He learns nothing.

Much has been made of the fact that one of Trump’s defenses (there were many, and not all of them can be advanced simultaneously without obvious and major contradiction, but even so) against Trump’s obvious efforts to get Russia to help his election campaign is that he was simply naive about the law when making pronouncements like, “Russia, if you’re listening…”.

Now, obviously he’s not learned that lesson and his claims of naivety ring hollow given that in the early summer he said that if offered dirt by a foreign nation in the 2020 election, he would still accept it, knowing as he does the illegality and the political consequences of doing so.

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The Transcript Isn’t A Transcript

The White House said it was going to release a transcript of the phone call between Trump and President Zelenskyy of the Ukraine. They’ve now released a document, but the document itself gives us a pretty strong warning that should give us all pause about how this disclosure is being reported:

CAUTION: A Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation (TELCON) is not a verbatim transcript of a discussion. The text in this document records the notes and recollections of Situation Room Duty “Officers and-NSC policy staff assigned t_o listen.and memorialize the conversation in written form as the conversation takes place. A numper of factors can affect ‘the accuracy of the record, including poor telecommunications connections and variations in accent and/or interpretation.

The word “inaudible” is used to indifate portions of a conversation that the notetaker was unable to hear.

Nonetheless, USA Today gives us this:

Trump administration releases transcript of call with Ukraine’s President Zelensky amid impeachment inquiry

CBS News gives us this:

Trump call transcript shows he pressed Ukrainian president to probe Biden — live updates

CNBC’s article is headlined:

Trump authorizes release of transcript of controversial Ukraine call that mentioned Joe Biden

And no less than that vaunted bastion of journalism, the NY Times writes their headline without any ambiguity:

Transcript: Trump’s Call With the Ukrainian President

Forbes, of all sycophantic outlets, is actually the voice of reason and caution here, despite calling the document a “transcript” in the headline:

Trump’s Ukraine Transcript Reportedly Won’t Contain Entire Conversation

What Forbes says is actually a fair summary of the problem

President Trump said he would release the “complete” and “unredacted transcript” of his July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president Wednesday, but multiple reports state that what gets released is unlikely to be word-for-word, per longstanding White House rules.

  • According to Reuters, White House rules on phone calls between the president and a foreign leader would likely mean a transcript would be put together from notes taken by several U.S. officials who listened in.
  • The note-takers are typically National Security Council or Central Intelligence Agency officials.
  • The final official document of a phone call can range from what looks like a word-for-word transcript, a memo or a short summary.
  • And the Washington Post reported that Trump is unlikely to have tape recordings of the phone call. Recordings have not been made since the 70s.

So when you hear that a “transcript” has been released, don’t believe it. Maintain your skepticism. There may very well be no recording back to which we can compare Trump’s document and every single person involved in the preparation of the document we do have answers solely and ultimately to Trump. If in conversations with others who refer to it as a transcript, it might be useful and appropriate, depending on context, to correct the “transcript” language of the person or persons with whom you’re speaking.

And if they doubt you, refer them right back to the official warning on the actual document released:

CAUTION: A Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation (TELCON) is not a verbatim transcript of a discussion.

 

 

 

Trump Would Rather Have His Racism Than $20 In His Pocket

So, when redesigning the US$20 bill, the treasury department took a poll on the best person to next be depicted. You may remember that Andrew Jackson, the genocidal maniac who was critiqued by other slave holders for how cruelly he treated his slaves, graces your US twenties right now. Since the US has been notoriously bad at featuring women on its currency and since the new bill was due to come out in 1920, the anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in the US, and because US citizens have more sense than the government, the person selected to honor the new bill is Harriet Tubman… except the men couldn’t have a white guy replaced by a Black woman, so the new design was to keep Jackson, but move him to the reverse side of the 20 while putting Tubman on the front.

Creating a new bill is a time-consuming task, not least because after the old one has been out for a while, counterfeiters will have learned to mimic most of the features and the new bills, in addition to being durable in water, somewhat more tear resistant than most papers, and meeting US consumers’ subjective expectations that a bill seem “official” and not feel plasticky (which implies “fake”), new anti-counterfeiting techniques need to be designed into each new bill. Even when the person featured in the portrait does not change, the bills themselves do every so often and updating the counterfeiting countermeasures is a significant part of that. For this reason, the Treasury is literally in a constant state of research and development of new features that can be built into any new bills.

This time round, however, Steve Mnuchin, the US Secretary of the Treasury, has just told congress that despite the long lead time and the overwhelming poll support for Tubman, she will not appear on the $20 bill in 2020. Instead, Mnuchin suggests, 2028 is a more likely date. This would extend the current design to 25 years of use. We are already at 16, and the previous record for the longest use of a single design is about 15 years. In 2017 Mnuchin suggested that the Treasury might not release Tubman on the 20 because consumers become attached to particular persons on particular bills. This rationale was given despite the fact that the decision had already been made to keep Jackson’s image on the bill, if on the other side. But now, in 2019, Mnuchin has just announced that due entirely to needing to develop new anti-counterfeiting techniques, Tubman’s image cannot appear when originally intended.

The whole thing stinks, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. Take a moment to think and you’ll realize that even if no new anti-counterfeit measures were ready to be placed in the 2020 series bill, changing the design and keeping the current measures is better at challenging counterfeiting than doing nothing at all. So why delay?

The real answer we can only guess, but I have three good ones: 2020 is a Presidential election year, and not only does Trump idolize Jackson, but I think he’s also afraid that his racist supporters will be furious at him if his treasury department releases a $20 with a Black woman on it – no matter how many white men are on it with her. If enough of his supporters are racist (a reasonable proposition), then pissing off the racists will hurt Trump’s chances at reelection.

And so here we are, we can’t have nice things because

  1. Trump idolizes a genocidal maniac who embarked on the ethnic cleansing of indigenous peoples from the areas of US territories that were recognized states during his term, and generally from any economically valuable land,
  2. Trump’s supporters are too often racist to risk the US government promoting the picture of a Black woman during an election year, and
  3. Trump is his own racist supporter who doesn’t want to see a Black woman’s face on “his” money.

It’s amazing how Trump can combine the most obscenely consequential power grabs with the most trivial and petty exercises of that power.


PS. And will the Democrats call this out for the racism that it is? Of course not. We’ll get a few comments about how it’s disappointing that 100 years after the ratification of the 19th amendment we still have never had a woman’s portrait on US paper currency during a federal election in which women were entitled to vote. But they certainly won’t say anything about racism, or even about how Mnuchin’s assertions are literally irrational.

 

Stephen Moore: Not the Nominee Republicans Need

Before we start, I’m going to need to go into a bit about the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System of the United States of America (AKA the Federal Reserve Board). If you think you have enough context and just want to read about Stephen Moore, you can skip ahead to the “Now it gets interesting!” tag below.

Stephen Moore has been stealth-nominated by the White House for a position on the board of governors of the Federal Reserve System (AKA “the Federal Reserve”). Someone in such a position is called upon to make decisions about many things, but most often and most centrally decisions about the availability of credit in the United States. The Board of Governors’ principle tool to influence monetary policy is the ability to raise and lower the interest rate that banks must pay to borrow money from the Federal Reserve. Not only does this affect directly many interest rates for consumer and mortgage loans, but it also affects the total amount of money in the economy. For instance, if a bank has an opportunity to loan money out at a specific interest rate, but it doesn’t have enough to do so, it can borrow the money from the Fed at a low interest rate and then lend it out at a higher interest rate. This allows them to use the income from the higher interest customer loan to pay the interest they owe to the Fed and pocket the difference. But if the interest rate the Fed wishes to charge is high enough, the rate charged to the customer might be so high the customer does not want the loan or perhaps so high that the customer does not have credit sufficient to qualify for the same size load at that higher rate (the required monthly payments would be larger, and the customer many not be able to comfortably afford those higher payments, in the judgement of the bank, even if the customer believes they could).

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Old News I Missed: Cops have placed the Punisher skull on patrol cars

This is from two years ago, though I didn’t see it at the time. Apparently the Blue Lives Matter movement created any number of mind-bogglingly awful logos and graphics, and at least some of them incorporated the stylized skull used as a personal symbol by the fictional Marvel comic and television character The Punisher.

If you don’t already know: The Punisher is not a good guy. He’s a former marine who now treats every crime as an act of war, and responds in kind. It never occurs to him that his wars might not make communities safer, that even if he targets bad guys war on the streets is bad for good guys and bad even for normal, non-noble but non-evil human beings. He is a man of blood and battle, a torturer and a murderer, and the embodiment of all the ideas that good is defined by its hatred of evil, that men are defined violently imposing their will over others, and, of course, that intent is magic. So, naturally, cops in the US think he’s the greatest.

Just check out those cars mentioned in the title:

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Sometimes you just have to be understanding of a little rape.

In Madison, Wisconsin two students confronted another in a bathroom after the regular school day had ended on April 10th. The first two raped the third. Not to fear, however, the school district’s head of safety and security is here to put it all in perspective:

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The Immigrant, The Idiot, and The Judgement

Look, Donald Trump is an idiot. We all know that. It’s not so much that he’s ignorant, he is arrogantly ignorant. He personifies the worst-case Dunning-Kruger effect. Previously the most perfect example of this was uttered a mere 40 days or so into his presidency as he announced (again) his intention to repeal Obamacare:

Now, I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.

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Calvin & Hobbes: Still Relevant

In the ongoing catastrophe in which we live, one week away from no-deal Brexit, TERFs ignoring how humans actually interact with other humans, the majority of the US denying climate change as they blindly follow fossil-fuel based energy companies off the cliff, the work of Bill Watterson is still frightfully relevant:

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Do you have to know the constitution if you’re just a member of congress? Devin Nunes asks Hannity to hold his beer.

That’s rights, transfolks and boring people, it’s another post about everyone’s favorite lawsuit, Devin Nunes’ US$250 million defamation complaint against Twitter, Liz Mair, Devin Nunes’ Mother, and Devin Nunes’ Cow. One of the things I plan to dive into later is that US$250 million figure. It’s all compensatory damages, and it is a major violation of every bar association’s code of conduct to file anything with the court that a lawyer knows to be false. In certain circumstances it can also be a violation if a lawyer should have known something to be false. There’s a case to be made here that Nunes’ lawyer should have his license suspended or revoked.

But what if you’re not the lawyer. What if your day job is a mere member of congress? Should you really be expected to know the law as a member of congress? Probably not all the law, but maybe a bit of constitutional law? Is asking our legislators to know a bit about the constitution asking a wee bit too much?

Oh, probably. But I’m in an asking mood.

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