North Korea, Stormy Daniels and this and that….

So many, so many possible topics, so let’s just take a glance at a few ongoing sagas…

Since it touches upon the prospect of nuclear war, let’s begin with North Korea, which is acting like it wants to develop its relationship with South Korea (you know, their athletes marching together at the Olympics, etc.).  NO KO and SO KO are setting up a hot line between their two nation heads and will have talks in upcoming weeks which may lead to talks including the U. S.

It sounds good, but NO KO has made peaceful overtures over the years, which wound up stalling periods while they continued to develop nuclear weapons. Perhaps the Trump crazy persona has prompted Jong UN to reconsider…………but more likely it is a clever ploy by UN, buying time and perhaps splitting our relationship with SO KO.

Stormy Daniels is a picayune topic, but much more fun, unless you are Donald J. Trump. The porn star/adult film actress (depending on how much you want to go “tisk, tisk”) refuses to go away.  It looks like she will become a bigger pain to the president as she is suing for the right to tell her story arguing the non-disclosure agreement is invalid as Trump never signed it.

Even if she must give the $130,000 back, she will undoubtedly make much more in appearance fees and likely some sort of book deal.  It should be fun to watch her buzzing around nipping at Trump like a clever mosquito.  Rumors say she has some photos she’d like to share.

The really big topic of gun control can wait, as Congress is slowly muddling through various proposals, never knowing what Trump would actually sign.  Meanwhile, some interesting reactions from business, in that two big sellers of guns, Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods, have established more restrictions on their own gun sales.  Also, numerous large corporations have stopped giving NRA members special discounts.

Of course, the drivers for ongoing work on this issue are the high school students organizing a big March in Washington later this month, and various walkouts at schools throughout the country.  And undoubtedly other events I don’t know about.  Of course Congress will do as little as possible, most thinking of how it will affect voting in the fall elections.  A hefty dose of determined idealism from the young adults gives me some hope the NRA won’t completely tip the balance as usual.

Speaking of changes, the White House just lost its 16th high level administrator when Gary Cohn, White House chief economic adviser, resigned.  Some kind of record exodus I think.   Cohn resigned after Trump refused to take back his suddenly announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, a move that has lots of critics besides Cohn, and few defenders.

For one, it could ignite a trade war, especially with Canada and Mexico, the two biggest exporters of those goods to us.  For another, there are a lot more people working in industries here that use those metals as opposed to those that mine them.  Tariffs will prompt price hikes that make their products less competitive.  Any employment gains in steel production seem likely overshadowed by losses in the steel using industries.

No matter to Trump as it is a great distraction from other issues and makes him look good when he goes to Pennsylvania soon to give a campaign speech in a steel producing area.  It is a complex matter, but no reason to say more yet, as Trump could completely rework this as it suits him.

And of course there is the Mueller investigation, which keeps coming up with more indictments and/or agreements for witness testimony.   Trump must be having some nightmares of looking around and seeing the terminator steadily moving towards him.

What else?  Remember the week the was supposed to be infrastructure week?  Well, forget it.  Nothing has happened there and doesn’t seem likely to before the election.   It looked like a bad idea at the time and has lost its impetus for now.

Speaking of delay, DACA comes to mind.  Since it will be tied up in the courts for months, my bet is Congress will do little or nothing for months.  Also being delayed are major steps to combat Russian interference in our election this fall.  Trump pretends otherwise with talk of a comprehensive study of the matter under way, but no specific actions and fall not far away.

Criminal, I say.  Criminal.


Feb 28, 2018: A Particularly Bizarre Day in Trumptopia

I was not going to post for a few days to let a number of issues develop, but there were so many odd political occurrences yesterday I wanted to give it a little attention, so I’m sharing a tweet from Sam Stein, politics editor for the Daily Beast, just to give you a taste of the day (I added a few words in blue for clarity).

Stein captured Trump’s day thus:   Between calling his AG Jeff Sessions “DISGRACEFUL;”  Agreeing to a liberal fantasy of gun reform in a televised bi-partisan meeting in the White House; losing his comms director Hope Hicks; watching his son-in-law Jared Kushner chewed up by devastating news reports; and seeing Special Counsel Mueller hone in on his attempts to fire Sessions;  it’s just your average day in Trumpland.”

I’d say Stein is employing understatement. Even for Trump this was a bit much.  All of these occurrences will give rise to more and more stories which  undoubtedly will compete for attention with new or renewed “breaking news” to the point of our bewilderment and/or just tuning out altogether with our excuse being you can’t believe anybody.  For me the worst thing Trump has done is to turn the already murky world of political reality into a blinding sleet storm.

Amidst the mental muck I will try to focus on what happens with the gun reform issue.  Most likely not much.  Recall how Trump had a similar meeting about DACA on a Tuesday in January wherein he appeared open and even eager to make a deal, but by Thursday he reversed his position, obviously influenced by his base and advisers.  The “Tuesday Trump” or the “Thursday Trump”  has become a byword for a Trump-about-face, I think coined by Republican Senator Lindsay Graham.

So we’ve seen the “Tuesday Trump” on gun reform and now we have to wait and see what the “Thursday Trump” has to say.  Most likely he will pull back from every positive thing he said about gun reform that the NRA doesn’t like.  It might boil down to bump  stocks being passed, as the NRA doesn’t seem to mind that.

I’ll get back to you.

P. S. – Trump says or does so many odd things that we tire of pointing them out, but that only makes his craziness our reality.  Trump must fundamentally be a coward, as he is always indicating how brave he is, like the other day when he asserted that unlike that “cowardly” security guard he would have run into that school even if he didn’t have a gun.  Who else would pat himself on the back for something he has only fantasized?

That is the sort of thing that truly the brave, like a Medal of Honor recipient, would never, ever say about himself, the kind of thing only someone with a lot of self-doubt would say.  And then what does he do?   Yesterday he puffs himself up more by teasing some of the Congress people about being afraid of the NRA, when he has been completely cowed by them until his “brave” words yesterday which he has plenty of time to take back.

One might say he lacks the courage of his convictions, but then he has no convictions, only a fantasy of himself.

A Glance at the Russian Intervention Issues and DACA

The Russian issue and the DACA issue are unrelated, other than I’d rather say something about each topic now rather than so many others, like reducing gun mass violence.

First, the Russian intervention in the 2016 election and Special Council Mueller’s investigation of it.  As for the intervention, our four major intelligence agencies have agreed for months there is no doubt about interference and that it continues and will impact the 2018 election if we don’t make Russia pay a price and to take other steps to combat it.

As retiring NSA director Admiral Mike Rogers testified to a senate committee Monday, he has not received any direction from the president, echoing what he and other security chiefs testified earlier in February.  It is up to the Republican controlled Congress to press Trump on this, but their devil’s pact with him seems to preclude it.

They got tax and regulation cuts and numerous conservative judges through, so, hey, he’s their man under apparently any circumstances.  They see their interest as the nation’s interest (e.g. some Russian hacking helped them in the last election, so……).

Trump’s lack  of response and the failure of the Republican Congress to censure him for that indifference should be big news.  But not in Trumptopia where it dwindles to being just another dime a dozen issue.  His do nothing approach would be denounced as traitorous if a Democratic president did so little to protect the nation’s political structure.

As for the Mueller investigation, I’m struck that Paul Manafort pleaded not guilty today to more charges from Mueller concerning various illegal dealings or lies.  Unless the press are totally off on this, the once-upon-a-time manager of the Trump campaign has brazenly  broken laws all over the world, so I’m drawn to believe he will be convicted of a few things.  Especially because his close long time work associate Rick Gates has entered a plea deal with Mueller, and his knowledge could be enough to sink the man by itself.

So, why plead guilty instead of making a deal himself?   I’d bet Manafort believes that Trump will pardon him.  It’s Manafort’s only way out.  His trial is scheduled for Sept 17 and trials often have their dates moved back, so the mess that is Manafort may stay under wraps (except for leaks) until after the November elections, which might help the Retrumplicans.  Certainly his trial is not likely to help them.

Yes, I said Retrumplicans, meaning what was called “the grand old party” is the party of Trump pure and simple.  As mentioned above, some old Republican values are held on to while others have been dropped as a matter of convenience, like balancing the budget (how old fashioned)  and espousing  some sort of moral code (how quaint).

Moving on, DACA prolonged.  A judge struck down Trump’s order to do away with DACA.  That temporarily saves those in the program but will likely keep them nerve wracked for months to come.  Depends on how long the appellate court’s docket will be too full to handle the case (sometime in the fall?) and then whatever their decision, the case seems likely to go to the Supreme Court ( Trump’s team tried to leap frog the appellate court, but the Supremes would not allow it.)

Upon reflection, this DACA issue being postponed, like with Manafort, until after the election might work to Trump’s advantage as he will continue to blame the Democrats for not settling the issue while acting as if he hadn’t attached other restrictions to his immigration proposal that the Dems see as a poison pill.

Manafort a victim of the witch hunt and the Dems not caring about the Dreamers is how Trump’s narrative will read come election time.

A School Slaughter and the Normal Abnormal in Trumptopia Last Week

(I want to give the political gist of some of last week.  To give more would be way too much for a post.  As is this may be my longest post ever.  It was a big news week.) 

School slaughters have become part of our new normal but one thing different here is how a number of the teenage victims seem new born activists determined to not let the rest of us forget this time.  To begin with, several have tweeted to Trump to forget his hopes and prayers. They want actions.  Maybe just maybe…. 

The other points are the more normal incidents of Trump’s governance by chaos.  The scandal of the week grew out of his WH staff.   His staff secretary, Rob Porter, resigned after allegations he abused his two former wives.  The bigger issue was the poor vetting process that allowed him to handle top security papers, which raised questions about WH chief of staff General Kelly’s handling of that, which Kelly appears to have lied about.  Most interesting to me is Representative Trey Gowdy opened an investigation of the matter.  I only hope he is half as tenacious as he was in grilling Hillary Clinton about Benghazi over several years.

The issue of Russian interference in our elections figured prominently last week in various ways, most misinterpreted by Trump to suit his narrative that any efforts Russia made were negligible and, most importantly, his campaign had not colluded with them.

In stark contrast to Trump’s assertions, the heads of the major intelligence branches testified to Congress Monday and all of them believe Russia interfered with the last election and will continue to do so as long as we let them.  Also, upon questioning, it became clear that the WH had not given them specific instructions on how to deal with it.  I might add  Trump has refused to enact stricter sanctions on Russia voted by Congress almost unanimously last summer.

Then later in the week Special Prosecutor Mueller’s team announced indictments of 13 Russians for their interference in 2016, removing all doubt.  As he always has done, Trump ignored the interference, stressing that “no collusion was proven.”  Well, not yet, but the investigation seems far from over.  And, collusion or no, what about the interference, Donald?  What about that?   It’s OK with you as long as it helps you?

I’m continuously stunned by how Trump ignores Russian interference while never criticizing Putin, and most Republicans say nothing.  If the situation was reversed they would never stop yelling traitor.  I can imagine only two reasons for Trump’s behavior, one being his supreme narcissism that makes any admission of interference diminish his win.  And/or Putin has information that could sink him.

As he said he would, Senate Republican leader McConnell took up the immigration issue Monday. Four bills were brought up but none received more than 54 votes while it takes 60 to pass under Senate guidelines.  The one reflective of Trump’s proposal got the fewest votes, 39.

The Dreamers remain in limbo while Trump blames the Democrats, of course, even though he showed no willingness to make a deal, I. E. show some give and take in the process.  Trump doesn’t make deals.  He gives fiats and when the other side isn’t willing to accept his position in total, he blames them for not wanting a deal.

By the way, remember how Trump said he would rewrite our trade deals and make much better ones.  Can anyone come up with a single new trade deal he has actually made this past year?  He has broken deals and threatened to break others, but give me an example of one new deal he has made.  If he had he would have tweeted up a storm.

The Infrastructure Week that Wasn’t:   The Porter scandal dominated the headlines in the first half of the week and then the Florida massacre took over from then on.  No matter,  Trump’s infrastructure plan is just more of his B. S.  He talks about $1.5 trillion investment, but the federal government will only pay 200 billion of that, the rest is to come from states and public/private investments.

State budgets have been creaking for years so forget that and the other part is guesswork at this point.  Also, Trump’s new budget plan shows infrastructure cuts, not hikes, so some of the that 200 billion will be needed to get back to previous spending levels.

By the way, the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates it will take $3.6 trillion invested by 2020 just to raise the country’s support systems to acceptable levels, so under the most optimistic vision Trump’s Great America will still be undergirded by crumbling roads, bridges and airports.

Trump Sexcapades – Trump has given so many signs of being a sexual sleaze bag, that recent stories about big hush money payments to two mistresses prior to the election are hardly a surprise and not worth going into unless they turn into something prosecutable.

The Weekend Tweet Storm: Trump reportedly spent the weekend largely watching TV news and commentary while growing more and more furious about the ongoing Russia investigation, spewing out a dozen or so emails blaming or criticizing others, mischaracterizing situations and continuously emphasizing “no collusion” while now arguing he has always meant the “hoax’ was the collusion part, not Russia’s meddling itself.  No, he continually conflated the two until Mueller’s Russian indictments this week.  He is an expert at saying things imprecisely, so later he can always say he didn’t mean what had seemed obvious.

His last tweet  target was Oprah who was on 60 Minutes last night with a panel of voters talking about Trump and the election.  His tweet began calling Oprah “insecure” and went on to state:  “The questions were biased and slanted, the facts incorrect.”

Leaving aside that last accusation from the King of Falsehoods, let’s take a vote as to who is more insecure:  Oprah, who rose from poverty to become hugely successful and gets along with most people while loved by many, or Donald, who began rich and though he’s had his own share of success is always puffing himself up while battling with others, usually tearing them down?

And Oprah is the insecure one?

The Nunes Memo Doesn’t “Vindicate” Trump, but his Base Probably Believes Him

(If you have little idea of what the Nunes memo is, I suggest you look at this primer provided by the Washington Post.   The matter is too complicated for me to describe simply and shortly.  Or first read what I’ve written and go to the Post for details and clarifications.)

As you have probably noticed, the Nunes memo has been the foremost political story over the past few days, with Trump and his supporters claiming it proves FBI malfeasance in how it began to surveil the Trump team for possible collusion with Russia and for a cover up of that.  Trump’s claim that the memo “vindicates” him only may seem true if you abandon all logic, like Trump’s TV mouthpiece Sean “hysterical” Hannity, who claimed the memo makes Watergate look like stealing “a Snickers bar.”

The surest evidence that Trump is not vindicated is that Trey Gowdy, and three other Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee which Nunes Chairs, all asserted on Sunday talk news programs the memo had no bearing on the Mueller investigation.

Neither Trump nor Nunes could have been happy about that conclusion, but Gowdy is yet another Republican who has decided not run again in 2018, so I think he cares more about protecting his reputation as a lawyer than pleasing Trump.

Gowdy, who was a federal prosecutor, and who for years investigated the hell out of Hillary Clinton’s role in the Benghazi tragedy (discovering little, but doing great damage to her reputation) is the only one on that House committee to actually have seen the evidence given to the FISA court, selected to do so by Chairman Nunes because of his legal background.

Let me repeat.  Gowdy was the only one on the committee to be allowed to see the FISA warrant evidence, so his opinion should mean more that those both on the committee and elsewhere, especially when those opinions attack it like the plague.

And Gowdy concluded  “I actually don’t think it has any impact on the Russia probe.” 

Well it shouldn’t impact the probe, but Trump will continue to make the memo mean whatever he wants it to  (and his Greek chorus at Fox News and other conspiracy hot beds will amplify the nonsense).  Trump will certainly gather whatever alternative facts he can think up that maintain the illusion he is being unfairly prosecuted by those biased towards Democrats, while ignoring the inconvenient fact that all the top guys he has fired and/or criticized in the DOJ and the FBI are Republicans, most of whom he nominated.

However, this figures to muddy the waters enough to allow his base to support him whatever the conclusion of the Mueller probe.  It also might embolden Trump to find other ways to impede the that probe through additional firings, a topic I’ll save awaiting to see if it materializes.

Today the House Intelligence committee will vote on releasing the Democratic memo in response to the Republican one.  If released (which now seems likely), Trump will have five days to figure out what to do with it.  Who knows what he’ll dream up?

Meanwhile the government is scheduled to shut down again Thursday, which in reality is a more substantial topic, but more boring (kick the can a few more feet down the road anyone?), so the Nunes memo and its after effects seem likely to continue to get higher ratings.

CORRECTION:   When publishing this earlier today I mistakenly indicated Sally Yates, one of several high ranking staff in the FBI or DOJ who Trump fired or resigned, is a Republican as are the others.  No, she is a Democrat.   Sorry, but she is the exception.

A Recap of Trump’s State of the Disunion Speech and the Nunes Memo

Despite asserting in my previous post that I wouldn’t waste my time watching Trump  spew his twisted, vomitacious version of reality, I did against my better judgement.  I kept from upchucking by frequent surfing to college basketball games to regain my composure.  March Madness is coming up which I hope will be a refreshing, fun antidote for a few weeks to the daily craziness of Trumptopia.

The Washington Post fact checkers (There must be an army of them by now, one area of job growth the president can take credit for) describe about as much as you need to know when they say they “took a look at 18 of President Trump’s claims — job creation, wage growth, tax cuts and more — and found him stretching the truth, inflating the effects of his actions or taking credit for things that happened under his predecessor.”

In other words it was B. S. developed into an art form.  A story of how the Donald took what he called “carnage” in his first speech as president a year ago into the increasingly rich and vibrant society we live in now with the prospect of even more vibrance and riches in the years to come.

As long as we unite around him.  Applauding him and doing what he wants is his version of unity. I would add he emphasized unity at the beginning and then said all sorts of things to make those who dislike him already, dislike him even more, where that is possible.

For those who might want to look at one or more of those 18 claims dissected, go here.

The Nunes Memo basically asserts FBI partisan mishandling of its early investigation of wire taps tied to the Trump collusion investigation.  The Republicans act like they just want more “transparency” in the process, but since the Memo was developed over months by Republican Nunes it looks like a cherry picked version of the so-called truth.

Most importantly right now is the president wants to release it despite public warnings by the FBI.   “With regard to the House Intelligence Committee’s memorandum, the FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it. As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”

Trump must be furious with FBI Director Wray for publicly opposing his wishes.  He might release the memo today, which figures to prompt a showdown with the FBI.  Even if he doesn’t release it, it figures to remain a big, ongoing story.

Struggling at the Bottom of a Trump Made Shithole

This past week must be one of the most action packed of the long running Trumped-Up show:  I, President.  – which is saying a lot.  That doesn’t mean this episode deserves an award, just the reverse, and there is so much crap involved, I don’t want to touch it.  But I feel a need to say something, to find some take on Trumptopia that sheds some light.

It helps me to think of this whole week as a show because that is the way Trump sees it.  In December, the New York Times reported that “Before taking office, Mr. Trump told top aides to think of each presidential day as an episode in a television show in which he vanquishes rivals.”  That seems to sum up Trump’s approach to both TV producing and governing, a shared hodgepodge.

Much of last week has been aimed at vanquishing the author of a big tell all book about fast times at White House High, which seemed to set the table in the days that followed as the book portrayed (I hear) Trump as the nitwit in chief of a loony tune WH.  Trump’s response was to hold some meetings and do other things to look presidential.

Much that transpired revealed the opposite, but I doubt he cares.  Even when he plays the fool he remains the center of attention, often more so, prompting hard working reporters to deconstruct his big lies, like the one that the random lottery that is used for a small part of immigration gives us the people those countries don’t want.  Totally false, but so what, Trump pumps out more whoppers than Burger King.  And regurgitates old ones.  Easier for him to just keep telling a lie than for others to constantly refute it.

In those meetings Trump showed his usual lack of any grasp of complex issues and said things that contradicted Republican positions.  In a televised meeting of leaders of both parties he seemed to favor a simple DACA fix (as if to show he is cooperative and kindly, calling it an “act of love”).  But after the meeting he flipped positions and refused the deal, apparently deciding that love was not shared by his base.

Also, he criticized the FISA act in a tweet for not protecting him implying he was for changes in the act even though the WH had already indicated they did not want changes in the bill voted on Thursday in the House.  In both cases Trump had to be reminded he was actually against what he said he was for or vice-versa.

Heh, but so what?  The DACA deal wasn’t made and Trump blamed the Dems, of course, even though he was the one who changed positions.  And FISA got passed after Trump stopped getting in the way.  So despite floundering, Trump filled the Republican bill and was the center of attention in the process.

Of course, the shitholes comment seemed to garner too much of the wrong attention from around the world.   He called African countries shitholes, while implying Haiti and some south American countries weren’t much different.   However, he denied in a tweet he ever said that.  He had only “talked tough,” but not those words.  Also, his word spinners have construed it as reflecting his America First emphasis.  Those who oppose him love those other nations more than the U. S.

With Trump it seems we often have to turn things upside down to see more clearly.  While normally incurring the wrath of much of the world would seem a bad presidential move, the shithole story became THE STORY of the week, grabbing attention away from many criticisms and self-made errors by the president.  It is outrageous, but our outrage works for Trump, prompting us to lose sight of his general incompetence while emphasizing his America first message and giving him the constant media coverage he hungers for, like Dracula needs blood.

So, did Trump vanquish his rivals this past week?  I’d say it is hard to judge, but in his own tumultuous way he held his own.  Constantly being the center of attention certainly makes him a winner of his television show.  Hard to get higher ratings.  And I don’t think his fan base of about one third of the country will have many complaints, so I’d say he’s a winner of his own little game.

Unfortunately, the rest of us are being forced to play it.

P. S. – I’m from a time when you didn’t completely type profanities, like sh–holes out of a reluctance to be vulgar.  But I noticed the term being used in its entirety in reports and learned that while normally the word would be slightly disguised, reporting guidelines make an exception when the president says or writes it.  In short, an exception is made out of respect for the president’s position.  Sickenly so , we have a president who doesn’t have respect for the position himself.

Also, I got the NY Times quote I used from a piece by Eugene Robinson about how Trump seldom knows what he thinks.  Robinson’s descriptions of a couple of meetings mentioned above fit with my own observations, in case you’d like to check them out at :  Eugene Robinson