rescued 128 men adrift in an inflatable raft after responding to a call by the Maltese Government. (U.S. Navy photo/Released) 131017-N-ZZ999-009 Public Domain via Wikipedia Commons.

In the home of William Blackstone, they are at least investigating whether the Iraq war was illegal. Just very, very slowly:

An impatient David Cameron will demand that Sir John Chilcot name the date by which his report into the British invasion of Iraq will be ready for publication.

The prime minister is expected to tell Chilcot he wants to see the report as soon as possible. “Right now I want a timetable,” he told journalists.

Its release is not expected before September, and could be delayed until the middle of next year. Chilcot has been at this for some time and has spent £10.3m:

Chilcot has so far declined to give a timetable for the publication of the findings of the Iraq war inquiry, which opened in 2009 and concluded in 2011. He previously told Cameron and separately the chairman of the foreign affairs select committee, Sir Crispin Blunt, that he was still waiting for witnesses to respond to planned criticisms in the report. He is also examining fresh evidence.

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