Showing posts with label Astonishing Tales. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Astonishing Tales. Show all posts

Friday, January 24, 2020

Reprint Heaven: January 29, 1933

You Want It Darker

(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 !

________________________________

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Eat Your Pie

Every Bite


For All America: We Ordered It. Now, We Eat It.

I'd felt compelled in the past months to make a scale model -- of a random tree, one planted by the City of San Francisco, growing for at least twenty years near a streetcorner. The scale would be 1 inch = 3 Feet: roughly thirty feet of tree would be rendered in ten inches. I'm a visual artist, among other things; it was within my range of abilities.

My vision was to recreate as many fine details as that scale would allow, including at least a thousand leaves, and an uncanny crispness in the detail was the goal. I didn't really begin, but did preparatory drawings, bought supplies, took reference photos. But -- sculpture or modeling in any form isn't a normal impulse for me. So: a puzzle.

Over the past few weeks, it finally struck me: I'm part of a physical world, where every living thing in it is now threatened. I'm also living in a world of ideas, created by other humans -- a political world, now mutating away from everything familiar.

In that, the desire to recreate a familiar, primal living form, and reduce a part of the world to something, through an act of making, which I could control, suddenly made sense.
_____________________________

In 2016, like almost everyone else, I assumed the fix was in -- that Clinton would become President. Of course, there was no possibility Trump would win (though I toyed with the thought in February of 2016). Even the MAGA Bundists didn't believe it.

He was a joke. His rabid base in Flyover Country were underclass jokes, 'deplorables' who believed his anti-immigrant, White supremacist / fringe-separatist dogwhistling. His campaign was a sideshow, allowed (or, if you preferred, conspired against) by the Powers That Be.

Trump said and did things which broke political and cultural norms. And no matter how crazy things seemed? He'd never actually become President. The best pollsters didn't believe it. Pundits and insiders laughed about it. Reportedly, Trump didn't believe he had a chance, either -- but he was getting a months-long Trump, Inc. infomercial, paid for with other people's money.

Some in early 2016, like university professor and Washington Post columnist Daniel Drezner, read things differently.
Turns out those few voices had spoken up for good reasons. Now, every one of those reasons has borne fruit -- rotten, nauseatingly spoiled, rancid -- slopped as filling into a pie that 99.09% of America has been eating for over three years.

It is making us sick. It's killing us. But it's what America ordered, and we will have to eat our pie. We will eat every bite -- even if it takes ten years, or twenty. We'll eat it all. We won't have any choice.
______________________________

Like everyone else, I had grown up repeating the Pledge of Allegiance. And if you didn't get the Pledge, you did understand the power of the State it represented: One Nation, Bigger Than You; Under God, Too: Believe It, and Square Yourself Away In That Bulkhead, Marine.

The majority of our fathers had fought in WW2, for pete's sake. We'd hear the stories. America kicked Japan and Germany's ass (Italy was apparently just a place to have a war in, not an actual enemy), and by God, America won that sucker. Get on the other side of that equation, and see what happens (or, paraphrasing from Stephen King, "we'll just loose some pioneer spirit on ya'), damn Commies.

I accepted the High-School-Civics-Class-View of the United States. We were an exceptional People. History didn't apply to us; we were writing it. Even later personal experience overseas (where we did not win), and at home didn't really touch the bedrock assumptions I carried around about race, and class, and gender, and geopolitics -- or, that one could say Liberty and Justice For All and still not understand it was a slogan.
__________________________________

Trump won. Everyone in Washington expected him to play by the rules of conduct and engagement between Congress and the Executive. He couldn't be who he appeared to be and function as President.  But he didn't play by their rules; if anything, he played by Stevie Bannon's rules (that is to say, Josef Goebbels', or Josef Stalin's), Rupert Murdoch's rules, Vladimir Putin's rules.


With the help of people like Pompeo, Barr, and the Republican leadership, Trump has hollowed out America's governmental institutions, muzzling the FBI in a Justice Department organized to investigate those The Leader charges with the 'crime' of not being sufficiently loyal. Thousands of children are kept in virtual concentration camps, abused and mistreated.

Trump and the GOP charged a $3 Trillion bill to ordinary Americans in order to pay even more money to Our Fabled Wealthy; he runs a foreign policy sideshow which appears to benefit Russia far better than the United States. We, The People, have paid $118 Million to fund his weekly golf trips since taking office. The EPA exists in name only. National Weather Forecasters are muzzled when their opinion counters that of The Leader.

The new Federal judges, appointed for life by a Republican-controlled Senate, many without any qualifications whatsoever. Two (more) right-wing appointments to the Supreme Court -- in particular the nasty, entitled Frat Boy -- and the push by evangelicals to finally overturn Roe v. Wade. The list goes on and on.

But: even if Trump were removed from power, immediately; even if Mikey Pence were shown to be living with a rent-a-boy in a Motel 6 outside the Beltway; and McConnell and his wife were caught selling the North American SIOP to Russian agents, it wouldn't matter: Trump has trampled the boundaries of what is permissible in American political life -- and the Republican party, now nothing but a crowd of vicious suckasses, have enthusiastically helped him.

Even worse, Trump has given the cover of Presidential support for 'very good people' -- openly fascist, separatist, white nationalists. Fascist ideas are now something not to be fought, but given legitimacy, to be debated, to be allowed to sit at the table.

Trump has, with assistance, broken the United States of America. And if it isn't intelligently repaired -- if Trump goes on and on; if the GOP pays no electoral penalty for what they've participated in -- then after the next Crash, we're within a few short years of living in a failed Fascist State.

And Trump won't be our worst nightmare -- it'll be waking up to find there's a popular new conservative Leader, someone colder, more focused and sociopathic than Trump ever was. Someone who promises order and safety with the smile of a rapacious predator. America becomes just another authoritarian dictatorship: god help you if you're a minority, or LGTBQ, or a woman, or any stripe of Liberal.

Or, even worse, American society descends into real conflict, the "boogaloo" our fascist Right currently hopes for. Disorganization and violence rises... until some group of 'christian' leaders (perhaps 'The Family') decide that god has willed they step in and turn the nation towards the path of righteousness.

At that point we wake up to find we're living in a new country, with a new name, and with multiple, cold, focused and even more sociopathic leaders. And they won't just demand a political allegiance -- they'll want you to give them your soul.
_____________________________________

On Twitter this morning, I responded to a comment on an article -- that Trump's popularity had taken a slight dip in Texas, the reddest of Red States. Most people responding thought it was cause for cheer -- I replied,
What should frighten every thinking person in America is -- how popular would a right-wing candidate be in Texas if he were smoother, more cunning, more 'attractive', more evangelical? Trump isn't what we should be afraid of. It's what he's made possible.
Not long after, I scrolled down to find Newsweek columnist Seth Abramson observed very much the same thing:
The list of things now officially permissible at the highest levels of our government -- because of GOP cowardice -- is enough to permanently degrade our democracy: foreign interference in elections; pathological lying without shame; personal conflicts of interest never resolved... 
The worst part: the GOP will vainly, even grotesquely try to do a take-backsies on destroying America the second there's a Democratic president. At the first lie, they'll howl. But it'll be the boy who cried wolf... 
Part of it is that the culture in Washington -- already toxic; already chasing away most good people --is now permanently fatal to any goodness or integrity. But part of it is Trumpism generally, which is going to be with us for decades no matter what happens with Trump specifically. 
When and if Trump leaves office, he'll either start Trump TV immediately and be in your house daily pretending he's still president or, if he's indicted ... he'll go somewhere overseas he can't be touched and from *there* be in your house daily. 
There's one chance—and not even a great one—to avoid this. A historic reversal, revolution, and rebuke arising in the Senate that sends Trump reeling out of office. Would the GOP likely have to sit on the nation's political bench for a few years? Yes. But they could save America. 
Obviously, that's never going to happen. And so it's the alternative: a permanent diminishment of America that nothing can stand in the breach to avert. The Rubicon is the Senate trial, and if it's crossed -- no matter who wins in 2020 -- it's crossed, and Trumpism is made *permanent*.
______________________________

MEHR, MIT DER NEUEN KRIEG ZU KOMMEN:  Yesterday, an American drone strike killed the Iranian General in charge of that nation's Republican Guard special forces, and one of the principal architects of Iran's paramilitary strategy in the Middle East.  He was simply assassinated, without any Congressional consultation -- "on order of the President", The Leader; the child-man dictator. 

As I keep saying: This cannot continue; and, This cannot end well:  Consider this.
________________________________

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. And Trump is the most recent stop on the long, slow trajectory of the Republican party from conservative to fascist.

The Democrats 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. 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 -- except this is the political use of the Justice Department to attack persons Trump perceives as his enemies with fabricated evidence and made-up crimes.

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.

(Note: And where would our military stand in all this? The traditional Army-Navy football game was held on December 14; Trump attended, wearing a red MAGA cap. At halftime, West Point Army Plebes and Annapolis Midshipmen sat behind a television reporter, making the twisted 'okay' hand sign, recognized as a white power symbol, for the camera -- and behind the back of a black West Point Cadet sitting in the front row. You tell me where, in case of a civil war, the Armed Services will stand.)
__________________________________

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 -- meaning, Leftists, immigrants, persons of color, feminists; LGBTQ persons; Muslims; it's a long list -- must somehow be taken care of, once and for all. Dominated, and crushed.

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.
_________________________________

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, 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.
_____________________________________

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Reprint Heaven Forever: We're Whalers On The Moon

Yet Again, The Birthday of Big Marine Mammal Avatar Creators

Moving through life, we find ourselves on occasion in the midst of experience or the presence of a thing which resonates and reminds that something, more than what we think we know or can perceive (if we would just stop and shut up and pay enough attention to see), exists.

Principally, this happens when we're 'out in nature', but it also happens when we encounter some art -- in particular, when it's been created by someone who made deep and illuminating connections and Brought Them Back To Tell Thee. From August 1 in 2016 and 2017 and 2018.
_____________________________

There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody's expense but his own.
-- Herman Melville / Moby-Dick, or, The Whale
Over at the Soul Of America, it's a celebration of Herman Melville's 200th birthday (!!!), and things of the Sea, and a Whale, and other notables which Herman brought back, To Tell Thee.

I considered writing a post from the viewpoint of the Whale just for the potential Yucks (because, god knows, We Need The Yucks Wherever We Can Get Them), but gave it up and settled for the Humorous Image.

The best thing about the post, and the reason I mention it here, is -- Herman tends to be overlooked in a culture whose highest expression is a Rhianna / Pitbull remix; it's good to be reminded that he is still there -- as he reminds us that we are chased by our mortality; and that sometimes the Form Of The Destructor is large, albino, and aquatic.  For me, it's a big lawn mower. Your Harbinger O' Death™, of course, may differ.

I was introduced to Melville when I was fourteen -- not through the novel he's most often identified with, but in the short work, "Bartelby The Scrivener" (1853), a classic in its own right. Ishmael's tale was next, and I was, uh, hooked. Later, I wasn't able to read anything by James or Conrad that didn't refer back to the narrative style I encountered first with Melville.

"Moby Dick: Or, A Whale" is ubiquitous. There is No Whale before He who populates a portion of that book (Yeah, okay; 'Shamu'  and 'Willy' are not the same thing). The Whale at least lurks, an unseen presence, in the background of all the on-ship action -- like Death, or Fate, or reruns of Three's Company. As if the Whale might chuckle and snicker in the dark during certain scenes:
" 'What is it, what nameless, inscrutable, unearthly thing is it; what cozening, hidden lord and master, and cruel, remorseless emperor commands me; that against all natural lovings and longings, I so keep pushing, and crowding, and jamming myself on all the time; recklessly making me ready to do what in my own proper, natural heart, I durst not so much as dare? Is Ahab, Ahab? Is it I, God, or who, that lifts this arm? But if the great sun move not of himself; but is as an errand-boy in heaven; nor one single star can revolve, but by some invisible power; how then can this one small heart beat; this one small brain think thoughts; unless God does that beating, does that thinking, does that living, and not I. By heaven, man, we are turned round and round in this world, like yonder windlass, and Fate is the handspike.'   
" 'Heh heh heh heh,' " came a deep basso rumble out of the darkness which hid the waters. Ahab started, but did not otherwise acknowledge the presence of that upon which he had focused for so long."
That Big Marine Mammal is archetypal, now. And, aber natürlich, the moment something makes an appearance on "Family Guy", it's an absolute certainty that, whatever it is, it's now hard-coded into our DNA.

 Herman Left Out The Part Where Whales Like Raisin Bran
______________________________

MEHR, MIT KEINE POLITIK: My Very Own Hillaryite Colleague asks, "So you hate music, too?" (This, because of the Rhianna / Pitbull quip.) And I would agree, it's absurdist reductionism to claim that the essence of culture in Eusa is rap music and movies like Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. I'm convinced that people (or, Whales; or very intelligent Honey Badgers) in the not very distant future will look back on this period as one of the most varied and vibrant in the history of our humanoid species -- until, you know, that thing happens.
________________________________

UND NOCH IMMER MEHR:  Once I saw this, I could not un-see it. It is an actual book. Swear to god.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-HzYH1qVAn2s/VLuVF_f9DWI/AAAAAAAABbI/SC32BIgWys4/s1600/Ships.jpg
_________________________________

UND: WAS IST AUCH SCHON WIEDER LOS? MEHR:  At one point, if you had $39.9K, Jim Morrison's Moby could have been yours.

At that price, you'd think the seller would have provided free shipping -- but, remember: this is Aremica, Land Of The Free and Home Of The Hip.