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The Fight for Washington

Those who thought things would cool off after the elections, should think again. The Trump administration has not yet won the battle for legitimacy. Maybe it never will. Thomas Lifson argues the "CIA broke the law to take out its critic General Flynn". Bill Kristol doesn't care about the legalities. He sees the resignation of Mike Flynn as a power struggle between two evil Washington factions, only one of who can win. "Obviously strongly prefer normal democratic and constitutional politics," Kristol tweeted. "But if it comes to it, prefer the deep state to the Trump state."

No middle ground?Not even the constitution? Can things be so bad? The language of the pundits is full of warlike metaphors. Rush Limbaugh  called what happened "the Political Assassination of Michael Flynn". Jennifer Rubin  sees it as a softening up of the beaches on the Road to Tokyo. Flynn was only a whistle stop en route to the final destination. "If Flynn's gone in less than a year how long will Trump last?," she asks.

The overall tone is so bellicose even long-time Trump critics worry things have gone too far. John Podhoretz says "what happened with Flynn also represents a frightening portent" because "no joke, people — if they can do it to Mike Flynn, they can do it to you."  Suddenly no one is safe.

Leftists have become fond of saying that Trump shouldn’t be 'normalized.' That concern should now go both ways. Every American should be equally concerned at the potential 'normalization' of the tactics used by unnamed government officials to do Flynn in. ...

This is the ultimate Pandora’s box. It makes a public mockery of the presumption of innocence that is the hallmark of our legal system. Such a thing is only acceptable, even morally, if you believe that the Trump White House represents such an unprecedented threat to everything that a higher law must govern your actions.

But dangerous or not, the game is afoot. A fight is on between what Kristol called the "deep state" and "the Trump state". It marks an escalation between the incoming Trump crew and the coalition consisting of establishment Republicans, Democrats, media and intelligence bureaucrats. It's a poorly lit scene, like the Alien vs Predator or Godzilla vs Muto movies which it resembles, and it's hard to see where the borders of the action begin and end. It could be big, it could be little, but all you care about is staying away from the trampling feet and slashing blades.

Michael Walsh suggests the whole federal bureaucracy has been booby-trapped by an outgoing administration that never conceded the election but only went underground. "This story, from the Jan. 12, 2017 edition of the New York Times, was little-remarked upon at the time, but suddenly has taken on far greater significance in light of current events:"

In its final days, the Obama administration has expanded the power of the National Security Agency to share globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies before applying privacy protections.

The new rules significantly relax longstanding limits on what the N.S.A. may do with the information gathered by its most powerful surveillance operations, which are largely unregulated by American wiretapping laws. These include collecting satellite transmissions, phone calls and emails that cross network switches abroad, and messages between people abroad that cross domestic network switches.

The suggestion is the Deep State was given a last-minute grant of authority to wait until the incoming administration walked in the door before blowing the political Claymores. So poisonous is the atmosphere that there are even more incredible allegations, which were it not for the times, would sound absurd. Stuart Winer of the Times of Israel says a source informs him that the CIA is vaccinating America against Russian blackmail by doing it first. "The CIA has reportedly been working to prevent the possibility of the Kremlin blackmailing US President Donald Trump by deliberately making public everything regarding the president’s ties with Russia."

A report Wednesday by Israeli website Walla news’s veteran diplomatic correspondent Oren Nahari cited an Israeli official, who said a senior member of the US intelligence community told him the agency suspects that Russia has information on Trump that can be used to pressure the US leader. As a countermeasure, US intelligence operatives are quickly leaking everything they learn about ties between Russia and the Trump administration so that the information can’t be used as leverage against the president.

The Russians for their part are busy arming whoever they can with the equivalent of cyber-Kalashnikovs in the hopes of evening up the odds. The more prolonged the fight between Alien vs Predator -- or the Deep State and Trump State as Kristol puts it -- the better things are for a third monster hiding in the woods. Who wins in the fight between Deep State and Trump State? Putin. Wired reports that Edward Snowden now apparently heads a San Francisco-based NGO dedicated to providing reporters and whistleblowers with encryption tools.

Since early last year, Snowden has quietly served as president of a small San Francisco–based nonprofit called the Freedom of the Press Foundation. Its mission: to equip the media to do its job at a time when state-­sponsored hackers and government surveillance threaten investigative reporting in ways Woodward and Bernstein never imagined. “Newsrooms don’t have the bud­get, the sophistication, or the skills to defend them­selves in the current environment,” says Snowden, who spoke to WIRED via encrypted video-chat from his home in Moscow. “We’re trying to provide a few niche tools to make the game a little more fair.”

The group’s 10 staffers and a handful of contract coders, with Snowden’s remote guidance, are working to develop an armory of security upgrades for reporters. Snowden and renowned hacker Bunnie Huang have partnered to develop a hardware modification for the iPhone, designed to detect if malware on the device is secretly transmitting a reporter’s data, including location. They’re developing a piece of software called Sunder that uses code written by Frederic Jacobs, one of the programmers for the popular encryption app Signal1; Sunder would allow journalists to encrypt a trove of secrets and then retrieve them only if several newsroom colleagues combine their passwords to access the data. And the foundation’s coders are building a plug-and-play version of Jitsi, the encrypted video-chat software Snowden himself uses for daily communication. They want newsrooms to be able to install it on their own servers with a few clicks. “The idea is to make this all paint-by-numbers instead of teaching yourself to be Picasso,” Snowden says.

The danger of America dividing in the face of an opportunistic enemy should be obvious to the combatants. But the factions of American politics may be too enraged to stop out of fear of a common threat. Noooo! echoes like a howl through the woods. Suicidal factionalism has torn apart famous nations before, Rome's Crisis of the Third Century being the most famous example. "The crisis began with the assassination of Emperor Severus Alexander by his own troops in 235, initiating a 50-year period in which there were at least 26 claimants to the title of Emperor, mostly prominent Roman army generals, who assumed imperial power over all or part of the Empire. The same number of men became accepted by the Roman Senate as emperor during this period and so became legitimate emperors."

If Trump is overthrown by the Deep State in a year, he's unlikely to be the last. If neither faction will suffer itself to be governed by the other, whoever succeeds Trump can expect his term to be short. America could have its own period of the 26 presidents. That will be good news for the Barbarians, waiting at the edge of the Baltics, in the South China Sea, and on Europe's borders, ready to move in.

Rome's Third Century crisis did not end well. The new normal was not a return to the Golden Age, but the end of it.  It resulted in a landscape with a broken internal trade network and a patchwork of locality. America's own Third Century, which began so hopefully in 1976, is now heading to a place no one could have foreseen. There is no road back to the past; there never is. All that is on offer is a choice of murky futures.

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Support the Belmont Club by purchasing from Amazon through the links below.

Books:

What Has Government Done to Our Money?, Author Murray Rothbard was an American economist of the Austrian School who played a key role in the development of libertarianism. This book is his manifesto of sound money and has, since its publication in 1963, influenced innumerable economists, investors, and politicians. It details the history of money, from early barter systems, to the gold standard, to present-day systems of paper money. He explains how money was originally developed, and why gold was chosen as the preferred commodity to use as money. Rothbard was the first to prove that the government, and only the government, can destroy money on a mass scale and he shows how they go about it in this book.

The Misbehavior of Markets: A Fractal View of Financial Turbulence, by Benoit Mandelbrot and Richard Hudson. In his first book for a general audience, Mandelbrot, a mathematician, with co-author Hudson, shows how the dominant way of thinking about the behavior of markets -- a set of mathematical assumptions a century old -- simply does not work. As he did for the physical world in his classic book, The Fractal Geometry of Nature, Mandelbrot here uses fractal geometry to propose a new, more accurate way of describing market behavior. With his fractal tools, Mandelbrot gets to the bottom of how financial markets really work, and in doing so, describes the volatile, dangerous properties that financial experts have never before accounted for and sets the foundation for a new science of finance.

Now: The Physics of Time, by Richard A. Muller. In this book, Muller writes about the meaning of "now" and the flow of time. He crafts his own revolutionary theory, one that makes testable predictions. He points out that the standard Big Bang theory explains the ongoing expansion of the universe as the continuous creation of new space. Time, he argues, is also expanding and that the leading edge of the new time is what we experience as “now.” His theory has remarkable implications for some of the biggest questions, not only in physics but also in philosophy -- including the ongoing debate about the reality of free will.

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win (Audible), In this audio book, authors and narrators Jocko Willink and Leif Babin share firsthand accounts of making high-pressure decisions as Navy SEAL battlefield leaders, stories that translate into lessons for business and life. Jocko and Leif served together in SEAL Task Unit Bruiser, the most highly decorated Special Operations unit from the war in Iraq. Their efforts contributed to the historic triumph for US forces in Ramadi.

For a list of books most frequently purchased by readers, visit my homepage.


Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with your friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.

The War of the Words, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres

Rebranding Christianity, or why the truth shall make you free

The Three Conjectures, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age

Storming the Castle, why government should get small

No Way In at Amazon Kindle. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.

Storm Over the South China Sea, how China is restarting history in the Pacific

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