Category: Russia Links

Reality Winner

The woman accused of leaking the NSA document is named Reality Winner. That’s her name. Her real, legal name. It’s not a handle. As far as I know, she was born with it. News organizations are trying to distract us by adding the middle name Leigh whenever they say it, but I’m going loud and proud: the woman who tipped off The Intercept about Russian vote tampering attempts is REALITY WINNER.

Sabitha says: I hope she’s okay but also I’m smiling every time I think about how Neal Stephenson must feel right now.

Deal With the Devil

If you make a deal with the Devil, you lose your soul, but also, you don’t get the thing you sold it for, because the Devil is the prince of lies.

In any case, while we’re trying to exorcise the old boy, I found a list of Satanic nicknames assembled by the Dictionary of American Regional English between 1965 and 1970, which you may enjoy deploying, such as Old Booger Man, Old Lutherfud, and Error.

Incidentally, Jimmy Squarefoot may stand out to you as it did to me: he’s an obscure mythological boar-headed biped from the Isle of Man, associated with the (also obscure) Manx Pig Legend. He’s not particularly a devil figure.

Jeff says: I wish this list included the locations for each name. Papa Legba, not mentioned, is a fascinating Vodou figure who isn’t a devil, but has often been mistaken for one. The Talking Heads and Pops Staples did a song about him, too.

Romie: Seconded on wishing there was a distribution map. I wonder whether they’d give you the expanded data if you e-mailed. Meanwhile, a copy of True Stories has been on my “want” list for a while; I’ve been holding out in hopes there’d eventually be a remastered version, but this is probably foolish.

Edward says: “Most Immediate Enemy” gets my vote for most apropos.

Angela says: Error is so perfect. BRB; writing sci-fi version of “Young Goodman Brown.”

Congressional Reaction to Comey Firing

I’ve always looked at the U.S. presidency the same way I look at Santa Claus, where President Santa makes us feel excited about being good or worried about being bad, but adults know the presents and food are actually coming from your mom (Congress). Look at the Republican healthcare bill; that was Paul Ryan. Obamacare? That was Nancy Pelosi.

So when I obsessively follow the Russia investigation, it’s because I care how Congress conducts investigations of the Trump administration.

It’s a test. Of Congress.

The Trump administration has presented us with a bunch of potential Constitutional crises: foreign espionage risks; financial conflicts of interest; authoritarian moves like firing anybody who disagrees with (or becomes more famous than) Trump, praising brutal dictators, criminally charging a woman who laughed at Jeff Sessions, and having a reporter arrested for asking Tom Price and Kellyanne Conway uncomfortable questions in a hallway.

These remain potential Constitutional crises because Congress can act to counter them. They’re the sorts of things that were always risks of a Presidential system (and are the reason so many Presidential systems turn into military dictatorships after 10-15 years). Presidents try to expand their imperial power because they can act quickly, have a lot of resources, and are fairly unconstrained. But Congress can rein it in. (You could think of the President as the horse pulling the American cart, and Congress as the person in the driver’s seat.)

Most routes to stopping Trumpian excess lead through Congress, and this matters not just for stopping Trump but for telling us that Congress works – which we need it to do for all kinds of reasons that have nothing to do with Trump. Like that healthcare thing I mentioned.

The Senate is particularly important, and Senate Republicans (the majority party, Trump’s party) most of all. In response to the Comey firing, they are the ones who could appoint a special prosecutor, form a select committee, or ramp up funding to Congressional investigations already in progress.

(Although I doubt our motivations are the same, I agree with Mitch McConnell that I’d rather this stay with Congress than go to a special prosecutor. My reasons are the opposite of tactical; they’re entwined with my philosophy of government. I don’t particularly trust a crusading outsider beholden to no one; I vastly prefer career bureaucrats accountable to a lot of people. See also: I voted for Hillary instead of Trump.)

I don’t see how we’re more likely to get a brilliant special prosecutor than a brilliant new FBI director – in both cases pretty unlikely. And select committees aren’t magical. They’re not able to do anything other committees don’t do. Past select committees which have been great have been great because of the hard work of the people on them, not the fact of their being called select committees.

In other words, what I’m watching is…people. Republican Senators. Are they going to take the reins and keep America on firm ground instead of wherever this mule is determined to take us?

The Hill has collected the statements of all Republican Senators who have publically reacted to the Comey firing. Nuance is important, so read the statements. The Hill categorizes them as:

13 GOP senators critical/concerned
23 supportive of Trump
11 Neither

FiveThirtyEight sorts the same statements as:

15 GOP senators critical/concerned
12 defend Comey firing
21 ambiguous

(4 GOP senators still haven’t commented.)

On the subject of select committees not being more magical than other committees: the Senate intelligence committee has issued subpoenas for Flynn’s information. “This is the first time the Intelligence Committee has used its subpoena power since the joint inquiry into the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and it’s the first time it has subpoenaed documents since the 1970s, a Senate historian told NBC News.” When Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) said Comey’s firing wasn’t going to impede his own investigation, he wasn’t kidding.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has also requested Trump team financial documents from the Treasury department – ones related to a money laundering investigation. Which is neat because it highlights that the Treasury department has its own crimefighting team, called FinCEN (financial crimes enforcement network) and, well, my Dad was an internal auditor until he retired, and one of my best friends is an internal auditor, and I love the kind of people who investigate financial crimes. Not just in the abstract. I love those people.

Live, from News Chopper 6…

This is not a post about James Comey, but about L.A. news stations’ obsession with covering any and all news stories from helicopters.

People of L.A.: This is not normal. Anywhere else in the United States, the local news broadcast isn’t 40% overhead shots of highways. In fact, most news hours include no helicopter shots at all.

It’s like the old adage: When you’ve got a helicopter, everything looks like something you need to shoot from a helicopter. But you can get past this, L.A. You have excellent filmmakers in your area. They can help you to find impactful, narrative news images which aren’t the roof of James Comey’s car.

You don’t need the helicopter. The beauty was inside you all along.


Gareth: There are so many helicopters in the sky in L.A. All day. Everyday!!

Edward: I’m pretty sure the fact that people in L.A. spend 40% of their lives on those highways may have something to do with this.

Romie: I agree to some extent, in that the news stations need helicopters to do the traffic report, and once you’ve got it up there…. But I must say the last thing I’d want to see, after getting out of my car in the afternoon (or just before getting into it in the morning) is yet more gridlock.

Natalie: Oh man, there is nothing I like more after a long commute than laughing at all the other suckers still stuck in theirs.

Michelle: Yeah, this way we can see what the traffic is like at the same time. So, I know not to take the 405 to get to LAX because it’s bumper to bumper even in the carpool lane.

James G: Do L.A. residents have over 40 words for helicopter?

Rex: More Submarine Coverage!!

Nic:  Every news item should be shot from a helicopter irrespective of content.

Video from when the 18 minute gap in the Watergate tapes was breaking news

Found this old ABC news clip from when the 18 and 1/2 minute gap in the Watergate tapes was announced, which came about three weeks after the Saturday Night Massacre (where the special prosecutor was fired and the attorney general resigned). You may recall the popular wisdom that what destroyed Nixon wasn’t the crime, but the coverup.

11/22/1973: Gap in Watergate Tape (ABC News Archive)

Even though President Trump doesn’t have a great education in American history, he’s an old guy, so he’s been present for some of it. And he loves watching TV news. Surely, in his late 20s, he saw something like this. He has to know on some level that there are times when you want to stay out of the news, even though a desire to be in the news animates every fiber of his body.


NEWSCASTER: President Nixon is having his Thanksgiving dinner at his retreat in Camp David, Maryland. The president flew to Camp David this afternoon, along with Mrs. Nixon, their daughter Tricia and her husband Edward Cox, and Mr. Nixon’s close friend Charles Bebe Rebozo. [Rebozo was a real estate guy who probably helped Nixon commit fraud. This trip is about three weeks after the “Saturday Night Massacre” where special prosecutor Archibald Cox was fired – a firing that lined up with when Cox started to look at Rebozo.]

The White House said earlier today it is considering the question of delivering the subpoenaed Watergate tapes to federal judge John Sirica by Monday.

When the president met with Republican governors in Memphis earlier this week, Governor Tom McCall of Oregon asked a question: were there any more shocks or bombshells in connection with Watergate? The president said no, he knew of none. Then came yesterday’s revelation that one of the promised Watergate tapes is flawed and partly incomprehensible.

In Salem, Oregon today, George Sample, of station KATU, asked the governor if that was the kind of bombshell he meant.

GOV. MCCALL: I think it has to be classified as a bombshell because of what has gone before, where each event that is an untoward event over which the President and the White House do have control – that each one of those is the straw that, in a sense, re-breaks the camel’s back. I thought he was doing great, and I said so, on trying to make a full disclosure to the public and appearing as a believable person.

And it was on that basis I said, “Mr. President,” – I made a speech to that effect. Came home in my automobile, turned on the radio, and I heard the White House had called Elliot Richardson a liar. [Nixon’s ex attorney general, who resigned as part of the Saturday Night Massacre.] Are there any more bombshells? And the answer came, “none that we can forsee.” The White House called me the NEXT day and said, “there are no more bombshells.”

So I – I think it doesn’t take very much to knock down and to reverse a train toward a comeback, even as hard as the president’s working, and that this has had the effect of certainly slowing down his recovery as a believable chief executive.