Sunday, July 26, 2020

Trump's epic miscalculation: Portland

As we watch Donald Trump's attempt to demonstrate what a great strong leader he could be, bringing his brand of law and order to Democratic-run cities, he inflamed already angry demonstrators who had been mostly peaceful to meet federal violence with their violence. He inspired more to join in the protest, and he built a kind of walls he never imagined. Above all, he has created a multiracial cause.  He has now made "autocracy" the burning matter that affects all lives, not just black ones.
     Trump chose one of the whitest cities in America, Portland, Oregon,  to show how he would dominate the streets with anonymous federal agents outfitted for war in do much more than just protect federal real estate. His troops were never invited and he ignored state and local officials' requests to withdraw them. He would show how he would bring demonstrators to their knees even if they were peacefully exercising their right to assemble and protest that was guaranteed in the Constitution and even if they were not near federal buildings.
      While what Trump had hoped to do with this made for FOX viewers and  TV advertising demonstration of what he wants his second term to look like, he accomplished something else he did not intend. The new walls he built had nothing to do with the southern border. They were the Wall of Moms..nearly all-white..and the Wall of white Dads wielding leaf blowers to counter tear gas,  and now the Walls of Veterans, also mostly white,  arm in arm as front row protectors of the protestors. They made it clear use of suppression and domination using such violence and force was not to be tolerated by white people any more than it was tolerated by black lives. If his intent was to scare "suburban housewives" back into his fold, showing them they were in danger from racially charged "mobs",  what he did was to give them a picture of what he would do to their daughters and sons of any color if they dared gather to protest any government policy.
Update: July 31, 2020: Trump withdrew "federal agents".

Monday, July 20, 2020

Trump's cognitive failures are a pre-existing condition, dangerous to national security

Update August 7, 2020

I am watching the discussion of the mental fitness of Trump v Biden to be president Trump gets the campaign oratory award hands down. However, his cognitive skills are dangerous to national security and Biden's stuttering problems are only dangerous to his campaign oratory...Many of those briefing Trump report that his national security briefings have to boil down to one-page bullet points and his focus on any issue is limited to minutes. He cannot comprehend the written word and grasps facts he likes he hears to make his point orally. even though the "fact" he quotes time and time again has been proven false. Both claims about certain drug treatments of COVID and that kids did not get COVID has studies to the contrary and even facebook took down that BS. The recent interview of Trump by Jonathan Swan of AXIOS was a case in point when he even failed to understand the difference between total COVID cases and the numbers per 100,000 when comparing the US cases with other countries and our relative unsuccess. That well-known point seemed to be a simple analysis that was news to him. That inability to focus and grasp facts got his former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to utter the comment after attempting to brief him that he was a "f....king moron". which he never denied saying.
His intelligence briefers have had to hire outside consultants to help them communicate briefs to him because of his lack of focus.

Aug. 9, 2020; This column by Phillip Bump may be the best explanation yet of why both Biden and Trump have succeeded when they did in spite of gaffes and slips of the tongue.
.My take on Bump's column: It worked for Trump in 2016 and it is working for Biden in 2020. Voters took their comments seriously, but not literally. (I'd be rich if I got a dollar for every time I heard a Trump supporter say "I like what he does, but I wish he wouldn't tweet so much". ) feelings This year the shoe is on the other foot: "I know what he means and I agree with what he means if not the way he says it because I now know what Trump means and I do not like it". It was a matter of voters getting to know Trump better in 3 and a half years and that they already knew Biden for the last 40 years. The negative feelings about Trump and what he means outweigh the negative about Biden, though many voters do not like either one this year and Biden gets those votes. In 2016, Trump got the votes of those who did not like either him or Clinton. It is the lesser of two evils electorate voters who make the difference in 2016 and 2020.Per Bump:" Trump won voters who disliked both him and [Hillary] Clinton by 17 points. In recent polling, [Joe] Biden leads Trump with those who dislike both candidates by 27 points."

Familiarity either breeds contempt, admiration, or at least is the best defense. Trump's attempt to paint Biden as greedy and corrupt via Biden's son Hunter's Ukraine exploits will probably not hurt Biden much because Biden's life has not been full of wealth and the greed and money-grabbing of Trump's life history is all too well known. Recent cases in point are his recent attempts by Trump to promote his real estate interests while in the White House..from holding the G7 to a major British golf tournament at his properties. Likewise, Trump's recent attempt to paint Biden as not religious flies in the face of 40 years of Biden being one of the most devout Catholics in politics and who wears his faith on his sleeve. Trump's knowledge of the Bible and how to cite passages and even how to hold it in the photo op in Lafayette Square are writ in bold type and illustrated in looping TV videos. That Biden does not understand the African American community, or once backed some bad legislation, or committed some recent misspeaks, falls flat. That community has seen him perform at Obama's side and so far the best Trump has registered with African Americans in recent polls is 14%. Trump claims that COVID will just go away. It's a Democratic party hoax or only blue states with voters who are not his people, get it, are chickens that have come home to roost as red states spike. In this case, Trump did not look evil. He just looked like an incompetent, ignorant fool leading his supporters down a primrose path. Biden had warned of the impending COVID disaster in January and treated mask-wearing as leadership by his own example,.

August 13, 2020 The question becomes why, if this is all true, his core support is unshakeable. Here is my view to his supporters.
They look in the mirror and see Trump looking back. This is the best theory I have seen to understand how his immoral behavior, his ignorance, and lying, his hate and fear-based approach to life, can be overlooked by such devoted followers. Perhaps they also think that their own economic interests offset any of this...and once again, they mirror Trump, too.   What is so strange is that the economy has tanked because of our nation's failure to handle the pandemic competently and the reason for this is because " his people" have taken his words literally and seriously, flaunting mask-wearing, congregating in large groups while sticking their middle digits at social distancing,  belief in quack cures, and citing data twisted to deceive.  

Posting July 20 continued:
Donald Trump's oft used trick is to call out an opponent with having the same problems those pinned on him. Psychologists call this ""projecting. To him it is a strategy: the best defense is an offensive, deceptive offense. He just crowed that he passed a simple Alzheimer's screening test and challenged Biden to do it, too. He must have been upset at recent FOX poll that shows Americans believe Biden is mentally and physically more capable than him to be president.

Alzheimer's is not the only cognitive problem that should be tested. Trump's cognitive failures are a pre-existing condition. The guy cannot comprehend the written word,. He can claim he did not read the report presented to him by intelligence agencies in briefings and take responsibility for it or act on it:. It is a handy disability.,, feigned, wilful, or real. A recent example: Russia paying the Taliban bounty for killing US soldiers he claims he never heard about it, but ex-staff claim he was told. .. Bullet points on one page do not work per any number of ex-staff. Too bad not all governing problems are so simple. His ability to focus more than a few minutes on an oral briefing is legendary. He should be tested for ADHD. This is a guy who uses deductive reasoning deduced only from the facts he likes, cherry-picking them, and ignoring any body of evidence to the contrary. He has erased from his memory American history and civics..and was so amazed to learn about PearlHarbor for example. What he has done is to compensate with his oratorical skills and auditory abilities (briefings has to be orally delivered to him) Even his auditory memory and comprehension is often selective..If he does not know the answer or doesn't like the answer, he just lies....thousands and thousands of times... So much so Tom Friedman, reward-winning columnist, recommended Biden should not debate him because he would spend the whole debate just fact-checking him. Friedman recommended if Biden does debate him at least have a panel of fact-checkers to call Trump out on the spot.
Joe Scarborough used an example lately, not facts, to dismiss the great job Trump has done in taking leadership on COVID-19: and claiming an increase of virus infections are due to more testing. "So great, Europe and Canada will not let Americans in we have done such a great job.".retorted Scarborough.
The other approach, take a look at the hospital admissions with COVID positive test numbers as the bottom line. That is one general populace can grasp as a verifying truth without glazing over and getting lost in the wonky weeds.
In a debate, some words of advice from me, an old high school and collegiate debater. Biden should not be hung up on debating facts, just call Trump out on it (there you go again, inventing facts; check the fact-checkers); proceed with real facts. briefly...and move on. Fact-checking Trump is also cricket if it is done well by the debate moderator or interviewer, as Chris Wallace on FOX did recently. It is fair game to call out his fact twisting and his ignorance as a preface to a rebuttal. The danger is getting hung up on the debate over facts and get sidetracked into minor points and if Biden has the fact rebuttal at his fingertips, he just needs to say "that is not true, per....a (trusted) source or fact-checkers" and move on. By doing that, Biden can demonstrate it is he with the mental acuity he has always had and as he is already doing. of Trump's projection strategy. How Chris Wallace fact-checked Trump in real-time  How security briefers have try get through to Trump   John Bolton said Trump was briefed in 2019, as well. How Trump had no idea of the significance of Pearl Harbor   Tom Friedman's column Biden should not debate Trump...unless...

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Portland, OR incident defines Trump's meaning of law and order that should scare those believing in democracy

Blog column July 18, 2020
Per media reports July 17, Trump ordered federal agents to Portland, OR, battle gear bedecked like figures in computerized war games. They were  "reportedly pulling protestors into unmarked vehicles" and firing rubber bullets into crowds of protestors

If Trump is planning to hitch his campaign wagon to his law and order plank, claiming under Biden there will be more strife on the urban streets because of defunding police, he will have a major handicap: Not only do people know Biden for his track record of service over 40 years, he was the first to come out opposing defunding police when the phrase "defunding police" was uttered by some on the left. If anything, Biden has come under fire from the more radical elements of the Democratic Party for supporting some law and order legislation in the past.

 In fact, to make the point Trump's advertising tries to highlight, that there is anarchy in the urban streets, as he calls peaceful protesters exercising their first amendment rights, he has drawn on film footage that has taken place under his own administration. One ad even drew three-year-old footage of pro-democracy protesters in Ukraine.  His proposal to deal with demonstrating opposition is to flood streets with thousands of his secret police troops armed for battle in Afghanistan,  just as he did in Portland.  His proposal to snuff out peaceful demonstrations with Gestapo like action would end democracy as we know it. His love of the tactics of dictators should set up alarm bells. Among his bag of tricks are some actions he already supports,  including suppression of minority voting, using his power of licensing and intimidation to destroy freedom of the press. He would be .turning  us into an authoritarian dictatorship aping the fascists of yore and modern dictators like Putin and Erdogan. "The president is deploying the kind of performative authoritarianism that Vladimir Putin pioneered."


Once again, Trump defines his meaning of law and order by giving a visual example what we can expect if he gets a second term. It should scare the heck out of those who still believe in democracy.
July 22, 2020: Welcome to Germany early 1930's. The same tactic Hitler used to rise to power. Create and stage the street protests to scare the crap out of the less than sophisticated citizens as his campaign ads feature his federal agents confronting Portland peaceful demonstrators. .
However,, Ad Week reports that the picture used to illustrate the out of control Portland was 6 years old taken in Ukraine.

Democracy as I define it is a specific kind:  We have seen before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the dictatorships and totalitarian control by those from the extreme left, the Communists following at worst the Stalinist model.  They were likewise as damaging to humanity and human rights as were the fascists that rose in the 1930s and met their demise in World War II.  Fascism and Communist dictators are not the only alternatives to governance. , There is a form of democracy embraced by the founders of America and post World War II Europe that provides the third way of humane governance we have enjoyed until now.  Most attempts at our kind of democracy have met totalitarianism and dictatorships and the supporters of democracy failed to stop their takeover, by forms of totalitarianism and dictatorships, kings, and tyrants from early Greece and Rome to more modern eras. Our democracy is 250 years old, and only with the grace of those dedicated to democracy of both political parties stand in the way of its demise. Small d democracy calls for allegiance to the rule of law instead of the rule of a person, with the law formed by a freely elected representative government, protecting freedom of the press, the right to peacefully assemble to present grievances, and other  protections included  among  all those civil rights  addressed in the First Amendment

Additional comment: July 21, 2020: The first act I took after the election of Donald Trump was to become a monthly contributor to the ACLU. I feared what I saw of him during the campaign that he had no respect for freedom of the press or the right to peacefully assemble and protest. His intimidation of journalists who asked the hard questions and his use of his private army of paramilitary to dominate the streets and suppress peaceful demonstrators in Lafayette Square and Portland, his racism, and praise of armed militia and neo-Nazis, have more than justified my action. His action and words in these three and a half years have validated my fears that civil liberties would be his prime target to get around, ignore, and damage, the most endangered species in .our democracy.

Continuation of the July 18 blog column:
 In Portland Trump duplicated the same kinds of forces and techniques that he used to clear Lafayette Square in Washington, DC, of peaceful demonstrators. In face of generals refusing to allow the active military to clear the streets in the George Floyd demonstrations,  he tried another end-run around them using unbadged military types trained and pulled from various federal agencies picked to do his bidding. In this Portland incident, he used his authority under the legalistic guise of "protecting federal property".  Since some of these troops were positioned away from federal property, it appeared they were also there to intimidate the protestors. A young white man armed with a boom box held high was shot in the head by a rubber bullet cracking his skull. The victim was nowhere near federal property...nor was he a threat. His weapon was a boom box amplified broadcast,  ye gads. It was all caught on cell phone video, including snatching demonstrators and whisking them away in rented unmarked vehicles.  Nearly every civil rights and a couple of laws you could name, or the restraints courts had ordered local police to observe,  were violated by these military-style and trained Federales (a term I applied to federal police used by tin-pot Latin American dictators to quell the masses), but the best term more applicable came from the mouth of Sen.Ron Wyden (Dem, OR): "storm troopers".   That one has roots in Hitler's rise to power and similar techniques he used to consolidate his power.  Kidnapping, holding without charges, and manhandling have been used in recent times by Putin in Russia and China., particularly recently in Hong Kong. Using federally ordered thugs in military gear and secret police are common techniques used by historical and modern dictators to subdue opposition.   What was peculiar about this incident in Portland, the intimidating actions by stormtroopers, was that it was apparently staged for the benefit of FOX and covered only by Trump's loyal first,..but several days later, July 17, the outrage of the Oregon governor and the Portland Mayor and the emergence of videos of weapons firing seriously injuring someone and military types throwing demonstrators into unmarked cars brought it to mainstream media.  Both state and local officials had worked hard to keep the demonstrations peaceful and their concern was that such action would only bring more hardcore protestors to the scene, ready themselves to do violent battle with the stormtroopers.

The purpose of this exercise was political, it appears since the incident coverage was engineered by  Trump media.  This is an indication that the purpose was to keep the favor of the cult-like followers of Trump, to whom the concept of democracy and civil rights seems to be considered a barrier to Trump's power rather than as some ideal worthy to protect. Trump was faced with polling showing his approval ratings had dropped to the high 30%  due to his inept handling of the pandemic and the George Floyd protests. Raising the issue of "law and order" certainly served as a diversion of attention from his tanking poll numbers. That he still maintains support for his economic policies,  seems strange, given conditions that echo the Great Depression. For others less devoted to him and disapproving of his handling of the pandemic and race relations, it was the reminder of a tradeoff:. "If you don't like me or what I do in other matters, I will at least keep you safe from those you fear and hate". 

This kind of military action certainly appeals to the core of the only group of followers who still had the majority of their demographics favoring him: white men with no college education, per recent polling, and followers of the ideology of some of Trump's ardent advisors: dominate the streets with military and suppress demonstrators, peaceful or not.   It was meant to send a message that Trump's law and Trump's techniques to force order would rule,  but the message it sent to the majority of voters who are now not supportive of him was democracy has no place in Trumpland nor did any respect for civil rights or the rule of law. It was what we could expect in a Trump second term.(For more go to the May 29, 2020 posting: Trump fans the flames of violence, yet calls himself the champion of law and order)

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The Colorado Senate race: Hickenlooper v Gardner. A warning to Democrats

CPR has an excellent analysis of what happened in the Democratic Senate primary.. The one bit I would add to it is the impact COVID and the police brutality protests had on the outcome. It was especially difficult for Romanoff to counter Hickenlooper's name identification and general public familiarity with his governors' record. Hick was a very well known quantity and was a generally popular governor and still in recent memory. For the pragmatists, Hick was a sure winner over Gardner in a trending blue state, and Romanoff was either too left or an unknown quantity to see him as a sure bet to beat Gardner. I thought once voters knew him better, he would beat Gardner, too. However, air time media focus was so saturated with COVID and George Floyd coverage that there was no space for much free media coverage of the Colorado Senate primary. Advertising was not enough to give a full picture of Romanoff's assets. I also noted that Romanoff managed to work the word "progressive" into his ads, positioning himself on the left in a more moderate state not yet deep blue. In addition, key national progressive leaders did not campaign on behalf of Romanoff, and in fact, supported Hick, as this CPR report noted. My concern is that the issues raised by Romanoff, Hick's ethics, environmental and racial issue stumbles, will show up in Gardner's supporters' ads. Not that such issues represent Gardner's approach, but it would serve to suppress progressives' turnout on behalf of Hick. Divide and conquer is an effective political strategy. It can be used to pit more progressive Democrats against moderate Democrats, asking what difference does it make on these issues (a plague on both of their houses). It worked really well in Trump's victory over Hillary. Imagine where this country would be on issues dear to progressive hearts if Hillary had won. Trump has set about to destroy any progress Obama had made on those issues. If there is a lesson to be learned, we should not fall into that trap of progressives not voting because they could not stand either candidate. What is at stake is way more important than being sore losers. National observers believe the winner of the Colorado Senate race will determine the slim margin of whatever party holds more votes in the Senate. What is critical above all is that Democrats must carry Colorado because the Senate makeup will depend on it. If the Senate continues as the majority in control of the GOP, even if by one vote, Biden, if elected, would have a tough time getting even a moderate agenda passed. If Trump gets re-elected, then bye-bye environment, democracy, and health care, and hello to a Trumpster dominated Supreme Court.
Imagine, too, that if Trump chickens out, fears via polls he will lose the election for sure , he announces he will not run for a second term (Lyndon Johnson did that) and leaves the field to Pence, What then? If the RNC and GOP Senators support Pence through whatever the process or timing is to replace Trump, Pence is likely to rise. The never Trumpers, Lincoln Project, moderates, are only 10 to 20% of the GOP. Pence is appearing to position himself as a person Republicans turned off by Trump's incompetence and character flaws, but not his agenda, could support with enthusiasm. Pence is making his move now. That may account for Pence's recent campaign-style and local media focused visits to red states. The race may be entirely different in November than it is now so it is important not to count on anti-trump sentiment to turn out the swing vote. Progressives staying home could also ensure a Pence victory. As Bernie Sanders said recently, not voting for Biden is irresponsible. That same statement could apply to the Democrats in the Colorado senate race.