Friday, June 23, 2017

THIS IS THE STATE OF DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA IN 2017


Donald Trump is president because of Russian interference. Every national intelligence agency in America is in agreement on the issue of Russia's interference in our presidential election. Incredibly, Trump's supporters don't care.

This is the condition of democracy in America in 2017.

To help explain how this happened, and what the Obama administration tried (and failed) to do about the interference, the Washington Post has this article on Russia's efforts to undermine America's presidential election in 2017. In the article we learn that Russia's twin election goal was to undermine Hillary Clinton's electoral chances, while simultaneously undermining America's confidence in its political system. Russia's dream outcome was to get Donald Trump elected president.

Russia got their trifecta - they helped batter Hillary, create doubt about our electoral system, and getting Trump elected - which should infuriate every American. You can start reading about the hijacking of America's election in 2017 below ...


Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried “eyes only” instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides.
Inside was an intelligence bombshell, a report drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government that detailed Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race.
But it went further. The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.
At that point, the outlines of the Russian assault on the U.S. election were increasingly apparent. Hackers with ties to Russian intelligence services had been rummaging through Democratic Party computer networks, as well as some Republican systems, for more than a year. In July, the FBI had opened an investigation of contacts between Russian officials and Trump associates. And on July 22, nearly 20,000 emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee were dumped online by WikiLeaks ...

You can finish reading "Obama's Secret Struggle to Punish Russia for Putin's Election Assault" by clicking here.


- Mark

Thursday, June 22, 2017

IS THE REPUBLICAN LEADERSHIP MADE UP OF SOCIOPATHS? YOU BE THE JUDGE ...


The Republican Party is working feverishly to put together a "tax cut for the rich" bill that they're ridiculously calling a health care bill. The GOP has lied to themselves, and others, so many times about why their bill is better than Obamacare (it's not) they don't even want to debate the bill in Congress before a vote is taken.

To avoid a discussion on the bill they are grandstanding. They're trying to suggest that hiding in the dark, while crafting legislation, is "normal" behavior for the U.S. Congress. Normal Americans see it for the drama soaked red herring it really is.

Republicans are even going as far as saying something's wrong with the rest of us for not understanding all the good they're trying to do.

What's worse, is their base believes them, which helps pit one part of America (Republicans and conservatives) against others (Democrats, liberals and those who want healthcare). Without understanding what's at stake, an "us" versus" them mentality has taken hold in our health care debate (and in America).

Worse, the GOP wants to blame Democrats and others for not understanding why their tax cuts for the rich bill is really a (very bad) health care bill; as if we're to blame for not believing the lie.

I'm bringing this up because - via "Health, Spirit, Body" - we get the "5 Undeniable Signs That You Are Arguing With a Sociopath," which essentially outlines the behavior embraced by our modern Republican Party's leadership.

Specifically, the GOP is engaging in:

1. Pathological Lying: It's not a health care bill, it's a tax cut.
2. Drama Fatigue: Since there is no shame in lying (at least for them), the GOP's outrageous claims/demands exhaust you until they become "normal," so you begin to ignore them.
3. Gaslighting: Lies and denials (of the lies) until confusion reigns.
4. Polarizing Behavior: Create divisions in society; it's divide and conquer those who might otherwise be allies.
5. Provocation: Force a reaction, from you, then blame you for reacting.

There's more on what makes a sociopath, which you can access by clicking here or here.

For a discussion on the Republicans, the healthcare bill, and sociopaths, click here.

For a discussion on Trump and the behavior, click here.

- Mark

Kudos to Cheryl for the "5 Undeniable Signs ..." article.

Friday, June 16, 2017

SENATE REPUBLICANS ARE SECRETLY WORKING ON A HEALTHCARE BILL THEY INTEND TO VOTE ON WITHOUT INPUT FROM THE DEMOCRATS, OR THE PUBLIC ... SETH MEYERS TAKES A CLOSER LOOK

It was a big day for President Trump. He found out that he is now personally under investigation for obstruction of justice. But rather than talk about this, as Seth Meyers points out below, President Trump wanted to talk about a Senate Republican healthcare bill the GOP is secretly working on; which means it doesn't have any input from the Democrats and, not coincidentally, no input from the public.

Seth Meyers provides some much needed perspective ...


- Mark

Thursday, June 15, 2017

WHAT DO YOU KNOW, TRUMP LIED ... AGAIN

Yesterday President Trump tried to claim that the United States built the Golden Gate Bridge in four years, and the Hoover Dam in five. He was trying to make the point that pesky permits, local community standards, and government regulations today are stalling projects in a way that we didn't have to deal with 80-100 years ago.

This is an interesting story line, except for one thing. It's not true.

As the Washington Post points out, from concept to proposal (1921), the Golden Gate Bridge took at least 16 years to be completed.


Local communities, ferry operators (who feared the competition), the War Department, and the need to create a special tax district (to pay for the project) all contributed to delays, which prevented the actual project from starting until 1933.

So, yeah, President Trump doesn't know what he's talking about when it comes to the Golden Gate Bridge. Worse, to make a non-existent point - there were few to no regulations, or obstacles on the project - Trump lied about the facts surrounding a major policy issue, again.

When it comes to the Hoover Dam, if you count the 1902 Reclamation Act - which put the Hoover Dam on our infrastructure radar - the project (originally called the Boulder Dam) took 34 years.



Stalled by a lack of funds, changing designs, construction restrictions, and the need to build supportive infrastructure projects (including a small town, Boulder City, NV), among other developments, building the Hoover Dam took far more than the five years that President Trump claimed it took.

So, yeah, President Trump doesn't know what he's talking about when it comes to the Hoover Dam. Worse, to make a non-existent point - there were few to no regulations, or obstacles on the project - Trump lied about the facts surrounding a major policy issue, again.

Here's the point that we need to keep in mind. President Trump is a professional liar.

Worse, he thinks everyone in America is just as gullible or as intellectually stunted as his supporters.

- Mark

TRUMP'S CABINET MEETING OF THE SYCOPHANTS ...

The cartoon below, from the Sacramento Bee, is a play on President Trump's Cabinet Meeting of The Sycophants two days ago. There, Trump's Cabinet members were effectively forced to compete in front of the media to explain who loved working with Trump more.
_______________________

__________________________


Make no mistake, President Trump's Cabinet Meeting of the Sycophants was a freakish political moment, worthy of a Kim Jong Un Praise Parade.

__________________________


__________________________

Pathetic displays of praise seeking is not an indication that America is becoming "great again." Not by a long shot.

So, yeah, it's only getting worse.

Sigh ...

- Mark

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

WHILE TRUMP IS A DANGER, IT'S HIS SUPPORTERS WHO ARE THE REAL PROBLEM


Following up on yesterday's post about the Cabinet of sycophants who surround President Trump - who strangely praised him, one by one, in a Cabinet meeting, in front of the press - I'm posting this Sacramento Bee article below. The author, Kathleen Parker, argues that President Trump and his supporters live in a world of their own making.

The trouble is that the world they've created is not reality based.

Enjoy.



"When he brags that he has accomplished more than 
any other president, save for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 
his starry-eyed minions nod their approval. Exactly no major 
legislation has been passed by Congress since Trump took office."
_____________________

In his head, not ours

WASHINGTON – In one of Walker Percy’s brilliant novels, “The Second Coming,” protagonist Will Barrett keeps falling down for no apparent reason. He also suffers trances during which he contemplates existential questions.
Barrett comes to mind in the era of Donald Trump.
I’m not falling down on the golf course yet, as Barrett did, but I confess to a feeling of lightheadedness coupled with slight nausea. It makes perfect sense that Barrett finds salvation in a young woman recently released from an insane asylum.
When many of those around you seem to be suffering from some sort of group mania – believing what isn’t true and defending what isn’t defensible – then the officially “insane” offer some strange solace. At least there’s a rational explanation for their disorder.
Today, about a third of the nation’s population seems to be suffering from a reality discernment malfunction. Have they been ingesting mushrooms plucked from bull dung? Drinking water spiked with credulity-enhancing chemicals?
Thus, when Trump speaks in his fourth-grade, monosyllabic, syntax-challenged verbiage, they hear lyrical lucidity. When he brags that he has accomplished more than any other president, save for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, his starry-eyed minions nod their approval. Exactly no major legislation has been passed by Congress since Trump took office.
As Trump himself said, he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and they’d still love him.
This is the definition of equal madness, which seems to have spread to the highest levels, as witnessed Monday in the strangest Cabinet meeting in American history. Chief of Staff Reince Priebus spoke first, saying it was a “blessing” to serve the president. Each secretary followed suit in what became an epic, circular kiss-up, praising Trump’s leadership (do you suppose the last lemming thanked the first?) and expressing his or her gratitude.
“It’s an honor to be able to serve you,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“I am privileged to be here,” said Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta. “Deeply honored.”
“What an incredible honor it is to lead the Department of Health and Human Services at this pivotal time under your leadership,” said HHS Secretary Tom Price. “I can’t thank you enough for the privileges you’ve given me and the leadership that you’ve shown.”
The only way to process such tortured effusion is to remember James Comey. You either profess loyalty, or you go back to being a member of the privileged class so abhorred by the very folks Trump tempted at the ballot box.
Most reserved in his remarks was Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who praised only the men and women of the Defense Department, not Trump. A scholar, thinker, combat veteran and leader, Mattis knows full well what evil lurks in absolute power. The blessing is that there’s at least one among the crowing crowd who puts country first and worships no mortal man.
But what to make of the rest of these Americans who seem unburdened by such concerns? Or this president, who still can do much harm? More than two dozen top psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health experts hope to provide some answers with a new book due out this fall – “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump.”
They don’t diagnose Trump, which ethically they can’t do without examining the patient. They do, however, discuss his symptoms, which leads them to conclude that Trump is a “complex, if dangerously mad, man.” They also propose that his mental illness is affecting the nation’s mental health as well.
These experts will likely learn what many journalists have discovered: Only the already-convinced will read the book and the rest will remain convinced of their certitude. The trouble is that when one is daily immersed in clouds of distraction, it’s difficult to recall what “normal” looks like.
Before long, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a movement of Americans dressed in all-white and smoking cigarettes, mutely watching their former friends and family go about life as though everything were the same. Barrett doubtless would find solace in such company, refugees from the Asylum of the United States.
Let’s just hope we’re not watching through concertina wire.

**************

- Mark

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

DONALD TRUMP GOES FULL KABUKI THEATER ... CABINET PUTS ON A SHOW FIT FOR A DICTATOR

I don't know what's worse. The fact that President Donald Trump needs his Cabinet to get together to tell everyone what a great guy he is, or the fact that his Cabinet actually goes along with Trump's request (demand?) to fawn over him, and his supposed legislative accomplishments.

With the Oval Office as backdrop, the staged praise-fest of the Donald that occurred yesterday can only be compared to the elaborate showmanship usually seen in Japan's Kabuki Theater.



Simply put, President Trump's Cabinet was there to put their leader on a pedestal, and make him look good by telling the world how great Donald Trump is, and how happy they were to serve him (and not the nation).

North Korea's dictator, Kim Jong Un, would both recognize and be proud of the theatrics, and the feigned flattery.



While I've re-posted the first part of CNN's Chris Cillizza story below, you can access the full article - "Donald Trump just held the weirdest Cabinet meeting ever" - by clicking here,

*******************************

(CNN)Leave it to Donald Trump to reinvent the Cabinet meeting.
The public portion of these gatherings of all of the president's top advisers are usually staid affairs. Photographers are let in to take pictures. The president makes a very brief statement. A reporter shouts a question, unanswered. The end.
Donald Trump did something very different in his Cabinet meeting Monday.
First, he reviewed the various alleged successes of his first 143 days and made this remarkable claim: "Never has there been a president....with few exceptions...who's passed more legislation, who's done more things than I have."
President Trump, clearly impressed with himself.
Um, ok. While Trump has signed a number of executive orders and actions -- the most high profile of which, the so-called "travel ban" was, again, blocked by a court on Monday -- what he hasn't really done is pass actual legislation through Congress. The health care bill is tied up in Senate machinations. Tax reform hasn't moved an inch. Funding for the border wall hasn't happened. And so on.
(Nota bene: You can't say "never has" something happened and then say "with few exceptions." Either it's never happened or it, well, has.)
But, that wasn't even close to the weirdest part of the Cabinet meeting!
Once Trump finished touting his administration's accomplishments, he turned to several of his newly-minted Cabinet secretaries like Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. Each of those Cabinet secretaries lavished praise on Trump, which he accepted without comment but with a broad smile.
At first, I thought Trump was just going to have the new members of the Cabinet spend a few minutes praising him. NOPE! It soon became clear that Trump planned to have every Cabinet member speak. And when I say "speak" what I really mean is "praise Trump for his accomplishments, his foresight, his just being awesome."
You think I am exaggerating. I am not. Here's what White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said about Trump: "We thank you for the opportunity and blessing to serve your agenda."
I mean, WHAT?!?
The whole thing reminded me of a scene directly from the boardroom of "The Apprentice." A group of supplicants all desperately trying to hold on to their spots on the show by effusively praising Trump -- each one trying to take it a step further than the last. And Trump in the middle of it all, totally and completely pleased with himself. (Reminder: Around that Cabinet table are hugely accomplished generals, billionaires and political people with long track records of success.) ...

You can read the rest of the article here.
*********************

In the little time that we've seen Donald Trump in the White House, one thing's clear: Donald Trump is either a sick man, or a buffoon. Either way, we're in trouble.

- Mark

Friday, June 9, 2017

ROME WASN'T BUILT IN A DAY, NOR WAS IT DESTROYED IN A DAY ... AND SO IT IS WITH THE AMERICAN EMPIRE

Rome wasn't built in a day. Nor was it destroyed in a day. But make no mistake, it wasn't the barbarians who undid the empire. Rome rotted from within. And so it is with the American Empire.


I'm bringing the Roman reference up because earlier this morning I did another political segment for KGET 17 News' Sunrise edition (we did one yesterday morning too). Republican Cathy Abernathy and I were invited on to discuss the developments surrounding former FBI director James Comey's testimony in Washington. One thing's abundantly clear: as Comey's dismissal illustrates, the Republican Party is ready to undermine the institutional framework of American democracy in order to protect their hold on power.

Like the special and selfish interests that ate away at Rome's political integrity, we see a band of self-serving interests eating away at the institutional and constitutional integrity of America.

I'm not so sure that these interests care about protecting President Donald Trump as much as they are about maintaining power, but they are Trump's Praetorian guards today.


The GOP's defense of the American Caligula, for the moment, rests effectively on two tactics.

NAIVE DON
The first, if we're to believe what Reps. Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy said yesterday, is that Donald Trump is a novice in Washington. Because Trump's so "new" to the rough and tumble of Washington we need to give him a pass for breaking institutional protocols, which includes Trump using the CEO position of the "bully pulpit" to pressure or threaten those in other branches of government to do his bidding.

Never mind that "naive" Donald Trump was a CEO who supposedly came from the rough private sector, and regularly stiffed - and continues to stiff - contractors that do business with him.

Never mind that "naive" Donald Trump aggressively uses an army of tax attorneys and the bankruptcy laws of this nation to avoid paying taxes and to keep money he did not earn.

Never mind that "naive" Donald Trump was supposed to be such a great president precisely because he had been pressured and asked for money so often by other politicians that he knows the game better than anyone else.

In Ryan and McCarthy's eyes, Donald Trump is so naive he's just a babe in woods. Who can blame him for not understanding the separation of powers; a concept that's taught in the 8th grade. We should just give Trump a pass for asking FBI Director James Comey to back off on the Russian investigation because of his political innocence.

COMEY THE HACK?
The second tactic, as Cathy Abernathy made so abundantly clear in this morning's discussion, is to go after James Comey's character, while trying to paint him as part of some evil Liberal-Democratic Party conspiracy. The GOP is using this diversionary tactic because they don't want to discuss Russia's interference in our elections, or Trump's obstruction of justice.

Better to focus on moving a personality driven media, than focus on treason and law breaking. If that means dragging James Comey and the FBI through the mud - which disparages our judicial and legal infrastructure too - that's a price the GOP is willing to pay to keep their hold on power.

Never mind that the Founding Fathers established the separation of powers principle (which every 8th grader learns) precisely to avoid a concentration of power in the hands of one man, or power concentrated with a single "faction" (what we call "party's" or "interest groups" today).

Never mind that there's a difference between the "leaks" used by political hacks to establish a story line, the "preservation of evidence" by law enforcement (Comey's memos), and Comey's "whistle blowing" (making sure we know about a Russian attack on our electoral system, and obstruction of justice by the President fall under whistle blower laws).

Never mind that the FBI, like other security and intelligence agencies, are charged with protecting America and the Constitution from "enemies, both foreign and domestic."


In the eyes of the modern Republican Party, upholding our separation of powers principle, respecting the preservation of evidence by the director of the FBI, and protecting us from enemies - both foreign and domestic - are not a priority. Simply put, they know adhering to constitutional principles, acknowledging criminal evidence, and following the Russian trail will undermine their hold on power.

This explains why presenting Donald Trump as a political novice, while painting James Comey and the FBI as incompetent political hacks, are the GOP's primary goals. These tactics might also work against the constitutional integrity of the nation but, for the Republicans, who cares? Their guy stays in power.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS
The Founding Fathers were very familiar with the history of Rome, and the political philosophy of Montesquieu, whose writing on checks and balances made their way into our Constitution. They were also quite familiar with the corruption that emerged within Rome's Praetorian Guard, the reasons for Rome's endless intrigue (Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, et al.), and the reasons for the demise of enlightened government in Rome, and it's collapse.

It was a slow motion bleed.

It's also why The Framers put so much faith in institutional checks, rather than with strong individuals, or powerful groups (families, wealthy elites, religious groups, etc.). They understood how vile and self-serving tyrants like Donald Trump would pop up from time to time. They also understood how small groups - like our modern GOP - could be corrupted by concentrated power.

Hold on to your hats, folks. Rome wasn't built in a day. Nor was it destroyed in a day. We can still turn this around.

But I wouldn't bet on today's Republican Party being part of saving our Republic. At the moment, they're busy acting as Donald Trump's Praetorian Guard. This means they're also the visible rot within the American Empire.

My sincere hope is that the institutional game now playing out between the executive and the judicial-legal branch ends with Donald Trump leaving the White House, before his term ends.

Believe it or not, it's actually what The Framers intended.

- Mark

Thursday, June 8, 2017

JAMES COMEY TESTIFIES AS TO WHY HE WAS FIRED


"I was fired because of the Russia investigation. I was fired in some way to change - or the endeavor was to change the way in which the investigation was being conducted."

- James B. Comey
June 8, 2017

****************

 Mark

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

CONTRARY TO MAKING AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, DONALD TRUMP IS THE FACE OF AMERICAN DECLINE

One of the most miserable developments we've seen over the past three months is watching as allies, who once looked to the United States for leadership and stability, recoil from America. Without mincing words, President Trump's incompetence, his inability to grasp the significance of global events, and his ignorance of basic history have convinced our post-war allies and friends to take a step back from America.

Contrary to making America great again, Donald Trump has become the face of American decline.


While Trump's actions - walking away from the Paris Climate Accord, his ignorance about NATO, and carrying Russia's water in the international community - might normally be enough to make allies and friends rethink longstanding relationships, it's the Trump administration's inability to deal with reality that's accelerating America's decline and isolation in the global community.

Simply put, the Trump administration - led by Donald Trump - has trouble living in the real world. It perplexes them, so they lie. First to themselves, then their goal is to get us to see what they see; or at least be confused about what we see.



Take, for example, Scott Pruitt's claim about jobs on Sunday's "Meet the Press" this past week. As head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Pruitt was trying to make the case that coal is good, and that President Trump has created 50,000 jobs in the coal sector since the end of 2016. This would be a nice story line except for one thing: it's a lie. It exaggerates even the rosiest scenario by 5,000 percent.

As The Atlantic points out,

Quite simply, the coal sector has added about 1,000 jobs since October 2016—not 50,000. Coal could not have added 50,000 jobs in the last eight months, since that is essentially the size of the entire coal industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Pruitt’s statistic would otherwise imply that entire coal mining industry started in October. (Perhaps he meant 50,000 total mining jobs, but the vast majority of those positions have nothing to do with coal jobs; indeed, natural gas-mining workers might even be replacing them.)

Then there's President Trump's lies about virtually everything he talks about. One in specific stands out here.

While in Belgium President Trump stated that the wanted to stop Germans from selling so many cars in America. He even went so far as to say that "the Germans are bad, very bad." He was supposedly concerned about last year's $65 billion trade imbalance between Germany and the United States.

Here's the problem. Trump can't stop German cars from coming into the United States because - wait for it - many of them are being produced here, in America. It's why we had the absurd story three years ago of Tennessee's governor, and their elected congressional members, working together to convince Tennessee workers to vote against a union in their Volkswagen plant, in spite of Volkswagen's parent company working to have union representation in their Tennessee plant.

Volkswagen's Tennessee plant. The painted rooftop cost $266,200 and was paid for with taxpayer money.

What "Mr. Art of the Deal" doesn't seem to understand is that industries from around the world - which includes auto makers from Germany, Japan, and Korea - have made deals that allow their products to be built and sold here in the United States. They do this to take advantage of state subsidies, and to stifle the impact of protectionist and tariff policies in national markets. This is what globalization is all about. It's what I teach beginning students who take my courses in international political economy.

This is not rocket science; unless, apparently, you're Donald Trump.

Here's the point. The world doesn't trust Donald Trump because he and his administration either lie and make stuff up, or they simply don't know what the hell they're talking about. This is what makes Trump's America the butt of jokes around the world, and President Trump the target of genuine ridicule and scorn.


So, yeah, contrary to making America great again, Donald Trump is the face of American decline.

And it's a face that gets uglier and uglier with every week.

- Mark

Sunday, June 4, 2017

YES, DONALD TRUMP AND THE GOP ARE TRULY CLUELESS

President Obama explains why Donald Trump and the GOP are so clueless and ignorant when it comes to science and climate change ...


- Mark