Mar 31, 2017

March 31, 2017: The Russian Connection, Useful Idiot, Threaten to Sing

The scandal simply will not go away.  No matter how mightily our Caesar Disgustus struggles to obfuscate, mislead, confuse, blame and raise wholly bogus complaints of election fraud, wiretapping, and other nefarious misdeeds by enemies’ and forces real or imagined, the scandal simply will not go away.

Of course, to listen to Disgustus tell it the “Russian Story” is an entire fabrication concocted by the Democrats to explain away, in his words, “losing an election they should have won”.  Like everything else emanating from the mouth of this man there is always a tidbit of truth.  In this case the Democrats should have won, and won hands down were it not for the machinations of forces within the Democratic Party securing the nomination of the only person on the planet capable of losing to this man; and, it is becoming increasingly apparent, forces within the Rescumlican Party reaching from the Kremlin all the way into the highest echelons of the tRUMP campaign and the Rescumlican Party working to ensure the outcome.  

But, it appears, there may be a bit more to the story.  According to several news sources it appears that as early as 2015 foreign intelligence agencies, among them Estonia, Poland, Germany, France, Israel and Australia while monitoring the activities of several principles within the murky world where Russian Intelligence, Russian political leadership and the Russian Mafia combine, were bumping into information regarding contacts between these actors and people associated with the tRUMP campaign.  It was these agencies that first brought this issue to the attention of the FBI and American Intelligence.  Other sources have also surfaced, including the famous “Steele Dossier”, put together by a former British MI6 agent and funded first by an unnamed opponent of tRUMP in the Republican primaries, and later by a Democratic operative.  Much of it today remains unsubstantiated, but much of it has been verified. There is still, however, no word on the veracity of the salacious account involving tRUMP and Russian Prostitutes involving acts of urination known as “Golden Showers”.   What we do know from all of this is that to date at least nine different tRUMP associates have been identified as having contacts with the Russians before and after the election including, it is rumored, tRUMP himself.  Precisely what was exchanged at these meetings is under investigation but, in the words of John McCain, “This is beginning to resemble Watergate and more shoes are bound to fall”.

This much we do know.  All 17 U.S. Intelligence Agencies agree with “High Confidence” (read “Dead Certainty”) that the Russians meddled in our election in order to elect one bombastic, willfully ignorant megalomaniac with a vocabulary of about 700 words and the attention span measured in nanoseconds to the presidency of the United States.  They did so, it is held, because Vladimir Putin, angered by the actions of then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to question the legitimacy of his re-election, was moved to retaliate.   It wasn’t that Putin thought he could win the election, it was that by backing a man this unstable, this vengeful, this paranoid, and animated by this level of complete mendacity he had found a man who promised to shake the political process and, therefore, the legitimacy of the most powerful republic on the planet.  Here was a golden opportunity for tRUMP, win or lose, is in the parlance of Russian Intelligence, a most “useful idiot”.   It is not difficult to imagine the chaos Disgustus would now be wreaking upon the republic had he lost the election.  Can there be any doubt as to his response?  Calling the election “rigged” and “fake”, whining that the office-- which, in the mind of Disgustus, is so rightfully his—could only have been lost by having it ‘stolen’ from him.  Can there now be any doubt that having lost he would be presently barnstorming the country demanding justice and doing everything within the power of “Faux News” and mendacity itself to delegitimize the Clinton administration.  Perhaps, it is feared, there would have been armed rebellion. 

But to WIN the election!  Oh, what a delicious prospect for Putin that would be!  What better candidate could one possibly conjure who, placed at the vortex of political power, is better suited to vandalize and wreak entire havoc upon one’s greatest adversary?  tRUMP’s staggering ignorance alone would almost insure the project.  Add to this his breathtaking incompetence and the stench of his malignant personality and one has the perfect ‘useful idiot’; a vandal capable of nothing save damaging, destroying, defacing, and besmirching virtually everything and everyone about him.  For let there be no mistake about it: anyone who associates with this man is belittled thereby and reputation besmirched. 

Putin, a former head of the old Soviet KGB, knows something about personality profiling.  He also knows something about political power.  He knows that a man with tRUMP’s resources and tRUMP’s personality would make for a very toxic mix, win or lose.  And like any good geostrategist Putin, always thinking at least six steps ahead, found in our Disgustus the perfect foil—a man who, among other things, cannot see beyond his nose much less around any corner.  So, leading his idiot by the nose, Putin helped Disgustus assume the throne. 

The broad outlines are there and the details will, no doubt, be forthcoming.  All our intelligence agencies agree that the Russians interfered in our election.  They hacked into not only the Democratic National Committee and Clinton Campaign Manager John Podesta’s emails but also into the electoral rolls of at least 22 states and several congressional campaigns.  They spread disinformation about Hillary on the anti-social networks Facebook and Twitter.  They may, and probably did, have done much more. 

But what isn’t emphasized in the reporting here in the States is that Disgustus, upon receiving this aid and comfort from our adversary began to change policies and ape the Kremlin line concerning elections in republican countries.  On orders from Disgustus himself, and with the Russian Ambassador looking on, the Rescumlican Party did an immediate ‘about-face’ on Ukraine, changing its platform from support of the Ukrainian nationals over Crimea to supporting Putin and Russia. tRUMP immediately, again aping the Kremlin’s line, began to warn that the election was rigged, and that the only way he could lose would be through outright theft. 

Faced with a growing chorus of questions about Russian interference and his role in it, tRUMP dismissed U.S. Intelligence, denigrated the agencies, and parroted the Kremlin line, and then set about undermining our western alliances by questioning the need for NATO, suggesting that the U.S. may no longer honor the provision to come to the aid of any member of the alliance under attack, and demanding—like some slumlord running a tenement—that the member states belly-up to the bar and “pay their fair share”.   This, of course, has served to undermine one of the great alliances that has kept the peace in Europe for over 70 years; a principle policy goal of Putin and the Kremlin since NATO’s expansions into Eastern Europe right up to the doorstep of Russia itself.  Once again, Disgustus has demonstrated by undermining our alliances—even to the point of refusing to shake the hand of the German Chancellor-- how useful an idiot he has become in the furtherance of Russian national interests.    

In the memorable words of Senator Sam Irvin presiding over the Senate Select Committee investigating Watergate: “If it looks like a horse, walks like a horse and sounds like a horse, one can reasonably assume it’s a horse.” 

As we speak, former tRUMP National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, known to have met with the Russians before and after the election and suspected of undermining Obama’s response to the Russian interference by promising reversal of policy upon tRUMP’s inauguration, has offered to sing in exchange for immunity from prosecution.   So far no one has taken him up on it.  

March 29, 2017: The Politics of Mass Delusion, Paranoia Strikes Deep, ‘Tweeting’ Away the Presidency

“Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
Step out of line, the man come
And take you away”

                        ----Buffalo Springfield “For What It’s Worth”

Historians have long observed the American propensity to be deeply paranoid (1).  Indeed, from the “Great Awakenings” of the late 18th and early 19th centuries to the “Know-Nothing” movement of the mid and late nineteenth century, to the “Palmer Raids” in the immediate aftermath of World War One to the McCarthy era and the hysteria that permeated much of the cold war, paranoia has often—all-too-often it seems— come to define the political landscape.

Americans have always been a deeply paranoid lot but the paranoia that currently holds the conservative movement in its grip is a most peculiar strain and a uniquely modern phenomenon.

I have written previously (2) citing the works of Corey Robin of the deep sense of persecution felt by what I call “the victims of property and standing”, dating back at least to the French Revolution.  Here is an excerpt of that post from 2008, a long segment of which bears repeating:

Corey Robin in an essay entitled “Out of Place” quotes the opening statement of Ronald Story and Bruce Laurie's “The Rise of Conservatism in America, 1945-2000” that 'the central story of American politics since World War II is the emergence of the conservative movement'.  “Yet”, writes Robin, “for some reason Will still feels that the travails of his political kinsmen are insufficiently appreciated and recognized”.  Robin continues: “Will is not the first conservative to believe himself an exile in his own country.  A sense of exclusion has haunted conservatism from the beginning when emigres fled the French Revolution and Edmund Burke and Joseph de Maistre took up their cause.  Born in the shadow of loss—of property, standing, memory, inheritance, a place in the sun—conservatism remains a gathering of fugitives (emphasis added).  (3)  Buckley and his cohorts saw themselves at “out of place” with their badge of exclusion making them just about the “hottest thing in town” (3)

“Plato's guardians were wise”, writes Robin, “Aquinas's king was good; Hobbes's sovereign was, well, sovereign.  But the best defense of monarchy that Maistre could muster in “Considerations on France” (1787) was that his aspiring king had attended the 'terrible school of adversity”.   Similarly, Edmund Burke in his “Reflections on the Revolution in France” (1790) would describe Marie Antoinette “dragged 'almost naked' by 'the furies of hell' from her bedroom in Versailles and marched to 'a Bastille for kings' in Paris'.  “Marie Antoinette”, Robin continues, “was a particular kind of loser, a person with everything who finds herself utterly and at once dispossessed.  Burke saw in her fall an archetype of classical tragedy, the great person laid low by fortune.  But in tragedy, the most any hero can achieve is an understanding of his fate: the wheel of time cannot be reversed; suffering cannot be undone.  Conservatives, however, are not content with illumination or wisdom.  They want restoration.” (3)

What we have here, according to Robin, is the truly “bizarre” nature of modern Conservatism: a ruling class that for the first time rests its claim to power upon its sense of victimhood asking “us not to obey them but to feel sorry for them—or to obey them because we feel sorry for them.” Whereas other political movements must persuade “the disenfranchised that they have rights and power”, the modern conservative poses a novel justification: “they are aggrieved and entitled—aggrieved because entitled—and already convinced of the righteousness of their cause and the inevitability of its triumph.  They can play victim and victor with a conviction and dexterity the subaltern can only imagine, making them formidable claimants on our allegiance and affection.” (3)

A deep sense of paranoia, born of an abiding persecution complex, inhabits the conservative mind, and colors the political landscape.

But, alas, Corey Robin hasn’t entirely mapped the extent of it.  Beginning in the immediate wake of the Supreme Court Decision Roe v. Wade, forces already breaking loose from established main-line protestant denominations began to organize; forces already at war with the federal government’s efforts to integrate the public schools; forces representing strains of Protestantism deeply at war with reason, science and natural history; forces deeply suspicious, deeply intolerant, and deeply paranoid.   First falling under the banner, at the presidential level, of one James Earl Carter Jr, and later switching to Ronald Reagan they have become the foot soldiers of the emerging conservative crusade, willing to man the phones, pound on doors, stuff envelopes and attend rallies.  What distinguishes them from typical congregants and parishioners is their loose or non-existent connections with some greater presbytery (answerable to no higher church authority), their unparalleled intolerance fueled by a deep and abiding paranoia.  I am here speaking largely of the so-called “evangelicals” but also the free-lance non-denominational hucksters like Robertson, Hagee, Olsteen, and Dollar. 

What has brought these disparate elements of the conservative coalition together is not taxation, monetary or economic policy, certainly not the legalization of abortion by the Supreme Court.  What they have in common is a deep and abiding paranoia, born of real but mostly imagined persecution: in the case of the intellectual lights and financial scions of the movement it is government regulation and taxation and the refusals of academics to give credence to their demonstrable nonsense; in the case of the religious zealots it is alleged persecution at the hands of virtually everyone who doesn’t follow their version of the gospels.  And, by degrees, it is variously held that the wealthy deserve the lion’s share just as the true Christian has a prior claim on the fruits of the planet and the governance thereof. 

To accomplish this, we are continually reminded of persecutions real or imagined from unspecified burdensome regulation to tales of Christian persecution despite a church standing on every other street corner of America. For this purpose, tales of Muslim conquest although centuries ago and far less draconian than our collective memory has it color a deep suspicion in these quarters of anyone hailing from the region.  For this purpose, the Crusades keep re-emerging as a template ignorant of the fact that we lost the Crusades.  For this purpose, a strain of anti-Catholicism colors the political wrong as the inquisition is rehashed.  It is a persecution complex as old as Christianity itself dating back to Roman times, embroidered by time into a full-fledged tapestry deeply coloring how the assembled view the world. 

On this point one must consult, briefly, the historical record.  The historian Gibbon in his “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”, estimated, after consulting contemporary records, that perhaps 1,800 persons were put to death in the 400 years before Christianity became the state religion noting that subsequent persecutions by Christians far outnumbered the original sin.  Never mind, for Rome had become the first Anti-Christ, a trend that has continued down to our time to include our own government. 

The fact is that these people have always been in control, only now a much more virulent strain of the disease that is American Conservatism has taken the palace exhibiting a much more deranged, delusional and far more deeply paranoid behavior.  Convinced now that they are being “sandbagged” by a “deep state”, tRUMP and his associates—foremost advisor Steve Bannon lately of Breitbart “News”—have balked at staffing high government positions, refusing to refill vacancies left from the previous administration thereby destroying institutional memory.  They have moved to cut funding of the State Department hampering intelligence gathering worldwide thereby insuring that this country will be blindsided in some upcoming international crisis.  They have even cut funding for NASA satellites monitoring global warming.  Deeply suspicious, deeply intolerant of opposing points of view, deeply paranoid, tRUMP and associates spend their time “tweeting” away the presidency engaging themselves only is uneven attempts to expunge Obama from the historical record and getting revenge upon “enemies” real and imagined. 

This is what unchecked paranoia can do to a body politic, and this too is a legacy of the ever delusional “Generation of Swine.”
(1).  See, for instance, Hofstadter, Richard. “Anti-Intellectualism in America American Life”
(2).  See my post dated October 2, 2008: A Question of Will, Exile on Main Street,           Victims of Property and Standing.

(3).   Robin, Corey.  “Out of Place” The Nation June 23, 2008 pages 25-33

March 27, 2017: The Politics of Mass Distraction, Jambing Our Radar, Not the Medium nor the Man

“Only a twit goes on twitter, and only a birdbrain tweets”
                        ----from “The Quotations of Chairman Joe”

A theory is being bandied about which holds that tRUMP’s use of the social media “Twitter” is a clever stratagem to circumvent conventional media, in whose hands he has been savaged, opting instead to speak directly to his constituency in 40 characters or less.  I imagine that this would comport with the ‘bumper-sticker’ mentality of the great unwashed in search of a champion, but it is no way to explain public policy.  Others hold that tRUMP’s nearly daily use of the medium is a bit of genius, distracting as it does from the wretched Rescumlican agenda, serving as a form of “flak” in effect jamming our “collective radar”, distracting us from watching what congressional Rescumlicans are cooking up in the smoke-filled rooms and about to foist upon an unsuspecting public.  Others hold that tRUMP’s “tweet storms” serve to distract us from the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in our election, possible tRUMP campaign ties to the Russians and possible collusion with the Russians to rig the outcome of the election.  Lurking beneath, not so far from the surface, are possible financial dealings which may involve racketeering and money laundering.  So, it is held, tRUMP almost daily takes to “Twitter” and “Tweets” false accusations and insults in every direction, calling into question in the process the legitimacy of every institution in this country, be it law enforcement and the courts, the press, the congress, thousands of county clerks (mostly Republican) across this country who conduct our elections, financial institutions, American corporations and businesses and accusing anyone who slightly disagrees with his version of reality of being “fake”, disingenuous, and an outright liar; all of this designed to smear with a mighty hand so as to obfuscate, confuse and obstruct.  He has even been compared to the ‘Great Communicator’ Ronald Reagan as an alleged genius in connecting with the ‘people’. 

I’m not about to give tRUMP such credit.

You see Reagan spoke on behalf of a moribund and largely discredited political and economic philosophy honed by messages delivered at countless ‘rubber chicken’ events held at VFW and other venues in countless towns and cities throughout America, transforming himself, over the years, from a first-rate second-rate actor to a master political salesman.  Moreover, a political salesman possessing a deeply-flawed philosophy of governance, but a philosophy nonetheless.  tRUMP, it by now must be clear, possesses none of that. 

Many students of the presidency have correctly pointed out that the president has very few constitutional powers.  Beyond his or her role as “commander-in-chief” of the armed forces and the veto power over acts of congress (which can be overridden), the power of the presidency is one largely of persuasion. In this the president, to be successful, must first have a clear idea of where one wants to lead the country, how to use the office in order to so lead, and, most importantly, how to sell one’s agenda to the nation at large.  For this one must be able to adroitly use in Teddy Roosevelt’s immortal words the “Bully Pulpit”, but in order to do so one must be able to make a salient case for one’s agenda; one must use the profile of the presidency in order to legitimize and move one’s policy goals.  For that one needs an uncommon salesman.  tRUMP, it appears, is not a salesman.

I have often pointed out in these columns that a business background is an immediate disqualification for political office, especially the highest office in the land.  The president, you see, does not “rule” by “decree”, but must persuade the people, the congress and the courts of the need, legitimacy and urgency of proposed change. For this, the star of the reality television show “The Apprentice” is the most ill-suited for the job, for barking “you’re fired!”, will hardly get the job done for the inevitable question—and it is always a PUBLIC question-- immediately emerges “now what”?, demanding a public debate and discussion.    In any case, nowhere is the totally ill-suited nature of this man for the office he holds on greater public display than in his almost daily use of “Twitter”.

“Twitter” along with “Facebook” and “LinkedIn” represent the vanguard of an explosion in this culture of so-called “Social Media”.  It should be more correctly termed “Anti-Social Media”, inasmuch as complex questions of public policy, when they are discussed at all, are done in crude two-dimensional “Memes” where everything is reduced to bumper-sticker mentality or involve sometimes long threads where people, armed with few facts and less understanding, openly abuse each other by reducing public discourse to invective, vitriol, and abuse. 

These are media made for one Donald J. tRUMP, for it should be clear by now to even the most casual observer that the man in the oval office, armed with few “facts” and even less understanding can only express himself by reducing public discourse to invective, vitriol and abuse.  And so, the headlines of the day are dominated by these “tweet storms” in which our intrepid leader is constantly seen whining, blaming, accusing and demeaning everything about him—even, on occasion, his own party’s policy agenda.  None of these rants stick, none have in the parlance of the theatre “legs”, save the “tweet” that President Obama bugged tRUMP tower thereby accusing the former President of committing a felony.  That little tweet storm rattled through the ‘news cycles’ like loose change in a dryer for nearly two months bringing unwanted attention to the Russian mess all the while robbing Rescumlicans of a splendid opportunity to sell their much-anticipated savaging of the health care system in this country. 

But it is one thing to steal a Supreme Court seat in the static caused by these “tweet storms”; it is one thing to get a health care bill through the house stripping, by estimates of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, 22 million people of their health care; it is one thing to then have a handful of Senate Rescumlicans meet behind closed doors to fashion a Senate version of same.  It is quite another to get this country to swallow such a savaging of the safety net as Rescumlicans are learning with each trip back home. 

So instead of addressing the nation from the oval office or, as Obama before him, before a joint session of Congress in order to explain himself, we find instead this little man, hamstrung by language reduced to trying to forward his agenda in 40 characters or less.  “Twitter” is not the medium for this and Donald J. tRUMP is not the man.   To do this one must sell the program to the American people.  To do this one must have a Master Salesman, one must have a president.  Donald J. tRUMP is no Master Salesman; Donald J. tRUMP is no president worthy of the name.  

March 21, 2017 Requiem for Rosemary, Fifteen Years Gone,