Trump, Scary, Trump, Spicy, Hot, Trump, Truth, Christianity

  • Is there a way to defend Trump from criminal charges? nojo at Stinque thinks that, when it comes to the wrongdoing going on around him, you would have to be totally adorable to think that President Trump could not be stupidly unaware.
     
  • On the other hand, Green Eagle has watched The Godfather, has read this week’s papers, and has determined that, one night, my President placed the bloody head of a horse in Michael Flynn’s bed.
     
  • Michael John Scott suggests national Republicans are becoming increasingly unnerved by President Trump.
     
  • John Scalzi at Whatever writes about why, as a practical matter, it’s hard to write about our national Trump trip.
     
  • Iron Knee at Political Irony has a way to predict President Trump’s behavior. Just look to internet tweets from years ago and find what he accused others of doing.
     
  • driftglass finds it hard to blame Democrats for Donald Trump, difficult to sympathize with those who voted for him, and impossible to find any patience with those who do both.
     
  • Dave Dubya sees a failure of our system of electoral college Russian roulette as a candidate is imposed upon us after being rejected on election day by the American people. Dave wonders if our system of laws will deter further destruction. Dave does not seem fully confident.
     
  • Jonathan Bernstein is okay with a special counsel, but argues the move doesn’t go far enough.
     
  • Yellow Dog at Blue in the Bluegrass watches as Attorney General Jeff Sessions is uninterested in a police shooting of a black man while he is held down on the ground but decides to prosecute a protester for laughing at … well … Jeff Sessions. Yellow dog suggests a disparity in … you know … justice.
     
  • Last Of The Millenniums has a way guaranteed to get Mexico to pay after all.
     
  • Jack Jodell at The Saturday Afternoon Post names names and amounts in his analysis of the flow of political money and has conclusions about whom representative government represents.
     
  • Wow. You think national Republicans are bad? David Robertson at The Moderate Voice takes us to the GOP horror show in Oklahoma.
     
  • The Journal of Improbable Research finds a study, conducted jointly by the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad, India, and the University of Texas at Austin, on whether hot and spicy food leads to political anger.
     
  • Michael A. LaFerrara at Principled Perspectives uses a letter written in support of health care as a jumping off point in his support of the libertarian ideal. As Michael sees it, forcing anyone to pay for bridges, sidewalks, libraries, flowers, parks, or art that person chooses not to drive on, walk on, read, smell, or view is immoral. Classic Ayn Rand stuff. I don’t know if police, fire departments or anti-ballistic missiles are included in his formulation. That depends on which strain of objectivism is followed.
     
  • We’ve been concerned at his health problems, but Vincent returns this week to A Wayfarer’s Notes. He conducts an exploration of happiness, a sort of living in the moment, not needing anything to change, a bit of deliberate aimlessness. He takes a look at the ancient Tao Te Ching for the associated art of not doing. He seems to have the not needing change part down, but still has trouble with not doing.
     
  • In The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser, former pastor and current atheist Bruce hits hard, discussing the difficulty confronted by thoughtful people of faith: hardship inflicted on innocents.
     
  • My friend T. Paine, at Saving Common Sense, argues that non-Christians must necessarily embrace moral relativism. My friend defines this as 9.5 billion people acknowledging 9.5 billion separate, equally valid, truths.
     
    I dunno. I expect a lot of those 9.5 billion folks would disagree. And many of my brothers and sisters in Christ see Truth as: Jesus loves you and shares your hatred of Obama, Hillary, Gays, and Muslims.
     
    Still, it is good finally to see my friend turn away, however unconsciously, from the Fox News we-report-you-decide inclusion of rumor and spin, explaining to conservatives that truth is whatever they want it to be.
     
  • This Week In Trumpian ‘Alternative Facts’, The Washington Post helpfully compiles 586 false and misleading claims Donald Trump has made in 17 weeks as President. That assumes, of course, that we don’t just make up our own factual truth. See my friend, Mr. Paine, for guidance.
     

The Delicate Art of Turning a Patriot into a Traitor

How does an enemy agent turn a decorated General, a patriot, an authentic American hero, into a traitor? What goes through the mind of a trusted, high ranking military officer as he sells out his country to a hostile foreign power?

The saga of General Michael Flynn reminded me of a movie from more than 50 years ago.

The Great Escape, the film, was based on an actual event in World War II, as captured allied soldiers tunneled out of a German prison camp in a massive break. Most were re-captured. Many of those captured were executed on orders from Hitler in what became an infamous war crime. But they succeeded in tying up resources of the Nazi war machine.

The escape could probably not have happened without the cooperation of a few German guards. These were not bold military men putting themselves into harm’s way out of deeply held principle. Most were enticed, little by little. The film illustrated what accounts in the real spy world tell us are classic methods of inducement. Bribery, flattery, playing on resentments. Most important, the steps must be incremental. Start small and aim high.

A prisoner played by James Garner befriends a young, earnest guard with chocolates and conversation. The break comes when he picks the young man’s pocket and acquires the prison guard’s wallet. The aim is not as much contents of the wallet as it is the desperation of the young man.

Robert Hendley: What’s the matter, Werner?

Private Werner: My wallet, my papers, my identity card. Gone. I lost them. Everything.

Hendley: (explaining to another prisoner) He lost his wallet. Do you realize what would happen if Strachwitz found this out? The Russian front.

Werner: I’ve looked every place, every place. I must have lost them while I was in here.

Hendley: Look, I told you we were friends. We’ll find them. I’ll find them. I promise you I’ll find them if I have to tear this room apart.

Werner: Oh, Thank you ! !
[About to leave]

Hendley: Oh Werner! There is…
… one
… small
… favor.
[Pause]
A camera.

A camera.

Little things, a candy bar and conversation, lead to a lost wallet, which leads to a camera, which leads to travel papers for use in the coming escape. The papers lead to more. If his superiors find out, Werner is in for some very tough times. At each step, young Werner is safe … as long as he cooperates in something a little bigger, then a little bigger than that.

I wonder if something similar, some small item, was amplified over time, as Major André went to work on his American victim.

An American general can’t be turned easily, not one who has distinguished himself in combat, rallying troops against what seemed like hopeless odds to win two important battles. In one case he was partially drenched in his own blood. He nearly lost a leg. Yet he and his men prevailed.

Resentment had to play a part. He felt betrayed by the leader of our country. He had been passed over by a half dozen officers who had nowhere near his record of bravery or victory. Major André played on those resentments.

Then there was the faltering lifestyle, sustained by debt. Offering cash payments is a delicate business. André’s success will be required reading for anyone with an interest in how patriots can be subverted.

Major André is long gone, but Russian Ambassador and top spy Sergey Kislyak has many of the same skills. He met numerous times with Jeff Sessions and Jared Kushner. But his greatest success seems to have been the turning of American general Michael Flynn.

The parallels are striking.

Military heroism and skill are there.

General Flynn saw combat in Grenada, then helped turn military intelligence into a modern force. President Obama eventually put him in charge of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

And, of course, there was the same seething resentment toward the leader of our country.

It was as Director of Intelligence that his career took a nosedive. He gained a reputation for hasty conclusions supported by hazy or entirely made-up facts. His subordinates called his insistent interpretations “Flynn Facts.” His reports became the stuff of fantasy. In the end he was forced out.

In his mind, President Obama had put him into a high position of authority, only to turn on him. It wasn’t fair.

At the Republican National Convention, his bitterness toward all things connected with Obama was on full display. His rage at Hillary Clinton was palpable. We watch on video: General Flynn gives his speech as if it is ALL IN CAPS. You can almost feel the angry spittle hit the inside of your screen.

What was not known by most was that resentment, money, and Russian spymaster Sergey Kislyak had formed a decisive chemistry. Tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands of dollars were funneled to him through corporate channels, speakers’ bureaus, and a Danish shell company. He became a secret paid agent, first of Russia, then of Turkey. His views took a radical turn toward both.

At one point, he huddled with Turkish agents to talk about the best way to kidnap an Islamic cleric who was critical of the Turkish government and was living in exile in the United States.

In all, while he was advising Donald Trump on National Security, attending meetings involving classified issues, he was secretly on and off and on the payroll of foreign governments. The fact that he was a foreign agent was still a secret when he was formally named as National Security Adviser. By then, the small payments had led to larger payments, and had built up to more than half a million dollars.

Personally, I see no information or no data to support the notion that General Flynn complied with the law.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Republican Chair of the Investigating Committee, April 25, 2017

What was worse than the payments was that he had kept them secret. The Russians knew about them. President Trump, presumably did not. At least at first. Secrets can lead to threats of exposure.

Hendley: Look, I told you we were friends. We’ll find them. I promise you I’ll find them if I have to tear this room apart.

Werner: Oh, Thank you ! !

Hendley: There is…
… one
… small
… favor.

And so, as Acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned, then later testified, General Flynn became vulnerable to greater and greater blackmail.

Not only did we believe that the Russians knew this, but that they likely had proof of this information. And that created a compromised situation, a situation where the National Security Adviser essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians.

Sally Yates, in sworn testimony, May 8, 2017

General Flynn was, for a second time, forced out of government service, weeks after Sally Yates carried her warning to the White House.

Weeks?
Weeks.

The skillful Russian master spy, Sergey Kislyak, has diplomatic immunity. The master spy from long ago, Major John André, did not. Without that immunity, at considerable personal risk, Major André manipulated the seething resentments harbored by his victim, and was able to use his crushing financial situation.

Even exploiting those weakness, considerable skill had to have been applied by the British Agent. In the end, General Arnold turned over plans detailing the American military post at West Point, along with suggestions of how enemy forces could defeat the American defenders.

British Major John André was caught by the Americans, tried, and eventually hanged. Benedict Arnold escaped and lived out his years in London.

There is some speculation, but only speculation, that President Trump is himself vulnerable to old information Vladimir Putin now possesses: records of massive money laundering and videotapes from stays at Moscow hotels run by the modern version of the old KGB.

Respect for the office of President requires skepticism at the most extravagant claims until actual facts are produced. In a free society, official investigations have, in the past, combined with a free press to eventually get behind the curtain of cover-up, to reveal truth. We can have some faith, perhaps more hope than faith, that the pattern will hold.

What we know now is that, on May 10, 2017, President Trump met in the Oval Office with modern spymaster, Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Ambassador Kislyak brought with him the Russian hardline Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, high-tech cameras and equipment, and a photographer from the Russian News Agency TASS. That’s the same TASS that, for decades, was the official Soviet news agency. American news cameras were barred from the meeting.

At that meeting, in a moment of impulsive bravado, the leader of the free world offered this boast: “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day.” Then he offered a free sample of secret high level information.

The information came from a foreign country, most reports say Israel. The country of origin asked only that the classified information be withheld from other countries, especially Russia, Russia being a close ally of Israel’s enemies. Israeli agents who have infiltrated terrorist groups are already in harm’s way. Apparently, Israel does not want to have them exposed by enemies of Israel.

The Presidential boast and the top level information was a startling breach of trust. The President of the United States had casually revealed sensitive information to back up a brag that could have been issued by any longtime occupant of a corner stool at a neighborhood bar. “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day.” The continuous presidential craving for approval must be met at any cost.

Word is that Israeli officials regard the boasting as a betrayal of their agents, information that may lead to their identities, then to death.

I was especially struck by the telephone contact that provoked the meeting in the White House. A few days earlier, Russian ruler Vladimir Putin had made a personal request, just one … small … favor, that President Trump invite to the Oval Office Russian spymaster Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, a TASS photographer, and all the camera and associated equipment that could be carried in.

Hendley: Oh Werner! There is
… one
… small
… favor.
[Pause]
A camera.

And our President did not hesitate.


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Trump, Comey, FBI, Nixon, Cox, Trump, Comey, Free Speech

  • 44 years ago, President Nixon fired Prosecutor Archibald Cox for demanding tapes incriminating Nixon. Bumper stickers appeared: “Impeach the Cox Sacker” (Sorry Aunt Tildy, but some things are simply true). Unless you are that creative, how do you add insight to the worldwide tsunami of comment about the Comey firing?
     
  • Infidel753 does it right, with his usual responsible due diligence, noting my President’s rage and panic about investigations “into his (alleged) ties with Russia” before deciding that “the obvious inference is that the firing was meant to derail the FBI investigation.” Then he describes, and links to, reactions from around the political spectrum.
     
  • John Scalzi at Whatever takes a break from book reviews to explain why it’s not hypocritical, or even contradictory, for liberals to think James Comey was horrible at his job and, simultaneously, to think he was fired as part of a coverup.
     
  • At The Swash Zone, Capt. Fogg watches Donald Trump disintegrate.
     
  • As President Trump declares himself “a very active President,” Tommy Christopher agrees, pointing to threats to the press, the FBI, and democracy itself — all before breakfast.
     
  • Vixen Strangely at Strangely Blogged uses all her legal training from years of watching Law & Order to speculate on what lawyers would tell Donald Trump.
     
  • At The Intersection of Madness and Reality, rippa has his own perspective on the firing of James Comey. “Donald Trump pulled the illest, most gangsta move of his presidency to date.” Turns out it’s not an endorsement of the firing.
     
  • Max’s Dad does have the vocabulary for epic rant. He uses it with great effect to express a lack of love for Paul Ryan, Donald Trump, and Republican lawmakers. Aunt Tildy urges younger readers to cover their ears as they venture into this link.
     
  • nojo at Stinque does not think the tepid Republican response to the dangers of Trump comes from political loyalty or ideological fervor, but rather from something deeper.
     
  • Steve M points out that, for a very long time, conservatism has not primarily been about policy.
     
  • North Carolina pastor John Pavlovitz sees rock solid support for my President among a large percentage of American Christians who cling to a desperate version of imagined oppression as white Christian privilege slips away. President Trump is not so much their friend as the enemy of their enemies. He and they share a burning resentment of common targets: undeserving recipients of ethnic and religious tolerance, and those who support that tolerance.
     
  • In The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser, former pastor and current atheist Bruce considers the ethics of using high pressure salvation tactics to scare kids and teens into getting saved.
     
  • The Big Empty has discovered amazing photos that demonstrate how the stress of being in office can change a President.
     
  • Libertarian Michael A. LaFerrara at Principled Perspectives argues that the Electoral College was not established to protect slavery. His argument is that those who were eventually successful in ending slavery did not also end the electoral college. No kidding, that’s his logic.
     
    Actually, the historical record is fairly explicit. According to accounts at the time of the debates carried out during the Constitutional Convention, protection of slavery was exactly the purpose. The only purpose.
     
  • It should have been a joke. Frances Langum is astonished at one bit of press criticism of Donald Trump. Has to do with not offering ice cream and a diet soda to the journalist. Come on, Francis. Chris Cillizza may be superficial – – but that’s only on the surface.
     
  • Jon Perr at PERRspectives takes a step that was beyond each Republican who voted for Trumpcare. He looks into the bill itself, along with analysis from the Congressional Budget Office, and determines the effect on health care. In fairness, the CBO study did not exist when Republicans voted the plan through Congress. They refused to wait for it even a few days.
     
  • Last Of The Millenniums has discovered the reason behind all those emails.
     
  • “It’s hard to imagine it was possible,” says James Wigderson, “but the situation on college campuses has grown so bad, Senator Bernie Sanders spoke out in defense of Ann Coulter’s right to speak at Berkeley…” James writes his endorsement for an anti-noise bill in Wisconsin, that would prohibit the drowning out of a speech or presentation. In passing, James mentions that “even even former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean” is defending free speech.
     
    Yeah I’m amazed that things have gotten to the point where even elderly hippies like me would be for freedom of speech, along with a few James did not notice: like Elizabeth Warren. Imagine that. Things are so bad, even Robert Reich supports Coulter’s right to hate speech. In fact, things have gotten even worse. Why, even Bill Maher says she has a right to speak. You know it’s bad when even folks who are not rock solid conservative support the right to express unpopular opinion. Even Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar have joined in, explicitly supporting the right of conservatives like Ann Coulter to speak. One of my favorite liberals, Kevin Drum angrily supports … well … you get the idea.
     
    As Drum puts it, before slamming the excesses against Coulter, “college campuses are teeming with smart, verbal, overconfident 19-year-olds. Of course they do stupid things. We all did stupid things at that age.” He gets angry at the kids. He has even less patience with a few others who should know better. It seems predictable some of the most fervently committed will sometimes forget the common contract that obligates all members of a free society to defend the right to freely express ideas we regard as anathema.
     
    James believes things must be really bad if even liberals are for free speech? Maybe a little history will help. We love you, James, but sometimes you need to think things through. Even.
     
  • This Week In Trumpian ‘Alternative Facts’, we have, well, this.