• Donald Trump Sends a Letter to Turkey

    Apparently the White House has confirmed that this is real:

    This was sent on October 9. A week later, it’s obvious just how seriously Erdogan took it. Donald Trump sure has improved our standing in the world, hasn’t he?

  • Trump: Kurds Are No Angels

    President Trump gives himself an A+ for his handling of Syria:

    “That has nothing to do with us,” Mr. Trump said, all but washing his hands of the Kurdish fighters who have fought alongside American troops against the Islamic State for years but have now been left to fend for themselves. “The Kurds know how to fight, and, as I said, they’re not angels, they’re not angels,” he said.

    Mr. Trump insisted his handling of the matter had been “strategically brilliant” and minimized concerns for the Kurds, implying that they allied with the United States only out of their own self-interest. “We paid a lot of money for them to fight with us,” he said. Echoing Mr. Erdogan’s talking points, Mr. Trump compared one faction of the Kurds to the Islamic State and he asserted that Kurds intentionally freed some Islamic State prisoners to create a backlash for him. “Probably the Kurds let go to make a little bit stronger political impact,” he said.

    “Declare victory and go home” was the way to handle Vietnam, Sen. George Aiken said half a century ago. Donald Trump now becomes the first US president to actually try that. Trump being Trump, though, it’s not enough. He has to insist that our former allies were never worth fighting with in the first place. What a guy.

  • What If Bill Clinton Had Stonewalled Impeachment?

    This is neither here nor there, but back when Republicans were impeaching Bill Clinton I always wondered what would happen if Clinton simply refused to participate and Democrats boycotted everything except the final Senate vote. Until now, it was just an idle counterfactual, like wondering what would have happened if Germany had invented the atomic bomb first.

    But this is apparently going to be Trump’s strategy. The details of the underlying offenses are very different, of course, but it looks like I’m finally going to get at least an idea of whether stonewalling is a good strategy in an impeachment case.

  • Pelosi Drug Bill Would Save $345 Billion

    The Congressional Budget Office provides us with a brief description of Nancy Pelosi’s bill to reduce prescription drug pricing under Medicare:

    Title I of H.R. 3 would require manufacturers of specific prescription drugs to negotiate with the Secretary for the prices of those drugs or face an excise tax on the sales of those drugs….Maximum fair prices could not exceed 120 percent of the average price—called the average international market, or AIM, price—for a given drug in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom.

    And how much would this save us? Here are the numbers:

    This adds up to $345 billion through 2029. This is something that, in theory, the Trump administration supports, so it shouldn’t be hard to get it passed. Unfortunately, that would ruin Trump’s claim that Democrats are doing nothing, so it will probably die in the Senate.

  • Turkey Tells Trump to Get Lost

    Donald Trump sure has made the rest of the world respect us:

    President Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejected a U.S. offer to mediate a cease-fire between Turkish forces and Kurdish militants in northeastern Syria….“The terrorists should drop their weapons and leave the area that we have identified as the safe zone,” he said in a speech Wednesday to the Turkish parliament. He vowed to press forward with the campaign to rout Kurdish-led fighters, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, from a wide swath of territory along the border.

    For better or worse, the US has no influence in Syria anymore. Turkey does. Russia does. Syria itself does. But not us.

    UPDATE: It gets worse:

  • Lunchtime Photo

    This is a middle-school girl playing her glockenspiel at the Battle of Boyacá Day in Ubaté. Glockenspiels are apparently a big deal in Colombian bands. Every band I saw, from grade school to high school, had a large section of glockenspielers. I found it quite charming.

    August 7, 2019 — Ubaté, Colombia

  • Technology Is a Menace, Blogging Edition

    So. Last night I unloaded all my techno-gadgets and set up a blogging station in the dining room of Dr. M’s new house. Everything was fine.

    This morning everything went wrong. I had to stick my phone in a window sill to get even adequate reception. Then I spilled some water on my keyboard, causing a series of increasingly bizarre glitches. T-Mobile was no help with my speed problems, and my tablet refused to pair with a Bluetooth keyboard we had laying around. Right now I’m in a Culver’s, using their WiFi to test things out. Everything is fine if I leave the keyboard unplugged. Hopefully it will dry out and come back to life, but in the meantime I guess I’ll drop into Walmart to buy a cheap replacement.

    But will reception return to normal when I get back to the house? Stay tuned!

  • John Bolton Suddenly Turns Into a Hero of Ukrainegate

    Everybody is pretty nonplussed by this revelation in the New York Times today:

    The effort to pressure Ukraine for political help provoked a heated confrontation inside the White House last summer that so alarmed John R. Bolton, then the national security adviser, that he told an aide to alert White House lawyers, House investigators were told on Monday.

    The aide, Fiona Hill, testified that Mr. Bolton told her to notify the chief lawyer for the National Security Council about a rogue effort by Mr. Sondland, Mr. Giuliani and Mick Mulvaney. “I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up,” Mr. Bolton, a Yale-trained lawyer, told Ms. Hill to tell White House lawyers, according to two people at the deposition.

    There are two important things to take away from this. First, as much as we on the left dislike Bolton, he is, in fact, a professional diplomat of longstanding and a very competent player in interagency politics. He also plans to continue his career long beyond Trump’s presidency.

    Second, he’s not a Trump man. His joke about the “drug deal” shows his disdain for the Trump inner circle, who he considers little better than dilettantes looking for a big score.

    Republicans should be very concerned about this. They almost unanimously respect Bolton and consider him a hawk’s hawk. The fact that he couldn’t get along with the Trump gang for more than a few months is damning.

  • How To Blow Up the Middle East In One Week

    Is it possible to overstate how insane the Syria situation is? On Sunday President Trump talks to the Turkish president and tells him to go ahead and invade northern Syria. He is then informed that our allies the Kurds occupy this territory and will be in big trouble if the Turks roll across the border. Trump doesn’t care. He follows up this warning with a tweetstorm that basically boils down to, who cares about the Kurds anyway? Then he withdraws all US troops. Any ten-year-old could predict that this would be viewed by the Turks as a green light to do whatever they wanted, and that’s exactly what happened: the Turks began massacring Kurds and eventually the Kurds teamed up with the Russians in an act of self-preservation. Now, having made a colossal mess out of everything, Trump plans to sanction the Turks and broker a cease-fire. You betcha.

    And this happened in the span of a week!

    It’s easy to pretend that a president doesn’t really need to know much. After all, that’s what aides are for. But it’s really not true. Everyone makes mistakes, as Obama did when he talked about a “red line” in Syria. But Trump’s unfathomable ignorance and bloated ego is light years beyond that. A lot of us figured from the start that Trump probably wouldn’t deliberately start a war, but that he might start one by accident. As it turns out, that was exactly right.