Archive for June 2019

Mueller Report I

June 27, 2019

This is the first of several post on the subject “The Mueller Report”.  With former FBI Director Mueller about to testify before two House Committees, it may be worthwhile stating ahead of that event what can be gleaned from the 400+ pages.

In spirit of full disclosure, I actually read the report and guessed what might be in the blacked out redacted pages.  Also, I am not a lawyer but am reasonably able to understand english. 

Here’s my understanding  of the words written.  Special Council Mueller states right from the start that Department of Justice legal opinions held that a sitting President cannot be charged criminally (while in office), AND, therefore the Special Prosecutor never tried to prove allegations sufficient to support charging.  The Special Council did, however, lay out incidents which could have supported collusion if pursued with the intent to indict.

So, in part I of the report (Conspiring with Russia, colluding with Russia), Mueller lists numerous contacts Trump campaign workers (including family members) made with Russians, usually responding to Russian initiatives.  Mueller lists no instance where the President is directly involved and no instance where the President told his people to desist or cease.  (If this subject had been about anti-competitive activities (like price fixing), charges would almost assuredly be level against the Trump campaign, possibly including the CEO (President Trump).

Mueller writes that had the Special Council concluded the President had not conspired or colluded, he (Mueller) would have said so. The Special Council did not write so.

Contrary to President Trump’s pat statements (no collusion, full exoneration), Mueller did not charge the President but passes the details to the Attorney General who decided not to charge.   Most importantly, the Special Council did not exonerate the President either.

Death And Decay

June 25, 2019

The Catholic Church has had it share of “front page” problems over the past 20 years.  Those problems have their roots going back 100 or more years.  The Church discovered long ago that promising a much better life after death was a gold mine for gifts and weekly contributions.  By carefully grooming church members, the over all church (especially Rome) have become very wealthy.  With money, however, comes a class of clerics who saw their religious role to insure the church’s wealth remained intact and preferably grew in value.

The money “growers”, however, needed a parallel group of clerics who created and enforced a set of rules which balanced on the toughness required to lead a “good enough” life to quality for the hereafter with a doctrine that still provided a means to amend for shortcomings were a poor soul to wander off the path and need relief to “qualify” for the hereafter.  Dogma and doctrine, both man created and made, followed.

There have been reasoned outcries over the centuries calling out the Catholic Church for wandering from reason.  Galileo, Copernicus, and the Inquisitions are well known.  Hitler, Franco, and world war II’s atrocities also showed a dim view of the Pope’s “holiness”.  Today there rages in Rome a new war for the future control of the Catholic Church.  Liberals who want to base the church upon current secular understandings, and conservatives who wish to return to doctrine and dollars, even if it means a smaller overall church.  Hmmm.

The debate around child abuse by clerics sums up neatly the paradox the church finds itself in.  How can the church punish someone who has received “holy orders” and risk adversely influencing so many other church members that there is something wrong with church teachings?

Sexual orientation is another bag of worms for the Catholic Church.  Estimates range from 1/3rd to 2/3rds of all priests are homosexuals.  Yet, these same men must stand before their followers and preach that homosexuality is wrong and strictly outside church teachings.  How much more conflicted could someone get?

Two private catholic school near Indianapolis offers an example.  Two well respected teacher entered into same sex marriages and subsequently the school administration found out.  The schools initial decision was “no harm, no foul”.  When the diocese found out, the Archbishop (hopeful to become a Cardinal?) issued a statement saying “no way”.  Either the teachers are fired or the archdiocese would disown the school.  So far, one school has caved and one has not.  Hmmm.

The reason given was that same sex marriage is against catholic doctrine and the teacher is therefore not living a “catholic” life.  This inconsistency, the diocese says, demands termination of the teachers.  Hmmm.  I wonder whether there are any divorced and remarried teachers?

What a message to send to young minds.  Like marijuana, over the years generation after generation “experimented” and have found marijuana not to be what law enforcement and hypocritical politicians have said.  Similarly, homosexuality is natural, not learned (nurture) regardless of what the church has said.   The church is once more caught up in its “straight jacketed dogma”.

And, to add to the unspoken message, what does the Catholic Church’s behavior teach followers, for instance Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, as a just arbiter for woman’s health or human rights for all Americans?   

The Week That Wasn’t

June 24, 2019

If one looks and listens closely, there is evidence that President Trump is getting his “number” called fairly often. In addition, it appears his rhetoric is not as effective as in the past to get the public’s eye off his mistake. 

China is sinking the President’s ship without much effort.  China’s selective tariffs have hurt farmers and Trump’s tariffs have hurt untold businesses and are now hurting Americans in their pocketbooks.  The President claims China is hurting big time but where is the evidence to support that claim?

The southern border continues to be a joke where each blustery Trump statement acts like a puff of smoke.  When the air clears, the immigrant situation is the same or worse.

This past week the President struck new colors with Iran and diplomacy.  Chicken hawks such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton, both whooping up a war cry against Iran (recognize that it will be other Americans sons and daughters going off to fight), the President talked tough and then he didn’t.  The President blinked and called off punitive airstrikes at the last minute showing his own “red line” was mostly pink or white.

The President offered a humanitarian justification for choking at the last minute.  Hmmm.  From someone who doesn’t know how to tell the truth, and believing now the President suddenly tell the truth, is a big pill to swallow.   Most Americans assume Trump was telling another falsehood.  Americans were relieved since there is little stomach in the nation for another Middle East conflict. 

Why the pull back?  Maybe, the President got concerned about getting involved in a Middle East War, this one on his watch.   And, without a doubt, President Trump was cognizant of the 2020 campaign and the promises of no interventions.  While voters can’t be sure what the President’s reasoning really was, past experience strongly suggests Trump wanted no parts of anything that could blow back on him.

Not to be outdone by foreign affairs, the President hyped a stepped up ICE campaign to “round up millions” of illegal residents.  The tough guy had spoken.  At the last minute, once again the President blinked and called off the program for at least two weeks.

“The program”, even in its suspended state, is unclear.  News reports identified up to a million refugees who sought asylum, were given a court date, released, and then disappeared.  Pundits, however, suggest that ICE lacks the capability to find a million people as well as the resources to deport them. 

Just the same, the President probably thinks he scored a victory with his supporters with his threat and by not following through, never revealed how hollow a threat he had made.

The lesson involved in these two situation is sadly that both never should have occurred and calling them off at the last minute teaches all others how to call the President’s bluff.  Hmmm.

Iran is a bad regional actor and as a theocracy, should be carefully watched and even more carefully approached.  As a theocracy, Iran can always justify its action (no matter how devastating to Iranians) because god (Allah) said so.

There is practically nothing this President or any one else can do to shut off the flood of refugees and undocumented immigrants… at the border.  Central America is poor and America is wealthy.  If the President, instead, devoted his attention to finding a political solution with a comprehensive immigration reform, there is hope that undocumented immigration could be controlled.  But it is clear that a solution does not fit the President’s needs and he will continue to use the border as a campaign prop.   

Nuclear Blackmail

June 18, 2019

This past week Iran announced it might soon exceed some of the agreed upon limits to its nuclear development program.  Of course this statement should come as no surprise since the US unilaterally pulled out of the 6 nation agreement and reimposed severe sanctions on Iran.  But, one must wonder given the statement issued by the US National Security Council what the NSC is thinking.

“Iran’s enrichment plans are only possible because the horrible nuclear deal left their capabilities intact,” NSC spokesman Garrett Marquis said. “President Trump has made it clear that he will never allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons. The regime’s nuclear blackmail must be met with increased international pressure.”   Hmmm.

There is no secret that many Republicans and conservatives, for various reasons, strongly opposed the Iran Nuclear Agreement (formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan For Action).  The JCPFA, however, did provide a verifiable path to a cessation in Iran’s nuclear weapons development.  The JCPFA did not provide for all the demands conservatives were making.  So was half a loaf better than none?

As is happening now with North Korea, some Administration people want complete disarmament and proof positive of denuclearization as a basis for negotiation or nothing.  These demands are not going to happen with North Korea.  And it is not going to happen with Iran either.

Behind the scenes, Israel has been a vocal supporter of a tough line with Iran and even recommending “regime change”.  (Remember Israel also pushed a similar line with Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.)

This tough as nails position has the advantage of never being wrong in any foreign affairs discussion.  Unless Iran throws open its doors and throws out all nuclear weapons, research papers and files, and proves that former nuclear scientists are no longer employed, how can America be sure Iran does not have secret programs?  But this extreme position is a non-starter.

An honest NSC and State Department would have said that Iran’s decision to exceed certain previously agreed to limits was regrettable but understandable since the US was no longer abiding by its agreements either.  But who said the Trump Administration is any more clear eyed or honest in its rhetoric that the President himself.   

Does Lying Matter?

June 13, 2019

President Trump has demonstrated little affinity for telling the truth.  The best perspective would be that the President believes strongly that the ends justify the means, and if the President thinks a situation should be this way or that way, then using words that effect that outcome may be appropriate.  Hmmm.

There are many moral or ethical rationales why “ends do not justify means” but don’t waste your time trying to convince the President.  Recent newspaper reports site the President as having “lied” over 10,000 times in public statements.  And most of these cases are readily verifiable with publicly available data.  Hmmm.

Most people learn about lying as children with the story of the little boy who cried “wolf”.  The lesson is how can anyone believe another person if the other person persists in telling lies?  President Trump has taken this fable to a new level and most observers first reaction to the President’s comments is that the truth is most likely the opposite of what President Trump has said.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney got President George W Bush to lie about Iraq’s alleged nuclear weapons program and suffered a permanently damaged reputation when the US invaded Iraq on this false basis.  Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has now announced that he has proof Iran was behind the attacks on two commercial oil tankers in the Straits of Hormuz.

While this is possible (the US may have radio intercepts), it is highly unlikely there is a smoking gun.  Much more likely there are presumed connections to an Iranian surrogate or an Iranian financed rogue unit.  

Americans should be alert to Washington talk over the next days and weeks.  There is simply too much of a convenient connection when the Trump Administration labels Iran as the enemy.   Focusing America’s attention on the bad guys takes public opinion away from China or Mexico or the Mueller report.  

If the President can’t tell the truth, why should Americans believe his Secretary of State? 

The Week That Wasn’t

June 10, 2019

Today begins a new week.  What can President Donald Trump do this week to top his claims to fame last week?

The big news this past week was the President’s United Kingdom visit where his “Trumpiness” displayed his lack of sophistication without yielding any bully-ism towards Mexico. 

Pundits have observed that most world leaders are counting the days until November 2020 when they hope Trump will become a one term President.  To their credit, these leaders have figured that unabashed flattery would serve them best until the 2020 elections.  To their discredit, foreign leaders do not have the intestinal fortitude to call a bully just that.  Calling Trump out serves much more than just easing anger or frustration.  Calling Trump out serves to inform all who will follow (and there will be others), that bully-ism and scoring easy points by not observing past precedents does not fly.

It will be a few weeks before Americans will learn whether Trump’s reckless threat to place tariffs on Mexican imports has resulted in any improvement in reducing the influx of Latin Americans refugees.  Had Trump pulled the trigger and imposed the tariffs, the consequences would have sealed his one term status.  But if anyone has watched Trump over these past 18 months, one would have known he was bluffing.  (And so did the Mexican Government.)

Why does the President insist on this brinkmanship?

Could it be that Donald Trump has serious mental limitations?  Could it be that his narcissistic nature drives him to bully others and when they are not looking for him to (you pick the word) steal, rob, or misappropriate, values locked up by contracts, long standing precedents, or widely accepted standards of fair practice.  Hmmm.

What can be sure, this week will be prime time for the President.  My guess is the Chinese trade situation will get center stage.  Regrettably for the President, the Chinese already have his number.  Regrettably for Americans, Trump’s solution for trade with China will cost each American a lot of disposable income.  Being a “one trick” act has its limitations. 

But then, according to the President Americans don’t understand the value of tariffs.  

D-Day

June 6, 2019

Along the French coast, the 75th anniversary of the World War II Normandy invasion has taken place.  The massive display of bravery and determination which lead to the end of WWII is difficult to comprehend against the backdrop of nationalism which seems so popular these days.  President Trump, a proclaimed nationalist, was not deterred and read from prepared remarks in words that gave no hint of his “America First” agenda.  Give thanks for little blessings.

“D-Day” which stands for the day the European invasion was undertaken could also stand for “deferment day” or “draft dodging day”, I suppose, when the term “D-Day” is used in connection with President Trump.

Of course, Donald Trump was not old enough to participate in WWII,  The Trumpster was old enough for the Vietnam War, but he skipped that one.  Trump had just graduated from college and was anxious to apply his learnings to real estate.  Vietnam was just inconvenient.  Fortunately, the Trump family had some friendly doctors who gladly wrote letters describing Trump’s “bone spurs”.  Five letters, five deferments and soon the future President was too old for the military.  Hmmm.

Reports indicate President Trump actually is a big fan of the military.  In fact the President likes parades, shiny medals on crisp uniforms, and plenty of pomp.  Soon America’s 4th of July celebration will take place.  Apparently, the President will change the Washington, DC celebration to “A salute to America”.

Festivities will shine a warm light on the President, himself, instead of the traditional “Independence Day” remembrance of the war that founded our country, and those that have preserved our freedom.  Isn’t it always about him? 

Think of it, “red, white, and blue”, hot dogs and fireworks, and plenty of Donald Trump. 

Somehow this image does not rise to the level demanding a salute… maybe a belch, however.