The Trickster and the Fool

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It’s disheartening to see the U.S. – North Korea kabuki theater performed again and again, always to the advantage of the Kim dynasty and the disadvantage of the West. The dictatorship has one unerring talent: the ability to fool American presidents into playing their zero-sum game. It starts with the rhetoric – bombast hurled at the new U.S. leader in hopes it will be returned (worked like a charm this time around). Then the nuclear brinkmanship (the reason for NK’s program being diplomatic leverage), and the ensuing worldwide panic, followed by the “high level” talks that pull all threatened parties into the mix (China, South Korea, Japan, etc.). The cumulative effect of these actions and their media-grabbing headlines is the only one the Kim dynasty is interested in, namely worldwide recognition of the power, legitimacy and importance of the North Korean regime.

But Kim, like the American president, is playing mostly to a domestic audience. The message? “It would be dangerous to remove me during this (never-ending) crisis.”

Americans should (but probably don’t) remember that this all played out previously, in 1994 under the Clinton administration and later between 2006 – 2007, as the Bush administration announced a “path to normalization” with Pyongyang. For both “agreements” North Korea had agreed to demolish its nuclear development facilities (!) and in the 2007 negotiations provided (doctored) footage to prove it had done so. Clinton and Bush were, of course, hoodwinked as today’s evidence shows. The 1994 Agreed Framework and 2006-2007’s so-called Six-Party Talks were nothing but stall tactics. The result is a nuclear-armed North Korea, now with ballistic missile capabilities. Soon they will have a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile, if they don’t already, capable of striking anywhere in the world.

Today, apparently, the regime released three American prisoners , two of them having been scooped up under the current U.S. administration in order to create the leverage Kim is now strategically ceding. This is of course part of the wider, long-range gambit, which also includes a seeming cool-down between the two Koreas. Now the U.S. president will become overconfident. He will strut into the summit trap Kim has set thinking he has “the advantage.” (It’s The Art of the Deal, you know.)

I predict that at the peak of bilateral negotiations, per the dog-eared script, the Kim regime will find an excuse to introduce delay after delay as they produce false promise after false promise, backed by false evidence, their mission having already been accomplished: widespread media coverage of their power and influence, and a U.S. regime that has completely lost face by walking into their predictable, time-worn diplomatic trap. My question bares repeating: How will he react?

This is why the Obama administration refused to even engage with North Korea – they knew from Bill Clinton and George W. Bush’s experience that there was nothing in it for them. Unless sponsor state China does something about the Kim regime’s recklessness, there is nothing to be done by any other parties short of starting a world war:  China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran versus an isolated United States.

I hope it comes out differently this time, I hope North Korea is serous about denuclearization. But I’ve never seen the sun rise in the West.

Update: When I’m right, I’m right. Also – that was fast.

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Nebraska – Let’s Usher In the Future

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Republican Senator Orrin Hatch recently said publicly that it’s “ridiculous” for terminally ill Republican Senator John McCain to request that the Republican president not attend his funeral.

Perhaps Orrin forgot that the president publicly denigrated McCain and impugned his honor during the president’s disgusting 2016 campaign. As a reminder to Hatch, the president said of McCain: “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” (McCain’s fighter jet was shot down over North Vietnam. He helped his fellow prisoners of war endure years of torture under the North Vietnamese at the infamous Hanoi Hilton. Since then, he’s had a distinguished career in Congress for decades, up to and including his dying days. He was the 2012 Republican presidential nominee.)

It’s really time to reconsider a knee-jerk party-line vote for your local GOP rep when they refuse to call out people like this.

We can do better. Much better. Right here in Nebraska we have outstanding, smart, fair-minded moderate candidates like Jane Raybould for Senate, Kara Eastman for Congress, and Bob Krist for Governor (OK he’s older than Ricketts but a far better choice than Dollar-Store Lex Luthor – unless you’re a fan of prison riots). Nearer to home there’s my old friend Nancy Meyer for NRD, friend-of-friends Megan Hunt for NE legislature, and probably someone in your own district who can help restore the separation of powers both in Washington and in our ailing, one-party-rule, would-be Kansas economic disaster.

This is not a partisan appeal. It’s an appeal to decency, to the simple, quaint notions of honesty and ethics in government. Some decent leaders remain in the Republican party (for some reason), like my State Senator John McCollister. But let’s face it – they are the last of the holdouts in a party that is no longer what it was when John McCain was running for president, a party being subsumed into the current president’s populist insurgent cause. It is a lost cause.

That’s all – please think, then vote.

Update: On Thursday morning (5/10/2018), a White House aide named Kelly Sadler joked that Arizona Sen. John McCain’s opposition to CIA nominee Gina Haspel is nothing to worry about because “he’s dying anyway.”

Contest of Wills? No, a Developing Constitutional Crisis

The news is so frustrating. The media – out for ratings, just like the reality show star in the White House – portray our developing constitutional crisis as some kind of battle royal between two outsized personalities. The sense we get from the media is that we’re watching the trash-talking preliminaries of a heavily anticipated title match (although, of course, only one party to the fight is engaging in the trash talk). The idea is that we’ll have this big battle, and the winner will take all as he is showered with accolades by his loyal fans. The loser will vow to rise again, saying “wait till next year”. Then it will all be over, and we will shut off the TV and go to bed, satisfied that it was a very exciting man-to-man contest.

But that’s not what’s happening, not at all. What’s happening is we have a secretive, lying, cult-like, bullying, paranoid, ignorant, truth-averse, and very likely criminal gang squatting uneasily on what should be a presidential administration. They fear the revelations of truth and the application of the law so much, they and their co-conspirators in Congress appear willing to go above the law, to exercise raw power in challenging hundreds of years of legal and institutional precedent, in order to protect themselves and their cash cow – what the rest of us call the federal government. Anyone who threatens to reveal the truth they eliminate if they can, or try to intimidate into silence if they can’t (yet). They are not administrators, they are a modern day confederation of mobsters. They are looters and anarchists who demonstrate on a daily basis their utter contempt for the rule of law and for our democracy’s institutional norms.

Should they prevail, there will be no “next year” for this republic and its few dedicated defenders. We know how the “five families” ended up in the long run – they took everyone else down with them.

And opposed to them, we have a dedicated REPUBLICAN war veteran and prosecutor of lawbreakers, an administrator of justice, who has served honorably and with distinction for decades under Republican and Democratic presidential administrations alike (real ones). He runs an experienced legal team working quietly, professionally, humbly and methodically in the cause of justice.  The team has already secured guilty pleas from several of the administration’s former foot soldiers and lieutenants. There will be more. But, as opposed to the unhinged daily stream-of-consciousness tweets (mostly lies and fabrications) from the reality show star, their story is as yet untold. Seizing on that legally and procedurally necessary information vacuum, the mob attempts to explain the character of the investigation  to us as a witch hunt (without explaining to us why a Republican career legal professional would conduct a witch hunt against a presumably innocent Republican president).

The media should stop pretending this is a contest of wills devoid of legal or moral context. Based on all we’ve seen and heard, this is people at the top levels of government—in concert with an antagonistic foreign power and self-aggrandizing criminal leak weasel–attempting to bring down this republic and everything it stands for. They do it all in the name of ego and personal gain, allied with the most ignorant and self-serving among our citizens, their hallmarks being contempt for truth, ethics, morality, justice, or any other admirable quality that exhibits even the smallest trace of human decency.

Saint Putin

I keep encountering people who seem to think Putin is some kind of heart-pure Diogenes, coming on American TV and telling us how screwed up our system is, and how our political system is the SOLE reason for all our problems. Never mind that he was actually here, as is his and the KGB’s tradition, to rub it in for his own amusement (and his people’s). He’s to be admired by Americans now. Because Megyn Kelly (or whatever her name is) sat there dumbstruck (emphasis on dumb) while he rattled off a string of spying/meddling/etc. accusations (which are true for both countries, of course, not just the US).

So for the record: Putin denies any and all involvement in the 2016 campaign (which is a denial of documented fact). He – in a Trumpian move – instead offers up that it is YOU who are guilty of (insert crimes here). I guess he showed us! Just not with any evidence.

We seem to have come to a place where Trumpers have had to manipulate their brains into thinking that the president was right when he (under orders)  excoriated the US for its own “evil deeds” whenever Russia’s 2016 Trump campaign (Moscow branch) was brought up. To do this, you also have to believe – Trump-like – that it’s a zero-sum game, that “both countries do it” so “both countries” are equally “evil.” Just two powerhouses duking it out for the spoils, right? To the president, who remains to this day “neutral” on Russia (!) there is no moral question. After all, he just appointed a CIA director who not only willingly tortured American prisoners, but who participated in a cover-up after mistakenly torturing an innocent person. What morality? It’s all about WINNING.

And that is somehow patriotic and in line with traditional Republican attitudes on Russia, yes? That there is a moral equivalence between the Russian kleptocracy/dictatorship and (what’s left of) American democracy? Or, if we’re not equivalent yet – we’ll get there?

Yes. That’s the new patriotism – Putin is all right, just looking after his “Russia First” interests, murdering rivals and invading neighbors. This paves the mental pathways for accepting a morally bankrupt president as legitimate. Because in the Trumpian world, everyone’s equally morally bankrupt. And everyone’s legitimate – until proven guilty.

How Will He React?

So – what will happen? We are all waiting around as more and more damning evidence comes in, more White House staffers walk, or are indicted, or plead guilty. We are at a point – with the indictments, guilty pleas, and talk show gut-spilling – a point where we all can see into the workings of this administration. And we see – those of us who still want to see the truth – that the workings are corrupt, lawless, and not in the interests of the nation.

We have seen the president destroy, belittle, demean, abandon or at least excoriate everyone around him, from the media, to Democrats, to Gold Star families, to the many women who accuse him of assault, to porn stars with NDAs, to federal judges, to his attorney general, his secretary of state, to “Republicans” (perhaps forgetting he is one), to his top advisers, and of course most significantly to every national security/law enforcement agency we have. Of course, we have NOT heard even one word of criticism leveled against Russia or Putin. Nor has the administration spent one dime of the millions authorized for State Department counter-measures to Russian interference. Nor has the administration bothered to implement the legal sanctions imposed by Congress against Russia. With, of course, no explanation.

One day soon, Meuller will arrive with the goods. We know what he will tell us – that the president is a crook, a self-dealing fraud, liar, grifter and lawbreaker whose only concern – whose ONLY concern – is and has always been what he can gain personally and for his family via the presidency. He will tell us that, in fact, due to the Russians’ having “cultivated” trump for a number of years (and likely “compromising” him given his ravenous sexual appetite and taste for teens), then having worked with Trump and his campaign to intervene in the 2016 election process (see: Don Jr., Hope Hicks and the hastily constructed memo of lies), the president is indelibly tied to the Russians, indebted to them in terms of their help with the campaign and, likely, literally indebted to Russian oligarchs and others who have funneled cash his way (not to mention the money laundering that has gone on at Trump properties). He is owned by Russia, and has been quietly working for them since day one. I don’t have to prove it. The media reports as a whole, the data we’ve seen dripping out of the various investigations taken as a whole – not to mention the transparent actions of the administration itself and the growing list of indictments and guilty pleas-  have already confirmed it. For further proof, I direct you to the current attempts by Trump’s corrupt allies in Congress – Nunes, Gaudy, etc. – to begin construction of the “alternate” reality they are desperately hoping will supplant “real” reality in the minds of Americans already inclined to believe whatever anyone says that might shield Trump. These are the (totally fabricated) ideas that the FBI/NSA/CIA are  (suddenly) rife with corruption, that Hillary and the Obama administration were the Russia “colluders”, that Obama “abused” the FISA warrant process to “out” Trumpian enemies, etc. All so much bullshit, but what else is new from this pack of self-serving liars?  We all remember the seven-year-long Benghazi fiasco, right? Or at least how much money was wasted on it?

So again – what will happen? At the point that we receive the truth – will the truth win out? Will it be accepted as truth? And if it is – what then? Pence has lived  a textbook life since becoming VP of the “I am completely out of the loop” variety. So of course he is, and has been since day 1,  hedging, ready to assume the presidency in the event all is discovered. But my guess is that Meuller will find that everyone in the campaign is guilty, so Pence will also be damaged goods.  And what if, as it appears, the Russia meddling was not limited to propaganda and coordination with the Trump campaign, but actually extended to manipulation of voting counts in the crucial swing states Trump won – unexpectedly – by razor-thin margins? Do we undo the Trump presidency?

Maybe. But that scenario leaves out Trump’s die-hard, reality-challenged supporters in the alt-right media and in our corrupt Congress. We already know they will refuse to believe the truth (because they are Post-Truth people). They will believe the ‘alternate fact’ stories being spun up right now by Trump’s allies (see above), because they like that reality better than the real reality. And after all, what value does truth have for these people? It just gets them in trouble.

And Trump? How will he react to being totally exposed, once and for all, as a fraud and a crook – and a traitor? It’s anyone’s guess, but in the past his practice has been simple – NEVER back down, never apologize, never admit error (let alone guilt of treason). But that doesn’t work if you are being removed from office – he can’t sue his way out of that humiliation. It will be final and complete. It will shatter his fragile illusion of himself and his even more fragile ego. As a man sadly deluded into thinking he’s perceived as a great president, it will ruin him.

And at that moment – when his downfall and his humiliation are complete, when he realizes he will be the first president to be forcibly removed from office, and thus realizes he is an utter failure – at that exact moment he will still have the ability to independently launch a first strike nuclear attack.

The only positive in that scenario is that there are currently no U.S. first strike plans that target the United States.