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The MacGuffin Presidency

Dr. Matthew Crosston

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As many Americans get prepared for the End of Times on January 20th with the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump and even larger swaths of people around the world are inspired by the eloquent dire warnings of Meryl Streep at the Golden Globes, it might be time for a single lone voice to offer a revelation: it may be big news that Donald Trump is going to be President; but it is far bigger news that the Trump Presidency is going to be the biggest MacGuffin in the history of televised action.

So get your popcorn ready, world, and remember the most important thing of all: that while a MacGuffin is usually effective in keeping the plot moving forward and maintaining your emotional peak investment, in the end it is also always intrinsically lacking any real meaning at all.

To prove this let us take and dissect several announcements that have all gone intensively viral across the web in recent weeks:

1. Trump fires all Ambassadors and Special Envoys, ordering them out by inauguration day.

The reality of this is more about being strictly rigid with the technical rule that has always been in place rather than being radically authoritarian with long-established tradition. Political appointees, which Ambassadors and Special Envoys are, usually expect to be replaced whenever one President leaves and another one enters the Oval Office, especially when that change also involves a switch in political party for the incoming President. In the past, many former holders of the Oval Office have allowed relatively slight extensions for such people to leave. What Trump has done is break with that relatively modern flexible interpretation of the rule, choosing instead to follow the actual rule in place to the letter by telling the political appointees over a month in advance that January 20th would be their final day to serve. It is also important to note that regardless of the presence or employment status of any Ambassador or Special Envoy, every single American embassy around the world has someone called the Deputy Chief of Mission. This person is almost without question a career Foreign Service Official specifically suited and experienced with running the everyday affairs of an Embassy while it undergoes the transition of a new incoming Ambassador. So the intimation that Trump is ‘firing’ all ambassadors and leaving our foreign missions in chaos is simply wrong.

2. House brings back the Holman rule allowing them to reduce an individual civil service or political appointee’s salary to $1, effectively firing them by amendment to any piece of legislation. We now know why they wanted names and positions of people in Energy and State.

The Holman Rule actually goes all the way back to 1876 and does indeed allow lawmakers to cut the pay of individual federal workers down to $1. This viral coverage is almost universally tagged to the idea that it is a Republican attempt to be able to single out, for example, climate change scientists, for financial intimidation: if you de facto eliminate people’s earnings they will have no choice but to depart from that employment and seek wages elsewhere. Therefore, the huge outcry with this so-called reimplementation of the Holman Rule is that it is going to basically ‘de-science’ whatever the Republican Congress does not like. All of this sounds horrifically ominous and unjust. It also happens to be hyperbolic melodrama as it leaves out one critical aspect of the process: under the Holman Rule, any such amendment against an individual cannot be an arbitrary decision. Rather, the amendment in question has to face a vote from the entire United States Congress – the House of Representatives AND the Senate – and the vote must achieve a majority affirmation in order to be in effect. As we have already seen with the in-coming Congress, even though it is ‘controlled’ by Republicans, the Grand Ole Party has shown itself to be remarkably NON-unified on most issues and has not been successful in achieving majority decisions, even on the issues they were supposed to be united on. The Holman Rule is no such issue and therefore the likelihood of this ever being successfully engineered is extremely low.

3. The US Senate schedules 6 simultaneous hearings on cabinet nominees and triple-books those hearings with Trump’s first press conference in months and an ACA budget vote, effectively preventing any concentrated coverage or protest.

This story has already been slightly deflated as 1/3 of those hearings have already been moved to different days. Ironically, this has drawn derisive anger from the right as ‘having caved’ to Congressional Democrats and proving the majority party has ‘no spine.’ So much for the characterization of Congressional Republicans being some form of neo-Dark Side army from Star Wars mythology, haughtily strutting about and chuckling at the impotent mewlings of progressives. In addition, scheduling a press conference on the same day as tumultuous confirmation hearings is not only NOT atypical, it is political PR 101: create news where you DO control the narrative if you are worried things could be happening elsewhere in which the narrative is largely out of your control. There can be no argument that Trump appointee confirmation hearings are going to be a circus beyond all circuses, with people clearly using the opportunity to turn it into their own specific platforms and personal soapboxes. That is the nature of modern-day confirmation hearings. It happened with Obama. It happened with W. It happened with Clinton. So, the decision by the Trump team to create a ‘political diversion’ by finally offering up the President-elect in a news conference (something he admittedly seems loathe to do so far) is a brilliant stroke of political strategy. But the concern that a press-conference will prevent concentrated coverage or protest is an empty conceit: given the size of the contemporary media and the supposed intensity of emotion against the incoming President, if protest is truly unable to manage multiple fronts that are not even that large or disparate then it seems the anti-Trump movement is not nearly as big or as passionate as it proclaims to be.

4. House GOP expressly forbids the Congressional Budget Office from reporting or tracking ANY costs related to the repeal of the ACA.

I only need to offer a simple direct quote from someone working in the CBO as to this ‘fact’ that has been catching fire all over the web:

“This is false. Section 3(h) on page 25 of HRes 5 establishes a point of order against a bill that would increase net direct spending by more than $5 billion in any of the four decades AFTER the budget window used for cost estimates prepared under the Budget Act. And it requires CBO to include in its cost estimates an analysis of whether the bill increases such costs in the long term (that requirement has been in place for quite some time). That section (in 3(h)(4)(A) and (B) then exempts ACA related bills from that long-term requirement. It has nothing to do with whether CBO can provide the normal cost estimates of legislation, including those related to the ACA. Furthermore, this a House rule; it does not apply to the Senate.”

She added that the reporting on this has been very uninformed. Really? “Reporting” that has been almost exclusively dominated by unvetted blog declarations online (ie, not run by accredited members of the formal media), covering aspects of internal house budget procedural rules (an arcane and insane depth of bureaucratic weed-diving if there ever was one), is ‘uninformed?’ The only real question is whether it is uninformed or simply purposely misleading in order to enrage people over nothing.

5. Trump continues to throw the intelligence community under the bus to protect Putin, despite the growing mountain of evidence that the Russians deliberately interfered in the election.

The misdirection in this accusation has been breathtakingly impressive. First, it was not that long ago when there was open protest and a ‘throwing under the bus’ of the Intelligence Community for it supposedly having too much of a political role in determining whether or not America should have gone to war in Iraq. The Intelligence Community at the time rightfully protested what was a fundamental misunderstanding by the American public as to what its true function in American democracy was supposed to be: namely, the IC is to collect information, assess and evaluate the data, and present the report findings to actual policy-makers who are then charged with deciding what they wish to do with it. Under no circumstance in the entire history of the American Intelligence Community has there ever been a clamor, from the public or the IC itself, for intelligence professionals to be the ones to exclusively commandeer or determine foreign policy. The mere thought that it may have come close to doing that in a subtle and quiet way in Iraq back in 2003 made the entire country apoplectic with the supposed breakdown of our system of checks and balances. Now apparently, because it is Trump, the public’s desire is to do that very thing. It should be noted that the Intelligence Community has been the only player in this political charade to respectfully remind people that it seeks no policy-making role and only has a responsibility to report findings to the President-elect and at that point it is the privilege and responsibility of the President-elect to do with the reports whatever he deems best.

Finally, a comment really needs to be made about that so-called mountain of evidence proving ‘Russian interference.’ I have written extensively on this before so I will not repeat comments already made. But what does need to be emphasized is the innate danger the Democratic Party is crafting for its future political campaigns if it continues to ever more heavily lean on the Russian bogeyman as an explanation as to why it lost to Trump in 2016. The Russians almost certainly conducted some shady maneuvers that amounted to a semi-effective PAC ad campaign against Clinton. They did this because they were worried that Hillary was undoubtedly going to be the winner and her positions for several years had been decidedly and very publicly anti-Russian. Attempting to besmirch and weaken her ‘incoming mandate’ was not only wise, it was politically necessary from a Russian foreign policy perspective. But that interference did not rig voting machines or intimidate voters from participating in important swing states across America. It simply is not proven that Clinton lost because of the Russians. The important subtext in the IC reporting de facto makes note of this. But the increasing importance Democrats are placing on this issue, as if they have in fact proven it when they haven’t, only means they are looking for expedient escapism so as to not face their own flawed approach to the presidential campaign.

6. Trump breaks a central campaign promise to make Mexico pay for the wall by asking Congress (in other words, the American taxpayers) to pay for it.

This last entry is symbolic because it represents at least a dozen other issue points Trump spoke to on the campaign trail and has subsequently walked back since being elected. What’s odd is the progressive outcry about it. Since almost the entire Trump platform, point by point, was ridiculed and reviled by the Left in America during the campaign, you would think walking those points back would only mean progressives, liberals, libertarians, and moderate Republicans en masse could breathe a sigh of relief. After all, Trump KEEPING his campaign promises is what was repeatedly considered the political End of Times for these groups. Trump breaking most if not all of his campaign promises should therefore be a blessing. And yet it is not. It is instead used as another stimulus to enable garment-renting, hand-wringing anti-Trump kvetching, the intensity of which has perhaps never been seen in political America before.

And this, alas, seems to be the true nature and purpose of the MacGuffin Presidency. What Trump truly does, what he truly represents and strives to achieve is amorphous, ephemeral, immaterial. Quite honestly, it’s irrelevant. A MacGuffin, remember, cannot in and of itself BE. It serves only to set and keep the plot in motion. And Trump, whether he likes it or not, whether he realizes it or not, is the MacGuffin for both left and right, for liberal and conservative, for American and global, to draw their battle lines in the sand and fight. The next four years are indeed going to be interesting. But I doubt they will be because of anything Trump actually does. Because, in the end, President MacGuffin is not seen or heard. He simply moves everyone else along their devoted paths and agendas.

Dr. Matthew Crosston is Executive Vice Chairman of ModernDiplomacy.eu. He is Senior Doctoral Faculty in the School of Security and Global Studies at the American Military University and was just named the future Co-Editor of the seminal International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence. His work is catalogued at: https://brown.academia.edu/ProfMatthewCrosston/Analytics

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Americas

Decoding Pompeo’s words at US senate

Mohammad Ghaderi

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The CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who is nominee for Secretary of State, has recently mentioned meaningful words in his hearing at the Senate on Iran and the nuclear deal. In his words, he acknowledged that Iran was not after nuclear weapons even before the nuclear deal, nor will be in the future.

On the other hand, he has announced that he is seeking to fix and correct the nuclear deal with Iran! This is while the US President Donald Trump is scheduled to announce his final decision on Iran’s nuclear deal by May 12. “I want to fix this deal,” Pompeo said. “That’s the objective. I think that’s in the best interest of [the United States].”

At his recent Senate hearing, Pompeo has emphasized that as CIA Director, he didn’t find any evidences that Iran has violated the nuclear deal. At the same time, he believes that Tehran can’t expand its program shortly after the US withdrawal from the nuclear accord. He emphasized that his goal is to correct the nuclear deal with Iran. Pompeo said:

“If there’s no chance that we can fix it, I will recommend to the president (Trump) that we do our level best to work with our allies to achieve a better outcome and a better deal,” he said. “Even after May 12, there’s still much diplomatic work to be done.”

A simple decoding of Pompeo’s remarks suggests that, despite the opposition to the nuclear accord, he is trying to deal differently with this issue as the future US Secretary of State. Some analysts also believe that Pompeo has adopted such an approach to face the US Senators’ relative opposition to the White House’s withdrawal from the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).

In any case, according to Pompeo, Donald Trump may not make a final decision on the nuclear deal with Iran on May 12, and he will continue to consult with his European allies on what he calls “fixing the flaws of the JCPOA”.

Pompeo’s remarks indicate that the White House hasn’t come to a determined and clear decision on how to deal with the JCPOA yet. On the other hand, numerous consultations by representatives of the four countries, the United States, France, Britain and Germany, continues in silence.

Western sources have argued that these countries are consulting on the three controversial issue, namely “the Sunset clauses”, “limiting Iran’s missile power” and “extensive inspections of Iran’s military sites”. These sources claimed that the only remaining disagreement between the four countries is over deletion of the so-called Sunset clauses from the nuclear deal, and thus putting permanent limitations on Iran’s nuclear program.

Pompeo is currently the CIA director, and ironically, he was one of the foremost critics of the Iran nuclear deal when he served as a House Republican from Kansas. Trump fired Secretary of State “Rex Tillerson” over the raised disagreements, and picked Pompeo as his successor in March, just two months before the deadline on May 12 to decide whether to bring back sanctions that former President of the United States waived when the JCPOA was first implemented.

Before this, many Western politicians and analysts saw the nomination of Mike Pompeo for secretary of state by Trump as a sign of Washington’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal. Beyond that, John Bolton’s appointment as US national security advisor also sent a clear message to the international system that Trump is about to pull out of the nuclear deal with Iran.

John Bolton is now silent about the fate of the JCPOA! The silence seems very meaningful at the current time. It’s obvious that John Bolton is one of the main opponents of the nuclear deal with Iran, and he doesn’t even believe in negotiating with the European Troika on maintaining the JCPOA.

The important question, however, is whether Bolton’s silence reflects the continuing paradoxical and vague approach of the US towards the JCPOA? Or did Trump ask him to be silent in this regard and wait for the final results of their talks with Europe?

American senators still don’t have a clear picture of Trump’s final decision about the JCPOA. Meanwhile, some Republican senators like “Rand Paul” and “Jeff Flake” are worried about the costs and consequences of Trump’s decision to refuse joining other members of P5+1.

Most US senators tried not to mention the nuclear deal with Iran in their speeches during recent weeks. This is while some senators such as “Tom Cotton” and “Ted Cruz” strongly encourage Donald Trump’s government to pull out of the nuclear deal with Iran.

First published at our partner Mehr News Agency

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How Wikipedia Lies

Eric Zuesse

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The Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania

Did you know that Vice President Dick Cheney admitted that on 11 September 2001 he, as President George W. Bush’s brief stand-in during the 9/11 attacks that hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, issued an order (and it was carried out) to shoot down United Airlines Flight 93 while it was in the air near Pittsburgh? If what he said at the time was true, then the standard ‘historical’ account of the plane’s having been brought down as a result of action by the passengers, would be concocted, not history at all.

Here is the video-clip of V.P. Cheney on 9/11, making this claim and explaining why he gave that order: 

The Wikipedia article on Flight 93 provides the standard account, and fails even so much as just to mention the Vice President’a assertion and explanation that he provided on national TV at the time of the 9/11 events.

So: I edited the Wikipedia article by adding a sentence at the end of its opening paragraph, and by following that sentence with a brief second paragraph, and here is that entire two-sentence addition:

Vice President Dick Cheney alleged that he gave the order to shoot down Flight 93, and explained why when asked about it by Chris Wallace of Fox News as shown in this film-clip

Consequently, the account given below of what brought the plane down — an account inconsistent with what Cheney said — could be entirely false. 

On the web browser that I was using, the addition showed as having been successfully made in the Wikipedia article. However, to be sure, I opened the URL in a different browser, and this time my addition was absent. I then went back to the “Edit” page” and this time to the “View history” page, and clicked there on “(talk)” and found this message, which I saw virtually immediately after I had thought that I had inserted the new information:

Hello, I’m Shellwood. I wanted to let you know that I reverted one of your recent contributions —specifically this edit to United Airlines Flight 93— because it did not appear constructive. 

No other explanation for blocking my addition was provided. “Shellwood” was there saying that mentioning, and linking to the video of Cheney saying, that allegation, which Cheney made on 9/11 about how Flight 93 came down, is not “constructive” to Wikipedia-readers who want information about Flight 93.

Previously, even the BBC published the fact that Wikipedia is edited by the CIA.

Anyone who reads the present article is hereby welcomed to try making the same addition to that Wikipedia article, and I hope that one of the readers here will be able to get it accepted by the editors of that site, so that Wikipedia can be made at least moderately trustworthy, on at least that one article. Perhaps if enough people try, then Wikipedia will come to recognize that Wikipedia’s modus operandum isn’t merely a very successful system of propaganda, but that it’s also something of a PR problem for Wikipedia, which they’ll need to do something about, if they’re to be able to survive (or at least retain their credibility) at all. Blocking inclusion in an article, of a fact that disproves part of the ‘history’ (and here the most important part) which is told in that article, is unacceptable in anyone’s eyes.

As of today, April 20th, the Wikipedia article on Flight 93 does make one, and only one, mention of Cheney:

Vice President Dick Cheney, in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center deep under the White House, upon learning of the premature crash, is reported to have said, “I think an act of heroism just took place on that plane.”[2]

The link there, [2], goes to a CNN article, likewise published on 11 September 2001, which likewise presents Cheney as saying that he ordered the shoot-down of Flight 93:

After the planes struck the twin towers, a third took a chunk out of the Pentagon. Cheney then heard a report that a plane over Pennsylvania was heading for Washington. A military assistant asked Cheney twice for authority to shoot it down.

“The vice president said yes again,” remembered Josh Bolton, deputy White House chief of staff. “And the aide then asked a third time. He said, ‘Just confirming, sir, authority to engage?’ And the vice president — his voice got a little annoyed then — said, ‘I said yes.'” 

The phrase that Wikipedia is quoting from Cheney, “I think an act of heroism just took place on that plane,” appears later in that CNN article, out of context, when one of Cheney’s aides attributes the statement to Cheney, but, since CNN provided no context for it, no reader can intelligently interpret what it had been referring to, if, in fact, the aide did say that Cheney did say it.

Wikipedia grabbed that out-of-context, possibly apocryphal, Cheney-statement, and constructed their ‘history’ of the plane’s crash, upon it, despite the fact that Cheney, on 9/11, clearly stated that he had ordered Flight 93 to be shot down, and that the order was executed — in other words: despite the fact that Wikipedia’s account of what brought that plane down is incontrovertibly false, even on the basis of the most reliable evidence that Wikipedia itself links to on that matter. Such a ‘history’ is fiction.

So: any reader at the Wikipedia article who clicks onto its sources, can easily know that though the Wikipedia article presents a ‘history’ in which actions by passengers onboard Flight 93 caused the plane to crash there, that ‘history’ is fake, not at all real (though some allegations in that Wikipedia article might happen to be true).

This means that only readers who click through to sources can even possibly come anywhere near to knowing anything that’s at all reliable about the history of our time. And, of course, the longer that any event recedes into history, the more immovably fixed the lies become as being ‘history’. We live actually in a world of lies. If modern ‘history’ is fake, then ancient ‘history’ is even more so. What about the Bible? What about even recently written ‘history’ books?

If Wikipedia is the best that ‘the market’ can come up with for ‘a free press’ in a ‘democracy’, then democracy isn’t at all possible. Something vastly better than this is definitely needed. What’s displayed here isn’t democracy at all: it’s merely ‘democracy’. This means that all of the military invasions by ‘democratic’ countries (such as America), against other countries, are the actions by dictatorships, not actions against dictatorships (as is always claimed).

So, it’s actually rather easy to document that 1984 — the reality, and not merely the novel — has, indeed, arrived, in our time.

However, at least in our time, we possess — for the very first time in all of history — the ability to access, merely a click away, an allegation’s actual source, at least in articles such as the present one (since all sources here are linked). The people living in ancient times who were not themselves aristocrats (the people making the key governmental decisions) were unalterably 100% vulnerable to being deceived by aristocrats’ and clergies’ lies, deceived into doing whatever those decision-makers wanted to manipulate them into doing — such as “fighting for God and country!” Unfortunately, the percentage of today’s people who care enough to be skeptical of whatever other people are trying to sell, and to dig deeper than the mere assertions, even just to click onto a link, is too tiny for democracy to be able to function. Unless they become the majority, “democracy” will remain merely a word, not yet even near to being the reality, anywhere.

That, for example, explains why, despite common realities such as this, “74% [of Americans] view Israel favorably, vs. 21% for Palestinian Authority”. In order for the national aristocracy to control its mass of voters, it must first deceive its mass of voters; and, in America, they’re deceived, and have been so, for decades, at least.

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Poll Shows Americans Support the Invasion of Syria – What they Misunderstand About that War

Eric Zuesse

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The first even marginally trustworthy poll of American “registered voters” regarding the April 14th U.S.-and-allied missiles-invasion of Syria, shows an overwhelming 66% supporting the invasion (36% “Strongly” and 30% “Somewhat), and only 23% opposing (8% “Strongly” and 11% “Somewhat”).

When the 1,995 U.S. registered voters were asked further, in this Morning Consult / Politico poll, “How confident are you that the airstrikes in Syria will prevent the Syrian government from using chemical or biological weapons again?” only 30% are “confident” (8% “Very” and 22% “Somewhat”) and 57% are not (21% not “at all” and 35% “not too”). Obviously, all of the 30% who are “confident” on that are also believing that the Syrian government has been “using chemical or biological weapons” and the 57% who aren’t “confident” are expecting the Syrian government to continue using such weapons; but the only other option that the pollster offered was “Don’t know / No opinion” and perhaps any respondents who disbelieved the U.S. government’s allegations that the Syrian government has been using such weapons would have to be among the 12% who said “Don’t know / No opinion” (or else such respondents would have quit answering at that point, which was 3 questions into a 7-question poll: the stupid polling organization excluded even the possibility that a respondent believed the Syrian government’s denials that it had used such weapons — that’s how little consideration was offered regarding even the merest possibility that this invasion had been punishment of a non-guilty nation by guilty invaders: zero).

This invasion, like the one a year earlier, occurred when the U.S. and its allies said that Syria was guilty but didn’t provide any evidence of that, and when Syria and its allies said that those charges were lies and that the ‘rebels’ whom the U.S. and its allies supported had actually set up the incident in order for the U.S. and its allies to invade and overthrow the government. These invasions were lawless — based upon no legal process other than brute accusations, like in any common lynching or other mob-‘justice’.

The fact that this poll did not show close to 100% contempt by the American people regarding what the U.S. government and its two allies, UK and France, had just done, indicates not only that the American people are astoundingly ignorant that the U.S. and its allies are international outlaws and warmongers (which makes sense for a nation that invaded and destroyed Iraq 2003, Libya 2011 and has been trying to do it since 2011 in Syria), but that they are also astoundingly misinformed as to which side in this war is guilty, and which side is not. (Hint: It’s certainly not Assad, who is simply defending Syrian sovereignty over Syrian territory.) According to the standards that were set in place by the Nuremberg Tribunals following World War II, in which invasions for any other purpose than national self-defense are war-crimes, it’s not only the lie-based invasion and destruction of Iraq 2003, and the 2011 invasion and destruction of Libya, that constitute international war-crimes — there’s simply no power that’s enforcing international law: not policing, not prosecuting, not judging, and not legislating, at all, any such thing. The international outlaw regimes, U.S. and its allies, are simply international gangsters, and the American public overwhelmingly are bored about the whole thing, don’t really care whether they are the Nazis of today (and the U.S. government is even proud to be it, not only under Trump, but under Obama before him — all accepted, not resisted in any way, by the American public).

Poll-findings like this implicate the American public, and not only the American government, in such mega-crimes. Even the clear-cut national experience of having been lied into Iraq 2003 hasn’t taught the American people that we live in a gangster-regime. And now this regime has destroyed even the last vestiges of the authority that the U.N. once had.

Ironically, the core voter-base for the war-criminal U.S. President Trump seem to have strongly opposed the latest invasion. But, to judge from this latest actual poll in the matter, the American public strongly supports that invasion. Apparently, Americans can’t learn from even the most blatant experiences, such as having been lied into destroying Iraq in 2003 — a country that, like Syria, and like Libya, had never attacked, nor even threatened to attack, the U.S.

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