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TRUMP REPEALS CONSTITUTION! REPLACEMENT DETAILS TO FOLLOW…

On May 4, Donald Trump bussed the GOP Members of the House of Representatives to the White House, so they could all grandstand together, to celebrate the passage of the latest iteration of TrumpScam!  But, poor Trumpie, in his exuberance, forgot that there’s another House of Congress, the Senate; which, doesn’t have the large majority that the lower house enjoys!

As America has now come to realize, there are some GOPpers in the Senate—and wouldn’t you know that that includes three of the five Female Republicans, along with some of the Gentlemen—who most actually do have Hearts, Minds and Souls.  After never feeling comfortable in bringing any of the Senate attempts at TrumpScam to the Floor for a Vote, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had decided that it was time, to meet with the Democrats and update President Obama’s Affordable Health Care.

Not to take defeat lightly; however, although he merely sat on the sidelines and let the Leadership do the heavy-lifting, Donald Trump decided to hold a command performance, once again, Lunch with the GOP Senators at the White House.  But this time, Donald Trump—star of Surreality TV, Asininity and the Twitter World–“ordered” the Senate not to Recess until he has a TrumpScam Bill to sign.   Now, this is not one of Donald’s normal irrational comments; rather, in my opinion, that “order” is both a violation of his Oath-of-Office, and the U. S. Constitution!

Donald Trump should be knowledgeable of our Constitution; which, established a government “…of the People, by the People and for the People!”  And in it, our Forefathers established three branches of government:  the Legislative; the Executive and the Judiciary. This provides for a “System of Checks and Balances,” mostly between Congress and the President, with the Supreme Court acting as referee.

So Donald, the role of the Administrative is not to order or to intimidate, either the Congress or the Courts, as to what to do or how to do it!  If you do, you would certainly be usurping the duties and authorities of other co-equal branches of government, and you might possibly be subject to harsh civil or criminal penalties.  Either the Senate Majority Leader or the Attorney General should provide you guidance in this matter.  STOP IT!

NOTE:  As we know, just like the schoolyard bully, warnings don’t work with this Jackass.  The GOP must take action; but, how many times can we continue shouting that?

 

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WHO OR WHAT ARE WE FIGHTING IN THE MIDDLE EAST? WHY? WHAT DO WE HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH? AND WHEN WILL WE KNOW IF OR WHEN ITS OVER?

The First Rule of Warfare is to “Know Your Enemy!”  But, after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, George W. Bush declared a Global War on Terror.  So, what does that mean?  Have we been fighting a tactic: Terrorism?  Are we fighting for Good, versus Evil?  What exactly is IT?  Also, is the fight, against this uncertain opponent, limited to the Middle East, or might it be global in scope?  Unfortunately, as the “Coalition” was gearing-up to invade, George Bush waved the red flag—citing the Crusades.  How damn ignorant can one man have been?

Ever since those terrorist attacks, many in Washington have attempted to assign the role of our new invisible adversary to Islam.  Why didn’t Bush confront the Saudis, since 15 of the 19 terrorists were Saudi nationals?  By falsely accusing Global Islam to be our new Enemy, the Administration had enabled our real enemy to gain more strength, while America tilted at windmills!

Many of us in the more secular West have trouble understanding the role of Religion in other cultures.  Until approximately 1500 AD, Western Europe was considered to be somewhat of a cultural backwater, as compared go the Great Empires of the world.  The source of all power was universally thought to be the King, Caliph, Bishop, etc, who was believed to have received it from God.

Eventually, however, Europeans began to question the role of the Kings, as well as the Pope, as they also began to doubt that the Earth was the center of the universe.  As people began to think for themselves, an Intelligentsia evolved, which explored science, philosophy, geography, economics, etc.

As that transition occurred, Western Europe jumped ahead of the rest of the world in knowledge, in adventure, and in understanding how things worked.  So, while Europe had become more secular, the importance of Religion, however, had not changed among the other great civilizations of the world!

Muslims seem to have maintained a feeling of commonality with one another, around the world.  For instance, many of those who fought in Bosnia, Chechnya, and Croatia, toward the end of the Twentieth Century, have answered the call to Jihad in the Middle East. Similarly, Muslims from Asia, Australia, Europe and North America, joined-in as well. Accordingly, how do we fight something that we cannot define, nor do we even understand?

We hoist our arrogance on our Military; but, two major powers have not faced-off in battle since the middle of the last century.  Frankly, American GI’s are: too weighed-down by all of the high-tech firepower that they carry on their backs; the sometimes unreliable air cover; conflicting command structures; and the lack of loyalty, by local soldiers, for the general that we propped-up to head the country.  Meanwhile, the enemy can travel light, knows he has little that can disappoint him, and he can blend in with the populace; BUT…he is also fighting for a cause!

Rather than funding a large invading army, with firepower out the gazoo, we should focus a sizable portion of the State Department budget on devising vital parts of the cultural infrastructure, which is so lacking.  By helping build that missing support structure, out in the villages, America can eliminate the environment in which terrorist groups and religious extremists thrive.

For instance, three or four decades ago, much of South and Southeast Asia had been in a  situation similar to that of the current Middle East.  Poverty and illiteracy were rampant! Also, that part of Asia has considerably more Muslims than does the Middle East.  Through the transformation, perhaps following Japan’s lead, the local infrastructures began to change.  Education, industry, viable health care, a functioning economy, and the standard of living began to rise.   A better lifestyle goes a long way in combatting terrorism and extremism.  Also, preventing war is more cost-effective than waging it, and it saves lives!

NOTE:  For a much more in-depth explanation of how western Europe transformed, here is the comment on my Books That I  Recommend tab:  A great historical and scientific explanation of Who we are, Where we came from, and How we got here. The obvious idea is to understand our past in order to contemplate our future. Namely, what We, as a Species, will become in the future?

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VIVE LA FRANCE!

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“I HAD BEEN IN RUSSIAN ARMY INTELLIGENCE, BUT I WAS NOT A SPY!”

The titled words were offered by Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-born lobbyist who, along with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, and one other Russian, met with members of Donald Trump’s Campaign, on June 6, 2016.  In fact, establishing a secret Kremlin-Trump communications link was allegedly mentioned during the meeting, along wth the attorney providing “dirt” on Hillary.

Trump confidantes at that meeting included: Donald Trump, Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner and Campaign Manager Paul Manafort.  Ironically, Donald Trump began touting Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 missing Emails on June 9, just three days later.

This meeting has been reported, reprinted and denied ad nauseum; however, I wish to take exception with Mr. Akhmetshin’s response, assumably to a reporter’s question as to whether he had been in Soviet Intelligence.  It was a poorly worded question, a somewhat evasive answer was given, and a skilled journalist should have asked a follow-up question.

Back in the late (pre-Digital Age) 1960s, I also was in Army Intelligence, as were at least two readers of this blog.  I’m quite sure that none of us were spies.  Now, that was the US Army Security Agency.  But first, what is a spy?

There are two primary types of Military Intelligence: HUMINT, or Human Intelligence; and COMINT, or Communications Intelligence.  The National Security Agency, by the way, was established after WWII because the Army and Navy COMINT agencies preferred to compete with each other, rather than collaborate. (The Air Force and Marines were not separate military branches, as yet.)  Spies, per se, would fall into the HUMINT category.

James Bond, perhaps the most well-known spy, thanks to movies based on Ian Fleming’s novels, was merely for the box office.  Forget the Aston-Martin, beautiful women, and dinner jackets he wore at the Monte Carlo casinos.  Real spying is not flashy:  it includes gathering many bits and pieces of information—yes, thats Intel!—and then, connecting the dots.  That’s even how the real Ian Fleming did it, “back in the day!”

Let’s get back to the Q & A, between Rinat Akhmetshin and the unnamed reporter. The Trump-Russian Collusion Investigation is not based on HUMINT; rather, it’s about COMINT. Really Cyber-Intel, which might be handed-off to a new (if ever formed) Intel Agency, refers to Electronic Intel.  Tapping telephone lines, hacking Email and web sites, data subterfuge, fake news, and the like, surely don’t fall into the “Spy” category.  The person who is force-feeding false information onto an adversary, or collecting it from them, by accessing their computers, is usually sitting at a desk, thousands of miles away!

So, leave the spies alone; because they are a dying breed—becoming more obsolescent as I write this!

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REAL TAX REFORM IS MUCH OVERDUE! BUT, IT SHOULD BE LEFT TO A PROFESSIONAL BIPARTISAN COMMISSION, AND NOT TO POLITICIANS!

Donald Trump boasts that he will reform the Internal Revenue Code.  Our tax code was first codified about 100 years ago, is now some 17,000 pages and still growing; but, not all of our tax statutes have been included yet!  Previous changes and additions had political motivation, based on the ideology of whatever party was in power.  And thus, Tax Reform has truly become a political football; but, without any coherent agenda!

Real reform must be placed in the hands of a totally bipartisan Commission, composed of tax and other financial professionals.  The job at hand, however, could be compared to tearing down an old dilapidated building, and then starting from scratch.  The existing tax code is much too vital to the on-going functioning of our federal government to go on without it!  Therefore, the Tax-Reform Commission needs to be appointed for, let’s say, a ten-year term, and be subject to the oversight of a bipartisan Senate Tax-Reform Select Committee.

Such a Tax-Reform Commission, should be totally staffed and directed by professionals, who are knowledgeable in the functioning of the federal government.   Similarities to the operation of the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office easily come to mind.  The Leadership could be appointed by the (to be formed) Senate Select Committee, with the committee appointing replacement commission members, as needed.

The Commission should be expected to operate over, let’s say, a ten-year period, so as to: focus on the truly long-term nature of its mission, as well as to remove it from the regular political process.  Furthermore, the establishing legislation should include a provision for a subsequent commission to be appointed every several decades.

 

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DO THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF PLAY ANY ROLE IN THE PLANNING AND IMPLEMENTATION OF TRUMP’S MILITARY POLICY? DOES HE EVEN HAVE A PLAN?

Sure, this question might seem counter-intuitive, since Donald Trump has three generals (two retired and one active) in his Cabinet!  In fact, that might be a major cause of the problem!  But, let me take you through my scenario.

Donald relies on a very small group of trusted loyalists, basically his children, and his son-in-law.  Others seem to move into his orbit—like Steve Bannon, Paul Manafort, KellyAnne Conway, Jeff Sessions, etc.,—and then, just as quickly, they’re gone!

There are few Cabinet Officers who have any key staffers—Presidential Appointees—since only a few Deputy and Assistant Secretaries, throughout the entire Regime, have been Confirmed by the Senate.  Is there a hearing backlog or, perhaps, qualified people just don’t wish to Pledge their Loyalty to Trump?  Isn’t Country and the Constitution sufficient?  So, who can the Secretaries delegate responsibility to, or leave in charge when they’re away?

When President John F. Kennedy took the Presidential Oath of Office, in January of 1961, he brought-in a younger, highly educated group of key advisors—which he deemed the New Frontier—perhaps as compared to President Eisenhower’s Old Guard.  The Joint Chiefs of Staff, working with the bureaucracy of the Pentagon, and bogged-down in their intra-service rivalries, could not respond to Kennedy’s requests for ideas and plans as quickly as his analytically minded Cabinet cronies could!

In time, President Kennedy replaced the Old Guard at the JCS; however, the new, younger group of Chiefs had the same problems in providing the advice and planning, which the President had wanted.  Kennedy pal, Secretary of Defense, Robert S, McNamara became the intermediary, between the President and the Chiefs. Eventually, however, McNamara pushed the Chiefs off into irrelevance.  Then, when JFK re-activated retired general Maxwell Taylor, to be his Special Military Advisor, the Joint Chiefs were truly no longer even a consideration, other than for occasional public display.

After President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, in-coming President Lyndon B. Johnson, who was kept mostly in the dark on most policy issues as Vice President, maintained JFK’s Cabinet, and his small advisory braintrust.  The Joint Chiefs were again primarily just asked to identify potential targets in Vietnam, rather than to participate in any military planning.  In fact, President Johnson was so involved with the 1964 Election, and his signature Great Society Legislation, that he appeared to wish that Vietnam would just go away.

The small group, who advised both Presidents JFK and LBJ were mostly academics and intellectuals.  They could grasp comprehensive problems, and possessed all of the necessary tools to arrive at viable solutions.  Donald Trump, on the other hand, has seemed to prefer loyalty, rather than competence and, unfortunately, they seem to have lacked the critical thinking, and analytical skills for their jobs.

Additionally, Donald Trump lacks the necessary management skills required to make timely, and relevant executive decisions.  Just leaving the general administration to the apparatchiks, has merely led to disruption, and mixed communications.  Confusion has been evident, in regard to both domestic and foreign policy!

Why did he tap Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to threaten North Korea with a pre-emptive attack, rather than National Security Advisor (and active General) H. R. McMaster or Secretary of Defense James Mattis?  Similarly, why were neither of them present when he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, last week at the G-20 Summit?

Since Donald Trump seems to prefer his loyal group of trusted advisors, and appears to lacks any management skills in assigning tasks among his Cabinet Advisors, I doubt that the Joint Chiefs of Staff will ever have much, if any, input into his Military Agenda.  By having generals in his Cabinet, that gives the appearance of JCS involvement; but, that might be an incorrect assumption!  In fact, does Donald Trump even have a realistic Plan for any of the four wars currently going on in the Middle East?

Once Mattis and McMaster took the positions of Secretary and Advisor, respectively, in the Trump Cabinet, they began working at the pleasure of the President.  The soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen are no longer their constituency—but, that of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  But, shouldn’t they still be represented too?

NOTE:  Welcome to our readers in the Dominican Republic and Serbia!

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IF TRUMP INVOKES QUOTAS AND/OR TARIFFS TO PROTECT THE STEEL AND ALUMINUM INDUSTRIES, AMERICA AND THE WORLD WILL SUFFER!

Trade Protection was a major topic at the recent G-20 Summit, in Hamburg, Germany; along with Climate Change, and Immigration, were the primary concerns addressed by the leaders of the 20 largest economies.  The evils of Protectionism are widely-known, since it was one of the major causes of The Great Depression, in the 1930s.  Donald Trump, however, doesn’t seem to understand History and, for him, it’s just full steam ahead—regardless of the long-term implications!

Quotas and tariffs are generally the two major tools that nations use to overcome price advantages on foreign competitors’ imports.  Since the World Trade Organization was established in 1995, to regulate International Trade; however, the imposition of such protective measures has decreased.  But, most attendees at the G-20 Summit seemed genuinely fearful; because, the world’s largest economy—representing 25% of global GDP—is threatening to use protectionism against foreign steel and aluminum companies. Such actions, however, generally result in similar response from the targeted countries.

Before a country considers its various courses of action, it should analyze exactly why its products’ sales have weakened!  Are the problems incurred industry-wide, or just within one sub-sector?  Or only one company?  Are the products or services effected of some national security importance?  Have the companies impacted maintained industry technological and best practices standards in their production processes?  I seriously doubt that the Trump Regime had gone through such a thorough review process, before threatening quotas and/or tariffs?  That’s just not his style!

The purpose of the WTO is to diffuse any such disagreements, before trade wars erupt. And yes, when one nation fires the first volley, the other side normally retaliates. In many cases, such trade wars may spread, and the contagion might go global, as it did in the build-up to The Great Depression.  Recently, China and the European Union have taken the U. S. to the WTO, regarding these most recent protectionist threats!

Lately, the major American steel and aluminum corporations have been prodding Trump to follow-up on his various threats.  Do problems exist only in the major corporations within the two industries, the so-called “integrateds”, which function throughout the full range of products, or are the smaller, specialty companies having the same problems. These industries are not monoliths—and perhaps some companies are more or less technologically efficient, and up-to-date than others.

If foreign corporations are taking unfair advantage—using child or slave labor, or receiving government subsidies—such cases should be addressed by the WTO.  On the other hand, there are corporations who hide behind the government when they fail to maintain basic competitive standards.  It’s not the role of any government to fight corporate or industry battles, especially when the relevant corporations failed to invest in themselves, in order to enhance profitability!

Government surely should defend businesses and industries, when they are taken advantage of, but it should insure that the true problem(s) are not within the company’s or industry’s own control.  I can recall, back during the Reagan Administration, when quotas were imposed on foreign steel imports.  Subsequently, the domestic producers raised prices, just because they could!

When countries get into a Trade War–with quotas and tariffs flying in both directions–prices often rise in all nations involved.  Higher prices often cause consumer demand to decline, unemployment can ensue, and recession might be the end result–perhaps in all countries involved.  It is difficult for the respective governments take rational corrective action during a trade war, when the next round might be just around the corner!  So, hopefully these recent Protectionist threats are just one of Trump’s latest rants!

NOTE:  Welcome to Tola, in Nigeria!

 

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