20 February 2017

Update no.792

Update from the Heartland
No.792
13.2.17 – 19.2.17
To all,

            President Trump’s National Security Advisor Lieutenant General Michael Thomas ‘Mike’ Flynn, USA (Ret.) resigned after less than a month on the job.  To be clear, Flynn served as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (2012 – 2014) [so fairly current and high ranking within the Intelligence Community]).
            And, what does the President whine about in all this mess . . . information leaks within the administration . . . not the false statements to the Vice President, or the alleged illicit overtures with Russian officials by his National Security Advisor.  There is little doubt in my little pea-brain that Flynn did not make his overtures to Russia on his own.  Flynn comes from the intelligence world.  He knows what Russia does and has done under Putin.  The irony in all this, Trump was touting the Russia hacking of the DNC, and now he is whining like a stuck pig over intelligence community leaks.  Yes, the irony in all this mess is striking and stark.  Unfortunately, what has been missed so far, we have now publicly disclosed that we monitor the telephonic communications of Russian officials and operatives within this Grand Republic.  Once more, we return to those two infamous questions: “What did the President know and when did he know it?”
            There would be no leaks, if there was not something to leak.  The dichotomy here is mind-boggling . . . information leaks are great stuff when they hurt your opponent, but really, really bad when they hurt you.  Interesting logic!  And, on top of that, he calls the Press crooked and dishonest . . . fake news.  Horse hockey!  The President will learn even he – the almighty Trumpster – cannot live in parallel universes.
            The tragedy in all this (well, actually, one of many tragedies), the intelligence leaks revealed means and methods (perhaps well known to the Russians, but not widely known to the public and other enemies), which can never be considered good or positive.  Trump should have condemned the illegal hacking of the DNC and the release of private information during the campaign season.  He chose not to do so, and in fact lauded those illegal activities.  He is now learning, that blade cuts both ways.  Stop whining Donald and man up!
            Beyond the obvious, I must say at this stage that Flynn was the fall guy for the President.  He was instructed to fall on his sword and he will do so without another peep.

            Would someone with the proper Trump decoder ring please explain what the Donald publicly said about the two-state solution in the Wednesday news conference with Prime Minister Netanyahu?
So I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.  I’m very happy with the one that both parties like.  I can live with either one.
“I thought for a while the two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two.  But honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians -- if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best.
As far as the embassy moving to Jerusalem, I’d love to see that happen. “We're looking at it very, very strongly.  We're looking at it with great care -- great care, believe me.  And we’ll see what happens.  Okay?
What on God’s little green earth does any of that mean?  Why is Trump so bloody comfortable with confusion, chaos, ambiguity and obfuscation?  Is this another self-proclamation of “I alone can fix it”?
            Trump also said, “I want the Israeli people to know that the United States stands with Israel in the struggle against terrorism.”  A nice pat statement!  We stand with anyone and everyone against terrorism.  I think a far more inclusive statement would have been “We stand for peace and freedom.”  Blind support for Israel and the implicit denunciation of the Palestinian cause is simply wrong.  We should never blindly support anyone.

            I watched and listened to President Trump’s complete news conference on Thursday, 16.February.2017.  We must give him credit.  I think it was one of the longer presidential press conferences in history.  He stood up there, took questions and answered as he chose to answer.  Numerous points struck me.
            First, he stood up there more than an hour and took hostile questions.  Second, he fumbled badly the reporter’s challenge of his Electoral College statement . . . “I was given that information.”  That response is not among the choices available to the President of the United States.  Third, he interrupted and over-spoke journalists incessantly, which was truly irritating during the campaign, and is even less presidential today.  Lastly, it was his incessant assault on the Press that was truly disgusting and revolting.
            I have watched and listened to at lot of presidential news conference since President Johnson.  You can see and feel style, tone, content, and the intellectual basis of these presidents.  We laughed at President Bush (43) every time his poor or erroneous pronunciation of various English words, but we rarely laughed at the content or sincerity of his responses.  I never felt Bush (43) was comfortable at such events.  Reagan seemed to relish the encounters with the Press.  Obama was smooth, cool, composed and direct in his responses.  What I witnessed on Thursday was perhaps the most bizarre presidential news conference I have observed in my lifetime.
            His unilateral declaration that Russia is “fake news” intended to distract us from the real issue – intelligence leaks – does not engender confidence in him or his administration.  “It’s all fake news.  It’s all fake news.”  Many of his responses make me feel, does he think I am an idiot?  I am truly sorry but my memories return to the presidential news conferences of 1972-1974.  Nixon publicly declared, “I am not a crook,” as if his simple statement was sufficient to make it so, when so much of the publicly available information pointed exactly to the reality he was indeed a crook.  Trump’s continued obfuscation and malignment of the Press sends me back to 1974.  He is either delusional or deceitful; neither is a worthy path.  If I had the proper Trump decoder ring, I suspect “fake news” actually means “news I disagree with”; I am only guessing, but there is no doubt his direct assault on the Press is making him look silly, marginal, disconnected and unbelievable.  I am no Trump fan, but this nonsense is diminishing my President . . . and that is NOT good for this Grand Republic!
            If a woman leaves her purse in a restaurant or a man his billfold in a restaurant, does that mean anyone who finds the purse or billfold, can or should take anything of value from it?  We have President Trump continuing to defend the Russian breaking into an office and stealing information that did not belong to him, and then using WikiLeaks to publicly disclose their nefarious activities.  Trump is defending the thief; he is defending terribly bad morals.  Is this the standard of conduct we are to adopt?
            Journalists are human beings.  They are entitled to their perspectives about facts, as we all do.  How many times have we disagreed in this forum alone over the interpretation of facts and their meaning?  I have tried to foster an open, welcoming environment for all political persuasions (as long as our intercourse is respectful).  We can disagree.  Why can’t journalists?  Our task is to listen, learn, evaluate and filter as necessary to develop our opinions of events.
            I apologize to my Trump-supporter friends for this continuing ‘abuse’ of the Donald, but he is doing this to himself.

            After writing the above observations and opinion, the Donald tweeted this little gem on Friday:
The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!” (my emphasis)
The Donald continues his inexorable and relentless march to Hitler-hood.  His direct assault on the Press should send deep chills to any student of history and to every freedom loving person on the planet.  It is ‘fake news’ when he does not like the news.  They are ‘criminal leaks’ when he does not like leaks that taint his self-vaunted image.  Do you see a trend here?  Need I go on?
            I understand that some of us do not like how the Press reports things, but that is not the fault of the Press.  That responsibility belongs to We, the People, and no one else.  The Press is us!  Just like the military, the police and other essential elements of a viable democracy.  It is incumbent on us to learn, search, query and evaluate the news we absorb.  When you look at a wide variety of news sources, you usually and most often get the closest to the real truth.  Believing the Donald’s opinion straight-up is NOT news analysis.
            Nixon tried mightily to cower the Press and failed.  Trump is attempting the same dictatorial assault on the Press.  Donald, if you are listening, the Press is NOT the enemy of you, Republicans, or We, the People.  I strongly urge you to cease and desist with this foolish nonsense.  Attempting to destroy, diminish or deflect the Press is destructive to the very fabric of this Grand Republic.
            Yet, all that said, the truly tragic aspect of all this, there are more than a few American citizens who actually believe his drivel.  We should not believe him or the Press without careful assessment of multiple, diverse sources.

            Continuation from Update no.790:
“I wonder if the White House Physician  (named yet?) or maybe Dr. Carson could give Donald a psychological test and/or some psychotherapy to treat his pathological needs, many of which are commonplace in the U S. population and all of which are forgivable especially when balanced by positive attributes?
“Ooops, I forgot, you don't think there are any positive attributes in his case.  Just kidding kinda...”
My reply:
            Too bad such a test could not actually be administered.  Yes, many of his ills are commonplace.  What is rare is so many afflictions resident in one man.
            OK.  I’ll bite.  Please elucidate his positive attributes . . . they escape me.  I am certain many Germans believed they could see the balance that did not exist.
 . . . comment to what is now round six:
“To mention a few:
-- admired by loving children who are successful in their own right
-- demonstrated willingness to tackle governmental bureaucracy like New York
-- track record of showing how private enterprise generally out paces governmental efforts
-- honest, if sometimes tactless, commentary leaving little doubt about unrehearsed feelings
-- example of how patience and persistence in deal making can make big things happen
-- actual record of rewarding competence regardless of gender
-- healthy impatience with journalistic malpractice
-- commands respect rather than asking for forgiveness from leaders of jealous nations and potential enemies
-- knows how to hire intelligent advisors and fire yes men
-- has true intentions, if not the actual ability, to reform and reduce federal governmental excesses
-- etc.
-- etc.
(sorry, out of time, and not inclined to respond to your tired Hitler comparisons)”
 . . . my reply to round six:
            OK.  Well done, although I would not classify some of your attributes as positives, but I respect your opinion.  He is not devoid of positive attributes.  Accepted with one exception:
healthy impatience with journalistic malpractice” – this one I think is flat wrong.  Journalists are human beings like all the rest of us.  You and I have different opinions about the same facts.  Why should it be any different for journalists?  FoxNews and MSNBC are not the same – never will be, never should be.  Further, I am a sufficient student of information to recognize facts, opinions and perspectives.  I recognize FoxNews and MSNBC for what they are and I judge their reporting by my own understanding of the facts at hand.  His “healthy impatience” is often irrational, and he is far looser with the facts than any professional journalist of whom I am familiar from FoxNews or MSNBC; he condemns anyone who does not stroke his gargantuan ego.  That is NOT the job of the Press.
            Re: your frustration with my “tired Hitler comparisons.  Your statement implies that you do not agree; you do not see any similarities to Adolf Hitler, and you discount or disregard any or all of his negative traits.  If so, that is your choice entirely and I respect that.  I do not expect anyone to agree, support or defend my opinions.  There is certainly no obligation for anyone to respond with a counter-point.  I would only ask that you continuously ask yourself the question: is there substance to these comparisons?  You might be surprised.
 . . . Round seven:
“Let's shift the focus on the citizenry, rather than the elected leader:  Assuming for the sake of argument that Adolf and Donald have similar personalities and apparent traits, we should be very concerned about the electorate (whether voters or not) and/or citizenry.  I do not know enough about the character weaknesses of the largely Christian German population in the 1920s and '30s to understand how they fell for Der Fuhrer.  I may be mistaken, but I do not believe that the American citizenry would follow Donald into a world domination objective like that which Hitler espoused early on.  Maybe that means comparisons of the two leaders is not only unnecessarily insulting and partisan but actually irrelevant, for all purposes other than to make his first term difficult and a second term unlikely, assuring more Democratic Party downhill slides for our country.
“What do you think about it?”
 . . . my reply to round seven:
            Interesting line of inquiry.
            First, while the personality comparisons are striking, I have seen no hegemonic ambitions in the Donald, quite the opposite actually.  I have very little suspicion that he might change.  In that sense, the two men are quite different.
            When Donald declared his candidacy, I thought it was a joke.  With his candidacy début speech alone, I thought there is no way any thinking citizen would ever vote for such a clumsy, egocentric man.  Surprise, surprise, 62M American citizens did in fact vote for him.  I cannot ignore that reality.  I grossly underestimated the anger, dissatisfaction and desperation of so many citizens that they would ignore all of the negative signs . . . but, they did.  There are intelligent, informed, grounded citizens who voted for him.  I do not believe 62M people would follow him over the cliff’s edge like lemmings with herd mentality; however, I have no doubt some portion of that number would in fact do just that.  Blind loyalty is often fatal.
            At the end of the day, I have faith in the citizens of this Grand Republic.  I believe most of those who voted for the Donald will eventually see him for what he is – a snake oil huckster.  As the saying goes, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”  So, yes, in that sense, ultimately, the Donald’s personality faults do not matter . . . other than how much damage he does before he is discovered.
            Roger, I truly want to be wrong about him.  But, bottom line, I will not follow him over the cliff’s edge, and I do not believe you will either.

            Comments and contributions from Update no.791:
Comment to the Blog:
“Just for clarity, it would be enough for me to define a ‘Christian’ country as one with a Christian state religion. Per Wikipedia (‘state religion’), these include Costa Rica and Lichtenstein (Roman Catholic) and England, but not the entire UK (Church of England). Also, the Wikipedia article lists most of Scandinavia as Lutheran, but with a note that some of the facts are disputed. By the same definition, Wikipedia lists Islam (in sections with no disputes) in one variety or another as the state religion of 25 nations and Buddhism (as the state religion of 4 nations. The article gives a relatively lengthy discussion of Israel as a ‘Jewish’ nation.
“I would leave the U.S. if I could until the current situation ends one way or another. I know too much of the history of dissent under tyranny to do otherwise.  Unfortunately, I am disabled and have an extremely small income.  That makes such a move impossible at present.
“The Electoral College got Trump elected. Hillary Clinton received 2.8 million more votes than Trump.
“Majority Leader McConnell disregarded both law and psychology in temporarily silencing Senator Warren.  Such arrogant actions no longer go unnoticed due to the Internet.
“Trump’s actions regarding Russia are a matter of mental illness and/or blackmail. Expecting him to have ‘positions’ that make sense to anyone else is silly.  He will respond to whatever is inside his mind.  That’s not knowledge, logic, or intellectual ability.  It’s sickness.
“The problem with the ‘illegal immigrant’ issue is that so few know what they’re talking about. Net immigration is to, not from, Mexico.  SNAP benefits, based on personal experience, cannot be obtained without a birth certificate.  This goes on and on. Let’s also remember that the valuable jobs being taken by foreigners of any sort occur primarily in high-tech fields that have too few trained U.S. candidates.
“‘Angry folks seem to vote in greater portions [sic] than happy voters’ is true but not complete.  This past election cycle was the year for outsiders from the beginning. Those angry with the Establishment who were progressive were prevented from voting for their choice of candidate.  Angry conservatives ran over the Republicans to get to Trump. Even so, Clinton got more votes.”
My response to the Blog:
            You have your definition; I have mine.  An acknowledged “state religion” is several steps beyond my threshold of comfort with respect to the separation of church and State.  I am reluctant to include other countries.  Yes, the Church of England is the principal religion in England, just as the Catholic Church is in Italy.  I have lived and worked in both countries.  The influence of religion in state affairs is more palpable in Italy, at least to my degree of perception.
            I do not share your desire to leave this Grand Republic.  We shall survive the Trump regime quite well.
            Yep, that was the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
            I cannot go so far to suggest McConnell disregarded the law in the silencing of Warren.  Organizations constrain freedom of speech for a wide variety of reasons.  The Senate is no different.  Rule 19 is the decorum provision defining acceptable conduct on the Senate floor and intended to prevent fistfights, sword play or duels over honor.  I do agree that McConnell’s action was poor psychology and terrible public relations.  The implicit message in McConnell’s action was, I don’t give a damn what anyone else thinks; I wanted her silenced; I silenced her . . . sit down bitch.
            Re: Trump vis-à-vis Russia.  He certainly appears to be unstable.  Perhaps it is just the chaos he creates around him, but that is the impression I have.  His actions making sense . . . silly . . . sickness . . . perhaps.  I have insufficient evidence to substantiate that assessment, just yet, at least to my thinking.
            Re: “’illegal immigrant’ issue.  OK, I do not disagree with your observations, but what was your point?
            Re: angry voters.  OK.  I’ll agree.
 . . . Round two:
“‘State religion’ is a defined term.  You may decide it doesn’t matter to you, but you may not change the definition.
“It's not that I desire to leave the U.S.A.  I have read history.  In times of tyranny, dissent is dangerous.  I would have expected you to know that, given that you discuss Hitler every week.
“The Trump-Russia connection continues to be breaking news.  I cannot comment on it any more in retrospect because it's not in the past after all.”
 . . . my response to round two:
            I understand and accept the definition of ‘state religion.’  I have never attempted to redefine the term.  The question at issue was the definition of ‘Christian country.’  A designated ‘state religion’ was not sufficient to establish a ‘Christian country’ in my humble opinion . . . it takes more than just a designated state religion.  However, that said, if common law in such a country excluded all other religions, then perhaps it would migrate to a more restrictive level, since ‘Christian country’ connotes exclusivity.  That is not the case in England, Italy or even Israel.
            Pardon me, I thought you said you would leave if you could afford to do so.  I am keenly aware of what happens to dissenters in totalitarian regimes or countries.  I may not like Trump, but we are a long way from dissenters disappearing.  My point was, Trump is moving us closer to that threshold.  We must pay attention.  I do not want to become a refugee.
            Re: “Trump-Russia connection.  Indeed.  Quite so . . . breaking by the minute, actually.  It does make me wonder if or when this is going to settle down?
 . . . Round three:
“You understate the risk of this regime. That's what happened to many in past instances of tyranny.”
 . . . my response to round three:
            Perhaps.  I cannot discount your assessment, and I shall not do so.  Despite the mounting evidence, I remain inclined to watch and give him time.  I do not understate my vigilance and critical perspective.  I have not forgotten the past.  I trust you shall not slacken your vigilance either.

Another contribution:
“Just a note in regards to 'Mein Kampf' being a forewarning of Hitler's intentions.. Do take a look at Saul Alinsky's 'Rules for Radicals'.. This was a forewarning to over half the U.S. (the ones with very open eyes) of a continued Obama or Clinton Administration...with intentions to completely put this country into total government reliance...stripping them of motivation to succeed and of self dignity...bringing in tens of thousands of immigrants with little chance of success and high chance of being on American taxpayers' payroll to further decay our economy.”
My reply:
            There are left manifestos just as there are right manifestos.  I do not discount or ignore the left, anymore than I do the right.  Just as I read “Mein Kampf,” I have also read “Das Kapital” and the “Communist Manifesto,” in addition to “Rules for Radicals” among other socialist / communist documents.  The issue before us is not whether the left-wingers have their own predictive documents; the issue at hand is this president.
            Hitler told us what he was going to do if he achieved power, and he did exactly what he said he was going to do.  Trump has told us what he was going to do, and he is doing exactly what he said he would do.  I objected to his outrageous bravado during the silly season.  Yet, We, the People, through our constitutional process, duly elected him and that makes his conduct all the more serious – he has the power of the presidency.  Only a third of Germans voted for the National Socialists; yet, Hitler attained the chancellorship since the NSDAP had the most votes of any political party in Germany in 1933.  Less than half (46%) of Americans who voted, voted for Trump – a mere 19% of our citizenry.   Let us remain focused on the topic at hand.
            More than a few people have and continue to object to my (and others) comparisons of Trump’s actions to those of other dictators like Hitler.  I do not expect anyone to agree.  Nonetheless, as a student of history, I cannot ignore his actions and the consequences that move us ever closer to a totalitarian state.  If Trump does not like the comparisons to Hitler, he should stop acting like Hitler.

            My very best wishes to all.  Take care of yourselves and each other.
Cheers,
Cap                        :-)