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H2O Man

H2O Man's Journal
H2O Man's Journal
May 27, 2017

Who Spies on Presidents

It's interesting to consider “who spies on US presidents?” in a historical context. Let's look at two examples, both of which can be found in books of White House tapes. The two are Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. It's worth comparing how both of them responded, compared with Donald Trump.

For LBJ, we'll look at “Reaching for Glory: Lyndon Johnson's Secret White House Tapes, 1964-1965,” (Simon & Schuster; 2001), the second of Michael Beschloss's series. On March 29, 1965, LBJ calls Nicholas Katzenbach, the Attorney General. It has become obvious that Johnson and others in his administration have had their phones tapped.

“I'm a red-hot, one-million-two percent civil liberties man, and I'm just against them I guess you've got to have them in treason or something,” Johnson tells him, but he demands – repeatedly – that the Attorney General shut down other FBI taps.

Katzenbach tells LBJ that he thinks the CIA taps phones, but not within the United States. Time would prove him to be wrong on that. He also notes that military intelligence is the likely source of the White House taps. Johnson is only mildly surprised, but it is evident he will not challenge the military on this issue. (See pages 251-256)

In a too frequently overlooked chapter in the Nixon administration, we look to Douglas Brinkley & Luke Nichter's “The Nixon Tapes,” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 2014), the first of two volumes of Nixon tapes. On December 21, 1971, Nixon speaks with Erhlichman and Mitchell, after learning that the Joint Chiefs had placed a spy in Kissinger's office.

Nixon calls this “a federal offense of the highest order.” He demands an immediate investigation. However, he soon decides he does not want to go after military intelligence, and opts to merely reassign the spy to a different location. (See pages 331 – 339.)

There are, of course, other examples of presidents being spied upon and/or investigated by various intelligence agencies. And there were other presidents who had strong disagreements with the military and/or intelligence agencies. Yet Trump is the first who has openly attempted to do battle with them in a very public way.

I'm used to scoring boxing matches, round by round, until either it goes to a decision, or there is a knockout. Thus far in the Trump presidency, I think it's fair to say the Trump administration is losing every minute of every round. And the president and his buds are looking tired, bruised, bloody, and hurt. Though I'm still keeping score, I think that a knockout is coming very soon.

May 27, 2017

The Phaedrus

“Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many; the intelligence of a few perceives what has been carefully hidden.”
Plato; The Phaedrus

News reports indicate that the FBI investigation into the Russian-Trump scandal has begun to focus more attention on the president's family members. Recent media coverage has indicated that on the day before Trump fired FBI director Comey, two FBI investigators visited the sons at the family's business. The “official” purpose was to discuss an attempted “hack” of their business computers. There is a very good OP/thread on this, found here:

There's another good OP/thread regarding the FBI's focus on the son-in-law, regarding meetings he attended between the election and Trump being sworn in. See:


While reading these stories, or hearing about them on television news, keep a few things in mind. First, the FBI agents were not obligated to tell the sons the complete and accurate reasons for their visit. A visit such as this can be to unsettle a person in the friendliest of ways. Some criminals get spooked to the point that they attempt a stupid move in the hours and days that follow. (If I could find a link to one of the OP/threads coming the Trump sons to Beavis & Butthead, I'd post it, as I think that's accurate.)

Also, in regard to the excellent article on Jared Kushner, keep in mind this April 3 article from the Washington Post. It's about Kushner and Flynn's sending Erik Prince to an island off of Africa, for a secret meeting to develop secret lines of communication between the White House and Russia.


Although the media reports suggest the FBI is particularly interested in two other meetings Kushner had with the Russians,be aware of their relationship to the island meeting. For that island retreat is surely one of the Trump family jewels.

May 22, 2017

The Wall Comes Tumbling Down

“I deny everything I say, because everything I say is a lie. And everything I deny is a lie, too.”
– Groucho Marx

Rational people knew that candidate Trump was lying when he told gullible crowds that he would build a wall between the Unites States and Mexico. More, he appealed to these people's ugliest instincts, promising them that Mexico would foot the entire bill for this wall. Trump, of course, must have known that this would never happen. His actual purpose was to stir the pot of hatred and fear that – if it boiled over – might help make him to “win” an election.

Trump's campaign and his presidency have attempted to create other walls within America. He has exploited divides between citizens. He's attacked individuals and institutions. In doing so, he serves as a perfect illustration of the reality that those who hate, become hate, and thus are hated. And this is the only quasi-positive thing that can be said about him.

Past presidents have been notorious liars. Lyndon Johnson lied to his friends, Richard Nixon to his enemies. But Trump is by far the worst ever. Likewise, there have been serious divisions between Americans before. The Civil War is an obvious example. The 1960s – '70s is another. The significant difference is that today, there is a president who purposely has added fuel to the fires of division.

One hundred and twenty-two days into the Trump presidency, the chickens are coming home to roost. The pace of the unraveling of the lies and corruption of the campaign/administration is building momentum. We are living in historic times.

A number of people – mainly young, but also some of my generation – that I communicate with are expressing frustrations that the process is taking too long. Actually, it is moving along at the best pace possible. A key to that is found in a second concern expressed: republicans in DC are unlikely to move to impeach Trump.

Last week, MSNBC's Joy Reid (an absolute treasure in the mainstream media) made a point that deserves far greater attention than it has received. Those republicans facing re-election campaigns next year are already contacting their major donors. And those donors are becoming increasingly upset by the circus of ass-clowns in the administration. They are unlikely to invest in an effort to protect this self-destructive administration.

I've frequently advocated that people read Malcolm Nance's book on the Russian-Trump connections. What we are witnessing today is exactly what he spoke about in his wonderful book, and has said on various news programs in recent months. In a very real sense, this is much like the intelligence community's destabilizing of foreign governments in the past.

Reports that the Assistant Attorney General's naming a Special Counsel do not name Trump's son-n-law, but he is the fellow inside the White House that is of special focus. This is due to his coordination with Eric Prince, and attendance of the secret meeting on the island off the African coast. This was an attempt to create an outside-of-government operation to coordinate with Russian interests – much like the Reagan-Bush administration's Iran-Contra operations.

The intelligence community is also relying upon evaluations of Trump's personality traits. Trump does not, as we all know, deal with “bad news” well. Hence, the early morning tweets, etc, that his administration tries to normalize. And Trump's uncanny compulsion to publicly contradict their efforts within 24 hours. Thus, morale within the White House is sinking lower and lower daily, and the hiring of personal legal representation is increasing at the same pace.

The wall that Donald Trump attempted to build is tumbling down.

May 17, 2017

The Good Fight

“Wise people learn from others' mistakes; most of us must learn from our o0wn; and fools? They never learn.”
Rubin “Hurricane” Carter

At this strange and dangerous time in our nation's history, it is important to be aware of past events that are similar to today's. For it is said that history does not repeat, but instead, rhymes. Many people are correctly comparing today's events to Watergate; however, it is equally important to consider some of the dynamics of the Iran-Contra scandal.

Because that scandal was so complex, and because Congress opted to not “follow the money,” let's simply focus on one central issue. Within the Reagan administration, the National Security Council began operating as a “shadow government.” Its members determined that they could get away with breaking the law, ignoring the Congress, and even by-passing the State Department, in foreign affairs. They opted to do business with foreign governments, and mercenary groups, using foreign sources for money and weapons.

It was, in the most literal sense, an attempted coup. Their actions were exactly the type of thing that the Founding Fathers hoped to prevent, when making our Constitution. The failure to “follow the money” by Congress was an error that allowed the germ of Iran-contra to remain, embedded within our federal government. In this context, the Trump-Russia scandal is the natural result.

Luckily, those in the Trump circle have not learned from others' mistakes, or their own. It is not an administration that is deep in talent. And those who grasp what is happening are not able to influence Trump.

We are living in a historic era. It's important to not be a mere spectator. Instead, be a participant. The grass roots being active participants in our government, and the greater society, is a vital part of our constitutional democracy. Every generation is faced with the specter of losing those rights and responsibilities required to keep our democracy alive. A heck of a lot has been lost in our lifetimes. Let's fight the Good Fight, and improve things for the future.

May 16, 2017

Two Question Survey

(1) Do you think the US is entering into a constitutional crisis?

(2) Why?

Note: There are no "wrong" answers.

May 14, 2017

Mothers Day

“The United States was established by visionary, awakened, and conscious people, slaveholders though many may have been; the religious zeal, the outright blindness, and the avarice of the Bush administration have compromised the Constitution, thereby weakening the country's very foundation.”
Rubin “Hurricane” Carter; Eye of the Hurricane; Lawrence Hill; 2011; page 109

I have been thinking about some of the conversations I had with Rubin while he was writing this book. He had great hope that President Obama would bring about real advances in American society. When we discussed George W. Bush, Rubin said that his middle initial stood for “death.” He based that on the glee Bush expressed when discussing capital punishment.

While I can only speculate on what he would have said about Trump, I can say that Donald is “friends” with former boxing promoter Don King, a man Rubin viewed as a toxic parasite.

No matter who one supported in the democratic primary of 2016, if one blamed James Comey or not for Trump's election victory, or what particular issue one holds to be most important, the past week's events should be unacceptable. And that should be regardless of one's opinions on Comey as an individual. Rather, it should be based upon Trump's action within the context of his on-going attacks on that foundation that Rubin spoke of.

Our mistrust and disgust should be in response to Trump's: firing of (acting) Attorney General Sally Yates; his calling the press the “enemy” of the people; the firing of Preet Bharara; the personal attacks on federal judges; attacking the intelligence community; insulting the investigations into the Trump campaign and Russia, including both the House and Senate's; and the firing of an FBI director for investigating the ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Each of these was, without question, an attack on those parts of the federal government intended to install checks and balances upon

There have been individuals and crises that have tested our system of government in the past. Trump's personality combines the worst characteristics of Senator Joseph McCarthy, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, and President Richard Nixon. The current crisis has aspects similar to both Watergate and Iran-Contra. There have been numerous books detailing the history of threats to our constitutional democracy. Let's take a brief look at two of the most important.

From our nation's earliest days, presidents have sought to expand executive power primarily by claiming that there is an external threat, necessitating “war powers.” This was documented in Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.'s 1973 classic, “The Imperial Presidency.” Written at the time when Nixon was spinning out of control, Schlesinger spoke about the constitutional remedy – impeachment.

The second book is John Nichols's 2006, “The Genius of Impeachment: The Founders' Cure for Royalism.” Nichols made a strong case for impeaching George W. Bush.

There are, of course, those who automatically say, “But there were different republicans in 1973 and '74, who were willing to stand up for the good of the country.” This is nonsense. Anyone interested can go to “You Tube” and watch, for example, the committee hearings in the House debating potential articles of impeachment. It wasn't until towards the end of the Watergate hearings in both the House and Senate that republicans turned on Nixon. And they did so primarily in an effort to protect their own cushy positions.

Reagan should have been impeached for Iran-Contra. But it was only due to a “gentlemen's agreement” between members of both parties that protected the Gipper. Fast-forward to the Clinton presidency, and the nation witnessed the republicans gross abuse of the process. Next, when both Bush and Cheney should have been impeached, the absence of spine in Congress protected the pair.

Thus, it's important to take a look at what factors were in play in 1973-74 that were significantly different that in the following eras. Those who study the history of Watergate recognize that Senator Ted Kennedy played a vital role, though largely from behind the scenes. That was important. Yet the single biggest factor was that at the grass roots level, citizens were exercising their Amendment 1 rights. They were speaking publicly about the outrages they saw detailed in the Senate Watergate hearings. They held public rallies and demonstrations. They wrote letters-to-the-editor of their newspapers. And they contacted their elected representatives.

These efforts helped shape public opinion. And even the worst republican scoundrels in DC knew that they were walking a shaky tightrope. There were still republicans across the country supporting the man that everyone in Congress knew had suffered what was then called a “nervous break-down.” But that was generally an insiders' secret. The general public didn't know how unhinged the president actually was.

Today, a Ph.D in psychology is not required to know Trump is unhinged. It's not an insiders secret. A law degree is not needed to interpret the clues that Trump is trying to derail the investigations into his campaign/ administration's connections to the Russian attempt to hijack the 2016 presidential election. And, no matter if one suspects that coordinated effort did or did not determine the outcome, the offense is exactly the same. For it matters not if a bank-robber escapes with the loot or not – he is still guilty of the exact same crime f bank robbery.

The grass roots needs to be putting pressure on their elected representatives. We need to show the community-based organizing that lets the republican rats know that their comfortable positions are anything but secure. It is possible that Trump won't be impeached until after the 2018 elections, and if that is what it takes, we will be fully prepared. The better prepared we are, however, the more likely that this process will begin to unfold earlier. Do not assume that there is loyalty to Trump in DC.

The grass roots can increase support for impeaching Trump by communicating in a manner the “middle Americans” understand and agree with. And that includes a focus on the Constitution. Not in the sense of the rabid right-wing's “original intent” nonsense; it is easy to point out that the original intent was to exclude non-white males and all females from power. We see that same sick thinking in those who support Trump, no matter what laws he breaks.

Impeaching Trump (and electing a far better Congress) is a possibility that is open to us. But it will not happen if we wait impatiently, arguing on the internet and mistaking that for activism, hoping for a hero to lead the way. It's up to us. You and me. Let's do this.

May 12, 2017

Impeach Jeff Sessions

Obvious questions about the "ethics" of Jeff Sessions' role in the firing of James Comey focus on his taking action on the Russian investigation -- after he had recused himself when he was proven to have lied to the Senate committee. What should also be noted is that Sessions had promised to recuse himself from anything involving the Clinton campaign, yet the letters he and the assistant Attorney General focused primarily on Comey's handling of the e-mail issue:


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