Friday, May 19, 2017

How To Keep Up With Trump News? - There's Just No Way

I've been trying to follow the daily, hourly, and by the minute bombshells out of the White House - just can't keep up.

I do remember Watergate, though, so maybe I can guess what's coming. As the Farmer's ad says: "I know a thing or two because I've seen a thing or two.

Here's what we can look forward to:

1. Government paralysis: hundreds of senior government positions are vacant because Trump has not yet nominated them - appointments won't get easier;

2. International paralysis: we often forget how many international crises happened during Watergate  - what I remember is how hard it was to get the attention of the White House:
  • 1972 -
— June - Watergate break in'
— October 8 Kissinger meets with the North Vietnamese negotiator Le Duc Tho in Paris for peace talks to end the Vietnam War, and initially the talks go well.
— October 18 President Nguyen Van Thieu of South Vietnam rejects the proposed Paris peace agreement, complaining that Kissinger had not consulted him.
— December 17 Paris peace talks break down.
— December 18 Nixon orders "Christmas Bombings" against North Vietnam following the breakdown in the Paris peace talks.
  • 1973 -
— 27 January Paris Peace Accords ends the American war in Vietnam; POW's returned in March.
— October 6 October War begins with a surprise attack on Israel by Egypt and Syria. The U.S. supports Israel while the Soviet Union supports Egypt and Syria.
— October 12 Nixon orders Operation Nickel Grass, a major American effort to supply Israel with weapons to make good the IDF's heavy initial losses.
— October 20 Arab oil embargo led by King Faisal of Saudi Arabia against the U.S and other Western nations begins as punishment for support of Israel. The oil embargo sparks major inflation in the United States.
— October 24 The Soviet Union announces that it sent will troops to Egypt, which in turn leads Kissinger to warn that the United States will sent troops to fight the Soviet forces deployed to Egypt. Nixon places the United States military on DEFCON 3, one of the highest states of alert. The Soviets back down.
— October 25 A ceasefire brokered by the U.S and the Soviet Union ends the October War.
1974-
— January 18 Under an American disengagement plan negotiated by Kissinger, Israeli forces pull back from the Suez Canal.
— March 17 Arab oil embargo against the West ends.
__ August 8 Nixon resigns.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Memo To Voters: Don't Elect A Person Who Declares "I Alone Can Fix It"

So how many classified documents were found on Hillary Clinton's e-mail server? Actually, none were found. At least none that were marked classified.

About three documents were found that certain agencies contended after the fact contained classified information. Assuming for a minute that the judgment was correct, whose fault was that?

The rules for handling classified material aren't necessarily cut and dried, but one thing is perfectly clear: classification of any document  is the responsibility of the originator, not the recipient. In other words, if an improperly classified document was found in Hillary Clinton's possession, and she did not originate the document, she would not have been guilty of any infraction.

Congressional investigators have completely obfuscated that issue. I believe Jim Comey did so as well.

Just saying.

Are there any Patriots in the Republican Party?

Gobsmacked. There's no other word to describe my reaction to Trump's latest assertion of the power to disclose intelligence information from other countries to the Russians. And to do it from the hip.

This is just one more example of Trump's apparent belief that he was elected emperor or dictator. No wonder he likes the Russians so much. Before the 1917 revolution, Russian Tsars ruled by issuing decrees (Ukase) on any subject they wanted to. Putin follows similar procedures, even to the point of having his opponents assassinated.

So when Donald J. Trump tweets that he has the "absolute right" to declassify anything he wants to, that sounds an awful lot like the assertion of an absolute monarch. He apparently is under the impression that there are no limits to his power.

That isn't in keeping with our patriotic traditions.

There is a reason that officers of the United States swear to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States," rather than an oath of loyalty to the president.

We also had an early dispute over how to address the president. An early candidate phrase was "Your Highness." That didn't fly. Quite rightly.

Every day in every way we learn yet again that when other candidates declared Donald J. Trump unfit to serve as president, they were absolutely correct.




Sunday, May 14, 2017

Some Thoughts On Firing Comey

Sources of confusion. Press reports are that Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein threatened to resign unless Trump backed off on the assertion that he fired Comey based on recommendations by Rosenstein and Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III to fire the FBI director. So what is that about, since all of the TV commentators read the Rosenstein memorandum as making such a recommendation?

According to the Washington Post, Trump had decided to fire Comey ahead of time and then called Sessions and Rosenstein to the White House on Monday May 8th and directed them to put in writing the reasons for firing Comey. They complied.

But Rosenstein, an experienced Justice Department official, DID NOT INCLUDE IN HIS MEMO A RECOMMENDATION TO FIRE COMEY!

So Rosenstein had every right to object when Trump claimed in writing that he was only following Rosenstein's recommendation. He had carefully followed the president's direction and put in writing some reasons to fire Comey but he did not make the recommendation to do so.

My reading is that Trump, unfamiliar and contemptuous of the ways of career government officials, totally missed the subtlety of Rosenstein's memo. Apparently Trump was in such a big hurry that he did not ask anyone familiar with government to review Rosenstein's memo.

Anyone with experience in government would have spotted what Rosenstein did. More evidence that Trump is not competent to govern. But we already knew that.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Deja Vu All Over Again

I'm not a great admirer of FBI Director Comey. I think he acted wrongly on the Clinton e-mail matter. But I don't think those actions had anything to do with his firing.

I also don't think Sally Yates' decision about Trump's first immigration order had anything to do with her firing.

This is about Russia.

Let's get this straight! Our democracy is under attack.

It is under attack by the Republican Party, whose leaders demonstrate contempt for democracy.

It is under attack by Russia, whose leader, Vladimir Putin, despises democracy..

I have seen some such attacks before.

My wife and I were in Washington DC during Watergate.

I knew some of the players in the White House, in the Congress, in the Department of State and in the Pentagon.

But it was a different time.

I have learned some things recently about ties between the Brexit campaign, Russian hacking, Steve Bannon, Bannon's billionaire sponsors in the Mercer family and extraordinary computer technology to target specific voters with particular false news reports.

These same techniques were used to get the UK out of the European Union, satisfying a major goal of Vladimir Putin. The same techniques were used in our 2016 presidential election, and succeeded in electing Donald Trump. I suspect the same techniques have been used in US elections to state and congressional offices over the past eight years.

The same techniques were used last Sunday in France, but it didn't work. They will probably be used in this summer's elections in Germany.

Now the deputy White House spokeswoman urges that the Russia investigation be ended.

A hundred years ago last month, President Wilson asked Congress to declare war on Germany "To make the world safe for democracy."

Our democracy in 1917 was flawed. Women could not yet vote. Blacks could not yet vote in most of the country. Unions had few rights. We still had child labor. And on and on. But over the next 80 years we worked hard to make our democracy better. And we spread democracy across the industrial world.

This plainly did not impress our billionaire class. Like the bandits in "Treasure Of The Sierra Madre," they don't need no stinkin' investigations.

Since the presidential campaign of 2000 and the case of Bush v. Gore, our democracy has been subjected to one attack after another.

It is time to fight back.

Follow the bodies.

Only we ourselves can defend democracy from its enemies.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Vive La France!

I certainly breathed a sigh of relief at the outcome of the French election for president.

I only regret that I don't have a tricolor to fly from our front porch in recognition of France's dedication to Democracy and to Europe. The UK has abandoned the cause of Europe and has largely abandoned politics to the Tories.

France still stands as a champion of democracy in Europe.

Some years ago I posted other celebrations of the actions of French citizens in the face of tragedy. For example, after Charlie Hebdo: http://mile181.blogspot.com/2015/01/vive-la-france.html and http://mile181.blogspot.com/2015/11/well-always-have-paris.html.

Now we have a subsequent election in the aftermath of several episodes of terrorism in France - a clear choice between a candidate dedicated to improving Europe against a candidate committed to erecting barriers and withdrawing from the EU and from NATO.

But French voters stood up for freedom and for Europe.

Vive la France!