Anatomy of a Liar

One of the biggest factors of more autocratic governments is difficulty with the truth. Vladimir Putin, for example, may be the world’s most adroit liar. This is a key reason that the US President’s frequent problem with the truth give people concern over where the country is headed.

Looking at the anatomy of a liar, several things jump out. At the center of these untruthful leaders is a large ego that bristles at any kind of criticism. For this very reason, a liar tends to take credit for all things good and deflect blame to others for all things bad. Close to home, it is not uncommon for the US President to claim things he did not work on as “disasters” and things he did as “beautiful” or the “best ever.”

A favorite tactic of a liar is to keep things simple and repeat it over and over again. Using labels and calling people names are key parts of this strategy. When delivered with bombast, these lies seem very convincing. Smugness is also a common tactic to delivery. Smugness and bombast do not make you right, but unfortunately people are fooled by them. As for Trump, when he punctuates a thought with “believe me,” he is most likely lying.

In today’s news, several lies are jumping off the page. Saudi Arabia continues to come up with a changing storyline on the killing and dismembering of a reporter. Putin continues to deny strong evidence he tried to poison a former Russian agent on British soil and interfere in the 2016 US election. He also tried to interfere in the French election, but Macron’s people knew this and placed incorrect emails in the trove they stole to lessen the impact.

As for Trump, he lies everyday at a rate of more than 2 out of 3 statements per Politifacts. He is even worse at his pep rallies, where he lies 3 out of 4 times. I have long ago stopped believing anything Putin says. I also chose to do the same with Trump. To be trusted, one has to be trustworthy. And, therein lies the rub.

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The tribal BS must stop

America’s governmental leaders have become so polarized with a tribal mentality, it is to the point of dysfunction. This has been a negative trend for some time, predating the rise of the lightning rod US President. His style in the role of leader has only made things more divisive.

This tribal BS has to stop. I am an Independent voter who left the Republican Party over ten years ago. I chose not to rejoin the Democrat Party of which I was a member in my early adult years. I define myself as fiscally conservative and socially progressive. I think many people are mixes of various degrees of beliefs. So, being an Independent better fit my belief construct.

I do not mind people being more conservative or liberal than I am. What I do mind is so-called leaders not using facts to make decisions and in some cases lying about or oversimplifying the causes of problems. It is hard enough to govern with facts, but nigh impossible when you don’t. And, what is also frustrating is some of these so-called leaders know better, but their funders told them to believe the opposite of what is true or more true.

Neither party has all of the good ideas and both have some bad ones. This statement is worth re-reading for emphasis. It is important to note, a key reason I left the Republican Party was its tendency to make things up abetted biased news sources. That coupled with their stance on climate change were deal breakers for me.

Both parties have been untruthful and will continue to be such. Yet, it frustrates me that my old party has deviated greatly from what they were. It is now the Trump Party and many more Independents are former Republicans. The number of Conservative pundits who actively do not support the GOP is telling – Will, Gerson, Erickson, Brooks, Schmidt, et al.

But, Democrats must not govern as Republicans have done the past few years. They must focus on the issues and help get things done. Our country must have collaboration or lasting changes will not occur. Leaders must follow process. Any time, leaders deviate from normal process, take it to the bank, it is political. Kavanaugh must answer to questions from his accusers, but this should have come up earlier when the hearings were underway. On the flip side, Merrick Garland not have a hearing in 2016 was an injustice, as well.

The tribal BS must stop. Find common ground. Ask good questions and listen to the answers. Insist to our leaders the truth matters. It is a problem the US President lies more than he does not. And, remember the real tribe is the United States of America. If that is not enough, know this, what Vladimir Putin accomplished most through his interference and meddling is helping drive a larger wedge in America and he is still doing it.

McCain offers words of caution on Putin

I was sharing with Roger how some US Republicans have said they hold Vladimir Putin in higher regard than Nancy Pelosi and other US Democrats. In short, these folks are taking their eye off the ball. If they really feel this way, I have serious concerns around their judgment. Why would I say this?

In addition to his bent for invading or infiltrating former Soviet satellites, Putin has a history of ordering the elimination of his opposition. Either by murder, arrest or both, people who criticize the Russian leader have a habit of disappearing. In John McCain’s biography called “The Restless Wave,” he gives the example of Sergei Magnistky, among others, for whom the Magnitsky Act was passed to sanction Russia.

In short, Magnitsky, an auditor, went to bat for a US businessman who did business in Russia. When the businessman tried to extricate himself, his Russian business and its assets were seized by Putin under false pretenses. For his efforts, Magnitsky was jailed, where he was not treated for illnesses and was severely beaten, eventually dying in prison.

As is his nature, Putin took great offense at  the sanctions and made an executive order to cease US adoptions of Russian children.  Why is this important now? When Donald Trump, Junior and Senior, say the meeting at Trump Tower with the Russians was about adoptions, it is really about the existence of the Magnitsky Act and other sanctions that precipitated Putin’s cessation of adoptions.

Per McCain and other sources he cites, Putin, as a self-possessed strong man, reacts to strength, not weakness. He will keep doing what he is doing until the pain exceeds the gain. The sanctions hurt like hell, which is why he takes great offense when they are used, as he did today. So, unless the US punishes Putin for his cyber attack on America to sway public opinion, it will keep occurring with impunity.

The primary reason we know Putin is involved in the cyber attack is he controls everything in Russia. He pays attention to content of the US version of Russian Television so says former US anchors who left as a result. He pays attention to TV sitcoms to make sure they favor Putin on big items, while allowing some small criticism to avoid being too overt per a former producer of TV sitcoms. So, on the most impactful and cost effective tactic in modern warfare, where he can gain a great deal without ever firing a shot, of course, he is intimately involved in puppeteering the ongoing operation.

Putin is a shrewd man. He knows his stances against LGBT people in Russia, as well as repurposing the church as a center of influence, play well to US evangelicals. So, as he does his part to help break up western alliances and diminish democracies, as he is doing in the US, he is positioning himself as a global statesman.

Finally, there are two cautions from McCain we should heed. First, the source of the Steele Dossier about the Russians potential compromising information on the US President, Christopher Steele is a well-regarded professional, so says Sir Andrew Wood, former UK Ambassador to Russia. Issue has been made that the dossier was paid for as opposition research by first Republican opponents of Trump, but then by Clinton. But, McCain and Wood felt the dossier has enough veracity to get in the hands of the FBI.

Second, Putin views acquiescence as weakness. So, the US President’s fawning over Putin in Helsinki revealed Trump’s weakness. It was so weak, Putin actually walked away with too much (think about the sitcom story above), as it caused a backlash from the US Congress. He would have been better served if Trump appeared tougher towards Putin.

Trump contends there is pushback on his meeting with Putin. Of course, we should talk with other leaders who are at odds with is. I have not heard criticism of two parties talking. The criticism has been over being prepared and not being fooled. Putin, and Kim before him, have studied and prepared for such a meeting. The US President brags on winging it. That is not a good bargaining strategy.

Sunday seasoning

Sunday is a good day to simmer something slowly in the crock pot. With judicious seasoning, the aroma permeates the house until dinner time. Now that I made you hungry for pot roast or stew, here are a few seasonings to sample.

It is nice to see Tiger Woods competing for The Open Championship at the northern most venue in the world at Carnoustie in Scotland. For more than a decade, Woods was more successful than any other golfer in history. Unfortunately, injuries and personal issues derailed him from more major victories that would help him overtake the impressive record of Jack Nicklaus. It is good to see him back on the leaderboard.

The unraveling continues with the US President. Not only did he bully his allies, he appeared very weak in the face of Vladimir Putin. What should not be lost is by throwing his intelligence people and country under the bus, he has made even more Americans believe he may be compromised by the Russians. It has been reported that we may see some more departures from his White House, as it is quite apparent, he will throw anyone under the bus to save face.

The best feel good story of the year has been the rescue of the Thai youth soccer team. What should not be understated is the significant amount of cross country collaboration and reliance on people who had expertise to figure out the best path forward. To me, this is an exemplar as the antithesis of Donald Trump’s “go-it-alone and I-know-best” approach. Collaboration is hard work, but when nurtured and seasoned can do wondrous things.

In this same vein, another large ego, Elon Musk, showed his disappointment that the Thai rescue crew did not use Musk’s expensive technology based idea. To his credit, Musk has done wonderful things for the world and wanted to help. Yet, I mention this as the most elegant solution is not always the most sophisticated one. The term “elegant” is used in computer programming to mean the easiest and most effective solution. In this case, the safest solution was arrived at after much debate by people on the ground who were more knowledgeable of the risks.

This reminds me of the story of the child who solved a problem with a delivery truck that was just a tad to tall for an overpass it tried to go under. Everyone was stymied at what to do. After much discussion, a child who had been watching opined that they should let enough air out of the tires to lower the truck and they could drive it out. Now, that is elegant. It also worked.

Stating the obvious

The last week and three days have been a whirlwind for our country and the US President. I am both incredulous and stunned at how the events and verbiage spilled out. Let me state the obvious.

The US reputation around the world is in tatters, with many allied leaders saying and thinking they can no longer trust the word of the US President. Some have said we must prepare to move forward without the US. It should be noted the EU and Japan just inked a trade deal yesterday. And, Germany is increasing its business relationship in China.

This has been happening for some time, but the President’s sojourn included the following lowlights:

– He belittled the German chancellor and country once again, this time for doing business with Russia. This is ironic as Trump wants to do more business with Russia.
– He bullied NATO and questioned its veracity. How about seventy years of no major European conflict Mr. President? Even when he has a point, his overbearing manner is both offputting and insulting.
– He insulted his host in the UK, Prime Minister Theresa May, in a recorded interview. Then, when questioned, he did not accept accountability saying it was fake news. The news organization stood by its story.
– He then met with the Russia President after an indictment was issued by Robert Mueller’s team for twelve Russians for meddling in our election. To make matters worse, he not only sided with the Russians on Putin’s defiance, he said Americans were to blame, in particular Democrats and the media. He threw his intelligence folks under the bus and like most bullies, he appeared weak in the heat of the moment.
– He then returned home and faced heat from his own party and a cadre of Fox News presenters for denying his intelligence people’s findings. He tried to weasel out of the mess, by saying he misspoke focusing on one line. But, he did not correct several other sentences where he sided with the Russians and even threw in that others also may be culpable, which also differs from the intelligence community’s findings.

Overall, this was as shameful a performance by a President that I have ever witnessed. It was worse than I expected. Specific to the Putin press conference, Senator John McCain called it disgraceful. Other Republican legislators chimed in with varying degrees of criticism.

I do walk away convinced of three major points. I have no doubt that Trump is guilty of more than obstruction of justice with respect to the Russian meddling. I believe he is a compromised asset as he is aiding and abetting Putin’s long term strategy of diminishing NATO and the US relationship with our allies.

I also am convinced that global leaders clearly see this man for his lying, bullying and lack of accountability. My guess is they talk among themselves and to other leaders in the US about working around this man.

Finally, I am convinced that most of his staff believe what Rex Tillerson was reported to say about this man last year. My guess is more departures will occur, as he is not listening to their advice and they have to cover for the scorched earth he leaves in his wake.

Ain’t no witch hunt, but this witch better watch out for falling houses

President Richard Nixon resigned in August, 1974 because his Republican confidantes said he would be otherwise impeached. He said two things over and over before his demise. The first was “I am not a crook.” He was. The second was to refer to the Watergate investigations as a “witch hunt.” They were not.

President Trump uses the same second phrase over and over again, with his confidantes, sycophants and subordinates echoing the line. The Russian thing is a “witch hunt” or it is a “Russian witch hunt.” As with Nixon, this is not a witch hunt. Robert Mueller has indicted thirteen Russians and five people, four of whom have some relationship to Donald Trump. Three of the four have confessed to lying to the FBI, with one serving jail time. The most egregious offender per the indictments thus far, will stand trial.

But, as we consider the thirteen Russians indicted, help me understand that if this was a witch hunt, why did the US government include those thirteen people in specific sanctions when the President finally succumbed to pressure to act? Call me crazy, but that seems to be a direct admission by this administration that Russian meddling occurred. So, how could that be a witch hunt?

One of the sad truths about what is transpiring is the House Intelligence Committee making intelligence gathering political. The leader of this committee, Congressman Devin Nunes, has done several unethical things and had to step aside for awhile as one action was investigated as a breach. While cleared of wrongdoing, it did not erase the lack of ethics in the first of several questionable actions by Nunes to mask the truth.

His lack of ethics was the subject of a conversation between Senator Richard Burr, the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence Committee and Speaker Paul Ryan. Burr told Ryan his committee did not support the conclusions or the release of the famous Nunes’ memo on a report he never read. Burr also said that Nunes had defamed with false accusations another Senator who happened to be a Democrat.

Yet, the purpose of Nunes’ politically partisan efforts was to give the President a prop to waive and tweet about. Fortunately, the Senate committee has been far more thorough and bipartisan. And, the Senate Judiciary committee has passed a bipartisan bill to give a fair hearing to Robert Mueller if he is fired by this President. It is sad the Mitch McConnell won’t bring this bill to the floor for a vote, which is highly political as well.

But, the one clear action of the President over the last sixteen months is to consistently change his story about things related to the Russian meddling. Why? Quoting Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy, “if the President is innocent, it would help his case of he acted like it.” Gowdy answers his own statement in the first part of the phrase.

Just paying attention to this issue and what the President and his confidantes have said, I see a man who is guilty of obstruction of justice at a minimum. His own words and changing story to as late as yesterday indicate this. I see a man, at a minimum, who is an unwitting participant in Russian meddling, so says a CIA agent who testified in front of Congress. Yet, I will not be surprised if he is guilty of worse. A man who cares about his image and what people think of him would be interested in what was going on around him to get elected. Plus, there are those many financial relationships between Trump and Russian investors.

So, this is not a witch hunt. The FBI and Justice Department are not the bad guys. I find Trump’s attack on honorable law enforcement people a disgrace. But, I will say, if someone has done witchy things like this President does and appears to have done, he may want to watch out for falling houses.

Thursday thumbnails

Thumbnail sketches is one of those terms that is often used without thinking about its source. Per Wikipedia, it was first used in the 17th century, but was more widely used in the 19th century as a small pictorial of an idea, the size of a thumbnail.  But, it is often used nowadays for a brief synopsis. So here are a few thumbnails of thuggish behavior on this Thursday.

In the Philippines, the iron thumb leader Duterte has released a list of 200 names of people who may be involved with drugs, including their addresses. This thug has just put targets on this people, so do not be surprised if we read of more deaths.

Speaking of thugs, it is not ironic that Vladimir Putin and Basher al Assad have stalled entry by the UN inspectors to the alleged chemical attack site. Why is that? The only rational explanation is they have something to hide.

Speaking of Duterte and Putin, why does the US President speak more highly of them than he does German Chancellor Angela Merkel? It may turn out he is more than beholden to Putin for his election, but why would a leader spend his cache on Duterte? As for Merkel, he may be jealous of her being looked to as a leader of the western world or it may be something superficial. His emulation of thug like behavior such as lying about most issues, condemning the media, attacking people who criticize him or to off-load his errors, squelching civil rights, etc. is not Presidential, but autocratic.

Finally, something that needs even more notoriety is the imposition of tariffs on allies and other trading partners by the US President. Tariffs usually backfire and throw water on global and specific economies. Yet, the bullying of allies is another key part. This President has introduced a huge amount of uncertainty and threats to businesses that must import certain products that are not made here. The uncertainty is showing up in the capital markets and watering down hoped for greater growth from the Tax Law change. His own party leaders have not been too keen on this path.

That is all for now. Have a great rest of your week and keep your eyes open,