Absurd

Mr. Donald J. Trump held his first cabinet meeting of the year on 2 January.  In keeping with his reality show background, the meeting was televised.  The meeting was really a 90 minute monologue on just about everything that Mr. Trump stewed about over the holidays.  There were many newsworthy elements to be found in the transcript ranging from the border wall to the economy.  Many of the statements were provably wrong or misleading.  The list of falsehoods is too long to go through here.

Among the many untruths from the meeting perhaps the most troubling, at least in terms of asking oneself “where the heck did that come from?” were his comments on Afghanistan.  In a discussion about a continued U.S. military presence there, he launched into a bizarre statement full of previously unknown “facts”.  In addition to slandering our allies that have fought and died alongside US troops there he said,

“Russia is there.  Russia used to be the Soviet Union.  Afghanistan made it Russia, because they went bankrupt fighting in Afghanistan.  Russia.  So you take a look at other countries.  Pakistan is there; they should be fighting.  But Russia should be fighting.

The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia.  They were right to be there.  The problem is it was a tough fight.  And literally, they went bankrupt.  They went into being called Russia again, as opposed to the Soviet Union.  You know, a lot of these places you’re reading about now are no longer a part of Russia because of Afghanistan.”

No one.  No one, on the left, the right or the respective wing nuts of either side have ever said or believed that the Russians went into Afghanistan to fight terrorists or because they had a “right” to invade them.  Bipartisan efforts during the presidencies of Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush worked to isolate and punish the USSR for that invasion.

The real reason the Soviets invaded was the Brezhnev Doctrine.  In 1968 Leonid Brezhnev as leader of the Soviet Union put forth as a basic tenet of Soviet foreign policy the right to interfere in the affairs of any communist country anywhere in the world.  The Afghan government was communist when the Soviets invaded in 1979 and they occupied the country until their withdrawal in 1989.  While true that the occupation was a drain on the Soviet military and the occupation became unpopular with the Soviet people, it did not bankrupt them or otherwise lead to the fall of the Iron Curtain.  There were numerous reasons for the fall, but Afghanistan was more of a symptom of all that was wrong with the Soviet system rather than the cause.  They definitely did not enter Afghanistan to fight “terrorists.”

Only one person is pushing the narrative that the Soviet Union had a “right” to invade Afghanistan to stop “terrorism.”  That one person is Vladimir Putin.  He is pushing a new revisionist history that is pure propaganda and is designed to restore his view of the glory of the Soviet empire in order to stoke nationalist sentiment in Russia, entrench his own power, and provide the basis for his adventurism in Ukraine, the Baltic states, and elsewhere in the hope of restoring that empire.

And now I guess there are two people pushing that line, one of which is the President of the United States.

As the Wall Street Journal put it in part in an editorial,

“Right to be there? We cannot recall a more absurd misstatement of history by an American President. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan with three divisions in December 1979 to prop up a fellow communist government.

The invasion was condemned throughout the non-communist world. The Soviets justified the invasion as an extension of the Brezhnev Doctrine, asserting their right to prevent countries from leaving the communist sphere. They stayed until 1989.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was a defining event in the Cold War, making clear to all serious people the reality of the communist Kremlin’s threat. Mr. Trump’s cracked history can’t alter that reality.”

Is the president ignorant of history or is someone feeding him propaganda that he willingly repeats?  I am not a conspiracy theorist, but this should raise alarm bells.  Either the president really is ignorant of important world events that continue to shape international relations today, or he is willingly repeating Mr. Putin’s revisionist history meant to restore the luster of the former Soviet Union.  Either answer is deeply troubling.

What are we to make of this?  In the continued chaos of this administration it is easy to lose track of the multitude of “absurd” statements and actions coming out of the White House.  However, given the president’s propensity to support and defend all things Putin, one must ask again, “what is going on?”  The answer may be even more troubling than we can imagine.


Truth, Justice, and the American Way

“The 13 Angry Democrats (plus people who worked 8 years for Obama) working on the rigged Russia Witch Hunt, will be MEDDLING with the mid-term elections, especially now that Republicans (stay tough!) are taking the lead in Polls. There was no Collusion, except by the Democrats!”

— Donald J. Trump 29 May 2018 on Twitter.

“Why aren’t the 13 Angry and heavily conflicted Democrats investigating the totally Crooked Campaign of totally Crooked Hillary Clinton. It’s a Rigged Witch Hunt, that’s why! Ask them if they enjoyed her after election celebration!”

— Donald J. Trump 29 May 2018 on Twitter.

“This whole Russia Probe is Rigged. Just an excuse as to why the Dems and Crooked Hillary lost the Election and States that haven’t been lost in decades. 13 Angry Democrats, and all Dems if you include the people who worked for Obama for 8 years. #SPYGATE & CONFLICTS OF INTEREST!”

—  Donald J. Trump 27 May 2018 on Twitter.

I am very nervous about the future of our country.  The president is deliberately undermining the institutions that help to keep us safe in the law enforcement and intelligence communities.  In addition, he is already claiming that if Republicans lose control of the House or Senate it is because Special Counsel Robert Mueller “meddled” in the election.  Preposterous!

Let’s face it.  The president lies.  It is deliberate and pre-meditated.  All three quotes above are his attempt to change the narrative regarding the investigation underway by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.  They were some of the thirteen Tweets put out by the president over the holiday weekend relating to the investigation of Russian efforts to disrupt our elections.  These statements go far beyond opinion and land squarely in the realm of consciously lying.  We can no longer — if we ever really could — trust the president on anything he says.

The average citizen is just trying to get by from day-to-day. Going to work, taking care of one’s family and dealing with the rigors of daily life make it difficult to keep up with the continual barrage of information deliberately designed to deflect and distract.  The issues are complicated and cannot fully be understood through a Tweet or a fifteen second sound bite on television.  Totally understandable.  In fact, Mr. Trump and his abettors count on that as they throw everything at the wall and see what sticks.  But it is important to try to ferret out the truth.

Propaganda works.

“It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition and a psychological understanding of the people concerned that a square is in fact a circle. They are mere words, and words can be molded until they clothe ideas and disguise.”

— Joseph Goebbels

For the moment, lets put policy changes aside.  Many people support his efforts — although I am afraid he is going to destroy our economy through his capricious and erratic trade policies, which is why we should remember his multiple bankruptcies — and I can respect that, even if I disagree.  I cannot ignore the daily character issues surrounding the president and his bullying and his attacks on institutions that keep America safe.  Would you honestly look to Mr. Trump as an example for your children and grand children to emulate?

Here are the facts (but look them up for yourself, don’t rely on my word) as to what is going on most recently with the Russia investigation and thus the Tweets above:

  • Last week Mr. Trump tried to get Congress to investigate the investigators investigating him by claiming that a “spy” was put into his campaign by the FBI.  Despite originally saying that only Republicans would be briefed on the actual facts (no politicizing of intelligence in this case!), senior members of both parties (known as the Gang of Eight) were briefed.  There was no there there. Nothing. Bumpkiss. Nada.  Just one more in a long line of false accusations put out by the president.  Claims of wiretapping of Trump Tower, an “unmasking scandal” of intelligence intercepts, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera (with apologies to Yul Brynner in the King and I).
  • The leadership of the Department of Justice (DOJ), FBI, and the Special Counsel are all Republicans and appointed by Republicans.  Some by the president directly.
  • The FBI actually helped Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign.  The FBI and DOJ received information from an allied intelligence source that three individuals with his campaign did or may have close ties to the Russians with the intent of interfering with the election.  It was their duty to investigate a possible assault on our electoral system and indeed, that one or both of the campaigns were being disrupted.  An informant met with the three to assess the depth of their knowledge and possible associations with known Russian operatives.  By the way, the informant worked in the administrations of Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan.  (Also all Democrats?!)
  • FBI Director Comey publicly announced an investigation into Secretary Hillary Clinton — twice — during the campaign.  The investigation into the Trump campaign was kept secret so as not to disrupt his campaign or impugn anyone on his staff until the facts were known.
  • The Mueller Team has approximately sixteen lawyers with experience in both Republican and Democrat administrations supported by roughly thirty-six staff, including investigators and non-attorneys.
  • The “witch hunt,” after only a year, has already resulted in nineteen indictments including Mr. Trump’s National Security Adviser, former campaign manager and the assistant campaign manager.
  • Mr. Mueller’s team does not leak information, which gives the field of public opinion completely to Mr. Trump and his abettors.  That said, it is widely believed that Mr. Mueller is looking into the following crimes.
    • Russian election interference.
    • Links between Trump associates and Russian officials.
    • Collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian agents.
    • Obstruction of Justice.
    • Financial transactions including money laundering and tax evasion.
    • Violations of federal campaign laws.
  • I could fill pages more of facts directly countering the president’s pronouncements.

Look at how Mr. Trump says what he does.  Very rarely does he dispute the facts.  Rather he creates falsehoods and/or attacks individuals or institutions.  There are no specifics, but only vague accusations.  As a result, he can never be wrong and can, when that proves to be a dead end, he just comes up with the next wild and false thing.

Apparently, he wants to use the DOJ and FBI as a personal force, loyal to him rather than the nation and the rule of law.  He will not stop until he gets what he wants and is willing to destroy anyone or any institution to protect himself and his self-interests.  Obviously he is getting increasingly desperate as the investigators close in around him.  We should all worry about just how desperate he may get.  Mr. Trump will not go quietly into the night.

I fervently hope that our nation’s leaders, Democrats and Republicans, stand tall and remind the president that no American is above the law.

Vladimir Putin is thrilled.  His efforts are paying off beyond his wildest hopes.

“Those who are capable of tyranny are capable of perjury to sustain it.”                              — Lysander Spooner


What’s In a Name?

Some of you may have seen this already.  Even taking into account the randomness of the survey and the impact of editing, it still paints the power of propaganda.

On Jimmy Kimmel’s show the other night the “man in the street” interviewer asked  people which they preferred — The Affordable Care Act or Obamacare?   The overwhelming choice was The Affordable Care Act.   We know that they are the same, but apparently many people do not.

When the interviewer asked about specific provisions of Obamacare — such as allowing children to stay on their parents policy until age 26, no restrictions for previous conditions, etc. — the response was always positive, even as they continued to say that they did not like Obamacare.

Propaganda works.

You can watch it for yourself here: http://youtu.be/sx2scvIFGjE