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181. Mueller Testimony and Implications for Impeachment

25 Jul

Robert Mueller has just provided testimony (July 24, 2019) related to his Special Counsel Report, before two House committees. His performance has been described as weak and not inspirational. (Note that Mueller is a Republican.)

.       Mueller’s voice was weak, but what he stated was powerful.

Mueller is almost 75 years old. I am an older person so I have a personal understanding of the effects of aging, as well as considerable research. After age 70 or so, it is common to have a gradually progressive memory loss and other physical problems. A couple of years ago, when he started the investigation, Mueller was probably more competent. I am sure that at that time he was quite capable of hiring an excellent staff and providing good leadership and organizational procedures. His report was created by a group of about 17 experts in this area. I think the report is sound and although his current committee performance was not perfect, it was effective. If you look at what was actually said by him and questioners, you could feel very confident. The important features of the report were clearly defined, a list of impeachable actions was confirmed, and appropriate warnings about future election interference were provided. He emphasized that there were no exonerations, and that there were serious findings in the area of obstruction. Trump’s claims of no collusion and no obstruction were false.

It is now up to Democrat leaders to do what is right for the USA, and not focus on irrelevant imperfections. In this area, opinion polls are also irrelevant, and impeachment even without conviction, has the value of making a statement. Below, I have provided more detail on this point.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi  has taken the position that the House should not move forward on impeachment without major Congressional and public support. She is concerned that  Senate acquittal, which is likely,  would be seen as a win for Trump.

Here are possible fallacies of her argument. First, with or without a Senate conviction, Trump will always claim that he has won and is totally innocent. What Trump and Republicans claim cannot be controlled and should not be considered. Second, As actual articles of impeachment are developed, public and leadership support could substantially increase. Third, and most important, impeachment without conviction still makes a profound statement: that Donald Trump does not represent a majority of our people. It will help assure that foreign leaders and people will not view us as crude and erratic. For many years the USA has been a leader in advancing good government and ethics, and an impeachment will help to preserve this image. Impeachment will also serve to define and clarify the improper and criminal acts of his presidency.

One further point: impeachment must be for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” That requirement is satisfied by public reporting — even without testimony or the M. Report. But, I think Congress must also consider other acts of wrongdoing, which are not defined by criminal laws. I am not going to detail a large literature (including my own blogs) of such infractions, which include: failure to divest financial interests, numerous well-established lies, failure to produce income tax returns, prevention of testimony, chosing statements of Putin and others over our intelligence agencies, lack of traditional transparency, governing by tweet, secret meetings with foreign adversaries, major inconsistencies and reversals, and creating a staff with many criminals and unethical wealthy people.

 

180. Is the Real Trump Racist? (Revised)

18 Jul

What do we know for certain about our President Trump? Most clearly, he has a desperate need for flattery, for dominating, for loyal followers, and for winning. His obvious goals are to destroy the legacy of President Obama, win battles against most other nations, and keep a very strong “base” of mostly uneducated racist voters. Trump found a way to succeed (win votes), by attracting these gullible racist citizens.

There is some evidence for the fact that Trump does not actually have a racist “trait,” but uses racist ideas to form his voting “base” and maybe for other purposes. First, he supports racism against people of color, yet he hired African-American Omarosa Manigault, a former “Apprentice” contestant. Later she turned against him and he attacked her. It appears that Trump will work with anyone who supports him. His speeches after the Charlottesville riots also provide a clue. He said on two occasions that there were: “very fine people on BOTH sides.” The two sides were the neo-nazis (and KKK), and the protestors. He is afraid to lose ANY votes.  He praises anyone who flatters and supports him, and abuses anyone who is critical. When attacked, Trump complains that people don’t like him, and often does not address the attack issues. In the case of the four congresswomen (“the squad”) he confuses criticism of him, with criticism of the country. He just lies, when he says they hate our country.

       SUPPORTING RACISTS IS WORSE THAN BEING ONE

If you have no ideals (good or bad) in your brain, then you are little more than a robot. Although he may have been different many years ago, Trump appears to have no deeper thoughts. He just says and does things to win votes and satisfy his ego. He admires dictators. If he could kill his political rivals and critical press members, I suspect he would. Trump constantly changes his positions based upon his perceptions of popular opinions. Also, he is often uncoordinated with his staff. The rapid changes in position indicate a lack of any strong ideals and a simplistic mode of governing. The simple analysis of complex situations appeals to his base. But foreign countries no longer trust us because of these inconsistencies, and the USA is losing its status as the world leader in many areas. It is clear that his major policy is intimidation, and he has little skill in other methods of interaction.

Final word: under Trump leadership, the Republican party has deteriorated to a group of sycophants (yes-men), in some ways, very much like their leader. Those with more conscience and integrity have left the party. Let’s impeach this erratic robot and restore dignity, integrity, and anti-racism to our nation. 

 

179. If the Economy is Good, then Trump Can be King?

15 Jul

I talked recently to several Republican folks who were so impressed with the rising stock market and low unemployment rate, that all else did not matter. Trump said that if he had not been elected, the market would have crashed — ignoring the fact that the market rose steadily under President Obama. Obama took over when the US economy was a disaster and Trump benefited from Obama’s successful recovery program.

The scary thing is that many people look at the world in a superficial way and just accept what leaders like Trump tell them. Several years ago, before he became President, I wrote in a blog that Trump’s worst trait is the rewriting of history, so his terrible record is obscured. This makes it possible for him to form a political “base,” with lies about his successes.

Several of my blogs have detailed the dangerous policies of Trump and the reasons why he must not continue is office. He is clearly moving towards a tyranny. These previous blogs are most relevant:

171. Why We Must End Trump Now.

170.  1000 Prosecutors Can’t be wrong.

169. In the USA, an Emerging Tyranny?

Here are the most important ideas from the above and some of his current actions. It is important for people to recognize the gradual progression towards tyranny, so that they can fight these dangerous steps.

Here are the usual steps in the transition from president to king. Trump has done all of the following:

Step 1. Form a “base” of poorly-educated gullible citizens that can be manipulated. Trump’s base was formed by exploiting already existing racism and scapegoating. The base can be violent and aggressive, to create fear and submission by others. Later, better-educated opportunists may join the base.

Step 2Get elected, using the base, intimidation, scams, illicit coalitions and whatever else works. Trump benefited from help by Russians.

Step 3. Make the appointments of all government leaders, judges, generals and admirals based on loyalty rather than competence.  This cadre of loyal officials helps to keep a tyrant in office, but produces serious mistakes.

Step 4. Change the law to benefit rich friends. An example is a reduction in pollution safeguards that help manufacturers, but put the citizens at risk.

Step 5Fight all actions against you. This can be done by attacking and limiting the press, by re-writing history, emphasizing your successes, suppressing investigations, ignoring subpoenas, and other negative legal actions. Trump viciously attacks political rivals like Hillary (“lock her up”).

Step 6. Most dangerous is any attempt to increase term limits or in any way prolonging the stay in office. All of the worst despots were able to find an illicit way to win elections or abolish elections so that they remain in power indefinitely. He has proposed that the first two years of his office were ruined by investigation and he should be given an extra two years to compensate. Thoughts like this are vile and dangerous.

As this pathway continues, the abuses increase and can be devastating. 

Here are some very recent facts. The Mueller Report finds 10 examples of Trump’s obstruction of justice. Mueller stated in a speech that his report did not exonerate the President in any way. Trump attacked four female House Reps of color (the squad) and told them to go back to where they came from. He attributed to all four, the questionable and inexperienced statements of House Rep. Omar. Trump claims transparency, but ignores subpoenas and will not release tax records. Perhaps worst of all, he still is not supporting vital efforts to limit global warming. Although the US is only about 15% responsible for the world-wide  production of greenhouse gases, it can make a big difference in leadership and financial support of relevant climate research.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

178. Major Nations Question US Dollar “Reserve” Status

7 Jul

Trump’s obsession with balance of trade and being cheated is bluster.  The fact is that the US-Dollar is the global “reserve currency,” giving the USA a big trade advantage. US exporters and importers do not need to convert currency, which adds some cost to each transaction, and the US can borrow money at lower rates. So any US losses due to foreign trade tend to balance out because the US-Dollar has this special world status.  We can buy products from all major countries with US dollars and when we sell, we receive US dollars. This is a major financial advantage and high prestige for the USA.

Here is more information about “reserve currency.” It is also known as “anchor” or “hard” currency.

“Reserve currency is commonly used in international transactions, international investments and all aspects of the global economy.” (Wikipedia)

For centuries, the world has had various reserve currencies. These include the Dutch Guilder, EURO, and the UK Pound Sterling. Whichever country was doing the most world trade during a certain period, usually has its currency established as “reserve.” After World War II, there was an international agreement, “The Bretton Woods System,” which established the US-Dollar as reserve.  The rules and traditions of international trade, banking, and investment are complicated and I have only presented a few basic facts.

For the past few decades, many countries have questioned the status of the US-Dollar as reserve. China, for example, does a huge amount of trade and wants to use its currency to pay for oil. Trump and Republican lies and instabilities have  lead to global uncertainties, which trouble all investors.  Recent US political Government shut-downs and delayed Government payments have increased this questioning. Further complications occur in the area of international sanctions. We need reliable government to maintain our world leadership.

 

 

 

 

 

 

177. Foreign Policy Failures by USA Government

22 Jun
Here is my latest tweet (@RichardLeeWB) regarding the Iranian attack on US drone  (with some clarifications):
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According to most sources, Iran did order the drone attack. That this was an accident, unintended, is not likely. As a response, approved by his staff, Trump ordered an attack on missile-launch sites in Iran. He then changed his mind, based on an estimate of casualties. Note that a real military planner would have had that info, early in the discussions. One source said he actually was informed on calualties early in the discussion.
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I suspect that Trump’s raid approval and cancelling was a preplanned strategy.  He wanted to make a point without risking further conflict escalation. He intended to show what could be done (air attack on Iran) and then cancelling to show great humanity — a “saber-rattling” as the answer to downed drone. This could be the only good thing he did regarding Iran.  On the other hand, if this was not a pre-planned strategy, then it is a miserable display incompetence. 
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The first and most serious mistake was Trump’s withdrawal from The Iran Nuclear DealAccording to every expert in this situation, Iran was conforming to rules that would prevent them from developing nuclear weapon’s.  All of the several countries involved in this deal still support this effective deal, but with Trump’s withdrawal, Iran is threatening to resume construction of nuclear weapons. The deal was limited to nuclear development and nothing else, because after many years of negotiation with several major powers, this was all that could be achieved. It is true that Iran causes trouble elsewhere, but what would have been better, would have been to add additional  agreements, without cancelling the valuable nuclear part. 
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Now, the disaster of Trump is becoming more apparent. He has put the USA in an untenable position where he cannot start a war, cannot respond to Iranian attacks, and cannot control Iran nuclear development. He also has lost the trust of other nations involved in the deal.
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Trump has performed poorly in other areas of foreign policy. His trade policies have alienated some good allies, have caused losses of jobs, have increased costs for our  manufacturers, and have cause increased prices for our citizens. He has been “in love” with the North Korean president, Kim, who has achieved his goals of nuclear weapon development while Trump got nothing in return. Another mistake was not recognizing that short range missile development would be threatening to South Korea and Japan. Kim manipulated Nobel-Prize dreamer Trump with flattery.
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He got into a destructive trade war with China, that holds much USA debt. Because of trade agreement changes, China has gained in international leadership, while the USA is diminished. Perhaps even worse, Trump’s numerous mind changes and lies have lost the trust of many nations.

176. Impeachment: Current Issues

16 Jun

President Trump impeachment is probably the chief issue of this time, June 16, 2019. Although such issues as “climate change” may ultimately have more impact, the Trump presidency affects all major issues. For clarity, I have outlined two broad categories: possible procedures, and popular arguments.

Procedures relevant to impeachment.

Immediate all out effort to Impeach.

Impeach when there is overwhelming public support for it

Impeach when there is likely a favorable Senate vote.

Start with “investigation” and optionally move to impeachment

Impeach if new solid criminal findings appear.

Never impeach and no further investigation.

Arguments related to impeachment.

Republicans generally disregard Mueller Report findings and argue that impeachment is purely an unwarranted Democrat attack. The Democrat counter argument is that Mueller clearly stated that he was not exonerating the President on any major charge. About 1000 USA prosecutors argue that there is clear evidence for obstruction of justice, and the Report provides substantial evidence.

Even if impeachment does not lead to conviction, it makes an important statement: that Trump does not represent the majority of Americans. Foreign leaders will take note and will view the USA more favorably. And, Republicans not voting for conviction will be held responsible for Trump’s failures.

Immediate impeachment is argued, because the damage to our country by the President is worsening day by day and he must be stopped. In several previous blogs, I have listed all of these negative Trump actions and his tendency towards tyranny. Briefly, the major negative areas are: judicial appointments, eliminating safety/pollution regulations, and failures in foreign diplomacy (most apparent is that his inconsistency lessens trust).

Citizen support for impeachment has now reached almost 50% and will certainly increase as evidence accumulates, and there is additional testimony.  Simply having Special Counsel Mueller reiterating his findings could be powerful.

Many Republicans secretly want impeachment, and if given the opportunity will vote for it — since when out of office, Trump can no longer harm them. This could swing the Senate in favor of conviction.

Impeachment is difficult, so instead, nullify Trump through new congressional laws and judicial rulings. State governments and laws can mitigate bad Trump actions. An example is states backing climate-change, which he has opposed.

Why bother to impeach because he will surely lose the next election. The counter argument is that it is possible for him to win, and impeachment is another opportunity for definitely removing him from office.

For a while, some argued that Trump wanted an impeachment. This was found to be false when he clearly stated it was a big negative.

Recently, Trump has blocked all testimony and provision of documents related to the investigation of his administration. He has advised his associates to ignore subpoenas. This alone is clear evidence of obstruction.

Although gathering more evidence of impeachable actions is helpful, there is already ample evidence from public presidential actions and from the M. Report.

My take on what Democrats should do is: develop  a list of actual quotations (with page citations) from the M. Report, that could lead to impeachment. This one to two page list could be published in a variety of ways to affect public sentiment. Methods to publicize could be: YouTube, massive mailings, billboards, newspaper ads, TV ads, political speeches,  etc. In other words, make a convenient short list of impeachment facts for massive distribution.

 

 

 

172. Tariffs Explained and Tariff Lies

15 May

JUST IN: Wall Street J. states that tariffs generally drag down ALL economies in the world, including ours. All markets have gone down. Trump’s tariff war with China is a poorly-planned  effort, which does not consider Chinese strengths and financial skills.

A tariff is a tax or duty to be paid on a particular class of imports (or exports). The tariff is paid by the importer. For example,  if we put a tariff on imports from China, the tariff  is paid by the US importer (not China). The tariff money does go to the US Treasury. So it is true that the US Gov does get increased income. I suspect that part of Trump’s need for tariffs is to make up for the disastrous loss of gov income due to wealthy tax giveaways.   Major blog points, below:

CHINA DOES NOT PAY TARIFFS IMPOSED BY USA
ALMOST ALL TARIFF COSTS ARE PASSED ON TO US CONSUMERS
ONLY CHINA CAN SUPPLY CERTAIN GOODS AT LOW COST
TARIFFS USUALLY RESULT IN MORE “TAX” FOR US CITIZENS

The Gov gets tariff money, but the US importer passes on the cost. The retailer, like Amazon or Walmart pays more for the product and so will pass that cost on to the customer. It is like an extra tax that WE pay.

Re US tariffs on Chinese goods, Trump says that you can get around the higher cost, by buying non-Chinese goods. The problem with that argument is that China has much lower prices than USA and other country’s manufacturers. Also, China provides us with special parts that would be difficult to find or develop elsewhere. So in the end, American customers will be paying more. The higher prices will decrease purchases and that will have a negative effect on our retailers and could cause general economic negatives. The trade war with China will be costly for our people and may well be  unsuccessful in its ultimate goal changing China policies.

Now let’s look at the other side: retaliatory tariff increases by the other country. In the case of China, every tariff imposed by Trump has a carefully targeted Chinese tariff imposed on our exports to them. If Chinese importers must pay a tariff then they are less likely to buy American products. This can negatively affect USA farmers and manufacturers. In fact, farmers and workers here are already suffering from the China tariffs.

The headline reads: “Soybean Farmer Loses From Retaliatory Tariffs With No Bailout Funds In Sight.”

The general fact is that Trump himself benefits from tariffs, but many US workers will suffer. Of course, the totally reliable Trump says he will pay the farmers for their losses (good luck to them). But won’t reimburse citizens for higher prices.

The Trump tariffs may have some positive effects (pure speculation) but there are already losses for the people. The China tariffs are an attack on China and the start of a trade war is not generally supported. And remember that China owns a lot of US debt. Tariff effects are complicated and can have negative effects on our citizens and on foreign respect for our government. Between trade wars and withdrawal from vital foreign agreements, who can trust the USA under Trump.  Also, I must bring up Trump’s withdrawal from the TPP (Pacific) trade agreement. This agreement was carefully developed under Obama to strengthen US trade relationships with Asian countries. Trump’s withdrawal has opened the door to China to become a leader in this world area. 

Trump and Republican tax law changes have resulted in a huge loss of revenue, which has promoted discussion of decreasing social programs like Medicare. Trump may like tariffs because they can make up for a little of the loss. It can be viewed as a further tax on the non-rich, so that the rich can have even more money.

Under Trump, there have been some improvements to our economy, but what is very important, many middle-class wages are stagnant and still very low.