Friday, December 13, 2019

Friday The Thirteenth Random Barking: Up On The Roof

Don't Want To Look Over The Edge


What is the cost of lies? It's not that we'll mistake them for the truth. The real danger is that if we hear enough lies, then we no longer recognize the truth at all. What can we do then? What else is left, but to abandon even the hope of truth, and content ourselves instead with stories?
  --  Gregori Legazov (Jared Harris), Chernobyl (Episode 1) 
An aspect of quantum theory has it that reality may be created, moment to moment, in determining one set of conditions of the great cosmic Waveform -- all possible variations in the state of all matter. The world exists in all its multitudinous forms simultaneously: snow falls (hopefully) in the Himalayas, at the same instant billions and billions of other things are happening.

This is where all of us, and novels, live (and the debate whether Flaubert, or Hemingway, or Gaddis, Tartt or Sebald, or Attwood, or Chelsea Handler, described Reality more closely in their works to how it's actually experienced). Terrible, beautiful; it's all going down -- whether you see it, acknowledge it, or not.
_____________________________

I get up this morning, having watched the first episode of HBO's Chernobyl last night. I kept recalling the scene where a Soviet engineer at the nuclear plant is intimidated, by two Soviet party Administrators, into going up on the Vent Block roof of Reactor Building Four to look down over the edge, directly into the maw of a ruptured reactor core in fission burn.

That was an actual event. A couple of actual, gutless, bullying Soviet party toadies -- Viktor Bryukhanov and Nikolai Fomin -- refused to believe the reactor had exploded. They forced another actual person, Deputy Chief Engineer Anatoly Sitnikov, to go up on a roof overlooking the blown core and look down into the monster. They sent an armed soldier with him to make sure he did.

Sitnikov received a fatal dose of radiation within seconds. Even after returning and reporting what he had seen, the two suck-ass motherfuckers (products of their system, yes; but motherfuckers all the same) still said Sitnikov was mistaken, and accused him of lying.

Bryukhanov and Fomin did next to nothing. They did not alert anyone about the true state of the emergency. All they were really concerned about was being blamed for something bad, and what effect that would have on their careers as Soviet technical bureaucrats. They only thought about how best to spin things, to protect themselves.
_________________________________

I also got up this morning to a continuation of news already broadcast the night before -- that Britain has gotten its Little Trump. Stevie Bannon must be so very proud of one of his clients. Our American Pestident, another Bannon customer, has warmly congratulated Boris -- who has only begun to strut and preen and crow.

I don't know enough about the minutiae of British politics to fully appreciate the magnitude of the Tory win -- and the loss by Labor and the Liberals. I fully expect Britain will crash out of the EU -- Boris has said he won't, but he lies (not as much as his friend Donny, but he does), and in the process of Crashing, a lot of Boris' pals will become quite wealth-ier.

What will happen to workers, families, the sick and the elderly?  Once you strip away their lies and gaslighting, the Tory answer is "who cares?" Britain will become a more nationalist, right-wing populist, privatized 'Little England' state: an English version of Trump country.

One of the greatest problems in modern politics, for many democratic states, is that conservatives believe they're voting for the Tory, or Republican, party that's always been.  They're not. The 'new Right' is bereft of values, focused on subduing populations and subverting democracy in order to wield power in a coalition with the Rich and corporations.

In that, they don't differ much from the Democratic party in America,  except that they are more obvious in their purpose, and they put it in a big wrapping of Jesus. Our Democratic party leadership puts things in a neoliberal wrapper, the fig leaf of 'progress': A Great Big Beautiful Diverse Tomorrow. The same wealthy and corporate interests benefit, either way.

But no matter what ideological or theological crap they spew, they're all in it for the Money, a dream of bloodlines, family names, and dynasties. It's what short-sighted humans -- facing the potential end of our species -- can least afford in terms of behavior, but they're doing it.

But to realize that dream, they have to create as much chaos in the public and political sphere as possible  -- their Left opponents, meanwhile, are outmaneuvered by the sheer audacity of the New Right's play for power. That's what we're about to see in Britain, now. It's what we have been seeing in n America. It's not new, but it is Steve Bannon's playbook for a New Fascism.

I expect anti-immigrant sentiment will be emboldened, "Paki-bashing" will increase (some Twitter messages I've seen from among immigrant / persons of color communities in Britain show people are frightened and fear exactly that in the wake of a Tory landslide), and future immigration policies may begin to look like they were crafted by Steven Miller in Washington.

The Unmade Bed Of A Man, And His Captive, Go To The Polls

And the figurehead for it all will be this "colorful" Prime Minister -- a grifter, a liar, a ponce. He will create the chaotic legislative environment, the cover, for other grifters to thrive.  Boris is all about Boris, and fuck the People. And the greatest example of this "who cares" New Britain will be the dissolution of the United Kingdom.

Scotland will very probably force a new referendum on independence -- and I suspect they will vote to remain in the EU and go their own way. Of course, none of that matters to business and corporate elite -- they're only interested in how much profit they can make in a Scottish Republic, and don't give two hoots about its sovereignty or anything else.

For all his wanting to be the second Winston Churchill (who would have fought tooth and nail to keep Scotland 'in the Empire'), Boris doesn't care much about whether Scotland stays or goes. What does it matter? It doesn't pertain to Boris... so, who cares?
_______________________________


The argument about impeachment is this: The President is a dictator who can do almost anything he / she wants, without oversight or accountability to the Constitution, where the only role for Congress is to rubber-stamp whatever the President desires -- or, he / she is head of the Executive branch of a government with boundaries on her / his behavior set by the Constitution and functional precedents of the office of President.

Trump is a criminal President. His offenses were so egregious that -- no matter the partisan politics involved -- Democratic members of the House had no choice. It isn't hyperbole to say that history required them to act.

They gave more than lip-service to their oath of office to defend the Constitution against foreign or domestic enemies. If they didn't act, America, as defined by the Constitution, wouldn't exist any longer. It would be another failed state, run by Oligarchs -- and, yeah; I understand there's already enough evidence to use that description, even without letting Trump get away with the abuses of his office.

Articles of Impeachment will be voted on by the full House next week. So far, the process has been high political drama -- primarily due to the frat-boy bullying, little-dick antics of almost every single Republican member of the U.S. Congress. But the Senate is a theater controlled by Trump and his toadies, and it will end with him not being found Guilty. He will remain in office.

Meanwhile, William Barr is pushing the conspiracy theory that the FBI investigation of Russian - Trump campaign connections was politically motivated, that Ukraine was responsible for interfering in the 2016 election, and not Russia.  But it's not only a discredited theory -- it's a criminal investigation. Barr will submit indictments and conduct show trials to provide distraction from Trump's crimes ahead of the election. People will go to jail to satisfy Trump's desire for revenge and theater.

Then, we come to 2020. The Left chooses a candidate who matters, or doesn't. Trump loses, or wins. Even if he loses, he may refuse to leave office, the White  House surrounded with Militia, all declared Federal Marshals by The Leader, to "protect the president". Some form of civil war could easily, inevitably follow.

If certain powerful persons on the right feel Trump is in jeopardy, enough to threaten the power and grift they've been able to to amass,they may decide on some form of coup -- and we may have an actual Republic of Gilead.

The political Right keeps raising the stakes of polarization in America, attempting to keep the GOP Base (Trump's, really) at a fever pitch -- but that can't be maintained without the promise of an end state, a victory.

For the Right, it's no longer a "fight the good fight, if we don't win there's always next season" attitude. For 35 years, rightist media has carefully nurtured the Rage of White Joe SixPack, so that "owning the libtards", completely crushing, dominating their opponents, is the only acceptable outcome. The Left must somehow be done away with, once and for all.

No one knows what will happen. No one wants to go up on the Vent Block roof and lean over. And, from the relative safety of Moscow, or Italy, Vlad Putin and Stevie Bannon are laughing, fit to bust.
__________________________________


Actor Danny Aiello passed away, age 86.  He appeared in a number of films, including one on my top ten list:  Jacob's Ladder (1990).

Set in 1975 New York, Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins), divorced Vietnam vet with a PhD in Philosophy, is working in the Postal Service, and may (or may not) be slipping in and out of a series of flashbacks connected to Vietnam in 1971, and the accidental death of one of his three children (Macaulay Culkin, in one of his first film roles). He also begins seeing inexplicable things (demons, things out of a Lovecraft novel) in broad daylight. Reality appears to be shifting and he's frightened.

Singer has lower back issues, and sees a Chiropractor, Louis Denardo, played by Aiello ("You look like an angel, Louie," Singer tells him, "Like a big cherub. Anyone ever tell you that?"  "Yeah," says Louis. "You; every time you come in here").

At one point in the story, Singer is struck by a car on a New York street. His lower back seizes up, his wallet is stolen by a vagrant Exmass Santa; he's brought to a hospital that becomes progressively more nightmarish, a Hieronymus Bosch painting.

Louis shows up at the hospital ("What is this, the Middle Ages?" he yells at a nurse when he sees how Singer is being treated) and forcibly takes him out, back to his chiropractic office. He puts Jacob on his adjustment table and begins working on his back.

Singer tells Louis about what he's been seeing, that the hospital was a vision of hell. "Ever read any Meister Eckhard?" Louis asks; Jacob says he hasn't, and Louis is surprised. "Huh. Don't know how you got a PhD in Philosophy without reading that guy.

"Eckhard saw hell, too," Louis continues. "Know what he said? He said the only part of you that burns in hell is the part that won't let go of your life. Your memories; your attachments; they burn them all away -- but they're not punishing you, he said; they're freeing your soul.

"So, the way he sees it -- if you're frightened of dying, and you're holding on -- you'll see devils tearing your life away. But if you've made your peace -- then the devils are really angels, freeing you, from the earth. It's just a matter of how you look at it. So, don't worry about it. Okay?"

Now he knows what we do not. It's a decent film. Aiello is good in it. Give it a whirl.
_________________________________

 And to come full circle, I'm reminded of a poem that someone told me long ago, which I've never been able to find -- about a circus, where the crowd was intent upon watching a clown, in the center ring, lighting matches with his toes; they were so fascinated that they didn't realize the roof of the tent had blown away, and the world had come to an end.

Larger questions of existence have little to do with the clowns in the ring.
_________________________________

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Reprint Heaven Forever: Still Missed


Thirty-Eight Years

I am reminded to remember, remember, the 8th of December.

Something About Him Was Always A Kick-Out-The-Jambs Liverpudlian Rebel
Speak, Memory: One of the two arrests we made that day hadn't gone well. After putting the car in the basement garage at the Federal Building, I'd walked up the underground ramp to the street, intending to buy my second pack of Marlboros of the day from the liquor store up the next block. Stepping inside, I looked down at a stack of the early edition of a paper which isn't even around any longer, lying on the counter below the cash register with a banner headline in 48-point type: JOHN LENNON SLAIN.  Fuck; I thought, and then said it out loud.  

_______________________________________

Monday, November 25, 2019

Reprint Heaven: You Want It Darker

January 29, 1933

(From December 3, 2016)

(NBC)
"Waiting For The Barbarians", Chris Hedges, Truthdig; November 27, 2016, via Mr. Fish:
... The desiccation of our liberal institutions ensured the demise of our capitalist democracy. History has amply demonstrated what was to come next. The rot and political paralysis vomited up a con artist as president along with an array of half-wits, criminals and racist ideologues. They will manufacture scapegoats as their gross ineptitude and unachievable promises are exposed. They will fan the flames of white supremacy and racial and religious bigotry. They will use all the tools of legal and physical control handed to them by our system of “inverted totalitarianism” to crush even the most tepid forms of dissent.

The last constraints will be removed by a crisis. The crisis will be used to create a climate of fear. The pretense of democracy will end.

“A fascism of the future—an emergency response to some still unimagined crisis—need not resemble classical fascism perfectly in its outward signs and symbols,” Robert Paxton writes in The Anatomy of Fascism. “Some future movement that would ‘give up free institutions’ in order to perform the same functions of mass mobilization for the reunification, purification, and regeneration of some troubled group would undoubtedly call itself something else and draw on fresh symbols. That would not make it any less dangerous.” ...

... There will be rebels. They will live in the shadows. They will be the renegade painters, sculptors, poets, writers, journalists, musicians, actors, dancers, organizers, activists, mystics, intellectuals and other outcasts who are willing to accept personal sacrifice. They will not surrender their integrity, creativity, independence and finally their  souls. They will speak the truth.
Read this. Read it allAnd by everything I hold dear and sacred, I hope he's wrong; that what will develop in our future will be an aberrant episode in the American Experiment and not the end of it. And, everything I was raised to believe says It Can't Happen Here.

(And it has to be pointed out: My perspective on the American Experiment is rooted in the 'High School Civics Class' definition of America, which has status quo spray-painted all over it. And we all know what the Status Quo is about, who benefits from it, and who suffers in order to keep it going. I can't be blamed for wanting the stuff We Learned In School to be true -- but it isn't true for All, and that's the problem.)

At The Place Of Witless Labor yesterday, I had another conversation with Archibald "Harry" Tuttle. Unlike other people at the POWL, Harry goes right at Recent Events -- a 60-ish black man, he has no illusions about what's 'permissible' in our culture. I had mentioned the Chris Hedges article to Harry, who listened as I described it, and said, "And? Your point?" (Harry, incidentally, is an actual person, not a fictive alter ego for my own opinions, and the conversation was for-real.)

"You think a police state, in America, isn't possible?" Harry said. "Curfews, checkpoints, 'illegal' searches and seizures? Being singled out because you 'meet the profile'? Just because the Constitution this and the Bill Of Rights that? Or just because it's never happened to you?" Harry laughed. "It's been happening to us forever. Fuck the Constitution -- it doesn't mean shit, if they don't want it to. That ain't news to me. This guy [he meant Hedges] sounds like he's just catching up."

"Sometimes I wonder -- movies and television have been showing us for decades all kinds of bad events happening," Harry said. "Terrorists get the bomb, use it in some big city; another nine-eleven. Or a virus gets loose. Or space aliens -- and monsters are just symbols for real shit we're afraid of anyway.  

(Machine)
"But there's always a state of emergency, a lockdown. Army in the streets. What those movies don't ever show you is how long all that lasts -- everyone watching makes the assumption, 'When the monsters are gone, everything will go back to normal.'  They'll go to work and go to the mall and take their kids to school, or whatever.

"What if it doesn't?" Harry said. "After nine-eleven, we ended up with 'Snowden' and a war in the fucking Middle East, and drones, and the economy went to hell so the Usual Suspects could get even richer. The prisons are full and they are still shooting unarmed people in the back. None of that has changed. It didn't go away. It's the new normal. 

"When something big goes down here, some people are gonna have a rude awakening when they find out what a whole lot of people already know about power, and rights, and how far your arguing about the Constitution's gonna get you. And, with the fuckin' clowns about to go into office, it wouldn't take a flying saucer landing in Washington to give them the excuse."
________________________________

MEHR, VON DIE VERGANGENHEIT:  All this reminds me that a week before the election, I rode a Cable Car up the hill to my stop, near the border of a Very Wealthy Person's District. I sat beside one of these Persons, a white woman of indeterminate age -- honey-blonde hair done with just enough grey; excellent plastic surgery gave her the facial features of someone vaguely fortyish, but her hands were spotted, bony claws of the fairly elderly. I'd seen her riding the line in the past, but we'd never spoken.

She was dressed in a classic blouse/wool skirt/camel's hair topcoat/print scarf ensemble, as much a signal of class as School and Club ties for men once were. I don't remember how we began talking about the election -- in a city like Kiddietown, the assumption was that everyone was voting for Clinton, anyway. She wasn't direct about saying she was a Republican, but her assumption was that I (white-haired, white man in a suit and tie, topcoat, grey Fedora) might be One Of Us -- if not in Net Worth, then in spirit. 

"I know she'll win," the Person said, quietly. "But it would be so nice if it were -- you know; if he would win. All these unpleasant things would stop, then," she said, and her smile was shy, conspiratorial, like a wink. As if we had been on the S-Bahn in Berlin, long ago, and she had flipped back the lapel of her very expensive tan coat, just for a moment, so I would see the Parteiabzeichen pinned on it's hidden side.

Assumptions. All the unpleasant things, stopping. One of Us.
________________________________

Fuck that, man.

________________________________
 

MEHR, MIT EIN ANDENKEN:  And, a reminder of a deeper focus that needs to underlie our everyday attention, courtesy of The Soul Of America.  Woof !

________________________________

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Reprint Heaven: The Coming Man

This Will Not Contain Leavening Humor


The Leader: Stable Genius; Perfect Health; Biggest, Bestest Ever

(While listening to Gordon Sondland testify in front of the House Intelligence Committee impeachment inquiry. Some Lefty Twitterverse and blogs are saying -- genuinely, and with hope -- that Gordo's confirmation of a Quid Pro Quo means Trump is Done. 

(Perhaps. But even if The Leader were perp-walked from the Trumpyhouse this morning, the question of Executive Branch authority -- and Legislative Branch check on that authority -- has not been addressed. 

(Trump has pushed the boundaries of 'permissible' Presidential behavior, from that of a traditional chief executive to that of any populist bullyboy in political history.  You can get rid of him -- but all he's done to advance authoritarian Rightist rule in America, with sycophantic support from a craven, malleable and christian-dominionist-dominated Republican party, stands. 

(Trump doesn't worry me as much as the next Rightist Leader -- one who will be more canny, more clever, and more ruthless -- that will come after him. And they will -- and the Right will put one forward before Trump's chair in the Oval Office has even cooled. 

(From October, 2018:)
___________________________________

April 30, 1945, in the Reichschancellery's Führerbunker: the Red Army was closing in quickly and less than a quarter-mile away. Hitler and Eva said goodbye to a line of their old retainers and True Believers, and were on their way into Hitler's study to kill themselves.

Outside the study stood Heinz Linge, Hitler's principal valet. The two shook hands. Hitler told Linge that the situation in Berlin was lost, and that he should try to leave the city and escape to the West.

Linge later said he had asked, "For whom shall we fight on?" Hitler replied, "For the coming man."
_________________________________

What makes my skin crawl about what's occasionally described as living through the Assholeocene isn't the daily, drop-by-drop absorption of new outrages Trump and his minions commit. What the hell did he do now while we slept...

Weird, how predictably that happens, now. Mornings, Trump watches Fox 'n Friends, and tweets. Sarah fantasizes and lies to a room full of adults. Afternoons, we learn about more corruption, more sociopathic abuse of immigrant children; another right-wing judge appointed for life; the awesome lives of our fabled Business Leaders and Owners, and Celebrities; more peasant-fucking.

In the evening, Trump flies to some rural district which voted overwhelmingly for him in 2016, and spews about his greatness, the threat of the liberal and the Other, before an ecstatic crowd. He preens and complains that he is unfairly attacked, victimized -- that, just like them, he is "under threat". They wear hats, and chant. Their identification with Trump provides them with an almost carnal frenzy and release. Wilkommen ins Nuremberg...

Faultlines of race, class, gender and inequality in America have always been there; Trump's appearance puts them under serious stress. Other factors (extreme climate events [see below and follow the link]; unstable financial markets; mass shootings) increase the noise of uncertainty and fear, always hissing in the background.

A large number of people appear to be on short fuses. The Crazy is looking for a way out -- "everybody angry (peculiarly angry ... [as] normal is changing color, tenor)"; meanwhile, a bloated, raving old man is a role model for the boundaries of permitted speech and behavior.

Trump is giving permission to cross those boundaries -- not in and of itself a bad thing; it all depends on who's doing it, with what intent.

Martin Luther King, Jr. delivering a speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial is one way of crossing a boundary. Trump's public speeches are another. The difference in intent is clear.
____________________________________

What makes me uneasy is not the experience of the present, so much. What Trump and his slavish GOP supporters have done in just 21 months makes increased social disintegration more likely (it certainly makes a society where Our Fabled Wealthy will be comfortable, while the rest of us are not). That can lead to a rising tempo of political violence -- and a more authoritarian state would seem attractive by comparison.

Trump might be that one-party dictator of an "illiberal democracy", like an Orban or Erdogan, but I don't believe he's the personification of the authoritarian state I'm worried about.

It's someone who would capitalize on Trump's shattering of political norms, take it to a new level: the "coming man".
____________________________________

What Chris Hedges Said:
While it is true that the United States under Trump is not Hitler’s Germany, Trump has tapped into America’s worst impulses... his ultra-nationalism, white supremacist views, and racist diatribes coupled with his attack on immigrants, the media, African-Americans, and Muslims are indicative of a politics right out the fascist playbook. If the public and media keep denying this reality, the endpoint is too horrible to imagine... 
Trump has emboldened and legitimated the dire anti-democratic threats that have been expanding under an economic system stripped of any political, social, and ethical responsibility. This is a form of neoliberal fascism that has redrawn and expanded the parameters of the genocidal practices and hate filled politics of the 1930s and 40s in Europe in which it was once thought impossible to happen again. ...
What Margaret Sullivan Said (via Digby)
... At a raucous rally in Montana last week, a Trump supporter — juiced up by the president’s crude praise of a congressman who body-slammed a reporter — looked directly at CNN reporter Jim Acosta. Then he ran his thumb across his throat. And laughed. 
Later, Acosta described “the Trump effect.” “It has normalized and sanitized nastiness and cruelty in a way that I just never thought I would see,” he said, shortly after that Montana rally. 
The Trump effect is a straight line from years of his hateful rhetoric to real-world danger. It’s a line that goes directly from disrespect to pipe bomb. And — almost inevitably — it will eventually go from failed attempt to spilled blood... 
Ann Coulter tweeted that bombs have been... "a liberal tactic.” And radio behemoth Rush Limbaugh... [said] that Republicans don’t do this sort of thing, and a Democratic operative was the more likely culprit. 
But let’s get real. Everyone targeted by the pipe bombs had been the subject of endless hours of Fox News commentary. The list of targets read like Sean Hannity’s pre-broadcast crib notes: Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama and former CIA chief John Brennan — and, as the representative of evil mainstream media — CNN. 
As usual, Trump himself projected blame everywhere but where it belongs...  he combined swipes at the news media and Democrats with a call to “come together in peace and harmony.”
_______________________________

What Ian Welsh Said ("...IPCC Report Version"):
... There are quite a number of scenarios where this stuff happens faster... What will actually happen is that we’ll get some feedback loop like arctic or permafrost methane release and that will lead to parabolic increases. When it breaks, it will break hard. 
At that point a lot of other problems could also blow up, the most serious of which would be the Oceans losing their ability produce oxygen. If that happens, well, we’re dead. 
Even if it doesn’t, things like the thermohaline currents flipping or shutting off are possible. Europe could, in the middle of everyone else getting hot, have a mini-ice age. 
... And it isn’t that we are decelerating. Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, who will likely win election, has essentially promised to chop down what remains of the Amazon jungle as fast as possible (and also, to commit genocide on the remaining indigenous tribes. No, don’t pretend, that’s what he means.)
____________________________________

Welcome to the Assholeocene. This cannot continue, and This cannot end well.
____________________________________

Friday, November 15, 2019

Twilight At Noon

A Long Howl:  Misery Does Not Require Acts, Only Conditions


Vanished World: Ours Will Also Seem As Remote
While from a Proud Tower in the town / Death looked gigantically down
-- Edgar Allan Poe, "City In The Sea" (1845)
The ... great age of European civilization was an edifice of grandeur and passion, of riches and beauty and dark reliance... The Old World had much that has since been lost, whatever may have been gained. Looking back on it from 1915, Emile Verhaeren, the Belgian Socialist poet, dedicated his pages, “With emotion, to the man I used to be.” 
-- Barbara Tuchman (1966)
______________________________

In The Proud Tower, popular historian Barbara Tuchman focused on describing Western culture in the decades leading up to the Great War -- a huge, red line of demarcation that finally separated the generations of the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries.

Her story is a chronicle of human folly (one of Tuchman's favorite themes), and because we know how the story will end, a leitmotif of nostalgia we sense in the background is really the collective despair of survivors who had lost everything familiar, an entire frame of reference for living.

Edward VII's Sendoff: Royal Procession Of Mourners, 1910

She opened her book with a spectacle: the funeral of King Edward VII of England, who had been on the throne for less than a decade after the death of his mother, Victoria. Tuchman described the brilliant funeral cortege, royal houses and empires in uniform. As Edward's coffin rolled along London streets, "The muffled tongue of Big Ben tolled nine by the clock ... but on history's clock it was sunset, and the sun of the old world was setting in a dying blaze of splendor never to be seen again." One of the last displays of presence and power of the Elite of the Gilded Age.

Tuchman closed the book with another funeral: this one for Jean Jaures, Socialist member of the French Chamber of Deputies, and a  principal, seminal Left political agitator of the age. Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary had been assassinated in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, and with the interwoven alliances in that era, major European powers began slow-walking into war.

Jaures Speaking At A Socialist Rally, Paris; 1914

A general war had been building for the better part of a decade, and the Socialists in Europe knew working people in all countries would be the disposable cannon-fodder for nationalist politicians and industrial plutocrats. Jaures believed only a pan-European worker's strike, united under the banner of each country's Socialist party, could prevent the continent from being dragged into a catastrophe.

Austria-Hungary issued an ultimatum to Serbia, whose assassin had killed the Archduke, then mobilized to invade. On July 30, Russia declared a general mobilization; Jaures was pushing to organize the strike action with other Socialist leaders. While eating at a Paris cafe on the night of July 31, he was assassinated by a right-wing nationalist who had been stalking him. Jaures died at roughly the same time Germany's ambassadors were delivering messages in European capitals, advising it had declared war on Russia.

The Great War had just begun as Jaures' funeral took place in Paris on August 4, 1914. As the funeral cortege moved through Paris streets, Tuchman described a muffled bell of Notre Dame tolling, thinking of a poem by Schiller: "I summon the living / I mourn the dead."

Four years, three months, and the deaths of ~10,000,000 soldiers and civilians later, the war ended.
________________________________

We know we're living in a time of extremity. Everyone is figuratively holding their breath, waiting for ... something.  Tuchman's story led to a streetcorner in Sarajevo, and a few weeks in the high summer of 1914 -- and we read it with dread because we know where it ends. No one knows where our American story is leading.

Tuchman's story closed in 1914, 105 years ago. In 2019, there's no one reason to assume bad things are coming, in America -- because there seem to be an overwhelming preponderance of reasons. No one can be blamed for feeling the present moment is portentous, that we're approaching something, a Sarajevo moment, that will trigger a cataclysm. It's a continuous, negative feedback loop, difficult to shake off.
________________________________

America has ignored critical, obvious things for generations: contributing to climate disintegration; the inequality in wealth. We've ignored our real history of class, race and gender. We became an Empire, and behaved like one. We became a center to develop technology out of desire for novelty and profit, while reducing personal privacy and allowing our opinions, desires, habits to be harvested and exploited.

We ignored the rise of weapons availability and gun violence. We ignored evangelical christian religious extremism. We ignored right-wing domestic terrorists and white supremacists. We ignored a malignant right-wing media -- whose lies and distortion have created a separate, alternate reality, tailored for a specific segment of America's population.

Our great national weaknesses have been chronicled and discussed for decades. Then, we had 9/11, and the Forever War; the 2008 financial crisis; an internal struggle in the GOP (won by the Alt-Right); and a loss of focus or purpose by our political Left (ostensibly, the Democratic Party).

In the new Millennium, America became progressively more tribal, split along every fault line you can imagine -- Left vs. Right; Rich vs. Poor; Young vs. Old; Urban vs. Rural; christian vs. non-christian; White vs. Anybody Else; LGTBQ vs. homophobe; Men vs. Women. Into the mix, throw gun ownership, militias, private armies and private intelligence groups, and the daily drumbeat of lies, conspiracies, taunts and threats pouring out of the great echo chamber of the Right.

Never before have the 'deplorables', the Base, felt so empowered, so justified, so ready to take back what they have been told is theirs from a rag-tag crowd of liberals, hippies, immigrants, minorities, and devil-worshiping pagans.

And, I can't shake the feeling that there are too many 'responsible' conservatives who want some final, showdown battle with everything they hate in life, personified by liberals, women, and anyone different from them.
_________________________________

Sad Vlad's Pal.

Against that background, Trump was almost inevitable -- "I can drain the swamp"; the allegedly rich mogul with the blow-up doll trophy wife; America's Silvio Berlusconi. He is the personification of everything we've collectively ignored, the would-be Clown Emperor. Everything about his presidency is a symptom of the rot at the heart of America, and on constant display -- selfishness, arrogance; narcissism and misogyny; nationalism; religious extremism; racism and sexism.

If you were trying to find a political leader who, if elected, would blow America apart along those developed fault-lines -- someone who would subordinate the needs of a democratic nation-state to feed a bottomless, life-sucking pathological need -- Trump is precisely who you would pick.
__________________________________

I don't have any great expectations for the impeachment process. The hearings are important, historic. There will be moments everyone will recall with relish or anger. Generations will remember them, as  Watergate is remembered. From a legal perspective,  and for the historical record, they're essential.

Whether a majority of Americans understand this impeachment is about limits of Executive authority is an open question. The GOP will continue to push a conspiracy-fueled, barely coherent defense of Trump, designed to confuse and obfuscate, because that's what liars do.

Another part of that defense is the yet-to-be-released Barr report, which will attack America's intelligence agencies and federal law enforcement, claiming to document a titanic conspiracy by The Deep State to thwart a victorious, glorious Trump presidency. It's a lie, of course; a projection of Trump's distorted interior landscape, tailored by Barr and others to please and curry favor with The Leader -- and on that basis alone, it'll be astounding.

Barr intends people will go to jail because of The Leader's whims; that one cannot act against The Leader, lest they suffer. And Republicans in Congress, the huge megaphone of right-wing media, are eager to dominate any impeachment coverage with a constant smoke screen of lies.

The GOP will not walk away from Trump. He is their chance to roll back generations of Liberal political change, social programs, and legal precedents. That great work, blessed by evangelical pastors, is more important than anything. But they've gone all-in.

Last night on Amanpour & Co., journalists Jeff Greenfield of Politico and Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame were asked about the current impeachment hearings, compared with those 46 years ago. Greenfield noted Americans seemed to be more involved and informed about the issues at stake, during Watergate -- and that they seemed to understand readily how Nixon had abused his office. More of an effort will be needed to 'sell' impeachment to Americans in 2019, Greenfield thought.
_____________________________________

I'm certain the hearings will lead to Articles of Impeachment in the Democratically-controlled House, but (my opinion) they will die in the Senate -- probably after an abbreviated trial; McConnell has already indicated what the result will be. After, there will be protests and civil disobedience (watch carefully how Trump and the government he owns will respond, as a preview of what may happen after the 2020 election).

Then, we'll head to the election. If the Republican attempts to confuse and obfuscate are successful; if the Democrats can't coalesce, and field a strong candidate; if our voting isn't secure against tampering; if voter suppression in key districts is successful... short of an act of god, America could end up with another 1,640 Days Of Trump.

There won't be a second attempt at Impeachment; the majority of Americans will be stunned, dispirited, and "sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age, made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science." (Winston Churchill; June, 1940)

I'm also reminded of a quote by lawyer and philosopher, Joseph De Maistre, in 1811: "In a democracy, people get the leaders they deserve."
____________________________________

Let's put on our tinfoil hats.

Trump wins re-election. That would be enough to trigger mass social unrest. His response could end in a national state of emergency.

Or, before the election -- if his poll numbers indicate he's in serious jeopardy, an "event" might occur serious enough to trigger a state of emergency. The election is disrupted or delayed.

Or, Trump loses, and refuses to concede, saying the results are "fake news". He asks "very good people" to bring their guns and come to Washington DC to "protect your president". The result would look very much like the confusion in a banana, or central African, republic as the government disintegrates.

Another possibility: if Trump loses the 2020 election and is replaced by a Democrat, the current "Cold Civil War" in America could turn hot:  asymmetrical warfare by rightist, white supremacist militias demanding -- something -- would likewise end in a state of emergency, a quasi-guerrilla war, endless paranoia and heightened surveillance.

If these circumstances become dire enough, other actors may step in. The military is one possibility, but more likely is a cabal of 'christians', backed by elements of a private corporate militia, might decide that god has called them to take control of America, end the sin, and bring the nation to His judgement and the path of righteousness. These actors are the best organized, best resourced group to commit treason on the scale necessary to succeed -- and, they believe they answer only to god.

There are scenarios, of course, where the Good Guys win, and America appears to have been 'saved'. Unfortunately, Fox and the rest of the Rightist echo chamber will continue pumping sewage; a Trump loss will make 'The Base' apoplectic, and right-wing violence will increase.

Any Left political leader elected to the Presidency will find it hard to govern in as fractured a nation as America is in the second decade of the 21st century.
_________________________________

Before you completely laugh off the possibility of a Republic of Gilead option for America's future, please consider these two news items:

1.)  The Ohio State Legislature has passed House Bill 164, the “Student Religious Liberties Act.” Under this law, students can’t be penalized if their work is scientifically inaccurate, as long as their reasoning is based on their religious beliefs.

If a public school student turns in a class assignment stating the earth is only 10,000 years old, if it's based on their religious belief, the student cannot be given a failing grade for the question.

The Bill also requires:
  • Public schools to give students the same access to facilities as provided to secular groups, if they wish to meet for religious expression;
  • Removing a provision that allows school districts to limit religious expression to lunch periods or other non-instructional times;
  • Allowing students to engage in religious expression before, during and after school hours to the same extent as any student in secular activities or expression;
  • Prohibiting schools from restricting a student from engaging in religious expression in homework, artwork or other assignments.
2.)  Former Time and Los Angeles Times journalist Joel Stein appeared on the PBS News Hour on Thursday, November 14, to discuss his new book, "In Defense Of Elitism".

Stein spoke about visiting the town of Miami, Texas, and his observations that Americans there were not uninformed or ignorant, but very determined that their point of view was true and correct:
...They [residents of Miami, Texas] were very white, and they were very christian.... And their anger about what is going on was different from what I thought it would be. And I found out that what they're upset about is, they feel really discriminated against. These are the people that, if you asked, 'are christians discriminated against more than black people', they will say yes. 
...So what they have noticed is that white christians have less power than they did 10, 20, 30 years ago. And they're panicked about that kind of change. ...These people are voting for what they want for the country. I think it's a dangerous vision they have, in my opinion, but it's not ignorant.
___________________________________

Monday, November 11, 2019

Absent Friends

You Know Who They Are

Mozart: Concerto For Clarinet and Orchestra; 2nd Movement, Adiago
___________________________

Friday, October 25, 2019

Because The Child-Men Rule All

Random Barking Friday Reprint:

Just Because We Agree That Any Day Above Ground Is A Good Day 
Doesn't Mean We Agree To Put Up With This Shit
(From October 12, 2018)
The fascist movements ... that came to power in Italy and Germany boasted their regimes were totalitarian. The most original revelation of the current wave of authoritarians is ... overtly antidemocratic dictatorships ...[are] unnecessary for holding power. Perhaps the most apt designation ... is the insidious term “illiberal democracy.” 
...Erdoğan in Turkey, Putin in Russia, Rodrigo Duterte ... and Viktor Orbán ... have all discovered that opposition parties can be left in existence...  in order to provide a fig leaf of democratic legitimacy, while in reality elections pose scant challenge to their power. Truly dangerous opposition leaders are neutralized or eliminated one way or another. 
Total control of the press and other media is likewise unnecessary... a flood of managed and fake news so pollutes the flow of information that facts and truth become irrelevant as shapers of public opinion. Once-independent judiciaries are gradually dismantled through selective purging ... Crony capitalism opens ... a symbiosis of corruption and self-enrichment between political and business leaders... 
Xenophobic nationalism (and ...explicitly anti-immigrant white nationalism), as well as the prioritization of “law and order” over individual rights, are also crucial to these regimes in mobilizing the popular support of their bases and stigmatizing their enemies. 
-- Christopher R. Browning, "The Suffocation Of Democracy" (Article), The New York Review Of Books; October 25, 2018 Issue (Paragraphing added for emphasis)
_________________________________

The age demanded that we dance
And jammed us into iron pants.
And in the end the age was handed
The sort of shit that it demanded.
-- Ernest Hemingway, In "Der Querschnitt"; February, 1925

I move to work in the dark, 5:00AM on public transit in a large urban area. Passengers are dressed for maintenance or construction, administrative or 'food service industry' jobs; almost everyone is looking down at their smartphones, scrolling and texting. A third are women, dressed in expensive workout clothes, heading for the gym; few white-collar, non-managerial 'Individual Contributors' like me ride to work this early. The real flood of San Francisco's Tech workers don't begin their commutes until after 7 o'clock.

San Francisco's Municipal Transit Authority is replacing its fleet of older electric busses, one by one, with new, 'hybrid' ones. There are fewer seats in the new busses.  I get off at the usual stop downtown, walking a nearly-deserted two blocks towards BART. Crossing a street, I register  someone moving on my left, riding towards me on a bicycle, and so make assumptions: I'm a pedestrian, they see me, they'll avoid me.

Suddenly, I hear the sound of pedals being cranked; the rider speeds up and passes, inches behind me; I feel a gust of air as their weight moves through space. And as they move past, I feel the rider pat me, once, on the top of my head, like a Plains Indian counting coup. Standing in the dim street, looking -- at him, a nondescript male: scruff of beard, dark baseball cap, clothing and bike -- I shout HEY!! at his back. 

I'm not particularly surprised (and I think: it's more surprising that I accept this as normal, now); my yelling is mostly for form's sake. He's riding on, casual, slowing to make a lazy S down the street and leaning back in his seat. He starts to cycle back in my direction, maybe take things to the next level -- then turns away. I can hear him, almost conversationally, say, "Welcome to Cali-for-nia, bay-bee."
_____________________________________

5:00AM in the Underground: increasing numbers of homeless, lying on the granite floors as if tossed there, discards, not asleep so much as comatose (I remember living rough in a stressful environment, a literal jungle, and how desperately needed and all-consuming sleep, unconsciousness, was for us).

Below the surface: The display of rock-bottom despair and crazy is manifest and confounding. Most people, myself included, just want to move down to the train platform and get where we're going -- because if we stopped for a moment to look at these people, and contemplate where we all are and where we're going, it would plunge you into tears at the same time it drives you back, within yourself, shrinking away from these Others -- as if they might infect you with lice or bad luck. That what I am could happen to you.

This morning, a man -- skin and hair blackened with dirt, torn clothing scumbled up with diesel soot and grease -- sat on the floor of the BART station, his back against a wall at the base of an Up escalator, legs splayed out, repeatedly shouting a single word, "FUCK!?" at the top of his lungs every few minutes.

He didn't use it as an obscenity. What had happened to him was the obscenity. He was asking a question -- of fate and circumstance; he was making an making an exclamation: This is what happened?? What the fuck???
___________________________________
As ever, Trump is the parody of the neoliberal consensus, which shows us the truth of its intellectual and political bankruptcy. And the neoliberal Democrats’ answer is not to mobilize the population in protest, not to take direct action against an obviously illegitimate political structure — but to double down on elitism and technocracy by imagining that the FBI will somehow save us. 
--  Adam Kotsko, "Lies And Neoliberalism"An und für sich, October 6, 2018
___________________________________
The domestic agenda of Trump’s illiberal democracy falls considerably short of totalitarian dictatorship as exemplified by Mussolini and Hitler. But ... [n]o matter how and when the Trump presidency ends, the specter of illiberalism will continue to haunt American politics. A highly politicized judiciary will remain... racial division, cultural conflict, and political polarization [which] Trump has encouraged and intensified will be difficult to heal. Gerrymandering, voter suppression, and uncontrolled campaign spending will continue to result in elections skewed in an unrepresentative and undemocratic direction. Growing income disparity will be extremely difficult to halt, much less reverse. 
Finally, within several decades after Trump’s presidency has ended, the looming effects of ecological disaster due to human-caused climate change—which Trump not only denies but is doing so much to accelerate—will be inescapable... 
Trump is not Hitler ... but regardless of how the Trump presidency concludes, this is a story unlikely to have a happy ending. 
--  Christopher Browning, ibid.; New York Review Of Books; October 25, 2018 Issue 
____________________________________

MEHR, MIT "WAS SIE GEMACHT HAT":

If you consider the main currents in American culture and politics since the Declaration, a move towards the 'illiberalism' Browning describes in his article doesn't seem like an aberration. More like a logical procession. 

Let's be clear: It's a class war. Who wins and who loses in the current circumstances remains the same, no matter which end of the spectrum is in control.

America's political right will never, truly, upset The Owners. The neoliberal Left wants a Wonderful One World which keeps The Owners intact and in charge. In either scenario, you and I are expendable resources. 

The same tools of misdirection, propaganda, appeals to a mythic America that never was; and at the very bottom of it all, a threat of ultimate power (I kill You!) has been used in that America to sink the pitch and rig the game, since forever. 

At its most basic, Trump and his crew owns the political Right. Every kind of bottom-feeding nightcrawler and slug have attached themselves to The Trump Halftrack -- because there's money to be made, and power to be had; it is really no more complicated than that. The only notable thing is, they are right out in the open about it, now

Even though the 0.01% (that number could even be smaller; I use it only to make the point) will truly benefit from Trump, 'The Base' feel stronger and more powerful. They wave The Flag, wear The Red Hat, and allow free-floating rage to take form in love of the christian nation and racial pride. Their purpose is simply in "being Americans".  Build that wall. Piss in faces of the Iranians. Use force on the streets. Love The Leader.

Neoliberals at home and abroad are disorganized and hiding, for the moment. If Clinton had won the election, they would have been the ones flexing muscle -- but quietly, through internationalist organizations. The same 0.01% would ultimately benefit. 

We'd still be rubes and sheep, like the Red Hats -- but we'd feel better about turning over our autonomy to The Owners, because it's for the greater good. We would have a sense of purpose in building a better future world.  
_______________________________

I'm not advocating a specific group's point of view. But, all this is an approximation of an answer to the question of that anguished underground dweller, yelling FUCK!!?? The structures human beings have built through five thousand-plus years of history to organize living on the planet have been bent, and altered, to favor a few and eat the rest of us alive.

... and no matter how clear that becomes, there's been little direct action. No matter how crazy things have gotten. There is no shortage of analysis and commentary about what is happening -- Christopher Browning's article is a crystal-clear example. The general outlines are there for everyone to see. 

But even in responding to Trump's lies with truth, his malfeasance with exposure, and narcissistic spewing with laughter, people rarely go into the streets. Given the stakes, our passivity in America is staggering -- and that comment only shows I assume having a high standard of living means people will act to support their best values and, you know, do stuff. 

All I'm sure of is, future historians will go over whatever documentation survives us and shake their heads, or laugh until they herniate themselves.

If you're waiting for the midterms; or Mueller's report; or for a tentacle to pop out of Trump's head while he bloviates at a rally, somewhere -- and then expect that hey presto! All Will Be Just Like It Was -- then something is happening here, but you don't know what it is. 
____________________________________

UND NOCH IMMER MEHR:  Oh, yeah! Forgot to include the recent UN report which says we're  effectively fucked and will all die in the fire in the fire in the fire, or at least bake a lot. So maybe none of this matters. It could explain why Our Glorious Wealthy have been so openly avaricious lately. Maybe all that talk about "future historians" doesn't mean anything, either. Hey; my bad!
___________________________________

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Reprint Heaven Forever: Still Missed

John Lennon: October 9, 1940


Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup,
They slither while they pass; they slip away across the universe
Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my open mind,
Possessing and caressing me
Jai guru de va om
Nothing's gonna change my world,
Nothing's gonna change my world

Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes,
That call me on and on across the universe;
Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box
They tumble blindly as they make their way,
Across the universe
Jai guru de va om
Nothing's gonna change my world,
Nothing's gonna change my world.

Sounds of laughter shades of earth are ringing
Through my open views; inviting and inciting me
Limitless undying love which shines around me
Like a million suns; it calls me on and on
Across the universe
Jai guru de va om
Nothing's gonna change my world,
Nothing's gonna change my world...

Across The Universe (Lennon / McCartney, 1969)


We don't care what flag you're waving,
We don't even want to know your name,
We don't care where you're from or where you're going,
All we know is that you came;

You're making all our decisions,
We have just one request of you,
That while you're thinking things over,
Here's something you just better do:

Free the people, now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.
Free the people, now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.

Well we were caught with our hands in the air,
Don't despair paranoia is everywhere,
We can shake it with love when we're scared,
So let's shout it aloud like a prayer:

Free the people, now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.
Free the people now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now

We understand your paranoia,
But we don't want to play your game;
You think you're cool and know what you are doing,
666 is your name;
So while your jerking off each other,
You better bear this thought in mind:
Your time is up you better know it,
But maybe you don't read the signs

Free the people now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.
Free the people now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.

Well you were caught with your hands in the kill,
And you still got to swallow your pill,
As you slip and you slide down the hill,
On the blood of the people you killed

Stop the killing now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.
Stop the killing now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.
Free the people now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now...

Bring On The Lucie (Freda People) (John Lennon, 1973)


The Soul Of America reminded me that I missed the actual day. Normally, I put up a memorial on December 10th. Better, I think, to celebrate someone's birth.

... I can't say I listen to Beatles music too much myself, these days (though I did listen to the Magical Mystery Tour album last weekend, by chance, while padding through the Haight).

So:  Absent Friends. Happy Birthday, John.

Monday, October 7, 2019

The Deepness Of The Sea Washes Up To Your Door

Random Barking In Multiple-Atmospheric Pressures

Last Week, In The Roundy Room Of Trump House
(Presidential Finland Guy Looks On: Whuz Up Wit' You, Man?)
Trump’s Defiance of Oversight Challenges Congress’s Ability To Rein In The Executive Branch: Experts and lawmakers worry the president’s hostile stance toward congressional oversight and Democrats’ flailing response are undermining the separation of powers and could have long-term implications for the democracy.
-- Washington Post, October 7, 2019; Headline and Sub-
It's fair to say America has never experienced the particular combination of political circumstances we're in now. It's a Constitutional crisis. It's the ugliest contest of power between the Executive and Legislative branches -- fueled on the Right by a witless, corrosive, ideological hatred. On the Left, Democrats can't seem to remember that they once were allegedly the party of People, and not of Corporations As People.

Meanwhile -- in case you forgot -- the Office of President* is held by a person who will sacrifice anything: lives (of immigrants, of Americans drinking tap water or breathing our air; of Yemeni civilians, or Kurdish troops), or fortunes (yours, or mine), or honor (manipulating others with lies) -- to feed his apparently bottomless appetite for satiety, validation, stimulation and revenge.

This is a defining moment in the future of our country. Are we (nominally) a nation of laws, a representative government that has some power, some checks and balances? Or are we more clearly an authoritarian political state where the only obvious use of a Legislative body is to rubber-stamp the will of The Leader?
_____________________________

After two weeks of whistleblowers and Rudy and threats and "BULLSHIT!" -- Impeachment is apparently the next stop on this Funhouse Highway. I'm not repeating details of the previous few weeks; things change, get worse; some new astounding revelation appears, almost by the day. One thing is constant -- the situation between Trump and his Base, and everyone else, will get almost inconceivably uglier.

I've already said: Articles of Impeachment will undoubtedly pass in the House. The votes are there. It will be referred to the Senate -- where the votes are not. A two-thirds majority is required to convict a President, but it doesn't appear likely the Senate will even vote on any Article from the House.

Republicans are so focused on beating the hated Liberals that they will continue to overlook whatever The Leader does. There may be a breaking point -- but after everything Trump has already done, what does that even mean?  Beating the Left, just to kick someone else into the dirt, has become more important to these persons than life, fortune, or the honor of all of us as citizens.  Nothing new there.

Yertle The Turtle has already saturated Kentucky with commercials, stating flatly that a Senate under his leadership and Republican control will protect the president*.  It's exciting to live in a country where you not only know the fix is in -- but where the Goons in charge actually crow about it, openly, in advance. That's a breathtaking example of exactly how broken, politically, things are.

Perversely, Trump will continue feeding on a 24-by-7 news cycle focused almost exclusively on him. He will bellow, preen, strut, and when his Toadies in the Senate quash the Impeachment, he'll celebrate with an all-night party at More-Lego, where he will be filmed having sex with goats and kitchen appliances -- and mention in the State Of The Union that real Americans should buy an exclusive boxed DVD set of the spectacle, through Trump Enterprises, at an 800 number.

Then, we will have an election.
___________________________

Some believe representative government was created so that larger, poorer masses, with great effort over hundreds of years, might force the smaller number of Owners and their institutions to give concessions in their control of -- well, everything.

If you're one of them, then the 2020 election is less about overthrowing a tyrant, and more about casting your vote for a government which won't further erode what rights and protections we've fought for -- an erosion every president since LBJ seems to have contributed to.  The choices seem drawn in relief -- a path forward is about more collectivism, mutual dependence and regard. The reverse ends in demands for loyalty at the point of a gun, poverty, states of emergency; mass graves.

It seems strange to hope the result of elections in 2020 is only for less erosion, rather than progress. That, too, tells you how broken politically things are. But it isn't a surprise. And please, don't make any mistake about it: Impeachment is not the most important thing on the table.

This election, and any other we participate in for at least the next few generations, is about ensuring that bloated clowns and demagogues do not have any lasting place in our culture or politics. We can't afford them any longer.

The most important thing on the table is survival of our species -- and understanding that how we do that is as critical to our future as survival itself.
______________________________

Thursday, September 19, 2019

The Dog In The Night-Time

For Your Edification
Gregory: “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
Holmes: “That was the curious incident.”
2017

(February - November = North Korea test-fires 16 missiles of various types, including ICBMs)

Early 2017
A CIA source, highly-place in the Kremlin and close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had provided up to 10 year's worth of intelligence, is secretly extracted from Europe and resettled in the United States.

Friday January 20
Trump inaugurated as President.

Tuesday, May 9
Trump fires FBI Director James Comey.

Wednesday, May 10
In an Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Kislyak and Ambassador to the United States Sergey Lavrov, Trump revealed a telling detail about a completed covert operation which (when traced back by the Russians) would implicate Israeli intelligence.

2018

Wednesday, July 25
White House announces it is stopping the practice of releasing weekly summaries of any telephone calls between Trump and other heads of state (known as 'readouts').

Thursday, December 13
The U.S. Senate votes 56-41 to pass a bill which ends American military support for Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen. The bipartisan bill is authored by Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont).  A few minutes later, the Senate unanimously passes a resolution to hold Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia personally responsible for the death of the journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

Wednesday, December 19
In a rambling video announcement posted on Twitter, Trump states he will order all U.S. troops stationed in Syria withdrawn as soon as possible, claiming the Islamic State had been defeated.  Criticism by American allies, and senior Republicans in Congress, was almost immediate.

Sunday, December 30
Trump announces that his announced withdrawal of troops from Syria would be slowed.

2019

Tuesday, January 29
America's intelligence agencies release their combined, annual 'Worldwide Threat Assessment' report. The document directly contradicts public utterances by Trump regarding Iran, China, North Korea, Russia, and the continuing Islamic State threat.

The chiefs of the intelligence agencies, and Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence (appointed by Trump in January, 2017), testify before the Senate Intelligence committee and are questioned about the differences between Trump's statements and the assessments of their agency's analysts.

Wednesday, January 30
Trump fires off a series of angry Tweets, firing back at public contradiction from the Intel agencies. "The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong! ... [Tehran] is coming close to the edge! ... Perhaps intelligence should go back to school!"

Thursday, January 31
The U.S. Senate passes, 68 to 23, a bipartisan amendment to a broader bipartisan Middle East policy bill, and authored by Mitch McConnell, stating Senate opposition to Trump's plan to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria.

Wednesday - Thursday, February 27 - 28
Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un meet in Hanoi, Vietnam for what was a planned, multi-day summit -- however, the talks end abruptly when Trump announced the summit over after one day; no deals regarding an end to North Korea's nuclear weapons program were reached.

Wednesday, March 13
U.S. Senate votes, again, to end American military assistance for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen and to curtail Executive war powers.

Monday, April 22
Secretary of State Pompeo announces that the United States would move to increase sanctions against sale of Iran's oil by blocking five of its biggest customers from buying it -- which would particularly affect China, but also India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey.

     (Saturday, May 4 = North Korea test-launches short-range missile.)

Monday, May 6
National Security Advisor John Bolton announces an additional aircraft carrier, B-2 bombers and an new antimissile battery would be sent to the Gulf region in response to "troubling and escalatory indications and warnings" from Iran.

     (Thursday, May 9 = North Korea test-launches two short-range ballistic missiles.)

Saturday - Sunday, May 11-12
Four oil tankers, at anchor near the Straits of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, are apparently damaged in a series of attacks.

Wednesday, June 5
A serious fire breaks out at Shahid Rajaee, Iran's largest port for shipping containers, just north of the Strait of Hormuz leading into the Persian Gulf. Apparently a vehicle used to transport shipping containers short distances caught fire, and subsequently spread due to a series of explosions.

Friday, June 7
Six, 50-foot trading vessels burn in the southern Iranian port of Taghi due to 'fires of unknown origin'.

Tuesday, June 11
At an impromptu 'helicopter presser', Trump is asked about (then) recent reports that Kim Jong Un's brother, assassinated in Singapore, had been a CIA asset.

Trump replied, "I did receive a beautiful letter from Kim Jong-un …A very warm, very nice letter. I think North Korea has tremendous potential. I appreciated the letter.... I saw the information about CIA with respect to his brother, or half-brother. And I will tell him that will not happen under my … I wouldn’t let that happen.”

Thursday, June 13
Two oil tankers under contract to Western firms and traveling through the Gulf of Oman catch fire, sustaining significant damage.  One ship's captain claimed to have been "hit by a flying object".

The same day, U.S. Central Command releases surveillance footage taken from a US Navy helicopter of what appeared to be an Iranian Revolutionary Guard patrol boat, with men retrieving what appeared to be a magnetic 'Limpet Mine' from the side of an oil tanker in the Gulf.

Sunday, June 30
Trump travels to South Korea and meets North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in the demilitarized zone at Panmunjom. Both agree to restart the previously-aborted Hanoi talks in October.

Monday, July 1
A Russian Losharik AS-12 submarine (type identified as a probable deep-submersible, nuclear-powered intelligence boat) catches fire in or near the Siberian port of Severomorsk. 14 sailors on board the sub die -- unusually, over half of them are Captains, two with high military decorations -- and rumors circulate that there was a radioactive breach during the fire.

Tuesday, July 2
Vice-President Pence, en route in Air Force 2 to a public appearance at the Granite Recovery Center in New Hampshire (an addiction rehabilitation franchise), is abruptly recalled to the White House while in mid-flight.  Members of the public waiting in Salem, NH were told at 11:30 AM the event had been cancelled.

Spokespersons at the White House denied any emergency had brought Pence back to Washington and generally downplayed the incident.

Sunday - Friday, Week of July 7 - 12
CNN reports that Trump and "advisers" hold discussions about replacing DNI Dan Coats.

Thursday, July 18 
Iran's Revolutionary Guard announce they have seized an oil tanker -- matching the description of the UAE ship declared missing two days earlier -- in the Gulf for carrying "contraband fuel".

Friday, July 19
The Revolutionary Guard Corps announce seizure of a second oil tanker.

Week of July 21 - 27
Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence, meets with Trump and Pence at the White House, and advises he will resign as DNI effective August 15.  Coats drafts his resignation letter during this week.

     (Thursday, July 25 = North Korea test-launches two short-range ballistic missiles.)

Thursday, July 25
Trump calls Vlodoymyr Zelensky, comedian-turned-politician and recently elected as President of Ukraine. Apparently, Trump presses Zelensky during the call to assist his personal attorney,  Rudy Giuliani, in his investigation of the business activities of Hunter Biden, son of former Vice President Joe Biden.

Giuliani was in Ukraine at the time of Trump's call, and had been trying for montths to get Ukrainian officials to investigate both Hunter and Joe Biden.

Zelensky's response is not known -- however, an American shipment of military equipment to Ukraine had been delayed by the Trump administration, making its delivery appear to be a possible quid pro quo -- help Giuliani, and you get your arms.

If true, pressuring another state leader to cooperate in developing information damaging to one of Trump's political opponent would easily be an impeachable offense.

Sunday, July 28
Coats submits his letter of resignation to Trump, who announces in a Tweet of Coats' departure, and replacement with hard-right Republican Congressman John Ratcliffe of Texas -- who has no experience in government beyond service in the House since 2014, and no intelligence experience.

     (Wednesday, July 31 = North Korea test-launches two short-range missiles.)

Wednesday, July 31
Per White House records, Trump calls Russian Vladimir Putin.

     (Friday, August 2 = North Korea test-launches two short-range ballistic missiles.)

Thursday, August 8
Sue Gordon, a career CIA official and Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence, is conducting a meeting in her offices on election security in the United States.

Dan Coats, outgoing DNI, interrupts the meeting; speaking privately with Gordon, he urges her to submit a letter of resignation to Trump.  Reasons for Coats' interruption request are unclear.  Unusually, Gordon wrote a brief letter of resignation to Trump by hand, which closed, "I offer this letter as an act of respect & patriotism, not preference. You should have your team."

"Shortly after ... Gordon submitted her letter of resignation to Vice President Mike Pence, though the document itself was addressed to Trump, according to officials, a highly unusual move that prompted some confusion among some West Wing officials..." (CNN)

Later that day, Trump announces in a Tweet both Gordon's departure and the appointment of  Vice-Admiral (ret.) John Maguire, current director of the US National Counterterrorism Center, as interim DNI.

This same day, An accident occurs at the main rocket test site for the Russian navy, at Nyonoska in northern Russia. At least five persons are killed, and at least three others injured. A spike in radiation levels at the site occurred immediately after; two of the injured were flown to Moscow for treatment but died of radiation poisoning on the way.  A Norwegian nuclear safety expert stated later that isotopes detected in the area after the incident proved a nuclear reactor was likely involved.
_____________________________
[Note: Following entry quotes heavily from a specific post on LawFareBlogMargaret Taylor, "The Mysterious Whistleblower Complaint: What Is Adam Schiff Talking About?", 9/17/19.]
Monday, August 12
An employee in a U.S. intelligence agency files a formal 'whistleblower complaint' -- a disclosure, intended for the Intelligence committees of the U.S. Congress as part of its oversight capacity.  The complaint is filed with the DNI's office of the Intelligence Community Inspector General, Michael Atkinson.

(Note: This indicates the whistleblower is likely an employee of the DNI; the CIA, NSA, NRO, DIA or ONI have their own Inspectors General.)
  • The complaint apparently involves Trump having multiple phone conversations with another, unnamed world leader over a period of time. During one or more of these calls, Trump made a "promise" to the foreign leader -- the substance of which they believed was disturbing enough to make a formal complaint.
  • 50 U.S.C., Sec. 3033 of the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act (1998) states that "An employee of an element of the intelligence community, an employee assigned or detailed to an element of the intelligence community, or an employee of a contractor to the intelligence community who intends to report to Congress a complaint or information with respect to an urgent concern may report such complaint or information to the Inspector General." [Emphasis added.]
The "urgent concern" of the whistleblower's complaint is critical. The Act defines it as
  • "(i) A serious or flagrant problem, abuse, violation of law or Executive order, or deficiency relating to the funding, administration, or operation of an intelligence activity within the responsibility and authority of the Director of National Intelligence involving classified information, but does not include differences of opinions concerning public policy matters;
  • "(ii) A false statement to Congress, or a willful withholding from Congress, on an issue of material fact relating to ... an intelligence activity.
  • "(iii) An action, including a personnel action ... constituting reprisal or threat of reprisal prohibited under ... this section in response to an employee’s reporting an urgent concern ..."
  • Atkinson's IG office had a statutory 14 calendar days to report the complaint to Interim DNI Maguire.  Once advised, Maguire "shall, within 7 calendar days... forward such transmittal to the congressional intelligence committees..."
  • This gave Maguire until Tuesday, September 3 to inform the two Congressional Intelligence committees of the information in the whistleblower's compliant.
However, IG Atkinson and/or Jason Klitenic, the DNI's General Counsel, apparently sought an opinion from the Justice Department's Office Of Legal Counsel.

     (Saturday, August 24 = North Korea test-launches two short-range missiles.)

Saturday, August 24 - Monday, August 26
Trump attends the meeting of G7 nations in Biarritz, France.

Monday, September 9
IG Atkinson writes a letter (which has not been made public) directly to House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff and the GOP ranking member, Devin Nunes, advising them the DNI was not going to forward the complaint to the committee.

The September 3 deadline for Maguire to report the complaint had passed.  It's possible that Schiff  was alerted privately to the whistleblower's complaint, and Atkinson knew it.  It seems likely he wrote to Schiff to give an appearance that the DNI was complying with the spirit of Congressional authority and statute.

This same day
CNN breaks the story on the extraction of the CIA asset close to Putin in 2017, reporting it had been decided to remove them out of concern that Trump might blow the source's cover.

A media source hints that the ex-CIA asset may have been one of the sources of the so-called Steele Dossier. While that may be possible, the source had confirmed for American intelligence, from direct knowledge, that Vladimir Putin had personally ordered efforts to interfere in the U.S. presidential election in 2016, on behalf of  then-candidate Trump.

For that reason alone, the CIA believed it likely Trump would blow the asset's cover  -- which would have been a death sentence if he were still in Russia.

The former CIA asset, apparently traced by the media to a home purchased in the suburban D.C. area, flees with their family and disappears.
___________________________________
[Note: Following entries draw heavily on a specific post on LawFareBlog, Margaret Taylor, "The Mysterious Whistleblower Complaint: What Is Adam Schiff Talking About?", 9/17/19.]
Tuesday, September 10
Schiff writes a letter to Interim DNI Maguire, advising Maguire had not followed the law and demanding that he forward the whistleblower transmittals from the IG to the congressional intelligence committees “without delay and in their entirety.”

Schiff makes clear that if Maguire does not comply, the committee would issue a subpoena. He also demanded Maguire provide the whistleblower any necessary directions on appropriate security procedures the whistleblower might follow in order to contact the committee directly.

Thursday, September 12
Apparently, Rep. Schiff and Interim DNI Maguire hold a conversation about the situation.

Friday, September 13
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff writes a second letter to Maguire, as cover for the subpoena (which has also not been made public), and references their discussion the day before.

Schiff states Maguire has “neither the legal authority nor the discretion to overrule a determination” by his inspector general, doesn't “possess authority to withhold from the Committee a whistleblower disclosure from within the Intelligence Community that is intended for Congress". [Paragraphing added for clarity:]
"Even though the disclosure was made by an individual within the Intelligence Community through lawful channels, you have improperly withheld that disclosure on the basis that... the complaint concerns conduct by someone outside of the Intelligence Community and because the complaint involves confidential and potentially privileged communications.
In a further departure from the statute, your office consulted the Department of Justice about the complaint, even though the statute does not provide you discretion to review, appeal, reverse, or countermand in any way the [intelligence community inspector general]’s independent determination, let alone to involve another entity within the Executive Branch in the handling of a whistleblower complaint.
Your office, moreover, has refused to affirm or deny that officials or lawyers at the White House have been involved in your decision to withhold the complaint from the Committee. You have also refused to rule out to me that the urgent concern, and underlying conduct, relates to an area of active investigation by the Committee.
Late that night, officials in Maguire’s office acknowledged Schiff’s subpoena, indicating that “[w]e are reviewing the request and will respond appropriately” and that “[t]he ODNI and Acting DNI Maguire are committed to fully complying with the law and upholding whistleblower protections and have done so here.”

[See Schiff's letters here.]

According to Schiff, he received a response from Maguire, where he indicated that he was not responding based on a command from a “higher authority” because it involves an “issue of privileged communications.” Schiff surmised that it involves the president, people around the president, or both.

On this same day, as the whistleblower story goes public in the media -- the armaments and equipment shipment for Ukraine which had been badly delayed is released and the shipment sent for delivery.

Tuesday, September 17
Interim DNI Maguire refuses to comply with the House committee's subpoena and will not appear to testify.  DNI General Counsel Klitenic sends a letter sent to congressional leaders, saying that the activity at the root of the whistleblower's complaint “involves confidential and potentially privileged communications.”

Thursday, September 19
DNI Inspector General Atkinson appears in closed-door session with the House Intelligence committee.  It's announced that Interim DNI Maguire will testify, probably in camera as well, next week.
_____________________________________