Tuesday, October 15, 2019

A Denial of Self-Deception


When people become angry enough, they take delight in destroying. 

By George Templeton
Gazette Columnist

How can God meet us face to face before we have faces?  We have to understand ourselves before we can claim innocence.  The Values Voter Summit, on October 12, 2019 makes this implicit.
Professor Charles Mathewes, a Western religious studies professor, contemplates Why Evil Exists.  We think in straight lines, trying to preserve the constant, while ignoring the much more significant slope.  It portends our future.
Professor Craig Koester of the Luther Seminary writes about The Apocalypse.  In Chapter 13 of Revelations, the phantasmagorical beast from the sea is a politician.  The beast from the land that supports him is Ante-Nicene Rome, known for the killing of Jesus Christ.
Dr. Daniel Breyer, professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies, describes Understanding the Dark Side of Human Nature.  He poses questions to help us delve deeply into the depths of our being.  If you could fly or be invisible, which would you choose?
George W. Bush defined North Korea, Iran, and Iraq as the “axis of evil” in his 2002 State of the Union address.  Our President has explained government turmoil as an attempted coup by the “bad” guys.  Pat Robertson said, “The President of the United States is in danger of losing the mandate of heaven if he permits this to happen”, referring to the Turkish assault on Kurdish Christians.  Don’t you suppose there is more to it than they say?
Church leaders, theologians, philosophers, and politicians have wrestled in vain with the problems of sin and evil.  If they even exist, it is not clear what they are.
To frame the following I have used the sources mentioned in my preface.  They outline Western intellectual tradition, the political side of religion, and the psychology of being human.  
A Grand Self
It’s ironic. The need to appear exceptional leads to feeling fraudulent.  There is a choice between prestige and empathy.  It argues for humility.
Prestige is for the rich and famous.  Empathy is for the poor and obscure.  The decline of the middle class might be sinful, but Trump is not one of them.  His rise to President suggests that materialism, not thought, matters.  We should remember that Karl Marx was wrong about the poor overthrowing the rich.
Whenever foreign diplomacy is personal instead of policy, you can rest assured that its ground is self-interest, not public benefit.  Lavish flattery and cajolery are not diplomatic tools.   Government speaks in measurable objectives, not emotion.
Conservative Liberals
Conservatives value loyalty, obedience, and respect.  It promotes the idea that the world is just. People get what they deserve, and we are not responsible.  Liberals focus on fairness to the individual, equal opportunity, and prohibiting harm.
For Goodness Sake 
Are you one of the “good” guys?  Most of us think we are.  There is the belief that we are good and the other, well; we would never be like them!  But we think we are justified because everybody does it and they did it first.
In a burst of anger, you hurt somebody.  You feel ashamed and guilty because it wasn’t you, but when you wake up in the morning you realize that it was and still is you.  Anger can be good or bad.   It can result in unhinged, unplanned behavior.  Then it is destructive.  If it gives life to public discourse, it becomes propaganda.   It can be a motivator.  Then it is controlled.  But there are alternatives.
Do not become angry.  Does it really help the situation?  If you are our President, it won’t change the reality that the “deep state” does not agree with you.  When people become angry enough, they take delight in destroying.  Their anger takes control.  Replace anger with loving kindness.  Set an example.  Everyone seeks happiness.  Help them with that.  It’s the root of politics.
Should we turn the other cheek?  Don’t we have a right to self-defense?  There is a posture between pacifism and “hitting back”.   It is assertive and defiant but not brutal.   Kindness promotes non-aggression.  Our dark side is satisfied when someone gets what we think they deserved.  It makes hatred and revenge seem O.K.
Trapped by Happiness   
We are not happy when our desires trap us.  It springs from wants that go far beyond the necessities of life.  The Buddha realized that the reasons for suffering are our delusional cravings and uncontrolled desires.  It’s more than wants.  We all have those, but become angry when the world turns out different than we wanted it to.  Some crave the impossible and react with violence when they don’t get it.  They cannot accept a world that they deem unfair.  They may succeed or fail, just because of luck instead of hard work.  Leaders are accountable for everything while having direct control over almost nothing.  There are a lot of ways to get it wrong, and perhaps only one way to get it right.  A single stumble can change an outcome.
Everybody likes to win, but we learn more from our losses.  It is painful, yet it helps us understand.  Sometimes personal desire overrides judgment and working for the common good.  A leader is substantially to blame for his decisions, but not for the consequences of those decisions.  Those who are hurt don’t agree.   Al Wilson’s poem about the snake illustrates this.  In it, a woman kindly cares for a snake that bites her just because it is a snake.  Buddhist philosophy holds that the viper’s fundamental nature lies beyond praise and blame.
Mind over Morality
Calvinists explain that everyone wants to sin, but some of us do resist evil.  They work to repair the damage done.  But all that is required for evil is a rational mind.  When we become self-conscious we make excuses.  We know things that are not facts.  It is human to have a mind, inhumane to be unfeeling.
Our minds are a prediction machine constructing illusions based on our cognitive history.  An incomprehensible pallet of black and white blotches is seen as a butterfly when its color representation is first revealed.  It’s why propaganda needs initial exposure to help it do its dirty work.  There is an “ultimate reality”, but its components are ruled by our perceptions.  It’s in Hindu philosophy (Brahman, Maya), explained in modern terms in the September 2019 issue of the Scientific American.  Simply put, the world is not as it seems.  It is easy to have a mistaken view of the truth because anything that challenges belief strengthens it. 
Is a robot’s “life” moral because it follows its program?  Your job does not give you a raise for what you could have, would have, or should have done, but recognition of these things testifies to one’s moral character.  You can join the crowd.  It provides strength through numbers, but you lose your individuality.  When power is at stake, the more ridiculous the lie, the more important it becomes to side with it.  When you can’t trust anything, what is left besides the self?  We can march to the beat of a different drummer, but we become lonely.
Evil Exists?
“And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.”  Genesis 1:31
Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430) must have agreed, but even before his time there was a Christian emphasis on apocalyptic conflict.  Augustine viewed evil as a perversion of good.  It was an ignorance of reality, that the truth cannot be denied.  It wants empty, meaningless things.  Then evil is not a thing in itself.  It is not even a property of anything.  It cannot be seen.  It seems to have something to do with personhood.  Its inward manifestation is more important than its outside objectivity.  But aren’t some evils (nuclear war, genocide) beyond the everyday and ordinary?
In the Qur’an, Iblis rebelled against God.  His evil was both his action and something he watched himself doing.  It was committing to nothing.
It seems that a person can be evil even though he hasn’t done anything. And a person who has done terrible things might not be evil if he has a normal sense of right and wrong.
Evil is more than morally wrong.  Morality goes beyond the rules that people create.  Some things are wrong because of the law, others no matter what.  But evil is something more than immorality.  Morality is neither sensational nor profitable.  Like Augustine’s theory of privation, ignorant superficiality is not a thing or action.  It is an absence.
Nietzsche (1844-1900) said, “God is dead”.   He replaced good and evil with health and sickness.  Humanities’ guilt was their author.  Religion does not get along with him in principle, but it often does in action.  The strong do not have sympathy for the rules the weak live by. 
True evil cannot be redeemed.  The Anti-Christ is its personalization, identified as a tyrant, a world conqueror, a deceiver who never settles on any of his possibilities, a false prophet, a magician, and a severe persecutor.  He can be found in the theology of history.  Our fascination with a literal belief in him traces back to Sir Isaac Newton.
Christianity is overly optimistic when it comes to today's problems.  The church moves away from individual morality toward social thought as the world becomes increasingly entangled.
The author, Albert Camus (1913-1960), thought that there could be something in human nature causing us to not take evil seriously.  It was pointless to try to define evil.  We must fight it when and where we encounter it.  We must learn how to live with our guilt, because there is no way to escape it.
I Have Sinned!
Morality comes from reason and sentiment, but it is not the same for everyone.  Rationality works in the service of our passions.  Sound judgment should lead us to harmonize, but envy is dissonant.
We choose violent movies, games, and assault rifles.  Murder, mutilation, and suicide fascinate us.  We enjoy the stimulation that comes from fear, disgust, and catastrophe.  We become desensitized to cruelty, injustice, and suffering.  Could it be that we are masochistic?
Most of us have had murderous thoughts that we don’t acknowledge.  Having second thoughts is what keeps us from getting even.  Would you kill another person?   Aggression is a fundamental part of human nature.  You cannot excise it without cutting out an essential part of our being.  You could be envious and violent instead of caring and kind.  But this legitimizes evil.  It was duty and normal loving families which led to the Holocaust.  When you are obligated, and you act correctly, without reward, are you being moral?
Can we sin by miscalculating or having an imperfect aim (collateral damage) or does one just have to not care about laws, rules, and regulations?  Is morality a matter of social scale?  Is it only actions that matter?  They come from our thoughts, but thoughts alone can be sinful according to the Bible.  Actions deliver us from harm, not just knowing.
Truth and Consequences 
When you have nothing to lose by lying, evil starts to come out.  Lies grow in the dark, where there is secrecy.  Corruption spreads from the top down.  We do whatever benefits us as long as we can get away with it.  It is one thing to lie with the intent to deceive and fool others.  It is quite another to make a mistake within the complexity of interdependence.  Recognition of nuance is an impediment to simple “truth” and personal security.  We cry out for a short easy explanation.
Man is not the only creature that deceives, lies, and cheats.  Evolution developed camouflage, mimicry, and deception for the mindless survival of bugs.  Humans are con artists for intentional, intelligent reasons.  Scientists tie consciousness to reality in strange ways.  The Tiantai Buddhists believe that a single thought contains all worlds.  If evil can be found anywhere, then its potential exists in us.  A contrary view holds that anything visible is moral.
Sodom and America
We are like the drug addict who accuses his dealer.  Is it who acts that makes it immoral?  Victims are like a lettuce plant.  It is not the plant’s fault when it doesn’t grow.
Does forgiveness have a statute of limitations?  Professor Breyer writes, “Forgiveness is more than forgetting and less than excusing.”  Buddhists remind us that if we don’t harm another person we won’t need to be forgiven.  We can change our ways even if we are unforgiven.
Nations sometimes need the world to forgive them, but resentment gets in the way.  It makes things harder to change.  There is a connection between forgiveness and redemption.   Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) thought mankind could not pay his debt to God without Jesus.  Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) built on Anselm’s idea.   We should contritely apologize and repair the damage done.
Explaining Human Nature
You can take an optimistic or pessimistic, or neutral view of the behavior traits we are born with, but most people think that we can learn even if we are born sinners.
The bigger the lie, the harder we have to work to believe it.  How can we believe something that we know is wrong?  It is mutually exclusive simultaneous belief.  It seems paradoxical.  It requires a split personality, one part where the truth exists and the other not.  This is not self-convincing or wishful thinking.  It is intentional self-deception.  It is not “just believe” or biased news.  It is about lying to oneself.  There can be no conscious when self-deception is complete.  In that case, one does not realize what they are doing.  The self grows without bounds.
Adam (freely?) ate the banned fruit from the tree of knowledge.  Innocence was lost.  Guilt was born.   It created responsibility.  The serpent said, “You will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  But do we?
Eden may have been the first falling, but it was not the origin of evil.   Community expanded and deepened sin.  Individual guilt became public culpability.  Shamelessness was liberation.  We have moral freedom and infinite individual value according to Christian tradition.  We inherit as children do, and that includes the relational dimension of sin.
We say that it was God’s will when things turn favorably, but we are not so certain when they don’t.  Lincoln, in his Second Inaugural Address, framed the Civil War as God’s judgment for the sin of slavery.  But probability springs from the expansive ground of possibility.  That is our blind spot.  We are fooled by randomness.  It is disorder that is more than uncertain.  It lacks sustained trend. 
We have to be free to be responsible.  The sixteenth century Jesuit theologian Luis de Molina tried to eliminate the conflict between our free will, God’s providence, and his complete knowledge of the future.  It was an uncertain logic that threatened cause and effect.  Christian determinism can lead to inaction.  After all, it’s God’s will.  Why would a perfect God who knows the future and controls everything allow us to sin?  We are commanded to not sin, but allowing evil must somehow promote God’s plan.  It was not God that Dostoevsky rejected, but rather the world that he created.
Ignorance is Innocence
Evil promotes self-deceiving because it operates hidden in solitude without connection to others.  Simple final solutions lead to fanaticism, but a lack of zealotry is permissive.  It is an ignorant world that has no measurable objectives (business), no cause and effect (science), and no difference (math).
What is at stake is losing the “why” of things.  It is what humanity and consciousness is all about.  We should envision ourselves in every situation, imagining how we would act.  Only that way will we stop fooling ourselves, and begin to understand who we are.  There is no policy that can replace having an open mind and a connection with disparate humanity.  This way, we can avoid becoming preoccupied with ourselves.  We can focus on service to humanity, speaking truth to power, and making principle greater than profit.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Trump's Saigon Evacuation Moment: US Troops Flee and Syrian/Russian Forces Are Invited in by Kurds

Evacuation of Saigon. A CIA employee (probably O.B. Harnage) helps Vietnamese evacuees onto an Air America helicopter from the top of 22 Gia Long Street, a half mile from the U.S. Embassy. (photo: Getty Images)
Evacuation of Saigon. A CIA employee (probably O.B. Harnage) helps Vietnamese evacuees onto an Air America helicopter from the top of 22 Gia Long Street, a half mile from the U.S. Embassy. (photo: Getty Images)

By Juan Cole, Informed Comment

14 October 19

For us oldsters, one of the iconic photographs of the twentieth century was the last US military helicopter taking off from the roof of the US embassy in Saigon, with desperate people hanging off it, fearful of what would happen to them when they fell into the hands of the victorious Viet Cong.

It happened on the watch of president Gerald Ford, though it was really Dick Nixon who negotiated a US defeat in Vietnam in 1972, after which the US began withdrawing. Ford nevertheless suffered some public opprobrium, and the debacle may have helped Jimmy Carter defeat him the following year.

In Syria, this is Trump’s Saigon Moment. All US special forces personnel are being withdrawn from Syria after Turkish artillery targeted some of their bases to force them back from the border, and after Turkey cut off their supply lines. At the same time, Syrian Arab Army troops are advancing on the Kurdish northeast of Syria, raising the danger of US troops getting caught in the crossfire. A thousand such troops are too few even to defend themselves, and although no one is saying so, I suspect they also fear the anger of their betrayed allies, the People’s Protection Units or YPG, among whom they have been embedded, but whom Trump has now turned over to Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan’s abattoir.

Ironically, the troops will evacuate to Turkey, presumably to Incirlik Air Force Base, which the US leases. Although the US military is hoping for an orderly retreat and successful deconfliction with Turkey’s military, the shadow of danger has fallen over US troops in the chaos of the fall of the Kurdish mini-state. Not since 1975 have they had to rush for the exits in quite this ignominious a fashion, and it is said that they are angry about it, especially about the US betrayal of the Kurds who bravely fought alongside them against ISIL.

As the US withdraws, Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian Arab Army is coming in. The YPG Kurds have already turned their checkpoints in east Aleppo over to the SAA, according to some reports.

Likewise, the YPG in the enclave of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) have invited the Russians and the regime in, and they were expected to arrive Sunday evening.

It may seem like a long time ago, but Kobani was besieged by ISIL in September, 2014, and the dire character of their circumstances convinced the Obama administration to intervene for them from the air, a step toward deeper US involvement in Syria.

That partnership with the Kurds in pushing back ISIL, the cult of terror, is now over, as dozens of high-value ISIL captives have escaped in the chaos of the Turkish invasion.

Instead, the Kurds are appealing to Russia to mediate for them with the Syrian Baathist regime, a notoriously cruel and vindictive one-party state that sees the Kurds’ alliance with the US 2014-2019 as having been treasonous, as Al-Jazeera points out. The regime has tortured 10,000 dissidents to death, and even if its Syrian Arab Army troops do come in to frustrate the Turkish advance, they will almost certainly start rounding up Kurdish leaders of the autonomous Kurdish region.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Why Are Americans So Confused About the Meaning of "Democratic Socialism"?

The meaning of democratic socialism―a mixture of political and economic democracy―should be no mystery to Americans.  After all, socialist programs have been adopted in most other democratic nations.  And, in fact, Americans appear happy enough with a wide range of democratic socialist institutions in the United States, including public schools, public parks, minimum wage laws, Social Security, public radio, unemployment insurance, public universities, Medicare, public libraries, the U.S. postal service, public roads, and high taxes on the wealthy.

Even so, large numbers of Americans seem remarkably confused about democratic socialism.  This April, at a CNN town hall in New Hampshire, an attendee complained to Senator Bernie Sanders, a leading proponent of democratic socialism, that her father’s family left the Soviet Union, “fleeing from some of the very socialist policies that you seem eager to implement in this country.”  Sanders responded:  “Is it your assumption that I supported or believe in authoritarian communism that existed in the Soviet Union?  I don’t.  I never have, and I opposed it.”  He added:  “What democratic socialism means to me is we expand Medicare, we provide educational opportunity to all Americans, we rebuild our crumbling infrastructure.”

But, despite Sanders’ personal popularity and the popularity of the programs he advocates, large numbers of Americans―especially from older generations―remain uneasy about “socialism.”  Not surprisingly, Donald Trump and other rightwing Republicans have seized on this to brand the Democrats as the party of socialist dictatorship.

Why does socialism―even something as innocuously labeled as democratic socialism―have this stigma?

Originally, “socialism” was a vague term, encompassing a variety of different approaches to securing greater economic equality.  These included Christian socialism, utopian socialism, Marxian socialism, syndicalism, evolutionary socialism, and revolutionary socialism.  For a time, Socialist parties in many countries, including the Socialist Party of America, housed these differing tendencies.

But the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution led to a lasting division in the world socialist movement.  The Bolsheviks, grim survivors of Russia’s centuries-old Czarist tyranny and vigorous proponents of socialist revolution, regarded the democratic, parliamentary path followed by the Socialist parties of other countries with scorn.

Consequently, renaming themselves Communists, they established Communist parties in other lands and called upon true revolutionaries to join them.  Many did so.  As a result, the world socialist movement became divided between Socialist parties (championing multi-party elections and civil liberties) and rival Communist parties (championing revolution followed by a Communist Party dictatorship).

Despite the clear difference between Socialist parties (promoting democratic socialism, often termed social democracy) and Communist parties (promoting the authoritarian Soviet model and Soviet interests), plus the bitter hostility that often existed between them, many Americans associated one with the other.

This confusion was enhanced, in subsequent decades, by the tendency of Communists to cling to the term “socialist.”  As “socialism” had positive connotations for many people around the world, Communist leaders frequently argued that Socialists weren’t “socialist” at all, and that Communists were the only true “socialists.”  Communist-led nations alone, they claimed, represented “real socialism.” 

Actually, Communist and Socialist parties didn’t have much in common.  The Soviet government and later unelected Communist regimes―much like fascist and other rightwing governments―became notorious as brutal tyrannies that instituted mass imprisonment, torture, and murder.  In reaction, many Communists grew disillusioned, quit their parties, or sought to reform them, while popular uprisings toppled Communist dictatorships.  By contrast, Socialist parties won elections repeatedly and governed numerous nations where, less dramatically, they enacted democratic socialist programs.  Nowhere did these programs lead to the destruction of political democracy.

Meanwhile, the Socialist Party of America gradually disintegrated.  One reason for its decline was government repression during World War I and the postwar “Red Scare.” Another was that, in the 1930s, the Democratic Party adopted some of its platform (including a massive jobs program, Social Security, a wealth tax, union rights for workers, and minimum wage legislation) and absorbed most of its constituency.  Rather than acknowledge the socialist roots of these popular policies, President Franklin Roosevelt and the Democrats chose to talk of a New Deal for “the common man.”  This sleight of hand boosted the Democrats and further undermined the dwindling Socialist Party.

In response, conservatives―especially big business, its wealthy owners, and their political defenders―acted as if a Red revolution had arrived.  Assailing Social Security, Republican Congressman Daniel Reed predicted that “the lash of the dictator will be felt.”  In January 1936, at a gala dinner sponsored by the American Liberty League, a group of wealthy business and conservative leaders, Al Smith―the former New York Governor who had turned sharply against the Roosevelt administration―addressed the gathering and a national radio audience.

Charging that New Dealers had enacted “the Socialist platform,” he asserted that “there can be only one capital, Washington or Moscow.  There can be only one atmosphere of government, the clear, pure, fresh air of free America, or the foul breath of communistic Russia.”

During America’s Cold War confrontation with the Soviet Union, conservatives frequently employed this line of attack.  “If Medicare passes into law, the consequences will be dire beyond imagining,” Ronald Reagan warned a radio audience in the early 1960s.  “You and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children, and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.”  Against this backdrop, most Democrats kept their distance from the word “socialism,” while much of the public simply wrote it off as meaning tanks in Moscow’s Red Square. 

More recently, of course, the disappearance of the Soviet Union and most other Communist nations, rising economic inequality, the attractive model of Scandinavian social democracy, and Bernie Sanders’ Americanization of “socialism” have enhanced the popularity of “socialism”―in its democratic socialist form―in the United States. 

It’s probably premature to predict that most Americans will finally recognize the democratic socialist nature of many programs they admire.  But that’s certainly a possibility. 

Lawrence Wittner ( ) is Professor of History Emeritus at SUNY/Albany and the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press).

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Vladimir Putin left Helsinki in 2018 with a list of things to do, now it's 2019 and Trump … is done

In July of 2018, when Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin met in Helsinki, most people were simply gobsmacked by Trump’s obsequious attitude, how he looked to the Russian autocrat before answering any question, and his overall impression of astounding weakness. But Putin not only swaggered to the podium with assurance, he brought with him a list. A list of things that he and Trump had discussed as targets for future action. The nature of the list wasn’t perfectly clear for American audiences, but Daily Beast Russian Media Analyst Julia Davis helpfully translated the items clutched between Putin’s fingers as he stood confidently next to Trump.
  1. “Interference”
  2. Ukraine
  3. Syria
That may seem to be a decade ago, but amazingly it’s been just a little more than a year since one man left that conference looking defeated and the other smiled all the way home. And check, check, double-check with an underline, those items certainly were addressed.

Davis was able to decipher a bit of text related to each of these items.

Interference”—which really was in quotes—came next to the word “proposal.” Whether that means Putin was offering a proposal on how to stop interference, or how to increase it, is open to interpretation.

On the Ukraine item, there was also a mention of “new ideas” and “transit of gas.” Which could have hinted at a scheme to route Russian gas, especially since another of the clear areas of the text mentions the “Nord Stream 2 pipeline.” But it’s worth noting that Burisma, the company where Hunter Biden was on the board, was a gas company. In other words, Putin’s competition.

Finally, the Syria item comes with a nice little explainer about “joint humanitarian efforts.” So all is good there. Unless, of course, those humanitarian efforts are directed at how Europe will deal with the 11,000 ISIS fighters that Trump wants to push their way.

The really scary thing—the visible page is just what Putin was showing the camera out of a clipped-together bundle.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Facebook exec who won't stop Trump ads smearing Biden worked for RNC, NRSC, Giuliani campaign

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 26: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media while flanked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after arriving at a Senate Republican weekly policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol March 26, 2019 in Washington, DC. Congressional top Democrats have demanded Attorney General William Barr to release special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation report for the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Facebook working hard on their behalf

As Daily Kos’ Marissa Higgins wrote Wednesday:
Donald Trump’s reelection campaign is currently running an ad on Facebook that, with absolutely no evidence, suggests that when he was vice president, Joe Biden threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. aid to Ukraine to coerce the country’s government into stopping an investigation into his son Hunter. Biden has repeatedly said that this story is completely false. Various reputable fact-checkers, ranging from Politifact to, have also disputed the claim. CNN, for example, refused to air the ad. It’s not a gray area or tricky wording—it’s a lie.
 Did Facebook remove the ad? Nope. The tech giant rejected the Biden campaign’s request to pull the ad ...

CNN reporter Donie O'Sullivan tweeted a copy of the letter Facebook sent in response:

Here's the letter Facebook sent the @JoeBiden campaign explaining why it allowed Trump to run Facebook ads with false allegations about the VP and Ukraine -- @sarahmucha reports. 

View image on Twitter
View image on Twitter

Note that the letter is signed by Katie Harbath, Facebook's public policy director for global elections. Who is she? 

The Washington Post notes: 
As associate manager for policy at Facebook, Katie Harbath helps government officials and candidates for office maximize the potential of the site.

She joined Facebook in 2011 after directing the National Republican Senatorial Committee's digital strategy during the 2010 election cycle.
Oh, really?
Career History: Chief Digital Strategist at the National Republican Senatorial Committee (2010 cycle) DCI Group, Deputy eCampaign Director Rudy Giuliani for President Campaign, Associate Director eCommunications Republican National Committee NRSC. RNC. Rudy for President campaign. And now she’s telling the Biden campaign that, gee, gosh, Facebook doesn’t want to get political, and preventing Trump from running ads that are flat-out lies would be too political.

Facebook is toxic. Everyone who uses it needs to think about that.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Art of forsaking a deal—the real 'genius' of Trump

US President Donald Trump speaks to the press about a whistleblower after a swearing-in for US Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia in the Oval Office of the White House September 30, 2019, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)        (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
There’s nothing special about the Kurds. At least, nothing special about them when it comes to how they’re being treated by Donald Trump. Because betrayal is his trademark.

It is almost comical to watch the same Republicans who are still deeply entrenched in defending Trump over withholding military aid from Ukraine as they weep over his surrendering the Kurds to Turkey. Just almost comical. Because the bombs already falling on civilian areas, the thousands, or tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands who are certain to die, and the utter certainty that this will spawn another cycle of violence and revenge in the Middle East tend to dull any humor.

Of course, things will be different when, a few years down the line, America faces some fresh threat. Because next time, no nation, region, or people will be so foolish as to put their trust in the United States.

How Trump has handled the situation with the Kurds is easy enough to diagnose.

Turkish autocrat Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has something to offer Trump. The Kurds have nothing. That’s Trump personally, of course. The Kurds have plenty to offer the United States. In fact, they’ve offered it all. Refusing to stand against an attack on Kurdish positions sends every wrong signal about how the United States values alliances. It also throws fresh salt in the wounds of every other group in the region that has suffered under repeated assurances that when the United States went into Iraq, there was some plan for supporting stability and self-governance.

All of this is horrible. But no one should pretend it’s a surprise. Betraying those with whom he supposedly has a deal for even the slightest personal gain has been Trump’s signature move at every level, from the international to the microscopic.

What Trump is doing now is no different than when he encouraged the blockade of a U.S. ally hosting the largest American military base in the Middle East by the authoritarian regime of Saudi dictator Mohammed bin Salman. Trump was not only willing to turn a blind eye while the Saudis and their satellite states crushed Qatar for the high crime of having an independent media, but he also actively encouraged the action and repeated unfounded propaganda being used to support the action. And if a Washington Post journalist got tortured, dissected, and burned along the way—Trump was okay with that, too.

What’s happening to the Kurds can’t possibly be a surprise to those who have watched Trump repeatedly kick NATO. Or watched him twist the arms of leaders from Europe to Asia over claims that they’re not putting up enough protection money. Betraying people isn’t just what Trump does; it’s what his followers have been cheering for.

When Trump walked away from the Paris agreement on climate change, lied about what was in that agreement, and championed the cause of climate crisis denial—that was betrayal. When Trump broke the Iran nuclear treaty without cause, leaving allies to hold the bag as he illegally walked away from a valid multinational agreement that was protecting against nuclear proliferation—that was betrayal.

When Trump ended NAFTA on a pretense, and with no purpose other than creating a new agreement that he could Sharpie with his name—that was betrayal.

When Trump declared a national emergency to steal funds that were supposed to go to homes, schools, and hospitals for military personnel in order to fund his border sham—that was betrayal. When Trump destroyed protections for clean water for no reason other than to benefit those who had pumped cash into his money-bucket inaugural fund—that was betrayal. On a smaller level, when Trump reversed his praise for his first secretary of state and went from calling him “brilliant” to calling him “stupid” after he refused to support an illegal action—that was betrayal.

But it was just one of the many times that Trump turned on his staffers, business partners, or employees if they failed to be useful to him in the moment. His personal attorney, his attorney general … the list is too long to repeat. Trump has never thought of loyalty as a two-way street. People are there to be used, then discarded.

Betrayal is literally what Trump ran on—on breaking agreements, breaking laws, and breaking families. It was in every story he told, right down to how he shorted people who had done his plumbing or sold him curtains. Trump told those stories of how he backed out on signed agreements—and stories of how he cheated on his obligation to pay taxes—as his good point. And his supporters cheered and cheered.

At one point in his business “career,” Trump bankrupted a casino, talked a group of investors into supporting him in setting up a fund to purchase that casino, purposely bankrupted that fund, then bought back the whole thing for pennies on the dollar—and bankrupted it again while walking away with a fat personal profit.

It’s something he treats as a win.

That’s who he is. He is fundamentally dishonorable. And proud of it.

He told everyone who he was. He showed everyone who he was. He did it over, and over, and the same people now pretending to be concerned about his latest betrayal applauded him at every turn.

Donald Trump can’t be trusted on anything except the fact that he cannot be trusted.