THE PRESIDENCY: “STABLE GENIUS?” – UNLIKELY – BUT, EVEN TRUMP’S HARSHEST CRITICS ADMIT THAT HE’S AN “EXTRAORDINARILY TALENTED CON MAN” – Move Over Charles Ponzi, Bernie Madoff, & Bernie Cornfield, You’ve Got Company At The Top!

http://www.newsweek.com/robert-reich-trump-may-be-dumb-he-has-plenty-emotional-intelligence-773200

Robert Reich writes in Newsweek:

For more than a year now, I’ve been hearing from people in the inner circles of official Washington – GOP lobbyists, Republican pundits, even a few Republican members of Congress – that Donald Trump is remarkably stupid.

I figured they couldn’t be right because really stupid people don’t become presidents of the United States. Even George W. Bush was smart enough to hire smart people to run his campaign and then his White House.

Several months back when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a “fucking moron,” I discounted it. I know firsthand how frustrating it can be to serve in a president’s cabinet, and I’ve heard members of other president’s cabinets describe their bosses in similar terms.

Now comes “ Fire and Fury, ” a book by journalist Michael Wolff, who interviewed more than 200 people who dealt with Trump as a candidate and president, including senior White House staff members.

In it, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster calls Trump a “dope.” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus both refer to him as an “idiot.” Rupert Murdoch says Trump is a “fucking idiot.”

GettyImages-872383186Donald Trump’s hair blows in the wind as he boards Air Force One on November 10, 2017. JIM WATSON/AFP/GETTY

Trump’s chief economic adviser Gary Cohn describes Trump as “dumb as shit,” explaining that “Trump won’t read anything — not one-page memos, not the brief policy papers; nothing. He gets up halfway through meetings with world leaders because he is bored.”

When one of Trump’s campaign aides tried to educate him about the Constitution, Trump couldn’t focus. “I got as far as the Fourth Amendment,” the aide recalled, “before his finger is pulling down on his lip and his eyes are rolling back in his head.”

Trump doesn’t think he’s stupid, of course. As he recounted, “I went to an Ivy League college … I did very well. I’m a very intelligent person.”

Yet Trump wasn’t exactly an academic star. One of his professors at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and Finance purportedly said that he was “the dumbest goddamn student I ever had.”

Trump biographer Gwenda Blair wrote in 2001 that Trump was admitted to Wharton on a special favor from a “friendly” admissions officer who had known Trump’s older brother.

But hold on. It would be dangerous to underestimate this man.

Even if Trump doesn’t read, can’t follow a logical argument, and has the attention span of a fruit fly, it still doesn’t follow that he’s stupid.

There’s another form of intelligence, called “emotional intelligence.”

Emotional intelligence is a concept developed by two psychologists, John Mayer of the University of New Hampshire and Yale’s Peter Salovey, and it was popularized by Dan Goleman in his 1996 book of the same name.

Mayer and Salovey define emotional intelligence as the ability to do two things – “understand and manage our own emotions,” and “recognize and influence the emotions of others.”

Granted, Trump hasn’t displayed much capacity for the first. He’s thin-skinned, narcissistic, and vindictive.

As dozens of Republican foreign policy experts put it, “He is unable or unwilling to separate truth from falsehood. He does not encourage conflicting views. He lacks self-control and acts impetuously. He cannot tolerate criticism.”

Okay, but what about Mayer and Salovey’s second aspect of emotional intelligence – influencing the emotions of others?

This is where Trump shines. He knows how to manipulate people. He has an uncanny ability to discover their emotional vulnerabilities – their fears, anxieties, prejudices, and darkest desires – and use them for his own purposes.

To put it another way, Trump is an extraordinarily talented conman.

He’s always been a conman. He conned hundreds of young people and their parents into paying to attend his near worthless Trump University. He conned banks into lending him more money even after he repeatedly failed to pay them. He conned contractors to work for them and then stiffed them.

Granted, during he hasn’t always been a great conman. Had he been, his cons would have paid off.

By his own account, in 1976, when Trump was starting his career, he was worth about $200 million, much of it from his father. Today he says he’s worth some $8 billion. If he’d just put the original $200 million into an index fund and reinvested the dividends, he’d be worth $12 billion today.

But he’s been a great political conman. He conned 62,979,879 Americans to vote for him in November 2016 by getting them to believe his lies about Mexicans, Muslims, African-Americans, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and all the “wonderful,” “beautiful” things he’d do for the people who’d support him.

And he’s still conning most of them.

Political conning is Trump’s genius. It’s this genius – when combined with his utter stupidity in every other dimension of his being – that poses the greatest danger to America and the world.

Robert Reich is the chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley , and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, and Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective Cabinet secretaries of the 20th century. He has written 14 books, including the best-sellers Aftershock, The Work of Nations and Beyond Outrage and, most recently, Saving Capitalism. He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and co-creator of the award-winning documentary Inequality for All.”

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Trump is a “danger to America and the world.” Let’s just hope we survive him and his nasty, would-be authoritarian regime!

PWS

01-08-18

 

AMERICA THE FORMER GREAT: UNDER TRUMP, AMERICA HAS SURRENDERED ITS WORLD LEADERSHIP POSITION — It’s Unlikely We’ll Ever Get It Back!

https://www.cfr.org/blog/year-one-america-first-global-governance-2017/?cid=3D=

 

 

Patrick T. Stewart writes for Foreign Affairs:

Coauthored with Anne Shannon, former intern in the International Institutions and Global Governance program at the Council on Foreign Relations.

After President Donald J. Trump’s election last fall, many experts predicted that 2017 would be a tumultuous year for international cooperation. During his campaign, Trump promised to “make America great again” by renegotiating or renouncing “bad” and “unfair” international agreements, and questioned the value of international institutions. Since January, Trump’s “America First” policies have seen the United States abdicate its global leadership role. Yet contrary to expectations, multilateral cooperation on pressing issues like climate change and migration has continued, as other states have stepped up to lead. Despite all the tumult, the world has recorded several important achievements for multilateralism alongside the setbacks.

Climate Change

More on:

Global Governance Diplomacy and International Institutions Trump Foreign Policy 2017
Trump’s largest blow to international cooperation came in June when he announced his intention to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord. Early reactions suggested that other countries might respond in kind, reneging on their commitments and stalling overall progress on environmental governance. Nevertheless, this November’s climate conference in Bonn, aimed at finalizing aspects of the Paris Agreement, was a success. Participating states secured additional funding for climate initiatives and agreed to several objectives in the fields of agriculture, indigenous rights, and gender equality in climate governance.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who has made combatting climate change a signature policy, hosted a separate global climate conference this December, raising additional funds to meet Paris commitments. And while the Trump administration signaled its intent to abandon the agreement, many U.S. states, cities, and companies have stepped into the void, pledging commitments of their own. The successes in Bonn and Paris, combined with near-unanimous international support for the Paris Accords, indicate that multilateral cooperation on climate change will continue without U.S. leadership, even if the politics look challenging.

Global Trade

Trump’s protectionist campaign positions suggested that global trade would take a beating in 2017. Experts warned of trade wars, predicting that a downward spiral of tit-for-tat measures could strangle economic growth. In fact, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), global trade in goods and services increased, growing 4.2 percent in 2017, almost twice the growth registered in 2016. Despite Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and threats to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), neither deal is dead yet. The remaining TPP members revived the idea of trans-pacific trade at the Asia-Pacific Economic Partnership (APEC) summit in November, making significant progress without the United States toward what is now known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Even as extreme U.S. demands stall NAFTA renegotiations, U.S. public support for NAFTA increased in 2017, pressuring the Trump administration not to withdraw from the agreement. While the United States has abdicated global trade leadership, the European Union (EU) has made progress on several important agreements of its own, notably one with Japan, encompassing countries that account for over 30 percent of the world’s GDP. The EU-Japan agreement will reduce the ability of the United States to set world product standards and other regulations—disadvantaging U.S. exports in the process. In exercising his America First strategy, President Trump could actually hurt U.S. businesses. Reinforcing this possibility was the disappointing December WTO ministerial meeting in Argentina, in which parties failed to reach any significant multilateral deals.

Migration

Trump has continually and publicly expressed negative opinions about immigrants, particularly (although not exclusively) illegal ones. He demands a wall between the United States and Mexico and has signed several executive orders attempting to halt refugee admissions, as well as ban immigrants from various Muslim-majority countries. Nevertheless, international efforts to cooperate on migration issues have continued, notwithstanding certain setbacks.

In December, Mexico held multilateral negotiations toward a Global Compact on Migration, despite the United States withdrawal from the negotiating process. In November, the African Union-European Union summit saw both blocs condemn the situation of migrants in Libya and pledge to work toward a joint migration task force. All is not rosy, of course. According to Amnesty International and other groups, EU governments remain complicit in the Libyan migrant crisis. Elsewhere, Australia closed a refugee camp on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, while Bangladesh and Brazil struggled to accommodate influxes of refugees across their borders.

Nuclear Proliferation

Despite Trump’s decision not to recertify the “terrible” Iran deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) remains alive. Europe strongly condemned Trump’s decision, and along with China and Russia, pledged to remain committed to the JCPOA as long as Iran complies, even if the United States backs out. Were such a breakdown between the United States and other permanent UN Security Council members (as well as Germany) to occur, the U.S.-led sanctions regime against Iran could well disappear as European, Chinese, and Russian firms deepen business ties with Iran. The continued success of the JCPOA is also vital for the prospects of a peaceful resolution of tensions with North Korea. Indeed, some argue that the JCPOA could be a blueprint for a similar agreement with North Korea. By contrast, the United States would lose any negotiating credibility with North Korea if the Trump administration pulls out of the Iran agreement.

International Institutions

Global governance has held ground in 2017 in other, less publicized, ways. The IMF and the World Bank, unlike other multilateral institutions, have largely escaped Trump’s criticism. Although several senior administration officials have long histories of disliking the IMF and World Bank, savvy diplomacy by Jim Yong Kim and Christine Lagarde seems to have placated the Trump administration so far.

President Trump has also backpedaled on some of his criticisms of international alliances and organizations. After repeatedly calling the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) obsolete on the campaign trail, Trump deemed NATO “no longer obsolete” in April after meeting Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. Trump also toned down his rhetoric on the United Nations. In April he called the organization “unfair” and an “underperformer;” in September the president tweeted that the “United Nations has tremendous potential.” (Whether this rapprochement will withstand the UN General Assembly’s condemnation of the unilateral U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital remains to be seen.)

America First’s Future

Looking forward to 2018, it is difficult to predict how Trump’s America First agenda will affect global governance, particularly with a notoriously unpredictable president. It is possible that Trump will continue to renege on some campaign promises. Moreover, midterm elections in November could severely cripple his ability to pass nationalist-minded legislation. Still, he retains significant leeway, should he choose to use it, to undermine NAFTA, the JCPOA, and other international agreements through executive action.

Regardless of the president’s choices, his actions cannot overturn a fundamental contemporary reality—namely, that transnational challenges require global solutions. The lesson of 2017 is that other states are willing to step forward to fill some of the leadership roles vacated by the United States. In pulling back from international cooperation, Trump is forfeiting the United States’ historically important role in shaping international norms and multilateral policies. Nations that are willing to pick up the slack, whether under authoritarian regimes (like China) or democratic leadership (like France), will shape international rules and institutions to conform to their own priorities, not necessarily American ones. And they will not be eager to give up their new-found influence if and when the United States decides it wants the reins of global influence back.

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Surrendering moral, economic, and political leadership to the likes of Presidents Putin and Xi, plus making ourselves an inherently unreliable ally, will have long term adverse consequences for our country.

Bad stuff from the worst Administration in US history!

And, what does it say about those who voted for Trump and continue to support or aid and abet him?

PWS

01-01-18

 

SARAH POSNER IN WASHPOST: Trump, Base, White Nationalist Agenda Virtually Grarantee Kelly’s Failure, Demise!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2017/08/07/john-kelly-is-doomed-to-fail-the-reason-why-isnt-what-you-think/?hpid=hp_no-name_opinion-card-d:homepage/story&utm_term=.ed3335ab0013

Posner writes:

“But that’s not the real reason he cannot succeed. Rather, it’s because Trump’s base, and in particular, his media and social media base, thrives on West Wing dysfunction that is rooted in what is portrayed as an existential battle between Trump’s “nationalist” staff and advisers, and the dreaded “globalists” in his midst. Because Trump has displayed no real interest in taming that beast, and in fact seems to relish feeding it, any effort by Kelly to slap Trump’s hand away from Twitter will have little impact on the persistent unrest roiling the White House.”

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Read the complete op-ed at the link. I have been predicting for some time now that Kelly’s association with the congenital liar and bully Trump and his gonzo White Nationalist agenda will lead to a badly tarnished reputation.

We’ll see. But seems to me that Posner has it pegged about right (or, perhaps, “alt right”).

PWS

08-08-17

Continue reading SARAH POSNER IN WASHPOST: Trump, Base, White Nationalist Agenda Virtually Grarantee Kelly’s Failure, Demise!

NADA BAKOS IN WASHPOST OUTLOOK: Trump Tweets Threaten Our National Security!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/president-trumps-twitter-feed-is-a-gold-mine-for-foreign-spies/2017/06/23/e3e3b0b0-5764-11e7-a204-ad706461fa4f_story.html?hpid=hp_no-name_opinion-card-b%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.f1a2ff55b798

Bakos writes:

“Every time President Trump tweets, journalists and Twitter followers attempt to analyze what he means. Intelligence agencies around the world do, too: They’re trying to determine what vulnerabilities the president of the United States may have. And he’s giving them a lot to work with.

Trump’s Twitter feed is a gold mine for every foreign intelligence agency. Usually, intelligence officers’ efforts to collect information on world leaders are methodical, painstaking and often covert. CIA operatives have risked their lives to learn about foreign leaders so the United States could devise strategies to counter our adversaries. With Trump, though, secret operations are not necessary to understand what’s on his mind: The president’s unfiltered thoughts are available night and day, broadcast to his 32.7 million Twitter followers immediately and without much obvious mediation by diplomats, strategists or handlers.

Intelligence agencies try to answer these main questions when looking at a rival head of state: Who is he as a person? What type of leader is he? How does that compare to what he strives to be or presents himself as? What can we expect from him? And how can we use this insight to our advantage?

 

At the CIA, I tracked and analyzed terrorists and other U.S. enemies, including North Korea. But we never had such a rich source of raw intelligence about a world leader, and we certainly never had the opportunity that our adversaries (and our allies) have now — to get a real-time glimpse of a major world leader’s preoccupations, personality quirks and habits of mind. If we had, it would have given us significant advantages in our dealings with them.

. . . .

Analysts would also be likely to use technology to perform content analysis on the president’s tweets in the aggregate. Intelligence agencies can employ a more robust version than the open-source projects that news organizations have used, because they can marry Trump’s tweets with information they collect through intercepts and other means. Software could look for patterns in speech or word categories representing confidence related to policy, whether Trump is considering opposing points of view and if he harbors uncertainty toward any subject. Computers can perform metadata analysis to build timelines and compare Trump’s Twitter feed with his known public schedule, creating a database of when and where he tweets and what else he’s doing at the time. Anything that provides a digital footprint adds context to the analysis.

Trump says it’s the press’s fault that he uses Twitter as much as he does. His aides clearly want him to stop, but the president just as clearly wants and needs to be heard unfiltered. Fortunately for him, the platform lets him speak directly to his supporters whenever he chooses. Unfortunately for the rest of us, they aren’t the only ones listening.”

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Read the entire article about how our President’s reckless behavior and childish lack of self-restraint endangers America. And, this doesn’t even get into his inviting Russian diplomats into the White House, handing over classified information, or ignoring the seriousness of the Russian’s attempts to interfere with our last election.

Yeah, I know that according to recent reports, the Obama Administration badly flubbed the Russian election investigation. Big time! But, Trump is President now, and he seems determined to sweep the Kremlin’s attack on our fundamental institutions under the rug rather than getting to the bottom of it and taking effective steps to prevent its repetition.

PWS

06-25-48

Sessions’s Conduct Draws Ethics Complaint!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/watchdog-group-alleges-sessions-violated-recusal-rule-in-firing-of-comey/2017/05/12/f30370da-374d-11e7-b412-62beef8121f7_story.html?utm_term=.e71c778780c7

Tom Hamburger reports in the Washington Post:

“An ethics watchdog group filed a complaint against Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday alleging that his participation in the firing of FBI Director James B. Comey violated Justice Department rules and Sessions’s promise to recuse himself from matters involving Russia.

“Firing the lead investigator is the most extreme form of interfering with an investigation,” wrote Fred Wertheimer, who signed the six-page complaint on behalf of his organization, Democracy 21.

The filing asked the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility to investigate the matter and issue a public report — and to take additional action.

“Immediately, we call on OPR to take all necessary steps to ensure that the Attorney General withdraws from any participation in the selection of an interim or permanent Director of the FBI,” the complaint said.

When President Trump fired Comey on Tuesday, he announced that he had consulted with Sessions and the department’s No. 2 official, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein.

Wertheimer, who has worked on ethics issues since the Watergate scandal, said the attorney general’s participation in the Comey firing violated Justice Department rules requiring staffers to recuse themselves from any criminal inquiry in which they have a “personal or political relationship.”

He pointed out that Sessions is a potential subject of a Russia inquiry since he met with the Russian ambassador in 2016. In addition, the complaint notes that during his Senate confirmation hearings Sessions agreed to recuse himself from “any investigations into Hillary Clinton’s emails.”

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Read the entire article at the above link.

By the time he’s done, there might be a whole division of the DOJ busy investigating complaints against Sessions.

PWS

05-13-17

SYRIAN REFUGEE HYPOCRISY: I’m Not The Only One To Notice The Moral Disconnect In Shooting Missiles While Ignoring The Plight Of Millions Of Vulnerable Syrian Civilian Refugees, Many Children!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-syria-humanitarian-refugees_us_58e6fd6ee4b051b9a9da3d6e

Akbar Shahid Ahmed writes in HuffPost:

“WASHINGTON ― As President Donald Trump on Thursday night announced a military strike on Syria because of his deep concern for “beautiful babies” and other civilians killed in a chemical weapons attack this week, two legal battles continued over his efforts to keep Syrian children and their families out of the United States.

The president’s first ban on refugees and travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries is being litigated in a federal court in Seattle. His second attempted Muslim ban remains blocked by a federal judge in Hawaii, with an appeals court scheduled to hear the case in May.

Both executive orders halted the entry of refugees, and targeted Syrians in particular. The language of the orders echoed Trump’s campaign talk about the humanitarian crisis facing more than 20 million people from that country. In September, the then-candidate said denying U.S. entry to Syrian refugees is “a matter of terrorism” and “a matter of quality of life.”

Since his inauguration, Trump has repeatedly spread lies about refugee-related problems in Sweden. And his administration has tried to mislead the public on the number of refugees being investigated on terror charges. The Washington Post rated Trump’s talking point on the issue “highly misleading” last month.

After a U.S. intelligence analysis suggested that Syrian President Bashar Assad used the banned chemical weapon sarin in an attack on an opposition-held village on Tuesday, Trump spoke multiple times about children and other civilians who were affected.

“Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered at this very barbaric attack,” Trump said after launching the strike Thursday night. “No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”

The White House confirmed after the attack that Trump has not altered his position on refugees. National Security Adviser James McMaster said the refugee issue “wasn’t discussed as any part of the deliberations” for the strikes, according to a White House pool report.

The hypocrisy did not go unnoticed.

. . . .

“More than 11 million Syrians have been displaced from their homes since Syria’s civil war began in 2011, when Assad attacked peaceful protests against his family’s decades-long rule.

“In many cases, children caught up in this crisis have fared the worst, losing family members or friends to the violence, suffering physical and psychological trauma, or falling behind in school,” the nonprofit World Vision wrote in a post on March 15, the sixth anniversary of the civil war. “Children affected by the Syrian refugee crisis are at risk of becoming ill, malnourished, abused, or exploited.”

Trump’s strike in itself is unlikely to have any serious impact on civilian suffering. A one-off U.S. show of force may help the president and his team feel they’re taken action. But the Assad regime’s assault on Syria’s people will likely continue, perhaps after some small break.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suggested this would be the case Thursday night, telling reporters not to expect a change in U.S. policy toward directly trying to force Assad out.

“If Trump just wants Assad to stop using [chemical weapons] but does nothing about sieges, torture & mass executions, then Assad will likely say ‘deal,’” Kristyan Benedict, campaigns manager for Amnesty International UK, tweeted. “Stopping Assad’s chemical attacks has value for sure but [chemical weapons] are just one tool the regime use to terrorize civilians & maintain their power.”

The hypocrisy also was noted in  a NY Times Op-Ed by Anthony J. Blinken on the need for an effective diplomatic follow-up to the military response:

“Here at home, Mr. Trump must speak directly to the American people about the country’s mission and its objectives, thoroughly brief Congress and seek its support, and make clear the legal basis for United States actions. And while he’s at it, he should reopen the door he has tried to slam shut on Syrian refugees. The president’s human reaction to the suffering of those gassed by the Assad regime should extend to all the victims of Syria’s civil war, including those fleeing its violence.”

Read Blinken’s entire op-ed here: https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/04/07/opinion/after-the-missiles-we-need-smart-diplomacy.html?em_pos=small&emc=edit_ty_20170407&nl=opinion-today&nl_art=0&nlid=79213886&ref=headline&te=1&_r=0&referer=

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Sorry, but I wouldn’t expect any real humanitarian or moral leadership out of this Administration. It’s really all about muscle, authority, acting tough, showing up the Obama Administration, throwing bones to the military, and shoring up shaky support among GOP hawks in Congress who have been itching to start another un-winnable war in the Middle East for years. Oh yeah, and it changed the subject from the Russia investigation, internal war in the West Wing, failed health care, and more attacks by this Administration on America’s environment, health, safety, privacy, and civil rights.

I also wouldn’t let new NSC head Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster off the hook here. Yes, he did America and the world a huge service by getting alt-right nationalist Steve Bannon off the NSC and perhaps shaking his standing in the West Wing. And, he undoubtedly brings a much needed voice of military and national security expertise to the table. The idea of Gen. Mike Flynn, a proven liar and flake, and Bannon being given any part in America’s national security apparatus is scary beyond belief.

But, McMaster’s failure to “connect the dots” between military policy and the intertwined ongoing civilian humanitarian refugee crisis in Syria is simply inexcusable. And, by publicly turning our back on Syrian refugees we actually signal that our talk of humanitarian concerns in Syria is merely a “smokescreen.”

We have, and will continue to, show little concern for the real human victims of the Syrian war. This signals to both Assad and Russia that our only real interest is maintaining politically visible “red lines.” As long as Assad sticks to “conventional means” of murdering, maiming, terrorizing and displacing Syrian civilians we will continue to turn our back on the suffering of refugees.

Both knowledge of and actual hands on field work in the area of refugees and humanitarian relief should be a job requirement for any military officer promoted to the rank of General or its equivalent in other branches of service. War, at the end of the day, is about only one thing: people. And, there is no such thing as a war that doesn’t produce both civilian deaths and refugees.

PWS

04-07-17

 

 

 

LA TIMES EDITORIAL #5: “Conspiracy Theorist In Chief”

http://www.latimes.com/projects/la-ed-conspiracy-theorist-in-chief/

“It was bad enough back in 2011 when Donald Trump began peddling the crackpot conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama was not a native-born American. But at least Trump was just a private citizen then.

By the time he tweeted last month that Obama had sunk so low as to “tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process,” Trump was a sitting president accusing a predecessor of what would have been an impeachable offense.

Trump went public with this absurd accusation without consulting the law enforcement and intelligence officials who would have disabused him of a conspiracy theory he apparently imbibed from right-wing media. After the FBI director debunked it, Trump held fast, claiming he hadn’t meant that he had been literally wiretapped.

Most people know by now that the new president of the United States trafficks in untruths and half-truths, and that his word cannot be taken at face value.

Even more troubling, though, is that much of his misinformation is of the creepiest kind. Implausible conspiracy theories from fly-by-night websites; unsubstantiated speculations from supermarket tabloids. Bigoted stories he may have simply made up; stuff he heard on TV talk shows.

. . . .
This is pathetic, but it’s also alarming. If Trump feels free to take to Twitter to make wild, paranoid, unsubstantiated accusations against his predecessor, why should the nation believe what he says about a North Korean missile test, Russian troop movements in Europe or a natural disaster in the United States?

Trump’s willingness to embrace unproven, conspiratorial and even racist theories became clear during the campaign, when he repeatedly told tall tales that seemed to reinforce ugly stereotypes about minorities. Take his now famous assertion that he watched thousands of people in “a heavy Arab population” in New Jersey cheer the collapse of the World Trade Center on 9/11, an astonishing account that no one has been able to verify. PolitiFact rated that as “Pants on Fire.”

Or his retweeting of a bogus crime statistic purporting to show that 81% of white homicide victims are killed by blacks. (The correct figure was 15%.)

On several occasions he retweeted white nationalists. (Remember the image of Hillary Clinton and the star of David, for instance?)

His engagement with, to put it politely, out-of-the-mainstream ideas has attracted some strange bedfellows. It may not be fair to attribute to his senior aide, Steve Bannon, all the views that were published on the controversial alt-right site Breitbart.com, of which Bannon was the executive chairman. But it is certainly fair to wonder why Trump has elevated to a senior West Wing position a man who has trafficked in nonsense, bigotry and rank speculation.”

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Read the entire editorial, part of a series that has been posted on this blog, at the above link.

For me, the key quote: “But it is certainly fair to wonder why Trump has elevated to a senior West Wing position a man who has trafficked in nonsense, bigotry and rank speculation.”

Apparently, Bannon and his crowd are now locked in a “death struggle” with the “Trump-Kushner Family” over who gets the President’s ear. Consider Bannon’s ouster from the NSC, where he had absolutely no business being in the first place (does this guy really have a security clearance?), as a victory for Kushner and Gen. McMaster. That’s notwithstanding planted “fake news” from the Bannon faction downplaying the move and absurdly attempting to pass it off as “normal evolution.”

But, Bannon is a lifetime “conspirator” and not someone who takes slights in stride (just like his boss). Probably only Kellyanne Conway had more to do with Trump being in the White House today. And, Bannon isn’t someone Trump wants on the “outside” lobbing bombs and grenades back at to Oval Office and talking trash to Trump’s Breitbart-reading base. So, I wouldn’t count him out.

PWS

04/06/17

BREAKING: U.S. Launches Missiles At Syria In Retaliation For Gas Attack!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-weighing-military-options-following-chemical-weapons-attack-in-syria/2017/04/06/0c59603a-1ae8-11e7-9887-1a5314b56a08_story.html?hpid=hp_rhp-top-table-main_syria-315pm:homepage/story&utm_term=.2615d73f4be7

The Washington Post reports:

“The U.S. military launched approximately 50 cruise missiles at Syrian military targets late on Thursday, in the first direct American assault on the government of President Bashar al-Assad since that country’s civil war began six years ago.

The operation, which the Trump administration authorized in retaliation for a chemical attack killing scores of civilians this week, dramatically expands U.S. military involvement in Syria and exposes the United States to heightened risk of direct confrontation with Russia and Iran, both backing Assad in his attempt to crush his opposition.

The attack may put hundreds of American troops now stationed in Syria in greater danger. They are advising local forces in advance of a major assault on the Syrian city of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital.

The decision to strike follows 48 hours of intense deliberations by U.S. officials, and represents a significant break with the previous administration’s reluctance to wade militarily into the Syrian civil war and shift any focus from the campaign against the Islamic State.”

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PWS

04-06-17

BREAKING: Bannon Ousted From NSC In Reorg Pushed By Gen. McMaster!

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/05/us/politics/national-security-council-stephen-bannon.html?ribbon-ad-idx=2&rref=homepage&module=Ribbon&version=origin&region=Header&action=click&contentCollection=Home%20Page&pgtype=article

The NY Times reports:

“WASHINGTON — President Trump reshuffled his national security organization on Wednesday, removing his chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, from a top policy-making committee and restoring senior military and intelligence officials who had been downgraded when he first came into office.

The shift was orchestrated by Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, who was tapped as Mr. Trump’s national security adviser after the resignation of Michael T. Flynn, who stepped down in February after being caught misleading Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador.

General McMaster inherited an organizational scheme for the National Security Council that stirred protests because of Mr. Bannon’s role. The original setup made Mr. Bannon, the former chairman of Breitbart News, a member of the principals committee that typically includes cabinet-level officials like the vice president, secretary of state and defense secretary. The original order also made the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence only occasional participants as issues demanded.

Critics said Mr. Bannon’s presence in a national security policy-making structure risked politicizing foreign policy.
A new order issued by Mr. Trump, dated Tuesday and made public on Wednesday, removes Mr. Bannon from the principals committee, restores the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and intelligence director and also adds the energy secretary, C.I.A. director and United Nations ambassador.

A senior White House official presented the move as a logical evolution, not a setback for Mr. Bannon. He had originally been put on the principals committee to keep an eye on Mr. Flynn and to “de-operationalize” the N.S.C. after the Obama administration, this official said on condition of anonymity to discuss internal dynamics. This official said that process had been completed.

But the reorganization seemed a clear victory for General McMaster as he struggles to assert control over national security. In addition to the changing membership of the principals committee, the new order also puts the Homeland Security Council under General McMaster rather than making it a separate entity, as Mr. Trump’s original order had done.”

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Yeah sure, this was a “logical evolution.” Just like having Bannon on the NSC and the “chairman of the Joint Chiefs and intelligence director and also adds the energy secretary, C.I.A. director and United Nations ambassador” originally not on the NSC made any sense.  Plus, the idea that “logic” drives decisions emanating from the Trump White House is, in and of itself, “not credible.”

Still, America and the world can sleep better tonight knowing that Steve Bannon is no longer on the NSC.

PWS

04-05-17

HuffPost: U.S. Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster Is President Trump’s New National Security Adviser

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-hr-mcmaster_us_58ab49d0e4b0a855d1d8bd43?o66zx49zt759afw29\

Christina Wilkie reports:

“McMaster, an active service member, will replace retired Lt. Gen Michael Flynn. Flynn resigned last week after confirmation he’d spoken about U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador ahead of Trump’s inauguration.

Trump announced McMaster’s selection at Mar-A-Lago, his Florida resort, with McMaster and Keith Kellogg, the National Security Council chief of staff.

“He’s a man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience,” Trump said of McMaster. “I watched and read a lot over the last two days. He is highly respected by everybody in the military and we’re very honored to have him.”

In brief remarks to reporters, McMaster thanked Trump for the opportunity, and said he “looks forward to joining the national security team and doing everything I can to advance and protect the interests of the American people.”

Kellogg said he felt “very honored and privileged to serve along alongside H.R. McMaster. I’ve known him for years, and he’s a great statesman and a great soldier.”

“This is a great team, and we are very, very honored, and our country is lucky to have two people like this,” Trump said of Kellogg and McMaster. “And frankly, after having met so many people in the military, we are lucky to have all of them.”

As soon as they finished their remarks, Trump and the two men departed for Washington.

The appointment of McMaster ends a weeklong search for Flynn’s replacement that was complicated by reports of power struggles and staffing problems within the president’s National Security Council. At least one candidate for the job, retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward, reportedly declined it in part because he was concerned he would not be given full control over staffing decisions.”

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PWS

02/20/17