When Someone Tries to Shut You Up, Look into What They’re Hiding: When Monitoring Unlawful Behavior is Spying, and Exposing Treason is Called Treason

On May 13, Attorney General William Barr announced he was beginning an investigation into the origins of the Russia probe. He appointed John Durham, a federal prosecutor in Connecticut to handle the investigation. Barr, in his testimony to Congress, used the word “spying” to describe a counterintelligence investigation into the contacts between Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to T, and Russians. Are actions to monitor Russian contacts with political operatives of the President now to be called “spying” by this administration? And attempts to stop such invasive actions and protect our electoral process and constitution to be called “treason”? In March, T did just that and accused the FBI and Democrats of treason.

 

This is Newspeak, where monitoring unlawful behavior is spying and exposing treason is treason.

 

Barr’s move was in response to continued pressure from the President, pressure that looks like more obstruction of justice. The counterintelligence operation into Carter Page’s behavior was actually begun during the 2016 election (October 21, 2016) after being approved by a FISA court consisting not of Democrats but of four Republican appointed judges. And the investigation was continued by the Trump appointed DOJ.

 

In 2017, this pressure by T led to GOP Congressman Devin Nunes releasing a redacted version of the highly classified FISA warrant, something rarely, if ever, done. Nunes’ had falsely claimed that the warrant was based on the Steele Dossier. However, the FBI’s interest in Page predated their knowledge of the Dossier. Page was being monitored because he was associated with two actual Russian spies who were trying to recruit him.

 

In other words, the President ordered the DOJ (and a GOP Congressman) to do his bidding and attack those he perceived as his enemies and the Attorney General (and Congressman) complied with his wishes.

 

This wasn’t the only time T tried to get the DOJ to act as his personal attack squad to shut down or shut up anything or anyone who gets in his way. Remember that he tried to pressure former Attorney General Sessions to investigate Hillary Clinton, for example, and tried to pressure former FBI Director James Comey to shut down the FBI investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

 

Barr, as many have pointed out, has thus been acting as the attorney for the President, not the Attorney General of the United States. Barr told the American public the President was exonerated from any charge of obstructing justice when, in fact, the Mueller Report clearly stated T was not exonerated. Barr said the President did not conspire with Russia to attack the 2016 election despite the fact the Mueller Report detailed clear attempts by the President, or his campaign and advisers, to meet with Russians to release information to undermine Hillary Clinton’s campaign, establish back channel avenues of communication, and hide economic ties to Russia. His campaign manager, Paul Manafort, gave the Russians essential polling data that might have helped them in their social media attacks.

 

T also asked the DOJ to investigate the investigators who worked for Mueller on the Russia probe. In the past, he also told Nancy Pelosi to “be careful.” I wouldn’t be surprised if in the future he tries to pressure Barr to start an investigation into her or other Democrats.

 

Trump has gone after Congresswoman Ilham Omar on Twitter several times. He posted a video on Twitter that visually linked the Congresswoman to the 9/11 arracks. Since that video, the threats on the Congresswoman have greatly increased.

 

Previously sealed documents included in the Mueller Report were released last week that paint a clear picture of how T acts towards those who thwart him. The documents show that after Trump’s National Security Adviser Mike Flynn decided to plead guilty and cooperate with Mueller, T’s lawyers appear to have threatened Flynn and also dangle a pardon.

 

This action attempted to obstruct justice by interfering in the Russia probe. According to page 6 of the document, Flynn “informed the government of multiple instances, both before and after his guilty plea, where either he or his attorneys received communications from persons connected to the Administration or Congress that could have affected both his willingness to cooperate and the completeness of that cooperation. The defendant even provided a voice recording of one such communication.”

 

As Rachel Maddow pointed out, the actions of T, as recorded in the documents, sound more like a leader of a criminal enterprise threatening people than a US President. Is this history of threatening people one of the reasons the GOP in Congress obey T so consistently?

 

In response to an article on T that someone posted on FB, I urged people not only to share articles and express their fear and anger but to call Congress and take other actions. A man wrote in reply that if he called, it would do nothing. I replied, “Of course not. One call can do nothing.” Two calls, maybe a little. Ten thousand calls? Several each week? How about calls from the 53% of the population of this country who have opposed T since before November 2016? He has never had the support of even half, never a majority of this country. What would a million calls, a hundred million calls do?

 

How about if people, besides making phone calls, also took other actions? Imagine people wearing signs saying, “No more” or “Bring down the would-be dictator.” How about people on street corners, in their cars, or outside the offices of GOP Senators carrying signs saying, “No more attacks on children.” “No more attacks on the press.” “No more gun violence.” “No more destroying our schools.” “No more destroying our environment.” “No more normalizing hate in the White House.” Let’s normalize love. Normalize compassion instead.

 

Whatever actions, big and small, we can do, let’s do them. The object isn’t that one phone call or one protest bring down a would-be dictator and hate machine. It is that our collective voice and actions speak for and model an entirely different language than what we hear spoken in the White House today. It is that we learn how to speak a language of freedom, compassion and democratic action by acting in ways that advance democracy. And then, maybe slowly but exponentially, that language will become the new language of this nation and the speakers of hate will be de-throned.

 

*Update: Things have been getting even worse. Last night, Thursday, the President gave the Attorney General enormous powers, including releasing classified information. He ordered the intelligence community to cooperate with Barr’s investigation into the counterintelligence operation which led to the Mueller Probe. The purpose, this seems, is to keep T safe from Congressional investigations into him.

 

**This post was syndicated by The Good Men Project.

 

Ending The Politics of Hate Begins With Us, In The Voting Booth

I woke up early this morning thanks to a nightmare. I, as an adult, was back in my childhood home looking through the front window. Several white men with stern faces and a business-like or zombie-like manner were nailing boards over the windows from the outside. They were nailing in my wife and me. I yelled to my wife that we had to get out—and then awoke.

Afterwards, I lay in bed with the image pressing down on me. In my mind I took the dream further, imagining us grabbing our phones and money, chasing our cats out an upper story window as we followed them out and ran. I imagined the attackers might be planning more than just locking us inside.

Back in the late 1970s I wrote a play that was produced locally. It was indirectly about the JFK assassination, or more accurately, about a woman, Wilma Tice, who was called by the Warren Commission to give testimony related to the assassination. After Wilma heard the President had been shot and was being taken to Parkland Hospital, in Dallas, she drove to the hospital. It was only 15 minutes from her home. When she was there, she saw Jack Ruby walking next to the stretcher that was carrying JFK’s body after it was wheeled inside the hospital.

The Warren Commission inquiry was established about a week after the assassination, on November 29th, 1963. She later wrote to them about what she had seen. But after receiving a letter from the Commission telling her where and when she would give her testimony, she received threatening phone calls and faced tremendous opposition. It was never made clear how anyone learned she was going to testify.

The night before she was supposed to appear before the Commission, she was home alone; her husband worked nights. She woke up to find herself “barricaded” in the house; her windows and doors blockaded shut. She couldn’t get out until her husband came home and broke her out.

When she arrived for the interview, instead of supporting or compelling her testimony, they told her that, if she feared for her life, maybe she should not testify.

The whole image of people locked into a structure by others who hated or wanted to silence them reverberates through history. Consider what happened to Jewish people locked in Synagogues or African-Americans locked in churches that were burned.

When I hear about T’s actions and statements, I feel they themselves are a form of terrorism….

**This blog was submitted before Saturday’s horrible act of terrorism in a Pittsburgh synagogue. This act is truly upsetting and we must meet it with thoughts of compassion for the people hurt and killed, their families, the whole congregation, the police and other first responders.

 

To read the whole post, go to The Good Men Project.

 

 

Ridding Ourselves of Mental and Political Malware

Last night, I had a dream that Trumpf had planted malware in my mind. I don’t remember how, only the result. I couldn’t feel good about anything, couldn’t experience any happiness unless I did his bidding.

 

Like many dreams that synthesize multiple levels of meanings, this one revealed a twisted truth. T is trying to plant malware in our minds as well as into our political, economic, and social systems. He is doing this through actions, tweets and the statements he uses to manipulate headlines and capture attention. Even though so much of what T says and does is despicable—taking young children from their parents, starting to end the ban on asbestos and allowing its import from Russia, attacking anyone who speaks out against him, not protecting our voting systems, education and health care, etc., etc.—I think he prefers any headline over none.

 

And it’s not just the news media; it’s talk shows and social media. He is good at grabbing attention. So much of the news and entertainment media can’t or won’t resist him.

 

And it’s easy to get tired from all this. The bad news comes fast and furious. It is difficult to feel good about the future when his policies threaten that future. It’s hard to feel good about our lives when the lives of so many people are being undermined or destroyed. But doing his bidding by getting caught by his “information wars” only makes us more powerless, unhappy, and angry.

 

How do we remove the malware? Unfortunately, we can’t just download malware bytes. We can only find ways to resist. We resist by learning to be more aware and mindful of our own patterns of thinking and feeling. We can take care of ourselves and learn how to recognize the signs of anxiety and depression so we can let them go more readily.  We can strengthen our minds, our bodies, and our relationships so we can enjoy life despite him. It’s not just what he says and does that is so dangerous. It’s the values and ways of looking at the world that generates what he says and does that is dangerous.

 

And as odious as this may seem to some of us, and liberating to others, we can make political work a normal part of our lives. The midterm elections are about 3 months away. We have much to do.

 

When someone is pointing a gun at us, we can’t get caught up in debating the caliber or model. We take it away or get away. A gun is pointed now at each of us and we can’t run away.

 

We can’t lose sight of the goal or be fooled by distorted facts and statements meant to confuse and divide. Divide and conquer wasn’t just a strategy of ancient Rome. The GOP and T would like nothing more than to set progressives against liberals or moderates, debating whether health care for all is socialist or not or which candidate is more progressive.

 

In the past the GOP twisted the national discussion by turning ‘compromise’ and ‘liberal’ into dirty words. They made taxes and social support programs seem sinful, and accused the Democrats of class warfare when they pointed out how the GOP tax cuts were, yes, an example of class warfare—of the rich robbing from the poor and middle class. We need to resist their manipulation of imagery, language, and values. (Please read George Lakoff’s The ALL NEW Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate.)

 

In the last election, some of us were led to believe Hillary couldn’t lose, so we voted for Jill Stein. Others were taken in by arguments (and possibly bots) saying Hillary was as bad (or worse) than T. They would like us to bad mouth and treat should-be allies as enemies.

 

A democracy can only function when its people (including politicians) clearly consider and use a diversity of viewpoints to create new, broader understandings of issues and events. In order to hear and respect different viewpoints, a democracy must be a bit slow moving and require compromise. When anyone with different views is considered an enemy, meaningful discussion and debate is destroyed. Democracy is destroyed.

 

A recent article in the Guardian, written by Adam King and Emma Rees, explained how the Labour Party in Britain came back from a bad loss in 2015 to win in 2017. It created optimism with a bold agenda built on policies that excited people because they spoke to people’s real needs. The article recommended that Progressives in the US apply these same ideas, to work from within the Democratic Party and work with the DNC to win elections and create change.

 

King and Rees recommended that Democrats, and all those who oppose what T’s GOP is doing to our nation and our world, need to work together to support candidates who actually represent our views and interests, and will put those interests above even their own desire for office.

 

The candidates we support need to be able to work with others in congress to not only oppose T but advance democracy, at the ballot box and in the economy. When such candidates actually win, we have a better chance of unseating T and destroying his malware. (We need to research and hopefully support our local Democratic candidates. If you live in the 23rd Congressional District of Central New York, Tracy Mitrano is a candidate for Congress whose values I support. I also firmly support Michael Lausell for the N. Y. State Assembly 58th district.)

 

And as many in the centrist and progressive media have pointed out, this is already happening. Not only are more progressive candidates running as Democrats, but a report by the Center for American Progress shows there’s broad support among college educated and working class voters of all races in favor of a higher minimum wage, higher taxes on the wealthy, and more spending on health care and retirement. And more people are taking part in the political process. According to the Pew Research Center, the turnout in this years primary contests for House Democrats is 84% higher than in 2014. For Republicans, it is 24% higher.

 

There certainly have been more political protests than any time since the 1960s. According to Vox, 20% of Americans have participated in political protests over the first 16 months of the T regime. It has only gone up since then.

 

Many of us can’t stand to hear T or his Congressional GOP sycophants lie so openly and rip us off so brazenly. We are angry and afraid. There clearly is much to be angry about. T is the “King of sleaze,” a would-be dictator and probably a traitor, etc. And the DNC, the should-be leader for people’s rights and economic justice, has often acted contrary to those goals. However, I hope our anger and fear can be used as energy to wake us up to what we need to do, not turn us away from hearing or seeing what frightens and disgusts us.

 

I hope I now know, and we know, to think two, three, or four times before believing or sharing on social media or elsewhere anything that divides the opposition to T and his quest for dictatorship. That we know not to get arrogant or tricked into thinking a battle is won until it actually is won. And we take care of others and ourselves while we vote T’s GOP out of office and work to create a political system more responsive to the rights, freedom, actual needs and well-being of the great majority of people.

 

 

 

Question Authority! Taking Questions Deeply Enough

A question can be beautiful and exciting. A good question can be a gift. In education, for example, when a teacher asks students a real, honest question, it can fire up a real and honest discussion. Such questions are at the heart of education. To notice such a question you must be at least part way to an answer. The question reveals that, and possibly what, you don’t know.

 

“Question authority” can be a powerful and useful slogan. It can mean you can and should challenge, not automatically believe in, the power and viewpoint of those people in positions of power, whether it be institutional, social, or personal. It means you can question and challenge those who are charismatic and those you put on a pedestal or highly admire.

 

To question does not mean to denigrate but to elucidate the meaning, test the accuracy and applicability, or to do justice to the person or concept and reveal implications. There are different questions you ask when you doubt the truth of a statement, and those you ask when you simply want more understanding.

 

Sometimes, a question is asked facetiously, or to end or divert a discussion, so not all questions are honest, or insightful. I remember students taking “Question Authority” to mean there are no authorities; no one’s viewpoint has any more truth-value than anyone else’s. I think that all questions asked in a classroom should be heard; but the level of understanding of those with little or no experience in an area of life is rarely as deep or broad as those with actual experience, or who have extensively studied a subject.

 

To question that anyone who has experience in an area of life has a viewpoint that deserves a little more weight than someone without that experience, is to deny the value of experience and learning—is to deny there are truths to learn. The value of life itself can be undermined. Authority is not only a person in power but also a source of reliable information or truths, accurate observations and such. “What do you mean by ‘truth’” is one question a teacher must not ignore.

 

Sometimes, a question does not go deeply enough. People often question only up to the point of reinforcing their own, old viewpoint. A person, for example, might question whether the views of a climate scientist are biased by their science and not question how their own views are biased. They might inquire into what was in Secretary Clinton’s emails but not wonder what might be revealed by Mr. Trump’s emails or tax returns. They might question that teachers with experience with a student might be able to objectively describe the student’s learning, but not question the value of a score on a test created by an educational corporation. One of the most important times to question is when you assume your own viewpoint is the one and only truth.

 

‘Authority’ comes from ‘author’ or ‘creator,’ ‘originator.’ So when you assume your own ability to think, question, act, and you learn how to monitor and let go of thoughts and emotions, you are an authority. In Buddhism and mindfulness training, the meditator is taught to doubt any explanation, any conceptual thought, but not lose faith in one’s ability to understand—to doubt the thought until one’s awareness and clarity of mind and heart is sharpened.

 

Empathy is needed to take in, value and learn from other viewpoints. And a little humility regarding your assumptions or naming of what is true can be extremely useful. Such humility does not undermine your ability to think and act but enlivens it. Understanding, as Paulo Freire (and opposed to Professor Gradkind in the novel Hard Times by Dickens) and others have argued, is not like depositing money in the bank, not a thing to posses. It is more of a relationship, a guide, a clarity and a spark. It is not a wall to keep you or anyone else out but a hand to hold. Your understanding of the world and yourself is constantly changing, flowing. You need to make your questions into vehicles to help you navigate and work with the flow, not dam it up.

 

 

This Summer: The Crucial Role of Joy and Love

This summer has been one of the most disturbing and anger producing I remember. I am sure many of you feel as I do. Between the killing of African-Americans by police, police being targeted and killed, the killings in Orlando, Nice, Belgium, Afghanistan, etc. and etc. and Turkey, Brexit. Then you add the weather and droughts, all topped off by Republicans chanting for the arrest or execution of Hillary and Trump’s incitement to violence, racism, etc. and attack on almost everything I consider truthful—What do you make of this?

 

It feels to me that too much and too many have been denied for too long. The last thirty years of increasing social-class inequity, concentration of wealth, and increasing environmental problems are fueling this state of affairs. The suffering from inequity between classes and nations has come front and center transmuted into religious warfare and nationalism. As one article in The Globe put it, too many people feel like they are losing out in this economic-political system that seems to favor the very few over the many and so are retreating into fear, anger, and a sort of tribalism.

 

I grew up hearing not only about the bomb and the Red Tide of Communism, but the menace of the Nazis, and was determined to do what I could so it would never happen again. Well, it is hard to believe but I feel like it might be happening again, and it’s time to put aside differences and oppose the menace.

 

This is a moment of challenge for all of us, to wake up to the threats we face and the necessity to greet it not so much with fear (although I feel fearful) but with awareness, understanding, compassion and some righteous determination, even anger. To resist, act and vote against not only the words and deeds of people like Trump, but the institutional forces that would separate us, send us into little camps of like-minded close-mindedness, where we can withdraw into our beliefs and build walls religious or otherwise. We must continuously praise our shared humanity even when we feel like kicking the “stupid example of humanity” standing next to us.

 

And what can we do to help our children and students deal with all of this in a way that is both healthy and mind-strengthening? Think about that. Do you want your children to see you as a perpetrator of hate? Or as running scared from a challenge, as awful as it may be? No way.

 

And keep this in mind, too: one aspect of the 1960’s rebellion was humor. Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and the Yippies, street theatre, etc.. We need people like Stephen Colbert as well as Bernie Sanders. When the situation is so serious, it’s difficult to find humor or enjoyment in life, and to feel the positive aspect of love as well as the fear and hurt of loss. But a little joy and love can help you see straight and resist the mind-numbing quality of fear and depression. When the world feels most scary, that is a time when all those lessons about the necessity for kindness most need to be remembered and acted upon.