Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for February 1st, 2017

Tillerson is already ahead

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From a Kevin Drum post:

. . . Trump hung up on the prime minister of Australia, one of our oldest, closest, and most reliable allies? I don’t have the words. In any case, that’s the leaders of Mexico, Australia, and “other countries” that Trump has apparently insulted on phone calls. I wonder what the body count really is. How many foreign leaders has Trump yelled at so far?

How about Vladimir Putin? Apparently not. In fact, Republicans in Congress are rushing to do a big favor for oil companies that do business in Russia. It all has to do with Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, which requires drilling and mining companies to disclose any payments they make to foreign governments. Back in 2010, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson—now our Secretary of State—opposed this provision. Here is Michael Grunwald in Politico:

Tillerson argued that forcing U.S. oil firms to reveal corporate secrets—such as paying foreign governments—would put them at a competitive disadvantage. He also explained that the provision would make it especially difficult for Exxon to do business in Russia, where, as he did not need to explain, the government takes a rather active interest in the oil industry.

Today, seven years later, Republicans confirmed Tillerson as President Trump’s Secretary of State, despite allegations that he’s too cozy with Russia. At the same time, the GOP is preparing to try to kill the disclosure rule created under Section 1504, despite warnings from international aid groups that the move would provide a wink-and-nod blessing to hidden corporate payments to petro-thugs.

This is likely to be the very first bill that Congress sends to Trump’s desk: a big wet kiss to oil companies and Vladimir Putin. It’s nice to know that we have our priorities straight.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 February 2017 at 7:08 pm

How to get better at things you care about

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I’ve several times mentioned and recommended Carol Dweck’s book Mindset. Here’s some more about the idea. Worth watching.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 February 2017 at 6:07 pm

Trump does a dressing down instead of diplomacy

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This is, unfortunately, not surprising. Greg Miller and Philip Rucker report in the Washington Post:

In November 2015, Stephen K. Bannon — then the executive chairman of Breitbart News — was hosting a satellite radio show. His guest was Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), who opposed President Obama’s plan to resettle some Syrian refugees in the United States.

“We need to put a stop on refugees until we can vet,” Zinke said.

Bannon cut him off.

“Why even let ’em in?” he asked.

Bannon said that vetting refugees from Muslim-majority countries would cost money and time. “Can’t that money be used in the United States?” he said. “Should we just take a pause and a hiatus for a number of years on any influx from that area of the world?”

In the years before Bannon grabbed the world’s attention as President Trump’s chief White House strategist, he was developing and articulating a fiery populist vision for remaking the United States and its role in the world.

Bannon’s past statements, aired primarily on Breitbart and other conservative platforms, serve as a road map for the controversial agenda that has roiled Washington and shaken the global order during Trump’s first two weeks in office.

Now, at the center of power in the White House, Bannon is moving quickly to turn his ideas into policy, helping direct the biggest decisions of Trump’s administration. The withdrawal from a major trade pact. A ban on all visitors from seven majority-Muslim countries. And — in an echo of that conversation with Zinke, who is now Trump’s nominee for interior secretary — there was a temporary ban on all new refugees.

The result has been intense fury from Democrats, discomfort among many Republicans, and a growing sense of unease in the world that Trump intends to undermine an America-centered world that has lasted 70 years. This sense of turmoil, welcomed by many Trump supporters as proof that the new president is following through on his vow to jolt Washington, reflects the sort of transformation that Bannon has long called for.

That worldview, which Bannon laid out in interviews and speeches over the past several years, hinges largely on Bannon’s belief in American “sovereignty.” Bannon said that countries should protect their citizens and their essence by reducing immigration, legal and illegal, and pulling back from multinational agreements.

At the same time, Bannon was concerned that the United States and the “Judeo-Christian West” were in a war against an expansionist Islamic ideology — but that they were losing the war by not recognizing what it was. Bannon said this fight was so important, it was worth overlooking differences and rivalries with countries like Russia.

It is not yet clear how far Bannon will be able to go to enact his agenda. His early policy moves have been marred by administrative chaos. But his worldview calls for bigger changes than those already made.

In the past, Bannon had wondered aloud whether the country was ready to follow his lead. Now, he will find out.

“Is that grit still there, that tenacity, that we’ve seen on the battlefields . . . fighting for something greater than themselves?” Bannon said in another radio interview last May, before he joined the Trump campaign.

That, said Bannon, is “one of the biggest open questions in this country.”

Bannon, 62, is a former Navy officer and Goldman Sachs banker who made a fortune after he acquired a share of the royalties from a fledgling TV show called “Seinfeld.” In the past 15 years, he shifted into entertainment and conservative media, making films about Ronald Reagan and Sarah Palin and then taking a lead role at Breitbart News.

At Breitbart, Bannon cemented his role as a voice for the alt-right, the far-right movement that has attracted white supremacists and has found a home on the website.

Bannon also forged a rapport with Trump, interviewing the businessman-candidate on his show and then, in August 2016, joining the campaign as chief executive.

Now, Bannon has become one of the most powerful men in America. And he’s not afraid to say so. . .

Continue reading.

And if that’s not enough, read (please) what he said for Black History Month. It’s staggering.

Trump doesn’t read. Trump tolerates no dissent (aka “other views”). He is enormously ignorant and totally focused on himself—and very easy to manipulate, especially if the manipulator is actually helpful in explaining things and in stirring things up so Trump gets a lot of media attention. And that seems to be going well.

So Bannon is de facto President and Trump is the outside man, cutter of ribbons, maker of appearances, etc.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 February 2017 at 5:27 pm

“My way or the highway” in Federal government

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Sean Spicer has already told the State Department employees that if they don’t like it, they should leave. And now we find that to avoid any interference in destroying the various departments, Trump was going to fire and replace every single Inspector General in the government, putting in people who will do what they’re told.

Read the details in this short post by Kevin Drum.

I believe that the Trump administration will see this as a minor set-back, and start replacing the IGs a few at a time, coinciding with some disruptive publicity as with the abrupt start of the ban: that gets the headlines so other stuff can go through without so much fuss.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 February 2017 at 3:24 pm

A different take on our prehistory

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Tim Carmody blogs at

Geoff Manaugh at BLDGBLOG has written a terrific riff on historian John R. Gillis’s new book The Human Shore: Seacoasts In History. After a phrase from Steve Mentz, it’s called “Fewer Gardens, More Shipwrecks”:

“Even today,” Gillis claims, “we barely acknowledge the 95 percent of human history that took place before the rise of agricultural civilization.” That is, 95 percent of human history spent migrating both over land and over water, including the use of early but sophisticated means of marine transportation that proved resistant to archaeological preservation. For every lost village or forgotten house, rediscovered beneath a quiet meadow, there are a thousand ancient shipwrecks we don’t even know we should be looking for…

We are more likely, Gillis and Mentz imply, to be the outcast descendants of sunken ships and abandoned expeditions than we are the landed heirs of well-tended garden plots.

Seen this way, even if only for the purpose of a thought experiment, human history becomes a story of the storm, the wreck, the crash—the distant island, the unseen reef, the undertow—not the farm or even the garden, which would come to resemble merely a temporary domestic twist in this much more ancient human engagement with the sea. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 February 2017 at 3:14 pm

Posted in Books

Did Mike Flynn Accept Illegal Payments From the Russian Government?

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Russ Choma reports in Mother Jones:

A key Trump White House official may have violated the Constitution in 2015 when he delivered a paid speech in Moscow and dined with Vladimir Putin, congressional Democrats alleged Wednesday. According to the lawmakers, Michael Flynn, the controversial national security adviser, may have run afoul of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause.

Since Donald Trump’s election in November, ethics experts have raised concerns that the president’s many overseas business interests might violate the Emoluments Clause—a provision that prohibits federal office holders from accepting financial benefits from a foreign government. But the possibility that Flynn, a retired Army general, may have also violated the clause is new.

The concern was raised in a letter signed by top Democrats on the House Oversight, Armed Services, Judiciary, Homeland Security, Intelligence, and Foreign Affairs committees and focuses on a trip to Russia that Flynn took in December 2015. On the trip, Flynn attended a 10th anniversary gala celebration for RT, the pro-Russia news outlet owned by the Russian government. At the gala, Flynn appeared on a panel and then sat next to Putin during dinner. Flynn retired from the military prior to the trip, but the Democratic letter notes that he may still have been covered by the Emoluments Clause.

In an interview with the Washington Post last year, Flynn downplayed the importance of the meeting by making it clear that he was only there as a paid speaker.

“I was asked by my speaker’s bureau, LAI. I do public speaking. It was in Russia. It was a paid speaking opportunity,” Flynn told the Post. “The gig was to do an interview with [RT correspondent] Sophie Shevardnadze. It was an interview in front of the forum, probably 200 people in the audience.”

Flynn would not tell the Post how much he was paid for the event. The White House did not immediately respond to Mother Jones’ request for comment on the letter. . .

Continue reading.


Written by LeisureGuy

1 February 2017 at 3:10 pm

Calming interlude: A look at how skillful humans can be

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The previous calming interlude demonstrated that for all the dark side of humanity, it does have its moments, one being the violin and the violin virtuosity of that interlude. The sheer skill, much less the musicality and content, is staggering.

Skills similarly extreme fill this trailer:

I stumbled across it due to the name collision with the 2016 movie.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 February 2017 at 2:55 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

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