Archive for the ‘Donald Trump’ category

Meddling, Hmmm, Only Russians?

February 18, 2018

The Special Prosecutor, Robert Mueller obtained a grand jury indictment this week charging 13 Russians with interfering in 2016 Presidential election. Mueller’s team detailed a broad effort by Russian sources to influence voters during the election campaign. Clear meddling by a foreign power in a domestic election.

Hmmm. Seems clear cut.

Forget, for a moment, that everything the Russians are accused of is everyday practice of the CIA. Incredulous is all I can think of when I hear the Washington “heavy breathers” taking exception to the Russian activities. Even more astonishing is that the media’s focus is mainly on Russian influence while overlooking social media’s inadequacies and already existing US sources of misinformation/propaganda.

To be clear, of course it is wrong for Russia to interfere with US democratic processes. And, it is reasonable that US agencies could label these Russian actions as unfriendly and maybe tantamount to making war. But in a “tit for tat” world, other than “I gotcha”, what more is there to say?

Well there is more. The Russian are accused of using money to influence social media which in turn was suppose to influence voters. Why is someone not asking the question, were the Russians the only ones who used social media to multiply the impact of their message?

Were the Russians the only ones who wished to see Hillary Clinton defeated?

The message Americans should be hearing is more like “social media, for example twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, by their very nature, should be suspected as publishing (knowingly or unknowingly) propaganda.

Social media outlets, as they are designed, are easily hijacked and used to hype positions favored by these commenters. Alert, alert, social media comments and news-looking content does not have to meet the level of a junior high school essay. There is no one checking the content for accuracy.

In other words, home grown, American through and through sources, like Arian Nation, Citizens Councils (for White America), or the Koch Brothers’ Freedom Partners, to name a few, can make statements, or “like” statements made by others, regardless of whether the subject matter is based upon opinion, hopes, or facts.

Those addicted to social media, or believe what they hear from robocalls, or see in negative TV political ads, and see these sources as offering helpful information are badly mistaken.

So, how is the alleged Russian election interference different from these examples?

In one case it is Americans spreading misinformation and in the other case, it is Russians spreading much of the same misinformation. Hmmm.

A difference without distinction?

IMO, Russian interference in the 2016 election, while totally inappropriate, could served a greater good by revealing how gullible voters can be. More to the point, the Russian interference used the same social media sources many other Americans influence peddling groups use.

Without further questioning, social media content is at best meaningless, if not hearsay, prejudicial and misleading. Hmmm.

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Too Soon To Talk

February 16, 2018

When ever there is a mass shooting, the public conversation jumps to guns and the role they played. Soon we hear “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”, or a constant crowd pleaser is “our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families”. In a few days (which our leaders said would be necessary to get all the facts), the mass shooting would be pushed off the front page and replaced by some other gruesome news.

Will we hear a repeat of this pablum following the Florida shootings? (You know the February 15th shooting at a school in Broward County, Florida).

Think about what is known so far

  • Assault rifle (semi-automatic)
  • Lots of clips and ammunition
  • Unarmed, soft targets
  • History of anti-societal behavior
  • Warnings to police and FBI in the past
  • Weapons legally obtained

In the 2008 Columbia v Heller decision, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision separated gun possession from any connection with a well regulated malitia. Justice Scalia, writing for the majority, said each American has a Constitutional right to own fire arms for self protection. Scalia was a staunch Catholic and believer in the here after. I wonder what he is thinking now about his 2008 opinion?

President Trump pontificated that it was a top priority for his Administration to ensure school safety. Hmmm, I wonder what he is thinking?

  • Could he be thinking that more armed police in each and every school?
  • Or, could he be thinking that the US is awash in guns with the largest number of guns per capita. (The runner-up country to the US (guns/citizen) is Yemen.)

The answer to mass shootings seems to glare back at us… Guns are simply too available and guns which fire many bullets, seem the preferred weapon of choice in mass murders.

At this point in any similar discussion, some will say that mental health plays a large role in mass killings. Others will say they are responsible gun owners and assault type weapons are particularly desired. So, does this mean that the best way to deal with gun violence is to make guns even more available?

Commonsense cries out that the place for guns are in the home, ton he firing range, or in designated hunting fields.

In rural parts of the country where wild animals pose threats, open carry for hand guns may be justified. But private ownership of military style, automatic or semi-automatic weapons have no place in a sane society.

Will The Chicken Hawks Return?

February 15, 2018

Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence, has been testifying this past week before Congressional Committees. One news report quoted Coats as saying the US was running out of time to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons programs. Coats indicated that soon only military force would remain a viable option. WHAT ???

George W Bush is still alive and so is the chief chicken hawk, Dick Chaney. The memory of their fiasco telling Americans that when the US invaded Iraq our soldiers would be welcomed by Iraqis throwing flower petals at their feet as they marched by. To be sure some Iraqis threw objects at American soldiers feet but flower petals were not the objects.

The Iraq invasion and occupation remains one, if not the, greatest foreign policy failure whose consequences Americans will be visiting for years to come. The invasion opened a pandora’s box (to the surprise of Cheney and Bush) and unleashed sectarian violence through out the region. Instead of intimidating the Iranians, events embolden them to drive even harder developing nuclear weapons.

On the domestic front, Americas recognized once more that older men send younger men off to war, promise the soldiers full support and then proceed to forget about military members including those wounded and maimed when they return home.

North Korea is a two-bit country which may in fact develop nuclear weapons and the means to deliver the weapons to US soil. North Korea will join a list of 8 other nations also capable of deploying the “bomb”. Does Coats think China and Russia will stand by an allow the US to “take out” North Korea or any of the others preemptively?

The conservative right may feel bold and think giving North Korea a “bloody nose” in some type of preemptive move is a wise tactic. Regrettably, these “black-white” thinkers can not recognize today’s world contours. Instead they project American military strength around the world as if military strength was unique and more appropriate than diplomacy. Current generation conservatives appear more comfortable making short term decisions and in the process frittering away America’s moral and strategic leadership.

Strategic patience was the term President Obama used to encompass a comprehensive strategy for combatting North Korea and other uncooperative States. Strategic Patience foresees bad behavior by small countries as a nuisance, not an imminent threat.  And, in any comprehensive policy, President Obama’s Administration tried to engage other powers including Russia and China in attempts to find global solutions for nuisance countries.

In contrast, the Bush/Cheney era was driven by “neo-conservatives” who relied upon rattling the saber rather then undertaking the more nuanced hard work of diplomacy. Sending other people’s children to war against smaller countries was the hallmark of these “chicken hawks”. Shooting first, thinking (about the consequences) later defined these misguided leaders.

Under President Obama, foreign policy was forged with a heavy emphasis on assessing the world as it was and as it was trending. Sending our soldiers into war became a last resort.

I wonder whether Coats testimony has accidentally revealed the emergence of a new generation of chicken hawks?

Due Process

February 12, 2018

The Constitution speaks to “due process” in two Amendments (5th and 14th). Most businesses and institutions have incorporated to some degree the concept into framing their governance rules.  In essence, businesses or institutions will not take anything (employment, benefits, job level) away from anyone with out following a prescribe procedure (hence a due process).

For example, governments are not allowed to arrest someone, put them in jail, and throw the key away (thereby denying the person of life, liberty. or property). Governments may feel certain that a defendant is guilty of some crime but the Constitution guarantees there must be a clear process through which the Government can bring charges and potentially levy a fine or impose jail time.

Recently Americans have been hearing much more about “due process”. As the #MeToo phenomena is spreading, women are accusing others (mostly men) of having harassed or otherwise taken advantage of them against their will. The reaction of businesses and institutions appears also to have changed. Instead of deferring to the police, asking them to sort out if “he said, she said” involved a crime, organizations are dismissing the accused, issuing a platitudinous statement (like for conduct incompatible with our standards), and moving on.

The open question: was the accused afforded due process?

In the real world, there are regrettably many who given a position with control over others, see the opportunity to stretch this control beyond the basic tasks associated with the position. Secretaries make coffee, fetch laundry from the cleaners, and sometimes buy the boss’ wife a present when the boss runs out of time.

Other situations can be darker and more sinister. Some bosses feel free to comment upon a subordinates figure, life style, or preference when not at work. Still others coerce the subordinate into sexual relations with or without promises of advancement in the workplace.

The media (and most Americans) find this an unacceptable corruption of the work place, and the perpetrator a despicable person. But there are subordinates who for a wide scope of personal issues find it advantageous to flirt, entice, or outright proposition superiors. There are numerous reported cases where attractive women accuse sports figures of improper behavior and threaten to sue for millions.

Without due process, how can one be able to sort out responsibility?

Business and institutional behavior recently which has featured fast action to separate accused members from employment, appear to reflect only modest concern over justness, and much more about limiting institutional reputation damage.  They fear more about the accused remaining in place and the media modifying the story to a new story, not about harassment but about an institution protecting an abuser.

So when President Trump spoke out about the discharge/resignation (?) of Rob Porter, a White House aide, the President was pointed in saying “Porter did deny the claims”. The implication was that his staff had acted to quickly to bring about the resignation (or firing). Hmmm.

One might also conclude that with almost two dozen women already having claimed inappropriate behavior by Donald Trump, the President might have been anticipating the desire for caution over his own situation.

Unfit From Any Angle

February 11, 2018

The current crowd that comprises the Republican Party’s Congressional members are unfit to govern. So tell me something that I didn’t know already. Hmmm.

Throughout the Obama years, Republican leaders postured time and again about Obama Administrations incompetence. Republicans pointed to the slow growing US economy, the size of Federal Deficits, and the ruinous impact the Affordable Care Act was having upon jobs were rallying calls. Despite all evidence to the contrary, the Republican message never the less kept reinforcing the dooms day outlook.

From the day former President Obama took office, while the US economy was steadily slipping into the dangerous territory between recession and depression, the Obama Administration pushed for a balanced approach between Keynesian economic stimulation and “doing the right thing” legislation.

The 2008 economic decline bottomed out and the Affordable Care Act came into law providing healthcare for millions more. General Motors was saved from itself, consumer protection measures were put in place, and human rights enforcement became the Justice Department’s focus.

The Economy grew around 2-2.5%, unemployment steadily decreased, while America’s GDP growth lead the pack of developed countries. In foreign policy, the Obama Administration proposed that the Middle East policies should not cloud or block America’s view that an emerging super power China must be dealt with. Also, Iran and North Korea both were subject to diplomatic efforts aimed at controlling those countries’ nuclear programs while also recognizing the limits of military force. And, climate realities were met straight on with the US announcing it would join the Paris Climate Agreement in hopes of a global effort to confront global warming.

During President Trump’s first year, the past 8 years have been “denied”. The President has appointed, and the Republican controlled Congress has confirmed, Cabinet Secretaries who were either unqualified or were avowed opponents of each Department’s goals. Turning the Asylum over to the inmates would summarize the executive branch.

Important trade alliances were cast aside and the “what does this mean” slogan America First was substituted. America First is sure fired, naive call which is certain to result in less international cooperation. But the best was yet to come.

The Congress tried it best to repeal and replace Obamacare only to find that strong grass roots support for the Affordable Care Act existed and a repeal threaten the electoral viability of Republican Congress Members. Disappointed but not deterred, the Congress moved on to “tax reform” which in short order emerged as “tax cuts”.

The rush for tax cuts was strange since most business people would ask what would be the spending plan against which levying taxes could logically be set. Republican leaders and spokespersons, however, tried to frame the tax cuts as a means to grow the economy faster and magically paying for themselves.

The tax cuts passed with Republican votes and America woke up to the news that these tax cuts would add another $1.5 trillion to the deficit. Republicans then touted the GDP growth rate as already accelerating, (a near impossibility due to any recent cause and effect).

Republicans claimed that economic growth was now 3% and heading north. Republicans did not say that other modern countries were also experiencing economic growth and relatively speaking, the US was growing no faster than its major trading partners.

Even worse was the recognition that when the US economy heats up, the risk of inflation increases too. So the perfect storm is forming.

Inflation is around the corner, unemployment is near bottom (so where are the workers going to come from to man the heated economy), Republicans’ anal Mexican policies are severely restricting much needed labor, and after 10 years of expansion, sooner or later a real contraction must take over.

But there is more.

This week Democrats and Republicans compromised, not on prudent budget cuts, but instead on fiscally irresponsible, unpaid government spending. This compromise resulted from a basic inability to set national priorities and in order for one group (like Defense spenders) to get their funding, they had to go allow with Democrat favored domestic policies.

Americans will have the GOP to thank for

  • expensive healthcare
  • rising inflation
  • no tools left to stimulate the economy (taxes have already been cut and interest rates are still low) when inevitably the economy slows and slips into a recession.
  • Trading partners will take care of themselves first (as instructed) taking away a consumer of our goods and services.
  • Federal Debt interest rate costs will begin to choke out other spending.
  • A darkening view of the utility (not mention the honesty) of elected officials will occur to more Americans.
  • The American Dream and the necessary “can do” spirit will be stunted.

In real life, most Americans do not have the experience or the time to understand what their Republican elected leaders have put in play.  America First sounds good, and who is not in favor of lower taxes.  For unexplained reason, for profit insurance companies standing between Americans and their doctors sounds better than Government (as in all other modern healthcare systems around the world).

There are many reasons Republican Congress Members are unfit.  Most likely the corrosive effect of money is at the root.  Wealthy individuals have organized and fueled ideologues to frame issues and mold public opinion.  Money speaks, lots of money speaks louder.

The Republican Party has found ballot box success parroting these wealth back conservative think tanks.  Americans are about to find out from real experience, Republicans are unfit to govern.

Little Hands And The Mouse – The Parade

February 8, 2018

Thirteen months into President Trump’s reign, the “Mister I’m Against Anything and Everything Obama” has proposed an original initiative.

The President wants a parade where he can perch himself in a reviewing stand high above a tank laden, soldier rich, and nuclear weapon decorated procession. The man with little hands, 5 deferments, and a record of having no ones back wants our military to shine a spot light on him. Hmmm.

Vice President Pence wouldn’t miss the chance to once more have his picture taken behind and to the right of the President. With cameras rolling and photo ops a premium, the Vice President will soak up the national exposure while poised to come forward and denounce fellow Americans who will undoubtably stage simultaneous counter protests.

What a duo, Little Hands and The Mouse.

The parade will undoubtably be framed as a patriotic salute to the men (mostly straight men) and women who wear our military’s uniform. President Trump will speak to the country, reminding everyone of his upset victory over crooked Hillary, and state how proud he is to lead this country’s Army, Navy, and Air Force.

The President will once more tell everyone that the US is the strongest nation on earth, never been stronger, and can project its strength anywhere the need exists. And in President Trump’s military, no one takes a knee.

Should this unnecessary and inappropriate idea take shape and a national military parade be held, there will be many unintended counter activities. Trump’s toy soldier parade will bring all sorts of anti-war, anti-nuclear, and anti-Trump causes to the fore.

Framing the event as patriotic will also provide the President with another example of fake news (when few others see the need for a military parade) and “treasonous” activities (when so many speak out against the waste of money).

The Mouse then can pontificate about what a great country god has given us. Hmmm.

Little Hands at his core is simply an entertainer who sees events in terms of how well the themes reflect upon himself. Events that glorify his Presidency are preferred.

Similar situations have been seen in third world dictatorships, China, Russia, and North Korea. I wonder which model most appeals to Little Hands.

…Abridging The Freedom Of Speech, Or Of The Press…

February 7, 2018

There is probably no part of the Constitution or its amendments which has historically more defined the United States than the first Amendment. And, within the first amendment, it is the phrase about freedoms of speech and the press which tower above the rest of the first amendment as well as the rest of the Constitution.

For this reason, the current Trump Administration “war” against “fake news” is so serious.

There are no perfect forms of government, at least recorded in history. While democracies seem to have faired the best, democracies never the less have been susceptible to populist takeovers.  In most case, failed States or authoritarian leaderships have followed.

Kingdoms, dictatorships, or utopian forms have had periods of stability and productivity, but usually cease working when a change of leader (leadership) takes place. For over two hundred years, America’s democracy and capitalistic economy has flourished.  Why?

Economists have multiple explanations for America’s economic growth and wealth accumulation.  It is America’s political process with its orderly change of power that shined, especially when compared to the rest of the world. A free press calling the government to task AND the individuals right to express agreement or disagreement with government policy has served the country well. So what could go wrong?

  • An extremist Government – President Trump in cahoots with a “puppy dog” Republican controlled Congress can use the “bully pulpit” and a “carrot and the stick” tactic to influence free speech and the press. The “bully pulpit” is a powerful instrument and particularly useful if applied to worthy causes. Spreading misinformation, suppressing oversight, and rewarding only supporters can turn the bully pulpit against free speech/free press. A compliant Congress which abdicates its checks and balances duties, only adds to the danger.
  • Corporate Unlimited Spending – The Supreme Court has ruled that corporation are people and accordingly can spend unlimited amounts of money promoting any view the corporation may have being the subject public policy or a politician. The Court in essence said corporations are entitle to free speech, and the more money one has, the more free speech one has.
  • Social media limitations – In the 2016 Presidential election, social media such as Twitter and Facebook were distorted in their content delivery by “fake” content. Automated retweeting, liking, and outright fake news reports gave many social media users a distorted reality. Minor or outrightly false issues were elevated to the appearance of highly newsworthy.

Ones first reaction might be “how could the President not realize how important a viable, independent press is”, or “how could the Supreme Court conclude that a corporations could express an opinion, bak this opinion with so much money and not realize this situation is patently unfair.  How is corporate spending to promote a view compare to an individual’s free speech”, or “where is the ethical responsibility of social media companies, who want no regulations on themselves, yet allow their sites to operate without adequate checks on the accuracy of reports, masquerading as authentic, done by others”?

The American form of free speech and free press depends upon a diversity of opinions since it is not possible to know whether information presented is based solidly upon facts. In authoritarian regimes the first freedom to disappear is freedom of the press, followed quickly by free speech. Loss of first amendment rights, will free and fare elections be far behind?

President Trump’s behavior has been unwise and despicable to be sure.  Free speech and press freedom, however, are also under attack from unbalanced political spending (corporate spending versus individual spending) and a social media ripe for misuse.  Americans must come to recognize that all that keeps America free and open is our right to freely expressing our opinions and the press to write about them.

Fox News can call MSNBC a purveyor of “fake news” but President Trump should not.