Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The enemy of my enemy... is... whom?

Perhaps it's time to rip the MSM, Dems, and a lot of Republicans for their comments about Trump's trip and his news conference comments.  Perhaps it's time to rip everyone for their memory loss about past Russia summits and their aftermath, including a past summit between Eisenhower and Khrushchev that almost caused a nuclear war.  Perhaps it's time to rip everyone for their immediate condemnation of Reagan's summit.

Perhaps a bit of revisiting is due here.

And before I get started, don't get the wrong idea: I'm not an apologist for Russia.  I think Putin is dangerous.  But...

Even before Trump corrected his misstatement, pundits were suggesting that Russia's hacking of the DNC emails was actually worse than China's hacking of the OPM.  I would suggest that Russia's hacking is relatively benign when you consider China, NORK, Iran, Pakistan (the Irwan family), and other bad actors around the world - and what they have done, hack-wise.  Short-term memory loss seems rampant among the political class.

I would note that American fear of Russia appears to be pathological, not logical or reasonable.  And that the reaction to Trump's visit and comments is based on Trump's not bowing to the existing orthodoxy of Russia being our worst enemy, regardless of how Romney feels about them.

Even I know that China has been dumping money into the coffers of members of Congress by hiring family members of representatives, investing in their companies, overspending on services provided by "friends", etc.  China has been buying influence - this is provable.  Heck, even the relatives of McConnell's wife, Elaine Chao, have done well.  And Chao has been good-speaking China to McConnell forever.

China uses plenty of money to swing opinion.  Russia doesn't.  Therefore, Russia is the "bad guy" and China - our economic enemy, and the scourge of the South China Sea - is the "good guy"?  Seriously??

Neither China nor Russia is our close friend.  But China can destroy the US economically.  Russia can't.

So... why is Russia the "bad guy"?

I think Trump has recognized these concepts.  He has accused China of being a money manipulator, stealing our tech and our intellectual property, "dumping" products on American shores, and maintaining a trade surplus by heavy tariffs on American imports.  He knows that China is at economic war with the US and knows that China has publicly declared that it wants to be the world's biggest economy - even if it means destroying the American economy.

Meanwhile, we do very little trade with Russia.  Russia's biggest export right now is energy, and they're selling it to Europe.  I dare anyone to show me other Russian exports that would make Russia an economic threat to the US.

Russia shouldn't be our enemy.  In fact, Russia doesn't want to be our enemy.  Yes, Russia still has hegemonic ambitions on the European continent, but look at the past invasions.  Both were meant to give Russia access to the world through areas it lost when the USSR broke up.  Since the illegal and warlike invasions of Crimea and Ukraine, Russia has threatened other areas... but it hasn't taken any action.  It may be that, regardless of Putin's "dreams of reconstituting the USSR", Russian expansionism may be over for now.

And anyone with half a brain and knowledge of the current state of governments in the European Continent knows that countries from Estonia to (the rest of) Ukraine have no desire to return to rule by Russia.  Many of them joined NATO specifically to gain protection from the West.  Putin's dreams of Russian expansionism, at least in Eastern Europe, are essentially over - for now.

That's why I think Trump was right, both when he misspoke and when he issued a correction.  Both statements remain correct.  Our intelligence services deserve our full support - but the reports they generated have been fatally flawed and biased.  Trusting Comey, Brennan, and Clapper was a mistake because all three lied, misled the public, and acted against American democracy.  Trump's comments were meant for them: it was they who used baseless and unverified/unverifiable "documents" to begin an investigation into Trump's "collusion" with Russians.

Um... isn't that exactly what they accuse Putin of doing?

If anyone is working to undermine the American democratic process, it is the anti-Trump MSM, Dems, and others who are single-minded in their desire to destroy Trump, seemingly for pushing back against the !!!1!!RUSSIAENEMYRUSSIAENEMYRUSSIA!@@!!! dialogue in an attempt to - yes, yet again - push the reset button.

Only time will tell... but I also think time will show that Trump was correct: our enemy isn't Russia.

Our true enemy is China.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Head-fake?

So, Trump says he "misspoke". I don't believe him for a minute.

BUT...

Either way, the question of "interference" has been answered. Putin admitted it during the interview. His view is different, tho: he doesn't see Russian meddling as interference 'cuz it uncovered a lot of political corruption.

Putin makes a valid point, but only from the way he views the "meddling". Americans are so wrapped up in Russia hate and in Trump hate that they might - might - be missing the big picture. There was corruption and it was uncovered. But it wasn't uncovered by American intelligence services or the MSM.

It was uncovered by their supposed arch-enemy, the Russians.

IMO, that's why the MSM and the Dems hate this so much: corruption in the American political system could no longer be hidden from the public by the MSM and the Dems.

But I think there's something much larger at work here, and I think it has to do with the Middle East. Russia knows that alignment with Syria has put them into a bind, and their support for Assad means that they tacitly support Assad's chemical attacks. They want a way out of this situation, but without giving the US a way back in. Trump wants out too - is it possible that Trump and Putin are working on a mutual withdrawal from the Middle East?

Russia has declared support for Israel, and Israel - Netanyahu - has declared support for Russia. Israel and Syria are practically at war again, and if the war goes live then Israel will win - again. Russia doesn't want to target the only democracy in the Middle East... so is it looking for a way to tell Israel "we won't respond to Israeli attacks" while it slowly backs away from supporting Assad?

The MSM and Dems will go nuts if Trump pulls out of the Middle East... but if Putin pulls out too, what will the MSM and Dems say? Will they demand Trump go back into the Middle East after demanding he pull out of the Middle East?

I think Trump is about to head-fake the MSM and the Dems again.

Plus, there's nothing that can be done about Crimea or the Ukraine at this point. That ship sailed when Obama refused to do anything after the invasions. Asking Trump to invade either Crimea or the Ukraine is pretty stupid.

Trump can't isolate Russia, especially with Germany (and much of Europe) buying Russian energy.  Our "allies" will be pumping money into Russia rather than buying energy from us.  Think on that for a moment: our "allies" are supporting our "sworn enemy".  Is the enemy of our enemy, our friend?  Or yet another enemy?  And being heavily dependent on Russian energy, will Russia be able to push Europe away from the US by threatening that energy supply?  If things go south, will Europe side with the US... or will it side with Russia?

So, unless the MSM and the Dems want Trump to go to war with Russia, the best thing to do is to fully investigate why our intelligence agencies failed to provide Obama with intelligence so he could counter Russia's meddling.  Or, if they provided that information to Obama, let's find out why Obama didn't use that information to protect the upcoming election.

There's a pretty rotten smell coming from DC.

Also: Let's take Putin up on his offer. Let Mueller interview Russians on Russian soil (with supervisors present), and let Putin's representatives interview Americans on American soil (with supervisors present). Make the transcripts public. If there's something there, let the American and Russian people see all of it uncensored. If there's corruption, show it. If there's incompetence, show it. If there's perjury, show it. Let both the American and Russian people see exactly who did what.

No Americans will vanish or commit suicide (a la Rich, e.g. 2 shots to the back of the head). But there may be some Russians who will vanish or commit suicide (a la agents in England who "accidentally" ingested nerve agents).

But at least the public will know.

Let's get real. The majority of Americans either don't pay attention to the news at all, or get their news from late night "comedy" shows. If they can be easily swayed by a comedian and believe hard-core AntiFA / BAMN / BLM activists without "checking their sources", then yes: Russian meddling might have influenced them. But they would have voted Dem anyway...

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The case for party affiliation of "none"

It is time to eliminate laws that require registered voters to declare political party affiliation. A voter should not have to tell the state - or anyone - which political party they prefer.

As someone who ran for office 3 times, I know that those running for office can get copies of voter registration rolls to they can contact possible constituents. That means that the data is publicly available, and it means that data can then be used by unscrupulous political party operatives to intimidate or embarrass those who don't support their candidate.

Don't fool yourself into thinking this intimidation doesn't happen.  It does, and far more often than anyone realizes.

Voting booths are supposed to ensure privacy so individuals can feel free to choose whom to support. It is long past time to remove party affiliation from voter registration cards as well.  This would encourage candidates of all political stripes to address all voters without "cherry picking" only a select few prospects.

Some states allow a voter to remain undeclared on their voter registration. But a significant number of states still require party declaration in order to vote, and some even will invalidate a vote by those who "cross party lines".

States should not be forcing voters to declare who they will vote for before an election. That's plainly un-American and is a probable violation of 1A (right of association).  I look forward to a lawsuit by someone in a forced-affiliation state to sue the state to permit them to choose "none" on their voting registration form.

It's long past time for this to change. It's long past time for states to stop coercing voters into telling the state which political party they support and provide a way for a voter to register to vote without declaring which party they want to vote for.

Yes, this could screw up the primary system... if you believe that political parties should only allow certain voters to support a candidate. I prefer to think that voters want to support a candidate of their choice in secrecy, without coercion, and with a free conscience.

Party loyalists will always exist, as will those who donate to a political party in support of its candidates and its platform.  But states should play no part in coercing voters to indicate which party they support before they cast their vote anonymously and in secret.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Legal, but not ethical

Watching the Strzok hearings, something is becoming very clear: Strzok is using legal technicalities to put up a defense for his actions. Those legal technicalities are meant to generate "reasonable doubt" whether his actions were based on bias or not. He indicates that his texts contained "political speech" and they are hence protected under the First Amendment.

In fact, he's correct. His political speech is protected and he cannot be fired or otherwise discipllined based on his political speech. If this was a situation where pure legalities were being used to make a determination of legal responsibility, he'd be able to make a case for "not guilty".

However, he's not writing a computer program where a mathematical test is either true or false. Nor is he taking a test where his answers will be graded solely on their correctness.

He's testifying in front of Congress, where human beings are assessing the totality of his testimony against the totality of a situation that involves both him, his girlfriend, multiple others in the FBI, non-business texts, extremely powerful political figures, and a record of involvement in multiple investigations.

If this was a stand-alone situation and he was the only one involved, his defense would fly.

But in front of Congress, he's displaying arrogance, "holier-than-thou", and acting as someone who thinks most of the elected Congressional representatives are complete idiots. (Whether they are, or not, isn't the point.) He's forgotten something rather important: you never directly insult those who will be making decisions that will affect you for the rest of your life.

Human beings are involved here. He's pissing off (by pissing on) the members of the committee. His body language and his anger at some questions is proving that he may be incapable of separating his emotional feelings from his job assignment. The transcript won't indicate this anger, but the video does indicate his anger - and the video testimony will permanently damage his reputation for fairness.  He's proving that he may understand the legal issues involved, he doesn't understand or recognize the ethical violations he has committed.

And if he can't demonstrate the ability to act in an ethical manner in front of the Congressional committee, then he's giving strength to the argument that he did not act in an ethical manner in the past.

He's claiming his anger is based on his "passion" to defend the Constitution -- but his anger only rises up when he's being asked about the texts that seemingly reveal significant bias against Trump and toward Clinton, or when he's asked to explain his behavior with regard to the investigations he was involved in, or when he's asked some very direct questions that would require some very embarrassing answers.

Strzok's legal defense holds.  His defense of his conduct as "ethical", fails miserably.

His attempts to build "context" around the texts is a complete failure, demonstrated by his multiple explanations to their meaning and, in one case, saying that he doesn't remember the text but he remembers being angry when he sent it.

The more he talks, the less believable he becomes.

There's a concept in politics: "When you're explaining, you're losing." Strzok's explanations ring false.  There's a simple reason why:

His behavior was legal, but it was not ethical.  The IG said so.  Case closed.

Moreover, Strzok was working on some counter-intelligence operations as part of his job. He was married and had a girl friend (Page). These facts would have made him a target for a foreign intelligence agency: he was already violating his oath to his wife and making himself possibly subject to blackmail and worse, and he had access to information that a foreign intelligence agency could use.

In every security briefing I've ever received, we are told to watch for - and report - behaviors by other employees that could be used to coerce them into actions that could threaten national security. Strzok is exactly the kind of person that we are told to watch for.  The report is made anonymously. The investigating agencies do their work in total secrecy. If there is nothing to it, nothing is done and the report is filed as "no action necessary".

BUT if an action is required, the individual is interviewed by someone higher in the chain than the FSO (facility security officer) - and that interview is also done in complete secrecy.

Then, if an action needs to be taken, the appropriate action is taken.

These investigations happen fairly often.  The reason you never hear about them is that you should never hear about them.  And until there is something to reveal, you don't know about them.

Strzok was married and had a girlfriend. Unless they were a willing threesome - and even if they were - this was a situation that could have been used to put Strzok (and Page) into an embarrassing situation and thus push them toward complying with demands made by a foreign power.

Strzok thinks he's smarter than anyone who he works for. He's arrogant, and believes that he is serving a higher purpose.  We're lucky that he wasn't working directly with the Russians.

Like Robert Hanssen did.

Monday, June 25, 2018

It is to weep

And now we see that mere political ideological differences may result in more than just words.

Yesterday, Maxine Waters said, in part, "Let’s make sure we show up wherever we have to show up.  If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere."  And then, "We want history to record that we stood up, that we pushed back, that we fought and that we did not consider ourselves victims of this president."

In any other universe, Maxine Waters would be guilty of incitement to riot.

But in the current political environment, where falsehoods and overexaggeration are reported as fact, where pictures are taken out of context or cropped to inflame passions, and where the tactics of bullying and intimidation have been normalized and are now expected, it is hard to find truth.

Where facts are absent, truth is hidden.  When those charged with reporting fact report falsehood instead, truth is impossible to find.

And when those trusted with leading this nation peacefully begin speaking in terms of violence, the worst is about to happen.

I once posited that this nation would not survive in its current form past 2050.  I still believe that - only now I worry whether my prediction was too far in the future.

When law is ignored because it is "inconvenient", lawlessness reigns.  And what we are seeing is the beginning of lawlessness on a grand scale - and the call to lawlessness is coming from elected representatives to Congress.

This is madness.  The same people who were elected to debate the merit of new bills, pass bills into law, and examine whether existing law should be repealed, are now proposing that "inconvenient" laws should be ignored rather than changed.  They have abdicated their offices, given up, surrendered, and are leading this nation to ruin.

Congress has the power to change law.  It should do so, rather than using a crisis merely to inflame.

But we all know why Congress will not act.  It will not act because it would be "inconvenient" to act.  It will not act because the same representatives who passed the original laws might have to admit that they may have been wrong.  It will not act because action would require courage, and our elected representatives to Congress have revealed themselves to be cowards.

And now, political shaming has led to calls to insurrection.

This cannot end well.  The genie has been let out of the bottle.  Those who oppose current policy have been given license to act in violent ways ("...we fought...").

No, that's not merely political hyperbole.  As Ms. Waters continued to speak, her speech became more and more reflective of a demand for civil disobedience of a physical nature.

Someone will be hurt.  The response will include firearms.  And the worst will begin.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Hey NFL, QuitCherBitchin

Received via email from a friend.  Yes, it's a "chain letter".  But as a 10 year Navy vet, I completely agree.  I won't change the text or address, but - in my opinion - this goes for the NBA as well.

===

To the NFL and its players,

If I have brain cancer, I don’t ask my dentist what I should do. If my car has a problem, I don’t seek help from a plumber! Why do you think the public cares what a football player thinks about politics? If we want to know about football, then depending on the information we seek, we might consult with you, but even a quarterback doesn’t seek advice on playing his position from a defensive tackle!

You seem to have this over inflated view of yourselves, thinking because you enjoy working on such a large scale stage, that somehow your opinion about everything matters. The NFL realizes the importance of its “image” so it has rules that specify the clothes and insignia you can wear, the language you use, and your “antics” after a touchdown or other “great” play. But somehow you and your employer don’t seem to care that you disgrace the entire nation and its 320 million people in the eyes of the world by publicly disrespecting this country, its flag, and its anthem! The taxpaying citizens of this country subsidize your plush work environments, yet you choose to use those venues to openly offend those very citizens.

Do you even understand what the flag of this country means to so many of its citizens before you choose to “take a knee” in protest of this “country" during our national anthem?

You may think because you are paid so much that your job is tough, but you are clueless when it comes to tough.  Let me show you those whose job is really tough.




You are spoiled babies who stand around and have staff squirt GatorAid in your mouths, sit in front of misting cooling fans when it’s warm, and sit on heated benches when it's cold. That’s not “tough” that's pampered.

You think that you deserve to be paid excessively high salaries, because you play a “dangerous" game where you can incur career ending injuries. Let me show you career ending injuries!




You think you that you deserve immediate medical attention and the best medical facilities and doctors when injured. Let me show you what it’s like for those who really need and deserve medical attention.




You think you have the right to disrespect the flag of the United States, the one our veterans fought for, risked limbs and mental stability to defend, in many cases died for. Let me show you what our flag means to them, their families, and their friends.






You believe you are our heroes, when in reality you are nothing but overpaid entertainers, who exist solely for our enjoyment! Well, your current antics are neither entertaining nor enjoyable, but rather a disgrace to this country, its citizens, all our veterans and their families, and the sacrifices they have made to ensure this country remains free. You choose to openly disgrace this country in the eyes of the rest of the world, yet with all your money, still choose to live here rather than in any other country. People with even the slightest amount of “class” will stand and respect our flag.. Where does that put you? You want to see heroes… here are this country's heroes!






You can protest policies, the current government, or anything else you choose, that is your right. But when you “protest” our flag and anthem, you are insulting the nation we all live in and love, and all those who have served, been injured, or died to keep it free. There is nothing you can do or say that can make your actions anything more than the arrogance of classless people, who care about themselves more than our country or the freedoms for which our veterans and their families have sacrificed so much, to ensure you have the “right” to speak freely. Our country is far from perfect, but if you can point to any other country where your freedom and opportunities are better than they are here, then you just might want to go there and show respect for their flag!

Friday, June 1, 2018

Unfriendly Persuasion (yes, a cinema reference)

Roseanne is Roseanne.  Her shtick hasn't changed in forever.  She's been rude, crude, offensive, and intentionally provocative over her entire career.  One wonders whether she was like that before beginning her career, but it doesn't matter: we knew exactly what to expect when Roseanne was in the spotlight.  This is neither to condone nor condemn her recent tweets.  It is merely to note that, with Roseanne, "you get what you pay for".

Samantha Bee is Samantha Bee.  Although relatively new on the scene, her shtick hasn't changed either.  She clothes her insults in the vestment of political "satire".  Just like Roseanne, it's hard to separate Bee's political policy ridicule from personal insult.

America has always had "insult comics".  My personal hero is Don Rickles, whose act was all about making gentle fun of members of his audience.  But gentle fun: people loved being a target of Mr. Rickles because they knew that he wasn't being personal.  He was being funny.  He never used profanity, he never broke the wall separating "public" from "private", and he always ended his show by thanking his audience for being "in on the joke".  Always funny - but never truly insulting.

Joan Rivers, Rodney Dangerfield - even Groucho Marx, whose ad-libs were both clever and hilarious - made us laugh without feeling uncomfortable.  Insult comics all, and all were funny.  How many of us walked away laughing after hearing their routines, and repeating some of the funniest lines to each other?

But over time, the separation between "political" and "personal" became blurred, and today we have people like Barr and Bee who intentionally offend in order to make a point.  It's instructive to watch their audiences.  There are a lot of uncomfortable laughs ("Should I find this funny?  Should I laugh?"), but not much else.  And those laughs are mostly the result of an inventive way of using some form of profanity.  Neither Barr nor Bee is truly funny.

I have a theory about that.

It goes something like this: "You're not listening to me and you won't agree with me, so I'm going to embarrass you in public to force you to agree with me and to force you to do what I say."

The problem is that the person who is being attacked is often not the person being embarrassed.  In point of fact, the person making the attack ends up apologizing.  Any political point of the attack has been lost in the meanness of the words being used.  It has been both hidden and erased by the ferocity of the words used.

And that, I think, is the point: to destroy any reasonable political discussion by poisoning it with personal animus.  The political becomes personal - and the personal becomes the point of the attack.

This is nothing new.  The use of "forcing the political to become personal" has been going on forever in American politics... or has everyone forgotten about Hamilton's duel with Burr?  Personal disgust between two political opponents ended up with one of them dead and the other's career destroyed.

(Heh - it's a good thing that dueling was outlawed hundreds of years ago. I can think of dozens of political opponents who would willingly face each other with single-shot flintlocks at 30 paces!)

One can make the argument that the election of Trump has changed the face of political discourse, but I prefer to think otherwise.  I think the election of Trump has uncovered the cross-party and cross-ideology hatred that has been simmering all along, and Trump's use of non-traditional media to bypass the left-controlled traditional media "wall" has only uncovered the pot.

It has been said that Trump is not the disease: he is a symptom.  In that, I somewhat agree.  But I think Trump is less a symptom than a result: after being ignored by those who espouse ideologies that play well in coastal liberal enclaves but not in "flyover country", and after a compliant media that assisted a leftist ideology while hindering a conservative ideology, the reaction was the election of someone who had no history in the political "swamp" (unfortunate term, but DC was built on a swamp after all) and who could not be easily "controlled" by either side.

Trump's election is not a rejection but an acknowledgement of the coarsening of political discourse, of which Barr and Bee are partly responsible.  But they are only two.  There are dozens of others who have been provided media platforms and encouraged to insult their ideological opposites, and who only make themselves seem silly and childish when doing so - while also failing to convert anyone on the other side of the aisle.

Barr and Bee are both the result of the "if you don't listen to me, I'll get personal" school of politics.  They both probably know that they probably won't convince anyone, as their form of persuasion is anything but gentle.  But they continue in the hope that "somebody will listen".

A word to both: to convince, cajole.