A cornered animal

A cornered animal is a dangerous thing. It needs to be handled very delicately, as the animal is scared, even from those trying to help. The end result may be the same for the intervener, whether he or she is malevolent or benevolent to the animal. Or, in the case of people, the malevolence to the cornered one may because of the harm being done to many others by the animal itself.

What we are witnessing the past few weeks is the US President is like a cornered animal. He has gone full bore in trying to protect himself lashing out at anyone or any entity standing in his way. The simple reason is all the havoc he has wrought is starting to cave in on him. And, he is reverting to a basic survival instinct which is particularly vehement given his narcissistic nature. “It cannot be me, it is all those folks out to get me. The bad news about me is all fake.”

The President knows the further Robert Mueller and his team look, the more they will find. When one’s history has lacked a due diligence to work with people of integrity and is replete with untruthfulness, one should be afraid. Not working with people of integrity was the gist of a Newsweek piece on Trump well before the election. But, the fear is this goes deeper in that there may be unhealthy relationships with Russian and other nefarious actors that could be revealed.

To me, the President is guilty of obstruction of justice. He did not want people looking into his affairs, whether there is criminality or not. He took strides to prevent the investigation and actually made it worse. As Rep. Trey Gowdy said if the President is innocent, he needs to start acting like it. And, per the testimony of all our intelligence leaders, at a minimum, Trump is guilty of being an unwitting participant in Russian meddling. His echoing the words prepared by Russian hackers was gold for the intruders, which he did more than a few times.

Yet, it goes further than this. Admiring pretty women is not a crime. Neither is having extramarital affairs, although evangelicals would concur that is a sin, especially when the affairs are plural. What is a crime is sexually assaulting women. What is a crime is sexually harassing them. What is crime is using money that could be construed as campaign money to pay off women he has wronged to be quiet.

So, not only is the President being cornered on one side by Robert Mueller, his past sexual misconduct is cornering him as well. He has called one woman a liar and she is allowed to proceed with a lawsuit of defamation of character. That makes three lawsuits on sexual misconduct. But, the first defamation lawsuit may lead to others coming forward as there are sixteen or so women who have claimed sexual harassment or assault by the President.

So, my guess is this will get even more ugly in the next few months. That will make all those Republican leaders who look the other way regret not standing up to this man. And, the scarier part is this does not include his ongoing style of governance where the truth does not matter, good counsel is ignored and demeaning others who disagree is modus operandi. As the rollercoaster operator says “buckle up as it is going to be a bumpy ride.”

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Truth does matter

“We pay more taxes than anybody else in the world,” said President Trump on August 10, 2017 having said similar statements on more than a few occasions.

“You know this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story,” said the President to Lester Holt on May 11, 2017 which he has said on multiple occasions.

The cut in the subsidies will only affect the “gift” to the insurance companies, said the President to his cabinet in October, 2017 when he defunded some ACA subsidies to the companies to repay them for subsidizing co-pays and deductibles for people making less than 2 1/2 times the poverty limit. He used variations of this theme on several occasions to defend his cuts to financial help to those in need.

The two common threads of these statements are they are all lies and were uttered consistently by Donald Trump. Yet, this should not be a shock to anyone as the man has a hard time telling the truth.

Per Politifacts, on 483 measured statements by the President, 69% of the time they were either mostly false, false or pants-on-fire false. In other words, more than 2 out of 3 statements he makes or tweets should not be considered as true.

In a fairly recent interview with The New York Times, the reporters measured the President averaged lying every 75 seconds. The Washington Post counted 1,950 false or misstated claims in his first 347 days. This is consistent with statements made by his five biographers who note Trump has a hard time with the truth.

But this is not news to most Americans per a Quinnipiac Survey. The survey said 62% of Americans do not think Trump is honest. And, in a University of Missouri Journalism survey, the President was listed in the bottom ten of trustworthy news sources, meaning the ten least trusted sources.

The truth matters. The Russia thing is real, whether it links directly to Trump or not, as intelligence officials say he is at minimum an unwitting participant in the meddling. In fact, General Barry McCaffrey, the most decorated retired four star general said this weekend that the President is a “serious threat to national security,” based on his adoring view of Putin.

On the taxes comment, we just reduced taxes with this lie laying groundwork. We are increasing our debt by $1.5 trillion to try to make a pretty good economy even better. On the health care subsidies, this lie covered for a change that will increase our debt by $10 billion meaning it impacts taxpayers as well as non-subsidized premium payers, not insurers.

Our problems are complex and they are hard enough to solve when we deal with the truth. When our leader lies and others support his lies, solving problems become even harder. The truth matters. And, with respect to his many alleged affairs and sexual misconduct, I would bet on the women’s stories as being more true than his defense.

Why Comrade Trump Why?

I am puzzled. For some reason, the President of the United States has made decisions that benefitted Russia. Why?

The decisions range from failing to condemn Russia once incontrovertible evidence was presented that showed they meddled and still are meddling with our democracy to failing to do anything about the continuing meddling to failing to sanction Russia as recommended by Congress with at least 98% votes in each Chamber. And, there are other examples, such as not including Russia in a list of countries on trading sanctions with North Korea. Why?

The possible reasons might include: significant long term financial ties to members of the Russian oligarchy, desire for future investment for his business, admiration for a dictatorial leader posing as a democratically elected official, unwitting and now embarassing participation in Russia’s meddling in our election, unwillingness to admit such as it would damage the veracity of his election, collusion with Russian meddlers or being a compromised asset of Russia.

Unfortunately, various combinations of the above reasons could be true. To be brutally frank, the financial ties and admiration of Putin are givens. I also think his ego is having a hard time with the fact he may have been aided in his win. What the Special Prosecutor will determine is whether he was just an unwitting participant, involved in collusion or a compromised asset. Given where he gets information, at a minimum he was and is an unwitting participant. The meddlers noted how delighted they were (and are) when the candidate parrots their words.

Given the above and his (and others’) fluctuating storytelling and obstruction efforts, I find it hard to believe Comrade Trump is not more culpable. I truly hope this is not the case, but we will have to see what transpires.

Crickets

Crickets. The sound you hear at night when other noises are not being made. Crickets are what we are hearing from the White House with respect to any condemnation toward Russian interference.

We, of course, are hearing a man with a fragile ego tell everyone that the “incontrovertible evidence” of Russian interference per his own director of national security, exonerates him of any collusion and did not affect the outcome. The indictment says neither.

Yet, what is indicting is he has not acted very Presidential and condemned Russia for its ongoing cyber attack on the United States. He has also not signed off on sanctions against Russia that were overwhelmingly passed by the Senate and House. He said the threat of sanctions are enough. He has not defined actions we will take to prevent further interference.

The key question we must ask is why? In my view, a man who is not compromised would be very vocally condemning Russia and putting forth sanctions. Crickets are what we are hearing, instead.

I am also dismayed that Congress is rather silent on this issue. I am further dismayed that Devin Nunes, head of the House Intelligence committee and author of a dubious memo, has declined to hold the annual intelligence briefing by directors of various intelligence agencies. These directors just briefed the Senate committee and all concurred that the Russians interfered with our election and will again. Why has no meeting been called? Speculation is he does not want these folks under oath to address the veracity of his memo.

As I mentioned in my previous post, coupling the above with the President’s hoax statement and story changing on this subject along with his overt attempts to obstruct justice, I will be surprised if he is not found guilty of being compromised. To me, it all goes back to significant financial ties to Russia, which this President has denied. Irrespective of this finding, to me it is clear he used his power to obstruct justice and has admitted as such,

Finally, for those who choose to still not believe Mueller or the intelligence agencies, several former Russians who worked for the troll factory echo the accuracy of the Mueller indictment. The President is begrudgingly agreeing to this, but thinks “me first” and wants to clear his name. Not so fast.

So, when a Trump diehard says this exonerates him, ask about the crickets.

Two quotes are all you need to know about this infamous memo

A long advertised memo reportedly authored by Representative Devin Nunes has been released from the Republican led House Intelligence Commiittee to the cry of foul by the minority party. The memo was edited after the meeting to approve it without going back for review, which is unethical and in violation of parliamentary procedure. Yet, the claim by the FBI and Democrats on the committee say it left out a lot of facts, while still confirming surveillance had been started off an earlier event which throws water on the larger claim.

But, there are two interesting quotes which tell you all you need to know about the issue.

Per The Hill, “Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) on Friday admitted that did not personally review the applications for surveillance warrants that provide the basis of the classified memo released earlier in the day.

Nunes said he relied on the review of committee member Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.).

‘No, I didn’t,’ Nunes told Fox News’ Brett Baier, when asked if he saw the applications.”

In essence, Nunes wrote a paper off a cliff notes without reading the novel. How does he know what he left out if he did not read the document on which the memo is based?

In contrast, here are words Republican Senator John McCain on the Nunes memo.

“The latest attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests – no party’s, no president’s, only Putin’s. The American people deserve to know all of the facts surrounding Russia’s ongoing efforts to subvert our democracy, which is why Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation must proceed unimpeded. Our nation’s elected officials, including the president, must stop looking at this investigation through the warped lens of politics and manufacturing partisan sideshows. If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin’s job for him.”

We must heed the words of this man of integrity and let another one, Robert Mueller do his job. If the President is as innocent as he says he is, he should welcome that.

This tells you all you need to know about the veracity of the memo’s author. Conservative pundit David Brooks said Friday on PBS Newshour that the normal way to register concerns would be for the committee to invite the FBI in to ask them questions. I have said before, anytime a legislative body deviates from a normal process, take it to the bank, it is political.

Mr. President, listen to the Department of Defense and CIA

One of the hardest jobs of any employee is managing up when they have a boss who is not very good at his or her role. Business is littered with stories of high performing individuals who fail miserably as managers. The President is not an exception as he has always been a better salesperson than manager as reported by financial reporters and biographers.

The folks working beneath him are doing their darnedest to keep him between the white lines and on message. Too often, he derails an effort by tweeting or being less than truthful or aware of the issues. Yet, there are two consistent messages that are being ignored by the boss from two important groups, which are making us less safe and secure.

First, the Department of Defense reiterated its recurring message that climate change is a key threat to national security due to destabilization and impact on readiness. As reported in Reuters yesterday, the DoD said 1,700 of its bases (about half) are threatened by wild weather patterns due to climate change. Per Reuters, “‘Changes in climate can potentially shape the environment in which we operate and the missions we are required to do,’ said the DoD in a report accompanying the survey.”

Yet, what is the President doing about? He is pulling the US out of the Paris Climate Change Accord, he has promoted more fossil fuel through words and actions, he has naysayed the climate science and his EPA director has removed climate change intellectual capital from the websites while firing, driving out or repositioning climate scientists.

Second, Mike Pompeo, the CIA director, said on Sunday, not only is there no question the Russians influenced our recent election, but he is certain they will do it again this fall. Yet, what is the President doing about it?

Although our Congress overwhelmingly voted on sanctions on Russia over the summer, the President said this week he would not impose those sanctions saying the threat is enough. And, in response to a request by Congress on the people who might be sanctioned, a cut and paste list was provided by the Treasury department. The term for this is called “phoning it in.” This on top of the President denying the intelligence, lying about his involvement, changing his stories multiple times and trying to undermine the efforts of the FBI and Special Prosecutor. All while the Russians continue their efforts.

These are threats to our national security and democracy, but we are failing to act. I am not alone in this view, but the Russians      have attacked our country though social media and cyber warfare and our Nero fiddles. His own DoD says climate change is a threat, but Nero’s response is to enable the threat, not circumvent it.

So, as the President fails to act, what are we going to do about it?

 

 

A few hard truths

In the land where entertainment and sports news get much more attention, a few hard truths need to be communicated. On the first Saturday of the new year, here are a few of those truths.

Our capable intelligence community is convinced with a high degree of certainty that Russian elements influenced the 2016 Presidential election and continue to sow seeds of discord to disrupt the US. This is a continuing attack on the US by a foreign entity that our President and this Congress have largely chosen to ignore. My suggestion is to ask your Congressperson, Senators and President what they plan on doing about it?

The US Tax Plan was passed to a lot of fanfare and chest beating under the guise of stimulating the economy, but it still needs a larger sales job on disbelieving Americans. Giving a lot of money to rich people and corporations is supposed to trickle down, yet do we need to add $1.5 trillion more to an increasing debt? Do we need to further stimulate an economy that has had 103 consecutive months of economic growth dating back to June, 2009? Do we need to stimulate an economy that just posted 2 million added jobs for the seventh year in a row, with a continuing run up of the US stock market? Nonpartisan economist groups have posed the same questions.

Let me get this straight, is the Republican Party for states rights or for federal rights? It seems to differ based on where the power lies. The White House has announced that 95% of coastal areas will be subject to offshore drilling to the dismay of governors who want to foster their tourism and fishing industries. Further, the Attorney General wants to crack down on states who are now selling regulated medical and retail marijuana changing an earlier Obama order to allow states to do this. Both of these decisions are getting heavy nonpartisan pushback from state leaders and it is my understanding the White House was asked not to do this.

Finally, the US continues to declare the cut in funding to countries that do not cooperate with us. This is not necessarily new, but we seem to be bullying others more and to what end? We are not the biggest funders to these places and China, India and Russia are easily picking up more influence as we decrease ours. The Pakistan PM basically said it is not a big deal if they lose US funding. The question to ask as we beat on our chest, is who are we trying to convince, the other country or a base of uninformed voters?

That is all I have for today. Unfortunately , the answers to these points can be summed up in one ugly word, “politics.” Have a great weekend and 2018. One thing is for certain is it will be interesting one.