Category Archives: Politics

Some Questions? Chasing C Words

The new GOP talking point is “it’s over,” “it’s done,” or some variant thereof. The “it” in question is the investigation of Trumpian malfeasance. Not. So. Fast. There are questions yet answered.

1. What explains the curious hiring of Paul Manafort as the chair of the 2026 Trump presidential campaign?   And, the even more curious change in the Republican 2016 platform concerning Ukraine?

2. What explains the efforts by Trump administration transition and early administration personnel to establish insecure back channels with the Russians?  What explains the fact that General Flynn is kept in place well after the administration is warned he has not been honest about his connections with the Russians?

3. What explains why the Trump administration expresses its desire to ease sanctions on Russian oligarchs in the face of Russian intransigence in Ukraine? Crimea?

4. What explains the reluctance of the Trump administration to follow standard procedures with regard to diplomatic relations and contacts involving the Russians? Why are there no note takers? Witnesses? Or, others who could verify US statements made during or as a result of these meetings or talks?

5. What explains the alignment between Russian efforts to weaken the NATO alliance and the rhetoric coming from the White House?

One possible explanation rests on the premise we’ve been chasing the wrong C words.  While the recent public investigations have centered on Collusion (a diversionary term of art) and Conspiracy, a legal term with a more precise definition, the C word we should be considering is COMPROMISE.

Has the President of the United States of America been compromised by a hostile foreign power? And, if so, how and to what extent?

So, no, Mr. President, until we more fully understand the underlying motives and results of your strange foreign policy decisions, until we can be assured there is no Compromise involved…it isn’t done and it’s not over.

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Filed under Foreign Policy, Politics

Patience: Selected Advice from those Far Wiser than I

This isn’t the beginning of the end, in terms of the investigations into the Trump Administration, it’s the end of the beginning.  I’d agree.  The Mueller investigation was narrowly focused, concerned with Russian interference, and run by a by-the-book investigator.  The initial investigation spawned other, perhaps more “dangerous” topics for the grifter in chief.  Witness, the efforts by the SDNY, the State of New York, the Manhattan District Attorney, various regulatory agencies, and so forth.

Collusion isn’t the point.  Not that the Oval Office Occupant wouldn’t like for us all to focus upon whatever collusion might be. The bar has been raised a few times as well.  It isn’t “collusion” if the campaign didn’t do it! Oh, but there were some 100 points of contact between Trumpians and the Russians, well then, it isn’t collusion if the president didn’t do it personally.  Oh, the president won’t release transcripts or even notes about his sessions with Comrade Putin? Oh well, it isn’t collusion if you can’t find the smoking gun so to speak.  However, “collusion” isn’t the point — the point is: Is the President of the United States of America vulnerable to Russian influence in matters of foreign and perhaps even domestic policy?  If so, is there evidence of this influence being applied?  Now let’s think about our diminished relationships with NATO allies, with NATO itself, with the British.  There’s enough smoke to indicate a nice sized fire. We need to see what’s burning.

No matter what Mueller says, the Oval Office Oaf will announce a victory.  And, it will be a grand victory — nothing like it in the history of the world, perhaps even since the Big Bang!  The Mueller Report won’t use the word “collusion” because it’s not a legal concept.  The word is “conspiracy.”  Therefore, because the Mueller Report won’t actually say “collusion” explicitly the president* will declare there wasn’t any.  We should expect this.  His cult followers certainly do.

Watch the SDNY.  These investigators and litigators aren’t finished.

Watch the State of New York.  These investigators and litigators are getting started.

Watch the House Committee investigations and hearings.  It may not do to get bedazzled by the number of subpoenas issued by various committees. Notice that there is a pattern to these requests.  The president* has taken some action and been opaque about it. The action and its motivation will be investigated. The question of “why” will emerge.  We can probably conjecture there are some basic reasons behind it — (1) the president stands to benefit from it; (2) it expresses or activates one of the president’s biases or prejudices.  Lather, rinse, repeat. Lather, rinse, repeat. There may be more than 80 requests for information and data, but we likely won’t be too far off target if we believe that information will demonstrate an abuse of power, an illegal activity, an immoral activity, or illustrate a pattern of deviousness previously not associated with any White House, including that of Richard M. Nixon.

This is the first act of a tragic play. For that matter, it’s likely only the first scene of the first act.

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The President Can’t Hide From His Words

On June 8. 2014 Las Vegas, Nevada police officers Soldo and Beck went to a pizza diner.  Their meal was interrupted by Jerad and Amanda Miller, two right wing anti-government extremists who had previously participated in the infamous Bundy Ranch stand off. Officers Soldo and Beck paid with their lives for the Millers’ warped minds and itchy trigger fingers.  The Millers and their ilk aren’t typical of American politics, but then that’s exactly what makes them dangerous.

Last November, the Washington Post reported:

“As a Republican, Mitchell Adkins complained of feeling like an outcast at Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky. “Hardcore liberals” made fun of him, he wrote, and he faced “discrimination on a daily basis.” He soon dropped out and enrolled in trade school.

But his simmering rage led him back to campus one morning in April 2017, when Adkins pulled out a machete in the campus coffee shop, demanded that patrons state their political affiliation and began slashing at Democrats.

“There was never any ambiguity about why he did it,” said Tristan Reynolds, 22, a witness to the attack, which left two women injured.”

Fortunately, the result wasn’t as lethal as in the Las Vegas, Nevada pizza parlor, but the core problem was similar.  Fast forward to October 26, 2018.  Cesar Sayoc sent out 13 pipe bombs to critics or opponents of President Trump.  We were lucky, none exploded either in the mail or at the destinations of the intended targets.

The Washington Post article, which described the increase in right wing violence offered this sobering information :

“Over the past decade, attackers motivated by right-wing political ideologies have committed dozens of shootings, bombings and other acts of violence, far more than any other category of domestic extremist, according to a Washington Post analysis of data on global terrorism. While the data show a decades-long drop-off in violence by left-wing groups, violence by white supremacists and other far-right attackers has been on the rise since Barack Obama’s presidency — and has surged since President Trump took office.”

Might we wonder why?  After Sayoc was arrested the tenor of the White House response left something to be desired:

Speaking at the White House, Trump praised the “incredible job” done by investigators and promised to punish the person responsible. Speaking later at a rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, Trump won applause from his loyalist supporters for calling for national unity and an end to political violence. But he soon attacked the media, encouraged chants of “CNN sucks” and set the audience up to boo the Democratic House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, and reprise “lock her up” chants aimed at Hillary Clinton. [Guardian]

It seems he just can’t help himself.  And now, after the arrest of Christopher Hasson, and the confiscation into evidence of his cache of weapons and ammunition, the President can’t bring himself to acknowledge how his “lock her up,” chants and repeated references to the press as the “Enemy of the People” might play a role in eliciting reactions like those of the Millers’, Sayoc, Adkins, and others.

He called the Hasson incident “a shame.” When asked if his rhetoric might have played a role in igniting Hasson’s rage, the President asserted his words have been “very nice.” [CNN video]  I’m not at all certain the record bears this out — there’s another example, again in Las Vegas, where Trump called out that he’d like very much to punch a heckler in the face.   Trump keeps hauling out the Enemy of the People line to describe the media, most recently three days ago, directly targeting the New York Times.  On February 12, 2019 the Times reported on the assault of a BBC cameraman at Trump’s rally in El Paso, Texas.  The White House keeps announcing that the President condemns violence and doesn’t condone attacks on reporters and opponents, however the list of incidents compiled by ABC news keeps getting longer.  So does the assemblage from Vox.   And these incidents and comments are not without consequences:

“A Kentucky gunman attempted to enter a historically black church, police say, then shot and killed two black patrons in a nearby grocery store. And an anti-Semitic loner who had expressed anger about a caravan of Central American refugees that Trump termed an “invasion” has been charged with gunning down 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue, the deadliest act of anti-Semitic violence in U.S. history.”

If the President’s word choices are determined by what will play well with his base, then he (and his advisers) might do well to consider the distinction between base and debase.  He is now speaking not merely to the deplorables, but to the despicables and the debased.  It’s been noticed.  The ADL reports that as of 2014 about 70% of Americans thought it was necessary for the government to step in to counter Antisemitism, the poll results now show about 80% believing the government should do more to protect against this scourge.

In April 2009 Janet Napolitano warned us about the rising temperature of right wing extremism in this country — and the conservatives prompted hit the fainting couches.

 The American Legion formally requested an apology to veterans. Some in Congress called for me to be fired. Amid the turmoil, my (Daryl Johnson) warning went unheeded by Republicans and Democrats. Unfortunately, the Department of Homeland Security caved to the political pressure: Work related to violent right-wing extremism was halted. Law enforcement training also stopped. My unit was disbanded. And, one-by-one, my team of analysts left for other employment. By 2010, there were no intelligence analysts at DHS working domestic terrorism threats.

What’s happening today? Not much.

“The Trump administration has done little to counter the impression that it is soft on right-wing extremism. Even before Trump took office, his presidential transition team began drawing up plans to redirect national-security resources away from white supremacists to focus solely on Islamic terrorism. The main target of this effort was Countering Violent Extremism, an interagency task force created by Barack Obama in the wake of the Charleston Church shooting to help prevent acts of violence before they happen. In 2016, the Office of Community Partnerships, which housed C.V.E., boasted a full-time staff of 16, about 25 contractors, and a budget of $21 million. But the Trump White House was skeptical of the preventative approach.”  [Vanity Fair 2018]

The situation within the Department of Justice at present describes a CVE program killed for all intents and purposes by a thousand paper cuts.

There are some actions we should consider:

  • Fully fund and restore the CVE efforts within the Department of Justice.
  • Keep records and statistical analyses of right wing terrorist groups and their activities within the United States.
  • Prioritize efforts to combat foreign influences which seek to foment racial and ethnic divisions in the United States.
  • Publicize the sources of funding for right wing extremist groups and their propaganda machines, including Dark Money organizations.

We can do some things individually.  I, for one, don’t find ethnic ‘jokes’ amusing, and I’m not above telling the reciter thereof so. If this makes the “Adkins'” of the world uncomfortable, so be it.  I don’t need to listen to anti-government spiels, unwarranted racial or ethnic diatribes, and I feel no compunction about indicating to those emitting this verbal garbage I’m quite through listening.  “I don’t hate you, I’m just through listening.”  If this drives the cockroaches back into the dark, fine. That’s where they belong.    If a person thinks a two year old Guatemalan girl and her 20-something parents are a “national security threat,” and doesn’t hold the same opinion of  some jerk with a personal arsenal harboring his sexual, political, ideological, whatever, perversions, then the person probably won’t enjoy my company anyway. I certainly won’t be enjoying his.

We DO want affordable health care. We DO want to address climate change issues. We DO want to rationalize and reform our immigration policies.  And, we need to tell our Congressional representatives and Senators we’d like this done in a country that doesn’t have to put up with the rhetoric of derision and division, and the verbal violence that leads to the real thing.

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Filed under anti-immigration, Gun Issues, Immigration, Las Vegas, Politics, racism, White Supremacists

Oh What A Tangled Web We Weave…NRA edition

Merciful Heavens, what a week.

Russians… connected to the National Rifle Association? [WaPo 12/13/18] [Business Insider 2/19] with Democrats beginning to investigate ties between the NRA and Trump campaign coffers. [The Hill 2/7/19] We can go back to the 2016 campaign cycle during which the NRA spent $54,378,558 on campaigns. [OS]  The top recipients of this largess in 2016 were:  The Republican National Committee ($77,185); National Republican Senatorial Committee ($75,110); National Republican Congressional Committee ($30,000); Roy Blunt ($11,900); Barbara Comstock ($10,400); Republican Federal Committee of Pennsylvania ($10,000), Republican Party of Tennessee ($10,000).  And, after we go back we can note other prominent Republicans who benefited from NRA contributions — Richard Burr, Charles Grassley, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio.  One more time, let’s look at the contrast between pre- and post 2015 NRA campaign and political spending — In 2012 the organization spent $19,767,043 and in 2014 it spent $27,024,898.  There’s a BIG increase from those generous levels to the bountiful spending of ’16, that eye-popping $54,378,558.  Where did the “new” money come from?

There is a nugget in the Hill article which may foreshadow future events:

“The Democratic lawmakers are requesting a series of documents from the NRA by March 6, including emails with five media consulting firms and the names of employees they communicated with at the companies.

They separately noted in letters to the companies that “a payment for a coordinated communication is an in-kind contribution to a candidate,” adding, “the NRA may have violated contribution limits under the Federal Election Campaign Act by making coordinated communications in excess of applicable contribution caps.”

Watch for March 6, 2019.

This, and we haven’t even gotten to the Saudis, the American Media Inc., Trump, Pecker, and assorted slimy goings on descending down toward the bottom of the bucket into which the Southern District of NY is currently delving.

Time once again to remember the line delivered by Bette Davis in the 1950 film “All About Eve,” — “Fasten your seat belt, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”  Night, day, month, quarter, year…

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Filed under Gun Issues, Politics, Republicans

Blog Post of a Mad Householder

I’d say “housekeeper” but that isn’t one of my shining accomplishments or skill sets.  That said, there are a few items I’d like to vent —

I don’t care how many people have decided to run for the presidency from the Democratic Party.  12? 20? 22?  For the love of Heaven, it’s 2019 — early 2019 — and this will get sorted by August 2020.  The sad state of cable broadcasting, in which filling up time is essential even if the news it provides may not be, gives us Horse Race coverage. Who’s ahead? Who’s behind? Who isn’t where he or she ought to be?  What do the polls say?  I. Don’t. Care.  Nothing will cause me to hit the remote control off switch faster than a handoff to some purely speculative pseudo-statistical analysis of the un-analyzable.  So, advertisers, please note, I’m going to miss your commercials right after…”Now ____ how is the race shaping up between Senator Bilgewater and Representative Sludgepump?  Or, How does the race change if Mayor Mangespredder announces his intention to run on Friday?”  I don’t care right now.

I don’t care about who is appealing to whom.  Nor, am I particularly excited about who might appeal to Rust Belt Trump Voters.  First, not all that many Democrats didn’t support the candidacy of Secretary Clinton in 2016.  Those who didn’t may have mattered in a few crucial states — but Stein voters weren’t likely to vote for her, and neither were the last vestiges of the die-hard Bernie Bros. Those voters may have made a difference? We don’t really know with any certainty, and frankly we don’t have time now to indulge in the intense navel gazing it would take to find out.  There are more important things to do.  For Example — Find people who didn’t register to vote in 2018 and get them signed up.  Democrats aren’t finished — we need to hold the House, take Senate seats, and vote the Orange Blossom out of the Oval Office.

Secondly, we have, I think, a greater need to listen to the testimony of the Intelligence community who spoke to the Senate, even if Orange Blossom isn’t.  The Russians haven’t stopped interfering in our election systems and our political institutions.  If anything, they’re intent on causing more trouble.  We’d spend our time much more productively if we could ignore the “divide and conquer” messages with the “horse race coverage.”  Enough.

I don’t have purity tests.  The candidate hasn’t been born yet who satisfies me 100% of the time on 100% of the policy issues.  And, I’d add, that I’m ignoring pundits who are intent on blathering on about how Candidate A will fare in the general election.  We aren’t there yet.  It IS time to talk about issues, because issues are usually what matters in the primary stages.  Candidate A and Candidate B aren’t running for the General (yet) they might be later, and often they will pivot with the campaign timing and territory.  I am an adult. I am used to this.  If the pundits must engage in a horse race speculation, they might at least differentiate between flat track, harness, and hunt racing.

I’m (as I said today in a tweet) over with so-called “independent” rich old white men coming to my rescue.  I don’t feel any need to be rescued.   No, I’ve not been entrapped by the “radical left.”  The current Republican pejorative “radical left” simply describes Republicans during the Eisenhower Administration.  I support public schools, public libraries (a particular interest), public roads and infrastructure, public health, all kinds of public spaces for recreation and conservation. I like labor unions, professional associations, and organizations which support public improvement, safety, and commerce.  This hardly makes me a ‘socialist.’

Or it might, IF and ONLY If one defines “socialism” as our contemporary 1% orators seem to do — I think I said something like: For the rich, capitalism is when 99% of the people make 1% of the population richer; socialism, by their lights, pops up when the 99% suggest that the 1% share any of their accumulated wealth with anyone else.  Capitalism needs rules.  Rules need to be enforced.  Opportunism isn’t Capitalism. Greed is not good.

And now I’ll turn my TV back on.

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DIY News and Views: Intelligence and the Lack Thereof

Intelligence

There was an open hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence yesterday, and for those who like their news unfiltered, here’s the link.  DNI Director Daniel Coats, CIA Director Gina Haspel, and FBI Director Christopher Wray got the headlines; but, there’s more to be learned from DIA Director General Robert Ashley, NSA Director General Paul Nakasone, and NGA Director Robert Cardillo.

DNI Director Daniel Coats’ opening statement is linked here. (pdf) It should be of interest that the first two topics addressed in his presentation to the committee were (1) Cyber security threats; and, (2) Online Influence Operations and Election Interference.  As noted in several national broadcasts, the “southern border” — for which Trump claims “crisis status,” — doesn’t appear until page 18 of the print edition. While on that page, please note that Mexican sourcing is mentioned for fentanyl, most fentanyl is coming in from China.

On the other hand, from the lack of intelligence department, the president* is challenging the conclusions of his own intelligence gathering and analytical agencies, disputing their priorities and findings. [MST] The report that Iran is abiding (for now) with the previous arms deal, and North Korea definitely is not, seems not to be sitting well with the Oval Office occupant.  It’s instructive to take a closer look at some of the findings reported to the Select Committee, before heading back to the generalities of news outlet commentary.  Russia and China:

“At present, China and Russia pose the greatest espionage and cyber attack threats, but we anticipate that all our adversaries and strategic competitors will increasingly build and integrate cyber espionage, attack, and influence capabilities into their efforts to influence US policies and advance their own national security interests. In the last decade, our adversaries and strategic competitors have developed and experimented with a growing capability to shape and alter the information and systems on which we rely. For years, they have conducted cyber espionage to collect intelligence and targeted our critical infrastructure to hold it at risk. They are now becoming more adept at using social media to alter how we think, behave, and decide. As we connect and integrate billions of new digital devices into our lives and business processes, adversaries and strategic competitors almost certainly will gain greater insight into and access to our protected information.”

The Defense Technical Information Center offers this advice on how to analyze Russian use of cyber assaults and activities:

 “Russian military theorists generally do not use the terms cyber or cyberwarfare. Instead, they conceptualize cyber operations within the broader framework of information warfare, a holistic concept that includes computer network operations, electronic warfare, psychological operations, and information operations; In keeping with traditional Soviet notions of battling constant threats from abroad and within, Moscow perceives the struggle within information space to be more or less constant and unending. This suggests that the Kremlin will have a relatively low bar for employing cyber in ways that U.S. decision makers are likely to view as offensive and escalatory in nature; …”

Review, their activities are ongoing, surreptitious, and holistic.  To get further into these weeds, see the Minority Report, Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, January 2018. (pdf) on Putin’s Asymmetric Assault on Democracy in Russia and EuropeChapter 4, on the weaponization of civil society, ideology, culture, crime, and energy is especially informative.

As the president* disparages the information, evaluation, and analysis of our intelligence community efforts, and is revealed to have even more ‘undocumented’ meetings with Uncle Vlad, [FinTimes] … and probably won’t stop having secret meetings with the Russian dictator [VanityFair]… we need to keep our focus on Russian and Chinese activities, not to the exclusion of other pressing subjects, but toward being able to discern how much of our internal turmoil has external support and encouragement.

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Filed under Iran, Iraq, Politics

Returning Ramblings of a Slightly Hopeful Political Junkie

One of the problems dealing with continuous gaslighting, outright lies, and the fire hose of information and analysis (or what passes for it these days) that’s coming our way is the dilemma of how to respond to it without publicizing the incomprehensible or missing the monumental.  While broadcast media highlights the outrage du jour, or chases their latest shiny object,  the rest of us are left to sift through the wheat, chaff, weevils, and debris.  Let’s turn to some topics we’d not like to see get buried beneath layer upon layer of BS.

The current federal administration policy towards those fleeing from the violence in parts of Central America is deliberately cruel; cruelty troweled upon un-alleviated disdain and contempt.  Only a few hours ago this report emerged:

Miller, a notorious immigration hardliner who has been at the helm of President Donald Trump’s most controversial immigration policies, reportedly told ex-Trump aide Cliff Sims he “would be happy if not a single refugee foot ever again touched America’s soil.”[BI]

That would be presidential adviser, Stephen Miller. Granting that the likes of Coulter, Hannity, and Limbaugh have garnered most of the commentary about current negotiations between the White House and the Congress, these people have a vociferous ally in the corridors of executive power.  Stephen Miller.   One of the things I would like to see and hear from my television set is not less coverage of Miller — but more. More background, more video clips, more information about who this man is, and why he holds such sway?

How much approbation does he deserve for being the Rasputin of Refugees and people of color, and for being the smirk behind the shadow of the Resolute Desk?  When the president opines that there were good people on both sides at Charlottesville _ is Miller applauding? When the Oval Office speaks of Mexicans and others from Central America as drug dealers, gang members, and human traffickers – is Miller clapping along?  How different is Miller’s smirk from that displayed by the Covington High School student, who would now have us believed from his well-coached (at the hands of Scott Jennings’ consultancy) that he was an innocent victim of Internet bombast?   Yes, I did watch the “long version” of the video, and I still saw what I saw.  An immature, smirking, bigot-in-training disparaging the efforts of a Native American elder who was attempting to defuse the situation.  So, I ask again — where were the chaperones?  Why is the Bishop backpedaling as fast as he can?  Is Miller still smiling at this?

However, I remain hopeful this president and the advisers like Mr. Miller, aren’t going to have the free ride they enjoyed during the first two years of this mis-administration. Why?

Let’s grant that the most important investigation, that of Robert Mueller and his associates, will have the most impact.  The press has been breathlessly awaiting this report since its inception.  However — remember — it’s not the only report on the horizon.

The efforts of the prosecutors in the Southern District of New York continue.  And, no, the prosecution of Michael Cohen isn’t the item on the menu.  Not only do we not know what Mr. Mueller knows, we also don’t know the entirety of what the SDNY knows.

The FBI may or may not have a continuing counter terrorism investigation open on members of this mis-administration.  It may have been folded into the Mueller Probe. It may be ongoing for individuals and institutions about which we’ve not yet heard. A little patience may go a long way.

Follow the money?  We have breadcrumbs of information thus far  Recent media reports mention “money laundering.”  Who’s doing the laundry? With whose money? And at what expense?  We do want to keep our eyes on the investigations of Deutsche Bank, and other financial institutions, which were eager to do business with Trump and his associates when American banks had had their fill of his bankruptcies and litigation. These questions remain unresolved, stay tuned.

And, now enter the House Committees.  We may not have to wait for impeachment proceedings — high energy, high intelligence, Maxine Waters will be in charge of overseeing financial issues in the House.  Elijah Cummings will be doing real Oversight.  Adam Schiff will be in charge of the House investigations (and re-investigations) of Russian interference and assaults on our governmental institutions.  Nevada’s own Dina Titus can now look into those emolument questions concerning the DC Trump hotel.  I think we can wager we will be hearing some Georgia soft twang ringing in Trump’s ears.

There are at least 17 open investigations into this mis-administration; it may not take One Great Booming Report from Mueller’s domains to send this train wreck of an executive branch into he borrow ditch — there may be 17+ reports, each cutting through the web of lies manufactured by this increasingly flailing administration.  Those cuts are going to begin to hurt.

Let’s hope we can endure a bit more pain for a while.

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