Friday, March 2, 2018

It is the alternate reality that undermines participative citizenship

Image via Mother Jones
Retired Admiral James A. Lyons might be 90 years of age but given a platform at the equally nutty Washington Times he can spin a conspiracy theory as good as anyone. Lyons, who is well known for his anti-gay tirades, is nevertheless an educated man who rose to the highest ranks of the defense establishment. 30 years ago he was ousted and forced to retire because of his numerous controversies. Yet, controversial should not mean oblivious.

We begin a frustrating journey to a world where logic and reason no longer exist. It is a place where people can famously offer alternate facts:
With the clearly unethical and most likely criminal behavior of the upper management levels of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) exposed by Chairman Devin Nunes of the House Intelligence Committee, there are two complementary areas that have been conveniently swept under the rug.
Apparently the admiral doesn't quite get the fact that the release of the Nunes memo was a political attempt to divert attention away from the Russia investigation. “Law and order” — “Blue Lives Matter” Republicans are attempting to diminish the reputation of the FBI and, by extension, Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller's investigation (which has already reached plea agreements with five individuals associated with Trump).

It is those “two complementary areas” that are utterly baffling:
The first deals with the murder of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) staffer Seth Rich, and the second deals with the alleged hacking of the DNC server by Russia. Both should be of prime interest to special counsel Robert Mueller, but do not hold your breath.
Seth Rich? With no proof whatsoever, conspiracy theorists claimed that Rich was “assassinated” because he supposedly stole a large quantity of data from the DNC and provided it to Wikileaks. Never mind that even Fox News retracted the story. Never mind the fact that there isn't a shred of evidence to support the theory. It never made any sense. The purpose for this story—which Trump and Sean Spicer helped spread—was to cast doubt that Russian hackers provided information to Wikileaks and the possibility that Trump and his campaign were complicit. There is now no doubt whatsoever regarding Russian interference and the noose is slowly tightening around Trump.

This whole episode should have been long buried by now. It has been debunked so many times in so many different ways. It is unseemly to inject this into our political discourse. A man is dead, likely the result of a botched robbery. His family deserves some peace. However, according to Lyons:
Data on the laptop revealed that Mr. Rich downloaded thousands of DNC emails and was in touch with Wikileaks. The file with evidence of what was on Mr. Rich’s laptop sits with the FBI in a co-shared space with the D.C. police department. According to Ed Butowsky, an acquaintance of the family, in his discussions with Joel and Mary Rich, they confirmed that their son transmitted the DNC emails to Wikileaks.
None of that is true. There is no evidence to support any of that. Most of it came from a Fox source, Rod Wheeler. Wheeler was speculating and has recanted most of this. He is also suing Fox News for supposedly misquoting him. The Rich family have never told anyone that their son transmitted emails to Wikileaks. There is no evidence connecting Rich to Wikileaks. None. Zero

Now on to the second area, the “alleged hacking” of the DNC server by Russian operatives:
Mr. Assange also offered information to the Trump administration to prove Russia didn’t hack the DNC server, as the DNC claimed. Mr. Assange also met with Orange Country Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, and gave him information to present to the Trump administration to prove no one hacked the DNC server.

However, with the Obama holdovers in key positions, it is not surprising that no one from the Trump administration would meet with the congressman or Mr. Assange.
This goes back to last August. Yes, Assange did say that. However, he has offered no proof whatsoever and US intelligence insists that it has proof that the hacking was done by Russians. Rohrabacher (“Putin's favorite congressman”) tried to leverage this into providing Wikileaks with White House press corps credentials. One thing is for sure. If Assange had any proof of any of this then we would know about it from one of Trump's 280 character brain-farts. It is also quite possible that Assange doesn't even know who provided the information.

Meanwhile Mueller is reportedly considering bringing charges against Russian hackers. He would be relying on evidence provided by the NSA, CIA, FBI and other government agencies.

The admiral is not the issue:

Lyons has been duped into subscribing to conspiracy theories that the White House has helped to promote to Trump's supposed benefit. The real problem is that good governance begins with the proposition that there is only one set of facts. We need to debate issues and, as a society, we are far too often debating what is true and what is not true. It is the path to accomplishing nothing. It is also how we end up with oafs like Trump. We get the government that we deserve and that has to start with demanding the truth.

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