Sunday Morning Open Thread: Community Chat


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Couple meet-up proposals, promoted from the comments, just in case:

PsiFighter37 says:
January 12, 2019 at 6:31 pm
It is very short notice, but I am out in Denver for business and will be free this coming Tuesday evening (1/15) after 7PM or so. I am staying in the heart of downtown and would love to get a drink or two with any Juiciers who are in the neighborhood. I don’t think I have made a meetup since July 2013 in Seattle, so would love to get a chance to see any folks!

ruemara says:
January 12, 2019 at 9:53 pm
Speaking of meetups, Seattle Juicers, Friday night good for you? Or Saturday?

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And for the LMM stans…



What Comes After?

It is looking more and more like the President of the United States is a Russian asset. I use the word “asset” deliberately, because it leaves open the degree to which Donald Trump may knowingly be acting for the Russians. That is the connection that still is lacking in publicly available information. We can surmise a financial connection, and we know that people around Trump worked with Russians in very suspicious ways, some demonstrably illegal. But we don’t have a record of Trump directing them or taking phonecalls from Vladimir Putin with his instructions.

But Adam’s question is a good one: How would Trump act differently if he were a Russian asset? And I can’t come up with anything to the contrary. Nor, to extend Adam’s post, can I think of another scenario that so well fits Trump’s actions and what has been revealed in criminal cases so far.

I’ve struggled with this for months. I just don’t want to believe that we, as a country, were stupid enough to get scammed this way. I don’t want to believe that there is a large possibility that Republican refusal to act may mean that much of that party has been compromised. That’s not my America!

I think this is difficult for everyone, but we have to start thinking about what we do if we learn that Trump is owned by the Russians, whether stupidly or happy to work with them. Elected officials who are not owned need to start thinking about this. Those in the government bureaucracy need to start thinking about this.

We will need truth and reconciliation commissions. We will need trials. We will need to look at the governance of the last few years.

Dana Houle has been a Democratic congressional chief of staff and campaign manager. Last night he tweeted some of the questions we are likely to face. I’ve put them in narrative form.

  • Are laws signed by an asset of a foreign adversary legitimate? Do we abrogate those laws?
  • What do we do about judges & other officials, appointed to long or even lifetime positions, by an asset of a foreign adversary?
  • Why did a Repub-only contingent of US Senators travel to Russia last year?
  • Why did Paul Ryan tell Kevin McCarthy to not talk about Trump being paid by Russia?
  • What do other countries’ intel agencies know RE Trump that congress doesn’t?
  • Has Trump revealed codes/specs to Putin?
  • Why was one of Trump’s first acts upon entering the WH to fire the WH cyber security staff?
  • Who else in our gov’t and national leadership is compromised by Russians or allied foreign powers?
  • Has Trump been given info to compromise other political actors?
  • Have any of Trump’s attacks on corporations come from goading or directives by the Russians?
  • Who has been placed in the administration bc of the Russians?
  • Is anyone in the US press compromised by Russians?
  • Does Trump’s legal team include co-conspirators?
  • What does the military know about Trump & Russia?
  • How intertwined is Russian influence/control over Trump w Russian use of DC/Wall St law firms/financial orgs/lobbying firms?

I’m sure you can think of others. I know I can, starting with what happened at the Helsinki meeting between Trump and Putin, after which Trump looked whipped.

 



Tonight’s News Dump And Another Long Ago

Tonight’s New York Times news dump on two FBI investigations, for counterintelligence and criminal activity, is strangely parallel to that October 31, 2016, news dump that said the FBI was not investigating Donald Trump. Let’s look at a timeline for the material reported in the two. I’m taking dates from the articles rather than looking up the precise dates in order to get this out quickly.

DateOctober 2016 articleJanuary 2019 article
July 2016Trump calls on Russians to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails
July 2016Trump campaign softens Republican platform plank on Ukraine
“mid-2016”Christopher Steele compiles memos
“months before 2016 election”Timing described as “much of the summer” Investigation into “some of Trump’s aides,” but “Mr. Trump himself has not become a target”FBI was investigating four Trump associates
timing unclearCommunications between Trump and Alfa Bank computers
October 2016Harry Reid letter: “It has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisers, and the Russian government — a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Trump praises at every opportunity,” Mr. Reid wrote. “The public has a right to know this information.”

 

Obviously, material after October 31, 2016, could not be included in the earlier article. But it’s informative to put it into a timeline.

DateEvent
January 2017Trump asks Comey for loyalty pledge
January 2017Trump asks Comey to end investigation into Michael Flynn
May 2017Trump fires Comey
May 2017Trump, in NBC interview, appears to say he fired Comey because of the Russia investigation
May 2017Trump tells Russians in Oval Office he fired Comey – “pressure taken off because of Russia”
“days after firing”Investigation begins

 

It’s worthwhile reading both articles. I find it clarifying to put things in timelines, though.

Update: Benjamin Wittes has also written a post, and he tweeted a baby cannon “BOOM!”

Further Update: The Wittes article gives a very careful explanation of the interplay between the criminal and counterintelligence sides of the investigation. I can also read between the lines why the FBI may have said in October 2016 that the investigation was not into Donald Trump. The investigation was about Russia’s role in the election. So it could be that the reporters on the October 2016 article didn’t ask the right questions of their informants or wink-wink nudge-nudge let them get away with giving a particular impression.



Open Thread: How Cold *Is* It?…

Objectively, here north of Boston at least, not really so bad for mid-January. But it’s been so AGW-induced not-cold so far this winter that the dogs aren’t lingering when they go out in the back yard… and when I carry the 17-year-old down the steps, neither do I.

Mostly it’s the dreaded wind chill:

Meanwhile, in Tallahasee:



Friday Morning Open Thread: Good Reads

(Signe Wilkinson via GoComics.com)
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Since there’s not much point in talking about yesterday’s MAH WALL I WAAAAHNNIT!!!(tm) Trumpstunting — even Chris ‘Mad Bitcher’ Cillizza panned the performance — figured I’d share a couple of my favorite online political essayists, while we’re waiting for the Friday news dump.

Tom Scocca is currently the editor of Hmm Daily, and producer of a series of brilliant rants under the subtitle “The Worst Thing We Read Yesterday™”. Sample from January 9th, “The Fact-Checkers Are Tools”:

Apparently, the Washington bureau of the New York Times doesn’t know many people who use federal government assistance in their daily lives. Less fraught with class conflict, but still fundamental to its understanding of the entire subject it covers, the Times bureau also seems not to know how much federal spending goes to outside contractors, who use that money to pay their own employees…

If the Times needs more information on the many things the federal government does, and on the millions of people who depend on the government doing them, CBS put together a nice brief roundup of shutdown effects in advance of the speech. It’s never too late to learn!

But it is too late to redeem the whole fact-checking project. The Associated Press made its own contribution, with a tweet fact-checking the notion that the shutdown is Trump’s fault:

AP FACT CHECK: Democrats put the blame for the shutdown on Trump. But it takes two to tango. Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion for his border wall is one reason for the budget impasse. The Democrats refusal to approve the money is another.

It was a tremendously stupid argument—the president’s extraordinary demand for a wall and the Democrats’ response to the demand aren’t two opposing reasons, they’re the same reason, which originated with the president—but it was also not a fact-check at all. It was what conventional politics reporting would call a piece of news analysis: Who is to blame for the shutdown? Only it had been reduced to a true-false question, or a true/some-might-say-not-necessarily-true question…

 
Also a reliable source of solace, for us cynics, is Bess Levin’s daily business report for Vanity Fair. Thursday, “Become a Dog Walker, Sell Your Stuff: Helpful Government Offers Furloughed Workers Shutdown Advice”:

At midnight on Thursday, the government shutdown will reach its 20th day; if it continues through Saturday, it’ll be the longest in history. At present, the White House and Congress are not even close to cutting a deal, with Donald Trump rejecting every offer proposed to him, including one from Republican Lindsey Graham who told reporters Thursday, “I have never been more depressed about moving forward than I am right now. I just don’t see a pathway forward.” Happily for Graham, he’s still being paid during the shutdown, while some 800,000 federal employees have either been furloughed or forced to work without pay. For many who live paycheck to paycheck, the prospect of not being able to put food on the table, access crucial medicine, or pay their mortgage or rent, is a very real concern. Luckily, the government has advice!…

… Just knock on doors and ask if anyone has spare dogs or kids lying around, or churn out some scarves for Etsy, and you’ll be back in the black in no time! While we would never suggest that the above is largely unhelpful, tone-deaf advice, a furloughed Forest Service crew member told The New Yorker, “No one wants to hire me because they know once the shutdown is over I’ll have to quit,” adding that temp agencies are “overflowed” with people in the same position. Meanwhile, and apparently this may come as a shock to the government, the employees who are being forced to work without pay—2,100 at the Coast Guard—don’t have time for second jobs… Elsewhere, workers are told that “yes, your credit score may suffer during this time” if you miss payments, but to “keep things in perspective.”…

Also, on the “saddening news” that Lord Smallgloves is “respectfully cancelling [his] very important trip to Davos”

Presumably, this announcement came after the report that the administration was still planning to send a large delegation to the annual billionaire confab at a cost of millions of dollars to taxpayers—money that will still be spent even if the president stays home, owing to “Davos’s tight cancellation policies around the conference.”…



Thursday Morning Open Thread: Eternal Problems


 
IT’S NOT HOARDING IF IT’S BOOKS —


Around this time last year — or maybe it was 2017? — I started plowing through my alphabetically-ordered fiction shelves, determined to get rid of books I’d never read again in this lifetime. So far, I’m working roughly in the F to H zone. Always been my rule not to keep books I read that I *didn’t* intend to read again, but our new Internet Shopping Age means I no longer have to worry that the battered paperback I found in a (now long defunct) secondhand bookstore is the last copy of that novel I’ll ever see.

So I’ve donated a couple of shopping bags of books to the local library sales… but I’ve added almost as many new volumes, filling the gaps among my favorite authors. Although it’s a little depressing to realize I can now collect the complete Robert Barnard / Nina Bawden / E.X. Ferrars… if you other Olds know what I mean, and I think you do.



Idiot Box Open Thread: Worthy PSAs