Noted & Quoted

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President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago and proposed an ambitious political strategy to undermine anti-Russian opposition across former Soviet republics.

The allegations, if true, would appear to contradict assertions by the Trump administration and Manafort himself that he never worked for Russian interests.

Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics, even as US-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse.

Manafort pitched the plans to Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, a close Putin ally with whom Manafort eventually signed a $10 million (£8 million) annual contract beginning in 2006, according to interviews with several people familiar with payments to Manafort and business records obtained by the AP.

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The texts, posted on a darknet website run by a hacktivist collective, appear to show Manafort’s family fretting about the ethics, safety and consequences of his work for Yanukovych. And they reveal that Manafort’s two daughters regarded their father’s emergence as a key player on Trump’s presidential campaign with a mixture of pride and embarrassment.

In one exchange, daughter Jessica Manafort writes “Im not a trump supporter but i am still proud of dad tho. He is the best at what he does.” Her sister Andrea Manafort responded by referring to their father’s relationship with Trump as “The most dangerous friendship in America,” while in another exchange she called them “a perfect pair” of “power-hungry egomaniacs,” and asserted “the only reason my dad is doing this campaign is for sport. He likes the challenge. It's like an egomaniac's chess game. There's no money motivation.”

By contrast, the Manafort daughters and their mother seemed much more unsettled about Paul Manafort’s work as a political consultant for Yanukovych’s Russia-backed Party of Regions, which is a subject of renewed interest among investigators probing possible links between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

In one March 2015 exchange that appears to be between the two sisters, Andrea Manafort seems to suggest that their father bore some responsibility for the deaths of protesters at the hands of police loyal to Yanukovych during a monthslong uprising that started in late 2013.

“Don't fool yourself,” Andrea Manafort wrote. “That money we have is blood money.”

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If there's anything mitigating the bad news for the White House here, it is that Comey may have also sent subtle signals that the matters under investigation are not principally about the personal conduct of Trump himself. While this is speculation, I do not believe that if Comey had, say, validated large swaths of the Steele dossier or found significant Trump-Russia financial entanglements of a compromising variety, he would have said even as much as he said today. I also don't think he would have announced the scope of the investigation as about the relationship "between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government" or "coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts"; these words suggest one step of removal from investigating the President himself. If the latter were the case, I suspect Comey wouldn't have used words suggestive of the Flynn-Manafort-Page cabal.

But that's reading a lot into a relatively small number of tea leaves. What is clear is that this was a very bad day for the President. In it, we learned that there is an open-ended Russia investigation with no timetable for completion, one that's going hang over Trump's head for a long time, and one to which the FBI director is entirely committed.

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Some rank-and-file White House aides, meanwhile, have become convinced that intelligence agents may be monitoring their phone calls, emails, and text messages. Those fears intensified last week when WikiLeaks released a trove of CIA documents outlining how the agency can break into phones and computers.

In an interview, one White House aide described the elaborate steps he was taking to shield himself. Once he gets home in the evening, he turns off his work phone and stores it in a drawer because, he said, he believes it could be used to listen to him even when it’s off. If he makes a call during off-hours, he uses a separate, personal phone in an adjoining room, where the stowed work device wouldn’t be able to pick up his voice as clearly.

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Magerman told the Wall Street Journal that Mercer’s political opinions “show contempt for the social safety net that he doesn’t need, but many Americans do.” He also said that Mercer wants the U.S. government to be “shrunk down to the size of a pinhead.” Several former colleagues of Mercer’s said that his views are akin to Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Magerman told me, “Bob believes that human beings have no inherent value other than how much money they make. A cat has value, he’s said, because it provides pleasure to humans. But if someone is on welfare they have negative value. If he earns a thousand times more than a schoolteacher, then he’s a thousand times more valuable.” Magerman added, “He thinks society is upside down—that government helps the weak people get strong, and makes the strong people weak by taking their money away, through taxes.” He said that this mind-set was typical of “instant billionaires” in finance, who “have no stake in society,” unlike the industrialists of the past, who “built real things.”

Another former high-level Renaissance employee said, “Bob thinks the less government the better. He’s happy if people don’t trust the government. And if the President’s a bozo? He’s fine with that. He wants it to all fall down.”

The 2016 Presidential election posed a challenge for someone with Mercer’s ideology. Multiple sources described him as animated mainly by hatred of Hillary Clinton. But Mercer also distrusted the Republican leadership. After the candidate he initially supported, Senator Ted Cruz, of Texas, dropped out of the race, Mercer sought a disruptive figure who could upend both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. Patterson told me that Mercer seems to have applied “a very Renaissance Technologies way of thinking” to politics: “He probably estimated the probability of Trump winning, and when it wasn’t very high he said to himself, ‘O.K., what has to happen in order for this twenty-per-cent thing to occur?’ It’s like playing a card game when you haven’t got a very good hand.”

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Exterminating the Non-Breaking Space Bug

O layout mutilator! O blogger humiliator!

Among the most dramatic results of last Monday’s hearing on President of the United States Donald J Trump’s Twitter habits and related matters was the appearance in the virtual pages of Lawfareblog – among the majorest of major minor blogs of this post-blog epoch – of the Phantom Non-Breaking Space Bug.

Chrome Inspection reveals a major minor infestation in Lawfareland:

Exhibit 1

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Posted in Using WordPress, WordPress Plug-Ins Tagged with: , ,

American Idealism, American Identity – Thread by @dhnexon, with Brief Comments

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Posted in Neo-Imperialism, Operation American Greatness, The Exception Tagged with: , ,

The Deep State vs the Derp State (OAG #10)

Can a responsible citizen refuse to take a side?

Writing recently in Foreign Policy, Brookings Fellow Shadi Hamid, author of several books, numerous articles, and thousands of tweets on Islam and democracy, managed to apply some difficult political-philosophical thoughts – on the nature of liberal democracy as a mixed system, or on liberal-democratic politics in the philosophy of world history – to current events and specifically to the presidency of Donald J Trump. That Hamid helps to explain Trumpism as a phenomenon, a force, and a set of ideas without rancor or aggressive defensiveness – and even while at one point implicitly comparing the typical ground level Trumpist to an Islamist taxi-driver on hashish – further recommends the piece.

In a more informal effort in The Atlantic focused on the question of unelected, nominally non-partisan officials mounting a successful resistance or “soft coup” against the President, Hamid again puts himself in the Trumpist’s place:

If I was a Trump voter, I can imagine being frustrated at this sort-of-deep state working to block or undermine Trump’s agenda. I’d say: Well, I voted for that agenda, and not necessarily some vapid, unthreatening version of it. Presumably, if Bernie Sanders, or someone like him, had won the presidency and decided to radically re-orient U.S. foreign policy, there would be elements within the military and intelligence services that would attempt to “block” him. For these state institutions, it wouldn’t only be a matter of democratic legitimacy but also of something as fundamental as national security. Does that mean that presidents, regardless of what a plurality of voters might want, simply cannot act radically when it comes to foreign affairs or national identity? To what extent are Americans comfortable with that—and are we willing to apply whatever standard we come up with consistently?

Needless to say, not everyone discussing this issue has the benefit of Hamid’s long experience dealing with reactionaries – his specialty having been Middle Eastern religious reactionaries, including the above-referenced cabbie. When, for instance, I recently sought to explain how an intelligence operative might view the illicit exposure of damaging information about a mad or criminal or mad and criminal president as the very soul of duty, a longtime internet friend called my statements “disgusting.”

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Posted in Neo-Imperialism, Operation American Greatness, The Exception

Yearning for President Blog – OAG #9

The Tweet-storm, in the new era of President Tweet, remains a nostalgia-inducing afterimage of the blog and of the era of President Blog, but it may also portend a return or attempted return to coherent, accountable, and consequential civic discussion in a mass society, back from the Great Flood of clicks.

Whatever Twitter offers to discourse or its preliminaries, information does not want only to be free to move on, or free to displace, then be displaced. It also wants to be free to stay, to be appreciated, to be invested with and to be attached to content, for a virtual community even if only a community of two or for a “community within” – the community of mind known to neuroscientists and philosophers, and, if they are right, to each and every one (or more) of us. Information does not want just to negate. It also wants to posit. Information wants to be free to be ephemeral, to be forgotten, to live for an intimate moment and vanish, but it also wants to be free to endure, to be recalled, to survive, to stand and fight as well as to snipe and flee.

The tension turns up in a social media phenomenon I noted a couple of weeks ago in, of course, a Tweet:

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Posted in Internet, Meta, notes, Operation American Greatness, Twitter Tagged with:

Nested Comments Unbound 1.0 Now Available from the WordPress Repo

First envisioned years ago, since that time implemented in various ways via some custom functions and hackage, I’m proud to announce the uploading of Nested Comments Unbound to the WordPress Plug-In Repo. Fingers crossed that it goes well, that I didn’t make some ridiculous mistake or fall victim to some glaring oversight, and that the first reviewers are kind!

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Posted in WordPress Plug-Ins Tagged with:

Tweets toward an Inquiry into Inquiry, in relation to Ideologies

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Posted in notes, Philosophy, Political Philosophy

All the News that’s Fit to Kill (OAG #8)

The Post appears to be promising to narrate the death of democracy – or, if unconsciously, to be revealing an intention to embody it.

Democracy Dies in Darkness

They may be right…

Others have been making fun of the WaPo’s well-intended new motto “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” but we can skip a Buzzfeedy recounting of the predictably snarky first responses, and just acknowledge that the cynics may have a point this time. “Democracy Dies in Darkness” will strike readers as pretentious, since it implicitly casts the newspaper itself as “giver of light,” like Jehovah at the birth of the universe, while the alliteration, which may have been meant to elevate by poetry, qualifies instead as twee. We might find nothing wrong and much right with the aspiration meant to be conveyed, but the statement itself is not aspirational, certainly not in the same way that the most famous motto in American journalism – “All the News that’s Fit to Print” – is aspirational. The WaPo’s motto has the form of a prophetic assertion, more suggestive of “Winter is Coming,” or, as Vikram Bath noted to me on Twitter, “The End is Near”: It asks to be taken as all-importantly true, but we can wonder if it really is true, and whether, even if we want to sympathize, taking it to be true really is better for us: Without pausing to define “democracy” or explain what it is exactly we might mean by its “death” or our “darkness,” and instead simply pretending we all understand the metaphors in the same way, we can ask whether democracy really does die in darkness, or is in fact stronger than darkness, or, for a democrat, is better seen as itself the immortal bringer of light, or potential bringer of light, even in otherwise all-consuming darkness. To fend off these and other questions, the assertion depends on the credulity and even the cooperation of the reader, including an in fact unlikely suspension of the same critical faculties that the motto is in another sense clearly seeking to celebrate. In short, the Post or its publisher and editors are depending on us to give their new proposition a friendly reading, rather than the ironical one which will immediately and intuitively occur to one and all in this ironic age, and especially to those not already inclined to expect prophecy or heroism from the particular enterprise or the larger journalistic enterprise. The enemies and adversaries of the WaPo or of whatever it represents to them will accept the unintended invitation to read the motto in the same way we read that other motto just noted, as a gloss on the content forthcoming: For them and perhaps for many of the rest of us as well, the Post appears to be promising to narrate the death of democracy – or, if unconsciously, to be revealing an intention to embody it, all the news that’s fit to kill.

Posted in Featured, Internet, Journalism, Operation American Greatness

Better Twitter Embeds 2: Stripping the Convo for the Sake of the Convo

A few months ago, I noted a technique for stripping Twitter embeds of extraneous conversation, involving setting the tweet attribute “data-conversation” to “none.” What I provided was more hack than add-on, and required a somewhat laborious process of copying the page source and search and replacing it.

So, this morning, frustrated by yet another Twitter convo that couldn’t be carried forward effectively on Twitter, and that anyway deserved to be preserved for the eternal archives, I decided to automate the process.

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Posted in notes, Twitter, Using WordPress, WordPress Plug-Ins Tagged with: ,

On Emulating the TP vs Trump’s GOP

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Posted in Politics

King of the World

Trump-Bannon Titanic - Cartoon from China Daily

Trump-Bannon Titanic – Cartoon from China Daily – h/t @tomphillipsin

Posted in Operation American Greatness

The Operation American Greatness Gallery (In Progress)

The unveiling today of some rather extraordinary magazine covers seems occasion enough to justify presentation of the OAG Gallery as it happens to stand at the moment. Since, during the course of normal business at this site, the images appear only in thumbnail size, as randomly selected from a set of images, it occurred to me that I should somewhere display them un-cropped, full-size, and with whatever information I happen to possess about them.

Suggestions for additional images are welcome! (Just paste the urls, if you have them, in a comment box.) The only criterion for inclusion in the gallery consists of “happened to strike CK as striking, or objectively were striking enough to him for him to bother to grab them.” Most appeared without attribution in my Twitter feed, but, where artist information is available, I’ve provided it. The selection does not include very many photographs, mostly because the best ones are owned by the photographers or their syndicates, and this site respects the creative rights of artists.

“America First” by Edel Rodriguez – Der Spiegel

America First by Edel Rodriguez

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Posted in Operation American Greatness

Commenter Ignore Button Plug-In Now Available from the WordPress Repo

Commenter Ignore Button Technical Demo

From the Plug-In’s Description:

Commenter Ignore Button (CIB) lets a user put one or more commenters “on ignore.” To have such an option enabled is a frequent request at blogs and other sites where comment threads are plagued by trolls or other problematic commenters, but where site operators prefer to err on the side of open discussion – or don’t want to get involved unless they really have to. Once users become generally aware of the option, people just seeking attention may either be more polite or move somewhere else, while regular commenters – and lurkers – may become more willing to engage.

You can download it from the Repo using the link above, or you can get it here.

Posted in WordPress Plug-Ins Tagged with:

Ignoring in “Illdy”: A CIB Adaptation to a “Bootstrapped” Theme (Case Study)

CIB under default settings has been tested in 100 WordPress themes selected mainly from the currently and recently “Popular” and “Featured” categories in the WordPress repository, but also including custom and more or less randomly selected themes, as well as all of the “annual” themes since WordPress “Twenty Ten.”

The results were over 90 out of the 100 qualifying as “as intended.” The outliers consisted of three main types: Some highly stylized themes; themes that use black or very dark backgrounds in their comments; and themes with completely custom comment templates, typically based on “Bootstrap” frameworks. Read more ›

Posted in WordPress Plug-Ins Tagged with: ,

Oops…

Just a note for anyone who happened to note, or begin, the recently published (and unfinished) “Internal Contradictions of Liberal Democracy (Regime, 2 of 3)” post: I’d parked it in “Scheduled,” certain I’d have gotten back to it and the rest of the series by Inauguration Day, but… best-laid plans and all. I hope to have it up, in proper order, soonish. If you want to be notified by email when that happens, you can subscribe on the “In Progress” page.

As soon as I’m done testing Commenter Ignore Button in around 90 more themes, so can submit it to the WordPress Repo, I think I ought to return to “on hold” writing projects and produce some kind of overview and roadmap. I’ve wanted to do it conjunction with a new WordPress add-on I’m developing for converting a series of posts into a downloadable and hard-printable e-pamphlet, but, for the sake of the blog, I may have to start publishing again first, developing on the way…

Posted in Meta

“Human nature only really exists in an achieved community of minds.” – Hegel

Just wanted to note the line, from the Preface to The Phenomenology of Spirit (§69), for later use and overuse.

I’m quite fond of the larger passage:

Since the man of common sense makes his appeal to feeling, to an oracle within his breast, he is finished and done with anyone who does not agree; he only has to explain that he has nothing more to say to anyone who does not find and feel the same in himself. In other words, he tramples underfoot the roots of humanity. For it is the nature of humanity to press onward to agreement with others; human nature only really exists in an achieved community of minds. The anti-human, the merely animal, consists in staying within the sphere of feelings, and being able to communicate only at that level.

…will have to dig up the original German sometime in search of any lost nuances…

Posted in Internet, Philosophy, Political Philosophy

Housekeeping or Sorry about Tweeting Out that Rough Draft

I’d been thinking about putting up a “sorry I’m busy post,” anyway, especially since I haven’t been keeping up with “the Russian Angle” “link-posts,” but not having posted anything other than a web development note since the turn of the year seemed like explanation enough. However, last night I or the site accidentally auto-posted a post I’d meant to have completed by now, as third in a series (of recently re-visited “untimely” posts originally drafted a few years ago!).

In short, sorry about the SNAFU, and I hope to publish a finished version of the post soonish, in proper order. Please feel free to use this post as an open thread on whatever you like, and please take the following item from the Tweet-feed as a very serious and tragic commentary on the general state of things or fake state of things or state of fake thinks or the falsification of the state…

Untitled by @DavidSRudin

Untitled by @DavidSRudin

Posted in Meta

Adding wp.media Multiple Image Selection to WordPress Plug-Ins

adding-multiple-images

Took a little while, but I finally figured out how to add WordPress Media Library multiple image selection for a process partly depicted above, part of a plug-in still in development.

My code follows. As I mentioned at StackExchange WordPress Development – where I first put the issue in the form of a question, at a point when I was unsure of my ability to answer it – I’d be happy to accept and credit improvements on this work from some true jQuery/WordPress expert, though the code seems to be working quite well so far. Read more ›

Posted in Web Design, WordPress Plug-Ins Tagged with: , ,

Friend Dog Studios: 2016: The Movie (Trailer) – YouTube

2016: The Movie (Trailer)

Posted in Operation American Greatness

Postscript to future historians from Xmas 2016 (OAG #8)

[T]he facts are what they are — email server management, rather than any deeper or more profound root cause, was the dominant issue in Donald Trump’s successful rise to power.

The facts are what they are: Even intelligent, knowledgeable, sophisticated, and articulate writers for successful websites dedicated to usefully explaining events and issues for well-educated readers were, in America 2016, utterly incapable of usefully explaining events and issues for well-educated readers.

Matthew Yglesias apparently believes, as the sub-head in his Christmas Day article has it, that “Big events sometimes have small causes.” The notion is suggestive of chaos theory, which describes how small variations in initial conditions can sometimes produce radically outsized differences in eventual outcomes, but the situation in question is better evoked by the saying on straws and camel’s backs. Yglesias tweet for his post re-stated its conclusion, quoted above, even more illustratively:

The “hook” is precisely the absurdity – and self-inter-exponentiating meta-absurdity – of the notion it entails, and of the co-absurdifying and absurdified political culture and political system it reflects. Read more ›

Posted in Internet, notes, Operation American Greatness

Commenter Ignore Button 0.99

Commenter Ignore Button Demo

As previously noted, this plug-in is or will be the greatest gift to humankind in all of history heretofore. It is now in “Late Beta”, meaning I think it’s just about ready to be distributed, and to begin improving the lives of billions or more forever. For a limited time, I’m offering free installation, configuration, and styling to anyblogger who wants to try it (so that I can iron out any last hinks I happen to find, collect feedback, and maybe produce some additional use cases).

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Posted in Meta, WordPress Plug-Ins Tagged with:

@CK_MacLeod

State of the Discussion

bob
Ignored
Comments this threadCommenter Archive
+ Yeah, I read C's comments as trying to do a variety of things at the same time, having the effect of making interpretation more difficult. Any [. . .]
Benjamin Wittes: How to Read What Comey Said Today – Lawfare
bob
Ignored
Comments this threadCommenter Archive
+ Sure, so why do they have "work Phones" they take home? Even if they don't have fate of the world responsibilities, who they work [. . .]
Isenstadt and Vogel: Paranoia seizes Trump’s White House – POLITICO

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Si Vis Bellum, Part 3: Always Again

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The Twitter default is for "cards" and "conversation" to display, but you can get rid of them either tweet by tweet or through a copy-paste-search-and-replace-re-copy-paste.[...]

Output-Buffering and Extensible WordPress Plug-Ins

Contrary to my tentative conclusions of a month ago, I now understand at least one good reason to use output-buffering while writing WordPress code. Indeed, I now anticipate using the tool frequently.[...]

Comment Elsewhere: To @BurtLikko under "How to Fix a Broken Elephant: Prologue"

Every other re-othered, just like we like it.[...]

the biggest best most unbelievable beautiful stink bomb ever

They are not putting a man forward to take over the office of the presidency. They are throwing a human stink-bomb at it - the biggest best most unbelievable beautiful stink bomb ever at whatever might plausibly qualify a president for support in the eyes of Jonathan Chait.[...]

Conservative Neo-Imperialism vs Jacksonian Neo-Isolationism

As for Trumpism vs. Bushism, one will be no less dependent on "populist nationalism" than the other, to whatever extent it is also successful: In a mass electoralist national system under popular sovereignty, the winner will always be the truest national populist, by definition, if not necessarily the purest national populist according to some external or merely intellectual standard.[...]

After

[...]

On My Grand Strategy on Grand Strategy (Interim Book Report or Tour of a Tour of Tours of Tours)

I am seeking a grand strategic overview of the grand strategic field such as it is, in clear but not simplistic statements susceptible to critical consideration and re-consideration - not total occupation of the literature and victory in detail down to every last sty and hollow. All the same, if I am reluctant to add to the reading list unnecessarily, I will remain grateful for recommendations on further very-essential reading.[...]

Comment at American Creation on Strauss and the Problem of Belief

A remark about philosophers is not the same thing as a philosophical remark, and considering it philosophically is different from considering it in terms of, say, intellectual history.[...]

On the matter of your moral inferiority...

A self-serving moral judgment is always implicit in any political judgment, for the simple reason that a politics without morality would be the physics of randomly colliding human atoms, of no meaning to anyone, or not authentically political at all.[...]

To o-b or not to o-b (output-buffering in WordPress) - UPDATED

My general impression is that, unless I have a very good reason for using it - probably involving the kind of script in which I'm not generally interested at this time - I should avoid it.[...]