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Thursday, November 21, 2019

Longing for the days of Nixon

My congressman in office during Nixon and Watergate and I lived in the same neighborhood  as children and he was two grades ahead of me in school.  We were never close friends, but over the years we participated in neighborhood gatherings and school events, so we were well acquainted.  

He was a Republican.  Although I considered myself independent, I was registered to vote in the Republican primary, and I know I voted for him in the general election.  He was a good fit for my district in western Illinois. I lived in a factory town populated by many shop workers but surrounded by a rural area which contained some of the most fertile riverine loam in the nation.  He managed to gain the confidence of contending camps of voters and served eight terms, for two of which he was unopposed for election.

When Watergate occurred, my congressman sat on the House Judiciary Committee.  He voted for one of the articles of impeachment against Nixon.  Nixon resigned rather than face being thrown out of office.  Trump will most likely be impeached in the House on a party-line vote. Republicans in the Senate most likely will feel compelled to absolve him.  But Nixon had to face Republicans in Congress like my congressman who would not support him,  cover up for him , or excuse him in face of  the charges against him:   misuse of power, obstruction of justice, and contempt of congress.  He thought it best to resign.

My congressman served for ten years after Watergate, but his vote to impeach Nixon would catch up with him.  During redistricting, his district was redrawn to include an area of very conservative Republicans.  During the primary, the congressman drew an opponent who used the vote to impeach Nixon as a demerit against him.  He lost the primary in 1982.  The opponent lost the election.  The district has voted for a Democratic representative ever since, except for one term in which a Tea Party candidate was voted in.

During the open impeachment inquiry, not one Republican  acknowledged the charges against Trump. even though some are based upon Trump's own recorded words.  They don't want to impeach him, but neither do they have the integrity to remonstrate him for behavior which reduces the nation to a banana republic.  

There was a time when the GOP cared about the nation.  Those days are gone.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Trump and the art of betrayal

A recent poll reported by CNN shows that 90 percent of Republicans surveyed approve of Trump.  That means that one of our major political parties endorses and supports a proven despot and criminal.  In the most recent action, Trump was ordered to pay $2 million to charities that his Foundation  had bilked.

Among the frauds to which he admitted:  "The [Foundation] gave his campaign complete control over disbursing the $2.8 million that the foundation had raised at a fund-raiser for veterans in Iowa in January 2016, only days before the state’s presidential nominating caucuses. The fund-raiser, he acknowledged, was in fact a campaign event."  Trump's mass approval by the GOP is a signal that the United States have become the opposite of what they were intended to become.  As a Daily Beast columnist has noted, the GOP has transformed itself: “It’s still the case that too few people understand the truth about the modern GOP. It is an un-American party. It is not interested in democracy. It is interested in power. It doesn’t care how it gets it.”

The corruption and malice of Donald Trump portrays the values of a large segment of the electorate.  That segment is imposing the rule of criminality on the nation.  It is consumed by avarice and the desire for the power and openly betrays the founding principles of the nation.

The Mueller report is a detailed analysis of betrayal of the nation.  It specifies how the Trump campaign invited and often participated in a foreign government's manipulation of an American election.  And now we have a transcript of Trump openly trying to extort a foreign government into intruding into our next national election.  

The GOP has tried to divert attention away from the Mueller report and to obfuscate its findings.  The report states. "while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."

The investigation did not find a formal arrangement by the Trump campaign with the Russians, but it found an eagerness to make use of the Russian tactics:

In sum, the investigation established multiple links between Trump Campaign officials and individuals tied to the Russian government. Those links included Russian offers of assistance to the Campaign. In some instances, the Campaign was receptive to the offer, while in other instances the Campaign officials shied away. Ultimately, the investigation did not establish that the Campaign coordinated or conspired with the Russian government in its election-interference activities.

The  controlling concern was the assault on American sovereignty: "The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion."

And the investigators found an active interest in the Russian activities by the campaign:

  • The presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump (“Trump Campaign” or “Campaign”) showed interest in WikiLeaks’s releases of documents and welcomed their potential to damage candidate Clinton 
  • The Russian contacts consisted of business connections, offers of assistance to the Campaign, invitations for candidate Trump and Putin to meet in person, invitations for Campaign officials and representatives of the Russian government to meet, and policy positions seeking improved U.S.-Russian relations.
Here are some instances of that active interest at work:

  • Summer 2016. Russian outreach to the Trump Campaign continued into the summer of 2016, as candidate Trump was becoming the presumptive Republican nominee for President. On June 9, 2016, for example, a Russian lawyer met with senior Trump Campaign officials Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and campaign chairman Paul Manafort to deliver what the email proposing the meeting had described as “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary.” The materials were offered to Trump Jr. as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” The written communications setting up the meeting showed that the Campaign anticipated receiving information from Russia that could assist candidate Trump’s electoral prospects, but the Russian lawyer’s presentation did not provide such information. 
  • Separately, on August 2, 2016, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort met in New York City with his long-time business associate Konstantin Kilimnik, who the FBI assesses to have ties to Russian intelligence. Kilimnik requested the meeting to deliver in person a peace plan for Ukraine that Manafort acknowledged to the Special Counsel’s Office was a “backdoor” way for Russia to control part of eastern Ukraine; both men believed the plan would require candidate Trump’s assent to succeed (were he to be elected President). They also discussed the status of the Trump Campaign and Manafort’s strategy for winning Democratic votes in Midwestern states. Months before that meeting, Manafort had caused internal polling data to be shared with Kilimnik, and the sharing continued for some period of time after their August meeting. 
  • Post-2016 Election. Immediately after the November 8 election, Russian government officials and prominent Russian businessmen began trying to make inroads into the new administration. The most senior levels of the Russian government encouraged these efforts. The Russian Embassy made contact hours after the election to congratulate the President-Elect and to arrange a call with President Putin. Several Russian businessmen picked up the effort from there.
  • On January 6, 2017, members of the intelligence community briefed President-Elect Trump on a joint assessment—drafted and coordinated among the Central Intelligence Agency, FBI, andNational Security Agency—that concluded with high confidence that Russia had intervened in the election through a variety of means to assist Trump’s candidacy and harm Clinton’s. A declassified version of the assessment was publicly released that same day.While the investigation identified numerous links between individuals with ties to the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign, the evidence was not sufficient to support criminal charges. 
  • ...the investigation established that several individuals affiliated with the Trump Campaign lied to the Office, and to Congress, about their interactions with Russian-affiliated individuals and related matters. Those lies materially impaired the investigation of Russian election interference. 
  • Further, the Office learned that some of the individuals we interviewed or whose conduct we investigated—including some associated with the Trump Campaign—deleted relevant communications or communicated during the relevant period using applications that feature encryption or that do not provide for long-term retention of data or communications records. In such cases, the Office was not able to corroborate witness statements through comparison to contemporaneous communications or fully question witnesses about statements that appeared inconsistent with other known facts.
  • Accordingly, while this report embodies factual and legal determinations that the Office believes to be accurate and complete to the greatest extent possible, given these identified gaps, the Office cannot rule out the possibility that the unavailable information would shed additional light on (or cast in a new light) the events described in the report. 
  • Among the U.S. “leaders of public opinion” targeted by the IRA (The Russian Internert Research Agency) were various members and surrogates of the Trump Campaign. In total, Trump Campaign affiliates promoted dozens of tweets, posts, and other political content created by the IRA. 
  • Posts from the IRA-controlled Twitter account @TEN_GOP were cited or retweeted bymultiple Trump Campaign officials and surrogates, including Donald J. Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Kellyanne Conway, Brad Parscale, and Michael T. Flynn. These posts included as well as allegations that Secretary Clinton had mishandled classified information.

Trump, his campaign, and his administration were fully aware of Russian efforts to intrude into American politics, and the encouraged them and made use of them.  Trump's dissembling and denials about Russian intrusion are contradicted by the hard facts.

When Trump asked the new Ukraine president to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter for any dirt that could be dug up or created about them, he was openly inviting a foreign nation to intervene in American elections.  He claims he had no part in Russian intrusions, but openly invites Ukraine to play such a role.  That invitation demolishes his denials about Russia.  In inviting Ukraine to  be an accomplice to his subterfuges, he betrayed the United States.  He runs the country with same vicious dishonesty that he runs his businesses.  

Trump is helped and supported by the GOP which has taken up the betrayal of the U.S. as a mission.  Freedom, equality, and justice are labeled "socialism" and must be banished rom the land.  Trump's mindless minions are being taught the art of betrayal.  And they love practicing it.  They dream of  America as The Fourth Reich.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Veterans Day: The dilemma for veterans

As Veterans Day approaches on November 11, it raises an awarenesss that being a veteran is not always easy.  Some veterans who served during times of questionable causes do not take pride in what the military did.  The Viet Nam War was opposed and regarded as a atrocity by many in the United States, and veterans returning from it were despised.  That episode was ended with the construction of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, which listed the dead soldiers and acknowledged the fact that they gave their lives honorably in service by order of their country.  Many veterans had joined the opposition to the war, but their service and sacrifice were acknowledged as honorable and patriotic.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall lists 58,307 names of the soldiers killed
As a Cold War veteran, my service was not done in circumstances that called into question the moral propriety of the nature of our service.  I was a guided missile crew member in Germany with troops poised to discourage any aggressive designs that the Soviet Union had regarding our allies in Europe.  The American troops were fully indoctrinated about the rationale for our presence in Germany and were kept abreast of developments affecting it.  We were also coached about how to behave with our allies and how to set a democratic example for our adversaries.  We were there not only to provide resistance to any overt attacks, but also to earn respect for our democratic ways and try to win adversaries over to those ways.  We were constantly reminded that our role was to protect and transmit the values of liberty, equality, and justice for all. Over a long period of time, this strategy was effective with the tearing-down of the Berln Wall in1989 and the Soviet collapse in 1991.  Conventionally, it is analyzed that disaffection among those living under Soviet influence in the 1980s resulted in the collapse.  But the factors which produced the collapse are noted by scholars to have their origins in strategies that were initiated early in the history of the Cold War.  The scholars point to cultural factors that are complex and subtle.

Every night as I went to sleep in Germany, I wore headphones from my portable radio which was tuned to the Armed Forces Network.  The network played mostly music programs and was not blocked and jammed by the Soviets, as was Radio Free Europe.  As a devoted jazz fan, my bedtime show was jazz, of course.  

Years later, I met the host of the show and told him how I enjoyed and appreciated his show while in Germany. (A favorite song he played for men who were to return to their civilian lives in the U.S. was "There's a Boat Dat's Leavin' Soon for New York"  from Porgy and Bess.)  He said he appreciated his G.I. audience, but it was far outnumbered by his audience in Europe and behind the Iron Curtain.   Transmitters in West Berlin carried the signal into Soviet territory.  He said that while all forms of American music were popular to the non-American audience, jazz had a particular fascination to those living under totalitarian circumstances.  A music which originated from a people held in bondage had an underground significance to those living under repression.  It became an identifying interest for those craving a greater freedom.  It was an element that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.  As many scholars have pointed out, the struggle of souls for freedom occurs on many fronts other than the political.  That's why jazz singer and trumpeter Louis Armstrong, and many who followed him, are recognized as some of the most effective ambassadors for America.

Veterans are facing a new dilemma with the advent of Donald Trump.  They are deeply divided on Trump.  He has some support but also a very significant opposition among veterans.  To veterans like me, Trump represents the very threat that we soldiers were defending our country against. It is not a matter of partisan politics.  It is a matter of the basic intellectual and moral premise on which America was founded and which we took an oath to preserve as soldiers.  Trump rejects that premise with a vicious malice.  He pisses on the flag.  And he is joined by supporters  whose American dream is to exercise the benefits of democracy for themselves but deny them to people they choose to hate.

It enrages me and other veterans when we are thanked for our service by someone wearing a MAGA hat. I did not serve my country to make the world safe for a bunch of neo-nazi sociopaths to rage away and destroy the progress we have made toward realizing true liberty, equality, and justice.  Trump and his dementia brigade deny those qualities as having value for the general population.  Their threat to America has forced people who understand and value the principles of our nation to see the need for an effective resistance.  That resistance may be exercised in the voting booth, but that is not enough. The Trump subversion is being spread through the media, from pulpits, and even sports arenas.  A baseball umpire announced that if Trump was removed from office, he would buy an AR-15 and start a civil war.  There are veterans out there who are willing and capable to take up the umpire's challenge.  But they also understand that the nation might not survive a major civil conflict.  Trump is forcing the nation into a division that will end in violence.  The endemic stupidity of Trump and his followers is beyond the reach of intelligence.

The country that Trump represents is not the country the armed forces have defended.  It is not the country that rid itself of slavery and pushed an agenda of civil rights.  Trump's America is what we defeated on two fronts in World War II.  It is a country in which a president can openly demean military heroes such as John McCain, Army Capt. Humayun Khan, and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, and a bunch of his mindless, malevolent followers will cheer him for it.  Many people take comfort in the notion that Trump and his followers are just a faction whose politics differ a bit from the democratic orthodoxy.  They are wrong.  Trump and his sycophants openly disparage and desecrate the American premises of freedom, equality, opportunity, and justice.  They blatantly defame and lie about people who do not condone their Nazi-like tactics.  They've reduced politics to the level of a juvenile playground spat replete with name-calling and malicious lies.

It is difficult to consider that I served my country so these people can spread a malignancy that threatens the nation's very existence.  But that's the irony of America.  We find what some people say to be despicable, but defend their right to say it.  And we fought wars to protect the country against the very things they practice and promote.

We live in the circumstance portrayed in  John Le Carre's Agent Running in the Field  (p. 155) just published:
"Trump might be the worst President America has ever had, I said, but he was no Hitler, much as he might wish to be, and there were plenty of good Americans who weren't going to take this lying down. 
"At first he didn't seem to hear me. 
"'Yeah, well,' he agreed in the faraway voice of a man coming round from an anaesthetic.  'There were plenty of good Germans too.  And a fat lot of bloody good they did.'"
As a veteran, I may have defended the right of Trump and his ilk to speak out.  But as a student of the resistance, I must consider the fact that if we are to keep the promise of America, taking up arms against them is not out of the question.  Veterans Day might mean turmoil in our streets.


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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States