Monday, December 17, 2018

Something to Know - 17 December

Ken Catalino Comic Strip for December 14, 2018

Morning Joe reminded us this morning that Individual #1 really had no intention of winning.  It was all a branding exercise to plush up his real estate resumé and hotel holdings, so that he might profit mightily and biggly.  The fact that he won is an inconvenience to him, and a disaster for the nation.  Now, as all facets of his businesses, the political campaign, his finances, and of course the collusion play out, in the end we all suffer the game of fools.   The disgrace he carries with him is an insult all around.   Just the act of getting on his big plane and going to the areas known as war zones to visit those who he has put in harms way is beyond this guy.   For the next several weeks, we will be going to the Amazon River on a nice boat with several friends to visit a real swamp loaded with critters, piranhas, and alligators - not the GeeOpie two-legged kind- returning on 9 January.   Be well. 

Put Down the Golf Clubs, Visit the Troops

President Trump, the commander in chief, should not look away from the wars he oversees.

By The Editorial Board

The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

President Trump is happy to send the military to the border as a political prop before the midterm elections, to order up a grand parade down Pennsylvania Avenue for his review and to berate athletes who kneelduring the national anthem as disrespectful of the military.

But visiting the troops that he has ordered to the front lines in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria has been a bridge too far for this commander in chief.

"I'm going to a war zone," Mr. Trump told reporters in November, when pressed about his conspicuous lack of war zone visits.

So far, he's all talk and no boots on the ground.

The president is expected to spend 16 days at his home in Palm Beach, Fla., over the Christmas and New Year's holidays — his longest trip to the "Southern White House" since the inauguration in 2017. The weather there is expected to be a sunny 75 degrees. Perfect for a few rounds of golf, or more than a few.

Temps in Kabul, Afghanistan, during the same period are forecast to be in the mid-40s. There, more than 8,000 soldiers from the United States and more than three dozen allied countries are fighting against a resurgent Taliban after 17 years of war. Little wonder that the mission and the morale of those charged with achieving it are both being seriously questioned.

The forecast is rosier for the border with Mexico, where several thousandsoldiers will have to spend the holidays away from their families, having been deployed there in a pre-election ploy by the president to rile up anti-immigrant sentiment.

He probably won't have to worry about rain, which was the excuse given by the White House for his decision not to visit an American military cemetery in France while he was in Paris last month to commemorate the end of World War I.

There have been numerous and conflicting explanations for why Mr. Trump has avoided visiting troops downrange — he doesn't agree with all the conflicts and doesn't want to be associated with them, he's too busy, he's scared for his safety. Never mind that nearly every president since Dwight Eisenhower has safely visited soldiers in conflict zones from Vietnam and Korea to Iraq and Afghanistan. Barack Obama, for one, visited Iraq as a senator in 2008 and returned within his first three months in the White House. He went to Afghanistan four times.

What Mr. Trump's excuses all reveal, however, is a basic misunderstanding. Visiting soldiers and sailors and Marines in the field isn't about the president. It is about the troops. It's about those who are close to the enemy and far from home, following orders and serving a cause greater than themselves.

A visit from the president isn't just about raising morale and smiling for a few photos, though that can mean more to a young grunt than most civilians may realize. Americans want a president who isn't afraid to look at and reflect upon the consequences of his decisions. It's why presidents visit wounded soldiers at Walter Reed National Medical Center and why they lay wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery, as Mr. Trump did this weekend.

"I'm here on behalf of your commander in chief and all of the American people to pay a debt of honor and respect and gratitude to each and every one of you for your service and your sacrifice," Vice President Mike Pence told soldiers and airmen at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan during a surprise visit in late December last year.

This holiday, it would be heartening to see the president himself deliver the same sentiment to America's troops on the front lines, in his own words.


"Yes, yes, but I bring that out in people. I do. I'm not saying that's an asset or a liability, but I do bring that out. ...I bring rage out. I do bring rage out. I always have."
- Candidate Donald J. Trump in April, 2016

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Something to Know - 11 December

Jeff Danziger Comic Strip for December 10, 2018

The nation went to bed last night and awoke this morning to the news that Republican members of Congress are going out of their way to find a way to excuse the behavior of Individual - #1 as just as common as speeding down a neighborhood street.  Not worth going into the details, but I really hope that you are outraged by the mouthings by a couple of 'em like Orin Hatch and Kevin McCarthy.  The apparent lowering of the bar of what is the Rule of Law is very sad, and not what we expect of our leadership.  Another sad picture is driving around and seeing the decline of our neighborhoods.   When you see a once vibrant mall slide into mediocrity, we need to wonder just how income inequality, if ignored, is as dangerous as a fatal virus.   When the 99 Cent Store stands as the anchor merchant where a Kmart or Sears used to be, we are in trouble.   This chapter in today's Axios has this synopsis:
3. Dollar stores thrive in distressed pockets of America
Illustration of a dollar bill as a flag, flying over a shuttered main street.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios


As rural America gets left behind by the rise of coastal superstar cities and the chasm between the richest and the rest widens, one entity is heavily profiting from the blight: the dollar store, Axios' Erica Pandey writes.

  • Why it matters: Economic signs point to a coming recession, and America's discount stores, which have boomed even in the strong recent economy, will only grow more — becoming the sole retail option for an increasing share of Americans.

In the early 1960s, the bottom 90% of American households by income had the same wealth as the top 1% — 33% of the total. Today the bottom 90% has dropped to only 20% of the wealth, while the top 1% has raised its share to 40%, according to a paper by Edward Wolff, an economics professor at New York University.

  • As the wealthy get wealthier and the middle class erodes, the retail industry is witnessing the simultaneous rise of cheap chains like Dollar General and luxury brands like Louis Vuitton.

The rise of dollar stores goes hand-in-hand with the decline of American malls:

  • Stores that target middle-income Americans, like J.C. Penney and Macy's, have been rapidly losing their customer base. And dollar stores are picking them up.

Today, there are more than 30,000 dollar stores in the U.S., up from around 18,000 a decade ago, according to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

  • That's more locations than Walmart, Kroger, Costco, Home Depot, CVS and Walgreens — the country's six biggest brick-and-mortar retailers — combined, Forbes reports.
  • And the big dollar chains — Dollar General and Dollar Tree, which also owns Family Dollar — say they are adding about 1,000 more locations each year.
  • The expected coming recession could mean even greater expansion.
  • Investors love the dollar chains: Their stock prices are rising.

The stakes: Those who rely on dollar stores for food are exposed to overwhelmingly unhealthy diets, with choices that rarely go beyond processed and packaged snacks.

  • At a Dollar Tree in Alexandria, Va., Erica saw that the shelves were stocked with Cheese Nips and Fudge Stripes, and that sodas were the only items in the refrigerators.


"Yes, yes, but I bring that out in people. I do. I'm not saying that's an asset or a liability, but I do bring that out. ...I bring rage out. I do bring rage out. I always have."
- Candidate Donald J. Trump in April, 2016

Monday, December 10, 2018

Something to Know - 10 December

Robert Ariail Comic Strip for December 10, 2018

Individual #1 is not fit to be president. We all know that.  But we have to go through a charade of slowly chipping away at the discovery of new facts and testimony.  As the days and weeks progress, more junk is put in to the pile of dirt and guilt by Individual #1.   Comparisons to Richard Nixon are developed each day.   Nixon was guilty.  He played the string out as long as he could before he folded.   Who knows how long Individual #1 will last?   He certainly is piling up more indictable offenses that the Tricky One.  It's complicated to get him out of office.  It is not complicated to understand that he is guilty through and through.   My vision for him is that when it comes time to put him in jail/prison, that the citizens of this country construct for him a nice little isolated cell on Ellis Island, where he can look back at how he got there.

Surviving a Criminal Presidency

No one is above the law in America.


By Charles M. Blow

Opinion Columnist

It is very possible that the president of the United States is a criminal. And it is very possible that his criminality aided and abetted his assumption of the position. Let that sink in. It is a profound revelation.

Last week, prosecutors made clear in a sentencing memo for Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, that Trump himself had directed Cohen to break campaign finance laws.

Stop there.

Yes, there is still information dribbling out about Trump's efforts to build a tower in Moscow during the election and about his campaign's ties with Russians during the campaign. Yes, there is the question of obstruction of justice, which I believe has already been proven by Trump's own actions in public. Yes, there are all the people in Trump's circle who have been charged with or have admitted to lying about any number of things, including their contacts with Russians.

But beyond all that, we now have an actual, and one assumes provable, crime. A federal crime. And the president is its architect.

Trump likes to say on the issue of immigration that if we don't have a border, we don't have a country. I say that if we don't have justice, we also don't have a country.

America is a country of laws, and if we are to believe that, and not allow that to become a perversion, no man or woman can be above the law.

As Thomas Paine wrote in his 1776 pamphlet "Common Sense":

"In America the law is king. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other."

And yet, Trump, his team and to some degree his supporters in Congress seem to view Trump as very much above the law — or at least some laws. The defense is bizarre: Since he is the president, there are laws he isn't obliged to obey. In other words, it is permissible for him to break some laws, but not others.


Last year, one of the president's lawyers went even further, claiming that the "president cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under [the Constitution's Article II] and has every right to express his view of any case."

This all holds the potential to further make a mockery of a system of justice that already privileges power.

America's jails are already filled to the brim with people who have been charged with a crime but not yet convicted of one. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, "70 percent of people in local jails are not convicted of any crime." Their primary infraction is that they are poor and powerless. The justice system doesn't coddle them; it crushes them.

And yet, people keep making excuses for Trump: "We haven't yet seen evidence of collusion." "Yes, he lies, but that's mostly rhetoric." "So what; he paid off a porn star to spare his family shame."

No, no, no.

According to prosecutors, Trump directed Cohen to commit a felony. Then he lied about it and either allowed or instructed others to lie about it on his behalf. He misled the American people through a conspiracy of lies, and he did so to help attain, and then maintain, his presidency.

As The New York Times pointed out on Saturday, prosecutors have "effectively accused the president of defrauding voters, questioning the legitimacy of his victory."

There simply must be consequences for such a brazen act of lawlessness.

Now, I am under no illusion that Trump will be indicted as a sitting president or that any efforts to impeach him will prove successful.

But at some point his term will end, and at that point the statute of limitations may not have expired. As The Times put it, "The prosecutors in New York have examined the statute of limitations on the campaign finance violations and believe charges could be brought against Mr. Trump if he is not re-elected, according to a person briefed on the matter."

As New York magazine put it in a headline, "Trump 2020 Shaping Up to Be a Campaign to Stay Out of Prison."

The statute of limitations for campaign finance violations is five years. Re-election may well be Trump's only hope of evading justice.

But that also gives voters enormous power in 2020. They won't just be selecting the next president and determining the direction of the country. They may also be deciding whether or not a president will be tried, convicted and imprisoned for the first time in the country's history.

This is a weighty responsibility, but it is a necessary one. We have to prove that our institutions are more important than our ideologies, that the dream, the whisper, the precious possibility of America cannot be trampled by the corrupt and the fraudulent, the venal and the lecherous.

America has to prove that it can indeed survive a criminal presidency.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter (@NYTopinion), and Instagram.


"Yes, yes, but I bring that out in people. I do. I'm not saying that's an asset or a liability, but I do bring that out. ...I bring rage out. I do bring rage out. I always have."
- Candidate Donald J. Trump in April, 2016

Friday, December 7, 2018

Andy Borowitz

Satire from The Borowitz Report

Heather Nauert Says Visit to "It's a Small World" Ride Qualifies Her For U.N. Job


By Andy Borowitz11:56 A.M.

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Pushing back against criticism of her lack of diplomatic experience, Donald J. Trump's choice to be the next United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Heather Nauert, said on Friday that a memorable visit to the "It's a Small World" ride at Disney World made her eminently qualified for the U.N. post.

"When people look at me, they think Heather Nauert, former Fox News anchor," Nauert told reporters at the State Department. "What they don't realize is I'm also Heather Nauert, who went on 'It's a Small World' three times when she was nine."

Nauert said that, while career diplomats might spend twenty to thirty years learning about only one country, "I learned about twenty-five countries in fifteen minutes."

Laying out her objectives for her tenure at the United Nations, the prospective Ambassador said, "Right now I'm just looking forward to seeing all of the other Ambassadors wearing their festive costumes and doing their dances. That's going to be amazing, I think."

Nauert bristled when a reporter asked about her controversial comment that D Day was evidence of the long-standing bond between Germany and the United States. "At the end of the day, there is just one moon and one golden sun, and a smile means friendship to everyone," she said.


"Yes, yes, but I bring that out in people. I do. I'm not saying that's an asset or a liability, but I do bring that out. ...I bring rage out. I do bring rage out. I always have."
- Candidate Donald J. Trump in April, 2016

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Andy Borowitz

Satire from The Borowitz Report

G-20 Leaders Vote Unanimously Not to Give Trump Asylum


By Andy Borowitz

December 1, 2018


Photograph by Murat Cetinmuhurdar / Anadolu Agency / Getty

BUENOS AIRES (The Borowitz Report)—In an unusual display of unity by an often fractious organization, the leaders of the G-20 nations voted unanimously on Saturday to deny Donald J. Trump's urgent request for asylum.

Prior to the vote, Trump had been heard asking colleagues ranging from Angela Merkel to Xi Jinping for safe harbor in their countries, sweetening his request with offers of free luxury penthouses in Trump buildings around the globe.

In the most stunning insult to Trump, his closest allies, Vladimir Putin and Mohammed bin Salman, responded to his asylum request by laughing uproariously in his face and high-fiving each other.

After the resolution to deny Trump asylum passed by a 19–0 vote, international observers said that they had never seen the G-20 act with such enthusiastic solidarity. "Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron were practically peeing themselves," one observer said.

After receiving the resounding rebuke from the G-20, Trump grumpily withdrew to his hotel room, where he reportedly placed several calls to Kim Jong Un that went straight to voice mail.


"Yes, yes, but I bring that out in people. I do. I'm not saying that's an asset or a liability, but I do bring that out. ...I bring rage out. I do bring rage out. I always have."
- Candidate Donald J. Trump in April, 2016

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Something to Know - 1 December

Jeff Danziger Comic Strip for December 01, 2018

The passing of George H. W. Bush coincides with the spark of guilt in the Senate that is now calling for an end to the endless war in Afghanistan.   Call GHWB what you might, his venture, and that of his son, into the Middle East is one big reason why we don't have enough money right now to embark on needed spending to improve our schools and our infrastructure.  $6 trillion and a host of dead and damaged soldiers, and countless civilians.  Let's face it, the business of funding our war machine makes the owners very rich at the expense our quality of life.  This article tries to makes us not forget what is wrong with us.

After 17 Years of War, Afghanistan Is All But Forgotten

Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, John Bolton, Paul Wolfowitz and the other neo-con wild boys who came to power with George W. Bush in 2001 all shared a vision. In their minds, they saw a cowed, conquered Iraq as the stepping stone to a wider conflict that would, in the righteous fullness of Republican time, lead to broad regional transformation and the enforced peace of empire, all of it lubricated by "liberated" Middle Eastern petroleum.

Using Iraq as a jump-off point, they would knock off regime after regime, running up the stars and stripes as they went, and then watch as peace and prosperity unfolded like a desert blossom. That cauldron of seemingly endless conflict would soon become a happy democratic paradise filled to bursting with McDonald's customers tying the laces of their new Nike sneakers with fingers stained purple from voting. All the wild boys needed was a catalyst, a "new Pearl Harbor," to get the ball rolling. When the Towers came down, they took their shot, and we were off to the races.

It has not worked out exactly as planned.

Sure, they got their endless wars, and their friends all got rich profiteering off them, and the folks back home think conservative Democrats are socialists and anarchists (or terrorists, or bomb-throwers, depending on who you talk to) because the political "debate" has been dragged so far to the right. Sure, the culture in general — after all these blood-drenched years – is entrenched in a war-worshipping, racist siege mentality, so detached from reality that Donald Trump actually became president … but the peace/freedom/democracy/free oil bit pretty much comprehensively failed to pan out.

Fifteen years after Bush widened the war his father started 27 years ago, Iraq is a shattered state. Neighboring Syria, which collapsed into chaos and violence after absorbing millions of refugees from Iraq, is an equally brutalized graveyard. Egypt and Libya are in varying states of social and economic disrepair. Saudi Arabia's ongoing war in Yemen, waged with direct US assistance that began during the Obama administration, has turned that country into an abattoir where tens of thousands have diedand millions face the immediate threat of starvation.

And then, of course, there is Afghanistan, the war almost everybody seems to have forgotten we are still fighting. That war — the longest ever fought in US history — will be old enough to vote next year, or it could enlist and get deployed to Afghanistan. It has taken the lives of nearly 4,000 coalition soldiers, roughly half of whom were US troops. Three US troops were killed on Tuesday, and two others the week before. More than 20,000 US troops have been wounded in combat.

More than 100,000 Afghan people have been killed, some 30,000 of them civilians. Within the last 10 days in Afghanistan, 55 civilians were killed and 94 wounded in a suicide bombing at a religious gathering. Two soldiers and three police officers were killed in separate incidents on the same day. On November 22, Taliban fighters summarily executed 11 local police officers and militia members. In the US, the rare headlines about Afghanistan range from grim ("17 Years In, Afghan War at a 'Stalemate'") to downright Orwellian ("Rise in US Deaths in Afghanistan Clouds Outlook for Peace").

To date, the war in Afghanistan has cost more than $2 trillion, but that number does not account for the interest on the loans the US took out to pay for the thing in the first place. The conservative estimate for the cost of all the wars stands today at around $6 trillion, but even that figure is largely guesswork because these wars were financed off the books, and the Pentagon hasn't been able to do simple math for a couple of generations.

It is virtually impossible to avoid becoming deeply cynical in the face of all this, but there are shards of light still piercing the smoke. On Wednesday, the US Senate threw a big brick through the White House windows by
 overwhelmingly approving debate on a bill that would end US military support for Saudi Arabia's vicious war in Yemen.Iraq, Afghanistan and now Yemen. The country is discouraged from talking about these wars. They're generally left off the script by the TV news shows, because the right people — those wealthy bullet-mongers you'll never meet — are still making money off the meat grinder hand over fist. That $6 trillion did not disappear; it moved to a few upscale addresses and then got shipped offshore, far away from the eyes of the IRS, because that's The American Way, too.

Some 14 Republicans – including Lindsey Graham, Bob Corker and co-sponsor Mike Lee – joined Bernie Sanders and every Senate Democrat in voting to open debate, allowing it to pass by a margin of 63-37. This dramatic sea change on the part of the GOP was made possible by Donald Trump's gruesome support for Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of that nation's assassination of Washington Post journalist and fierce Yemen war critic Jamal Khashoggi. For Trump, the war money is more importantthan the murder, and that isn't sitting well even within the cretin brigade that is the Senate's Republican majority.

Voting to open debate on ending US support for the Yemen war is not nearly the same as actually voting to end it, and the bill to end it might seem to have small hope of passage given how little time this Congress will be in session. However, although a great many things will be changing in January, this needs to happen immediately. US involvement in one gruesome corner of the wider war we started must be brought to a close.

"Let us look each other in the eye," writes Truthout's Robert Naiman, "and commit that we will push by any and all legal and nonviolent means necessary to force as many votes as necessary in the Senate and the House before Congress adjourns for the year, in order to end the Yemen war and stop the famine. The United Nations and aid groups have said forcefully that there must be a sustained cease-fire right now, in order to get the people and resources into Yemen that are necessary to stop the famine. Not in January. Right now."

Right now, before another 17 years pass and Yemen is forgotten along with Afghanistan, Iraq and so much else.


"Yes, yes, but I bring that out in people. I do. I'm not saying that's an asset or a liability, but I do bring that out. ...I bring rage out. I do bring rage out. I always have."
- Candidate Donald J. Trump in April, 2016