Friday, June 30, 2017

US President Shames America


It seems a century ago since a couple of the highest integrity occupied the White House; since America's reputation internationally was at the highest point it's been for decades; since the country was moving forward internally on all progressive social fronts, and internationally as a leader in diplomacy and tackling climate change. Freedom of the press was taken for granted. The right to a better life for all was recognized by those who had the power in government to work towards that end.

From the President down, the administration was filled with bright, informed, intelligent and highly qualified people. Issues were discussed at length from every angle. The President listened to his advisers and took the trouble to do what a president is obliged to do—he made sure that he too was informed on all aspects of every matter.

America had plenty of its own social and economic problems, but they were acknowledged, and steps were being taken to address them. The social, familial and individual values that allow for a society to function, address ills, and move forward, were respected. Truth was honored. This was a civilized, progressive, forward moving, first world country.

Both the President and the First Lady were recognized internationally for their leadership qualities. Both were having a huge impact on the world. The White House was a place that deserved respect.

From that to this. It's painful now to think back to the campaign trails of Hillary Clinton and the current occupant of the White House. There was so much hope that the US would keep moving in the direction it had been going for seven years. The candidate who was least qualified—a known liar, bigot, racist, con artist and sexual abuser with very low intelligence and total absence of integrity—publicly demeaned the Muslim parents of a soldier who had died in service. He cruelly mocked a disabled reporter, insulted women, labeled Mexicans as rapists and criminals, talked of banning all Muslims.

The outrage exploded. The world looked on with shock as Republican politicians,  desperate for power, made a deal with the devil and endorsed this low-life, as did a swathe of American citizens, punch-drunk on entitlement to ignore decent human values. Hate-crime burgeoned.

The putrid underbelly of American society that had been lurking just below the surface when an African American had the audacity to run for president and then to win, came into focus and gained momentum. On the other side, though, Hillary Clinton shattered the glass ceiling, despite the monumental obstacles thrown in her path. The Obamas campaigned for her passionately, articulately, energetically. The battle between good and evil raged, but good seemed to have the upper hand. The liberal press finally got off the fence, openly endorsing Hillary Clinton.

Unequivocally condemning the Republican candidate.  Who was then revealed to have been recorded bragging about doing whatever he wanted with women without their permission, and grabbing them by the pussy.

It was the last straw. Women and decent men of all races and lifestyles, in the US and around the world, expressed their fury, disgust and pure outrage. A global movement was birthed. Finally the world was acknowledging that this sexism was not normal, not acceptable and never would be. Speaking for myself, my world changed. I felt vindicated for my own rage at abuse I've experienced, and openly and unconditionally supported by millions of women and decent men. I felt taller, stronger. Shame was driven out.

Yet Republicans voted for this vile, debased excuse for a man. Voter suppression targeted Democrat African Americans. Russian interference, fake news, conservative media and the far right slagged Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party 24/7 and pumped the airwaves with untruths, myths, and wild conspiracy theories about her. Truth was a lone swimmer in a wild ocean filled with man-eating sharks and predators.

And the unthinkable happened. Evil triumphed over good. The White House descended into chaos as the current occupant's utter incompetency and mental and spiritual degradation spread like a deadly pathogen into every corner of the administration. The US back-pedaled faster than the speed of light.
Respect, honor, integrity, social values, competency, intelligence and truth have no place in the American government now. So it wasn't a surprise when the leader reverted back to his campaign modus operandi of publicly demeaning women.


The President of the United States. Whose tweets are official statements.

CNN host Brian Stelter set the record straight.
"I put lipstick on a pig", said Tony Schwartz, ghostwriter of Trump's book Art of the Deal, in July 2016. The words still ring true. Apology to pigs.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

AG Jeff Sessions Will Appear Before the Senate Intelligence Committee



Attorney General Jeff Sessions has agreed to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday. He will be attempting to clear his name, after former FBI Director James Comey's explosive testimony last week, in which he spoke about the pressure he felt coming from the President to drop the investigation into Mike Flynn. Comey specifically called the President a liar, and also had something to say about Jeff Sessions' possible involvement in the investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 election.
“Our judgment, as I recall, was that [Jeff Sessions] was very close and inevitably going to recuse himself for a variety of reasons. We were also aware of facts that I can’t discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic.”
In his confirmation hearing, Sessions said he had not met with Russian officials during the Trump campaign, when in fact he had met with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. There was enormous Democratic resistance to Sessions' nomination before the truth was revealed, but Democrats were over-ridden. In the hearing, Elizabeth Warren tried to read out part of a letter written thirty years ago by Coretta King, widow of Martin Luther King Jr. It related to Sessions' failed judicial nomination in 1980 because of his racism.

Mitch McConnell shut Elizabeth Warren down, on the grounds that Senate rules prohibit one Senator from bad-mouthing another on the floor, and Republicans voted to support his move. It backfired spectacularly. Firstly it was pointed out that the rule could not apply during a confirmation hearing, and secondly McConnell had said nothing when Ted Cruz had accused him of being a liar. But worse, Elizabeth Warren ended up being heard by a much wider audience. She first tweeted about the incident, triggering off a viral hashtag #LetLizSpeak.
Then she read the letter outside the Senate, on camera, and posted the video on her Facebook page. To date, the video has had 12 million views.
“During the debate on whether to make Jeff Sessions the next Attorney General, I tried to read a letter from Coretta Scott King on the floor of the Senate. The letter, from 30 years ago, urged the Senate to reject the nomination of Jeff Sessions to a federal judgeship. The Republicans took away my right to read this letter on the floor – so I’m right outside, reading it now.”
In Sessions' confirmation hearings, on the 10th of January, Senator Al Franken asked (at 3:18 in the video), "If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government during the course of this campaign, what would you do?" Sessions replied, "Senator Franken, I'm not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, but I did not have communications with the Russians."

On the 17th, Senator Leahy asked him; " Several of the President-Elect’s nominees or senior advisers have Russian ties. Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?" Sessions said, "No".

Also on the 17th, Senator Feinstein asked if he would recuse himself "from any FBI or Justice Department investigation into whether Flynn’s communications were permissible under the law, including the Logan Act." Sessions replied "I am not aware of a basis to recuse myself from such matters. "

On the 1st of March, the Washington Post, which had exposed Mike Flynn's dissemination, leading to Trump being forced to fire him, reported that Sessions had spoke twice with Kislyak. At first Sessions dug his heels in, but later, amid Democratic calls to resign, was forced to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Trump was enraged, and called it all a witch hunt of an 'honest man'. But then he thought Mike Flynn was a 'good guy', even after his lies were exposed.

Since his inauguration Trump has been dogged the Russia investigation which, in spite of all his efforts to distract from it, continues to gather momentum. Having gotten his way his whole life, Trump took on the presidency believing it would be business as usual. He took a page from Putin's playbook, attempting to control the narrative and create an alternative to the truth.

But Putin, frightening as he is, is a clever man. Trump is not. So where Putin has succeeded, Trump's considerable efforts are failing miserably. Out of control, he is his own worst enemy. He continues to paint himself into an ever-diminishing corner.

Republicans and Trump supporters consistently insist that there's no there, there. No evidence of collusion. The process of unearthing it is moving along swiftly, the overriding response to Trump supporters being that this president has attacked every person under the sun, practically every world leader. Except Putin. And one after another of his staff, including his own son-in-law, have been exposed as having communications or suspected deals of some sort with Russians, including officials and/or people very close to Putin.

So Sessions' insistence that he didn't know of any activity between Trump campaign officials and Russians, apart from being a blatant lie on his own account, is unlikely to be true with regards to those who have now been exposed. And his recusal from the Russia investigation wasn't water-tight. Subsequently, he did get involved again, potentially violating his recusal pledge. On the 9th of May, Sessions wrote a letter to the president, recommending that Comey be fired.

Trump has admitted—and subsequently tried to deny—that he fired Comey because the Russia investigation was causing a cloud; it was irritating him.

In his testimony, Comey expressed said the president lied. Trump's response was to double down and accuse Comey of perjury. The problem for Trump is that he is, by his own hand, an established liar, and Comey, in his long career at the FBI, is a known truth-teller. Sessions has also been exposed as a liar. It looks like the chickens have come home to roost for him. It is unknown yet whether he will testify openly or in a closed hearing. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

James Comey Testimony Full Hearing and Highlights


James Comey's testimony was every bit as explosive as predicted, as he answered questions about his conversations with Donald Trump directly and honestly. He said that he had felt pressured by the president to drop the investigation into Mike Flynn, that Trump had tried to manipulate him into 'loyalty' and had said the Russia investigation was irritating him.

Comey believed that he was fired because he refused to protect Mike Flynn, or put a stop to the entire investigation.

He stated that the president lied when he said the FBI was in disarray. When asked if there was any evidence of collusion with Russia on Trump's part, Comey said he couldn't respond in an open hearing, leaving everybody to draw their own conclusions. Comey also had something to say about Jeff Sessions. “Our judgment, as I recall, was that he was very close and inevitably going to recuse himself for a variety of reasons. We were also aware of facts that I can’t discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic.”

When questioned about leaking his memos to the press, Comey admitted that he asked a friend of his, Columbia Professor Daniel Richman, to share his memo of a meeting with the president with the press, because he was alarmed at the pressure being exerted on him, and hoped that his memo would prompt the appointment of a special counsel. 















Saturday, June 3, 2017

Global Reaction to Trump's Withdrawal of the US from the Paris Deal


Donald Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement has drawn fierce protest and criticism in the US and around the globe, proving that today's world is more intent on unity and progress than on isolationism and destruction, and that, notwithstanding the alternative narrative created by fossil fuel giants and their Republican puppet politicians, global warming is acknowledged to be a real and present danger.
Trump's idea that he could negotiate a better deal for the US was quickly quashed. There is no better deal, because each country that has committed to the accord retains the right to set their own targets. The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, called Trump's decision a "dramatic mistake", and leaders of Germany, France and Italy committed to work together, with the Paris deal as "a cornerstone" of their cooperation.
"We deem the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible and we firmly believe that the Paris Agreement cannot be renegotiated, since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies."
Japan's Foreign Ministry, New Zealand's climate change Minister Paula Bennett, Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, expressed their disapproval of disappointment in Trump, and reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris deal.

In the US, Climate Mayors, a network of 188 US mayors (up from 75 on May 27), have committed to adopt, honor and uphold the Paris climate agreement goals. 

Also known as Mayors National Climate Action Agenda, or MNCAA, the group represents over 54 million Americans in red and blue states. They are working locally to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and supporting efforts for binding federal and global-level policy making.

MNCAA recently released an open letter to President Trump in protest of his anti-environment protection actions. To sign the statement, or for more information, email info@climate-mayors.org or visit http://www.climate-mayors.org.
"As 180 US Mayors representing 51 million Americans, we will adopt, honor, and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement. We will intensify efforts to meet each of our cities’ current climate goals, push for new action to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius target, and work together to create a 21st century clean energy economy.
We will continue to lead. We are increasing investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. We will buy and create more demand for electric cars and trucks. We will increase our efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, create a clean energy economy, and stand for environmental justice. And if the President wants to break the promises made to our allies enshrined in the historic Paris Agreement, we’ll build and strengthen relationships around the world to protect the planet from devastating climate risks.
The world cannot waitand neither will we."




Bloomberg Philanthropies will pay $15 million to the UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change (which coordinates the Paris Agreement), to cover the US share of the convention's operating budget.
"The pledge aims to fill a significant funding gap that comes as a result of President Donald Trump's announced withdrawal from the Paris agreement and proposed steep budget cuts for international programs, including on climate" .
The Mayor of Pittsburgh responded smartly to Trump tweeting that he was "elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris." 
Arnold Schwarzenegger's message to Donald Trump says it all.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

A World in Disbelief as Trump Pulls US Out of Paris Accord

"A year and a half ago, the world came together in Paris around the first-ever global agreement to set the world on a low-carbon course and protect the world we leave to our children.
It was steady, principled American leadership on the world stage that made that achievement possible.  It was bold American ambition that encouraged dozens of other nations to set their sights higher as well... 
Simply put, the private sector already chose a low-carbon future.  And for the nations that committed themselves to that future, the Paris Agreement opened the floodgates for businesses, scientists, and engineers to unleash high-tech, low-carbon investment and innovation on an unprecedented scale.
The nations that remain in the Paris Agreement will be the nations that reap the benefits in jobs and industries created. I believe the United States of America should be at the front of the pack. But even in the absence of American leadership; even as this Administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future; I’m confident that our states, cities, and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we’ve got." Fmr President Barack Obama
On Thursday, after a week of indecision and keeping the world in suspense, and acting against the advice of 22 senators, Rex Tillerson, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Donald Trump breezed onto the lawn at the Rose Garden and announced that the US would pull out of the Paris Accord. Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus and Scott Pruit had won the day. 

The world is used to hearing America described as the most sophisticated democracy in the world, the assumption being that true democracy is the best system for progress in society on every front. Barack Obama's election in 2008 seemed proof of it; it was miraculous that an African American could win the hearts of the majority of voters, in a country long characterized by racism and wealth of opportunity for one race group at the cost of all the others, but African Americans in particular.

That Obama pulled the US back from the brink and went on to achieve what he did for America and the world, despite rank opposition from Republicans, reinforced the idea that this democracy deserved the position of world leader.

There wasn't any doubt in the minds of the majority of people paying attention that President Obama deserved the role and did it proud. Under his Administration the focus of global affairs turned from the bully power of war to the transformative power of diplomacy. No doubt either that First Lady Michelle Obama transformed her role and became a world leader in her own right, championing education, health and children's rights within America and internationally.

This remarkable couple, whose lives and work were driven by a desire to see social equality in every realm, exemplified dignity. The White House was a transformed place. American democracy was safe in their hands. And it was something the world could and did respect.

But now, that same democracy has produced a president who is no better than a corrupted, severely intellectually challenged, if not mentally deranged, banana republic dictator.

Supported by infighting, back-stabbing liars, racists and bigots, (some of whom have zero qualifications for their positions of immense authority), who have no problem sacrificing the health of more than 20 million people, or pushing the world to the brink of potential nuclear confrontation with North Korea. They promote social inequality, bigotry and racism, and are very busy creating a culture of disinformation second only to Vladimir Putin's.

They supported a candidate who ran on exploiting fear, rage, white supremacy hatred and sheer ignorance. A man who had no qualifications to be anything, let alone a president, and who garnered votes by promising to roll back every progressive policy instituted by the Obama Administration. America may be the most sophisticated democratic system on the planet, but perhaps our idea of what that produces needs adjusting if elections can be swayed by foreign powers, if districts can be so gerrymandered that one party can't win, if information that voters rely on to make their decisions is in fact disinformation. 

Democracy is an imperfect system; it's better than pure socialism, but it's a work in progress. As the world gets more and more interconnected, the effects of national elections and the actions of political parties and leaders are felt by citizens of other countries. They can't vote, but they can act. They're mostly democratic countries.

The solution may not lie in democracy. International disbelief at the stupidity of America pulling out of the Paris Accord is matched by resolve to protect our planet at all costs. So China is stepping up, France and Germany are forging a stronger partnership, Europe is girding its loins, and within America, states, cities, counties, and corporations are forging ahead, investing in renewables and in globalization. Stronger together.

Those who are afraid, and who want to go back to a world where fossil fuels can be exploited and the consequences ignored, flex their bully muscles and exert control. But it's a death rattle, and in fact their ship has already sailed. The world is never going back to isolationism, or to using fossil fuels with reckless abandon.

And in reality, it will take years for the US pullout to be effected. In that time, Donald Trump will be gone, and Republicans will be out of power. Damage done will be undone. One step back, two steps forward.

The most sophisticated democracy in the world will have averted its own catastrophic disaster. Whether it will still be world leader is questionable.

If America recedes from the world stage for a while because of the stupidity of a president the majority didn't vote for and are now struggling to get rid of, perhaps it will be a good thing. It will give the country time to get its own house in order. Barack Obama is just getting into his stride, free now from the shackles of the presidency. Hillary Clinton has also come out of the woods. Rep. Adam Schiff is doing a sterling job on the Russia investigation. And the Democratic Party has never been so unified and so focused.

This is not the end of the world.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Trump Rolls Back Environment Protection but Solar Rules. It's the New Gold Rush


It's hard to accept when change is irrevocable. Hard for communities that have relied on an industry for generations to acknowledge that past glory days are over and they're never coming back. 

Coal mining is almost iconic in that regard. Employment in the industry has been declining for a long time, and miners have held onto the hope of a miracle reversal. But between 1920 and 2013, coal mining jobs dropped by almost a whopping 90%. In the same period, increasing mechanization saw production rise from 500 million short tons of coal to 982,677. 

Those who did retain employment clung on, as they did to the idea that the problem was political. In the run-up to the 2016 elections, Donald Trump made a lot of promises about bringing back coal. It won him votes, but it was a callous exploitation of people's fears and insecurity. The promise can never be fulfilled, because mechanization isn't the only challenge facing coal. In the US, and around the world, as coal mining becomes more expensive, solar becomes cheaper. Coal's growth rate declined by -3.4% between 1995 and 2014, whereas solar's increased by 65% for the same period.

In the US, figures for solar employment growth between 2010 and 2016 are a stark reflection of the power of solar throughout the country, and the trend towards the future. 


Once a niche industry, Solar is now mainstream, and can only go in one direction. Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that within seven years solar will be the cheapest source of electricity, globally.

Which is good news for those who can embrace change, and who believe scientists' warnings that climate change is caused by global warming. It isn't just something of the future, it's happening now. Oceans are warming, ice caps are melting, unprecedented weather patterns are causing heat waves, violent storms. Toxic air pollution, smog and acid rain are increasingly common in major cities. Carbon dioxide emissions are the biggest contributor.

In America, coal plants are major culprits. Pollution controls help, so long as plants install the technology. Some do, but not all. And now the current US administration is rolling back environment protections, even going so far as talking about withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, the first international acknowledgement that action must be taken now against global warming.

Unfortunate, to say the least, for the world, given that the US is the second largest contributor to global warming. But also unfortunate for Americans, economically. Countries that take the lead on developing alternative energy sources, especially solar and wind, will emerge as global economic leaders. China, whose contribution to global warming is currently double that of the US, could take the lead. Morals, ethics and caring about the planet aside, it's where all the money will be.  

“It’s becoming normal in more and more markets. Every time you double capacity, you reduce the price by 20 percent,” said Adnan Amin, Director General of International Renewable Energy Agency, an intergovernmental group based in Abu Dhabi, quoted in Bloomberg

How wonderfully ironic that finally the most money will be made from industries that save the planet. The arguments are all in favor of investing in solar as a clean, efficient and increasingly cost effective energy solution. And there's no argument to continue with coal mining. No argument to invest in new plants either; economically it's becoming the least viable as a source of power. Even the Kentucky Coal Mining Museum in Benham has installed solar panels on its roof, to cut down on electricity costs.

Coal isn't coming back, no matter which way you look at it. Painful as that is for coal-mining communities in the US, the truth is that they have another, better, sustainable option, one that is working for many already. Jobs in the electric power generation sector are mostly being generated by the solar industry now. 

Solar is the new gold rush. Massive corporations that are heavily invested in fossil fuels, with their lobby groups and politicians in their pockets, will have to realize that if they don't get in on the gold rush they'll be eating everybody else's dust.

It's understandable that coal miners are afraid. Change in their industry has been happening for a long time, but it's now hit the point of no return. Of course it's terrifying. But the consolation is that more and more jobs will be generated by alternatives to coal, especially solar, in states that have traditionally relied on coal mining. Miners will learn that there's nothing to be afraid of, and everything to celebrate. More jobs, nicer jobs! Better wages, a brighter future. 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

100 Days of Failure, Broken Promises - And Action


It's been a hundred days since sanity, coherence, joy, optimism, brilliance of mind, sound leadership and dignity vanished from the White House. Since the building symbolized hope and housed a super-qualified, integrity-driven administration. Since the president and first lady and their two daughters were hugely respected round the world, free from even the hint of scandal or abuse. Since the planet was in safe hands and international conflict was under control.

A hundred days only? It feels like years. The six months since the New York Times finally took an unequivocal stand for Hillary Clinton and against Donald Trump feel like decades.

Remember the Democratic National Convention, when Hillary Clinton broke a glass ceiling, and after that Barack and Michelle Obama took to the campaign trail with passion and energy that lit up every day. It feels like a lifetime since the world felt like a safe place after eight years of a president who valued diplomacy over war and understood how important it was not to engage in saber-rattling with trigger-happy sociopath leaders. Since hope and optimism were at an all time high for the future of America set firmly on a path of increasing tolerance, good governance and equality.

It seems as if a generation has passed since the most powerful nation in the world was perceived to be a buffer, an insurmountable barrier, against the insurgent far right in Europe. But it's only been one hundred days.

It's been a challenge to keep up with, let alone process, everything that the current president and his shambolic, understaffed, unqualified administration have done in that time to create carnage. Shock and horror prevail and ripple out constantly from the epicenter into the world. Liberals are obliged to keep themselves informed but it's like drinking poison every day. Donald Trump is in the news the whole time and every word written about him is  disheartening, depressing. The way the Republican Party is enabling him because they want the power is almost worse. Reading about it all is like trying to breathe through an oil slick. Rep. Nancy Pelosi tweeted some choice triumphs.


A hundred days ago, a significant majority of American voters and liberals around the world were in shock that the unimaginable had actually happened. Paradise was paved and replaced with a parking lot.

But if anybody was ever afraid that the majority of Americans would let Trump's bigotry, stupidity, racism, flagrant ignorance and sexism become the new normal, or that the Trump brand would make a fortune out of the presidency before Trump bankrupted the country and walked away scot-free, they can set that fear aside. If anybody thought that the majority of Americans were as easily brainwashed as the average Russian has been by Vladimir Putin, or that the free world would let itself be led into a dark age of intolerance, they'll have to think again.

Yes, it's been one hundred days of travesty, of inhumane campaign and post-campaign promises that fortunately have been broken, of a president who wanders the corridors of the White House in a dressing gown, mindlessly tweeting whatever is running through his seedy brain at three in the morning. A man who clearly has difficulty reading but none in telling a lie.

A hundred days of nepotism, back-biting, infighting, alternative fact spewing, lies and doubling down on lies, contradictions, threats of suing the press, calling it the enemy of the people. Childish attempts to follow Putin's playbook. And failure in everything that's been attempted.

A fragmented Republican Party, driven asunder by its own infighting; the Freedom Caucus pushing to the far right, and moderate Republicans fearing for their seats in 2018 if they give in.

In a normal presidency it would be a disaster. But in this one it's a triumph. It seems the parking lot came with built-in jack-hammers, because these one hundred days have also been a time of massive protests, of Americans going to town hall meetings and putting pressure on their representatives in Congress. Of the liberal media reporting truthfully, the New York Times and the Washington Post in a perpetual bun fight for who can get the biggest truth out first and most often.

Slate, Mother Jones, Politico, Salon, Vanity Fair, Daily Beast, HuffPost, The New Yorker, Reuters, Alternet, even Teen Vogue, to mention a few, all have their take as politics takes center stage. CNN, SkyNews and BBC anchors and hosts are relentlessly driving truth home. Comedians and cartoonists are having a field day. Twitter and Facebook are red-hot with protest and shared information.




Barack and Michelle Obama, have taken their break and are back in action, not as politicians, but as civilians. So is Hillary Clinton. And Bernie Sanders, is still in the Senate, and plugging away with Tom Perez for the Democratic Party. They all have huge followings.

Democrats in the House and Senate are fighting for all they're worth. Mike Flynn was forced to resign, Jeff Session and Devin Nunes' lies were exposed, forcing them to recuse. The repeal and replace Obamacare fiasco fizzled.  Judges have blocked two attempts at Muslim bans, and at defunding sanctuary cities. Democrats refused to pass a bill that had money in it to fund the wall with Mexico. The major tax overhaul has been limp dick. The economy only grew at 0.7% for these past three months, down from 2.1% in the previous quarter. That would be during Obama's time, the man who ruined the US.

All of Trump's major Make America Great Again campaign promises and most of his 282 all-time promises (tracked by the Washington Post) have come to nothing. Which doesn't, of course, affect his base, but it does everybody else. And they're the ones who will count in 2018 and beyond.

And then there is the Russia probe. The investigations into Russian interference in the election, and into Trump collaboration with them, gain momentum despite all the frantic attempts at distraction. Accusing Obama and then GCHQ of wire-tapping, Devin Nunes' fake-evidence collaboration with Trump which fizzled. The attack on a Syrian airbase that achieved nothing, leaving the runway intact. The MOAB dropped on an ISIS target. North Korea threatened with a possible invasion by an armada, which embarrassingly turned out to be one ship travelling in the opposite direction.

None of it is impacting at all on the forward movement of that pesky Russia probe, which now has four official investigative bodies. And all the investigative functions of the liberal press.

Which is not to say that America, the planet or the rest of the world is safe. There'll be no safety until this administration changes. But the Republican Party, with all the power on paper that it finally has, can't unite to utilize that power effectively. The understaffed, ill-equipped administration is falling apart. And Trump, for all his braggadocio, is visibly losing steam—admitting for the first time yesterday that the job was much harder than he realized that it would be, and pretty much expressing regret. Not surprising, given his approval ratings, and how much he is hated, distrusted, laughed at and scorned.

Paving the way to pull out? Paradise Revisited.



Friday, April 14, 2017

#TrumpRussia: The Mother of All Crises As Trump Provokes Sociopath Leaders

The other day Donald Trump gave a press conference to speak about the mother of all bombs dropped in Nangahar Province in Eastern Afghanistan, 'targeting' a tunnel complex used by ISIS.

As usual, Trump didn't tell the truth, which is that the Obama administration set up the preparations for using the bomb there, against ISIS. All Trump, or somebody at the Pentagon, had to do was give the order. Who actually did is still unclear, notwithstanding Trump's boast that he told his military, the best military in the world, to use the bomb, making it sound as if the whole idea was his from the first, and was the result of well-thought out strategy.

He made no mention that the Intelligence regarding the tunnels was gathered in the Obama Administration, or that he has widened the powers of the Pentagon, so they didn't actually need his permission, and glaringly, he did not directly say that he personally approved of the mission, giving himself an out. He can blame the generals if the mission is proved a failure, as he did of the strike in Yemen, which killed too many civilians.

Trump did say, however, that the Obama Administration could have used the MOAB—Massive Ordinance Air Blast, aka Mother of All Bombs—but failed to do so, implying weakness on their part.

No mention that all the preparation had been done by them, or that the bomb has never been used before because it cannot be targeted and the possibility of massive collateral damage was too enormous to just drop it without thought. As has been proved time and time again, thoughtful planning is not a requisite in this Administration.

In an email to motherjones.com, Ian Overton, Executive Director of Action on Armed Violence, explained that the MOAB sucks all the oxygen out of the air for a mile in all directions and sets it alight, so the collateral damage is extensive. In an unpopulated area such as Nangahar, 25% of those killed or injured will be civilians. And extensive damage will have been done to infrastructure, making the harmful impact a great deal more extensive than injuries and deaths.

All of these facts contribute to the reason the Obama—and even the Bush—Administration had been hesitant to use the MOAB. Not so Donald Trump. In full-flight bragging mood, he said that the strike was another tremendous success.

For "success" read "failure", not least of which are that National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, caught lying with his pants on fire, was forced to resign; AG Jeff Sessions, also caught lying, had to recuse himself from the Russian intervention investigation; two Muslim bans masquerading as Travel bans have been blocked; Trumpcare was a disaster; the utterly unfounded accusation that Obama wiretapped Trump and that GCHQ knew about it made Trump a laughing stock of the world.

Devin Nunes, leading the House Investigation into #TrumpRussia, is now in the crosshairs of Washington ethics watchdogs for attempting to divert the Russia probe, mishandling classified information, and—you got it—lying. Like Jeff Sessions he had to recuse himself. The only success in 83 days has been Neil Gorsuch's confirmation as Supreme Court Justice. And that had nothing to do with Donald Trump.

Militarily, there have been no successes either. The strike in Yemen, which killed 30 innocent civilians, including 10 women and children, was such a failure that Trump distanced himself from it and blamed the failure on the generals. Then there was the Syrian airstrike which has turned into a total fiasco. Everybody was talking about Syria and how Trump's strategy has centered on a turnaround on Russia, and supporting the UN.

Then MOAB, and now Trump is provoking Kim Jong-un. Strategy has nothing to do with it. Trump is fumbling in the dark. He's never had any coherent plan; you have to understand your subject to be able to formulate one. Trump has no knowledge of anything. He's just a mean spirited, extremely unintelligent, compulsive liar with impulses he can't control. He instinctively knows how to rabble-rouse, how to con people, and how to create chaos.

He's followed that instinct since he started campaigning. By instinct he's wagging the dog. It's not intelligent strategy. Trump doesn't have the smarts for that.

For heaven's sake, he reads speeches and signs executive orders (or forgets to) without understanding the content, or having any knowledge of the subject. When he was reading his speech on Syria after the strike, he couldn't afford to take his eyes off the sheet of paper for more than a couple of words. Somebody could have written gobbledygook and, none the wiser, he would have read it out with his ludicrous attempt at a Churchill imitation which fools nobody and only succeeds in making Trump look like a very dull-witted praying mantis.

He's never had to deal with consequences. Suddenly he had to. He was told what to do regarding the fall-out with Putin and Assad after the airstrike, but again, it wasn't his strategy, or anybody else's. They were all just frantically trying to put out fires, amid infighting and back-stabbing. The idea that a strike that didn't take out the runway and was never going to be followed up could possibly be effective in scaring either Putin or Assad is laughable.

Putin is way, way ahead of Trump, Nikki Haley, and of Rex Tillerson too. He knows more about American politics than any of them. So this whole affair will settle down with absolutely nothing achieved for America and with some wretch having to wipe the egg off Donald Trump's face.

It would have gradually faded from the news, as the #TrumpRussia investigation, which is still in full sway, hit the headlines again. But then there was MOAB, the largest non-nuclear bomb in the world, to suck up everybody's attention. The shock wave could be heard for miles and miles, And the headlines made shock waves around the world. International news broadcasters had a field day.

In the meantime, whether it's in the news or not, Putin has come out of the Syrian episode having entrenched his bully position and confirmed his understanding that the Trump administration is putty in his hands, the UN is utterly toothless in the matter of Syria, and Assad is free to continue doing whatever he wants, perpetrating crimes against humanity.

And the military industrial complex is off and running again. Donald Trump's Pentagon is free to drop bombs, cause collateral damage, waste lives. Somebody's making a lot of money out of this. One MOAB costs the US taxpayer $16 million to manufacture.

This reckless president, who doesn't have a clue what he's doing, who is influenced by the Machiavellian agenda of whoever talks the sweetest at any given moment, shoots his mouth off whenever he feels like it. People found his antics laughable when he was campaigning. Not so laughable now is the mess he has already made of domestic policy and the chaos that has descended on international relations.

Least laughable is the reality that Trump, in the Syrian airstrike, in taking out ISIS tunnels the way he did, and in his previous rabid anti-Muslim rhetoric, has no doubt enraged ISIS leadership and members, securing a target on his own back and that of his family and Administration, but worse than that, on the entire US. Add to that the dick-waving, childish and dangerous threats he is leveling at Kim Yong-un, a sociopath megalomaniac who is fast developing the capacity to nuke the US, and who has a large stockpile of chemical weapons, weapons that could be attached to modified long-range missiles.

Vladimir Putin recently accused the US of destroying world order. Ironically, although his reasoning is spurious, there's truth in what he says. Ultimately, this is a game of wag the dog, its sole purpose being to distract Americans from Trump's involvement in Russia. That he's going about it so clumsily doesn't diminish the lethal effects of the game.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Sean Spicer: Hitler Didn't Gas His Own People - Just in "Holocaust Centers"


Arrogant, disrespectful, ignorant, intellectually challenged, depraved, abhorrent; these are the words that spring to mind thinking about the Press Secretary's latest glib pronouncement, that Hitler didn't use gas. Sean Spicer's recent frank admission that he made a mistake did nothing to assuage the fury about his ignorance, nor did his attempt to patch up his mistake by saying that Hitler didn't use gas on his own people, just in the Holocaust Centers. 

Not his own people? The Holocaust Centers?


Spicer, falsifier-in-chief, seems to utterly miss another point; the ongoing outrage that a press secretary for an American president is an ill-informed boor with such utter absence of integrity. He knows the president doesn't tell the truth and that as press secretary he lies to cover for his boss, and he doesn't care about it. Truth has no value for him. Evidenced by what he said in a talk at Chicago University early this year, "I have never lied... because if you lose the respect and trust of the press corps, you've got nothing. To go out and tell an all-out lie is something that's just not acceptable."

He hasn't changed much since his college days, where, as a student senator, he was called Sean Sphincter by the student paper The College Voice. He tried to instigate college legal action against them and sent in a pompous, angry complaint, for which he was satirized by another student paper Blats.
"Sean Spicer can talk and talk and talk, and after the dust settles and after the air is still, man mouths are quivering in awe and wonder at the way Sean can spin his yarn out for miles, without saying anything of consequence."
It's hard to comprehend how he ever became a communications director for various political bodies. Except of course that he's worked for Republicans, for whom the word communication doesn't mean imparting truth. He was the RNC Communications Director for six years before working for the Trump administration. You know a man by the friends he keeps.

It was easy to be passionate about politics when the Obamas were in the White House. It was frustrating and infuriating to watch the low-minded Republican Party with its obstructionist tactics relied on principles that are their core were driven by the need to protect the wealthy, white, conservative and often Christian element in America. But at least the President, First Lady, and members of the Administration were admirable in every respect. Classy, driven by integrity, brilliant, super-qualified, and good at their jobs. The world was safe with its most powerful country in their hands. And the press secretaries were a pleasure to listen to.

But this current Administration is inexperienced, boastful, utterly unqualified, mean-spirited and incompetent. And too intellectually challenged even to realize how they reveal their own stupidity every day. They can't formulate a single strategy among themselves. There's infighting, back-stabbing, disloyalty, outright betrayals, and a steady stream of lies and attacks on the foundations of democracy, taken straight out of Vladimir Putin's playbook, and even Adolph Hitler's.

Not only have they and their august leader made America a target of international scorn and satire, but they've made the world significantly unsafe already, in 82 days. Yet another record for the Trump administration, which has broken so many, all of them shameful.

Everybody is talking about how exhausting it is to try and keep abreast of the disasters, untruths, and missteps that have come to characterize the government. Americans and people around the world implored each other never to let this become the new normal and so far it hasn't. But it's sickening to read about and watch this crew of heartless, soul-less, gutless wonders every day. CNN giving Sean Spicer airtime every day has become painful. One learns as much about the truth with the sound muted. 

It's necessary to stay informed, but doing so taking its toll on everybody, from citizens to politicians to journalists and TV anchors and hosts. Passion in politics was easy when there were people of integrity in the White House who not only knew what they were doing but were also beautifully articulate. 

It's turned into a dreary affair, having to watch and listen to a president, his administration and various staff who have all earned their place in this idiocracy.

Photo: Holocaust Memorial at California Palace of the Legion of Honor

Friday, March 31, 2017

Cool Reception to Mike Flynn's Request for Immunity


“When you are given immunity, that means that you probably have committed a crime.” So said Mike Flynn on September 25 last year, speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press". Then-Republican candidate Donald Trump said "if you haven't committed a crime why would you ask for immunity, right?"

Flynn, conspiracy theorist, arbiter of fake news prior to the election, was also a "lock her up" cheerleader at the Republican National Convention. He and Trump were, of course, speaking about then Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and the alleged crime for which she was endlessly investigated and publicly hung, drawn and quartered despite having been found to have committed no crime. 

In the week prior to the 2016 election, Flynn tweeted "U decide - NYPD Blows Whistle on New Hillary Emails: Money Laundering, Sex Crimes w Children, etc… MUST READ!" The allegations were of course baseless. This was the man Donald Trump chose for White House National Security Adviser. 

In the previous year, Flynn spoke at a Russian state-owned media RT Television gala in Moscow. Jill Stein also attended the gala. Flynn, however, was paid $45,000 plus  expenses. RT is well known to be a propaganda outlet controlled by Vladimir Putin. It has been used successfully to propagate fake news and influence both the ultra right and the ultra left in the US and countries in Europe.

Flynn was forced to resign his post within a month when it was revealed, in an ironic twist, by  Intelligence, that he had lied in his confirmation hearing about meeting any Russian officials. In fact he met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Speculation about deeper involvement has been rife.

Now Flynn has offered his testimony to the FBI and the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, in exchange for immunity. So far the reception has been cool.  Ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee Rep Adam Schiff, D-Calif, released a statement, saying, "We should first acknowledge what a grave and momentous step it is for a former National Security Advisor to the President of the United States to ask for immunity from prosecution." 

It is unclear what Mike Flynn's motivation is, but he has the support of Donald Trump, as expressed, naturally, in a tweet, which undermines the idea that Flynn has any real information to offer, especially considering his past obsession with conspiracy theories, and his predilection for alternative facts. 

The White House has recently made significant efforts to distract attention from the investigations into possible collusion between Russian officials and members of the Trump campaign—and indeed Donald Trump himself. But Democrats on the hill are not fooled, and nor will they be taken in by any games if Flynn is playing them, with or without the president's endorsement. As Adam Schiff added in his statement,
"Additionally, as with any investigation—and particularly one that grows in severity and magnitude by the day—there is still much work and many more witnesses and documents to obtain before any immunity request from any witness can be considered. 
As but one example, during our open hearing I made a formal request of the agencies to provide Mr. Flynn's background check document, SF-86, so we can determine whether he properly reported any work he may have conducted on behalf of a foreign entity. We have yet to receive those documents. 
Moreover, when the times comes to consider requests for immunity from any witness, we will of course require a detailed proffer of any intended testimony."