Mostly Monday Reads: Send in the SpiesPosted: December 16, 2019
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
I’m moving a little slow this morning. New Orleans continues to be the city of dysfunctional infrastructure. One of our Main Turbines at the Sewage and Water Board blew up over the weekend. It appears to mean there is no redundancy in the system now and the West Bank was without potable water for some time. Parts of Uptown are still without drinking water from a main that burst the week before. The Turbine dated from 1958. Most of the historical areas have sewage pipes dated to about 1910. I’m sure we’re not alone on the list of aging cities with infrastructure failures but I’m sure tired of it being our city. We have yet to have a bridge collapse in the Mississippi though which I consider a big deal still for the state of Minnesota.
As for my neighborhood, we lost electricity again for no apparent reason. In the word of the sage, “I’m too old for this shit” and have made arrangements with eldest daughter to expedite my ass towards the Puget Sound. I love this city but going from the number 50 state in which one could live to the number 1 is going to be a relief. Now, if I can only convince some one to buy the kathouse which will need a good cleaning out and some repairs. So, here’s some paintings of famous artists who captured their homes in paintings.
William Webster has had a checkered history in his tenures of being–at different times–the FBI and CIA Director. He was also a former federal judge. He’s now 90. Webster was first appointed by Jimmy Carter. He is and was a Republican of the 1980s though, and as you know, that would make him a Reagan/Bushie kinda guy. And, you know what kind of crap went down–especially with the CIA–during the tenure of those two Presidents. However, he’s taken the step today of adding his voice in an Op-Ed on the Troublesome Trumpist Regime. It’s odd he’s now concerned with Rule of Law but there it is in today’s NYT.
As F.B.I. director, I served two presidents, one a Democrat, Jimmy Carter, who selected me in part because I was a Republican, and one a Republican, Ronald Reagan, whom I revered. Both of these presidents so respected the bureau’s independence that they went out of their way not to interfere with or sway our activities. I never once felt political pressure.
I know firsthand the professionalism of the men and women of the F.B.I. The aspersions cast upon them by the president and my longtime friend, Attorney General William P. Barr, are troubling in the extreme. Calling F.B.I. professionals “scum,” as the president did, is a slur against people who risk their lives to keep us safe. Mr. Barr’s charges of bias within the F.B.I., made without providing any evidence and in direct dispute of the findings of the nonpartisan inspector general, risk inflicting enduring damage onenduring damage on this critically important institution.
The country can ill afford to have a chief law enforcement officer dispute the Justice Department’s own independent inspector general’s report and claim that an F.B.I. investigation was based on “a completely bogus narrative.” In fact, the report conclusively found that the evidence to initiate the Russia investigation was unassailable. There were more than 100 contacts between members of the Trump campaign and Russian agents during the 2016 campaign, and Russian efforts to undermine our democracy continue to this day. I’m glad the F.B.I. took the threat seriously. It is important, Mr. Wray said last week, that the inspector general found that “the investigation was opened with appropriate predication and authorization.”
AG Barr’s obedience to the political demands of the Kremlin’s Potted Plant is just one of our concerns these days as we move towards the House impeachment vote. It has become quite clear that both Lindsay Graham and Mitch McConnell intend to protect him no matter what. Once again, Russian State TV calls Trump “Their Agent” as outlined by this piece in The Daily Beast as written by Julia Davis.
Sometimes a picture doesn’t have to be worth a thousand words. Just a few will do. As Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov returned home from his visit with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office last week, Russian state media was gloating over the spectacle. TV channel Rossiya 1 aired a segment entitled “Puppet Master and ‘Agent’—How to Understand Lavrov’s Meeting With Trump.”
Vesti Nedeli, a Sunday news show on the same network, pointed out that it was Trump, personally, who asked Lavrov to pose standing near as Trump sat at his desk. It’s almost the literal image of a power behind the throne.
And in the meantime, much to Russia’s satisfaction, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is still waiting for that critical White House meeting with the American president: the famous “quid pro quo” for Zelensky announcing an investigation that would smear Democratic challenger Joe Biden. As yet, Zelensky hasn’t done that, and as yet, no meeting has been set.
Russian state television still views the impending impeachment as a bump in the road that won’t lead to Trump’s removal from office. But President Vladimir Putin’s propaganda brigades enjoy watching the heightened divisions in the United States, and how it hurts relations between the U.S. and Ukraine.
They’ve also added a cynical new a narrative filled with half-joking ironies as they look at the American president’s bleak prospects when he does leave office.
Appearing on Sunday Evening With Vladimir Soloviev, Mikhail Gusman, first deputy director general of ITAR-TASS, Russia’s oldest and largest news agency, predicted: “Sooner or later, the Democrats will come back into power. The next term or the term after that, it doesn’t matter… I have an even more unpleasant forecast for Trump. After the White House, he will face a very unhappy period.”
That assumes we can get him out and the McConnell and Graham will allow it.
This bit in Lawyers, Guns and Money by Paul Campos is so worth the read. The Sinclair Lewis prescience is just the tip of the iceberg.
The leaders of the Republican party in the Senate have said that the impeachment of Donald Trump is a sham, and therefore they will not respect the process mandated by the Constitution. And they are saying this not because they claim there is no merit to the charges that the House is voting out against Donald Trump, but because they have decided to give Trump impunity to act outside the law without consequence. This is not hypothesis or hyperbole: this is what they are saying, clearly, openly, without ambiguity.
This is also the essence of authoritarianism. It’s not the threat of authoritarianism: it’s the thing itself, now, here, not in Germany in 1933, or Italy in 1922, or whatever other parallel is too hysterical and alarmist to cite, given that it goes without saying that America is so very exceptional that it can’t happen here, because of the Wisdom of the Framers, or because we’re God’s very special extra-favorite country, or because we just can’t bear it so please stop talking that way.
It can happen here. It’s happening now.
Would it be a good idea for the leaders of the Democratic party to at this point simply announce they are not going to participate in this charade any further? Would it be possible to organize some sort of day of mass national protest against the authoritarian overthrow of our legal system? (Because again, that’s what’s actually happening right now).
I don’t know. I do know that talking as if what’s happening isn’t what’s happening is making things worse.
And so is saying nothing at all (Hi Barack. What’s up these days? Para-gliding with Richard Branson in Fiji again? Sounds nice!).
I’m increasingly getting the sense that waiting for next November is like waiting for Godot. Because the enemies of liberal democracy aren’t waiting. They’re here now.
President Obama was actually out and about this week and said this to the BBC while in Singapore. ” Women are better leaders than men”. Well, thanks for that, but excuse me while I think that may not happen here in my lifetime. Also, it still kinda put us on that pedestal unnecessarily.
Speaking in Singapore, he said women aren’t perfect, but are “indisputably better” than men.
He said most of the problems in the world came from old people, mostly men, holding onto positions of power.
He also spoke about political polarisation and the use of social media to spread falsehoods.
Speaking at a private event on leadership, Mr Obama said while in office he had mused what a world run by women would look like.
“Now women, I just want you to know; you are not perfect, but what I can say pretty indisputably is that you’re better than us [men].
“I’m absolutely confident that for two years if every nation on earth was run by women, you would see a significant improvement across the board on just about everything… living standards and outcomes.”
When asked if he would ever consider going back into political leadership, he said he believed in leaders stepping aside when the time came.
“If you look at the world and look at the problems it’s usually old people, usually old men, not getting out of the way,” he said.
“It is important for political leaders to try and remind themselves that you are there to do a job, but you are not there for life, you are not there in order to prop up your own sense of self importance or your own power.”
Well, that was also a nice sentiment but I doubt the guy in the white house that really needs to hear it listened at all. And speaking of all that …
Want to know more about Lutsenko? He’s the former prosecutor general under the old pro-Russian Regime. This New Yorker article is quite interesting and contains an interview.
Initially, Lutsenko and Giuliani seemed a perfect partnership; the meeting between them, Lutsenko told me, offered a “win-win” situation. But by May each man felt that he had been led on by the other. After Giuliani failed to arrange a meeting with Attorney General William Barr, who had succeeded Sessions, and Lutsenko failed to publicly announce a Ukrainian investigation into the Bidens, Trump made his fateful July 25th call to the new Ukrainian leader, Volodymyr Zelensky, to request that he announce a probe into the Bidens and the 2016 election. In September, the disclosure of Trump’s request by a whistle-blower led Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, to launch the impeachment inquiry. Three weeks later, F.B.I. agents arrested Parnas and Fruman, who face charges of conspiracy, making false statements, and falsification of records. The F.B.I. has now reportedly turned its attention to Giuliani.
Lutsenko’s miseries were only beginning. On October 3rd, Kurt Volker, Trump’s former special envoy to Ukraine, said in a closed-door deposition, “My opinion of Prosecutor General Lutsenko was that he was acting in a self-serving manner, frankly making things up, in order to appear important to the United States, because he wanted to save his job.” In a closed-door deposition on October 11th, Yovanovitch described Lutsenko as an “opportunist” who “will ally himself, sometimes simultaneously . . . with whatever political or economic forces he believes will suit his interests best at the time.” On the first day of public testimony, Kent accused Lutsenko of “peddling false information in order to exact revenge” against Yovanovitch and his domestic rivals. Lutsenko told me they were all liars. In our conversations, which took place in the course of several weeks, he veered between self-pity and defiance. “I gave my country so many years,” he told me one night, after his third or fourth Scotch. “I had a good story and good results, but I became a bad person. I can’t understand it.”
But, there are a few good men and women standing up for what is right. Here is an example of a newly elected Congresswoman in a swing district that’s taking a stand which elicits a variety of responses from her constituents. Representative Slotkin (Michigan) has an extensive background in National Security including a stint at the CIA. My goodness! We’re just full of spy talk these days aren’t we? Where is John Le Carre when you need him?
“Over the past few days, I have done what I was trained to do as a CIA officer who worked for both Republicans and Democrats: I took a step back, looked at the full body of available information, and tried to make an objective decision on my vote,” Slotkin wrote in Monday’s op-ed, adding that she “read and re-read reports and transcripts. I have gone back and looked at the articles of impeachment that were drafted during the Nixon and Clinton presidencies to get some historical context.”She said the President, “sent out unprecedented guidance to refuse and ignore the requests and subpoenas of the inquiry,” citing her reason for voting in favor of the obstruction of Congress article. “While the President may not have liked the inquiry, he broke with 100 years of tradition by ignoring the subpoenas, and in doing so, obstructed Congress’ authorities.”“I believe that the President illegally solicited the help of foreigners to influence the American political process,” she said on her decision to vote ‘yes’ on the abuse of power article. She added Trump’s admission that he discussed former Vice President Joe Biden in the July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and witness testimonies “paint a clear picture of a president abusing the power of his office for personal political gain.”
So, here we are down the same rabbit hole. Hopefully, we can get him the fuck out of office and the White House sometime in 2020.
What’s on you reading and blogging list today?