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Saturday, January 05, 2019

Why Pelosi and Schumer should back down NOW

Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer should give up now.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: This shutdown is a game of chicken -- one jalopy zooming toward the other. Such a game is always won by the sicko who doesn't mind crashing. Pelosi and Schumer are not sickos; therefore, they cannot win.

Trump, by contrast, feels that he must achieve victory at any cost.
One of these knowledgeable sources told The Daily Beast President Trump kicked off the meeting with a rant lasting roughly 15 minutes that included his $5.6 billion demand for a border wall, and threatened that he was willing to keep the government closed for “years” if that’s what it took to get his wall. He also, unprompted, brought up the Democrats who want him impeached, and even blamed Pelosi for new Democratic congresswoman Rashida Tlaib saying at a party earlier this week that Democrats would impeach the “motherfucker” Trump. (It is unclear why Trump would think Pelosi was responsible for this.)
I'm hardly a member the Language Police, but Tlaib should understand that it works to the benefit of the Democrats if they are seen as the grown-ups.

The more important point is that Trump isn't lying. He really will keep the thing shut down for years. Trump is not like other presidents; other presidents were sane. He doesn't care if the government ceases to function; he doesn't care if democracy itself falls. He's quite willing to crash the car; arguably, crashing the car was the real reason Putin put him in the oval office.

Right now, the polls are against the Wall. But opposition is not overwhelming; it hovers close to the 50 percent mark. People are persuadable on this issue -- and the incessant coverage of the shutdown will give the Trumpers many chances to make their case. I would not be surprised to learn that the polls have already shifted.

Recall the precedent of the Iran-contra scandal. Many liberals thought that the hearings -- in particular, the questioning of Ollie North -- would destroy the credibility of the Reagan administration. The opposite occurred: The nation watched as North spoke at length about the need to arm the contras -- and for the first time, public opinion shifted in favor of American intervention in Central America. The shift didn't last; nevertheless, it was real.

What happened then could happen next week.

The idea of a Trump declaring national emergency should terrify everyone. Once Trump gets a taste of extra-Constitutional power, he'll want more. And more and more. The wall could provide Trump with his excuse to become a full-on tyrant.

Democrats will mount a legal challenge to such a declaration -- but in doing so, they could hobble a potential Democratic president in the future. Why did the Republicans in Congress give FDR what he wanted? In large part, they did so because Roosevelt threatened to declare an emergency and to take on quasi-authoritarian powers. It's the presidential version of the "nuclear option." Granting that option to a Roosevelt means granting it to a Trump. Conversely, denying it to Trump now could mean denying it to a future Roosevelt, who may need emergency powers to deal with a genuine catastrophe.

Better to end this mess now. Nobody wants to see that orange bastard do a victory dance, but that dance won't last long.

By the way: The moment Trump told reporters that previous presidents favored the wall, I knew he was lying. Politico proves the point. But what's the point of proving the point? His followers will always believe only what they want to believe.
The public Barr memo from June, likely requested by Rosenstein, and provably not read by Trump, serves as Exhibit A for invoking the 25th as proof of executive incompetence and incapacity. That is, Barr's memo says obstruction is an impeachable crime, and 'someone' often enough has let Trump know that he's a sunk witch for obstruction and suborning perjury. Trump's only way out is to be removed without penalty, and I'm guessing he's allowing the prerequisites for the 25th to come to pass. The pop media will turn sympathetic as he's lawfully removed, kicking and screaming, a horror show. No impeachment with full benefits. The unpardonable (by a POTUS) state charges from wherever could proceed, but any resolution or disposition of those will be appealed and the clock on Trump will run out because he's a septuagenarian. Or a New York governor will pardon him, maybe also his family members. The expense and deployment of legal and political resources to go through that kind of criminal process would be staggering, and the daily reporting could only benefit the right wing.

For Trump to declare a national emergency and exercise his power two elements must exist: evidence of an emergency and someone who will carry out his orders. If he declares one, like today or tomorrow, the documents needed for the 25th will be sent to Congress within seconds, and Pence will assume office of POTUS temporarily, like tonight or tomorrow.

You can say Trump is too egomaniacal and pathologically narcissistic to allow any of that. Well, he's not like that on the golf course, say, when Tiger or the other great players are with him, or they'd never play with him. So he can behave himself and think, even logically.

The House can then hold hearings about Kavanaugh and impeach the motherfucker.
The key to public opinion is the news media and we know how they work. For those of countries off the turnip truck check the essays of Joe's Balmer neighbor (no, not John Walters) Bob Somerby chronicling the media malfeasance that gave us Bush the Lesser and 9111. It would be one thing if media animosity was driven by hate as is the case of the drunken banished of New York but it's the cold calculus of selling more soap flakes to you. Bashing Democrats so a loose cannon gets elected brings in viewers.
Democrats have a difference of opinion as to when impeachment hearings should start but you would think it the end of the party if you heed the media. If opinion turns in favor of the Wall it will be the media not shaming Senate republicans to do right.
I read somewhere that there are 145 places where "national emergency" is mentioned in the Code. The majority of these instances have to do with giving the President immediate tactical war powers in case we are attacked. In sum, they amount to declaring martial law. If the President tried to do this, I believe the generals would refuse to obey his orders and would stand down. End of story.
I thought the whole point of a republic was that stupid, wasteful, counterproductive ideas -- such as a border wall -- would be subject to some sort of rational evaluation, even if they were momentarily the will of the [uninformed, misguided] masses. The way for the Democrats to prove they are the grownups in the room -- which lately has come to mean 'those who attempt to maintain harmony by always giving in' -- would be finally to refuse to participate in the race to the bottom and actually start acting like grownups.
I disagree Joseph.
Voters voted and elected Democrats to stand up and fight. Just as Trump knows he needs to appease his base all be it with insisting on this rediclous wall, Democrats can not allow their base to feel deflated so early on after the last election.
There are ways that both sides can save face and end the shut down. That would be the preferred outcome.
Politically the US and Britain are on parallel tracks: an apparent impasse without easy resolution but which can't go on forever; threats by Trump and May to employ extraordinary, half-crazy methods; little real leadership in either country.

Former Tory leader and current ERGer Iain Duncan-Smith (IDS) wrote some revealing words in the Daily Mail:

"(...) Project Fear (wielded in defence of "May's Deal") has gone wrong. Crowded out by the drone chaos at Gatwick and illegal migrants arriving in growing numbers, it hasn’t worked."

If there is another referendum, both sides will play the fear card. Nobody has hope for a better future. We don't know how the questions would be phrased on the ballot, but the xenophobes aka raving Brexiteers aka nationalists would be pitted against a blob of Remainers and supporters of "Brexit In Name Only" or "Soft Brexit".

In an ensuing general election, the Labour party could be smashed. First, ask which option their leading figures might have backed in the referendum, given that "reopen negotiations" won't be available. Second, the LibDems are likely to do well: their leaders with only a very few exceptions will all have backed Remain.

Key point: if Deal or Remain win a referendum, freedom of movement CONTINUES, either for the foreseeable future or for a "transition period"; but if "No Deal" wins, freedom of movement STOPS on 29 March, at 11pm.

News stories would include ones about non-white people stabbing white people (as at Manchester's Victoria station on New Year's Eve) and Iranian refugees sailing across the English Channel in dinghies and then being allowed to stay around once they've claimed asylum. (Never mind that Britain has international obligations to assist refugees: Sun and Daily Mail readers don't give a fuck. Nor for "transition period" either.)

The referendum could be held next month. (Any procedure that currently requires a longer wait could easily get repealed in the Referendum Act.) So as news stories show blood at railway stations, on the streets of London, on the shores of southern and eastern England, and in the Channel; and as the navy and possibly also the army and airforce get sent out to stop foreigners arriving (the Tory press has already called for "smugglers' boats" to be seized in Calais - i.e. for military action against France), the "No Deal" side will be able to say with utmost clarity that the only way to put an immediate stop to freedom of movement is to vote "No Deal".

Remainers and Dealers can say "If you're young, wouldn't you like to go to Paris or Prague?" and "Immigrants are welcome here". They will also be able to say "Imagine the congestion at Calais" and I am sure there will already have been some food and medicine shortages by that time. Some who are addicted to prescribed opioid painkillers may have it very hard. But not even these very real problems - not even the army giving out bags of rice and driving fuel lorries to hospitals - will have the emotional power of stories about migrants on the Channel beaches, once Union Jack-waving military force has been deployed and the blood has started flowing. Crowds don't think rationally.

As well as "migrants", the other "fear" that IDS mentions is drones. Or are they drones? Even if they aren't called out as Russian, the time is super-ripe for an explosion of the mass-market irrational: sightings of strange events, either on the earth's surface or in the skies? TV mega-psychics? Who knows what the form could be? But there will be something...
If Trump gets removed from office under the 25th amendment, can't he then be indicted in the normal way and be tried by an ordinary criminal court? No need for impeachment...

But Pence would probably pardon the motherfucker.
Sorry, @Aylmer - you already said that and more...
There's no law or settled Constitutional prohibition that prevents Trump from being indicted TODAY. There's only a DOJ policy statement, dating back to the Watergate era -- and that was cooked up almost after-the-fact as a rationale for "unindicted co-conspirator."

Not saying he should or shouldn't be indicted. Only pointing out a bit of "Fake News" that many journalists keep kicking further down the field, until it seems like established truth.

A similar fake-truth is the one that says we have to be in pitched battle with an enemy before we can even utter the word "treason."
Just Give Trump his wall in exchange for agreeing that Climate Change is real. Bill Clinton didn't back down when the Republicans led by Newt Gingrich shut down the Government. If Trump backs down he will be ridiculed by the Media and Progressives, if he doesn't back down he is vilified by the Progressives. He knows he is in a lose lose situation so he might as well not back down and show an actual backbone.
How many have died because of the shutdown so far? Someone could do a website with a counter.

Trump will address the nation on TV tonight.

Will he go full-on James Forrestal, leading grownups to invoke the 25th amendment and impose an "Ezra Pound" solution on the motherfucker?

Or will he give the sign for the "American people" [*] to "have their day", as millions of far-right lardarses turn off the wrestling, grab their firearms as if they were stressed-out two-year-olds holding on to their penises, and emerge on to the streets imagining they're playing Earl Turner in a video game, encouraged by those among the fascists, libboes and 4channers who enjoy an above-Twitter level of literacy, who can play John Galt?

Trump is psycho, but ask what Steve Bannon and Michael Ledeen want.

(*) Where else but in the US do a single country's brand managers speak of it as if it were a continent? Meanwhile the British monarchy's men speak of the country as if it were identical to the regime they serve.
Sky News are pushing the idea of a government "shutdown" in Britain - blaming it on the nicies (liberals, Remainers, snowflakes, those who would open the gates to the foreign hordes, etc.) of course.

Expect the military to be deployed against another "caravan" heading northwards in Mexico and a "flotilla" sailing north across the English Channel.

The parallel tracking of the US and Britain right now is remarkable. We are way beyond the events in Congress and Parliament regarding Syria in 2013.
I agree.
b, all I can say is that I love the idea of Trump going James Forrestal on national television. Or perhaps the better reference point would be Howard Beale in "Network." The thing is, one could argue that he ALREADY has done this, and his followers refuse to see what's going on.

If Forrestal were alive today, he wouldn't be tucked away in a hospital. He'd be a regular on Alex Jones' show. On Fox. On Breitbart. And then he'd run for president himself.
And Forrestal would win! Sometimes you just gotta laugh...

A few hours ago another drone was supposed to have been sighted over a British airport, this time over London's Heathrow. Flights stopped for about an hour before resuming. Once again, as far as I am aware no footage has been published showing a drone identifiably over the airport and no testimony has been attributed to a named person who claims they saw one.

Any model aircraft enthusiasts who live within 20 miles of the airport should practise dropping what they're holding and shouting "I am not resisting arrest!" The authorities screwed the publicity up after they arrested two innocent people near Gatwick before Christmas and they are unlikely to make exactly the same mistake again.
Is former MI6 boss Richard Dearlove (the agency's director of operations at the time of the Princess Diana assassination) Kremlin property? Because why else is he talking shit like this?

"Former MI6 head Sir Richard Dearlove and ex-former chief of the defence staff Lord Guthrie have written to Conservative association chairs claiming the EU withdrawal agreement threatens national security.

In an explosive move which will infuriate the prime minister and her allies, delight Brexiteers and dismay Remainers, they write: "Please ensure that your MP does not vote for this bad agreement."

In their letter, Sir Richard - who was chief of the secret intelligence staff - and Lord Guthrie claim the prime minister's Brexit deal would surrender the UK's forces and intelligence services to EU control.

It was revealed that MI6 knew not to give Boris Johnson any sensitive info when he was foreign secretary. I doubt that was because Johnson was a US citizen. Dearlove should mind how he goes.

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Thursday, January 03, 2019

Donald Trump learned his "history" from a Russian source

When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, and for many years afterward, no American dared to suggest that the story had more than one side. If you even whispered that forbidden thought, you were denounced as a commie. I speak from experience, kids.

How things have changed! Behold: History according to Trump.
“Russia used to be the Soviet Union. Afghanistan made it Russia, because they went bankrupt fighting in Afghanistan. Russia. ...The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia. They were right to be there. The problem is, it was a tough fight. And literally they went bankrupt; they went into being called Russia again, as opposed to the Soviet Union. You know, a lot of these places you’re reading about now are no longer part of Russia, because of Afghanistan.”
You probably expect this post to veer into a discussion of the Soviet/Afghan war. Why bother? I've talked about it before. As some of you know, I have long been of the opinion that Zbigniew Brzezinski (Carter's Kissinger, Mika's father) did everything he could to sucker the Russians into that quagmire.

(The Afghan civil war followed hard upon the Iranian revolution, and both events caused the Soviets to fear an Islamic rebellion within their own territory. Zbig encouraged the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, which he felt could be used as a weapon against communism -- the greater menace, in his eyes. As he later told an interviewer: "What's a few riled-up Muslims?" Those words seemed like a grim joke after September 11, 2001. We should also note that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan also proved incredibly helpful to the American right; without that event, Reagan may not have won.)

The really interesting aspect of the above-quoted passage is this: How did Trump learn what he is pleased to consider "history"?

Yes, he's old enough to recall the invasion of Afghanistan, as am I. But until now, he displayed no interest in the topic. He never offered an opinion differing from the wisdom most Americans received from the mainstream media. He has never before spoken in an explicitly pro-Soviet fashion.

Let's repeat that: He has never before spoken in an explicitly pro-Soviet fashion. Yet Trump's supporters still recklessly apply the label "commie" to anyone they don't like.

Everything about the afore-quoted passage suggests that Trump -- a spectacularly ill-educated human being -- learned these "facts" quite recently.

He does that a lot, you know. It's always cute when The Man With the Cosmic Brain shows off some nugget of knowledge which plonked into his skull just a short while before. Remember when he announced that "Most people don't know President Lincoln was a Republican"? Translation: He didn't know that very basic fact of American history; everyone else did.

As David Frum notes, we should be concerned by the lingo. Let's look again at Trump's actual words:
The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia. They were right to be there.
During the Soviet "experience" in Afghanistan, Soviet propaganda used two terms for the mujahideen (the CIA-supported warriors who banded together to drive out the invaders). Moscow-based media called these fighters "terrorists" and "bandits."

No, I will not be sidetracked into a discussion of whether those terms have any justification; such a debate would be beside the point. For present purposes, the important point is this: American sources never referred to the mujahideen as "terrorists." I'm not just talking about the American government or mainstream media: Even the hardcore lefties on Pacifica radio refused to use that terminology. Anyone who talked that way while Carter or Reagan was in office would have been considered a traitor.

What about the assertion that the mujahideen had sent fighters into the USSR? Back in the 1980s, not even by the most strident opponents of Ronald Reagan would have said such a thing. Near as I can tell, Trump is the only American who thinks that the Afghans invaded the Soviet Union before the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.

The accusation that "The Afghans crossed the border first" does not appear in Wikipedia's lengthy article on the USSR/Afghan conflict. It doesn't appear in David Isby's Russia's War in Afghanistan. Nobody in the American State Department tells the story this way. Neither the American military or intelligence establishment would justify the Soviet invasion in this fashion. I doubt that anyone in academia would agree with Trump.

(I could be wrong about that. On any given topic, there's always a professor somewhere who enjoys flaunting his unconventionality.)

Conclusion: Trump's "Afghans invaded the USSR" claim almost certainly came from a Russian source.

Which source? Who told him these things? Did Trump speak to Putin directly?

It has been an important ideological project of the Putin regime to rehabilitate and justify the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. Putin does not care so much about Afghanistan, but he cares a lot about the image of the USSR.
It’s fitting that Putin’s campaign to reimpose official lying would culminate in a glorification of the catastrophic Afghanistan war. And clearly, that campaign has swayed the mind of the president of the United States.
The importance of this matter should not be understated. Donald Trump doesn't know much history, but what little he does know (or thinks he knows), he has apparently acquired from a Russian -- perhaps from Putin himself.

I'll say it again: Damn, but things have changed since Reagan was in office!

When are the Republicans going to notice this gross historical revisionism? When are they going to cease offering justifications for ideas and practices they once would have considered intolerable?

A word about the shutdown: During the past few days, I've been reticent to blog, or even to watch the news. The shutdown is the only thing that anyone on teevee wants to talk about, even though there's little fresh to say. It's not easy to take 90 seconds of information and stretch it thin enough to fill a 24/7 news channel.

Despite all the triumphalist rah-rah we are hearing from the Democrats, I think Trump will win this one. Trump and the Dems are engaged in a game of chicken. It's one jalopy speeding toward the other. That game is always won by the sicko who doesn't mind crashing.

Update: Yes, I promised not to get mired in the history of the Soviet invasion. But it may be worthwhile to note this previously-secret official British assessment, issued at the start of that conflict:
“Aid to the rebels is highly desirable in itself. A prolonged counter-revolutionary war there could only have the most profound effects on the whole Soviet system. Certainly anything in the nature of a Soviet ‘Vietnam’ – to use an analogy which has been widely employed – would presumably have the same effect on a government in Moscow as the real Vietnam did in Washington."
During the early 1980s, I did not know that such thoughts were being expressed behind the scenes, but I had my suspicions. And that's why I felt certain that the story had more than one side. Nota bene: My use of the phrase "more than one side" does not mean that I believe the version now promoted by Putin and Trump.
It's a surprise to me that the Mujahids raid over the border into the USSR is even controversial. That claim was certainly made in an Adam Curtis documentary I saw many years ago. That was in the days of the War on Terror, when Russia was an ally against al Qaeda and the Taleban.

Of course the odds that Trump saw a documentary like that are about the same as the odds that he got the information from reading an obscure academic tome, but the information didn't necessarily come from a Russian.
Hate to put you on the spot, Stephen, but can you recall the title of the Adam Curtis documentary? I've seen nearly everything he has made, but I don't recall that. Of course, I can hardly claim to have a perfect memory.

At any rate, if there was a raid, it could have been staged as a casus belli. I have yet to find a published source. I guess such a thing COULD have happened, but no-one mentions such a raid as a cause or justification for the Soviet invasion.

I was paying attention to American left-wing media at the time; the left was very concerned by the renewed Cold War hysteria and was trying to make the world safe for detente again. You'd think that THEY would have made a big deal out of such a raid -- if it happened.
I'm afraid I can't remember, and I've also seen all our most of his stuff, including stuff that was only in his blog or the iPlayer and his segments on Newswipe, so it would be hard to narrow down. I think it was part of a larger discussion of Afghanistan, though, I definitely remember something about American engineers introducing irrigation to Afghanistan which contaminated the soil with salt and led to the local farmers abandoning wheat for opium.
Nah, I gotta disagree on the shutdown. This is very straightforward. McConnell will pass a bill reopening the government + the wall and Pelosi (WOW does that feel nice to write!) will pass a bill reopening the government - the wall. The wall is unpopular plus Trump said he would be proud to shut the government down over the wall. On these terms, the Dems will win. The problem from an actual governing perspective is that Trump may feel that as long as his base is with him (which, let's not kid ourselves, it will be), he will never reopen the government. There's really no incentive for him to reopen the government, and I fear that's where this is going. Horrible for the country, but Trump won't win politically from it.

Our country is so screwed. We can't even fund our own government due purely to petty partisanship.
nemdam, you make my point. You don't disagree at all. Trump will win because he's crazy enough to crash the car.
Oh, there's no doubt America will lose in all of this, and Trump (Putin's agent) will win by creating more chaos.
Maybe the lesson the Republicans were pushing at us in Bush was that even an idiot can be president, and life goes on.

Maybe the lesson the Republicans are pushing at us in Trump is that the federal government can be shut down, indefinitely,and life goes on.
Also note the irony that Republican states became "red" states. "Red" sure doesn't mean what it used to.
Jospeh, don't know what you think of Andre Vltchek but this piece of his is quite eye-opening vis-a-vie USSR and Afghanistan ==> I've always thought Jimmy and Zbig were up to no good, but it's wild to read;

"When I sleep, I still sometimes see the former Soviet Union in my dreams. After that, I wake up and feel happy for one entire month. I remember everything I saw there, until now…” I wanted to know what really made him so happy ‘there’? Mr. Wahed did not hesitate: “People! They are so kind. They are welcoming… Russians, Ukrainians… I felt so much at home there. Their culture is exactly like ours. Those who say that Russians ‘occupied’ Afghanistan have simply sold out. The Russians did so much for Afghanistan: they built entire housing communities like ‘Makroyan’, they built factories, even bakeries. In places such as Kandahar, people are still eating Russian bread.."

It's toob bad Putin doesn't read Counterpunch-- otherwise would Trump be telling a different story?
When was the last time a US head of government said the USSR was wrong to invade Afghanistan?
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Monday, December 31, 2018


I just caught a bit of Ari Melber's interview with Jerome Corsi. I'd like to focus on one tidbit that slipped out: Corsi revealed that he had studied under Edward Bernays. Now, this fact may have been widely known previously, but I did not learn about it until just now.

In the land of the conspiracy theorists, Bernays has become a quasi-mythical figure -- a supervillain who ranks somewhere between Dr. No and Mephistopheles on the Evilness scale. Can you imagine how the Alex Jonesians would hoot and screech if any Democrat had confessed to such an association?

And yet Corsi is not the target of paranoid speculation. Instead, our professional paranoia-pushers consider him one of their deities.

Once again, Corsi proves something I've said for years: The conspiracy theorists ARE the conspiracy.
"Corsi brags that he studied with the “father of propaganda” Edward Bernays.

"And as if that weren’t enough to confirm Corsi’s disinformation bona fides, he is currently making money offering a monthly paid subscription service that offers “in depth decodes” of Q-Anon, a high-profile disinformation meme."

From Daniel Hopsicker's recent post on Corsi. Lots of other information, too, mainly about his history of frauds.
I believe it was Ari Melber who interviewed Corsi.
I've made the change, JL. Thanks for correcting me.

Memory, she is a funny thing, no?
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Elizabeth Warren's DNA

I welcome Elizabeth Warren's entrance into the race. But this paragraph of the recent WP story bugs me:
It made no mention of a recent Warren stumble: her October decision to release results of a DNA test that said she probably had a distant Native American ancestor. The move had been meant to stifle Trump’s criticism of her but only engendered more mockery from him while also angering Democrats, particularly minorities who objected to her defining ethnicity via a test.
I saw that video and saw nothing wrong with it. Trump and the Trumpers will always mock; that's what they do. They are trolls and bullies by nature.

The comment about "defining ethnicity via a test" pisses me off. For years, years, people have screamed at Warren: "You say you had a Native American ancestor? Prove it!" Yet when she does prove it, everyone shouts: "How dare you use SCIENCE to determine FACT?"

That's the point when we children of the '70s shout back: "Catch-22!"

(Do younger people know what "Catch-22" means? They ought to.)

I have a personal interest in this controversy. The same thing might have happened to me, had I ever chosen to run for office.

My father -- who died when I was young -- refused to talk about his ancestry, even though such discussions were common back in the day. "I'm American!" he'd snarl in a tone of voice that commanded inquirers to drop the subject.

Eventually, my mom had a chance to discuss the issue with his mom, who recounted an amazingly complex and convoluted story which my mom could not recall in detail. Apparently, the family tree has roots twining through every single country in Europe. The mix includes one Jew and one American Indian.

(That was the term used in the 1960s. Which tribe, you ask? Mom never told me. Dad's family settled in Ohio, so perhaps the Shawnee.)

After Dad died, I usually identified myself as Eye-talian, because Mom's people came from Italy, and because my hero was Leonardo da Vinci. Italy is the land of great painters, great food, and Sophia Loren, I was told. Nobody on her side of the family liked to talk about Mussolini or the mafia.

But whenever friends entered into a detailed discussion of ethnic heritage, I related what little I knew about my father. Toward the end, I would say: "There's even an Indian in there somewhere."

It never occurred to me to question the idea. Not until the Elizabeth Warren controversy cropped up.

But once that controversy took hold, I had to ask myself: How can you be certain?

Grandma Pearl was a bit eccentric. Not crazy, but a true character. As I distinctly recall, she was the kind of woman who treated pillowfighting as if it were an Olympic event. She may have been an untrustworthy narrator.

So let's say that Elizabeth Warren's DNA test had turned out differently. Let's say that her only "crime" was believing her own family's version of Grandma Pearl. So what? Should Warren be disqualified from the presidency on that basis?
I have a very interesting family history related to me by my father. When his father was 12, he stole a cow from his father, sold it and booked travel to the United States. Upon arriving, he visited his sister who then lived in New York City. He went to her and asked for help, she gave him a dime and told him to find a job. He went to Central Park, sat on a bench and cried. A kindly gentleman asked what the problem was. My grandfather replied in Hungarian, which the man knew, and told him that he had nowhere to go. The man took pity on the young boy, took him back to Scranton, raised him as his own, sent him to the Jewish school, though the man was not Jewish, and when he retired gave him his dry goods store. Wonderful story, except totally bogus. My grandfather was 20 when he arrived in America. Same story with my mother's father, who supposedly came here at a young age and worked as peddler with a horse and cart. That grandfather also arrived when he was 20. Somebody doing genealogical research contacted my brother a few years back and that is when we discovered the truth. But family myths are tough to unravel and who would ever doubt his father?
Well, that's more colorful than MY story! Who would concoct a tale about a stolen cow? Still, there must have been some kind of seed money involved.

Apparently, in the '50s, it became a bit of a fad to claim that one's family includes at least one Indian ancestor. I suspect that this fad grew out of that decade's infatuation with Western films.
And out in the West Texas town of El Paso, an Irish-American would have voters believe that he is Mexican. Robert, O'Rourke says, is "Beto" but his middle name Francis is Francisco in Spanish and Wiki has a tale about The Cisco Kid and his sidekick Pancho.

"Cisco" and "Pancho" are both nicknames given to men whose Spanish name is Francisco, which in English is "Francis." The Cisco Kid character's full name was revealed in books and '40s movies as Juan Carlos Francisco Antonio Hernandez.

It is probable, but not clear, that Pancho or Cisco were originally named after the famous Mexican revolutionary general whose nom de guerre was Francisco "Pancho" Villa.

So fame can come with surprising negatives.
Publishing her DNA test was a stupid move, politically. In my book, her poor judgement almost disqualifies her for the presidency. I'm keeping an open mind...but just barely.

I do like her otherwise, and agree with her domestic agenda.
Stupid WHY?

That's the question I keep asking, and nobody gives an answer that makes sense to me.

People asked if she really did have Native American ancestry. She took a test. It proves she did. What the hell is the fucking PROBLEM?
Google for "Cherokee Princess Syndrome". As it turns out, lots and lots of families have a Grandma Pearl who told the young'uns there was a "Cherokee Princess" or "Indian Chief" in their family tree. Granny did it because kids always think it's cool. There's usually no Indian link at all and the DNA testing service 23andMe has a FAQ item for people who are disappointed to learn it was probably all a fib.

According to the Google ngram viewer, "Cherokee Princess" (the most common meme) only took off around 1980. Before that it was a common claim only in the southern U.S. A Southern Focus Poll (UNC/Chapel Hill) found when southerners were asked if they had Indian ancestry, 45% said yes, as compared to 25% of the rest of the country. Interestingly, southerners are now more likely to claim being part Indian than descended from Confederate soldiers (22%).

I'm dismayed by the poor judgement Warren showed by announcing the results of the DNA test as if it were vindication. Cultural identity is part of the daily life for a great many Indians; it was entirely predictable that when she said, "the test shows I'm part Indian," some Indians angrily replied, "look, it's not like putting on a green sweater for St. Patrick's - and by the way, your record on Indian issues really sucks."

I won't go so far as calling what she did cultural appropriation, but it was grossly insensitive. After all, if the test showed she had a Jewish ancestor around 1750, would Orthodox voters applaud her for announcing she was "part Jewish?" If genealogists found a relative who was a slave owner, would she bring that up to Black audiences?
Stupid because the result was totally predictable.
Stupid because she had nothing to gain by doing it.
Stupid because, instead of trivializing him, she validated Trump's joke.
Stupid because she should have known better
...if she was truly ready for primetime politics.
Doesn't anyone GET IT? this country was built on GENOCIDE of the native people who populated this continent. In Washington & Oregon, along the Columbia River, the Hudson's Bay trappers gave out blankets infested with smallpox & watched whole tribes die. There are many people who have native blood in this country & like Elizabeth Warren, get hounded to fucking death about it. It makes me sick to think of the atrocities that were inflicted on the peoples of this entire continent - & the shallow stupid ignorant assholes who don't stand up for human decency toward the rich cultures that were wiped out & the many, many, many people who carry native trauma in their own DNA. Have you been around tribal people today? I have & I am part native american, tribes unknown, from SW Viriginia & eastern Tennesee, & PROUD OF IT. WAKE the fuck up!
It's the "female candidates must be perfect and pure" problem. Try to imagine a male subjected to the same mockery and dismissal for the same triviality.

The test WAS vindication.

Look, you can't have it both ways. You can't tell Warren "Prove it!" and then sneer at her for proving it. That IS Catch-22.

"I won't go so far as calling what she did cultural appropriation, but it was grossly insensitive. After all, if the test showed she had a Jewish ancestor around 1750, would Orthodox voters applaud her for announcing she was "part Jewish?" If genealogists found a relative who was a slave owner, would she bring that up to Black audiences?"

She wasn't doing it to please any audience. She believed a family claim. That belief was reflected on a form she filled out. Others doubted the claim and told her to prove it. She did. And that is fucking IT.

All of this other nonsense is the kind of politically correct insanity that most people hate -- including (according to a poll recently cited by Bill Maher) the majority of Native Americans.

Look at it this way. Suppose I were running for office. Suppose a crowd of people out there demanded that I prove my Italian ancestry. Suppose I provide some form of proof (DNA or otherwise) to back up my claim. And THEN suppose that the same critics said "So, Cannon -- you've decided to pander to Italian voters?"

You can't win! It's an infuriating situation: You're damned as a liar, and then when you prove that you were telling the truth all along, you're damned for providing the requested proof.

Perhaps if I were Joseph Heller, I'd be a good enough writer to explain the absurdity of this situation.

As for Grandma Pearl: I prefer to think that she was telling the truth; alas, she died a long time ago and I have no way of knowing. She was high-spirited and larger-than-life, but I doubt that she would have fibbed about such a thing, although I must reluctantly concede the possibility. To be honest, it never occurred to me until quite recently that she might have lied to my mom.

I'd really like a link to that poll supposedly showing the majority of Indians consider it "politically correct insanity." I follow several Indian news sites and even the NPR-like, ultra-moderate "Indian Country Today" has consistently hammered Warren over how she has treated this issue.

Your analogy about being challenged on Italian ancestry fails. Warren isn't pandering to any voting bloc by claiming to be part Indian, she's only saying the DNA test vindicates her claim. But let's pretend that it really is important for your election to prove your Italian heritage, so you submit a report which compares your DNA to people from Spain, Tunisia and Greece. Yep, that proves Joe's a paisano!

Wait - what?

Geneticists have very few samples of American Indian DNA. Tribes are distrustful that the data could be leveraged against them IN EXACTLY THIS WAY, being used as "proof" that an individual is/is not a "real" Indian. The (well-respected) researcher who evaluated Warren's DNA used samples of people from Mexico, Peru and Colombia, which historically have large Indian populations. So in other words, the nature of the test itself was an insult to lots of Indians, aside from her claim that it vindicates her.

The background to all this is the theory of a single, Bering Strait migration is rapidly falling apart. It's now widely believed there were at least three separate migrations starting as long as 24,000 years ago (Google for "Solutrean"). So some American Indians may not even be related to the people whose DNA was used. Which, of course, we can't test because the tribes are distrustful. Lather, rinse, repeat.

You are absolutely right that Warren was ensnared in a Catch-22, and this is another one specific to the Indian community. Had she discussed the DNA issue with Indians in advance, I'm sure she would have been told the test itself was a real imbroglio.
There’s another problem that the formidable Warren now faces. And of course it’s just more of the same old Republican crap. They misrepresent and lie about her competence and positions.

Twice on Monday I heard different people do this. One was that hack GOPer that MSNBC has on frequently. To paraphrase, she’s as far out there on the left as Trump is to the right, with just as rabid a base.

The other was some stupid analyst on PBS, I think. She characterized Warren as a “populist.” - - - Wait a minute, I thought Trump is the populist.

Get read for a replay of the 2016 media shit-show that will aim to damage any competent Democratic candidates. The Republican spokespeople, operatives, office-holders, etc are, with a few possible but unknown exceptions, sociopaths. They have no respect for truth or decency or anybody other than themselves or their billionaire funders.

So, in this climate, it will be just as Joseph has said about that DNA test. She would have been damned if she didn’t and now she’s being damned that she did take one.

Happy New Year.


This is the same world where some bloated, lying asshole, Corsi, got people to doubt John Kerry’s service in Viet Nam.
In "The Art of the Deal," Trump claimed that his grandfather came from Scotland. He didn't, his grandfather came from Germany. The Trump family claimed Scottish ancestry so as not to offend its Jewish tenants in New York. Trump's family lied so as to get something, Warren's family told the truth for no benefit and yet it is Warren who is pilloried.
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Saturday, December 29, 2018

The Bernie menace: It never stops!

A tweet from the "Mueller, she wrote" podcast:
The house judiciary and intelligence committees have officially CLOSED the three-year investigation into Hillary’s emails

ZERO indictments
ZERO felonies
ZERO arrests
ZERO convictions

Mueller has nabbed 38 people or entities with over 200 felonies. 52 are “collusion” #winning
To this day, I keep running into people who say that those emails contained classified information. The only message accidentally marked "classified" at the time was a piece of piffle concerning Malawi -- a message which contained no information not available online.

It is perhaps history's greatest irony that Hillary was defeated because so many people (including Bernie Sanders) accused her of treating classified information carelessly. Trump was the pick of Vladimir Putin, and virtually all of his cronies are tied to or beholden to Russian oligarchs. (The latest example.) His administration has communicated in hilariously insecure ways. The acting Secretary of Defense will soon be Patrick Shanahan, whose own stance toward Russia is unnerving.

Clinton-hate is a disease that has cost this country much. A recent DU post reminded us of this important post-election 2016 piece by Kurt Eichenwald: "The Myths Democrats Swallowed That Cost Them the Presidential Election."
A certain kind of liberal makes me sick. These people traffic in false equivalencies, always pretending that both nominees are the same, justifying their apathy and not voting or preening about their narcissistic purity as they cast their ballot for a person they know cannot win. I have no problem with anyone who voted for Trump, because they wanted a Trump presidency. I have an enormous problem with anyone who voted for Trump or Stein or Johnson—or who didn’t vote at all—and who now expresses horror about the outcome of this election. If you don’t like the consequences of your own actions, shut the hell up.
Which leads back to the main point: Awash in false conspiracy theories and petulant immaturity, liberals put Trump in the White House. Trump won slightly fewer votes than Romney did in 2012—60.5 million compared with 60.9 million. On the other hand, almost 5 million Obama voters either stayed home or cast their votes for someone else. More than twice as many millennials—a group heavily invested in the “Sanders was cheated out of the nomination” fantasy—voted third-party. The laughably unqualified Jill Stein of the Green Party got 1.3 million votes; those voters almost certainly opposed Trump; if just the Stein voters in Michigan had cast their ballot for Clinton, she probably would have won the state. And there is no telling how many disaffected Sanders voters cast their ballot for Trump.
It has been established beyond the point of reasonable debate that the Russians supported Sanders and Jill Stein. Why presuppose that Stein and Sanders were unaware of what was going on? Why aren't we investigating bird-brain Bernie and "Pig" Stein for collusion?

Sanders' choice of Tad Devine and his ongoing refusal to reveal his taxes certainly give us legitimate grounds for suspicion. We all know that Stein was there when Michael Flynn gave a dinner serenade to Vladimir Putin. She misappropriated funds intended for the 2016 recount.

Bernie Sanders, if nominated, would lose all 50 states, including Vermont. That's why the Trumpers (and the Russians) are doing everything they can to insure that Sanders wins the nomination.

Eichenwald's 2016 piece includes some important words about Bernie -- words which deserve more attention:
I have seen the opposition book assembled by Republicans for Sanders, and it was brutal. The Republicans would have torn him apart. And while Sanders supporters might delude themselves into believing that they could have defended him against all of this, there is a name for politicians who play defense all the time: losers.
Then there’s the fact that Sanders was on unemployment until his mid-30s, and that he stole electricity from a neighbor after failing to pay his bills, and that he co-sponsored a bill to ship Vermont’s nuclear waste to a poor Hispanic community in Texas, where it could be dumped. You can just see the words “environmental racist” on Republican billboards. And if you can’t, I already did. They were in the Republican opposition research book as a proposal on how to frame the nuclear waste issue.
Worst of all, the Republicans also had video of Sanders at a 1985 rally thrown by the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua where half a million people chanted, “Here, there, everywhere/the Yankee will die,’’ while President Daniel Ortega condemned “state terrorism” by America. Sanders said, on camera, supporting the Sandinistas was “patriotic.”
In my own piece, written before the election, I predicted that the Republicans would get hold of such a video. Looks like I was right. Please note: Bernie Sanders has never challenged this Eichenwald claim, first published two years ago.

Before you try to take me to school on this topic, know this: Back in the '80s, I opposed Reagan's various interventions in Central America, and participated in several stateside events. I know that rhetoric tended to get out of hand during that era. But even then, when I had all the impetuousness of youth, I would never have lingered at a rally where things like that were shouted. Any American who appeared on camera on such an occasion should have understood that he had just forfeited any chance of running for high office in this country.

I'm surprised that Bernie has made it this far without that video coming to light. Trump is no doubt holding it in reserve. And that's not the only piece of ammo...
The Republicans had at least four other damning Sanders videos (I don’t know what they showed), and the opposition research folder was almost 2-feet thick.
Five damning videos. One of them, I suspect, will place him in support of the Iranian revolution.

That's why the Trumpers (and the Russians) are doing everything they can to insure that Sanders wins the nomination. I'll say it again: Sanders will lose all 50 states, including Vermont. He will tarnish the Democratic brand forever.

If Bernie gets the nod, I will support Trump. Better obvious treason than the sneaking kind; better a wolf in wolf's clothing than a wolf in sheep's clothing.

In an ideal world, Donnie and Bernie would share the same cell.

The Sanders movement continues to work tirelessly to undermine the Democratic party. Tellingly, Sanders has done absolutely nothing to leash his mad dogs; he has never denounced Cassandra Fairbanks and Lord H.A. H.A. and all the other Sanders supporters who have outed themselves as Trumpers.

Remember when the Berners smeared Kamala Harris? In 2017, Sanders led the charge to smear Al Franken.

And now the Berners are going after Beto O'Rourke.
“Reading Karl Marx is cool,” said Nomiki Konst, a Sanders loyalist and candidate for New York City public advocate, to NBC. “Doing a livestream while you’re doing your laundry is a gimmick.” The comment sums up the left’s well-grounded fear that Sanders’s hard-core ideological appeal can be easily disarmed with personal charisma.
Has Konst or any other leading Berner actually sat down and read Capital? I did so circa 1980, at a time when displaying any sort of intellectual curiosity was considered the opposite of cool. (To see what I mean, watch pretty much any movie or TV show produced that year.) I also read The Wealth of Nations and a whole lotta John Kenneth Galbraith.

Intellectual curiosity has nothing to do with coolness, and praising Karl Marx has nothing to do with winning elections in the United States. Sorry, but that's the way it is. Either these dimwits refuse to comprehend political reality or they genuinely want Trump to win. Probably the latter.

Me? I'm a Beto fan -- now. Wasn't before. But when the Berners went after the guy, I knew who deserved my support. Bernie fan David Sirota recently tried to smear Beto as a tool of Big Oil, even though the accusation is a canard. (I can recall when Sirota was an honored guest on Al Franken's radio show. What happened to that guy?)

As for that livestream "gimmick": In the current era, all politics is digital. Sorry, but that's the way it is.
Eichenwald threw in an extra comma in his 2016 Newsweek article resulting in misunderstanding.

His sentence should have read, " I have no problem with anyone who voted for Trump because they wanted a Trump presidency."

When it reads " I have no problem with anyone who voted for Trump, because they wanted a Trump presidency." the meaning is changed significantly.
Sanders led the charge to smear Al Franken. Link seems to be broken.
I fixed it, j. I hope.
Joseph, thanks for the review. The menace indeed never ends.

Happy new year!

Throw your hands up in disgust moment. The Vermont Democratic Party passed a resolution making Burno an honorary member.
According to this piece in the Daily Telegraph, the "historic British UFO mystery" of 1980 at Rendelsham Forest was a "prank" played on the US air force by the SAS.

And with that I wish everyone a Happy New Year! would you look at this:

With Elizabeth Warren now setting up an exploratory run for the presidency, I think Sanders is probably neutered.

The reason for Sanders running last time was to fill the void left by Warren when she decided not to run for president.

OTE, I would agree with you if Bernie were a normal politician. But Bernie is not that. He is a virus injected into our body politic by a foreign power.
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Friday, December 28, 2018

Blame Nancy?

I've rarely mentioned the Wall. Let's talk about it.

Frankly, I could support such an endeavor on Keynesian grounds, if we faced a Depression (which we do not, despite the weirdness on Wall Street). I still believe in a basic lesson once commonly taught in economics class: When unemployment runs high and demand hits rock bottom, when a nation's economy resembles an elevator stuck in the basement, government should become the employer of last resort. Any project will do. If nothing else comes to mind, government should hire a million people to bury bottles in the desert and then hire another million to dig 'em up again.

Let's be honest: What we are debating now is not the Wall's efficacy but Trump's loathesomeness. The majority of Americans detest the man. Democrats will seem craven if they hand a win to a man hated by so many.

Dems would probably grudgingly accept the Wall, or at least not make it the reason for a government shutdown, if any other president (Republican or Democrat) had demanded the thing. But Trump is uniquely vile. A smirk of triumph on that hideous tangerine mug would be an unendurable sight.

If he wins this one, you know damned well that he'll smirk. He will prance and gloat and chortle and bellow a primitive war-cry, the kind of cry one might have heard from Conan the Barbarian after he bludgeoned his way onto the throne of Aquilonia. An effective leader always graciously allows a foe to save face, but we've learned that Trump doesn't do grace. He wants the heads of his enemies to decorate the gate while his blood-crazed followers dance in the torchlight.

He's a bully. He can't not smirk.

Being a bully, he also can't compromise. Worse, he can't be compromised with, because one must never give in to a bully, not even slightly.

Any other president would propose a "test" scenario -- say, 75 miles of Wall, as a proof-of-concept. Trump won't do that. Facing any other president, Congress would probably accept such a test. But this president...? No.

In short and in sum: The current shutdown thus has more to do with character than with security or money.

Unfortunately, the shutdown serves Trump's purposes: He wants the country to talk about something other than his obvious criminality and his ties to Russia. He wants to frame the debate in terms of "build the wall" vs "unlimited immigration" -- as though those were the only two options. In short, he wants us talking purely about his issues.

Since neither his Russian masters nor his libertarian/neo-Nazi followers want our democracy (or any other democracy) to function, Trump has zero incentive to end the shutdown on any terms other than his own. Thus, I fear that he will win this one. Since Pelosi and Schumer like democracy and Trump doesn't, Trump has the upper hand.

Blaming Nancy. Earlier today, I saw Sarah Sanders blame the shutdown on Nancy Pelosi. What the hell? Are Trump's followers so ignorant as to believe that Pelosi has anything to do with this?

She is not yet the Speaker of the House. In fact, there is still a small chance that she might not get the gig. At this writing, the Republicans retain a majority in the House -- the same majority they have had throughout the past two years.

In that body, the votes for the Wall are there. Always have been. As Trump himself said in that instantly-infamous chat/spat with Pelosi and Schumer, the problem has always been in the Senate, where the Republican majority is not filibuster-proof. I believe that Trump could have gotten his way in that body despite the filibuster threat. For example, the Republicans could have forced the Dems to conduct an actual filibuster, which would have been, if nothing else, a very droll exercise in theater. Would the trick have worked? Don’t know. We can discuss that topic at another time.

Right now, I am making one simple, obvious point: Nancy Pelosi is not a senator. She is a member of the House, where Trump has the votes for the Wall right now.

She is not and has not been in a position to stop the Wall from being funded. In the near future, perhaps -- but not in the past and not now. Thus, the Trumpers cannot plausibly construe her as the villain of this piece.

So why are they demonizing her? I can think of only two reasons:

1. Trump supporters have no idea as to how government works.

2. She's female.

I don't know what to do about the second problem. But the first is easily addressed: Make the franchise contingent on the successful passage of a high school civics class.
The print and broadcast news media demonstrate their complicity by parroting the blame Pelosi meme instead pointing out the obvious. Same as all those breathless reporting on threats to Nancy's Speakership. The Burno wing is enjoying rocking the boat and won't be happy until a republican ends up as Speaker because Wall Street.
I keep reading about how the people actually on the border don't want the wall because of the effects it would have on their farms and other property (that's in addition to the ecological effects of cutting wildlife off from their habitat, but we can't talk about that because it's science and gross stuff like that). I keep thinking a skilled publicist could paint this as essentially giving our land to Mexico by cutting it off from the red-blooded Americans who actually own it. There are places the wall would be a mile from the border. That's a lot of land to make essentially unusable to the Real Americans who own it and have been using it for Real American things like farming and ranching for generations. How about the effects on the finances of the local governments along the border?
You might like this:

A border wall may well violate a Nixon-era treaty:
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Thursday, December 27, 2018

Cohen responds

Let's follow up on the preceding post, which discusses the report that Michael Cohen's cellphone "pinged" from the vicinity of Prague. Cohen offered a tweet which was a little too cute:
I hear #Prague #CzechRepublic is beautiful in the summertime. I wouldn’t know as I have never been. #Mueller knows everything!
The wording led some people to think that Cohen was near Prague but not in it -- just as one might visit Santa Monica and then claim (with technical accuracy) "No, I wasn't in Los Angeles last weekend."

From Scott Dworkin:
.@MichaelCohen212-Cut the shit, Michael. You think it’s cute to say you’ve never been to Prague when it could be a suburb of Prague or on the outskirts. Answer this question, smart guy: Have you ever been in the Czech Republic ever? For any reason? At any time? Ever?
To which Cohen responded "NO." Capital en, capital oh. Of course, Cohen had at one point said he was in the area 14 years ago, but I don't consider this discrepancy important.

From Jennifer Taub:
Quick follow up if I may. Have you ever been to any location within the Czech Republic? Asking for several hundred million friends.
Answer: Another NO.

Normally, the Trumper responses are not worth quoting. But I'll mention this one:
Here’s Deep State desperation trying to revive Cohen/ Prague lie. Note they don’t mention IMEI numbers. Every device has a unique number. They don’t know the NSA search was the wrong Cohen, which implicates Steele & FusionGPS.
We're not talking about the NSA, and that "wrong Cohen" story plays no role here. McClatchy's four sources cited an eastern European service, which must be either Czech or Ukrainian. The Trumpers are stretching the "Deep State" concept to include intelligence services throughout the world. In other words, the "Deep State" conspiracy theory is now indistinguishable from the old "Elders of Zion" conspiracy theory.

I don't know who McClatchy's sources are, but I'm convinced that they exist. That doesn't mean that they are telling the truth.

Of course, Cohen is not under oath when he tweets.

At this point, I'm not sure how this mystery will play out.

Have to give Bill Palmer credit here. This post is a gem;


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Prague rock

Syria was supposed to be today's topic -- never before has Donald Trump acted so clearly at the behest of a foreign government -- but the latest revelation about Michael Cohen demands attention.
A mobile phone traced to President Donald Trump’s former lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen briefly sent signals ricocheting off cell towers in the Prague area in late summer 2016, at the height of the presidential campaign, leaving an electronic record to support claims that Cohen met secretly there with Russian officials, four people with knowledge of the matter say.

During the same period of late August or early September, electronic eavesdropping by an Eastern European intelligence agency picked up a conversation among Russians, one of whom remarked that Cohen was in Prague, two people familiar with the incident said.

The phone and surveillance data, which have not previously been disclosed, lend new credence to a key part of a former British spy’s dossier of Kremlin intelligence describing purported coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russia’s election meddling operation.
Which intelligence agency? Ukraine would have much to gain from the release of this information, especially given the current situation. An even likelier candidate would be the Czech Republic itself, which has a decent signals intelligence capability. The BIS (their CIA) is headquartered in Prague; they consider Russia their primary target.

Question: If McClatchy's source is Czech, why would the BIS keep mum about this business until now?

Heretofore, the claim that Cohen went to Prague was the most controversial aspect of the Steele dossier  -- aside from, you know, the moist bits. Whenever a Fox Newser wanted to discredit the entire report, they pointed to Cohen's insistence that he had not gone that city. Cohen switched loyalties, yet he never changed his Prague story. Moreover, the former Trump fixer produced a passport which backed up this assertion.

"Case closed," said Trump's defenders. "The whole dossier has been fully disproven!"

The Trumpers don't like to be reminded that Paul Manafort had three passports. Multiple passports are fairly common in cases of international skullduggery.

Lanny Davis, the attorney for Michael Cohen who helped him make the big segue, has always insisted that his client has never been to Prague. For a while, I thought: Maybe that part of the dossier really is off the mark. Such an error would constitute a serious strike against Steele, even if it doesn't disprove the entire opus.

But Davis has not been Cohen's lawyer for a while, although the two men retain a friendly relationship. Moreover, we have been told that Davis is not privy to the chats that Cohen has had with Mueller.

I've been wondering why Davis deliberately shifted to non-lawyer status, even though his client still requires the services of an attorney. Perhaps Davis adopted this "just a friend" role precisely so he could say things to the press that are not necessarily true. Whenever Davis re-assures the world that his former client never went to Prague, he sends a clear signal to Team Trump: "Cohen still hasn't spilled the beans. Not those beans. He may be talking about Stormy Daniels, but he won't talk about the real shit."

Why would Davis send that signal? Perhaps to offer Cohen a certain degree of physical protection. Everyone knows that the Russians don't just play dirty -- they play filthy. An alternative theory: Perhaps the intention was to entice Trump into making a false statement. It seems likely that Mueller asked Trump "Did you send Michael Cohen to Prague?"

I've just given you two related Theories of Cohen. If you possess any imagination, you could concoct another dozen or so before supper.

One thing is certain: What truly counts is not what Cohen told Davis or what Cohen told reporters or what Davis told reporters. What truly counts is what Cohen told Mueller. The current McClatchy story dovetails nicely with this one from last April (which most people ignored because nobody else could confirm it).

Kevin Drum makes an interesting point:
Second, it means that special counsel Robert Mueller knows about all this and decided to keep it closely held instead of using it in the charge sheet against Cohen.

But why would Mueller want to keep it secret? Well, the alleged purpose of Cohen’s trip to Prague was to visit with Russian intelligence folks in order to come up with a plan for making cash payments to the hackers who were working with Team Trump to take down Hillary Clinton. Even for Mitch McConnell, I assume this would be considered an impeachable offense, and it’s the kind of thing you’d really want to nail down solidly before you make it public.
One claimed purpose of the Prague meeting was to pay hackers. In this light, you may want to check out an under-noticed column published in the Spectator a couple of weeks ago...
Pay especially close attention to a mysterious $50,000 payment to an unnamed tech company that – court filings reveal – Cohen made during the election campaign.

Could these be the payment to ‘hackers’ made in the Czech Republic described in the Steele dossiers – and always, so far, publicly denied by Cohen and his lawyers?
Marcy Wheeler, in her twitter feed, seems to be treating this story with skepticism. I know that I should defer to her judgment, but I'm an ornery sunvabitch -- and I've always been more willing than she to deem the Dossier credible.

McClatchy is a trustworthy news source. Would they buy into a false claim made by someone pretending to be from an Eastern European spy organization? Such a thing is possible. Spies lie, and they know how to buttress a false claim with a persuasive and elaborate "legend." A claimed "Czech" source might actually be a Russian.

But is that likely?

Correction: McClatchy's sourcing is second hand, although they also have multiple sources.
"Four people spoke with #McClatchy on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of information shared by their foreign intelligence connections. Each obtained their information independently from foreign intelligence connections."
I don't think that McClatchy would put their name on a story like this unless they were talking to some serious people.

Update: Marcy now has a piece up which notes that Mueller, having acquired Cohen's phone records, would have known about the Prague trip ages ago -- presuming that such a trip occurred.

Even if Cohen did not take his personal phone on the trip, SIGINT from eastern Europe could have picked up his voice talking to a Russian target -- or, conceivably, two Russians talking about Cohen. Lots of possibilities here.

That said, Marcy thinks that everyone should concentrate on the stuff Mueller can prove without dragging the dossier into it. Maybe. But I still think that Steele was onto something. 
The reason I don't fully trust Marcy Wheeler is because she has some weird hangups on the dossier. She suggests that the entire document is a red herring and not credible. While there's nothing wrong with skepticism, she gets really passionate in trying to downplay it. It's weird, so I wouldn't put much stock in what she says about Cohen. I should also note that she was pretty skeptical of the Russian conspiracy early on so it's not like she has a spotless record in understanding how it's unfolding.
Nemdam, Marcy worked hard to earn credibility as a national security reporter, so I don't blame her for being more careful and cautious than (say) a wild animal like yours truly.

Also, Trump has forced us all to make a wrenching transition. All of a sudden, we're in a world in which the good guys include people like John Brennan and Michael Hayden. And Max Boot. And Bill Kristol.

(Kristol. Good lord, I'll NEVER get used to THAT.)

In Marcy's case, she was sympathetic to the folks in Ray McGovern's group, and to guys like Bob Parry. So was I.

Waking up is hard to do.
When Steele started asking his Russian contacts to look into possible Kremlin interactions with the Trump presidential campaign, it seems inevitable that Russian intelligence would catch wind of Steele's inquiries, and feed him disinformation. So it should be expected that the dossier would contain a mix of real facts, and falsehoods intended to discredit the factual material.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Presidential podiatry

Well, looks like they've tracked down the podiatrist who helped Donnie make that false claim of "bone spurs" -- a claim he used to avoid service in Vietnam.
The podiatrist, Dr. Larry Braunstein, died in 2007. But his daughters say their father often told the story of coming to the aid of a young Mr. Trump during the Vietnam War as a favor to his father.

“I know it was a favor,” said one daughter, Dr. Elysa Braunstein, 56, who along with her sister, Sharon Kessel, 53, shared the family’s account for the first time publicly when contacted by The New York Times.

Elysa Braunstein said the implication from her father was that Mr. Trump did not have a disqualifying foot ailment. “But did he examine him? I don’t know,” she said.
“What he got was access to Fred Trump,” Elysa Braunstein said. “If there was anything wrong in the building, my dad would call and Trump would take care of it immediately. That was the small favor that he got.”
Democrats should not let this go. At every opportunity, confront Trump. Force him to defend himself. Call him President Bone Spurs -- to his face.

Do unto Trump as Trump would do unto his enemies. After all, he still refers to Elizabeth Warren as Pocahontas -- and he always will, regardless of what any DNA test says. The man won his office by being repetitive and puerile, and thus deserves precisely the same treatment. Bone spurs! Bone spurs! Bone spurs!

Even after VT Day, Dems should bring up this humiliating truth every single time they get into it with a Republican. ("VT Day" = "Victory over Trump" day.)

Now we have to track down the guys who took tests for Trump when he was at Wharton.

In case you are wondering: I was born too late for the draft. Yes, I could have volunteered -- and probably should have. When I was a young man, Reagan seemed set on sending in troops to fight the Sandinistas, toward whom I was more-or-less sympathetic, or at least neutral. Thus, I was not inclined to volunteer, although I would not have dodged a draft, had one existed at that time. That said, I now feel ashamed about my lack of military service, especially when I think of my father, who interrupted college to serve in Korea.
Hear! Hear!

Bone Spurs Don!
I quit school and lost my deferment the year they instituted a national lottery. My birthday drew a very high lottery number. As the war wound down the following year, they never reached my number. But they did make me take the physical in Baltimore. After reading my BP, the examiners pulled me out of line and made me wait a few minutes for a retake.

"What's the problem?" I asked.

"Low blood pressure," came the reply.

"Does that mean I'm going to get out of the Draft?"

"No. It just means you'll live longer."
Nobody should have gone to Vietnam. Joseph, when did you become such a jingoist?
I had petit mal epilepsy when I was a young kid. I used the eeg to stay out of the Army. The difference was that I didn't want anybody else to go either. In fact, I was in Chicago during the 1968 convention on the side of the protesters. Trump, Bush, Cheney and the rest of the right wing nutjobs didn't want to go but wanted everybody else to go. That is hypocrisy.
A jingoist? Never been called that before!

I know I would have been a terrible soldier. When I saw "Saving Private Ryan," I identified with Upham, the translator -- a decent, bright guy who had NO place being anywhere near a serious fight. "Yeah, that would've been me," I thought.

But now that the beard is grey, there are regrets. A lot of guys went through a lot of shit, and I didn't. It's a haunting thought.

Besides, when I was a young man, there were no wars. Just rumors of wars. I should not have been scared off by rumors.
Are we saying that the North Korean War and the Viet Nam War were justified? Regretting missing a war that was not justified seems, strange.
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Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Happy Holidays

Normally, I do say "Merry Christmas." Always have. As Paul Fussell once wrote, "Happy holidays" is the hallmark of Hallmark. But in the era of Trump, one must resist in small ways as well as large. 

I spent this past week in Christmas preparation; what one cannot afford to buy, one must create by hand. I'll return tomorrow, if all goes well. In the meantime, please heed this message from Beto O'Rourke...

And now, some favorites. As you will see, I like the traditional done well.

Trump flew to Iraq supposedly to visit troops. Perhaps he was checking on the status of the extradition treaty as well.
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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Can Trump be tried for treason?

Can Trump -- or Michael Flynn -- be tried for treason?

A number of sources insist that Donald Trump cannot be tried for treason because we are not in a declared war with Russia. I haven't been able to find the court ruling which made this adjudication, but such rulings should be reconsidered as times change. Remember, Plessy vs. Ferguson established "separate but equal," which was once considered inviolable.

Obviously, the "declared war" standard is obsolete. We don't declare war anymore. If this country is ever attacked with nuclear weapons, the missiles will almost certainly not be sent by a declared enemy.

Consider the notion of an American General who substantially aided the Axis powers just a few days before December 8, 1941, when war was formally declared. Can you honestly argue that such an act would not have been treasonous?

Before you answer, you should know that my question is not hypothetical: On December 4, 1941, the Chicago Tribune (a pro-fascist newspaper) published the details of America's contingency war plans against Germany. At the time, these plans were our most closely-guarded secret. Publication was intended to strengthen isolationism and to portray FDR as a warmonger, even though a contingency plan was only prudent. 

Who was the leaker? The chief suspect was General Albert Wedemeyer, an anti-Semite and America Firster who worked in the War Plans Division. He despised Roosevelt. Although he always denied the charge, there was hard evidence against him -- enough to convince J. Edgar Hoover of his guilt. Wedemeyer probably would have been indicted if not for the Pearl Harbor attack; as the nation mobilized for war, such a scandal would have injured morale.

Years later, Senator Burton K. Wheeler -- an anti-FDR Democrat -- said that he leaked the document after acquiring it from "an Army Air Corps captain." Although some believe that he referred to General "Hap" Arnold, strong evidence points to Wedemeyer: A copy of the war plan was found in his safe, with sections underlined -- the same sections which appeared in the newspaper.

Interestingly, General Wedemeyer later became a right-wing conspiracy-monger -- the Michael Flynn of his day, if you will. (As some of you may know, Wedemeyer's name crops up in JFK assassination lore.)

Let us posit that investigators had found inarguable, conclusive evidence against Wedemeyer. Could he have been tried for treason? Let's rephrase the question: Should he have been tried for treason?

I believe so. The Constitution defines treason not just as giving aid to a declared enemy but also as personally making war against the United States. In my view, aiding Hitler by leaking the plan constituted an act of war against the United States; whether Wedemeyer colluded with Germany is immaterial. I certainly don't think that Wedemeyer's guilt was lessened by the fact that his betrayal occurred four days before the actual declaration of war.

The big question: Would a court have agreed with my view?

Yes and no. A court in 1942 or 1943 might well have seen things my way. In other years, a court probably would have ruled differently. The world situation inevitably affects the thinking of jurists, and differing times produce differing rulings. In an emergency situation -- when the country faces an existential crisis -- a court would probably be more likely to define treason in a way that matches my personal definition.

Of course, as a practical matter, such a case would inevitably come before the Supreme Court, and...well...Kavanaugh. Ew.


There are other precedents. Did you know that "treason" can also be a state crime, and that it can be tried on the state level?

The most famous example would be that of John Brown, convicted in November of 1859 for committing treason against the State of Virginia. This, despite the fact that he did not live in that state, and his ill-fated raid did not lead to any deaths.

Another example: Governor Thomas Dorr of Rhode Island, who was angered by a state law which allowed only white males of property to vote. In 1842, Dorr tried to establish a counter-government, in a doomed effort called "Dorr's Rebellion." He and five conspirators were convicted of treason against Rhode Island, which eventually pardoned Dorr and dropped the property requirement. (The federal government was surprisingly neutral in all of this.)

Which brings us to today. Technically, the state of Florida could bring treason charges against Donald Trump; the minimum penalty is 5.5 years, while the maximum is 30 years. I can find nothing to indicate whether New York still has a treason law on the books. In 1781, the New York legislature forbade anyone from printing or declaring in public that the King of Great Britain ought to have "any Authority, or Dominion, in or over this State or the Inhabitants thereof." As long as Donnie avoids doing that, he may be in the clear.

That is: He would be in the clear in that particular state.

Quite a few other states still have treason laws. The John Brown precedent proves that one need not be a resident of the state to be executed as a traitor. Arguably, Trump could be tried in (say) California or Vermont, where those pacifistic, tofu-gobbling blue-state SJWs still have a "Death to traitors!" policy.

Michael Flynn could be charged as a traitor in Virginia. Why not?

As Marcy notes, Emett Sullivan's inquiries about Flynn's potential treason were hardly so outrageous as some believe. The prosecution responded with these words:
And that affords us an opportunity to clarify something on our end which is, with respect to treason, I said I wanted to make sure I had the statute in front of me. The government has no reason to believe that the defendant committed treason; not just at the time, but having proffered with the defendant and spoken with him through 19 interviews, no concerns with respect to the issue of treason.
Now, I will be honest with you: I was screaming at Sullivan when I read this being tweeted out in real time, in part because I spend so much time arguing that Trump and his flunkies won’t be charged with treason because we’re not at war.
Were we at war when John Brown was hanged for treason against the state of Virginia? No, we were not.

Marcy notes that the judge has had access to materials not available to members of the public.
It should gravely worry the Trump people that Sullivan’s comments about whether Flynn’s behavior was treasonous came from someone who just read about what the Mueller investigation has discovered.
All of this seems to be consistent with Mueller reviewing Flynn’s actions, reviewing statute, finding that Flynn’s behavior did rise to the standards described in 18 USC 951 (with which Van Grack said he could have been charged), but did not rise to treason (as it clearly did not).
I'm not sure that things are so clear. At any rate, what about the cognate Virginia statute?

Marcy wants to dampen all talk about treason. I do not. I think this issue should become a wildfire -- and that courts should argue the matter as the fire rages, precisely because the fire rages. Why? Because the threat to democracy is indeed existential, and it's time for us to act accordingly.

We should overturn previous rulings on what constitutes treason. Again: In Plessy vs. Ferguson, the Supreme Court established a precedent; nevertheless, times changed and "separate but equal" is no longer the law of the land.

As for the state court option: The idea may seem fanciful, and I admit that I wrote parts of this post while smiling whimsically. But perhaps that sense of whimsy was misplaced. Perhaps desperate times require desperate measures.
I don't read Marcy any more. Not until she gives usa an adequate explanation for how and why she has become an FBI informant.
Micahel, I think I may have an idea of what happened -- kinda, sorta -- and I believe she did the right thing.

I myself would be an FBI informant if I knew of a serious and immediate danger to life and property. C'mon, Michael -- if you somehow found out that a porta-nuke was about to take out the downtown of a large city, wouldn't YOU tell someone?
Suppose in 2021 President Sherrod Brown takes office and immediately begins proposing Medicare for all and stricter EPA regulations. In response, a district attorney in Mississippi indicts him for treason. Having established the principle that a sitting president is subject to the whims of any prosecutor looking for a headline, he spends the next four years combating every local DA who then decides to make his life miserable. That is why I think it is a bad idea for Trump to be subject to local prosecution while he is president.
A fair point, j. But I think people will understand the difference between policy disagreements and a de facto allegiance to a foreign power. Beyond that, I'm bothered by the fact that Democrats continually think in terms of the future -- "What if this tactic is turned against US?" -- while Republicans always think in terms of NOW.
I've narrowed it down to two possibilities: Flynn was taking pre-orders all over the world for shares and condos at the Trump Area 51 Golf Resort (it's iffy whether ET's are sufficiently inimical to qualify for treasonous behavior), or Flynn was Trump's von Ribbentrop, preparing the stage for non-aggression pacts after the inauguration.
Michael, Not sure what’s up with Marcy. She does have opinions that differ from mine, but then she seems to end up pretty much parallel in view.

That FBI informant issue that you bring up was, as I understand it, a reaction to a very personal threat against her, in her home.

Should such a thing happen to me, I’d probably call the FBI and hope for the best.

In Marcy’s case, I don’t think it wise to second guess, she’s a much more well known person. Also shouldn’t rule out a Roger Stone type of operation designed to frighten her and make her look bad.

John Brown was convicted of treason against Virginia; West Virginia did not exist in 1859.

A Scandinavian
My Scandinavian friend, you are absolutely right. In fact, I distinctly recall being corrected on that very point during my first visit to Harper's Ferry, many years ago.

Damn. I have no excuse for that error.

I've corrected my text. Thank you for pointing out the mistake.
Have a Happy Xmas, Joseph. Cheers mate.
Good write-up. I certainly appreciate this site.

Keep writing!
A story that is bound to be of some interest in these parts: following the grounding of all flights to and from London's Gatwick airport for more than a day, ostensibly because of drones being flown by an unknown party over the runway, and following the arrest of two people who have now been released uncharged and declared no longer to be suspects, the police are claiming that perhaps there weren't any drones in the first place. Reportedly there were "more than 67" sightings.

Love it!

Someone is bound to think of an acronym for a flying object that is observed by numerous people but which has yet to identified!

From the Blessed Virgin Mary, to U**s, to ... drones!

There are absolutely BOUND to be more drone stories of this type.

For those who don't already know: the area near Gatwick is full of whackball cults of various descriptions, including Scientologists and Steinerites.
Did Brexit call something up?

Interesting times indeed.
Joseph and all,

Merry, Happy.

Looking forward to better days.

I needed to thank you for this fantastic read!!
I definitely enjoyed every bit of it. I've got you book marked to look at new things you post…
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