Showing posts with label Potomac City. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Potomac City. Show all posts

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.”

(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.


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In a rambling video announcement posted on Twitter, Trump states he will order all U.S. troops stationed in Syria withdrawn as soon as possible, claiming the Islamic State had been defeated.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.


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.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Random Barking: News On The March


Robert Mueller hadn't even stepped from the podium before The Murdoch manure machine began doing all it ever can do (via Media Matters):
STUART VARNEY (HOST): My judgment is it was a neutral statement. What do you say?  
PETE HEGSETH (FOX NEWS HOST): I think you're right. I mean, we saw the definitive end of the Mueller report. If you're looking for more, you're looking in the wrong place. And he made that very clear. But I think both sides are going to take what they want from this statement. You're going to have the president rightfully saying no collusion, no obstruction, I'm exonerated, let's move on. The coded language in the second part though, I think is what Democrats are going to seize on, which is department policy is such that we're not able to charge a sitting president with obstruction, therefore, we didn't. He didn't say he didn't obstruct. He said we're not -- it would be unfair to bring charges against a sitting president where there's no place to adjudicate it. So I think that's what you'll see on late night television, on the other networks obsessing over the fact Bob Mueller's hands were tied by the Trump Justice Department and therefore, he didn't bring obstruction charges. But I think the bigger narrative will be the president can go to the voters, which will be the ultimate decision on this in 2020, and say they dragged me through the mud for two and a half years, I was exonerated, let's do something big with the next four years.
ELIZABETH MACDONALD (FOX BUSINESS HOST): Not full exonerated, just not enough evidence --- 
HEGSETH: That's what he'll say.
MACDONALD: Not enough evidence to prosecute a crime. That's what Mueller is just now saying.


Digby reprinted an article by Ronald Brownstein of CNN:
Even amid record-low unemployment, robust economic growth and a roaring stock market, President Donald Trump has shown no signs of expanding his support beyond the roughly 46% of the vote that he carried in 2016.
National surveys now routinely find a huge falloff between ... Americans satisfied with the economy and the percentage that approve of Trump's performance as President… attitudes about the economy were much less powerful in driving voters' decisions in 2016 and 2018 than their views about fundamental cultural and social changes, particularly race relations and shifting gender roles.
Each of these dynamics underscores how the economy's role in politics may be shifting as the basis of each party's political coalition has evolved.  Increasingly, the parties are bound together less by class than by culture.


A Guardian column by Aditya Chakrabortty notes the basic crises which triggered a vote for Brexit in Britain haven't even been admitted to, let alone addressed, by politicians who 'split the difference' in compromises that benefit the Owner Class, and continue to erode public trust in the ability of traditional political parties to represent the interests of The People.

While Chakrabortty doesn't say it, that discontent with "business as usual" politics (reflected in the UK's 2016 Brexit vote and last weekend's victory of Nigel Farage's one-trick-pony Brexit Party in the EU parliamentary elections) is mirrored in other European countries, and in the U.S.  
[The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michael Barnier, noted] "The UK is in ...a very serious crisis [which] isn’t linked to ... Brexit ... It’s a much deeper crisis. An existential crisis"...
...[Current conditions in Britain which led to Brexit were the result of] Thatcherism, in all its cold, stiff, failed ugliness. And the problem there is that the Thatcher experiment has pretty much failed. Four decades after she took power, 38% of working-age households now take more from the state in benefits, health and education than they pay back in taxes. Wealth in Britain is so concentrated that the head of the Institute for Fiscal Studies believes “inheritance is probably the most crucial factor in determining a person’s overall wealth since Victorian times”…
[Brazillian philosopher and Harvard professor Roberto Unger observes] “If you leave the EU, you do so to become something else. But you don’t appear to know what you want to become... European politicians, whether centre-left or centre-right, are so used to the politics of splitting the difference. They are incapable of facing up to fundamental problems... and that leaves a vast vacuum to be filled by any passing nationalist populism."

Obligatory Cute Small Animal Photo In Middle Of Blog Thing


Via the Soul of America, a review of four books about That Thing Called Democracy which our political system serves us, really is the end of the American Dream -- the myth of consumer riches and The Good Life, or 'Why We Fought WWII and The Cold War": 
... Trump is “not an anomalous departure but rather a return to the historical norm.” Trump exposes starkly what the civility of Obama and his administration obscured -- the subordination of American democracy to capitalism, patriarchy, and the iniquitous racial order descended from slavery...
...democracy is threatened by two types of deterministic worldview ... “inevitability” and “eternity.” The first is the determinism of the “end of history” and modernization theory, which declares that “there is no alternative” to liberal democracy. This, broadly speaking, is the worldview of the liberal elite in the West ... 
The disappointments and resistance that their top-down programs of modernization engender give rise... not to a genuine popular reaction, but to a second type of elite mythmaking, in the form of “eternity politics,” or mythic nationalism.
Whereas modernizers promise a better future for everyone as long as we all follow the one best path, mythic nationalism “places one nation at the center of a cyclical story of victimhood.” Against the dark backdrop of a world of threats, the governing elite promises not progress but protection.
Our current situation... has been shaped by the wild oscillation between the determinism of modernization theory, and the determinism of nationalism. Both foreclose any real debate and all practical alternatives. They are both inimical to genuine democracy. One licenses domineering technocracy; the other, cruder forms of authoritarianism.


A Mandos Post at IanWelsh dot net; what he's saying is don't underestimate the effect of large numbers of liberal voters who just want Everything To Go Back To What It Was:
Take a look at Joe Biden—he appears to have, for now at least, considerable staying power in the Democratic primary opinion polls ... If your model of political psychology can predict a strong core of popular support for Trump without also predicting a strong core of party grassroots support for Biden, you should really rethink it from the ground up.  For a core of US voters, the presence of Trump in the White House is an unprecedented emergency and an enormous support of anxiety and real, day-to-day stress.
You can call it Trump Derangement Syndrome or whatever, but the feeling is there, and implicit in this feeling is that Trump is an anomaly, a hiatus in the proper march of American institutions [emphasis added; see 'Determinism', above], that should by rights have gone to Clinton, and if not, to one of Trump’s Republican primary competitors.
 And the advantage of Biden, from this perspective, is precisely that Biden presents an opportunity to force the recalcitrant portions of the Democratic party and, yes, the American left insofar as it plays electoral politics, to choose explicitly once again whether it will acknowledge and ratify that feeling, or whether it will die on a hill of particular material policies to the neglect of vital institutional decorum.
But for many left-wingers, it seems that even to admit that this is the dynamic is too much to bear. It requires admitting that the Neera Tandens of the world do not merely represent a type of think tank class traitors in cahoots with the rich, but they are actually the genuine grassroots representatives of a large portion of American society, large enough to make a big difference as to who will win the primary and the presidency.


The Great Curmudgeon quotes Greg Sargent in the WaPo:
And Democrats should be aware of the risks that dithering poses to public understanding. One side’s willingness to engage in full-saturation propaganda casting the investigation itself as the real crime -- disinformation designed to blot out shared agreement on the most basic facts about what just happened before all of our very eyes -- now has an attorney general who may be willing to help carry that out. 
Given this deep imbalance, without a coherent narrative from the other side that makes Trump’s corruption and epic misconduct unequivocally central to this national moment -- one riveted around whether Trump committed the high crimes and misdemeanors that render his removal imperative -- is there not a great risk of deepened public confusion, just as Democrats prepare to ask the voters to do the hard work for them?
The Dems said wait for Mueller (totally reasonable). Then they... had no plan for what to do if Mueller didn't send the Marshall of the Supreme Court to arrest Trump or the Republicans didn't respond with "Oh my God it turns out the president is bad!" Neither of which was going to happen. Now we have an AG who is about to turn the Justice Department into a fully partisan operation to investigate Trump's enemies, and being investigated, even if it leads to nothing, is a nightmare in itself, especially for the secondary characters who can't necessarily afford $600/hr lawyers.
The beautiful thing is this will provide the symmetry that our press loves. On one hand, we have Republicans investigating Democrats. On the other hand, we have Democrats investigating Trump/Republicans.
Both sides. It's all partisan. Washington is broken. Vote Schultz!
They had to run with it right away. They didn't.

Vote Schultz!


As I've said elsewhere: This cannot continue, and This cannot end well.

Robert Evans' podcast, "It Can Happen Here".



The Big Guy Votes In Favor Of A Quick Radioactive Barbecue
I think Dem voters did hear the "wait for Mueller"message - Dem voters also like the impartial GOP Daddy referees deciding issues - and then came Mueller day. And when Mueller day arrived the Dems had some shiny new gavels in their possession. So, now, they want the Dems to follow the course set out by impartial GOP Daddy referee Mueller, as they were told they should. And Mueller says impeach the motherfucker.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

I Want Fires With That Fresh Crisis, Thanks

No Ordinary Times

German-American Bund Rally, Buffalo, NY, 1936

There is a conspiracy theory -- pushed most visibly on Fox, or audibly by Alex Jones -- that a Deep State fabricated information about a connection between Trump and his campaign with Russia's government; that the FBI and American intelligence agencies, during the election, placed Trump and his associates under surveillance and -- with the hated Obama in the White House --  provided political information to the Democrats.

After Trump's great victory, the same conspirators ensured that the Democrats would use this false information created about Trump to force appointment of a Special Counsel, and the investigation into the Trump campaign's possible collusion with Russia around the Presidential election. And that all this happened in a coordinated attempt to first subvert Trump's candidacy, then undermine his authority as President, and even force him from office.

Weeks ago, Trump's hand-picked Attorney General announced that he believed there had been "spying" by the FBI on Trump's campaign in 2016 (alarmed by information they had about Russian attempts to work with the Trump campaign, the FBI had maintained a level of surveillance). He told senators that he was conducting his own investigation, uh, of the investigation.

Now, the President of the United States has just handed Attorney General Barr the authority to access, review, and declassify any information held by any of the national intelligence or law enforcement agencies.

This is an unprecedented, big fucking deal. It means that Barr will provide Trump with whatever information Trump wants to know. On the President's authority, Barr will have access to all FBI counterintelligence and CIA or NSA material which he deems relevant to his inquiry. The only person Barr has to answer to is Trump. And Barr has previously asked to be advised of all intelligence assets (read: spies) the United States has in Russia.

This is the same President who said yesterday during a press event that persons who had conducted investigations of him -- his political enemies -- were treasonous. A reporter at the event told Trump that in America, treason is punishable by death, and asked, "You've accused your adversaries of treason. Who specifically are you accusing of treason?"

 “Well, I think a number of people, and I think ... that they have unsuccessfully tried to take down the wrong person," Trump said. "If you look at [James] Comey, if you look at [Andrew] McCabe, if you look at probably people higher than that. If you look at [Peter] Strzok, if you look at his lover, Lisa Page, his wonderful lover."

"Take down the wrong person": Trump believes he is the target of an ongoing attempt to remove him from office. He sees that as treason and the people involved as treasonous. Used as a strategy, Trump could take on the world -- the Democrats, out to impeach him; the Deep State, the Media; all his perceived enemies -- by using a toadie like Barr to push a Justice Department investigation of a treasonous conspiracy against the President. Barr has been given a green light to conduct a real witch hunt -- a real, McCarthy-style political pogrom worthy of any tinpot dictator in history.

It doesn't matter that it would be created out of whole cloth. It won't matter that it will be nothing but a taxpayer-financed Disneyland ride for Trump's base, an endless fantasy where Fox News could sell advertising time at even higher rates.

The Trumpista echo chamber is ecstatic ("It's reaping time", one Right-wing pundit crowed). But, among the majority of Americans, it doesn't appear to matter what just happened. Or that Julian Assange is about to be extradited for violation of the espionage act on an indictment created in Barr's Justice Department.

Depending upon who you read or listen to, a large percentage of Americans appear to believe Russia / Russia's government / Putin and his clique of Oligarchs influenced our last Presidential election to assist Trump -- a figure guaranteed to pour gasoline on smoldering, unresolved contradictions in America's history. Were Trump elected, it would produce a 1968-style upheaval in the U.S., and our ability as a global player -- for good, or for ill -- would be diminished. Other international actors would benefit.

An Ipsos poll from 2018 put the number at 60%. There are some heavyweight actors in American politics, government and culture among that number.

There are those who don't agree, because they see Trump's apotheosis as part of a larger context of politics and culture in America. Some observe the U.S. has been interfering in other nations' elections for decades -- so 2016 is just a matter of chickens and roosts. Others argue that the 'Russian Interference' meme is a conspiracy by neoliberals in America's Democratic party, a Deep State and the media.

It may be an optical illusion, but the events regarding Russia and Trump, before and after the 2016 election, make the story of Watergate (one of only two political scandals many alive today might remember, along with Bill Clinton's impeachment) appear simple by comparison. Nixon was our Trump, then. I came of age under LBJ, but it was Tricky's war I experienced; so, when Watergate spilled into the media and the House Select Committee televised hearings, I never missed a beat.

But Nixon confined his efforts in subverting the political process, obstructing justice, and running a criminal conspiracy from the Oval Office to a relatively small number of people. None of them included members of his immediate family. It's tough to imagine loyal Pat, delivering hush money to ex-CIA burglars, or David Eisenhower holding meetings about how to discredit political enemies. And Tricky never used the Office of the President as an obvious method of self-enrichment.

That's not the case with 'The Russia Thing'. The number of actors, the parallel subplots... it's too much to keep track of.  And to muddy the waters still further, add to it that the Trump-Russia Story is overlaid on a shakily-financed, family business 'empire' dominated by a limited, narcissistic bully, his children and paid toadies, who simply moved their base of operations into the highest echelon of government.

Clearly, this description presents how the 'Russia Thing' is viewed by at least one part of  America's Left political spectrum, and it's a fact-based perspective. The Right is generally so full of Crazy there wouldn't be enough space in all Blogostan to describe it (though Dave Neiwert comes very close).

The Russia Thing is too much to keep track of (I tried, on a bet with myself. I lost.). The sheer volume of details is overwhelming -- if a percentage of those people on the Left, who don't accept a Russian conspiracy to hack the Presidency, were shown to feel that way because they just can't get their arms around the Thing, it would make perfect sense.

Journalist Matt Taibbi was trying to understand another mind-bending, interconnected set of circumstances -- the subprime housing market and derivatives Crash of 2008.  He spoke with a number of finance Subject Matter Experts, trying to visualize how the virtual collapse of America's investment industry could have happened, and couldn't: It was just too complex.

Finally, one person suggested his approach was mistaken. He was writing it as a business story -- "Look at it as a crime story," the person said; and for Taibbi, something clicked. Because in the end, it really was a story about a crime.

You could say that Trump's reaction to the Special Counsel's investigation, to the Mueller Report's catalog of his obstruction, is just pique -- that he's pissed. Like any bully, he has a history of getting even, and will use all powers of the Office of the President to strike back at perceived enemies. You could say, it's just politics -- and if he's acting more like a dictator than any American President before him... well ... he's an unconventional politician, right?  If you were him, you'd be defensive, too; right?

But what continues to bother me is the amount of effort which Trump, his family members, his cronies and toadies have expended on the issue of Russia. On defending Vladimir Putin, and praising Russia and its government. It's true; Russia is a major global player -- but that is so because Putin has inserted Russian interests into every major flashpoint of international affairs.  You can't ignore them. But they aren't America's friend and ally. Europeans have been, but that seems less certain, in the second year of Trump's reign.

Trump behaves like a person with something to hide -- on the political front; with his business finances; and his connections to Russians. And the lengths, detailed in the Mueller report, he went in trying to quash any investigation into his Russian connections or those of his campaign are so clearly obstruction you'd have to be blind not to see it.

Republicans in Congress have known or suspected there was something serious about Trump's Russian connections from the beginning. But they don't give two hoots about that.  Some have noted that Trump has an overwhelming, magnetic personal influence which manifests itself in one-on-one contact.  It's how sociopaths operate, and to anyone unfamiliar with negotiation or interrogation strategies, Trump's abilities may appear like a Jedi mind trick. What else explains how Graham, McConnell,  and other GOP leaders have turned into slavish toadies for the sake of -- what, exactly?

People do things for reasons. You can debate whether those reasons merited this or that behavior, but people don't act without motivation. And, believe me -- people don't go to jail for no reason, either; ask Paul Manafort.

There may be a more-or-less innocent explanation, for all of it -- but with what we know about how Trump has conducted his business affairs for forty years, I doubt it. There is a large amount of smoke around The Russia Thing, enough that we can't clearly define its shape. But there is smoke; it's coming from something. I don't know what it is, but all my instincts tell me it's there.

The problem is, The Russia Thing isn't what we need to be worried about.

Trump's behavior needs to be considered against a backdrop of up-tempo for Impeachment in the House; the potential death-by-irrelevancy of the mainstream with of the Democratic party; the prospect of the Kavanaugh Court removing Roe v. Wade protections for women; the trade war with China; rise of authoritarian nationalism; the possibility of armed conflict with Iran in the Gulf; and a slow-walk towards the next international financial crisis. Through it all, Trump has been acting both more emboldened, and senile dementia-fueled batshit crazy.

...and he's been frustrated, stymied, denied a massive political victory that would show the world He Is The Great One, The Trump; No One Is Greater Than He. Someone (if not Barr) whispered to Trump that the AG and Department of Justice effectively report to the Executive Branch. That they, and a neutered FBI, can be instruments in at least helping Trump appear popular and strong, the right atmosphere for reelection: Four More Years!

As he stonewalls subpoenas and asserts Executive privilege, at the end of that legal road will be the United States Supreme Court -- now packed with Right-wing ideologues, Federalist Society members who don't give two hoots about The People -- everybody knows the fix is in; everyone expects another Bush v. Gore.

It doesn't seem like too absurd an idea that Barr's investigation could end with accusations of a conspiracy against Trump. More likely, it would become a leitmotif of his reelection campaign, hijack the focus of 2020 from the Democrats, further polarize the country, and rally the Right wing around Trump's usual themes of fear and race and conspiracy: 'they' are trying to steal your country from you.

The Democratic party's leaders seem determined to relive the 2016 election. Their most attractive candidate at the moment (in polls, anyway) is so clearly a "Person of Honor", when contrasted against against a foul-mouthed, compulsive liar. Their strategy, at the moment, seems to be a bet that America has had enough of incivility and drama, exhausted by the culture wars of the past thirty years-- enough to vote for The Very Nice Man.

I wouldn't make that bet. Trump is a master narcissist; he excels at making everything about him. Americans have shown an unbelievable capacity for cognitive dissonance in politics and to focus on the trivial. And our exalted media buys into it with gusto: Trump's tantrums are The Shiny Object of every news cycle for the Rubes.

And, the political Right is a pack of proto-nazis who don't give two hoots about Nice. Or honor. Or whales and elephants and sea levels. Or you and me.

Relative to all this, The Russia Thing is almost incidental. As usual, these days, we've moved on to a fresh new crisis.

MEHR, MIT ICH BIN EIN HUND HUND HUND:  I meant "Fries". In the title.  I want French Fries with that fresh, new Modern World crisis, please.  Not 'Fires'.  Although, now that I think about it, Fires is a lot closer to my actual feelings about the matter than carved potato sections.  

Never Mind.

However, in trying to fix what was wrong with my F'ed up free blogging platform, I found changing the Post Title is a transgression, curable only by reposting with the changed title name, and deleting the old post -- which makes any link to the original Null u. Ungültig.  

MEHR, MIT THE FRIES NEXT TIME: The BBC reports "Biden team says Trump taunts 'beneath the dignity of the office'."  The civility wars begin. 

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Reprint Heaven: Crimes And Misdemeanors

Post-Mueller Coherence
(From May, 2017)

Last week, I waited in line at O-Dark-Thirty for coffee at a [Redacted] near the Embarcadero Bart station. A half-dozen of us, corporate Sheeple, mildly sleepy, stood to the right of an open-fronted display case holding yogurt, hard-boiled eggs; sandwiches and bottled drinks.

As we waited, one of San Francisco's homeless pushed his way through the line to the cooler. With a badly shaved head and dressed in a long cloth jacket that had once been blue, he reminded me of the escaped convict, Magwitch, in Dicken's Great Expectations. The man bent down towards the display case, reached into it and began stuffing the pockets of his jacket with bottles and packages of food.

Alerted by some of the patrons ("Hey, this guy's stealing stuff"), the early shift manager -- a nice guy, in his late 20's whom I see almost every weekday morning -- came out from behind the counter. The homeless man -- his pantslegs rolled up to reveal badly swollen lower legs and ankles  -- had already hobbled out of the shop.

The manager caught up with him, but wasn't confrontational. "You can't just take stuff, man," the manager said quietly. "That's completely uncool."  With a wild, intense expression on his face, the homeless man took one wavering step backwards, spread his arms, and bellowed something spectacularly incoherent before hobbling away up Market Street into the dark. The manager watched him go, looked over at me, and shrugged.

Talking with the manager about the incident as he rang up my coffee, we agreed: The Man was a figure of pathos, straight out of Hugo: Jean Valjean and the loaf of bread. The man was ill, and hungry, and to make a larger issue out of the theft would be sanctimonious assholery of a particularly low order. Neither of us felt like Inspector Joubert that morning.

We spoke about other things. "Wish that had been Trump," the fellow laughed. "I would have called the cops on his ass."

I laughed back, and mentioned the early-days investigations by the FBI of Trump and his campaign's connections to the Russians. "We could get lucky," I said.

Then, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey and, pushed along by a series of Tweets both pathetic and bullying by turns, the antics of his Clown Car government went into screaming, vibrating overdrive.

Down here in the trenches, everyone likes to try and read the Tea Leaves and divine the future. How does this all play out? There are a few broad categories, and all this is just one Dog's opinion.

1.) Impeachment

We all went through this less than twenty years ago, with Saintly Bill-O's lying about Monica and his What-Is-Is.  But getting there in 2017 would be difficult (this graphic may help explain why).

A Special Prosecutor conducts an investigation. It takes as long as it takes. Apparently, Robert Mueller will have broad investigative powers and independence from his putative boss, Assistant Attorney General Robert Rosenstein, author of That Memo.  Mueller will deliver a report to Rosenstein, and will have the ability to recommend criminal charges be filed.

Having a Special Prosecutor gives the appearance of a no-dog-in-this-fight neutrality necessary to "ensure Americans may have confidence the investigation is fair and complete". However, the efforts of Mueller's team will automatically take precedence over (one might say, trump) the congressional inquiries already in motion through the House and Senate intelligence committees, investigating the Trump campaign's Russian connections.

Let's say Mueller's team can't tie Trump to any High Crimes and Misdemeanors. Some lower-level apparatchiks would be found to take the fall (with promises they and their families will be 'taken care of' if they stick to their stories), while Trump remains in command of the nation, bloated and raving, Tweeting nonstop from the Bunker.

But, if someone breaks ranks (for example, if Michael Flynn were granted immunity and had a real story to tell), or other evidence surfaces which implicates Trump in a conspiracy or obstruction of justice -- then a Bill of Impeachment would have to be passed by the House. The Senate would have to agree to put Trump on trial. This spectacle goes on for months.

Senators may vote to impeach, or a vote could fail. They may, or may not, demand the President be removed from office. In Clinton's case, the political Right wanted to leave a wounded, sitting Democratic President, publicly soaking in his shame, ahead of the 2000 elections.

You can already see how high the bar has been set.  First, serious, unequivical proofs of Herr Trump's crimes must be found which meet evidentiary standards. Second, will Little Bobby Rosenstein (and in the background, crazy ol' Jeff Sessions) agree with Mueller and allow a criminal indictment, sending the matter to Congress? This could play out in a number of different directions. Then what?

More to the point -- will a Congress dominated by a Republican party (Rightist factions at war with each other, really) agree to a process that will drag out for over a year, and certain to damage the Republican 'brand' during midterm elections?

2.)  Resignation

Trump has revealed to us all, on an almost daily basis, the paranoid alt-Right universe which he lives in -- where Trump, like 'forgotten' Americans who voted for him, is an innocent victim of a vast conspiracy. Its tentacles are everywhere. Everyone knows it.

And he must fight that conspiracy, because he is a fighting fighter, who fights, and doesn't give up. He is the only one who can fight it, because he is Trump. Now he is in the White House, sometimes, surrounded by barely competent advisors who constantly disappoint him and must always be watched, Trump fights on and on and on. He does it all for you. He doesn't rest, except when he is in Florida. But he doesn't give up -- because he is Donald Trump.

That said: were Trump faced with incontrovertible evidence of criminal wrongdoing, Speaker-To-Animals Paulie Ryan, Sen. Yertle The Turtle, 'Bomb Bomb Bombin' John McCain and a few other GOP stalwarts would approach Trump at his More-Lego palace in Florida in the dead of night. They would tell him he should spare the country a wrenching Impeachment spectacle (read: please leave us our Republican party), and strongly recommend he resign.

Donny waffles; he shouts, he cries like a child. They wait. Then they offer him a one-time deal:  He will stay out of jail; his immediate family will be spared, but they all must go. Now. And like any leader of a Banana Republic where the mob is at the gates of the palace, it will take Trump five seconds to understand: He'll get to keep whatever he's looted from the nation during his time in office.  

In a Kleptocracy, it's still a Win if you are forced away from the table, but get to keep the offshore accounts. You can always claim in your ghosted biography that your downfall was someone else's fault; a forced error. In Trump's mind, Aber Natürlich, his numbers would still be all-time highs.

So, he accepts the offer. After a last, GBCW speech that rivals Nixon's blubbering farewell in its bitterness and surreality, Trump is whisked away to his anti-environment compound in Florida, faithful Melania at his side in a tasteful Victoria Secrets day dress.  Mike Pence is sworn in as the 46th President, and as his first Executive Order declares Jesus is his Co-President.

To bring this scenario to fruition, however, the traditional conservative, Old Money leaders of the GOP will have to win their bloody civil war with the alt-Right (the Tea Partei, their radical Billionaire financiers; and the Evangelical Brownshirts).  This has been a slow-motion hostile takeover over twenty years in the making: to borrow a term from The Soul Of America, it's one bunch of rich, asshole Triskellions against another. The prize is control of a corporation called "The Republican Party", and all the marketing associations with that brand. 

It is in no way clear who will win that battle. My guess is it will continue playing out for the next five or ten years, and that if Trump and his Familia Criminale have to be removed, some truce will be declared between the factions of the Right. A majority will support his being told to resign.  The longer he remains in office, the more the Republican brand suffers, and the more the alt-Right becomes the 21st century political equivalent of the Whigs, or the Monster Raving Looney Party.

3.)  Distraction, Manufactured Or Otherwise

As the Mueller investigation proceeds, some event in the world causes Trump to increase the Defcon level, start moving aircraft carriers and battle groups, and a manufactured military crisis begins -- North Korea is the most likely candidate, but any situation that would allow Trump to distract everyone's attention in a Wag The Dog effort could serve.

The world is volatile enough that it's also possible an actual crisis, one not engineered, may occur -- but which Trump & Co. will seize upon as a heaven-sent distraction: a regional conflict (India and Pakistan; Russia and Ukraine / The Baltics; China and Japan / Taiwan), or a pandemic disease outbreak (Ebola, H5N1) or Zombie Apocalypse, for example.

4.)  Very Bad Things

This is something that can't be spelled out because it might be misinterpreted. In his first speech from the Oval Office, President Pence will use the word 'God' 147 times, 'punish' 238 times, and 'Satan' 61 times.

Sidebar: Bob and Jimmy's Excellent Adventure

A story worth remembering: Robert Mueller and James Comey have known each other a long time, and both have spent their careers in 'official' Washington.  Both served in the Department Of Justice and both ended their careers as Directors of the FBI -- Mueller passing the baton to Comey under President Obama.

You may recall that in 2001, the Patriot Act was signed into law by George "Lil' Boots" Bush, after the September 11th attacks, giving intelligence agencies new powers to Hoover up all emails and telephone or digital communications conduct surveillance of everyone in America suspected terrorists. The Act effectively allowed warrantless wiretaps by the NSA.

The fact of domestic wiretapping had been leaked; members of Congress complained; Bush and others squeaked in protest that the surveillance was 'limited'. It was agreed the surveillance program would be 'reauthorized' on a regular basis over the signature of the Attorney General,  then John Ashcroft.  At the time, James Comey was Deputy Attorney General.

Ashcroft was deeply conservative but also very disturbed at the legal implications of a vast, warrantless wiretapping operation, and in the spring of 2004 made it known he would not sign off on reauthorization of those activities. Lil' Boots wasn't happy.

As he later testified to a Senate committee, in March, 2004, Comey received a telephone call from Ashcroft's wife, who was with her husband at a Washington, D.C. hospital after Ashcroft had gall bladder surgery -- which made Comey the acting Attorney General of the United States.

She was badly distraught: at Bush's direction, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, and Bush's Chief Of Staff, Andrew Card, had shown up at Ashcroft's hospital room to pressure the AG into signing the reauthorization document for the domestic surveillance program. Ashcroft refused and told them to leave, but they wouldn't. She pleaded with Comey to help.

Comey's first telephone call was to then-FBI Director Robert Mueller. They met at the hospital and sent Gonzales and Card, two despicable little men on an errand from another despicable little man, away. It was the position of the Department of Justice that the domestic wiretapping program was questionable if not illegal. Ashcroft had already made his position clear; Comey agreed.

This event started a battle between the Justice Department and Lil' Boots. In his Senate testimony, Comey noted that the domestic surveillance program was reauthorized at Bush's order the next day, without his approval as acting Attorney General.

Since Bush had shown he was willing to run roughshod over the Justice Department to achieve a legally questionable end, Comey, Mueller and several other officials planned to resign. Lil' Boots, petulant and mulish as always when his wishes were thwarted, reluctantly agreed to meet Comey and Mueller; after the meeting, Bush agreed the surveillance program should be restructured to make it more legally defensible. As a result Mueller, Comey and others dropped their plans to resign

The takeaway here is not that Mueller or Comey were necessarily such heroes by standing up to power in 2004 -- they didn't object to mass warrantless searches per se; but in order to allow violations of the Second and Fourth Amendments to the Constitution they wanted band-aids in place to provide the surveillance of the U.S. population with a legal fig leaf. And it would all still be secret, anyway.

Sidebar: The Fourth Estate

While there are journalists out there who want to uncover and report the truth of events, America's media (and in other countries) have been played like a harp when it suits people who wish it. The CIA has routinely planted information with 'friendly' reporters, under the guise of providing them an inside scoop, to discredit enemies, pass false information, or influence a debate.

The media has also been used for recent political payback: remember the stories about Saddam Hussein's Yellowcake Uranium, based on 'sheep-dipped' intelligence given to a reporter for Italian newspaper La Stampa, used by 'Dick' Cheney to justify invading Iraq but then shown to be false (rumor was, the intel had been manufactured by CIA officers opposed to an unnecessary war)?

(And, not only intelligence agencies get to have their fun: Rumor was that, through a cut-out, Karl Rove provided CBS' Dan Rather with forged documents about "Lil' Boots" Bush's weak point in the 2004 Presidential election: his ducking out of service in Vietnam by joining the Air National Guard. Lil' Boots was facing John Kerry -- both a decorated Vietnam Vet and one who had returned home to vocally and eloquently protest that war. 

(The worst of the Right went after Kerry's military service, head-on, suggesting he was a liar who never deserved a Silver Star or three Purple Hearts -- but, then in 2002 that fat ol' nightcrawler, Saxby Chambliss, had suggested Max Cleland, triple-amputee Vietnam Vet, was a traitor. So no one should be surprised.

(The charge that Lil' Boots' military service was a sham, an arrangement for his powerful Daddy, was true -- but the documents supporting it given to Rather were not. CBS broke the story, and was then forced to publicly recant when assailed by Little Rupert and Fat Roger, Lard Boy, and a chorus of Republican politicos. The story was no longer about Bush's military non-service; Rove had neutralized the entire topic for that 2004 presidential election, destroying Dan Rather's career and CBS News' credibility in the process. I'll bet Karl bought himself an extra dozen doughnuts that day.)

If you're a major American political figure, perhaps even a president, you do not want to make enemies out of the CIA and FBI (remember what happened to JFK). Trump knows this, but doesn't seem to care. By disrespecting the CIA and firing a highly respected FBI Director, apparently to save his own ass -- if there is evidence of Trump or his campaign's wrongdoing regarding the Russians, he should expect it to appear in the media, drop by drop. And, not just in America -- it could easily be a breaking story in the UK Guardian or Die Welt.

In fact, it's already begun: Tuesday, with reports of the Comey memos; and Thursday, a story of 18 separate contacts (all electronic intercepts) between Russians and the Trump campaign during 2016 has surfaced as an 'exclusive to Reuters'.

Somewhere, journalists may dream of being the next Woodward and Bernstein -- but they had their Deep Throat; and Mark Felt may or may not have been just an angry, principled FBI agent motivated to become a whistleblower.

Where this ends is anyone's guess.  It will either be a long string of embarrassing leaks which don't lead to prosecution, but wound Trump and his cabal for a time. It might allow the DNC to grab seats in Congress ... or, that string of embarrassments leads, like Watergate, to the Oval Office.

It's also possible that the media's revelations will cause Trump to finally pop -- a Macaca Moment, a full-on meltdown in front of the cameras, leaving no doubt he is unfit to hold office.  Invoking the 25th Amendment, Mike Pence becomes the 46th President and demands prayer be made mandatory in our nation's schools.


And they came unto him saying, Lord, we are confused greatly in our minds and hearts and there is the sounds of keening and the gnashing of mandibles in the land. And the LORD spaketh saying, I am reminded that Kayfabe is Kayfabe -- and the individual user's inability to discern fake Kayfabe from true-true Kayfabe is like he who stood waiting for that Uber ride which never came, for he was drunk and knew not. Go now, and do not buy into that crap, sayeth the LORD. Or, words to that effect.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Steak Of The Union

Eat Up And Leave, You Hoser
The Leader Speaks:  Sleep, America.  Sleep.

Tuesday night, The Leader delivered a rambling STFU address, written by committee (as these speeches are), only this one done more so and badly. He was pathetic; the script execrable, and it met the low expectations of nearly the entire national punditi class -- some of whom whom had said that the address would look and sound as if it had been slopped together by a Primary School.

(I'd thought of liveblogging the event [Archives are proof, I've done it before], but it would have been like channeling The Leader's twitfeed; like repeating a giant informercial for America™ Trump Timeshares. Couldn't stomach the notion; so, uh-uh.)

Everyone heard a Reagan-era speech, built around references to an illusion of America which never was. Old-line Republicans like baseless appeals to patriotism ("Why? Because Freedom!"). Reagan's description of a "shining city on a hill" was outdated when he spoke the words, and is stupefyingly illogical to use any similar metaphor 35 years later.

(Not surprisingly, the "shining city" reference Reagan's speechwriters chose was drawn from a Puritan -- John Winthrop, who lead the Massachusetts Bay colonists from England in 1630. America, and the rest of the planet, continue to suffer the echoes of the Puritans' world view [principally its justification for class stratification, misogyny, and exploitation], as it shaped the cold-blooded and self-justifying behavior of America's hereditary upper class -- and all its institutions, which it does to this day.)

The Leader's speech asked Americans to focus on an illusion that past great deeds equal what we are today. It was a ninety-minute exercise in ignoring every major challenge we're currently facing as a nation or as a species -- but the speech implied that America's worst problems seem to be the political Left, and murderous Brown People From The South.

It was a speech appropriate for the Des Moines Chamber of Commerce in 1919, but not a Joint Session of Congress in Washington D.C., and for the rest of the world, in 2019.

Obligatory Cute Small Animal Photo In Middle Of Blog Rant

Ironically, a speech invoking the great deeds of America's past was being delivered by a mediocre, populist grifter -- the sort of person who always seems to show up just as Empires begin to fade. The Leader's hair appeared a darker and more uniform yellow (a few days before it had been almost whitish); otherwise, he appeared the same bloated caricature, a man who personifies every prejudiced, misogynistic and ignorant aspect of our culture. And he claims to speak for all of us.

The Leader looked and sounded conspicuously unprepared to give a milestone speech -- as if he didn't have to be. He is Trump, The Magnificent, and can Wing It anywhere if he wants; fuck that Gravitas crap.  His delivery was halting, choppy, always changing tempo, as if reading something off the teleprompter for the first time, unsure what was coming next.

His delivery, like his entire presidency to date, was substandard and extemporaneous, painfully embarrassing to watch. The only thing we could be sure of : everything in the speech was written to focus on him. It would all be about him. It's all he knows or understands.

And for once, he'd be right. Just as the mid-terms were partly a referendum on Trump the man and The Leader, this State Of The Union speech would show whether he had listened to the message those midterms delivered. Or, whether he was going to shove his tiny manhood into the collective face of America while screaming fuck youuuuuuu!! As he does so often. 

I suspect The Leader believed this speech would be a Great Political Moment for him -- but as we observed, his Personal Best was the functional equivalent of licking his crotch in public while on international live television (Hey; as a Dog, I know about this).

Additional Obligatory Cute Small Animal Photos In Middle Of Blog Thing 
Think: You Never See The Two Of Them In The Same Room.

The speech began with I Make A Mock Appeal To Bipartisanship, leading to I Am Responsible For A Wonderful Economy Which Benefits Working Americans Most. Then came My Tax Cut Benefited Working Americans Most; and then But There Is More We Together Must Do.

This was followed by We Could Accomplish More, But For Partisan Investigations.  Then, as we knew it would, came I Will Have A Wall / A Wall  / A Wall Wall Wall -- which tumbled abruptly into his introducing relatives of an elderly couple, apparently killed in Nevada literally days ago by undocumented alien Brown persons. Fear The Caravans! FEAR THEM! More Soldiers To The Border!

Well -- it was obvious we could go here, so we went.

Cynically, I had to ask myself: not to trivialize their loss -- but why would grieving relatives, whose loved ones (so said The Leader) had been killed days before, want to sit in the public gallery of the Capitol on display before international teevee? Is their love for The Leader that great? How do they feel about his Brutal Whiteman Daddy vision of the future? Or, were they chosen as representatives of The Base, to be seen as guest stars in the reality teevee show, Trump's America™ ?

Eventually, the speech wandered into I Say To You We Must End AIDS In America, and too, also We Must End The Scourge Of Child Cancer.  The Leader stumbled with the word "scourge"; but who could argue with either idea? Which was, of course, the point. The Leader is Compassionate. He feels for ordinary faceless peasant Americans like you. Really. No, really.

Finally came A Nod To Evangelicals That Soon, By My Bounty, Shall They Have A Late-Term Abortion Ban, surely the first of many Wonderful Things. And as the room erupted in Republican applause and cheers, TeeVee cameras showed Misters Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, sitting side by side, looking up intently, respectfully, at The Leader.

(That's called "Foreshadowing" -- the hallmark of quality reality teevee entertainment, like the program our planet has been forced to live in).

And sprinkled like raisins through the suet pudding of this event, The Leader directed his audience to Look! Look Up There! It's [A Grieving Family]  [A Sick Child]  [Old Soldier]  [Astronaut]  [Holocaust Survivor]  [Police Man]  [Trophy Wife]!

It went on, and on, and on. And after more and more and more, The Leader finally said Gobblezyou gobblezmurrika G'nite.

G'nite.  You can, of course, sleep on.  I suggest waking up as fast as you can.


Holy Mother Of God.  Fortunately, only a car part; but, still: Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck.

It's been almost fifty years since anyone has fired a weapon at me, and while there was context for it at the time ("Since you are here, people will try to fuck with your basic existence"), the fact of guns and that humans use them at all leaves me speechless.  

Friday, November 30, 2018

Random Barking Friday

Pardonne Moi 
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort will tentatively face sentencing on March 5, a federal judge ruled on Friday, after the U.S. special counsel investigating whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia said the former top aide had breached his plea deal.
Common Wisdom: Lying to a Federal agent, United States' Attorney, or Assistant U.S. Attorney after having negotiated a plea bargain with the selfsame Feds guarantees they will (metaphorically speaking) double-team rubber-hose you and then piss on your head from a great height. They will do this to make an example of you, and impress upon everyone that you are a lowlife  loser scumbag who tried to hustle the System. They will do it to prove that you aren't the smart, special human you believe yourself to be, but an idiot primate, not wearing pants.

At sentencing, a judge will take interest in the Feds' recommendations -- and, something to keep in mind: when making arguments for sentencing, prosecutors can literally throw everything against the wall at you which is legally supportable and which will stick. They are not limited solely to physical evidence or testimony presented at trial. They will attempt to paint you as the guy who, if presented with an opportunity to make serious money selling Opioids to fifth-graders, would take a whole thirty seconds before saying yes.

And, because you violated your plea bargain and wasted the court's time, chances are good a Federal judge will hand down a sentence closer to whatever maximum term the U.S. Attorney has requested -- and where you do that time may be in a Medium-security facility, not a white-collar country club, you stupid, bare-assed monkey.

But, that may only pertain to idiot primates, Little People like you or me, and not World-Class Playahs with the chance for a Get Outta Jail Free card provided by The Leader.

Manfort is currently segregated in population at a local jail facility. He had been under house arrest on a $10M bond, awaiting trial on tax evasion and money laundering charges, but attempted to suborn perjury from potential witnesses while at home. The Federal judge in his case Had a Sad, revoked Manafort's bail and ordered him jailed. Initially, Paulie received 'VIP treatment' in custody, until the Feds complained he was continuing to conduct business and do who knows what in jail (hint: they probably did know).

Then, on August 21, Manafort was convicted, and by September, struck a plea bargain with the U.S. Attorney's office promising to cooperate fully with the Special Counsel and his team's investigation.

Having negotiated that plea bargain through his own Counsel, Paulie  a) Had to know anything he said would be analyzed with an electron microscope, but also  b) He had no idea what Mueller's team already knew. So what Manafort did initially appears stupid in the extreme.

Some have suggested he may have lied to the Special Counsel's team, or was not completely forthcoming, because he was trying to conceal something which made the risk of lying to the Feds worth it. Others have suggested that, if Paulie did cooperate with Mueller and roll over on The Leader, he might also give up a bunch of Russians; after that, his life wouldn't be worth a thimble of cold spit.

A third possibility is, Paulie is acting like a mob Bag Man, flipping off Bob Mueller and pissing on the criminal justice system, because that's his personal style -- he wants to show these button-down losers what a livin' large Playah, what an important primate, he is. Remember, this is a guy who, at a home purchased with laundered money, had a garden planted with flowers in the shape of a giant 'M'.

But Paulie's hijinks are all about impressing The Leader to obtain a Pardon. Before he was convicted, Manafort's attorneys and the legal team of The Leader had a 'joint defense agreement', which remained in place even after Manafort's conviction and the announcement that he had signed a plea bargain.

While allegedly 'cooperating' with the Special Prosecutor, Paulie was a double agent. The groundwork for such a move may have been planned early on; there's no way to know. The Leader's legal team have been putting together a mosaic of the questions asked of other Trump witnesses before Grand Juries, or by federal agents, and what Manafort was asked would be a key piece in reverse-engineering the case Mueller was building -- and help shape the strategy of protecting The Capo Di Tutti Frutti.

You can imagine how Mueller -- a blue-blood elite; button-down straight arrow, and a Marine -- reacted when he learned what Paulie was doing.  My money's on Manafort, having been convicted and facing ten years (a probable 48 months, then a probable parole) in prison, deciding to be a mole because he knew that would be discovered.

Like Bret Kavanaugh's manufactured outrage in front of the cameras, Manafort's behavior was strictly for an audience of one: The Leader. A Commedia del arte piece, honoring The Leader with a simple soldato's loyalty -- and at the same time putting Trump on notice: I been loyal to you, boss; now you gotta come through for me. Remember the things what I know, boss. So you get that Pardon Pen ready.... 

Plus, if Manafort had cooperated with the Special Counsel, in the not-too distant future someone might send a couple of GRU 'tourists' to drop by his house with a perfume bottle. Or that, struck with remorse or [fill in blank], he "jumps" from a window. A Russian saying has it that anyone can commit a murder, but it takes an artist to arrange a suicide.

In screwing Mueller, Paulie may think he's smart, leveraging silence about what he knows to obtain a Pardon. But The Leader's business involved others, and perhaps Paulie believes that having dealt with them for decades, he knows how they think and behave -- or that he has protectors among them who will make him untouchable. If there honestly is any reason he should be concerned in this way, then I hope for his sake that he's right.

There is one other possibility:  What if The Leader suddenly wasn't leader no more? And can't Pardone lil' Paulie, or any other resource of the familia?

And the sideshow continues: The UK Guardian reported that Manafort apparently met several times at the Ecuadorian embassy in London with Julian Assange between 2014 and 2016 (WikiLeaks figuring prominently in the story of the 2016 elections), and travelling to Ecuador during the same period to talk with the country's President about... business.

This is an interesting sideshow. It's already been reported that there was a Russian effort to arrange for Assange 's escape from the Ecuadorian embassy, and from the UK. Was Manafort involved? Were connections with state-sponsored Russian hacking part of some odd quid pro quo with Assange's WikiLeaks? Was Elvis the real gunman who killed JFK?

"A Little Travelling Music, Sammy"

MEHR, Mit Das Prelude Aus Götterdämmerung:

From Daily Kos:  
... here’s an interesting thing to ponder: Why hasn’t Mueller indicted Donald Trump Jr at this point? Trump Jr not only had communication with Russian operatives in scheduling the Trump Tower meeting, he was also communicating with Michael Cohen concerning the Moscow real estate deal...  why hasn’t he been visited by the jolly 4AM raid squad?
Well here’s a funny thing — Robert Mueller doesn’t know that Donald Trump Jr lied in his congressional testimony. That is, he knows... but [he] does not officially know.. because Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Trump’s nether regions) has so far refused to hand over copies of Junior’s testimony [closed-door, before the House Intelligence Committee] to the special counsel’s office.
But as soon as the new Congress is seated in January, Adam Schiff has already stated that he will turn over Junior’s testimony to the special counsel. If you were wondering why Trump chose to direct his excellent third grade potty talk toward the incoming head of the House Intelligence Committee … that’s a pretty good candidate for the primary reason. And once Schiff hands him the paperwork, then Mueller will officially know, what he already knows.