Thursday, February 28, 2019

Consider This – Congressional Investigations and the Art of the Deal

This was a week of wagging the dog. At least two major political issues took over much of the news – the visit of Trump to Vietnam where he met with Kim Jong Un of North Korea with the intent to continue talks of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and the testimony of Trump’s former attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen in front of the House Oversight Committee. Other items which had slightly less notice include the passing of a new firearms statute which closes loopholes regarding clearances prior to purchase and ownership of guns.

But the two biggest news items being the failure to make a deal with North Korea and the arguable success (or failure) of the testimony of a convicted liar. We can thank the major media outlets for this – news judgement comes from the different networks through discussion and decision by executive producers, news directors, and assignment editors, and it is these people who decide what the American people need to know today.

Even those of us writing a simple blog for commentary and opinion will write what we want, and pray that you, the reader, agree with our topic of choice… but I digress.

This is about the art of the (no) deal, and the veracity of a testimony.

Today we find Trump on his way back to the Whitehouse without any agreement – in fact, he is farther from any deal now than he purported to be after his first meeting last year with Kim Jong Un. There will be no stand-down or dismantling of the North Korean nuclear weapons program. And even the simplest of questions regarding the late Otto Warmbier’s treatment after his extended detention by North Korea. Warmbier had been touring that country and was convicted of theft in 2016, sentenced to 15 years of hard labor, then sent to the North Korean labor camps. For over a year, he had no contact with the outside world; if it weren’t for  U.S. State Department efforts to have him released and sent back to the states, he might have died over there. As it was, he came home in a coma and never recovered, passing away in 2017.

But Trump believes the claims of Kim Jong Un, that he had no knowledge of this issue or the treatment of an American citizen in his country’s prisons.

Meanwhile, back at the capitol, Trump’s former “yes man” Michael Cohen was coming clean before the representatives of the House Oversight Committee. Cohen spent a decade working as one of Trump’s attorneys, first as a private sector, real estate and contract lawyer, and then as Trump’s “fixer” during the campaign for President. Cohen admitted to being tasked with the verbal strong-arm tactics to keep potentially harmful information being leaked to the public – whether it was college transcripts and test scores or tell-all stories from one of Trump’s (alleged) many mistresses. Cohen was instrumental in the $130,000 payout to Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels) to prevent her story from being released prior to the 2016 election. During the public hearings on Wednesday, Cohen produced evidence of Trump’s involvement, including a copy of one of the checks Trump personally wrote to Cohen to reimburse the money paid out from Cohen’s personal accounts.

While the Democratic party as a whole might have an agenda to get back at Trump for costing their precious Hillary the election, this was not made obvious in the questioning during the broadcasted hearing. For the Republicans on the committee, however, they only attempted to undermine Cohen as a viable witness, and the underlying tone of their agenda was less in defending Trump (no one came out and openly spoke on behalf of him), and more an attempt to discredit Cohen’s veracity. Those who still support Trump consider this hearing just another extension of what Trump continues to call a witch hunt, and a failure by the Justice Department and the House Oversight Committee.

Consider This:

Cohen has nothing to lose by his testimony. He was already proven to have lied, this is true, and he is now disbarred and convicted of crimes for which he will spend a number of years behind bars to atone. However, by admitting the truth of his participation in the various questionable activities of the Trump family and Donald Trump himself, he can be remembered for coming forward when everyone else would not. His testimony provides much “food for thought” for The People, as well as potential evidence and other details which could bring further scrutiny into the Trump’s business dealings before and after “the Donald” took over the Oval Office. The questioning about various actions by Cohen on behalf of Trump, as well as those activities which Cohen witnessed Trump doing, goes a long way to establish the pattern of his behavior, and speaks to the integrity of Trump in all of his dealings in and out of the presidency.

Trump’s failed negotiations (even though he calls himself the “Great Negotiator”) tied with the admission by Cohen to the many shady business deals completed on behalf of Trump, speaks volumes to the lack of character, veracity, and qualification as a respected and respectable leader and international representative of The People and Our country. While this hearing is only the beginning, it should make people truly think about what is going on, and question everything themselves.

It is time for The People to act and take back this nation from the big business, corporate moguls. To truly make America great again, the People must be represented in a responsible manner by those elected to represent us, at ALL levels of the government – legislative and executive branches.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Consider This – State of the Union

After a 35-day standoff, shutting down the government, and the associated posturing between the legislative and executive branches at the federal level, the annual State of the Union Address was given earlier this week. And, of course, everyone is discussing it in detail now that all is said and done. From national media, to local talk shows, the analysis and posturing resumes between those for and against this administration.

There were certainly moments where there were appearances of bipartisan unity as Trump spoke about how successful the country was performing. From improving employment numbers to reducing crime rates and welfare dependencies, the hour-plus was spent attempting to promote the well-being of the nation, and how much good has happened in the past year. As per everything Trump does and says, the analysis afterwards showed the varying levels of “truthiness” in his talking points. Most came across as less than truthful – numbers inflated to appear higher than actually reported, taking credit for projects and programs which weren’t actually part of the Trump agenda – and, of course, the threat analysis of the southern border and nations overseas which doesn’t quite match up against what the intelligence community says.

Looking over the sea of colors attending – both skin tone and clothing – it was obvious there was a group standing out in solidarity against what the administration has tried to push up until now. A modern suffragette movement, the women in white joined together to represent the ideals of gender equality, a commitment to women’s rights and the agenda to promote these ideals in the coming legislative sessions. It was a striking difference from those surrounding them, something which sparked a lot of talk throughout the televised event.

Consider this – how good is the country, really?

This was not a “home run” speech. Some might consider it as such, since Trump asked for bipartisan support, but just as the applause towards him was an empty promise of support, so were his words an empty promise of compromise and negotiation. There was little mention of the shutdown, really, other than the threat of doing it again if there wasn’t a new spending bill in the next week. Likewise, Trump’s references to pending trade deals was a bit more forward thinking than actually occurring. His new “NAFTA” is more of a rehash of what was originally in place, with very little substantial change in its substance. And the agreement with the Chinese is even more smoke and mirrors than ever before.

The State of the Union was not viewed with as much enthusiasm – nor did it have the viewership on television or internet media – as others in previous years. Trump’s posturing did not take the wind out of the sails of his opposition. Instead, the knowing looks, nods, and smiles from the audience showed there is a building momentum against Trump now more than ever.

One thing that really stuck out to a lot of people was Trump’s claim that, “America will never be a socialist country.” Yet, ever since FDR’s “New Deal” efforts in the 1930s, this country has actually moved closer to being socialist than most people realize – or understand. We all need to understand what “socialism” actually means, and how it can vary under different government structures; most only understand what the simple term represents under Marxist ideals as defined in the books Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto. As with most ideas and ideals, they can evolve over time. The graphic currently circulating online (original source unknown) shows the three prevalent ideas of modern socialism:

While Marx’s original idea of Socialism has not become the successful ideology and incubation system of his ultimate goal of Communism, the two subsequent variations have certainly taken hold across the globe. Corporate Socialism as we have in this country, is currently holding onto its power due to the continuous gathering of wealth by the corporations and “one-percenters” – at the expense of the widening divide between the wealthy and working class. Also, their fear of the word “socialism” is what pushes that divide further, as most people still consider any socialist nation the enemy – with the failure of the USSR and continued strife in other dictatorial regimes which claim to be socialist being the catalyst for their fear-mongering. Democratic Socialism is the successful melding of a democratic, capitalist economy, with the social responsibility of a people-oriented, socialist society. It is that key word, “Democratic” which tends to be dropped from most conversations in order to scare others into maintaining the status quo of our current republic.

Arguments can go back and forth about how to govern, what to regulate, and where we should be heading, but it won’t solve the inherent issues faced by the country or the world.

Perhaps, instead of all of the unchecked corporate greed and political power currently in place, we should consider the change in dynamic to one of MA&PA – Morally Aware & Public Accountability. We need to be less concerned with amassing monetary wealth, hoarding it to excess, and more aware and accountable to the people of our communities, nation, and the world around us.

The End of a Chapter

  I sit here watching, waiting for her next breath. She sleeps more, her breathing slows, but there are still those moments of clarity where...