Showing posts with label You KNOW That. Show all posts
Showing posts with label You KNOW That. Show all posts

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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Friday, November 15, 2019

Twilight At Noon

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


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

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

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

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

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

Jaures Speaking At A Socialist Rally, Paris; 1914

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

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

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

Four years, three months, and the deaths of ~10,000,000 soldiers and civilians later, the war ended.
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We know we're living in a time of extremity. Everyone is figuratively holding their breath, waiting for ... something.  Tuchman's story led to a streetcorner in Sarajevo, and a few weeks in the high summer of 1914 -- and we read it with dread because we know where it ends. No one knows where our American story is leading.

Tuchman's story closed in 1914, 105 years ago. In 2019, there's no one reason to assume bad things are coming, in America -- because there seem to be an overwhelming preponderance of reasons. No one can be blamed for feeling the present moment is portentous, that we're approaching something, a Sarajevo moment, that will trigger a cataclysm. It's a continuous, negative feedback loop, difficult to shake off.
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America has ignored critical, obvious things for generations: contributing to climate disintegration; the inequality in wealth. We've ignored our real history of class, race and gender. We became an Empire, and behaved like one. We became a center to develop technology out of desire for novelty and profit, while reducing personal privacy and allowing our opinions, desires, habits to be harvested and exploited.

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you were trying to find a political leader who, if elected, would blow America apart along those developed fault-lines -- someone who would subordinate the needs of a democratic nation-state to feed a bottomless, life-sucking pathological need -- Trump is precisely who you would pick.
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I don't have any great expectations for the impeachment process. The hearings are important, historic. There will be moments everyone will recall with relish or anger. Generations will remember them, as  Watergate is remembered. From a legal perspective,  and for the historical record, they're essential.

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

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

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

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

Last night on Amanpour & Co., journalists Jeff Greenfield of Politico and Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame were asked about the current impeachment hearings, compared with those 46 years ago. Greenfield noted Americans seemed to be more involved and informed about the issues at stake, during Watergate -- and that they seemed to understand readily how Nixon had abused his office. More of an effort will be needed to 'sell' impeachment to Americans in 2019, Greenfield thought.
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I'm certain the hearings will lead to Articles of Impeachment in the Democratically-controlled House, but (my opinion) they will die in the Senate -- probably after an abbreviated trial; McConnell has already indicated what the result will be. After, there will be protests and civil disobedience (watch carefully how Trump and the government he owns will respond, as a preview of what may happen after the 2020 election).

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

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

I'm also reminded of a quote by lawyer and philosopher, Joseph De Maistre, in 1811: "In a democracy, people get the leaders they deserve."
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Let's put on our tinfoil hats.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any Left political leader elected to the Presidency will find it hard to govern in as fractured a nation as America is in the second decade of the 21st century.
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Before you completely laugh off the possibility of a Republic of Gilead option for America's future, please consider these two news items:

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

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

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

Stein spoke about visiting the town of Miami, Texas, and his observations that Americans there were not uninformed or ignorant, but very determined that their point of view was true and correct:
...They [residents of Miami, Texas] were very white, and they were very christian.... And their anger about what is going on was different from what I thought it would be. And I found out that what they're upset about is, they feel really discriminated against. These are the people that, if you asked, 'are christians discriminated against more than black people', they will say yes. 
...So what they have noticed is that white christians have less power than they did 10, 20, 30 years ago. And they're panicked about that kind of change. ...These people are voting for what they want for the country. I think it's a dangerous vision they have, in my opinion, but it's not ignorant.
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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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Friday, August 16, 2019

Your Friday Contusion From The Collision With Collusion

On The Road To Recession
Trapped By Brutal Whiteman Daddy With No Bathroom Stops   (Image: Machine / Mongo)
[ Clicky For Biggly!  Easy -- and Fun! ]

The hits just keep on coming. I may decide to weigh in and do some barking -- but after slaving over a hot Photoshop all afternoon (and it's over 100 in my little corner of the Left Coast), I'm going to find some shade and lie down, until.
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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.
_________________________________

Friday, June 14, 2019

Reprint Heaven: I Gots Me Dem Pre-War Blues

From My Head Down To My Shoes

Life in Kiddietown continues, though there might be an Economic Downturn on the way which could put a crimp in some of that fun. Meanwhile, we have lots of shiny new millionaires here -- and The Rest Of Us better be ready to make them feel special!

But don't worry -- there might be a shiny new war coming, which will make everyone stop thinking about all that tiresome nonsense from the Left -- you know, climate disintegration (oooh! Scary!) and inequality (ah; please) and Socialism (Bernie sure is old, isn't he?).  And all that crazy crazy about Russia; that's so 2016.  You won't be thinkin' about that Impeachment after the first big cyberattack!

And do we really need an election, anyway? Having that war would sure be a good reason not to spend all that money and time on something that just makes people feel bad and angry. With a new War, we all have to be united. Be a "Do Rag", not a "Don't Rag"!  You'll need to stand behind our troops -- which should be easy, because many of them may be deployed in our towns and cities. They'll be right there, on our streetcorners! USA !!  USA !!

Yes, a war would sure make all those hateful girlz just shut right up. And after our Leaders execute that State O' Emergency they've been dreaming about, they'll have some fancy new red dresses and white bonnets for those uppity girlz; boy Howdy, will they ever.

Meanwhile -- it's Par-Tay Time! Lots of fun! There's always a Big Game on teevee!! Enjoy these hateful and mean-spirited graphics from that awful Dog, living on Left Coast America in the place that is One Big Campus, and One Big Dorm.

Click on pictures to enlarge -- Easy! Fun! And enjoy them, while you can. All Praise To The Leader!




____________________________________________________

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.  
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MEHR, MIT THE FRIES NEXT TIME: The BBC reports "Biden team says Trump taunts 'beneath the dignity of the office'."  The civility wars begin. 
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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

In Pursuit Of Normalcy

Never Take Your Eye Off The Ball

The Recall Of Actual Memory = Normal
So we don't believe that life is beautiful because we don't recall it; but if we get a whiff of a long-forgotten smell, we are suddenly intoxicated, and similarly we think we no longer love the dead because we don't remember them -- but if by chance we come across an old glove we burst into tears.
-- Marcel Proust
The Leader Is Clinically Insane With Poor Impulse Control = Not Normal
Brian Klass, a political scientist at UCL [said]: "We have a seriously dangerous normalcy bias, where we move on because we desperately want to pretend it's okay. Trump's Twitter meltdown today -- which shows a deranged and unhinged person -- will just be forgotten by Monday afternoon. But the deranged man will still control the nukes."
(Chris Cillizza, "Trump's Craziest Day Ever On Twitter", CNN)

The Leader Is A Liar = Not Normal
And then, Friday afternoon, it got worse. Responding to a question by an ABC reporter about whether he believed there was a growing threat of white nationalism worldwide, Trump responded, “I don’t really,” adding, “I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems.”  Our own ears and eyes (as well as statistics) tells us that’s a lie.  Again, this reaction is because Trump gets his base better than anyone.
(Dean Obeidallah, "Trump Still Won't Name White Supremacist Terrorism And His Base Loves It", Daily Beast)

Delusional Cray-Cray = Not Normal
Donald Trump’s suggestion that Britain invented Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election has been branded “completely false” by the UK government.  The US president shared a tweet by William Craddick, the founder of right-wing conspiracy theory news outlet Disobedience Media, on Sunday evening. “Russiagate was designed in part to help the UK counter Russian influence by baiting the United States into taking a hard line against them,” Mr Craddick wrote. ...

... Late last week, [Trump] launched an extraordinary attack against Theresa May over her Brexit negotiation strategy, claiming she “didn’t listen” to his advice over the issue.  Sir Nicholas Soames, Conservative MP and privy councillor, told The Independent that Mr Trump’s peddling of the conspiracy theory was “foolish” and “ludicrous"...  "The trouble is he allows himself to be subject to these great flights of fancy, which unfortunately there are too many people who take seriously,” said Mr Soames, who is the grandson of Winston Churchill.
("UK Government Hits Out At 'Completely False' Allegation", UK Independent)

Republicans Cleave To Insane Leader = Not Normal But Predictable
I think the connection between scientology and Elizabeth Holmes is the “prison of belief”. Look at what happens to [Theranos board member] George Shultz – the grandfather of [eventual whistleblower] Tyler Shultz... Even when his grandson comes to him and says, “You know Grandpa, there’s rampant fraud at Theranos”, he can’t undo or retract or unwind the belief that he has. He’s in a prison of belief of Elizabeth Holmes. He’s committed to her, and for him to say, “Oh wow, that’s terrible”, would mean that he has to go back to the beginning and admit that he was duped and fooled.
(Julia Wong, Interviewing Alex Gibney; "Americans Have A Fascination With Fraudsters"; UK Guardian, March 17, 2019)

We Are Powerless To Resist ZuckCo (And Those Like It) = Not Normal 
Perhaps what the scandal has really revealed is a situation that is too embarrassing, too disastrous to acknowledge. We know that Facebook has been used to undermine elections all across the world, including our own. But we’re in this strange historical moment where we’ve realized it, but we don’t have the power, currently, to do anything about it.
(Carole Cadwalladr, "Cambridge Analytica, A Year On"; UK Guardian, March 17, 2019)


International Mass Shootings = Not Normal
The horror of the New Zealand massacre should be a wake-up call for Big Tech and an occasion to interrogate the architecture of social networks that incentivize and reward the creation of extremist communities and content ...

... Part of what’s so unsettling about the New Zealand shooting suspect’s online persona is how it lays bare how [social media and extremism can] come together for violent ends. [The killer's] supposed digital footprint isn’t just upsetting because of its content, but because of how much of it appears designed to delight fellow extremists.

The decision to call the attack a “real life effort post” reflects an eerie merging of conspiratorial hate from the pages of online forums and into the real world -- a grim reminder of how online communities may be emboldening and nudging their most violent and unstable individuals.
(Charlie Warzel, "We're Asking The Wrong Questions Of YouTube And Facebook After New Zealand"; New York Times, March 19, 2019)

Domestic Mass Shootings = Not Normal 
“Obviously there’s some type of situation that caused the husband to be extremely upset,” Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said in a press conference. “We’re trying to find the connection. Obviously these are not random shootings... Six people lost their lives in a very short amount of time. This is the new normal.”
(German Lopez, Vox, September 12, 2018; "... Shooter In Bakersfield Kills 5 Persons, Self")

The latest nightmare began on May 18 with the news: there had been another school shooting. This time, it unfolded at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, a town of about 12,000 people ... Paige Curry, a student at the school... [said it] didn’t feel unreal at all. “It’s been happening everywhere,” she said. “I’ve always kind of felt eventually it would happen here too.”
(Haley Edwards, Time, May 22, 2018; "School Shootings Are Becoming The New Normal")

Whiteman Daddy Strongman Oligarch As Leader = Not Normal
... there are the inherent structural failings in modern democratic politics. In the United States, unrestricted campaign financing continues to undermine democracy. The spectacular corruption of the electoral redistricting system -- gerrymandering -- only compounds the problem. On top of this, the polarization of traditional news media by Fox News and others is poisoning the capacity of the democratic system to build a sustainable consensus around what is left of the political center, as shown by the debacle of the American gun-control debate.

As Western democracies look increasingly sick, other systems of governance are now on offer. Russian nationalism represents a departure from Western political, economic and diplomatic norms. China has become increasingly confident in its own model, described as authoritarian or state capitalism. And its “Beijing consensus” is held up to the non-Western world as an example of a more effective form of national, and even international, governance.
(Kevin Rudd, "The Rise Of Authoritarian Capitalism", New York Times, September 16, 2018)
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