Sunday, May 28, 2017

Upcoming Rallies in Visalia and Farmersville

Today I want to highlight three opportunities for activism in the Tulare County area.

The first is tomorrow, Monday, at the Farmersville Memorial Day Parade. Susanne Gundy is looking for people to participate and help carry the Democratic Party banner on the march route. Lineup for the parade is at the corner of Visalia Road and Farmersville Road. Participants should arrive by 9:15 AM and the parade will be over by 11:30. Farmersville is a strongly Democratic city, so marchers should enjoy a generally positive response from the citizenry. Call Susanne Gundy at (559) 368-9464 to let her know of your interest or for more information.

Every Tuesday South Valley Civic is holding a "Replace Devin Nunes" rally outside the congressman's office in Visalia at the corner of Main and Church. It goes from 11:30 to 12:30.

This Tuesday May 30 South Valley Civic will be demonstrating outside the Gropetti Automotive dealerships, where Nunes will be holding a fundraiser for his wealthy patrons. As is customary for him, these are virtually the only people among his constituents he ever associates with. Gather at the corner of Ben Maddox and Noble Avenues. The demonstration is scheduled to go from 5:00 to 6:30 PM.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Trump Convicts Himself by His Own Words

May 17, 2017 will be remembered as the day the investigation of Donald J. Trump got serious. Capping off an incredible eight days of increasingly explosive revelations and admissions, yesterday Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the appointment of a special prosecutor with wide-ranging powers to investigate all things Trump, Russia and any relevant obstructions of justice. In his message, Rosenstein wrote:
"What I have determined is that based upon the unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command." 
The need for this became clear when by admissions from his own mouth, the President told of his own interference, using his position at the head of that chain of command to try to put a halt to an investigation of which he could be a subject, the FBI investigation looking into Russian hacking of the 2016 US election and the possibility of complicity from within the Trump presidential campaign. Until quite recently I was reserving judgment on the impeachment question. Three weeks ago I was asked by conservative friends whether "like most of those liberals you think Trump ought to be impeached." My response was "No, I certainly feel that's a little premature." I'm not reserving judgment any longer. Trump has, in my view, convicted himself by his own words.

Trump can't even stick to his own lies. When he fired FBI Director James Comey his Administration was ready with a concocted story, spread by Press Secretary Sean Spicer, that the initiative came only after Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his Deputy Rod Rosenstein wrote letters to Trump castigating Comey's performance on the job and his handling of Secretary Clinton's email investigation last year and calling for his removal. Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Saunders said Trump "made the decision yesterday" and morale was at a low point in the FBI, whose agents had "lost confidence" in Comey. She said she had heard from "countless agents in the FBI" to this effect. Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe flatly rejected these assertions, saying they were "not accurate."

Trump blew this carefully constructed web of justificatory lies to pieces in a nationally broadcast interview with NBC News anchor Lester Holt. See the 13-minute interview here.
Trump admitted he had made the decision long before. He said he was going to fire Comey regardless of any recommendations. He admitted he had called Director Comey and asked if he were under investigation. He said he spoke with Comey at a private dinner at the White House and, in the context of Comey "wanting to keep his job" again pointedly asked if he were under investigation, the clear implication being that if he were, Comey's job might be in jeopardy. Trump said Comey assured him he was not being investigated, another assertion Acting Director McCabe has called "farcical." In the Holt interview Trump also let slip his real justification for the firing: that the Russian investigation is phony and must be stopped. By his own admission then, Trump told of the actions he took to short circuit an investigation of his own presidential campaign and his motives for doing so. These actions and the intents behind them constitute, in my judgment, a clear attempt to obstruct justice in this investigation. That is a crime and an impeachable offense.

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller was tabbed by Rosenstein as special counsel. Mueller served under both Presidents Bush and Obama, and is universally praised by Democrats and Republicans alike for his professionalism, honor, sense of justice and dedication to ethical principles. He will now conduct a thorough investigation with full power to issue subpoenas and bring indictments. He could even subpoena Trump's tax returns to determine ties to Russia, for instance. The highly public congressional committee investigations will continue. Mueller's inquiry will proceed out of sight of the television lights, but will, when it releases its findings, likely have more import. The presidency of Donald J. Trump is at stake, and if it falls it will be by Trump's own doing.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

China Ready to Eclipse U.S. Economically

China is well on its way to eclipsing the United States as the world's number one economic power. The U.S. remains the largest economy for now but the margin is shrinking and China's GDP will surpass America's within the next five years. Once that is in place it will inevitably follow that China will similarly become the number one diplomatic, strategic and military power as well. This is happening because China is following a brilliant strategy to expand its reach and capabilities and the U.S. is following a foolish strategy of retrenchment.

This link will take you to a New York Times article detailing the trillion-dollar international investment program China is currently implementing. It includes things like a $6 billion railroad project into Laos and the rest of Southeast Asia, a $46 billion investment into electrical generation in Pakistan, the construction of a brand new port in Greece, and roads across Russia into Europe. It has already bought hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland in Africa and Latin America. All these are calculated to produce profits, grow China's influence in these regions, tie their economies to China's and speed the import of resources from and the export of Chinese products and financial influence into the targeted areas.

This is the fruit of the capital amassed beginning forty years ago when China threw off its Maoist economic ideology and relentlessly enlarged ever since in positive trade balances earned as manufacturer to the world. First the profits were used to develop China and now the continued surpluses are being reinvested to refashion the world into the Chinese economic orbit. Comparisons to the American Marshall Plan initiative of the late 1940s and early 1950s are strongly valid. The U.S. is and for some time has been a timid, inward-looking, short-sighted player by comparison. It's afraid to do big things now. Even a single modest high speed rail project in California is hamstrung by nay-saying and fought every step of the way. "We can't afford it," they say. So progress, growth are forfeited and the baton is being passed, or rather seized, by China.

This is not because of currency manipulation or some other form of chicanery. It's because China is being smart and we are not. If you do not spend to invest, modernize and expand, you languish and get surpassed. The U.S. is making some progress in things like green energy, but falls woefully short of the massive strides China is making on all fronts. Twenty years from now, when the nations of the world are clearly turning the cold shoulder to the U.S. and cozying up to China the US citizenry still won't understand why and how this all happened. But those of us who are paying attention, if we're still around, will. And we will obnoxiously be saying "I told you so."

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Must Have a Special Prosecutor Now

Donald Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey today has the smell of a man afraid that the investigation into Russian influence in his campaign is getting too close for comfort. Trump's next move will be to appoint a lap dog to head the FBI with marching orders to bury the Russia investigation once and for all. In his firing statement Trump referenced a recommendation by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had to recuse himself from the Russia investigation when it became public he lied under oath at his confirmation hearing about his repeated meetings with the Russian ambassador.

This is highly reminiscent of Richard Nixon firing Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox in 1973. That was the last time a president axed a prosecutor who was investigating himself. Nixon's action set off a firestorm that only ended with his resignation in disgrace the following year. Americans concerned about Trump's increasingly clear turn toward authoritarianism must focus on demanding that congress appoint a non-political Special Prosecutor so that the real facts can finally be determined.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Dems Pummel Trump in First Budget Battle

Amazingly, Democrats more than held their own in the just-passed budget compromise that funds federal operations through the end of September. The self-proclaimed "world's greatest negotiator" got absolutely taken to the cleaners in his first budget test. Democratic congressional leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi released glowing statements on the deal while their Republican counterparts Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan were tellingly mum. As Bloomberg stated, "Overall, the compromise resembles more of an Obama Administration-era budget than a Trump one." The Washington Post details the specifics in an article titled, "Eight Ways Trump Got Rolled in His First Budget Negotiation." See the full WaPo story here. The telling factor was that Trump couldn't marshall unanimity from the Republican side and the GOP didn't want to have a government shutdown happen when they were in complete control of both Congress and the Presidency.

For example, Trump's promise to slash EPA by one-third amidst massive layoffs turned into merely a 1% cut with no personnel reductions. Obama's cancer "moon shot" got a $2 billion increase instead of the elimination Trump wanted. Trump didn't get his border wall. In fact, the legislation includes specific language preventing Homeland Security from spending any money on it. Planned Parenthood funding remains unscathed. Rather than $18 billion in domestic cuts, there is actually a net increase, even apart from the defense increase. On defense, even though Republicans have the White House and both Houses of Congress, Trump's call for a $30 billion military spending boost was reduced to $12.5 billion, with another $2.5 billion to come when and if the Administration produces a specific plan to defeat ISIS. Obamacare subsidies will continue to be paid. There is no crackdown on "sanctuary cities."

Trump has said he will sign the bill. Speaking of the legislative process in his own inimitable style, Trump said this on CBS's "Face the Nation:" "In many cases you're forced to make deals that are not the deal you'd make. You'd make a much different kind of deal. You're forced into situations that you hate to be forced into."

A tweet characterizing the bill might go something like this: "Trump world's greatest negotiator NOT. Instead VERY WEAK. Sad!!!!"