Upside-down aphorisms

Remember the old line “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer”?

Trump is turning that on its head, cozying up to the likes of Putin, Xi Jinping, Rodrigo Duterte and now Kim Jong-un while disrespecting our G-7 and NATO allies. This is very strange behavior on the part of a United States President, but it’s also very dangerous. It’s putting at risk a web of interlocking systems of international rules and norms that have kept the peace among great powers for seventy years.

That’s what Kori Schake, the deputy director-general of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, says in an Op-Ed published today in the NY Times. Most of us who reached adulthood during those seventy years know this implicitly, but it’s useful to be reminded.

What are some of the benefits America has accrued thanks to these systems?

Beginning in the wreckage of World War II, America established a set of global norms that solidified its position atop a rules-based international system. These included promoting democracy, making enduring commitments to countries that share its values, protecting allies, advancing free trade and building institutions and patterns of behavior that legitimize American power by giving less powerful countries a say.

That last point is critical, and it is the genius of the system. America benefits from supporting others.


America doesn’t always get it right; often it’s clumsy, fails to live up to its ideology, and breaks its own rules.

But the results speak for themselves. It has been over 70 years since the last great-power conflict. Democracies fight lots of wars, but they do not fight other democracies. The wars they fight are about enlarging the perimeter of security and prosperity, expanding and consolidating the liberal order.

The global economy has grown about sevenfold since 1960, adjusted for inflation.

Now, we know that some in America don’t believe that because they haven’t fully shared in the prosperity that implies (although I wonder whether they recognize how far their parents might have come from their beginnings). I suspect those people are looking only at their own circumstances, which is understandable. Their circumstances need to be addressed (and the Democratic candidate in 2016 had many ideas about doing just that). Unfortunately, they listened to the election winner’s siren song of grievance instead. The results may be calamitous.

Mr. Trump’s attack on the liberal world order is not just about the price America pays for it. He seems bent on destroying the friendships and respect that bind America and its allies. If he succeeds, America will be seen as — and may even become — no different from Russia and China, and countries will have no reason to assist America’s efforts rather than theirs.

That’s not a country I could be proud of.

At last an oven again!

That’s not strictly true. Since the oven door latch broke back on April 26 I’ve been able to bake in it, but I’ve been very cautious and nervous about closing the door. After a false start two weeks ago when the replacement latch assembly arrived in an unpadded package with the predictable result (it was broken), the new one arrived over the weekend. I got lucky and got an appointment with the Sears techs yesterday. The guy got here one and a half hours after the window they’d given me on the phone, but he was able to install it and it now works perfectly.

Got any roasts you want cooked?

Kudlow has heart attack, says Trump

I notice that the media is very cautious about reporting this story. “Larry Kudlow, President Trump’s top economic adviser, suffered a heart attack on Monday evening and was at Walter Reed Medical Center, Mr. Trump said in a tweet.”

Presumably they’re trying to confirm with Walter Reed.

I don’t wish Kudlow any particular ill, but he did just blatantly lie about Canada’s Prime Minister the other day when he claimed Trudeau “…kind of stabbed us in the back.”

Kudlow can’t be so ignorant as not to know what that phrase means in international relations, can he? That phrase was one the Germans used immediately following World War I, first by German Army Chief of Staff Erich Ludendorff and then by Adolf Hitler. The intent was to persuade their citizens that the Allied powers had forced them to sign the Treaty of Versailles which unfairly punished them and to justify rearming Germany. Hitler then used it to claim “the Jews” were vipers in Germany’s midst and had to be eliminated.

Putin must have hooks in Trump

Why else would he suggest Russia should be back in the group of industrialized nations called the G7?

Mark Shields, on The PBS News Hour tonight:

I think the president, quite frankly, what amazed me today was the announcement that he wanted to invite Russia back into the G7, make it the G8. Russia has been evicted overwhelmingly by the group for its invasion of Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea, neither of which it’s apologized for or changed in the least.

And, you know, the deafening silence by Republicans, with the conspicuous exception of John McCain, Rob Portman, senator from Ohio, and Ben Sasse from Nebraska — I can’t imagine if a Democratic president suggested rewarding Putin and dismembering NATO or at least disabling NATO’s unity by such an act. It would be unthinkable.

It’s not the Republican Party anymore, Mr. Shields. It’s Trump’s party. Any Republicans who are left are hiding in embarrassment.

June 6 overflight of lava flows on the Big Island

Here’s the latest update from the USGS Hawai’i Volcano Observatory. This was issued at 2:34PM HST today:

Vigorous eruption of lava continues from the lower East Rift Zone (LERZ) fissure system in the area of Leilani Estates.

This morning, lava fountaining at Fissure 8 continued to reach heights of 150-180 feet, feeding a stable channel to the east to the ocean entry in the Kapoho Bay area. Lava is entering the ocean in the Vacationland subdivision. Vacationland has been completely covered by lava, and overnight the flow expanded north by 100 m within Kapoho Beach Lots. The lava delta that formed at Kapoho Bay extended slightly overnight.

Here are three videos taken from above at 6:30 AM this morning.

There were some 500 homes in the Kapoho Bay and Vacationland subdivisions.

Lava flows into bay

This is an amazing sight.

This is 200 miles southeast of Honolulu on the island of Hawai’i (called the Big Island here), and it’s in the southeastern-most part of that island. Roughly 95% of the Big Island is unaffected by the eruption.

Pruitt again

Headline: EPA’s Pruitt spent $1,560 on 12 customized fountain pens from Washington jewelry store.

My question is, was Scott Pruitt a narcissist before he went to work for Trump, or has Trump’s behavior encouraged Pruitt? Why on earth did he think it was okay to spend taxpayers’ dollars to the tune of $130 apiece for a dozen “customized silver fountain pens — each emblazoned with the seal of the Environmental Protection Agency and the signature of its leader, Scott Pruitt.”

We really need to win back the House and the Senate (less likely, I know, but still…) if only to oversee and censure this kind of behavior by all of Trump’s Cabinet Secretaries as well as the President himself. Register to vote and don’t forget to do so in your state’s primaries and in the general election in November. It’s critical that we all do so.

Lawsuits coming

Given the furor and the cancellation of Roseanne Barr’s current TV show as a result of her stupid, intemperate and racist tweet, it’s no surprise that even reruns of her first show (the one that was on from 1988 to 1997) have been canceled.

I don’t know whether she has any sense of guilt or empathy for her former co-workers or not, but there surely were a lot of them thrown out of work as a result of her behavior. I haven’t a clue how many people work behind the cameras to make a thirty-minute sitcom, but it has to be quite a few, judging from the credits I’ve watched over the years. Gaffers, key grips, writers, accountants, caterers, go-fers, electricians, carpenters and set movers: all those folks are at least temporarily out of work.

What really struck me, though, was the cancellation’s impact on people who were getting and expected to continue to get residual checks for the reruns. Suppose you had a recurring role on the original show and are semi-retired. With the reruns pulled from Viacom’s Paramount Network, TV Land and CMT, you’ve just lost a chunk of income, thanks to the program’s star’s stupidity. If it were me, I’d be talking to lawyers about civil suits.