A Few Notes on Fascist Politics

My copy of Jason Stanley’s excellent, short book How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them is on its way back to the library.   While reading it I wrote about the book in some detail HERE.    Before I turn it in for others to read (noting that free public libraries are one of the great institutions of democracy) I’d like to share some additional notes, which follow his ten points of fascist politics. 

MYTHIC PAST:   We once were great, then we were weakened by our eternal enemies, we will struggle to become great again.

PROPAGANDA:  if you can control the information and the spin that the public gets, the battle for public opinion is largely won.    Stanley wrote the book a couple of years ago, so he doesn’t give the following example (but I can):

An investigation reveals troubling evidence of wrongdoing by the president.  The president hires a new Attorney General to take control of the situation, which is threatening to spiral out of control for the president.   The new A.G. does not release the fully redacted summary of the report that is given to him by the investigator.   Instead the new A.G. announces that since the investigator “punted” and didn’t make a charging decision (for reasons the A.G. conveniently ignores) he has been forced to make the hard call on the mass of evidence contained in the report.  That call is “no collusion, no obstruction”.

“No collusion, no obstruction” is the only news the public has until a month later, when the A.G. releases the redacted report and the investigator’s own summaries.  By then, most Americans believe the president has been completely and totally (or at least largely) exonerated by a nothing-burger investigation.  Even though there is a massive trove of evidence that looks very incriminating to the president.

Even though the last lines of the Report  say if the investigator could have exonerated the president in the face of the weighty evidence against, he would have exonerated him.  He could not exonerate him.  No matter.

Propaganda is always simple, nuance is hard and tricky.  Who are you going to believe, someone who confidently says “I never lie” or a person who writes 448 dense pages of legalese examining the evidence behind that assertion in excruciating detail?

ANTI-INTELLECTUAL:  rigorous intellectual debate tends not to support fascist politics or the policies of fascism.   Everywhere fascism triumphs intellectuals and open debate have been removed from the public sphere.   Stanley writes (of the removal of certain books and subjects from university curricula):

The priorities here make sense when one realizes that in  antidemocratic systems, the function of education is to produce obedient citizens structurally obliged to enter the workforce without bargaining power and ideologically trained to think that the dominant group represents history’s greatest civilizational forces.  Conservative figures pour huge sums into the project of advancing right-wing goals in education.  For example, the Charles Koch Foundation, just one of the conservative foundations in the United States funded by right-wing oligarchs, alone spent $100 million to support projects largely devoted to conservative ideology at around 350 colleges and universities according to some sources. 

and

Throughout Mein Kampf, Hitler is clear that the aim of propaganda is to replace reasoned argument in the public sphere with irrational fears and passions.

UNREALITY:  believe half of what you see, none of what you hear, and everything the leader says.   There are facts and there are also, more importantly “alternative facts”.   

This disorienting storm of falsity, and distortion of language itself, is a deliberate tactic of fascist politics.  Stanley discusses  the liberal concept of  “the marketplace of ideas” where good arguments will, through the use of reason and persuasion, drive out bad arguments.  At least that’s the theory.

The argument for the  “marketplace of ideas”  presupposes that words are used only in their “descriptive, logical or semantic sense.”  But in politics, and most vividly in fascist politics, language is not used simply, or even chiefly, to convey information but to elicit emotion.   

and of special, sickening relevance to our current political situation:

…citizens look to politics for tribal identification, for addressing personal grievance, and for entertainment.   When news becomes sports, the strongman achieves a certain measure of popularity.  Fascist politics transforms the news from a conduit of information and reasoned debate into a spectacle with the strongman as the star.

HIERARCHY:  This applies to groups as much as to individuals in fascist politics, which, as Stanley’s title conjures, divides the world into us (good) and them (bad). Members of the inferior “them” groups are the ones citizens of the superior “us” group may freely take out their frustrations on.  

In the day to day politics of fascism, on a personal level, loyalty to the leader is the most important element to rising in the fascist “meritocracy”.

VICTIMHOOD:   Stanley begins the chapter describing President Andrew Johnson’s veto of the Civil Rights Act of 1866.   Johnson vetoed it on the ground that

“this law establishes for the security of the colored race safeguards which go infinitely beyond any that the General Government have ever provided for the white race.”  As W.E.B. Du Bois notes, Johnson perceived minimal safeguards at the start of a path toward future black equality as “discrimination against the white race.”

The fascist in group is always the fully justified, righteous victim of the angry out group.

LAW and ORDER:  This slogan stands in for the idea that law will be used to preserve and protect the desired order.   

A healthy democratic state is governed by laws that treat all citizens equally and justly, supported by bonds of mutual respect between people, including those tasked with policing them.  Fascist law-and-order rhetoric is explicitly meant to divide citizens into two classes: those of the chosen nation, who are lawful by nature, and those who are not, who are inherently lawless.

Stanley focuses on the explosion American incarceration where people of color are disproportionately arrested, convicted and sentenced.   Law and Order is a slogan that resonates much stronger than “we are afraid, as Jefferson was, of the righteous rage of a race on whose neck we have kept our foot for centuries.”  Nixon exploited this powerful, racially charged euphemism  in his presidential campaigns (his “southern strategy”) as have virtually all right-wing politicians since.  

SEXUAL ANXIETY:  Fascist politics is patriarchal, with the strongman leader as the hyper-masculine father of the nation.    Demonizing anyone who deviates from this vision of mythic order is a common element of fascist politics. 

SODOM AND GOMORRAH:  cities, which tend to be places where diverse populations live and work, and differences are tolerated, even embraced, are seen in fascist politics in stark contrast to the country, where the mythic national purity they extoll still prevails.   Stanley cites a  few counter-factual lines from one of Donald Trump’s campaign speeches:

“Our African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape that they’ve ever been in before, ever, ever, ever.   You take a look at the inner cities, you get no education, you get no jobs, you get shot walking down the street.”  And yet during this time, cities in the United States were enjoying their lowest rates of crime in generations and record low unemployment.  Trump’s rhetoric about cities makes sense in the context of a more general fascist politics, in which cities are seen as centers of disease and pestilence, containing squalid ghettos filled with despised minority groups living off the work of others.

ARBEIT MACHT FREI:  “Work Will Set You Free” was the false promise on the gates of places like Auschwitz where slave laborers were routinely worked to death.  Hard work is a trait of “us”, laziness and parasitism are traits of “them”.  It is not a stretch to argue, in a fascist society, that vicious, life-sapping parasites should be worked to death.

Stanley spends some time laying out the fascist hostility to organized labor.   In labor unions workers of various races, backgrounds, genders, sexual and political orientations have common goals: better working conditions, fair pay.  These shared goals tend to unite working people who fascists seek to keep apart, exploiting their differences to create the hierarchic caste system necessary for a fascist regime.

Mr. Hitler again, from Mein Kampf, calling the kettle black in the way of fascist leaders everywhere, projecting on to their enemies exactly what they are doing:

“[The Jew] is gradually assuming leadership of the trades-union movement– all the easier because what matters to him is not so much genuine removal of social evils as the formation of a blindly obedient fighting force in industry for the purpose of destroying national economic independence”  

Stanley demonstrates that fascist politics is more effective under conditions of stark economic inequality.    

I note that while the many of the wealthy captains of Germany industry were initially alarmed and horrified by Hitler’s rise,  as many of their counterparts here in America were by Trump’s ascendance, they soon found their profits rising, their wealth greatly enhanced and their privileges well-protected.   The most unscrupulous of the German businessmen availed themselves of Hitler’s generous offer of very low cost slave labor.  The SS charged $1 a day for death camp prisoners who could, literally, be worked to death making products for Germany.  

It has long appeared to me that slave labor (as long as their slavery can be kept secret) is the ultimate dream of corporate bottom-liners.   Corporate employers in Nazi Germany had the perfect situation, hard working very low cost employees who spent their nights in death camps and, obviously, no labor unions.   Hitler abolished them shortly after taking office, after allowing organized labor a last May Day parade in 1933 — he outlawed collective bargaining and the right to strike. 

This rascal we have now as president, I have to say, seems to check every box of fascist politics.  He is not alone, as the party he has seized leadership of has been steadily heading this way for the last few decades.  Hard to blame them, really.   The vast privileges of the inheritors of immense intergenerational wealth are threatened by the notion of things like a social safety net, a commitment to pursuing our common goals (like preventing the destruction of our biosphere) and fulfilling the basic human needs of citizens great and small.   The exponents of fascist politics, a politics of division, have expertly used people like Mitch McConnell and Mr. Trump while enlisting widespread support for otherwise unpopular policies that only help the already powerful.

God bless these United States, man.

 

Hope Hicks answers to Congressional committee “inadequate”

Hope Hicks, a young woman who was one of candidate and president Donald Trump’s closest aides (she served as a top White House press official) appeared before the House Judiciary Committee last week.   She “testified” for eight hours, with five attorneys (two personal, two White House, and one from the DOJ.  The DOJ?  WTF?)  present to advise her, and, according to the transcript of the closed door meeting, gave inadequate (NO) answers to 155 questions.  The White House lawyer objected each time, claiming she was immune to testifying about anything that happened during the presidency of the most transparent president in history.

Her name appears in the Mueller Report more than 180 times.   She was, for a long time, known as the president’s closest confidante.  Her testimony could go a long way toward illuminating the president’s state of mind and his intent in the days he first began trying to shut down the Mueller investigation.  

Although, of course, current Attorney General Bill Barr has already taken care of the issue of president’s completely, unimpeachably non-criminal intent.   He  famously excused the president’s many guilty-appearing actions as the understandable anger and frustration of an innocent man unfairly attacked by traitors and spies.   And Bill Barr, we all know, is an honorable man

Hope Hicks spoke, under oath, to Mueller’s investigators about Trump’s rage when Robert Mueller was appointed Special Counsel on May 17, 2017.  He was, according to Hicks, who saw the president immediately after his outburst at Jeff Sessions in the Oval Office, as upset as she’d ever seen him.  

The only other time she saw him as distraught, she told Mueller’s vicious partisans,  was when the completely out of context, innocent Access Hollywood pussy grabber tape came out toward the end of the 2016 campaign.  When Sessions told the president that Trump himself was now under investigation, Trump apparently said “I’m fucked.” before lashing out at Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III:

According to notes written by Jody Hunt—then chief of staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions—Trump “slumped back in his chair and said, ‘Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m fucked.’”

“The President became angry and lambasted the Attorney General for his decision to recuse from the investigation, stating, ‘How did you let this happen, Jeff,’” the report continues, paraphrasing Hunt’s notes.

Sessions himself told the special counsel that Trump said, “’You were supposed to protect me,’ or words to that effect,” according to the report.

“’Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency,’” Trump continued, per the report. “’It takes years and years and I won’t be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.”

source    (obviously Breitbart, FOX and The Stormer cover this material differently)

here is a direct citation to a searchable version of the lying, vicious, totally exonerating Mueller report where you can find the quotes cited above on page 290

 

OK, truthfully, between you me and the lamp post that any one of Trump’s treasonous enemies could be hanging from (in Trump’s perfect world) — the Democrats are reaching here.  Hicks was close to the president, true, and told Mueller that the president was very angry that Jeff Sessions would not protect him, as Roy Cohn [1] (who was disbarred toward the end of his despicable life) always had.   But, seriously, is that any reason to put her in position to commit perjury to protect the man she owes her career to?  (She’s now an executive at the company that owns FOX news).

Let us not forget, Hope Hicks gave those Democrat traitors on the Judiciary Committee a legal sounding reason for not answering anything they asked.  She cited “Absolute Immunity” a perfectly legal sounding term one of Trump’s more creative (and brazen) lawyers pulled directly out of his Roy Cohn-like homophobic ass.  Will this novel yet legal sounding reason for giving inadequate sworn testimony stand up in court? Only if Boof Kavanaugh has the final say.  

Although, even Boof would probably be constrained by the long held, indisputable legal principle that says once a privilege is waived (as Executive Privilege was waived  for Hicks once the then White House employee voluntarily spoke under oath to Mueller) it cannot be reasserted.

The fucking law again!   So goddamned unfair!   Where is Roy Cohn when you need him?!!!

 

[1]  (recycled footnote from here)  

Because when I have any doubt about a factual assertion I make here I do a quick and easy fact check, I asked google “was Roy Cohn a homophobe?”  He was, many sources agree.   Here is one of the results that came up in about one second, a marvelous little summary of the career of this malevolent creature, a career I highlighted in a footnote scroll to the bottom of this one for two excellent treatments of this evil fuck:

Roy Cohn – RationalWiki

Sep 5, 2018 – Roy Marcus Cohn (1927–1986) was a lawyer, a rabid anti-communist, a closeted homosexual and homophobe, a Jewish anti-Semite, …

Some readers (Jews in particular) might find this review of two biographies of Cohn the reviewer waded through, disturbingly fascinating.

20171220_144243.png

(above) the self-hating Roy Cohn, living picture of Dorian Grey.

Lawyerly Understatement

I missed delivering to you a wonderful, if also sick, punchline in the debate over whether Trump obstructed justice, continues to obstruct justice by willfully disobeying legal requests for documents and testimony and ordering everybody in his orbit to resist, to dummy up.   He is one lawyered up presumed-innocent guilty-acting motherfucker, I’ll say that for him.

Lawyers with any skill are masters of evasion, within the narrow bounds of truthfulness and their ethical responsibility the best of them can obscure the truth like nobody’s business.   Think of Bill Barr’s supremely misleading remarks at his confirmation hearing, Boof Kavanaugh’s tearful and evasive rant at the end of his sickening confirmation process.   Numerous demonstrable lies, but none, arguably, rising to the level of perjury.  A good lawyer knows how to walk purposefully up to the line of perjury and phrase things so his answer achieves the desired purpose without crossing the line.   

This ability to cavil [1], and the willingness to employ cant [2],  while directing attention away from damaging truth, is the main reason lawyers are so despised by so many.   Just make it plain, you lawyerly fuck.   There is even a movement, in law schools, to encourage young lawyers to write in plain English.   I don’t know how well it’s caught on.  Most of the legal writing I wade through is larded with conditional phrases, qualifiers, finely parsed distinctions, self-serving characterizations and shit like that.  We long for people to just speak plainly, just say what you mean, particularly lawmakers and government officials.  Speak plainly without lying– not a lot to ask, even from lawyers.  Plain talk is refreshing, it restores our faith in our human capacity to communicate openly.

Procol Harem’s “Whiter Shade of Pale” is apparently one of the most popular wedding songs of all time.   The band made many millions in royalties over the decades since the song was on the charts.   One member of the band, the organist who wrote the distinctive Bach-like intro, was not credited as one of the songwriters.  He received no royalty checks.   An interviewer spoke to him during his lawsuit against the others for the millions in back royalties he claimed were owed to him, and the right to future millions.   

The interviewer (you have to picture both of them as British, which they are, for the full effect) listened to his story and said “so, you’re saying they could have been more generous to you.”   

 “They could hardly have been less generous,” the uncredited songwriter replied. [3]

We have Robert Mueller, lifelong conservative and former FBI director, a public servant seemingly beyond reproach, a Marine and before that an Eagle Scout.   He investigated a president who was constantly trying to undermine his investigation, made several attempts to rig the outcome, including a few feints toward firing Mueller, actively discredited Mueller’s impartiality and eventually hired a faithful and dogged Attorney General who vowed to protect him no matter what the investigation found.   Mueller found a mountain of evidence of apparent presidential wrongdoing, but he obeyed a regulation that he said compelled him to abide by two OLC memos, both written during presidential impeachments, and from which he concluded he had an ethical and legal duty not put the president under an unfair cloud.  

Let’s be clear.   The president bragged about being ready to speak to Mueller any time, but his rotating army of lawyers (notice that nobody works for Trump for very long) vetoed that.  Trump, they all agreed, would be walking into a “perjury trap”.  We note that a “perjury trap” only works against a compulsive liar who has at least one dirty secret to hide.  The president consented to answer written questions from Mueller, questions he claimed, ridiculously, to have answered all by himself.

Fast forward past Bill Barr’s numerous infomercials for his boss’s exoneration by a disappointing Mueller who weakly punted responsibility to the A.G. to make a final, binding charging decision about the extent of the president’s arguable misconduct and his corrupt acts done with the power of the president of the United States.    This was a month before any part of the completed report was released to anyone but Trump’s lawyers, the only people so far to have seen the document before it was redacted.

Past Mueller’s remarkable letter to Barr, the letter that was not seen by the public until many weeks later.   Mueller’s letter was immediately after Barr’s public comments on the report.   Mueller contested Barr’s distorted mischaracterizations, informing him that his misleading remarks have caused public confusion and requesting again that Barr immediately release Mueller’s own redacted summaries.   The remarkable letter, a very important piece of evidence for Congress, is here.

Past the month that Barr waited to release anything from Mueller but his own deliberately misleading spin about COMPLETE AND TOTAL exoneration, which many Americans who will never even read an article about the 448 page report (“that speaks for itself”) believe to be unimpeachably true in spite of instance after instance, with names, dates, quotes from people involved, all fitting a larger, consistent, pattern of obstruction of justice.

Past the month after that, before it was revealed that Barr had perjured himself when he said under oath that he had no idea how Mueller felt about his characterization of the Special Counsel’s findings.   He mocked the question, in the way that religious men who believes they are carrying out the Lord’s will often do and got a laugh from the Republican peanut gallery in the Senate that day.   “How would I know what Bob thinks of my summary?”

Past the day, a month later, when the letter from Mueller (dated two months earlier) that told Bill exactly how Bob felt was revealed.  As soon as Bob heard Barr’s lying summary of his findings he wrote to correct the record.  Bob was angry enough to put it into writing, make a record that he was protesting this confusing mischaracterization of the investigation’s conclusions finally became public.   Mueller was obeying the best instinct of a law-abiding lawyer, he was making a record.   With luck, fifty years from now when everything is unsealed, posterity will know that Bob Mueller was, in the end, an honorable man.

Mueller got up in front of cameras, the day he retired from his role as Special Counsel, and spoke publicly for almost ten minutes.   His remarks were bookended by the continuing untruthful spin of the deeply religious, God-fearing protector of the Unitary Executive, William Barr.   Mueller spoke carefully, like a lawyer.  He may have reiterated that the president, rather than, as he claimed, fully cooperating with investigators, submitted answers that were “inadequate.”   I don’t think he cited the president’s refusal to answer follow up questions to remedy the inadequacy of his lawyers’ written answers.

“Inadequate”, that was how Mueller characterized the answers you can read here.

I was surprised to find the interrogatories on-line.   I’d heard that Trump’s attorneys had answered virtually every question with a variation on “I don’t recall”.   I scanned and found this to be true for every answer I read.   Mueller’s questions are detailed and lawyerly, a challenge to read, and in light of the evasive answers given, not worthwhile struggling to read.   

Trump’s team of lawyers worked hard to craft the carefully phrased answers, virtually all of which are variations of “I don’t recall” or “I have no specific recollection” or “for the life of me, I truly don’t remember” or “how do you expect me to remember a detail like that?   Wouldn’t that make me look guilty if I did remember doing that, fuckface?”

Here’s what you do, and I promise it is worth the payoff.  Quickly skim the questions, just looking for names you are familiar with, run your finger quickly down the questions.  You’ll see Manafort and Flynn and Jared asked about.   The president answers, under penalty of perjury, that he doesn’t recall anything and that he’s been informed his office has already fully cooperated and provided all necessary documents and information.  Publicly the president was whining daily about the unfair, illegal witch hunt against him which was so unfair and vicious and SAD!

Skip down to Mueller’s last long, complicated question.  It is about Michael Flynn, K.T. McFarland, Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, Jared Kushner, Erik Prince, “or anyone else associated with the transition”.   Follow your quick moving finger down  until you get to the president’s last “inadequate” answer.  GREAT SHIT!

Go read it now, quickly, just follow your finger to the bottom, it will take a minute.  Otherwise this next bit will be a spoiler.

Mueller could have told America, more accurately, truthfully, straightforwardly, unequivocally and unconfusingly:  “not only did the president refuse to cooperate with requests to speak to him directly, his legal team submitted evasive written answers pleading no memory of anything and, in one remarkable display of contempt I’ve never seen in my long career as an attorney and in law enforcement, refused to answer at all.  Not even another assertion about the presidents monumentally poor memory.   You figure it out, assholes!”

“Inadequate”?  Trump’s last written answer to the Mueller investigation  could hardly have been less adequate! 

click here for question and final answer

 

[1] cavil (v):    make petty or unnecessary objections.  complain, carp, grumble, moan, grouse, grouchwhinebleat, find fault with, quibble about, niggle about…

[2] cant (n — can also be used as a verb):  hypocritical and sanctimonious talk, typically of a moral, religious, or political nature;  the pretending of having virtues, principles, or beliefs that one in fact does not have; dissembling, dissimulation, hypocrisy, insincerity, false piousness    

words related to cant:  deceit, deceitfulness, deceptoin, deceptiveness, dishonesty, double-dealing, falsity, perfidy, two-fadednees, affedtation, affectedness, pretense, pretension, pretentiousness, sanctimoniousness, self-righteousness, self-satisfactoin, duplicity, fakery, falseness, fraudulentness, shamming, artificiality, glibness, oiliness, smoothness, unctuousness 

antonym: sincerity

[3]     from WIkipedia:

In 2005, former Procol Harum organist Matthew Fisher filed suit in the High Court against Gary Brooker and his publisher, claiming that he co-wrote the music for the song.[44] Fisher won the case on 20 December 2006 but was awarded 40% of the composers’ share of the music copyright, rather than the 50% he was seeking and was not granted royalties for the period before 2005.[45]

Brooker and publisher Onward Music were granted leave to appeal, and a hearing on the matter was held before a panel of three judges during the week of 1 October 2007. The decision, on 4 April 2008, by Lord Justice Mummery, in the Court of Appeal upheld Fisher’s co-authorship[46] but ruled that he should receive no royalties as he had taken too long (38 years) to bring his claim to litigation. Full royalty rights were returned to Brooker.[47]

On 5 November 2008, Fisher was granted permission to appeal this decision to the House of Lords.[48] Lawyers say it is the first time the Law Lords have been asked to rule on a copyright dispute involving a song.[49] The appeal was heard in the House of Lords on 22–23 April 2009.[50]

On 30 July 2009 the Law Lords unanimously ruled in Fisher’s favour. They noted that the delay in bringing the case had not caused any harm to the other party; on the contrary he had benefited financially from it. They also pointed out that there were no time limits to copyright claims under English law. The right to future royalties was therefore returned to Fisher.[51][52] Both the musicological basis of the judgment and its effect on the rights of musicians who contribute composition to future works have drawn some attention in the music world.[53]

How to Answer a smart-ass witch hunter

Here is the very last response to Mueller’s written questions to Donald Trump.  Mueller called Trump’s responses “inadequate”.  You be the judge.  If the maniacally detailed question overwhelms you, scroll directly to Mr. Trump’s response at the bottom.  

SPECIAL COUNSEL’S OFFICE:

b. Following the Obama Administration’s imposition of sanctions on Russia in December 2016 (“Russia sanctions”), did you discuss with Lieutenant General (LTG) Michael Flynn, K.T. McFarland, Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, Jared Kushner, Erik Prince, or anyone else associated with the transition what should be communicated to the Russian government regarding the sanctions? If yes, describe who you spoke with about this issue, when, and the substance of the discussion(s).

c. On December 29 and December 31, 2016, LTG Flynn had conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak about the Russia sanctions and Russia’s response to the Russia sanctions.

i. Did you direct or suggest that LTG Flynn have discussions with anyone from the Russian government about the Russia sanctions?

ii. Were you told in advance of LTG Flynn’s December 29, 2016 conversation that he was going to be speaking with Ambassador Kislyak? If yes, describe who told you this information, when, and what you were told. If no, when and from whom did you learn of LTG Flynn’s December 29, 2016 conversation with Ambassador Kislyak?

iii. When did you learn of LTG Flynn and Ambassador Kislyak’s call on December 31, 2016? Who told you and what were you told?

iv. When did you learn that sanctions were discussed in the December 29 and December 31, 2016 calls between LTG Flynn and Ambassador Kislyak? Who told you and what were you told?

d. At any time between December 31, 2016, and January 20, 2017, did anyone tell you or suggest to you that Russia’s decision not to impose reciprocal sanctions was attributable in any way to LTG Flynn’s communications with Ambassador Kislyak? If yes, identify who provided you with this information, when, and the substance of what you were told.

e. On January 12, 2017, the Washington Post published a column that stated that LTG Flynn phoned Ambassador Kislyak several times on December 29, 2016. After learning of the column, did you direct or suggest to anyone that LTG Flynn should deny that he discussed sanctions with Ambassador Kislyak? If yes, who did you make this suggestion or direction to, when, what did you say, and why did you take this step?

i. After learning of the column, did you have any conversations with LTG Flynn about his conversations with Ambassador Kislyak in December 2016? If yes, describe when those discussions occurred and the content of the discussions.

f. Were you told about a meeting between Jared Kushner and Sergei Gorkov that took place in December 2016?

i. If yes, describe who you spoke with, when, the substance of the discussion(s), and what you understood was the purpose of the meeting.

g. Were you told about a meeting or meetings between Erik Prince and Kirill Dmitriev or any other representative from the Russian government that took place in January 2017?

i. If yes, describe who you spoke with, when, the substance of the discussion(s), and what you understood was the purpose of the meeting(s).

h. Prior to January 20, 2017, did you talk to Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner, or any other individual associated with the transition regarding establishing an unofficial line of communication with Russia? If yes, describe who you spoke with, when, the substance of the discussion(s), and what you understood was the purpose of such an unofficial line of communication.

TRUMP:

(No answer provided.)

source

Obstruction 101

If people are investigating you, to see if you had the intent to obstruct their legal investigation, the first thing you do is block everything they might want to see or hear, anything that could be used against you.

Did you launder money or knowingly do business with international criminals you may still be in business with?   Block access to all of your financial transactions, particularly the shadier ones, like dealings with a bank that loaned you $40,000,000 to make a court-ordered $40,000,000 payment to that same bank.   The second loan was given after you lost in your attempt to avoid repayment to that same bank using a wildly creative, legally implausible interpretation of force majeur (a natural disaster, an “act of God”, that can void a contract).  source    [1]

That’s why we have aggressive lawyers, to tie things up in court for as long as possible.   If the buzzer goes off before the court rules against you– you win.   That’s what winners do, win.

Did your lawyer speak under oath to federal prosecutors and say things that are very damaging?   Perjury may be your only hope, smearing the guy as a perjurer, because the lawyer, and others, like your loyal personal assistant, gave sworn testimony that makes you look guilty of knowingly and deliberately obstructing justice.   Their testimony, if truthful, goes to your clear intent to block the investigation.  If they testify to Congress on television, your ass might well be cooked.   Forbid them to testify by abusing a privilege that could take a year for a court to rule on!   Meantime, call their credibility into question, along with their loyalty.   Nobody the public hates more than a rat.

Are you accused of abusing the tremendous powers of your office?  Double down.   If they can’t prove you’re abusing the powers of your office before the buzzer goes off, you could skate on the whole abuse of power thing.

If your consigliere insists on following the law, say in the matter of recusal, which is triggered by the mere “appearance of impropriety”, humiliate the guy publicly in hopes that he will quit.   If he doesn’t quit, as the heat is turned up on you, simply ask for his resignation.   When he resigns, find more pliable, tough, ruthless hitmen to take a bullet for you.    If you can find a really smart, loyal one with a history of having absolutely no shame, so much the better!   You can ride out anything with someone who is a genius of playing out the clock and covering up evidence for decades!

Of course, you refuse to speak to investigators and answer all written questions “I don’t recall”.  It turns out you can actually read a detailed recent example of this technique, employed by our current US president, here.

The main thing is never to cooperate with somebody with the power to hurt you.  The world is dangerous, everyone can hurt you.   Rule of thumb– don’t give an inch, to anyone, ever.   What are they going to do, impeach you?

 

[1]  from the Trump, Inc. episode linked above:

➧ Deutsche Bank’s private wealth unit loaned Trump $48 million — after he had defaulted on his $640 million loan and the bank’s commercial unit didn’t want to lend him any further funds — so that Trump could pay back another unit of Deutsche Bank. “No one has ever seen anything like it,” said David Enrich, finance editor of The New York Times, who is writing a book about the bank and spoke to Trump, Inc.

To use or not to use the F word

How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them,  by Jason Stanley

(book review, or, more accurately, my recommendation of a thought-provoking book I am still reading)

It’s tempting, when a leader panders to ethnic hatred, relies on propaganda and attacks the press as the “enemy of the people”, consolidates power by demanding personal loyalty and threatening all opponents, exhibits excessive cruelty in his policies (like tearing children from the arms of their mothers), defends his actions by constantly attacking enemies he villainizes, rewards loyal cronies by appointing them to key positions they are unqualified for, openly monetizes his office for his own gain, is openly contemptuous of democracy and all law, except when laws can be used against enemies,  is compelled to publicly brag at every opportunity… it’s tempting to call such a leader a fascist.

Fascists, it’s true, also despise intellectuals, reasoned debate, media that is not fawning (and party-controlled), anyone in a position to apply reason and demonstrable facts in an argument opposing the leader’s will.  Dissent is seen as treason in a fascist, one-party state.   Anything not broadcast on the state-run channel is attacked as fake.   Fascists do many of the things our Orange Menace does here, it’s true, but is it correct to call Mr. T a fascist?

Jason Stanley, Jewish egghead know-it-all from Yale [1], son of holocaust survivors, makes an excellent case in his slim, very readable book How Fascism Works.   One can quibble, as some historians apparently have, that some of the economic policies of “classical fascism” are not in play in the USA and therefore… blah blah blah, but Mr. Stanley makes a very compelling case that we are dangerously close to becoming a fascist state, certainly as far as our politics goes.    He goes through ten characteristics of fascist regimes, focusing on fascist politics, and Trump scores beautifully on each of them.  (At the risk of seeming to ape Mr. Trump’s twitter style, I will put each of these characteristics in ALL CAPS)

The philosophy of fascism, if we may call a crude and violent system of coercion like fascism a “philosophy” (Stanley, a philosopher, reasonably takes no position on this) is born in struggle.  An eternal, existential struggle is a necessary element of the fascist worldview.   Like the titanic struggle Mr. Hitler heroically waged, after realizing the Jews were at the root of all evil, decadence and humiliation in Germany, and then overcoming a million enemies and a thousand obstacles to attain the leadership of Germany in order to finish the struggle against Jews and lead a pure Germany for the next thousand years.    Fascism is a philosophy of perpetual heroic war against evil, devious, inhuman enemies that must be eliminated.

Stanley starts with the MYTHIC PAST conjured in every fascist worldview. At one time our nation was great, the myth goes, it had the greatest culture and was glorious and undefeated in war.   Then X destroyed that greatness, by treacherously injecting our culture with fatal weakness.   To make our country great again, we must destroy X, inoculate our people against the residue of their poison, and eliminate anyone who has sympathy toward X and their repellant ideas.

PROPAGANDA is essential to the rise of a fascist state.  Masses have to be convinced of this mythic past and the necessity of a ruthless war to make the nation great again.  The only chapter in Hitler’s Mein Kampf that is not the incoherent blathering of a rabid dog (my words, not Stanley’s) is his shrewd, ruthless analysis of propaganda.   Stanley quotes historian W. E. B. Du Bois, who wrote in a discussion of propaganda in history that once the ideals of historical scholarship, truth and objectivity are bent strictly toward advancing a political goal you have propaganda, not history.   This rewriting, or forced forgetting, of fact-based, inquisitive history is a primary aim of totalitarians.  History itself must be replaced, in a fascist regime, by propaganda.

Stanley writes “political propaganda uses the language of virtuous ideals to unite people behind otherwise objectionable ends.”  He gives the example of Nixon’s “war on crime”, a campaign that concealed the racist intent behind Nixon’s selective (it was the blacks, Nixon believed, the goddamned blacks) crime control policies.  War, whatever reason it is actually waged for, is always couched in stirring, moral terms.  You cannot sell an idea like war without powerful slogans to persuade the public it is morally necessary.

In a commercial, advertising-driven democracy like ours, we are bombarded by a free flow of messages, increasingly so since we began carrying tiny personal computers in our pockets.  It is this free flow of ads and other “content” that gives a repressive ideology a chance to flourish (this is not one of Stanley’s points, but follow me here).   Stanley quotes Josef Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda and public enlightenment, who famously said “this will always remain one of the best jokes of democracy, that it gave its deadly enemies the means by which it was destroyed.”   Goebbels also shrewdly noted (it should be noted), that the Nazis, if they won their war against Jews, would be regarded as history’s greatest benefactors, if they lost, they’d be remembered as the world’s most notorious criminals.  Word, history is written by the victors, in the blood of the vanquished.

Stanley’s third characteristic of fascism is ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM.   Traditionally intellectuals debate each other based on a great deal of reading, citing other intellectual’s studies, theories and conclusions to bolster their arguments.  The free exchange of ideas is essential to intelligent discussion of any problem.  Fascists despise this kind of thing.  In fact, the first thing they do is round up all the eggheads and kill as many as needed to get the cooperative silence they need to have only the fascist point of view heard.

OK, you can say, if you love Mr. Trump, he’s not anti-intellectual, he’s an extremely stable genius who has read many books, or at least one book, and he uses the best words, unbelievable words, and doesn’t rely on bullying anyone who criticizes him.  You get the idea.  

The shamelessly intellectual Jason Stanley, to the great annoyance of people who hate criticism of a great man, keeps quoting other sources, as his type (and mine) always seems to do, in support of his conclusions.   As no less an authority on fascism than Mr. Hitler himself wrote, in Mein Kampf:

All propaganda should be popular and should adapt its intellectual level to the receptive ability of the least intellectual of those whom it is desired to address.  Thus it must sink its mental elevation deeper in proportion to the numbers of the mass whom it has to grip… the receptive ability of the masses is very limited, and their understanding small, on the other hand, they have a great power of forgetting.  This being so, all effective propaganda must be confined to a very few points which must be brought out in the form of slogans. 

Hitler made it clear that the aim of propaganda is to “replace reasoned argument in the public sphere with irrational fears and passions” (Stanley’s words).  Bingo.  Fear of a hoard of illegals who rape, kill, torture, smuggle drugs, hate freedom replaces all reasonable discussion of solutions to a massive refugee crisis that is complicated and difficult to solve.

In terms of “messaging” which of the following resonates more powerfully and is easier to retain as the definitive end of the subject?

“No collusion, no obstruction, complete and total exoneration.”

or

“The evidence we obtained about the president’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that would need to be resolved if we were making a traditional prosecutorial judgment. At the same time, if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

One fits on a T-shirt (or red baseball cap) the other would require you to read hundreds of pages to even know what the fucking long-winded, lawyerly fuck is even talking about.  You choose!

Stanley then moves on to UNREALITY.   Language, traditionally used to clarify and elucidate, is co-opted to serve the needs of the fascist ideology. Words are often repurposed to mean the opposite of what they have always meant.  For example, sonderbehandlung “special handling” used to indicate the delivery of fragile and precious cargo, was stamped on the papers of stateless Jews on their way to Nazi death camps.

You cannot believe, according to a fascist leader, the things you see with your own eyes, these things are recast in some other, more purposeful, way.    Observable facts are rightfully opposed by equally compelling “alternative facts.”   Hannah Arendt points out that a “normal” person in Nazi Germany (normal from any traditional notion of morality), where mass-killing of enemies was considered necessary and highly moral, would have been considered abnormal, immoral enough to lawfully execute.  

In a society where it is normalized to take crying babies from their mother’s arms and lock the kids in cages you compare to “summer camp”, the person who objects to this admittedly tough but necessary measure, is called hysterical and an enemy of freedom.  Unreality becomes the new reality in a fascist state.

As for the famous liberal notion of a “marketplace of ideas” where reason rules and wise opinions vanquish stupid ones, forget that.  “…in politics, and most vividly in fascist politics, language is not used simply, or even chiefly, to convey information but to elicit emotion,” notes Stanley.  “Attempting to counter such rhetoric with reason is akin to using a pamphlet against a gun.”

HIERARCHY is Stanley’s fifth criterion of a fascist state.  Equality of citizens is seen as a ridiculous and destructive myth in fascism, which celebrates strength and despises weakness.   The greatest, chosen because of their clear superiority, lead the fascist state, the citizens follow their leader without question, recognizing the leader’s superiority.  Like the modern corporation, or any bureaucracy, really, accountability flows in one direction only.   Pawns and drones are obliged to obey orders from unaccountable superiors without question, because the person giving the orders is recognized as superior in every sense.  

The notion of human equality, is seen under fascism as a vice of the weak, and an affront to nature, which clearly favors the strong over the weak.  Fascists consider democratic debate, consensus and compromise related vices of the weak, who try to compensate for the fact that they lack the vision and infallible wisdom of the leader by some warped notion of wisdom residing in the memory and values of a community that is responsible for each other. 

One way to make a large mass of burdened people feel better is to assert their innate superiority over another mass of people.   Men are superior to women, whites to blacks, agrarians to urbanites, party members to dissenters.   This little hierarchical trick has worked beautifully for centuries.

Stanley next discusses the essential fascist trope of VICTIMHOOD.  In the fascist worldview the good, blameless people have clearly been victimized by implacable, evil enemies.  Justice demands this be redressed.  These villains should be hanging from lamp posts, from the unabashed fascist point of view.   A victim has every moral right to destroy their longtime abuser.  

I couldn’t help but notice this Hitler-in-the-bunker trope in one of our president’s many angry tweets after the Mueller Report (that totally exonerated him) was released (he is, after all, our Victim-in-Chief):

It is finally time to turn the tables and bring justice to some very sick and dangerous people who have committed very serious crimes, perhaps even spying and treason!

LAW AND ORDER, is Stanley’s next chapter (I have not read this chapter or beyond yet, though I will soon).  Law and Order, of course, are always things to be selectively applied, to enemies only.    Nixon’s henchman John Erlichmann told an interviewer in 1994 that it was impossible to criminalize being black or opposing Nixon or the Vietnam war, but that it was quite possible to make possession of certain drugs a felony under federal law, and that gave the lawless Mr. Nixon an enormous hammer to wield against his many enemies.  

The first thing Trump did when he announced his run for president was to summarily criminalize immigrants and asylum seekers, calling them rapists and murderers.   Which leads us to Stanley’s next criterion of fascism, sexual anxiety.

SEXUAL ANXIETY is a famous driver of murderous lynch mobs everywhere.   Blacks were often accused of raping white women before they were violently removed from prison, often under the watchful eye of local authorities, tortured and killed.    One wonders why there were virtually no accusations of black male slaves, left on the plantations down south while most of the able-bodied white men were fighting the Civil War, raping the wives and daughters of their owners.   It would be easy to understand their motivation, if such violence had happened.  

The absence of  stories of black on white rape during the war underscores the fallaciousness of most of the rape allegations in the years after the war.  The rape charges routinely used to justify a century of unpunished lynching were the product of the sexual anxiety of the racists who committed these bestial acts and used their own sexual anxieties, and righteous, if irrational, sense of victimhood, to justify them.  

Sexual anxiety, or course, is a patriarchal tic, the product of the same hyper-manly “toxic masculinity” that fascist leaders always project.   Why is intolerance of homosexuality often part of the fascist mindset?   Homophobia, literally a “fear of homosexuals”, always plays a large part in the anxieties of patriarchal types.   Who else is scared of somebody else’s sexual preference?

SODOM and GOMORRAH is Stanley’s next chapter.  This refers to the common fascist myth that cities, like universities not strictly controlled by the one-party state, are hotbeds of degeneracy, sin and potential violence, while the countryside is where true human decency prevails.   Cities that give sanctuary to raping hoards of illegals, tolerate homosexuality and transgender people, worship the false, unnatural ideals of equality and democracy are not reflections of the real values of the people.  

The morality of a nation is rooted in its soil, says the fascist myth, the people who live outside of the morally polluted cities are the truly great citizens, denizens of cities are hopelessly corrupt and need to be kept in check, punished.

ARBEIT MACHT FREI  is Stanely’s final chapter.   It is the logical extension of fascist ideology.   Your enemies have been stealing from and undermining the good people for generations, now it is time to turn them into slave laborers.   The name of the chapter is taken from the notorious sign that was worked into the top of the iron gates of the Auschwitz death/work camp. It meant “work liberates”. One of the most famous Nazi practical jokes, that slogan.  

Vernichtung durch Arbeit (extermination through work); i.e., hard labor until death, was an integral part of the Nazi extermination scheme.   Might as well generate capital from the labor of these vicious people you were exterminating, while you worked them to death.   The arbeit macht frei myth/lie reinforced the importance of unquestioning work for the benefit of the most important members of society.   If work could also liberate by enslaving and working your enemies to death?  Win win.

As the child of people whose parents’ entire generation was wiped off the face of the earth by fascists in the space of a few months in 1942, I don’t take any of these signs lightly.   The shit all lines up a little bit too symmetrically.  All indications are that Trump would love to be a fascist dictator, and that he’s pretty close already, with unquestioned support from a lock-step political party, an ideological mass media megaphone/echo chamber  and a sizable part of our population.    

If a leader who is openly contemptuous of law, and has always used the courts to avoid any liability for his many dishonest schemes, is not held accountable by the laws that govern democracy, we are already at the end of the joke Goebbels so enjoyed about democracy providing the means to achieve a fascist state.   If “politics” are nervously invoked by the timid and divided opposition party who fear strengthening a leader they claim belongs in prison, leaving the decision to the voters a year and a half from now rather than using the law to hold him to account, we are already very close to the end of our long experiment in democracy.

If the law is not enforced against unscrupulous people “too big to indict”, out of fear of electoral or other repercussions, we should just resign ourselves to the inevitable.   Line up, get our tattoos, and get into whatever cattle car they send for us to take us wherever they decide we need to end up.  

We have laws that can stop these determined, ruthless motherfuckers, there is no good choice but to use them.  Now.

Meantime, read Jason Stanley’s book, if you need any further convincing on the need to act.

 

[1] I can say this without fear, because I am a Jewish egghead know-it-all from the City College of NY.  Fuck off, Nazis.