Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Pardon Me

Same As It Never Was
While all agree the U.S. president has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us.  FAKE NEWS
Trump / Twitter, July 22, 2017
Donald Trump is a pivotal historical figure. He'd like hearing that, but not for the reasons it's true.

Trump is an Oligarch, the first of his ilk elected to national office in America, the culmination of a long string of compromises, inertia, and bad choices in our history and politics. Trump came to power in an alliance with opportunistic associates, the best political con artists of the early 21st century; and voters loosely described as Tea Party and Alt-Right, who have unquestioningly accepted 30 years of indoctrination in the alternate reality of the Right's echo chamber.

The image of a corrupt, bombastic national leader is one Americans have always used, with a smirk, to dismiss the problems of 'somewhere else': the behavior of a Berlusconi, a Mugabe; a Ghaddafi, a Middle Eastern prince; or the leader of a 'Banana Republic'. Now, America has just such a leader.

Nine months after the election, it's fair to say the majority of Americans do not understand how this could have happened, are frightened of what will happen next, and don't know what to do about it.

Far from being steward of a nation of some 400 million people, Trump sees the presidency as an extension of his own person, a grand stage on which to strut and preen and demand validation, over and over. He personifies what American culture holds out to the world as the apex of success and fulfillment in life -- being a billionaire business 'leader', wielding power, able to afford a wonderful life, with treats, and a separate system of taxation and justice.

Trump has no real political agenda, because the presidency of the United States is just his latest acquisition. It's a sweet little property, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to the kind of access needed to work deals so 'big', so 'huge', that they will elevate him and his family into world-class Oligarchs. 

His administration may not last another twelve months, but his becoming president is one symptom of a metastatic disease within America's political structure. And like the towering rages he treats his subordinates and family to, as Trump leaves the presidency, thwarted by a liberal conspiracy, his greatness stolen by a fake-news media, Trump will urinate in the Lincoln Bedroom, set fire to furniture, spray-paint obscenities on the Roosevelt Room walls and cut paintings out of their frames on his way to the helicopter.

A little speculation: Trump was determined to be president. He saw no difference between "winning" a national election and making any other successful corporate power play -- you pull out all the stops, play rough; even play dirty if it will gain an advantage. In that context, it's very believable that Trump would see back channel help from a foreign government in winning that election to be no different than approaching a business associate for assistance in closing a deal. 

And why not accept some help? Trump has what we now know are thirty years' worth of business and personal connections with Russia -- and at least a handshake relationship with its ruler, Vladimir Putin, whom Trump respects and believes he understands. During the campaign, Trump sent signals in the many complimentary things he said about Putin. He praised the Russian president in terms Trump likes to use to describe himself -- tough, rich, uncompromising; a Player. 

But Trump wanted to win. And he may have considered that if he became president, Russia could become an ally to fight ISIS, possibly even a partner to help broker peace in the Middle East, instead of an adversary. It's a bit of a stretch -- but an alliance-in-all-but-name with Russia would remake the balance of world politics overnight. It's the sort of game-changing strike without warning which Trump and his principal strategist, Steve Bannon, are fond of.

There would be skeptics in the GOP like Graham and McCain, who mistrust the Russians; and among Europeans, who are closer geographically to Russia than we are. The Chinese wouldn't like it. But somehow, Trump might believe -- if he could just become president -- it would work. And, a political fait accompli would tend to obscure any Russian hacking that might happen before the election, which was already obvious to U.S. intelligence and then-President Obama. Any investigation of that activity would be buried, because Trump would be in charge.

After, Trump just knew he would be covered in glory, with huge, big, big, big; hugely big approval ratings -- proving to everyone that he was loved and adored (no, worshiped) as no American Leader before him had been. Craving uncritical adulation appears to be one of Trump's principal motivations. It may be the only one.

Trump would then have all the domestic political capital with a Republican-controlled Congress he needed to build border walls, deport people he doesn't like; repeal Obamacare. Easily elected to a second term, he would continue to encourage his surrogates and camp followers to realize the fevered, wet dreams of power, domination and punishment which America's political Right has nurtured for generations.

So, in this consideration, help was offered and/or asked for, and was delivered. If that sounds like a bridge too far, here's a question: Why was there so much attention focused on Russia, and contacts with Russians that have direct connections to Putin, by Trump and his coterie of advisors both before and after the election? What was the reason?

You have to wonder how Putin viewed Trump's becoming president. Financial sanctions levied against Russia by the Obama administration hurt Putin (and his associate)s' ability to more efficiently skim off the top and launder the proceeds, and he had no intention of taking it lying down.

The cyberarm of the GRU (Russian military intelligence) has been probing American governmental and commercial systems for over twenty years. Their goal has never been to run scams like Ransomware, or weaponize software code in something like Stuxnet -- but in developing the ability to use cyberwarfare as one part of an asymetric attack on a target; in this case, the United States.

Putin's KGB career involved analyzing American culture and intentions, and it's likely he understands roughly a quarter of the adult U.S. population has swallowed thirty years of right-wing codswallop, which always ends with a Federal government determined to sell America out to a one-world, globalist liberal conspiracy.

America is full of fault lines, primarily involving race and wealth inequality. Russians view even the flawed diversity and democracy in the U.S. as expressions of weakness, especially when compared with their own nationalist, authoritarian government. Putin wants to diminish U.S. influence in the world, and anything which exploits America's partisan divide against itself gives Russia more advantage -- in Syria; in Ukraine; and in offshore accounts.

A straight hack of the DNC to obtain more raw intelligence about the organization of a major American political party is one thing. But hacking to obtain information, and then using the product to tip the scales of a U.S. national election is something else. Trump presented the Russians with an irresistible opportunity: all hackers are Geeks with Kung-Fu powers; there's a lot of juice in just pulling the hack off successfully. 

The product of the GRU's hacks, used properly, could destabilize the United States -- not in an obvious way that could be seen as an act of war (e.g., bringing down the electrical grid or disrupting the banking system), but by kicking the confidence of Americans in its government and basic democratic institutions further to the curb.

Trump's election would leave the U.S. further divided and uncertain, its government distracted, its president a weak, bombastic narcissist who only accepts advice from a tiny circle of family or uncritical 'alternative' advisors. If even a part of that could be achieved, with a minimum of resources and effort, Putin might consider it an exquisite kind of payback.

Putin knew Trump might expect an America under his leadership becoming a closer partner with Russia. Publicly, Vlad said he welcomes closer relations. He would like the sanctions against Russian individuals and its banks lifted -- but it is certainly advantageous to Russia if America is kept off-balance and distracted. So, Putin could suggest the possibility of A Great New Friendship... but it will always remain just out of Trump's reach, so long as Vlad wants it that way. Bizarrely, Trump needs Putin more than the reverse is true.

So, very possibly, Trump accepted assistance offered by intermediaries from Putin. He saw the Russian hacks and release of the product as right, a necessary edge in an election against a hated liberal icon, sowing confusion and discord in a political structure that the outsider Trump claimed to detest.

Crooked Hillary, the Fake News conspiracy against him, would be outmaneuvered. He would fight and fight and fight -- and win, because he was Donald Trump; and all would love him.

That's all that mattered.

I keep hearing conversations with some variation on If only this turd were swept out of power, everything could go back to normal. This perception is a mistake. Mike Pence in the Oval Office might seem more socially acceptable; we could pretend everything was The Same As It Ever Was. But Trump's fall means elevating a religious fundamentalist to the presidency, and even though Pence outwardly appears to be 'normal' (relative to Trump), he is equally as threatening and destabilizing. Look at his record.

Pence aside, the damage has already been done. There is no viable alternative to the continued rule of America by the individuals who crawled in behind Trump as he was inaugurated. Their goal is to continue dismantling the social contract between government and citizen that was the cornerstone of FDR's New Deal. And they will not cease, unless someone stops them.

And by that I mean a Poland-style, hundreds of thousands in the streets, saying No Pasaran stopping them. But with few exceptions (in particular people who already know what the score is and are so full of rage they feel they have little to lose), everyone just wants it to be The Same As It Ever Was.  

But who or what will offer a change? The Democratic party appears rudderless. The same neoliberal PTB who wanted Hill-O as Leader seem still to be in charge -- and their message isn't about Resistance. It's about connecting with the people they believe voted Trump into office; feeling the pain of ordinary Americans.  It's about playing a longer strategic game.

Yesterday, Senator Chuck Schumer, Representative Nancy Pelosi and DNC Chair Tom Perez announced the 2018 campaign direction for their party. Reduced to it's essence, their 'answer to America's working families', is the same as Michael Dukakis' during the 1988 presidential election -- "good jobs at good wages" -- meaning they would focus on addressing basic economic issues, in order to define the Democratic party as being more than "just against Donald Trump".

It's easy to see the decision behind this rebranding, but it doesn't encourage standing up, or fighting back. It's like handing an aspirin to a person slowly being crushed to death, and touching their hand -- tenderly, and with love. Under the circumstances, this kind of response is inadequate.

Something more active needs to be done. But given the lack of response from the population and Left politicians, how much worse will it need to become before a larger number of people act? 

Trump has gotten what he wanted -- the limelight of history: Top of the world, Ma! In what happens next, he is a pivotal figure, a cause utterly out of proportion with the effect he will have on our lives. That anyone suffers because of this Clown is tragic, and ironic. Chickens, home to roost. Somewhere the gods are laughing, fit to bust -- and Vladimir Putin, of course.

The ascension to the presidency of a right-wing buffoon with limited impulse control is bad: The Past Is Prologue; just look at what's happened in seven months. The buffoon made Leader at the same time the Congress is dominated by Republicans, with a probable conservative bias in the Supreme Court, is very bad.

If it's determined the buffoon president solicited or agreed to assistance from a foreign power, in order to affect the election which barely gave him a victory, it's not just extremely bad for America -- it's an unprecedented Constitutional crisis.

And Trump is only a symptom. All this, The fact that he is where he is, makes obvious our political structure is dysfunctional and schizophrenic. That we're becoming a culture where the needs of Americans -- employment; housing; safe water and air and food; medical care; one system of justice -- won't be addressed unless they can pay for them. That we all feel something is out of control, getting perilously close to an edge. That things can't go on like this.

As if it wasn't obvious. As if anyone had to actually say so.  But we do. We need to say it publicly, loudly, and often, until we believe it.  Because at the moment, a majority of Americans are still betting that Same As It Ever Was is still a possible future.