Stories floating in the air

Between the US President and his three prominent spokes people, Sean Hannity, Sarah Huckabee-Sanders and Rudy Guiliani, there are numerous stories about what happened, what was said, what was tweeted, etc. floating around in the air. The mercurial President lives news cycle to news cycle, having the attention span of a child. So, he is prone to say or tweet something that changes a bad news paradigm. The truth is less relevant. Which is germane, as he tells stories like a child. “But, mom what about Joey or Susie. They did it too.”

Trump changes his stories so much, to me the stories are floating around in the air like comic strip bubbles. So, it is truly hard to keep track of his lies. He simply wears people out that they get numb to his prolific lying. He denied it then and denies it now, but of course he was aware about payoffs to women to keep them quiet about his many indiscretions. He, of course, knows about those indiscretions which he also denies. We just need to believe he was giving them money to keep them quiet about something that he said did not happen.

And, he of course, knew everything about Junior’s meeting with the Russians in a building that Trump owns about getting dirt on someone. Throwing dirt is Trump’s modus operandi. I was tickled to see how Sanders defended Trump who has been accused of using animal terms or lack of intellectual prowess to denigrate his African-American critics as racist tactics. Her defense is Trump is an equal opportunity attacker of critics, not using those precise words. In other words, he is jerk to people of all races.

Guiliani says now Trump never talked to James Comey about Michael Flynn. Really? I guess next he will say Flynn never talked to the Russians about a back channel or eliminating the sanctions. Or, Flynn never lied to Mike Pence about so doing, which was the stated reason he was fired. I am still trying to figure out what this doppelganger did with the old Rudy. Rudy used to be well thought of, now he is a barking dog that has a hard time keeping track of the floating stories.

At that might be the best analogy. Trump lies and changes stories so much, it is hard for him and his spokespeople to keep track of the floating stories. To me, that is sad to say about the President of our country. He lies so much, he cannot remember when he has lied and what he said earlier.

To be frank, I do not mind people being more conservative than I am on certain issues (I am actually fiscally conservative, but socially progressive). What I do mind is that conservative people try to rationalize this President, when it is quite apparent that he lies more than he tells the truth. I do mind when they accept as facts whatever Trump says, when he admits to not liking to do homework to know the facts. But, this belief in less than accurate news is precedes Trump, which is a key reason he was able to win them over.

So, my advice is to stick with good news sources. They are the ones that print retractions when they get it wrong and admit to it. Also, start from the following basis point. Do not believe a word the President says and take with a large grain of salt anything anyone on his team says. You will be more right than wrong if you do. As Omarosa said, “in Trump world, everyone lies.” That may be the truest thing she ever said, and she would know.

 

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Do you have standing?

Do you have standing? What does that mean? It is a legal term that asks whether you are personally impacted by what you perceive as a slight.

Before the US Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage was a protected right, it first ruled on California’s Proposition 8. This state law banned gays and lesbians from marrying. What was interesting is a conservative and liberal attorney joined together to fight this injustice. The key part of their argument was do people who marry have any impact on other people? They argued successfully that other folks do not have standing to prevent such marriage.

If what I do with my life does not impact you whatsoever, even though you may not like it, you do not have standing. And, vice versa. I have no standing in what you do, as long as you are not harming me. If you choose to have multiple affairs, marry a lesbian lover, worship as a Muslim, Evangelical or Universalist, or walk around naked inside your house, that is your business. I do not have standing to take legal action about my complaint. It is only when you harm me, that makes it an issue.

I mention this as people who want their freedoms somehow forget this point when they look to deny yours. This is a human shortcoming we must guard against. My rights cannot be more important than another person’s. This is where religious freedom laws often go a bridge too far. They remind me of when African Americans could not eat in a whites only restaurant. They had to go around back and get a to-go order.

When I see the Supreme Court say it is OK to decline service because of religious freedoms, let’s change the equation around and see if it stands up. Could a Muslim bakery refuse to provide a wedding cake to a wedding between a Muslim and a Baptist or interracial couple as these run counter to their religious beliefs. What about a Catholic bakery that refuses to make a wedding cake for a second marriage? What about a gay baker refusing to serve an Evangelical couple who openly advocated against his rights?

Even though the Supreme Court narrowly ruled that the baker could deny service to a gay couple’s wedding, it was a narrow ruling. Yet, did the baker have standing? He was not harmed by the gay couple. Go back to the previous examples to see the slippery slope.

I write this today as a result of the second anniversary of the Charlottesville riots. While groups have a right to peaceful assembly and protest, there is a subtle but important distinction on standing. A white supremacist who advocates against equal rights for non-whites does not have standing. A Black man’s rights do not impact the White man’s. Yet, someone who is protesting that you are advocating against my equal rights does have standing. A white supremacist is infringing on another’s rights.

We all have equal rights. Mine are no more important than yours. And, vice versa.

 

What is this 314 Action?

You do not have to be an engineer to know that 314 with a decimal added after the three is Pi. So, it should not be a surprise to learn that 314 Action has something to do with math or science. What it represents is an attempt to get more scientists elected to office. Their mission statement is below.

“314 Action was founded by members of the STEM community, grassroots supporters and political activists who believe in science. We are committed to electing more STEM candidates to office, advocating for evidence-based policy solutions to issues like climate change, and fighting the Trump administration’s attacks on science.

Why ‘314 Action’? Because Pi is everywhere. It’s the most widely known mathematical ratio both inside and out of the scientific community. It is used in virtually everything we encounter in our daily lives — and like Pi, science is all around us. Too often, legislators choose to ignore science in favor of convenient beliefs or intuition. We are committed to electing more leaders who will use their training as STEM professionals to influence policy-making. Evidence-based reasoning should be the foundation of legislation related to issues like climate change, and gun violence.

314 Action is also devoted to aggressively advocating for a pro-science agenda in Washington, D.C. and in local and state legislatures. We will leverage our network of pro-science advocates to organize and effect change in areas where science is being maligned or disputed. As a unified STEM and pro-science community, we can combat the all-too-common attacks on basic scientific understanding.”

It greatly troubles me that our country is in desperate need of more STEM education and professionals. Yet, the current party in power denigrates scientists who are not supportive of their recommendations. That is more than a tad hypocritical. Under Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency has done a great deal to forget the word “Protection” in its name. Several judges have admonished Pruitt’s team efforts for the EPA’s lack of homework and data behind its recommendations. This will likely continue under his successor.

Science matters. Data matters. Scientists endeavor to get it right. They question themselves regarding the veracity of their research and find fault when shortcuts to research were taken. I was listening to NPR earlier this week about the efforts journalists go through to get it right. One said, when you read a source, look how they handle mistakes. Do the admit, correct and make visible the mistakes? If they don’t, find another source. Scientists are like that. I think we could use more than a few in our legislature and other offices.

Below, is a link to their endorsed scientist candidates. This is rather refreshing.

http://www.314action.org/endorsed-candidates-1/

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.

Former GOP strategist warns of becoming Trumpistan

Steve Schmidt is a former campaign strategist for Senator John McCain’s last run for President, as well as playing similar roles for President George W. Bush and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. On Friday night’s “Real time with Bill Maher,” he forewarned that this fall’s mid-terms are the most important in American history. He said simply “If the Democrats do not retake the House, we may become Trumpistan in ten years.”

I don’t know about you, but I find his words chilling. They have even more gravitas coming from a former Republican strategist. He became an Independent voter this year.  He is very articulate in his concerns over the acquiescence of the Republican party to such an untruthful and fear mongering man named Donald J. Trump.

He spoke openly about the attacks on civil  rights of non-whites, the attacks on the media, the bullying of our allies, the vilification of people who dare criticize him and the outright lying. He referenced the cult-like allegiance to all things Trump.

He also mentioned the tactical strategy of “exhausting people.” He said it is purposeful to wear people out with his constant barrage of all of the above – the lying, bullying, name calling, etc. More than a few very studious and observant bloggers have noted the man just wears them out, as he does me. Per Schmidt, that is part of the plan. Just overwhelm people with BS and then steal from them right before their eyes.

We must say enough is enough. The US President is the most untruthful President in my lifetime, by a long shot. Even Nixon lied less and he turned out to be a crook. The jury is still out on Trump’s fate, but I am 100% convinced he is culpable of more than obstruction of justice, which is a given.

Please recognize what this man is doing to our country. The only thing great about him is his ego. Get out and vote and tell your friends to do the same. For the longest time, but especially since 2012, the GOP has been all about reducing opposition voter turnout. To me, that speaks volumes. They do not want people to vote in large numbers. Trump comvinced more than a few not to vote at all. Vote or do not complain. That is how we elected this untruthful bully in the first place.

 

From the mouths of those who ardently support the US President

I must confess, I do not expect many pearls of wisdom to come from a Donald Trump pep rally. The purpose is to get a supportive crowd riled up. The use of truth is irrelevant and unimportant. I am certain some truths find there way in, but per The Washington Post, at a rally in Montana, the rate of lying was a whopping 76%. That is actually higher than his recurring rate of 69% as measured by Politifacts.

Many of Trump supporters are fine people. To say otherwise is unfair. But, the blind acceptance of anything the man says does give me pause. The blind acceptance that all criticisms of the man are fake is equally troubling. Then, there are the more strident people. The Guardian interviewed several at last week’s Wilkes-Barre pep rally.

Among several interviewed, who felt the President was doing an “A+” job noting his accomplishments without a lot of context, there was one that stood out. One man, who will remain unnamed is very happy with how Trump is treating the rest of the world. I will leave off an extra pair of quotes and refer to him by (the man), but the next three paragraphs are from the article, with the offensive words modified.

“He said ‘grab ’em by the p***y’. And I get exactly what he meant by that. Grab these countries where they’re weak. Take them down if they want to think we’re weak. Grab ’em by the p***y,” (the man) said.

The Guardian pointed out that Trump was talking about women when he was recorded making those remarks, but (the man) was steadfast.

“Well, they thought so. But I took it in other ways. Grab the whole world that’s against us by the p***y bring them all down if they don’t like us, fight us. Grab them by the p***y. Get them in their weak spot.”

I am greatly offended by this man’s remarks. Like the offensive US President, after being pointed out that he was mixing metaphors, he doubled down on the insulting (and off base) language. I recognize fully this is one man. And, while  he is more offensive than others would or might be, the sentiment is probably widely felt in that audience.

Yet, let me focus on the meaning of the man’s words. Bullying and placing tariffs on our allies does not make America great. It makes America alone. We cannot shrink to greatness, which we will continue to see in the many months ahead, if changes are not made. As I have said before, bullying our friends is far worse  than the actual tariffs, so just fixing the tariffs won’t undo the damage of breaching good faith and trust. So, this metaphor is not only offensive, it is misguided. It causes other leaders and businesses to consider non-US options for customers and suppliers.

But, this metaphor goes beyond the bullying. This man is saying it is OK that Trump can speak of doing this to women. Per twenty women, this type of sexual misconduct is an example of what Trump did to them. One or two accusers is one matter, but twenty is more than a trend. And, he is on record (after denying it repeatedly), that he is aware of at least two payoffs for affairs on his current wife. So, using Trump’s highly offensive “locker room talk,” which I have never heard in any locker room, but especially ones which Trump might frequent, is flat out insulting.

These folks may think Trump can do no wrong. I strongly disagree. He is a daily embarrassment to decorum and the office of the President. He chooses to demean anyone who dares to criticize him, including the press. Then, there are his policies and actions, when reviewed in context, do not paint the same picture as these supporters contend, with or without offensive metaphors.

The US President “annihilates the truth”

With the taped conversation between Michael Cohen and then candidate Donald Trump, it confirms that Trump lied to the American people about his awareness of the settlement. But, that is not abnormal. In a recent PBS Newshour/ NPR/ Marist poll, 58% of Americans believe the President tells the truth sometimes or hardly ever, with 3% saying he never tells the truth. 36% of folks think he tells the truth almost always or most of the time.

Before the summer, The Washington Post counted 3,200 lies communicated by Trump as President and in a recent speech in Montana, measured 76% of the comments were false, misleading or unsupported. This percent is similar to the 69% untruthful rate that Politifacts has measured during his Presidency as of earlier this year. Using the latter percent, it means for every three comments, two of them are untruthful. These numbers do not surprise me at all. But, we should not rely only on statistics.

Earlier this week, PBS Newshour had a panel discussion on President Trump and his relationship with the truth. Judy Woodruff interviewed Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington who served in the last three Republican administrations, Lara Brown, the director of the Graduate School of Political Management at the George Washington University and author of several books on presidents, including “Jockeying For the American Presidency,” and Domenico Montanaro, the lead political editor for NPR.

Wehner started out echoing what some have said publicly that Trump is a “pathological liar.” He also uttered the comment in the title above that Trump has set out to “annihilate the truth.” Brown concurred and noted the sheer “volume of lies” makes it hard to categorize. She noted that he “exhausts” Americans with the continual stream of lies. Montanaro echoed their comments, but also pointed out if two numbers from the PBS Newshour/ NPR/ Marist survey are added together, 61% of Americans believe the President tells the truth either sometime, hardly ever or never.

It should be noted that 56% of Americans believes he lies more than other Presidents, with only 32% saying the opposite. Wehner and Brown noted that all Presidents tell lies (LBJ in the Pentagon Papers, Clinton about sexual relations, Reagan about the Iran-Contra affair and Nixon about Watergate, e.g.), but the number and volume dwarf that of his predecessors. Montanaro noted that we expect truth from our President and it is unnerving when we don’t get it. Brown’s comment about the lies being exhausting is true in our house. The man wears my wife and me out. We should not be expecting our President to be untruthful.

Each cited examples of lies, but Wehner said one that is not that big of an issue is an exemplar that set the stage for this President. It related to the size of his inaugural crowd. With visual evidence to contradict him, Trump lied and then made his spokesperson repeat the lie. He said it showed out of the gate, the President was ready to lie even when the facts demonstrated otherwise. That is also in keeping with Brown’s comments that he lies big and small and a comment I have cited from Thomas Wells, an attorney who worked with Trump for years. Wells said “Trump lies every day even about things of no consequence.”

Nothing in this post is news to readers. What is newsworthy is to hear someone use the term “annihilate the truth.” That is an astounding revelation and one I truly do not find fault with. As I shared with a Senator on his website earlier in the week, one way to tell the President may be guilty of more than obstruction of justice is the number of times he has changed his story just since Helsinki. We must let Robert Mueller get at the truth. We certainly are not hearing it from this President, at least not very often.

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/whats-happened-to-the-truth-under-president-trump