Sunday, August 30, 2020

Counterintelligence Matters

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, from a May 2019 piece by Murray Waas in New York Review of Books suggesting—with receipts, as they say—that Rosenstein really should not have been supervising Mueller's work in the first place, before Barr took over; because of a conflict of interest, since he was apparently a central witness in the special counsel's inquiry.

The New York Times's Michael Schmidt, who broke the story of Hillary Clinton's improper email storage habits and also of James Comey's memos on Trump attempting to shake him down to stop the Flynn investigation, has a book about to come out (Donald Trump v. The United States: Inside the Struggle to Stop a President—stop him, that is, from threatening the rule of law, and Schmidt doesn't seem to have adopted the GOP view that he shouldn't be stopped), and the big scoop, in today's paper, is that the FBI has no counterintelligence investigation into Trump's Russia connections.

That is, there was such an investigation, as we've been supposing (for me most embarrassingly here, where I suggested that I knew more about it than Jeffrey Toobin), but Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein shut it down days after acting FBI director Andrew McCabe opened it, just after appointing Robert Mueller special counsel, leaving McCabe under the false impression that Mueller would be taking it over: 

Friday, August 28, 2020

Literary Corner: Haiku


Hashimoto Gahō, 1866–99, Chōkarō Sennin Releasing His Mule from a Gourd (detail). Via Minneapolis Institute of Arts.


by Donald J. Trump

You know what I say?
Protest this, your ass. I don’t
talk about my ass.

For the Record: Land of Greatness

Because it took a certain amount of greatness to watch some of the four-night extravaganza, which was even more boring than many had feared, with its relentless repetition of the four or five talking points and its deadly limitation on formats (person at the center of a stage rants to empty auditorium; person at the center of a tastefully curated background rants to camera; with the double climax Wednesday and Thursday of person at the center of a stage ranting to an audience uttering faint cries of approbation). So I did do a bunch of live tweeting last night, some of which contains some possibly useful information, and I'll try to lay some of that out.

On speaker Ann Dorn, widow of the 77-year-old African American retired St. Louis police captain David Dorn, who was murdered on 2 June, during the looting that occurred in the first couple of nights of protest over the killing of George Floyd, as he was watching out for a pawnshop owned by a friend, to express her support for Trump for offering "federal help to restore order in our communities" and for his recognition that "we need more Davids in our communities, not fewer" and that "we need to come together".

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Blog in the Strict Sense of the Term


The Angel Mom decided to post this tweet (since deleted) promoting a thread on the vast conspiracy led by Soros and Rothschilds and the Elders of Zion to enslave all the "goyim" the day of her planned appearance on the soft and feminine night of the Republican convention, but she got canceled, not by cancel culture but by the Trump campaign. She later claimed not to have read the thread herself, or at least not all of it, but it wasn't exactly inconsistent with her own writing, like this from June 2019 on invading caravans of Central American migrants:

“These are the violent types of people that SOROS, the ROTHCHILDS (sic) and the United Nations have NO problem using as pawns and uprooting them and bringing them to the USA to accomplish their ONE WORLD GOVT!” Mendoza tweeted. (via Daily Beast, collected before she put her account under protection)

She also is or was a member along with Kris Kobach, Erik Prince, Tom Tancredo, and ex-sheriff David Clarke, of the board of the We Build the Wall scam, which collected money ostensibly for the private construction of a wall on the Mexican border to keep out those same violent pawns but in fact to enrich the chairman, Stephen Bannon, and founder Brian Kolfage and a couple of their associates who covered up their misdeeds by "creating sham invoices and accounts to launder donations and cover up their crimes" and are now under indictment in the Southern District of New York.

My objection to the whole concept of "angel families", Americans united by having experienced the tragic loss of a child because of the actions of an undocumented immigrant, mostly in road accidents, is that thousands of Americans lose children every year, and it's just as tragic when the killer is an American citizen or permanent resident, as it is in the overwhelming majority of cases. "If that man hadn't come illegally into the country my baby would still be alive!" Well, maybe, and maybe if we had adequate public transportation so people wouldn't have to drive home from bars. Or maybe if the guy in question hadn't been rushing to make a late delivery and avoid getting fired from the job that feeds his six children, what do I know? But the only thing that would have a particular application to undocumented immigrants would be for a driver in one of the 35 states where the undocumented can't get a learner's permit, let alone a license, and who therefore didn't have any training. In which case it's the state's fault for crazy misplaced priorities (licensing is supposed to be for safety, not for a system of rewards and punishments). 

I have much the same problem with people who don't want undocumented immigrants, or in some cases any immigrants, to have help getting access to affordable health care. What part of public health don't you understand?

Meanwhile young people are getting killed by doctors and pharmacists running pill mills, all of them legal residents. Focusing on the very small number of bad drivers who are undocumented immigrants seems insane, given how many truly terrible drivers there are altogether. And such an odd narcissism, anyway, in the implicit claim, "My pain is worse than anybody else's because it involved an illegal border crossing."

I'm not sure what I'm trying to tell you here, but I think these things all hang together, the misinformation, the racism, the paranoia expressing itself in conspiracies, and the extreme egocentrism.

Monday, August 24, 2020


 Who says Trump doesn't have a second-term agenda? He does so! It just arrived this morning!

President Trump: Fighting for You!

Looks like the boys pulled an all-nighter getting it together. Here's what we're getting on jobs:


  • Create 10 Million New Jobs in 10 Months
  • Create 1 Million New Small Businesses
  • Cut Taxes to Boost Take-Home Pay and Keep Jobs in America
  • Enact Fair Trade Deals that Protect American Jobs
  • "Made in America" Tax Credits
  • Expand Opportunity Zones
  • Continue Deregulatory Agenda for Energy Independence

Does that mean he's going to get everything done in 10 months, and then head down to Palm Beach in November 2021 and we'll never see him again? 

Because if the million new small businesses are in the jobs agenda, they must be the kind of small businesses that have employees, and the average number of employees in a small business that has employees is 10, so that's your 10 million jobs right there.

Then there's another million jobs being re-imported from China, and we're already beating expectations!

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Gloom and Boom


Photo via Dawn (Pakistan).

Steve M picks up on the Republican campaign strategy as outlined at the Washington Post

Republicans will open their national convention Monday with an urgent mission: To convince voters pessimistic about the state of a country battered by the novel coronavirus, economic recession and racial upheaval that President Trump deserves four more years at the helm.

Convention organizers say the president and his surrogate speakers will showcase optimism and inspire hope in a time of worldwide despair, with programming planned around themes of “promise,” “opportunity” and “greatness” for the United States in a second Trump term.

“The big contrast you’ll see between the Democrats’ doom-and-gloom, Donald Trump-obsessed convention will be a convention focused on real people, their stories, how the policies of the Trump administration have lifted their lives, and then an aspirational vision toward the next four years,” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in an interview Saturday.

and wonders how a candidate like "American carnage" Trump is going to manage an approach like that, concluding that he probably won't.

I think they've settled on this line because new campaign head Bill Stepien is trying to run the campaign in a traditional way, and you're supposed to settle on some coordinated line of attack after the other guys' convention. So this is it.

Part of the problem is that Trump can't sustain a positive, optimistic tone and doesn't want to.

But I think Trump's situation is worse than that. 

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Another Opening, Another Show

Benjamin Bar & Lounge at Trump International, via OpenTable.

Now that the 2020 Democratic Convention is out of the way, providing Republican planners with some valuable ideas on how to run a virtual convention which they can attempt to copy following the defeat of the party's plans to hold a more conventional convention in Charlotte, or Jacksonville after Charlotte turned them down, torched by the unwillingness of both cities and most people in general to go along with what would certainly condemn some   attendees to death or the obloquy of helping with the spread of pandemic in their own communities, in spite of the president's assurances that the pandemic would go away very soon and leave them alone—now that there's only the weekend left to figure out what they're going to do, they're buckling down to the very real work of preparing eight hours of television communicating to voters why they should feel fired up and ready to vote, possibly by mail, for the Trump-Pence ticket.

Which should be plenty of time for the professionals who have been behind this crackerjack political operation for the past four or five years.

I'm not in a position to tell you exactly what's going to happen, but there's a fine Wikipedia page on the subject, and combining that with my own deep knowledge of how the party works, I can offer some educated guesses.

First, the basic facts:

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Useful Idiot in the Strict Sense of the Term


And the reason they held the meeting was so they could run a photo of the meeting. Duh. From Trump's Twitter account via USA Today.

Live-blogging volume 5—

Of what some have decided to call the Rubio Report, after Senator Marco, who has pulled a Billy Barr in this connection:

There is, as you can imagine, evidence of "collusion" in the report, some of it new, as in SSCI's certainty that Manafort's assistant Konstantin Kilimnik was a Russian intelligence officer, something previously only described as a possibility:

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Rashomon Salad


Rashomon Salad is my indie band name, of course, but... Drawing by Reuben Bolling (thanks, Jesse!) via TVTropes.

Live-blogging Volume 5

Of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on Russian active measures in the 2016 election, focusing (this final volume) on counterintelligence aspects, that is, on the

threat posed by the Russian influence operation. For example, the Committee examined Paul Manafort' s connections to Russian influence actors and the FBI' s treatment of reporting produced by Christopher Steele. 

And a good deal more. It was released this morning, as I learned from a couple of eager tweets from Emptywheel, and I guess it's going to take over my life for a while.

It really is almost 1000 pages long (the last piece, "Additional Views of Senator Wyden", comes on pages 949-66), and that doesn't mean with a lot of filler, as far as I can tell, though there's pretty heavy redaction in some spots. The report on the 9 June Trump Tower meeting (pp.322-95), which I couldn't help peeking at, reads like a kind of Rashomon salad, with all the participants' conflicting accounts chopped and tossed together on the page. Incidentally, 

Michael Cohen told the Committee that, in his opinion: "The reason why Jared and Manafort were in that meeting is because Mr. Trump would never have allowed Junior to be in that meeting by himself. Mr. Trump was very quick to tell everybody that he thinks Don Jr. has the worst judgement of anyone he's ever met in the world. And I can assure you that when that meeting, conversation, took place, that Mr. Trump turned around and said: Make sure that Jared and Paul are part of the meeting. Because he would never let Don Jr. handle that meeting by himself." Cohen Tr. II, p. 376; Cohen's statement is notable only because of the access-he had to the individuals involved, including Trump, at the time of meeting. The Committee did not find information that corroborate's Cohen's statement, and did find information that contradicts it. (360, fn. 2321) 

Pretty sure the contradictory information concerns how Kushner and Manafort got involved in the meeting (their information makes it clear that Junior invited them himself, and even kind of pestered them, in what looks to me like recruiting them as witnesses to what he expected to be a glorious intelligence coup), not Trump's opinion of Junior's judgment. 

Conventional Ideas

Adlai Stevenson and Richard J. Daley at the podium for the 1956 Democratic convention, via Chicago Collections

Covid-19 is a pretty terrible thing, but after a couple of hours of this year's Democratic convention I would like to praise it for one thing: dealing a deathblow to the post-1972 institution of the overstuffed, overblown, visually dead and dead boring political TV convention, with its vast convergence of people to whom favors were owed and every conceivable tendency and intersection lumbering on and off the stage creating hours of virtually dead air and opportunities for the stupidest TV pandits to argue about who "won",  generally invidiously and in favor of the speakers offering the least content.

I was watching on MSNBC, which took a pretty reverent approach, with just one break (I think during an unexcited performance by a peculiar couple, the Broadway star Billy Porter and the old-line Laurel Canyon rocker Stephen Stills, who gave a heartwarming interview to Variety if you're interested, but whose contribution was leaving me unmoved, don't @ me), without commercials, and I don't know if other venues gave it the same courtesy, but I was just transported much of the time, and I hate to say it because it might sound cynical, but I believe the production values had a lot to do with that.

Because the demands of the pandemic preventing it from taking place in a single location forced a level of planning such as doesn't normally go into these productions. It was practically edited in advance of the performance, and the care, far from harming the spontaneity of the occasion, brought it to emotional life, from the passionate start of a song written for the occasion by Bruce Springsteen (when I recognized his voice is when I started telling myself, "This is going to be all right"). Which was real, that's why I don't think I'm being cynical in bringing it up.

Monday, August 17, 2020

For the Record: Serious Leftists and Debate-Club Rightists


Illustration via Joan Wong from The Atlantic, December 2018.

This thing I keep saying, but I like the form in which I said it this time:

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Hot Seat

Image by vicnt (Getty Images/Stockphoto), via ETF Trends.

Well, well, well:

The Senate Intelligence Committee has sent a bipartisan letter to the Justice Department asking federal prosecutors to investigate Stephen K. Bannon, a former Trump confidante, for potentially lying to lawmakers during its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The letter, a copy of which was reviewed by The [Los Angeles] Times, was signed by the panel’s then-chairman, Republican Sen. Richard M. Burr, and its ranking Democrat, Sen. Mark Warner.

It also raised concerns about testimony provided by family members and confidants of President Trump that appeared to contradict information provided by a former deputy campaign chairman to Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Those it identified as providing such conflicting testimony were the president’s son Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law Jared Kushner, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks.

"Has sent" actually about 13 months ago, to prosecutor Deborah Curtis in the DC US attorney's office (who transferred to Commerce Department in September 2019). DOJ didn't tell the paper what action they had or hadn't taken up to now.

The "former deputy campaign chairman" is Paul Manafort's right-hand man Rick Gates, who cooperated with Mueller and took a plea. Among other things,

Friday, August 14, 2020

Literary Corner: Trillion, Billion

In an interview with Fox's Maria Bartiromo, Emperor Trump startled the world by explaining pretty clearly how he wanted to strangle the US Postal Service for funds to prevent it from transmitting all those universal mail-in ballots proposed by the House of Representatives in the HEROES Act passed in May, except, and I don't think this has gotten enough attention, Trump made that up, or got it from a possibly Russian-inspired Facebook post, because the HEROES Act does not in fact propose universal mail-in balloting, and indeed Congress is not even allowed to propose such a thing, which would intrude on the constitutionally enumerated powers of the states. 

Though it does include up to $3.6 billion to assist state governments in whatever they choose to do in the "planning, preparation, and resilience" of US elections, which will include extending absentee ballots in a number of states, not to mention the six states (Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Hawaii, Utah, and Nevada). And $25 billion to rescue the Postal Service from its current financial crisis (what USPS had asked for was $75 million), unrelated to the election.

Trillion, Billion, Do You Know How Much Money That Is?

By Donald J. Trump

Well they’re right, and it’s their fault.
They want $3.5 billion
for something that will turn out to be
fraudulent, that’s election money basically.
They want 3.5 trillion -- billion dollars
for the mail-in votes, OK,
universal mail-in ballots, 3.5 trillion.
They want $25 billion, billion,
for the Post Office.
Now they need that money in order
to have the post office work
so it can take all of these millions
and millions of ballots.
Now, in the meantime, they aren’t
getting there. By the way,
those are just two items.
But if they don’t get those two items,
that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting
because they’re not equipped to have it.


Via Taylor Marsh.

From the foreword to Michael Cohen's Disloyal, publisher and issue date as yet unrevealed:

Both sides were wrong. I knew that the reality was much more complicated and dangerous. Trump had colluded with the Russians, but not in the sophisticated ways imagined by his detractors. I also knew that the Mueller investigation was not a witch-hunt. Trump had cheated in the election, with Russian connivance, as you will discover in these pages, because doing anything—and I mean anything—to “win” has always been his business model and way of life. Trump had also continued to pursue a major real estate deal in Moscow during the campaign. He attempted to insinuate himself into the world of President Vladimir Putin and his coterie of corrupt billionaire oligarchs. I know because I personally ran that deal and kept Trump and his children closely informed of all updates, even as the candidate blatantly lied to the American people saying, “there’s no Russian collusion, I have no dealings with Russia…there’s no Russia.” 

I really need to know what this means. I've long thought the collusion wasn't very formal, neither side quite knowing what the other was going to be getting up to (cf. Roger Stone trying to squeeze information out of WikiLeaks), and kind of haphazard, but does Cohen mean all that? What is "connivance"? 

It's more than "dealing" over the Trump Tower Moscow site, it's about the 2016 election and the cheating, and Trump's desire to "win" in scare quotes, and I think it's got to be more than the general press is expecting, but it's also something Mueller and Cummings (for the House Oversight Committee) and especially Schiff didn't think to ask him about?

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Lincoln Lincoln I've Been Thinkin


Southern Punch 1863, via Sher Watts Spooner/Daily Kos, 2016.

Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, asks ("The Revolt of the Republican Strategists") a kind of interesting question about the Lincoln Project Republicans, former party functionaries who have abandoned the GOP over Trump, and the new book from another one, Romney strategist Stuart Stevens, It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump, who takes it full Driftglass, as you might say, acknowledging Trump as symptom, not cause, of the terrible thing that has happened to the GOP, and that it started happening quite a while back. In the first place, whether the movement wants to move into the Democrats or remain Republican—what does it have in mind? And then why, if the Republicans are so depraved, were they ever Republicans anyhow? What was the Republican thing that held them, until Trump wrecked it, or wrecked their perception that it had ever existed?

But Stevens is so determined to emphasize his party’s total depravity that his only answer to the hard question of why Republicans swung from Romney’s technocratic decency to Trump’s know-nothing flamboyance is that Trumpism was the beating heart of conservatism all along....

There is another way of reading this history, though, that’s suggested by a passage where Stevens is emphasizing the fundamental emptiness of G.O.P. rhetoric on deficits and taxes. “But still the Republican Party continues to push tax cuts the same way the Roman Catholic Church uses incense for High Mass,” he writes, “as a comforting symbolism for believers that reminds them of their identity.” And then, pushing the analogy further: “Being against ‘out-of-control federal spending,’ a phrase I must have used in a hundred ads, is a catechism of the Republican faith. But no one really believes in it any more than communicants believe they are actually eating and drinking the body and blood of Christ.”

Except that in point of fact, many communicants at a Catholic Mass do believe that they are actually eating and drinking the body and blood of Christ. And this is particularly true among the conservative Catholics whose votes were essential to the Republican politicians Stuart Stevens tried to get elected president.

I guess Stevens just doesn't understand that conservative conservatives, as opposed to this cynical breed of party operatives, truly believe in the sacramental character of tax cuts and the Real Presence of out-of-control spending. These hypocritical strategists mistake the depth of faith in the party faithful and suppose that just because massive federal tax cuts and control over federal spending sound as if they contradict each other only the foolish would demand them both, simultaneously. The sacrosanct certainty of our fathers from Reagan through Bush to Trump that cutting taxes will reduce the federal deficit is why we're all worshiping together, isn't it?

Tuesday, August 11, 2020


Don't know about you but I have no intention of trying to #resist this. I'm all the way in.

Harris's undergrad degree is from Howard, which Republicans will probably complain is inside the Beltway, and JD from the University of California at Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco—Biden, of course, went to the University of Delaware and got his law degree at Syracuse. So not merely no Ivy degrees but two state school degrees between them. Somehow this is the most moving for me.

Also, Harris is the first Asian American and the first Caribbean American and the first first-generation child of immigrants on both sides nominee, and the first one with a Jewish spouse, making her a veritable feast of intersectionality. And like everybody else I can't wait to see her use those debate chops we've seen at Senate Judiciary hearings on poor Michael Pence.

This was certainly the best choice Biden had, probably inevitable but certainly pleasing. Rose Twitter calling her a cop and the Trump machine calling her a radical leftist who has captured poor Joe in her bloody claws more or less cancel each other out. Her own ideas have advanced since she was a DA—she's the second-most leftist member of the Senate, according to the DW-Nominate system, which TBH doesn't give you the results Chuck Todd or Rose Twitter might offer, which got me into a hilarious Twitter war the other day:

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Huge News II

Where it all started, on a Dominican beach. Maybe not this one. Via CNN Travel.

The primary subject of the Yates hearing, of course, was dear old General Flynn, and his panicky series of phone calls when he was on vacation in the Dominican Republic at the end of December 2016, after President Obama decreed a new set of Russia sanctions to punish Russian interference in that year's presidential campaign, in which he advised Ambassador Kislyak on how the Russian government should respond, or rather not respond, to facilitate the Trump decision to make sure the Russians wouldn't be punished after Trump entered office; and, as Yates said,

these were not conversations that were just off the top of his head. But rather, he had been coordinating all of this with his Deputy National Security Advisor [K.T. McFarland], who was at Mar-a-Lago with other transition team members. And it was a very deliberate planned set of conversations with the Russian Ambassador to essentially tell them, “Don’t worry about it. Things are going to change what’s... in place.”

Following which, whoever knew about the calls (and it's still not clear who that was, beyond Flynn and McFarland) decided to keep their content a secret from those who didn't (starting, perhaps, with Mike Pence and Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer and going on to everybody else), to the extent of lying about it to the general public and to the FBI, the latter of which is illegal.

I want to talk about how Republicans have tried to turn this story into the story of a crime committed by the FBI against General Flynn, as represented in the rhetorical gyrations of Lindsey Graham's questioning of Sally Yates last week, but first it's a good idea to work through the known facts, of which I keep getting a better idea.

Huge News

I really don't get how they're so bad at this: announcing that he's planning to issue an order advising that something that has been the law for the past 10 years is, in fact, the law (though Trump's Justice Department will be arguing sometime in November, against Trump's Health and Human Services Department, that the law including the pre-existing conditions coverage part of it is unconstitutional, and urging the Supreme Court to strike it down), and expecting I don't know what kind of acclaim.

But the most abysmal example of the week in that unspeakable phony cornpone Senator John Kennedy (R-LA), with his flabby eunuch's face and Grand Ole Opry hair, quizzing the former acting attorney general in the Senate Judiciary hearing on the Russia Hoax, or origins of the deadly FBI conspiracy to take advantage of the pesky Russian effort to install Donald Trump as president as an excuse for uninstalling him:

Senator Kennedy: (02:18:20)
You don’t like Donald Trump, do you?

Sally Yates: (02:18:24)
I don’t respect the manner in which he has carried out the Presidency.

Senator Kennedy: (02:18:28)
Okay. You despise Donald Trump, don’t you?

Sally Yates: (02:18:31)
No, I don’t despise anyone, Senator.

Senator Kennedy: (02:18:34)
Okay. Isn’t it true that there were a handful of people at the FBI that despised Donald Trump and wanted to do everything they could do to keep him from being president?

Sally Yates: (02:18:51)
I can’t speak as to what other people despised Donald Trump.

Senator Kennedy: (02:18:56)
Were you part of that group?

Sally Yates: (02:18:59)
No, Senator I was not.

Senator Kennedy: (02:19:01)
Isn’t it true that there were a handful of people at the Department of Justice during the Obama administration that despised Donald Trump and did everything in their power to keep him from being president?

Sally Yates: (02:19:14)
I’m not aware of anyone at the Department of Justice doing anything to try to keep Donald Trump from becoming President. That would be have been inconsistent-

Senator Kennedy: (02:19:21)
Were you part of that group? I’m sorry, were you a part of that group?

His interrogation technique is basically: on no account listen to anything the witness says, it will only confuse you.

Kennedy also seems to think the deputy attorney general is obliged to personally duplicate all the FBI's investigative work before signing off on a FISA application, 

Senator Kennedy: 02:21:12
Go ahead. My question was, isn’t it a fact that the Steele dossier’s junk?

Sally Yates: (02:21:17)
I think that there is certainly evidence now, but there was not at the time, that calls into question the reliability of many portions of the Steele dossier. I have [inaudible 00:13:27]-

Senator Kennedy: (02:21:26)
Okay. Did you check to see if it was junk before you signed off on the FISA application?

Sally Yates: (02:21:34)
Senator, the affidavit that was provided by the FBI sets forth the factual basis. We rely upon the FBI to be the fact finders in the FISA process-

Senator Kennedy: (02:21:45)
[crosstalk 02:21:45] So, you didn’t independently check?

Sally Yates: (02:21:48)
No, sir. I did not independently fact check, and I’m not exactly sure how I would go about doing individual-

Senator Kennedy: (02:21:53)
Let me be sure I understand. You signed off on two of the applications. You’re asking for permission to surveil somebody who is close to a candidacy for the President of the United States in one instance, and in the second instance actually was the President of the United States. You took no independent steps to see if the Steele dossier was accurate? Is that your testimony?

Sally Yates: (02:22:35)
Senator, I’m sorry. I’m not following your question when you talk about who was the subject of the FISA application.

Senator Kennedy: (02:22:40)
Let me try to be clearer. The Steele dossiers was critical to at least several of the FISA applications, one of which you signed off on. You said that to get the … Let me finish my question. You said that the Steele dossier, with hindsight, may not have been completely accurate. You’re investigating a President of the United States and you didn’t check to see if it was accurate?

and to labor under the mistaken belief that the FBI took out FISA orders not only on Carter Page, PhD, but also on Donald Trump, and to believe that this happened after Trump was already president, which means he is so far behind the curve that he really should have stayed home. It's nice how Yates takes her turn to pretend she doesn't hear ("I'm not following your question"), but Kennedy just doubles down. Yates tells him very carefully that Trump was not the object of any surveillance order, only "an individual... who was not a current member of the campaign", i.e. Page, and goes through the Woods process in which every fact in the affidavit is documented by the FBI and the DOJ's National Security Division (all the mistakes in the Page application involved information that had been left out, not information that had been put in), and Kennedy replies

Senator Kennedy: (02:26:21)
Could you just tell me every step you took to verify that the accuracy of the Steele dossier?

Sally Yates: (02:26:2102:26:09) I relied upon the FBI as the fact-finders here, and the lawyers in the National Security Division to vet the accuracy of the FI’s application. My job-

Senator Kennedy: (02:26:21) All of whom hated Trump, right?

I can't even.

There's lots more to say about the Yates hearing, but I'm taking a break.

To be continued. Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Post-Trump Conservatism: A Marxist Approach. By David F. Brooks

Pablo Picasso, Girl With Mandolin (1910), via

Today's Brooks ("Where Do Republicans Go From Here?") is fooling everybody like that, because it starts out looking like a column he's written 15 or 16 times in the last couple of years and you think you know how it ends, but you're wrong. Actually he ends up with the Bernie Sanders theory of how to fix the post-Trump Republican Party—"deracialize", and move on to class struggle!

working-class emphasis is the only way out of the demographic doom loop. If the party sticks with its old white high school-educated base, it will die. They just aren’t making enough old white men. To have any shot of surviving as a major party, the G.O.P. has to build a cross-racial alliance among working-class whites [non-old high school–educated?], working-class Hispanics and some working-class Blacks.

None of this works unless Republicans can deracialize their appeal — by which I mean they must stop pandering to the racists in the party and stop presenting themselves and seeing themselves as the party of white people — and wage a class struggle between diverse workers in their coalition and the highly educated coastal manager and professional class in the Democratic coalition.

Pile those coastals into the tumbrils! It's the political revolution! All you need is "some working-class Blacks!"—not all of them, just some as-yet-undefined critical mass—and that sniveling manager and professional class won't know what hit it.

That is, I mean, there may be a flaw in this plan, but you can't say it lacks boldness.

The rest of the column gets a little more interesting when you try to reconstruct how his usual point of departure, the History of Conservative Thought, led him through a Hegelian dialectical model of thesis/antithesis/synthesis to this radical conclusion.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Reading Comprehension: It Is What It Is

Trump: “Well what’s your definition of control? Under the circumstances, right now, I think it’s under control.”
Swan: “How? A thousand Americans are dying a day.”
Trump: “They are dying, that’s true. And it is what it is. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t doing everything we can. It’s under control as much as you can control it. This is a horrible plague that beset us.” (via

We know that the death rate is not "under control as much as you can control it" in the United States, because it's been up above 3 per million population (which adds up to upwards of a thousand per day) and mostly rising here since the end of June, while it's been around zero per million in South Korea, France, Italy, and Germany, and around 1 (less than a third the rate in US) and declining in UK.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Literary Corner: If You Look at Children

Welcome Cowpokes From Mike's Round-Up! Thanks, Jon!

2020 is the "Desperate Housewives" of years, with writers so addicted to over-the-top melodrama for its own sake that they'll sacrifice any kind of meaning for a momentary effect, and you keep dissolving into giggles at the moment when you ought to be taking it the most seriously. Hurricanes in Manhattan isn't crazy enough, it's been done before, so they have to have a tornado watch in Manhattan instead. Give me a break.

In any case, it passed, having done little in my neighborhood other than to knock down a lot of tree branches, showing a particular hostility to the locust trees, seen above, in a post-hurricane dappling of late-afternoon sun (and a very pleasant post-hurricane breeze).


Like Things Go Away
by Donald J. Trump

My view is the schools 
should open. This thing’s 
going away. It will go away 
like things go away 
and my view is schools 
should be open. 

If you look at children, 
children are almost — 
and I would almost say 
definitely, but almost — 
immune from this disease.

I don’t know how you feel 
about it but they have much 
stronger immune systems
than we do somehow for this.

(Fox & Friends, 5 August 2020, via The Wrap.)

OK, so as you know, children are not immune from Covid-19. They are less likely to get infected than adults, and much less likely to suffer from severe symptoms (though 10% of infected babies become critically ill, and children who have been infected are in danger of ending up with a multisystem inflammatory syndrome resembling Kawasaki disease, which is pretty scary), but those who do get infected seem to carry a lot of virus ("children younger than age 5 may host up to 100 times as much of the virus in the upper respiratory tract as adults"), and they can infect others, like adults, including their teachers, and their kindly, beloved grandfathers like PRESIDENT TRUMP:
Children under 10 were roughly half as likely as adults to spread the virus to others, consistent with other studies. That may be because children generally exhale less air — and therefore less virus-laden air — or because they exhale that air closer to the ground, making it less likely that adults would breathe it in.... And those between the ages of 10 and 19 can spread the virus at least as well as adults do.
Also, I don't know how you feel about it but it DOESN'T MATTER HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT IT. Facts don't care about President Trump's feelings, as the guy says. And "like things go away" covers a pretty broad range of outcomes. The Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble—they're only made of clay—but viruses really hang around, though their virulence seems to decline at different rates and evolves back and forth. "Virulent" (from the Latin virulentus meaning "full of virus" or poison, which is what virus meant in pre-microscope days) is a terrific word, I'm glad it showed up. 

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.