The Baffled States of America

I try to be respectful towards the Office of the President.  The next four years will be an endurance test, one unlike any that I’ve ever embarked upon in my time alive.  Let me set the record straight first and foremost.  I have no personal animosity towards President Trump.  None at all.  That said, let’s get started.

First, he’s not a politician.  That’s why many voted for him.  That was the “appeal” that many Americans saw.  He wasn’t an insider in Washington, and he said all the right things in front of the right crowds*.  People seriously thought that he was listening to what they wanted and needed from the head of the Executive Branch of our government and have not been getting for decades.  He’s the one who will fix everything as he claimed that he would do, right?

Well, I can say that I have not been dazzled by his brilliance thus far, even though it’s only been a month.  Actually, not even a full month yet.  It hasn’t been a full four weeks at this point, and we already seem to be witnessing a 2mph train wreck happening during the evening rush hour.

We got warned about this long ago, but we didn’t heed the advice.  Dr. Seuss showed us how to avoid being taken for everything by a con man, a bullshit artist.  Trump is that, and then some.  Look at his history if you don’t want to take my word for it.  He has a record of stiffing businesses out of money on already agreed to contracts.  He’s avoided paying taxes for decades by assuming liability for an absurd amount of debt.  He reminds me of the guy on the street corner taking people for their money playing three card monte.  The problem is that he doesn’t know when to turn the bs off and has no idea of how to not bs people.  If there’s any one job in this country that should not be filled by a bs artist, it’s the job of being president.

We’ve been witness to this through the outright lies and doublespeak coming from people within the administration.  The apparently thin-skinned POTUS has attacked people personally or through spokespeople from everything from the size of the inauguration crowd to the portrayal of him on Saturday Night Live.  This has also been evident from the attacks on the media, the intelligence community, and pretty much everyone around the world except for Russia and Putin.  As things are beginning to show, we’re getting a good education on why he hasn’t attacked Russia or Putin.  The problem with the “breaking news” stuff about Gen. Flynn is that the only thing that’s new about the reporting is that we now have actual names of people with government positions who were communicating with Russia.

There were early reports about Paul Manafort and a server in Trump Towers that was communicating with a server in Russia.  There have also been rumors and such of other people involved with his campaign that had ties to Russia.  The Secretary of State is well-known to have strong business ties to Russia and Putin.  Individually, the rumors and innuendo don’t amount to anything that points to outright malfeasance.  At the same time, you can create an avalanche when you get enough things piled on top of each other.

At this point, there is permanent damage that has been done to the credibility of people in Washington.  It’s not like there was a vast amount of credibility to begin with, but I don’t recall any administration in my lifetime having a beginning like this.  It hasn’t been a full four weeks yet, and there’s enough stuff floating around to do about 8 years worth of Congressional investigations.  I don’t expect to see Republicans do anything at this point, as they’re likely going to try to wait things out.  It appears that Trump tried to wait things out on Flynn, and look at what it got him.

It’s not wise to try to pick a fight with the intelligence community that has taken an oath to protect the Constitution of the United States.  Especially when the intelligence community is full of people who take their oath seriously.  In case people forget, foreign enemies are not the only ones listed in that oath:

I, [name], 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; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

5 U.S.C. §3331

Those who focus more on the leaks than the information leaked should stop long enough to consider that oath.  If the federal employee thinks the actions rise high enough to be considered as an enemy act, they have a responsibility to take actions to defend the Constitution.  I’m not saying that leaking information is always a good thing to do, but we do have some whistleblower protections for a reason.  It’s dumb to think that you could communicate with foreign adversaries and our intelligence community wouldn’t pick up on those communications.  I also saw that some of our allies also picked up communications on their own, and they have their own concerns about American leadership as a result.

If Hillary Clinton’s email investigation was so important that we had to have a press conference by the FBI about it, why wasn’t the American public told about the communications between Trump’s campaign and Russia?  Remember, Democrats left a classified briefing on Russian hacking and were furious with Director Comey.  Middle, rural America elected trump because he said that he would bring jobs back to their communities.  If they’re farmers, they will have enough manure over the next four years to keep fertilizing crops for generations.  If they’re not farmers, there’s always a need for someone to shovel the bs.  If the first four weeks are any indication, we’re in for record amounts of bs in short order.

Welcome to the Baffled States of America.  This is what some of  you voted for, and this is what we’re all going to get as a result.

*I think it’s entirely possible to say the right things to the right people.  That still doesn’t mean that you’re correct in what you’re saying, or that the people who believe you are also right. 

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Team MAGA is loaded. Seriously

I found this interesting detail today from Quartz that I think is worth sharing.

The 17 people who US president-elect Donald Trump has selected for his cabinet or for posts with cabinet rank have well over $9.5 billion in combined wealth, with several positions still unfilled. This collection of wealth is greater than that of the 43 million least wealthy American households combined—over one third of the 126 million households total in the US.

Maybe it’s just a quirk based on him picking people from within his own social circle or something.  I even read a comment in an article about this where someone made the statement (joking, I hope) that they would be less susceptible to being bribed because they’re already wealthy.

This is what we have to look forward to America.  This was the choice that we ended up with.  This is the team that is going to look out for the everyday man and woman, the forgotten people of America.

IF, and that’s a very big if, they even know those people actually exist, I would be very surprised.  I’m not throwing in the towel yet, but when you see the 1% get rid of the middle man, then that gives the appearance that it’s time to get paid.  I seriously hope I’m wrong.  I guess that one way of draining the swamp is filling it so high that it overflows its border.  Then, it’s no longer a swamp.  It simply becomes a lake.

Linked story from The Guardian:  Trump’s billionaire cabinet could be the wealthiest administration ever

Comey messed up

There’s been lots of chatter from both sides over the political spectrum about the actions of FBI Director James Comey in regards to Hillary Clinton’s email investigation.  When he had his press conference on July 5, 2016 announcing that there would be no prosecution, people on the right went crazy.   When he sent a letter to Congress last week, the left turned their anger up to 11.

I’ve watched this entire ordeal unfold with a bit of confusion.  If there was not going to be a prosecution, why would he need to have a press conference to announce that when that’s not the job of the FBI to do.  It’s usually the responsibility of the Attorney General or another member of the Dept. of Justice responsible for prosecuting crimes that holds those press conferences.  I’ve seen far too many to count, and I don’t recall any members of the FBI doing the speaking.  It’s usually the AUSA or some other lawyer.

Likewise, the letter sent to Congress was pretty much a note of hot air.  If you don’t know what you have, how do you determine whether to notify Congress or not?  Seems like there would need to be knowledge of what was contained in those emails to justify notifying Congress that you may have to continue the investigation.

I won’t try to ascribe political motivation to Comey’s actions, but I think he royally screwed the pooch on this one.  He’s either whipped up a fury right before the election over nothing, or he knows what is in those emails and had knowledge of that prior to getting a search warrant to see what’s inside.  The former action would seem like a violation of the Hatch Act, while the latter would possibly make any evidence obtained worthless in a court of law.  There’s also the memo that’s been passed down within the Dept. of Justice from the past few Attorney Generals that state they will not announce investigations of political figures less than 60 days before an election or something to that effect.

Maybe Comey felt that he was acting within the scope of his authority and felt he had no other choice.  I honestly don’t know.  I can say that, if it was my decision to make, I would not have sent that letter without concrete evidence that the found emails were indeed connected to the Clinton investigation.  That’s what makes me think the FBI knows what is contained within those emails.  If they’ve already read through them without a warrant, then they are inadmissible in any court proceeding as well as any information found from the information contained within those emails.  If the contents of the emails are indeed unknown, then there’s no point in notifying Congress about investigations because it’s not known whether the investigation will be impacted.

Either way, Comey messed up in my view, and what has already been an election for the history books just added another chapter.  As far as him being charged for violating the Hatch Act, I think that is a bit of a stretch at this point because there is no information to show motivation.  Now, if you wanna charge someone with violating the Hatch Act if it were indeed possible, I would submit Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) as the prime violator.  However, members of Congress cannot be charged under the Hatch Act as it only applies to employees under the Executive Branch.  I find it interesting that employees under the Legislative and Judicial branches are not covered, but that’s another topic for another post.

Rational fear, irrational reaction

Map showing all terrorist attacks in 2014. Click image to see full details including links to report.

Russia, Beirut, Paris, and Nigeria have all been targeted by terrorists recently with deadly results.  It’s perfectly rational, and I’ll say reasonable, for people to respond to such heinous acts with fear and trepidation.  Acts like blowing up airplanes, shooting up concert halls and restaurants, or blowing up markets where people shop to carry on in their daily lives tend to open our eyes to the notion that a terrorist act can take place anywhere at anytime.  People respond to fear in different ways, but we all react to it whether we acknowledge it or not.

Fear of the unknown is something we all have to deal with at one time or another.  Everyone has something that their afraid of or have been in a situation where fear has entered their mind.  That’s human nature.  Most people are also aware of the human “fight or flight” response to stimuli that causes fear.  There’s nothing wrong with having a fear of something or being afraid in situations where you are.  How you deal with that fear is where people differ, and that is to be expected because we are not all robotic clones of each other.

For those who think the best course of action in light of recent events is to stop Syrian refugees from entering into their countries, I offer one question.  What will that stop?  When you have an organization reaching across borders using technology to reach people in countries they’ve never come close to setting foot in, what good does stopping people fleeing from getting killed do?

I understand the idea and even acknowledge there’s the ability for terrorists to blend in with refugees escaping death and traveling to other countries to do harm.  Our politicians are all jumping on that bandwagon that stopping Syrian refugees from coming to America is going to keep us safe.  State governors are saying they won’t accept any refugees from Syria in order to keep their people safe.  Some politicians have what I would call dumbass reasoning, but that’s their prerogative to do so.  They represent the people who elected them.  I offer a short list of names to these politicians:

  1. Christopher Lee Cornell
  2. Daniel Patrick Boyd
  3. Adam Gadahn
  4. Abdul Rahman Yasin
  5. Anwar Al-Awlaki
  6. Omar Hammami
  7. John Walker Lindh
  8. David Headley
  9. Colleen LaRose aka “Jihad Jane”

If any of the names sound familiar, that’s because they’re all terrorists or have been arrested for terrorist-related plots.  They were not Syrian refugees.  They were not even immigrants.  They were all Born-In-The-USA Americans, every last one of them.  Stopping immigration would not have stopped them.  Shutting the borders would have done nothing.

I’m not posting this to suggest that nothing can or should be done.  My point is that irrational reaction does nothing to make any of us safer than we were the day before yesterday.  I’d even go as far to suggest that caving to anti-immigrant and/or anti-Muslim rhetoric does more to aid terrorists in indoctrinating new terrorists than anything we can do to stop them.  Our irrational reactions do more to aid and comfort the true enemy than what we realize.

Bombs and bullets cannot kill ideas.  I am a firm believer in that.  One idea can only be defeated by another idea.  For example, we defeated Hitler’s Germany in WWII, yet Stormfront still exists.  There are still anti-Semitic, White Supremacist organizations around pushing the same ideas that Hitler did with his Aryan Nation idea.  Assassinations and bombings did not stop the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s either.  I can remember hearing about Middle Eastern terrorist organizations when I was in grade school, so it’s not like the current groups originated this whole thing.

We need to stop those who wish to do harm to innocent people, not just us.  It doesn’t matter what nation, religion, or ethnic group those innocent people are a part of.  We have to think about our actions in how we go about fighting these groups because the things we do can end up leading to us having to fight a larger group in the future.  Bullets and bombs are short-term remedies for short-term problems.  In the long run, you can’t bomb an idea out of existence, so we will have to beat the idea with an even better idea if we want to win this battle.  The anti-everything rhetoric isn’t going to be a winning idea when the opposition uses that to further entrench their idea that we’re at war with each other.  Hopefully mankind will soon realize this and change pathways.

Map of cities at risk of terrorist attack in 2015 as compiled in a report by Verisk Maplecroft which was released on May 25, 2015. Click on image for more info.

The wealthiest Americans who hate “takers” enjoy $2 trillion in special tax carve outs, more than double the entire annual budget of Social Security

Imagine how much lower our debt would be if corporate personhood also meant they had to fund the government that protects them and give them the opportunity to screw the peasants?

slothed

Source:

As they accumulate more and more wealth, the very rich have less need for society. At the same time, they’ve convinced themselves that they made it on their own, and that contributing to societal needs is unfair to them. There is ample evidence that this small group of takers is giving up on the country that made it possible for them to build huge fortunes.

They’ve Taken $25 Trillion of New Wealth While Paying Less Taxes

The 2013 Global Wealth Databook shows that U.S. wealth has increased from $47 trillion in 2008 to $72 trillion in mid-2013. But according to U.S. Government Revenue figures, federal income taxes have gone DOWN from 2008 to 2012. Even worse, corporations cut their tax rate in half.

American society has gained nothing from its massive wealth expansion. There’s no wealth tax, no financial transaction tax, no way to ensure that infrastructure and…

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