Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The US has a Trade Deficit Because We're Rich -- At Least Some of Us

Donald Trump has a serious Twitter problem. No, I'm not talking about "covfefe". (Trump seriously needs to get more sleep.)

I'm talking about him using Twitter to sabotage our relationship with our NATO allies.
“We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military,” an angry Mr. Trump said on Twitter on Tuesday morning. “Very bad for U.S. This will change.”
Has Vladimir Putin stolen Trump's Twitter password, or is Trump just following the orders Sergei Kislyak gave him when the Russian ambassador visited the White House?

No, it's not that: Trump is just being dense again. As has been pointed out in numerous places, German companies build a lot of their cars in the United States:
German companies employ roughly 700,000 people in the United States. Carmakers like BMW and Mercedes-Benz have huge American assembly plants, which export vehicles to China and Latin America. BMW’s factory in Spartanburg, S.C., is the largest single exporter, by dollar value, in the American automotive industry. 
Yeah, the trade deficit can be a problem. But the real reason that we have a trade deficit with most (though not all) of the rest of the world is that the United States is the richest and most successful country in the world.

Being the richest country in the world means we have the most disposable wealth. In 2015 the average American salary was higher than every other country in the world except Luxembourg, which also has a trade deficit.

Luxembourg's banking sector is a huge part of its economy, just as finance is in the United States and Switzerland, which has the third highest average salary. Banks don't build a lot of cars.

Since we're so rich, other countries step up to sell us things. We don't have to buy those things, but a lot of rich Americans like to buy expensive things from foreign countries. Things like Italian marble:
Trump himself, after riding down an escalator through the tower’s six-story atrium, announced his candidacy from the sky-lit basement level, perched on a temporary platform rigged over the basin of a sixty-foot waterfall that—along with twenty-four hundred tons of rose-colored Italian Breccia Pernice marble—is the atrium’s signature feature.
Donald Trump bought 2400 tons of rock from Italy. Wasn't American rock good enough for Trump?

Trump bitches about German manufacturers who have invested billions of dollars in the United States to build factories in states like South Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama. Japanese car manufacturers have plants in Ohio, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Indiana. Korean companies have factories in Georgia and Alabama.

Not only does Donald Trump import Italian marble, Trump and his offspring import foreign workers using the H-2A program. Two months ago this happened:
Trump Vineyard Estates, owned by Eric Trump, is seeking permission to hire 29 foreign workers through the federal H-2A visa program to cultivate grapes at its Virginia winery, the Associated Press reported Tuesday. The immigration program lets agricultural employees temporarily hire foreign workers to do the jobs Americans don't want or can't do.
This is an ongoing thing:
This isn't the first time a Trump business has looked to hire outside the U.S. Trump's older daughter and close adviser, Ivanka Trump, has also shown a preference for foreign workers. Her jewelry line applied for five guest worker visas to hire foreigners from 2008 and 2013 at salaries from $41,370 to $45,000, a Huffington Post investigation found last year.

And while Trump promised on the campaign trail to create new jobs for American workers and vowed to come down hard on trade deals that benefit foreign labor markets, companies owned by the New York business mogul requested 1,100 foreign worker visas between 2000 and the time he entered the presidential race in 2015, according to a Reuters analysis of Department of Labor data. Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, sought the most foreign workers, with applications for 787 workers such as maids, cooks and servers since 2006 under a H-2B visa program that tends to benefit Mexicans.

"You cannot get help during the season. The season goes from like October to March. It's almost impossible to get help," Trump explained at one point during his campaign. "And part of the reason you can't get American people is they want full time jobs."
Maybe Trump could find Americans who would work part time if he would pay them enough money, instead of hiring Mexicans and Romanians.

The United States used to be the biggest exporter in the world. Our workers got great salaries. But then the rest of the world started to catch up to us. American CEOs started building factories in countries with lower wages.

People like Donald Trump shipped manufacturing off to China:
[V]isitors to the Trump Store in the lobby of the Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York City, or to the displays of Trump clothing at Macy's in New York's Herald Square, would be hard-pressed to find much labeled "Made in the U.S.A."

At the same time Trump was speaking in New Hampshire, his Trump Store was contributing to the growth of Chinese manufacturing, arguably at the expense of American workers, selling $80 Trump-branded cotton sweaters and $70 Trump-branded warm-up tops, all made in China. Also available with the made in China tag: golf hats stamped with the Trump crest and stuffed animals.
Trump claims he had to do this because China was manipulating their currency. Nonsense. Trump can't find an American supplier for an $80 cotton sweater? That's 10 cents worth of raw materials and a dollar worth of labor, even in America -- sweaters are made on automated looms these days. The only reason that $20 sweater cost $80 was because it said Trump on it.

Like all the other corporate shills, Trump just wants more profit for himself. He could have put more money in the pockets of working Americans, but he wanted more. So he sold America out.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Trump Literally Unfit to Be President

At the G7 conference in Italy Donald Trump proved he was physically unfit to be president:
President Trump chose to ride in a golf cart while his foreign counterparts took a walk through Taormina, Sicily, on Saturday during the Group of Seven summit.

The Times of London reported the six other world leaders — from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan — walked 700 yards to take a group photo at a piazza in a hilltop town. The U.S. leader decided to wait until he could get a golf cart.
Trump is so fat and lazy that he cannot walk 700 yards up a hill. He is the most infirm president since Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had polio. What's Donald "Two Scoops" Trump's excuse? Gluttony?

Barack Obama played basketball while president. George W. Bush used to run but switched to mountain biking when his knees gave out. Donald Trump plays golf, but has to use a golf cart between holes.

Being 70 years old is no excuse. I know 60-, 70- and 80-year-old women who rode bicycles 332 miles in six days from St. Paul, MN, to the Canadian border, going 60 and 70 miles some days, through cold and driving rain. Trump would be dead like a beached whale on the side of the road after one day.

Trump used to play sports in high school but gave up physical activity because he holds this idiotic idea that exercise uses up the body's "finite" energy. He might have more stamina if he actually got enough sleep every night, instead of deluding himself that he only needs four hours. And what's he doing when he should be sleeping? Watching TV. And tapping out Twitter rants that make him look like a moron.

Research has shown over and over that physical activity -- even modest exercise such as walking -- increases mental acuity and improves memory. It's no wonder that the weakest and laziest president in decades is also the dumbest and least coherent. Trump makes W. look like a genius.

Republicans are celebrating the victory of a man who bodyslammed a reporter for asking a health care question. This happened right in front of Fox News reporters. Yet Greg Gianforte, the congressman-elect from Montana, was elected anyway, even though he was charged with assault.

Republicans used to pretend to be the party of moral values: truth, faithfulness, chastity, honor. But in a heartbeat they threw all that away and elected a lying, cheating, womanizing sexual predator and admitted fraud. Yes, fraud: settling the Trump University lawsuit for $25 million was an explicit admission of fraud, no matter how much Trump whines it ain't so.

This is how low Republicans have sunk. Their president ripped off thousands of people who were trying to make a better life for themselves. Their politicians beat up reporters. They sucker-punch protesters at rallies. Their politicians brag about how rough and tough they are, how violent they'll be, how much they'll kill and torture their enemies. How they can grab women's vaginas.

Republicans are constantly railing against political correctness and demand they have the right to call it like it is. Okay, then: this is how it is.

Donald Trump is a weak, old, pansy-assed, fat slug who can't even walk a third of a mile up a hill because he's afraid he'll stroke out or keel over from a heart attack. How in hell is he going to survive four years of the most stressful job on the planet?

Trump likes to brag about grabbing pussy, but he is a pussy.

Honoring the Fallen

Today, our nation honors those who have fallen in our country's history. It's especially important to be there for our veterans, many of whom have lost fellow sisters and brothers over the years. Make some time today to support them.

And remember...

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Refugees Welcome Back!

Flying very low under the radar, news came this week that the US State Department, overseen by Donald Trump, is now doubling the amount of refugees allowed in the country. It looks like we will be back up to the Obama-era levels of 1500 refugees allowed in a week.

I'm wondering how this sits with Trump's supporters...

Pez Fed

The New Russian Dupe, Clueless Person

I've now had more than a few emails regarding Kevin Baker's latest "uberpost" (see also: cut and paste job passed off as evidence of high intellect) entitled "The New Soviet Genderless Person." I still check in on Kevin from time to time to make sure he's still just blowing hot air and not actively fomenting domestic terrorism. It was nice to see that he still has me featured prominently on the sidebar of his web site. Years later, the obsession still continues from him and his followers.

It's actually serendipitous that some of my readers wanted me to comment on this latest piece. I was thinking about Kevin and other gun bloggers in general as I have realized something recently that was profoundly ironic. Consider that this is a group of people who WON'T REGISTER and WON'T TURN OVER THEIR GUNS. EVER!!!!  They bemoan government intrusion in their lovemaking to their guns and are terribly afraid of those smug, liberal elites getting a hold of too much information on them. And yet...


Seriously, if I was working for the federal government, ATF division, why would I even need surveillance? I'd merely check out Kevin's blog to find out what kind of weapons he owned, where he lived, who he associated with and when he would be at the range. In fact, why do we even need registration when these guys are easily traceable and tracked? What a bunch of fucking morons...

It's this same stupidity that also leads to the massively ignorant mentality seen in this latest post on how evil liberals are going to turn us all into commies. All of the people that emailed me wondered...does Kevin not see the irony of this belief considering the deep connections between Trump and the current Russian regime? The answer is no, no he does not.

Like many on the right, Kevin believes that the entire Russian-Trump story is liberal propaganda. Never mind the fact that ALL of our intelligence agencies has confirmed Russian meddling in the last election. Never mind the fact that his meddling took the form of propaganda disseminated via the news sources that Kevin reads on a daily basis. Never mind the fact that President Trump fired James Comey and then MET WITH THE RUSSIANS IN THE OVAL OFFICE, BARRED US MEDIA FROM ENTERING, AND THEN LEAKED CLASSIFIED INFORMATION TO THEM.

And it's the liberals that are leading us down a Soviet path...

Wow...just wow...

I've come to the conclusion that folks like Kevin hate the fact that liberals are smarter and more accomplished than them so much that they are blinded to reality. Vladamir Putin and Russian intelligence knows this very, very well. Kevin tells them.

Rush Limbaugh was vilified for stating, after Obama won the Presidency the first time, "I hope he fails." Right now we're watching the Ruling Class and its enablers in the media do absolutely everything they can to pull off a coup d'état because the man who won the White House this go-around isn't one of them. He's not one of the New Genderless Persons who mean to Do Good, who Care About You, who just want to help.

Isn't one of them? Are you FUCKING kidding me? First of all, Donald Trump is a card carrying member of the Hollywood Elite. He had a show on NBC called "The Celebrity Apprentice." Like Rush Limbaugh, he is a rock solid member of the media who uses it to manipulate people like Kevin. In fact, I'd put quite a bit of money on the idea that he's merely playing a role.

Consider that he was a Democrat up until 2011 when he jumped on the birther bandwagon. I think he saw rubes like Kevin out there and recognized a grand opportunity.  He's tapped into the anger, hate and fear that was already out there and is now playing the role of their dear leader. Like fascist leaders of the past, Trump has made it OK for people like Greg Gianforte to beat up reporters. Supporters of Gianforte think that the reporter had it coming to him. Why? He asked a question that Gianforte didn't like. This is what an authoritarian regime looks like. Trump and his followers have made this possible.

So, when Kevin talks about enablers, brainwashing, and propaganda that ends in authoritarian control he should look no further than the mirror. He is the one who is willingly being played like a fiddle by people who want to take away the very freedom he claims to cherish. He is being led down the garden path by folks who are taking advantage of his completely irrational hatred of liberals in order to cement their power. Another great irony here is that it's these very liberals...people like me...who are going to save Kevin and other Trumpsters from what they are unwittingly creating. Let me be one of the first to say this.

You're welcome.

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

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.


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.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Trump's Law Firm Was Named Russia Law of the Year in 2016 (!)

Trump's lawyers, Morgan Lewis, just published a letter saying that Trump doesn't have any (well, hardly any -- well, at least $112 million worth) connections to Russia or Russians.

But just last May, that law firm, Morgan Lewis, was just named Russia Law of the Year. Here's the link to the press release announcing that award on Trump's law firm's website, which, insanely is still up as of this moment.

Man, are these people incompetent or what?

Trump Just Admitted a Impeachable Offense

Since James Comey was fired there's been a plethora of excuses floating by the Trump administration.

Trump surrogates at first pretended that Comey was fired for his unprofessional treatment of Hillary Clinton during the election -- which, I agree, was grounds for dismissal -- but Comey had been making up for it by pursuing the Russia investigation. Then they pretended that it was because the FBI was in disarray, and that FBI employees had lost faith in Comey.

But I had other suspicions: was it because in photos the 6'8" Comey makes Trump look like a fat midget? Or because Comey testified before Congress that the idea that he got Trump elected made him nauseous?

Then, in his interview with Lester Holt Donald Trump, Trump said he fired Comey because he was a "showboat" and a "grandstander." (If that's a firing offense, then that would be more than enough grounds for Congress to impeach Trump.)

But then Trump admitted to an impeachable offense: he said he fired Jim Comey because the FBI director was investigating him.
Later on Thursday, NBC aired its full interview with Trump. In it, Trump offered yet another reason for firing Comey: The FBI’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. (Sanders had hinted at this earlier in the day, saying the White House believed that by removing Comey, it took steps to make sure the FBI’s Russia investigation would “come to its conclusion with integrity.”)

Trump: “When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won. … So everybody was thinking, they should have won the election. This was an excuse for having lost an election.”
Trump literally said he "decided to just do it" -- fire Comey -- because of "this Russia thing."

Now we find out that Trump had dinner with Comey and demanded he pledge an oath of fealty to Trump:
As they ate, the president and Mr. Comey made small talk about the election and the crowd sizes at Mr. Trump’s rallies. The president then turned the conversation to whether Mr. Comey would pledge his loyalty to him.

Mr. Comey declined to make that pledge. Instead, Mr. Comey has recounted to others, he told Mr. Trump that he would always be honest with him, but that he was not “reliable” in the conventional political sense. 
But actually, pledging loyalty to Rump [sorry, that was a typo, but I just had to let it stand] would be the real grounds for firing Comey: the FBI director had taken an oath to "defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic." Getting down on bended knee and kissing Trump's rump ring would be a violation of that oath, because the Russians and Trump are foreign and domestic enemies of the US Constitution.

Now Trump is launching preemptive strikes against Comey, tweeting that there might be tapes of that dinner conversation. He's also tweeting that he might eliminate press conferences, basically saying that his incompetent surrogates can't ever get anything right.

How can they? Trump is constantly changing his story. Is it because he's a compulsive liar? Because he's a pathological narcissist who has to be the center of attention, no matter how terrible his own behavior paints him? Or because his brain is so addled by Alzheimer's that he just can't remember what the hell he's doing?

Sadly, it's all of these in equal measure.

Lead Poisoning and Guns

If you've wondered why gun nuts are ... the way they are, there's an actual scientific reason: they're suffering from lead poisoning.
A review of lead exposure at shooting ranges [...] published last month found that nearly all participants in the 36 studies had blood lead levels above the 5 microgram ceiling recommended by the CDC; some had levels higher than 40. "You got to understand, the more bullets you shoot, the higher your blood lead level. The more visits you take to the range, then the higher your blood lead level."
Lead dust hangs in the air at shooting ranges, ejected from the ejection port and the muzzle when the bullet is scored by the rifling of the barrel -- the lands and grooves that make ballistics matching of bullets to guns possible.

Interestingly, high levels of lead (from leaded gasoline) led to an epidemic of violent crime in the 1960s. There's a direct correlation between lead levels and violent behavior.

Lead poisoning is not an insignificant problem, and it doesn't just affect shooters:
A 1-year-old boy in Connecticut was found to have high blood lead levels at a routine doctor's visit. There were no lead paint or pipes in the child's home. The exposure was traced to his father's job as a maintenance worker at an indoor shooting range; the father cared for his son after work in lead-contaminated clothing, according to a 2015 report from the state public health department.
What does lead do to you?
Many effects from lead can be subtle or nonspecific, says Mark Laidlaw, an environmental health scientist at RMIT University in Australia. "Memory and concentration problems, headache, abdominal pain, mood disorders – they can be attributed to a number of things unrelated to lead," he says. "You can have one of these health effects, but the shooters might not realize these are associated with their shooting. They just don't know they're being lead poisoned."

At levels slightly higher than 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood, people may begin suffering spontaneous abortions or kidney dysfunction, according to the CDC. As the volume of lead in the body increases, the effects become more severe.

"At levels of 10 or less, there's definitely evidence of increased incidence of tremor. Some are more cognitive effects," says Catherine Beaucham, an industrial hygienist at NIOSH and author of a 2014 report that found that most people with elevated blood levels were exposed from working at recreational firing ranges. "With acute lead poisoning, you can get wrist drop, nerve problems, abdominal pain. If it gets high enough, you can get a coma and death."
 How much lead exposure is safe?
Currently, the OSHA standards for lead exposure decree that employees must stop working if they have a blood lead level of 60 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood, and workers can return to the job if their blood lead level drops below 40 for two consecutive tests. But adverse effects on cardiovascular health, brain function and kidney function have been connected to blood lead levels as low as 5. "There's no amount of lead in your blood that's safe," Page says. 
This puts a whole new spin on that old gangster joke, "He had a bad case of lead poisoning."

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Did Trump Bring a Russian Spy into the Oval Office on Orders of Vladimir Putin?

When Trump met with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, the American press was banned. But a photographer from ITAR-TASS, the official propaganda arm of the Russian Federation, was allowed into the oval office.
At a time of strain between the White House and the media over coverage of the new administration, reporters raised questions Wednesday as to why a photographer from the Russian media, but not the U.S. press, was apparently allowed into an Oval Office meeting between President Trump and Russian officials.

The issue surfaced after photos of the meeting, including Trump shaking hands with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and controversial Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak, appeared in the Russian media.

Trump took the meeting on the orders of Vladimir Putin:
The chummy White House visit—photos of the president yukking it up with Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak were released by the Russian Foreign Ministry since no U.S. press was allowed to cover the visit—had been one of Putin’s asks in his recent phone call with Trump, and indeed the White House acknowledged this to me later Wednesday. “He chose to receive him because Putin asked him to,” a White House spokesman said of Trump’s Lavrov meeting. “Putin did specifically ask on the call when they last talked.”
Why did Trump agree to this? And on all days, the day after he fired Jim Comey in retribution for refusing to drop the investigation into Trump's Russian connections?

We all know that Trump pretends to hate all the media, except those fawning sexual predators at Fox News. He watches cable news incessantly to see what people are saying about him. So why was a TASS photographer there and no one from Fox?

There is now rampant speculation about whether the photographer was a spy who planted a recording device in the oval office.

For those of you who aren't Russian speakers, TASS is the anglicized abbreviation for Телеграфное Агентство Советского Союза, or Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union. Yes, the Russian propaganda agency still uses its Cold War name!

If Trump weren't the president, the FBI would never issue him a security clearance. With this dork move and the Flynn appointment, it is clear that the CIA should stop briefing Trump on matters of national security.

Especially in the oval office.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Follow the Money

The big news today is that Donald Trump fired FBI director James Comey in an attempt to thwart the investigation into Trump's Russia connections, literally the day before Trump met with his Russian handlers, Sergei Kislyak and Sergei Lavrov.

It really seems like Trump fired Comey -- who had just requested additional resources to investigate Trump -- on orders from the Sergeis, and then met with them to receive further instruction. It's like an episode of The Americans.

But that isn't the really big news. That's the fact that the Senate committee investigating Trump's Russian connections has requested financial information from Treasury:
Senate Russia investigators have sent a request to the Treasury Department's criminal investigation division for any information related to President Donald Trump, his top officials and his campaign aides, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee told CNN Tuesday.

"We've made a request, to FinCEN in the Treasury Department, to make sure, not just for example vis-a-vis the President, but just overall our effort to try to follow the intel no matter where it leads," Sen. Mark Warner told CNN. "You get materials that show if there have been, what level of financial ties between, I mean some of the stuff, some of the Trump-related officials, Trump campaign-related officials and other officials and where those dollars flow -- not necessarily from Russia."
Back in the Watergate days the phrase "follow the money" took on mythic significance. Nixon was taken down because Woodward and Bernstein followed the money.

It turns out that Deep Throat didn't actually use that phrase -- that was poetic license for the movie. But the Senate investigation could well be the beginning of the end of the road for Trump's presidency.

Trump has a long history of taking lots of money from Russian oligarchs. It now seems quite probable that Trump has been laundering money for Russian oligarchs for decades, taking payments for various pieces of real estate that far exceed their actual value -- like the mansion in Florida Trump sold to the Potash King, Dmitri Rybolovlev.

This is the real reason Trump has categorically refused to release his tax returns -- there's probably evidence of the quid pro quos that will reveal Trump's money laundering for the Russians.

It would normally take a very long time to tease this information out from the hundreds of shell corporations Trump created to obscure his shenanigans. But it seems likely that the investigation will find something sooner rather than later: Trump paid a $10 million fine in 2015 for not instituting money-laundering controls at his Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City.

What a coincidence that the man who says he never settles settled for a $10 million fine just before starting his campaign for president!

Now that investigators know that the Russians are likely the people whose money Trump's casino laundered, we may have a whole bunch of congressional hearings into a president's criminal activities, making it seem like the summer of '73 all over again.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Flynn Was Just Following the Trump Business Plan

There's a lot of analysis going on in light of Sally Yates' testimony before Congress about how Michael Flynn lied about taking money from the Russians, opening himself up to blackmail by Russian spies.

Flynn also failed to report acting as a foreign agent -- a serious crime for a former high-ranking military official -- when he took half a million dollars from the Turks during Trump's presidential campaign. The Turks hoped to use Flynn to influence Trump to extradite Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric living in Pennsylvania who has been fighting against Recep Erdoğan's creeping dictatorship.

The question is, why did Trump wait almost three weeks after finding out that Flynn had taken money from the Russians and then lied about it? After Yates told Trump's White House counsel, Donald McGahn, that Flynn had committed a crime by taking Russian money and lying about it, Trump fired Yates instead of Flynn.

The Times has a timeline of the affair. Here's a snippet:
A day after Mr. Flynn was fired, Mr. Spicer spent most of his daily briefing responding to questions about the 18-day delay. He described the warning from Ms. Yates as a “heads-up” and repeatedly said that the information she provided had been quickly relayed to the president.
“Immediately after the Department of Justice notified the White House counsel of the situation, the White House counsel briefed the president and a small group of his senior advisers.”
But Mr. Spicer added that Mr. Trump had doubts, believing Mr. Flynn had done nothing wrong and ordering a review of the situation.
Get that? Trump knew that Flynn had lied to him and the vice president about taking Russian money, but Trump didn't think there was anything wrong with that. Why?

Because that's what Trump has done his entire life: taking people's money and lying.

That's the Trump business plan in a nutshell, from his bankrupt casinos to the infamous Trump University.

Donald Trump is so ineffably and irreversibly corrupt that he can't understand the basic concept of public officials being compromised by outside entanglements with foreign agents.

This is one of the many reasons Trump is not fit to be be president. Because Trump has so many foreign entanglements -- real estate in the Philippines, golf courses in the Middle East, hotels in Panama and Ireland -- he is open to extortion from the leaders of those countries, who could threaten his businesses unless he makes foreign policy decisions in their favor.

Any decision Trump makes as president will always be tainted by the possibility that he is feathering his own nest or bending to pressure by a foreigner who has compromised him, rather than working the best interests of the American people.

This is only one reason why so many people think that Trump's impeachment is not a question of if, but when.

Monday, May 08, 2017

The Republican Zombie Lie about Health Care Just Won't Die

Republican Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho achieved notoriety recently when he repeated the Republican zombie lie that not having health care won't kill anyone:
At the May 5, 2017, event, questioners asked the congressman about the Republicans’ vote the previous day on a major health care overhaul that would roll back many aspects of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, including limits on expanding Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for the poor.

"You are mandating people on Medicaid accept dying," one audience member said.

To which Labrador responded, "No no, you know that line is so indefensible. Nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care."
Labrador isn't the first to say this. For years Republicans have fought against universal health care by saying that since emergency rooms can't turn people away, so no one will ever die because they didn't have health care.

For example, George Bush said this in 2007 and Mitt Romney said it in 2012.

But Labrador and the Republicans are the ones using the indefensible line.

Let's say you have a brain tumor, AIDS, leukemia, lung cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, clogged arteries, diabetes, hepatitis C, tuberculosis, or one of dozens of other diseases. The emergency room won't admit you if you have a lump in your breast, or you have pain urinating, or shortness of breath, or pounding headaches. Those aren't life-threatening circumstances.

They're going to turn you away, even if -- especially if -- they know these symptoms may be indicative of a deadly disease: as soon as they're sure you won't keel over dead in the waiting room, they're going to prescribe you an antibiotic or a pain killer (charging you $500 or $1,000), then tell you to see your regular doctor and send you on your way.

By the time these diseases will kill you and the emergency room has to take you, it will be far too late: your breast cancer will have metastasized into your lymph nodes. The brain tumor will be inoperable. Your arteries will be completely blocked and the heart attack you suffer will be instantly fatal, or worse, turn you into a mindless vegetable. Your diabetes will have blinded you and your leg will have become gangrenous and require amputation.

These diseases are hard enough to treat when people with health care get them. But if you don't catch these problems early on, going to the emergency room will be too late: the hospital will waste hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to save a patient who is just going to die. But if they had been treated properly years before, given the right drugs and advice, the problems would be far cheaper to treat and the people wouldn't die.

Then there's pregnancy: there are a zillion things that go go wrong with a human fetus. Many of these problems can be rectified if they are discovered early enough, but are fatal if ignored until the child is carried to term. Yet self-styled "pro-life" Republicans want to eliminate maternity care from the list of things that health insurance policies must cover.

The thing is, it's not just the people who lack health care that are in danger. If you're infected with hepatitis C, HIV or tuberculosis, you can infect other people. People without health care are likely to be in low-paying jobs -- fast-food workers, maids, child-care workers, teacher's aids, dish washers, cashiers -- where they're in constant contact with the public or their food. Not to mention things like measles epidemics.

It's in everyone's interest to have all people living in this country be well.

Republicans are always so nostalgic for the good old days and hot for the Founding Fathers, they should remember Ben Franklin's admonition: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Where Is Thy Enemy?

With Republicans controlling all branches of government, I have to wonder who the enemy is of the Gun Cult. Consider that they operate best when they have someone to foam at the mouth about. They also don't sit still so well being the paranoid lot they are. What now?

Worse for them is this.

Now that he's president, though, gun sales have flattened, and gun company stocks have dropped. Sturm Ruger (RGR) stock has dropped 8% since Election Day, while American Outdoor Brands (AOBC), which owns Smith & Wesson, has plunged 23%. 

Remington, a New York gun manufacturer, and SilencerCo, a silencer maker in Utah, have laid off workers. 

Background checks plunged after November, then showed signs of recovery in February and March, but they are still far behind last year, when the campaign was in full swing.

Is the gun industry falling apart without an enemy? Facts say that it is:)