Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Something to Know -

If last week was not the best of times for Trump, this week is going to be worse.  He has boxed himself into a mess of his own creation.  His ineptitude, ego, and stupidity finally caught up with him, and the unravelling of what has propped him up politically will fade by November.   Please read HCR for today's update .   And, just to fill in this space with something very interesting, here is a story from David Ignatius of the Washington Post:

Opinion by 
David Ignatius 

A basic truth about Russian President Vladimir Putin, which President Trump evidently doesn't understand: Putin is in the payback business. He believes the United States destroyed his former country, the Soviet Union. He likes the United States to feel pain, in Afghanistan and everywhere else.

Trump has his own, much rosier take on Putin. And I can't help wondering whether that explains why, assuming his account is true, the American president was never briefed about intelligence reports early this year that Russia was offering bounties to Taliban fighters to kill U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan. Perhaps Trump's national security aides were afraid to upset him.

When it comes to the military, Trump has the opposite of a Midas touch. Everything he handles becomes tarnished. That was true of his meddling last year in the discipline case of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher; his encouragement of the firing Capt. Brett Crozier as skipper of the USS Theodore Roosevelt; and his enlistment of Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for a publicity stunt at St. John's Episcopal Church near the White House.

There's a lot we still don't know about the Russian bounties in Afghanistan. But sources have provided some basics that allow us to see this incident in context.
First, we must understand that the Russians wish us ill in Afghanistan. Putin's generation remains bitter about their forced withdrawal that finished in 1989, under American pressure, which presaged the collapse of the Soviet Union. There's a tiny Afghan War Museum in Moscow's Perovo district: two dark rooms, pictures of the fallen, guns, maps and other trinkets of a war that broke the Soviet Union's spirit.
About 15,000 Soviet soldiers were killed in their nine-year Afghanistan war. By comparison, the United States has suffered 2,372 military deaths in our Afghan war, waged for more than twice as long.

What makes Afghanistan especially painful for Russia is that the Soviet Union's final defeat resulted from a secret CIA program to supply the Afghan mujahideen with Stinger anti aircraft missiles, which could shoot down Soviet helicopters and were a death sentence for Moscow's recruits.

The Soviet Union might have hoped that the United States would help it escape the Afghan quagmire, but life doesn't work that way. A declassified Feb. 13, 1989, National Security Directive specified that if the Soviets wanted a cutoff in U.S. assistance to the mujahideen, the United States "should take no action limiting U.S. options" until the Moscow-backed Afghan government fell.

For the first 15 years of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, in which our former allies were now mortal enemies, the Russians played along. They were happy to let Americans kill the same Islamist militants that had used U.S.-supplied weapons to kill Russians. But starting in 2018, U.S. commanders noticed a difference: The Russians appeared to be helping the Taliban.

Gen. John "Mick" Nicholson Jr., who commanded U.S. forces in Afghanistan for more than two years, revealed the secret Russian aid for the Taliban in a March 23, 2018, interview with the BBC. He said Afghan leaders had showed U.S. commanders Russian-supplied weapons that had been smuggled across the border to Taliban fighters. He said the Russians were also peddling a false narrative that the United States was fostering a buildup of Islamic State

Nicholson's 2018 interview was a rare public protest by a U.S. official. Trump didn't press the Russians to stop, and so they continued. The GRU military-intelligence units that were helping smuggle weapons to the Taliban in 2018 may have been the forerunners of GRU operatives who U.S. intelligence analysts suspect are the new bounty hunters.
Through this January and February, as the CIA and military surveillance gathered reports about a cash stockpile in northern Afghanistan and other indicators of a possible Russian operation, U.S. military and intelligence officials became increasingly concerned, several told me. By March, they were pressing for a top-level review by senior Trump administration officials of this still-unconfirmed threat to U.S. soldiers.

Through this agonizing period, Trump kept up a buzz of happy talk about improving relations with Putin, including the possibility of inviting him back into the Group of Seven. Were Trump's commanders too afraid to warn him off this folly?

Trump isn't the only one who knows too little about Afghanistan. Our forces there are so hunkered down, I'm told the military hasn't allowed any significant embeds by journalists. Gen. Austin "Scott" Miller, the admirable commanding general, avoids briefing the press or Congress, perhaps for fear of unintentionally offending the White House.
Trump is an obstacle to good policy. Either people don't tell him the truth, or he doesn't want to hear it. Whichever way, he's defaulting on his most basic responsibility as commander in chief.


I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Something to Know - 29 June

Very much June Gloom here in Claremont.  Weather conditions are ripe for my osteoarthritis to make me miserable all over.  It might drizzle later today or tomorrow.   I picked up my new Electronic Bike (Aventon Level) last Friday, and pedaled and zoomed a few times around the neighborhood.  The thing that got me really sore is that yesterday I got about half-way through one of those IKEA "some assembly required" on 140lbs of a new bed for the grandson to sleep in (he is getting bigger now).  It's probably great fun for dads to put together, but an ordeal for your average 79-year old grandfather.   I will try and finish it off today.  Besides, it might drizzle or rain anyway.   Here is a HCR, and she is about as interested in all the corruption and miserable leadership from Trump as I am.  If there is something interesting, I might send something later.

I was halfway through tonight's post with today's quite ugly stories in it, and I just stopped, saved the file, and closed it. Enough is enough.

It can wait. The upcoming week is almost certainly going to be a rough one, and we've all earned a break.

The sun will come up again tomorrow.

[Photo by Buddy Poland.]



I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Something to Know - 28 June

Just another day on reporting the miserable state of affairs that exist at the highest level of our federal government.   The new art form is trying to explain the how, the why, or the total failure of the mechanisms in place to advise leadership of information vital to our existence as a Democracy.  If the processes that have served previous presidents well aren't working now, there is only one place to look.  HCR lays it out for you:

The Trump administration did not respond until almost 5:00 this evening to last night's astonishing news that Russian operatives had offered bounties on US soldiers during the Afghanistan peace talks, and that the administration had been briefed on this development back in March and had chosen not to respond. The story was broken last night by the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, and confirmed today by the Washington Post.

Trump himself did not engage the story at all, although he had plenty to say today on Twitter. Late in the afternoon, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany finally said in a statement that Trump and Vice President Pence had not been briefed on the "alleged Russian bounty intelligence." Trump's acting Director of National Intelligence at the time, Richard Grenell, who had no expertise in intelligence before taking the post, today denied knowing anything about the story.

Is it possible that intelligence officials knew that Russia was paying militants to target US and allied troops and they chose not to tell the president, vice president, or acting Director of National Intelligence? According to Ned Price, a national security expert who worked at the CIA for eleven years and who left rather than work for Trump, the answer is no. "That's virtually inconceivable," he wrote on Twitter. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham seemed to agree. "Imperative Congress get to the bottom of recent media reports that Russian GRU units have offered to pay the Taliban to kill American soldiers with the goal of pushing America out of the region," he tweeted.

That was not the only story the administration denied today. Trump also pushed back on the story that the Department of Justice is asking the Supreme Court to kill the Affordable Care Act. "Now that the very expensive, unpopular and unfair Individual Mandate provision has been terminated by us," he tweeted, "many States & the U.S. are asking the Supreme Court that Obamacare itself be terminate so that it can be replaced with a FAR BETTER AND MUCH LESS EXPENSIVE ALTERNATIVE…. Obamacare is a joke! Deductible is far too high and the overall cost is ridiculous. My Administration has gone out of its way to manage OC much better than previous, but it is still no good. I will ALWAYS PROTECT PEOPLE WITH PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS."

But the administration is in court right now trying to destroy the Affordable Care Act, along with its protection for people with pre-existing conditions. And while Trump ran for president in 2016 on the idea that he would replace the Affordable Care Act with something better, the Republican Party has never offered a replacement bill.

There was a lesser story, too, where what the administration said did not square with what actually happened. Yesterday, Trump tweeted "I was going to go to Bedminster, New Jersey, this weekend, but wanted to stay in Washington, D.C to make sure LAW & ORDER is enforced. The arsonists, anarchists, looters and agitators have been largely stopped…."

Today, Trump spent the day at his golf course in Sterling, Virginia.

And then there was a huge story where reality crashed into ideology. Today, the U.S. set another record for coronavirus cases, with 44,782 new infections. This is the fifth daily record in a row. Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Nevada all set new daily highs. Trump has consistently downplayed the severity of the pandemic, urging governors to reopen their states and restart their economies. Governors in Florida and Texas, who had been aggressive about reopening their states, have backtracked to slow the spread of the virus. "If I could go back and redo anything," Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) said, "it probably would have been to slow down the opening of bars…."

Meanwhile, New York, which had been the epicenter of the virus, has dropped its new infections from almost 10,000 a day to just 673 cases statewide, and is about to enter a new phase of its reopening plan.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told CNN's Chris Cillizza that Democrats like him had a fact-based theory about how to beat coronavirus infections: keep the state closed until metrics showed the virus was receding. Republicans, in contrast, thought: "We can reopen quickly and we can handle the virus because it will go away, or we will have a vaccine."

Cuomo pointed out that the coronavirus highlighted the difference between reality and a narrative based in ideology. "A virus has a rate of increase and a number of deaths either goes up or goes down," he said. "The number of people going to hospitals goes up or goes down. It's not subject to debate because the hospital bed is either empty or it's full, we either bury people or we don't."

"We tested both theories," Cuomo told Cillizza. "We have the evidence. It's numbers. It's irrefutable. Why don't we pause and recognize the undeniable reality of the situation?" "There are no Democratic facts and Republican facts," he said. "There are just facts."




Decide not to tell? 

Trump silence:



Grenell: https://www.rawstory.com/2020/06/i-never-heard-this-trumps-former-intel-chief-denies-knowing-about-russian-bounty-plot/


Trump golfing:

Coronavirus: https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/06/27/coronavirus-live-updates-us/





I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Andy Borowitz

Trump Vows to Ban Coronavirus

 Vaccine If Obama Invented It

Donald Trump speaks to reporters outside the White House.
Photograph by Stefani Reynolds / Bloomberg / Getty
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Donald J. Trump on Friday threatened to ban a coronavirus vaccine if it turns out that it was invented by former President Barack Obama.
Trump's threat took members of the White House press corps aback, since there are no reports to date of Obama attempting to invent a vaccine or any other pharmaceutical.
Trump acknowledged that he was not aware of any such activities on Obama's part, but warned that, if the former President succeeded in inventing a coronavirus vaccine, "I'm not going to let that happen."

"If Obama came up with a vaccine, it would only be to make me look bad," he said. "Well, guess what? I'm not going to let him get away with something cute like that. We're going to move quite powerfully on anything Obama does in terms of a vaccine."
Trump added that, if former Vice-President Joe Biden is elected President in November, "It wouldn't surprise me one bit if he approved a vaccine Obama invented, just to spite me."
"Obama and Biden, they're like two peas in a pod," Trump said. "If you want a vaccine, vote for Biden. It'll serve you right."

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Something to Know - 27 June

The very bad news is that the continuing worsening of the virus is overwhelming locations, some of which were late in containment measures, some where re-opening may have been to soon, and some where people just are not following CDC guidelines.   Trump has turned his back and given up on doing anything.   The news about him is that he seems to be ignoring the needs and warnings from the Intelligence community, and the Department of Defense, and continues to be cozy with Putin.  It is a disgrace that our so-called president is more intent on personal power and loyalty than he is to allegiance to the citizens of the country that he is supposed to lead.   Leader he is not, and we are suffering.  It is quite evident that more people voted for the other candidate for a good reason.

Today the United States registered 44,702 new coronavirus cases, a single-day record. Six states-- Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Idaho, and Utah-- also set new single-day highs. In an attempt to stop the spread of the virus, officials in Florida and Texas, where governors have been aggressive about reopening, have both reversed course, announcing that bars must close immediately.

Incredibly, that's not the day's biggest story.

This evening, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal both broke extraordinary news. Months ago, American intelligence officials concluded that during peace talks to end the war in Afghanistan, a Russian military intelligence group offered to Taliban-linked fighters bounties for killing American troops. They paid up, too, although it is unclear which of the twenty U.S. deaths happened under the deal.

The military intelligence unit officials judge to be behind this program, the G.R.U., is the same one that is engaged in a so-called "hybrid war" against America and other western countries, destabilizing them through disinformation, cyberattacks, and covert military operations and assassinations. Urging deadly attacks on American and other NATO troops is a significant escalation of that hostility. New York Times reporter Michael Schwirtz tweeted "it's hard to overstate what a major escalation this is from Russia. Election meddling and the occasional poisoning are one thing. Paying the Taliban to kill American troops, that's something entirely new."

According to the New York Times, the National Security Council discussed the intelligence finding in late March and came up with a range of responses, none of which has been deployed. The NSC can include a number of different officials, but by law it includes the president, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette, and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin. It usually also includes Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien, and Director of National Intelligence, who in March was acting DNI Richard Grenell (it is now John Ratcliffe).

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) took to Twitter to note that Congress had not been informed of the information. "Congress should have been told," he said. "And not just leadership or the Intel Committee."

Instead of addressing this extraordinary intelligence, Trump strengthened U.S. ties to Russia, which have been rocky since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014. In response to Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, the U.S. imposed economic sanctions on the country. After Russia attacked the 2016 U.S. election, the U.S. government expanded those sanctions. The eagerness of Russian leaders, especially President Vladimir Putin, to have the sanctions lifted was key to Russian support for Trump in the 2016 election.

Just after the NSC discussed the intelligence findings, on April 1, a Russian plane brought ventilators and other medical supplies to the United States. The shipment was such a propaganda coup for Russia that the state television channel RT carried the plane's arrival in New York live. Not only was it a show of strength for Russia to provide aid to the U.S., but also the equipment Russia sent was produced by a state-run company that is under U.S. sanctions. This was evidently intended to be a demonstration that sanctions did not mix well with a global pandemic. Just days before, Putin had publicly called for ending sanctions to enable the world to combat the coronavirus more effectively.

On April 25, 2020, Trump raised eyebrows by issuing a joint statement with Russian President Vladimir Putin commemorating the 75th anniversary of the historic meeting between American and Soviet troops on the bridge of the Elbe River in Germany that signaled the final defeat of the Nazis. Their statement said "The "Spirit of the Elbe" is an example of how our countries can put aside differences, build trust, and cooperate in pursuit of a greater cause."

On May 3, Trump called Putin and talked for an hour and a half, a discussion Trump called "very positive." He tweeted: "Had a long and very good conversation with President Putin of Russia. As I have always said, long before the Witch Hunt started, getting along with Russia, China, and everyone else is a good thing, not a bad thing."

On May 21, the U.S. sent a humanitarian aid package worth $5.6 million to Moscow to help fight coronavirus there. The shipment included 50 ventilators, with another 150 promised for the next week.

On June 1, Trump called Putin and talked about including Russia in the G7, the international organization of seven major countries with the largest advanced economies in the world. Russia had become part of the organization in 1998 despite its smaller economy-- making the group the G8-- but was expelled in 2014 after it invaded Ukraine. Trump told reporters Russia should be in the group "because a lot of the things we talk about have to do with Russia," and the old organization was "outdated" and doesn't represent "what's going on in the world."

On June 15, news broke that Trump has ordered the removal of 9,500 troops from Germany, where they support NATO against Russian aggression. The removal leaves 25,000 troops there.

All of these friendly overtures to Russia were alarming enough when all we knew was that Russia attacked the 2016 U.S. election and is doing so again in 2020. But it is far worse that those overtures took place when the administration knew that Russia had actively targeted American soldiers.

This news is bad, bad enough that it apparently prompted worried intelligence officials to give up their hope that the administration would respond to the crisis, and instead to leak the story to two major newspapers.





sanctions: https://www.euractiv.com/section/europe-s-east/opinion/covid-19-as-an-excuse-for-lifting-sanctions-on-russia/


April 1: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-russia-usa-sanctio/russian-ventilators-shipped-to-us-made-by-firm-under-us-sanctions-rbc-idUSKBN21L243

May 3: https://time.com/5583327/trump-intiated-putin-long-phone-call/

June 1: https://www.rferl.org/a/putin-trump-discuss-g7-summit-arms-control-in-phone-call/30647097.html

Russia/US aid: https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/05/21/860143691/u-s-sends-ventilators-to-russia-in-5-6-million-coronavirus-aid-package

Troops: https://www.militarytimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2020/06/15/trump-confirms-plans-to-pull-some-us-troops-out-of-germany/



I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Who woulda thunk?

Sent from Gmail Mobile

Friday, June 26, 2020

Something to Know - 26 June

The events and news dumps from the Trumpies are fast and furious.   HCR has most of it in her contribution from last night .  It is full of the ugly and messy stuff that Bill Barr is trying to push through in the dead of night, and the resistance encountered, with the ugly attempt to have the Affordable Care Act taken down, and asking that this be done in the middle of the Covid pandemic.   However, I am attaching this piece from the latest issue of The New Yorker that I think you will find amusing.

Presidential Trolley Problems

trolley driver
The Paint Job

There is a runaway trolley speeding down the tracks toward five people. You can pull a lever and change the trolley's path so that it hits only one person, but you aren't aware of this option because you're too busy spray-painting "the chinese train" on the side of the trolley.

Question: Will your approval rating go up by two percentage points, or by seven?

The Super-Shocking Surprise

There is a runaway trolley speeding down the tracks toward five people. You can pull a lever and change the trolley's path so that it hits only one person. Technically, the trolley should be able to come to a stop long before a disaster occurs, but two years ago you cut the trolley's brakes.

Who could have seen this coming?

The Contingency Plan

There is a runaway trolley speeding down the tracks toward five people. But there is a lever you can pull and change the trolley's path so that it hits only one.

Whom should you put in charge of pulling the lever? I mean, it's easy: the guy who doesn't believe in trolleys, right?

The Hero

There is a runaway trolley speeding down the tracks toward millions of people. But has anybody thought about how, if you had dropped a nuclear bomb on the trolley for no reason, many more lives would have been lost? You made the tough call; you said, "You know, let's not drop a nuclear bomb on the trolley for no reason."

Everyone keeps trying to change the subject with all this talk about a lever—but, in the meantime, no one says thank you. No one says thank you very much for not dropping a nuclear bomb on the trolley for no reason.

The Sacrificial Grandparent

There is a runaway trolley speeding down the tracks toward a giant bag of money. You can pull a lever and change the trolley's path so that, instead of hitting the money, it hits a million grandmothers.

This should be simple: All people want to kill their grandmother, right? But if you kill your grandmother that means she won't be able to send you a five-dollar bill every year on your birthday and sometimes on Easter. So there's a lot to consider.

The Trolley Advisory

There is a runaway trolley speeding down the tracks toward millions of people. The number could have been much smaller, but, until recently, you were loudly encouraging people to climb onto the tracks and speculating publicly about whether the trolley even existed. Still, if you act now, you can help thousands of people get off the tracks before the trolley arrives.

Why are so many of the people who climbed onto the tracks now saying rude, nasty things like "Help! Help!"?

The Sneaky Doctor

There is a runaway trolley speeding down the tracks toward two million people. You can pull a lever and change the trolley's path so that it hits only about a hundred thousand people.

Instead of thinking about pulling the lever, perhaps you could retweet a conspiracy theory that New York doctors are running a black market for ventilators?

The Cure Worse Than the Disease

There is a runaway trolley speeding down the tracks toward millions of people. You can pull a lever that will save hundreds of thousands of lives. But there's a problem: the lever is greasy, and if you touch it not only will your hands get gunk on them but you'll also stain your shirt. And you like that shirt.

You hate to say it, but, in this case, could the solution be worse than the problem? And why hasn't anyone on the tracks complimented your nice, crisp shirt?

The Retirement Plan

There is a runaway trolley speeding down the tracks. If it continues on its path, it will run into millions of retirement funds. You can pull a lever and change the trolley's path so that it runs into millions of people instead, thank God.

This one is simple, so the only question is: Isn't it cool that you get to pull the lever and still call yourself "pro-life"?

The Conductor

A runaway trolley is speeding down the tracks toward millions of people. There is a lever that can be pulled to slow the trolley and save thousands of lives, but only the train conductor can pull it.

So, why is everyone screaming at you? Why do they keep yelling crazy things like "You're the conductor—do something!"? What? Just because you're wearing the conductor's uniform? Is it because you've been yelling for the entire train ride about how great it was that they gave you the train-conductor job and how you have probably set a record for train conducting, whatever that means?

How do you explain that you never wanted to actually do the work of conducting a train—and that you just wanted to wear the stupid hat? ♦ 


I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.