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Shame as a limiting constraint

It is always worthwhile to read through the back archives of the now defunct Kung Fu Monkey.

Today’s relevant post is on shame as a constraint. It was written in 2007 responding to the US Attorney firing scandal as they weren’t willing to railroad people for non-existent voter fraud. I think it is a relevant structural analysis today as well:

This just hammers home my realization of what the Cheney Administration — and yes, damn you this is the first time I’ve indulged in that neologism, and the first time I think it perfectly appropriate — what the Cheney Administration has discovered. They have found the “exploit” within the United States Government. As I watched Congressmen and Senators stumble and fumble and thrash, unable to bring to heel men and women who were plainly lying to them under oath, unable to eject from public office toadies of a boot-licking expertise unseen since Versailles, it struck me. The sheer, simple elegance of it. The “exploit”.

The exploit is shame.

Our representatives — and to a great degree we as a culture — are completely buffaloed by shamelessness. You reveal a man’s corrupt, or lying, or incompetent, and what does he do? He resigns. He attempts to escape attention, often to aid in his escape of legal pursuit. Public shame has up to now been the silver bullet of American political life. But people who are willing to just do the wrong thing and wait you out, to be publicly guilty … dammmnnnn.

We are faced with utterly shameless men. Cheney and the rest are looking our representatives right in the eye and saying “You don’t have the balls to take down a government. You don’t have the sheer testicular fortitude to call us lying sonuvabitches when we lie, to stop us from kicking the rule of law and the Constitution in the ass. You just don’t. What’s beyond that abyss — what that would do to our government and our identity as a nation — terrifies you too much. So get the fuck out of our way.”



Communication, a telephonic invasion

Nothing to see here, folks:

A purported cyber hack of the daughter of political consultant Paul Manafort suggests that he was the victim of a blackmail attempt while he was serving as Donald Trump’s presidential campaign chairman last summer.

The undated communications, which are allegedly from the iPhone of Manafort’s daughter, include a text that appears to come from a Ukrainian parliamentarian named Serhiy Leshchenko, seeking to reach her father, in which he claims to have politically damaging information about both Manafort and Trump.

Attached to the text is a note to Paul Manafort referring to “bulletproof” evidence related to Manafort’s financial arrangement with Ukraine’s former president, the pro-Russian strongman Viktor Yanukovych, as well as an alleged 2012 meeting between Trump and a close Yanukovych associate named Serhiy Tulub.



Picking At It Open Thread: Milo Hanrahan?!?… (Part 2.5)

One last burst of antiseptic splashed at the political acne that is Milotm, before we turn to the MRSA of CPAC. Dorian Lynskey reports how a shallow actor played the bad guy for money:

… Yiannopoulos was born Milo Hanrahan in Kent in 1984 and grew up in a financially comfortable but emotionally fraught family. He later adopted his beloved Greek grandmother’s surname, but prefers the pop-starry mononym Milo. On Twitter, before he was permanently banned last July, he operated as @nero. After dropping out of two universities – Manchester and Cambridge – he wrote for the Catholic Herald and covered technology for the Daily Telegraph. On the Telegraph’s blog pages, under editor Damian Thompson, he became a professional troll; a clickbait provocateur who hated the left more than he loved anything…

Yiannopoulos found his stepping stone to America in Gamergate, an online movement that claimed to campaign for ethics in videogame journalism while subjecting women in the industry to brutal harassment. Unlike older conservatives, Yiannopoulos understood what was bubbling up on platforms such as Reddit and 4chan: a new gamified form of hard-right discourse based not on ideas but on memes, harassment and “saying the unsayable”, driven by white male resentment toward minorities and so-called “social justice warriors”, the au courant name for political correctness. It didn’t matter that he had recently mocked gamers as “unemployed saddos living in their parents’ basements”. For Milo, Gamergate was an exciting new front in the culture wars and the career boost he craved…

Yiannopoulos preached the topsy-turvy gospel of the “alt-right”: liberals, feminists and people of colour were the oppressors and bigotry was a rebel yell. “I always thought journalism was about sticking up for the many against the powerful few,” he told Fusion in 2015. Yet in the same interview he implied it was all a show: “I didn’t like me very much and so I created this comedy character. And now they’ve converged.” Whenever he gets into trouble, he blames the character. On Monday, he attributed his justification of child abuse to his “usual blend of British sarcasm, provocation and gallows humour”. Last year, he flippantly told Bloomberg Business Week: “I’m totally autistic or sociopathic. I guess I’m both.”

In 2015 Yiannopoulos spotted his next opportunity, and perhaps a kindred spirit, in Donald Trump, a man he calls “Daddy”. (He rarely speaks to his own parents.) With Trump, the backlash against political correctness went nuclear and via Bannon’s Breitbart, Yiannopoulos became a far-right hero and gleeful scourge of liberal “snowflakes”. The Southern Poverty Law Center calls him “the person who propelled the alt-right movement into the mainstream”.
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Two great philosophers for the next four years

Okay, now it’s real so let us rely on two great philospophers for the next four years:

And it looks like America agrees with Ron Burgundy


CBS News:

It has been 10 weeks since Donald Trump was elected president, and more Americans disapprove (48 percent) than approve (37 percent) of the way he has handled his presidential transition. They are split on his cabinet picks. Views divide heavily along party lines.

Just days before his inauguration, Donald Trump’s favorable rating (32 percent) is the lowest of any president-elect in CBS News polling going back to Ronald Reagan in 1981, when CBS News began taking this measure.

Well we’ll have to survive being “governed” by the Brietbart comment section so we can either laugh or cry while we bang our heads into our desks today.



The Market has Spoken

djia
The crash that a lot of commentators have been predicting doesn’t seem to have materialized. Pharma and prison stocks are leading this rally, buoyed by certain knowledge that none of the banking shenanigans of the mid-2000s will ever be punished.



You’re The Puppet – Updated at 8:15 PM EDT

Franklin Foer is up with an almost-incendiary new piece at Slate on Trump’s secret email link to a Russian bank. And here’s what Foer has found:

The irregular pattern of server lookups actually resembled the pattern of human conversation—conversations that began during office hours in New York and continued during office hours in Moscow. It dawned on the researchers that this wasn’t an attack, but a sustained relationship between a server registered to the Trump Organization and two servers registered to an entity called Alfa Bank.

russian-puppet

Alfa Bank deep and old ties to Vladimir Putin in an admittedly complicated history described in part (as Foer cites)in this work.

Yesterday, when Senator Harry Reid posted his letter suggesting that FBI Director Comey was sitting on “explosive” information about Trump’s ties to Russia, some serious people suggested that was just Reid blowing smoke — the way he provoked Romney with his claim that the 2012 GOP nominee hadn’t paid taxes in a decade (which wasn’t true, at least for the two years the RomBot deigned to release his partial returns.)  I got into a twitter fight about that with Tom Nichols, who many (including me) see as a smart and honest-broker conservative.  Reid’s tactics pissed him (and many others) waaaaay off, and the default was to assume that this latest was more of the same.

Well, perhaps, not so much.

One of the interesting aspects of Foer’s stories is that the New York Times is on it too.  Foer writes:

Around the same time [September], the New York Times’ Eric Lichtblau and Steven Lee Myers began chasing the story. (They are still pursuing it.)

I have been (today! on Twitter) extremely critical of the Times‘ coverage of this election, particularly its disastrous refusal to accept the sunk cost of their dry-hole Clinton email investigation. This would be a good moment to redeem, in part, the institutional failure there to follow up on Trump stories with the kind of in-depth reporting that the Post’s David Fahrenthold and Newsweek’s Kurt Eichenwald, among some others, have produced.

But leave aside the press wars for a moment, and contemplate what Foer has uncovered, partial and circumstantial as it is.  For months, with communication peaking at politically significant moments, Donald Trump maintained a secret communication link with the highest levels of the Russian kleptocracy.

Throughout this election one of the core unanswered questions has been “Who owns Donald Trump.” The single real failure of journalism in this campaign has been the lack of a sustained effort to crack that query.  Now we have a partial answer, circumstantial, inferential, but more solid than all the months-long Trump denials of connections between his organization and Russian institutions.

Absent any better information, the prudent response is that the possibility that Putin owns Trump is non-trivially real — and hence makes it waaaaaay too risky to allow him and his associates anywhere near power.

And, of course, we are within days of the choice that could make him President of the United States.

Mind boggling.

PS:  Bat signal for Adam. I’d love some actual knowledgeable commentary on this. (Feel free to attach to this or a new front page item, if you’re so moved, btw.)

Image: Big Philanthropic Puppet Bazaar Saint Petersburg, 1899

Update at 8:15 PM EDT by Adam L. Silverman

Tom asked me to weigh in here, so here goes. I am not a computer scientist and while I’ve taught one criminology course on cyber based crime and terrorism way back in 2006, wrote a paper with a computer science specialist on how the Internet can be used to transmit extremist ideology and promote terrorism back in 2003, other than reading up, as necessary for work, on what the US is doing within the cyber domain, I can’t comment on the technical aspects of Foer’s reporting. I do, however, have expertise with both link and social network analysis; especially to determine who is connected to who to understand an operating environment. In this case, based on Foer’s reporting and the work of the subject matter experts he’s citing, there appears to be a confirmed connection (link) between two nodes (with a weaker link between one node and a third node). And that connection runs two ways and based on what the technical subject matter experts indicate that two way connection is for the purpose of electronic communication. The two nodes are a Trump Organization server and a Russian oligarch owned bank who’s owners have ties to Vladimir Putin.

At this point there are only two real questions: 1) Is the appearance of a two way communicative connection between the Trump Organization (node 1) and Alfa Bank (node two) actual or an digital artifact? Foer’s reporting seems to settle this that it is actual/real. And 2) What was the purpose of the communication? Was it simply for mundane business purposes – that the Trump Organization has accepted investment from Alfa Bank or those that keep their money there or that the Trump Organization has accepted loans to keep its operations going from Alfa Bank in order to maintain liquidity? Or was the purpose of the communications for something else? There is insufficient information to answer those questions based on Foer’s reporting. Hopefully the NY Times or some other enterprising journalists such as David Farenthold or Kurt Eichenwald might be able to shed some light on that before election day.



There’s Never Just One…

This, via TPM:

A 41-year-old lawyer has accused Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of groping her in 1999 when she was a young foundation fellow in Washington, D.C., National Law Journal reported Thursday.

The lawyer, Moira Smith, said that Thomas repeatedly touched her rear multiple times as he pleaded for her to sit next to him at a dinner party hosted by the head of her scholarship program. The alleged incident occurred, Smith said, when just the two of them were alone near the table she was setting for the party.

corisca_and_the_satyr_by_artemisia_gentileschi

It’s been clear since her testimony (at least to me) that Anita Hill was a truthful and courageous witness to Clarence Thomas’s craptastitude, and hence his unfitness to be a Supreme Court justice.  There were rumors at the time that there were more women, with more stories.  But they never testified.  So Thomas survived on the “he-said; she-said; who knows?” defense.

But if there’s anything the intervening decades have taught us, it’s that powerful men who use their positions to impose their sexual demands on women don’t stop at just one.  See, of course, Mr. Donald Trump.

And now this.  Thomas is blanket denying, of course:

“This claim is preposterous and it never happened,” Thomas said in a statement to National Law Journal.

That’ll keep him securely in place, until and unless the next woman comes forward, and the next, and the next…

My bet?

Well, there’s never just one.  But keeping Thomas in his seat is so important to so many of the worst people in the country that I would be utterly unsurprised if (a) Moira Smith gets hit by a world of hurt and (b) anyone else who might have knowledge of any misdeeds by Trump receiving that message loud and clear.

We’ll see.

Image: Artemisia Gentileschi, Corisca and the Satyr, betw. 1630 and 1635.