Monday, July 16, 2018

Trump's and Putin's Joint Press Conference, July 16, 2018

The GOP can either defend the United States or serve the damaged and defective man who is now its president by James Fallows

“There are exactly two possible explanations for the shameful performance the world witnessed on Monday, from a serving American president.
“Either Donald Trump is flat-out an agent of Russian interests—maybe witting, maybe unwitting, from fear of blackmail, in hope of future deals, out of manly respect for Vladimir Putin, out of gratitude for Russia’s help during the election, out of pathetic inability to see beyond his 306 electoral votes. Whatever the exact mixture of motives might be, it doesn’t really matter.
“Or he is so profoundly ignorant, insecure, and narcissistic that he did not realize that, at every step, he was advancing the line that Putin hoped he would advance, and the line that the American intelligence, defense, and law-enforcement agencies most dreaded.
“Conscious tool. Useful idiot. Those are the choices, though both are possibly true, so that the main question is the proportions.
“Whatever the balance of motivations, what mattered was that Trump’s answers were indistinguishable from Putin’s, starting with the fundamental claim that Putin’s assurances about interference in U.S. democracy (‘He was incredibly strong and confident in his denial’) deserved belief over those of his own Department of Justice (‘I think the probe is a disaster for our country’).

“I am old enough to remember Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon telling lies on TV, about Vietnam in both cases, and Watergate for Nixon. I remember the travails and deceptions of Bill Clinton, and of George W. Bush in the buildup to the disastrous Iraq War.
“But never before have I seen an American president consistently, repeatedly, publicly, and shockingly advance the interests of another country over those of his own government and people.
“Trump manifestly cannot help himself. This is who he is.
“Those who could do something are the 51 Republican senators and 236 Republican representatives who have the power to hold hearings, issue subpoenas, pass resolutions of censure, guarantee the integrity of Robert Mueller’s investigation, condemn the past Russian election interference, shore up protections against the next assault, and in general defend their country rather than the damaged and defective man who is now its president.
“For 18 months, members of this party have averted their eyes from Trump, rather than disturb the Trump elements among their constituency or disrupt the party’s agenda on tax cuts and the Supreme Court. They already bear responsibility for what Trump has done to his office.
“But with every hour that elapses after this shocking performance in Helsinki without Republicans doing anything, the more deeply they are stained by this dark moment in American leadership.” 

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. He and his wife, Deborah Fallows, are the authors of the new book Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey Into the Heart of Americawhich has been a New York Times best-seller and is the basis of a forthcoming HBO documentary.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Lynn Parramore’s Book Review of Democracy in Chains by Nancy MacLean

“…James McGill Buchanan is a name you will rarely hear unless you’ve taken several classes in economics. And if the Tennessee-born Nobel laureate were alive today, it would suit him just fine that most well-informed journalists, liberal politicians, and even many economics students have little understanding of his work.

“The reason? Duke historian Nancy MacLean contends that his philosophy is so stark that even young libertarian acolytes are only introduced to it after they have accepted the relatively sunny perspective of Ayn Rand. (Yes, you read that correctly). If Americans really knew what Buchanan thought and promoted, and how destructively his vision is manifesting under their noses, it would dawn on them how close the country is to a transformation most would not even want to imagine, much less accept.

“That is a dangerous blind spot, MacLean argues in a meticulously researched book, Democracy in Chains, a finalist for the National Book Award in Nonfiction. While Americans grapple with Donald Trump’s chaotic presidency, we may be missing the key to changes that are taking place far beyond the level of mere politics. Once these changes are locked into place, there may be no going back.

“…MacLean was stunned. The archive of the man who had sought to stay under the radar had been left totally unsorted and unguarded. The historian plunged in, and she read through boxes and drawers full of papers that included personal correspondence between Buchanan and billionaire industrialist Charles Koch. That’s when she had an amazing realization: here was the intellectual linchpin of a stealth revolution currently in progress.

“…Buchanan, MacLean notes, was incensed at what he saw as a move toward socialism and deeply suspicious of any form of state action that channels resources to the public. Why should the increasingly powerful federal government be able to force the wealthy to pay for goods and programs that served ordinary citizens and the poor?

“…The people who needed protection were property owners, and their rights could only be secured though constitutional limits to prevent the majority of voters from encroaching on them, an idea Buchanan lays out in works like Property as a Guarantor of Liberty (1993). MacLean observes that Buchanan saw society as a cutthroat realm of makers (entrepreneurs) constantly under siege by takers (everybody else) His own language was often more stark, warning the alleged ‘prey’ of ‘parasites’ and ‘predators’ out to fleece them.

“In 1965 the economist launched a center dedicated to his theories at the University of Virginia, which later relocated to George Mason University. MacLean describes how he trained thinkers to push back against the Brown v. Board of Education decision to desegregate America’s public schools and to challenge the constitutional perspectives and federal policy that enabled it. She notes that he took care to use economic and political precepts, rather than overtly racial arguments, to make his case, which nonetheless gave cover to racists who knew that spelling out their prejudices would alienate the country.

“…MacLean observes that both focused on how democracy constrains property owners and aimed for ways to restrict the latitude of voters. She argues that unlike even the most property-friendly founders Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, Buchanan wanted a private governing elite of corporate power that was wholly released from public accountability.

“Suppressing voting, changing legislative processes so that a normal majority could no longer prevail, sowing public distrust of government institutions— all these were tactics toward the goal. But the Holy Grail was the Constitution: alter it and you could increase and secure the power of the wealthy in a way that no politician could ever challenge.

“MacLean explains that Virginia’s white elite and the pro-corporate president of the University of Virginia, Colgate Darden, who had married into the DuPont family, found Buchanan’s ideas to be spot on. In nurturing a new intelligentsia to commit to his values, Buchanan stated that he needed a ‘gravy train,’ and with backers like Charles Koch and conservative foundations like the Scaife Family Charitable Trusts, others hopped aboard. Money, Buchanan knew, can be a persuasive tool in academia. His circle of influence began to widen.

“…Buchanan’s school focused on public choice theory, later adding constitutional economics and the new field of law and economics to its core research and advocacy. The economist saw that his vision would never come to fruition by focusing on who rules. It was much better to focus on the rules themselves, and that required a ‘constitutional revolution.’

“…With Koch’s money and enthusiasm, Buchanan’s academic school evolved into something much bigger. By the 1990s, Koch realized that Buchanan’s ideas — transmitted through stealth and deliberate deception, as MacLean amply documents — could help take government down through incremental assaults that the media would hardly notice. The tycoon knew that the project was extremely radical, even a ‘revolution’ in governance, but he talked like a conservative to make his plans sound more palatable.

“MacLean details how partnered with Koch, Buchanan’s outpost at George Mason University was able to connect libertarian economists with right-wing political actors and supporters of corporations like Shell Oil, Exxon, Ford, IBM, Chase Manhattan Bank, and General Motors. Together they could push economic ideas to public through media, promote new curricula for economics education, and court politicians in nearby Washington, D.C.

“At the 1997 fiftieth anniversary of the Mont Pelerin Society, MacLean recounts that Buchanan and his associate Henry Manne, a founding theorist of libertarian economic approaches to law, focused on such affronts to capitalists as environmentalism and public health and welfare, expressing eagerness to dismantle Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare as well as kill public education because it tended to foster community values. Feminism had to go, too: the scholars considered it a socialist project.

“Buchanan’s ideas began to have huge impact, especially in America and in Britain. In his home country, the economist was deeply involved in efforts to cut taxes on the wealthy in 1970s and 1980s and he advised proponents of Reagan Revolution in their quest to unleash markets and posit government as the ‘problem’ rather than the ‘solution.’ The Koch-funded Virginia school coached scholars, lawyers, politicians, and business people to apply stark right-wing perspectives on everything from deficits to taxes to school privatization. In Britain, Buchanan’s work helped to inspire the public sector reforms of Margaret Thatcher and her political progeny.

“To put the success into perspective, MacLean points to the fact that Henry Manne, whom Buchanan was instrumental in hiring, created legal programs for law professors and federal judges which could boast that by 1990 two of every five sitting federal judges had participated. ‘40 percent of the U.S. federal judiciary,’ writes MacLean, ‘had been treated to a Koch-backed curriculum.’

“MacLean illustrates that in South America, Buchanan was able to first truly set his ideas in motion by helping a bare-knuckles dictatorship ensure the permanence of much of the radical transformation it inflicted on a country that had been a beacon of social progress. The historian emphasizes that Buchanan’s role in the disastrous Pinochet government of Chile has been underestimated partly because unlike Milton Friedman, who advertised his activities, Buchanan had the shrewdness to keep his involvement quiet. With his guidance, the military junta deployed public choice economics in the creation of a new constitution, which required balanced budgets and thereby prevented the government from spending to meet public needs. Supermajorities would be required for any changes of substance, leaving the public little recourse to challenge programs like the privatization of social security.

“The dictator’s human rights abuses and pillage of the country’s resources did not seem to bother Buchanan, MacLean argues, so long as the wealthy got their way. ‘Despotism may be the only organizational alternative to the political structure that we observe,’ the economist had written in The Limits of Liberty. If you have been wondering about the end result of the Virginia school philosophy, well, the economist helpfully spelled it out.

“Most Americans haven’t seen what’s coming. MacLean notes that when the Kochs’ control of the GOP kicked into high gear after the financial crisis of 2007-08, many were so stunned by the shock-and-awe’ tactics of shutting down government, destroying labor unions, and rolling back services that meet citizens’ basic necessities that few realized that many leading the charge had been trained in economics at Virginia institutions, especially George Mason University. Wasn’t it just a new, particularly vicious wave of partisan politics? It wasn’t. MacLean convincingly illustrates that it was something far more disturbing.

“MacLean is not the only scholar to sound the alarm that the country is experiencing a hostile takeover that is well on its way to radically, and perhaps permanently, altering the society. Peter Temin, former head of the MIT economics department, INET grantee, and author of The Vanishing Middle Class, as well as economist Gordon Lafer of the University of Oregon and author of The One Percent Solutionhave provided eye-opening analyses of where America is headed and why. MacLean adds another dimension to this dystopian big picture, acquainting us with what has been overlooked in the capitalist right wing’s playbook.

“She observes, for example, that many liberals have missed the point of strategies like privatization. Efforts to ‘reform’ public education and Social Security are not just about a preference for the private sector over the public sector, she argues. You can wrap your head around those, even if you don’t agree. Instead, MacLean contends, the goal of these strategies is to radically alter power relations, weakening pro-public forces and enhancing the lobbying power and commitment of the corporations that take over public services and resources, thus advancing the plans to dismantle democracy and make way for a return to oligarchy. The majority will be held captive so that the wealthy can finally be free to do as they please, no matter how destructive.

“MacLean argues that despite the rhetoric of Virginia school acolytes, shrinking big government is not really the point. The oligarchs require a government with tremendous new powers so that they can bypass the will of the people. This, as MacLean points out, requires greatly expanding police powers ‘to control the resultant popular anger.’  The spreading use of pre-emption by GOP-controlled state legislatures to suppress local progressive victories such as living wage ordinances is another example of the right’s aggressive use of state power.

“Could these right-wing capitalists allow private companies to fill prisons with helpless citizens—or, more profitable still, right-less undocumented immigrants? They could, and have. Might they engineer a retirement crisis by moving Americans to inadequate 401(k)s? Done. Take away the rights of consumers and workers to bring grievances to court by making them sign forced arbitration agreements? Check. Gut public education to the point where ordinary people have such bleak prospects that they have no energy to fight back? Getting it done.

“Would they even refuse children clean water? Actually, yes. MacLean notes that in Flint, Michigan, Americans got a taste of what the emerging oligarchy will look like — it tastes like poisoned water. There, the Koch-funded Mackinac Center pushed for legislation that would allow the governor to take control of communities facing emergency and put unelected managers in charge. In Flint, one such manager switched the city’s water supply to a polluted river, but the Mackinac Center’s lobbyists ensured that the law was fortified by protections against lawsuits that poisoned inhabitants might bring. Tens of thousands of children were exposed to lead, a substance known to cause serious health problems including brain damage.

“Tyler Cowen has provided an economic justification for this kind of brutality, stating that where it is difficult to get clean water, private companies should take over and make people pay for it. ‘This includes giving them the right to cut off people who don’t—or can’t—pay their bills,’ the economist explains.

“To many this sounds grotesquely inhumane, but it is a way of thinking that has deep roots in America. In Why I, Too, Am Not a Conservative (2005), Buchanan considers the charge of heartlessness made against the kind of classic liberal that he took himself to be. MacLean interprets his discussion to mean that people who ‘failed to foresee and save money for their future needs’ are to be treated, as Buchanan put it, ‘as subordinate members of the species, akin to…animals who are dependent.’ Do you have your education, health care, and retirement personally funded against all possible exigencies? Then that means you.

“Buchanan was not a dystopian novelist. He was a Nobel Laureate whose sinister logic exerts vast influence over America’s trajectory. It is no wonder that Cowen, on his popular blog Marginal Revolution, does not mention Buchanan on a list of underrated influential libertarian thinkers, though elsewhere on the blog, he expresses admiration for several of Buchanan’s contributions and acknowledges that the southern economist ‘thought more consistently in terms of ‘rules of the games’ than perhaps any other economist.’ The rules of the game are now clear.

“Research like MacLean’s provides hope that toxic ideas like Buchanan’s may finally begin to face public scrutiny. Yet at this very moment, the Kochs’ State Policy Network and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group that connects corporate agents to conservative lawmakers to produce legislation, are involved in projects that the Trump-obsessed media hardly notices, like pumping money into state judicial races. Their aim is to stack the legal deck against Americans in ways that MacLean argues may have even bigger effects than Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court ruling which unleashed unlimited corporate spending on American politics. The goal is to create a judiciary that will interpret the Constitution in favor of corporations and the wealthy in ways that Buchanan would have heartily approved.

“‘The United States is now at one of those historic forks in the road whose outcome will prove as fateful as those of the 1860s, the 1930s, and the 1960s,’ writes MacLean. ‘To value liberty for the wealthy minority above all else and enshrine it in the nation’s governing rules, as Calhoun and Buchanan both called for and the Koch network is achieving, play by play, is to consent to an oligarchy in all but the outer husk of representative form.’ Nobody can say we weren’t warned.”

Meet the Economist Behind the One Percent’s Stealth Takeover of America by Lynn Parramore. Lynn Parramore is a senior research analyst at Institute for New Economic Thinking.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

“For those Americans unmoved by such appeals, the ongoing corruption of the official powers of the U.S. government on behalf of ego, avarice, and impunity should not be seen as separate stories. They are the same story, and it is the story of the Trump presidency”—Adam Serwer

“The sheer volume of Trump scandals can seem difficult to keep track of. There’s the ongoing special-counsel investigation into whether the Trump campaign aided a Russian campaign to aid Trump’s candidacy and defeat his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton; there’s the associated inquiry into whether the president obstructed justice when he fired former FBI Director James Comey, whom he had asked not to investigate his former national-security adviser; there are the president’s hush-money payments to women with whom he allegedly had extramarital affairs, made through his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, and facilitated by corporate cash paid to influence the White House; there is his ongoing effort to interfere with the Russia inquiry and politicize federal law enforcement; there are the foreign governments that seem to be utilizing the president’s properties as vehicles for influencing administration policy; there’s the emerging evidence that Trump campaign officials sought aid not only from Russia, but from other foreign countries, which may have affected Trump’s foreign policy; there are the ongoing revelations of the president’s Cabinet officials’ misusing taxpayer funds; there is the accumulating evidence that administration decisions are made at the behest of private industry, in particular those in which Republican donors have significant interests.

“The preceding wall of text may appear to some as an abridged list of the Trump administration’s scandals, but this is an illusion created by the perception that these are all separate affairs. Viewed as such, the various Trump scandals can seem multifarious and overpowering, and difficult to fathom.

“There are not many Trump scandals. There is one Trump scandal. Singular: the corruption of the American government by the president and his associates, who are using their official power for personal and financial gain rather than for the welfare of the American people, and their attempts to shield that corruption from political consequences, public scrutiny, or legal accountability.

“Take recent developments: There’s the president’s attempt to aid the Chinese telecom company ZTE, mere hours after the Chinese government approved funding for a project in the vicinity of a Trump property in Indonesia. There’s the millions of dollars corporations paid to Cohen after the election in an attempt to influence administration policy in their favor. Trump’s Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, also the acting head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, urged banks to pay off politicians in an effort to weaken the CFPB’s powers legislatively—since taking the helm of CFPB, Mulvaney has dropped a number of cases against payday lenders who charge exorbitant interest rates, after taking thousands from the industry as a congressman.

“Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s own mini-universe of scandals stems from his improper relationships with industry figures, his misuse of taxpayer funds, and his attempts to obscure the truth about both. Trump attempted to pressure the Postmaster General to increase fees on Amazon in order to punish The Washington Post, which has published many stories detailing wrongdoing and misbehavior on the part of the Trump administration, and the Trump campaign before that. Not long after The New York Times reported that Trump officials may have solicited campaign help not just from Russia, but also from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the president ‘demanded’ that the Justice Department launch an inquiry into whether the FBI improperly investigated a campaign that was eagerly soliciting international aid to swing the election in its favor.

“In each of these cases, the president or one of his associates was seeking to profit, personally or financially, from their official duties and powers. When that conduct has potentially run afoul of the law, Trump has sought to bend federal law enforcement to his whim, the better to protect himself and his associates from legal accountability. The president’s ongoing chastising of his own Justice Department, and his war of words with current and former FBI officials, stem less from any coherent ideological principle than from Trump’s desperate need to protect himself. An authoritarian model of law enforcement, where the president personally decides who is prosecuted and who is not based on his own political agenda, is simply the best way for Trump to shield himself and his inner circle from legal consequences.

“The president’s opponents have yet to craft a coherent narrative about the Trump administration’s corruption, even though the only major legislative accomplishment Trump has to his name is cutting his own taxes. But his supporters have, ironically, crafted an overarching explanation to account for how the president they voted for, who came to office promising to eliminate official corruption, has come to embody it.

“The ‘Deep State’ narrative is no more complicated than an attempt to explain the accumulating evidence of misbehavior on the part of the administration as a wide-ranging conspiracy to frame the president. The more evidence of wrongdoing that comes to light, the more certain they are that the conspiracy theory is true. In their own way, Trump supporters have recognized that Trump’s burgeoning list of scandals is made of branches from the same twisted tree.

“The latest Trumptown fable, that the FBI inquiry into the Trump campaign was meant to aid Clinton’s campaign, is as incoherent as it is absurd. The FBI properly kept the Russia inquiry under wraps while high-ranking FBI officials defied Justice Department rules and made public statements about two inquiries into Clinton prior to election day. Neither of those inquiries led to indictments or guilty pleas; the special-counsel inquiry has led to more than 20 so far. Had the FBI been motivated by a political vendetta against Trump, leaking the fact of the inquiry on its own, even if it uncovered no malfeasance at all, would have been enough to damage his candidacy. The essential quality of pro-Trump punditry, however, is that their perception of reality must be warped to conform to the latest Trump proclamation, even if it contradicts previous Trump pronouncements or established facts.

“Trump dictates reality, and his supporters rush to justify whatever has been decreed. In this way, Trump manages to corrupt not just those in his immediate orbit or inner circle, but even those who have never met him, who endeavor to reconcile the insurmountable gap between his words and the world as it exists.

“I want to emphasize that not everything the administration is doing that I believe is bad is a scandal, which I am defining as official wrongdoing or corruption. The president’s ongoing immigration policy, an attempt to displace, through aggressive deportations of otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants, and the cancellation of Temporary Protected Status and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, is a moral travesty but not necessarily a misuse of his official powers.

“Trump’s immigration policy is a reflection of his belief that these people from ‘shithole countries’ are inferior and therefore offer little to the United States. He is hardly the first president to pursue such a policy on such a basis, but a policy can be morally repugnant without being a scandal.

“The president’s unwavering commitment to this ethno-nationalism persuades his followers that he is incorruptible, despite his use of his own powers for personal gain and profit. ‘You know, I tried to talk about good roads and good schools and all these things that have been part of my career, and nobody listened,’ the segregationist George Wallace once said of his rise to power. ‘And then I began talking about niggers, and they stomped the floor.’ (These days, they stomp the floor for ‘son of a bitch’ or ‘animals.’) Any effective hustle persuades the mark that they’re the ones profiting.

“For those Americans unmoved by such appeals, the ongoing corruption of the official powers of the U.S. government on behalf of ego, avarice, and impunity should not be seen as separate stories. They are the same story, and it is the story of the Trump presidency.”

Adam Serwer is a senior editor at The Atlantic, covering politics.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

"Mélancolie" Created by Albert György

“Albert György was born in 1949 in Lueta, Romania (Transylvania, a region with a Hungarian minority). The sculptor's career is marked by a double human and artistic adventure, which has always been a sort of tension between contrary aspirations...

“He creates his own foundry to obtain the best bronze quality. But despite his travels abroad for his exhibitions in Warsaw, Berlin, ex-Yugoslavia, Chile, he lives in isolation [and] sadness [when his first wife died]…

“Albert György's work illustrates the tension between character and emotion. Nothing is acquired; nothing comes automatically. Creation is a struggle, both material and spiritual. If today his works reflect a new impetus, they remain marked by a pathetic temperament, [and] by a fiery sensitivity…

“In its complexity and diversity, the visionary art of Albert György testifies to a personal dialectic between suffering and happiness: nothing decorative or talkative in this game of creative tension leading to a living alloy imbued with the purest necessity” (Albert György Biography).

Sunday, July 8, 2018

A Rather Short Conversation with a Trumpite on Facebook Today

...Jerry: So all you have to do is make an unsubstantiated claim that the president is a criminal and pursue him with a baseless FBI investigation that can’t produce evidence to prevent him from picking a Supreme Court nominee? What’s to stop politicians that don’t like the next president from doing the same thing they are doing to Trump?

Glen: Well Jerry, read through these 94 articles and watch a few videos before we have a discussion. Trump’s character, the people who surround him, and the investigation are well substantiated:

Jerry: No, How about I avoid the 94 articles of stupidity that got you to here and just stick with my own critical thinking skills?

Jerry: Remember critical thinking skills? The thing most every educated person relied upon to decide for themselves what is and what isn’t relevant inside of a normal news cycle? Granted there’s nothing normal about reading 94 articles to get at one simple political solution to use when considering the nomination of a Supreme Court Justice.

“How exactly are Trump loyalists psychologically or neurologically different from everyone else? What is going on in their brains that makes them so blindly devoted?”—Bobby Azarian

Jerry: I take it you left out this article. Didn’t you mean “Read through these 95 articles?” You said there were only 94.

Glen: It is part of the 94.

Jerry: No contradictions in any of them right? Not one of them pointing the finger at the other for spreading “fake news,” right?  Before the internet and social media if you didn’t agree with the contents of a given article you formed an opinion based your own personal critical thought, not 94 articles that were written to convince you that you aren’t sufficiently informed until you “click on me.” It’s a news funnel that you are trapped inside of where you’re just a receptor that regurgitates filtered sewage designed to misinform. Again, I don’t like Trump. I just don’t let my dislike for him rob me of my critical thinking skills to the extent that I feel compelled to foist 94 articles designed to “prove my point” onto my Facebook friends.

Glen: This is the type of “critical thinking” I use before making my inferences: How do we know matters of fact? What is the distinction between relationships among assumptions and matters of fact? For instance, how often do we attempt to explain the occurrence of an event by reference to antecedents which rendered its occurrence probable (as in the fallacy of “Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc”)? How often do we mistake correlation for cause (as in the fallacy of “Cum Hoc Propter Hoc”)? How often do we reduce a complex causal inquiry to simplicity and confuse the necessary cause with the sufficient cause (as in the fallacy of “Reductive Fallacy”)? Most people “Beg the Question” (or assume as true what has yet to be proved empirically). Thus, their belief is used both as a premise and as the conclusion of their argument. Most people use the fallacy of "Wishful Thinking" (it must be true because we want it to be true) to rationalize their beliefs and oversimplify cause-and-effect relationships to establish their proof of argument. In other words, people support their conclusions by choosing evidence or instances which back them up and disregard evidence that does not support their belief. I do not obtain my information from “fake news.” As a matter of fact, I watch Fox News (and other news outlets) in addition to researching and reading books before formulating my opinions.

Jerry: Go fuck yourself Glen. Now check that against your stupid fuckin research to see if it makes perfect sense to follow through on my advice.

Glen: It is anatomically impossible to do what you told me to do, Jerry. Take my advice on this one too...

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Rhino Poachers Were Eaten by a Pride of Lions after Breaking into a Wildlife Reserve In South Africa by Ishmael N. Daro

“A wildlife reserve in South Africa says that a group of rhino poachers got eaten by a pride of lions after the poachers broke into the park earlier this week.
“Nick Fox, the owner of the Sibuya Game Reserve, told BuzzFeed News that a staff member spotted human remains near a pride of six lions on Tuesday. The following morning, the veterinarian used a dart gun to tranquilize the big cats, giving a police forensic unit and the reserve's anti-poaching unit time to investigate. ‘That's when they found the axe, various pieces of clothing, shoes,’ Fox said. ‘Everything was very spread out.’
“Fox said he's not sure how many of the suspected poachers were eaten, but the crew must have included at least three people since that's how many pairs of shoes and gloves were found. He said the poachers had come equipped with a high-powered rifle with a silencer, wire cutters, an axe for cutting out the rhino horns, and enough food to last several days.
“A police spokesperson told the Herald that a forensic team will examine the human remains recovered on the scene. The rifle will be tested by a ballistics lab to see if it has been used in other crimes.
“This is not the first time poachers have targeted the Sibuya Game Reserve. In early 2016, three of the park's rhinos were killed for their horns. Fox said that the loss was devastating, especially as one of the animals had been ‘hand-reared’ by staff.
“It is estimated that there are fewer than 30,000 rhinos in the world, and South Africa is home to more than 80% of the remaining population. Poaching is continually shrinking that number, however, as more than 1,000 rhinos were killed in South Africa in 2017, according to National Geographic.
“‘It’s a massive problem. Rhino horn has now become more valuable than gold per gram,’ Fox said. ‘I just thank my lions,’ he added. ‘They saved our rhinos from another onslaught’” (Buzzfeed). 

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

“The evidence we already have suggests that Donald Trump is a traitor”-Pulitzer-winning reporter David Cay Johnston

“The saga of President Donald Trump consists of several parallel and intersecting stories. There is the structural dimension. Trump's victory over Hillary Clinton was not entirely unpredictable or shocking. America's crisis in civic literacy, political polarization, rampant anti-intellectualism, deeply embedded sexism and racism, greed, broken schools and weakened democratic institutions, as well as a hollowed-out public sphere where people confuse celebrity with human worth, made the election of someone like Trump nearly inevitable.

“There is Donald Trump the man, who seems to revel in the very worst human values. His closest family members -- including his father and grandfather -- taught him the ‘value’ of unrepentant greed and ambition. He also displays the symptoms of malignant narcissism, as well as sociopathy. In all, Trump is a master of manipulation who leads a political cult.

“How do these factors combine to form Donald Trump's presidency and the type of society that he and the Republican Party want to create? Are matters actually worse than they appear, in terms of how we assess the political and social crisis of Trump's presidency? What strategy should Democrats use to stop Trump and the Republican Party? If Trump is removed from office because of his increasingly obvious efforts to obstruct justice, how will his public respond? Will there be violence?

“In an effort to answer these questions, I recently spoke with Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter David Cay Johnston. For 30 years, Johnston has covered Trump's life and career, as detailed in the bestselling book ‘The Making of Donald Trump.’ His new book is ‘It's Even Worse than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America.

“…You have studied and written about Donald Trump for three decades. What does the public need to know about his background, to understand his behavior as president?   

“Here are the key things people should know about Donald Trump. He comes from a family of criminals: His grandfather made his fortune running whorehouses in Seattle and in the Yukon Territory. His father, Fred, had a business partner named Willie Tomasello, who was an associate of the Gambino crime family. Trump's father was also investigated by the U.S. Senate for ripping off the government for what would be the equivalent of $36 million in today's money. Donald got his showmanship from his dad, as well as his comfort with organized criminals.

“I think it is very important for religious Americans to know that Donald Trump says that his personal philosophy of life is revenge. He has called anyone who turns the other cheek -- which is a fundamental teaching of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount -- a fool, an idiot or a schmuck. Trump is a man who says things that are absolutely contrary to the teachings of the New Testament. He also denigrates Christians. Yet you see all of these ministers endorsing him.

“I've followed Donald for 30 years. I don't see any evidence that he has changed, and he certainly hasn't repented, which is a fundamental Christian obligation. He is a racist through and through. He has been found in formal judicial proceedings to discriminate against nonwhites in rentals and employment. It's important to understand that Trump is aggressively anti-Christian, despite claiming to be one. He is bluntly a racist. Most importantly, he is literally ignorant about almost everything.

“Trump's voters will not abandon him under any circumstances. He leads the Republican Party and thus has its news media and other resources at his disposal. Some folks believe that there will be a ‘blue wave’ of Democratic votes that will wash him and the Republican Party out to sea in 2018 and 2020. I don't see that happening. I think Trump wins in 2020. Am I being too cynical?

“Well, he may win again in 2020. The November elections are the most important American elections since the Civil War, and I'm including 1932. Based just on normal historic averages, the Republicans should lose control of the House by about four seats. They should lose control of the Senate as well, although the map is pretty awful for the Democrats. If Republicans retain control, then I believe what will happen over time is that someone who shares Trump's dictatorial and authoritarian tendencies but doesn't have his baggage -- someone who is a competent manager and just as charismatic -- will eventually arise and you can kiss your individual liberties goodbye. That will take time, but it's the trend we are heading towards.

“On the other hand, if enough people go to the polls -- remember, roughly 100 million people did not vote in 2016 -- if the Democrats get organized, if they can persuade the public they have an agenda that goes beyond just getting rid of Trump and they get control of Congress, they will move to impeach him. They need a two-thirds majority in the Senate to convict him, but they will certainly move to have public hearings.

“Is Trump an ideologue?

“No. That's the whole point of the first chapter of my book, ‘President Like No Other.’ The 44 previous presidents were all over the map. There were smart people and dumb people, there were people of impeccable integrity such as Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter; there were absolute scoundrels like Warren G. Harding. We had a murderous racist in the White House whose painting hangs in the Oval Office, now looking down on Trump. What distinguishes all those presidents, particularly Chester Arthur, the one closest to Trump, is that they tried in the context of their times to make America better.

“Donald Trump is a man with this desperate need for adoration. He is an empty vessel, the exact opposite of Henry David Thoreau -- a ‘life unexamined.’ His only philosophy is the glorification of Donald.

“If you were going to consult with the Democratic Party about how to defeat Trump and the Republican Party, what would you suggest?  

“I think most of what Hillary said came across as ‘blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.’ What I would say to the Democrats is, ‘Your first and fundamental mission is to tell people what you are for.’ Not that you're against Trump. Being against Trump doesn't get you very far. It will get you some people who hate Trump. But what are you for? What you want to say is: We will get the incredible burden of health care off the back of small businesses. We will make it so you don't have to stick with an employer because you have health care and you don't want to run the risk of switching or losing it. We want to relieve business of the burden of health care like every other modern country, and it will save everyone money.

“We want to invest in the future of America. So we will put more money into education and basic science. Did you know that half the economic growth in this country since the end of World War II can be traced to taxpayer investments in science? We want investments at home that will create jobs. Our country is falling apart in front of our eyes. That will create an enormous number of jobs, but it will also make the economy more efficient. We want to invest in that future, which will make us all much better off. We're about building a prosperous future. We're not about looking back, as Donald Trump is, to the past.

“This is a crucial point. People who've been had by con artists are ashamed, and the world is full of cases. I've written about some of them; you see it in movies and TV shows. They just can't face the fact that they were tricked. It makes them feel stupid and foolish. Well, people who got conned by Trump -- it's painful for many of them and they will do anything to avoid it. You don’t want to confront them, you don't want to make them feel stupid.

“What do you think will happen with the Mueller investigation? Trump is not acting like an innocent person.

Well, Mueller has assembled an extraordinarily talented team. Here is what Mueller is going to find. Mueller has the Trump tax returns. A competent prosecutor would have them by now. The Trump tax returns are the beginning point. You have to get the books and records -- Donald has a long history of hiding books and records when they're sought by auditors. As for the Russians, it is beyond dispute at this point that the Trump campaign was actively involved in a conspiracy.

“He's not exactly what Putin wanted, but most importantly, Trump's not Hillary Clinton, who would have gone up to the edge of war to make Putin give up Crimea. She made that very clear in a campaign. He would be in severe pain if he didn't give up the Crimean peninsula in eastern Ukraine. So he didn't want her, under any circumstances.

“Mueller is going to report on tax fraud; he's going to report on the Russians, and he is going to show that the Trump campaign was knowingly being helped by the Russians. Remember that the Australian, Dutch and British intelligence agencies, and maybe others, went to the FBI, State Department and other contacts and said, ‘You folks have a problem.’

“Where exactly Mueller will go beyond that, I don't know. His mission is the Russians, and the Russians are tied in with the tax returns. But remember this: the job of a prosecutor is not to bring the perfect case, it's not to bring the case that should be brought for political reasons. It's to bring the easiest, most solid case that wins. Mueller will do that. There is nothing that prevents indicting a sitting president, but it is an untested issue. Mueller is going to have to decide whether to indict him or to go to Congress.

“If the overwhelming conclusion of the Mueller report is that the Russians put Trump in the White House, then you face a second terrible problem: What do you do about Mike Pence, who is also the beneficiary of Russian interference?

“If the Congress impeaches and removes Trump and Pence, it will only be because the Democrats control Congress. So unless something else changes, we get President Nancy Pelosi. You can just imagine the people who will be in the streets screaming coup d’état if she's president. I think the only way to address that is for her, or whoever is speaker, to announce they will be a caretaker president who is not going to do anything extreme.

“There is no good ending to the story. America will survive this, we'll get past it, but whenever Trump leaves, there's no good ending. If Trump is removed by impeachment or by the voters, whether in a Republican primary or a general election, I know what he will do. He's already told us what he will do by his actions. Trump will spend the rest of his days fomenting violence and revolution in this country.

“He's careful not to directly say ‘revolution,’ but he will call the government illegitimate. He might even call it criminal, since he called Democrats who didn't stand up during his State of the Union speech treasonous. If they're going to impeach Trump, I believe they have to have a plan to indict, try, convict and imprison him. But Trump will be a role model for some people, and there may well be violence over it.

“As Malcolm Nance and others have warned, Russia's interference in the 2016 election and likely infiltration of Trump's inner circle could be one of the worst intelligence disasters in American history, a failure of Benedict Arnold or Rosenberg proportions.  

“Let me be very clear and quotable about this. At an absolute minimum, Donald Trump has divided loyalties, and the evidence we already have suggests that Donald Trump is a traitor. In fact, I would say that the evidence we already have, the public materials such as emails for example, strongly indicate that Donald Trump is a traitor. However, I don't even think he understands what he's done.”

For the complete interview by Chauncey DeVega, click here. 

Chauncey DeVega is a politics staff writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.