Mike Pence is Machiavellian

Niccolo Machiavelli famously wrote: “Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are.” This quote perfectly describes Mike Pence.

Mike appears to be a full-throated supporter of President Donald Trump. But if you look more deeply, you can see that he’s keeping as much distance as he can between himself and the bulk of Trump’s administration of cronies, while still espousing loyalty to Trump. He’s happy to talk about the economy, foreign relations, and other conventional Republican topics, but his expressions of support are carefully calculated to avoid the danger zones: Russia, Trump’s kleptocratic buddies, Stormy and company, etc.

But Mike Pence knows what everyone who is not is not duped by the Fox News propaganda machine already understands: Donald Trump’s days as President are numbered. Trump acts like he’s guilty in the Russia probe because he is – we don’t yet know exactly what of, but we know that its bad. Mike knows that only two things can prevent him from becoming President Pence: 1) Donald Trump believes he is no longer loyal and (somehow) manages to dump him, or 2) he becomes embroiled in one of the Trump scandals and goes down with the ship as part of a negotiated exit.

The first scenario is highly unlikely, but Pence is taking no chances. Pence is LOVED by Republicans in both houses, and they are almost universally anxious for the day when their standard bearer is an adult. So, even if Trump tried to move against him, the party would put a quick stop to any such plan. But Pence is looking to the 2020 Presidential election, and knows that he will need Trump voters to win. So, he’s playing the role of a faithful soldier. He will never be at the head of the dump Trump train, but he may secretly be its biggest booster.

The second scenario is where some danger lies for Pence. He may indeed be connected to the Russia thing – but we have yet to know the whole story. Assuming that he was minimally involved and preserves a degree of plausible deniability, his exposure should be limited. Republicans will do everything they can to give him the benefit of the doubt, so as long as they are in power, he’s likely safe.

Now we come to the central question: When do the Republicans make this happen? It is NOT a legal issue – its strictly a political calculation. Are they better off with President Trump or with President Pence? As the noose begins to tighten on Trump and his behavior becomes even more erratic and indefensible, the movement will gather steam.

So will Republicans dump Trump before the 2018 election? If so, they may retain one or both majorities. Or will they (as the Democrats hope) stick with Trump until they lose one or both Congressional majorities and numerous state majorities? If that happens, Trump will come under intense pressure and – like any bully who loses a fight – will quit during the lame duck session (and he will expect a pardon). Trump doesn’t really like being President, and he really won’t like it if he has to endure even one day of what will be endless Democratic-led congressional inquiries.

Either way, Trump will be gone by January 1, 2019. The only question is, what will be left of the mighty Republican Party once Mike Pence becomes its leader?

 

The Russians are Destroying the Republican Party

The primary goal of the Russian government in interfering with our election process is to sow discord and strife within the United States. But a secondary goal is to destroy the Republican Party and eliminate its history of belligerence towards Russia. The plan is working to perfection.

With the President as a willing co-conspirator, the Russians have completely changed the conversation about Russia within Republican circles. No longer is Russia the “Evil Empire” of Ronald Reagan, now Donald Trump will do anything he can to “get along with Russia” and refuses to fight back for America against Russian aggression. We know that Russia has been manipulating social media and thereby public opinion so as to promote Trump and his views since he began running for President. Its important to remember that they specifically picked him.

So how does this impact the rest of the Republican Party? For some time now, there has been a huge dilemma for elected GOP officials. For the most part, they see the oncoming train wreck of the Trump Presidency. They know that Mueller will soon demonstrate that the Trump campaign engaged in multiple crimes and that they should be doing everything they can to distance themselves from Trump. But they have been afraid to antagonize the legion of vociferous Trump supporters. So they have hidden their heads in the sand – neither defending or (other than a few who have eschewed re-election) criticizing the President and hoped for the best.

Elected Republicans have already shown that they have no moral compass, so we are wasting our time expecting them to behave in the best interests of the country. But we do expect that they will behave in ways that will maximize their re-election chances – which they normally do.

But now the Republicans have learned from Mueller’s February 16 indictments that some (most?) of the pro-Trump social media posts were actually from Russian nationals and were amplified by Russian-sponsored bots. So what are Republicans to do? Why should they follow the pro-Trump echo chamber if it isn’t real? Can they believe anything from Social media that is Pro-Trump?

The Republican Party has been, and continues to be manipulated by Russia into a collective suicide pact by supporting Trump. Its clear that Mueller is in the homestretch, and equally clear that his report will show that Trump is guilty of treasonous behavior. When the voters find out the truth, they will crucify all those who were in any way complicit. The party will be crushed and will split into multiple warring factions.

Every day that goes by with GOP following the Trump-Russia playbook is a day closer to the death of the Republican Party. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch.

 

Mueller’s Probe Will Soon End – and Libs Will be Bummed

The Mueller probe is in the home stretch. Given that he has been at it for 10 months, and seems to have completed all of his interviews (Trump will never be interviewed), its time for him to pull together all the pieces into a final report.

Like a blind man trying to understand the shape of an elephant, we know much of what Mueller has collected, but we don’t know what he knows. However, given the reams of documents, the testimony of multiple Trump campaign and administration associates that are cooperating, and the already documented facts (Don Jr.’s e-mails, etc.), we can make some certain deductions about what Mueller will unveil:

  1. The evidence will clearly show that the Trump family, along with multiple other campaign members has long been involved in money laundering with various Russian oligarchs and mobsters. This explains Trump’s refusal to release his Tax Returns, his Russian banking connection, and how the Russians initially exerted control over him.
  2. The evidence offered by Papadopoulos, Flynn, and now Gates, along with the Don Jr. e-mails and many other corroborating documents will show that the Trump organization did, in no uncertain terms, collaborate with the Russians to alter the course of the 2016 election. The efforts were probably initiated by the Russians, just as any blackmailer would draw a victim deeper into criminal behavior. But criminal behavior it is, and Mueller will prove it.
  3. The attempt to hide the criminal behavior will be shown by Mueller to be Obstruction of Justice. Unlike so many other political crimes, obstruction won’t be the biggest part of this case – but it will be fully documented via a solid set of facts.

This may not be a perfect representation of Mueller’s report, but its a minimum of what he has on Trump. Mueller will connect the dots to give us a photographic blueprint of the entire case. And Mueller has shown at every step that he has had more than anyone has expected, so the report will likely include additional items that are not yet known. But even if its just these three items, they will be damning.

So why would liberals be bummed over this turn of events? Because Mueller will be too cautious to issue the fourth, and most damning accusation – that of Treason.

Why does Trump refuse to impose congressionally mandated sanctions? Why does he believe Putin over his own Cabinet members? Why does he refuse to call out Russia for its meddling? The answer is obvious – because Putin controls Trump through blackmail. Trump is betraying the United States to an enemy power, because that enemy power has the power to destroy him. The only way to save our country is for us to destroy him before he can do any more harm.

The Mueller report is urgently needed. Then Congress MUST act immediately to remove Trump from power. Then we can deal with the rest of the mess.

 

 

FBI Bias and the Secret Memo

There has been much speculation about the FBI being biased against the President and the dangers this poses to the country. The House just voted to release a secret memo which purports to shed new light on the bias at the FBI. But we already know quite a bit about the bias that actually exists at the FBI.

Lets go back to a few weeks before the 2016 election. At the time (late October 2016), Hillary Clinton was beating Donald Trump by an average of six points in the composite polls. But by election day, that lead had evaporated, and most polls showed the race very close – although many of them still showed that Clinton would win. In the end Clinton won the popular vote, thanks to California, but Trump won the electoral vote and the presidency. But it was very close. Trump won four states by less than 1%, and Florida by 1.2%. Those few states propelled him to victory.

So what caused Hillary’s lead to evaporate over a two week period? On October 28, 2016, 12 days before the election, James Comey released a letter announcing that he was re-opening the investigation into Hillary’s e-mails. The reason given was to examine a batch of e-mails found on Anthony Weiner’s PC. It soon became obvious that this new investigation made no sense, given that all the e-mails on Weiner’s PC had already been among those that had been reviewed. Trump immediately pounced with accusations that Comey’s announcement showed that Hillary engaged in a treasonous act. Trump’s accusations, which were given widespread airplay on all networks, were not at all consistent with Comey’s letter. But Comey said nothing to refute what Trump was saying, so many people took Trump’s version as reality. For many voters, this reinforced the impression that Hillary was perpetually involved in shady/corrupt activities, an impression that the Republicans had spent years creating. Although Comey came back with an exoneration of Hillary on November 6, by that time Hillary’s lead was gone and on November 8, Trump was elected.

What Comey and the FBI knew, but the public did not, was that the FBI was also investigating the Trump campaign for the Russia activities. We don’t yet know that those investigations will prove that Trump engaged in collusion, but we do know that many members of his campaign were in continuous contact with Russians and that Don Jr. attempted collusion.

If Comey had either told the public that Trump’s campaign was also under investigation, OR would have not re-opened the investigation into Clinton under bogus circumstances, then Hillary would now be President.

As with every law enforcement agency in the country, the members of the FBI are primarily conservative by nature, and primarily Republicans in their politics. Any suggestion that the FBI is filled with liberals that must be purged is ridiculous. The pro-Trump bias of the FBI already exists, and was the reason for his election.

But there are still a large number of people who believe in Country over party in the FBI and Justice Department. The goal of the Trump people is not to purge the FBI of Democrats, but rather to purge those who believe in public service rather than service to the cult of Trump. The secret memo that is about to be released by the House shows Congress’s complicity in this process. We continue to move inexorably down the road to an authoritarian government in which the Justice Department becomes the President’s secret police.

Trump and the Republicans in Congress must be stopped. We, the people must vote for those who will uphold the laws of the United States. We must elect Democrats to majorities in both the House and Senate in 2018. If we fail, we may not get another chance.

 

 

America’s Future at Risk

We live in a world in which only the fittest will survive and prosper. This is a basic law of nature, and it applies to nations just the same as it applies to the creatures of the jungle.

America has, for the past 100+ years, been the strongest nation in the world, and all of us have prospered because of our position of strength. It didn’t happen all at once. A series of smart decisions, many of them made more than 50 years ago, all led to today’s position as the world’s one true superpower. But we live in dangerous times, and our long term position is at risk. While these risks may not impact anyone over 75, they will impact our children, and their children and so on down the generations. As adults, we must do our part to protect and preserve the viability of this country so that our children and grandchildren may thrive.

Lets talk for a bit about Risk Management. Risk Management is the science of identifying risks, prioritizing the most severe, and developing strategies to either avoid them or mitigate their impacts. This strategy is employed every day in business and by our military. But we never seem to apply it to the most important topic – the long term success of the United States.

So what are the biggest risks to the future of American greatness over the next 25-50 years? If you were to watch Fox News or read Breitbart, you’d think the biggest risks are radical Islam, immigration, and North Korea. Let’s examine the risks posed to the existence of the US by each of them.

Radical Islam (Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Taliban, etc.) clearly poses a threat to the lives of ordinary Americans. They have killed thousands of American civilians (mostly on September 11, 2001) over the past 20 or so years. But do they pose a threat to the American nation? Hardly. Taken collectively, they could never defeat even a small fraction of the mightiest military that the world has ever known. Nor do they have nuclear weaponry that can take out American cities and devastate  our economy. They have to be classified as a low-priority risk to the US.

Immigration is seen by some to pose a threat to our very way of life. But, as a nation of immigrants, those who are here have always been suspicious of the next group who are different. Just as there were fears of the papist Irish, the ignorant Slavs from Eastern Europe, and the orientals, now there are fears of Hispanics, Africans, and especially Moslems. Unchecked and completely unimpeded immigration would be a risk to the US. But we haven’t had that since 1924, and nobody is advocating such a thing. What we have had over the past 90 years is a slow but steady influx of new, dynamic, risk taking people who come to America because they believe this is the land of opportunity and freedom. And this level of immigration has been a good thing, revitalizing, renewing and continuing to diversify America in ways that are true to our core principles. This doesn’t mean that there are no casualties from immigration – of course there are. We need to address those issues and fix them. But controlled immigration is not a threat to the existence of the US – in fact it adds much more to the success of this country than it costs. As long as we keep doing basically what we’ve been doing since 1924, immigration is a low-priority (or maybe non-existent) risk to the US.

North Korea clearly does propose a real risk to the US. Given that is has nuclear weapons, ICBMs, and a stridently belligerent leader, a level of risk cannot be denied. But what is the level of risk? Can they destroy enough of America to bring about the collapse of our government or destruction of our economy? This answer is probably no for now, but possibly changes to yes in a few short years. So this is a risk. And although the past six Presidents have seen it as such, it has continued to grow from a small risk to a much greater risk. The Trump administration clearly recognizes the risk, but as of yet they do not seem to have developed a strategy to mitigate or avoid it. North Korea is a risk and should be a top concern.

But there are other risks to the future of America that the Trump Administration is ignoring. The biggest long term risks to the US are elimination of our free institutions, and climate change.

The government of a democratic nation by definition represents the will of the people. But what if outside forces can bend the will of the people without their knowledge, or worse yet, subvert the will of the people by manipulating elections. If that is the case, then the “democratic” nation is merely a puppet state of another nation. There is no question that, in 2016, Russia attempted to bend the will of the people through propaganda and subvert the will of the people by altering votes. And they succeeded. So now we have an administration, and numerous members of Congress who have been elected on the basis of Russian manipulation. And not surprisingly, they have no interest in investigating this issue or dosing anything from preventing it from happening again. This is a true threat to the independence of the United States. As Russia gets better and smarter at hacking and manipulating the electorate, Republicans do nothing, hoping that once again the Russians will back them. And when the President and his allies cast doubts upon the independent reporting of a free press, they are further playing into the hands of the Russians. These actions pose the greatest short-term threat to the independence of America.

Luckily, the foundational institutions of our democracy, the FBI, CIA, Justice system, and elections system, have great internal integrity due to the patriotism of their apolitical employees. But they are all under attack by Trump and his allies (knowingly or unknowingly) on behalf of the Russians. All Americans who believe in the independence of this nation must do their part to take back our democracy. At a minimum, they must vote – against those who want to destroy our independent free press, our independent judicial system, and our independent elections. They must vote against all Russian-backed candidates – which today means they must vote against Republicans. And all who can must do more to spread the word.

If we can overcome the short-term risk of Russian manipulation, then we must confront the long term risk to America, and to the planet from climate change. Climate change is real and we are feeling its initial impacts already. But much more is to come. Changes in weather patterns will lead to widespread droughts which will lead to widespread famine. Sea level rise will lead to coastal inundation which will cause massive displacement of people worldwide. These impacts will be exacerbated by overpopulation and destruction of the natural environment. While these impacts will be fall the hardest on those nations that have the least resources, there will be no escaping them in the US. It is imperative that our government focus all possible energy on developing long term strategies to both minimize the severity of climate change and to mitigate its impacts. This is the biggest threat to the future of America. We need to act as if we care.

Why Would We Let Sh**hole People In?

Lets move past the word that the President used, and get to the real topic – why do we want to let people from Africa, Haiti, or other such countries in to the United States? After all, they don’t share our likeness, our values, or our culture, and they might not share our Christian religion. They bring crime, drugs, and worse. This is a huge danger to the American way that we all hold so dear. The very essence of what America means is being threatened by the sh**hole people.

But what does it mean to be an American? Are we a nation of the best people from western Europe – the kinds of people that Trump and his supporters want?

The Colonial founders of the United States were of course largely British. But even they were a mix – of aristocrats and commoners, many of whom came over as indentured servants. And shortly after the founding of the country, immigration of lesser people began. Who were these lesser people? They were the dregs of Britain – the Welsh, Scots, Cornish, or others who were escaping from the crushing poverty of economically depressed (e.g. sh**hole) areas of Britain.

But worse were to come. The 1840’s saw mass migrations of two “subhuman” classes to America – the Irish and the Germans. Both groups were fleeing intolerable sh**hole conditions of poverty, starvation and oppression. Later in the 1800s, other undesirables of racially inferior quality immigrated from sh**hole areas such as Italy and Eastern Europe. Throughout these immigration cycles, each group of newcomers was derided which every bit as much vehemence as the most anti-immigrant Republican politician offers today. But, as there were no laws restricting immigration, (except from China), our ancestors came anyway.

What kind of people were they? Were they the most educated? The richest? the ones who passed the merit tests? Of course not – they were just the opposite. But what they lacked in power and wealth was more than made up for by the qualities they did possess: the energy, bravery, and fortitude to break away from their miserable sh**hole existence  and risk everything for a chance for a better life. It was only the people with those unmatched qualities that could have created the America of today.

So let’s be honest. Most of us are from countries that at the time, were sh**hole places. And America is a Great Nation because of that, not despite it. And if we are to continue in our greatness, we need to continue to encourage those who bring new vitality, new ideas, and new innovation to our land.

We can be ruled by our own fear, and decay into an isolationist, reactionary wasteland, unwilling to change and with our best years behind us. Is this what we want for our children? And for their children?

If we want to continue as the greatest nation on Earth, we need people from sh**hole countries – more than they need us. They are the key to our future. Our past tells us so.

Bannon’s New Plan

Steve Bannon is not stupid. So why did he say that the meeting taken by Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and a number of Russians was “unpatriotic” and “treasonous”? Bannon knows that Donald Trump is loyal first to his family (after himself of course) before anyone else, and that getting into a fight vs. the family would lead to Trump savaging him.  And it played out as Bannon expected – although Trump may have been a little bit harsher than Bannon had hoped.

The past 24 hours have seen a significant (and predictable) backlash against Bannon from the Trump camp and his supporters. Although many tea-party types have tried to avoid taking sides, the vast majority of those who have done so have sided with Trump.

What Steve Bannon did was no accident. Nor is he making apologies for anything he said. So what is Bannon’s plan? Its simple – he plans to be a survivor in the coming bloodbath so he can regain his former glory and power – with or without Trump.

Bannon knows what’s coming, and he’s trying to get ahead of it. He has a huge amount of power due to the fact that he wasn’t involved in the Russian skulduggery. He knows that large numbers of the Trump team are guilty of collusion/treason and that Robert Mueller will soon indict them. This certainly includes Flynn, Manafort, Don Jr., Kushner, and numerous small fry. The only unknowns are whether Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump will also be named. And when Mueller does indict, the evidence will be so thorough, so well documented, and so complete, that all but the most loyal Trumpians will have to get onboard.

Once this all comes about (and it may not be far away), Donald Trump will be damaged to the core. Nobody knows at this point whether his Presidency will survive. But either way, Steve Bannon will be OK. Either Trump will survive, in which case he will need an untainted senior advisor whom he trusts (re-enter Bannon), or he won’t survive, in which case Bannon goes back to playing his long game at Breitbart, reels in the disaffected Trump people, and waits for the next opportunity.

Either way he avoids going down with the ship. And his plan will probably work. But it will be messy.