Vice President Mike Pence thinks a President should resign in disgrace if they commit adultery. At least, if they’re a Democrat.
Pence was outraged in a column for his radio show’s website in 1997 that President Clinton lied to the American people about an extramarital affair. That was unforgivable in 1997.
“If you and I fall into bad moral habits, we can harm our families, our employers and our friends. The President of the United States can incinerate the planet,” Pence wrote. “Seriously, the very idea that we ought to have at or less than the same moral demands placed on the Chief Executive that we place on our next door neighbor is ludicrous and dangerous.”
He said that the only way America could move on from a President who had an affair and was dishonest was for that President to move on to a new occupation, either through resignation or removal from office.
According to 1997 Mike Pence, that means Trump has to resign or be removed from the office. Especially if any laws were broken, as Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen said they were Tuesday.
“This may seem drastic to the average American. It is,” Pence wrote for his congressional campaign website. “Our founders intended it to be so because they intended the President of the United States to be the center of the government of the United States.”
Mike Pence went on to quote Alexander Hamilton, calling such a president feeble and saying that in such cases, the whole of the government is bad government.
He also said that Congress had no choice but to remove a President who had an affair, lied and was implicated in breaking even minor laws.
“The American people may deeply wish to move on and put this unpleasantness behind us. Regrettably, the Constitution does not permit such a national denial,” he said. “Absent an uncharacteristic act of selflessness by the President, it is left to the Republicans to live up to their label and defend the laws and institutions of this Republic.”
If only Pence knew what the President he served under would be like twenty years later.
“For the nation to move on,” said Pence, “the President must move out.”
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.
Via Media Matters
POPPY HARLOW (GUEST HOST): Paul Manafort was convicted by a jury of his peers of some pretty horrible things, right? Of defrauding American taxpayers, and the president still called him a good guy who he feels bad for. Isn't that bringing the swamp right along with you?
ROB ASTORINO (CNN CONTRIBUTOR): Well, I think what he meant there, and maybe I'll do a Trump translation, he worked with him, he helped him, and so he thinks he's a good guy. He should have said, comma, who did a bad thing, and you can't excuse what he did.
HARLOW: OK, I just need to know, that you work on the Trump 2020 advisory committee, and therefore you have signed an NDA that includes a non-disparagement clause --
ASTORINO: Which --
HARLOW: So you can't -- you can't really tell me, then, if -- I mean, you really don't believe the president's own words, "he's a good guy," about Paul Manafort?
ASTORINO: Are you talking about Paul Manafort?
ASTORINO: No, I -- look, I've known people, have you ever met somebody that you knew well, or knew, or worked with --
HARLOW: That became a convicted felon? No.
ASTORINO: Who did something -- who did something wrong? Yeah. Who did something wrong.
HARLOW: That became a convicted felon? No, nor would I say after the fact that [they] defrauded the American people, they're a good person.
ASTORINO: They could be a good person who did a bad thing. I think we can make that distinction. And there are bad people who do bad things.
via CBS NEWS
AP August 22, 2018, 3:04 PM
PORT ARTHUR, Texas -- As the nation plans new defenses against the more powerful storms and higher tides expected from climate change, one project stands out: an ambitious proposal to build a nearly 60-mile "spine" of concrete seawalls, earthen barriers, floating gates and steel levees on the Texas Gulf Coast.
Like other oceanfront projects, this one would protect homes, delicate ecosystems and vital infrastructure, but it also has another priority: to shield some of the crown jewels of the petroleum industry, which is blamed for contributing to global warming and now wants the federal government to build safeguards against the consequences of it.
The plan is focused on a stretch of coastline that runs from the Louisiana border to industrial enclaves south of Houston that are home to one of the world's largest concentrations of petrochemical facilities, including most of Texas' 30 refineries, which represent 30 percent of the nation's refining capacity.
Texas is seeking at least $12 billion for the full coastal spine, with nearly all of it coming from public funds. Last month, the government fast-tracked an initial $3.9 billion for three separate, smaller storm barrier projects that would specifically protect oil facilities.
That followed Hurricane Harvey, which roared ashore last Aug. 25 and swamped Houston and parts of the coast, temporarily knocking out a quarter of the area's oil refining capacity and causing average gasoline prices to jump 28 cents a gallon nationwide. Many Republicans argue that the Texas oil projects belong at the top of Washington's spending list.
"Our overall economy, not only in Texas but in the entire country, is so much at risk from a high storm surge," said Matt Sebesta, a Republican who as Brazoria County judge oversees a swath of Gulf Coast.
But the idea of taxpayers around the country paying to protect refineries worth billions, and in a state where top politicians still dispute climate change's validity, doesn't sit well with some.
"The oil and gas industry is getting a free ride," said Brandt Mannchen, a member of the Sierra Club's executive committee in Houston. "You don't hear the industry making a peep about paying for any of this and why should they? There's all this push like, 'Please Senator Cornyn, Please Senator Cruz, we need money for this and that.'"
Normally outspoken critics of federal spending, Texas Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz both backed using taxpayer funds to fortify the oil facilities' protections and the Texas coast. Cruz called it "a tremendous step forward."
Federal, state and local money is also bolstering defenses elsewhere, including on New York's Staten Island, around Atlantic City, New Jersey, and in other communities hammered by Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
Construction in Texas could begin in several months on the three sections of storm barrier. While plans are still being finalized, some dirt levees will be raised to about 17 feet high, and 6 miles of 19-foot-tall floodwalls would be built or strengthened around Port Arthur, a Texas-Louisiana border locale of pungent chemical smells and towering knots of steel pipes.
The town of 55,000 includes the Saudi-controlled Motiva oil refinery, the nation's largest, as well as refineries owned by oil giants Valero Energy Corp. and Total S.A. There are also almost a dozen petrochemical facilities.
"You're looking at a lot of people, a lot of homes, but really a lot of industry," said Steve Sherrill, an Army Corps of Engineers resident engineer in Port Arthur, as he peered over a Gulf tributary lined with chunks of granite and metal gates, much of which is set to be reinforced.
The second barrier project features around 25 miles of new levees and seawalls in nearby Orange County, where Chevron, DuPont and other companies have facilities. The third would extend and heighten seawalls around Freeport, home to a Phillips 66 export terminal for liquefied natural gas and nearby refinery, as well as several chemical facilities.
The proposals approved for funding originally called for building more protections along larger swaths of the Texas coast, but they were scaled back and now deliberately focus on refineries.
"That was one of the main reasons we looked at some of those areas," said Tony Williams, environmental review coordinator for the Texas Land Commissioner's Office.
Oil and chemical companies also pushed for more protection for surrounding communities to shield their workforces, but "not every property can be protected," said Sheri Willey, deputy chief of project management for the Army Corps of Engineers' upper Texas district.
"Our regulations tell us what benefits we need to include, and they have to be national economic benefits," Willey said.
Once work is complete on the three sections, they could eventually be integrated into a larger coastal spine system. In some places along Texas' 370-mile Gulf Coast, 18 feet is lost annually to erosion, threatening to suck more wetlands, roads and buildings into rising seas.
Protecting a wide expanse will be expensive. After Harvey, a special Texas commission prepared a report seeking $61 billion from Congress to "future proof" the state against such natural disasters, without mentioning climate change, which scientists say will cause heavier rains and stronger storms.
Texas has not tapped its own rainy day fund of around $11 billion. According to federal rules, 35 percent of funds spent by the Army Corps of Engineers must be matched by local jurisdictions, and the GOP-controlled state Legislature could help cover such costs. But such spending may be tough for many conservatives to swallow.
Texas "should be funding things like this itself," said Chris Edwards, an economist at the libertarian Cato Institute. "Texans are proud of their conservatism, but, unfortunately, when decisions get made in Washington, that frugality goes out the door."
State officials counter that protecting the oil facilities is a matter of national security.
"The effects of the next devastating storm could be felt nationwide," Rep. Randy Weber, a fiercely conservative Republican from suburban Houston who has nonetheless authored legislation backing the coastal spine.
Major oil companies did not return messages seeking comment on funding for the projects. But Suzanne Lemieux, midstream group manager for the American Petroleum Institute, said the industry already pays into programs such as the federal Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and the Waterways Trust Fund, only to see Congress divert that money elsewhere.
"Do we want to pay again, when we've already paid a tax without it getting used? I'd say the answer is no," she said.
Phillips 66 and other energy firms spent money last year lobbying Congress on storm-related funding post-Harvey, campaign finance records show, and Houston's Lyondell Chemical Co. PAC lobbied for building a coastal spine.
"The coastal spine benefits more than just our industry," Bob Patel, CEO of LyondellBasell, one of the world's largest plastics, chemicals and refining companies, said in March. "It really needs to be a regional effort."
© 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
The FBI investigated hacking attempts targeting a Democrat who ran against “Putin’s favorite congressman”
via Rolling Stone
By ANDY KROLL
WASHINGTON — FBI agents in California and Washington, D.C., have investigated a series of cyberattacks over the past year that targeted a Democratic opponent of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). Rohrabacher is a 15-term incumbent who is widely seen as the most pro-Russia and pro-Putin member of Congress and is a staunch supporter of President Trump.
The hacking attempts and the FBI’s involvement are described in dozens of emails and forensic records obtained by Rolling Stone.
The target of these attacks, Dr. Hans Keirstead, a stem-cell scientist and the CEO of a biomedical research company, finished third in California’s nonpartisan “top-two” primary on June 5th, falling 125 votes short of advancing to the general election in one of the narrowest margins of any congressional primary this year. He has since endorsed Harley Rouda, the Democrat who finished in second place and will face Rohrabacher in the November election.
Cybersecurity experts say that it’s nearly impossible to identify who was behind the hacks without the help of law enforcement or high-priced private cybersecurity firms that collect their own threat data. These experts speculate that the hackers could have been one of many actors: a nation-state (such as Russia), organized crime, so-called e-crime or a hacktivist with a specific agenda. The FBI declined to comment.
Kyle Quinn-Quesada, who was Keirstead’s campaign manager, tells Rolling Stone that the campaign is now going public about the attacks for the sake of voter awareness. “It is clear from speaking with campaign professionals around the country that the sustained attacks the Keirstead for Congress campaign faced were not unique but have become the new normal for political campaigns in 2018,” Quinn-Quesada says. He added that the Keirstead campaign did not believe the cyberattacks had an effect on the primary election results.
The timing of the attacks is significant. Last month, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said the warning lights for future cyberattacks aimed at the U.S. were “blinking red.” A week later, a senior Microsoft executive said that Microsoft had identified and helped block hacking attempts aimed at three congressional candidates during the 2018 midterms. The executive declined to name those candidates, but the Daily Beast reported that the Russian intelligence agency responsible for the cyberattacks in 2016 had attempted to hack the office of Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who is running for reelection this year. (A Microsoft spokesperson declined to say if Keirstead was one of three people targeted by hackers, citing “customer privacy.”) Just last week, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) said that Russian hackers had “penetrated” county voting systems in Florida.
Rep. Rohrabacher is arguably the most ardent supporter of the Russian government and its leader, Vladimir Putin, in Congress. He has voted against Russian sanctions and was once warned by the FBI that Putin’s government was trying to recruit him as an asset. More recently, drawing on information provided by Russian officials, he sought to remove the name of Russian anti-corruption activist Sergei Magnitsky from the Global Magnitsky Act, a U.S. law that permits sanctions on foreign officials who engage in human rights abuses or acts of corruption. And unlike many of his Republican colleagues, Rohrabacher refused to criticize President Trump for not raising the issue of Russia’s interference in American elections during his press conference last month with Putin. Rohrabacher’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
The hacks on Keirstead began in August 2017 with a spear-phishing attempt — a fake email intended to deceive the recipient into typing in his or her password or other confidential information — sent to Keirstead’s work email address. The phishing attempt was successful — Keirstead thought it was a legitimate Microsoft Office message and entered his password before quickly realizing the message was fake and having his company take measures to secure their email system. (Keirstead had used his work account for campaign purposes, emails show.) This was similar to the phishing attack on Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta that later resulted in the release of thousands of Podesta’s personal emails.
In December, the cyberattacks on Keirstead took a different form: a sophisticated and sustained effort to hack into the campaign’s website and hosting service.
Campaign officials detected repeated attempts to access the campaign’s website, Hansforca.com. Hackers or bots tried different username-password combinations in a rapid-fire sequence over a two-and-a-half-month period to get inside the campaign’s WordPress-hosted website. According to the campaign, there were also more than 130,000 so-called brute force attempts over a month-long period to gain administrator access to the campaign’s server via the cloud-server company that hosted the Keirstead campaign’s website.
In January, according to the campaign’s digital consultant, there were also several attempts to access the campaign’s Twitter account by unknown users. And later that same month, Keirstead’s company was briefly hacked again, according to campaign emails and interviews.
While the spear-phishing attack targeting Keirstead’s work account was successful, none of the attempts to gain unauthorized access to the campaign’s website, hosting company or Twitter account were effective, according to the campaign emails.
Quinn-Quesada, Keirstead’s campaign manager, informed the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the FBI about the August spear-phishing message. He also told the DCCC about the attacks on its website and server several months later. According to campaign emails, news of the various cyberattacks — beginning with the initial spear-phishing incident — quickly reached the DCCC’s top IT executive and the organization’s chief of staff, who reports directly to DCCC Chairman Rep. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico. The DCCC relayed the information to the FBI, according to campaign officials. (The DCCC declined to comment.) After the brute-force attacks last winter, the FBI contacted the Keirstead campaign.
Two agents based in California met with Quinn-Quesada in late January, according to the emails. Quinn-Quesada wrote in an email to his staff that the two agents said they were assisting with an investigation into the past and present hacking of political campaigns and committees. The campaign told the two agents about the successful and attempted hacks of Keirstead’s email, website, hosting service and Twitter account. Soon afterward, an FBI special agent based in Washington contacted the campaign’s digital consulting firm, Veracity Media, and requested a meeting. A team of FBI employees visited Veracity Media’s office and collected reams of forensic data about the attempted hacks.
Ed McAndrew, a former federal cybercrime prosecutor who now leads the privacy and data security group at the law firm Ballard Spahr, tells Rolling Stone that the FBI’s request for information suggested the bureau was taking the attacks on the Keirstead campaign seriously. “That’s fairly comprehensive in terms of an initial list of things you would want if you were looking to investigate unauthorized access to a web server,” McAndrew says. “They weren’t short-arming; those were real requests.”
McAndrew, who spent nearly a decade investigating cybercrime, said the FBI would likely take that information and run it through various criminal and intelligence databases. They would look for IP addresses, browser information and various types of software operating systems that matched those used by nation-state actors, organized crime or hacking syndicates.
He added that it’s not uncommon for federal law enforcement to conduct a cybercrime investigation and not inform the victims of the findings. “This is the constant tension between helping members of the public and maintaining confidentiality around intel sources and methods,” McAndrew says.
Quinn-Quesada tells Rolling Stone that the FBI never told him or anyone else on the campaign if it had identified who was behind the cyberattacks.
He says the accounts he’s heard from fellow political operatives about cyberattacks and other suspicious online activity grow more common by the day. “The targets aren’t just high-profile statewide candidates or elected officials,” he says. “Individual congressional campaigns are being targeted on a regular basis.”
BY JASON LE MIERE ON 8/14/18
n the two years since Senator Bernie Sanders’s campaign for president, the image of capitalism among young Americans has taken a dramatic hit, a new poll has found. Less than half, 45 percent, of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 have a positive view of capitalism, according to a Gallup poll released Monday.
When Sanders, a self-identified socialist, challenged Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president two years ago, the figure stood at 57 percent, up 1 percent from 2012 but down 11 from 2010. For the first time, more young Americans now have a positive view of socialism than they do of capitalism, even as support for socialism among the group has remained steady at 51 percent.
The poll was taken as the mainstream wing of the Democratic Party encounters an increasingly progressive movement that has celebrated socialism and heavily criticized aspects of capitalism. It was Sanders, an independent senator, who popularized many of the essential tenets of socialism during his insurgent campaign for president. His talking points, notably his slamming of the proportion of wealth held in the hands of the richest 1 percent of Americans, and his policy ideas, including advocating for a Medicare-for-all program, particularly resonated among young people.
Although Clinton ultimately triumphed in the 2016 primaries, Sanders won the youth vote over the former secretary of state by wide margins. Indeed, more young people voted for Sanders than Clinton and Donald Trump combined.
It is not only young people who are increasingly rejecting capitalism, however. The Gallup poll also indicated that 47 percent of Democrats, or those who lean Democrat, have a positive view of capitalism, compared with 57 percent who look favorably upon socialism.
The poll was based on interviews with 1,505 adults and was conducted between July 30 and August 5, with a margin of error of 3 percentage points.
Sanders’s Revolution Continues
Sanders may have been defeated, but his ideas have been increasingly embraced by the Democratic mainstream. Still, his movement, which he has continued on his own and with the progressive group Our Revolution, has often come into conflict with establishment Democrats during the 2018 primaries for November's midterms.
The most famous product of Sanders’s “revolution” to date has been Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, who shocked Democratic politics in June when she defeated Representative Joe Crowley, who had served New York's 14th Congressional District since 1998, and was seen as a potential House speaker.
Her victory sparked an immediate conflict with current House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, as 28-year-old Ocasio-Cortez has refused to say if she would back Pelosi as speaker should the Democrats take control of the House. Ocasio-Cortez has also joined Sanders in endorsing and campaigning for progressive candidates. Despite their own popularity and the growing rejection of capitalism among young Americans and Democrats, their record in persuading voters to back similarly minded candidates has so far been mixed.
And while the views among certain demographic groups have shifted notably, a majority of Americans retain a positive view of capitalism (56 percent), with only 37 percent continuing to view socialism favorably.
Via Business Insider
Jeremy Berke Aug. 7, 2018, 2:35 PM
- The planet is running out of resources, HSBC warned in a new note.
- Earth Overshoot Day— the point in a year at which our demand for natural resources exceeds what the planet can renew — occurred on August 1, just seven months into 2018.
- HSBC said companies and governments are not "adequately prepared" for climate effects.
One of the world's largest banks says the planet is running out of resources and warns that neither governments nor companies are prepared for climate change.
The world spent its entire natural resource budget for the year by August 1, a group of analysts at HSBC said in a note that cited research from the Global Footprint Network(GFN).
That means that the world's citizens used up all the planet's resources for the year in just seven months, according to GFN's analysis.
"In our opinion, these findings and events show that many businesses and governments are not adequately prepared for climate impacts, nor are they using natural resources efficiently," the HSBC analysts said in the note.
Many banks and asset managers have started factoring climate risks into their decision-making — a move spurred in part by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. But it's far less common to see multinational banks sound the alarm about climate change so explicitly in their equity research.
To calculate Earth's natural resource budget, GFN considers the demand for natural resources — which includes food, forests, and marine products — as well as humans' effects on the environment from factors like carbon emissions. The combined total is designed give a comprehensive picture of humanity's global footprint.
Earth Overshoot Day, the point in a year at which we use up a year's worth of resources, has been steadily moving forward in time since GFN first started tracking it. In 1970, we "overshot" Earth's resource budget by only 2 days — Overshoot Day fell on December 29, according to HSBC. That date has been pushed up by almost five months since then.
"As scientists work on attribution analysis for specific events — the general consensus is that climate change is making these events more likely to occur and more severe," HSBC said.
The predicted effects of climate change are starting to become real.Wildfires have torn through California in recent years, and they're part of a worsening trend related to rising global temperatures. Other consequences include increased frequency of hurricanes and flooding, meltingice sheets, and greater numbers of heat waves.
Recent studies have shown that global temperatures by the year 2100 could be up to 15% higher than the highest projections from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
According to HSBC, extreme events have severe economic and social costs.
"In our view, adaptation will move further up the agenda with a growing focus on the social consequences," the analysts said.
By Kristina Torres - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Georgia canceled the registration of more than a half-million voters over the weekend, part of an ongoing round of maintenance to clean up the state’s voting rolls.
Each of the 591,548 voters affected by the move had already been on the state’s “inactive” registration list. That means they had not voted, updated their voter registration information, filed a change of name or address, signed a petition or responded to attempts to confirm their last known address for at least the past three years.
None of the voters had had any contact with local election officials or the state since at least Sept. 16, 2014, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.
The date coincides with the early-voting period leading up to the midterm Nov. 4, 2014, general election. State and federal law requires that Georgia give voters at least two federal general election cycles before it can take action to remove voters from the rolls, as it did starting overnight Friday.
“Voter list maintenance is both a statutory obligation and critical safeguard for the integrity of the ballot box,” said Candice Broce, a spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s Office. “By regularly updating our rolls, we prevent fraud and ensure that all votes are cast by eligible Georgia voters.”
The effort was part of the state’s regular off-year maintenance of the rolls, which up until this weekend included about 6.9 million voters.
Georgia removed almost 732,800 voters in its previous round of rolls cleanup between 2014 and 2016, according to a recent report from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Three-quarters of these voters were dropped because they had moved away.
This year’s effort, however, is coming at a fraught time for some civil rights advocates.
Georgia’s work to clean up its rolls unintentionally coincides with a request from the U.S. Justice Department to 44 states including Georgia asking how they remove voters from the rolls who should no longer be eligible to vote.
At the same time, a separate federal commission created by President Donald Trump to investigate unsubstantiated claims of “millions” of illegal votes cast in last year’s presidential election has also drawn ire over a query seeking personal information on state voters themselves, such as their addresses, dates of birth, party affiliations and voting histories.
Several weeks ago, the state through local county election offices also sent out address confirmation notices to more than 383,400 voters as part of its biennial cleanup effort. Such notices are used across the country to confirm whether a voter has moved outside a registrar’s jurisdiction.
Voters who receive them are told they have 30 days to respond, either to confirm their address or to indicate their new one, and risk being moved to the state’s “inactive” registration list if they don’t.
Being declared “inactive” would then start the clock ticking on the years-long process that culminates in being cut from registration rolls, although an “inactive” voter in Georgia is still legally registered to vote and by law has full access to a ballot.
“Being made an ‘inactive’ voter has consequence,” said Sean Young, the legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, which on Friday sued Fulton County over the fact that some of the address confirmation notices went to voters who had moved within the same county.
The group says those voters should not face the possibility of being declared “inactive” because state law doesn’t mandate such an action for that particular group of voters. The ACLU said it also believes that goes beyond what’s federally allowed.
“Intimidating and confusing voters with bureaucratic nonsense,” Young said, “is classic voter suppression.”
Fulton County officials have said they did nothing wrong by sending the notices, which are supplied by the state but mailed by local counties.
via Brilliant Maps
The map above shows what the 2016 US Presidential Election results would have been if votes not cast for Hillary, Trump or one of the third party candidates had gone to fictional candidate “Did Not Vote.”
Disclaimer: The map above was accurate as of January 17th, 2017. Totals below were true at the time of writing but may no longer currently be accurate as additional votes and recounts are conducted.
Only 8 states + Washington DC, had high enough voter turnouts where one of the actual candidates won more votes than people who did not bother to vote. Iowa and Wisconsin for Trump and Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire and DC for Clinton.
A few other 2016 election facts for you:
- As a percentage of eligible voters, Clinton received 28.43% (65,845,063) of all votes compared to Trump’s 27.20% (62,980,160) and Did Not Vote’s 44.37%(102,731,399).
- Total voter turnout was estimated to be 55.3% of the voting age population and 59.0% of the voting eligible population.
- It is the 5th election since 1820 when the winner of the popular vote lost the presidency (the others being 1824, 1876, 1888, and 2000)
- Donald Trump received 2,046,656 more votes than Romney did in 2012, but Hilary Clinton received 70,732 fewer votes than Obama did in 2012.
- Neither Candidate even won a majority of votes cast, Clinton got 48.0% vs Trump’s 45.9%.
- As a percentage of the entire US population (including those too young or other ineligible to vote) Clinton got votes from 20.30% of the population and Trump got votes from 19.41% of people.
- Washington DC is the only area in the country where a majority of all eligible voters (whether they voted or not) voted for Clinton (90% of voters, voted for Clinton on a 55.7% turnout). In the other 6 states listed above, victories were simple pluralities.
Like to see more 2016 US election maps?
- 2016 US Presidential Election Map By County & Vote Share
- How Whites Voted In The 2016 US Presidential Election by State & County
- Counties That Changed Party In The 2016 US Presidential Election VS 2012
- 2016 US Presidential Electoral Map If Only [X] Voted
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Compared to the weapons training that military and law enforcement personnel undergo, the training required of civilian gun owners is a joke.
via NBC NEWS
Michael E. Diamond
The U.S. military has a lot of guns, but not a lot of non-combat fatalities. Why is this? Because of common sense military regulations. That’s why, like many other military veterans, I view America’s civilian gun culture as dysfunctional.
Today, Americans mourn yet another tragic mass shooting, this one in a Texas high school. It has been a mere three months since 17 teens lost their lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. Much has been made of U.S. gun control laws — or lack thereof. But instead of listening to politicians battle across the partisan divide, we should be listening to the men and women who work with guns the most.
Most Americans would be surprised, for example, at how little time military personnel in particular spend with their weapons over the course of a career. Apart from firing on highly structured firing ranges or routine maintenance, access to your weapon on base is rare. Military Police provide security, so soldiers move about the base unarmed. There’s a reason for this: In the military, anything that reduces accidents, homicides or suicides isn’t put up for a vote. It’s a requirement.
The military’s strict rules on weapon and ammunition access can apply to wartime as well, as my own experience demonstrates. In 1991, I was a military intelligence officer in the U.S. Army Reserve. My unit was mobilized and sent to Fort Bragg, N.C. Shortly before boarding a plane to Saudi Arabia I was issued my M16 along with several magazines of live ammunition.
Although I had fired countless live rounds over the years on various military weapons ranges, it’s a different feeling when you’re issued live ammunition before heading to a combat zone. This time it was real.
That’s right. Once we arrived in an operational war zone, one of the first things the U.S. Army did was take our ammunition away.
After a 16-hour trip — most of which I spent sitting on the hood of a truck with my back against the windshield trying to stay warm — we emerged into the intense desert heat. Because of the ear-splitting noise of departing jets we quickly inserted hearing protection, and then surrendered our ammunition.
That’s right. Once we arrived in an operational war zone, one of the first things the U.S. Army did was take our ammunition away.
We were in a location where small-arms engagement with enemy forces was unlikely, so, as far as the Army was concerned, there was no need for a bunch of wound-up soldiers to be walking around with live rounds. Even without any ammunition, before entering a building every soldier had to demonstrate his or her weapon was empty by pointing it down toward a barrel of sand and pulling the trigger, causing it to make the “click” sound of an empty weapon (hopefully).
Eventually, my unit moved north toward Kuwait, where we were re-issued ammunition just before the start of the ground war. Several weeks later, after successfully completing our mission in Kuwait City, we were re-routed to northern Iraq to address the Kurdish refugee crisis. On arrival, we once again surrendered our ammunition.
These military safety requirements are a stark contrast to civilian U.S. gun laws. Where the military requires background checks before a service member is allowed anywhere near a live weapon, the majority of U.S. states allow private gun sales without a background check. Where military personnel are trained to take a weapon away from a soldier who poses an extreme risk to himself or others, most states do not have laws enabling law enforcement or loved ones to do the same.
Compared to the weapons training that military and law enforcement personnel undergo, the training required of civilian gun owners is a joke — if it exists at all.
Before I was sent out to use it, I had to prove an intimate familiarity with my weapon — how it worked, its maximum effective range in meters, how to load and unload it safely, how to disassemble and reassemble it, how to clean it, clear jams, sight it and fire it accurately. So it’s hard for me to fathom how easy it is for almost any civilian to walk out of a gun retailer carrying a new weapon without a clue about so many of these standards.
And where military and law enforcement undergo extensive training on how to make the right shooting decision quickly while under extreme stress, civilians receive no such training, contributing to avoidable deaths arising from poor decisions and petty disputes. In this context, the National Rifle Association’s favorite slogan about good guys with guns defeating bad guys with guns is more naive myth than solution.
It’s crucial that veterans now bring our voice and experience to the national conversation about reasonable gun reform. As a group, we understand guns and appreciate that responsible gun ownership is an important part of American life — but we also understand that a safe environment is achieved through training and regulation.
We fought to protect our country, yet see our fellow citizens being gunned down in schools, churches, restaurants and concert venues at a rate unseen anywhere else in the developed world. More Americans have been killed by guns since 1968 than in all of the wars in U.S. history. It’s ridiculous and tragic.
As a veteran, I am often asked what lessons the civilian world can learn from the military. There are many insights each can gain from the other. When it comes to guns, however, the greater wisdom lies with the military. It maintains a high-functioning gun environment because it remains serious about background checks, training and accountability.
It is time for the civilian world to do the same.
Michael E. Diamond served as a military intelligence officer in the United States Army Reserve for seven years.
"This time, they think they have it right."
So declared an Associated Press story reporting an upbeat assessment by this country's top military officer at the end of a five-day visit to Afghanistan earlier this spring. Marine General Joseph Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was heading home from the war zone, the AP reporter wrote, "with a palpable sense of optimism" about the U.S.-supported war against Taliban and Islamic State fighters there.
Light at the end of the tunnel, perhaps?
The story didn't say whether any of the reporters listening to General Dunford asked why it had taken more than 16 years for the world's leading military power to come up with the "fundamentally different approach" that the general believes has put U.S. and Afghan forces on the path to success. (None of the changes he mentioned really sounded fundamental, either.) Still, it's a question worth asking: If Americans are right in ceaselessly telling themselves that theirs is the most powerful country the world has ever seen and that their military is the "greatest fighting force ever," as President Trump calls it, should it have been this hard and taken this long to find a way — if they really have — to defeat enemies whose war-making resources are a tiny fraction of ours?
As has happened often during our current conflicts, that piece of news from Afghanistan got me thinking about an earlier war that I witnessed first-hand as a correspondent for the Baltimore Sun during its final three years.
In Vietnam, as in subsequent American wars, the United States and its local allies had staggering advantages in all the conventional measures of military strength, yet failed to win. It makes me wonder: If U.S. political and military leaders and the American public remembered Vietnam more honestly, if painful truths hadn’t been cloaked in comforting mythologies, might this country have responded more intelligently and effectively to the violent challenges we’ve faced in the current century?
Consider, for example, the persistent story that America lost in Vietnam because U.S. troops fought with one hand tied behind their backs — because, that is, the politicians were "afraid to let them win," as Ronald Reagan once put it. The implication is clear: we could and should have won that war by doing more of what we were already doing or keeping at it longer (and should do the same in other conflicts, if military force does not seem to be succeeding).
But did the United States really lose in Vietnam for lack of force?
Not exactly a limited war
Plenty of facts suggest otherwise. Take the amount of destructive power the U.S. employed. "Devastating conventional firepower unparalleled in military history," a study by the Army’s logistics command called it, adding that, along with extraordinary tonnages of air and ground ordnance, American commanders fought with virtually no restrictions on mobility, equipment, or supplies: "The logistics scene was characterized by almost unlimited supply, remarkable high operational readiness rates as applied to equipment, a seemingly endless flow of ammunition and petroleum, and immunity for the most part from external fiscal restraints."
Even to one who heard a bit of the gunfire from time to time, the statistics on U.S. firepower are mind-boggling. Pentagon records show that, for long periods, the American military and Saigon government forces fired ammunition at rates up to an astonishing 600 times higher than the enemy's — 100,000 tons of ground munitions a month for all of 1969, for example, compared to just 150 tons from the Communist side. In 1974, with U.S. forces no longer directly engaged in combat and allied South Vietnamese commanders moaning nonstop about shortages caused by reductions in American military aid, Saigon's forces still used 65 tons of ammunition for every ton fired by the enemy.
Those figures don’t include air ordnance, which would make the ratios even more grotesquely one-sided. Over the course of the war, U.S. aircraft dropped approximately twice as many tons of bombs on North Vietnam, South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia as combined Allied forces dropped on Germany and Japan in World War II.
In light of those numbers, the claim that America's war in Vietnam was fought under undue restrictions is less than convincing. If U.S. troops couldn't win — or leave our ally in a position to win — after fighting for seven years with an almost unimaginable edge in firepower, technology, and mobility, the much more logical conclusion is that U.S. military doctrine and Washington’s concept of military strength simply did not apply to that conflict.
And what about the doctrine that a later generation of U.S. soldiers took with them into Afghanistan and Iraq?
"Full spectrum dominance" was the watchword in a 2000 document, “Joint Vision 2020” (updated from a 1996 version), which the authors described as a "conceptual template" for the U.S. military's evolution over the two decades to come. Its language was even more hubristic than that slogan suggests: "a force that is dominant across the full spectrum of military operations -- persuasive in peace, decisive in war, preeminent in any form of conflict... prepared to win across the full range of military operations in any part of the world... [with the ability] to defeat any adversary and control any situation across the full range of military operations."
Defeat any adversary? Control any situation?
Nine-tenths of the way to the year 2020, U.S. soldiers, with all of their firepower and technology, have not achieved anything close to total dominance on the battlefields where they have been engaged. They have not dominated poorly armed fighters. Or insurgents planting low-tech, low-costexplosive devices. Or local cops and officials whom we would like to stop shaking down citizens and undermining the public support we say is crucial for counterinsurgency warfare.
To put it bluntly, the experience of the last nearly 17 years makes "full spectrum dominance" sound like a delusional fantasy.
When the large-scale U.S. intervention in Vietnam began, the great triumph of World War II was just 20 years in the past. That war was the formative experience for the generation of senior officers who led the American military into Vietnam, so perhaps their arrogance was understandable. The inventors of full spectrum dominance and the commanders they influenced came along almost exactly the same number of years after Vietnam, which makes their illusion of omnipotence harder to understand.
At the other end of their respective wars, members of both groups insisted (and continue to insist) that the fault was not in their strategy or how they conducted it. Instead, they claim, they were denied success because the politicians limited them too much or made them stop too soon. There's no way to prove or disprove counterfactual statements of that sort, but given the length of time they had to win those wars — twice as long (in Vietnam) or three times (in Iraq) or close to four times as many years (in Afghanistan) as it took to reach victory in World War II — that claim, like the one-hand-behind-the-back argument, has a very hollow ring to it.
Time to revise Sun Tzu: Know your friend
If my computer's search function is working properly, the words "ally," "allied," "host government," and "local forces" appear nowhere in the "Joint Vision 2020" paper. That's a telling omission. In Vietnam and our more recent wars, the weaknesses of Washington’s local partners — which U.S. officials have been stunningly reluctant to — should be seen as the fundamental reason those wars have been so unsuccessful despite the overwhelming advantage in material resources that U.S. forces and their allies possessed.
There's an implication here for the American approach to intelligence (in both the narrow and broad senses of the word). While rethinking what military power means, perhaps we should reconsider what intelligence means, too. In particular, it would be useful to revisit the classic premise — stated more than 2,500 years ago by the Chinese sage Sun Tzu — that the first goal of intelligence is to "know your enemy." It certainly would have been helpful in the last half-century's wars if American commanders had known their opponents better. In Vietnam and since, though, by far the most damaging intelligence failure wasn’t not knowing our enemies well enough, but not knowing our friends. Consistently in these wars, Americans have overestimated their local ally's capabilities while remaining blind, whether purposely or not, to the grave weaknesses of those forces.
In Vietnam, American weapons, dollars, and advice created a South Vietnamese army that, on paper, should have easily defended its country, as Americans told themselves it could. But U.S. money and material did not make that ally's commanders effective or competent, or compensate for the inadequate leadership that was, in the end, the critical reason for South Vietnam's defeat by a much poorer but more skillful, disciplined, and resourceful opponent.
A strong case can be made that the American-allied Saigon regime's single most toxic weakness was pervasive corruption. It wasn't just that corruption angered and alienated the South Vietnamese populace, including the regime's own soldiers. That was damaging enough, but the greater damage was that corruption fatally undermined the ability of both the government and the army to do their jobs. A 1966 memorandum by a study group in the U.S. mission in Saigon made that point in sharp terms:
"There is a deadly correlation between corruption at high levels in an administrative system and the spread throughout the system of incompetence, as higher-ups encourage and promote corrupt subordinates, and protect them from the consequences of poor performance of duty or direct disobedience of orders. Such a system demoralizes and 'selects out' the able and the dedicated who do not play the game."
An author of that paper and the principal drafter of the section on corruption was Frank Scotton, one of the longest-serving and most knowledgeable U.S. officials in Vietnam. Writing on that theme in his memoir, "Uphill Battle," Scotton quoted a Vietnamese general who told him that "he could name many corrupt officers, but not a single one who was both corrupt and an effective commander." That general was eventually fired for his criticisms of the regime and sent into exile.
The study group put a "marked reduction of corruption" first on its list of recommendations for necessary reforms in South Vietnam. But in my time there, beginning nearly six years after that memorandum was written, the South Vietnamese system I observed still perfectly matched Scotton's description. Exactly as he had noted years earlier, the most honest and capable officers I met were also the most frustrated and demoralized. By the time I left in the final evacuation from a defeated South Vietnam nearly three years later, I was convinced that corruption was the single biggest reason the Saigon government had lost the war. Nothing I’ve learned since has changed my mind on that.
Return of the ghost soldiers
I don’t have the same firsthand knowledge of Iraq or Afghanistan. But even from afar, it's hard not to hear history rhyming, if not repeating itself.
Occasionally, news from those wars comes with a shock of absolute recognition, as when it was revealed — after the Islamic State offensive in Iraq exploded in the fall of 2014 and city after city fell to relatively small groups of — that the American-trained Iraqi army's real strength was far lower than its strength on paper. That was because as many as 50,000 of the troops on that army's rosters — the equivalent of four full — were “ghost soldiers,” men who did not actually exist or had deserted but were still being paid, with their commanders pocketing their salaries. The city of Mosul, for example, was ostensibly defended by 25,000 government troops when the Islamic State militants attacked. The actual number was less than half that many -- in some units, an even smaller fraction. This, it should be noted, in a force that had received something like $25 billion in U.S. support in the decade after the 2003 invasion.
The same practice — along with the broader pattern of corruption that it exemplifies — has been evident in Afghanistan. In one contested province, officials acknowledged in 2016 that almost half the soldiers and police on government payrolls did not exist or were not present for duty — even though improving the effectiveness of Afghan security forces was supposed to be a top priority for the Americans offering training, advice, and funds.
The story in Vietnam, for all intents and purposes, was identical. In an army where every dollar of soldiers' pay, as well as every weapon, vehicle, bullet, and pair of boots, was funded by U.S. aid, the Vietnamese had names for two variations of payroll padding: "ghost soldiers," men who had been killed but whose deaths were not reported so that their commanders could keep collecting and pocketing their salaries; and "flower soldiers" (that is, ornamental ones) who stayed home with their families while kicking back their pay to their superiors. That meant South Vietnam's real fighting strength was considerably less than official reports indicated. Routinely, battalions that nominally had 300 men had only half or a third of that number on hand — exactly as in the case of those Iraqi units filled with “ghost soldiers” that were defeated in Mosul.
The broader parallels between the army and government we supported in Vietnam and those we have backed in our twenty-first-century wars are also clear. In all of them, corruption and poor governance in general were rife and would prove crippling obstacles to achieving U.S. objectives. And in all of them, Americans were almost completely ineffective in doing anything about either problem.
As journalist Douglas Wissing wrote in his book "Funding the Enemy," a massively researched report on far-reaching corruption in Afghanistan, instead of taking any meaningful action against corruption, the U.S. government for the most part "either ignored it or enabled it." That conclusion is borne out, though phrased more diplomatically, in numerous reports by the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction. After describing one of many ways the Taliban were able to tap into American funds, Wissing noted that all the money they got their hands on was spent for weapons, motorcycles, and mobile phones; their religious scruples stopped them from keeping any of it for themselves. Mordantly but aptly, Wissing added, "at least the Taliban made honest use of the U.S. taxpayers' cash."
New plays, same script
The world of 2018 is vastly different from the world of a half-century ago. Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq are very different countries, and the wars in each reflect different origins and circumstances. The U.S. military today bears almost no resemblance to the American force that fought in Vietnam. So comparisons are hardly simple. Still, the boiled-down narratives of those wars look strikingly similar: large-scale U.S. military forces with limitless firepower are sent to defeat a far more poorly armed enemy and spend years trying to do so; meanwhile, American aid officials dole out hefty amounts of money and advice intended to create a good government and a prosperous country, or at least good enough and prosperous enough so that most citizens will choose the side of the war we want them to support.
In the end, however, the goal the Americans fought to reach — a stable local regime that is able to effectively defend itself, legitimate in the eyes of its citizens, and friendly to U.S. interests — is not achieved. Eventually, after we stop trying to accomplish the mission ourselves, we assume we can help a client force reach the same objectives by teaching them how to fight essentially the same way we did, except with even slimmer resources (a lot fewer helicopters to lift out their wounded, for example, which their soldiers got accustomed to while the rich Americans were still there). Not surprisingly, that policy doesn't work so well either.
It's hard to fathom why those scenarios weren't more quickly and widely seen as illusory, especially the second or third time around. In part, no doubt, it was a case of being lowered into water reaching the boiling point too slowly to realize what was happening. And Washington’s and the Pentagon'sthinking surely also reflected the sugar coating Americans tend to spray over painful memories — the Pentagon website commemorating the Vietnam Waris a prime — to avoid remembering them accurately. Even so, after Vietnam you'd think military professionals and the rest of us wouldn't have gone on as long as we did in subsequent conflicts without realizing that America’s very idea of war in these last decades needs reexamination and so do the stories U.S. commanders keep telling themselves, their superiors, and the rest of us about our accomplishments and our allies' capabilities.
As is almost always the case, describing the problem is easier — much easier — than solving it. This one will take a big and wrenching change in deeply rooted structures and beliefs, and in personal and institutional perceptions of self-interest. (Can we really stop telling ourselves that the United States has the best military in the world?) We have already paid a monumental price for our faulty understanding of war and of the real world. Failing to learn those lessons, even at this late date, will only drive that price tragically higher.
After the coup, everything seems crazy, the news is overwhelming, and some try to cope by withdrawing or pretending that things are normal. Others are overwhelmed and distraught. I’m afflicted by a kind of hypervigilance of the news, a daily obsession to watch what’s going on that is partly a quest for sense in what seems so senseless. At least I’ve been able to find the patterns and understand who the key players are, but to see the logic behind the chaos brings you face to face with how deep the trouble is.
May 15, 2018 By Rebecca Solnit
A lot of people are waiting for something dramatic to happen, some line to be crossed, an epic event like the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller III that will allow them to say that now we have had a coup and now we are ready to do something about it.
We already had the coup.
It happened on November 8, 2016, when an unqualified candidate won a minority victory in a corrupted election thanks in part to foreign intervention. Any time is the right time to pour into the streets and demand that it all grinds to a halt and the country change direction. The evidence that the candidate and his goons were aided by and enthusiastically collaborating with a foreign power was pretty clear before that election, and at this point, they are so entangled there isn’t really a reason to regard the born-again alt-right Republican Party and the Putin Regime as separate entities.
Take the recent revelations about the president’s personal errand boy, Michael Cohen. He ran a shell company from which money was used to pay Stormy Daniels to remain silent in what was quite likely an illegal campaign contribution. Money came in, along with major corporations, from a Russian oligarch close to Putin, Viktor Vekselberg, or rather from a corporation called Columbus Nova, run by a cousin of his apparently appointed to mask Vekselberg’s own role. The New Yorker reports, “It is a company technically owned by others but which looks after money owned and controlled in large part—if not entirely—by Vekselberg and his family.” Or as Frank Rich put it at New York Magazine, it’s “an example of collusion so flagrant that it made Trump and Rudy Giuliani suddenly go mute: a Putin crony’s cash turns out to be an essential component of the racketeering scheme used to silence Stormy Daniels and thus clear Trump’s path to the White House in the final stretch of the 2016 election.”
The Washington Post reports that Columbus Nova “is listed as the organization behind a string of websites targeted toward white nationalists and other members of the alt-right.” That is, this Russian oligarch’s company was illegally attempting to influence the election, and they were giving money to the bagboy of the election’s winner. Pro Publica reportsthat another personal lawyer of the president’s, Marc Kasowitz, also worked on behalf of Columbus Nova. There are a thousand other details like that of financial dealings—real estate sales, investments, odd transfers of wealth, social connections, meetings—that tie the Trump mob to the Russian mob—because most of the oligarchs are, in that autocratic regime, in one way or another mobsters, because Putin himself runs that vast country as though he was a mob boss intent on exerting control through fear, and profit through extortion.
The Trump family aspires to mafia status, a thuggocracy, but they are manipulable and bumbling where Putin and company are disciplined and Machiavellian. They hire fools and egomaniacs and compromised figures—Scaramucci, Giuliani, Bannon, Flynn, Nunberg, the wifebeating Rob Porter—and then fire them, with a soap opera’s worth of drama; the competent ones quit, as have many lawyers hired to help Trump navigate his scandals. The Trumps don’t hide things well or keep their mouths shut or manage the plunder they grab successfully, and they keep committing crimes in public. Remember when Trump revealed highly classified data to the Russian ambassador and foreign minister when they visited him in the Oval Office, not long after he fired FBI director James Comey (but before he admitted it was to obstruct Comey’s investigation of his ties to Russia?). There’s a picture of that visit in which the Russians are laughing at him and he looks befuddled. Remember when Donald Jr. met with the Russian agent in Trump Tower in June of 2016 to get purloined data on Clinton and tried to cover it up by saying it was about adoptions? Remember when the Trump team was forced out of the Panama hotel that Trump still profited from, and how his lawyers appealed directly to the president of Panama? How he profits from that business and others despite the emoluments clause of the Constitution? Or the various lawsuits for violating that clause, including one pending from the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia? Or the women suing Trump for defamation? Perhaps not, as so many scandals have piled up on those ones.
From the aforementioned slush fund we just learned about, Cohen made a second payoff to a woman who had sex with and was supposedly impregnated by another wealthy Republican, though there’s suspicion that the $1.6 million payment wasn’t really on behalf of Elliott Broidy, but of Trump himself. Shutting up women is a big part of what these people do, though maybe the existence of those affairs shuts Trump up too. Jonathan Chait writes of last week’s Cohen revelations: “For all the speculation about the existence of the pee tape, the latest revelations prove what is tantamount to the same thing. Russia could leverage the president and his fixer—who, recall, hand-delivered a pro-Russian ‘peace plan’ with Ukraine to Trump’s national-security adviser in January 2017—by threatening to expose secrets they were desperate to keep hidden. Whether those secrets were limited to legally questionable payments, or included knowledge of sexual affairs, is a question of degree but not of kind.”
It’s understandable if you find connecting the dots hard when there are so many dots they blur into a blob. So never mind the webs of connection; let’s talk about natural history. It is not actually true that frogs will remain in warming water until they boil to death, but there are some other natural-history metaphors that help us understand the administration, if not ourselves. I’m thinking of parasitic wasps, a large array of species whose lifecycle much resembles that of the aliens in the old Alien movie series. Some of them lay their eggs inside other animals, notably caterpillars, and the larvae devour the host from the inside.
Five days after the 2017 Trump inauguration, National Geographic reported on a newly discovered species: “Scientists have discovered a new parasitic wasp species with a life cycle so diabolical, they named it after Set, the Egyptian god of evil and chaos. Native to the southeastern United States, this species lays its egg inside the tiny, wooden chambers that another parasitic wasp species, the gall wasp (Bassettia pallida), carves out in sand live oak trees. Once the egg hatches, the crypt-keeper larva burrows into the other wasp and takes over its mind, forcing it to start tunneling through the tree’s bark to freedom—a feat the crypt-keeper struggles to perform on its own. Even more insidious, the larva then forces its victim to drill a hole too small for its own escape. Once the larger wasp is wedged in the opening it’s created, the crypt-keeper consumes its host from the inside out, finally erupting from B. pallida’s forehead out into the world.”
Right now, Devin Nunes is trying to drill a hole out of the Justice Department and push classified information through it, into the open. The Washington Post reported last week, “A subpoena that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) issued to the Justice Department last week made a broad request for all documents about an individual who people close to the matter say is a sensitive, longtime intelligence source for the CIA and FBI. The Justice Department has refused to provide the documents. Intelligence officials say the material could jeopardize the source.” There seems to be widespread expectation that Nunes is fully capable of setting someone up to be assassinated, since his clear agenda since Trump arrived has been to block, disrupt, discredit, or sabotage the investigation of ties between Russia and the president and his pack of thugs. It’s been more than a year since, in a midnight drama, Nunes rushed information to the White House that he got as a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Sabotage of national institutions, laws, standards, and the greater good has been accepted as part of the new normal, which is staggeringly far from normal. An elected official is trying to prevent his country’s agencies and its citizens from finding out if and how the president and his goons are tangled up with a foreign regime and how that prevented us from having free and fair elections and may again. As fired FBI director Comey noted in his first briefing of the president, there is no concern with protecting the nation and its information systems. The president himself has done many extraordinary things to try to interfere with the investigation, and last year White House counsel Don McGahn reportedly only prevented him from firing Mueller by threatening to resign if he did.
The president himself has consistently revealed his lack of comprehension of the separation of the three branches of government, or his lack of enthusiasm for it, and has aspired to an authoritarianism like that of the dictatorial men he admires from the Philippines to Egypt to China. Earlier this month, Trump tweeted, “A Rigged System – They don’t want to turn over Documents to Congress. What are they afraid of? Why so much redacting? Why such unequal ‘justice?’ At some point I will have no choice but to use the powers granted to the Presidency and get involved!” He’s also gone after a free press. Another tweet this month: “91% of the Network News about me is negative (Fake). Why do we work so hard in working with the media when it is corrupt? Take away credentials?” It’s an argument that what he likes is real and what he doesn’t like is fake and that he should be able to control the media so that only the former is forthcoming. It’s an argument against facts and the people who document them and the right of the rest of us to see that documentation. Ultimately, it’s an argument against any reality he does not control, because he aspires to dictate reality itself, which is what autocrats do.
Some of the press is already on board, of course, though we are at a point where we should probably stop calling propaganda outlets news sources. The rightwing Daily Caller, a widely read online publication co-founded by Fox’s Tucker Carlson, has cut out the middle men and the apologists and gone straight to Oleg Deripaska, aka Putin’s favorite oligarch, the one who kept Paul Manafort on a short leash, letting him publish an editorial headlined “The Ever-Changing ‘Russia Narrative’ Is False Public Manipulation.” Traditionally you don’t let the accused party dictate the narrative, especially when the accused is suspected of being part of a foreign conspiracy to subvert the government of the United States. But it’s is no more unusual than Fox’s and the National Enquirer’s deep allegiance to Trump over truth. For Fox that means constantly running disinformation or just avoiding major news that casts the president in a negative light (and for Fox’s Sean Hannity, that means, according to a stunning new piece in New York magazine, a bedtime call with the president every night—“Generally, the feeling is that Sean is the leader of the outside kitchen cabinet,” says one source in the piece, which also reminds us Fox is almost Trump’s sole source of news). For the Enquirer, it means catch-and-kill payoffs to women who might damage his reputation (a catch-and-kill is when you pay for exclusive rights to a story and then don’t publish it).
The Enquirer performed a catch-and-kill operation to silence former playmate Karen McDougal, who had a relationship with Trump around the same time Daniels had her lone sexual encounter with him.
There are so many threads in this tangle involving women and how to shut them up. Deripaska—whose money apparently went to Cohen’s slush fund—took Sergei Prikhodko, Russia’s deputy prime minister, on an August 2016 cruise on his yacht with a very young paid female companion on board who goes by the name Nastya Rybka. Rybka shared a video she recorded of the two of them discussing the US election and says she has 16 hours more of recordings containing valuable information for the Mueller investigation. The Putin regime found the video—and an opposition candidate’s interpretation of it—so significant that the government attempted to shut down YouTube in Russia. Rybka is currently imprisoned in Thailand on prostitution charges. The New York Times reports that earlier this year she said, “If America gives me protection, I will tell everything I know. I am afraid to go back to Russia. Some strange things can happen.” The US seems disinclined to take her or take a look at her evidence.
More recently the National Enquirer ran a hit piece on Michael Cohen, which makes it seem possible that Cohen is going to rat on Trump and the forces lined up with Trump are going to try to discredit him. CNN reports that it “could be a strong sign President Donald Trump is upset with his personal lawyer and turning against the man,” as though it’s normal for the president to use the tabloids to discredit longtime allies. Acts that would have been shocking if committed by previous administrations are overshadowed and crowded by equally transgressive acts that pile up into something that would like us to forget that this is not normal. Even when Trump is gone, the corruption of a significant percent of the American population, those with whom we don’t merely disagree on principles and goals, but on reality itself, will be a lingering problem. They are weaponized minds, and their hate, as hate always is, is easily directed. The Republican Party itself now stands for little other than its own grasp on power, and for the domination of this country’s white male Christian-identified minority over the majority of us.
This party over country loyalty manifests in many ways. Republican Senator John McCain has been concerned since before the election about Russian intervention, and recently revealed in his memoir what was pretty well known before: that he was given the Steele Dossier and passed it on to James Comey. He’s been an outspoken opponent of Trump on various issues (and is apparently not inviting Trump to his funeral, which may be quite soon). So Republicans are now lined up to spit on their former presidential candidate or even, prematurely, on his grave: one of Fox’s regulars, conspiracy theorist Lt. General Thomas McInerney, while defending CIA chief nominee Gina Haspel and the utility of torture generally, said that torture “worked on John. That’s why they call him ‘Songbird John.’” A right-winger on Twitter posted an image of a tombstone for McCain with “songbird” on it. Then White House aide Kelly Sadler dismissed McCain’s opposition to torture with “he’s dying anyway.” No one in the White House saw fit to apologize, though there was a meeting about leaks to the press about which five White House staffers leaked to the press.
The current situation of the United States is obscene, insane, and incredible. If someone had pitched it for a thriller novel or film a few years ago, they would’ve been laughed out of whatever office their proposal made it to because fiction ought to be plausible. It isn’t plausible that a solipsistic buffoon and his retinue of petty crooks made it to the White House, but they did and there they are, wreaking more havoc than anyone would have imagined possible, from environmental laws to Iran nuclear deals. It is not plausible that the party in control of the federal government is for the most part a kleptomaniac criminal syndicate.
It’s an incompetent criminal syndicate full of leaks and stumbles, easily played by the professionals across the sea. For example, Russian trolls used social media and a petition to try to prevent Trump from making Mitt Romney secretary of state. The allegations British spy Christopher Steele turned over included, as Jane Mayer put it in the New Yorker, this: “The Kremlin, through unspecified channels, had asked Trump to appoint someone who would be prepared to lift Ukraine-related sanctions, and who would coöperate on security issues of interest to Russia, such as the conflict in Syria. If what the source heard was true, then a foreign power was exercising pivotal influence over US foreign policy—and an incoming President.”
There are so many pieces to this picture, and so many of them point to Russia. The criminal Oliver North, the illegal arms dealer convicted of three felonies related to his cover-up of the Iran-Contra deal, is now the head of the NRA. Bloomberg News reportedlast month, “The NRA’s relationship with Alexander Torshin, a Russian politician and deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who has been linked both to Vladimir Putin and to Russian organized crime, is too troubling to ignore.” The organization seems to have received money from Russia, including this sanctioned oligarch, and it certainly gave a lot of money to Trump. There are weeks where every day a scandal erupts that would have been the defining crisis of previous administrations, and they pile on top of each other, obscuring the ones beneath. Amy Siskind, in her book The List, has tried to compile all the not-normal creeping-authoritarianism of the Trump era, but her project is itself almost too vast to comprehend.
In the case of the parasitic wasp species known as Glyptapanteles, the larvae eat through the caterpillar’s skin and build a cocoon. “At this point, something remarkable and slightly eerie happens, New Scientist explains. “The caterpillar, still alive, behaves as though controlled by the cocooned larvae.” The hijacked caterpillar serves its parasites, not itself, and it dies just as they emerge. Something is going to burst forth from the shell of what they once were. Or perhaps it has. Perhaps they’re it. Or perhaps you can picture the Russians inside the Trump team inside the Republican Party inside the American right wing as a set of Russian dolls. It’s certainly true that Russia’s waging a one-sided cyberwar against this country—through hacking of emails and election rolls, through professional trolls and online propaganda and surveillance. The response? The Trump Administration, according to Politico and other sources, is considering eliminating the administration’s top cybersecurity job.
The United States government has been a force for both good and evil, and in suggesting we defend its institutions I’m not defending all its players, actions, and history. I’m defending our ability to hold it accountable, because the current administration is endeavoring to make itself increasingly unaccountable to us and appears to be all too answerable to a hostile foreign regime. It’s not clear if Russia had any direct effect on, say, exiting the Iran nuclear pact, but Russia is a beneficiary (along with Saudi Arabia, another regime the Trump family is tangled up with). As former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul tweeted on May 10, “Days after Trump leaves Iran nuclear deal, oil prices are rising and ruble is strengthening.”
Over and over we’ve seen Trump contort his administration to serve Russia, whether he’s trying to hold back sanctions or to undermine the Paris climate treaty. The question isn’t whether we’re in a zombie horror movie starring an insane clown puppet with some very long and yankable strings, but what we’re going to do about it. Because what all those little pieces add up to, what the tangle sorts out as if you pay attention is: this is life after the coup.
After the coup, everything seems crazy, the news is overwhelming, and some try to cope by withdrawing or pretending that things are normal. Others are overwhelmed and distraught. I’m afflicted by a kind of hypervigilance of the news, a daily obsession to watch what’s going on that is partly a quest for sense in what seems so senseless. At least I’ve been able to find the patterns and understand who the key players are, but to see the logic behind the chaos brings you face to face with how deep the trouble is.
We still have an enormous capacity to resist the administration, not least by mass civil disobedience and other forms of noncooperation. Sweeping the November elections wouldn’t hurt either, if that results in candidates we hold accountable afterward. Or both. I don’t know if there’s a point at which it will be too late, though every week more regulations, administrators, and norms crash and burn—but we are long past the point at which it is too soon.
via New York Times
JACKSON, Miss. — On the witness stand and under pressure, Frank Shaw, the warden of the East Mississippi Correctional Facility, could not guarantee that the prison was capable of performing its most basic function.
Asked if the guards were supposed to keep inmates in their cells, he said, wearily, “They do their best.”
According to evidence and testimony at a federal civil rights trial, far worse things were happening at the prison than inmates strolling around during a lockdown: A mentally ill man on suicide watch hanged himself, gang members were allowed to beat other prisoners, and those whose cries for medical attention were ignored resorted to setting fires in their cells.
So many shackled men have recounted instances of extraordinary violence and neglect in the prison that the judge has complained of exhaustion.
The case, which has received little attention beyond the local news media, provides a rare glimpse into the cloistered world of privately operated prisons, at a time when the number of state inmates in private facilities is increasing and the Trump administration has indicated that it will expand their use.
Management & Training Corporation, the private company that runs the East Mississippi facility near Meridian in Lauderdale County, already operates two federal prisons and more than 20 facilities around the nation.
The use of private prisons has long been contentious. A 2016 Justice Department report found that they were more violent than government-run institutions for inmates and guards alike, and the Obama administration sought to phase out their use on the federal level. Early last year, President Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, reversed the ban.
Several states, including Michigan and Utah, have stopped using private prisons in recent years because of security problems.
The court was shown photos of cell doors at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility that were scorched by fire. CreditSouthern Poverty Law Center
But more than two dozen other states, including Mississippi, contract with privately managed prison companies as a way to reduce costs. Prisons are usually among the most expensive budget items for states.
Since 2000, the number of people housed in privately operated prisons in the nation has increased by 45 percent, while the total number of prisoners has risen by only about 10 percent, according to an analysisby the Sentencing Project.
The genesis of the problems at East Mississippi, according to prisoner advocates, is that the state requires private prisons to operate at 10 percent lower cost than state-run facilities. Even at its state-run institutions, Mississippi spends significantly less on prisoners than most states, a fact that state officials once boasted about.
The federal civil rights lawsuit, filed against the state by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center after years of complaints from inmates, seeks to force wholesale changes at the prison.
Testimony has described dangerous conditions, confused lines of oversight and difficulty in attracting and retaining qualified staff.
Security staff at East Mississippi earn even less than the $12-an-hour starting wage made by their public service counterparts, and private prison guards receive only three weeks of training — less than half the training time required of state prison guards.
The state’s contract with Management & Training Corporation is particularly economical. Mississippi pays the company just $26 a day — or about $9,500 a year — for each minimum-security inmate. That is far less than the $15,000 a year neighboring Alabama spends per inmate, and only 13 percent of what New York, which spends more than any other state, pays per inmate.
Called as an expert witness for the Mississippi inmates, Eldon Vail, the former state prisons chief in Washington State, told the court that the focus on cutting costs had sent East Mississippi into a downward spiral.
“There are not a sufficient number of correctional officers, and most of their problems stem from that issue,” he said.
A photo introduced in evidence at the civil rights trial showed blood on the floor of a cell at the East Mississippi prison. CreditSouthern Poverty Law Center
Mr. Vail said that with too few guards to maintain order, inmates felt compelled to protect themselves with crudely made knives and other weapons, prompting a chain of retaliatory violence. And having too few doctors and nurses meant that inmates with mental illnesses were also more likely to act out violently.
Lawyers for the state and representatives of Management & Training say prisons are meant to be tough environments, and that East Mississippi is no worse than most others.
“We can say — unequivocally — that the facility is safe, secure, clean, and well run,” Issa Arnita, a spokesman for the company, said in a statement released during the trial. “From the warden on down, our staff are trained to treat the men in our care with dignity and respect. Our mission is to help these men make choices in prison and after they’re released that will lead to a new and successful life in society.”
Trial testimony has presented a radically different picture.
Mr. Shaw, the warden — who works for Management & Training, not for the state — receives incentives for staying within budget, but is not penalized when inmates die under questionable circumstances or when fires damage the prison. Four prisoners have died this year.
The warden said that he had been unaware of cases in which inmates had been so badly beaten that they required hospitalization, and that he had not disciplined guards who failed to ensure that inmates were unable to jam door locks and leave their cells.
When Mr. Shaw was asked about the variety of homemade objects used to commit assaults at the prison, he was dismissive. “Inmates have weapons,” he said. “It’s a fact of life.”
Mr. Shaw had previously been warden at an Arizona prison operated by Management & Training, where there was a riot in 2015. A scathing state report determined the riot was sparked by Management & Training’s “culture of disorganization, disengagement and disregard” of “policies and fundamental inmate management and security principles.”
At East Mississippi, the prison designated by the state to hold mentally ill inmates, there was a glaring lack of oversight of inmate care, according to testimony. Four out of five inmates in the prison receive psychiatric medication, but the facility has not had a psychiatrist since November.
The state prison mental health director is not a medical doctor, but a marriage and family therapist. And Gloria Perry, who became the prison system’s chief medical officer in 2008, said that she had never been to the East Mississippi prison.
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Pelicia E. Hall, the commissioner of the state prison system, testified that she may have been unaware of many problems at the facility because she did not read weekly performance reports from the state’s own monitor.
In the courtroom, the reports were delivered in person: An inmate testified in tears that a female guard had mocked him when he tried to report being raped in a cell in January. The guard never informed her superiors about the rape.
In an unrelated assault, surveillance video showed an inmate being beaten by other prisoners for 14 minutes before guards arrived.
Neither the state nor the private prison company has contested the accuracy of the prisoners’ accounts heard in court, although lawyers for the state say the stories should be treated with skepticism.
An inmate described another attack that occurred this year. He said a prisoner armed with a knife and a 4-foot section of pipe charged at him while he was being escorted to his cell by two guards. Instead of helping him, he said, the two guards ran away.
The inmate said he was chained at the ankles, waist and wrists at the time. He estimated that the other prisoner assaulted him for three minutes before other guards arrived and pulled the attacker off him.
“They laughed and told him not to do it again,” the inmate said, adding that the same man had beaten him with a pipe the previous month.
At the prison infirmary, he said, the medical staff simply poured distilled water onto his puncture wounds and sent him back to his cell.
“I was in excruciating pain,” he said.
It was not until three days later, the inmate said, when there was blood covering much of the floor of his cell, that he was taken to a hospital. He was treated for four stab wounds and a broken leg.
The inmate testified without giving his name, worried about retaliation from prisoners and guards alike. He said that whatever luck he has had may soon run out: When he went back to prison from the hospital, he said on the stand, he was placed in a cell next to that of his attacker.
Michelle Fabio , CONTRIBUTOR
In today’s installment of "I’m Not Terrified, You Are," Bloomberg Government reports on a FedBizOpps.gov posting by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with the relatively benign-sounding subject “Media Monitoring Services.”
The details of the attached Statement of Work, however, outline a plan to gather and monitor the public activities of media professionals and influencers and are enough to cause nightmares of constitutional proportions, particularly as the freedom of the press is under attack worldwide.
And "attack" is not hyperbolic.
Every day, journalists face serious consequences including physical violence, imprisonment and death. A few days ago, the Committee to Protect Journalists launched its annual Free The Press campaign to raise awareness about imprisoned journalists throughout the world. On May 3, UNESCO will once again mark World Press Freedom Day "to inform citizens of violations of press freedom — a reminder that in dozens of countries around the world, publications are censored, fined, suspended and closed down, while journalists, editors and publishers are harassed, attacked, detained and even murdered."
Meanwhile, the United States government, traditionally one of the bastions of press freedom, is about to compile a list of professional journalists and "top media influencers," which would seem to include bloggers and podcasters, and monitor what they're putting out to the public.
What could possibly go wrong? A lot.
How the student activists of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High demonstrate the power of a comprehensive education.
By DAHLIA LITHWICK
The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School returned to class Wednesday morning two weeks and moral centuries after a tragic mass shooting ended the lives of 17 classmates and teachers. Sen. Marco Rubio marked their return by scolding them for being “infected” with “arrogance” and “boasting.” The Florida legislature marked their return by enacting a $67 million program to arm school staff, including teachers, over the objections of students and parents. Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill opted to welcome them back by ignoring their wishes on gun control, which might lead a cynic to believe that nothing has changed in America after yet another horrifying cycle of child murder and legislative apathy.
But that is incorrect. Consumers and businesses are stepping in where the government has cowered. Boycotts may not influence lawmakers, but they certainly seem to be changing the game in the business world. And the students of Parkland, Florida, unbothered by the games played by legislators and lobbyists, are still planning a massive march on Washington. These teens have—by most objective measures—used social media to change the conversation around guns and gun control in America.
Now it’s time for them to change the conversation around education in America, and not just as it relates to guns in the classroom. The effectiveness of these poised, articulate, well-informed, and seemingly preternaturally mature student leaders of Stoneman Douglas has been vaguely attributed to very specific personalities and talents. Indeed, their words and actions have been so staggeringly powerful, they ended up fueling laughable claims about crisis actors, coaching, and fat checks from George Soros. But there is a more fundamental lesson to be learned in the events of this tragedy: These kids aren’t freaks of nature. Their eloquence and poise also represent the absolute vindication of the extracurricular education they receive at Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
The students of Stoneman Douglas have been the beneficiaries of the kind of 1950s-style public education that has all but vanished in America.
Despite the gradual erosion of the arts and physical education in America’s public schools, the students of Stoneman Douglas have been the beneficiaries of the kind of 1950s-style public education that has all but vanished in America and that is being dismantled with great deliberation as funding for things like the arts, civics, and enrichment are zeroed out. In no small part because the school is more affluent than its counterparts across the country (fewer than 23 percent of its students received free or reduced-price lunches in 2015–16, compared to about 64 percent across Broward County Public Schools) these kids have managed to score the kind of extracurricular education we’ve been eviscerating for decades in the United States. These kids aren’t prodigiously gifted. They’ve just had the gift of the kind of education we no longer value.
Part of the reason the Stoneman Douglas students have become stars in recent weeks is in no small part due to the fact that they are in a school system that boasts, for example, of a “system-wide debate program that teaches extemporaneous speaking from an early age.” Every middle and high school in the district has a forensics and public-speaking program. Coincidentally, some of the students at Stoneman Douglas had been preparing for debates on the issue of gun control this year, which explains in part why they could speak to the issues from day one.
The student leaders of the #NeverAgain revolt were also, in large part, theater kids who had benefited from the school’s exceptional drama program. Coincidentally, some of these students had been preparing to perform Spring Awakening, a rock musical from 2006. As the New Yorker describes it in an essay about the rise of the drama kids, that musical tackles the question of “what happens when neglectful adults fail to make the world safe or comprehensible for teen-agers, and the onus that neglect puts on kids to beat their own path forward.” Weird.
The student leaders at Stoneman Douglas High School have also included, again, not by happenstance, young journalists, who’d worked at the school paper, the Eagle Eye, with the supervision of talented staff. One of the extraordinary components of the story was the revelation that David Hogg, student news director for the school’s broadcast journalism program, WMSD-TV, was interviewing his own classmates as they hid in a closet during the shooting, and that these young people had the wherewithal to record and write about the events as they unfolded. As Christy Ma, the paper’s staff editor, later explained, “We tried to have as many pictures as possible to display the raw emotion that was in the classroom. We were working really hard so that we could show the world what was going on and why we need change.”
Mary Beth Tinker actually visited the school in 2013 to talk to the students about her role in Tinker v. Des Moines, the seminal Supreme Court case around student speech and protest. As she described it to me, the school’s commitment to student speech and journalism had been long in evidence, even before these particular students were activated by this month’s horrific events. Any school committed to bringing in a student activist from the Vietnam era to talk about protest and freedom is a school more likely than not to be educating activists and passionate students.
To be sure, the story of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students is a story about the benefits of being a relatively wealthy school district at a moment in which public education is being vivisected without remorse or mercy. But unless you’re drinking the strongest form of Kool-Aid, there is simply no way to construct a conspiracy theory around the fact that students who were being painstakingly taught about drama, media, free speech, political activism, and forensics became the epicenter of the school-violence crisis and handled it creditably. The more likely explanation is that extracurricular education—one that focuses on skills beyond standardized testing and rankings—creates passionate citizens who are spring-loaded for citizenship.
Perhaps instead of putting more money into putting more guns into our classrooms, we should think about putting more money into the programs that foster political engagement and skills. In Sen. Rubio’s parlance, Marjory Stoneman Douglas was fostering arrogance. To the rest of the world, it was building adults.
Thanks to Trump the tinhorn dictator and those who elected him, this country is no longer a beacon of freedom, but a laughingstock.
via Bill Moyers
BY NEAL GABLER | NOVEMBER 29, 2017
When people call Donald Trump an authoritarian, it almost gives him more credit than he deserves.
You don’t think favorably of authoritarians; they are despicable. But you do think of them as monstrously large, grievously terrifying, as somehow taking the measure of the polity they control and drawing on its stature to puff themselves up, even as they destroy their nation’s moral core. Despots like Mussolini and Hitler epitomized evil on the grandest possible scale. To call them clowns would trivialize the unconscionable horrors they inflicted.
Trump is certainly an authoritarian, but he is more of a tinhorn dictator, a tiny, negligible man who, rather than inflating himself with the nation’s grandeur, has managed to deflate the nation with his own insipidness. Thanks to him, America is now a banana republic. It is no longer a country of soaring ideas and idealism, a beacon to the world, an example of freedom at home and a protector of freedom abroad, an anchor of sanity in a world often bouncing on the waves of madness.
Whatever her failings, America was once majestic. Now she is hopelessly diminished — a wealthier version of the corrupt nations in the developing world that we used to ridicule. And we owe it all to Donald Trump for making America small again.
The meme of America withering into a banana republic is not a new one. Some observers made the claim after the 2000 presidential election, when Republicans successfully wrested the presidency from Al Gore, just the way cabals do in those banana republics. And it was toted out again in 2008 during the great financial meltdown when the economy was revealed to be not some great dynamo but a façade hiding a giant swindle, banana republic style. Citing the inability of the congressional Republicans to do anything but dither in the face of crisis, Paul Krugman called us a “banana republic with nukes.”
In Vanity Fair, the late Christopher Hitchens was more expansive. He enumerated the many ways in which America, the last great hope of mankind, had become a banana republic — primarily the way the government was willing to bail out the oligarchs while letting the general public suffer.
The chief principle of banana-ism is that of kleptocracy, whereby those in positions of influence use their time in office to maximize their own gains, always ensuring that any shortfall is made up by those unfortunates whose daily life involves earning money rather than making it.
Hitchens added that there is absolutely no accountability for the thieves. This all should sound very familiar this week, as Republicans retool the entire tax system to rob from the poor and middle classes and give to corporations and the wealthy. If that isn’t a banana republic, I don’t know what is.
But Krugman and Hitchens were writing before we had a bona fide banana republic dictator to rule our kleptocracy. And while America long has had the economic and social characteristics of a banana republic, it took Trump, who has the instincts and temperament of a gangster, to finish the transformation. There is no disguising it now. We are what we are.
Tick down the list. If kleptocracy is the hallmark of a banana republic, Trump is the kleptocrat-in-chief. He not only appears to be using the presidency as his own personal ATM, now promoting a tax-cut scam by which he stands to gain tens of millions of dollars, he also has been petty enough to steer business to his hotels and hawked his “Make America Great Again” tchotchkes. Check.
Apparently not satisfied to have enriched himself at the public’s expense, Trump has brought unprecedented nepotism to the presidency in a way that only tinhorn dictators do, giving his family access to the public trough while placing his unqualified cronies in positions of power. In this administration, everyone may be on the take. Check.
Just about every Trump directive, from health care to the environment to so-called tax reform to trade policy, seems expressly designed to give benefits to a small coterie of the wealthiest Americans while the rest of the country goes to hell. There is no longer even the pretense of concealment as there was in the good old days of Republicanism. Sure sounds like a banana republic to me. Check.
Like other tinhorn dictators, Trump has no use for the essentials of democracy. He openly attacks a free press and has a house press of his own, Fox News, and soon, quite possibly, Time Inc., the acquisition of which has been partially financed by the Koch brothers. More, there are allegations that he may using the levers of government to punish his press opponents, using the Justice Department’s antitrust suit against the proposed AT&T purchase of Time Warner to try to force the divestment of CNN.
This, too, is unprecedented in an American democracy, but not in a banana republic. Meanwhile, the Voice of America has placed on administrative leave (a reporter whose bias has leaked into his stories and who on the side has been advancing Trump’s right-wing agenda and casting racial epithets at others in the media. Check.
Trump has taken aim at the electoral process itself, not only claiming that his loss of the popular vote was a fraud, but empaneling a government commission whose sole purpose is thought to be the disenfranchisement of voters who might oppose him. This is pure banana republicanism and an affront to democracy. Check.
Banana republics are often agent states — that is, they operate at the behest of larger states. In fact the phrase “banana republic” first was coined by the writer O. Henry back in 1904, to describe the dependence of Central American countries on American businesses like United Fruit, which ran plantations in those countries and exported bananas.
Now, America itself is one of those agent states, thanks to Trump’s troubling obeisance to Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Let’s not pretend otherwise just so we can save some face. There is no more face to save. American elections interfered with by Russia and a president intimidated by a Russian dictator? Check.
In banana republics, ideology is nothing, policy is nothing, ethics are nothing. Power is everything. Trump is notoriously nonideological. He has no policies or any interest in them. His sole desire is to feed his own inflated ego. In this, he stands with other banana republic potentates. Check.
Tinhorn dictators do everything they can to dismantle a system of checks and balances. Trump has done everything in his power to do the same.
Tinhorn dictators do everything they can to dismantle a system of checks and balances. Trump has done everything in his power to do the same — from dismissing FBI Director James Comey, who was investigating Trump, intimidating the Justice Department and taking over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to…. well, you name it. Untrammeled power is his goal. Check.
In a banana republic, power is concentrated in the hands of one man or a small coterie. Trump has been openly contemptuous of any delegation of authority, even calling himself the “only one that matters,” which is dictator talk, not the talk of a democratically elected chief.
What’s more, he actively has worked to damage any countervailing authorities, essentially gutting the entire diplomatic corps, to cite just one example. Check.
In a banana republic, the dictator makes his own rules and lives by his own reality. Clearly, Trump thinks he is above the law, be it legal or moral. He boasts of it. He also is above fact. The latest example of the thousands of his presidency: According to The New York Times, he privately has declared that the Access Hollywood tape was not actually him! Banana republic time. Check.
And last but not least, there is the tragi-comic state itself — a kind of laughingstock of governance. America has joined that company of buffoonish nations that keep tripping over their own feet. By one account, when Trump took his first world tour in May, other leaders were aghast at Trump’s ineptitude. One foreign expert commented on how “rapidly the American brand is depreciatingover the last 20 weeks.” Check.
Donald Trump has demeaned himself, but he has also demeaned the country that was deranged enough to elect him. These characteristics speak to a corrupt and desiccated nation, one that is staggering into oblivion.
The “alt-right” insist that until Trump, America was going the way of Rome — rotting from the inside. They are wrong. It is not decadence that is destroying America, but petulance. We are going not the way of Rome but the way of Guatemala or Zimbabwe or the Philippines — the way of banana republics. Thus does this once great nation tumble.
Check and double check.
It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis.
It is preposterous to think that they are divided by any racial characteristics. Germans may be more susceptible to Nazism than most people, but I doubt it. Jews are barred out, but it is an arbitrary ruling. I know lots of Jews who are born Nazis and many others who would heil Hitler tomorrow morning if given a chance. There are Jews who have repudiated their own ancestors in order to become “Honorary Aryans and Nazis”; there are full-blooded Jews who have enthusiastically entered Hitler’s secret service. Nazism has nothing to do with race and nationality. It appeals to a certain type of mind.
It is also, to an immense extent, the disease of a generation—the generation which was either young or unborn at the end of the last war. This is as true of Englishmen, Frenchmen, and Americans as of Germans. It is the disease of the so-called “lost generation.”
Sometimes I think there are direct biological factors at work—a type of education, feeding, and physical training which has produced a new kind of human being with an imbalance in his nature. He has been fed vitamins and filled with energies that are beyond the capacity of his intellect to discipline. He has been treated to forms of education which have released him from inhibitions. His body is vigorous. His mind is childish. His soul has been almost completely neglected.
At any rate, let us look round the room.
The gentleman standing beside the fireplace with an almost untouched glass of whiskey beside him on the mantelpiece is Mr. A, a descendant of one of the great American families. There has never been an American Blue Book without several persons of his surname in it. He is poor and earns his living as an editor. He has had a classical education, has a sound and cultivated taste in literature, painting, and music; has not a touch of snobbery in him; is full of humor, courtesy, and wit. He was a lieutenant in the World War, is a Republican in politics, but voted twice for Roosevelt, last time for Willkie. He is modest, not particularly brilliant, a staunch friend, and a man who greatly enjoys the company of pretty and witty women. His wife, whom he adored, is dead, and he will never remarry.
He has never attracted any attention because of outstanding bravery. But I will put my hand in the fire that nothing on earth could ever make him a Nazi. He would greatly dislike fighting them, but they could never convert him. . . . Why not?
Beside him stands Mr. B, a man of his own class, graduate of the same preparatory school and university, rich, a sportsman, owner of a famous racing stable, vice-president of a bank, married to a well-known society belle. He is a good fellow and extremely popular. But if America were going Nazi he would certainly join up, and early. Why? . . . Why the one and not the other?
Mr. A has a life that is established according to a certain form of personal behavior. Although he has no money, his unostentatious distinction and education have always assured him a position. He has never been engaged in sharp competition. He is a free man. I doubt whether ever in his life he has done anything he did not want to do or anything that was against his code. Nazism wouldn’t fit in with his standards and he has never become accustomed to making concessions.
Mr. B has risen beyond his real abilities by virtue of health, good looks, and being a good mixer. He married for money and he has done lots of other things for money. His code is not his own; it is that of his class—no worse, no better, He fits easily into whatever pattern is successful. That is his sole measure of value—success. Nazism as a minority movement would not attract him. As a movement likely to attain power, it would.
The saturnine man over there talking with a lovely French emigree is already a Nazi. Mr. C is a brilliant and embittered intellectual. He was a poor white-trash Southern boy, a scholarship student at two universities where he took all the scholastic honors but was never invited to join a fraternity. His brilliant gifts won for him successively government positions, partnership in a prominent law firm, and eventually a highly paid job as a Wall Street adviser. He has always moved among important people and always been socially on the periphery. His colleagues have admired his brains and exploited them, but they have seldom invited him—or his wife—to dinner.
He is a snob, loathing his own snobbery. He despises the men about him—he despises, for instance, Mr. B—because he knows that what he has had to achieve by relentless work men like B have won by knowing the right people. But his contempt is inextricably mingled with envy. Even more than he hates the class into which he has insecurely risen, does he hate the people from whom he came. He hates his mother and his father for being his parents. He loathes everything that reminds him of his origins and his humiliations. He is bitterly anti-Semitic because the social insecurity of the Jews reminds him of his own psychological insecurity.
Pity he has utterly erased from his nature, and joy he has never known. He has an ambition, bitter and burning. It is to rise to such an eminence that no one can ever again humiliate him. Not to rule but to be the secret ruler, pulling the strings of puppets created by his brains. Already some of them are talking his language—though they have never met him.
There he sits: he talks awkwardly rather than glibly; he is courteous. He commands a distant and cold respect. But he is a very dangerous man. Were he primitive and brutal he would be a criminal—a murderer. But he is subtle and cruel. He would rise high in a Nazi regime. It would need men just like him—intellectual and ruthless. But Mr. C is not a born Nazi. He is the product of a democracy hypocritically preaching social equality and practicing a carelessly brutal snobbery. He is a sensitive, gifted man who has been humiliated into nihilism. He would laugh to see heads roll.
I think young D over there is the only born Nazi in the room. Young D is the spoiled only son of a doting mother. He has never been crossed in his life. He spends his time at the game of seeing what he can get away with. He is constantly arrested for speeding and his mother pays the fines. He has been ruthless toward two wives and his mother pays the alimony. His life is spent in sensation-seeking and theatricality. He is utterly inconsiderate of everybody. He is very good-looking, in a vacuous, cavalier way, and inordinately vain. He would certainly fancy himself in a uniform that gave him a chance to swagger and lord it over others.
Mrs. E would go Nazi as sure as you are born. That statement surprises you? Mrs. E seems so sweet, so clinging, so cowed. She is. She is a masochist. She is married to a man who never ceases to humiliate her, to lord it over her, to treat her with less consideration than he does his dogs. He is a prominent scientist, and Mrs. E, who married him very young, has persuaded herself that he is a genius, and that there is something of superior womanliness in her utter lack of pride, in her doglike devotion. She speaks disapprovingly of other “masculine” or insufficiently devoted wives. Her husband, however, is bored to death with her. He neglects her completely and she is looking for someone else before whom to pour her ecstatic self-abasement. She will titillate with pleased excitement to the first popular hero who proclaims the basic subordination of women.
On the other hand, Mrs. F would never go Nazi. She is the most popular woman in the room, handsome, gay, witty, and full of the warmest emotion. She was a popular actress ten years ago; married very happily; promptly had four children in a row; has a charming house, is not rich but has no money cares, has never cut herself off from her own happy-go-lucky profession, and is full of sound health and sound common sense. All men try to make love to her; she laughs at them all, and her husband is amused. She has stood on her own feet since she was a child, she has enormously helped her husband’s career (he is a lawyer), she would ornament any drawing-room in any capital, and she is as American as ice cream and cake.
How about the butler who is passing the drinks? I look at James with amused eyes. James is safe. James has been butler to the ‘ighest aristocracy, considers all Nazis parvenus and communists, and has a very good sense for “people of quality.” He serves the quiet editor with that friendly air of equality which good servants always show toward those they consider good enough to serve, and he serves the horsy gent stiffly and coldly.
Bill, the grandson of the chauffeur, is helping serve to-night. He is a product of a Bronx public school and high school, and works at night like this to help himself through City College, where he is studying engineering. He is a “proletarian,” though you’d never guess it if you saw him without that white coat. He plays a crack game of tennis—has been a tennis tutor in summer resorts—swims superbly, gets straight A’s in his classes, and thinks America is okay and don’t let anybody say it isn’t. He had a brief period of Youth Congress communism, but it was like the measles. He was not taken in the draft because his eyes are not good enough, but he wants to design airplanes, “like Sikorsky.” He thinks Lindbergh is “just another pilot with a build-up and a rich wife” and that he is “always talking down America, like how we couldn’t lick Hitler if we wanted to.” At this point Bill snorts.
Mr. G is a very intellectual young man who was an infant prodigy. He has been concerned with general ideas since the age of ten and has one of those minds that can scintillatingly rationalize everything. I have known him for ten years and in that time have heard him enthusiastically explain Marx, social credit, technocracy, Keynesian economics, Chestertonian distributism, and everything else one can imagine. Mr. G will never be a Nazi, because he will never be anything. His brain operates quite apart from the rest of his apparatus. He will certainly be able, however, fully to explain and apologize for Nazism if it ever comes along. But Mr. G is always a “deviationist.” When he played with communism he was a Trotskyist; when he talked of Keynes it was to suggest improvement; Chesterton’s economic ideas were all right but he was too bound to Catholic philosophy. So we may be sure that Mr. G would be a Nazi with purse-lipped qualifications. He would certainly be purged.
H is an historian and biographer. He is American of Dutch ancestry born and reared in the Middle West. He has been in love with America all his life. He can recite whole chapters of Thoreau and volumes of American poetry, from Emerson to Steve Benet. He knows Jefferson’s letters, Hamilton’s papers, Lincoln’s speeches. He is a collector of early American furniture, lives in New England, runs a farm for a hobby and doesn’t lose much money on it, and loathes parties like this one. He has a ribald and manly sense of humor, is unconventional and lost a college professorship because of a love affair. Afterward he married the lady and has lived happily ever afterward as the wages of sin.
H has never doubted his own authentic Americanism for one instant. This is his country, and he knows it from Acadia to Zenith. His ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War and in all the wars since. He is certainly an intellectual, but an intellectual smelling slightly of cow barns and damp tweeds. He is the most good-natured and genial man alive, but if anyone ever tries to make this country over into an imitation of Hitler’s, Mussolini’s, or Petain’s systems H will grab a gun and fight. Though H’s liberalism will not permit him to say it, it is his secret conviction that nobody whose ancestors have not been in this country since before the Civil War really understands America or would really fight for it against Nazism or any other foreign ism in a showdown.
But H is wrong. There is one other person in the room who would fight alongside H and he is not even an American citizen. He is a young German emigre, whom I brought along to the party. The people in the room look at him rather askance because he is so Germanic, so very blond-haired, so very blue-eyed, so tanned that somehow you expect him to be wearing shorts. He looks like the model of a Nazi. His English is flawed—he learned it only five years ago. He comes from an old East Prussian family; he was a member of the post-war Youth Movement and afterward of the Republican “Reichsbanner.” All his German friends went Nazi—without exception. He hiked to Switzerland penniless, there pursued his studies in New Testament Greek, sat under the great Protestant theologian, Karl Barth, came to America through the assistance of an American friend whom he had met in a university, got a job teaching the classics in a fashionable private school; quit, and is working now in an airplane factory—working on the night shift to make planes to send to Britain to defeat Germany. He has devoured volumes of American history, knows Whitman by heart, wonders why so few Americans have ever really read the Federalist papers, believes in the United States of Europe, the Union of the English-speaking world, and the coming democratic revolution all over the earth. He believes that America is the country of Creative Evolution once it shakes off its middle-class complacency, its bureaucratized industry, its tentacle-like and spreading government, and sets itself innerly free.
The people in the room think he is not an American, but he is more American than almost any of them. He has discovered America and his spirit is the spirit of the pioneers. He is furious with America because it does not realize its strength and beauty and power. He talks about the workmen in the factory where he is employed. . . . He took the job “in order to understand the real America.” He thinks the men are wonderful. “Why don’t you American in- tellectuals ever get to them; talk to them?”
I grin bitterly to myself, thinking that if we ever got into war with the Nazis he would probably be interned, while Mr. B and Mr. G and Mrs. E would be spreading defeatism at all such parties as this one. “Of course I don’t like Hitler but . . .”
Mr. J over there is a Jew. Mr. J is a very important man. He is immensely rich—he has made a fortune through a dozen directorates in various companies, through a fabulous marriage, through a speculative flair, and through a native gift for money and a native love of power. He is intelligent and arrogant. He seldom associates with Jews. He deplores any mention of the “Jewish question.” He believes that Hitler “should not be judged from the standpoint of anti-Semitism.” He thinks that “the Jews should be reserved on all political questions.” He considers Roosevelt “an enemy of business.” He thinks “It was a serious blow to the Jews that Frankfurter should have been appointed to the Supreme Court.”
The saturnine Mr. C—the real Nazi in the room—engages him in a flatteringly attentive conversation. Mr. J agrees with Mr. C wholly. Mr. J is definitely attracted by Mr. C. He goes out of his way to ask his name—they have never met before. “A very intelligent man.”
Mr. K contemplates the scene with a sad humor in his expressive eyes. Mr. K is also a Jew. Mr. K is a Jew from the South. He speaks with a Southern drawl. He tells inimitable stories. Ten years ago he owned a very successful business that he had built up from scratch. He sold it for a handsome price, settled his indigent relatives in business, and now enjoys an income for himself of about fifty dollars a week. At forty he began to write articles about odd and out-of-the-way places in American life. A bachelor, and a sad man who makes everybody laugh, he travels continually, knows America from a thousand different facets, and loves it in a quiet, deep, unostentatious way. He is a great friend of H, the biographer. Like H, his ancestors have been in this country since long before the Civil War. He is attracted to the young German. By and by they are together in the drawing-room. The impeccable gentleman of New England, the country-man—intellectual of the Middle West, the happy woman whom the gods love, the young German, the quiet, poised Jew from the South. And over on the other side are the others.
Mr. L has just come in. Mr. L is a lion these days. My hostess was all of a dither when she told me on the telephone, “ . . . and L is coming. You know it’s dreadfully hard to get him.” L is a very powerful labor leader. “My dear, he is a man of the people, but really fascinating.“ L is a man of the people and just exactly as fascinating as my horsy, bank vice-president, on-the-make acquaintance over there, and for the same reasons and in the same way. L makes speeches about the “third of the nation,” and L has made a darned good thing for himself out of championing the oppressed. He has the best car of anyone in this room; salary means nothing to him because he lives on an expense account. He agrees with the very largest and most powerful industrialists in the country that it is the business of the strong to boss the weak, and he has made collective bargaining into a legal compulsion to appoint him or his henchmen as “labor’s” agents, with the power to tax pay envelopes and do what they please with the money. L is the strongest natural-born Nazi in this room. Mr. B regards him with contempt tempered by hatred. Mr. B will use him. L is already parroting B’s speeches. He has the brains of Neanderthal man, but he has an infallible instinct for power. In private conversation he denounces the Jews as “parasites.” No one has ever asked him what are the creative functions of a highly paid agent, who takes a percentage off the labor of millions of men, and distributes it where and as it may add to his own political power.
It’s fun—a macabre sort of fun—this parlor game of “Who Goes Nazi?” And it simplifies things—asking the question in regard to specific personalities.
Kind, good, happy, gentlemanly, secure people never go Nazi. They may be the gentle philosopher whose name is in the Blue Book, or Bill from City College to whom democracy gave a chance to design airplanes—you’ll never make Nazis out of them. But the frustrated and humiliated intellectual, the rich and scared speculator, the spoiled son, the labor tyrant, the fellow who has achieved success by smelling out the wind of success—they would all go Nazi in a crisis.
Believe me, nice people don’t go Nazi. Their race, color, creed, or social condition is not the criterion. It is something in them.
Those who haven’t anything in them to tell them what they like and what they don’t-whether it is breeding, or happiness, or wisdom, or a code, however old-fashioned or however modern, go Nazi. It’s an amusing game. Try it at the next big party you go to.
Male bumblers are an epidemic.
These men are, should you not recognize the type, wide-eyed and perennially confused. What's the difference, the male bumbler wonders, between a friendly conversation with a coworker and rubbing one's penis in front of one? Between grooming a 14-year-old at her custody hearing and asking her out?
The world baffles the bumbler. He's astonished to discover that he had power over anyone at all, let alone that he was perceived as using it. What power? he says. Who, me?
The bumbler is the first to confess that he's bad at his job. Take Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who testified Tuesday of the Trump campaign's foreign policy team, which he ran and which is now understood to have been in contact with Russian agents: "We were not a very effective group." Or consider Dave Becky, the manager of disgraced comedian Louis C.K. (who confessed last week to sexual misconduct). Becky avers that "never once, in all of these years, did anyone mention any of the other incidents that were reported recently." One might argue that no one should have needed to mention them; surely, as Louis C.K.'s manager, it was Becky's job to keep tabs on open secrets about his client? Becky's defense? He's a bumbler! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
The bumbler doesn't know things, even things about which he was directly informed. Jon Stewart was "stunned" by the Louis C.K. revelations, even though we watched someone ask him about them last year. Vice President Mike Pence maintains he had no idea former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was lobbying for a foreign power — despite the fact that Flynn himself informed the transition team back in January, and even though Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) had written Pence — who was head of the transition team — to that effect as far back as Nov. 18, 2016. Wait, what? said Pence in March. Surely not! Really?
There's a reason for this plague of know-nothings: The bumbler's perpetual amazement exonerates him. Incompetence is less damaging than malice. And men — particularly powerful men — use that loophole like corporations use off-shore accounts. The bumbler takes one of our culture's most muscular myths — that men are clueless — and weaponizes it into an alibi.
Allow me to make a controversial proposition: Men are every bit as sneaky and calculating and venomous as women are widely suspected to be. And the bumbler — the very figure that shelters them from this ugly truth — is the best and hardest proof.
Breaking that alibi means dissecting that myth. The line on men has been that they're the only gender qualified to hold important jobs and too incompetent to be responsible for their conduct. Men are great but transparent, the story goes: What you see is what you get. They lack guile.
The "privilege" argument holds that this is partly true because men have never needed to deceive. This interesting Twitter thread by Holden Shearer has been making the rounds: "One of the oldest canards in low-denominator comedy is that women are inscrutable and men can't understand them. There's a reason for this and it ain't funny," he writes. The thread is right about the structural problems with lowbrow "women are so confusing!" comedy. "Women VERY frequently say one thing and mean another, display expressions or reactions that don't jibe with their feelings, and so on. But it's actually really easy to decode once you understand why it happens. It is survival behavior," Shearer writes.
But nested in that account is the assumption that the broad majority of men are not dissemblers. The majority are — you guessed it — bumblers! If you've noticed a tendency to treat girls — like the 14-year-old whom now-Senate candidate Roy Moore allegedly picked up at her custody hearing — as knowing adults and men in their 30s — like Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos and Donald Trump, Jr. — as erring youngsters, large sons and "coffee boys," this is why. Our culture makes that script available. It's why Sessions is so often referred to as an "elf" instead of a gifted manipulator (here's a very clever analysis of his strategy, which weaponizes our tendency to read white men — even very old attorneys with a long history of maliciously undermining civil rights — as slow, meandering children who know not what they do.)
It's counterintuitive, I know. For decades now, the very idea of a duplicitous, calculating man has been so exceptional as to be almost monstrous; this is the domain of cult leaders, of con artists, of evil men like the husband in Gaslight. And while folks provisionally accept that there aremen who "groom" children and "gaslight" women, the reluctance to attach that behavior to any real, flesh-and-blood man we know is extreme. Many people don't actually believe that normal men are capable of it.
Back when Dylan Farrow's allegations about Woody Allen were in the news, people quickly glommed onto Allen's exculpatory claim that Mia Farrow "brainwashed" her children into lying about him. It was fascinating, both because the claim was pretty evidence-free and because Woody Allen had blatantly and repeatedly admitted to manipulating and grooming Soon-Yi Previn. But, because Allen so skillfully deployed the script of the bumbler, everyone failed to see his behavior in those terms. Allen's portrayal of himself — he barely knows what he had for breakfast! — was just that effective. Never mind that he's so organized, ambitious, driven, confident, and purposeful that he successfully puts out a movie a year.
As the accusations of sexual misconduct roiling politics, publishing, and Hollywood continue to stack up, a few things are going to happen. The first stage of a phenomenon like this will always be to characterize the accused men as exceptions, as bad apples. #NotAllMen, the saying goes. But the second is that everyone is going to try to naturalize sexual harassment. If there are this many men doing these things, then surely this is just how men are! that argument will go. There's a corollary lurking underneath there: They can't help themselves. They're bumblers.
That won't wash. But the only way to guard against it is to shed our weird cultural blindness to manipulative male behavior. We must be smarter than our cultural defaults. We need to shed the exculpatory scripts that have mysteriously enabled all these incompetent bumblers to become rich, successful, and admired even as they maintain that they're moral infants.
We do that by looking at the deliberate, active steps they took to conceal what they did.
Take Benjamin Genocchio, who was recently replaced as executive director of the Armory Show, the New York City art fair, after 19 people testified to his inappropriate conduct. "I never intentionally acted in an inappropriate manner nor spoke to or touched a colleague in a sexually inappropriate way," Genocchio said. "To the extent my behavior was perceived as disrespectful, I deeply and sincerely apologize and will ensure it does not happen again."
In short: He's a bumbler!
Before you nod along, agreeing that it's just impossible to know what's appropriate in this day and age, let's look at how the allegations against Genocchio square with his professed confusion. At Artnet's 2014 holiday party at the Gramercy Park Hotel, as Colleen Calvo, the marketing coordinator, was checking guests in at the door, Genocchio allegedly ran his hand up her sequin pants. Per Calvo: "Ben said, 'Is this the only time I get to touch your ass without getting yelled at?'"
Does that sound like someone who doesn't understand the difference between what's appropriate and what's not? Does it instead sound like someone who understands perfectly what the boundaries are and is knowingly violating them? Nor was this isolated: The New York Timesconfirmed that Genocchio was spoken to repeatedly about his behavior. It was a known problem. He ignored the warnings.
Facts be damned: Genocchio knew he was playing to a wider audience that wouldn't look at those details; he hoped he could activate the bumbler stereotype and use it as an alibi.
This is not what bumblers do. This is what predators do. The actions are malicious, and the mind games are deliberate. So what about their handling of their reputations after the fact? Was this, too, bumbled?
No. In the majority of cases, the accused men were cunning and vindictive stewards of their reputations and did everything they could to ruin their victims.
Harvey Weinstein reportedly destroyed the careers of actresses he harassed; he got them branded as "difficult" or "crazy." He apparently hired ex-Mossad agents to spy on them.
Director Brett Ratner — to choose one unsavory example — addressed Olivia Munn's account in her book about how he masturbated in front of her (she'd left the director anonymous) by identifying himself and claiming he'd slept with her. (He later admitted she never had sex with him). It was a calculated effort to inflict maximum damage on her; to brand her a "slut."
Former Fox News host Bill O'Reilly allegedly pressured one of his victims(who worked at the network ) to give him "dirt" on another victim so he could shut down her allegations against him.
Former Fox News chief Roger Ailes reportedly videotaped his victims in compromising situations so he could ruin them later if they misbehaved.
What about the seduction phase? There's been a spate of articles about men desperately worried that they've somehow bumbled into harassment. Were these men "accidental" predators? Did they stumble — baffled and confused — into a situation where they haplessly and unknowingly harassed women?
Well, director James Toback apparently used "theater school" language to convince his targets that their vulnerability was artistically necessary. As Rachel McAdams recalls, he "used the same language during my audition — that you have to take risks and sometimes you're going to be uncomfortable and sometimes it's going to feel dangerous. And that's a good thing — when there is danger in the air and you feel like you are out of your comfort zone."
Roy Moore allegedly weaponized the nastiness intrinsic to divorce to convince a mother to leave her child in his care at her custody hearing. "He said, 'Oh, you don't want her to go in there and hear all that. I'll stay out here with her,'" said Nancy Wells, the mother of one of his accusers. "I thought, how nice for him to want to take care of my little girl." Moore allegedly picked up the 14-year-old around the corner from her house — presumably so no one would see him — and took her to the woods. The next time he allegedly undressed her, removed his own clothes, and made her touch him.
Oh, and Louis C.K., the ultimate bumbler? The bumbler extraordinaire? He lied. He lied to Marc Maron, a close friend, saying that the rumors about him were false. He appears to have done the same to Pamela Adlon, who defended him against the accusations. Nor does it end there: To hear Louis C.K. tell it, he had no idea his manager was getting the women he'd targeted to keep quiet. To hear his manager tell it, he had no idea Louis C.K. had been up to much of anything at all. Louis C.K. might be any number of things — sick, addicted, depressed, twisted, predatory, egotistical, self-destructive — but one thing he is not is a bumbler.
How many deliberate, premeditated lies, how many carefully set traps, how many instances of deceit do we need before we can admit that men are every bit as duplicitous and two-faced as women are suspected of being? That harassment is not an accident? That predation requires planning? That this gigantic apparatus through which women's careers are destroyed and men's are preserved isn't just happenstance?
Alas, the greatest supporters of the bumbler myth tend to be other men. You might recall that Dustin Hoffman was accused of groping and sexually harassing a 17-year-old on set — of saying things like "I'll have a hard-boiled egg … and a soft-boiled clitoris." He pleads bumbler: "I have the utmost respect for women and feel terrible that anything I might have done could have put her in an uncomfortable situation," he said. And indeed, it is hard to imagine how a teenager at her first job might receive those words. But did her employer defend her when she finally confessed, decades later, that she'd dealt with a hostile work environment? No, director Volker Schlöndorff has instead come to Hoffman's defense: He is "just a kidder," Schlöndorff says. Everyone gave Hoffman a foot massage!
Predatory men normalize their predation and support each other. "You're a target. I'm a target," O'Reilly said in a July 2016 appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers in which he discussed his employer, Ailes. "Anytime somebody could come out and sue us, attack us, go to the press, or anything like that. … I stand behind Roger 100 percent." Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, before he himself was accused of sexual assault, also defended Ailes. "I can tell you that some of the women that are complaining, I know how much he's helped them," the future president said, adding that Ailes is "just a very, very good person. And, by the way, a very, very talented person." Weinstein supported Roman Polanski, calling the charges that he drugged and anally raped a 13-year-old girl a "so-called crime" and calling the charges themselves "a shocking way to treat such a man." And Oliver Stone, himself accused of groping a model, lamentedWeinstein's fate: "It's not easy what he's going through," Stone said. "I'm a believer that you wait until this thing gets to trial. I believe a man shouldn't be condemned by a vigilante system."
This is how the culture attempts to normalize this stuff: by minimizing the damage to women and the agency of men. When actress Katharine Towne described an incident in which Brett Ratner started hitting on her at a dinner party, refused to take no for an answer, and trapped her in a bathroom, here's how his attorney Marty Singer responded: "Even if hypothetically this incident occurred exactly as claimed, how is flirting at a party, complimenting a woman on her appearance, and calling her to ask her for a date wrongful conduct?" Singer said.
Look, this is a moment when our cultural myths about men and women are colliding. It's scary and confusing and way too widespread for comfort. But rather than knee-jerking toward normalizing, it's worth taking a minute to parse just how complicated it is to make sense of the different realities in which men and women have been living. I've written repeatedlyabout the culture-wide phenomenon of "not-knowing," of how our biggest shared cultural muscles are built to repress knowledge about how routinely women's professional lives are derailed through sexual harassment and misconduct. Emma Thompson called the Weinstein revelations "the tip of the iceberg," and she's right: Economists have long and lazily attributed the exodus of women in various industries to their decision to bear children, but now this giant explanatory iceberg is floating up — this absolutely gigantic, widely denied story about how women are routinely driven from their industries because their male colleagues need to be free to use their professional power to indulge their sexual urges.
Most of us know that when a politician sits on the stand and insists that he "does not recall," that it's a political performance, a manipulative pretense intended to obfuscate. Let's apply that intelligent skepticism toward this rash of professions of male incompetence. To put it in pragmatic terms: You can be a bumbler, or you can keep your job. You can't have both.
Over at the Gothamist, Jake Offenhartz has an astounding and richly symbolic storyabout the latest bit of “fake news” burped up by the alt-right.
At Columbia University on Monday, alt-right self-promoter Mike Cernovich gave a speech to College Republicans. Other students showed up to protest. And then some alt-right members in attendance, posing as protesters, unfurled this banner:
The banner has a NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association) logo on it, making it look like the protesters are defending pedophilia. Ha ha.
Cernovich grabbed the image off Twitter, stripped it of context, and sent it bouncing around the right-o-sphere. When Offenhartz reported the copyright violation, Twitter removed the photo from Cernovich’s account. That led the alt-right to cry censorship, which led to more publicity for the photo, which led, in the end, to thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of conservatives believing that students of Columbia University were openly marching in favor of pedophilia.
Basically, the alt-right tricked itself into believing even more stupid, wrong things. Burn, I guess?
Crazy conservative fairy tales have become numbingly common
The sheer absurdity of the tale is familiar these days, reminiscent of “Pizzagate,” the bonkers story about Democrats running a child prostitution ring out of a DC pizza joint. Even after it went viral on Reddit and some jacked-up angry white guy showed up at Comet Pizza with a gun, it still had the scent of parody. It is quite simply impossible for most people to imagine believing all the things that would be required to also believe that DC Democrats are into organized child trafficking.
It is similarly difficult for most people to imagine believing that Hillary Clinton has had multiple people killed, that Obama is a secret Muslim who wasn’t born in the US, that Trump had millions of votes stolen, that Barack Obama wiretapped Trump’s White House, that Seth Rich (the mid-level Democratic staffer who was tragically murdered) was assassinated for stealing DNC emails and giving them to WikiLeaks, or that Antifa, the fringe anti-fascist movement, will begin going door-to-door, killing white people, starting on November 4.
And yet millions of Americans fervently believe these things. Different polls find different things, and it’s always difficult to distinguish what people really believe from what they say on surveys. But if 30 percent of America’s 200 million registered voters are Republicans, and 40 percent of those don’t believe Obama was born in the US, well, that’s 24 million people, among them the most active participants in Republican politics.
Read the whole Story at VOX