Trump Stuns Lawmakers With Seeming Embrace of Gun Control

Michael D. Shear, writing for The New York Times:

President Trump stunned Republicans on live television Wednesday by embracing gun control and urging a group of lawmakers at the White House to resurrect gun safety legislation that has been opposed for years by the powerful National Rifle Association and the vast majority of his party.

Let’s be really clear about something—the idea of taking weapons from people reported as and/or displaying clear signs of mental illness is only a radical idea if:

1. You’re a 2nd Amendment extremist.
2. You take the President at his word.

But this is how he works his magic. We’re now debating what is clearly a common sense action within a totally different framework, ‘OMFG, HE SAID WHAT?!,’ instead of just, ‘Well, obviously we’ll do that, but what about the truly radical ideas?’ It’s not even a matter of moving back the goal posts; it’s taking two football teams and the refs and telling them to play the game on a hockey rink.

This is the most dangerous consequence of the Trump presidency. It is also the true heart of the gun debate and the NRA’s power. I won’t even enter the debate under this premise, because doing so would be to help them redefine norms, and to give the NRA actual power. They are extremists by their very nature; their assumed truths don’t align with the assumed truths of the other 99% of the population. There is no debate possible with someone in that position.

I think I’m supposed to be somewhat elated by the churn of conservative Twitter and far-right blogs decrying the Betrayer-in-Chief, but even if I did take him at his word (I don’t), I’m not impressed or excited. A Christian Scientist who accepts medical care for a child with cancer isn’t suddenly an ally for stem cell research; it’s just a nut coming to their senses. This is no different.


Understanding The "Deep State!" Slur Trump and His Supporters Are Throwing Around

Zack Beauchamp, writing for Vox:

The key point of comparison when it comes to spies interfering with democracy — the country for which the term “deep state” was actually coined — is Turkey. And experts on the country are deeply skeptical of the comparison.

“I think I speak for every scholar of Turkey, when I say, please, please do not apply language of ‘deep state’ to [the] US,” Howard Eissenstat, a professor of Middle East history at St. Lawrence University, tweeted.

To understand why Eissenstat feels so strongly about this, you need to look at what actually happened in Ankara.

The Glenn Greenwald tweet this article references sums up my feelings about this perfectly. You can’t pick and choose which leaks to like.


'The trick? Making sure his media diet included a healthy dose of praise.'

Tara Palmeri, writing for Politico:

Staff members had one advantage as they aimed to manage candidate Trump’s media diet: He rarely reads anything online, instead preferring print newspapers — especially his go-to, The New York Times — and reading material his staff brought to his desk. Indeed, his media consumption habits were on full display during his roller-coaster news conference this past Thursday, when he continually remarked on what the media would write “tomorrow,” even as print outlets’ websites already had posted stories about his remarks.

The White House did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

It can be (and in my opinion is) true that both:

1. All of the presidents before Trump were fed/insisted on/leaned towards favorable/unbalanced news coverage. The idea that any of them ate a diet of 100% balanced coverage is silly. I’m not even sure that such a thing exists and;

2. The level to which Trump has sunk is a new low re: a disconnect from “normal” people.

Coverage that acknowledges both 1 and 2 is the only way we’ll all make it through with our sanity and integrity intact.


The Perfect Weapon: How Russian Cyberpower Invaded the U.S.

Eric Lipton, David E. Sanger, and Scott Shane, writing for The New York Times:

The D.N.C. immediately hired CrowdStrike, a cybersecurity firm, to scan its computers, identify the intruders and build a new computer and telephone system from scratch. Within a day, CrowdStrike confirmed that the intrusion had originated in Russia, Mr. Sussmann said.

The work that such companies do is a computer version of old-fashioned crime scene investigation, with fingerprints, bullet casings and DNA swabs replaced by an electronic trail that can be just as incriminating. And just as police detectives learn to identify the telltale methods of a veteran burglar, so CrowdStrike investigators recognized the distinctive handiwork of Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear.

Those are CrowdStrike’s nicknames for the two Russian hacking groups that the firm found at work inside the D.N.C. network. Cozy Bear — the group also known as the Dukes or A.P.T. 29, for “advanced persistent threat” — may or may not be associated with the F.S.B., the main successor to the Soviet-era K.G.B., but it is widely believed to be a Russian government operation. It made its first appearance in 2014, said Dmitri Alperovitch, CrowdStrike’s co-founder and chief technology officer.

It was Cozy Bear, CrowdStrike concluded, that first penetrated the D.N.C. in the summer of 2015, by sending spear-phishing emails to a long list of American government agencies, Washington nonprofits and government contractors. Whenever someone clicked on a phishing message, the Russians would enter the network, “exfiltrate” documents of interest and stockpile them for intelligence purposes.

“Once they got into the D.N.C., they found the data valuable and decided to continue the operation,” said Mr. Alperovitch, who was born in Russia and moved to the United States as a teenager.

Only in March 2016 did Fancy Bear show up — first penetrating the computers of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and then jumping to the D.N.C., investigators believe. Fancy Bear, sometimes called A.P.T. 28 and believed to be directed by the G.R.U., Russia’s military intelligence agency, is an older outfit, tracked by Western investigators for nearly a decade. It was Fancy Bear that got hold of Mr. Podesta’s email.

Attribution, as the skill of identifying a cyberattacker is known, is more art than science. It is often impossible to name an attacker with absolute certainty. But over time, by accumulating a reference library of hacking techniques and targets, it is possible to spot repeat offenders. Fancy Bear, for instance, has gone after military and political targets in Ukraine and Georgia, and at NATO installations.

That largely rules out cybercriminals and most countries, Mr. Alperovitch said. “There’s no plausible actor that has an interest in all those victims other than Russia,” he said. Another clue: The Russian hacking groups tended to be active during working hours in the Moscow time zone.

To their astonishment, Mr. Alperovitch said, CrowdStrike experts found signs that the two Russian hacking groups had not coordinated their attacks. Fancy Bear, apparently not knowing that Cozy Bear had been rummaging in D.N.C. files for months, took many of the same documents.

I’ve had this piece sitting in my to-read pile for a couple of weeks and I’m actually glad I wound up reading it after (some) sanctions were finally put in place in response to the cyberattacks. It’s a terrifying chain of events, obviously, and I’m not sure how more people aren’t concerned by it. The group that should hopefully learn the biggest lesson here is the GOP. While they benefitted this time, the next time it will be their turn on the chopping block.


My President Was Black

Ta-Nehisi Coates, writing for The Atlantic:

But if the president’s inability to cement his legacy in the form of Hillary Clinton proved the limits of his optimism, it also revealed the exceptional nature of his presidential victories. For eight years Barack Obama walked on ice and never fell. Nothing in that time suggested that straight talk on the facts of racism in American life would have given him surer footing.

This is a long piece—it’ll take you an hour and change to read it—but it is worth it. It’s a historical document, something that high school and college students will be assigned to read by their teachers in 50 years. It’s going to be an amazing event to watch President Obama and his legacy transform as the lens of history comes more into focus, and the day-to-day news cycle coverage fades away.


The Road from Saddam Hussein to Donald Trump

John Cassidy, writing for The New Yorker:

It is hard to exaggerate the scale of the disaster that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Blair, Powell, et al. unleashed. Between 2003 and 2011, according to a 2015 study by a team of academic researchers from the United States, Canada, and Iraq, the war and its aftermath caused almost half a million deaths among Iraqis and people who fled the country. Not all these fatalities were the result of gunshots or explosions—they were also due to ingesting contaminated water, or conflict-related stress, or the fact that hospitals had been overburdened or destroyed. But they were still deaths that could have been avoided if the invasion hadn’t taken place, the researchers concluded.

That is just the toll on Iraq. Close to seven thousand members of the American military have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, in overthrowing Saddam and then failing to pacify Iraq, the U.S.-led coalition ended up destabilizing the entire region, with tragic consequences that are still playing out in Syria, Egypt, Libya, Turkey, and lots of other places. To be sure, the Iraq invasion didn’t create Islamic extremism or the Sunni-Shiite schism. However, as I noted in 2014, as isis cemented its grip on Mosul, the invasion “opened Pandora’s Box.” Which brings us back to Trump.

I link to this piece not because it’s interesting (it is), but because I want folks to read it, stop for a second, and then consider that it represents just one issue—one multi-faceted, complex, wide-ranging, issue—in a universe of issues that, come the end of January, Donald Trump will now be in charge of making the final decision on.


What a Lot of People Get Wrong About the Infamous 1994 McDonald's Hot Coffee Lawsuit

German Lopez, writing for Vox:

It’s treated as a classic example of judicial overreach and greed: A woman, driving in her car while holding McDonald’s coffee between her legs, spills some of the coffee on herself. Inflicted with some minor burns, she sues McDonald’s, as if she shouldn’t have known that coffee is hot and driving with it in your hand or legs is dangerous. And then she ultimately wins millions of dollars from the fast food chain — becoming rich due to a dumb mistake that was all on her.

Only this is all wrong.

Mind: blown. I can’t even begin to count how many times this lawsuit has been cited in my lifetime by friends and family as evidence of how frivolous lawsuits are/how stupid people can be/how unfair life is. All predicated on a lie.


North Carolina Republicans’ Shocking Power Grab, Explained

Tara Golshan, writing for Vox:

If these measures pass now, McCrory will still be in office to sign them into law, effectively crippling Cooper from exercising the powers of the office McCrory himself enjoyed.

This is part of a longer history of state Republicans trying to change the rules in their favor. In 2011, after Republicans took control of both the state House and Senate, they passed a redistricting plan that would ensure Republican control in the state’s representation, and attempted to pass sweeping voting restrictions that disproportionally affected Democratic voters — measures that have thus far been successfully challenged in court as discriminatory.

What’s happening in North Carolina is a microcosm of what Democrats fear nationwide. Trump lost the popular vote, but won sweeping control over government anyway. If voting rights, and even gubernatorial powers, are so easily stripped after victory, it could put Democrats even further behind.

It’s terrifying how many political norms are protected not by laws, but by the idea of you just shouldn’t do that. Now that it appears that the GOP is willing to defy those norms—what do you do?


Donald Trump’s War on Science

Lawrence M. Krauss, writing for The New Yorker:

In a 1946 essay, George Orwell wrote that “to see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.” It’s not just that we’re easily misled. It’s that, by “impudently twisting the facts,” we can convince ourselves of “things which we know to be untrue.” A whole society, he wrote, can deceive itself “for an indefinite time,” and the only check on that mass delusion is that “sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality.” Science is one source of that solid reality. The Trump Administration seems determined to keep it at bay, and the consequences for society and the environment will be profound.

I’ve been purposely avoiding posting too many Trump-as-Armageddon articles. Contrary to the belief of some, I think those of us who are skeptical of what he plans to do as President should wait until a. he’s actually the President and; b. he starts to do some of these horrible things. Pitching a fit beforehand runs the risk of Chicken Little syndrome setting in.

That being said, this piece scared the shit out of me. And it should scare the shit out of you, too. And it passes the sniff test—these are the people he really has tapped, and these are the things they really have done and claim to believe.


The Political Bargain Behind Trump’s Cabinet of Lamentables

John Cassidy, writing for The New Yorker:

What is going on here?

Some of Trump’s supporters may have believed they were electing a pragmatic businessman who wouldn’t be restricted by obligations to either party or other powerful interest groups. But he is putting together a cabinet that looks almost exactly like the modern Republican Party: older, white, anti-government, and extremely conservative on virtually every issue. It could have been constructed by the Heritage Foundation, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, or one of the other corporate-funded institutes that have helped drag the G.O.P. so far to the right on issues ranging from taxation to environmental regulation to charter schools.

A couple-three takeaways from this piece:

1. Trump is the GOP and the GOP is Trump, as I’ve been saying all along.

2. These revelations re: Russia and the election are sexy and infuriating and exciting to follow along with, but Occam’s Razor tells us to believe what Cassidy is preaching here. I think it is time to stop treating Trump as an out-of-his-depth idiot, and recognize that he really did just want to win, and now he will be content to let the GOP do their thing, making him an incredibly dangerous useful idiot.

3. If your vote for Trump was cast as a shake-up-Washington, anti-establishment vote—you got suckered.