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150. POTUS Problems: Basic Causes

1 Mar

My website is “BasicCauses” and this blog is concerned with a deeper understanding of our current government dilemmas. Below I have covered the most serious situations in the Donald Trump administration.

First, how did he come to power. I believe that he emerged primarily because of immigration problems. Concern about large groups of Syrian refugees had worldwide  implications. In Britain, it contributed to the BREXIT vote. Here in the USA, friends of Trump worked with him to exploit fears, and with the help of Russia, he captured the presidency. So, five “causes” helped him: (1) fears of Syrian refugees, (2) racist attitudes towards Mexicans, Muslims, and Pres. Obama, (3) election help from Russia by corrupting the media, (4) a long history of Hillary Clinton character assassination that influenced less educated citizens,  and (5) various other factors like voter suppression. Note that Hillary actually won the vote, but Trump was elected because of the electoral college (an outdated system).  Please see my blogs 75, 76, 77, and 80 for more information

Second, staff appointments based only on loyalty created an incompetent executive branch. Concern for loyalty produced an extremely high turn-over rate for cabinet positions and other staff. Many of the more competent staff were fired for lack of loyalty. Those truly loyal often caused bad decisions. Trump needs loyalty because he feared discovery of his illegal and unethical activities and loyalty would help fight impeachment. So we could say that a basic cause of some major problems is a history of borderline criminal activities. Most of his appointments were his rich buddies, who achieved their success either through inheritance or questionable practices. Several were fired for actual crimes or serious unethical practices. His lawyer Michael Cohen was very loyal to him, but Trump did not reciprocate and now Cohen is testifying against him.

Third, alienation of allies and NATO members. The basic causes for this nationalism were the influence of political friends, and a false confidence based on the wealth of his father. He learned to brag about his successes and “deny, deny, deny” any accusations. When he ran his businesses, he had a small staff and tended to make his own decisions. Many decisions were poor and led to bankruptcy, but his ability to try all sorts of legal, ruthless, and illegal methods led to his success. Many of Trump’s plans would have been greatly improved had he worked with allies instead of against them. Leading strong coalitions would have been very effective with world trade policies, dealing with China, staying with the Paris Climate Agreement, and the Iran Nuclear Deal. Trump does not deal well with equals and this will be costly for him and the USA. Working with allies would be much more effective in controlling N. Korea.

Fourth, distrust of USA traditional gov institutions. Some of these causes were covered above, but this specific problem needs emphasis. Trump did not develop important agencies like the State Department, and most of the other cabinet agencies. Maybe worse, is his attack on and distrust of his intelligence groups, like the FBI and CIA. 

Fifth, lies and uncontrolled exaggerations. After two  years in office, his rate of lying and exaggerating has gradually increased. The basic cause for this is probably increasing fear of investigations and frustration in not always getting his way. He gets away with telling various untruths to his “base,” but others are reacting more and more negatively. I am particularly concerned about our allies who are becoming more distrustful about our help and world leadership. Trump also promotes confusion by often disagreeing with his staff, such as the Secretary of State and Embassador to the UN.

Sixth, the press. Why does Trump have so much trouble with the press?  It’s almost a silly question. The reputable press (like the NY-Times and Wash-Post) is highly critical of him because he lies so much and re-writes history. Trump hates them because they point out his lies. Trump cannot succeed without lying because his gov record is actually poor and un-American. Trump is dangerous because he advocates violence against the press and others who oppose him. The next step for him would be actual assaults on reporters like engaged in by Putin, Kim Jung Un, Prince MBS (Saudi), Stalin, Hitler, and other tyrants. The USA press is like a fourth branch of gov. A strong, free press is necessary for the success of a democracy.

Finally, I want to say a bit more about some basic causations. The Syrian war was ultimately caused by rising technology that allowed for better world-wide communication. The “Arab Spring” revolutions (late 2010) occurred in several countries. People in poor countries could see how others are better off, and can get more support and organization through modern info systems. Increased inter-nation travel was also a factor. In Syria the “Arab-spring” started a rebellion, but things became much more complicated as various nations (mainly USA, Russia, and Kurds) tried to influence the outcome.

What is the cause of leadership greed and tyranny? Actually, it is a natural human trait to strive for a better life and more wealth. The people that rise to power often do so by using clever and ruthless methods. Nicer people, who are honest and open sometimes cannot compete well. In many societies, for various reasons, there is little opposition to this striving. Here in the USA, we are fortunate to have a long tradition of democracy and freedom. This tradition has created powerful forces that can reject authoritarians. What happens in some cases where the leadership is fair and good, there is a gradual disinterest in politics, since everything is going well. This lack of interest can allow a clever ruthless person to get elected. Another way to look at this issue is that certain people become very skillful at getting votes, but this skill may not mean success in governing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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148. MSNBC: The “Shining Network on Air”

22 Feb

We have all heard about the “shining city on a hill,” which represents a noble goal. I see MSNBC as that kind of beacon of hope — sensibility in the bizarre and dangerous world of Trump.

I watch MSNBC almost every day, usually for several hours. I also read the internet NY Times, WashPost, other newspapers, tweets, TED, Daily Kos, and many other types of info, for enjoyment, curiosity, and to prepare my blogs and tweets. I sometimes watch good programs on CNN and see Fox at times to view the negatives.  But, the MSNBC commentators often are really enjoyable to listen to and many feel like genuine friends. In the spirit of rewarding people that do great work, I want to present my evaluations. I have listed the highly functioning MSNBC people and after much thought decided not to list and criticize those that disappoint me.

Outstanding and enjoyable are L. O’Donnell, Brian Williams, Kasie Hunt, and Katy Tur. Williams often avoids expressing controversial opinions, but his little side remarks and humor are fun. O’Donnell and Tur do their job very intelligently. Kasie Hunt does her job well, is a joy to watch, and brings real humanity to the programs she runs.

Quite competent are: Andrea Mitchell, Joy Reid, Mika Brzezinski, and Chris Hayes. Steve Kornacki presents statistics well and does a good job in other roles.

Michael Steele is notable in this list for being a Republican. He speaks well and makes good Repub arguments. Often he agrees with the Democrat positions. If all Repubs were like Steele, we would be living in a much better world.

Rachel Maddow often provides very valuable and exclusive info. I would listen to her more if her presentations were less dramatic and less “wordy.” Most of her hours could be condensed down to 15-min and would be more interesting for me.

Joe Scarborough is notable for his blatant honesty, which I really like. But sometimes, he does drift off topic a little. I often watch “Morning Joe” in the early hours.

Chris Mathews often has valuable info from real experiences. But he would do better by forgetting the “hardball” crap and listen more. Probably because he is older, he tends to drift off topic a little.

Chuck Todd does the current “Meet the Press.” He has a tough job and sometimes misses opportunities for better questioning.  He often appears uncertain and drops his voice level. He does a good job, but could improve. “Meet the Press” always seems a bit bland, as if someone ordered them to be neutral.

I want to emphasize one more point. Looking at all the experts, commentators, and anchors that have appeared on MSNBC, a small number stand out for their unrestrained honesty and bravery. These are: Lawrence O’Donnell, Joe Scarborough, Steve Schmidt, Robert Reich, and Bill Maher (and probably a few others that did not come to mind).

The above I consider the best and most interesting commentators.  A few not mentioned are competent, and a few other regulars are either less interesting, less effective, or awkward at times. Not mentioned are the many experts in different areas that make great contributions when called upon. This blog is about MSNBC, but in all fairness, CNN should be mentioned for its contributions, and I do like Fareed Zakaria.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

120. Where Democracy is Dead

28 Aug

An article by Paul Krugman (NY-Times, 8-27-18) is so profound and insightful that I had to write this small blog. Krugman states that democracy is dead in Poland and Hungary, both members of the European Union. Both of these countries have powerful ruling parties.

In both countries, there are elections, but Krugman points out that they: “have destroyed the independence of the judiciary, suppressed freedom of the press, institutionalized large-scale corruption and effectively delegitimized dissent.”  

The effect of these aberrations is that it is likely that there will be “one-party rule for the foreseeable future.”  Krugman warns that this could easily happen here.

Our current ruling party and our current POTUS, are increasingly engaging in these anti-democratic activities. If the next election fails to reverse this process, the USA will further deteriorate to a point where recovery may not be possible. My previous blogs have discussed these issues in detail.  Briefly, I am concerned about: nominations to the Supreme Court, attacks on the FBI, emolument violations, threats toward the press, criminal actions by POTUS staff and consultants, gerrymandering and other interferences with our election process.

 

 

  

 

 

 

Blog 111. Trump Attacks The Press

24 Oct

In one small foreign country, its president owns all of the major banks, unfairly enriching himself by this corrupt practice. Similar corruption is found in many
large and small foreign countries.
Trump appears to have a similar pattern. He uses most of the methods that past and current tyrants have employed to maintain their power and control. Trump intimidates critics, admires other tyrants, and much of his communication is regarding his exaggerated achievements. Also typical is his use of office to promote his businesses. His hotels are advertised in his speeches and by his trips, and foreign leaders stay in Trump Tower rooms. He failed to divest his business interests and severely violates nepotism rules. He ignores huge areas of government, like the State Department and CIA. He whimsically establishes the most vital policies and makes little use the departments designed to help.

Trump’s attack on the press is very typical of authoritarians. Robert Reich discusses several methods used in such attacks, which helps to achieve greater control over the citizens. See:    http://robertreich.org/post/154819980595
Four attacks are described:
“1. Berate the media and turn the public against it.” See his speeches.
“2. Limit media access.” Example: almost no news conferences.
“3. Threaten the media” Examples: threatening to sue newspapers and revoke licenses.
“4. Bypass the media and communicate with the public directly.” Example: Tweets

Trump wants to rewrite history to support his programs and candidacy. Past USA leaders have been occassionally annoyed with the press and have criticized reporting. We have never had such a complete labeling as: all news is “fake” news. I am always amazed at how his supporters take his word over the most revered and reliable of USA newspapers, the N.Y. Times, with 120 Pulitzer Prize winners.
Trump has been rejected by many Republicans including: George Will, Past-President Bush, Joe Scarborough (now an independent), John McCain, Bob Corker, Jeff Flake, and last but not least, his Secretary of State called him a “moron.” But he does have support from David Duke of the KKK who thanked Trump for “his honesty and courage.” Megyn Kelly, who feuded with Trump, left conservative Fox News and joined the liberal MSNBC.
Have you watched the N. Korean military lined up and clapping like zombies with their leader, Kim. You can see the same thing with Trump supporters. Each member of his cabinet tries to outdo the flattery bestowed by the others.

107. How Voters Find Truth

20 Aug

While politicians are the immediate cause of our country’s problems, the primary, ultimate cause is bad decisions by voters.

One problem may be that our government and social system have evolved faster than the general skill of voters. Highly educated people probably do a good job, but the most poorly educated can make disastrous mistakes. It’s similar to the ordinary person trying to understand current technology.

I suspect that many voters have a difficult time deciding who is telling the truth. In the past, great newspapers like the NY Times and Washington Post, for example, were highly trusted. And also certain news people, like Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite and several others were considered authorities.

Compare Trump with these traditional sources. Trump never apologizes or corrects errors. The best he can say is that he was joking or being sarcastic. Major newspapers, on the other hand will print corrections if necessary, and the record shows that they do. They never state after a few days, that they were joking or being sarcastic. It is incredible that I have to say, that the words of a US President must be serious and correct. And yet, some voters just don’t care.

Here is a list of ways to determine whether a leader is truthful:
1. Is there a reasonable amount of consistency in similar statements made at different times? (See Trump’s reasons for firing FBI James Comey.)
2. Is there consistency between himself and his staff? (Trump’s attack on NATO was not supported by his staff.)
3. Does he correct errors. Everyone occasionally makes a mistake. (No corrections.)
4. Are his promises realistic (“Mexico will pay for the wall”, really?)
5. If a leader says the press is always “fake,” and he is the only source of truth, isn’t that a little suspicious. After all, the press includes a wide variety of orientations from way left to far right (even alt-right).
6. It is easy to check (with a little bit of searching) how he quotes other people.
7. Does he accurately portray established historical facts? (See what Trump says about the childhood of ex-president Obama.)
8. Does the leader appear to have a good understanding of complex issues.
9. Does the leader tend to avoid directly answering questions by the press.

I know that the voters that really need to read this, probably will not, but this may be helpful for anyone who is trying to promote citizen education.

99. Change Yes, Trump No

4 Mar

I think our country needs some radical changes to preserve it, and make it exemplary again. Forget Trump’s “great  again”, let’s make it admirable, honorable, and respectable. This blog is “BasicCauses” and I want to look at some of the fundamentals of our system.

I am going to make some major criticisms so I want to make it clear in advance, that I am happy to be an American, vote every election, served in the U.S. Army, and enjoy free enterprise, having created two successful businesses. I generally support the fundamental features of our current governmental system, but believe we need some significant basic changes. The arrival of Donald Trump as our country’s leader, emphasizes the need for  re-thinking.   Please consider the following:

1. The Primary Process and Voting does not yield the best leaders. This is hard to fix, and probably the best solution, better education, may not be effective for a long time. Many poorly educated voters do not have the reasoning and research skills to make the best judgments. Long held and obsolete beliefs are barriers to better choices.

2. Congress is organized so as to promote gridlock. Our current system has too many barriers to completing legislation. There are many different changes that could speed up law making. One thought that I have had is to have one large legislative body and require 52% of votes to pass a bill. Filibustering would not be allowed, but short speeches from many would be allowed.  The quality of legislation could be improved by adding to this body,  various specialists such as University representatives. A major reorganization will not occur in my lifetime, but starting to think about it is important and I may discuss it more in future blogs.

3. The “fourth branch of government”, the press, is being oppressed. It appears now that we need to pass laws or find other means of protecting the press and allowing them to criticize without recrimination. Also, the citizens should clearly support freedom of the press.

4. Rich donors should not have powerful control of our government. I suggest a maximum donation of $100 for all citizens and no donations allowed from corporations or other organizations. Let’s abolish the super pacs and have a true democracy.

5. Our middle-class is not benefiting enough from our nation’s success. We need to abolish tax-loopholes and increase rates for the very rich.  Many wealthy corporations and individuals pay no tax at all because of loopholes.  Even the Pope has criticized “trickle-down” approaches, which rarely work, but are advocated by the GOP.  (“Trickle-down” means: give lots of money to wealthy businesses and simply hope that some will trickle-down to the rest of us.)

6. Congress should not police and regulate itself. An independent body should do this. (The same goes for all Healthcare organizations and many other service areas.) Unfortunately, with today’s polarization, it is not easy to find truly independent persons.

7. A potential problem is “privatizing.” This means moving a function run by the government, to a private, for profit company. A consequence is that some rich person (and staff) will make huge amounts of money and emphasize profits over proper services. In most cases, the benefits of competition do not make up for all the money lost to over-paid executives. For example, privatizing prisons was a failure and was abolished. Politicians sometimes threaten Social Security and Medicare with privatization, which would decrease benefits.  I have said more about this in previous blogs.

97. Trump’s Extreme Hypocrisy

25 Feb

Trump loves to dramatize his speech, like we need “extreme vetting”. He said that he was going to “win so much, you’re going to be sick and tired of winning.”

I just heard Trump complain at CPAC, about the news media using anonymous sources. Frankly, I laughed out loud. During his adamant “birther” period, on numerous occasions he referred to unnamed sources searching records in Hawaii about to prove that Barack Obama is not a citizen. This pattern of stating unsupported “facts” (aka alt-facts) has been repeated numerous times.

In fact, I would confidently venture to say that Trump himself referred more times to unknown sources (or did not name a source) than any other president. Here are a few examples:

Trump said that Hillary won the popular vote (by a margin of almost three million) because of illegal voting.  In fact, “all the illegal votes were for her!”  Does he think that all of us are incredibly stupid, or is this stated just for his hardcore fans?

The crowd for inauguration was much larger for Trump than for Obama.  No proof for this assertion was provided, but plenty of photographic evidence was provided for the opposite.

He stated that he won more electoral college votes than previous presidents — false. No sources for this were named, and after questioning, admitted his error.

We gained nothing from the Iran Nuclear Deal and the money paid could have been used for infrastructure work. He failed to say that the money paid was actually Iran’s money that was confiscated and could not have been used by us.

There are many other types of extreme hypocrisy. A really good example is Wall Street abuses. Trump complained on numerous occasions about Hillary’s relationship with such companies as Goldman Sachs Group. He said that Clinton is “nothing more than a Wall Street puppet.” But after his election, he named former Goldman President, Gary Cohn to head his National Economic Council. Former Goldman partner Steven Mnuchin was chosen Secretary of Treasury. Chief Strategist Steve Bannon once worked for Goldman Sachs. Trump is also working on reducing safeguards aimed at avoiding investment company failures. After pledging to fight Wall Street he has been doing everything to support them. His promises to help the working man are shameless lies.

After talking so much about Clinton corruption, the following has just been reported. The Republican chairmen of two intelligence committees have admitted that a member of the White House staff approached them. They were asked to tell reporters that no illegal contacts of the W.H. with Russians were discovered.  And at this time,  the committee work was not even finished.

There also is evidence that a report on the “Travel Ban” countries was tampered with. The original report (leaked to press) stated that the seven banned countries posed no particular threat. Country of immigration origin is not a good predictor of terrorist activity. The final report was altered to say the opposite.   See this website:  http://www.msnbc.com/maddowblog   for supporting details for this paragraph and the one above.

All of which brings to mind my greatest worry — that Trump will not only fail in many ways, but he will re-write history so that the Democrats are blamed for the failures. He actually blamed Hillary for the “Birther” movement!