Notes on Trump 21

1. Hawaii missile alert false alarm could be significant. Conceivably a bungled alert message could have gone out accidentally to all mobile phones, followed by a long delay in which it was cancelled by by twitter messages but not by an authorised message to mobile phones. More plausibly it was an intentional test.

The last time anything like this happened was during the Vietnam war. The national emergency broadcast system was activated and all radio stations were supposed to stop normal programming and tell listeners to tune in to government emergency channels. Most didn’t. Then the alert was cancelled without proper authentication of the cancellation message and the few stations that did comply promptly went back on air.

This was announced as two successive blunders just like the current smaller scale version. But subsequently reminders were sent to all stations that they were supposed to comply and remain off air until authorised regardless of how obvious it was that there was no likelihood of the alert really not being a drill. I explained this at the time and thought it was related to Nixon trying to give credibility to the possibility of U.S. resorting to nuclear weapons in Vietnam by testing out necessary civil defence preparations that would accompany any such threats unless they were total bullshit.

Subsequently I think the timing was more related to Soviet inquiries about whether the U.S. would accept a Soviet nuclear strike on China and Nixon’s reply that it would not. I don’t know whether any documentation either way has since become declassified (or whether the risks of damage from such an exercise meant there would only be verbal instructions and no documentation to declassify). But I remain certain it was no coincidence that BOTH aspects of the alert system were tested “by accident” (and neither worked). As Oscar Wilde might have said about orphans – to accidentally send one alert message could be considered a misfortune, like losing one parent but to then accidentally fail to send a cancellation, like losing both parents , suggests sheer carelessness.

Even if I am right, it could just be a low level decision by some official in the State of Hawaii to run such a test out of the same sort of concerns that have had the media carrying on about imminent war with North Korea. The Government of Japan went so far as to alarm its citizens and encourage them to seek shelter without any pretence of an accidental alert when North Korea fired an unarmed rocket that merely travelled through international space well above Japan’s territory. This was clearly done in order to help create atmosphere rather than to test alert systems.

The Trump administration is no position domestically to behave like the Japanese government did, as it would certainly produce a backlash in support of appeasing North Korea rather than the opposite reaction as in Japan.

But it could conceivably be aimed at causing North Korean analysts to wonder whether U.S. threats of “fire and fury” should be taken more seriously as they have not remained unaccompanied by the testing of civil defense preparations that would necessarily accompany any such threats that were real. Certainly nothing else about U.S. force posture has changed that would incline them to doubt that the threats they face are entirely from sanctions rather than military strikes.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jan/14/hawaii-missile-false-alarm-north-korea-trump-tulsi-gabbard

(Also includes Guardian’s take on item 5 below).

2. The Intercept has a good analysis of bipartisan support for entrenching the surveillance state:

https://theintercept.com/2018/01/12/the-same-democrats-who-denounce-trump-as-a-lawless-treasonous-authoritarian-just-voted-to-give-him-vast-warrantless-spying-powers/

…Debate on the bill and the amendments began on the House floor yesterday afternoon, and it became quickly apparent that leading Democrats intended to side with Trump and against those within their own party who favored imposing safeguards on the Trump administration’s ability to engage in domestic surveillance. The most bizarre aspect of this spectacle was that the Democrats who most aggressively defended Trump’s version of the surveillance bill — the Democrats most eager to preserve Trump’s spying powers as virtually limitless — were the very same Democratic House members who have become media stars this year by flamboyantly denouncing Trump as a treasonous, lawless despot in front of every television camera they could find.

LEADING THE CHARGE against reforms of the FBI’s domestic spying powers was Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee who, in countless TV appearances, has strongly insinuated, if not outright stated, that Trump is controlled by and loyal to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Indeed, just this weekend, in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Schiff accused Trump of corruptly abusing the powers of the DOJ and FBI in order to vindictively punish Hilary Clinton and other political enemies. Referring to Trump’s various corrupt acts, Schiff pronounced: “We ought to be thinking in Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, beyond these three years what damage may be done to the institutions of our democracy. ”

Yet just two days later, there was the very same Adam Schiff, on the House floor, dismissing the need for real safeguards on the ability of Trump’s FBI to spy on Americans. In demanding rejection of the warrant requirement safeguard, Schiff channeled Dick Cheney — and the Trump White House — in warning that any warrant requirements would constitute “a crippling requirement in national security and terrorism cases.”

Standing with Schiff in opposing these safeguards was his fellow California Democrat Eric Swalwell, who has devoted his entire congressional term almost exclusively to accusing Trump of being a puppet of the Kremlin, in the process becoming a media darling among the MSNBC set and online #Resistance movement. Yet after spending a full year warning that Trump’s real loyalty was to Moscow rather than America, Swalwell echoed Schiff in demanding that no warrant safeguards were needed on the spying power of Trump’s FBI.

If one were to invoke the standard mentality and tactics of Schiff and Swalwell — namely, impugning the patriotism and loyalty of anyone questioning their Trump/Russia accusations — one could seriously question their own patriotism in handing these vast, virtually unlimited spying powers to a president whom they say they believe is a corrupt agent of a foreign power.

While Trump, as president, is the head of the executive branch, the official with the greatest control over the FBI they just empowered is his attorney general, Jeff Sessions. In other words, Pelosi, Schiff, and their allies just voted to vest great, unchecked power in an official the Democrats have (with good reason) long denounced as corrupt and deeply racist. As Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden (who has vowed with Rand Paul to filibuster the bill when it reaches the Senate) put it yesterday: “This Section 702 bill would give AG Jeff Sessions unchecked power to use this information against Americans. This bill prevents his decisions from EVER being challenged in court.”

But more significantly, the Amash amendment containing the proposed reforms (including a warrant requirement) was defeated by a much smaller margin: 233-183. While 125 Democratic House members were joined by 58 GOP members in voting for these reforms, 55 Democrats — led by Pelosi and Schiff — joined with the GOP majority to reject them, ensuring defeat of Amash’s amendment by a mere 26 votes.

This means that Trump’s bill to ensure his FBI’s ongoing power to spy on the communications of Americans without warrants was saved by Pelosi, Schiff, and Swalwell abandoning the large majority of their own Democratic caucus, and instead joining with Ryan and the GOP majority to ensure defeat of all meaningful reforms. Here are the 55 Democrats who not only voted in favor of the Trump-endorsed spying bill, but who also voted against the reform amendment to require a warrant. Beyond Pelosi, Schiff, and Swalwell, it includes the second most-senior Democrat Steny Hoyer and former Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

…if there is any principle that ought to command support across party and ideological lines, it’s the one long embedded in the Constitution: We do not want our government spying on us unless it can first obtain a warrant to do so — the principle that was trampled on yesterday by the unholy alliance of Trump, the GOP congressional leadership, Nancy Pelosi, and Adam Schiff.

Indeed, several of Pelosi’s own caucus members made all of these points with usually explicit rhetoric. Here, for instance, was Rep. Ted Lieu of California who — like Schiff and Swalwell — has become a media and #Resistance star this year for his unflinching denunciations of Trump as a corrupt Kremlin tool but who, unlike his California colleagues, cast the only vote rationally reconcilable with his yearlong crusade to impose limits on Trump’s spying powers.

But the most important point here is what this says about how Democrats really view Donald Trump. How can anyone rational possibly take seriously all the righteous denunciations from people like Pelosi, Schiff, and Swalwell about how Trump is a lawless, authoritarian tyrant existentially threatening American democracy when those very same people just yesterday voted in favor of vesting him the virtually limitless power to spy on Americans with no warrants or safeguards? If someone really believed those accusations about Trump — as opposed to just pretending to believe them for cynical political manipulation of their followers — how could they possibly have done what they did yesterday?

Cliches are boring to hear, yet often contain truth. That actions speak louder than words is one of those. The next time you see Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, or Eric Swalwell waxing indignantly on cable TV about how Trump is a grave menace to the rule of law and American democracy, focus less on their scripted talking points and more on their actions, beginning with their vote yesterday to vest in him these awesome powers while blocking safeguards and checks. That will tell you all you need to know about who they really are and what they really believe.

I get a bit sick of Americans not disputing their patriotic duty to support their government spying on everybody else. But the main thrust is spot on.

Omitted from above long quote is an account of the significant numbers of Democrats as well as Republicans who refused to go along. This is also of interest, not just because of potential implications when it gets to the Senate.

This story is interesting also in its implications for Democrat splits when they have a majority in Congress. Those Democrats who really do want infrastructure spending, healthcare improvements and other “populist” measures are unlikely to be any more inhibited about voting with Trumpist Republicans to give Trump the majority he needs for measures that will help him win in 2020 than those Democrats who really want a surveillance state were inhibited about providing a majority on this issue.

ACLU milder but same point:

https://www.aclu.org/blog/national-security/privacy-and-surveillance/members-congress-just-voted-give-trump

3. Foreign policy establishment seems to be getting less hysterical about Trump

https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-01-13/richard-haass-on-trump-s-foreign-policy-and-america-first

4. Meanwhile media is drifting to a parallel universe….

Fairfax has this story in today’s Age (Sunday 12 January) p22

https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/north-america/is-america-going-insane-or-coming-to-its-senses-20180111-h0grjc.html

Originally from wapo, though they don’t even bother to mention that anymore. So it isn’t by some Australian journo totally ignorant of American political culture:

When Bill Kristol, neocon never-trumper, tweeted “I’m with her” re Orah for President. It wasn’t hard for me as an alien from a parallel universe to grasp that he was ridiculing Democrats.

But here’s two Washington Post journalists who actually live and breathe American political culture saying

The viability of a Winfrey campaign, on Monday at least, seemed capable of uniting both ends of the political spectrum.

According to them, Bill Kristol’s:

tongue-in-cheek declaration gave way to an objective case for her candidacy: “Understands Middle America better than Elizabeth Warren,” he tweeted. “Less touchy-feely than Joe Biden, more pleasant than Andrew Cuomo, more charismatic than John Hickenlooper.”

Actually the full quote started with: “Oprah: Sounder on economics than Bernie Sanders, understands ….”

Interestingly Janet Albrechtsen in the Australiangave the same quote, with exactly the same omission so she too was just picking up themes from wapo to bloviate about.

Bill Kristol explained later:

Can I honestly look at you and say she’s less qualified to be president than Donald Trump? I cannot

https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2018/01/08/kristol_american_success_story_oprah_pretty_formidable_not_less_qualified_than_trump.html

The wap story is clearly appalled at “this surprising groundswell” as was Janet Albrechtson. But there is no way they could have made idiots of themselves by including Bill Kristol with the other GOP commentators unless they not only failed to grasp that he was just sarcastically emphasizing “never Trump” while reminding everybody that neither of them has any qualifications whatever.

How out of touch with American political culture does one have to be not to understand that from any Republican “Sounder in economics than Bernie Sanders” and “Understands Middle America better than Elizabeth Warren” is an expression of disdain somewhat similar to “less vicious than Joe McCarthy”?

As an alien claiming that wapo journalists have left the planet I had to actually use google to confirm that the same applies to:

“Less touchy-feely than Joe Biden” (a notoriously touchy feely Democrat Vice president and potential 2020 candidate)

http://mashable.com/2015/02/18/joe-biden-personal-space/#Snz5njDLLOqX

and

“more charismatic than John Hickenlooper” (a notoriously uncharismatic Democrat State Governor)

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/10/john-hickenlooper-party-of-one/381196/

and

“more pleasant than Andrew Cuomo” (a notoriously unpleasant Democrat State Governor)

https://newrepublic.com/minutes/135636/andrew-cuomo-will-never-president

But there you are. It isn’t a satirical piece. Omitting the reference toBernie Sanders must have been deliberate for wapo and blind bloviating for Janet Albrechtson in The Australian. Presumably for wapo it felt cognitively dissonant and for The Australian it was just another opportunity to bloviate about the mindlessness of liberals (I can relate to that!). But they missed all five jokes and no editorial staff noticed. They are genuinely worried that American politics has become insane, which suggests some degree of insight. But they also honestly believe a GOP never trumper mocking liberals side by pointing out that potential Democrat candidates are as absurd as Trump should lead their article as an “objective case” for another celebrity candidate that is part of a “surprising groundswell” that is “uniting both sides of the political spectrum”.

Hopefully they will turn out to be right. So if the whole thing hasn’t fallen to bits by 2024, it could be Condi Rice v Oprah.

5. Fake news. WSJ releases transcript and audio claiming Trump saying “I have a good relationship with Kim Jong un” in response to White House releasing audio of Trump saying “I’d have a good relationship with Kim Jong un”. The difference is easier to spot than comparing “win bigly” with “win big league” because of the intonation used for a hypothetical instead of an assertion. That makes the natural interpretation clearly “I’d” but this is widely reported as yet another Trump lie.

http://www.news.com.au/finance/work/leaders/donald-trump-denies-saying-he-has-a-good-relationship-with-kim-jongun-despite-audio-proof/news-story/b429d359fc08b2069df02023db7a9a89

https://mobile.twitter.com/PressSec/status/952405070955544576/video/1

Compare above report with New York Post:

https://nypost.com/2018/01/14/trump-wsj-falsely-quoted-north-korea-comments/

Which is more likely to have readers continue to regard them as credible?

6. CNN expresses empathy for its viewers who aren’t being paid for participating in the Trump reality television show that CNN’s sponsors are paying CNN for putting to air almost 24/7:

http://edition.cnn.com/2018/01/14/opinions/trump-reality-show-cost-opinion-obeidallah/index.html

7. Fox claiming credit to Trump for reduced unemployment among blacks and hispanics:

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2018/01/06/trump-keeps-his-promise-blacks-and-hispanics-do-better-with-him-than-obama.html

If he can avoid crash before 2020 this is likely to have much more impact than perceptions of racism. Doubt that Trump could ever reach Bannon’s target of 40% of black and hispanic votes but it would certainly reduce the ethnic mobilization for Democrats.

8. Right-wing news reacting to shock, horror at Trump calling hell holes, shit holes:

https://www.cnsnews.com/blog/michael-morris/ben-shapiro-media-lost-their-minds-yesterday-over-trump-s-hole-comment

When will liberals give up on trying to win over conservatives based on imagining that they care so much about polite language?

9. CNN responds to Trumpists pretending that it matters that Trump whether “shithouse” instead of “shithole” by explaining that it was racist because countries like El Salvador as opposed to Norway are Muslim er, that is black, or brown or something (actually .13% black, 86.3% Mesitzo) anyway they are certainly Hispanic so it is obviously racist.

http://edition.cnn.com/2018/01/15/politics/trump-shithole-analysis/index.html

BTW “Salvadorans who are racially European, especially Mediterranean, and indigenous people in El Salvador who do not speak indigenous languages nor have an indigenous culture, as well as tri-racial Pardo Salvadorans, also identify themselves as Mestizo culturally. El Salvador is the only country in Central America that does not have a significant African population….

Very clear that liberals won’t actually challenge Trumpist hostility to immigration and especially immigration from hellhole countries but will just insist on being “nice” about it and express horror at vulgar language.

10. Liberal economist Kenneth Rogoff at the Guardian warns readers that Trump might meet 3% growth target and this could result in higher wages. Explains how to spin it as only benefiting the 1%.

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/sep/11/donald-trumps-3-growth-plan-is-only-for-the-1

If this mentality becomes widespread enough among Democrats then Trump could even win 2018, not just 2020.

11. Officially conferring “fake news” awards on the fake media would be “unethical” and an infringement on the freedom of the press by violating its First Amendment rights not to be criticized…

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/01/15/trump-fake-news-awards-ethics-339183

12. Above confirms it has indeed been an exhausting year for the media, which stands along with the intelligence agencies and the judiciary as the only institutions that liberals can hope might be able to prevent the elected government from governing:

If there is one underlying theme of Trump’s first year, it is his willingness — whether in his disregard for ethics norms relating to his business empire or his belief that he has the “absolute right” to do what he wants with the Justice Department — to flout every expectation and constraint of his office.
It’s a trend evident in his assault on institutions that act as checks on his power, like the intelligence agencies, the judiciary and the press, that will bear the scars after he has left the Oval Office.
“Donald Trump has no regard for rules, he has thumbed his nose at rules his entire life,” said David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has known Trump for 30 years and has a new book out on Trump’s presidency coming on Tuesday.
“He is a dictator in waiting, he talks as a dictator and he will do whatever he wants,” said Johnston, whose book “It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration is Doing to America” concludes that Trump is unique in being the only US president not to pursue policies in the national interest.

http://edition.cnn.com/2018/01/15/politics/donald-trump-first-year-presidency/index.html

So exhausting… WHY DON’T THE INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES JUST PUT A STOP TO THIS ASSAULT ON OUR EXPECTATIONS WHICH ARE THE NATIONAL INTEREST?

Why, or why are we just condemned to writing books about it?

How DARE they mock us with fake awards?

How come the rednecks we mock and hate are STILL supporting Trump just because we hate him and he hates us too. How many times do we have to tell them that we are less vulgar than he is until they get it into their thick heads?

 

 

 

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