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Gender: Male
Hometown: Maryland
Member since: Sun Aug 17, 2003, 10:39 PM
Number of posts: 78,065

Journal Archives

You're the Puppet!

I'm not the puppet, Kislyak's the puppet


Trump Frustrated With Failures, Anxious to Rig the System

Trump looked at his string of failures in his 100 days in office and decided democracy doesn't suit his autocratic expectations of getting his way like he did in his private life of wealth and luxury.

He's discovered the U.S. isn't a corporation where it's citizens are subordinate to the will and whim of the Executive, but a confluence of interests - and the government he's been chosen to lead is meant to reconcile those disparate interests and concerns from myriad, diverse regions of the nation into action or law.

Totally predictable to find Trump this week talking wistfully about his former life/job, and how much harder he finds the work of the presidency (how easy must his former job have been, considering how many weekends he's bugged out to his luxury resorts since he took office?).

Very much in character with his right-wing party to find Trump anxious to change the rules and rig the system to shortcut his way to getting what he wants.

Here's Trump in an interview with Fox News airing Friday night:

“We don't have a lot of closers in politics, and I understand why: It's a very rough system. It's an archaic system.”

“You look at the rules of the Senate, even the rules of the House — but the rules of the Senate and some of the things you have to go through — it's really a bad thing for the country, in my opinion. They're archaic rules. And maybe at some point we're going to have to take those rules on, because, for the good of the nation, things are going to have to be different.”

“You can't go through a process like this. It's not fair. It forces you to make bad decisions. I mean, you're really forced into doing things that you would normally not do except for these archaic rules...”

read/watch interview: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/04/29/trump-is-now-talking-about-consolidating-his-own-power/?utm_term=.0c9cf5f2abd7

Contrast that with Barack Obama in his farewell speech, wisdom from experience:

"– our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted. All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into the task of rebuilding our democratic institutions. When voting rates are some of the lowest among advanced democracies, we should make it easier, not harder, to vote. When trust in our institutions is low, we should reduce the corrosive influence of money in our politics, and insist on the principles of transparency and ethics in public service. When Congress is dysfunctional, we should draw our districts to encourage politicians to cater to common sense and not rigid extremes.

And all of this depends on our participation; on each of us accepting the responsibility of citizenship, regardless of which way the pendulum of power swings.

Our Constitution is a remarkable, beautiful gift. But it’s really just a piece of parchment. It has no power on its own.

We, the people, give it power – with our participation, and the choices we make. Whether or not we stand up for our freedoms. Whether or not we respect and enforce the rule of law. America is no fragile thing. But the gains of our long journey to freedom are not assured.

In his own farewell address, George Washington wrote that self-government is the underpinning of our safety, prosperity, and liberty, but “from different causes and from different quarters much pains will be taken…to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth;” that we should preserve it with “jealous anxiety;” that we should reject “the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest or to enfeeble the sacred ties” that make us one.

We weaken those ties when we allow our political dialogue to become so corrosive that people of good character are turned off from public service; so coarse with rancor that Americans with whom we disagree are not just misguided, but somehow malevolent. We weaken those ties when we define some of us as more American than others; when we write off the whole system as inevitably corrupt, and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them.

It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy; to embrace the joyous task we’ve been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours. Because for all our outward differences, we all share the same proud title: Citizen."


Vigilante Justice


Trump showed us he's willing to unilaterally launch massive military attacks across sovereign borders, against nations which don't pose a clear or immediate threat to our national security, and launch them at a moment's notice.

His Syrian bombing 'attack' was waged to avenge for the chemical attack, not for any imminent threat, or, as the War Powers Act states, 'pursuant to a declaration of war, specific statutory authorization from Congress, or a national emergency created by an attack upon the United States.'

Trump's attack wasn't waged to halt or eliminate the threat from chemical weapons, rather, it was deliberately limited in its severity and scope to merely send a message to the Syrian regime.

His unilateral attack was prosecuted with little investigation, and all of the determination and judgment resting in the administration's lap. The attack was lawless and dangerous - oblivious to the consequences, reprisals, or effects. It was vigilante justice, pure and simple.

Trump needs to be reigned in.

Obama, through diplomacy, did more than Trump to curb Syrian chemical weapon use

...although President Obama maintained in the wake of chemical attacks in Syria in 2013 that he had the authority to unilaterally initiate military attacks on the sovereign nation, he eventually relented and opted to refrain from attacking in favor of a diplomatic initiative by Russia.

We shouldn't lose sight of the fact that he arrived at the decision to yield to Russia because Britain said 'no' first, then our legislature and the American people signaled 'no' as well to his plan for military strikes.

He only brought it to Congress because the Brits and the American people telegraphed strong opposition to the question. I still remember that he sent Ambassador Powers to the UN to tell the world he believed diplomacy had been 'exhausted' with regard to Syria, before he made the decision to allow the Russian initiative to proceed.

Under the terms of the War Powers Act, which the Obama gave heed to, his interpretation of a threat didn't measure up. For instance, there's no provision allowing unilateral Executive initiation of military force for a future threat. The chemical weapons treaty his administration referenced intended that the world community would play a role in determining whether military force would be used.

Goddamn that he took us there and still held out the possibility of military strikes, insisting he had the authority to strike Syria - attack a nation which hasn't directly threatened us or any of our allies - no matter what Congress and the American people might say. That weak declaration of a threat to our national security is the hook Trump and other presidents (among other weaknesses in the WPA) will use for decades to justify their own unilateral military actions.

God bless that he listened to those opposed. Good on him for seeking congressional approval. Obama, by abiding with the expressed will of Americans and Congress, and allowing the Russian diplomatic initiative to proceed, did more in addressing the threat to Syrians from chemical weapons than Trump has in bombing an airfield. His administration's efforts stand, without a doubt, alongside not more than a handful of diplomatic initiatives to conflict which our country has managed to a successful and peaceful end without military force.

Here's the U.N. Joint Mission Sec. Kerry organized describing the chemical weapons removal as '100%' complete in 2014:

Source: United Nations

The Joint Mission welcomes the removal of the remaining 7.2 per cent of chemical weapons material from the Syrian Arab Republic. With this last movement, the total of declared chemical weapons materials destroyed or removed from Syria has reached 100%. The most operationally challenging task within the effort to eliminate the Syrian chemical weapons programme, has come to an end.

In addition to the completion of the removal operation, the Syrian Arab Republic has destroyed all declared production, mixing and filling equipment and munitions, as well as many buildings associated with its declared chemical weapons programme. With the exception of twelve production facilities that are awaiting a decision by the Executive Council of OPCW, all of the declared Syrian chemical weapons programme has been eliminated in an unprecedented timeframe and under uniquely challenging conditions.

'He Gassed His Own People'


It is illegal for President Trump to unilaterally wage war just to punish Syria. It is required by law that there be some demonstrable threat to the U.S. or our allies, or some imminent attack, in order for the CiC to unilaterally order the use of force.

In 2013, then-President Obama faced the same decision whether to punish Syria's government for chemical attacks blamed on Assad. At that time, the U.N. envoy to Syria asserted that military intervention would need U.N. approval:

____ U.N.’s special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, spoke to reporters in Geneva as a U.N. inspection team was investigating the alleged poison gas attack near Damascus on Aug. 21 and momentum built for Western military action against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime in the civil war that he called the most serious crisis facing the international community.

‘‘With what has happened on the 21st of August last week, it does seem that some kind of substance was used that killed a lot of people: hundreds, definitely more than a hundred, some people say 300, some people say 600, maybe 1,000, maybe more than 1,000 people,’’ Brahimi said.

‘‘This was of course unacceptable. This is outrageous. This confirms how dangerous the situation in Syria is and how important for the Syrians and the international community to really develop the political will to address this issue seriously, and look for a solution for it,’’ he said.

Brahimi also said that any U.S.-led military action must first gain approval from the 15-nation Security Council, whose five permanent members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — each have veto power.

‘‘International law says that any military action must be taken after’’ Security Council approval, he said. But, he added, President Barack Obama’s administration is ‘‘not known to be trigger-happy.'

"He gassed his own people."

That's the refrain Bush used to keep Americans chastened enough to allow him to use the force and threat of our military to meddle in Iraq's political affairs. It's, perhaps, coincidentally, the same hook the Obama administration used to try and assuage Americans' and our legislators' ambivalence about unleashing our own destructive violence in response to another nation's leader's alleged violence inside of his own country.

'Syria isn't Iraq or Afghanistan,' goes the defense against such comparisons. 'Bush lied about WMDs in Iraq,' or something to that effect, 'and, Obama told the truth about chemical weapons in Syria.

Yet, it makes no difference at all that one justification for the use of military force abroad is a lie and the other isn't. BOTH distort and misrepresent the actual threat to our national security for the exact same reason.

BOTH Bush and Obama made their representations of the threat to the U.S. in order to declare and secure their unilateral authority to use our military forces (at least initially) any way they see fit, without congressional pre-approval - justified almost entirely in their view by their opportunistic declarations that our security is threatened.

That was the slippery slope that Bush used to war. That's the slope that Pres. Obama used to escalate Bush's Afghanistan occupation far beyond the former republican presidency's limits - with the catastrophic result of scores more casualties than Bush to our forces during this Democratic administration's first term and scores more innocent Afghans dead, maimed, or uprooted.

In pressing forward with a U.S. military response to the atrocities committed within Syria, the Democratic president lost almost all of the ground we thought we'd covered in repudiating the opportunistic Bush wars. Bush's were waged, certainly, for oil and other greed; but just as certainly to effect U.S. expansionist ideals involving regime changes and 'dominoes.'

This republican administration, like the Obama WH, is looking for a military wedge inside Syria to effect much the same idealistic set of political aims in that country and the region that the Bush leadership was obsessed with. It's carried forward by this self-important notion that the U.S. is in a position to dictate to other nations it's own versions of opportunistically constructed democracies which serve to elevate one U.S.-interested ideal over other equally pernicious and malicious ones.

Military intervention in Syria isn't going to be 'limited' to a few days, restricted to 'targeted sites', or, just a 'shot across the bow, like Pres. Obama asserted at the time.

The former president insisted that it wouldn't be "a repetition of, you know, Iraq," but, its that very naivete (or bullshittery) that makes the prospect of a military strike in that country as full of as many unanswered questions and pitfalls as Bush's own assertions about his intent to deploy our military resources to defend our national security against a very similar set of unproven allegations about WMDs.

And, what of evidence? It already sounds like the Trump administration is relying on the process of elimination, rather than hard evidence; claiming that the Assad regime is the only actor there capable of delivering a chemical attack in the way this one is alleged to have occurred is not the same as providing definitive proof; not the kind of definitive proof that should be required to attack a nation across its sovereign borders.

Dismissing the possibility that a U.N. inspection team, for example, would be capable of uncovering the truth in Syria - even before one has been deployed - is a signal to Syrians and others that this administration has a pre-determined mindset against that nation which is never going to recognize the truth behind whatever evidence is ever uncovered.

Talk of a 'limited' military strike that sends a 'message' to the Syrian regime ignores the almost certain blowback the regional allies like Israel will experience almost immediately after a U.S. assault. Does President *Trump really believe that Syria and their allies will be so impressed with our display of military might that they'll just fold and surrender? Not many folks think that's likely to happen.

More chance that a U.S. attack will embolden and validate those views in Syria and the region that it's really just American influence behind the opposition, rather than interests more dedicated to what Syrians actually want for their own country.

We can certainly argue and debate about the differences between Syria and Iraq - for instance, the size and potential of Syria's much more equipped and capable forces. Yet, it is this administration's (as was Obama's) determination to sell military intervention in Syria as a cakewalk that most reminds of Bush's own assertions about invading Iraq.

Same thin thread of proof; same rosy set of assumptions about a 'limited' military action; same ignoring or dismissal of the Syrian response; same clueless denial about who our military action would actually be serving in Syria.

Unless this administration steps back and approaches this issue with a deeper mindset than Bushian-variety arrogance and bluster, we're going to find ourselves on a slippery slope to a widened war.

So far, President Trump looks eager enough in his own belief in the efficacy and effect of deploying our military defenses to cause Syria to change their behavior. I believe strikes will just inflame and exacerbate whatever divisions exist there today. No 'shot across the bow' will automatically end them.

It's incredibly sad to see so many folks I viewed as progressive allies giving in to an appeal to strike Syria with the devastating force of our weapons. I view it as a capitulation to every wrong instinct that the Bush administration exercised; every wrong instinct about the limitations, risks, and consequences of our nations use of military force abroad that most of us thought we had repudiated with the exit of Bush.

Now we have an entirely new set of justifications for authorizing the president to war against Syria which borrows on almost every one of Bush's imperialistic justifications for his own out-of-control military ambitions. We'll be told that their every militaristic instinct is born out of their desire to address Syria's chemical weapons capability, but we won't see any abatement at all in their drive to further war.

Already, in the past few months, Trump has quietly deployed hundreds of U.S. troops on the ground in Syria, directing numerous airstrikes against 'ISIS targets.' We're already bombing Syria under a loose definition of our 'national security.'

Now, there are breaking reports that Tomahawk missiles have already been fired into Syria tonight, possibly hitting a key airstrip, without even a hint of a nod to Congress giving their approval, as Obama sought and was denied by a republican-controlled body.

We are now a nation being determinately driven to war by the man most of us are convinced already views militarism as an indispensable part of his foreign policy. Any 'diplomacy' practiced toward Syria is nothing more than an ultimatum by this President- a coercion behind the devastating threat of our military arsenal.

We are undone, as progressives; as Americans; by capitulation to military strikes. We will scarcely hope to restrain this administration as they prosecute war, and, in accepting military strikes as just, we will have lost every instinct or instigation away from the precipice that Obama took the nation to in 2013 and pulled back from; one that almost certainly Trump will never recognize or acknowledge.

The results, worldwide, of contemporary U.S. interventionism, speak for themselves. The *Trump administration, almost blithely, is hoping that their Syrian 'misadventure' says something uniquely democratic and inspiring to countries which pose no actual threat to our nation. I'm afraid that all any one outside of this country will hear is 'empire.

Politicization of intel by the Trump admin is a major scandal- cover-up, collusion, and interference

...it's also a dangerous new policy aim of the Trump WH.

NYT reported this week that two WH officials, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director for intelligence at the National Security Council, and Michael J. Ellis, a lawyer in the White House counsel’s office, fed Nunes intelligence from a database accessible from the WH.

There's every reason to believe these officials were rifling through the files to find something that would cover for Trump's 'wiretap' lie. They didn't just happen upon the intelligence reports. They were looking for something, at the direction of Nunes, or the direction of the WH.

The question now is who ordered or gave authorization to this green, political plant (who was placed in that NSA position by the ousted Gen. Flynn) to scan those files. More importantly, there's a question of whether the WH was attempting to monitor the FBI investigation of Trump and associates.

emptywheel looks at this:

...in 2002, Jay Bybee wrote a memo authorizing the sharing of grand jury information with the President and his close advisors including for counterintelligence investigations.

In addition, the Patriot Act recently amended 6(e) and Title III specifically to provide that matters involving foreign intelligence or counterintelligence or foreign intelligence information may be disclosed by any attorney for the government (and in the case of Title III, also by an investigative or law enforcement officer) to certain federal officials in order to assist those officials in carrying out their duties. Federal officials who are included within these provisions may include, for example, the President, attorneys within the White House Counsel’s Office, the President’s Chief of Staff, the National Security Advisor, and officials within the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense.


Although the new provision in Rule 6(e) permitting disclosure also requires that any disclosures be reported to the district court responsible for supervising the grand jury, we conclude that disclosures made to the President fall outside the scope of the reporting requirement contained in that amendment, as do related subsequent disclosures made to other officials on the President’s behalf.

In other words, Trump could demand that he — or his National Security Advisor! — get information on any grand jury investigations, including those covering counterintelligence cases. And no judge would be given notice of that." (read the rest of her essay)

Nunes' shifting, almost bewildered explanation of the contents of what he claimed to have seen in the reports is likely because of the 'raw' nature of much of the intel in those databases. Nunes doesn't look to have any idea what he was looking at. He really didn't need to know, just spin the lines his WH handlers had fed him, but it's significant that someone who would be in a position to know, seasoned prosecutor Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House Intelligence committee opposite Nunes, viewed what the WH claimed was the same info and concluded that it did not merit all of the chairman's hype and alarm.

All of the orchestration, coordination, and subsequent politicization of these intelligence reports highlights an aim of Trump which the WH rolled out this week: Apparently the WH wants to be fed 'raw' uncritical data from intelligence reports, instead of analyzed intel.


Officials have expressed an interest in having more raw intelligence sent to the president for his daily briefings instead of an analysis of information compiled by the agencies, according to current and former U.S. officials. The change would have given his White House advisers more control about the assessments given to him and sidelined some of the conclusions made by intelligence professionals.

One official said the focus on accessing more raw intelligence appeared to be more of a priority under the short tenure of Michael Flynn, who was ousted as national security adviser after less than one month on the job. He was replaced by H.R. McMaster, an Army lieutenant general who was expected to exert more control over the NSC but has found himself struggling to overcome skepticism among Flynn holdovers who have the ear of Bannon.

It's clear that Trump is willing and eager to use our national intelligence agencies as a rumor mill for his petty political purposes. What's more ominous is his administration's apparent willingness to use their role in accessing that intelligence to cover their political and legal hides.

At the very least, this should give pause to any notion this WH would tread carefully in the midst of an investigation of their own conduct. There's much, much more concern about their stewardship of our government agencies' intel, with regard to the very attempts by law enforcement to protect the integrity of our communications and covert investigations.

And there's the very prescient question of how we're to trust the president or his administration's conclusions, based on their own interpretation of intelligence data. Taking seasoned, experienced, experts out of the decision-making process is an invitation for a major blunder for a president who knows even less about foreign policy than he knows how to manage his own personal affairs.

Something urgently needs to be done to protect the integrity of our intelligence services. In short, we've got Russia hacking into our government, and officials in the Trump WH are behaving like KGB moles.

Trump habitually lying, and supporters' indifference to those lies, is the essence of republicanism

...it's the way the republican agenda has been advanced, for decades.

We've been living big republican lies for decades. Most of their politics revolves around maintaining those lies, at least in their supporters' eyes. War on terror, war on drugs, war on climate science, defending coal, oil drilling, privatization of education and healthcare lies, are enmeshed in our national policy and appropriations.

Now we are seeing full republicanism play out, with their governmental majorities enabling them to advance many of these lies into action or law. Some of them are tragicomedic, like the recent Trump lie about millions of immigrants voting illegally in the past election - put into action under vice-president Pence who hasn't bothered to pick up a phone to call even one state representative to determine the truth.

Others, like Trumps promised plan to 'defeat ISIS' are still floating around like a lost hope as his military lurches forward without direction or clarity from their commander-in-chief. A great deal of Trump and his republican enablers' lies are being employed as cover for their kleptocracy, influence peddling, and outright theft.

We can only hope to regain our only effective counter, removing them from power, because this administration and cohorts don't give a damn about the courts or the law. That's how it always been, for the entire lifetime of my political experience; a fight for the truth, over republicans' self-interested lies, designed to block progressive change and legislative accountability.

Now, we're realizing and experiencing full-republicanism; the essence of deliberate dishonesty. It's the political fight of our lives, for the truth.

Preet Bharara was fired because of his record prosecuting corruption

...apparently Bharara is being yanked from a number of high-profile cases, some involving New York's financial district, some involving Russian mobsters. Very likely, he would have been at the center of any investigation into Trump's finances, with jurisdiction over Trump Tower.

Of course, Trump had the right to do what other presidents have done and clean house, but Preet had been assured he would stay. It raises the question of what he was investigating and what he was on to. In many ways, Bharara is Trump's Archibald Cox, the special Watergate prosecutor who was fired by the Nixon White House in the ''Saturday Night Massacre''.

Okay, maybe not that big, but this mass firing has to be viewed in the prism of the ongoing investigation(s) into the Trump White House. There isn't anything to be done about it, but it shouldn't go unremarked on. Without replacements in place, there are myriad, ongoing cases and investigations affected, undoubtedly many critical issues left in the lurch.

Maybe the sudden purge is just part of the jitters Trump's developed since he made his 'wiretapping' charge against Barack Obama. Trump had better hope no one finds there's any truth to his claims. In order to snoop on Trump, the Obama Justice Dept. would need a warrant. If a warrant exists, and if the probable cause needed for a judge to approve one is revealed to Congress or the public, the entire bottom will fall out of his presidency.

Maybe he can see the dragnet closing in. Makes sense, from his standpoint, to get rid of this leading corruption expert.


We should consider Trump as more than just a threat to democratic institutions/principles

...but a threat to our democracy, itself.

Among the most troubling of Donald Trump's actions have to be the almost daily tweets and declarations from the Chief Executive denigrating the press for daring to criticize him, the majority of his statements opposing them proven demonstrably and unequivocally false.

There's also the, now rescinded, gag orders on several government agencies which would have effectively blocked the free flow of information about the actions and product of our government offices.

In addition, there has been a flurry of executive orders from Trump which has exceeded those issued during President Obama's first week., on track to far outpace the former president's reliance on EOs to overcome republican obstruction. There's no such barrier to legislative progress for Trump, so it's a curious and contradictory exercise considering his and other republicans' many criticisms of President's Obama's.

His behavior reeks of every pattern of the history of autocratic heads of state who fomented severe disruption and destruction of democratic institutions in their countries and ushered in dictatorships or other imperialistic rule.

That's not to suggest that our own democracy is so degraded to easily allow some sort of swift takeover. Yet, there's also a functionally compliant republican legislature in place, well prepared to manipulate our democratic process of law and elections to accommodate and perpetuate such an autocratic rule.

So, plainly speaking, we should be openly asking if Trump is dismantling our democracy in favor of autocratic rule, especially since many of his major actions are directed at taking away so many vestiges of our compacts between government and American citizens, like health care and other social and economic benefits; all the while enriching himself, personally, with unaccountable business interests conflicting with our nation's interests here and around the globe.

I believe, very reluctantly, but resolutely, that Donald Trump is proving himself to be a threat to our democracy. What's less sure to me is where we institutionally trigger that distinction or determination. What I fear is that the closer we allow ourselves to come to that point, the greater the risk that he succeeds.

How Most Of Us Feel Right Now

Leftfielder™ ‏@DaleMoss2 1h1 hour ago
“We feel the difference now. See, now, we're feeling what not having hope feels like" - Michelle Obama
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