Washington Post’s January 6 Article

I have read the monster Washington Post offering on the January 6 insurrection. I am grateful to the Washington Post for a chronological story of events. It’s something newspapers hardly ever do.

If you read most newspaper stories quickly, you get the feeling they have explained events in some chronological-like order. If you, like me, try to make a timeline out of the story, you will find that it consists of a punchy introduction to get your attention, which may or may not be situated in time relative to the rest of the article, which proceeds in fits, starts, and flashbacks. I think they call it “narrative.”

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More On Michael Flynn’s Nuclear Adventure

A Dutch newspaper has tracked down participation of a Dutch transport company, Mammoet, in a complex scheme involving Michael Flynn and nuclear reactors.

Of all the outrageous stories to come out of the Trump administration, this one is likely to take the prize. When we get past its being the most complex and figure out what was happening.

The story at the link is consistent with what I know, and Chrome translates it pretty well. I’ve been following the story for some time and still don’t know what to make of it – is it a scam, an attempt to privatize the State Department’s Middle East functions, or something else?

A quick overview: Michael Flynn became involved with some folks who thought it would be a good idea to sell 40 Russian nuclear reactors, with a protection corps, to the Middle East. The Middle Eastern countries would pay for it all, they would become developed and industrial, and peace would result. Flynn and Tom Barrack worked hard to sell the program to the government in the early days of the Trump administration. Some remnants of the organization Flynn was involved with continue and hope to sell a downsized (and deRussianized) program, although they no longer have voices in high places.

I have many questions. Why did anyone think this was a good idea? How were a couple dozen general and flag officers who knew nothing about nuclear reactors pulled into this organization? Is it a scam? If so, who is scamming whom? There’s more to the story, too, than what is in the article. I’ve been saving it up until there’s a good news hook to hang it on or until I can make sense of it. It may be a while.

Photo from Rosatom: A Russian VVER reactor installation.

Cross-posted to Lawyers, Guns & Money

Chain Of Command

Nancy Pelosi says that she “spoke to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley to discuss available precautions for preventing an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or accessing the launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike.

I can tell her the available precautions, and I hope Milley did too: NONE

The President has sole authority to launch nuclear weapons. He is not required to consult anyone else, nor is there provision to force him to.

This situation came about because back in the Cold War, it seemed plausible that the President might not know about a nuclear attack until the missiles were on the way. That gave him a half-hour or less to decide. It was also assumed that we would elect only presidents capable of doing the job.

Nuclear strategists have pressed Congress to change the situation, but so far Representative Ted Lieu’s and Senator Ed Markey’s bill has gone nowhere. Maybe the next Congress will see fit to consider it.

No, there wasn’t a workaround when Nixon was wandering the corridors of the White House, drunk, talking to the portraits. We were lucky.

Nancy Pelosi can’t do a workaround with Mark Milley. That would be tantamount to a military coup, and I think that Milley is not interested in a military coup right now.

If this is a concern, Speaker Pelosi, and I think it is, then bring articles of impeachment to the floor of the House. NOW.

Cross-posted to Balloon Juice

How To Tell A Real Vaccine From A Political Stunt

Donald Trump hinted that he could have an “October surprise” in a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. That isn’t going to happen. The closest is Pfizer’s announcement that it may apply for emergency authorization for its vaccine before the end of November. But, of course, that’s after the election.

The pharmaceutical companies, fortunately, are more interested in preserving their credibility than in currying Trump’s favor. Perhaps they have calculated that Trump is unlikely to win a second term.

ProPublica has a long article on how vaccines are approved. If you want the whole story, check it out. Here’s a tl;dr to provide more of a checklist.

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Mike Pompeo’s War On Iran

One of the many damages Donald Trump inflicts on the country is the inability to focus on events elsewhere in the world. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo uses Trump’s distractions to move closer to war with Iran.

Pompeo’s diplomacy begins by presenting a list of impossible demands to establish leverage for his next moves. In the case of arms control, the next move has been to pick up his marbles and go home. The US believes that Russia has been violating treaties. Instead of using the treaties’ mechanisms to bring Russia back into compliance, the US representative insisted that Russia publicly admit to its violations. When it didn’t, the US withdrew from the intermediate-range missile treaty and shot off a missile that would have violated the treaty. They are using the same strategy now to allow the New START Treaty, the last of the big arms control treaties, to lapse.

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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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