Talking With Jeremy Scahill

TMC and I have had the pleasure of meeting Jeremy Schakill twice.

The first time was during his book tour for Dirty Wars when he was interviews at The New School by Spencer Ackerman (now of The Guardian– we actually sat next to Spencer’s Mom who was a very nice and charming lady). When we went to get our copies signed he recommended an interesting Pakistani restaurant nearby.

The second time was also in New york at the launch of The Assassination Complex which is more kind of a joint reporting exercise by many Authors at The Intercept where he now works. That was kind of an interesting event, selected readings punctuated by folk music in a dance club. We sat next to the door to the Green Room so we got a good view of everyone’s backs as they waited to take the stage. Oddly enough he remembered TMC from our previous encounter, though she’s kind of hard to forget.

Anyway he’s a gracious guy and whip smart as well as an excellent raconteur even though we don’t agree on every point politically. He was recently interviewed by Democracy Now regarding his most recent piece at The Intercept.

Notorious Mercenary Erik Prince Is Advising Trump From the Shadows
by Jeremy Scahill, The Intercept
2017-01-17

Erik Prince, America’s most notorious mercenary, is lurking in the shadows of the incoming Trump administration. A former senior U.S. official who has advised the Trump transition told The Intercept that Prince has been advising the team on matters related to intelligence and defense, including weighing in on candidates for the Defense and State departments. The official asked not to be identified because of a transition policy prohibiting discussion of confidential deliberations.

In July, Prince told Trump’s senior adviser and white supremacist Steve Bannon, at the time head of Breitbart News, that the Trump administration should recreate a version of the Phoenix Program, the CIA assassination ring that operated during the Vietnam War, to fight ISIS. Such a program, Prince said, could kill or capture “the funders of Islamic terror and that would even be the wealthy radical Islamist billionaires funding it from the Middle East, and any of the other illicit activities they’re in.”

Prince also said that Trump would be the best force to confront “Islamic fascism.” “As for the world looking to the United States for leadership, unfortunately, I think they’re going to have to wait till January and hope Mr. Trump is elected because, clearly, our generals don’t have a stomach for a fight,” Prince said. “Our president doesn’t have a stomach for a fight and the terrorists, the fascists, are winning.”

Prince’s sister, Betsy DeVos, is Trump’s nominee for education secretary and she has all but vowed to embark on a crusade to push a privatization and religious agenda in education that mirrors her brother’s in military and CIA affairs. Prince has long been a contributor to the campaign of fellow Christian warrior Mike Pence, and he contributed $100,000 to the pro-Trump Super PAC Make America Number 1. Prince’s mother, Elsa, pitched in another $50,000. That organization, run by Rebekah Mercer, daughter of billionaire hedge funder Robert Mercer, was one of the strongest bankrollers of Trump’s campaign.

Did Education Nominee Betsy DeVos Lie to Senate About Ties to Anti-LGBT Foundation?

Blackwater Founder Erik Prince, the Brother of Betsy DeVos, Is Secretly Advising Trump

Obama’s Commutation of Chelsea Manning & Continued Demonization of Edward Snowden

The Breakfast Club (Fools On The Hill)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Soviet Union breaks Nazi siege of Lenningrad; British Explorer Robert F. Scott reaches South Pole; Boston Strangler convicted; Rudyard Kipling dies.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

There is no crueler tyranny than that which is perpetuated under the shield of law and in the name of justice.

Charles de Montesquieu

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One Good Thing

Surprise: President Obama Commutes Chelsea Manning’s Sentence
by Mike Masnick, Tech Dirt
Tue, Jan 17th 2017

Well, here’s a surprise. President Obama has just commuted the bulk of Chelsea Manning’s sentence, meaning she will be freed this May, rather than having to spend another three decades in jail. Manning, of course, was sent to prison for sharing a large chunk of US diplomatic cables with Wikileaks. Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison nearly four years ago (with credit for the 3.5 years she’d already been held, often in solitary confinement). Many people were already outraged at the sentence, especially given that there was no evidence of any actual harm from the leaks.

There were two big campaigns going on over the past few months — one to pardon Ed Snowden, and another to commute Manning’s sentence. President Obama had already made it fairly clear that he had no interest in pardoning Snowden based on the totally false claim that he could not pardon Snowden prior to Snowden being convicted. In the past few weeks, however, there were at least a few hints and rumors that Obama was seriously considering commuting Manning’s sentence, and that led to even more focus on the campaign. Ed Snowden himself also advocated for Manning, even ahead of his own case.

Wikileaks tweeted that Julian Assange would agree to be extradited to the US if Obama “grants Manning clemency.”

(I)t does appear that the likelihood of a Snowden pardon is also almost nil. In discussing today’s commutation of Manning’s sentence, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest basically argued that what Snowden did was much worse than Manning, because he “fled”.

(T)here was a difference in the types of documents revealed, one might also make the argument that Snowden’s leaks revealed much more serious problems and the impact of his leaks were much more important in revealing to the American public abuses by our own government. Separately, the whole “fled into the arms of adversary” thing is silly as well. As has been explained multiple times, Snowden ended up in Russia after the US pulled his passport while he was traveling. And, at the same time, a big part of the reason Snowden left the US was the unfortunate treatment of Manning by the military judicial process. Snowden properly surmised that he would not be treated fairly. And apparently that continues to this day.

It doesn’t mitigate against my overall assessment. It’s important to remember that Barack Obama was not only the person who jailed Chelsea Manning, he also refused to prosecute the W Administration’s War Crimes and Violations of Privacy, indeed he extended and expanded them.

It is a good thing Manning will be released in May. She is severely clinically depressed and has attempted suicide twice to my recollection because of the torture (yup, solitary confinement for extended periods is Geneva Convention torture) she’s had to endure.

See Yah. Thanks For Nothing.

It is my contention that Barack Obama’s Neo Liberal, Moderate Republican agenda and concentration on symbolic Identity Politics to the exclusion of genuine economic reform, his tolerance of and participation in War Crimes, his looking the other way at real and provable Financial Fraud, his systemic militarization of Police and sufferance of their violence against African Americans, and willful abandonment of United States sovereignty and our Court system to Global Mega-Corporations in his Trade Policy have led directly to the Electoral Failure of the Democratic Party at the polls and in particular the election of Donald Trump.

Republicans are what they are- racist, bigoted, misogynous, war mongering, hypocritically pious, gun-loving fools and thieves.

Institutional Democrats should be better but they do like the thief part. They can not win unless they change that.

How Barack Obama paved the way for Donald Trump
by Gary Younge, The Guardian
Monday 16 January 2017

For the past eight years American liberals have gorged themselves on symbolism. A significant section of the population, including those most likely to support Barack Obama, have felt better about their country even as they have fared worse in it. The young, good-looking, intact, scandal-free black family in the White House embodied a hopeful future for America and beyond. Photogenic, with an understated chic, here were people of colour who looked even better in black and white. With personal stories of progress without privilege, they provided Camelot without the castle: evoking a sense of possibility in a period of economic stagnation, social immobility and political uncertainty.

But there is a connection between the “new normal” and the old that must be understood if resistance in the Trump era is going to amount to more than Twitter memes driven by impotent rage and fuelled by flawed nostalgia. This transition is not simply a matter of sequence – one bad president following a good one – but consequence: one horrendous agenda made possible by the failure of its predecessor.

It is easy for liberals to despise Trump. He is a thin-skinned charlatan, a self-proclaimed sexual harasser, a blusterer and a bigot. One need not exhaust any moral energy in making the case against his agenda. That is precisely what makes it so difficult to understand his appeal. Similarly, it is easy for liberals to love Obama. He’s measured, thoughtful, smart and eloquent – and did some good things despite strong opposition from Republicans. That is precisely what makes it so difficult for liberals to provide a principled and plausible critique of his presidency.

One cannot blame Obama for Trump. It was the Republicans – craven to the mob within their base, which they have always courted but ultimately could not control – that nominated and, for now, indulges him. And yet it would be disingenuous to claim Trump rose from a vacuum that bore no relationship to the previous eight years.

Racism’s role should not be underplayed, but its impact can arguably be overstated. While Trump evidently emboldened existing racists, it’s not obvious that he created new ones. He received the same proportion of the white vote as Mitt Romney in 2012 and George W Bush in 2004. It does not follow that because Trump’s racism was central to his meaning for liberals, it was necessarily central to his appeal for Republicans.

There is a deeper connection, however, between Trump’s rise and what Obama did – or rather didn’t do – economically. He entered the White House at a moment of economic crisis, with Democratic majorities in both Houses and bankers on the back foot. Faced with the choice of preserving the financial industry as it was or embracing far-reaching reforms that would have served the interests of those who voted for him, he chose the former.

Just a couple of months into his first term he called a meeting of banking executives. “The president had us at a moment of real vulnerability,” one of them told Ron Suskind in his book Confidence Men. “At that point, he could have ordered us to do just about anything and we would have rolled over. But he didn’t – he mostly wanted to help us out, to quell the mob.” People lost their homes while bankers kept their bonuses and banks kept their profits.

In 2010 Damon Silvers of the independent congressional oversight panel told Treasury officials: “We can either have a rational resolution to the foreclosure crisis, or we can preserve the capital structure of the banks. We can’t do both.” They chose the latter. Not surprisingly, this was not popular. Three years into Obama’s first term 58% of the country – including an overwhelming majority of Democrats and independents – wanted the government to help stop foreclosures. His Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, did the opposite, setting up a programme that would “foam the runway” for the banks.

This time last year, fewer than four in 10 were happy with Obama’s economic policies. When asked last week to assess progress under Obama 56% of Americans said the country had lost ground or stood still on the economy, while 48% said it had lost ground on the gap between the rich and poor – against just 14% who said it gained ground. These were the Obama coalition – black and young and poor – who did not vote in November, making Trump’s victory possible. Those whose hopes are not being met: people more likely to go to the polls because they are inspired about a better future than because they fear a worse one.

Naturally, Trump’s cabinet of billionaires will do no better and will, in all likelihood, do far worse. And even as we protest about the legitimacy of the “new normal”, we should not pretend it is replacing something popular or effective. The old normal was not working. The premature nostalgia for the Obamas in the White House is not a yearning for Obama’s policies.

The End Of Davos Man?

One can only hope.

Davos is the name of the Swiss town where the World Economic Forum is held annually. As you might expect it’s kind of a ‘Burning Man’ of Neo Liberal excess, but with inequality reaching a point where according to Oxfam half the World’s wealth is held by a mere 8 individuals this exclusive club may be imploding of its own weight.

The Davos Disconnect
by Anne Swardson, Zoe Schneeweiss, and Andre Tartar, Bloomberg News
January 15, 2017, 7:00 PM EST

Never before has the gap between Davos Man and the real world yawned so widely.

The top executives, financiers, academics and politicians making their way up the mountain to the World Economic Forum will be talking a lot about such non-establishment leaders as President-elect Donald Trump – whose inauguration in Washington occurs on the event’s last day – France’s National Front chief Marine Le Pen and Italian populist Beppe Grillo of the Five Star Movement.

But they won’t be meeting them. Not one of the leaders bent on overturning the world order as Davos has designed it will be present. (A forum spokesman says an “extraordinary range” of political figures will attend – almost entirely officeholders.)

The upstarts will loom over the proceedings, though. Trump, who won’t have an official representative there, has expressed strong feelings about some of the countries sending delegations, including his own.

Europe’s populist leaders, for their part, have their own view of the annual gathering of the rich, the powerful, the famous and the sycophantic.

Why is it Davos Man?

What’s not new: the share of female attendees. At 20 percent, it’s marginally higher than in previous years, but progress has been slow.

The Breakfast Club (Superman Where Are You Now?)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Benjamin Franklin born; Warsaw liberated from Nazi Germany; President Eisenhower delivers farewell address; Kobe, Japan earthquake.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.

Benjamin Franklin

z

Birmingham Jail

You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws.

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self respect and a sense of “somebodiness” that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence.

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent-up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides–and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: “Get rid of your discontent.” Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action.

It’s easy to forget that Martin Luther King Jr.’s message was not directed only at African Americans, but at all of us equally. I am the whitest guy you will ever meet, just ask TMC, and he speaks for me and to me. When he was assassinated he was working on the Poor People’s Campaign, not a race thing, a class thing. What made him particularly reviled and despised was not his opposition to discrimination and bigotry, but to the imperialistic impulse of the Vietnam War (and yes, Tonkin Gulf was a deliberate and direct lie that exactly presages the War Of Terror we are prosecuting today).

This is a struggle about the 82 8 people who claim over half the world’s wealth. Watch your back assholes, there are waaay more of us than there are of you.

The Breakfast Club (Equality Myth)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Operation Desert Storm begins with bombing of Baghdad; Space Shuttle Columbia lifts off on final flight; Prohibition takes effect; Shah flees Iran.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

I do not think white America is committed to granting equality to the American Negro. This is a passionately racist country; it will continue to be so in the foreseeable future.

Susan Sontag

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Rant of the Week: Trump’s Russian Water Works

The revelation this week from an unconfirmed dossier that appeared in the online news outlet, Buzzfeed, that the thin skinned orange bigot who is about to occupy the White House did something rather kinky during his stay in Moscow a few years ago. Needless to say, the cable and late night talk show hosts ran with it. So this week, there are three rants for you to enjoy with your cookies and milk. Just don’t consume them while watching any of them.

Throwball Divisional Playoffs: Steelers at Chiefs

Steelers looked damn good last week. Delayed by a morning ice storm it’s now dry as a bone and 33.

I’ll be watching what I hope is only the season finale of Sherlock.

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