A Contrarian Hypothesis Re: Michael Cohen

In a very interesting interview article by Isaac Chotiner with former Starr investigation attorney Paul Rosenzweig in Slate titled “What is Michael Cohen’s Endgame?” Rosenzweig expresses skepticism about the likelihood of Cohen cutting a plea bargain deal favorable to himself with prosecutors assuming, as seems likely, that he will eventually be charged with something or other. Like virtually all coverage to date, Chotiner’s article and Rosenzweig’s comments rest on the assumption that it is the Mueller investigation that is the primary mover behind the search warrant on Cohen. That looks like a reasonable assumption.

It is not, however, the only possibility. Cohen’s office was searched and documents and recordings were seized under a search warrant on April 9, 2018. President Trump terminated Cohen as (one of his) attorney(s) shortly thereafter, in May 2018. The mainstream media (MSM) immediately assumed this was somehow going to be very bad for Trump.

Recent events, however, hint at what might be a very different scenario:

First, Cohen’s own oddly public discussion(s) of the matter and his leaking of a partial recording (consistently referred to by the MSM as a ‘tape’ though more likely made with a digital voice recorder) of a phone conversation with Trump are, as Rosenzweig points out in the article cited above, extremely bizarre behavior for anyone with a real possibility of cutting a deal with prosecutors who are out to get Trump.

Second, Trump’s attorneys willingly and quickly waved attorney-client privilege with regard to all the recordings seized from Cohen’s office. This, even though the recordings of Trump were classified as privileged by the court and could have remained so if Trump’s attorneys wanted them to.

Third, Trump’s highly visible ‘spokes-attorney’ Rudy Giuliani has recently, in a Fox News interview, said that a) he expects all of Cohen’s recordings will eventually be made public and that b) he’d be happy to have them all made public immediately! Giuliani was obviously cheerful and very much enjoying himself in that interview, clearly expecting that release of all the tapes would reflect negatively on Cohen and pose no problem whatsoever for President Trump.

Fourth, Giuliani and others have hinted that many of Cohen’s recordings were with members of the press. Recall that the Trump administration was, early on, plagued by unfavorable leaks from ‘inside the White House’ to hostile members of the media. Such leaks began considerably to diminish in frequency and severity starting late in the spring of 2017.

Fifth, and finally, the search warrant against Cohen was issued as part of a criminal investigation by the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York , not directly by the Mueller investigation. Note, too, that it is said to have been pressure from that very office that led James Comey to decide he had to reverse Peter Strzok‘s month-long ignoring of the issue of the presence of Hillary Clinton‘s emails on Anthony Wiener‘s laptop and to publicly address the matter just a week before the 2016 election.

Add it all up and a very interesting possibility emerges: The possibility that it was not Mueller but, rather, the Trump administration that was the real driver behind the investigation of Michael Cohen.

Perhaps Trump or Trump’s people began to suspect that Michael Cohen was the source of many of the damaging leaks to the hostile media and perhaps also working against his client’s (President Trump’s) interests in other ways as well. Perhaps they suspected him of disloyalty and betrayal, maybe even collusion with the #neverTrump movement.

Admittedly this is very speculative at this point, however it is an alternative way for “Reading the Signs of the Times” that is remarkably consistent with the five points noted above. I’m just sayin’ . . ..

 

 

Hannibal Fogg Review

Review – Hannibal Fogg and the Supreme Secret of Man by Tahir Shah

I am and have long been very positively disposed to Tahir Shah and more broadly to the members of his extended family and will continue to be so. But I am quite sure his father, for whom I have great respect, would not approve were I simply to echo the routinely five star sycophantic adulation of the ratings, so far, of this book (some of them appearing to come from sources that look a bit dodgy, to put it as kindly as I can). This is a very interesting book and very much worth reading. But it is also a book, in my admittedly not very humble opinion, that could (and should) have been much better than it is, given its long gestation period.

Though not everyone will immediately understand what I mean by saying so, I will say that this book (among other things) is one of the most interesting ‘fictional autobiographies’ yet written. Like Tahir Shah, Will Fogg engages the really quite daunting task of having to work out, in his own life, what it means to have been born into a quite extraordinary family with a history of some quite extraordinary accomplishments – the method, meaning, and significance of which is not necessarily any more immediately understandable (let alone reproducible) by virtue of having been born into that family than it might be to some random but interested external observer. The Fogg family, like the Shah family and other families with similar ‘qualities’, imposes a rather heavy burden on each new generation that comes along – a heritage that some might (and some certainly do) envy but that can sometimes be at least as much of a curse as it is a blessing for the folks involved.

This book is, again among other things, a very interesting example of how one might go about trying to make the best of it. Especially since, as the Magi guy puts it to his colleagues “on the island of Praslin in the Seychelles archipelago” on page 347: “There is surely no need to remind either of you of the danger we face. Should the Bloodchild succeed, organised faith as we know it will be doomed. The very thought of it . . . mankind in direct communication with God. It is preposterous even to contemplate it.” To which the horrified Magi woman replies: “Immense wealth accrued over centuries will evaporate. Our communal lands, our treasures, our influence . . . all will be lost in the blink of an eye.” Doggone!

A second observation is that, at least as far as this book goes, Tahir seems to me to do much better at starting it than at finishing it. The first half of the book is a delightful read inviting a willing suspension of disbelief to enjoy what begin as very fresh and inventive exercises in 1001 Nights imaginative devices. The second half, however, not only gets a bit repetitive as these devices are used, and overused, and overused again, but in effect it turns the ‘deus ex machina’ (ἀπὸ μηχανῆς θεός) literary device into a stellar plurality of deities, rather like chopping up the moon into a bunch of less bright stars, in which, as it were, every Djinn must have its day.

The lesser deities flow/and or drive forth, etc. in a plethora of Ian Fleming style characterizations of booze, guns, cars, clothes and such: “borrowed yellow Rolls-Royce Tourer”; “The vehicle was dominated by a V-12, 1.4-liter Falcon aviation engine, built at Rolls-Royce’s fighter aircraft factory”; “removed a revolver, a Russian-made Nagant M1895“; “a tray of flutes filled with chilled Ruinart“, “a glass of chilled Bollinger 1886″; “he tasted Cristal Roederer“; “The Baroness motioned to the sommelier, requesting that he serve yet more Taittinger“; “washed down with a glass or two of Chateau Latour 1883″; and so forth. No wonder Will prefers Bud Light!

The deities at the next level up manifest themselves as a series of incredibly dangerous situations from which it is certainly impossible to escape and even more incredibly impossible devices by which an escape is made. The long trek through the seven missing components of the Alexander Machine bears more than a little resemblance to the couples’ ‘quests’ and ‘challenges’ on the Discovery Channel’s “Naked and Afraid” ‘reality’ TV series (though Will and Emma not only remain chaste vis-a-vis one another but also remain – at least most of the time with only an exception or two – fully clothed). And the final apotheosis which in the end reunites Will with grandpa Hannibal is about as satisfying a resolution as that of Don Juan and his apprentices jumping off the cliff at the end of Carlos Castaneda’s “The Active Side of Infinity” but absent the epilogue. One suspects, however, there just might be a sequel out there somewhere at the end of the rainbow.

Having said all that, I nevertheless heartily recommend the book as a good read and look forward to Tahir’s next book – whether a sequel to this one or or not.

Understanding Donald Trump

Although many, perhaps most, Americans clearly have strong opinions about President Donald J. Trump, pro and con, few really understand him. This is true not only for his #neverTrump haters, deeply afflicted with TDS (Trump Derangement Syndrome) as they undoubtedly are, but for the majority of his more-or-less supporters as well.

This was egregiously demonstrated by some generally pro-Trump Republicans like Newt Gingrich and Trey Gowdy who at least briefly joined the Democrats and the MSM (mainstream media) in their cringing, hand-wringing reaction to Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin. Gingrich and Gowdy clearly failed to understand what, in fact, President Trump was (and is) doing with Putin (and the EU, NATO, North Korea and much more), why, and how he is doing it. They just don’t get it.

The key to understanding Trump is actually quite easy; quite simple. But it is so different from contemporary ‘conventional wisdom’ that for most folks, it is like the late Chicago comedian Lord Buckley‘s characterization of the bear dance in his delightful “God’s Own Drunk” comedy monologue about the whiskey still: “It was like the jitterbug. It was so simple it evaded me!”

We actually indicated the key to understanding Trump in the very first post here on semiotic.com back in the wee hours of the night on December 16, 2015 when we confidently (and correctly) said:

The Professional Pontificators got it wrong, again. They are all over the place trying to make sense of last night’s (Tuesday, 15 December, 2015) Republican debate and they are as clueless as ever. Trump is going to win. He’s going to win the Republican nomination. He’s going to win the general election in November 2016. And he’s going to win by a lot. Here’s why (and how).

Adding:

He is also not the least bit crazy, erratic, impulsive, or reckless. His ‘crazy’ is entirely as in “crazy like a fox”. It is deliberate, conscious, carefully crafted, and used as an instrument (or, when necessary, weapon) to get the results he aims to get. Whether he has ever read it or not, he embodies the practical wisdom described in Thomas Cleary’s “Thunder in the Sky: Secrets on the Acquisition and Exercise of Power”, a brilliant translation of two Chinese Taoist classics: “The Master of Demon Valley” and “The Master of the Hidden Storehouse.”

But the most concise statement of the real key to understanding Trump is in another of Cleary’s books: The Book of Leadership and Strategy,  a translation from the Huainanzi, characterized on Wikipedia as “an ancient Chinese text that consists of a collection of essays that resulted from a series of scholarly debates held at the court of Liu AnKing of Huainan, sometime before 139 BC.”

The most concise key to understanding Trump may be found on page 69 of  The Book of Leadership and Strategy. It is as follows:

The way of the warrior is to show others softness but meet them with firmness, to show others weakness but to surmount them with strength, to shrink back from them but reach out to counter them.

When where you are coming from is not where you are going, and what you show is not what you plan, then no one can tell what you are doing. You are like lightning — no one can anticipate where it will strike, and it never strikes twice in the same place.

Therefore, your victories can be one hundred percent complete, in communion with hidden knowledge. When no one knows your door, this is called supreme genius.

Trump’s enemies (foreign as well as domestic) and even most of his friends simply do not understand this. Most never will.

 

 

Trump, Putin, US Law, and China

The single most important news out of today’s (Monday, July 16, 2018) summit is the importance of the 1999 “Treaty with Russia on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters” (which, under the US Constitution, is as much a part of US law as any laws passed by Congress!) and its impact on the Meuller Investigation (a.k.a. “@neverTrump anti-@realDonaldTrump witch hunt”).

You can read the full text of the treaty here: https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/123676.pdf

Propaganda, Fake News, and the Deep State

‘Fake news’ is far from being the Internet-induced innovation that contemporary historically ignorant pontificators make it out to be. On the contrary it is, like propaganda and the ‘deep state’, as old as human society on this planet. The external aspects change over time, but the underlying forms remain as they long have been

The Road to November (2018)

The Road to November (2018): There will, no doubt, be much to keep us amused and entertained on the political front over the next six months but nothing, no single story, is as likely to be directly decisive for the future course of the USA (and the world) as the mid-term US elections that will be held exactly six months from today (May 6, 2018) on Tuesday, November 6, 2018! Stay tuned

 

Spy Versus Spy

There seems to be a major ‘spy vs. spy’ aspect of Mueller’s attempted ‘soft coup’ to depose President Donald J. Trump that is merely the superficial tip of the iceberg of long-standing battles between sharply divided rival ‘deep state’ factions within the US military, intelligence, and foreign relations/policy establishment.

 

The Russians Did It! Or did they?

Despite the presently widely uncontested ‘fact’ that the Russians hacked the US election in 2016 on orders from Vladimir Putin, there is as yet no factual evidence to prove they did. Maybe they did. But maybe they did not. Stay tuned . . .