Sunday, May 5, 2019

Last Call For Three Wars

Just a note that going into next week the Trump regime is looking at three wars right now:

a legal war with Democrats,

President Trump reversed himself on Sunday and said that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, should not testify before Congress, setting up a potentially explosive confrontation with Democrats over presidential authority and the separation of powers.

The president argued on Twitter that Mr. Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election — which found no conspiracy between Moscow and Mr. Trump’s campaign but did not exonerate the president on obstruction of justice — was conclusive and that Congress and the American people did not need to hear from Mr. Mueller. “Bob Mueller should not testify,” he said. “No redos for the Dems!”

On Friday, Mr. Trump had said it was up to Attorney General William P. Barr whether Mr. Mueller testified. The president’s about-face now puts new pressure on Mr. Barr, who must decide whether to accede to Mr. Trump’s call. Last week, Mr. Barr said he had no objection to Mr. Mueller testifying.

The conflict over Mr. Mueller escalates Mr. Trump’s fight with Democrats just as his re-election campaign is taking shape. It comes on top of numerous refusals by the administration to turn over records to Congress, including a request for Mr. Trump’s tax returns. Mr. Trump has also balked at testimony from his former White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II.

A trade war with China,

The sudden escalation of trade tensions could badly catch investors off guard. Not only had US and Chinese officials signaled a trade deal was imminent, but hopes for trade peace helped drive US stocks sharply higher this year. 
Trump said that he believed talks were progressing too slowly and the tariff increase could happen "shortly." He also warned his administration could tax nearly all of the roughly $500 billion of Chinese exports to the United States. 
The two countries had planned a critical week of negotiations to end a yearlong tit-for-tat trade war.

And a shooting war in Venezuela.

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said the U.S. has a full range of options available to help oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and didn’t rule out “ultimately” using military action on top of diplomatic, political and other pressure points.

“We’re preparing those for him so that when the situation arises, we’re not flat-footed,’’ Pompeo said on ABC’s “This Week,” one of three scheduled appearances on Sunday morning political shows.

Pompeo said Sunday that he can’t predict when Maduro will be forced out of office -- whether days, weeks or months. But Maduro can’t feel good about his situation because while he might be ruling for the moment, he can’t govern, Pompeo said.

“There’s enormous poverty, enormous starvation, sick children that can’t get medicine,” Pompeo said. “This is not someone who can be part of Venezuela’s future.”

May will be messy.

Spawn Of The Nameless One Returns

The announced retirement of Wyoming GOP Sen. Mike Enzi this weekend clears the decks for Liz Cheney, daughter of former VP Dick Cheney, to take up her dad's old Senate seat for essentially a lifetime appointment.

Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi will not run for reelection next year, the four-term Republican senator said on Saturday.

The 75-year-old Senate Budget Committee chairman announced his retirement in Gillette, Wyo., where he used to be mayor. The low-key Wyomingite said he wants to focus on budget reform.

“I don't want to be burdened by the distractions of another campaign,” Enzi said, according to the Casper Tribune.

Senate Republicans have been closely watching Enzi, figuring he may decide to call it quits after 24 years in the Senate, but most were unaware of his weekend plans. Enzi's office did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday morning ahead of the announcement.

Enzi is among the least flashy personalities in the Capitol. He often literally keeps his head down, immersed in either thought or reading, typically wielding an e-reader device.

He frequently ignores reporters to go about his day, which is likely focused on cutting spending and balancing the budget. He posts often about the “penny plan,” which would reduce spending by 1 percent each year. Enzi is term-limited from serving as budget chairman after next year.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who threatened Enzi with a primary challenge in 2014, praised him on Saturday for “fighting for a smaller, less obstructive, and more efficient federal government that would allow people to grow and thrive.” Her statement did not address whether she will run to succeed Enzi.

The Senate field is likely to be frozen until Cheney — already a statewide elected official — makes a decision. What she decides to do has outsized impact on House Republican politics, as well. If she runs for the Senate, it will remove a potential threat to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.). If she decides to stay in the House, it's a sign she is interested in moving up in House Republican leadership in the coming years.

I will be utterly shocked if Cheney passes this up.  Like Enzi, she could easily spend a comfortable quarter-century in the Senate rather than struggling with constant campaigning and the GOP House clowns.  Unlike McCarthy, Mitch McConnell actually knows what he's doing.

Cheney could still decide not to go after Enzi's seat, but, you know, she already tried to primary him once.

Things will probably move quickly here.  We're not done with Liz by a long shot.

Sunday Long Read: Meteors And Meat-Eaters

Author Douglas Preston writes this week's Sunday Long Read for the New Yorker about what could be the greatest paleontology find in human history...if it's the real deal.

If, on a certain evening about sixty-­six million years ago, you had stood somewhere in North America and looked up at the sky, you would have soon made out what appeared to be a star. If you watched for an hour or two, the star would have seemed to grow in brightness, although it barely moved. That’s because it was not a star but an asteroid, and it was headed directly for Earth at about forty-five thousand miles an hour. Sixty hours later, the asteroid hit. The air in front was compressed and violently heated, and it blasted a hole through the atmosphere, generating a supersonic shock wave. The asteroid struck a shallow sea where the Yucat√°n peninsula is today. In that moment, the Cretaceous period ended and the Paleogene period began.

A few years ago, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory used what was then one of the world’s most powerful computers, the so-called Q Machine, to model the effects of the impact. The result was a slow-motion, second-by-second false-color video of the event. Within two minutes of slamming into Earth, the asteroid, which was at least six miles wide, had gouged a crater about eighteen miles deep and lofted twenty-five trillion metric tons of debris into the atmosphere. Picture the splash of a pebble falling into pond water, but on a planetary scale. When Earth’s crust rebounded, a peak higher than Mt. Everest briefly rose up. The energy released was more than that of a billion Hiroshima bombs, but the blast looked nothing like a nuclear explosion, with its signature mushroom cloud. Instead, the initial blowout formed a “rooster tail,” a gigantic jet of molten material, which exited the atmosphere, some of it fanning out over North America. Much of the material was several times hotter than the surface of the sun, and it set fire to everything within a thousand miles. In addition, an inverted cone of liquefied, superheated rock rose, spread outward as countless red-hot blobs of glass, called tektites, and blanketed the Western Hemisphere.

Some of the ejecta escaped Earth’s gravitational pull and went into irregular orbits around the sun. Over millions of years, bits of it found their way to other planets and moons in the solar system. Mars was eventually strewn with the debris—just as pieces of Mars, knocked aloft by ancient asteroid impacts, have been found on Earth. A 2013 study in the journal Astrobiology estimated that tens of thousands of pounds of impact rubble may have landed on Titan, a moon of Saturn, and on Europa and Callisto, which orbit Jupiter—three satellites that scientists believe may have promising habitats for life. Mathematical models indicate that at least some of this vagabond debris still harbored living microbes. The asteroid may have sown life throughout the solar system, even as it ravaged life on Earth.

The asteroid was vaporized on impact. Its substance, mingling with vaporized Earth rock, formed a fiery plume, which reached halfway to the moon before collapsing in a pillar of incandescent dust. Computer models suggest that the atmosphere within fifteen hundred miles of ground zero became red hot from the debris storm, triggering gigantic forest fires. As the Earth rotated, the airborne material converged at the opposite side of the planet, where it fell and set fire to the entire Indian subcontinent. Measurements of the layer of ash and soot that eventually coated the Earth indicate that fires consumed about seventy per cent of the world’s forests. Meanwhile, giant tsunamis resulting from the impact churned across the Gulf of Mexico, tearing up coastlines, sometimes peeling up hundreds of feet of rock, pushing debris inland and then sucking it back out into deep water, leaving jumbled deposits that oilmen sometimes encounter in the course of deep-sea drilling.

The damage had only begun. Scientists still debate many of the details, which are derived from the computer models, and from field studies of the debris layer, knowledge of extinction rates, fossils and microfossils, and many other clues. But the over-all view is consistently grim. The dust and soot from the impact and the conflagrations prevented all sunlight from reaching the planet’s surface for months. Photosynthesis all but stopped, killing most of the plant life, extinguishing the phytoplankton in the oceans, and causing the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere to plummet. After the fires died down, Earth plunged into a period of cold, perhaps even a deep freeze. Earth’s two essential food chains, in the sea and on land, collapsed. About seventy-five per cent of all species went extinct. More than 99.9999 per cent of all living organisms on Earth died, and the carbon cycle came to a halt.

Earth itself became toxic. When the asteroid struck, it vaporized layers of limestone, releasing into the atmosphere a trillion tons of carbon dioxide, ten billion tons of methane, and a billion tons of carbon monoxide; all three are powerful greenhouse gases. The impact also vaporized anhydrite rock, which blasted ten trillion tons of sulfur compounds aloft. The sulfur combined with water to form sulfuric acid, which then fell as an acid rain that may have been potent enough to strip the leaves from any surviving plants and to leach the nutrients from the soil.

Today, the layer of debris, ash, and soot deposited by the asteroid strike is preserved in the Earth’s sediment as a stripe of black about the thickness of a notebook. This is called the KT boundary, because it marks the dividing line between the Cretaceous period and the Tertiary period. (The Tertiary has been redefined as the Paleogene, but the term “KT” persists.) Mysteries abound above and below the KT layer. In the late Cretaceous, widespread volcanoes spewed vast quantities of gas and dust into the atmosphere, and the air contained far higher levels of carbon dioxide than the air that we breathe now. The climate was tropical, and the planet was perhaps entirely free of ice. Yet scientists know very little about the animals and plants that were living at the time, and as a result they have been searching for fossil deposits as close to the KT boundary as possible.

One of the central mysteries of paleontology is the so-called “three-­metre problem.” In a century and a half of assiduous searching, almost no dinosaur remains have been found in the layers three metres, or about nine feet, below the KT boundary, a depth representing many thousands of years. Consequently, numerous paleontologists have argued that the dinosaurs were on the way to extinction long before the asteroid struck, owing perhaps to the volcanic eruptions and climate change. Other scientists have countered that the three-metre problem merely reflects how hard it is to find fossils. Sooner or later, they’ve contended, a scientist will discover dinosaurs much closer to the moment of destruction.

Locked in the KT boundary are the answers to our questions about one of the most significant events in the history of life on the planet. If one looks at the Earth as a kind of living organism, as many biologists do, you could say that it was shot by a bullet and almost died. Deciphering what happened on the day of destruction is crucial not only to solving the three-­metre problem but also to explaining our own genesis as a species

And a graduate student named Robert DePalma claims to have found just that: the best evidence to date that the dinosaurs were wiped out by a meteor.  Scientists from all over are taking a look.

We'll know one way or the other rather soon, I would suspect.

It's All About Revenge Now, Con't

The Trump regime is gearing up for multiple Senate GOP investigations and Justice Department probes into Democrats and the FBI who dared to question Trump, and the political nightmare is just beginning.

Trump and his allies, seeking to amplify claims that the FBI spied on his 2016 campaign, are seizing on news reports and statements by Attorney General William P. Barr to launch a political rallying cry they view as an antidote to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s findings.

Dismissed by critics as an outlandish conspiracy theory, so-called “spygate” is fast becoming a central feature of the Trump campaign as it seeks to go on offense in the wake of a report that identified 10 instances of potential obstruction of justice by Trump. The campaign is publicly calling for criminal investigations into former FBI officials, making “spygate” fundraising pitches and selling spy-themed merchandise. The goal, officials said, is to turn the Russia probe into a political winner that could help him secure another term.

“After two years of [investigations] and being vindicated, and now in fact the tables are turning in that the investigators will be investigated, there’s a certain amount of righteous indignation that’s warranted,” said Tim Murtaugh, communications director for Trump’s reelection bid. “The president has already shown that he wants to talk about it. He’s been tweeting about it. I’m sure he’ll talk about it at rallies. It’s something that the campaign will continue to point to.”

Murtaugh highlighted a Thursday article from the New York Times describing how the FBI sent an investigator posing as a research assistant to meet with Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos in 2016 — a covert effort to better understand the campaign’s links to Russia. Murtaugh said it was “astounding” that the story had not received as much media coverage as some Russia-related episodes unearthed by Mueller.

Referring to the story on Friday, Trump said it was “bigger than Watergate, as far as I’m concerned.”

Trump has long sought to paint his political opponents as criminally suspect, spending much of 2016 leading “Lock her up!” chants that targeted his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

Before the end of the month, I'd assume the investigations and subpoenas will be announced.  They will come at a steady stream, and the American public by this summer will be sick and tired of "both sides" again.

Trump is going to win this thing if Democrats keep playing by his rules.  Any investigation that the Democrats can open, the Senate GOP can, and will.  If that happens, and it will, then Democrats have to be ready to go to the mat.

A lot of things will be decided in our history over the next few weeks, starting with the contempt fight over Bill Barr on Monday.
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