Monday, May 22, 2017

The Special Counsel, the Stockholm Syndrome, Stupidity & Cunning, Democratic Success Recipe and Two Bits of Poetry

Two Bits of Poetry Upon Which to Reflect

After the Second World War, this version of a poem by German Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemoller became well known (there are other versions).  The point of it is that when an authoritarian government singles out one group, it portends potential danger for all other groups.  This comes to mind when I reflect on our government’s thinly veiled efforts to effect a travel ban on Muslims.
 
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

And also in this vein is the often and inaccurately quoted meditation of the poet John Donne: “Ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”  The quote comes from a more extensive writing, excerpted portions of which I quote below.

"Perchance he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill, as that he knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that.”

No man is an island, entire of itself; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee."
JL

Reporting on the "Special Counsel" and the "Stockholm Syndrome"

Okay, the Department of Justice has appointed former FBI head Robert Mueller as Special Counsel to oversee investigations into possible connections between Russia and the 2016 tRump campaign. 


That is an important thing, regardless of what the results of the investigations are because it will clear the air in Washington and elsewhere.  Then, hopefully, government can resume functioning as it should.

What appalled me the morning after the announcement of the appointment was the different treatment it received on the TV news channels.   The appointment was generally applauded by CNN and MSNBC with commentary by analysts and lawyers.

I turned to Fox, however, and was greeted by a collection of “tweets” from and interviews with tRump loyalists throughout the country trumpeting their intent to stick with the president through thick and thin.  This was followed by Fox “experts” outraged by the fact that such a Special Counsel was not appointed to investigate Bill Clinton’s or Barack Obama’s wrongdoings.  One of these “experts” was a journalist from “The Federalist,” a relatively obscure conservative-funded journal usually far to the right of the Republican Party.  Probably encouraged by this kind of support, the president, who initially had been non-committal about the Mueller appointment, got out his IPhone and contributed his own tweets expressing his outrage at the appointment and the “witch hunt” which was being directed against him.

The “Stockholm Syndrome” is a theory which suggests that a hostage, held long enough and exposed to the ideas of the hostage takers, may eventually agree with them and espouse their ideas.  I suspect that this applies to those who get their news from Fox! But don't disparage them!   Here is a challenge for progressives: 
 
For a three-month period, do not look at any news channel on TV other than Fox.  Don’t go anywhere near MSNBC, CNN, NPR, Bloomberg or even the news on ABC, CBS or NBC.  Avoid newspapers.  Watch only Fox!  And at least for a couple of hours daily.  It’s not difficult in view of the mini-skirts their blond anchors wear. 




















I contend that at the end of ninety days of this poison in one’s system, you will be ready to contribute to the NRA, support the president (even if he shoots someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue), campaign to lower taxes,  jail Hillary Clinton, de-regulate banking, finance and the energy industries, and to privatize our educational and prison systems and back up every dictator in the world who has brought stability to their countries by authoritarian means. As a side benefit, you will also find yourself keeping your radio tuned to stations carrying Rush Limbaugh, Mike Savage and their imitators.


Try it.  You won’t like it at first.  It will be painful, but it will change the way you think. You will have been recruited into the ranks of the gullible.  And in just ninety days!  It has happened to millions and it can happen to you.  Aftewards, you will have to participate in rehabilitation sessions, be "debriefed" and be exposed to some gentle "de-programming" to return you to sanity.  This is not intended to be funny.  George Orwell (pictured to left) wrote about things like this.






Jack Lippman
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The Democrats should not have lost the 2016 Presidential election.  I feel that by attempting to be the “party of many” as their 2016 Presidential slogan, “Together Stronger,” implied, they ran a multi-pronged campaign aiming at getting the votes of many groups, each of which had its own agenda. It didn’t work. Latinos, women, environmentalists, academics, Blacks, LGBTs, students and union members, all were organized to register and vote but what was missing was a reason for “Americans” to vote Democratic. 



In fact, catering to the agendas of these separate groups sometimes offended those outside of these groups, perhaps even losing some votes. “Together Stronger” turned out to be “Together Weaker” in some crucial States. DEMOCRATS CANNOT AFFORD TO DO THAT AGAIN!

In 2016, “American” voters were interested in three issues.  1. jobs and related job security, 2. health care without a hassle, and 3. avoiding sending their children into wars which didn’t immediately threaten the Nation’s security.  Nothing more! The Republicans sensed this and even though they didn’t have solutions for these issues, they campaigned on the first two of them, nominating a circus sideshow barker as their Presidential candidate whose exaggerated, often dishonest, claims led them to victory.  Any dissatisfaction with these three issues was blamed on the Democrats who were busy organizing “groups” to be “together stronger” and ignoring the general electorate.

Supporting the Republican effort was the gigantic wealth behind the conservative movement which through byzantine strategies, nurtured over the years, funded their campaigns and conditioned the minds of many voters, infecting them with an unbelievable level of gullibility. 

                                                                              The Koch Brothers, David and Charles 

It is no accident that so many Americans listen to Rush faithfully and know no other news source than Fox.  But there will be more about that in a future blog posting.    

Of course, in the final analysis, regardless of what they might say, the aim of the Republican Party remained what is has always been since the early years of the last century, reduced taxation of the wealthy and businesses along with less, if any, regulation of business and finance.

Despite the White House being occupied by a totally unfit and unqualified President, the Republican Party’s control of both Houses of Congress and probably the Supreme Court will allow this country to sink to the level of a Third World Banana Republic just so long as taxes on the wealthy and regulations on business are reduced.  That is their permanent agenda, written in stone. They have no reason to act against the President and they will not!  Doing so would jeopardize their solid presence in the driver’s seat of the Nation.  And this is despite anything the Special Counsel might come up with!  Ask Mitch.  Ask Paul.  Ask the “recused” Attorney General.

While the appointment of that Special Counsel to oversee the Justice Department’s (and that includes the FBI’s) “Russia” investigation is a good thing, that action will not “bear fruit” for several months. But at a minimum, that appointment may be beneficial in itself in that it will delay the Republicans in Congress in moving on their reactionary agenda. 


The real answer rests with local Democratic groups (like the one to which I belong) working diligently to elect Democrats in State races and Congressional races where the numbers indicate they have a chance.  Leadership in this effort must be a ‘grass roots’ effort arising from recognition that neither the President nor the Republican-controlled Congress operate in the interest of the majority of the American people. A column by Tom Friedman in the New York Times last week offered a recipe for this. I quote several thoughts from that column:

“Democrats and independents should not be deluded or distracted by marches on Washington, clever tweets or Saturday Night Live skits lampooning Trump.  They need power.  If you are appalled by what Trump is doing, then you need to get out of Facebook and into somebody’s face, by running for Congress as a Democrat or an independent, registering someone to vote for a Democrat or an independent, or raising money to support such candidates.  Nothing else matters.”

“… there are just two choices now: a Democratic-controlled House or Senate that can at least deter Trump for his last two years, or four years of an out-of-control president.  This GOP is not going to impeach him; forget that fantasy.”

                                                                                                     Friedman

I add to that the recommendation that no Republican candidate should ever appear before a microphone without being asked where he or she stands in regard to the President.  Don’t let them separate themselves from him!  And when they evade the question, it must be repeated. 


We may have to wait for Democratic gains in the 2018 elections, eighteen months away, resulting from these local efforts, to thwart Republican damage to the Nation.

There is a very, very, tiny chance that the President will finally become aware of the complexity of his job and wake up to the necessity of performing his duties in concert with the legislative and judicial branches of our government.  He might just recognize that his previous role as a real estate magnate, where he had the final word on everything, and where his "deal-making" skills worked well, will not work in running the Nation! 

Once the awareness of this distinction sinks in, he very well may walk away from the job, leaving it to the Vice President, with whom the Republican party would be quite happy.  In fact, the increasing day-by-day presence of Mike Pence in the public arena suggest that this scenario might already be in the rehearsal stage.  Pence would not digress an inch from the traditional Republican ideas.

V.P. Mike Pence

Therefore, the 2018 elections remain the best avenue for rescuing America from the evil-doers now in control in Washington, regardless of who sits in the White House.
JL
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Thanks,  Jack

Stupidity and Cunning  (not the name of a law firm)



Leonard Pitts' Miami Herald column, reproduced in this past Sunday's Palm Beach Post, Pitts drew the following conclusion:  


"People often ask if Trump is 'crazy' or engaged in some deep strategy.  But they are overthinking him.  All evidence suggest the answer is actually simple: Donald Trump is stupid.  No, not 'ignorant.' Ignorance can be fixed.  Trump is profoundly stupid.  Yes, he has a certain native cunning.  But he is simply not smart."

Looking at that quote, here are some synonyms for the "cunning" with which Pitts credits tRump: "crafty, wily, artful guileful, devious, sly, scheming, designing, calculating, etc."  By now, you should get what he means.  

It looks like these qualities have been sufficient for an otherwise stupid person like tRump to reach great heights in the real estate business (where being cunning is apparently more important than being smart) but they are not enough to allow a stupid person to succeed as President.  He is proving that every day.  tRump's arrogance and that of some of his appointees stem from the fact that they honestly believe what worked in the real estate business would work in the "swamp" they went to Washington to drainHow wrong they are!   In fact, a stupid person, regardless of how cunning he might be, would be booted out of the job of CEO of any major corporation in short order.  And so it should be with our government. 

BUT HERE'S THE CATCH.  If the Democrats are to have any chance of taking over the House of Representatives in 2018, it is important that tRump remain in office until then so that Republican candidates will be saddled with his incompetence.  And it would be in the interest of Republicans for him to be out of office as quickly as possible so they might ally themselves wtith the solid, wholesome-appearing, conservative values of Michael Pence.  The Vice-President, a former governor and talk radio host himself, would be a more effective pitchman for the G.O.P. than the unpredictable and unqualified Donald tRump.  Think about it.  The Republicans of course are.  Daily.

It would be very difficult for the Republicans to start an impeachment movement in the House against a Republican President.  And while the 25th Amendment might be used to shoehorn a President out, that could only be used if he were rendered incompetent by disease (ex: a stroke or Alzheimers).  And tRumps stupidity, although it might seem pathological to some, is not a disease. 

So unless, the President walks away on his own, (see end of preceding article) the Democrats will have him around in eighteen months to tie to their Republican Congressional opponents.   Good Luck.
JL

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Jack Lippman 

Monday, May 15, 2017

The New FBI Director, a Letter to Mitch and Paul, a Letter FROM You, What Was Sally Yates Testifying About Anyway and Your News Sources

Whither the FBI

The selection of the new FBI Director is important because one of the activities in which the Bureau is involved is the investigation of a possible connection between Russia and individuals who were associated with Donald tRump’s 2016 Presidential Campaign.   The degree of vigor with which the continuance of that investigation will proceed is crucial.  

A political appointment to the Directorship will affect that because many Republicans are interested in soft-pedalling that investigation because of what it might reveal and any damage it would do to their party.  Therefore, the appointment must not be a political one.  The new Director should come from the field of law enforcement, regardless of political affiliation.  The Attorney-General, who has recused himself from the Russian investigation, must not be involved in the new Director’s selection because of the influence he or she will have upon that investigation. 

Former FBI head James Comey and Attorney-General Jeff Sessions in better days

As for the appointment of a Special Prosecutor, that still is a necessity because of the shadow which the Administration has placed on the impartiality and independence of the FBI by its firing of James Comey, its Director.  This “shadow” will persist to some extent regardless of whomever succeeds him.
Jack Lippman


In My Outbox

Here is the text of an email which I sent to the Republican leaders of both the House and the Senate on May 11.  I also provided a copy to Senator Marco Rubio, with whom I frequently correspond, but with little success.  I doubt if this will meet with success either, but remember, although they are Republicans, both are neither gullible nor stupid.  Who knows what will happen.


                                                     How Long Will They Support Him?



A Letter to Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan:

By now, although I am certain neither of you will admit it publicly, you must recognize the lack of Presidential skills on the part of the President.  Without touching upon the details of specific legislation which is on his and your agendas, I know you recognize his shortcomings.  Believe me, they will come back to haunt all of those in both houses of Congress who stand by him for the sake of party unity.  American voters will address this issue in eighteen months. 

It is now time for both of you to support bi-partisan efforts to restore dignity and intelligence to the White House.   This task is beyond party interests.  A Special Prosecutor to continue the “Russia” investigations by the FBI and in both houses of Congress, two of which have already been seriously compromised by Presidential actions, would be a good way to start.


It would be far better if President Trump played eighteen holes of golf every day for the rest of his term.  


The longer you cooperate in allowing him to influence the elected Representatives you lead in your respective bodies, the closer he will come to facing Article 2, Section 4, of the Constitution.


I write this to you as a Democrat interested in the survival of the Republican Party.  It does not deserve to go down with the ‘sinking ship’ presently occupying the White House.  Cut loose.  You well know that it is no longer the party you have served for years.  You know the facts.  Act upon them.

JL



Be a Letter Writer

If you're not in the habit of writing to your Representative in Congress, and you are unfortunate enough to be represented by a Republican, you can start by sending him or her a letter!  Here's an idea of what you might write.  Do it by email or by snail mail, but do it.  Every one of them has a web site to make sending a letter easy.  Originality is a plus!
JL

Congressman (or woman) ___________ : 

I am dismayed by your support of the Republican bill which will serve to repeal and replace Obamacare.  Two particular aspects of it are of real concern to me.  First, its elimination of a “mandate” to purchase insurance will make those policies actuarily unsound since it exposes the insurers to what the actuaries call “anti-selection” (A disproportionate number of unhealthy purchasers).  To remedy this, the participating insurers will have to set their rates much higher than they otherwise would, making the policies unaffordable for many.

Secondly, allowing the participating insurance companies to consider pre-existing conditions in issuing policies will result in many not being eligible for coverage.  You claim that State-run “high risk pools” will be available to provide coverage for these individuals.  To be actuarily sound, because coverage within such pools will be provided to unhealthy purchasers, their premiums will have to be very high.  The eight billion dollars set aside to subsidize these “pools” over the next decade is totally inadequate to maintain their solvency.

When the Congressional Budget Office’s documentation of this legislation’s actual cost, which you and your colleagues did not bother to wait for, is available, I am sure you will reverse your position on Trumpcare.

Name, Address, Phone and Email 


Sally Yates Testimony and Fox News

Almost two weeks ago, former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee.   As reported by most news media, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, Bloomberg, PBS, Associated Press, CNN and MSNBC, the salient information was that she had confidentially pointed out the involvement of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn with Russia, possibly subjecting him to blackmail, to the White House counsel in an urgent and personal manner.   It took eighteen days before the President fired Flynn while Ms. Yates, a 27 year career employee of the Department of Justice, was terminated three days after giving this information to the White House.


Flynn’s belated dismissal occurred only after a story about this appeared in the Washington Post.  Some wonder, were it not for this article, if Flynn, perhaps compromised in regard to Russia, would still be the President’s National Security Advisor.    As of now, President tRump is still saying nice things about him.

During the hearing, Republican Senators asked Ms. Yates questions regarding her not acting to enforce the President’s Executive Order concerning travel bans and how the identity of Flynn as the party involved was subsequently “unmasked” or leaked to the media, neither of which questions were the subject of the hearing.  That these questions were being raised was clearly an attempt to divert the direction of her testimony, as any observer of the hearings can attest.

I try to compare how news stories are covered by Fox News with the rest of the media.  Even though it is bad for my blood pressure, I occasionally watch Fox for this purpose. It is sad that Fox is the primary news source for many millions of Americans. (See the following article.)   When they “reported” on this same hearing, they gave the impression that Ms. Yates was being questioned primarily about the “unmasking” and the travel ban, and her advising the White House of Flynn’s Russian involvement was an unproven and incidental side issue.

We will never have an informed electorate until Fox News is challenged on every bit of misinformation and misguidance they provide to their viewers.  They are not so bad as was Josef Goebbels in Nazi Germany, but nevertheless, they really are a propaganda outlet rather than a news source. Of course, Fox would pin the same accusation on the rest of the media, some of which are listed above, but there is a difference.  Fox deals in alternate facts and makes up its own version of the truth.  When they do this to protect the Republican Administration at the highest levels, it is a very serious matter.  

Ideally, CNN and MSNBC should have a half-hour nightly program devoted to correcting the misinformation and misguidance broadcast by Fox that day.  Most of the time, thirty minutes would be insufficient for that task.
JL 


Where D'Ya Git Yer Nooz?

Before getting too wrapped up in the ongoing disintegration of the Presidency, which seems to be imminent to those who get their news from CNN and MSNBC, let’s not forget that more people follow Fox News than these two channels combined.

And if you take a look at what Fox News is featuring, you’d thing the big stories are about the Trump Administration’s economic, foreign policy and trade “successes,” the unrelenting and unfair attacks by “other media” on the President and of course, the need to reopen the question of Hillary Clinton’s emails with an eye toward prosecuting her.  Very little time is devoted to the story of the President’s efforts to derail investigations into possible collusion between his Presidential campaign and Russia and the firing of FBI Director James Comey. 


tRump fired James Comey because he refused to be a 'yes' man for the White House, and then got his Justice Department to prepare a cockamamie story about his shortcomings as the reason, a story which tRump's own words proved to be no more than a transparent cover-up for his real reason, a few days later.  Follow this story closely, but please, not on Fox News.

Most recently, Fox News prime time viewership averaged 2.4 million.  MSNBC’s averaged 1.4 million and CNN’s averaged a bit under .8 million.  Check these numbers out on any one of many internet sites which report them. One can be found quickly by clicking right here.

So don’t get the idea, as Joe Scarborough’s and Cris Cuomo’s viewers may think, that the President is on the brink of impeachment.  Fox News’ thoroughly misguided viewers, whose votes put Donald Trump in the White House, think otherwise.  And there a lot of them.  Don’t kid yourself.  You may laugh at Fox News, but almost two and a half million prime time viewers every day do not.



JL  
             


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Jack Lippman 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

What Is He HUGELY Afraid Of?

EXTRA!



The recent posting on this blog talked about our “irrelevant” President.  Well, it appears that he has recognized his irrelevancy and decided to do something about it.  What he has done, in fitting with his disconnect with governing, makes no sense whatsoever, unless his motivation is as discussed below.  That is the only thing it has relevance to: his campaign’s Russian connection.

The reasons given for the sudden dismissal of FBI Director James Comey do not hold water.   Up until now, there had been plenty of time to fire him if the reason for it was his failure to recommend the prosecution of Hillary Clinton whose handling of her emails he had characterized as “extremely careless.”  Similarly, his ultimate writing off of the emails that Clinton’s assistant, Huma Abedin, had forwarded to her husband for printing as not revealing anything the Bureau did not already know isn’t grounds for termination either.   Neither of these acts seemed to have caused the Bureau nor the country to lose confidence in the FBI Director as the President seems to claim.

It is quite obvious that the President wanted Comey fired and told the Department of Justice to come up with something, anything, which they did.  The real reason for the termination probably was the FBI’s investigation of ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump Presidential campaign.  Anytime progress in that area appears likely, the President dons his “Apprentice” role and fires someone.  He is afraid of something.  "Hugely" afraid.

Preet Bharara, the Federal Attorney for the Southern District of New York and Sally Yates, the Acting Attorney General who nailed down the facts on Michael Flynn, both were fired when it appeared they were on the trail of something important in regard to that investigation.  True, both were due to be replaced sooner or later because of the results of the Presidential election, but both terminations were unduly rushed.   Why?  The same holds true for James Comeys dismissal.  Why at this time?  What was he about to discover?  What couldn’t wait for his return from California?

And why did the President, in his dismissal letter, bother to specifically mention that Comey had repeatedly told him that he was not being investigated implying that the investigation regarding Russia was not the reason for the dismissal.  That would have been better left unsaid.  His saying it reveals a lot about his real motivation in firing Comey.

Could it be that some of the incriminating material in that mysterious “dossier” amassed by that retired British intelligence officer, tying the Trump campaign and possibly Trump himself to Russian involvement has been confirmed, and the “dismissals” are a pathetic effort by the President to continue to block these revelations from being made?  Do they document his dependence upon and indebtedness to Russian “oligarchs” in his business dealings … or worse?  His refusal to release tax returns suggests that they too might provide this kind of information.

The House’s investigation into Russia’s involvement in our election was compromised when its Intelligence Committee’s chairperson met with the President to share information with him.  The Senate’s similar investigation has been seriously hampered by inadequate staffing.  And now, the President’s firing of Comey shows his intent to cripple the FBI’s investigation as well.  Meanwhile, the Democrats and some Republicans are asking for the appointment of an Independent Prosecutor.

I am certain, the President will do everything he can to prevent the appointment of an Independent Prosecutor, which is the task of the brand-new Deputy Attorney General, filling the role of the Attorney General who has recused himself in regard to this investigation because of his having met with Russians himself at the Republican convention.

Rather than personally fire Comey, the President rushed to do it while the FBI Director was in California. Besides showing his total lack of class and good manners, this perhaps gave him time to check out Comey’s office, looking for material pertinent to the investigation. 

This whole thing stinks.  The odor is so foul that even Republicans are going to start deserting this boorish, ill-prepared and unqualified President they were stupid enough to nominate and convince gullible voters to support.  The President has said that his supporters are so loyal that “he could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and no one would care.”  He is now putting that loyalty to the test. 

Looming up, eighteen months from now, are elections for both Houses of Congress.  These are now “on the table” as is even the Presidency itself.  The stakes are high.

JL         



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Jack Lippman