Empire in Decay as Trump Spying Allegations Fly

Yves here. I find this Real News Network interview with Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, Lawrence Wilkerson, to be astonishing. He effectively says that Trump may not be wrong in his claims that he was spied on.

At the 50,000 foot level, Trump’s claim is trivial. Anyone who paid attention to the Edward Snowden revelations knows that the NSA is in a total data acquisition mode, hoovering up information from smart devices and able to use computers and tablets as monitoring devices. But Trump used the word “wiretapping,” which gave his opponents a huge out, since that means a judge gave a warrant to allow for monitoring. And pinning surveillance on Obama personally was another huge stretch. In other words, Trump took what could have been an almost certain statement of fact, and by larding it up with dodgy particulars, pushed it well into crazypants terrain.

What made Trump look bad was the FBI making clear it was not snooping on Trump, when the FBI would have been involved in a wiretap. Lambert and I discussed that it wasn’t hard to come up with scenarios that weren’t wiretaps by which Trump could have been spied upon while keeping Obama Administration hands clean. The most obvious was to have another member of the Five Eyes do the dirty work.

What is therefore striking about this report is that Wilkerson, who is no fan of Trump, nevertheless is defending him in this matter. That is a sign that he regards the campaign against Trump as dangerous from an institutional perspective. And he states that the idea that Lambert and I had casually bandied about, that a foreign spy organization like the GCHQ, did Trump dirty work for the US government, is seen as a real possibility in the intelligence community.

PAUL JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay. Welcome to another edition of the Wilkerson Report.

Of course the accusations are flying in every direction in D.C.. The latest Donald Trump saying that President Obama spied on him, ordered the listening of his telephone conversations. Now joining us to talk about these allegations is Larry Wilkerson.

Larry joins us from Falls Church, Virginia. Larry was the former Chief of Staff for U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. Currently an Adjunct Professor of Goverment at the College of Willam and Mary and a regular contributor to The Real News Network.

(discussion)

PAUL JAY: So, Larry what do you make of these allegations? Most of the media seems to be saying Trump is alleging this in order to distract from the real controversy, which they say his and his administration’s connections to Putin and Russia. What do you make of Trump’s allegations?

LARRY WILKERSON: Well, I’m certainly not one, Paul, to defend HMS Trump and that whole entourage of people, but I will paint you a hypothetical here. There are a number of events that have occurred in the last 96 hours or so that lead me to believe that maybe even the Democratic party, whatever element of it, approached John Brennan at the CIA, maybe even the former president of the United States. And John Brennan, not wanting his fingerprints to be on anything, went to his colleague in London GCHQ, MI6 and essentially said, “Give me anything you’ve got.” And he got something and he turned it over to the DNC or to someone like that. And what he got was GHCQ MI6’s tapes of conversations of the Trump administration perhaps, even the President himself. It’s really kind of strange, at least to me, they let the head of that organization go, fired him about the same time this was brewing up. So I’m not one to defend Trump, but in this case he might be right. It’s just that it wasn’t the FBI. Comey’s right, he wasn’t wire-tapping anybody, it was John Brennan, at the CIA. And you say, “What would be John Brennan’s motivation?” Well, clearly he wanted to remain Director of the CIA for Hillary Clinton when she was elected President of the United States, which he had every reason to believe, as did lots of us, that she would be.

PAUL JAY: Now, Larry, do we have any evidence of this? Is this like a theory or is there some evidence?

LARRY WILKERSON: Well, it’s a theory that’s making its way around some in the intelligence community right now because they know about the relationship between the CIA and the same sort of capabilities, maybe not quite as vast as the NSA has, but still good capabilities that exist in London. I mean, otherwise the president just came out and said something was patently false. Generally speaking, you know, I would agree with that, with regard to this particular individual, but not in this case.

PAUL JAY: Now why would the British go along with this?

LARRY WILKERSON: Well, you have to understand this is a real problem, Paul, it’s been a problem for a long time. Only certain governments have national technical means that feature $5 billion satellites orbiting the United States and the rest of the globe and providing intricate national means of looking at other people 24/7. Even streaming video and so forth. There are only so many people who can afford that. We’re the biggest guy on the block so when we sidle up to France or we sidle up to Germany or Japan or anybody else, they have two choices, either cooperate with us and share in that treasure trove from time to time or they don’t cooperate with us and I’ll tell you what we do, we cut them off. So this is a very incestuous relationship. I saw this up close and personal when we were saying there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and we had Paris and Tel Aviv and Berlin and London and everybody agreeing with us. I now know why they agreed with us, more recetively(?) (sound difficulties – 00:04:45 – 00:05:05) You still there?

PAUL JAY: Yeah.

LARRY WILKERSON: Well, they agree with us because they don’t have any choice. Their choices are stark. They agree with us and hope it doesn’t rebound to their discredit or hurt them or they don’t agree with us and we cut them off.

PAUL JAY: Okay, now let’s go back to Trump’s allegations. Trump does not seem to be shy about just making stuff up from whole cloth without any basis at all. Why would one thing this isn’t just another fabrication?

LARRY WILKERSON: Paul, I’m no fan of Donald Trump, but I’m not so sure you’re right in that–

PAUL JAY: I’m not saying it is. I’m just asking, is there any reason to think that we know that he’s not making this up?

LARRY WILKERSON: No, except that the series of events that occurred lead me to believe that John Brennan was, in fact, working with London and perhaps something came out of that, that might have assured John Brennan of a continuation of his role at the CIA with a new administration headed by Hillary Clinton. That makes every bit of sense to me when I think about it. And remember, I’ve been there and I’ve seen this stuff.

PAUL JAY: Okay. We’ll have to wait over the next few days or hours and see if more hard evidence follows out. But let’s go look a little further, if you’re right, Brennan’s helping Clinton, you have different sections of the intelligence community helping various players. Some of them seem to be turning on Trump, some are feeding Trump, some are supporting him, it’s like you got little fiefdoms in the intelligence community all with their own agendas here.

LARRY WILKERSON: This is very disturbing. It’s happened in the past, of course, when we politicized intelligence. It happened when Bill Casey and Ronald Reagan when Bill Casey made the case for a Soviet buildup so Reagan could justify his arms buildup in the U.S.. The Soviets were not involved in a buildup at all. That was all fabricated intelligence. It’s happened with Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon from time to time. But this is a new level of 17 different heavily funded intelligence agencies and groups, headed by the DNI and the CIA all apparently playing their own little games within various segments of a political community in this country and leaking accordingly. And I don’t eliminate the FBI from that either. Why else would Comey come out, for example, just prior to the elections and say he had other e-mails and imply that they might be damning of one of the candidates? It’s everyone playing in this game and it’s an extremely dangerous game.

PAUL JAY: Is part of what’s going on here, is that all of these institutions whether it’s CIA or FBI or NSA and on and on with all the alphabet, that their first priority, their deepest interest is their own agency. Their existence, their funding, their own jobs, that this is really — it’s not about some supposed national interest to start with it starts with just who these guys are and they become entities unto themselves.

LARRY WILKERSON: Absolutely. Hoover, take Hoover at the FBI, during World War II, it can be proven, it can be analytically demonstrated that Hoover spent more man hours and more money trying to look at his own administration, trying to gain power over elements of that administration than he did looking at the Nazis. I mean, this is not anything new, it’s just come to a depth and a profundity of action that is scary and dangerous.

When you have your entire intelligence community more interested in its own survival and its own power, and therefore, playing in politics to the degree that we have it doing so today, you’ve got a real problem. And I’m not talking about the people beavering away in the trenches who are trying their best to do a good job, I’m talking about these leaders, these people at the top and the second tier level, who are participating in this political game in a way that they should not be, but they’ve been doing for some time and now they’ve brought it to a crescendo.

PAUL JAY: Is part of what’s happening here an overall decay, if you will, of the state itself, of the American government? Which is a reflection of what’s going on in the economy. You have so much of Wall Street is about pure parasitical investment. There’s more money being invested in derivative gambling and billionaires gambling against billionaires and shorting, kind of manupulating commodity markets and so on, more money in the parasitical activity than there is investment in productive activity. And these are the guys that are financing political campaigns even electing presidents, in the case of Robert Mercer, who ‘s the billionaire who backed Trump and Bannon. Bannon worked for Mercer. The whole state and the upper echelons in the economy they seem to be into such practically mafioso short-sightedness. Like, “What can we do today for ourselves and damn what happens later?”

LARRY WILKERSON: The decay of (sound difficulties) empire hat on and I will tell you, yes. You’re right. This empire is decaying at a rapid rate. And it is not just reflected in the fact that we can’t govern ourselves, the fact that we have a congress that can’t even see the nation for the trees. My political party, Paul, right now thinks that it’s going to achieve its full agenda or at least a good portion of it while this buffoon in the White House twiddles his thumbs. They don’t see the country. They don’t care about the country. All they want to do is achieve their agenda; social, economic and otherwise. This country, in all of its components, whether it’s government or it’s finance, economics or whatever, is falling apart.

PAUL JAY: Thanks very much for joining us, Larry.

LARRY WILKERSON: Thanks for having me, Paul.

PAUL JAY: Thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

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76 comments

  1. none

    This comment (warning: it’s from one of the less reputable political sections on reddit) has some interesting info and MSM links. I haven’t had a chance to read it carefully yet or check the citations, but had bookmarked it to look at it later. I’m posting it here in case anyone else wants to check it out, but disclaimer: it might be total crap, I don’t have an opinion on that yet.

    Reply
    1. sleepy

      I took a glance at the article and read one of its links to the NYTimes article which confirms that three Trump associates were the subject of surveillance and “wiretapping” and that the information was shared with Obama.

      https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/19/us/politics/trump-russia-associates-investigation.html?_r=1

      Even without digging into the story, the fact that Trump’s claim is viewed with such disdain by the MSM has always struck me as incredulous. I have generally assumed that most communications among people in power is monitored whether legally or not.

      Reply
      1. fresno dan

        sleepy
        March 8, 2017 at 6:33 am

        The media has to acknowledge that what they report is mere rumor AND most likely incorrect, and should never ever be used for anything serious…cough, cough, coughs lung out – Franken quoting CNN at Sessions hearing…..

        Reply
    2. fresno dan

      none
      March 8, 2017 at 4:44 am

      I’ve read most of those. The problem is that the important thing – was a FISA warrant issued – not been confirmed by the government to my knowledge. Apparently it is secret by law so it is one of those things that the government will neither confirm nor deny – and I am SURE Trump is being advised not to tip over the apple cart and let everybody know who was RIGHT – we’re all monitored all the time. And that’s the rub.

      The other thing about the articles is the incredible amount of contradiction (assuming the government officials aren’t being misquoted there are a LOT of things that just don’t square).
      I think comes down to this – very simply the government/intelligence community (IC) does not really want to admit how many people’s conversations it actually listens to or CAN listen to. Nobody can look at this and say that the 4th amendment is meaningful….

      In this case, a U.S. general, working on behalf of the president elect (or was this before Trump was elected?), was monitored by the IC and removed from office because of illegal leaks. We don’t REALLY know why – but the idea that the IC has a veto over the president’s appointees should give everyone pause.

      Reply
      1. Bill Smith

        Would a warrant actually be needed?

        In the New York Time article on January 12, 2017 they say:

        After Congress enacted the FISA Amendments Act — which legalized warrantless surveillance on domestic soil so long as the target is a foreigner abroad, even when the target is communicating with an American — the court permitted raw sharing of emails acquired under that program, too.

        https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/12/us/politics/nsa-gets-more-latitude-to-share-intercepted-communications.html

        So any of Trump’s associates talking to a ‘Russian’ from the Trump Tower which was his campaign headquarters would qualify according to his tweet.

        Reply
        1. fresno dan

          Bill Smith
          March 8, 2017 at 9:06 am

          The way I understand it (gleaned from a National Review article written by a former justice department lawyer Andrew McCarthy – I excerpted quite a bit of it, but it is now in skynet heaven…)
          is that Russki subjects of interest (or any nationality) are always monitored. This means that Americans will occasionally get MONITORED if in communication with such individuals as well and those communications are STORED (monitored and stored ARE NOT THE SAME AS LISTENED TO). Now, to actually listen to the Americans in these conversation is what supposedly requires the FISA warrant – it is suppose to be based on something that the person is acting as an AGENT of a foreign power.

          Or the FBI could have been doing just a regular financial fraud investigation between Trump companies and Russia found nothing (OR found something and IS still investigation), and than passed it over as an intelligence matter. I can’t do justice to the article without being skynetted, so you will have to read the article for yourself if interested.

          Reply
          1. Bill Smith

            If that is true then what was the basis for Flynn’s phone calls being listened to?

            So I’m not sure the point about monitored / stored / listened to is the case anymore. The NYT article I referenced is all about the old privacy rules being removed.

            In addition the part of the article I quoted seems to say that isn’t the case anymore.

            Flynn did a lot of work during the transition from Trump Tower. We know some of his calls where intercepted and not just the one from the beach.

            Evidently Paul Manafort lived in Trump Tower for a while. From the news articles his phone calls where also intercepted.

            I did look up a bunch of McCarthy’s articles in National Review. Thanks for the pointer.

            Reply
            1. fresno dan

              Bill Smith
              March 8, 2017 at 1:13 pm

              “If that is true then what was the basis for Flynn’s phone calls being listened to?”
              The way I understand it, any conversation with the Russian ambassador in it is monitored (and stored) – Flynn talks to the ambassador, he is being monitored. Supposedly, Flynn should know this.
              My theory is that Flynn was talking policy – albeit SENSITIVE policy – and PERHAPS the intelligence community didn’t like the change in policy and decided by leaking to make Flynn look like a dirty commie – Or Flynn is a turncoat (so why isn’t he being prosecuted???)

              The issue from the NR article is, as I understand it, is that Flynn should not be listened to unless there was some REAL suspicion that he was an agent and there was a FISA warrant (a former US general is really suspected of being a Russian agent???). So one can know that Flynn had a conversation with the ambassador (from monitoring) but not the substance unless there was a FISA warrant – if I am understanding this correctly.

              If he wasn’t proven to be an agent than that conversation is suppose to go into the “vault” and never be released or acknowledged.
              So there are just a lot of things that don’t add up.
              I’m thinking like the meme “fake news” that the people who started this whole think may regret looking into whether Trump was improperly monitored after all. BUT I DON”T KNOW – maybe Trump is guilty of something

              Reply
          2. Ptolemy Philopater

            Does anybody really believe that these people feel bound by law? This is raw power politics. Getting “stuff” on people so that they can be manipulated is par for the course. Have we forgotten about J. Edgar Hoover. Does anybody really believe that the Democrats and the “deep state” don’t already have enough “on Trump” to remove him from office given his mafia connections, not to mention Roy Cohn? It’s not about removing anyone from office but to get them to do your bidding. Likewise it is a big distraction from the ongoing fraud and corruption consuming this nation. Men like Wilkerson are finally realizing how far along our Mafia culture has come to complete and utter collapse. Next time the music stops will there be any chairs left?

            Reply
            1. PhilM

              Thank you. Exactly right. Sheesh. Except the part where you say it “comes to collapse.” Because it doesn’t, ever; the boot heel just moves around the body.

              Reply
      2. Yves Smith Post author

        Lordie. The MSM has done a great job of getting everyone fixated on the bright shiny object of FISA warrants. Did you miss Snowden telling people in 2013 that everything you did on the Internet was being hoovered up, and disclosures (I forget if through Snowden or others) that the NSA could and did use computers and tablets to surveil what was happening in a room? I had someone who has prosecutors in his family years ago that any iPad from iPad 2 up was capable of being made to capture video and audio without the owner knowing.

        As for needing the warrant, the answer is you don’t. From Washington;s blog, quoting NSA whistleblower Bill Binney:

        NSA has all the data through the Upstream programs (Fairview/Stormbrew/Blarney) [background] and backed up by second and some third party country collection.

        Plus the FBI and CIA plus others, as of the last month of the Obama administration, have direct access to all the NSA collection (metadata and content on phones,email and banking/credit cards etc.) with no attempt at oversight by anybody [background]. This is all done under Executive Order 12333 [the order which allows unlimited spying no matter what intelligence officials claim] ….

        FBI would only ask for a warrant if they wanted to be able to take it into court at some point given they have something meaningful as evidence. This is clearly true given the fact the President Trump’s phone conversations with other country leaders were leaked to the mainstream media.

        http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2017/03/65929.html

        Reply
  2. Kukulkan

    Could Trump’s use of “Obama” just have been a metonym for the previous administration?

    I mean that’s how the names of presidents and other leaders are frequently used. Journalists, historians, and people in general will often say “Bush did this” or “Thatcher did that” or “Stalin did something else” when it’s clear that the named individuals didn’t and couldn’t have personally performed the action, rather functionaries of the regimes they headed did the action.

    As an example, I’ve seen a number news articles saying Kim Jong-un killed Kim Jong-nam, even though, as far as I can tell, Kim Jong-un has an airtight alibi, having been in a different country at the time. Most people understand such claims to mean that functionaries of the North Korean government headed by Kim Jong-un are responsible for the killing and Kim Jong-un is just used as a metonym for that government.

    Same thing with “wiretap”. Trump is of a generation where wiretap was a generic term used to refer to any sort of bugging.

    Reading them as specific references comes across as a particularly pedantic and uncharitable interpretation.

    Reply
    1. Kukulkan

      Actually, checking the tweet, I see Trump wrote “tapp”, an even more generic term for using electronic devices to listen in on other people’s private conversations.

      Reply
        1. Bill Smith

          Actually it was “wires tapped” with Trump having put the quotes in. So yeah, very generic term. And it says Trump Tower. Doesn’t he own Trump Tower? All that stuff in the Trump Tower is ‘his’. So the claim is even more generic.

          There were numerous reports that people associated with the campaign (headquarters in Trump Tower) had their phone conversations intercepted. I assume it was when they were talking to a ‘Russian’.

          The first thing I thought when I heard this was “Hey, Trump finally attended an intelligence briefing.”

          Reply
          1. jrs

            If the NSA really is listening to everything, can anyone answer why the powers that be would even bother with an actual wiretap anymore? Isn’t it something anachronistic, like owning a beeper or something?

            Reply
            1. Mark P.

              jrs wrote: ‘If the NSA really is listening to everything, can anyone answer why the powers that be would even bother with an actual wiretap anymore? Isn’t it something anachronistic, like owning a beeper or something?’

              +1000.

              Wiretaps were something that existed when the Frank Church commission did its job and J. Edgar Hoover was alive forty years ago.

              But with today’s global electronic networks, everything travels over fiberoptic cables in Internet packet mode except for the last mile.

              That pretty much means that you have to scoop up everything — via mirroring or “splitting” the photonic signal (as Mark Klein realized when he found the NSA equipment at AT&T’s San Francisco switching station) — before you can go into it to read any particular set of communications.

              Yes, journalists and politicians continue to use the generic term ‘wiretap.’ But that’s because some journalists and politicians are among the stupidest people on the planet, while others are intelligent enough but want to obfuscate the issues, which are all obvious and clear as day once you look at the underlying technology: Ed Snowden only confirmed what anybody who understood the technology could see.

              And I know this because I worked as a journalist reporting in part on these issues back in 2006-8 and talked to politicians and editors, and had to explain this to them. Some people never got it; others knew it already.

              Reply
      1. fresno dan

        Kukulkan
        March 8, 2017 at 4:45 am
        &
        Kukulkan
        March 8, 2017 at 4:52 am

        Agree 1000% – I am so glad you brought it up!!!! – it sure seems to me there is ALL OF A SUDDEN all this tremendous specificity with regard to “Obama” meaning ONLY one individual, instead of it being a generic term for the Obama “administration.” I sure don’t remember any wailing about attributing to Bush what Cheney did….

        And thanks for the catch about “tapp” – I did not know that!
        thank you again!

        Reply
      2. Steve H.

        Kukulkan, I didn’t know and can’t find an indication. Is that an insider term, or is there an online source to point to?

        Reply
    2. Katniss Everdeen

      This is exactly the way I took it–with “obama” and “wiretap” being generic terms. Funnily enough, it made all the furor over the tweet initially hard to understand. Now it makes the literal parsing look desperate and deliberately obfuscatory.

      Reply
      1. fresno dan

        Katniss Everdeen
        March 8, 2017 at 8:02 am

        I find it impossible to believe that the MSM does not know that wiretap = any kind of monitoring/surveillance and that “Obama” = white house, and/or Obama administration.
        There is nothing wrong about doing a story about the nuances of surveillance, but to go on and on and ON about there is no wiretapping is absurd. And the MSM professes to wonder why people find them unreliable…

        It is deliberate obtuseness to advance an agenda.

        Reply
        1. Katniss Everdeen

          I may be “mis-remembering” here, but it reminded me of a time when ben bernanke was testifying in front of some congressional committee or other. A member of the panel referenced the fed “printing” money. bernanke replied that the fed doesn’t “print” money. They enter it onto a computer.

          A textbook distinction without a difference.

          Reply
          1. fresno dan

            Katniss Everdeen
            March 8, 2017 at 9:28 am

            OH EXACTLY RIGHT!!! To go off on a tangent – to not say that money is “loaned” into existence and as much as you need can be obtained from the either, just would beg the question of why Goldman Sachs, somebody who managed to lose trillions is deserving of more loans, but a borrower who was scammed into some mortgage with some skyrocketing interest rate proviso is not. And the unpalatable answer – the FED is to protect the rich and f*ck the poor….

            Reply
    3. nobody

      Trump’s language was very clear (at least to my ear) in attributing personal involvement to Obama (calling him a “bad (or sick) guy”). But with “wiretap” note the use of quotation marks. When I first heard about these tweets the morning after, the first thing I did was to go to Trump’s twitter feed to have a look for myself. For me the quotation marks scanned as scare quotes and I instinctively interpreted “wiretap” in its generic sense.

      Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!

      Is it legal for a sitting President to be “wire tapping” a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!

      I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!

      How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!

      Reply
      1. winstonsmith

        Thanks for the injection of reality. The last and most recent tweet makes it clear that Trump went out of his way to make it about Obama the ‘guy’. It’s not a “pedantic and uncharitable interpretation”.

        Reply
        1. jrs

          Yea it could be the administration, except for the fact that Trump is such a bumbling idiot, he can’t even think straight much less talk straight. Yea he might well be a bumbling idiot who was spied on of course.

          Reply
        2. Kukulkan

          Well, if the claim is that Obama personally broke into Trump Tower, stripped the wiring on the phone lines, attached the requisite additional wiring and equipment required to tap those lines, sealed it all up so the interference was undetectable, then slipped out of Trump Tower undetected to rejoin his Secret Service entourage and resume his duties as President of the United States, then it’s clearly wrong.

          I doubt Obama has the required skill set to pull that off.

          On the other hand if you think Obama just gave the order to have that done and someone else did the actual “wiretapping” — or, more likely, used more modern methods of surveillance that don’t require physically interfering with phone lines — then he’s using Obama as a metonym and is blaming Obama personally only on the basis that he was the guy in charge and that’s where the buck stops.

          Reply
          1. Mark P.

            ‘more likely, used more modern methods of surveillance that don’t require physically interfering with phone lines’

            See above. Enough with the talk of ‘wiretapping’ — that was something they did way back in the 20th century.

            Reply
    4. bob

      Kim Jong-nam

      The best part of that story is being buried. They did it as part of a “prank” TV show, meaning, there is probably video of it.

      Not sure why this bit is getting buried.

      Reply
  3. Michael Fiorillo

    In his autobiography “Memoirs of a Revolutionist,” Peter Kropotkin describes being interrogated by a member of the Okhrana, the Tsar’s secret police, after his arrest.

    In the course of the interview, Kropotkin expresses amazement that the secret police had so deeply infiltrated his revolutionary cell. His interrogator expressed smug satisfaction, and then informed him that such surveillance was commonplace, and that in fact no one in the entire empire was more closely surveilled than the Tsar himself.

    I’ve always operated under the assumption that the intelligence agencies devote ample resources to keeping the Executive under close observation, and that he likely has no more secrets than the rest of us.

    The difference now is that the agencies are not just monitoring executive goings-on, but becoming active political players. Needless to say, clueless, hopeless Democrats are cheering them on.

    Reply
    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, Michael. It’s not just Democrats cheering. There are cheerleaders overseas, too, vide the UK MSM.

      Reply
        1. Mark P.

          Yeah.But I’d be full of nerves in Wilkerson’s place, making these sorts of comments. In fact, I wouldn’t make them. He’s more likely correct than not about GCHQ or one of the other Five Eyes being used to provide deniability. He’s treading on thin ice.

          Reply
  4. Colonel Smithers

    Thank you, Yves, for posting.

    Your title of “Empire In Decay” reminded me of my last two years at school (late 1980s) and the emphasis on Tudors and Stuarts, Bourbons and Habsburgs in history classes. The school organised lectures from history professors like Henry Kamen and Paul Kennedy. Kennedy had just written the book on the rise and fall of empires and been on the airwaves. Kamen is an expert on imperial Spain. One rarely sees that sort of expertise in the MSM. We get the likes of McCain, Miss Lindsey, David Brooks, Bernard-Henri Levy, Simon Schama (sic) et al masquerading as experts.

    Reply
  5. Disturbed Voter

    Paul Kennedy knew his stuff. Read his book back in the day, cover to cover. That is the level of state-craft these people are thinking about. One dinky national election is mere detail. I am sure all the agencies have read the Club of Rome report and what came after it. It isn’t just Global Warming time. Chess end games, all the way down, until checkmate.

    Reply
    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, DV. Me, too. I still have the book.

      It’s appalling, isn’t. Just the same talking heads going around studios and obsessing over trivia and sound bites.

      I remember the Sunday lunchtime and evening shows in the UK thirty years ago, featuring academics and journalists who had been in a country for years and got to know the country well. The advent of 24 hour and international news seems to have destroyed what was good coverage / analysis.

      FWIW, one of my friends and also son of immigrants from a former French and British colony works at the UK mission to the EU. He is a professional historian and studied at LSE and Cambridge. He hopes to return to Cambridge by the end of the decade and teach, but will also write about how Brexit panned out from a ring side seat.

      It would be great if Yves could get historians of the calibre of Kamen, Kennedy, Howard, Scarisbrick and Sauvigny to contribute.

      Reply
      1. Disturbed Voter

        The view from 30,000 feet is far different than the view from 30 feet. I think the low altitude view helps things look more chaotic than they are … at higher altitude things start to make sense.

        Reply
  6. PH

    Do we assume that Trump expected to be surveiled?

    And acted cautiously as a result?

    What are the motives of the various players?

    who are the most important and somewhat important players?

    In the fog, everyone seems to see the shapes that they expect to see

    Reply
  7. PH

    Do we assume that Trump expected to be surveiled?

    And acted cautiously as a result?

    What are the motives of the various players?

    who are the most important and somewhat important players?

    In the fog, everyone seems to see the shapes that they expect to see

    Reply
  8. AbateMagicThinking but Not money

    Gore Vidal was telling the world about the National Security State years ago seemingly without any impact on the wider public mindset.

    Only when the legitimacy of leaders is seriously in question does this stuff pique the public interest. Isn’t there something called positive vetting? But then, there are no qualifications required for becoming a politician – seemingly every other job nowadays needs a certificate but not that.

    I’m just hoping that when I accidentally delete something important I can type a cry for help into Firefox and GCHQ will get it all back for me.

    Reply
  9. AbateMagicThinking but Not money

    Dan Rather! It must be really serious. Ooo eee!

    Campaign in fantasy, govern in paranoia. Am I paraphrasing Mario Cuomo or someone else?

    Reply
  10. Eureka Springs

    If these things are true then there is little reason to think we aren’t far, far beyond decay.. we are the festering maggot laden puss spreading more toxic virulent dangers far and wide.

    Little can explain those who circle the wagon in deference to, even in favor of the surveillance state unless they are afraid, blackmailed etc.

    Chaotic unpredictable Trump (who must be clean as a whistle to survive this long) may have grabbed this Shock Doctoring chaotic beast by the tail. Will he be willing or able to bring it down? If so, he may be the greatest thing that’s ever happened to this country. He’s already survived more than I ever dared imagine an individual could. I mean we have long been way past stay out of any and all airplanes territory here.

    The irony is just too rich… a man in favor of ever increasing military, more torture, more drones… just isn’t enough for the intel state.

    Reply
    1. Marina Bart

      Because he’s opposed to (at least some small aspect of) multinational corporate control of the globe through financialized capitalism.

      The military is big to support corporate control. He attacked the apex. Even if his attack ends up being an insignificant set-back, it’s not allowed.

      Reply
  11. dontknowitall

    A long while back a post Snowden revelation was that there exists a rule and mechanisms in the NSA to make sure that politicians are put on a list that specifically excludes their communications from being vacuumed with everyone else’s. To bypass the list requires authorization at the highest levels in the agencies involved (and maybe even presidential authority). That is how Congress protects itself and why it so easily gives all kinds of spying authorities to the agencies. This is not czarist Russia in other words.

    On whose authorities were the protections bypassed in the Trump case ? Comey has already come out to say he didn’t do it. Devin Nunes, the Chairman the House Intelligence committee seems to not have been informed of any surveillance op involving Trump so the committees maybe out of the loop. This implies either CIA/NSA or GCHQ as I don’t see Canada getting involved in it or NZ. Was the flimflam Russian bs crapped out by GCHQ and CIA to gain such legal authorities and dredge opposition on Trump to prevent his election or to soft coup him out ? That the Russian ‘intel’ came from an ex British spy seems suspicious.

    Reply
    1. Michael Fiorillo

      The history of the FBI under Hoover makes me question your claim that members of Congress are exempt from surveillance. Are we really supposed to believe that, the technology being what it is, the intelligence agencies would show such admirable self-restraint? That’s a bet I wouldn’t take.

      Reply
      1. dontknowitall

        Yes I know and agree it would be foolish to rely on it. In practical terms they might do it anyway specially if safe in Obama’s approval, tacit or otherwise, but the rule exists anyway, if only to be a cudgel if the congress is feeling ornery. If I remember correctly, it was discussed in Emptywheel’s website in the context of the hacking of Angela Merkel.

        Eureka Springs below mentions the senate hack. The hacking of the senate computers was a CIA screwup and the agencies don’t like to be in the spotlight that way but CIA seems to mind it less than the others. This is another reason I think CIA may be behind the Trump tapp.

        Reply
    2. fajensen

      That is how Congress protects itself and why it so easily gives all kinds of spying authorities to the agencies. This is not czarist Russia in other words.

      I think that is one of the ways “The Ring That Binds Them” is forged: First make members of congress think that they are Special and Protected maybe by making some smaller problems going away, gradually making them both bolder and more adventurous in their crimes, like a radicalization process.

      Then if they ever grow principles and give anyone any serious lip, they get sent a manila envelope with some of the juicier peccadilloes, perversions and off-shore account numbers. If that doesn’t help, then a tragic accident happens.

      Jeffrey Epstein getting off so easily was very suspect.

      Reply
  12. jefemt

    What strikes me is that this is NOT astounding, and should really come as no surprise. Think of the subterfuge and intrigue back in the ancient empires of China, Greece, Rome. It’s part of our human DNA. What cracks me up is the strength of the kool-aid… the innocence and starry-eyed conviction that we are exceptional. The concept of America spun in elementary school is indeed exceptional- even exceptionally virtuous. But in fact, with our convenient lives, preoccupation with debt service and preoccupation with Dancing with the Master Chefs, misdirection has kept us from the ugly reality that we are right in there amongst the best, if not the most aggressive, in our dominant empire phase.
    Think about the outrage when it was determined we were monitoring Merkle’s phone. Empire in decline, indeed! Seems to me Homo sapiens is really heading out toward the end of their dead branch on the tree of life: RIP Too much head, not enough heart.

    Reply
  13. Steve

    A reason that I don’t completely ignore Trump’s claim (I do not like Trump!) is that it is beginning to look as if the entire Obama Presidency had a few real primary objectives. Firstly was to protect Wall Street from any prosecution but one of the other primary longterm goals was the TTP. Obama’s desire to get the TTP through at any cost makes the act of listening in on Trump (who said he would kill it) very plausible.

    Reply
    1. jrs

      your forgot one: bail out the insurance companies (ACA) – not that I even imagine the average person benefiting from the new Republican plans.

      Reply
  14. DJG

    I believe that Cocomaan asked about a new Church committee in yesterday’s comments. And the entire post above gives the reasons why not. There is no one in Congress of the caliber of Frank Church. (Even if McCain has fantasies…) No one will take on a multinational intelligence system, deliberately interlocked to avoid accountability. And when was the last congressional investigation that produced results and legal proceedings?

    The “Five Eyes” always remind me of V for Vendetta. (Which is not just a great graphic novel, but an unfolding prophecy.)

    White-collar America, triumphant: Love means never having to say you’re sorry.

    Reply
    1. cm

      I agree. Ron Wyden is perhaps the only one possible, but the fact that Clapper was never humiliated for lying to Congress shows that we don’t have anyone up to the task.

      Reply
  15. ChrisFromGeorgia

    A nice interview and a good example of why I keep coming back to this blog. You don’t get this kind of analysis anywhere else.

    While all this infighting and spy vs. spy skulduggery goes on, one thing is for certain – the neo-cons and “deep state” are too distracted by operation “take down the Donald” to pay much attention to their usual work.

    The creation of failed states appears to be badly behind schedule now; Syria may actually be restored by the Russians and Iran back to a functional state, and there appears to be a gutting of the State Department in progress which will make future “color revolutions” difficult.

    Is it any wonder there are so many powerful interests screaming that Russia “hacked” the election?

    “methinks the lady doth protest too much.”

    Hamlet

    Reply
  16. McWatt

    Having just read “Sleepwalkers” and the new Rasputin biography and reading how everyone of any note
    in political circles was monitored in Europe and Russia over 100 years ago these modern revelations come as no surprise. In those days they did it by opening mail, intercepting telegrams and having people followed 24 hours a day.

    It reminded me of when the Chaplain was arrested by the CID men because Yossarian signed the chaplain’s name or Washington Irving’s or Irving Washington’s name as he censored soldiers letters home while staying in the hospital.

    Reply
    1. AbateMagicThinking but Not money

      Ah, Catch22 – the gift that keeps on giving! I must read it again.

      Did Milo Minderbinder bankroll Enron? I tried to follow Milo’s progress in the sequel but it was too depressing, so I’m out of the loop.

      Pecker in Putin’s Pocket? I wonder whether George Orwell would have been amazed or “Meh”?

      For me the first sign of the decline of empire was the lead up to the Korean war, which amazingly continues to haunt the legacy of “the buck (never) stops” Truman to this very day.

      Reply
  17. RUKidding

    Thanks for this very important post. Nothing that Wilkerson said is a surprise – at all – to me. In fact, it’s what I’ve figured has been happening since… well, at least since Hoover, as Wilkerson indicates.

    As others have pointed out, though, this type of spying has gone on in many forms over the eons of time. None of it is new. The only sort of newsworthy aspect of it is that people in positions of some power and knowledge of behind the scenes stuff, like Wilkerson, are coming out and saying it.

    I always figured, esp since the Snowden reveal, that ALL politicians of any major impact/level would be spied on – or at least the data is gathered and available to be perused on an as needed basis.

    I read somewhere that Trump allegedly was steamingly angry about this. I want to say: SO? What did you expect? THIS is the way things work. Sometimes you’re going like that Intel and sometimes you won’t.

    I’m not that convinced whether it makes a difference if there was an actual wire tap or the info was gathered by spy satellite or some other method. But I could be wrong in that regard.

    So it seems to me that Trump is naive, albeit I also get it that he’s hitting out at his enemies and using his tool of choice: twitter. So he makes his short tweets and expresses his anger against his enemies to shore up the defences of his supporters. I can only hope that Trump was NOT naive enough to not realize that he wouldn’t be spied on. Trump can hate Obama all he wants – and I don’t like Obama much either – but this kind of spying has be de rigueur for a long long time… and no doubt, will continue to be so for a long long time.

    Will Trump be able to “tame” the Spooks? Good luck. JFK tried that, and we all witnessed how that turned out.

    Reply
  18. flora

    Thanks for this post. My guess is Wilkerson is right that intel agencies care most about their own turf and budgets. What’s interesting is, judging by the Chicken Little flailing after the election, imo the CIA and other agencies never saw a Trump win coming, or really even possible. So, what are these agencies doing with all their big data? Did they simply use Google/Ada for their election probabilities intel? /s

    Reply
    1. kimsarah

      The massive storage of data can be accessed by whoever is in charge politically and then used to blackmail, threaten or even bribe anyone they want. Or sell it to other parties. Who would know?
      Whoever gains control over this holds a lot of power. This might explain the full-on flip-out by the Clintonian-Obama-ites who were sure they’d win.
      Either way it is more valuable than gold and almost as valuable as the holy grail — the stuff that could cause an all-out war among any splitting factions of the deep state.

      Reply
  19. Pookah Harvey

    Sorry about length but I think this puts together some interesting info.

    According to the BBC (from a Jan 13 report) FISA warrants were issued:

    On 15 October, the US secret intelligence court issued a warrant to investigate two Russian banks. This news was given to me by several sources and corroborated by someone I will identify only as a senior member of the US intelligence community. He would never volunteer anything – giving up classified information would be illegal – but he would confirm or deny what I had heard from other sources.

    “I’m going to write a story that says…” I would say. “I don’t have a problem with that,” he would reply, if my information was accurate. He confirmed the sequence of events below.

    Last April, the CIA director was shown intelligence that worried him. It was – allegedly – a tape recording of a conversation about money from the Kremlin going into the US presidential campaign.

    It was passed to the US by an intelligence agency of one of the Baltic States. The CIA cannot act domestically against American citizens so a joint counter-intelligence taskforce was created.

    The taskforce included six agencies or departments of government. Dealing with the domestic, US, side of the inquiry, were the FBI, the Department of the Treasury, and the Department of Justice. For the foreign and intelligence aspects of the investigation, there were another three agencies: the CIA, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the National Security Agency, responsible for electronic spying.

    Lawyers from the National Security Division in the Department of Justice then drew up an application. They took it to the secret US court that deals with intelligence, the Fisa court, named after the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. They wanted permission to intercept the electronic records from two Russian banks.

    Their first application, in June, was rejected outright by the judge. They returned with a more narrowly drawn order in July and were rejected again. Finally, before a new judge, the order was granted, on 15 October, three weeks before election day.

    Neither Mr Trump nor his associates are named in the Fisa order, which would only cover foreign citizens or foreign entities – in this case the Russian banks. But ultimately, the investigation is looking for transfers of money from Russia to the United States, each one, if proved, a felony offence.

    A lawyer- outside the Department of Justice but familiar with the case – told me that three of Mr Trump’s associates were the subject of the inquiry. “But it’s clear this is about Trump,” he said.

    I spoke to all three of those identified by this source. All of them emphatically denied any wrongdoing. “Hogwash,” said one. “Bullshit,” said another. Of the two Russian banks, one denied any wrongdoing, while the other did not respond to a request for comment.

    The investigation was active going into the election. During that period, the leader of the Democrats in the Senate, Harry Reid, wrote to the director of the FBI, accusing him of holding back “explosive information” about Mr Trump.

    Mr Reid sent his letter after getting an intelligence briefing, along with other senior figures in Congress. Only eight people were present: the chairs and ranking minority members of the House and Senate intelligence committees, and the leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties in Congress, the “gang of eight” as they are sometimes called. Normally, senior staff attend “gang of eight” intelligence briefings, but not this time. The Congressional leaders were not even allowed to take notes.

    Wilkerson’s supposition was pre-dated by ex-CIA Larry Johnson in A RT interview

    RT: What do you make of the accusations made by Donald Trump? How big of a deal is this?

    Larry Johnson: I think it’s a huge deal. The problem is Trump probably should not have done this via Twitter because to call it a “wiretap” is technically inaccurate. And the denials by the Obama people – like Bill Clinton asking what the meaning of “is” is with respect to “was oral sex a sexual act.”

    In this case I understand from very good friends that what happened was both Jim Clapper and John Brennan at CIA were intimately involved in trying to derail the candidacy of Donald Trump. That there was some collusion overseas with Britain’s own GHCQ [Government Communications Headquarters]. That information that was gathered from GHCQ was actually passed to John Brennan and it was disseminated within the US government. This dissemination was illegal.

    Donald Trump is in essence correct that the intelligence agencies, and some in the law enforcement community on the side of the FBI, were in fact illegally trying to access, monitor his communications with his aides and with other people. All of this with an end to try and destroy and discredit his presidency. I don’t think there can be any doubt of that. I think it’s worth noting that the head of the National Security Agency, an Admiral [Michael] Rogers, made a journey to the Trump Tower shortly after Trump had won. And in the immediate aftermath of his visit, Jim Clapper and others in the intelligence community called for him to be fired. Why did Rodgers go to Trump Tower? My understanding is that it was to cover himself, because he was aware that the NSA authorities had been misused and abused with respect to Donald Trump.

    Another piece of evidence that Wikerson alludes to ( March 1, 2017) :

    The American media is ignoring a story from London about the abrupt resignation of Robert Hannigan, the head of Britain’s highly secretive Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), which is the code breaking equivalent of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). Hannigan’s resignation on January 23 surprised everyone, with only a few hours’ notice provided to his staff. He claimed in a press release that he wanted to spend more time with his family, which reportedly includes a sick wife and elderly parents. Given the abruptness of the decision, it seems likely to be a cover story.

    Putting it altogether and there seems like a lot of smoke, will the MSM look for the fire?

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      FISA courts just about NEVER reject requests for warrants. They fact they did it 2x says the CIA was trying to go on a fishing expedition. I hate quoting the Daily Caller but I’ve seen this before from more mainstream sources:

      The U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court (FISA) rejected only 12 of 38,169 requests for surveillance warrants between 1979 and 2015.

      This means that about 99.7 percent of warrant requests have been approved in the 36 years since FISA’s inception. The last time a warrant was rejected was in 2009, when two requests were rejected and 1,320 were approved.

      http://dailycaller.com/2017/03/06/fisa-surveillance-requests-are-almost-never-rejected/#ixzz4amcUh8et

      Reply
      1. marym

        fwiw – court president and council for ODNI claimed (2013) there is an iterative process for submission, review, and revision, which makes for a very low reject rate for final submissions. Link to Wikipedia which has references to sources.

        Reply
      2. Mark P.

        Yves wrote: ‘FISA courts just about NEVER reject requests for warrants. They fact they did it 2x says the CIA was trying to go on a fishing expedition.’

        Correct.

        Reply
  20. wild west

    If we ignore the noise that comes from all sides 24/7 we should ask ourselves what is the worst consequence of this election cycle. I think that the fact that hatred became acceptable and normal is by far the worst. Will take a long time, if ever, to heal that.
    From the book The Damned Yard by Ivo Andric

    The success with which the politicians were able to pursue their campaign of division and mutual antagonism depended to a very large extend on the power of language to create a reality people are ready to believe in without reference to fact. Introduction page viii

    “It can happen, as you know,” wrote Brother Mato, “that some of our people watching the Vizier destroy the Turks and their “prominent people” would comment on how some good would come of it for the rayah, for our fools think that another’s trouble must do them good. You can tell them straight, so that they know now at least what they refused to see before: that nothing will come of it. Page 11

    Such was their capacity for hatred! And when the hatred of the bazaar attaches itself to an object, it never lets go, but focuses increasingly on it, gradually altering its shape and meaning, superseding it completely and becoming an end in itself. Then the object becomes secondary, only its name remains, and the hatred crystallizes, grows out of itself, according to its own laws and needs, and becomes powerful, inventive and enthralling, like a kind of inverted love; it finds new fuel and impetus, and itself creates motives for ever greater hatred. Page 19

    Reply
  21. susan the other

    Well this time Wilkerson did look upset. Just last week he looked tired but not so upset in his RNN interview. The topic this time is of course Trump being tapped and Wilkerson clearly doesn’t like it. But did anybody else notice that Wilkerson is wearing the exact same clothes as in the most previous interview? And the time of day is very similar by the lighting behind him on the ceiling and on his face as he speaks down into his computer. So that’s odd. Because it indicates to me that they were getting ready to debunk “Trump is crazy” talk even before Trump’s claim hit the news. Or at least as soon as it did; they were ready with this interview. I get the feeling they waited a few days to make it look spontaneous. Makes me think there is almost a civil war going on. But regardless of these tactics, it’s annoying that the DNC pulled this clumsy crap via the UK.

    Reply
  22. james wordsworth

    I hate to say this but just because something is possible, does not mean it happened.
    This story started with a trump tweet based on a some unsourced right wing hack’s radio show.
    Can we get back to something close to evidence based. There has been no evidence that anything happened. NONE.
    There are a thousand important stories worth covering, and we are fixated on what he wants us fixated on.

    Reply
    1. kimsarah

      The point Trump is making is the Democrats have not presented any probable cause in their assertions that he conspired with Russia to fix the election, yet they want a full investigation.
      He turned the tables on the Dems, making an accusation about Obama’s administration spying on him without providing probable cause, and also calling for an investigation.
      It proved his point, illustrating the ridiculousness of their little McCarthyite witch hunt.
      The Dems can dish it out, but cannot take it. In fact the Dims probably don’t even realize this.
      So go on Dems, keep digging all the way to China!

      Reply
  23. b1daly

    As soon as I heard about Trump’s allegations, I thought there was a good chance they were true, in some form. It would be surprising to me if there weren’t some surveillance of high level political operatives happening all the time, if not outright surveillance of candidates.

    I’m not quite grasping the sentiment here that this represents some kind of evidence that the American Empire is in decline the. As several commenters have pointed out, such shenanigans are the norm in human history. On the contrary, I think that the increased awareness of covert operations, and the associated pointed questions, represent a modest advancement for an open society, and bode well for the future of the US.

    The idea that the citizenry should have any checks on the power of the State is not one that comes naturally, to States. From a parallel perspective, the rise of “gotcha” politics, where political misbehavior, real or imagined, is trotted out in the press, as if evidence of inconceivably corrupt behavior, represents a triumph of democratic notions of a free press, that has a role in calling the powers-that-be to account. (On occasion.)

    While I think we have seen significant social progress in the US, over the last 100 years or so, one thing that has changed is the ubiquity of personal, digital, interconnectivity. This probably does represent an opportunity for the surveillance state to run wild in new ways. It’s hard to see how it can be stopped, frankly.

    Nonetheless, I think all this hand wringing about an American Empire in decline is little more than sophisticated “Chicken Little-ism.” Most of the issues people highlight as evidence of American decline often strike me as evidence of needed adjustments, that might allow the US to remain a powerful and successful country for decades to come, it not the most powerful.

    The “Trump” phenomenon strikes me as a delusional response to real problems. I don’t think the fantasy of an America that “used to win, and no longer does,” is anything but that.

    Trump’s public statements are paradoxical, and hardly worth trying to break down. On the one hand, I had a small hope that his somewhat “isolationist” ideas on foreign policy might bring a merciful reduction in US military interventions. But now, he seems committed to the incredible notion that the US needs to increase military spending!

    I have a loose hierarchy of how I look at power maintaininf/obtaining actions by the US.

    The worst are the kind of indiscriminate military activities we saw in Vietnam. The Bush wars were like this, a lot of cost, of US lives and treasure, appalling loss of civilian lives abroad.

    Obama move towards using less troops, less indiscriminately, was a big improvement over the heavy handed use of military power by the Bushes. ( I think Obama deserves credit for keeping the US out of a big shooting war in Syria, for example.)

    Next level of improvement is the use of spying, and cold war tactics, to avoid military conflict. If this means we, US citizens that is, need to accept that we are getting spied on by our own government, that seems like a worthwhile tradeoff.

    Essentially, I think we all have to accept that we are sitting ducks to being spied on. In fact, putting out fat digital targets, on forums like this one, and social media, is a worldwide mania.

    My bigger concern is with excess government secrecy, and fortunately the same tools that empower digital spying, empower leakers of all stripes.

    It is best when the US exercises power with diplomatic methods, and within international legal frameworks. (Trump’s rhetoric here is disturbing.) Ideally, spy craft is aimed at other entities in the world, and not our own citizens.

    Getting back to the original topic, the fact that this is even being reported as news is an encouraging sign, as it shows that the ideals that the government doesn’t have the right to do whatever it wants to citizens, in the name of maintaining order.

    Overall, I think Trump is a menace, in a “bull-in-china-shop” way. I don’t think his policies will lead to the reforms his supporters hoped for. I have to admit, that as much as I think the “Deep State” and MIC are eternal threats, in need of being restrained, I think that if they hasten Trump’s demise, I won’t complain too much.

    It’s interesting times, but I see as many reasons for optimism as for the opposite.

    Reply
    1. AbateMagicThinking but Not money

      Useful analysis of any situation when one is embedded in that polity, body, heart and soul, is difficult to say the least. What I look out for is the canaries in the coalmine.

      My recent reading of the history of the British Empire when it was at its highest – at the end of the 19th century, led me to one such canary. When it came to recruiting for the Boer war in South Afica (imperialists versus colonials), the British War ministry was aghast at the poor physical state of the majority of British men. The best physical specimens came willingly from Australia – another of Britain’s former dumping grounds for petty criminals (set up due to the independence of the thirteen American colonies).

      The British empire at its richest was in very poor physical shape (in the home islands). It was downhill from there for the empire and imperialists.

      After 1945 we little people got the National Health Service in Britain, and the elite gave away the empire through stumblings and loss of mojo. A fair exchange I would say.

      Are bridge collapses and dodgy dams in the US such canaries, or is it rampant obesity, or none of these?

      Reply
      1. Marina Bart

        I can’t speak to the recruitment problems for the Boer War, because I never studied it in school or ran across it later.

        But the English working class was being ground up and spit out long before then. The only reason the English had enough strong-muscled, able-bodied manpower for their Victorian era factories was because of Ireland. Just as the Industrial Revolution in England depended on coal being accessible under its soil, the conquered people of Ireland were imperative as a resource. The combination of Catholicism producing a high birth rate and English control over the island for centuries resulting in natives not owning the land or being able to control their economic destinies or even feed themselves (during the potato famine, tons of delicious, nutritious food was being grown in Ireland — the problem was that it was shipped to England for the masters to enjoy, while the natives died with their mouths stuffed with grass) meant that lots of young men who had grown up in the relatively less damaged physical environment of the Irish countryside had to go to England to work. They shipped money back to their families, just as Central and South American immigrants to the United States do today.

        Waves of young Irishmen came to England and were physically destroyed in just a few years of factory work. Then their younger brothers would be sent over to take their place, because the combination of Catholicism, misogyny and economic desperation meant women had no means to control their birth rate, and Irish families usually had many children.

        England had used up the bodies and health of its workers long before the Boer War.

        Interestingly, we now have broken our own impoverished class that has been providing the volunteers for our empire-building (many of them, like me, descendants of the Irish and Scots-Irish who came here to escape being masticated by the English), to the point that the volunteer army is unsustainable; the people willing to sign up are often too physically unhealthy, mentally wounded or simply too uneducated to be useful in the modern American military. That’s why (I strongly suspect) there was the big push to join Hillary Clinton’s presidency to drafting women. Expand the pool, and the draft can creep up the class system enough to find functional soldiers for more wars (like the Russia land war) without going anywhere near the 10%.

        That is why I cheered when the Republicans demanded that drafting women be removed from this year’s funding authorization. It’s not just that I have a daughter I don’t want dying for Exxon-Mobil and the Clinton Foundation. It’s that I believe blocking the drafting of women makes it harder to reinstate the active draft at all, which makes it harder to launch more land wars and active engagement fronts.

        Reply

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