Open Thread: Trumpstuntin’ Status, Moving From SNAFU to FUBAR


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Meanwhile, in another part of the galaxy…



Desperate Times, Desperate Measures

I saved a screenshot of this morning’s CNN home page the way my mother once squirreled away newspapers covering events like the Kennedy assassination, the moon landing and the Watergate denouement:

We’re not there yet. But to me, anyway, it feels like something historical is afoot, that I must not only bear witness but maybe save clippings for posterity. (At least my news pack-rattery won’t demand drawer space from my descendants!)

Twitler was on a tear this morning. Maybe he has that “history in the making” feeling too. It might be wishful thinking, but I could swear I detected a faint whiff of flop sweat and desperation emanating from the pixels below:

Tell me that most recent tweet doesn’t sound like something Greenwald would say. And the fuck of it is, I would normally agree: We don’t want the intel community mucking around in our politics.

It was an outrage when Comey stuck his big, fat, morally upright thumb on the scales in the waning days of the election. So why cheer the intel community on now, hoping they dump enough dirt to bury the Trump admin?

Because this isn’t a normal administration. Trump referred to me and the 65 million other Americans who didn’t vote for him as “enemies” in his New Year “message.” He’s done nothing to reach out to anyone other than his rancid fan base. He’s stocked the government with racists, misogynists and bigoted kooks, and his top advisers are openly fomenting a global white nationalist effort to undermine Western democracies.

The Republicans who control Congress are willing to go along with Trump’s anti-American agenda if doing so will allow them to cut taxes for billionaires and take away people’s access to affordable healthcare. They’ve said so outright, so they can’t be trusted to do their job and keep our government from being controlled by a hostile foreign power.

The judicial branch is the last leg on the wobbly-ass stool of American democracy, but Trump is doing his best to saw that off too and has real power to shape it for the future. Anyone think he’ll ensure its independence?

So, spooks it is. No, I don’t trust them completely. No, I don’t think it’s a good idea for the intel community to manipulate domestic politics (and I wish we’d mind our own business abroad too).

But desperate times call for desperate measures. If it takes leaks to force the Republicans in Congress to work with the Democrats and do their goddamned jobs, then bring on the drip, drip, drip.

PS: The media is unanimously reporting that Dense Pence was in the dark about Flynn’s actions. Are y’all aware of any independent corroboration of that? I haven’t seen it.

It looks like they’re taking the administration’s word on that, and this administration lies constantly and shamelessly. On camera. All the fucking time. We shouldn’t take their word for anything.



Early Morning Open Thread: Trumpstuntin’, Middle Eastern Edition

(Or at the very least, Qassim al-Rimi’s pr0n stash… remember the hunt for Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction? Or the very nasty filthy videos said to be found at bin Laden’s compound?)



Late Night Horrorshow Open Thread: A Difference of Patriotic Opinion

The Democrats want to find out if our country’s security has been compromised. The Repubs want to be sure investigating the thimblerigging that put Putin’s Paul Ryan’s Puppet into the Oval Office won’t unduly delay their looting the country’s common treasury to benefit themselves. Both sides!… [warning: autoplay]

The Republican and Democratic leaders of the House intelligence committee have voiced divergent goals for their investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election, suggesting possible discord over how deeply Congress will examine any links between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia.

The committee announced Wednesday that it is investigating Russian cyberattacks in a parallel probe to the Senate intelligence committee investigation announced two weeks ago. The House committee said it has already received “important documents” and that staff members went to CIA headquarters on January 19 to review records.

But the House committee’s top Republican and Democratic leaders stressed differing questions they want to answer following the January 6 US intelligence report that found Russian President Vladimir Putin “aspired to help” the Trump campaign by publicly discrediting Hillary Clinton.

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the committee’s top Democrat, told NPR on Thursday that the committee “certainly” would investigate “any links between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.”

By contrast, Chairman Devin Nunes, a California Republican, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that the panel wants to “get to the bottom of this intelligence report, whether it was put together properly or not.”…

I’m sure Adam will have more intelligent things to say about this tomorrow, but: You can’t take your eyes off these bastids long enough to blink!



Long Read: “Doomsday Prep for the Super-Rich”

Citizen Thiel has a cunning plan for his escape pod! And the NZ whale-wranglers and hobbit-handlers find him as simultaneously risible and unsettling as the rest of us!

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I went to a parochial school in the Bronx back when the Duck’n’Cover security theater plans were first proposed to a skeptical American public. Despite their near-veneration of President Kennedy, the nuns who taught us had no faith in such drills. When we second- and third-graders asked about the CDC commercials we’d seen on our black-and-white tvs the night before, the Dominicans told us the greater NYC area was so vital a target that, should the Godless Commies ever lose their fear of America’s military majesty, we’d be dead by the time the sirens went off. Ergo, our best doomsday prep was to preserve our immortal souls in a state of constant purity, vigilant against all temptations, so that if Satan’s Kremlin minions should temporarily gain the upper hand our time in purgatory would be minimized.

Between those nuns, and the spate of fine post-apocalyptic fiction ranging from Earth Abides and Shadow on the Hearth to The Day After, I’ve never been able to find much consolation in the concept of ‘doomsday prepping’. But it’s always interesting (often entertaining) to see how other people have invested their hopes.

Evan Osnos, in the New Yorker, on “the wealthiest people in America—in Silicon Valley, New York, and beyond— getting ready for the crackup of civilization”:

Steve Huffman, the thirty-three-year-old co-founder and C.E.O. of Reddit, which is valued at six hundred million dollars, was nearsighted until November, 2015, when he arranged to have laser eye surgery. He underwent the procedure not for the sake of convenience or appearance but, rather, for a reason he doesn’t usually talk much about: he hopes that it will improve his odds of surviving a disaster, whether natural or man-made. “If the world ends—and not even if the world ends, but if we have trouble—getting contacts or glasses is going to be a huge pain in the ass,” he told me recently. “Without them, I’m fucked.”…

Last spring, as the Presidential campaign exposed increasingly toxic divisions in America, Antonio García Martínez, a forty-year-old former Facebook product manager living in San Francisco, bought five wooded acres on an island in the Pacific Northwest and brought in generators, solar panels, and thousands of rounds of ammunition. “When society loses a healthy founding myth, it descends into chaos,” he told me. The author of “Chaos Monkeys,” an acerbic Silicon Valley memoir, García Martínez wanted a refuge that would be far from cities but not entirely isolated. “All these dudes think that one guy alone could somehow withstand the roving mob,” he said. “No, you’re going to need to form a local militia. You just need so many things to actually ride out the apocalypse.” Once he started telling peers in the Bay Area about his “little island project,” they came “out of the woodwork” to describe their own preparations, he said. “I think people who are particularly attuned to the levers by which society actually works understand that we are skating on really thin cultural ice right now.”

In private Facebook groups, wealthy survivalists swap tips on gas masks, bunkers, and locations safe from the effects of climate change. One member, the head of an investment firm, told me, “I keep a helicopter gassed up all the time, and I have an underground bunker with an air-filtration system.” He said that his preparations probably put him at the “extreme” end among his peers. But he added, “A lot of my friends do the guns and the motorcycles and the gold coins. That’s not too rare anymore.”

Tim Chang, a forty-four-year-old managing director at Mayfield Fund, a venture-capital firm, told me, “There’s a bunch of us in the Valley. We meet up and have these financial-hacking dinners and talk about backup plans people are doing. It runs the gamut from a lot of people stocking up on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, to figuring out how to get second passports if they need it, to having vacation homes in other countries that could be escape havens.” He said, “I’ll be candid: I’m stockpiling now on real estate to generate passive income but also to have havens to go to.” He and his wife, who is in technology, keep a set of bags packed for themselves and their four-year-old daughter. He told me, “I kind of have this terror scenario: ‘Oh, my God, if there is a civil war or a giant earthquake that cleaves off part of California, we want to be ready.’ ”…

Such behavior is not, IMO, much different from that of medieval barons building churches in the name of their patron saints — a measured monetary gamble in hopes of ensuring one’s survival, worst came to worst (and the ‘worst’ was always so imminent, whether as three bad winters in a row or another outbreak of civil war). We are nowhere near the level of such daily physical jeopardy, but we have so much more stuff to protect… and so many more ways to terrorize ourselves with new information!

Huffman has been a frequent attendee at Burning Man, the annual, clothing-optional festival in the Nevada desert, where artists mingle with moguls. He fell in love with one of its core principles, “radical self-reliance,” which he takes to mean “happy to help others, but not wanting to require others.” (Among survivalists, or “preppers,” as some call themselves, FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, stands for “Foolishly Expecting Meaningful Aid.”) Huffman has calculated that, in the event of a disaster, he would seek out some form of community: “Being around other people is a good thing. I also have this somewhat egotistical view that I’m a pretty good leader. I will probably be in charge, or at least not a slave, when push comes to shove.”…

In building Reddit, a community of thousands of discussion threads, into one of the most frequently visited sites in the world, Huffman has grown aware of the way that technology alters our relations with one another, for better and for worse. He has witnessed how social media can magnify public fear. “It’s easier for people to panic when they’re together,” he said, pointing out that “the Internet has made it easier for people to be together,” yet it also alerts people to emerging risks. Long before the financial crisis became front-page news, early signs appeared in user comments on Reddit. “People were starting to whisper about mortgages. They were worried about student debt. They were worried about debt in general. There was a lot of, ‘This is too good to be true. This doesn’t smell right.’ ” He added, “There’s probably some false positives in there as well, but, in general, I think we’re a pretty good gauge of public sentiment. When we’re talking about a faith-based collapse, you’re going to start to see the chips in the foundation on social media first.”…

… One measure of survivalism’s spread is that some people are starting to speak out against it. Max Levchin, a founder of PayPal and of Affirm, a lending startup, told me, “It’s one of the few things about Silicon Valley that I actively dislike—the sense that we are superior giants who move the needle and, even if it’s our own failure, must be spared.”

To Levchin, prepping for survival is a moral miscalculation; he prefers to “shut down party conversations” on the topic. “I typically ask people, ‘So you’re worried about the pitchforks. How much money have you donated to your local homeless shelter?’ This connects the most, in my mind, to the realities of the income gap. All the other forms of fear that people bring up are artificial.” In his view, this is the time to invest in solutions, not escape. “At the moment, we’re actually at a relatively benign point of the economy. When the economy heads south, you will have a bunch of people that are in really bad shape. What do we expect then?”…

Read more



Open Thread: Spy Guys, He’s Got ‘Em!

An official with knowledge of the make-up of the crowd says that there were about 40 people who’d been invited by the Trump, Mike Pence and Rep. Mike Pompeo teams. The Trump team originally expected Rep. Pompeo, R-Kansas, to be sworn in during the event as the next CIA director, but the vote to confirm him was delayed on Friday by Senate Democrats. Also sitting in the first several rows in front of the president was the CIA’s senior leadership, which was not cheering the remarks.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Monday denied that there were “Trump or White House folks” in the first rows.

“There were no Trump or White House folks sitting down. They were all CIA (unintelligible). So, not in rows one-through-anything, from what I’m told.” Spicer said at the White House briefing Monday. He did not address whether Pompeo invitees were in the first rows.

A source who is familiar with the planning of the president’s CIA visit saw Spicer’s briefing, however, and firmly denied Spicer’s response was accurate…

The CIA was Mr. Trump’s first official agency visit for a reason, it was to signal a new beginning. At the outset of the speech, the president expressed his support for the CIA, “There is nobody that feels stronger about the intelligence community and the CIA than Donald Trump.”

But it is what he said later in front of the CIA’s revered Memorial Wall (a monument to CIA officers killed in the line of duty) — complaints about the media’s coverage of his relationship with the intelligence community and its assessments of the crowd size at his inauguration — that may be harder to erase from the minds of the intelligence community.

Gonna be a very useful meme: NOT. NORMAL.

(And I cannot tell you how weird it feels, as a lifelong leftist, to be siding with the CIA, speaking of ‘not normal’.)

From a medival proverb, a culture that knew much about both aspiring dictators and vengeance: God punishes all knaves and fools — but the fools first.

The President-Asterisk had a lot of us convinced he was a knave, but now he’s acting the fool.



Late Night Horrorshow Open Thread: Toad Kisses Toady

Palate cleansers: