Breitbart Mentality

Number 4

Did I mention I signed up for a subscription to Breitbart News email in July last year? I’m sure I did, and I get these maybe one a day. It’s a nice perspective into the mindset of America’s right-wing, Andrew Breitbart having been a major shaper of current day political discourse:

Andrew James Breitbart (/ˈbrtbɑːrt/; February 1, 1969 – March 1, 2012) was an American conservative publisher, writer and commentator.

After helping in the early stages of The Huffington Post and the Drudge Report, Breitbart created Breitbart.com, a news and right-wing opinion website, along with multiple other “BIG” sites – BIGHollywood, BIGGovernment, BIGJournalism. He played central roles in the Anthony Weiner sexting scandal, the firing of Shirley Sherrod, and the ACORN 2009 undercover videos controversy. Commenters such as Nick Gillespie and Conor Friedersdorf have credited Breitbart with changing how people wrote about politics by “show[ing] how the Internet could be used to route around information bottlenecks imposed by official spokesmen and legacy news outlets” and “wield[ing] a rhetorical flamethrower in the culture wars” by using his own personal experiences and opinions as the basis for his media career.

Following his death, others picked up the ball, including famously Steve Bannon. You will quickly come to the conclusion I do not highly value positions taken by most of the right-wing and by Breitbart in particular. I post material from their site with the idea that sensible people will view it in a cool light and come to a similar conclusion. Not much additional commentary is required.

Today’s topic relates to President Trump’s remarkable performance following his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday. If you do not view this as a diplomatic and even a political disaster, then you and I need to have a talk.

As cameras absorbed the scene and as much of the world watched in wonder, President Trump emerged from his meeting with Vladimir Putin and, apparently without realizing it, filleted himself while standing mere feet from the Russian leader. Reactions were immediate and trending toward unbridled. Those taking a neutral position on American politics were merely astounded. Many conservatives were appalled. Don’t let them pretend otherwise, but liberals were delighted. They could hardly contain their excitement as they pretended to be dismayed. I was one of the delighted.

Much has been written, and there is no need to add more. The core of the matter is that President Trump stood before the world and said to all that Vladimir Putin told him Russia had no part in attacks on the American electoral process, and the president further informed those listening that he believed Putin, contrary the findings of all American intelligence agencies. To many it gave the appearance that our president had gone over to the other side.

This was an obvious embarrassment to the American right-wing, and the response has been quick to come. In short order two missives from Breitbart arrived in my inbox. Here’s the first, which came out on Monday and possibly before the scope of the debacle was manifest at Breitbart:

The subject line of the email reads:

Breitbart News Roundup: Trump Causes Total Media Meltdown with Putin Summit

Breitbart attempts to  heap praise on their guy and  to poke fun at mainstream media for their sense of shock. By the next day some reality had set in. Not only liberals were having conniptions, but conservatives, as well. To most this was decidedly un-American. When I received my daily email yesterday I perceived a change in tone:

There is a need to go onto the attack to call  out those sources denouncing Trump. Interestingly, the subject line is the same as the one from Monday, but there is no touting the president’s diplomatic muscle. It’s worth looking into the headlines from Breitbart on Tuesday. Start with the “Pearl Harbor” reference:

Jill Wine-Banks: Trump’s Performance ‘Will Live in Infamy as Much as the Pearl Harbor Attack or Kristallnacht’

Ian Hanchett | 

On Monday’s broadcast of MSNBC’s All In, MSNBC Contributor and former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks stated President Trump’s performance in Helsinki “will live in infamy as much as the Pearl Harbor attack or Kristallnacht.”

Wine-Banks stated that the perpetrators in Watergate were Americans and that in 2016, “we were burglarized, this time, by foreign agents. And it’s just as serious to me as the Cuban Missile Crisis, in terms of an attack, or the 9/11 attack. The president is taking the side of the people who attacked us instead of trying to prevent a future attack. He has done nothing to make sure that the elections four months away are going to be safe. And I would say that his performance today will live in infamy as much as the Pearl Harbor attack or Kristallnacht. And it’s really a serious issue that we need to deal with.”

Hanchett wants us to know that Wine-Banks is going hyperbolic, equating the Trump debacle with the Japanese Pearl Harbor attack and Kristallnacht. Thousands of Americans died in the 1941 attack, and hundreds in 1938 Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland. This does not, however, diminish the harm the president has done to American prestige and foreign interests. This exhibits a part of the Breitbart mentality. President Trump’s performance in Helsinki should have been an embarrassment to conservatives as well as to liberals, but Breitbart has the immediate need to defend, even to strike back.

Near the bottom of the email  is a section headed “RINO WATCH,” all caps. “RINO” to conservatives stands for Republican In Name Only. Here’s who received the RINO watch award of the day:

Paul Ryan Confronts Donald Trump: ‘Russia Is Not Our Ally’

Outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan reacted to the news conference between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, reminding the president that Russia was not a friend to the United States.

“The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally,” Paul Ryan said in a statement to reporters. “There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals.”

Ryan also responded to Trump’s critical comments about the Russia investigation, defending the work conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and other officials.

“There is no question that Russia interfered in our election and continues attempts to undermine democracy here and around the world,” he said. “That is not just the finding of the American intelligence community but also the House Committee on Intelligence.”

Ryan also appeared critical of Trump’s friendly tone with the Russian president, urging tougher action against Putin.

“The United States must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy,” he said.

Aside from being in the voice of a person who abetted this administration in all ways possible since January last year, Speaker Ryan’s statement appears to be dead on. Truth coming from a Republican congressman is always appreciated, except by the right-wing when it goes against their favorite president.

Breitbart, to their credit, posts the item without comment. There is an implied condemnation of Speaker Ryan for not toeing the line, but the real push comes from comments posted to the piece. One is by a person writing as 

Trump never said Russia was you damn traitor!

Something seems wrong with this whole narrative, including how vitriolic McCain’s statement was.
The following is from an earlier article.
1. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats distanced himself from his boss, issuing a statement saying the US intelligence community’s judgment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election was “clear”.

2. Tump again denied any collusion between his campaign and the Kremlin

3. Trump’s apparent concessions to Putin over the election controversy drew stinging condemnation from across the political divide.

4. Friday’s US indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence agents exploded with embarrassing timing for Trump as he prepared to meet Putin. On Monday officials said another Russian agent had been arrested for seeking to influence US politics.

Possible conclusions, i don’t know, maybe someone else knows better.
1. Coats says there is clear evidence. No Trump denial of Coats assesment. No problem there to my knowledge. The rest gets interesting because of who is doing the accusing.
2. Trump makes it clear no collusion between his campaign and Russia. No denial of meddling, just not his campaign.
3. Apparent concessions? What concession?
4. 12 military agents indicted Friday and announced by a Trump hating DAG. Very suspicious timing.
5. “Another” Russian agent “had been arrested?” Who was the first? It says here “arrested!” Arrested by who?
6. I remember seeing a story during the DNC server investigation where software was available to assign a digital trail or signature to another computer or user. Is that why the DNC doesn’t want their server investigated. Did the DNC digitally create a false trail to the 12 Russians indicted when in fact it was others not connected to Russia?
7. President Trump has recently begun questioning the DNC/FBI server controversy, including the mystery surrounding the Imrans. Gotta wonder why the case was suddenly settled.
8. I smell a very big rat.

Did Seth Rich have knowledge of this? Scary thought!

Definitely not the party line, and there is a lot requiring a follow-on post with some Skeptical Analysis. A reply that was posted to this is more indicative:

 

Paul Ryan, YOU are not our ally. Get out of congess now and begin collecting your lifetime pension from Soros and the other globalists. You’ve done enough harm already.

NOW we know why Romney picked this tool as his VP.

And that’s more like it. You really need to read the items from Breitbart to get a feel for how the Trump stumble is being received by the right-wing.

Is the right-wing running scared? If so, then they are putting on a brave face. This as the egg begins to crack open:

US offers no details as Russia claims Trump and Putin reached military agreements

Updated 10:20 PM ET, Tue July 17, 2018

Washington (CNN) — Russia announced it was ready to pursue agreements reached by Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump “in the sphere of international security,” though the White House and Pentagon would not confirm any agreements had been made or offer any details.

Trump and Putin met for about two hours during their summit in Helsinki with only translators present. It is still not clear what the two men discussed or agreed to during their meeting.
“The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation is ready for practical implementation of the agreements reached between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump in the sphere of international security achieved at the Helsinki summit,” Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, a Russian military spokesman, said in a statement Tuesday.
The Russian military “is ready to intensify contacts with the US colleagues in the General Staff and other available channels to discuss the extension of the START treaty, cooperation in Syria, as well as other issues of ensuring military security,” Konashenkov said.

And therein lies the crux of the matter. President Trump closeted himself with the Russian dictator, revealing none of details of what was discussed and what was concluded. He has left it to Vladimir Putin to step forth and proclaim the brave new world Donald Trump has agreed to embark upon. At least, he is proclaiming what he and Donald Trump have agreed to. Possibilities tug at the mind. Has President Trump handed Vladimir Putin “the keys to the radar station,” or is Putin making stuff up and defying Trump to refute it?

Without doubt it is a new way of doing  business, and it will be interesting to see how the Breitbart mentality deals with their president gone rogue.

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Buyer’s Remorse

Number 31 in a series

I caught yesterday’s edition of ABC World News Tonight with David Muir streaming on Hulu and grabbed these screen shots. I was reminded of an old song:

Isn’t it rich, isn’t it queer
Losing my timing this late in my career
And where are the clowns
Quick send in the clowns
Don’t bother they’re here

All right, already. We’ve got the clowns. Where’s the outrage? Then forget about the outrage. Where’s the remorse? Where’s the buyer’s remorse?

Over the past three years I’ve been shedding conservative Facebook friends. Touch them in the wrong spot, and they’re gone. Others have stayed on, but more recently they have become ominously silent. No more posting unflattering images of Michelle Obama and calling her out for lack of style. I’m even seeing less about President Obama being a Muslim. What’s going on? I’m thinking some people are scared. And I think I know the reason why.

Yes, the infamous witch hunt is still chugging along, and with regularity more witches are being brought to the dock. A number of American citizens have been indicted, and there have been guilty pleas. One sentence has already been served. Others indicted are out of reach, because they are foreign nationals living beyond the grasp of American law. That would include a number of Russian military intelligence officers—12 last week:

A Republican congressional  committee (House of Representatives) recently hauled an early witch hunter into their chamber and worked at shaming him. The embarrassment to the Republican Party has grown so intense that no amount of sincerity was too great to dispense with.

The meeting of President Trump with Russian strong man Vladimir Putin found no support among American intelligence and little support in Congress, specifically Republicans. The press conference that followed measured a new low in presidential conduct. Richard Nixon became famous for saying, “I am not a crook.” President Trump did not rise to even that standard. A report by CNN captured a number of damning remarks:

7. “I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we’ve all been foolish. … And I think we’re all to blame.”

8. “There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it. And people are being brought out to the fore. So far that I know, virtually none of it related to the campaign. And they’re going to have to try really hard to find somebody that did relate to the campaign.”

12. “But just to say it one time again — and I say it all the time — there was no collusion. I didn’t know the president. There was nobody to collude with. There was no collusion with the campaign.”

13. “And every time you hear all of these, you know, 12 and 14 — it’s stuff that has nothing to do — and, frankly, they admit these are not people involved in the campaign.”

17. “So let me just say that we have two thoughts. You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server — haven’t they taken the server. Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee?”

18. “My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

19. “What happened to the servers of the Pakistani gentleman that worked on the DNC? Where are those servers? They’re missing; where are they?”

20. “So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

That’s a mix. From the CNN item, number 7 relates to a question, “Do you hold Russia at all accountable for anything in particular?” It was possibly regarding the probing of political campaign files and the theft of voter data from one state election board, but it could as well have concerned Russia’s invasion of Georgia and its annexation of Crimea, culminating in a proxy war (invasion) against Ukraine and the destruction of a civilian airliner. And the president tells anybody who will listen we are both to blame.

“There was no collusion at all,” which is intended to translate to “Robert Mueller’s investigation is a lot to do about nothing.” Fact is that the DOJ has not reported any collusion, only a vast array of illegal acts committed against the United States by Putin’s government.

“And every time you hear all of these, you know, 12 and 14 — it’s stuff that has nothing to do — and, frankly, they admit these are not people involved in the campaign.” It is 12, Mr. President, and Russia did do it, and if your party had no involvement, then why is it causing you so much heartburn?

The president has great  confidence in our intelligence people, but Putin said he didn’t do it, and we need to be satisfied with that. Translation, “Will you guys please, please quit embarrassing me with my friend Vladimir Putin?”

A BBC report sums it up:

Trump sides with Russia against FBI.

The people at the FBI, CIA, NSC, and NSA are not taking any of that. They appear to be increasingly pissed at being disrespected by their own Commander-in-Chief.

Robert Mueller’s investigation had three days prior to the Putin meeting filed the indictment against the Russian 12. And now Mueller is told the president isn’t buying it.

Here’s what came out on Friday. Twelve Russian military officers accused of computer penetration.

Specifically, the accounts of at least 300 people connected to the DNC and to the Clinton campaign came under attack.

One target was email accounts used by Clinton’s personal office.

Meanwhile, not all is kumbaya with Republican members of Congress. South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy, who took great relish roasting Hillary Clinton over the Benghazi debacle, was not ready to accept any excuses from his president:

Your first request of Vladimir Putin needs to be, “Tell us which airport we can pick up the 25 Russians…”

Not wanting to be a sore loser, Clinton still felt the need to chime in:

Great World Cup. Question for President Trump as he meets Putin: Do you know which team you play for?

The answer is becoming increasingly unclear.

Others (Republicans!) are choking on the president’s remarks, made while standing alongside Putin. Here is Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.

We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy…

He further has said this is not a last year thing.  Our digital infrastructure is now under attack from the Russian government.

Former CIA Director John Brennan minced no words. This…

…was nothing  short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are You???

Note the triple ???, to which I will add !!!

Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska:

This is bizarre and flat-out wrong.

To which I add, no surprise here:

In early 2016, while both parties’ presidential primary election seasons were in progress, Sasse announced that he would not support Republican front-runner Donald Trump should Trump become the party’s candidate; he was the first sitting senator to make such an announcement. Sasse questioned Trump’s commitment to the U.S. Constitution, in particular accusing him of attacking the First Amendment; he stated that Trump had refused to condemn the Ku Klux Klan; and he suggested that Trump “thinks he’s running for King”. He stated that if Trump won the party’s nomination, then he would vote neither for him nor for Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, but would probably “look for some third candidate—a conservative option, a Constitutionalist”. According to a Sasse spokesman, he did not say that he would necessarily leave the party if Trump was nominated.

Another Republican who is no surprise is Arizona Senator Jeff Flake. He has previously called out the president on a number of matters and will not be running for re-election:

Shameful. I never thought I would see an American president throw the intelligence community under the bus like that.

Another Republican senator who is not running for re-election is Bob Corker of Tennessee. Prior to the Putin meeting:

The president’s comments … made us look as a nation more like a pushover.

Senator Chuck Schumer was predictably upset:

Americans are scratching their heads and saying if that’s not the explanation, that Putin has something on him, what is it. What the heck could it be>

Retiring Senator John McCain, who was previously mocked by candidate Trump for being captured in war, shows no love lost. He calls the meeting with Putin “a tragic mistake.

He further remarked:

No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant.

Ouch! That was stinging, coming from a Republican Senator and a staunch conservative. Ouch, again. Even Fox Network is having a fit.

That’s what made his performance disgusting…

Wait, wait! No! Can’t be! You, too, Newt?

President Trump must clarify his statements in Helsinki on our intelligence system and Putin. It is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected—immediately.

Excuse, me, Newt. Fox, too. Where have you been these past two years. Where were you when he introduced his campaign by announcing that Mexico was sending drugs and rapists. Where were you when candidate Trump offered to pay legal bills for those in the audience who beat up protesters? Where were you when President Trump nominated Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education, Rick Perry for Secretary of Energy, Ben Carson for HUD, Scott Pruitt for EPA, Kirstjen Nielsen for DHS, and Tom Price for HHS? Where have you been the past 18 months while President  Trump uses tax-funded trips to promote his businesses, and funnels official visitors to his hotels and other properties? How much more do I need to pile on before it becomes apparent you have been whoring yourselves for a circus clown president?

Is there more? Unfortunately yes. Only yesterday it was announced that Russian agent Maria Butina has been arrested. Her job? Apparently to work with the National Rifle Association, to assist them in their important work, which includes getting Republicans elected and also to help improve gun rights in Russia.

Wait. Gun rights in Russia?

Russian citizens over 18 years of age can obtain a firearms licence after attending gun-safety classes and passing a federal test and background check. The licence is for five years and may be renewed. Firearms may be acquired for self-defense, hunting, or sports activities. Carrying permits may be issued for hunting firearms licensed for hunting purposes. Initially, purchase is limited to long smooth-bore firearms and pneumatic weapons with a muzzle energy of up to 25 joules (18 ft⋅lbf). After five years of shotgun ownership, rifles may be purchased. Handguns are generally not allowed. Rifles and shotguns with barrels less than 500 mm (20 in) long are prohibited, as are firearms that shoot in bursts and have more than a 10-cartridge capacity. Suppressors are prohibited. An individual cannot possess more than ten guns (up to five shotguns and up to five rifles) unless they are part of a registered gun collection.

Maria, you have your work cut out for you. On the other hand, the U.S.A. is a snap. You need to work your way into the upper circles.

Et tu, Wayne? Say it isn’t so:

Gun-rights activist was Russian agent who sought to use NRA contacts to gather intelligence, prosecutors say

A 29-year-old gun-rights activist served as a covert Russian agent while living in Washington, gathering intelligence on American officials and political organizations and working to establish back-channel lines of communications for the Kremlin, federal prosecutors charged Monday.

There must be more to it:

NRA got more money from Russia-linked sources than earlier reported

The National Rifle Association reported this week that it received more money from people with Russian ties than it has previously acknowledged, but announced that it was officially done cooperating with a congressional inquiry exploring whether illicit Kremlin-linked funding passed through the NRA and into Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said on Wednesday.

 

It makes sense now that it’s been explained to me. Russia gives money to  the NRA. The NRA uses the money to campaign for Republicans. The Republicans (we can name one) show favorable treatment to the Russians.

I was too quick in highlighting all those Republicans pushing back against President Trump. There is at least one Republican who still has his head on straight.

 

Rand Paul sides with Trump on Russia, says critics ‘motivated’ by dislike of president

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., on Monday expressed his approval of President Donald Trump’s handling of Russia despite the tsunami of criticism the president faced after his press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“It’s gotten so ridiculous that someone has to stand up and say we should try to engage even our adversaries and open up our lines of communication,” Paul told Politico after the controversial press conference.

Maybe not all the way on straight. Senator, President Trump not only sought a dialog with Vladimir Putin, he stood in front of the world yesterday and defended the Russian president against charges by American prosecutors that Putin directed attacks on the American political process and is continuing to direct attacks.

Wait, there’s more. Now President Trump says he didn’t say it:

Trump Now Says He Accepts U.S. Intelligence Reports on Russian Election Meddling

WASHINGTON — Under unrelenting pressure from congressional Republicans, his own advisers and his allies on Fox News, President Trump abruptly reversed course on Tuesday and claimed he had misspoken during a news conference with President Vladimir V. Putin about whether Russia tried to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Mr. Trump, reading from a script, said he believed the assessment of the nation’s intelligence agencies that Russia had interfered in the campaign after having seeming to have accepted Mr. Putin’s assertion the day before that Russia was not involved.

The misunderstanding, he said, grew out of an unsuccessful attempt to use a double negative when he answered a question about whether he believed Mr. Putin or his intelligence agencies.

“My people came to me,” he said in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday. “They said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

Did I mention “circus clown president?” Yes, apparently I already have. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

This is your President speaking.

Number 127

And now a few words from the President of the United States:

Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!

I just love it when my president talks smart to me.

This is your President speaking.

Number 126

And now a few words from the President of the United States:

We need a President who isn’t a laughing stock to the entire World. We need a truly great leader, a genius at strategy and winning. Respect!

We finally have a president who is not a laughing stock to the entire world.

From ABC World News Tonight with David Muir 13 July 2018 streaming on Hulu

This is your President speaking.

Number 125

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYXCsxf9TsE

And now a few words from the President of the United States:

How can the Rigged Witch Hunt proceed when it was started, influenced and worked on, for an extended period of time, by former FBI Agent/Lover Peter Strzok? Read his hate filled and totally biased Emails and the answer is clear!

How, indeed.

The Americans

Two years ago I ditched my cable TV contract and subscribed to streaming services. That introduced me to a new world of TV offerings. One was The Americans, produced by FX and streaming on Amazon Prime Video. It’s a spy story, partially inspired by an actual spy case, the Illegals Program, which involved a Russian man and a Russian woman who took over the identities of two dead Canadian children and lived for years in the United States as Donald Howard Heathfield and Tracey Lee Ann Foley. Their route took them from Canada, where they assumed the identities of the dead children, to France, where Heathfield attended graduate school before the pair moved to the United States, where he enrolled in the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. At that point the pair began work on their ultimate task, which was to spy on the United States government by way of identifying sensitive people in high position who could be compromised. During their time in Canada the pair produced two sons, who were never aware their parents were Russians. The couple never spoke Russian at home.

At the time Heathfield and Foley entered the United States in 2000 the FBI became aware they were spies, and the agency began intense surveillance, which culminated in indictments and expulsion in 2010. During this time there is significant divergence from the plot of The Americans. Heathfield and Foley were nothing more than spies. They performed their tasks and reported back to Russia. In the TV series the pair are Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings, and they are not nice people. Despite being married, they use sexual persuasion to ensnare unwitting subjects. From the opening scenes of the pilot episode, Elizabeth, in blond disguise, has trolled a government official in a bar and is about to  go down on him in a hotel room.

They also kill people. The series is punctuated by multiple instances of victims being shot at point blank range.

A counterpoint in the plot is FBI agent Stan Beeman, who coincidentally moves in next door to the Jennings and befriends them. Ironically, and critical to the plot, Beeman is working on the investigation of Soviet (during the Cold War) agents. Beeman is cast as a weak link in the agency’s investigation, compromising a cuddlesome clerk at the Soviet embassy and surreptitiously sleeping (a euphemism) with her. His loose ways unravel the agency’s attempt to thwart the Soviet plot.

The real world of Russian spies has a similar agent. He is Peter Strzok, and he worked the case from its inception through the prosecution of Heathfield and Foley and the expulsion of a mass of Russian spies in July 2010. He rose to head up the FBI’s counter intelligence operation and most recently supervised the investigation of the Hillary Clinton email probe and the probe into Russian influence on the Donald Trump presidential campaign. As with the fictional Beeman, Agent Strzok was undone by an extra-marital dalliance.  About the time Donald Trump was running for office, Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page were having an affair. They were humping on the sly.

Bedding down with another government employee is not illegal, nor is it against office policy. Where the two went out of bounds was to use their government email service to communicate so as to keep their sub rosa business sub rosa. When Robert Mueller took over the investigation of the Russian meddling last year one of the first things he did was to learn of these surreptitious interchanges and to remove Strzok from the case. Not only was the private use of government email against office policy, the contents of some of the interchanges were unhinging. The two were vocal (electronically) critical of Donald Trump. Good policy: you can’t investigate a presidential candidate and at the same time be calling him an idiot and a threat to American democracy.

Republicans in Congress, especially in the House of Representatives, have sought from the beginning to derail the Mueller investigation, owing to its devastating revelations concerning Trump campaign officials’ involvement with Russian agents. And that brings us to the topic for today: the Rachel Maddow Show from yesterday, 11 July.

Maddow, as usual, takes some time to warm up before getting to the meat. She displays the background of Heathfield and Foley at length. Here they are in better times in Canada with their children. They used their time in Canada to acclimate to western culture.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bgTheir unfortunate children were left without a country after their parents were deported.

By the time Heathfield was graduating from Harvard, the FBI was on the scene to snap a graduation photo.

If I were Heathfield I would demand my money back.

The FBI investigation was called “Operation Ghost Stories.”

Here are some details from the indictment:

The use of steganography to conceal  messages is illustrated in an actual image used by the spies and posted on-line for all to view.

A real spy thriller was in the making.

The feds obtained a warrant and bugged the couple’s Boston townhouse.

They listened to Heathfield’s and Tracey’s most intimate conversations.

The two discussed how to make use of steganography.

The feds obtained a warrant and pried into a safe deposit box in Cambridge.

They found film depicting Foley in her early 20s.

An attempt had been made to disguise the origin of the film by trimming the film margins, where manufacture information would be printed. They overlooked one negative.

It had the name of a Russian film manufacturer, Tasma.

The feds also retrieved and photographed notebooks.

One page revealed the 27-character password to employ the steganographic software used to hide messages in images.

Investigations revealed the identities of American government officials targeted by the spies.

One person of interest had information about nuclear “bunker-buster” warheads.”

The FBI has a page on Operation Ghost Stories.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bgNow, the FBI official who ran the investigation of The Americans is under fire by Republican lawmakers, who challenge the legitimacy of the Mueller investigation, and, lacking hardly anything else, Peter Strzok’s text exchanges with Lisa Page are going to have to serve as their leverage.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bgCharges that Strzok engineered the investigation into Trump/Russia are ludicrous in the light of known history. The Brits spotted suspicious activity and passed it on to the Americans, where it settled into Strzok’s lap.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bgWith Mueller taking over the prosecution, the Strzok-Page exchanges came out, much to Republican delight.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bgSomething not widely pushed by Republicans, is the disdain toward the Russians shown in Strzok’s texts.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bgYou would not know it from Republicans in Congress, but Strzok was vocal about a range of politicians and candidates.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bgSurprisingly, his ultimate choice was a Republican.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bgPeter Strzok testified before Congress publicly today, having previously testified in a closed session. The Washington Post is shown stating,

…his political conviction that a Trump presidency would be disastrous for American national security is not based on his bias, it was based on information that was available to him.

In this conclusion, Strzok has been shown to be a sentient carbon life form rather than a political ideologue.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bgRachel Maddow illustrates some comments from Strzok’s lawyer, Aitan Goelman. These comments address Republicans’ objections that Strzok gave undue attention to Trump/Russia over the Clinton emails:

Not every FBI investigation is of equal importance to  U.S. national  security. There is simply no equivalence between an investigation  into the possible mishandling of classified information, a relatively commonplace occurrence in the FBI’s…

…and credible evidence suggesting that the presidential campaign of a major party candidate was actively colluding  with a hostile foreign power in a way that could undermine the integrity of an American Presidential [sic] election.

To require senior national security officials to profess fealty to this false equivalence is both short-sighted and dangerous.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bgA quick look at news coming out of Strzok’s testimony before Congress today reveals a circus beyond even my expectations: Vox has a bit from Texas’ own Louis Gohmert (District 1):

But Gohmert took things to another level when he brought up Strzok’s personal life.

“I’ve talked to FBI agents around the country. You’ve embarrassed them, you’ve embarrassed yourself. And I can’t help but wonder, when I see you looking there with a little smirk, how many times did you look so innocent into your wife’s eye and lie to her about and —” Gohmert said, before being drowned out by objections from Democrats.

“Mr. Chairman, this is outrageous!” someone yelled, appealing to House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte to intervene. “Shame on you!” another person shouted. Someone else called the comment “harassment of the witness.” Another Democrat yelled at Gohmert, “You need your medication!”

Wacko really has come home.

There’s going to be more from me on today’s hearing. Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

The Awful Truth

Number 6 in a Series

Earlier this month I reviewed a companion book, Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence, by James Clapper. Here is another view along the same lines. It’s The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies by former NSA director General Michael Hayden. Both writers have long experience in public service, having served in the United States military and in national intelligence agencies. Both take a dim view of the administration of President Donald Trump. Both consider his persistent use of fabrication and his abuse of the intelligence agencies to be scandalous and (my interpretation) and also an abuse of his office.

I’m using the same approach here that I did with the previous review. I will illustrate with pertinent excerpts from the book and add context and elaboration where helpful. Start here:

Two months into the Trump administration, Jim Comey, the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Admiral Mike Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, were asked in an open congressional hearing if the president they were serving was misleading the nation with his claims that they or their British friends had wiretapped him while he was president-elect.

They said that he was.

It was a remarkable moment. That question doesn’t get asked very often in open parliamentary session in a democracy, let alone get answered—to say nothing of being answered in that way. It made me proud to have been associated with an intelligence community that felt free to do that.

But that was not the end of the matter, at least as far as the White House was concerned. The administration stuck to its alternate version—Obama wiretapped me—even after the FBI and NSA chiefs had confirmed that objective reality was clearly otherwise.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (pp. 1-2). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

General Hayden has concluded, as have a growing number of Americans, that the current President of the United States is a calculating liar who seeks to persuade his political base that truth is what he says it is, and that hard facts are distortions promulgated by opposing and disloyal sources. For General Hayden the threat to civilized society crystallized during his working intelligence tour in the former Yugoslavia during the events of the 1990s.

The veneer of civilization, I sadly concluded then, was quite thin—perhaps a natural thought for an intelligence officer, whose profession consistently trends pessimistic, whose work is consumed by threats and dangers, and who routinely travels to some of the world’s darkest, most troubled places.

Later I learned that intelligence officers were not so alone in their dark thoughts. Robin Wright, the American chronicler of the Middle East’s woes, told me that Israel’s Shimon Peres once despairingly lamented to her, “We’re so primitive. We’re so very primitive.”

Over the years it became clear to me that the structures, processes, and attitudes that protect us from Thomas Hobbes’s world of “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” lives are not naturally occurring things. They are inherently fragile and demand careful tending if they are to survive.

That brought me to the idea of this book, which is not that civil war or societal collapse is necessarily imminent or inevitable here in America, but that the structures, processes, and attitudes we rely on to prevent those kinds of occurrences are under stress, and that many of the premises on which we have based our governance, policy, and security are now challenged, eroded, or simply gone.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (pp. 2-3). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

He summarizes:

Deeply involved in this is the question of truth. It was no accident that the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year in 2016 was “post-truth,” a condition where objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief. Liberal British academic and philosopher A. C. Grayling characterized the emerging post-truth world to me as “over-valuing opinion and preference at the expense of proof and data.” Oxford Dictionaries president Casper Grathwohl predicted that the term could become “one of the defining words of our time.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 3). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The author bears down on the seriousness of our present situation:

We’re really breaking new ground when, at the six-month point of the new administration, the former head of CIA, John Brennan, and the former director of national intelligence, Jim Clapper—with more than seven decades of experience between them and a record of service for both political parties—spend a rainy afternoon in Aspen telling hundreds that they harbor deep concerns about Russian election interference, openly criticize President Trump for refusing to face that reality, and warn that “in some respects we are a government in crisis.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 6). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Like James Clapper, Michael Hayden is unable to escape that the Russian government is working to upend the American  political  process:

And it continues. A quick look at articles pushed by Kremlin-oriented accounts on Twitter in early January shows that attacks on Democrats and liberals comprised more than a quarter, with discrediting Fusion GPS and the Steele dossier at 14 percent, and pushing “deep state” narratives and conspiracies constituting 13 percent. Sound familiar? When Trump speaks, the Russians amplify.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 7). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Candidate Trump campaigned on a policy of “America First,” and the author traveled back to the place of his origins in Pittsburgh, where he connected with friends from his youth and other, like-minded people.

So I resolved to reengage the “America First” issue, in the back room of a Pittsburgh sports bar over some Iron City beer. I asked my brother to arrange for several dozen of his friends, all Trump supporters, to meet with me for a couple of hours.

I knew many of the participants, indeed had grown up with several. But we could have been from different planets. They are angry. They feel abandoned and disadvantaged even though they work hard, pay their taxes, and struggle to raise their kids. They hate Hillary Clinton, I mean really hate her. And for them, it is still midnight on November 8, 2016. Donald Trump is still their guy. “He is an American . . . He is genuine . . . He is authentic . . . He doesn’t filter everything or parse every word.” They don’t seem to be very interested in “facts,” either. Or at least not in my “facts.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (pp. 22-23). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Hayden attempts to winkle out what is underlying the disconnect:

About two months after my Pittsburgh meeting, the New York Times’ David Brooks wrote that political partisanship in America had become what he called “totalistic.” It was no longer about better policies as it was with Eisenhower and Kennedy. Nor was it about better philosophy as it was with Reagan. Now “people often use partisan identity to fill the void left when other attachments wither away—religious, ethnic, communal and familial.”6

Around the same time as the Brooks article, conservative ethicist Peter Wehner told me that in today’s America, beliefs are really tied up with identities, and he pointed me to this: “If changing your belief means changing your identity, it comes at the risk of rejection from the community of people with whom you share that identity.” Wehner also reminded me that data is not particularly useful to argue a point that itself was not particularly data-derived (which is not quite the same distinction as true and untrue).

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 22-23). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Hayden saw what I often see when communicating with conservative acquaintances:

When I asked in that Pittsburgh back room if anyone really believed that Barack Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower, most hands shot up. I tried to explain how the relevant agencies (NSA and FBI) had said it wasn’t true. When I asked why they still thought it was so, they simply replied, “Obama.”

“Obama was against the country and did everything he could to undermine it,” concluded one participant.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (pp. 23-24). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The basis behind “America First” comes out:

It was also true that most in the room had spent their entire lives in or near Pittsburgh. National statistics say that Trump won by nine points among white voters who live within two hours of where they were born and by an overwhelming 26 percent among those who live in their hometown proper. Everybody in the room in Pittsburgh was white, too.

When I asked what they thought “America First” meant, the answer was pretty simple. It meant that someone was paying attention to them.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 24). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Observers of the 2016 presidential election point to the declining relevance of traditional left-right, Democrat-Republican, liberal-conservative divides in American politics. Technological change, the explosion of information, and the erosion of borders have smothered old dividing lines over the size of government, family values, and the national debt. Changes in technology, information, and borders have created winners and losers, and these folks are in that group of Americans who are feeling left behind.

Collectively they view themselves as disadvantaged in a globalized world and they catalog refugees and immigrants as threatening their safety, trade deals as taking away their jobs, and political institutions as wasting their money. Hence the surge of a populism that claims “to speak in the people’s place, in their name, and convey an undeniable shared truth on their

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (pp. 24-25). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

He further analyses his impromptu focus group:

Reading the audience, I decided against asking the group a question I had formed during my preparation: “How many of you have passports?” It had been a pleasant evening and I don’t think they would have appreciated the tone of my question. I also suspect that I wouldn’t have liked their answer. They were polite, patriotic, sincere, and enthusiastic, but foreign affairs wasn’t a strong suit or strong interest.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (pp. 38-39). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

He analyzes the Trump phenomenon in terms of Hamiltonian and Jacksonian views:

Famed American academic Walter Russell Mead broke down the whole dynamic for me in terms of his four paradigms of the American presidency. He reminded me that there were Hamiltonians, wedded to the tough realism of America’s first secretary of the treasury: America cannot be free unless America is prosperous, America cannot be prosperous unless America is strong. I had limited contact with Mitt Romney as an adviser during his 2012 campaign, but I suspect he would have trended Hamiltonian as president.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 27). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

And then there was Andrew Jackson: man of the people, frontiersman, Indian fighter, war hero—the first democrat in the White House whether you write it with a big D or a little d. Jacksonian foreign policy is shaped by an intense patriotism to an America defined by blood, soil, and shared history, and it is largely uninterested in international affairs unless, of course, somebody really ticks us off (like Japan in 1941, or al-Qaeda in 2001). Only half-jokingly do I describe it as a security policy organized around Robert De Niro’s immortal line in Martin Scorsese’s 1976 film Taxi Driver: “You talkin’ to me?”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 28). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

America’s post–World War II internationalism has been largely shaped by Hamiltonian and Wilsonian concepts. In fact, the history of that era was often written as a struggle between the two factions, trying to balance American interests and American ideals in the conduct of our policy.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 28). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

That crowd in the back room in Pittsburgh was overwhelmingly Jacksonian…

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 28). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

There is an analysis on the former president’s relationship with the intelligence community, ultimately to be contrasted with President Trump’s:

Over time the president, who came into office with a liberal Democrat’s distrust of an intelligence community around which multiple controversies had been swirling, grew more comfortable with both the institutions and the people who were serving him. Obama also came to office with little intelligence background, since he had not served on the Intelligence Committee while in the Senate. He had a steep learning curve, but gradually absorbed both the capabilities and the limits of the community. The PDB in the president’s second term was described to me as often a ten- to fifteen-minute tactical update for someone who was now quite familiar with the issues. Both John Brennan and Jim Clapper recall Obama as genuinely appreciative. Jim said the president was gracious and complimentary during his last meeting with him in the Oval Office.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (pp. 34-35). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

In their comparative views, James Clapper’s book takes readers on a historical ride, bringing the shape of today’s intelligence community ultimately into view, while Michael Hayden’s work is rooted in the present and the recent past. Both heap condemnation on the current administration’s aversion to, and the destruction of, basic truth. I will finish out with some highlights on the author’s observations. First a 30,000-foot view:

Internationalist—nativist. Nuanced—blunt. Informed—instinctive. No drama—all drama. Studied—spontaneous. Fully formed paragraphs—140 characters. America as idea—America as blood and soil. Free trader—protectionist. And then there was the issue of truth. All candidates shape their message, but Trump just seemed to say whatever came into his head. Was he uninformed, lazy, dishonest . . . or did he simply reject the premise that objective reality even existed or mattered?

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 41). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Candidate Trump’s issues with the truth were early apparent:

My little email universe was steadily lit up in the spring and summer of 2016 with commentary on the Trump campaign. That universe comprised a lot of people with backgrounds like mine: intelligence, security, military, diplomatic, and related fields. We had lots of issues, but the key themes of truth, inclusion, and lawfulness quickly emerged.

The most intense buzz was about telling the truth, or, more specifically, about Donald Trump not telling the truth. Or at least not bothering to find the truth in order to speak accurately.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 43). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

There follows a litany of Donald Trump’s obvious fabrications:

We had a long list of out-and-out lies, too, like the candidate’s claim that there were pan-Islamic legions celebrating wildly on the streets of New Jersey as the Twin Towers were aflame and collapsing. And then there was the moment Mr. Trump, hammering Obama-era political correctness, departed from prepared remarks to say that the neighbors of the San Bernardino terrorist couple, beyond seeing suspicious behavior, “saw bombs on the floor,” a claim for which there was absolutely no evidence.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 44). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I think it fair to say that the Trump campaign normalized lying to an unprecedented degree, and when pressed on specifics it routinely tried to delegitimize those who would disagree with countercharges about the “lyin’ media,” “intelligence” (in accusatory quotation marks), “so-called

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (pp. 44-45). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Nichols credits a 1999 study by Justin Kruger and David Dunning, research psychologists at Cornell, with driving home this point. Nichols writes, “The lack of metacognition sets up a vicious loop in which people who do not know much about a subject do not know when they’re in over their head . . . and there is no way to educate or inform people who, when in doubt, will make stuff up.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 46). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Nichols is Tom Nichols, a professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College.

The concept came to mind again when after a year in office the president riffed on climate change with British journalist Piers Morgan: “There is a cooling, and there’s a heating. I mean, look, it used to not be climate change, it used to be global warming. That wasn’t working too well because it was getting too cold all over the place. The ice caps were going to melt, they were going to be gone by now, but now they’re setting records. They’re at a record level.”2 For the sake of history and science, I should add that arctic sea ice levels were at record lows as the president spoke (a generally well-known and accepted fact regardless of your views on human-caused climate change).

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 46). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

It really wasn’t clear that Mr. Trump actually wanted much advice anyway. He told MSNBC’s Morning Joe in March, “My primary consultant is myself and I have a good instinct for this stuff, I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain.”

He had earlier identified the source of his foreign policy thinking to Chuck Todd of NBC: “Well, I really watch the shows. You really see a lot of great, you know, when you watch your show and all of the other shows, and you have the generals and you have certain people that you like.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 62). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

One of the complaints that we cataloged was that Mr. Trump “has shown no interest in educating himself. He continues to display an alarming ignorance of basic facts of contemporary international politics. Despite his lack of knowledge, Mr. Trump claims that he understands foreign

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 67). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The morning of the first Trump briefing on August 17, he was asked on Trump-friendly Fox News whether he trusted U.S. intelligence. He replied, “Not so much from the people that have been doing it for our country. I mean, . . . look what’s happened over the years. I mean, it’s been catastrophic. In fact, I won’t use some of the people that are standards—you know, just use them, use them, use them, very easy to use them, but I won’t use them because they’ve made such bad decisions.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 68). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The candidate started well: “I have great respect for the people that gave us the briefings . . . they were terrific people.” Indeed, one of the IC participants later told me that the candidate walked into the September 7 meeting with a decidedly respectful air, the way a layman would walk into a conference of experts or specialists. But then Mr. Trump alleged that despite the great advice these professionals had given them, “President Obama and Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, who is another total disaster, did exactly the opposite.”

When pressed on how he knew that, the candidate responded, “In almost every instance. And I could tell you. I have pretty good with the body language [sic]. I could tell they were not happy. Our leaders did not follow what they were recommending.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 70). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Candidate Trump would have none of it: “I notice, anytime anything wrong happens, they like to say the Russians are. . . . Maybe there is no hacking. But they always blame Russia. And the reason they blame Russia is because they think they’re trying to tarnish me with Russia.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 72). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Rejecting a fact-based intelligence assessment—not because of compelling contrarian data, but because it was inconsistent with a preexisting worldview or because it was politically inconvenient—is the stuff of ideological authoritarianism, not pragmatic democracy. And for the American intelligence community, seeing that from someone who could be president would have been very discomfiting.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 72). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The president’s charge of “political hacks” at the head of the American intelligence community was part of a broader pattern. When the institutions of the American government refuse to kowtow to the president’s transient whim, he sets out to devalue and delegitimize them in a way rarely, if ever, seen before in our history. A free (but admittedly imperfect) press is “fake news,” unless, of course, it is Fox; the FBI is in “tatters,” led by a “nut job” director and conducting a “witch hunt”; the Department of Justice, and particularly the attorney general, is weak; the intelligence community, in addition to being led by political hacks, is “Nazi”-like; the courts are manned by “so called” judges. Even the National Football League and the Boy Scouts of America have had to defend their integrity against presidential attacks designed solely to protect the president’s brand.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 208). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

In early December, McMaster was again called on to defend the president, this time over his retweeting of three videos purporting to show gruesome Muslim violence against innocents that had been originally produced and captioned by a fringe anti-immigrant British group whose leader had been convicted of a Muslim hate crime. The Dutch embassy in Washington said that one of the videos showing its citizens was patently false, and British prime minister Theresa May condemned all of them, at the same time rebuking Trump for endorsing them.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 213). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

That was clear in February when Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee approved a memo written for and signed by their chairman, Devin Nunes, charging the FBI and the Department of Justice with malpractice and politicization for using the notorious Steele dossier to get a FISA warrant on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Most folks like me condemned the memo’s thin four pages, especially its injection of hyperpartisanship into what has historically been a matter between career intelligence or law enforcement professionals and the federal courts. The memo was also misleadingly silent with regard to other evidence presented to the FISA judge beyond the Steele dossier and was almost immediately contradicted by press reports that the judge had indeed been aware of the political motivation behind those bankrolling Steele.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 217). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

A healthy skepticism teaches that theories (i.e., current truths) are only temporary tools, subject to inquiry and observation, but this is the only path to knowledge, which is—in the Nobel tradition—the only course to betterment. Hence the alarm was sounded at the beginning of the day by Lars Heikensten, executive director of the Nobel Foundation, that “knowledge and pure facts are being questioned.” Ebadi, the Iranian activist, later warned that “cruelty to man begins with cruelty to words”; she cited “Islam” as a code word for misogyny, “nationalism” for xenophobia, “globalization” for closed factories, but there could have been many other examples.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (pp. 221-222). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

That theme and the apparent bottomlessness of presidential behavior were borne out two weeks later when, as much of the country was embarking for holiday destinations and the president was landing at Mar-a-Lago, Trump pressed the narrative that the FBI was in “tatters,” the Russia plot was a “hoax,” and Bob Mueller’s investigation was a “witch hunt.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 227). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

And this president at various times has signaled his distrust, questioned the credibility, risked the capabilities, and downplayed the value of his intelligence community and, after ten months in office, when asked about vacancies in various foreign policy positions that historically have advised the White House, famously responded that this shouldn’t be a concern because “I’m the only one that matters.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 244). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Coverage extends beyond an analysis of Donald Trump’s lies. Much is devoted to intelligence analysis of Russia’s (Vladimir Putin’s) grand campaign to influence the 2016 election against Hillary Clinton and ultimately in support of candidate Trump. There is also coverage of fringe players who cooked up imaginative scenarios and the politicians, prior to Trump, who played into them. Famous are Jade Helm and the concoctions of Bill Binney.

Jade Helm has since become a focus of mirth here in Texas and something used to pummel Republican Governor Greg Abbott:

It’s over, readers and fellow Texans. The greatest attempted power grab and threat to civil liberties since the Civil war is over, and vigilant Texans have prevailed. Jade Helm 15, the contrived “military exercise” that flooded Texas and other states with federal troops, concluded on September 15th. And Obama lost, again.

I cautioned of The Gathering Storm a few weeks ago:

GOVERNOR GREG ABBOTT
April 28, 2015

Major General Gerald “Jake” Betty
Commander, Texas State Guard
Texas Military Forces
2200 West 35th Street
Austin, Texas 78763

Dear General Betty:

To address concerns of Texas citizens and to ensure that Texas communities remain safe, secure and informed about military procedures occurring in their vicinity, I am directing the Texas State Guard to monitor Operation Jade Helm 15. During the Operation’s eight-week training period from July 2015 to September 2015, I expect to receive regular updates on the progress and safety of the Operation.

During the training operation, it is important that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed. By monitoring the Operation on a continual basis, the State Guard will facilitate communications between my office and the commanders of the Operation to ensure that adequate measures are in place to protect Texans.

U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has assured Texas that each location selected for training exercises will pose no risk to residents or property and that they will coordinate with local residents via verbal and written communication.

Directing the State Guard to monitor the Operation will allow Texas to be informed of the details of military personnel movements and training exercise schedules, and it will give us the ability to quickly and effectively communicate with local communities, law enforcement, public safety personnel and citizens.

The action I take today comes with the recognition of Texas’ long history of supporting our military forces and our proud tradition of training, deploying and supporting our active-duty troops and returning veterans. As Governor, I have the utmost respect for the deep patriotism of the brave military men and women who put their lives en the line to fight for and defend out freedom. I remain certain that our military members will keep America the freest and strongest nation the world has ever known.

Binney is a former CIA official, more lately a hair’s-on-fire conspiracy theorist for conservative outlets:

Binney is known for making the claim that the NSA collects and stores information about every U.S. communication. Binney was invited as a witness by the NSA commission of the German Bundestag. On July 3, 2014 Der Spiegel wrote, he said that the NSA wanted to have information about everything. In Binney’s view this is a totalitarian approach, which had previously been seen only in dictatorships. Binney stated that the goal was to control people. Meanwhile, he said that it is possible in principle to monitor the whole population, abroad and in the U.S., which in his view contradicts the United States Constitution.

In August 2014 Binney was among the signatories of an open letter by the group Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity to German chancellor Angela Merkel in which they urged the Chancellor to be suspicious of U.S. intelligence regarding the alleged invasion of Russia in Eastern Ukraine. In the open letter, the group said:

[A]ccusations of a major Russian “invasion” of Ukraine appear not to be supported by reliable intelligence. Rather, the “intelligence” seems to be of the same dubious, politically “fixed” kind used 12 years ago to “justify” the U.S.-led attack on Iraq.

And that should be enough to get you interested in reading the book. It’s fresh, out earlier this year, and the Kindle edition is $15 ($14.99 plus tax). General Hayden is a clean writer, and the narrative flows effortlessly. His experience is deep, and this is the book shows this.

The book touches on a number of issues, but one I found to be close to me:

One evangelical leader (Reverend John Hagee, pastor of a San Antonio megachurch) labeled support for Israel “God’s foreign policy”11 and personally lobbied President Trump to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 52). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Yes, I receive Reverend Hagee’s newsletter headed Christians United for Israel (CUFI), finding time to comment on occasion:

Hagee has pointed out the correct solution was right under our noses all along. What fools we were:

On his Hagee Hotline show, Pastor Matthew Hagee told his listeners that climate change is not man made, but was foretold in the Bible as a sign that the return of Jesus Christ is imminent, according to Right Wing Watch. Hagee points out that the reports by scientists indicating the climate change can attributed to man made causes should not be believed because “in another place in scripture it says, ‘let God be true, and every man be a liar’.” Citing Matthew 25, where the Bible says that “strange weather patterns” would emerge prior to the arrival of Jesus, Hagee says we must take the word of God over men, “who are wrong, in spite of their education, in spite of their expertise, in spite of their philosophy. Whomever, and whatever, contradicts the word of God, is not correct.” Hagee goes on to explain that man should not waste time trying to “make everything as clean in the air as possible,” and that time would be better spent telling people about the return of Jesus. “The Bible says that whenever we approach the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strange weather patterns,” Ha[g]ee explained. “Jesus said this in Matthew the twenty-fifth chapter. So we have a decision to make: do we believe what an environmentalist group says and choose to live in a world where we’re attempting to make everything as clean in the air as possible, or do we believe what the Bible says, that these things were going to happen and that rather than try to clean up all of the air and solve all of the problems of the world by eliminating factories, we should start to tell people about Jesus Christ who is to return?”

See? All these stupid scientists had to do was to read Matthew (no relation) 25. Actually, it is Matthew 24 that describes these events, but what’s a chapter or two among biblical scholars?

And there’s more. Use the Search box at the top of this page to read more fascinating stuff about wacked out Reverend Hagee.

This is your President speaking.

Number 124

And now a few words from the President of the United States:

Thanks to REPUBLICAN LEADERSHIP, America is WINNING AGAIN – and America is being RESPECTED again all over the world. Because we are finally putting AMERICA FIRST!

Gee, but it’s great to be respected again.

The Government You Paid For

Number 38 of a Series

President Trump’s EPA director Scott Pruitt is gone, not fired, but by his own hand. Which says something. The president did not fire Director Pruitt over his massive abuse of his government office, given that he had ample cause to do so. Mr. Pruitt, almost from the time he lowered his hand after being sworn in, commenced to use that hand to dip into the government till. From what we see, when the hand wasn’t so engaged, his voice and the power of his office were invoked to misdirect his government staff, people paid by the American public.

Scott Pruitt was not fired for having EPA staff misreport his official calendar, which often included meetings with industry lobbyists seeking favors from the government. Neither did the president fire his EPA director for using the power of that office against the interests of the American public. And there is a reason for that. The reason President Trump nominated Scott Pruitt to the post was for the very purpose of working against the interest of the public and for the interest of those who helped promote Donald Trump to the presidency. Some excerpts, courtesy of The New York Times:

1. Canceled a requirement for oil and gas companies to report methane emissions.E.P.A. | Read more

2. Loosened a Clinton-era rule designed to limit toxic emissions from major industrial polluters.E.P.A. | Read more

9. Drafted changes to fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks made between 2020 and 2025 that would have reduced tailpipe emissions.E.P.A. and Transportation Department | Read more

13. Changed rules for oil and gas facilities to allow methane leaks to go unrepaired during unscheduled or emergency shutdowns, and proposed withdrawing guidlines that reduce emissions from existing sources.E.P.A. | Read more

15. Proposed repealing emissions standards for trailers and “glider kits” in response to petitions from the glider industry. (Gliders are trucks retrofitted with older, often dirtier engines.)E.P.A. | Read more

18. Proposed amendments to rules, developed after a 2014 consent decree, governing how refineries monitor pollution in surrounding communities.E.P.A. | Read more

19. Lifted a freeze on new coal leases on public lands.Executive Order; Interior Department | Read more

21. Made significant cuts to the borders of two national monuments in Utah and recommended border and resource management changes to several more.Presidential Proclamation; Interior Department | Read more

23. Rescinded water pollution regulations for fracking on federal and Indian lands.Interior Department | Read more

24. Repealed an Obama-era rule governing royalties for oil, gas and coal leases on federal lands, which replaced a 1980s rule that critics said allowed companies to underpay the federal government.Interior Department | Read more

30. Opened up drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In April 2018, the Interior Department announced it was taking steps to prepare for a lease sale in the refuge.Congress; Interior Department | Read more

33. Recommended shrinking or opening to commercial fishing three marine protected areas.Executive Order; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Read more

36. Revoked Obama-era flood standards for federal infrastructure projects, like roads and bridges. The standards required building on higher elevation in order to reduce risk of damage from sea-level rise and other climate change effects.Executive Order | Read more

43. Restricted Interior Department environmental studies to one year in length and a maximum of 150 pages, citing the need to reduce paperwork.Interior Department | Read more

45. Eliminated the use of an Obama-era planning system designed to minimize harm of oil and gas activity on sensitive landscapes, such as national parks.Interior Department | Read more

49. Overturned a ban on the hunting of predators in Alaskan wildlife refuges.Congress | Read more

51. Removed a number of species from the endangered list (including the Yellowstone grizzly bear, which the Obama and George W. Bush administrations had also proposed removing).Interior Department | Read more

56. Released a plan that weakens greater sage grouse habitat protections by allowing oil and gas drilling on lands previously set aside for the bird’s protection.Interior Department | Read more

58. Narrowed the scope of a 2016 law mandating safety assessments for potentially toxic chemicals, like dry-cleaning solvents and paint strippers. The E.P.A. will focus on direct exposure and exclude air, water and ground contamination.E.P.A. | Read more

60. Reversed an Obama-era rule that required braking system upgrades for “high hazard” trains hauling flammable liquids, like oil and ethanol.Transportation Department | Read more

64. Revoked a rule that prevented coal companies from dumping mining debris into local streams.Congress | Read more

66. Revoked federal rules regulating coal ash waste from power plants and granted oversight to the states. Mr. Pruitt’s home state, Oklahoma, was the first to be granted this power and has applied the regulations only loosely.E.P.A. | Read more

68. Delayed by two years an E.P.A. rule regulating limits on toxic discharge, which can include mercury, from power plants into public waterways.E.P.A. | Read more

69. Proposed new rule rolling back groundwater protections for certain uranium mines.E.P.A. | Read more

In all The New York Times listed 69 significant changes to environmental regulations proposed or implemented by Director Pruitt. These regulations were put in place to protect the American public and to protect commonly-held property. Reversal of these regulations has the effect of diminishing the safety of the population or else serves to benefit profitability of industrial concerns, said businesses being major contributors to the Trump campaign or the Republican Party.

I have talked to people who would defend the actions of former Director Pruitt and the current president on the basis that what is good for business is good for the people.

To be sure, businesses need to operate, and they need to make a profit. Ensuring protection of our environment and protection of the public health will put some kinds of operations out of business, at the least these businesses will become unable to compete. In no instances, however, did the listed regulations endanger the national economy or put the security of the nation at risk. Details on request.

For many of those who voted for candidate Trump, they are getting the government they paid for. For those who opposed the candidate before and do to this day, they are getting the same government. It may not be the government they want, but by the mechanism we select our leaders, it is the government they paid for.

People Unclear

This is number 45 of a series

I post this series for the benefit of those who continue to remain unclear on some essentials. One of those might be former EPA Director Scott Pruitt:

“It is extremely difficult for me to cease serving you in this role first because I count it a blessing to be serving you in any capacity, but also, because of the transformative work that is occurring,” Pruitt wrote. “However, the unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family, are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of us.”

Allow me to emphasize: “However, the unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family, are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of us.” No shit! Dude, have you no clue?

Where have you been the past 15 months? Allow me to refresh, starting here:

Anyhow, we are done with that.

WASHINGTON — Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, testified on Capitol Hill on Thursday in what turned out to be a daylong grilling over allegations of ethical infractions and lavish spending.

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency violated the law when it installed a soundproof phone booth for the administrator, Scott Pruitt, at a cost of roughly $43,000, a congressional watchdog agency ruled on Monday.

An email that suggests Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruittpersonally signed off on a controversial pay raise for a favored aide last month is roiling the agency.

A Lobbyist Helped Scott Pruitt Plan a Morocco Trip. Then Morocco Hired the Lobbyist.

Re-emphasizing:

It seems like only last month I was discussing Scott Pruitt, the person picked by President Trump to be in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Actually, it was last month. That item highlighted that Mr. Pruitt has been  working to ensure we are getting the government we are paying for. Actually it has been more like ensuring we are paying for the government we are getting.

Scott Pruitt, now heading up the Environmental Protection Agency, celebrates the exuberance of government employment by accumulating a history of lavish travel. Last June travel expenses for him and his entourage recorded $90,000 in expenses, and that included first class travel from Washington to New York. Yesterday he was observed flying first class from Washington to Boston, apparently on the government nickel.

And that was the end of that. Only kidding. There’s more.

Let’s see if there is more. Yes, there is:

Scott Pruitt, now heading up the Environmental Protection Agency, celebrates the exuberance of government employment by accumulating a history of lavish travel. Last June travel expenses for him and his entourage recorded $90,000 in expenses, and that included first class travel from Washington to New York. Yesterday he was observed flying first class from Washington to Boston, apparently on the government nickel.

I apologize, but there is insufficient space to display the depth of Mr. Pruitt’s malfeasance. Will Bunch has made a go at it:

CNN scrolling a list of Scott Pruitt scandals and it’s like that SNL running joke of corrections on “Fox and Friends”

Mr. Pruitt, after all this, do you remain unclear? If so, help is available. Come see me.

In the meantime, good luck. And the horse your rode in on.

The Golden Shower

Number 34 of a Series

I don’t plan to rehash the Steele dossier here. That has been well-covered previously:

American intelligence has established credibility for their findings related to Russian efforts to undermine our electoral process and also to compromise the American president. The Steele dossier, which surfaced late in the 2016 election cycle, details Russian efforts to influence Donald Trump, and many of the allegations included in it have good confirmation. Other parts have not, including a humorous section after which this series is titled:

However, there were other aspects to TRUMP’s engagement with the Russian authorities. One which had borne fruit for them was to exploit TRUMP’s person  obsessions and sexual perversion in order to  obtain suitable ‘kompromat’ (compromising material) on him. According to Source D, where s/he had been present, TRUMP’s perverted) conduct in Moscow included hiring the presidential suite of the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where he knew president and Mrs OBAMA (whom he hated) had stayed on  one of their official trips to Russia, and defiling the bed where they had slept by employing a number of prostitutes to perform a ‘golden showers’ (urination) show in front of him. the hotel was known to be under FSB control  with microphones and concealed cameras in all the main rooms to record anything they wanted to.

While a House of Representatives committee continues to pull in people, including Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for what has all the appearance of some expensive show-boating, a Senate committee has come to the conclusion there is some there there. ABC World News Tonight with David Muir had the story last night, streaming on Hulu, where I obtained these screen shots. Here are some of the specifics from The Hill:

The Senate Intelligence Committee has unequivocally upheld the conclusion of the intelligence community that Russia developed a “clear preference” for then-candidate Donald Trump in the 2016 election and sought to help him win the White House.

The assessment, announced in an unclassified summary released Tuesday, represents a direct repudiation of the committee’s counterpart in the House — and of President Trump himself, who has consistently rejected assertions that Moscow sought to bolster his candidacy through its election interference.

“The Committee has spent the last 16 months reviewing the sources, tradecraft and analytic work underpinning the Intelligence Community Assessment and sees no reason to dispute the conclusions,” said Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said in a statement.

Meanwhile, President Trump continues to massage the counter argument:

Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election! Where is the DNC Server, and why didn’t Shady James Comey and the now disgraced FBI agents take and closely examine it? Why isn’t Hillary/Russia being looked at? So many questions, so much corruption!

Major Wall Street Journal opinion piece today talking about the Russian Witch Hunt and the disgrace that it is. So many people hurt, so bad for our country – a total sham!

. Poll numbers plummet on the Democrat inspired and paid for Russian Witch Hunt. With all of the bias, lying and hate by the investigators, people want the investigators investigated. Much more will come out. A total scam and excuse for the Dems losing the Election!

WITCH HUNT! There was no Russian Collusion. Oh, I see, there was no Russian Collusion, so now they look for obstruction on the no Russian Collusion. The phony Russian Collusion was a made up Hoax. Too bad they didn’t look at Crooked Hillary like this. Double Standard!

FBI Agent Peter Strzok, who headed the Clinton & Russia investigations, texted to his lover Lisa Page, in the IG Report, that “we’ll stop” candidate Trump from becoming President. Doesn’t get any lower than that!

Conservative outlets are also beating the drums, furious to project the theme:

But This Happened with the FBI and Christopher Steele

The FBI fell in love with their source. The information Christopher Steele was providing so perfectly fit into a narrative of collusion and conspiracy by the Republican presidential candidate and his staff that it was impossible to ignore, and almost too good to check. They tried to check it—desperately, I would guess—yet, according to those who have read the four separate Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) packets on Carter Page, they were never able to verify the information he provided.

Conclusion: no collusion.

Actually not. The above excerpt is from The Federalist and was submitted by Jason Beale (not his real name) who was previously an interrogator for the U.S. Army. The implication is the Steele dossier is groundless, and its use as a basis for FISA warrants has poisoned the Mueller investigation. That conclusion is a few feet from the truth.

First, the Steele dossier is not groundless. The part about citizen Trump paying prostitutes to pee on a bed in a Moscow hotel has not been confirmed, but other parts have:

Some of the dossier’s allegations have been corroborated, while others remain unverified[19] or may require access to classified information for verification.[20] In February 2017, some details related to conversations “solely between foreign nationals” were independently verified. Some of those individuals were known to be “heavily involved” in efforts to damage Clinton and help Trump. The conversations “took place between the same individuals on the same days and from the same locations as detailed in the dossier”, giving US intelligence and law enforcement “greater confidence” in the credibility of parts of the dossier.[21]

The links in the above point to sources. Here is one:

Washington (CNN)For the first time, US investigators say they have corroborated some of the communications detailed in a 35-page dossier compiled by a former British intelligence agent, multiple current and former US law enforcement and intelligence officials tell CNN. As CNN first reported, then-President-elect Donald Trump and President Barack Obama were briefed on the existence of the dossier prior to Trump’s inauguration.

None of the newly learned information relates to the salacious allegations in the dossier. Rather it relates to conversations between foreign nationals. The dossier details about a dozen conversations between senior Russian officials and other Russian individuals. Sources would not confirm which specific conversations were intercepted or the content of those discussions due to the classified nature of US intelligence collection programs.
Allegations by Jason Beale are multiple and contrary to other sources:
The FBI succeeded in obtaining that ruling—four times—using, as a central part of their case, the uncorroborated information provided by a source with whom they were deeply, hopelessly in love. They wanted to believe him, so they ignored his warts and imperfections. They wanted the judge to love him as much as they did, so they hid those warts and imperfections from the court.
I am not sure where Beale picked up this notion, but the Steele dossier does not appear to have been the “central part of their case.” Beale’s narrative centers on the investigation Carter Page, who worked for the Trump campaign prior to the election. It should not have been difficult to obtain a FISA warrant to investigate Page without the Steele dossier:
Page served as a foreign policy adviser in Donald Trump‘s 2016 Presidential campaign.[23] In September 2016, U.S. intelligence officials investigated alleged contacts between Page and Russian officials subject to U.S. sanctions, including Igor Sechin, the president of state-run Russian oil conglomerate Rosneft.[4] After news reports began to appear describing Page’s links to Russia and Putin’s government, Page stepped down from his role in the Trump campaign.[1][24]
Beale elaborates:
I’ve been burned by sources, multiple times, each of which has left a scar that reminded me to be more careful in assessing the intent of the next person sitting across the table, seeking my interest and approval. Each time it happened, the end came through the intervention of a concerned friend—an analyst at headquarters telling me that I was being taken for a ride, and showing me proof that I was either being lied to, or that the story I was being fed couldn’t be validated.
Again, the implication is the Steele dossier is what is driving the investigation. From all any reasonable person can tell, investigators have not been “burned” by the Steele dossier. Critical parts have been corroborated. Any distinction between Beale’s essay and a bit of hyped propaganda is difficult to discern. And that’s good, because right now his president could use a little hyped propaganda.

The Government You Paid For

Number 37 of a Series

I post items such as this from time to time to make sure readers know they are finally getting the government they paid for. Of course, there’s another reason for these, and that is to remind those who voted for Donald Trump and for any number of his party. Are you sure this is what you intended to sign up for?

So, who’s back in the news this week? How about Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency?

(CNN) — EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and his aides have kept “secret” calendars and schedules to overtly hide controversial meetings or calls with industry representatives and others, according to a former EPA official who is expected to soon testify before Congress. A review of EPA documents by CNN found discrepancies between Pruitt’s official calendar and other records.

Okay. For you alt right voters who voted for Donald Trump with the clear expectation he was going to dismantle the EPA and to undo whatever it is the EPA does, then you are right now enjoying grim satisfaction. So it has been said. So it has been done. The EPA is disappearing as a government agency tasked with protecting air, water, and other natural resources, acceding to the wisdom of businesses and private citizens to make proper and profitable use of what we all share, and perchance to preside over the tragedy of the commons.

Were you also prepared to sign off on having a self-absorbed dilettante use his government office as a personal ATM? I am guessing so, else I would by now be seeing a rising storm coming from the flatlands, demanding Mr. Pruitt be exiled to the lowest reaches of anonymity. Since my fellow flat landers are clearly cool with Mr. Pruitt’s style, we have to wonder why some much energy is going toward keeping these doings under wraps. CNN adds:

EPA staffers met routinely in Pruitt’s office to “scrub,” alter or remove from Pruitt’s official calendar numerous records because they might “look bad,” according to Kevin Chmielewski, Pruitt’s former deputy chief of staff for operations, who attended the meetings.
A CNN review which compared Pruitt’s public calendar with internal EPA schedules and emails shows more than two dozen meetings, events or calls were omitted from his public calendar.
[emphasis added]
Somebody please deny all this, else I will continue forward.

Chmielewski went on to tell that there were as many as three separate schedules, a fact that was kept secret. Apparently when matters sorted out later, they would decide which schedule to  make public. Chmielewski started raising questions about the director’s spending and management, and he was forced to leave (fired) the EPA in February.

The news item from CNN notes that this kind of record keeping violates federal law as a matter of falsifying a public record. Meetings of consequence not found in the public calendar but verified independently include those with industry leaders having issues with EPA regulation and also at least one meeting with a coal executive who had contributed $1 million to the Trump inauguration. Again, one has to ask why, if these meetings showcase the administration’s rollback of government regulation, much promised in the Trump campaign, then why does Director Pruitt feel the need to keep them secret from the voting public?

It is a strange state of affairs, but it is the government you paid for.

Bye Bye My Love Goodbye

It’s sad to see long-time lovers breaking up. Somebody even wrote a song about it:

Bye bye love
Bye bye happiness
Hello loneliness
I think I’m-a gonna cry-y
Bye bye love
Bye bye sweet caress
Hello emptiness
I feel like I could die
Bye bye my love goodbye

[With apologies to the Everly Brothers.]

What’s even worse is when the breakup is above the fold on most news outlets. Double worse is when it’s about crime and politics and worse still when it’s presidential politics. Bye bye, my love, goodbye. The breakup is streaming now on ABC World News Tonight with David Muir on Hulu, where I obtained these screen shots.

This continuing saga has a history stretching back in time, before some of us were reborn. Like before the election of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States.

That’s right. Porn movie actress Stephanie Clifford, a.k.a. Stormy Daniels, and private citizen Trump had their own one-night stand a decade or so back. Actually, it may not be possible to classify this as a one-night stand, since (my understanding) a one-night stand lasts until morning. Furthermore, I cannot assure readers that anybody actually took their clothes off.

But that’s history, and although history may not always repeat itself, it does sometimes come back to haunt. Like when you are running for election for the highest office in the land, and election is a fortnight away, and you suddenly remember. “Oh, shit. There’s this Stormy Daniels business. That could put me down a half a point in the polling, and since I’m already 10 points down, it might be worth while shedding some cash and shaving a half point. Can somebody get Michael on the phone for me?”

Few deny that Michael Cohen, friend, attorney, and fixer for Donald Trump for over a decade, paid Ms. Clifford $130,000 to claim she did not hump the Trump while Donald’s sweet wife was preggers. So the money was paid, and the lady kept her mouth shut, and Trump eked out a win, and we have what we have today. Except…

Except the mouth did not stay shut. It’s amazing how mouths tend not to do so. At a point Ms. Clifford decided she had been screwed, and we wonder how long it took for her to figure that out. So she obtained another lawyer, figuring her then-lawyer Keith M. Davidson had been in bed (figuratively not literally) with Trump’s lawyer Cohen. So Clifford obtained new legal council in the person of Michael Avenatti, and Mr. Avenatti proceeded to unravel the NDA Mr. Cohen had negotiated on behalf of Mr. Trump.

Other lawyers began to look at the arrangement, and those lawyers work for the United States Government, and what they saw was possible violation of election law. Specifically, the payment to Ms. Clifford was a campaign expense, since it was an essential part of getting Mr. Trump elected, but said payment never showed up on any campaign financial disclosure filings. As lawyers, government lawyers at that, began to dig into the matter, other interesting stuff started to come out. Apparently government lawyers came to believe Michael Cohen had been practicing beyond the limits of established statutes, and they did what government lawyers often do:

Agents of the FBI seized documents and more than a dozen phones and electronic devices.

Yeah, here is some of the stuff the government lawyers suspect:

To obtain a warrant to carry out this search on Mr. Cohen’s office, house, and hotel room, they demonstrated to a magistrate they had probable cause Mr. Cohen had engaged in bank and wire fraud. Mr. Cohen is in deep trouble.

If Mr. Cohen is in deep trouble, then President Trump is in an inch of trouble, because Mr. Cohen had been doing a lot of dirty stuff for Mr. Trump. How about if Mr. Cohen would tell the government lawyers about this stuff he had been doing for Mr. Trump?

No way.

“I would do anything to protect Mr. Trump.”

“Mr. President, is Michael Cohen going to flip, sir?” I just love the way the report added the superfluous “sir” at the end of that question. Anyhow, the president has been adamant:

The New York Times and a third rate reporter named Maggie Haberman, known as a Crooked H flunkie who I don’t speak to and have nothing to do with, are going out of their way to destroy Michael Cohen and his relationship with me in the hope that he will “flip.” They use….

….non-existent “sources” and a drunk/drugged up loser who hates Michael, a fine person with a wonderful family. Michael is a businessman for his own account/lawyer who I have always liked & respected. Most people will flip if the Government lets them out of trouble, even if….

….it means lying or making up stories. Sorry, I don’t see Michael doing that despite the horrible Witch Hunt and the dishonest media!

I take that as a “no.”

Oops! That was then. This is now.

In an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC News:

My wife and my son have my first loyalty and always will. I put family and country first.

ABC News now has it that Michael Cohen sees losing everything over his loyalty to the president, which loyalty has historically never been reciprocated. Will Mr. Cohen cough up incriminating details on a sitting president in exchange for leniency on some serious charges? There are issues.

If Michael Cohen says, “Give me a break, and I’m going to tell you about some criminal stuff in Donald Trump’s past,” then prosecutors, and worst of all a judge, will be asking, “Is he going to make up stuff about the president in order to save his own hide?” It is a concern, but it doesn’t work that way. What Mr. Cohen can do is tell what he knows, and then prosecutors can use his statements in an affidavit, which they will take to a judge to obtain search warrants and subpoenas to obtain information that will corroborate what Michael Cohen has told them. Then, providing the there is verifiable criminal activity, they can begin criminal proceedings. Does anybody doubt the President of the United States has committed criminal acts worthy of prosecution? Not within shouting distance of where I now sit.

Michael Cohen has turned from “All the way with Donald Trump” (I know that doesn’t rhyme), to “Not so fast there, Mr. Trump.” He is expressing his legal view on the infamous Trump Tower of June 2016, saying…

“…an example of poor judgment.” You think?

Multiple news outlets, those which the president calls out as “fake news,” are reporting that Michael Cohen has obtained new legal counsel independent of the president’s legal team. That means that the Trump-Cohen partnership is coming asunder—the two will be going their separate ways. What’s about to play out could be very interesting and will likely end up in the history books.

Bye bye, my love, goodbye.

The Awful Truth

Number 5 in a Series

The title of this series derived from that of an old movie, but I use it to highlight that for some people the truth is often sorry news. The topic today is not a movie but a recent book by James R. Clapper, retired Air Force lieutenant general and most recently Director of National Intelligence. The book is Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence. I obtained the Kindle edition from Amazon after catching an interview with General Clapper on CNN. It’s 431 pages, but it’s an interesting read, provided stuff like intelligence and truth are of interest.

It’s a story of a life, quite literally, in the national intelligence business. Clapper is about five months younger than I am, and his father was in the Army signal intelligence field. So Clapper grew up in that world, traveling with his parents as his father was posted to exotic places following the fall of fascism. An early memory was arriving with his mother in Cairo, a visit that terminated abruptly somewhat later when King Farouk made a pass at his mother, and his father took a swing at the king. Someday let me tell you about my exciting childhood growing up in Hood County, Texas.

Anyhow, young James showed great promise and naturally drifted into military intelligence and eventually into  Wasington  bureaucracy. The key to the book is Clapper’s perspective on the current tussle over fact and truth in the Donald Trump administration, viewed with the vision of a person who spent a long career learning how to sift fact from fiction. He leaves a grim reminder that fiction is on the ascendancy. I’m going to present this perspective by way of showing pertinent clips from the book and adding elaboration when available. Start here with Clapper’s reaction to the outcome of the 2016 election:

I was shocked. Everyone was shocked, including Mr. Trump, who’d continued on Election Day to cast doubt on whether he would accept the election results as legitimate. Having a few minutes alone, I kept thinking of just how out of touch I was with the people who lived in Middle America. I’d been stationed in heartland states repeatedly during my military career, particularly Texas, and I had traveled extensively as an agency director in the early 2000s and again during the past six and a half years as DNI, meeting with Intelligence Community employees outside of St. Louis, speaking at the University of Texas at Austin and with the Chamber of Commerce in San Antonio, and visiting many other places. I’d joked to audiences about just how out of touch people in Washington were, and I’d never failed to draw a laugh, sometimes applause. Working down in the “engine room” of our national security enterprise—“shoveling intelligence coal,” as I liked to say—I never recognized just how much frustration with and resentment toward Washington those communities had, and just how deep the roots of their anger went. But Donald Trump had, and he’d appealed to them more than I’d realized or liked.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 1-2). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

It came as a surprise to most right-thinking people that fact no longer mattered, being cast aside over a call to our basest impulses. This is from the Introduction, and there’s more from this section summarizing Clapper’s take on the situation.

I also thought about the warning on Russian interference in the election that Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and I had issued to the American public a month earlier. We’d agonized over the precise wording of the press release and whether naming Russian president Vladimir Putin as the mastermind and puppeteer of the Russian influence operation would cause an international incident, drawing Jeh’s department and the Intelligence Community into the political fray. Reading responses to exit polls, I realized that our release and public statements simply hadn’t mattered. I wasn’t sure if people were oblivious to the seriousness of the threat we’d described or if they just didn’t care what the Russians were doing.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 2). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I wondered what President Obama was thinking and if he regretted his reticence to “put his thumb on the scale” of the election—as he put it—by not publicly calling out the Russian interference while Putin was effectively standing on the other end of that scale. At the same time, I was no longer sure it would have mattered to the people in Middle America if the president had presented everything we knew about Russia’s massive cyber and propaganda efforts to undermine American democracy, disparage former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, and promote Donald Trump.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 2). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I didn’t realize it then, but the Russians were just as shocked as we were. They’d succeeded beyond their wildest imagination and were completely unprepared for their own success. The Russian propaganda network in the United States, formerly known as Russia Today and since rebranded as just “RT,” was jubilant in calling the election for Mr. Trump: “That’s what this is, a defining moment in global history, that America is willing to turn the page and possibly isolate itself from the rest of the world.” They declared, “The next speech that Donald Trump gives to the world will be one of the most important speeches in the history of the world.” As the anchors reveled in Trump’s victory, the crawl at the bottom of the screen continued running lines intended to delegitimize Clinton’s win, such as SEVERAL STATES REPORT BROKEN VOTING MACHINES. The Russian internet troll factory scrambled to stop its #DemocracyRIP social media campaign, set to run from its fake accounts on Twitter and Facebook.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 3). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

After the election, the CIA and the FBI continued to uncover evidence of preelection Russian propaganda, all intended to undermine Clinton and promote Trump, and the Intelligence Community continued to find indications of Russian cyber operations to interfere with the election. At a National Security Council meeting on Monday, December 5, President Obama gave us more explicit instructions. He wanted the CIA, NSA, and FBI—each agency with the mission-specific tradecraft and capabilities to determine what the Russians had done—to assemble all their findings, encompassing the most sensitive sourcing, into a single report that he could pass on to the next administration and to Congress. He also asked us to produce a paper for public consumption with as much information from the classified version as possible. And critically, he wanted all of this done before he left office. The highly classified IC assessment that resulted was, I believe, a landmark product—among the most important ever produced by US intelligence.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 3-4). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

For me, there was no specific moment in that time, no flash of insight when I understood that our primary adversary for nearly all of my half century as a US intelligence professional was—without exaggeration—hacking away at the very roots of our democracy. That realization slowly washed over me in 2016 in a tide that continued to rise after the election, and even after I’d left government and the new administration had transitioned into power. My concern about what I saw taking place in America—and my apprehension that we were losing focus on what the Russians had done to us—is ultimately what persuaded me to write this book, to use what we had learned in our IC assessment to frame my experience and our collective experience as Americans.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 4). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

My hope is to capture and share the experience of more than fifty years in the intelligence profession, to impart the pride that intelligence officers take in their work, the care with which they consider the ethical implications of surveillance and espionage, and the patriotism and willingness to sacrifice that they bring to the job. And finally, I intend to show that what Russia did to the United States during the 2016 election was far worse than just another post–Cold War jab at an old adversary. What to us was a sustained assault on our traditional values and institutions of governance, from external as well as internal pressures. In the wake of that experience, my fear is that many Americans are questioning if facts are even knowable, as foreign adversaries and our national leaders continue to deny objective reality while advancing their own “alternative facts.” America possesses great strength and resilience, but how we rise to this challenge—with clear-eyed recognition of the unbiased facts and by setting aside our doubts—is entirely up to us. I believe the destiny of the American ideal is at stake.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 4). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

And that pretty much sums up the book’s introduction. Any more, and I would have pasted here the entire text. I will skip over much that details Clapper’s career in military intelligence, highlighting only a few excerpts. Then I will close out with events most of us recall from watching TV. First some career highlights. Here’s something that came up in another book I reviewed recently:

Many of the prominent code crackers of World War II had been women who’d stayed with the agency after the war, and NSA in the 1960s was appreciative of their contributions and more open to having them in leadership positions than the rest of government or corporate America. My dad had worked for several of these women in the 1950s, including Juanita Moody and Ann Caracristi, who in 1980 would shatter the glass ceiling as deputy director of NSA. Hearing him talk about these individuals as smart, capable leaders, without his making a big deal about their gender, made a bigger impression on my views of women than any feminist views my mother ever expressed.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 19). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

His years in military service encompassed historical transformations:

family. The most indelible experience I had was processing the dishonorable discharges of two airmen who were roommates in the barracks, and who had been “outed” (which was not a term used back then) as homosexual. In the day, there was—by regulation—no other recourse. They automatically lost their security clearances and were expelled from the service. At best, homosexuals were given general discharges; some received dishonorable. These two individuals were model airmen: superb Russian linguists, meticulous about their military responsibilities, and devoted to serving their country. I remember thinking what a waste of talent it was, in addition to being a profound injustice, and it viscerally bothered me that I was forced to play a part in their unceremonious dismissals.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 21). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

In those days intelligence was largely historical, telling people what had happened, not what was happening and certainly not forecasting what was going to happen.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 22). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Because of the size of the Soviet Union and China, high-frequency Morse code was the primary way to effectively communicate across such vast distances, so the entire Eurasian landmass was ringed with SIGINT sites, stretching from Japan to Turkey to Britain. Each signals intelligence station employed hundreds of GIs—soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines—copying “dits and dahs” around the clock, day in and day out.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 25). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

In February 1959, the Air Force attempted the launch of its first “overhead” collection capability—Corona. The first launch vehicle never left the pad. In assessing America’s early successes in space photoreconnaissance and just how much they changed the game against the Soviets, people tend to forget that in 1959 and 1960 our first thirteen attempts at Corona failed.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 26). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Tensions between North and South escalated, and US Air Force B-52s continued to fly patrols parallel to the DMZ. The North Koreans, in turn, put their air-defense systems on high alert, flew MiG fighters on frequent patrols, and dispatched their submarines out to sea. We intercepted communications indicating that Kim Il-sung might order an invasion into South Korea. I stayed in the office for about three days without going home, communicating via Teletype with an Army major who was my counterpart in South Korea. The sense of an imminent war was palpable through the crisis, and it took several weeks for the situation to stabilize enough for us to fall back into a regular rhythm.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 34). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I had not fully appreciated the consuming siege mentality that pervades North Korea until I visited and engaged directly with senior officials there. The leadership elites in the North work hard to maximize paranoia among the population. Portraying the United States as an enemy that’s constantly on the brink of invading it is one of the chief propaganda themes that’s held North Korea together for the past sixty years. They are also deadly serious about any perceived affronts to the Supreme Leader, whom they literally consider a deity. The DPRK is a family-owned country and has been that way ever since it was founded in the 1940s. Because of its history, the DPRK sees developing nuclear weapons as its insurance policy and ticket to survival. North Korea wants to be recognized as a world power, and its entire society, including their conventional military forces, suffers for the relentless, single-minded commitment to develop and field these weapons and delivery systems to threaten the United States. Neither they nor we really know if their weapons work, but in many ways, it doesn’t matter. They achieved nuclear deterrence long ago, because we have to assume that if they do launch an ICBM at the United States, it will reach our shores and detonate. They have effectively played their nuclear hand to the hilt, for without even proving they have the relevant capability, they’ve capitalized on nuclear deterrence.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (pp. 49-50). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Reading the account of  his own career, which nobody will deny is factual, you have to conclude that James Clapper came to be knowledgeable about all facets of intelligence gathering and analysis. He gives the impression of one who values true and useful information, but he reemphasizes that the job of intelligence agencies is to present proper detail and the significance of intelligence but at the same time not to extrapolate and not to suggest consequences. Military, law enforcement, and politicians bear the responsibility for taking action.

His service in Washington provided Clapper with insight into  a number of personalities, insight that eventually became reflected in news headlines. One such person was two-time Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. When Clapper applied to head up the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (then NIMA), Secretary Rumsfeld had to sign off on his hiring:

Almost as soon as I sat down, Rumsfeld was off on a rant about Congress, complaining about partisan politics and how too many members catered to their constituents over the best interests of the nation.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 90). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Clapper found the meeting uncomfortable, resulting in this exchange:

As my thirty-minute appointment extended to forty-five minutes, I thought that if I was a wagering man, I’d bet he’d be out of the job before Christmas. The interview came to a merciful end. He stood, shook my hand, and wished me luck. Outside, Staser saw my quizzical look and told me I had the job.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 91). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

“Staser” is “retired Vice Admiral Staser Holcomb, who had been Secretary Rumsfeld’s military assistant the first time he’d served as secretary of defense and who was now serving informally as Rumsfeld’s “executive headhunter,” recruiting people for senior positions in DOD.” [Page 87]

A subsequent encounter with Secretary Rumsfeld led ultimately to Clapper’s firing from head of NIMA.

At that lunch, Mike and I both advocated establishing a strong DNI, rather than creating a weak figurehead that would diffuse or confuse authority, and we told the secretary that he should back legislation that would align the three “national” agencies under a DNI. The agencies could still fulfill their combat support responsibilities, but they would produce better intelligence under an authority whose full-time focus would be on integrating their work. We appealed to him to support improving how intelligence functioned, rather than protecting the existing bureaucracy. Secretary Rumsfeld cut short the lunch and left, missing a good dessert. Mike would later say that my discourse that day was the reason my NGA directorship was ultimately terminated early.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 105). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

“DNI” is Director of National Intelligence, and “NGA” is a subsequent abbreviation for the agency that was NIMA.

Another personality eventually to become notable is Lieutenant General Michael Flynn:

When I first went to Russia in 1992, I was taken aback, even disappointed, at seeing the run-down infrastructure and the plight of Russian citizens. It was graphic evidence that behind the formidable Soviet military power was a third- or fourth-rate economy. On a subsequent trip, I visited GRU headquarters—the Russian military intelligence agency that was DIA’s nominal counterpart, much as the KGB was CIA’s. (I don’t know if I was the first DIA director to visit GRU, but I do know that Lieutenant General Mike Flynn was not the first DIA director to visit there in 2013, as he claimed.) There we found Soviet military equipment being sold at bargain-basement prices to raise funds to keep the agency functioning, so DIA bought jets, tanks, guns, antiaircraft systems, and whatever else we thought would be useful to study and exploit, as well as anything we wanted to keep off the black market.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 79). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

General Flynn served briefly in the administrations of President Obama and President Trump. Prior to that he became noted for keeping his own facts, which facts have come to be called “Flynn facts.”

Mike had spent his career, particularly the decade since 9/11, on the tactical edge of battle. He had never directed a large organization before, and he made some of the same mistakes I’d made as a new DIA director in 1991, including not properly engaging the workforce before undertaking a major reorganization. He could have rectified the situation, but he didn’t address the civilian workforce’s concerns when they were brought to him, and he made matters worse by increasingly demanding that civilians behave like uniformed service members. Stories started leaking out of DIA that he was using analysts to chase down crazy conspiracy theories, which the workforce had dubbed “Flynn facts.” He also clashed with his boss in the Pentagon, Mike Vickers, and publicly criticized the president’s policy decisions, asserting that the president should refer to terrorists as “Islamic extremists.”

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 331). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

As General Flynn exited military life and entered politics, his persona became more flamboyant and his discourse more strident:

With the Trump team setting the agenda, the convention seemed to revel in pessimism about the state of the nation and the direction it was heading. On Monday, Mike Flynn led the crowd in chanting “Lock her up!” in reference to the Clinton email scandal. He seemed so consumed by partisan anger that I barely recognized the man I’d traveled the world with when he’d still been in uniform.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 341). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Clapper notes with alarm Flynn’s actions as he entered the Trump administration:

Three days after candidate Trump released his December 7 anti-Islam statement, former DIA director and retired lieutenant general Mike Flynn appeared in Moscow at a gala for RT. He was seated beside Putin at dinner and was paid forty-five thousand dollars to speak. I knew Mike well, and it boggled my mind that he would so knowingly compromise himself.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 330). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

RT is the new name for Russia TV, a television network funded by the Russian government.

The book addresses the matters of Bradley Manning—an Army private—and Edward Snowden, both of whom filched classified information, eventually shared world-wide by WikiLeaks. For details of these episodes you might want to read the book or wait for separate blog postings that concentrate on these matters.

People who want to discredit our intelligence and law enforcement services have found a target in Clapper’s statements before a Senate “worldwide threat assessment hearing” on 12 March 2013. His response to a question from Senator Ron Wyden from Oregon has become fodder for a host of those seeking to avoid the embarrassment of Russian involvement in the 2016 elections and more. Senator Wyden posed a question during an open session:

And this is for you, Director Clapper—again, on the surveillance front. And I hope we can do this in just a yes or no answer, because I know Senator Feinstein wants to move on. Last summer, the NSA director was at a conference and he was asked a question about the NSA surveillance of Americans. He replied, and I quote here, ‘‘The story that we have millions, or hundreds of millions, of dossiers on people is completely false.’’ The reason I’m asking the question is, having served on the committee now for a dozen years, I don’t really know what a dossier is in this context. So what I wanted to see is if you could give me a yes or no answer to the question, does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions, or hundreds of millions, of Americans?

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 207). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Of course, Director Clapper knew of the NSA program to track phone traffic related to conversations that included suspicious foreigners, and he knew that these conversations sometimes involved American citizens, people who might not be involved in illegal activity. The program was a closely kept secret, because it would not be a good idea for spies to know the NSA was doing this. Senator Wyden demanded a yes or no answer, which the question did not deserve. There was hardly any response Clapper could have made, even beyond a yes or a no. If he told the senator that he was unable to answer that question in an open meeting, that would have given a strong signal that the NSA was monitoring telephone traffic, and he would have been guilty of divulging classified information. But the senator referred to “dossiers” on Americans, something which the NSA was not compiling in the manner indicated. Clapper answered no to that question, which was technically correct, but which later turned out to be something used to torch him.

The theme of this book is the fading esteem for fact and truth in the new government, and I will finish with some pertinent quotes.

For the past several years, I’d watched as “unpredictable instability” instability” around the world had prompted angry populations to rise up against their governments and societies. It led to al-Qaida, ISIS, and their ilk proliferating from Afghanistan to Southwest Asia and into North Africa and Europe. It led to civil wars in Libya and Syria and a global refugee crisis unlike anything the world had seen since the end of the Second World War, which my dad had helped end. Unpredictable instability brought pain, war, and suffering to the world. In the United States, it gave us Donald Trump.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 357). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I was far from being the only person who was shocked by the outcome, and as the Russians scrambled to stop their #DemocracyRIP social media campaign, President-elect Trump’s circle seemed to have no strategy for shifting from campaign mode to administration-transition mode. Rather than working with the State Department, or even contacting it, Trump was taking calls from world leaders, apparently from whoever could get his personal cell phone number. Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull famously obtained it from professional golfer Greg Norman and was one of eight world leaders to call Trump with congratulations on the day his victory was announced. With no State Department involvement, no one briefed the president-elect on bilateral issues or existing agreements, and the United States has no official record of what was said during those conversations.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (pp. 357-358). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

There was and remains no doubt the government of Vladimir Putin dreaded the possibility Hillary Clinton would be elected, and they worked against her candidacy from the get-go. When Donald Trump became the presumptive nominee they shifted their focus and worked toward his election. As seen from the foregoing, toward the end they feared Trump would lose and focused on discrediting the American election process.

During his final weeks employed by the government, Director Clapper had the opportunity to read the world’s response to Donal Trump’s election:

I traveled from Oman to Kuwait and then to Jordan, where I had lunch with King Abdullah on Friday. The king tried to hide his pique that there had been no communication between Trump’s team and his government. He ended the lunch early, and I watched wistfully as someone carried off my plate after I’d had only a couple of bites of a superb steak. The next day, I flew from Jordan to Israel, ending another trip to the Middle East with a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu. He seemed a different person, jubilant with the results of the election. He couldn’t stop smiling and noted that he’d had a terrific conversation with the president-elect within hours of Trump’s delivering his victory speech. I congratulated him, and he gave me another of his cigars.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 359). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The election of Donald Trump is one of the few joys shared by Putin and Netanyahu. There was valid concern the new administration would seek to minimize the actions of the Putin government.  Members of the intelligence community sought to forestall these efforts while they still had the directive to do so.

Regardless of our cooperation with the Trump transition team, we hadn’t forgotten what Russia had done. The FBI and CIA were coming across new evidence of Russian activities relating to the election every day, and I was starting to see that the scope and scale of their effort was much bigger than Jeh or I had understood when we’d released our statement in October.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 361). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The concerns of the intelligence agencies turned out to have merit. The words and actions of Donald Trump following the election make it clear he sees this Russian business as a threat to his legitimacy:

As we discussed those possibilities in the White House Situation Room, the public dialogue about Russian interference was heating up. Seeming to fear it called the legitimacy of his election into question, the president-elect responded defensively whenever the subject was raised. In an interview with Time magazine on November 28, he countered a question on Russian activities with, “I don’t believe they interfered. That became a laughing point, not a talking point, a laughing point.” Asked who he thought had hacked the Democrats’ email accounts and IT systems, he responded, “It could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.”

We knew it was not someone in New Jersey, and I was fairly certain that President-elect Trump knew that as well. At an NSC meeting on Monday, December 5, President Obama told us he wanted CIA, FBI, and NSA to integrate all their relevant intelligence into a single report to pass on to the next administration and Congress. He also asked us to derive from it an unclassified document for public consumption with as much information from the classified version as possible. And critically, he wanted all of this done before January 20—the end of his administration.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 361-362). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

On Friday, December 9, unnamed “officials briefed on the matter” leaked the effort to the press, saying the CIA and FBI had reached the conclusion that Russia had helped Trump win. The leak wasn’t quite accurate, and certainly wasn’t helpful, but the immediate response from President-elect Trump’s transition team was even worse. Under the seal of “President Elect Donald J. Trump,” the team published a press release that—with no preamble—began, “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.’” It was stunning. Based on rumors from anonymous sources, the president-elect had lashed out reflexively to delegitimize the Intelligence Community—the same IC that would be serving him in forty-two days, that was already giving him President Obama’s PDBs. The attack was disturbing, as was its demonstrably false assertion that his victory was one of the “biggest” ever.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (pp. 362-363). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Fact was dying a quick death.

The president-elect seemed increasingly desperate to make the story of Russian interference go away, constantly denying there had been any impact on the election or any interference at all. On December 28, he said that it was “time for the country to move on to bigger and better things.” President Obama didn’t want to focus on the Russian issue during his final weeks in office, either, but he wasn’t simply going to “move on.” On December 29, he ordered new sanctions against Russia and declared thirty-five known Russian spies in the United States to be persona non grata and sent them home. He also closed the two Russian-owned facilities in Maryland and New York. I didn’t think that response was commensurate with what they’d done to us, but I also knew we weren’t prepared to take more drastic steps. We waited to see how Putin would respond, fully expecting a reciprocal retaliation.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (pp. 365-366). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The same day, as was confirmed when he later pled guilty to lying to the FBI about it, National Security Adviser-designate Mike Flynn called Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, assuring him not to worry about the sanctions and asking that Russia not retaliate. On the following day, Putin announced he would not expel anyone from Russia and would not respond in kind to the new US sanctions, saying he would wait to work with the next US presidential administration. Trump tweeted, “Great move on delay (by V. Putin)—I always knew he was very smart!”

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 366). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Clapper details the Russian propaganda successes:

We showed unambiguously that Putin had ordered the campaign to influence the election, that the campaign was multifaceted, and that Russia had used cyber espionage against US political organizations and publicly disclosed the data they collected through WikiLeaks, DCLeaks, and the Guccifer 2.0 persona. We documented Russian cyber intrusions into state and local voter rolls. We described Russia’s pervasive propaganda efforts through RT, Sputnik, and the social media trolls, and how the entire operation had begun with attempts to undermine US democracy and demean Secretary Clinton, then shifted to promoting Mr. Trump when Russia assessed he was a viable candidate who would serve their strategic goals. We added historical context to show just how much of an unprecedented escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort all of this represented, and we assessed that the election operation signaled a “new normal in Russian influence efforts.” The Russian government had done all of this at minimal cost and without significant damage to their own interests, and they had no real incentive to stop.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (pp. 366-367). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

As events moved toward the change in government, the president-elect became strident in his denunciation of truth:

On Tuesday President-elect Trump attempted to undercut our assessment before its release, tweeting, “The ‘intelligence’ briefing on so-called ‘Russian hacking’ was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!”

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 367). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

At 8:30 on Friday morning we were back on Capitol Hill, presenting our briefing to the “Gang of Eight”: the party leaders in the House and Senate and the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence committees. Our presentation was fast-paced and terse, as we had to leave by 9:30 to stay on schedule. I departed the Capitol with the impression that the leaders of both parties were taken aback, both by the extent of the Russian operation and by the thoroughness with which we’d documented the facts and evidence.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 373). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The matter of the Steele dossier (think “Pee Pee Tape”) was first broached to :the president-elect at a briefing in Trump Tower:

As we closed the briefing, Jim Comey took advantage of a pause in conversation to address the president-elect. We’d agreed that one of the two of us would bring up “one additional matter,” a subject “best discussed on a one-on-one basis” with the president-elect. The additional matter was a dossier—a collection of seventeen “pseudo-intelligence” reports created by a private company—which I first learned about from John Brennan a week or so after we’d been tasked to conduct the IC assessment. I didn’t know until after my tenure as DNI that the dossier had begun as opposition research against Mr. Trump during the Republican primary race and then, sponsored by the Democrats, had continued to expand during the general election campaign. The memos covered a wide range of topics all related to long-standing interactions between Trump, his associates, and the Russians. It further alleged that the Russian government had compromising material on the president-elect and his team, which it had not disclosed during the course of the election or since.

Some details in the report were salacious, but in our professional opinions, the more ominous accounts alleged ties between members of the Trump team and the Russian government. Because we had not corroborated any of the sources used to generate the dossier, we had not included it as part of our IC assessment. We knew that at least two congressional members and some of the media had copies of the dossier, and that it could be published—in whole or in part—at any moment. While we could neither confirm nor refute anything in the document, we felt what I expressed as a “duty to warn” the president-elect that it existed and that it potentially could be made public. I wondered at the time—and have often done so since—what the reaction would have been had we not warned the president-elect about the existence of the dossier, and he later learned we had known about it and chosen not to tell him.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (pp. 375-376). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The Steele dossier and the matter of the “Pee Pee Tape” continues to roil the debate and to be a subject of attacks on the intelligence agencies. For me, it’s a never ending source of mirth;

During the course of briefing the incoming administration, Clapper received clear signs there was no plan to follow advice regarding the Russian government operations. He took action to ensure some pertinent facts would get out.

Before we cleared the conference room, the Trump team had already begun drafting their press release about our meeting. I overheard their first point, that the US IC had assessed that the Russian interference did not change the outcome of the election—which was very different from our acknowledgment that we hadn’t, and couldn’t, assess its impact. We had to let it pass. In the hallway I took the opportunity to engage Tom Bossert, who in turn introduced me to the vice president-elect. I spoke with them briefly, suggesting that the new administration consider asking Nick Rasmussen to stay on as director of the National Counterterrorism Center, which it did.

In the car on the way back to Newark Airport, I called Brian Hale (who only requested to be described as “tanned and rested” if we mentioned him in this book) and told him to publish the unclassified IC assessment immediately.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 376). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Clapper emphasized the word immediately.

The facts of the Russian operation continued to be a political football, in play by both parties.

For the next two hours, as the American public, the Russian government, and the rest of the world watched, we answered questions about the Russian cyber and influence operation. The senators, and simultaneously the media, sought to parse our every word, Democrats looking for collusion between Trump’s team and the Russians, Republicans for evidence of a conspiracy that the IC was attempting to undermine the president-elect.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 379). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

When I finally had the free time to check on world events, I found that all the contentiousness of the hearings and briefings had been completely overshadowed by other breaking news: BuzzFeed had published the now-infamous dossier on Trump, the one that Jim had warned the president-elect about five days earlier. In a classic case of “shoot the messenger,” Trump publicly blamed us for the publication of the dossier—yet another indication to me that his administration would not appreciate anyone’s speaking truth to power, particularly if the truth was politically inconvenient.

I woke Wednesday to find that Trump had tweeted another early-morning attack on us: “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?” I was floored by the analogy, and Jewish communities in the United States and abroad called for him to apologize and retract the statement. That afternoon in my office, I watched the president-elect in a televised news conference, doubling down on his Nazi tweet, again alleging that US intelligence agencies had “allowed” the dossier to leak—as though we had any control over a document we’d discovered already “out in the wild.” He continued, “I think it’s a disgrace. And I say that, and I say that, and that’s something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do.” Not helping the situation, the New York Times quickly published a story apparently intended to clarify that he meant to refer to US intelligence as the Stasi, not the Gestapo.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (pp. 379-380). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Following his retirement, General Clapper watched unfolding events with a combination of humor and horror (my interpretation):

And I watched from the outside as the new administration struggled to govern while contending with the new president’s aversion to inconvenient facts.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 384). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Contrary to all the images and data, Sean Spicer berated the media for their coverage, announcing, “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.” Telling them the White House would hold them responsible for misrepresentations, he took no questions.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 384). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

An hour and a half later, President Trump was on camera at CIA headquarters. When I’d heard the first place he would visit as president was the CIA, I naïvely wondered if my appeal to his higher instincts had somehow had impact. No. He took to the microphone and began rambling about the “dishonest media,” the size of his inauguration crowd, and his belief that military and law enforcement people had voted for him en masse, lumping the CIA into those categories and saying, “Probably almost everybody in this room voted for me, but I will not ask you to raise your hands if you did. But I would guarantee a big portion, because we’re all on the same wavelength, folks.” He expressed his support of the IC with “I want to say that there is nobody that feels stronger about the intelligence community and the CIA than Donald Trump. There’s nobody.” He briefly interrupted himself to say, “The wall behind me is very, very special,” and then resumed his self-aggrandizing diatribe. The problem was that the sacred wall he was standing before—with its 125 stars representing fallen CIA officers—is the CIA’s equivalent of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, not a place for politics or boasting. I considered putting out a statement, but John Brennan expressed that he was “deeply saddened and angered” and that “Trump should be ashamed of himself,” and I felt that covered it.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 384). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Neither the book nor outside information identify James Clapper as a Democrat or a Republican. Throughout he comes across as holding decidedly progressive views, on the promotion of  women and on equal treatment of people of all kinds. He leaves no doubt he considers the current president as both corrupt and an enemy of the truth.

This is your President speaking.

Number 123

 

And now a few words from the President of the United States:

Prior to departing Wisconsin, I was briefed on the shooting at Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. Thank you to all of the First Responders who are currently on the scene.

Many journalists are honest and great – but some are knowingly dishonest and basic scum. They should.be weeded out!

Sometimes there is nothing left to be said.

This is your President speaking.

Number 122

And now a few words from the President of the United States:

The Red Hen Restaurant should focus more on cleaning its filthy canopies, doors and windows (badly needs a paint job) rather than refusing to serve a fine person like Sarah Huckabee Sanders. I always had a rule, if a restaurant is dirty on the outside, it is dirty on the inside!

Some may think I post these presidential proclamations in great agony. That could not be more far from the truth. It is with great pleasure that I present proclamations of the President of the United States on these pages. They are, after all, part of the historical record of my beloved country. In earlier days I might have posted other words of great historical significance. Here are a few samples from our nation’s past:
  • When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
  • We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
  • But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
  • Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.
So much for that. It has now come to this:
  • I always had a rule, if a restaurant is dirty on the outside, it is dirty on the inside!
So let it be said. So let it be done. We sail forward into a brave future with a fool at the helm.

This is your President speaking.

Number 121 in a long series

And now a few words from the President of the United States:

We cannot allow all of these people to invade our Country. When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came. Our system is a mockery to good immigration policy and Law and Order. Most children come without parents…

This posting is not directed toward everybody. I pulled this one up to indulge those who voted for Donald Trump. And the message is clear. Either Donald Trump has a mental problem, or else those who voted for him do. I will leave that for readers to decide.

This is your President speaking.

Number 120 in a long series

And now a few words from the President of the United States:

“I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?” written on the back of Melania’s jacket, refers to the Fake News Media. Melania has learned how dishonest they are, and she truly no longer cares!

Way to tell them, Mr. President. And who should know more about fake news than you?

People Unclear

This is number 44 of a series

When I run low on issues to post about, I can reliably turn to the matter of people unclear. These are people who leave the impression they were taking a bathroom break when the operating instructions were handed out. Do I poke fun at these people? Yes, I do, and it’s not being cruel. It’s not being cruel when explanation has been provided again and again, and when the facts are clearly laid out but willfully ignored. Shame!

Here’s another one and additional proof that I usually do not conduct my own research. This came by way of Yahoo News, penned by Jack Baer, to whom thanks go for due diligence. The matter concerns Washington State University football coach Mike Leach and his off-kilter Sunday pastime. Here’s from Yahoo News:

Mike Leach spends Father’s Day arguing on Twitter about heavily edited Barack Obama conspiracy video

Mike Leach could have spent his Father’s Day doing so many fun things, like a family dinner or golfing (OK, probably not golfing). Heck, he probably could have just spent the day recruiting like Nick Saban probably did.

Instead, Leach honored the occasion by tweeting out a clearly fake video of Barack Obama and spending hours arguing about it with strangers on the internet [sic].

Whoa! Tweeting out a fake video? Featuring former President Barack Obama? Where’s the news in that? I recall a recent eight-year period when this activity was a nation-wide sport, with points given for originality. Before I go further, take a look at the video:

Since this is a competitive event, I am giving points for the various elements (1 – 5):

  • Originality: 1
  • Execution: 2
  • Difficulty: 1
  • Audacity: 5

If audacity were the only element scored, then Coach Leach would be heading for the playoffs. Writer Jack Baer has more, and it contains some interesting revelations.

First, Coach Leach has 100,000 Twitter followers. Who would have thought? And he shared the video with his 100,000 followers. See? That’s how word gets around.

Second, Mike Leach received push back from a number of the tweetees. An example:

Replying to 

This video is a hoax. This was given and selectively clipped from a speech to the EU in Brussels. Be better than this.

Now for the kicker. Coach Leach punted back:

Replying to 

Prove it. Irrelevant anyway. We are discussing ideas. Do one or the other

Prove it! Prove it? How many ways are there to spell “brass balls?” All that is necessary to “prove it” is to replay the original, unedited speech. Irrelevant? That the video is a fake is irrelevant? Has “irrelevant” been given a new meaning?

In his original tweet, since deleted, Coach Leach introduced the video with these words:

Listen to this. Text your thoughts. There is a lot of disagreement on government, so I think that an open discussion is always in order. Tweet your thoughts. Maybe we can all learn something.

He wants readers to listen up, pay attention. He wants their thoughts. He wants open discussion. For those still unclear, you do not seek open discussion by opening with a lie. As Jack Baer explains, responders presented proof the video was fake. When you are truly unclear, what do you do when  presented with evidence you are truly unclear? You provide additional evidence that you are truly unclear. Here’s another exchange:

Replying to 

He’s speaking about Russian aggression in Ukraine. You cannot say “Discussion” when you’re entire invitation is built on a false premise.

The link is to the unedited speech. The coach elects to dig in:

Replying to 

What is false. Please clarify. Does this ever happen to Trump or any other politicians?!

First, the sentence “What is false” should have been spelled “What is false?” It is supposed to be a question. Then, maybe not. Perhaps Coach Leach does not consider it to be a question. Perhaps he’s making a point. “Who cares what is false?”
Does this ever happen to Trump or any other politicians?!
Double punctuation question mark and exclamation mark. A question shouted out loud and with force. But what does the question mean? Is this actually a statement: “This kind of stuff happens to Trump all the time. And other politicians, besides, so I’m not picking on Obama.” Putting aside whether this should ever be done (fake videos, fake stories) by anybody about anybody, I want to dive into the mind of Coach Leach. How about Trump, and how about how he is treated? Is all this stuff about President Trump fabricated? Is it all fake, a bunch of lies? More so, is any of it fake? Let’s see.

 

Yeah, that will about do it with whether this stuff is fake.

There is more from Jack Baer:

All told, Leach asked Twitter users to “prove it” nine different times (123456789) as he continued to march through the internet battlegrounds, conveniently missing the many people trying to provide him with proof the video he shared was fake.

At one point, Leach asked a Twitter user a point-blank question that essentially summed up the whole exercise: “What’s a fact?

Specifically:

Replying to  

What’s a fact?

And that does it. When you are arguing a point with somebody, and they ask, “What is a fact,” it’s time to throw in the towel. That’s another sports figure of speech, and it means it’s time to quit. You’re wasting your time. You are obviously dealing with somebody unclear.

The matter of questioning fact is a topic covered in two books I finished reading this month:

Here are some pertinent excerpts:

My hope is to capture and share the experience of more than fifty years in the intelligence profession, to impart the pride that intelligence officers take in their work, the care with which they consider the ethical implications of surveillance and espionage, and the patriotism and willingness to sacrifice that they bring to the job. And finally, I intend to show that what Russia did to the United States during the 2016 election was far worse than just another post–Cold War jab at an old adversary. What happened to us was a sustained assault on our traditional values and institutions of governance, from external as well as internal pressures. In the wake of that experience, my fear is that many Americans are questioning if facts are even knowable, as foreign adversaries and our national leaders continue to deny objective reality while advancing their own “alternative facts.” America possesses great strength and resilience, but how we rise to this challenge—with clear-eyed recognition of the unbiased facts and by setting aside our doubts—is entirely up to us. I believe the destiny of the American ideal is at stake.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 4). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Deeply involved in this is the question of truth. It was no accident that the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year in 2016 was “post-truth,” a condition where objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief. Liberal British academic and philosopher A. C. Grayling characterized the emerging post-truth world to me as “over-valuing opinion and preference at the expense of proof and data.” Oxford Dictionaries president Casper Grathwohl predicted that the term could become “one of the defining words of our time.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 3). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Both of these writers are retired military generals, both worked in military and civilian intelligence for the United States Government. Both consider, rightly, that useful intelligence is based on fact and not on hopes and preferences. When you want to know how many battle tanks the enemy has facing you, you might wish there were only 15, but if there really are 400, then you need to  know this fact. There is evidence we have an administration for which facts are negotiable. Call me concerned.

An additional fact came out of the Yahoo News story, besides the fact that his employer responded to the episode by issuing a statement: “As a private citizen, Mike Leach is entitled to his personal opinions,” the statement said. “Coach Leach’s political views do not necessarily reflect the views of Washington State University students, faculty and staff.” That additional fact is that Coach Leach is the highest paid employee of the state of Washington—$3.5 million.

Quite obviously there are a number of people unclear in the state of Washington.

This is your President speaking.

Number 119 in a long series

And now a few words from the President of the United States:

Why was the FBI giving so much information to the Fake News Media. They are not supposed to be doing that, and knowing the enemy of the people Fake News, they put their own spin on it – truth doesn’t matter to them!

You tell them, Mr. President. While you still have time.