Not A Rant

Ok, we need to bring this boy home. He’s so out of touch he thinks Brian Williams is still relevant.

I used to think I was jaded and cynical.

Compared to what?

Doomed, delusional, divided and corrupt: How the Democratic Party became a haunted house
by Andrew O’Hehir, Salon
September 22, 2019

Face to face with what looks an awful lot like the rise of American fascism, the Democratic Party has a historic opportunity — and a historic responsibility. It has repeatedly proven itself to be unequal to the task, to a comic and pathetic degree.

Democratic congressional leaders, Democratic presidential candidates and the party’s true-blue believers keep wandering through familiar patterns, like someone in a dream state out of a Kafka story or a surrealist film, clinging to the fading hope that this time around the nonsensical narrative will reach a satisfactory resolution. If you tried to design a center-left political party trapped between the traditions of social democracy and classical liberalism, unclear about its core beliefs and equally terrified by both its most vicious opponents and its most ardent supporters — in other words, a party perfectly positioned to capitulate to tyranny with nothing more than a few disapproving whimpers — I hardly think you could do better than the one we’ve got.

I’m not just talking about the endless, dispiriting dithering over whether or not to impeach the obvious criminal in the White House, although that has been both patronizing and cowardly, a combination most often achieved by parents with something to hide (something that the kids, of course, already know).

That particular failing was thrown into strong relief this week after reports that President Trump tried to arm-twist the president of Ukraine into digging up (or perhaps inventing) damaging information on Joe Biden, approximately the 10th scandal of Trump’s presidency that would have ended the career of any normative, old-school politician. Even mainstream congressional Democrats and sympathetic media commentators have begun complaining openly about the leadership’s inaction — but there is no serious indication anything will change. With the Iowa caucuses now 16 weeks away, Nancy Pelosi has pretty well accomplished her goal of running out the clock on impeachment.

I’m also not just talking about the party’s steadfast refusal to adopt coherent, progressive and broadly popular positions on issues like health care, gun control, marijuana legalization and electoral reform. But it’s important to grasp why Democrats in power won’t embrace those things — as opposed to embracing them on the campaign trail, which really doesn’t count — because the reasons go well beyond ideological confusion or political cowardice and into deeper, darker places.

Over the last 40 years, the Democrats have become an increasingly awkward coalition of affluent, cosmopolitan whites and urban people of color, and have largely abandoned their previous mistrust of corporate power, Wall Street and big capital in general. Go down the list of powerful congressional Democrats — especially the committee chairs and members of leadership — and pay attention to where and how they raise money, and who their major donors are. The corruption is widespread and deeply rooted, and it cannot be dislodged simply by anointing a reformer or “socialist” as the presidential nominee. If anything, that should be the end point of a renovation or redemption project that has not happened.

But all such questions, when considered piece by piece, ignore the deeper underlying narrative that frames them in the first place. They all signal toward the Democratic Party’s remarkable ability to manufacture defeat, even (or perhaps especially) when objective conditions seem overwhelmingly favorable to victory. The real problem here, I’m afraid, admits of no easy solution: The Democratic Party comprises a wide range of views and voices, some of whom are vigorously trying to change its direction, but all of them are trapped inside a haunted house. Troubled by the ghosts of the past and clinging to useless rituals, Democrats appear largely unable to perceive actually existing reality or react to it appropriately.

This is not exactly a new idea. In political science, it’s expressed through the concept that the relationship between our two major parties has become asymmetrical: Democrats cling to norms and standards of a bygone era, Biden-style, and also, by their nature, are driven by principles of dialogue, reasoned discourse and compromise. LOL! Republicans are totally over that shit, and have gone full-on ruthless culture war, a dynamic explored by Salon’s Amanda Marcotte in her book “Troll Nation”: They know they can’t win a fair fight on issues and policies, but when it comes to semiotic battle rooted in racism, nationalism and cultural division, they consistently hold the upper hand.

That’s a useful construct, but I suspect it doesn’t go far enough, in that it still appears to rest on the assumption that our political system more or less works, or almost works, or at least could be made to work with some structural improvements that compel the Republicans to stop being so nasty. That’s the fundamental premise of virtually everyone in the Democratic Party. I believe it’s completely wrong. I believe it’s not just wrong but dangerous, and not just dangerous but doomed. It threatens to sink democracy with passivity and politeness. (If, that is, democracy hasn’t been sunk already.)

I’m not sure whether to call the contention that democracy is kinda-sorta-maybe functioning normally — in the face of literally all the evidence, not just here but around the world — cynical or childish. I’m not sure whether it’s driven by misguided faith or by a self-interested desire to preserve power and privilege. (Those things feed into each other, to be sure.) This article of faith or doctrine of blindness gets expressed in its most comic and pathetic form, of course, in Joe Biden’s campaign. The former vice president has assured us that Donald Trump’s presidency is an “aberrant moment in time“: Apparently Trump came out of nowhere and has no history; once he is gone, Republicans will have an “epiphany” and normal politics of bipartisan comity and compromise will be restored.

As I’ve observed before, this fails to answer the question of what kind of normalcy we are to imagine, and when or where it can be found.

Kaufman’s warning about “a really difficult time” aside, November 2016 was apparently the lost golden age of American politics, or at least the only one Joe Biden is willing to promise. Now, as I recall that distant era, it featured total legislative paralysis, endless investigations of a minor foreign-policy debacle in Libya, a Supreme Court nominee under blockade by the Senate and the majority party in both houses of Congress gripped by paranoid conspiracy theories. But at least the president wasn’t a racist, lying fuckwad trying to impose a discount-store police state. It’s an inspiring vision!

Unfortunately, if understandably, a large proportion of the Democratic base has been so thoroughly abused and gaslit and terrorized — both by the ruthless, vicious opposition and by the self-abasing leadership of its own party — that it’s willing to settle for that. I mean, I get it: Democrats understand either consciously or instinctively that the odds are rigged against them, and the pragmatic response is to lower your expectations into the basement and pursue a short-term victory at almost any cost. So let’s at least get this terrifying idiot out of the White House and replace him with a vaguely normal adult; all that stuff about the dying planet and economic inequality and Medicare for All (not to mention trying to build or restore a functional democracy) will just have to wait.

If it’s easy to mock the Bidenites for their weird combination of delusional fantasy and defeatism, it’s harder and more painful to observe that this syndrome is found throughout the Democratic coalition, if in subtler form. As I suggested earlier, supporters of both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have fallen into a top-down, shortcut-to-power fallacy, which is conceptually related to the Bidenite delusion. In this version of the future, electing a progressive reformer or a socialist “revolutionary,” as the case may be, will somehow be enough to uproot a deep-tentacled system of privilege and power, and make up for decades’ worth of Republican institutional conquest and Democratic capitulation.

Make no mistake: Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign was a historic moment of rebirth for the American left and injected unexpected new energy into the Democratic Party. Historians and political scientists will be unpacking its effects for decades. While Sanders appears unlikely to win the 2020 nomination, his second campaign is still remarkable for its diversity, its ideological clarity and its grassroots, working-class support, something no other candidate comes close to matching. But Sanders’ importance has nothing to do with a hypothetical Sanders presidency, in which virtually every element of his grand agenda would either be defeated in Congress, watered down and pulled apart, or dismantled by the radical reactionaries on the Supreme Court who are now amusingly described as “conservatives.”

Much of Elizabeth Warren’s appeal lies in the fact that her ambitious agenda of sweeping regulatory reform — “I’ve got a plan for that” — sounds a lot more practical and realistic, and that she possesses expert-level knowledge of the legal, financial and legislative systems. But the same caveats apply when it comes to Congress and the Supreme Court: No one who has observed the recent history of Washington can take seriously the prospect that she could get these plans passed, at least not without seeing them riddled with lobbyist-written loopholes and compromised away into near-meaninglessness. Furthermore, legalistic regulatory reforms dictated from above — which are often poorly understood by almost everyone, including the legislators who vote on them — are easily undone by the political opposition whenever it regains power, as the Trump administration’s brief but exciting history has shown us.

To a significant extent, the Democratic Party’s problems go deeper into the past than we can possibly catalog here. This is a party that came into existence as the populist voice of the “common man,” in opposition to the Northeastern business elite and the old Anglo-Saxon power structure. But it was overtly aligned with white supremacy for more than a century, and did not finally snap the tether until Lyndon Johnson and the Civil Rights Act. In less than a generation after that, it abandoned all pretense of a class-based, populist orientation and effectively became the party of the coastal elite (or at least of its liberal faction), constructing a power-sharing arrangement around elevating members of previously excluded or marginalized groups into that elite.

This is a long-term institutional crisis that no presidential candidate and no articles of impeachment can address, especially not within a degraded pseudo-democratic system in which most voters literally do not count, thanks to extensive gerrymandering and the Electoral College. Redeeming, reforming or reshaping the Democratic Party is an urgent and necessary task, one that many activists both inside and outside the party are energetically pursuing. But it cannot be accomplished overnight, even though time is running out for American democracy — and there is no obvious way around that contradiction. Right now, the grim fact is that the Democratic Party has been constructed to lose, and we should stop acting surprised if it keeps on doing so.

House

Ocean Drive – Duke Dumont

Destination Calabria – Alex Gaudino featuring Crystal Waters

Back In The USA – Green Day

The Breakfast Club (Crunchy Leftovers)

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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AP’s Today in History for September 22nd

Nathan Hale hanged in the American Revolution; Iraq invades Iran; President Gerald Ford faces a second assassination attempt in weeks; ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ hits Broadway; Songwriter Irving Berlin dies.

 

Breakfast Tune Roger Sprung & His Progressive Bluegrassers, Fiddler on the Roof starts at 22:35

 

Something to think about, Breakfast News & Blogs below

 

Something to think about over coffee prozac

 
Inclusive New Texas Bill Prevents Gun Sellers From Discriminating On Basis Of Background Check
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Pondering the Pundits: Sunday Preview Edition

Pondering the Pundits: Sunday Preview Edition” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

On Sunday mornings we present a preview of the guests on the morning talk shows so you can choose which ones to watch or some do something more worth your time on a Sunday morning.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

The Sunday Talking Heads:

This Week with George Stephanopolis: The guests on Sunday’s “This Week” are: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; and former Secretary of Defense Gen. James Mattis.

Former “This Week” Co-Anchor Sam Donaldson and longtime ABC News contributor George Will honor the life and legacy of Cokie Roberts.

The roundtable guests are: ABC News Correspondent Karen Travers; former DNC Chair Donna Brazile; NPR National Political Correspondent and Fox News Contributor Mara Liasson; and Washington Post Political Columnist Karen Tumulty.

Face the Nation: Host Margaret Brennan’s guests are: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif; and former Secretary of State John Kerry.

Her panel guests are: Radhika Jones, Vanity Fair; Lanhee Chen, Hoover Institute; Ben Dominech, The Federalist; and David Sanger, New York Times.

Meet the Press with Chuck Todd: The guests on this week’s “MTP” are: Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT); and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA).

The panel guests are: Robert Costa, Washington Post; former Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL); and former Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD).

State of the Union with Jake Tapper: Mr. Tapper’s guests are: Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA); and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin.

His panel guests are: Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM); Democratic Independent consultant Karen Finney; former Rep. Mia Love (R-UT); and otherwise unemployable and deplorable former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA);

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Stars Hollow Gazette‘s Health and Fitness News weekly diary. It will publish on Saturday afternoon and be open for discussion about health related issues including diet, exercise, health and health care issues, as well as, tips on what you can do when there is a medical emergency. Also an opportunity to share and exchange your favorite healthy recipes.

Questions are encouraged and I will answer to the best of my ability. If I can’t, I will try to steer you in the right direction. Naturally, I cannot give individual medical advice for personal health issues. I can give you information about medical conditions and the current treatments available.

You can now find past Health and Fitness News diaries here.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

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What To Cook

 

Astronomical Autumn begins on September 23, making this weekend the last of Summer. While temperatures in most of the US are still warm take the opportunity to cook some of these late Summer dishes.

Sticky Grilled Chicken

There will never be too many ways to barbecue chicken. In this recipe, molasses and apricot jam lend a deliciously sweet and sticky glaze to this summertime grilling staple.

French Bread Pizzas With Ricotta, Roasted Tomatoes, and Pesto

Creamy ricotta cheese, herby pesto, and roasted cherry tomatoes give these French bread pizzas bright flavor and a fresh look.

Late Summer Tomatoes with Fresh Herbs

We live for ripe summer tomatoes, and there’s no better way to eat them than tossed with lemon juice and fresh herbs to intensify their flavor.

Sheet-Pan Potato Hash with Fixins

The key to achieving the remarkably crispy-meets-creamy texture is to use russets. Their natural starch and low moisture content make them ideal for roasting at high temperatures. To get them crisp and golden, they’ll need a little TLC: Use a big bowl when you’re tossing them with the oil and then really get in there with your hands to make sure every slice is well coated.

Grilled Bacon BLTs

Thick-cut bacon grills much better than thin strips, which have a tendency to get burnt and overly crisp.

Peach-Plum Galette

Use any stone fruit that looks good to you, or combine two or three types as long as the total weight is 2 lb. For example, try baking with a mix of plums, or combine peaches and nectarines, or try apricots and cherries.

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House

Plume – Caravan Palace

Good Things Fall Apart – Illenium with Jon Bellion

Hurts 2B Human – P!nk featuring Khalid

The Breakfast Club (Gambles)

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 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) 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

President Bill Clinton’s grand jury testimony in the Monica Lewinsky scandal aired on TV; Authors H.G. Wells and Stephen King born; ‘Monday Night Football’ premieres; Actor-comedian Bill Murray born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

It is not reasonable that those who gamble with men’s lives should not pay with their own.

H. G. Wells

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Welcome Home Bill

While an improvement over past Mayors which memorably includes such recent disasters as Koch, Giuliani, and Bloomberg, de Blasio kind of got the Obama Nobel (for not being W) and has proven to be of middling competence and unremarkable impact except that he’s going to use the Cincinatus/Washington method of peaceful transition of power.

Truth be told his next logical step is a stand up fight against Andrew Cuomo who’s never going to be President either. De Blasio was always one of the weirder Democratic contenders, more so than Marianne Williamson (Oprah’s Spiritual Advisor) and Andy Yang who as far as I’m concerned has the top bid for my vote at $12,000 (I am open to other offers and I’m told I’m an influencer). Nobody in New York likes him anymore because he’s kind of an arrogant jerk. On the other hand there’s a lot of undervibe about Democratic corruption in Albany (all true unfortunately) and if Bill could grab some of that energy he might be a contender and not a bum.

And nowhere near as good as Zephyr Teachout.

De Blasio’s Back: Here Are 6 Major Problems He’s Facing
By Michael Gold, The New York Times
Sept. 20, 2019

After five months of a presidential campaign that generated more shrugs than buzz, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Friday that he would end his candidacy and focus on his full-time job running New York City.

The clock is running out on Mr. de Blasio’s time in office — term limits prevent him from running for re-election in 2021. As he ventured out on the campaign trail, some New Yorkers complained that their lame-duck mayor’s attention often seemed focused elsewhere.

But as Mr. de Blasio returns to New York, he still has more than two more years in office to build on the progressive track record he promoted in states far from Gracie Mansion and tackle problems confronting his constituents.

Police

As he returns full-time to City Hall, Mr. de Blasio will need to address a restless rank and file.

Central among them: a number of recent suicides that have left the Police Department reeling. Officials want Mr. de Blasio to push through a proposed bill that would direct the department to make more mental-health resources available to officers.

Throughout his presidential bid, Mr. de Blasio was criticized for his handling of the case involving Daniel Pantaleo, the police officer whose chokehold led to Eric Garner’s death in 2014.

When Mr. de Blasio declined to support calls for firing Mr. Pantaleo, the mayor was criticized for failing to take responsibility after he said he would let the disciplinary process play out.

At the same time, officers were furious when Mr. de Blasio promised justice for Mr. Garner on the debate stage just weeks before Mr. Pantaleo was fired by the police commissioner, James P. O’Neill.

Education

(W)hile Mr. de Blasio traversed the country, the conversation at home began to test the limits of his willingness to tackle inequality.

A simmering conversation about desegregation boiled over, and a mayor who pledged to “shake the foundations” of the nation’s largest public school system has instead watched activists on the left and his own schools chancellor, Richard A. Carranza, call for more sweeping — and polarizing — changes than Mr. de Blasio appeared willing to support.

Mr. de Blasio now faces questions about structural inequities, particularly a two-tiered system that allows families with means to escape poor-performing traditional schools by enrolling in more selective schools and gifted and talented programs.

A panel the mayor commissioned recommended eliminating gifted programs, along with selective admissions policies for some middle and high schools, and instead create more magnet schools and enrichment programs.

Transportation

For years, Mr. de Blasio and New York’s governor, Andrew M. Cuomo, have been at odds over who should take responsibility for the problems afflicting the city’s aging transit system.

Officials at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority called on the mayor this week to help fund the agency’s ambitious $54 billion plan to fix the subway. They want him to write a check for $3 billion to pay for new elevators at 70 stations to improve accessibility.

Safer streets

Vision Zero, aims to eliminate traffic deaths by 2024. But bicyclist deaths are up this year, and there have been a series of high-profile crashes in the city.

Two children were killed this month, including a baby in a stroller who died after a driver jumped the curb in the Bronx.

After the baby’s death, transit advocates urged Mr. de Blasio to show that he cared.

“This crash represents a chance for Mayor de Blasio to demonstrate real Vision Zero leadership: Go to the scene of the crash, stand with the child’s family, and tell New Yorkers that he will do whatever it takes, right now and for the remainder of his time in office, to bring an end to the carnage,” the group Transportation Alternatives said in a statement.

Public housing

Mr. de Blasio faces an uphill battle turning around living conditions in the nation’s largest public housing system, which is home to one in 14 city residents.

The underfunded agency that oversees public housing, the New York City Housing Authority, needs more than $32 billion to repair unreliable elevators, outdated boilers and faulty roofs, which have left the city’s 176,000 apartments with leaks, mold and widespread heat and hot water outages.

The situation grew so dire that the federal government threatened to take over the agency and intervened earlier this year, appointing an independent monitor to supervise the agency, known as NYCHA.

Homelessness

The city has nearly 79,000 people who are homeless, including an estimated five percent who are living on the street and sleeping in parks and subway cars.

His plan to open 90 new shelters over five years has fallen considerably short. The administration has been slowed by neighborhood opposition and, in some cases, lawsuits.

Only 26 new shelters have opened, leaving thousands of New Yorkers in hotel rooms and private apartments that the city is using as shelters.

Advocates for homeless and low-income people say the solution is housing, but Mr. de Blasio has resisted calls to change his housing plan to better target the city’s most vulnerable households.

Last year, Nathylin Flowers Adesegun, a 73-year-old woman who is homeless, interrupted one of Mr. de Blasio’s regular morning workouts at the Park Slope YMCA to urge him to build more housing to get people out of shelter.

The confrontation, captured on video, helped galvanize a growing bloc of advocates and elected officials, putting more pressure on Mr. de Blasio.

“The mayor has been really stubborn on this, really ignoring the fact that the housing crisis is concentrated particularly among people who are literally homeless and low-income New Yorkers,” said Giselle Routhier, policy director at the Coalition for the Homeless.

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Paul Krugman: Trump Declares War on California

It’s a liberal state, so it must be punished.

I’m on a number of right-wing mailing lists, and I try to at least skim what they’re going on about in any given week; this often gives me advance warning about the next wave of manufactured outrage. Lately I’ve been seeing dire warnings that if Democrats win next year they’ll try to turn America into (cue scary background music) California, which the writers portray as a socialist hellhole.

Sure enough, this week Donald Trump effectively declared war on California on two fronts. He’s trying to take away the Golden State’s ability to regulate pollution generated by its 15 million cars, and, more bizarrely, he’s seeking to have the Environmental Protection Agency declare that California’s homeless population constitutes an environmental threat. [..]

The attempt to kill the state’s emissions rules makes a kind of twisted sense given Trump’s policy priorities. His administration is clearly dedicated to the cause of making America polluted again, and in particular to ensuring that the planet cooks as quickly as possible. California is such a big player that it can effectively block part of that agenda, as shown by the willingness of automakers to abide by its emissions rules. Hence the attempt to strip away that power, never mind past rhetoric about states’ rights.

Declaring the homeless an environmental threat, however, aside from being almost surreal coming from an administration that in general loves pollution, is pure nonsense. It can be understood only as an attempt both to punish an anti-Trump state and to blacken its reputation.

What should you take away from Trump’s war on California?

New York Times Editorial Board: ‘Urgent Concern’ About the President

A whistle-blower’s report has alarmed the intelligence agencies’ watchdog. Why won’t the administration share it with Congress?

It’s not every day that a whistle-blower in the intelligence community files a complaint about the president of the United States. But it seems to have happened last month, when an unidentified intelligence employee alerted the inspector general of the intelligence community, Michael Atkinson, to multiple acts by President Trump, including a promise he is said to have made to a foreign leader during a phone call.

The complaint alarmed Mr. Atkinson enough that he considered it a matter of “urgent concern” and alerted the acting director of national intelligence, or D.N.I., Joseph Maguire.

Under federal law, the D.N.I. “shall” deliver an inspector general’s report about an “urgent concern” to Congress within a week of receiving it. But Mr. Maguire has so far refused to. Taking his marching orders from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, he has claimed that the whistle-blower’s complaint did not involve an “intelligence activity,” and that it contained “potentially privileged matters.” [..]

The No. 1 task of America’s intelligence and law-enforcement communities is to identify and deal with threats to national security. The problem, as explained by Jack Goldsmith, who led the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel under President George W. Bush, is that Mr. Trump’s behavior has repeatedly revealed “the extent to which our constitutional system assumes and relies on a president with a modicum of national fidelity, and decent judgment and reasonableness.”

In other words, the system isn’t designed to deal with a situation in which a hazard may come from the president himself.

Michelle Goldberg: Roy Cohn Is How We Got Trump

From McCarthyism to the mob to Trump, Cohn enabled evil. Why did elites embrace him?

Near the beginning of “Where’s My Roy Cohn?” the new documentary about the lawyer and power broker who mentored Donald Trump, an interviewee says, “Roy Cohn’s contempt for people, his contempt for the law, was so evident on his face that if you were in his presence, you knew you were in the presence of evil.” He wasn’t being hyperbolic.

The film, which opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, will likely be of wide interest because of how Cohn helps explain Trump. In the attorney’s life, you can see the strange ease with which a sybaritic con man fit in with crusading social reactionaries. You see the glee Cohn derived from being an exception to the rules he enforced on weaker people. From him, Trump learned how, when he was in trouble, to change the subject by acting outrageously, to never apologize and always stay on the offense. When the Justice Department claimed that apartment buildings owned by the Trump family were discriminating against black renters, it was Cohn’s idea to countersue the Justice Department for $100 million.

Michael H. Fuchs: Trump is a walking, talking national security liability

A toddler leads the most powerful country in the world. And when he fixates on a national security problem, you can be sure it will get worse

As the Trump administration cycles through officials and policies at a whiplash-inducing speed, the one constant is Donald Trump and his unique talent for exacerbating national security threats.

While the list of this administration’s national security catastrophes is long – from announcing the US withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement to eroding America’s alliances – the events of recent weeks bring into stark relief the danger of Trump’s national security agenda. [..]

The reasons for these disastrous policies are manifold. But the thread connecting them all is Trump’s need to filter everything through his own ego. Trump met with Kim because no sitting president had done it before, and now Trump can’t admit that it’s not working. Trump ended the talks with the Taliban because his idea of a summit at Camp David didn’t work out – and so if he couldn’t personally bring peace to Afghanistan, he wasn’t going to let anyone else do it. Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal because it was a crowning achievement of Barack Obama, and Trump’s rise to prominence rested on Trump’s promotion of the fiction that everything Obama did was awful. And on Russia, the Trump campaign’s collusion to win the 2016 election places Trump squarely in Putin’s pocket, and therefore Trump cannot change course.

If all this wasn’t concerning enough, a whistleblower in the intelligence community was reportedly so concerned by a promise Trump made to a foreign leader that it was reported to the intelligence community’s inspector general. Trump literally cannot even be trusted to have a normal conversation with a foreign leader without potentially compromising national security.

Michael Morell and David Kris: How the DNI-Congress feud puts intelligence and democracy in danger

Though many of the details about the growing dispute between Congress and the acting director of national intelligence still remain secret, the implications are already disturbing.

This summer, a whistleblower complained to the inspector general for the U.S. intelligence community of an alleged “violation” of law, “abuse” of authority or similar problem. The inspector general, in turn, advised the acting DNI, and later the House Intelligence Committee, that the complaint was both credible and “urgent,” meaning it involved something “serious or flagrant” or otherwise significant.

Under a law enacted in 2010, such matters must be reported to Congress. But acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire did not report it, causing the House Intelligence Committee to issue a subpoena and two public letters demanding the information be provided to Congress. [..]

The risks associated with this are profound. As one of us (David) wrote at Lawfare, intelligence oversight in this country “has evolved from essentially nothing (1947-1976), to secret proxy oversight through elite members of Congress (1976-2013), to something closer to ordinary political accountability (2013 to present).” That evolution converges with an equally radical change in our politics, as many partisan actors today seek advantage by rejecting bedrock institutions and norms while a significant portion of the electorate responds with nihilistic glee. As applied to the oversight of intelligence, this convergence is very dangerous, because those institutions and norms are a major part of what keeps the intelligence community properly in check.

Congressional oversight of executive branch activities is a vitally important constitutional tool in maintaining our democracy. It is particularly important for intelligence activities because the intelligence community consists of secret organizations operating in a democracy. The actions of acting director Maguire risk weakening that oversight, the perceptions of the intelligence community on the part of the public, and the intelligence community itself.

WTF Has Donald Done Now

There have been numerous concerns raised about Donald Trump’s handling of sensitive information since his election. We already know he disclosed sensitive intelligence from the Israelis to the Russian government representatives in May of 2017 which prompted the removal of a high-level CIA source within the Putin government, fearing for his safety. Last Friday, we learned that a whistleblower within the Intelligence Community had lodged a complaint with the Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, who reviewed the complaint and determined it was credible and troubling enough to be considered a matter of “urgent concern,” a legal threshold that requires notification of congressional oversight committees. That complaint, then given to the current acting DNI, Joseph McGuire, who at that point, by law, had seven days to alert the congressional Intelligence committees. He did not. instead, McGuire did something he was not supposed to do, he went to the Department of Justice who instructed him not to give the complaint to congress.

“No director of national intelligence has ever refused to turn over a whistle-blower complaint,” Mr. Schiff said Sunday on CBS News’s “Face the Nation.”

Mr. Schiff told CBS that Mr. Maguire had told him he was not providing the complaint “because he is being instructed not to, that this involved a higher authority, someone above” the director of national intelligence, a cabinet position.

We now know that the complaint involves phone conversations that Donald Trump had with a foreign leader

The whistleblower complaint that has triggered a tense showdown between the U.S. intelligence community and Congress involves President Trump’s communications with a foreign leader, according to two former U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

Trump’s interaction with the foreign leader included a “promise” that was regarded as so troubling that it prompted an official in the U.S. intelligence community to file a formal whistleblower complaint with the inspector general for the intelligence community, said the former officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Now, the New York Times is reporting that it is not just one phone call that trump made but multiple actions that he has taken.

The complaint was related to multiple acts, Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for American spy agencies, told lawmakers during a private briefing, two officials familiar with it said. But he declined to discuss specifics, including whether the complaint involved the president, according to committee members.

Separately, a person familiar with the whistle-blower’s complaint said it involves in part a commitment that Mr. Trump made in a communication with another world leader. The Washington Post first reported the nature of that discussion. But no single communication was at the root of the complaint, another person familiar with it said. [..]

Democrats emerged from Mr. Atkinson’s briefing and renewed their accusation that the Trump administration was orchestrating a cover-up of an urgent and legitimate whistle-blower complaint that could affect national security. [..]

Senator Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, said the law is “very clear” that the whistle-blower complaint must be handed over to Congress.

“The Inspector General determines what level of concern it is,” said Mr. King, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “Once the determination is made,” he added, the director of national intelligence “has a ministerial responsibility to share that with Congress. It is not discretionary.”

“This is based upon the principle of separation of powers and Congress’s oversight responsibility,” Mr. King said.

More Leaks have now revealed that the complaint involves Trump’s dealing with a foreign leader and raised questions about Trump’s free wheeling diplomatic style that may have compromised US national security. The Washington Post reported late Thursday night that according to two unnamed people, the complaint involves the Ukraine.

While the media is pondering and speculating over the involvement of the Whites House and the Justice Department, the consequences of Trump’s unconventional approach dealing with foreign leaders and the effect it has on national security and the intelligence community are being missed. Balloon Juice‘s Adam L. Silverman notes that the WaPo article lacks details and there is not much more beyond the first lines. He goes on to explain what the media is missing about the counterintelligence implications of the intelligence officer’s whistleblower complaint :

Given that the complaint involves something the President committed to do for a still undisclosed foreign leader and that it involves Ukraine, it is likely one of two things. Either he promised Putin something that had something to do with Ukraine, such as getting sanctions lifted and/or getting Russia readmitted to the G-7 making it once again the G-8. or he promised Ukraine’s President Zelensky something. Most likely that he’d free up the military aid in exchange for made up dirt on Vice President Biden’s son. Either way Putin will have signals intercepts of the call. Either because the call was with Putin and he recorded it or because Russia is actively collecting Signals Intelligence on the Ukrainians. Ukraine’s new president would be a primary target of such collection. It also likely means that the Estonians, the Latvians, the Germans, the French, the Norwegians, and several others most likely know the details as well as they are all collecting Signals Intelligence on Russia and Putin.

And this is where the counterintelligence concerns arise. The President’s unconventional approach to communicating with foreign leaders, outside advisors, and others, and his opposition to having these communications memorialized creates a counterintelligence problem for him and for the United States. This counterintelligence problem exists regardless what he may or may not have promised a foreign leader over the series of phone calls and interactions at the heart of the Intelligence official’s or officer’s complaint and whether or not it is good for the US and American interests. By getting rid of note takers, getting rid of readouts and summaries, either eliminating or extremely restricting transcripts of his phone calls and meetings, and by often using an unsecured cell phone, the President has made it all but impossible for officials in his own administration to actually document and know what he is saying to and hearing from the foreign leaders he is interacting with. This places the President, and by extension the United States, at the mercy of these foreign leaders. Right now we do not know with whom the President was speaking to in these phone calls, even as we now know it had something to do with Ukraine. But it would be a safe assumption that the foreign leader was making a recording of the call, as well as having a note taker making detailed notes. This provides that foreign leader with leverage over the President and the United States should he or she choose to use it because they can disclose as much or as little of the conversations and spin them however they want, while the United States’ government has limited, at best, information about the conversations and is therefore operating at an asymmetric disadvantage. The same problems exists for the President’s one on one meetings with Putin and Kim, where we also have no officially documented notes or transcripts on the US side of the meetings. And if you think that Putin and Kim didn’t record those meetings, I have a bridge and some beachfront property to sell you.

Right now we do not know which foreign leader the President spoke with, what, if anything the President promised that foreign leader, if the promise is good for the US’s national interest or bad for it. We do not even know how the Intelligence official or officer came to know this information. We don’t know if she or he was part of the limited chain of distribution for a transcript of the call. We do not know if he or she saw a Signals Intelligence Intercept of the call because we have that foreign leader under full time Signals Intelligence surveillance. We do not know if he or she was in the presence of the President when the phone call and other, multiple activities that were reported occurred. But we do know one thing: the foreign leader in question knows what the President promised and, from a counterintelligence perspective, it is responsible to assume that foreign leader has a recording of the call, which gives that foreign leader leverage over the President and the United States. The President has compromised himself and the United States to the leader of a foreign power and that is the major counterintelligence problem that arises from this whistleblower’s complaint.

Nail meet hammer, the greatest threat to national security is Donald J. Trump.

(NB: all emphasis in this article is mine.)

 

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