Friday, July 21, 2017

The Divine Right of Kings––The Trump Version

Trump seems to fancy himself an absolute monarch on the old European model. Which means he doesn’t know what the American Revolution was about.

Jonathan Chait compares Trump to the French monarchs who were deposed by the French Revolution.

Millions of Americans voted for the Trump they saw on television. Trump the tyrant. Trump the bully. Trump the tough guy. Trump the “nobody’s fool.” Trump the guy who nobody pushes around, the guy who will not take orders from anyone.

It has become clear Trump is what Hillary said he was: an obedient and craven puppet of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. (We need a list of the major policies he has refashioned to please the Russians. The latest being his reversals on Syria.)

Vanity Fair examines how Trump has been played by a better con-man than himself.

If we lacked evidence before (we didn’t) the NYTimes interview proves President Trump is astonishingly ignorant, foolish, petulant, self-centered, vindictive, paranoid, and mentally deranged. With nuclear missiles.

Slate's Will Saletan parses the bizarre NYTimes Trump interview.

VOX does its own analysis of the interview.

Trump believes the presidency he won became his personal tool, his power to use and abuse as he saw fit. And with Trump all power is there to benefit Trump and only Trump. All power is also there to punish his opponents, critics and enemies, a list that now includes everyone who doesn’t share his concept of presidential power, who doesn’t believe we live in a dictatorship.

The New Republic looks at the authoritarian potential of the Trump juggernaut.


This is nothing like Watergate, it’s far worse. There were things Nixon would not do, like pardoning his aides and himself. Also Nixon hired his burglars in America, he didn’t bring in the Russian spy agencies. Nixon let his major donors buy his California spread for him but he wasn’t bailed out of bankruptcy by Russian mobsters. Key differences. Nixon was on the hook to entrenched powers here in America but he also resented and opposed those entrenched powers, the Eastern Establishment. Trump hates the same Establishment for not admiring and accepting him so he outsourced his power base to a foreign dictatorship and its powerful criminal allies.

Comparisons are also being made with Clinton and Whitewater. No comparison. Clinton did not interfere or threaten or obstruct that investigation. The first Whitewater special counsel, a lifelong Republican, was fired for not being sufficiently ideological. They fired him for failing to find evidence of guilt and appointed a super-ideologue in Ken Starr who promised to find Clinton guilty of something. Eventually he had to rely on stories from the anti-Clinton Mellon-Scaiffe nexus to devise a trap, which eventually got the president to dissemble about his affair with Monica Lewinsky, which the inquisitors already knew about and had rigged testimony to turn any Clinton denial into perjury. The offhand total of dissembles/lies/perjuries by the current president runs into four digits and his deputies multiply that.

Michael Tomasky reminds us of how partisan the Clinton prosecution was. The Mueller investigation is one of the most urgent and necessary investigations our nation has ever seen. It's not trivial. Just as Trump is less trivial and amusing than he seems.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Sinister Idea called Public Choice Theory

From the Guardian's George Monbiot, this article explains the Big Idea of the Paul Ryan Republicans. An inhuman philosophy wrapped around contempt for human beings and a worship of property. The evil genius is a professor from George Mason University, James McGill Buchanan. The philosophy is called Public Choice Theory. The contradictions begin there, because the freedom of choice is taken away from the public and vested solely with men of great wealth. The Koch brothers were major funders of this sinister idea.

The only right recognized by the money men of the GOP and the New Right is the right to property.

“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is not something they recognize.

The only legitimate rights are those associated with property, which means rights that only exist by depriving others of those rights.

A right is not real unless you take it from someone else. This is the rights movement shaped around the impulses of the people who cut you off in traffic. Its newest expression is the legislation we are seeing in various states not to raise minimum wages but lower them or eliminate them.

Rights not attached to property or wealth are contemptible. Rights attached to individuality or humanity or talent or work are beneath contempt, hence the sacred right to own people and abuse them like cattle.

"Buchanan was strongly influenced by both the neoliberalism [sic] of Hayek and von Mises, and the property supremacism of John C Calhoun, who argued in the first half of the 19th century that freedom consists of the absolute right to use your property (including your slaves) however you may wish; any institution that impinges on this right is an agent of oppression, exploiting men of property on behalf of the undeserving masses.

“[Professor James McGill Buchanan] brought these influences together to create what he called public choice theory. He argued that a society could not be considered free unless every citizen has the right to veto its decisions. What he meant by this was that no one should be taxed against their will. But the rich were being exploited by people who use their votes to demand money that others have earned, through involuntary taxes to support public spending and welfare. Allowing workers to form trade unions and imposing graduated income taxes were forms of “differential or discriminatory legislation” against the owners of capital."

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Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Lying Game

An interesting and informative piece appeared in the LATimes. It helps explain how the truth eventually gets out.

We have a president who lies as a normal way of doing business. The mouth opens and a new lie comes out. Later, when the lie is pointed out to him, he denies he said it or he reshapes the original lie into a new one. It’s like he is updating bad software with a new version that is bad but different. This happens every day, and events change the narrative every day so the president’s lies change every day.

Because he is the President of the United States this has the disorienting effect of reshaping reality every day, sometimes hour by hour during the day. And his family and his officials do the same, often contradicting each other. The president sends his proxies out to defend something he has said or done and once the defense has been made he, the president, contradicts his defenders. When asked about it the proxies deny they have been contradicted. There is no contradiction because only the president’s truth is true, and only version that is true is the one that has not been contradicted yet.

It is a bizarre kind of theatre. If it were taking place in a single individual, friends and relatives would urge a psychological evaluation, but the insanity is not confined to one person. The person with the problem has infected us all. The advisors and trusted friends who should have, on compassionate grounds, confined the ill person somewhere safe, where he could get the proper professional care and evaluation, are more interested in having the ill person continue in office. They prefer to reconfigure our democracy and our institutions and our security bureaus and our markets and the regulatory bodies that keep our markets honest and safe, reconfiguring everything to conform to this one person's insanity which they insist is not insane at all, because what he thinks defines reality, so how could he be insane?

While Americans are forced to contort their perception of reality to make sense of what is happening they are also forced to clean out their bullshit detectors many times a day. This takes time. It fills our homes and offices with bullshit that we are processing and putting in the trash. All of this bullshit impairs our ability to function because we aren’t sure what to believe, or whether truth and facts matter anymore. Americans stop paying attention when things stop making sense. This pleases the people in the White House, and in Moscow. The Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader seem pleased too.

Because the president is constantly, visibly and embarrassingly divorced from reality things stop making sense for all of us. The behaviors of our executive branch and their allies in the Congress become illogical and unreliable too. The career professionals in our government continue to do their jobs as best they can, they persist in basing their actions on the old fashioned “reality-based” norms and procedures, but their effectiveness is inhibited by Republicans who call them “the deep state” and characterize their honesty as dishonesty and their professionalism as a kind of evil, even though these public service professionals conduct themselves according to rules and traditions set forth in the Constitution, rules and traditions established by the Founders and continued by other patriotic figures in our long national history. These Republican dystopians shout about their loyalty to the Founders and the Constitution while simultaneously discrediting everything they bequeathed to us.

How does this happen? How does the president get away with it? Why do his party allies let him get away with it? Why do they help him lie instead of getting him to be honest? The president bases his ability to lie on a sense of impunity. He lies. We know he is lying. It can be proven he is lying. But his followers don’t believe any evidence or proofs against him, they only believe him. In Trump America (which still seems to include most of the Republican Party) there is no truth but Trump’s version and there is no law except Trump’s law. Trump’s impunity isn’t only contingent upon his followers believing every lie he utters. His impunity also flows from the power of his office. 1. The president is immune from prosecution. 2. The president can pardon anyone without restraint or permission from anyone. Which means he can get away with it and everyone he stays loyal to can get away with it too. But his loyalty isn’t guaranteed to anyone, even if they are loyal to him. Trump’s loyalty is contingent and is only there if it helps Trump. This is why everyone in the White House is knifing everyone else. This, by the way, is how Rome fell. Of course here and in this century it might happen more quickly.

In a legal dystopia like Trump America the ordinary sinews and muscles of our legal system, which prosecutes criminal organizations, are somewhat paralyzed. Targets who might cooperate with prosecutors to testify against others in the criminal conspiracy are given another way out of legal jeopardy: the president can pardon them if they shut up. Also, because the Justice Department seems like it might be partially entangled in the criminal conspiracy, there is the possibility that Trump officials are misdirecting or underfunding or discouraging investigations or tipping off targets in advance so that extemporaneous bonfires can be arranged in backyards and witnesses can be pushed out of fourth story windows.

Helping journalistic investigations has its own perils. The high Republican source who informed the recent Wall Street Journal bombshell about Russians dealing in hacked DNC and Clinton material died suddenly. There’s no proof that his suicide was not a voluntary one, but considering what Russians do to witnesses and news sources they don’t like it’s not outrageous to wonder. The main argument against skulduggery is the account being carefully distributed through Republican channels. If the Russians were involved he would have fallen from a great height or been run down by a black Mercedes. It remains mysterious the way so much of what has happened since Trump’s escalator ride in 2015 remains mysterious. It takes a long time to prove things, especially when the people governing this country don’t believe in facts or truth––or are afraid of them. In some countries it takes generations for an honest society to be removed and replaced by a dishonest one. History has many unhappy examples. In the 21st century this process might go more quickly.

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Friday, July 14, 2017

How Big Data and Russian Spies Rigged Our Election (With Republican Help)

These new revelations about Kushner and Don Jr. and Manafort meeting with a Russian lawyer and (now reported) a guy from Russian intelligence begins to answer the questions raised tentatively back in March and April and May: how did the Russians know how and where to tailor and target their disinformation campaign against Hillary Clinton?

Article in Newsweek raising the question about Jared Kushner's involvement in the weaponization of the Russian propaganda.

Similar article in The Guardian

Analysis from TechCrunch

Another prescient article from TIME magazine

Like the legendary double play infield of a century ago, we need to see how the process went so devastatingly from Mercer (for the big data used for targeting the Russian disinformation) to Bannon (Mercer’s guy who ran Breitbart––a key disinformation supermarket–– and then ran the Trump campaign and now runs the White House) and Kushner (who was Trump’s deputy for handling the technology of gaming our democracy) and finally to the Republican operatives in swing states who put the Russian bots and the propaganda to work. In baseball this is admired as an art form, but deployed in an election it becomes a conspiracy, a conspiracy with a foreign power, a conspiracy with a foreign enemy.

This McClatchy article back in March examined how neatly the operations of fake news site InfoWars and propaganda site Breitbart and the Russian propaganda networks were coordinated to elect Donald Trump and block the election of Hillary Clinton. With the reins being handled at the top of the Trump campaign. And it appears, the Trump campaign being managed from the Kremlin and from a secretive big-data company called Cambridge Analytica, owned by billionaire Robert Mercer. This Atlantic article outlines Mercer's "big plans" for America.

Mercer is the evil genius who steered the UK out of Europe. How he did it there may help us see how it was done here. Article on Mercer's Brexit hijack from The Guardian.

It has been Mercer’s genius to persuade large sophisticated populations to ignore facts and logic and instead accept and obey the subliminal messages Mercer’s big data machinery puts into their brains. This article, originally published in Das Magazin from Zurich, explains how the Mercer Mindfuck works.

The Trump phenomenon is about mind control on a national scale. It’s hard for citizens of advanced western nations to comprehend this. It’s the sort of mindfucking Orwell warned about. The mass hypnotism used in communist countries. Think North Korea and now try to picture Americans engaging in these mass choreographed rallies worshipping the Dear Leader––only now the Dear Leader is an orange faced senior citizen with delusions of mastery. The mastery isn’t Trump’s, and it isn’t Kushner’s either. It’s Mercer’s and Bannon’s genius––and Rupert Murdoch’s for that matter. And the late Roger Ailes' who dreamed up the idea of a GOP propaganda television network back in the Nixon White House. The Russians have been playing a long game but it never worked until they found eager accomplices running one of America’s major political parties. And the party apparatus showed equal eagerness to follow and obey. They are still obeying their foreign masters.

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Trump White House Reaches Byzantine Levels Of Conspiracy And Betrayal

The Daily Beast's Michael Tomasky reports on a White House at war with itself.

The White House resembles ancient Rome at its backstabbing worst. They sense their leader has no loyalty to them, which pits them all against each other. In some ways this management by rivalry and betrayal is reminiscent of the management style of the Third Reich, where everyone was in a life or death competition to please the fuhrer.

This McClatchy article goes into why the Russian attack was so devastating, so effective, so well targeted, during the run-up and on election day.

Imagine that we were in a battle with a foreign enemy and one battalion in the US Army was so competitive with other Army battalions that they decided to help the enemy target another battalion on the same side. This is what happened during the 2016 election. A foreign enemy was enlisted by one side to destroy their domestic rival. The Republicans, it appears, or at least the Trump campaign, decided that America’s biggest foreign enemy (Russia) was their friend and the rival Democrats were the real enemy. (Liberal American values: Bad. Fascist Russian values: Good. Most Americans would disagree. But some, around 35 percent seem to think this way. I wish the pollsters who interview the 35% would help unpack their casual acceptance of betrayal and treason and help them confront it.)

The findings of a new study (reported by WGBH Boston) confirm that political polarization is really really bad but that it’s caused mostly by the Right (the guys who think Democrats are evil and foreign enemies are OK).

What seems fishy often is fishy. (From DailyKos) We wondered at the time why Trump fired Preet Bharara. It appears it was more than the fact Bharara had jurisdiction over Trump’s dicier business practices. It appears it was done at the behest of Russians Bharara was prosecuting.

Here is a useful article from the New Republic about the Russian money laundromat that is Trump Tower.

It’s good to hear that the investigators are going into these things. Reported by CNN ("Follow the Money" ~Deep Throat)

The devotion Trump and Kushner show toward the Russians has been shown at the end of a very firm leash. It appears to be either a monetary hold or blackmail, a harness the Trump administration may be fitting around all our necks. Reported by VOX.

A president who has no respect for law or precedent or the customs of our democracy sees all the levers of power as devices for his personal use. The weapons of the state are his weapons. Nixon tried to suborn the FBI and CIA to further his ambitions and cover up his crimes. Trump has the power to let criminals off the hook. The strongest tool law enforcement has to defeat a criminal conspiracy is the power to indict and imprison, and the ability to plea bargain to gain testimony. But (as VOX is reporting) President Trump could potentially let everyone off the hook by pardoning the whole cabal. Nixon wouldn’t do this because he had some respect for history. Trump has no compunction.

"The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee doesn't buy the Trump administration’s spin about the Donald Trump Jr. email scandal. He finds it odd that senior Trump aides keep forgetting they spoke to Russian envoys and officials. And he worries the president might pardon anyone convicted of colluding with Moscow.” (Remember that’s how W rewarded and protected Scooter Libby for exposing a CIA agent and destroying all of her networks because she had the courage to speak honestly about the absence of WMD in Iraq.)

And then there’s this Guardian piece about the Mercer brainwashing and data-manipulating machine. This is more powerful and more malignant than any so-called “deep state”. The deep state they warn us about is in fact made up of many thousands of conscientious public servants working to defend our democracy and make our institutions work for us. Mercer’s system of mass hypnotism and behavior manipulation is operated by armies of algorithms and bots devised to fulfill the designs of one man and a handful of his apparatchiks.

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Friday, July 07, 2017

Kremlingate = Rosemary's Baby

Trump is Guy Woodhouse who sells his wife to Satan for greater fame and financial gain

Putin is Beelzebub/Satan

Roman Castevet is either Steve Bannon or Paul Manafort

Kellyanne Conway is Ruth Gordon (Minnie Castevet)

Jeff Sessions is the absentminded witch played by Patsy Kelly

General Flynn is Dr. Sapirstein

Sebastian Gorka, Stephen Miller, Omarosa Manigault, Jared Kushner, Melania, Ivanka, Roger Stone, Carter Page, etc. play all the other devil-worshippers in the room at the end

Ben Carson is Dr. Bombay and is obviously in the wrong story

Soviet ambassador/spymaster Kislyak is Dr.Shand

Jeb Bush is Donald Baumgart (the actor who is blinded to advance Guy's career)

James Comey is Dr. Hill (the "good guy" who unwittingly hands Rosemary back to the Satanists)

Mr. Nicklas (Elisha Cook Jr., the apartment super) is played interchangeably by the major network anchors

Barack Obama is Hutch

Hillary is Rosemary’s friend Terry who gets thrown out of an upstairs window (very Russian)

We are Rosemary

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Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Unproven doesn't always mean Untrue

The Atlantic's McKay Coppins posted an excellent cautionary piece on the hazards of believing rumor sites.

The Guardian has a good article today about how the Russians weaponized unfounded accusations to spread doubt among Democrats.

The difficulty is sorting Not-Proven from Not-True.

This is the key misstep Woodstein made during their Watergate coverage, reporting something that was true in a way that was poorly sourced and could be denied, jumping to a false conclusion (Haldeman was indeed complicit but their source had not said so to the Grand Jury because he wasn’t asked. If he had been asked he’d have fingered Haldeman. This misstep led to their editor explaining how if they aim too high and miss they all––all the culprits––feel safer.)

Not Proven does not mean Not True. It can turn out to be untrue. The argument in favor of its being true flows from the probable cause that motivates the inquiry. The smoke/fire test. Reporters and grand juries do not like to waste time on false stories. Not unless they are captive to a prejudiced narrative, as happens with biased news operations and prejudiced legal systems.

But we are in a bewildering logical environment where doubt is an industry. Teaching and selling skepticism of scientific consensus is an industry. Disbelief of truth and belief in falsehood is aggressively taught by one side as a patriotic virtue. Their obedient followers make the Right quicker to mobilize. Conservative voters’ lack of any doubts about their own narrative makes their anger easier to channel and activate.

Progressives and liberals tend to be skeptical and demand facts, but when the Left feels ten steps behind the Right in a key race, we sometimes jump the gun. Which then tends to increase our hesitancy once we’ve discovered an error. It increases our uncertainty and makes us more vulnerable to subsequent scams. “Better to not do anything than to do something foolish.”

That is the kind of weaponized doubt the Russian bots and trolls set loose on the Democrats, aiming specifically at Democrats in key swing states. (I suspect a lot of women hesitated to vote for Hillary because they were afraid they might elect a first woman president who ended up being charged as a criminal or tarred with one of the many bogus accusations the Russians were disseminating.)

Skepticism is unequally distributed Right and Left. The Right is only skeptical toward the Left while persons on the Left have a tendency to have some level of skepticism across the board.

From Quora: are liberals more gullible than conservatives? (No.)

From MotherJones: the brain differences between conservatives and liberals.

The MSM’s rule of reporting only what was firmly sourced and true tended to protect Trump from the worst accusations sticking because Republicans believed Not Proven meant False as it related to negative stories about Trump. Anything negative about Hillary was assumed to be true, which was demonstrated by the outrageousness of some of the stories. They disbelieved the outrageous truth about Trump but believed the blatant falsehoods about Hillary.

There is also the “fair and balanced” standard, the false equivalency habit among avid news consumers: if something awful is reported about a Republican it is only fair to assume equally awful must be true about their opponent.

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