Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The Emperor Has No Nose (But He Thinks He's Got the Best)

Via Medium, and a nice post by William Sonn with an alternative answer to "Which Roman emperor does Trump resemble most?"—Caracalla, he argues persuasively.

Hi, I just want to turn the mic over to good old Watergate hero Carl Bernstein, reporting for CNN:

(CNN)In hundreds of highly classified phone calls with foreign heads of state, President Donald Trump was so consistently unprepared for discussion of serious issues, so often outplayed in his conversations with powerful leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Erdogan, and so abusive to leaders of America's principal allies, that the calls helped convince some senior US officials -- including his former secretaries of state and defense, two national security advisers and his longest-serving chief of staff -- that the President himself posed a danger to the national security of the United States, according to White House and intelligence officials intimately familiar with the contents of the conversations.

The calls caused former top Trump deputies -- including national security advisers H.R. McMaster and John Bolton, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and White House chief of staff John Kelly, as well as intelligence officials -- to conclude that the President was often "delusional," as two sources put it, in his dealings with foreign leaders. The sources said there was little evidence that the President became more skillful or competent in his telephone conversations with most heads of state over time. Rather, he continued to believe that he could either charm, jawbone or bully almost any foreign leader into capitulating to his will, and often pursued goals more attuned to his own agenda than what many of his senior advisers considered the national interest.
This is the first report of a four-month CNN investigation that seems to be following up on the Zelenskyy affair and the glimpse it offered of what Trump's leader conversations are like, bullying, cajoling, and focusing on his personal interests, his complete inability to sustain a normal give-and-take interaction with another person. Though when you think about it we've been seeing it from the beginning, with the reports of Trump's calls with Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull

Monday, June 29, 2020

NYT Book Review: Sentence them to the galleys!

Right, "Intel" gave him a call 10:30 Sunday night after leaving him hanging for 48 hours. "Hi, Mr. President, Intel here, we got a line on that report that we've been collecting evidence going back to January that GRU has been paying Afghan militants to kill NATO troops since 2018, and it turns out when we had that emergency National Security Council meeting on the subject last March, as reported in The Times, WaPo, and Wall Street Journal, among other places, we apparently decided the evidence wasn't credible, so we didn't want to bother you. We suspect the New York Times Book Review of fabricating the whole thing."

With their field critics in Helmand, who planted the story with the militants ("Just tell the interrogators Russians were paying you, and in turn we'll get you lunch with an agent to pitch your manuscript"). No, the @nytimesbooks bit must be a bizarre Autocorrect. But in general he's once again gotten out ahead of where the cleanup crew can follow him, simultaneously acknowledging that the reports exist, "based at least in part on interrogations of captured Afghan militants and criminals", and claiming that The Times made them up.

And in other cheap shots:

Saturday, June 27, 2020

And How They GRU

This story, reported last night by Charlie Savage, Eric Schmitt and Michael Schwirtz in The Times, is nuts: that the Russian GRU unit 29155, implicated in the attempted murder of Bulgarian arms dealer Emilian Gebrev in Sofia in 2015, the attempt to assassinate the Montenegrin prime minister and overturn that country's government in 2016, the attempted murder of Sergey Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury in 2018, has also been active in Afghanistan, orchestrating attacks by Taliban-linked militants on American and other NATO troops there and paying them bounties for success in some fraction of those killings (something like 50 Americans have been killed in hostile fire and IED attacks in Afghanistan since 2017). 

Let's just say that again: Russian intelligence helping Afghan insurgents kill Americans, and paying them for it. The report doesn't offer any conclusions about how far up the Russian chain of command it goes, but we're always told that nothing big happens without Vladimir Putin's approval. 
The intelligence finding was briefed to President Trump, and the White House’s National Security Council discussed the problem at an interagency meeting in late March, the officials said. Officials developed a menu of potential options — starting with making a diplomatic complaint to Moscow and a demand that it stop, along with an escalating series of sanctions and other possible responses, but the White House has yet to authorize any step, the officials said.
The White House has been sitting on this information for close to four months, apparently unable to make up its mind to do anything, though. Except to keep it secret, apparently. Though Trump has been conducting his own Russia policy of pushing the readmission of Russia to the former G8, now G7, even though the crimes in Ukraine for which Russia was expelled (the annexation of Crimea and collaborating in an insurgency in the Donbass region) are ongoing, doubling down on the idea of invitating Putin to attend a G7 summit.. As Twitter was quick to note:

Friday, June 26, 2020

Social Justice League

Via Washington Area Spark. Note it was a multiracial crowd.

While Monsignor Douthat urges the Marxists supposedly betrayed by the Democrats to join up with his own white-power movement, if that's what he's really up to, David Brooks continues with the simpler task of sketching out the Democratic Party he'd enjoy voting for, which would be more attentive to his particular sensibilities, and less distracted from what he regards as the Big Issues ("America Is Facing 5 Epic Crises All at Once: This is not the time to obsess about symbolism"):
  1. "We" are losing the battle against Covid-19;
  2. "all Americans but especially white Americans" are rapidly learning about the struggles involved in being an African American;
  3. the American public is "vehemently rejecting" the Republican Party under Trumpian leadership;
  4. American cultural institutions are being taken over by the "quasi-religion" of Social Justice, which sees history as "essentially a power struggle between groups, some of which are oppressors and others of which are oppressed", and speech as "a form of violence that has to be regulated"; and
  5. we might be on the verge of a severe depression.

These five changes, each reflecting a huge crisis and hitting all at once, have created a moral, spiritual and emotional disaster. Americans are now less happy than at any time since they started measuring happiness nearly 50 years ago. Americans now express less pride in their nation than at any time since Gallup started measuring it 20 years ago.

Points 1 and 5 are real problems, though I think Brooks is too pessimistic about the first—it's not a battle with an enemy that can win—the virus can either run out of hosts to infect if we're all dead, or find a way of carrying on without killing us all, but it can't declare victory and occupy a throne somewhere; there's an other side that we'll all reach sooner or later, some of us sooner because we're willing to change our behavior, others not. Governors Abbot, Kemp, DeSantis, and Ducey certainly seem to be losing their wars. but they're against the Democrats and the citizens, and I hear Abbot is starting to negotiate for peace. On the last point, Brooks is too optimistic: this is a very bad economic crisis, and it will take a lot to emerge from it. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Ross Goes Bannon

Via Medium.

Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, deeply concerned about the Democrats, as always, and showing some weird sentimental attachment to Bernie Sanders and the politics of class struggle ("The Second Defeat of Bernie Sanders"):

Three months ago, Bernie Sanders lost his chance at the Democratic nomination, after a brief moment in which his socialist revolution seemed poised to raze the bastions of neoliberal power. But the developments of the last month, the George Floyd protests and their cultural repercussions, may prove the more significant defeat for the Sanders cause. In the winter he merely lost a presidential nomination; in the summer he may be losing the battle for the future of the left.

It's the usual story of the Democrats abandoning the "working class" and economic issues in favor of "elites" with their "social" concerns, except Douthat's refusal to believe that the working class has any black and brown people in it, or women, for whom racism and sexism are in fact serious economic issues, is getting really deafening at the moment:

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Radio Heads

Via Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

From the open tabs:

I've been meaning to say something about the awfulness of Michael Pack, the new head of the US Agency for Global Media, which is the umbrella agency for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Voice of America, and other international news outlets widely recognized for the quality and independence of their work; a rightwing filmmaker (he produced the documentary Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words) and pal of another would-be Hollywood mogul, Stephen Bannon, we're told, who is in turn an inveterate enemy of VOA:

“VOA is a rotten fish from top to bottom,” Bannon, the former leader of the conservative Breitbart news site, said in an interview. “It’s now totally controlled by the deep-state apparatus.”

He has been pushing Trump to take control of the Voice of America since he served as chief White House strategist during Trump’s first seven months in office. Following his forced departure, Bannon has kept up the fight from the outside. (Los Angeles Times, December 2018)

Now he's sacked the heads of more or less all these outlets, in a clear effort to seize ideological control, and it's a plainly horrible thing from the standpoint of US prestige—like shutting down the Peace Corps or all the USIS libraries, among the few American things that rouse universal admiration in the flood of Trumpy embarrassments and war crimes memories—but I'm not hearing as much outrage as I'd expect.

Why? I have a feeling it's partly the outrage overload, and the fact that we don't generally watch/listen to VOA here in the states—they're not really meant for us (I should say I run into RFE written materials online all the time, and they're really well done, well sourced, good on complexities, and not tendentious), and we don't feel personally threatened by it.

And then we don't have a sense of why they'd want to destroy VOA and RFE, so it just seems more like garden-variety vandalism than anything important. For the very reason that Americans don't use them, how could they be used to further Trumpy ends? For propaganda? What's the value of propaganda that we never hear/

So, for a little paranoia, how about the following: It's not Trump that suffers from VOA and RFE and so on, but Trump's friends: Xi Jinping, Mohammad bin Salman, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Rodrigo Duterte, and above all Bannon's Eurasianist Führer Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. Some of whom have been known to provide Trump with a little election help (and Russia has been putting pressure on VOA and RFE/RL since the beginning of Trump's term, designating them as "foreign agents" back in December 2017).

Is Trump doing his friends a little favor, as friends do?

Monday, June 22, 2020

Literary Corner: Ramp, the Bootleg Tape

Emperor Trump's road show has been likened to the Grateful Dead, for the loyal fans, Trumpheads, who follow it from town to town, making it look as if he has a sizable following in every town on the tour, competing with one another as to who's seen him the most times.

He also resembles the Dead, it occurs to me, in the way he trots out his greatest hits for the audience, stories we've heard in canned versions now pulled out and prolonged with spun-out psychedelic riffs, of which this incredible 14-minute jam on his latest chart-buster Epic of the Ramp (illustrated with photos evoking the stage directions) has to be the most stunning of all time:

Sing, O Muse, the Ramp of Achilles
by Donald J. Trump

You know, it was interesting. To show you how fake they are. You might have 
seen it. So last week they called me, and they say, ‘Sir, West Point. West Point. 
We’re ready.’ I said, ‘Oh that’s right, I have to make a commencement speech 
at West Point.’ You know they delayed it for six weeks because of COVID. So 
they delayed it. And I went there, 1106 cadets were graduating, and beautiful. 
Beautiful cadets. So, just to show you how bad the fake news is. So, they say to me, 
‘Sir! We’re ready to go.’ I say, ‘Let’s go!’ This is after saying hello to a lot 
of cadets; inspecting little areas of a building. That was very exciting, actually, 
it’s beautiful, very old. Studied a lot of our great generals, some of our presidents 
that went there. West Point is beautiful. Right on the Hudson River. But after an 
hour – the general that runs it is a fantastic guy – after an hour, we land, we 
do some more inspections and they say, ‘Sir are you ready?’ ‘Yes, I am.’ So 
we walk like, the equivalent of about three blocks, which was fine. We go on stage, 
which is fine. They make some speeches, then I make a speech. It lasted a long time, 
I don’t know, maybe 45 minutes, maybe longer, I don’t know, but a long time. The sun 
is pouring down on me. OK? But they said to me before the speech, ‘Sir! Would you
 like to salute each cadet, each single cadet? Or maybe they’ll be in groups 
of two. Would you like to salute? Like this, yes. 

Like this. 

Sunday, June 21, 2020

For the Record: I Started a Joke

Oh wait, apparently he didn't really mean it.

Or did he?

Saturday, June 20, 2020

The Times They Are

Updated 8:00 PM

I should say that Senator Young (R-ND) has been dead even longer than my friend Dick (he served in the Senate from 1945 to 1981 and died two years after leaving office), so it's hard to evaluate his sources, but it's an interesting thought. What is Geoffrey Berman's office currently investigating? 

Everybody tells us he's looking at Rudy Giuliani's probably illegal conduct in the Ukraine with Lev and Igor and the drug deal, in which Trump is already an unindicted but impeached co-conspirator. He's also reported to have
conducted an investigation into Mr. Trump’s inaugural committee, subpoenaing financial and other records as part of a broad inquiry into possible illegal contributions from foreigners.
I assume that means The Times knows this from looking at the filings, and the same presumably goes for reports of the SDNY continuing its investigations of Deutsche Bank—weirdly, Berman's deputy Robert Kharzumi, and the bizarrely unqualified person Barr wants to replace Berman, SEC chairman Jay Clayton, have both represented Deutsche Bank as attorneys, and, Forbes comments,

Friday, June 19, 2020

Moderately Woke

Drawing by David Levine, 27 October 1983.

I'm not annoyed by the main idea of David Brooks's contribution to the Juneteenth commemorations, ("How Moderates Failed Black America"), indirectly evoking Dr. King's frequently quoted castigation of the white moderate in the 1963 Letter from a Birmingham Jail:
I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
But that isn't the sort of thing Brooks is talking about at all; 57 years and practically all of his own life later, it still hasn't occurred to him that African Americans might wish to act in their own behalf instead of waiting for the gentry to take care of them. What he's sort of apologizing for is the failure of white moderates to come up with a working plan for liberating black people, unaware that they could find it preferable to get some cooperation in the project of liberating themselves:

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Bolton the Barn Door

Image by Donkey Hotey 2018, via es.news-front.

The one thing Bolton got really angry about, as Jennifer Szalai notes in an enjoyably snarky Times review:
the moment he cites as the real “turning point” for him in the administration had to do with an attack on Iran that, to Bolton’s abject disappointment, didn’t happen. 
In June 2019, Iran had shot down an unmanned American drone, and Bolton, who has always championed what he proudly calls “disproportionate response,” pushed Trump to approve a series of military strikes in retaliation. You can sense Bolton’s excitement when he describes going home “at about 5:30” for a change of clothes because he expected to be at the White House “all night.” It’s therefore an awful shock when Trump decided to call off the strikes at the very last minute, after learning they would kill as many as 150 people. “Too many body bags,” Trump told him. “Not proportionate.”
Bolton still seems incensed at this unexpected display of caution and humanity on the part of Trump, deeming it “the most irrational thing I ever witnessed any President do.”
Right. "I understand hesitating to say he believes the US intelligence community because Vladimir Putin says they they gave him a bum rap, but refusing to kill 150 beastly Persians when you have a chance? That's irrational!"

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Hi It's Stupid: Horse Race

Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, figurine by Donald F. Saari, 1973, via WorthPoint.

Hi, it's Stupid to say Elizabeth Warren shouldn't compete for the vice presidency with all the means at her disposal, including deploying all the power of those hot influencers Lawrence Tribe and Jane Fonda. After all, doesn't she have the right to think she's the best for the job?

With all respect and fervent admiration, she has the right to think she's the best for a lot of jobs, and she's probably right about it, too, but that doesn't mean she has to take all of them. I've said it before and I'll say it again: why shouldn't she chair the Senate Banking Committee after the coming blue wave democratizes the Senate and exercise some real power? Why should she opt instead to be "buried before I am dead", as Daniel Webster saw it when he turned down the vice presidency in 1839?

Monday, June 15, 2020

Terror in the Bath

After the Bath. Drawing by Edgar Degas ca. 1900, Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Such a pleasure to see the Supreme Court frustrating the presidency with their refusal today to take on bullshit gun rights cases and the DOJ desire to challenge "sanctuary cities" laws, but obviously the big thing is their recognition, by a 6-to-3 margin, that LGBTQ people can be discriminated against under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act since "sex" became a protected category in 1991. Apparently because, as I suspected, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Gorsuch (who wrote the very well crafted opinion) have some limits as to how low they're willing to go in gratifying Republicans. Not that they're nice people, and I don't think you should be too optimistic about the survival of the Affordable Care Act or the exposure of the Trump tax returns (I'm going to express a tiny hope on both, and a stronger one on the survival of the DACA program), but they see themselves as true aristocrats, too good to follow the Republicans all the way into the swine trough.

Bret Kavanaugh, in infuriated dissent:

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Literary Corner: Dude Descending a Staircase

Have You Talked to Your Kids About Bathmophobia?

The Last Thing I Was Going to Do
by Donald J. Trump

The ramp that I descended 
after my West Point Commencement speech 
was very long & steep, 
had no handrail and, most 
importantly, was very slippery. 

The last thing I was going to do 
is “fall” for the Fake News to 
have fun with. Final ten feet 
I ran down to level ground. Momentum!

Bathmophobia, I'm informed by The Sun (UK), is the pathological fear of slopes and stairs, and something we've seen a lot of in our president, as when he snatched the hand of a startled Prime Minister May at the White House or outside Blenheim Palace. I'm glad to see here an indication that he's aware of his fear of falling, or at least "falling", a kind of fake fall of which the Fake News would inevitably take advantage to plant the story that the president actually does fall when he merely "falls". Obviously not a risk worth taking. 

He does not "run down" the final ten feet but rather gathers his wits after reaching level ground. Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, Superintendent of the Military Academy, must be pretty battle-hardened, because he doesn't look scared at all, and I think I see an indication in the video that Trump would like to have grabbed his hand too, but represses the urge with manly firmness.


Steve M reminds us that he's had these problems for a long time.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Cotton Mouth

"Treason Memorial: The Portrait of Tom Cotton" by Daniel Edwards, 2015, when Cotton and 46 other Republican senators violated the Logan Act by going over President Obama's head to attempt negotiating directly with Ayatollah Khamenei, depicting "the life-size head of Arkansas Republican Tom Cotton looking seditiously ahead, beneath the looming representation of Iranian leader Ali Khamenei, who appears to have a sly and divisive smile. Etched below is a ‘U.S. seal of treason,’ featuring the bald eagle, scornful and glaring with its back turned away, accompanied by text which describes the offense committed by the 47 senators." Via Send2Press Newswire.

The battle over Senator Tom Cotton's fascist piece calling for the deployment of federal troops across the country in an "overwhelming show of force" against the "orgy of violence" perpetrated by "left-wing radicals like antifa" and their "thrill-seeking rich" allies in "exotic cars" continues even after James Bennett's departure, and The Times is presenting more commentary. Here's Mr. Bret Stephens:

In the week of the Op-Ed’s publication, an ABC News/Ipsos poll found that 52 percent of Americans favored deploying troops to help quell violent unrest in American cities. That’s not a political fringe unworthy of consideration. And Tom Cotton isn’t some nobody you’ll never hear from again. He has the pulse of his party, the ear of the president and an eye on higher office. Readers deserve an unvarnished look at who this man is and what he stands for.
LOL, "unvarnished". That's the issue right there. Cotton's prose is so varnished you could just about stand it up on a pedestal in the Arkansas capitol and call for it to be removed as a fraudulent glorification of the racist or (as the case may be) treasonous past. An unvarnished look would have to come from a pitiless reporter, not from the man himself, who's as curated as a presidential library.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Literary Corner: Winning, Victory, and Freedom

At the Roald Dahl Museum in Great Missenden, Bucks, Matilda confronts President Trump. Photo credit PA via BBC.

Monumental and Very Powerful
by Donald J. Trump with Stephen Miller

It has been suggested that we should rename 
as many as 10 of our Legendary Military Bases. 

These Monumental 
and very Powerful 
Bases have become 
part of a Great American Heritage, 
and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom. 

The United States of America trained 
and deployed our HEROES on these Hallowed 
Grounds, and won two World Wars. 

Therefore, my Administration 
will not even consider the renaming 
of these Magnificent and Fabled 
Military Installations. 

Our history as the Greatest Nation in the World 
will not be tampered with. Respect our Military!

Unless Trump's slyly parodying Miller here ("Winning, Victory, and Freedom" would be Mark Twain–level satire). But the covert purpose of this piece is clearly to mention "Hallowed Grounds" and wipe out the memory of "hollowed grounds" in the president's Memorial Day address.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Stupid Economist Tricks: Pattern or Practice

Drawing by George Herriman. Via.

After the savage beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police was filmed in 1991 and the film became public—the original viral video of police violence—the street demonstrations and (naturally) accompanying misbehavior and property damage eventually led to a more focused effort to do something about police violence, in which our friend Senator Joe Biden played a distinguished part. Namely, in his much-maligned 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, there was a provision allowing the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division to step in whenever they saw evidence of a police department engaging in a "pattern or practice" of violating people's constitutional rights.

In what came to be called a pattern or practice investigation, a preliminary inquiry (which could be any DOJ lawyer reading a newspaper story) can lead to a formally announced review by designated experts of the department's training policies, disciplinary procedures, and day-to-day interactions with the public, and that can lead in turn to one of a list of possible actions: a Technical Assistance Letter, which is a form of friendly advice from DOJ to the department, not especially binding; a Memorandum of Understanding which is a more rigorous step but still doesn't involve the courts; or an actual lawsuit, which isn't meant to proceed to trial but to the negotiation of a Consent Decree, a legally enforceable agreement to whatever the department needs to do to rectify the situation. It quickly became a really good resource, at least sometimes, as my source for this history, a Bloomberg article from the Freddy Gray moment in 2015, explains, as in the case of one of the first investigations, that of the same Los Angeles Police Department:

Monday, June 8, 2020

Refound the Police

Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images, Camden, August 2013, from Slate coverage of President Obama's 2015 visit to Camden in support of de-militarizing the police, another negative slogan that hasn't paid off.

I for one cannot understand why anybody would want to use a slogan like "Defund the police."

As if the police were a kind of rightwing equivalent of PBS that you could humiliate by taking away their dollars, forcing them to rely on the charity of their wealthy admirers.

There are some terrific ideas out there for what could be done to fix the relationship between communities and police forces, most of them tied, I think, to the experiment inaugurated in 2013 in Camden, New Jersey, across the river from Philadelphia, at the time the poorest city in the US, with a poverty rate of 52% and an unemployment rate of nearly 20%, and one of the most dangerous:

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Is the Coronavirus Winning? Or Are We?

Trump's new fence has become a democratically created memorial on Black Lives Matter Plaza. Photo by Brian C./Popville.

Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, chronicles the sad story of "Why the Coronavirus Is Winning", step by step from the error of liberals to the error of liberals:

In the first stage it was liberals and portions of the public health establishment (including, fatefully, key decision-makers in New York City) who treated the virus as something to “be spun or narrativized away,” trying to define the real contagion as xenophobia or racism rather than the disease itself.

By the time this effort at reality-denial collapsed, the baton of narrative delusion had been passed to President Donald Trump, who spent crucial weeks behaving as though the power of positive thinking could suffice to keep his glorious economy afloat.

Art of the Possible

This kind of thinking from one of my Rose Twitter friends, speaking of Real Leaders, annoys me so much:

I was going to let it go as a little emoprog venting, though, until I saw the same tired personalization coming from the bothsiderist right, or self-denominated center, in the person of horserace commentator Matt Bai, who's anxious to "defend" Biden from the charge of being a revolutionary, in the Washington Post, which adopted him as a columnist (to fill the gaping hole in the inanity department left by the departure of Chris Cillizza, I guess) in January:

Friday, June 5, 2020

And in Trump Nemesis News

Drawing by Baulking Trams/DeviantArt.

Before he stepped down on 15 May as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee as a result of the Covid insider trading scandal, Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) made an official request, side by side with the ranking member Mark Warner (D-VA), to the Trump administration, asking it to move quickly to declassify the fifth and final volume of the committee's report on Russian active measures in the 2016 presidential election—the one that finally gets down to examining the interactions and relationships between the Russian activities and the Donald Trump campaign. It's said to be over a thousand pages long.

I should say straight out that you shouldn't count on the report providing the "smoking gun" evidence for an indictment of Trump—this is a counterintelligence investigation, not a criminal investigation, so it's not what they were looking for. Though you shouldn't be sure it won't, either: it's going to have a lot of detail on Trump's personal business relations in Russia going back from who knows how long before 2013 and continuing up to after the election, when his lieutenants were still working on the Trump Tower Moscow deal; and on the not necessarily illegal collusion between Trump's agents like Manafort and Stone with Putin's agents like Deripaska, which may or may not go over the line into definitely illegal conspiracy. (I think it does, of course; as with a huge theme I've been catching up with from Emptywheel, laying out evidence that Deripaska engineered the disinformation in the Steele dossier to benefit the Trump campaign and Manafort was aware of it.)

A fascinating Twitter thread from @BlakesMustache yesterday (it's under protection right now, and you may not be able to access it—I can't access it myself—but there's the link, for the record) set forth the possibility that it's got enough damaging information to have Trump, and Barr, really freaked out, explaining a whole bunch of strange things that have been going on lately. I want to walk through some of this material (as best I can without the tweets) to see where it gets us.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020



Getting pretty crazy, huh? In the middle of a deadly pandemic, this whole other issue of police brutality, and US Army helicopters bearing the Red Cross insignia bearing down on protests in Lafayette Square under, apparently, orders from the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces who is as you know our head of state and head of government, a biggish failure in the fabled separation of powers in our constitutional setup, or the "highest levels of the Washington D.C. Army National Guard" (WaPo), or maybe the attorney general. Seriously, the attorney general
Mr. Barr was concerned about demonstrations near the White House over the weekend that had resulted in a small basement fire at St. John’s and graffiti on the Treasury Department headquarters, so he resolved to push the security perimeter farther from the mansion.
And the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in military fatigues and the secretary of defense walking with the president and his all-white goon squad over to St. John's Episcopal (where the pastoral staff and colleagues from other churches, far from terrorized by the nearby graffiti and the small fire, had been passing out water bottles and snacks to the protesters while Black Lives Matter workers filled squeeze bottles with the mix of dish soap and water you can use as an eyewash in a tear gas attack) to, um, film him looking with puzzlement at a Bible and waving it in the air and dandling it up and down like a colicky baby.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Literary Corner: Eloquent

Harvard Business Review staff/d3sign/Getty Images.

by Donald J. Trump

It’s a local situation, 
but we’re also making it 
into a federal situation,a 
and it’s a terrible thing.b 

We all saw what we saw,c
and it’s very hard to even 
conceive of anything other 
than what we did see.d

It should never happen,
should never be allowed 
to happen, a thing like that. 
But we’re determined 

that justice be served, and I 
spoke to members of the familye — 
terrific people, and we’ll be 
reporting as time goes by.

For the Record: Colloquy

Pleasant chat on the crisis with the artist formerly known as Thornton: