Tag: Donald Trump

Russia, Putin, and the American Right

George S LedyardHow did a party, that still pays lip service to Ronald Reagan is the father of modern conservatism end up as the tool of Vladimir Putin’s Russia? Reagan spent his entire career fighting against Russian influence globally. In just a few years, his beloved party is now an apologist for Russian efforts in their own country domestically and around the world globally.

To understand all of this, one needs to see just how brilliant Vladimir Putin and his intelligence service have been. Historically, the old Soviet Union would launch covert ops designed to co-opt the left. Socialist groups, anti-Vietnam War groups, progressive journalists, pretty much anyone on the left that was anti-establishment could be targeted. They looked for sympathetic political allies.

In those days it was simply assumed that guys like Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, who had gotten a start in their political careers crafting their foreign polices with countering Russian influence around the globe as the central goal, were not easily influenced. So it was the lefties that got targeted for manipulation by Russian intelligence.

This was true all the way back to the very beginning of the Soviet state when the Comintern infiltrated every Russian emigre group, used lefty socialist student groups at universities to recruit spies, and so on.

The brilliance of Putin’s intelligence effort to influence US policy towards Russia is that he made the decision to target American Conservatives. Russians have a very sophisticated understanding of individual and political psychology. During their entire history since the Revolution, the field of psychology has been treated as a tool for maintaining state control.

Russian intelligence has realized that the main objection to Russia as a nation on the part of the US was it’s adherence to Godless Communism. Now, that any pretense of being a Communist country has been dropped, they have realized that as an autocratic, totalitarian state, there are many areas on confluence with the American right. Now that Putin’s Russia has embraced its Orthodox heritage and dropped notions of socialism and communism in favor of oligarchy in which a small group of fabulously wealthy individuals run the country, the American right has realized just how much they have in common with their former enemies.
 

Russian intelligence understands this. They know their history. Back in the 1930’s, it was the American right that toyed with Fascism as a perceived defense against the popular revolt of the unemployed working class. The American oligarchs, the Bushes, the Morgans, Duponts, Fords etc actually initiated a coup to overthrow President Roosevelt which never coalesced. Up until Pearl Harbor these people openly admired the Fascist leaders like Hitler in Europe in just the same way we see Donald Trump openly expressing admiration for Vladimir Putin.

Putin’s intelligence service recognized that Putin’s narrative of Russia as the Christian bulwark against the Asiatic menace of the Islamic hordes, their draconian anti-LGBT policies, even Putin’s strong man ability to crush media opposition all appeal to the American right and represented points of entry for targeting Russian influence efforts.

Really, what it comes down to is that the American right has a built in bias towards authoritarianism. Donald Trump is openly admiring of various strong men around the world. The GOP has been praising Vladimir Putin’s leadership.  All of this is the result of a twenty year campaign on the part of Russian intelligence to influence the American right.

They still do work the left. It’s fairly clear that the Russians used Jill Stein as a tool to split voters off of the Democratic Party and prevent at least a portion of progressive voters from unifying with the Clinton campaign after Bernie Sanders lost the nomination. This continues… `It is quite revealing to see that the pro-Russia narrative being pushed by many members of the far right is virtually identical to that of the far left radical progressives. But the Russians understand that the far left in the US is politically marginalized and has no actual political power.


As voters, we need to look at administration and Republican policy from the stand point of how it serves Russian policy objectives. Despite Putin’s courting of Donald Trump and other right wing figures, he is not a “friend” of America but a savvy adversary whose real interest in in creating division between the US and its European allies, damaging political unity on the US, and even damaging our essential confidence in our democratic institutions. We need to be very careful to see what is happening through this filter or we risk being manipulated into policies that damage the country in the long run.

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Will the GOP Be Forced to Work with the Democrats on Health Care?

George S LedyardFrom the article –
Second, McConnell will press the argument that if this bill does not pass, Republicans will have no choice but to negotiate over the future of the Affordable Care Act with Democrats. Multiple reports have said that McConnell has privately warned Republicans that failure would mean they must enter into talks with Democrats on ways to shore up the individual markets, which would effectively mean that a chance to pass a partisan repeal bill is gone.”
It is abundantly clear that the GOP has not wanted to work with Democrats on health care. They have seen this chance to dismantle big government programs and cut taxes as a unique opportunity. The battle has revealed fault lines in the GOP between the real ultra right libertarian extremists, who fundamentally don’t really believe that government should have any role at all in providing benefits and protections to private citizens and more traditional style Republican moderates who are willing to support some level of Federal involvement in health care.
While in theory, the GOP has total control of both houses of Congress, the ideological divide between the Tea Party, Koch brothers sponsored extremists, whose goal is to roll back government to pre-New Deal levels and the more traditional moderates is wider than that between the moderates and establishment Democrats.
The ACA, better known as Obama Care, was really a Heritage Foundation, conservative plan created in order to head off Liberal efforts to establish a single payer system. It was successfully put into place in Massachusetts under Governor Mitt Romney. In other words, this was a conservative plan, not some Liberal creation.
President Obama went with is plan, as did the Dems at the time, because they felt it was the best they could do. Anything closer to single payer seemed to be a non-starter at the time. So the ACA was passed with its supporters fully knowing that it had issues that they expected to address as they revealed themselves over time.
What they had not anticipated was the unrelenting, concerted, disinformation attack on the ACA by the GOP. Conservatives made opposition to the ACA the single most important element in their opposition to the entire Obama administration. Republicans met and determined that their strategy would be to block any and all efforts by the Obama administration to do anything. They wished to deny Obama anything that could be considered to be a win and to force him out of office after one term.
Of course that backfired completely and Obama successfully completed two terms. But GOP obstructionism made any tinkering with the ACA to fix apparent issues impossible. Instead, the GOP repeatedly and unsuccessfully tried to repeal the legislation as a way to play to their base. So they publicly excoriated Obama and the ACA while refusing to do anything that might improve it. Their hope was that it would implode and they could replace it with their own legislation.
But now those same Republicans are faced with putting their money where their mouths have been. It is abundantly clear that while they were great at criticizing the ACA for eight years, they didn’t actually have a plan in place that they could agree on to replace it. Their replacement plan floundered in the House and they finally were forced to kick the can down the line by passing a version they knew wouldn’t fly, hoping that the Senate would be able to fix it.
Mitch McConnell decided to minimize public outrage over their developing plan by appointing thirteen GOP Senators, all white males, to meet in closed session to draft the bill. No public hearings, no input from the opposition party, no input from women, no input from the minority community, and no input from the health care provider community.
Even many GOP Senators have been offended by this process, rightly feeling that they had been left out of the process and were being rushed to approve the plan that emerged without really understanding its implications.
Now that the Congressional Budget Office has released its analysis of the draft legislation, it has become apparent that the extremist libertarians in the Senate, the so-called Freedom Caucus, feel it does not go far enough to dismantle Federally supported health care. And the moderates, looking at benefit cuts, rising deductibles, drastic cuts to Medicaid, etc. which will devastate health care for the poor and raise costs dramatically for everyone else, in order to give a tax break to the top 1% are finding that they just can’t go there.
This is REALLY not about health care at all. It is the result on a 35+ year effort on the part of a group of extreme right wing billionaires, like the Koch brothers, to dismantle the Federal government. It’s not just health care they wish to dismantle. It is the entire Federal regulatory structure and involvement on providing the social safety net. Like the Democrats with the ACA, they see this legislation as just the first round. Their eventual goal isn’t just cutting Medicaid. It is dismantling both Medicaid and Medicare. It is the privatization of almost everything we currently view as public goods.
While these extremists have a serious power base within the GOP and have largely, through excellent organization and vast financial support from the radical point one percenter billionaires, like the Koch brothers and Robert Mercer, been able to drive the GOP agenda, they are not the majority. Most of the GOP are not the extreme ideologues that these people are. They are more opportunists. They’ve gone along with the extremists when it seemed politically expedient but now that they are seeing the public reaction to the health bill for instance, they are wavering in their support. And the true moderates, of whom there are still a few, are not willing to follow the extremists in their desire to dismantle government at the expense of their constituents.
The moderates concede that there is a legitimate role for Government in administering areas deemed public goods as well as providing some sort of regulation to protect clean air, clean water, the environment in general, etc. This places them closer to establishment Democrats than it does to the more right wing members of their party. This is a serious culture war in our country and it is reflected within the GOP itself.  Mitch McConnell was barely able to restrain a pro-Trump super pac from running attack ads on one of their own GOP Senators who was refusing to vote for the health care bill as it stands.
So, given the impasse that may result from this ideological battle which may just result in the inability of Mitch McConnell to enforce party discipline and pass the legislation, he has informed his GOP comrades that their failure will force them to do the unthinkable and reach across the aisle and work with the Democrats to keep the current system functioning. It would mean the defeat of the GOP promised efforts to repeal Obama Care and require them to do what they have refused to do, fix the broken elements of the current system.
And the Democratic Party they will be forced to deal with will be a newly energized group. The resistance effort that has been mobilized within the Dem community has actually reinvigorated talk of single payer, Medicare for all proposals. If the GOP is forced to accept a colossal fail on their repeal and replace effort, the reaction from the public may just push health care reform farther in the other direction than it has been. If the GOP is forced to deal with the Democrats, they will be negotiating with a Democratic party newly energized to go farther in expanding Federal coverage than has been the case to date.

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The Trump / GOP Budget – Compassion is Nowhere to Be Found

George S LedyardSomehow, in a country in which corporate profits are at an all time high, and wealth accumulation at the very top is greater than at ANY TIME IN HISTORY, Trump and the GOP are trying to sell a budget plan that essentially penalizes the poor.
Remember LBJ’s “war on poverty”? Well, this should be characterized as Donald Trump’s “war on the poor“. The obscenely wealthy, for some reason, seem to deserve getting vast sums cut from what they are paying while the poorest Americans lose some or all of the various programs on which they depend to get by.
Donald Trump war on the poor
Donald Trump’s War on the Poor
The wealthiest corporations maintain that they can’t compete. Well, they seem to have been able to do so just fine. Profits are at record levels. Executive compensation is at record levels and is drastically higher than in any other country, including an economic powerhouse like Germany.
The narrative being put fort by the GOP is that our businesses need to pay fewer taxes so that they can be EVEN MORE PROFITABLE. But none of this profit trickles down to the folks in the middle class. For twenty years, as the rich have become richer and richer, the middle class has essentially been in a recession. And forget the poor. They just sit there, year after year, generation after generation.
How did we as a nation get to the point at which we stand out among all of the most affluent countries in the world as the most hard-hearted, least compassionate? Being poor anywhere is really hard. But among developed countries, the US stands out as the country with the greatest resources that devotes the least to the citizens on the lower end of the scale.
We already imprison a larger proportion of our population that ANY other nation in the world. We have produced a system in which certain segments of the citizenry have been condemned to multi-generational poverty with little or no chance of escape.
Mitt Romney, 47%Mitt Romney’s famous 47% of the public that doesn’t pay Federal income taxes was initially put forward as an example of those folks sponging off the rest of us. But the fact is that they do not pay income tax because they do not earn enough money to do so. That’s almost one half of the country that is underemployed. They work but can’t make a real living wage. If you aren’t paying Federal income tax, you simply aren’t making enough to even cover the essentials.
Think about it. 47% of the populace isn’t making enough to pay income tax. Then we have the fact that over 20%, 50+ million citizens, are actually receiving some sort of public assistance. So, a fifth of the country needs help to just survive. Almost the bottom half of the country is making so little that they are right on the edge. The number one cause for personal bankruptcy in the United States is due to medical costs, something that doesn’t exist in ANY other nation.Poverty in AmericaAnd now, the GOP is proposing a budget that drastically cuts programs for the poor, increases their medical costs by cutting Medicaid, while cutting taxes dis-proportionally for the wealthiest Americans. This is based on the totally discredited notion of the trickle down theory.  If we just give the wealthy individuals and corporations back more money, economic growth will trickle down to the middle class and poor. BUT IT DOESN’T. It’s a myth, yet the GOP still bases it’s entire approach towards tax policy on an unfounded faith in this fiction.
Jeff Sessions, war on drugsTo top it all off, Jeff Sessions, is calling for a return to the draconian war on drugs that has filled our prisons. It has been shown, over and over, that once you put someone in to the criminal justice system, the chances of them ever moving out of poverty are about zero, unless you are Martha Stewart and started rich before you went in. Given the fact that in may states, the right to vote is lost with with a felony conviction, it’s east to see that this push for law and order is a thinly veiled form of voter suppression, especially since it effects people of color even more than anyone else. But it’s disastrous for the poor as a whole.
It is embarrassing and disheartening to see how much of our country has bought into a narrative that so completely lacks any compassion. It actively penalizes being poor while creating circumstances that guarantee that a huge segment of the country remains so. This is an unacceptable and appalling situation. And it can’t possible be sustainable. Something is going to give, probably sooner rather than later.
Poverty in America

The Jeff Sessions War on Drugs Revisited

George S LedyardWhat we now know as the “war on drugs” was begun back in the Nixon days as a means of quashing political opposition. His advisers agreed that they couldn’t make being a hippie or being Black illegal. But they could use the war on drugs to go after the anti-war and civil rights movement leaders and get them in jail.  CNN Article

Going on fifty years, the US incarcerates more of its citizens than any other nation in the world. The incarceration rates fall dis-proportionally on people of color (as predicted by the Nixon team).

Richard Nixon and advisers - war on drugs
The war on drugs is now a multi billion dollar industry. Huge anti-drug government institutions, private prisons, etc have created an inertia that makes the system resistant to change. But slowly we had started making moves towards changing things.
Under President Obama there had been a de-emphasis on drug enforcement against a minor drug like marijuana. The government even looked the other way as several states legalized the use of marijuana. The President had also moved to start closing the private prison structure, and many states had begun to look at our substance abuse problem more as a public health / mental health issue rather than a criminal issue.
Jeff Sessions war on drugsNow, we have an Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, about whom many had concerns based on a past history of racism. And what is the very first initiative this man attempts? Going back to the bad old days of the war on drugs, an effort that even conservative thinkers have declared to be ineffective at achieving it’s stated goals and has created more negative consequences to our society than benefits. Washington Post Article
Whether or not you think there is a connection between Sessions alleged racism, and his support for escalating the war on drugs, the single fact is that the war on drugs has been a disaster. It plays a major part on our inability to solve our wealth divide problem. It has condemned a substantial segment of our society to multi-generational poverty and the hidden costs to our nation are many times the overt costs.
We have to do what we can to resist the Jeff Sessions effort to reverse our progress in this are.

Trump and Afghanistan an Exercise in Hubris

George S LedyardEver been through a corporate reorganization? The new management comes in, inevitably a bunch of “type A” personalities, and absolutely believes that they will do a better job than the folks that came before them.
Employees from the old regime find their experience discounted and their influence marginalized. If one points out that some new proposal was tried before and didn’t work, the response is always, “Well, you guys just didn’t execute it properly”.

The GOP spent years criticizing Democratic administrations for what they saw as “nation building”. But after 9/11, George Bush not only committed the US to a full scale invasion of Afghanistan, but immediately set out to do nation building. This despite the reputation for Afghanistan as the “graveyard of empires”. It wasn’t that the dangers weren’t known… But the Bush team put out the word that no one was allowed to even utter the word “quagmire”. Yet quagmire it has become.

Afghanistan military invasion
A US soldier in front of the remains of ancient invaders, long gone.

No one in history has ever successfully invaded and occupied Afghanistan. Afghans could be seen as one of the most ornery cultures in the world. Historically, the only thing that unites this culture is a foreign enemy on its soil.
Barrack Obama inherited the Afghanistan war. Despite our best efforts, it has become clear that despite this being the longest war in US history, we are no closer to the goals we set down when we invaded then we were.
Now, with all the incredible arrogance we would expect from the Trump administration, we are reversing Obama’s attempts to disentangle us from this disaster. We are, in effect, jumping back into the “quagmire”. The fundamental assumption behind this effort is that the previous administration didn’t “do it right”.

MOAB Mother of all Bombs
Trump’s latest “bigger hammer”

Trump’s default setting is the “use a bigger hammer” approach to just about everything. He uses threats liberally and then, in order top not appear as a paper tiger, needs to back these threats up militarily. A man who used to wield economic leverage as a weapon to win in business now has the most powerful military in the world at his disposal. And the newly appointed gurus of national defense are certainly not inclined to tell their new boss that they can’t accomplish the “mission”.
Trump’s obsession with showing that he is a better leader than Barrack Obama is going to cost this nation dearly. He is simply incapable of following any direction his predecessor took unless pressured strongly by his advisers and fellow Republicans.

US military in Afghanistan
US forces in Afghanistan

So, it’s back into Afghanistan we go with increased boots on the ground. There is absolutely no evidence that this will accomplish anything over time. It didn’t work for the Maurya Empire of ancient India, Alexander the Great of Greece, Umar, an Arab Caliphate, Genghis Khan of Mongolia, Timur of Persia and Central Asia, the Mughal Empire of India, various Persian Empires, the British Empire, the Sikh Empire, the Soviet Union, or the United States to date.. The idea that Donald Trump is going to succeed when everyone else has failed is pure hubris.
Washington Post: U.S. poised to expand military effort against Taliban in Afghanistan

The Death of the GOP as a Functional Conservative Party

George S LedyardTraditional conservatives, the non-insane ones that aren’t racist Neo-Fascists, continue to be dismayed, not just about Trump and company but the lack of experienced leadership in the GOP in general.
This is still democratic system. The ability to negotiate, to compromise, to horse trade is how government of such a diverse population must work.
The Tea Party has sent a number of people to Congress who are religiously and ideologically motivated extremists who have no such ability.
Add to that a So-called President whose personal style would be better suited to a dictatorship. Trump and his minions seem to labor under the misconception that all that is required is for the Great Leader to publicly pronounce his support for a measure and Congress, at least the GOP portion should simply use their majority to pass it.
There is a difference between “conservatism” as a type of governing philosophy and what conservatism as an extreme right wing movement that is anti-government, isolationist, xenophobic and radically socially reactionary.
William F BuckleyBarry GoldwaterOld style conservatives were influenced by conservative “thinkers” like William F Buckley. They were represented in government by highly experienced men like Barry Goldwater and George H W Bush. These men represented a governing philosophy yes, but they also deeply believed in the democratic process. They knew how to work with the people on the other side of the aisle move the business of government forward.
LBJ and Sam Rayburn
LBJ and Sam Rayburn legendary legislators

There was a time when all politicians seemed to recognize that they really did represent all of their constituents. They had their agendas, the policies that they wished to put forward, but they knew that the end result would inevitably be a compromise and that was actually the way the system had been designed by the founding fathers. Skill in governance involved the ability to push ones agenda through the legislative process, to use ones experience, ones connections, ones negotiating skills to succeed in getting legislation passed.
The Freedom CaucusOver the course of the last eight years, we have seen a steady loss of both actual government experience with extremist Tea Party outsiders replacing establishment GOP candidates in Congress. One could see the result over the past eight years in which the GOP simply became the Party of “No”. Their philosophy of government has been to simply oppose anything and everything the other party supports.
Trump AdministrationThese same voters sent the least qualified and experienced President in US history to the Presidency. Trump is a President who has surrounded himself with advisers who have no government or legislative experience. Some are political extremists and some are merely billionaires whose interest is only in helping the wealth be wealthier. None are terribly interested in compromising with the other side.
So, the loss of real statesmen and the overall lack of real experience in the GOP has virtually destroyed the party as a party able to govern. With both the Presidency and the control of Congress, they are still unable to unite in order to pass important legislation. The administration’s radical agenda offends the fiscal conservatives and those moderates still left in the party. The move to compromise on issues offends the extremists in groups like the Freedom Caucus who refuse to budge on attempts to make extremist legislation more moderate.
The result is a party that was unified enough to put a President in the white house but has shown itself to be quite dis-unified and unable to functionally govern. We see traditional Conservatives like George F Will publicly leaving the party. We see the Trump administration governing through executive order, something for which Trump strongly criticized President Obama. The administration is becoming increasingly frustrated with Congressional inability to deliver and is showing more sympathy for totalitarian style leadership.
This blog from Sheila Kennedy is another take on this issue from a former Republican supporter who wonders where her party went.

Moderates and Normalizing Trump

George S LedyardFrom Fareed Zakaria via the Washington Post
“Liberals have to avoid Trump Derangement Syndrome. If Trump pursues a policy, it cannot axiomatically be wrong, evil and dangerous. In my case, I have been pretty tough on Trump. I attacked almost every policy he proposed during the campaign. Just before the election, I called him a “cancer on American democracy” and urged voters to reject him. But they didn’t. He is now president. I believe that my job is to evaluate his policies impartially and explain why, in my view, they are wise or not.”
This is an interesting take on Donald Trump’s Presidency and I think it points out the fundamental misunderstanding of proper roles under which many establishment media folks labor.
The question is often framed this way, “Do you want America to succeed or Trump to fail” . This often comes from the folks who actually voted for Trump. But you also hear it from establishment folks who are trying to be nice. moderate, reasonable types who want to appear to be impartial, like journalists.
They mis-frame the question right at the start. It isn’t that our choice is between the country failing because the President failed or it succeeding if he succeeds. From the standpoint of any moderate citizen, right or left of center, and certainly anyone farther to the left, Trump being “successful” as President is the death of the country as we have known it. It is the undoing of ever piece of progressive social legislation since the New Deal. It is the complete dismantling of 50 years of environmental protections. It is the return to complete freedom to discriminate based on race, nationality, sexual orientation, etc. It is the end of separation of church and state.
For our country to succeed, for it to continue to progress towards a just and sustainable society, Trump must fail and fail almost completely. Fareed Zacharia’s attempt’s at being an impartial journalist actually makes him complicit in the attempts by the President and his team to manipulate public opinion and distract from the on-going daily disaster that is the Trump administration.
I have no problem with Zacharia agreeing with a Trump decision which he thinks is a correct decision. But it’s how he frames that agreement that we are talking about here. When this otherwise disastrous President bombs Syria and you start to re-characterize him as being “Presidential” you are complicit with the efforts to “normalize” him.
You want to agree with the bombing decision? Then describe it for what it was, the disastrously unqualified President listening to his advisers for once. I know that some people like Zacharia work on the principle of rewarding good behavior… If you are going to hammer the President for most of what he’s doing, then you should tell him, and the nation, when he does something right. Maybe he’s trainable and will learn, over time, to do more “right” things.
The problem is that this is a bit like saying Benito was being “Duche-like” because he got he Italian trains running on time. Every horrid dictator manages to do something positive or he doesn’t last long. But they are still what they are… terrible men.
Trump is a self admitted serial sexual assaulter who is unrepentant and publicly defends others, like Bill O’Reilly who are doing the same thing. Trump is a bigot, a racist, and a serial teller of massive untruths. His hold on reality seems so tenuous that we doubt that he even knows all the time when he is telling an untruth.
Trump is inherently, fundamentally, and absolutely incapable of being “Presidential” regardless of whether he manages to make a decision or two that resemble intelligent decision making. The absolute best that this man is capable of, given his utter lack of credentials or preparation to be in the job, is that occasionally he listens to the most qualified of his advisers (and they certainly are not all qualified themselves) and let’s them implement a good decision or two. That is not, in any dimension of reality of which I am aware, not the picture of someone who is “Presidential”.
Trump at worst is a force that could destroy this country and even the world. At best he is a reality TV card board cut out version of a President. Donald Trump and the term “Presidential” is an oxymoron. And every time a journalist even hints that Trump might be coming around and becoming more “Presidential: they are simply colluding with the KellyAnne Conway / Sean Spicer public relations spin machine’s efforts to convince the rubes that Trump is competent and knows what he’s doing.
Zacharis stated that. “If Trump pursues a policy, it cannot axiomatically be wrong, evil and dangerous.”  That is true. It is Trump himself that is axiomatically wrong, evil, dangerous and un-Presidential. Individual decisions with which we agree to do in any way shape or form change who this man is and what his overall agenda is. Attempts to frame it otherwise is a form of  “collaboration” with the enemy and people like Fareed Zacharia should expect to hear from us when they do it/
We must resist and we must never normalize.
Original opinion piece

Domestic Politics “Trumps” Foreign Policy Positions

George S Ledyard“There’s no such thing as foreign policy, there is only domestic policy” – Justin Raimondo of AntiWar.com in an interview on NPR today.
In this case he was talking about Donald Trump’s recent bombing of Syria, ostensibly in response to Assad’s sarin gas attack on civilians. His take on it, and I think it makes sense, is that Trump is basically bombing Syria, in order to try to show the American people that he isn’t in bad with the Russians.
Cruise missiles SyriaInterestingly, the total flip flop from the Reagan era when the GOP was full of anti-Russian cold warriors and the Democrats, as the opposition party were obligated to oppose Reagan’s global anti Communist efforts, we now have a Republican administration which is clearly positively disposed towards Russia and an almost hysterically anti-Russian Democratic Party.Anti RussianThis creates the most amazing political conjunction. Many of the far left Progressives who supported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 campaign, seem far more focused on the perceived evils of the Democratic Party establishment, the so-called Neo-Liberals, than they are  with what the people on the ultra right are doing. So, we find these Progressives putting forth the same pro-Russia, anti-Democratic messages that the far right talk show hosts are putting out.
WikiLeaksThey question whether the Russians really did hack the DNC, they deny that the Russians intervened in the election to benefit Donald Trump, they are depicting the Syrian gas attack as a false flag operation designed to generate support for anti-Assad  forces and pressure the Russians to perhaps distance themselves from their ally.
Isn’t it rather insane that a group of people who share absolutely no agenda items in their vision of America with the GOP or the Tea Party radicals end up allied on foreign policy issues with Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin?
And the Democrats themselves, have so committed to the anti-Russian narrative that, when their arch enemy, the Great Satan, Donald Trump chooses to bomb Syria in order to convince people he isn’t in the pocket of the Russians, they end up praising his actions and actually assisting him in his attempts to appear more “Presidential”. It is actually the far right nationalists, who thought Trump was going to be an isolationist that are upset about the bombing and his flip flop on the US as a global policeman.
My point here is that the Syrian issue ends up highlighting just how irrational most folk’s foreign policy positions are. They have little or nothing to do with the realities of the political and military situation on the ground in Syria. Folks take their positions based on the interplay of political considerations here on the domestic scene.
Trump PutinTrump clearly has a serious Russian influence problem. So, he goes against his publicly stated stance as an isolationist, and bombs Syria in order to show he’s not in the pocket of the Russians. The Democrats who have suddenly become hyper anti-Russian (just since the election amazingly) have been using the Russian influence scandal to bludgeon Trump. So, when Trump actually does something that runs counter to Russia’s stated interests, the Dems end up helping to legitimize and normalize this man whom they strongly oppose. This of course totally validates Trump’s attempts at deflection.
Hillary Clinton Progressive OppositionThe far left Progressive fanatics are trying to create a movement to set up a third party. Their narrative is that the Democratic Party is compromised beyond repair. They want to split off Democratic Party support in order to grow support for their new party. This means that their major focus isn’t on resisting Trump or the Alt Right, it’s on opposing any and all Democratic efforts to appear to recover from the Hillary Clinton / DNC electoral loss. So, if the Democratic establishment is taking an anti-Russian stance in response to Trump’s clear pro-Russia agenda, the Progressives end up pursuing the same agenda as the Trump forces.
Can everyone see just how little this has anything at all due to historical, cultural, and political reality in Syria? While I am sure that in the intelligence and military communities there are educated people striving for fact based decision making. But if one is listening to the leaders of ANY of the different political factions, Tea Party, Republican, Democratic, Progressive, it doesn’t matter, you see their positions change with the wind, based on domestic political concerns and with little regard to educated and consistent foreign policy agendas.

Watergate and Its Relevance to the Trump Administration Scandals

George S LedyardFor those that are impatient to be rid of Donald Trump, it is good to remember that Watergate, the worst scandal in US history, took 26 months to unfold.
The Nixon people had a war with the journalistic establishment every bit as vicious as what we are seeing with Donald Trump and company.
Initially, the GOP attempted to shield the President but as more and more information came out, they hung him out to dry and began to distance themselves.
The importance of having an independent investigation in bringing Nixon to justice can’t be overestimated nor should the integrity of various members of his administration who refused to go along with his attempts to shut the investigation down.
Our current scandal isn’t just one of political evil doing… it’s about foreign influence over our electoral process, possible collusion with a foreign power by current members of our administration,and even potential penetration of the administration by Russian FSB agents.
I was in college when the Watergate scandal broke. I was quite the aficionado of all the details. I knew the names of all the Watergate burglars, the names of all the “Plumbers” inside the white house. Everyone in the country watched the Senate hearings presided over Sam Ervin. Every day more details emerged of just how much illegal activity has been occurring. It was stunning.
The biggest thing I came away with was the extent to which people will go when they are “true believers” in a cause. Nixon and comp[any really believed that everything they did was necessary and justified in order to protect the nation from Socialism at home, Communism abroad, and dissent from liberals, minorities, women, etc who didn’t understand the realities of world power politics.
These people had a “mission” and they believed that it was their job to save the rest of us, often from ourselves. The law was inconvenient and could justifiably be circumvented for the greater good, as determined by… themselves.
The similarities with today are too many to ignore. We have a sociopathic leader for whom truth is what currently suits him, surrounded by zealots. Some are religious zealots some are captains of capitalism once again saving us from creeping socialism. Some are single issue zealots on issues like abortion, others are big picture Global strategists in the East West culture wars fighting for the lest vestiges of white Eurocentric American culture. But the one thing that Trump’s people all have in common is that they are all “true believers”  in much the same mold as the old Nixon minions.
They all are on a “mission”, they all see themselves as important figures in turning back the forces of progressivism, of undoing just about every advance we have made since the New Deal in terms of the government role in protecting civil rights, providing the social safety net, and managing those areas we have deemed “public goods” such as clean air, drinkable water, workplace safety, safe food, and so on. Some are fighting what they see as the result of globalization which is diversity itself. They are “crusaders” for America first”. which really means white America first.
I bring this out as a way of understanding that for “true believers” there is seldom any behavior that is out of bounds in advancing the agenda. Couple that with the very real possibility that one or more of the administration figures may have been compromised by the Russian FSB and are compelled to do their bidding and one can see just how threatening the current situation is to our democracy. This is a crisis of the first order, potentially worse than the Watergate scandal.
Robert Redford has written a wonderful piece on Watergate and its relevance to what is happening now. Take a look, it’s a great piece of work.
45 Years After Watergate, The Truth is Again in Danger
Trump as Nixon and Watergate - Russian Hacking

The Health Insurance Debate

George S LedyardThe issue of health insurance in America should be a lot simpler than it’s made out to be. All the way back in the 1930’s our country made the decision to go a different way that every other major democratic nation by opting for an employer based health insurance system. This decision was entirely ideological in nature. Right wing opposition to anything that even hinted at the great bugaboo “Socialism” made it impossible for us to have a national health care system like every other major nation.
This decision made major problems with our health care in the US inevitable right from that moment. Our system virtually ensures that millions of citizens have no insurance whatever. First of all, there are the unemployed. No job, no insurance. Add to that, our massive number of “underemployed”. Congress rightly decided that small businesses couldn’t afford to provide insurance to their employees so they were exempted. Additionally, only full time workers generally received benefits so larger corp[orations used as many part time workers as was feasible to avoid paying benefits. The chronically “|underemployed” could be working two, even three part time jobs, just to pay the bills and receive zero benefits.

Eventually a patchwork system of work-arounds brought the number of uninsured down. Medicare covered the citizens over retirement age. Medicaid was set up at the state level to cover the poor who otherwise couldn’t afford to be covered. Of course this left large disparities between the states as to how well they took care of their poor.

So, even with the additional programs filling in some of the gaps, as many as 48 million citizens were still uninsured (a 2012 figure). These many millions tended to end up using the emergency care infrastructure for their basic health care which was, by far, the most expensive way to provide health care services. Additionally, we got to the point at which even for those who had coverage of some sort, many had plans that denied coverage for existing conditions, had huge deductibles which made it impossible for the unwell to afford to get care. The result was that under our system, the number one cause for personal bankruptcies in the US is medical costs.

So now, the Republicans are in power. They have steadfastly opposed the provisions of the ACA, also known as Obamacare, since it was passed. But the effort to repeal and replace the ACA is revealing an ideological divide on the right. The Trump / Ryan plan does a massive tax cut that goes mostly to the wealthiest Americans, puts up to 26 million people back into the ranks of the unemployed, pushes more costs onto the consumer and also places a heavier burden on the states, which probably do not have the tax base to fill in the void.

But, the repeal is running into problems, not from the outnumbered Democrats who appear to be 100% against the repeal on principle, but from the ultra right wing of the party. These folks are the radical “libertarian” wing known as the Freedom Caucus in the House. These people, if left completely to their own devices, would have almost no government role in health care at all.

health care reform, Ryancare, Trumpcare, uninsured

So, what the Republicans are struggling with is a choice between two plans, one of which screws the poor, the elderly, disadvantaged women, and so on and reduces the share the wealthiest pay to support the system and a complete devastation of the health care system that would pretty much screw everyone not able to afford his own insurance at free market rates. This is a fight that totally leaves out GOP moderates… It is between far right  Congressional representatives who wish to shrink the government role in providing health care but are mindful of voter back lash and are worried about pushing the effort so far that they get demolished in the 2018 mid-terms and the ultra right libertarian fanatics who simply do not care about the voters at all and see themselves as fighting for small government and maximum privatization, screw the folks who can’t afford it. These are the folks that see any and all government benefits as removing the incentives of the poor to get jobs and get to work.

In other words, Democrats may rejoice that the GOP is divided and this temporarily is delaying the repeal of the ACA, but the negotiations about how to compromise on the Trump / Ryan plan and get the Freedom Caucus people on board will not result in any improvement but rather result in a compromise plan that is even worse, if possible, than the original. It will result in tens of millions losing coverage, sky high deductibles, more excluded conditions, the middle class covering more of the costs relative to the super rich, and so on. It is an unmitigated disaster for health care in the US and will result in far higher medical costs for the country in the end.
Once again we see the Republican commitment to take from the poor and give to the rich fully revealed. It is a morally bankrupt effort and we as a country should be ashamed that this is the direction we are choosing to go.
Check out:
How We Ended Up with Employer Based Healthy Care

Five Charts Which Explain the Ryan Plan

House Vote to Repeal is Delayed