Dehumanize those you wish to destroy

If you see the pleading humanity in the eyes of someone who simply wants to live, you will have a harder time driving a bayonet into him, even selecting his home for a remote controlled missile strike.   Thus, in order to have successful war, and an effective army, you must dehumanize the persons you are about to kill. Those you are about to wipe out must be seen as an inhuman enemy, if you are to kill them without hesitation.  Without the crucial step of dehumanizing the enemy, you are going to have an army with a lot of fucking qualms.   It is common sense to make them hate the dehumanized enemy first, War 101.

This dynamic of dehumanization is not limited to physical war, of course.    It applies, in an increasingly visceral way, to politics in our divided world.   The humanity of the opposing side is amazingly easy to dismiss, particularly when tempers flare.   We believe it is a human right, in a wealthy, industrialized country, to have enough food to eat, sufficient clothing and a place inside to sleep every night.   You believe that people with mental problems, living in poverty, isolated and unable to thrive for one reason or another, are not quite as human as those of us who are not homeless.   We believe that care must be taken to protect the weakest among us.  You believe the weak should learn to be as strong as the rest of us, it is a matter of principle, liberty and life choices.

We can go on and on with the examples.  The fossilized fucking Koch brothers, Charles and David, can smile their grotesque rictus grins now as they prepare for eternal life, to see how far to the merciless side they and their privileged ilk have swung the public discussion about rights and humanity in America.   Tax is equated with murder, liberty trumps every other value — to a man like Charles, born to great wealth who then went out and earned billions of dollars.   I cannot see the humanity of these two motherfuckers, no matter how many philanthropic endowments David seems to make.  

Yet, even these two prime pieces of shit are as human as you or I, presumably.   They have things they love and care about deeply, people and places they are very attached to.  They feel pride and shame, fear and boldness, happiness, sorrow; sometimes they must feel humility, gratitude. 

Like the rapists who keep surging over our borders, in search of young girls and boys to rape.   Like the vicious murderers who mass along the Gaza border with Israel, surging toward the fences and screaming the most hateful things, expressing their deadly wishes with molotov cocktails on kites.   Like those who support Trump/Hillary and all they represent.

If you think calmly, for even a moment, you will see the sickeningly idiotic fallacy of each of the examples in the paragraph above.

For every Mexican rapist who comes to the U.S. border there are many thousands of people, humans, merely seeking a less desperate life.  The vast majority never rape, would never think of doing such a thing.   Yet, they can be painted as rapists, drug smugglers, killers, wetbacks, Spics, Beaners, ass-dickers, what have you.   See?  Then any reasonable person would support using any force necessary to keep these sick fucks out of our great nation.

Same with the Palestinians who are being shot with live ammunition for massing along the Gaza/Israel border every week.   They are not desperate, not living in isolation and generations of poverty– they are all hate-filled terrorists that Israeli snipers may take out with impunity.   The Israeli defense minister proclaimed as much when he approved the use of live ammunition against the masses of Gazans who come to the border fence to rail against Israel’s policies.   All terrorists, not a single one a human being with any human need like any of ours!

Same with those who support a rather angry, harsh president who lies publicly many times every day.   It’s hard for someone like me to remember that these people are as human as I am, as human as people I love and care about.   Every one of them has a compelling reason to overlook the man’s many flaws, see only the greatness he promises to deliver.   Which is a very human thing to do, see the best in somebody, in the face of their large and glaring flaws.  

I can’t see the good in Trump, I think of him as a very dangerous, supremely damaged and self-serving man-child.    I have to look hard to see the humanity of those support him, those who come forward to sing his praises.  I can’t often do it, all I want to do is make them shut up when they open their mouths to explain why a greed-driven, unapologetic, compulsive liar president is actually a great thing for American democracy.

Same with those who voted for Hillary.  I held my nose to vote for her, as did many I knew, but there were people who truly thought she’d make a great president.   Human hopes were placed on her by other humans.  The whole process, very human.

But, fair is fair, it is truly hard to hate if you constantly see the humanity of the person you are supposed to destroy.   Dehumanization is the only humanly possible way to do that.   The enemy must always be nothing like us, he must be motivated only by vicious, inhuman desires.   Otherwise, we’d be constantly killing ourselves and members of our own tribe, and how much would that suck?

 

Again, no law was broken! Witch hunt!

The great Jane Mayer recently reported on the close cooperation between Fox (former home of Fair and Balanced news [1]) and the Trump administration (MAGA!  MAGA!), starting during the campaign (and even decades earlier, actually).  She makes the case that the popular cable news channel is an indispensable ratings-driven propaganda megaphone for Trump.   It’s a problem for American democracy that Fox (whose business model, constantly stoking the fear and rage of its demographic to maximize ratings — the same engine that drives Trump’s political machine) often casts the decisive vote on Trump’s actual policies.  Fox increasingly plays to its demographic base, which is identical to the president’s base.  She writes:

The White House and Fox interact so seamlessly that it can be hard to determine, during a particular news cycle, which one is following the other’s lead.

Terry Gross’s great recent interview of Jane Mayer is here (along with a link to the New Yorker article, The Making of the Fox News White House).

The report details the many key ways Fox helped presidential candidate Trump and the ongoing symbiosis between the administration and the powerful right wing cable news channel.   She describes the long relationship between Trump and Fox owner Rupert Murdoch, an arrangement that dates back to the NY Post days in the seventies when Donald helped Rupert sell papers while building his own billion dollar brand as a gold-plated rascal on Page Six.  [2]

Mayer’s article includes an account of how Fox News buried a blockbuster, game-changing news story on the eve of the 2016 election.  A young female Fox reporter had months earlier uncovered the Stormy Daniels story, Donald stepping out on Melania to have sex with a porn star, shortly after Melania gave birth of Barron.   One reflexively adds — allegedly — though the $130,000 payment and non-disclosure agreement the adult film star signed suggest that something Trump didn’t want anyone to know about went on.  The Fox reporter’s well-vetted story was stalled by editors for months and finally killed, much to her dismay, eliminating any unwanted October surprises.   The reason the reporter, Diana Falzone, was finally given, days before the election, was that “Rupert wants Donald to win”.   [3]

But I ask you, playing devil and advocate both– what law was violated by Trump’s friend’s news channel not airing the destructive news that the president was unfaithful to his wife and paid hush money to keep it quiet?   What law, you merciless bastards?  Reporting the story would have certainly tipped a very close election (between America’s two most widely hated candidates) and probably cost Trump the election, so why would his friend report it?   Again, what law was broken?

I know, I know, “character”, “morality”, “we don’t expect our presidents to be outright in-your-face scumbags,”  blah blah blah.   Those arguments are the last refuge of losers who have nothing, NOTHING!    As for Fox on-air personality Sean Hannity speaking at Trump’s final rally before the 2018 midterm elections — Hannity is not a news guy, he’s on the Fox entertainment side.  He can entertain any idea he wants, support any cause.   He loves Trump, he’s a free American freely being free.   Again, you merciless pricks, WHAT ACTUAL LAW DID HE VIOLATE?

Yeah, I know you America haters will jump on this bit about soon to be former White House Communications director (and former Fox executive) Bill Shine, about the many pay outs to settle sexual harassment suits at Fox:

Shine wasn’t personally accused of sexual harassment, but several lawsuits named him as complicit in a workplace culture of coverups, payoffs, and victim intimidation.  [4]

Again– what law?   What specific law?   You got NOTHING!

Jane Mayer’s The Dark Side is a brilliant and horrifically detailed exposition of America’s recent “rendition” and “enhanced interrogation,” our secret kidnapping and torture program.   The book was, if I recall, a best-seller.    Her more recent Dark Money, equally compelling, equally best-selling,  is a detailed history of the more than forty year Koch Brother struggle to make their father’s extremist anti-majoritarian vision of democracy the credo of the modern Republican party.   These great books should be part of every discussion of recent American history.  

Of course, there is no law that anybody in America needs to know history, or be fair, or balanced, or even rational.   Show me the fucking law, fuckface!

 

[1] As Jane Mayer quietly points out:    (That motto was retired in 2017.)

[2]  Yeah, of course, another fucking footnote… quoted from the article:

Trump became famous, in no small part, because of Rupert Murdoch. After Murdoch bought the New York Post, in 1976, he was introduced to Trump through a mutual acquaintance, Roy Cohn, the infamous legal fixer, who, as a young man, was Senator Joseph McCarthy’s chief counsel. Cohn saw the potential for tabloid synergy: Trump could attain celebrity in the pages of the Post as a playboy mogul, and Murdoch could sell papers by chronicling Trump’s exploits.

[3] Jane Mayer writes:

When Shine assumed command at Fox, the 2016 campaign was nearing its end, and Trump and Clinton were all but tied. That fall, a FoxNews.com reporter had a story that put the network’s journalistic integrity to the test. Diana Falzone, who often covered the entertainment industry, had obtained proof that Trump had engaged in a sexual relationship in 2006 with a pornographic film actress calling herself Stormy Daniels. Falzone had worked on the story since March, and by October she had confirmed it with Daniels through her manager at the time, Gina Rodriguez, and with Daniels’s former husband, Mike Moz, who described multiple calls from Trump. Falzone had also amassed e-mails between Daniels’s attorney and Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen, detailing a proposed cash settlement, accompanied by a nondisclosure agreement. Falzone had even seen the contract.  

[4]   Jane Mayer:

But at least four civil lawsuits against Fox have named Shine as a defendant for enabling workplace harassment. One of these cases, a stockholder lawsuit that Fox settled in 2017, for ninety million dollars, claimed that Ailes had “sexually harassed female employees and contributors with impunity for at least a decade” by surrounding himself “with loyalists”—including Shine. The suit faults Fox for spending fifty-five million dollars to settle such claims out of court.

 

The Privileged Hate Democracy

If you have every advantage in a rigged game you will naturally hate any proposed changes to the rules to make the game more fair.   The hateful anti-majoritarian Koch belief system that is now in full force in our government has advanced largely by stealth.   If the majority of Americans understood the real goals of their many think tanks and other public influence machines, the extent of their dark money funding of extreme right partisan candidates and “grassroots” groups like the “Tea Party”, they’d be horrified.  Sunlight may be the best disinfectant, but these motherfuckers hate it.  As for a fair fight in the court of public opinion– fuck that!   We’re winners, not losers like the rest of you assholes!

So, while it’s sickening, it’s not surprising that the party of Trump, of Fred Koch’s restless ghost, of his vampire heirs Charles and David, of the racists and xenophobes, and the rest of the hateful creatures we thought might have left the stage, cast not a single vote to make our electoral democracy less of a rigged game favoring the rich and powerful.  Money is speech, yo.  If you have a thousand bucks, that’s how loud you speak.  If you have a billion, yo, you speak louder.  Fair is fair.  One man, as many votes as he can buy.

Here’s the pertinent blurb, from today’s Democracy Now broadcast:

The House passed the For the People Act on Friday, a wide-ranging bill that seeks to expand voting rights and curb gerrymandering, reduce big money in political campaigns and strengthen ethics requirements for political candidates. One of the bill’s provisions would make voter registration automatic. This is Democratic Congressmember John Lewis speaking on the House floor Friday.

Rep. John Lewis: “If not us, then who? If not now, then when? The time has arrived to tear down the barrier to the ballot box. Today we are able to do our part in this long fight for the very soul of our nation.”

Not a single Republican voted in favor of the bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already said he will not bring the bill to a vote.

(source)

And Mitch, we all know, is an honorable man.

The Curse of Fairness

Justice Louis Brandeis, among others, pointed out that when we consider what is just we are thinking about what is fair.   Justice is fairness.   Fair enough.    You want someone you are arguing with to admit it when something you say is fair.   “That’s a fair point,” is a concrete step toward agreement.    Children, at a certain age, are obsessed with fairness.   They are right to be, fairness is manifestly better than unfairness.  Sadly, it’s a childish idea that is soon slapped out of young heads by the observable world around them.   The world, by and large, doesn’t really give a rat’s armpit about fairness.   By that I mean that the powerful, who have the option to enforce extremely unfair arrangements, are almost never shy about doing so.

So we have American billionaires, citing their liberty, who cry that raising their tax rate (radically cut by recent Republican presidents) by 2% is as inhuman as placing them in Auschwitz.  OK, in fairness, it was one American billionaire, probably having a very bad day, who publicly carried on that way.   The rest of America’s billionaires  shook their heads, it made them all look bad, even if it was hard for many of them to disagree with the sentiment.  

The American discussion of fairness has been shaped by the beneficiaries of an increasingly unfair arrangement.    In the name of freedom and liberty for all, some compromises must occasionally be made.  The CEO of Amazon, for example, acceded to the until recently unthinkably radical idea that American workers should be paid a minimum of $15 an hour.   Fair is fair.  Nobody who works for the richest corporation in the world should work for less than $600 a week, or almost $30,000 a year, before taxes.   So although he does not allow unionized workers, collective bargaining or other basic mechanisms of what a kid might think of as fairness,  he stepped up and paid Amazon workers the $15/hr.   He continues to make almost $9,000,000,000/hr but, then again, he is an amazing American genius, so, why are we talking about childish things like “fairness”?

Many intractable problems could be solved by investing billions to fix them, poverty being one of them.  It would require a real commitment, and the best ideas of how to do it–  a large scale multifaceted government program, job training, low cost public colleges, affordable housing and so on, but we could eradicate poverty in the wealthiest country in the world, if we were dedicated to doing it.  The same goes for slowing the catastrophic climate disruption we are already seeing.   It will take a commitment, and a lot of money, but it can be done.

America has always had unlimited funds for war (whether justifiable or not) but peace is harder to justify spending money on. A hundred million for the president (whoever he or she happens to be) to launch a massive missile attack against an airbase somewhere?   No problem at all, the blank check is already in your pocket, Mr. President, ma’am.   A hundred million to continue funding a program to make sure the elderly can afford heat in the winter?   Well… why can’t the old fucks just put on an extra sweater, a scarf and a hat?  If they weren’t morally weak or  criminally stupid they would be rich enough not to need the subsidy, right?

(You can fact check me here and  here and see how full of shit my numbers are.)

The discussion is always arranged to make certain ideas– like the vaunted Free Market– sound just and reasonable, while others– like renewable energy and a sustainable rather than extractive economic model— are the mad ideas of crazy radicals (as a $15/hr minimum wage was two or three years back).   The Free Market subsidizes many vastly wealthy corporations and industries to the tune of many billions annually.  How exactly is it free?   No matter, renewal, sustainable— just crazy talk you crazy commie bitches!

I heard this bit from Rupert Mudorch’s FOX mocked the other day by one  of our most successful late night comics.   In a discussion of raising revenues by increasing taxes on the ultra-wealthy, something apparently supported by most Americans, a Fox host fought back the idea in  a laughable but honest way.  The reason 70% of those polled by Fox favor raising taxes on the very rich is that there is a creeping ideology of “fairness” that is about to become an electoral force when these little bastards reach voting age.  

Schools have apparently been teaching children fairness for years, and it has distorted a whole generation’s values!   You can read most of the weak ass “discussion” below. [1]

The idea expressed by Louis Brandeis and others, that justice and fairness are the same thing, is deeply, intuitively true.   Eisenhower appointee Earl Warren apparently believed the same thing, and acted on it as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from 1953 to 1969.   He steered the court to numerous decisions based on common decency and fairness.  He was not shy about what his project was– increasing fairness and justice at law, sometimes relying on the court’s equitable powers– the power to go beyond the law to fashion relief that’s fair.   He got landmark decisions on the Civil Rights of all Americans, took stands to protect workers’ rights, the rights of the poor, the weakest among us.   Warren’s court was one of the most liberal in American history.   This, naturally infuriated many. 

In an excellent, very readable Law Review article called  Justice-as-Fairness as Judicial Guiding Principle,  author Michael Anthony Lawrence writes:

At the same time, many Warren Court decisions were hugely controversial, upsetting the settled expectations of those who benefited from long-entrenched governmental biases and practices. The ubiquitous “Impeach Earl Warren” [2] billboards seen throughout the countryside during the late 1950s and the 1960s reflected the underlying efforts of laissez-faire conservatives to overturn aspects of the New Deal, which began a quarter century earlier. The intensity of the political opposition to the Court’s newfound commitment to fairness and equality was matched only by the infamous pre-Civil War Dred Scott case a full century earlier. To this day and through the decades, conservative jurists, academics, and others have bemoaned the Warren Court’s “lawlessness” and lack of principle.

Laissez-faire conservatives are generally wealthy and content with the status quo, as long as it zealously protects their particular privileges and immunities, their inalienable liberties in the pursuit of happiness.  Laissez-faire [3]  is a French term that translates to “go fuck yourself”.  “Leave it alone” is the mantra of these liberty loving conservatives, unless, of course, the thing you are leaving alone is an honest societal commitment to basic fairness.   Too much fairness is unfair to the most privileged beneficiaries of a system that favors unfettered liberty above all else.   Unfair tyranny over the few by the many!  Stinking majoritarian hoards!

 

[1]  SANDRA SMITH (CO-HOST): There is — what seems to be, a movement against capitalism in this country. This is a piece in Politico, just published: “Soak the rich? Americans say go for it.” In this piece — it talks about how recent polling is showing that the American public is increasingly on board with raising taxes on the rich. As evidence, we pulled up this latest Fox News poll on the issue, whether Americans support raising taxes on the wealthy, on incomes over $10 million. Those that are in favor of that, 70 percent, Charles. Over a million dollars in income, 65 percent are in favor of raising taxes.

CHARLES PAYNE (FOX HOST): The idea of fairness has been promoted in our schools for a long time. And we’re starting to see kids who grew up in this notion that fairness above all and now they are becoming voting age and they are bringing this ideology with them. In the real world, though, you have places, very progressive states like in New York where you have the governor saying, hey, 46 percent of — the 1 percent pay 46 percent of the taxes. Last year in California, the governor, you know, [former Gov. Jerry] Brown said the 1 percent pay 48 percent of the taxes. Let’s not go back to that well anymore. So there’s a practical, realistic idea about this and there’s the ideological, hey I’m going to — it’s the right thing to do. It doesn’t work. But I will say capitalism has to do a better job defending itself….

source

[2]  My footnote:

“Impeach Earl Warren” was embraced by Fred Koch, charter member of the John Birch Society (once the lunatic fringe of the far right) and father of the accursed octogenarian brothers Charles and David Koch, men whose life’s work has been to make the lunatic fringe of the extreme right mainstream.    How proud ruthless Fred would be of these two highly successful motherfuckers!

 

[3]  Google translates the French term laissez-faire into English as laissez-faire.  Nice work, boys.  (without the dash it is rendered as “let do”)

here’s a generic definition of the English term:

lais·sez-faire/ˌ    lesāˈfer/   noun
  1. a policy or attitude of letting things take their own course, without interfering.
    • ECONOMICS
      abstention by governments from interfering in the workings of the free market.
      “laissez-faire capitalism”
    • synonyms:  free enterprise, private enterprise, individualism, nonintervention, free-market capitalism, private ownership, market forces, deregulation

 

Dear Jeremy (second try)

 I’ve been following your journalism since Dirty Wars, was happy when The Intercept launched and  I look forward to your excellent podcast every week.   A major theme of your work is providing historical context, something deliberately erased here in the Land of the Free and the home of purposeful amnesia.   Your five minute recap of American involvement in Iran, prior to an episode about current US-Iranian relations, for example, was immensely helpful in setting the stage for that reporting.  

I have an idea for The Intercept– a well-vetted, searchable historical context archive that can be linked to in any pertinent discussion on the site.  For example, a hyperlink to a concise biography of Elliott Abrams to be dropped into any discussion touching on the administration’s appointment of that Death Squad architect as Special Envoy for Regime Change in Venezuela.  This would include the exact substance of the specific crimes the current AG wrote Bush’s pardon of Abrams for.   That link, in turn, would take an interested reader to a short history of US involvement in Central America.   I think this context archive would be a valuable resource for readers.

Not to say, of course, that the project of history writing is uncontroversial.   The Daughters of the Confederacy, or whatever they were called, spurred the rewriting of the history of the Civil War early in the twentieth century and the Dunning School’s racist views were the dominant narrative for decades.   No longer a story about a war to preserve the federal union, or to end the “Peculiar Institution”, the war and the end of Reconstruction (“bayonet rule”) were gloriously recast with the chivalrous Klan as saviors of the persecuted south.  This narrative was laid out  in Woodrow Wilson’s favorite film The Birth of  A Nation, you know, “history written in lightning”.   Tendentious history is as familiar as “Making America Great Again” or any of the other hollow slogans that sway masses of credulous consumers to one form of civic self-harm or another.

On the other hand, of course, history is based on events, things that actually happened/happen.  I share your belief that a contextualized telling of events based in hard fact and multiple witness testimony is crucial.  The telling may be highly distorted to advance a particular agenda or closer to what actually took place.  It’s an uphill fight here in America, to make the often painful past plain, but as you frequently remind readers and listeners, it’s impossible to understand the present without an awareness of these events and the consequences that flow from them.  

There are a number of great books, and great reporting, whose authors are often viciously attacked by the forces exposed in those accounts.  At the same time their findings are never seriously impugned and threatened lawsuits do not come to pass because the accounts are well-researched and truthful.   Truth is still a complete defense to libel and slander in America, though I recall President Fuckface (all respect) promised to do something about that when he was on the first leg of his now perpetual campaign.

We occasionally read excellent, troubling books, even best-sellers, like Dirty Wars, Dark Money, Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman, deservedly well-decorated books like Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains, that lay out, in great and hideous detail,  things done in our names.   A million people buy them, they are well-reviewed, briefly discussed, later randomly found by interested readers here and there.   A digest of the findings of important books like these would be an excellent resource, and part of the archive I’m proposing for The Intercept.   A category for History (or Context), alongside Politics, Justice, Technology, National Security, Environment, World.

In a nation where facts are increasingly laughed off as bullshit, and are seen as less and less central to seeking or retaining political power (particularly when set against snappy branding and relentless marketing), millions of us still cling to the idea that facts are important, that history is vital to know.    The horrifying story of what was done to Maher Arar in our names should not be a footnote, a bit of arcana known only to a few interested parties on the left.  His “rendition” and torture (and the US dismissal of his case against our government)  should be a widely known object lesson about the destructiveness of extremism, the danger of government opacity.  The details of this kind of story are available all over the internet, if one even knows to look for them.   I’m suggesting a one stop shop where this kind of information, placed in context, can be found easily.  I believe it would be a great service to democracy.

We can hear detailed, learned, expert discussions of something like the Fourteenth Amendment, as I heard recently on a podcast from the National Constitution Center, where a key fact, like the judicially imposed 90 year coma of the amendment, for civil rights purposes, is barely mentioned.   I only knew the details of this almost century-long coma because of a year of research I did while a law student.  The deliberate suspension of the amendment as a personal right of action was barely touched in the Con Law casebook we all yawned our way through.    I listened to the podcast thinking “what the fuck?”  It went on to my list of WTF notes to write, along with dozens to the impeccable Grey Lady and her ilk.   Corporate personhood, it turns out, was the main, almost sole, beneficiary of  Fourteenth amendment jurisprudence during the almost century of its judicially induced deep sleep.  

The Intercept would be a great place to be able to find a link to this, in any story about reparations, or police shootings, or lynching, or voting rights.   The framers of the amendment were alive, and their “original intent” well known when the Supreme Court put the amendment, and the federal laws made to enforce it, into an unappealable juridical coma, less than a decade after the end of the Civil War.  Talk about “what the fuck?” 

I’ve long had a question for you.    Reading Dirty Wars when it came out I was struck by the detailed story of Anwar al-Awlaki you laid out.  It made the US citizen’s unappealable extrajudicial death sentence even more horrifying to me.   In the American press, and literally everywhere you search today, you will see him described as a top al-Qaeda propagandist, sometimes number two man of the terrorist outfit.  You need to search for a while to confirm that the American military and justice sector have no comment on whether he was actually charged with any crime before his extrajudicial execution (a neat way of admitting he wasn’t).    Reading your book I came away with the feeling that his increasing radicalism had been driven by a long campaign of US sponsored persecution here and in Yemen and that no connection had ever been shown between him and any terrorist group.   He appears to have been killed for his forceful exercise of our First Amendment rights.  Have you learned anything since writing the book that makes you believe otherwise? 

Anyway, Jeremy, apologies for this long letter.  If you are interested in this idea, I’d be happy to discuss it with you any time.   You can reach me (here).  Strength to your arm, keep up your important work.   Meanwhile, if you can enlighten me on the Anwar al-Awlaki query, I’d be grateful.

Canary in the Coal mine and Felix Sater

Kurt Vonnegut compared creative types to the canaries British coal miners used to carry into the mines to detect odorless poison gases like carbon monoxide.    When the tiny-lunged bird keeled over in his cage the miners knew it was time to get out of there.   (This practice was apparently stopped in 1986 when electronic sniffers replaced the wee birds).  Vonnegut meant by this comparison that those who fret and worry about communicating to others are often more prone than the rest to succumbing to the invisible deadly gases that are looming to kill everyone.

In an age when the kind of straightforward information in the paragraph above can be found by anyone with internet access and a few seconds to spare, why do we have so much plainly bogus news?   How can lies be fed to us so consistently, so brazenly, with no consequence for the liars?   We are busy living lives of quiet, increasingly hectic desperation in a dangerous world on the brink of massive catastrophe.   WE DO NOT HAVE TIME TO WASTE!  Time is MONEY! Wasting money is a sin.   (As our over 500 billionaires know so well).

It is quaint, I know, to find history fascinating, as I do.   It all flashes by so fast, after all, it’s hard to take note of it.   Did you know, for example, that there is a twenty year-old Supreme Court case, Clinton v. Jones, holding that there is no bar to suing a sitting president in federal court for acts done before he was president?    You could look it up, as Casey Stengel used to say.   [1]

I knew that Clinton’s lies under oath in that case (about sexual relations with a former intern called as a witness by Paula Jones’ attorneys, though she didn’t meet Clinton until years after the president exposed himself to Jones) were the basis for his impeachment.  I remembered (and heard again recently on a Showtime documentary) that the case was dismissed, suggesting then Arkansas governor Clinton did not show his dick to Ms. Jones.   I don’t ever recall hearing that Bill Clinton paid former employee Paula Jones more than $850,000 to end the sexual harassment lawsuit, suggesting strongly that he did something very wrong.  [2]

I don’t know why the intricacies of this world are so intriguing to me, but they are.   I had a friend who attends services and Bible study at the Chabad of Port Washington.   In 2010 and 2014 Port Washington Chabad’s Man of the Year was a wealthy Jew named Felix Sater.   Sater lost his broker’s license after slashing a guy’s face and breaking his jaw in a bar.   He spent a relatively short time in a minimum security prison for the felony assault.   A few years later he pleaded guilty to fraud in a couple of massive financial scams, and gave evidence against his co-conspirators to stay out of prison (and keep his fortune).  

Since he was barred from finance he got into another lucrative line of work, real estate development, and was partners with our current president in at least two massive development deals.  He was the money man for Trump SoHo and the liaison with Russian officials for the planned Trump Tower Moscow.  I’ve been wondering about this nefarious little fucker for about two years, since I first heard of him.  Congress is going to talk to him next week.  He will be under oath, too.

It is so easy to get the outline of the facts these days, but SO MANY FACTS!  [3]

The president is a liar, he can’t help himself.  He’s apparently always been this way.   Everybody knows it.  His defenders say that he never promised not to lie, so there’s that.  Plus, his lies are always in the service of making the country great again.  Plus, he frankly calls “bullshit” on people who call him a liar.  Plus, there’s no law against lying, unless you lie under oath.  If the president ever lied under oath, like the disgraced Bill Clinton, we don’t have the proof of that, and, anyway, if he got away with it doesn’t it just show how smart he is?  He’s not like other people.   He is the president of the United States and the richest, most successful man in the world!

If he paid off a couple of women he had extra-marital sex with to dummy up about it in the final days of his presidential campaign, whose business is that?  Many Americans wouldn’t have voted for him if those stories came out, if he didn’t pay off these women.   He basically had to pay them to shut up or he would have lost the presidential election, because Americans are so judgmental about this kind of thing.   Felony, shmelony!   USA!   USA!!!!

Have we ever had a compulsive liar as president? That would take some digging to know for sure, but I don’t think we ever did.  There have been several total shitbird presidents, without a doubt, but our current guy seems to be setting a prodigious record for lying.  And, most impressively, he’s doing it in an era of almost instant fact checking that can show the lies in real time.   His defenders will point out that he has never been convicted for lying, so shut up, nothing to see here.

It’s morning in America, boys and girls, and history is being written in the blood of those who hate our freedom, their innocent neighbors and a million fucking canaries.    The stories we read about it, so many of them, cunning and deadly as that gas that so often fills my own beak.

 

[1] Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681 (1997), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case establishing that a sitting President of the United States has no immunity from civil lawlitigation, in federal court, against him or her, for acts done before taking office and unrelated to the office.[1] In particular, there is no temporary immunity, so it is not required to delay all federal cases until the President leaves office.[1]

[2]   Wikipedia:

As a consequence of his conduct in the Jones v. Clinton civil suit and before the federal grand jury, President Clinton incurred significant administrative sanctions. The Independent Counsel considered seven non-criminal alternative sanctions that were imposed in making his decision to decline prosecution: (1) President Clinton’s admission of providing false testimony that was knowingly misleading, evasive, and prejudicial to the administration of justice before the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas; (2) his acknowledgement that his conduct violated the Rules of Professional Conduct of the Arkansas Supreme Court; (3) the five-year suspension of his license to practice law and $25,000 fine imposed on him by the Circuit Court of Pulaski County, Arkansas; (4) the civil contempt penalty of more than $90,000 imposed on President Clinton by the federal court for violating its orders; (5) the payment of more than $850,000 in settlement to Paula Jones; (6) the express finding by the federal court that President Clinton had engaged in contemptuous conduct; and (7) the substantial public condemnation of President Clinton arising from his impeachment.   source

[3]    Wikipedia:

Felix Henry Sater (born Felix Mikhailovich Sheferovsky; Russian:Фе́ликс Миха́йлович Шеферовский; March 2, 1966) is a Russian-American former mobster, convicted felon, [6] real estate developer and former managing director of Bayrock Group LLC,[7] a real estate conglomerate based out of New York City.  Sater has been an advisor to many corporations, including The Trump Organization,[8] Rixos Hotels and Resorts, Sembol Construction,Potok (formerly the Mirax Group), and TxOil.

In 1998, Sater pleaded guilty to his involvement in a $40 million stock fraud scheme orchestrated by the Russian Mafia,[9][10] and became an informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and federal prosecutors, assisting with organized crime investigations. In 2017, Sater agreed to cooperate with investigators into international money laundering schemes.[11]

During the 2015-16 American presidential campaign, Sater worked with Michael Cohen, former attorney for The Trump Organization, to broker a deal to build aTrump Tower Moscow, asserting to Cohen that he could boost Trump’s election prospects through his Russian contacts. He is scheduled to testify publicly before the House Intelligence Committee on March 14, 2019.[12]

(and a few details:)  

Felix Sater has been described as a career criminal due to his links to organized crime.[30][31][32][33][34] In 1991, Sater got into an argument with a commodities broker at the El Rio Grande restaurant and bar in Midtown Manhattan. He stabbed the man’s cheek and neck with the stem of a cocktail glass, breaking his jaw, lacerating his face, and severing nerves, creating a wound that would require 110 stitches to treat. Sater was convicted of first degree assault, and spent 15 months in minimum security Edgecombe Correctional Facility in New York City before being paroled.[35][4][23] 

In 1998, Sater was convicted of fraud in connection to a $40 million penny stock pump and dump scheme conducted by the Russian Mafia[9][10]involving his company White Rock Partners. In return for a guilty plea, Sater agreed to assist the FBI and federal prosecutors as an informant in organized crime.

In 2009, he was sentenced to pay a $25,000 fine and served no prison time. As a result of his assistance, Sater’s court records were sealed for 10 years by Loretta Lynch, then the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. Lynch’s decision to seal his records was discussed at her 2015 Congressional confirmation hearings to become attorney general; she stated that Sater provided “information crucial to national security and the conviction of over 20 individuals, including those responsible for committing massive financial fraud and members of La Cosa Nostra.”[36][37][38][39]

The Financial Times, citing five sources with knowledge of the matter, reported that Sater had agreed to cooperate with investigators looking into an international money laundering scheme involving Viktor Khrapunov, a former government minister in Kazakhstan. Khrapunov, who now lives in Switzerland, has been accused by the Kazakhstani government of embezzling millions of dollars and is wanted by Interpol.[11]

Sater received multiple subpoenas to produce documents and be deposed in the case against Mukhtar Ablyazov who is alleged to have defrauded BTA Bank of up to $5 billion as chairman.[40] Ablyazov’s alleged fraud is one of the biggest cases of financial fraud in history.[41]

Involvement with Trump Organization during presidential campaign   [edit]

The Trump Organization pursued a luxury hotel and condominium project in Moscow—dubbed the Trump Tower Moscow—during the Trump presidential campaign. This project was facilitated by Michael Cohen, then an attorney for the Trump Organization, and from January 2017 to May 2018 Trump’s personal attorney. Trump signed a nonbinding “letter of intent” dated October 13, 2015, to proceed with the project.[42] The letter, also signed by Russian investor Andrei Rozov, was forwarded to Cohen by Sater. He boasted to Cohen about his connections to Vladimir Putin, saying in an email to Cohen on November 13, 2015, “Buddy our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it. I will get all of Putins [sic] team to buy in on this. I will manage this process.” He also asserted that he had secured financing for the project through the Russian state-owned VTB Bank, which was under sanctions by the United States government.[43]BuzzFeed News reported on March 12, 2018, that Mueller’s investigators had questioned Sater,[44] and on April 13, 2018, reported that a former Russian spy had helped secure financing for the project.[45] In 2010, Sater was provided business cards describing himself as “Senior Advisor to Donald Trump” with an email address at TrumpOrg.com.[46] In a 2013 sworn affidavit, Trump said “If [Sater] were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn’t know what he looked like,”[47] and in 2015 he stated “Felix Sater, boy, I have to even think about it. I’m not that familiar with him.”[48] Sater is scheduled to testify publicly before the House Intelligence Committee on March 14, 2019.[49]

Personal life[edit]

Sater resides in Port Washington, New York. He has three daughters.[50][51] Felix Sater was a member of the Chabad of Port Washington and was named their Man of the Year in 2010 and 2014.[52][53] In November 2017, Sater put his home inSands Point, New York on the market for $2.5 million.[54] The home sold in February 2019 for $2.03 million.[55]

Just the Facts, Ma’am

The 1950s detective in the fedora ponders the hesitation of the woman on whose doorstep he and his partner stand.   After an appropriate pause, he nods stoically and proceeds.   “Perhaps this world is a hallucination, ma’am, but, that noted, we need the facts, ma’am, just the facts.”

“Officer, I appear to be hallucinating,” says the woman floridly.

“No matter, ma’am, just give us the facts as you see them,” 

“Well, officer, we are all born sinners, as the Holy Bible teaches.   There is Original Sin, the one we all have as a birthright from the first woman and the first man God ever created, who disobeyed Him (in favor of a cunning snake and a seductive woman, respectively) and there are the sins people commit on their own after they are born.    It is hard to tell, officer, which category of sin applies when.   Also, when to roast the unrepentant sinner at the stake and when to hate the sin and love the sinner, that is, when to forgive, even the most terrible sins.”

“Whatever one thinks of any of this, ma’am, the Christian leaders who most righteously frown on sin can also be very forgiving when the sinner is a friend of their cause with a huge public platform.  ‘Who among us?’, you know the drill, ma’am.”    

The woman intently studies something just over the officers’ shoulders.   Neither detective turns to look at her hallucination.

“The Bible also notes, ma’am, that all is vanity, and this striving after the wind benefitteth not anyone who seeks not to lose their soul in a futile quest for that which cannot be found,” says the detective.  

After a suitable pause, the detective continues “all that said, ma’am, what we are really after are the facts.”

“OK, he lied, which makes him a liar, I know that.  I voted for him, knowing that he was a liar, but then he lied publicly more than 8,000 times, so far, as documented by the pundits and their researchers.   We also call them pundents, officer, though I have no idea why so many people have adopted Sarah Palin’s mispronunciation of the word.”

“Perhaps they are being mischeevious, ma’am,” says the deadpan detective mischievously.

“I knew he was not a very ethical man when I voted for him.   I didn’t imagine he would behave this unethically once we made him the most powerful man in the world, literally did not see it coming.   We voted for him to put an end to corruption, to drain the swamp, as he promised to do.   We live in desperate times, officer,  I just did what millions of other desperate people also did.   But you’re not here about any of that, are you?”  

“No, ma’am,” says the detective.  

“So you’re not here about my reaction to his long speech in front of the Conservative Political Action Conference?”

“No, ma’am,” says the detective.  

“I didn’t like to see him hugging the American flag again, or using the word ‘bullshit’, I don’t think that’s a good thing for the president to do, with children watching it on the internet and so on.  On the other hand, I admit, I was impressed that he didn’t hump the flag while he was hugging it.  The temptation to drive his hips into it a few times must have been strong.”  

“Yes, ma’am,” says the detective, with no discernible emotion.  

An awkward interlude follows during which the woman watches a vivid and troubling scene unfolding behind the impassive detectives.

“Well, ma’am,” says the detective finally, producing a business card he hands to the woman, along with a photograph of a dog  “if you see this pooch, please contact me at this number.”  

“We certainly will, officer, always glad to be of service,” says the woman, who then begins keening uncontrollably.