Friday, April 7, 2017

The Birth of the Biggest Lie

Appreciating the Free Press
Hell. How about appreciating just reading newspapers?

We might come to think that the damage done by the Russian propaganda machine has been completed. The Russians plotted to help Donald Trump win the Presidency, but is there any reason to think that this stopped there?

MeanMesa's accolade for the New York Times is not empty praise. Further, the snarky continuum asking about the traditional American "habit" of reading newspapers is more than an empty quip, also.

In fact we can blame the current fiasco in the White House directly upon Americans' capacity to receive "news" from a reasonable source. Not only do Trump supporters clearly get their "news" from a nasty collection of unscrupulous sources, the President, apparently, does, too.

We are now "paying the full price" for our slovenly, uneducated, collective credulity. We may not survive it.

Enjoy the excellent NYT article below. [Visit the original article at this link: NYTimes]

Birth of the Biggest Lie

MARCH 23, 2017

A few things are clear after the congressional testimony of James Comey, the F.B.I. director, this week:

First, Donald Trump owes Barack Obama and the American people an apology for his vituperative lie that Obama committed a felony by wiretapping Trump Tower. It was specious, libelous and reckless, regardless of the weak revelations of “incidental collection” that the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and Trump transition team member Devin Nunes outrageously made public, briefing the president without first briefing his fellow committee members. Nunes’s announcement was a bombshell with no bomb, just enough mud in the water to obscure the blood in the water for those too willfully blind to discern the difference.

Second, Donald Trump will never apologize. Trump’s strategy for dealing with being caught in a lie is often to tell a bigger lie. He seems constitutionally incapable of registering what others would: shame, embarrassment, contrition. Something is broken in the man — definitely morally and possibly psychologically.

Third, and to me this is the biggest, Comey confirmed that the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to the Russians who tampered with our election is not “fake news” manufactured by Democrats stewing over a bitter loss but a legitimate investigation that has been underway for months and has no end in sight.

Individuals who were associated with the president of the United States’ winning campaign are under criminal investigation. That is an extraordinary sentence and one that no American can allow to be swallowed up by other news or dismissed by ideologues.

Depending on the outcome of this investigation, we could be facing a constitutional crisis. Oddly, it is likely that the reason Trump is even in the Oval Office is Comey’s original, extraordinarily inappropriate and unprecedented action. The Trump machinery then used that action to scare Americans about Clinton, in one of the most astonishing acts of deflection and hypocrisy in American history.

The timeline of how the lie of Clinton’s constitutional crisis was born and grew is full of Machiavellian-level misdirections.

On Friday, Oct. 28, a little over a week before Election Day, Comey sent his now infamous letter to Congress saying that “the F.B.I. has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent” to the Clinton email server investigation and that “the F.B.I. should take appropriate investigative steps designed to allow investigators to review these emails to determine whether they contain classified information, as well as to assess their importance to our investigation.”

Soon after the media reported the letter, Trump said at a crowded rally in New Hampshire:

“Hillary Clinton’s corruption is on a scale we have never seen before. We must not let her take her criminal scheme into the Oval Office. I have great respect for the fact that the F.B.I. and the Department of Justice are now willing to have the courage to right the horrible mistake that they made.”

James Comey testifying on Capitol Hill on Monday.
 Credit Eric Thayer for The New York Times
That day, Fox News tweeted a quote from the Trump campaign manager Kellyanne “Alternative Facts” Conway, with an image of her appearing on “The O’Reilly Factor” and text that read: “@KellyannePolls on HRC: “If you’re under your 2nd FBI investigation in the same year then you do have a … corruption & an ethics problem.”

About an hour later, Conway retweeted the Fox News tweet, adding, “Most honest people I know are not under FBI investigation, let alone two.”

That night, as reported by The Des Moines Register, Trump said at a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, rally:

“The investigation is the biggest political scandal since Watergate, and it’s everybody’s hope that justice at last can be delivered.” He went on, “The F.B.I. would never have reopened this case at this time unless it were a most egregious criminal offense.”

Two days later, on Oct. 30, Doug Schoen, a pollster for former President Bill Clinton, said on Fox News that having a president under criminal investigation would pose a constitutional crisis, and the next day he wrote about that it in The Hill, saying:

“I am now convinced that we will be facing the very real possibility of a constitutional crisis with many dimensions and deleterious consequences should Secretary Clinton win the election.”

He continued:

“In the best case scenario, there will be at the very least a criminal investigation of President-elect Clinton. And there will be a criminal investigation of Huma Abedin, which is apparently ongoing. Furthermore, there will be potential investigations into the actions of the Justice Department and most of all the F.B.I. and its director, James Comey.

“After the past eight years wherein America has become progressively more and more divided and a campaign season that has magnified these divisions, I fear for that we will not be able to withstand this kind of continued scandal.”

The Monday that Schoen’s “constitutional crisis” column appeared in The Hill, Trump quoted it at a rally in Michigan. Trump added:

“She would be under protracted criminal investigation and probably a criminal trial, I would say. So we’d have a criminal trial of a sitting president.”

Then that night the Fox News host and Trump flunky Sean Hannity repeated the warning on his own show:

“Think about the magnitude of all of this for a second. Hillary Clinton could be sworn into office while still being under investigation from the F.B.I., which would then put this country into a major constitutional crisis.”

Hannity continued:

“Now Clinton says Donald Trump, oh, he’s not fit to serve in the Oval Office. But she, and she alone, has created a situation that could do severe damage to this country and the office of the presidency and prevent this country from solving problems.”

Three days later, on Nov. 3, the Trump campaign released a television ad called “Unfit” that said in part: “Hillary cannot lead a nation while crippled by a criminal investigation.”

On Sunday, Nov. 6, just two days before the election, Comey sent another letter to Congress saying that based on the bureau’s review, “we have not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July with respect to Secretary Clinton.” In other words, oops, false alarm, nothing there.

But the damage was done. The Trump campaign had already honed its “constitutional crisis, unfit for office” message, and it had sunk in with many Americans. What those Americans didn’t know — what we learned from Comey’s testimony this week — was that although there was no reason to continue investigating Clinton about her emails, the Trump campaign had been under investigation since July about possible contacts and collusion with Russia in its efforts to influence our election.

Now the very thing that Team Trump and its Fox News media arm warned about, Trump himself has delivered: A compromised presidency and a possible constitutional crisis.

As The New York Times reported after Comey’s testimony:

“Mr. Comey placed a criminal investigation at the doorstep of the White House and said officers would pursue it ‘no matter how long that takes.’ ”

The lie these people promoted about Clinton and shielded about Trump are two of the biggest lies ever told in this country in service of electoral advantage.

No act of this presidency — good or bad, beneficial or detrimental — can ever be considered without first contextualizing that this presidency itself was conceived in deception and is being incubated under an extraordinary lie.

The Trump presidency is a corruption that flows from corruption. It is damned by its own damned lies.

Monday, April 3, 2017

What's the FBI Hiding Behind "Classified?"

A Few Ideas About Why Things Are "Classified"
Are there to be no exceptions? Ever?

Americans are, quite understandably, very curious about the growing well of details about how Donald Trump actively colluded with the Russians to get elected. Yet, most of the mechanisms of our representative democracy which would -- in more "normal" times -- ferret out such details have been haltered by the alarmingly meat handed Trump power grab.

The slimy little Republican toady "operating" the House Intelligence Committee's investigation has now bumbled his way into an ever deepening pit of both mistrust and disgust. More competent criminals would have taken steps to avoid being so publicly left at the bus stop performing clunky fellatio on the Orange "Mastermind" in the Oval Office.

Still, it seems to MeanMesa that the things we really want to know about consistently hit the brick wall of being "classified."

We probably need to think about the reasons all this information is "permanently classified" along with the logic behind such an awkward barrier to prevent us from knowing what we would really, really like to know.

There are good reasons for "classifying" information under the normal processes of governance and geopolitical maneuvering -- but are these "normal" times which would justify the same processes?

The the "stakes" ever get so high that "classifying" information left and right no longer makes common sense? Is this one of those "high stakes" moments?

Justifying "Classification"
A Few Fundamentals About "Secrets"
 and the Trade of Spy Craft
The logical structure should be straightforward
-- at least in theory.

The "tangled web"

There really are -- again, in normal times -- various sets of conditions which serve to justify information being classified.  The simple reason that "justification" keeps arising in this discussion rests with the "ownership" of information in general.

American tax payers foot the bill for the incredible expense of maintaining the US intelligence community. This bill is generally the result of paying for thins such as the plethora of intelligence agencies, computers, spy satellites, salaries and benefits, however, the bill also includes cash for bribes, the very generous life style expenses sometimes required to "compromise" critically important "assets," "gifts," and other such "incidentals."

Because tax payers pay for all of this, in most cases those tax payers should reasonably expect to enjoy the benefits of information gathered in this "spy craft." Because of this "justifying" the classification of some of this information becomes the question. Let's look at it by the numbers.

1. Keeping "secrets" means denying access to others. Discovering "secrets" may mean "secretly" gaining access and keeping it "secret" from the original "secret maker."

It may be important for our government to know things unbeknownst to others. The nature of the "secret" in such matters is two fold. There is the actual "secret" which someone is hoping that others don't know, and there is the "secret" of who might actually know the "secret." [This is a classical case of the primary and secondary communications models we study in class here.

To clarify this with a simple example we can look at a soldier who has hidden a tank in some brush at an important location. The other soldiers in his unit will know that the tank is there, but his enemy -- he is hoping -- will not. However, if his enemy does "secretly" know that the tank is there, he not only knows the "secret" -- that the tank is there -- but he is also keeping it "secret" that he knows this, i.e. has this intelligence, so the original "tank hiding - secret keeping" soldier continues to think that his enemy knows nothing about the tank.

The outcome of the encounter in which the tank will ultimately play a part may well be determined by these factors.

2. The means of discovering "secrets" must also be kept "secret." The fact that a "secret" has been discovered must often also be kept "secret"

Not only the "secret" itself, but the knowing of the "secret" must be kept "secret." However, when a "secret" is, in fact, "secretly" known, the resources and technique used to gain access to that "secret" must also be kept "secret" -- especially if one might want to use them to ferret out another "secret" in the future in the same way.

Because of this, the expected duration of "secret keeping - secret discovering" interplay is also important. If the issue is a simple ambush, all the "secrets" about the tank attack plan are revealed once it begins. If the matter is more complex, if the "secrets" involved are comprised of many parts, each one with its own, specific time line dictating its value to both parties, and if the "secret's parts" build upon on one another to reveal even more "secrets," the complicated system becomes something more akin to modern spy craft.

3. Revealing "secrets" or revealing that one has discovered "secrets" without revealing the "secrets'" themselves, is almost as strategically tricky as simply discovering them -- or keeping them in the first place.

The decision to make "secrets" public or the decision to reveal that one has discovered "secrets" and enjoys access to them are usually pivotal moments in the intelligence business.  Such decisions are always weighed with respect of what damage such revelations might inflict on "secret" discovery resources and assets which might become even more valuable in the future as compared to what advantage such a revelation might offer at the moment.

Naturally, in the cases of extortion, bribery and coercion intelligence types can simply hint that they have access to "secrets" or even threaten to reveal them whether they actually even have them or not. In the arena of "competitive domestic politics" even a threat of revealing a "secret" -- whether access is really held or not -- becomes a material factor in deciding "how things end up."

Now that MeanMesa has made all of these complicated, intertwined intelligence fundamentals and their respective relationships to each other "perfectly clear," we can finally address the point of this post.

The Trump Russia Connection Is Mired
 In a Screaming Festival of "Classified Keep Away"
Concentrate on the need to protect intelligence assets for "future use."
The toddlers are becoming "restive."

Bannon's dilemma
"The chief difficulty Alice found at
 first was trying to manage
 her flamingo."
We know that the FBI has been hard at work...on something. Naturally, any details which might have 
helped Americans understand what the FBI is finding -- if anything -- remain behind the veil of "an on going investigation."

The "normal" response to this understandable delay is that the entire investigation must be completed before any remedial action on any crimes revealed within it. That's simply "the way this is done." The delay is quite "normal" in situations such as this one.

Everything is NOT "normal." In fact practically NOTHING is "normal." The life blood of the democracy is dripping across the floor at this moment, AND there is not an endless supply of that blood, either.

Americans have -- some time ago -- already arrived at their "conclusion" concerning what's unfolding in Washington and the Kremlin. Americans are less convinced that FBI "resources, methods and assets" must continue to be protected at this point. Time has run out on delays which would have -- in better times -- been understandable or prudent measures to ensure the FBI's capacity to conduct future investigations.

Standard procedure isn't well suited to "working on the edge of a precipice." The "nature" of "normal" becomes dangerously ill defined in an absence of also accounting for the grave conditions surrounding us now.

The American democracy may well not have time to wait for the usual pace of releasing FBI investigatory results. Although it may be quite confusing to speculate a precise picture of what the White House is doing, we must assume that the government is doing much more than what is easily visible to consolidate its power. This is a deep "take over" coup in progress. While the President is clearly inept, those around him are not.

"Curiouser" and "Curiouser"
Did Trump order the NSA to wire tap the FBI
 in the hope of stopping the Russia investigation?

Curiouser and curiouser [image]
As we explore the similarities between the Trump Presidency and MeanMesa's favorite old fashioned children's tale, Alice in Wonderland, we immediately encounter a frighteningly conflicted personality in the person of the President, himself. There is, unquestionably, a "side" of Donald Trump which is eerily reminiscent of the chaotic antics of Alice's Mad Hatter.

But -- there is also a side of Donald Trump cast closely to the horrifying antics of the Queen of Hearts, a "curiously" powerful woman with a penchant for decapitating anyone who "crossed her path." Remember?
"Off with their heads!"

All rolled into one. [photo]
This is where it really gets crazy.

A calm, academic comparison of Trump to the exquisitely noteworthy "literary megalomaniac" found in Alice's Queen will allow us to analyze the most recent Trump tantrum in, perhaps, a somewhat clearer light. That is to say, sometimes Donald Trump seems to unwittingly emulate Alice's Mad Hatter, but at other times The Donald seems obsessed with filling his equivalent to the literary role of Alice's Queen.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Nunes was theatrically skulking in and out of Trump's realm in the desperate effort to substantiate the President's embarrassing claim that Obama spied on him. What he was handed was a dossier of raw transcripts extracted by someone with surveillance capabilities such as those found in the NSA or CIA. Where, exactly, did the White House toadies get the raw intelligence data?

Did a frantic Donald Trump order national intelligence surveillance directed at Comey's FBI investigation?

The power of Oval Office is real. If the President ordered this, it would get done. Although the authority of the President is subsiding daily, a refusal to carry out such an order is still "a bridge too far" -- even for an American patriot lodged somewhere in the basement gear works of the intelligence structure.

It is MeanMesa's opinion that "things" will have to deteriorate just a little more before such a refusal will become "survivable" in the career sense.

Trump's days are numbered. The desperation level in the Oval Office is building every day. The terror level in what's left of the Republican Party is palpable. The frustration of the "trigger happy" hill billies and bigots comprising the President's supporting gang of base voters is also exploding.

When the GOP looters in the Congress finally impeach him, we can only hope that they somehow manage to eject the whole feverish clutch of swamp dwelling democracy haters he's packed into the place with him.