Putin

An Exercise in Deadly Stupid


Reading time – 1:59  .  .  .

It’s been the silence, the acquiescence of the Republicans in Congress that has been so dispiriting all along.  In large measure, that has been about their tolerating Trump’s constant stream of lies, inanities and his boundless cruelties. The acquiescence that matters, though, has been over things like Trump’s criminal behavior and his stark violations of the Constitution. Now, though, he’s done more than talk stupid, undo anything Obama had his name on and announced he’ll convene the G7 at his Doral property next year. Even some Republicans are regaining a voice.

Because of his complete lack of ability to craft carefully considered policy and his refusal to listen to anyone with subject knowledge, friends and allies are getting killed and we have proven ourselves untrustworthy in the eyes of the world. Note that “killed” isn’t a reality TV phenomenon. It is permanent, perhaps a concept Trump is unable to understand and he has his fingerprints on the lethal weapons that killed our allies.

This isn’t just the rude pushing aside of the leader of Montenegro. It wasn’t just the insults aimed at Trudeau or Macron or May or Merkel. It wasn’t the idiotic trade tariffs on our friends. It wasn’t the sucking up to Putin and dismissing of the entire U.S. intelligence community.

We supported the Kurds who fought ISIS. They’re the people who put a lid on that murderous retro society that loves to conduct public beheadings and the Kurds lost 11,000 men and women doing it. All we did was to supply the tools. Then Trump got one phone call from the president of Turkey and he sicced the dogs on the Kurds.

Trump has done all he can to undermine NATO, embolden vicious despots and especially to promote Putin’s interests. With his brilliant back stabbing of the Kurds he’s made Putin the king maker in Syria and ceded the entire MIddle-East to Putin and to Iran. And Trump has pushed Erdoğan into Putin’s influence as well. That’s Erdoğan, president of Turkey, a NATO ally.

Angele Merkel may have been right when she said that Germany may now be the indispensable nation. What ally could possibly trust the U.S.? And why would Trump go to such outrageous lengths to undermine the interests of The United States?

See what conservative columnist Ross Douthat has to say about this in “Trump Is a Weak Man in a Strongman’s World”.

 

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Ed. Note: I don’t want money or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

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NOTES:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling or punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Against Their Own Interest – and Syria Stupidity


Reading time – 3:47  .  .  .

A lot of barrels of ink have been emptied in an effort to explain why some American voters – largely rural people – consistently vote against their own interests. This predates Donald Trump, although he has been a beneficiary of it and has exploited it masterfully. My understanding of what appears to be a key driver of self-destructive behavior has largely been focused on the betrayal so many Americans feel. It’s borne of the obvious abandoning of promises made to them by various levels of government officials, especially those in our federal government.

Do you remember all those years of John Boehner, then Speaker of the House, declaring that the number one priority was, “Jobs, jobs, jobs”? The only bill passed to create more jobs while he was speaker was specifically for military veterans, and Boehner had to be shamed into passing that. Where did that leave the rest of our forgotten Americans?

They feel used for their tax money and abused by the system, so they’re angry. They’re naturally attracted to the angriest voice with the simplest solutions. They fear “others” who may be as far away as another country or as near as the closest big city.

And they don’t like immigrants, fearing they’re here to freeload off our public assistance programs. There are yet other ways Trump voters feel ripped off, because they don’t get a benefit from government programs – or at least they don’t believe that they do. Turns out, not surprisingly, that their disaffection is more elaborate than that.

Monica Potts wrote a stunning piece in the New York Times entitled “In the Land of Self-Defeat“. If you’ve ever puzzled over why people do what looks to you to be self-destructive, you’ll want to read this piece.  Potts quotes Katherine J. Cramer, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin – Madison:

“The way these folks described the world to me, their basic concern was that people like them, in places like theirs, were overlooked and disrespected,” she wrote in Vox, explaining that her subjects considered ‘racial minorities on welfare’ as well as ‘lazy urban professionals’ working desk jobs to be undeserving of state and federal dollars. People like my neighbors hate that the government is spending money on those who don’t look like them and don’t live like them — but what I’ve learned since I came home is that they remain opposed even when they themselves stand to benefit.”

These folks have a “prevailing sense of scarcity,” so spending tax dollars on what to them are non-essentials is craziness. Indeed, Potts’ article was triggered by a hotly contested county issue about a proposed pay increase for a new librarian to $25 per hour. It was defeated. These folks contract their view to a very individual focus – you might call it extreme libertarian – which leaves them wondering why they should pay for that librarian if they and their family aren’t going to use the library.

The comments about immigrants particularly caught my attention and left me with a stark clarity that I’ve had for a long time: Too many of us have forgotten where we came from. By that I mean our immigrant forebears – our grandparents or great-grandparents who came here penniless and unable to understand English. We’ve forgotten their struggles and don’t seem able to glue our ignored past onto the plight of today’s refugees.

And another thing  .  .  .

Many thanks to S.S. for pointing to the tweet. Click the pic

Eliminating ISIS (or ISIL) has largely been accomplished except for a couple of strongholds in northern Syria. It has been done with American money and technology and Kurdish blood and lives.

As of this writing, President Trump has pulled all of our troops out of Syria. The decision was made following only a single phone call with President Erdoğan of Turkey. He didn’t consult with anyone who actually knows something about the situation in Syria. And he made the decision with no consideration of the likely outcomes of U.S. withdrawal.

The Turks hate our allies, the Kurds, and see them as their blood enemy. The U.S. pulling out of Syria will leave the Kurds without protection against the modern army and air power of the Turks, who will almost certainly swoop in and slaughter the Kurds – it’s already begun. And it will leave Syria firmly in the hands of our adversaries, Russia and Iran, and ISIS will be free to rebuild.

Have you noticed how many things Trump does that help Putin and Russia and simultaneously hurt our friends and allies?

This is so bad that even Republicans in Congress are pushing back. It’s a shame that they’re so late in finding their backbones.

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Ed. Note: I don’t want money or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

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NOTES:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling or punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

How To Lose an Election


Reading time – 3:52; Viewing time – 5:08  .  .  .

Set aside for the moment your notions of what you want and how you want to go about making it happen. Focus, instead, on how to win the presidential election, presented here in inverted format as the sure path to the Democrats’ loss.

Start with this: The Democrats already have all the votes of their True Believers and those a bit closer to the center. Lots of women and lots of people of color will vote Democratic for the obvious reasons. The battle is for the marginal voters, the independents and the former Trump voters who only voted for Trump because he wasn’t Hillary. Be reasonable with them and they’ll vote for the Democrat. Be foolishly partisan and extreme and they’ll vote for Trump and we’ll get 4 more years of insanity.

Key point: Change scares people and big, rapid change scares people a lot. Small incremental change is easier to tolerate, so offer that.

Marginal voters will vote for Trump if you tell them that you’re going to take away their private healthcare insurance. It doesn’t matter that he’s trying to do worse. Explaining how Medicare for All will be better for them will fall on deaf ears. Parsing out the nuanced differences between extreme plans will, at best, put voters to sleep. It will not shift a single vote to Democrats.

In order to scare away red, white and blue Americans, all you have to do is to tell them about the socialist Medicare for All program that Democrats are going to force on them. To most Americans that’s the same as telling them that Comrade Vladimir or Chairman Xi will be our next president. So, stop with the socialism, because it’s a guaranteed election loser. Explanations are useless to blunt the enormous fear that will be fostered by the threat of socialism.

In fact, for all policies, if you have to explain it, it’s a loser.

If you want to be sure that all gun owners vote against the Democrat candidate, tell them you’re going to take their guns. Regardless of what the Democrats say about military assault rifles, all you will hear from Republicans is “slippery slope”. Opponents will claim that taking their military assault rifles is just the first step to confiscating all guns and making criminals of otherwise law abiding citizens because they didn’t turn in their target pistols.

You’ll hear that a thousand times and there will be over-the-top SuperPAC ads warning of an Orwellian dystopian future and the subjugation of the people if gun confiscating Democrats have their way. Democrats will lose and Trump will win.

What about telling voters you’re going to give everyone $1,000 per month? Or $10,000 per month? Or that the solution to all problems is for the government to give away cash? Who believes this lunacy?

Another sure loser is to tell the American people that we’re going to have open borders. Seriously, now, the people are already afraid of terrorists and immigrants who they think will steal their jobs. Telling them that when you’re president you’ll make it easier for such people to just walk into the country is a guaranteed victory for Trump.

This is just a short list of actual candidate policies and positions that are enthusiastically being promoted. Every one of them will drive away millions of voters and give President Orange more time to trash our democracy, suck up to Putin and hurt yet more people.

I don’t have the sense that you can change candidate policy positions, but you can work for and vote for people in primaries who aren’t going to scare the daylights out of Americans. That will lead to a candidate who can contrast powerfully with Trump, and his bullying, cluelessness and incompetence will be on full display and he will disqualify himself.

Recall that Trump won in part because he spoke to people’s fears, many of which were borne of rapid change, like globalization. If Democrats incite people’s fears with the promise – perceived as a threat – of large, rapid change, they will have surrendered in 2020, lost the election and Trump will stay in the Oval Office for 4 more disastrous years.

Key point: Change scares people and big, rapid change scares people a lot. Small incremental change is easier to tolerate, so offer that.

Smarten up, Democrats.


Finally,

In one of life’s great ironies we learned that Donald Trump, the chosen one, is capable of making John Bolton a sympathetic character. Who would have thought it possible?

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Ed. Note: I don’t want money or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!

NOTES:

    1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
    2. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling or punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
    3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Funding the Wall


Reading time – 3:15; Viewing time – 5:04  .  .  .

In reviewing my posts of the past couple of years I find that there’s a lot of “This ain’t right” stuff and a much smaller offering of “Hey, this is cool!” or “Aren’t we humans oddly interesting?” Sadly, the reason is obvious: the dangerous and harmful Trumpian outrages are all around us and push-back is critical.

So, once again I long for our country to be “re-saned” (no, that’s not a word, but you get it) so that we can get back to being America and stop playing defense against the full time Trumpian assaults on reality. Meanwhile, it’s our duty to attend to these outrages in order to minimize damage. Here’s just one from this past week.

Mark Esper was a vice-president of government relations for Raytheon, a defense contractor. Apparently, being a lobbyist was just the right experience to make him the very best person to be Secretary of Defense under Trump. He brought the lobbying skills he honed at Raytheon to his present gig at the White House in order to be an official Trump Swamp Cootie.

Trump insists on building his useless vanity wall on our southern border, the one we were told that Mexico was going to pay for. Not so strangely, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said, “Nuh-uh” to Trump’s ridiculous demand of payment.

After that Congress also refused to fund his (did I mention?) stupid wall, so Trump declared a state of national emergency in order to undermine Congress. He got Esper to agree to give him $3.6 billion from the Defense Department budget for his wall. The money will come from much needed construction projects for our military, including readiness projects in support of our NATO allies.

Vladimir Putin likes that we’ll be one step behind. That gives him the opportunity to seize yet more eastern European nations. And Putin continues to pursue his nuclear explosion producing, Mach 8 nuclear powered cruise missiles. The complete lack of U.S. push-back means that he faces no international condemnation for the radiation from his exploded folly that’s poisoned the area next to Finland.

If you’d like to see which national defense needs will be abandoned, click here. Be sure to look for the idiotic comments of Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), which he said in support of Trump’s Defense Department thievery, including this contorted gem:

“It is important that Congress now restore the military construction funding diverted for border security. Failing to do so only forces our troops to pay for political discord in Washington.”

It may have hurt your brain to read that. That’s because it’s bat-shit crazy.

Trump also is diverting emergency funds from FEMA in order to build his purposeless wall. He’s specifically withholding disaster relief from Puerto Rico, which hasn’t recovered from Hurricane Maria two years ago, largely because – wait for it – Trump has withheld about 80% of the funds that Congress allocated for disaster relief for those people.

As of this writing the southeast coast of the U.S. is taking a pummeling from Hurricane Dorian following the devastation it caused to the Bahama Islands. The Bahamians endured almost two days of cat 5 winds – over 185 miles per hour – torrential rain and hurricane ocean storm surges.

In addition to the Puerto Rico money he plans to steal, Trump is going to further deplete FEMA in order to fund his vanity wall, making relief and recovery for those were hurt worst anywhere from difficult to impossible. We might have enough left in FEMA’s piggy bank for the Carolinas. As for the Bahamians and Puerto Ricans, I’m sure those people can wait until next fiscal year for funding to help them. Just tell the Bahamians to take a number and get in line behind the Puerto Ricans. It’s really no problem, because most of those people aren’t from Norway, anyway.

Sarcasm aside, Trump is preparing to build 175 miles of unneeded wall by sacrificing desperate hurricane survivors, NATO, our 3-branch governmental structure, national defense, our military people and world order. This isn’t just more of his stupid lies. We can ignore what he says, even his idiotic Sharpie-modified hurricane map. But we better pay attention to what he does, because he is intent upon assaulting American values, our safety and our democracy itself.

That’s why we pay attention to his outrages.

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Ed. Note: I don’t want money or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!

NOTES:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling or punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Venezuela and Existential Threats


Reading time – 5:07; Viewing time – 7:30  .  .  .

First, my only comment on the topic of the cherry picked, sentence fragmented Mueller report is that I want the full report – all of it including the appendices – both for the complete, un-predigested information so that I can draw my own conclusions and so that we won’t imagine a Justice Department cover up engineered by Trump’s hand-picked protector.

As of this writing Attorney General Barr has indicated he will release the complete Mueller report by mid-April. There will be redactions, perhaps lots of them. Some will be to protect ongoing investigations. Some redactions will be for national security reasons. Some will be to avoid causing embarrassment to “peripheral innocent people.” I have no clue why that’s more important than instilling confidence in the report for a skeptical public. Absent such confidence, we’re facing an existential threat to our democracy.

If you need insightful commentary on the entire Russia issue, including Mueller’s report, read pal Dan Wallace’s comments. Now to the issue of Venezuela.

The Wall Street Journal ran a story about Russia’s power play in Venezuela. Putin sent 100 troops there to prop up dictator Nicolás Maduro. In reaction to that, reader JC asked if there was anyone left in Washington who understands the Monroe Doctrine or remembers the Cuban Missile Crisis. My answers: no and no.

As you’ll recall from high school American history class, the Monroe Doctrine prohibits further European colonialism in the Western Hemisphere.

At the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Soviet Chairman Nikita Khrushchev was cultivating Cuba as a client state, effectively making it a colony of the Soviet Union, the very thing prohibited by the Monroe Doctrine. Soviet missiles armed with nuclear warheads on that island made it an existential threat to the United States.

While President James Monroe couldn’t have imagined nuclear weapons, he and his contemporaries were clear that the presence of European military might this close to home was an existential threat to our nascent country. The Monroe Doctrine was and is about our national security.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis there were thoughtful, careful men in charge who insisted upon best intelligence and carefully considered approaches to the challenges we faced. They had the strength of character to resist knee-jerk military actions and they prevented a catastrophic war.

This time there’s a reality TV personality in charge who doesn’t read, who is incapable of assembling complex thoughts, who doesn’t review the President’s Daily Brief, so he doesn’t know what’s going on, who doesn’t have sufficient self-control to resist temper tantrums and who needs to be seen as the biggest, baddest tough guy. He is supported by Secretary of State John Bolton, who never saw a conflict he didn’t want to escalate into war. As bad, we have a horrendous record of starting conflicts without any plan to end them.

For example, George W. Bush dim-brain/lied us into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with phantom promises of quick success and happily-ever-after flowers tossed at our troops by Iraqis. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld declared Iraqi oil would pay for the whole thing. None of that happened.

What was foreseeable but which they refused to foresee was the global refugee problem they triggered and which the world lives with quite unsteadily now. It is a key outfall of Bush’s lies and we still don’t have a plan to end those wars.

Now that Russia has sent its troops into Venezuela we are in a situation not unlike the Cuban Missile threat from the Soviet Union. President Trump backs Maduro’s challenger Juan Guaidó. How will Trump stop Russia from both keeping Maduro in power and from having that military foothold in the Western Hemisphere that is specifically forbidden by the Monroe Doctrine?

In point of fact, Trump has been a disaster of a negotiator for the U.S. He’s been a patsy with nothing to show for his capitulations to Russia and North Korea. Worse, he’s been a lapdog for Putin, who is now threatening Trump’s tough guy posturing.

Trump has told Putin to back off. If Trump tries to negotiate with Putin to get him to do that, Trump’s past negotiating prowess suggests that it probably will look like hollow posturing that leaves Russian troops in place in Venezuela with an escalating military presence in the Western Hemisphere. If instead Trump sends troops in support of Guaidó, we’ll be faced off against the Russians and troops on both sides are likely to be killed. And there won’t be an exit plan from the conflict.

What could possibly go wrong?

And another thing  .  .  .

The Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee called for Adam Schiff (D-CA) to resign his chairmanship of the committee, based on the same kind of Republican partisan brainlessness that we’ve seen for years. Schiff replied with a kind of muscular statement rarely heard from Democrats. Watch the whole thing here.

Last thing .  .  .

Chris Hayes interviewed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (“AOC”) on Friday. Here’s a link to a string of videos from that interview. I urge you to watch all of them for one reason. It’s not so that you’ll agree with or find ways to pick apart the Green New Deal or find ways to cheer or criticize her. I want you to think on a higher level.

Specifically, watch and listen in order to understand why she has so completely captured the public imagination. Our Gen X, Y and Z citizens see our politics in the way that Emma Gonzalez sees our embedded intransigence over gun safety: “We call B.S.”

AOC speaks for an overwhelming majority of Americans, regardless of how much you may fundamentally disagree with her policy ideas or fear your own loss of power.

To Our Legislators:

Get on board with working with people who see the future far differently than you do. If you don’t want to do that, I suggest that you polish your résumé in preparation for entry into an exciting new career. That’s because these folks know that they’ll be the ones who will live with the consequences of what we’re creating right now, so they have a far more powerful interest in a sustainable future. We have created an existential threat to them and they won’t let us mess it up any more.

                   ————————————

Ed. Note: I don’t want money or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.

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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

A Picture In Three Dots


Reading time – 3:36; Viewing time – 4:44  .  .  .

There was massive anger on the part of Bernie supporters after the DNC took several steps that assured that Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic nominee for president in the 2016 election. The result of that was a lot of Bernie voters who protested by refusing to vote for Hillary. Some voted for a 3rd party candidate who had no chance to win; some just stayed home.

Separate from the Bernie protesters, there are huge numbers of people who never vote. When asked why, a common explanation is, “My vote doesn’t matter.” But is that claim about one person’s vote not counting really true? I wondered about that notion, so I did some investigating. The chart below is the result.

The last column shows the number of additional votes it would have taken per precinct in each of three swing states in order for Hillary to have won the election. That’s not votes switched from Trump to Clinton; switching votes would cut in half the number of votes needed per district to defeat Trump. This is simply the very small number of voters per precinct in three states – 6 maximum- which would have changed the election, the country and the trajectory of the entire world. And our federal workers would not have been unpaid for over a month.

The FBI would have been functioning at full strength and with full resources to protect our country. Coast Guardies and their families wouldn’t have had to eat handouts. Children wouldn’t have been going without medical care. Renters wouldn’t be facing eviction. TSA agents wouldn’t have been sleeping in their cars or skipping meds. But all that happened because we got Trump and all the drama and destruction he’s caused.

It seems that just a handful of people who thought their vote didn’t matter were wrong; their vote mattered a lot. That’s one dot.

Do you remember the Steele Dossier? It’s the work product of former British MI-6 agent Christopher Steele. The dossier is an intelligence report that contains raw (i.e. un-analyzed) information about Trump and his links to Russia. Some of the material is quite sensational and it’s no surprise that Trump and all who supported him have attacked and ridiculed the dossier. But there’s just one thing: none of it has been found to be in error.

In a detailed review in Lawfare released in mid-December and written by Chuck Rosenberg and Sarah Grant, they step through the dossier and compare it to what has been learned through public documents, Robert Mueller’s pleadings and various other sources. Steele’s work stands up. Item by item his raw intelligence has proven to be true.

Let’s be both clear and fair: Not everything in the Steele Dossier has been confirmed. It’s just that everything that has been reviewed for verification has been confirmed. Nothing has been disproven. Not the conspiracy to affect our election. Not the suspicious money movements. And not the Trump Tower Moscow project and its connections to the Kremlin.

You’re well aware that Donald Trump will say and do anything that he thinks serves him and he never lets truth or reality stand in the way of his mouth. So, you can be confident that there will be more denials from Trump and his administration and his transition and campaign personnel about the content of the dossier as more details are confirmed. The facts, though, consistently tell us that the dossier is true and accurate, leaving us with the inescapable conclusion that Donald Trump really is far worse than you think. That’s the second dot.

Let’s connect all of that to a third dot to see a picture.

We learned in the run up to the the election that Steve Bannon, Trump’s chaos whisperer and closest advisor, was wanting to “tear down” the entire establishment of the United States. Can you think of a more effective, non-lethal way to “bring it all crashing down” – Bannon’s words – than to paralyze the FBI, the Justice Department and all the rest of government that makes our country function?

It seems that the dossier is true and the events detailed in it led to the intermediate step of a shutdown of our government. That’s just what Steve Bannon and Vladimir Putin would have ordered Trump to do. And sadly, we let that happen.

That’s the third dot that makes this picture really scary.

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Ed. Note: I don’t want money (DON’T donate) or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Wag the Dog


Reading time – 3:24; Viewing time – 4:37  .  .  .

This is from the Sunday New York Times:

“At [national security advisor John] Bolton’s direction, the National Security Council asked the Pentagon last year to provide the White House with military options to strike Iran .  .  .”

Let’s put this into perspective.

Gen. Colin Powell warned us against doing military stupid stuff in his Powell Doctrine decades ago. It’s grounded in the painful lessons of Vietnam and, while it has weathered criticism for being incomplete, it’s hard to disagree with Powell’s cautionary message. Sadly, we’ve pretty much ignored it time and again.

Not stated in the Powell Doctrine is another of his admonitions, the Pottery Barn rule: You break it, you own it. And so we do in Iraq and Afghanistan, the longest wars in our history. Now John Bolton, always eager to flex US muscle, has asked for plans to strike Iran.

Can you imagine Donald Trump being a calming voice of reason to tether John Bolton to reality? Neither can I. If Bolton gets his way we will break yet another country where we will then be in perpetual war. And this story gets worse.

We are mired in the longest government shutdown in US history. The president is threatening to declare a national emergency in order to overpower Congress and get his useless wall. You need to understand what such a declaration can mean.

In a time of declared national emergency the president has vast powers. Here’s a partial list:

Suspend the Constitution – yes, SUSPEND THE CONSTITUTION!

Redirect money in blatant conflict with Congressional intent

Declare martial law

Deploy our military in-country

Seize control of the internet

Shut down communications (telephone, radio, television, etc.)

Freeze bank accounts – including yours

Suspend habeas corpus (i.e. imprison Americans without charge and without due process of law – Think: Guantanamo in Des Moines, IA)

Control the states’ voter databases

Sanction Americans without charge and leave them without recourse

Effectively, the president can become a monarch. Perhaps Trump will prefer autocrat or generalissimo or kommisar or general secretary or chairman. Regardless of the label, it will be the end of American democracy.

This president has repeatedly shown that he has no regard for Constitutional limits, much less respect for legislative and cultural norms. He’s given us no reason to believe that he would refrain from outrageous behavior following his declaring a national emergency. And with the help of Mitch McConnell for the past two  years, Trump has packed the courts and his cabinet with people who likely would refuse to stand up to him.

A declaration of national emergency, whether for his fantasy claims of crisis at our southern border or for a pending or hot conflict with Iran or Argentina would be just the thing for Trump to consolidate power. Beyond fulfilling Trump’s bottomless ego needs, such a declaration will completely divert attention from his conspiracies with Russia. It’s the ultimate distraction and, perhaps, the negation of any investigation into his possible criminal activity.

Did I mention that this story gets worse? It does.

We never vote leaders out of office during war time and very rarely during any other national emergency. The only contrary example I can think of is Herbert Hoover, who lost the 1932 election to Franklin Roosevelt for his mishandling of the Great Depression. Nevertheless, the point for us now is to be clear that a declaration of national emergency, regardless of the justification Trump uses, would likely ensure Trump’s reelection in 2020, if, indeed, we even have another election.

And that will make Vladimir Putin very happy. His only regret will be that he won’t have any more kompromat on Trump, because exposing Trump’s money laundering, his tax fraud, his obstruction of justice and his treason will no longer matter.

Wag the dog.

————————————

Ed. Note: I don’t want money (DON’T donate) or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish that goal requires reaching many people, so:

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

What’s Next


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Reading time – 4:45; Viewing time – 6:48  .  .  .

I’ve been wondering about the important actions we should expect from the 116th Congress.

Adam Schiff (D-CA), the incoming chair of the House Intelligence Committee, has promised a real investigation into Russian meddling in our 2016 election. That will be in stark contrast to the investigation led by committee chair Devin Nunes (R-CA and Chief Trump Weenie). Under Nunes’ chairmanship, all efforts to actually investigate were thwarted by Nunes. Perhaps this time we’ll get some truth about what happened and who’s responsible. The committee might even investigate Russia’s meddling in our 2018 election. They could generate some ideas about how to protect our nation. That would be refreshing.

There are other committees which will have to start their work anew because of Republican obstruction for the past two years. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) will be the chair of the House Judiciary Committee. Do you suppose he’ll be able to find anything worthy of investigation?

Rep Elijah Cummings (D-MD)* will chair the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.  Looking at the mess he’s facing, Cummings said, “The oversight job after two years of Donald Trump is like coming upon a 73-car pileup on the highway.” Read this for context. The chief issue soon to be before us, though, is impeachment.

Trump has laid his obstruction of justice and his violations of the emoluments clause in plain sight. That’s plenty of reason to start an impeachment action. It seems likely, though, that there won’t be enough courage in the Republican controlled Senate to convict our presidential perp. Finding enough starch in Republican spines may have to await the Robert Mueller report, recently predicted to arrive in February. That’s when things will become even more weird.

Trump has made Matthew Whittaker the acting attorney general, which may compromise justice. For a long time Whittaker has gone out of his way to criticize and attack the Mueller investigation. There’s no question about his prejudice. Whittaker is anything but an honest broker. Further, he has refused the direction of the Justice Department Ethics Committee to recuse himself from the Mueller inquiry. Democrats have promised to call for Whittaker’s removal from office in January, but that won’t fix this problem.

That’s because Trump has nominated William Barr to be attorney general and Barr is similarly negative toward the Mueller investigation. He is another less than honest broker. Clearly, Trump is stacking the deck to avoid justice. He’s making it questionable whether Mueller’s report will ever see the light of day or whether our government will take action. If you believe in a nation of laws and not of men, this situation should send shivers up your spine.

Democratic leadership has determined that keeping Trump’s malfeasance in the news, death by a thousand cuts over the next two years, will help Democrats in the 2020 elections. The problem with that is that it means that no impeachment efforts will be made and Trump will remain in office for another two years. Decide for yourself what two more years of Trump’s self-serving, ignorance-based chaos will do to our country and to the world.

Decide, too, what it would mean for our country if Trump is removed from office and Mike Pence becomes President. This is the same guy who Indianans were turning out of office in 2016 because of his radical beliefs and complete disregard for the truth. Picture him as president, recommending “pray away the gay” treatment for our LGBTQ citizens. He did that when he was governor of Indiana. That ought to send shivers up your spine, too.

That leaves us with no good option for our next two years, so we have to choose the least bad solution. Here’s how to do that.

There is room for debate about the proper role of the federal government, but everybody believes that ensuring the safety and security of our nation is its primary job. For guidance on this, read Gen. Jim Mattis’ resignation letter. Note his clarity about standing with our allies and opposing those who would do harm to us or our allies and how important that is for our national security.

Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice wrote:

“.  .  .  Mr. Trump himself — has dealt the death blow to effective policy making. The president couldn’t care less about facts, intelligence, military analysis or the national interest. He refuses to take seriously the views of his advisers, announces decisions on impulse and disregards the consequences of his actions. In abandoning the role of a responsible commander in chief, Mr. Trump today does more to undermine American national security than any foreign adversary.”

We are substantively less secure now than we were two years ago. So, too, are our allies, the nations Trump has effectively told we will not stand with in case of trouble. These are the same nations who stood with us following 9/11, the only time in the history of NATO that Article 5 has been invoked. That’s the “collective defense” section of the NATO charter.

Which leads back to the question of impeachment and whether we can tolerate two more years of Trump’s hands on the reins. He’s a suck up to Putin, who is nuclear sabre rattling and rapidly expanding Russia’s military capabilities right now. He’s invading neighboring countries with impunity. Trump refuses to speak against that or take any action. At the same time, Trump is abandoning our friends like it’s just another of his divorces. He makes decisions based solely on what’s good for himself, not what’s best for our country.

I’m much less interested in what’s good for Democrats in 2020 than I am for what is best for our country. As bad as Pence may be, we need to get rid of Trump before he can do yet more damage. Besides, Pence may get caught up in the Mueller sting along with Trump and his family. That would bring about the very worst nightmare for members of the Republican Freedom Caucus: President Pelosi.

I’m thinking of running for president and will make the highlighted text my campaign slogan. Think it’ll work? Click the pic for a larger version.

For more on this read Sheila Markin’s report, How Trump Ends.

  • *Rep. Elijah Cummings was erroneously listed as representing South Carolina in the video post. He represents the 7th District of Maryland and I extend my apology for the error. JA

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Ed. Note: I don’t want money (DON’T donate) or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish that goal requires reaching many people, so:

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Irony


Reading time – 3:41; Viewing time – 4:53  .  .  .

Chiang Kai-shek was the leader of the Republic of China during the Second World War and was our ally in fighting the Japanese. In the Chinese civil war following WWII Mao Zedong’s army won and Chiang and his army retreated from mainland China to the island of Formosa, now called Taiwan. Throughout the period we remained an ally of Chiang and saw Mao as our enemy, both because the enemy of our friend is our enemy, and because Mao’s Chinese were godless Communists bent on world domination like their Soviet neighbors.

When Stalin died in 1953 Nikita Khrushchev became First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. We didn’t like him or the Soviet Union and they were a far greater threat than was China because of their military might and their belligerence. Indeed, Khrushchev was famous for criticizing our capitalism, saying that the Soviet Union would sell us the rope used to hang us. He also said, “We will bury you.”

We saw the Chinese and the Soviets as godless Commies and nobody railed more or louder against them than our Republicans. They fashioned themselves as the ones with the heavy starch in their spines, the true defenders of our nation and the foremost opponents of Communism. Republican Richard Nixon made his reputation railing against Communists. But then some odd things happened.

Nixon the Commie hater was in the midst of making the Watergate affair as bad as it could be and off he went to Communist China to sip ceremonial drinks with the very people he had spent decades vilifying. The primo anti-Communist began the process of normalizing relations with Communist China. It was amazing irony.

Ronald Reagan spent decades waving the red, white and blue and vilifying the hammer and sickle and when it was his turn to fight the Cold War he did it by increasing our military spending 43% in peacetime, including development of the B-1 bomber. That forced the Soviet Union to increase their military spending to keep up with us. At last they couldn’t do it any longer and, effectively, we spent them into bankruptcy.

At the same time Reagan established a relationship with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, even as he implored Gorbachev to, “Tear down this wall.” Reagan bankrupted the Soviets, made friends with their leader and won the Cold War without firing a shot. No irony here. Then it came back.

It was left to Republican George H.W. Bush to put the final nail in the Soviet coffin. But a Soviet KGB agent named Vladimir Putin wasn’t at all happy about what had happened and vowed to return Russia to its former self-imagined greatness.

Fast forward to 2015 and Putin’s Russia had figured out how to infiltrate American culture to bend America his way. The U.S. intelligence agencies are unanimous and clear about Russian hacking, propaganda, cyber-infiltrating, as well as human infiltration into our elections, our government and our society.

We’re learning of Russian infiltration of the Second Amendment thumping NRA and what is likely to be found to be tens of millions of Russian dollars filtered through the NRA to get Trump elected.

What the Russians have done is very bad and very threatening. What we have done is far worse.

Under this Republican president we have done nothing to stop the Russians. Trump has refrained from everything he might have done to restrain Russia and has lauded praise on Putin whenever he could. And even those aren’t the worst things that have happened.

Our Republican Congress has done nothing to get to the root of the Russian invasion and, indeed, they’ve done everything they could to block congressional investigations into it. This Republican Congress has done absolutely nothing to prevent yet more Russian meddling. They have put no checks on this president and his Russia enabling, nor any requirements for action to stop the hijacking of our democracy.

Get that these are Republicans, the self-described stalwart defenders and protectors of our nation. They’re the chest-puffed strong ones and they’re allowing Khrushchev’s threats to come true.

The irony is stunning. The cowardice in the face of a clear and present danger is appalling.

————————————

Ed. Note: I don’t want money (DON’T donate) or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish that goal requires reaching many people, so:

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!). No subscriber information is ever shared with anyone, anywhere, any time.
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

Thanks!


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Breaking Point, or


How Trump Successfully Diverted Attention From His Kidnapping of 3,000 Children

Reading time – 4:49;  Viewing time – 7:35  .  .  .

I’ve been pretty hard on Congressional Republicans in my recent posts, but I’m questioning if that’s still justified. Perhaps things are beginning to change, although Thomas Friedman doesn’t think so, nor does James Comey.

We’ve wondered over and over about which shameless Trump outrage would at last do him in; none has. Not the Access Hollywood grab brag; not the “nice people on both sides” Charlottesville racism; not the job-killing tariffs; not the attacks on our FBI and Justice Department; not his 6.5 lies per day; not the firing of James Comey specifically because Comey refused to truncate the FBI investigation into Russian hacking of our election and possible Trump campaign collusion; not the betrayal and abuse of Dreamers; not the attacks on our allies; not the kidnapping of children; no outrage has stopped the runaway Trump train. Now, though, I’m wondering afresh if we’ve reached a breaking point and I’m daring to be disappointed yet again.

Trump has consistently sided with Putin over our intelligence services regarding Russian hacking. Now, though, The New York Times is reporting that before the inauguration Trump was fully briefed by our top intelligence agencies leaders about Russian hacking and was even shown intercepted Russian military agent emails which show Putin himself was behind the entire effort to subvert our democracy. Still, Trump continues to refuse to forcefully lay the blame on Putin and punish him for his wrongdoing, much less take action to protect our 2018 election.

Is it possible that Congressional Republicans now have something in hand that is so not okay that they’ll stop being jellyfish? Well even some formerly silent Republicans are speaking out. You can read many of their comments here – it’s important that you have a look.

Congressman Will Hurd (R-TX) wrote an essay that you’ll want to read: He begins,

“Over the course of my career as an undercover officer in the C.I.A., I saw Russian intelligence manipulate many people. I never thought I would see the day when an American president would be one of them”

Newt Gingrich is pushing back, however tepidly:

Even Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is managing to counter the President and his refusal to accept the undisputed evidence of our intelligence community. Ryan said,

“They did interfere in our elections – it’s really clear,” Ryan told reporters in Washington. “There should be no doubt about that.”

“Not only did Russia meddle with our elections, they’re doing it around the world,” he said. “They did it to France. They did it to Moldova. They’re doing it to the Baltics. Russia is trying to undermine democracy itself, to delegitimize democracy, so for some reason they can look good by comparison.”

Shifting now to Democrats for one specific point  .  .  .

Having been Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton knows a thing or two about foreign affairs and has a question for Trump:

Great question. Which side do you think Trump plays for? And if you think it’s the USA, exactly what evidence can you offer to support your opinion? And, no, a MAGA hat doesn’t count. It’s just a hat.

If you’d like to revisit an accurate prediction of what national security would look like with Trump as President, have a look at this video from October 31, 2016 – at least watch 6 minutes starting about the 14-minute mark. You’ll find it an eerily and frighteningly precise description of what has happened since then. It’s not as though we weren’t warned.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) is onto Trump’s cave-in to Putin and is poking at what is in the back of everyone’s mind:

Trump is making the world demonstrably more dangerous with his every insult and lie about our friends and allies and with every suck up to Putin, Kim Jong-un and Xi. He is isolating our country and destroying our protections. It is impossible now to avoid the key questions:

  1. What does the United States of America get out of Trump’s capitulation to Putin and his attacks on our friends? We have some answers to that question and they aren’t pretty.
  2. What does Trump himself get out of that? The answers to this question will illuminate all. Have a look at conservative Ross Douthat’s take on this.

If President Obama were selling out America the way Donald Trump is, can you imagine any Congressional Republican whose hair would not be on fire? The volume of the outrage would be deafening. The calls for impeachment and imprisonment would be continuous.

The thing is, in that scenario, the Republicans would be right. Their indignation would be justified. Their red, white and blue righteous fury would befit the wrongdoing.

But this isn’t Obama’s malfeasance; it’s Trump’s. So, where is the Republican hair-on-fire, the outrage, the indignation and righteous fury and the calls for impeachment and imprisonment? Perhaps they are starting, albeit slowly. Maybe we’re hearing the first crack of the breaking point.

The Republicans in Congress have both the power and the obligation to take action to stop this treachery, this betrayal of our country. Pray that Trump’s sell-out of the United States and all of western democracy is the breaking point for Republicans and that they at last stand up against Trump’s treason. Better yet, call them and demand that they do their job.

Trump’s deception, his double-dealing, his breach of faith and trust constitute a clear and present danger that threatens America. That is why over the past week you shifted your attention away from 3,000 kidnapped children; Trump is a master of distraction. Stay focused on democracy, because worse distraction is on the way and you may be tempted to forget Helsinki by next week. Don’t do it – for the sake of our democracy.

  • ————————————

    Ed. note: I don’t want money (DON’T donate) or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people, so:

    YOUR ACTION STEPS:

    1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
    2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

    Thanks!


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