Vehement and attacking denials

I watched the first of two episodes on the PBS news series “Frontline” regarding the NFL’s cover up of concussions being caused by the money-making game of professional football. Having seen Will Smith star as Dr. Bennett Omalu, the Nigerian born and well schooled forensic-pathologist, who broke the story in the movie “Concussion,” this show caught my eye.

In short, autopsies performed on several deceased players, who had died before age fifty, revealed recurring concussive brain injuries that led to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) which caused dementia in these players. Yet, the NFL went out of its way to deny, denigrate and demonize this man and his findings. The NFL conducted its own studies and were able to get them published even when they did not measure up to scientific peer review standards. As a result more players got hurt. Eventually, the NFL settled a lawsuit for $1 Billion payable to the players. This settlement was upheld by the Supreme Court last December.

I mention this story as other entities have followed the vehement and attacking denial approach. You may recall the tobacco industry denied for years that nicotine was addictive, when they had studies in their files dating back to 1964 that told them it was. After years of denying other studies, often denigrating and demonizing the group doing the study, eight CEOs of tobacco companies testified under oath to a Congressional Committee that nicotine was not addictive. That bald face lie was too much for some and insiders began to tell the real story. In 1998, the big four tobacco companies agreed to a settlement with 46 state attorney generals for $206 Billion, payable over 25 years.

President Richard Nixon used a similar approach to attack The Washington Post, in particular Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, for their investigative reporting which linked the Watergate break-in to the White House and the detailed cover-up of various crimes. Nixon threatened them, the publisher and editor attacking their credibility. And, when Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox was getting too close, he had Cox fired, but only after the Saturday Night Massacre, when two of Cox’s superiors refused to fire him – Elliott Richardson and William Ruckelshaus – and resigned. While Nixon was pardoned after resigning, over twenty of Nixon’s staff went to jail.

Today, we have two entities that are following suit. Exxon Mobil has attacked critics and scientists for years on climate change using the same PR strategy and firm that the tobacco Industry used. Apparently, they did not read the ending. They dared scientists to look at their data. A Harvard group of scientists did and found that 83% of the scientific papers done by Exxon Mobil’s scientists confirmed that climate change is an existential threat and is man-influenced.

Not ironically, management’s public positions said the climate change science is unclear 81% of the time, the exact opposite conclusion. Exxon Mobil denigrated the Harvard scientists who just completed their work, but are failing to remember a current class action suit by employees and another by shareholders alleging the company is undervalued due to management’s misrepresentation of climate change impact. Right now, two state attorney generals and the SEC are investigating this very issue. If the AGs and SEC find Exxon Mobil did mislead shareholders, Exxon Mobil will be guilty of the crime of securities fraud.

The other entity is one Donald J. Trump, the current occupant of the White House. He has attacked everyone who dares criticize him or suggests that the Russians not only hacked the election, that he may have culpability in colluding with them. Trump says routinely and often the media is lying and consists of bad people. Senators, Congress members, and others, even from his own party, are met with some negative attack, if they dare be critical of him. Like Archibald Cox, there is a very capable Special Prosecutor named Robert Mueller who is investigating further into all the President’s men and women. Like these other entities, the attacks are vehement and brutal. Like these other entities, the stories seem to change as more details come out. And, like others, I believe the President is guilty of collusion. Why? His history, first and foremost, but if he was not guilty, why is acting so guilty?

So, the story line has yet to be written, but the more vehement, relentless and negative the attacks are and the more the denial stories change, the more likely the party doing the attacking is guilty.

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The Great Russian Rationalization

As the retreating lines in the sand continue to be drawn with the lying, denial and story changing, there is an interesting process underway. As the Russian meddling story gets closer to the White House, more than a few so-called news sources and supporters of the President are doing the “Great Russian Rationlization.” Fortunately, there is growing number of conservatives who are realizing the President has been less than truthful to counterbalance the rationalization effort.

Yet, these rationalizing discussions are increasing because of the growing credibility of the Russian meddling story. With the Donald Trump, Jr. emails and meeting with a Russian attorney and investigation into Jared Kushner’s digital data mining role, the story should no longer be downplayed as a witchhunt, the favorite dismissal line of the President. So, these so-called news outlets are openly discussing that collusion may not be a crime, this meeting is just bad judgment, this is not conspiracy, treason and so on.

Attorneys, news agencies and supporters can talk all they want, but if Ronald Reagan were alive, he would rake these folks over the coals. A Watergate prosecutor said on NPR earlier this week, this could be construed as a conspiracy with a foreign entity to accept value in violation of the Federal Elections Campaign Act. The contention by Junior that no services were proffered is moot in the mind of the prosecutor as he went to learn about such.

It should also be noted that Senior’s FBI Director nominee, Christipher Wray said yesterday under oath to a Senate committee that the investigation of Russian meddling is not a “witchhunt” directly refuting the President’s assertion that it is. He supports the effort of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller who he holds in  high regard and calls a “straight shooter.”

Setting aside the Great Russian Rationalization, here is what we know.

– the President is on public record for firing the FBI Director over the “Russian thing.”

– the testimony under oath by former FBI Director James Comey spoke of the President’s coercion to drop looking into the issues related to Michael Flynn.

– the President and several of his team have been confirmed to have lied about Russian meetings during the campaign and transition leading to the firing of Michael Flynn, the recusal of Jeff Sessions from the “Russian thing,” and Junior confirming with his own words that he lied several times about the meeting. Further, the President lied about no one having contact with the Russians.

– the changing stories as information filters out. I refer to this earlier as drawing retreating lines in the sand. Call me crazy, but this gives me the impression of people with something to hide. I would add do not assume Senior or Junior are telling the truth now.

Yet, four things convince me Trump was more than an unwitting pawn in the Russian meddling. He has been embarassingly nonchalant about a major crime against the US by Russia. He has been overtly friendly with the Russian leaders in meetings believing them over the advice of his intelligence community. He has numerous business and financial ties to Russian investors and lenders. And, per six authors who wrote about Trump’s history, the President has a very difficult time with the truth.

My strong advice to legislators who support this President “no matter what” is to remember they swore an oath to the United States of America. And, do they really want to be remembered for blindly supporting a man whose word means so little? To be brutally frank, people can perfume this pig all they want, but to me it looks and smells like conspiratorial acts may been committed. One thing is for certain, this story will not be going away.

 

 

A few obvious statements

There are lot of important things we should be talking about, but let me make a few obvious statements about what is.

– While it remains to be proven whether the President of the United States colluded with Russia to get elected it is painfully clear he has lied about no involvement from any of his campaign team with Russians.
– While Junior says nothing was gleaned from the meeting with the Russian attorney, there are two truths using his own words in emails. He expected and relished in getting Russian government dirt on Hillary Clinton. And, he lied about the meeting, the purpose of the meeting, that Kushner and Manafort did not know and then released emails after being advised the NY Times was going to. Now, he says his father did not know, but frankly, why should we believe him now?
– if the GOP led Senate passes a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare using only GOP votes and the bill gets reconciled with the House bill and signed into law, it will harm two groups – a great many Americans and the Republican Party.
– The US has begun its official demise as the global leader. With the pulling out of the Paris Climate Change Accord and poor performance on the world stage at the G20 meeting, coupled with the retrenchment on trade and proclivity for untrustworthy behavior, this President has done huge damage to our reputation. If you have not seen it, check out the scathing review of Trump by an Australian political reporter who is saddened by this.

These stories are critical. We need Americans to pay attention to legitimate news sources. You could start with everyone being condemned by the President as fake news. Based on his lying and denials that are eventually disproven, people should not take this man at his word. He has not earned that right.

All the President’s Men

Not to overstate the obvious, but it would behoove those who serve the President to remember the famous title of the Watergate movie – “All the President’s Men.” While President Nixon was pardoned for any crimes that led to his resignation, over twenty of his colleagues went to jail.

Our current President has many challenges that continue to be problematic. His biggest character flaws are his large ego, thin skin and disdain for telling the truth. Yet, what makes these attributes even worse is he cannot remain silent when that would be the wiser course of action. As a result, he has unforced errors.

A month ago, the bookies in London had the odds at even money, this President would resign or be impeached before his first term ends. My guess is the odds are now better than 50/50 that he won’t make four years.

While the proof has yet to be found, this President is acting like a guilty man with respect to Russia collusion. But, what may also be his undoing is his vast number of conflicts of interest. I personally believe he is using the Presidency to make more money, as caring for others has never been his modus operandi.

So, I would recommend people to stop lying for this man and start doing their job. They will stay out of trouble that way.

More Friday Freakiness

Most bloggers recognize these compilations of thoughts for what they are – not enough subject for a post, but something to touch on. In this spirit, a few thoughts for the week.

I want to commend the White House for having a briefing for all 100 Senators over the troubling issue of North Korea. This is a sobering topic and it deserves sober review. I would encourage more of the same on topics of national security.

With that said, I am hopeful that cooler and more knowledgeable heads will be advising the President and he will heed their advice. We do not need the President doing what he is prone to do which is running off at the mouth and letting his ego make decisions.

One of several examples of this is the White House staff being careful not to endorse the recent Turkey election results which gave more power to President Erdogan. The election results have been called into question and are being reviewed by a third party, who Erdogan is making fun of. Of course, our President did not get the memo and fired off congratulations to Erdogan for gaining even more power.

The devil is in the details, but the President has outlined his Tax Reform plan. Several things need to be highlighted therein, especially after hearing Mnuchin and Mulvaney talk about it. Several nonpartisan tax measurement groups have noted the tax cuts will raise the debt from $2 to $6 trillion over the next ten years, a 10% to 30% increase. The M boys – Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Budget Director Mulvaney – have said the common refrain that the “tax cuts will pay for themselves through growth.” While tax cuts have some economic effect, the data from these nonpartisan tax measurement groups said they have historically fallen well short of paying for themselves.

Then, we must look at who benefits. While everyone seems to benefit, the folks who make the most benefit the most. In addition to the individual tax rate cut proposed, the estate tax and the Alternative Minimum Tax rate are eliminated, both which help the wealthy. Adding to this the reduction in corporate tax rate, which has a few interesting twists, plus repealing the ACA additional tax on higher paid people, the folks who “have” will have more which will increase the income disparity.

On top of this, Mnuchin said the President has no intention of releasing his tax returns. Mulvaney said people do not care. So, I guess the more than 2/3 of Americans who said they want to see the tax returns do not matter. For those keeping score, this becomes an official broken campaign promise and to me is firm indication our President has something to hide.

I wish I could talk about other things, but this man dominates the news which is the way he wants it.

Zero Credibility

If you were a foreign leader, let me ask you a simple question. Would you trust the current President of the United States? Unfortunately, the answer is an obvious no. The sad part is the leaders have less trust in America.

With the continuation of his lying and insufficient knowledge of the issues, he has offended several leaders in so little time. His mistakes are unforced, so he has brought them on himself.

His worst mistake which weighs him down as investigations continue are his continuing insistence that his predecessor had his offices wire tapped. He greatly complicated this false accusation by indicting the British in the wire tapping. He damaged a relationship with our best ally, so that he would not be caught in a lie. So, his solution was to lie again.

Adding to these lies are the Russian conspiracy investigation, the incompetently handled travel bans and various insults to Germany, China, Australia, Mexico, Sweden and NATO. He has shown he is something of a loose cannon which unnerves folks. He says he likes to be unpredictable and he is. But, so is a toddler.

Right now, our President has zero credibility. Unfortunately, he is our leader, so we are guilty by association.

Mama told me not to come

Three Dog Night had so many great songs, but when they sang Randy Newman’s song “Mama told me not to come,” they struck a nerve with many. As teens, we wanted to listen less to our parents and more to our friends.

Even when our friends may be leading us down a perilous path, we will continue onward. Even when Mama told us that the path may be fraught with perils, we knew better and we ventured onward. The Three Dog Night song speaks to the realization by our teen selves that walking down that path or, in this case, going to an ill-advised party may have been a mistake. Not wanting to listen to Mama did not make her opinion less valid.

Why am I thinking of this song? I am trying  to put myself in the heads of people who voted for our President as they begin to realize who they voted for. I read a statistic last week from The Los Angeles Times that 11% of Trump voters have regrets. Going beyond the inane tweets, the consistent lying and puzzling incoherence and incompetence, he has submitted a budget and supports the repeal and replacement plan for the ACA which kick his voters in the teeth. This is already after he signed a bill in his first two hours to take away a mortgage premium reduction that would have helped a million Americans and his intention to cease or hamstring the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that helps multiple millions of Americans from aggressive and fraudulent financial practices.

“Mama told me not to come,” will be that song which echoes over the cognitive dissonance that will be dished out in spades to Trump voters.