Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Dark Holes Fascism and Racism Crawl Out From

Many sides? That's how Trump tried to defend his followers in the white supremacist fringe.*

There are two distinct sides in this, just as there were in 1941, when one side attacked peaceful neighbors and exterminated millions, and the other side (the Allies) opposed fascism and defeated it.

There were two clear sides in 1861; one defended slavery and bigotry, the other side opposed these evils. This film from the 40s states what our values were after we fought and won WW2, when we knew the difference between good and evil.

The WW2 era film explaining why we fought fascism can be seen via The Atlantic

But the Nazi flags are back, carried by people who think they are great patriots upholding a better America, a pure white America. Seeing the Nazi and Confederate flags together carried by armed mobs shouting bigotry and hate down the public street is disturbing, especially because these people believe themselves to be patriotic––while telling us that the United States should have been defeated in WW2 and the Civil War. They believe American values of democracy and tolerance should not prevail. They believe that the men and women who died for those values died for nothing, or, worse, that they died for false values. They may carry the U.S. flag along with their enemy flags but they are not patriots.

Here’s another video making the rounds, from the NRA. This is the organization that arms the Right and inflames their dreams of “purifying" this country the way Germany “purified” itself in the 1940s, by force of arms. The NRA urges “real Americans" to arm themselves against “the other”, the person who looks or thinks or worships differently. Note that it was the Nazis and Confederates who came to Charlottesville armed.

You can watch the virulent NRA hate propaganda spot here at ThinkProgress

It appears that the NRA gets considerable support and aid from Russia, America’s longtime global foe and Trump’s greatest ally.

The NRA's coziness with Russia is discussed here, at Medium

Fascism, bigotry, authoritarianism, violent suppression of people's rights. These strains crawl out of the same hole. It turns out the Nazis got many of their ideas from the American South.

Business Insider goes into how the founders of Nazism looked to the American South and its race laws to devise the Nuremberg Laws that looted and repressed and finally exterminated the Jews of Europe

*It's being argued that Trump derived the points his more aggressive statement yesterday from the predominant right wing propaganda machine in America today, FoxNews. This is laid out in a video comparison from MediaMatters.

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Friday, August 04, 2017

A White House Run By Remote Control

New from the Daily Beast: an article about National Security Advisor McMaster's efforts to rid the White House of a dangerous infestation. It started me thinking.

Imagine a personal enemy had a remote control device so he could get you to do things you wouldn’t otherwise do, like walking up to a stranger and picking a fight or phoning your most important friend and accusing him of things, destroying the friendship, or behaving irrationally in public causing a loss of confidence and trust.

I worry that Russia has a whole array of remote control devices they’ve implanted in our collective brain, in our national Republican leadership, in our White House, and implanted by White House appointment in various other top strategic posts.

Reading this DailyBeast article this morning suggests this concern may be shared by some of the national security professionals, including General McMaster, who is trying to remove people put in place by General Michael Flynn, who was himself removed once his ties to Russia were revealed. What ties might Flynn’s appointees have with Russia, or with Russian proxies? How did these White House officials land where they did? Who put them there? Who are they loyal to? Who pulls their strings? People being manipulated from outside should not get into top White House posts.

There is a lot we don’t know, but we are the public, it’s not our job to know. We trust the government to do this. The vetting and clearing of key national security appointees is a serious task, and it appears that it was not done fully and responsibly. Who was in charge of this? Who ran the transition from the Obama Administration to the Trump Administration? Whose job was it to check the new people out? That means not accepting the word of some friend of the president who gave a million dollars or was hired to run his campaign. Several people ran Trump’s campaign. One of them is now the focus of a grand jury investigation, possibly two, as is the former general who was Trump’s global strategic mastermind. Who vetted these people? Nobody, apparently. They came in on the nod.

The person charged with taking resumés and deciding who filled what role in the new administration was Vice President Mike Pence. Pence has spent the past year looking interviewers in the eye and praising the expertise and trustworthiness and honesty of the president and everyone around him, and the president and staff have mostly turned out to be dishonest, non-expert stumblebums no sane person would trust with anything. (This embarrassing incompetence may be separate from the apparent manipulation by the Russians, but they might be part of the same thing. One thing the Russians would like is for us to malfunction. We are malfunctioning in a major way now.)

Mike Pence is like the upright, square-jawed, white haired, cardboard figure we've seen in hundreds of corruption scandals, the handsome plausible stooge the crooks put in place to mollify the shareholders while they loot the operation. The role President Warren G. Harding served during the Teapot Dome Scandal.

There are indications that Pence is being positioned as the hero who will ride in and replace Trump when he resigns or is removed. He’s been touring our eastern European allies reassuring them that the U.S. is not as unreliable as President Trump is. However disastrous Trump has been for our alliances and our global security, Pence has been part of that, enabling him, defending him, fending off questions which should have been answered months ago but weren’t because the Republican Party in control, if they didn’t feel entirely comfortable with Trump, did feel comfortable with Mike Pence, the plausible white-haired square-jawed cardboard former governor who stumbled out of that job into this one because nobody else wanted it.

Does the White House have a dangerous rat infestation? Maybe the word mole should be used here instead. Echoes of LeCarré novels and the Burgess/Philby/McClean/Blunt/Blake infestation the Brits didn’t figure out for decades. The Brits also had a serious vetting flaw. I can hear Pence saying the same thing about the applicants for various jobs in the White House security staff: “He’s O.K. He’s 'one of us.’”

There are those who trust Mike Pence to deal with any succession plan like he dealt with the serious work of vetting the Trump team. I’m guessing Pence did this by praying about it. Praying didn’t work so well. And I don’t think you can pray away an infestation like the one they’ve set in place. First of all, moles pray to a different god entirely.

The mindset of the entire Republican apparatus in Washington has been the old familiar one that always fails: If they ignore it and keep people from mentioning it, maybe the problem will just go away. Rather than expending any diligent effort on it, they pray over it. But it won’t work. Trump and his GOP have made the U.S. unreliable and unlikable and a laughingstock around the world. If an enemy of ours had implanted a remote control device to make our government malfunction they probably hoped it would turn out this way but they didn’t expect it to turn out so well.

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Thursday, August 03, 2017

The Firehose of Falsehood

"Trump’s chronic duplicity may be pathological, as some experts have suggested. But what else might be going on here? In fact, the 45th president’s stream of lies echoes a contemporary form of Russian propaganda known as the 'Firehose of Falsehood.'"

It's got a NAME. Firehose of Falsehood. Start using that phrase. From MotherJones

There are whole armies and battalions of lies being deployed in all directions with the goal of overwhelming our sense of reality. Besides the daily false denials of offenses they perpetrated the day before, there is the all-important counter narrative. (If you are up against a highly qualified opponent accuse that opponent, baselessly, outrageously, of running a child pornography operation out of a mom-and-pop pizza restaurant.)

The new counter narrative they have invented to oppose the Russian collusion story, which is based on evidence, is a bogus story claiming a murdered 23 year old Democrat was behind the election hack. It appears this bogus and offensive counter narrative was cooked up with the full complicity and supervision of the White House.

From the Daily Beast

"The White House and Fox’s motivation to push the false story was to “lift the cloud” of the Russia investigation, Wheeler claims in the lawsuit.

“One of the big conclusions we need to draw from this is that the Russians did not hack our computer systems and ste[a]l emails and there was no collusion like [T]rump with the Russians,” Butowsky allegedly wrote in emails to Fox News producers and anchors promoting the piece."

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Wednesday, August 02, 2017

False Narratives Are Part Of The FoxNews Brand

Ari Melber's interview with the private investigator who is suing FoxNews reveals key details about how FoxNews and the Trump White House tried to fabricate an alternate narrative to distract from the looming Russia collusion scandal.

This is how the Murdoch companies work. They see political advantage for the Right in distorting and corrupting legitimate investigations and exploiting real tragedies to do this. In this case it appears the goal was to discredit the investigations into Trump collusion with the Russians.

While Trump complains that our legitimate news media fabricates “fake news” the real fake news industry is based at FoxNews and appears to be working under the close direction of this White House.

Bill Moyers lists some of the other false narratives cooked up by the Right to confuse the public.

The Hill reports on Trump's very own news program, loyally and cheerfully and blandly and blondely reported by his blonde daughter-in-law, who is married to his blond son. "Bow! Bow! To the Daughter-In-Law-Elect!" ~The Mikado

A free society with a functioning democracy relies on the existence of a vigorous and honest press to guarantee the public has good information, that the public can trust its information, that the public can trust they are not being tricked or deceived.

But in Trump World honest news is the enemy. They have created what Orwell warned us about: a dictatorship of lies, in which the Truth is called a lie and the regime’s own self-manufactured Big Lies are fed to the public as gospel.

The Murdoch media and the Trump White House see news media as a political tool and a political weapon, divorced from truth and reality. Because truth and reality endanger the Trump regime. Because truth and reality undermine their power.

Because the Trump regime holds this cynical belief they think everyone else does too, that their opponents are just as cynical and dishonest. They cheat because they believe everyone cheats. They lie because they believe everyone lies. Of course every story that embarrasses Trump or the Republicans must be a lie.

Remember, FoxNews was originally dreamed up in the Nixon White House, the brainchild of Roger Ailes, then a Nixon staffer. Dishonest beginnings.

Ailes wanted to call it GOP-TV: a news source where everything was Republican spin and every story was a Republican weapon. When Rupert Murdoch learned about it he loved it. He put it together in the mid-90s as FoxNews and put Ailes in charge. The goal: to discredit and destroy the Clintons and the Clinton presidency.

There is a clear pattern here. The Seth Rich murder conspiracy theory resembles the fixation about Benghazi but ultimately harks back to the never-ending tabloid accusations that the Clintons had murdered their close friend and White House staffer Vince Foster. The story was pushed for years, not in the form of actual facts but with Fox personalities asking leading questions about Vince Foster’s death, substantiating the unfounded speculation, not with any evidence, but by raising their eyebrows and nodding. This was also the method used to charge and prosecute Hillary Clinton in the media for the “murder" of ambassador Chris Stevens. FoxNews kept the false narrative alive and Trey Gowdy and Darryl Issa’s inquisition in Congress kept the viewers glued to FoxNews. This is how the Murdoch press operates, carefully coordinated with the right wing faction in Washington. A poisonous symbiotic relationship.

Meanwhile innocent people are incriminated unfairly and grieving families are victimized.

In the UK, remember, the Murdoch press distorted and corrupted the Scotland Yard investigation of the murder of a young girl, hacking into the dead girl’s phone and preying on the grief of the girl’s parents. Frontline covered the Murdoch phone hacking scandal in detail on PBS.

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Tuesday, August 01, 2017

A Question We Should Be Asking

How many generals does it take before you call it a junta?

(I noticed Seven Days In May was on the TCM schedule last month.)

Russiagate: Do We Follow the Money or Follow the Dead Bodies?

Follow the Money:

From USAToday (middle America's newspaper) there's this story about Trump's fear that his finances will be looked into. It's a rational fear, but it's making him irrational.

"The [Mueller] investigation could shine renewed light on eyebrow-raising deals from Trump’s past, such as his 2008 sale of a South Florida mansion to Russian tycoon Dmitry Rybolovlev for $95 million or the international financing behind a condo-hotel he developed with foreign partners in New York’s SoHo neighborhood.

"It could also pierce the increasing secrecy around who is buying real estate from Trump. A USA TODAY investigation last month revealed that 70% of Trump real estate sales since he won the GOP nomination were to secretive shell companies, compared to 4% in the two years before that. The clear shift to those kinds of purchases, which help obscure the identities of the buyers, raise questions about the source of profits that ultimately flow to the President because he has not fully divested from his companies."

There's also this USAToday story about Trump's financial dealings and the cookie crumbs leading to Moscow.

Follow the Dead Bodies:

From BuzzFeed, there is this story about the latest murder of a witness before he could testify in the Russia investigation.

"Vladimir Putin’s former media czar was murdered in Washington, DC, on the eve of a planned meeting with the US Justice Department, according to two FBI agents whose assertions cast new doubts on the US government’s official explanation of his death.

"Mikhail Lesin’s battered body was discovered in his Dupont Circle hotel room on the morning of Nov. 5, 2015, with blunt-force injuries to the head, neck, and torso. After an almost yearlong "comprehensive investigation," a federal prosecutor announced last October that Lesin died alone in his room due to a series of drunken falls “after days of excessive consumption of alcohol.” His death was ruled an "accident," and prosecutors closed the case.

"But the two FBI agents — as well as a third agent and a serving US intelligence officer — said Lesin was actually bludgeoned to death. None of these officials were directly involved in the government’s investigation, but they said they learned about it from colleagues who were.

"“Lesin was beaten to death,” one of the FBI agents said. “I would implore you to say as much. There seems to be an effort here to cover up that fact for reasons I can't get into.”"

This article from The Atlantic covers the testimony of William Browder regarding the murder-in-custody of his lawyer, which prompted the Magnitsky Act sanctions in the first place.

"There are approximately ten thousand officials in Russia working for Putin who are given instructions to kill, torture, kidnap, extort money from people, and seize their property. Before the Magnitsky Act, Putin could guarantee them impunity and this system of illegal wealth accumulation worked smoothly. However, after the passage of the Magnitsky Act, Putin’s guarantee disappeared. The Magnitsky Act created real consequences outside of Russia and this created a real problem for Putin and his system of kleptocracy.

"For these reasons, Putin has stated publicly that it was among his top foreign policy priorities to repeal the Magnitsky Act and to prevent it from spreading to other countries. Since its passage in 2012, the Putin regime has gone after everybody who has been advocating for the Magnitsky Act.

"One of my main partners in this effort was Boris Nemtsov. Boris testified in front of the U.S. Congress, the European Parliament, the Canadian Parliament, and others to make the point that the Magnitsky Act was a “pro-Russian” piece of legislation because it narrowly targeted corrupt officials and not the Russian people. In 2015, Boris Nemtsov was murdered on the bridge in front of the Kremlin.

"Boris Nemtsov’s protégé, Vladimir Kara-Murza, also traveled to law-making bodies around the world to make a similar case. After Alexander Bastrykin, the head of the Russian Investigative Committee, was added to the Magnitsky List in December of 2016, Vladimir was poisoned. He suffered multiple organ failure, went into a coma and barely survived.

"The lawyer who represented Sergei Magnitsky’s mother, Nikolai Gorokhov, has spent the last six years fighting for justice. This spring, the night before he was due in court to testify about the state cover up of Sergei Magnitsky’s murder, he was thrown off the fourth floor of his apartment building. Thankfully he survived and has carried on in the fight for justice."

And while Putin is whacking witnesses and Trump is trying to kill investigations, the Republican apparatus is busy cooking up bogus stories like the one Seth Rich's family is filing suit over. Any time there is a murder the Right will seek to pin it on Democrats.

Trump admires Putin. Trump envies Putin for his ability to assert power however he wishes. Putin is Trump’s role model. Trump would like to change America to make it more like Russia, more of a brutal autocracy in which the elite loots the nation’s wealth and evades the taxes everyone else pays. So what else is new? We already knew all this. Trump has planned all along to turn the United States into a kleptocracy.

A new piece from VOX about Trump's plans for American kleptocracy.

Putin’s Russia is not a free market economy but a kleptocracy, in which Putin skims billions off of every transaction and every deal, in which nobody has wealth or power without Putin taking his cut. What happens to this massive wealth is not good for Russians because it is parked offshore. A lot of it appears to have been laundered through high end real estate transactions here in the U.S., some of them via Trump and Kushner and their associates. (Trumps Commerce Secretary owned and ran a Cypriot bank that was one of the favorite money-laundries used by Putin’s oligarch cronies.) Think of these helpful real estate tycoons as fences receiving stolen goods, in this case those goods are the wealth of an entire country. You might say this isn’t important to Americans, that it may even be good for Americans because they are parking their billions here. The danger is the corruption of our economy, and the corruption of our democracy if our president is a willing money launderer and a co-conspirator with a global criminal gang.

Is it safe for us to think of all these billions being invested in U.S. real estate as a good thing with no down side? The wealth that the Nazis stole from the Jews of Germany and Europe was rationalized to the German people as a confiscation that would benefit them, but it corrupted them and it murdered six million Jews/liberals/gays/minorities; millions of German gentiles also died in the catastrophe that ensued.

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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Recommended Viewing: Putin's Gingerbread Cottage

The sweet Russian grandmother says “Come into my gingerbread house. It’s nice inside.” Since this isn’t the age of fairy tales we are less suspicious of gingerbread houses than we should be. If the business looks smart and the brochure is impressive and they do what they say they’ll do in the brochure people eat the gingerbread and don’t worry about it. But aftereffects sometimes take a while to kick in. It now appears possible, even likely, that the Russian hack of our system extends to a ubiquitous security software that millions of Americans and key departments of our government use on their computers.

I recommend watching this hourlong special report from Richard Engel of NBCNews.

Most Americans assume what is available is automatically safe, but lax regulation does let a lot of bad actors loose in our economy. Is Kaspersky Labs a bad actor doing bad things, or are they simply another case of someone within the Putin’s reach who’s been pulled into Putin's global operation. Either way, the results are bad. Suppose Kaspersky is simply a good computer security company with a Russian name. That isn’t reassuring. If you are a Russian who lives in Russia, who has a company in Russia, you are within Putin’s reach. If you are a big success in Russia and are not cooperative when Putin asks you may find yourself thrown from a high window or poisoned or gunned down. Nobody in Russia becomes a big player without Putin having his hand in it. Nobody in Russia crosses Putin or refuses him without suffering for it.

It appears that Trump walked into Russia’s gingerbread cottage a couple of decades ago. They reinflated his deflated and bankrupt companies (and ego.) It was in last year’s election that Trump became weaponized. Consider how many of Trump’s top people were also employed by or financially sustained by Putin or his gang of Russian oligarchs. Consider how many Russians who were in a position to know what happened in the 2016 election hack who are now dead, and how they died. Consider how desperate Trump is to hide his financial information. Consider how obedient Trump and his team were to Russian demands and interests…until Americans were informed about this by the Times and the Post and the Wall Street Journal and CNN and NBC and MSNBC and Reuters and McClatchy News Service and Bloomberg and others.

Putin may have wished for an American puppet president, but he never dreamed he would get one. If Trump has been a puppet he has already done his job for his master. The American government is paralyzed. (With the White House and Congress both in Republican hands you may wonder how many Republicans in Congress are also on the hook to Putin.) Worse, the whole western alliance is paralyzed and thrown into chaos. Putin, via Trump, has decapitated the western world that opposed his intrusions into neighboring states and his many violent repressions at home. The western alliance opposed Russia so Russia hacked elections to change the changeable minds of his opponents. He hacked the Republican Party by making them his stooges. The Democrats were not going to be his stooges so he neutralized their candidates via cyberwarfare, The Republicans were either willing accomplices or (perhaps worse) they were stooges and played along because they saw mutual benefits. The Republican voter should be as angry or angrier than the Democrats because they were used. Their leaders pulled them into a criminal conspiracy that amounts to treason. It’s treason because it violated our democracy by conspiring with a foreign enemy. The Republicans surrendered our autonomy. Their clever operatives surrendered American sovereignty as surely as the Petain Vichy government did in France and the Quisling government did in Norway. The Republican Party gave its official face to the Russian operation and now must cover it up.

A recent Bloomberg article about Kaspersky Labs and the Russian spy agencies.

A Reuters article on the same topic.

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Our New Kleptocracy

The Guardian has a more detailed picture of how millions looted by Russian oligarchs (mobsters) has been laundered through high end real estate in the U.S.

"The ties between Trump family real estate deals and Russian money interests are attracting growing interest from the justice department’s special counsel, Robert Mueller, as he seeks to determine whether the Trump campaign collaborated with Russia to distort the outcome of the 2016 race. Mueller has reportedly expanded his inquiry to look at real estate deals involving the Trump Organization, as well as Kushner’s financing.

"Leviev, a global tycoon known as the “king of diamonds”, was a business partner of the Russian-owned company Prevezon Holdings that was at the center of a multimillion-dollar lawsuit launched in New York. Under the leadership of US attorney Preet Bharara, who was fired by Trump in March, prosecutors pursued Prevezon for allegedly attempting to use Manhattan real estate deals to launder money stolen from the Russian treasury.

"The scam had been uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky, an accountant who died in 2009 in a Moscow jail in suspicious circumstances. US sanctions against Russia imposed after Magnitsky’s death were a central topic of conversation at the notorious Trump Tower meeting last June between Kushner, Donald Trump Jr, Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin."

Con men use a trick called the three card monte or the bait and switch. One hand distracts the eye while the theft is accomplished by the other. Trump isn’t the only con man in this story. Putin is a thief of monumental proportions. He’s been looting his country for decades, laundering the money he’s stolen through high end real estate worldwide. Trump and Kushner are either happy collaborators or well-paid stooges. Are the Russians invading our country? Not in the strictest sense, but they are attacking it, with help.

They, Trump and his Russian friends, stole our election, or helped steal it, which seems less damaging than, say, invading us bodily. But how many die in an invasion? We’ve never been invaded so we don’t know. But Russia has been invaded a few times. The last time was World War II. Millions of Russians died. Russian casualties in WWII are hard to pin down. Estimates say around 9 million dead and 23 million wounded or wasted by disease brought on by war and deprivation. Big numbers.

Estimates by our CBO indicate around 22 million Americans will lose their access to healthcare if Trumpcare becomes law and Obamacare goes away. They are slipping it to us three-card-monte-fashion, while we are distracted by mass rallies and daily revelations about Trump administration crimes and daily Twitter tantrums by the president. It’s estimated 45,000 more Americans will die if deprived of healthcare, so only a half million will die in the decade covered by the estimate, but millions would get sicker and stay sicker and die younger and probably die bankrupt in the process––the way our ancestors did. Prior to the New Deal and the Great Society of FDR and LBJ old people died poor and poor people died young. Democratic policies ended that, temporarily it seems, because the Republicans have fought back, making things more dysfunctional and more ruinously expensive for the least fortunate among us. This is the reality in Russia, where the vast majority are poorer every year and the life expectancy is 13 years less than here in the US––and ten years less than China. Trump role model as national leader is Putin, who has degraded life in Russia during his rule.

Don’t kid yourself: Trump would love to lower our life expectancy by war as well as by deprivation. He loves seeing things go boom but slow death also seems to please him. Judging by the first six months of his rule the goal is to do maximum harm to the maximum number by every means available. It might happen if the gang running this game are able to fire the investigators coming after them. And if they are able to screw 23 million Americans out of their healthcare. If they do they will call it a big win and hold rallies where we can all celebrate our degradation.

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