Friday, November 17, 2017

Keeping Our Eye On The Ball

While the Congress enacts mass transfers from working people to the very rich we can't let ourselves forget why this is happening and how it happened.

This kleptocratic government that's screwing us is set up along the lines of Russia's kleptocracy. The rubles that Putin is using to buy our government was first stolen from his own people. Now it's our turn.

Why does Trump defer to Putin and act like he’s Putin’s poodle?

From NYMagazine: Trump defers to Putin like he's his boss

How Putin got his hooks into Trump, explained by former intel director

John McClaughlin in Politico

How Trump walked into Putin's web.

The Long Read from the Guardian

How Trump is being played by Putin…

In Vanity Fair

When our leader is under the thumb of an enemy power, this stuff happens… His administration puts our Russian embassy in the control of the Russians.

From the BBC: How Trump gave our Moscow embassy security operations to Putin's former KGB boss

Putin's control over Trump via an army of trolls. From Bloomberg

Why are open democracy’s vulnerable? From the New Yorker

Trump has fascist tendencies, says Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz in the Guardian.

Trump is corrupt, therefore his administration is corrupt. It does as he does. Reported by VOX

There is a new media model out there to enable and empower dictators and suppress and manipulate people. Trump loves it.

The global armies of fake news trolls being used to fuck with democracy, reported in the Guardian.

With Trump in the White House, the mob is in control. But the mob is under his control. And he is under Putin’s control. And the control of the billionaire class. Only they get real information, by sucking it up via our social media. What they force back out on us via social media is disinformation. Which is why they fear real journalists and real journals. From the NYTimes

The key to fascism is to routinely and vigorously poison the public discourse, make people fear and hate each other. Trump learned this trick from Putin.

In the New York Review of Books, the great Russia watcher Masha Gessen.

Why do Americans feel more stressed and afraid than ever? Because they can sense our democracy is in peril. Along with our entire planet. Reported out by APA

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Trump And The End Of American Democracy

The authors of new books about Trump's degradation of American democracy appeared on Morning Joe today.

The Steel Dossier allegations are being corroborated making it clearer all the time that Putin had his hooks into Donald Trump from the beginning. That Donald Trump has been and continues to be a Putin puppet.

What does Putin want? Besides overturning the sanctions the US imposed on his oligarchs after the invasion of Crimea, Putin wants to create chaos in the U.S.

Where have we heard that before?

Chaos is Steve Bannon's brand

Steve Bannon has compared himself to Lenin, which is odd enough for a right wing operator. His overarching theory or goal is to create chaos. He has said this repeatedly in his safari jacket TED style talks. He sees this moment as his “Fourth Wave” where the whole system is overturned. He thinks of himself as a Robespierre figure, a Lenin, an agent of mass destruction tearing down democratic institutions he doesn’t like. His goal, apparently, is to create a new American dictatorship with himself at the top, securely fastened there by his connections to shadowy billionaires whose fortunes came from disruption.

We see the damage he’s doing in every government department where Trump has appointed disruptors to top positions. The nominees may just as well have been sent from Moscow. The Dept of Energy, which safeguards our nuclear stockpile, is run by a doofus who wanted to shut down the department. His Health chief was a pawn of big Pharma. His Environmental Protection chief built his career on defending and lobbying for polluters. Their mission is focused on destruction and dysfunction.

Putin whispers in Trump’s ear and Trump insults our allies, undermines our alliances, rubbishes our treaties, exits global agreements American leadership crafted, seeks to pit one ally against the others. And then Trump gives big warm kisses to the worst dictators and kleptocrats around the world. He admires and envies the skill with which democracies have been destroyed and coups have been accomplished. He envies the mass murders of Duterte in the Philippines. He does nothing when Turkish dictator Erdogan brings his dark-suited thugs into the heart of Washington to attack and brutally beat peaceful protesters. This is the style Trump admires and envies. This is how Trump has disgraced the American brand and degraded American leadership in the world.

The Trump junta has had a plan from the start: destroy American democracy and the American way of life, create an angry mob, and ride that angry mob into dictatorial power.

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Monday, November 13, 2017

James II/ Duke of Windsor/ Nixon/ Trump

It's easy to see troubling historic parallels in Trump's behavior as president. Is Trump turning America into a client state like Vichy France? Like Jacobean England? Like the client state Hitler hoped to install––with the Duke of Windsor restored as a puppet king? He also appears to be in the pocket of wealthy Americans, the way Nixon was. That has been a concern in America for decades, but domestic puppetry is less worrying than having foreign puppet masters.

Here are some parallels from history.

James II [like Trump] was compliant and deferential to a foreign power, the French “Sun King”, Louis XIV, who [like Putin] gave him massive financial support. James II was on a foreign allowance. It appears Trump has been on a foreign allowance for decades now.

The Duke of Windsor [like Trump] was flattered, manipulated and seduced by the Nazis [think Putin] who feted him and flattered him and squired him around during his Nazi-paid tour of Germany in 1937. (There's considerable evidence Windsor shared secrets of the allies' defense plans with his Teutonic pals and made it easier for the Germans to blitz France in 1940.)

I also see resemblances between Trump and the way Nixon was bribed by the committee of California bankers, oilmen and real estate magnates who paid into his slush fund in the early 50s––after Nixon made it clear he couldn’t get by on the measly salary paid to members of Congress. The Checkers speech fooled a lot of Americans. Anthony Summers’ Nixon book picks those deceptions apart pretty effectively. Nixon’s financial allowance from his rich backers came in the form of a slush fund, which he hid and denied. Bribery? Slush Fund? Or proper Tribute to a Great Man? Which way do you think Nixon interpreted it? Trump does the same.

If you were to look at these two analogies in a single context, what Trump is involved in seems to fit the definitions of both treason and bribery. Because of his narcissism it’s possible Trump doesn’t understand what treason is. But he appears to have been bribed and lived on bribery from Russia since his empire collapsed in the 90s. He’s lived like a wastrel heir dependent on an allowance managed by his guardians, who are Russian not American. America let him go bankrupt. America refused to bankroll his life ever since, but Daddy Russia does support him, giving him the respect he deserves. The respect a dog owner gives to the pug sitting on his lap.

Nixon’s rationalization for accepting money from wealthy backers resembles Benedict Arnold’s rationalization for his treason: he deserved better pay. And Arnold subsequently felt a greater loyalty toward those who paid him what he was worth. Gen. Arnold also felt slighted by his countrymen’s failure to recognize his genius, which fits the ease with which Putin can manipulate Trump via flattery and praise. (Nixon was less easily manipulated in this manner.)

The Duke of Windsor’s tour of Nazi Germany was one long parade of military pomp and fancy parties, very much like the Asian tour which has transformed Trump from someone who accuses China of rape and theft into someone who happily praises the Chinese and shifts all blame onto his fellow Americans.

Trump has a reputation for loving military pomp. He envies the Russian parades of nuclear missiles and probably even envies the North Koreans’ mass rallies and parades. When these displays are put on for him he is putty in their hands because he is told it is all for him. They bring out all the toys for him which his own people won’t let him play with.

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Friday, November 10, 2017

Putin's Plan For US

If a foreign enemy wanted to harm the U.S., wanted to knock us out of our dominant position in the world, what would they do?

The first thing they’d probably do is blind us so we can’t see what is going on in the world.

They’d make us mute so we couldn’t assert ourselves or persuade other nations to find common cause.

That is what has been happening this past year under the Trump presidency.

VOX reports on what Trump is doing to our State Department

Rachel Maddow reporting on the same story

Rachel Maddow has been telling this story for months now. (Her report back in March) Trump’s degradation of our State Dept, our eyes and ears and voice in the world, is exactly what a foreign enemy would want done if they wanted to knock us out of our leadership position in the world, wanted to make us impotent.

Why are so many people becoming a obsessively focused on the Russia story? Because it fits what is happening. It explains what is happening. The puzzling events of this past year make more sense when you acknowledge this unthinkable possibility.

As the Russia connections among Trump appointees multiply you begin to realize this is the kind of administration Putin would appoint––if we let Putin appoint our government…

Politico lays out the web of Trump/Russia connections

CNN describes the cast of characters

The #2 post in the Executive Branch is the Secretary of State. Trump appointed Rex Tillerson, whose most notable accomplishment was his recent mega oil deal with Putin. For which Putin gave him Russia’s most prestigious medal. Tillerson’s oil deal was iced after Putin invaded Ukraine. Is this Tillerson’s main motive for taking the post? If Putin wanted to appoint our Secretary of State I think he would have picked Rex Tillerson. Someone who shares his, Putin’s, interests and goals.

It goes beyond Tillerson. The Secretary of Commerce is Wilbur Ross, co-owner of the Russian oligarchy’s favorite money laundering bank, a business partner with Putin’s son-in-law. Wilbur Ross's Russia connection via the Guardian

Trump’s campaign was run during the key period where he won nomination by Paul Manafort, who earned millions advancing Putin’s interests, including switching a plank in the party platform that armed independent Ukraine with one that didn’t. Manafort earned his Russian millions strategizing for pro-Russians in Ukraine hoping to return Ukraine to the Russian empire.

There are more, officials high and low, some of them pro-Russian, some simply eager to do things the Russians would love to see us do to ourselves. Degrading education, degrading our environment, degrading alliances, breaking agreements, sowing disunity abroad and at home, abandoning key strategies like the ones opposing climate change (our military has called climate change our biggest current and future threat globally.) Putin has to be enormously pleased at all the stupid shit we are doing to ourselves. He must be astonished that our president and his team are happy to oblige.

Did Putin appoint the president and his team?

Why were the Republicans cool with this?

The Ballad of Sam Clovis via NYMagazine

The sorry saga of Jared's Russia complicity from the Atlantic

From MSNBC, the long story of Trump's Russia connections

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Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Gift Ideas for Republicans in Congress

Early in the year a game designer who worried about the fascist tendencies of President* Trump sent his new game about the rise of Hitler to all the members of the US Senate.

Reported in AdWeek

I suspect it had more of an effect on Democrats. Republicans may not love Trump but they think they can work with him, can get what they want through him…. that, by helping him, he will help them. Like business leaders said about Hitler “He’s a man we can do business with."

This is disturbingly reminiscent of the complacency shown by German liberals and non-fascist conservatives in the 1930s. Of course after Hitler got these enablers to pass the Enabling Act of 1933 a lot of them wound up in concentration camps. The Nazi juggernaut had begun.

Should we be sending games to members of Congress?

Or should we send books? Will they play the games or read the books?

Gift Idea #1: HITLERLAND




Or is Godwin’s Law so fixed in people’s minds that they think Nazi comparisons are verboten. In fact Godwin himself has said the comparisons are indeed valid.

From the Independent

From Esquire

Trump is Hitlerian and growing moreso. His followers are fascists and bigots, there’s no mincing words about that. This is not a time to be polite about it. We are re-entering the 1930s.

Since Christmas is coming, maybe it would be persuasive to send a book this year. Send a book about the unlikely and avoidable rise of Hitler to our Republican friends who seem blind to history.

It is a teachable moment among liberals and Democrats too. In 1933, it wasn’t only right wingers who helped Hitler gain power, it was also Goldilocks liberals and leftists who demanded purity and perfection and refused to compromise with each other and refused to work together––who wound up promoting the monster on the other side. They wound up in concentration camps, many of them dead.

Maybe we should be sending hundreds of cautionary books to our political leaders this holiday season. It can happen here. (It almost happened here in 1933 too. See below.)

Another book that describes a crucial year in this country is Lawrence O’Donnell’s new book “Playing With Fire” which describes how liberals and Democrats failed to coalesce around their candidate and let Nixon win. In the Trump comparison game I think Trump is much closer to Hitler than he is to Nixon, but he does have Nixonian impulses. What kept Nixon from being worse was the strength of our traditions and institutions that stood up to him in both parties. Those political traditions and safeguards are absent on the Republican side today. The GOP is very Weimarian in that respect. Very much like the conservatives who thought they could manage the tyrant until he took full control of them.

To get a glimpse of Trump’s fascist tendencies look at his embrace of tyrants around the world. Duterte, the brutal murderer/dictator in the Philippines. Erdogan, the autocrat who has snuffed out liberalism in Turkey (who Trump’s national security advisor worked for during and after the election.) The various right wing monsters vying for power in democracies from Ukraine to France and the UK and elsewhere. The new Saudi dictator who spent the weekend jailing his cousins and uncles. And Putin, who murders his opponents in Russia and abroad, who corrupts and directs the political process here, who seems to have appointed several members of Trump’s cabinet.

Our only counterweight against fascism is a Congress that’s now dominated by Republicans who seem increasingly fascist. Maybe there are still some Republicans who can be saved… Send a book.

Fascism almost triumphed here once before, in 1933-34. Reported in this BBC radio documentary

Sinclair Lewis wrote a book about what almost happened here. He titled it “It Can’t Happen Here.” He demonstrated that it could and it might.

Philip Roth wrote a more modern and accessible novel on the same basic idea, called “The Plot Against America.” It was about a very real movement led by a Minnesotan named Charles Lindbergh, wrapped around the idea they called “America First.” Sound familiar?

If you prefer movie versions, the best American movie about the rise of Hitler is on TCM this week, on Wednesday evening, November 8th. THE MORTAL STORM stars James Stewart and shows what fascism does to liberal societies.

History doesn’t repeat but it rhymes.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2017

The Unholy Cult of Trump

As the White House gets weirder and the stink of corruption and treason gets stronger the superChristians only get louder in their praise for Donald Trump. God help us.

From the LATimes: Trump’s base believes he is their blessed savior sent by God. We are being governed by a cult leader who believes this… All the elements of cult worship are there.

A leading Trump-supporter, pastor, and conservative writer for the Federalist says God was answering the prayers of the victims of the bloody Texas church massacre by letting them be murdered. Reported by RawStory

This was also the story told Monday on Fox And Friends––which is Trump’s daily briefing on events, the source he always believes and parrots––that this is how every good Christian would want to die, gunned down in a church where he or she is close to God.

Video here

From Newsweek we get the following disturbing confirmation that the White House is becoming a weird cult...

“…The man who advises President Donald Trump’s nine fundamentalist Cabinet members has shared his favorite superstitions, including that Earth was created in six days, that women can’t teach men, that the U.S. government is required by God to “moralize a fallen world through the use of force” and that Trump is “an adjudicator of wrongdoing.”

"Ralph Drollinger, a former NBA player who founded Capitol Ministries (CapMin) 20 years ago, preaches a flinty fundamentalism that dispenses with Jesus’s teachings about compassion, love and tolerance in favor of a more tribal, Old Testament world view in which God disapproves of government aid to the poor, and of liberals in general."

From the Daily Beast we get a frightening inside look at the "superChristian" life of the Walmart Killer. He lived alone with a stack of Bibles and no furniture...

From The New York Times we learn that some of the Russian paid ads on Google and Twitter told Americans that voting for Hillary meant voting for Satan

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Friday, November 03, 2017

How President* Trump Surrendered The Civil War To The Confederacy

John Kelly, the operator of an adult daycare in Washington, recently questioned the legitimacy of the Union’s victory in the Civil War. It’s worthwhile to revisit crucial issues now and again, but in 1865 most Americans thought the issue of slavery had been well and truly (and finally) buried with a stake through its cruel heart. Apparently not, at least in the Republican half of the country.

Some useful reading on the topic:

A tutorial from The Atlantic. (Summary: The Union Won)

The New Yorker is right when it describes Gen. Kelly's Civil War beliefs as "bizarre mythology"

And by the way, the South was not at all in favor of states’ rights until they lost their stranglehold on the national government. The Southern states were, and still are, all about rejecting any regulation or instruction from the democratic majority of other states, but are insistent upon other states following, without question, the South’s regulations and instructions whenever they are given.

The Atlantic dissects and debunks the old States' Rights myth

When in doubt, representatives of the old Confederacy do not hesitate to have preachers come in and pray their beliefs into law. From TalkingPointsMemo

Then there is the daily ignorance of this White House...

DailyKos reports on the White House's refusal to say slavery is wrong and over

In today’s Republican Party, if you are asked what your opinion is on the subject of slavery it is best to say “No Comment” as Sarah Huckabee Sanders did.

If not best, safest.

I’ve been commenting this too often lately, and it’s a sad comment on us. But it’s true. President* Trump has unilaterally surrendered the total victory achieved by the United States in its costliest wars. Trump has in one year surrendered the Civil War to the Confederacy, WW2 to the fascists who still live and march among us, and the Cold War to the Russians, of whom the White House now operates as a wholly owned subsidiary.


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Thursday, November 02, 2017

Russia Occupies the White House...How We Got Here...What Comes Next?

From the excellent John Nichols at the Nation we have an article explaining how the Manafort/Gates indictments and the Papadopoulos guilty plea cast a shadow over Trump but also over Vice President Mike Pence.

Pence was the man charged with supervising the assembling of the personnel that filled the Trump administration. Pence was and is the Extreme Vetter In Chief, but of course no vetting took place at all. Everyone came through on the nod, like people entering a speakeasy: “Joe sent me.” So we may get rid of a criminal and traitor president and find he is replaced by a President Doofus, a bland, pious, doltish Sgt. Schultz figure who "knows nothing and hears nahhhh-thing.” (Has Pence been bribed with strudel?) Pence may play stupid to save himself, but he has continued a relationship with Manafort beyond the campaign after Manafort left under a cloud. There is now discussion of Pence and the cabinet using the 25th amendment to oust the president. The remaining conspirators would be joined in a serious pact of inter loyalties not resembling any democratic norm we know of. Loyalty is something Trump discusses with people he hires. It isn’t loyalty to the Constitution.

We know that when Trump tweets it is often in the words he just heard on Fox N Friends… but he also follows a narrative set down by Russian bots which are directed by the people in the Kremlin we suspect might be his Russian masters… He acts like a dog on a leash following the order to attack whatever his master tells him to attack. When he lashes out at Clinton and Mueller, how closely do his words echo the words of his master, Putin? Is he even aware of this?

From Newsweek: Russian bots operating Trump's mouth

“I hire the best people!” ~Donald J. Trump

Trump rails about “extreme vetting” for people wishing to enter this country, but he followed no vetting procedures when it came to hiring personnel for the White House or the various critical cabinet posts or appointing people to judicial seats. No vetting, no problem. No resume, no problem. No expertise, that was an actual plus in Trump’s mind.

Sometimes idiocy is a positive asset in a Trump hire. Take Rick Perry. The Hill reports the Sec of Energy recently stated that fossil fuels are vital to prevent sexual assault… I’ll let that sink in for a minute. (We also have a head of EPA who believes his job is to protect the fossil fuel industry from environmentalists.)

A year ago, when Trump hired Manafort, an article appeared in Bloomberg summarizing Manafort’s sleazy and criminal associations. In some quarters he was called the Torture Lobbyist because he specialized in advancing the interests of brutal dictators in Washington. (This may explain why his daughter once characterized her father’s income as “blood money.”)

Here is the Atlantic’s retrospective analysis of the Manafort hiring

The campaign acquired George Papadopoulos on the fly, because no known or accredited foreign policy people would have anything to do with Trump. When asked by a reporter who his foreign policy people were Trump immediately mentioned George Papadopoulos as one, “smart guy,” and also cited Carter Page, who was also already under scrutiny by the FBI for shady associations with Russian spy figures. Extreme vetting? Nothing like that happened in the Trump entourage. Flattery was enough to get in the door. To get into the country Trump demands extreme vetting, but to get access to the highest levels of national security operations all you needed to do was flatter Donald Trump. And be capable of lying big, because that is Trump’s style.

The Daily Beast on the rise of Papadopoulos

Here’s a useful roadmap of Russia-White House connections:from the NYTimes

A handy FYI and FAQ also from the NYTimes

Fear is rippling through the White House staff, which may result in pleas being copped and stories being told to Mueller’s investigators.

Reported by Vanity Fair

The Commerce Sec. Wilbur Ross, interestingly enough, co-owned one of the Cypriot banks Paul Manafort and his Russian friends used to launder money. Ross was Vice Chairman of the bank. Will Ross be questioned about this, or about the $2 billion missing from his financial disclosure forms?

Senator Tom Udall asks the $2 billion question about Wilbur Ross

Russian bots and trolls are in the news, but the Mercers, who bought and owned Breitbart and bought and owned the Brietbart subsidiary named Steve Bannon, are themselves heavily invested in troll farming, and election rigging via their massive data crunching firm Cambridge Analytica.

Bill Moyers on the Mercers

There is also a Bizarro version of the Russia conspiracy in which Hillary conspired with Putin (who despised her) to lose the election…

NYMag explains the upside down defense of Trump

And this reporting from VOX, same bizarro topic

Seems ludicrous but it has an enormous press empire pushing it into the public mind. Kind of like how Putin did it.

But even in FoxWorld there are people jumping ship having had enough of lying and treason.

Reported by CNN-Money

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