How to Remove a President

On Sunday, ousted South Korean leader Park Geun-hye left the Blue House presidential compound and returned to her private residence in southern Seoul two days after South Korea’s Constitutional Court unanimously ruled to remove her from office over charges of graft and corruption. The unanimous ruling strips Park of immunity from prosecution, clearing the way for her to face criminal charges. Park’s power had been sharply reduced since December, when South Korea’s parliament voted overwhelmingly to impeach her.

A new election will be held in 60 days. The upheaval in South Korea comes days after North Korea test-fired several ballistic missiles and as the Trump administration is deploying a missile defense system to South Korea. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of South Korea and U.S. troops, backed by warships and warplanes, are currently engaging in a massive military exercise. Last week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned that the U.S. and North Korea are, quote, “like two accelerating trains coming toward each other.” He called on both sides to de-escalate tensions. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is heading for his first trip to Asia later this week, stopping in Japan, South Korea and China. In a break with precedent, Tillerson is not traveling with members of the press.

Christine Ahn talking:

I would say it’s a really incredible outcome of months of organizing by mass movements to unseat this president that was obviously charged for political corruption but whose policies have really steered South Korea into a very dangerous situation that we are in today. And I think it’s extraordinary what people in mass movements can do, and I think it’s not just great for South Korea and for peace on the Korean Peninsula, but I think it’s a really great symbol for the rest of the world.

she was first moved by parliamentary vote to impeach her, and then, just recently, the Constitutional Court affirmed that decision. But it really took, you know, months of massive—millions of people taking to the streets, holding candlelight vigils, demanding her ouster, demanding that she be impeached.

And I think it’s a great day for social justice and democracy in South Korea. Her policies have been really bad for workers’ rights, for labor unions, for farmers, and it’s endangered Korea. And it’s worsened inter-Korean relations to the worst point, that just last year, you know, the Kaesong industrial complex, which was the economic zone that was established during the Sunshine Policy era, was—you know, between North and South Korea. It was within the Demilitarized Zone. And that was one step towards reconciliation, towards reunification. And she basically did away with that, you know? And that had a lot to do with her confidant, Choi Soon-sil, who was unlawfully giving her advice and was also tied to her corruption.

But I think it’s a new day for the Korean Peninsula. I hope that the U.S. doesn’t take military action in this very dangerous hour, where there is a tremendous possibility for miscalculation. There is that political vacuum in South Korea, until, likely, Moon Jae-in, who is the leading contender for president, who was the chief of staff during Roh Moo-hyun, the last liberal government that was, you know, carrying out the Sunshine Policy. And he has said he would reopen Kaesong. He has said, “We must return to talks with North Korea. We must acknowledge that Kim Jong-un is the leader of North Korea.” And so, hopefully, the U.S. won’t do anything dangerous in the interim.

Bruce Cumings talking:

Park Geun-hye was, of course the daughter of President Park Chung-hee, who was assassinated by his own intelligence chief in 1979, precipitating a crisis that led to another military coup. At this point, Park Geun-hye had been living in the Blue House, I think, for 10 or 11 years. She went into a kind of seclusion for a long time and then came out in the 1990s as a member of the National Assembly. She was elected, really, in reaction against Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun, two progressive presidents who were in office from 1998 to 2008. And her constituency, as you can see from the protests in Seoul in favor of her, really consists of people who are still deeply anti-communist, anti-North Korean. They hate the North Koreans. They tend to be in their sixties, seventies, eighties. It’s obviously, therefore, a declining constituency. And she really, basically, lost her popular base in light of the corruption case that Christine was just talking about, which raised all kinds of historical memories for Koreans, because, in the past, kings and queens had relied on shamans and others to do their business, and this seemed to be a harking back to that. So she is one of the most unpopular presidents in Korean history, and now she’s gone.

the U.S. holds these exercises every year, because South Korea, under Park’s leadership, is a welcoming country for these war games involving, as you said, hundreds of thousands of troops. There aren’t many other countries in the world who are willing to do that. And the North, predictably, responds every time with missile tests or bomb, atomic bomb, blasts.

In this case—and I want to emphasize that the North Koreans pay acute attention to what’s going on in Washington, and they try to do something that symbolizes what they want from the U.S. or to try and get attention. They did that when Prime Minister Abe was having dinner with President Trump at Mar-a-Lago a few weeks ago. And they basically presented a missile right in the middle of the dinner. They tested a missile. Trump pulled out his 1990s flip phone to discuss it.

But what wasn’t pointed out in our media is that Abe is the grandson of Kishi Nobusuke, who was a war criminal, a Class A war criminal in World War II, according to the U.S. occupation, and had been one of the people fighting against Kim Il-sung in Manchuria in the 1930s. He was responsible for munitions production. So you have Abe, who reveres his grandfather, and Kim Jong-un, who likewise reveres his grandfather, Kim Il-sung. And, basically, 70 or 80 years of history is represented by that particular missile test. But Americans think that’s a bunch of irrelevant minutiae. They don’t realize that Japan and North Korea have terrible relations, no diplomatic relations.

And basically, the North Koreans, at that dinner, wanted to present Trump with a message. The recent tests of four simultaneous missiles, of course, is a direct response to the hurried deployment of the THAAD antimissile system. They’re just rolling it out right now so they can do it before a progressive president takes over in South Korea. By doing that, the North Koreans reveal that they have capabilities that were undetected before.
____

Christine Ahn
founder and international coordinator of Women Cross DMZ, a global movement of women mobilizing for peace in Korea. Her recent article for Foreign Policy in Focus is titled “Korean Women Take On Trump”

Bruce Cumings
professor of history at the University of Chicago. He is the author of several books on Korea, including Korea’s Place in the Sun: A Modern History and North Korea: Another Country.

— source democracynow.org

The easy way to eradicate poverty

Why do poor people make so many bad decisions? It’s a harsh question, but look at the data: poor people borrow more, save less, smoke more, exercise less, drink more and eat less healthily. Why?

Margaret Thatcher once called poverty a “personality defect”. Though not many would go quite so far, the view that there’s something wrong with poor people is not exceptional. To be honest, it was how I thought for a long time. It was only a few years ago that I discovered that everything I thought I knew about poverty was wrong.

It all started when I accidently stumbled on a paper by a few American psychologists. They had travelled 8,000 miles, to India, to carry out an experiment with sugar cane farmers. These farmers collect about 60% of their annual income all at once, right after the harvest. This means they are relatively poor one part of the year and rich the other. The researchers asked the farmers to do an IQ test before and after the harvest. What they discovered blew my mind. The farmers scored much worse on the tests before the harvest. The effects of living in poverty, it turns out, correspond to losing 14 points of IQ. That’s comparable to losing a night’s sleep, or the effects of alcoholism.

A few months later I discussed the theory with Eldar Shafir, a professor of behavioural science and public policy at Princeton University and one of the authors of this study. The reason, put simply: it’s the context, stupid. People behave differently when they perceive a thing to be scarce. What that thing is doesn’t much matter; whether it’s time, money or food, it all contributes to a “scarcity mentality”. This narrows your focus to your immediate deficiency. The long-term perspective goes out of the window. Poor people aren’t making dumb decisions because they are dumb, but because they’re living in a context in which anyone would make dumb decisions.

Suddenly the reason so many of our anti-poverty programmes don’t work becomes clear. Investments in education, for example, are often completely useless. A recent analysis of 201 studies on the effectiveness of money management training came to the conclusion that it makes almost no difference at all. Poor people might come out wiser, but it’s not enough. As Shafir said: “It’s like teaching someone to swim and then throwing them in a stormy sea.”

So what can be done? Modern economists have a few solutions. We could make the paperwork easier, or send people a text message to remind them of their bills. These “nudges” are hugely popular with modern politicians, because they cost next to nothing. They are a symbol of this era, in which we so often treat the symptoms but ignore the causes.

I asked Shafir: “Why keep tinkering around the edges rather than just handing out more resources?” “You mean just hand out more money? Sure, that would be great,” he said. “But given the evident limitations … the brand of leftwing politics you have in Amsterdam doesn’t even exist in the States.”

But is this really an old-fashioned, leftist idea? I remembered reading about an old plan, something that has been proposed by some of history’s leading thinkers. Thomas More hinted at it in Utopia, more than 500 years ago. And its proponents have spanned the spectrum from the left to the right, from the civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King to the economist Milton Friedman.

It’s an incredibly simple idea: universal basic income – a monthly allowance of enough to pay for your basic needs: food, shelter, education. And it’s completely unconditional: not a favour, but a right.

But could it really be that simple? In the three years that followed, I read all I could find about basic income. I researched dozens of experiments that have been conducted across the globe. And it didn’t take long before I stumbled upon the story of a town that had done it, had eradicated poverty – after which nearly everyone forgot about it.

This story starts in Winnipeg, Canada. Imagine a warehouse attic where nearly 2,000 boxes lie gathering dust. They are filled with data – graphs, tables, interviews – about one of the most fascinating social experiments ever conducted. Evelyn Forget, an economics professor at the University of Manitoba, first heard about the records in 2009. Stepping into the attic, she could hardly believe her eyes. It was a treasure trove of information on basic income.

The experiment had started in Dauphin, a town north-west of Winnipeg, in 1974. Everybody was guaranteed a basic income ensuring that no one fell below the poverty line. And for four years, all went well. But then a conservative government was voted into power. The new Canadian cabinet saw little point in the expensive experiment. So when it became clear there was no money left for an analysis of the results, the researchers decided to pack their files away. In 2,000 boxes.

When Forget found them, 30 years later, no one knew what, if anything, the experiment had demonstrated. For three years she subjected the data to all manner of statistical analysis. And no matter what she tried, the results were the same every time. The experiment – the longest and best of its kind – had been a resounding success.

Forget discovered that the people in Dauphin had not only become richer, but also smarter and healthier. The school performance of children improved substantially. The hospitalisation rate decreased by as much as 8.5%. Domestic violence was also down, as were mental health complaints. And people didn’t quit their jobs – the only ones who worked a little less were new mothers and students, who stayed in school longer.

So here’s what I’ve learned. When it comes to poverty, we should stop pretending to know better than poor people. The great thing about money is that people can use it to buy things they need instead of things self-appointed experts think they need. Imagine how many brilliant would-be entrepreneurs, scientists and writers are now withering away in scarcity. Imagine how much energy and talent we would unleash if we got rid of poverty once and for all.

While it won’t solve all the world’s ills – and ideas such as a rent cap and more social housing are necessary in places where housing is scarce – a basic income would work like venture capital for the people. We can’t afford not to do it – poverty is hugely expensive. The costs of child poverty in the US are estimated at $500bn (£410bn) each year, in terms of higher healthcare spending, less education and more crime. It’s an incredible waste of potential. It would cost just $175bn, a quarter of the country’s current military budget, to do what Dauphin did long ago: eradicate poverty.

That should be our goal. The time for small thoughts and little nudges is past. The time has come for new, radical ideas. If this sounds utopian to you, then remember that every milestone of civilisation – the end of slavery, democracy, equal rights for men and women – was once a utopian fantasy too.

We’ve got the research, we’ve got the evidence, and we’ve got the means. Now, 500 years after Thomas More first wrote about basic income, we need to update our worldview. Poverty is not a lack of character. Poverty is a lack of cash.

— source theguardian.com by Rutger Bregman

Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism

52 years-ago on February 21st, the world lost the great anti-colonial fighter, Malcolm X. Around the world, millions pause on this anniversary and take note of the life and contribution of Brother Malcolm. Two years ago, I keynoted a lecture on the legacy of Malcolm X at the American University in Beirut, Lebanon. While I had long been aware of the veneration that Malcolm inspired in various parts of the world, I was still struck by the love and appreciation that so many have for Malcolm beyond activists in the black world.

There are a number of reasons that might explain why 52 years later so many still pay homage to Malcolm. For those of us who operate within context of the Black Radical Tradition, Malcolm’s political life and philosophy connected three streams of the Black Radical Tradition: nationalism, anti-colonialism and internationalism. For many, the way in which Malcolm approached those elements account for his appeal. Yet, I think there is something else. Something not reducible to the language of political struggle and opposition that I hear when I encounter people in the U.S. and in other parts of the world when they talk about Malcolm. I suspect it is his defiance, his dignity, his courage and his selflessness. For me, it is all of that, but it is also how those elements were reflected in his politics, in particular his approach to the concept of human rights.

The aspects of his thought and practice that distinguished the period of his work in that short year between his break with the Nation of Islam (NOI) in 1964 and his assassination in 1965 included not only his anti-racism and anti-colonialist stance but also his advocacy of a radical approach to the issue of human rights.

Human Rights as a De-Colonial Fighting Instrument

Malcolm – in the tradition of earlier black radical activists and intellectuals in the late 1940s – understood the subversive potential of the concept of human rights when philosophically and practically disconnected from its liberal, legalistic, and state-centered genesis.

For Malcolm, internationalizing resistance to the system of racial oppression in the U.S. meant redefining the struggle for constitutional civil rights by transforming the struggle for full recognition of African American citizenship rights to a struggle for human rights.

This strategy for international advocacy was not new. African Americans led by W.E. B. Dubois were present at Versailles during the post-World War I negotiations to pressure for self-rule for various African nations, including independence from the racist apartheid regime in South Africa. At the end of the World War II during the creation of the United Nations, African American radicals forged the possibilities to use this structure as a strategic space to pressure for international support for ending colonization in Africa and fight against racial oppression in the United States.

Malcolm studied the process by which various African American organizations – the National Negro Congress (NNC), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Civil Rights Congress (CRC), petitioned the UN through the Human Rights Commission on behalf of the human rights of African Americans. Therefore, in the very first months after his split with the NOI, he already envisioned idea that the struggle of Africans in the U.S. had to be internationalized as a human rights struggle. He advised leaders of the civil rights movement to “expand their civil rights movement to a human rights movement, it would internationalize it.”

Taking a page from the examples of the NNC, NAACP and CRC, The Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU), one of the two organizations Malcolm formed after leaving the NOI, sought to bring the plight of African Americans to the United Nations to demand international sanctions against the U.S. for refusing to recognize the human rights of this oppressed nation.

However, there was something quite different with Malcolm’s approach to human rights that distinguished him from mainstream civil rights activists. By grounding himself in the radical human rights approach, Malcolm articulated a position on human rights struggle that did not contain itself to just advocacy. He understood that appealing to the same powers that were responsible for the structures of oppression was a dead end. Those kinds of unwise and potentially reactionary appeals would never result in substantial structural changes. Malcolm understood oppressed peoples must commit themselves to radical political struggle in order to advance a dignified approach to human rights.

“We have to make the world see that the problem that we’re confronted with is a problem for humanity. It’s not a Negro problem; it’s not an American problem. You and I have to make it a world problem, make the world aware that there’ll be no peace on this earth as long as our human rights are being violated in America.”

And if the U.S. and the international community does not address the human rights plight of the African American, Malcolm is clear on the course of action: “If we can’t be recognized and respected as a human being, we have to create a situation where no human being will enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Malcolm’s approach to the realization of human rights was one in which human agency is at the center. If oppressed individuals are not willing to fight for their human rights, Malcolm suggested that “you should be kept in the cotton patch where you’re not a human being.”

If you are not ready to pay the price required to experience full dignity as a person and as members of a self-determinant people, then you will be consigned to the “zone of non-being,” as Fanon refers to that place where the non-European is assigned. Malcolm referred to that zone as a place where one is a sub-human:

“You’re an animal that belongs in the cotton patch like a horse and a cow, or a chicken or a possum, if you’re not ready to pay the price that is necessary to be paid for recognition and respect as a human being.

And what is that price?

The price to make others respect your human rights is death. You have to be ready to die… it’s time for you and me now to let the world know how peaceful we are, how well-meaning we are, how law-abiding we wish to be. But at the same time, we have to let the same world know we’ll blow their world sky-high if we’re not respected and recognized and treated the same as other human beings are treated.”

People(s)-Centered Human Rights:

This approach to human rights struggle is the basis of what I call the People(s)-Centered approach to human rights struggle.

People(s)-Centered Human Rights (PCHR) are those non-oppressive rights that reflect the highest commitment to universal human dignity and social justice that individuals and collectives define and secure for themselves through social struggle.

This is the Black Radical Tradition’s approach to human rights. It is an approach that views human rights as an arena of struggle that, when grounded and informed by the needs and aspirations of the oppressed, becomes part of a unified comprehensive strategy for de-colonization and radical social change.

The PCHR framework provides an alternative and a theoretical and practical break with the race and class-bound liberalism and mechanistic state-centered legalism that informs mainstream human rights.

The people-centered framework proceeds from the assumption that the genesis of the assaults on human dignity that are at the core of human rights violations is located in the relationships of oppression. The PCHR framework does not pretend to be non-political. It is a political project in the service of the oppressed. It names the enemies of freedom: the Western white supremacist, colonial/capitalist patriarchy.

Therefore, the realization of authentic freedom and human dignity can only come about as a result of the radical alteration of the structures and relationships that determine and often deny human dignity. In other words, it is only through social revolution that human rights can be realized.

The demands for clean water; safe and accessible food; free quality education; healthcare and healthiness for all; housing; public transportation; wages and a socially productive job that allow for a dignified life; ending of mass incarceration; universal free child care; opposition to war and the control and eventual elimination of the police; self-determination; and respect for democracy in all aspects of life are some of the people-centered human rights that can only be realized through a bottom-up mass movement for building popular power.

By shifting the center of human rights struggle away from advocacy to struggle, Malcolm laid the foundation for a more relevant form of human rights struggle for people still caught in the tentacles of Euro-American colonial dominance. The PCHR approach that creates human rights from the bottom-up views human rights as an arena of struggle. Human rights does not emanate from legalistic texts negotiated by states—it comes from the aspirations of the people. Unlike the liberal conception of human rights that elevates some mystical notions of natural law (which is really bourgeois law) as the foundation of rights, the “people” in formation are the ethical foundation and source of PCHRs.

Trumpism is the logical outcome of the decades long assault of racialized neoliberal capitalism. Malcolm showed us how to deal with Trumpism, and the PCHR movement that we must build will move us to that place where collective humanity must arrive if we are to survive and build a new world. And we will – “by any means necessary.”

— source ajamubaraka.com

Facebook employs ex-political aides to help campaigns target voters

Facebook has stepped up attempts to build its influence as a political tool by giving jobs to former senior Conservative and Labour campaign officials. The Guardian has learned Facebook’s recruits have inside knowledge of how the major parties’ general election campaigns are likely to work. They include a former Downing Street adviser to David Cameron, a former aide to Ed Balls and a social media expert who worked with the Conservatives’ election strategist Lynton Crosby.

— source theguardian.com

Why the Russia Story Is a Minefield for Democrats and the Media

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper appeared on Meet the Press this past weekend to discuss the Trump-Russia scandal. Chuck Todd asked: Were there improper contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials?

JAMES CLAPPER: We did not include any evidence in our report, and I say, “our,” that’s N.S.A., F.B.I. and C.I.A., with my office, the Director of National Intelligence, that had anything, that had any reflection of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the Russians. There was no evidence of that…

CHUCK TODD: I understand that. But does it exist?

JAMES CLAPPER: Not to my knowledge.

Todd pressed him to elaborate.

CHUCK TODD: If [evidence of collusion] existed, it would have been in this report?

JAMES CLAPPER: This could have unfolded or become available in the time since I left the government.

This is the former Director of National Intelligence telling all of us that as of 12:01 a.m. on January 20th, when he left government, the intelligence agencies had no evidence of collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign and the government of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Virtually all of the explosive breaking news stories on the Trump-Russia front dating back months contain some version of this same disclaimer.

There is a lot of smoke in the Russia story. The most damning item is General Michael Flynn having improper discussions with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak prior to taking office. There is the much-discussed Republican platform change with regard to American assistance to Ukranian rebels, and the unreported contacts between officials like Jeff Sessions (and even Trump himself now) with Kislyak.

Moreover, the case that the Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee now appears fairly solid. Even Donald Trump thinks so. This of course makes it harder to dismiss stories like the one in which former Trump adviser Roger Stone appeared to know that Wikileaks was about to release the hacked emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta.

But the manner in which these stories are being reported is becoming a story in its own right. Russia has become an obsession, cultural shorthand for a vast range of suspicions about Donald Trump.

The notion that the president is either an agent or a useful idiot of the Russian state is so freely accepted in some quarters that Beck Bennett’s shirtless representation of Putin palling with Alec Baldwin’s Trump is already a no-questions-asked yuks routine for the urban smart set.

And yet, this is an extraordinarily complex tale that derives much of its power from suppositions and assumptions.

If there’s any truth to the notion that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian state to disrupt the electoral process, then yes, what we’re seeing now are the early outlines of a Watergate-style scandal that could topple a presidency.

But it could also be true that both the Democratic Party and many leading media outlets are making a dangerous gamble, betting their professional and political capital on the promise of future disclosures that may not come.

We have to remember that the unpopularity of the press was a key to Trump’s election. Journalists helped solve the billionaire’s accessibility problem by being a more hated group than the arrogant rich. Trump has people believing he shares a common enemy with them: the news media. When we do badly, he does well.

Trump calls us “enemies of the people” who purvey “fake news.” Together with what vile ex-CNN turncoat Lou Dobbs calls the “global corporatists” who own the major media companies, we are said to comprise the “opposition party.”

We can’t afford to bolster these accusations of establishment bias and overreach by using the techniques of conspiracy theorists to push this Russia story. Unfortunately, that is happening.

One could list the more ridiculous examples, like the Washington Post’s infamous “PropOrNot” story identifying hundreds of alternative media sites as fellow travellers aiding Russia, or the Post’s faceplant over a report about a hacked utility in Vermont.

There was the “Russian cybercrime arrests” story that multiple outlets incorrectly suggested was linked to last year’s election, or the bizarre series of stories about Russia-linked murders around the world that are supposedly connected to this tale. (Glenn Greenwald at the Intercept noted the similarity between these latter tales and early anti-Clinton paranoia).

All of this noise matters. The pop culture realm is filled with bits like the SNL “Santa Putin” routine, the New Yorker’s Cyrillic cover and the promiscuous use of terms like “Siberian Candidate.” Even the new DNC chief, Tom Perez, got in the act with a tweet about a Trump’s weekly address:

Add all this to fringe-Internet reports about mysterious murders, and soon audiences come to every Russia story with pre-stoked expectations. Those expectations are what allow a paper to turn what may be a page nine story into a front-page sensation.

Setting all of that aside, look at the techniques involved within the more “legitimate” reports. Many are framed in terms of what they might mean, should other information surface.

There are inevitably uses of phrases like “so far,” “to date” and “as yet.” These make visible the outline of a future story that isn’t currently reportable, further heightening expectations.

Take the Times story about Trump surrogates having “repeated contacts” with Russian intelligence officials (an assertion that can mean anything, incidentally – as a reporter in Russia I had contact with Russian intelligence officials, as did most of my colleagues and friends in business, and there was nothing newsworthy about those interactions).

That story not only didn’t explain whether the contacts were knowing or unknowing, it also brought up a host of other “dots” in the Russia narrative for the reader to connect. For instance, the Times mentioned the bizarre (and unverified) dossier prepared by Christopher Steele.

Whether the Steele material was in any way connected to the contacts to which the Times referred was unclear, but the paper plowed ahead, writing (emphasis mine):

“The dossier contained a raft of allegations … unsubstantiated claims that the Russians had embarrassing videos that could be used to blackmail Mr. Trump. … The F.B.I. has spent several months investigating the leads in the dossier, but has yet to confirm any of its most explosive claims…”

These constructions are an end run around the paper’s own reporting standards. The Times by itself could never have run that “explosive” Steele dossier, or mentioned the “embarrassing videos” – because the dossier material can’t be confirmed.

But since it’s all out there in the ether now, thanks to Buzzfeed, it apparently can safely be mentioned. Worse, the Times recounted all this in connection with the other story about alleged contacts with Russian intelligence, adding to the appearance of gravity and salaciousness.

Similarly, Democrats in congress have been littering their Russia speeches with caveats like, “We do not know all the facts,” and, “More information may well surface.” They repeatedly refer to what they don’t know as a way of talking about what they hope to find out.

Members demand that Trump release his tax returns, for instance, so that Democrats can “clarify the specific financial interests that he has in Russia” – as if it is a given that he has such interests, or that such interests will be meaningful.

But what if there is nothing else to find?

Reporters should always be nervous when intelligence sources sell them stories. Spooks don’t normally need the press. Their usual audiences are other agency heads, and the executive. They can bring about action just by convincing other people within the government to take it.

In the extant case, whether the investigation involved a potential Logan Act violation, or election fraud, or whatever, the CIA, FBI, and NSA had the ability to act both before and after Donald Trump was elected. But they didn’t, and we know why, because James Clapper just told us – they didn’t have evidence to go on.

Thus we are now witnessing the extremely unusual development of intelligence sources that normally wouldn’t tell a reporter the time of day litigating a matter of supreme importance in the media. What does this mean?

Hypothesize for a moment that the “scandal” here is real, but in a limited sense: Trump’s surrogates have not colluded with Russians, but have had “contacts,” and recognize their political liability, and lie about them. Investigators then leak the true details of these contacts, leaving the wild speculations to the media and the Internet. Trump is enough of a pig and a menace that it’s easy to imagine doing this and not feeling terribly sorry that your leaks have been over-interpreted.

If that’s the case, there are big dangers for the press. If we engage in Times-style gilding of every lily the leakers throw our way, and in doing so build up a fever of expectations for a bombshell reveal, but there turns out to be no conspiracy – Trump will be pre-inoculated against all criticism for the foreseeable future.

The press has to cover this subject. But it can’t do it with glibness and excitement, laughing along to SNL routines, before it knows for sure what it’s dealing with. Reporters should be scared to their marrow by this story. This is a high-wire act and it is a very long way down. We might want to leave the jokes and the nicknames be, until we get to the other side – wherever that is.

— source rollingstone.com by Matt Taibbi