Contributors

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Trump's Worst Enemy: His Own Big Fat Mouth

Today Donald Trump suffered another humiliating loss on his Muslim ban:
A federal appeals court refused Thursday to reinstate President Trump’s revised travel ban, saying it “drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination.”

The decision, from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va., was a fresh setback for the administration’s efforts to limit travel from several predominantly Muslim countries.
Why? Because calling it a "Muslim ban" was de facto religious discrimination, something Trump blared over and over on the campaign trail:
Writing for the majority, Chief Judge Roger L. Gregory said Mr. Trump’s statements on the campaign trail concerning Muslims showed that the revised order was the product of religious hostility. Such discrimination, he wrote, violates the First Amendment’s ban on government establishment of religion.

“Then-candidate Trump’s campaign statements reveal that on numerous occasions, he expressed anti-Muslim sentiment, as well as his intent, if elected, to ban Muslims from the United States,” Judge Gregory wrote. He cited, as an example, a 2015 statement calling for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our representatives can figure out what is going on.”
Trump's voters claimed to love him because he spoke the truth. But the truth is, they loved him because he said racist, bigoted things that they say all the time. Smarter politicians avoid this kind of speech because it causes so many problems down the line.

If Trump has just decried Islamist extremism and vowed to keep America safe, like most politicians do, he could have slipped his Muslim ban past the courts. But he's an idiot, and doesn't understand how the law works.

His Muslim ban might ultimately win in the Supreme Court. But that's only because Republicans stole a Supreme Court appointment from Barack Obama by refusing to consider Merrick Garland's nomination after Antonin Scalia died a year before the election.

Almost every problem Trump is facing today is due to his big fat mouth.

He just couldn't shut up about the FBI's investigation into Russia's meddling in the election: he told James Comey to drop it and the FBI director refused.

The president demanded multiple times that Comey pledge his personal allegiance to Trump, something Comey could not do without violating his oath of office to defend the United States of American from enemies foreign and domestic. Despite what Trump might think, the president is not the same as the country.

Trump couldn't shut up about James Comey's firing, bragging to Lester Holt  on national TV that he fired Comey because Comey wouldn't drop the Russia investigation.

Trump couldn't shut up about the fabulous intelligence the NSA and the CIA gives him: he had to brag about it to the Russian ambassador and burn an intelligence source of a close ally.

Trump still couldn't shut up about his own leak, confirming later that the intelligence source was in fact Israel by blabbing that he never said it was Israel, when he was visiting Israel. The Israeli defense minister subsequently confirmed that Trump had blown their source.

While talking to the murderous Philippine dictator Trump again leaked sensitive information by bragging that there are two nuclear subs off the coast of North Korea, according to a Philippine transcript of the call.

Trump just cannot shut up. He cannot be trusted with sensitive information. He is clearly not fit to be president. All you need to do it butter him up, give him an opening to brag about himself and he'll divulge pretty much anything.

It really makes you wonder about all those leaks coming out of the White House. Are there really that many dissatisfied aides sabotaging Trump, or is he the actual source of all these leaks? After all, the leaker-in-chief used to pose as "John Miller" or "John Barron" and release juicy gossip about himself. He never seemed to care how bad he looked in public, just as long as people were talking about him.

Historically, Trump has taken to heart P.T. Barnum's adage that "There is no such thing as bad publicity."

But Trump is supposed to running a country. Not a circus.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Curiouser and Curiouser

The New York Times reports that Russian spies planned to use Trump campaign advisors to influence Donald Trump:
American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers, according to three current and former American officials familiar with the intelligence.

The conversations focused on Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman at the time, and Michael T. Flynn, a retired general who was advising Mr. Trump, the officials said. Both men had indirect ties to Russian officials, who appeared confident that each could be used to help shape Mr. Trump’s opinions on Russia.

Some Russians boasted about how well they knew Mr. Flynn. Others discussed leveraging their ties to Viktor F. Yanukovych, the deposed president of Ukraine living in exile in Russia, who at one time had worked closely with Mr. Manafort.
Manafort has been gone a long time, but Donald Trump -- incredibly -- still thought he could get Michael Flynn back after he fired James Comey, thinking he could quash the FBI's investigation into Russian interference with the presidential election. 

And then there's this photo of Michael Flynn with Vladimir Putin -- and another very surprising person: Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate who siphoned thousands of votes away from Clinton in the three states where Trump barely beat Clinton:


After the election Stein pushed for recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, where she may have garnered enough votes to deny Clinton the presidency. Was Stein feeling guilty for getting Trump elected?

This looks extremely bad: the implication is that Russia was going after Clinton from the right with Flynn/Trump, and from the left with Jill Stein.

I certainly hope Stein wasn't colluding with the Russians, but it looks like we can add her to the list of useful idiots in the last election.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

History of the World (I Guess)

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Trump: Clueless Negotiator

Another day, another story of how oblivious Donald Trump is. This time he was bragging to the Russians about firing James Comey:
President Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office this month that firing the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, had relieved “great pressure” on him, according to a document summarizing the meeting.

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to the document, which was read to The New York Times by an American official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

Mr. Trump added, “I’m not under investigation.”
Trump sounds like an underling bragging to his boss about what a bang-up job he's doing. Not a great look for someone who's trying to not seem like a Russian puppet.

Trump told the Russians this the day after he fired Comey (as well as leaking Top Secret code-word intelligence from Israel). Meanwhile, the Internet and all news media were exploding with the story of the firing, making it clear to anyone who was breathing -- and the Russians in particular -- that no pressure whatsoever had been relieved by Comey's firing, and the move had totally backfired.

Has Trump ever sounded more clueless?

One of Trump's guys still tried to spin this blunder into gold:
A [...] government official briefed on the meeting defended the president, saying that Mr. Trump, whose discursive speaking style has hindered him in office, was using a negotiating tactic when he told Mr. Lavrov about the “pressure” he was under. The idea, the official suggested, was to create a sense of obligation with Russian officials and to coax concessions out of Mr. Lavrov — on Syria, Ukraine and other issues — by saying that Russian meddling in last year’s election had created enormous political problems for Mr. Trump. 
How naive are these people? Trump just made himself look like a fool by saying that firing Comey took the pressure off him, when the exact opposite was true. Trump looks even weaker and more foolish as his presidency is spinning faster and faster out of control.

Then told Lavrov he wasn't under investigation. A week later a special counsel was appointed, the former FBI director who brooks no nonsense. And now an advisor very close to Trump is suspected of directly colluding with the Russians. It sounds like it's Kushner, Sessions or Tillerson (my money's on Kushner, who has a history of playing pattycake with Russians and has been very cozy with Kislyak and Russian bankers).

Trump made himself look weak, stupid, oblivious and foolish right in front of the Russians. Does he think they'll take pity on him and give him something concrete because his administration is collapsing?

It's more likely that they'll put even more pressure on the weakened Trump, extracting hard-core concessions from the United States on NATO expansion, Ukraine and Syria and giving Trump purely cosmetic wins.

Because Trump is so weak and desperate to make it look like he's winning, the Russians have a huge negotiating advantage. Trump does not get it: any kind of deal that he makes with Russia will always be suspect because he's under investigation for colluding with Russia. Trump has been forever tarnished by acting as Putin's lapdog.

Most likely we'll see another gimmick like the bombing in Syria: after Syrian dictator and Russian puppet Bashar al-Assad used nerve gas on civilians, Trump had a Syrian airport bombed. But Trump warned the Russians before the bombing! Mere hours later Syrian warplanes were targeting civilians again.

Trump's "decisive" action against Syria was just for show and didn't hurt the regime at all.

Russia will want to draw out Trump's drama as long as possible to press their advantage, while pulling more dirty tricks in German election, creating confusion everywhere in the western alliance.

With this kind of negotiating "skill" it's no wonder that Trump drove four of his businesses into bankruptcy.

The longer Trump is in office, the longer the chaos will continue, and the more power Russia will accrue. The war in Syria will drag on. Russia will target anti-Assad forces and leave ISIS terrorists alone. More people will die in Syria and the mass exodus into the rest of the Middle East and Europe will continue. ISIS will infiltrate more terrorists into Europe and the United States.

Because that's been Russia's goal all along.

Laughably Wrong

Nikto has been doing a great job covering all the Trump stuff this week so I thought I would focus on something else: education. Being that this is my area of expertise, I had a pretty strong reaction to this recent story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune regarding the loosening of regulation in obtaining a teacher's license. Here's the part that cracked me up the most.

"If this bill passes, there will be a teacher shortage," Cwodzinski said. He predicted that community experts would be unprepared for the multifaceted demands of the job: "When ... they find out that we have papers to grade 'til midnight and curriculum meetings that go 'til five on Fridays and classroom management issues, and safety and discipline ... and Lord help them when they're told you can't go potty until the bell rings," he said.

Let's take this crap one piece at a time. Only English teachers grade papers until midnight. If any other teacher is doing so, it's because they assigned them. Most instructors give multiple choice assessments or assign other forms of work. Curriculum meetings are never on Fridays and invariably are professional days off or are on staff development days. If an instructor has classroom management issues, they should adjust how they deal with the issue. There are a myriad of methods (ENVOY, PBIS) that are effective with any sort of student. This would include discipline. I'm not sure what he means by "safety" but there are only a few drills a year, usually done in the fall and spring, that don't take up much time. Finally, teachers go to the bathroom all the time during class. Tenured teachers leave their rooms unattended all the time. I'm not a big fan of it but if you have to go, you go. Further, you can always get a paraprofessional to come to your home if it's an emergency. So, all of his protestations are nonsense and he is laughably wrong.

As to the larger issue of easing the path to being a teacher, I think it's going to have to happen. We have a teacher shortage in this state, in particular with math, science, and special ed. Who will fill these roles once even more baby boomers retire? Besides, administrators aren't going to hire someone who is underqualified. There doesn't need to be a state law saying who is or isn't qualified. A principal will simply not hire someone who doesn't have the degree they desire.

I had to jump through a lot of unnecessary hoops to get my license. People are turned off by this and that's why there is a teacher shortage. The real issue is tenure. It needs to change. Yesterday. Seniority should be taken into account but only in terms of not allowing districts to cut people simply because they make too much money. Unions need to get tougher on teachers who are just phoning it in and teachers evaluations should be done by outside, private entities.

Administrators should be given greater leeway to hire and fire based on performance. If that happens, the quality of both teaching and candidates coming into teaching will improve.


Friday, May 19, 2017

Did Michael Flynn Betray the United States for a Turkish Dictator?

The news about former Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn keeps getting worse. Most attention has been paid to Flynn's connections to Russia, but Flynn relationship with Turkey is far more troubling.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, while Flynn was working for Trump, Flynn received $600,000 from Turkey to work as a foreign agent, pushing Turkey's agenda in the United States.

On election day, Flynn wrote an editorial saying that the United States should hand over a Turkish cleric living in Pennsylvania that Turkey portrays as a radical. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan says the cleric was complicit in last year's failed coup attempt.

Turkey has a long history of military coups that rein in political leaders who betray the vision of Turkey as a modern secular state that its founder, Kemal Atatürk, had for his country. Erdoğan is quickly turning Turkey into an Islamic dictatorship in the Iranian mold.

After the coup attempt, Turkey purged thousands upon thousands of government officials, teachers, police, governors, university deans, and arrested thousands of soldiers, judges and generals.

Turkey just held a constitutional referendum that gives President Erdoğan dictatorial powers. It barely passed, 51-49%.

When Trump hired Flynn after the inauguration, Trump knew that Flynn had committed a crime by not registering as a Turkish foreign agent. Trump didn't fire Flynn for almost three weeks after Sally Yates told his administration that Flynn was dirty with Russian money. During that time Trump let VP Mike Pence and other mouthpieces continue to lie about Flynn. Now Pence says he didn't know Flynn was a foreign agent for Turkey.

Recently the Trump administration decided to arm Syrian Kurds fighting ISIS, despite objections from Turkey. However, Flynn rejected this idea when the Obama administration proposed doing it before Trump took office, to help avoid Trump taking the heat for the decision.

But now that Flynn's out, we're helping the Kurds. Flynn set back the American fight against ISIS. Did Flynn betray American interests for a Turkish dictator?

Turkey doesn't want the Kurds to have weapons or any kind of relationship with the United States because they have a native Kurdish minority that the Turks have been oppressing since forever. Some Kurds in the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) have committed terrorist acts in Turkey, so not all Kurds are angels. But they're not all terrorists, either.

The Kurds in Iraq have been pretty much the only reliable ally the United States has had in the Middle East since George W. Bush invaded Iraq in 2003. And Turkey bombed our Kurdish allies just last month.

The daughter of an acquaintance of mine taught English in Turkey for several years. It used to be a normal, modern, democratic, religiously-tolerant country, but since Erdoğan took power it has become backward, Islamist and anti-Western. She and her husband moved to Spain recently because of increasing anti-Western rhetoric spewing out of the dictator's mouth:
“Turkey is not a country that can be pushed and shoved, whose honour can be toyed with, whose ministers can be ousted, whose citizens can be dragged on the ground,” Erdogan said in a speech to Turkish media representatives in Ankara, the Turkish capital.

“These developments are being watched in all corners of the world,” he said. “If you continue this way, tomorrow no European, no Westerner anywhere in the world will be able to step onto the streets safely, with peace of mind.”
This is the same dictator that Trump congratulated after his dictatorial referendum win.

This is the same dictator that Trump met with in the White House the other day.

This is the same dictator that ordered his thugs to beat up people on American soil.

This is the same dictator that Flynn took more than half a million dollars from, violating his oath and breaking the law. This isn't just a liberal allegation: Flynn has admitted committing these crimes by retroactively registering as a foreign agent.

Despite all this, Donald Trump apparently still wants Flynn to come back and work for him. Trump still doesn't think Flynn did anything wrong.

Is Trump really that stupid? Is he really that morally compromised, oblivious, unethical and ignorant of the law?

Or is Trump intentionally leaking these positive vibes so that Flynn still likes him? Is Trump trying to keep on Flynn's good side so that when Flynn is ultimately charged for his crimes, he won't rat out Trump for a deal?

You know it can't be out of loyalty. Trump will throw anyone under the bus to save his own skin.

You'd think that with all the trouble that Flynn has caused Trump he'd blast Flynn on Twitter endlessly. But, just like the Russians who have made Trump look like their bitch, the president has nothing bad to say about Flynn.

Why is that?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Twenty Five, Part Two

Ever since Donald Trump was elected, almost six months ago, reliably conservative commentators have been bailing on him. The same people who defended any and every idiotic thing George Bush did have been bemoaning the fact that Republicans have put a child in charge of the world's most powerful military and its nuclear weapons.

It's only gotten worse since Trump fired James Comey. Russ Douthat, the New York Times' apologist for every absurd Republican brain fart, has called for Trump's cabinet to remove him using the Twenty Fifth Amendment. I made that same call last November.

Now even some Republican lawmakers are saying that Trump should be impeached if it's true that Trump told Comey to stop investigating Michael Flynn, Trump's national security advisor, for his connections to the Russians.

What has changed since November? Absolutely nothing. Trump is behaving exactly the same way he always has. He's a lying, selfish, corrupt, dictatorial nincompoop who doesn't know anything, has no wish to learn anything and is incapable of forming any new memories.

All anyone had to do to know that Trump was unfit to lead this country had to do was listen to what the man said for the previous forty years. For example:
Trump: I moved on her, actually. You know, she was down on Palm Beach. I moved on her, and I failed. I’ll admit it.

Unknown: Whoa.

Trump: I did try and fuck her. She was married.
And this:
Trump: Yeah, that’s her. With the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

Bush: Whatever you want.

Trump: Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.
 And this:
When I asked Donald Trump in 2014 about his temperament, he readily volunteered this: "When I look at myself in the first grade and I look at myself now, I'm basically the same. The temperament is not that different."
As a grade-schooler Trump threw cake around a birthday party and gave a teacher a black eye because, as he wrote in his own book "The Art of the Deal", the man didn't know what he was talking about. Trump told me in interviews I did with him for a biography that as a boy he just "loved to fight." Pressed to explain, he added, "Any kind of fight, I loved it, including physical." 
This buffoon admitted that he has not grown emotionally since he was ten years old. And he's proud of it.

You really have to wonder whether Trump would be able to pass a basic citizenship test without Ivanka and Jared to give him all the answers. 

The typical Trump speech on the campaign trail would start with him lying, then bragging, then lying, then bragging, then exaggerating, then changing the subject and going off on some irrelevant tangent. Then he would make a joke. Then he would whine about how mean and unfair everyone is to him (he's still doing it today, in a commencement speech!). Then he would reverse everything and pose a sarcastic question. Then he would mention the truth, but in an off-handed and dismissive way that people ignored.

This is why people listening to him are so confused. He says everything and he says nothing. People who watched his show and thought he was funny hear whatever they want to hear, and ignore all the other crap that spews from his ever-snarling lips.

But listening to him closely, you realize everything he says is BS. He's worse than the most conniving used car salesman, the most mendacious realtor or the most pernicious politician.

He's still doing this, four months into his presidency. His press people, the VP and other surrogates squirt out a bunch of lies to defend him, and when no one believes the lies, Trump goes out and lies and brags and exaggerates, then he finally admits the truth, undercutting and embarrassing his surrogates over and over again. Then, in the end, he says that since he's president he can do whatever the hell he wants.

This is exactly why Putin worked to elect Trump. Putin feared Hillary Clinton, but wanted Trump because he knew Trump was a полезный дурак -- a useful fool. He knew that Trump would be an ineffective and bumbling moron, leading the United States into chaos, dissension and ruin.

And then Putin humiliated Trump yet again today, by offering to provide a transcript of Trump's meeting with the Sergeis Lavrov and Kislyak in the oval office. I wonder if Putin could also provide a recording of Trump's meeting with James Comey, when Trump tried to obstruct justice or demand personal fealty from the FBI director. Perhaps those are the "tapes" that Trump was referring to in his threatening tweet to warn Comey against talking to the press.

Trump's first-grader mentality is is why he categorically refuses to believe that Putin threw the election to him, and why he refuses to acknowledge that he lost the popular vote. The Russians were more afraid of a girl than they were of him. More Americans wanted a girl to be president than him.

And first-grader-in-chief Trump can't stand that.

As soon as Trump lifts off for his international trip the cabinet should hold an emergency meeting and invoke the Twenty-Fifth Amendment.

Please let this national nightmare be over as soon as possible. Because for the United States Trump is a безполезный дурак -- a useless fool.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

What Have the Russians Got on Trump?

If there's one thing Trump hates, it's when someone makes him look bad. He has gone after hundreds of people in his campaign rants and on Twitter. And it's not just Rosie O'Donnell and reporters that he insults. He has insulted our German allies, our French allies, our Australian allies, our Korean allies, our Japanese allies, and on and on and on.

Trump even threatened James Comey on Twitter after firing the FBI director, implying that he had tapes of their conversations.

But the one group Trump never seems to get mad at, no matter how bad they make him look, is the Russians. In the last year Putin has made Trump look his puppet over and over again with story after humiliating story:
  • Former national security advisor Michael Flynn lied to the Trump administration about his relationship with the Russians. 
  • Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort dealings with the Russians and Russian puppets forced him to resign from the campaign in disgrace.
  • Trump campaign advisor Carter Page had dealings with Russian spies.
  • Putin demanded Trump to receive the Sergeis Kislyak and Lavrov in the Oval Office, and Trump blindly obeyed, opening Trump up to ridicule in front of the whole world.
  • Trump was embarrassed by stories that Russia has kompromat -- blackmail material  -- on Trump from when he was in Russia for the Miss Universe contest, including an infamous Golden Shower tape.
  • Said Sergeis brought along a Russian propagandist from TASS, the Soviet press agency (yes, it really is -- "Soviet" is still in the name), and not an "official Kremlin photographer" as Trump thought.
  • Said Russian propagandist published photos of Trump yucking it up with the Sergeis in the Oval Office, after agreeing that no photos would be released.
  • Trump was caught bragging to the Russians about the Top Secret information he gets during this meeting.
Every day brings another story that makes it look like the Russians own Trump's fat ass. They are making him look like the biggest putz to ever sit in the Oval Office.

Yet Trump has not blasted the Russians in speeches or on Twitter. Why not?

Why is Trump so afraid of the Russians? What do the Russians have on Trump?
 
Did he hook up with Russian hookers in Moscow (Putin did say they were the best)? Do they really have the Golden Shower video? Do they have evidence that he laundered money for Russian oligarchs? Do they have recordings of direct collusion with Trump campaign advisors Roger Stone and Carter Page? Do they documentation of coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians over the release on Wikileaks of DNC emails?

Trump is not the kind of guy who takes the kind of humiliation the Russians have been heaping on him silently. Yet he's just taking it all without a peep.

Why?

Monday, May 15, 2017

Trump Just Committed Treason to Brag to the Russians

Just when you think Trump couldn't do anything stupider than admit on national TV that he fired James Comey to stop his investigation into Trump's campaign connections to the Russians, Trump did:
President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.

The information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.
Anyone else revealing such classified information to the Russians would be fired or charged with treason. But because Trump is president he can technically choose to declassify information if necessary.

It wasn't necessary: it was a catastrophically stupid blunder. Trump has now burned a key intelligence source in our fight against ISIS, a fight that Russia has been sabotaging for years:
In his meeting with Lavrov, Trump seemed to be boasting about his inside knowledge of the looming threat. “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day,” the president said, according to an official with knowledge of the exchange.

Trump went on to discuss aspects of the threat that the United States learned only through the espionage capabilities of a key partner. He did not reveal the specific intelligence-gathering method, but he described how the Islamic State was pursuing elements of a specific plot and how much harm such an attack could cause under varying circumstances. Most alarmingly, officials said, Trump revealed the city in the Islamic State’s territory where the U.S. intelligence partner detected the threat.
Why on earth would this idiot Trump feel the need brag to the Russians about what great intel he gets? They already know about the CIA and the NSA -- they've been fighting them for years.

Trump is totally oblivious to what the Russians are really doing. They have been helping Assad target our allies in Syria with cluster bombs, barrel bombs and nerve gas, while ignoring ISIS targets. They have forced millions of Syrians to flee to other countries -- in particular Europe -- causing widespread political instability and terrorism when ISIS terrorists sneak in with the victims of Assad's brutality.

Is Trump intentionally giving the Russians this information, or is he just incredibly stupid and incompetent? Some people thought the Russians might take advantage of being in the oval office to plant a bug, but why bother when that moron Trump blabs top secret information just to prove what a cool guy he is?

Trump and Kislyak
Most government officials have to be seduced by some fabulously sexy Russian femme fatale to give up the nation's secrets -- Trump's weakness is a fat old man with no chin.

The only top secret information Trump can be trusted with is his real height and weight.

Okay, Republicans: will you now admit that Trump is danger to the Republic? A loose cannon who can't be trusted with the nuclear codes? An golf-playing orangutan whose pussy-grabbing brags should have been the evidence everyone needed to know what a complete and utter moron this clown is?

Impeachment can't happen soon enough. Trump is clearly unfit to serve as president.

Trump's Not the CEO of America: He's My Employee

Last week UN ambassador Nikki Haley said something stupid that reflects a basic misunderstanding that Republicans hold about government:
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley defended President Trump's firing of former FBI director James Comey, saying that he can "fire anyone he wants."

"The president is the CEO of the country," Haley told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" Sunday. "He can hire and fire anyone he wants."
While it's true that Trump is the Chief Executive Officer of the country, he doesn't have the same kind of powers as an all-powerful corporate CEO, which is what Haley is implying.

Trump cannot fire anyone fire anyone he wants. He can't fire Paul Ryan, a member of Congress. He can't fire Chuck Schumer, a senator from New York. He can't fire Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a Supreme Court justice.

Trump can't even fire any federal employee that he wants to -- they have civil service protections. Trump wants to be able to do this, to  intimidate everyone in the government. He has asked Congress to give him this power, and some numbskull from Indiana has introduced a bill to do this, but it has so far not passed.

In fact, Paul Ryan, Chuck Schumer and the other members of Congress are the ones who can fire Donald Trump. Also, because of the 25th Amendment, the members of Trump's cabinet can also fire him -- though I'm sure when Trump finally realizes this his immediate reaction will be, "Not if I fire them first!"

Ryan, Schumer, Ginsburg and the rest of Congress and the Supreme Court can override Trump on any and every issue they care to. There's a system of checks and balances to prevent wanna-be kings and dictators from taking over this country.

Furthermore, Congress authorizes all spending, and without money Trump can't do a damned thing.

Trump cannot fire the legislature of New York; they're considering legislation that would put his tax returns online. That's not the same as firing Trump, but it could quite conceivably lead to his downfall when his connections to Russian oligarchs are revealed.

The main source of power Trump has is the fractiousness of Congress, and their general inability to agree on anything quickly. But if Trump keeps going the way he's going, and his poll numbers sink lower than Nixon's, even the most diehard Republicans will abandon him: they've already got Gorsuch, and they'll get Pence if they dump Trump.

Pence, at least, doesn't seem to be crazy (though he does seem to be pussy-whipped). What's not for them to like about getting rid of the man who's hellbent on destroying the Republican Party majority in the House in 2018?

Trump is not the "CEO" of America. He's not a mob boss who can bump off any schlub he doesn't like. He's not a dictator who can whisk anyone he chooses off to concentration camps. He's not a king who can behead his wife because he wants to marry another women.

Ultimately, Trump is a public employee. He serves at the pleasure of the people, and not the pleasure of all the people, not by a long shot. He lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by three million votes. Less than 20% of the population voted for him (62.9 million out of 324 million total US population). He won the presidency by only 80,000 votes in three states, because of the gimmicky way slavers forced the Founding Fathers to write the Constitution to protect their political power.

It's also likely that Republican voter suppression efforts in those three states handed Trump the election, which is why Trump is already working hard to ramp up efforts to suppress the vote with his phony electoral integrity commission.

Trump is supposed to be working for me and the rest of the American people. The other people who work for us -- our representatives and senators in Congress -- can fire Trump. They could do it in one afternoon if Trump did something egregious enough. And he really seems to be testing the limits.

Ultimately, the American people can fire Trump should he survive long enough to run for president in 2020.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

A Taste of Their Own Medicine?

Hackers launched a ransomware attack against computers across the world in recent days, demanding victims pay them in bitcoin in order to unlock their computers. The attackers went after banks and vulnerable social infrastructure, including hospitals, transportation and police.

Russian hackers have historically been behind ransomware attacks. But it was Russia -- the source of hacking attacks against Hillary Clinton and Emmanuel Macron -- that was hardest hit by these most recent attacks:
Russia was again at the center of a global hacking scandal when computer systems the world over were frozen this weekend by a variant of malicious software known as WannaCry. But this time, Russians were among the victims of the attack, not suspected of being the perpetrators.

In fact, of all the countries afflicted in the first wave of the spread of the malicious software, Russia was hit the hardest: The virus tried to infect more computers in Russia than anywhere else, according to an analysis by Kaspersky Lab, a Russian antivirus company.
And the reason that Russia was hit hardest? They're all running outdated versions of pirated software, including ancient Windows XP and Microsoft Office. Yeah: most Russian government agencies and businesses run on stolen software.
The malware was based on a program developed by the N.S.A. and stolen in a breach of the United States government’s servers. The version of the program used to demand ransoms from the operators of frozen computer systems exploits vulnerabilities in older and unlicensed versions of Microsoft Windows, used widely in Russia, that did not have security patches. 
The United States is not innocent in this. The NSA and CIA have cyberteams looking for software vulnerabilities, and instead of letting suppliers know about these bugs, they hoard this information hoping to spring it on our enemies some day.

But they're not the only ones looking for this security holes. Cyber criminals find them and exploit them right away, costing innocent civilians billions of dollars in lost productivity, ransoms and lost data.

The two most important lessons from this: 1) keep your computer updated with the latest security patches, and 2) our government shouldn't be playing a computerized version of Spy vs. Spy: they should notify software suppliers of security holes as soon as soon as they find them.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

A Lack of Empathy

When Barack Obama appointed Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, he was ridiculed by Republicans because he said one of the qualities that was important in a Supreme Court justice was empathy.

Empathy is the ability to understand other people's emotions, to anticipate how someone will feel. It is a quality few Republicans seem to possess, and one that most Republicans love to ridicule.

Nonetheless, it's important in politics to be able to understand how people will react; that is, how to empathize with them.

Donald Trump likes to pretend he empathizes with his supporters, but he doesn't have a clue what they're really feeling. He just knows they're angry, and says things to stoke their anger. That's not empathy.

The Republican inability to empathize with others was displayed in full force in the Comey affair:
After Trump decided to fire Comey, he was told by aides that Democrats would likely react positively to the news given the role many believe Comey played in Hillary Clinton's defeat last year. When the opposite occurred, Trump grew incensed — both at Democrats and his own communications staff for not quickly lining up more Republicans to defend him on television.
They thought Democrats would rejoice because they think Comey is viewed by Democrats as "the enemy" for screwing over Clinton. But they were thinking like Republicans.

Comey was certainly a major factor in Clinton's loss, but not the only one -- something that Clinton herself admitted. He tried to repair the damage he caused even before election day. He was also in a bad situation: New York FBI agents were leaking stories about Anthony Weiner's laptop, so Comey had to do something. If he said nothing it would look like he was helping in a coverup. Comey had been screwed by disloyal employees with an irrational hatred of Hillary Clinton.

Then, after the election, when the NSA and the CIA confirmed that Russia had hacked the election to get Trump elected, the FBI was hesitant to come to the same conclusion. But eventually Comey came around and admitted it was true.

In the end, if Obama didn't see fit to fire Comey for interfering with the election, it was utterly preposterous that Trump would fire Comey for hurting "Crooked Hillary's" chances. Democrats are not blinded by lust for vengeance. They believe in the rule of law.

The final straw for Trump seems to be when Comey testified before Congress that he was nauseated by the idea that he helped elect Trump. That must have really stuck in Trump's big fat craw.

Republicans and other autocrats are frequently driven by hatred and revenge, typified by people like Donald Trump and Richard Nixon. Democrats are more often driven by a desire for justice and truth.

That doesn't mean Democrats don't want to see Republicans humiliated: they do. But they don't want to see their opponents destroyed in the same way that Republicans do. Trump and men like him want to utterly crush their enemies and ruin their lives. Democrats want to see their opponents slink off into obscurity in disrepute, appearing occasionally as a cautionary tale. Like, say, George W. Bush and his painting hobby.

That's why Republicans watch Fox News hate-fests while Democrats watch late-night comedy like Colbert and the Daily Show.

The crazy thing is that Trump has already done the Democrats' job for them. To use one of Trump's favorite phrases, "everybody knows" Trump is a deranged whack-job. He spouts nonsense and lies at every turn. He lies to his aides, lies to his spokespeople, lies to the vice president, lies to the Republicans who have been supporting him in Congress, he lies to the press and he lies to the American people. He constantly disgraces himself with his stupidity and ignorance in all his tweets and speeches.

With Trump everything is a lie, an exaggeration or braggadocio, which he will soon contradict on a whim, or in the next 10 minutes, whichever comes first.

No one -- not even his blue-collar base -- really believes anything Trump says. They're just sure that he hates the same people that they hate (Muslims, blacks and Mexicans), and they hope his self-serving policies will hurt their objects of ire more than he'll hurt them.

Trump's employees are in a constant state of dread that they'll be blamed for his latest fuckup, that they'll be fired because this man-child can't control his temper or his big fat mouth or his stumpy Twitter fingers. His allies are in a constant state of despair because they have no clue what idiotic thing he'll do, and they have no idea which bizarre rat-hole he'll drag them down next.

With Trump, loyalty flows only up -- he feels no loyalty to the people who work for or help him. He'll throw anyone under the bus who isn't related to him by blood or who doesn't have any dirt on him.

Trump appears to have zero empathy. He's incapable of empathizing with any emotions other that hatred -- and he's probably just projecting his own hatred rather than sensing it in others. He acts like an emotional robot, spewing the same ridiculous catch-phrases and weasel words over and over and over again. It's like he's one of those bots on the Internet that just echo back the hate they see in others.

Trump thinks that he can rule through chaos and fear. It's worked for him in private business for 50 years, and he thinks that he can do the same thing governing. That works in dictatorships, but this is America. Republicans will put up with Trump for as long as he is useful, but over the long haul I have a feeling that even they can't stomach the idea of El Trumpo.

Trump has already thrown so many other Republicans under the bus, I hope they'll return the favor before it's too late.