Last Monday (2/14/17) NYT front-paged a story with this ominous-sounding headline.
Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence
Underneath, however, were paragraph after paragraph of yada yada of the kind journalists employ to convince readers there’s a story here when in fact there isn’t. Finally, well down inside the paper we come across: “The officials would not disclose many details, including what was discussed on the calls, the identity of the Russian intelligence officials who participated, and how many of Mr. Trump’s advisers were talking to the Russians. It is also unclear whether the conversations had anything to do with Mr. Trump himself.”
This is what I call “non news,” and it bothers me almost as much as “fake news.” Misleading is at the heart of both types. The efficacy of “fake news” correlates with the ignorance of the recipient. “Non news” tends to correlate with the ego of the writer; it leads essentially nowhere; it is the breathless account of a dead end. What we expect to be about something turns out to be about nothing – in the best Seinfeldian sense. In other words, how much more that really matters did we know when we finished the NYT article than when we began? Essentially zilch. In this instance, what matters is what was actually discussed and where might these discussions have led? Or, to put it crudely: did money change hands? Were electoral databases hacked and altered?
I’m not alone in my skepticism. But in the material I’ve searched out so far, only my former Observer colleague Joe Conason gets to the point. http://www.nationalmemo.com/russian-dossier-ignored/
Mostly what we’re presented with is “non-news” squared. Here’s an example: it purports to explain and yet ends up more or less exactly where it started: ttps://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/02/what-does-it-mean-to-have-repeated-contacts-with-russian-intelligence/516843/ This article does mention a purported KGB/FSB offer “to help” a Bill Clinton campaign – but what we want to know, if this assertion is to have any teeth, is what exactly is meant by “help”? Are we talking $$$$? Or blackmail (if there has ever been a president riper for a “honey trap,” it would have been Clinton, with his supersonic zipper). Or registration records hacked? Was Moscow responsible for the disappearance of all those Brooklyn registrants?
We’re told that Russia “meddled” in the recent elections, but of what did aforesaid “meddling” consist? If you’ve read Fixers, you know that it jumps off in early 2007, with an offer by a Wall Street big shot well aware of the mess in the mortgage and derivatives business and apprehensive that if there’s a crash there’ll be regulatory hell to pay, to infuse the just-announced presidential campaign of an ambitious midwestern Senator with big money, funding sufficient to put him on an even footing with his “sure thing” primary opponent, the wife of a former president. This premise was inspired by the early (barely two weeks after 2008 election) leak that Obama’s finance team would be headed by Summers and Geithner, which suggested to me that something funny – and to voters like myself, very discouraging – was going on in the realm of “Hope and Change.” If I was starting that novel today, with the election at issue that of 2016 instead of 2008, I might well use the same plot kickoff – but this time with the campaign manager of a 2016 candidate even unlikelier than was Obama in 2007 being offered a deal by a Russian intermediary, denominated in post-Citizens United billions rather than the comparatively measly sum my characters had to work with in 2007.
I’m going to take a break now but will return later with reflections on l’affaire Flynn.
I’m not upset and I’m certainly not outraged by Flynn’s conversations during the interregnum with the Russian ambassador regarding sanctions. These were hastily imposed during Obama’s headlong rush to create a “legacy” for his niminy-piminy, heed-what-I-say-not-what-I-do, two-term administration, but I’m not sure what they were supposed to punish Moscow for. Well, I do, actually, at least I know what we’ve been told. Here’s CNN:
“The administration described Russia’s involvement as “Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities” and sanctioned four Russian individuals and five Russian entities for what it said was election interference. The administration also ordered 35 Russian diplomats to leave the country and two Russian compounds are being closed.
“This is the first time the names of Russian officials involved in the hacking have become public on the sanctions list.
“Russia’s cyberactivities were intended to influence the election, erode faith in US democratic institutions, sow doubt about the integrity of our electoral process, and undermine confidence in the institutions of the US government,” a White House statement said. “These actions are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
This is just BS. What the Kochs got up to was twice as destabilizing. Maybe the Russians opened up HRC’s emails for all the world to read, but they sure as hell didn’t write them. Why bother when useful idiots like Podesta and Huma existed to do the heavy lifting?
Anyway, when there’s major regime change, policy changes are expected, and people who know each other will often get together to discuss what’s next. Flynn has a long history with Moscow. He wasn’t an official of the government although I’m sure he knew he was likely to be asked to serve. He made no commitments. So what’s the big deal? Anyway, this just came up online. http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/02/15/515437291/intelligence-official-transcripts-of-flynns-calls-dont-show-criminal-wrongdoing?utm_campaign=storyshare&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social
This reminds me of a similar episode in my own life. Back around 1974, the controversial Broadway producer David Merrick started buying stock in 20th Century-Fox, of which I was a director and handled the company’s investment baking. Darryl Zanuck, then Fox CEO, had a shitfit. I decided I’d go see Merrick and try to get a line on his plans for Fox, to see what he was up to. Not that I was out to save Zanuck’s ass; he was one of the 10 worst people I’ve ever known, with zipper problems to challenge Bill Clinton (we’d just spent $6 million to make Hello, Goodbye, a clunker starring DFZ’s then-squeeze, Genevieve Gilles, that “grossed $600K domestic,” as we say in The Industry), but Merrick didn’t rank far behind in the shithead sweepstakes. And Fox at that point was hardly in a position to endure the expense and distraction of a proxy fight or hostile bid. So I had dinner with Merrick at “21” and came away knowing little more than when I’d sat down, although as I recall I assured Merrick that I and my firm would do what we could to avoid a destructive and distracting corporate war. A week or two later, I was summoned to the office of Fred Ehrman, Lehman’s then executive partner/CEO. Ehrman was a world-class prick in his own way, and a misanthrope in the bargain, which put the firm in the interesting position of being a people business run by a people-hater. Ehrman told me that he’d had a call from Zanuck alleging that I was conspiring with Merrick to take over Fox, and that unless I quit the Fox board (and account), and Lehman replaced me with another partner, Zanuck would take his investment banking elsewhere. “Tell him to shove it up his ass,” I replied tactfully. “He has no business to give out. No one on the Street’ll touch him.” But I knew Ehrman, and I could see a certain word light up in his mind, because back then, to people Ehrman’s age (late 60s), “Hollywood” meant that part of the female anatomy where our new president by his own account likes to grab ’em. I was cooked. I bowed to pressure and – guess what! – my place on the Fox board was taken by Ehrman.
Now none of this means that I’m a Flynn fan. I think there’s a lot of funny business going on here. For instance: David Ignatius’ Curious Role in the Mike Flynn Story . My impression is that Flynn is extremist to the point of borderline nuts, but that wouldn’t bother Trump, who operates on the principle “it takes one not to know one.” We’re probably better off without Flynn on the poop deck – I can’t say that without noting that my all-time favorite gay porn double-feature, glimpsed years ago on the marquee of a Times Square speciality art house, was “Poop Deck” paired with “Rear Admiral” – but this business with the Russian ambassador strikes me as just so much hysterical persiflage.http://www.moonofalabama.org/2017/02/the-dangerous-precedence-of-the-hunt-against-flynn-and-trump.html#more
Speaking of which, this just in: http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2017/02/16/trump-slams-democrats-media-press-conference/eHrQlhkDEOt6Z4lDrkTX1N/story.html
Finally, to change the subject, another nail in “legacy” coffin: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/01/12/obama-obamacare-and-single-payer/