Call it what it is: an attempted coup

OPINION // JOHN DIAZ

John Diaz Nov. 22, 2020 (SFChronicle.com)

President Trump speaks at the White House on Friday.

President Trump speaks at the White House on Friday.Photo: Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty Images

The republic’s salvation may come down to a power-hungry president’s delusion and incompetence. President Trump seems hell-bent on undermining Americans’ faith in the democratic process and doing his utmost to poison the policy options, foreign and domestic, for President-elect Joe Biden.

What Team Trump is failing to do is overturn an election that Biden won decisively. It’s not for lack of trying. On the morning after the election, he tweeted “STOP THE COUNT!” with millions of ballots to be processed, as if he possessed a dictator’s wand over the land.

From there, as the votes were counted and it became clear that Biden prevailed, Trump has held to his claim that he had won an election that was tainted by widespread fraud. His rhetoric, and his campaign’s lawsuits, have grown more frantic by the day. It became even more ominous late last week when Trump’s team shifted to the ultimate authoritarian tactic: suggesting state legislators in battlegrounds he lost should ignore the will of their voters and select pro-Trump electors to the Electoral College.

There is no other way to describe these schemes: This is an attempted coup, the first in American history.

That it is almost certain to fail is no cause for solace. Trump’s persistent but baseless assertion of a stolen election is undermining Americans’ faith in democracy, an essential component of self-governance. His refusal to facilitate a transition to a Biden administration undermines the nation’s interest, indeed the public safety. The 9/11 Commission, citing the 36-day delay after the Bush-Gore election in 2000, underscored the importance of an incoming president’s access to the latest intelligence: “The outgoing administration should provide the president-elect, as soon as possible after election day, with a classified, compartmented list that catalogs specific, operational threats to national security; major military or covert operations; and pending decisions on the possible use of force.”

Trump has refused to share those critical daily briefings with Biden.

The president and his sycophants — which, distressingly, include a majority of Republican senators and House members — are either parroting unfounded claims of widespread election fraud or allowing them to seep deeper into the public consciousness through cowardly silence.

Thursday may have brought a turning point. So preposterous was a 90-minute news conference by Rudy Giuliani and the few Trump lawyers who have not abandoned the sinking ship that even some of the president’s apologists had to denounce it. “What I saw with Rudy Giuliani, who I’ve known for decades, was bizarre, was unfocused,” Geraldo Rivera said on Fox News.

Bizarre was an understatement. Giuliani and his cohorts invoked the names of Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez (who died in 2013), George Soros, Hillary Clinton, China, Cuba and Big Tech as among the players in a vast conspiracy to deny Trump a second term. Most of their claims were readily debunked — including many that were tossed out of court. Some of the wildest were accompanied without a shred of evidence, such as the dark rumor circulating on the internet that software in Dominion voting machines could have been programmed “all over the country” to shift votes from Trump to Biden.

A hand count in Georgia debunked that paranoid theory. A hand count corroborated the accuracy of the Dominion machines. Biden’s Georgia victory was certified Friday by the Republican secretary of state and governor. On Thursday morning, Trump had tweeted at the governor, Brian Kemp, to intervene in the recount to help “flip” the result. “Republicans must get tough!” Trump said.

Unfortunately for Trump, Kemp did.

“It is the 1775 of our generation,” Trump strike force team member Sidney Powell said at the news conference.

She’s right in one sense. This is a serious stress test of the republic envisioned by our founding fathers. Powell, however, is on the wrong side of history. The Drama King in the White House is more akin to King George III than George Washington.

Trump summoned GOP legislative leaders from Michigan to the White House on Friday amid the push to overturn a state Biden carried by more than 150,000 votes (Trump defeated Hillary Clinton there by fewer than 11,000 votes four years ago). The meeting itself was highly inappropriate. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, spoke out against the effort to pressure state and local officials to reverse the clear Biden victories in battleground states.

“It’s difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American president,” Romney said.

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., reacted to the Giuliani news conference by tweeting: “Rudy and his buddies should not pressure electors to ignore their certification obligations under the statute. We are a nation of laws, not tweets.”

It remains outrageous, even unpatriotic, that so few other Republicans have spoken out against his attempted coup. This is no longer about partisan loyalties or policy differences. This is about an American president who lost an election trying to cling to power in a way that the U.S. State Department would condemn anywhere else in the world.

Its clumsiness and absurdity may doom it, but does not excuse it. The world is watching.

It is, indeed, a 1775 moment.

John Diaz is The San Francisco Chronicle’s editorial page editor. Email: jdiaz@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @JohnDiazChron

John Diaz

Follow John on:https://www.facebook.com/SFChronicle/johndiazchron

Before joining the opinion pages, he directed the newspaper’s East Bay news coverage. He started at The Chronicle in 1990 as an assistant city editor.

John began his journalism career as a reporter for the Red Bluff Daily News. Two years later, he was promoted to the Washington, D.C., bureau of the newspaper’s parent company, Donrey Media Group. After that, he worked as a general assignment reporter for the Associated Press in Philadelphia and as a statehouse reporter and assistant city editor for the Denver Post.

He graduated from Humboldt State University in 1977 with a degree in journalism. He received a Distinguished Alumni Award from HSU in 2009 and was the university’s commencement speaker in 2010.

©2020 Hearst

Authoritarians From Mussolini to Trump

From left: Benito Mussolini; Viktor Orban; Mobutu Sese Seko; Augusto Pinochet
From left: Benito Mussolini; Viktor Orban; Mobutu Sese Seko; Augusto PinochetCredit…From left: Associated Press; Jacek Szydlowski/EPA, via Shutterstock; Hulton Archive, via Getty Images; Cris Bouroncle, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

BUY BOOK ▾

By Francis Fukuyama

  • Published Nov. 10, 2020 Updated Nov. 17, 2020 (NYTimes.com)

STRONGMEN
Mussolini to the Present
By Ruth Ben-Ghiat

Ever since the 2016 election, observers like Timothy SnyderSteven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt speculated that Donald Trump could undermine American democracy and move the country in an overtly authoritarian direction. That possibility grew more plausible over the years of the Trump administration, as he sought to undermine a growing list of American institutions that stood in his way, including the intelligence community, the F.B.I. and Justice Department, the courts, the mainstream media (which he branded “enemies of the American people”) and of course the integrity of elections themselves. Trump made his authoritarian instincts clear by refusing to commit to a peaceful transfer of power should he lose the 2020 election.

Ruth Ben-Ghiat contributes to this literature in a book that compares Trump to a wide variety of earlier strongmen, including Mussolini, Hitler, Augusto Pinochet, Francisco Franco, Muammar Qaddafi, Silvio Berlusconi and Mobutu Sese Seko, as well as contemporaries like Viktor Orban, Rodrigo Duterte, Vladimir Putin, Narendra Modi and others. The author, a historian who has written previously on Italian Fascism, is at her best when describing the history of Mussolini’s rise, and the way that insouciant Italians and foreign powers facilitated it.

[ This book was one of our most anticipated titles of November. See the full list. ]

Unfortunately, Ben-Ghiat provides no conceptual framework for distinguishing between different types of strongmen, and gives us very little insight into Donald Trump beyond what is already widely known. What we get instead is an endless series of historical anecdotes about a heterogeneous collection of bad leaders ranging from democratically elected nationalists like Modi to genocidal fanatics like Hitler. What sense does it make to put Silvio Berlusconi in the same category as Muammar Qaddafi or Saddam Hussein? Berlusconi may have been sleazy, manipulative and corrupt, but he didn’t murder political opponents or support terrorism abroad, and he stepped down after losing an election. Ben-Ghiat notes that many strongmen came to power in the 1960s and ’70s through military coups, but that today they are much more likely to be elected. Wouldn’t it be nice to know why coups have largely vanished?

Ben-Ghiat’s case selection seems quite arbitrary: For example, strongmen of the left like Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez or Ecuador’s Rafael Correa are not included, nor are women like Indira Gandhi. If we are focusing on populists in democratic countries, why include autocrats who never faced an election? An analytical framework would allow us to understand how strongmen differ from one another, rather than lumping them into a single amorphous category.

This is too bad, because Trump really does deserve more careful comparison with other leaders. There are indeed certain parallels between him and contemporary populists like Hungary’s Orban, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Poland’s Jaroslaw Kaczynski, insofar as they all rely on a similar rural social base for their support. On the other hand, there are unexplained differences: Orban, Duterte and El Salvador’s Nayib Bukele, for example, used the Covid pandemic to vastly expand executive authority, while Trump did the opposite, abdicating responsibility and shifting authority to the governors. Most strongmen are ruthlessly efficient and Machiavellian; Trump demonstrated incredible incompetence in failing to build his border wall, repeal Obamacare or expand his voter base. And, of course, he failed to win re-election to a second term. Revelations in The New York Times of Trump’s tax returns suggest he ran for president not out of a mad desire for power, but simply to avoid bankruptcy in his failed hotel business. And yet, despite myriad revelations, he exerted a magnetic pull on his core followers. Why? Perhaps it might be more useful to understand the ways that Trump is sui generis, and how he could set a pattern for strongmen of the future, rather than reprising familiar precedents from the past.

Forward Into the Past

NOVEMBER 27, 2020 (counterpunch.org)

BY ANDREW LEVINE

Photograph Source: Steve Jurvetson – CC BY 2.0

That Barack Obama’s “hopey changey thing,” as Sarah Palin called it, would be a major disappointment — not for Wall Street and others in the rich and heinous class, but for nearly everybody else — became clear when Obama chose Joe Biden for a running mate.

It became undeniable, after the Obama-Biden ticket won the general election, as news of Obama’s personnel decisions trickled in.

Everyone who ran against Obama in the 2008 Democratic primaries ran to his left except Biden and Hillary Clinton, his future Secretary of State. These were the two he empowered.

Now it is Biden doing the empowering. One might say that, at long last, his turn has finally come. That would be misleading, however, inasmuch as the time for his turn was never or, failing that, years ago. Let’s just say that blame for the fact that he will soon be the one calling the shots lies with the limited imagination of the Lesser Evil party’s old guard.

The good news is that because no one expects much from him, he will at least not dash hopes the way that Obama did. What he will do instead is what he has said he would all along: promote competence and decency and, in place of anything Palin might consider “changey,” moderation.

Compared to Trump, this is a major improvement. Compared to what the situation calls for, it is, at best, inadequate. It is also a recipe for trouble ahead.

Nowadays, Americans associate competence, decency, and moderation with the administrations that preceded Trump’s; Obama’s, of course, but also, amazingly, George W. Bush’s. Thanks to Trump, Bush is now only the second worst president in modern times.

Be that as it may, the hope now is that Biden will take up where Obama left off. To be sure, he has already taken exception to the idea – the world is different, nowadays, he says – but the fact remains that Democratic Party elites are looking forward to a functional equivalent of a third Obama term, separated from the first two by the four years long nightmare that will soon come to an end.

If only to be done with all that, a great many Americans, almost certainly a huge majority, are also looking forward to Biden ushering in a third Obama term. This is understandable, but also wrong-headed — because the situation calls for a good deal more. It is also unnecessary because, despite the efforts of Democratic Party honchos and the media that support them to drive home the notion that there is no alternative to a “no can do” attitude, there are major sectors of the general public that are way out ahead of the president-elect.

Perhaps it is just a case of hope springing eternal, but I would venture that some of Biden’s personnel choices seem a tad less wedded than Obama’s to neoliberal and liberal imperialist nostrums, to anti-Russian Cold War revivalism, and to the idea of America as an “indispensable nation.” If so, the restoration currently underway just might amount to a slight improvement over the original.

But whether or not the differences are merely cosmetic, they are minor at best. Therefore, even with Trump gone, and even if Democrats manage to gain control of the Senate, our political universe will continue to disappoint.

What the current situation calls for is a radical break not just from Trump and Trumpism, but also from the Democratic Party’s pre-Trumpian past. That is not what Biden is about.

Quite to the contrary, like the Clintons and like Obama, Biden is a living personification of the “normal,” pre-Trumpian politics that made Trump possible.

However, he may be temperamentally more disposed than the others to being pushed along by logically compelling arguments, backed by well- organized, disciplined, left-leaning popular movements. That, anyway, is the hope.

But it will take a lot to teach that old dog new tricks. Bringing his upper level advisors and personnel choices along won’t be easy either; they are stuck in the dead center too.

For now, though, he and they are hard at work, being all that Trump is not.

This is not to be despised, even as “the commanding heights” of the new administration are rapidly filling up with longtime Biden associates and other Clinton-Obama hands, and a few, generally younger, star pupils drawn from “the same old, same old” school of public affairs.

***

The challenges that the Sanders and Warren campaigns posed to the old regime were modest to begin with, and it is not clear how different things would now be had they prevailed. But even minor challenges to the politics that brought the afflictions of the past four years upon us are better than no challenges at all.

Needless to say, this is not the “narrative” hammered home 24/7 on the liberal cable networks and in the “quality press,” where the idea that Biden-style “moderation” may actually be bad for the Democratic Party—and for the country and the world — is , for all practical purposes, out of bounds.

Nevertheless, it is the truth. Biden’s moderation is not why he was able to garner more than eighty million votes. That came about in part because Trump’s malevolence and risibility became too much for swing voters at the margins in “battleground states” to bear, especially with a pandemic raging, and in part because left-leaning activists organized up a storm in areas within those states where black, brown, and younger voters abound.

Even so, it is well to bear in mind that not all “same old, same old” proponents are created equal. They may all be cut from the same cloth, but the politics they promote comes in many varieties.

The liberal commentariat would have people think that the burgeoning Democratic left cost Democrats down-ballot victories. Just the opposite is the case, however. What cost Democrats down-ballot victories was the pusillanimity inherent, as it were, in their party’s DNA. As Robert Frost said of liberals generally, Democrats are, by nature, too reasonable in conflict situations to stick up for their own side.

But times change, sometimes in ways that force mainstream Democrats to change as well. Mainstream Democrats and the parts of “the donor class” that support them continue to heap praise on moderation. But the truth is that they are all now less moderate and more open to change than they used to be.

To be sure, entrenched party elites are not about to acquiesce voluntarily in their own disempowerment, and capitalists are generally disinclined to give up their privileges without a fight. But when social movements present beneficiaries of old regimes with offers they cannot refuse, they sometimes do what they must in order to keep afloat.

This is what happened during key phases of the New Deal. Thanks to the dinosaurs who still run the Democratic Party, there will be no Green New Deal in our immediate future. But something like what was achieved ninety years ago could nevertheless happen again, if social movements work hard enough at giving Biden and his minions no choice.

How wonderful it would be to take a few weeks or even months off now that Trump is on his way out. But, alas, with Democrats being what they are, there can be no rest for the weary in the wake of the Trumpian maelstrom.

Thus, the flood of emails begging for money that everyone who is not an internet hermit had to deal with before November 3, so far from tapering off, has actually gained steam. This time it is about Georgia Senate runoff elections. As recently as a month ago, who would have believed that we would now be having to contend with anything like that.

With each increasingly desperate request – I may be a soft touch, but I am confident that I am not the only one receiving dozens a day – I blame Bidenite moderation more.

Long before Trump became a media obsession, I found myself unable to see or hear Rachel Maddow without feeling repulsed. It started when an earlier fascination with how long she would take to make some inane point, and how convoluted her circumlocutions would sometimes be, seemed suddenly to grow old.

It isn’t just Maddow anymore; there are now two, three, many presenters (or whatever they are) on both MSNBC and CNN just as bad; and most of the “experts” – the admirals, generals, spymasters, and former Senators and House members pursing second careers as talking heads – are even worse than them.

I blame the whole lot of them, more than anything else, for turning what would otherwise be some idiosyncratic pet peeves of mine into constant sources of annoyance.

To be sure, infirmities of age and the dreariness of life in a plague year, plus collateral damage sustained while dealing with life’s vicissitudes in another kind of plague year, Year Four of the Trump era, have something to do with it too, but it is the babblers and scribblers of the corporate media world that I blame most.

***

Thus, I find myself lately channeling the spirit of that late, not so great, conservative “icon” William Safire. As a journalist (more or less) who did PR work for Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew and others of their ilk, Safire spent his declining years as a New York Times columnist and grumpy old language cop.

It should go without saying: in almost all circumstances, the less policing the better. Whatever Biden may say or think, what the country needs now is hardly more Trump-style “law and order”; it is fewer, less racist, less violent (and murderous), and less egregiously well-funded police departments.

But language cops like Safire do police work only in a metaphorical sense. They are not about state repression. What concerns them is self-enforced clarity and precision, often in circumstances of little or no political consequence.

It is of no political consequence, for example, that I find myself unnerved, as I imagine Safire would have been, when reporters and pundits use “multiple” interchangeably with “many,” in contexts in which multiplication plays no discernible role.

And although I sometimes use the expression myself, I would expect that he would find “of color” problematic too. I do not only because of its historical role in the discourses of European colonial ventures or because, all over the world, “colored” has long been a term of disparagement, not praise — but also because, even on a descriptive level, the difference between those who are and those who are not “of color” often has little, if anything, to do with color itself.

The same is true of “white.” The principal victims of the European settlers who took the land of the indigenous peoples of North America were on to something when they called their tormenters “pale faces.” Pale, we “white” folk surely are, especially those of us who live in cold climates and stay indoors a lot. But we are hardly white – not even when at death’s door or just after seeing a ghost.

It is the same with some other recent turns of phrase. What, for example, is the point of such expressions as “cities like New York?” In what relevant sense are there cities are like New York? What does that even mean? And why isn’t “for example” good enough?

I could go on, but resistance is futile; the offending expressions, though of recent derivation, are by now too deeply entrenched to be expunged, thanks in large part to social media and the cable networks.

The surfeit of blather nowadays about people looking or not looking “like them” is different. It too is annoying. Whenever I hear people talking that way, I find myself having to hold back an impulse to say either “in your dreams” or “God forbid.”

I also find myself wondering what Martians would make of Americans of all sizes, shapes, and hues finding that expression meaningful. They would have to be cued into some fairly esoteric nuances of the forms of identity politics practiced in our time and place to make any sense of it.

Unlike some of those other peeves of mine, this one cannot just be dismissed as harmless. It is that surely, but it can also be politically disabling.

Think, for example, of all the people “of color” who, along with quite a few “white” liberals are actively engaged in depicting Barack Obama as God’s gift to truth, justice, and the American way – not for anything he did, quite to the contrary, but just for “looking like” them.

No doubt, the contrast with Trump and the fact that Obama has a book to sell is playing a role as well, but even so.

John-Paul II was fast-tracked to sainthood, a move that, according to press reports, figures of great importance in the Catholic hierarchy are now beginning to regret.

Obama is being fast-tracked too — not to sainthood, of course, but to some informal secular equivalent. Reasons for regretting that in the case of President Drone, the Deporter-in-Chief, Wall Street’s Best Friend Forever, are far more abundant than in John Paul II’s case; they always have been. But not to worry, he is “of color” after all.

Obama and his Attorney General, Eric Holder — and Biden too, insofar as he played a role — let Bush era was criminals off scot-free. This made it easier for Obama and his team to do “the same old, same old” with only a few, mainly cosmetic, modifications.

It is becoming clearer by the day that Biden is eager to follow the Obama-Holder model; like before, he wants, or says he wants, to let bygones be bygones, the better “to move on.”

There is a difference though. To hold Bush and Cheney and their collaborators accountable for war crimes and crimes against the peace, an inquiry would have had to be launched.

Trump’s crimes are, on the whole, a lot sleazier than that and of less historical consequence. They don’t rise (or fall?) to the same level. Many of them would also be child’s play to prove beyond a reasonable doubt; Trump has publicly admitted to many of them and even boasted about it.

Therefore, Biden will have to intervene actively to prevent criminal investigations already underway at the federal level; something he could not do without becoming Trump-like himself by compromising the purported independence of the Justice Department.

Beyond that, if he could not persuade the relevant officials otherwise, there is nothing he could do to stop on-going investigations of Trump and his family in New York City and New York state.

Therefore, even in the absence of concerted, organized resistance on the part of Democrats and others demanding justice, Biden will have a hard time following the Obama-Holder model.

Of equal or greater importance, if the nascent Democratic Left gets its act together in due course, he will have a tough time than he would like making nice “across the aisle” – by offering top appointments to Republican miscreants.

The tougher the time he has with that, the better. Moderate to the bone, Biden has all but declared that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren would be best left in the Senate, at the same time that his team has been floating the name of the former Ohio governor, John Kasich, abortion foe and active proponent of “moving on,” for some one or another upper level appointment.

If Democrats let that happen, then in the midterms ahead, they will amply deserve the kind of “shellacking” (Obama’s word) that they got under Obama in 2010.

Kasich, at least, ended up supporting Biden. Reports now are that Biden would even like to invest power in one or another active Trump supporter – all for the sake of restoring the vaunted “normalcy” of years gone by.

It may not quite be time just yet, but, before long, when Trump is definitively disempowered –and, if all goes well, on his way to spending his final years in penal captivity, while his brand becomes poisonous, and his finances plummet — and when it is clearer than it already is to a broad swathe of public opinion that old guard Democrats are part of the problem too, and that their continuation in power is more likely than not to lead to a Trumpian restoration, with or without Trump himself at the helm, it will finally and directly become both timely and urgent to take on what a later-day Safire might call our “nattering nabobs of (neoliberal) normalcy.”

ANDREW LEVINE is the author most recently of THE AMERICAN IDEOLOGY (Routledge) and POLITICAL KEY WORDS (Blackwell) as well as of many other books and articles in political philosophy. His most recent book is In Bad Faith: What’s Wrong With the Opium of the People. He was a Professor (philosophy) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Research Professor (philosophy) at the University of Maryland-College Park.  He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

Potential Biden Officials’ Firm Is Promising Big Profits Off Those Connections

Former government officials Tony Blinken, Michele Flournoy & Lloyd Austin may run Biden’s national security agencies — their firm is telling investors it expects to profit off ties to those officials.

The Daily PosterDavid Sirota Nov 28, 2020 (substack.com)

Two former government officials who may now run President-elect Joe Biden’s national security team have been partners at a private equity firm now promising investors big profits off government business because of its ties to those officials, according to government documents reviewed by The Daily Poster.

Pine Island Capital Partners lists former Under Secretary of Defense Michele Flournoy and retired General Lloyd Austin as a partner in the firm, and lists former Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken as a partner on a leave of absence. Flournoy and Austin are reportedly among the leading candidates being considered for Secretary of Defense, and Blinken is Biden’s designated nominee for Secretary of State. Pine Island’s chairman is John Thain, the former top executive at Merrill Lynch when the company paid out huge executive bonuses as it began to collapse during the financial crisis

Flournoy and Blinken’s ties to Pine Island were first reported by the New York Times.

In Securities and Exchange Commissionfilings, Pine Island describes one of its investment vehicles as “a newly organized blank check company incorporated in Delaware” that will use its connections to top officials to take advantage of rising government expenditures on the national security agencies that Flournoy and Blinken could oversee. Pine Island’s first filings about the investment vehicle were made in September — the same month Biden suggested that he will not push for significant reductions in Pentagon expenditures, which have reached record levels.

“The reputations and networks of Pine Island Capital Partners’ team, both individually and collectively, will ensure exposure to a significant number of proprietary opportunities,” the company said in one SEC document. “We believe there will be increased demand in the U.S. defense market for advanced electronics, communications, sensor and detection processing and other technologies that enhance the modernization efforts of the Department of Defense’s military readiness. We believe this demand represents strong growth that our management team is uniquely positioned to capitalize on given our combined investment experience and deeply connected partner group of former U.S. defense and government officials.”

The company says Thain and CEO Philip Cooper John A. Thain and Philip A. Cooper founded the firm “on the idea that a talented group of accomplished, highly respected, commercially-savvy and long-tenured former government and military officials, when fully aligned and engaged, could enable a first class investment team with better access, better information, better expertise and better management skills than those typically found in private equity firms.”

“This is so explicit that it’s astonishing Pine Island even put it on paper,” said David Segal of Demand Progress, a grassroots group pressing Biden to reject Cabinet appointments tied to corporations. “This is not an example of people who happen to work at a big company — these are partners at a firm whose stated business model is to profit from the revolving door and connections gained from time in government.”

Pine Island Announces $200 Million IPO After The Election, Projects COVID-Related Profits

On November 16, two weeks after Election Day, Pine Island announced an initial public offering of $200 million in its new investment vehicle, called Pine Island Acquisition Corp. In that filing, the company suggests that because of its ties to former government officials, it will have an advantage in investing — and it specifically boasts that its team includes Flournoy. 

“Pine Island Capital Partners spends the majority of its time focused in the aerospace, defense and government services sectors, where Pine Island Capital Partners believes it has extensive connections to industry leaders, unusual access to information, and often unique insights into specific companies, programs and overall market dynamics,” the company declares. “The reputations and networks of Pine Island Capital Partners’ team, both individually and collectively, will ensure exposure to a significant number of proprietary opportunities.”

Pine Island also says that it expects to profit off the COVID pandemic in its potential investments in government information technology services.

“We further believe COVID-19 will be a tail wind for the sector,” the company writes. “Critical to any successful government services offering is the skillset, integrity and security clearances of those who execute on its strategy. Our deep bench of connected advisors and former government officials will be the catalyst to recruiting, retaining and developing an elite team of managers and employees, which we believe will enable us to exploit an opportunity in government services.”

The financial relationship between Blinken, Flournoy, Austin and Pine Island could in theory be detailed as part of the Senate confirmation process. However, government ethics regulations allow that information to be concealed if nominees assert that they signed non-disclosure agreements with counterparties.

Photo credit: Mark Makela / Getty


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A CURIOSITY CHALLENGE TO YOUNG PEOPLE

Dear Young Person,

I hope you are well and moving safely through this unusual and very difficult time (the Global Pandemic and more). I hope that you are feeling high hope for the future. You are young with many years of life ahead of you. 

I remember when I was young in my 20s (1967-1977). Many young people, like myself, marched down city streets across the country against the Vietnam War. We also marched for the civil rights of black people. Also, at this time, many young people began exploring drugs like Marijuana, LSD, pot, Hashish, psilocybin. Hallucinogens can and do expand your mind but like any drug, you always come back to where you started once the drug wore off. I heard a teacher say that if you want to live your life with an…E X P A N D E D  MIND… you have to be willing to do some WORK on yourself, at which, I went home, grabbed the psilocybin and LSD and flushed them down the toilet! (I had a lot of questions that were demanding an expanded mind.) And so, I got to WORK. Now after 50 years of WORKING on myself (using tools like meditation, Translation and Releasing the Hidden Splendour), I am looking back on my life and noticing how very important my CURIOSITY was in guiding me through very difficult times.

I am thinking of young people today and that is why I am reaching out to you. I am curious about YOUR CURIOSITY. But first, here is a little more about my curiosity. 

When I was in my 20s I was curious about what I’m here to do in this world. What is my purpose? This is a normal question for young people to ask themselves. Thinking about my life purpose took me to the deeper, very ancient, spiritual question that probably everyone asks at some point in their life: WHO AM I? I am not my mother. I am not my father. I am no one but me, but Who Am I? No one can answer this question for someone else. It is a question that seeks an answer that is deep within each individual. My deep yearning to answer this question definitely helped guide me in and out of remarkably challenging experiences.

There is another question that really got me curious, as I looked at the world around me. This second question began when I was sitting in college classrooms listening to professors telling me this and that. I sat there thinking to myself: Are they telling me the truth or are they telling me what they were told? That question became a new question which really got me looking around and wondering: Is there such a thing as TRUTH? OR, is it all opinion? You have to admit that every person has a unique, individual Point of View. No one looks at the world through your eyes but YOU. So, opinions appear to be all there is…and maybe there is no essential, deeper, formless TRUTH? However, something in me felt that TRUTH does exist and that it is somehow back and behind the physical world. Here is where I went on a search for the formless, invisible, Spiritual Source of my BEING and I have a story to tell. In fact, I am beginning to write my second book about all this.

THANK YOU for reading this! I hope you will take a moment to think about the questions that YOU are asking. Also, if you can respond to my questions below and email me – I will appreciate it very much! 

QUESTION #1: How are you?

QUESTION #2: What concerns you about the world today?

QUESTION #3: If you are CURIOUS – what are your questions? 

_______________________________________________________________________
I look forward to hearing from you.  Thank you!

Sincerely,

Heather C. Williams, HWM
Artist, Author of Drawing as a Sacred Activity
High Watch Mentor with The Prosperos School of Ontology
Retired ART & Sp Ed middle school Teacher
www.drawingtogether.com
https://heathersdrawing.podbean.com/
https://www.instagram.com/heathersdrawing/
https://www.facebook.com/artist.awaken
The Power is within us! True Power is LOVE! ❤️ Let’s draw it out!

PS: On Sunday December 13, 2020, at 11:00 am Central time, I am giving a free talk on zoom about the value of CURIOSITY. Join me if you can! Here is the zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/848372474

160 Persons have died in San Francisco since March 2020 from COVID19

By Bob of Occupy (aka Political Bob)

November 28, 2020

This a verifiable fact from the SF Public Health records. Since March of this year to today, 160 people have died. That’s one person per every 5,500 or 20 persons per month. That’s putting things in perspective, something our mainstream media is not doing for us. And because 160 persons have died and positive tests have increased WE are being forced into a lockdown affecting many citizens’ ability to work to support themselves and their families. How does that make any kind of logical sense? And why are so many testing positive, which is the excuse being given us from our Controllers in City Hall for this lockdown? MORE people are getting tested. And positive tests don’t equal deaths. And what hasn’t sufficiently been reported on is that 80-90% of those who test positive have a mild form of the virus or don’t even know they had it. But Sky, this is just CONSPIRACY THEORY to those who won’t even go to the SF Public Health Records to investigate this it really is 160 deaths in eight months. Nobody is denying deaths. We’re just questioning the over-reaction, the terrorizing of the populace.

Sunrise Movement’s Cabinet Picks

A TIME TO HEAL

We can unite our nation by solving the crises we have in common: COVID-19, climate change, systemic racism and an economic recession.

Joe Biden must command the federal government with fierce urgency and bold creativity. Our next President must establish new executive offices, with expansive power to respond to crises faster than Mitch McConnell.

This is Biden’s FDR moment.

  • ESTABLISH THE OFFICE OF CLIMATE MOBILIZATIONJoe Biden has a ten-year window to stop the worst and most permanent effects of climate change. He can avoid Mitch McConnell’s forced delays by creating a brand new executive office and senior position with wide-reaching power to combat the climate crisis — just as we mobilized to defeat the existential threat of Nazi Germany in WWII.This new position will convene and coordinate across the President’s Cabinet agencies and, ultimately, hold every federal department accountable to the national project of stopping climate change. The Office of Climate Mobilization will deeply embed this mission into all of our spending, regulations, policies, and actions.The Office of Climate Mobilization will not require Mitch McConnell’s approval. Joe Biden can and must appoint a qualified leader who is trusted by the climate and environmental justice community.

CABINET PICKS

CLIMATE CABINET CRITERIA:

  • No ties to fossil fuel companies, or corporate lobbyists.
  • Collectively, the Cabinet should be representative of America.
  • Fights with the urgency that the climate crisis demands.
  • SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR More Info
    1. Top Pick REP. DEB HAALAND U.S. House Representative, New Mexico
    2. REP. RAÚL GRIJALVA U.S. House Representative, Arizona
    3. REP. JARED HUFFMAN U.S. House Representative, California
  • SECRETARY OF STATE More Info
    1. Top Pick REP. BARBARA LEE U.S. House Representative, California
    2. REP. RO KHANNA U.S. House Representative, California
    3. SEN. CHRIS MURPHY Senator, Connecticut
  • SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY More Info
    1. Top Pick SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN Senator, Massachusetts
    2. SARAH BLOOM RASKIN Distinguished Fellow at Duke Law School’s Global Financial Markets Center
    3. ROBERT REICH Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley
  • ATTORNEY GENERAL More Info
    1. Top Pick KEITH ELLISON Minnesota Attorney General
    2. LARRY KRASNER The City of Philadelphia’s District Attorney
    3. DANA NESSEL Michigan Attorney General
  • CHAIR, COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISORS More Info
    1. Top Pick DARRICK HAMILTON Executive Director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University
    2. STEPHANIE KELTON Professor of Economics and Public Policy at Stony Brook University
    3. HEIDI SHIERHOLZ Senior Economist and Director of Policy, Economic Policy Institute
  • NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL (NEC) DIRECTOR More Info
    1. Top Pick JOSEPH STIGLITZ Chief Economist at the Roosevelt Institute and Professor at Columbia University
    2. BHARAT RAMAMURTI Managing Director of the Corporate Power program at the Roosevelt Institute, Member of Congressional Oversight Commission
    3. MANUEL PASTOR Professor of Sociology and American Studies & Ethnicity at the University of Southern California
  • SECRETARY OF LABOR More Info
    1. Top Pick SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS Senator, Vermont
    2. MARY KAY HENRY International President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
    3. ANDY LEVINU.S. House Representative, Michigan
  • EPA ADMINISTRATOR More Info
    1. Top Pick DR. MUSTAFA SANTIAGO ALI Vice President of Environmental Justice, Climate, and Community Revitalization for the National Wildlife Federation
    2. KEVIN DE LEÓN Professor, senior analyst, and distinguished policymaker-in-residence at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs
    3. HEATHER MCTEER TONEY Senior Director, Moms Clean Air Force
  • SECRETARY OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT More Info
    1. Top Pick REP. RASHIDA TLAIB U.S. House Representative, Michigan
    2. JUMAANE WILLIAMS New York City Public Advocate
    3. REP. KAREN BASS U.S. House Representative, California
  • SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION More Info
    1. Top Pick REP. JESÚS “CHUY” GARCÍA U.S. House Representative, Illinois
    2. SARA NELSON International President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA
    3. REP. AYANNA PRESSLEY U.S. House Representative, Massachusetts
  • SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE More Info
    1. Top Pick REP. CHELLIE PINGREE U.S. House Representative, Maine
    2. REP. MARCIA FUDGE U.S. House Representative, Ohio
    3. SEN. CORY BOOKER Senator, New Jersey
  • SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES More Info
    1. Top Pick REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL U.S. House Representative, Washington
    2. DR. ABDUL EL SAYED Chair of Southpaw Michigan
    3. DONALD M. BERWICK, MD, MPP President Emeritus and Senior Fellow, Institute for Healthcare Improvement

How do we avoid future authoritarians? Winning back the working class is key

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders

A segment of working-class people in our country still believes Donald Trump defends their interests. We must win them over

‘Democrats’ job during the first 100 days of the Biden administration is to make it absolutely clear whose side they are on.’

‘Democrats’ job during the first 100 days of the Biden administration is to make it absolutely clear whose side they are on.’ Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Tue 24 Nov 2020 (theguardian.com)

As the count currently stands, nearly 80 million Americans voted for Joe Biden. With this vote against the authoritarian bigotry of Donald Trump, the world can breathe a collective sigh of relief.

But the election results did also reveal something that should be a cause for concern. Trump received 11 million more votes than he did in 2016, increasing his support in many distressed communities – where unemployment and poverty are high, healthcare and childcare are inadequate, and people are hurting the most.‘A cabinet that looks like America’: Harris hails Biden’s diverse picksRead more

For a president who lies all the time, perhaps Donald Trump’s most outlandish lie is that he and his administration are friends of the working class in our country.

The truth is that Trump put more billionaires into his administration than any president in history; he appointed vehemently anti-labor members to the National Relations Labor Board (NLRB) and he gave huge tax breaks to the very rich and large corporations while proposing massive cuts to education, housing and nutrition programs. Trump has tried to throw up to 32 million people off the healthcare they have and has produced budgets that called for tens of billions in cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and social security.Advertisement

Yet, a certain segment of the working class in our country still believe Donald Trump is on their side.

Why is that?

At a time when millions of Americans are living in fear and anxiety, have lost their jobs because of unfair trade agreements and are earning no more in real dollars than 47 years ago, he was perceived by his supporters to be a tough guy and a “fighter”. He seems to be fighting almost everyone, every day.

He declared himself an enemy of “the swamp” not only attacking Democrats, but Republicans who were not 100% in lockstep with him and even members of his own administration, whom he declared part of the “deep state”. He attacks the leaders of countries who have been our longstanding allies, as well as governors and mayors and our independent judiciary. He blasts the media as an “enemy of the people” and is ruthless in his non-stop attacks against the immigrant community, outspoken women, the African American community, the gay community, Muslims and protesters.

He uses racism, xenophobia and paranoia to convince a vast swath of the American people that he was concerned about their needs, when nothing could be further from the truth. His only interest, from day one, has been Donald Trump.

Joe Biden will be sworn in as president on 20 January and Nancy Pelosi will be speaker of the House. Depending upon what happens in Georgia’s special elections, it is unclear which party will control the US Senate.

Democrats’ job during the first 100 days of the Biden administration is to make it clear whose side they are on

But one thing is clear. If the Democratic party wants to avoid losing millions of votes in the future it must stand tall and deliver for the working families of our country who, today, are facing more economic desperation than at any time since the Great Depression. Democrats must show, in word and deed, how fraudulent the Republican party is when it claims to be the party of working families.

And, in order to do that, Democrats must have the courage to take on the powerful special interests who have been at war with the working class of this country for decades. I’m talking about Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry, the health insurance industry, the fossil fuel industry, the military industrial complex, the private prison industrial complex and many profitable corporations who continue to exploit their employees.

If the Democratic party cannot demonstrate that it will stand up to these powerful institutions and aggressively fight for the working families of this country – Black, White, Latino, Asian American and Native American – we will pave the way for another rightwing authoritarian to be elected in 2024. And that president could be even worse than Trump.

Joe Biden ran for president on a strong pro working-class agenda. Now we must fight to put that agenda into action and vigorously oppose those who stands in its way.

Which Side Are You On? was a folk song written by Florence Reece, the wife of an organizer with the United Mine Workers when the union went on strike in Kentucky in 1931. Democrats need to make it absolutely clear whose side they are on.

One side is for ending starvation wages and raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. One side is not.

One side is for expanding unions. One side is not.

One side is for creating millions of good paying jobs by combating climate change and rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. One side is not.

One side is for expanding healthcare. One side is not.

One side is for lowering the cost of prescription drugs. One side is not.

One side is for paid family and medical leave. One side is not.

One side is for universal pre-K for every three- and four-year-old in America. One side is not.

One side is for expanding social security. One side is not.

One side is for making public colleges and universities tuition-free for working families, and eliminating student debt. One side is not.

One side is for ending a broken and racist criminal justice system, and investing in our young people in jobs and education. One side is not.

One side is for reforming and making our immigration system fair and humane. One side is not.

Democrats’ job during the first 100 days of the Biden administration is to make it absolutely clear whose side they are on, and who is on the other side. That’s not only good public policy to strengthen our country. It’s how to win elections in the future.

  • Bernie Sanders is a US senator. He represents the state of Vermont

Trump Was No Fluke: George W. Bush Blazed the Trail

November 25, 2020 by Common Dreams

His lies and incompetence created epic disasters that may yet sink America.

by Mike Lofgren

 20 Comments

In terms of creating disasters, Trump has nothing on George W. Bush. (Photo: Kevin Lamarque/AFP/Getty Images)

In terms of creating disasters, Trump has nothing on George W. Bush. (Photo: Kevin Lamarque/AFP/Getty Images)

My friend and former colleague Bruce Bartlett has done a service by reminding us that after four years of the non-stop catastrophe that was the Trump administration, we should not lull ourselves with the illusion that the 45th president was some aberration that fell out of the sky.

His flamboyant criminality and relentlessly malignant personality may exert the same sick fascination as watching a grisly car crash, but in terms of creating disasters, Trump has nothing on George W. Bush.

As Bartlett points out, Bush’s presidency was filled with the same hubris, incomprehension of rational policy, and disdain for any government employee who told the president other than what he wanted to hear. There was much the same contempt for expertise (“I don’t do nuance.”). But understandably, Bartlett focuses on his own area of expertise, economics. National security gets only brief mention.

As one who spent a career in the national security field, I believe that’s where the real demons lay. It constitutes Bush’s true legacy.

The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 marked the rest of Bush’s presidency, gave him a convenient boost in popularity, and probably were responsible for getting him a second term. Yet he ignored so many indications of an impending attack that even the 9/11 Commission, replete as it was with equivocation, coverups, and pussyfooting generally, proclaimed that “the system was blinking red.”

Yet Bush preferred to spend that summer playing golf, telling the CIA briefer who informed him of the threat, “All right. You’ve covered your ass, now.” That behavior strangely foreshadowed Trump’s dismissal of medical experts warning him of the coronavirus. Like Bush, he had better things to do—such as protecting Wall Street.

The almost incomprehensible ease with which the terrorists succeeded was such that a large portion of the American people simply could not believe it wasn’t a false flag operation. This paranoia was reinforced by the speed with which Bush and his cronies exploited the attack both for crass political gain, and (even worse) to provide a flimsy excuse to invade a country which had nothing to do with the attackers—but whose leader was a bête noir of the Bush family.

The bald facts of Bush’s incompetent negligence were bad enough and should have gotten him impeached. But his brazen use of the tragedy as an excuse to invade the wrong country gave impetus to a plague of conspiratorial thinking that now pervades and suffocates political thought. The bogus “technical” arguments of conspiracy buffs about the melting point of steel in the twin towers were merely the precursors of far-fetched theories about coronavirus being a hoax, and the victims being crisis actors. America’s mental hygiene has never been the same since that day in September.

The crippling human and material cost of Afghanistan and Iraq set our country on a downward spiral that continues to this day.

Future historians may view 9/11’s effect on the United States as spookily paralleling the 1914 terrorist incident in Sarajevo for its impact on the Habsburg Empire and the igniting of World War I. For us—although in a more protracted manner – 9/11 may have spelled the beginning of the end, just as Sarajevo did with the Habsburgs.

Initially, the government in Vienna thought the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand at the hands of a Serbian gunman to be a tragedy, but by no means an existential crisis for the monarchy. But soon enough, the militant faction, led by Foreign Minister Berchtold and General Hötzendorf exploited it as a means to rid Austria of the Serbian “menace” once and for all. They contrived to send an ultimatum of demands to Serbia that no self-respecting nation could possibly accept. They succeeded in getting their war.

That eerily foretells how Bush administration gunslingers like Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld resolved to exploit 9/11. Rumsfeld jotted down in his notes,”Near term target needs—go massive—sweep it all up, things related and not.” Empowering the CIA or Special Forces to locate and neutralize the 9/11 plotters wasn’t enough. Bush and his paladins gave Afghanistan’s Taliban regime an ultimatum they could not accept, and, for good measure, proceeded to give Iraq the same treatment. We know the rest.

The crippling human and material cost of Afghanistan and Iraq set our country on a downward spiral that continues to this day. Those hideous misadventures spawned the Department of Homeland Security, the agency with the Orwellian name whose menacing potential is held in check mainly by incompetence. Former employees tell me it is far less than the sum of the agencies that were folded into it.

Yet, even as the twin disaster of Iraq and Afghanistan became evident to any thinking person, the combination of fear, vengeance, hatred, and hubris that the Republican propaganda machine whipped up got the public into lather. Foreign policy could no longer be viewed with detachment as an issue of national interests, cost, and risk. It became one more weapon in the culture wars arsenal. The 2004 was a referendum on Iraq, and, significantly, it remains the only time since 1988 that a Republican presidential candidate won the popular vote.

Congress entered a steep decline, sinking to the level of Franco’s cortes or the central committee under Stalin. Before the Iraq invasion, I conveyed my strategic concerns to a couple of congressmen. One of them slapped his forehead with the heel of his hand and said in mock regret, “Mike, I wish you hadn’t told me that!” But I didn’t change anyone’s vote (after all, I wasn’t a lobbyist with a checkbook). This, too, presages the behavior of Republican legislators toward Trump. Off the record, they are alarmed by him and disdainful. In public, they are as grovelingly adoring of him as Kim Jong Un’s subordinates are to the Dear Leader.

Bush’s disasters reverberate to this day. Our foreign policy establishment evidently feels toward Afghanistan as a man who has a wolf by the ears. He knows he can’t hold on forever, but he dares not let go. Iraq, where al Qaeda did not exist, spawned al Qaeda in Iraq, which begat ISIS, which then spread to Syria.

It is doubtful a president with the wisdom of Solomon could solve the Middle East problems that Bush created. And, as if to magnify the errors of his Republican predecessor, Trump abrogated the nuclear agreement with Iran, one of the few positive steps the United States has taken in that region in recent decades (and an agreement that Iran was complying with). For good measure, he gave a hearty thumbs up to the Saudi monarchy’s murderous bombing of Yemeni civilians.

In any case, time is not on our side. For a decade or more, liberals have congratulated themselves on projected demographic changes in the country that would mean a more diverse, better educated electorate. That change simply has not happened in an electorally beneficial manner, and is unlikely to do so in the medium term.

Indeed, because of our absurdly archaic electoral system, demographic sorting by region may actually exacerbate the inability to produce an electorate that will vote for moderate – let alone progressive—foreign and domestic policies that will not replicate the disasters I have described.  And it could lead to an even more authoritarian GOP; the party that already produced Bush and Trump could stumble upon a Führer who was actually competent, and the game will be over.

Just as Austria’s cumbersome dual monarchy was not up to the challenges of the 20th century, so it is in the 21st century with America’s antique political system (there is only one example of an institution comparable to our own electoral college: the electors of the Holy Roman Empire, a state which ceased to exist in 1806). The very structure of our system, combined with an increasingly paranoid and disinformed electorate, means the likelihood of producing a dud occupying the Oval Office is roughly 50/50.

Austria, though, in its twilight at least produced Gustav Mahler, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Karl Popper. We seem to be stuck with Ted Nugent and Kanye West.

Mike Lofgren

Mike Lofgren is a former congressional staff member who served on both the House and Senate budget committees. His books include: The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government” (2016) and “The Party is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted” (2013).