obvious question

The State of the Department (Quack)

#AmericanPrestige | #WhatTheyVotedFor

With apologies: Altered detail from cartoon by Jen Sorensen, 17 April 2018.

“guess how many people are working on Iranian nuclear proliferation at the State Department? as of today....zero”

Anne Applebaum

We should be clear that by today, the columnist means Friday last, when she posted the tweet, which refers, in turn, to a report from Foreign Policy:

One of the State Department’s top experts on nuclear proliferation resigned this week after President Donald Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, in what officials and analysts say is part of a worrying brain drain from public service generally over the past 18 months.

Richard Johnson, a career civil servant who served as acting assistant coordinator in State’s Office of Iran Nuclear Implementation, had been involved in talks with countries that sought to salvage the deal in recent weeks, including Britain, France, and Germany — an effort that ultimately failed.

Johnson’s departure leaves a growing void in the State Department’s stable of experts on Iran’s nuclear program and highlights a broader problem of high-level departures from government.

Officials say the trend is particularly evident at the State Department, where Trump sidelined career diplomats and morale plummeted under former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The office Johnson led has gone from seven full-time staffers to none since Trump’s inauguration.

Today is Tuesday, and elsewhere in the commentariat Steve Benen notes, “The article didn’t explicitly say that Johnson resigned in protest, but there doesn’t appear to be much of a mystery about what happened here.”

(more…)

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What They Voted For: Why Government Doesn’t Work (Educational Remix)

#wellduh | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Betsy Devos (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

It is said, sometimes, that there are no stupid questions, and we all know better, but that really does not seem the problem challenging Steve Benen when his consideration of Education Secretary Betsy Devos would seem to wonder after the obvious:

There’s a reason Betsy DeVos doesn’t sit down for a lot of interviews.

My question, however, is for the 51 Republicans who put elevated her to her current post: any regrets?

Of course not; they’re Republicans. This is the party that tells us government does not work; we ought not be surprised, and instead remember that Secretary DeVos only “embarrasses herself (and the 50 senators who voted to confirm her)” according to contexts by which competence and functionality are considered admirable, desirable, or, at the very least, a necessary component according to purpose. To the other, it seems worth reminding that even into the twenty-first century it was inappropriate to presume so poorly of public servants as we would to account for the incompetence, corruption, and sheer stupidity of the Trump administration.

Sixty-two million nine hundred eighty-four thousand eight hundred twenty-five. This is what they voted for.

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Image note: Betsy Devos (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Benen, Steve. “DeVos embarrasses herself (and the 50 senators who voted to confirm her)”. msnbc. 12 March 2018.

What They Voted For: They Are, After All, Conservatives

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

The Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, in Washington, D.C., 21 December 2016.  (Photo: Alex Brandon/AP Photo)

Steve Benen notes an obvious question:

The point isn’t that the arrangement is somehow untoward. Rather, what’s amazing about this is that our self-professed billionaire president has a re-election campaign operation in place, housed in a building the president still owns and profits from, and despite the fact that the operation has millions of dollars in the bank, it’s the Republican National Committee that’s using donor money to help Trump’s campaign with the rent.

This comes on the heels of Washington Post reporting from last summer, which said the RNC and other Republican political committees spent nearly $1.3 million at Trump-owned properties in 2017—and that was long before the year was even over.

Whether party donors actually mind any of this is unclear.

The actual answer is not so complicated: First, the upward redistribution of wealth and assets is the Republican Party’s raison d’être; and then there is the point that this is precisely #WhatTheyVotedFor.α

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α At some point, we must accept that conservative populism means cronyism with an ameliorating dose of supremacism.

Image note: The Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Alex Brandon/AP Photo)

Benen, Steve. “The many bills the RNC is willing to pay for Trump”. msnbc. 26 February 2018.

Something of an Obvious Question

Detail of frame from Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor, episode 6, "An Aroma Sweet, a Heart Bitter...".

There is, of course, much we might say of an eighteen-year sentence for methamphetamine trafficking handed down in the case of a disgraced Montana Republican leader, but the report from Associated Press, and the federal judge who gave the sentence, note an important question:

Michael Lange, the Republican House majority leader during the 2007 Legislature, arranged deliveries of at least 20 and possibly up to 50 pounds (nine and possibly up to 23 kilograms) of meth from a source in California over a seven-month period in 2016, prosecutors said. It was sold through a network of approximately 15 to 20 dealers in Montana and Wyoming, according to federal prosecutors and an FBI drug task-force officer.

Lange pleaded guilty in September to drug conspiracy and distribution charges. He apologized at his sentencing but drew a sharp rebuke from U.S. District Judge Susan Watters after Lange appeared to minimize his involvement in the trafficking ring and claimed the truth of what happened had never been revealed.

“You don’t get it, Mr. Lange,” Watters said. “For you to tell me in your letter of acceptance that it was never your intention for this methamphetamine to get out into the community is completely incredible to me. … What did you think was going to happen?”

There is a lot of never-meant in the world, and, to be certain, any number of points we might raise in the question of who never meant which and what that is worth in jurisprudence; but it is very nearly instinct that revolts, because every now and then, at least, we find ourselves wondering what other outcome one might have expected or intended.

Or, try it this way …—

Actually, no, don’t. Fifty pounds of meth? Oh, fine, let’s go with twenty, then, because even still. What attorney gave this client what advice?

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Image note: Detail of frame from Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor, episode 6, “An Aroma Sweet, a Heart Bitter…”.

Brown, Matthew. “Former Montana lawmaker gets 18 years for drug trafficking”. Associated Press. 17 January 2018.

Even More (Rape Culture)

[#rapeculture]

Fight: Mikasa awakens ― Detail of frame from Attack on Titan episode 6, 'The World the Girl Saw: The Struggle for Trost, Part 2'.

The lede from Reuters:

Amazon Studios chief Roy Price was put on an immediate leave of absence Thursday, the company said, following allegations that he harassed a producer and ignored an actress’s claim of a sexual assault by producer Harvey Weinstein.

Prognostication being more or less the art of capricious but not quite arbitrary projection, a certain obvious question arises: How many entertainment execs are about to fall? One of the interesting questions becomes whether Tinseltown is about to explode into a million billion tiny, glittering pieces; Hollywood, after all, is a town that has long needed more than just an enema.

There is an alternative at least as obvious as the question itself, that maybe one or two more high-profile entertainment executives might fall from grace, and then society will decide that we have discovered and weeded out the few bad seeds, and get on with show business as usual.

And, hey, maybe the next round can be in the music industry, so we can finally free Kesha, but society probably needs a couple years off, first. You know, only a few at a time. I mean, there are only a few bad seeds, y’know, at any one time.

(cough)

Just compared to shattering Hollywood, which itself seems unlikely, what, really, is the chance this is the beginning of a chain reaction lashing severely through the halls of American financial and commercial power tearing away significant chunks of institutionalized rape culture?

(sigh)

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Image note: Detail of frame from Attack on Titan episode 6, “The World the Girl Saw”.

Reuters Staff. “Amazon Studios chief Roy Price suspended following harassment allegation”. Reuters. 12 October 2017.

Vaxxtastic

So …

Health officials in Arizona say the largest current measles outbreak in the United States is in part because some workers at a federal immigration detention center refuse to get vaccinated.

Authorities have confirmed 22 measles cases in Arizona since late May. They all stem from the Eloy Detention Center, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility managed by the private Corrections Corporation of America.

United States Department of Homeland SecurityPinal County health director Thomas Schryer said the outbreak likely began with a migrant but that detainees have since been vaccinated. Convincing employees to get vaccinated or show proof of immunity has proven much tougher, he said.

“And so they’re actually the ones that are passing along the measles among each other and then going out into the community,” Schryer said.

… right. Any questions?

Oh. Wait. The AP report from Astrid Galvan also notes―

The facility includes about 350 CCA employees and an unknown number of ICE staffers, although Schryer estimates it’s about 100. ICE doesn’t publicly release staffing levels, nor does it require employees to be immunized.

―and it seems well enough to start with the obvious. This is, after all, Immigration and Customs Enforcement; given the health advisories in general about international travel, it seems absurd to suggest that the intended front line contact point for so much of that alleged danger coming into the United States should fail to require immunization.

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Galvan, Astrid. “Arizona is site of largest current US measles outbreak”. Associated Press. 8 July 2016.

The Donald Trump Show (Death Wish Double Trouble Super Fun Follow-Up Sequel Pak)

Brook, the jolly Humming Pirate who also happens to be a skeleton with an afro. (Detail of frame from 'Shonen Jump One Piece'.)

“He’s a death’s-head jester cackling on the edge of the void, the clownish host of one last celebration of America’s bombast, bigotry and spectacular ignorance.”

Andrew O’Hehir

Sometimes the setup requires a bit of seemingly otherwise useless melodrama; and sometimes that seemingly otherwise useless melodrama―your buzzword for the week is, well, okay, two words: “October surprise”―works well enough to address certain otherwise seemingly obvious questions somehow obscured by a hazy addiction to synthesized melodrama. Or, more to the point:

We can’t be sure how many people really support Trump, [Thomas B.] Edsall reports, since there’s considerable evidence that they aren’t telling pollsters the truth. Voting for Trump, it appears, is something white people do in the shadows. It’s a forbidden desire that is both liberating and self-destructive, not unlike the married heterosexual who has a same-sex lover on the down-low, or the executive who powers through the day on crystal meth and OxyContin. Donald Trump speaks during the 2016 Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Candidates Forum (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)On some level you know the whole thing can’t end well, but boy does it feel good right now.

I have argued on multiple occasions that white Americans, considered in the aggregate, exhibit signs of an unconscious or semi-conscious death wish. I mean that both in the Freudian sense of a longing for release that is both erotic and self-destructive―the intermingling of Eros and Thanatos―and in a more straightforward sense. Consider the prevalence of guns in American society, the epidemic rates of suicide and obesity (which might be called slow-motion suicide) among low-income whites, the widespread willingness to ignore or deny climate science and the deeply rooted tendency of the white working class to vote against its own interests and empower those who have impoverished it. What other term can encompass all that?

Trump is the living embodiment of that contradictory desire for redemption and destruction. His incoherent speeches wander back and forth between those two poles, from infantile fantasies about forcing Mexico to build an $8 billion wall and rampant anti-Muslim paranoia to unfocused panegyrics about how “great” we will be one day and how much we will “win.” In his abundant vigor and ebullience and cloddish, mean-spirited good humor, Trump may seem like the opposite of the death wish. (He would certainly be insulted by any such suggestion. Wrong! Bad!) But everything he promises is impossible, and his supporters are not quite dumb enough not to see that. He’s a death’s-head jester cackling on the edge of the void, the clownish host of one last celebration of America’s bombast, bigotry and spectacular ignorance. No wonder his voters are reluctant to ‘fess up.

(O’Hehir)

Nor is this a matter of making the obvious point; with Americans, it’s all in how you say it.

I mean, sure, we can all see it, but explaining the mess is a whole ‘nother thing.

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Image notes: Top ― Brook, the jolly Humming Pirate. (Detail of frame from Shonen Jump One Piece.) Right ― Donald Trump speaks during the 2016 Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Candidates Forum (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images).

O’Hehir, Andrew. “Appetite for destruction: White America’s death wish is the source of Trump’s hidden support”. Salon. 11 May 2016.

A Bug in His Natural Habitat

Detail of 'Bug Martini' by Adam Huber, 10 April 2015.Well, you know, that works. Seems kind of obvious, doesn’t it?

Still, that only raises the obvious question. Where would you lurk?

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Huber, Adam. “A Killer Cup of Coffee”. Bug Martini. 10 April 2015.