The New SCOTUS Scrote: Early Reviews


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Russiagate Open Thread

It’s hard to follow the cast of thousands, vividly interacting over periods of years, some of them making news on the story even today. The conflicting narratives, floating from Trump tweets through the too-credulous national media, along with the Fox setpieces and outright propaganda confuse even further.

Part of the confusion is that the scoops are not unearthed in chronological order. So it’s easy to feel that you’ve heard something before, when in fact it’s another nugget of evidence on a subpart of the big pile.

A shape is beginning to emerge out of those nuggets, but it has holes and irregularities. The bottom line is that so many, including Trump’s children, in the Trump campaign had interactions with Russians. Some plainly to receive dirt on Hillary Clinton, some for money, and probably many other things. Now including the lovely Ivanka.

David Corn has shaped up a short overview.

It’s still not as concise as I’d like it to be, and he interrupts himself too many times, but it’s helpful. Maybe I’ll try to formulate a simple narrative, but not right now. I’ve got visitors this afternoon, gonna enjoy the New Mexico Museum of History with them.



The Fire This Time

Some folks say Trump is just the logical extension of a white nationalist strain in the Republican Party that began with Nixon’s Southern strategy; inspired Reagan to kick off his campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi; germinated HW Bush’s Willie Horton ad; led W Bush’s dirty tricksters to spread rumors about John McCain’s adopted daughter; and culminated in the racist freak-out during President Obama’s two terms in office.

That’s all true. But there were exit ramps along the way. The Republican Party faced a hard choice after Romney’s defeat. They could adapt to changing American demographics or lose. Trump offered a third option: stop tinkering on the margins with voter suppression and dog whistles and go all in on racism, sexism and xenophobia and openly subvert American democracy to keep white folks in power by whatever means necessary.

The vast majority of the party chose door number 3. Now we not-Republicans face a choice: utterly defeat the Republican Party or watch as the U.S. morphs into an apartheid state and its law enforcement organizations engage in a never-ending ethnic cleansing project. Does that sound crazy or extreme? I don’t think it is. Read more



Russiagate Open Thread: Russian Oligarchs and Their Money

Mueller’s team is now questioning at least three Russian oligarchs on whether they donated money to Donald Trump’s campaign.

The approach to Russian oligarchs in recent weeks may reflect that Mueller’s team has already obtained records or documents that it has legal jurisdiction over and can get easily, one source said, and now it’s a “wish list” to see what other information they can obtain from Russians entering the US or through their voluntary cooperation.

Mueller really does love to meet people at the airport. His people stopped two of the Russians as they arrived.

In January, FBI agents stopped and questioned George Nader, a Middle East specialist, when he arrived at Washington Dulles International Airport….

Ted Malloch, a self-described informal Trump campaign adviser, last week issued a statement saying he was stopped in Boston when returning from an international trip by FBI agents who took his cellphone and questioned him about Republican political operative Roger Stone and WikiLeaks.

George Papadopoulos, too, if I recall correctly. Read more



The Nuclear Chain of Command

Donald Trump has been musing about nuclear war since the 1980s, and now he’s bringing our fears to life with his tweets against North Korea. Also, playing the role of a decisive and serious executive, he told the military back in July that he wanted to increase the US’s arsenal of nuclear weapons back to the maximum we had during the Cold War. That seems to have been the trigger for Rex Tillerson to call him a moron. Tillerson wasn’t wrong.

As always with Trump, it’s a good idea to have the facts before us. So here are some.

A president launches nuclear missiles via an electronic briefcase (“the football”) that is always at his side, carried by a service member at the O4-O5 level. That’s a major – lieutenant colonel or lieutenant commander – commander. The services rotate, and both male and female service members have been in this role. One of them made the news back in the spring of this year when he allowed Mar-a-Lago patrons to take selfies with him. Their role is to be unobtrusive and to follow orders.

Some of us have been discussing the chain of command since the election. This article contains a nice graphic that explains how a president would order a nuclear strike. Unfortunately, it’s too big to steal and insert into this post. One of the questions we had was whether the Secretary of Defense is a necessary part of the decision chain. Alex Wellerstein found documents that clearly say no: the President is the sole decider, although he may consult with others. Read more



Not the Onion: signing statement edition

Read it and bang your head into the wall until the darkness engulfs and silence descends.

Open thread



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.”