Sunday, February 19, 2017

Why I have refrained from calling Donald Trump a fascist.

 I have refrained from calling the Trump administration fascist. It is too early to tell and the constraints of law and the Constitution may yet hold. The definition of fascism is also very debatable.  There is a very comprehensive discussion of this :   Calling someone fascist brings to mind Hitler, the gas chambers, the hyper nationalism, the rallies and parades, and a sense of economic recovery based on ramping up the military/industrial complex.  Hitler seems to personify it in many minds, though the 20th century ideological roots are actually in Italy and Mussolini and not all authoritarian governments are fascist.  Some  elements are found in Trump's tweets and orders,  as are the techniques to become fascist, including claiming the only facts that count are those approved and considered so by the Trump administration and including deligitimizing  other centers of power, the courts and media.  The missing link until now has been usually the combining of an authoritarian government with industrial and corporate interests. Candidate Trump's appeal to the blue collar working demographics was more populist than corporate.  However, that  corporatist element has been added  to the Trump administration with the team of billionaires in charge of the various cabinet posts and now the appointment today of another corporate head to evaluate our intelligent agencies.  What we can count on is a purge of those disloyal to Donald Trump within those agencies and departments.  That is an expected consolidation of power and any whistle blowing or leaks had better happen now before that occurs.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

A White House in chaos is right now a danger to our security

A White House in chaos is a danger to our national security. This is a period when those who want to do us harm see a softness in our ability to respond with a unified voice and is at risk. They see no clear chain of command needed to respond effectively in case of a  national security crisis.  For our own sakes, let us hope that the Trump administration corrects the situation as quickly as possible.

It may be that the uncertainty caused by the inexperience and peculiarity of President's personality traits might give pause  to a wannabe attacker Any reaction, say to a 9/11 size event, might make an attack a gamble knowing  Trump is so impulsive. On the other hand, taking advantage of a situation when the chains of command, the boundaries of power, or its policies have not been clearly established, might be seen by an attacker as an  opportunity. The danger is that to understand us better, they will test us to see how we react such as parking a spy ship near our coast or firing off a missile test, which has already happened.

Donald Trump has denied disarray in the West Wing, asserting his administration was running like a "fine tuned machine".  Views that there was chaos came from  Leon Panetta, former Secretary of Defense  and past CIA Director and Senator John McCain.

With the firing of  General Michael Flynn, his controversial National Security adviser, Trump's first choice to fill the post, retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward,  bowed out for family reasons, though some close to him said Harward was also worried about access to the president and the ability to choose his own staff. He announced his new pick Monday, Lt. General H.R. McMaster, which is a step toward more order. With McMaster's appointment, I am feeling much better about our security and a tougher stance on Russia. The question is if he will get the same access to the President as did Flynn or if there will be friction.

Who possibly could stand in the way of a national security  adviser's  access to the President? The closest to President Trump  is Stephen Bannon, the former head of Breitbart Media , an ideologue of the farthest right with a stated goal to disrupt the Establishment.. He maneuvered  to be appointed the the National Security Council where such coordination of the flow of information from State Department, intelligence agencies, and the Pentagon takes place.

Even with a well coordinated and competent leadership of the West Wing, we have had a history with national security fumbles early in an administration. The George W. Bush administration was  staffed at higher levels with experienced men from the outset before 9/11, but were so focused in other matters, such as filling lower vacancies and legislation, they had not devoted enough attention to the warning signs noted by the FBI of some Saudi individuals taking pilot training, even in the face of  well known attempts  abroad by  terrorists to turn a commercial plane into a weapon. The new security team is headed for a rocky shake down cruise.

Confusing those abroad, friends and foe, have been mixed messages delivered by VP Mike Pence in his recent tours of Europe and NATO  and Nikki Haley, the new US ambassador to the UN regarding policies toward Russia . They seem to  contradict Trump's coziness with Russia , speaking with a harder line toward Russia.


Time magaznie, February 13, 2017

Also see my blog posting: Tensions between Vice President Pence and Michael Flynn pre-exist the "lie" flap 2/14/17

Footnote: This story was "officially leaked" by the Kremlin. Some believe they think Trump may not last full term. Whatever the motivation, the irony does not escape me. Often the comment about the chaos in the White House is that Trump was the dog that caught the bus they chased, the US Presidency, and now that he caught it, he does not know what to do with it. Perhaps the Kremlin is the dog that caught the bus, President Trump. Now that they did it, they are wondering what to do about him.

The attempt to get inside the U.S. president's mind is aimed at helping Vladimir Putin plan for their first meeting. Among the dossier's preliminary conclusions is that Trump…


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Blind eyes of Donald Trump and the GOP. The eye opening challenge: "prove it"

President Trump, his supporters, and apologists are turning blind eyes to bad news that is in our faces and in plain sight.    The role Democrats and " the resistance" can play when they hear such delusions is to respond with "prove it" .   An administration that loses credibility is an administration that will likely fail in future elections.

Trump has continued to blast media as "dishonest", (most recently defined coincidentally when they criticize him) and "fake news' when it is negative about his administrations. He railed against the tone of reporters he called hate filled. He urged the public to view only Fox and Friends and some other ideologically right wing web casts instead of CNN and MSNBC  Hurling such  name calling   without proving how their reports are dishonest  eventually will become part of a credibility problem that will come back to haunt him. In the  meantime, he is  trying to damage the credibility and trust of all news sources.

If political strategy and policy are based on delusions, there is great possibility they will make strategic errors that will work against the GOP and Trump sooner or later. It will give their opposition media fodder and could lead to the the public losing trust in both the Trump administration and GOP Congressional members who are trying to bury the issues they prefer not to give exposure. It will also dominate the news cycles and tie Congress in knots. The diversion will stop the Trump legislative agenda in its tracks for months, from job creation, tax reform, health care, and much more. But far more harmful to the public interest and the security of the US will be shaping of domestic and foreign policy based on false premises. Garbage in, garbage out , and that garbage could  be toxic to the well being of its citizens and national security.

 Here is the bad news :the GOP and the Trump administration either denies or seek to divert attention from the public eyes:

The Russian connection:  The Flynn debacle and the highly likely connection the Trump campaign was coordinating with Russia to defeat Hillary Clinton is not only a problem of Russian meddling and hacking the 2016 elections, it is also the possibility it was to some extent coordinated with the Trump campaign.  The GOP and Trump instead of going full bore to find the truth are, trying to get public attention focused on "leaks" as the real criminal act instead of shedding light on the substance. That is a self-defeating strategy. The GOP dominated Congress has taken the route that would keep findings from the public eye by burying it in intelligence committees that mostly work in secret.  That is an outrage. The public needs to know, not just one secretive  committee in Congress and the way that can be accomplished is a Select Committee investigation, setting up an independent commission,  or the appointment of a special prosecutor.  The best proof: release the transcripts the FBI has of those conversations between the Trump operatives and Russian intelligence and officials. The text is going to be leaked sooner or later, anyway. Those in Congress who stonewall shedding public light on whether there was indeed collusion so harmful to our democracy deserve to be the target of the 'resistance".  The danger to national security is that foreign policy would be shaped  to enhance the power of Russia and would not to the national interests of both the US and its allies, especially our NATO allies, and  diminish US ability to shape policy in its national interests.

The delusion that the public demonstrations, in particular the women's march in revolt against Trump policies, were made up of paid flunkies, all 1.1 million, is so easily disproved,  it is truly laughable. I was one of those marchers; I know who organized this in my area and who communicated with me. I saw who stood next to me in that enormous crowd and who joined me at my encouragement.  The ultimate challenge to those who want to put blinders on their dedicated followers is to prove it.  In the meantime, 1.1 million paid minimum wage for 4 hours of their time and to be compensated for out of pocket transportation expenses (my bus ride to the event cost over $40) would be at minimum $23 million dollars. Where did that money come from? That  size of a money trail should be easy to uncover if it is true. Find it and prove it.

The delusion is a making of Trump's own fantasy, that the nearly three million gap in favor of Clinton in the popular vote were illegal voters.  No one is challenging Trump's win  in the electoral college or his right to serve as President,  but it is a wound to Trump's  delicate ego and  it diminishes his claim to have a  popular mandate for  his policies . The challenge to Trump: prove it. An independent panel in Congress should conduct an investigation.  Of course, they won't, because only Trump  and his most dedicate followers believe it and he has already been sworn in.

 The consequence is that his supporters who believe it too will make bad political calculations  in their overconfidence and  result in such overreaches in policy that such action will create a reaction that will swing the pendulum to the left in future elections. The danger is that policies on health care access and quality of benefits will be so shrunk, that many will be left in far worse condition than they now have with Obamacare, losing insurance and important benefits. Expect  a reaction  from Congress and the public to any replacement, finding the deficit or their out of pocket expenses will soar, as will the number of bankruptcies and poorer health of many. That pain would be felt immediately and the backlash will be equally quick.

Taking longer to feel the pain are removing  consumer protections from financial services practices provided in Dodd-Frank and weakening environmental regulations. Voter suppression moves will be felt in future elections.  Turning back Dodd-Frank  will lead to more fraud, anti consumer policies that will cost their pocket books, and  dangers of repeating the 2008 crash.  More bad air and polluted water will be what citizens will suffer , but not realize it for a while since those impacts are more accumulative and anecdotcal. Worse, the unproved delusions will be used as a political motivation by legislatures to restrict voters' rights and suppress the votes of the most vulnerable, the minorities, and seniors. That is great for the GOP, bad for democracy and citizen participation.

More delusions: 2017 polls are here as well...and except for one poll, the rest reveal Donald Trump is living in an alternate world. In his rambling press conference of 2/16 he cited the Rasmussen poll as proof he was doing well and popular...claiming 55% approval.  
2016 Latest Polls


Footnote on fake news: I have spent some long noon hours lately listening to Denver  Radio Station KOA's line up of right leaning talk shows.  If attitude toward the "other side" is a hateful tone Trump defines as "fake news" , then what I heard  is "fake news" to me. During the campaign I  tuned into FOX, and theirs meet Trump's fake news definition in tone, emphasis to my ears.   In fact, if someone in the household switched to FOX, I could recognize a certain tone in the next room and recognize it as FOX without listening to the content, but  just on the basis of a unique plaintive, accusatory tone.  That is a hallmark of our fragmented media, especially cable, that caters to a divided audience and contributes to making a divided nation even more deeply divided as listeners/viewers accept the slanted report as factual and accurate news.   The problem is searching out straight news and I have some postings and statements regarding that.

While I write opinions, and I do not consider my columns  news, but my take on it.  I also footnote my sources upon what my opinion was based in each blog. Blogs are the wild west of opinion writing.  Facebook and twitter postings are likewise more opinion than fact.I  do not pretend to be a straight reporter; I give my opinions. That is why what I write is labeled as  "opinion", separate from the news reports in the other print pages.  In talk shows, opinion and facts get merged into something bordering on entertainment  bent on seeking ratings. I know that. I was one of Denver's first radio talk show hosts in the very early '80's and when the tone of the genre got nasty and hateful and got the big ratings, I  bowed out of that media form forever which required a tone and slant that was just not me.

What also listeners and viewers and readers also must realize, since Watergate  investigative reporting , once called muckraking in the early 1900's , is in vogue again.  Some of the reasons investigative reporting gets front page, serious news designation, is that it drives readership and it can have a real impact in uncovering facts and take the role of  whistle blowing. It is a valuable part of current journalism, but it takes critical thinking to sort out its credibility and its importance. Critical thinking depends on getting information and opinions and news  from many, sources not just from the media that synchs with our own opinions, guts, and knee jerks.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Tensions between Vice President Pence and Michael Flynn pre-exist the "lie" flap

General Michael Flynn's departure from the White House may have much deeper roots than just his lie to both Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence about conversations with the Russian ambassador.  The conflict between the two goes back to the days of the campaign post GOP conventions.  I noted that in a column at that time. In the Vice Presidential debate, Pence parted ways on Russia from  candidate Donald Trump's line.
From my blog posting 10/5/16:
"One event in the Vice Presidential debate, October 4, was the position of GOP candidate Mike Pence regarding Russia.  The comments on Russia got lost in Pence's  absolute denial that Donal Trump ever said Russian President Vladimir Putin was a better leader than Pres. Obana. The quibble could be whether the correct term was "stronger". In any case, there is plenty of video available on Trump's comments which makes Pence look like a liar, albeit a smooth one delivered with conviction.

 What should also be the story is that Pence took a hard line on Russia saying we should stand up to them..  This deserves some closer scrutiny and looks like there is a division on foreign policy between the two running mates.  Take a look at the debate as can be accessed via You Tube regarding Pence's views of Russia incursions into the Crimea, Ukraine and Georgia...a great contrast from Trump's prior statements.
What does count in 2016 ,however, is Trump's position, though Pence might use his own quotes in his own future campaigns.

It stands in sharp contrast with the GOP presidential candidate himself, Donald Trump, who has been advocating a foreign policy that strangely runs parallel to the same as Russia's, from declaring NATO obsolete, not objecting to the Russian threats and incursions into Eastern Ukraine, and recognizing Russia's grab of the Crimea.  In fact, the mutual comments between Trump and Putin have been so complimentary that it has been timed a "bromance" of mutual admiration.

Not only is this a major issue in foreign policy, but in calls into question whether Trump can even negotiate with Putin in America's and our alliies' security interests without giving away the store to Russia.  Negotiation means give and take and the question remains what Trump would give away to make a deal. ""

Some background:
 For some time, the question has been why has Donald Trump been so cozy with Russia? There has been a great deal of speculation ranging from Trump's debts to Russia oligarchs to blackmail , the connection with  the Russian Alfa Bank, with embarrassing pictures (a victim of a honey trap).  Fingers have been pointed to influencing Trump's views of Russia was his campaign manager, who departed the campaign mid year, Paul Manafort, who was an advisor to the ousted  president of the Ukraine who sought refuge in Moscow after a coup.  Congressional investigations into Russian influence and hacking  in the US elections are just getting underway.  Ukraine is involved. The Russians have conducted a stealth takeover of the eastern parts of that country and the West punished Russia with economic sanctions.  The Flynn issue involves lies about his pre- January conversations with the Russian ambassador over lifting those sanctions. The question arises was this a thank you for the role Russia played in helping Trump win by planting false news stories and by hacking and revealing damaging information regarding Hillary Clinton.

That there are many concerned about why Donald Trump only ever has kind words for Russia and their president Vladimir Putin, while being critical of even our closest allies and even calling NATO, our mutual defense treaty with Europe, obsolete.  It has set our Eastern Europe members of NATO on edge and one of President Obama's departing actions was to announce the placement of US troops in Poland as a signal to Russia not to mess with our Baltic members.  Trump and others, including libertarians, had already expressed concern about going to war to support the small trio of Baltic nations in spite of their NATO membership. Russians have always seen the Baltics, with their ports to the sea, as part of theirs since there is a large number of Russians living in those areas left over from the old Soviet  military occupations days when the Baltics were their satellites.  Russia has a modus operandi of using "saving discrimination against Russian minorities" as an excuse to grab territory and the Baltics are ripe targets.  Their membership in NATO has made Russia think twice. Ukraine, Crimea, and Georgia, recent targets of Russian grabs, are not part of NATO and are not under NATO's protections.  Flynn was Donald Trump's closest campaign advisor on foreign affairs thorught the campaign.