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.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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…

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

How America Is Adopting The Russian System

Can anyone else see this administration getting their orders from a foreign enemy? That’s what appears to be going on. They don't wake up every morning thinking "How can I weaken America today?" but the orders they carry out do just that. Shutting down the foreign service leaves us blind and deaf and mute. What country would do that to itself? Alienating allies isn’t a wise policy. Doing the bidding of a foreign rival in key parts of the world is also unwise but that is what Trump is doing in Europe and the Mideast. The world that used to admire and work with us now distrusts us. (MinnPost's Eric Black writes about the sudden decline in America's standing in the world)

We base our policy on what we know and we secure our safety with intelligence gathering. What do the Republicans do? They shut that down. (Here is a POLITICO article about one piece of that shutting down of our intelligence gathering system) Partly because the intelligence agencies found out that Trump was working under the direction of a foreign enemy, that his national security advisor was on the payroll of that enemy and various other Trump officials were also employed by the Russian spy agencies. The solution, say the Republicans, is to shut down our spy agencies. Why have spy agencies when our orders are coming from the spy agencies of our enemy? OK, I exaggerate, but this year has unfolded in an exaggerated and unlikely fashion. This is the direction we are headed in.

But it isn’t as simple as that. The Republicans’ BIG IDEA has always been to privatize everything. Private schools, private healthcare, privately run roads and public lands and waterways owned and operated by rich corporations run by rich friends. Now the idea is privatized national security. Why have oversight by democratically elected officials when you can have the spies run by rich friends. You’re more likely to gain intelligence that matches your preconceptions and your delusions. Intelligence that you can weaponize without anyone stopping you.

The Intercept has a new article about how the Trump junta is seeking to create its own private spy service, under the direction of Erik Prince, one of the intermediaries who sought to create back channels between Trump and his masters in Moscow)

This extreme privatization of the public sector is the Russian model. After the collapse of Gorbachev the entire Soviet infrastructure was sold off cheap (or given outright) to the cronies of the new leaders. Putin’s oligarchs are the former mobsters who ran the criminal underworld and black market under the Soviet system. Everything now belongs to them, the water rights, the mineral rights, the forests, the land, the industry, the roads, the railroads, the workers, everything. The people are dependent on these things owned by the Putinists so they hear and obey what their new masters tell them. And the new masters hear and obey Putin who can jail and execute any oligarch who crosses him or fails to pay him his kickbacks. This is the new model being set up by the radical Republicans and Trump: a kleptocracy as ugly as any central African state where the oligarchs are obscenely rich and own everything. The biggest, baddest, richest autocrat of them all is now the boss of our president. In effect Vlad Putin is our leader now. Trump, by comparison, is a small time hoodlum and con artist. A petty criminal.

Is it any wonder millennials have doubts about capitalism? (Today's NYTimes column by Michelle Goldberg is about this) Weaponized capitalism is something that’s evolved in recent decades, after the Lewis Powell memo and the Reagan Revolution, as Americans stopped questioning the absolute unquestionable perfection of the capitalists. The Republican tax bill nails down the absolutism of the people who own for a living and the impoverishment and submission of the people who work.

If there were any question about Republicans’ contempt for working people it was clarified perfectly in the comments of Senator Grassley and Senator Hatch. We are now a divided people: a handful of extremely rich people on top and below them, far below them, a rabble of workers half of whom despise the system and half who worship and obey the capitalists without question.

Our history didn’t need to lead us here.

After capitalism failed in 1929-33, FDR saved it and put it on a fairer and stabler footing with the New Deal. Capitalism in this form created several decades of prosperity and contentedness from 1945 to 1980 or so.

Then Reagan began reconverting it into the Harding/Coolidge/Hoover model that triggered the 1929 collapse. This reconversion eventually led to inequality and unfairness and predatory fraud and instability and collapse in 2008, when Obama rescued it again.

After eight years spent blocking Obama’s efforts to restore the fairness and stability we enjoyed for those great decades the Republicans have regained power and are making the final draconian changes that will restore the bad old days. Perhaps they realize they’ll need to uphold this with a fascist government, full surveillance and a removal of free and fair and honest information. Their goal is to make our misery and deprivation and ignorance and deception as profitable as possible.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, December 03, 2017

How To Make The Harm Permanent

As we are calculating how many ways Trump and the Republicans are screwing all of us, and how bad it will be, we wonder what we can do. Where else is this shit happening?

The Guardian reports that Tony Blair is working to reverse Brexit

Americans are envious of a system that makes it possible to undo the harm done by political fraud. In our country we have a situation where the bank robbers have been discovered in the bank, they have taken 350 million hostages, and are busily looting everything from the building before they burn it down. Our only solution under the U.S. Constitution is to throw out the leader of the criminal gang and appoint the deputy gang boss as the new president of the bank.

Labels: , , ,