WELCOME TO THE BLOG
This blog serves my columns as an archive, a place to add footnotes,data sources and drafts of columns for the Sky Hi News(www.skyhidailynews.com) and after November 2019, the Winter Park Times, and postings on the Muftic Forum Blog. Often these are posted on my political Facebook page, The Muftic Forum. I have another facebook page for personal happenings found under feliciamuftic.
I remove comments containing expletives and not in English.
Robert C.Black III's history of early Grand County, Island in the Rockies, reflected its
isolation before the railroad cut through the tunnel.Snowed in a good part of the year,and accessible only over mountain passes,the world passed it by.It is no longer true, and it is especially
true in the era of Covid 19.The county
has been touched by a few cases testing positive, but all local
news reports have a sobering caveat. So little testing has been done, we really
do not know the extent of it or if the person near us was a carrier or was already
infected. Ski areas draw international visitors and they were the first to be
infected by Covid-19. Unlike Aspen, Vail, and Breckenridge, Winter Park’s ski resort was not the canary in the coal mine. Winter Park draws mostly from Denver’s
urban corridor on the other side of the continental divide. The urban areas were weeks behind them. Therefore we follow the stay at home rules
laid out by our governor whether we think we need it or not. Like
the rest of the world, our economy and our inhabitants go into hibernation until
the virus “washes through”. That is the bad news.
The passage in Congress of trillions of dollars in aid to blunt the economic damage will help us weather the crisis and is welcome, but
no money can be a balm to ease fears of the unknown and the inconvenience to
our lifestyles. On the other hand, the
internet has permitted us to be connected to our distant families in ways we
could not have envisioned a few years ago. That is the good news. More good news is that our local community has
reached out to isolated individuals and devastated local small businesses and
restaurants through the Grand Foundation,Mountain Family Center, the Chambers of Commerce, churches, and county governments..I personally have been grateful for friends and neighbors who worried I
lived alone, a senior senior, with offers to run errands and do grocery
shopping.By luck for me if not for him,
a visiting family member is stuck in my home for the duration. He reports
how impressed he has been that grocery
shoppers and post office customers have honored social distancing.
My family is an international one,and I import from Europe for my small business.
Fortunately for me, most of my business is conducted as a prime merchant on Amazon. I have worked
from home for over 15 years and that routine is little changed now. With family
by blood and marriage, business colleagues and Rotary grant non-profit partners in Europe I have kept in touch through a variety of
internet platforms. A grandchild in Austria has been working from home for over
a month.Friends and family in Croatia
are in stay at home mode but received a blow on top of COVID-19 we could not imagine. A major earthquake hit their capital,
Zagreb. Some family members are still not back in their homes awaiting confirmation
their apartment building is sound enough to inhabit.Fortunately, they were not injured. Their social distancing is strictly observed
and their urban grocery stores allow only one customer at a time to present a
list for clerks to fill and bring them their orders. The president of a non-profit in Bosnia with
whom I worked on a Rotary grant to combat
human trafficking by educating girls, reminds me that the stay at home orders
are nothing like having to survive the shelling of her home town in the Balkan
wars of ethnic cleansing of the 1990s. She
and her family lived in a basement for over a year as thousandswere
killed. For her, this pandemic quarantine is not much of a hardship. A footnote: All four Rotary clubs in Grand County helped
make the Bosnia grants 2013-2019 possible Still,
others here in the county are also living with their own personal hardships.
Keep on reaching out and helping. We
will make it through this as a community that cares.
The message is that whatever programs progressives propose, do not put the burden to pay for them on small business. You cannot get blood from a turnip.
Our family has many points of view, those who feel the Bern and those who live in the real world of small business. One family member, son Ted, is a Harvard MBA (Stanford economics) and an international consultant and he has been a part time resident of the Winter Park area since 1967. He brings with him a world, literally, of experience and many contacts. His dialogs with friends contain some warnings for progressives.. I am going to reproduce this here because I think it deserves serious consideration from a perspective we do not hear often in this valley. If I can pin my grandson down, I will give him a platform, too. For now..his uncle has the floor.
From an Oregon small business friend,Spence:: My freight business consistently runs with 5% pre-tax margin. Remove Silicon Valley firms and my average is on par with vast majority of American businesses. To put that in perspective, I run in the red for 28.5 days out of the month. That is not fun. It creates a lot of stress for myself and staff. Of the 1.5 days of profitability, taxes take one third. This leaves me 1 day for profit, employee bonuses (I pay 30% ea mo to employees), and new investment. The progressive movement has noble goals, but must find excess to reallocate and I don’t think there is enough excess in day 30 of the month to achieve all those goals. The American people understand to attempt it (with uncertain outcomes) is like making a radical move at the front of the pack in a NASCAR race of nations. Risky to say the least. Ted's response: Spence, I hear you! This is the single biggest problem with the idea of spending something like 70 trillion dollars on a new society and essentially using smoke and fog about how it is going to be paid for. We are all going to pay for it and especially small business owners. I share your concern. It is one thing when billionaires and multi millionaires can propose glowing ideas about changing the world, it is far different when you talk to hard working business owners and their employees about how this impacts the real world. The Democrats will not win in my opinion if they do not see that and to all my progressive friends out there, sorry.. that is why I am with Joe. There are a lot of good things we can do to improve our society. But there is no way to pay for all of what Bernie wants on the backs of just the rich. The math simply does not work. Should the rich pay more? Absolutely. Should we change our tax codes and start rewarding work rather than wealth? Absolutely. Should we make investments in infrastructure, communities, education and access to affordable health care for all and save the environment? Absolutely. Should we blow out our public debt even more to do it? Definitely not. Should we tax at rates like Denmark and Austria where average middle class taxes are 50%+ of gross pay? No. Should we continue to subsidize large corporations with corporate welfare? No. Trump's tax cut did benefit many small businesses. It is a fact. But it also gave away an unnecessary windfall to large corporations who did in fact just use it to prop up their stock prices. Let us work for a fair and more just society with a balanced and reasonable and transparent approach to how to pay for it. Let's get rid of this systemic corruption in our politics. Let us reward work, innovation and perspiration - not inherited wealth and excessive greed. We can make the tax code fairer and simpler. We don't need a revolution. We need practical solutions. Interweaving two interesting conversations here from another of Ted's friends. Spence, my eight member law firm, from a financial viewpount, is a small business, too, like a restaurant or hardware store. By the time we've paid rent, staff salaries, staff group health (which is getting harder and harder), and taxes, we take our profit and divide it, and then we're individually taxed again. Long way of saying our profit margins are thin. Not complaining, but to fund anything on the scale of LBJ's Great Society, the money will have to come from somewhere other than the middle class and small businesses. Not saying we shouldn't make major investments like the interstate highway system or whatever, or that the money's not out there, but it's not going to be found in the aforementioned places (middle class and small businesses).
March 19 update: Once again today, as yesterday, Trump refers to the Coronavirus as the Chinese virus. Hopefully, most Americans are mindful this is his way of saying "not my fault; I didn't cause it". The Chinese government also bears responsibility for attempting to suppress the threat. However, the knowledge that did emerge was in early February and the US was asleep at the wheel until mid-March.
What will be his fault will be the lies and spins and politically motivated denials that made us as prepared for the virus as Italy. Those who believed every word he uttered was true and the media and social postings who became his megaphone were part of the problem. His turn around once he figured the stock market was crashing regardless of his attempts to deny the threat may have caused the remarkable conversion. For that we can appreciate for once he listened to his experts and applied science. Per the Washington Post March 21,
What happens when reality and political spin collide? Thanks to modern media and the internet, events happen in warp time. We get whiplash as we are bombarded with conflicting messages and daily changing public policies. So it is with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The results have been both comic and tragic. Many who believed the spinners who first downplayed the danger have failed to take the threat seriously enough to undertake personal precautions, gambling with their health, getting the affliction, and infecting the unaware. Others, driven by the fear of the unknown and without the availability of widespread testing, lose faith in the credibility and competence of the White House. They panic and hoard toilet paper.
What a difference a few weeks made. The unknown is fertile ground for spinners and there is plenty of unknown and misinformation to go around. In our bifurcated media world, those who exclusively listen to Fox and ilk or MSNBC or CNN and their ilk live on different planets. Stories they follow and the emphasis they give, opinions that are expressed by their pundits, are very different. The echo chambers that result, tweets retweeted, postings on social media and talking points voiced by their partisan politicians, are reflected in public polling. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll reported March 15 that 68% of Democrats feared someone in their family would get the virus; only 40% of Republicans believed likewise. 80% of Democrats believed the crisis would get worse; only 40% of Republicans thought it would. In retrospect, what was reported by the liberal media for several weeks was a warning of what could happen in the US. A few weeks of denial later, Trump was reading from a teleprompter and declaring a national emergency.
It is not clear whether Trump's media friends had been echoing the President or were writing his talking points for him. In any case, we were getting an earful from the FOX folks that this virus was not a big deal, no worse than any other flu, people die from flu all the time, and the hype of the "liberal media" coverage was a hoax Democrats had cooked it up to hurt Donald Trump in his re-election campaign. This was in spite of knowing what other countries were going through. This flu 's death rate experienced elsewhere is on the average ten times more than other flu epidemics, ranging as high as 14% for those over 80 years old who get the virus. Unlike other pandemics and epidemics we have experienced recently, there is no vaccine and no effective way to stop it once a person is infected, and no widespread testing yet in the US to know how many are already sick from it. The Trump administration believed their own spin and at first paid little attention to the preparatory work that was needed. Trumpdithered at first, said the numbers would go to zero, like a miracle it would go away in April, offered a happy talk on tests, made a happy talk on the outbreak, ignored scientists, made this all about himself and his re-election, and then finally declared a national emergency. In a press conference on March 13, Trump played his "buck does not stop here" card. He took had no responsibility for disbanding in 2018 the National Security mechanism for coordinating an early response to pandemics like Ebola. Voters may yet hold him responsible in November. for his misleading the public and his slow start. The newest forecast from the White House is the "crisis, may last into July or August".
COVID-19 causes more severe disease than seasonal influenza.
While many people globally have built up immunity to seasonal flu strains, COVID-19 is a new virus to which no one has immunity. That means more people are susceptible to infection, and some will suffer severe disease.
Globally, about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 cases have died. By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1% of those infected.
Third, we have vaccines and therapeutics for seasonal flu, but at the moment there is no vaccine and no specific treatment for COVID-19.
From email distribution from the Washington Post. by line Amber Phillips, March 19, 2020, the five m inute fix:
"President Trump says daily that the coronavirus caught him and the world off guard. “It’s something that nobody expected,” he said last weekend.
That’s not true. And reporting on Thursday drove home that the warning signs were there, sometimes right in front of him.
The New York Times reported that last year, the Health and Human Services Department performed startling government simulations to show how underprepared the United States was for such a pandemic. Nothing was done in response.
As Trump was coming into office, the Times reports, “outgoing Obama administration officials ran an extensive exercise on responding to a pandemic for incoming senior officials of the Trump administration.” A year later, Trump disbanded the government’s pandemic-response team.
NPR got an audio recording of the top senator on the Intelligence Committee, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), privately warning businesses in February that the virus, which was already in America, was going to be “aggressive” and “akin to the 1918 pandemic.” At the time, Trump was still comparing it to the flu."
In 1952, in the wake of nerve and life-shattering World War II, the movie "The Quiet Man", won the hearts of a nation. John Ford, the director got an academy award and John Wayne made his mark starring in a non-western. This week the quiet men won, too. Competence and credibility spoke louder than any tweet or shouts over helicopter engines or exhortation from a rally podium.
Joe Biden, who had no campaign money, no get out the vote on the ground organization, no fancy in house polling to target voters, no multi-million dollar advertising campaigns, no thousands attending his rallies, won even in Michigan. Why? His years in the public arena spoke louder than any the tools magnifying modern campaigners' shrill voices and high tech methods. A quote uttered by a mourner of FDR's death and repeated by more than one candidate this winter, "we know him and he knows us", was a message that rang clear to a wide and diverse group of demographics. Biden's blue-collar Scranton PA roots, the tragedies in his life that shaped him to be a dignified empathy in chief, and his having Pres. Obama's back for eight years spoke louder than any words. His most effective inoculation against his opponent's attacks on his person, that his stutter speech impediment means he is senile or demented, failed as his confidence returned in his voice and he appeared back on his game. The Russian disinformation machine is betting on their bots and the Trumpsters' tactics to paint Biden as over the hill. Tuesday showed many ignored Joe's life long stuttering problems causing him to search for words and they still preferred him over, crowd-rousing orators. His quieter voice contrasted with the current occupant to the White House and served to elevate Biden's appeal as a competent, effective, and experienced public servant. His quiet voice won.
More quiet men spoke. Vice President Mike Pence quietly conducted a Coronavirus update press conference and allowed the scientists and experts to speak. His administrative experience as a governor and development of voter support for public policy initiatives kicked in, garnering praise from numerous media pundits. Getting nationwide recognition for his efforts, Colorado's Governor Jared Polis quietly explained on national television why seventeen confirmed cases of Coronavirus (including those in Vail and Summit County) in Colorado triggered his declaration of a state of emergency. It gave him tools to give special attention to protecting the most at-risk citizens and expanding access to testing. He announced he was directing the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment to ensure paid sick leave for workers in food handling, hospitality, child care, health care and education who are awaiting testing and to find ways to cover sick leave for people whose employers do not provide it, such as unemployment insurance.
More thoughts about Biden's unexpected surge on March 10.
I really do not know who is pushing whom...the voters or some controlling factor in DNC, because I am not aware if the DNC had phone banks or other techniques to get that kind of turnout and vote for Biden. Biden was broke, had no ground organization or advertising bucks, but the voters already knew him and who he was and knew where he was coming from and why. That was the upside of his being effective and left of center all of his many years of public life. However, the DNC may have had a great deal of pressure on those candidates in the "moderate" lane to endorse Biden just before the March 10 vote. Except for a few states, Bernie's votes were in the mid-'30s and if the "moderate lane" candidate votes were added together, the moderate lane total was higher than the Bernie/Warren votes. That was true in Colorado. The DNC is rather broke, too. In a perfect world, idealism should prevail and addressing people's needs should be the motivation for voting for this or that. It usually is. This year what is unusual is that the electorate is thinking strategically. That never has happened in my years in politics. I think Bernie is making a mistake is claiming voters for Biden were the "establishment". Voters for him probably do not think of themselves as "establishment" . and puzzling, too. It was a simultaneous and organic uprising of the middle, not a manipulated one by media or some incredible political organizing. That this time electability is foremost may have been foremost for two reasons: hating Trump and what he stands for and the sad realization that if the candidate is not electable, we give Trump 4 more years to work his evil. I think those character issues and Trump's misogynism accounted for the suburban women surge in turnout. Why did then every single county in Michigan go for Biden instead of Bernie? I had not expected that either at all. I do not know. why, but I can speculate. Partly I suspect that Biden was not Hillary. Hillary had no blue-collar bonafide unlike Biden and the other, much to my feminist dismay, Biden was not an aggressive woman. I am working through my channels to get Biden to embrace Bernie's priorities if not his method of a socialist revolution. and changing the basic economic structure of the country. I am looking forward to the debate on Sunday to see how Biden responds to Bernie's clear issue challenge. Hopefully, Biden rephrases the goal and methods and embraces similar goals and concepts. I think most voters like Bernie's goals, just not using a revolution to get there and will settle for Bernie light. Another factor, voters realize that unless there is a blue wave that brings in a blue Senate (and enough to threaten the filibuster) and keeps the House...and occupies the White House, neither Bernie's platform and or Biden's have a prayer in hell of being enacted for years. Another factor, speaking as an old person, it is a demographic that has a gut negative reaction to the word socialism and communism. The younger generations have not gone through the cold war and do not fear the word. The Michigan vote was a bit like Obama and Iowa. Biden had to demonstrate he could win in a state where the majority electorate in the primary was not African American but was representative of the rust belt states exactly the ones that swung to Trump in 2016. Biden is right about the importance of the youth vote, and I hope the party and Biden can come together. In the long view, I think none of this will be factors in November. There will be a huge voter hangover from the Coronavirus and a realization among the unaffiliated and more rational republicans that Trump is an incompetent fool and Biden's experience is to be valued. I also think the Coronavirus has exposed and laid bare the failure of our current health system and such issues as paid sick leave and levers the government can use to remedy the gaps of capitalism that progressives support. A word about Grand County...our demographics are not typical of the rest of the nation: we are 89% White, with only 8% foreign-born/or ethnic or racial minority. It is no wonder Trumpists carry the county and Democrats have been in the minority. I do not have much faith this will change in the future until the demographics change.
Once again today, as yesterday, Trump refers to the Coronavirus as the Chinese virus. Hopefully, most Americans are mindful this is his way of saying "not my fault; I didn't cause it".
What will be his fault will be the lies and spins and politically motivated denials that made us as prepared for the virus as Italy. Those who believed every word he uttered was true and the media and social postings who became his megaphone were part of the problem. His turn around once he figured the stock market was crashing regardless of his attempts to deny the threat may have caused the remarkable conversion. For that we can appreciate for once he listened to his experts and applied science.
https://www.facebook.com/factcheck.org/videos/1366735383514511/UzpfSTEwMDAwMTA0MDY1NDg4MDoyMjYwMTE4ODU3NjI3Nzk2/ the worst of Trump's spins and denials leading up to the declaration of a national emergency https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fUDIucr2eo
Sometimes satire conveys truth the best:
So much as been said and written about Donald Trump’s lies, spins, and looseness with the facts thatTrump already had a credibility gap before the coronavirus crisis. Fewer will trust him now particularly since that lack of credibility has real-life consequences There is a time when his words and
actions hurt people because they do not know who to believe and in their confusion may react in ways that could harm themselves. Such is the situation now as the coronavirus spreads worldwide. This is the time when trustworthy leadership is sorely needed to deal with the virus. Some may take Trump at his word of playing down the threat, calling any heightened awareness a Democratic party hoax, and as a result, do not plan to take precautions. That gamble is theirs to take.
Few trusted Trump before the virus threat. Only a third of Americans found Trump honest and trustworthy, per a January 2020 Economist/YouGov Poll and a spring 2019 Gallup poll. Even a quarter of Trump voters and Republicans do not believe he is honest and trustworthy. Trump has done nothing to make us feel more confident about the ability of his administration to look out after our welfare instead of his re-election welfare in the face of the coronavirus crisis. While he was visiting
India and the world became aware of the new deadly strain of a virus Trump’s immediate words were not his
concern for the suffering of anyone in the world, but for the impact on the US
stock market.It plunged with fears of a
worldwide economic slowdown and as I write this it is still a disaster for
those who have IRAs or have retirement funds invested in it.For Trump, it means damaging his main argument
for re-election, economic gains and a comfortable future, what some voters want so badly that they excuse his behavior and his character flaws. He minimized the impact with the memorable words, "by April it will miraculously disappear”. Scientists just do not know. The miracle will be if few
in America get sick and die from it in the meantime. What we do know it is very contagious and the most conservative estimate is that the death rate is ten times more than the normal flu. Contrary to Trump's podium asserted claim that vaccination is being developed soon, "soon" was defined by experts as 12 to 18 months in the same press
So far we have no idea how much of the virus is already present because we had no
widespread testing program in place in the US even though the virus was known in December. The test kits immediately made available were faulty and turn around time for results took days. The more improved versions will be available next week. Local health agencies were given permission and formula to develop their own. In 2018 Trump destroyed our national preparedness to meet a pandemic emergency by defunding, destaffing the national security mechanism once in place to coordinate a quick response. He had also cut funding to the Center for Disease Control (CDC )and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), scientific government-funded agencies charged with combatting pandemics. He muzzled those same experts by putting that great science denier
Vice President Mike Pence in charge of coordinating government statements. Trump wants us to trust his judgment? Pence had bungled the HIV scare as governor in his own state and promoted other anti-scientific based public policies. Trump requested from Congress $2 billion-plus to make up for 2018 cuts in preparedness, but neither
the expert personnel are in place nor the money to fund the efforts which still has to go through administrative hoops no matter how much Congress appropriates. Now
we will only get the truth filtered for conformity to suit Trump's political advantage. I will seek my advice from the World Health Organization instead of from
the White House. https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
already being felt: I friend of mine who supplements her limited retirement income by
dog walking and pet sitting had all of her March appointments lost as her
wealthy clients canceled their spring break cruises and their university students studying abroad were evacuated and sent home.
Sometimes we do not think of the secondary ripple effect on small businesses and
individuals throughout the economy who
are affected by a shutdown caused by a worldwide health crisis. That is the micro view. The macro view per Ved Nanda, Denver Post columnist and distinguished DU professor writing Feb. 22: " .. Coronavirus has already adversely affected China’s, as well as the global economy, as many
factories are closed and even many American retailers (there) have closed their stores. Apple is one
prime example..., Coronavirus could threaten President Donald Trump’s recently concluded trade deal with
China, whose centerpiece is China’s agreement to purchase an additional $18.5 billion in
energy products this year and $34 billion next year beyond the current level...".
When I was a student majoring in political science, I came up with a theory that the degree of the tyranny of a government was related to ideology. In those student days, we were just out of the McCarthy era of a red scare that Russian communism would bury us and every commie had to be rooted out of US society, not just government. In my junior year abroad in Berlin and travels through Yugoslavia, I had just seen first hand how Russian Communists consolidated their power on the zones of Germany they controlled. It was brutal and a study in mind control and propaganda. I was also trying to figure out how fascism got such a hold on Germany. The results of Berlin's war wounds, vacant bombed-out lots and large expanses where houses and buildings one stood, piles of rubble and shrapnel pitted walls of those parts of buildings left standing testified to the horrible end of fascism. I saw a relationship between the extremes of fascism and Russian Stalinist communism. The usual graph is a straight line with communism on one left end and fascism on one right end and libertarian capitalism off a bit to the right and New Dealism on a bit off to the left, still to the right of socialism which was closer to communism than not. The key difference between communism and socialism was being the difference of who owned and controlled the economy and means of production...socialism, not so much and communism totally owned by a government (in theory only by the people).
I saw the graph of ideology not as a straight line with extremes left and right, but with fascism in the mix, it was a circle, where Stalinist communism met fascism at the bottom of the circle. I got an A and a shoutout from my poli sci professor for that analysis.
I have since given that some thought. Ideology is indeed related to autocracy and tyranny because centralizing everything in the hands of government whether by force or by persuasion and propaganda makes it easier for a tyrant to control everything in the country which is totalitarianism. The belief when I was in college in the late 1950s was that socialism would automatically lead to communism and tyranny. Hitler, Stalin, and Tito exercised totalitarian control of the economy and the military/police reins of power. There was no room for dissent and deviation from either ideology, fascism or communism and all methods of communication were in their control. Dissenters were treated brutally with no civil rights. Gulags, firing squads, or gas ovens were death and killing methods. The only difference was the racist elements of fascism and their harnassing capitalism and the "brotherhood of all workers" of communism.
My modification is due to my on hand observations of post-cold war experience. I have had the advantage of being on the ground with my families of blood and marriage living in socialist societies of western and former satellite countries. European socialism is not tyrannical and gives room for capitalism and individual rights and liberties. One does not automatically lead to another and the ideological graph is a straight line, far left of pure communism to the far right of libertarianism. In fact, the reverse can happen with former communist societies that become much more liberal with a blend of both capitalism and socialism. Communism, capitalism are ideological economic systems but are different from the governance methods, which range from totalitarianism to libertarian, with liberal democracies being a blend in the line of various degrees of government control. So long as people have a say by vote and are protected with civil rights, the method of governance and the ideology they espouse are separate and do not necessarily meet in a totalitarian society. When liberal democracy fails, there is little difference between totalitarian communism and totalitarian fascism and the circle I saw as a student in the 1950's is still valid. Dictators espousing communism and dictators who are fascists are still dictators, but worse. They are totalitarian dictators.
Both extremes of communism and fascism meet when the ideological straight line is bent into a circle per their methods of governance. The essential element common in both ideological extremes is authoritarian control of their thoughts, actions, and personal lives, tolerating no deviation and brutally punishing dissenters. For that reason, I am dedicated to opposing authoritarian control of governance and less worried about blends of socialism and capitalism. I see Trump's attempt and desire of governing like a dictator abhorrent. and to be stopped, and feared much more so than Sanders' European socialism. I still prefer moderation in any case. Count me as a left of center moderate in economic and political systems. Extremes leave me with little power to live my life as I want, while at the same time still caring about the wellbeing of those in my society.
Much has been made of Donald Trump's spur of the moment tweeted policy changes, but in one area he has been consistent from the time he was a candidate. He is acting like a tool of Russian President Vladimir Putin. This is in spite of his being told by the intelligence community that Russia meddled in the 2016 elections to help Trump and that they are at it again in 2020. It is no wonder Russia would want Trump to have a second term since Trump's foreign policy advances Russia's goals at the expense of traditional US national security interests. Holders of that traditional position view Russia as an adversary so it is in US national security interest to stop Russia from controlling their former East European satellites, most of whom belong to NATO. Stopping Russia's encroachment also strengthens the national security of our valued partners in Western Europe.
While Special Counsel Robert Mueller could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt Trump himself conspired with Russians in 2016, it was Trump's staff and associates who got into trouble. Many of Trump's associates went to jail or are awaiting sentencing, or a presidential pardon, such as Mike Flynn, Roger Stone, and Paul Manafort, because of their lies about frequent contacts with Russians before and during the campaign and into his administration. It was Trump's attempt to force a new anti-corruption Ukrainian president to investigate a Russian propaganda line of "Ukraine, not Russia, hacked the DNC server in 2016 " that figured in the 2019 impeachment of Trump. In Helsinki, Trump had told Putin he trusts Russian intelligence over US intelligence regarding the 2016 interference. Mueller's report detailed 160 pages of exactly how the Russians meddled in the 2016 elections to help Trump. This month, the Director of National Intelligence, Admiral Joseph Maguire, testified to Congress they were doing it again in 2020. That intelligence chief was immediately fired by Trump and replaced by a political appointee ambassador with no intelligence experience, but he is a Trump loyalist.
None of this should have come as any surprise. At the Commander in Chief's Forum, September 7, 2016, two months before his election, Trump laid out his views about Putin, giving him an A for leadership and glossing over his Crimea actions, as well as questioning whether Russia hacked the DNC server. We were forewarned from spring 2016 through inauguration by any number of news reports that 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 or were 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 the Middle East. Later as President, Trump refused to back NATO’s stated purpose to come to the defense when NATO member nations were attacked. So alarmed was Congress that President Trump would lift sanctions against Russia, in 2017 Congress enacted legislation to prevent the lifting of sanctions and increasing them. Trump signed the bill, but he has ignored and missed the implementation deadline.
What is very clear is that Russia wanted Trump elected, wants him re-elected per the intelligence report to Congress, and the Russians did and are doing what they can to help him. Tump is now unfettered by advice that does not support his preconceived notions and pro-Russian sentiments and he has begun purging all in intelligence services and the military who would confront him with inconvenient facts and evidence. The hoped-for military "guardrails" are gone. Every general who worked at the White House, from John Kelly, Jim Mattis, to H.R.McMaster quit or was fired. Trump is freed from any constraints of impeachment, oversight hearings and is convinced that he can do anything he wants as a sitting president. If we think the next months until January 2021 will be a hazard to the health of our national security, just imagine what a second term could bring.
The Bernie Sanders factor: in 2015-2017 Sanders supported changing the nature of NATO from a mutual defense treaty to including Russia and opposing NATO expansion. He needs to repudiate this or face the GOP's planned strategy. This dates to 2015 and 2017. I may be able to support many of Sanders' social proposals, knowing that unless Democrats also control both houses of Congress, they may never get enacted, but might get enough support to improve if not change the status quo and reverse the damage Trump has and is planning to do to health care, the environment, social security, Medicare, and Medicaid. However, Sanders is going to have to repudiate this past stance on NATO because the GOP is laying in wait to charge him as being a Russian sympathizer and a communist. Trump also will be charged as being a Russian sympathizer..and the GOP game is a false equivalency, but they will be able to paint Sanders as more dangerous in foreign policy and our national security than Trump. I see nothing in the impeachment inquiry that shows Democratic members of either house think Russia is the USA's friend. If anything, they were consistently viewing Russia as a dangerous adversary. In fact, Democrats supported the Russia hawks in the Trump administration that Trump has been and now is purging from the National Security Council, the CIA, the FBI, and the military. Sanders' comment praising Fidel Castrol only adds to the GOP case Sanders' is a commie at heart. What this does to the Cuban vote in Florida I can only imagine.
n interference on his behalf in the 2020 elections. What a contrast with Trump and it could have been a problem for Sanders if he had not. Trump's strategy against Sanders is to paint him as a communist and pro-Russian, in order to neutralize Trump's being a tool of Putin. That is Trump's usual tactic to paint his opponent with the same black colors that others paint him. It is ye old false equivalency he uses to deflect his own weaknesses.
Trump: becoming Ukraine
Corrupt is as corrupt does. So now that Trump got acquitted and now he thinks he can do anything he wants, and get away with it, he is mimicking the behavior of those he called corrupt,. We now are becoming Ukraine; doing exactly the same thing for which Ukraine was called out for being corrupt. In addition to this"favor" to a friend of Trump, by helping out Stone to get less jail time, he has also opened the door for his loyal AG Bill Barr to carry on with where Guiliani left off in Ukraine., trying to dig dirt on the Bidens. Only Barr is doing it from the US side of the Atlantic, instead., .and drawing on Guiliani's information which so far had yielded nothing. The corruption rampant in Ukraine before the election of the new reformer President in the spring of 2019 was corrupt practices by Ukraine prosecutors (equivalent to our Attorney General), one who refused to prosecute anyone for corruption, and his successor who only prosecuted his enemies. That was the international definition of corruption that was revealed in the impeachment inquiry for which Trump was impeached. He was impeached .. for pressuring the new Ukraine president to act corruptly. Trump asked the Ukraine president for a favor, to single out and revive Ukraine's investigation of the Bidens so he could get an advantage in his campaign for re-election. Trump is now as corrupt as the prior Ukraine governments which he criticized. For that, we can thank the GOP Senators who gave him a permission slip when they acquitted him. On February 13, Barr publicly chastised Trump for tweeting about the Roger Stone sentencing guidelines and the very next day, Feb. 14, Trump asserted he had a right to interfere in federal cases. Bye Bye rule of law; hello weaponizing Department of Justice to do his bidding; Help friends, punish enemies. Welcome to the corruption of justice and practices we used to criticize Ukraine for...being corrupt by using prosecution of enemies as a political weapon. Barr hit back Feb.14 dropping the case against Andrew McCabe, who Trump had targeted he wanted prosecuted. Per Politico, this could really rankle Trump.
This is a very critical time in the history of the oldest democracy in the world. What sort of a country do we want to become? Our founders saw the end of the government they invented coming in the form of a president who would be king. Afterall they just had a revolution against a king and feared a return, so they constructed the Constitution as they did. by dividing the government into competing for power centers with the ability of one branch to check the other two, and pitting the ambitions of each against the other. In their wisdom, they also attempted to keep foreign governments from making us their satellites through bribery or through manipulating the vote of the people. They hoped this would be able to keep a wannabe tyrant from seizing power. This was a hope, but it depended on voters who saw it was in their interest to support the vision, too,. They had faith the populace would also vote for representatives who were sworn to support the Constitution and the rule of law with which all would comply. Ultimately if the United States' democracy survives the Trump era, it will depend on its voting citizens. There are no guarantees. This metamorphosis from democracy to dictatorship does not happen quickly. It happens before the governed realize it has happened and then it is too late because they have already given their power away. Losing democracy is an insidious process; it takes time, it happens bit by bit, and in the end, the governed can only blame themselves because most dictatorships arise through the ballot box. Even in the times in which many of us have lived, we have seen this happen time and time again. It was not just in Germany, Italy, or Spain, before World War II, but it is happening post-Cold War, in post-Communist Russia, post-Ataturk Turkey, and in Hungary. We have a President who sees such countries who made the transition from democracy to dictatorship as a model of good governance he has often praised. With four more years of that, we can watch him consolidate his power and achieve his control of any check on his power until it is too late to turn back to a democracy we once knew and treasured. Here is how democracy dies. If you see any of that happening now, raise your hand. Wannabe dictators use their power to ensure their re-election, by keeping those who disagree from voting and favoring with monetary contributions, using the fear of retaliation, and oratorical praise for those who vote for them. Most failures of democracy are engineered through the ballot box.
It takes a body of true believers in a leader to begin the death of democracy. They are those who pledge allegiance a person they admire as a great and strong leader, excusing any personal excesses, accepting his/her truth as their truth without question while ignoring legal constraints. Those who pledge allegiance to a person are the enablers of dictatorships. Dictatorships are led by those who decree how laws are interpreted, who use the reins of their power given them by those who put them in power to enforce and suppress those who would challenge them. Their tools are exploiting, intensifying, prompting fears and a sense of victimization by some racial, religious, or economic group. They use the fear of retaliation and purging non-loyalists. The longer they stay in power, the more powerful they become because they use the power they have to control the levers of justice and media so it becomes harder for any opposition to revolt via the ballot box. Does Donald Trump have that body of such dedicated supporters and is he an autocratic leader? Estimates range to as much as 40% of voters. I have seen in postings reflecting the view that those who do not show loyalty to Donald Trump are traitors. The Constitution defines who is a traitor and it only can be charged when we are at war. It is not defined as those who betray a president, but those who betray our country. However, psychological profile studies of autocratic leaders and their followers defined autocratic tendencies. Studies noted that autocracies are not confined to one party, but autocratic attributes are particularly dominant among Trump and his dedicated followers. Given an autocratic kind of leader like Trump's personality profile, we should not be surprised. Support of autocracies is not a new human trait. Our country's founders were students of human nature and of what caused the failure of democracies in Greek and Roman history. They designed a government with checks, balances, the rule of law., and a bill of rights to make it difficult for autocrats to rise to power. It is not foolproof and ultimately depends on the governed to support the Constitution. The rule of law is the first casualty of wannabe dictators who use once independent law enforcement systems to reward friends and punish enemies. They stack the deck by misusing the power the once guiding light of laws and constitution gave them, and claiming their interpretation is the only one. Furthermore, they surround themselves by the likeminded and bobble-headed yes people A wannabe dictator uses his compliant legislature to fill the judiciary with those who are favored ideologically and will rule on the interpretations if action or laws were in compliance. with a constitution or laws. .It takes a willing legislature to make this happen. The Senate under control of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell worked for hand in glove with the White House in the impeachment trial to suppress witnesses and evidence. McConnell's legislature, charged with approving federal judiciary appointments, has passed little legislation, but it has given priority to the tasks of approving ideologically friendly judges to lifetime appointments. Appointments used to require a supermajority 60 vote, but in changing the rule to a simple majority, 50+1 in the Obama era made rocket approval of judges without the need to get a vote from the minority party. Another way to weaken the rule of law is by a wannabe dictator abusing the powers of the executive branch. It is a technique that has also helped other wannabe dictators grab power. They politicize their justice departments to help them win elections, either by controlling the ballot box and access to it or by destroying potential challengers with trumped-up investigations. Trump just gave the power to his Attorney General Bill Barr. to be the gatekeeper of election violations laws and to decide which violations of campaign and election laws will be investigated. In addition Barr, following a tweet from Trump, tried to help a Trump close friend, Roger Stone get less jail time, even though his sentence met established guidelines. That was not the first time Barr had intervened to support Trump's interests. He has also opened the door for his loyal AG Bill Barr to carry on with where Guiliani left off in Ukraine., trying to dig dirt on the Bidens. Only Barr is doing it from the US side of the Atlantic, instead., .and drawing on Guiliani's information which so far had yielded nothing. Barr publicly chastised Trump for tweeting about the Roger Stone sentencing guidelines and the very next day, Feb. 14, Trump asserted he had a right to interfere in federal cases. Trump asserts he has a legal right to interfere in federal cases. Bye Bye rule of law; hello weaponizing Department of Justice to do his bidding; Help friends, punish enemies. Welcome to the corruption of justice and practices we used to criticize Ukraine for...being corrupt by using prosecution of enemies as a political weapon. We have a choice this November. In which direction do we want our country to go to?. A Constitution is not worth the paper it is written on without the support of the governed. We still have a chance to do something about it while we still have power left to act. COLUMN VERSION; CONDENSED AND EDITED
This is a very
critical time in the history of the oldest democracy in the world. What sort of
a country do we want to become? Our founders saw the end of the government they
invented coming in the form of a president who would be king. Afterall they just
had a revolution against a king and feared a return, so they constructed the
Constitution as they did. by dividing the government into competing for power
centers with the ability of one branch to check the other two, and pitting the
ambitions of each against the other. In their wisdom, they also
attempted to keep foreign governments from making us their satellites through
bribery or through manipulating the vote of the people. They had faith the
populace would also vote for representatives who were sworn to support the
Constitution and the rule of law with which all would comply. Ultimately if the
United States' democracy survives the Trump era, it will depend on its voting
citizens. They have that opportunity this year. They will have less of a chance if Trump in a second term consolidates, even more, control over all branches of government and uses it to gain absolute power unconstrained by Congress and an independent judiciary, courts.or laws.
democracy is an insidious process. It takes time, it happens bit by bit, and in
the end, the governed can only blame themselves because most dictatorships
arise through the ballot box. It happens before the governed realize it and
then it is too late because the aspiring dictator has already controlled the
levers of power. W e have seen this happen time and time again. It
was not just in Germany, Italy, or Spain, before World War II, but it is
happening post-Cold War, in post-Communist Russia, post-Ataturk Turkey, and in
Hungary. We have a President who often praises certain countries for their
strong leaders. They tend to be those who made the transition from democracy to
dictatorship. Top of his list not so coincidentally have been Russia, Turkey,
and Hungary. That is his peer group, the one to which he fancies himself a
Here is how
democracies have died. If you see any of that happening now, raise your hand.
Wannabe dictators use their power to ensure their re-election by keeping those
who disagree from voting and favoring those with monetary contributions and who have
demonstrated loyalty, Their weapons are using
the fear of retaliation, and by praise and rewards for those who support them. Their tools are
exploiting and intensifying a sense of victimization by some racial, religious,
or economic group so that many seek relief by a strong man. The longer they
stay in power, the more powerful they become because they use the power they
have to control the levers of justice and media so it becomes harder for any
opposition to revolt via the ballot box.
The rule of law
is the first casualty of ascending dictators. They try to control how laws are interpreted and
of the once-independent judiciary could guarantee courtjudgments that provide legal justification
for their actions so they set about replacing judges with their loyalists
Any of this
sound familiar? The Senate under control of Majority
Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, has given
priority to the tasks of approving ideologically friendly judges to fill vacancies. with executive action unchallenged by courts It took only two weeks after Trump was acquitted of abuse of power
for him, to give the power to his
Attorney General Bill Barr. to decide which violations of campaign and election
laws will be investigated. Free and fair elections are in jeopardy. Trump and
Barr then intervened and overturned a justice department
policy to help close friend, Roger Stone get less jail time, resulting in dramatic resignations of Department of Justice attorneys in protest and Barr asking Trump to stop tweeting and interventions. Trump has
also opened the door for his loyal AG Bill Barr to receive the fruits of
Rudy Guiliani’s efforts to find dirt on the Biden’s, carrying on with where Guiliani left off in Ukraine. The
irony is that Ukraine was once considered corrupt for investigating and
singling out the attorney general’s enemies for prosecution.