Dispatches from Wolf Country–What’s with these people?

If you're rich and famous for being famous and not very bright, you run for President in the age of Trump. If you're basically broke and not terribly well educated and a convicted felon but famous for being Trans and whining a lot, you run for the Senate from Maryland

We are in uncharted territory, in the land of shiny objects.

Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. — Martin Luther King

Without Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange is just another fringe actor who resents what he sees as American hegemonic hubris. — P.J. Crowley, Assistant Secretary of State, 2009 -2011

From “The Long Road of Chelsea Manning” NY Times Magazine, 6/12/17; Inez and Vinooth Photo, NY Times

I’ve written about Chelsea Manning, aka Specialist Bradley Manning before and  had assumed that following her release from Fort Leavenworth after her sentence was commuted that she would wander off and vanish into the dust of history and obscurity. However, some people yearn for attention, and will do whatever it takes to get it. Our president is one example, and Manning another. It’s odd — here’s an impossible windmill, let’s tilt at it.

The news that Ms Manning has announced a run for the Senate from Maryland surprised me and was both an example of trying to scratch out another 15 minutes of relevance and as irritating as watching Trump pretend to sing the National Anthem. If you’re rich and famous for being famous and not very bright, you run for President in the age of Trump. If you’re basically broke and not terribly well educated and a convicted felon but famous for being Trans and whining a lot, you run for the Senate from Maryland. And, if you’re where you are because of Wikileaks, you’re one of the club.

I thought her original sentence was too harsh, was happy to see Obama commute the sentence, and hoped she’d get on with her life. This, however, is just silly and will stir up two groups of people — folks on the left who see Manning as a martyr and the Trump base. This is part of the circus, and if she wishes to make a leftist version of the Christine O’Donnell “I am not a witch!” campaign using “I am not a traitor or an emotionally disturbed person” then that is her right. It just makes me sad for him and irritated that we have this kind of crap going on…

Celebrity politics is nothing new; it’s probably the latest manifestation of the entitled feeling compelled to climb up on a stack of Marshall amplifiers and demand attention and worship. Trump succeeded at it without any qualifications; Manning has no qualifications except some time in a military prison and a demonstrated lack of trustworthiness. Trump has missed the prison so far, but certainly passes the test for not being trustworthy. And, as Vonnegut told us more than fifty years ago in Cat’s Cradle, so it goes.

I tossed something up on Facebook about this and was going to drop it, but then I started to get lots of responses from total strangers. Not sure how they got to see my sad complaint, but I was surprised at how it stopped being about my thoughts and went off on to an entirely new tangents. Manning like Trump attracts the attention of people wanting simple answers to complex issues. These folks are passionate about their positions, regardless of their real awareness of the case.

Dr. King said that “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” I think that the Manning case is the sort of thing that attracts those approaches. As I see it, Manning’s ypcoming campaign is based on a questionable premise — as a convicted felon, she’s not eligible to vote in Maryland and won’t be until 2045. One wonders, did she chose to run when she discovered that there is in a fact a law about this and it does in fact apply to her?

Manning writes an occasional column for The Guardian, and in a recent column she wrote

Even when the incarcerated leave prison, they often return to our communities without the ability to vote. That means the people most affected by our political institutions and processes today often have absolutely no say in how they are run. This group includes me. In Maryland, my state of residence, for instance, I will not be able vote until the year 2045.

For Manning to imply that he has been unfairly denied the right to vote is rather silly. If then Specialist Bradley Manning chose to reveal classified information to the world as an act of civil disobedience, then Manning deserves some credit for his action that might serve as mitigation depending on the court and the point of view of people in power. President Obama saw it that way, and commuted the sentence. His attorney and advocates continue to seek a pardon or a mistrial based on what they see as abuses. These efforts will play out over time.

However, Manning seems to think that all felons should be enfranchised either while still incarcerated or at their release. That misses the whole point of the punishment and path to regaining the right to vote. It’s a punishment for a crime, and whatever you think of the circumstances surrounding Manning, she was convicted of violations of the Espionage Act as well as myriad offenses against the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

What makes an act of civil disobedience laudable is that the actor accepts the punishment in advance. Some of the most famous acts of civil disobedience are part of the history of the Peace Movement in the United States, often those committed by members of the clergy or religious groups. It was fairly common and remains the general practice that anti-nuclear weapons protests and acts of sabotage are very easy to solve because the perps stay at the scene of the crime and do nefarious things like pray and hold hands and sing.

Manning of course did none of these things. She continued to wear the uniform and did nothing to assist the authorities in identifying her as the source of the material. She was caught, but sending Code Word protected leaked material to a journalist and a web site from a government computer in a secure part of a brigade tactical operations center isn’t exactly world class trade craft. She broke the law, and she knew she was breaking the law and she didn’t care.

I don’t think sending classified information pilfered from the office where he worked in Iraq is quite the same thing as pouring blood on draft cards. Sending materials to Wikileaks and Glenn Greenwald adds some additional bits of local color, given what we now know of Assange’s Russian connections. Nor can we assume that Manning had major ethical and moral qualms; she did enlist voluntarily and solely for the purpose of getting an education and a future.

So, good luck to her; she served her time and is now free to pursue whatever she wishes. I just suspect that the inability to vote might make winning the election an even dubious proposition.


The White House is either ancient Rome falling or the Moscow cat circus, as Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio calls it, or a blender with the top off, as one of my colleagues dubs it — Maureen Dowd, NY Times, January 28, 2018

I found the news that the President “dated” a porn star and that his bag man/lawyer negotiated a non-disclosure agreement both cringe worthy and funny. When the various Evangelical types began to poke at it and offer Trump a mulligan (his favorite golf shot as I understand it) on fidelity, chastity and so on, I thought that was nice of them, because they’ve been totally in the bag for anyone who says that they are a conservative and promises to close all the abortion clinics and this just fits. But you know who hasn’t given the America’s Favorite Currently in Office President a mulligan? It appears that his wife hasn’t, and that is interesting in a lot of ways.

The First Lady may or may not have cried tears of real sadness when it became apparent that Trump was going to win the election, but she’s made it apparent that she just isn’t in on the fun. Maureen Dowd of the Times had a amusing but serious commentary on her reaction to the Stormy Daniels revelation. First she changed her plans about attending the Davos clambake and orgy of self-congratulation, although she may have been miffed at missing some of the crowd booing Trump’s attack on the world press. However, she did something far more worthwhile, as Dowd describes…

Instead, while the kid from Queens was abroad trying to impress the soulsucking
global elites he got elected railing against, pathetically bragging that he had
“a crowd like they’ve never had before in Davos,” Melania made a solo visit to the
Holocaust Museum here for Holocaust Remembrance Day. This looked like a subtle
reproach to Trump for his unspeakable defense of the “very fine people” among the
neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Va., and an allusion to the president’s statement last
year on remembrance day, which somehow neglected to remember Jews or anti-Semitism. What a Stephen Miller special that was.


Street Art Photo, Daryl Dyck , CP Photo: “How Drug Potency and On Line Ordering is Fueling Canada’s Opiod Crisis”; L.Givetash, Macleans, 2/27/27

The high potency of fentanyl has allowed traffickers to transport smaller quantities with other imports, on individuals or through the mail, making it harder for agencies to detect. (RCMP SGT) Chicoine said people trafficking cocaine would need to bring in large quantities. Three-quarters of a kilogram of pure cocaine once diluted would only produce one to two kilos for street distribution. “While fentanyl, by bringing in 100 grams of it, you can cut it 10 to 15 times and you can have one to one and a half kilos of the substance,” he said.

Kind of sums it up, doesn’t it? I am dreading the the State of the Union because it will have some heart-stoppingly awful moments. There are going to be a lot of no-shows on both sides of the aisle, but the idea of honoring the survivors of the Opiod crisis is really cringe-making. Melania seems to be at ease with ordinary people and may be able to host these folks in her box in a way that will make them feel less like prize pigs at the fair getting a round of applause before the auction and eventual slaughter. Nothing will be done about anything, of course — opiods, two wars, DACA, immigration reform, infrastructure — because the world’s greatest deal maker is incapable of making a deal.

It might make sense in an election campaign to lead with your final offer, but in actual negotiations it’s a bad idea. If you offer me your house along with a cup of coffee before we even begin, I’d be guilty of negotiating malpractice if I didn’t at least try to get your car and boat as well for less money. Just a thought…

It’s early days yet and the policy and programs aren’t happening soon. Do you get the feeling that Trump thinks he can announce the building of the wall and the dozers will just start charging along the border until they meet somewhere due south of Promontory Point? The Federal government doesn’t own all the land or have right of ways along the length of the border so that dance of the bureaucrats will tie this beautiful, possibly virtual but definitely for real example of hubris and stupidity up for decades.

 

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