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Seth Abramson’s Proof of Conspiracy: A review

I just finished reading Seth Abramson’s Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump’s International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy.

Seth Abramson's Proof of Conspiracy: A review 1

Seth Abramson has become known for posting looooong Twitter threads (I believe one had about 100 posts) on politics of the day.  In order to share them on Facebook, I had to resort to the Thread Reader unroller app, which turns long threads into blog posts to make them easier to read.  But of course, while what he says is shocking, you’ve gotta wonder how reliable it is.

So I picked up the Kindle version of Proof of Conspiracy, which came out just a few months ago, so I could check into this.  Contrary to the spin by the GOP, Abramson argues that the Mueller Report proved both collusion and conspiracy (this book is in tandem with a previous book, Proof of Collusion).  And since I’ve read the Mueller Report, along with documents and analyses, I can confirm Abramson’s conclusion.

Publishers Weekly writes:

[Proof of Conspiracy] alleges a ‘Red Sea Conspiracy’ hatched in 2015 by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates and then Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. Their plan….was to illicitly help Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in order to gain his support for a ‘grand bargain’ that would end U.S. sanctions on Russia in exchange for Vladimir Putin’s help in evicting Iran from Syria, pave the way for dozens of new Saudi and Emirati nuclear plants, and forge an anti-Iranian, pro-Israeli military alliance among Sunni Arab nations….[CNN analyst Abramson] traces labyrinths of murky ‘ties,’ meetings, and business deals….[and offers] serious criticisms of Trump’s foreign policy, including his support of the Saudi regime’s brutal war in Yemen.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been working through POC, finally finishing last night.  Right about the time I started it, Trump pulled troops out of Syria–and I began to see, right before me in the daily news, eerie confirmation of things I had only just read in Proof of Conspiracy.  Not just regarding Syria, but other issues as well that started coming to light during the impeachment inquiry, allegations being corroborated by witness testimony.  Names in Proof of Conspiracy started showing up in the news.  We learned new names as well, which traced back to and confirmed claims made in Proof of Conspiracy.

Another way to confirm the claims of the book is the extensive bibliography, which was a PDF posted on the Web instead of in the Kindle book.  I also downloaded it onto my Kindle, where I could click on the links and verify the articles whenever I felt the need.

Then at the end of the book, in the acknowledgements, I discovered that Abramson relied on four fact-checkers.  People complained that Michael Wolff didn’t fact-check Fire and Fury, making it unreliable, so it is a relief to see that Abramson did not repeat that mistake.

And what are the claims of the book?  That Trump’s presidency has not just been a series of blunders, but that Trump is being manipulated–through his greed and desire for power–by leaders of several Middle-Eastern countries in a Red Sea Conspiracy.  Every day, the news confirms that this isn’t just some wild theory.  It certainly explains the Putin and MBS high-five at the G20 last year, while Trump looked on jealously.  It helps explain why Trump would withdraw troops from Syria, to the objections of pretty much everybody, even his attack dog Lindsay Graham.  It also explains why Mueller said Israel–one of our closest allies–is threatening our 2020 election integrity.

Abramson notes how overwhelming it is for Americans to try to keep up with the news when there are so many different sources and so many stories; his book helps by pulling together those stories that most of us probably missed in our busy lives.  I certainly learned a lot of things that were covered a year or two ago in the media, but I missed, despite constantly checking the news since Trump was elected.  Abramson writes on page 561,

At the end of December 2018, the United States for the first time in its history became one of the five most dangerous nations in the world for journalists. We cross this dark threshold at a time when the nation’s journalistic ecosystem simultaneously produces too much quality investigative reporting for even the nation’s best analysts to synthesize; too little accountability for corporate journalism that places profits above ethics; too many stories where commitment to evenhandedness masks an unwillingness to render conventional journalistic and even moral judgments about truth and falsehood, integrity and moral degradation; and too little attention for innovations in the journalistic enterprise that might allow the profession to survive, even if generatively transformed, amid the bewildering transfigurations of a digitized and increasingly virtual (if too rarely virtuous) world.

…The New Yorker quotes Tamir Pardo, the director of Israel’s chief spy agency Mossad from 2011 to 2016, as saying of the Russian election-interference operation in 2016—which appears to have received significant assists from Israeli, Saudi, and Emirati entities—“It was the biggest Russian win ever. Without shooting one bullet, American society was torn apart.” Yet U.S. media still spends more time dissecting Trump’s tweets than seeking to curate the hundreds of major-media investigative reports from around the world that confirm that it is Trump who is, piece by piece, dissecting our nation’s foreign policy and domestic institutions.

This, by the way, also confirms a Facebook post written several years ago by a Ukrainian American friend I met on an Orthodox forum many years ago.  After the invasion, he wrote that it wasn’t just about Ukraine, that Putin would eventually come for us as well.  He thought it would be a military invasion, however, so a few weeks ago, I told him he was right–except that Putin had a much more clever way of toppling us.

Abramson writes on page 546,

The question, of course, has never been about what Donald Trump can or cannot resist. Rather, it has always been about what a society that values the rule of law is willing to tolerate. And more recently—since November 8, 2016—the question has been an even more dire one: What happens to a nation when it not only tolerates the worst excesses and degradations of the human condition but celebrates them? What happens when a once-great nation makes of its very worst instincts and proclivities a shudderingly grotesque political and cultural idol?

What we find when we train this sort of lens on a man like Donald Trump is that his desire to rule has always been co-extensive with his desire to accumulate. Indeed, the fact that, as president, Trump now wants to combine diplomacy with business—even if it threatens America’s national security—is clear.

In short, I recommend this book if you want to understand the strange events that keep going on in our nation and world these past several years.  It is also a warning of why we can’t afford to be complacent about politics in this country.

[Update: Shortly after I posted this, the author himself saw it and retweeted it, which made it go viral.  🙂 I can barely keep up with checking my stats….]

 

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Seth Abramson's Proof of Conspiracy: A review
Seth Abramson's Proof of Conspiracy: A review 2

I just finished reading Seth Abramson's Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy.

Editor's Rating:
5

Call it what it is: concentration camps. We are turning into Nazi Germany.

Despite having many friends these days, finding kindred spirits all over the place, and being far removed from the loneliness that made me feel dependent on ex-friend Richard’s friendship…there are times when I wish I could talk to him.  This is one of those times.

The news coming from the border keeps getting worse all the time.  One of Trump’s latest tweets (which I trolled) claimed that ICE will begin removing illegal aliens.  I saw this immediately after reading accounts that immigrants will soon be moved into military camps which can be blocked from media/Congress oversight.  And right after reading that some border guards have been using slurs for immigrants and calling them “subhuman” (you know, the meaning of Untermensch).  And soon after reading that the camps now being used can legitimately be called concentration camps.

As I tweeted to Trump,

Removed? To go where, exactly? Concentration camps? Are the death camps next???

The reason I’d want to pick Richard’s brain on this is that he himself was a border guard down there back in the 90s, and he–saw things, did things….This left him a shell of a man, along with at least one of his colleagues.  In the comments under Trump’s tweet, MAGAts are praising Trump and cheering what he’s doing–while I keep reading about the abuses and squalor these people are being subjected to.

It makes the blood run cold.

These are not criminals (they’re asylum seekers).  And even if they were, it’s still inhumane.

These are men, women and children.

But Richard–despite his other questionable stances that made my husband and me wonder if he had a heart (like saying “oh well” to the suffering his political ideas would bring on poor people)–was very much against abuse of immigrants.  He felt guilty for things he did as a border guard.

People these days casually say “shoot ’em!”–but this was the policy for a while, 20 years ago.  To tell border guards they can shoot women with children on sight, or to have citizens cheer on the idea–It’s disgusting.

I hope that Richard has not changed his mind about that.

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Andrew Louth on homosexuality in the Orthodox Church and over-sexualization of relationships

In the latest issue of The Wheel–an Orthodox publication which I’m not familiar with, but appears to publish a wide range of thought, not just conservative/traditional–is Andrew Louth’s essay “Being Human.”

Not only does it impress me by being thoughtful–questioning the usual response of the Church to homosexuality/same-sex marriage–but by bringing up the over-sexualization of our modern Western culture.

He compares the usual conservative response to the controversies we’ve seen before–such as evolution, ordaining women, the position of women in society.  He notes that appeals to tradition are often a fear of change rather than a thoughtful response.  He says the problems won’t go away, because they’re connected to a fundamental change in modern society and what we now know about the biological and cultural influences on sexuality and gender.

Then he notes that modern Western society–at least in his English experience, which sounds much like the American–has been over-sexualizing all human relationships.  People look on all sorts of friendships and familial relationships with a suspicious eye if they get too “physical,” because even kisses on the cheek or hugs become somehow “sexual.”  Or people see best friends of the same sex, especially if they live together, and think they MUST be lovers who need to “come out of the closet” and admit it.

I’ve complained about this several times over the years on this website, because this prudish idea of friendship and touch affected my own life as well.  And yes, it’s tiresome to have your motives questioned because you have a close, opposite-sex friend, especially one who likes to hug.

Louth notes that it wasn’t always like this, and that it mostly seems to be the English (American) societies which are like this.  He asks, is it because of Freud? or consumerism with its easy pleasures?

So you have here a more pastoral response to modern questions–How do you deal with someone who is devout but can’t stop feeling attracted to the same sex?  And how many people aren’t actually sexually attracted to the same sex, but other people think they must be because of a close friendship?  And how much damage do we do to all human relationships by reducing them to sexuality?

Louth’s essay is refreshing, not what I’ve been seeing and hearing so much lately from Orthodox sources.  My summary doesn’t do it justice.  Not only does he NOT condemn those who want to be allowed to marry someone of the same sex, or the transgendered–

but his words reassure me that I did nothing wrong in my friendship with Richard.  I got so much condemnation over that, from his wife and even from people online, even though I have had and still have many friendships with guys, even close ones.  That old-fashioned and sexist thinking that close opposite-sex friendships MUST be considered “inappropriate” until proven otherwise–that’s like Mike Pence refusing to be in a room alone with any woman.  It’s ridiculous and reduces you to your genitals, rather than who you are as a person.  And Tracy making me feel like I did something horrible and dirty because of HUGS–It’s taken me years to try to undo the mindscrew that put me through.

But here is an Orthodox archpriest saying that opposite-sex friendships (Samuel Johnson had them), same-sex friendships, hugs, a kiss on the cheek, being close to someone in any type of relationship, that there’s nothing wrong with it and we do great damage to ourselves if we reduce every relationship and touch to sex.  It has harmed not only friendships, especially same-sex ones, but even familial relationships.  Everything becomes suspicious, making us afraid to get close to each other.  People see “incest” where none exists.

Quoted from Louth:

My sense is that human ways of being together are very varied, and that we are being seduced by the sexualization of modern Western society into thinking that the modes of human being-together are to be defined in sexual terms. This seems to me to be just as true of those who want to argue that the ideal form of human living is monogamous union.

He does not appear to say outright that Orthodox priests should start performing same-sex marriages, but just to say that Orthodoxy needs to stop knee-jerking reactions to it and actually think through a response instead of just holding on to tradition for tradition’s sake.

Orthodoxy in Dialogue writes about the Wheel issue here and in previous posts.

 

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