Monday, January 16, 2017
A piece in the Huffington Post raises a very important question: Why won’t the American media fully investigate what could be the biggest story in U.S. political history? The piece goes on to contrast British coverage and investigation efforts and contrasts them with the laziness and irresponsible approach that largely holds sway among the American media outlets. Yes, our media is fixated on short sound bites and page views, but what could be more sensational than proving that a traitor and Russian puppet is about to be sworn in as president? I find the lack of attention disturbing, especially given Trump's documented history of lying incessantly. Why give press coverage to his denials when all attention should be focused on verifying whether the dossiers released via BuzzFeed and CNN are true? Here are highlights from the Huffington Post piece:
What percentage chance that the incoming president has been compromised by a hostile foreign power is acceptable?Most Americans, and the U.S. Constitution, would say “none.”
But right now Democrats and Republicans in D.C., along with almost the entirety of mainstream American media, are answering this question by ignoring it altogether.
Meanwhile, the media apparatus of our nation’s closest ally, England, has taken an entirely different approach: they’re reporting doggedly on the story, comparing the credibility of its two main players—former FBI asset and top MI6 agent Christopher Steele, and serial exaggerator and compulsive liar Donald Trump—and playing out various scenarios, including the possible impeachment of Trump not long after he is inaugurated.
Around the same time as The Guardian was pondering aloud how and whether Trump could be impeached for high crimes, the U.S. Speaker of the House was on CNN saying that the story of Trump’s possible compromising by a foreign power is so insignificant that it shouldn’t even be mentioned in U.S. media.
So why are the Brits looking out for Americans’ (and the world’s) interests so much more than our own elected officials and media outlets? Why, in England, is even a 5 percent or 10 percent chance of a U.S. president who committed treason to gain office unacceptable, while here in America one is told by top government officials to not even ask the question, and officials themselves are refusing to do so as well?
There are scary times, so it behooves us to compare British and American reports on Trump’s Russian controversy and try to determine (a) how we as citizens in a democracy should expect the story to be covered, and (b) what market forces in American media might be preventing our cable and network news, and many of our newspapers, from doing their jobs. The reason to ask these questions is that the intelligence services we rely upon to investigate questions such as this are less likely to feel the pressure to do so from our elected officials if our elected officials aren’t feeling pressure from the media—and therefore, in effect, from the American people.
So first things first: if you were alive and older than six in 2016, you know that Donald Trump repeatedly made inaccurate statements during the Republican primary and the general election, and has continued doing so near-daily in the current presidential transition period.
Trump, who claims the memos are 100 percent false, has already lied about them repeatedly.
That’s pretty inexplicable, given his proclamations of innocence. Innocent men, absent strenuous interrogation by law enforcement, don’t lie about things they didn’t do. It’s practically a maxim in criminal law—which I used to practice—and it certainly applies here.
Now compare Mr. Trump to Mr. Steele, who was trusted by the FBI to do extensive work for them, who rose in the ranks at MI6 to run their Russia desk, who’s been described (in The Guardian) by former UK government officials as “one of the more eminent Russia specialists for MI6”; “very credible”; “sober, cautious, and meticulous”; “[a man] with a formidable record”; “not the sort of person who will simply pass on gossip”; “an experienced and highly regarded professional”; “a very straight guy”; “not prone to flights of fancy or doing things in an ill-considered way”; “highly professional, very effective”; and someone who, “if he puts something in a report, believes there’s sufficient credibility in it for it to be worth considering.”
One former UK Foreign Office official added, as if it were necessary to make the point in any clearer terms, that “the idea that his work is fake or a cowboy operation is false—completely untrue.”
If one of our closest allies [Israel] is refusing to send us intelligence because our government may be run by Russian puppets isn’t a constitutional crisis, nothing is. All of which means the Steele memos must be fully investigated now. Not the day after tomorrow, not in a week, not in a month. Now.
[O]ne thing you don’t do is trust, as to the subject of a document’s veracity, the very people who’d be implicated by that document if it’s accurate. . . . . so then why is Chuck Todd of NBC calling the Steele document “false information”?
Why is Andrea Mitchell calling it a “smear campaign”?
Why is NBC reporting that the 35 pages of human intelligence gathered by Steele from Russian sources long considered reliable by him (and frequently relied upon by the United Kingdom) is “disinformation”—meaning, information planted by the Kremlin or made up from whole cloth by Steele himself?
Instead of covering what multiple experts on cable news have already called the greatest story in U.S. political history if true, CNN is engaged in a tit-for-tat with the Trump team over whether CNN accurately reported the events of a Trump briefing with intelligence services. Who cares about this feud? Well, CNN—and much more than the news story behind the feud, obviously—and perhaps also NBC and MSNBC.
[P]erhaps American media is intimidated by a President-elect so unpredictable that he’ll call a news organization “fake news” for correctly reporting a story he himself lied about?
In any case, this much can be said: when a news network repeatedly frames the news in a way that directly contradicts its own reporting, something is wrong. And that’s exactly what’s happened at MSNBC over the past three days, and it’s beginning to become a real concern for those Americans hoping that the memos written by a long-reliable source like Christopher Steele will be accurately covered by the U.S. media.
Today, Fox News declared that Trump had successfully “stuck a knife in” the dossier story. How? By tweeting about it, of course—and with, per usual (and here’s a correct use of the term) disinformation, as Trump falsely called Steele a “failed spy.” Fox News offered no correction of Trump’s mischaracterization of Steele, indeed it gave its readers no additional information about Steele’s career whatsoever, thereby letting the President-elect’s intemperate and dishonest tweet stand as its own proof.
Russia Today and Vladimir Putin would be proud—as under Trump, the media is learning its place.
[I]f America doesn’t investigate the validity of the information in the Steele memos in the next week, that investigation may never occur. And the consequences of that failure to doggedly pursue the truth on our nation’s standing in the world—even on our allies’ ability and willingness to work with us to keep the world safe—could be devastating.
The failure of the American media allowed this nation go to war in Iraq based on Bush/Cheney lies, allowed Trump to win the 2016 presidential election, and now may be allowing a Russian puppet into the White House. I find all of this very distressing.
When working class whites fell for Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" sales pitch I suspect that few thought the route to "greatness" would be via further subservience to Vladimir Putin's dictatorial regime Russia bashing civil rights icons and television shows. However, over the weekend that was what Der Fuhrer was obsessed with as he tweeted away like a demented teenage girl. As a piece in New York Magazine notes, if you are denying that Russia has blackmail goods on you, why further cozy up to Putin and suggest that you will lift sanctions against Russia? Then of course their is the bashing of John Lewis - a man Trump claims never did anything - over Martin Luther King weekend. Given Trump's past documented anti-black bigotry, it is certainly not the type of action that unites people even if it plays well with white supremacists in the South and Mid-West. Here are article highlights:
If you’ve just acknowledged that Russia hacked your political opponent and you’re embroiled in a scandal over unverified claimed that you’ve been compromised by Moscow, publicly signaling your openness to Russia and its policy goals is not the logical next move. But for whatever reason, that’s how Donald Trump chose to spend his weekend – when he wasn’t lashing out at a civil rights icon and a sketch comedy TV show.
On Friday Trump told the Wall Street Journal that he’ll keep the sanctions the U.S. imposed against Russia over its alleged election cyberattacks and annexation of Crimea “at least for a period of time.” However, he said he’s open to lifting them if Russia helps achieve U.S. goals, like fighting terrorism.
“If you get along and if Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions if somebody’s doing some really great things?” he said.
The president-elect expanded on that point in a joint interview with The Times of London and the German newspaper Bild, which was published Sunday.
He did not draw much of a distinction between Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, leader one of the United States’ closest allies. “Well, I start off trusting both — but let’s see how long that lasts,” he said. “It may not last long at all.”
Merkel is up for reelection in the fall, and she’s facing a challenge from the anti-immigrant Alternative für Deutschland. According to Bloomberg, Trump told Bild he respects Merkel, but couldn’t say whether he wants to see her reelected because he doesn’t know her. He also claimed she’s hurt German by accepting more than 1 million refugees – or “all these illegals” – into the country.
While Trump claimed that NATO is “very important” to him, he reiterated his complaints about other countries not “paying their fair share.” “I said a long time ago that NATO had problems. Number one it was obsolete, because it was designed many, many years ago,” Trump said. “Number two the countries aren’t paying what they’re supposed to pay.
Trump expressed similar foreign policy statements many times on the campaign trail, but the Times reported that there’s increased alarm in Europe as leaders have come to realize that his “acerbic criticism of NATO and the European Union was not just an attempt to win votes.”
Earlier in the day, outgoing CIA Director John Brennan criticized Trump’s command of foreign policy. “I don’t think he has a full understanding of Russian capabilities and the actions they are taking on the world,” Brennan told Fox News Sunday.
Brennan added, noting that the president-elect’s impulsive tweets could be dangerous. “Spontaneity is not something that protects national security interests.”
Trump tweeted his rebuttal on Sunday night, suggesting that Brennan might have leaked the dossier containing allegations about his ties to Russia to the press (though we know the document’s origin and it’s been circulating among journalists and politicians for months).
America is in more danger than at almost any time in its past and the danger is self inflicted. Be very, very afraid for the future.
Despite Donald Trump's election thanks in no small part to evangelical Christians who demonstrated that hate, bigotry and white supremacy were far more important to them than the Gospel message of Christ, things are not looking auspicious for white, heterosexual Christian America over the longer term. As author Robert P. Jones notes in “The End of White Christian America,” white Protestants lost their majority status in 1993, and the U.S. Census Bureau projects that the America will no longer be majority white by 2042 and that the number of whites will decline by 2060. For Trump voting evangelicals who see no common humanity in anyone who doesn't share the same skin color and religious beliefs, this is a calamity of incalculable proportions.
For the rest of society which has been abused and discriminated against by white conservative Christians, I would argue that this is a positive thing. Covenant Magazine looks at the decline facing this most hate and bigotry -filled element of American society. Note that yet again we see the mistreatment of LGBT citizens as being a major catalyst for younger generations leaving Christianity. I predict that the anti-LGBT jihad about to be unleashed by Trump and his gay-hating cabinet nominees will accelerate the exodus. Here are article excerpts:
The rapid disintegration of the Crystal Cathedral[in Orange County, California] represents the “canary in the coal mine” for what Jones calls White Christian America (or WCA), a term he uses to identify white Protestant America, both mainline and evangelical. Protestant Christianity in America is facing a demographic and cultural tsunami, he argues, that is amply illustrated by the statistics collected and analyzed in the book. The mainline church experienced its heady times of cultural influence and political power during the first half of the twentieth century. Its fall was nearly as spectacular as its rise, with both influence and numbers waning through the 1960s and ’70s. The evangelical movement had an equally heady rise in the ’80s, only to see slippage in the first and especially the second decade of the twenty-first century.
White Protestants lost their majority status in 1993. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that the country will no longer be majority white by 2042 and that the number of whites will decline by 2060. This is bad news for the church of WCA, chiefly because it has shown itself singularly incapable of “desegregating.” Jones argues that because white Americans have so few people of color in their social networks they suffer from a “racial perception gap.” They have great difficulty understanding or seeing the world from the standpoint of an African American citizen of one of our largest cities or a recent Hispanic immigrant, documented or otherwise. Thus white Americans are frequently perplexed and angered when black Americans protest the latest police shooting or express frustration with the slow rate of change in matters of social justice.
Jones points out that while the mainline denominations were involved early on in support of the civil rights movement, their local churches have done no better at becoming multi-ethnic and multi-cultural than evangelical churches.
In a powerful section of the book entitled “Why Is Desegregating Church So Difficult?” Jones points to the work of Jennifer Hardy, who argues that, paradoxically, one of the reasons efforts have failed in both communities is “the powerful hold that ‘reconciliation’ has on white Christian imagination.” . . . For many it seems that once they have said “I’m sorry” to a person of color, that is enough. As my friend Michael Murphy puts it, it is like a husband who has beaten his wife for years saying, “Let’s put that all behind us.” White Christians, in other words, frequently go in for “cheap reconciliation” when the true path of reconciliation is arduous and painful.
WCA is protected by its suburban isolation and, in many cases, living with denial. But WCA is not only facing a demographic cliff, it is experiencing a generational disaster. Whereas in 2014, 67 percent of people over the age of sixty-five were “white Christians,” only 29 percent of those between the ages of eighteen and twenty-nine were. And 34 percent of the latter population were “unaffiliated.”
Both the mainline and evangelical church were losing their young adults—and the evangelical losses were even greater than the mainline. Whereas 27 percent of Americans sixty-five and over were “white evangelical Protestant” and 20 percent “white mainline Protestants” only 10 percent of those eighteen to twenty-nine were—for both groups. Evangelical young adults reported that their reasons for leaving the church were the over-identification of the movement with conservative politics and its cruelty toward gay persons. Couple this with a declining birth rate and you have a disaster in the making.
Wishful thinking and flashy new programs will not help if the mission of the church does not address the world that is rather than the world that was. It is abundantly clear that WCA must become something else entirely. It must lose the “white” tag and learn from the growing African American, Asian, and Hispanic churches both in the United States and throughout the world. It must address its privilege and the cheapness of its reconciliation. It must recover the gospel of “costly reconciliation”—a gospel that addresses all persons and the whole planet.
Hunkering down with the old hymns and worship songs and looking back to the glory days is a pathway to irrelevance and death. Evangelicals who believe God’s Spirit is alive and active in the world must ask, where is that Spirit moving? How can we catch that wind? It will not happen if WCA stays safely anchored in the harbor of the past.
Again, the fact that 81% of evangelicals voted for Trump and his overt calls to white supremacist demonstrates that WCA is not letting go of its "white tag" anytime soon. We can only hope that the road to irrelevance and death is even more rapid than so predict.
I was raised conservative Catholic, was an altar boy for 10 years and ultimately rose to the 4th Degree in the Knights of Columbus. For 7 years I usually attended daily mass. Now, neither I nor any of my siblings, my nieces and nephews or my children and their families attend church. Why? Just look ate the Catholic Church's continued protection of predator priests and mistreatment of women and gays. Then look at the racism and homophobia rampant in conservative protestant denominations. Why would anyone moral and possessing ethical decency and empathy for others want to be a part of such hatred and misogyny?
Sunday, January 15, 2017
As noted in previous posts, I do not have high faith in American intelligence agencies in digging out the truth about Donald Trump's ties to Moscow and his collusion in the Russian efforts to throw him the election on November 8, 2016, especially after Der Fuhrer is inaugurated on Friday. While some Congressional Republicans are alarmed and want answers, the majority I fear put their own power and partisanship over the interests of the nation and the protection of democracy itself. Many resemble members of the Roman Senate that voted Octavian Caesar (later called Emperor Augustus) powers with the failed belief that they could control him. Thus, it will likely fall to allied intelligence agencies to find out the truth of Trump's Moscow ties and possible treasonous actions. BuzzFeed, which Trump has attacked for publishing the raw memos complied by a former MI-6 Russian specialist, follows up on what foreign intelligence agencies are up to. Here are excerpts:
The dossier alleging that the Russian government has compromised President-elect Donald Trump has not only been circulating at the highest levels of the US government, but also among the intelligence agencies of other countries, two Israeli intelligence officers told BuzzFeed News. And while the dossier’s claims haven’t been verified, the officers said that intelligence services from other countries have been doing their own digging into Trump’s connections to Moscow.
“You can trust me that many intelligence agencies are trying to evaluate the extent to which Trump might have ties, or a weakness of some type, to Russia,” one of the intelligence officers said.
Part of Israel’s interest, he said, came from wanting to know how much of the intelligence it routinely shares with the Unites States might be fed to Russia.
Besides the Steele dossier, several unconfirmed reports of ties between Moscow and Trump are being circulated among Western intelligence agencies, said one of the Israeli officials familiar with the reports.
“There have been various reports about Trump’s ties to Russia,” the officer said in reference to other unpublished reports. “The dossier is one of them, but there are others, they make other allegations. Some are more specific, and some are less. You can trust me that many intelligence agencies are trying to evaluate the extent to which Trump might have ties, or a weakness of some type, to Russia.”
The officer said Israel had received the dossier via a Western European ally, though he would not specify the country, arguing it was “not appropriate.” The BBC also reported that the US had received the dossier via a “Baltic State,” though it did not specify which one, and that there were video tapes and audio that could be used to blackmail Trump.
The officer said intelligence officials from various countries were privy to other reports, some compiled by intelligence officers, which detailed prior ties Trump might have to Russia, as well as various global business interests held by the Trump family.
“According to the Israelis who were present in the meeting, the Americans recommended that until it is made clear that Trump is not inappropriately connected to Russia and is not being extorted – Israel should avoid revealing sensitive sources to administration officials for fear the information would reach the Iranians,” the Yediot Ahronot reported.
Needless to say, if allies are afraid to share intelligence reports with America, it puts this nation and its citizens at risk. I hope these other nations get the goods on Trump and take him down.
Looking at the political landscape at the outset of 2017, it seems that many of the things that George Washington feared and warned about have come to pass. The main warning? That hyper partisanship could give rise to the fall of the American republic. That fear is now reality as the Republican Party has embraced a dangerous, narcissistic demagogue whose presidential campaign used hate, bigotry, racism homophobia and misogyny as its basis. But the death spiral of the GOP into something hideous and dangerous began before Trump came on the scene and announced his candidacy. The GOP's hyper partisanship, in my view traces to the rise of those I describe as Christofascists in the GOP. These religious extremist sought and continue to seek the establishment of of their toxic version of Christianity as America's official religion. Coupled with this quest was and is a strong current of white supremacy. To these people, anyone who disagrees is the enemy must be destroyed politically, and if they could secretly have their wish, physically as well. As a former City Committee member for the GOP for over 8 years, I witnessed this infiltration of the GOP and the party's turn toward hate and ugliness. I resigned from the party when I could not in good conscience be part of the growing message of hate and intolerance.
Sadly, the mainstream media in its misplaced quest for "balance" has acted as if partisanship is an equal failing of both the GOP and the Democrat Party. Having now been involved in both parties, in my mind their is no doubt that the extremism lies with the GOP. Democrats still care about the larger good of the country and its citizens. That cannot be said of today's GOP which is poised to give huge tax breaks to the obscenely wealthy while depriving 20-30 million Americans of health insurance. For today's GOP, if one is not a white, heterosexual right wing Christian, one is not even seen as fully human. A piece in Politico looks at George Washington's warning in his farewell address. It appears that the fate Washington feared has arrived. Here are article highlights:
Washington warned of the dangers of political factions to democratic republics throughout history. His aversion to partisanship reflected the fact that just a few decades earlier, in 1746, political parties had driven England to civil war. This first farewell address, from our only truly independent president, hearkens back to an age when distrust of political divisions was perhaps higher than it is now—and offers a solution to what ails us today.
“I was no party man myself,” Washington wrote Thomas Jefferson, “and the first wish of my heart was, if parties did exist, to reconcile them.” As our first and only independent president, Washington’s independence was a function not only of his pioneering place in American history but also of political principles he developed over a lifetime.
To Washington, moderation was a source of strength. He viewed its essential judiciousness as a guiding principle of good government, rooted in ancient wisdom as well as Enlightenment-era liberalism. Much could be achieved “by prudence, much by conciliation, and much by firmness.” A stable, civil society depends on resisting intolerant extremes. The Constitution did not mention political parties, and during the debate over ratification, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton praised the Constitution’s “spirit of moderation” in contrast to the “intolerant spirit” of “those who are ever so much persuaded of their being in the right in any controversy.”
Washington understood the danger of demagogues in a democracy. He was a passionate advocate of moderation as a means of calming partisan passions and creating problem-solving coalitions. Adams also believed that “without the great political virtues of humility, patience, and moderation … every man in power becomes a ravenous beast of prey.”
And it was a source of personal pain for Washington to see his Cabinet degenerate into exaggerated suspicions and vicious slanders during his presidency. Most frustrating was to watch his motives twisted and attacked for partisan gain by “infamous scribblers” in the newspapers. Even in the days after winning independence from Britain, Washington warned of the dangerous interplay between extremes. “There is a natural and necessary progression from the extreme of anarchy to the extreme of tyranny,” he wrote in his Circular Letter to the States, and “arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness.” As liberty in France turned to anarchy and then tyranny during his administration, it confirmed his deepest instincts.
As a young man, Washington devoured the popular early-eighteenth century essays of Joseph Addison in the Spectator of London. Addison was the author of his favorite play, Cato, and while reflecting on the sources of England’s bloody civil war in the 1640s, he had written an influential essay on “the Malice of Parties.” It’s worth quoting at length:
“There cannot a greater judgment befall a country than a dreadful spirit of division as rends a government into two distinct people, and makes them greater strangers, and more averse to one another, than if they were actually two different nations. The effects of such a division are pernicious to the last degree, not only with regard to those advantages which they give the common enemy, but to those private evils which they produce in the heart of almost every particular person. This influence is very fatal both to men’s morals and their understandings; it sinks the virtue of a nation, and not only so, but destroys even common sense. A furious party spirit, when it rages in its full violence, exerts itself in civil war and bloodshed; and when it is under its greatest restraints, naturally breaks out in falsehood, detraction, calumny, and a partial administration of justice. In a word, it fills a nation with spleen and rancor, and extinguishes all the seeds of good nature, compassion and humanity.”
The founding fathers’ suspicion of faction was rooted in the classical tradition that celebrated the virtue of moderation—and the subsequent independence of thought and action that moderation can create. “According to the classical doctrine, membership in a political party inevitably involved defending the indefensible vices of one’s allies and attempting to dominate one’s fellow citizens in order to satisfy a narrow self-interest,” wrote historian Carl J. Richard in The Founders and the Classics in 1994. “In the eighteenth century the greatest compliment one man could pay another was to call him ‘disinterested.’ To be disinterested was to place justice above all considerations, including one’s own interests and those of one’s family, friends and political allies.”
When Washington became president, he intended to establish a government above faction and special interests. “No local prejudices or attachments; no separate views, nor party animosities,” he promised in his first inaugural address, “will misdirect the comprehensive and equal eye which ought to watch over this great assemblage of communities and interests.”
“If we mean to support the liberty and independence which it has cost us so much blood and treasure to establish,” he wrote to Rhode Island governor Arthur Fenner, “we must drive far away the demon of party spirit and local reproach.”
Washington warned, rampant factions were a “fatal tendency” in democracies. The thin history of republics up to that point showed that partisan factions led by “cunning, ambitious and unprincipled men” distorted democracies by pursuing narrow agendas at the expense of the national interest. Washington identified regional parties based on “geographical discriminations” as a particular danger, because they undermined national unity in pursuit of power. “Designing men may endeavor to excite a belief that there is a real difference of local interests and views” by misrepresenting the “opinions and aims” of people from other states and regions. “You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heartburnings which spring from these misrepresentations,” Washington warned. “They tend to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection.” . . . . “The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.”
Now, in 2017, after an eight-year presidency that promised to bridge our divides but confronted the political reality of polarization and the election of a successor whose victory has highlighted the deep divisions in America, Washington’s vision for vigorous citizens checking the rise of extreme partisanship is striking in its relevance. We need to heed Washington’s warning.
New York Times humor writer Andy Borowitz - who regularly does pieces worthy of The Onion," recently joked that Donald Trump had been named the Kremlin’s “employee of the month.” Frighteningly, with the disclosures leaked this week or so, it is only too possible to believe that Borowitz's joke may be describing reality. What we do know is that Trump is a narcissistic egomaniac who views himself as smarter than all others and above the rules that govern the rest of us. Reality is what he wants it to be at any given moment in time and lying is so natural to the man that it becomes difficult to know if he truly believes his own lies or simply views the rest of us as too stupid to realize that he's lying and playing us for fools. His supporters and working class cretins who voted for him certainly fall into the "too stupid" category - many wanted Obamacare repealed and did not know that their health coverage under the Affordable Health Care Act was Obamacare - even as many seemingly may be waking up to the fact that they were played for fools.
As for Trump's collusion with Vladimir Putin to steal the 2016 presidential election and equally frightening whether or not Putin is blackmailing Trump - which explains Trumps self-prostitution to Putin - there is still much that is unknown. Obviously, it is critical that the truth be ferreted out and , if it shows Trump to be a traitor, that he be removed from office as rapidly as possible. A column in the New York Times gives a review of what is known and what remains to be confirmed. Even if only portions of the leaked information is true, it does not bode well for America or the world. Here are excerpts:
Some of the most explosive reports about America in the last few days appeared in Israeli newspapers. They suggested that American intelligence officials had warned Israel to “be careful” about sharing classified information with the Trump White House, for fear that it would be given to Russia.
American intelligence officials reportedly cautioned that Vladimir Putin might have “leverages of pressure” to extort Trump. That presumably was a reference to the hanky-panky recounted in the dossier alleging that Moscow compromised Trump by filming him cavorting with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel.
Perhaps more troubling are suggestions of collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign.
Trump strongly denies all this, the dossier has zero public evidence behind it, and it should be treated with skepticism. But it reflects an unprecedented uncertainty: There is a disorienting kernel of doubt about whether we can fully trust the man who will occupy the Oval Office.
So is our new president a Russian poodle?
Here’s what we know. The dossier was gathered by a former British MI6 spy, Christopher Steele. A onetime British ambassador to Russia described Steele as a “very competent professional operator” who would not make things up.
The BBC suggested that the “head of an East European intelligence agency” was aware of the material and that C.I.A. officers investigating the issue provided details including that there was “more than one tape.”
[I]t’s poetic justice that Donald Trump, who for years falsely bellowed that President Obama was born abroad, is now caught in similarly unsubstantiated rumors.
[L]et’s put aside sexual blackmail and focus on what is undisputed: Trump praises Putin, criticizes NATO and downplays Russian war crimes and its attempts to steal our election.
In contrast, Trump compares the American intelligence community to Nazis, suggesting it was behind the leaking of the dossier. It’s astonishing to see a president-elect in effect hug the Russians while giving his own team the finger, creating a chasm between the White House and the intelligence community.
It’s also indisputable that Trump has appointed people soft on Russia. Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, the new national security adviser, took money in 2015 from RT, the Russian propaganda front, and sat next to Putin at an RT dinner. Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state nominee, is one of the American executives friendliest to Putin.
For months, there have been indications of bizarre ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow, including the Russian government’s assertion in November that it maintained contacts with Trump’s “immediate entourage.” The F.B.I. investigated Trump’s Russia ties over the summer and fall, and reportedly sought approval to monitor his aides suspected of improper contacts with Russian officials.
The Trump view is so far from the foreign policy mainstream that inevitably there will be darker theories offered for the softness toward Russia. These involve financial ties with Moscow, since Trump refuses to release his tax statements, or the kind of sordid blackmail alleged in the dossier.
Such rumors may well be wrong and unfair — but they persist. They damage Trump, the intelligence community and the United States itself, and the best disinfectant will be transparency. That means congressional inquiries, led by Republicans, and a continued F.B.I. investigation.
We can’t afford even the perception that our president is the Kremlin’s man in Washington.
Meanwhile, those opposing Trump and/or demanding investigations of Trump/Putin ties should be careful. If Trump is in league with Putin, they find themselves targets "kompromat." We find ourselves in a very scary place.
A group of us went to see the movie "Jackie" last evening. The movie was very well done and I can now understand the talk about Natalie Portman perhaps receiving an Academy Award nomination. Being of an age where I remember first hand watching the news and TV coverage after the fateful day in Dallas in 1963, the movie brought back some of the emotions from that time. But it also had me constantly thinking "what the Hell has happened to America" that a crude, narcissistic bully and demagogue like Donald Trump will soon be the resident at the White House. John F. Kennedy certainly had his faults, but he challenge America to be its best and seemingly cared about making things better for all Americans. In contrast, with Trump we have a would be authoritarian leader who won office by appealing to hatred and bigotry and who through his cabinet nominees seems poised to erase the progress in equality that has occurred over the years since 1963.
The reality this morning is that racist, homophobes and those who would destroy public education and the social safety net are ascendant. This Friday, a would be fascist who cares nothing about upholding and protecting the U.S. Constitution will be sworn into the presidency. Worse yet, there are serious reasons to believe that Trump is either subject to Russian blackmail or colluded with a hostile foreign power to win the 2016 presidential election. Compounding the nightmare, Congressional Republicans for the most part are seeking to turn a blind eye to possible treason and seek to wage war on average Americans, literally pursuing policies that will lead to premature deaths of many, many Americans.
The movie "Jackie" ends with the vision of the Kennedy White House as "Camelot" - an image Jackie Kennedy sought to plant and maintain. Now, with Donald J. Trump soon to be the titular president - I will NEVER recognize or respect him as such - it feels as King Arthur has been slain by Mordred or akin to Rome being sacked by the Visigoths. I have little faith in American intelligence services to take down Trump - and hopefully Pence too if he was complicit in Trump's dealing with Putin - as needs to be done. It seems that our only hope may be that Britain's MI-6 or other allied intelligence services get the goods on Trump and release the information to the foreign media. My faith in the American media that gives false equivalence to the reprehensible and untruths to do the job that the Founding Fathers envisioned.
Darkness is descending on America and it must be resisted.