Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Sad Truth Of What We Learned Yesterday About The Future Of This Country.

Andrew Cohen, a senior editor at the Marshall Project and a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, is a legal analyst and commentator for “60 Minutes” and CBS Radio News, and a contributing editor to The Atlantic.
I haven’t watched this POS make a speech since he was elected and I have no intention of starting tonight. So here’s something to contemplate instead.

I don’t know if all of you felt it. I did. This future of this country charged right over the Rubicon yesterday. And it ain’t good:
On the day before President Trump was to deliver his first State of the Union speech, an event his furious, humiliated wife reportedly will attend only grudgingly, the rest of us were reminded that a state of undeclared civil war now exists in America. On one side is the president, his Republican allies in Congress, scions of finance and commerce who are cashing in on the administration’s widening corruption, white nationalists and their enablers, the resentment-nursing, swindled “forgotten men and women,” and the gleeful Russians. On the other side are the rest of us, including longtime public servants at the Justice Department and the FBI, and congressional Democrats who have the facts but clearly not the power on their side.
I will be pushing Fair Use in this post because I have a sneaking suspicion that neither Mr. Cohen nor the New York Review of Books will mind:
The war has taken two forms. It has featured the slow dissolution of legal and political norms, of common language even, but also sporadic days of great import, when the scope of what this president and his fellow travelers are capable of is laid bare. Yesterday was one of those days. No more can we say that the Trump administration is necessarily going to obey bipartisan congressional directives designed to punish our foreign adversaries. Any more than we can say that the president’s lackeys on Capitol Hill are content to allow the investigation into his ties to Russia to proceed without direct, partisan interference. Let me put it this way: Monday was the day Congress obstructed justice to aid the president. And it was the day the White House obstructed justice to aid the Russians.
Yesterday we witnessed the spectacle of an elected President-- under a deadly serious investigation for colluding and conspiring with a hostile foreign government to secure his election--defy the will of the Congress and Senate which had voted overwhelmingly to sanction this same hostile government for those very same acts.

And we witnessed a wholly and thoroughly corrupted political party comprising roughly  half of our elected government officials willfully aid and abet him with a fabricated, self-serving “memo” designed to distract Americans from the truth of what actually happened. A fabrication designed not to uncover the truth, but to hide it:
For the rest of us, the memo is nonsense. A distraction. A cheap stunt designed to give cover to the congressional Republicans while the president continues his assaults on the very structures of federal law enforcement. Actually, it’s not simply nonsense, it’s dangerous nonsense.
It is a partisan summary of raw intelligence information whose release Trump’s own Justice Department last week said would be “extraordinarily reckless.” To believe that the memo undermines the work of the FBI, Justice Department, and Mueller is to disbelieve the mountain of independent evidence that corroborates, in whole or in part, material aspects of Steele’s work. The world no longer needs to rely on Steele or his dossier to understand how deep and abiding were the ties between Team Trump and the Russians. It need only note how many of that team are already under criminal indictment or are actively cooperating with Mueller and company.
But the real betrayal came at the end of the day:
The last headline of the day came when we learned that the White House would not impose the sanctions against Russian officials that a bipartisan Congress demanded last year. Another win for Russia; another loss for those Americans who believe that foreign states that meddle in our elections should be discouraged from doing so again (including, for example, during the mid-term elections this November). By refusing to accede to congressional directive here, by refusing to fully punish Russia for improper interference in our democratic process, the Trump White House didn’t just veer from its “tough-on-crime” theme. It also showed us how emboldened it feels.
This is now a rogue Presidency, aided and abetted by a Republican Party that has abandoned all principle and all loyalty to the country. It is a Party made up of Traitors, to the last man and woman that have pledged their fealty to it:
On this black Monday, congressional Republicans undermined generations of legislative history and precedent to help a president who then, before the sun had set, undermined the will of Congress in its battle to rein in the Russians. Some will call this treason. Others, obstruction of justice. I’d rather call it giving aid and comfort to the enemy. The really bad news of the day was the inescapable conclusion that the real enemy America faces is not foreign, but domestic.
May God help us. This is not the country I wanted for my children.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Mueller Bombshell Proves Republicans Are Running Out of Time

Robert Mueller and Donald Trump. (photo: Getty Images)
Robert Mueller and Donald Trump. (photo: Getty Images)

By Charles Pierce, Esquire
30 January 18

History will not be kind to Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and others who stand by idly.

o, if I read the state of play correctly, special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating the president* and the president*’s administration* for obstruction of justice, and Mueller has been running this investigation for seven months knowing that the president* came within an ace of firing him last June for the purposes of, ah, obstructing justice. He’s had this information in his back pocket every time a member of the administration* came before him under oath. I’ve never been a criminal defendant charged with obstruction of justice, but this seems to me to be a bad situation for an obstructor of justice to be in.

The major scoop in The New York Times that has shaken up the world can be read in a number of different ways that all lead to the same conclusion. Right from jump, the president* has been scared right down to his silk boxers of what Mueller would discover regarding his campaign’s connections to Russian ratfcking and regarding his business connections to freshly laundered Russian cash. This conclusion does not change even if you think that White House counsel Don McGahn leaked this story to make himself the hero or to cover his own ass. This conclusion does not change even if you think the ratlines off the listing hulk of this administration are thick with fleeing rodents. This whole thing remains a product of the president*’s guilty mind.

(And the story did shake up the world. The president* went before a gathering in Davos on Friday and began raving about “fake news” and the perfidy of the American media. He got booed. Many cats were called. No shoes were thrown, but George W. Bush set a pretty high bar there.)

The story does explain the curious frenzy over the last week: the president*’s saying that he’s “looking forward” to a chat with Mueller, and that he might even deign to have the chat under oath; the apparent rush to present the Congress with a half-baked “compromise plan” on immigration that has no chance of passing the House of Representatives; and the fact that the president* took every member of his inner circle except his wife to Switzerland. I suspect those folks heard the baying of the hound even before Michael Schmidt and Maggie Haberman did. More ominous is the possibility that McGahn—or whomever—leaked this story because the president* is thinking about firing Mueller now, or in the near future, and whoever the leaker was understands very well what a monumental calamity that would be for all concerned.

You would think that we would see the wheels turning now. You would think that Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell would find some slivers of patriotism between the cushions of their sofas and step up to fulfill the constitutional obligations of their respective offices. There is a genuine crisis on their doorsteps right now, and, tonight, the president is giving his State of the Union address, and god alone knows what he’s going to say.

They have not moved. They have given no indication that they will move. History will brand them as cowards and as traitors to the country’s best ideals. History’s not going to be kind to a lot of people who are living through these insane times.

GOP Panics as Signs Point to Imminent Mueller Blockbuster

Special prosecutor Robert Mueller III. (photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times)
Special prosecutor Robert Mueller III. (photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times)

By Brent Budowsky, The Hill
30 January 18
he scorched-earth attacks against the FBI by a growing number of House and Senate Republicans demonstrate a high degree of fear that special counsel Robert Mueller will make blockbuster moves in the coming days and weeks that will define the fate of ongoing investigations of the Russian attack against America.

In recent days, there have been an unusually high number of revelations and disclosures, with rapid-fire speed, of upcoming meetings between Trump and Trump associates with Mueller and his special counsel team.

Most likely, these revelations are coming from Trump associates who will be questioned by Mueller, or their attorneys, which is within their right whether or not this move is legally or politically wise.

The news that the special counsel and Trump’s attorneys are negotiating the terms of Mueller’s questioning of Trump, which appears poised to occur within three weeks if terms are agreed upon, suggests that some potentially decisive moves by Mueller are likely to happen in February and potentially could begin this month.

The prospect of Trump’s testimony under oath will be a precipitating event for either a climactic moment for the investigation or a true constitutional crisis if Trump refuses to agree to terms and Mueller moves to subpoena Trump to testify before the grand jury and an intense legal battle waged with high odds of a national political firestorm.

I have long warned readers that there is a strong chance that Trump will never voluntarily agree to testify under oath, no matter what he says. What Trump said to reporters on Wednesday, that he yearns to testify under oath, was totally meaningless because he also said his testimony is contingent upon the advice he receives from his lawyers.

Trump already knows the private advice his lawyers have offered, so when he adds that qualifier to his stated desire to testify, the odds are high that this testimony does not happen and all hell breaks loose legally and politically if and when Trump formally says no to Mueller.

Behind the scenes throughout official Washington, there is a bracing for the storm that could soon engulf the investigation.

This is the context for the extreme, often irrational and in some cases ludicrous frenzied attacks against the FBI that are coming from a growing number of Republican members of the House and Senate and their hardcore allies in the media.

Most of these attacks against the FBI are so preposterous that they will not be itemized here, except to suggest that these attacks against the FBI are horrendously wrong and create huge political danger for Republicans.

These growing GOP attacks against the FBI are politically self-destructive and legally disastrous because they suggest to reasonable people that they have no confidence that Trump and other Trump associates will be cleared by investigators.

Finally, America has now entered a very dangerous zone. If Trump ultimately intends to fire Mueller, grant preemptive pardons to those who have not yet been charged or grant pardons to those who have already been charged, those actions will be triggered by the imminent fact that Trump will either soon testify before Mueller under oath or refuse to testify.

This would set off a constitutional crisis and a huge political backlash against Trump and Republicans who defend him by attacking the FBI.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Donald Trump's ten minute press bomb was full of the greatest words ... but not much meaning

WASHINGTON, D.C. - JANUARY 16: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan in the Oval Office of the White House January 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)
There are press conferences, press gaggles, and media scrums. Then there’s whatever happened on Wednesday night as Donald Trump wandered into a press conference supposedly meant for John Kelly and conducted what amounted to ten minutes of photo-bombing his own chief of staff. Plus there were words. Some of the best words. 

As reporters scrambled to adjust to the idea that the guy who hasn’t had a press conference in 11 months was actually going to answer a question or two, Trump rewarded those who sent words his way with a collection of his greatest hits, with a B-side of things that sounded like statements, but weren’t. For example, Trump repeatedly pulled the string that caused him to declare:
"Here is the story: There has been no collusion whatsoever. There is no obstruction whatsoever." 
And paired it with what seemed like a definitive answer to words that the special counsel would like  a nice sit-down.
“Oh I would do it under oath, yeah, absolutely.”
But none of it was as clean as that makes it seem. Trump’s statements about collusion were wrapped around multiple unsuccessful attempts to get him to define what he meant by that word. His offer to testify under oath only came after after he tried to get reporters to say that he was better than Hillary Clinton—whose appearance before the FBI was not under oath … and also not an interview with a special counsel, so not at all the same. And even more critically that offer was tied to a coda that Trump would totally testify under oath—if his attorneys said it was okay.

What do you know. Trump’s attorneys had a few issues. 

But that was just one issue that Trump managed to make even more confused in his brief appearance. One of many.

The takeaway line that you’re sure to hear again was Trump’s re-definition of obstruction—which Trump hopes that he did.
“There's no collusion. Now they're saying, "Oh, well did he fight back?" If you fight back—John. You fight back. You fight back, oh it's obstruction. So here's the thing, I hope so.”
Redefining obstruction as “fighting back” puts everything that Trump has done to stop, block, delay and derail the investigation into a category that his “I’m punching this guy for Jesus” supporters can understand. From now on, expect everyone from Sarah Sanders to Sean Hannity to shrug off any instance of obstruction as just good-old fighting back.

But Trump’s appearance wasn’t limited to declaring how much he would love to talk to Mueller (No he wouldn’t—signed Trump’s legal team). He also came to remind us that:

The person in Mexico who carefully sorts every refugee attempting to get to the United States and arranges the schedule by which they attempt to swim rivers, crowd into airless semis, or curl up in trucks on a detailed government spreadsheet, is still not setting a high enough bar who he ships over. Plus chains are bad, lotterys are … oh, just read it.
“Chain migration we're going to create a good standard so that not everybody, you know not everybody that you ever met can come into the country. But you'll have wives and husbands and you'll have sons and daughters, and we'll talk about parents, parents is a tricky situation because they came here illegally. So you'll have that. But chain, where we get the lottery system is a broken system, they put people in a lottery.
They're not putting their finest in that system, you would not be in that system. You would not be in that system, they're putting some very tough—you know the lottery system gave us the killer of the West Side, eight people on the West Side Highway, and ten people that have been very very badly hurt. Nobody mentions the ten people that lost their arms and their legs, and people tend to forget but that, he came through the lottery system and he's another chain migration person.
"In the initial, we're putting chain, a negotiated chain, we're putting a replacement for lottery or an end to lottery, and it could be a replacement, we bring people in from various countries, that come in based on merit and various other reasons, and we are going to build a wall."
Asked whether he trusts the FBI, Trump’s response had the disassociated grandiosity of someone who had assembled their thoughts around the commercials on Hannity.
“Well we're going to see, I mean, I am very disturbed, as is the general, as is everybody else that is intelligent. When you look at five months, this is the late great Rosemary Woods, right? A step. This is a large scale version.”
So … no one trusts the FBI, and … something there is worse than Watergate.

Because everything these days is worse than Watergate. Except Trump’s collusion. Which …
“You're gonna define it for me, OK? But I can tell you, there's no collusion. I couldn't have cared less about Russians having to do with my campaign.
The fact is, you people won't say this but I'll say it. I was a much better candidate than her. You always say she was a bad candidate; you never say I was a good candidate. I was one of the greatest candidates.”
It takes a great man to say he was one of the greatest men. Such good words.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Who is the most embarrassing political figure in American history?

Future generations will read in their history books the tale of how millions of Americans voted for a reality TV host
About two months ago, a poll conducted by the American Psychological Association claimed 59 percent of the public believes this is the “lowest point in our nation’s history that they can remember.” And the sentiment was shared across demographics, with majorities of every age group positing this opinion in the results.

This could be a reflection of people’s attention extending no further than five minutes ago, since the lifetimes of some of the respondents would include World War II, the Vietnam War, the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., the darkest points of the Civil Rights Movement, the September 11th attacks, etc.

But, for some, the past year has been that damn bad. 

This got me to thinking about objectively looking at figures from American history and asking: which one should we be embarrassed by the most? Who has their name on a building or a monument, or their picture on a stamp, which we should really be ashamed about? Or who is the person that makes one wonder why anyone takes their opinion seriously?

And the term “political figure” can be an expansive one, since it applies to politicians, pundits, media personalities, and (theoretically) family members who decided they wanted to have a go at moving the needle of politics.

From the Lisa Ross and Stephen Kehole at the Edelman Trust Barometer:
In a year marked by turbulence at home and abroad, trust in institutions in the United States crashed, posting the steepest, most dramatic general population decline the Trust Barometer has ever measured.
It is no exaggeration to state that the U.S. has reached a point of crisis that should provoke every leader, in government, business, or civil sector, into urgent action. Inertia is not an option, and neither is silence. The public’s confidence in the traditional structures of American leadership is now fully undermined and has been replaced with a strong sense of fear, uncertainty and disillusionment.
Among the informed public, the trust crash is even steeper, with trust declining 23 points, dropping the U.S. from sixth to last place out of the 28 countries surveyed. The informed public trust crash is universal across age, region and gender. As a result, the gap in trust between the informed public and the mass population has been all but eliminated.
Now, before I get started, let me be clear. The list below is in no way meant to be definitive. So no comments like: “How could you forget to mention … who’s a huge moron!“ This is more like throwing some options on the table to get the discussion started.

During the more than 200 plus years of existence for the United States, there have been more than a few horrible presidents and national leaders. Here are some considered to be among the worst, and possible answers to the diary’s title.
  • Donald Trump: No explanation necessary.
  • Warren G. Harding: Usually considered among the worst presidents ever based on scandals (e.g., Teapot Dome) which came to light after his death. While scholarly appraisals of Harding are very negative, it should be noted that when he left office, he was very popular. However, with the revelation of affairs and bribery, the image of his administration was stained with corruption.
  • Aaron Burr: The third vice president of the United States, murderer of Alexander Hamilton, and alleged to have committed treason against the United States in an attempt to create his own country out of areas of the present-day Southwest United States and Northern Mexico. Although, Burr was acquitted of these charges when brought to trial.
  • Andrew Jackson: Considered to be one of the founders of the Democratic Party, Jackson is infamous for killing anyone who impugned the honor of anyone he cared about, and loathing central banking, which is part of the reason his place on the $20 bill has been controversial and is slated to be modified. Jackson is remembered for espousing populist tendencies, and used his outsider credentials to reach the presidency. However, he’s also remembered for his part in the forced relocation of Native Americans, contributing to a genocide.

“Always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself.” —Richard Nixon, Farewell Address, August 9, 1974
  • Richard Nixon: Since he is the only president to have resigned the office after the Watergate scandal hit full tilt, Nixon is usually the modern image of presidential corruption in pop culture. However, the record of “Tricky Dick” as president is more of a mixed bag. He opened relations with China and people like Noam Chomsky have called Nixon the “last liberal president,” since he supported the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, Endangered Species Act, the Equal Rights Amendment, and some other significant left-of-center domestic policies. But those accomplishments are largely negated and overshadowed by enemies lists, the Southern Strategy, and 18-minute gaps.
  • Joseph McCarthy: A drunk whose name is the source of the term “McCarthyism,” and is the symbol of everything connected with the “Red Scare,” blacklists of anyone considered to be un-American, and the use of fear for political ends. McCarthy, as well as his chief counsel Roy Cohn, are responsible for the destruction of lives.
  • Herbert Hoover: The stock market crash of 1929 occurred less than seven months after Hoover took office, signaling the start of the Great Depression. Hoover’s actions during the economic crisis are usually criticized for doing too little (Hoover largely rejected heavy government intervention on the basis of championing “rugged individualism”) and too much (he signed into law the Smoot–Hawley Tariff Act, which even economists of the time thought was a horrible idea). But when the 1932 presidential election came around, the unemployment rate was near 25 percent and thousands of banks were collapsing, leading to the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
  • George W. Bush: At the beginning of 2000, the United States was ascendant in its power as a nation and the lone superpower in the world. In eight short years, the country would suffer setbacks economically, militarily, and culturally that have redefined how we look at ourselves in the 21st century. The effects on the rest of the world due to the Bush Administration’s policies can still be seen in the lingering problems in the Middle East, especially the problems with ISIS and the aftermath of the Iraq invasion. The lives lost and the economic impact of Bush’s policies are staggering, and this is before even considering the Bush Administration’s part in leaving an American city to drown underwater through incompetence.
Broadening things out, here’s a selection among the current crop of politicians.
  • Sheriff Joe Arpaio [R-AZ.]: Convicted felon who was brought to justice for being an abusive asshole. Pardoned by the current crook in the Oval Office, and now a celebrated Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate.
  • Rep. Joe Barton [R-TX.]: Chairman of the House Energy Committee, who has claimed carbon dioxide isn’t a pollutant because it’s in Coca-Cola and Dr. Pepper. Also famously apologized to BP for the Obama administration urging the company to create a relief fund after the Gulf spill. Barton characterized the fund as a “shakedown.”
  • Sen. Rand Paul [R-KY.]: Child of noted wacko Ron Paul, and recently in the news for getting his ass kicked by his next-door neighbor. Whatever policy makes the most sense, Rand Paul is probably a good bet to be against it. Has stated a “right to health care” is tantamount to “slavery” for physicians such as himself. Interesting factoid about Rand Paul’s doctoring: Paul is an ophthalmologist. After a disagreement with the American Board of Ophthalmology, he started his own board and certified himself.
  • Rep. Virginia Foxx [R-NC.]: Representing North Carolina’s Fifth Congressional District and Chairwoman of the House Education Committee, Foxx has claimed Matthew Shepard was not killed because he was gay, and claims in the affirmative were a “hoax” used for passing hate crime legislation. She has also taken the quack conspiracy position that the Sixteenth Amendment is not constitutional.
  • Rep. Louie Gohmert [R-TX.]: Trump buddy and Russia apologist, Gohmert started his stupidity as a judge where he ordered people who were HIV positive to get written consent from any future partners. Also claimed Alaska needed an oil pipeline because it was a hookup spot which aided the caribou population.
  • Rep. Steve King [R-IA]: One of the dumbest people ever to walk the halls of the Capitol, a disgrace to the state of Iowa, and a reflection of the dumb idiots in the Fourth District who sent him to Washington. Has made many comments which have been dog whistles or outright appeals to white nationalism, including claiming only white people have made significant contributions to civilization. Has opposed immigration reforms and stated that for every undocumented child who’s a valedictorian, there’s another who’s “hauling seventy-five pounds of marijuana across the desert.”
Media pundits can be embarrassing as the politicians and politics they cover. Ever since the late 1960’s, the idea of “discussing an issue” has largely been centered on bringing two or more people on television to scream at each other for three to five minutes, and provide no context or objective analysis when one side is obviously wrong. Much better to cater to crazy, since it’s sexier than having an actual discussion about the ins-and-outs of policy.

There’s an interesting overlap between sports commentary and political commentary.

Both are reliant on stating the obvious, or contrived shouting between high-paid idiots. Sports talk, whether on ESPN or the radio, and political coverage, whether on the radio or cable news, largely operate on the same dynamic of having commentators with obvious biases rant and rave an opinion, which reinforces the opinions of the people listening. At a very base level, modern commentary in both sports and politics is not really about insightful analysis, nor does it give much of a positive value for correct predictions. It’s about the spectacle of things, since being as wrong as wrong can be has an entertainment value all its own, especially if one is preaching to an audience which wants to hear all the wrong things.

And that’s the biggest rub in my opinion. No one ever eats crow. The worst of these people, at any level of these levels ever acknowledge they were wrong. They rationalize or ignore.
  • The Fox and Friends Crew: Like the president they cater to every morning, objective reality has no meaning. Although, I guess to work at a network known more for sexual assaults than the quality of their reporting takes it toll.
  • Mark Halperin: Even before the sexual harassment scandal hit Halperin and hit him hard, he gave some of the most insipid insight into politics, which he delivered with full smugness.
  • Sean Hannity: Being a conservative blowhard is bad enough. But a conspiracy promoting conservative schmuck who slurps up anything Trump or the RNC squirts out is maddening and frankly pathetic.
  • Alex Jones: I don’t know which is more frightening. The fact this asshole, who pushes chemtrails and truther bullshit has a line with the White House, or people are dumb enough to buy “health supplements” from this prick.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Mike Pence laughably defends Trump against credible reports of an affair with a porn star

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 23:  U.S. Vice President Mike Pence participates in a ceremony to commemorate the anniversary of the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, at the Marine barracks on October 23, 2017 in Washington, DC. 34 years ago today terrorist detonated two truck bombs at a building that housed U.S. troops, killing 220 Marines, 18 sailors and 3 soldiers.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Vice president of hypocrisy
Mike Pence is an avowed evangelical and Christian crusader who just can’t seem to stop outright lying and covering up for Donald Trump, probably the least Christian person to occupy the White House in modern history. In the latest instance, Pence, who presumably has not spoken to any of the women in question, is speaking out to defend his boss. From Politico:
Vice President Mike Pence says reports that an adult film star had an alleged affair with President Donald Trump are "baseless allegations."
Pence spoke to The Associated Press during a visit to Jerusalem on Monday. He said he was "not going to comment on the latest baseless allegations against the president."

LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 18:  (L-R) Adult film actresses/directors Stormy Daniels, Asa Akira and jessica drake appear at the Wicked Pictures booth at the 2017 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on January 18, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
[L-R Stormy Daniels, Asa Akira and Jessica Drake] Two of these women (both the blondes, Stormy Daniels and Jessica Drake) received hush money settlements from Donald Trump’s personal attorney.
Baseless? Not one, not two, but three different female porn stars have come forward over the years to detail Donald Trump's lecherous behavior at a 2006 celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe. One recalled Trump offering her $10,000 to come to his room and have sex. One said she had to turn off her cell phone to avoid the calls from her porn star colleague and Donald Trump, begging her to come to the room and “party.” Donald Trump does not drink alcohol so one can assume what type of party he was after that night. The other porn “actress” is Stephanie Cliffords, aka “Stormy Daniels,” who in 2011 gave a detailed account of her four-month-long extramarital affair with a married Donald Trump. This is what was allegedly happening while Melania Trump, his newlywed wife, was at home with their infant son, Barron.
At one point, Stormy told In Touch, she excused herself to go to the bathroom. “When I came out, he was sitting on the bed and he was like, ‘Come here.’ And I was like, ‘Ugh, here we go.’ And we started kissing.” After having sex, Stormy said, “We hung out for a little while and he just kept saying, ‘I’m gonna call you, I’m gonna call you. I have to see you again. You’re amazing. We have to get you on The Apprentice.’”

FLUSHING MEADOWS, UNITED STATES:  US real estate tycoon Donald Trump, his wife Melania Trump and their baby Barron William Trump attend the 2006 US Open men's final between Switzerrland's Roger Federer and Andy Roddick of the US at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York, 10 September 2006.  AFP PHOTO/Timothy A. CLARY  (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
Donald Trump with Melania Trump and baby Barron Trump in 2006
In Touch Weekly says Stephanie Clifford took a polygraph during the interview—and passed. Think Donald Trump would pass a polygraph? And if the allegations are so “baseless,” why would Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s personal attorney, create a secret company in the final weeks of the campaign just to pay off Clifford:
Stephanie Clifford, who uses the stage name Stormy Daniels, was reportedly paid $130,000 by Essential Consultants LLC, a Delaware business created by attorney Michael Cohen less than a month before the 2016 presidential election, the Journal said. The company issued a draft settlement pact to Clifford, referring to her by the pseudonym "Peggy Peterson," according to Slate, which published photos of the document.

GREEN BAY, WI - JUNE 22:  Donald Trump (C) and the WWE DIVA girls attend a press conference about the WWE at the Austin Straubel International Airport on June 22, 2009 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Mark A. Wallenfang/Getty Images)
Donald Trump leading his flock to … church?
And after initially telling her story, Jessica Drake suddenly can't talk about Trump, which would seem to indicate she too came to some sort of settlement agreement with Trump and/or his attorney. In fact, in the much-discussed Fire and Fury book, author Michael Wolff says Sloppy Steve Bannon explained the Clifford settlement is the top of the iceberg:
'Look, Kasowitz has known [Trump] for twenty-five years,' Bannon allegedly said.
'Kasowitz has gotten him out of all kinds of jams. Kasowitz on the campaign - what did we have, a hundred women? Kasowitz took care of all of them.'
Marc Kasowitz is a now a former Trump attorney.

Just for fun, here’s a glimpse of the man Pence is defending. The man who paid a $25 million fraud settlement after scamming people out of their life savings. The man who is on audio tape bragging about sexually assaulting women. The man accused of sexual misconduct by more than two dozen women. The man who couldn’t turn the other cheek if his life depended on it, even over the pettiest of slights. After telling a campaign crowd the Bible is his favorite book, the very next day Trump was unable to name one single verse in the Bible. Not. One.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Politics of fear defeats courage, closes borders, builds walls, but won't make us rich or safe

By George Templeton
Rim Country Gazette Columnist
An Ethical Democracy
“…the “democratic spirit” leads to a nation without great men, a nation mainly of subliterates, morally flaccid from lack of discipline in youth, full of the cocksureness which flattery breeds on ignorance, and soft from lifelong pampering and that is what Hell wishes every democratic people to be.”  C. S. Lewis
The Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis, believed in the doctrine of man’s fall in the Garden of Eden.  He could not accept democratic rule by fallen people.
The bible is the story of God’s covenant with the Hebrews.  Their nation became arrogant and corrupt.  It repeatedly rose and fell in spite of the warning of the prophets.  It should be a lesson to politicians who think America can be made great while ignoring history.     
‘I think, somehow, the Lord’s plan is being put in place for America and these people are not only revolting against Trump, they’re revolting against what God’s plan is for America.”  Pat Robertson
Pat has a hot line to God.  Republicans cite Timothy 5:8, “But if anyone does not make provision … for members of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”  Making America great is the motivation to protect our nation from undesirable immigrants and the “lazy governments” of their countries.
Both conservatives and progressives believe that government should serve the people.  People should not serve their government.  But what does that mean?  Some of us imagine that they are slaves to a greedy, corrupt government that controls every aspect of their lives.  Suppose that this is true and that the power of their master could be gradually reduced.  At what point would they be really free?
Public Chatter from 2010
  1. My weapons are necessary to make our political leaders afraid.
  2. We need them so we can shoot the bad guys.
  3. God gives us permission to smite the evil ones.
  4. Welfare enslaves people by giving them more than they deserve.
  5. We promote class warfare by creating a class of lazy parasites.
  6. Minimum wage increases hurt the least powerful people. 
  7. Minimum wage jobs are for spoiled kids who don’t know how to work.  They should pay their employers. 
  8. We don’t need immigration or a path to citizenship.
  9. Immigrants don’t earn the price of their admission.
  10. Immigrants don’t have “our values”.
  11. The DACA “dreamer” children broke the law.
  12. We don’t need Medicare, Medicaid, and health insurance.
  13. Medicaid “dumps” Americans into hospitals, where they are twice as likely to die as those with private insurance.
  14. Business is always ethical.
  15. Greed is good.
  16. Pride trumps humility.
  17. Government must not be involved in business.
  18. Social security is an unconstitutional, socialist, Ponzi con game that robs young people.
  19. If everyone just believed like me there would be no problems.
  20. The bible is factual.  It trumps the constitution.
  21. Jerusalem must be Christian so God can carry out his end-times plan.
  22. Liberals removed God from our schools.
  23. There’s no such thing as evolution.
  24. God said.
  25. Our president is the Anti-Christ.
  26. Our golfing president is mentally unstable.
  27. Corporations are people.
  28. The education that was good enough for me is good enough for my kids.
  29. There’s no such thing as global warming.
  30. We don’t need environmental sustainability.
  31. Cutting taxes increases revenue.
Social constants reveal our nature.  We could make the same list today.  The big questions persist.  They are matters of policy, not people.
A common propaganda technique is to attack the person instead of the policy.  Trump turns it upside down when he claims “I don’t know that person” when in fact policy is the issue.  When he has no philosophy, no policy, he has only himself.  His mind is easily changed.
America’s Self
Aren’t you the same person that you were when you were ten years old?  Deep down inside we know our personhood has not changed.  Why should we be anyone else?  The young child chants in unrealized insightfulness, “I’m me.”!  It all begins with the individual and only later becomes social.  Growing up develops wisdom but the person does not feel that he has become an imposter with a foreign identity.   
The cells in our body die and are completely replaced as we grow, yet we are the same person.  We are ourselves.  Then, what makes us think that we are the same nation?  Is it something more than geography?  Is it psychology?  Are their proxies for this, like the rings in a tree that measure age and rain?  Is there a token, like barking that most dogs do even though they are of different breeds?  Technology and culture change.  Yet we are the same people and the same nation.  Minds can be changed.  Brains don’t change.
There is a democratic way of doing things, but somehow America is more than this.  Is there an American soul, like the religious one that is immortal, unbound, that takes action but can be corrupted?  There is no concrete evidence, yet the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  Perhaps it is the American spirit.  These days, it isn’t holy. 
Politics has become an entertainment business where the actors lack the professionalism that would be required in business.  The source of disputed data is never given.  Congressional meetings do not have action items.  There will not be agreement when further work is required.  Our leaders need to help us understand each other.  Only then can we come together to solve problems. 
Authority cannot stand forever or alone even though sometimes decisions must be made.  Claims need justification and assumptions should be made explicit.  This requires transparency.  Ideology has muzzled discourse.  Witness the lack of public congressional hearings on taxation and healthcare.
Structured Thinking
Before facts can “speak” they must be arranged.  In science, relationships can be better understood by placing them on a graph.  There are many different coordinate systems.  Often, a particular frame of reference makes things easier to understand.
In Physics, the equations of motion can be written in terms of energy or inertia.  They are intertwined in reality.  You can’t change one without denying the other. That is why the Bible’s story of the sun and moon stopping their motion about the earth at the battle of Jericho is problematic.
In electronics, the behavior of a circuit can be described in terms of impedances or admittances (standing on your head so to speak).  The equations look very different but they describe the same factual reality.  Verifiable facts unite the tribes of impedance and admittance.  But in politics there are no facts.  We can’t progress without them.
The Road to Serfdom
The Tea-Party brought Friedrich Hayek’s old book back to life, but they neglected to place it within the structure of culture and time.  The Barbra Streisand movie, The Way We Were, sets the stage.  It was the time of Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, the great depression, unregulated banks, irrational over exuberance, and two world wars.
Hayek explained the danger of unfeeling bureaucracies.  He knew that prices could not be set according to perceived merit.  What something is worth is what you can get for it.  Control of the economy could not be centralized.  He knew that life was about personal property, striving, and competition.  He was not against social support and welfare.
A Second Coming
When Jesus comes for the second time, he will find a much more complex and interdependent world.  The Ten Commandments are an ethical and spiritual teaching reflecting personal morality.  The bible expands their short form to treat slavery and justice.
John Rawls was not trying to replace the Bible when he recognized that there was a need for a moral foundation to our democratic tradition.  A strong ethic can learn from and incorporate new ideas without losing its identity.  It can explain the successes and failures of other traditions better than they themselves can.  It can understand other ideologies well enough to humbly explain its own failures to them in their own terms.
Rawls argued that each person is to have an equal right to liberty compatible with a similar liberty for others.  He argued for equal opportunity and that social and economic inequalities must be to everyone’s advantage.  The latter concerns a social contract.  We need a vibrant middle class to buy the products that Trump says will be built with expensive American labor.
Democratic Realism
Democracy requires participative debate, where arguments are for learning instead of winning.  The February 2018 issue of the Scientific American explains that sometimes there is no single truth.  The compulsion to win changes the question, legitimizes lies, and rewards triviality.
They didn’t take our jobs, we lost them.  They don’t send their worst to the USA.  Immigrants don’t get welfare.  The dreamers are not criminals.  It isn’t a lottery.  Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins don’t get admitted.  Professional people, who have held jobs for 25 years, have homes, wife, and children get deported.  That’s not a sanctuary.  Abortion is not legal in the ninth month of pregnancy.  Doctors don’t tear the heads off of crying infants still in the womb.  There is much to be learned.
Treating other human beings as subjects instead of objects is a solution.  Objects are given welfare.  They are a means to an end.  They are manipulated into voting.  They are simple.  Subjects come to understanding and overcome differences.  They act as if they had a soul.
The Soul of America
Religions disagree on the concept of the soul, perhaps because there is no evidence.  It lacks paint for the narrow brush of science to use.  The broad brush of religion is mutually contradictory and ambiguous.  If the soul resides in no particular place, moving the trigger finger, it violates physics.  “Where does the energy go?” is the fundamental question.  Yet America has a conscience, and an archetype.  We need only to look to see it.   
A Man of La Mancha
Character and virtue trump “should” and “ought”.  Was Don Quixote, the man who pursued the impossible dream, a story of heroism that went unavoidably wrong or was it because Don was cleverly using other people?  Should we aspire to impractical idealism because it powers the American dream?
Our politics of fear defeats courage, closes borders, and builds walls, but what will make us rich and safe?  Chanting “USA”, like in the Glow TV series, where gorgeous wrestling ladies portrayed heroes or villains, won’t do it.  Pride is not enough.  It takes discipline.  Destroying the accumulation and continuity of democracy won’t do.   As the Beatles song goes, are we better to just “let it be”?