Sunday, May 31, 2020

Opening The Show

The best approaches to opening a rock or pop concert are to have a first song that either comes strong right out of the box and energizes the crowd or something slow, dramatic, and unexpected to rivet their attention.

While living in the Boston area I saw concerts by Elvis Costello & The Attractions on each of their first 4 U.S. tours between 1977 and 1980.  I can't remember the first songs from the 1st and 3rd concerts but Elvis deployed both strategies effectively in the 2nd and 4th shows, both at the Orpheum Theater downtown.

In May 1978, Elvis opened with No Action, also the opening song on his recently released second album, This Year's Model featuring a fast pace, thunderous drumming, and sardonic lyrics (I don't wanna kiss you/ I don't wanna touch/ I don't wanna see you/ cause I don't miss you that much).

In contrast the 4th show started with the stage and theater completely dark.  Suddenly out of the darkness, unaccompanied by any instruments came Elvis' voice, "laying about lying in bed/maybe it was something that I thought I'd said", the opening lines of Just A Memory (a song he'd originally written for Dusty Springfield, who later recorded it), soon to be joined by the beautiful piano playing of Steve Nieve of The Attractions.  It was just Elvis and Steve for the entire song and it certainly caught everyone's attention.

Here are both tunes.  The recorded version of Just A Memory begins with keyboards but the concert version began with Elvis' voice.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

53 Transcripts: Different Worlds, Part 2

Donald Trump's business dealings, lifestyle, management methods, impulsiveness, and the unique way he ran his campaign baffled the career politicians on the Intelligence Committee (and not just the Democrats).  When I was young, I remember people would talk about how a left-handed boxer could throw his opponents off because they weren't used to punches coming from that angle.  Trump was the political equivalent of a left-handed boxer.  Nothing he did made sense from a traditional campaigning perspective but it threw everyone off.

Trump's entire persona was foreign territory, even for Congressmen used to media and meeting well-known people.  Trump's long-time administrative assistant, Rhona Graff, described it this way:
"My understanding of Mr Trump's life is it's like an encyclopedia-sized version of how many world leaders, athletes, movie stars, TV celebrities, characters around New York City.  I mean, his life is just one celebrity after another". (p.77-78)
What Trump and his campaign pulled off is astonishing.  Whatever else you think of the man it was quite an accomplishment to decide you want to run for president, put together a staff with little national, or even local, campaign experience, use an unprecedented and very unorthodox strategy and succeed in a stunning upset.

The downside was with the lack of political sophistication, barebones staffing, disdain for policy details, and the peculiar character of the candidate, a series of acts occurred which, while random and uncoordinated at the time, gave opponents the ammunition to construct a compelling, though fake, narrative that would hobble the President.

From those on the campaign staff, it was those very characteristics that caused their disbelief that anyone would think they were colluding with the Russians in the midst of the chaos.  You can read it in the testimony - they had their hands full just trying to keep the ship afloat and gave no evidence they had the ability to coordinate an international conspiracy.  To them, the conspiracy story was a joke.  As usual Corey Lewandowski put it bluntly when asked about a conversation with Hope Hicks, in 2017 after the Russian collusion story became big:
"I probably said this was all bullshit". (p.27)
Among the unusual aspects of the Trump campaign was it did no polling or opposition research, both of which are standard practices, though once it became clear Trump would be the nominee the Republican National Committee provided the campaign with its opposition research file on Hillary.

Like communications director Hope Hicks, media director Brad Parscale had no previous campaign experience, being hired because he had done some previous work for the Trump organization.  He testified he used "very simple" Facebook targeting with ads that featured Trump talking.  Questioning Parscale about ads targeting groups (with the expectation a lot occurred which could then be branded as another divisive, racist Trump tactic) the Democrats on the committee were clearly perplexed when he responded that there were, "no ads based on race, religion . . . or immigration status" (p.90) though some were based on whether the recipient were male or female.

All of those around him spoke to the characteristics we saw on the campaign trail and since and were consistent with Trump's way of operating long before that time.

Rhona Graff had some "Public Relations" responsibility for Trump prior to the campaign, which really amounted to scheduling her boss and screening calls, but Democratic members peppered her with questions as though she really managed Trump's PR and could not comprehend her responses.  After listening to the back and forthRep Peter King (R-NY) who'd known Trump for many years helped her out:
"And just like people in the White House say they can't control his tweets, you could not control his PR all the time",  to which she responded, "Correct" (p121)
Corey Lewandowski:
"The candidate and I, you may not believe this, but sometimes he goes off script and says what he wants to." (p.144)
Hope Hicks:
"His private comments echo his public comments" (p.66)
Jared Kushner: 
"Again, he controls his Twitter, and it comes from what's on his mind at the time" (p.104)(1)
Kushner summed it up:
"We had a very different type of campaign than most". (28) 
For most of the primary season, Trump's national staff consisted of Lewandowski, Hicks and Sam Clovis, with Donald Jr., Jared, and Ivanka providing family counsel. That was it.

Trump went through a senior political advisor (Roger Stone), prior to his announcement, and three campaign managers, Corey Lewandowski (June 2015-June 2016), Paul Manafort (June-August 2016), and Steve Bannon (August 2016).  Lewandowski hates Stone and Manafort and Bannon hated Manafort.

How Stone got dumped from the campaign depends on who you ask.  According to Lewandowski he fired Stone because, "I didn't believe he brought any value to the organization any longer" (p.54) and adding the following in a Q&A:
"Roger Stone is a liar"

"What did he lie to you about?"

"The time of day, the color of his tie, what color of shoes he was wearing, basically everything and everything." (p.66)
According to Stone, he resigned because he disagreed with Trump's plan to run a campaign based upon big rallies and the massive coverage the candidate was sure he could get from cable news networks.  In his testimony he admitted, "He was right, I was wrong." (p.21) (2)(3)

Lewandowski managed to alienate a lot of people around Trump, who referred to Hicks and he as "kids", particularly Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, who pushed for his removal.  There was also a real and pressing issue facing the campaign as the convention approached.  It looked like there would be a concerted effort by the Cruz campaign and other GOP figures to use convention rules to "steal" the nomination away from Trump and the campaign had no one who understand convention rules, and how to deal with delegates and effectively manage the event.  Paul Manafort, an experienced GOP political operator, seemed to fit the bill, and indeed he effectively managed the convention.

In his testimony, Lewandowski was blunt about his dislike and more significantly, his distrust of Manafort, believing he was self-dealing and stealing money from the campaign (Manafort's successor, Bannon, thought the same), though he couldn't prove it.

According to Bannon, the plan all along was to replace Manafort after the convention, but the timing was accelerated when Manafort's Ukrainian connections became a big media story (Hillary's campaign had been colluding with Ukranian sources on this).  Bannon said the Ukraine story was "a complete shock" to Trump and "he doesn't like surprises".

Hope Hicks told a funny story about Manafort's hiring.  Since Kushner had been responsible for Manafort's hiring, Trump assigned him to do the firing.  Hicks was with the candidate traveling by car in Louisiana the day Manafort was supposed to be fired.  Trump called Jared and Hicks recounts:
"you know has Paul been fired yet?  And Jared said no, I'm taking him out to breakfast first.  And I remember the response of, 'We don't need to buy him eggs.  Let him go'." (p.76)
Bannon portrayed himself as the campaign's savior.  Here's his version:
"When I came on this campaign, it's 84 days to go or 85 days to go, we're down by 16 points, double digits in every battleground state . . . it was about focus" (p.49)

"the perception was and reality was we were pretty far behind until the end" (p.194)

"we didn't have any money, not a lot of organization . . . it [the campaign]was driven by media" (p.237)
He claimed he advised Trump to only focus on three things, in addition to Clinton's corruption; stop mass illegal immigration and limit legal immigration; bring back manufacturing jobs; and end pointless foreign wars.

Bannon's testimony must have been embarrassing for him at times.  Though he'd left the White House a few months before, he had given interviews to notoriously unreliable author Michael Wolff who had just published Fire and Fury an explosive expose of the Trump White House in its early days.  Bannon, holding a grudge against Kushner who he blamed for being pushed out of the White House, was quoted as calling Jared a traitor for arranging the Trump Tower meetings and saying the chances that Don Jr didn't tell his dad about the meeting immediately after it happened "were zero". (4) 

Bannon squirmed around questions as to whether he was quoted directly, but his bad judgment in doing the interviews in the first place reinforced for me his unsuitability to be in the White House in any capacity.  He admitted he only knew what he read in the papers about the meeting and was unaware it was Don Jr, not Jared, who set it up.

With the loose organization, disorganization, and its small size and uncontrollable candidate the campaign was vulnerable.  And as Kushner noted there were, "lots of marginal characters, the campaign did have a lot of hanger-oners in different ways" (p.45).  It's two of those characters, George Papadopolous and Carter Page, we'll next turn to and explain the circumstances under which they became involved with the campaign and the havoc that ensued.

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(1)  Michael Caputo, New York State primary director for the campaign and later Director of Communications for Caucus Operations for the Convention, was fired by the campaign for tweeting a joyous cartoon celebrating the firing of Lewandowski.  In his testimony, Caputo remarked, "I want to stipulate here that the irony of me being fired for a tweet from the Trump campaign is not lost on me". (p.15) 

(2) And, consistent with Stone's behavior over the years, he lied in his testimony to the Intelligence Committee.   I downloaded a copy of his indictment by Mueller's goon squad to have handy while I read his testimony (I'd also followed the trial and was familiar with the evidence presented).  He lied, and he lied on items of no consequence to the issue of Russia collusion or hacks.  As Lewandowski commented, he lied because that's his habit.  It was idiotic, but allowed Mueller to add to the collusion narrative he was creating though the specifics of the indictment had nothing to do with collusion.  AG Barr was right in intervening to reduce the outrageous sentencing request by Mueller's minions, but Stone did lie and was properly convicted.  A fitting end to his career.

(3) Trump's unconventional campaign strategy was brilliant.  The cable news channels gave him more coverage than all of his GOP rivals combined.  He was great for ratings and for MSNBC and CNN it was like inserting a virus into the GOP race.  Even the mainstream newspapers, like the New York Times, were happy to give him disproportionate coverage early on.  His approach also supports my thesis that Trump never expected to win the nomination, let along the Presidency, because his primary motives were branding, thwarting Jeb Bush whom he hated, and having fun.  His strategy was the low-cost and very cost-effective way to go about this.

(4)  I'm convinced Donald Jr did not tell his dad about the meeting, either before or after it happened. I'll explain why in the post on the Trump Tower meeting.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Why

You keep saying no to her
Since she was a baby
You keep saying no to her
Not even maybe
Why?

You say it's a dead old world
Dull and unforgiving
I don't know where you live
But you're not living
Why?
Like The Byrds groundbreaking A-side single, Eight Miles High, it's B-side, Why, was a very heavy song for that time period, sharing with the hit side the fractured and inventive guitar sound of Roger McGuinn.  I can assure you these were both very unusual sounding songs when released in March 1966.

The high harmonies are courtesy of David Crosby, co-composer with McGuinn, who was ejected from the band two years later, going on to form the law firm of Crosby Stills & Nash, from which, years later, he was also ejected prior to the firm's final dissolution.

How Can People Live Like This?

My thoughts as soon as I saw this abomination:

1.  Incredibly dangerous street and sidewalk in wet, windy or snowy weather. 
2.  Wet basements as you go further down the hill.
3.  The houses are mold factories.
3.  Get some building inspectors in there, no doubt mass code violations.

How can this be allowed!

Image

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

53 Transcripts: Different Worlds, Part 1

Having completed reading the 53 transcripts recently released House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (which you can find here) as well as earlier reading many other relevant documents such as the IG and Mueller reports I can assure you there is no evidence showing collusion or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 elections, despite the continued insistence of Adam Schiff to the contrary.

Adam Schiff is the 21st century equivalent of Senator Joseph McCarthy yelling about the non-existent evidence he has of 205 card-carrying communists in the State Department.  Though, as I write this, an alternative way to think about it is Robert Mueller as the addled McCarthy-like frontman for an unethical, ambitious, and partisan lawyer, with Andrew Weissman as the modern version of Roy Cohn.

It's all part of the greatest political scandal of my lifetime and I look forward to the results of the Durham/Barr probe.

And please, will somebody finally tell me who Josef Mifsud was working for???

I'll use this post to reflect on some important background to the collusion allegations and investigation and over the next couple of weeks continue with the series of posts focused on specific aspects of the transcripts.

Reading the transcripts was like wading through Rachel Maddow's Greatest Hits.  Here are the various conspiracy theories covered by the committee (those I've written about or intend to write about are in boldface):
George Papadopolous, Josef Mifsud, and the alleged damaging information on Hillary

Carter Page as key link in collusion

Trump Tower Meeting

Trump Tower Moscow

Miss Universe Moscow and the "salacious allegations" (Fake news, but relevant because Russians.)

Russian Financiers of Trump Org (except there weren't any, but relevant because Russians)

Russian Condo Buyers (after Trump Tower was built, which contains condos separate from the office space, some of the original condo purchasers resold their unit to Russian buyers.  The Trump Organization was not involved but somehow this was relevant because Russians.)

Russian Buying Florida Mansion (Trump bought a Florida mansion and sold it a few years later to a Russian and made tens of millions.  Relevant because Russians.)

Deutsche Bank (so stupid even the D's on the committee gave up on this one.)

Alfa Bank  (Russian owned bank with its servers allegedly connected directly with Trump Org.  Fake news, but relevant because Russians)

Ukraine Plank on GOP Platform

Paul Manafort.  (Supposed co-mastermind behind it all.  Not.  Targeted by Ukrainians working with Hillary Campaign in 2016).

Michael Flynn & The Ruskies

Peter Smith (An eccentric 80 year old GOP supporter who had been trying to find Hillary hacked emails via the Dark Web and who had contact with Michael Flynn.  In 2017, Smith committed suicide after speaking to a reporter from the Wall St Journal which subsequently published an article on his quest.)

The Hacks (DNC, DCCC, John Podesta)

Wikileaks (Bumbling clowns Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi try to get info from Assange but fail).

Michael Cohen in Prague.  (And, according to Steele Dossier, co-mastermind with Manafort of collusion.  I was surprised and impressed with Cohen's testimony - precise, knows the real estate world, impassioned rebuttal of the Steele Dossier, and refused to be pushed around by Schiff and Swalwell.)

Cambridge Analytica.  (Bad because it used data from Facebook, unlike the Obama people in 2012 who were good because they used data from Facebook.)

The 53 interviews cover 5,571 pages and are of 49 individuals (Corey Lewandowski, Steve Bannon, John Podesta, and David Kramer were interviewed twice).  The interviews began in June 2017 and extended into March 2018 with 39 of the 53 in the period from late September to mid-January (and 17 between Dec 4 and 22).  Two witnesses, both with FusionGPS, took the 5th so gave no testimony: Peter Fritsch and Thomas Catan.

Witnesses included 6 of the 8 participants in the Trump Tower meeting of June 2016, Keith Schiller, head of security for the Trump Organization and Trump's personal bodyguard, and Rhona Graff, Trump's administrative assistant since 1987, along with 13 others who worked on the Trump campaign, including three of the four campaign senior advisors or managers (Roger Stone, Corey Lewandowski, Steve Bannon) along with Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr.

Eleven of the transcripts contain redactions so, at times, it is difficult to understand the context of the unredacted materials.  For instance in two of the interviews there is reference to intelligence received by FBI Director Comey in the summer of 2016 that led him to decide to make the decision on the Clinton email investigation himself, but the details are redacted.  The heaviest redacted transcripts were of Susan Rice, Loretta Lynch, James Clapper, Andrew McCabe, and an unidentified FBI Special Agent.  Interviews with fewer redactions were of Samantha Power, Mary McCord (DOJ), John Carlin (DOJ), Evelyn Farkas (DoD), Dan Coats, and Matthew Tait (formerly of UK Intelligence).

Regarding the unidentified FBI Special Agent.  This individual was the original contact for Christopher Steele regarding the dossier (he'd previously met Steele, who was a paid FBI source, in 2009).  He was responsible for getting Steele in touch with the appropriate offices within the FBI.  Other than passing Steele on, he had no involvement in verification of the dossier contents, nor in the FISA warrant application.  The agent heard back from FBI HQ in late September that "information in the Steele dossier corroborated an investigation they had opened previously . . ." (p.36) (1)  He had no knowledge of the connection with the Clinton Campaign, was appalled to find out Steele had been briefing reporters, and expressed his strong support for terminating him.  Came across as professional and credible.

Some of the transcripts were fascinating, some boring, and a few quite funny and entertaining, particularly Corey Lewandowski, Rob Goldstone (the music promoter who set up the Trump Tower meeting) and Felix Sater, the real estate promoter working with Michael Cohen on the Trump Tower Moscow project.

The committee conducted more than 53 interviews.  It previously released its November 14, 2017 interview with Glenn Simpson of FusionGPS which is a conspiracy theory fantasy.  There are also references to additional interviews which the committee did not vote to release.  In addition, other Congressional committees were conducting interviews around the same time, notably of James Comey by the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 8, 2017 and of George Papadopolous by the House Judiciary Committee on October 25, 2018.

The title of this post, "Different Worlds" is a twofold reference.  First to the different political world in which the interviews took place, 2017 is very different from 2020.  Second, the different worlds of real estate promoter BS and that of political operative BS.  They are both BS worlds but so different in their orientation it contributed to the Democratic belief that Trump was a creature from another planet and to the bafflement of the Democrats on the committee as they tried to understand the very unconventional Trump campaign and the financial world of Trumpdom (to be covered in Part 2).

The Political Landscape in 2017

When the Intelligence Committee began its interviews in June 2017 things looked very different than they did in 2019 and 2020.  The Committee was focused on four issues:
Russia's actions with respect to the 2016 election cycle
With whom, if anyone, in the United States did they work with?
The US government response during that period
The role of masking, unmasking in the dissemination of classified information
Though the Republicans controlled the House, the Intelligence Committee was without the services of its chairman, Devin Nunes (R-CA) until the end of the year.  In a clever maneuver, Democrats filed an ethics complaint against Nunes in March 2017, claiming he had leaked classified information in order to help Donald Trump, meaning the first Republican on the committee to smell something was seriously wrong was neutralized.  Nunes was not cleared until the end of 2017, so GOP leadership on the committee fell upon Mike Conaway (R-TX) who, along with Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and Tom Rooney (R-FL) were the most active Republican questioners.  Gowdy and Rooney left Congress in 2018, while Conaway is not running for reelection this year.  Of the other active questioners, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) retired in 2018 and Peter King (R-NY) retiring this year, leaving Chris Stewart (R-Utah) and Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) as the only GOP questioners who will be left in January 2021.  In contrast, only one of the seven active Democrats during the interviews will have left.

Though today most Republicans in Congress are solidly, though some reluctantly, behind President Trump; that was not true in 2017.  The change came about for three reasons:
1.  With the Mueller Report, the IG Report and a flood of other documentation, the extent of the conspiracy against Trump is now evident, the recklessness of agency bureaucrats, the complicity of the media, along with 3+ years of unprecedented obstruction by Democrats in Congress.
2.  The Kavanaugh hearings made it clear that all Republicans will be attacked just like Trump, no one is immune.
3.  The power of Trump with the GOP electorate making Senators and Representatives worried about getting on his wrong side.
But in 2017, Trump's relations with Congress were frayed, his behavior erratic and one never knew where he stood on his own proposals.  Whatever they said publicly, a significant percentage were unhappy he was President.

And on Russia, the President's own behavior made them fear there might be something to the collusion allegations.  The President had commented favorably on Putin, but more than that had put America on the same relative moral plane as Russia.  He had, in his view, merely joked about Hillary's emails but it didn't seem so funny when hacked Democratic emails started showing up in the midst of the campaign (2).   Dark stories about Russian connections were floating around about Carter Page, George Papadopolous, and Paul Manafort and then came the Michael Flynn stories and his resignation.  January saw the publication of the Steele Dossier, about which no one knew the origins.  In May came the firing of Comey, and then the capper, when the President could not stay on script and contradicted the reasons for the firing in his interview with Lester Holt and then gloated to the Russian Ambassador about the firing.  It looked terrible.  And then, three weeks after the committee's first interview (Dan Coats), came news about the Trump Tower meeting which occurred in June 2016.  And let's face it, how many of us are confident that if Trump had actually been presented with a quid pro quo arrangement with Putin that he would have refused?

The truth about the Steele Dossier, that the Clinton campaign paid for it and that there was a direct link between that campaign and Russian intelligence sources, did not begin to emerge until late October 2017 and even then the Democrats managed to muddy the water for a while longer, falsely claiming FusionGPS was just continuing opposition research work it had been doing for a Republican donor (3).

I don't think all the GOP members of the committee knew where the investigation was going to end up when it started and the existence of the Mueller investigation further concerned and constrained them.

While there were interviews focused on the unmaskings and the Obama administration response they were not particularly revealing, except as to the extent of the unmaskings.  As to the response, or lack of it, the line by the Democratic interviewees is that the Obama administration worried that if it made a big deal of Russian interference during the campaign it might backfire and be seen as a political intervention.  Left unsaid was that they feared the intervention might hurt Hillary and there was no need to take that risk since they all expected Hillary to easily win.

That left the Democrats free to play a lot of offense, though many of the Republican members were able to effectively help witnesses.  The leading Democrat questioners were Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell.  Schiff was a very skillful questioner.  In contrast, Swalwell acted like he was always on the verge of asking the one question that would unravel the entire conspiracy and evidenced a very high opinion of his own abilities.  I think Schiff realized fairly quickly the Democrats were drilling a dry hole in the search for a conspiracy but understood the political advantage of continuing the charade.  Swalwell was dumb enough he may really have been a true believer.
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(1) So, with the twisted reasoning we've seen elsewhere in this investigation, the FBI used a dossier that it was never able to corroborate, in order to corroborate the accuracy of the investigation it had previously opened.

(2) In her testimony, Hope Hicks, Trump’s communications director spoke to that specific incident:
“I did make him aware that there were some that were taking this sort of facetious comment to be literal and that we needed to make sure people understood that it was intended to mock those that were suggesting he could possibly be involved with the hack.”
She said Trump, “expressed sort of disbelief that anybody could possibly take it seriously”. (p.60)

(3) On December 12, 2017 the committee interviewed Michael Goldfarb, publisher of the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative publication funded by Paul Singer who backed Marco Rubio for the GOP nomination.  Goldfarb hired FusionGPS to do research on the financial history of the Trump organization (he hired other firms to do oppo research on Hillary).

In April 2016, once Trump seemed assured of the GOP nomination, Goldfarb had FusionGPS end its research and it was at this point Glenn Simpson of Fusion approached the Clinton campaign offering to continue the research.  Steele was not hired until June.

Goldfarb was furious, not just about the dossier when he learned about it, saying "I thought it was bullshit" (p.36), but upon finding out that Fusion was working with a Russian oligarch to overturn the Magnitsky Act, while Goldfarb had worked closely with Michael Browder, the main proponent of the Act.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Naked Eye

It all looks fine to the naked eye
But it don't really happen that way at all 
Among the great rock bands of the 60s and 70s, The Who were notable for how few of their songs were about women and the love of them. Instead, particularly from 1967 through Who's Next in 1971, many of Pete Townshend's songs were about the search for God, faith, and meaning, even songs that on a casual listen you might think were about women, such as Bargain and I Can't Reach You.  Even 1973's Quadrophenia, Townshend's finest lyrical and musical achievement, about a young mod youth follower of The Who back in '64, is about the search for faith and meaning.

One of Townshend's most direct songs on this theme is Naked Eye, from the abortive multimedia Lifehouse Project in 1971.  While some songs from the project were salvaged for Who's Next, Naked Eye did not appear until 1974 grab bag album Odds And Sods.  Striking lyrics below the embed.



Take a little dope
And walk out in the air
The stars are all connected to the brain
Find me a woman
And lay down on the ground
Her pleasures coming falling down like rain
Get myself a car
I feel power as I fly
Oh now I'm really in control

It all looks fine to the naked eye
But it don't really happen that way at all
Don't happen that way at all

You sign your own name
And I sign mine
They're both the same but we still get separate rooms
You can cover up your guts
But when you cover up your nuts
You're admitting that there must be something wrong
Press any button
And milk and honey flows
The world begins behind your neighbor's wall

It all looks fine to the naked eye
But it don't really happen that way at all
Don't happen that way at all

You hold the gun
And I hold the wound
And we stand looking in each other's eyes
Both think we know what's right
Both know we know what's wrong
We tell ourselves so many many lies
We're not pawns in any game
Not tools of bigger men
There's only one who can really move us all

It all looks fine to the naked eye
But it don't really happen that way at all

Monday, May 25, 2020

Six Seconds

Excerpt from speech by Lt Gen John Kelly on November 13, 2010:


[O]n April 22, 2008, two Marine infantry battalions, 1/9 “The Walking Dead,” and 2/8, were switching out in Ramadi. One battalion was in the closing days of its deployment, the other just starting its seven-month combat tour. Two Marines, Cpl. Jonathan Yale and Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter, 22 and 20 respectively, one from each battalion, were assuming the watch at the entrance gate of an outpost that contained a makeshift barracks housing 50 Marines.

The same ramshackle building was also home to 100 Iraqi police, our allies in the fight against terrorists in Ramadi – known at the time as the most dangerous city on earth, and owned by al-Qaeda.
Yale was a dirt-poor mixed-race kid from Virginia, with a wife, a mother and a sister, who all lived with him and he supported. He did this on a yearly salary of less than $23,000. Haerter, on the other hand, was a middle-class white kid from Long Island. They were from two completely different worlds. Had they not joined the Marines, they would never have met each other, or understood that multiple Americas exist simultaneously, depending on one’s race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, education level, economic status, or where you might have been born. But they were Marines, combat Marines, forged in the same crucible, and because of this bond they were brothers as close – or closer – than if they were born of the same woman. The mission orders they received from their sergeant squad leader, I’m sure, went something like this: “OK, take charge of this post and let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass. You clear?” I’m also sure Yale and Haerter rolled their eyes and said, in unison, something like, “Yes, sergeant,” with just enough attitude that made the point, without saying the words, “No kidding, sweetheart. We know what we’re doing.” They then relieved two other Marines on watch and took up their post at the entry-control point of Joint Security Station Nasser, in the Sophia section of Ramadi, al Anbar, Iraq.

A few minutes later, a large blue truck turned down the alleyway – perhaps 60 to 70 yards in length – and sped its way through the serpentine concrete Jersey walls. The truck stopped just short of where the two were posted and detonated, killing them both. Twenty-four brick masonry houses were damaged or destroyed. A mosque 100 yards away collapsed. The truck’s engine came to rest 200 yards away, knocking down most of a house down before it stopped. Our explosive experts reckoned the blast was caused by 2,000 pounds of explosive.

Because these two young infantrymen didn’t have it in their DNA to run from danger, they saved 150 of their Iraqi and American brothers in arms. When I read the situation report a few hours after it happened, I called the regimental commander for details. Something about this struck me as different. We expect Marines, regardless of rank or MOS, to stand their ground and do their duty, and even die in the process, if that is what the mission takes. But this just seemed different.

The regimental commander had just returned from the site, and he agreed, but reported that there were no American witnesses to the event – just Iraqi police. If there was any chance of finding out what actually happened, and then to decorate the two Marines to acknowledge their bravery, I’d have to do it, because a combat award requires two eyewitnesses, and we figured the bureaucrats back in Washington would never buy Iraqi statements. If it had any chance at all, it had to come under the signature of a general officer. I traveled to Ramadi the next day and spoke individually to a half-dozen Iraqi police, all of whom told the same story. They all said, “We knew immediately what was going on as soon as the two Marines began firing.” The Iraqi police related that some of them also fired, and then, to a man, ran for safety just prior to the explosion. All survived. Many were injured, some seriously. One of the Iraqis elaborated, and with tears welling up, said, “They’d run like any normal man would to save his life. ”What he didn’t know until then, and what he learned that very instant, was that Marines are not normal. Choking past the emotion, he said, “Sir, in the name of God, no sane man would have stood there and done what they did. They saved us all.” 

What we didn’t know at the time, and only learned after I submitted both Yale and Haerter for posthumous Navy Crosses, was that one of our security cameras recorded some of the attack. It happened exactly as the Iraqis described it. It took exactly six seconds from when the truck entered the alley until it detonated. You can watch the last six seconds of their young lives. I suppose it took about a second for the two Marines to separately come to the same conclusion about what was going on once the truck came into their view at the far end of the alley. No time to talk it over, or call the sergeant to ask what they should do. Only enough time to take half an instant and think about what the sergeant told them to do only a few minutes before: “Let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.” It took maybe another two seconds for them to present their weapons, take aim, and open up. By this time, the truck was halfway through the barriers and gaining speed.

Here the recording shows a number of Iraqi police, some of whom had fired their AKs, now scattering like the normal and rational men they were, some running right past the Marines, who had three seconds left to live. For about two seconds more, the recording shows the Marines firing their weapons nonstop. The truck’s windshield explodes into shards of glass as their rounds take it apart and tear into the body of the son of a bitch trying to get past them to kill their brothers – American and Iraqi – bedded down in the barracks, totally unaware that their lives at that moment depended entirely on two Marines standing their ground. Yale and Haerter never hesitated. By all reports and by the recording, they never stepped back. They never even shifted their weight. With their feet spread shoulder-width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could. They had only one second left to live, and I think they knew. The truck explodes. The camera goes blank. Two young men go to their God. Six seconds. Not enough time to think about their families, their country, their flag, or about their lives or their deaths, but more than enough time for two very brave young men to do their duty.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

53 Transcripts: Whose Testimony Was Accurate?

Scene One:

On July 17, 2017, James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence (DNI) during the Obama Administration testified at a session of the House Intelligence Committee.

Rep Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) read him two quotes from testimony the National Intelligence Officer (NIO*) for Russia had given when briefing the committee on December 5, 2016:
"In terms of favoring one candidate or another, you know, the evidence is a little bit unclear."
"It's unclear to us that the Kremlin had a particular - that they had a particular favorite or they wanted to see a particular outcome.  That is what the reporting shows." (pp16-17)
Yet on January 6, 2017 Clapper released the Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) on Russian interference with the election which concluded, " We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump".  Wenstrup asked if the statements made by the NIO on December 5 were accurate and complete.  Clapper said no, they were not.  Because of extensive redactions in the transcript that followed this exchange it is not possible to determine if Clapper offered an explanation as to why the assessment changed in the intervening month or, in the alternative, why a senior CIA official was giving inaccurate information to the Intelligence Committee.

Clapper also testified that the ICA didn't talk about collusion because they didn't have any evidence "that met the evidentiary threshold"(p.46), yet the FBI and DOJ had vouched for the reliability of the collusion allegations made in the Steele Dossier when officials from both agencies signed the Carter Page FISA warrant application in October 2016.

Scene Two:

On June 22, 2017, Dan Coats, DNI testified.  In March, after Coats' confirmation, James Comey briefed him on collusion, telling Coats, "There is smoke but no fire on the issue of collusion" (p.6),  "There is nothing to indicate collusion with the President" (p.27), and then adding:
"We are only looking at one person who had some role in the campaign [Carter Page]". (p.6)
Yet the Crossfire Hurricane investigation specifically named four targeted individuals, Page, Papadopolous, Manafort, and Flynn, while the most recent FISA renewal application in January 2017 had referenced Papadopolous and Manafort, in addition to Page.  Moreover, as was recently revealed, the investigation into Flynn was not closed as recommended in early January.

Scene Three:

Andrew McCabe testified on December 19, 2017.  Consistent with prior testimony given by Comey, McCabe stated that the FBI Director began writing memos of his meetings with Trump because of concerns about the frequency and content of his conversations with the President.  Rep Trey Gowdy pointed out that could not be true because Comey began writing memos right after his first meeting with Trump on January 6 - indeed Comey arranged in advance to have a setup in his car that would allow him to write a memo immediately upon ending the meeting with the President-elect. After that meeting, Comey told Clapper the "President-elect was very defensive about it" (Clapper interview p. 51), the "it" being the allegation he consorted with several prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room (I'm being circumspect here about the specifics of the allegation).  In Comey's mind, Trump's defensiveness (about an incident that never happened) was an indication of guilt.

Gowdy also asked why the FBI began drafting a non-indictment statement when Clinton and others were still to be interviewed in the email investigation; why wasn't there also an indictment draft?  McCabe stated there was no consideration given to drafting a statement regarding an indictment recommendation.

-------------------------------------------------------
* National Intelligence Officers are appointed by the Director of the CIA, report directly to the Director, and are responsible for all intelligence matters within their geographical area.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

53 Transcripts: Heads I Win, Tails You Lose

On July 25, 2017 Jared Kushner testified at the House Intelligence Committee and his testimony is one of the recently released transcripts.  Kushner was completely cooperative with the committee and stated several times his willingness to stay until all of the committee's questions were answered.  Finally, Rep Trey Gowdy (R-SC) told him:
"I appreciate your willingness to stay until my friends run out of questions.  But I also have to let you know.  That's never going to happen.  The longer you stay in here, the narrative will be how important and significant a witness you were, hence the fact that they kept you in here all day long".
On the other hand:
"If you do what any reasonable person would do" [cut it off at some point] "then they will say that you left before you answered all the questions . . . you cannot win, regardless of what you do". (p. 100).
The same pattern happened with several witnesses.  And the Democrats even leaked as these supposedly confidential interviews were occurring.  In the middle of his testimony on December 14, 2017, Alexander Nix (CEO of Cambridge Analytica) complained he had just learned the fact he was being interviewed and a summary of his testimony so far had been leaked to Reuters, which had just published a story!

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Glow Girl

Recorded during The Who Sell Out sessions during 1967, intended as a single, but never released and not included on the album.  Finally released in the mid-1970s on Odds And Sods.

The lyrics and music at the end were recycled, with the gender changed, as the opening for Tommy, released in 1969.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

53 Transcripts: Flynn Flam

I've now finished reading all 53 transcripts (5,571 pages) and will begin writing posts trying to put it together but wanted to write on Michael Flynn in light of new developments in his case and how it ties into the testimony in the transcripts.

Catherine Herridge of CBS News has the full unredacted version of Susan Rice's famous "by the book" memo, written to herself, on January 20, 2017 regarding the January 5, 2017 meeting involving President Obama, VP Biden, herself, Sally Yates, Comey, Clapper, and Brennan. [CORRECTION: Clapper & Brennan were not at this meeting.  They attended the meeting immediately prior regarding the Intelligence Community Assessment regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election.] The existence of the memo has been known since 2018 but one paragraph had been completely redacted.  It is now available:
Director Comey affirmed that he is proceeding "by the book" as it relates to law enforcement. From a national security perspective, Comey said he does have some concerns that incoming NSA Flynn is speaking frequently with Russian ambassador Kisylak. Comey said that could be an issue as it relates to sharing sensitive information. President Obama asked if Comey was saying the NSC should not pass sensitive information related to Russia to Flynn. Comey replied "potentially". He added that he has no indication thus far that Flynn has passed classified information to Kisylak but he noted "the level of communication was unusual".
My guess is the memo went through several careful drafts before reaching its final version.
I believe its purpose fourfold.

(1) Justify withholding of sensitive information during the last two weeks of the transition.

(2) Creating an "I told you so" if it turned out Flynn was compromising national security (Obama warned Trump against appointing Flynn)

(3) Justifying Comey's continued investigation of Flynn.

(4) Making sure Comey was the fall guy if it all went wrong.

It was no secret the intelligence community and President Obama had no use for General Flynn after  he left the administration in 2014.  He'd had major policy disagreements with the President and been public about his opinion of the quality of the intelligence agencies work product and leadership and having him as NSA meant their shortcomings would become public and the current organizational structure and embedded careerists threatened.

It is evident that from the time he left government service the intelligence community (including friendly foreign intelligence services) were keeping an eye on Flynn and he did himself no favors by miscues such as accepting payment from RT TV to attend a December 2015 dinner in Moscow where he was seated next to Putin.

How widespread the surveillance of Flynn was is still unknown.  According to a story that broke yesterday a whistleblower at the Treasury Dept claims officials there were improperly tracking Flynn's finances as far back as 2015. While we only have the anonymous source at this point it is worth investigating to see if the story can be confirmed.

In addition, in early 2017, just after Flynn's resignation, a story broke, first in the U.K. and then in the U.S., that Flynn was having an affair with a Russian emigre and academic at Cambridge who was allegedly a intelligence operative for the Kremlin. What is of particular significance is that while the story only became public in 2017, I learned from reading the recently released House Intelligence Committee transcripts, that David J Kramer, an associate of Senator McCain, was told in September 2016 by Christopher Steele about the alleged affair (p.57) meaning the story was already in circulation in intelligence circles and part of a planned operation to destroy Flynn's reputation. The Russian in question is Svetlana Lokhova, who quite strongly, with documentation and, I think, convincingly, denied having an affair and being a Russian operative and has had her career destroyed as a result of the story.  It is astonishing to see how the conspirators converted a dinner with several academics into a passionate affair by Flynn with a Russia agent.  Moreover, the Mueller Report does not confirm the story and, as we know well, if it had the tiniest scrap of evidence otherwise it would have played it up.

Flynn was frequently in contact with Kisylak during the transition. In fact, Rice testified to the House Intelligence Committee, that in late November 2016, the head of Trump's National Security Council transition team, Marshall Billingslea, expressed concerned to her and her staff about Flynn's frequent conversations with Kisylak and asked for background on the ambassador, "that he seemed to want to use to persuade General Flynn that perhaps he should scale back the contacts". (p.44) [CORRECTION: Billingslea did not express his concern directly to Rice; Rice was informed of his concern via her chief of staff Susie George.  Billingslea was also removed as head of this transition team at some point during the transition.]

This incident involving Billingslea became public in early May 2017 as part of the avalanche of press reports about the alleged collusion of the Trump campaign and administration with Russia.  Here's a typical example.  All of the stories contain the same note regarding sources;
"based on interviews with 11 current and former U.S. officials, including seven with key roles in the Obama administration."
That implies four of the sources did not have key roles in the Obama Administration.  Whether they were officials in that administration who did not have key roles or served in the Bush administration or were now in the Trump administration cannot be determined.  And they are collectively cited as sources for the article which contains information beyond the Billingslea incident.

Billingslea has never publicly commented on the matter.   He is currently Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing at the Treasury Dept. and on May 4 was nominated to be Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs.  During the Bush administration, Billingslea held a number of senior positions at the Department of Defense.

However, as Rice's memo notes, as of January 5, Comey had no evidence Flynn shared classified information with the Russians. Moreover, the dislike of Flynn had another basis beyond the mutual disdain between he and the intelligence community - there was a basic policy disagreement. Flynn thought China a bigger threat than Russia; the Obama administration thought the opposite.
In her House Intelligence Committee testimony of September 8, 2017 Rice complained:
"We spent a lot more time talking about China in part because General Flynn's focus was on China as our principal overarching adversary. He had many questions and concerns about China. And when I elicited - sought to elicit his perspective on Russia, he was quite, I started to say dismissive, but that may be an overstatement. He downplayed his assessment of Russia as a threat to the United States. He called it overblown. He said they're a declining power, they're demographically challenged, they're not really much of a threat, and then reemphasized the importance of China." (pp.46-47)
Rice's statement is ironic, coming from the administration which ridiculed Mitt Romney in 2012 for his claim that Russia was our #1 adversary (Mitt was wrong, by the way) while at the same time President Obama was caught on mic with Medvedev telling him to pass on a message to Putin that he'd have more flexibility after the election to screw our allies in Eastern Europe.  And it was President Obama who appeased Russia's ambitions in the Middle East in order to get them to help with Putin's Iranian allies.

Let's not forget the operation to "get" Michael Flynn had two sequentially independent components. The first was to remove Flynn as NSA, a position where he could do damage to the intelligence community bureaucracy and the legacy of the Obama administration. That was accomplished when he resigned in February 2017 and the conspirators had no further interest in pursuing him. After that, Comey and McCabe were relaxed enough to admit in testimony that the interviewing FBI agents had not thought Flynn lied in his interview.

Things changed when the Mueller gang arrived on the scene. They wanted to pursue Flynn in a criminal investigation to pressure him to turn on Donald Trump. When he refused to do so, they pursued an alternative course, bringing a criminal prosecution to provide added fodder for the Russia collusion narrative to be used by the media in order to help the Democratic Party in the 2018 midterms.

My view is that Flynn was correct on the policy issue.  Russia is not our friend and Putin would like to see a hobbled and weakened America (the media and the Democratic Party have helped him in that respect) but the biggest threat to American security and the rest of the free world is China.  The challenge for America today is to develop a strategy, with other countries, to contain China and as part of that to find if there is a path to move Russia away from being China's junior partner.  I also think he was also correct on the need for massive reform and cleaning out of our intelligence agencies.  Flynn's lack of discipline in the RT TV matter, the Turkish government lobbying, and in not minimizing contacts with the Russian ambassador during the transition period, particularly when he knew the security apparatus was gunning for him, contributed to his own downfall.  The criminal prosecution however, is a disgrace, should never have been filed, and should be dismissed.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

When You Least Expect It

The always delightful Fred Willard passed a couple of days ago.  I was surprised to find out he was 86 years old - always seemed much younger.


Thursday, May 14, 2020

Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You

I first heard this song on Led Zeppelin's 1969 debut album.  It became my favorite from that record, combining Jimmy Page's folk and electric guitar and Robert Plant's soulful and powerful vocal in an incredibly dynamic and dramatic fashion.  The song carried the notation - "Traditional; arr. by Jimmy Page".

It wasn't until many years later I learned the back story.  Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You was composed in the 1950s by Anne Bredon, a student at Berkeley.  After hearing Anne perform, Joan Baez made the first recorded version on a 1962 album.  It sounds very, very different from Zeppelin's.

It was not until 1990 that the credit on Zeppelin's album was corrected to attribute the composition to Bredon and she was paid back royalties at the time.  Zeppelin was known to take creative credit for modifying compositions originally done by other artists.  The most famous is Dazed and Confused which was actually composed by Jake Holmes.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

53 Transcripts: Inventing Stories

I’ve now waded through 34 of the 53 transcripts. Still no evidence of collusion or conspiracy. You can read my prior post on the transcripts, The Forrest Gump of Campaigns.

The media and progressive echo chamber works and has power in the public imagination, primarily based on people repeating the same things to each other over and over again and converting their fantasies into reality. Reading the transcripts provides yet another example. The interview of Evelyn Farkas (June 26, 2017) has already made news, at least in non-progressive circles (it appears to have been blacked out elsewhere). Ms. Farkas is a Democrat, a long-time national security policy person and a staff member of Senate Armed Service Committee and Deputy Asst Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia during the Obama Administration, and is now running for Congress in New York. Like so many Obama refugees she became a commentator, in her case, on MSNBC. In March 2017, she made headlines by urging all her former colleagues to get out all the information they had, even if classified, on Russian election interference and implied she had evidence of collusion with the Trump campaign.

Conservative commentary has focused on her responses to questions at the Intelligence Committee interview that she actually had no information regarding any collusion or conspiracy by the Trump campaign with Russia (see page 12 of transcript). In other words, she knew nothing of substance despite her claims on MSNBC. She even went further, telling the committee, “Russia has not interfered in our elections in the past” (p.16) despite the Intelligence Community Assessment of January 2017 which stated Russia had interfered in the past.

But what really caught my eye was this back and forth between Rep Trey Gowdy and Farkas (p.27):
Gowdy: You also didn’t know whether or not anybody in the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia, did you?
Farkas: I didn’t.
G: When then, why did you say what you said?
F: Because I had a strong suspicion.
G: Based on what?
F: Based on the media reports –
G: Dr Farkas.
F: – and reporters calling me.
. . .
G: What did you know at the time?
F: I knew what the public knew from reading the newspaper.
That is how it works. Someone is hired with the correct political views and credentials but who does not know anything more than the public. People inside the government leak things about their enemies and friendly media, with no interest in investigating accuracy, act as stenographers, and once one publication prints or airs it everyone else jumps in, and then the “credentialed expert” can act like it is real news. Soon, everyone is just repeating the same story to each other, and because that’s all they hear, it becomes the obvious truth. Economists talk about the multiplier effect of spending but this is the real multiplier effect in action.

The success around these narratives can be seen in the interviews of several witnesses regarding the alleged “softening” of the Republican Party platform on Ukraine, in order to supposedly appease Russia, a story that was an obsession with the minority members of the committee. It’s simply fake news that was planted in the media and became the accepted truth to such an extent the FBI referenced newspaper reporting on it as part of the Carter Page FISA warrant application, a subject I wrote about in January.

Unfortunately, the price of fake news can be heavy. Jeffrey (JD) Gordon, a member of the Trump campaign, and the staffer at the heart of the alleged Ukrainian platform controversy testified on July 26, 2017, “It’s an urban legend that the Trump campaign changed the platform . . . it was false” (p.83) as can be proved by examining the language as I did in my January post. Nonetheless, Gordon went on to say that his life had been destroyed by the allegations. Because of the investigations he had been unable to get a position in the administration, his reputation was damaged, and career prospects limited.

We cannot ignore the power wielded by the media, particularly the New York Times and the Washington Post which set the agenda and tone for much of the rest of the media. If you haven't lived in the Northeast it is easy to underestimate the impact their coverage has on everyone. Even Jared Kushner in his testimony (July 25, 2017), spoke of his father-in-law’s attention to the Times:
“I’d have discussions almost every day with the candidate saying, look: If the New York Times mattered you’d be at 1 percent”. (p.70)

Monday, May 11, 2020

Babe Ends His Slump



The most famous (or infamous, if you are a Red Sox fan) transaction in baseball history was the sale of Babe Ruth by the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees after the 1919 season.  But twenty games into the 1920 season, Yankee fans may have been wondering if the Babe would live up to their expectations.

He'd had a slow spring training, going three weeks before smacking his first home run.  Babe went into the stands after a taunting fan and in another game knocked himself out after running into a palm tree in Miami while tracking a fly ball.  At the start of the regular season Ruth was nursing a sprained knee.

Entering the home game with the Chicago White Sox on May 11, 1920 the Yankees, expected to be pennant contenders, had only managed a disappointing 9-11 record, while the defending American league champion White Sox stood at 11-7 (it would not be until late September that the scandal surrounding the 1919 World Series was revealed and several of the White Sox players ultimately banned from baseball).

The White Sox 2-5 hitters, Eddie Collins, Buck Weaver, Shoeless Joe Jackson, and Happy Felsch were off to strong starts, with each hitting well above .300.  The Babe started the game hitting only .210 with 2 homers, 9 RBIs, drawing 7 walks but striking out 14 times in 62 at bats.  Adding to his woes, in his last game Babe muffed a fly ball near the foul line, costing his team a run, along with going 0 for 5. But today things would be different. 

The headline in the next day edition of The Sun and New York Herald told the story, "Lid Off For The Babe".  In the bottom of the 1st, coming to bat against Sox hurler Roy Wilkinson with Wally Pipp on first, Babe hit a shot into deep right field described by the Herald as a "leviathan drive".  In the 3rd, he smashed a triple to right, driving in Pipp once again, and according to the Herald, only "fast fielding kept [it] from being a second home run".  Facing little Dickey Kerr (the only honest Sox starting pitcher in the 1919 series) in the 5th, the Babe whacked another four-bagger into the upper grandstand of the Polo Grounds (the Yankee's home park until 1923) before drawing a walk in his final plate appearance in the 7th.  The Yankees won 6-5.

The game launched one of the hottest streaks of Ruth's career.  Over the next 65 games he hit .453 with 16 doubles, 7 triples and 30 HRs, scoring 86 runs, driving in 78, and walking 69 times.  With an on-base percentage of .587 and slugging 1.019, the resulting OPS was a staggering 1.606.  At the end on July 20, Ruth was hitting .398 and, including six games he missed, the Yankees had won 48 of 69 contests since May 11.

Babe would cool off a little over the remainder of the season, hitting .402 with an on-base percentage of .560, while slugging .922 over the final 124 games.  The Yankees still finished in 3rd, three games behind the pennant winning Indians and the White Sox.  In 1921 the team would capture its first pennant.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

The Long And Winding Road Ends

I thinks this makes officially makes me old . . . 

Fifty years ago tomorrow, May 11, 1970, The Beatles released their final single, The Long And Winding Road (for you kids, singles once had a physical manifestation).  Like most of its predecessors it became #1 in the United States.  It's one of my least favorite Beatles songs, suffering from Phil Spector's post-production layering on of strings and other instrumentation and much preferring the more stripped-down original version recorded (below) in early 1969 during the abortive Get Back recording sessions.  The prior release, the classic Let It Be, should have been their farewell.


The Beatles hold and influence on pop music over a more than six-year period was phenomenal.  The first six months of 1964 saw Beatlemania explode across the U.S. - in April, 13 of the top 100 singles were by the band and 65% of all records sold were by The Beatles.  They had four #1's in that time frame (She Loves You, I Want To Hold Your Hand, Can't Buy Me Love, Love Me Do) along with two at #2 (Twist & Shout, Do You Want To Know A Secret) and Please, Please, Me reached Number 3.  After that initial flurry of releases things calmed down to a more steady pace for the singles.

Though I'd seen their Ed Sullivan appearances in February and March of 1964 and occasionally heard them on our car radio, it was only in February 1965, when home sick, my parents gave me a radio to have next to my bed, that I became an avid listener, so the first single I distinctly remember debuting was Eight Days A Week, released on the 15th of that month.   From then through the release of Get Back in April 1969 I still have memories attached to most of the singles though by the time Abbey Road was released that fall I was in college and my taste had turned to the rougher sound of the Stones who were reaching their peak (on December 5, Let It Bleed was released).

Of fifteen Beatles albums released in the U.S. between 1964 and 1970, thirteen topped the charts, the others being Something New (1964) which got to #2 but was blocked from the top spot by the soundtrack album for A Hard Day's Night, and the soundtrack for the movie Yellow Submarine, which also reached #2 in early 1969, blocked by the White Album, released only seven weeks earlier and which topped the charts for 9 weeks (and spent 186 weeks on the Billboard 200).  The Beatles still hold the record for most cumulative weeks at #1 on the album chart with 132 weeks; second is Garth Brooks with 52.  Since the beginning of the Billboard charts in the early 1950s the Beatles have more #1 albums than any other artist.

From July 13, 1964, with the release of A Hard Day's Night, through May 11, 1970, The Beatles released twenty U.S. singles of which 16 (including the final three) hit #1.  The only exceptions were Nowhere Man (#3), Yellow Submarine (#2, though its B-side, Eleanor Rigby reached #11, so probably a #1 if you counted both sides), Lady Madonna (#4), and The Ballad of John & Yoko (#8) - released while Get Back was still #1, with only John and Paul appearing on the song.

The B-sides of four #1 singles were also hits - She's A Woman, the flip side of I Feel Fine, which was #4; Day Tripper, flip of We Can Work It Out, reaching #5; Strawberry Fields Forever the #8 flip of Penny Lane; and Revolution, hitting #12 as the flip of Hey Jude, The Beatles' best-ever selling single which topped the charts for eight weeks in the fall of 1968.

An oddity was the single released as a double A side in October 1969; Something and Come Together.  At the time, Billboard counted each side of a single separately in reporting sales and charting but several weeks after its release Billboard announced it would start counting both sides of singles in calculating chart positions and The Beatles had another #1 as a result.  It was also one of the few times the band released a single with songs appearing on an already released album (Sgt Pepper, Rubber Soul, and the White Album contained no singles).

The longest intervals between single releases were the 7 1/2 months between Hey Jude (8/26/68) and Get Back (4/11/69) and six months from Yellow Submarine (8/5/66) to Penny Lane (2/13/67).  As teenagers we were well aware of both gaps, wondering what was up with the boys, and if Paul was dead.

During the 32 months between Yellow Submarine's release and that of Get Back, The Beatles released only five singles but finished with a flourish, releasing five more singles from April 1969 through May 1970.

As for staying power, 1, the Beatles album released in 2000 and containing all of the group's #1 singles in either the U.S. or U.K. was the best selling album of the first decade of the 21st century worldwide and the 4th best selling album in the U.S. over the past thirty years, with 31 million copies purchased to date.

And now our daughter plays lullaby versions of Beatles songs to help our 5 month old grandson fall asleep.  

53 Transcripts: The Forrest Gump Of Campaigns

Earlier this week the House Intelligence Committee finally released transcripts of 53 interviews (of 49 witnesses) it conducted in 2017-18.  Though the Committee had voted in November 2018 to release the transcripts after national security reviews for classified information, incoming chairman Adam Schiff refused to do so for what are now obvious reasons - he had repeatedly lied to the media and public about what was said in those interviews and the release of the transcripts would demonstrate that.

Under pressure from Acting DNI Richard Grenell, who publicly announced release was fine from a national security perspective and threatened to release the transcripts himself, Schiff finally relented.

I'm in the process of reading all 5,000 pages of the interviews, have completed 18 of the 53, and will write at more length when finished but wanted to pass along some fascinating quotes (it'll come as no surprise but there is absolutely no evidence in what I've read so far of any collusion between the Trump campaign or Trump personally with the Russians).

The first quote is from the February 27, 2018 interview with Hope Hicks, Trump's press secretary during the campaign and then communications director for the first couple of years of his presidency.  It's in response to questions about collusion with the Russians:
"Not to say that Russia's interference wasn't something to be taken seriously, but that our involvement in that was sort of laughable, given that we were like the Forrest Gump of campaigns.  We couldn't spell the address to our Iowa field office right and yet we colluded with Vladimir Putin to steal the election.  It was sort of a hilarious narrative to us." (p.155)
In the interview with Hicks and others, like Corey Lewandowski, the ramshackle, improvised nature of the Trump campaign comes through over and over again.  They made amateurish mistakes and were incapable of the pulling off a coordinated campaign of collusion.  The Democrats on the panel must have been thinking, "how could we have lost to these clowns?".

Earlier in her interview, Hicks was asked about Trump's private comments about the Russia issues and she responded, "his private comments echo his public comments".  I think we all now know this to be true, for better and for worse.  The President says the same stuff to us as he does to his staff.

On June 22, 2017, Dan Coats, then Director National Intelligence and former Senator was interviewed by the committee.  Coats was not personally close to Trump before or after his nomination to become DNI but he recounted an extraordinary moment when, in a private meeting with the President after couple of days after his inauguration, an upset Trump suddenly started talking about Comey's briefing of him on January 6, during which he was informed of the dossier and his alleged romp with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room. According to Coats, the President said;
"I want to - I swear to you on the soul of my son, I had nothing to do with the prostitution.  And for them to take me aside and raise this issue and then have it leaked, he said, how would you like it if - how do you go home and talk to your wife when it is plastered all over the place that you were using prostitutes in Russia and you are having your family hear that and having you son hear that?". (p.13)
Today we all know what Trump knew then - the allegation was false - we can imagine the anguish it must have caused him at the time.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Friday, May 8, 2020

Bargain Drums

Not a sale, the song from Who's Next (1971).  Drum cover by Joe Nocella of one of Keith Moon's best tracks.  Moon was so creative and you can hear how different each of his fills are, plus the last section, beginning around 4:10, is outstanding.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Current Events

Brief comments on three breaking stories.

Two days ago was the first time I'd heard about the death of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia.  I thought it had just happened not realizing until this morning it occurred in February and there had been no prosecution.  If, as is being reported, Arbery was jogging and these civilians confronted him with guns, trying to kidnap him, he resisted, and was then shot and killed, it is beyond me why there has not been a prosecution.  I hope this situation is rectified and justice prevails. [Just after posting this I heard two men have been charged.  Good.]

Very happy to see the Department of Education reverse the Title IX guidance letter issued by an Obama administration ideologue in 2011 and which deprived college students of due process.  An outrageous action by an unelected bureaucrat, cleverly avoiding the entire regulatory process, to give college administrators permission to act in accordance with 21st century Progressive doctrine and further evidence why such doctrine is un-American.  Demonstrating its open contempt for civil rights the Obama administration subsequently appointed the author of the letter, Catherine Lhamon, to the United States Commission on Civil Rights where she currently serves as chair. 

Just heard the news the Justice Department dropped charges against Michael Flynn.  Recent revelations about the improper manipulation of the system by senior FBI and DOJ personnel necessitated this action.  This is only one element of the greatest domestic political scandal of my lifetime.  The substance is worse than Watergate and the New York Times and Washington Post took the side of the bad guys.

53 Transcripts: Real Estate Promoters

Felix Sater - "I was born in 1966 in Moscow, Soviet Union, with the word 'Jew" stamped on my passport under nationality, not Russian, as has been reported about me".  In US since he was 7.
DIA/CIA asset and informant for FBI and DOJ.  Did Trump SoHo with Trump Org.
Known Michael Cohen since his teens.
Targeted Trump Towers for all major cities.  The Apprentice was brand building and helped with financing.
Never brought anyone in to Trump to talk about financing because these were licensing deals.
"Guys, I'm a real estate promoter.  Until the bank writes the check, it's all salesmanship and promotion to try to get many, many parties towards the center to try to get the deal done." (.34-35)

Michael Goldfarb - chairman of Washington Free Beacon who hired GPS with funding from Paul Singer who backed Rubio for research on Trump finances including Felix Sater, "geez, what a - what a kind of colorful character" (24)
MG was shocked to hear about dossier - I thought it [dossier] was bullshit" (36) and had no idea GPS worked for Russians, he'd worked for Browder.

Cohen and Sater worked independently from Trump.  Cohen angry he was not part of comapaign.
Sater initiated 2015 Trump Tower talks.
In RE deal, "the loyalty is to who brings the check first" (79)

"I had a concern both that if we won and the project couldn't move forward, because maybe he couldn't do it as the President . . . or if he lost and the other side would lose interest in financing it". 142)

Stories about condos being sold to Russians.
Stories about Trump having trouble getting financing so needing to go to Russians.
Kushner - DT had no trouble getting financing.  But had challenging times with American banks in the 90s. 

Keith Schiller - part time Trump security 1999, fulltime 2004, former NYPD. Accompanied him on 2013 Miss Universe Trip.  Trump and Schiller assumed any hotel room he stayed in was under surveillance.

Michael Cohen
Trump Tower was  licensed transaction.  Trump Org provides name and mgmt skilss but not borrowing money so would have no debt. (10)
"What Mr Sater is is a salesman, and he uses very colorful language". (74)  Never discussed email exchanges with Trump.  Deal failed because partner could never establish control of property so no financing and "I had lost confidence in the licensee [Sater]" by January 2016. (114)
Only time DT spoke with Cohen re Putin "Did you see that President Putin said some really nice things about me?" (140)

Very strong on pushing back on Castro and Schiff re real estate and money laundering.


Bartolo's Bomb

Well, it may not have been, as the tweet below claims, "the greatest moment in baseball history", but it was surely surprising and entertaining and it took place 4 years ago today.

At the time, Bartolo Colon was an aging 43-year old pitcher for the New York Mets who only threw fastballs in the 80-89 mph range.  He was also a big man, 5'11" and at least 285 pounds.  Bartolo survived on pitching wits and guile and was popular with fans and the press.

It wasn't always that way.  Colon entered the majors in 1997 with a blazing fastball, winning 144 games, including 21 in 2005.  The next year his pitching fell apart and Colon went 9-14 over the next four seasons before spending 2010 out of the major leagues.  He resurrected his career in 2011, going on to win another 94 games in the next 8 years before retiring after the 2018 season with 247 career wins.

Bartolo entered the May 7 games with the San Diego Padres having never hit a home run and with a career batting average of .084. In the top of the 2nd, on a 1-1 count Bartolo reached out and slapped a pitch from "Big Game" James Shields and drove it over the wall in left field near the foul line.  I'm sure everyone, including Bartolo was stunned.  The bulky pitcher took his time rounding the bases which is understandable since it was probably the longest continuous run he'd made in years.  His teammates loved it.

And Colon got the win.  Bartolo hurled for 11 franchises during his long career: Indians, Expos, White Sox, Angels, Red Sox, Yankees, A's, Mets, Braves, Twins, Rangers.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Happy 89th Birthday, Willie!

Image

Willie Mays.  Spring training.  Phoenix Municipal Stadium.  Photo taken sometime between 1954 and 1957.  Always and forever my favorite ballplayer.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Castle Itter

Schloss Itter today(Castle Itter)
Schloss Itter

Seventy five years ago on this date, May 5, 1945, the U.S. Army fought one of the strangest battles of World War Two in which Americans, regular German army soldiers, and French prisoners of war fought German SS troops.

(French Prime Minister Paul Reynaud and General Maurice Gamelin at Castle Itter, beginning of May 1945 - damage to roof caused by Allied aerial bombing)
Post image  The location was Itter, a village of 500 inhabitants nestled in the Austrian mountains only a few miles from the German border and home to a castle built in the 13th century and in more recent times used as a residence and hotel.  On February 7, 1943 the German SS take over control of the castle and by April 25 made it operational as a prison for high-profile captives.  Most of the high value captives interned at Castle Itter for the next two years were French including:
Former Prime Ministers Eduoard Daladier and Paul Reynaud.  Reynaud was accompanied by his young mistress, Christiane Mabire.

Chief Generals of the Army Maxime Weygand and Maurice Gamelin.

Right-wing political leader Francois de La Roque.

Left-wing labor leader Leon Jouhaux

Marie-Agnes Cailliaux, the sister of Free French leader Charles de Gaulle.

Michel Clemenceaux, the son of WWI Prime Minister George Clemenceaux.
Also housed in the castle and performing many of the day to day support operations were Eastern European prisoners who had been transferred from Dachau.

The prisoners were treated fairly well, sleeping in converted hotel guest rooms and having access to the castle's library, leaving them time to pursue their rivalries and begin work on contending memoirs.  Daladier, prime minister from 1938 (when he supported Chamberlain in the Munich Agreement) through the start of the war, resigning in March 1940 was a fierce rival of Reynaud, who succeeded him, before resigning on June 16, 1940 because of his refusal to enter into an armistice with Germany.  Gamelin had been army chief at the start of the war and Daladier had been his dedicated supporter.  His disastrous performance during the initial phase of the German invasion in May 1940 forced his removal and replacement with his bitter rival General Weygand.  Reynaud refused to shake hands or speak with Weygand while both were imprisoned.

Commandant of the prison was SS Captain Sebastian Wimmer, with whom many of the French prisoners established a decent relationship.  By later April, able to monitor by radio the Allied advance into Germany, Daladier and Reynaud, concerned that the prisoners would be massacred before the Allies freed them, met with Wimmer, who assured them he would do all in his power to keep them safe.

On April 30, the Commandant of Dachau, Lt Col, Eduoard Walter appeared at the castle and after a tumultuous couple of days committed suicide there on May 2.  Two days later, Wimmer and his men abandoned the castle.

The day before Daladier and Reynaud persuaded a Croatian prisoner, Zvonimir Cuckovic, who worked as electrician, janitor and handyman at the castle to take a message to the advancing Americans.  Wimmer used Cuckovic to run errands outside the castle and when asked to do so again on the 3rd, Cuckovic left and made straight for the advancing Allies, talking his way past two SS roadblocks.  He made contact with the 103rd Infantry Division near Innsbruck, which began to muster a force to reach the castle.

In the meantime, two Wehrmacht officers, who had long since become disaffected with the German war effort, appeared on the scene.  Captain Kurt-Siegfried Schrader (a Waffen-SS member) had become a member of the Austrian Resistance while Major Josef "Sepp" Gangl and about 30 of his soldiers were also in the area and became aware of the plight of the prisoners.

On May 4, Gangl and some of his men set out to find the Americans, finally locating Captain John C Lee Jr, B Company, 23rd Tank Battalion, 12th Armored Division.  Initially skeptical, Lee, a native of Norwich, NY and recipient of a Bronze Star, was eventually convinced that Gangl was sincere and set off with Gangl to do a recon to the castle.  Allowing Gangl's Germans to retain their arms, Lee met with Daladier and Reynaud and promised to return with reinforcements to protect the prisoners.

Captain Jack Lee
Capt Jack Lee, 1945
Later that day, Lee set out with several tanks and some infantry.  After several tanks crossed a bridge, the last one caused the bridge to collapse blocking most of the infantry who were at the rear of the column.  Lee pressed on with the tank, reaching the castle, and received infantry support from Wehrmacht troops led by Schrader and Gangl.  It was just in time.

At 4am on the morning of May 5, the castle came under assault from about 150 soldiers of the 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division.  The fighting was fierce and, tragically, Gangl was killed as described here:
Soon Castle Itter was being struck by a barrage of 20mm and 88mm rounds. One of the first casualties was Besotten Jenny. The M4 Sherman was struck by two anti-tank rounds and turned into a fiery wreck. While the crew was able to escape, Captain Lee’s precious tank was gone. While this was occurring the French VIP’s had disregarded Lee’s orders and were out and about roaming the castle, enjoying the beautiful morning despite the battle raging around them. Many of the former prisoners felt they could not stand idly by while Allied troops were fighting desperately to hold off the enemy. According to Paul Reynaud;

“I soon saw that, as the tank was burning, the attackers could penetrate from the other side into the courtyard by the bridge which linked up with the flank of the mountain. I dodged into the castle. I got my tommy-gun out of my trunk and went down to the courtyard, where I found some soldiers. Clemenceau had already calmly posted himself at a loophole in case the attackers wished to take possession of the tank. I… took up a position near to him”.

Reynaud, Gamelin, Clemenceau, de La Rocque, and Borotra emerged armed with weapons to take up defenses around the castle. The elderly Reynaud moved towards the gatehouse eager to fight the enemy, but Major Gangl rushed down to move the former Prime Minister to a safer position. As he ran across the courtyard, Gangl suddenly fell to the ground. His body limp and blood pouring from around his head. Captain’s Lee and Schrader were stunned when they heard that Major Josef Gangl was dead. He was struck in the head by a sniper’s bullet that killed him instantly. Sadly there was no time to mourn the loss of their friend, as enemy small arms fire was intensifying with each passing moment.
Twelve hours after it started additional American troops reached the castle and the SS soldiers either withdrew or surrendered.  Major Gangl was the only fatality among the defenders.

Major Sepp Gangl
Sepp Gangl
De Gaulle's sister Marie-Agnes Cailliau with a US soldier after liberation (Marie-Agnes Cailliaux)

After the war:

Daladier and Reynaud returned to playing prominent roles in French politics.

Five days after being freed from German captivity, General Weygand was arrested by the Free French and charged with collaborating with the Vichy government.  He was acquitted after a trial in 1948.

Leon Jouhaux broke with the communists after the war, helped found the International Labor Organization and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1951.

Major Gangl is regarded as a national hero in Austria.

As a former Waffen-SS officer, Captain Schrader was held as a prisoner by the Allies for two years before being cleared, in part, because of his actions at Castle Itter.

John Lee received a Silver Star for his initiative and bravery in defending Castle Itter.  He had difficulty adjusting to post-war life and died in 1973 at the age of 54.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Flashlight

It's Saturday night and time to get moving with Flashlight from Parliament's 1977 album, Funkentelechy v The Placebo Syndrome featuring master of space and time George Clinton with Bootsy Collins on bass.

The Real Resistance

While going through some old materials I came across this article from Rod Dreher in 2018, passing on a comment from one of his readers in the midst of the Kavanaugh hearings, prompted by the unsupported allegations against the Supreme Court nominee.  It expresses well what the remaining  traditional Democratic liberals still don't understand about the Progressive movement of the 21st century - how fundamentally destructive it is to American values and traditions and the authoritarian means it will employ in achieving its goals.  I'm so old I was a liberal Democrat back when we believed in freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, equal protection under the law, and due process.  I still believe in those things which is why I can't be a 21st Century Progressive.

There had been a lengthy gestation period in politics and culture over several decades but it was only during the Obama years, particularly beginning in the run up to the 2012 campaign, that 21st century Progressivism burst full blown on us, like the scene in Alien, when the creature bursts out of John Hurt's chest and proceeds, with its inexorable urges, to start a chain of events destined to destroy everything in its path in order to create a safe and comfortable environment for itself and its progeny.

Here is the comment from Dreher's reader:
I’ve been intentionally tuning out all things Kavanaugh today – because really, what will I learn? – but I found it instructive this morning to revisit the famous “The Flight 93 Election” essay that Michael Anton wrote. These two paragraphs jumped out at me:
A Hillary presidency will be pedal-to-the-metal on the entire Progressive-left agenda, plus items few of us have yet imagined in our darkest moments. Nor is even that the worst. It will be coupled with a level of vindictive persecution against resistance and dissent hitherto seen in the supposedly liberal West only in the most “advanced” Scandinavian countries and the most leftist corners of Germany and England. We see this already in the censorship practiced by the Davoisie’s social media enablers; in the shameless propaganda tidal wave of the mainstream media; and in the personal destruction campaigns—operated through the former and aided by the latter—of the Social Justice Warriors. We see it in Obama’s flagrant use of the IRS to torment political opponents, the gaslighting denial by the media, and the collective shrug by everyone else.
It’s absurd to assume that any of this would stop or slow—would do anything other than massively intensify—in a Hillary administration. It’s even more ridiculous to expect that hitherto useless conservative opposition would suddenly become effective. For two generations at least, the Left has been calling everyone to their right Nazis. This trend has accelerated exponentially in the last few years, helped along by some on the Right who really do seem to merit—and even relish—the label. There is nothing the modern conservative fears more than being called “racist,” so alt-right pocket Nazis are manna from heaven for the Left. But also wholly unnecessary: sauce for the goose. The Left was calling us Nazis long before any pro-Trumpers tweeted Holocaust denial memes. And how does one deal with a Nazi—that is, with an enemy one is convinced intends your destruction? You don’t compromise with him or leave him alone. You crush him.
I can’t stand Trump. I didn’t vote for him and for the moment don’t plan to in 2020. But where else to turn? What we have learned in the last two weeks is that the left will crush anyone who does not support The Agenda. Our elite institutions will crush The Agenda’s opponents (take it from me – I work in a university, where I have to maintain a careful silence about virtually everything). Do we really think this will stop with Kavanaugh? Do we really think they won’t come for all of us? I have a son – what am I supposed to tell him? “Be romantic and treat women well… but also get a notarized consent contract for every interaction you have.” What kind of world is the left pushing us into? We all act shocked at China’s new “social credit” surveillance system, but does anyone doubt it’s coming our way? Does the left not see that the endpoint of this road is total surveillance and records of all interactions?
In 2016 I thought Anton's essay was overwrought.  I am less certain of that now.

As the commenter notes we were told George W Bush was Hitler-like.  George Soros claimed that America under Bush reminded him of Germany in the 1930s.  Michael Moore powerfully reinforced the image of imminent repression, an image bought into by many of Bush's opponents.  When the inoffensive John McCain ran, civil rights icon John Lewis told us it reminded him of the George Wallace campaign.  And who can forget Joe Biden going into African-American churches during the 2012 election to tell congregants that Mitt Romney was "going to put y'all back in chains"?

When Progressives were shocked by Trump's victory in 2016, they immediately dubbed themselves the Resistance, projecting all the things they would do if in power upon Trump and his supporters.

Who was it who tried to disrupt rallies of their political opponents during the 2012 campaign?  Progressives, not Trump supporters.

Who beat up supporters of their political opponents outside their opponents rallies?  Progressives, not Trump supporters.

Who unleashed a wave of "hate crimes" after the 2016 election?  Progressives, with hundreds of fake crimes they attempted to blame on Trump supporters.

Who, after the inauguration, tried to shut down opposition speakers, sometimes with violence?  Progressives, on college campuses and elsewhere, not Trump supporters.

Who was it who attempted mass murder at Congressional baseball practices, physically attacked a U.S. Senator, attempted to run a Congressional candidate off the road and attempt to stab another Congressional candidate?  Progressives, not Trump supporters.

Who is it who demands social media silence voices it disagrees with?  Progressives, not Trump supporters.

Who is it who wants social media to allow all voices to be heard?  Trump supporters, not Progressives. (1)

Here is how free speech works in a Progressive world.  In 2018 the Supreme Court heard arguments in Minnesota Voters Alliance v Mansky regarding a Minnesota statue broadly banning political apparel in polling places.  When Andrew Cilek went to vote in 2010, he wore a shirt bearing the image of the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag and a button that read “Please I.D. Me.” The poll worker asked him to remove the shirt and button because it supposedly violated the state law.  Cilek filed suit challenging the law.  At argument, Justice Alito engaged in a discussion with the attorney for Minnesota who was defending the statute.

JUSTICE ALITO: How about a shirt with a rainbow flag? Would that be permitted?
MR. ROGAN: A shirt with a rainbow flag? No, it would — yes, it would be — it would be permitted unless there was — unless there was an issue on the ballot that — that related somehow to — to gay rights.
JUSTICE ALITO: How about a shirt that says “Parkland Strong”?
MR. ROGAN: No, that would — that would be — that would be allowed. I think -­ I think, Your Honor -­
JUSTICE ALITO: Even though gun control would very likely be an issue?
MR. ROGAN: To the extent -­
JUSTICE ALITO: I bet some candidate would raise an issue about gun control.
MR. ROGAN: Your Honor, the — the -­ the line that we’re drawing is one that is -­ is related to electoral choices in a -­
JUSTICE ALITO: Well, what’s the answer to this question? You’re a polling official. You’re the reasonable person. Would that be allowed or would it not be allowed?
MR. ROGAN: The — the Parkland?
JUSTICE ALITO: Yeah.
MR. ROGAN: I — I think — I think today that I — that would be — if — if that was in Minnesota, and it was “Parkland Strong,” I — I would say that that would be allowed in, that there’s not -­
JUSTICE ALITO: Okay. How about an NRA shirt?
MR. ROGAN: An NRA shirt? Today, in Minnesota, no, it would not, Your Honor. I think that that’s a clear indication — and I think what you’re getting at, Your Honor -­
JUSTICE ALITO: How about a shirt with the text of the Second Amendment?
MR. ROGAN: Your Honor, I — I — I think that that could be viewed as political, that that — that would be — that would be -­
JUSTICE ALITO: How about the First Amendment?
(Laughter.)
MR. ROGAN: No, Your Honor, I don’t -­ I don’t think the First Amendment. And, Your Honor, I -­
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: No — no what, that it would be covered or wouldn’t be allowed?
MR. ROGAN: It would be allowed.
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: It would be?
MR. ROGAN: It would be. And — and I think the — I understand the — the idea, and I’ve — I’ve — there are obviously a lot of examples that — that have been bandied about here –
JUSTICE ALITO: Yeah, well, this is the problem. How about a Colin Kaepernick jersey?
MR. ROGAN: No, Your Honor, I don’t think that that would be under — under our statute. And I think -­
JUSTICE ALITO: How about “All Lives Matter”?
MR. ROGAN: That could be, Your Honor, that could be — that could be perceived as political. And I — I think obviously, Your Honor, there — there are some hard calls and
there are always going to be hard calls. And that — that doesn’t mean that the line that we’ve drawn is — is unconstitutional or even unreasonable.
JUSTICE ALITO: How about an “I Miss Bill” shirt?
(Laughter.)
MR. ROGAN: I’m sorry, Your Honor? I didn’t –
JUSTICE ALITO: “I Miss Bill,” or to make it bipartisan, a “Reagan/Bush ’84” shirt?
MR. ROGAN: Yes, Your Honor, I believe that that’s political.
In summary, according to progressive Minnesota rules, the rainbow flag, “Parkland strong,” a Colin Kaepernick jersey, and the text of the First Amendment are all non-political and therefore could be worn at a polling place.  Meanwhile, an NRA shirt, “All Lives Matter,” and the text of the Second Amendment would be forbidden as being too partisan.  I bet the attorney for the State didn't see the slightest thing wrong with that.  Speech is protected in a Progressive world only if it is the correct speech by its standards.

As usual The Babylon Bee captures the situation perfectly, "Movement That Demands Forceful Silencing Of All Opposing Viewpoints Unsure Why Nation So Divided".

For many non-Progressives who disliked Trump what happened to Brett Kavanaugh was a turning point.  The Kavanaugh hearing brought home that anyone not fully aligned with Progressives would be subject to personal destruction with the full support of the media.  No one was safe.  Many already knew they were at risk in their personal and professional lives if they spoke up at work, in academia and elsewhere (as an example read this piece by a young man who understands his career and livelihood is in danger if he expresses his opinions).  I feel fortunate to have ended by full time working career just before we entered this new era of intolerance.  It never occurred to me that hiring or promoting an employee should be based on anything other than how they did their work.(2)  I guess I'm old fashioned that way.

Many of us already realized it, having seen the demonization of the Koch Brothers, who supported increased immigration, abortion rights, gay marriage, prison reform, drug legalization, reduced defense budgets and an end to corporate subsidies by the government.  But because they weren't fully on board with Progressives they needed to be destroyed.  There is no compromise, no halfway point with 21st century Progressives.

Any remaining illusions of non-Progressives have dissolved as they've witnessed the treatment of sexual harrassment and assault allegations against Joe Biden.  In Biden's case, the complainant is documented to have worked with then-Senator Biden, unlike Kavanaugh, for whom there is still no evidence he ever even met Christine Blasey Ford.  In Biden's case, there is evidence the complainant informed others at the time of the incident, unlike Ford who informed no one.  I have no idea if the allegations against Biden are true, but what anyone can see is the media has treated them completely differently than with Kavanaugh, the only reason being they support Biden but opposed Kavanaugh.

As with so much of its satire this Babylon Bee piece from 2018 reflects today's reality.

On the other hand, I can see the point Progressives are trying to make.  After all, Kavanaugh was a high school kid in the 1980s and should have known better, while Biden was a United States Senator in the 1990s and it is quite unfair to hold him to contemporary standards.

What is the point of all this? The goal is nothing less than creating America Year Zero.  We've reached an age in which the New York Times reads as though it was written by members of the Weather Underground in the 1970s.  The Times refuses to "normalize" Donald Trump but spent a year "normalizing" mass murder and repression when done by communists, a tactic it continues to use.  The paper's most prestigious effort of the past year was the launching of the 1619 Project.  Let's leave aside its juvenile understanding of history and economics and focus on its underlying intent.  Throughout American history, partisans of every stripe have always appealed to the principles embodied in the Declaration and the Constitution to support their causes, whatever they may be;  Whig, Federalist, Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative, socialist, progressive, libertarian alike.  The 1619 Project tells us it was all an illusion, an illegitimate farce played on the American people.  A new start is needed for a new age, one that harkens back to tribal notions of race, gender and ethnicity but with a modern, enlightened twist.  It demands a new type of justice where the voices of reaction will be silenced.  It is only under those conditions that the people can be properly instructed how to vote and act in accordance with what the party vanguard believes to be in their best interest. (3)

The Real Resistance knows this is the threat we face.  The challenge is daunting as large swaths of our culture have fallen prey to dark forces; academia, NGOs, media, the federal bureaucracy, high tech, with Progressives readying to sweep the table should they control all branches of the federal government again.  It is our duty to Resist repression however hard the task knowing, "if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science".

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1.  This predates the election of Orange Man, as Kevin Williamson noted in a December 2015 article:

"Donald Trump may talk like a brownshirt, but the Democrats mean business. For those of you keeping track, the Democrats and their allies on the left have now: voted in the Senate to repeal the First Amendment, proposed imprisoning people for holding the wrong views on global warming, sought to prohibit the showing of a film critical of Hillary Rodham Clinton, proposed banning politically unpopular academic research, demanded that funding politically unpopular organizations and causes be made a crime and that the RICO organized-crime statute be used as a weapon against targeted political groups. They have filed felony charges against a Republican governor for vetoing a piece of legislation, engaged in naked political persecutions of members of Congress, and used the IRS and the ATF as weapons against political critics.

On the college campuses, they shout down unpopular ideas or simply forbid nonconforming views from being heard there in the first place. They have declared academic freedom an “outdated concept” and have gone the full Orwell, declaring that freedom is oppressive and that they should not be expected to tolerate ideas that they do not share. They are demanding mandatory ideological indoctrination sessions for nonconforming students. They have violently assaulted students studying in libraries and assaulted student journalists documenting their activities. They have staged dozens of phony hate crimes and sexual assaults as a pretext for persecuting unpopular organizations and people.

What they cannot achieve by legislation or litigation, they seek to achieve by simple violence, left-wing activists having smashed, looted, and burned portions of Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore, where Koreans and other Asian minorities were specifically targeted. As on college campuses, they have made a point of assaulting journalists documenting their violence. They have rioted in Philadelphia and in other cities."

I'll add that Democrats and the media didn't normalize Trump, but they did normalize violence by the Left.

2. There was one exception.  In the mid-80s I learned the law firm of a lawyer I'd recently hired had added Bernadine Dohrn as a paralegal.  I told the lawyer, who was outstanding and with whom I had a long association thereafter, that Dohrn was not to work on any case of mine and if I found she billed any time to us, even accidentally, I would fire the lawyer.  Dohrn was a former leader of the Weather Underground, praised the Manson murderers, an unrepentant terrorist who believed then, and now, that Bobby Kennedy deserved to be killed since he voted to sell military jets to the Jews, and still describes herself as a communist revolutionary.  You can read more about this disgusting person in The Company You Keep.

3. In a 2008 speech Michelle Obama revealed the New World we would be required to enter, one in which every part of life was politicized:
Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed….You have to stay at the seat at the table of democracy with a man like Barack Obama not just on Tuesday but in a year from now, in four years from now, in eight years from now, you will have to be engaged.

We are going to have to change our conversation; we’re going to have to change our traditions, our history; we’re going to have to move into a different place as a nation.
It took a decade to get there but Progressives believe the time is now.  The shrinking flock of traditional liberals are not going to enjoy it.