Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says he’s personally concluded that Russian interference decided the outcome of the 2016 election

I’ve yet to see it, but apparently James Clapper, who served as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency under George H.W. Bush, Director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency under George W. Bush, and Director of National Intelligence under Obama said today on PBS Newshour that, in his estimation, the Russian interference actually decided the outcome of the 2016 election. This, it seems, is something he also said in print, in his new book, “Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence.”

For what it’s worth, Trump is not terrible happy with Clapper lately, as the former Director of National Intelligence has made it his job these past few weeks to repeatedly shoot down the administration’s most recent bullshit claim, that Obama had placed a “deep state” spy within the Trump campaign with the intention of helping Hillary Clinton take the White House… In a tweet yesterday, Trump called Clapper, who has served four administrations with distinction, the “world’s dumbest former Intelligence Head.” [note: I added the apostrophe for the President in that quote.]

Here, if you haven’t been following along, is President Trump today trying to repeat the phrase “spygate” until it catches on.

This, of course, is bullshit, just like it was a few months ago when we were told that ridiculous “Nunes Memo” was going to prove that the government targeted that great American patriot Carter Page without cause. As you’ll recall, in the case, we eventually discovered that Page had been under surveillance since 2013, when members of the intelligence community observed him meeting with a Russian operative in New York City. And, I suspect, when all is said and done, “spygate” will turn out the same way, with the intelligence community once again having to prove that, yes, they did look into members of Trump’s inner circle, but not because they wanted to collect campaign intelligence for Hillary Clinton, so much as because a number of people surrounding Trump were known Russian assets.

So, yes, it’s probably true that the intelligence community, once they were alerted to the fact that George Papadopoulos, while in a London bar, had told an Australian diplomat that the Trump campaign would be receiving Clinton campaign emails stolen by the Russians, sent an informant to speak with Papadopoulos, in hopes of finding out what in the hell was going on. [This informant, we now know, was Republican Stefan Halper.] The truth is, if Obama, or anyone in his administration, had wanted to scuttle the Trump campaign, it would have been relatively easy. All they would have had to do was pick up the phone, call a reporter, and tell them about the active investigation into Russian interference and the various connections to the Trump campaign. They didn’t do that, though. Not only that, but, if James Comey and others were really trying to throw the election in Hillary Clinton’s favor, chances are that they wouldn’t have came out in the week prior to the election, talking about how the ridiculous Clinton email server investigation was going to be reopened.

But, because a good percentage of the American population is stupid, and since we’ve got a corporatist propaganda channel broadcasting 24/7, we’re talking about “spygate” like it’s a real, fucking thing.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 4 Comments

School shootings, the delay-and-do-nothing right, and those who blame women for “the destabilization of the sexual marketplace”

I’d wanted to write about something else entirely tonight, but then I stumbled across the above tweet, and it sent me tumbling through the looking glass, into a pitch-black world of toxic masculinity and weaponized insecurity, where women, having been debased to the point of no longer being considered human, are seen merely as instruments through which men achieve fulfillment, or, should they decide not to accept that God-given role, obstacles that need to be eliminated by force.

Before I pull you through the looking glass with me, though, let’s start by talking about our most recent mass school shooting.

This past Friday, as I was preparing to head to Kentucky for the funeral of my grandmother, 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis walked into an art class at his high school in Santa Fe, Texas and opened fire on his fellow students. In spite of the fact that two armed police officers were on campus at the time of the shooting, the attack went on for four minutes, leaving 10 dead and another 13 wounded. [The attack was followed by a 25 minute stand-off with the police, at the end of which a wounded Pagourtzis surrendered.]

The response from the right was, to put it simply, unsurprising. Florida Senator Marco Rubio once again offered his hollow thoughts and prayers. [Rubio has taken has taken at least $3.3 million from the NRA.] Texas Senator Ted Cruz said, “We need to be doing everything humanly possible to stop this from ever happening again,” while doing absolutely nothing to stop it from happening again. [Cruz took $360,727 from the NRA in 2016 alone.] And Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who had been tasked with creating a school safety commission in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida this past February, said, “We simply cannot allow this trend to continue.” Of course, since announcing the March launch of her school safety committee, which also includes Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, and Homeland Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, DeVos has done next to nothing. [The commission held one closed-door meeting on March 28, but seems to have essentially stopped work as the nation’s attention drifted away from the Parkland shooting and back to the corruption of the Trump White House.]

While our politicians have done nothing, the student activists of Parkland, thankfully, have continued in their work, recently announcing a five-point plan to decrease gun violence… Here are the high-level policy changes they would like to see made by Congress.

1. Dedicated funding for the CDC to research gun violence
2. Strengthening the ATF’s ability to track and record gun sales
3. Universal background checks for gun purchases
4. A ban on magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition
5. A ban on assault weapons, including a registration or buyback program for these weapons already in circulation

As the Washington Post reported today, though, almost no Republicans have agreed to pursue even these very basic – and popular – changes to current law. While I suppose it’s possible that some could have changed their minds in the wake of this most recent mass shooting in Santa Fe, when the Washington Post reached out to all 237 Republican House members last week, asking what they thought of the Parkland proposal, only 29 responded. And, of those 29, only two said they support all five objectives. [Republican Congressman Paul Gosar of Arizona, responded to the Post reporter by saying, “One more law won’t stop mentally ill or hostile people from killing others,” apparently unaware that, in other countries, laws have, in fact, been effective in curbing gun violence.]

OK, maybe I’m being a bit unfair when I say that no Republicans are coming forward with ideas as to how we might address the fact that we’re presently losing more American citizens in school shootings than in foreign war zones. Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, for instance, had a great suggestion just after the shooting in Santa Fe that left eight students and two teachers dead. He suggested that maybe, instead of decreasing the guns in circulation, we should limit the number of entrances to our schools. “There are too many entrances and too many exits” to properly guard, he said… apparently not considering how much easier it would be for a gunman to kill students running to a single entrance, or how much more deadly school fires would be.

Sadly, though, Patrick’s was one of the more sane responses that I’ve heard over the past few days. Some, as you can see in the tweet at the top of this post, are actually suggesting that these episodes of mass murder could be decreased if only women could be somehow compelled to have sex with young men like Dimitrios Pagourtzis.

You see, several of the men committing these horrible acts have attempted to make the case that they were really given no choice by the women they came in contact with, who, by denying them affection and respect, had robbed them of what was rightfully theirs. By making them incels, or “involuntary celibates,” these men argue, they’ve been left with no choice but to strike back against their female oppressors in defense of their manhood. Before killing 10 people in Toronto this past April Alek Minassian took to Facebook to post, “The Incel Rebellion has already begun!”. And, back in 2014, Elliot Rodger, who killed 6 people and wounded 13 more in California, described himself the same way… as an “incel.” And, while I’m not aware of him using the word “intel,” we’re now finding ourselves talking about pretty much the same thing in the case of Pagourtzis, whose first victim this past Friday was a 16 year old girl who has the audacity to “spurn” his manly advances, apparently robbing him of what was rightfully his.

So, this is how I’m spending my first evening home after attending my grandmother’s funeral… reading about the weaponized insecurity of white males who aren’t being given what they feel is rightfully theirs… The following comes by way of Salon.

Jordan Peterson, the clinical psychologist and University of Toronto professor who was recently canonized as a member of the Intellectual Dark Web, is a serious person. Peterson said as much in a lengthy New York Times profile dubbing him “Custodian of the Patriarchy.” Times reporter Nellie Bowles penned the piece, which has since been labeled a “hit job” and an “assassination attempt” on Peterson’s character.

The article was a followup of sorts to Times opinion editor Bari Weiss’ story on the Intellectual Dark Web, an informal collective of anti-left lecturers and podcasters who have gained notoriety for amassing a significant following on YouTube and Reddit. Peterson, like many of his IDW cohorts, is of the opinion that the progressive liberal agenda of equal opportunity and tolerance contradicts human nature and the Western ideal of individual responsibility. It comes to no surprise that most of Peterson’s audience is made up of young, white males who feel subjugated in a society that is trying to prop up women and racial minorities.

A self-help guru, Peterson has spent a lot of time pondering the source of youthful-male rage, which manifested last month in a terrorist attack in Toronto perpetuated by a man who described himself as an incel–short for involuntary celibacy–a term representing a group of men and an online culture that blames women for their poor sex life.

…Over the course of Peterson’s two-day-long interview with the Times, the academic offered his insights on the relationship between man and woman and how feminism has polluted the natural order.

“The masculine spirit is under assault,” Peterson told the Times. “It’s obvious.”

One of Peterson’s most controversial opinions in the profile is his recommended remedy for the virus plaguing the masculine spirit.

“The cure for that is enforced monogamy,” Peterson said.

It was the type of assertion that usually precedes a laugh and a clarification that it was a joke. But Peterson did not say this in jest…

Oh, and, while we’re at it, just tell me that this Trump comment from earlier today about the curtailing women’s reproductive rights isn’t related…

I’d like to think that humanity can be somehow be salvaged, but, Jesus Christ, it’s getting difficult to stay optimistic these days. It feels as though the very foundation of civil society is crumbling beneath our feet…

And, for what it’s worth, fuck “the masculine spirit”.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 45 Comments

The passing of my Mimi Dorothy

Dorothy Maxine Lambie Avery, the last of my grandparents, passed away yesterday evening at the age of 93 in Lexington, Kentucky, not terribly far from where I was was born 50 years ago, and where she lived for most of her adult life. She was one of my favorite people in the entire world, and I will miss her for the rest of my life. [That’s her as a toddler above, likely in Swedish enclave of Galesburg, Illinois, when she grew up. It looks to me like she sniffing a turkey foot, but I’m guessing it’s a flower.]

Her life was not an easy one. There was tragedy, to be sure. But she handled it gracefully, as she did everything in her life. She was always in control, and knew what she wanted. Or at least it seemed that way to me. When it was time to sell her modest two bedroom home in Lexington and move into a retirement community, she knew it. I seem to recall feeling bad about it at the time, like she should have held out longer, but she was right. She was tired of keeping up a house, and decided it was time to make a change. So she did her research and she moved. No one had to tell her. And she did the same thing again when it came time, after battling cancer for about two years, to move from her apartment into assisted living. I guess you could say that she was decisive. When she made up her mind to do something, like to give up bowling, which she’d always loved, she just did it without complaint. She didn’t bemoan the fact that life was changing. She just assessed the situation, made her decision, accepted it, and moved on. And, while I wouldn’t say that she made a conscious choice to pass away when she did, she confronted the prospect of death in the same matter-of-fact way, calling her three living children together and telling them that she was ready to go.

Her passing, while not sudden, was relatively quick, for which I am grateful. While she fought head and neck cancer for the past few years, she was still somewhat active and engaged up until this past Monday, the day after Mother’s Day. It was then that she slowly started fading away under the care of her hospice nurses, my mother, and my aunts, who stayed by her bedside for several days, talking with her, playing her favorite music, and reminding her of the terrific family that she’d managed to build and hold together these past several decades. [This winter, thanks to my youngest cousin Shane and his wife Samantha, she’ll have two more great grandchildren – her ninth and tenth – something that gave her a great deal of happiness these past few weeks of her life.]

We should all, I think, be so lucky as to keep our faculties until the very end, live into our 90s, and be surrounded by our loved ones when it’s time for us exit this world, on a lovely spring evening, with the birds chirping just outside the window.

Here she is a few years back, on the occasion of her 90th birthday, surrounded by her grandchildren and great grandchildren.

At some point, I’ll try to do a better job of telling her story. Somewhere around this old house of mine, I’ve got a video that I shot over a decade ago of her and her sister Marilyn telling the story of their childhood, growing up among the old Swedes of Galesburg, cracking eggs into their coffee and cooking eels. [As I recall, they told me that a guy came to town once a year with a giant sack full of eels, and they’d run upstairs when they were cooking, hanging their heads out the window so as not to inhale the terrible smells of the old country.] I do, however, want to at least mention my grandfather, as, according to my mother, she was calling his name prior to passing, as though he were in the room with her… His name was Robert Arthur Avery, and he died when I was 12 years old, back in 1980… Here he is as a boy, along with his sister Betty.

Again, I’d have to find those old interviews to know for sure, but I want to say that my grandparents met while rollerskating somewhere as high school students, somewhere in between Galesburg and Beardstown, where he grew up, which was about 80 miles away… As people did at the time, they married young. I’m not exactly sure how old he was at the time, but, given that they married in 1944, as my baby-faced grandfather was headed off to fight Hitler in Europe, she would have been about 19. Here’s the wedding photo, followed by the telegram they sent to my great grandparents back in Galesburg. I hadn’t seen it until my last visit, when she asked me to get it out of a box for her, along with some other photos.

By my calculation, my grandmother was just 55 when my grandfather passed, just five years older than I am right now. I’m having a difficult time processing that… It just doesn’t even seem possible.

While, over the past decade, the radius of her daily activity continued to narrow, she never stopped living her life. She stayed active, playing cards, watching University of Kentucky basketball games, and keeping tabs on her half dozen grandchildren, of whom I’m the oldest… Speaking of things that I’m having a difficult time processing, when I was born, she would have only been 43, which is amazing to me now, being that I was older than that when my son Arlo was born.

Here’s another photo from the family archive. I’m not sure of the year. The man on the left is my great grandfather John Lambie. The infant next to him is my mother, who was his first born grandchild. And the woman on the right is my grandmother, who looks way too young to be raising a child.

Thankfully, during my last visit to see her, which was just about three weeks ago, Clementine was with me, and my grandmother was just a sharp as ever. We played games, talked about family history, went through old photos and telegrams like the ones above, and made the rounds through the assisted living facility where she lived, meeting her friends and the nurses who cared for her. By that point, her hearing and her eyesight were fading, probably due to a reoccurrence of the cancer, which she’d decided to stop treating some time earlier, and she’d lost the use of one of her arms, but she didn’t complain… I know I usually don’t show pictures of the kids here on the site, but, as I think she’d want me to share this, here’s a photo of her and Clementine taken during that visit, just after they’d eaten their milkshakes.

I can’t begin to convey what my grandmother meant to me… It’s difficult to find the words… Although I was a very nervous and shy kid, I always felt incredibly safe around her. She was always unbelievably kind to me, and accepting of the various phases that I was going through, whatever they might be… with one notable exception. I can recall her asking me, after seeing video of one of my bands perform, why I wanted to stand on a stage and “be an asshole” in front of people? She said that on the day that I graduated from college, standing in the living room of the house my friends and I rented at 502 Catherine Street in Ann Arbor. Looking back at the video, it was a fair question. It stood out at the time though, as I don’t think she’d ever questioned anything that I’d done prior to that. There was just overwhelming, unconditional love from her. I don’t want to suggest that others in my family didn’t support me. They did. But she had my back in a way that seemed different. And I will miss her greatly and think of her often. Everyone should be as lucky as I was. I will miss making chicken and noodles together and playing cards. I will miss driving down to Lexington to see her, and telling her about what I’ve been up to. But I will try my best to keep her memory in my heart, and remind my children of her, and the example she set for everyone in our family.

I was fortunate in that I grew up with five great grandparents. She was the only great grandparent, however, that my children ever knew, the only person they’ve talked with at length, for that matter, who lived through the great depression and World War II. She was our link to family history, and now she’s gone. And I feel unmoored. Adrift. She was always this constant in my life. No matter what, I knew that she was out there. And now she’s not. An entire generation of my family is now gone.

What does a family do when they lose their matriarch? It’s something that I’ve been wondering about. Without her, I wonder, how will we hold the family together, as us grandchildren grow up and raise families of our own… It’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot these past 24 hours, as I suspect my sister and cousins have as well. With her passing, we’ve all taken a step forward generationally-speaking, and with that comes increased responsibility… Hopefully we’re all up for the challenge.

Here, before I sign off for the night, are two more photos of her and I together. In the first, I think I must be playing dead as she checks my pulse. [Either that, or I’ve been knocked out, probably by my Aunt Nancy, who was only about a decade and a half older than me at the time.] In the second, we’re together at the cemetery not too long ago, visiting my grandfather’s gravesite.

Posted in Mark's Life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Whistleblower leaked Cohen financial documents because he noticed that they were beginning to disappear from a government financial crimes database

I have no time to post right now, but I wanted to pass along a link to Ronan Farrow’s new article in the New Yorker, which is all about the circumstances surrounding the release of Michael Cohen’s banking records last week. It’s really incredible stuff… Not only does it look as though there were several other fishy Cohen accounts, though with several millions of dollars flowed between he election and the inauguration, but, according to the whistleblower who went public with the information, the reason he did so was because Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) involving the Cohen accounts, which had been in the Treasury Department system, were beginning to disappear… Here’s how the article begins.

Last week, several news outlets obtained financial records showing that Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal attorney, had used a shell company to receive payments from various firms with business before the Trump Administration. In the days since, there has been much speculation about who leaked the confidential documents, and the Treasury Department’s inspector general has launched a probe to find the source. That source, a law-enforcement official, is speaking publicly for the first time, to The New Yorker, to explain the motivation: the official had grown alarmed after being unable to find two important reports on Cohen’s financial activity in a government database. The official, worried that the information was being withheld from law enforcement, released the remaining documents.

The payments to Cohen that have emerged in the past week come primarily from a single document, a “suspicious-activity report” filed by First Republic Bank, where Cohen’s shell company, Essential Consultants, L.L.C., maintained an account. The document detailed sums in the hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to Cohen by the pharmaceutical company Novartis, the telecommunications giant A.T. & T., and an investment firm with ties to the Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.

The report also refers to two previous suspicious-activity reports, or sars, that the bank had filed, which documented even larger flows of questionable money into Cohen’s account. Those two reports detail more than three million dollars in additional transactions—triple the amount in the report released last week. Which individuals or corporations were involved remains a mystery. But, according to the official who leaked the report, these sars were absent from the database maintained by the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or fincen. The official, who has spent a career in law enforcement, told me, “I have never seen something pulled off the system…. That system is a safeguard for the bank. It’s a stockpile of information. When something’s not there that should be, I immediately became concerned.” The official added, “That’s why I came forward”…

So, not only is it true that the Donald Trump’s fixer was shaking down corporations, demanding cash payments to a shell company in exchange for access to the a thoroughly corrupt administration, but it now looks as though someone within Steven Mnuchin’s Treasury Department may have purposefully been deleting reports of suspicious banking activity engaged in by that same fixer. [It may also be true, as Farrow concedes, that these reports could have been removed for other reasons, although I think that’s probably a much less likely scenario, given that it would run contrary to every accepted practice with regard to the federal tracking of suspicious financial events.] This, I don’t think I need to tell most of you, is not at all normal.

Oh, and it’s also worth noting that the Senate Intelligence Committee came out today in support of “the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia, on orders from Putin, carried out an unprecedented election interference effort to help the Trump campaign and hurt the Clinton campaign in 2016”. [The quote is from Mark Warner, the vice chair of the Senate committee. The official statement, titled “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections,” can be found here.] This, of course, directly contradicts the “findings” of the fake House Intelligence Committee investigation which was run by Trump’s friend, Devin Nunes.

update: Here’s Farrow on Good Morning America, discussing this most recent bombshell.

Posted in Corporate Crime, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

I know, let’s separate immigrant children from their families and put them in military warehouses!

CONTEXT FROM THE WASHINGTON POST: “The Trump administration is making preparations to warehouse migrant children on military bases, according to Defense Department communications, the latest sign the government is moving forward with plans to split up families who cross the border illegally.

SOMETHING ELSE TO KEEP IN MIND FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES: “A top official with the Department of Health and Human Services told members of Congress on Thursday that the agency had lost track of nearly 1,500 migrant children it placed with sponsors in the United States, raising concerns they could end up in the hands of human traffickers or be used as laborers by people posing as relatives.

AN APPOLOGY FROM MARK: This subject deserves a better, more thoughtful post than this, and I apologize. I was out late this evening, though, and, by the time that I got home, all I could do before flopping down into bed and drifting off to sleep while watching Joan Crawford in Sudden Fear, was recycle an angry tweet.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Mark's Life, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 32 Comments

Connect

Sidetrack ad Aubree’s ad BUY LOCAL... or shop at Amazon through this link Banner Initiative John Maggie