Let's Fix This Country

Trump Defies Intelligence Chiefs and Shuns Briefings Say Leaked Schedules

In a dangerous world, he finds national security threatened only on the Mexican border

Once again we were made aware of the chilling disconnect between President Trump and his intelligence chiefs when, after their annual briefing to the Senate Intelligence Committee of the threats we face around the world, he tweeted the
Senate Intelligence Committee hearing: L. to R.: Christopher Wray, head of the F.B.I.; Gina Haspel, C.I.A. director; Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence                

next morning that the chiefs were “passive and naïve” and suggested they “should go back to school”.

The disconnect was simultaneously borne out by a Time magazine article citing officials who witnessed "multiple, in-person" instances of the president exhibiting "willful ignorance" at his daily intelligence briefings, and by a leak to online news site Axios of the most recent three months of the president's schedule showing that he sees no urgency in those briefings.

Time reported that intelligence officials are breaking their accustomed silence to warn the public that the president is endangering American security with what they say is an obstinate disregard of their assessments.

flex time

The leak by a White House source to Axios of Donald Trump's schedule shows that the president spent fully 60% of of those three months in the undefined category of
A charted excerpt of the president's schedule. Orange represents
"executive time"

"executive time". The term was hit upon by former Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly to cover the president's unaccounted-for time. Critics say that the released schedules prove that Trump spends most of his time tweeting, watching television, and calling friends. His supporters say that he simply prefers an unstructured schedule. Press Secretary Sarah…


Taxes in America: A Mess That Has Only Grown Worse

The tax cuts enacted a year ago by the Republican-controlled Congress and signed by President Trump have inspired a growing realization that America's tax system is a shambles. That verdict goes beyond the uproar over the new tax law handing corporations a 40% rate reduction and the uncalled-for tax cut benefiting the rich. The dog's breakfast resulting from what politicians and special interests have dumped into the tax code across decades with no sense of a master plan has led to a growing consensus that we are doing it all wrong.

In the United States, unlike several European countries, assets are not taxed, no matter how much they may have gained in value, until sold. Most of the wealth the richest Americans have acquired is not taxed, even as it has grown in value from year to year. On the other hand, Congress sees fit in the laws…

foreign policy

The Russians in Afghanistan: Trump’s Strange History Rewrite

In its reporting of the year's first cabinet meeting, The New York Times made
The cabinet meets at the White House, January 2nd.

no mention of it. Neither did The Wall Street Journal in its short write-up of the January 2nd meeting. It did run a short mid-page editorial, though, titled "Trump's Cracked Afghan History". What caused this from the normally friendly to Trump Journal? These remarks by the president:

"The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia. They [the Soviets] were right to be there. The problem was,…

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What the Intelligence Chiefs Said. What Trump Thinks

In the Senate Intelligence Committee hearings at the end of January, the Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, had this to say:

"The composition of the current threats we face is a toxic mix of strategic competitors, regional powers, weak or failed states and non-state actors using a variety of tools in overt and subtle ways to achieve their goals.

President Trump often has a more benign view. Below are some of his statements, each followed by what one or another of the intelligence chiefs had to say in the hearing.

Toe to toe

July 18, 2018: Reporter: "Is Russia still targeting the U.S. Mr. President?" Donald Trump answered: "Thank you very much. No."

January 29, 2019: Coats: "We expect Russia to continue to wage its information war against democracies."

January 12, 2019: Trump: On Fox News with Jeanine Pirro: "The whole Russia thing, it's a hoax. It's a terrible hoax."

July 2018: Trump at Helsinki: "I have President Putin . He just said it's not Russia. I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be".

January 29, 2019: Christopher Wray, FBI Chief: "Not only have the Russians continued to do it in 2018 We've seen indications that they are continuing to adapt their model and that other countries are taking a very interested eye in that approach."

January 15, 2018: Trump : "The agreement says there… Read More »


Declaring an Emergency Gives the President Unchecked Power »

Emergency powers amount to a parallel extra-constitutional government

By not taking part in the negotiations for funding the government, by calling them a waste of time, President Trump is clearly signaling that he will declare an emergency and order that the wall be built anyway. The broader concern is that Trump, frustrated by the many limits placed on the presidency, has discovered the exceptional powers given to the president by the emergency laws, which this article lays bare, and will resort repeatedly to this detour around the Constitution to get his way.

Angered by his inability simply to demand $5.7 billion to build a wall along the southern border, he weeks ago began considering declaring the migrants seeking asylum a "national emergency" that needed to be walled off, but had backed down under pressure from his lawyers and advisers and even
Republican Congress members. But no longer, despite none of his intelligence chiefs mentioning the asylum seekers as even a problem.

envy of power

Trump has expressed admiration and shown envy of authoritarian heads of other governments able to run their countries free of constraints. He perhaps finds himself demeaned alongside those who have greater power than he — Russia's Putin, China's Xi, Egypt's Sisi, Saudi Arabia's Salman, even the Philippines' Duterte, whom he congratulated for doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem” which has led to the extrajudicial killings of an estimated 12,000 to date.

Even if not over the wall, Trump's yearning for this sort of power should make us expect that he will find some… Read More »


Cash Is Becoming Endangered Specie

Ask yourself: When did you last pay with greenbacks?

If you have paper money and coins lying about the house, you might be wise to unload them next time you shop — that is, if you are able to. Ever more retailers are refusing to accept specie. They want to be rid of the nuisance of sorting paper and coin into the cash drawer and out of it again to make change. They want an end to trips to the bank to deposit cash while at the same time having to take back paper and rolls of coins to make that change.

On the road to a cashless society, the U.S. is well behind. We have consistently lagged other countries in modernizing payment systems — chips in credit cards, a European innovation, being a prominent example. Other countries are moving ahead with deliberate speed. Sweden is the front runner in going cash free. Many of their stores no longer accept it. Neither do the country's buses. Banks no longer dispense cash and accordingly have junked their ATM machines. Denmark and Norway are following close behind.

The credit card was an American invention but Europe has pushed the technology further than the U.S. As effective monopolies Master Card and Visa dragged their feet rather than incur the costs of technological conversion. Increasing incompatibility with the rest of the world and a high incidence of fraud from easily compromised credit card magnetic strips forced… Read More »

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