Friday Tightie Whitie Snow Blindness: “He has otherwise lived a blameless life.”

It’s Mueller Friday!

We live in a Thugocracy these days. I have a series of headlines that should not be normal headlines for any news items applying to the United States of America.  This includes a federal judge giving a rich white guy a pass on a career of selling out his country to the Russians for incredible sums of money.  People that smoke and sell small bags of weed have done more time for that crime than Paul Manafort will  for the absolute malice with which he treated the elections and the people of our country.  Of course, he’s white, he’s rich, and he just bilked us out of money and freedom. It wasn’t like he lifted a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter from a convenience  store to feed himself.  If he were caught doing that while black he likely would’ve been shot dead.

Franklin Foer–writing for The Atlantic--provides this lede:  “The ‘Otherwise Blameless Life’ of Paul Manafort. Trump’s former campaign chair has always acted with impunity, as if the laws never applied to him.”    The judge in the Virginia Court proved Manafort’s assumption correct.

In an otherwise blameless life, he worked to keep arms flowing to the Angolan generalissimo Jonas Savimbi, a monstrous leader bankrolled by the apartheid government in South Africa. While Manafort helped portray his client as an anti-communist “freedom fighter,” Savimbi’s army planted millions of land mines in peasant fields, resulting in 15,000 amputees.

In an otherwise blameless life, Manafort was kicked out of the lobbying firm he co-founded, accused of inflating his expenses and cutting his partners out of deal

In an otherwise blameless life, he spent a decade as the chief political adviser to a clique of former gangsters in Ukraine. This clique hoped to capture control of the state so that it could enrich itself with government contracts and privatization agreements. This was a group closely allied with the Kremlin, and Manafort masterminded its rise to power—thereby enabling Ukraine’s slide into Vladimir Putin’s orbit.

In an otherwise blameless life, Manafort came to adopt the lifestyle and corrupt practices of his Ukrainian clients as his own.

In an otherwise blameless life, he produced a public-relations campaign to convince Washington that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was acting within his democratic rights and duties when he imprisoned his most compelling rival for power.

In an otherwise blameless life, he stood mute as Yanukovych’s police killed 130 protesters in the Maidan.

In an otherwise blameless life, he found himself nearly $20 million in debt to a Russian oligarch. Instead of honestly accounting for the money, he simply stopped responding to the oligarch’s messages.

In an otherwise blameless life, he tried to use his perch atop the Trump campaign to help salvage his sorry financial situation. He installed one of his protégés as the head of the pro-Trump super PAC Rebuilding America. His friend allegedly funneled $125,000 from the super PAC to pay off one of Manafort’s nagging debts.

There’s more on this list at the link.  And there are more “this isn’t normal” headlines in every paper.  Let’s sample a few.

More on this story that BB covered yesterday: Congress, DHS investigating if U.S. border agents targeted journalists NBC News and KNSD revealed Wednesday that U.S. border agents in California had a list of reporters, lawyers and activists to be questioned at the border.

The list includes 10 journalists, seven of them U.S. citizens, a U.S.-based attorney and others labeled as organizers and “instigators,” 31 of whom are American.

The Homeland Security Committee, led by Rep. Bennie Thompson, D.-Miss., asked CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan to provide a copy of the list with the 59 names, a copy of any dossiers on the individuals, an explanation of why each person was included on the list, an account of who had been stopped for screening and an account of any cell phone seizures.

“The appearance that CBP is targeting journalists, lawyers, and advocates, and particularly those who work on immigration matters or report on border and immigration issues, raises questions about possible misuse of CBP’s border search authority and requires oversight to ensure the protection of Americans’ legal and constitutional rights,” the letter said.

CBP said Thursday the DHS Inspector General is investigating the list. CBP is part of DHS.

From the Daily Beast: “CLEAN-CUT KIDS, ‘Whiter Every Election Cycle’: How Identity Evropa, a Far-Right Hate Group, Joined the GOP. According to leaked chat logs, the white-supremacist group has actively reinvented itself as a ‘respectable’ group in order to entice Republicans.”

The white nationalist group Identity Evropa is so cozy with the Republican Party that members led their College Republican clubs and campaigned in support of GOP congressional candidates.

At least one Identity Evropa fan, who is not a member of the group, attended CPAC last weekend where he demanded an autograph from a leftist podcaster who, tripping on acid, signed the book “eat shit.”

Identity Evropa is a fascist organization. Its members have been involved in violent street brawls, including 2017’s deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. While other white supremacist organizations imploded after the rally, Identity Evropa attempted to cast aside the alt-right’s tarnished image and rebrand as a “clean-cut” organization. The makeover was an attempt to appeal to the mainstream Republican Party, according to chat logs released Wednesday by the media collective Unicorn Riot.

But despite its new face, the group stayed true to its fascist heart, the leaked conversations reveal.

From  Axios:  “Scoop: White House leak to House Dems on Jared and Ivanka’s clearances.”   I still can’t believe we let this pair of grifters represent us abroad and we let them near the White House Silver.

From a White House source, the House Oversight Committee has obtained documents related to Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s security clearances that the Trump administration refused to provide, according to a senior Democratic aide involved in handling the documents.

Why it matters: The Trump administration’s problems with leaks will now benefit Congress, making it harder for the White House to withhold information from Democratic investigators.

The news: The White House this week rejected the committee’s request for documents on the process for granting security clearances to staffers.

  • The twist: But the House Oversight Committee in early February had already obtained the leaked documents that detail the entire process, from the spring of 2017 to the spring of 2018, on how both Kushner and Trump were ultimately granted their security clearances.

  • The senior Democratic aide who was involved in handling the documents told Axios that two staffers on the Oversight Committee said the documents are “part of the puzzle that we would be asking for” from the White House, “so we appreciate having this upfront.”

     

And we got more folks …

From the Miami Herald this morning: “Trump cheered Patriots to Super Bowl victory with founder of spa where Kraft was busted.

Seated at a round table littered with party favors and the paper-cutout footballs that have become tradition at his annual Super Bowl Watch Party, President Donald Trump cheered the New England Patriots and his longtime friend, team owner Robert Kraft, to victory over the Los Angeles Rams on Feb. 3.

Sometime during the party at Trump’s West Palm Beach country club, the president turned in his chair to look over his right shoulder, smiling for a photo with two women at a table behind him.

The woman who snapped the blurry Super Bowl selfie with the president was Li Yang, 45, a self-made entrepreneur from China who started a chain of Asian day spas in South Florida. Over the years, these establishments — many of which operate under the name Tokyo Day Spas — have gained a reputation for offering sexual services.

Nineteen days after Trump and Yang posed together while rooting for the Patriots, authorities would charge Kraft with soliciting prostitution at a spa in Jupiter that Yang had founded more than a decade earlier.

From The New Yorker today and Susan B. Glasser:  “The “Enemies of the People” Have a Few Questions for the President. The White House press briefing is dead. It was awful, but we should still mourn it.”

The Administration, of course, never formally announced that it was killing off the White House press briefing—that would have caused too great an outcry. But that is nonetheless what it has done, as Trump himself admitted in a January tweet, saying that “the reason Sarah Sanders does not go to the ‘podium’ much anymore is that the press covers her so rudely & inaccurately.” The last official briefing by Sanders was on January 28th; it was the first such briefing in forty-one days. All told, there was one press briefing in November, one in December, two in January, and none at all in February, or, so far, in March. This is not just a White House policy. The State Department, which used to give a near-daily press briefing that was considered significant by journalists from around the world, had six “department press briefings” briefings in November, two in December, none in January, two in February, and one so far in March.

This is not how it should work in a democracy, and there is no explanation other than a bad one for why this is happening. The Administration’s elimination of regular on-the-record press briefings is part of a broader war on truth and transparency by a President who will go down as the most publicly mendacious American leader we’ve yet had. (Trump’s epic speech at cpac over the weekend was both the longest and, according to the Washington Post Fact Checker, the most untruthful of his tenure, clocking in at more than two hours and approximately a hundred lies, misstatements, and falsehoods.)

That highlighted sentence part is one I keep repeating daily right after I say “What Fresh Hell is this?” “This is not how it should work in a democracy …”

In news related to the disappearance of the White House Briefing we now have the disappearance of Bill Shine who is the ex Fox Executive acting as the de facto White House Communications Director.  We got a really nice bunch of background on Shine in Jane Mayer’s article at the beginning of the week.  This is from CNN.

White House deputy chief of staff and de facto communications director Bill Shine has stepped down to join the Trump campaign, press secretary Sarah Sanders announced in a statement Friday.

Shine, a former Fox News executive, joined the White House in July 2018, the sixth person to fill or be tapped for the top communications role. Jason Miller, Sean Spicer, Mike Dubke, Anthony Scaramucci and Hope Hicks all came before him.

He offered his resignation to President Donald Trump on Thursday but was spotted on the White House South Lawn on Friday ahead of the President’s trip to Alabama. He will be joining the 2020 re-election campaign as a senior adviser.

“Serving President Trump and this country has been the most rewarding experience of my entire life. To be a small part of all this President has done for the American people has truly been an honor. I’m looking forward to working on President Trump’s re-election campaign and spending more time with my family,” Shine said in a statement.

Shine has been shuttled over to the Trump  version of CREEP to probably wine and dine Fox news so it can continue to act as a State propaganda outlet for Trump.  The Why is not known but Fox lost any right to a Democratic Campaign debate over the news. 

I seriously can’t take much more of this.  We’ve just devolved into a Banana Republic so quickly that I feel we should all be wearing Panama hats and smoking cigars while we wait in our bread lines.

So, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?  I’m hoping for some better results from Manafort in the DC court  which is U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman to whom I dedicate all these beautiful tarot card illustrations of justice.  Come on Mueller!  Come on Amy!!  Come on Democratic Congressional Hearings!  Who will rid us of these meddlesome kleptocrats?

 

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Consuming the News

I was one of those nerdy little kids in class that loved it when show and tell switched to bringing a current events article and presenting it to the class.  In my grade school, the big day was Wednesday.  I got my first subscription to The Paris Match in 7th grade and my Honors World History teacher turned me on to The Guardian in 11 th grade. My grandmother made sure we all had subscriptions to The Christian Science Monitor until the day she died. I think a lot of it had to do with being trapped in Omaha where nothing EVER happened.  I was fortunate that my family put a high priority on travel because the newspaper subscriptions were  a portion of what kept me away from becoming the archetypal Omahan.  Geographical and cultural isolation can lead to some strange people. (Cue The Deliverance banjos.)

I’ve been returning to the PEJ site now that I know it exists.  That’s where I’ve pulled this book review and an interesting set of suggestions on how to “interpret the news”.  I admit to having a preference for C-SPAN these days as I’m pretty tired of the idiots that filter and read the MSM items now.   I probably will order up the book ‘Blur, How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload’ by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel. The review says its goal is to provide a “pragmatic, serious-minded guide to navigating the twenty-first century media terrain”.  That’s a serious agenda given the number of commercial news outlets we have these days.

Here’s another bit from that:

Blur provides a road map, or more specifically, reveals the craft that has been used in newsrooms by the very best journalists for getting at the truth. In an age when the line between citizen and journalist is becoming increasingly unclear, Blur is a crucial guide for those who want to know what’s true.

What I want to offer up is the list they provide.  It’s called “Ways of  Skeptical Knowing”.   My mother handed me her middle name–Jean–for my birth certificate.  She was always a true to form Show-Me-State skeptic.  That’s why I always consider “Skeptic” to be my authentic middle name.

Ways of Skeptical Knowing—Six Essential Tools for Interpreting the News

1. What kind of content am I encountering?

2. Is the information complete? If not, what’s missing?

3. Who or what are the sources and why should I believe them?

4. What evidence is presented and how was it tested or vetted?

5. What might be an alternative explanation or understanding?

6. Am I learning what I need?

So, armed with this, I got slightly curious about the guys that wrote the book and found an interview with Bill  Kovach at a site called Stinky Journalism.  I gave up writing for the school paper back in high school so I actually didn’t know he’d authored your basic Journalism 101 textbook, The Elements of Journalism. The site explains how Blur “focuses on the importance of verification, fact-checking and evidence in media — whether it be traditional newspaper media or an online blog”.   Evidence!!! Verification!!! Fact-Checking!!!  NOW, we’re talking stuff that sends tingles up and down my researcher leg!!

I found this quote to be very interesting.

“The separation between journalists and citizens is slowly disappearing.  I mean, anyone, anywhere can be a reporter of the next big news incident.  Anyone can be a reporter now, and in terms of the information citizens need because they have access to the online presentation of information from hundreds of sources, they are becoming their own editors.  So it’s imperative that we both help journalists understand this change…and citizens understand how they can determine what they can believe in.”

What drove my Grandmother to send me The Christian Science Monitor, my French teacher to share the Paris Match, and my history teacher to encourage me to read The U.K. Guardian is what drives me to alternative sources on the World Wide Web today. I  was fortunate enough to  develop a healthy skepticism about relying on any one source of information from these precious folks who cared about my development as a person.  I am thankful for my earliest experiences of looking out side of the Omaha World Herald for information.  I do have to say that I was fortunate to be educated in an excellent public  school system that was well known for its outstanding English programs and teachers.  This is the same high school and school system  that produced Kurt Andersen. (One of my friends had a wicked crush on him and used to use my access to get into the Journalism classroom/lab to get near him when we were sophomores.)

I guess I’m bringing this up for several reasons. First, I think part of being in a democracy means that you become an informed citizen.  That implies you need information and it should be factual information.  Second, I think that the powers that be have found so many profound means of disseminating propaganda through main stream sources–think WMDs and the Iraq War– that we have to actively search out alternatives to find out not just the information; but the truth.

Lastly, nothing is making this an imperative as the Wikileaks episode.  What first made some things clear to me in Junior High School was The Pentagon Papers.  For some childish reason, I thought my exceptionally wonderful and moral country would never lie to me or hide things from me other than battlefield plans.  I believe that my reaction to both was formed early by the intents of my grandmother and my teachers to get  me to look outside my narrow life to the world at large.   Our government, many people in our communities and plenty of those around us–including the press–are not always acting from truth or the best interest of all of us.  It’s important to discover intent, funding, and connections.  We must all become investigative journalists.  However, it heartens me to see that there are still journalists that remember they are an important element of democracy.  It saddens me when journalism turns into celebrity gossip rags and spin vehicles.

Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin were the bloggers of their day.  Samuel Adams made certain that the Massachusetts Circular Letter was seen by more than just the local politicians.  His ‘leaks’ outraged the British monarchy.  It also lead to our nascent democracy.  Much of what is going on right now is part of our heritage as Americans.  However, so many people have have access to platforms now that it’s important to do the basic research for ourselves.  We must be vigilant and tenacious truth seekers.