Thursday, September 20, 2018

Brett Kavanaugh v Dr. Ford

Brett Kavanaugh v Dr. Blasey Ford. The underlining issue is the attitude of the Republican Senators toward a woman who is reliving a trauma of sexual assault. It is consistent with those senators’ past actions, but times are changing and the senators’ attitudes are fossilized. That President Trump has had a hand in this should not be excused either, since he has refused to order the FBI to investigate the veracity of both parties. The drama is unfolding as this is written, but the damage to the GOP has already been done. The burden falls mostly on the shoulders of the GOP Senators and they are the ones who deserve the wrath of women expressed in the voting booth November 6.
There must be plenty of mid 50 year olds, male and female, who are resurrecting memories of their high school years they experienced in the 1980’s, but  high school out of control preppies  behaving like that in those days were not unique happenings.   The danger is their old attitudes could color their judgment calls and so far Brett Kavanaugh has denied the event ever happened, much less has he expressed any remorse.  By that measure, Donald Trump’s behavior is appalling, having himself admitted to sexual assault well into his latter years, as accusers have charged  and we have  his own attitudes toward grabbing on tape. The critical  problem on the table at this moment, though,  is  how the Republicans in Congress are treating Dr. Ford or will attack her as a person in an attempt to paint her as the guilty party. That has been standard operating procedure by defenders of male misbehavior in the past. The old attitudes prevail in they way GOP Senatora  are treating her .  Women of  certain ages are having flashbacks as how their traumas have been treated and how shame and fear they too would not have been  respected or believed if they publicly recounted their own experiences.   That is the reason the #metoo movement has gained so much political traction and the pink pussy  ears have become their symbol.  Add to that, the attempt to overturn Roe v Wade is part of the same general political revolt of women who are no longer willing to tolerate  male patriarchal attitudes or male  control over their bodies  any more.  In short, this is a revolt of women and both issues, how Dr. Ford is respected during this ordeal and how the Supreme Court will act in a woman’s right to choose have landed in the lap of the Kavanaugh nomination.  This is not any nomination, either. If Kavanaugh’s nomination is successful, he will insure his attitudes toward women and their respective rights and power will be reflected as the swing vote in the Court for years to come.
Here is why anger at the GOP Senate should and has  rightly become  the focus:   Once again, a woman’s recounting of a traumatic sexual encounter, an attempted rape, is the same old, same old reaction, pattern of  a group of powerful older males  who close minds as they close ranks. Their attitudes and prejudices were made public. Some already opined  Dr. Ford was just “mixed up “, in advance of any examination of evidence. Some of the same very Senators  had also played a role in the disservice to Anita Hill in the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court hearings, including Senate chair of the same Judicial  committee, Chuck Grassley , and Orin Hatch.  Demanding that the committee vote proceed without requiring  testimony under oath of  anyone other than Kavanaugh and Dr Ford, from the male witness, Mark Judge,  to Dr. Ford’s twenty potential witnesses with knowledge of the event, is an outrage.
Dr. Ford is a reluctant witness. She foresaw the ordeal of becoming public. The death threats, email hacking have been an attempt to intimidate her. It also will make it difficult for others to come forward on her behalf , fearing the same treatment..Unless the FBI treats such threats and intimidation as a crime and take action at once, that would also be an outrage.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Why Dr. Ford is justified in demanding an FBI investigation before her testimony

September 21: The FBI does not have to wait for the White House to deal with death threats and harrassment of Dr. Ford. This is within their domain. Imagine if some classmate of Dr. Ford may know something to back up her ...as one does in Mexico ..having the guts to come forward when death threats and harrassment is what they will face. This is witness tampering and the demand must be made to the FBI to stop this.
September 20:The Kavanaugh hearings and the request by the accuser for an FBI investigation is justified. It is appropriate and the FBI has the ability and power to do it under their powers to screen federal appointees and nominations at the request of the executive branch. There are far too many avenues to check out and unanswered. There is a witness , Mark Judge, to interview under oath. There are lie detector results to review. There are Dr. Ford's classmates to interview, as well, who may remember something and have the fortitude to face the white male GOP committee members. My question: should we accept Kavanaugh and his friends saying they do not remember anything like this because they were a bunch of out of control drunks and remember nothing and leave it at that? Even then, that would certainly damage their (Brett Kavanaugh and his friend'scredibility) and leave Dr. Ford's testimony more credible.
There was an FBI investigation conducted for Anita Hill in the Clarence Thomas approval process and they did a disservice by not requiring her to speak to embarrassing details of the porno pictures Clarence made her see, but times were different then. but little has changed the GOP now in the time of the #metoo days when she said against he said is now taken more seriously and is a political hot button issue with women. . Hill was railroaded then. . Dr. Ford is being railroaded now, too, by the GOP committee members, by stonewalling her request for an FBI investigation first...and making it clear they themselves would not investigate or subpoena witnesses under oath.. . In this case, unlike Hill, there is a witnesss to the actual act identified , Mark Judge, who claims in a letter to the Senate committee he remembers nothing and with a history and a book he wrote that he was in a drunken stupor in those days.. In Hill's case there were witnesses, not of the Thomas' acts itself, but of what co-workers may have heard from Hill and they were not allowed to testify. Here are the questions that the FBI could answer if they did conduct an investigation:
Mark Judge, that third party named by Dr. Ford as awitness to the event, refused to appear before the committee and he should be questioned under oath.
Are there any of Dr. Ford's fellow classmates who could testify the party at the private home took place on or about that date? Kavanaugh claims there was no such party, he attended much less he has never done such a thing.

September 17:From my facebook postingI just heard Mitch McConnell rail against the Democrats for bringing up the accusation of alleged attempted rate of a teenager by the GOP nominee for the Supreme Court.Brett Kavanaugh at the last moment. What a crock.. I choked when he demanded regular order..No waiting for the FBI to check out the accusation; no delay. Regular order from McConnell? It was h e, who refused to even interview Merrick Garland, the Democrat's nominee, for over 400 days in order to leave the space open for a GOP president in the White House. Now he is trying to jam this approval through before the public gets wise or hears more negative stuff in the thousands of pages of documents they have buried under the guise of executive privilege. When the GOP Senate could not get enough votes to approve Neil Gorsuch, their candidate, McConnell changed Senate rules. Instead of 60 votes (which would have had to include some Democrats), now the rules were changed by the GOP to require only a simple majority...This makes a mockery of the Supreme Court...forever to be a partisan body depending who has the simple majority...and without any need to reach out across the aisle. Talk about regular order and who is fair. Ye gads.: The best regular order is to vote GOP Senators out in November..

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2018/09/17/what-the-man-accused-of-helping-kavanaugh-assault-a-woman-wrote-about-f

https://twitter.com/rgoodlaw/status/1041402259240833024?s=19

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Democrats' strongest messages for the midterms

A version of this was published  in the Sky Hi News September 18-19, 2018

The Democrats’  messages for the November midterms are taking form. What may become  stronger is “  Put a check on President Trump’s behavior and  policies; vote for Democrats in November”.   Why stronger? It has  broader appeal than to just the Democratic party’s faithful since it  has already been championed by some well known Never Trump and traditional conservatives like  Joe Scarborough, David Frum,  George Will, and columnist/radio host  John Ziegler,   who see a defeat of Trump supporters in the mid-terms as a way to clean the GOP house of Trumpism for the future.
The Democrats’ message is strong on its own merits: “ The President personally is not fit for the job and a GOP Congress is complicit in keeping him in office.  Our system of checks and balances is not working when the same party controls all of the levers of power in Washington.  At least one part of the legislative branch needs to hold Trump accountable by holding hearings given their  power to subpoena witnesses testifying under oath.”  The anonymous op-ed in the New York Times, the release of Bob Woodward’s book “Fear”, and  insider insights into the White House chaos authored  by Omarosa  Manigault Newman could  kick  this political science approach into even higher gear.
The issue most on the minds of  voters under 65 per Kaiser Family Foundation polls is the rising  cost of health care and especially whether affordable coverage for pre-existing conditions will continue to be affordable. Trump rule changes would allow higher premiums for  all coverage of pre-existing conditions even for those with employer provided insurance.  A mid August Reuters/Ipsos poll revealed that the concept of Medicare for All is supported by 70% of voters, 85% of Democrats and 52% of Republicans.  In October, just before the midterms, the new premium prices will be announced and , based on the Congressional Budget Office estimates, Fox Business News reports that the  increase will be 15% due to Trump’s removing the individual mandate, resulting in fewer healthy participating in Obamacare. So far projections of the cost of Medicare for All  or shrill shouts that this is socialism has not dimmed the support. So long as the GOP dominated Congress controls the agenda, the issue will not be debated nor will credible light be shone on the funding challenges.
“Vote Democratic so you can impeach him” is a message that  is not gaining traction.   A mid-September poll by Quinnipiac indicated  56% Americans do not want impeachment proceedings to begin versus 36% who do. There are good  reasons impeachment and  using the 25th Amendment are not feasible. To remove Trump  using both measures requires a 2/3 vote in the Senate.  That  needs bi-partisan support no matter if the Senate turns more blue in November.
There are two wild cards that may make impeachment  more popular. The  impact of the Woodward, Omarosa, op ed tell-alls  is not yet known. The other is whether findings  from the Mueller investigation  would finger the President himself for obstructing  justice or conspiracy with the Russians to throw the 2016 election his way. The report will probably not be made  before the November 6 elections. As an issue, Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 elections  is still a matter of speculation though public opinion is turning against Donald Trump. Real Clear Politics polls saw a large dip in blue collar support after Trump’s fawning over Putin at Helsinki. Most recent polls .A Washington Post/ABC poll August 31: Nearly two-thirds of American adults support Mueller's ongoing investigation.  64 %  believe Trump should not fire Attorney General Sessions though Donald Trump says he will fire him after midterms, probably installing am interim  DOJ chief that could squash or cripple Mueller’s probe and report.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/midterm-elections-2018-the-conservatives-who-want-the-gop-to-lose-this-fall

https://realclearpolitics.com/epolls/other/president_trump_job_approval-6179.html
http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/406236-poll-mueller-holds-steady-higher-approval-rating-than-trump-on-russia
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/pre-existing-conditions-coverage-at-risk-more-than-thought-obamacare/
https://www.cnbc.com/2018/08/31/most-americans-support-robert-mueller-probe-and-ag-jeff-sessions-poll.html
https://www.foxbusiness.com/politics/heres-how-much-obamacare-premiums-will-rise-in-2019
http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/403248-poll-seventy-percent-of-americans-support-medicare-for-all
https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2018/07/24/trump_support_among_blue-collar_whites_dips__137616.html
http://www.people-press.org/2018/08/09/for-most-trump-voters-very-warm-feelings-for-him-endured/
https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/wealthiest-republican-supporter-in-ohio-quits-party/ar-BBNlUBg?ocid=ob-fb-enus-280

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Mutiny in the Oval Office

A version of this was published in the Sky Hi News September 12, 2018
https://www.skyhinews.com/news/opinion/opinion-muftic-mutiny-in-the-oval-office/

History can be the stuff of fiction and fiction can become the stuff  played out in history.  This past week the pre-release of a  book by  Bob Woodward,  an anonymous op-ed in the New York Times, and the Senate committee’s hearing/grilling of the President’s nominee for Supreme Court Justice ,Brett Kavanaugh, read like fiction, but all were  far too disquieting. This was not movies like “Mutiny on the Bounty” or  “The Caine Mutiny ”.  It was  real life in real time unfolding before our very eyes,  except  the final scene has not been written.  Like one of those computer games where you can choose among story line options,  the Congress, the media, and the American people still have a chance to rewrite the ending.
A Senate  hearing about whether to approve Kavanaugh to the highest court unveiled a candidate who once opined a view of the Constitution that could save the current  captain from walking the proverbial plank.  He refused to comment on past stated beliefs  that no president in office should be subject to a criminal investigation while in office, leaving us wondering how he would vote should  Mueller investigation issues were challenged  before the highest court.  Kavanaugh in the past has also advocated giving the executive branch greater power in executing laws and regulations, weakening the concept of checks and balances and separation of powers. His view appears to be  the three branches of government are equal except the executive branch is more equal than others.(Apologies to George Orwell in Animal Farm: "all animals are equal though some animals are more equal than others"). Granting more  power to an anti-democratic, imperial wannabe president like  Trump is a scary idea.
Both the pre release excerpts the Woodward  book and the New York Times anonymous op-ed painted a picture of an Oval Office in chaos by a "senior official" who observed President Trump “continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic” and saw it was a duty to protect the country from an “the president’s leadership style, which is impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective.” Senator  Bob Corker (R-Tenn) commenting on the Op-Ed: "This is what all of us have understood to be the situation from day one.”.. For the public not privy to such belt way cloak room  whispers, what was chilling was learning   how close we came to war or damaging our  ally by  removing a trade treaty with South Korea or  the issuance of   an assassination order on the Syrian president, which the staff  “resistance” said it thwarted.
 As predicted, the President called the Woodward book  “a total piece of fiction” and tweeted king-like about the op-ed as   “TREASON?” .. “If the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!” and demanded the Justice Department find the disloyal author. Nevermind the writer had not committed a crime and did not conspire with a foreign power.  Trump  launched a hunt for the writer with obsessed rage like  the deranged captains of the Bounty and the Caine who were  determined to find who stole their cheese or strawberries.  With an NBC/you gov poll showing 60% of Americans considering him usually dishonest, his credibility carries little weight compared to the track record of Bob Woodward’s meticulous documentation and reputation from Watergate until the current era.
  That the  GOP controlled Congress would take any action to be a check on this executive's abuse of powers  is wishful fantasy.  If anyone is gutless, it is the GOP Congress . It was their inaction that left the in -White House “resistance” as a last resort to check what they saw as an out of control President.
 The last remaining  voice in this all is the court of public opinion expressed in the ballot box  this November that could give a backbone for Congress to perform a check on executive power as our founders envisioned.  Voters in November will have the ability  to shape the final chapter and set our democracy sailing on a corrected course.
https://www.axios.com/trump-senior-official-nyt-resistance-op-ed-382a1e34-5357-4bca-979a-f74bf7eef638.html
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/05/us/politics/trump-new-york-times-anonymous-editorial.html
https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2018/09/06/trump-op-ed-allegations-no-surprise-senator-bob-corker/1212684002/
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/05/opinion/trump-white-house-anonymous-resistance.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Caine_Mutiny_(film)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutiny_on_the_Bounty_(1962_film)
http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/385779-nearly-two-thirds-of-americans-say-trump-is-dishonest-poll
https://www.thoughtco.com/unitary-executive-theory-the-imperial-presidency-721716
http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/405546-watergates-john-dean-kavanaugh-confirmation-will-expand-presidential-powers
https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/trump-calls-justice-department-investigate-author-times-op/story?id=57673138
https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/6466-all-animals-are-equal-but-some-animals-are-more-equal
https://www.factcheck.org/2018/09/kavanaugh-file-executive-privilege/

25th Amendment has been discussed from early in the Trump administration

A year ago, the 25th Ameindment was openly discussed as a way to remove President Trump from office, so much so, I wrote the following, which was as true then as it is today. Once again in the wake of the series of books and a New York Times anymous op-ed  about the White House chaos and the President's unfitness to occupy the Oval Office the 25th Amendment is a topic of public discourse.  Here is what was published in tthis blog September 11, 2017 and published in the Sky Hi News September 13, 2017.

"The left’s dream is  that Donald Trump will be impeached.   Reasons I suspect are mostly politically motivated.to stop  Trump’ agenda of dismantling the Obama legacy,  his racism,  or a contempt for his persona. Alone these are not  the “high crimes and misdemeanors” standard for impeachment in the Constitution. Whether he is fit to serve refers to the 25th Amendment and the process to determine fitness..  Former  Director of National Intelligence  James Clapper added gravitas to the  impeachment movement when he questioned Trump’s fitness, calling Trump’s Phoenix  post Charlottesville divisive   speech “downright scary and disturbing”. . Heavyweight Democratic leaders have differed from impeachment advocates.  In August  Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) California   proposed “ patience” for Donald Trump to learn  and  said  he could  become a “good “ president..  David Axelrod,  former Obama adviser, opined  that with  30% plus  of voters still supporting Trump, an attempt to impeach him could be viewed as a  bloodless  coup  and a danger to the constitutional process. In June, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told impeachment talkers to “calm down” and wait for “solid proof”.  That makes sense. . The   most credible proof of misdeeds  or exoneration is Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s  investigation of the Russian connection. Any sabotaging of  the investigation by Trump or the GOP should be fought tooth and nail."

Update: 9/11/2018
Omarosa said the 25th was a topic of discussion then, as well. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/09/09/omarosa-trump-aides-used-tfa-refer-25th-amendment/1249713002/

Friday, August 31, 2018

Donald Trump's rocky ride with truth and facts

A version of this was published in the Sky Hi News, September 4-5 , 2018
https://www.skyhinews.com/news/opinion/opinion-muftic-trumps-rocky-road-with-truth-and-facts/

We should have known by January 2017  we were in for a rocky ride with truth and facts when we elected a TV star for president who created and lived in his own reality. Remember when Donald Trump told us not to believe our eyes when pictures of President Obama’s inauguration attendees were shown side by side with pictures taken at Trump’s inauguration .  Obama’s crowd size was visually larger yet he still claimed through his spokesperson his was the biggest inauguration crowd in history.  A year and a half later, he is still asking you not to believe your very eyes. "Just remember: what you’re seeing and what you're reading is not what’s happening.," he told a VFW audience this July.  That Donald Trump has problems with truth and facts is an understatement.
Trump’s  spokespeople have had their challenges when they have been confronted with data and overwhelming evidence that contradicts what the President has claimed. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway will go down in history for calling evidence to the contrary “alternative facts” and Trump’s newest personal attorney, Rudy Guiliani  is famous for saying  that  “truth isn’t truth”  in testimonies to law enforcement.
Of course, that is what jury trials are all about, to find what is true.  The recent trial of Paul Manafort was very instructive. The paper work was overwhelming evidence enough to find him guilty and to qualify Manafort for jail time.  Sometimes just being confronted with the  evidence is enough. Donald Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen  found tape recordings were strong enough proof of his wrongdoing, motivating  him to cop a plea and to implicate Trump as the one who directed him to cover up and run hush money through a corporation.
Too bad we cannot subject politician’s untruth tales to juries, too. It is not a crime to lie from the podium though it is a crime to lie under oath.  Donald Trump has told some public untruths lately  to bolster his most important policies.  To rev up his crowd, he still often claims illegal immigrants were causing more crime than those who were born here, citing figures that did not prove his point, per independent , non-partisan Factcheck.org. This fact checker concluded “  the available research that estimates the relationship between illegal immigration and crime generally shows an association with lower crime rates.”  At the Naval Academy graduation the President orated about his foreign policy that   "We are respected again, I can tell you that,"  However an  early 2018 Gallup poll found median approval of U.S. leadership dropped substantially in all but a few of the 65 countries and areas they polled, now at  30%, down from 48% in 2016 . While Trump deserves credit for continuing a trend of economic growth, he boasted that he was the first in years to show a quarter’s GDP growth of 4%. That figure was an easy target  for fact checker Politifact.com  since there was government data showed President Obama had achieved that record four times while he was president.
 There is a pattern here. Whenever the facts fail to support his oratory and tweets , Trump and his supporters thump the table loudly, repeat debunked  talking points, call challengers bad names, uninformed, or  unbelievable solely because they consider anything a lie that comes  from who they see as the enemy. It works for his base.  91% of strong Trump supporters polled by CBS Battle Ground States trust Trump for accurate information over family and friends, and mainstream media. However,  a recent NBC/You Gov poll found 60% of the American people say Trump is usually dishonest . “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time”, is  a folk wisdom saying attributed to Abraham Lincoln. As with all of my columns, data, polls, and fact sources cited are posted and linked at www.mufticforumblog.blogspot.com
as below:
https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2018/jul/27/fact-checking-donald-trumps-points-about-economy/
http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/385779-nearly-two-thirds-of-americans-say-trump-is-dishonest-poll
https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a22547037/donald-trump-orwellian-truth-reality-eyes-ears/
https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a22600827/donald-trump-supporters-believe-the-media/
https://news.gallup.com/poll/225761/world-approval-leadership-drops-new-low.aspx
https://www.factcheck.org/2017/01/the-facts-on-crowd-size/
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/sep/06/donald-trump-inauguration-crowd-size-photos-edited

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Warning to Trump loyalists on Russian meddling. The shoe is on the other foot.


A version of this was published in the Sky Hi News August 28-29, 2018
https://www.skyhinews.com/news/opinion/muftic-trump-adversaries-iran-and-china-are-meddling-in-our-elections/

President Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, has just issued a warning about Iran, North Korea and China  tampering with our November midterm elections.  The shoe is now on the other foot since both Iran and China have reasons to help Trump’s opponents in 2018. The lesson we should  learn from this is opposing interference by any foreign governments in our election process needs to be countered vigorously no matter who the perpetrators are or who they harm or help. American elections ought to be decided by Americans, not by foreign adversaries, but when it comes to the Russians,  GOP and the administration still fiddle  while Rome burns.
Until now, the Trump administration has either been permissive toward past and future Russian manipulation  or it has dismissed evidence of  Russian activities in 2016 which helped Donald Trump to be elected.  Iran and China are not friends of the Trump administration.  Iran and China  can now take a page from the successful  Russian attack methods and use the same  techniques against Trump backed candidates that the Russians  got away with.  In fact, Russians are  still getting away with it now, in 2018, per our security services.
 It is still the policy of the White House to either deny or obstruct probes into  Russian attacks or to fail to take leadership to block such attacks.   Individual security agencies are doing what they can and the private social media sector is beginning to step up to the plate . Last week Google took down 58 Iran related web sites, following the lead of Twitter, but self policing by social media using their own arbitrary standards has also met resistance from those who advocate first amendment rights in the press.
 In a press conference August 2, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, flanked by representatives of our intelligence services , warned that Russia was once again interfering in the 2018 November elections. In response, President Trump  issued an edict to security services to give counter measures a priority and then at a rally in Pennsylvania that very evening called the Russia thing a “hoax”, undermining his own position.   So which is it, Donald Trump. Russian interference  a hoax and a witch hunt or a threat to our democracy dependent on elections we can trust? And is it OK for your loyal supporters to consider Iranian and Chinese interference to be OK, too?
The GOP Congress has taken its cue from the White House and their constituents, refusing to give extra funding to states to harden their election systems to protect them from foreign hackers.  They are listening to their constituents who have swallowed the Trump administration’s  Cool aid . A  Yahoo Finance/SurveyMonkey poll of 2,509 Americans conducted July 25-27 show that  40% of Republicans are OK with Russian meddling and 11% in fact welcome it. 75% of Republicans polled by Ipsos July 16-17 believe the Mueller probe resulted from FBI bias and 30% of Republicans approved of the Mueller investigation.   Mueller has found no witches; just six felons who pleaded or were found guilty, not counting those related to the Michael Cohen case.
With the prospect of Iran and China supporting Trump’s  opposition candidates in 2018 and 2020, the shoe will be on the other foot.  One can imagine that Iran will increase anger, turnout, and identify through US voter rolls those likely to oppose Administration’s saber rattling and sanctions policy.  Chinese would   likely target   those in the US agricultural sector  who have felt the sting of retaliatory Chinese tariffs raised against their products soybeans, corn, pork and beef.
A warning to the foolish: what goes around comes around.
(poll sources: https://www.yahoo.com/finance/news/republicans-want-russia-influence-us-elections-202847050.html.    https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/08/how-trumps-witch-hunt-tweets-create-an-illusory-truth/566693/

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/08/01/republicans-block-money-election-security/884438002/


More from an earlier blog posting on the same subject:

"“I can say definitively that it’s a sufficient national security concern about Chinese meddling, Iranian meddling and North Korean meddling that we’re taking steps to prevent it,” Bolton said on ABC’s “This Week.” “I’m not going to get into what I’ve seen or haven’t seen, but I’m telling you, looking at the 2018 election, those are the countries we’re most concerned about.”
https://nypost.com/2018/08/19/bolton-warns-china-iran-and-north-korea-could-meddle-in-us-elections/

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/08/23/google-deletes-58-accounts-with-ties-to-iran-from-youtube-and-other-sites.html

This falls under the "shoe could be on the other foot" category. Those Trump loyalists who think that it is OK for Russia to interfere in our elections, ignore the danger to themselves in future elections. What if Iran, angered by Donald Trump's verbal attacks on Iran,  or China, ticked off at his trade wars,, undertake using  the same techniques used by the Russians to help Trump get elected would now use the same techniques to support Trump's opponents?
 This is not fantasy, or science fiction. This is entirely possible and is happening now. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/08/23/google-deletes-58-accounts-with-ties-to-iran-from-youtube-and-other-sites.html  "Google deletes 58 accounts with ties to Iran from YouTube and other sites 
  • The update follows similar take-downs by Facebook and Twitter, which earlier this week revealed calculated misinformation campaigns by Russian and Iranian accounts.
  • The company "identified and terminated" 39 English-language YouTube accounts, 13 Google+ accounts and six Blogger blogs that were found to be engaged in "politically motivated phishing."
  • The accounts were found to have ties to the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting."
A recent poll revealed that 40% of . Republicans are OK with Russian meddling in 2016; 11% in fact welcome it.. https://www.yahoo.com/finance/news/republicans-want-russia-influence-us-elections-202847050.html
and 75% of  Republicans believe that Robert Mueller's  investigation is a witch hunt.    https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/08/how-trumps-witch-hunt-tweets-create-an-illusory-truth/566693/ 

What are the chances Trump loyalists will desert him? The guilty verdict in the first Manafort trial ( Trump's campaign manager) and the guilty plea of his lawyer Michael Cohen who also fingered Trump as directing his actions in criminally violating election laws are not enough to change minds of the President's loyalists. After all, Donald Trump said, campaign election violations are "no big deal".  It was a big deal in the Nixon impeachment, but these are different times.   The Mueller report may kick up the criminal wrong doings  to a really big deal if Trump's associates and family or even Trump himself   reveal overwhelming evidence that someone committed treason or conspired with foreign adversaries to break laws (euphemism for treason).  

That may convince some of the 40% GOP believers that loyalty may have been misplaced. 
) or it may not. Much depends whether  some tape or enough credible witnesses tie the conspiracy to Trump's direction.  It is easy to understand why Trump has attempted to destroy of the credibility of the Mueller probe  and in the Fox interview on August 22 he hinted at firing AG Sessions supervising the Mueller probe  after the November elections. No doubt that timing would apply to the firing of his deputy, Rod Rosenstein. We are back to the fundamental Watergate question, "what did he know and when did he know it" and it was not until the tapes provided the final proof.

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/08/23/google-deletes-58-accounts-with-ties-to-iran-from-youtube-and-other-sites.html
,


The two greatest dangers to the rule of law

What is the greatest danger to the rule of law was illustrated in the hold out of one juror in jury deliberations of the recent trilal of Paul Manafort in which he was found guilty of 8 of 18 counts. The Manafort defense counted on some jurors like her to get their client off the hook. At least, that was one explanation for their not putting on witnesses and a rebuttal of the facts set forth in the paper documents.by the prosecution. She viewed the Trump line that the reason Manafort was prosecuted for tax and bank fraud was because a guilty finding with a long jail term would cause him to flip and become evidence used by Mueller. Therefore the evidence was not as important as political loyalty, though eventually she did agree the evidence was beyond a reasonable doubt in eight counts.

This shows that Trump's attempt to prejudice the jury pool (the voters in northern Virginia) with this line almost worked. The name of the president was not uttered due to a judge's instructions and agreement among defense and prosecution before the trial began, though the connection did show up in the documents. While the holdout juror did come around to agreeing on 8 of the counts, her political assessment was probably correct, but it shows that Trump's devotees are inclined to, dismiss any obvious evidence of a crime by the accused in their political loyalty to their Leader. . As Trump himself noted, he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and his supporters would still be loyal.. This is the greatest danger to the rule of law., At least in this first Manafort trial, the rule of law won out...for now. The final outcome depends upon the President's future actions.

The second greatest danger to the rule of law would be if Trump pardoned Manafort on the basis that in his own judgment, he was treated unfairly, ignoring the final jury verdict, the fundamental foundation of our legal system....the jury of peers..

Trump needs to respect the jury's findings, but if he wants to reward Manafort's loyalty for keeping his mouth shut on the Russian connection, commuting his sentence would be the better approach., though it could be seen as witness tampering or obstruction of justice if offered in advance. . The second trial yet scheduled for September is about Manafort's Russian connection in interfering in the November 2016 election, though the jury pool in Washington DC is viewed to be less sympathetic to the President. If the trial proceeds, and Manafort does not flip to become witness for the prosecution, offering either pardon or commuting the sentence in advance would be overt tampering with both the jury pool and the defendant.

.Assuming the president could be exempted from criminal prosecution while sitting in office, this could become another article of impeachment. The chance again that impeachment would ever result in his removal of office depends upon a 2/3 vote of Senators, highly unlikely to happen unless the spineless GOP Senate sees their poll numbers collapse. This happening is dependent on whether Mueller's report is so damning of the president himself that even some supporters get turned off. Trump is correct as he stated in an August 22 interview on Fox. about the Michael Cohen guilty plea that campaign finance violations nd his alleged direction of Cohen are "not a big deal". What he is implying this was not serious enough to motivate his supporters to abandon him. Covering up the Watergate break in and using campaign funds in order to influence an upcoming election got Nixon the beginning of the impeachment process and changed minds of Senators, but these are different times.
Cohen did provide a recording of a conversation with the President whether the President authorized the hush money to keep the two women quiet because of concern about the impact on the election and therefore was a campaign contribution that was was undeclared. .

What is the greatest danger to the rule of law was illustrated in the hold out of one juror in jury deliberations of the recent trilal of Paul Manafort in which he was found guilty of 8 of 18 counts. The Manafort defense counted on at least one like her to get their client off the hook. At least, that was one explanation for their not putting on witnesses and a rebuttal of the facts set forth in the paper documents.by the prosecution. She viewed the Trump line that the reason Manafort was prosecuted for tax and bank fraud was because a guilty finding with a long jail term would cause him to flip and become evidence for Mueller. Therefore the evidence was not as important as political loyalty. and therefore she had reasonable doubt of the evidence.

This shows that Trump's attempt to prejudice the jury pool (the voters in northern Virginia) with this line almost worked. The name of the president was not uttered due to a judge's instructions and agreement among defense and prosecution before the trial began, though the connection did show up in the documents. Her political assessment was probably correct, but it shows that Trump's devotees will dismiss any obvious evidence of a crime by the accused in their political loyalty to their Leader. As Trump himself noted, he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and his supporters would still be loyal. This is the greatest danger to the rule of law., At least in this first Manafort trial, the rule of law won out...for now. The final outcome depends upon the President's future actions.

The second greatest danger to the rule of law would be if Trump pardoned Manafort on the basis that in his own judgment, he was treated unfairly, ignoring the final jury verdict, the fundamental foundation of our legal system....the jury of peers..

Trump needs to respect the jury's findings, but if he wants to reward Manafort's loyalty for keeping his mouth shut on the Russian connection, commuting his sentence would be the better approach., though it could be seen as witness tampering if offered in advance. . The second trial yet scheduled for September is about Manafort's Russian connection in interfering in the November 2016 election, though the jury pool in Washington DC is viewed to be less sympathetic to the President. If the trial proceeds, and Manafort does not flip to become witness for the prosecution, offering either pardon or commuting the sentence in advance would be overt tampering with both the jury pool and the defendant.


.Assuming the president could be exempted from criminal prosecution while sitting in office, this could become another article of impeachment. The chance again that impeachment would ever result in his removal of office depends upon a 2/3 vote of Senators, highly unlikely to happen unless the spineless GOP Senate sees their poll numbers collapse. This happening is dependent on whether Mueller's report is so damning of the president himself that even some supporters get turned off. Trump is correct as he stated in an August 22 interview on Fox. about the Michael Cohen guilty plea that campaign finance violations nd his alleged direction of Cohen are "not a big deal". What he is implying this was not serious enough to motivate his supporters to abandon him. Covering up the Watergate break in and using campaign funds in order to influence an upcoming election got Nixon the beginning of the impeachment process and changed minds of Senators, but these are different times.

What is the greatest danger to the rule of law was illustrated in the hold out of one juror in jury deliberations of the recent trilal of Paul Manafort in which he was found guilty of 8 of 18 counts. The Manafort defense counted on at least one like her to get their client off the hook. At least, that was one explanation for their not putting on witnesses and a rebuttal of the facts set forth in the paper documents.by the prosecution. She viewed the Trump line that the reason Manafort was prosecuted for tax and bank fraud was because a guilty finding with a long jail term would cause him to flip and become evidence for Mueller. Therefore the evidence was not as important as political loyalty. and therefore she had reasonable doubt of the evidence.

This shows that Trump's attempt to prejudice the jury pool (the voters in northern Virginia) with this line almost worked. The name of the president was not uttered due to a judge's instructions and agreement among defense and prosecution before the trial began, though the connection did show up in the documents. Her political assessment was probably correct, but it shows that Trump's devotees are inclined to dismiss any obvious evidence of a crime by the accused. . As Trump himself noted, he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and he would not lose voters. This is the greatest danger to the rule of law., At least in this first Manafort trial, the rule of law won out...for now. The final outcome depends upon the President's future actions.

The second greatest danger to the rule of law would be if Trump pardoned Manafort on the basis that in his own judgment, he was treated unfairly, ignoring the final jury verdict, the fundamental foundation of our legal system....the jury of peers..

Trump needs to respect the jury's findings, but if he wants to reward Manafort's loyalty for keeping his mouth shut on the Russian connection, commuting his sentence would be the better approach., though it could be seen as witness tampering if offered in advance. . The second trial yet scheduled for September is about Manafort's Russian connection in interfering in the November 2016 election, though the jury pool in Washington DC is viewed to be less sympathetic to the President. If the trial proceeds, and Manafort does not flip to become witness for the prosecution, offering either pardon or commuting the sentence in advance would be overt tampering with both the jury pool and the defendant.

.Assuming the president could be exempted from criminal prosecution while sitting in office, this could become another article of impeachment. The chance again that impeachment would ever result in his removal of office depends upon a 2/3 vote of Senators, highly unlikely to happen unless the spineless GOP Senate sees their poll numbers collapse. This happening is dependent on whether Mueller's report is so damning of the president himself that even some supporters get turned off. Trump is correct as he stated in an August 22 interview on Fox. about the Michael Cohen guilty plea that campaign finance violations nd his alleged direction of Cohen are "not a big deal". What he is implying this was not serious enough to motivate his supporters to abandon him. Covering up the Watergate break in and using campaign funds in order to influence an upcoming election got Nixon the beginning of the impeachment process and changed minds of Senators, but these are different times.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/lone-holdout-on-manafort-jury-blocked-conviction-on-all-counts-juror-says/2018/08/23/72fcf926-a685-11e8-8fac-12e98c13528d_story.html?utm_term=.f6bfa187774c


Saturday, August 18, 2018

Donald Trump's unique position in American History

A version of this was published in the Sky Hi News August 21-22, 2018.
https://www.skyhinews.com/news/opinion/muftic-trumps-unique-place-in-american-history/
The character of Donald Trump will be a subject of biographies for years to come. It will not be his economic and social policies that will be highlighted. Never have we had a president like him who takes revenge on those who do not bow down to him personally by repurposing presidential powers to punish them.     His targets have been members of his own political party or any establishment within his own government that challenges him, those who put loyalty to the rule of law over loyalty to him, and especially the media. 

In the past couple of weeks such actions reached a crescendo, motivating those with enough guts to push back. Taking him on were Democrats and Republicans, independents, military and civilians. Three hundred newspapers nationwide published editorials supporting freedom of the press, vowing not to be cowed and objecting to Trump’s campaign to discredit all media who dared criticize him as ‘fake news” or “the enemy of the people”. 

Donald Trump’s use of certain presidential tools to punish and cripple the power of the disloyal to protect his presidency and to reward loyalty is unique. Whether repurposing these tools is also abuse of power is yet to be determined.  He has dangled his power of pardons to reward those “very good” guys” who maintain their loyalty to him in advance of criminal trials concerning the Russian matter.   He had illustrated his pardon power by pardoning others earlier and reaffirmed again his support of his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, before and even during the trial.
UPDATE August 24, 2018: Many of the federal actions of tax fraud and money laundering have been farmed out to other federal districts, such as the Southern District of New York, which means firing Mueller would not stop those actions. Only the Manafort case remains in the Mueller hands. Firing Jeff Sessions and replacing him with a Trump loyalist that would be able to destroy the Mueller probe would have happened August 23 as Sessions reaffirmed his support of the integrity of his Department of Justice on his way to meeting Trump, basically revolting against Trump's attacks against him and a deep state. Sessions is still there much to the support of his fellow GOP Senators, which he once also was but the conflict may be epic. Expect that firing to take place after November because before then, it would be viewed as an obstruction of justice.   In the meantime, the guilty plea of Trump's lawyer .Michael Cohen, has opened a can of worms...implicating Trump's direction in the illegal method used to pay hush money to Trump's liaisons that would have come to light a few weeks before the November 16 election. Worse for Trump is that the Cohen documents filed in court contained information that now has sparked New York state and local District Attorney in Manhattan have begun probes into the Trump organization and Trump Foundations which would put the Trump kids in legal jeopardy.  Trump pardon offers do not work
 in state
 cases. 

This past week he discovered another tool: yanking security clearances from those who could challenge him. Never had a president used such powers for purely political reasons. He revoked the security clearance of former CIA chief John Brennan for” erratic conduct and behavior”, a euphemism for being an outspoken critic of the president’s policy of speaking no evil of the Russians or their actions in the 2016 elections. Trump then issued an “enemies” list of nine more he threatened with the same action, all of whom were connected to the Mueller probe into Trump’s Russian connections.  In response, every former CIA director since 1966 signed a letter in protest of his threatening their free speech, and 60 more former intel officers charged such political litmus loyalty tests were harmful to national security missions.  Retired Admiral William McRaven, who directly supervised the bin Laden take down, asked to be put on that enemies list as a badge of honor. 175 more former national security officials join in protest agreeing Our firm belief is that the country will be weakened if there is a political litmus test applied” 


Trump is not the first politician to use a bully pulpit to curry support of racists, but he is a master of the old and new art. Using twitter and mass rallies, this president sets the example and inspires the worst in our country to speak out openly in disrespect and hatred of migrants, immigrants and those of color.  Some have struck back.  White nationalists, a group Trump had called “also some fine people”, to march in support of racism in memory of last year’s Charlottesville, were   overwhelmed by crowds of demonstrators rising in support of civil rights. A former Trump TV apprentice and fired White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman, an African American,” blew the whistle” on the president’s racism, hinting Trump knew in advance of Russian campaign election meddling, and she provided a tape recording of Trump’s family offering what she considered a high paid hush money non-job after she was fired. Trump responded with threats of legal action and called her a “dog”.  Her defiant answer: releasing more tapes she made while in the White House.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/175-former-national-security-officials-join-protest-of-trumps-move-on-ex-cia-chief-john-brennan

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Administration's cure for wildfires: open up public lands to logging

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke appearing in Steamboat Springs did recognize that warming was occurring and causing drying and longer seassons, but said that he had to manage forests regardless of the cause of global warming.  https://www.skyhinews.com/news/zinke-angry-people-dont-want-to-look-at-the-truth/

However, he also thought managing meant opening up federal forestest to logging and that the way to prevent wildfires was to cut trees . Zinke " blasted environmental groups for blocking or curbing logging operations on public lands.
“The public lands belong to everybody,
not just the special interest groups,” he said,
The Sacramento Bee reported."
:Zinke is one of many science deniers in the Trump cabinet.
The word global warming/climate change is prohibited in the White House
so they have to come up with dumb ideas like this or claim the Carr fire
cannot be foughtbecause of no water. (reservoirs are full).
There is a certain logic: no trees: no wildfires
 For the list of science deniers in the Trump adminstration
(3% of scientists agree with them on global warming),
https://thinkprogress.org/trump-cabinet-climate-deniers-2f…/
Federal money has helped pay for cutting trees around areas
of urban/suburban developments to form firebreaks, making those
vulnerable areas of urban interface able to be defended by firefighters
and it has been very effective in saving a subdivision in Silverthorn
and in Grand Lake. Extensive firebreaks have been built
around Winter Park/Fraser. The logging operations have created jobs
around the county, though extensive logging in public lands
is a very different purpose and impact.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Wildfires heat up partisan politics and the global warming debate

(This replaces a prior version first published on 8/8/18)
A version of this was published in the Sky Hi News August 14-15, 2018
https://www.skyhinews.com/news/opinion/muftic-wildfires-heat-up-partisan-politics-and-the-global-warming-debate/
Here I am sitting in my living room above Fraser, Colorado with my view of Byer’s Peak some 10 miles away across the Fraser River Valley disappearing  in a smoky haze and watching television reports of the devastating record breaking Carr /Mendocino Complex fire in northern California.  Colorado wildfires' smoke plumes blowing my way are fueled by beetle killed  trees the like of which I have never seen in my fifty years of full and part time living in the valley. Does it have anything to do with global warming or climate change?  Yes. There is a relationship, but politics color our opinions and actions and it depends upon whether you are a Democrat, Republican, or a Green. Partisan views get in the way of believing scientific evidence and shaping effective and rational policies. The Trump administration is the leader in denying the science.  A March 2018 Gallup poll found that Democrats take global warming seriously, Republicans are skeptical with 69% of Republicans say global warming is exaggerated.

With a warming globe, whether wildfires are caused by lightening  as two near my home were, or were started by human activity, the problem is the increase in fuel . If you ever tried to get a campfire or a fireplace logs catching fire, you know dry fuel ignites easier, burns hotter, spreads faster.  Global warming temperatures cause early snow melt and ground and foliage to dry out in California .   In Colorado, beetle killed gray ghosts of lodgepole pines occupy much of the mountain landscape and fuel many wildfires.  Per   the US Department of Agriculture,  warming winters have not killed off the beetles  as they once did and dense growth makes it easy for insects to infect the next tree. World meteorologists  agree that rates of wildfires burning forests have not been seen for at least the last 10,000 years. 

In recent years, producers of coal, oil, and gas (fossil fuels) have poured massive amounts of money into GOP candidates and elections. To promote an anti-climate change mantra. the Trump administration not only pulled out of the Paris Climate accord, it has purged any White House reference to global warming/climate change.  August 5, Donald Trump ignorantly tried to claim California wildfires were caused by a environmental policy engineered  water shortage, but reservoirs were full. In addition, the Trump administration has filled policy making bodies with fossil fuel executives who either deny global warming is occurring or contend that fossil fuels are not the cause.  His pro fossil fuel appointees have been taking taking steps  to weaken rules regarding coal powered plant  and future automobile emissions standards.

 Some believe global warming  is  just a natural cycle. No.  It is the speed and extremes that are unnatural. It is a data proven fact that the globe has rapidly  heated up by two degrees since the industrial revolution began 150 years ago and predictions are the earth will heat up two degrees more by the end of this century.  Per NASA, 97% of scientists agree it is"" extremely likely" the warming is caused by emissions by humans. Gases act like a greenhouse roof  and keep heat from released to space ,so the earth warms. Per the Environmental Protection Agency,  the gases released by burning fossil fuels are the "largest source "of these greenhouse  gases (carbon dioxide). There are those who call this "fake science", but  Kate Marvel, writing for the magazine Scientific American’s blog   summed up the scientific community rebuttal to the science deniers ” ....overturning that understanding would take a radical paradigm shift that would call into question much of what we know about physics and chemistry."


This is only a summary of the issues,  but for those who want to know what  the main sources that influenced me  are
https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/climate-change-make-wildfires-spread-factor/ 
https://www.fs.usda.gov/ccrc/topics/bark-beetles-and-climate-change-united-states 
https://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/
https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/capital-weather-gang/wp/2018/07/30/how-climate-change-is-making-disasters-like-the-carr-fire-more-likely/?utm_term=.00af8f63ad54
https://www.politico.com/story/2018/03/07/trump-climate-change-deniers-443533
 ttps://blogs.scientificamerican.com/hot-planet/open-and-shut-case/
https://public.wmo.int/en/media/news/drought-and-heat-exacerbate-wildfires
https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/epa-to-roll-back-car-emissions-standards/2018/04/02/
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/03/us/politics/republican-leaders-climate-change.html?
https://news.gallup.com/poll/231530/global-warming-concern-steady-despite-partisan-shifts.aspx
http://time.com/5358661/donald-trump-california-wildfires-water/
https://thinkprogress.org/trump-cabinet-climate-deniers-2ff87aba57ec/
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/ryan-zinke-tells-california-how-to-stop-wildfires-cut-down-trees_us_5b712e75e4b0ae32af996079
https://www.skyhinews.com/news/colorado-scientists-warn-of-links-between-climate-change-and-worsening-wildfires/


“Noah Deffenbaugh researches the connection between climate and extreme weather as a professor of Earth System Science at Stanford University. He said the longer fire season in California is related to climate change because global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions has increased the average temperature by almost 2 degrees Fahrenheit.
"We're getting warmer and warmer conditions around the globe but certainly here in California and in the western United States we're getting earlier melting of snowpack," Diffenbaugh told ABC News' Brad Mielke on the "Start Here" podcast. "That means that when those warm conditions happen in the summer and fall all the vegetation is even more dried out and that means that when lightning strikes when a spark from a from a car or a campfire hits the ground that the vegetation is more dried out there's more fuel available."https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/climate-change-make-wildfires-spread-factor/

Observers believe the Green vote in 2016 helped the GOP win by contributing to Democratic party losses in at least three key rust belt states and the recent indictments of Russian’s manipulation of US social media showed they supported the Greens to divert votes from Democrats.  In the August 5 Ohio District 12 Congressional special election, Greens garnered 1% of the vote, enough to harm the Democratic candidates’ margin in a razor thin result. The Greens’ own intentions are inadvertently helping “the other side’.  







Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Did Manafort's participation in the Trump campaign shape Donald Trump's views on foreign policy?

Today the Manafort trial begins. Whether or not he is found guilty of money laundering and tax evasion may not directly lead to Donald Trump. However, Manafort when he joined the campaign in 2016, there was a marked change in Donald Trump's Russian policy, from just a bromance and love of strong men changed to specific policies regarding NATO and and other issues which began to echo Russian foreign policy. For tracking that change, see a prior posting which was also published in the Sky Hi News in October 2017:

"Back in scrutiny is whether Manafort caused the GOP platform to be changed regarding Ukraine and arming the opposition to Russian backed rebels. http://www.clarionledger.com/story/opinion/columnists/2017/11/03/investigation-trump-campaigns-russia-collusion-may-focus-ukraine-connection/829702001/

Revelations from  Congressional hearings  into  Russian use of social media to influence the 2016 elections , Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s indictments of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and  associate  Rick  Gates,  and the guilty plea of George Papadopoulos  have been eye opening. Aside from the  implications for  the integrity of future elections  or charges of collusion is whether  the Russian connections  permeating Donald Trump’s campaign and his White House administration shaped Trump’s US foreign policy toward Russia.   The case could be made that Trump  was a willing dupe of Russian influence. The timing of campaign pronouncements that became foreign policy specific coincided with Russian connected staff and volunteers  joining the campaign  in the Spring of 2016.


Before Manafort and  Mike Flynn became key players in Trump’s presidential campaign, Trump was focused on admiration of Putin’s strong man management style. Many were calling this a “bromance”.  Trump has never  uttered one word  of criticism of  President Vladimir Putin. This has been an eyebrow raiser, to say the least.
In  the early months  of 2016,   when  Manafort and company and Mike Flynn came on board the campaign, Trump’s bromance with Putin’s autocratic style  of governing morphed into policy specifics which were similar to  Russia’s policy goals.   Manafort  joined the Trump campaign in March 2016 and was named campaign chair in April, resigning in August because his Russian ties had become more public.  Beginning in March 2016  Trump  on the stump began his anti-NATO crusade.  Putin saw the NATO mutual defense treaty as a barrier to expansion into NATO member countries such as the Baltics and Poland.  Lifting US sanctions against Russia and Putin’s  oligarch friends enacted  in retaliation to Russian takeover of  Crimea and Eastern Ukraine and interference in 2016 elections is believed to be Putin’s  goal.  Flynn resigned as White House adviser  when he was caught fibbing about  conversations with Russians about  sanctions.

Gen. Mike  Flynn , who had appeared  seated near Putin in a Russian Television  (RT) anniversary celebration,  became famous in Trump rallies for his  attacks on Hillary Clinton’s character  with his “lock her up” chant.  There is plenty of evidence that Putin also wanted Clinton to lose and  had blamed her for drumming up anti Putin sentiment in his  prior reelection campaign while she was Secretary of State.


In other policy pronouncements from spring 2016 through inauguration, Trump  supported  foreign policies that dovetailed neatly with Russia's, considering recognizing as legitimate the Russian grab of the Crimea, lifting sanctions against Russia,  calling NATO obsolete as a military defense alliance, demanding members pay more,  and  being fuzzy about whether Russia's ally Assad in Syria must go. None of those policies are in America's or our allies' interests since it weakens US allies’ ability to check Russian land grabs  in the Baltics and Balkans and increased Russian involvement in Syria on behalf of Assad. Later as President , Trump refused to back NATO’s stated purpose  to come to the defense when  NATO  member nations were attacked . He was forced to backtrack that as President. Likewise, his policy evolved  to stronger support of the pro west Ukraine government. Nonetheless, so alarmed was Congress that  President Trump would  lift  sanctions against Russia ,  this summer , 2017, Congress enacted legislation to prevent the lifting of sanctions and increasing them. .Trump signed the bill,  it but he  has ignored and  missed the  implementation deadline."

Playing fair with the American people

A revised and condensed version was published in the Sky Hi News August 7-8, 2018
https://www.skyhinews.com/news/opinion/muftic-playing-fair-with-the-american-people/

The other day  my son asked," I know the Democrats  are against Trump, but what are the Democrats for?   I can run off Trump's campaign slogans by heart, but I can't think of one for the Democrats."  My first response," I can't name what the Democratic Party stands for either."  Even worse, I opined, Democrats, are about to blow a blue  wave if they get themselves tied up in this progressive v liberal v socialist stuff . Whatever they do, we do not want to make the same mistake the Trump people are doing,  only appealing to a narrow  base and hope they can frighten, fool voters with false facts, and bully the middle.  The overall message can have a theme, but the the message should be broad, positive and flexible enough to be tailor made and adapted to individual legislative races, since each district has its own particular makeup.

Giving it some thought, I noticed the issues supported by Democrats all have something in common: treating people fairly:  "Playing fair with the American people" could  meet those criteria I set up for myself.  It is not only the underlying foundation of Democrats' thought, but being fair is a better angel of American nature, a positive value  in sports and in life. Democrats should fight for fair and secure elections, promoting  economic policies that improve standards of living and quality of life for many, not a few, fairly complying with the rule of law and being truthful in  communications,   promoting opportunity and respect for others, and a foreign policy that is fair to our own national security interests, not others'.

While the nation is waiting for Mueller to finish his investigation and make his recommendations, this is a good time to formulate a message. Like it or not, the next two years will be determined by the Mueller findings, and if indeed what he finds about Trump himself  is no there there , where will the Democrats be? On the other hand, voters like to compare and make choices, too,  and if they find what the Democrats propose to be worse than what they have with Trump, that may lose elections.. The current Democratic party slogan, "A better deal", is absolutely non inspiring when no one knows what the deal will be or can even repeat it in a few words.. A deal that is nothing but a shopping list  to appeal to certain demographics and special interests is no inspiration.  The Democrats need to have a theme that puts their message in a context that is easy to grasp by the 60% who have been left out in the cold  and harmed by Trumpism.

 What is a given is that  the economy is appearing indeed strong in spite of storm clouds on the horizon of inflation, fall out from trade wars that will ripple across all sectors, and the debt that was increased to feather the nests of  the already rich and powerful. The beneficiaries have been spotty and the middle class is wising up they are not the ones who benefit and find they are paying more for health care and education, eating up  any minor gains in take home pay. For many, the impact of the tariffs is and will be felt from construction, manufacturing, and agriculture..   Resentment is already building  as shown in some key  state polls. Eleven days before the November elections will be the release of the third  economic quarter report and we are not sure what impact that will have. One thing is sure, the benefits of the economic growth have not been distributed fairly.

(Two points added to the Sky Hi News  published version that do not appear in this version published above on the blog;"There is an attack flipside to the slogan, too. For example: It "isn't fair" the President lies about the facts to persuade you he is right. It "isn't fair" he makes our health insurance more expensive and wants to make pre-existing coverage unaffordable. It "isn't fair "he drives us into debt by giving tax breaks to those who do not need it. Donald Trump claiming it isn't fair that media criticizes and fact checks him is the cry of a wannabe dictator, not the cry of someone concerned about fairness."....
"There is a looming danger for Democrats, too, Democrats, are about to blow a blue wave if they get themselves tied up in this progressive v liberal v socialist knots. There is no better way to shoot themselves in the foot and there is no better way for the GOP helped by Russian interference to pull the trigger than to stir the pot of Democratic divisions. Democrats need to emphasize what binds all factions of the party while respecting there are various ways to achieve the same results."

 Here is an example of   stump speech that might work.

The campaign slogan: Playing fair with the American people.: Democrats  will fight for ....

1. Fair and secure elections
        ( free from foreign manipulation; American elections for Americans
         hardened cyber and voting systems
         end political gerrymandering
         make it more convenient  for voter participation
         respect press freedom)
       
2. Fair economic policy  to improve  standard of living and quality of life for many, not a few
        ( affordable quality  health insurance
         protection of medicare, medicaid and social security benefits
          science based environmental protection policies
         tax policy that directly helps the middle class;
         wage increases
         trade policies that help, not hurt Americans
          relief for student loans
         affordable access to post high school education and  career training )

3. Fairly promote opportunity for all
        (civil and human rights
         humane immigration policy
         respect  women and their choices
         comprehensive immigration policy reform while securing borders)
       

4. A Foreign policy and national security that is fair to  American interest  but does not enable competitors or antagonists' interests.. It is not fair to Americans to go it alone without support of allies and alliances.
       ( Strengthen alliances
        support our intelligence services
        wise use of defense dollars)

5. Playing fair with the rule of law and being truthful in communications
      (Not fair to claim to be above the law but others must comply,  or obstructing justice, or lying to the public when facts are politically inconvenient)

https://www.vox.com/2018/5/3/17314664/2018-midterm-polls-policy-priority-voters