Excellent Read — “Nancy Pelosi: ‘They Come After Me Because I’m Effective’ “

You come at the queen, you best not miss. Tim Dickinson, in Rolling Stone, interviews “the House Minority Leader on the midterms, impeachment, her own party, sexism and the sexist-in-chief”:

Pelosi is one of the most powerful women in global politics. She gets credit for securing passage of much of the legislation in the Obama legacy, including the Recovery Act, Wall Street reform and especially the Affordable Care Act. “Nancy Pelosi has been one of the most transformational figures in the modern Democratic Party,” says Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez. Pelosi also spearheaded the takeover of the House a dozen years ago in 2006 – an achievement that has become fodder for her critics. “Leader Pelosi has talked about how we need to do what we did in 2006,” says Rep. Seth Moulton, an ambitious Massachusetts Democrat who argues for a “new generation” of House leadership. “I mean, we barely had iPhones in 2006 – it was a different world.”

But for all the talk about Nancy Pelosi, less time has been spent actually listening to her. Rolling Stone sat down with Pelosi for an hour on a May evening in Des Moines, Iowa, where she was raising money for the local Democratic Party. At the fundraiser, standing before a wall-sized American flag, Pelosi sought to flatten the difference between President Trump and GOP candidates. “He’s their guy,” she says of Trump. “Make no mistake: This election, it’s not – well it’s about him in certain respects, we can’t ignore that – but it’s about them.”…

I want to dig in on 2018 and understand how you’re thinking about the election and how the angles break.
When Hillary didn’t win, people said, “Can you win the House?” And I said, “I’ll tell you in a year.” Because it matters where the president is a year out. If he’s under 50 [percent approval rating], we can win it. Just to put in a little historical perspective. In ‘05 and ‘06, [former Democratic Senate leader] Harry Reid and I said, “We’re going to win the Congress.” People said, “No way. It’s going to be a permanent Republican majority.” Bush had just won. In January of ‘05, he was at 58 percent in the polls. The war in Iraq; people in the streets; he’s at 58 percent in the polls. We would have to bring his numbers down. And he gave us a gift: He was going to privatize Social Security. [That] helped take his numbers down, into like the 40s. What other difference did we want to emphasize? It was “Drain the swamp.” That was ours. [Trump] stole it from us. “End the culture of cronyism, incompetence and corruption.” That was our thing. They were getting indicted, subpoenaed all over the place. And then Hurricane Katrina: Cronyism and incompetence. Thirty-eight percent in September.

With Trump, he’s done the heavy lifting for you?
We can’t take credit for taking his numbers down, but for taking advantage of the opportunity it presented. To keep [his numbers] down we had to make sure people understood what Republicans were trying to do with the Affordable Care Act, what they were doing in terms of inequality and the disparity of income. Anyway, he was at 38 to 40 percent a year before the [2018] election. So, they get the retirements. I think it’s 46 today. And we get the A-Team on the field. We would like to say we recruited [our candidates]. Trump recruited them for us. [Laughs.] We’re in a very good place now…

We’ve seen consecutive Republican speakers flame out, essentially, because they couldn’t deal with the insurgency on their right flank. What is your secret to keeping Democrats united?
I’m really good at what I do. I’m a legislative virtuoso. I really love legislating. It takes knowledge, and experience, institutional memory. I was forged in the Intelligence Committee and especially the Appropriations Committee. I know how you can reach agreement…
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Thursday Morning Open Thread: Graphic Evidence

(Walt Handelsman via GoComics.com)
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One could wish that the Oval Office Resident weren’t quite such a gift to America’s hard-working editorial cartoonists…

(Matt Davies via GoComics.com)
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(Tom Toles via GoComics.com)
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(Mike Luckovich via GoComics.com)
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Nightmare Fuel Read: “The Unraveling Of Lane Davis”


He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster.

And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.

Joseph Bernstein, in Buzzfeed, on a guy who went from “Alt-Right Troll To Father Killer“:

I knew Lane. I knew him as a guy who kicked around some of the pro-Trump, anti–social justice internet communities that I’ve reported on since 2014. Like a lot of people in those volatile spaces, Lane bore grudges, which made him useful as an occasional source. Unlike a lot of people in those spaces, and despite being a fabulist, Lane understood how to weaponize information, which made him even more useful, and a little scary. From early 2016 to summer 2017, we emailed regularly and talked occasionally. As with most sources, Lane had some tips that were good and some that weren’t. But even if nothing he told me ever led to a blockbuster story, he was smart and he understood his world well — talking to him was never a waste of time. I thought I understood him about as well as I needed to.

Last October, a conservative blogger discovered a local news story about Chuck Davis’s killing. He spread the word on Twitter, including another shocking detail: Before stabbing his father to death, Lane had loudly accused his parents of being “leftist pedophiles.”

There’s a whole universe in those two words, one that Americans unfamiliar with the rhetoric of the internet culture wars might not recognize…

Long before a neo-Nazi at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville allegedly killed a counterprotester named Heather Heyer, it had been clear to many observers that the sheer amount of anger and fear fueling the circa 2016 alt-right would eventually lead to physical violence. More than once it occurred to me that one of my sources might be involved. But I never thought it would be Seattle4Truth.

Most of my correspondence with Lane was unremarkable — a tip here, a heads-up there. Once he did me a kindness by letting me know that my doxx (basically a file with my address and contact information that could be used to harass me) was making the rounds. I was vaguely aware that Lane’s output online was unhinged. But was it any more so than, say, certain beet-colored conspiracy barkers whom the president has praised? Over the years I’ve had a handful of sources who were less lucid than Lane. We all perform different versions of ourselves on the internet, and I found the contrast between Lane’s content and the way he communicated with me so strong that I thought his “Seattle” character was mostly shtick.

I began to wonder about the people who spent all day online with Lane. Lane had worked as the political editor for a culture war shock site called the Ralph Retort. It had been a hub for some of the most malignant trolls on the internet — including people who had sent me violent anti-Semitic threats in the past. I hadn’t taken this rhetoric seriously for two reasons: First, there is so much of it that to dwell on it would be paralyzing, and second, the people behind it almost always claim to be trolling, testing boundaries, pushing limits. Now that Lane had killed his father in an apparent spasm of conspiratorial pique, it seemed that what was left of that extremist/troll boundary had started to collapse. I wanted to know how the people who lived on its edges were adjusting…
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Friday Morning Open Thread: Beating the Odds

I’ll admit — when news of the soccer team trapped in that Thai cave first broke, I assumed it was another example of testosterone poisoning making it dangerous for teenage boys to associate with each other in groups larger than three. The real story was far more complicated…

MAE SAI, Thailand — Adul Sam-on, 14, has never been a stranger to peril.

At age 6, Adul had already escaped a territory in Myanmar known for guerrilla warfare, opium cultivation and methamphetamine trafficking. His parents slipped him into Thailand, in the hopes that proper schooling would provide him with a better life than that of his illiterate, impoverished family.

But his greatest escape came on Tuesday, when he and 11 other members of a youth soccer team, along with their coach, were all finally freed from the Tham Luang Cave in northern Thailand, after an ordeal stretching more than two weeks.

For 10 days, Adul and his fellow Wild Boars soccer squad survived deep in the cave complex as their food, flashlights and drinking water diminished. By the time British divers found them on July 2, the Wild Boars and their coach looked skeletal.

It was Adul, the stateless descendant of a Wa ethnic tribal branch once known for headhunting, who played a critical role in the rescue, acting as interpreter for the British divers…

Mae Sai, where the Wild Boars play soccer, seems an unlikely place for a resurgence in Thai pride. Located not far from where Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meet in the Golden Triangle, Mae Sai is home to a population that has at times been skeptical of the Thai state and its institutions…

With the English he used to communicate with the British divers on July 2, Adul was crucial in ensuring the safety of the Wild Boars. He is the top student in his class at the Ban Wiang Phan School in Mae Sai. His academic record and sporting prowess have earned him free tuition and daily lunch…

At the Ban Wiang Phan School, where 20 percent of students are stateless and half are ethnic minorities, the principal, Punnawit Thepsurin, said the boy’s uncertain status — he has no citizenship papers from any country — had helped hone his strength. “Stateless children have a fighting spirit that makes them want to excel,” he said. “Adul is the best of the best.”

At least 440,000 stateless people live in Thailand, many of whom are victims of Myanmar’s long years of ethnic strife, according to the United Nations refugee agency. Human rights groups say the true number could be as high as 3 million — in a nation of nearly 70 million — even though the Thai government has refused to ratify the United Nations convention guaranteeing rights for refugees.

With little legal protection, undocumented workers in Thailand can be at the mercy of human traffickers or unscrupulous employers. But the Wild Boars provided a haven for stateless and Thai children alike. On weekends, the squad would often go on outdoor excursions in nearby jungles…

There’s already teams of filmmakers looking to turn the Wild Boars’ story into gold. Here’s hoping Adul, his fellow “stateless ethnic minority” coach Ekkapol Chantawong, and their fellow survivors can turn this attention to their benefit!



Interesting Read: “Tim Berners-Lee, the Man Who Created the World Wide Web, Has Some Regrets”

I’m counting on all you tech wizards to explain how and where this all goes wrong, but *I* thought it was interesting. Katrina Brooker, in Vanity Fair:

For people who want to make sure the Web serves humanity, we have to concern ourselves with what people are building on top of it,” Tim Berners-Lee told me one morning in downtown Washington, D.C., about a half-mile from the White House. Berners-Lee was speaking about the future of the Internet, as he does often and fervently and with great animation at a remarkable cadence. With an Oxonian wisp of hair framing his chiseled face, Berners-Lee appears the consummate academic—communicating rapidly, in a clipped London accent, occasionally skipping over words and eliding sentences as he stammers to convey a thought. His soliloquy was a mixture of excitement with traces of melancholy. Nearly three decades earlier, Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. On this morning, he had come to Washington as part of his mission to save it…

Berners-Lee, who never directly profited off his invention, has also spent most of his life trying to guard it. While Silicon Valley started ride-share apps and social-media networks without profoundly considering the consequences, Berners-Lee has spent the past three decades thinking about little else. From the beginning, in fact, Berners-Lee understood how the epic power of the Web would radically transform governments, businesses, societies. He also envisioned that his invention could, in the wrong hands, become a destroyer of worlds, as Robert Oppenheimer once infamously observed of his own creation. His prophecy came to life, most recently, when revelations emerged that Russian hackers interfered with the 2016 presidential election, or when Facebook admitted it exposed data on more than 80 million users to a political research firm, Cambridge Analytica, which worked for Donald Trump’s campaign. This episode was the latest in an increasingly chilling narrative. In 2012, Facebook conducted secret psychological experiments on nearly 700,000 users. Both Google and Amazon have filed patent applications for devices designed to listen for mood shifts and emotions in the human voice.

For the man who set all this in motion, the mushroom cloud was unfolding before his very eyes. “I was devastated,” Berners-Lee told me that morning in Washington, blocks from the White House. For a brief moment, as he recalled his reaction to the Web’s recent abuses, Berners-Lee quieted; he was virtually sorrowful. “Actually, physically—my mind and body were in a different state.” Then he went on to recount, at a staccato pace, and in elliptical passages, the pain in watching his creation so distorted.

This agony, however, has had a profound effect on Berners-Lee. He is now embarking on a third act—determined to fight back through both his celebrity status and, notably, his skill as a coder. In particular, Berners-Lee has, for some time, been working on a new software, Solid, to reclaim the Web from corporations and return it to its democratic roots. On this winter day, he had come to Washington to attend the annual meeting of the World Wide Web Foundation, which he started in 2009 to protect human rights across the digital landscape. For Berners-Lee, this mission is critical to a fast-approaching future. Sometime this November, he estimates, half the world’s population—close to 4 billion people—will be connected online, sharing everything from résumés to political views to DNA information. As billions more come online, they will feed trillions of additional bits of information into the Web, making it more powerful, more valuable, and potentially more dangerous than ever…

The idea is simple: re-decentralize the Web. Working with a small team of developers, he spends most of his time now on Solid, a platform designed to give individuals, rather than corporations, control of their own data. “There are people working in the lab trying to imagine how the Web could be different. How society on the Web could look different. What could happen if we give people privacy and we give people control of their data,” Berners-Lee told me. “We are building a whole eco-system.”

For now, the Solid technology is still new and not ready for the masses. But the vision, if it works, could radically change the existing power dynamics of the Web. The system aims to give users a platform by which they can control access to the data and content they generate on the Web. This way, users can choose how that data gets used rather than, say, Facebook and Google doing with it as they please. Solid’s code and technology is open to all—anyone with access to the Internet can come into its chat room and start coding. “One person turns up every few days. Some of them have heard about the promise of Solid, and they are driven to turn the world upside down,” he says. Part of the draw is working with an icon. For a computer scientist, coding with Berners-Lee is like playing guitar with Keith Richards. But more than just working with the inventor of the Web, these coders come because they want to join the cause. These are digital idealists, subversives, revolutionaries, and anyone else who wants to fight the centralization of the Web. For his part, working on Solid brings Berners-Lee back to the Web’s early days: “It’s under the radar, but working on it in a way puts back some of the optimism and excitement that the ‘fake news’ takes out.”…

It’s hard to believe that anyone—even Zuckerberg—wants the 1984 version. He didn’t found Facebook to manipulate elections; Jack Dorsey and the other Twitter founders didn’t intend to give Donald Trump a digital bullhorn. And this is what makes Berners-Lee believe that this battle over our digital future can be won. As public outrage grows over the centralization of the Web, and as enlarging numbers of coders join the effort to decentralize it, he has visions of the rest of us rising up and joining him. This spring, he issued a call to arms, of sorts, to the digital public. In an open letter published on his foundation’s Web site, he wrote: “While the problems facing the web are complex and large, I think we should see them as bugs: problems with existing code and software systems that have been created by people—and can be fixed by people.”…



Saturday Morning Open Thread: Begin As You Mean to Go On

The Trump Occupation certainly tried to live by that adage during the 2017 inauguration — going for maximum thuggery, combined with an open embrace of oligarchic corruption. But their ambitious attempt to crush public dissent didn’t work nearly as well as they hoped. And now their OPEN FOR BUSINESS, FELLOw GRIFTERS! inaugural parties are giving Mr. Mueller a wealth of useful data against them, per Vox:

What happened at Donald Trump’s inauguration 18 months ago, and why does special counsel Robert Mueller appear to be so interested in it?

Last week, ABC News’s Matthew Mosk and John Santucci reported that several wealthy Russians were “granted unusual access” to Trump inauguration parties back in January 2017 — and that Mueller was seeking to find out why.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard of Mueller’s interest in the inauguration. Back in April, CNN reported that the special counsel was investigating “whether wealthy Russians illegally funneled cash donations directly or indirectly into Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and inauguration” — and had even questioned some oligarchs directly.

These reports have broken in the months since former Trump aide Rick Gates agreed to a plea deal with Mueller’s team in exchange for his cooperation. That may not be a coincidence — Gates was heavily involved in planning the inauguration, with a Yahoo News report in 2016 calling him the “shadow chair” of the event.

Yet beyond just Russia, there have long been serious questions about the money behind Trump’s inauguration — and where, exactly, it went. Trump’s inaugural committee raised a truly astonishing $106.7 million, double the previous record set by Barack Obama’s 2009 inaugural. But what they did with it isn’t so clear.

In a report for ProPublica and WNYC by Ilya Marritz earlier this year, the chair of George W. Bush’s second inauguration, Greg Jenkins, said he was baffled. “They had a third of the staff and a quarter of the events and they raise at least twice as much as we did,” he said. “So there’s the obvious question: Where did it go? I don’t know.”

Much like a typical Trump Organization project, then, his inauguration combined eye-popping sums of money and opulence with questions of financial mismanagement, corruption, and shady foreign influence…

Many, many more details at the link — it’s a veritable Who’s Who of right-wing sugar daddies and shady influence groups, both domestic and foreign. “But if there is anyone who might know where much of the money went, it is Rick Gates. And whatever he knows, Robert Mueller now knows too.”



Interesting Read: “The Inconvenient Legal Troubles That Lie Ahead for the Trump Foundation”

Adam Davidson, at the New Yorker:

Barring an unexpected change, the Donald J. Trump Foundation will be defending itself in a New York courtroom shortly before this fall’s midterm elections. The proceedings seem unlikely to go well for the institution and its leadership; President Trump and his elder children, Ivanka, Donald, Jr., and Eric, are being sued by New York’s attorney general, Barbara Underwood, for using the charity to enrich and benefit the Trump family. On Tuesday, the judge in the case, Saliann Scarpulla, made a series of comments and rulings from the bench that hinted—well, all but screamed—that she believes the Trump family has done some very bad things.

The judge seemed frustrated, even confused, that the Trumps were fighting the case at all. At one point, she told a lawyer for the Trump children that they should just settle out of court and voluntarily agree to one of the sanctions: a demand by the Attorney General that they not serve on the boards of any nonprofits for one year. (The case will be tried in civil court, and the Trumps aren’t facing any criminal charges.) That’s far from the worst sort of punishment, but to accede to it would be a public embarrassment and an acknowledgement that the family did, indeed, use the foundation as something of a private slush fund to enrich themselves and reward their cronies. Judge Scarpulla made clear that she felt the children should agree to the sanction now, and that, if they don’t, she will probably impose a similar restriction “with or without your agreement.”…

The case might not shift voting patterns, but it will provide one of the clearest views yet of the inner workings of the Trump Organization. Most private companies keep their internal financial information secret. The Trump Organization, though, is unusually opaque. Even now, despite all of the scrutiny it has faced, there is much we don’t know about how it raises funds, spends money, and functions internally.

A series of subpoenaed e-mails and a fascinating deposition offer a glimpse into the work of a mysterious figure, Allen Weisselberg, who has handled Donald Trump’s finances for as long as he’s had any. First hired by the President’s father, Fred Trump, Weisselberg has been the one steady presence in the Trump Organization for the entire period that Donald Trump has run the company. I have spoken to many current and former Trump Organization employees who have shared the same description of the company: it is a chaotic mess, in which projects are randomly distributed to in-house staff. A lawyer might be asked to negotiate a real-estate deal, an executive might be tasked with setting up a product-licensing arrangement. While there are traditional titles, such as general counsel or senior vice-president of operations, there is no standard business hierarchy. Trump, before he became President, would tell people what they should do with no clear regard for consistency. The currency of the place was always one’s proximity to the big boss, Donald Trump, so people didn’t tell colleagues which projects they were handling, out of fear that those colleagues might undermine them. I heard, repeatedly, that there were only two people who knew about every deal the company made: Trump himself and Allen Weisselberg. However, Trump, rather famously, rarely concerned himself with details and often forgot who had received which assignments and how different deals were structured.

Weisselberg’s testimony in the trial, then, could prove revealing. He is perhaps the only non-family member who knows the inner workings of the Trump Organization. Michael Cohen will be a key figure in understanding Trump’s recent business relationships with several overseas partners suspected of potentially engaging in money laundering, corruption, and sanctions violations. (A federal criminal investigation of Cohen includes more than four million business files that will soon be turned over to investigators and are likely to shed light on the company’s operations during the ten years that Cohen was involved.) But it is only Weisselberg who can recount the essence of the Trump Organization from the beginning of Donald Trump’s involvement: in the nineteen-seventies, when the company first discriminated against African-Americans; in the eighties, when Trump appears to have been in business with the New York mafia; in the nineties, when Trump’s casino was in violation of anti-money-laundering laws; and through the aughts, as Trump developed ties to many Russian and former-Soviet oligarchs and political figures.

The Trump Foundation case may have already revealed a potential rift between Weisselberg and the family. His deposition in the case is fascinating reading. Weisselberg makes it quite clear just how sloppy an operation the foundation was, with no meetings and no careful accounting. In a compelling exchange, Weisselberg describes how he flew to Iowa with a checkbook to give money to political allies of Trump, then a Presidential candidate, and he makes it clear that he did this because his boss told him to. It is a damning statement, and the first evidence I have seen that Weisselberg, when cornered, may be willing to shift blame to the President. Judge Scarpulla will continue pushing the Trumps to settle. Trump-watchers, though, will likely hope that the family chooses to fight. We will learn much more if Weisselberg and others take the stand.