11 May, 2018
“You give me a water board, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I’ll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders.”
— Jesse Ventura
+ Gina Haspel: “I would not allow CIA to undertake activity that I thought was immoral even if it was technically legal.”
+ But would Haspel do something “illegal” that she believed was “moral’? I’m sure Torquemada believed he was doing the “moral” thing as he put his suspected heretics on the rack and began to turn the screws….
+ As apologies for atrocities go, Charles Manson sounded more contrite during his parole hearings than than Haspel before the Senate intel committee.
+ The CIA has always appealed to liberals. Their officers and analysts “present” as intellectuals, capable of rationalizing any barbarity.
+ Sen. Jack Reed: If a CIA officer was being waterboarded by an enemy would you consider that immoral?
Haspel: I would never support that happening to a CIA officer.
Gina Haspel’s moral compass spins faster than one of those little black fans they sell at the Sharper Image…
+ Haspel just surprised all students of the Agency’s history by saying the CIA doesn’t normally do interrogations, which begs the question of what James Jesus Angleton was up to all those years, just chit-chat, gab sessions, gossiping, locker-room talk and extreme unctions, I guess…
+ Ray McGovern, a 27-year veteran of the CIA and one of it’s top analysts, interrupted the Senate Intelligence Committee’s hearing to correct the record about Gina Haspel’s role in the torture of detainees. A longtime CounterPunch contributor, Ray was quickly surrounded by Capitol Hill police, savagely thrown to the ground, his arm twisted behind his back and hauled off to an undisclosed black site, where he was kept overnight, nursing a dislocated shoulder. Ray is 78-years old.
+ Watching Sen. Tom Cotton question Gina Haspel reminds me of how Lawrence Harvey melted under the maternal glare of Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate.
+ Gina Haspel would have you believe that she’s just an all-American suburban woman, who bakes apple pies every Sunday afternoon, just before heading out to poison the pigeons in the park.
+ The most grievous crimes can be annulled, as long as one has the proper stance on Russia…
+ Jose Rodriguez, the CIA official who ordered the destruction of videotapes documenting the torture of two detainees by CIA interrogators, says that he told Gina Haspel that he was prepared to act without approval from their superiors at the Agency, flatly contradicting Haspel’s testimony to the Senate. So Haspel is revealed to be a liar by her own partner in crime. But then we knew that. It’s a prerequisite for her job.
+ Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, and other detainees, endured more than 100 torture sessions under her watch. But Gina Haspel slithered back into the shadows after only 3 hours of softball questions, where she alone decided what her infatuated “interrogators” could and couldn’t ask her.
+ They say torture isn’t effective. They’re wrong. The objective of torture isn’t to extract information but to terrify, to demonstrate that the State is capable of inflicting its power without any moral restraint.
+ Everyone knows what Gina Haspel did, starting with Obama who gave her a get-out-jail pass. Trump has explicitly called for the use of waterboarding and more extreme measures of torture. That’s one reason he picked Haspel. The hearings today were a charade, where the subject determined what documents could be released about her own criminal actions and the senate passively went along with it. The culpability for the next torture victims will reside with those who knowing all this put her in power instead of prison. Who will hold them accountable?
+ Listen up, girls, if you’re having trouble cracking that glass ceiling, just waterboard the hell out of it until it falls apart….
+ The Dark Lord speaks…. “Blood, I need more blood.”
+ If you’re a loyal retainer in a spot of trouble with unruly natives & need to avail yourself of some of Gina Haspel’s interrogation methods with guaranteed impunity from war crimes, we at the CIA recommend the graduate level seminar in advanced torture at the School of the Americas. Scholarships, subsidized loans & grants are available. Apply soon, slots are filling up.
+ Kamala Harris: “The work that the men and women of the CIA do is noble work.”
+ Joe Manchin, torturer of West Virginia’s mountains, says he will vote “Yes” for bloody Gina. Manchin, along with the other members of the Democrats’ waterboard caucus, will likely push Haspel over the top.
+ No wonder the Democrats’ lead in the generic congressional ballot has now shriveled from 16 points down to 3. Congratulations to Team Pelosi!
+ Robert Mueller’s team has questioned Erik Prince, CEO Blackwater’s mercenaries. I hope Mueller outsourced the interrogation to Gina Haspel.
+ Important question, Sean. Perhaps you can score an interview with Tinky Winky the Teletubby and finally get to the bottom of this existential threat to American youth…
+ The prospects for the five Americans being held in Iran now seem pretty bleak. But don’t despair. We’ve been here before and Oliver North just got his hands on a huge new cache of weapons to trade. He could route some of the profits toward Venezuelan or even, with Ortega on the ropes again, Nicaraguan contras. Just like old times.
+ In a Wednesday morning tantrum, Trump threatened to take away press credentials from the White House press corps. Good. A credentialed press is an obedient & captive press, ever fearful of losing its precious access. Credentialing by the government is itself an abridgment of press freedom, a form of censorship. It’s time for White House journalists to start reporting outside the briefing room.
+ Let’s be clear: the only country to breach the Iran deal is the USA.
+ Trump really seems intent on enticing the Iranians to build nuclear weapons.
+ Trump’s decision to violate the Iran deal and reimpose crippling sanctions on Iran should be viewed as an act of war. Sanctions are war by other means. In fact, if you’re really good at the sanctions offensive you can kill 100s of thousands of people, many of them children, declare on TV it was worth it, be feted as a credit to your gender and go on to write an irony-free book about how other politicians are sparking the rise of a new kind of “fascism.”
+ Cui Bono from Trump’s busting the Iran deal? How about Exxon, for starters? “The price of West Texas Intermediate crude topped $70 a barrel Monday for the first time since 2014 amid fears that renewed U.S. sanctions would require international companies to buy less Iranian oil or face stiff penalties.”
+ How typical of Trump to pull out and then leave a mess….
+ Will Emmanuel Macron now claim date rape after his failed dalliance with Trump?
+ A few hours after Trump crashed the Iran Deal, Israeli jets and missiles began hitting dozens of allegedly Iranian targets inside Syria, then complained when their jets and missile batteries were fired upon.
+ Israeli missiles hit more than 50 sites across Syria. So much for the vaunted Syrian Air Defense System which allegedly struck down those 71 cruise missiles….
+ Blame it on the Russians, who stood down as Israeli jets roamed freely over Syrian skies. As my friend Saree Makdisi points out, while the US sells Israel top of the line weaponry, the Russians pawn off out-of-date and ineffectual missile defense systems from the Soviet era to their vulnerable Arab clients.
+ No wonder the Israelis named a roundabout in Jerusalem after Trump…
He is the Roundabout
His words will take you down & out
Until you lose your way
Call the drones flying through the sound
of bombs up and down the valley
+ So, you ask, where does Trump get his foreign policy “ideas”? One direct line is to the Gorgon of Vegas, Sheldon Adelson, who has dumped $200 million into rightwing political campaigns over the last few years. In 2013, Adelson called for dropping a nuclear bomb on Iran.
+ Speaking of Adelson, he’s just written a $30 million check to boost the electoral prospects of the House Republicans in the upcoming midterms. The bag-money isn’t even “dark” anymore. It’s pumped openly and proudly right into the political sewer….
+ The White House is scrutinizing a regime change plan for Iran prepared by the shadowy Security Studies Group, a hawkish think tank with long-standing ties to John Bolton. Giddy from the busting of the Iran deal, the neocons are gearing up to run amok across the Middle East once again…
+ Give him credit, Guiliani has had a tough week, but he was the first to assert that Trump is committed to “regime change” in Iran.
+ When word came that John McCain was opposing Haspel’s nomination to lead the CIA, a White House press aid named Kelly Sadler told a group of other White House communications office staffers not to worry about it: “It doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway.” It used to be that press aides where there to clean up these kinds of messy remarks when they were made by the likes of Al Haig, Don Regan, Earl Butz, Leon Panetta, Karl Rove, and Rahm Emmanuel. Now they feel free to blurt them out themselves.
+ Before you shed any tears for John McCain….
+ Reason’s Matt Walsh argues that John McCain has been “the most pivotal non-president since the end of the Cold War.” McCain got the airtime, but what did he actually do? Thankfully most of his worst ideas didn’t materialize into policy and what he got praised for by the press was largely vaporous & self-sanctifying rhetoric. McCain will go down as one of the biggest blowhards of post-WW2 era.
An Arkansas day care worker ordered children in her charge to throw rocks at a young boy who had disobeyed one of her commands. And these people are freaked out about Sharia Law coming to the Dog Patch? It would be a civilizing influence. This women would have stoned Mary Magdalene…
+ Does anyone else get the sense we’re living in a shit-hole country?
+ Deep Throat’s advice to Bob Woodward was to “follow the money.” Forty-five years later, this remains the prime directive of investigative journalism. But these days reporters can take a short-cut: just follow Michael Avenatti.
+ Avenatti has pried open Essential Consultants, LLC, which may prove to be a trapdoor that exposes the secret financial plumbing of Trumplandia.
+ Essential Consultants is the shell company set up to buy the silence of Stormy Daniels by the bumbling Michael Cohen, who increasingly seems like the Maurice Stans of Team Trump. Of course, it’s only two degrees of separation to the dramatis personae Nixon time. Roger Stone actually worked for CREEP…
+ We know that $130,000 went out of Essential Consultants to Ms. Daniels in October 2016, a few weeks before the election. But more than $4.4 million poured into the account from AT&T, Novartis, Korea Aerospace and, Columbus Nova, an American hedge fund controlled by the so-called “Gentle Oligarch” Viktor Vekselberg, made his $13 billion fortune during the privatization orgy of the Yeltsin years and, unlike other pioneers of Russian plunder, survived relatively unscathed under the more demanding circumstances of the Putin regime.
+ Back in 1971 and 1972, all sorts of corporations and fat cats, foreign and domestic, were dumping money into CREEP that was used to fund Nixonian dirty tricks, from Lockheed Martin to oil companies & Saudi arms dealers and, I seem to recall, the parent company of AT&T….
+ Didn’t Michael Cohen tell the federal judge (and former Playboy bunny) Kimba Wood that he only had 3 clients: Trump, Broidy, and Sean Hannity? So what were AT&T, Novartis, Korea Aerospace and Columbus Nova? Where did the money go? Did Trump (or his Organization) take his normal cut?
+ It’s unclear what any of these companies got in return for their subornations to Cohen, who never registered as a lobbyist and didn’t seem to do any actual work on their behalf. Cohen was reportedly peeved that Trump didn’t invite him to serve on the White House staff. But as an outsider, he stood to make a small fortune selling access to Trump. Was that the plan all along?
+ Vekselberg, at least, seems to have hedged his bets. He met Cohen at the Inauguration and probably assessed the political limitations of Trump’s fixer. In 2017, Columbus Nova had also retained Trump’s other personal attorney, Mark Kasowitz, at the same time Cohen was working out of an office in Kasowitz’s firm, Kasowitz Benson Torres.
+ The problem with financial crimes stories, like Michael Cohen’s, is that it takes a really gifted reporter to write them in a way they can be understood. Usually these pieces only make readers confused. The worst of all in this trade was Jeff Gerth of the New York Times, who unearthed many important stories, like Whitewater, and then promptly killed them off with his impenetrable prose.
+ Of course, it’s tough out there and Cohen has a lot of competition when it comes to selling access to Trump. According to a report by Pro Publica, the Trump Administration has already hired 187 former lobbyists and that’s not counting Scott Pruitt’s landlords.
+ Gen. John Kelly: “I’m one of the, probably, the few people around here that isn’t really rich.”
John Kelly’s Net Worth: $4.5 million
+ Trump: “Le marais c’est moi.”
+ Republicans in the House are pushing legislation that will require pictures of Trump and Pence to be displayed in all Post Offices across the country. The real objective, of course, is not the glorification of Trump, but an attempt to finally kill off the Post Office.
+ It took George Will, of all writers, to obliterate Mike Pence.
+ Adam Trammell was a black man with disabilities living in Milwaukee. The police arrived for a “wellness” check. Trammell was not a suspect. He was unarmed. He wasn’t threatening anyone. He was taking a shower when the police entered his locked apartment. Within 30 minutes Trammell was dead, after being tasered 18 times. Trammell is just one of hundreds of people with mental and physical disabilities who have been forced to comply with police demands by tasers.
+ Warren Buffett’s son, Howard, is behind the “If we legalize pot we’ll have to kill the drug-sniffing dogs” campaign. He has donated $2.2 million to fund K-9 units across Illinois.
+ Some economists are predicting that the next recession will begin in 2020. But did we ever emerge from the last one? I didn’t feel it…
+ Student loan debt topped $1.5 trillion dollars, 50% higher than all credit card debt. Most college graduates now owe more than they earn in a year.
+ 48% of all debts collected in the US last year where health care related.
+ Pregnant women in the US are three times as likely as women in Britain or Canada to die in childbirth and for every patient who dies another 70 come close, for a total of nearly 80,000 cases of “severe maternal morbidity” each year.
+ Friday Morning Factoid: Amount of toxic debris from tar sands extraction slushing around in tailings ponds in Alberta: 1.3 TRILLION liters.
+ Friday Morning Factoid 2: Amount of pesticides sprayed on National Wildlife Refuges in 2016: 490,000 pounds.
+ Obama’s hapless EPA administrator, Gina McCarthy, is making the rounds griping that Scott Pruitt is unraveling every environmental regulation implemented during her tenure at EPA. She urged EPA staffers to wait it out and have faith that the federal courts would halt Pruitt’s depredations on the environment. Let’s be frank, Gina, you didn’t do all that much. Much of what you did do was woefully inadequate. And you failed Flint, which “still doesn’t have clean water.” Now, please shut up.
+ Science magazine reports that NASA has just pulled the plug on one of the cheapest but most important climate assessments in the federal government, the Carbon Monitoring System, a $10 million a year program that since 2010 has used satellites and airplanes to remotely track greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, including carbon dioxide and methane. The latest assault on NASA’s scientific research comes only weeks after climate denier, James Bridenstein, was narrowly approved by the US Senate as NASA’s new administration. Bridenstein seems intent on putting the ass into NASSA.
+ The ties that bind: pedophilia and climate denial.
+ The Great Old Broads for Wilderness, long one of my favorite eco groups, strikes again!
+ Ryan Zinke is dispatching National Park Rangers and Park Police to the border to harass people who they suspect may be (but so often aren’t) undocumented immigrants. This posting is entirely in keeping with the Rangers’ original mission of cleansing the National Parks of Native Americans…
+ Spotted in West London, near Paddington Station, above the spot in the Underground where Joe used to sit and play. (Thanks Phillipe Marliere!)
+ According to the New York Times, Trump gave Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen a tongue-lashing in front of the entire cabinet because her Department wasn’t arresting enough immigrants on the border and wasn’t moving swiftly enough to implement his cruel policy of separating children from their parents at the border. Nielsen leaked to the Times that she considered resigning her post. But the real story here isn’t that the awful Nielson, bane of Katrina refugees, thought about resigning, but that she didn’t. These people (Sessions, Kelly, Cohn, Wray, McGahn) will endure almost any form of humiliation from Trump, vent a little steam to the press, then return for more abuse the very next day.
+ Someone call Melania, perhaps she can stop Israel’s cyber-bullying campaign aimed at US students defending the rights of Palestinians.
+ 53% of South Africans support a “maximum wage.”
+ Four more executives from Nike have left the company over allegations of workplace misconduct. None have been booted for running a “hostile sweatshop environment”…
+ Bill O’Reilly has gallantly offered to stand beside Sarah Huckabee Sanders during her daily press briefings. Bring a taser, Sarah, keep a close watch on O’Reilly’s roving hands and hide the falafel…
+ This just in from Ishmael Reed: “My DNA results came back. 21% Nigerian. 15% Scandinavian, 14% other regions. You mean I’m more Nordic than Steve Bannon!”
+ There’s just something about typewriters. In 2009, Cormac McCarthy sold his Olivetti Lettera 32 typewriter at Christie’s for $254,500. Then he went out an bought the very same model. Alexander Cockburn used to say, in his best Charlton Heston voice, “I’ll surrender my Underwood when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.” Then he fell for the Tangerine-colored Streamline-baby i-Book and entire forests were saved from the pulp mills….
+ Playmate Elke Jeinsen says that she watched fellow Playmate Barbara Moore have sex with Trump in the penthouse at Trump Tower in the summer of 1993. Jeinsen claims she was disappointed that she couldn’t join in. Was this story planted in the Daily Mail by Trump himself to boost his self-esteem after reports in the Washington Post that Melania & Barron had moved out of the White House and are living with her parents in suburban Maryland?
+ A woman was arrested in Aurora, Colorado this week after she heated a cup of urine until it exploded in the microwave at a local 7/11. Did the clerk said, “Urine a lot trouble lady.” I wonder how many times Trump has watched the surveillance tape, flashing back to that unforgettable night in the Moscow hotel.
+ After Vanessa left the president’s Number One Son and sought out a criminal defense lawyer to file divorce papers against him, Donald Jr. is now consoling himself in the arms of Gavin Newsome’s ex, Fox News babbling head Kimberly Guilfoyle. If there are nuptials, will Rupert Murdoch perform the ceremonies? Will Jerry Hall serve as matron of honor?
+ Musicologist Ted Gioia, author of the indispensable How to Listen to Jazz, asked for my nominations for the Mount Rushmore of jazz drummers. The more you think about it, the harder it comes. But I settled on these four: Art Blakey, Max Roach, Elvin Jones and, the greatest of all, Tony Williams.
+ The news isn’t all bleak. In April, four critically endangered Mexican gray wolf pups were hidden under a seat on a commercial airliner by ecologists with Endangered Wolf Center in Eureka, Missouri. The pups were flown from St. Louis to Phoenix, where the two week old puppies were then planted in the dens of two different packs of wild wolves, one in Arizona, the other in New Mexico. It’s an amazing and thrilling story that put an exclamation point on the end of my week.
In This Dungeon of Despair
What I’m reading this week….
Trump/Russia: a Definitive History by Seth Hettena
The War Nerd Iliad by John Dolan
What I’m listening to this week. Still recreating my vinyl collection. Here are last week’s acquisitions…
61. Feats Don’t Fail Me Now by Little Feat
62. Bayou Blues by Clifton Chenier
63. Study in Brown by Clifford Brown and Max Roach
64. Infamous Angel by Iris Dement
65. Inner Mounting Flame by Mahavishnu Orchestra
Mugshots of the Bought and Sold
Thomas Pynchon: “When power corrupts, it keeps a log of its progress, written into that most sensitive memory device, the human face. Who could withstand the light? What viewer could believe in the war, the system, the countless lies about American freedom, looking into these mugs shots of the bought and sold?” (Vineland)