The Strongbad Bite, Ack!: Kagan’s Neocon Hypocrisy

[NB: Note the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

Neoconservative Robert Kagan’s recent op-ed in the Washington Post — The Strongmen Strike Back — made me think of a classic episode of MST3K:

Pick one of Dave Ryder’s many names — Big McLargeHuge is my personal favorite — and then imagine Kagan’s op-ed as a cheesy, sweeping space opera. A production which the screenwriter and director took far too seriously, expecting the audience to treat it as if it were Oscar worthy.

Yes, authoritarians abound around the world. The U.S. has unfortunately called some of them allies though it shouldn’t cater to authoritarian leaders given its values based upon liberal democracy.

While fretting about the emergence of autocrats, Kagan is blind to his own role in the promulgation of authoritarianism. Has he forgotten neoconservatives’ insistence the U.S. launch the Iraq War, relying on increased nationalism and authoritarianism in response to 9/11? What blindness; what hypocrisy.

Far worse though, is Kagan’s difficulty facing mounting autocracy here at home. To say the rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are responses to problems here while ignoring the white nationalist impulse behind them is shallow and uninformed.

— Sanders had the benefit of 20-plus years of anti-Clinton propaganda and eight years of anti-Obama racism greasing the way for him to carpetbag into the Democratic Party.
— Trump had more than 13 years of glitzy production effort by former General Electric property NBC to construct his BigBlond McStrongboss persona on top of his appeal to the racist element pervasive in white American culture.

Ignoring these factors combined with a feckless GOP field of also-rans is just plain stupid.

Not to mention the role of the GOP-majority Congress’ strategy of stifling all rational legislation after they took the reins in 2010.

What’s particularly galling in Kagan’s overlong and droning piece whining about the rise of authoritarian strongmen is that he doesn’t mention Putin by name at all with regard to free and open elections and voting whether in Russia or in the U.S. Not once. Zero. Nada.

Not as a killer of Russian journalists. Not as an assassin of Russian dissidents and political opponents. Not even as the propagandistic image created we might call Punch BigSixPack.

He makes rather thin observations about Putin’s autocratic regime, but makes no mention of how this particular strongman interfered with the very thing Kagan wants us to be believe he is defending — our liberal democracy.

No acknowledgment at all that this particular strongman made a concerted effort not only to interfere with our democratic processes but to seat a kleptoautocrat as our nation’s leader.

Further, Kagan fails to mention the steady attack by the Republican Party at state and national level on our voting rights and infrastructure. The GOP has systematically attacked the foundation of the United States’ liberal democracy in which every citizen possesses the right to vote, by way of suppressive voter identification laws to implementation of hackable and inauditable electronic voting machines, to failure to renew the Voting Rights Act and denying voters at the polls by way of fake software check systems.

Yes, fake — when a system does exactly the opposite of what it is allegedly designed to do as in the case of Crosscheck, it’s fake. And the GOP pushed its use across the country, especially where minority citizens lived in greater concentrations.

And none of this was Robert Kagan’s concern when bemoaning the alleged decline of liberal democracy.

But he’s a historian and he wrote looking at world history, one might say. As if history hasn’t also informed us about blind spots in ideology or the possibility historians have their own hidden agendas.

This bit is egregious:

…The world’s autocracies, even the “friendly” ones, are acquiring the new methods and technologies pioneered by Russia and China. And, as they do, they become part of the global surveillance-state network. They are also enhancing the power and reach of China and Russia, who by providing the technology and expertise to operate the mechanisms of social control are gaining access to this ever-expanding pool of data on everyone on the planet. …

The only attribution he makes to the origin of the digital panopticon is a link in that paragraph to a January 17 article in WaPo, How U.S. surveillance technology is propping up authoritarian regimes. Yes, us, the U.S., we are the progenitor of the ubiquitous surveillance state — but not only because of intelligence and defense technology. Our internet platforms offering search tools and social media provide the base on which surveillance thrives.

Kagan never calls out these privately-owned companies, from Facebook to Google, though these companies also played a role in Russia’s interference with our elections. Their role is purely incidental, accidental, while Kagan holds China up as an example of social surveillance ubiquity:

Developments in China offer the clearest glimpse of the future. Through the domination of cyberspace, the control of social media, the collection and use of Big Data and artificial intelligence, the government in Beijing has created a more sophisticated, all-encompassing and efficient means of control over its people than Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler or even George Orwell could have imagined. What can be done through social media and through the employment of artificial intelligence transcends even the effective propaganda methods of the Nazis and the Soviet communists. At least with old-fashioned propaganda, you knew where the message was coming from and who was delivering it. Today, people’s minds are shaped by political forces harnessing information technologies and algorithms of which they are not aware and delivering messages through their Facebook pages, their Twitter accounts and their Google searches.

What a lack of insight and imagination. Kagan wants us to look abroad to condemn authoritarianism, gear up our foreign policy with defense against ‘strongmen’ in mind, while failing to live our values here at home on an individual, collective, society-wide basis. The U.S. can’t be a legitimate democratic leader when it not only blindly spawns surveillance-as-an-incidental-product, but when creating new forms of old suppressions.

For example:

— North Dakota’s GOP-led state legislature demanded the Sioux acquire physical street addresses before they could vote during the midterm election year;
— Florida’s Republican legislators submitted a proposal to deny voting rights to former convicts if they have not paid all their fines and fees, constituting a poll tax on former felons after voters chose to restore rights after imprisonment;
— Georgia’s secretary of state (now governor) refused to recuse himself while running for governor after having conducted racially-biased voter roll purges;
— Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to take up bill H.R. 1 after it passed the House. The bill bolstered voting rights and improved accountability by candidates and incumbents to voters.

If we truly wanted to promote liberal democracy abroad, we need to practice it here at home — put on our own oxygen mask before helping others.

One person who advocated for an improved democracy here was John Dingell. In one of his last op-eds he called for

— the abolishment of the Senate, which dilutes the votes of individuals in populous states;
— automatic and comprehensive voter registration at age 18, to encourage full participation of citizens in voting;
— protection of the press because an electorate can’t make informed decisions without free and open access to information;
— elimination of money from campaigns as it has a corrupt influence on candidates and unduly shapes opinions of the electorate.

Do read Dingell’s op-ed because he expanded upon each of these points I have only summarized. He did far more to encourage liberal democracy here in the U.S. in that one instructive essay as BigJohn TwitterDean than Kagan did in his space opera-ish piece hyping the Autocrat McStrongbads abroad.

This is an open thread.

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86 replies
  1. Rayne says:

    I need a better, more representative image for the front page but I couldn’t find the right clown or a strongman. I’ll keep looking — in the meanwhile, a graphic depicting trash being tossed in the bin.

    • NorskieFlamethrower says:

      If you are lookin’ for an image to cover this post how about the scene from “Doctor Strangelove” with the general riding the missile into oblivion?

  2. Pete says:

    Look at the WWE…or any of the several country “leaders” that fit your criteria. Of course those empty – I mean – independent WWE contractors get hosed by McMahon to their own heath’s detriment. Hey – maybe Vince and Linda will do.

    Bit I did always enjoy the Mystery Science Theater commentary ;-)

    • Rayne says:

      Linda just left the administration, what timing!

      I’ve always loved MST3K, used to watch it every weekend with my stepson when he was tweenager. So glad they’ve managed to crowdsource funding for a reinvigorated series on Netflix.

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Add the normalization of extraordinarily intrusive surveillance in the US: Amazon warehouse gloves that track what you’re doing and how fast millimeter by millimeter, microsecond by microsecond. And this Orwellian piece from yesterday’s Guardian: “UK businesses using artificial intelligence to monitor staff activity.” In effect, it is using a virtual whole-body Amazon glove to monitor staff’s productivity.

    I wonder what the algorithm considers “productive” and what it considers inefficient waste. Probably not an AI one would want out in the wild: the sci-fi scenarios write themselves. [https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/apr/07/uk-businesses-using-artifical-intelligence-to-monitor-staff-activity]

    The existential threat Robert Kagan’s fears most is probably that the Strong Person looming on the horizon is not a rightwing man, but a left of center woman.

    • Rayne says:

      I was kind of torn about writing this piece because it presented an opportunity by ignoring it. If one keeps their eye on the horizon looking for the good ship McStrongbad, it’s very easy for Tiny JusticeWarrior to sneak up and clip one’s Achilles tendons followed by neutering.

    • Rugger9 says:

      The point about what is “productive” is a stumbling block for anyone trying to manage solely by spreadsheet as if everything can be reduced to a number. That also applies to modeling assumptions IEs run into it when deciding how fast work can be done. For example, 100% pace seems quite slow but can be kept up through an entire shift. For an easy exercise take a 52-card deck and set them into four piles over (IIRC) 30 seconds or so, that approximates the 100% working pace.

      What I’ve seen in the work place is that someone will try to cut time out of steps under the assumption it can be done faster only to learn the hard way that the changes (like cutting out a dwell time to allow the resins to melt) sometimes have very bad side effects (125 tons of landfill).

      AI is a model, and what is defined as important usually assumes which factors are important and to ignore the others. It may take fewer people to manage the supervision of the system, but action set points and detection methods are stuff we humans build into the system with our own bias in tow.

      • Doug R says:

        Yup. Just because we can work at 110% for a surprisingly long time doesn’t mean that should be the standard.
        Eventually humans break down and/or make mistakes. The 110% model ensures system wide failure at times.
        Besides if the system is always at capacity, you have no cushion for surge capacity and you end up doing things like triaging patients in the hospital Tim Hortons as happened here in BC.

  4. William Bennett says:

    My favorite MST3K episode evah! The disco scene, the guardrail death count, the nicknames (Slab Squatthrust is my fave–complete list here–but more than anything the bizarre scooter chase at the end, which practically caused a brain embolism I was laughing so hard the first time I saw it. Genius all the way through.

    • NYExpat says:

      Longtime lurker, recently a funder. I agree: one of the best MST3K episodes ever. My children turned me on to it many years ago. Just one of the many pleasures of being their parent.

  5. Rugger9 says:

    https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/08/politics/mar-a-lago-yujing-zhang/index.html

    CNN reports that this lady had a few more “spooky” toys in the hotel room, which may explain why the the head of the Secret Service was fired by Mulvaney today even though Mar-a-Lago security is responsible for screening out the members (why? That’s what the Secret Service is for). Allegedly, Jarvanka didn’t like Mr Alles complaining about the costs for Jarvanka’s security on their trips, etc. but that would be petty…. However, it also makes one wonder just how many other devices are in close proximity to Kaiser Quisling and scattered around the Mar-a-Lago palace along with key loggers, backdoors and other malware. Even listening devices will pick up the first-hand and second-hand chatter about KQ’s doings and that’s what FSB HUMINT is very interested in getting.

    • Rayne says:

      LOL this is sounding like Great Orange Narcissist didn’t appreciate being pants’d by Secret Service who honestly answered reporters when they said they weren’t responsible for tracking guests coming and going from Mar-a-Lago.

      It’s not the White House. Of course if the Great Orange Narcissist wants us to treat it like the White House, we can seize ownership. No problem.

      Sadly we can’t do that with his closest golf course, too, since he doesn’t actually own the land, only the business.

      • P J Evans says:

        I suspect that if the Secret Service wasn’t checking guests there (or at any other of Tr*mp’s “properties”), that it was because they had been ordered not to check them. It isn’t like they don’t have lots of experience at doing so.

        • Raven Eye says:

          The Secret Service certainly can do that kind of stuff. In fact, they provided support for access control to the Pentagon site following 9/11. Within hours Arlington County ran through their cache of 2000 of colored wrist bands. The FBI called in the Secret Service who trained members of the Army Band to operate 5 credentialing workstations.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Consistent with Trump’s mandate that the SS stop keeping records of White House visitors. The SS might have been relieved at not having to recruit agents who could read and write Cyrillic script – or simplified Chinese.

        • P J Evans says:

          I actually can read Cyrillic, and use a Chinese dictionary. But they wouldn’t want me anyway, because I won’t put up with Tr*mp’s shit.

        • Rugger9 says:

          Mar-a-Lago, Bedminster, etc. with no visitor logs. Trump DC with no accountability. Lots of contacts via non-government channels to bypass Records Act requirements will mean that we will never fully grasp how much Kaiser Quisling sold us out for. The problem is that real lives (service members, diplomatic staff and Americans on business and vacation) will be at serious risk because of the family’s greed and stupidity.

          • Tom says:

            All that missing documentation. Makes you wonder how historians will ever be able to describe and interpret the Trump Presidency with any sort of depth, or account for how policy decisions were made and implemented. No doubt “Fox news” will occupy a large part of the index of any future biography of Trump in office.

        • Rayne says:

          Just because it was on orders doesn’t mean Orange Menace wanted it public knowledge immediately following the discovery of a woman connected to both PRC and a human trafficking ring. It’s hard to think like a narcissist but here we are.

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The MSM discussion of Kirstjen Nielsen’s firing describes the DHS’s origin as an attempt to improve communications between disparate government agencies, an outgrowth of perceived failings that helped lead to 9/11.

    That pithy origins myth – which invites no further inquiry – leaves out the most important reason: The bill that created the DHS ***stripped 180,000 government employees of their union protections.***

    But taking the myth at face value, fixing the troubles with inter-agency communications was not helped when the FBI stayed under the DoJ. It has had decades of trouble managing its IT, spending billions on systems that were unable to talk to each other let alone other agencies. The CIA, the DIA, and the rest of the intelligence “community” also remained with their original departments. So much for curing the information sharing problems that helped lead to 9/11.

    In reality, the DHS was cobbled together from some twenty-one orphans. Former parent departments included the Treasury, Ag, Defense, the DoJ, Engergy, GSA, HHS, and Transportation. The orphans ranged from the Treasury’s Secret Service to the Ag Department’s Plum Island Animal Disease Center.

    To my knowledge, DHS has never been audited or been subject to critical congressional oversight. This is despite its huge size, immense budget, myriad and sometimes conflicting responsibilities, and the predictable problems it would have in integrating operations from such diverse agencies and organizational cultures.

    • P J Evans says:

      The Coast Guard had been under the Department of Commerce, IIRC, from its founding right up until DHS took them over.

      • Rugger9 says:

        That’s correct, which is why the Posse Comitatus Act did not apply to the USCG and they therefore have police powers the military does not have. They transfer to DoD in wartime.

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The MSM keeps parroting Bill Barr’s conclusion that the Mueller Report says that Donald Trump committed no crime (even if it chose not to exonerate him). That seems obviously false.

    One, Bill Barr seems to follow the Nixonian line that if the president does it, it can’t be illegal.

    Two, Mueller was operating under an OLC policy that says a sitting president cannot be indicted. (Setting aside that one might challenge that policy by distinguishing the circumstances involving Trump from those considered when the various OLC opinions were written.)

    Three, we don’t have the Report. We have a few words extracted from it, severed from their context and assumptions. Bringing them back together, they might say that the president committed no crime. They might also say that Donald Trump committed no crime for which we can indict him under current OLC guidelines.

    We, at least designated congressional committees, need to read the entire report and find out which it is.

    • Tom says:

      Infuriating to see Margaret Brennan on “Face the Nation” yesterday let Rudy G. get away with claiming there is “no evidence” of Trump conspiring or obstructing. I don’t see why TV journalists can’t have a little cheat sheet in front of them with the actual quotes from Mueller in Barr’s first letter when they’re on air.

    • Doug R says:

      I’m thinking that leads to it being possible for the president to be charged with obstruction of justice, if the justification for DOJ policy being the president needs to be able to go to the edges of the law to defend the country from possibly unforeseen threats.

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Richard Wolffe has a few choice characterizations for Kirstjen Nielsen and Donald Trump: Trump’s talk, “about protecting America is really just a cover for [punishing] the weak and voiceless.” [https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/08/kirstjen-nielsen-you-were-the-worst]

    Of all the charlatans, sycophants and moral sellouts surrounding Donald Trump, no one comes close to Kirstjen Nielsen.

    Not Steve Bannon, the neo-fascist strategist who glued a thin veneer of ideology on top of the particle board flakes that fill the cranium of a bankrupt property developer.

    Not Paul Manafort, the ostrich jacket-loving former campaign chairman now serving seven years for being a liar and fraud after servicing a motley crew of tyrants.

    Not even Mike Pence, the “evangelical Catholic” vice-president who set a new land-speed record for praising this genital-grabbing, porn star hush money president.

    One of the disparate operations Kirstjen Nielsen’s DHS was responsible for is FEMA. Perhaps Kirstjen will spend a couple of weeks of her downtime volunteering to help rebuild a public school in the mountains outside San Juan. More likely, she’ll stay at five-star hotels while she interviews potential corporate patrons.

  9. Rugger9 says:

    It seems Miller is intent on to decapitating the rest of the DHS organization while we are clearly under attack by espionage / state actors. It’s almost as if that is what Vlad (and Xi) wanted Kaiser Quisling to do….

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      No collusion, no collusion!!! A little conspiracy, maybe, but no collusion.

      Sounds a lot like the sort of thing Miller would do to promote his king. What was Shakespeare’s advice for how to institutionalize a coup: The first thing we do, let’s decapitate DHS.

      • Jockobadger says:

        I was just reviewing tr*mps twitter feed – an especially unpleasant but daily task bc know thine enemy. Anyway, I was reading about the “13 Tr*mp Haters & Angry Democrats” and the “Fake News Media” when the latter reminded me of the 1930’s (once again.) Twitter has allowed tr*mp to morph into his very own goerbbels. He’s his own Minister of Propaganda, ably assisted by Grima. JHFC.

    • Rugger9 says:

      Of course, now that Mr. Alles has some free time, Schumer wants him in for a chat about security procedures.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Imagine Alles’s reaction when he heard that Old Bone Spurs told his aides that he fired a combat-veteran Marine general because he looked like Dumbo.

      • P J Evans says:

        It’s actually a fairly standard agreement – there’s one with the Japanese leagues, among others – and would not hurt the US in any way.

        • Rayne says:

          He doesn’t get to declare what is and isn’t illegal. His job — argh, I don’t have to tell you this is just plain nuts.

          • P J Evans says:

            Elseweb, someone is saying that the State Department has to pass on it – which I can see – but again, it’s not all that unusual. I think it’s Himself trying to score more points with the Obama-haters, because of “opening up Cuba”.

    • e.a.f. says:

      I’d have a look at which team has a number of Cuban players and if any particular team plans on hiring some great Cuban player in the near future. Then have a look at base ball teams which are owned by friends of Trump. Perhaps this is simply a way to ensure specific teams win and others don’t. (O.K. I don’t follow baseball and don’t know how many Cuban players there are, etc.. Just thought it might be a way to “fix” a world series.

  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    On the one hand, this is typical of Trump’s refusal to nominate people to the hundreds of staff positions that require Senate approval.

    His mythology aside, Trump hates the job of real networking, because it involves keeping up relations with people when you do not want something from them (cynically, to increase the odds of getting it when you do). He also hates working with anyone who has co-equal power – the Senate when it comes to confirmations, Congress when it comes to funding a budget, other countries when it comes to crafting and implementing treaties. Trump flies solo because it’s all he knows how to do.

    On the other hand, given DHS’s role in protecting national security, this level of staffing seems beyond reckless:

    “DHS is now without a secretary, deputy secretary, ICE director, FEMA director, Secret Service director, inspector general, undersecretary for policy, undersecretary for science and technology, chief financial officer and chief privacy officer,” she said. “That’s at least 10 top positions filled by someone in an acting capacity.”

    [https://www.huffpost.com/entry/kirstjen-nielsen-chaos-last-hours-dhs_n_5cabaf5ce4b01b34503a544a]

    Trump seems driven to disrupt all security and law enforcement, regardless of the impact on people or the country. This goes beyond his need to generate chaos. Is it a Freudian slip, attacking the function of government he most fears? Or is it a way to do what he most wants to do without oversight, resistance or cooperation?

    • Rayne says:

      He is eliminating anybody who won’t be smart enough to avoid a direct order. He wants to get down to the white nationalists embedded at the lowest level jobs who are sympathetic.

      This is incredibly dangerous. It’s also why systems to monitor white nationalist terror threats have been slowly diminished so that no one is documenting discussion related to organizing behind this.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The one exception – and that’s not driven by Trump but by the FedSoc and McConnell – is the making of inexperienced, youthful, often unqualified hard right appointees to the federal courts.

      Among the many consequences of that programmatic restaffing of the federal judiciary is that it increases the likelihood that in any conflict between government and people, and the executive and anyone else, the government and the executive win hands down.

      It’s as if Dick Nixon had a do over, Dick Cheney was his chief of staff, and they were both recasting government in any way necessary for them to remain in power regardless of what they did.

  11. Molly Pitcher says:

    I wish that I were exaggerating when I admit that John Dingell’s final piece brought me to tears. Where have all those statesmen gone ?

    I would like some legal weigh-in on the statutes behind the DOJ ‘policy’ of not indicting a sitting President ? Is there any codified justification for this ?

    I can easily see where it could be a weapon in the hands of an unscrupulous political party, *cough* GOP *cough*, but do we really just stand around and wring our hands waiting for the term to run out of a criminal President ? That is insane.

  12. Anon says:

    Rayne, while I agree with much of your analysis I really don’t see how Bernie Sanders fits into a White Nationalist impulse or how he carpetbagged his way on anti-clinton propaganda. By and large he found the Democratic party hostile ground and what fueled his rise, I argue, is that Clinton’s promise was for more of the same neocon/neoliberal policy that she had always championed. That was the alternative he offered.

    It is true that the anti-clinton propaganda impacted the general election because it is now an article of faith in Republican circles that all Clintons are evil even when they sign on to policies the Republicans themselves have long championed. But I don’t think that propaganda caused Sanders to rise.

    As to White Nationalism, I have yet to see Bernie Sanders encourage it, or even passively endorse it so I don’t see how that is a factor either.

    • P J Evans says:

      I wish there was truth to that comment. Clinton is far more liberal than her husband, and had a fairly detailed platform that apparently no one ever read, but Sanders can handwave through stuff and be thought of as having detailed proposals. He was runnign as a Dem so he could get access to the party’s support machinery – and he left as soon as he could after getting most of his party structural proposals enacted.
      Shorter: he’s a sore loser.

      • Anon says:

        That is not a counterargument. I never claimed that Hillary Clinton was more or less liberal than her husband. Nor did I claim that she did not release any policy.

        The fact is that she has spent a career championing neoconservative politics abroad notably in her support for the Iraq war and for our involvement in Libya. She also promoted neoliberal economics in her support for NAFTA and similar bills. She did change in some of these notably coming out against chater schools after having supported them for some time but that is hardly going to erase past actions.

        I do not see your claim about Sanders handwaiving, both he and Clinton released policy proposals as I said, I did not articulate any fundamental claim that his were more detailed than hers, merely that they were more popular. In some cases this was a matter of degree (e.g. Sanders favored $15 minimum wage, Clinton favored $12), and in others it was a difference of kind (e.g. Sanders favored large public infrastructure, Clinton generally favored public-private partnerships).

        As to your last point I don’t see how getting structural changes such as limiting superdelegates makes him a sore loser. The fact is that party governance decides elections and if there is any hope of making the Democratic party fight for policies like the fight for $15 rather than fundraise off of them then you need to change the structures and thus profit model of the party itself. That isn’t a sore loser but effective politics.

        • Rayne says:

          Oh. You had to go there. Hold my earrings, PJ.

          First, Sanders is a mooch. He swanned in and decided to become Dem after doing nothing to build the party and expected to be granted full access to resources HILLARY built with fundraising from her campaign and gave to the DNC.

          Second, he’s disrespectful to the party which he expected to just roll over and give him carte blanche. Nothing like badmouthing the people from which you demand money, people, other resources. He did it before and after the election, too.

          Three, he needs to turn over his tax returns. He should have done it in 2015-2016. He’s well overdue; he looks wholly untrustworthy. His failure to do so provides cover to Trump. Fuck that.

          Four, he needs to stop being a dick to women. Shooing his wife off stage, physically pushing around a woman on TV, ugh. He’s got issues and he’s not willing to address them. Again, he’s had since last race to do it.

          Five, there’s the issue of Jane’s possible bank fraud. Not exactly dealing with that, either, allowing staff to shush up journalists who try to ask about it.

          Six, hiring former Manafort-Stone compadre Tad Devine AND the breach of VAN data looks sketchy as hell and has never been fully aired out in public — except for the bit where Tad Devine testified on behalf of the SCO against Manafort. Small fucking world.

          Seven, race. Jesus Christ, he absolutely sucks. I cut him slack in 2016 because of his activism in the 1960s but what a disappointment. His classist bullshit privileging working whites over matters of race damaged his credibility and he’s never really made up for it.

          All this shit may play in the tiny state of Vermont when he’s locking out other Democrats who want to run for the Senate but it doesn’t play outside VT with hardcore Dem faithful, and especially not women of color. He’s only gotten away with this shit because he’s whined about superdelegates until we were all heartily sick of it. He could have at any goddamned time for decades before joined the party and changed it from within — look at what Howard Dean did from the same tiny state, actually became the party’s chair. But no, that would take commitment and effort.

          And while you’re here, it’s time for you to do something more unique with your username. Everyone else with a common name is expected to use a name to differentiate themselves. I don’t give a rat’s butt if you think you are legion. One unique person, one unique name. It’s not even expected that you lock down an email address or an IP. Just a name. Commit to a unique one or leave.

          • Anon says:

            Three points, and the rest can stay on the table.

            First Clinton if we wish to talk about mooching I would point to the Hillary Victory Fund which siphoned money from state parties to the main campaign.

            Second I perhaps I am biased but I don’t see Sanders as privileging white voters. In all of his economic discussions he has focused on class rather than race. I fail to see how that is privileging anyone as opposed to focusing on the shared problem.

            Third, this is my username, it has been my username for all of the years that I have been on this site. I have used it for respectful engagement on a range of issues and have benefited greatly from what I have read here. I certainly have learned a great deal from both EW and Ed Walker.

            But if a name choice is too much for this discussion so be it.

            Farewell.

            • Rayne says:

              First, the victory fund worked the way it was supposed to with the state parties, for the benefit of Democratic candidates. Perhaps that’s a problem for candidates who aren’t Democrats.

              Second, you’re white. Of course you can’t see the problem of white privilege without making a concerted effort. That’s how it works — it’s the default under white patriarchal supremacy. It’s only noticed casually when white is no longer default. But don’t take it from me or the Latinx volunteer who wrote the piece I shared. Try talking to people of color for a change.

              Third, if you can’t do something as simple and easy as salting your username with an additional symbol, letter, or number, you don’t care much that *anybody else* can come in and masquerade as you and the community wouldn’t know. I can’t say that hasn’t happened already. This isn’t anything more than asked of every Tom or Bob or Terry so that we don’t have provocateurs sockpuppeting as other users.

              Hasta.

              • Democritus says:

                The catchiest way I’ve seen to explain white privileged and condemn it, in a short pithy phrase. I’m sure you have seen it and all, but to chime in.

                When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression

                I also think the scarcity mindset is also a factor in why racist attacks are working so well now,besides America has a lot of racists like they did in the 1930’s.

                But I was halfway through the piece and was scanning to look to see if anyone else wonders if editors etc, are just afraid to go out and plainly say what is evident, that Putin and other autocrats have a friend and ally in OUR executive branch that is fla out ignoring the rule of law as actual consequences mount.

                Does he want someone as the head of secret service who would refuse a lawful warrant on a protectee?

                Also why is the mainstream press so afraid to say plainly that Putin won, why isn’t more attention paid to films like Active Measures, or how Brexit and the election are linked for Russia strategically? Cambridge Analytica etc, and all those factors. Also to the election manipulation like you say.

                Is it paranoid to worry that 2020 election being free and fair? That Georgia is rigged.

            • P J Evans says:

              Jeebus Ghu FSM: haven’t you noticed that most of the super-rich are WHITE MEN? Damned few white women get that kind of money, and fewer non-whites, both male and female. When Sanders focuses on “economic inequality”, he completely fucking MISSES the role that gender bias and racism plays in it. (This was pointed out back in 2016.)

      • e.a.f. says:

        Not only was he a “sore loser”, he was a “sore user”. He used the Democrats. tore the party apart, in my opinion, and added nothing to the conversation. Yes, he wants medical coverage for everyone, but beyond that does he have anything to offer the country? He just always seems to be angry and unhappy when people don’ agree with him. A national health care system is urgently needed. Decent health care for everyone is the basis for a better society. However, health care alone will not made a decent country.

        It is beyond me why the Democrats let him run under their banner, when he has no interest in the Party.

        Read the Kagan “article”. He goes on and on, but to what end? My take on him is, he likes to hear himself talk and thinks he knows something. Most people writing on this blog have a better understanding of politics than he.

    • Rayne says:

      I’ve left a comment in response to your reply to PJ.

      I’m going to let this piece speak for me. He chased white voters, and then subsequently Sanders failed during 2016 to be a Wellstone Democrat — a person who never separates the life they live from the words they speak. Or perhaps Sanders did live up to the words he spoke, they were about the white working class. Kind of like the ones who voted for Trump.

  13. JamesJoyce says:

    “Kagan is blind to his own role in the promulgation of authoritarianism.”

    How about willful blindness…..

  14. Democritus says:

    Ahhhhhhh, great stuff. I’m sorry if it poor form to comment before reading, but after a few bad days of not being able to do much with my hands I’m actually quite excited to be tucked in with my kitty and get to read what I fully expect will be a superb takedown.

    Sigh, lol. Literally as I was getting ready to hit Post I heard the sad weird meow of our other kitty who is afraid of hair balls. Cuddly kitty bolted, I bolted to make sure kitty was having said hairball on the floor. So now I’m going to read this superb takedown alone on the couch, alone, lol.

    Also please feel free to just read the post if that is you Rayne and not post at large

  15. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Barr is an expert haggler and master at cover-up. He is unflappable, the Baloo Bear of obstruction. While it may be a political skill, and contrary to the MSM, the skill is built around avoiding disclosure and congressional oversight.

    Barr’s apparent reasonableness is a theatrical pose. The MSM needs to ignore it and not kowtow in its usual fashion to the majesty and authority of the office of Attorney General. Neither this administration nor Bill Barr deserves it.

    The MSM and Barr are playing games with which of several versions of this report they’re talking about. Barr hasn’t made a move to release grand jury material. He’s choosing to release the fully redacted version first, then “to negotiate” with Congress about what sort of redacted material it might eventually see. Garden variety manipulation and delay, but played by a master.

    Select committees of Congress are fully entitled to see the whole report. Delay only helps the target of that report. Barr will make them beg and litigate for it, to keep hidden its contents. Meanwhile, this consumes a big chunk of congressional resources. Given the many affronts Trump is committing against the rule of law, governance, and congressional oversight, this sort of delay is an act of partisan political warfare.

    • Vicks says:

      “From a prosecutor’s standpoint, the bottom line is binary, which is: charges or no charges,” Barr said in response to a question about his summary (not! summary).
      It appears “immoral is not illegal” continues to be the guiding pricipal for the administration, and I have a terrible feeling that any of the immoral stuff (that could be used to justify impeachment) will be hidden from the public and potentially congress using # 4 on his list of justification for redactions; the reputations of third parties…
      In addition to the list of his other comments already being talked about, when I heard him responding with “i won’t” answer questions rather than the more reasonabale and respectful “I can’t” was an image of Barr comming back into the spotlight to play the role of king-maker.

    • Yogarhythms says:

      Ty Rayne,
      EH 11:15. Barr is a warrior. Area man heard of ( doesn’t read)19 unpaginated silk negligee audition and knighted our AG. Dems have subpoena power but can’t/won’t pull the trigger. OT. Way OT. News today Chernobyl style sarcophagus is coming to Fukushima Daiichi (FD). Ground Water is flowing over FD meltdowns into the Pacific daily. We can’t let Japan bury their hot meltdowns under cement negligee. 9APR19 FD. Naoyuki Takaki, professor of nuclear engineering at Tokyo City University, commented, “… could ultimately be a decision to stop debris removal after pulling out as much debris as possible. In that case, we would have no option but to consider building a sarcophagus.”

      • P J Evans says:

        The Dems in the House ARE using their subpoena power. It’s going to wind up in the courts – and I hope that the courts can see that Congress must be able to subpoena those who refuse to recognize that laws apply to everyone, including those who are (or appear to be) rich and powerful.

  16. earlofhuntingdon says:

    From Mackenzie Mays, a brilliant protest sign [https://twitter.com/MackenzieMays]:

    “First they came for the journalists: We don’t know what happened after that.”

    Please help support this blog.

  17. Molly Pitcher says:

    I am repeating a question I posted above, yesterday, in hopes that a legal eagle will respond. Are there actual statutes behind the DOJ ‘policy’ of not indicting a sitting President ? Is there any codified justification for this ?

    • bmaz says:

      No, there are no such statutes. There are, however, two different DOJ/OLC memorandums that so opine, and Mueller is bound by those.

      • Molly Pitcher says:

        I understand that Mueller is bound by the memoranda, but regarding the larger question, why are these given such deference? How do they prevent accountability of a sitting President if in America, supposedly, no one is above the law?

        Even old English law held sovereigns accountable for their actions and occasionally removed their heads for breaking the law. I find it hard to believe that the Framers intended for the President to be held in check by the Legislative and Judicial branches yet be free to rob a bank or ‘shoot someone on Fifth Avenue’ with no legal consequences.

        They had just fought a war to escape the capricious decrees of a Monarch. Why would they create a government whose leader had no criminal accountability ?

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          The OLC is the part of the DoJ charged with interpreting the meaning of federal laws and regulations. Its conclusions are binding on the executive branch, including the DoJ.

          The courts and Congress can disagree. If they do, the courts can issue a decision that reinterprets the law or Congress can change the law and make its interpretation controlling, subject to constitutional limits. The latter are ultimately decided by the S.Ct.

          • Molly Pitcher says:

            Yes, Earl, but do memoranda rise to the level of ‘laws and regulations’ ? I have heard these referred to as in house policy. What is the history behind them ? I am not succeeding in researching how they came to be. Can anyone point me in the right direction ?

            • earlofhuntingdon says:

              Legal memos interpret laws based on assumed facts. In the case of OLC memos, its interpretations become law that binds executive branch conduct.

              Mueller could have sought to persuade the AG or the OLC that those memos did not apply to the facts of his case. He seems to have chosen not to do that. Perhaps he thought it was a moot point. A DoJ run by Sessions or an even more Trump-protecting AG would ensure that the OLC was staffed with like-minded lawyers, who would not agree with Mueller’s arguments.

              If he did, it was probably a sound judgment. I wonder if any of that is discussed in the Mueller report that Bill Barr does not want Congress or the public to see.

              • bmaz says:

                And that is exactly what would have happened with Steve Engel, the current head of OLC. Engel, for the uninitiated, worked with, and in support of, Steve Bradbury and John Yoo during the Bush Administration to produce and back up the Torture Memos. There was not a chance in hell that Sessions, Whitaker, Barr or Engel was going to revisit the prior OLC Memos as to amenability of a sitting President to indictment. None.

                • Molly Pitcher says:

                  Thank you for the clarification of this particular instance. You have to play the cards you are dealt, and with the players at his table, it would seem Mueller knew the limitations.

                  • bmaz says:

                    Yeah. And I do not like that any better than you, in this instance. Sometimes it is what it is I guess. While I fully disagree with the OLC memos, they were there and constraining Mueller, and I fully understand why he accepted that.

      • Molly Pitcher says:

        https://fee.org/articles/why-the-founders-limited-executive-power/

        I quote below from an article on the Foundation for Economic Education by Trevor Burrus. In spite of not personally being a Libertarian, I find this compelling:

        “Constitutionally limited government exists to protect the freedom of the citizens from the vicissitudes of democratic rule. The Framers of the Constitution knew that a person of George Washington’s caliber would not always be chosen president. They knew about demagoguery and populism. James Madison, in particular, was terrified of how voters in states could be swept up in waves of populist fury and, in the process, enact policies damaging to the long-term prosperity and freedom of the people.”

        I cannot believe that they just glossed over the possibility that a future President could indulge in criminal behavior.

        • bmaz says:

          And, yet, the Founders provided for the remedy of impeachment, didn’t they? Further, it has repeatedly been discussed here on this blog that the OLC memos are arguably incorrect and that both the Watergate inquiry (Rotunda Memo) and even Ken Starr both thought a sitting President could indeed be indicted. In spite of that, Mueller felt constrained by the OLC memos, and he was. Shouting at the clouds won’t remedy that.

          • Vicks says:

            Wouldn’t having to impeach a president before indicting simply be a way of making sure the will of the people was being carried out by the people they elected to do so?

            • bmaz says:

              In a way, yes, that is a way to look at it. Though the Founders did not address the indictment issue. Frankly, I think there is no reason a sitting President cannot be indicted. Suppose Trump shot and killed someone on 5th Avenue in NYC, he cannot be prosecuted for murder? But that is the OLC position.

              • Molly Pitcher says:

                And that, to use a legal term, is nuts, because it leaves us at the whim of co-crooks like McConnell, who is also a representative of the people who elected him.

                There is something to be said for the rule of law, not men

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          I agree with bmaz. The presidency is not a license to commit murder, securities, tax or bank fraud, or rape. A sitting president should be indictable for major crimes. Justice should not depend on the vagaries and timeline of parliamentary and party politics. At a bare minimum, any statute of limitation should be suspended until after an accused president leaves office.

          I suspect the possibility that a president would commit such crimes seemed so remote to those who drafted the Constitution that the contingency was left out in the press of other business.

          That gap is where the appellate courts come in, one of many reasons the current version of the Republican party is so determined to stack the courts with those who prefer a Dick Cheney version of a monarchical president not subject to challenge.

        • JamesJoyce says:

          Founders understood future presidents would be corrupt. The current jerk is the poster boy for dysfunction.

          This dysfunction is called fascism. Telling some Americans they embrace a fascist president is like talking to an alcoholic.

          Better yet, a Good German conditioned like a dog.

          So much for any concept of truth what Kagan offers is unbridled fascism repackaged via Kagan
          Neoconservatism?

          Why what a wonderful deceitful tobacco commercial Kagan offers as an acceptable offering?

          🤥🤥🤥🤥🤥

  18. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Bob Mueller knows a poisoned chalice when he sees one. Apparently, Bill Bar invited him to review Barr’s summary before he released it. According to Barr, Mueller declined.

    Barr’s invitation would only have come because Barr refused to use the summaries Mueller’s team had written. That meant that Barr had different priorities in mind than Mueller’s team and that a review of Barr’s work would have been a no-win scenario for Mueller.

    Had Mueller agreed with the summary, Barr could have used that any way he wanted to, such as in helping him sell his summary to Congress and a credulous press. Had Mueller disagreed with it, he had no authority to change it and no or little opportunity to publicly state his objections or put the summary into proper context.

    In any case, it’s the report that matters and the congressional committees authorized to see it should see it. Bill Barr is playing clean-up for a dirty president, something with which he has more experience than any other lawyer in DC.

    • JamesJoyce says:

      “That meant that Barr had different priorities in mind than Mueller’s team and that a review of Barr’s work would have been a no-win scenario for Mueller.”

      Yes, too keep hoods with no holes over the eyes and ears of the American people so a tobacco commercial can be imposed on Americans as fascist imposed their tobacco commercials on Germans.

      Nazi had priorities also, Mr. Miller and Mr. Barr. First was to maintain power at whatever costs…

      You have read those legal briefs correct?

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