Thursday, June 29, 2017

Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice ...

Vanity Fair (August 2017)
Time Magazine (Jul 3, 2017 Vol 190 No 1)
 If there were ever a doubt that a traitor now occupies the Oval Office, Tuesday’s assault on the exercise of a free press, guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States, should dispel it.
This particular attack was prompted by a screw-up at CNN, a favorite punching-bag for President Donald J. Trump, but was quickly extended to the whole of the political press. It’s a timeworn strategy of authoritarian regimes. As Jill Lepore recounted in the June 5 issue of the New Yorker, Edmund Taylor, writing in 1940 of Nazi strategy in France, reported on “the propaganda campaign waged by Nazi agents to divide the French people, by leaving them uncertain about what to believe, or whether to believe anything at all.” -- Adele M. Stans, Very Dangerous Times: The Media Is Under Attack by an Authoritarian White House, American Prospect via AlterNet, 7/28/17

Admittedly, the saying "one picture is worth a thousand words" has become somewhat hackneyed. It originated, after all, in the advertising business of the early 1920s. Fred R. Barnard, the writer who first proffered it, falsely framed it as a Chinese proverb, thinking it would have more gravitas that way. But it did stick in the collective psyche. Because it has some truth in it.  Not an absolute truth, of course, only a relative truth; it all depends on the words and pictures presented. 

In this post, I offer you two pictures and two thousand six hundred something words. In the hope that it all speaks to you in some meaningful way. One of the images is a recent Time Magazine cover (7/3/17), it shows Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, under his visage the caption reads: "The Lie Detector." The other image is a recent Vanity Fair cover (August 2017), it shows tennis superstar Serena Williams, naked and pregnant. Its caption reads: "Serena Williams' Love Match." 

What do you see when you look at these images? 

On the cover of Time, I see a man with a long distinguished career at the highest levels of federal law enforcement and a U.S. Marine whose heroism earned him a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart; a worthy champion who has been tasked with investigating the gravest scandal to ever cast its pall over the White House. And on the Vanity Fair cover, the great Annie Leibovitz has captured the naked power and beauty of the pregnant Serena Williams. It is a profound cultural statement, it speaks for itself, but for me it stands as a potent antidote to the racist, misogynist backlash this nation is currently enduring. It is the image of a powerful woman of color, bold and free, and in full possession of her reproductive rights, the Feminine ascending.

In these two images, there is evidence that there is something worth fighting for. We shall be "INDIVISIBLE, with liberty and justice for all ..."

So Be It

Amidst the fear and loathing unleashed in the presidential election of 2016, I lost a blood relative to the Alt Right and a beloved friend to the Alt Left. Tragic yes, but so be it. I find myself on the barricades of a strange and remarkable alliance, a united front that I could not have imagined before the Year of the Yang Fire Monkey. This informal united front did not coalesce around ideology, it coalesced around simple sanity and common human decency, and it has one goal -- to protect this Union, to save it from a free fall into chaos and subversion. David Frum (G.W. Bush's former speechwriter), Richard Painter (G.W. Bush's former chief ethics lawyer), conservative Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin and even MSNBC's Morning Joe Scarborough are all on the right side of this barricade; unfortunately, Oliver Stone, Mark Crispin Miller and some other friends and allies on the left are on the wrong side. Tragic yes, but so be it. In an eerie and ironic twist, the New York Times (which disgraced itself with its coverage of the stolen election of 2000) and the Washington Post (which never seemed to recover from Bill Casey's brain tumor) are doing hard-hitting, heavyweight investigative reporting on the Putin-Trump affair, while some bastions of independent progressive journalism, for example, Robert Parry's Consortium News have missed the real story here and wandered off into the ideological weeds. Tragic yes, but so be it. 

 Sociopathy as A Philosophy of Governance

As I wrote in January, the capital city of this great nation has fallen to a legion of deeply disturbed men. (Yes, men, privileged white madmen.) This is sociopathy as a philosophy of governance, from allowing "hunters" to slaughter mama grizzlies and their cubs while still in hibernation, to undeservedly removing Iraq and Burma from the list of states still utilizing child soldiers, and moving to "dismantle the federal clean water rule, which protects waterways that provide drinking water for about a third of the US population." TrumpRyanMcConnellCare is nothing more than a weaponized tax cut targeting woman, people of color, the working poor, children, the unemployed, the chronically ill and the elderly. It is an act of domestic terrorism. Trump’s declaration that he would withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement is a crime against nature and a crime against humanity; it is an act of global terrorism, targeting Gaia Herself, and therefore all nations, all species, and all eco-systems. Unspeakable acts, incomprehensible cruelty.  Anti-woman, anti-nature, anti-science, anti-reason, anti-love, anti-life, and what does “live” spell backwards? Evil.

Worse than Watergate or Iran-Contra, Much Worse

The Putin-Trump affair is worse than either Watergate or Iran-Contra, much worse.  The Putin-Trump affair is more like 9/11, it is not a just a scandal, it is a direct attack on this country. 

On 9/11, the World Trade Center was destroyed, thousands of innocents were slaughtered and we were all plunged into an alternate reality. Much war ensued in Iraq and Afghanistan.  In the election of 2016, our democratic institutions were high-jacked, we were again dragged through the looking glass, farther and deeper than before, and many more innocents may soon be dying, in countless ways, and whether or not war ensues overseas, civil war is dangerously close here at home. 

On 9/11, this nation was attacked by Middle Eastern terrorists seeking to force the U.S. to remove its military bases from Saudia Arabia. In the 2016 election, this nation was attacked by Russian agents following Putin's direct orders to hurt Clinton and help Trump. It could be confidently alleged that Bush-Cheney insecurity team were criminally negligent in the weeks and months before 9/11; they clearly, brazenly ignored dire and repeated warnings from both U.S. and allied intelligence. (This  is all documented in the Words of Power archives.) But arguably, the Trumpster Fire and the Zombie Cult may be guilty of even worse in the months before election day. 

Of course, in July 2017, Trump openly encouraged the Russian hacking during his campaign.  
That profoundly unsavory remark has been widely reported, but the misdeeds of Ryan and McConnnel in that same time frame are perhaps of even graver significance.

In June 2016, Speaker Ryan was secretly recorded telling fellow Zombie Cult congressmen that mention of Trump being on Putin's payroll was "off the record" and there were to be "no leaks."
In September 2016, high-level national security officials from the Obama administration met with congressional leadership on the crisis, but Senate Majority Leader McConnell stood in the way of any meaningful response, choosing politics over national security.
  • The meeting devolved into a partisan squabble. “The Dems were, ‘Hey, we have to tell the public,’” recalled one participant. But Republicans resisted, arguing that to warn the public that the election was under attack would further Russia’s aim of sapping confidence in the system. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) went further, officials said, voicing skepticism that the underlying intelligence truly supported the White House’s claims. Greg Miller, Ellen Nakashima and Adam Entous, Obama’s secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin’s election assault, Washington Post, 6/23/17
We have been lurching toward a second Civil War, this one with a Neo-Confederacy underwritten by right-wing oligarchs, ever since Nixon's successful Southern Strategy (1968 and 1972), which was followed soon after by the "Reagan Revolution" (1980 and 1984). With the election of the first African American President in 2008 and his re-election in 2012, the drift toward a Second Civil War gained momentum. (It all has as much to do with greed as it does with racism and misogyny. It all has as much to do with racism and misogyny as it does with greed.) 

In 2016 it took an even more dangerous and destructive turn as the Neo-Confederacy welcomed the Union's main geopolitical adversary as its ally, yes, the devil that is Zombie Cult and its Death Eater Overlords willingly made a deal with the devil, i.e., the Trumpster Fire knowing full-well that Putin was Trump's puppetmaster. We can only surmise that for them enabling espionage, sabotage and treason was somehow a less egregious wrong than allowing the nation's populace to follow up the first African American president with the first woman president, and that fracturing the Western Alliance, weakening NATO and isolating the U.S.A. in the world was somehow an acceptable price to pay for fulfilling Ryan's frat boy dreams of dismantling Medicaid and other Great Society programs. Yes, this is sociopathy as a philosophy of governance.


And so here we are ...  If this treachery and subterfuge is allowed to stand, our way of life will have come to an ignoble end ... Bear witness. Lean forward ...

Below, I have included excerpts from two very important pieces, along with links to the full texts. The first is from David Corn of Mother Jones, and the second from Greg Miller, Ellen Nakashima and Adam Entous of the Washington Post. We owe a debt of gratitude to these real deal journalists and their fellow fourth estate heroes. They are working in a dangerous space.

-- Richard Power 

The Trump-Russia scandal is the subject of multiple investigations that may or may not unearth new revelations, but this much is already certain: Donald Trump is guilty. We don’t need additional information about the Russian covert scheme to undermine the 2016 campaign, or about the curious interactions between Team Trump and Russia, or about Trump pressuring and then firing FBI Director James Comey, to reach the judgment that the president of the United States engaged in wrongdoing. From the start, Trump and his crew have claimed they had nothing to do with the hack-and-leak operation mounted by Russian intelligence to help Trump nab the presidency. They have dismissed the matter as fake news, and they have insisted there is no issue because there has been no proof that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia. In May, for instance, Trump proclaimed, “Believe me, there’s no collusion.” Nothing to see; move along. Explicit collusion may yet be proved by the FBI investigation overseen by special counsel Robert Mueller or by other ongoing probes. But even if it is not, a harsh verdict can be pronounced: Trump actively and enthusiastically aided and abetted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plot against America. This is the scandal. It already exists—in plain sight. As soon as the news broke a year ago that the Russians had penetrated the Democratic National Committee’s computer systems, Trump launched a campaign of denial and distraction. For months, he refused to acknowledge the Kremlin’s role. He questioned expert and government findings that pinned the blame on Moscow. He refused to condemn Putin. Far from treating these acts of information warfare seriously, he attempted to politicize and delegitimize the evidence. Meanwhile, he and his supporters encouraged more Russian hacking. All told, Trump provided cover for a foreign government’s attempt to undermine American democracy. Through a propaganda campaign of his own, he helped Russia get away with it. -- David Corn, Trump Is Already Guilty of Aiding Putin’s Attack on America, Mother Jones, July-August 2017

Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried “eyes only” instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides. Inside was an intelligence bombshell, a report drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government that detailed Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race. But it went further. The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump. At that point, the outlines of the Russian assault on the U.S. election were increasingly apparent. Hackers with ties to Russian intelligence services had been rummaging through Democratic Party computer networks, as well as some Republican systems, for more than a year. In July, the FBI had opened an investigation of contacts between Russian officials and Trump associates. And on July 22, nearly 20,000 emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee were dumped online by WikiLeaks. But at the highest levels of government, among those responsible for managing the crisis, the first moment of true foreboding about Russia’s intentions arrived with that CIA intelligence. The material was so sensitive that CIA Director John Brennan kept it out of the President’s Daily Brief, concerned that even that restricted report’s distribution was too broad. The CIA package came with instructions that it be returned immediately after it was read. To guard against leaks, subsequent meetings in the Situation Room followed the same protocols as planning sessions for the Osama bin Laden raid ... Jeh Johnson, the homeland-security secretary, was responsible for finding out whether the government could quickly shore up the security of the nation’s archaic patchwork of voting systems. He floated the idea of designating state mechanisms “critical infrastructure,” a label that would have entitled states to receive priority in federal cybersecurity assistance, putting them on a par with U.S. defense contractors and financial networks. On Aug. 15, Johnson arranged a conference call with dozens of state officials, hoping to enlist their support. He ran into a wall of resistance. The reaction “ranged from neutral to negative,” Johnson said in congressional testimony Wednesday. Brian Kemp, the Republican secretary of state of Georgia, used the call to denounce Johnson’s proposal as an assault on state rights. “I think it was a politically calculated move by the previous administration,” Kemp said in a recent interview, adding that he remains unconvinced that Russia waged a campaign to disrupt the 2016 race. “I don’t necessarily believe that,” he said. Stung by the reaction, the White House turned to Congress for help, hoping that a bipartisan appeal to states would be more effective. In early September, Johnson, Comey and Monaco arrived on Capitol Hill in a caravan of black SUVs for a meeting with 12 key members of Congress, including the leadership of both parties. The meeting devolved into a partisan squabble. “The Dems were, ‘Hey, we have to tell the public,’” recalled one participant. But Republicans resisted, arguing that to warn the public that the election was under attack would further Russia’s aim of sapping confidence in the system. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) went further, officials said, voicing skepticism that the underlying intelligence truly supported the White House’s claims. Greg Miller, Ellen Nakashima and Adam Entous, Obama’s secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin’s election assault, Washington Post, 6/23/17