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Sunday, April 22, 2018

Paying the failed Trump administration legal fees

Wasting money in the Donald Trump administration ~ Mar-a-lago expenses and all those legal bills.

A letter to the editor ~ echo ~ published in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal in Texas by Larry Goldston

Who’s covering the legal costs?

Recently, while a large group of us were huddled around the coffee pot, the subject came up, of “who is paying all the legal fees and lawyer costs” of ALL of the folks primarily in Washington DC, that have departed their jobs, either of their own volition or fired, and now being investigated from every direction. 

Legal fees paid to all the lawyers involved in the Failed Trump Administration's scandals are ultimately paid by...."guess who?"

It seems they ALL are lawyered up. At $300 to $400 an hour or much more, times the number involved, that cost is not going to be cheap.

I was asked by a few, since I send out a few hundred newsletters to some various groups, to find out who is writing the checks to cover these expenses, and to let them know. We discussed the source, and I decided that our local congressman would be the place to start. I called his office on the morning of Feb. 8, and spoke to a couple of his office staff, they had no clue, but said they would be back with me in 2-3 days. Well, here it is the 14th, and still no answer, after I called back on the 13th and left another message.

I thought, this will be an easy question, probably take 30 nano seconds for a reply. Wow, was I wrong, Now, I know that our congressman is a newby, and probably his staff too. But in reality, my next call was to a different elected official, someone with more horsepower, and got an answer on the first call. It seems to me that if our congressman, would spend more time in training his staff, returning calls by the staff, providing answers to constituents, and less time in front of cameras he would have a more positive opinion floating around his district.

While thinking about the evolution of this question, I’m now wondering, if we even really NEED congressmen and senators. Everyone has a computer, or they can go to the public library and use theirs, to vote “from the people” about every question involving running this country. At least, we would not be subject to the pontification, for hours on end, “the sound and fury, signifying nothing” for the most part, of those living on our dime in DC. Also just think how traffic would be reduced.

Can you imagine the cost saving of this change, not only in “over salaried, high medical expenses, and retirement, ” of elected congressmen and senators, but additional saving paid out through the lobby network, maybe we could get back into the black, our budget, eventually.

I know who is paying for most of these legal fees, DO YOU? 

I suspect, you will not be happy with the answer.

Larry Goldston, Lubbock

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Saturday, April 21, 2018

Republicans and the terrible deficit budget

It's scary ~ the national debt will creep  up on Americans. Future economic growth is at risk.

This opinion is an echo, originally published in the Montana Standard by Robert J. Samuelson

WASHINGTON, DC — The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its annual budget and economic outlook report, and although the news was gruesome, the report was greeted in Washington with a giant yawn. 

In fact, the assumption among Republicans and Democrats is that the political rewards for curbing runaway budget deficits are too meager to justify the risks. There's a consensus to do nothing — and to hope that nothing goes disastrously wrong.
Just how large are impending deficits? 

Here are the CBO projections.

From 2019 to 2028, the federal government will run cumulative annual deficits of $12.4 trillion. The deficits — the gap between what government spends and what it collects in taxes — average about 5 percent of the economy (gross domestic product, or GDP). Since 1950, deficits have equaled or exceeded 5 percent of GDP in only six years (1983, 1985 and 2009-2012), and most of these occurred after deep recessions. These reduce tax revenues and boost "safety net" spending (unemployment insurance, food stamps and the like).

By contrast, today's deficits occur with low unemployment and an economy that's been expanding for nine years.

Even the CBO figures may be optimistic if they're based on unrealistic assumptions. Defense spending as a share of GDP is projected to fall; in a dangerous world, that may not happen. 

Similarly, some personal tax cuts are scheduled to expire at the end of 2025; many observers think Congress will extend them. Adding these amounts to government borrowing would increase the federal debt — the total of all past deficits — to more than 100 percent of GDP, about as large as right after World War II.

No one knows the consequences of these unprecedented peacetime deficits, but the CBO has listed some possibilities:
  • They may further raise interest rates, which would increase deficits, squeeze other federal programs and crowd out borrowing by businesses for factories, machinery, computers and buildings. This last effect could imperil living standards.
  • Government might find it difficult to respond to national emergencies, whether war, natural disaster or a financial crisis, because more borrowing on top of today's deficits would be harder.
  • We could face a full-blown debt crisis. As CBO Director Keith Hall recently testified, "investors would become unwilling to finance the government's borrowing unless they were compensated with very high interest rates." That could trigger draconian spending cuts or tax increases — and a stiff recession.
There can no longer be any pretense that the deficits reflect the aftermath of the Great Recession or other temporary forces. The main cause is political expediency: It's more popular to increase spending and cut taxes than the opposite. Combined with an aging population, which automatically raises Social Security and Medicare spending, the profligacy becomes self-fulfilling.

The deteriorating political climate is reflected in a small incident showing the deep divide between parties. On March 27, The Washington Post published an op-ed piece by five conservative economists from Stanford University's Hoover Institution. They warned of an approaching "debt crisis" if ballooning budget deficits weren't reversed. The savings should come from lower spending, not higher taxes, they said.

On April 9, five Democratic economists issued a rejoinder in the Post, rejecting the Hoover economists' suggestion that spending cuts for "entitlements" — mainly programs for the elderly and the poor — bear all the burden of cuts.

It would be more useful if the rival economists had collaborated to produce a consensus agreement that would — over, say, a decade — balance the budget. Make no mistake: This would be an immensely unpopular document. In today's dollars, balancing the budget would require annual spending cuts and tax increases of about $1 trillion dollars. That's equal to about a fifth of federal spending, which is now being borrowed.

Social Security and other "safety net" programs would have to be reduced, possibly through higher eligibility ages and more means-testing. These entitlements constitute about 70 percent of federal spending; if they're ignored, the entire adjustment would fall on other spending (other domestic programs and defense) and taxes. Still, taxes would have to rise too, probably by hundreds of billions annually. Otherwise, spending cuts would be unacceptably severe.

If we are to discuss these choices sensibly, we must know what the choices are. But the vague generalities offered by both the Republican and Democratic economists seem more intended to burnish their partisan credentials than to inform the public. 

Unfortunately, the longer this continues, the riskier it becomes.

On this, the conservatives and liberals probably agree. Say the conservative economists: "There is no current evidence ... that a crisis is on the horizon. But a debt crisis does not come slowly and visibly like a rising tide. It comes without warning, like an earthquake, as short-term bondholders attempt to escape the fiscal carnage." 

Alert! We have been forewarned.  This deficit budget is all on the shoulders of the Republicans.  Unless the US economy grows at the projected rate, this enormous deficit will destroy America's  economic growth for future generations.

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Mike Pompeo is another "misrepresenter"

It turns out that Donald Trump put his misplaced trust for interantional relations into the hands of a man who has mispresented his military experience.  Mike Pompeo has been promoting himself as a veteran of the First Gulf War but he never served in the conflict.


(MaineWriter ~ another misrepresenter was also reported in past blogs about Steve Bannon. He misrepresented his military credentials. This was especially evident when Vice President Mike Pence told Judy Woodruff on the PBSNews Hour that Bannon had been a Captain in the US Navy.  That was totally wrong because Bannon did not serve in the Navy long enough to achieve the high rank of Captain.  Moreover, it is more than likely, based on the short years of his abrupt service, that Bannon probably never reached a rank beyond junior officer, like Lieutenant.)

It Turns Out Mike Pompeo Never Served in the Gulf War ~ by Benjamin Hart in New York Magazine

Secretary of State-in-waiting Mike Pompeo never served in the Gulf War, even though media outlets and many of his colleagues have repeatedly said he did, and Pompeo has done nothing to dispute their claims.

Splinter News asked the CIA about Pompeo’s record, and the agency confirmed that while he was in the Army from 1986 to 1991, he never saw action in the Middle East.

A spokesperson said that Pompeo, who is currently director of the CIA, “was in the U.S. Army at the time of the Gulf War — serving until 1991. He was not deployed to that theater.” The war lasted less than seven months, between August 1990 and February 1991.


The discrepancy between Pompeo’s record and public accounts was first brought to light by Ned Price, a former CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) spokesman and special assistant to President Obama, who highlighted a series of inconsistencies on Twitter.

Reported by Ned Price @NedPrice on Twitter:
It seems apparent from reliable sources that Mike Pompeo did NOT serve in the first Gulf War, but nearly half of his public bios--including his Wikipedia page--and contemporary write-ups claim he did. Is this something he's been content to leave uncorrected?

Splinter News has a rundown of some prominent instances in which Pompeo’s war record has been cited incorrectly These include articles in The New Yorker and The Wall Street Journal, a letter signed by 51 Republicans expressing support for Pompeo’s secretary of State nomination, and a Marco Rubio speech on the Senate floor. Throughout all this, Pompeo has said nothing to correct the record. It’s possible, though seems unlikely, that he has simply missed all the references to his nonexistent war history. He has been busy, after all.

Pompeo faces fierce liberal criticism for, among other thing, his ultrapartisan Benghazi grandstanding as a congressman and his Islamophobia. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is likely to issue a rare non-recommendation. But at least one Democrat is onboard with his nomination, and Pompeo is almost certain to withstand the barrage to replace Rex Tillerson on a permanent basis.

Because Pompeo didn’t personally advance the narrative that he served in Iraq — at least, that we know of — Friday’s revelation is unlikely to change that calculus.

Donald Trump is the faker in chief and his cabinet includes misrepresenters and "wannabees".

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Friday, April 20, 2018

GOP budget deficit reality check ~ letter from Vermont

Trump/GOP budget is indefensible. Growing the government 13 percent...


An echo letter to the editor published in the Burlington Vermont Free Press.

Is a daily $3.3 billion or $2.2 million-a-second federal deficit the new spending norm? (MaineWriter~ *NOT*!)

Trump and the GOP were elected to office on promises to drain the swamp, cut spending and shrink government. Growing the government 13 percent does none of those.

Candidate Trump promised to get rid of the debt “fairly quickly.” Interest payments rose 10 percent from last year to $310 billion. It’s now on the path to becoming the fastest-growing part of the budget, rising from 7 percent of federal spending to 21 percent in 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

Investing in our national defense has merit, but without offsets from the remaining budget is irresponsible fiscal policy. This increased spending will prompt government to print more bonds to pay for it and that will create upward pressure on bond yields which will affect everyone’s borrowing.

The Republicans only care about the deficit when they’re out of power. Unless both political parties are willing to take on the challenge of limited government and less spending our current failed fiscal policies will reign supreme and leave even greater challenges for the next generation.

FRANK MAZUR South Burlington, Vermont

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Budget deficit is a runaway economic risk ~ danger ahead

WASHINGTON, DC — The Congressional Budget Office (CBO)  released its annual budget and economic outlook report, and although the news was gruesome, the report was, unfortunately, greeted in Washington with a giant yawn. 

Republicans wasted decades harping and denigrating the  deficit spending in the past; yet, now the GOP budget is creating an economic runaway train where the passengers who are Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries. They will be thrown off the track to protect the risky and forthcoming economic disaster.

Unbelievable as it is, the assumption among Republicans and Democrats is that the political rewards for curbing runaway budget deficits are too meager to justify the risks. There’s a consensus to do nothing — and to hope that nothing goes disastrously wrong.

Just how large are impending deficits? Here are the CBO projections.

From 2019 to 2028, the federal government will run cumulative annual deficits of $12.4 trillion. The deficits — the gap between what government spends and what it collects in taxes — average about 5 percent of the economy (gross domestic product, or GDP). Since 1950, deficits have equaled or exceeded 5 percent of GDP in only six years (1983, 1985 and 2009-2012), and most of these occurred after deep recessions. These reduce tax revenues and boost “safety net” spending (unemployment insurance, food stamps and the like).

By contrast, today’s deficits occur with low unemployment and an economy that’s been expanding for nine years.

Even the CBO figures may be optimistic if they’re based on unrealistic assumptions. Defense spending as a share of GDP is projected to fall; in a dangerous world, that may not happen. Similarly, some personal tax cuts are scheduled to expire at the end of 2025; many observers think Congress will extend them. Adding these amounts to government borrowing would increase the federal debt — the total of all past deficits — to more than 100 percent of GDP, about as large as right after World War II.

No one knows the consequences of these unprecedented peacetime deficits, but the CBO has listed some possibilities:

• They may further raise interest rates, which would increase deficits, squeeze other federal programs and crowd out borrowing by businesses for factories, machinery, computers and buildings. This last effect could imperil living standards.

• Government might find it difficult to respond to national emergencies, whether war, natural disaster or a financial crisis, because more borrowing on top of today’s deficits would be harder.

• We could face a full-blown debt crisis. As CBO Director Keith Hall recently testified, “investors would become unwilling to finance the government’s borrowing unless they were compensated with very high interest rates.” That could trigger draconian spending cuts or tax increases — and a stiff recession.

There can no longer be any pretense that the deficits reflect the aftermath of the Great Recession or other temporary forces. The main cause is political expediency: It’s more popular to increase spending and cut taxes than the opposite. Combined with an aging population, which automatically raises Social Security and Medicare spending, the profligacy becomes self-fulfilling.

The deteriorating political climate is reflected in a small incident showing the deep divide between parties. On March 27, The Washington Post published an op-ed piece by five conservative economists from Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. They warned of an approaching “debt crisis” if ballooning budget deficits weren’t reversed. The savings should come from lower spending, not higher taxes, they said.

On April 9, five Democratic economists issued a rejoinder in the Post, rejecting the Hoover economists’ suggestion that spending cuts for “entitlements” — mainly programs for the elderly and the poor — bear all the burden of cuts.

It would be more useful if the rival economists had collaborated to produce a consensus agreement that would — over, say, a decade — balance the budget. Make no mistake: This would be an immensely unpopular document. In today’s dollars, balancing the budget would require annual spending cuts and tax increases of about $1 trillion dollars. That’s equal to about a fifth of federal spending, which is now being borrowed.

Social Security and other “safety net” programs would have to be reduced, possibly through higher eligibility ages and more means-testing. These entitlements constitute about 70 percent of federal spending; if they’re ignored, the entire adjustment would fall on other spending (other domestic programs and defense) and taxes. Still, taxes would have to rise too, probably by hundreds of billions annually. Otherwise, spending cuts would be unacceptably severe.

If we are to discuss these choices sensibly, we must know what the choices are. But the vague generalities offered by both the Republican and Democratic economists seem more intended to burnish their partisan credentials than to inform the public. The longer this continues, the riskier it becomes.

On this, the conservatives and liberals probably agree. Say the conservative economists: “There is no current evidence … that a crisis is on the horizon. But a debt crisis does not come slowly and visibly like a rising tide. It comes without warning, like an earthquake, as short-term bondholders attempt to escape the fiscal carnage.” We have been forewarned.

MaineWriter ~ In other words, this runaway economic train will eventually derail; and the beneficiaries of earned retirement, and medical insurances like Social Security and Medicare, will be the unwilling victims. 

Robert Samuelson is a columnist with The Washington Post

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Political proof that there really is a just God


Federal judge ruled that the Kansas Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach repeatedly acted “disingenuously” and failed to notify Kansans about their registration

Republican Secretary of State in Kansas, Kris Kobach (aka ~ Dumb-back) is a Donald Trumpzi loyalist who deserves to go to jail for his contempt of supporting voter registration laws.

Reported in Salon.com ~ by Charlie May

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who helped lead President Donald Trump's now-defunct voter fraud commission, was found in contempt of court after failing to comply with a federal judge's orders to notify thousands of residents that they had been registered to vote.

In a scathing ruling, U.S.District Judge Julie Robinson wrote twice that Kobach acted "disingenuously" and that she found "clear and convincing evidence" he disobeyed the court order, according to The Washington Post.

In fact, the order came as a result of a 2016 lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union, which sued Kansas based on a 2013 voter ID law that "requires people to provide proof of citizenship, such as a passport or birth certificate, when they registered to vote for the first time," the Post reported. 

Judge Robinson blocked the law with a preliminary injunction in 2016 and ordered Kobach to notify "some 18,000" voters via a postcard with their registration and polling information.

TWITTER (ACLU) ~ BREAKING: Federal judge finds Kobach in contempt of court for violating the 2016 injunction blocking his documentary proof-of-citizenship law.

This is the same law that blocked more than 35,000 Kansas from registering to vote and that we took to trial in #ACLUvKobach.
5:10 PM - Apr 18, 2018


The ACLU (Civil Liberties Union) argued that Kobach, who is a GOP candidate for governor in Kansas, disobeyed the order and that voters had not received the postcard or any other information in regards to their voting status.

"Kansans have come to expect these postcards to confirm their registration status, and Defendant ensured the Court on the record that they had been sent prior to the 2016 general election,” Robinson wrote in her ruling, according to the Post. "They were not, and the fact that he sent a different notice to those voters does not wholly remove the contempt."

She added that Kobach "willfully failed to make sure that the county election officials were clearly and effectively trained to enforce" the rules of the injunction.

"The official training manual for the counties continued to instruct that all voter registration applicants were required to submit DPOC [documented proof of citizenship] and his efforts to revise these instructions informally and in a piecemeal way led to confusion and misinformation," Robinson wrote.

As a result of the contempt ruling, Kobach was ordered to pay attorney fees for the plaintiffs in the case.

Kobach, who is a close ally of the president, has a well documented track record of attempting to suppress voters with strict ID laws. Last year, while Kobach served as the vice chair of Trump's now-dismantled Election Integrity Commission, he was fined for "misleading the court" in voter ID cases.

Trump's so-called voter fraud commission was actually stacked with architects of voter suppression laws and echoed Trump's claim that 3 million people voted illegally in the 2016 election, an assertion the commission said it had evidence to prove, but was later unable to. The voter fraud commission also flagged Texans with Hispanic surnames, and experts have warned the commission failed to keep the safety of millions of peoples' data safe. 

Even worse....(wait, there's more!)....Kobach is also a paid Breitbart (aka "barfcart") News columnist, where he's written about his hardline (and cruel) anti-immigration views.

Every day, it's becoming more evident that the American judiciary must become the enforcer of our democracy, before it's completely dismantled by Republicans.  Perhaps, there really is a just political God after all ~ Bless Judge Julie Robinson and the others who have enforced their authorities as America's third branch of government.

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John Bolton is not suited for National Security ~ he is a clear and present danger

An echo opinion from The Daily Iowan 

John Bolton a disaster for diplomacy, level-headedness

John Robert Bolton 

John Bolton has a history of lying, shady dealings, and bullying.

By Jacob Prall

jacob-prall@uiowa.edu

John Bolton is a hawk. Pure and simple, the man is a lover of all things that go boom. He talks about war, he dreams about war —it seems he may need war to survive. Bolton's name is on everyone’s lips in D.C., because his ascension to national security adviser has the rest of the world on edge. 

Bolton still supports the Iraq War, wants to start a war with nuclear-power North Korea, and is desperate for a conflict in Iran. He is a danger to the world and to American interests everywhere.

Some in the media label Bolton a “neocon” or a “paleocon,” but these aren’t accurate. Paleoconservatism evolved from antiwar conservatism in the 1930s. Antiwar? Doesn’t sound like Bolton. Neocons, on the other hand, trace their lineage back to the anti-communist liberals of the 1970s who moved further right as the Democratic Party moved left. They believe in unilateral U.S. action and also believe U.S. power should be used to spread American ideals. That still isn’t Bolton; he’s a pure hawk. The hawks, like the neocons, embrace aggressiveness and despise nation-building, but they drink the “America First” Kool-Aid and don’t mind intervening anywhere and everywhere. Hawks led us into Iraq War, squandering hundreds of billions of dollars, costing millions of lives, and leading to the rise of ISIS. With a track record like that, you’d think hawks would go extinct. And they were — until Trump, of course.

Bolton was rejected as U.N. ambassador by Republicans and Democrats in 2005. Understandably — Bolton once claimed, “There is no United Nations,” and he openly deplores diplomacy. The pivotal moment came when Carl W. Ford Jr., former assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research, testified that Bolton was a “kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy,” a “serial abuser” of subordinates who attacked anyone trying to contradict him. He has manipulated intelligence to serve his agenda leading up to the Iraq War. His history of misleading the public makes him a natural choice for the Trump administration.

In recent years, Bolton spent his time ranting on cable news and hiring topical bad guys Cambridge Analytica to develop psychological profiles of voters for his SuperPAC. From August 2014 to August 2016, Bolton’s SuperPAC spent $1.2 million on “survey research” from the firm, whose methods include unscrupulous data mining of Facebook user profiles. It isn’t too surprising, as Bolton, Cambridge Analytica, and Trump are all paid off by the ultra-right, billionaire Mercer family.

What will come from Bolton as national security adviser? The most likely, and perhaps most devastating action could be the withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, something he and Trump both vehemently oppose. Iran is complying with the invasive and intensive requirements of the accord. If the deal is scrapped, it will move without restriction to enrich uranium and build nuclear weapons. The extremist element in Iran’s government, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, will declare the West untrustworthy and undermine the moderate parties in Iran.

Perhaps worst of all, the move will sabotage any negotiations with North Korea by exposing U.S. nuclear-weapon diplomacy as easily dismissable and unstable. If we don’t play by the rules with Iran, why would we with North Korea? And of course, we will be isolated diplomatically — the Iran nuclear deal is supported by every major power.

Bolton is a shady character who loves to bully, is enamored with the idea of blood and destruction, and who has a penchant for lying and isolating America from its allies. What could possibly go wrong?

MaineWriter ~ In other words, John Bolton is not qualified to lead America's National Security.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Republican Senator Joni Ernst is missing in action

Donald Trump is not the leader who Senator Ernst promised.

An Iowa newspaper has raised the ante for Republican Senator Ernst. She has not been honest with voters in Iowa. Although she campaigned for Donald Trump, she has not responded about the failed administration.
Senator Ernst (R-Iowa) campaigned for Republicans
Editorial published in the Iowa newspaper "Quad City Times":

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst campaigned for Donald Trump. 

She gave, perhaps, the most substantive speech of the Republican National Convention's opening night. She stood alongside Trumpzi on stages throughout Iowa, making his case.

Ernst worked for this. But now, she doesn't want to take the heat.

Ernst isn't the only Republican member of Congress tired of defending the Trumpzi tweeter-in-chief. But her response during a town hall in Red Oak, Iowa, is nothing short of an attempt to shirk her responsibility for the chaos now masquerading as governance.

"I don't respond a lot to what the president's saying because, if I'm going to talk, I want to talk about the things I'm working on," Ernst told the crowd peppering her with questions about Trump's behavior, according to KETV.

HELLO? Sorry Senator Ernst. That won't cut it, Senator. 

Trump's immense power means his words and actions define the political moment. Those things Ernst says she's "working on" do not exist in a vacuum.

Ernst, like a lot of Trump's supporters, promised Iowans that he would evolve once he entered the White House. Yet, the gravity of the job, or so the argument went, would force him to abandon the divisive, base-feeding rhetoric and grapple with the complexities of a socially and economically heterogeneous nation.

Instead, the American president's own staff grouse about his unwillingness to learn the basics about policy. He inflames global tensions 140 characters at a time. He attacks his own constituents -- more than half the country -- for simply disagreeing with him.

Trump is not the leader Ernst promised.

Iowa's junior senator made her bed. It's time she lie in it.

The U.S. is, by every account, in total chaos. The sweeping tax overhaul, the GOP lone legislative achievement in the Trump era, would have happened with any Republican residing in the White House.

In the past week, Trump promised to "take the heat" if a bipartisan immigration compromise offended his base. 

But, days later, senators brought him just such a compromise and he rejected it, complete with some crass xenophobia.

Trump's administration said it supported extending National Security Agency's controversial domestic spying program. But hours before the House was set to vote on the issue, Trump came out against it. Then, after a phone call from House leadership, Trump again did an about-face and, ultimately, supported the bill.

Trump's position is formed solely by with whom he last spoke. There's no rhyme, reason or political worldview from which he's operating. Trump desires only victory. And he's none too concerned with what that victory actually means for the country.

The president is an isolated, incurious man sitting atop an administration where pay-to-play, nepotism and palace intrigue are standard operating procedure.

On at least one occasion, Ernst did challenge the president's toxic drivel. She came out, carefully, against his attempt at booting transgender service members from the Armed Forces. 

Although her response was a commendable moment, it's also been an isolated incident.

Ernst isn't alone -- or even the worst offender -- among Iowa Republicans who carry Trump's water. Sen. Chuck Grassley has run an all-out deflection campaign for Trump from his seat atop the Senate Judiciary Committee. Rep. Steve King is, well, an embarrassment who gleefully champions the most nativist, racist components of Trump's rhetoric.

But King didn't play a substantial personal role in convincing Iowans to back Trump. Grassley worked quietly behind the scenes, urging GOP delegates that the Supreme Court was reason enough to support Trump regardless of his failings. Ernst, however, was Trump's in-state champion who, at one point, was among those discussed as potential vice presidential candidates.

Ernst made a lot of promises about the would-be president, pledges that have been exposed as hollow rhetoric. Iowans are right to want answers.
P.S. Now that Donald Trump has failed, Senator Ernst and her support are "missing in action".

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History ~ describing the advent of a Progressive Era

Two cliche's seem to be appropriate to describe this interview:

1.  Is America at a "glass half full or empty" moment?

Historian Ed Ayers interview in Salon.com and the History News Network
2. If Americans forget about history, are we doomed to repeat it?

It seems as though people must be pushed to the precipice of a political cliff before they collectively decide to abandon the historical situation at hand ~ like turning back the tide of the Trumpzi era of right wing zealots. Let's prevent Americans from falling victim to the lure of extremism.

An interview with historian Edward L. Ayers explains the history about the political precipice facing America and how to seize the opportunity at the moment, to change the right wing extremist course.  

Journalist Chauncey DeVegas asks these timely questions:
  • How can we reconcile the rise of Donald Trump with to the long view of American history? 
  • Why do so many Americans still fight about the real causes of the Civil War? 
  • What explains the Confederacy's enduring allure for many white Americans? 
  • Should the statues and other monuments honoring the Confederacy be removed from public spaces? 
  • If so, what should be done with them?

Interview with historian Ed Ayers, a professor at the University of Richmond and the author of numerous books and also a co-host of the popular podcast series "BackStory."


What is history, and why do we study it?

It’s all the information we have about everything that happened before today. It has no intrinsic shape or form. It’s not just a bunch of stories that we’re told. It can be anything. In the same way, I don’t know about you but I’m nothing other than my memories and my experiences. If you took those away, I would just be a blank slate. A large part of my work has been to try to gather together a way to see all those stories, those memories, those experiences and those interactions.

How do you reconcile the rise of Donald Trump with a longer view of American history?

My instinct is that we are at the beginning of a new Progressive Era in American history. I think what we are also seeing is a great mobilization of people who had been complacent under the Obama years, when it seemed like progress was just going to continue to unfold naturally. Now people realize that progress will only continue when you fight for it.

One thing about history is that the thing that people expect to happen never does. If there was a poll in the United States during 1860 which asked, “Who thinks that the largest and most powerful system of slavery in the modern world is going to be gone in five years?”, nobody would have said yes. Nobody thought it was possible to destroy something that big that quickly.

I think you’ll see, however, that as the Trump administration ends, the amount of energy that’s been spun up among young people, people of color, the gay community and other groups now has a focus in a way it did not before. ...

[T]here is a great deal of rhetoric in the editorial pages of many major newspapers, as well on right-wing conspiracy websites, that America is in the midst -- or soon will be -- of a new Civil War. As a Civil War historian, when you hear such language do you just dismiss it out of hand?

I try to think very thoughtfully about what it is that they’re saying. In a new Civil War, if it happened today, the equivalent of eight million Americans would be killed. Are we really looking at something like that? I don’t think so.

On the other hand, in my books I show that there was a Civil War because people didn’t believe there could be one. They just kept calling each other's bluff and drawing new lines in the sand. They ended up basically talking and voting themselves into a war that nobody wanted. It is always good to be alert to the danger, but it’s also important to have some sense of historical perspective about what true war looks like. America is not there yet.

Yes, things that are much worse than we can imagine can happen. You have to be alert. But that same vigilance can also allow you to see the possibilities for hopeful change that surround us as well. ...

In response to social progress there is an inevitable backlash. 

We saw this in the racist and authoritarian response by white America to Obama's presidency. (Although I appreciate your insights about a new progressive era_....but I’m deeply worried by how the vast majority of Americans appear to be stuck in a state of learned helplessness.

The barometer will be the 2018 midterm elections. There we will see if people are so full of despair that they have given up on the nation. I’m hopeful that people are going to recognize that voting matters, that politics matters, that governance matters.

Nobody understands what’s happening right now. In my new book, I talked about how nobody saw Gettysburg. Nobody saw the election of 1864. Living through something offers a really poor indicator of what actually happened. You see a part of it, and there’s an authenticity to that. We simply lack the capacity to assemble the flow of events into a coherent story.

Certainly under the Trump administration we’re living through something unprecedented. But that might also mean that we’re living through the beginning of an unprecedentedly comprehensive and inclusive progressive era.

The first progressive era was basically white people. Now we have the chance for one composed of people from lots of different identities coming together for the greater good. So since we can’t know whether that’s true or not, I choose to believe it in the meantime.

That's a wonderful and hopeful vision. As a counterpoint, there is a great deal of rhetoric in the editorial pages of many major newspapers, as well on right-wing conspiracy websites, that America is in the midst -- or soon will be -- of a new Civil War. 

As a Civil War historian, when you hear such language do you just dismiss it out of hand?

I try to think very thoughtfully about what it is that they’re saying. In a new Civil War, if it happened today, the equivalent of eight million Americans would be killed. Are we really looking at something like that? I don’t think so.

On the other hand, in my books I show that there was a Civil War because people didn’t believe there could be one. They just kept calling each other's bluff and drawing new lines in the sand. 

They ended up basically talking and voting themselves into a war that nobody wanted. It is always good to be alert to the danger, but it’s also important to have some sense of historical perspective about what true war looks like. America is not there yet.

Yes, things that are much worse than we can imagine can happen. You have to be alert. But that same vigilance can also allow you to see the possibilities for hopeful change that surround us as well.

The Republican Party is in many ways the Confederacy and the Jim Crow South updated for the 21st century. There has long been a neo-Confederate element in the post-civil rights era Republican Party. With Trump's election they have fully empowered. 

Even worse, in the aftermath of the Charlottesville violence, we actually saw the president of the United States, suggesting that there are "some very fine people" among neo-Nazis and white supremacists. How do you make sense of this?

I was in Charlottesville that day. I was going to teach a class that afternoon at the University of Virginia. I would start by explaining how there are people who turn to the symbols of the Confederacy as a native, indigenous rebellion against the power of the federal government. That appeals to a lot of people. But when you see that Confederate flag being mingled with Nazi flags, suddenly that claim upon an indigenous, pure and non-racialized argument about politics and "traditions" is gone. It has been forever entangled with white supremacy.

You might be surprised by the number of people who will come up to me after I give a lecture and tell me, "Slavery was wrong, I would never defend it. But the fact is that Robert E. Lee was a fine man and he was fighting for his home, right? He was fighting for what he thought was right." You hear that a lot. It makes you realize all the evasions that are built into this defense of the Confederacy. 

We have all these formulas that people use to say that they are proud of their ancestors. For example, he was a "good" slaveholder. Two, he didn’t really believe in slavery. Three, he wanted to get rid of slavery. Four, most white Southerners weren’t slaveholders so they could not have been fighting for slavery, and so forth. I listen to these folks and I then say, yes, let’s think about this. Let’s forget about whatever you might think about the character or identity of Robert E. Lee. What if the Confederacy had won? What if those men on horseback had actually accomplished what they set out to do? They would have created a nation explicitly based on perpetual bondage that would have been the fourth-richest economy in the world with a monopoly over the single most valuable commodity in the world. How would world history have been different? Other parts of the world would have looked to the South and said, “Ah, the path to the future leads through slavery."

If you try to argue with them on the same ground that they form the question on, you will have a hard time persuading them. But it’s also the case that white Northerners and Westerners have a smug belief in the inevitable end of American slavery that is not warranted either.

Are there any well-respected and properly trained historians who believe that the Civil War was about something other than slavery? Is that just bad pop history at this point? 

Where do these ridiculous ideas come from?

No serious historian has argued for more than half a century that the Civil War was over anything other than slavery. Yes, there are different ways that it was over slavery, right? One of the formulas I have for this is that white Southerners didn’t fight for slavery, they fought for a nation based on slavery. If you don’t put the nation part in there, you don’t have a place for the flags and a place for your girl to love you, a way for your mama to believe that this is Jesus’ plan, right? You have a larger framework of identity that obscures the centrality of slavery.

Many of the statues that were at the center of the protests and the racist riot at Charlottesville are relatively new. They were erected well after the Civil War, even through the middle of the 20th century, as expressions of white supremacy, especially in response to the civil rights movement.

A lot of schools were named after Lee and [Stonewall] Jackson in the 1950s and 1960s. This is something that people either had not known or maybe had forgotten. The Confederate battle flag also became popular during roughly the same time period. Somebody asked me about that in a recent talk and I pointed out this is the same time the Confederate battle flag became popular. I think we have to seize this moment for people to understand the real consequences of the things that they think are just their "heritage."

Confederate statues and other monuments are an effort to create a type of living history. 

After World War II, statues and monuments to Hitler and the Nazi regime were removed. That was a choice, because that type of public memory was not acceptable in post-war Germany. For a lot of black folks, and a good number of white folks as well, the Confederate flag is the American swastika. Why are so many white Southerners and others so psychologically invested in these symbols?

They just say, "You don’t understand what it really means. I wish no harm to anybody but they just need to be educated to the true history of Robert E. Lee." I offer this story. I gave a talk in Richmond where an older African-American woman came up to me at the end. She shook my hand and then said, "Dr. Ayers, when I was a child, my parents would take me to look at those statues and they said to me, 'These are for us. These are symbols for us to be quiet, to stay out of the way. The city doesn’t belong to us.'"

The movement to remove those statues is not contemporary "political correctness." John Mitchell Jr., who was on the city council and was also the editor of the Richmond Planet African-American newspaper, said in 1890 that the Robert E. Lee statue was "a monument to treason." Ultimately, we need to think of new ways to recall the horror of slavery and the suffering of the Civil War.

What are you hopeful for in this moment of American history? What are you afraid of or worried about?
I hope that all the people of good will can find commonality. That there are a lot of fundamental things in this nation that transcend any particular identity that we might have. Freedom of the press, freedom to vote, freedom of conscience and related values have gotten a little fragmented. My hope is that people will find a common voice to come together and to defend freedom and democracy more broadly.

What do I fear? Resentment and resistance will actually gain force rather than be diminished in the struggle that is to come. That’s the big question. Will people realize that we’re standing on the precipice of something much worse if we keep going down the road we are on? Or will they say, “Wait -- this is not really what’s best about America"?

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Christian persecution in the Middle East ~ Mosul

This chillingly accurate political cartoon graphic provides more information about Christian persecutions conducted by terrorist groups in the Middle East than any news reports could accurately describe.  Created by the Indianapolis Star (IndyStar) political commentator and cartoonist Gary Varvel.



Varvel looks at Christian persecution published in the IndyStar

Christians are under attack in Arab nations.  Recently, the terrorist group ISIS (the Caliphate) drove Christians from their homes in Mosul, Iraq, where they have ancestors who have inhabited the region for two millenia. "That sound of crickets chirping is the  world response," is Varvel's commentary. 

Here's how the journalist George J. Marlin described the dire situation in an article published in the National Review

Iraqi Christians Look to Reclaim Their Ancient Homes 
Baghdad’s expulsion of ISIS from the Nineveh Plains gives them hope, but they must act fast to return and regain possession.
It was the night of August 6, 2014. Fresh from their capture of Mosul, the terrorist ISIS fighters swept through the Nineveh Plains and overnight drove more than 12,000 Christian families from their homes and ancestral lands. The families fled, quite literally, with only the clothes on their backs.

In Kurdistan, they joined the approximately 15,000 Christians who had fled Mosul just weeks earlier. For the next three years, some 120,000 internally displaced persons, or IDPs, were housed, fed, and clothed by the Chaldean Archdiocese of Erbil. Led by Archbishop Bashar Warda, whose herculean efforts were made possible by the steadfast support of an array of faith-based agencies, the local Church was even able to open six new schools so the children would not be deprived of their education.
Now, three years later, there is a glimmer of hope. 
The Iraqi government recaptured Mosul and ISIS was expelled from the Nineveh Plains. Iraq’s long-suffering Christians, worn out by many months of living in make-shift conditions, now want to go home.
Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako of the Chaldean Catholic Church has urged the Christian IDPs to “return quickly to reclaim their lands before others seize them” and to avoid internal disputes. “We are the indigenous people of this country and its ancient civilizations, he added. “Our history is traced back to the oldest Christian Church in the world.”

Over a thousand families initially returned to their newly repaired homes on the Nineveh Plains. However, 13,000 Christian-owned homes await repair or rebuilding. And the revamping of the basic infrastructure of the nine Christian towns and villages on the Plains requires major funding — well beyond the ability of faith-based groups to deliver. Meanwhile, the overall situation is far from stable and secure. The threat of renewed violence hangs over the land.

Baghdad may tout its defeat of ISIS, but the group’s Sunni co-religionists still feel like second-class citizens in Iraq, as their devastated cities get scant help from the government. That situation is made worse by the growing influence of Shiite Iran, thousands of whose fighters have joined Iraq’s security forces. There are also reports that ISIS militants are going underground, preparing for guerrilla warfare, suicide attacks, and car bombs.
Christians and other religious minorities count on Western governments not only to help fund the reconstruction but also to insist that both Baghdad and Kurdistan guarantee security.
Christians are at risk — yet again — of becoming collateral damage of the Sunni–Shiite battle for control of Iraq and the larger region.
The issues affecting the region are complex and constantly evolving. 
Christians and other religious minorities count on the Western governments — and the U.S. in particular —not only to help fund the reconstruction of the Nineveh Plains but also to use their power and influence to get both Baghdad and Kurdistan to guarantee the security of all minorities and to ensure their equality of citizenship, including their property rights and freedom of worship.

The West must help because, if a significant number of Christians do not return to the Nineveh Plains very soon, and the power vacuum persists into 2018, the hopes for an enduring renaissance of Christianity in Iraq may be dashed forever.

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Vote against the GOP tax cuts for the rich

To the Republicans ~ the GOP serves wealthy donors:

Americans must vote Republicans out of office. 

Echo: Letter to the editor of the Erie Pennsylvania newspaper Erie.com ~ Erie Times-News.

Tax cuts for the rich~ The federal tax cuts passed by Republicans in December 2017, can be declared a failure. 

Donald Trump and the Republicans promised businesses would use the tax savings to generate more jobs at higher wages. 

Large companies like Walmart and Home Depot made headlines by giving all of their employees bonuses of a couple thousand dollars. 

Then, Apple announced it would bring back billions of dollars that it had in foreign bank accounts.

Although things were looking good, it's important to look behind the propped up headlines.

Workers at Walmart and Home Depot still make less than a living wage. Moreover, the business-friendly Marketwatch.com website reported that the vast majority of the tax cuts went to shareholders, mostly in the form of stock buybacks, which boost the share price. 

To put it in March Madness terms: workers score 6, shareholders score $171 billion.

Many people are working two jobs to make ends meet. They pray they or their kids don’t get sick, because they can’t afford health insurance. Instead of addressing these serious needs, the Republicans have just given a huge windfall to their wealthy donors and ignored the desperation of struggling workers

Luckily, there is a mid term election in November, or 2018. U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly and many other Republicans will be on the ballot. My advice: Vote Democrat.
— Blair R. Tuttle, Erie PA

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Religious right zealots hear from a writer in Erie PA

This echo letter is about the hypocrisy of Evangelicals who blindly support Donald Trump. It was sent to the editor and published in the Erie Times-News at GoErie.com:

(This is a "wake up" letter to Evangelicals!)
Letter from Erie Pennsylvania is a broadcast opinion! This letter is among the opinions I've selected to blog as I randomly cruise the nation's newspapers. 

I believe that the advent of computer technology and the internet has led to an impersonal world in which individuals who are angry, combative and somewhat self-centered and narcissistic can belittle others and give their political (and spiritual-religious) opinions on everything, and “tweet” many nasty, bullying things, which is what I believe Donald Trump is doing (MaineWriterat all hours of the day and night!).

I believe this has led to two separate philosophical-political cultures in America, where people feel this is true: First, Trump is “their” president, not “ours.” Second, others say, Trump is “our” president, and speaks for “us,” and that they alone are “America.”

Yet, I believe the cultural-religious right is governed by capitalism, Calvinism and an avaricious, narcissistic racist culture that touts that greed is good, right and “will save America,” as Michael Douglas quipped in the movie “Wall Street.”

I believe wealthy televangelists are responsible for the election of Donald Trump, as the culture of greed and self-love is fueled by their evangelical born-again “gospel” of health, wealth and prosperity, and, of late, flaunting of evangelical whiteness.

I believe the religious right is addicted to evil, hate, fear, guilt, shame and blame. It is addicted to blame of leftists, liberals, socialists and Democrats, love of Zionism and hatred of Muslims.

Religious right televangelist John Hagee of San Antonio, Texas, got Trump elected with his words, “God will hold you responsible for not voting for Donald J. Trump for president of the United States.”

I believe that the religious right fears everything, hates everyone and misuses the word “God.”

I believe that the gods of the religious right are the Republican Party, the National Rifle Association and Donald Trump. That is their right-wing political trinity.

God rescue America.
— Scott R. Harrington, Erie

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Morally unfit to lead ~ open season on name calling

James Comey: 'Donald Trump is morally unfit to be president and treats women like pieces of meat'

On Day One of the failed Donald Trump presidency, the first message received by the American people was a flurry of lies about the size of the inaugural crowds in Washington DC, on January 20, 2018. This entree into leadership was the classic and even graphic example of an "emperor who had no cloths", responding to empty seats on the parade's ceremonial routes. 
Former FBI Director James Comey says Donald Trump is morally unfit to lead
Continuing from there, Donald Trump proceeded to attack the American intelligence community. These messages were initiated by Donald Trump himself. 

In fact, Trump decreed that the National Park Service was to stop posting pictures of the empty seats on inauguration day 2017, and ~ (wait! there's more!)... he immediately began to criticize the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) ~ for, somehow, covering up a false allegation of wire tapping, among other things.
Nevertheless, at the same time as Trumpzi began his failed leadership with two miserable mistakes, he went on to meet with the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the early weeks of his administration.  

Moreover, Ambassador Kislyak says he won't name all the Trump officials he's met with because 'the list is so long'

Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak said it would take him more than 20 minutes to name all of the Trump officials he's met with.
Kislyak made the remarks in a sprawling interview with Russia-1, a popular state-owned Russian television channel.

Nevertheless, Trump did nothing to instill confidence in the American intelligence community. Rather, his continued courtship of Russia raised concerns about his vulnerability to being blackmailed by Russia, as a result of the trips and business dealings his company had with Russians.  

Then, Trump made the worst decision of any leader in American and perhaps even world history. He fired the former FBI Director James Comey, while the man was giving a speech in California.

Really dumb.

So, now James Comey is showing his allegiance to "A Higher Loyalty", in his book, where the name calling between him and Donald Trump has entered into the arena of a national food fight.

So, the name calling gates are open and James Comey told George Stephanopoulos that Donald Trump is morally unfit to lead.

In the Washington Post, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett reported:

"Former FBI director James B. Comey said in his first televised interview since being fired that he believed Donald Trump was “morally unfit to be president” and that it was 'possible' that the Russians had material that could be used to blackmail him."

"In a wide-ranging conversation with George Stephanopoulos broadcast on ABC late Sunday, Comey took aim at Trump in no uncertain terms, comparing his administration to a mafia family, likening his presidency to a forest fire and asserting there was evidence that he had committed a crime.

"He said that he would not favor impeaching Trump to remove him from office, because that 'would let the American people off the hook and have something happen indirectly that I believe they’re duty-bound to do directly' — meaning through elections. But he made clear his view of whether Trump was fit to hold the position."

“'This president does not reflect the values of this country', Comey said."

Therefore, since we're into the FBI arena of serious name calling, let's finish the James Comey glossary:
  • morally unfit to lead
  • philanderer
  • adulterer
  • money launderer
  • teller of lies
  • serial bully
  • un-American Putin hugger
  • coward (fires multiple people, his own colleagues, on Twitter)
  • never served in the military or public service
  • anti-immigrant
  • racist
  • obstructer of justice
  • does not support the US Constitution
  • narcissist
In other words, James Comey has responded to A Higher Loyalty by telling the American people the truth. 

Although James Comey is not necessarily a likable man, he is a truthful person.

Certainly, James Comey realizes how he has now become the political litmus paper competency test of the failed Donald Trump leadership. Is Comey truthful about Donald Trump's unpalatable and amoral leadership? Or, is Donald Trump the person who deserves credit for firing the former FBI director (by sending a Tweet), just because he could?

A preponderance of evidence is showing how Donald Trump is morally and temperamentally unfit to lead and I believe James Comey has been called by A Higher Loyalty to show how the failed Trumpzi emperor has no cloths. 

Comey's now best selling book is a collectible in the series beginning with "What Happened?" by Hillary Clinton; followed by "Fire and Fury", by Michael Wolff and now "A Higher Loyalty".  
A trilogy, leading to 2018 mid term elections.

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