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Witch Hunt

Posted in Politics and Justice by EloiSVM42 on May 15, 2018

A recent survey indicates that 90% of Republicans believe that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is a “Witch Hunt.” It is remarkable evidence of the apparent phenomenon that if you say something often enough, people will begin to believe it, no matter the contrary prima facie evidence, or lack thereof.

The characterization of witch hunt is clearly inaccurate, as it’s used metaphorically to describe the Salem Watch Trials, which were prosecuted on the basis of worthless evidence, hearsay, religious superstition and hysteria, for two reasons:

First, the investigation has already identified people who have actually been indicted, and some already confessed, to crimes related to the investigation into Russian meddling with our election. The fact that the Russians were meddling with our election has already been proven.  So, the Mueller investigation can in no way be said to be baseless.

Second, and this is particularly important regarding President Trump, who is leading the “Witch Hunt” chorus: absolutely no one officially involved in the investigation has accused Trump of anything. Trump is un-accused, and therefore must be presumed innocent.

Media pundits and politicians are screaming about the investigation – its motives, results and consequences prematurely; speculating, gossiping, guessing, but their motives are completely divorced from, and irrelevant to, the investigation. Politicians are stirring up their bases. Media are fighting for viewership or readership.

(This doesn’t mean the media – particularly print media – are not turning up some actual facts.  There is a lot of leaking from people involved. But even these leaks and reports, true or inaccurate, are not the same as actual evidence presented by the investigators, from whom we have heard nothing, except indictments or announcements of confessions.)

So, the investigation cannot be called a witch hunt in the metaphorical sense, because it has already caught some actual “witches.” And it cannot be said to be attacking the president because absolutely no charges, not even a suggestion of them, has come from the investigators.

When the investigation is complete, and the evidence presented, we will all learn whether there are any more witches. In the meantime, those calling the investigation a witch hunt are patently pre-mature, and, it must be said, begging the question why they are making such a fuss before actual evidence is presented.

 

 

Thoughts on Events the Week of May 7

Posted in Politics and Justice by EloiSVM42 on May 14, 2018

Trump Screws up, again, this time royally: I listened to President Trump speak about his decision to pull us out of the Iranian nuclear deal, and not a single truthful word came out of his little round asshole of a mouth.

This is the worst international fiasco the United States has initiated since President George W. Bush took us to war with Iraq, and just like that debacle, this one is preceded by a pack of lies.

Trump’s opinion that the Iranian nuclear deal – officially, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – is the worst in history notwithstanding, the JCPOA is the best international agreement of the 21st Century, and we, no other country, are now in willful violation of it.

The Obama Administration, along with our allies, and even adversaries China and Russia, worked long and hard to negotiate JCPOA, in the interest of reducing nuclear weapons…and it was working! Now our government has cavalierly, and without thought of the consequences, backed out on its word.

Iran is now free, if it chooses, to re-engage its nuclear a weapons program, and we have no one to blame but ourselves, and no way to stop it, short of war. Thanks to Trump, we now have two potential North Koreas again, not just one. (What’s that old saying? If you have a bird in hand and one in the bush, let the one in your hand go and chase after the other one?”)

There is no way in which Trump’s decision serves our national interest. Make no mistake, the only reason Trump pulled this spiteful stunt is because President Obama negotiated it. You’ve heard of Bush’s “faith-based initiatives?” This is a Trump “racist-based initiative.”

Just as it was hard to know how the universe would shake out immediately after the Big Bang, it’s hard to see this soon after the chaos caused by Trump’s announcement how things will turn out with the JCPOA. But I don’t think things will go as the Trump Administration thinks they will, if they have really thought about that at all.

Could it be that Trump wants to start a war with Iran so that he can become a “war president?” Is that why he brought Mike Pompeo and John Bolton on board, the only two people I know of crazy enough to state publicly they want military conflict with Iran?

Do the American people want us in another war in the Middle East? I don’t think so. I know I don’t. We’re already pissing away our treasure there, with the exception of that which we give to our richest 1%, with little or nothing to show for it except chaos in the region, delight among our adversaries and dismay and disgust from our allies.

With this irresponsible act, Trump has pulled himself close to a tie with George W. Bush as our worst president. If this decision results in a military conflict with Iran, Trump may surpass Bush. I truly despise this loathsome, pumpkin pigmented pig part.

The Iran Nuclear Agreement debacle is by far the most important event of the week, so important that I’m not including any other items on this blog. I’ll visit others during the coming week.

Status of the States:  Oklahoma keeps the worst state cup until Scott Pruitt is gone. He does something worst cup worthy ever week.

 

 

 

Why Trump lets Putin Slide

Posted in Politics and Justice by EloiSVM42 on May 10, 2018

Hey, remember Russia? President Trump sure hopes you don’t. That’s one of the reasons he throws up so much flak, such as porn stars, slandering his own Department of Justice, creating havoc with Dreamers and other aspects of our immigration policy, letting Scott Pruitt hang on as a delicious target and stuff like that. He would love for us to forget that he acts so deferentially to Russian president Putin. And many are distracted from this topic. Fortunately for us, Robert Mueller is not one of them.

So, why does President Trump let Vladimir Putin skate so easily? In fact, it is obvious why Trump is Putin’s bitch. You know why. I know why. Everybody does. But, just for the mental exercise, let’s review a range of possible motives as objectively as we can, in descending order of probability:

Trump may truly believe that the best way to work with Russia is to lay compliments on Putin (Trump sure loves to receive them) rather than sanctions. But this doesn’t fly, because he applies sanctions on other countries easily, and insults our other adversaries and allies alike.

Maybe Trump just prefers dictators over other types of leaders. It’s clear he wants to be one himself, as Miniver Cheevey longed to be a Medici. Perhaps Trump thinks if he hangs around them enough, dictatorship will rub off on him. But this doesn’t really wash, because even he knows enough about government to know our system isn’t made for authoritarians, though he hasn’t given up trying.

Maybe Trump is nice to Putin because his credit is so bad everywhere else that Russia is the only country with banks (all government controlled) who will loan money to him, even indirectly through Russian owned or controlled banks in other countries, such as Deutsche Bank. But Trump seems to have found another despotic country willing to give him loans in exchange for favors now that he’s president – Saudi Arabia. Maybe this will embolden Trump to be a little harder on Russia.

Maybe Russia has been laundering money through investments in Trump real estate for years which has made Trump lots of money, and he wants to keep his good customer happy.

Maybe Trump has been doing crooked deals with Russian oligarchs for years, which if they ever came to light would land him in prison.

Maybe Putin has been behind many of Trump’s deals, and has the goods on him, which he could turn over to the FBI any time, but is choosing to blackmail him with at present, to squeeze favors from his mark.

Maybe Putin has art on some of Trump’s sexual escapades in Russia that would make even evangelicals blush, and Trump knows Putin could get them published in newspapers and magazines all over the world over night.

Maybe it’s all of the above.

 

Thouoghts on Events the Week of April 30

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on May 9, 2018

Rudy makes Fox News News: On Fox News Wednesday evening, Rudy Giuliani admitted that President Trump’s attorney-fixer, Michael Cohen, paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about a roll in the hay she had with Trump, and that Trump reimbursed Cohen on the installment plan, though Trump still says his one night stand with Daniels never happened. Giuliani went on to say that the whole thing is “irrelevant.” And you know what? He’s probably right, up to a point.

I don’t care who Trump has sex with, or how much he pays or overpays for it, however foolish, and it’s obvious his base doesn’t care either. They already know Trump had sex with Daniels. You know it. I know it. Everybody does. It’s patently obvious that Daniels is telling the truth and Trump is lying.

So, assuming the money was stuffed properly into Stormy’s G-string, and not through some illegal financial scheme, as some suspect, no harm, no foul.

And even if there were financial shenanigans, it’s unlikely ever to amount to much. The Federal Election Committee is an impotent, toothless, politically paralyzed entity, even by Washington standards, and, again, his base won’t care about this either. They’ve already overlooked so many more serious crimes, one more won’t matter. And if Trump’s base doesn’t care, you won’t hear so much of a whimper from our Republican-controlled Congress.

Frankly, I think Giuliani actually has a political strategy going, posing as a legal one. Get everything out all at once.  Make it sound stinking bad and get it all behind Trump. Then, using Trump’s default tactic, throw out so many lies and contradictory statements that people can’t keep up. Well, no one but Mueller.

Now, beyond the point mentioned above: 1) Trump will have some more explaining to do to Melania. 2) It strengthens Stormy’s defamation case against Trump. (It just doesn’t sound credible that Trump would say she’s lying about the hump, and then pay her $130,000 to forget about something he says never happened). 3) Likewise, it strengthens the cases of other women Trump has called liars who are suing, or will sue, him, now that Giuliani has let the pussy out of the bag, so to speak. 4) Evangelicals will suffer another episode of heartburn over their hypocrisy, but they’ll get over it. They always have.

As one enters, yet another leaves: Ty Cobb, another of President Trump’s lawyers, left the White House staff, his strategy having failed. Cobb advised Trump to cooperate with the special counsel and get everything over quickly.

The reason this strategy failed is easily inferred. Trump told Cobb he is innocent. Cobb was foolish enough to believe him, so cooperating was the logical course. But cooperation was always out of the question for Trump, or Mueller, for that matter. Mueller has evidence and Trump knows what he has done.

Not so sudden thought: President Trump’s hands don’t seem to me to be so extremely small. Below average, to be sure; I doubt he can palm a basketball. But nothing to warrant such mocking.

His little round mouth, on the other hand, is quite odd. When I watch him speak, I see a hole end of a roll of toilet paper talking to me.

Trump’s terrible job running his Justice Department: For months, Trump has insulted, smeared, slandered and libeled the Justice Department, the FBI and certain members of each by name. He has called many top level executives crooked, corrupt and worse. He has called James Comey an untruthful slime ball and worse. He smears his own Attorney General and Assistant Attorney General incessantly.

Recently, he hurled the ultimate condemnation – the most damning accusation he could make in the eyes of his base. He called them “angry Democrats,” despite the fact that those he calls out most viciously are Republicans, and appointed by his own administration!

Trump does this for his own self-preservation, not caring that damaging the reputation of his Justice Department in the eyes of the public diminishes our entire system of justice for all. Trump doesn’t care anything about that, only his own hide.

While doing this, Trump hopes we overlook the fact (his base doesn’t know or care) that the Department of Justice is part of the Executive Branch – his branch. When he condemns the DOJ’s performance, he is criticizing his own.

Trump is responsible for their DOJ. He can fire the people he condemns any time and put new executives in their place who are more to his liking. If they are so bad, why doesn’t he do that? I’ll tell you why.

Trump doesn’t fire them because doesn’t really care what kind of job they are doing. He just doesn’t want them to do it to him. He knows they are doing their job correctly, and if he fires them, it will stink on ice. (Just like everyone knows Trump screwed Stormy Daniels and paid for her silence, everyone knows Trump has done a lot of other bad things that he is trying to hide from the law.)

Trump’s hope is to lower public opinion of the DOJ to the point his base will accept it if Trump fires them, or have an excuse to forgive Trump if his misdeeds come to light.

But make no mistake. Trump will fire everyone he needs to in a heartbeat if he feels mortally threatened by his own Justice Department, to save his own skin. He will take his chances, and if he gets away with it, our system of justice, and our democracy, are pretty much over. We’ll see.

Person of Interest: Carlton Pearson (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlton_Pearson)

Status of the States:  Oklahoma keeps the worst state cup until Scott Pruitt is gone. He does something worst cup worthy ever week.

 

 

 

 

Thoughts on Events the Week of April 23

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on May 2, 2018

The Koreas Talk: North Korea’s Supreme Leader (Please) Kim Jong-un and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in joined in an historic meeting – the first between leaders of the two countries, still technically at war, in 65 years. Kim took the first step, literally, by crossing the border – and the DMZ – to meet with Moon in the South. The photo of their handshake was poignant.

I am glad to see the two leaders taking matters into their own hands to improve their countries’ relationship. All politics is local, Tip O’Neill said, and Kim and Moon seem to have decided to set aside China and the U.S. for the time being and see what they can work out locally while the big boys play their global game.

From this beginning, it may be possible to achieve positive, stabilizing steps. In fact, they’ve already begun. South Korea has turned off its loud speaker system that broadcasted propaganda across the border, and North Korea has adjusted its time zone to reality. They’ve agreed to get together again to talk about more serious stuff.

Don’t laugh. From tiny acorns, etc. Other, bolder steps could ensue, such as family reunions, cross border commerce and cultural exchange. Connections like these, over time, have a way of damping down animosity to the point military conflict becomes unlikely, then almost impossible. It makes no sense to be shooting at your customers.

To be sure, such efforts toward peace and harmony between the two Koreas have flowed and ebbed often before, only to shatter. This could be just another short-lived interlude. But both countries are in a better position to connect amicably than they have been in a long time. Kim has his nuclear arsenal, for all practical purposes, and Moon has a brain and an open mind.

It’s hard to imagine how, alone, Kim and Moon can reunify their countries, officially. Among the awkward impediments, they are still at war, and the Armistice that ended all hostilities was signed by the UN (read U.S.), North Korean Army (read Kim) and China (read China). They would have to agree to change the Armistice to a peace agreement, which they may or may not want to do, as they are dicking around with their own agendas and nukes and stuff.

On the other hand, it is possible, though improbable, that North and South Korea could reconcile and reunite in practical terms to the point of rendering the Armistice obstacle obsolete. Wouldn’t that be nice?

On a separate track, President Trump and Kim are talking about talking about meeting to talk about Kim’s denuclearizing. I don’t see much positive happening on this track. Kim is not going to give up his nuclear weapons unless and until China decides to make him. That deal will have to be worked out between China and the U.S., and I just don’t see it happening yet, though perhaps someday.

That said, if Trump, with help from China, which even he sees as essential, gets North Korea to give up its nukes, truly, then Trump deserves a piece of the Nobel Peace Prize, even if it has to be delivered to him in prison.

Bottom line: nukes aside, the Korean conflict, like the Cuban conflict, has been going on needlessly for far too long.

Iran, North Korea and the greater nuclear fool: Let’s cut to the chase. The Iran agreement, which Trump calls the worst deal in history, is in fact the best diplomatic deal of the 21st Century.

We have a deal with Iran and several key U.N. members under which Iran has agreed to stop developing nuclear weapons for at least 15 years, while we work out other, non-nuclear related issues with them. Iran has adhered to this deal, certainly on the nuclear weapons part, no matter how much President Trump, and President Netanyahu of Israel, for that matter, lie about it.

Trump wants to tear up this agreement unilaterally, which will free Iran to restart its nuclear program and piss off all the others who agreed to the deal, including China and Russia. It’s inconceivable even Trump could be that stupid, but he is threatening to this.

On the other hand, Trump is eager to talk to North Korea, which already has nuclear weapons, and missile capability, and less than no incentive to give them up, and has said consistently that it will never give them up, one of its few honest, consistent statements. North Korea is not going to leave the cover of its nuclear arsenal unless and until China flushes it.

I don’t particularly care if Trump meets with North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un out of sequence with normal diplomatic protocol, if he wishes. It’s stupid, but it’s his call, and it could make our allies in the area breathe easier, though I question that will be the result. But I do care if Trump screws up the Iran deal. If so, he is not only the greater fool; he is the greatest fool.

The Trump – Mueller Interview: It amuse me to hear the conversation regarding whether President Trump should or should not talk to Robert Mueller. Trump is going to talk to Mueller, one way or another. It will be in Trump’s office – I assume Mueller will come to him – or in front of a Grand Jury, in which case, Trump will come to it.

William Kristol says it will never happen. He says Mueller won’t get even one bite at the Trump apple, because Trump will fire Mueller and anyone else in a heartbeat before he’ll testify under oath in this investigation, no matter what anyone advises.

Kristol may be right about this. Frankly, I think he is, regarding Mueller, specifically. But when I say Mueller, I am using his name as a synecdoche, meaning the entire investigatory and prosecutorial system. Trump is going to talk to Mueller as president, or resign and take his chances.

Ryan fires the House Chaplin after firing himself: What a bunch of petty bullshit. Can you even believe such a ridiculous story, let alone that it ever got out into the public? House members are quarreling over their Goddamn chaplain. Apparently, some House members don’t feel their spiritual needs are being met by a Catholic Priest, so Ryan, a spineless Catholic, no less, fired him.

Hey, House members, if your spiritual needs are not being met in the House, go to your house of worship and get them met there. The House, the nation’s House, wasn’t created for that purpose.

For the record, I am vehemently opposed to there being any chaplain for the House. It is an affront to the separation of church and state, and one has no place in government buildings. Hell, even Roy Moore learned that.

Person of Interest (New Segment): Tammie Jo Shults. Look her up. She’s remarkable.

Status of the States: Oklahoma keeps the worst state cup until Scott Pruitt is gone. He does something worst cup worthy ever week.

Thoughts on Events the Week of April 16

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on April 24, 2018

Russian Sanctions: Contrary to the announcement over the weekend by U. S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley that more, and more significant, sanctions against Russia would be announced on Monday by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, instead came the news that President Trump had killed the sanctions. The news shocked Trump’s aides, but not anyone paying attention to Trump’s relationship with Russia.

This change of mind, if there ever really was one on the part of Trump, left Haley’s cheese in the wind at the U.N. Larry Kudlow, the latest of Trump’s appointments whose primary qualification is having been on TV at Fox News, suggested Haley’s having “gotten ahead of the curve” with her announcement. Haley immediately slapped Kudlow around in public like an ugly stepchild. Kudlow, being a Fox News alum, where mistreatment of women is part of its misogynistic culture, reflexively took the Fox female putdown approach with a serious, grown up woman who wasn’t going to put up with that crap for a minute. Big mistake, Larry. It was delicious.

Don’t interpret my delight at Kudlow’s well-deserved putdown by Haley as an endorsement of her broader record. She is doing a credible job as U.N. Ambassador, which makes her stand out in the Trump administration, but overall, she is a hidebound, mean-spirited far right wingnut. As legislator and then governor of South Carolina, she contributed heavily to making it onto the Worst State list.

But the bottom line result of this fiasco is that many are still wondering why in the hell Trump treats Russian President with such deference. Pundits are reluctant to speculate too directly, but this week, I will post the explanations.  Spoiler Alert: Putin has Trump by the financial and criminal short and curlies.

James Comey’s Book: Comey’s kick and tell book came out Tuesday, but it was a partisan political football long before the official publication date, based on advance copies and Comey’s promotion tour.

I don’t read this books of  this genre – quick buck, tell all exploitation of current political events. I know exactly what they are going to say by who wrote it, and if there is anything new in one of them, it will be all over the news anyway. (I did start to read Al Franken’s memoir, AL FRANKEN: GIANT of the SENATE, because I knew it would be funny, which it is, but when he was sunk early by the sea change of the #MeToo Movement, I put it down, because what’s the point?

Comey’s book, and Comey himself, are being praised by many Democrats. Republicans, however, are universally smearing him to discredit Comey’s accounts of his conversations with Trump.

Much, but certainly not all, of what is in Comey’s  book holds together well, corresponding tightly and consistently with the contemporaneous notes he took about his meetings with Trump (which are now also released by the DOJ and leaked at the speed of light, as the FBI predicted would happen;  they were being given to politicians after all). I think Comey was being honest and accurate about Trump, and that most people sense it, which is why Republicans are trying to smear his reputation, since they can’t refute the compelling evidence.

But Comey destroyed his credibility with me long before Trump has tried by his handling of Hillary Clinton’s email “investigation.” Comey broke FBI and DOJ rules, protocols and guidelines, and I believe he did it deliberately, by his own choice, and/or under pressure from the FBI culture that surrounded him.

It was Comey, not the Russians, who cost Clinton the election. Americans don’t care a fig what Russia thinks or wants when we are voting. But we have (or had) a high regard for the word of the FBI, and Comey’s denouncements of Hillary, even as he was ostensibly absolving her, and releasing of a damning, and forged, it turned out, letter damaging to Clinton just before the election doomed her. Loretta Lynch should have fired Comey on the spot.

Some will say Lynch’s firing Comey would have made things worse. That Trump would have appointed someone worse than Comey and been able to do even more damage than he has done. I think not. If Comey had been fired and the reasons explained publicly, Clinton would have won the election, and we would have been spared all of this chaos. And even if Trump still had won, at least the DOJ would have done the right and honorable thing by maintaining its standards, protocols and integrity. As it is, we lost both ways.

Sean Hannity: What can I say? The man is a smarmy, lying, ultra-partisan pig part, whose journalism evokes Soviet era propaganda, and whose  behavior personifies conflict of interest. But let’s not dwell on his good qualities too much.

Hannity has defended Trump’s fixer-lawyer Michael Cohen viciously and incessantly on his TV show, about his (Cohen’s, not Hannity’s) arranging hush money payoffs to two women about sexual fun and games they had with Trump.

Cohen’s client list is very small – only three clients over the last year – and his practice seems to be very specialized, i.e., negotiating payoffs to clients’ sexual partners for their silence. To date, Cohen is known to have arranged such payoffs to strange for two of his three clients – Trump and Republican National Committee fundraiser Elliott Broidy. Here’s the good part.  Hannity, during all his public rants and smears and defense of Trump and Cohen, neglected to mention that he is Cohen’s third client!

I had hoped, in vain as it turns out, that when Rupert Murdock’s sons began taking over more of their dad’s business responsibilities, they would move Fox toward more traditional journalistic standards, or at least exhibit some shame. But not so far, and they are standing strong by Hannity.

It will be interesting to see how Fox will respond when we learn what Hannity’s business with Cohen was, and it will be learned. The current newspaper war will insure we find out. Journalists are on the trail as not seen since Nixon. Look at all the Pulitzers just handed out for their superb coverage of this bizarre administration. Bravo to the Fourth Estate.

Revisiting MLK’s 100th Anniversary: When Martin Luther King was murdered on April 4, 1968, I was 26 at the time, and it was the last straw for me, or so I thought. John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. The obscene Vietnam War was raging, and the one person I thought would end it was killed, squelching that dream. Then King was killed, bringing the depth of the country’s racial bigotry into unmistakably sharp relief.

It couldn’t get any worse, I thought, but within just a few months, Robert Kennedy was assassinated, which lead to the anti-war riots at the 1968 at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago (viciously, quasi-militarily suppressed by Chicago Mayor Richard Daily, as if we were living in East Berlin, not a major American Midwestern city).

The public thuggery at the convention, the growing revulsion at the war and the refusal of Hubert Humphrey to denounce it – which everyone knew he opposed – out of loyalty to Johnson, doomed his candidacy.

This gave us more years of war under Nixon, though he ran on a platform of ending the war (more than 58,000 American dead all told). These deaths don’t include the four unarmed students killed in the Kent State Massacre in May, 1970 by the Ohio National Guard for protesting Nixon’s widening the Vietnam War by bombing Cambodia.

Finally, Nixon’s treasonous violation of his sworn Constitutional oath, his resignation in August, 1974 and his, to me, unconscionable pardon by his successor Gerald Ford immediately, in September, capped of an era of true American carnage.

So, all this began with JFK’s assassination (well, our Vietnam War experience began earlier, under President Eisenhower in the 50s, but that’s another story of leadership malfeasance), two months after my 21st birthday and ended on the month of my 30th with Ford’s pardon of Nixon. Pretty formative years for me.

This period explains, I think, why I hate war, despise bigotry, distrust government, am revolted by corruption, try to respect Nature and don’t believe in good as ludicrously conceived and hypocritically worshiped by man.

Status of the States: It’s like NCAA Basketball tournament around here. States are vying desperately for the worst state cup, as if it’s a win or go home event. Don’t worry this week’s losers. You’ll have another shot weekly.

Scott Pruitt keeps Oklahoma in the competition weekly with his smarmy ways. Note: The New York Times published a lengthy piece on Pruitt’s shenanigans in Oklahoma before he came to Washington and after he got there, which exposes Pruitt’s corruption there on a scale worthy of earning him a berth on the Trump ship of fools. I don’t see how Pruitt can last much longer, but hey, I’ve been wrong before.

Texas finally popped the zit that is former U.S. House Representative Blake Farenthold, who resigned effective immediately just before release of a report by the House Ethics Committee that would accuse him of committing acts of sexual harassment and more with his office staff, and then settled with an  accuser with public (read our tax money) funds.

Oklahoma scored another goal in its battle for worst state when another inconceivably unqualified U.S. House Representative Jim Bridenstein (R-OK) was confirmed on a 50-49 party line vote to be administrator of the National Aviation and Space Administration (NASA). Bridenstein is the first elected official to run NASA. Usually NASA is run by a, you know, scientist. Bridenstein is about as far away from science as you can get. He is a climate change denier with absolutely no scientific credentials. Oh, and he hates gays.

One Democratic Senator opposed Bridenstein’s nomination because he said NASA could not be successful working with Congress with a partisan politician at its head, and Bridenstein is about as partisan as you can get. Reading between the lines, I think the Senator thinks the new NASA administrator is a flaming asshole, but I’m speculating, based only on his wingnut record in the House.

To be fair, this appointment reflects worse on the Senate than the candidate. How in the living Hell could it consent to such a patently unqualified candidate? Talk about abrogation of responsibility.

Which brings Arizona’s champion into the competition – the aptly named Senator Flake. Jeff Flake denounced Trump and his administration so vociferously that he alienated Trump’s base to the point Flake would have lost his primary and decided not to run again. That freed him up to speak his mind even more forcefully. I had high hopes for his last political acts. Instead, Flake has caved on vote after vote after vote to advance the Trump agenda, including his vote to approve Bridenstein. I just don’t get it, but it is disgusting and disappointing from a man who spoke so tough and caved so fast.

Kris Kobach, former Kansas Secretary of State, debunked voter fraud activist and head of Trump’s disgraced and dismantled voter fraud investigation task force, was held in Contempt of Court for failing to obey a judicial order on a voter registration case in Kansas. What a sweet guy.

Alabama’s Beauregard Jefferson Sessions is still Attorney General, which is credential enough for his state’s qualification to his week’s competition.

South Carolina’s claim on the cup is due to the prison riot at the Lee Correctional Facility, in which seven inmates were killed in what was apparently a turf war. Lee is a maximum-security facility, and all those there are bad guys, including, apparently, the guards. This facility, like all such in South Carolina, is understaffed, underfunded, and unprofessionally managed.

It’s tempting to give all the worst states the cup in a tie, but I can’t do that with South Carolina, because Nikki Haley did her job correctly at the U.N., and it was fun to watch her spin Larry Kudlow around like a cat on a string (boy, that simile dates me).

 

 

Thoughts on Events the Week of April 9

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on April 19, 2018

Speaker of the House is leaving the building: Paul Ryan, leader of the Republican-controlled U. S. House of Representatives, announced that he will not seek re-election in the 2018 mid-terms, guaranteeing that there will be a new Speaker next year, whichever party controls the House.

It is unusual for someone to give up that much power and authority without a fight. I suspect Ryan became sick of fighting with his own tempestuous caucus, and I think he calculates that Democrats might very well win back the House in the next election and he wouldn’t have any power or authority anyway. He may also calculate that he would lose his own House seat against Democratic challenger Randy Bryce.

Ryan, 48, has been a rising superstar in Republican politics. He is what passes in Republican circles for a “policy wonk,” because he can put a patina of rationale over the most mean-spirited, preposterous or patently obvious rip-offs of the poor and elderly, with a straight face.

Ryan can take credit for guiding the obscene $1.5 Trillion tax cut for the already too richest of our fellow countrymen through the House. But, when people begin to experience the consequences of that tax cut, he may not be able to show his face in public again… perhaps another reason he decided not to run.

Taxes are the primary source of revenue by our government is funded. Taxes are also essential in implementing and influencing public policy. But they also reflect where our hearts, our morals and our values lie.

Justice, individual rights and compassion are human concepts. They don’t exist in Nature. They don’t exist in Paul Ryan either. He is the author and champion of vicious attacks on the poor, elderly and minorities among us.

It’s said that Ryan didn’t want the job of Speaker of the House, and had to be coaxed into taking it. This could be true. Ryan was instrumental in driving his predecessor – John Boehner – to resign in frustration and disgust at his own party. Ryan knew what a miserable, difficult, unrewarding job it could be to lead the deeply fractured Republican House caucus.

Ryan only agreed to take the job when both Republican factions – the right and the wing nut right – promised to stop fighting and follow his lead. Here’s the delicious part: the Republican’s brilliant policy wonk is so stupid he actually believed them. The warring factions were at each other’s throats again, and Ryan’s, before he could swing his new gavel.

Somewhere in Ohio, Boehner is smoking a cigarette, sipping bourbon and chuckling. Except for the cigarette and Ohio parts, so am I. Ryan is a truly bad guy, and I am glad to see his career come to such an ignominious end.

Syria: President Assad gassed his own people, again, and President Trump fired a bunch of missiles into Syria, again. The whole episode was a Kabuki dance, except, of course, for those Syrian citizens killed by their own president in the gas attacks. Trump’s missiles accomplished nothing.

Our “position” regarding Syria remains the same as it has for years. We don’t know what is going on there. We don’t know what we are doing there. We don’t know what we want to accomplish there. We don’t know our friends from our enemies there. We don’t have a clue, and yet we dance on.

Revisiting Good Friday: We celebrated this “holiday” last week, and our schools, public buildings and many businesses were closed, at least in Arizona. I am adamantly opposed to a public celebration on this holiday, in the interest of separating church and state.

I don’t mind celebrating Easter (well, not me personally, but Christians), because it always falls on Sunday and doesn’t cause any harm then anyway. For others, it’s just another Sunday.

And, I don’t mind celebrating Christmas, because it, and all the other holidays celebrated around that time, are all descendants of the Winter Solstice, something genuinely worth celebrating. No harm, no foul.

But Good Friday is an expressly Christian event, with a little Judaism thrown in, I suppose, forced into our holiday calendar exclusively for Christians, and that is not as the Constitution intends. So, take your palm fronds and your Hosannas and celebrate with them at home, with my blessing. But leave the schools open. Closing the schools on Good Friday is a poor way to teach students the Constitution.

Status of the States: Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, is a stench that keeps on stinking. Among his most egregious abuses of the public financial trust is having installed a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility – called a SCIF for short in governmental jargon, and a Cone of Silence in episodes of the sitcom “Get Smart,” which anticipated this clown – in his own office, at a cost of around $43,000 of your and my money.

In practice, SCIFs are used by our military, national security and intelligence personnel to communicate sensitive, confidential or secret information securely. Although I can’t imagine why it would be needed, there is already a SCIF in the EPA building at Pruitt’s disposal, but he just had to have his own.

To add insult to injury with this abuse of the public trust, it turns out that Pruitt’s SCIF doesn’t even meet the SCIF standards, just like in “Get Smart,” so the $43,000 was a complete waste of our money.

To be fair to Pruitt, if I were constantly colluding with big business to roll back regulations that protect our environment but which business finds inconvenient, I probably wouldn’t want anyone to hear my conversations either. What a worst state cup-winning putz! He’s all yours, Oklahoma.

 

 

Thoughts on Events the Weeks of March 26 and April 2

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on April 14, 2018

I was so busy last week that I didn’t have time to produce thoughts on weekly events timely. But the topics this week are the same as last week (and so on and so on), with some new dollops of craziness poured on top. All of Trump’s weeks boil down to Russia, tariffs, immigration, corruption and scandal. So, this weekly blog is an aggregation of my thoughts on the basis of topic, not chronology.

Russia: President Trump called Russian President Putin to congratulate him on rigging his election, then asked Putin to come to his house for a play date, and maybe have a sleepover. Trump’s aides were stunned.

How must it feel to be an advisor to a fool who not only doesn’t listen to your advice, but tends to react to it in the opposite direction, and that this – being ignored or outright rejected – is the best you can expect from your employer? More typical is insult and termination. Also possible: subpoenas and prison.

Subsequently, after much refusal and stalling, and with tremendous pressure from the EU, Trump took his lips off Putin’s butt long enough to put some sanctions on Russia, though he told his aides not to make a federal case out of it (read don’t talk about it). Russia reciprocated.

Trump followed with personal sanctions on some of Putin’s cronies, a more meaningful sanction, atypical from him, which may or may not reflect the influence of a new hire. Trump’s default impulses toward Russia are fear and deference, but he has a new National Security Adviser-designate – John Bolton – who is barking mad, but who hates Russia. Awkward.

Tariffs: Lacking the most basic knowledge of international trade economics or policy, and misunderstanding the concept of trade deficits, Trump announced tariffs on more goods from China.

You’ll remember that Trump’s first announced tariff was on steel and aluminum, worldwide. Trump’s expressed target was China, but the tariffs were insignificant to China, from which we only import about 4% of our steel. The tariffs are very significant to Canada and Mexico, however, from where we get most of our steel imports. So, Trump exempted Canada and Mexico from the tariff, along with a lot of allies, with the result Trump’s tough tariff amounts to no tariff at all.

But this new one with China is serious, and it has been immediately reciprocated by China with tariffs on comparable amounts of our exports to China. A ratcheting up of tariffs has begun, which could lead to serious  economic trouble, but probably won’t, because Trump is bluffing, or so ill informed that when someone pours enough buckets of cold educational water on him, he will back down. What a putz!

Unlike Trump, China has targeted its tariff threats brilliantly, beginning with some targeted with surgical precision on the home states of Republican Congressional leaders McConnell and Ryan. In their subsequent escalation, China has threatened tariffs on many agricultural products – pork, soy beans, and the like – the very ones produced in Midwestern red states, by redneck Trump-voting farmers. Awkward.

While Trump was announcing tariffs, his Treasury Secretary was downplaying the possibility, and his shiny new TV-minted Director of the National Economic Council, Larry Kudlow, was saying they won’t happen. Each time Trump or Kudlow speak in opposite directions on the subject, the stock market gets whiplash.

Immigration: Trump went particularly dark and mean on immigrants, reacting, apparently, to the agitation expressed by his base and Fox News because the wall isn’t in the annual budget.

Trump declared an end to any hope for DACA Dreamers. He halted the DACA program himself about a year ago, gave the Congress six months to address it, and said if they didn’t, he would. Well, he has addressed it alright, with a complete betrayal.

The Dreamers are the clearly innocent bystanders in the immigration debate, and a large majority of voters want a solution found for them. Unfortunately, this majority doesn’t include any of Trump’s rabidly xenophobic base or Fox News.

A group of Central American refugees from violence in their own countries have apparently banded together on the road for mutual protection, to march to Mexico and seek asylum there or the U.S.

Hysterically xenophobic Fox News has inflated the group into a national security threat, saying this “caravan” is planning to march to the Mexico-U.S. border wall and do something terrible there, though it is hard to imagine what that might be. It would be hard for a “caravan” to sneak across the border. Someone would surely notice.

Trump, watching this truly manufactured story on Fox, and seeing how his ignorant base has been stirred up by it, jumped in on the threat mongering and is sending national guard troops to the border.

You rarely see such ludicrous, irrational demagogic overreaction in such vivid relief. The Terri Schiavo case comes to mind, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terri_Schiavo_case).

Among other irrational ironies involved, Trump sought and got $80 billion more dollars in the last budget to build up the military, and ever since has been frivolously pissing it away, ordering a preposterous parade and sending troops to stand on the border across from poor Central American refugees on the other side and do what, exactly? What a putz!

Corruption: On occasion, we find one weak willed or greedy individual committing corrupt acts. But in organizations, the tone and example is set not by the outlying behavior of an individual, but at the top, which determines the behavior of the deputies below.

This informs why so many of Trump’s deputies are being caught with their hands in the corruption cookie jar. They see their boss scooping up graft and emoluments, so they think it’s OK for them to do so too. This also informs why the Obama administration was so corruption free.

Trump is a total outlier on the corruption spectrum, but corruption in the U.S., and our attitudes toward it, have changed over time. In the 50s, President Eisenhower’s Chief of Staff Sherman Adams accepted a Vicuña coat from someone interested in doing business with the government and the government came to a standstill. Adams, a heretofore reputable public figure, was forced to resign immediately. (In his memoir, Nixon said he was the one who had to fire Adams, but that’s not true; it was Meade Alcorn, National Republican Chairman who fired Adams.)

Scandal: I don’t really consider it a scandal that President Trump had a roll in the hay with a porn star. But one could argue that it is a scandal that Stormy Daniels’ attorney is smarter than Trump’s entire legal team and is running rings around them.

In the meantime, Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who paid Daniels $130,000 for no particular reason, with funds from no particular source, promises to keep this tryst on the front burner right up to the election, or Melania’s divorce filing, whichever comes first.

When this is over, Trump is going to wish he had just masturbated instead. As Woody Allen said, at least you’re having sex with someone you love.

Status of the States: Since I’m covering two weeks of cumulative thoughts, I will award two cups one to Arizona and one to Oklahoma – though unlike last week, both states deserve indictment.

Arizona, my own personal state at present, embarrassed itself when Joe Arpaio, convicted miscreant pardoned by Trump, who is running for U.S. Senate in the Republican primaries, told a conservative group that the reason he wants to get to the Senate is so he can prove that President Obama’s birth certificate is a fake and have him arrested.

Oklahoma’s shame, of course, is Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, who is doing his best to despoil the environment while leading the Trump cabinet is corruption accusations, which is really saying something.

 

 

 

Thoughts on Events the Week of March 19

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on March 30, 2018

John Bolton, Truly Nuts: On one level, it’s kind of funny, really. When President Trump named his first Cabinet, many, including me, were concerned about having so many retired generals (Flynn, Kelly and Mattis, to start) in the pack.  Others were more optimistic, thinking flag officers might be able to bring understanding of the horrors of war to a president so removed from reality.

So far, it hasn’t worked out very well either way. Flynn didn’t last a month, so we’ll leave him to the tender mercies of John Mueller. He was replaced by another general, genuine war hero and soldier/scholar H. R. McMaster. Far too intelligent and mature for the Trump Administration, McMaster is out, leaving only Kelly and Mattis, and Kelly is hanging by a thread, which either Trump or he may cut any day now.

Ordinarily, I might feel sanguine about such developments, but Trump has replaced McMaster with John Bolton, who is barking mad. Bolton is a war monger. He advocates a preemptive strike on North Korea, which would in the first hour cause 100,000 deaths, about a quarter of them American troops stationed in South Korea. This doesn’t seem to bother Bolton.

Bolton also advocates breaking the nuclear agreement with Iran, which is working, and then bombing Iran. He was an aggressive promoter of the Iraq War to President Bush, the worst foreign policy catastrophe in our history.

This is the last man in the world who should be allowed in the White House. He might convince Trump that a nuclear exchange is winnable. We haven’t heard that kind of crazy talk since Air Force General Curtis Le May was George Wallace’s running mate in the 60s. (Even the Wallace campaign concluded Le May was a liability (read crazy.))

Privacy: I’m feeling pretty smug right now. I predicted this would happen. My strongly held opinions about privacy have been out of fashion for a while – I maintain that privacy should be cherished, and everyone, including celebrities and politicians, should have at least some measure of it – but younger generations have been OK with giving their privacy away.

I also maintain that so much information previously considered private is already out there, so that horse is out of the barn. We can no longer keep our information private, so we must control how it is used. The Facebook – Cambridge Analytica crime, for that’s what it is, or ought to be, proves my point.

It horrifies and mortifies me to think that information about me may have helped President Trump get elected in any way. I’ve canceled my Facebook page.

Stormy Daniels Speaks: OK, I admit it. I watched the interview of Stormy Daniels on “60 Minutes.” The term “affair,” seems somewhat exaggerated. The way Daniels described it seems more like dinner and a one night stand, with a little non-contact connection, petering out, so to speak, thereafter. Common as dirt. Hell, I’ve had lots of them.

I disagree with the pundits and lawyers who say the public has a right to know about all this. It’s consensual sex, and rather dated sex at that. None of our business.

Now, the payoff money is a whole other story. That turns a roll in the hay into a complicated, suspicious business transaction. We should know more about that.

A Bipartisan excuse for a Spending Bill: Congress passed and Trump signed a $1.3 Trillion omnibus spending bill to scrape by on until the end of the fiscal year. It is an obscenely odious bill in every way; too much money spent on too many of the wrong things. Couple this with the $1.5 Trillion tax cut and we’ve blown the deficit up like a hot air balloon. (We used to joke that a million here, a million there can add up to some money. Now, we’re joking that way about trillions.)

Mel Brooks famously said that some things are so awful the only thing you can do is laugh at them. I can’t laugh at the disgraceful way we are pissing away our own and our children’s future. I hope that when our teenagers have thrown out all the NRA-sponsored rascals, they will replace them with more fiscally responsible grownups.

Speaking of those Teenagers: whatever our personal opinion of the Second Amendment, and our expectations or cynicism of what comes next, you have to be impressed with those kids who organized, lead and performed so maturely and eloquently during the “March for our Lives” protest. It brought tears to my eyes to see their enthusiasm, their idealism, their determination…and their numbers!

Could it be that the end of the NRA’s reign of gun violence will be at the hands of high school students who are young enough to be traumatized by the mass murder of their friends and classmates; old enough to understand the trend in school student shooting; smart enough to see more such carnage in their future; mad enough to take action and able to speak up for themselves? Oh, and old enough to vote in 2018 and/or 2012.

Status of the States: Two of our worst states – Kansas and Arizona – beg mentioning this week, but not indictment. One mention evokes the past; the other the future.

Linda Brown, the symbol of “Brown v. Board of Education, Topeka, Kansas,” the landmark Supreme Court decision of 1954 that outlawed segregated public schools, died this week. She was 75. So, the symbol is gone, but segregation still lives on in some spaces.

Arizona made the news because one of Uber’s self-driven test automobiles struck and killed a pedestrian near Tucson. The finding seems to be that the woman stepped into traffic quickly, at night and not in a crossing zone. Likely she would have been struck even if there had been a driver at the wheel, in those circumstances.

On average, 16 pedestrians are killed by cars each day in the U.S. Pedestrian deaths account for 15% of total motor vehicle related deaths. Self-driven automobiles are expected to improve automobile safety and reduce casualties and deaths. But oddly, pedestrian fatalities are increasing – up 11% last year – in the short term. Texting, by drivers and walkers, seems to be the culprit.

The evolving technology is clearly the future, and it will have very positive effects on our safety, the economy and the environment. But it will never be perfect, and it is useless to expect it to be. With human beings involved (such as morons who walk out into dark streets at night without a signal light or other crossing protection) guarantees that.

There will be more, though fewer, deaths and injuries, ultimately. I’m sorry Uber didn’t keep on truckin’, but they’ll resume soon. Technology will go where it can go.

 

 

Gina Haspel – Torturer

Posted in Politics and Justice by EloiSVM42 on March 24, 2018

Former President George W. Bush is quoted as saying recently, regarding something President Donald Trump did, “Sorta makes me look pretty good, doesn’t it?” The answer to his rhetorical question is No. George W. Bush was a worse president even than Donald Trump, and the worst in our history, in my view.

Among the several reasons Bush was worse than Trump is that his administration ordered the torture of prisoners by the CIA during the Iraq War and thereafter, contrary to our Constitution, our laws and international law.

We will be hearing about torture and that dark period in our history over the next few weeks, because President Trump (this is one of the reasons he is the next worst president) has nominated Gina Haspel to be the next Director of the CIA.

Haspel had a large role in the program of torturing those prisoners. She was comparable to a German prisoner of war camp commandant in World War II…if you add the torture, and that role will come up in her confirmation hearings.

The CIA will never be confused with the Boy Scouts, or even our military. We ask them to do our dirty work, including some that does not comport with our national standards, and sometimes not even our laws…007 stuff, only for real.

But the period of torture was beyond the pale, and should never have been allowed to happen. Yet, somebody did it. Somebody thought it was their duty to do it, that it was the right thing to do. That somebody should not be the face of the CIA.