Saturday, February 03, 2018

Poison Tag

We are watching a game of "poison tag" being played out in Washington.

Poison tag being a game we played as kids. One kid is poison, and if he tags you you are poison too, or you are poisoned, depending on how it's being played. Shrieks and running around are involved. In the DC game of poison tag the game begins when the Republican Party declares someone is poison and everyone runs from them. Anyone who touches this person or is touched is out of the game. The Republicans have declared Christopher Steele poison. Why? First, it isn't a game. It's very serious national security business and Steele is one of America's most reliable friends. Why make Steele a pariah for everyone to shun?

Steele ran the Russia desk for MI6, the intel agency of our closest ally. A serious professional who did serious work for many years keeping the free western democracies like Britain and the U.S. and our NATO allies free of interference from the Russian spies we all grew up fearing because of James Bond novels. Russia is no longer communist but it is now ruled by a former KGB boss, Vladimir Putin. Steele has a well-earned dislike of Putin having seen what he does. Example: since the Russian involvement in hacking our election became known several witnesses to it, western sources of information and Putin critics, have wound up suddenly violently dead. One of them was poisoned twice––not a game––and survived to talk about it.

The reason Steele is being maligned and shunned by half of Washington is simple. He saw an alarming pattern of contacts and business dealings and involvements, some of them possibly very compromising, between the Republican candidate for president of the United States and the Russian government and its spy agencies and President Putin's closest allies, the oligarchs. He did what any friend would do: he told the FBI about this. He did so knowing it would not be a good thing for America to have a president who was on the hook to the Russians. Steele discovered this in 2016, and the more he looked the more he discovered, and the more worrying it was. Why was he looking? He was hired by a research firm, FusionGPS, a respected firm founded and led by former Wall Street Journal investigative journalists.

Full disclosure: the Wall Street Journal is a very right wing newspaper, but it has a highly respected newsroom. Did this make observers concerned that FusionGPS might have a right wing bias? Apparently Fusion was hired by Republicans during the Republican primary to find out more about Donald Trump. Republicans were worried about Trump. Let's face it, he is a dodgy character, with longtime mob ties, multiple bankruptcies, suspicious sources of financing, a long history of sexual misbehavior, etc. Who wouldn't be concerned. Republicans were concerned, but as soon as Trump won the nomination they dropped their research and let FusionGPS go.

FusionGPS was subsequently hired by the Democrats who were running against this dodgy character named Trump. It was at this point that the Fusion research team realized they needed fuller information about Trump's Russian connections, and who better to hire than a former MI6 Russia desk chief named Christopher Steele. Steele had gone into private business after he was thrown out of Russia by Putin for treading on Putin's toes. Spy career over. At least Putin didn't assassinate him the way he does others who tread on his toes.

Why is Steele "poison" today? Don't we like James Bond? In the Bond movies there are lots of characters who are operating illegally or dangerously in the Russian orbit. America doesn't usually run one of them for president. In fact that would make a great Bond novel. (I would cast Christopher Walken in the movie.) Why is James Bond now the bad guy? Why is this Bond villain being run by the Kremlin the hero?

This is a bizarre game of poison we're playing. What is right is wrong. What is legal is illegal. What is patriotic is treason and what used to be treason is now the urgent instruction coming from the party. In this case it's the Republican Party, the least likely group to be suspected of favoring the Russians in a war with the FBI.

Everything is upside down.

A trusted former counterespionage official from Britain calls American law enforcement and reports a possible crime in progress. Because he is a professional in these matters it's more than a possible crime, it's likely, and he is deeply concerned. He shares information with the FBI. He shares all he knows, suspicions that have been confirmed and those bits that are just raw intel. He does not edit out the worrisome salacious bits because the Russians have a long history of using honey traps to lure Americans into compromising situations for blackmail purposes. The FBI listens. They listen with greater interest because Steele's "dossier" overlaps with much of what the FBI has learned in its own investigations. The FBI began investigating on their own, having heard from their Australian counterparts that a member of the Trump campaign was boasting about having important and useful connections with the Russian government.

This kind of broadly corroborated information is not the sort of thing a counterintelligence agency discards out of prudery. They don't stop following the trail because it gets embarrassingly close to a major party presidential candidate, but that is what the Republicans are saying they ought to have done. Apparently, by Republican standards, NO information that shows a Republican presidential candidate––god forbid a Republican president––has become a puppet of the Russians should EVER be believed or disseminated.

Such information should be disbelieved at once! Anyone who discovers such a crime in progress must be shunned and discredited at all costs! Even if the person with this urgent information about a crime in progress is a career professional in counterintelligence from our oldest ally, Great Britain, he must be shut out! He is poison! Don't listen to him!

The Republicans are saying that the reliable friend who is reporting this ongoing crime against America is himself the criminal. This is the game of "poison" the Republicans are playing.

Republicans are upending various kinds of illogic to peddle this poison. They are not saying that a Democrat phoned in the crime report, they say a professional investigator of good standing hired by a company that was paid by a Democrat phoned in the crime report. If being hired by a company hired by Republicans but now paid by a Democrat discredits you, we have a problem. It discredits an awful lot of people. It means more than half of all Americans cannot expect to be believed when they call law enforcement, either because they are Democrats or because they know someone who is. And if they have their neighbor phone the FBI for them the FBI will be expected to hang up––because if the FBI believes the crime report or seeks to verify it they will be complicit in a crime, so the Republican argument goes.

The FBI believed Steele (Republicans hadn't called him poison yet) because his information corroborated much of their own information discovered in an investigation begun independently. But the Republicans are saying that the FBI's investigation is fatally biased and all its warrants are fatally biased because the FBI answered the phone when Steele phoned in the warning that Russians were involved in multiple ways with the Republican presidential candidate. The warrants the FBI obtained required something called "probable cause", but the Republicans are discrediting those warrants because they say "probable cause" means the FBI was biased against Donald Trump. Finding credible evidence of wrongdoing, the Republicans say, creates a fatal bias in the investigating agency. Oddly this is not something Republicans charge when Arizona sheriffs count the brownness of a suspect's skin as probable cause.

What this all means is this: if you want to commit a crime and avoid investigation and prosecution the safest thing to do is be a Republican candidate for president or a member of his campaign, because these things make you immune to all suspicion and invalidates any investigation that might be opened or may have already been ongoing into your dodgy business practices that look like money laundering or fraud or conspiracy, especially your pattern of conspiring with Russian spies. Probable cause to seek evidence of crime means you are too biased to investigate. Only law officers who swear everlasting fealty and loyalty to the Leader are to be trusted. Everybody else must be fired.

James Bond supposedly had a license to kill. Not really true but it made a good story. He did have a license to investigate Russians, though, and he knew how to do this. But Bond's license to investigate Russian conspiracies is hereby suspended because he had the gall to investigate a Republican. Mr. Bond is persona non grata. Poison. Nobody should talk to him or listen to him or believe what he says. If you do nobody will believe you either. The crimes Bond is reporting are not crimes at all. Mr. Bond is a criminal. The Russians do issue licenses to kill and without any friends in America Bond, I mean Steele, had better not come here anymore because the president who used to be very "mobbed up" is now very "Russianed up" and you never know when they might arrange for someone to fall out of a high window or meet with an accident on the sidewalk. All of this sounds like something dreamed up by Ian Fleming (too bizarre for John LeCarré) but it's now true. Because false is now true.

Good is now evil. Bad is good. Criminal is legal and the crime-fighters are now the criminals. Treason is now patriotism and what used to be patriotism is now treason. Republicans sleep with Russians and this is a good thing. If you oppose the surrender of American sovereignty to the man in Moscow you are unAmerican, because that is what Trump has done and what Trump does is now the rule. It doesn't even matter if Russian prostitutes were filmed doing strange things with Mr. Trump in Moscow because the American Evangelicals, our highest authorities on superChristianity, have given President* Trump a license to do strange things with prostitutes or wives of his friends or complete strangers exactly as he sees fit. God help us all.

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Friday, February 02, 2018

The Nunes Memo Casts More Suspicion on the GOP Than It Casts On The FBI

In early 1933, Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany.

In March, their parliament passed the Enabling Act that gave Hitler dictatorial powers.

In December 1933, the oaths sworn by members of the armed forces, law enforcement and the civil service, were changed from an oath to serve Germany to an oath to obey Adolf Hitler. A loyalty oath. A personal loyalty oath.

This recent news about Trump’s demand of personal loyalty from DOJ officials and FBI officials has a very dark precedent not from American tradition but from Nazi Germany.

I am not surprised Donald Trump would go this way. I am dismayed and disturbed to see how Republicans are enabling him. (See the Enabling Act, above)

When will Republicans stand up for American law and order and push back?

Republican leaders are charging that the FBI, the DOJ, and our intelligence agencies are biased. The President* sees this bias in anyone who threatens him by investigating matters that might incriminate him, anyone who threatens him by fulfilling his or her duties, who won't swear an oath to Donald Trump. The latest fears of Donald Trump stem from FBI agents following probable cause to investigate matters that seem to involve the president himself.

This "bias" Trump is objecting to appears to be based on something called probable cause. Probable cause is information that hasn't been proved yet, but probable cause prompts further investigation and these elements of probable cause are part of the application for a warrant.

The key point is this: Probable cause to investigate a crime does not vacate any investigation because of bias.

If law enforcement has probable cause to investigate they are obligated to investigate. Saying otherwise amounts to dangerous blindness to official duty. Saying otherwise indicates a greater loyalty to a probable lawbreaker than to the law.

What makes this especially alarming is we see Republicans, the majority party––with enormous power that they are asserting maximally–– stating a strange opinion that reaching a level of high suspicion or concern, rather than bolstering the case for further investigation, by some bizarre logic undermines the case.

The Republicans in Congress are siding with a president who may in fact be compromised by the Russian government, who has throughout his career shown a great tendency to lie, to cheat, to show bias and act in a bigoted manner, to hire and work with organized criminals, to admire criminals, to associate with and admire foreign dictators, and to side with foreign dictators, enemies of this country, and their intelligence apparatus, against our own intelligence professionals whose job is to protect our national security.

The Republicans are siding with someone who has triggered mountains of probable cause concern against the law enforcement professionals who are seeking to find out if these concerns are borne out by further evidence. (Imagine if a career mobster were to raise these arguments. He would be laughed at by Americans from both ends of the political spectrum.)

We face not only a constitutional crisis but a national security crisis and we are being led by a Republican Party that behaves like a criminal organization with close ties to the Russian president.

What sources of anti-terrorist intelligence or intelligence that might strengthen our national security will feel confident enough to share that information with us when Republican in high office will misuse it and expose the sources of the information?

Where are the elders of the party? Where are the responsible Republican officeholders, if any remain?

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Wednesday, January 03, 2018

House Republicans––Stooges or Traitors?

Last night the New York Times published a remarkable op-ed written by Glenn Simpson (a former Wall Street Journal reporter) and Peter Fritsch, the clients for whom Christopher Steele, the former longtime British intelligence agent, assembled the so-called Steele Dossier.

The opening paragraph is particularly astute:

"A generation ago, Republicans sought to protect President Richard Nixon by urging the Senate Watergate committee to look at supposed wrongdoing by Democrats in previous elections. The committee chairman, Sam Ervin, a Democrat, said that would be “as foolish as the man who went bear hunting and stopped to chase rabbits.”

The Dossier has been targeted and rubbished by Republicans for many months because it casts their president in a bad light. Devin Nunes has recused himself from the House Committee trying to investigate the president's Russian entanglements but he has kept his hands on the wheel and he keeps pumping the brakes. He's not in the chair but is definitely running things. Nunes Recused himself unseriously, the way a film star says she doesn't want any attention. Nunes wants attention, hence the drama. He sometimes acts like he wants to be James Bond. His envy may explain why he despises Steele, who was a real James Bond.

The Republicans on the committee have been behaving strangely for over a year, sounding off like children desperate to distract Mother from their own misbehavior, blaming their playmates for the broken window. If there has been a witch hunt it has been Republicans endlessly hunting for evidence to justify burning Hillary Clinton in the public square, evidence that never emerged. They have fantasized about this auto da fé for over a decade in various committees. It is a vendetta. But the FBI doesn't go in for vendettas, so the FBI must be in the Hillary camp, or so the Republican drama queens say. There is a very large and dangerous bear loose in our country, endangering our democracy and our institutions and our national security, but the Republicans whose party spent decades hunting the Russian bear are off hunting rabbits.

It’s strange how closely one R’s agenda aligns with the agenda of the other R out there.

Republican motives and efforts and tactics and actions align very closely with Russia’s. We need to hear this stated more explicitly in news reporting. It is dangerous and disorienting when something so obvious and alarming is not stated clearly. People begin to doubt the obvious that isn't stated. Certainly we need to wait for and respect rules of evidence, but we need to stop hiding and ignoring what is staring us in the face. Distraction and obfuscation is the strategy employed by guilty parties.

Both the Russians and the Republicans want to discredit the Mueller investigation, both want to discredit witnesses testifying to serious crimes. Both Rs make perverse and inverse responses to things to which most Americans would see one clear set of responsible responses: get the truth, contact law enforcement, pay attention, take evidence, do the right thing. There is another apt term for what we need: Due Diligence.

Due Diligence is what Americans deserve from their political parties when they are putting a presidential candidate on the menu. Is he or she sound? Is he or she capable? Is he or she insane? Is he or she a criminal? Is he or she engaged in shady financial dealings with foreign enemies? During the selection process, and the convention, and the campaign, and the transition, the Republicans––notably Mike Pence who chaired the transition and Devin Nunes who worked on it––who were tasked with Due Diligence were not just undiligent, they were the opposite of diligent, they were carefully and aggressively ignoring every warning they heard and silencing the citizens who were warning them. Were they willfully blind and carefully ignorant, or were they obstructing justice?

Try to get your head around this––it isn't easy: When the Republicans in Congress heard people warning about Russian interference in our election, instead of seeking the truth they did everything they could to shut down and discredit the truth. They wanted to hide it. They wanted to shut up the witnesses. What investigators would logically see as a roadmap to finding and nailing the criminals the Republicans saw as a roadmap to protecting the criminals and nailing the people who were calling in the crime. And once the FBI took the warnings seriously they began discrediting the FBI.

The Republicans seem determined to arrest and prosecute people who are doing their civic duty to help protect our democracy from a foreign enemy... (Mr. Pence's Bible names False Witness as one of the ten gravest offenses against God.) How can being a good citizen be criminal or anything less than patriotic? But to listen to Jim Jordan and Chuck Grassley and Devin Nunes and others you would think testifying honestly about a dangerous crime you’ve witnessed is itself a crime. To listen to Republicans you would think the professional lawmen and women in the FBI were dangerous career criminals. (President Trump accuses law enforcement of crimes and accepts the reassurances of Vladimir Putin, one of the planet's most successful criminals.)

Imagine friends learned of organized criminal activity in your neighborhood and notified your elected officials and law enforcement. The law officers begin an investigation but the elected officials (Republicans) do everything they can to discredit the investigation and protect the criminals, using the evidence not as a guide to finding the criminals but a guide to help the criminals find the witnesses, your friends, and shut them up––the way criminals shut witnesses up, permanently.

How many key witnesses against Putin have died mysteriously in the months since this story began to break? We reasonably suspect the Russians are behind some or all of the mysterious deaths. We might ask: Are the Republicans also helping find and terminate or at least intimidate witnesses? Are the Republicans supplying a handy roadmap for the lawbreakers to help them cover up the evidence and derail the enforcement of our laws?

Why would they do this? It seems improbable that a major political party would actively collude with a foreign enemy, but until last year it was improbable that a major political party would nominate, run, and elect a president who our intelligence agencies and the FBI suspect might be in bed with the Russians. This improbability has been a useful cloak for what happened, the way a con man's plausibility and confidence and his nice suits and his nice offices and top public relations staff help to cloak his real business. People need to ask how genuine someone is before they hand him the keys and the nuclear codes. This is called Due Diligence and the Republicans failed to do it.

Now that they are implicated, and they are implicated beyond being plain fools, they must rearrange their mindset to justify what they have done. Republicans who once criticized Trump now praise him and protect him. Why? They have to decriminalize the dodgy things they've done ("That was his job," "Everybody would do the same thing.") They have to decriminalize the criminals they've thrown in with, and then criminalize the responsible behavior of their accusers. They need to make their treason into patriotism. Their accusers, who've done the Paul Revere bit by warning about the foreign threat, they have to recast as traitors.

The Republicans have realigned their policies and strategies and talking points to match their captors'. If you write down a list of Trump's achievements and the Republicans' achievements of the past year they could serve as a wish list for any of America's foreign rivals. Splitting alliances: check. Hollowing out America's global diplomacy: check. Alienating America's allies: check. Debasing America's standing in the world (in many western nations America's poll numbers have declined by as much as 70%): check. Cast doubt on the soundness of the dollar by loading the budget with large unnecessary debt as far as the eye can see (not to secure the prosperity of working Americans but to enrich offshore billionaires): check. Worst of all, perhaps, has been Trump's abandonment of the Paris Accords on climate change; climate change being listed as the #1 threat to American national security by the Pentagon and other agencies whose job it is to warn and prepare for threats. Check. The Republicans and the Russians appear to be working from the same set of plans to do the same kinds of harm to our country. Why would they do this? I've suggested two possible reasons: Blackmail and Bribery.

Putin is reputed to be the richest individual in the world. Most of that wealth having been looted from his own country. Putin placed these billions offshore in more covert ways than the ways American billionaires offshore their wealth. It appears Trump may have been one of his money launderers. But offshore billionaires do have shared interests and goals. This collusion would work like bribery but disguised as shared goals, shared values, simply doing business: there's so much money coming from Russia how can a rich person refuse to accept it when it's offered? Afterwards it would work like blackmail once the transactions became known and began to stink.

Regarding the Russian hacking of public comments on net neutrality and Wall Street fairness: it appears Republicans and Russian mobsters have matching agendas on these issues as well. An internet rigged to favor the very wealthy (and no one is richer than Putin) is easier for the Russians to hack. Unfair wealth markets are easier for the rich both Russian and Republican, to profit from by making the unrich easier prey. Both Rs, the Russians and the Republicans, are working against our national interests, so Americans need to be informed. Newspapers and all journalists need to report it. Connect the dots. Follow the money.

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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Trump May Have Put Us All Into The Cornfield

Peeksville, Ohio? Anybody been there? Anybody heard of the place?

What about Anthony Fremont? Maybe we forgot.

I keep seeing articles that remind me of Peeksville and Anthony. For instance the articles telling us how the Wall Street Journal couldn't allow its reporters to report unpleasant stories about Donald Trump, so they delayed them, and shelved them, and quietly sent the writer into the cold. The unpleasant reporting that was never published was in a carefully researched article about Trump's longtime mob connections. But reporting that would have made Donald Trump angry. And making Trump angry is a bad thing. So it wasn't reported or commented on. But the message was received. The staff at the Journal received the message loud and clear.

It's not necessarily a bad thing that employees comprehend the messages their bosses are sending... is it?

New York Magazine is reporting that five staffers at the Wall Street Journal's editorial page (which is already significantly to the right of the more objective news pages) have left in recent weeks, pushing the right wing WSJ voice from Hard Right to the Obedient Right...

But that's a good thing, isn't it? That's a VERY good thing... (Does that ring any distant bells?)

The Obedient Right is the part of the political spectrum that lives in Trump's pocket, who in turn lives in Putin's pocket. Is it safe to discuss who controls whom? Or who is whose puppet? The president has denied it but most people can see the strings if they look carefully at all. Maybe it's safest to just smile and say it's a very good thing.

There was a major tax bill passed by Congress late Wednesday night. Not a lot of Americans know what's in it because Republicans kept it a secret. A lot of them voted for it anyway because they knew what was good for them, and also what would be bad for them. But that too is a good thing, isn't it?

Then on Thursday there was a ceremony on the White House lawn (which these days feels like it is located right in Peeksville, Ohio) where President Trump* bragged about how wonderful the tax bill was, how it was a very good thing to give many billions of dollars of public money to billionaires, and how that holiday generosity would be a very good thing for regular Americans who work for a living.

Then different Republican members of Congress got up and also said it was a very good thing to give billions to billionaires. They didn't say that it was good to take healthcare away from children but they obviously felt good about it, so the atmosphere was very merry all around. Nobody said a discouraging word. They also said Donald Trump was a very good president. Orrin Hatch said Donald Trump was going to be possibly the very very best president America has ever had, and everyone there seemed to agree.

Earlier, inside the White House, there was a meeting of the cabinet. I'd say it was an unusual meeting except it's already happened like this at least once. The agenda of the meeting began with prayers. But they were unusual prayers. The president went around the table and invited his vice president and his cabinet members to take turns offering prayers to him, thanking him for being so wonderful and talking about how his presidency was a very good thing. Saying it out loud to cameras was also a very good thing, wasn't it? (John Cassidy wrote about it in The New Yorker)

Because Good is the opposite of Bad, just as very good is the opposite of very bad, and it's never a good thing to have to send someone into the cornfield, to borrow a phrase they use in Peeksville, Ohio.

Why is it so dangerous to say things about the president that he dislikes? People always say bad things about presidents. Just think of all the really awful things Republicans said about President Obama. But President Obama didn't do bad things to people just because they criticized him or maligned him or lied about him. That's because President Obama wasn't an angry child. Which is one of the reasons I can say "President Obama" without adding an asterisk.

Of course, in the current climate it's probably safest to say it's a very good thing to have an angry child as our president. Actually it's safest to not mention his childishness at all because being childish is irrelevant because he has extraordinary powers, very much like the powers of Anthony Fremont of Peeksville, Ohio. Safest because he seems inclined to use those powers against anyone who makes him angry, which is what Anthony Fremont did when anyone made him uncomfortable. But Anthony Fremont was a little boy and Donald Trump is really a grown up man; he just acts like a little boy. We don't generally give little boys extraordinary powers but what can I say? It's a good thing we did. it's a very good thing.

Anthony Fremont lived in Peeksville, Ohio, which isn't on any maps of the state because it's located in the Twilight Zone.

Anthony Fremont : No kids came over to play with me today, not a single one, and I wanted someone to play with!

Mr. Fremont : Well, Anthony, you remember the last time some kids came over to play. The little Fredricks boy and his sister.

Anthony Fremont : I had a real good time.

Mr. Fremont : Oh, sure you did, you had a real good time, and it's good that you had a good time, it's real good. It's, uh, just that...

Anthony Fremont : Just that what?

Mr. Fremont : Well, Anthony, you, uh, you wished them away into the cornfield. Their mommy and daddy were real upset.

I remember watching that episode on our old black and white TV. It scared the hell out of me to watch grown men and women behaving like this. Lying cravenly. Catering to this child's evil whims like sorry, pathetic cowards, which most Americans didn't feel like in that decade. As if this little boy was a god or something. But he was a god. The evil sort. He had extraordinary powers.

It creeped me out watching the grown ups smile falsely and talk so carefully and fearfully around this malevolent little boy, flattering him, praising him even when he'd murdered his playmates or one of the adults. Because I was a kid myself it was disturbing to watch the framework of what is right and what is wrong twisted so violently by the adults who lived with Anthony, always with a smile and a soft, kind voice because they all hoped to go on living.

Why didn't they fix this? Why didn't they assert their moral authority? They outnumbered him. They were bigger than he was.

The scariest moment came when one of the adults got fed up and told the truth...

Dan Hollis : You monster, you. You dirty little monster. You murderer. You think about me. Go ahead, Anthony. You think bad thoughts about me. And maybe some man in this room, some man with guts, somebody who's so sick to death of living in a place like this, and is willing to take a chance, will sneak up behind you and lay something heavy across your skull, and end this once and for all...

Anthony Fremont : You're a bad man! You're a very bad man!

Dan Hollis : You think that. Go ahead, Anthony. I'm a very bad man! Keep thinking that! Somebody sneak up behind him! Somebody end this now while he's thinking about me! Won't somebody take a lamp or a bottle or something and END THIS?

Anthony didn't send him into the cornfield immediately; first he tortured him, and us, and the adults all around him. He turned this "bad man" into a jack-in-the-box with his head stuck on the end of the bouncing spring. Then the other adults begged him to send the deceased adult into the cornfield. Then they all told him what a good thing it was that he had done.

We are being terrorized by a malevolent child with extraordinary powers. Which is an evil thing. It's not a good thing, it is the opposite. Why doesn't someone do something? It doesn't need to be something violent. We have legal remedies. At least we still did last time I looked. Is it too late for that? I don't think so, but maybe.

Because it isn't just Trump. Sometimes I see Anthony Fremont's smug evil in the smiling face of Paul Ryan. I see enraged faces on FoxNews that suggest the president isn't alone wishing the rest of us into the cornfield.

And I know that Mike Pence would be the first to declare that it was a very good thing if Donald Trump actually acted out one of his fantasies and shot someone in broad daylight on Fifth Avenue or Pennsylvania Avenue. Other members of the house are egging Trump on and threatening his critics. Jim Jordan, the congressman who doesn't own a suit coat, is one. He's from Ohio; is Peeksville located in his district? None of the adults in this episode of Twilight Zone were actively on Anthony's side, they were simply craven and afraid, afraid of evil and the evil that would happen to them if they acted like adults. That is its own kind of evil and we see it in Congress today, but we see a worse kind, a less passive kind, the kind that doesn't just close its eyes to atrocities but puts on the uniform and carries them out.

I see various kinds of evil in the smiling faces of the Republicans who praise Trump. Passive and overt, cowardly and bold, calculating and hypnotized. I see a genuine evil in the Republicans who every week, every day, turn on the rest of us who count on a moral authority, and on the moral rightness of things, to praise what he is doing and threatening to do and abandoning the innocent Americans he is doing these things to. The Republicans who are working every day to take Robert Mueller and the professionals at the FBI, and our security services who keep us safe from foreign enemies, and the professionals who work in areas of science and healthcare and justice, who regulate industry to keep poisons out of the water and the air, and teachers and university professors and social workers and people of color and abused women and wish them into the cornfield.

The Twilight Zone episode titled "It's a Good Life" was terrifying to watch because it was more real than Orwell's 1984 or Animal Farm. It was real people in a real place. It was familiar. The idea was to shiver and enjoy the momentary fear of it, knowing it would never happen here. But now it has.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Unusual Legal Theories Arising From The Trump/Russia Investigation

Among the legal privileges being claimed by the Trump White House:

Attorney Client Privilege: for conversations between Trump and his son Donald Jr. neither of whom are lawyers... Conversations in question were allegedly about how Donald Jr. could deny he'd had meetings with Russian spies when he did have meetings with Russian spies.*

Executive Privilege: commonly claimed by presidents and White Houses in the past for confidential communications with White House staff or outside advisors. But this privilege is being demanded for emails on .gov transition servers for communications during the period before Trump was president. (Does this mean Obama or W or Bill could claim executive privilege for communications after they left office? They could at least claim the title "President" for those communications.)

Right to Privacy: a sacred Constitutional right claimed by presidents and ordinary private citizens. What is odd is how the Trump team flouts that right when they applaud the hacking and release of Democrats' private messages when it's done by Russian spy agencies but demand that absolute right to privacy when they want to cover up their own communications with these same Russian spies and prevent the FBI from using them as evidence of collusion or conspiracy or treason.

Another odd hypocrisy:

With regard to the private emails and texts between two FBI employees: no privacy rights say Trump's lawyers.

But there is a sacred and profound and absolute right to privacy when it comes to Trump campaign officials communicating about their relations and dealings with Russian spies. Even when their communications were conducted on .gov servers during the transition period, and they were informed that all such communications could not be protected from criminal investigations.

So... to summarize:

If you are Trump or working for Trump and are conspiring with Russian spies you are absolutely safe from the scrutiny of the FBI or other law enforcement agencies of the U.S. government.

But if you work for the FBI or other law enforcement agencies your private, personal, non-work-related emails with your closest personal friends about your private personal constitutionally protected political opinions are not protected at all and may be selectively weaponized against you (and your boss who had nothing to do with them) and may be used to derail your career and march your ass off to work in HR purgatory.

(Agent Strzok, the former top FBI counterespionage agent now working in HR, appears to have lost his job because he was not a Trump fan and in fact found his dealings with Russian spies worrying and possibly illegal(!). But he was not a Hillary supporter either. Did not like the Clintons. He was not a Sanders supporter––he expressed contempt for Bernie in at least one unreleased email. He was, in fact, planning to vote for John Kasich. Which raises the question: Will all Kasich supporters in the FBI be exiled to HR or the FBI office in Twin Falls?)

*Attorney Client Privilege: Donald Jr.'s claim of attorney client privilege over talks with daddy could possibly be explained by phonetic confusion. In some parts of Queens the word "lawyer" is pronounced in a way that sounds very much like "liar." But in those parts of Queens the distinction between lawyers and liars is often very hard to make.

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Monday, December 18, 2017

Is the FBI Biased? And Which Way?

Lest anyone think the FBI is biased against Trump…

A year ago, just before the election, the FBI put its big fat thumb on the scale to help Trump get elected by announcing a nothingburger* reopening of its Hillary investigation.

Why did they do this?

Why did they loudly announce unfounded suspicions about Hillary at the same time they were being alerted to genuine evidentiary concerns that Trump was in bed with the Russians?

And why did they keep the Russia worries secret while going public about the bogus worries about Hillary?

Stories from various news sources indicated that the FBI’s NY office had a “white hot” hatred of Hillary Clinton. Trump cheerleader Rudy Giuliani was selling this narrative as if FBI agents' bias against her was a good thing.

Today, a year later, instead of investigating a handful of honest opinions by one FBI agent, shouldn’t we be looking at the likely much larger number of anti-Hillary emails sent around inside the deeply anti-Hillary FBI in the run up to the election?

The week before the 2016 election SLATE reported that the FBI's NY office had a deep hatred of Hillary

The Guardian reported this on November 3, 2016:

"Deep antipathy to Hillary Clinton exists within the FBI, multiple bureau sources have told the Guardian, spurring a rapid series of leaks damaging to her campaign just days before the election.

Current and former FBI officials, none of whom were willing or cleared to speak on the record, have described a chaotic internal climate that resulted from outrage over director James Comey’s July decision not to recommend an indictment over Clinton’s maintenance of a private email server on which classified information transited.

“The FBI is Trumpland,” said one current agent."

Business Insider backed up the Guardian story, saying:

"Clinton is "the Antichrist personified to a large swath of FBI personnel," they said. "The reason why they're leaking is they're pro-Trump."

This hatred for Hillary Clinton inside the FBI was the message we got via unreliable news sources like FoxNews. In 2016 Rudy Giuliani was broadcasting his inside dope from his old friends in the FBI’s NY office that all hated Hillary, apparently, and apparently loved Trump as much as Rudy did.

There was also the damning anti-Clinton story that was reported then retracted by FoxNews and the Wall Street Journal that same pre-election week. Both Fox and WSJ are owned by Rupert Murdoch and were not selected by accident to drop this false bombshell. It fed the anti-Hillary feeling that week. Retracted or not, it did its damage. The fuller story about this dirty trick collusion was reported in The Atlantic on Nov 4. The motive of the dirty tricksters was clear: destroy the Clinton presidency before it began. They ended up installing Trump instead.

Everyone blamed Comey for putting his thumb on the scale. Why had he done that? Reuters reported at the time that his hand was forced by the anti-Hillary partisans inside the bureau who planned to accuse Comey of hiding incriminating Clinton emails... which turned out not to be incriminating at all.

Mark Hosenball reported on Comey's dilemma in Reuters “FBI Director James Comey was driven in part by a fear of leaks from within his agency when he decided to tell Congress the FBI was investigating newly discovered emails related to Hillary Clinton, law enforcement sources said on Thursday.” The Atlantic summarized the bizarre twist this way: "There’s a peculiar logic to this course of action—the only way to stop an unauthorized leak interfering with the election is to turn it into an authorized annoucement!—but the suggestion that Comey is running scared is disconcerting."

Let’s see their emails? How biased is the FBI? Which way are they biased? Maybe all that we’re seeing and hearing is that the FBI has finally figured out they were played for chumps last year by the Trump campaign and the Republicans.

And by the Russians, by Putin, and Putin's spy agencies.

Maybe the FBI has discovered evidence of criminality by the Trump campaign and they are simply following it up. It looks like they are being more reticent about Trump than they were last year about Hillary.

*Re the 2016 Crooked Hillary Nothingburger: Because of the “white hot” anti-Hillary feeling in the FBI’s NY office you would expect anything of any substance that was found would have been made public. What they found may have been “irregular” or it may have simply been guarded and fearful of a law enforcement apparatus that disliked her. Perhaps they just didn’t like her attitude of defiance (some men despise that in women) but nothing was found.

In the ensuing year, after they went all out to find anything to nail Hillary with, might some people in the FBI in fact have bent over backwards to avoid nailing Mr. Trump? And mightn’t this bias have emboldened Trump and his officials to defy the law? Their laxity and evasions regarding full and truthful filings and statements seem to indicate a dangerous overconfidence, a sense that they are above the law or immune from it. Maybe the FBI has simply come to dislike the appearance that they are in Trump’s pocket, because they sense that Trump is in Putin’s pocket.

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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Republicans Are Learning To Enjoy The Taste Of Fascism

While the vandals holds the White House they also hold the Congress and the Judiciary as hostages. We can change the Congress. The courts are more permanent.

The New Yorker reports on Trump's plan to nail his regime into place via lifetime court appointments.

In Newsweek, Robert Reich describes how Trump's regime is using strategies used against organized crime to shut down the free speech of his opponents.

In the Guardian we learn that Session's DOJ is using video produced by the bogus propaganda outfit Project Veritas as evidence against people who protested at Trump's inauguration.

Recognizing the ironies won't save us. Irony is passive. We need outrage.

Think Trump is too outrageous for most people’s taste? He may win out by becoming ever more outrageous, the way Roy Moore has done, the way many outrageous autocrats have done down through history, by outrunning norms, by harnessing the anger of a minority to cow everybody else. By turning “He won’t do that” into “He did that."

At this point the Republicans in Congress seem uncomfortable with him but they are enabling him. A year ago when he boasted about sexual assault they abandoned him then quickly crawled back to him, a process they have repeated several times since as he has said and done increasingly outrageous, hateful, and insane things.

The Republicans are creeping toward fascism. They are saying they dislike it but are obviously trying very hard to get used to the taste. Soon they will ask for seconds. Then they will put it on the menu. Then it will be the only menu item. Then the menu will be made compulsory.

By refusing to seat judges appointed by an elected president for two years they violated norms. By seating and supporting this president (who the evidence increasingly indicates gained office with the help of a foreign enemy, who boasts about sexual assault, who lies daily, who hurls insults at our foreign allies and flatters foreign enemies, whose businesses have apparently engaged in massive money laundering for decades, who obsesses over conspiracy theories any ten year-old would know are bogus, who is loudly racist, who admires Nazis and Klansmen and foreign dictators, who appears to be losing his mind) the Republican Party is engaged in a bizarre ritual. They say they abhor the behaviors of this president then they solidly support and defend him.

As if they have discovered a gang rape in progress––for the past year they have said they are not in favor of what is going on and plan to halt it… just as soon as they have had their turn…

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