Disturbing the Peace (Open Thread)

Last night, the mister and I took a sunset cruise in our little swamp boat and annoyed this innocent anhinga:

The bird is clearly saying “FUCK YOU!!” at the 24-second mark.

Anhingas are also called “snake birds” because they swim with their heads sticking out of the water, resembling a snake. After swimming, they roost in trees or on snags to dry their wings. Cormorants do the same and closely resemble anhingas, only cormorants have a curved beak. Here’s one we saw on the same excursion:

Got any big plans for the weekend? Is anyone participating in one of the Women’s Marches taking place nationwide? I was just reading a depressing account of the national Women’s March org — Women’s March Inc. Sounds like they’ve managed to fuck up the whole thing. Le sigh.

We’ll probably hang out at home, maybe go annoy some more swamp critters. You?

Trump is on Twitter fomenting anti-immigrant hatred. Maybe he’s trying to change the subject from the revelation that he committed a felony by directing an underling to lie to Congress, or maybe he’s trying to distract the media from the snowballing effects of the Trump shutdown. Or both. Maybe neither.

He’s claiming that ranchers are finding “prayer rugs” on the border — likely he’s narrating some Fox News reportage, which intersperses clips of interviews with American crackpots and shots of correspondents yelling “CARAVAN” at random pedestrians in Central America.

Rugs, though. That’s some scary stuff. Why, just yesterday, I tripped on a rug with an upturned corner and very nearly stubbed my toe on a coffee table leg.

Anyhoo, open thread.



Derp State

That we have a scabrous, demented swine thrashing around the Oval Office causing untold domestic and international turmoil is on the American people, the Republican Party, and the Russian Federation (in no particular order). But assuming our little experiment in democracy survives and committees are impaneled to study what the fuck happened in the detail such a calamitous clusterfuck warrants, should the role of our national security organizations and their political apparatuses be scrutinized too?

Hell yes, they should. It’s already clear Trump is a Russian asset. The only remaining question is how long and actively he’s been in on Putin’s con. That such a destructive, incompetent, addled and compromised fool got within a country mile of the fucking White House points to national security failures as vast as those that allowed the 9/11 attacks to happen and enabled Cheney & Co. to falsely portray Saddam Hussein’s Potemkin nukes as an existential threat.

Like those monumental fuck-ups, I suspect the lapse that allowed a malignant orange clown to seize personal control of the world’s most fearsome nuclear arsenal was more a failure of imagination than a lack of dedication or skill, particularly on the part of the people doing the actual work. In other words, it was a strategic cock-up rather than a tactical one. But yeah, we’re gonna need a truth and reconciliation panel on national security too.



What Comes After?

It is looking more and more like the President of the United States is a Russian asset. I use the word “asset” deliberately, because it leaves open the degree to which Donald Trump may knowingly be acting for the Russians. That is the connection that still is lacking in publicly available information. We can surmise a financial connection, and we know that people around Trump worked with Russians in very suspicious ways, some demonstrably illegal. But we don’t have a record of Trump directing them or taking phonecalls from Vladimir Putin with his instructions.

But Adam’s question is a good one: How would Trump act differently if he were a Russian asset? And I can’t come up with anything to the contrary. Nor, to extend Adam’s post, can I think of another scenario that so well fits Trump’s actions and what has been revealed in criminal cases so far.

I’ve struggled with this for months. I just don’t want to believe that we, as a country, were stupid enough to get scammed this way. I don’t want to believe that there is a large possibility that Republican refusal to act may mean that much of that party has been compromised. That’s not my America!

I think this is difficult for everyone, but we have to start thinking about what we do if we learn that Trump is owned by the Russians, whether stupidly or happy to work with them. Elected officials who are not owned need to start thinking about this. Those in the government bureaucracy need to start thinking about this.

We will need truth and reconciliation commissions. We will need trials. We will need to look at the governance of the last few years.

Dana Houle has been a Democratic congressional chief of staff and campaign manager. Last night he tweeted some of the questions we are likely to face. I’ve put them in narrative form.

  • Are laws signed by an asset of a foreign adversary legitimate? Do we abrogate those laws?
  • What do we do about judges & other officials, appointed to long or even lifetime positions, by an asset of a foreign adversary?
  • Why did a Repub-only contingent of US Senators travel to Russia last year?
  • Why did Paul Ryan tell Kevin McCarthy to not talk about Trump being paid by Russia?
  • What do other countries’ intel agencies know RE Trump that congress doesn’t?
  • Has Trump revealed codes/specs to Putin?
  • Why was one of Trump’s first acts upon entering the WH to fire the WH cyber security staff?
  • Who else in our gov’t and national leadership is compromised by Russians or allied foreign powers?
  • Has Trump been given info to compromise other political actors?
  • Have any of Trump’s attacks on corporations come from goading or directives by the Russians?
  • Who has been placed in the administration bc of the Russians?
  • Is anyone in the US press compromised by Russians?
  • Does Trump’s legal team include co-conspirators?
  • What does the military know about Trump & Russia?
  • How intertwined is Russian influence/control over Trump w Russian use of DC/Wall St law firms/financial orgs/lobbying firms?

I’m sure you can think of others. I know I can, starting with what happened at the Helsinki meeting between Trump and Putin, after which Trump looked whipped.

 



Tonight’s News Dump And Another Long Ago

Tonight’s New York Times news dump on two FBI investigations, for counterintelligence and criminal activity, is strangely parallel to that October 31, 2016, news dump that said the FBI was not investigating Donald Trump. Let’s look at a timeline for the material reported in the two. I’m taking dates from the articles rather than looking up the precise dates in order to get this out quickly.

DateOctober 2016 articleJanuary 2019 article
July 2016Trump calls on Russians to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails
July 2016Trump campaign softens Republican platform plank on Ukraine
“mid-2016”Christopher Steele compiles memos
“months before 2016 election”Timing described as “much of the summer” Investigation into “some of Trump’s aides,” but “Mr. Trump himself has not become a target”FBI was investigating four Trump associates
timing unclearCommunications between Trump and Alfa Bank computers
October 2016Harry Reid letter: “It has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisers, and the Russian government — a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Trump praises at every opportunity,” Mr. Reid wrote. “The public has a right to know this information.”

 

Obviously, material after October 31, 2016, could not be included in the earlier article. But it’s informative to put it into a timeline.

DateEvent
January 2017Trump asks Comey for loyalty pledge
January 2017Trump asks Comey to end investigation into Michael Flynn
May 2017Trump fires Comey
May 2017Trump, in NBC interview, appears to say he fired Comey because of the Russia investigation
May 2017Trump tells Russians in Oval Office he fired Comey – “pressure taken off because of Russia”
“days after firing”Investigation begins

 

It’s worthwhile reading both articles. I find it clarifying to put things in timelines, though.

Update: Benjamin Wittes has also written a post, and he tweeted a baby cannon “BOOM!”

Further Update: The Wittes article gives a very careful explanation of the interplay between the criminal and counterintelligence sides of the investigation. I can also read between the lines why the FBI may have said in October 2016 that the investigation was not into Donald Trump. The investigation was about Russia’s role in the election. So it could be that the reporters on the October 2016 article didn’t ask the right questions of their informants or wink-wink nudge-nudge let them get away with giving a particular impression.



Fakebook

If you’re older or a Republican, you’re more likely to share fake news on Facebook:

Across all age categories, sharing fake news was a relatively rare category. Only 8.5 percent of users in the study shared at least one link from a fake news site. Users who identified as conservative were more likely than users who identified as liberal to share fake news: 18 percent of Republicans shared links to fake news sites, compared to less than 4 percent of Democrats. The researchers attributed this finding largely to studies showing that in 2016, fake news overwhelmingly served to promote Trump’s candidacy.

But older users skewed the findings: 11 percent of users older than 65 shared a hoax, while just 3 percent of users 18 to 29 did. Facebook users ages 65 and older shared more than twice as many fake news articles than the next-oldest age group of 45 to 65, and nearly seven times as many fake news articles as the youngest age group (18 to 29).

The party finding was influenced by all of the Russian fake news surrounding the Trump campaign. The age finding was independent of party affiliation.  It’s not surprising since older people grew up in an environment where news on the TV or in newspapers was generally factual, so that assumption is still baked in to their thinking, even though the world has changed drastically.