Let's Fix This Country
Russia Probe

The Nunes Memo Is Out — Now What? »

Trump hints that he will fire the deputy attorney general Feb 5 2018

It is "the single greatest threat to our constitutional government in our lifetime", Fox's Sean Hannity proclaimed the night before it was released. Once out, others called it "underwhelming". Most of all, it was a monumental distraction from the work that needs to be done by Congress with immigration, the DACA decision and the debt ceiling roaring down the track, and a government that has done nothing to combat Russian interference in our elections.

But the memorandum written by House Intelligence… Read More »

foreign policy

Americans, Unclear Who We’re Fighting, Wish Obama Would Tell Us »

Jun 22 2016

Always witless, but after Orlando the semantic red herring over the phrase "radical Islam" turned moronic. Since the rise of ISIS and President Obama's pledge two years ago the coming September that, "We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL" (his preferred acronym for ISIS), those on the right have seized on the president's failure to utter those two words alongside
each other as the reason ISIS still exists. It is clear that the word went out to Republicans in Congress, the Wall Street Journal, and of course Fox News, where this gripe is almost daily program fare, that all should be making the case that Obama is unaware of the threat because he won't… Read More »

archives

In Midst of Jeb’s Campaign, Redford Movie Revives W’s Military Service Record »

Nov 1 2015

Just as Jeb Bush moves to have brother George play a supporting role in his campaign, the Robert
Redford film "Truth", about the Dan Rather fiasco at "60 Minutes" in 2004, has sent the rightist media into fits.

The "60 Minutes" segment was intended to expose George W. Bush's sketchy service record in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam war, but as evidence it featured memos supposedly written by Lt. Bush's commanding officer in 1972, Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, that were quickly pronounced frauds. They were clearly produced on typewriters with… Read More »

archives

Bush Pledged to Serve in Guard, Then Failed
to Show Up »

Nov 1 2015 On departing the Texas Air National Guard for Cambridge, Massachusetts, to attend the Harvard Business School, George W. Bush signed a document that said:

"It is my responsibility to locate and be assigned to another Reserve forces unit...If I fail to do so I am subject to involuntary order to active duty for up to 24 months."

He had eight months to go to fulfill his service obligation. The Boston Globe, which uncovered this pledge, reported on the same day of September 2004 as Dan Rather's "60 Minutes II" exposé (adjacent story) that Bush then never signed up with… Read More »

elections

The Republican Campaign that Kept Democrats from the Polls »

With a Supreme Court only too eager to help Nov 1 2014

If Republicans regain the Senate and increase their majority in the House, that will partly accrue to the dismal ratings of President Obama and his administration. But the other deciding factor is expected to be how many Democrats have been made to give up on voting because of the deliberate attempt to make it difficult.

Republicans have waged a campaign… Read More »

infrastructure

Congress Kicks Another Can Down the Road »

Anything to avoid fixing the gas tax Jul 22 2014

In their rush to take their five-week August vacation (on top of their weeklong 4th of July break), the House finally voted the funds needed for roads, bridges and mass transit but only enough to last through May of next year, when they can look forward to arguing all over again the larger issues of a long-term transportation bill.

The Highway Trust Fund was about to run entirely out of… Read More »

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Russia Probe

Trump Reneges on Promise to Release Democrats’ Memo »

He's hinted that he will fire the deputy attorney general Feb 11 2018

Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly had told us, "This president has said from the beginning, I want everything out...I want the American people to know the truth". White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders then told us “the administration will follow the same process and procedure" with the Democratic rebuttal to the controversial memo by Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes.

Alas, neither statement was true. Instead President Trump blocked release of the… Read More »

election redux

Another Reason Hillary Lost: Trump Had a Secret Weapon »

Oct 16 2017

The weapon was and is a 41-year-old bearded Kansan who towers over 6'2" Donald Trump named Brad Parscale. When interviewed by Lesley Stahl on CBS's "60 Minutes" in early October,
Parscale with the President

some of the techniques he divulged about his work as digital director of the Trump campaign had the seasoned Ms Stahl reacting with "Whoa, wait a minute!" and "You're kidding".

Working out of his house in San Antonio, he says… Read More »

surveillance

Trump and Nunes Plot to Blow Up the Intelligence Committee »

Mar 27 2017

Our earlier suspicion proved true: that Donald Trump's White House orchestrated the plot for Devin Nunes, the House intelligence committee chairman, to discover documents that would prove — although they did nothing of the sort — that former President Obama "wiretapped" Trump Tower during the transition.

The clumsy plot, that had Nunes rush to the White House to warn President Trump that he had been surveilled, fell apart when Nunes revealed he had got the documents from none other than the White House itself the night before, and became comical when Trump got the timing wrong and revealed that he knew about the documents before he was supposed to.

The New York Times then discovered that the documents weren't from "a whistleblower type", as Nunes had reported to House Speaker Paul Ryan, but had come directly from two White House National Security Council staffers (a third was later identified) evidently assigned to find something to validate the President's mendacious tweet accusing Obama.


Nunes had not told his own committee that he had seen secret documents, had gone directly to the media instead, and now that the caper has been exposed, refuses to recuse himself from the committee's investigation into Russia's infiltration into the U.S. election, and has cancelled all further hearings.

here's how it began

A Monday session of the House Intelligence Committee on March 13 had been a bad day for the President. FBI Directory James Comey had confirmed that the Bureau was not only conducting an investigation into Russia's assault on the American democratic process but that they were also looking into possible collusion with the Russians by the Trump campaign. And with NSA (National Security Agency) chief Adm. Mike Rogers at his side and concurring, Comey said:

"With respect to the President's tweets about wiretapping by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the FBI. The Department of Justice has asked me to share with you that the answer is the same in all its components. The department has no information that supports those tweets."

The Director had confirmed as a lie Trump's series of tweets claiming that President Obama had wire-tapped him, culminating in this one:

Something had to be done. As he had done so successfully in the preceding weeks, Trump had to counter and deflect to draw the attention away from this serious setback.

Two days later, like a deus ex machina deliverance in a Greek tragedy, the California Republican and Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes swooped before cameras and microphones at two locations to tell us of documents he had seen that confirmed that surveillance of foreign nationals by U.S. agencies resulted in the "incidental collection" of members of the Trump transition team. "The President needs to know that these intelligence reports are out there and I have a duty to tell him that".

Congress is an independent branch of the government and the intelligence committees of the House and Senate are to conduct uncompromised oversight of the executive branch's intelligence agencies and their activities. For the chairman of the House committee to serve as a conduit to the President of what the committee learns seemed a stunning breach of the separation of powers.

Nunes didn't believe he had the duty to tell anyone else on his committee, particularly its ranking Democratic member, California's Adam Schiff. Nor was his perceived duty restricted to reporting to the President. He first went to House Speaker Paul Ryan, who had the opportunity to at least sternly advise him that not to make a serious mistake, but evidently did not. Nor was there any urgency to report to the President. Nunes thought the priority was to let the world know. Before going to the White House he spoke at some length to the press at the Capitol and even lingered for questions.

clairvoyance

It had all the markings of a carefully staged pre-planned event. But Trump stepped on the planned timeline and turned to fiction the claim that did not already know what Nunes was about to bring him. Time magazine was conducting an interview with the President while Nunes was still talking to reporters at the Capitol. Overly eager to get what he fancied was Nunes' proof of his Obama accusation into the Time story, the President brought it up to the interviewer, saying "so that means I'm right".

Maybe Nunes gave the President a preview when he called to make the appointment? Except, he didn't make that call. "My staff had talked
Intelligence committee chairman Devin Nunes heads for the press microphones at the White House

to the White House earlier that day to request a meeting with the President, and I had not talked to the President before that", he said in response to a reporter's question. He would not have handed off to the staff such a plum to offer up to the President. It was a charade; Trump already knew.

Congresswoman and intelligence committee member Jackie Speier (D-Ca) is one who is of the opinion that the White House engineered the plot. She points to what Trump said in the March 15 interviews with Fox News' Tucker Carlson:

"We will be submitted things before the committee very soon that hasn't been submitted as of yet", and again (grammatically), "I think you are going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks".

Knowing about the public hearing with Comey and Rogers a few days ahead, the plan appears to have been to hold those "items" until afterward so as, once again, to change the subject away from what he feared Director Comey might have to say about FBI probes.

Asked in the Oval Office, "do you feel somewhat vindicated by Chairman Nunes, Trump replied, "I somewhat do. I must tell you I somewhat do. I very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found. I somewhat do".

well wide of the mark

Before moving on to the White House, Nunes he said to the media:

"I recently confirmed that on numerous occasions the intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition, details about U.S. persons associated with the incoming administration…"

It was irresistible for every news account to point out that Nunes, who regularly assails journalists' use of anonymous sources, refused to say who allowed him access to the reports. Two things disturbed Nunes: he somehow knows the reports were "widely disseminated", and names of Trump transition members had been "unmasked" in the reports, although that contradicted what he had earlier said and what he had told to Adam Schiff after his meeting with the President — that the names were masked but he could tell from context who they are.

What was arranged for Nunes to hand to Mr. Trump — misdirection away from his unprecedented accusation levied at Obama — was the epiphany that the U.S. now spies on everyone. Nunes made a great show of running to the President to deliver the startling fact that even he and his transition team were caught up in this dragnet.

In fact, the "incidental collection" decried by Nunes is not Obama's doing but a law passed by none other than Nunes' own Congress. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978 was amended in 2008 to allow warrantless mass collection of phone calls of foreign targets. That includes ambassadors and embassy personnel and can incidentally include conversations with Americans at the other end. The notorious Section 702 permits NSA to sweep up phone conversations, instant messages, e-mail, posts to Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, WhatsApp — you name it. The names of Americans are then "masked" or "minimized" to conceal identity. But former NSA head Gen. Michael Hayden told Newsmax that even low-level employees can unmask conversants.

NSA is accused of taking maximum advantage of the "back door search loophole" or "reverse targeting" whereby they target particular foreign sources in order to get at the Americans with whom they communicate. Or, according to Rand Paul, a staunch critic of NSA abuse, they can "type Donald Trump into their vast resources of people they are tapping overseas, and they get all of his phone calls". According to Sen. Paul, they eavesdropped on President Obama 1,227 times.

Nunes was himself on the transition team, so closely allied with Trump is he. The irony is that he was head of the national security transition that was porously eavesdropped by U.S. intelligence universal snooping that may have incidentally collected Nunes himself.

There has been no apology forthcoming from Donald Trump for what can only be called a contemptible libel of the former president (after his assisting Trump with a fastidiously conducted transition) nor to redress the breach with our closest ally, Great Britain, whose own intelligence agency, GCHQ, Trump accused of spying on him, and which they called "utterly ridiculous".

high noon for nunes?

The question now is whether the Republicans who control the committee will recognize that Nunes cannot be viewed as impartial in its Russia investigation and cannot continue as chair if the committee hopes its work is to be taken as truthful and objective.

This is not the first incident to cast doubt. When the Trump administration improperly enlisted the intelligence community to contact news organizations in its extraordinary attempt to challenge their reporting on the Trump campaign's connections with Russia, Nunes was a willing participant. To say that for a member, much less its chairman, of an investigative committee to take sides is "inappropriate", to use that overly delicate word, is to dumb down the English language.

In a heated defense of Nunes on Sunday's "Face the Nation", South Carolina Republican Trey Goudy, who had conducted the Benghazi investigation, made the point that…

"The chairman of House intel briefed the commander-in-chief on something that has nothing to do with the Russian investigation, so if the command-in-chief cannot be briefed by the chairperson of the House intel committee on a matter that has nothing to do with the FBI investigation , then I don't know what they can talk about."

Schiff doesn't agree. He had said earlier in the week that Nunes' action “casts quite a profound cloud over our ability to do the work,” and like others, such as John McCain, called for an independent investigation:

"If the chairman is going to continue to go to the White House rather than his own committee, there’s no way we can conduct this investigation…We can't have our chairman acting as a surrogate for the administration. He has to either have the surrogate role or the chairman role but he can't do both…”

Nunes then apparently chose the former roll. At end week, he peremptorily cancelled the following Tuesday's open meeting in which former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former CIA Director John Brennan, and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates had been scheduled to testify. Shall we hazard a guess where that order came from? Schiff isn't guessing. Also on "Face the Nation" he said, "perhaps this is something the White House did not want to see" calling the cancellation a second "serious blow" to the committee's integrity. The cancellation has infuriated the Democratic members of the committee.

John McCain called for either a select committee or an independent commission to look into the Russia matter. “No longer does the Congress have credibility to handle this alone, and I don’t say that lightly,” McCain said on MSNBC.

Lock Her Up? »

Nov 12 2016

In the second debate when Hillary said, "It’s just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country", he shot back, "Because you’d be in jail".

Trump regularly made statements such as "Hillary Clinton is the most corrupt person ever to seek the presidency. She shouldn't be allowed to run for the presidency", with the crowd at his rallies chanting "Lock her up! Lock her up!". There's even a campaign website lyingcrookedhillary.com "Paid for by Donald J. Trump for President, Inc." The notion raised the specter of a politician in this country winning the high office and adopting a third world practice of arresting and imprisoning his opponent.

Would Donald Trump ever take it that far? It would be a disastrous mistake, far worse than just a PR gaffe.

Nevertheless, there was Rudy Giuliani, a likely choice to be Attorney General, interviewed on CNN saying,

"I think it's a tough decision because... it's been a tradition in our politics to put things behind us. On the other hand, you have to look at how bad was it because suppose somebody comes along a year from now and is alleged to have stolen $50,000 from a charity and she was never investigated for hundreds of millions [yes, hundreds of millions, he said]. I don't know what the right answer for that is. I think it's a tough one to be given a lot of thought and shouldn't be an off the cuff answer. The equal administration of justice is one of our most important principles.

the election

Trump 3.0, if it had been the real thing, he could have won »

Aug 24 2016

By guest columnist Al Rodbell

As part of the Donald Trump pivot, his new Campaign Manager, Kellyanne Conway, was interviewed by Chris Mathews introducing the “New kind and gentle” candidate, previously made famous by leading a mob of acolytes that he boasted, without rebuttal, would support him if he killed an innocent stranger on a busy street.

He is right, as leaders of street gangs or organized crime gain power by ruthlessness that is never met with objections, but rather increased fealty to the leader, be it of a gangster mob or a national dictator. Trump won the Republican nomination with this persona, but realized last week that he not could win the national election, where… Read More »

the election

Why Donald Trump’s “rigged election” comment goes right to the heart of our democracy »

Aug 6 2016

By guest columnist Al Rodbell

When Donald J. Trump made this comment, it was aimed at his largest demographic, those who need constant feeding of their inchoate contempt for this country. Trump is the man who persisted in asserting that President Obama was born in Kenya long after almost all considered it insane; but not all, not those who consume illusions of vast, complex conspiracies because they are inherently un-falsifiable. Certainly, Obama's mother could have inserted the birth announcement in the local Honolulu newspaper as part of the plan that he would run for president four decades later. It is absurd, but not impossible, and those that buy into it have the satisfaction of being in on something… Read More »

the election

Was Trump Just in It for the Money? »

Seems preposterous, but he hasn't ruled out quitting Jul 18 2016

With his hour-and-fifteen minute acceptance speech at the Republican Convention, Donald Trump's promises to fix everything that is wrong in the country — and fast — say that he's in the race to the end. But just so we can say we were aware of the possibility should it happen, we'll take a last look at a frequent conjecture that Trump was — at first, anyway — just in the running for the money and, whether before or after the election, he might just take the money and run.

The questions of serious commitment burbled to the surface whenever he insulted yet another voting bloc with an ethnic slur or angered conservatives with his occasional leftward blasphemies. His string… Read More »

the election

Trump Dog Whistles Evangelicals: He’s Their Guy »

Jul 11 2016

By guest columnist Al Rodbell

Trump's recent meeting with hundreds of leaders of the Christian Right was closed to outsiders, but somehow much leaked out, including this covert video that begins with words to the effect of...

“There's nothing out there about Hillary’s religion, nothing. I think it will be an extension of Obama. At least with him we know what we were starting with and could be alert”.

Interpretation in plain English: “There is no evidence that Hillary is a Christian, and could well be a Muslim, like we know Obama is. But at least we were on the lookout for him, while Hillary is “passing” as Christian. So she could be anti-Christian like that other deceiver.

Evangelists relate… Read More »

Court Papers Bring Trump Fraud Cases Into the Open »

Jun 4 2016 There has been a curious imbalance in the media throughout the presidential campaigns. Hillary Clinton's e-mail transgressions, under investigation by the FBI, have been a constant topic and daily fare on the Fox News channel. But there has been near silence about the fraud cases against Donald Trump and his purported university. That changed the first day of June. In response to a legal motion filed by The Washington Post, the federal judge hearing the cases unsealed documents from a trio of lawsuits filed by former students claiming that what they got for their money at Trump University was worthless. Front page stories in the Post and The New York Times reported that instructors were required to pressure … Read More »
elections

Why Trump Arouses American Authoritarian Yearnings »

It's looking like it can happen here Mar 10 2016 Into March, on the second Saturday of multi-state primaries, a New York Times article could still say the Donald Trump phenomenon is "a movement that still puzzles the Republican elite". Their bewilderment all along has asked why Trump's brash crudity, his juvenile bullying insults, his months-long cascade of self-contradictions, his
disinterest in the truth, and now his hesitant disavowal of white supremacists have not been met with the rejection of such conduct that a civilized society prescribes. Nothing Trump says or does, no matter how offensive, has deterred the millions who have voted for him so far.

In the Detroit debate on March 3rd, Fox News' Megyn Kelly confronted Trump with video clips… Read More »

demagoguery

Huckabee’s Solution for the Debt: Eliminate Disease »

Oct 31 2015

By guest columnist Al Rodbell

I watched the entire event with the ten leading candidates, and the other major force on the screen, the "media" in the form of CNBC who were accused of tormenting the candidates. If the directors had a squelch button for each candidate's microphone, they didn't use it, so there were times when several candidates were speaking over each other with the moderator trying to gain control. On several occasions, such as the accusation that Ben Carson was associated with a shady supplement company, he simply denied it in spite of his appearance on the home page of their website. CNBC had not seriously investigated his relationship, so his denial not only stood, but… Read More »
governing

Obama, McConnell, Boehner: Niceties Over, Combat Begins »

Nov 8 2014

Americans want to see Congress and the President "get stuff done", as Obama put it, but the opening sentences of press conferences expressing earnest desires
to do so quickly turned to threats. The media focused on presumptive Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's "red flag in front of a bull" and House Speaker John Boehner's jumbled metaphor warning Obama he would "poison the well…when you play with matches" if he unilaterally acts on immigration. But you've heard about that repeatedly. More useful here is to dig a little deeper and listen to what else was said about Republican plans now that they control… Read More »

corpocracy

Who’s Writing the Laws in Your State? »

What the Trayvon Martin killing revealed Apr 20 2012

It took a neighborhood killing in Florida to make the American public aware — only somewhat aware, it should be said — of a stealth political process that has been underway for decades across the U.S.

Americans suddenly woke up to “stand your ground” laws that now exist in more than half the states, but they are also being made aware of an organization called American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that is responsible for the proliferation of this law into half the states so far with more considering.

That’s not the half of it — or a tenth of it. ALEC is an alliance of corporations and conservative legislators who collaborate to make sure that state legislative agendas are filled with business concerns that go In Just One Year: In 2011 alone, 154 reform measures derived from 24 of ALEC's 'model laws' were introduced in state legislatures.
far beyond law enforcement. To lend a helping hand to those legislatures, ALEC’s industry partners write… Read More »

All in a Day’s Work With Donald Trump »

Sep 22 2016

It was the day after the bombing in New York and New Jersey, and the ultimate shoot-out in New Jersey that within 24 hours nabbed and wounded the assumed perpetrator, a naturalized American citizen from an Afghan family.

We all know there will be continued terrorist attacks in the U.S. but Donald Trump believes he is the only clairvoyant. On "Fox and Friends":

"I was criticized for calling it correctly. What I said was exactly correct. I should be a newscaster because I called it before the news. But what I said was exactly correct. Everybody said, 'While he was right he called it too soon'. OK. Give me a break."

He can't believe that we are pampering this "suspect", taking him… Read More »

democracy

Supreme Court Allows Still More Money Into Politics »

All those gifts to Virginia governor were innocent Aug 1 2016

What are we to make of the Supreme Court's overturning the conviction of Virginia's former governor, Bob McDonnell, at the end of June? Kaine on the Take: August 4: Corporations and lobbying firms gave then-Virginia governor Tim Kaine free rides around the country on private jets and gifts worth more than $160,000 at the same time that their business interests were before the state government. So much for the squeaky clean image the Democrats portray of Hillary Clinton's pick for vice president.
    

unanimous — 8-0. True, the court ruled on grounds specific to this case, saying that the instructions to the convicting jury were overly vague. True also that the court remanded the… Read More »

the election

E-mail. Benghazi. Why So Little Attention to the Clinton Money Trail? »

Jul 31 2016

Hillary Clinton clearly believes that rules do not apply to her, and "this is precisely the kind of governance" we can expect were she to be elected president, warns a Wall Street Journal editorial.

That was deserved, given her use of a private server for e-mail while secretary of state. In the face of a scathing report from the State Department's inspector general, she would only acknowledge that using a private server was "a mistake". She had refused to hand in that server, holding back 32,000 e-mails she decided were "personal". She had said she would cooperate fully with the investigation, but she and several of her top aides refused to be interviewed by the IG.… Read More »

the election

There Are No Cheerleaders at Trump University »

Little attention paid to the lawsuits spanning the country Mar 9 2016

How has it come to this?: Two presumed candidates for the presidency of the United States who are both deep in legal problems, the one accused for misdeeds deserving of prosecution under the Espionage Act of 1917, or so Republicans would have it, the other awaiting a court date in which he and his company have been accused of swindling a few thousand people. That Hillary Clinton's State Department e-mail has been serially served up in batches, re-awakening the story every few weeks, has made for a multi-course feast for the media, particularly at Fox News. When the story is not blaming Hillary for Benghazi, which has been running at Fox for three and a half years, the "news" hosts… Read More »

congress

Rand Paul Spills Beans About the Senate »

Jul 31 2015


This is apparently from 2012, but we'd never seen it. If the approval rating of the Senate is 10%, as he says, it will be near 0% after you've watched. (4:08 minutes).

the media

Fox News Said To Be Hurting Republicans »

Pulls them too far to the right Jun 14 2015

Bruce Bartlett, one of the early proponents of trickle-down economics with a long history of service to the Republican party,
working for both Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, stirred up controversy with a paper published in May that says Fox News creates what others have called "an echo chamber" that lulls viewers and the Republican Party into the "wishful thinking" that its far right views enjoy greater support with the public than is actually the case.

Unlike its liberal counterpart, MSNBC, which has much lower viewer ratings, Fox "became the dominant — and in many cases,… Read More »

the economy

What’s It to Be, Austerity or Economic Populism? »

Dec 14 2013

Republicans are savoring the opportunity in the 2014 elections to bludgeon Democrats with the Obamacare debacle. Of the 33 Senate seats in play next year, 21 are currently held by Democrats. Republicans need a shift of only six seats to
Gary Varvel, Indianapolis Star

win majority control, and seven of those Democratically held… Read More »

the vote

Is It End Times for Our Democracy? »

Rigging the system to make sure who wins Mar 4 2013

In a democracy, citizens get to vote and who gets the most votes, wins. That's how it's supposed to work, but that is less and less the case in our heavily compromised “democracy”.

There has always been tampering with the electoral machinery — the practice of reshaping election districts called “gerrymandering” is named for a law signed by governor of Massachusetts back in 1812 — but the last few years have seen concerted campaigns to rig elections and to make voting difficult for targeted groups.

The 2010 census was central to the process. The Constitution… Read More »