Orwell Warned Us About This

Outraged by Helsinki? Please be equally outraged by what has happened this weekend with the Carter Page FISA warrants. And spread the word.

Here’s the threat: “If you repeat a falsehood enough times, many people will believe it. Especially if you have 53.2 million Twitter followers, the bully pulpit of the presidency and some media outlets that uncritically repeat your false claims.” WAPO 202  And, if you control the timing of the release of important information, people will miss its significance.

The government chose this last Saturday afternoon as the moment to release 412 pages of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants related to FBI surveillance of Carter Page, a Trump campaign operative who was under suspicion by the FBI of being engaged in “clandestine intelligence activities” on behalf of Russia. After the Saturday release, Trump then spent Sunday and much of this morning tweeting falsehoods about the information. Congressional Republicans are also tweeting and releasing statements condemning the redactions in the released warrants.

(The FISA documents were released pursuant to Freedom of Information Act requests filed by media outlets as early as April 2017.)

Background: The controversy about these FISA applications first arose in February when House intelligence committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R) released a memo claiming that the FBI misled the FISA Court about Christopher Steele, the former British secret agent who compiled the “dossier” on Trump-Russia ties and who was a source of information in the FISA applications on Page. The main complaint in the Nunes memo was that FBI whitewashed Steele—that the FISA applications did not “disclose or reference the role of the DNC, Clinton campaign, or any party/campaign in funding Steele’s efforts, even though the political origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior and FBI officials.” Nunes later admitted that he had never read the FISA applications himself.

What’s Happening Now: The government’s Saturday release included redacted copies of the initial warrant application from October 2016 and three 90-day extensions of the warrant that were approved by judges under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. They clearly disprove the February Nunes’ memo and support the Democrats counter memo released shortly after Nunes’ release. The Saturday disclosures show that the FBI was developing evidence from its surveillance of Carter Page. The redactions are likely to protect valuable sources and methods — calling for their release is irresponsible and unpatriotic.

Fact: FISA warrants require judicial review every 90 days. This warrant was renewed three times by a panel of four judges appointed by Republican presidents (Reagan, Bush I and Bush II). The length of the warrant applications increased each time as the Justice Department revealed to these judges the information the FBI was getting as a result of the warrant.

Fact: The Nunes memo accused the FBI of dishonesty in failing to disclose information about Christopher Steele — one of the sources named in the warrant, but the Nunes memo itself was dishonest in failing to disclose what the Justice Department disclosed to the FISA court. With the Saturday disclosures, the Nunes memo looks even worse in its mischaracterization of the FBI/Justice Department applications. (Read more in the sources cited below.)

Fact: Trump and other Republicans outcry about the redactions in Saturday’s release is part of their continuing attempt at a coverup.

The Bigger Picture: There is an intense effort to turn standard law enforcement practices into scandalous controversies for the purpose of undermining the Russia espionage investigations.

Further reading:

What to Make of the Carter Page FISA Applications, Lawfare.

With the release of new documents, Devin Nunes’s memo on Carter Page has gotten even less credible, Washington Post

How a Trump Decision Revealed a G.O.P. Memo’s Shaky Foundation, New York Times

The Daily 202: Carter Page FISA warrants underscore the difficulty of disproving presidential falsehoods, Washington Post

Review: The List by Amy Siskind

The “new normal” of American politics is not normal. A week after the 2016 Election, Amy Siskind started The Weekly List – a blog that documents news stories representing eroding norms under the current regime. Now, she’s published the first year of the lists in a book dedicated to “The Resistance.”

The book comes with a forward by Sarah Kendzior, which is worth reading as a stand-alone reminder of the importance of what we do. She writes: “Throughout 2017, the Trump Administration unleashed a firehose of falsehoods designed to prompt Americans to frantically search for the truth, in the hope that they would ultimately stop valuing it…. What is the point of speaking truth to power, citizens would ultimately wonder, if power is the only truth.”

As Kendzior says. “The List is an antidote to the firehose effect of nonstop scandal as well as the gaslighting carried out by the purveyors of alternate facts — and as such it stands as a unique challenge to aspiring autocrats.” The List

I’m a feminist. I don’t want Al Franken to resign. Yet.

Kudos to Kate Harding for her Op-Ed in the Washington Post today.  Having been the senior woman at a large law firm for 15 years (thankfully, there were one or two more senior during my first 5 there), I got stuck on the firm’s original Sexual Harassment Committee. That service was not pretty. And, of course, #MeToo. But, I’m also outraged and afraid about other things in these troubled times.

Harding’s article pretty much captures my take on how we should move forward. I recommend you read the entire article, but I’m excerpting the parts that felt most salient to me. The parentheticals to the author’s text are what I would have said were I writing it:

“If you understand what it means to be a Democrat today — that is, why it makes sense to vote blue over red in this highly polarized political environment — you can understand why it might not make the most sense to demand Franken’s resignation, effective immediately.

“I am a Democrat [in part] because I am a feminist who lives under a two-party system, where one party consistently votes against the interests of women while the other sometimes does not…. I am a realist who recognizes that we get two viable choices, and Democrats are members of the only party positioned to pump the brakes on Republicans’ gleeful race toward Atwoodian dystopia. [And, of course, oligarchy, white supremacy, and the Christian version of an Islamic State.] Meanwhile, I recognize that men’s harassment of and violence against women is a systemic issue, not a Democrat or Republican problem….Its roots lie in a patriarchal culture that trains men to believe they are entitled to control women’s bodies —for sex, for sport, for childbearing, for comedy.

“When you combine these things — an awareness that the Democratic Party is no more or less than best of two, and an understanding that men in power frequently exploit women — it becomes difficult to believe that Franken is the only sitting Democrat with a history of harassment, abuse or assault.

“Sexual harassment and assault are simply too widespread for Democrats to respond to Franken’s offense with only Franken [or some other predator Democrats from the past] in mind: We need to respond in a way that helps us develop a protocol for meaningful change.

“It would feel good, momentarily, to see Franken resign and the Democratic governor of Minnesota, Mark Dayton, appoint a senator who has not (as far as we know) harmed women. If I believed for one second that Franken is the only Democrat in the Senate who has done something like this, I would see that as the best and most appropriate option. But in the world we actually live in, I’m betting that there will be more. And more after that. And they won’t all come from states with Democratic governors and a deep bench of progressive replacements. Some will, if ousted, have their successors chosen by Republicans.

“In other words, if we set this precedent in the interest of demonstrating our party’s solidarity with harassed and abused women, we’re only going to drain the swamp of people who, however flawed, still regularly vote to protect women’s rights and freedoms. The legislative branch will remain chockablock with old, white Republican men who regard women chiefly as sex objects and unpaid housekeepers, and we’ll show them how staunchly Democrats oppose their misogynistic attitudes by handing them more power.

“‘Isn’t that hypocritical?’ I hear you asking, ‘Because Republicans won’t do the right thing, we shouldn’t, either?’ But if the short-term ‘right thing’ leads to long-term political catastrophe for American women, I think we need to reconsider our definition of the ‘right thing.’ I am in no way suggesting that we decline to hold Franken accountable for his offenses — only that we think in terms of consequences that might actually improve women’s lives going forward.

“But in a sharply divided political climate where toxic masculinity knows no party, yet is only ever acknowledged by one, we must think about how to minimize harm to women. One more empty apology and resignation, one more head on a pike, will not make American women safer or better off. Powerful men lifting up women’s concerns and supporting progressive women candidates, however, could be a real step toward changing the culture that makes victims of so many of us.”

Harding goes on to lay out a plan — a sort of plea to Senator Franken. I hope he takes her up on it.

Source: Perspective | I’m a feminist. I study rape culture. And I don’t want Al Franken to resign.

Update:

It’s worth noting another thoughtful piece, this from Michele Goldberg in The New York Times on November 20. Goldberg takes a much more “on the one hand, then the other” approach. I excerpt only the one hand that I agree with:

“Feminists, enraged and traumatized by Donald Trump’s election, know they can’t expect accountability from Republicans, but they’ve forced it from people who claim to share their ideals. As a result, it sometimes feels as if liberal institutions are devouring themselves over sex while conservatives, unburdened by the pretense of caring about gender equality, blithely continue their misrule.

“It’s possible that feminists, in trying to hold Democrats to standards that they
wish were universal, risk unilateral disarmament.

“It’s a strange political fiction that anyone can really separate partisanship from principle. In general, the character of the party that controls the government has a much greater impact on people’s lives than the character of individual representatives. Those who care about women’s rights shouldn’t be expected to prove it by being willing to hand power to people devoted to taking those rights away.”

It’s pretty clear that Republicans are not separating partisanship from principle:  A new Quinnipiac University poll suggests that sexual harassment is less of a dealbreaker for the party’s grassroots in the Trump era than it was before.

  • By a 63 percent to 29 percent margin, GOP voters say they would oppose trying to remove Trump from office even if the multiple sexual harassment allegations against him were proven true.
  • Half of Republican voters nationally believe GOP senators should let Roy Moore serve in the Senate if he is elected next month.
  • 43 percent of Republicans say they would “still consider voting” for a candidate who faced multiple sexual harassment allegations, so long as they agreed with them on the issues.
  • In contrast, 81 percent of Democrats said they would definitely not vote for such a candidate, as did 61 percent of independent voters. Perhaps we should cautiously assess the wisdom of that 81% in light of the earlier bullet points.

Oct 30 revelations

Earlier this month, Mueller filed a charge against George Papadopoulos, foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign. Papadopoulos pled guilty. Read it here:

Papadopoulos statement_of_the_offense.filed_

Today, the indictment against Manafort and his associate Gates was unveiled. Read it here:

manafort-gates_indictment_filed_and_redacted


So, here’s what’s happening. (I think.)
 
Papadopoulos was arrested in July and pled guilty to the charge of lying to the FBI in early October. Based on the allegations in the Charge, he could have been hit with charges of much bigger crimes. So, he must have cut a deal to testify against others. LIke the three Trump campaign officials named in the Charge, one of whom is probably Manafort.
 
The Indictment of Manafort is all about tax fraud and lobbying disclosure violations – predating his role in the campaign. These are big crimes that could get him years in prison and Mueller hoped that threatening him with these charges would get him to testify against others in the campaign. So far, Manafort may be keeping his mouth shut hoping for a pardon. But I’m sure the prosecutors are dangling a jail time reduction in front of him in exchange for testimony. Eventually, he’ll be part of a bigger indictment based on the stuff revealed in the Papadopoulos Charge.
 
So, when Trump tweets “no collusion” and says this stuff happened years ago, he’s ignoring the Papadopoulos Charge and focusing only on the Manafort indictment (which does continue into 2017, incidentally, so he’s mischaracterizing it as well).
 
And Flynn is still in the background — cooperating or not?
 
This stuff is complicated. Stay tuned.

Words from Eleanor Roosevelt

“There can be no real democracy unless there are three basic things: 1. Economic security sufficient to give at least some minimum to make living worthwhile. 2. Sufficient education to understand the problems before the country and to help solve them. 3. The sources of information must be free — press, radio, movies.”

To remain free, “we have to watch other factors…such as bankers, subscribers (by which she meant donors), and advertisers. They have to be watched by the people as carefully as government is watched.”

As reported in the 3d volume of Blanche Wiesen Cook’s Eleanor Roosevelt biography.

The End?

There was a brief, shining moment:

In the beginning, the President (a Republican) sought to preserve public lands and break up monopolies which were oppressing the people. During this time, citizens, acting through their townships and states, established and spread free public education for all American children.

Another President (a Democrat) sought to secure the basic welfare of the people with Social Security.

Another President and Congress welcomed our GIs home from a war that saved the world from fascism by giving them help to attend college, buy homes, and healthcare for life.

Another President (a Republican) enforced desegregation of our schools and connected our country with a great interstate highway system.

Another President (a Democrat) guaranteed healthcare for the elderly and extended health care to the poor while also enforcing voting rights and nondiscrimination in the commercial sphere.

Another President (a Republican) signed laws to protect the air we breathe and the water we drink.

Another President (Republican) signed a law to bring the disabled into fuller participation in our society.

All of that took place over about 90 years.

More recently, for a briefer moment (not 17 years, but 8), another President (a Democrat) extended health care to millions, starting with children and then even more recently to adults.

But to some of our citizens, all of these are simply “costs” not moral imperatives. The power of this minority of citizens has grown while the indifference of the majority has swelled. It’s not clear to me that the majority can be rallied to continue the greatness of 20th Century America. The crass minority has been very good at providing circuses while getting slowly more miserly with the bread they provide. The majority needs to rally or one day they will wake up to find barely enough to live, and many of them will find death.

America is at a crossroads, do we go back to paying for public goods because this is the moral thing to do. Or, do we follow a false slogan? #MAGA is a lie.

Inspired by: The End of the American Experiment

Review of 1944: FDR and the Year That Changed History by Jay Winik

1944: FDR and the Year That Changed History1944: FDR and the Year That Changed History by Jay Winik

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m really a 4.5 not a 4-star on this book. It’s not as good as his April 1865. But it is very good. The title somewhat misleads in that the book covers a lot of history before 1944; however, it’s point is the consequences of the decisions made, or avoided, in 1944. A bit repetitive at times: The beginning tries to capture the reader by previewing all to come — not a good technique in my opinion.

I’ve read a lot about FDR and WWII and this covered some new territory for me. If I hadn’t covered the previous territory with authors such as Rick Atkinson and Doris Goodwin, I might have been lost. So, maybe the 4 is just right.

View all my reviews