Where We Are – 36 Days Out

The New York Times now has Donald Trump’s income tax returns “extending over two decades”. They say that the returns come from a person who had legal access to them. The Times’s first article provides eighteen takeaways. They promise more to come. Each takeaway is a string that other news organizations can pull.

Trump runs through money and then manages to find yet another source to bankroll him. At this point, he owes $421 million to unknown parties. There are hints and guesses about connections to a hotel deal in Azerbaijan that appears to have laundered money for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and to Deutsche Bank through Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s son.

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Flooding The Zone

Steve Bannon talked about “flooding the zone with shit,” meaning overwhelming people with disinformation. That is what Donald Trump and his people are doing now with respect to voting. Our job is to resist it and turn it back.

Trump tweets multiple times a day about voting by mail. In his tweets, he emphasizes how unsure, how erratic it is. In fact, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, and Washington primarily use a vote by mail system. Most other states allow absentee voting by mail, under a variety of rules. That variety is being exploited by Trump’s man in the Post Office, Louis DeJoy, who is sending out postcards claiming to remind people about voting. Those postcards are incorrect for many states. The Colorado Secretary of State has tweeted out a correction and is suing the Postal Service for disrupting the election.

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PSA: Donald’s New Drug Can Kill You

Man, I hate articles like the one in Axios about Donald’s latest snake oil. I’m not going to link to it. It should have started with

OLEANDRIN CAN KILL YOU, AND OTHER EXTRACTS FROM THE OLEANDER PLANT WILL KILL YOU

Instead, it cites papers to look authoritative and buries a quote from one researcher that translates to

DO NOT DO THIS

and shows pretty flowers in the pill bottle.

One of the heuristics I’ve carried with me from my time in California is “Oleander is poison. Do not eat.” The flowers are pretty, and it’s everywhere in California. So when I saw this a week or so ago, I did some research. Apparently oleandrin is one of the less toxic oleander components. It’s being used experimentally against cancer. God only knows why anyone is researching it for COVID-19, because it’s still pretty toxic. Not a path I would take until less toxic alternatives are exhausted.

It also looked like people refer to broader extracts from oleander as “oleandrin,” not just one component. So it’s only a matter of time until someone dies.

Donald Trump’s Nonproliferation Ambitions

Today we have a report that Donald Trump would like to meet with Vladimir Putin before the election to present a new arms control agreement to the world.

The easiest thing for Trump to do would be to extend the New START Treaty, which lapses in early February next year. The treaty is written to allow five-year extensions with a minimum of negotiation, and Putin has said he is willing to extend it.

Trump has been surrounded by treaty-haters, though, particularly but not only John Bolton, who would be happy for New START to lapse. Their strategy is to insist that China be a part of arms control negotiations and spin their wheels doing stunts like adding small Chinese flags to places around the table during US-Russian interactions and then whining that China didn’t show up. As China had said it wouldn’t.

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LALALALA Redux

A little more than a year ago, when Donald Trump was in the throes of a love affair with Kim Jong Un, I advanced a theory of his behavior. He wanted the photo-ops and signatures and the sense of a nuclear nonproliferation deal, but was incapable of making a deal, in his words. His incapacity lay in his ignorance about how treaties are negotiated.

At some point, my North Korea watching colleagues maintained, Trump would have to recognize that his photo-ops had no effect whatsoever. Would he freak out against the unfaithful “Little Rocket Man”? Would he admit failure? No problem, I said. His continuing response would be “LALALALA I can’t hear you.”

How would he proceed from those photo-ops, as North Korea was continued to accumulate fissile material and build weapons, even test missiles? When North Korea issued statements insulting Trump and the people working for him? When there were no talks to develop a path towards Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s Complete, Verified, and Irreversible Disarmament (CVID) and variants on that theme? When North Korea explicitly said that no way would that happen?

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A Woman In Portland

What are the rules of engagement for a mob of highly-equipped men, with layers of protective clothing, against a woman wearing no clothes?

That was the situation in Portland on July 18. The woman was as unidentifiable as the men, wearing only a mask and a knit cap. She appeared, danced, and then sat to expose her vulva to the men. Photo showing nudity after the fold.

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Masks, Condoms, And Treaties

Some time back, I started a Twitter thread which I called “Adventures in Masculinity.” I wanted to bring attention to examples of masculine gendering where it was not needed to explain or talk about something but might go unnoticed. The thread is up to 86 entries now, with the last two example tweets having been deleted by their authors. I guess I need to do screenshots.

The Trump administration is masculinist and patriarchal in all things, with misogyny, racism, and xenophobia thrown in. It’s hard not to notice the photos of white men in suits sitting around tables or chatting with each other. I have tried to avoid such obvious things in my thread.

Recently, I’m seeing a throughline that may not be obvious that starts at macho self-presentation and links to the administration’s dislike of arms control treaties.

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The Military (And Others) Respond

On Tuesday (June 2), Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and General Mark A. Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, walked with Donald Trump from the White House to St. John’s Church, where Trump posed for an awkward photo-op. To clear the way for Trump’s walk, law enforcement personnel used tear gas and rubber bullets against peaceful protesters. Milley was dressed in a battle uniform. Esper later said that Trump had tricked him into the walk.

This opens a number of questions. One is the appropriate relationship between the civilian side of government and the military, including whether military personnel should allow themselves to be used for political purposes. Esper is not military, but he is the face of civilian primacy over the military.

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1968 and 2020

A lot of people asking whether 2020 is like 1968, most of them saying that they weren’t there. I was there – not in the riots, but rather focused on my own life. A few years married, in a job at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory that was below my capabilities but learning a lot about reactors. Just moved into a new house. I was not very political, although the Vietnam War was part of every young person’s consciousness.

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Michael Flynn’s Conversations

The repercussions of Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia don’t go away. Michael Flynn is a part of that relationship, although it is not clear how much of his interaction with Russian officials was directed by Trump. Trump keeps interactions at arm’s length so that he can claim he is not responsible for his administration’s wrongdoing. Flynn had connections to Russia before he became part of Trump’s machine.

Attorney General William Barr has requested that the case be dropped against Flynn for lying to federal agents, to which Flynn pleaded guilty. Judge Emmet Sullivan plans to open the case to amicus curiae briefs and has appointed a retired federal judge to argue against the government’s case for dismissal.

Acting DNI Richard Grenell has released records of requests for “unmasking” that resulted in the legal action against Flynn and the discovery that Flynn was lying to Vice President Mike Pence, for which he was fired by Trump. Those records raise further questions of what Flynn was doing.

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