Showing posts with label Start Asking The Right Fucking Questions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Start Asking The Right Fucking Questions. Show all posts

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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*.
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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.
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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Reprint Heaven: The Coming Man

This Will Not Contain Leavening Humor


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

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

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

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

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

(From October, 2018:)
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April 30, 1945, in the Reichschancellery's Führerbunker: the Red Army was closing in quickly and less than a quarter-mile away. Hitler and Eva said goodbye to a line of their old retainers and True Believers, and were on their way into Hitler's study to kill themselves.

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

Linge later said he had asked, "For whom shall we fight on?" Hitler replied, "For the coming man."
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What makes my skin crawl about what's occasionally described as living through the Assholeocene isn't the daily, drop-by-drop absorption of new outrages Trump and his minions commit. What the hell did he do now while we slept...

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

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

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

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

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

Martin Luther King, Jr. delivering a speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial is one way of crossing a boundary. Trump's public speeches are another. The difference in intent is clear.
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What makes me uneasy is not the experience of the present, so much. What Trump and his slavish GOP supporters have done in just 21 months makes increased social disintegration more likely (it certainly makes a society where Our Fabled Wealthy will be comfortable, while the rest of us are not). That can lead to a rising tempo of political violence -- and a more authoritarian state would seem attractive by comparison.

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

It's someone who would capitalize on Trump's shattering of political norms, take it to a new level: the "coming man".
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What Chris Hedges Said:
While it is true that the United States under Trump is not Hitler’s Germany, Trump has tapped into America’s worst impulses... his ultra-nationalism, white supremacist views, and racist diatribes coupled with his attack on immigrants, the media, African-Americans, and Muslims are indicative of a politics right out the fascist playbook. If the public and media keep denying this reality, the endpoint is too horrible to imagine... 
Trump has emboldened and legitimated the dire anti-democratic threats that have been expanding under an economic system stripped of any political, social, and ethical responsibility. This is a form of neoliberal fascism that has redrawn and expanded the parameters of the genocidal practices and hate filled politics of the 1930s and 40s in Europe in which it was once thought impossible to happen again. ...
What Margaret Sullivan Said (via Digby)
... At a raucous rally in Montana last week, a Trump supporter — juiced up by the president’s crude praise of a congressman who body-slammed a reporter — looked directly at CNN reporter Jim Acosta. Then he ran his thumb across his throat. And laughed. 
Later, Acosta described “the Trump effect.” “It has normalized and sanitized nastiness and cruelty in a way that I just never thought I would see,” he said, shortly after that Montana rally. 
The Trump effect is a straight line from years of his hateful rhetoric to real-world danger. It’s a line that goes directly from disrespect to pipe bomb. And — almost inevitably — it will eventually go from failed attempt to spilled blood... 
Ann Coulter tweeted that bombs have been... "a liberal tactic.” And radio behemoth Rush Limbaugh... [said] that Republicans don’t do this sort of thing, and a Democratic operative was the more likely culprit. 
But let’s get real. Everyone targeted by the pipe bombs had been the subject of endless hours of Fox News commentary. The list of targets read like Sean Hannity’s pre-broadcast crib notes: Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama and former CIA chief John Brennan — and, as the representative of evil mainstream media — CNN. 
As usual, Trump himself projected blame everywhere but where it belongs...  he combined swipes at the news media and Democrats with a call to “come together in peace and harmony.”
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What Ian Welsh Said ("...IPCC Report Version"):
... There are quite a number of scenarios where this stuff happens faster... What will actually happen is that we’ll get some feedback loop like arctic or permafrost methane release and that will lead to parabolic increases. When it breaks, it will break hard. 
At that point a lot of other problems could also blow up, the most serious of which would be the Oceans losing their ability produce oxygen. If that happens, well, we’re dead. 
Even if it doesn’t, things like the thermohaline currents flipping or shutting off are possible. Europe could, in the middle of everyone else getting hot, have a mini-ice age. 
... And it isn’t that we are decelerating. Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, who will likely win election, has essentially promised to chop down what remains of the Amazon jungle as fast as possible (and also, to commit genocide on the remaining indigenous tribes. No, don’t pretend, that’s what he means.)
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Welcome to the Assholeocene. This cannot continue, and This cannot end well.
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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?
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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.
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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.
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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.
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[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.
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Saturday, August 10, 2019

Time At The Bar

Random Barking Saturday: Last Orders Please, Ladies and Gentlemen

Storm Over Venice Lagoon; July 26, 2019 - © Chris Bertram
[The political right feels t]he old American virtues have already been eaten away by cosmopolitans and intellectuals; the old competitive capitalism has been gradually undermined ... national security and independence have been destroyed by treasonous plots [by] not merely outsiders and foreigners ... but major statesmen who are at the very centers of American power... the modern radical right finds conspiracy to be betrayal from on high.
--Richard Hofstadter, "The Paranoid Style In American Politics" (1964)
Essentially, American conservatism is based on large central government bad! Not to be trusted; small government is good! It's the argument between Jefferson and Adams. It's a variation on the theme of "State's Rights!" which allowed some American humans to own, buy and sell other humans, and which caused some unpleasantness in the early 1860's. And since.

After FDR, some on the political and cultural Right said America's central government was more Big Brother than benefactor -- that 'Wide-Eyed One-Worlders' who created the United Nations, the multilateral global order after WW2, were out to destroy individual freedom and initiative, and serve America to the Commie enemy on a platter by weakening our resolve, and polluting the purity of our bodily essences.

If you noted the snark in that last sentence, it's there because most of the people pushing those notions were considered a political fringe (the John Birch Society being the most visible). But they included some with hereditary wealth or business power -- and when crackpot notions are fed on money, they're no longer just crackpot notions but genuine conspiracies.

(Remember the rich asses who had opposed FDR, who flirted with treason by organizing a plan to remove Roosevelt from power. After all, what would happen to them? They were the right sort; they owned America! No one would touch them... and no one did.)
__________________________


Now, 35 years since the FCC's Fairness Doctrine was eliminated under Reagan; after thirty-five years of sewage being pumped into the culture by Murdoch's Fox, by Limbaugh and Savage and all their wannabe-imitators; after decades of behind-the-scenes manipulation by the Mercers and other right-wing media families... the ideas of the crackpot Right aren't relegated to the fringes in American politics. They are mainstream conservative viewpoints, now.
___________________________

Trump gets up and spouts incendiary racist garbage -- ensuring, again, that all eyes are upon Him, the world subsumed by the eternally needy, carnivorous child-man -- and nothing happens. Republicans say absolutely nothing, except to defend Trump. Children are traumatized in a detention bureaucracy which industrializes indifference and prejudice.  -- and nothing happens.


So, Trump doubles, even triples down on his prior comments, becoming even more unhinged and florid in his display of a narcissistic personality disorder -- and nothing happens. The GOP is now, fully and completely, a political party of racism, overt corruption; even treason. And nothing happens.

Except another mass shooting, of course.
_____________________________

Each day -- every day -- Trump and the political and cultural Right beat America. They kick the country, and any chance to help it live up to its ideals, to the curb. Then they urinate on America as it lies bleeding in the gutter. They take America's wallet and car keys. They roar with laughter because it's just sport for these lowlifes; it's The Great Game. They're getting rich. No one can touch them; they run things!

No one wants to believe other humans can be so malicious, so swinish and venal; so filled with hatred and glee at the harm they do -- that it actually gives them pleasure to cause so much harm. That they put their own desires for money and for things above human lives and the reality of the world around us. They can't be like that. It can't be that simple. 

But, yes. It can.

And, with the help of 35 years of insane, babbling repetition from right-wing media (and decades of Democratic spinelessness), they've reduced the idea of an effective American central government to a joke. See? See how disorganized and useless the federal gov'mint is? They say. We need a strong man to lead us! An' we'll beat up anybody says different! USA!  USA!

And nothing happens. No one does anything to stop them. Not even when 31 people die because (among other things) their killers listened to the lies of The Leader. Instead of recoiling from Trump's toxicity, the Republicans say nothing, or actually back him up.


Nothing happens. And no one is surprised.
__________________________

What must it be like to live in a world where natural resources are slowly being reduced as its population continues to increase? Where nations have nuclear weapons? And all against a backdrop of extremes in weather and temperature? 

What must it be like to live in a country run by avaricious bullies, who deny climatic change in the World is even occurring? Where a sizeable number in the population have extreme, delusional political views, own weapons, and dream of a day when they can make the terrible rat-crazy feelings in their heads go away? Where television and radio and newspapers feed those crazy-rat feelings every moment of every day?

Tell me: for you, what is it like?
____________________________


These people hate you, and me. Because they have been instructed, over and over, for thirty years that you and I are the enemy. Men, women, and children; natives and immigrants; people of color (for white, too, is one of many colors), and politically left -- we have all been reduced to the level of Things, in their eyes.

Ironically,  it's the same way a wealthy elite see all of us, including Trump's base -- as chattel, worker-bees, disposable; nameless and faceless.

And These People have been taught, over and over, to believe that they live in a state if emergency,  'No-Go Zones' of Muslims and immigrants and LGBTQ people and sick hippies... a world manipulated by liberals with money, the ungodly and the evil. They are just surrounded by these terrible -- Things. And they are being told that, one day, they will have to deal with us. That they will be permitted, unleashed, to do that. Like a shooter in a Wal-Mart, a grade school, a synagogue or a night club.

They listen to The Leader, who tells them -- wink, wink -- if they can just remove the terrible Other, the Things surrounding them... then their misery will disappear. All will be well; a golden future; hallelujah.

This cannot continue, and This cannot end well.
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Thursday, June 27, 2019

Reprint Heaven: Scrood

When You're Lost In The River In Juarez

(This is a truncated reprint of a post from July, 2016 [before The Leader], and already reposted in February this year.

(Why it's being repeated, again, with emphasis on details from other writer's analyses (and links to the originals; read them, please) isn't laziness. It's because their points are no less true. We need to understand what's happening politically, in America and elsewhere in the world, and in context with the effects of rapidly changing global climate. We need to be clearer in our understanding of our political and cultural currents than we have been in a long time.

(So points others are making deserve to be repeated, often -- not because any of the Democratic party's contenders are going to save us, but because what gets said in the debates and which contender is 'chosen' as The Candidate to face off against The Monster will tell us just where the state of American politics is, relative to reality.  The bar of my expectations is set particularly low, but we'll see.)
______________________________

When Brexit was a Day One news item, the English-language European and American mainstream media characterized 'Leave' voters as resembling the 'National Front' types I once encountered in London in the late 70's -- racist, nationalistic troglodytes -- as if the only motivation for wanting to leave the EU could be the potential for a sudden influx of Middle Eastern refugees.

It's true that there was plenty of Tin-Foil Hat, Right-wing populist, 'Little Englander' nonsense, and Cambridge Analytica - fueled manipulation going on. But the Vote was also distinctive as a rejection of what many Britons saw as baked-in neoliberal inequality embodied in EU policies which benefited the same crowd of global elites.

Before 2008 (and even today), anyone claiming the world was being structured for the benefit of the few at the expense of everyone else -- that it was an organized effort -- would have been derided as a Loony Liberal (or, worse, a Communist) and effectively ignored.

In the U.S., after 2008 just about everyone was scrambling to stay afloat. Only in places outside America were there any organized protests or even 'social unrest' -- until the 2011 #Occupy movement (which had a quick international spread) showed exactly how deeply reaction to the Crash ran.

The mainstream media often described The 2008 Crash as an 'excess of the financial community' -- just an aberration, something out of the ordinary. But even if they couldn't understand the details, the results were easy to see -- institutions which caused The Crash were bailed out with your money, and mine. The individuals responsible were not indicted. With few exceptions, after a while no one in the mainstream media seemed to care that All Of Us had paid to bail out corporate banks, to underwrite the insolvency of greedily-run private businesses with public loans.
"[There was] a contract that said, if you work hard, if you essentially are a good citizen, there will be a place for you, not only an economic place, you will have a secure life, your kids will have a chance to have a better life, but you will sort of be recognized as part of the national fabric."

The ... American institutions that underpinned this contract including locally-owned businesses, unions, and public schools. ... the void left by the decline of these institutions was filled by the default force in American life, organized money.
-- "The Unwinding", George Packer (2013; Wikipedia Entry, Paraphrased)
And in the eleven years since Der Untergang, there has been a massive transfer of wealth, globally, which we haven't come to terms with: in America, over 90% of income increases since 2008 have gone to a fraction of our population; trillions in wealth have been transferred from the majority to that tiny, useless minority.  And it is not coming back.

Even so, in America not everyone will march in the streets; it's still relatively safe to cast an anonymous vote -- ergo, the popularity of Bernie's message, and on the opposite side, Trump's. And the Brexit vote. They're all bellwethers of what's going on in the hearts of The People, something politicians are trying hard to manipulate and control.

Mister, Jones

Everyone I know has the deeply unsettling feeling (and has had it, since the shark-feeding-frenzy that preceded The Crash) that we're rocketing towards an unknown singularity. It may crush us flat, as we travel an Einstein-Rosen Bridge of history, before being blown out into a future no one wants to admit is even possible. 

For decades, art and film have presented stories set after some unimaginable crash / alien incursion / pandemic / Zombie apocalypse / fascist revolution.  In real life, politics has devolved into Left populism and Crypto-Fascist populism on the Right. Before 2016, Business As Usual (personified by Obama and Hillary The Inevitable !) ran the show. Even with the apotheosis of Trump, The Usual Suspects still own the circus -- things still work to their benefit because they wish it.

We still have a 'bustling economy' and everything is... just great. But it's a sham; we feel it right down to the marrow in our bones. No one know what's going to happen, and no one knows the Form Of The Destructor. All we have is the sense of an iceberg, dead ahead, a banana peel or large clump of animal feces on the sidewalk in the dark. But we can't discern it's exact shape -- Something is happening here, but you don't know what it is; do you, Mr. Jones. 

The old world is discombobulating right in front of our eyes. Keep looking, and don't turn away.
In Britain as well as America... The triumph of Margaret Thatcher in the 1978 general election had the same role there as Ronald Reagan’s victory in 1980 did over here: a new, more aggressive conservatism took up the Left’s rhetoric of class warfare with a vengeance and inverted it, ushering in an era in which the rich rebelled against the poor.

The Labour Party under Tony Blair... responded [in] the same way [as the Democratic party] did under Bill Clinton: both ... dropped their previous commitments to the working class and the poor, and focused instead on issues that appealed to affluent liberals.  They gambled that the working class and the poor would keep voting for them out of ... misplaced loyalty—and over the short term, that gamble paid off.

The result in both countries was a political climate in which the only policies up for discussion were those that favored the interests of the affluent at the expense of the working classes and the poor [Emphasis added]. That point has been muddied so often, and in so many highly imaginative ways, that it’s probably necessary to detail it here.
 Progress, For You: The Decline (The Tenderloin; San Francisco CA)
Rising real estate prices, for example, benefit those who own real estate, since their properties end up worth more, but it penalizes those who must rent their homes, since they have to pay more of their income for rent. Similarly, cutting social-welfare benefits for the disabled favors those who pay taxes at the expense of those who need those benefits to survive.
In the same way, encouraging unrestricted immigration into a country that already has millions of people permanently out of work, and encouraging the offshoring of industrial jobs so that the jobless are left to compete for an ever-shrinking pool of jobs, benefit the affluent at the expense of everyone else.
The law of supply and demand applies to labor just as it does to everything else:  increase the supply of workers and decrease the demand for their services, and wages will be driven down. The affluent benefit from this, since they pay less ... but the working poor and the jobless are harmed ... since they receive less income if they can find jobs at all.

It’s standard for this straightforward logic to be obfuscated by claims that immigration benefits the economy as a whole—but who receives the bulk of the benefits, and who carries most of the costs?  That’s not something anybody in British or American public life has been willing to discuss for the last thirty years. 
-- John Michael Greer, Archdruid Report
The Benefits Of Globalism: More Plutonium For The Children
Cameron’s risky bet to hold a referendum on Britain’s EU membership has backfired disastrously. The unexpected victory for the leave camp has shaken both Unions to their very core, dividing left and right on either side of the Channel ...
 Yet the unspeakable truth is that, at a deeper level, the [Brexit vote] ... has [to do] with ... the widening gulf between political elites and European citizens more generally. While racism and anti-immigrant sentiment have been central to the leave campaign from the very start, it is difficult to believe that all 52 percent of Britons who voted leave are committed fascists.

Many of these people are ordinary working class folks who are simply fed up with the erosion of their living standards, the disintegration of their communities, the lack of responsiveness of their political representatives, and the unaccountable technocracy that has “taken control” over their lives. Brexit was first and foremost a political statement by the dispossessed and disempowered.

... Ultimately, the British vote to leave the EU, whether it eventually materializes or not (and there is no guarantee that it will), is symptomatic of ... a structural crisis of democratic capitalism, that has in recent years evolved from a global financial crisis into a deepening legitimation crisis of the political establishment, which is now in turn exploding into a full-blown crisis of governability of the existing social and political order...

-- ROAR Magazine; Jerome Roos, editor: "#Brexit Confirms: The Neoliberal Center Cannot Hold"
... the Founders distrusted popular government for the simple, unassailable reason that the American people are drawn ineluctably to raving bigots and would-be totalitarians. Who are these unhinged, pitchfork-wielding yahoos, now rudely demanding their moment of reckoning at the expense of the institutions erected to discipline them?
-- "The Political Class Struggles", Chris Lehman, 'The Baffler'
Business As Usual. With Occasional Botox.
Hillary really seems to believe that her victory is enough of a consolation prize to negate our miseries. Sadly, there are enough people who agree that she'll never disabuse herself or her notion. If she loses, she'll blame us. We'll have deprived ourselves of the joy of witnessing her happiness.
-- :p, Airport through the Trees
______________________________

MEHR, MIT:  There is also too this from Something You Should Read (emphasis added -- again, remember this is from the spring of 2016; possibly inserting "Biden" for "Clinton" will work):
The greatest trick the Republicans ever performed was dragging America’s political spectrum so far right of center that the Democrats caved and became center-right corporatist shills ... a horrendous compromise between anti-war, anti-poverty, anti-racist idealists who believe in building a better America, and the well-to-do status quo defending blowhards who think buying a Beyonce album on iTunes is somehow proof you believe Black Lives Matter.

Essentially, those who understand our current politics are infested with a rot that spread misery and poverty, and “free market” neoliberals who cloak their faith in the current system with a sick and twisted perversion of “Identity Politics.” They seek nothing more than a more diverse oligarchy to rule over the poor and the disadvantaged, they think they can weaponize poverty to punish and silence white racism. 
They’ll call illegal drone strikes a “white issue,” they’ll defend an infinitely rich and powerful white woman’s vocal support of an illegal war that has murdered hundreds of thousands if not millions. They’ll support a “sit-in” to create policy around a Bush-era terrorist watchlist to strip rights from Muslims. All of this is so far detached from anything a “Left” would ever stand for. ...

Let me make it clear ... you were an outspoken supporter of a Liberal White Supremacy that infests our current political class. One that pretends a black President is somehow a victory while the wealth gap between white and black families has only grown under his reign. One that believes Silicon Valley can somehow end racism through apps. One that pretends Edward Snowden is somehow a traitor, while a Secretary of State running a private email server to hide from public accountability and FOIA requests is somehow woke feminist labor. One that pretends Hillary only voted for the Iraq War because doing otherwise would be “political suicide.” One that pretends claiming poverty while having a luxurious AirBNB in a developing nation is not grossly inappropriate. One that thinks a vote for an infinitely rich and powerful white woman whose incompetence has had grave consequences for poor Muslim women overseas is somehow a meaningful victory for feminism....

Vote for Hillary all you want. However, wrapping it up in a triumphant narrative of identity politics and social justice when the only success is more dead innocent Muslims overseas — for no fucking reason — I mean the drone assassination program Hillary Clinton oversaw as Secretary of State had a fucking 90% failure rate— is nothing short of absolute vulgarity.
_________________________________

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Random Barking: News On The March


Despicable

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.
_____________________________________


Division

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.
_______________________________

Dysfunction

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

Determinism

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.
________________________________________

Disproportion

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.
_________________________________________

Disintegration 

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.
yassss.

Vote Schultz!
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Dissolution 

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

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

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MEHR, AUF DER GROSSER GREISGRAMISMUSS MUSS SEIN:


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.
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