A Quick Look at Iran Before Trump’s Senate Trial Begins

We seemed close to a major military confrontation with Iran less that two weeks ago.  With the Senate impeachment trial about to start, that Iran news seems like a distant memory.  Whatever is the latest Trump act or outrageous comment takes up most of the media mind space, leaving everything else almost forgotten.

Let’s not forget how close we came to war.   When Trump ordered the killing of Iran’s chief General Suleimani  – to show his supporters and Iran his toughness –  he left our fate in the hands of Iran or just plain luck to decide.   Suleimani’s death – which incited millions of mourners in Iran – was definitely going to prompt a reaction from Iran’s government.  That such an act was likely to produce grave unintended consequences is what restrained previous presidents from killing the general.

The question was how provocative would Iran’s response be.  It had to be like the three bears – not too hot, not to cold, but just right.  Just right being for Iran to protect its honor without provoking Trump to escalate, something neither side seemed to want.  A tricky matter, though.

Iran fired missiles at Iraq near a U. S. army base which in retrospect seemed intended to make a show of strength rather than kill anyone, as Iran sent warnings ahead of time to Iraq.  No one died, so Trump lucked out, but certainly some could have died.  American troops were close enough to suffer concussions, as later reports revealed in 12 cases.

If even one American had died from Iran’s missile attack, what would Trump have done?  What would Trump’s tough guy self-image have demanded he do?  And what kind of escalation might have evolved?

When an American military contractor was killed several weeks ago, Trump ordered an attack on Iranian militia which killed about 25 Iranians.  What show of force would Trump feel compelled to reciprocate for more American deaths from the missile attack?  How many Americans would have had to die to produce a major escalation?  What if 20 had been killed?  That would seem to get us within a hair’s breath of war.  There is no telling.

In short, Trump was lucky and we were lucky, but it does not deny the fact his decision to take out Suleimani was reckless.   His ordering a bad man to be executed while lucking out that Iran managed just the right response so as not to prompt escalation (at least not immediately) undoubtedly pleased his followers.

But how long will we be lucky enough to survive Trump’s impetuous, ad hoc, foreign policy?  While Trump will be charged in the Senate trial with other crimes against the nation, his herky-jerky foreign policy may produce the biggest threat to us all.

Something not to be forgotten.

Trump’s Impeachment: Yesterday the House. Next Stop, the Senate

T’was the week before Christmas and all through the House the two parties argued as one might with one’s spouse……… Thank God, that’s over with.  The best news is the Senate won’t be taking up the articles until January and arguing some more, so we all get a reprieve for a few days to enjoy the holidays.

Just to be clear.  While there has been much anti-Trump sentiment (count me in), the Democrats were actually forced into impeachment mode by Trump’s regularly flouting the rule of law. The case of Ukraine finally being too much to tolerate, once the whistle blower blew the whistle on that July 25 phone call where Trump pressured the Ukraine president for a personal “favor” in exchange for military assistance (Of course Trump denies this, and I will return to the matter after Christmas).

I think the Dem’s have made a good case.  However, I have to give Trump’s minions credit for doing a great job of muddling the issue, making this all seem a matter of violating due process as opposed to whether selling out the national interest for personal political gain qualifies as a high crime.

And they probably helped Trump’s cause by dragging out the procedures through needless vote counts and repetitive accusations of how rotten the whole process was.  I say it probably helped Trump because I believe the tiresome nature of this endless hearing process will more likely be blamed on the Democrats who, one has to admit, have brought it all about.

The Republicans want us only to look at the flaws in the process and not Trump’s actual wrong doing.  If you’ve been paying attention, you know Republicans have done little to defend Trump’s actions per se, but instead incessantly attacking the impeachment process itself, its unfairness to him.

Since, except for a couple suggestions, the constitution leaves vague what might constitute a high crime, we the citizens can decide for ourselves.  I’d say one high crime for a president is to put his personal interests over that of the nation, as Trump has clearly done in regards to Ukraine.  That fits under the abuse of power article by common sense.  That abuse is a political crime not a legal one.

But the constitution does not insist on a crime in a legal sense be committed.  Even the Republicans who argue the impeachment is unfair and something the Democrats have wanted to do since the beginning of time, do not spend much time defending the president’s actions regarding Ukraine.

A few Republicans have dared to suggest it was bad judgement on Trump’s part, though not worthy of impeachment.  However, Trump has squelched that kind of talk, clinging to the notion that his July 25 phone call was “perfect”.

Actually, despite hours and hours of hearings, there has been very little defense of the president’s actions compared to attacks on the impeachment process and those who provided evidence unsupportive of the president, usually people with impeccable credentials like Maria Yovanovich, the ambassador to Ukraine who Trump removed, because she was corrupt according to Rudi Giuliani, which actually means she tried to thwart Giuliani’s corrupt efforts (another topic I will come back to later).

Finally, another article I would consider – which might just fit under the abuse of power article – is the steady dismantling and ignoring of our rule of law, and the pillars that support it, calling the press the “enemy of the people”, and labeling  our foreign service and intelligence communities, especially the FBI, members of the “deep state,” which apparently grows with each person who irritates him.

Don’t know how FBI director Chris Wray is doing, but Trump must still be stewing about his recent public statement that the FBI has no evidence that Ukraine impacted the 2016 election.   The president certainly must be contemplating a replacement, as that undermines his Ukraine conspiracy theory.

I could go on and on, but I’ll give you a break and stop now.

SEE YOU NEXT YEAR….if not before.

As if the Facts Still Matter: Illuminating a Republican Lie

I watched many of the 24 hours of the House Intelligence Committee’s hearings on Trump and his pressuring the Ukraine President Zelensky to provide political dirt on Joe Biden in exchange for releasing about $400 million in military aid that Trump had held up waiting to get what he wanted.

Of course Trump backers would dismiss points that I’m making, but that’s because they are determined to find some way to shift attention from Trump’s illegal actions.  In doing so they keep trying to give legitimacy to a long debunked theory that it was Ukraine not Russia who interfered in our 2016 election.  And that Joe Biden and his son Hunter were involved in some nefarious way.

Learning from the master of false communication, the Trumpites see the value of just repeating lies over and over again.  If their words don’t convince, they often confuse, and muddling the truth has its own value when lying is your go to M. O.

One of the witnesses, Fiona Hill, a Russian expert working for former NSC director John Bolton, confronted the Republicans on the committee charging them with mouthing a conspiracy theory drummed up by Russian intelligence.  The Trumpite congressmen didn’t say much to combat the charge.  Just moved things along.

They had muddied the waters of truth, a small victory they score regularly.  (A war can be won through a lot of small victories.  In this case a war on the truth).  They want people to think there is enough validity in their Trumped up Ukraine conspiracy to become muddled on the issue.

Friday it was announced that the Senate Intelligence Committee, (a rare congressional committee that works in a bi-partisan manner),  had filed a report debunking that Ukraine fiction once again.  According to CNN:  “US intelligence officials also told lawmakers that Russia used intelligence operatives to spread now debunked conspiracies, along with established facts, to frame Ukraine for the interference in the 2016 campaign,” the official said.

In a world where facts mattered that should have been enough to dissuade Republicans to drop the cry for more Biden investigations, but far from it.  Republican Senator Lindsay Graham, while fully aware of that Senate Intelligence report, is launching another investigation under the vague rationale that if they are going to keep investigating us, we’ll investigate them, too (another part of Trump’s regular game plan.  Recall how he has also launched an investigation of the Mueller investigation – anything to cast doubt on his critics and further muddle the truth).

Graham once called Joe Biden the finest man he had ever met (or some such) and was a close friend of Senator John McCain, the Republican voice of integrity for so many years. Now he seems the complete political hack, willing to say or do whatever it takes to keep in Trump’s good graces so Graham can be re-elected.

No matter what the costs are to the integrity of the nation.

Sondland Testifies Tomorrow. And it Could get Very Interesting.

In case you aren’t aware of who Gordon Sondland is, let the Washington Post clue you in:

“A key figure in this week’s impeachment hearings will be Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union. His testimony on Nov. 20 will be highly scrutinized because his account, in small and large ways, has been contradicted by testimony of many other witnesses.

Already, Sondland has provided a supplemental declaration expanding on his initial deposition, saying his memory had been “refreshed” after reading the opening statements of others.”

As more conflicting testimonies have come to the fore, Sondland has even more to explain or to suddenly “recall” more clearly.  His squirming between his previous statements and what he might now say, sure seems likely to interest.  And may illuminate………….


P. S. – If you want a detailed explanation of Sondland’s inconsistencies, go to the Washington Post.  

P. S. 2 – Just a reminder that there is another Democratic game of candidate survivor Wednesday night.   There are still ten candidates on the stage and another two new ones in the wings, figuratively, so I won’t be watching.  With that many, there is not likely much debating to break out in the midst of the food fight.

I’ll eat up the crumbs on the news to follow.

I wish the Dem leadership would stop calling all these candidates an “embarrassment of riches.”  The fact that there are so many of them suggests none of them is a great candidate, as the recent addition of two more further implies.

Thinking About Impeachment Hearings, but Can’t Forget Today’s School Massacre

Today another school shooting  – killing, murdering.  The lives of two high school kids ended, at last I heard.  I have to admit, these shootings have become so common I don’t react more strongly than I respond to a major car accident on the news, other than having a sick, sad feeling about the society I live in.  School shooting deaths have become woven into the American fabric of life.

I hear reporters say “we still don’t know what the motive was,” as if that was so important for us to know.

How about this generic template?   The murderer came to hate his life and blamed others for that and fantasized getting vengeance.   He’d show them.  However painfully puny and resentful one feels about one’s life, a gun can make you feel all powerful for a few moments at least.

I think that is what the Beatles were getting at when they sang “happiness is a warm gun.”  I say “he” because the killer is almost always a he, and white.  The most surprising thing about this tragedy is the killer is reported as Asian.

America was not always like this.  I believe the first mass killer in the U. S. was a guy who stabbed his wife and mother before climbing a tower at the University of Texas and then shooting many others, killing 14.

That was back in 1966. when such a thing was unbelievable.


P. S.  –   I do want to point out that, speaking tomorrow, is Marie Yovanovich, who served as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from 2016 until May of this year, when she was recalled from her post. She is expected to vividly detail the shadow campaign Giuliani conducted to strong arm Ukraine into acceding to Trump’s demands for politically motivated investigations.

I expect her to be a formidable witness.   Her testimony is scheduled for 10:00, ET.

The Ukraine Hearings: A Big Battle Over Truth Begins Soon

I ended my previous post by saying I planned on delving into the clash in narratives between Trump’s largely made up story of his glorious presidency and a historical analysis based more on facts and respect for the ideal of truth.

What was I thinking?   I soon realized that I was stuck in the view of Eli Stokols of the Los Angeles Times“I don’t know if America has the bandwidth to process everything that is going on.  I certainly don’t.”  

Me neither.

I can at least start out by saying Wednesday will kick off the public impeachment process, a major battle of the two narratives with open hearings before the Democratically controlled House Intelligence Committee.  To work through my writer’s block, I’m stealing a brief summary of what’s going on and all the TV coverage from Benjamin Kail of masslive.com.

In brief this is what is going on:

“Democrats and Republicans in the House have questioned current and former Trump administration officials and diplomats behind closed doors over the last several weeks. An anonymous whistle blower claimed earlier this year that multiple White House officials grew concerned that the president in July illegally leaned on the president of Ukraine, using military aid as leverage, to secure help in the 2020 election.

Deputy Secretary of State George Kent and Bill Taylor, a former ambassador and top diplomat in Ukraine, will testify together Wednesday, while Marie Yovanovitch, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, will testify Friday, CNN reported.”

You can reach the site which has more information and  TV networks and times here.

Tackling the Lord of Chaos, i. e. Donald Trump

It has been almost a month since I have posted.  Trump has become such a master of muddling our minds, that it is tough to find something simple to say that matters.  For months now, with the help of, among others, the evilly reincarnated version of the once respected Mayor of New York, Wack-Job Rudi, Trump has managed to create a version of reality that has successfully challenged a traditional version of one based on facts…..not perfectly, of course, but with a respect for the truth, a concept Trump cares nothing about.

Why bother to learn the truth when you can so easily make up your own story?  And many people believe you.  Even when you are proven wrong, you just keep repeating the lie and like spaghetti tossed at a wall, some of it sticks.

Meanwhile those who feel compelled by that north star rational ideal feel forced to combat you factually, in the midst of which Trump spins another fable or two.  It only takes a minute or two.  The press exhausts itself trying to keep up.

Months ago, his mistress of spin, Kelly Anne Conway lifted up the curtain of this pint sized Oz when introducing the notion of “alternative facts”.   Normally excellent at evasion, Kelly Anne accidentally revealed the mind set of her boss in stark terms.   A view of reality based on alternative facts, ones that he just makes up.

Donald Trump has told thousands of lies, the more the merrier over the course of his presidency, but to call him a liar underestimates his deepest epistemological sin.  That is he just makes shit up.  Constantly.   And he keeps repeating his fables.  His biggest sin is that he is a fabulist.  He invents elaborate dishonest stories about the nature of things and who is to blame for what’s wrong.

He creates his own Trumptopia, attractive to those who resent and fear and want others to blame for their unhappy situations.  Even when Trump does not replace a fact base sense of reality, he manages to confuse us enough to the point he creates such fatigue in trying to sort out fact from fiction, that most of us tend to just give up.

Not Msnbc’s Rachel Madow and her ilk, of course, which might include many of you.  Rachel is obviously very bright and extremely hard working, but here is the rub.  Lengthy analyses of current political events only make dyed in the wool liberals smarter.  It makes the rest of us want to learn less.

Liberals place too much faith in the lingering Age of the Enlightenment when it comes to politics where irrationality plays a much bigger roll than liberals seem to concede.  Especially among 5 – 10% of those undecideds who will tip the electoral scale next November.

I used to read serious books about politics, but have stopped.  Why bother?  An increased knowledge, including important nuances, only means something to those who already share most of my political mind set.  People who still have faith in well reasoned argument.

I’m not much motivated to speak to the choir, even though my imagined readership seems more likely to sing hallelujah than not.

I’m here mostly to try to sort out some political facts and fictions.   Here amidst my muddle, I’m simply trying to make the point that two views of political reality are now in contention, two narratives.   One based largely on facts.   The other based on alternative facts that Trump either makes up or twists or exaggerates.

Not that I think that conclusion is a surprise to most.  But I think it deserves being delved into more.  And I plan to.