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The Kitchen Sink / This Week In Doom June 4, 2018
« on: June 04, 2018, 12:23:34 PM »




That-Was-The-Week-That-W-That-Was-The-Week-473964gc2smFrom the keyboard of Surly1

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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on June 4, 2018



“Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.”



 ― Nemesis  





Madness in DC is certainly in evidence, with the Lout-in-Chief hurling tweets like Zeus' thunderbolts, with the primary intention being suspension of the rule of law. Trump further weaponized the pardon power as a political tool, issuing a presidential pardon for confessed felon and right wing ideologue Dinesh D'Souza to the delight of right wingers and the annoyance of those who care about the rule of law. On Monday Morning, Trump tweeted, “As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?” Melania was still missing after 22 days, prompting speculation as to her whereabouts and safety.  Rumors that she had been renditioned to a black site in Thailand for threatening divorce remain unproven at press time.



Each week seems to have a day bruised by a flurry of Trump rage-tweets. His bouts of fury are well-documented. In Trump's 81 weeks as POTUS, has threatened individuals, institutions, businesses and countries, including the media, the NFL, NATO member countries, allies and enemies with bluster and braggadocio. He’s even promised Joe Biden a physical beat-down for challenging him.



Morris Berman in his blog Dark Ages America, has said it best:




Trump's historical mission is to dismantle the country, and he couldn't be doing a better job. John Kiriakou is worried about the state of the American soul (see his essay…), as though the jury was out on that one. In fact, it can be summarized in a single word: rotten. As he notes, 67% of the American public approves of torture, and Trump's approval rating continues to rise.



It's all over but the shouting.




Two-thirds of Americans support torture. The same number believe in guardian angel who keeps them safe from spiders and muslims. As one raised Roman Catholic who left the church after learning about the Spanish Inquisition, I’m appalled that anyone can think such a thing is even remotely acceptable. And now it is policy, part of the Trump governing ethic of putting a fox in charge of every henhouse. There is a dark terror and viciousness in the American soul, given full expression by the Lout-in-Chief. D.H Lawrence one wrote, "The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted.” And the magisterial American historian Richard Hofstadter acknowledged that “Americans certainly have reason to inquire whether, when compared with other advanced industrial nations, they are not a people of exceptional violence.” Make that "they" a "we."



Meanwhile, the shouting continues. As Shakespeare once said, “Words, words, words.” 





On Again, On Again



The North Korea Summit Is Back On—But Don’t Expect Miracles



Trump says Kim meeting is back on: ‘We’re getting along’



In a triumph of low expectations, the once-off "summit" with North Korea is back on again. “It went very well,” Trump declaimed, “And now we’re going to deal.”



This did America's greatest showman arrange to receive a letter delivered from the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, in a symbolic show of good intentions. The delivery boy, one Kim Yong Chol, a former spymaster still legally sanctioned by the United States and reputedly the second-most powerful man in North Korea, was there to provide the photo op that the Koreans are savvy enough to know that the figurehead and loose cannon needs.



Just the week before, Trump cancelled the first ever summit between American and North Korean leaders in a dramatic letter to Kim, whose government had not been picking up the phone regarding summit preps and terms.



Some speculate that Trump appears to have recognized that diplomacy is more complex, more nuanced, and potentially takes much longer than a business deal. After all, it's not like Trump can make a phone call and get someone to lean on some troub lesome unions working on a high rise. And in diplomacy there are no sub-contractors to stiff.



“We‘ll be meeting on June 12 in Singapore,“ Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House after escorting Chol to his vehicle.




Trump tempered expectations for what the meeting in Singapore will yield, saying nothing would be signed during the summit and that it would simply be the beginning of a process toward denuclearizing North Korea.



“It‘s a process. … We're not going to go in and sign something on June 12 and we never will,“ the president said. “We‘re going to start a process.“




Trump just can't get enough of those chants of, "Nobel! Nobel! Nobel!"





Roseanne and the Art of War



If you're not living on an island, by now you are aware that Roseanne Barr has been fired from ABC and her hit show canceled after making a particularly egregious series of racist tweets. ABC abruptly canceled their top-rated show “Roseanne,” bringing an end to one of Hollywood’s boldest efforts to reach out to red-state viewers in the Trump era.




“Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show,” ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey said in a statement.



Added Disney chief Robert Iger: “There was only one thing to do here, and that was the right thing.”




In an article that informs the title of this segment, Kevin Tully puts the episode is a larger, useful perspective. The entire soul of Trumpism and thus what passes for Republicanism/ conservatism is bound up in Roseanne's compulsion to tweet and the white nationalist, racist impulses she has been empowered to vent.. She couldn't suppress her bigotry, anger and racism and more than her pole star, The Orange Lout, is able to. Last summer in Charlottesville, we saw the consequences of white nationalist rhetoric. Last week, we saw that although speech is "free" in this country, it does carry commercial consequences.




Republicans talk about taxes, deficits, defense and on and on — but what do they really talk about in a significant way? The Trump phenomenon has absolutely nothing to do with government, just as Roseanne's rant had nothing to do with governing — it was selfish, personal garbage wrapped in political clothing. This is what ninety percent of Republican/conservative rhetoric is. The pretense that the Republican party continues as a political party is ridiculous. It is a cult. It is a cult of destruction — it has traded a rudder for a hammer. Roseanne just used that hammer on the "family" that depended upon her.






Ireland overturns abortion ban



Ireland repealed a constitutional amendment that banned abortion by a two-to-one margin. The vote was to overturn the abortion ban by 66.4% to 33.6%. The referendum held on Friday resulted in a landslide win for the repeal side.



Currently, abortion is only allowed when a woman's life is at risk. The Eighth Amendment, which grants an equal right to life to the mother and unborn, will be replaced.



Some think that  Ireland’s “Yes” Vote on Abortion Changes Everything. The historic vote to enshrine reproductive rights is the result of decades of organizing by Irish women—and its impact will be felt in countries across the globe. This follows another vote signaliing the loosensing of the Roman catholic Church's grip on Irish politics: in 2015 the country voted overwhelmingly to legalise same-sex marriage in a historic referendum.




The decades-long battle to repeal Ireland’s eighth amendment—the 1983 law that gave equal value to the lives of a pregnant woman and a fetus—may be the biggest news to hit Catholic-majority Ireland since the country gained majority independence from England in 1922 (and that battle took 800 years).



The winning “yes” vote comes as welcomed vindication not just for the 170,000 Irish women who have obtained overseas abortions since 1980, but for everyone who supports human rights.



“This is a celebration of women’s equality,” says Susy Freelove, an artist who lives in Ballydehob, County Cork. She says Irish women who have openly shared their experiences of traveling to London to terminate their pregnancies can now finally feel a weight has been lifted.



“It’s a real sea change in Ireland in terms of how we view sexuality,” says Beth Wallace, a therapist who was born in a Dublin home for unwed mothers. “Generations of shame are falling away.”






Media Lies, That's Their Job



News provided by mainstream media properties is delivered on a two-edged sword. On one hand, professional media organizations have resources, reporting assetsand a reach far beyond the solitary scribbler. And they also have editorial staffs devoted to fact checking and source-vetting. Their occasional stumbles are much publicized, but for many stories  they are excellent. The problem comes with the editors and publishers, strategically placed with a thumb close to the scale to soften language, change verbs, reframe or even spike coverage of stories that challenge the current regime's status quo. Such it is with these:



With More Gaza Protests Planned, Don’t Believe the Mainstream Media’s Lies






 The one lobby that may not be flouted in the USA is the Israel lobby. Well funded and interlocked, it provides the political underpinning for a base of American support for any Israeli policy, no matter how inhumane.  



And it in stories about Israel, or Gaza, that the heavy thump, of editorial censorhip and influence cna be most readily seen in the American press. By any measure, the Palestinians in Gaza or horribly oppressed. It is inhumane to expect a massacred population not to resist their own decimation, like the Jews of the Warsaw ghetto.




Since the beginning of the Great March of Return on March 30, Israel has killed over 100 Palestinians and injured over 12,000. Only one Israeli, a soldier, has been injured in the context of the march. 



Most mainstream western media coverage of Gaza’s march has systematically decontextualized the mass civilian protest, brushed off Israel’s weekly massacres as “clashes,” reified the boundary fence between Gaza and Israel a “border,” presented Palestinian protesters as “Hamas pawns” passively “dying for photo ops” and deployed other strategic falsehoods to dehumanize Palestinians fighting for their freedom. The net effect is the demonization of the march and the absolution of Israel of its murderous assault.



Since Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza in 2007, it has waged routine invasions that level infrastructure and kill thousands—a policy described by some Israeli analysists and politicians as “mowing the lawn.” According to the UN, Israel’s attacks, coupled with the siege, have rendered Gaza “unlivable.” Over 96 percent of Gaza’s water is unsafe for drinking and 57 percent of households are food insecure.



The Gaza Strip is often called the world’s largest open-air prison. Israel controls the maritime, aerospace and land borders of the coastal enclave.



Israel determines who and what can enter or exit Gaza. They control shipments of fuel, medicine, building supplies, and food—at one point allowing only the minimum calories each person in the strip could consume without starving.




There are details rarely mentioned in America's MSM. There was a time when America attempted to influence and shape Israel's policy. Now the shoe is on the other foot.Veneuuela is often also lied about, in accordance with policy. Newly re-elected Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro



The real Venezuela is not what you think– The U.S. press doesn't tell you what Maduro has done for the poor.



Venezuela also gets the red pencil treatment, in large measure because the avowed socialist economy spends more money on "the people" then the avatars of austerity" think prudent. Never forget that every penny spent on a crust for a poor child comes out of the pocket of a multinational construction company or an international banker.



Daniel Kovalik, who teaches international human rights at the University of Pittsburgh Law School, published the linked article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Kovalik recently visited during the recent election. Did you know that Jimmy Carter has called Venezuela’s electoral system “the best in the world?” Me, neither. Prior to the election on May 20,  which included an opposition candidate, Henri Falcon, from the business community, the U.S. government announced that it would not recognize the outcome, no matter who won. It also threatened Mr. Falcon with sanctions if he even ran in the election, and  threatened further economic sanctions on Venezuela if incumbent leftist Nicolas Maduro won. After Maduro's victory, the trump administration wasted no time imposing yet additional sanctions, further immiserating the Venezuelan people. 



How about another chorus of "Home of the Brave?"




First, the true patriots of Venezuela, not surprisingly, resent the United States’ devastating economic sanctions as well its constant call for regime change. Some U.S. officials even talk of military intervention to overthrow Mr. Maduro. In part, the vote for Mr. Maduro was a vote against U.S. meddling in the affairs of Venezuela.



In addition, despite the real hardships in Venezuela — for which the U.S. is largely to blame — most of Venezuela’s poor are better off now than they were before the Bolivarian Revolution of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro. For example, over the past 7 years, the government has built 2 million units of housing for low-income Venezuelans. In a country of only some 30 million people, these units are now home to a large proportion of the Venezuelan population. The current government also has provided free health care and subsidized food.




Many of us read blogs like these to try to find a voice in the wilderness, in Leonard Cohen's lyric, "a crack where the light gets through." The Venezuela report reminds us that while poor people have been given a voice in Venezuela, their voice remains muzzled in this country, and by a press which passes off pro-intervention and pro-war propaganda as journalism. Little wonder the United States continues to careen into one disastrous military adventure after another.





Immiseration At Home



The U.S. immigration and border complex has never been particularly rational or humane. Yet with the latest iteration of “zero tolerance” border policing, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has brought a disgraceful legacy to a new low.



As Debbie Nathan reports, Sessions’s cruel policy of deliberately separating immigrant parents from their children as a deterrent to would-be border crossers has even outraged a federal judge in south Texas.



Time was when It used to be rare to charge migrants seeking asylum with crimes. Those so charged would be put into detention with their children while they pursued their claims. Or they were released with supervision — along with their children. The best interests of the children were considered paramount, and those interests included keeping families together.



No more.



Such asylum-seekers now find themselves charged with “illegal entry,” and now the Trump administration's policy  is breaking up families, sending children to detention centers, often hundreds of miles from their mothers and fathers, or to distant foster homes.




In practice, this means that even parents fleeing violence to protect their young children will be deemed smugglers — that is, criminals. Sessions’s announcement came just two weeks after an official with the Department of Health and Human Services told Congress that the agency had lost track of 1,475 unaccompanied migrant children it had placed with sponsors.



The anguish that parents communicated in Morgan’s courtroom, and the spectacle of dozens of migrants being convicted and sentenced en masse, in proceedings lasting just a few minutes and with only the most perfunctory legal representation, has shocked courthouse employees. …



A young father then said he’d been separated from his 6-year-old and was very worried.



The judge tried to assume his crisp air. But he seemed overwhelmed, with the parents’ worry and with suspicion that the government was misrepresenting to him what was really happening to the children.



“The way it’s supposed to work,” he told the parents, “you’re going to be sent to a camp where your child will be allowed to join you. That’s my understanding of how it’s supposed to work.”



“They told me they were going to take her away,” a mother interjected about her young daughter.



“Well, let’s hope they don’t,” said Morgan. “You and your daughter, you should be joined together.”



And then, for many seconds, he was silent.




This the freedom our young men and women in uniform are fighting and dying to protect? Oh, right, it's about corporate interests.





Short takes:



Same cancer, worse results and twice the cost in the US



No War Like a Trade War– U.S. hits E.U., Canada and Mexico with steel, aluminum tariffs, sparking trade war



"This is not about the American people. We have to believe that at some point their common sense will prevail," said Canadian Prime Minster Justin Trudeau.



Corporations Are Profiting From Immigrant Detainees’ Labor. Some Say It’s Slavery.



At privately run detention centers, immigrants say they're forced to work for $1 a day.



We Made Plastic. We Depend On It. Now We're Drowning In It.



The miracle material has made modern life possible. But more than 40 percent of it is used just once, and it’s choking our waterways.





That's more than enough for one week. Every story here demonstrates that Americans do not understand that the country is addicted to economic growth, and cannot account fo, what is happening as the pyramid scheme is approaching its limits. These are the stories that sadly mark the "days of our lives," as America's final decades consist of an increasingly frenzied no-holds-barred focus on keeping its economy from collapsing.





banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere, and was active in the Occupy movement. He lives in Southeastern Virginia with his wife Contrary and is the proud parent of a recent college graduate. He will have failed if not prominently featured on an enemies list compiled by the current administration.



2
Cyber Security / So You Think You Have Moderator Problems?
« on: June 03, 2018, 07:26:03 AM »
Could be crossedfiled under, "The Alt-Right and Their Problems."

Alt-Right Platform Gab's Management Is Now Blaming a Leftist Conspiracy for Their Nazi Problem

Graphic: Gab.ai logo

Twitter knockoff Gab became one of the premiere destinations for members of the extremist “alt-right” banned or just looking to branch out from other social media sites like Twitter. Now, it’s devolving into a sludgy mess of paranoia and conspiracy theories.

Gab, whose logo resembles the Pepe meme appropriated by the far right, was denied Apple App Store placement and later banned from Google’s Play Store in the aftermath of a neo-Nazi terror attack in Charlottesville. It markets itself as a free speech alternative to other platforms like Twitter and Facebook, but its management appears to be growing weary handling the sheer number of racist goons that have taken up residence there. Per a report in the Daily Beast, as the site’s users have grown more aggressive, it’s resulted in retaliatory action from members of its management team, and now everyone is screaming at each other about (almost certainly imaginary) leftist infiltrators.

From day one, the Beast writes, some users have been suspicious of Gab founder Andrew Torba’s choice of the url “Gab.ai,” which “loosely translates to a Hebrew word meaning an assistant in a synagogue.” But recently the drama has escalated much further, with chief operating officer Utsav Sanduja promising to call the police at least twice—once after receiving a picture of a noose surrounded by swastikas, and again to report a message he saw as a death threat:

Last week, Sanduja set off a firestorm on the site, after he perceived Jared Wyand (an alt-righter who was kicked off Twitter, ostensibly for claiming that Star Wars promotes “white genocide”) to to be threatening him.

“You have a false sense of security that leads to a leaky mouth in a room full of highly capable men who have their backs to the walls,” Wyand wrote Sanduja on Gab. “That’s a very large mistake but don’t let it stop you. 😉”

Sanduja replied that he was reporting the message to law enforcement.

Sanduja told the Beast the message was “clearly designed to intimidate and suppress my right to speech,” adding, “The things I do are very dangerous. The reality that is I am trying to liberate people around the world from tyranny, essentially, speech censorship, and our team faces a lot death threats.”

(Neo-Nazis and white supremacists generally do not actually believe in free speech, but whatever.)

Backlash built after both Sanduja’s threats to call law enforcement and a separate statement he had blocked 5,000 users, and it coincided with a drop in activity and the loss of some high-profile users. But site management believes their issues are being aggravated by “SJW groups” infiltrating the site, the Beast wrote:

In a post last week, Torba alleged a “24/7” campaign of anti-Gab attacks including “malicious actors breaking guidelines on purpose and reporting to LEO [law enforcement officers],” and “massive PSYOPS on our company/us personally.”

...

Sanduja said he and Torba think some of Gab’s Nazis are actually fake Nazis, who are just trying to make Gab look bad.

“We have seen instances where there are people who claim to be Nazis, but are in fact on the payroll of various SJW [social justice warrior] groups,” and trying to damage Gab’s reputation, he said.

Sanduja told the Beast that prominent white supremacists like Richard Spencer and neo-Nazi troll Andrew Anglin are either no longer or much less active on Gab. He added, “We see this significant drop-off in the number of users and chatter, and then all of a sudden we start to see these strange anon accounts created a month ago pretending to be Nazis and talking about killing Jews and all this crap.”

So, two possibilities: Either a leftist conspiracy is trying to make Nazis look bad by posting the same kind of stuff that Nazis post, or Gab and its userbase of some of the worst people online are scoring endless own goals with internecine bickering. Hmm.

In a statement to Gizmodo, Sanduja declined to provide any evidence for the supposed SJW conspiracy.

“Gab relies on a number of whistle-blowers working in Silicon Valley, reputable hacktivists, and yes, sometimes journalists, along with members of our community for this information,” Sanduja wrote. “Further to this, there have been whistle-blowers from a number of Left-leaning organizations that have corroborated said activities to us in confidence. For their safety and protection, Gab will not give up sources.”

The “alt-right” has long been preoccupied with infighting and some of its highest-profile groups have disintegrated amid the fallout from Charlottesville. But the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal recently noted that the white identity movement isn’t likely to burn out anytime soon, regardless of the fate of the specific boards they hang out on.

“There’s a lot of chaos in … (the alt-right) now, obviously, but I think they’ve successfully implanted in a lot of white people, especially angry white young men on the internet, the idea that white identity politics is acceptable,” Daily Beast reporter Will Sommer told Reveal. “They’ve been derailed by a lot of personal issues among their leaders, but hard to imagine that idea going away.”

[The Daily Beast]

Update 5:15pm ET: In a separate statement emailed to Gizmodo, Torba claimed to have been targeted by users “LARPing as Nazis” as well as ones “openly proclaiming that they are Democrats, Antifa members, or leftists,” as well as waves of spam and distributed denial of service attacks:

Over the past several weeks Gab has noticed an increase in accounts that have been recently created and are breaking our common sense user guidelines on purpose. They are threatening and targeting our employees, our families, community members, customers, investors, and donors. Some, but not all, appear to be LARPing as Nazis. Others are openly proclaiming that they are Democrats, Antifa members, or leftists. There is no one unified ideology here. The common theme is guideline violations on recently created accounts.

Alongside of these attacks, we have also been DDoSed multiple times. There have also been a swarm of spam bots that we have been fighting off. Unlike other social networks we take a proactive approach to removing bots and have no purpose for inflating user counts to deceive advertisers (which we do not have.) We have banned well over 50,000 bots this quarter alone.

...

Many self-proclaimed members of the alt-right do not like Gab and do not use it. We have suspended self-proclaimed alt-right users for breaking our guidelines around threats of violence and doxing. We have done the same for self-proclaimed communists, Antifa, and Democrats. We enforce our user guidelines consistently and fairly regardless of political ideology.

Torba added that he had heard rumors that a number of groups such as the “New Right” and liberal site Shareblue were paying people to attack Gab, but “We can not directly validate these claims, they very well could be trolling.”

Additionally, this post has been updated to clarify that Sanduja said he had blocked, not banned from the site, 5,000 users.

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3

AT THE BEGINNING of Seymour Hersh’s new memoir, “Reporter,” he tells a story from his first job in journalism, at the City News Bureau of Chicago.

City News stationed a reporter at Chicago’s police headquarters 24 hours a day to cover whatever incidents were radioed in. Hersh, then in his early 20s, was responsible for the late shift. One night, he writes, this happened:

Two cops called in to report that a robbery suspect had been shot trying to avoid arrest. The cops who had done the shooting were driving in to make a report. … I raced down to the basement parking lot in the hope of getting some firsthand quotes before calling in the story. The driver – white, beefy, and very Irish, like far too many Chicago cops then – obviously did not see me as he parked the car. As he climbed out, a fellow cop, who clearly had heard the same radio report I had, shouted something like, “So the guy tried to run on you?” The driver said, “Naw, I told the nigger to beat it and then I plugged him.”

What happened then? Did Hersh, who would go on to uncover the My Lai massacre in Vietnam and become one of the greatest investigative journalists in U.S. history, sprint to his publication and demand that it run this explosive scoop?

No. Hersh spoke to his editor, who told him to do nothing, since it would be his word against the police. He didn’t try to interview the responsible cop or his partner, or dig much further. Instead, he gave up on it and soon headed off to do his required service in the Army, “full of despair at my weakness and the weakness of a profession that dealt so easily with compromise and self-censorship.”

 

If Hersh were a superhero, this would be his origin story. Two hundred and seventy-four pages after the Chicago anecdote, he describes his coverage of a massive slaughter of Iraqi troops and civilians by the U.S. in 1991 after a ceasefire had ended the Persian Gulf War. America’s indifference to this massacre was, Hersh writes, “a reminder of the Vietnam War’s MGR, for Mere Gook Rule: If it’s a murdered or raped gook, there is no crime.” It was also, he adds, a reminder of something else: “I had learned a domestic version of that rule decades earlier” in Chicago.

“Reporter” demonstrates that Hersh has derived three simple lessons from that rule:

  1. The powerful prey mercilessly upon the powerless, up to and including mass murder.
  2. The powerful lie constantly about their predations.
  3. The natural instinct of the media is to let the powerful get away with it.

Hers_9780307263957_jkt_all_r1.indd

Image: Courtesy of Knopf

“Reporter” provides detailed explications of how Hersh has used these lessons, making it one of the most compelling and significant books ever written about American journalism. Almost every page will tell you something you’ve never heard before about life on earth. Sometimes it’s Hersh elaborating on what he’s already published; sometimes it’s new stories he felt he couldn’t write about when he first learned of them; and sometimes it’s the world’s most intriguing, peculiar gossip.

Below are some examples. If you think it’s unfair to Hersh to reveal all his secrets in a review, don’t worry — this is not even 1/100of what his book contains.

In the first category — Hersh going into more detail about his previous stories — is his explanation of how he got the goods for his first book, about America’s secret offensive biological and chemical weapons programs. He started by carefully reading an article in Science magazine that listed the dozens of army bases doing relevant research. He then got copies of the newspapers from each base — because he knew from his time in the military that they would all have articles naming colonels and generals who were retiring — and methodically approached all the former top officers to see who would talk.

Hersh’s work publicized one particularly terrifying incident, when Dugway Proving Ground in Utah did an aerial test of VX nerve agent in 1968 that accidentally killed more than 6,000 sheep belonging to local ranchers. This, in turn, had helped generate pressure that led to President Richard Nixon ordering a unilateral halt of U.S. production of chemical weapons. (While Hersh doesn’t mention this, we also have him to thank for the Stephen King novel, “The Stand,” which begins with a superflu developed by the government escaping from a military lab. King has said his book was inspired by media coverage of the Dugway disaster.)

There’s also Hersh’s account about what happened in 1976 when he was investigating Sidney Korshak, a powerful Mafia lawyer, for the New York Times. One night Hersh got an alarming call at home from a California district attorney who told him that Korshak’s people had obtained all of Hersh’s travel and phone records, placing his sources in real peril. A quiet internal investigation by the Times later found that a clerk in the Times treasury office had a family connection to the Chicago mob.

In the category of stories Hersh did not report at the time is a disturbing account from a few weeks after Nixon resigned in 1974 and returned to California. Hersh writes that he had received a tip that Nixon had beaten his wife Pat so badly that she had to be treated at a local emergency room. Then John Ehrlichman, who’d been one of Nixon’s top aides, told Hersh that he knew of other incidents when Nixon had abused her. But Hersh did not report it, or even mention it to his editors, because he believed it would only qualify as news if he could demonstrate that Nixon’s behavior had affected government policy. Hersh later spoke about the story in public in 1998. Women in the audience, he writes, immediately informed him of just how illegitimate and dangerous this standard was.

Then there’s the world’s oddest gossip. In 1968, Jerry Brown and Eugene McCarthy, whose presidential campaign Hersh was working on, told him they’d never smoked pot and had Hersh rustle up some joints for them. CIA operatives told Hersh that they didn’t like collaborating with people from the National Security Agency because they’re all “dweebs with protectors in their pockets who are always looking down at their brown shoes.” George Soros made a large donation to a nonprofit run by a friend of Hersh in order to entice Hersh to dinner to discuss Saudi Arabia and oil futures. When Hersh met with then-Syrian defense minister Mustafa Tlass at his Damascus home, Tlass wanted to show off his collection of pornography, largely focused on Gina Lollobrigida.

Most notably, there’s a tale about Lyndon B. Johnson on page 201 that everyone deserves to encounter without spoilers. Even Donald Trump has never expressed his contempt for the media with such, let’s say, vivacity. Journalists will come away from it extremely grateful that all Trump does is tweet.

ALONG THE WAY, Hersh also provides a primer on the creation of investigative journalism.

To start with, he writes, it’s important to understand many important stories are always hiding “in the open.” This certainly applies to the massacre of hundreds of Vietnamese at My Lai, which occurred on March 16, 1968. Hersh first received a vague tip about it on October 22, 1969. After pouring through microfilm, he found that the New York Times had, in a sense, already “covered” it — by reprinting a tiny AP story buried inside the paper about the court martial of one of the perpetrators.


newspaper-highlight-2-1527876188

The brief AP article on the court martial of Lt. William Calley, published on page 14 of the New York Times on Sept. 7, 1969.

Image: The New York Times; Screenshot: The Intercept

Next, Hersh says, “the core lesson of being a journalist” is “read before you write.” His stories in “Reporter” demonstrate how assiduous a reader he’s always been of other reporters, looking for details that suggest other angles that should be explored. He also expresses deep frustration that other news organizations largely fail to do the same for him, to build on his work.

Then look for sources, from the top to the bottom of any organization you’re covering. Despite Hersh’s reputation as a wild man devoted to tearing down American institutions, he actually emphasizes how many honest people can be found inside them if you go looking. At least in the past, he writes, Congress was “overflowing with members and staff with integrity and courage.” He has extensive contacts in the military whom he deeply admires. He says of senior intelligence officials that “there are many good ones who deserved my respect.”

Finally, take your time. “Being first,” he writes, “is not nearly as important as being right.” He doesn’t just cite the famous journalistic adage, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out,” but describes how it was coined by one of his first editors at City News in Chicago.

THAT’S A LOT for one book. But it’s not all.

The most startling story in “Reporter” may be one that is never explicitly told: that America was once a place where someone like Hersh could come from nowhere to terrify everyone at the pinnacle of national power.

Hersh is not the child of journalists — his father owned a dry-cleaning store and died when Hersh was 18. Nor was he an Ivy League academic standout. Because of his father’s illness, Hersh barely made it out of high school and enrolled in a two-year junior college with no admission requirements. He didn’t even want to be a reporter — his first choice was to go work for Xerox, but they weren’t interested. In fact, he got his start in journalism largely by accident, in a series of events involving a late-night poker game and a gigantic helping of happenstance. Yet his name has been discussed with fear in corporate CEO suites, at CIA headquarters, and in the Oval Office.

The country where this could happen now seems to be passing into memory. But that’s all the more reason to read every page of Hersh’s thrilling book and consider whether we should try to become that country again. For his part, he understands how lucky he’s been to be exactly the right person at exactly the right place at exactly the right time. “I’ve spent most of my career writing stories that challenge the official narrative,” he writes in the last paragraph, “and have been rewarded mightily and suffered only slightly for it.”

Top photo: Seymour M. Hersh sits in the furniture-less office of Dispatch News Service in Washington, May 4, 1970, after being awarded the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting. Hersh disclosed the alleged massacre of Vietnamese civilians at My Lai.


4
Surly Newz / How Is This Still a Thing?
« on: May 31, 2018, 11:08:58 AM »
A standard franchise on John Oliver's show, "Last Week tonight" (Sun., 11PM, HBO). This week's honoree: Ayn Rand.

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/_8m8cQI4DgM" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/_8m8cQI4DgM</a>

5
You've Never Seen a Map of Antarctica Like This Before

Image: Kevin Pluck

Our planet is a cool and good planet. To prove this point, I would simply point you to the map above.

The ethereal black and white image shows the thickness of all of Antarctica’s ice. It speaks to both the grandeur of the seventh continent and human ingenuity. Why humanity is on a course to melt all that ice is beyond me.

The map comes courtesy of Kevin Pluck, a software engineer, statistician, and animator, who pulled a massive dataset of Antarctic ice known as Bedmap2 for a project he was working on (more on that in a moment). The dataset is the compilation of a number of different observing methods, including airborne radar and satellite measurements. It took scientists years to compile and is one of the most comprehensive datasets of Antarctica’s ice and underlying bedrock.

“After downloading the enormous data files, I needed a way to check that I had processed them correctly so I thought the simplest way to do it was to plot a grey pixel based on the thickness value,” Pluck told Earther via Twitter direct message. “Out popped what you see here. I was stunned, I had never seen something so beautiful come from pure data before.”

Indeed.

The white areas are where the ice is thickest, with the towering and stable ice sheet of East Antarctica standing out most prominently. The Antarctic Peninsula—home to the Larsen C ice shelf that calved a huge iceberg last year—drifts off in the ocean in the upper left corner, but it’s that ghostly patch of gray and black in the lower left that had Pluck downloading the data in the first place.

The glaciers that hold back West Antarctica are the weakest links in the icy armor ringing the continent. They could already be in a state of unstoppable collapse that will unfold over centuries, causing seas to rise by up to 10 feet. But some scientists are growing concerned that changes could happen even more rapidly due to something called marine ice cliff instability, where a quirk of geology could create enormous problems.

The bedrock slopes downward under some of West Antarctica’s glaciers the further inland it goes. That means as warm waters eat away at the front of glaciers, the ice cliffs that remain grow ever higher and more prone to collapse under their own weight.

Thwaites is one of those glaciers where this process could play out. In an effort to suss out what’s happening there, the British Antarctic Survey and the National Snow and Ice Data Center announced a new collaboration on Monday. The $25-million investment will fund eight projects aimed at getting a better handle on how the glacier has changed in the past and what the future may hold. Pluck and Marlo Garnsworthy, his partner at the science communication firm Pixel Movers and Makers, were working on graphics for the announcement when he made his inadvertent Antarctic artwork.

“Our motivation is to inform as many people as we can about our vital polar ice—and more generally to visualize science concepts and make animations and sci-art that illuminate and inspire action, and which are accessible to broad and diverse audiences, young and old,” Garnsworthy told Earther. “We believe difficult messages about our changing planet are best delivered with humor, hope, and appealing imagery.”

I’m not sure the Antarctic ice image qualifies as funny or hopeful, but it sure is appealing.

Image: Kevin Pluck

6
The Kitchen Sink / Dulce Et Decorum Est...
« on: May 28, 2018, 06:57:04 AM »


From the keyboard of Surly1

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666

Like us on Facebook






Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on May 28, 2018



“If in some smothering dreams you too could pace

Behind the wagon that we flung him in,

And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,

His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood

Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,

Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud

Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest

To children ardent for some desperate glory,

The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est

Pro patria mori.”



 ― Wilfred Owen





As we observe yet another Memorial Day, it is at this time of year that thoughts turn to those who have served, those lost, those gone. At a time when the NFL make rules to enforce compulsory public worship of militarism (let's not call it patriotism, shall we?), the better to stifle the protest of domestic oppression, it is well to remember a time when grace and magnanimity softened hearts. Today marks the 150th anniversary of Memorial Day's official nationwide observance. The annual commemoration was born in the former Confederate States in 1866 and adopted by the United States in 1868.



Although not widely known today, the early evolution of the Memorial Day holiday grew from a Southern expression of magnanimity. An article by Richard Gardiner, The Forgotten History of Memorial Day,  traces the holiday's beginnings. 




During 1866, the first year of this annual observance in the South, a feature of the holiday emerged that made awareness, admiration and eventually imitation of it spread quickly to the North. During the inaugural Memorial Day observances which were conceived in Columbus, Georgia, many Southern participants – especially women – decorated graves of Confederate soldiers as well as, unexpectedly, those of their former enemies who fought for the Union. 



Shortly after those first Memorial Day observances all across the South, newspaper coverage in the North was highly favorable to the ex-Confederates. 



“The action of the ladies on this occasion, in burying whatever animosities or ill-feeling may have been engendered in the late war towards those who fought against them, is worthy of all praise and commendation,” wrote one paper



On May 9, 1866, the Cleveland Daily Leader lauded the Southern women during their first Memorial Day. 



“The act was as beautiful as it was unselfish, and will be appreciated in the North.”




Newspapers spread word of the magnanimous deeds of the southern women on "Decoration Day,", and it was memorialized in a popular poem, "The Blue and the Grey," often learned and recited by schoolchildren. With the ritual repeated on both sides of thre Mason-Dixon line, the holiday became a part of binding the wounds of a fratricidal war. It was a visible manifestation of Lincoln’s hope for reconciliation between North and South.



Somehow, the revulsion to war was lost as late nineteenth America grew in commercial and economic power. By the time a marine named Smedley Butler appeared in the US military, American was already flexing its muscles for entry as a player on the world stage.



Those not familiar with the career of Butler have missed a fascinating chapter of US history.



Smedley Darlington Butler was at the time of his death, the most decorated Marine in U.S. history. He was a welter of contradictions: a Major General in the U.S. Marine Corps, an outspoken critic of U.S. military adventurism; a high school dropout who became a major general, a Quaker and devout family man who was among the toughest of Marines; an aristocrat who championed the common man; a leader who thought of himself as striving to help the oppressed of the countries he occupied as commander of an imperial fighting force. During a 34-year career he participated in actions in the Philippines, China, Central America, the Caribbean, and France in World War I. He twice won the Congressional Medal of Honor, as well as numerous other U.S. and foreign medals. Our age has not seen the like of this larger-than-life soldier, but ours is not an age that produces heroes as readily as louts.



After he retired, Butler became a well-known and outspoken critic of the US military-industrial complex. His most well known work is his 1935 book "War is a Racket", in which he described war as a money making enterprise.



In "War is a Racket" he described and criticized the foreign actions and wars of the United States including his own, as so much gangsterism, not sparing American corporations and the politicians who enable them.



Butler's words have resonated through our day, when the interstices used by the interlocking nexus of international banks, construction companies, corrupt politicians and "foreign policy professionals" have combine to inflict a new, less straightforward version of colonialism on smaller, weaker countries or those (e.g. Greece) inclined to go their own way. Many of his memorable phrases are still quoted today, as they remain eternally true.





"War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small 'inside' group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes."






Near the end, Butler has some modest proposals for making war unprofitable, thus less likely.




It can be smashed effectively only by taking the profit out of war. The only way to smash this racket is to conscript capital and industry and labour before the nation's manhood can be conscripted.




One can imagine bow unpopular this prescription was to the war profiteers. 



In an interesting codicil to an outstanding career, Butler was recruited to be a member of what came to be knows as the Business Plot. He later told a congressional committee that a group of wealthy industrialists were planning a military coup to overthrow Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Butler would be selected to lead a veterans march to become dictator, along the lines of other Fascist regimes emerging in Europe. The conspirators had picked the wrong man. All involved denied the existence of a plot and the media ridiculed the allegations. But a final report by a special House of Representatives Committee confirmed some of Butler's testimony. The incident was forgetten. 



The techniques Butler describes are updated decades later by John Perkins, who wrote Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, published in 2004. In it Perkins describes his role as to convince leaders of underdeveloped countries to accept substantial development loans for large construction and engineering projects that would primarily benefit the richest families and local elites, rather than the poor. And the projects would be contracted to U.S. construction companies. Such loans would give the U.S. additional leverage for access to estract the host country's natural resources at favorable rates. Indeed, the business of America is business.



Just another reason Why People Hate Us. A nation immune to history has no recollection of its own history of intervention and interference. Saddam Hussein and Khaddafi were undoubtedly bad actors, and many believe that regime change was rightly forced upon those countries. But via the CIA, America has been busily replacing democracies with dictatorships in countries all over the world for more than 30 years. The justification was often to counter Soviet influence, but in many cases there was little or no evidence.



So why would the rest of the wrld hate us? Simply because Americans act like we are the center of the universe, we have to win everything all the time, we eat everything, Nukes, your country's natural resources are our birthright, and so is your energy– only 5 percent of the world’s population, we consume 26 percent of the world’s energy. We meddle all over the world, the scream to high heaven when other countries meddle back, we export trash materialistic culture, and we act unilaterally whenever and wherever we want, because American Exceptionalism. 



Now as Twitler advances a foreign policy of brinksmanship, there is talk in some quarters of reinstating the draft, since the time may come when the prospect of being the first to rush into the breach to die for the Trump corporate brand may be insufficiently motivating for enlistments.



Dulce et decorum est

Pro patria mori.



 





banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere, and was active in the Occupy movement. He lives in Southeastern Virginia with his wife Contrary and  will have failed if not prominently featured on an enemies list compiled by the current administration.



7
The Kitchen Sink / This Week In Doom May 27, 2018
« on: May 27, 2018, 12:22:00 PM »




That-Was-The-Week-That-W-That-Was-The-Week-473964gc2smFrom the keyboard of Surly1

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666

Like us on Facebook



 



 






Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on May 27, 2018



“–nor had I understood til then how the shameless vanity of utter fools can so strongly determine the fate of others.”



 ― Philip Roth, The Plot Against America  



 





Once again, we get out the bike pump and re-inflate this occasional feature. If you're interested in doom or impending collapse, you got your nickel's worth this week. 



Trump tweets, knowing that the media leaps to follow like Pavlov's dogs to the bell. In this way he controls the news cycle and accomplishes two important objectives: to constantly feed red meat to his base, who must be kept in high dudgeon in order to maintain his approval ratings above 30 per cent. (Never forget that Nixon still maintained a 28% approval rating when he stepped onto the helicopter, and into richly deserved but only temporary shame.) This has been Trump's strategy since the beginning, evident and plain to see, and a look at polls illustrates that it works. This artificially high approval rating is ably assisted by the crew at FOX News, almost all of whom seem to have signed onto the white nationalist agenda. It is what it is.



And while the media rushes to cover the fresh tweeted outrages, the real business of this administration occurs mentioned only on the back pages, if at all. Remember Steve Bannon's desire to "deconstruct the administrative state?" Bannon may be gone, but the agenda remains, and you can see it enacted every week if you look beyond the headlines and the contrived cable news panels.



Trump tweets because it works. It really is that simple.








The big news this week was that Trump "canceled" the pending summit with North Korea. What is truly amusing is that there're actually people who believe the summit was actually going to happen. Many of them were in a recent Trump "campaign rally,"(read yet another fund raiser to pay legal fees) and were heard chanting,"Nobel! Nobel!"



The Washington Post's article  got the high points.




President Trump’s abrupt decision Thursday to abort a summit next month with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un left the White House scrambling to explain the outcome to allies amid fears that the collapse of talks would mean a return to heightened tensions between nuclear powers in East Asia.



Trump announced he was pulling out of the planned meeting in Singapore on June 12 in a letter to Kim that came less than 12 hours after a North Korean official had personally disparaged Vice President Pence and warned of a nuclear showdown if the United States did not alter its tone ahead of the summit.




Ostensibly, Trump's purpose was to teach the younger man something about the "real balance of power" on the Korean Peninsula. The entire notion of the summit came about because Trump, who mightily believes in playing from his gut, blew through all the warning signs offered by aids and advisers. Trump rushed headlong into the summit process, ignoring warnings that North Korea has long been an unreliable negotiating partner.



Meanwhile, as John "Yosemite Sam" Bolton urged Trump to scuttle the talks, Kim destroyed his nuclear testing facility hours prior to Trump's announcement







TOKYO —  North Korea claimed Thursday it destroyed its key nuclear weapons testing site, setting off explosions to collapse underground tunnels hours before President Trump called off a planned June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. 



The North had used the site, tucked into a remote, mountainous area, to detonate six increasingly large nuclear bombs over 11 years. 



The apparent demolition was widely seen as a diplomatic gesture toward Washington, even as it remained unclear whether the made-for-TV blasts marked any significant change in the North’s nuclear capabilities.




At a subsequent  White House briefing an anonymous source revealed on background that negotiations continued, and the summit might be on again. Trump fumed and fulminated otherwise.




Mr. Trump posted on Twitter to denounce part of the article, which reported in the 10th paragraph that “a senior White House official told reporters that even if the meeting were reinstated, holding it on June 12 would be impossible, given the lack of time and the amount of planning needed.”



In a tweet, the president took issue with that sentence, saying, “WRONG AGAIN! Use real people, not phony sources.”



It is not clear whether the president was simply unaware of the actions of his own senior staff or if he knowingly ignored the truth. The source of that sentence was a White House official who held a briefing on Thursday afternoon in the White House briefing room that was attended by about 50 reporters, with about 200 or so more on a conference call.




Trump grabbed his cell phone with his famously small hands, and tweeted out this was not so, and the "failing New York Times" was manufacturing sources. Facts dictte otherwise. In other news, 35% of the population doesn't know or care.



Meanwhile, as Trump spluttered and Tweeted, back in Korea the leaders of North and South Korea held their own surprise meeting Saturday. One wonders what Bolton made of the news.






The two "exchanged opinions" on several things successfully carrying out a future US-North Korea summit, according to a released statement.





It was said Moon would  announce the result of his meeting with Kim on Sunday morning local time, according to the South Korean statement.



The report went on to say that Moon called for an emergency meeting with Kim in the middle of the night after Trump called off the June summit. In canceling, Trump cited hostile comments from top North Korean officials, including that a North Korean Foreign Ministry official called Vice President Mike Pence a "political dummy"  Clearly, the North Koreans have not the lesson learned by all mass media in the United States: that under no circumstances may you ever utter the actual, unvarnished truth about an American political figure, especially a Republican.





 






On Wednesday, the owners of teams in the National Football League, as lily-white, male, and privileged a group as ever occupied a luxury box, took an action more craven than any before, which is saying a lot. They voted to mandate a new national anthem policy that requires players to stand if they are on the field during the performance, but gives them the option to remain in the locker room. The owners may think that they are "getting out in front" of this issue, but they are trailing well behind, especially in the court of public opinion. But the truth is they are terrified of Trump and the effect he can have on their precious bottom-lines.




There's reportedly one big reason why the NFL took sweeping action Wednesday in adopting a new national anthem policy prior to the start of the 2018 season. And he resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington.



“Our league is f—–g terrified of Trump. We're scared of him,” one unnamed source told Bleacher Report as reaction to the plan poured in.




Which is just the way Trump likes it. Like any bully.




After a tumultuous 2017 season, which saw NFL attendance and TV ratings drop as President Trump and others criticized on-field protests by many of the league's players, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced this week that the league would fine any team or league employee if they failed “to stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem.”



Trump came out in support of the NFL’s decision Thursday and blasted players who kneel during the anthem.



"I don’t think people should be staying in the locker rooms, but still I think it’s good,” Trump told Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade in an exclusive interview. “You have to stand proudly for the national anthem. You shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe they shouldn’t be in the country.”




Reaction was swift.



As ESPN puts it,




NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith reacted with displeasure in a series of tweets Wednesday.



"History has taught us that both patriotism and protest are like water; if the force is strong enough it cannot be suppressed. Today, the CEO's of the NFL created a rule that people who hate autocracies should reject," Smith tweeted.



"Management has chosen to quash the same freedom of speech that protects someone who wants to salute the flag in an effort to prevent someone who does not wish to do so. The sad irony of this rule is that anyone who wants to express their patriotism is subject to the whim of a person who calls himself an "Owner."




Chris Long, a defensive end with the Philadelphia Eagles with a firmly established track record for charitable work, wrote the following on Twitter:






The NBA is a far more progressive league with different attitudes (and a more heavily African-American fan base). The league boasts some thoughtful coaches, such as Steve Kerr, the coach of the Golden State Warriors:




I think it’s just typical of the NFL. They’re just playing to their fan base and they’re basically trying to use the anthem as fake patriotism, nationalism, scaring people. It’s idiotic, but that’s how the NFL has handled their business. I’m proud to be in a league that understands patriotism in America is about free speech and about peacefully protesting.



I think our leadership in the NBA understands when the NFL players were kneeling, they were kneeling to protest police brutality, to protest racial inequality. They weren’t disrespecting the flag or the military, but our president decided to make it about that. That NFL followed suit, pandered to their fan base, created this hysteria.



This is kind of what’s wrong with our country right now. People in high places are trying to divide us, divide loyalties, make this about the flag, as if the flag is something other than what it really is. It’s a representation of what we’re really about, which is diversity, and peaceful protest and right to free speech. 




The owners may think that by taking this action, they have put this issue to bed. I am willing to bet (now legal, thanks to the Gorsuch Supreme Court) that this issue will flame up again once the season starts. Another example of how Trump is remaking this country in his own image.





Already far too long, here are some short takes on other news that occurred this past week:



Trump signs the biggest rollback of bank rules since the financial crisis




  • President Donald Trump signs a bill rolling back certain bank regulations into law. 


  • The law, which Congress passed with bipartisan support, eases rules on all but the largest institutions.


  • Proponents argue the measures will help community lenders, while opponents contend it went too far to help mid-sized and regional firms.



China Makes Massive Cut to Car Tariffs After Truce With Trump




  • Tariff reduced to 15% from 25%, boosting automaker shares


  • Expected shift comes after truce in the U.S.-China trade war



MH17 missile owned by Russian brigade, investigators say




  • The missile that downed a Malaysia Airlines flight over eastern Ukraine in 2014 belonged to a Russian brigade, international investigators say.


  • For the first time, the Dutch-led team said the missile had come from a unit based in western Russia. All 298 people on board the Boeing 777 died when it broke apart in mid-air flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.



Philip Roth dies at 85; novelist both probed and skewered Jewish American culture



Author Philip Roth, who tackled self-perception, sexual freedom, his own Jewish identity and the conflict between modern and traditional morals through novels that he once described as "hypothetical autobiographies," has died. He was 85.




  • Roth was one of America's preeminent 20th century novelists in a career that began in the 1950s and continued up until nearly the end of his life, resulting in more than 30 novels and short-story collections over seven decades. His work persistently blurred the lines between fiction and memoir, and often left readers both smitten and outraged… There is a good Vanity Fair article on Roth here



 



“The pleasure isn't in owning the person. The pleasure is this. Having another contender in the room with you.” 

― Philip RothThe Human Stain



 





banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere, and was active in the Occupy movement. He lives in Southeastern Virginia with his wife Contrary and  will have failed if not prominently featured on an enemies list compiled by the current administration.



8
Surly Newz / Amy Siskind's List
« on: May 27, 2018, 07:15:43 AM »
I have been publishing this on Diner social media for a year and a half. Why I haven't posted it on the Forum can only be the result of a brain bubble.

Amy Siskind compiles this list every week of the fresh insults, bruises and finger-fuckings of the criminal Trump administration. The Weekly List reminds us that the so-called new normal of American politics is not normal.  On a weekly basis, the List tracks specific news stories representing eroding norms under the current regime. Taken together, they reveal a nation pushed towards authoritarianism, the wielding of unchecked governmental authority by one person or group at the expense of the freedom of those who oppose them.

How is this possible? Weary from the 2016 election, many voters embraced uninformed obliviousness, unquestioning optimism, or an uncritically visceral reaction for or against the new administration. Instead, Amy Siskind sought facts. The Weekly List was born on November 20, 2016, chronicling Amys findings. Originally for her friends and social media followers, the List quickly went viral. The earliest weeks listed fewer than a dozen items. Now, nearly a year later, each week brings with it at least one-hundred new abnormalities.

This week, as Trump floats evidence-free Spygate to rile his base and hurt the credibility of the FBI, Justice, and Mueller , the media was nonetheless consumed with covering this manufactured storyline like a shiny coin. As a result,  important stories and storylines received scant national coverage. Which is likely the point.

Amy Siskind's List Week 80-

[html]

Week 80

Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things
subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.

 

This week, despite the White House providing no evidence to back Trump’s claim that the Obama administration spied on his 2016 campaign for political reasons, and despite Trump ostensibly branding “spy” and “Spygate” to rile his base and hurt the credibility of the FBI, Justice Department, and Mueller probe, the media was nonetheless consumed the entire week with covering this manufactured storyline. Reminiscent of Trump’s success in using the Nunes memo as a shiny coin to distract in Week 64, this week important stories and storylines received little or no national coverage.

 

After a social media barrage at the end of the week, the story that finally captured the country’s and some media attention was the Trump regime’s increasingly cruel and racist policies at the border. Immigrants are being dehumanized by Trump in words, and his regime is enacting inhumane policies resulting in families being separated, and children going missing.

This week had numerous examples of assaults on the First Amendment, including arrests of high school students protesting gun violence, media outlets being barred from an EPA event, and NFL owners banning public protests by their players in an effort to appease Trump.

  1. Border Patrol detained and questioned two women for 35 minutes after hearing them speak Spanish at a gas station in Havre, Montana, a town in the northern part of the state, near the border with Canada.
  2. On Monday, Rep. Steve King introduced the Mayor Libby Schaaf Act of 2018, named for the Oakland mayor,which calls for up to five years’ imprisonment for officials who warn residents of ICE raids.
  3. On Monday, former Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio, pardoned by Trump last year after being convicted of contempt of court in a racial profiling case, filed a petition to run for U.S. Senator of Arizona.
  4. On Monday, tripling-down on Trump’s “animals” comments in Week 79, the White House issued a statement saying, “The violent animals of MS-13 have committed heinous, violent attacks in communities across America.”
  5. On Tuesday, in testimony before the House, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said it’s up to individual schools to decide whether to call ICE if they suspect their students are undocumented.
  6. Civil rights groups said DeVos’ comments violate the Supreme Court‘s 1982 ruling in Plyler v. Doe, which guarantees the rights of students to receive a public education regardless of their immigration status.
  7. NBC News reported as the Trump regime prepares to ramp up separating immigrant children from their parents coming over the border, that from October 2017 to mid-April, more than 700 children have been separated.
  8. Children are turned over to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, and the government tries to connect them with family members in the US. Under a new proposal from the Department of Homeland Security, relatives would also need to go through security checks, making it less likely they will come forward.
  9. On Wednesday, NPR reported according to an ACLU report, immigrant children who are detained by border patrol suffer physical, verbal, sexual, and psychological abuse, including denial of drinking water and food.
  10. Allegations in the ACLU report included denying a pregnant teen medical care, forcing a 16 year-old girl to forcibly spread her legs and be touched, and threatening a child with sexual abuse by an adult male detainee.
  11. The Arizona Daily Star reported Alma Jacinto, a 36 year-old from Guatemala, was separated from her sons, ages 8 and 11, and forced to wear a yellow bracelet on her left wrist.
  12. The yellow bracelet identifies parents who are arrested with their children and prosecuted in Operation Streamline, a fast-track program of the Trump regime. Prosecutors refuse to tell Jacinto where her children are.
  13. According to The Arizona Republic, the Office of Refugee Resettlement reported that at the end of 2017 the agency did not know the location of 1,475 of the that of the 7,635 children placed with sponsored individuals.
  14. PBS reported Department of Health and Human Services officials came under fire during Congressional testimony in April for the missing children. It was revealed that some of the children had been victims of sex trafficking.
  15. Steven Wagner, the acting assistant secretary of HHS’ Administration for Children and Families said fromOctober 2016 and December 2017 the agency was unable to locate 19% of immigrant children taken in.
  16. NYT reported most of the children taken into government care are from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, and were fleeing from drug cartels, gang violence, and domestic abuse, government data shows.
  17. The Trump regime appointed Ronald Mortensen, an immigrant hard-liner who advocates for restricting legal and illegal immigration and is opposed to DACA, to a senior role in the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.
  18. CNN reported an undocumented woman, Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez, 20, from Guatemala was shot in the head and killed by a Border Patrol agent near Laredo, Texas on Wednesday. The agent claimed he came under attack by migrants armed with “blunt objects.”
  19. On Friday, Border Patrol changed their account of shooting of the undocumented woman, saying the migrants did not have blunt objects, but “rushed” the officer after ignoring orders to get on the ground.
  20. The revised statement also refers to the gunshot victim as a “member of the group.” Customs and Border Protection canceled a press conference that was supposed to take place on Friday.
  21. WAPO reported in addition to Trump’s tirade against DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in Week 78, he has been berating her all spring over a rise in illegal crossings. The rise, due to migration patterns returning to historic seasonal norms, has stripped Trump of his proudest accomplishment.
  22. Trump is also furious at Nielsen for not securing money for his border wall, even though she was not party to the spending deal struck by senior White House aides that Trump signed.
  23. Nielsen has said Trump doesn’t understand the nuances of immigration law. One expert said Trump wants Nielsen to deliver a crackdown that looks like the Iraq War: “He wants to do shock and awe,”
  24. Trump met with Stephen Miller and Kushner ahead of his February 2017 speech to Congress, and acting like he was at a rally, “recited a few made-up Hispanic names and described potential crimes they could have committed, such as rape or murder.” Miller and Kushner laughed.
  25. LA Times reported that Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council union which represents 15,000 agents, called Trump’s National Guard deployment to the border a “colossal waste.”
  26. The union endorsed Trump in 2016. Judd said when he heard the National Guard was going to the border “I was extremely excited” for help to alleviate the Border Patrol workload, but “that has not happened at all.”
  27. Houston Chronicle reported on Esteban Pastor, a 28 year-old escaping from Guatemala who was detained in Texas and separated from his sick 18 month-old crossing the border. When he was deported three months later, agents were unable to locate his baby.
  28. Few procedures are in place to track and reunify families. Nielsen has defended the regime’s practice of separating parents from children, saying children are taken from criminals imprisoned for breaking the law.
  29. Before the Trump regime, most parents with children weren’t prosecuted for crossing the border illegally, a misdemeanor for first offenders, but deported or freed together under a practice called “catch and release.”
  30. On Saturday, facing pressure for news about separated families and missing children, Trump tweeted blaming Democrats for the “horrible horrible law that separates children from there parents.”
  31. Trump also blamed Democrats for “PROTECTING MS-13 THUGS,” and added, “ Catch and Release, Lottery and Chain must also go with it.” Trump also said we “MUST continue building the WALL!”
  32. On Friday, DHS said, for a second year in a row, it would issue 15,000 additional guest workers visas for 2018, following an outcry from businesses over being hurt by the country’s labor squeeze.
  33. Capitol Police arrested four of the eights students from the Montgomery County Students for Gun Controlwho staged a sit-in outside of Speaker Paul Ryan’s office last Friday. The students were calling on Ryan to pass common-sense gun control legislation.
  34. On Tuesday, AP reported the Environmental Protection Agency barred the Associated Press, CNN, and the environmental-focused news organization E&E from a national summit on harmful water contaminants convened by Scott Pruitt in Washington DC.
  35. According to AP, when their reporter asked to speak to an EPA public-affairs person, “the security guards grabbed the reporter by the shoulders and shoved her forcibly out of the EPA building.”
  36. On Tuesday, when asked at the press briefing about the EPA turning away reporters, press secretary Sarah Sanders said she would “look into” it, saying “I can’t speak to a situation I don’t have a lot of visibility into.”
  37. On Wednesday, reporters were again barred from attending the EPA water pollution event. Journalists from AP, Politico, and many others were turned away, told the sessions were were closed to reporters.
  38. On Wednesday, a federal judge ruled that Trump cannot blocking Twitter users, saying it is a violation of the First Amendment. Twitter is a public forum and silencing critics is not permissible under the U.S. Constitution.
  39. On Wednesday, the NFL announced players will be allowed to stay in the locker room during the national anthem, but teams will be fined if their players kneel during the anthem.
  40. The policy was adopted without the players’ union involvement. In a statement Wednesday, the union said it would review and “challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement.”
  41. On Thursday, when asked about the NFL move on “Fox & Friends,” Trump said the owners did the right thing, “You have to stand proudly for the national anthem…maybe they shouldn’t be in the country.”
  42. Conversely, NBA commissioner Adam Silver told athletes, “do not [just] stick to sports.” This week,Milwaukee police released a disturbing video of Bucks player, Sterling Brown’s arrest, with obvious racial undertones.
  43. On Monday, at a private White House signing ceremony, Trump repealed auto-lending guidance from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that protected minority customers from predatory practices.
  44. Trump’s Interior Department said it would reverse Obama-era rules barring hunters in Alaska from baiting brown bears with bacon and doughnuts and using spotlights to shoot mother black bears and cubs hibernating in their dens.
  45. On Tuesday, Trump’s DHS unveiled the regime’s proposed regulations which would ban organizations that perform or refer patients for abortions from receiving Title X dollars.
  46. The regulation would also remove “medically approved” family planning services from the requirement, meaning formerly ineligible organizations, some of which oppose contraception, could now received Title X funding.
  47. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher told a group of realtors that homeowners should be able to refuse to sell their homes to gays and lesbians, saying they should not be forced to do business with “someone they think is doing something that is immoral.”
  48. On Thursday, the House passed a bill to reauthorize funds for the military, which includes authorization for Trump’s request to hold a military parade.
  49. Speaking at a Naval Academy commencement, Trump told graduates, “our ancestors tamed a continent,” adding “We are not going to apologize for America. We are going to stand up for America.”
  50. The Arizona Republic reported the Arizona Department of Education plans to make changes to the K-12 curriculum, including removing the word “evolution” in some areas and describing it as a “theory” in others.
  51. In a letter, Democrat Sen. Jeff Merkley and GOP Sen. Pat Toomey, demanded the FCC investigate identity theft and fraud of two million Americans, including the two senators, in public comments for net neutrality.
  52. Politico reported that John Bolton relied on Matthew Freedman, a consultant and former lobbyist who worked for Paul Manafort and was fired from Trump’s transition team, to meet with potential job applicants for the National Security Council.
  53. Mark Inch, a retired Army major general who was appointed nine months ago to oversee the Federal Bureau of Prisons and its more than 180,000 inmates, resigned citing the regime continually flouting “departmental norms.”
  54. On Saturday, Trump attacked the FBI and DOJ, tweeting, “If the FBI or DOJ was infiltrating a campaign for the benefit of another campaign, that is a really big deal,” and called for the release or review of documents.
  55. On Saturday, Jeanine Pirro opened her Fox News show, calling Jeff Sessions, “the single most dangerous person,” saying that Sessions is,“the most of powerful prosecutor in the world,” who “hides behind” Rosenstein.
  56. On Sunday, Fox News host Maria Bartiromo told “Fox & Friends” that either Obama or Hillary “were sort of masterminding all of this,” saying agencies “were all involved in trying to take down Donald Trump.”
  57. On Sunday, Trump vented in a series of seven tweets, deriding the “$20,000,000 Witch Hunt,” and attacking his political opponents, including Hillary Clinton, Andrew McCabe, Obama and the Podesta brothers.
  58. Trump also tweeted “The Failing and Crooked” NYT published a “long & boring story,” adding the “World’s most expensive Witch Hunt” found nothing on Russia, so “now they are looking at the rest of the World!
  59. Later Sunday, Trump tweeted, “I hereby demand….the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes,” and if the requests came from the Obama administration.
  60. Hours later, Rod Rosenstein announced the Justice Department inspector general will expand an ongoing review to include an inquiry to determine “whether there was any impropriety or political motivation in how the FBI conducted its counterintelligence investigation.”
  61. Over the weekend, media widely reported Stefan Halper is the FBI source. Halper is a Republican who worked for Nixon and Ford and donated to George W. Bush, and is an emeritus professor at the University of Cambridge.
  62. On Sunday, former CIA director John Brennan tweeted at Speaker Ryan and Leader Mitch McConnell, saying Trump was on a “disastrous path” and Republican leaders would bear responsibility for the “harm done to our democracy” if they did not intervene.
  63. On Monday, hours before attending the swearing in of his new CIA director, Trump attacked Brennan in a series of tweets, saying he “has disgraced” himself, the country, and the entire intelligence community.
  64. Trump also quoted Dan Bongino who had appeared on “Fox & Friends” that morning, saying of Brennan, “This was a Political hit job, this was not an Intelligence Investigation,” and Brennan is “worried about staying out of Jail.”
  65. On Monday, Michael Caputo hinted on Fox News that there is a second informant that penetrated Trump’s campaign, adding when the truth comes out, “[James] Clapper and the rest of them are going to be wearing some orange suits.”
  66. On Monday, Trump met privately for about an hour with Rosenstein, Christopher Wray, and Daniel Coats. Sanders said the meeting had been on the schedule since last week.
  67. After the meeting, the White House announced John Kelly would convene another gathering between the officials and congressional leaders to “review highly classified and other information.”
  68. On Monday, Rudy Giuliani told HuffPost that Robert Mueller will not be allowed to interview Trump until Trump learns more about the secret FBI informant, saying “I don’t care so much about the name as I do about the content.”
  69. On Tuesday, Rep. Lee Zeldin and 11 House conservatives introduced a resolution calling for a second special counsel to investigate possible misconduct by the Justice Department and FBI during the 2016 election.
  70. On Tuesday, DHS Secretary Nielsen told a reporter she was unaware of the finding in the January 2017 intelligence community’s assessment that Russia intervened to help Trump win: “I do not believe that I’ve seen that conclusion.”
  71. On Wednesday, Trump tweeted, saying things have turned for the “Criminal Deep State,” saying they are “caught in a major SPY scandal” and calling the Russia probe, “phony” and a “made up Scam.”
  72. Trump later tweeted his branded term for the ongoing attack on the FBI and Justice Department: “SPYGATEcould be one of the biggest political scandals in history!”
  73. On Wednesday, as he left the White House, Trump told reporters asking for proof of his spying allegations, Trump, “All you have to do is look at the basics and you’ll see it. Looks like a very serious event, but we’ll find out.”
  74. On Thursday, Trump tweeted, “Clapper has now admitted that there was Spying in my campaign,” adding, “Starting to look like one of the biggest political scandals in U.S. history. SPYGATE.”
  75. Trump incorrectly attributed a statement by former DNI Clapper on “The View” speaking about his new book. Clapper had said, “They were spying on — a term I don’t particularly like … what the Russians were doing.”
  76. On Thursday, Trump also tweeted, without citing evidence, “Large dollars were paid to the Spy, far beyond normal,” adding this is “one of the biggest political scandals in U.S. history.”
  77. On Thursday, AP reported Trump told an ally this week that he wanted “to brand” the informant a spy, believing the term would resonate more in the media and with the public, and came up with the term “Spygate.”
  78. On Tuesday, the White House announced that FBI and Justice Department officials would brief only Reps. Devin Nunes and Trey Gowdy on confidential intelligence on the FBI’s Russia informant.
  79. After complaints by top House and Senate Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, a second meeting was scheduled at 2 p.m., including the “Gang of Eight” and Gowdy, immediately after the noon meeting for Nunes and Gowdy.
  80. At the last minute, Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, was also invited to attend both meetings. Speaker Ryan said due to a scheduling conflict, he would attend the first meeting.
  81. On Thursday, without advance notice and raising suspicions from lawmakers on both sides, chief of staff Kelly and White House lawyer Emmet Flood attended both meetings.
  82. Reportedly, Kelly and Flood delivered a message from Trump and then left. Rep. Schiff said Flood’s “involvement — in any capacity — was entirely improper, and I made this clear to him.”
  83. Later Thursday, the White House released a statement, saying Kelly and Flood made only, “brief remarksbefore the meetings started to relay the President’s desire for as much openness as possible under the law.”
  84. After the meeting, Schiff read a statement on behalf of Pelosi, Schumer, Warner and himself: “Nothing we heard today has changed our view that there is no evidence to support any allegation that the FBI or any intel agency placed a spy in the Trump campaign.”
  85. Sen. McConnell told Fox News of the meeting that he learned “nothing particularly surprising.” He also told NPR he supports the Mueller investigation, as well as the inspector general’s investigation of the Justice Department.
  86. On Friday, Trump again attacked the FBI on Twitter, repeating his claim without evidence that the informant was “paid a fortune.”
  87. Trump also tweeted, without evidence, “imagine having Spies placed in a competing campaign, by the people and party in absolute power,” saying it was for “political advantage and gain,” but they still “LOST!”
  88. On Friday, Giuliani told the AP Trump’s legal team wants a briefing on the classified information shared with lawmakers, and may use it to take to the Justice Department as part of an effort to try to end the Mueller probe.
  89. Giuliani said the White House is hoping for a readout next week, adding “If the spying was inappropriate, that means we may have an entirely illegitimate investigation.”
  90. On Thursday, WSJ reported, according to emails reviewed by the Journal, Roger Stone privately sought emails he thought were damaging to Hillary Clinton from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
  91. In a September 18, 2016 message, Stone asked Randy Credico, a New York radio personality who had interviewed Assange, for Hillary’s emails related to the 2011 Libyan peace deal. Credico eventually responded, “That batch probably coming out in the next drop.”
  92. Credito told WSJ he first got to know Stone in August 2016 when Stone agreed to be on his show. Credito said Stone had claimed to be in touch with Assange, and had predicted the release of damaging information.
  93. The emails contradict Stone’s testimony to Congress, in which he said he “merely wanted confirmation” from an acquaintance that Assange had information on Hillary. Stone maintains he hasn’t been contacted by Mueller’s office.
  94. On Wednesday, Mueller’s team asked a federal judge to deny a request by AP, CNN, NYT, Politico, and WAPOfor a “broad unsealing” of search warrants, affidavits, and other materials related to Manafort.
  95. Mueller’s team argued in its filing that the investigation is “not a closed matter but an ongoing criminal investigation with multiple lines of non-public inquiry.”
  96. The filing noted the probe has resulted in criminal charges against 22 individuals and entities, adding unsealing materials would create “a serious risk of jeopardizing the ongoing and interconnected aspects of the investigation.”
  97. On Saturday, NYT reported on a meeting arranged by Erik Prince at Trump Tower on August 3, 2016 between Donald Jr., George Nader, and Joel Zamel, an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation.
  98. Nader, an emissary for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan of the UAE and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, said the princes were eager to help Trump win the election.
  99. Zamel came to with a multimillion-dollar proposal for a social media manipulation. Reportedly, Donald Jr. responded positively to the offers for help, and Nader was embraced as a close ally by Trump campaign advisers.
  100. After Trump was elected, Nader paid Zamel as much as $2 million after a presentation by Zamel demonstrating the significance of their help. Mueller is investigating these interactions, and Nader is cooperating.
  101. On Saturday, WSJ said it has reviewed a subpoena by Mueller team for Zamel, which has not yet been issued. Zamel runs two companies that were involved in the 2016 election, Wikistrat and Psy-Group. Mueller’s team has conducting interviews about Zamel’s work.
  102. Psy-Group, which is a secretive private intelligence firm with the motto “shape reality,” has veteran Israeli intelligence officials linked to it. Wikistrat uses a network of experts to analyze geopolitical problems.
  103. Zamel’s attorney said his client offered nothing to and received nothing from the Trump campaign. Donald Jr.’s attorney said in a statement that Donald Jr. “was not interested and that was the end of it.”
  104. On Tuesday, Bloomberg reported Mueller’s team has subpoenaed bank records for payments made to Psy-Group’s Cyprus bank accounts. While Psy-Group is based in Israel, it’s headquartered in Cyprus.
  105. Following Trump’s victory, Psy-Group formed an alliance with Cambridge Analytica to try to win U.S. government business. A proposal sent to the State Department offers Psy-Group “has conducted messaging/influence operations in well over a dozen languages and dialects.”
  106. Mueller’s team interviewed people associated with Psy-Group’s U.S. operation in February. Shortly after, the company’s CEO Royi Burstien told employees in Tel Aviv the company was closing down. Burstien is a former commander of an Israeli psychological warfare unit.
  107. On Wednesday, WSJ reported Mueller’s team has also interviewed Zamel, likely as part of their investigation into the influence of the UAE in the 2016 election. Zamel is said to be close to top officials in the UAE.
  108. Zamel starting making contacts with the UAE in 2014, and founded Psy-Group in 2016. Some of Psy-Group’s work included setting up “honey traps” — creating compromising information to be used for leverage.
  109. On Sunday, WAPO reported Andrew Intrater, chief executive of Columbus Nova and cousin of Viktor Vekselberg, not only made donations to Trump, but also signed a $1 million annual contract with Cohen for help finding investors.
  110. Intrater was reportedly impressed with the large number of wealthy people Cohen seemed to know, but afterCohen was unable to identify any new investors, the contract was terminated and Cohen was paid $500,000.
  111. On Sunday, a newly-filed Federal Election Commission report showed the RNC paid $451,780 to Trout Cacheris & Janis, a law firm that represents Hope Hicks and others Mueller’s Russia probe.
  112. On Tuesday, NYT reported Evgeny Freidman, a Russian immigrant known as the Taxi King, and significant business partner of Cohen, has agreed to cooperate with state or federal investigations as part of a plea deal.
  113. Friedman is accused of failing to pay more than $5 million in taxes and faced four counts of criminal tax fraud and one of grand larceny. Under the plea deal, he will plead guilty to a single count and get no jail time.
  114. Giuliani changed his position on whether Trump would speak to Mueller — telling the WSJ he opposed it, then WAPO he was for it. Giuliani later told BuzzFeed that he and Trump last talked a “couple weeks ago.
  115. Giuliani also told WAPO he was concerned about a perjury trap saying the “truth is relative,” adding, reminiscent of Kellyanne Conway’s alternative facts, “They may have a different version of the truth than we do.”
  116. CNN reported Trump’s lawyers are trying to narrow the scope of the Mueller interview to limit or eliminate questions regarding Trump’s conduct after he took office, especially related to obstruction of justice.
  117. Mueller is reportedly against written responses, and will insist on asking Trump questions about his time in office. The Mueller team continues to be tight lipped, not speaking publicly, about the investigation.
  118. On Tuesday, AP reported based on a review of the emails and documents, Elliott Broidy and Nader worked to cultivate the princes of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, then lobby Congress and the White House on the gulf state’s behalf.
  119. Summaries written by Broidy reveal he had two meeting with Trump. Broidy was also passing messages to the Trump from the two princes, and told Trump he was seeking business with them.
  120. Neither Broidy or Nader registered under Foreign Agents Registration Act, although both waged an anti-Qatar campaign on behalf of foreign client. Broidy came close to netting more than $1 billion in business as payment for his work.
  121. Cadre, a real estate technology startup co-founded and partly owned by Kushner, is in discussions about a$100 million investment with SoftBank, a private fund that gets almost half its capital from the governmentsof Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
  122. On Wednesday, BBC reported Cohen received a payment of at least $400,000 through an intermediary to broker talks between the Ukrainian president Poroshenko and Trump. The meeting took place at the White House last June.
  123. A senior intelligence official in Kiev said that Sater also helped Cohen. A week after Poroshenko returned home, Ukraine’s National Anti Corruption Bureau announced it was dropping its investigation of Manafort.
  124. On Wednesday, Mueller’s team asked a federal judge to start the process of preparing a pre-sentencing report for George Papadopoulos.
  125. On Friday, NYT reported according to video footage from C-Span and and an interview with Intrater who also attended, Donald Jr. and Cohen met with Vekselberg at Trump Tower on January 9, 2017.
  126. According to Intrater, the meeting took place in Cohen’s office on the 26th floor. The topics discussed were shared interests and a mutual desire to strengthen Russia’s relations with the U.S. under Trump.
  127. Intrater claimed Vekselberg, his cousin and biggest client, had no role in Columbus Nova’s decision to hire Cohen for $1 million contract shortly after the election, or the multiple donations made to Trump.
  128. On Friday, Politico reported bankruptcy lawyers for Jeffrey Yohai, Manafort’s son-in-law who is cooperating in the Mueller probe, are seeking to drop partial representation citing unpaid bills and lack of candor.
  129. On Friday, Yahoo News reported the FBI has obtained a secret wiretaps collected by Spanish police of conversations involving Alexander Torshin that lead up to his meeting with Donald Jr. at the NRA convention in May 2016.
  130. The conversations took place between Torshin and Alexander Romanov, a convicted Russian money launderer, and were wiretapped as part of officials’ investigation into Spanish organized crime.
  131. Despite allegations of ties to Russian money laundering, Torshin continues to travel to the U.S., including to the National Prayer Breakfast in February 2017 where he was supposed to meet with Trump, but that meeting was canceled the night prior.
  132. On Sunday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the regime had decided to put the trade war with China “on hold,” despite the fact that meetings in Beijing and Washington DC produced no major agreement.
  133. On Tuesday, following action rebuking Trump in the House in Week 79, the Senate Banking Committee voted 23-2 to make it harder for Trump to modify penalties against ZTE.
  134. On Tuesday, speaking at the White House, Trump floated a new plan to fine ZTE and shake up its management in lieu of sanctions, saying the company has been hurt by an April Commerce Department decision.
  135. On Friday, the Trump regime told Congress it had a new deal to revive ZTE, under which the company would pay a substantial fine, hire an American compliance officers, and change its management team.
  136. WAPO reported a letter being circulated to dozens of wealthy entrepreneurs in China last week, topped with the insignia of a real Republican committee, offered access to Trump at a fundraiser.
  137. The invitation offers a handshake and a one-on-one photo with Trump for $100,000. U.S. election law allows foreign visitors to attend fundraisers as long as they do not pay their own entry, but the invitation does raise ethical concerns.
  138. Watchdog group CREW noted that Ivanka’s business has won approval for Chinese trademarks recently, including on May 7 her business received “registration” approval for five trademark applications.
  139. Politico reported that Trump uses at least two at least two iPhones to contact friends and tweet, which are not equipped with sophisticated security features designed to shield his communications.
  140. On Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo began testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by reading a letter from Trump to Kim Jong Un cancelling the Singapore summit.
  141. The letter thanked Kim Jong Un for releasing three prisoners, but included a threat, “You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.”
  142. Shortly after canceling the summit, Trump told the press, “It’s possible that the existing summit could take place, or a summit at some later date.”
  143. South Korea President Moon, who had visited Trump at the White House Tuesday, convened an emergency meeting after the announcement. Spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom told reporters, “We are trying to figure out what President Trump’s intention is and the exact meaning of it.
  144. On Friday, NYT reported the summit with North Korea may be on again, a startling reversal which speaks to Trump improvising and erratic style, as well as deep divisions within the regime on how to proceed.
  145. On Saturday, Trump tweeted attacked the NYT in two tweets, saying unlike what “the Failing and Corrupt New York Times” has said, there is “ZERO disagreement” in the regime on how to deal with North Korea.
  146. Trump also said the “Failing” Timesquotes “a senior White House official,” who doesn’t exist.” The NYT countered, saying Trump falsely claimed the Times made up a source.
  147. On Wednesday, CNN reported Kushner had his White House security clearance restored, after months of uncertainty stemming in part from Kushner being questioned in the Mueller probe.
  148. Kushner’s attorney Abbe Lowell said Kushner met with Mueller’s team for a second time in April for a seven hour interview. Lowell claimed Kushner is finished with Mueller’s inquiries. Mueller did not comment.
  149. On Thursday, Axios reported Ivanka now also has full security clearance. Both Ivanka and Kushner were reportedly given full Top Secret clearance on May 1.
  150. USA Today reported T Retail LLC, a company formed in May 2017 and listed in Trump’s financial disclosure statement as earning over $100,000, is a store that sells items from t-shirts to hats to dog leashes, branded with the “Trump” name.
  151. On Thursday, in a statement, T-Mobile said it hired Turnberry Solutions in August to help in the lobbying effort to secure federal approval for its proposed takeover of Sprint. Corey Lewandowski is affiliated with Turnberry.
  152. WSJ reported Lewandowski receives a cut of the fees paid to the lobbying firm on the T-Mobile contract. Lewandowski has denied any relationship to Turnberry, although they share Capitol Hill office space.
  153. On Friday, in three executive orders, Trump rolled back civil-service protections federal employees have enjoyed for a generation, making it easier to fire poor performers and change rules related to unions.
  154. One order will limit the time federal employees can spend doing union business to no more than a quarter of their workday on “official time,” taking away a benefit granted by Congress four decades ago.
  155. Firing based on performance will change a long-standing tradition of basing layoffs on seniority. The order will now require agencies to charge unions for space in federal buildings they now use for free.
  156. WAPO reported it has now been more than two weeks since First lady Melania Trump was seen in public, prior to her kidney procedure. Melania was last seen on May 10. There has been no update on her health.
  157. On Friday, a reporter asked Trump as he was boarding Marine One about Melania, and Trump pointed to a window in the White House residence, and said: “She’s doing great. She’s looking at us right there.” She was not there.
  158. On Tuesday, women of color, LGBTQ women, and women who have served in the military made historic firstswinning their Democratic primaries. Stacey Abrams of Georgia will have a shot to become the first black female governor.
  159. The Center for American Women and Politics found in primaries so far, women make up more than 40% of House Democratic nominees, a record. Republican House women are down from prior years to under 10%.
  160. The Senate, led by Amy Klobuchar and Roy Blunt, passed a long-stalled bill to overhaul how sexual harassment complaints are made and handled, and to make lawmakers pay settlements out of their own pockets.
  161. On Friday, Harvey Weinstein, whose allegations of sexual assault were part of the start of the #MeToo movement, came handcuffed into a courtroom where he was charged with rape and sexual abuse.

 

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9
Surly Newz / Forget the Deep State -- This Is the Trump State
« on: May 27, 2018, 06:41:40 AM »
Forget the Deep State -- This Is the Trump State

Forget the Deep State -- This Is the Trump State

Trump has created a government that reflects himself, in which the most important question is what he and his accomplices can take for themselves.
May 27, 2018, 3:08 AM GMT

Photo Credit: Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Samuel Guerra

Periodically over the last year and a half we've had cause to ask ourselves, "Is this it? Is this the moment we've been dreading and warning about? When Donald Trump truly becomes the kind of president he keeps telling us he wants to be?"

Sometimes it's hard to tell. It's as if we're all standing in a river of corruption rushing around us with impossible speed and force, and every once in a while another wave smashes us in the face. Was that wave the real problem, or is it the whole river?

The answer is: It's both. The "Deep State" may be a myth, but we've seen the installation of the Trump State, which is something far worse.

Here's what Trump tweeted on Sunday:

Yes, that's the president of the United States, "hereby demanding" an investigation into the investigation of him, and along with it an investigation into his political enemies.

What led him to this latest bout of rage-tweeting was a series of reports about the investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign and some related matters. First it emerged that after the FBI learned that people with connections to the Russian government had been in contact with Trump campaign officials, offering to help them in the election, the bureau sent a confidential source it had used before to reach out to those Trump officials to try to learn more.

Trump falsely claimed that this meant that "there was indeed at least one FBI representative implanted, for political purposes, into my campaign for president," but the truth was far different. As former FBI agent Asha Rangappa noted, the bureau was conducting a counterintelligence investigation, not a criminal one. In other words, they were trying to find out what the Russians were up to and whom they had compromised—if anything, to protect Trump and his campaign from Russia. And the FBI was extraordinarily careful not to let the fact of their investigation leak to the press before the election, another way they acted to protect him. If they had been as accommodating to Hillary Clinton, she'd be president right now.

Second, we learned that the Russians weren't the only foreigners the Trump campaign was yielding offers from. The New York Times reported that during the campaign, Donald Trump Jr. met with villainous mercenary Erik Prince, a representative of the Saudi and UAE governments, and an Israeli consultant to explore some opportunities for synergy:


Erik Prince, the private security contractor and the former head of Blackwater, arranged the meeting, which took place on Aug. 3, 2016. The emissary, George Nader, told Donald Trump Jr. that the princes who led Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were eager to help his father win election as president. The social media specialist, Joel Zamel, extolled his company's ability to give an edge to a political campaign; by that time, the firm had already drawn up a multimillion-dollar proposal for a social media manipulation effort to help elect Mr. Trump.

Where oh where did they ever get the idea that the Republican nominee for president might be open to something so clearly illegal and unethical?

As far as we know, the Saudi/UAE assistance never materialized, much like the Russian dirt on Hillary Clinton that Don Jr. was so keen to get his hands on. But it seems that even before he became president, people around the world knew that Donald Trump was a man who could be bought.

They knew that because Trump had made little secret of it. As a businessman he was spectacularly corrupt, lying about the height of his buildings, skipping out on creditors, refusing to pay vendors, creating scams like Trump University, using illegal labor, doing business with kleptocrats and mobsters, and gathering around him a collection of small-time crooks like Michael Cohen. This was plainly a man who didn't care too much about the rules.

And in office, Trump has created a government that reflects himself, in which the most important question is what you can grab for yourself and the people who either paid you in the past or are going to pay you in the future. So when Michael Cohen went around to a bunch of corporations telling them to pay him hundreds of thousands of dollars for his precious "insights" into health care or telecom policy, a bunch of them went ahead and paid up. That's just how things work with Donald Trump in charge.


Some might protest that as a liberal I merely object to Trump's conservative agenda, which I certainly do. But this isn't just about things like reducing the size of government. You can reduce the size of government to actually promote efficiency, but no one thinks that's what Trump is up to. For instance, when Education Secretary Betsy DeVos not only stops investigations of abuses by for-profit colleges but installs the former dean of DeVry University to oversee such investigations, it's not about efficiency. When you make a literal coal lobbyist the No. 2 person at the EPA, you aren't after sensible regulation.

That isn't to say that the administration isn't pursuing ideological goals, because it is. But certain ideological goals, like the exploitation of students, the befouling of the environment, the diminution of reproductive rights, or the relentless enhancement of corporate power at the expense of workers and consumers, are perfectly compatible with the Trump State, so long as those in policy positions remember that there is no value higher than loyalty to the boss. You might have experience or qualifications, but you certainly don't need them, not if your devotion to Donald Trump is beyond question.

And in the Trump State, the idea that there are rules or institutions that stand outside the president—and heaven forbid might even hold him accountable—is unconscionable. Trump's attempt to wage war on the Justice Department, which he plainly sees as properly existing only to protect him and carry out his vendettas, is only one vivid example. Trump has also personally urged the postmaster general to raise shipping rates on Amazon, according to reporting by The Washington Post, as part of his vendetta against Amazon CEO and Post owner Jeff Bezos.

So far, the postmaster general has resisted, which shows that even in the Trump State there are people and institutions willing and able to resist the president's most authoritarian tendencies. But there may not be enough. Most Republicans have decided that there is almost no behavior or abuse on the part of Trump or his family that they wouldn't defend, whether it's monetizing the Oval Office for personal financial gain or cooperating with a hostile foreign power to distort an American election. Try to imagine Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell saying, "There are a lot of things I put up with, but this time the president has gone too far!" You can't do it, can you?

And late Sunday, we learned that the Justice Department has given in to Trump's demand and ordered its inspector general to investigate whether the FBI improperly investigated Trump's campaign. The Trump State corrupts all. And he's still got two and a half years to go.


Robert Kuttner is co-editor of The American Prospect and a visiting professor at Brandeis University's Heller School. His latest book is Debtors' Prison: The Politics of Austerity Versus Possibility.


10
Cyber Security / Exclusive: FBI Seizes Control of Russian Botnet
« on: May 24, 2018, 01:48:21 PM »
Exclusive: FBI Seizes Control of Russian Botnet

The FBI operation targets a piece of sophisticated malware linked to the same Russian hacking group that hit the Democratic National Committee in 2016.

 

FBI agents armed with a court order have seized control of a key server in the Kremlin’s global botnet of 500,000 hacked routers, The Daily Beast has learned. The move positions the bureau to build a comprehensive list of victims of the attack, and short-circuits Moscow’s ability to reinfect its targets.

The FBI counter-operation goes after  “VPN Filter,” a piece of sophisticated malware linked to the same Russian hacking group, known as Fancy Bear, that breached the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign during the 2016 election. On Wednesday security researchers at Cisco and Symantec separately provided new details on the malware, which has turned up in 54 countries including the United States.

VPN Filter uses known vulnerabilities to infect home office routers made by Linksys, MikroTik, NETGEAR, and TP-Link. Once in place, the malware reports back to a command-and-control infrastructure that can install purpose-built plug-ins, according to the researchers. One plug-in lets the hackers eavesdrop on the victim’s Internet traffic to steal website credentials; another targets a protocol used in industrial control networks, such as those in the electric grid. A third lets the attacker cripple any or all of the infected devices at will.

The FBI has been investigating the botnet since at least August, according to court records, when agents in Pittsburgh interviewed a local resident whose home router had been infected with the Russian malware. “She voluntarily relinquished her router to the agents,” wrote FBI agent Michael McKeown, in an affidavit filed in federal court. “In addition, the victim allowed the FBI to utilize a network tap on her home network that allowed the FBI to observe the network traffic leaving the home router.”

That allowed the bureau to identify a key weakness in the malware. If a victim reboots an infected router, the malicious plugins all disappear, and only the core malware code survives. That code is programmed to connect over the Internet to a command-and-control infrastructure set up by the hackers. First it checks for particular images hosted on Photobucket.com that held hidden information in the metadata. If it can’t find those images—which have indeed been removed from Photobucket—it turns to an emergency backup control point at the hard-coded web address ToKnowAll[.]com.

“One plug-in lets the hackers eavesdrop on the victim’s Internet traffic; another targets a protocol used in the electric grid. A third lets the attacker cripple any or all of the infected devices at will.”

On Tuesday, FBI agents in Pittsburg asked federal Magistrate Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan in Pittsburgh for an order directing the domain registration firm Verisign to hand the ToKnowAll[.]com address over to the FBI, in order to “further the investigation, disrupt the ongoing criminal activity involving the establishment and use of the botnet, and assist in the remediation efforts,” according to court records. Lenihan agreed, and on Wednesday the bureau took control of the domain.

The move effectively kills the malware’s ability to reactivate following a reboot, said Vikram Thakur, technical director at Symantec, who confirmed to the Daily Beast that the domain was taken over by law enforcement on Wednesday, but didn’t name the FBI. “The payload itself is non-persistent and will not survive if the router is restarted,” Thakur added. “That payload will vanish.”

In other words, average consumers have the ability to stop Russia’s latest cyber attack by rebooting their routers, which will now reach out to the FBI instead of Russian intelligence. According to the court filings, the FBI is collecting the Internet IP addresses of every compromised router that phones home to the address, so agents can use the information to clean up the global infection.

“One of the things they can do is keep track of who is currently infected and who is the victim now and pass that information to the local ISPs,” said Thakur. “Some of the ISPs have the ability to remotely restart the router. The others might even send out letters to the home users urging them to restart their devices.”

The court order only lets the FBI monitor metadata like the victim’s IP address, not content. As a technical matter, Thakur said there’s no danger of the malware sending the FBI a victim’s browser history or other sensitive data. “The threat capability is purely to ask for additional payloads,” he said. “There is no data that is leaked from these routers to the domain that is now controlled by an agency.”


11
Surly Newz / How Did Things Get So Fucked Up?
« on: May 22, 2018, 08:44:24 AM »
Starting a thread to answer the musical question someone recently posed, probaby rehetorical, as to "how did we allow things to get so fucked up?" These two articles are conjoined and start with the origins of covert statecraft under Ike and Dulles, and lead through Daniel Ellsberg. It's long-- pack a lunch-- but some of the findings along the way may well surprise you. The central article below is from 2003, so we've known all of this for 15 years. Except that we don't.

What the Pentagon Papers were really all about
ASSASSINATIONS, TORTURE, DRUG DEALING,
MONEY LAUNDERING BY THE CIA


 

DANIEL SHEEHAN EXPLAINS

You’ve heard about the Pentagon Papers and they were a big deal. But what were the Pentagon Papers really all about?

Assassinations, torture, drug dealing, money laundering – by the CIA.

You never heard that part, did you?

Here’s the story:

While Eisenhower played golf (and recovered from a heart attack), the fledgling CIA grew fangs.

Maybe it was his exposure to the mass slaughter of WW II, but whatever the reason Eisenhower was a big fan of covert – and illegal – operations.

The CIA succeeded in using illegal, covert operations to remove the secular and popularly-elected Mossadegeh from power in Iran in 1953 and did the same thing in Guatemala in 1954.

In 1954, something called NSC 5412 was written to set up to give the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State and the President oversight over this secret, un-elected new branch of government.

The so called “Pentagon Papers” were the first public look into the operations of the 5412 committee.

But there’s more to the story than that.

Under the conniving of Allen Dulles, the 5412 committee soon calcified into a weak review board and the real action of the CIA was carried out “off the books” and away from the oversight of the 5412 committee.

That’s how the Vietnam war really started. It had little to do with the Pentagon at all.

Confused yet?

Good.

Now to go deeper down the rabbit hole…

Who exactly was Daniel Ellsberg?

For starters, he was a war hawk.

Then after proving his bona fides as a Marine Lieutenant he was loaned by the Pentagon to the CIA’s proto-Phoenix Program where he engaged in the “pacification” of the Vietnamese people under the direction of none other than CIA officer/Air Force General and overall maniac Edward Landsdale.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Long story short: The Pentagon Papers were released by a CIA operative who managed to keep the attention OFF the CIA and on the Pentagon.

There is no video on this, but there is this excellent article by Douglas Valentine: Will the real Daniel Ellsberg please stand up.

***

Will the Real Daniel Ellsberg Please Stand Up!

 

 

Political activist Daniel Ellsberg became an icon in 1971 after he leaked The Pentagon Papers. This “act of conscience” helped turn public opinion against the Vietnam War, and contributed to the demise of President Richard Nixon, whose felonious minions, the infamous Plumbers, sent CIA officer E. Howard Hunt, and former FBI agent (and self-professed rat-eater) G. Gordon Liddy, to burglarize confidential files from Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office. Hunt and Liddy thought they could trump the anti-War movement by showing that Ellsberg was a mentally deranged LSD-abuser, but their slap-happy plan backfired, and instead opened up the Pandora’s box of the CIA inspired dirty tricks the Republican Party relied upon (and still uses today) to wage political warfare.

Starting on March 9th, the Pentagon Papers story will be broadcast as a made-for-TV movie on the popular F/X network. Based partially on Ellsberg’s autobiography, the movie will star quirky James Spader as Ellsberg, and will feature Hayley Lochner as “the wife,” Jonas Chernick as CIA connected New York Times reporter Neil Sheehan, and Paul Giamatti as Anthony Russo, the man who went to prison on Ellsberg’s behalf.

Be forewarned: nowhere in this revisionist history will be audience be presented with the cast of Corsican drug smugglers and CIA agents that shaped Ellsberg’s sensibilities and sent him on his path to New Left notoriety. But as the reader shall see in this article, somewhere between the official Pentagon Papers story, and the CIA’s involvement in international drug trafficking, is a disturbing clash of facts from which Ellsberg will not emerge with his icon status intact.

Ellsberg And the Quiet American

The first thing the reader needs to know is that Ellsberg was not always a pacifist “dove” intent on ending the Vietnam War. At first he was an aggressive “hawk.” His militant approach to the Cold War ? he was all for nuking the Soviet Union ? was shaped during a tour of duty as a Marine lieutenant, and precisely because of his hard-line attitude, and his ability to articulate it, he was offered a job as a Defense Department analyst.

Then in 1965 he was assigned as a Pentagon observer to the CIA’s Revolutionary Development (RD) Program in South Vietnam. Here Ellsberg came under the influence of his mentor, CIA officer cum Air Force General Edward Lansdale. The mass murderer Graham Greene used as the model for Alden Pyle in “The Quiet American,” Lansdale was the architect of the CIA’s anti-terror strategy for winning the Vietnam War. When not engaged in typical RD Program “Civil Affairs” activities, such as helping the local Vietnamese build perimeter defenses around their villages, Ellsberg and his fellow RD advisors, under the tutelage of Lansdale, dressed in black pajamas and reportedly slipped into enemy areas at midnight to “snatch and snuff” the local Viet Cong cadre, sometimes making it appear as if the VC themselves had done the dirty deed, in what Lansdale euphemistically called “black propaganda” activities.

Functioning as a gruesome “shadow warrior” was not Ellsberg’s only claim to fame in South Vietnam. It will not be addressed in the TV docudrama, but Ellsberg was exceedingly charming and possessed with the uncanny ability to reproduce conversations verbatim–talents that made him a highly prized asset of John Hart, the CIA station chief in Saigon. Hart and the CIA’s foreign intelligence staff wanted to know what influential Vietnamese citizens and officials were privately thinking, and plotting, so they introduced Ellsberg into Saigon’s elite social circles, and he began reporting directly to station chief John Hart on matters of political importance.

And if what his CIA colleagues say is true, Ellsberg was not only as a superb spy, he was also as a swashbuckling swordsman who romanced numerous women, including the exquisite Germaine. One part French and three parts Vietnamese, Germaine was the object of every red-blooded American man’s desire, and when Ellsberg met her at a swinging Saigon party, the hot-blooded cocksman immediately rose to the occasion, heedless of the fact that she was engaged to an opium-addicted Corsican drug smuggler named Michel Seguin.

It is here, with Ellsberg’s love affair with Germaine, that the discrepancy between fact and fiction has its origins. According to Professor McCoy, at the time Ellsberg met Germaine, Ellsberg’s close friend, CIA officer Lucien Conein, was negotiating a “truce” with the Corsican gangsters who supplied South Vietnam’s top military officers and government officials with that most lucrative of black market commodities, heroin.

Ellsberg’s Perilous Peccadilloes

Legendary CIA officer Lou Conein was an Old Vietnam Hand. As a member of Detachment 202 of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), Conein had fought with the French Special Forces in Indochina in World War II. After the war he married a Vietnamese woman and remained in Vietnam. He joined the CIA upon its creation and after a tour of duty in Europe, he returned to South Vietnam in 1954, as an aide to the aforementioned Ed Lansdale, to help organize the CIA’s anti-communist forces in North Vietnam. As a measure of his knack for deceit and deception, it is worth noting that one of Conein’s favorite “dirty tricks” was “to stage funerals without a corpse, and bury the coffin filled with weapons for later use by the anti-communists.”1

“Black Luigi” Conein departed South Vietnam in 1958 after Lansdale had safely ensconced his Catholic prot?g?, Ngo Dinh Diem, as President of South Vietnam. Conein spent the next few years in the opium rich outlands of Iran as a military advisor to the Shah’s special forces. In 1962 he returned to Vietnam as a “floating emissary,” reporting directly to the Kennedy White House, while secretly coaching the cabal of generals that murdered President Diem and his opium-addicted brother Nhu on 2 November 1963.

After the bloody coup d’etat, Conein remained in South Vietnam, but not without further controversy. As noted, professor McCoy contends that Ellsberg and Conein formed a fast friendship at the exact same moment Conein was arranging a “truce” between the CIA and unnamed Corsican drug smugglers in Saigon.

Conein, however, adamantly denied the allegation that he arranged a drug-related “truce.” In a 1972 letter to McCoy’s publisher, he insisted that his meeting with the Corsicans, “had to do with ameliorating a tense situation engendered by Daniel Ellsberg’s peccadilloes with the mistress of a Corsican.”

Here we return to enchantress Germaine, her opium-addicted Corsican fianc?, Michel Seguin, and a new character in our passion play, Frank Scotton. In 1965 Scotton was ostensibly employed by the U.S. Information Service, though his undercover job as a CIA officer was forming assassination squads around Saigon in what was the prototype of the CIA’s infamous Phoenix Program. Through this experimental “counter-terror” program, which fell under Lansdale’s RD Program, Scotton and Ellsberg met and became the best of friends. In fact, it was Scotton who invited Ellsberg to the party where the fateful encounter with Germaine occurred.

What happened next is subject to conjecture–and it must be emphasized that in order to understand how the Discrepancy might occur, the reader must need be aware that rumors, whisper campaigns, and half-truths are the preferred weapons of political warriors. CIA dirty tricks and deceptions are meant to misdirect and discredit, so one must examine these statements closely to discover what is being concealed, and why. Complicating the already convoluted situation is the fact that Ellsberg’s closest friends, Lou Conein and Frank Scotton, were CIA officers. Which is not meant to cast guilt through association on Ellsberg, but it is intended to warn the reader that one must carefully study their conflicting stories.

Scotton and Conein, in separate interviews with this writer, claimed they warned Ellsberg to sever his relationship with Germaine. But Ellsberg, they said, would not be kept from his lover’s embrace. Scotton and Conein claimed that Michael Seguin hired a Vietnamese assassin to kill Ellsberg, but, they said, they were able to intercept the assassin before he could carry out his contract.

In an interview with this writer, Ellsberg admitted to having had the affair with Germaine, and he confessed that Seguin put a gun to his head and warned him to stay away from the woman they both cherished. But Ellsberg vehemently denied that either Scotton or Conein intervened on his behalf. Their stories, he said, were standard CIA disinformation, designed to make him seem beholden to former CIA comrades, and thus cast doubt on his motives for leaking The Pentagon Papers.

Ulterior Motives

Theoretically, it seems logical to conclude that one of the conflicting stories hides an ulterior motive. And in a search of the recorded history of the time, there is only one source that sheds any light on the situation. All we know, according to Professor McCoy, is that CIA agent Lou Conein met with Corsican gangsters to arrange a “truce” regarding drug smuggling in South Vietnam, and that after this “truce” the Corsicans (including, one would presume, Michel Seguin) continued to serve as “contact men” for the CIA in the drug smuggling business.

This is where The Discrepancy reaches critical mass, for Ellsberg denies that his CIA mentor, Edward Lansdale, or his CIA friends, Lou Conein and Frank Scotton, were involved with Corsican drug smugglers.

Recapping: McCoy claims that Conein arranged a” truce” with the Corsican gangsters over drug smuggling in South Vietnam; Conein denied the allegation and said the meeting concerned Ellsberg’s affair with Germaine; and Ellsberg denies (1) that Conein and Scotton intervened on his behalf, and (2) that Conein, Lansdale and Scotton were involved with drug smugglers.

Who is telling the truth? Could a CIA officer with a photographic memory not be aware that his colleagues were involved with drug smugglers? Or is McCoy’s research fatally flawed? Did the alleged “truce” occur? Was the good professor, who has prompted so many people to question the CIA’s role in international drug smuggling, misled by dirty trickster Conein. Was the ulterior motive to move McCoy toward the Corsicans and away from the CIA’s unilateral drug smuggling operation? Thinking the Unthinkable

It was 1970 when the mainstream American press first reported the CIA’s involvement in international drug trafficking, and it was 1970 when the U.S. Senate launched a potentially explosive investigation into the CIA’s Phoenix “assassination” Program, a special unit of which was providing security for the CIA’s unilateral drug smuggling operation.

The House of Representatives launched deeper probes into CIA drug smuggling and the CIA’s Phoenix Program in early 1971, and, naturally, the CIA at this critical time took extensive countermeasures in a concerted effort to conceal these facts. What is relevant to the discrepancy is the that in June 1971, Daniel Ellsberg leaked the aptly named Pentagon Papers, shifting blame for the increasingly unpopular Vietnam War from the CIA to the military, while distracting public attention from the investigations of the CIA’s Phoenix Program and the CIA’s involvement in drug smuggling.

Ellsberg is aware of the rumor that Conein and Scotton asked him to leak the Pentagon Papers as part of the CIA’s disinformation campaign. But he shrugs off the insidious rumor as yet another instance of ? CIA disinformation designed to cast doubt on his motives for leaking The Pentagon Papers.

While it is definitely politically incorrect within what passes nowadays for the New Left to even make the suggestion, is it unthinkable that Ellsberg might have suffered such a whisper campaign in order to prevent his CIA friends from being indicted for drug smuggling and mass murder?

The Politics Of Heroin (And War Crimes) In America

After Ellsberg leaked The Pentagon Papers, the CIA’s plot to cover-up its unilateral drug smuggling operation moved forward with greater gusto. According to the Justice Department’s still classified DeFeo Report, Conein in the spring of 1971 was called out of retirement by CIA officer E. Howard Hunt and asked to become an advisor to President Nixon’s “drug czar” (and Plumber) Egil Krogh, on matters regarding “problems of narcotic control in Southeast Asia and the Pentagon Papers.”

Consider that in 1971 the relationship between the French intelligence service and Corsican drug smugglers in its employ was exposed after a series of spectacular drug busts made in America with the assistance of the CIA. Concurrently, Conein was called out of retirement and immediately, in June 1971, told McCoy about the “truce” with the French-connected Corsicans, one of who put a gun to Ellsberg head.

Consider also that Egil Krogh’s investigators stumbled upon the CIA’s unilateral drug smuggling operation at this time, and that in July 1971, President Nixon declared the burgeoning war on drugs to be a matter of national security. Nixon went after the CIA and quick as a flash, E. Howard Hunt (Conein’s comrade from OSS Detachment 202) bungled the bugging of the Watergate Hotel. Washington Post reporter and former Naval Intelligence officer Bob Woodward, then assigned to cover Nixon’s war on drugs, was approached by the still anonymous Deep Throat, and based on unsubstantiated rumors, incrementally engendered the Watergate scandal and effectively neutralized Nixon, and his war on drugs.

In the summer of 1972 came the publication of McCoy’s book, which implicated the CIA in Corsican drug smuggling operation in Thailand, Vietnam, Burma and Laos. But no CIA officer was ever indicted for drug smuggling. In fact, the CIA boasted that it was actually helping, by infiltrating the Corsican operation, to wage the war on drugs. Amazing as it may sound, McCoy’s exposure in 1972 of the French Connection drug smuggling operation also helped to divert public attention from the CIA’s unilateral drug smuggling operations.

That same summer of 1972, Lou Conein became a consultant to the newly created Office of National Narcotics Intelligence (ONNI) at the Department of Justice. After the Drug Enforcement Administration was formed in July 1973, Conein became chief of a special operations unit that in 1975 was investigated by the U.S. Senate for the dubious distinction of assassinating drug lords.

The Pentagon Papers, Drugs, and Political Assassinations

Today only questions remain. Why did Conein meet the Corsicans in 1965? Was the rumor of an assassination attempt on Ellsberg concocted to provide Conein with a plausible cover story for his “truce” with the drug smuggling Corsicans? If so, why does Ellsberg deny that his CIA comrades, Lansdale, Conein and Scotton, were involved in drug smuggling, as McCoy contends? And, finally, was McCoy deliberately led by Conein in a wide circle around the CIA’s unilateral drug smuggling operation?

Unless these questions are resolved, the truth about Watergate and the Pentagon Papers will continue to elude historians, and this quiet discrepancy will serve, like the TV movie based on Ellsberg’s autobiography, only to perpetuate the myths, mysteries, and half-truths that define American history–a history that hauntingly reflects standard CIA operating procedures.

DOUGLAS VALENTINE is the author of The Hotel TaclobanThe Phoenix Program, and TDY. His new book The Strength of the Wolf: the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 1930-1968 will be published by Verso. Valentine was an investigator for Pepper on the King case in 1998-1999. For information about Valentine and his books and articles, please visit his website at [url=http://www.douglasvalentine.com]www.douglasvalentine.com[/url].

He can be reached at: redspruce@attbi.com

Valentine’s last article for CounterPunch was: An Act of State: the Assassination of Martin Luther King

 


12
Surly Newz / Dismantling Democracy, One Word at a Time
« on: May 22, 2018, 03:28:21 AM »
Dismantling Democracy, One Word at a Time

Karen J. Greenberg: Dismantling Democracy, One Word at a Time

Down the Memory Hole

Consider us officially in an Orwellian world, though we only half realize it. While we were barely looking, significant parts of an American language long familiar to us quite literally, and in a remarkably coherent way, went down the equivalent of George Orwell’s infamous Memory Hole.

This hit me in a personal way recently. I was asked to give a talk at an annual national security conference held in downtown Manhattan and aimed largely at an audience of college students. The organizer, who had pulled together a remarkable array of speakers, encountered problems in one particular area: his efforts to include representatives of the Trump administration in the gathering. Initially, administration officials he dealt with wouldn’t even divulge the names of possible participants, only their titles, leaving who was coming a mystery until days before the conference opened.

In addition, before agreeing to send speakers, his contacts at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known by the acronym ICE, had not just requested but insisted that the word “refugee” be removed from the conference program. It was to appear in a description of a panel entitled “Refugee Programs, Immigration, Customs and Border Protection.”

The reason given: the desire to get through the administration approval process in Washington without undue delay. It’s not hard to believe that the administration that wanted to slow to a standstill refugees coming to the U.S. didn’t have an allied urge to do away with the very word itself. In order to ensure that ICE representatives would be there, the organizer reluctantly conceded and so the word “refugee” was dutifully removed from the program.

Meanwhile, the actual names of Department of Homeland Security officials coming to speak were withheld until three days before the event. Finally, administration representatives in touch with the conference organizers insisted that the remarks of any government representatives could not be taped, which meant, ultimately, that none of the proceedings could be taped. As a result, this conference was not recorded for posterity.

For me — and I’ve been observing the national security landscape for years now — this was something of a new low when it came to surrounding a previously open event in a penumbra of secrecy. It made me wonder how many other organizers across the country had been strong-armed in a similar fashion, how many words had been removed from various programs, and how much of what an American citizen should know now went unrecorded.

To some extent, I understood the organizer’s plight, having myself negotiated requests from government officials for 15 years’ worth of national security get-togethers of every sort. As director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law and before that of a similar center at New York University School of Law, I had been asked by more than one current or former Bush or Obama administration official to not record his or her remarks. Indeed, one or two had even asked to be kept away from the audience until those remarks were delivered.

Still, most had come eager to debate, confident that their views were the preferable ones, aware that the perspectives of many in the room or conference hall would differ from theirs, often drastically, on hard-edged issues like torture, Guantánamo, and targeted killings. But one thing I know: not once in all those years had I been asked to change the language of an event, to wipe a word or phrase out of the program of the moment. It would have been an unthinkable violation.

The very idea that the government can control what words we use and don’t at a university-related event seems to violate everything we as a country hold dear about the independence of educational institutions from government control, not to mention the sanctity of free speech and the importance of public debate. But that, of course, was in the era before Donald Trump became president.

Assaulting the Language of American Democracy

Tiny as that incident was, at a conference meant largely for students but open to an array of professionals, it caught the essence of this administration’s take-no-prisoners approach to the language many of us customarily use to describe the country we live in. Such an assault is, of course, nothing new under Trump. After all, the current president had barely entered the Oval Office when the first reports began to emerge about instances in which language at various government websites was being altered, words and concepts being changed or simply obliterated.

Since then, the language of an America that the president and his associates reject has been under constant attack. Some of those acts of aggression were to be expected, given the campaign promises that preceded his election. Take climate change, which Donald Trump called a “Chinese hoax” long before he filled his administration with rabid climate deniers. The Department of Agriculture was typical. Its new officials excised the very word “climate change” from their website, substituting “weather extremes,” and changed the phrase “reduce greenhouse gases” to the palpably deceptive “increase nutrient use energy.” Across the board, in fact, .gov websites replaced “climate change” with vague words like “resilience” and “sustainability.”

But you don’t have to focus on the urge to obliterate all evidence of climate change, even the words to describe it. Other alterations have been no less notable. For starters, as at the recent conference I attended, there has been a clear rejection of language that connoted the have-nots, the excluded, and the marginalized of our world. At the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), for example, this year’s budget request carefully excluded such descriptors from its mission and purpose statement. Originally incorrectly reported as a policy decision to ban certain words from use at the agency, CDC officials were simply reading the tea leaves of the new administration and quickly ridding their budget requests of key words, now poison in Trump’s Washington, describing their mission. These were words suddenly seen as red flags when it came to the use of government funds to help the less fortunate or the discriminated against. Examples included “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” and “fetus” — and with science now in disrepute for its anti-fossil-fuel findings, also discarded were the phrases “evidence-based” and “science-based.”

The disavowal of marginalized groups and of the vulnerable in society, including those “refugees,” has hardly been limited to the CDC. It also reared its head, for example, in the mission statement of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, where the label “nation of immigrants” was dropped from its mission statement, which now reads:

“U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administers the nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and promise by efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our values.”

Given the latest news from the border of children being torn from their parents and the president’s recently reported cabinet rant about not yet securing the border effectively, no one should be surprised that “security” and “values” have trumped “immigrants” and inclusion in that mission statement. So, too, has such a mindset left its mark on another agency created to help out those in need. The Department of Housing and Urban Development, led by Ben Carson, has ditched the terms “free from discrimination,” “quality homes,” and “inclusive communities” in favor of a mission that supports “self-sufficiency” and “opportunity.” In other words, the onus is being put on the individual rather than the government.

Trump is hardly the first president to discover the importance of language as a political tool that can be self-consciously used for practical ends. Barack Obama, for instance, banished both the name “war on terror” for America’s unending post-9/11 conflicts across the Greater Middle East and Africa and “Islamic extremist terrorism” for those we fought — even though that “war” went right on. Still, the current president may be the first whose administration hasn’t hesitated to delete terms tied to the foundational principles of the country, among them “democracy,” “honesty,” and “transparency.”

Putting a fine point on the turn away from core values, for instance, the State Department deleted the word “democratic” from its mission statement and backed away from the notion that the department and the country should promote democracy abroad. In its new mission statement, missing words also included “peaceful” and “just.” Similarly, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s mission statement veered away from its prior emphasis on “ending extreme poverty and promoting the development of resilient, democratic societies that are able to realize their potential.” Its goal, it now explains, is “to support partners to become self-reliant and capable of leading their own development journeys” largely through increased security (including presumably the purchase of American weaponry) and expanding markets.

Alongside a diminished regard for the very thought of inclusiveness and for helping impoverished nations improve their conditions through aid, the idea of protecting civil liberties has taken a nosedive. President Trump’s first appointee to head the Guantánamo Bay Detention Center, Rear Admiral Edward Cashman, for example, took the words “legal” and “transparent” out of the prison facility’s mission statement. In a similar fashion, the Department of Justice has excised the portion of its website devoted to “the need for free press and public trial.”

A Ministry of Propaganda?

Meanwhile, in a set of parallel moves of betrayal, the dismemberment of agencies created to honor and protect peacefulness and basic civil liberties at home or abroad is ongoing. At the moment, for instance, less than half of the top positions at the State Department have been filled and confirmed. The fallout is clear: ambassadors to countries of major importance in current tension-ridden areas and the very concept of diplomacy that might go with them are missing in action. That includes the ambassadors for Libya, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, and Syria. Meanwhile, in the first year of the Trump era, nearly 2,000 career diplomats and civil servants were pushed out of the department and, by the time Secretary of State Rex Tillerson went the way of so many Trump appointees, top posts there had been halved. In an Orwellian world, agencies stripped down to bare minimum staffs and leadership are that much easier to tilt and turn in grim new directions.

Similarly, the Trump administration has all too often endeavored to disavow or obliterate facts. It’s not just a matter of endlessly reported presidential lying and misstatements, but of a wholesale disregard for reality that can again be seen at government websites where factual information of all sorts has been tossed down the memory hole. References to climate change disappeared from the White House website on Inauguration Day 2017. Many references and links to climate change put up during the Obama years were, for example, quickly removed from the State Department’s website, and other agency websites followed this pattern.

Similarly, the White House website wiped out pages focused on federal policies toward people with disabilities, leaving only this message for interested citizens: “You are not authorized to access this page.” Nor does the administration evidently feel any responsibility to issue reports to the public on its activities, including those that might damage respect for Americans worldwide. Recently, the Trump administration missed a deadline for reporting on civilian casualties resulting from U.S. drone strikes, a yearly requirement established by President Obama in 2016. A White House spokesperson explained that such a reporting requirement was “under review” and could be “modified” or “rescinded.”

Such an approach to what should and shouldn’t be known about and available to citizens from a government still theoretically of, by, and for the people has regularly been described as fascist, Stalinist, totalitarian, or authoritarian. More important, however, than any labels is the recognition that, whatever you might call it, there is indeed a strategy at work here. This is, in fact, a far less ad hoc and amateurish administration than pundits and politicians assume. Trump associates like to talk about the in-the-moment quality of present White House decision-making, but the concerted, continual, and consistent on-message attack on words, phrases, and language that offends those now in office seems to contradict that notion.

What we are evidently living through is a coordinated attack on the previous American definition of reality. The question is: Where do such directives come from? Who has identified the words and concepts that need to be deleted from the national lexicon? However unknown to us, is there a virtual minister or ministry of propaganda somewhere? Is there someone monitoring and documenting the progress of such a strategy? And what exactly are the next steps being planned?

Whatever the circumstances under which this is happening, it certainly is a bold attempt to use language as a doorway that will take us from one reality — that of the past 250 years of American history and its progression towards inclusion, diversity, equal rights for minorities, and liberty and justice for all — to another, that of an oligarchically led transformation focused on intolerance, racial and ethnic divides, discrimination, ignorance (rather than science), and the creation of a state of unparalleled heartlessness and greed.

It might be worth reflecting on the words of Joseph Goebbels, the propaganda minister for Hitler’s Nazi Party. He had a clear-eyed vision of the importance of disguising the ultimate goal of his particular campaign against democracy and truth. “The secret of propaganda,” he said, is to “permeate the person it aims to grasp without his even noticing that he is being permeated.”

Consider this a word of warning to the wise. Perhaps instead of hurling insults at President Trump’s incompetence and the seeming disarray of his presidency, it might be worth taking a step back and asking ourselves whether there is indeed a larger goal in mind: namely, a slow, patient, incremental dismantling of democracy, beginning with its most precious words.


Karen J. Greenberg is the director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law and the author of Rogue Justice: The Making of the Security State. Samuel Levy, Hadas Spivack, and Anastasia Bez contributed research for this article.

Copyright 2018 Karen J. Greenberg. First published in TomDispatch. Included in Vox Populi with permission.

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“In a set of parallel moves of betrayal, the dismemberment of agencies created to honor and protect peacefulness and basic civil liberties at home or abroad is ongoing.” (Photo: beppesabatini/Flickr/cc)

13
Who cooda node? If you like this, you'll LOVE what comes out of Mitch McConnell's hand-picked, Federalist-society-vetted judiciary, salted with vacancies stolen from the previous administration, just like Gorsuch.

You have the right to remain a serf, with no recourse.

Supreme Court Decision Delivers Blow To Workers' Rights

People wait in line to enter the U.S. Supreme Court last month. The court sided with businesses on not allowing class-action lawsuits for federal labor violations.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Updated at 7:08 p.m. ET

In a case involving the rights of tens of millions of private sector employees, the U.S. Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, delivered a major blow to workers, ruling for the first time that workers may not band together to challenge violations of federal labor laws.

Writing for the majority, Justice Neil Gorsuch said that the 1925 Federal Arbitration Act trumps the National Labor Relations Act and that employees who sign employment agreements to arbitrate claims must do so on an individual basis — and may not band together to enforce claims of wage and hour violations.

"The policy may be debatable but the law is clear: Congress has instructed that arbitration agreements like those before us must be enforced as written," Gorsuch writes. "While Congress is of course always free to amend this judgment, we see nothing suggesting it did so in the NLRA — much less that it manifested a clear intention to displace the Arbitration Act. Because we can easily read Congress's statutes to work in harmony, that is where our duty lies."

Ginsburg dissents

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the four dissenters, called the majority opinion "egregiously wrong." She said the 1925 arbitration law came well before federal labor laws and should not cover these "arm-twisted," "take-it-or-leave it" provisions that employers are now insisting on.

She noted that workers' claims are usually small, and many workers fear retaliation. For these reasons, she said, relatively few workers avail themselves of the arbitration option. On the other hand, these problems are largely by a class-action suit brought in court on behalf of many employees.

The inevitable result of Monday's decision, she warned, will be huge underenforcement of federal and state laws designed to advance the well-being of vulnerable workers. It is up to Congress, she added, to correct the court's action.

In his oral announcement, Gorsuch took the unusual step of elaborately rebutting Ginsburg's dissent, which is five pages longer than the majority's opinion.

A green light for employers

The ruling came in three cases — potentially involving tens of thousands of nonunion employees — brought against Ernst & Young LLP, Epic Systems Corp. and Murphy Oil USA Inc.

Each required its individual employees, as a condition of employment, to waive their rights to join a class-action suit. In all three cases, employees tried to sue together, maintaining that the amounts they could obtain in individual arbitration were dwarfed by the legal fees they would have to pay. Ginsburg's dissent noted that a typical Ernst & Young employee would likely have to spend $200,000 to recover only about $1,900 in overtime pay.

The employees contended that their right to collective action is guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Act. The employers countered that they are entitled to ban collective legal action under the Federal Arbitration Act, which was enacted in 1925 to reverse the judicial hostility to arbitration at the time.

Employment lawyers were elated. Ron Chapman, who represents management in labor-management disputes, said he expects small and large businesses alike to immediately move to impose these binding arbitration contracts to eliminate the fear of costly class-action verdicts from juries. "It gives employers the green light to eliminate their single largest employment law risk with the stroke of a pen," he said.

Implications for #MeToo

Labor law experts said Monday's decision very likely will present increasing problems for the #MeToo movement, and for other civil rights class actions claiming discrimination based on race, gender and religion. There is no transparency in most binding arbitration agreements, and they often include nondisclosure provisions. What's more, class actions deal with the expense and fear of retaliation problems of solo claims. As Ginsburg put it, "there's safety in numbers."

Yale Law professor Judith Resnick observed that the decision applies to all manner of class actions. "What this says is that when you buy something, use something, or work for someone, that entity can require you to waive your right to use public courts," she noted.

Cornell University labor law professor Angela Cornell expects the number of these litigation waivers to skyrocket now. "What we see is the privatization of our justice system," she said.

A study by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute shows that 56 percent of nonunion private sector employees are currently subject to mandatory individual arbitration procedures under the 1925 Federal Arbitration Act, which allows employers to bar collective legal actions by employees.

The court's decision means that tens of millions of private nonunion employees will be barred from suing collectively over the terms of their employment.


14
Surly Newz / Adventures in Felony
« on: May 20, 2018, 08:22:41 PM »
Starting a news franchise to document the life and times of a felony retread from the fucking Reagan administration as he circles the drain for a richly undeserved third act in American life as President of the fucking NRA.

Jim Wright: Traitor, convicted felon, and president of an organization dedicated to the violent overthrow of America who sold arms to the nation's mortal enemies in order to finance an illegal war for a mentally impaired president explains how to make America safer for children.

Only on Fox News!


15
Surly Newz / BEARING WITNESS TO A DISAPPEARING WORLD
« on: May 11, 2018, 04:00:39 AM »
The Dark Mountain project is clearly something to which OI should pay more attention.

BEARING WITNESS TO A DISAPPEARING WORLD

DARK MOUNTAIN: ISSUE 13 – BEARING WITNESS TO A DISAPPEARING WORLD

by Michael Malay

Webp.net-resizeimageToday we bring you the last in our series of extracts from our thirteenth book, an anthology of new writing and art exploring what ‘being human’ means in an age of rapid ecological and social change. Dark Mountain: Issue 13 is now available through our online shop for £15.99 – or for less if you support our work by subscribing to future issues.

We finish the series with Michael Malay’s essay on poetry and extinction, accompanied by an image by Bruce Hooke.

Screenshot 2018-05-07 at 11.33.59
BEARING WITNESS TO A DISAPPEARING WORLD:
POETRY IN A TIME OF MASS EXTINCTION  

In ‘Blacksmith Shop’, Czeslaw Milosz describes a childhood visit to the local smithy. He remembers the blacksmith standing above the anvil, hammering away at a piece of iron, and the incredible heat of the furnace. A group of horses stand outside, ready to be shod, while a collection of tools await repair: ‘plowshares’, ‘sledge runners’, ‘harrows’. ‘I liked the bellows operated by rope’, Milosz writes, and ‘that blowing and blazing of fire’. Transfixed, he watches as the iron is bent glowingly into a horseshoe.

Milosz’s catalogue of objects is mundane. The poem lists the normal accoutrements of a blacksmith shop: bellows, a pair of tongs, an anvil. Yet there is an intensity to the speaker’s gaze, and a tenderness to the poet’s voice, that transfigures what it names. Held lovingly in the space of the poem’s recollections, the scene is restored to the primacy of the present tense. ‘I stare and stare’, Milosz writes, recalling the gusts of heat at his chest. ‘It seems I was called for this: / To glorify things just because they are.’

I had reason to think of Milosz recently, when, early last summer, the Polish government defied an EU court order to halt logging in Białowieża, one of Europe’s last primeval forests and home to the rare European bison. And the thought emerged: if one task of the poet, as implicitly defined by Milosz, is to ‘glorify things just because they are’, what might it mean to write poetry today, in an era of climate change, environmental degradation and mass species extinction? How might one bear witness to a disappearing world? (‘Daffodils at the end of January!’ a friend remarked, uttering a sentence his grandparents would not have understood. Meanwhile, current rates of extinction are 1,000 times higher than normal background levels, with dozens of species dying off every day. In a few decades, whole forms of life – whole ways of understanding – have changed.)

Milosz exemplifies one possible response to the current tumult. Born in 1911, he was three when the Great War broke out, six at the time of the Russian Revolution and 28 at the start of World War Two, which he spent in Nazi-occupied Warsaw translating Shakespeare and writing for underground presses. Despite writing poetry at a time of great upheaval, however, he managed to keep faith with the aesthetic impulse to praise and to appraise, to record and to make – and, through making – to mend. He saw one function of poetry as holding up an imaginative shield to the world, by way of protecting things – people, landscapes, objects – from the ravages of historical time. That haven was ultimately a flimsy one – it was made of words, after all – but since words were carried from person to person, like secret letters passed between friends, the fragility of poetry was also its strength. Precious things, whispered into the ear, inspired a fidelity unlike anything else. ‘Working with Czeslaw is like reliving the whole of the 20th century through this prism of great specificity’, according to Robert Hass, one of Milosz’s English translators. ‘It has been very important to him to remember exactly how, say, wine was stored in 1930s working-class Paris, or the precise details of the elaborate hairdo of his piano teacher in Vilno in 1921.’

But Milosz was not only a poet of celebration. If one function of poetry was to affirm the beauty of things, another was to judge, censure, rebuke. ‘Do not feel safe’, Milosz writes in one of his poems, for the ‘poet remembers.’ He remembers those who ‘wronged’ their fellows, who laughed at the scene of the crime, and who blurred the line between ‘good and evil’. And, against these acts of destruction, acts which have an interest in effacing their own presence, the poet bears witness and testifies: ‘The words are written down, the deed, the date.’ The living, Milosz has written elsewhere, ‘owe it to those who no longer can speak to tell their story for them.’

Today, one might say that the criminals are the Murdochs, Kochs and Tillersons of the world, as well as the multinational companies – the BPs, Monsantos and Cargills – who continue to plunder earth’s resources at a time of swift ecological unravelling. All the same, the marvels of reality continue too, in the form of great fish and bird migrations, the standing miracles of ancient forests, or the simple but mysterious thereness of the earth’s elements: air, water, earth, fire. Were Milosz still writing today, his ledger would still contain two columns: one for beauty, one for justice.

For all his exemplariness as a poet of witness, however, Milosz did not and could not foresee the complications of the current moment. Witness poetry implies the hope of restitution and redress – a rebalancing of the scales, even if that rebalancing is enacted aesthetically, through poetry, rather than institutionally, in the political sphere. But what hope for those countless creatures who perish without word or witness? What representations – legal, poetic, or otherwise – do they receive? Equally, how might one identify the deed, let alone the date of the crime, when the drivers of extinction and climate change are so widely distributed and its effects so unimaginably large? ‘O my love, where are they, where are they going’, Milosz writes in one of his poems, recalling a night when his friend pointed to a hare running across a wintry road. ‘I ask not out of sorrow, but in wonder’, his poem concludes – but it’s an emphasis we might be tempted to reverse. In a landscape where brown hares are critically endangered – in the UK, their population has declined by 80% in the past 10 years – we do ask (appropriately, I think) out of sorrow.

As a poet, Milosz was concerned with the ‘esse’ of things – that aggregate of qualities that made that thing quite unlike anything else. He was interested in what he called ‘the immense call of the Particular’. But the present moment is one in which the ‘Particular’ is itself at stake, in which ‘esse’ is critically endangered. This can be understood in a number of ways: biological and cultural. When a species becomes extinct, the tree of life is incomparably diminished: the world loses a singular genetic configuration, the result of millions of years of evolution. But more than this biological loss, extinction also leads to the unravelling of connections within a biotic community. The loss of a species is also a cultural event – it involves the disappearance of a whole form of lifethat totality of relations between a species, its environment and its human and non-human neighbours. When precious genetic cargo is sunk, it sends ripples through the ecosystem of which it is a part, setting in motion a whole series of changes, some of which we can measure, others of which are beyond our ken. It also sends ripples through time, showing us the gap between the landscape our ancestors inhabited and the landscapes we inhabit now.

English poetry looks very different from this perspective. In ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’, W.B. Yeats dreamed of a place where the evenings were ‘full of the linnet’s wings’ – but we might read that poem differently now, as shadowed by a silence the poet did not hear. (Linnet populations in Ireland have declined drastically since the 1950s.) Similarly, in ‘Sunday Morning’, Wallace Stevens describes the ‘Ambiguous undulations’ made by pigeons ‘as they sink / Downward to darkness, on extended wings’ – an image which now feels ominous, a dark vision of disappearance itself. English poetry is likewise full of nightingales, cuckoos and mistle-thrushes – but their songs, which once thickened the sky, are becoming increasingly rare. ‘The Bird of Time has but a little way / To fly’, Edward FitzGergald wrote, in his 1859 translation of the Rubáiyát. The line ends: ‘and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing.’

It is easy to become despondent, indeed sorrowful, about these losses: each day we are confronted with appalling statistics about the loosening footholds (and wing-holds) of mammals and birds in the UK, not to mention thousands of insect species whose habitats are being fundamentally changed by human intervention. As Ursula Heise reminds us, however, narratives of ecological decline, which often borrow from genre conventions such as tragedy and elegy, can easily turn into narratives of human decline. Environmental ‘crisis typically becomes a proxy for cultural concerns,’ she writes in Imagining Extinction, a way of telling stories about the fallen experience of modernity. We therefore need to understand when sorrow is misplaced – when it is a projection of cultural anxieties onto nature – and when it stems from a genuine reckoning of what is being lost. The risk of not doing so is to tell a story that begins to tell us – a hopeless story about inevitable decline.

The other risk of declensionist narratives is that they ignore the capacity of certain creatures to adapt during times of change. As Chris Thomas argues in Inheritors of the Earth, some animals seem to be thriving in the present era. We have damaged the planet beyond any reasonable measure, he admits, altering its ‘great chemical cycles’ and acidifying its oceans, but ‘we are still surrounded by large numbers of species, many of which appear to be benefiting from our presence’ and adapting to ‘this human-altered world’. He also argues that we should situate today’s changes in their ‘appropriate historical context, which involves time spans much longer than we are used to thinking about in our everyday lives.’ This is ‘necessary because the story of life on Earth is one of never-ending change: be that the arrival and disappearance of species from a particular location (ecological change) or the longer-term formation of new species and extinction of others (evolutionary change).’

This is not to discount the losses of anthropogenic extinction, which are immense, nor the profligacy with which capitalism exploits human and non-human life. The long view that Thomas takes may also come with a subtle danger. Deep time consoles us by reminding us of earth’s endurance and continuity, but such a view may also desensitise us to the present, to the precious and fragile life being lost now. We are thus relieved of the duties we have as citizens of the earth: the duty to articulate an alternative to the economic systems that are ravaging the planet, the duty to preserve our green and blue commons for future generations, and the duty to foster a notion of citizenship that places the human in humble relations to other creatures, as one ecological fellow among others. Nevertheless, the persistence Thomas celebrates in the natural world is real. And this persistence may offer its own form of hope – that we too may find ways of flourishing in uncertain times, or, more selflessly, that animal life will continue evolving and proliferating with or without their human fellows, inheritors of a future that will continue despite us.

All of which is to say that, although much has changed since his era, Czeslaw Milosz may still offer a guide for our times. The conditions for bearing witness have altered dramatically (extinction threatens the very reality of the ‘Particular’) and it may be harder to isolate the scene of the crime, such is the scale of the current unravelling. And yet the poet’s insistence on celebrating the beauty of the world, even as one who kept a record of ‘those who wronged’, is as vital as ever. To bear witness today means to grieve over what is going and gone, to resist a culture in which such losses go ungrieved, and to identify the forces – political and economic – that drive environmental destruction and extinction. But it also means to be captured and moved by the natural world, which every day presents us with little gates leading to heaven: the song of a blackbird on a summer evening, sea trout returning to rivers to spawn, a hare flashing across a wintry road.

Image:
Bruce Hooke
Stepping Out
The Art Farm, Marquette, Nebraska, USA
Striding along, expecting the road to stay solid below him, the man in the suit steps out, into the unknown. About to fall, he will crash to the hard, fertile earth. The eleborate plans in his briefcase scatter in the wind. By taking on the role of the man in the suit and photographing myself I seek to explore issues of power, authority and privilege.

Michael Malay is a researcher at the University of Bristol and a co-editor at The Clearingmagazine.

Bruce Hooke is a photographer, sculptor and performance artist whose work focuses on the evolving human relationship with nature. While educated in ceramic sculpture at Cranbrook Academy of Art and Wesleyan University, photography has been a central part of his work for over 15 years. He lives in western Massachusetts, USA, where the land on which he lives is an important part of his artistic practice. bghooke.com

 


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