Tag Archives: FBI

Watergate by Imbeciles

I have to admit, I wallowed in Watergate. What is happening with the administration at present is not Watergate. Watergate is the descriptive term for a scandal of mis-administration perpetrated with slick lawyering, nifty abuses of campaign finance accounting, and keeping all of it under wraps by the coordination of choreographed White House maneuvers…until it wasn’t.

The current mess is better characterized by blundering legal bluster, unethical campaign finance and possible quid pro quo donations made possible by dark and darker money, and spilling out all over the landscape in bits, pieces, and contradictory dueling press releases.  We’re in Act 5 Scene 5, Dunsinane Castle…

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,  Creeps in this petty pace from day to day

Unfortunately for the occupant of the Oval Office, the news is leaking out daily, and none of it particularly good.  Information about Watergate came to light in chunks, by contrast the travails of this administration is streaming out every twenty-four hours.  Almost by the hour in every twenty-four.  Minute by minute?  Granted that Nixon wasn’t further beleaguered by the copious maw of cable news, but the cover-up was indeed a cover-up until the tapes were released.  Nixon enjoyed more consistent popular support than the current administration until late Summer 1974.  Richard Nixon’s average poll rating during his second term was 34.4%, a figure brought down by a July-August 1974 rating of 24%. Again, in contrast, the current Oval Office occupant hasn’t broken the 50% rate since the inauguration, and now sits about 39%. [Gallup] Considering the daily dose of leaks, press releases, and other negative stories the administration is already at a point not “achieved” by the Nixon administration until rather late in the game.

To the last syllable of recorded time, And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death.

In the present tense we’re looking at political death — the slow demise of benighted individuals who are seeking short term safety at the expense of long range security; and, if the airwaves are replete with Nixonian references now, think what historians will do with this later.

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

We have a President strutting and fretting upon his stage, and a rather poor player at that.  Further, he is playing a part the script for which is poorly written.  He cannot, or will not, separate himself and his administration from the tender embrace of Russian influence.

Scene 5a: It’s now common knowledge that during the transition period the incoming administration was open to rolling back the sanctions imposed by the Obama Administration, and to opening channels (one using Russian facilities) for more communication with the Putin regime. [Newsweek]  Trump was indeed open to returning the Russian compounds in New York and Maryland to please the Russian government. [WaPo] By mid-July 2017 the talks concerning the return of the compounds and the reassignment of some 35 Russian diplomats broke down. [LAT]

Scene 5b:  That back-channel communication proposal forwarded by Jared Kushner is also in the public domain, how convenient it would be to have an open communications connection between the administration and Putin via Russian controlled (and presumably monitored) facilities? [NYT]  Nothing is better designed to give the appearance of kow-towing to the Russian regime than to allow them to open communications with the administration in ways that would be obscured to US intelligence?  The trick to running a cover up is to keep things covered up — NOT to see them in print in the New York Times, Washington Post, Time, Newsweek, Bloomberg News,….

Scene 5c: Another trick to running a cover up is not to have your National Security Adviser resign less than a month after his appointment because his dealings with the Russians are not only coming to light, but are fully centered in the midst of media 1000 watt tungsten lighting.

Scene 5d: Surely no one will think the Oval Office occupant is fretting on stage about his Russian connections coming into that studio lighting if he fires Sally Yates? Fires Michael Flynn? US Attorney Preet Bharara? FBI Director James Comey? Forced out Dana Boente? Forced out Andrew McCabe? Asked Rod Rosenstein for “loyalty?” Discusses how he wants to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller? Fumes over the recusal  of  AG Jeff Sessions? Gee, what’s so inconspicuous about a herd of people heading to the exits?

Scene 5e:  And, what could be less conspicuous than getting right smack dab in the middle of a fight with one’s own Department of Justice over releasing what amounts to  a Republican press release emanating from the staff of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA/Moscow Oblast)?

…it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing

Pro-tip: When running a cover up operation it is extremely helpful to have competent legal advice.  There is nothing about the current defense of the Oval Office occupant that doesn’t reek of one of the oldest cliches in the legal lexicon: “If the facts aren’t on your side argue the law, if the law isn’t on your side argue the facts; and if both aren’t on your side pound the table,” added to the next oldest cliche, “If your client can’t provide a defense, put the prosecution on trial.”

There’s a reason four top law firms declined to offer their services to the Oval Office occupant — “He won’t pay and he won’t listen.” [L&C]  And so we are left with table pounding lawyers and spokespersons who are attempting to divert, distract, and demean (intelligence agencies, DoJ, FBI, etc.) by any means possible, and we will likely have them until the GOP has run out of gerrymandering, vote suppressing, and influence campaigns and voters elect a competent Congress.

In the mean time, it probably isn’t a good thing to demean Nixon’s hour upon the stage by comparing his almost lucid cover up operations with a scrambled inarticulate and self-contradictory melange of imbecility offered up by the current administration.

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It’s Different When Black People Do It: Sessions and the Black Identity Extremists Report

Deflection and distraction seem to be the order of the day. Republican members of the House Committee on the Judiciary appear to be riding some hobby horses which raise issues long resolved, or long justifiably ignored.  .  However, setting aside the Russian issues for a moment, Representative Karen Bass (CA-37) inserted an extremely important question about “extremist groups.” That would be African American “extremist groups.” 

Has the Department of Justice compiled a report on White Identity extremists? It certainly had prepared a report on Black Identity Extremists, but Representative Bass wanted to know if Black Lives Matter was to be target of Justice Department investigations.   The Attorney General asserted that he had not read the report.

One thing about the report that is immediately apparent is how short the report is, inserting six instances of highly dissatisfied persons attacking police and law enforcement officers.  There is a relatively lengthy section on the old BLA of the 1970s.  Not to put too fine a point to it, the August 2017 report is a wet dream for white supremacists.   What renders this a nightmare is that the Attorney General of the US can’t define what a “black identity extremist” is, and wasn’t all that clear about what a white identity extremist might be — at least until he was prompted by Representative Bass who brought up the ubiquitous Sovereign Citizens and the KKK.

The report provides a definition:

“The FBI defines sovereign citizen extremists as individuals who openly reject their US citizenship status, believe that most forms of established government, authority, and institutions are illegitimate, and seek, wholly or in part, through unlawful acts of force or violence, to further their claim to be immune from government authority. The mere advocacy of political or social positions, political activism, use of strong rhetoric, or generalized philosophic embrace of violent tactics may not constitute extremism, and may be constitutionally protected.”

This adequately describes the overall “sovereign” citizens — black and white, but doesn’t define precisely what a black identity extremist might be. We’re left with this vague description:

“The FBI assesses it is very likely some BIEs are influenced by a mix of anti-authoritarian, Moorish sovereign citizen ideology, and BIE ideology. The FBI has high confidence in these assessments, based on a history of violent incidents attributed to individuals who acted on behalf of their ideological beliefs, documented in FBI investigations and other law enforcement and open source reporting.”

BIE “ideology” is apparently predicated on being upset by the use of excessive force and unjustified killings by law enforcement personnel by African Americans.   “The FBI assesses it is very likely a Black Identity Extremist (BIE) perceptions of police brutality against African Americans spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement and will very likely serve as justification for such violence.” Evidently, African Americans can be “radicalized” by anti-authoritarian sources.  Who’s an anti-authoritarian?  ACLU?  Black Lives Matter? Anti-Defamation League?  Libertarians? The League of Women Voters?

What makes this report, and its reception, so disturbingly important is that when the Department of Homeland Security issued a report on White (right wing) Extremists in April 2009 the Republicans were “outraged” at the prospect of labeling “patriots” as extremists, and the Secretary had to defend the report from none other than the American Legion which bellowed “Americans are not the enemy.”  By April 16, 2009 the Department had to issue an apology!

But when African Americans get outraged about police use of deadly force, or when law enforcement officers shoot first and answer questions much later and community members express grief and agony, then they are “BIEs” and are properly the subject of FBI scrutiny?

This issue deserves at least the same investigation as the initial 2009 report incurred, and at least the comment the 2009 report initiated.  Until the day the Department of Justice is called upon to defend this report we’d have to conclude that it “really is different when black people do it.”

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#BlackLivesMatter and the misappropriation of a Theme?

black lives matter

Sam Dubose. Sandra Bland. Freddie Gray. Eric Garner. Michael Brown. These names are now a part of the rallying cry of the Black Lives Matter movement. Not famous for their lives. Tragically, they are famous only in wrongful death.” [HuffPo]  and altogether too many others.

It’s been interesting to watch the white American reaction to the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and the range of those reactions.  From the white’s-right end of the spectrum came the #AllLivesMatter theme – including, we presume, those of white officers being charged (or remaining uncharged) for their excessive use of force or poor professional judgment.  No sooner did the #BlackLivesMatter signs appear than there was an all too predictable white backlash:

“A Saint Louis-area minister, for example, wrote of a “Black Lives Matter” sign being defaced with “All Lives Matter” written on the front and a racial slur written on the back.  The fact that “All Lives Matter” is being used to argue against the idea that Black lives matter is proof that (1) People spreading that slogan don’t really believe Black lives matter, at least not equally, and (2) It’s therefore not true that all lives do matter equally in their eyes.  The statement’s use belies itself.  If all lives matter, then black lives matter, so why the argument?  Why the comeback?  The comeback proves that statement false, and proves it for what it is — a response born of fear and racism.” [Schade, November 2014]

The point has been made repeatedly that the response “All Lives Matter” is (1) a way of diluting the sting of direct allegations of police brutality, use of excessive force, bias, discrimination, and/or profiling; after all, “white lives” matter too? Right?  The problem, of course, is the disproportionate use of force against people of color. [ProPublica] and (2) a theme useful in an attempt to appear “post racial.”   The erasure of “race” is as silly as it is counter-productive.

Another form of reaction comes from those writers and pundits who opine that the #BlackLivesMatter movement is congenitally flawed, based as it is on whether or not Michael Brown raised his hands, or if a flight from an officer constitutes  a defiance of law and order, or if the individual victimized had in some way been the instrument of his or her own destruction.

This utterly misses the point. The individual character flaws of individual actors – real or speculative – is not the origin, nor the basis, of the movement.

“To even lightly advance the idea that Michael Brown’s alleged transgressions make him incapable of being a symbol of the movement is to entirely miss its point. When people say Black Lives Matter, they mean every single life. If Michael Brown committed a petty crime and behaved disrespectfully to a member of a police office department that has been since proven to be predatory to its Black residents, it has no bearing on the fact that police officers across this country have bad habits that they disproportionately dish out on people of color.” (Michael Arceneaux)[NewsOne]

In addition to the backlash trap, and the basic flaw trap, there’s the dilution trap.

If #BlackLivesMatter then what of the unborn, the animals, the lives affected by climate change? Okay, fine – but those are separate issues entirely.  The wailing and whinging is ear splitting – why are people so upset about police assaults but not about abortion? – why are people so enraged about the killing of Cecil the lion but not about the deaths of African Americans?  First, and obviously, people have different personal interests and agendas. If one is an environmental activist that doesn’t necessarily include or preclude one’s participation or support for #BlackLivesMatter.  If one is opposed to abortion that, too, doesn’t include or preclude interest in #BlackLivesMatter.  If a person is opposed to trophy hunting for exotic animals that doesn’t automatically include or preclude interest in #BlackLivesMatter.  Purity can be a lovely thing, but even Ivory Soap was forced to advertise that it was 99.44% pure (pure what they never told us?)

If the #BlackLivesMatter advocates can wade through the backlash, the “basic flaw,” and dilution fever swamps, there’s at least one more to go.  It’s the “What Do You Want?” trap.   Evidently, by modern media standards, a movement must spring full born from the Head of Zeus, complete, and replete, with convenient press releases and position papers outlining precisely what the organization wants.  Detailed, of course, preferably with bullet points, for easy translation into quick copy.  The #Occupy movement was battered by the media for not being “well organized,” and too amoebic for translation into action, it never occurred to some media lights that perhaps there was a wide range of individuals uncomfortable with and opposed to the various implications and results of corporatism?

The basic concept behind #BlackLivesMatter is to make it stop.  “It” being the excessive use of force against people of color.  Beyond and beneath that aspiration isn’t a bedrock of easily digestible sound-bites, but a plethora of less specific topics we need to discuss; for example, the recruitment, training, and professional development of law enforcement officers.  Another element is the possible restructuring of judicial systems such that officers with dubious records in community relations aren’t pre-judged innocent before being held accountable for their actions.  Still another, the implementation of community policing strategies and programs.  Complex issues don’t lend themselves to sound-bite solutions, and racism in American life is an extremely complex issue.

Nothing better illustrates the racism implicit in the opponents and critics of #BlackLivesMatter than the institutional reaction to their organization.  “ZeroFox,” a cyber-security firm was hired to provide surveillance of the #BlackLivesMatter leadership, whom it deemed a “high” threat, and potentially “physical.” [MJ]  If this is reminiscent of the FBI tracking Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. then we should note that it was the FBI who recommended ZeroFox to the city of Baltimore.  According to at least one source, the DoJ has been monitoring the movement since the demonstrations in Ferguson, MO. [FL.org]

Could this be because African Americans are “emotional,” “violent,” and easily led to acts of destruction?  If that construct informed any of the surveillance and subsequent reporting, then we do, indeed, have a long way to go in removing institutional racism from American governance.  Did some observers or officials find such surveillance and reporting “comforting,” assuaging as it might the biases underpinning notions like Blacks are Destructive unless kept under close watch and control?  If so, we haven’t moved far enough away from the Slave Patrol mentality of the 19th century – and that needs to be discussed.  The reports on possible graffiti knitting ought to make fascinating reading?

Perhaps we’ll get,”Twelve parking meters were assaulted (read: covered) with 100% acrylic Red Heart fibers (read: knitting yarn) overnight in the east metro suburb of Keenpeele. Profilers tell us the possible perpetrators are female, between the ages of 15 and 95, carrying sharp needles.”  Meanwhile, we’d not want to give away the location(s) of those ladies who are crafting scarves, sweaters, and baby booties while discussing how to improve race relations in the U.S. of A., and inviting other women to join their productive efforts.

we need to talk Seriously, the #BlackLivesMatter movement could do with more support and less surveillance.  More understanding and less pontificating analysis. More serious discussion and fewer sound-bite sensationalism pieces.  More honesty and much less rationalization on the part of its critics and opponents.   More focus on the extent of the problem and less narrow focus on the individuals actors involved.  We do need to talk instead of appropriating and misappropriating the #BlackLivesMatter topic.

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