News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to MinneKota@gmail.com

Friday, January 27, 2017

A whopper about NAFTA and American trade told by Trump and the GOP

The focus on Trump's wall and the fight between Trump and the Mexican president has resulted in an extremely misleading idea about Mexico.  That idea is that Mexico is so dependent upon the U.S. as a customer for its exports that it is really not in a position to withstand a trade war with the U.S.

Some mention that Mexico is the U.S. biggest trade customer, but then the talk slides off into the advantage that the U.S. has over Mexico.  What is left out is that Mexico is not the only country in the Americas that would be involved in a trade war.  When Trump signed his order to build the wall,  the 33 countries of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States were meeting and they vowed to resist Trump's trade protectionism.

Trump has consistently called NAFTA a bad deal and has blamed Democrats for its deficiencies.  The facts are that NAFTA had huge bipartisan support but the Republicans were more avid for it than the Democrats.  When it was brought to Congress  it was passed by 132 Republicans and 102 Democrats in the House, and 34 Republicans and 27 Democrats in the Senate.  

The majority of farm organizations support NAFTA because it has been huge benefit to agricultural states such as South Dakota.  Smaller businesses like NAFTA because, as the U.S. Trade Representative's office points out 140,000 small- and medium-sized businesses in the U.S. are supported by trade with Mexico.

Labor unions are most critical of NAFTA because their members have borne the most negative effects as jobs were lost to Mexico.  One of the reasons that more Republicans than Democrats supported NAFTA was because it was an extension of the Reagan initiative to shift from a manufacturing to a service economy and to undercut labor unions.  The large corporations were avidly in favor of NAFTA because they saw it as a way to reduce labor costs and enhance their profit margins.  The Republicans represented their interests.  They are being reticent about bringing up their history in shipping jobs out of the U.S. as Trump grandstands about ordering them to bring jobs back to the U.S.  

The renegotiation of NAFTA, which is an agreement between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, could be perilous for the U.S.  if Mexico becomes hostile to any further dealing with Trump.  The people of Mexico are urging their government to firmly resist him and were urging him to cancel his meeting with Trump regarding the wall and trade.   Mexico's former president Vicente Fox has said Mexico is ready for a trade war.  Fox, a former businessman, has said the  relationship between Mexico and the U.S. is at its lowest point since the two countries were at war with each other.  Mexico could refuse to deal with the U.S. and instead form a trade pact with Canada and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.

Furthermore, Trump has withdrawn the U.S. from the Trans Pacific Trade Agreement, which leaves China as the largest economy among the nations involved in it.  China is working with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) initiative which met in Peru late last November.  Mexico with the support of its neighbors and inclusion of Canada could realign its economy away from the U.S.  Some Latin and South American leaders think such a realignment could expedite the development of their countries.  

When the U.Sl creates so much ill will and resentment among its neighbors,  it is not anywhere near as powerful as it thinks it is.  The lies told by Trump and his GOP allies can damage the U.S. economically as much as they have morally.  






  

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

They already blew up the White House

Madonna got a lot of folks stirred up.  She is among that plurality of Americans who do not like Donald Trump.  At the women's march in D.C. she expressed her anger with some F-bombs and with these words:

"Yes, I'm angry. Yes, I am outraged. Yes, I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House, but I know that this won't change anything. We cannot fall into despair.”
Newt Gingrich, who is alleged to have some higher education chose to interpret her remarks  as a threat or an incitement to violence,  not as an expression of her degree of anger.  He said she should be arrested.  On what charge, he did not specify,  other than that  she expressed something that people of his political persuasion would like to ban.

Madonna is not the only one who has contemplated blowing up the White House.  Some people who voted for Trump think that is what they were doing when they sent him into it. In explaining his vote for Trump, a 23-year-old student in Oklahoma wrote,  "for those people who have no political voice and come from states that do not matter, the best thing they can do is try to send in a wrecking ball to disrupt the system.”

The student was in an honors seminar on the history of conservatism.  His statement came out of a paper he wrote for the class.  His professor said he was a very bright and sweet young man.  His paper was chosen for the class to read and discuss, and the professor drew out his reasoning.  

As their discussion went on, the benign young student drew upon slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction to explain his reasoning.  He thought that the problems he faced originated in Reconstruction because the government was telling the people what they should think about slavery and race.

The professor concludes his essay about his exchanges with the student this way:
"Liberals must listen to and understand Trump supporters. But what you end up understanding from even the sweetest among them still might chill you to the bone."
Bomb or wrecking ball, the idea is the same.  Only the student's wrecking ball actually went to the White House.  



Monday, January 23, 2017

Did you really say you want Trump to succeed?

Don't you remember Hitler's and Stalin's successes?

In a demonstration of bon homie and support for the American tradition of a smooth transfer of  power,  President Obama urged everyone to hope that Trump succeeds.  My head, like many others, snapped back.  Does the president mean succeed in doing the many things Trump said he would do and does?  thought my head.  Such as lock up Hillary?  Ban Muslims?  Grab some pussy?  Build a wall?  Withdraw from the Paris climate accord and heat up the world and the environment with coal and oil?  

Or did Mr. Obama mean succeed in becoming a sentient being who could deal with facts, not lie all the time,  keep his hands out of unwilling crotches, and refrain from insulting and abusing people all the time?  I would not put words in his  eloquent mouth,  but after watching him conduct the presidency for eight years,  I tend to think he meant this latter kind of success.  Which is to succeed in practicing some semblance of decency and intelligence.

President Obama has faith in the prevailing decency of the American people.  I don't.  I live in the wrong state for that.  I live in South Dakota, which is the ultimate product of the Republican Party.  Now we can watch the nation follow that path of development.  Or more accurately,  that path of moral and intellectual disintegration. 

The Republican Party is not just a political party with a conservative approach to governing.  It has developed into culture, a peculiar mindset that holds itself and its opponents to antithetical standards of  behavior. In South  Dakota,  Republicans demand the strictest integrity and competence of Democrats.  But they submerse themselves in corruption and celebrate it as the mark of success,  the ultimate attainment of power and wealth.  

In November, the people of South Dakota passed  Initiative Measure 22,  which provides a number of rules to eliminate corruption in government, by 53 percent of the voters. Columnist John Tsitrian reminds us that a watchdog group gives South Dakota an F for integrity in government.  The governor's explanation of this vote is that the dumb fucks of South Dakota were too ignorant and stupid to know what they were voting for. There is some merit to that argument.  Because those same voters put into office the very people who have amassed the record of corruption that has become the South Dakota trade mark of governance.  Or were they so smart and shrewd that that they would vote for IM 22 so the rest of the world would see the state as South Dakota nice but then also vote for the bastions of corruption, knowing they would never let such a measure take force?  In any case, that is what happened.  The Corruption Caucus went to work and showed  how expeditious it can be when an expression of true honesty and decency threatens the good, old South Dakota tradition of corruption.

A  longtime leader in the corruptive party protests the characterization of South Dakota as corrupt.  He says, show me something besides the EB-5  and Gear Up scandals that is corrupt in South Dakota.  Actually, one doesn't have to look for more evidence, because those scandals were so large and their rottenness so wide and so deep that one of them by itself and the efforts within state government to gloss it over reveal a tradition, not an isolated incident, of corruption.

State officials try to make the EB-5 scandal look as something that was the scheme of a just a few--Richard Benda, who is alleged to have committed sluicide,  Joop Bollen, who the state is prosecuting on a flimsy charge, and a few unwitting dupes in government.  But it has a history that involves an extensive network of government officials and business-types planning and executing schemes for obtaining and possessing money and power.  The history of the Northern Beef Packers plant is one of bilking money from and engaging in complicity with communities throughout East River--Huron, Flandreau, and Aberdeen.  But when EB-5 was identified as a source for funds, the schemes spread to West River casinos and Hutterite turkey farms.  There were deliberate money predators and unwitting accomplices involved throughout the state and up and down government agencies.  Early on when the beef packing scheme was focused on Huron,  Gov Mike Rounds was engaged with investment types in Huron and was known to be part of the decision that ended plans for building the beef plant in Huron.  However, he  claims that he knew nothing about the particulars in the way his Governor's Office of Economic Development was involved in promoting the beef plant even though he was part of the plant's initial scheme.  
Richard Benda and Joop Bollen had a lot of help throughout the state and throughout the reaches of state and local government  to pull off the EB-5 schemes, and Mike Rounds was rewarded for his collaborations by being elected U.S.  Senator.  The main reason that his connivances are not known is because the state has passed laws to keep all the records of government complicity with business schemes secret and it has no sun shine laws which can eventually reveal what the politicians have enacted in the people's name with the people's money.  This case alone demonstrates the extent of collusion and covert actions that earn the state the title of corrupt  

And then there is Gear Up.  The list of people in state government and so-called educational agencies throughout the state who participated in dispensing and taking federal grant money is extensive.  Again,  a few people, with a focus on another suicide, are tagged for prosecution, but participants throughout the educational community from local collectives to current and former university officials are blithely carrying on, enjoying the rewards they helped to siphon away from a program meant to help young people make it to college.  With this degree of collusion and complicity,  the state as a whole is a damned good candidate for the title of corrupt.

But the corruption is not  limited to money-making scams.  There is the matter of the child abuse case which involved a state agency, the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Attorney General's office,  county State's Attorney offices, and the judiciary system itself, which finally blew the case wide open when a judge threw a case out of court and revealed the corruption. That case involved a young assistant state's attorney and a court-appointed child advocate who in looking after the welfare of child victims of sexual abuse went against the wishes of state and county officials in carrying out their obligations.  The Brown County State's Attorney retaliated by filing criminal witness tampering charges against them.  When they were brought to court, after hearing  testimony, the judge threw out the case because the charges were false and were filed as a vindictive retaliation for revealing a cozy conflict of interest that the state's attorney had with a state agency.  Although the court transcript contains clear evidence of malicious prosecution and abuse of process on the part of the state,  nothing has been done by anybody, especially the state bar association, to rectify the corrupt proceedings.  That's because again the case reaches into the highest offices of state government down to county and city participants.  The perpetrators have never been called into account.  And so, corruption in the justice system continues unimpeded.

That case is just an indicator of the kind of justice being dispensed in court houses throughout the state on a daily basis.  It is the kind of government that the GOP is dedicated to maintaining and protecting.  Its guiding principle is that when you have a good scam going, don't let anybody threaten it.

This standard can be seen in the cabinet that Trump has nominated.  Many have conflicts of interest, such as the nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services,  Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga.  Price bought stock in a medical company.  A few days later, he introduced legislation that would benefit the company's profits.  The GOP is dismissing the matter as a small hitch in the process and plans his confirmation.

Contrast this situation with when Tom Daschle was nominated for the same office. While awaiting for confirmation,  Daschle was informed by the IRS that he owed some taxes.  After he was defeated as U.S. Senator, he went to work for a legal firm and a friend donated a limousine and driver for him to carry out his work.  He was told that he had to regard that not as a gift but as income.  So, he paid his back taxes and informed the president of his error.  People close to Daschle later said the  error was not his but his tax accountant's in interpreting the tax law.  The GOP raised the charges of tax evasion and Daschle opponents in South Dakota took up the cry claiming he had committed a major crime.  He withdrew his name from nomination rather than have the transition to a new cabinet get  mired down in rancorous politics.  But Tom Price will slide into office on GOP ethical grease. 

The GOP protects its own and protects its right to have conflicts of interest and self-interest no matter what violations of ethics are involved.

GOP governance in South Dakota has constructed a moral cess pool over the years.  It thinks government should be run like  a business and business preys on people in any way it can to gain money and power, as long as keeps up the pretense of South Dakota nice.  And South Dakota nice means hypocritical duplicity.  The real South Dakota is seen in the EB-5 scandal, the Gearj-Up scandal, and the Talliferro-Schwab court trial.  The people may cluck their tongues and shake their heads for public display, but they vote for the people who keep the corruption humming.  

Donald Trump understands South Dakota.  He knows the program.  He knows how to stiff people who work for him.  He knows to hide his tax records like South Dakota hides the records of its business.  He knows to appoint people who share his predatory and mendacious way of doing business.  The governmental cesspool built by the South Dakota GOP is his vision for America.

You can bet that the majority of South Dakotans want him to succeed.  That's the way business is done.  









Sunday, January 22, 2017

The art of misdirection: Trump's most serious lie-- so far

In its first two days in office,  the Trump administration has brought the colossal to America.  It has been colossal in the way it has streamed lie after lie into the media.  Saturday's lies were a festival of blatant falsehoods, but the inaugural address undertook a more serious attack through falsifying facts.

The press has felt compelled to comment on the malicious belligerence in Trump's inaugural address, but it has gone light on confronting the degree of untruth it contains.  While, as with most of Trump's public pronouncements, it is packed with outright lies and misrepresentations of facts, one big lie stands out for the depravity of its deception:


“Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered, but the jobs left and the factories closed.”

The Washington Post cites statistical data that shows that Washington did not, in fact, become a repository for the wealth of America.  But the Post did not explain how the lie misdirected attention away from where America's wealth went and what the lie was covering up.  Bernie Sanders provided the explanation:


Trump's Big Lie: In his inaugural address, Mr. Trump talked about taking on the Establishment and standing up for working people. Meanwhile, right behind him in the V.I.P. section of the inaugural stands, were corporate tycoons and cabinet nominees worth tens of billions of dollars. Oh, yes. This "anti-establishment" president raised at least $100 million from some of the most powerful special interests in the country for his inaugural events. Mr. Trump is not an anti-establishment president. He and his billionaire friends ARE the establishment and the American people will learn that very soon.
As America struggled with the Great Recession that struck in full force in 2009, the nation began an economic recovery.  It was a slow recovery because the GOP would rather see the people of America suffer and perish rather than support anything proposed by President Obama to provide economic relief.  The GOP obstructed the recovery efforts because they were more interested in denying that black boy in the White House any credit for advancing the nation than they were in helping the American people.  Since the 1980s, when President  Reagan made trickle down economics the official program for the flow of American wealth,  the income and wealth was systematically directed toward the upper 10 percent while the middle class received diminishing returns for its work.  This was because the government became complicit with corporate America in arranging legislation and regulatory rules aimed at creating an economic privileged class. 

The blue line in the following graph shows how dramatically the top percentage has directed the nation's wealth into its own pockets in comparison with the bottom 90 percent since 1980.

In addition to seeing an ever larger share of income, the top 0.01% has also had their real incomes grow by over 600% over the last three decades, while real incomes for the bottom 90% have been stagnant:


Donald Trump is in the billionaire class that has manipulated the global economy to serve itself, diminish the middle class, and shove many people into poverty.  A tragic irony is that those people who voted for Trump because they felt left out of the economic recovery voted for the very people who have worked to exclude them from the benefits of the recovery.  Even as Trump stacks his cabinet with billionaires,  his economic struggling supporters do not understand that they have endorsed the system that holds them down and back.  They express hostility toward some political elite but cannot grasp that the economic elite has controlled their lives and is now poised for greater control.  

Trump's statement in his inaugural address was an attempt to misdirect attention to the politicians and away from the people who garnered the wealth for themselves,  shipped the jobs overseas, and closed the factories.  They made the decisions and took the actions that shifted the American economy to serve their financial interests, not the interests of the nation.  Politicians were involved by taking campaign money from the 1 percent and manipulating government to serve its greed for more money and lust for power.  

Now the billionaire class has achieved more power by having one of its own as President of the United States.  They worked against the nation's interests diligently over the past four decades,  and does anyone really believe they will change now that they control the presidency and the cabinet?  

Politicians are certainly complicit with the billionaire class, but they are not the ones who decided which direction the economy would take and who would benefit.  During the election of 2016,  the people turned over the nation to the billionaires.  The only thing that can stop them is those pesky women who demonstrated their power Saturday and have taken leadership in rescuing America from the fascist class.  Those who voted for Trump in hopes of bettering their situation had better hope now that the women succeed and that Trump fails in his mission with the billionaires and their lackeys, the GOP.  Trump's big lie is designed to destroy democracy,  and will if it is believed.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Veterans who will not accept Trump as commander-in-chief





Shortly after the November election, I began to receive requests to join a group of veterans who are organizing to oppose the presidency of Donald Trump.  I am wary of veteran's organizations, because many of them are scams.  I recently signed on to an organization that presented itself as a social forum on which you could register your name and the unit in which you served in order to find old military friends.  After I registered,  I received daily e-mails offering lifetime memberships for a fee, which covered no services, and advertisements for all manner of tee shirts, caps, and other veteran-related items that exploited the pride and the memories of veterans, but did not by any means honor them. It perceives veterans as a market that can be manipulated into buying junk.  I quickly revoked my registration.

However, there are veterans organizations which advocate for veterans and monitor their treatment by agencies that are supposed to attend to their welfare.  And there are ones which advocate for policies in line with those matters of freedom equality, and justice that veterans served to protect and advance.    The recent anti-Trump organization is in that latter category.  Its view of Trump as commander-in-chief is that he has already conducted himself in a manner unbecoming of an officer and is disqualified from commanding troops. 

In an e-mail forum maintained by the organization,  some knowledgeable old warriors define the problems of Donald Trump with an understanding of what a predicament he puts soldiers into.  One military historian says Trump forces the military to make the kind of decision it has not been confronted with since the Civil War: 


"At the  onset of the Civil War,  the country  divided itself into two nations:  one that supported slavery and one that was against it.  Almost a third of the U.S. Army officers resigned their commissions and pledged their service to the Confederacy.  That included 182 out of 184 West Point graduates.  Trump's election to president has defined just such a divided nation:  one that believes in the advances in equality, liberty, and justice America has made over the decades, and one that rejects it.  By accepting Trump as a commander-in-chief,  a soldier is faced with the moral dilemma of serving a country that no longer adheres to the standards expressed in the U.S. military  Code of Conduct: "I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America."  Trump's words and actions are a refutation of those principles and people who voted for him have effectually endorsed that refutation.  The soldier is now faced with pledging allegiance to a country that rejects the principles that enlistees vowed to serve with their lives."
Another veteran raised the issue of how the principles of Trump conflict with the oath all military personnel take:  

When we enter the service, we take this oath: "I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."    
Trump in his denigration and discriminatory threats against people of differing races and creeds has declared himself a domestic enemy of the Constitution.  In his case, how does a soldier defend the Constitution?  How does a soldier respond to a commander who engages in unconstitutional conduct and conflicts of interest with the requirements of command without seeming to commit mutiny?  The answer may be in presenting evidence to inspectors general and Congress, as provided for in Amendment 25, of Trump's unfitness for command as demonstrated in his words and actions in violation of Constitutional principles.  To pledge allegiance to a country that has adopted principles contrary to its Constitutional principles makes a soldier an enemy of the Constitution he/she is sworn to support and defend.  The military staffs need to relieve a commander who vows to violate the Constitution of his command.  
Military law has established that officers in the discharge of their duties are subject to the laws that govern conflicts of interest for all Department of Defense employees.  While there are no Constitutional rules or statutes that specifically address conflicts of interest for the president,  there is a phalanx of laws that apply to military officers and commanders and their behavior.   With the president being Constitutionally designated as commander-in-chief,  now may be the time to determine how Trump's military obligations apply to his behavior.  Our military is owed a clear statement of whether they must follow orders that are in conflict with the principles is is sworn to obey and protect.  It all boils down to the question of whether Trump,  especially in his allegiance to anti-constitional principles and foreign governments,  is fit to command.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

A semantic case for Trump's illegitimacy

legitimateadjective |ləˈjidəmətconforming to the law or to rules: his claims to legitimate authority.• able to be defended with logic or justification: a legitimate excuse for being late.• (of a child) born of parents lawfully married to each other.• (of a sovereign) having a title based on strict hereditary right: the last legitimate Anglo-Saxon king.• constituting or relating to serious drama as distinct from musical comedy, revue, etc.: the legitimate theater.verb |ləˈjidəmāt[with objectmake legitimate; justify or make lawful: the regime was not legitimated by popular support.
illegitimacy |ˈˌi(l)ləˈjidəməsēnounthe state of not being in accordance with accepted standards or rules; lack of authorization by the law: she talks with anger about the illegitimacy of the election.Online source:  New Oxford American Dictionary
On NBC’s “Meet the Press”  Friday, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga, said he did not regard Trump to be “a legitimate president” because of allegations that Russian agents interfered in the election to Trump's advantage.  Russia's role in the election has been stated with certainty on the part of the the U.S. intelligence agencies,  and the Senate Intelligence Committee has undertaken an investigation into the matter.  Democrats think Russia's hacking ought to be investigated by a special, nonpartisan commission.
As for meeting the Constitutional requirements to be president,  only three are specified: 

  • be 35 years old 
  • be a "natural born" citizen of the U.S., meaning that at least one parent be a U.S. citizen.
  • have lived in the U.S. for 14 years.  

    Trump's behavior is often in conflict with the Constitutional standards, as specified in the preamble to "form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty."   Those objectives stated as standards of conduct, according to Constitution scholars, form the basis for other charges that could result in impeachment:
    • Behaving in a Manner Grossly Incompatible with the Proper Function and Purpose of the Office
    • Employing the Power of the Office for an Improper Purpose or Personal Gain
    Some scholars have said that Trump will be in violation of the Constitution as soon as he takes the oath of office.  While Trump and his "team" claim that Trump's behavior and business interests in no way violate the Constitution,  many experts who have researched and studied what it means to uphold the Constitution make the case that that presidential standards and practices are clearly stated throughout the document and explained in Constitutional case law.  

    However, in addition to the allegations of Russian hacking, matters of GOP voter suppression have been raised and have entered the federal courts.

    Beyond the legal technicalities are what it means to be a legitimate presidency according to the definitions of the word.  The first definition is "conforming to the law or to rules." In his business practices,  in his campaign and debate performances, and in his daily outbursts of derangement on Twitter,  Trump has broken laws and takes pride in flouting the rules that generally govern presidential conduct.  While politicians are exempted in their campaigns from obeying the laws of defamation and slander,  Trump consistently employs defamation and slander against people and breaks the laws against defamation as stated in all 50 states.  His flouting of the basic standards of decency are why so many people in both parties consider him unfit and disqualified from office.  Rep. Lewis merely restates the case that Trump has raised against himself.


    The second definition of "legitimate" is "able to be defended with logic or justification."  Trump's candidacy and election defy the standards of logic and justification.  No logical reasoning or moral justification can support his presidency.  The absence of any semblance of logic and justice in a large segment of people who have been brainwashed into thinking that their lot will be improved by serf-like submission to corporate tyranny is what is so remarkable about the election.  They have given up on the idea of democracy and self-determination and self-government as something they wish to exercise.  While during the confirmation process,  there is much prattle about representing freedom and democracy to the world,  the blunt fact is that 46.1 percent of the voters,  whether knowingly or unknowingly,  renounced the democratic values in the voting booth last November.  In their assertion to change the political climate,  they chose to refute those standards stated in the Preamble and affirmed in the U.S. history of striving to reach those standards.  


    And then there is the definition of "illegitimacy": the state of not being in accordance with accepted standards or rules; lack of authorization by the law.  Again,  Trump takes pride and pleasure in flouting the accepted standards and rules of conduct.  And while the law does not prescribe courteous and reasonable conduct,  it does not authorize the kind of juvenile disobedience to decency and propriety constantly displayed by Trump.  

    Rep. Lewis' statement that Trump is not a "legitimate president" is born out by both state Constitutional standards and the established definitions of what it means to be legitimate.  The question is whether the 51.8 percent of those who voted for someone else wants to do  anything about a man who is not a legitimate president.  

    Thursday, January 12, 2017

    Protesters without rifles






    The Occupy Wall Street movement set off a number of Occupy demonstrations throughout the country.  Its participants seemed to retreat in the face of police actions to remove them from public places.  But they re-emerged at Bernie Sanders rallies.  They also showed up at the Dakota Access Pipeline protests at Standing Rock.  Although some of their opponents at these events claimed they were engaging in violence,  the overt acts of aggression and violence were on the part of the people sent to vanquish them.  

    The behavior of the protesters has in large measure inspired comments about their non-violence and their generally peaceful demeanor.  People who have visited the protests, such as at Standing Rock, note the tension, however.  For the most part, when law enforcement decides to make physical arrests,  the protesters have been passive in their resistance.  Use of force has largely been at the hands of law enforcement personnel.  The protestors have had limited encounters with anti-protestors.  

    What confrontations involving violence we have had recently have been at Trump rallies prior to the election.  Even then, the incidents of violence have been between individuals, with no notable large scale engagements between large groups.   We have seen nothing that approaches the rioting  of the kind the country experienced during the civil rights and Viet Nam War protests, or those in Los Angeles following the Rodney King incident.  Even the protests over police shootings of black men have been peaceful and subdued compared with past reactions.  However,  a few armed attacks on police officers have occurred, but have not been part of organized campaigns of revolt.  

    Commentaries in the news media have treated the relative peacefulness with great delicacy.  The people who study the kind of communications circulating among people for signs of explosive reactions see all the conditions for social upheaval present at this time.  The country is divided and the opposing factions want nothing to do with each other.  

    There are more than 300 million guns in America with gun manufacturing increasing sharply in the past few years.  At the same time, the number of homes with guns in them have decreased.  The assumption is that the ammo-sexuals are hoarding firearms for that big orgy when liberals are supposed to confiscate them.  But social researchers note that a preponderance of liberals are also firearms owners and sports people and have some concerns about self-protection, but do not choose to wear their firearms to church or as a nice broach at cocktail parties.  In fact,  a number of comments on Facebook indicate that they are more concerned about being able to protect themselves from the conceal-carry bubbas who like to get off by getting off a clip or two when provoked.  So,  people who are peacefully protesting might submit to law enforcement, but be ready to defend themselves against violence by those who oppose and detest them.  

    Those are the conditions that keep social observers on edge.  The number of aggressive actions by Trump supporters reported in the media are of concern to the social researchers because each incident intensifies the perception that people need to prepare to defend themselves.  The analysts who monitor society for signs that it is about to erupt fear most that something Donald Trump says or does will trigger violence.   When the president of the country flouts the law and the basic rules of decorum,  many people will take it as a signal to follow suit.  That's why law enforcement experts and the media treat the potential for violence so gingerly.  We are so close to open rebellion that they fear mention of the possibilities will spark the act.

    The country is ready for open warfare.  That is a subject that Barack Obama stayed away from in his farewell speech,  although he deflected the anger at having a wretch like Trump as president and encouraged people to take positive action rather than respond in anger.  His lofty approach to political adversity might well be a restraining influence,  but having a president who represents everything that families, teachers, and religious leaders tell children not to be is a strain.  People cannot ignore the offense to decency that is Donald Trump,  an offense that is beyond the reach of words and reason.   They have nothing to say to those who support Trump because of the despicable values involved.

    It is absurd to deny the racial hatred that motivates many Trump supporters.  Trump launched his campaign as a birther who denied Obama's citizenship and displayed a constant disrespect that is rooted in racism.  And his supporters are the products of Limbaugh brain-washing who hate liberals as much as they do n****ers,  Conversations with these people are simply not possible.  Efforts to communicate will produce only the false accusations of what liberals are and the insult and abuse that  is all they can intellectually muster.  

    Trump's subversion of the truth set up a condition that made his election possible.  He started the birther accusation against Obama, tells lie after lie beginning each day with a twitter rant, and persists throughout the day with a daily dose of falsehoods.  However, when the dossier was released alleging his ties to Russia,  the people who fell victim to his lies are so inured to matters of the truth that they dismiss any accusations against Trump.  A man in Iowa explains it:  The way it is nowadays, unless I see positive proof, it’s all a lie."  Another says, "He’s getting responses; things are happening. 

    But to the 73.8 million people who voted for someone other than Trump, the attitude of Richard Cohen prevails:  "He is a braggart and a liar. He is a bully and a demagogue. He is an ignoramus and a deadbeat, a chiseler and either a sincere racist or an insincere one, and his love for himself is matched only by my loathing of him.”

    But while people may prefer to take the high road,  the smart ones keep their weapons clean and their powder dry.  Many have the weapons,  the knowledge of how to make more, and the tactical knowledge of guerrilla warfare.  As a veteran of the civil rights movement suggested,  people did not take the protests seriously until some extremists went to the streets with firearms and bombs.  

    The educations of the right wing are not in the application of reason and fact-based language.  It is in the rage of hate and the use of language as weapons, which results in the brandishing of actual weapons as the only language they can command.  America is primed for civil war.  There is a chance that Trump can be found so unfit to carry out the duties of president that he can be dismissed under the reasons and the process provided in the 25th Amendment of the Constitution.  There are few who think that can happen,  and it is foolish to think that there will be no resistance to Trump.  The protestors do have their weapons,  if they are needed.







    Monday, January 2, 2017

    Is Russia messing with yo mama?

    Donald Trump has dismissed the contention that the Russians are behind the hacking of the DNC and other incidents.  The latest denial comes as the code for a Russian piece of hacking malware turned up on a computer in the offices of a Vermont power grid outfit.  The Department of Homeland Security had sent out information on the code so that essential services organizations could be on the lookout for it.  When it was found on a laptop computer belonging to a Vermont utility, it was reported to U.S. officials who undertook to investigate how it got there.  The computer was not "connected" to the power grid, officials said, but they did not indicate if there was a possibility that a user of the computer might log on to the grid.  

    The initial report in the Washington Post indicated that the grid might be under attack and the story had to be revised many times to get the exact significance of the code.  But that part of the story got swept up in the prattling triggered by Trump casting doubt on the intelligence reports on Russian hacking.  He dismisses the idea by saying the intelligence agencies who claim Russian hacking were the same ones that said Iraq was building weapons of mass destruction,  which led us into war with Iraq.  He contends that hacking is difficult to trace and that there is no evidence that points to Russia.  Many people,  including anti-Trumpians, have repeated his denials and talk of an anti-Russian hysteria as behind the accusations that the Russian government is sponsoring hacking.

    But little of the chatter about recent events acknowledges the facts of a raging propaganda war that targets the Obama administration.  And that war includes the GOP in its obsession to obstruct and demolish anything Obama does.  Facts are obscured by all the talk of what defines "fake news."  And the main fact is the propaganda war.  Israel is part of that war and has chosen sides against Obama.  House speaker John Boehner and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell invited Netanyahu to speak to a joint session of Congress without letting Obama know.  The objective was to subvert the nuclear negotiations with Iran.  The latest salvo in the war against Obama came when he decided not to veto but to abstain on a resolution criticizing Israel's building of settlements on Palestinian land.  Although all members of the U.N. Security Council voted for the statement, and the U.S. abstained,  it opened up the opportunity for Obama opponents, both international and in the U.S., to accuse Obama of betrayal, although the anti-Obama coalition has never missed opportunities to conspire against him.  The propaganda war is a fact.

    And it extends to the accusations of Russian hacking.  Putin joined his ally Trump by implying that the accusations are posed as excuses for Hillary Clinton losing the election.  Again, the media is caught up in the exchange of propaganda and tends to ignore what has been factually determined.

    The fact is that Russia has reverted to Soviet style behavior under Putin as it attempts to regain some of the power it lost when the Soviet Union was dismantled.  It has taken to showing open discourtesies to State Department officials and harassing the U.S. diplomatic corps in Moscow.  But the U.S. is not the only country to experience Russia's new belligerence.  

    “The behavior is so close to Soviet behavior it is ridiculous,” said Martin Kragh, head of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs in Stockholm. “It is like they picked up an old handbook and just dusted it off.”
    Russia's animus toward the U.S. and other countries is a response to sanctions imposed from its take over of Crimea and its intrusions into Ukraine.   The U.S. under Obama has taken leadership in the sanctions against Russia and in organizing the western coalition that signed the Iran nuclear agreement, of which Russia is a party.  Both Russia and Israel, however, are interested in humiliating the Obama administration and forging an alliance with Trump.  And both have interests in pursuing their goals that ignore U.S. security interests.  Israel wants the U.S to approve its appropriation of Palestinian property and to take a military stance against Iran.  Russia does not want the U.S. to exercise its interests in maintaining peace in the Baltic.  Trump has signaled that he will accede to both countries,  although he has not made an overt commitment to do so.

    As for the U.S. intelligence accusations of Russian-sponsored hacking into the DNC,  the 17 intelligence agencies who have made the assessment are caught in a trap.  To produce the evidence, they would have to reveal classified strategies they have developed for tracing and identifying computer hackers.  And as for the agencies being the same people who said Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction,  they aren't.  After 9/11 and the Iraq War,  the intelligence agencies underwent extensive reformation to insure that such mistakes were not made again.  Nancy Pelosi pointed out that the agencies did not make the determination that the WMDs existed, but the Bush administration chose to focus on only the evidence that supported their desire to go to war.  The National Intelligence Evaluation upon which they based their decision was loaded with dissenting information that called into question the existence of WMDs.  And the U.N nuclear weapons inspector, Hans Blix,  expressed his doubt emphatically and frequently.  And the question is would the 17 intelligence agencies risk such a mistake again?   There is much to consider in dismissing their assessment as erroneous.

    Then comes the matter of attacking power grids.  Four years ago when he was Secretary of Defense,  Leon Panetta warned of this threat:
    "The reality is that there is the cyber capability to basically bring down our power grid to create ... to paralyze our financial system in this country to virtually paralyze our country. And I think we have to be prepared not only to defend against that kind of attack but if necessary we are going to have to be prepared to be able to be aggressive when it comes to cyber efforts as well. We've got to develop the technology, the capability, we've got to be able to defend this country."
    Russia has undertaken military exercises in the Baltic to test the defenses of former Soviet nations that have joined NATO.
     '...the Baltic nations say they are already under attack from Russia by non-conventional means, such as cyber warfare and Russian propaganda, mainly on TV channels watched by the sizeable Russian-speaking minority in Latvia and Estonia."
     And it has used power-grid hacking in its operations against Ukraine: 
    "A distribution station that supplies one-fifth of the power to Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, suddenly shut down without warning early Dec. 18, Reuters reported.The hackers used a simple method to infiltrate the power grid: sending emails with infected attachments to employees. That allowed them to steal their logins and cut the circuit breakers at about 60 substations."
    The hackers struck again a few days later when, "As many as 80,000 residents in western Ukraine lost power for six hours on December 23."

    The Washington  Post and even some Trump advisers are concerned about Trump's romance with Russia and his dismissal of threats to American security and sovereignty.  But he and many of his GOP supporters have other work to do.  They have until Jan. 20 to finish  subverting the presidency of Barack Obama.  They have their priorities.  






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