Wednesday, August 28, 2019

How Identity Panic Took Root in the Void Once Occupied by Family Life

- Mary Eberstadt, ‘The Great Scattering’: How Identity Panic Took Root in the Void Once Occupied by Family Life
Of all the issues that divide us, none seems as inimical to reasoned discussion as identity politics. Conservatives excoriate such politics as politically opportunistic theater, the acting out of coddled “snowflake” students. Liberals and progressives put forth an opposing grievance-first narrative, arguing that identity politics emanates from authentic wounds.

But what if both contenders have a piece of the truth? What if many identity-firsters today are claiming to be victims because they and their societies are victims—only not so much of the abstract “isms” they denounce, but of something else that till now has eluded description?

Let’s try a new theory: Our macro-politics have become a mania about identity because our micropolitics are no longer familial. This, above all, is what happened during the decades in which identity politics went from being a phrase in an obscure quasi-radical document to a way of being that has gone on to transform academia, law, media, culture and government.

Yes, racism, sexism and other forms of cruelty exist, and are always to be deplored and countered. At the same time, the timeline of identity politics suggest another source. Up until the middle of the twentieth century (and barring the frequent foreshortening of life by disease or nature) human expectations remained largely the same throughout the ages: that one would grow up to have children and a family; that parents and siblings and extended family would remain one’s primal community; and that, conversely, it was a tragedy not to be part of a family. The post-1960s order of sexual consumerism has upended every one of these expectations.

Who am I? is a universal human question. It becomes harder to answer if other basic questions are problematic or out of reach. Who is my brother? Who is my father? Where, if anywhere, are my cousins, grandparents, nieces, nephews and the rest of the organic connections through which humanity up until now channeled everyday existence? Every one of the assumptions that our forebears could take for granted is now negotiable.

The panic over identity, in short, is being driven by the fact that the human animal has been selected for familial forms of socialization that for many people no longer exist. Let’s test this theory, here dubbed the “Great Scattering,” via some evidence from social science, anthropology and pop culture.

* * *

Just how attenuated have family ties become? Consider a few examples.

When sociologists first began mapping the post-revolutionary empirical world beginning a little over half a century ago, they looked first, naturally enough, to the terrain that was easiest to see and measure: fatherlessness and its correlates. In his 1965 report, The Negro Family: The Case for National Action, future U.S. senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan argued that black poverty was tied fundamentally to the implosion of the black family, and worried over the rate of out-of-wedlock births—which was then around 25 percent, much higher than that of whites. That rate would continue to rise for both whites and blacks during the decades to come, and academics began connecting dots to show what was happening to children and adolescents in the new social order.

In 1997, one of the most eminent social scientists of the twentieth century, James Q. Wilson, summarized many of these findings succinctly in a speech that was later published as an essay. He identified the root of America’s fracturing in the dissolution of the family, and described what he called “the two nations” of America. The dividing line between these cleft territories was no longer one of income or social class, he argued. Instead, it had become all about the hearth.

“It is not money,” Wilson documented, “but the family that is the foundation of public life. As it has become weaker, every structure built upon that foundation has become weaker.” He pointed to the library that social science had been building for decades, filled with books and studies about the correlations between crumbling family structure and various adverse results. Kinship composition, as Wilson’s work among others demonstrated, had become more important to positive outcomes than race, income, or one’s station at birth.

Absent fathers have been only the most visible and measurable of the new family lacunae. In a landmark 2000 book called Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce, Elizabeth Marquardt, working with sociologist Norval Glenn, reported on a study into the long-term effects of parental breakup into adulthood. She administered a lengthy questionnaire to 1,500 young adults, half of whose parents had split up by the time the children turned fourteen, and documented differences between children of divorce, and those who came from intact families.

At times, the two groups exhibited starkly opposed concepts of identity. For example, children of divorce were almost three times as likely to “strongly agree” with the statement, “I felt like a different person with each of my parents.” They were also twice as likely to “strongly agree” with the statement, “I always felt like an adult, even when I was a little kid”—a particularly poignant expression of confusion about the question “Who am I?” Almost two-thirds of the respondents of divorced homes also “agreed” with the following statement, which similarly expresses the division of oneself: “I felt like I had two families.”

This is evocative evidence, again, of the unsteady sense of self that many people, adult and child alike, now experience as the givens of life. It expresses the division of one into more than one—of selves torn, as in the book’s title, between worlds. And though these researchers limited their study to children of divorce only, their findings would also appear to apply to any home where two parents play a role in a child’s life from different locations.

Pop culture weighs in, too. In a 2004 Policy Review essay called Eminem Is Right, I documented how family rupture, family anarchy and family breakup had become the signature themes of Generation-X and Generation-Y pop. If yesterday’s rock was the music of abandon, today’s is that of abandonment. The odd truth about contemporary teenage music—the characteristic that most separates it from what has gone before—is its compulsive insistence on the damage wrought by broken homes, family dysfunction, checked-out parents, and (especially) absent fathers. Papa Roach, Everclear, Blink-182, Good Charlotte, Snoop Doggy Dogg—these and others have their own generational answer to what ails the modern teenager. That answer is: dysfunctional childhood. During the same years in which progressive-minded and politically correct adults have been excoriating Ozzie and Harriet as artifacts of 1950s-style oppression, millions of American teenagers have enshrined a new generation of music idols whose shared signature in song after song is to rage about what not having had a nuclear family had done to them.

In 2004, identity politics was not the omnipresent headline subject it is today. Even so, the effect of family decline on the sense of self already was appearing writ large across popular music. Tupac Shakur rapped about life with a single mother and no male parent, including in his 1993 Papa’z Song, about a boy who has to play catch by himself. Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam and Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, both towering figures in 1990s rock, were children of divorce, and both referred back to that event repeatedly in their songs and interviews.

Above all, there is the fiery emotional connection that generations of teenagers have found in rap superstar Eminem. It exists not only on account of his extraordinary facility with language, but also, surely, for his signature themes: absent father, inattentive mother, protectiveness toward a sibling, and rage. Eminem is the Greek chorus of family dysfunction. And long before today’s brand of identity panics, a lot of young America already was stumbling over how to answer the question “Who am I?” Just listening to what they were driving up the charts proved the point.

* * *

Another demographic factor of note has been the shrinkage of most Western families, whether split or intact—one of whose consequences has been the diminishing number of people who grow up with siblings. It is now much more common for American mothers to have one or two children, rather than three or more, as was the case in the early 1960s. Singleton children have become the norm across much of Europe and parts of Asia, and the numbers are increasing in the United States. Many contemporary children and adolescents not only lack a parent—typically, a male parent. Many also have no siblings, or no sibling of either the same or the opposite sex.

Why might this matter? Because diverse findings show that being accompanied through early life by non-parental contemporaneous others (i.e., siblings) gives children and teenagers a leg up on socialization—in other words, knowing who they are in the social order.

A Canadian study published in 2018 suggests that siblings learn empathy from one another, independent of birth order. Another study has found that the likelihood of divorce later in life can be predicted by the number of siblings one has; the higher that number, the lower the likelihood of divorce. As with other analyses of the benefits of having brothers and sisters, the authors conjecture that the necessity of sharing resources prepares siblings for essential social skills later in life, such as bargaining and taking turns. One more study that made headlines recently showed that growing up with an opposite-sex sibling makes teenagers and young adults more confident and successful in the romance market, because they have had the opportunity to observe and interact at close range with a contemporaneous member of the opposite sex.

Such findings also are consonant with similar observations made from inquiries into animal behavior. One paper reviewing research into a variety of primates, including rhesus monkeys, baboons and macaques, concludes: “The bulk of the available evidence suggests that during childhood the nonhuman primates who grow up in the presence of siblings (or maternal half-sibs) will develop childhood social relationships with others in their social group earlier; and that these relationships will be of a more extensive nature than those formed by infants who grow up in the absence of siblings (or maternal half-sibs).”

* * *

Finally, another body of evidence that also speaks to our familial dislocation and isolation can be found in one of sociology’s hottest and fastest-growing stocks: loneliness studies.

Substantial numbers of men and women are suffering from what social scientists and medical professionals in their stricken societies call an “epidemic” of loneliness. Over half a century after the embrace of the sexual revolution, the paradox emerges that the materially better-off countries of the planet are also the most emotionally impoverished for many citizens, particularly though not only the elderly. Google any Western European or other advanced country followed by “loneliness,” and the same results appear: an outpouring of research on the new isolation.

This loneliness is a unique form of human poverty, abounding in societies awash in material wealth—places where, by the 1970s, divorce rates were rising, marriage rates were falling, and cradles were rapidly emptying.

Loneliness is no mere adolescent affectation. Social isolation on the scale found throughout the countries of the West is now exacting serious health costs that can be expected to rise as the Baby Boom generation enters its final years. Yet while senior citizens are the most visible objects of concern, they are not the only people so affected. One national survey conducted by health-service company Cigna, whose results were released in May, 2018, found that nearly half of all Americans report “sometimes or always” feeling alone, and that Generation Z—born between 1995 and 2010—is the loneliest generation of all.

Big Health takes an interest in social atomization for sound reasons. In their 2008 book, Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, scientists John T. Cacioppo and William Patrick summarized evidence linking atomization to health risks, including a literature review in Science indicating that social isolation is a risk factor for illness and death whose effects are comparable to other, more familiar ones: high blood pressure, obesity, lack of exercise and smoking.

* * *

Wherever one stands in matters of the “culture wars” is immaterial. The plain fact is that the relative stability of yesterday’s familial identity could not help but answer the question at the heart of identity politics—Who am I?—in ways that now eludes many. The diminution and rupture of the family and the rise of identity politics cannot be understood apart from one another.

Anthropological evidence from every culture and era verifies that human beings, by their nature, live in families—just as coyotes and elephants and other mammals live in families, not just in random collections of individuals of the same species. Apart from the outlier that is the contemporary West, family has been an integral, unbidden demand of our kind, everywhere that human beings have been found. Its relational structure has provided the default ways of answering the question, Who am I? And now many people, deprived of a robust family life by post-1960s trends, can no longer figure out how to answer that question.

No wonder the flight to collective identities based on gender, ethnicity, and all the rest has become so impassioned. For more and more people, Narcissus can no longer find himself anywhere else.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Trade Wars!

- Slavoj Zizek, "Trump’s conflict with China is a real war – both will shed blood for control of capitalism’s monstrous machine"
The big problem for America is how to justify its imperial role. It needs a permanent threat of war, offering itself as the universal protector of all other states

The trade war between the US and China can only fill us with dread. How will it affect our daily lives? Will it result in a new global recession or even geopolitical chaos?

To orient ourselves in this mess, we should bear in mind some basic facts. The trade conflict with China is just the culmination of a war which began years ago when Donald Trump fired the opening shot aimed at the biggest trading partners of the US by deciding to levy tariffs on the imports of steel and aluminium from the EU, Canada and Mexico.

Trump was playing his own populist version of class warfare: his professed goal was to protect the American working class (are metal workers not one of the emblematic figures of the traditional working class?) from “unfair” European competition, thereby saving American jobs. And now he is doing the same with China.

Trump’s impulsive decisions are not just expressions of his personal quirks, they are reactions to the end of an era in a global economic system. An economic cycle is coming to an end – a cycle which began in the early 1970s, a time when, what Yanis Varoufakis calls the “Global Minotaur”, was born. The monstrous engine that was running the world economy from the early 1970s to 2008.

By the end of the 1960s, the US economy was no longer able to continue the recycling of its surpluses to Europe and Asia: its surpluses had turned into deficits. In 1971, the US government responded to this decline with an audacious strategic move: instead of tackling the nation’s burgeoning deficits, it decided to do the opposite, to boost deficits. Who would pay for them? The rest of the world. How? By means of a permanent transfer of capital that rushed across the two great oceans to finance America’s deficits.

This growing negative trade balance demonstrates that the US became a non-productive predator. In the last decades, it had to suck up a $1bn daily influx from other nations to buy for its consummation and is, as such, the universal Keynesian consumer that keeps the world economy running. (So much for the anti-Keynesian economic ideology that seems to predominate today.) This influx, which is effectively like the tithe paid to Rome in antiquity, or the gifts sacrificed to the Minotaur by the Ancient Greeks, relies on a complex economic mechanism: the US is trusted as the safe and stable centre, so that all others, from the oil-producing Arab countries to western Europe and Japan – and now even China – invest their surplus profits in the US.

Since this trust is primarily ideological and military, not economic, the problem for the US is how to justify its imperial role. It needs a permanent threat of war, offering itself as the universal protector of all other “normal” (that is, not “rogue”) states.

Since 2008, however, this world system has been breaking down. During the Obama years, Paul Bernanke, chair of the Federal Reserve, gave another breath of life to this system. Ruthlessly exploiting the fact that the US dollar is the global currency, he financed imports by printing money fast. Trump has decided to approach the problem in a different way: ignoring the delicate balance of the global system, he has focused on elements which may be presented as “injustice” for the US – gigantic imports reducing domestic jobs, for example.

But what Trump decries as “injustice” is simply part of a system which has profited the US; the US were effectively robbing the world by importing stuff and paying for it by debts and printing money.

Consequently, in his trade wars, Trump cheats: he wants the US to continue to be a global power but refuses to pay even the nominal price for it. He follows his “America first” principle, ruthlessly privileging US interests, while still acting as a global power.

Even if some of the US arguments against China and its trade may appear reasonable, they are undoubtedly one-sided: the US profited from the situation decried by Trump as unjust, and Trump wants to keep profiting also in the new situation. The only way out left for others is on some basic level unite to undermine the central role of the US as a global power secured by its military and financial might. One should be as ruthless as Trump in this struggle. Our predicament can only be stabilised by the collective imposition of a new world order no longer led by the US. The way to beat Trump is not to imitate him with “China first”, “France first,” and so on, but to oppose him globally and treat him as an embarrassing outcast.

This does not mean that the sins of those who oppose the US should be forgiven. It is typical that Trump proclaimed he is not interested in the democratic revolt in Hong Kong, dismissing it as China’s internal affair. While we should support the revolt, we should just be careful that it will not be used as an argument for the US trade war against China – we should always bear in mind that Trump is ultimately on the side of China.

So should we nonetheless be glad that the ongoing trade war is just an economic war? Should we find solace in the hope that it will end with some kind of truce negotiated by managers of our economies?

No. Geopolitical rearrangements which are already discernible here could easily explode into (at least local) real wars. Trade wars are the stuff real wars are made of. Our global situation more and more resembles that of Europe in the years before the First World War. It is just not yet clear where will be our Sarajevo – Ukraine, the South China Sea, or closer to home.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Killer Narratives

Abdelwahab El-Affendi, "Killer narratives: The real culprit of mass shootings in the US"
Mass violence is not the product of religion or culture. It is born of narratives of insecurity.

Sci-Fi films like the Terminator series (in particular Terminator II - Judgment Day), or The Matrix trilogy, use morphing - a special-effects process in which someone or something changes shape or form - to present the viewer with alternative perspectives on the same reality. In the Terminator, the "cyborg" robot has the power to take the shape of humans - usually after killing them - of any age or gender. Once it takes the human form, characters within the film start responding to the violent attacks against "the monster" with horror. However, the viewers applaud these brutal attacks, and even demand more. The narrative demands it, after all, especially after the atrocities it perpetrates!

This illustration of the effect of narrative framing holds the key to understanding instances of mass violence, such as the recent series of mass shootings in the United States. The two young men who carried out the mass shootings on August 3 in El Paso, Texas and August 4 in Dayton, Ohio, were acting in a different movie from the one we are all watching. In their story, they were not opening fire on "innocent people", but heroically responding to "an existential threat".

The two episodes occurred within 14 hours of each other, and only a few days after a similar attack in California. This indicates a shared story that is gaining traction. While the Time magazine counted 250 other mass shootings in the US this year, the last three were somewhat different. They seem to have a clear political message, with racist and anti-immigrant undertones. The El Paso incident, in particular, appeared to copy the notorious July 2011 Oslo massacre by right-wing "terrorist" Anders Behring Breivik, who uploaded a rambling Islamophobic "manifesto" on the Internet before murdering 77 people. While the Oslo attacker ranted about a "Muslim threat" to European identity, his El Paso copy-cat was also believed to have uploaded a racist "manifesto" deploring the "Hispanic invasion" of Texas.

As expected, these atrocities raised serious questions and an anguished soul-searching. And as Americans of all walks of life tried to answer the vexing question "why?", their divergent answers once again highlighted the deep divisions the country is currently facing. Liberals blamed lax gun laws and racist rhetoric promoted by US President Donald Trump. Those on the right cited mental illness, suspect Internet and social media sites and violent video games.

This mirrored the contested explanations of the 9/11 attacks and more recent atrocities committed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS). As they tried to explain the reasons behind these atrocities, serious academics and analysts focused on complex political, economic, psychological and ideological factors feeding terrorism across regions and cultures. However, right-wing ideologues focused on Islamism (even Islam) as the main factor. These views are now dominant in Trump's inner circle. It is interesting - and ironic - that the resulting Islamophobic narratives have fed populist right-wing rage in Europe and the US, contributing in turn to right-wing militancy and terrorism.

The research I conducted in collaboration with colleagues from around the world has proven both sets of explanations inadequate. Our study (published in Genocidal Nightmares: Narratives of Insecurity and the Logic of Mass Atrocities, 2015) was unique in that it included an unprecedented array of cases and cultural contexts (from Europe, Asia and Africa). We rejected the simplistic cultural-religious explanations because mass violence is perpetrated in many cultural contexts - Orthodox/Catholic/Protestant Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, and Muslim - and the majority in all these groups (even among "Islamists") opposes terrorism.

However, alternative explanations looked equally unconvincing. Terrorism and mass violence do not result automatically from economic deprivation, political injustice or religious or ethnic polarisation. Psychological explanations are particularly problematic. It cannot be convincingly argued that the millions who abruptly engaged in intense mass violence, such as in Rwanda, Yugoslavia, India, Darfur, and so forth, have all suddenly become "insane", as it takes plenty of sustained rationality even to conduct genocide.

This is where our "narratives of insecurity" solution comes in. As in the case of the science fiction narratives cited above, "It is the story, stupid!" People do not just wake up and attack their life-long neighbours and friends because of insanity. Rather, they act within a shared story, emphasising a threat to their values or existence. Like cyborgs (or monsters in old fairy tales), the neighbours become part of a bigger story of aliens threatening our very existence. They take on the role of "invaders" threatening Europe's (or America's, India's etc) cultural identity. It is interesting that al-Qaeda and ISIL fighters also peddle similar narratives about "Crusaders" threatening Muslim land and even Islam itself.

All will be lost unless urgent action is taken. Anyone "possessed" by such narratives of a clear and present danger will feel compelled to act, or at least demand action. This is especially true if this picture is embedded within a wider narrative of a "conspiracy" of elite inaction, even complicity. In such a scenario "direct action" would be called for, and actors that promise it hailed.

Again, as the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek remarks, some fictional narratives, such as Fox's hit TV series 24, illustrate this by showing how "ticking bomb scenarios" tend to justify extreme action, including the arrest and torture of key security agents. Even the son of the secretary of defence was arrested in one episode in the context of tackling a threatened mass terror attack. In the series, even the victims themselves accept this as justified, and go back to work immediately after their release!

Security analysts use the term "securitisation" to refer to moves aimed at shifting routine administrative matters such as migration or health to major national threats. We can see this in the way Trump has classified Muslim and Latin American immigration, and trade with China, and even with Canada, Mexico and Europe as national threats. In such cases, securitisation permits policymakers to take exceptional measures that would not otherwise be permissible, such as suspending human rights, building walls or engaging in trade sanctions, military mobilisation, etc. I have coined the term "hyper-securitisation" to refer to cases where fear-mongering rhetoric is used to incite mass panic and incite genocide and similar atrocities.

These narratives are often contested; rival versions gain currency according to how skilfully and convincingly they are presented, and which influential narrators chip in. It is different when the head of the state and mainstream media, rather than fringe actors, peddle the stories, thus enhancing the plausibility of threat narratives. Political mood shifts helped bring extremist right-wing parties from the fringe to centre in India, Israel, the US and Europe. The Brexit debate in Britain also shifted the political topography. However, in Canada, Germany and France, more centrist forces prevailed.

To sum up, perpetrators of mass violence act within a narratively-constructed and validated context. They are "possessed" by narratives of intense insecurity, usually wrapped up in conspiracy narratives about betrayal and sinister evils lurking in the dark. These narratives are self-reinforcing since their believers would treat every refutation as corroboration, every revelation to the contrary as "fake news" from the same suspect sources. It is a virtual death trap that often ends in mass murder unless some courageous voices rise up and win the contest.
The media today is full of accusations that Donald Trump's "narrative" regarding illegal immigration is inspiring Right-wing violence... but why don't they ever complain of Left-wing inspired violence (ala ICE Shootings)? I suppose the media's agenda doesn't suit calling attention to the social problems that their extreme Progressive ideology cause, especially in spurring racial animosity against Whites and against the Police within minority communities. After all, the media OWN the narratives. And the media leans Left.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Collusion...where's the beef?

from Real Clear Investigations:
Republican lawmakers allege Special Counsel Robert Mueller may have perjured himself before Congress in his sworn testimony last month, when he gave what they say were incomplete answers regarding why he held an earlier press briefing.

Recently released court documents suggest Mueller may have made his surprise appearance before the press in Washington on May 29 as damage control after a federal judge privately threatened to hold his team in criminal contempt of court over what she called misleading language in his final report about Russian government interference in the 2016 election.

Under oath, Mueller denied the judge’s action had anything to do with his holding the press conference.

In the hastily arranged 9-minute press conference, Mueller announced that he was ending his investigation -- which was not news -- and concluded it without taking any questions. He made a point, however, to stress that the Russians he had indicted were “private” entities and "presumed innocent."

What Mueller didn’t tell the country was that the day before, his case against two Russian internet “trolling” firms had taken a sudden turn for the worse. It was a key part of his narrative that the Kremlin interfered in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win.

On May 28, U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich called attorneys prosecuting the case into her courtroom for a closed hearing. Although no reporters were allowed inside, it is now known that Friedrich agreed with one defendant’s claims that Mueller had overstated the evidence when he implied in his report to Congress that the trolls were controlled by the Russian government and that the social media operations they conducted during the 2016 presidential campaign were directed by Moscow. News organizations had seized on the highly suggestive wording in his report to report they were part of a Kremlin-run operation.

Concerned that Mueller’s words could prejudice a jury and jeopardize the defendants' right to a fair trial, Friedrich ordered the special prosecutor to stop making such claims and “to minimize the prejudice moving forward” — or face sanction.

“The government shall refrain from making or authorizing any public statement that links the alleged conspiracy in the indictment to the Russian government,” Friedrich stated in her ruling, which was private at the time. “Willful failure to do so in the future will result in the initiation of contempt proceedings.”

The judge explained that Mueller’s report improperly referred to the defendants’ “social media operations” as one of “two principal interference operations in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections” carried out by the Russian government. She also pointed out that he also referred to their Internet trolling as “active measures” — a term of art that typically includes operations conducted by Russian intelligence to influence international affairs. She said this was a departure from the government’s original February 2018 indictment, which “does not link the defendants to the Russian government" and “alleges only private conduct by private actors."

Friedrich further directed the prosecution to make clear that its allegations are simply that and “remain unproven.” She also admonished Mueller’s team from expressing "an opinion on the defendant’s guilt or innocence."

The next day, May 29, Mueller's statement at the Department of Justice press podium apparently mollified the judge. In a recently unsealed July 1 opinion, Friedrich wrote that Mueller had “demonstrated” the government had complied with her order with his May 29 statements to the media.

“In delivering his remarks," she said, "the special counsel carefully distinguished between the efforts by 'Russian intelligence officers who were part of the Russian military' and the efforts detailed ‘in a separate indictment’ by ‘a private [italics in original] Russian entity engaged in a social media operation where Russian citizens [italics in original] posed as Americans in order to interfere in the election.’”

In other words, Mueller's hastily assembled appearance in the press briefing room helped head off a public rebuke by the judge hearing one of the signature indictments of Mueller’s 22-month investigation.

At the time, the public was unaware that any of this legal drama was taking place behind the scenes. The judge did not unseal the May 28 hearing transcripts or her orders until later in July.

When Mueller testified before the House Judiciary Committee on July 24, a Republican member of the panel — Tom McClintock of California -- asked him about his puzzling press conference, pressing him on whether the real reason he called it was to “retroactively” soften allegations he made in his report to comply with Judge Friedrich's demands a day earlier.

In spite of documentary evidence suggesting otherwise, Mueller flatly stated that the court order had nothing to do with his calling the news conference, implying that the timing was just a coincidence.

Here is a transcript of their exchange, which has received little media attention:
McCLINTOCK: Your report famously links Russian Internet troll farms with the Russian government. Yet at a hearing on May 28 in the Concord Management-IRA [Internet Research Agency] prosecution that you initiated, the judge excoriated you and [Attorney General William] Barr [who publicly recited Mueller’s claims from the report] for producing no evidence to support this claim. Why did you suggest Russia was responsible for the troll farms, when in court you've been unable to produce any evidence to support it?

MUELLER: Well, I am not going to get into that any further than I -- than I already have.

McCLINTOCK: But -- but you -- you have left the clear impression throughout the country, through your report, that it -- it was the Russian government behind the troll farms. And yet, when you're called upon to provide actual evidence in court, you fail to do so.

MUELLER: Well, I would again dispute your characterization of what occurred in that -- in that proceeding.

McCLINTOCK: In -- in -- in fact, the judge considering -- considered holding prosecutors in criminal contempt. She backed off, only after your hastily called press conference the next day in which you retroactively made the distinction between the Russian government and the Russia troll farms. Did your press conference on May 29th have anything to do with the threat to hold your prosecutors in contempt the previous day for publicly misrepresenting the evidence?

MUELLER: What was the question?

McCLINTOCK: The -- the question is, did your May 29th press conference have anything to do with the fact that the previous day the judge threatened to hold your prosecutors in contempt for misrepresenting evidence?

McClintock and other Republican lawmakers question the truthfulness of the former special counsel's denial.

“It certainly doesn't pass the smell test,” McClintock told RealClearInvestigations in a statement.

The congressman suspects that Mueller knowingly gave Congress a false statement under oath, and he wants to see the former special counsel’s sworn testimony referred to the Justice Department for investigation of possible perjury -- a charge for which Mueller has sent Trump associates to prison. Most of them were prosecuted for lying to federal agents, but Mueller busted Trump lawyer Michael Cohen specifically for lying to Congress last November.

“If he lied, he’s guilty of perjury and lying to Congress,” McClintock said, adding that “I think this would be of interest to the U.S. attorney investigating misconduct in this matter and the inspector general’s office.”

McClintock, though, doubts the Democratic leadership of the House Judiciary Committee will refer the matter to the Justice Department.

“The committee is run by Jerry Nadler and the Democrats, so I suspect the answer is ‘No,’” he said.

Neither Mueller spokesman Peter Carr nor Nadler responded to requests for comment.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Exposing More Rats in Baltimore?

from The National Legal and Policy Center
Today, the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) filed an amendment to its May 20 Complaint to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regarding Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, and the Center for Global Policy Solutions (CGPS), a nonprofit 501(c)(3) group that she heads. Cummings is the wife of Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

The amendment is prompted by a news story on June 5, 2019 in the Daily Caller by Andrew Kerr titled “Elijah Cummings’s Wife Used Her Charity to Pay For-Profit Company, Documents Show.”

Maya Rockeymoore Cummings is also the only principal in Global Policy Solutions, LLC (GPS, LLC), a for-profit limited liability corporation that NLPC alleged in its May 20 Complaint to be “impermissibly entwined” with the nonprofit CGPS.

According to CGPS financial statements for 2014 and 2015 cited in the Daily Caller article, GPS, LLC received a fee of 5% of CGPS expenses. From the amendment:
Maya Rockeymoore Cummings was paid a substantial full-time salary to head the nonprofit CGPS. At the same time, the for-profit GPS, LLC, of which she is the sole principal, received “a fee of 5 percent of the Center’s expenses for managing its programs and operations. “ Thus, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings appears to have been paid twice for the same services.
The amendment also asked the IRS to examine the “Professional Fees” line item on the financial statements, which in 2015 exceeded the amount on the “Salaries” line. From the amendment:
Nowhere on the schedule or in the (auditors) report, however, is there any information on what these fees were for, or who received them.
Was Maya Rockeymoore Cummings also the recipient of Professional Fees? Was Maya Rockeymoore Cummings paid three (or more) times for the same work? The IRS has an obligation to find out.

The amendment additionally asks the IRS to examine whether Maya Rockeymoore Cummings lied on the CGPS 2015 tax return, when she answered “no” to a question about self-dealing, as well as her continued refusal to allow public and media access to the latest CGPS tax return, as required by law.
A Primer on the Pay to Play Business in Baltimore

Why There's No Mending Fences with the Left