It’s hard to believe things could get any crazier, but I think maybe Trump is going to find ways to make it happen. It’s so exhausting, that I spent some time this morning looking at photos of baby animals. As always, it calmed me down somewhat. I hope these pictures will do the same for you.
The big news last night was the latest Devin Nunes insanity, but this morning that has been eclipsed by threats exchanged between Pence and North Korea. So for now, the planned summit between Trump and Kim John Un is cancelled. Politico reports:
President Donald Trump on Thursday canceled his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that was scheduled for next month, saying Kim’s “tremendous anger and open hostility” made the historic meeting untenable.
“Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting,” Trump wrote to Kim in a letter released by the White House.
In the letter, the U.S. leader thanked Kim for the “wonderful dialogue” that had developed in recent weeks between the two nations while leaving the door open to a rescheduled summit in the future.
“If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write,” the president said. “The world, and North Korea in particular, has lost a great opportunity for lasting peace and great prosperity and wealth.”
I still do a double take every time I see the words “President Donald Trump.” This can’t be happening, but it is. You can read the letter at the Politico link.
North Korea had threatened to cancel the meeting because of remarks made by Mike Pence on Fox News. CNN:
US Vice President Mike Pence warned North Korea that it could end up like Libya if it fails to make a nuclear deal with Washington.
“There was some talk about the Libyan model last week, and you know, as the President made clear, this will only end like the Libyan model ended if Kim Jong Un doesn’t make a deal,” Pence said Monday.
Previous comments, by President Donald Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton, that the administration was looking at Libya as a potential example for North Korea to follow, provoked alarm in Pyongyang.
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi agreed to abandon his nuclear ambitions in exchange for sanctions relief in the early 2000s. Within years, Gadhafi was overthrown and killed by rebels backed by Washington.
A North Korean official responded by calling Pence “stupid” and a “political dummy.”
A North Korean official has lashed out at US Vice President Mike Pence and said Pyongyang is ready for a nuclear showdown if dialogue with the United States fails.
Choe Son Hui, a vice-minister in the North Korean Foreign Ministry, said if the US continued on its current path, she would suggest to North Korea‘s leadership that they reconsider the planned summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“Whether the US will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States,” Choe said in comments carried by North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency Thursday.Choe was responding to comments by Pence made Monday during a Fox News interview that she deemed “unbridled and impudent.
So, as Trump says repeatedly, “we’ll see what happens.”
Some Twitter reactions:
The art of deal folks! Trump just gave a little speech about the cancellation with Pence looking on adoringly.
So we’re still not sure what’s going on with Devin Nunes’ phony meeting to supposedly get classified information about an FBI informant who was asked to look into concerning contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign. First it was going to be a meeting with just Intel officials, Nunes, and Trey Gowdy, no Democrats allowed. Then after Democrats and some Republicans objected, the White House agreed to have two meetings–the Nunes/Gowdy meeting followed by a briefing the Gang of Eight. Now apparently Adam Schiff will be included in the first meeting.
MSNBC is reporting that Schiff was seen going into the DOJ for the 12PM meeting. Vox is reporting that Paul Ryan will also be in the noon meeting, but I haven’t seen reports of him entering the DOJ.
We don’t yet know if John Kelly was included in the meeting, which would be completely inappropriate. Still Kelly doesn’t need to be there, because Nunes will report everything to Trump anyway. I haven’t heard anything about who will be in 2PM meeting yet. Paul Ryan has said he won’t be there.
If you didn’t see Rachel Maddow’s show on Tuesday, I’m sure you’ve heard about her interview with James Clapper, in which the former Intel chief said that Russian interference in the 2016 election clearly swung the result to Trump. PBS News Hour also interview Clapper: Here’s their report: Russia ‘turned’ election for Trump, Clapper believes.
Russians not only affected the outcome of the 2016 presidential election — they decided it, says James Clapper, who served as the director of national intelligence in the Obama administration, and during the 2016 vote.
“To me, it just exceeds logic and credulity that they didn’t affect the election, and it’s my belief they actually turned it,” he told the PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff on Wednesday.
Clapper, who chronicles his life and career in his new book, “Facts and Fears: Hard Truths From a Life in Intelligence,” said Russians are “are bent on undermining our fundamental system here. And when a foreign nation, particularly an adversary nation, gets involved as much as they did in our political process, that’s a real danger to this country.”
Clapper also responded to Trump’s idiotic conspiracy theory about “spies” in his campaign.
Clapper called those accusations “distorted.” He said there is a “a big gulf between a spy in the traditional sense — employing spycraft or tradecraft — and an informant who is open about … who he was and what the questions he was asking.”
“The important thing was not to spy on the campaign but rather to determine what the Russians were up to. Were they trying to penetrate to campaign, gain access, gain leverage, gain influence, and that was the concern that the FBI had? … I think they were just doing their job and trying to protect our political system.”
Even Carter Page says he didn’t have any problems with the FBI source who spoke with him. CNN: Carter Page: I ‘never found anything unusual’ in conversations with FBI source.
Former Trump campaign aide Carter Page on Tuesday discussed his encounters with an FBI confidential source during the 2016 campaign, saying he “never found anything unusual.”
Page said on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” that he first met the individual while attending an academic conference at Cambridge University in July 2016, a week after his visit to Russia.
“I never found anything unusual, whatsoever,” Page told Cooper about their conversations. Page said he and the source stayed in contact for more than a year, including meeting up back in the United States.
“We would talk about various things that are happening. And, you know, he’s someone who is, you know, long term, someone who had been in, part of the establishment in Republican politics. So typically around the convention time and halfway through a presidential year you keep bringing on more people in terms of potential supporters from the party, etc., and it just seemed like something like that,” he said.
In other news, the NFL released a new rule to prevent players from exercising their their free speech rights. The Daily Beast: The NFL’s New Anthem Policy Is Madness—But the Players Can Stop It.
In its own, typically blinkered and inimitable fashion, the NFL decided to dig in its heels on Wednesday, wrapping itself in the flag, and requiring players who are on the field to stand during the national anthem or face a series of penalties.
It’s a course of action that will fail, and spectacularly so. Ever since Colin Kaepernick—who has since been banished and is currently suing the NFL for collusion—began taking a knee, the league has wrung its hands, hemming and hawing as they tried to devise a means to stanch the tide of largely bad-faith criticism. In the end, they chose to silence its labor force….
Here’s the NFL’s newest solution to the grave and pressing matter of NFL players speaking out against systemic racism and the state-sanctioned violence perpetrated by law enforcement: Previously, all personnel were required to be on the field while someone belted out “The Star-Spangled Banner,” with no further specifications regarding their behavior. That is, if someone wanted to take a knee, the NFL couldn’t do squat.
Now the game operations manual has been adjusted, after two days of meetings between NFL owners and the league in Atlanta. Anyone who prefers not to place a hand on his heart during the anthem can remain in the locker room, but if they step on the field, they are required to “stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem.”
Read the rest at the link.
Trump was thrilled with the NFL’s stupid decision, and yesterday he suggested that any players who didn’t want to stand and salute the flag should be kicked out of the country. The Washington Post: Trump: NFL players unwilling to stand for anthem maybe ‘shouldn’t be in the country’
NFL players unwilling to stand for the national anthem should be barred from playing and maybe “shouldn’t be in the country,” President Trump said in a television interview that aired Thursday.
The president was reacting to the adoption Wednesday of a new NFL policy that could bring disciplinary action for players who kneel or make other protests during the national anthem.
Trump said he objected to a provision in the new policy that will allow players to stay in the locker room while the song is played, but added: “Still, I think it’s good.”
“You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there, maybe they shouldn’t be in the country,” Trump said in an interview that aired Thursday morning on “Fox & Friends” on Fox News.
I can’t wait until this fascist numbskull is impeached, forced to resign, or preferably sent to prison.
What stories are you following today?
Seven U.S. Sailors are missing following a collision off the coast of Japan. NBC News: 7 U.S. Sailors Unaccounted for After Navy Destroyer Collides With Ship Off Japan.
The USS Fitzgerald, a 505-foot destroyer, collided with a Philippine container vessel at approximately 2:30 a.m. Saturday local time (1:30 p.m. ET Friday), about 56 nautical miles off Yokosuka, the U.S. 7th Fleet said.
The ship, which had experienced some flooding after the collision, was tugged back to Yokosuka Naval Base, south of Tokyo, early Saturday.
Meanwhile search and rescue efforts by U.S. and Japanese aircraft and boats were underway in the area where the vessels collided.
The U.S. Navy said damaged areas of the ship will also be searched for the seven unaccounted-for sailors after the ship is safely docked.
“Right now we are focused on two things: the safety of the ship and the well-being of the Sailors,” Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said in a statement. “We thank our Japanese partners for their assistance.”
The operators of the merchant ship, ACX Crystal, reported all of the 20-member Filipino crew were safe….
The Philippine-flagged Crystal is nearly four times as large as the Fitzgerald, an Aegis guided-missile destroyer. Japanese and U.S. vessels and aircraft fanned out across the scene of the collision, about 12 miles off Japan’s Izu peninsula. The Japanese coast guard led the search teams.
Three of the Fitzgerald’s crew, including the destroyer’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, were evacuated from the damaged vessel and are being treated at the U.S. naval hospital at Yokosuka, the home of the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet.
Benson was reported to be in stable condition, while the other two were still having their injuries assessed. The Seventh Fleet had set up an information center for families of sailors serving on the ship.
The USS Dewey, another Navy destroyer and two naval tugboats were at the scene, about 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka. Two Japanese coast guard cutters with helicopters were helping with the search.
The Crystal, which is fully loaded with cargo, is bound for Tokyo, according to a website that tracks maritime traffic. Nippon Yusen K.K., the Japanese shipping company that operates the container ship.
The Fitzgerald, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer commissioned in 1995, is part of the Yokosuka-based group that includes the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, but it was operating independently of the carrier when the collision occurred, Flanders said.
It still is not clear how the vessels collided, but one thing we know is that “President” Trump’s unfilled appointments could be a problem for those trying to find the missing sailors and determine the cause of this tragedy. The Guardian reports: USS Fitzgerald collision: Trump criticised for leaving key posts unfilled.
Donald Trump has been criticised for delays in appointing a navy secretary and ambassador to Japan, leaving a communications vacuum as the countries continued their search for seven missing sailors off the east coast of Japan.
The commanding officer of the USS Fitzgerald, Bryce Benson, and two other crew were injured after the vessel collided with a Philippine-registered container ship before dawn on Saturday.
The US has been without an ambassador to Japan since Caroline Kennedy left Tokyo in January.
Her successor, the Tennessee businessman William Hagerty, has attended a Senate confirmation hearing but has yet to take up his post.
Brandon Friedman, a former Obama administration official and co-founder of the McPherson Square Group, a strategic communications firm in Washington, pointed to the absence of an ambassador and navy secretary – two officials who would be expected to take a lead in liaising between the US navy, and Japanese and US government officials during the search.
“The USS Fitzgerald might sink off Japan and the US President can’t call our ambassador or our navy secretary because we have neither,” Friedman said.
Trump’s nominee for US navy secretary, Richard Spencer, has yet to be confirmed by the Senate.
The “president” has been too busy tweeting and raking in money from foreign governments to attend to his constitutional duties. According to Max Boot at Foreign Policy, he is also “proving to be too stupid to be president.”
I’m starting to suspect that Donald Trump may not have been right when he said, “You know, I’m like a smart person.” The evidence continues to mount that he is far from smart — so far, in fact, that he may not be capable of carrying out his duties as president.
There is, for example, the story of how Trump met with the pastors of two major Presbyterian churches in New York. “I did very, very well with evangelicals in the polls,” he bragged. When the pastors told Trump they weren’t evangelicals, he demanded to know, “What are you then?” They told him they were mainline Presbyterians. “But you’re all Christians?” he asked. Yes, they had to assure him, Presbyterians are Christians. The kicker: Trump himself is Presbyterian.
Or the story of how Trump asked the editors of the Economist whether they had ever heard of the phrase “priming the pump.” Yes, they assured him, they had. “I haven’t heard it,” Trump continued. “I mean, I just … I came up with it a couple of days ago, and I thought it was good.” The phrase has been in widespread use since at least the 1930s.
Or the story of how, after arriving in Israel from Saudi Arabia, Trump told his hosts, “We just got back from the Middle East.”
These aren’t examples of stupidity, you may object, but of ignorance. This has become a favorite talking point of Trump’s enablers. House Speaker Paul Ryan, for example, excused Trump’s attempts to pressure FBI Director James Comey into dropping a criminal investigation of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn on the grounds that “the president’s new at this” and supposedly didn’t realize that he was doing anything wrong. But Trump has been president for nearly five months now, and he has shown no capacity to learn on the job.
More broadly, Trump has had a lifetime — 71 years — and access to America’s finest educational institutions (he’s a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, he never tires of reminding us) to learn things. And yet he doesn’t seem to have acquired even the most basic information that a high school student should possess. Recall that Trump said that Frederick Douglass, who died in 1895, was “an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more.” He also claimed that Andrew Jackson, who died 16 years before the Civil War, “was really angry that he saw what was happening in regard to the Civil War.”
Read the rest at Foreign Policy.
Think Progress on all those emoluments: Trump details how he’s profiting off the presidency.
New financial disclosure forms provide insight into where and how Donald Trump has reaped profits since he launched his bid for the presidency.
The 98-page filing with the Office of Government Ethics, released on Friday afternoon, provides an incomplete snapshot of Trump’s financial picture. But since Trump has broken presidential precedent by refusing to release his taxes, it’s the closest look into his investments the public has gotten so far.
The documents provide financial information for the period of time between last January and this spring — encompassing the lead-up to the presidential election and Trump’s transition into the White House.
Trump’s sprawling business empire is difficult to definitively quantify. However, the filings do show that the properties Trump has visited frequently as president have seen significant gains in income, the D.C. hotel at the center of an ethical controversy has generated millions in revenue, and the royalties for Trump’s books have soared.
Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, where he spent most of his weekendsimmediately after his inauguration, returned millions more in income after his campaign and subsequent election. Trump reported about $16 million in profits for Mar-a-Lago in his report filed in 2015, about $30 million in his report filed in 2016, and about $37 million in his most recent report.
Trump didn’t hide the fact that his presidency made Mar-a-Lago a more profitable venture for him. The initiation fee for the so-called “Winter White House” doubled to $200,000 — a figure that doesn’t include taxes and $14,000 annual dues — immediately after Trump was inaugurated.
Please click on the link and read the rest.
I’m sure you’ve already heard about this story, but it’s important to take note of it. In Trump’s America, police officer can kill unarmed black people on video and still evade punishment. Slate: Philando Castile’s Killer Acquitted Despite Forensics That Contradicted His Case.
Philando Castile’s killer, police officer Jeromino Yanez, was acquitted of manslaughter and two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm on Friday. The case of Castile’s shooting last July in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota had sparked mass protests after his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds posted a dramatic and wrenching video of the shooting’s aftermath. The video, taken with Reynolds’ 4-year-old daughter in the car, included footage of Castile lying in a puddle of blood after he was struck five times from seven shots.
Castile had informed the officer that he was carrying a firearm, for which he had a permit. Shortly thereafter, Yanez opened fire. In his opening statement, Yanez’s defense attorney claimed that Castile was holding his gun when he was shot.
“He has his hand on the gun,” Engh reportedly said during opening arguments. “The next command is, ‘Don’t pull it out.’ … [Yanez] can’t retreat … But for Mr. Castile’s continuous grip on the handgun, we would not be here.”
The prosecution argued that the 32-year-old school cafeteria supervisor with no violent criminal record was reaching for his driver’s license—as Yanez had instructed—and not his gun when he was shot. The forensic evidence and Reynold’s testimony would both seem to back up the prosecution’s account and rebut the defense’s version. Reynolds testified that he was trying to unbuckle his seatbelt so that he could get out his wallet and driver’s license when he was shot. As the Associated Press reported, this was supported by forensics:
Prosecutor Jeff Paulsen highlighted autopsy evidence in his closing argument, reminding the jury of a bullet wound to what would have been Castile’s trigger finger — and that there was no corresponding bullet damage nor wounds in the area of Castile’s right shorts pocket, where he carried his gun. He also cited testimony from first responders who saw Castile’s gun in his pocket as he was loaded onto a backboard.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports: Hours after officer Yanez is found not guilty in fatal shooting of Philando Castile, marchers close I-94.
After 27 hours of deliberation, a jury of seven men and five women reached a verdict in Philando Castile’s death. Eight hours later, after a march in St. Paul, hundreds went on the freeway, where some faced off with police before 18 were arrested.
A jury found St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez not guilty Friday in the fatal shooting of Philando Castile, whose livestreamed death during a traffic stop stunned a nation.
Castile’s family called the decision proof of a dysfunctional criminal justice system, while prosecutors cautioned the public to respect the jury’s verdict “because that is the fundamental premise of the rule of law.”
“I am so disappointed in the state of Minnesota,” Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, said at a news conference shortly after the verdict was read in court about 2:45 p.m. “My son loved this state. He had one tattoo on his body and it was of the Twin Cities — the state of Minnesota with TC on it. My son loved this city and this city killed my son. And the murderer gets away.”
Castile was a cafeteria worker who was very popular with the children he served. Twin Cities Pioneer Press: J.J. Hill school’s grief over Philando Castile’s death continues after verdict.
Philando Castile’s death last year rattled the J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School community.
Friday’s verdict acquitting the officer who fired the shots that killed the beloved school cafeteria worker brought no relief to their grief, parents contacted afterward said.
“I’m appalled, unbelievably sickened,” parent Chad Eisen Ramgren said about the verdict.
Castile — called “Mr. Phil” by the students — had worked at J.J. Hill for two years as nutrition services supervisor before he was fatally shot by St. Anthony officer Jeronimo Yanez during a traffic stop on July 6. A vigil and children’s march were held in the days after outside the school where his smile and kindness were recalled….
Families knew Mr. Phil as the man who gave their children high-fives in the lunch line and helped them with their lunch numbers.
More at the link.
I’ll have more links in the comment thread. Please join me in posting your thoughts and links.
Hello and good late night! Okay, so the world seems to be going to hell in a hand basket lately. We got people trying to rise and make peaceful protest over the dictatorial control of their government and we all know what that is turning into. The employment situation is not getting any better. We have the Elite Reaganite Magnificence in the White House. The Precious has been up to the same old crap that made us dislike him from the very beginning…you know, when Bush II was still in office. Things keep getting more expensive, and we get less for more. (I got a 5 dollar foot long today from Subway and it was the most lame ass sandwich I have ever gotten from them.) So I thought tonight’s Late Night Drift: Open Thread would sort of touch on some of the stupid things I have noticed the past few days.
First, I must start with this: Man Calls 911 About Marijuana Plant – Emergencies – Audio | Mediaite
Ever want to do something fun and seemingly private, like grow a marijuana plant, but weren’t quite sure of the legality of your hobby? A Connecticut man in this precise situation did the ethical thing and inquired of his local authorities whether his marijuana was illegal– except the “local authorities” he contacted were 911, and he had the emergency officer on the phone for several minutes after answering the question “Is this an emergency?” with varying degrees of “not really.”
Yeah, you have to see the video. The Mediate link shows the Fox News report, but here is the Farmington, CT, local news on this idiot’s phone call.
Okay, I used to work for a divorce attorney up in Connecticut, and the stories we heard make be believe that this guy isn’t too much out of the ordinary. (In all honesty, when I moved to Banjoville, GA, I must say the stories did get even more idiotic.) But anyway, that should give you a laugh.
Another stupid thing I saw, and this was tonight on the SuperBowl. Only this one “ain’t” funny…Groupon tasteless Super Bowl Commercial: Company mocks human rights (Video) – National Celebrity Headlines | Examiner.com
This has to be one of the stupidest moves a company can make. Oh wait, I stand corrected. It seems the company has a series of commercials that offer up the same sort of non-humor. Groupon’s Super Bowl Debut Raises Ire – NYTimes.com
Perhaps most controversial of all is Timothy Hutton, deploring the troubles besetting Tibetan culture. Before tucking into a plate of discounted fish curry.
That said, the online videos have garnered a lot of criticism on the Web. (Our colleague Stuart Elliott’s take: “The commercial made Kenneth Cole’s comment about Egypt on Twitter last week — ‘Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available’ — seem sensitive.”)
On Twitter, Groupon boasts this: “Like standing too close to a rainbow, viewers’ hearts are warmed by #Groupon’s Super Bowl ad. #brandbowl http://bit.ly/e7X48C”. Follow the link, however, and you’ll see that as of Sunday night, Groupon is number 11 in terms of overall brand awareness. Perhaps worse, viewer sentiment is overwhelmingly negative, with most Twitter posts urging a mass unsubscription to the service.
One has to wonder how Groupon’s backers, including Andreessen Horowitz, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Mail.ru Group and Morgan Stanley, feel about the controversy after having pumped $950 million into the company at a $15 billion valuation.
Well, that explains it…Morgan Stanley is the backer of this company. Talk about a waste of money! Just think what a donation like that $950 million would have done as far as help the people of a nation like Tibet…and hold your pinky finger up to the side of your lip when you read that number, nine hundred and fifty miiiiiillion dollars.
I will leave you with this. Now I have owned 2 Pugs and they were some of the most comical dogs we have had…even funnier than our English Bull Dogs. So to anyone who has had the fortunate hell of experiencing life with this furry Tasmanian devil of a dog, you will appreciate this next video.
Ah, Brutus and Cosmo…I miss your bug eyes as they stare me down at 3 am.
This is an open thread. Have at it!
The media is all worked up about how badly NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg handled the blizzard that hit the Northeast early this week. Can we please put aside all the talk about this man running for President? He’s really not that bright, judging by his stupidity in the face of a little winter weather. Bloomberg didn’t even have the brains to declare an emergency parking ban so plows could clear the streets! In Boston, parking bans are routinely declared in advance of a big storm.
From the NYT: Inaction and Delays by New York as Storm Bore Down
At 3:58 a.m. on Christmas Day, the National Weather Service upgraded its alert about the snow headed to New York City, issuing a winter storm watch. By 3:55 p.m., it had declared a formal blizzard warning, a rare degree of alarm. But city officials opted not to declare a snow emergency — a significant mobilization that would have, among other things, aided initial snow plowing efforts.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority entered the holiday weekend with modest concerns about the weather. On Friday, it issued its lowest-level warning to subway and bus workers. Indeed, it was not until late Sunday morning, hours after snow had begun to fall, that the agency went to a full alert, rushing to call in additional crew members and emergency workers. Over the next 48 hours, subways lost power on frozen tracks and hundreds of buses wound up stuck in snow-filled streets.
By 4 p.m. Sunday, several inches of snow had accumulated when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg made a plea for help at his first news conference about the escalating storm: he asked people with heavy equipment and other kinds of towing machinery to call the city’s 311 line to register for work. A full day had gone by since the blizzard warning had been issued.
Yes, you read that correctly. Bloomberg called for help from private contractors DURING the blizzard! What a dope. You’d think New York had never experienced a snowstorm before.
Speaking of stupid, did you catch Floyd Abrams’ op-ed at the WSJ yesterday? Abrams presents his lame arguments against Wikileaks by discussing how the Wikileaks revelations differ from the Pentagon Papers.
In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg decided to make available to the New York Times (and then to other newspapers) 43 volumes of the Pentagon Papers, the top- secret study prepared for the Department of Defense examining how and why the United States had become embroiled in the Vietnam conflict. But he made another critical decision as well. That was to keep confidential the remaining four volumes of the study describing the diplomatic efforts of the United States to resolve the war.
Not at all coincidentally, those were the volumes that the government most feared would be disclosed. In a secret brief filed with the Supreme Court, the U.S. government described the diplomatic volumes as including information about negotiations secretly conducted on its behalf by foreign nations including Canada, Poland, Italy and Norway. Included as well, according to the government, were “derogatory comments about the perfidiousness of specific persons involved, and statements which might be offensive to nations or governments.”
Um…duh. But so what? Is he claiming that the diplomatic cables that major newspapers are publishing are analogous to peace negotiations? Doesn’t Abrams understand that Wikileaks released the cables to these newspapers so that they could make educated journalistic judgments about which parts should be made public and which should be redacted or kept secret?
Furthermore, the analogy that Daniel Ellsberg has made is not between Wikileaks and the Pentagon Papers but between himself and Bradley Manning. They were both whistleblowers who revealed government lies and corruption. As for the diplomatic cables, there is no evidence that Manning gave those to Wikileaks.
Abrams even tries to blame Manning and Assange for the overkill reactions of the Obama administration:
Mr. Assange is no boon to American journalists. His activities have already doomed proposed federal shield-law legislation protecting journalists’ use of confidential sources in the just-adjourned Congress. An indictment of him could be followed by the judicial articulation of far more speech-limiting legal principles than currently exist with respect to even the most responsible reporting about both diplomacy and defense. If he is not charged or is acquitted of whatever charges may be made, that may well lead to the adoption of new and dangerously restrictive legislation. In more than one way, Mr. Assange may yet have much to answer for.
What a load of garbage. Abrams once fought in defense of the first amendment. Now he’s just another enabler of government corruption and lies. I guess he spent too much time hanging out with Judith Miller, because he seems to have adopted her views on journalism. We have every right to know what our corporate-sellout politicians are doing.
Here’s what Emptywheel had to say about Abrams’ piece:
Abrams’ purported rhetorical questions–can anyone doubt that WikiLeaks would have published the diplomatic volumes of the Pentagon Papers? can anyone doubt he wouldn’t have paid the slightest heed to efforts to end the war?–are one of two things that dismantle his entire argument laying the responsibility for the government’s overreaction to Assange with Assange. Because–as Digby has explained at length–we have every reason to doubt whether WikiLeaks would have published the diplomatic volumes of the Pentagon Papers. And we have solid evidence that WikiLeaks would shield really dangerous information.
Because they already have. And because they have now outsourced responsibility for choosing what is dangerous and newsworthy or not to a bunch of newspapers.
Indeed, back before WikiLeaks ceded that role to a bunch of newspapers, WikiLeaks was actually being more cautious with the publication of sensitive information than the NYT was.
So rather than blaming the government and the press for mischaracterizing what WikiLeaks has done here and then using that mischaracterization to justify an overreaction to that mischaracterization, Floyd Abrams just participates in it. WikiLeaks is responsible, Floyd Abrams says, and I’m going to misrepresent what they have done to prove that case.
Abrams either was never a liberal or he lost his liberalism along the way to his current rich and powerful status. He sounds more like a neocon to me.
Did an imposter steal Floyd Abrams’ identity and use it to sell an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal? That’s the only explanation I can come up with after reading the First Amendment litigator’s wacky battering of WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange (“Why WikiLeaks Is Unlike the Pentagon Papers”).
Abrams, who represented the New York Times in both the Pentagon Papers and Judith Miller cases, applauds Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg because he withheld four volumes of papers—while releasing 43—because he “didn’t want to get in the way of the diplomacy.” That is, Ellsberg didn’t want to interfere with ongoing and confidential negotiations to end the war. Continuing his “Ellsberg good,” “Assange bad” formulation, Abrams asks, “Can anyone doubt that [Assange] would have made those four volumes [of the Pentagon Papers] public on WikiLeaks regardless of their sensitivity?”
Well, yes, I can doubt that.
Perhaps because Abrams listens to too much NPR or doesn’t read the New York Times very closely, he’s under the misconception that WikiLeaks has published all 251,287 U.S. diplomatic cables it claims to possess. It hasn’t, as NPR noted in a correction yesterday. WikiLeaks has released just 1,942 cables, which makes Assange’s ratio of released-documents to withheld-documents much, much smaller than Ellsberg’s. By that measure, Abrams should regard Assange as a more conscientious leaker than Ellsberg, not less conscientious.
In his latest post at Truthdig, Chris Hedges’ argues that both Orwell and Huxley were right when they wrote their dystopian novels about the future. Now that we’re here, we’ve got the worst of both their worlds.
The two greatest visions of a future dystopia were George Orwell’s “1984” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” The debate, between those who watched our descent towards corporate totalitarianism, was who was right. Would we be, as Orwell wrote, dominated by a repressive surveillance and security state that used crude and violent forms of control? Or would we be, as Huxley envisioned, entranced by entertainment and spectacle, captivated by technology and seduced by profligate consumption to embrace our own oppression? It turns out Orwell and Huxley were both right. Huxley saw the first stage of our enslavement. Orwell saw the second.
We have been gradually disempowered by a corporate state that, as Huxley foresaw, seduced and manipulated us through sensual gratification, cheap mass-produced goods, boundless credit, political theater and amusement. While we were entertained, the regulations that once kept predatory corporate power in check were dismantled, the laws that once protected us were rewritten and we were impoverished. Now that credit is drying up, good jobs for the working class are gone forever and mass-produced goods are unaffordable, we find ourselves transported from “Brave New World” to “1984.” The state, crippled by massive deficits, endless war and corporate malfeasance, is sliding toward bankruptcy. It is time for Big Brother to take over from Huxley’s feelies, the orgy-porgy and the centrifugal bumble-puppy. We are moving from a society where we are skillfully manipulated by lies and illusions to one where we are overtly controlled.
Orwell warned of a world where books were banned. Huxley warned of a world where no one wanted to read books. Orwell warned of a state of permanent war and fear. Huxley warned of a culture diverted by mindless pleasure. Orwell warned of a state where every conversation and thought was monitored and dissent was brutally punished. Huxley warned of a state where a population, preoccupied by trivia and gossip, no longer cared about truth or information. Orwell saw us frightened into submission. Huxley saw us seduced into submission. But Huxley, we are discovering, was merely the prelude to Orwell. Huxley understood the process by which we would be complicit in our own enslavement. Orwell understood the enslavement. Now that the corporate coup is over, we stand naked and defenseless. We are beginning to understand, as Karl Marx knew, that unfettered and unregulated capitalism is a brutal and revolutionary force that exploits human beings and the natural world until exhaustion or collapse.
Hedges is right, IMHO.
As an antidote to the dystopian nightmares Hedges discusses, you might want to check out some idealistic utopian dreams. Alternet has an excerpt of a new book by Richard Fairfield, The Modern Utopian: Alternative Communes of the ’60s and ’70s (Process Media, 2010). It’s pretty interesting. Check it out if you have time.
Returning to grim reality, the WaPo has an article on high unemployment among returning war veterans.
As they return home to the worst labor market in generations, the veterans who are publicly venerated for their patriotism and service are also having a harder time than most finding work, federal data show.
While their nonmilitary contemporaries were launching careers during the nearly 10 years the nation has been at war, troops were repeatedly deployed to desolate war zones. And on their return to civilian life, these veterans are forced to find their way in a bleak economy where the skills they learned at war have little value.
Some experts say the grim employment landscape confronting veterans challenges the veracity of one of the central recruiting promises of the nation’s all-volunteer force: that serving in the military will make them more marketable in civilian life.
“That [promise] works great in peacetime,” said Lawrence J. Korb, an assistant secretary of defense for manpower under President Ronald Reagan who is now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. “But that does not work too well in war. . . . If you are in there four years and deployed twice, what kind of skills have you learned other than counterinsurgency?”
Finally, Elizabeth Warren has piece up at Huffpo: New Consumer Agency Is Frightfully Necessary — And Late
No one has missed the headlines: Haphazard and possibly illegal practices at mortgage-servicing companies have called into question home foreclosures across the nation.
The latest disclosures are deeply troubling, but they should not come as a big surprise. For years, both individual homeowners and consumer advocates sounded alarms that foreclosure processes were riddled with problems.
First, several financial services companies have already admitted that they used “robo-signers,” false declarations, and other workarounds to cut corners, creating a legal nightmare that will waste time and money that could have been better spent to help this economy recover. Mortgage lenders will spend millions of dollars retracing their steps, often with the same result that families who cannot pay will lose their homes.
Second, this mess might well have been avoided if the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau had been in place just a few years ago.
Thanks for being one of the few people advocating for us, Ms. Warren.
Sooooooo…. What are you reading this morning?