Is Russian Money Buying American Democracy?

When a spy wants to convince someone to do something, she will often use one of four motivators: money, ideology, coercion or excitement (MICE). A new story from Vox suggests that the Trumpocalypse has been bought and paid for not because of blackmail or nationalism, but as a simple cash transaction.

Seva Gunitsky, a Russian politics professor at the University of Toronto explained his theory to Vox:

The financial connections between Trumpzilla and various Russian banks and oligarchs (business elites with ties to the Kremlin) stretch back decades, which is likely a big reason why he won’t release his tax returns. His election presented Russian oligarchs with an opportunity to recoup losses and leverage debts for political gain.” 

Based on this idea, the Trumpocalypse isn't the product of a master plan by Putin and his army of hackers, or Bannon and his racist ideologues. It's just repayment on a loan.

The theory fits in with Trumpzilla’s unquenchable thirst for cash to overcompensate for his self-esteem, but the truth is probably more complicated. When the dust settles and the Trumpocalypse Netflix series is released, we’ll see that a lot of competing interests used Trumpzilla for their own ends. We just have to make sure we don't wind up paying for it too much.


Persist and Resist

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​Trumpzilla, Temper Tantrums and the Truth

The Washington Post has compiled a synopsis of the current tsunami in the Trumpocalypse, focusing on both the lack of political skill and common sense behind the firing of Comey.

Trumpzilla has surrounded himself with sycophants and amateurs who are either unwilling or unable to tell him no. Without such a person, Trump just walked headlong into a political buzz saw.

The firing is being seen within the Beltway as less of a strategic move and more as a knee jerk reaction from a petulant man child.

“According to Politico, Trumpzilla had grown enraged by the Russia investigation, frustrated by his inability to control the mushrooming narrative around the probe. He repeatedly asked aides why the Russia investigation wouldn’t disappear and demanded they speak out for him. He would sometimes scream at television clips about the probe, one adviser said.”

This is exactly what we need. Even if Trumpzilla avoids a special prosecutor and can’t be removed, he is politically hamstrung. Little or none of his racist, misogynistic, elitist agenda can move forward when his press secretary is hiding in the bushes, conservatives are coming out against him from all sides, and Republicans in Congress are worried about their seats in 2018.

Persist and Resist, ladies and gentlemen.

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Using Free Speech to Justify Violence

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, A new fight-club “fraternity” of young white, pro-Trump men is being formed to defend free-speech rights by racist nationalists and engage in street fighting.

“Our emphasis will be on street activism, preparation, defense and confrontation,” he said. “We will protect and defend our right wing brethren when the police and government fail to do so.”

This just sounds like an attempt to rebrand the Klan to me.

Remember the Moscow Rules...

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Writing Rape Culture into the Healthcare Law

Why would the Trump Zombies want to punish the victim of a horrible crime?

According to Mic and The Hill, the latest version of Trumpcare would label sexual assault as a pre-existing condition insurance companies could use as justification for the denial of coverage.

This is an attempt to profit from rape culture on a systemic scale.

This would create an environment where insurance companies join the rapists (and often the police and the courts) in abusing sexual assault victims for months and years after the initial crime.

This is a cash savings for institutional investors at the expense of the most vulnerable people in our society.

It would also create a chilling effect where victims would avoid reporting their abuse to make sure they could get insurance.

So what kind of country values money more than the health, safety and sanity of its people?

If you ask Trumpzilla, yours does.

Persist and Resist...

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One Hundred Days of Ineptitude

Peter Baker of the New York Times tries to provide insight as the First 100 Days of the Trumpocalypse comes to a close.

“It may not be meaningful, but Trumpence Bannon has invested quite a lot of meaning in the 100-day grading period, deeply anxious that it be judged a success at this early stage. And not just a success, but one with plenty of superlatives: the most successful president with the most executive orders and bills signed and the best relationships with foreign leaders and the most action taken by any president ever in the first 100 days. Even though it’s an artificial barrier.”

Optics have an impact Trumpzilla, and by most benchmarks you are failing.

You have failed the country you are supposed to lead.

You have failed your base waiting for you to usher in their racist, misogynistic and homophobic state.

You are failing the party who helped put you in power.

If you committed treason by colluding with Russia, you’re failed them by not keeping the deal under wraps. You could be succeeding if Putin’s goal is to cripple American international power, but we shall see.

The only people who you’ve helped at this point are the comedians who make a living mocking you, the cable news shows who make money dissecting every broken sentence you utter and the new wave of resistance your clumsy shenanigans have inspired.

Optics have an impact Trumpzilla, and it’s only going to get worse on day 101.

Resist and Persist…

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Lynching: The Public Persecution of The Other

Over the weekend, Aatish Taseer of the New York Times wrote an elegant description about an ugly act of human depravity in Anatomy of a Lynching.

A lynching, unlike a terrorist attack, does not depend on maximizing the loss of life. What matters — whether in the American South a century ago or in India today — are not numbers, but the public, almost orgiastic character of the violence. A lynching is a majority’s way of telling a minority population that the law cannot protect it. That is why in the American South so many African-American men were dragged from jails or hanged outside courthouses — unmistakable symbolism of the law’s paralysis.

The active ingredient in a lynching is silence. Like all forms of theater, a lynching depends on what is left unsaid; it creates a mood, an atmosphere. The silence that settles in after the euphoric act of violence, which all have witnessed, tells a minority group that it has been forsaken. It is this element of a suggestive and creeping threat, in which the state apparatus and a silent majority are complicit, that has the power to demoralize a community as much as the physical acts of violence.

The witch hunts of the past, the lynchings of today, and the near certainty of continuing racist attacks on minorities in the future shows us that there is no limit to the amount hatred and pain that people can inflict on each other. There is also no limit to the amount of love and affection that people can give each other, but unfortunately, the latter is often harder to find than the former…

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Losing Judgement

According to the New York Times, Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam chose to die.

On Wednesday, after responding to an emergency call, officers found the body of Judge Abdus-Salaam, the first black woman and the first Muslim to serve on New York State’s highest court, in the Hudson River with no apparent signs of trauma and no indications of foul play.

On the court, Judge Abdus-Salaam was among the most reliable and steadfast liberal voices, regularly siding with vulnerable parties — the poor, impoverished immigrants and people with mental illnesses, for instance — against more powerful and established interests.

Among her colleagues, she was admired for her thoughtfulness, her candor and her finely crafted and restrained writing style. She was not one to use her decisions as a soapbox to make high-sounding political points or to wax poetic, even when her rulings set precedents.”

Why do misogynistic judges who let rapist go free so they can go to college seem to live forever and progressive judges like Abdus-Salaam feel like they can’t go on? The story says her brother killed himself in 2014, and I’ve seen stories where some elements of suicide are hereditary, but we need more people like her in the judiciary, especially during the Trumpocalypse.

 

 

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Closing in on the Russian Connection

According to both the New York Times and the Washington Post, The Justice Department obtained a secret court-approved wiretap last summer on Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to Trumpzilla presidential campaign, based on evidence that he was operating as a Russian agent, a government official said Wednesday.

This is just another link in the long chain of collusion being investigated by the House, the Senate, the FBI and every major news agency in America. And before you decide this is just a minor procedural step, keep in mind that  “to obtain a warrant, the government needed to show probable cause that Mr. Page was acting as an agent of Russia. Investigators must first get approval from one of three senior officials at the Justice Department. Then, prosecutors take it to a surveillance court judge.”

That means Justice wouldn’t bother getting a warrant if they didn’t think they had a case, and they wouldn’t get a warrant if there wasn’t something worth looking into.

So bombing an empty airfield isn’t going to help him. Sacrificing Bannon as a scapegoat isn’t going to change anything. Whatever was done has already been done. At some point, we’re all going to find out what was done. The only question then will be what we decide to do about it.

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Our Culture of Rape

In the wake of the ongoing reports of misogyny at Fox News, Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times looked at the pervasive nature of sexual harassment in American business.

“Some women who experience harassment confront the perpetrator or confide in friends or family, but the most common response is to avoid the person, play down what happened or try to ignore the behavior.

Many victims, who are most often women, fear they will face disbelief, inaction, blame or societal and professional retaliation. That could be hostility from supervisors, a bad reference to future employers or the loss of job opportunities. Their fears are grounded in reality.”

According to Wikipedia, rape culture describes a setting in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality. Characteristics of this setting include victim blaming, sexual objectification, trivializing rape, denial of widespread rape and refusing to acknowledge the harm caused by some forms of sexual violence.

We’re watching manifestations of it play out with Fox, but it exists throughout the business world. And men don’t adopt rape culture when they get jobs. They learn it in college, and in sports, and in the media and at home. It is embedded in our culture. In many ways, it is our culture and we all suffer for it. Women exist in a hostile environment we create and perpetuate. It doesn’t need to be this way.

To paraphrase Eric Hoffer, rape culture is a weak man’s imitation of strength.

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Resistance to Trumpzilla Requires Collective Stamina

According to Kate Zernike of the New York Times, the Resistance to the Trumpocalypse risks losing momentum.

There is always a fear that there’s a ton of energy now, but these are not professional organizers. They are doing this in their free time — nights, weekends, sick days. This is tough work to do. And while the Tea Party united largely around one goal for seven years, abolishing Obamacare, members of the new resistance have a host of next priorities including pushing an investigation of ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, getting Mr. Trump to release his tax returns, and reversing his executive orders to restrict immigration and loosen environmental protections."

The good news, or bad news depending on how you look at it, is that Trumpence Bannon will continue to blunder through the Trumpocayplse. They can be counted on to provide fresh sources of outrage for the public, the media and comedians around the world.

But as that great 20th century poet said in his seminal work We Be Clubbin’, “Life ain’t a track meet. It’s a marathon. If we’re going to Resist, we need to stay focused and pace ourselves.

Persist and Resist…

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A Carnival of Ineptitude

According to Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times, More and more details are coming out about who knew what before the Trumpocalypse

“New details show Congress and the intelligence agencies racing in the final weeks of the 2016 Presidential campaign to understand the scope of the Russian threat. But Democrats and Republicans who were privy to the classified briefings often saw the intelligence through a political prism, sparring over whether it could be construed as showing that the Russians were helping Trumpence Bannon.”

So far the only person who comes out looking intelligent in this carnival of ineptitude is Putin, and he didn’t even cover his tracks that well.

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Resisting Trumpence Bannon with Art

Eve Ewing published strong support for art against the Trumpocalypse in today’s New York Times.

Artists play a distinctive role in challenging authoritarianism. Art creates pathways for subversion, for political understanding and solidarity among coalition builders. Art teaches us that lives other than our own have value.”

“Trumpence Bannon’s attack on the arts isn’t about making America a drab and miserable place, nor is it about a belief in austerity or denying resources to communities in need. Much like the disappearance of data from government websites and the exclusion of critical reporters from White House briefings, this move signals something broader and more threatening than the inability of one group of people to do their work. It’s about control. It’s about creating a society where propaganda reigns and dissent is silenced.

Most artists will never be famous to any significant degree. Fewer of us will be rich. My books can easily fall into both these categories. But all of us who push against the status quo are fighting against Trumpence Bannon and what it stands for. Music, film, comedy, fiction and every form of expression can be an aid and a comfort in these strange times.

Resist and Persist.

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Trumpzilla's Blackwater Connection to Putin

According to the Washington Post, the former head of the mercenary company Blackwater used his connections in the Arab world to increase unofficial ties between Putin and Trumpzilla.

“Prince’s apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow adds to an expanding web of connections between Russia and Americans with ties to Trumpence Bannon — contacts that the White House has been reluctant to acknowledge or explain until they have been exposed by news organizations.

So the brother of Trumpzilla’s education secretary meets with Russian cutouts in a remote foreign country to broker a communication deal with a foreign dictator? I wish I could write a spy novel with this many twists and turns. The Fall of Trumpence Bannon is going to make a great movie, if any of us live long enough to see how it ends...

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Police Feelings vs. Minority Lives

According to the Associated Press, the Trumpocalypse Justice Department is attempting to roll back Obama Era reforms to local police departments

 “Sessions, an Alabama Republican who cultivated a tough-on-crime reputation during 20 years in the Senate, has repeatedly expressed concern that lengthy investigations of a police department can malign an entire agency. That view reflects a dramatic break from an Obama administration that saw such probes as essential in holding local law enforcement accountable for unconstitutional practices.

Is it better to just let police brutality and the murder of poor and minority citizens go uninvestigated and unpunished so the police feel better about themselves? Why is the emotional health of one group more important than the lives of another group?

Cui bono?

Trumpzilla Isn’t Stupid, but We Might Be…

According to Dylan Byers of CNN, Trumpence Bannon has canceled multiple open press events this week, opting not to let reporters into the room to ask questions.

Before last night, I would see this behavior as the avoidant pouting of a petulant manchild who can’t deal with criticism or even form a coherent sentence on his own. But last night I attended a free speech and democracy panel hosted by Pen America. Timothy Snyder, a Yale history professor and author of a new book call On Tyranny, put Trumpzilla’s actions in different light.

In Snyder’s view, Trumpence Bannon is following the classic script of fascism. His attempts to undermine and marginalize the press is nothing less than the second step in a plan to destroy democracy. The relentless shocking statements, the endless manipulation of the news cycle and the normalization of the absurd are the methods used to cripple truth and make America a 21st Century totalitarian state.

It is easier to laugh at Trumpzilla than to take him seriously. It is comforting to see him as a buffoon and regard any references to fascism and totalitarianism as pure hyperbole. But it is a mistake to think it can’t happen here. Once you subscribe to that fallacy of American exceptionalism, the end has already started.

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