21 July 2018

A Theory of Trump Kompromat

Everyone is overloaded with this stuff these days, but this article is revelatory and covers ground no one else has explained in any detail. 



18 July 2018

What we're up against

The NYT has an article about "cracks" appearing in the Trump base. But we Democrats have to get real. For 2018, the fact that Trump has only a roughly 35% core of voters who will probably vote for his reelection in 2020 no matter what DOES NOT REALLY MATTER. What matters is analytics, GOTV, and, especially, giving voters GOOD REASONS TO VOTE DEMOCRATIC in states with Senate races we can win, and in every single Congressional district in the country, regardless of whether there is that much of a chance of winning this year. Because we need to take back the House (pretty good shot), AND the Senate (much harder), but more than that: We have to lay the foundations for retaining control of both houses for a good, long while. If we do this work and succeed in 2018, I think 2020 will follow as night the day, and Trump and Trumpism can be defeated and swept into the dustbin of history. (The Republican party will have to regroup and reorganize, like it hasn't had to do since 1964... even 2008 was not quite like what I'm envisioning here). The stakes are very high. My friends, we simply cannot lose. Because it is no exaggeration to say that the fate of the American republic is at stake. We are closer to losing the checks and balances of our constitution to permanent autocracy than at any time in more than a century. EVERYONE must get involved and think seriously about what they can do to help make sure we win these elections and put forward a governing agenda that attracts a permanent base that the Republicans will be unable to overcome for quite some time.


Cross posted to Facebook. 

17 July 2018

Judy Woodruff interviewing John Sipher

​​... career CIA guy based in Moscow in the 1990s. Something pretty close to this seems to be the consensus among intelligence people. Trump has consistently attacked and disrespected them, and their proclivity to accept presidential authority without question has been shaken to the point that they have a pretty clear view of what's going on with this guy. 

There are always positive consequences from even the most awful developments (along with the bad ones, obviously). One good thing that may come out of all this is that the intelligence community will be skeptical of blind allegiance to presidential power. 

That is, assuming we do manage to get through this with the American republic still more or less intact. A reasonable, but not safe, bet. 


Yo amo, tú amas, el ama, nosotros amamos, vosotros amáis, ellos aman. 

Ojalá no fuese conjugación sino realidad.

--Mario Benedetti

16 July 2018

Sen. McCain falls short of "calling it treason." But JUST SHORT.

Anyone who may have actually read my latest email about today's disgrace in Helsinki and maybe thought it exaggerated, or even an example of (the nonexistent) Trump Derangement Syndrome, here: 

"Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released the following statement today on President Trump's meeting and press conference with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki:
"Today's press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump's naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake.
"President Trump proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin. He and Putin seemed to be speaking from the same script as the president made a conscious choice to defend a tyrant against the fair questions of a free press, and to grant Putin an uncontested platform to spew propaganda and lies to the world.
"It is tempting to describe the press conference as a pathetic rout – as an illustration of the perils of under-preparation and inexperience. But these were not the errant tweets of a novice politician. These were the deliberate choices of a president who seems determined to realize his delusions of a warm relationship with Putin's regime without any regard for the true nature of his rule, his violent disregard for the sovereignty of his neighbors, his complicity in the slaughter of the Syrian people, his violation of international treaties, and his assault on democratic institutions throughout the world.
"Coming close on the heels of President Trump's bombastic and erratic conduct towards our closest friends and allies in Brussels and Britain, today's press conference marks a recent low point in the history of the American Presidency. That the president was attended in Helsinki by a team of competent and patriotic advisors makes his blunders and capitulations all the more painful and inexplicable.
"No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant. Not only did President Trump fail to speak the truth about an adversary; but speaking for America to the world, our president failed to defend all that makes us who we are—a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad. American presidents must be the champions of that cause if it is to succeed. Americans are waiting and hoping for President Trump to embrace that sacred responsibility. One can only hope they are not waiting totally in vain."

Wow. Just wow. I think it's clear by now that we are well beyond political differences. This is a question of whether the president of the United States is even marginally fulfilling his oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, or is, rather, aiding and abetting our country's main adversary, for the first time in our nation's history.

The stark reality of where we are right now as a nation


With the indulgence of my farflung correspondents, let's review some facts. Political considerations aside. Then I will draw a political inference of grave importance, relating to the greatest internal crisis our country has faced since the Civil War. I believe history will see the conclusions I draw as virtually undeniable and inevitable. 

As a result of a longstanding investigation, including counterintelligence considered valid by the entire intelligence community of our country, the United States, an indictment was set forth on Friday. It contains a tremendous amount of detail about exactly who, how, where, and when military intelligence and "direct action" agents of the Russian Federation, unquestionably acting under orders of the RF President Vladimir Putin, committed cybercrimes and acts of aggressive WAR against the United States in the run up to the 2016 election, with the intention of aiding the election campaign of Donald Trump. 

This is not an opinion, in any way. It is a fact. Even in the era before information technology, sabotage was deemed to be an act of war. The evidence of "cbyer sabotage" committed on a large scale by the Russian Federation is now overwhelming and undeniable. 

The House Intelligence Committee, headed by Devin Nunes, and against the objections of all the Democrats on the committee, has whitewashed the investigation into these matters, and simply refused to acknowledge the evidence. 

The president, Donald Trump, has repeatedly denied the facts uncovered by the intelligence community of our country, and preferred to stand with the very adversary who committed these acts of aggression against our country. Including, today, when, to the jaw-dropped amazement of most of the press pool covering the event, he stood next to Vladimir Putin and endorsed his version of what happened, without reference to any evidence, and in what most reasonable observers consider an obvious lie. Trump said this after having identified our closest allies since the end of WWII, the EU, as a "foe," and proceeding with a summit meeting with Putin without so much as minimal acknowledgement of the indictment or the actual facts which have obviously been briefed to him in detail. Trump has repeatedly expressed admiration for dictators and autocrats, especially Putin, and trashed and insulted our longstanding allies and their leaders. He lies on literally a daily basis about the circumstances detailed here (among many other things). It is shocking and unprecedented. 

We are not at war with Russia; not formally. So this is not technically treason. But I just don't see how anyone can any longer stand with Trump and call him or herself a patriot. Trump stands with our principal adversary, which attacked our country, and against our own government and the best conclusions its counterintelligence services have arrived at about coordinated acts of aggression carried out by a foreign government against our most sacred of institutions: our elections. Had any Democratic president in  our history done this, there would have been immediate demands from the whole of the Republican party, and much of the Democratic party, for his impeachment, at least. 

But the tribal polarization in our country has reached such an extreme, among Trump's base of supporters, that he can literally stand with our enemy against our own government, and they continue to support him. The big lie propaganda that has become the standard fare of the Alt Right and its media fellow travelers has been amazingly effective in persuading millions of people to believe things which are demonstrably false. Jefferson foresaw that one way that American republican government could fail is if the citizenry failed to be "informed." Convincing a significant fraction of the public to discredit the actual facts about an ATTACK ON OUR COUNTRY certainly qualifies. 

This is a serious crisis, irrespective of all policy considerations and whether one supports conservative or liberal policies. It is hard to see how this will not now devolve to the detriment of our nation and its place in the world. 

What must we infer from these facts and circumstances?

I believe it is high time for all Americans to choose.  We cannot just ignore this crisis any longer. Any politician, indeed any voter, who continues to stand with Trump, is complicit in the aiding and abetting of the aggressive actions of an adversary of the United States AGAINST OUR COUNTRY. If, as I do, you consider cyber attacks to be an act of war, a case for actual treason is even plausible. Read the applicable constitutional provision:  «Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.»  All that is missing is the applicability of the word enemy. Which is why I say, it is not technically treason. It is much like the situation in the cold war. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted of espionage, not treason, because we were not at war, formally; it was a "cold war." But I submit to you that the situation today is much the same: we are in a new, and very nasty, cold war with Russia. And our PRESIDENT is complicit in acts of giving our adversary in that Cold War aid and comfort (apparently in a quid pro quo for their aid to him, in ways that have yet to fully emerge from the ongoing investigation). If this isn't an impeachable offense, I really don't see why we even have impeachment as a supposed remedy. But more importantly, it is a crisis. We have never before had a president stand there and openly betray his country, in word and deed. But we do now. 

Even many Republicans and former Republicans (Malcolm Nance, Steve Schmidt, Mickey Edwards, George F. Will, Max Boot; many others)... have concluded that whatever your politics, if you are fundamentally patriotic and loyal to the United States, you must oppose this man and his party until Trump and Trumpism are defeated. The Republicans can and probably will regroup afterwards, but until Trump and Trumpism have been defeated, the Republican party is complicit. 

I firmly believe in the separation of Church and State, and don't believe in a personal god. So I won't say "God save the United States." But I will say, I love my country. Long live the United States. As a republic. Of the people, and, at least as an ideal, by and for the people. Down with autocracy. May Trump and Trumpism, which I truly believe stand in opposition to that ideal, be defeated. I will do my part to help make sure that happens. 

Thank you. 

13 July 2018

An e mail to a Trumpist friend

 I wrote this to an old friend who's become a Trumpist (wealthy, smart guy). Anyway, I'm trying to explain myself by going back to basics. This may sound sanctimonious, but, seriously, I mean it when I say I fail at this every day, every minute. But I still believe these things are important. 

I get it that you don't really care for polemics and tomes, but since we seem to have reopened a dialog, I want to make something clear. If you don't care to read all this, perhaps you'll circle back around to it and read it another time. I'll try to be clear and as brief as I can.  

My progressive politics are, at root, based on spiritual beliefs. Not religion, but spiritual beliefs that I honed and clarified through an approximately ten year long study of Buddha Dharma. The Buddha taught (Kadama Sutra): " Do not believe in anything simply because you heard it. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. Do not believe in anything because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. But after observation and analysis, you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept and live up to it."


​So, on that basis, I reject all authority when it comes to traditional teachings. But what I did absorb, accept on the basis of my own thought and experience, and continue to believe and profess, in its most basic form, includes the following: 


  1. Avoid the taking of life. This is at its most basic level a proscription against murder, but in deeper terms it means a reverence for all life, and the avoiding of unnecessary destruction of life of any kind, and a prescription to love the Earth and living things, and to protect them.

  1. Avoid the taking of that which is not given. This has deeper levels too… unnecessary ownership of resources others need is seen as causing harm.
  2. Avoid falsity of word and deed, and use of words to cause harm. Again, this contains deeper levels. Not only not to lie, but not to use language to manipulate, or to gossip about people to their detriment; or to conduct oneself so as to cause deception or to take advantage. This is a prescription for basic honesty, and minding of one's own business.
  3. Avoid sexual conduct which causes harm. Room for interpretation here, but the main thing is to recognize that sex and sexual behavior are dangerous if great care is not given to ensure that others are not hurt by your actions.
  4. Avoid intoxicants, which cloud the mind and cause heedlessness. On its face, this is simple; but it can also apply to avoiding toxic thought and foods, as they work in the same way as drugs and alcohol to poison the mind and heart.
THE LIMITLESS QUALITIES, or sublime conditions. These are the essence of Buddhist thought: they pervade everything, and are the essential condition, or quality, of bodhicitta, the heart of enlightenment, which I think of as no more or less than the essential goodness that resides at the core of all people. These qualities are innate but they can also be corrupted, but they can just as well be cultivated: 
Metta (Pali; Sanskrit, Maitri): caring, lovingkindness. Toward all you meet or reflect upon, your heart feels caring and lovingkindness. 
Karuna: compassion. This is the sympathetic pain upon encountering the suffering of others (or of oneself; karuna begins with oneself).  This quality enables us to develop empathy and to take action to benefit others. 
Mudita: sympathetic joy, the happiness of seeing happiness in others. This also enables us to develop the inner wherewithal to make sure our actions benefit others.
Uppekha (Upeksa): equanimity; the ability to accept others, as they are; and reality, as it is. Tricky sometimes, for it involves the phenomenon of karma, which is nothing more than "actions have consequences" (including failures to act). You are not responsible, and cannot possibly be responsible, for the existence of suffering of others or the condition of the world. You do what you can (right effort, right mindfulness, the other sublime conditions), but you don't allow them to overwhelm and destroy you. Another way to think of this is "letting go."  Equanimity is also the transformation of the deluded mind that sees others as either attractive, unattractive, or indifferent, and learns to cherish all living beings without exception or distinction.  

SO, given that these are the essential spiritual beliefs that I have come to revere and try to live by, I truly believe that we are here on this Earth primarily to benefit others, to see all living beings as worthy of love, and to craft everything we do and say to improve the lives of all living beings, and in particular all people. We all, constantly, fail at this, miserably, myself very much included. But if we do not at least TRY to live our lives in accordance with something very like this, we are truly missing the point of existence and our life is a tragedy. 

And for me, that includes politics. We need to try to make our actions moral. And politics is nothing more or less than collective action. And it must be as moral as we can make it. It must include the intention to benefit others. To include others. If I could have strongly influenced domestic and international affairs at various points in my life, I would have opted for doing everything possible to bring peace and prosperity to every country. To encourage stewardship, but to encourage development and sharing. I believe that unfettered market capitalism is immoral, because it does not have these things as a goal, even as a long term goal. Market systems are not immoral, but only if they are controlled and directed to an appropriate extent, in good faith, and with rightful intention, to ensure fairness and inter-operation with policy goals that seek to make life better for every single human being on the Earth, and to ensure the long term sustainability of life and diversity of life on this planet. These are tall, tall orders, but we fail to be moral beings if we do not strive to achieve them.

​So all my thinking, political and philosophical, is governed by these ideas. 

​I don't know if that helps at all to see things from my perspective, but there it is and for now I'll leave it at that. ​

Rational Argument will not Defeat Trumpism

I am gradually coming to accept that rational arguments, of the kind that underly the founding principles of the American republic, are not very effective in countering the kind of literally-reactionary politics that make up Trumpism. Robert Sapolsky, a neuroendocrinologist and author of "Behave, the Biology of Humans at our Best and Worst,"* has discussed research that shows that human beings will create rationalizations to justify what are essentially emotional responses, often triggered by things like the disgust reflex controlled by the primitive brain region known as the insula. And George Lakoff has shown that framing of issues, and use of emotional-triggers rather than rational arguments, are much more effective in the successful propaganda used primarily by the Right than the more rational issues-based approach favored by Democrats and Progressives in general. It's kind of pathetic, but the truth is we Progressives are not going to CONVINCE our way out of this mess. We just have to out organize and out-do them at their own game.

It's not that our arguments are not sound, or that we are not right. We are. It's that no amount of rational discussion will convince people whose primary impetus for the "tribal" allegiance is emotional. And to some extent, this is true of all of us; but the same studies show that people on the progressive end of the spectrum are more tolerant in general, including have a weaker "threshold of disgust" at things like spoiled food. It's amazing really. We think we are rational beings, but to a great extent we are not; we are animals whose behavior and even thought patterns are largely the result of biological triggers.

Interview on Background Briefing with Ian Masters:

12 July 2018

Kavanaugh on the separation of Church & State

In case you needed any more proof that Trump SC pick Kavanaugh is WAY outside the historical mainstream throughout at least the entirety of the 20th century.... 



Lanny Davis on "impeachable offense" ?

Have to say this is a non-story. The substance Lanny Davis is referring to is more than a year old-news, and an offense is impeachable, almost by definition, if and only if a majority of the House and 2/3 of the Senate think it is. And, my friends, until BOTH houses are flipped to Democratic, and maybe not even then, THAT IS NOT HAPPENING. Resistance must take other tacks. One of those tacks, of course, being doing EVERYTHING legal we can to make sure that Democratic control of both houses of Congress is restored as soon as possible. THIS is the fight of our lives.

10 July 2018

Andrew Napolitano is right (for once)

I don't usually agree with Fox News legal affairs commentator Andrew Napolitano (yeah, the one who was going to become one of Trump's lawyers until it turned out he had a conflict). But his testimony against the Corker/Kaine AUMF* proposal was absolutely spot on. (Bernie Sanders and our Sen. Merkley agree). He points out that open ended AUMFs are UNCONSTITUTIONAL, since the Constitution cannot be clearer that the power to wage war reposes in the Congress, not the president. In fact, his point that the most important principle in the Constitution isn't free speech or "liberty," but Separation of Powers, is also right. As he said, many illiberal governments have paper constitutions that guarantee all kinds of rights, but it's the structure of government that prevents the concentration of too much power in the hands of one man or faction that protects us from tyranny, across the generations, not nice words in a piece of paper. And he's also right, and makes a great point, that ceding the war powers to the president is not only a terrible precedent, it amounts to "amending the Constitution by [illicit] consent."

** Authorization for the Use of Military Force. And yes, the same Kaine who would have been vice president had HRC won, so this isn't a partisan issue. This bill, which would make it necessary to override a veto to stop an executive-originated war, is beyond terrible.



Looming generational threat from Trump's Supreme Court pick

Those of us who do not want to see an interventionist Supreme Court with a locked in majority of Far Right Federalist Society justices who are completely at odds with the public policy views of most Americans are in a very tough situation with the impending appointment of Brett Kavanaugh, who fits this mold in spades. I fear that the only viable solution, assuming eventual return of progressive political forces to power, is to eventually increase the number of justices, but that, unfortunately, is also a steep political climb, opposed by even most Democrats. But we can't just accept defeat. Appointments of relatively young people to the Supreme Court can change the face of American public policy for DECADES, and this latest pick clearly and unambiguously, on every issue, runs counter to the collective will of the American people, as demonstrated from repeated and consistent polling.
Call 202-224-3121. Ask for Susan Collins' office, or Lisa Murkowski's, or your own senators', or any senator's. Every public statement is better than silence.
  • Tell them Brett Kavanaugh has STATED and DOCUMENTED views which are not legal but political, judicial interventionist doctrines, and which run contrary to the wishes of a significant majority of Americans. Among them: Wants to rescind Americans' reproductive rights, specifically to overturn Roe v. Wade.
  • Wants to disable the right to health care which passed Congress and which even this Congress could not repeal, through judicial fiat
  • Wants to disable protections for our environment
  • Wants to cripple workers' organizing rights and workplace safety, again through judicial fiat
  • Wants to use judicial intervention to cripple sensible financial regulation, which could prevent another financial crisis (has called the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unconstitutional, thus rendering him ineligible to rule on cases involving it, but there's every indication he would anyway)
  • Is on record saying that criminal prosecution, and even INVESTIGATION, of a sitting president, should be prevented, a clear conflict of interest, having been appointed by a president who is facing encroaching legal threat
  • Will almost certainly vote to uphold gerrymandering and voter suppression
  • Is hostile to LGBTQ equality
  • Is hostile to due process for Asylum seekers (a treaty obligation of the United States, but no matter to them)
Brett Kavanaugh is the exactly SECOND Supreme Court nominee in US history, of a president not elected by the majority of the popular vote, proposed for approval by a Senate not elected by a majority of the national voting electorate. (The first was Trump's FIRST pick, Gorsuch, who took a seat stolen by the Republicans in the Senate in a brazen act of destruction of the unwritten rules that have preserved some degree of balance over much of the 20th and 21st centuries). We have no sense at all in America of the virtue of coalitions. When a president barely wins, ESPECIALLY when he takes office without a popular vote mandate, he has a MORAL duty to cooperate with the opposition, but in recent years, it's been SCORCHED EARTH on their side, and Obama, who tried to be accommodating, was just burned. To my mind, this affords at least a good deal of justification for extraordinary activism to try to defeat their judicial picks. A great deal is at stake, and we have every right, indeed every obligation, to FIGHT BACK.
Thank you.


08 July 2018

Just amazing

It is nothing short of amazing that clown show barker Rudy G. is tacitly admitting that there is an impeachment case to be made against the Mob Boss Prez he works for, and that they're doing everything they can -- not to defend him on the merits, but to put procedural roadblocks in the way of the investigation, and to sway public opinion -- so that, for purely political reasons, even a Democratic Congress will be reluctant to impeach. And this when essentially no Democratic leadership voices are even suggesting that impeachment is on the agenda. 

Just amazing. 

Meanwhile, the most important issue before us... the fact that we have been, and continue to be the victim of a successful cyber warfare attack by Russia, in a coordinated effort to undermine western liberal democracy (which they don't even deny, except on their own clown car media)... is going mostly unaddressed by politicians of either party. One can hope that the counterintelligence forces continue to do their jobs to defend our country against these attacks even with an unwitting Kremlin agent in charge of the executive branch. If the Democratic leadership had any sense, they would make "STOP Russian Cyber attacks on the United States" and "Prevent Interference in our Elections" major election issues in both '18 and '20.


04 July 2018

Progressive Change in the Democratic Party

As someone who's very happy to see Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez win the primary in Queens/Bronx against an "establishment" Democrat, I want to be very, very clear. I regard her win as a bellwether, not some kind of political earthquake or revolution. It is not the Progressive hope or intention to divide the Democratic Party. Just the opposite. We hope to infuse the party with new enthusiasm, new purpose, and new direction. We hope to spur the leadership of the party to think big, go bold, and realize that what will win in '18 and '20 is not business as usual but embracing the VERY POPULAR progressive agenda of the younger, more connected people coming from the organizing and grassroots of the party. And yes, to a great extent, that means the people who got behind and were energized by Bernie Sanders in 2016. It's a new day. Our party needs to stand for positive change, not just "NOT TRUMP," and we need to galvanize the energy of younger voters and give Independents, tired of business as usual in Washington from both parties, a real reason to vote Democratic in '18, '20, and beyond.



02 July 2018

Got an e mail from Barack Obama

I just got a fundraising email from Barack Obama, requesting money for OFA's 2018 election effort. Well and good. I'm glad to see Obama stepping forward to stand for Democrats, and I support all efforts to ensure that Democratic candidates win at all levels. But the email was pretty much devoid of specifics. Democrats want assurance from their leadership that the party will actually stand for specific actions and policies to counter Trump's disastrous right wing agenda. Just being not Trump is NOT ENOUGH. I listen to people like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, who just won a primary in New York by a huge margin against an establishment Congressman who failed to take strong progressive stands. Ocasio Cortez espouses a fully fledged progressive agenda and is unafraid to talk about it in detail, just like her mentor Bernie Sanders did in 2016. THIS is the way to win the midterms, and I hope the more mainstream party leadership realizes that and soon.

Polls consistently show that Independents are and were turned off by politicians who hew to a centrist, "nondivisive", mealy-mouthed line. Many disaffected Democrats who voted for Trump actually told investigators that their choice was between Bernie Sanders and Trump... not because they necessarily agreed with the policies of either in detail, but because they were tired of being lied to, triangulated, manipulated. I really believe that a well designed campaign to convince many voters who are just beginning to realize they've been had by Trump, combined with the solid majority across the country who were never taken in by him, will spell a massive blue Tsunami. But the most likely way that WON'T happen is if a big segment of the "disaffecteds" perceive that the Democrats are just playing business as usual, and are afraid to go bold and think big.

Democrats need to forget about appealing to "centrists," and go back to their roots. Economic fairness. Bold policy initiatives: rein in Wall Street, build infrastructure massively, invest in new industries for a renewable energy future, conquer Climate Change with massive public investment, pay for college and vocational education, institute truly universal health care and retirement security. These policies, properly presented, are MASSIVELY POPULAR. And Democrats, better than Republicans, who care no more for debt and deficits than they do but are more willing to lie about it, should understand that the reason we aren't doing these things is NOT because we can't afford them. We have the World's reserve currency. Everyone needs OUR money. We aren't doing these things for one reason only: we don't have the political WILL to do them.

Sure would like to see Barack Obama make some version of this case to the American people. And now.

01 July 2018

Ryan Grim's e mail blog

.... is worth reading.