Monday, February 18, 2019

Emergency Declaration

The National Emergency
So President Doofus has issued a National Emergency to cover the barriers that constitute our border with Mexico.  What is it he claims is the actual “emergency”? Apparently, he sees a porous border, along which anyone who wishes entry has an entirely open door. But arguably we doubtless have such an arrangement with Canada and no emergency appears imminent along that line. So, the “emergency” apparently is Mexicans (remember those rapists, murderers, drug smugglers and folks who traffic in women who they bring in while chained, with their mouths taped shut. He acknowledges a few are also probably nice people.

Oh, and then there are the caravans of thousands of druggies, rapists, murderers, et al, who also use that border to get into our fair land from places like Salvador, Venezuela, and southern Hades. Yeah, he said so, therefore truth is cancelled.

But what then is a “National Emergency”? It is interesting to note that, although there is cited a national Emergency Act of 1976, authorizing presidents to so designate an emergency situation, presidents have issued “national emergencies” since at least 1917, with President Wilson declaring a National Emergency in Water Transportation” in 1917. Indeed, in 1941, President Roosevelt declared a National Emergency to counter the coming threat from Nazi Germany, and Truman issued one in 1950 to counter communism, specifically in connection with the Korean War (remember that quaint War?).

President Carter issued such an emergency order in 1979 in connection with the Iran overthrow of its government by the Ayatollah. President Obama issued one in 2009 to counter an influenza pandemic.  And so the list goes on and on.

But, even a cursory inspection of the declarations suggest that some immediate action was actually required to counter a real threat from outside the country. Most of the threats seemed immediately real and obvious to even casual observers, and they contained actual facts about the situation calling for such a declaration.

In contrast, our current president has issued a declaration simply because he is annoyed that Nancy Pelosi and the entire Congress refused to authorize funds to pay for his Wall, you know, the one that Mexico is going to pay for.  So, the kids in Congress, said NO, and the 4-year old president went on an immediate temper tantrum, and issued his emergency declaration. And then, almost immediately thereafter, he told the press that "he really didn’t need to issue an emergency declaration" (because there is no emergency), but he wanted to speed things up a bit, so he is willing to abuse his powers, steal money from other potential uses, like military construction, and demonstrate to those nasty people in Congress that they are powerless to stop him.

According to one article I read recently, 59 emergencies have been declared; 27 have expired while 32 are currently in effect, each having been renewed annually by the president. Most of the national emergencies concern the blocking of property belonging to nations or individuals, or the blocking of transactions, for example transactions that might aid drug smugglers attempting to money launder. None, from what I can see were specifically intended to simply go around a Congressional budget authorization that failed to authorize funds the President wanted.  Also, in most cases, the “emergency” under consideration seemed fairly obvious and potentially threatening to US interests, e.g., a potential war, or, in the case of many Middle Eastern emergencies, a region filled with violence in which our interests are involved.  There seems no actual precedent for the kind of declaration Trump has issued. 

The fundamental legal issue in his declaration is whether he has actually demonstrated the existence of an “emergency”, i.e., a threat to the people, its systems of governance, or some other factually verifiable issue.  His problem, here as in most instances of Presidential “Fact-stating” is that his facts rarely stand up to scrutiny. He is claiming here a major “invasion” by drug smugglers, human traffickers, and other nefarious individuals (in the hundreds . . . thousands??). To be clear, to do what he is trying to do (subvert the Congressional budgetary authorization process) he would need a body of facts to substantiate that the Mexican border is indeed uncontrolled, and that specific numbers in the hundreds or thousands of people from Central and South America are pouring over the border. He also really needs to assert facts about the harm being done to America, and Americans—economic harm, injuries or deaths associated with this invasion, or some other actual damage to our National interests. He has done nothing like that. Instead, he did what he always does. He simply asserts that there is harm, and that there are harmful people crossing our borders in very large numbers, without providing the factual basis for his assertions.

Now, perhaps with another president, we might for a time be willing to accept his word about the harm, real or potential against which he is defending. But for this President, lying is his standard rhetorical device. So, it is the case that one can really not believe almost anything he tells us, where actual facts are involved.  So, we need some second “truth-verifier” to weigh in on his stated assertions before we can believe him.  Now, were his assertion something like the 911 attacks, those sources would be readily available in the form of actual video footage by actual journalists.  Unhappily, for him, no such sources are available. To make his case, say in court (where this declaration will be adjudicated) he will need to assemble a body of externally verifiable data on each of his many assertions—how many illegals are entering, how much actual damage has been/is being done to American property or lives, and what is the economic case for his declaration, i.e., is the Wall cheaper or more expensive than his claimed damages?

I noted in an earlier piece that, because of his constant lying, it is difficult, if not impossible to hold any kind of a strategic planning discussion with Trump.  For example, in any “meeting” intended to discuss a problem, or some issue, one makes progress by having someone lay out the basic principles of the issue. If it is a problem, then someone must first define the problem.  Then someone must define what is known of the root causes of the problem. For example:

1. America experiences X thousand incidents annually of border-related problems
2.  America’s Borders are not secure
a.       X thousand miles of land borders have no barriers
b.      Y thousand miles of sea borders have no functional barriers
c.       Border staffing cannot cover the entire border
d.      Non-personnel technology is inadequate to cover open border area

3.       X thousand migrants are estimated to cross illegally into the US annually through the open areas
4.       Y thousand incidents of damage to property or persons resident in the US are caused each year

In other words, to discuss something as complex as border security, one needs to break down the problem. You first state some factually verifiable statement of the overall problem. And the problem statement should define the harm done to the US by that problem. Then you divide that main problem into its main causes, with accompanying data on each main cause. Then for each sub-problem, you define likely solutions (and typically there might be several possible solutions for each type of problem).  And it is highly useful to attach to each problem, and to each solution a cost factor. What is the cost to America of the problem (and the cost might be monetary, or it might be in some other category)?  Then you examine the potential solutions to each of the problems, and define both their likely effects on the problem, and the likely costs of implementing the solutions. And the costs might be one-time capital costs, and/or annual maintenance costs. If one cannot even agree on the problem statement, then it is impossible to proceed to the solution stage. 

And since Trump doesn’t actually know anything about the actual problem, it is not possible to hold strategic discussions about any large topic.  And it isn’t only this border security issue. One cannot reasonably hold a strategic discussion with Trump on virtually any topic, because he doesn’t understand almost any nationally or globally important subject, and he will simply resort to his only approach—spitting out “pseudo-facts” intended for applause. But the other people in the room often know his pseudo-facts are not a reasonable definition of the issue, and so he himself causes the discussion to come to a close.

Therein lies the core of our national problem with Trump and with his recent declaration of Emergency about Border Security. We should not really care about how he yells at his crowd of adoring MAGAHeads, as in his El Paso speech, because none of that matters. But what does matter is his inability to actually hold substantive discussions with knowledgeable officials aimed at defining problems and agreeing on plausible solutions.  On that, he is as useless as the proverbial “teats on a boar”. And there America is our problem.

Mainly, from some statements made regarding “the Wall”, it would seem that “the Wall” was invented as a rhetorical device to keep Trump on target in speaking of the broad subject of border security (which is likely more complex than Trump can grasp). By constantly speaking of “the Wall” he is given a rhetorical device that draws applause from a committed group. But the device was not ever intended to be a serious issue for technical discussions of potential solutions to whatever the perceived problem might be. It was simply a way to keep Trump from drifting off topic.

So, I see The Wall as simply one more, very large rhetorical device, aka A Big Lie, to help Trump get re-elected in 2020. It has virtually nothing to do with actual border security. And on that topic of The Big Lie, it is worthwhile to quote the past master, Adolph Hitler.  He asserted:

 “All this was inspired by the principle—which is quite true within itself—that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.”  Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol. I, ch. X

And on that thought, I leave you to draw your own conclusions about Mr. Trump's Wall, and his absurd Emergency Declaration.  Will he get away with it? It will be up to that third branch, the famous judicial branch, to have the last say. And that is also why Mr. Trump’s appointments have been and continue to be so vital to the future health of our Nation. He may win yet. If he does, it will be because we allowed him to win.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Defeating the Destroyer

Sometimes, I wish the second shoe would just get it over with and drop, dammit.  I feel constantly like I’m living in some horrible nightmare but I can’t awaken.  And with each new revelation, the feeling deepens. And, the worst part is that, it isn’t only crap about Trump. Every day, some other idiot, generally, but not always a republican, does or says something so outrageously stupid that one has to wonder on which planet they reside.

It seems as though our entire country is falling apart and we are all just standing around watching it collapse, only we can’t do anything to stop it. And meanwhile, I’m supposed to go about my life as though none of this crap is occurring. Oh, I can/do scream about each occurrence on Facebook, but that is a bit like crawling into a little dark cupboard and screaming into the night at the top of my lungs with nobody listening. Oh, people read my screams, and some check “like”. Some even write something to the effect that they “agree” with me.  And then we all go about our business, as though we just did something meaningful. When all we really did is to crawl into that cupboard and scream into the night.

See, Facebook is our new method of making believe we are doing something, when, instead, all we are really doing is entertaining/distracting ourselves. We have a president who is arguably the most corrupt con man on the planet, and we are allowing him to destroy right in front of us, many of the things our nation has spent years/decades building, and we are unable to do anything meaningful to stop him.  He has been appointing people to run our government agencies who are, to a person, fundamentally opposed to the very purposes of those agencies.  Mostly, they are both ignorant and opposed—see Betsy DeVos--, but sometimes they are worse—they are informed and opposed and those are the really dangerous ones.  Jennifer Rubin[1] writes about the catastrophic Trump Cabinet:

A number of historians and political scientists agree that Trump’s Cabinet really is the worst they can recall. American University history professor (and accurate prognosticator of Trump’s win in 2016) Allan Lichtman tells me, “There is no question that this is the most unqualified and inexperienced cabinet in the modern history of the presidency. Several of the cabinet officials not only lack the most basic qualifications for their jobs, but are intent upon undermining the fundamental mission of their departments: DeVos at Education, Carson at HUD, and Zinke at Interior. You can also add in Pruitt at EPA.” He adds in, “More than any other group of cabinet officials the Trump appointees also are using the federal treasury as their personal expense accounts.” With the firing of Tillerson on Tuesday, Lichtman observes that the churn of Cabinet officials “is without precedent in recent presidential history.”

And, so we read about their inane, dangerous behavior daily, and, again, we are unable to do anything. And his republican supporters continue to act as his cheerleaders.

Meanwhile, the Robert Mueller investigation continues to churn on . . . and on . . . and on. People get indicted, never the main character. He is the like The Don, the head man in his own Mafia organization.  I am becoming inured to the daily commentary by or about Trump.  How Trump is going to get indicted, or impeached, or maybe Don Jr. is going to get indicted. But, meanwhile, he goes on and on, and I have begun to wonder . . . is this Mueller investigation simply a charade begun by Trump to keep us entertained while he systematically destroys the country, after which Trump pulls up, gathers his family together into one of his private jets and flies off to some country designated by his patron Vlad the Impaler.  And, then, we awaken and observe the shards of our former country, and then we begin killing one another, because there is so much hate and no one to blame but ourselves.

What amazes me, perhaps more than anything else, is the fact that people exist in America, thousands, even millions of them, who continue to say that he is the best president we have ever had, and he is doling an amazing job as their president.  And I wonder, did the folks conned by Ponzi, or by that old rascal Bernie Madoff, continue to say nice things about them, even after the truth was revealed?

Is this how the last Civil War began? Millions of folks believed that slavery was the last, best hope for mankind and they would go to war and kill or be killed defending slavery? And now, they will do the same thing for Trump and his ragtag band of thugs and crooks, and con men? Are we poised for a second Civil War? What might bring it on—Impeachment proceedings??  If he were impeached and a trial took place, would those heavily armed folks with lots of guns but few active brain cells, begin to gather in the streets and begin shooting randomly?

What could prevent such a thing, I wonder? Will his supporters even obey an actual vote of the American people? We know that, if the 2020 election occurs and Trump is voted out of office, he will begin yelling FRAUD at every opportunity and, using his FOX PR outlets, he will energize his crazed supporters.  We think that he did not expect to win the first time, and was using the election process merely to enrich his coffers. That his win was a complete shock, to him and almost everyone paying attention.  But now, despite the daily drubbing in the “Fake News”, he likely gets off on being President, so he is unlikely to go quiet into the night.

We have been saying, just go out and vote in 2020. Vote him out of office legitimately. And then all will be well again. And I wish that were true. But it all sounds like “thoughts and prayers” to me now.  I am beginning to think that we need to do something to ensure that, when/if an election is actually held in 2020, and if he actually loses and is thus booted out of office, that we will do something to maintain order.  But I think that we cannot limit ourselves to awaiting the arrival of the National Guard. Somehow, we need to begin soothing the savage beast that is the American people. And what could that be, I wonder? What can we do, short of arming everyone? I think we need some kind of systematic airing of grievances to disarm the awful rhetoric of each side in this battle for the soul of America.  Maybe we need national focus groups meeting all over the country, in which people on each side are allowed to speak their piece, but without yelling or calling names. Labeling folks who are opposed would perhaps not be permitted. Everyone gets to talk, but speaking in public is only allowed if people tell us about what they want the country to do, or what they fear the country will do. We need to know what kind of country we now inhabit. And we need to understand whether we still have a nation of laws and honor, and humanity. And whether love for our fellow man is still present.

We need to do something folks, or everything we hold dear might be destroyed. That is how serious this mess is that we and the Donald have created.  Understand, please, The Donald is not and never has been an actual builder. He has destroyed almost everything he created. He intends on destroying America. We cannot allow him to do that, but it is up to us to decide how best to prevent the ending of America.  We need ideas. We need a willing spirit. We need this . . . now.

[1] Rubin, Jennifer, Here’s the case: Trump has the worst Cabinet everThe Washington Post

Saturday, February 2, 2019

The Russia Connection

So, now we have pulled out of our nuclear arms limitation treaty with Russia.  We are accusing the Russians of cheating, i.e., developing weapons that would violate the treaty. So we have announced that we are done.  So, I find myself wondering. Is this the big payoff to Russia that Trump promised, if Putin would help to make him President??  Now, you might say, “well, this isn’t much of a payoff, is it? I mean, we are trashing the Russkies, and are pulling away from a treaty with them because they are cheating. How is that a payoff?” Well, first, Putin doesn’t give a tinker’s damn that we are trashing them publically. What he wants is a go-ahead to produce new nuclear missiles that give him some tactical/strategic advantage, or at least make him par with the US. If he gets that, we can trash him all we want. He doesn’t care.  This may be the quid pro quo from Trump to Putin. And again, it may not matter to Putin even if we go ahead, as a result, and begin to produce a new fleet of formerly banned missiles, as long as Putin can do the same.  So, Trump may in fact be selling the safety of our nation through this action, because he really doesn’t care either.  So long as he gets what he wants (to be a big-time war leader) he does not care about consequences.

As noted in earlier postings, this is really what you get with Trump: a) he is profoundly ignorant; and, b) he is narcissistic to the point that may wreck everything around him to get what he wants. He is like no one before him.  Whatever you thought of Reagan, or Nixon, or Johnson (Vietnam), it seems clear that they were at least trying to advance the interests of our nation, even if you questioned their chosen tactics. With Trump, he is always trying to advance his own interests, regardless of the effects on others, or on the country as a whole.

His supporters imagine that he wants the Wall, because he is trying to protect America. But he is really trying to justify himself to his weary supporters. It is irrelevant whether the Nation needs a Wall. He really won’t even discuss the concept of a Wall. He just wants to see people agree with him and give him some money.  And, if they won’t do that, then he will send down troops to the border, and maybe even have the troops build the Wall.  He has a pretty large Defense budget. I imagine, with a National Emergency, he could easily divert funds from one place (Afghanistan??) to his Wall, and have troops there as an added preventive measure.  That he has no idea what he is doing, or what effects his actions will create is irrelevant. He cares not for consequences.

The Venezuela mess is also scary, because we really don’t know what he will do there, including sending down troops with no serious strategic mission.  He doubtless figures that we send troops all over the globe without any serious strategic mission, so why not here.  I mean, George W. Bush set fire to the entire Middle East without any serious strategic purpose (aside from demonstrating that he could do stuff better than his poppy).  With Trump, though, he has no serious strategic advisers. Bolton is simply a war hawk, who never saw a war he didn’t love. Apparently, Bolton must just love seeing folks being killed. Maybe that’s how he gets his rocks off.

A big question I have about our Russia connection is when will it ever stop?  With this gift to Putin (oh go ahead with your missile program, cuz our missiles are better than your missiles, nyah nyah, nyah nyah), will this be the official end-game quid pro quo? Or does it just continue as long as our idiot-king remains in power?  And what does this say about our Democratic system of government that his party allows him to continue trashing the country and, of course, the party? Arguably, there are ways to stop Trump from doing most of the stuff he does, but his Congress chooses to undertake none of them.  We will, of course, have to see what Pelosi and the Dems choose to, beyond sending out e-mails asking for $5.  So far, they haven’t given him his Wall funding, but what will they do when he just goes around them, and sends troops, or declares an emergency and simply diverts Defense budget to his Wall, with troops (Army Corps of Engineers??) doing the design and building?
So, Nancy better start some serious thinking now about a real strategic plan for dealing with this idiot-king. You may be the last best hope for mankind.

Oh and Howard Schultz . . . we know there are no serious qualifications for anyone becoming President, but please get the hell off the stage and allow some, even modest, intelligence to move into the process.  Kindly go back to your coffee business, and your making money thing. We really don’t need another idiot in the White House.