Excellent Reads: The Washington Post Takes Much-Deserved Victory Lap

Book critic Carlos Lozada:

The Mueller report is that rare Washington tell-all that surpasses its pre-publication hype.

Sure, it is a little longer than necessary. Too many footnotes and distracting redactions. The writing is often flat, and the first half of the book drags, covering plenty of terrain that has been described elsewhere. The story shifts abruptly between riveting insider tales and dense legalisms. Its protagonist doesn’t really come alive until halfway through, once Volume I (on Russian interference) gives way to Volume II (on obstruction of justice). The title — far too prosaic, really — feels like a missed opportunity. And it hardly helps that the book’s earliest reviewer, Attorney General William Barr, seems to have willfully misunderstood the point of it; he probably should not have been assigned to review it at all.

Yet as an authoritative account, the Mueller report is the best book by far on the workings of the Trump presidency. It was delivered to the attorney general but is also written for history. The book reveals the president in all his impulsiveness, insecurity and growing disregard for rules and norms; White House aides alternating between deference to the man and defiance of his “crazy s—” requests; and a campaign team too inept to realize, or too reckless to care, when they might have been bending the law. And special counsel Robert Mueller has it all under oath, on the record, along with interviews and contemporaneous notes backing it up. No need for a “Note on Use of Anonymous Sources” disclaimer. Mueller doesn’t just have receipts — he seems to know what almost everyone wanted to buy.

Befitting a best-selling work of political nonfiction — less than 24 hours after the report went online Thursday, paperback versions took the top two spots in Amazon’s new-release sales ranking — the Mueller report has its miniseries-ready signature moments. There is the obligatory expletive for the ages, when President Trump learns that Mueller has been appointed as special counsel. “This is the end of my presidency,” he moans. “I’m fucked.” There is the embarrassing contradiction from the president’s press secretary, Sarah Sanders, who told reporters that countless FBI employees loved the firing of director James Comey but then admits to investigators that she’d made it up. (Though, in truth, it’s only embarrassing if Sanders maintains any residual capacity for said emotion.) There’s the contrast between the president’s public bluster, evident in his Twitter rants, and his private diffidence, embodied in Trump’s lawyerly written responses to Mueller’s queries, full of “I do not recall” and “I have no recollection.”…

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Columnist Anne Applebaum, “Trump is not vindicated. But I am”:

But not only me: Everyone who began writing about the weird connections between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the Russian government in the spring and summer of 2016, is vindicated: Sarah Kendzior, Josh Rogin and Franklin Foer, for example. But, of course, there were many more. As it turns out, the Russian attempts to assist the Trump campaign were deep and broad, and those who described them, even if tentatively at first, were right to do so…
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Saturday Morning Open Thread: D&D, the Family-Friendly Modern Edition

I first hooked up with the Spousal Unit when we were sharing a crowded off-campus ex-frat-house, and he was a serious Dungeon Master. (I wasn’t a player; it was obvious we could either game together or date, and dating won.) His feelings about the game’s new popularity are — as with so many phenomena for us late-Boomer nerds — somewhat mixed:

There was something about Dungeons & Dragons that spoke to Mario Alvarenga in a deep way. He tried it for the first time five years ago — never mind that he was not a teen, as most newbies are, but an adult. While experiencing the role-playing game, he could imagine scenes down to the tiniest detail: the bump of cobblestones on a street, the smell of baked goods in a market, the coldness of the wind. The boredom in his life melted away.

He joined one regular group, then two, then four. Soon, he was leading games as a Dungeon Master at his local game store. Alvarenga, who is 31 and works full time as a caregiver, quickly found his entire nonworking life overtaken by elves, gnomes, dwarves and wizards…

Yes, D&D is back. But it’s cool now (sort of). And legions are into it, including an unprecedented number of adult and female players, attracted by a popular recent revamp and new online playing options. It’s the ultimate sign that nerd culture is now mainstream.

Vin Diesel, Jon Favreau, Drew Barrymore, Dwayne Johnson, James Franco, Stephen Colbert, Anderson Cooper, Ta-Nehisi Coates: The list of celebrities who have “come out” about rolling the 20-sided dice is as long as a wizard’s beard. “Game of Thrones” writer George R.R. Martin first flexed his storytelling muscles as a young Dungeon Master, as did the showrunners on the HBO series. Joe Manganiello is so obsessed that he wrote a D&D movie script. The game has been on TV shows including “Big Bang Theory” and “Futurama.” Next month will see the release of a “Stranger Things” tie-in D&D starter set…

D&D has come a long way since Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson invented it in 1974 as an alternative to miniature-military war gaming. No longer is it a game to hide out with in Mom’s basement.

Today, people play it at bar and restaurant pop-up events such as “Drinks and Dragons” in Philadelphia, and “Orcs! Orcs! Orcs!” in Portland, Ore. They pay $2,650 per person per weekend to play it in Caverswall Castle in Staffordshire, England. They swell the ranks of the D&D Meetup groups from Tokyo (37 members) to Kolkata, India (501 members)…
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Friday Night Respite Open Thread


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I’m sure the rationalists are already explaining that this is not true language use, but the cat and his person have achieved a mutually satisfactory method of communication, and by my standards that is enough.








Warren throws down the gauntlet, stomps it into the mud, squirts lighter fluid on it, sets it ablaze

Thank you, Elizabeth Warren:

I’m in for $50.

I was just informed that Easter is THIS Sunday rather than next. Fucksake! Guess I’ll be shopping and carving three butter lambs tomorrow. You?

Open thread.



Mueller Report Open Thread: Assange/Russia/Trump Collusion Edition

Trump is a godsdamned magnet for monsters. Per Kevin Pousen, at the Daily Beast:

As laid out by Mueller, Assange’s involvement in Russia’s election interference began with a June 14, 2016 direct message to WikiLeaks’ Twitter account from “DC Leaks,” one of the false fronts created by the Russians to launder their hacked material.

“You announced your organization was preparing to publish more Hillary’s emails,” the message read, according to Mueller’s report. “We are ready to support you. We have some sensitive information too, in particular, her financial documents. Let’s do it together. What do you think about publishing our info at the same moment? Thank you.”

A week later, WikiLeaks reached out to a second GRU persona, Guccifer 2.0, and pitched WikiLeaks as the best outlet for the hacked material. On July 14, 2016, GRU officers used a Guccifer 2.0 email address to send WikiLeaks an encrypted one-gigabyte file named “wk dnc link I .txt.gpg.” Assange confirmed receipt, and on July 22 he published 20,000 DNC emails stolen during the GRU’s breach…

Rich was a 27-year-old DNC staffer when he was gunned down in what police have described as a robbery gone wrong. The unsolved murder timed shortly before Assange’s DNC leaks spoke volumes to inhabitants of the far right wing fringe, where it’s long been an article of faith that Hillary Clinton has her enemies killed…

With Assange behind it, the Seth Rich hoax moved into the almost-mainstream, spawning a quickly-retracted report on Fox News, and a series of “investigations” by Assange ally Sean Hannity. It also wreaked havoc in the lives of Rich’s surviving family, particularly his anguished parents who later begged perpetrators of the charade “to give us peace, and to give law enforcement the time and space to do the investigation they need to solve our son’s murder.”

Even as he was ruthlessly framing Rich to protect himself, the GRU, or both, Assange was privately communicating with his real sources to arrange the transfer of the second election leak, material the GRU stole from John Podesta’s Gmail account…

The Mueller report quotes from cryptic emails and messages exchanged between WikiLeaks and the GRU accounts in September 2016, and based on metadata, Mueller suspects the transfer occurred on September 19. But the actual transmittal of the massive Podesta haul evidently took place in a channel that Mueller couldn’t crack. The report notes the possibility that, this time, the files were simply carried into the Ecuadorian Embassy by one of Assange’s visitors.

In the end, the most charitable interpretation of Assange’s “dissembling” as Mueller calls it, in the Seth Rich hoax is that he genuinely couldn’t rule out the possibility that Rich was his source. The Mueller report demolished that final moral refuge. Rich had been dead four days when Assange received the DNC files...