Revolted Colonies

U.S. Politics and Culture

Category: Politics (Page 1 of 2)

The Times Still are A-Changin’

 

Our law school put on a show every year, spoofing the faculty. Ham that I am, I participated  in all three shows. I want to tell you about one of them. 

It was 1977, and I was in my second year. Two classmates and I wrote the script, and two others penned lyrics for our song parodies. Except for two that I had written. One was a parody of Ray Charles’ “What I’d Say.”  It was called “Res Ipsa Loquitur,” which means “the thing speaks for itself,” riffing on accident lawyers. The lyrics were funny enough, and we had a tort professor named Robert Waters, who many students called Muddy. The other song was an original entitled, “Be My Chicken.”  It was a pastiche of blues songs with risqué double-entendres. It had nothing to do with law.  

I rehearsed both songs for the cast and crew. They decided that the Chicken song was too dirty. It included the word “cock,” as in rooster. But I didn’t  mean rooster, Besides, rooster didn’t scan. The Chicken song was cut, but the ambulance chaser song remained, and it got lots of laughs.  Did I mention that Professor Waters was African-American, and I performed in black-face? In today’s America, the reactions would be the opposite.  I still do the Chicken song at parties, while the other received a suitable burial. I am embarrassed by my lack of judgment and empathy, but it was Florida in the Seventies. Red Ipsa Loquitur, y’all.

“My Fair Lady” is a 1956  musical about an uneducated Cockney girl who becomes  an elegant, middle-class woman under the tutelage of a self-proclaimed misogynist and elitist.  They fall in love – sort of—and she comes back to live under his aristocratic roof, the curtain falling as she retrieves his slippers.  She makes this choice despite the declared affections of an idle-rich young man, who haunts the woman’s neighborhood, winsomely singing,”Let the time go by, I don’t care if I can be here on the street where you live.” In other words, a Stalker.

In the 1978 film, “Animal House,” all types of debauchery and mayhem are exploited for laughs, including a college freshman’s attempt to intoxicate and have sex with an under-age girl. Statutory Rape.  Now that scene would end up on the cutting room floor.

Also in 1978, Rodney Dangerfield joked,” I have three children —one of each.” His joke about homosexuality was a harbinger for the politics of gender identity and its bathroom conundrum.

These are cultural touchstones marking the changes in sensitivity on issues of race and sexuality in American culture in the last sixty years.  We can look at the past as unenlightened, but except for myself perhaps, the talents behind these celebrated works were not cave dwellers. The current outpouring of accounts of sexual assault helps us as a culture move from the theoretical to the actual.  Millennials may know intuitively what we boomers had to learn. 

Victims of sexual assault have broken free of repressed and suppressed recollections, many involving cultural icons.  The accounts offer a look into sexual roles  going back thirty or more years to the present. Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein have been accused of rape. Bill O’Reilly has paid off cases of sexual assault.  Kevin Spacey and Roy Moore allegedly forced themselves upon minors.  Louis C.K. has admitted to exposing himself and jerking off in front of  several female comics,  a rumor that had circulated for years.  Those women have issued reports now.   At first, they did not speak up, in deference to his power in show business and that he’d been generous helping them build their careers. 

The case of Al Franken raises different  issues.  Franken, then a comic on a 2006 USO tour, admits  to aggressively kissing another entertainer in a scene calling for a “stage kiss.” This scenario was a recurring gag in 1982’s “Tootsie,” in which Dustin Hoffman’s cross-dressing character is repeatedly over-kissed by her soap opera co-star with a reputation for such hi-jinks. By the way, Dustin Hoffman himself stands accused of misconduct. The USO tours were enormously popular during earlier wars, when Bob Hope paraded a number of voluptuous women, immodestly dressed, in front of an audience of drooling GIs.   With Franken, the kiss, which was immediately repulsed by the victim, was embellished by a photo taken of Franken fondling or appearing to fondle the victim’s breasts while she was asleep on a transport plane.  The photo was included in a commemorative album distributed after the tour,  to the victim’s horror. 

Franken’s behavior creates a different kind of problem for the people who traditionally side with the victim.  Franken is now a U.S. Senator for the State of Minnesota, and he unfailingly takes the victim’s side in these situations. His allies and constituents are forced to reconcile Franken’s private lechery with his admirable public work.  Michelle Goldberg, a New York Times columnist, has called for his resignation or at least an ethics hearing. He is receiving a pass from many of his supporters.

The politics and the less invasive nature of the offense support Franken, but so do the outdated  mores of earlier times.  Franken grew up in the sixties and seventies.  Our “take” on sexual matters was different. A male was expected to be the initiator, and the female was the boundary setter. “No” was the word when uttered in combination with a physical withdrawal. The line was thus drawn. One might say that “No”  should have been sufficient.  But there was countervailing  part of the ritual that called for a certain amount of female protest, as if to say, “I don’t l, do this but, well, because it’s you…” Face was saved, parental encomiums heard but not always followed.

Franken and his fellow player were performers in a show. This isn’t meant to suggest that Franken was justified: it was “Tootsie” for real.  As a performer, he knew better. The photo was at the least in bad taste and at worst evidence of a battery, touching without consent while the woman slept.  Franken crossed the line.  Yet, I can’t equate it with the other scandals because it is by degrees closer to the aggressiveness that once was condoned.  However, if later we find out that Stuart Smalley really wasn’t good enough, his show will be canceled too. 

 

If You Like the Tax Code, You’ll Love the New Healthcare

There’s an old jibe about legislation: A camel is a horse designed by committee.   At least it’s true when sides are compromising to find agreement. Rarely does the process generate an outcome of equine beauty.  On a positive note, the result may be functional and sturdy, if a bit ungainly.

We long for simple answers: a flat tax with no deductions or customized loopholes. Sadly, it is a creature with the beauty of a thoroughbred but not much horse-sense. America’s a complicated country. We’d all like a one-size fits all plan that’s fair.  At the moment our tax law is complicated but nobody thinks it’s fair. We might be able to write a plan that a four year-old would understand but there will be critics – always- and simplicity does not necessarily result in fairness.

Universal healthcare the presents a simliar challenge. While a single payer plan with the same benefits for all resulting in high quality care is a worthy goal, in our heterogeneous country, One does not want to bear the burdens of the Other – no matter  if One has benefited historically from the Other’s free or cheap land or labors.  So be it.

Our benighted health care plan has absorbed an inordinate amount of attention for 7 years, even more so since the ascendancy of Ubu Trump.  This year’s  several variations had  the virtue of being simple but had nothing much to do with health care. They were about the RE-redistribution of wealth.  They didn’t tackle costs at all. If anything, insurers would have had freer rein to break the insurance market into segments. As for Medicaid, that “problem” would be eliminated first by burdening states with financial and administrative responsibility. The states then could make their budgets by curtailing the program in every different way imaginable.  The result would be Health Care 1.0, a return to the politics and economics of the  past. State by state coverage would kill the possibility of broad, diverse pools, the kind that make universal healthcare viable.

 Trumpcare would have disfavored the old and infirm who, with or without pre-existing condition coverage, would have to bear their own costs directly. The young and feckless could take their chances and ride bareback. Still, the young and feckless should appreciate that even if they eat right, exercise regularly and take good care  of themselves, one day they’ll get sick and die. Don’t bother to ask – the high deductible tolls for thee.  

And that, good people, is why there are horses and camels. While the GOP caucus has been fiddling, Senators Alexander and Murphy  have been trying to put out the fire. They’ve come up with a plan to stabilize the insurance markets, one which appears to have Ubu’s approval as a stop gap, one of those temporary measures that ripen into monuments. At least the future ex-president would not get to pull down the system by unilaterally defunding the subsidies and playing hide-away with the enrollment program, which is his current game plan. Democrats will vote for it. The ball is in the GOP’s court.

 The Alexander-Murray Plan, which is bipartisan (!), starts by accepting that Obamacare is the law and that the subsidies must be restored to maintain it. In turn, states would be permitted to offer a policy variant that affords less care and therefore costs less.  Healthcare lite perhaps, but health care nevertheless.  In a capitalist system, money always holds privilege. That’s an explanation, not an endorsement -and that’s why many of our horses have humps.

The Specter of Arlen is Haunting America

The late Arlen Specter rose through Pennsylvania state politics to the office of U.S. Senator. His journey was instructive.  From 1951-1965, he was a Democrat. He read the shifting winds, running as a Republican  and winning the race for Philadelphia District Attorney.   In 1980, he was elected Senator, where he remained for the rest of his career.

He was often controversial but mostly effective in the Senate.  His inquisition of Anita Hill in the momentous hearings on the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination, the rebuke of his party over its impeachment  of Bill Clinton, his criticism and investigation of Bush II’s warrantless wiretapping of Americans, are a few highlights of his Senate tenure, which ended in 2010, after his defection, when he was defeated in his bid for reëlection. 

Specter was part of what remained of the centrist element of the GOP. As the party veered farther to the right, he broke ranks more often with his Republican caucus.  As the polarization in the Senate became extreme, his crossing over became critical, sometimes being the vote on which a bill hinged. He was one of three Republicans who voted in favor of the 2009 Recovery Act.

Feeling the changing mood of Republican voters, in 2009, he switched parties,  becoming a Democrat again. He constituted the 60th Senator in the filibuster-proof Senate that passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010.  Later that year, he was defeated by a Republican challenger. 

Last week’s Republican primary in Alabama brought Arlen Specter to mind. Roy Moore, twice thrown off the Alabama Supreme Court for trying to turn his back in time, bested Luther Strange, placeholder after Jeff Sessions vacated his seat to become Trump’s Attorney General.  Trump, spilling political capital, jumped into the fray, backing  Strange. To the liberal eye, Moore and Strange don’t seem very different. But for those more attuned to the subtlety of Republican politics, there may be a world of difference.

There is a splintering among Republicans. There is the off-the-charts reactionaries, like Ted Cruz, archly conservative and just plainly arch. Then there is someone like Mitch McConnell, deeply conservative but pragmatic, without the evangelical overlay.  There are one or  two centrists left, who, like Specter,  weigh in on matters from a non-ideological point of view. Susan Collins of Maine falls within that bracket. She deliberates over issues like healthcare.  She is an endangered species.

And in a category all his own, Rand Paul.

If the party fractures, some incumbents will have to decide if they still belong under the Republican flag. The farther right the party moves, the more likely the remaining centrists will have to find a new home.  They may not join the Democrats, as Specter did, especially if the Elizabeth Warren wing is ascendant. Possibly, there may be a coalition of moderates from both camps, which may be sufficient to hold the necessary majorities to legislate.

Past Tense, Future Tenser

The day finally arrived, the day that Revolted Colonies was no longer past tense or future conditional.  It’s all right out there in the open.  The column has been quiet over this long, horrible weekend of the Charlottesville demonstration, riot and murder. So many people weighed in and so many people had meaningful things to say.  Not a time for levity, so no new posts.  Until today.

The future ex-President stalked his golf club away from home all weekend, equivocating on his position about the debacle. Initially, he blamed “many sides,” although he did name check Neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, part of the larger White Supremacist cohort.  As the weekend wore on, he backed away from his “equal blame” position, faulting the protesters who started the demonstration.  On Tuesday, during a press conference at Trump Tower on the subject of infrastructure, he was Donald Unleashed.  Livid with rage, he walked back his walk-back.  Asked why he waited so long to speak out about Charlottesville, he delivered a seemingly impromptu restatement of the events through his unique filter. A transcript of the complete conference has been published in many places, including the dreaded New York Times.

If the words were impromptu, the thought behind them was the product of his upbringing.  He may not be the Ku Klux Klan member his father Fred was and he may not be a card-carrying member of any White Supremacist organization, but he courted their support and found a narrow path to the White House against an unpopular opponent.  Now he articulates Alt-Reich views from the Rose Garden. 

Trump is succeeding where Charles Manson failed: he’s inciting a race war.  That’s scary enough, but even worse is the fact that while the media are pouncing on every outrageous statement he makes, his team is at work, lining up new voter suppression tactics and defunding the census.  The Republican party is determined to hold on to power even though its tactics repudiate the concept of one person-one vote and the right of equality under the law.

Maverick: The Legend of John McCain

  John McCain is the most unusual political character of our time, President company excluded. He has been a conscientious conservative, a rank-and-file Republican, an across-the-aisle kind of bipartisan, and a zombie presidential candidate. McCain was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, withstanding five horrendous years in captivity. He is a genuine hero and an American legend.   This week, after receiving the awful news that he has a fatal brain tumor, he boarded a plane and returned to Washington, D.C., to play assassin to the Republicans’ calamitous effort to unravel the Affordable Care Act. McCain again played the hero in preventing his beloved Senate from shooting itself in the head.  

 McCain is one of the few big-name politicians who keeps things interesting by keeping us on our toes. His willingness to buck party leadership earned him the nickname, “Maverick,” a sobriquet he embraced.  His political story will be an interesting one to tell. Unquestionably, he is a hawk and a fiscal conservative. He also believes in  tolerance and respect for the beliefs of others.  Nevertheless, he caucuses with many politicians who do not.  One of his signature moments occurred in the late days of his unsuccessful 2008 Presidential campaign.  When an ignoramus called Obama an Arab during a town hall event, McCain quickly reclaimed the microphone and extolled his opponent’s decency.  Yet this is the same man who put an obviously unqualified Sarah Palin on his ticket – one long, lingering look from the Bering Strait and  a single heartbeat from the Presidency.  McCain is the person responsible for letting loose the hounds of nativist amateurism on Presidential politics.

After losing the 2008 race and despite his civility toward Candidate Obama, McCain became a constant critic of the President.  In 2012, McCain won a tough race for a sixth term in the Senate, He made the repeal and replacement of Obamacare a prominent plank in his platform.

McCain is the son of a soldiering family, one of whose members fought alongside George Washington.   An Annapolis graduate, he served as a navy pilot in Vietnam.  After his plane was shot down, he was a long-term guest at the Hanoi Hilton, As a high value POW, he had a chance to be released, but he wouldn’t trade on the status  of his Admiral father. He refused preferential treatment.  After five years of physical and mental torture, solitary confinement and abuse that eventually broke him, he was released in 1973. This is the man belittled by Candidate Trump, who prefers his heroes not to be captured.  

McCain held his water, though.  He would never have been a Trump supporter in any normal time but the 2016  election was anything but normal. He threw his support beyond the military school brat who kicked dirt on his reputation, while the only thing to capture the Hypocrite-in-Chief was an Access Hollywood microphone.  

Two weeks ago, McCain flew home to Arizona to have eye surgery, during which it was discovered that he has an inoperable brain tumor, the same type of cancer that killed Ted Kennedy.  The Senate faced the threshold vote on its healthcare bill, a bill so bad it was kept out of sight for as long as possible.  With two certain GOP defections (Collins, Murkowski), an absence by McCain would have doomed the opening gambit, called a motion to proceed.  Earlier this week, McCain returned to the Capitol, struggling physically but resolute to attend the roll call.  McCain joined his party’s vote, ensuring that debate on a bill would take place.  However, Majority Leader McConnell struggled to find common ground between his party’s conservative and alt-right factions.  Two proposals failed to garner enough votes.  On Thursday night, he called for a vote on the so-called skinny repeal, a rollback of Obamacare so marginal that it was only a placeholder to get into a conference with the House over its own odious bill.

When called to vote on the skinny repeal – no replacement, McCain voted no.  He remained consistent with his position that the law was insufficient because it failed to repeal and replace.  But the no vote gave the Maverick the added pleasure of driving  a retaliatory ice pick into the neck of the future ex-president. Trump’s plan to repeal healthcare died with McCain’s vote. He trumped the President at his own game of political theater. To say the President was enraged doesn’t begin to tell the story. The White House Chief of Staff was found the following day floating in the Potomac.

 McCain issued a statement explaining his position.

While the amendment would have repealed some of Obamacare’s most burdensome regulations, it offered no replacement to actually reform our health care system and deliver affordable, quality health care to our citizens.

McCain hasn’t talked about whether he drew any personal satisfaction from defeating one of the cornerstones of the Trump agenda.  But he exhibited the kind of grit that his hosts at the Hanoi Hilton would recognize.

Breathlessly Awaiting Comey’s Final Chapter

For those of you whose TV viewing will not be disrupted by work today, you will now be treated to a preview of the Soap Opera cum Congressional Hearing known as the Comey Memos.  For former FBI Director James Comey, a pillar of rectitude, a man of unshakable integrity, it’s surprising that his memos read a little like a Harlequin romance.  

Comey writes breathlessly of the first time he met the man he would one day call “President.”

During our one-on-one meeting at Trump Tower, based on President-Elect Trump’s reaction to the briefing and without him directly asking the question, I offered that assurance.

He gushed about how the President-Elect was like no one he had ever met before.

I felt compelled to document my first conversation with the President-Elect in a memo. To ensure accuracy, I began to type it on a laptop in an FBI vehicle outside Trump Tower the moment I walked out of the meeting. Creating written records immediately after one-on-one conversations with Mr. Trump was my practice from that point forward. This had not been my practice in the past.

This hardened professional, a survivor of the George Bush administration, who stood up to Alberto Gonzalez, Bush’s personal attorney, who was trying to compromise bedridden Attorney General John Ashcroft, felt his knees buckle when he realized that the President was trying to get him alone.

He had called me at lunchtime that day and invited me to dinner that night, saying he was going to invite my whole family, but decided to have just me this time… It turned out to be just the two of us….seated at a small oval table in the center of the Green Room. Two Navy stewards waited on us, only entering the room to serve food and drinks.

The besotted Director felt powerless, having been cast under the spell of Don Giovanni Trump. Nevertheless, he resisted. Oh, how he resisted the enticements of his pursuer!

My instincts told me that the one-on-one setting, and the pretense that this was our first discussion about my position, meant the dinner was, at least in part, an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship.

 Comey is not like all the rest. He is the product of a strong and supportive home, a disciplined and religious background. He would not cave in like Trump’s earlier prizes. He’s the kind of guy who always keeps at least one foot on the floor.

I replied that I loved my work and intended to stay and serve out my ten-year term as Director. And then, because the set-up made me uneasy, I added that I was not “reliable” in the way politicians use that word….

Trump pressed Comey. 

The President said, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.” I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence.

Later, Trump again pressed Comey.

Near the end of our dinner, the President returned to the subject of my job, saying he was very glad I wanted to stay, adding that he had heard great things about me from Jim Mattis, Jeff Sessions, and many others. He then said, “I need loyalty.” I replied, “You will always get honesty from me.” He paused and then said, “That’s what I want, honest loyalty.” I paused, and then said, “You will get that from me.”

Normally, at this point, Comey might have stifled a sob or felt a clutching in his throat. 

It is possible we understood the phrase “honest loyalty” differently, but I decided it wouldn’t be productive to push it further.

Instead, he departed, his virtue intact. He retreated to his car, and before driving off, he wrote the entire discussion down, word for word, so as not to lose a single innuendo to the mercy of faulty memory.  Returning to his office, he logged his recollections in and then told his BFFs  about his trying evening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Comey decided that he could never let himself to be left alone with the President.  Yet weeks later he found himself face-to-face with his tempter in the Oval Office, the President having excused all the other meeting participants. Trump moved in, invading Comey’s personal space. He asked Comey if he could see his way clear to let it go – the “Flynn” thing.  

When the door by the grandfather clock closed, and we were alone, the President began by saying, “I want to talk about Mike Flynn.” Flynn had resigned the previous day. The President began by saying Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong in speaking with the Russians, but he had to let him go because he had misled the Vice President. He added that he had other concerns about Flynn, which he did not then specify.

“He’s a good guy,” said Trump.

Comey pulled himself up to his full 6’8″ height, put on his stern face and, mildly nauseous, vomited a little in his mouth. After this meeting, Comey would not face Trump again. The President would not relent. He called, beseeching him to lift the cloud of inquiry over his head, to tell the world that he Donald John Trump, was not being investigated. Comey was wracked, pulled in opposite directions by honesty and loyalty.  He could not say anything because he thought it was possible that he would have to retract it.

In a final phone call,  suitor became tormentor.   Trump asked Comey why did he testify before Congress the week before that there was an open investigation, and why didn’t Comey say Trump was not under investigation.  Then Trump added:

“Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.” I did not reply or ask him what he meant by “that thing.” I said only that the way to handle it was to have the White House Counsel call the Acting Deputy Attorney General. He said that was what he would do and the call ended.

 Less than a week later, while meeting with federal agents in  Los Angeles, Comey heard that he’d been fired, but he did not believe it until he saw the TV news news crawl.  A great deal of confusion ensured about who prompted the firing and the reasons for it. It was Trump, all along, who jilted his FBI director.

Today,  James Comey will come before Congress to tell the rest of his tragic tale. If you decide to watch have a box of Kleenex at the ready.

  © Revolted Colonies 2017

Hacking the 2020 Census

The Trump administration, running the executive branch like a three-card monte game, is trying to pull another fast one. Its next step in replacing majority-ruled government with a permanent, authoritarian plutocracy was unveiled yesterday. As we all chuffed over firing of FBI director James Comey, we were distracted from the resignation of John Thompson, Director of the Bureau of Census, over Congressional refusal to fund the 2020 Census adequately.

The seeds of 2020 electoral manipulation are being sown at the Department of Commerce. John Thompson had been with the Bureau since 1975. He tendered his resignation on May 10, ahead of his plan to retire at year-end. “Your experience will be greatly missed,” wrote Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, as he booted Thompson out the door with his size 9 brogan. Or as the late songwriter Dan Hicks put it, “How can I miss you if you won’t go away?” So it is with Thompson. Ross gladly will miss Thompson’s knowledge of the logistics of obtaining an accurate census.

By Constitutional mandate the census is taken every decade, and the numbers are used to determine the number of districts in each state. In turn, the number of districts determines the state’s number of electors. The number of electors in each state is equal to the congressional delegation, which is the number of representatives in the House and Senate combined. The seats in Congress are reapportioned based on the census. Then each state legislature hacks itself into districts to match the number allocated by the census. This is where gerrymandering comes into play. Eldridge Gerry, a founder, became famous for reshaping the districts of Massachusetts in 1810 to maintain dominance of his party. One district took the shape of a salamander. Hence, the term, gerrymandering,” representing the manipulation of a district’s shape to affect the political outcome.

If the underlying principle of democracy is “one person, one vote,” then getting the number of persons correct is a paramount concern. Yet, John Thompson was struggling with Congress to get more funding from Congress to modernize the data collection process.

The Republican-controlled Congress saw no reason to upgrade the data collection system if it would cost more than the 2010 collection. That’s where they drew the monetary line, even though the new electronic data collection system was proposed as the investment in long-term cost-cutting measures. Congress was happy with the 2010 results, and it saw no reason to ramp up the system. Hacking the census is another means of keeping American leadership in the hands of old, conservative white men. Some of the House members have requests in to use the old-style printouts to make Snoopy pictures for their kids.

Voter suppression takes many forms, and misreporting of the census is fundamental. Errors in the raw numbers skew the apportionment of representatives so that it is effectively beyond the reach of legal action. In other words, counting heads is a political function. If we get that wrong, the error taints all that follows.

Most of the alleged anti-voting fraud laws enacted in the last few years have been overturned. Still, Congress repealed a vital part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. In addition, many state legislatures have shown the inclination to suppress voting claiming fraud as a pretext. The party in power in a state with a growing non-establishment population base has an incentive to minimize its impact on voting. The less reliable and transparent the counting system, the greater the possibility for mischief. No doubt, the Congressional majority would be happy with a back-of-the-envelope tally. So what if a couple of people – or neighborhoods or – cities are under-reported?

© 2017 Revolted Colonies

Give a Leak, Take a Leak: Welcome to Washington

Leaks

 

Leaks come from disgruntled career bureaucrats, or disgruntled  former security contractors and  internet provocateurs, or candidates floating trial balloons,  or political opponents with scores to settle. And now that war has gone digital, leaks can be a military offensive.

 Take a leak like the outing of bad boy Mike Flynn. His past successes  taught him to ignore the rules. For example, when he was in charge of routing ISIS, he decided to leak  US intelligence to Pakistan about Pakistan. Just to show those bastards we know where they live. Well of course we do; we have GPS. It was a blatant violation disclosing classified information. But he got away with it. 

Now the tables have been turned.   His back channel bromance with Russian ambassador Kislyak became front page news. So did his lying to Mike Pence about their sanctions pillow talk. Out came the secret, and down went Flynn.  The source of the leak is a mystery still. Like one of those English mystery stories where the stiff had so many enemies, lots of suspects had opportunity and motive.

 So who are the suspects in this one? The intelligence community for sure. Just yesterday, they said they’re going to withhold information from the President because they don’t trust him. Imagine that. They don’t trust Him with their information because they think he’ll give it to America’s enemies. You don’t need Julius Rosenberg if you’ve got Donald Trump.

A lot of media outlets are pissed off at this administration too. They’ve all been thrown out of the press conferences except for Breitbart and Golf Courses of the World. Not that it matters.  Nothing really is being said at press conference these days that isn’t contradicted  by somebody else in the administration five minutes before or after.  

 If I had to guess, though, I would say it’s some career government employee, stashed in one of the intelligence agencies,  who got so pissed off that he ended up blowing the whistle. Kind of like Milton in the movie, “Office Space.” You just don’t screw around with a guy’s stapler.

 Deep Throat, America’s most famous leaker, is gone, but his advice still rings true: follow the money. It’s a little more challenging though when we have to convert from dollars to rubles.

Leaks are political safety valves and have a purpose; a fact of nature, like gas escaping a Swamp.

© 2017 The Revolted Colonies ™

 

Politics as Unusual: The FBI, The Bundy Verdict and The Comey Letter

img_1446

FBI director James Comey had a lousy week, and next week is not looking any better.  A trial jury in Oregon told him that his G-Men were off-base thinking that armed seizure of a federal bird sanctuary constituted a crime when the panel acquitted the Bundy Gang of conspiracy, gun and other charges. Comey took refuge in Anthony Weiner’s underwear, but they’re not fitting as planned.

Bad Day at the Bird Bath

img_1441The Bundy Gang didn’t walk away. There are other charges against them still pending.  The acquittal was not a blanket exoneration. Still, it will force the Bureau to reconsider its policy in dealing with armed anti-government resistance.  J. Edgar Hoover must be spinning in his grave. 

img_1443The shooting at Ruby Ridge, Idaho in 1992 and the siege and shootout in Waco, Texas in 1993 had previously put the FBI under scrutiny in its encounters with the Militia Movement, of which the Bundys are a part. The verdict handcuffs the Bureau in protecting federal land from armed opposition.  The next step, unfortunately, would be to call up the National Guard. which may be precisely what the Bundys want.

Rifling Through the Underwear Drawer

img_1448The day after the Bundy acquittal and without any apparent connection to it, Comey sent Congress a letter stating that the FBI was reading newly discovered Hillary Clinton emails from a cache recovered a month ago from a laptop it seized from Weiner.  The laptop was shared by the former Congressman and his soon-to-be ex-wife, Huma Abedin, a top aide to the President-in-Waiting. Weiner is under investigation for conducting an online sexual relationship with a minor.

Even though the FBI has had Weiner’s laptop for a month and presumably has known about the emails for as long, allegedly it hasn’t gotten around to reading them.  So, the FBI hasn’t determined if these emails are new discoveries or copies of emails previously recovered.

Nevertheless, Comey thought it necessary to inform Congress of the find. In July, Comey announced that the FBI had found no basis to recommend criminal charges against former Secretary of State Clinton, arising out of her use of a private email server. He then scolded her publicly for mishandling classified material.   Comey came under fire for this ex-officio comment.

Crossing The Boss

img_1447Now, Comey is on the hot seat again. He went against Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s direction not to issue the inflammatory letter adding nothing of substance to the case against Clinton, eleven days before Election Day. The FBI reports to Lynch’s Justice Department. Yet, Comey said that he felt obligated to inform Congress of this newish discovery. Comey’s action may well be grounds for dismissal. Given Lynch’s own political problem over her June  airport meeting with Bill Clinton, creating an appearance of impropriety in connection with the email server issue, she was in no position to block Comey and is in no position to fire him.  

Comey Unchained

Nevertheless, Comey’s feeling of obligation is badly misguided. The emails have not been examined. Right now, they are not evidence—they are data. It is against law enforcement policy to discuss on open investigation of any kind.If Clinton was not running for President in an upcoming election, you can bet that Comey would not even have thought about it. The FBI would continue its investigation and report its findings to DOJ, which then would make a decision as to prosecution.

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Even if he had an obligation to update Congress, his action was premature and knowingly prejudicial. It would be understandable if the FBI had determined that the emails were newly discovered material, containing a “Classified” marking and being sent to or from Clinton’s private server.  Then the Bureau could report something meaningful had been found and that further classification review by other agencies would be required. Until then, it should have remained an internal matter for the Bureau; especially because classified material might involve matters of national security.  

Comey has painted himself into a corner. If the emails are innocuous, he should not have raised it at all. If they involved  classified material, he can’t disclose them but clearly has opened that door. He’s prejudiced the election as well as a potential prosecution.  Clinton along with others accuses Comey of a political hatchet job.  Try as one might, the political aspect is impossible to dismiss.

© 2016 The Revolted Colonies

What We Need is A Little More Anarchy

Anarchy

As a lifelong anarchist — of the party-throwing, not bomb–throwing,  sort — I’m sick and tired of being mischaracterized. People who should know better cry, “Anarchy!” every time things get chaotic and start falling  apart. That’s wrong.  Anarchists don’t create chaos. They have the goal of getting things done  without government — kind of like free-market capitalism. What happens to anarchists is what happens to rock bands. Sooner or later, somebody decides to be the boss, grab the credit or go solo.  The answer to the question, “Who’s breaking up that old  band of mine?” Not the anarchists.”   The anarchists liked it better when we rehearsed  in the basement, set up our own amps and there was not enough money or fame to fight over.  

 “Whenever government assumes to deliver us from the trouble of thinking for ourselves, the only consequences it produces are those of torpor and imbecility. — William Godwin

Anarchy means without government.  It’s not a political vacuüm.  At the grassroots level, it is the way people regulate themselves without hierarchy. Anarchy happens a lot but we don’t recognize its positive characteristics. Instead, we focus on lawless malcontents who are anti-government, not free of it.  

Anarchy“Anarchism is democracy taken seriously.” — Edward Albee

 

For anarchy to  function, it has to be local, temporary, consensual and equitable.  It doesn’t last because continuity requires planning, and planning requires leadership. Leadership then seeks its privileges and does not relinquish its power.  Once the community is institutionalized, there’s no more anarchy.

  “I firmly believe people have the power to make decisions locally and cooperatively. Anarchism is how that is put into practice.” —  Scott Crow

Anarchy is utopian, an ideal.  People come together, have a communal moment, then go their separate ways. It’s is a good thing when it happens. A few months ago, a three year-old child broke away from his mother at the Cincinnati Zoo and climbed into the gorilla habitat. Because the child was in imminent danger, the zoo keepers had to kill Harambe, the 17 year-old gorilla, to save the child. The gorilla was a beloved member of the zoo community, and staff members and Cincinnatians were distraught over the incident.  The child’s parents were grateful that God had spared the child. 


“Freedom, morality, and the human dignity of the individual consists precisely in this; that he does good not because he is forced to do so, but because he freely conceives it, wants it, and loves it.”   Mikhail Bakunin

Public reaction was understandable. Most people rushed to find fault – by the zoo or the parent. There was a traumatized child,  a dead gorilla and no closure. What if the parents, without blaming the zoo or acknowledging fault, were able to say that they, as part of the community,  were also sad about the event?  As grateful as the parents  were for their child’s rescue,  it was not a satisfactory conclusion because Harambe was killed. 

  What if those parents and their friends and parishioners joined together to celebrate Harambe and created a fund in his name to benefit the zoo; if they could not donate money, they could donate time. The zoo and community heal some of the wounds.

“Anarchy could never get a man to the moon, but it may be the only mode that can allow us to survive on earth.” — Sheldon Kopp

Of course that didn’t happen.  The zoo and animal rights activists and primatologists played out their debate over what went wrong and what should be done. Harambe’s killing became a cultural flash point, with internet memes, video games and write-in campaigns (he out-polled the incumbent in some districts).  A plain expression of regret, a sharing of loss and a productive way  forward could have healed wounds and pulled people together around common sorrow. That would have been  Anarchy at work: local, temporary, consensual, and equitable. You can be sure that I was blasted at the mere suggestion that the parents should be anything other than overwrought.   Anarchy would have promoted healing and offered a teachable moment for parents and children.

“Anarchy is order, government is civil war.” — Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

The next time friends gather to celebrate or mourn, to have an impromptu adventure or to take up or oppose a cause, take a moment to remember anarchy’s great thinkers, and thank them for their service. 


In Memory Of Harambe


© 2016 The Revolted Colonies

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