Monthly Archives: February 2017

Media Support

A tumultuous week followed by a refreshing perspective on media from our German ally Angela Merkel.

Another tweet, again attacking the credibility of the media, the underlying message of go direct to the White House if you want the truth. Some of us prefer to hear multiple views even when we are aware of biases in the coverage. Take this very week as a positive example where those nasty media types broke a few facts we would otherwise not know of actions taken by our own government servants.

Not long ago we talked here about marginalizing the media. “Mostly subtle but effective in marginalizing the media, blackballing reporters who may not describe things the way Mr Trump perceives himself, and bombarding the public with false statements”

This tweet just one more step toward marginalizing the press. But as the Administration heads down this path it’s reassuring to see a powerful world voice speaking out in support and in respect for the press.

I stand by a free and independent press and have great respect for journalists,” Merkel said at an international security conference in Munich with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in the audience. “We’ve always done well in Germany when we mutually respect each other.”

Nice to see some reason prevail in the free world.

Of Leaks and Whistles

Continuation of the Flynn flap takes us into an interesting public quarrel about leaks, what is good for the U.S. and what’s good for the Administration. Are they the same or different, and is it a leak if it’s blowing a whistle on actions placing the U.S security in jeopardy?

A look back before joining the public narrative has clarified my perspective. Beginning with Mr Flynn’s actions during the campaign we see he passed on completely false news via Twitter about Ms Clinton. 

Couple this with his being an intelligence professional, his leading “Lock her Up” chants at political rallies and we have a clear public case (not a leak) of deliberate lies promoted by Mr Flynn during his support on the campaign trail. He was dirty before his selection as National Security Adviser, yet selected by the Administration anyway.

We also know (not a leak) that the Russians worked to influence the 2016 election. They hacked DNC computers and released pilfered documents to media sources. This action by the Russians was encouraged by the GOP candidate during a televised debate and at multiple public rallies. Again not a leak. So we know of Russian involvement in the election and DNC hacking, and we know the GOP campaign team sent public adulation to the Russians and Wikileaks for doing so. There was also no doubt Mr Flynn was unreliable and untrustworthy, something already clear to the prior Administration. He was put into the position of National Security Adviser by this administration anyway. We saw this train coming.

We now know the the acting Attorney General (Yates) had advised the Administration of the event and associated risks weeks ago and no action was taken by the Administration in spite of already public knowledge of Flynn’s character and his being in a self inflicted compromised position. Was this a leak? Or when a public official has knowledge placing the public  (and the nation) does it become a duty to protect he public they serve? Add another public servant, the President, now having the same knowledge and failing (perhaps refusing) to take action. A leak, or whistle blowing?

The White House is framing this as Flynn mislead Pence verses the security risk and legal violation. In essence the Administration hired a guy to lie for them and didn’t like it when he lied to them.  Way too simple an explanation. Never mind the security of the nation and the likely illegality, the issue is being carefully boxed in as a Flynn-Pence issue coupled with a critique of leaks.

Directing focus toward the leaks does little to establish credibility for this Administration. In realty it detracts credibility given their support for and encouragement for leaks when the leaks detracted form others’ credibility.

But the real questions are yet to be answered. While we see no direct evidence supporting the Presidents knowledge of Mr Flynn’s calls, it is hard to perceive a senior official, long-time friend and supporter, interacting with a foreign power in complete isolation. So who else? And to what level? How many more fall guys before we see the full breadth and depth of this…There is certainly much more to come…

Meanwhile in the circle of leaks and whistles there is a balance. If information is damaging for the country it must be protected. If the information is damaging for the Administration in disclosing illegal activity or security risks for the country, of course the Administration would like it protected. In this case we have verified information of Administration acts which place the nation at risk of blackmail by an adversary like Russia. To use a line from candidate Trump in the clip above, the leakers performed a public service by revealing a scandal with no rival in United States history. It becomes the duty of any public servant to disclose.  First to the responsible party, in this case the President which Ms Yates did. If there is no action taken, then to the public. That is what I call whistle blowing, and I applaud it.



Free Market Capitalism?


For years the GOP has embraced the concept of free market capitalism with prices and services determined by the open market and consumers with the laws of supply and demand operating free from government intervention, price setting or other authorities.

But last week we saw a significant back step from that ideology when Nordstrom culled the Ivanka Trump line from their inventory. The reason is irrelevant, but per Nordstrom this was a business decision.

We’ve said all along we make buying decisions based on performance,” Nordstrom’s press spokesperson told Fortune magazine last week. “In this case, based on the brand’s performance, we’ve decided not to buy it for this season.”

Nordstrom’s action brought forth two major issues from our current GOP leadership, both deserve attention. One is a clear violation of ethical standards and U.S. law, and is what most agencies and citizens are focused on. But the other demonstrates open conflict with standing GOP principles, the very capitalistic ideology Republicans promote as the antidote for a sluggish economy.

The first response came to our attention with a Tweet direct from the White House:

Donald J. Trump ✔@realDonaldTrump
My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!
6:51 PM – 8 Feb 2017

So it seems OK to intervene in the law of supply and demand…at least when it is beneficial to ones own family. We might easily accept this in terms of spontaneously defending our own children, except the shilling for his daughters business continued with both (official representatives of the Administration and party) Spicer and Conway.

“I think this is less about his family’s business and an attack on his daughter,” Spicer said. “He ran for president. He won. He’s leading this country. I think for people to take out their concern about his actions or his executive orders on members of his family, he has every right to stand up for his family and applaud their business activities, their success.”

“Go buy Ivanka’s stuff,” Conway said, adding that consumers can buy Ivanka’s products online. Done so from her official position speaking on behalf of the White House.

Following social media threads I also see GOP supporters dismayed by the Nordstrom decision with many proffering pledges to boycott the business chain. Here’s one right leaning publication’s take:

Not to mention all the conservative customers who will now purposely avoid Nordstrom. And remember, that’s at least half of all Americans.”

For the record “at least half of all Americans” is an unsupportable alternative fact with just 29.8% of the electorate having voted for this Administration and accounting for current approval/disapproval ratings, all evidence the number remains well under “half” but that’s for another time.

What is important is the GOP abandoning their ideological principle of the Free Market. The market unencumbered with government intervention, price setting or other authorities appears to be fiction. Perhaps ideology is just an excuse to reduce regulation protecting us average consumers from pollution, false advertising, and other risks to enhance corporate profits. But when it comes to involvement and equity for their GOP elite, government intervention is just fine.

Of course many are focused on the ethical and legal violations surrounding the acts of business and consumer influence direct from the White House. That remains an important issue, more so when the actors have refused to divest themselves of the very business conflicts we anticipated. But we can’t lose sight of the right, all the way from the White House, to publications, down to GOP affiliated consumers themselves, acting in direct conflict to their very own economic ideology.

The signal to U.S citizens directly from an administration promising to drain the swamp and rid Washington of this very corruption is clear. What’s good enough for you isn’t good enough for their own elite. Or another way, what’s good for me, consumer protection, income security, free markets, health care and much more, is far too good for you average citizens.

Mike Flynn-Fake News Pro

Fake news right from the White House. But we knew that before he was confirmed. Now that he’s in the seat as National Security Adviser we continue to learn more about contact with Russia. Short story, he was in contact with Russia, he lied about it, the White House protected him, now we’ll see where it all ends. Good read here today from Foreign Policy.

“The allegation that Gen. Flynn, while President Obama was still in office, secretly discussed with Russia’s ambassador ways to undermine the sanctions levied against Russia for its interference in the presidential election on Donald Trump’s behalf, raises serious questions of legality and fitness for office,” Schiff said in a statement.

“If he did so, and then he and other administration officials misled the American people, his conduct would be all the more pernicious, and he should no longer serve in this administration or any other.”

Today the White House is quiet on this subject. Will Flynn be the sacrifice, or will we learn of deeper involvement as the investigation continues? Perhaps both.

13 Feb Update:

Two points this morning as we watch the fallout unfold. Look back to the post here here and see how we all saw this train coming. There was no doubt Mr Flynn was unreliable and untrustworthy, something already clear to the prior Administration. This will likely become noteworthy in Mr Flynn being fired by two consecutive Presidents.

May also want to have a look at this take from the Palmer Report regarding how deep the problem may run in this Administration. While we see no direct evidence supporting the Presidents knowledge of Mr Flynn’s calls, it is hard to perceive a senior official, long-time friend and supporter, interacting with a foreign power in complete isolation. So who else? And to what level? There is certainly much more to come…

14 Feb: Yes there was and still is more to come. Flynn has resigned, the President says he’s more concerned about the “leak” that caused this.

The White House is framing this as Flynn mislead Pence verses the security risk and legal violation, we learn the the Attorney General (Yates) had advised the Administration of the risk weeks ago, and we (the Administration too) already know Flynn had mislead the public with fake stories before the election even happened.

The Administration hired a guy to lie for them and didn’t like it when he lied to them.  Way too simple an explanation even from this group of amateurs. Never mind the security of the nation and the illegality, the issue is being carefully boxed in as a Flynn-Pence issue. More to come. My hunch is there are more conversations, more involvement, more investigations and more fall guys before we see the full breadth and depth of this…

Roll Back to 2008

The 2008 recession is still recent history. We came oh so close to a near global financial collapse. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) sinking by about 54% in the 17 months from the market high in October 2007 to the trough in March 2009. 

But we survived, barely. Part of the medicine included the largest bank bailout in U.S history to stave off a complete collapse. Another part was the enactment of a law to reign in the reckless, deceptive, and predatory practices which caused and amplified this great recession, the Dodd-Frank Act. Now we’re considering doing away with it. How short our memory has become. Here is the NY-Times take:®ion=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region








What is old is new again, and so will be the lessons if we’re not careful.

Separation of Church and State

That separation of Church and State so important to the founders of this great nation is at risk. Here are the comments by Mr Trump at this mornings National Prayer Breakfast:

“I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment,” Trump said during his remarks on Thursday, according to Jeff Sharlet of the New York Times who was present at the breakfast.

The Johnson Amendment was passed in 1954 and specifies that organizations that endorse candidates or make calls to political action will forfeit their tax-exempt status.

Couple with adviser Steve Bannon who supports Christians over other religions…nothing to see here. Lets watch anyway.

Amateur Hour, US Comedy

I took a few days respite from social media and news to re-calibrate. Checking back in it looks as if Washington has become a new reality show—Amateur Hour. I can’t believe what I am seeing.

Policy without professionalism. Enacting an immigration ban, temporary or not without engaging legal council for advice or input is amateurish. No coordination with Homeland Security. No consultation with the experts, the professionals, to fill in details, add coherence and coordinate between departments. The very people who will have to defend and enforce the policy were left out of the process completely. Foreign Policy experts are in disagreement saying it will make us less, not more safe. Results are all over the news. First a Green Card isn’t OK, then it is. People already holding approved visa being turned back, and the order itself under legal challenge within hours of the attempted implementation. Not to mention the attacking and mocking being done by Mr Trump.

Without getting into analysis, the reasons given so far are questionable. I’ve heard talk of getting ahead of threats and deterring potential threats. What is that, a potential threat? You? My Hispanic neighbor? Me? Or could this broad use of “potential” be a step to identify groups and turn the public against them? I don’t have an answer, but keeping your (my) own government professionals out of the loop is suspect from the beginning. And then the threat from the spokesman: If you can’t get with the agenda you should resign. Agenda? Just what agenda has become the most obvious question.

But it looks like this is just the start. Amateur hour also extends to talk of forcing Mexico to pay for the wall through import tariffs. Five to 20 percent were numbers tossed around. Except for who pays import tariffs? That would be the consumer. You, me, and other Americans. Huh? The argument and strategy ignores the most basic economic tenants.

Next up we have Steve Bannon on the National Security Council and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs off. What? White Nationalist, Fake News-Alt-right advocate with no experience.

Bannon is the precisely wrong person for this wrong role. His national security experience consists of a graduate degree and seven years in the Navy. More troubling, Bannon’s role as chairman of, with its racist, misogynist and Islamophobic perspectives, and his avowed desire to blow up our system of government, suggests this is someone who not only has no business being a permanent member of the most powerful consultative body in the world — he has no business being in a position of responsibility in any government.

Worse still, it is a sign of other problems to come. Organizing the NSC this way does not reflect well on national security advisor Michael Flynn — whether the bad decision is a result of his lack of understanding of what the NSC should do or because he is giving in to pressure from his boss.”

My goal in starting this site was to focus on issues over politics. But can’t not address this. Yes I did hit on the economic issue of tariffs, admittedly because of the unsupportable argument out of the White House. But the question of the day remains. Just what the heck is going on? Whether we agree with the policies or not, it is clear these folks are amateurs, day after day failing to consult with experts, or trust the competence and demonstrate confidence in many of their own choices for department heads. So sad. Embarrassing my country.


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