So, if you’re exposed in any way to US news media, you’ve heard that Trump has a problem with Russia. You may have heard that his National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned/was fired due to this scandal. But if you haven’t been following this story all along, you may be unsure exactly what the scandal is.
What do we know?
This scandal involves a handful of solid facts, and oceans of speculation about what those facts mean. Here are some of the key facts:
Russia interfered in the US elections by hacking the Democratic National Committee and releasing materials damaging to the Clinton campaign,
and by releasing completely baseless rumors (”fake news”). One example of the latter is the rumor that Clinton was tied to a child sex trafficking ring that operated out of a pizza joint. The pizza joint exists, but sex trafficking ring does not.
After the election but before Trump’s inauguration, President Obama imposed sanctions against Russia in response to these actions. He threw 35 Russian “diplomats” (aka intelligence operatives) out of the US and imposed economic sanctions barring US entities from selling certain products and services to the Russian intelligence agencies.
Russia did not respond with counter-sanctions, which is unusual.
Michael Flynn, who was at that time a private citizen, spoke with a Russian ambassador about the sanctions.
What questions still exist?
Beyond these facts, there’s a lot of speculation. Here are some of the main questions and theories:
Why did Russia want Trump to be president? One possibility is that they simply thought he’d be more friendly to Russia and/or easier to manipulate than Clinton. If this is the explanation, the Trump campaign may not have known anything more about Russia’s interference than the American public did. This explanation would be embarrassing to Trump–but not incriminating.
Did Trump and/or his campaign know more about Russia’s interference than the public did? We now know, thanks to leaks from US and other intelligence agencies, that Trump campaign officials were in what CNN calls “constant contact” with Russian intelligence during the campaign. We don’t know what they talked about or how much Trump, personally, knew about this contact.
Does Russia have incriminating information about Trump, which can be used to blackmail him? This is another possible explanation of why Russia wanted Trump to be president, and it’s where the infamous “dossier” comes in. The dossier includes the infamous pee-pee story, along with many other less eye-catching allegations about shady business deals and suspicious contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Some aspects of the dossier have recently been corroborated by US intelligence, but all they will say about which ones is that it isn’t the pee thing. If this explanation is the correct one, it would be both embarrassing and incriminating for Trump, but would not necessarily implicate him in treason, depending on exactly what the blackmail material was and what concessions he made to Russia as a result.
Did the Trump campaign actually collaborate with Russia to interfere in the election, either by assisting with the interference or by promising favorable treatment in exchange for their help? This is the most explosive of the possible explanations for why Russia favored Trump: if true, it would be highly incriminating and treasonous; removal from office would be pretty much the only appropriate remedy. Right now, there is no hard evidence that any collusion occurred, just speculation and the suggestion that it accounts for many things about Trump’s stance toward Russia that are otherwise hard to explain. The new information about “constant contact” bolsters this theory, but that contact could also be explained by other theories, including blackmail or even run-of-the-mill economic corruption (many members of Team Trump have business ties with state-run corporations in Russia, so they could have been talking about that).
Whatever was happening between Russian intelligence and Trump campaign staff, did Trump, personally, know about it, or even order it? This is a very important question, and right now, we have no idea. The intelligence officials who confirmed contact between Russian intelligence and the campaign have said that he was not personally on the phone during any of the calls they’re speaking about, and declined to say whether or not his name was even mentioned.
What’s the deal with Michael Flynn?
So that brings us to the matter of Michael Flynn. It was known during the transition that Flynn spoke to the Russian ambassador around the time the sanctions were imposed, and when Russia didn’t respond, it was widely speculated that he’d told the Russian ambassador not to worry about them. He denied this, right up until the day the Washington Post broke the story that he had, in fact, talked about the sanctions during those calls. Afterwards, his claim was that he didn’t remember, and that if he did mention the sanctions, whatever he said must have been so brief and noncommittal that he forgot the topic even came up. Several other people in the transition team/administration, including the Vice-President, repeated his claim that he hadn’t talked about the sanctions, and the official story is that they had no idea it was a lie.
However, about three weeks ago–shortly after the inauguration–Acting Attorney General Sally Yates told the Trump administration’s lawyer that Flynn was lying, and that, since the Russians presumably knew he was lying, this left him open to blackmail. The Trump administration took no observable action based on this information until it hit the papers, two and a half weeks later. After the information hit the papers, three more days passed before Flynn resigned.
Now that Flynn’s out, there are two ways of looking at the situation. One is that Trump’s Russia Problem has “taken care of itself”: it began and ends with Flynn, and now that he’s gone, there’s nothing more to see. This is the position taken by the (Republican) chair of the House Oversight Committee, among others.
The other position is, “are you fucking kidding me?” Unanswered questions, which are not resolved by Flynn’s resignation, include:
What else did Flynn talk to the Russians about, during the campaign and the transition?
Who in the administration knew he was lying about not discussing the sanctions, and when did they know it? Did anyone repeat this lie after knowing it was a lie?
Why did the administration wait so long to do anything about it?
Did Flynn also lie to the FBI about this, when he was questioned last week? If he did, that would be a felony.
Literally every question from the second bulleted list above.
Who is investigating this whole mess, and what’s so important about a Special Prosecutor or Independent Commission?
This matter is being investigated, by a lot of different entities. None of the investigations are free from concerns about accountability/transparency, political bias, and/or interference with other ongoing investigations.
Various US Intelligence Agencies, including the FBI, are carrying out their own investigations. Most of what we know about the scandal comes from people in these agencies leaking information to the media. These agencies typically carry out much of their activities in secret, so we, the public, only know what they want us to know. The Trump administration considers many of the intelligence agencies to be hostile to them; by contrast, FBI director Comey is believed to be squarely in Trump’s pocket.
Congressional Committees, including the House Oversight Committee and the Intelligence Committees in both the House and the Senate, have authority to investigate. All committees include both Republican and Democratic members; however, since Congress is controlled by the Republicans, every committee is chaired by a Republican. Members and leaders of these committees are doing a lot of talking about investigations, but it’s not completely clear what’s actually happening. Some committee proceedings are televised and/or transcribed for the public, but others are not; so far, the action has been confined to closed-door sessions.
Intelligence committees in particular operate mostly out of public view. Republicans (with very few exceptions) maintain that these committees should be responsible for investigating. Many Democrats have suggested that this preference belies an intention to limit the scope of the investigations and to shield Trump from blame.
The Justice Department is another possible investigator. In the Clinton era, the Whitewater investigation, which culminated in the Starr report, began under the auspices of the Justice Department. Starr was an Independent Counsel appointed by a panel of federal judges; he replaced a Special Prosecutor appointed by the Attorney General. The Justice Department is part of the Executive Branch; its head, the Attorney General, is appointed by the President, as are many other high-level posts in the department. It’s likely that Clinton instructed his AG to appoint a Special Prosecutor in the first place because he knew he hadn’t done what he was accused of doing and believed an independent investigation would clear him–which it did, of the original charges, but then took an unexpected detour into his sex life and revealed his affair with Monica Lewinsky. You’ll have to draw your own conclusions about the likelihood of Trump authorizing AG Jeff Sessions to appoint someone to paw through everything he’s ever done.
Democrats, and many commentators in the media, have called for an independent commission (also called a select commission, special commission, or “9/11 style commission”) to investigate. What makes an independent commission “independent” is that the members are not current officeholders or employees of any government agency (though they may be former ones–see, for instance, the members of the 9/11 commission). Therefore, they are less likely to be swayed by concerns about electability, the reputation of their agencies, or maintaining cordial relations with other officials or agencies in order to carry out other priorities. The investigation is their whole job.
Such a commission would be set up by Congress, and the members would be chosen by Congress, but once they got started, Congress would not have control over the direction of the investigation. The example of the Whitewater investigation is useful again here: the Special Prosecutor-or-Independent-Counsel setup is the executive branch equivalent, and even though Bill Clinton authorized the investigation in the fist place, he was not able to stop it from going in a direction he (presumably) did not want it to go.
An independent commission can also be set up with an expectation of transparency. Since it would be created specifically for this investigation, it wouldn’t have a history of secrecy, like the Intelligence Committees do. The 9/11 commission’s final report was available to the public, and much of the testimony before the commission was transcribed for eventual release (although certain officials, such as then-President Bush, were allowed to testify privately). The Starr Report, from the Whitewater investigation, was likewise available to the public, and most of the hearings upon which it was based were televised and/or transcribed for the public.
Finally, an independent commission would serve as a central hub for all information that emerges about connections between Russia and the Trump campaign. Intelligence agencies do not typically share everything they know with each other. An independent commission operates outside of the rivalries that exist between agencies, and can call on them to testify. This is a puzzle with a lot of pieces, and the full picture won’t emerge until those pieces are all collected in one place.
Idk if this is a comforting thought for The Youth but, at least based on my memories of being a college student during the early Bush years, is that Bush’s policies were wildly, enormously popular. Yes, there were protests at Bush’s inauguration, but they were mostly the frazzled remnant of the anti-globalization movement that was struggling to re-define itself in opposition to Neo-Conservatism as opposed to Clinton era Neo-Liberalism.
The Iraq War and the Afghan War were both incredibly popular. While there was a huge march in New York to protest the Iraq War before it began, that march was lightly covered by mainstream news. The left wing belief at the time was that broadcast and cable news deliberately under-covered anti-war activism because they were afraid of losing (even more) viewers to the new and ascendant Fox News. (this was probably a combination of truth and wishful thinking bias). News anchors all wore giant american flag pins on their lapels to symbolize there patriotism and there were periodic mini scandals about any given person’s flag pin being missing or simply not large enough. The New York Times generally covered Bush favorably and they even had infamous Bush propaganda hack Judith Miller on staff (until she outed a CIA covert operative).
Now, I’m just a regular non-expert who was all of 22 years old when this stuff went down, but, to me, none of the reporting on the protest movements against Trump would have looked normal in 2001-2005.
Edited to add summary: If you are young-ish and wondering “is this what it felt like to be looking down the barrel of eight years of Bush-Cheney?”, then my hot take, right now, today, is No. Bush in the spring of 2001 wasn’t like this. Bush in the spring of 2002 had something like a 90% approval rating.
Dialoghi dal Terzo Millennio. Dialogo settantottesimo.
Mariulin: “Ciao Cosimino…”
Cosimino: “Ciao Mariulin…Proprio a te cercavo. Tu che vai sempre in Francia, ha visto quante gliene ha dette La Pen a quell'altro, come cacchio si chiama …Maccaron…”
Mariulin: “Veramente si chiama Macron e la sua competitor si chiama Le Pen…”
Cosimino: “Va bbbbé non cominciamo co ‘ste cazzate! L'ha asfaltato…”
Mariulin: “Dipende dai punti di vista. A me non sembra.”
Cosimino: “Porca di quella puttana, non incominciamo, quello è uno "dell'establiscmens” come qull'altra la Clinton che era pure cornuta e contenta!“
Mariulin: "Un'acuta analisi politica vedo…”
Cosimino: “Guarda che Maccaron è un bancario, che ha svenduto la Francia alla Merkel, quell'altra crucca che ci vuole affamare, che quella pensa solo a Brucsel, mannaggia a lei!”
Mariulin: “1. Si chiama Macron e non Maccaron 2. Macron semmai è un banchiere non un bancario; 3. La Merkel sta a Berlino e non a Bruxelles…”
Cosimino: “Mo non ti mettere a fare il professorino perché mannaggia la morte, qua siamo pieni di negri che si prendono 35 euro e rubano le biciclette e tu stai a vedere se quella sta a Brucsel o a Berlino, che prima stavano meglio visto che almeno loro il muro ce l'avevano e così non passava nessuno…”
Mariulin: “È passata la Merkel però, visto che proviene dall'ex DDR…”
Cosimino: “Cazzo è la DDR? 'na televisone? Maronna, tu stai a credere a quello che dicono alla televisione? Guarda che l'hanno detto anche Dimmaio e Dibbattista che la DDR, la CNN e il CNR sono tutti 'na bbanda de somari, servi della Merkel e dei poteri forti, come il tuo amico bancario Maccaron! Porca zozza, troia, puttana!”
Mariulin: “Beh adesso devo proprio scappare…”
Cosimino: “Eh eh, bravo, bravo, quando non sai più che cazzo dire scappi, come il tuo amico Renzie che si è dimesso, che andasse a raccogliere more nei boschi…”
Mariulin: “Hai detto Boschi?”
Cosimino: “Maronnna ! Quella anche lei ha il padre bancario, Quella è peggio della Clinton che gli americani gli hanno fatto un paiolo così alla Clinton che per fortuna hanno scelto uno che viene dal popolo come David Tramp…”
Mariulin: “Veramente si chiama Donald…”
Cosimino: “Quello è quello degli amburgher chene sai quante vacche devono ammazzare per fare un amburgher?”
Mariulin: “No, quante?”
Mariulin: “Scusa ma quanto pesa un hamburger?”
Cosimino: “Eccche c'entra? Quello è tutto scarto! E per quello che poi in Africa non hanno l'acqua per allevare le mucche e scappano tutti in Italia sui barconi! Eh caro mio ma che ne sai tu di come va il mondo?!”
Faith goes hand-in-hand with subversion when you’re not the controlling power. It’s all fine and well to talk about skepticism and science being valuable in a society where reason is in control. […] Faith is required when you’re in occupied Judea. Faith is required when you’re in the Matrix, because what other weapon are you going to use to get out of an Orwellian situation than something other than logic? Because they use logic to box you in. They tell you, for instance, that if UFOs were real, we’d be seeing them more often. They use logic to make you feel like you’re insane, so conspiracy theory mythology is just a beautiful expression of raw anti-authoritarianism and human spirit.
I keep seeing people vehemently declaring “The A is for Asexual!" I’ve mostly stayed out of it, but Asexual Awareness Week seems to be a good excuse for me to dive in and share my thoughts on the whole thing, since, at the core of it, it’s about awareness.
A is for Acronym
Quick backstory here: You’re likely all familiar with the abbreviation “LGBT”, for “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender”. The acronym is often extended, sometimes to “LGBTQ” (Where “Q” is for “Queer”) or “LGBTA”, or some other variant with more letters. At issue is the “A”, whenever it appears. What does it stand for? Many people say “Allies”, but recently, there has been a push to claim it for “Asexual”.
A is for As Defined
The reason people say that “A” stands for “Allies” is because, well, it does. That’s what it has been for years. It’s in club names and mission statements and posters that have been around since the Clinton era. That doesn’t make it right, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t change, but recognition of where it’s coming from is important.
A is for Awareness
It’s important to note these groups, for the most part, are not doing this to spite us. They don’t want to erase us. They’re not against our inclusion. They’re not deliberately elevating “allies” over asexuals.
They don’t even know about us.
And that’s where part of the problem lies. Things will never change if they don’t understand who we are. And they won’t understand who we are if we don’t introduce ourselves.
A is for Ad Infinitum
The other part of the problem is the concept of an inclusive acronym itself. It’s impossible. By the time you include gays, lesbians, transgender people, asexuals, bisexuals, pansexuals, lithromantics, two-spirit and questioning people, you’ve got a long string of letters that no one can keep track of. And you haven’t even mentioned the polys, androsexuals, aromantics, intersex people, demisexuals, neutrois, and genderqueer people. And so on and so on. By trying to come up with something that has a shoutout for everyone, you end up making something that no one can use and that still will leave people out.
A is for Abandon
The acronym can’t be fixed. There aren’t enough letters to list everyone, you can’t patch it with stars or plus signs or a Q like some kind of Gilligan’s Island “And the Rest” and think that’s adequate.
It has to be abandoned.
There are several alternatives out there that attempt to avoid the issues inherent with seeking an alphabet soup of inclusiveness:
Queer: Reclaimed and adapted to be a catch-all.
GSRM: “Gender Sexuality Romantic Minorities”
MOGAI: “Marginalized Orientations, Gender Alignments, and Intersex”
Pick one and start using it. Push for its adoption. Or try to make one that’s better, because plenty of people have issues with those choices, which are beyond the scope of this post.
A is for Animosity
Leaving aside the acronym problem for a moment, I’d also like to address the other issue I see here: The demonization of allies.
A lot of people are painting allies as self-centered entitled cishets that are demanding a cookie for being decent. That’s not what an ally is. An ally listens to you. An ally supports you. An ally fights for you. An ally can be any gender, any orientation, anyone who’ll step up to say, “I believe you and I’m on your side.”
We need allies. We should be collecting them like a ten year old collects Pokemon. They will be there when we need them. Without allies, our “A” will stand for “Alone”.
A is for Action
And so, from this view, the answer isn’t to run around screaming “The A is for ‘Asexuals’, not ‘Allies’” at the windmills. The answer is to work to tear down and replace the foundation that leads to the conflict in the first place.
If you know of an organization that lists “Allies” and not “Asexuals”, go to them and tell them how they’re not being a good ally for you and others like you. If you don’t speak to them, they won’t know there’s a problem, and they won’t fix it by themselves. If you just shout at them from the sidelines, they will never understand what you’re upset about.
If you know of a group that calls itself an “LGBT Center” or something like that and claims to be inclusive, go to them and tell them how their name itself is exclusive. Many centers are starting to call themselves general names like “Rainbow Center”, “Pride Center”, “Queer Resource Center”, and so on, precisely because they’ve come to recognize that calling themselves the “LGBT Center” leaves out people they want to include.
African-Americans of some accomplishment have a deep acquaintance with this kind of white incredulity. Yesterday it was cries of unlearned, ordinary Negro. Today it is cries of Affirmative Action. (Even when you went to a black school.) Or it’s Donald Trump demanding Barack Obama’s college transcripts. The spectacle of a black man forced to present his papers to white people is not some new incomprehensible response to our first Hawaiian president. It is an old and predictable response to black achievement. It may well be true that Barack Obama and Bill Clinton have endured the same amount of disrespect. But the nature of that disrespect matters. It matters that Rush Limbaugh did not refer to healthcare in the Clinton era as reparations. All kinds of crazy are not equal, and in America, racist crazy has a special history worthy of highlighting.
#3. The Cast Is Amazing (and Completely Misrepresented)
1998’s Godzilla starred three Simpsons cast members, Jean Reno from The Professional, and Ferris freaking Bueller, as if director Roland Emmerich had made a bet on how many fan-favorite actors he could cram into a ridiculous movie (this same formula had previously worked to his advantage in Independence Day). … Much of the promotional material for the new Godzilla was centered on fan-favorite actor Bryan Cranston, who plays a character that fucks off 20 minutes into the film. He never even sees Godzilla. The two don’t share a single moment of screen time, like Pacino and De Niro in The Godfather Part II. Aaron Taylor-Johnson, the movie’s actual protagonist, has an eye-blink cameo in the trailer, while the trailer itself promises a movie about TV’s Walter White and his sidekick, Ken Watanabe, as they obsessively try to expose a giant monster coverup (the movie is about none of those things).
the invasion of iraq was not some spontaneous resumption of hostilities between the us and iraq after a decade of peace the 90s and the clinton era consisted of multiple military strikes against iraq the ultimate invasion by bush was a continuation of these policies