Laura’s Notes on The Mueller Report

Reading assignments can make the most avid reader cringe. Like in a book club with a deadline when you must read a novel (that you don’t really like) all the way through in a week. Or like when you promise to read for a fellow author to pay back for when they read for you. Or like when you were in middle school and had to read a chapter a night of a novel that you hated, but later loved as an adult when you could read it because you wanted to do so.

Or like right now: when the entire country is sad and mad and scared due to the successful hacking of our sacred electoral system, and a collective morbid dread makes us certain that the executive branch knew about the hacking and covered it up, and when nine-tenths of the story is finally revealed and it is like a 400-page novel and everyone is talking about it and arguing, and you can’t even join the conversation because you have not read it, but then you learn that senators and “presidents” haven’t read it either, and you don’t know who to blame or what is specifically causing your flaming anger. Yeah, like that.

This is a case where you should not listen to what anyone tells you until you read it for yourself. Armed with your own logical analysis, you can join the conversation. Let me do two things for you: First, I’ll give you my notes of the Report because I did read it. Second, I’ll bet you a buck my notes so intrigue you that you will read the report for yourself AND then take the day (or week) off from work to watch Mueller’s testimony about his diligent and extensive investigations.

Let’s get to it.

Volume I

In Volume I (of II) the Special Counsel outlines his investigation into the Russian conspiracy to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

Overview: Russia sought all chances to interfere in the election, and the campaign was open and eager for contact.

Russia conducted a coordinated and targeted campaign to sway the 2016 election. The Internet Research Agency (IRA) used social media accounts including Facebook and Twitter to manipulate voters. They organized political rallies, and targeted and recruited Americans to do their work. Campaign Officials promoted IRA materials and had connections to the rallies instigated by the IRA.

Russia (GRU) hacked the Clinton Campaign and the Democratic National Convention network, where documents were stolen. Such stolen information was disseminated by DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0, and WikiLeaks with targets to oppose Clinton.

Russia (GRU) coordinated cyber operations and gained access to voter registration databases. They received polling data regarding states with tight races like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania (all won by less that 1% margins, with 46 total Electoral Votes–enough to swing the election).

The Trump Campaign had extensive interactions with Russia: DJT Jr interacted with WikiLeaks. Trump Tower Moscow letter of intent was signed during the campaign. Cohen and his boss were invited to Russia. Papadopoulos sought contact with Russia and learned of Russian “dirt” on Clinton. Trump Tower meeting June 9, 2016 was attended or known about by everyone (Trump, Kushner, Bannon, Junior).

Republican National Convention Platform changed a provision for armed support of Ukraine to sound less critical of Russia’s ongoing military aggression–all  due to the campaign’s effort to “improve relations with Russia.” (Puppet?)

Other multiple contacts with Ambassador Kislyak by many campaign officials like Sessions, Gordon, Page, Prince, Cohen, Papadopoulos, Flynn. Extensive connections to Russia by Manafort, Rick Gates.

In the end, the only way “no collusion” (no conspiracy) can be the final judgement is if the campaign was

  1. too stupid to know what was going on
  2. too guilty of other crimes to acknowledge the crimes commited before them
  3. ambivalent and self-focused (just don’t care about any thing, any country, any moral cause, any one)–only concern was to win and to make more money.

In any or all of these three cases, the candidate is unfit for the office of President of the United States of America.

Volume II

In Volume II (of II) the Special Counsel outlines his investigation into obstruction of justice during the investigation about the Russian conspiracy to sway the outcome of the presidential election.

Baseline Question: If you didn’t commit a crime, why would you interfere with the investigation?

Overview: The extent of obstruction of justice is overwhelming in scope and detail.

There were lies about Russian contacts during and after the election. Flynn discussed Russian sanctions with Russian Ambassador, and lied about it to everyone. When he was caught, he shared what he knew. The cover-up within the White House reached K.T. McFarland who refused to cooperate, and McGahn who also refused to cooperate. The pressure to lie (obstruct justice) was directed by the “President.”

[There was so much lying going on everywhere that it could only happen in D.C. If a novelist made up this stuff, readers would cry foul.]

Trump tried to stop the Special Counsel’s investigation (obstructed it) by trying to gain control of Comey and eventually firing him.

Trump tried to remove (obstruct justice) the Special Counsel after DT learned he was under investigation for obstructing justice in regard to firing Comey (where he obstructed justice). He admitted his own obstruction in a TV interview. Later he demanded that McGahn deny that Trump tried to fire the Special Counsel. What a mess of a web he spun to try to cover himself. When you tell so many lies, you forget the truth.

Trump demanded (obstructed justice) Session’s resignation, but was thwarted by McGahn in a feud to stop him from doing so, and by Lewandowski who refused to follow his orders. Trump abused Sessions in public on Twitter, and in NY Times interview.

Trump tried to cover up the June 9 meeting with Russians–he knew about the emails; he directed his communications staff not to publicly disclose information; he directed DJT Jr’s response about the inquiry.

I’m getting tired and numb to these crimes, so I’ll summarize the rest and then you can eagerly tackle your assigned reading: Trump obstructed justice in regard to Manafort, Flynn, Somebody Redacted, and Cohen. Cohen, who said he would “take a bullet” for his boss, eventually “flipped” although he was told by Trump’s goons that he was “loved” and “had friends in high places” if he just toed “the party line.” When Cohen burned down the party line, he and his family were threatened by the POTUS. Imagine it. This is the current state of affairs in the White House. In America. Our America.

Obstruction of justice and utter disregard for the sanctity of our democracy are clear. We have seen it constantly with this administration, and Mueller’s report spells it out in chronological order as we saw it all happen. As I read the report, my blood ran cold in realization that something quite like the mob is running our country, and perhaps publishing this little blog post could put me on their hit list. But wait, this group of con men are lower than the mob. And I’ve never been afraid; I’m an American and I have all the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Why start now?

There is too much at stake to be silent. To not read what is out there. To bury your head and hope.

Here is the link to the searchable pdf of the redacted report. (You can keep your buck.)

Here are some quotes with page numbers to get you started–just in case you like to read long documents in your own order. Consider these quotes as Laura’s Reader’s Guide just in case you force your Book Club to read THE REDACTED MUELLER REPORT for their June book choice.

Volume I, p 37 “Military Unit 74455 is a related GRU unit with multiple departments that engaged in cyber operations…hacked computers belonging to state boards of elections, secretaries of state, and U.S. companies that supplied software and other technology related to the administration of U.S. elections.”

Volume I, p 51 “GRU sent spearphishing emails to … Florida county officials responsible for administering the 2016 U.S. election. … operation enabled the GRU to gain access to the network of at least one Florida county government.” [1.2% margin gave 29 electoral votes. Do the math.]

Volume I, pages 51-57 “D. Trump Campaign and the Dissemination of Hacked Materials
The Trump Campaign showed interest in WikiLeaks’s releases throughout the summer and fall of 2016.” REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED. STAY TUNED FOR RELEASE OF PAGES 51-57.

Volume I, p 187 Expresses doubt that participants “had general knowledge that their conduct was unlawful…” or “were familiar with the foreign-contribution ban…” Are you kidding me? Since when is a legal defense to plead ignorance?

Volume II, p 2 (P 214) “…if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.”

Volume II, p 8 (P 220) “…Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office … no person is above the law.”

Volume II, p 14 (P 226) “…a witness’s false description of an encounter can imply consciousness of wrongdoing.” “well-settled principle that false exculpatory statements are evidence-often strong evidence-of guilt”).  Gotta love the language of lawyers.

Volume II p 78 (P 290) on May 17, 2017, when he learned of the appointment of a Special Counsel, DT  slumped back in his chair and said, “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m f***ed.” And then, “How could you let this happen, Jeff?”

Volume II, p 88 (P 300) The parts about obstruction of justice where Mueller writes in the third person about DT trying to force people to fire him is surreal. You can’t make this s*** up.

Volume II, p 96 (P 308) “…in light of the [DT]’s frequent public attacks, Sessions prepared another resignation letter and for the rest of the year carried it with him in his pocket every time he went to the White House.”

Volume II, p 116 (P 328) The McGahn feud of late-2017 through early 2018: DT’s personal counsel and McGahn’s private counsel communicated behind the scenes while one [DT] insisted the other [McG] tell a lie and the other [McG] refused to lie. The role of BULLY/LIAR was typecast as usual.

Vol II, p 150 (P 362) Regarding the Trump Tower Moscow Project, in an interview, the liar-in-chief spoke in repetition, because if you lie twice, it might come true:

“I decided not to do the project… I decided ultimately not to do it.”

“There would have been nothing wrong if I did do it. If l did do it, there would have been nothing wrong.”

“It was an option that I decided not to do … I decided not to do it.”

Volume II, p 150 (P 362) “Even if [Cohen] was right, it doesn’t matter because I WAS ALLOWED TO DO WHATEVER I WANTED DURING THE CAMPAIGN.” Herein lies the heart of the story, the basic belief of the man running our country into the ground.

Volume II, p 157 (P 369) “Obstruction of justice can be motivated by a desire to protect non-criminal personal interests, to protect against investigations where underlying criminal liability falls into a gray area, or to avoid personal embarrassment.”

Volume II, p 158 (P 370) “The President’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders…” Note: “persons” included Comey, McGahn, Sessions, Lewandowski, McFarland, Dearborn, and more.

Volume II, p 159 (P 371) “… our analysis led us to CONCLUDE that the obstruction-of-justice statutes can validly prohibit a President’s corrupt efforts to use his official powers to curtail, end, or interfere with an investigation.”

Volume II, p 169 (P 381) “…we CONCLUDED that Congress can validly regulate the President’s exercise of official duties to prohibit actions motivated by a corrupt intent to obstruct justice.”

Volume II, p 170 (P 382) “Congress can permissibly criminalize certain obstructive conduct by the President, such as suborning perjury, intimidating witnesses…The Constitution does not authorize the President to engage in such conduct… the President’s duty [is] to ‘take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.’ ”

It will take you a few days to read the whole report including the footnotes and appendices. Don’t read before bed or the nightmares will keep you awake all night. Early morning with strong coffee worked for me. When you finish, please share your perspective in the comments, or on your own website or social media. Ask other literate Americans to read it as well. Speak up–even if you disagree with me: this is still America where we are entitled to our own opinions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Bread 2.0 (and 2.1)

Three days after I wrote about Bread 1.0, I began Bread 2.0. That was more than a month ago. Making bread ain’t a sprint, kids.

Between the mixing and kneading and proofing and waiting and punching down and restarting–well–it’s a good thing bread smells and tastes so good or nobody’d ever bother.

Bread 2.0, from page 70 of James Beard’s book, is simply called “Sourdough Bread.” It begins with a note from the head baker and author decrying the popularity of what he deems an “overrated” bread that is “difficult to perfect at home.” (No kidding.) Sourdough bread is one of my favorites. I have tried many times with many recipes to make it because if it tastes so wonderful from the store, imagine how delightful it will be warm from my oven. Spoiler alert: Beard’s recipe isn’t so great. It isn’t even good. So just save your pennies dollars and buy Publix sourdough and live an easy life.

I promised to tell my journey, so after that grumpy intro, let’s see if you keep reading to see the pictures.

I made the sourdough starter for 13 days. For the first nine days it sat on my counter wreaking like death. I mixed and stirred and checked and remoistened the cloth cover. Finally I capped it and stored it in the fridge until I found time to make the actual loaf of bread (a 2-day process.) Here’s the starter. I had to hold my breath while I held my camera so close for you to peek in.

20190128_184932

The recipe requires a sponge made the night before the loaf. I made a half batch on my first try. The next morning the dough is made with yeast and more flour. My favorite part (kneading) went well and the dough felt stiff as directed.

The dough rose nicely in the bowl.

I formed the loaf and placed her in a buttered pan to rise. It was getting late, so I only let it rise for an hour. I think I should have waited three hours. I boiled water and poured it in the pan on the bottom shelf of the preheated oven. This is for development of a crusty crust. I baked her forever (35 minutes). During the bake, she continued to rise, seemingly in competition with her developing crust, until she burst through that armor crust. I don’t normally care if bread looks ridiculous, as long as it tastes amazing. Here she is.

20190129_21050020190129_210746

The crumb was dense and almost tasteless. Disappointed but determined, a week later I tried again. This time I made a full batch. The sponge and subsequent dough seemed fine.

The kneading went well. The recipe says it should be a stiff dough and in Bread 2.0 it was. For Bread 2.1 I didn’t add as much flour and let the dough stay a bit softer.

She rose like a champ in the bowl.

I formed a huge loaf and decided to let her bake on a flat pan this time, unconstrained by a loaf pan. I was a little concerned how flat she looked on that flat pan. But I persevered. Boiled water. Baked forever. Endured DH’s comments about 1. how it looked, and 2. how it didn’t smell great while baking. You’d think for sourdough bread a not-so-great odor during the bake could be laughed off–hey, it’s supposed to smell sour. It didn’t even smell like sourdough bread. It just smelled bad. Anyway, she baked up pretty.

20190202_12270420190202_13122720190202_131443

Bread 2.1 came out much softer inside than Bread 2.0, and had a nice crust. Despite her lovely appearance, the aroma and taste were not sufficiently sour and required a lot of butter, not quite salty enough for me. I try and I try. I follow directions (mostly). I tossed away half the loaf a week later. That’s a bad sign: homemade bread is never discarded at my house. My friend says I should wait and try a different sourdough recipe in July when it’s good and steamy outside. I’ll take advice from anyone who ever succeeded with sourdough bread. And somehow someday I’ll make a good one. Until then, there’s Publix bread.

Disappointed, I flipped in the book, desperately seeking hope, and I found a coffee cake to try. Stay tuned for Bread 3.0. Early predictions are that it’ll take 10 hours to make this next concoction. In light of the more than 20 days to make Bread 2.0-2.1, it’ll feel like lightning.

Bread 1.0

Bread 1.0

More than three decades ago, I started making homemade bread. Before breadmakers and cell phones, I learned the feel of the dough that marked the end of the kneading process. I fell in love with the smell of bread baking and the taste of the first steamy slice slathered in butter. All of this followed months of failed attempts where I made bricks, and I even sliced and tasted them. The best lessons are learned by failing. I repeatedly killed the yeast with too-hot water to produce those bricks. I recall making half a dozen bricks, at least, before accepting that I needed help.

At the local park I met a mom of two little blond boys. My red-haired daughter caught the eye of the red-haired mom and helped me make one of my first adult friends. The other mom and I got to know each other and one day at the apartment complex pool I told her the funny story of my bread bricks. She didn’t laugh like everyone else. She invited me over the next day to teach me to make bread.

She taught me to proof the yeast with some sugar in a small bowl with the perfect temperature of water. She actually taught me the feel of the water by showing me what was too hot and too cold and just right under the tap.

She taught me to knead, from the raggedy mess of the starting mixture to the smooth and elastic ready-to-rise dough.

She taught me to form loaves and how long to bake them, and to melt butter on the baked crust by rubbing it with a partly peeled stick of cold butter to make the crust delectable.

She saved me from my path to one hundred bricks.

For Christmas this year, my daughter (who has given up on gifting me novels anymore because she said my writing hobby has ruined me as a reader) gave me a bread cookbook call BEARD ON BREAD, first published on Mole Day in 1973. Unlike my pie habit from last year with glorious heaps of meringue and brightly colored fruits, my bread blog entries might be bland and pale and tan, but I’m willing to give it a try.

Last weekend I made the first recipe in the book, called “Basic White Bread” on page 22. Unlike my memorized recipe, this loaf called for no butter or milk, and a flipped ratio of sugar to salt. I followed along like a neophyte.

I proofed the yeast.

20190106_12221220190106_12233620190106_123240

I mixed and kneaded the dough.

20190106_12334320190106_12352120190106_12364520190106_12382620190106_124504

I let the first rise occur in a buttered and covered bowl until doubled in bulk.

20190106_12503820190106_12511720190106_151652

I formed a loaf and let it rise again.

20190106_15183220190106_15225920190106_161646

I baked for twice as long as I’ve ever baked a loaf, and even preheated the oven for half an hour and left my pizza stone in there. I tapped the loaf to hear its hollowness and set it on the oven rack sans pan for a few extra minutes to finish the bottom crust.

20190106_165657

Then I served it with pasta. It smelled right and looked beautiful and tasted so bland and basic. It made me miss my memorized recipe.

20190106_172853

Next time I’ll try a sour dough recipe since I have never had success in that arena and I must learn some new tricks in 2019.

 

DIY: The 4 most important questions to answer before fixing the broken water heater

  1. How many engineers does it take to fix a hot water heater? 2
  2. How much will it cost? $10 plus lunch and gas
  3. What tools are needed? 1 butter knife, 1 voltmeter
  4. How long will it take? 9 hours

Note: the following answers were gleaned from data from one isolated incident.

Error bars on consideration number 1 are small, especially if one has the translated-from-somewhere-else and so very helpful manual (sincere) and a reasonable link to the internet as back up. In our case we needed 2 people because neither of us would do the 5 hour round trip drive alone, and company was coming in a week who expected a hot shower. I believe if only 1 of us went (him), the water heater would have been dismantled down to the nubs, or if only I went, a new water heater would have been purchased and a perfectly good one discarded. Here is a classic example where 1+1 equaled 2 million.

On cost, we hit the jackpot. The potential cost balloons up to almost a grand in the worst case (replacement and hiring a real plumber), and beyond if there’s damage due to water leakage (there was not).

To address question 3, we brought bags of tools for the 2.5 hour ride to the broken heater. The voltmeter diagnosed the problem. The butter knife was all we needed to fix it, although my MacGyver vehemently prefers the Phillips screwdriver.

But the time? Indulge me as I try to break down and justify 9 hours as the valid answer to question 4.

  • Drive 2.5 hours each way. (The same 2.5 hour route I had driven 14 hours before just to get home.)
  • Stop at Lowes to buy all potentially broken parts like replacement thermostats and heating elements.
  • Diagnose the problem. Here is what must be done to start the fixing: Take voltmeter out of bag. Turn off power to water heater by flipping the breaker. This also cut the lights in the whole basement and the closet where the electrical box is hidden. Figure out how to turn on flashlight on phone. Discuss whether either of us brought a phone charger. Take the panel off the top of the water heater. Get ready to test. Run back to electrical box and turn on power. Turn dial on voltmeter. Touch electrodes. Reading = 0 V. No power to water heater. (Question 1 of diagnosis answered.) Walk back to panel. Check breakers including the one labeled “water heater” and find it is dead. (Diagnosis almost complete.) Turn off power. Go get phone in dark for flashlight. Decide to take off breaker and another working one. But that means removal of the front metal cover of the big gray electrical box. The cover is stuck behind the closet shelves which are screwed to the wall and to four rods holding 20 pounds of clothes. Move the clothes. Remove two of the rods and hope that is enough and try not to lose the screws. Empty the shelves. Lift and grunt and pull on them to slide the shelves 2 centimeters away from the wall. Remove 6 screws from panel and remove cover–10 minutes of pulling and twisting because the top cover was wedged behind a shelf and we didn’t want to remove any more screws. Remove broken and neighboring breakers. Switch them. Turn on power. Go back to heater and voltmeter. Full voltage. (Diagnosis done.)
  • Walk around and see where we stole the breaker from. Realize it was for the air conditioning. Note, this was in September and it was 95F and muggy outside. Discuss the merits of a week without either hot water or AC. Discuss switching the breakers as needed until we can replace the broken one. Recall visitors coming in 5 days. Search online for advice on replacement breakers because the broken brand isn’t available anymore.
  • Take a break to order, pick up and eat lunch: ~25 minutes.
  • Decide to take broken breaker with us to the store and visually inspect what they have in stock. Drive about 1 hour (round trip) to Home Depot. Find a reasonable replacement. Pull out a new electrical panel from its generously taped and secured box and make sure both the broken and the replacement breaker can click onto it. Win. Pay. Ride back in hot car. (Something about not cooling off because we’re going to be hot in the house anyway. I don’t get it either.)
  • Switch breakers. Turn on AC. It works.
  • Put the closet shelves back together (find all the screws!) and replace the clothes.
  • Pack the car while waiting to see if we get hot water. We do. Leave.
  • Go to original Lowes to return all of the potential but unnecessary replacement parts.
  • Drive home but stop at the stupid market because that was number 2 on the actual To Do list for this lovely Saturday.
  • Get home 9 hours later. Unload car. Watch football and make dinner. Work for 3 hours. Fall into bed in the wee hours of the morning. Wake up early to write the first draft of this post to get it out of my head and start the second half of the weekend.

 

a puddle of spilled thoughts about writing and time (with no pictures of pies)

When you sing or paint or dance or write, you express yourself from a well of creative feeling. To live, you need oxygen (still free), water (clean, must purchase), and food (still locked up, need a source of money (aka job)).

If you rely on your creativity for the money required to buy the stuff needed to live, you must consider what will sell. You need a brand. Marketing. A fixed and clear genre so some publisher or producer can fit your art into a predetermined slot. This economics of art may surely influence the art you share, but I hope this reality does not stop you from producing the art of you heart–for your own soul.

I love to think, so I am a chemist. I love to feel my heart and pulse slow back down while my temperature drops to normal, so I run. I love to sing, so I do so when I’m alone and with a group of harmonizing voices one night each week. I love to laugh, so I search for funny things. I love to imagine, so I read. I love to create so I sew, and crochet, and design, and bake, and reupholster furniture. I love to create, so I write.

My writing began in 2005, when I had the summer off from teaching and wanted to do an experiment–to investigate what it took to write a book. I wrote 1500 words every day sitting on the rug in my bedroom with the door closed. No phone. No internet. No people. Just me and the old computer on the rug. After reaching the daily word quota, I printed the pages and added them to the growing stack. At the end, I read it all, wrapped it in a bow, and stored it in a box. Experiment complete. Time well spent. Now I knew how to do it.

But something happened about halfway through. I became addicted to the story, like a reader. I wanted to know how it all ended (and I did not). I fell in love with my characters. I realized a critical plot point and had to revise the first 100 pages. I thought about the story all the time. I became a writer.

Lucky for me, I have a paying day job, so my novels do not have to fit on a specific shelf at the bookstore. Unlucky for me, my novels don’t fit in any prescribed slot, so they are not marketable by traditional publishers. But somehow I have found readers and have not shaken my addiction to creating.

That notion of spending your time is apt. Once spent, there is no refund, no mulligan, no do-over. The time is gone. A day is gone. A week, a year, a decade is gone. Time, the currency of a life, must be carefully budgeted on a prioritized list of needs and people and tasks. Time spent creating can touch the future.

“What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”

― Carl Sagan, Cosmos