Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Trouble with Reality

Ever wonder why you stick so firmly to your worldview? Why you are loath to change your mind? "The Trouble with Reality..." is a very short book that can provide some insight.
This book illuminates why "reality" is different for each of us. Now, I'll warn my pro Trump friends that this is written by a woman who in her own bubble of New York City was, with her friends, trying to understand the shock to their reality brought by Trump's election.
While this is written from an anti-Trump point of view, how we perceive reality applies to every human being, regardless of his or her politics.
Every week on the National Public Radio show On the Media, the award-winning journalist Brooke Gladstone analyzes the media and how it shapes our perceptions…

Trump versus Sessions

Well, everything you need to know about Donald Trump can be surmised by looking at the timeline of his relationship with Jeff Sessions.
Jeff Sessions was the FIRST Senator to back Donald Trump. Shortly thereafter he was named Chairman of the National Security Advisory Committee for the campaign. He was one of precious few people to defend him after the 2005 tape was revealed in October where Trump discussed groping women.
Mr. Sessions was picked by Trump to be AG November 18, 2016 saying "Sessions “is a world-class legal mind and considered a truly great attorney general and U.S. attorney in the state of Alabama.,” Trump said in a statement. ”Jeff is greatly admired by legal scholars and virtually everyone who knows him.”
Jeff Sessions is confirmed as Attorney General on February 9, 2017. On March 1 there's concern that he may have "lied" to Al Franken during the confirmation hearings. On March 2 after conferring with senior Justice Department officials he decides to recuse himself. It only takes the appearance of a conflict or problem to prompt a recusal.  
The president says Sessions should have told him he was going to recuse himself because he would have picked someone else. When? Back in November of 2016? In January before the Inauguration? This is ridiculous. If Trump was concerned he should have asked him what would prompt a recusal,  There was an opportunity for Trump to change is mind.  Mr. Sessions was asked about this at his confirmation hearing.  He said he would confer with Justice Department experts on this and do whatever they suggested.  If Donald had been paying attention he could have pulled his nomination right then and there
The grave sin that Sessions has committed is not being available to do Trumps bidding regarding this Russian Investigation. Trump wanted a myrmidon at Justice. He doesn't have one now.
And to add insult to injury, instead of discussing his problems in private with Mr. Sessions, he's engaging in serial public humiliation. This is leadership? He should be praising the man for his rectitude. But then, that would only come from someone with integrity or at minimum simple human decency.
Loyalty with Trump is a one-way street, exactly what you would expect from a narcissist.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Media and Bias, but I repeat myself

On MTP daily,Chuck Todd interviewed Kathleen Clark Washington University Professor, an expert on legal ethics. At the beginning of the conversation she said Trump, Jr., may be in legal jeopardy. But in her answers to all of Chuck’s questions the ineluctable answer was essentially based on what we know so far nothing done by any of the parties to that meeting was illegal.
Taking a meeting is not illegal. However, if and when there is proof of the transfer of “anything of value” and not necessarily money, to the Trump campaign from a foreign entity, the game is on. Interestingly, she said the foreign source doesn’t have to be a government, a foreign citizen is sufficient.
Professor Clark also noted that there is NO treason here. But there could be treachery. This was an interesting exchange. She seemed to indicate that Treachery isn’t illegal. In this case the treachery would be “being beholden to a foreigner” for a favor received. This would be subject to political analysis and the judgement of the “body politic" but not to criminal prosecution.
So, let’s juxtapose the above with something that DID happen.
The following is the opening paragraph and conclusion of a staff report of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations for the United States Senate, signed by the Committee Chairman Rob Portman and Ranking Member, Clair McCaskill.
“On December 2, 2014, at the urging of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,the Israeli Knesset voted to schedule new national parliamentary elections for March 2015. Within weeks, an international organization known as the OneVoice Movement absorbed and funded an Israeli group named Victory15 or “V15” and launched a multimillion-dollar grassroots campaign in Israel. The campaign’s goal was to elect “anybody but Bibi [Netanyahu]” by mobilizing center-left voters.1 The Israeli and Palestinian arms of OneVoice, OneVoice Israel (OVI), and OneVoice Palestine (OVP), received more than $300,000 in grants from the U.S. State Department to support peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine over a 14-month grant period ending in November 2014.2 In February 2015, the Subcommittee initiated an inquiry concerning the connection, if any, between OneVoice’s State Department grant funds and V15’s political activity. This report outlines the findings from that investigation.
OneVoice Israel’s conduct fully complied with the terms of its agreements with the State Department and governing grant guidelines. The experience under the OneVoice grants, however, reveals the ease with which recipient organizations can repurpose certain public-diplomacy resources for political activities. The State Department failed to foresee and guard against that risk from the outset. OneVoice was forthright with the Department about its political activity in 2013, and it was also clear that OneVoice would use grant funds to build or enhance resources that might be applied to political activities. OneVoice’s 2013 grant proposal called for using the funds for standard tools of a modern political campaign, including a voter/activist contact database, a trained grassroots network, and a large social media presence. Immediately after the grant period ended, OneVoice deployed those grant-funded resources as part of the V15 campaign to defeat Prime Minister Netanyahu in 2015. Despite the fact that influencing a foreign election is across a “red line” for U.S. grantees,175 all of this activity was permissible under Department guidelines and the terms of the grants."
I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember this being debated by the Mainstream Media much less a call for criminal prosecution. Perhaps there's no law against the U.S. government involving itself in the politics of another country.
Donald Trump, Jr., take note, this is how you get away with influence from a foreign entity.

Will Republicans get Trump to Resign?

There are only two ways to remove a president; Impeachment or Amendment 25 of the Constitution.
There is a third way; the president removes himself, resignation.
The Twenty-Fifth Amendment requires a 2/3 vote of both houses of Congress. Ain't gonna happen.
Removal by Impeachment requires a 2/3 vote in the Senate to convict on the Articles of Impeachment as voted on by 50% plus one vote in the House. This probably won't happen. But, as the great philosopher Yogi Berra might have said, "It's dangerous to make predictions, especially about the future."
Resignation. This is what happened with Richard Nixon. He was visited by Republican Party leadership. They presented him with the fact that they had decided to vote for articles of impeachment. So, he resigned rather than be impeached.
It's safe to say that the biggest impediment to implementing the Republican Agenda is Donald Trump. It's not hard to visualize a conflation of negative events: a particularly noxious Donald Trump tweet coupled with an impossible piece of legislation, like say the American Health Care Act, leading to a meeting in the Oval Office where they ask for his resignation for the good of the country.
Were he to resign, there's a very positive personal victory for Donald Trump. Mika Brzezinski's assertion that Donald Trump is a narcissist would be proven false.
Mike Pence would become president. He's fully capable of fulfilling the Republican agenda. Although I'm not sure anyone can save the AHCA. And I think he's capable of turning this administration from an incompetent mess into, at minimum, a efficacious mess.
If Donald Trump doesn't resign (and he won't). At some point people will leave, one way or the other. The Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had a blow up recently in a meeting with Johnny DeStefano, the head of the presidential personnel office, for torpedoing proposed nominees to senior State Department posts and for questioning his judgement.http://www.newsweek.com/why-were-white-house-staff-shouted-….
And who will take their place? The TJ Scott first rule of employment is, "don't work for assholes." I would not trust the judgement of anyone who would want to work for Donald Trump after watching this train wreck for the last few months.
On second thought, perhaps the inability to fill existing and future job openings will be the catalyst to that Oval Office visit.
The U.S. Secretary of State lost it over interference in hiring of staffers.

The Political Consequences of not passing the AHCA for Republicans

The political consequences of failure to pass the American Healthcare Act will be significant. And based on what Mitch McConnell said in response to a question at a Rotary Club event in Kentucky on Saturday, failure is looking likely. Add to that the comment by Senator Toomey of PA. that the reason for this muddle is the Republican Party was not ready with a bill to replace the AHCA because they didn’t think they were going to win the White House. Really? You’ve only had seven years to come up with a plan.
Senator McConnell actually said that if the Republicans can’t pass a bill, they will have to do something to stabilize the medical insurance market. Under what law does the medical insurance companies operate? The Affordable Healthcare Act, ergo, the Republicans will be reaching out to the Democrats. Why?
Politically, they have to. After promising the American people a plan to replace Obamacare; not doing so followed by doing nothing to keep the current system from failing cannot be blamed on the Democrats. THEY are in power, THEY have the responsibility to do what is in the best interest of the country. The Republican base needs to look at the situation with a dispassionate perspective. But I fear they won’t or can’t. Were the situation reversed, I’m not sure the Democratic base would either.
Now, they could still be in trouble even if they do pass it. If you think Obamacare was a mess, you ain’t seen nothing yet. They cannot create a true free-market healthcare solution from a complicated crony-capitalist based scheme. They can only revert to the Republican playbook for policy prescriptions guaranteed to mollify their “base.” I fear failure is inevitable. So, which plan will be better?
They both suck so it’s a moot question. The Republicans will get their asses handed to them come 2018 either way.
If the Republicans want to endear themselves to the American people before the 2018 mid-term elections; here’s an idea, get Donald Trump to resign.
The trend line is not good. And if there’s any fire to the news breaking today about Donald Jr.’s meeting last June with a Russian offering information on Hillary Clinton, it won’t be getting better.
RealClearPolitics - Election Other - President Trump Job Approval

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Comey Testifies

I watched the hearing on CSPAN-3 because I didn’t want to hear the opinion from any of the typical talking head commentators.  The hoi polloi that call into CSPAN don’t count. :-)

Director Comey did a very credible job today.  He came across as an honest man doing his best to be transparent, with one exception. 

The only Senator that came after him, somewhat surprisingly, was John McCain.  The senator that Trumpies love to hate did the best job of making Comey look duplicitous.  His line of questioning was about the Clinton email investigation that Comey announced had come to an end last July.  His point, that Comey either didn’t understand or was pretending not to understand, was why was the Trump campaign was still under investigation regarding connections to Russia while the door was closed to any criminal charges against the Clinton campaign.

The answer is pretty obvious.  The Clinton campaign was the victim of Russian espionage so it would be logical to assume that they were not involved in a conspiracy with the Russians to hack themselves.  This line of questioning I find below the standards of John McCain.  But, he’s a political animal who is trying to raise his political capital with Trump supporters.  This was a good way to do it and not involve himself in the core issue of whether Trump engaged in obstruction of justice. 

The most revelatory thing to come out of this was when Comey admitted to having leaked unclassified notes of his Oval Office conversation with Trump to a friend, Dan Richman at Columbia University who subsequently released it to the New York Times.  It’s important to note that Mr. Comey was a private citizen at this point in time having been fired on May 9.

Speaker Ryan in a news conference today did his best to excuse the President choice of words as frustration with Mr. Comey and his ignorance of Washington and its protocols.  True,  but it's been 150 odd days. The president needs to start listening to people and stop self-destructive behavior.  Not tweeting today was a good start.

President Trump has an opportunity to actually do some good for this country.  It’s true that our allies have been taking advantage of us when it comes to defense.  It’s impressive that China has done more to rein in North Korea since Trump has become president, not nearly enough, but it’s a start. 

The trip to the meet with Islamic, Jewish and Christian leaders in an attempt to stop ISIS and Iranian terror campaigns is laudatory.  He, perhaps inadvertently, indirectly pointed to the true root cause of all the terrorism in the world; religion.  But perhaps more about this in a future essay.

President Trump was elected in part because of his business acumen.  Real Estate is a rough and tumble business.  Even more so in New York.  Being a bully and a bit nefarious in business was how he got things done.  I forget in how many hundreds of lawsuits as either defendant or plaintiff he's been involved.  That approach doesn't work in modern U.S. politics.  When all you know is how to negotiate it's like a guy who only has a hammer.  Everything looks like a nail.

Mack Kasowitz, the president’s lawyer just released a statement focusing on the leak that Mr. Comey admitted to doing after he was terminated.  Mr. Kasowitz says that Comey authorized the leak of classified information.  I listed to everyone word of this hearing.  And I’ll listen to it again.  But I don’t think that’s true.  The only leak to which Comey admitted was the notes from his Oval Office meeting.  Mr. Kasowitz is not correct in his assertion that classified information was leaked by Mr. Comey.  However, If what Comey did admit to was illegal, he just made it easy for Special Counsel Mueller’s to indict him.  We’ll see.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

We need to stop Donald Trump

Seeing the title, many of you will not even read this sentence.  You are convinced that Donald Trump is the answer to our political woes.  He’s not.  He’s a manifestation of the problem.  People have historically turned to charismatic, authoritarian figures when times are challenging, when their culture seems unrecognizable.   One need only look to the 20th Century for validation.  And that last statement is not made lightly. 

Mr. Trump has little respect for the Constitution.

The most recent anti-freedom position of Mr. Trump is a desire to usurp the First Amendment with promises to change the libel laws in order to attack his critics.   Mr. Trump said, “We’re going to open up those libel laws. So when The New York Times writes a hit piece which is a total disgrace or when The Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected.”  And recently he attacked a prominent family in Chicago for donating to a Super Pac critical of Mr. Trump with “They better be careful, they have a lot to hide.”  Perhaps he will use an Obama favorite and have the IRS go after them.

And speaking of the IRS, there’s no reason tax returns can’t be released while under audit.  He’s said he’s been audited 12 years in a row and also said for the last 2-3 years.  Ok, which one is it?  And if 12 years ago, release the one from 13 years ago, we don’t mind.

He doesn’t think the 14th Amendment is Constitutional and because it would “take too long” to amend  he would use his potential presidency to "find out whether or not anchor babies are citizens."  Not sure what he means but I’m sure I don’t want to find out.

So what to do?  For my Democratic friends, vote for Hillary.  Yea, I can’t believe I said that either.  Were we in normal times I’d be encouraging you to vote for Bernie.  But these are not normal times.  We all have a stake in the Donald not becoming the President.

My Republican friends should vote for either Rubio or Cruz, whom ever is in the lead in their particular SEC Primary state.  I’m going to vote for Rubio on Tuesday.  There’s no point in wasting a vote on Kasich.

It’s hard to imagine what a Trump presidency would be like but in the words of John Podhoretz, “a disaster” seems a succinct summary.  

As a Libertarian, Trump may be the best thing that's ever happened to our party.  His election would probably improve its prospects, especially if the Republican Party self-destructs.  But love of country comes before love of party.