Friday, December 21, 2018


Trump’s biggest political allies are not pleased with him.

Congressional Republicans and Trump’s own administration are unhappy with his foreign policy. They’re unhappy with how he is handling year-end budget negotiations.

Their dissatisfaction is a problem for Trump. It has made a weak president weaker.

The resignation of Jim Mattis, the defense secretary, detailed his disagreements with the man who would be president he had served.

Mattis resisted Trump’s overtures to Russia and reined him in on torture. Mattis tried to protect American alliances as Trump undermined them.

In response, Trump has attacked NATO, befriended North Korea and Russia, criticized health care and Robert Mueller’s investigation.

The crucial moment for the Mueller investigation may require more congressional backbone than we’ve seen so far. No other recent president has had as many struggles with Congress, or as much dissatisfaction from inside his own administration.

And, Trump tweeted that he knew tech “better than anyone,” which made him a laughingstock on his favorite social media platform.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Swan Song?

On May 17, 1973, Senator Sam Ervin Jr. opened Senate hearings into the Watergate affair. “It is the constitutional duty of this committee to expeditiously investigate allegations that American democracy has been subverted and its foundations shaken."

On August 9, 1974, with bipartisan articles of impeachment hanging over him, Nixon resigned.

Trump has a very different experience. Republican control of Congress protected him from public exposure Nixon endured. Now that the Democrats have taken the House, the Trump administration will face a far-reaching, aggressive, and highly public investigations of the kind that brought down Nixon.

Robert Mueller’s investigation has picked off a few campaign aides and charged Russian operatives, but it has yet to breach the Oval Office. A Democrat-controlled Congress, however, will show less restraint when it comes to the president.

Congressional committees have power tools to used with only majority-party consent. Congress’s subpoena power—to compel the production of documents or the sworn testimony of witnesses is the biggest drill. That can produce anything from Trump’s unseen tax returns to public testimony from his staff and family. And. due to a 2015 rule change by House Republicans, some House committees can issue subpoenas on the authority of the chairperson alone (e.g. Oversight, Intelligence, and Foreign Affairs).

Congress can bring the results into public view. The Watergate hearings were instrumental in bringing down Nixon because they forced Republicans to contend with damning testimony from the president’s closest aides, broadcast in prime time. Once his approval among Republicans sank below 50, GOP congressmen joined "the impeachment effort."

Removing Trump from office before his term expires may require a loss of GOP support. Since Democrats today don’t control the Senate they will avoid a repeat of the Republicans’ botched impeachment of Bill Clinton.

What Democrats could do with hearings into the Trump campaign’s alleged Russian connections is shame him out of office. Except Trump has no shame!

Democrats in the House will not haul crucial witnesses up to Capitol Hill at the risk of interfering with Mueller’s cases. If Congress and Mueller cooperate, both stand to gain from parallel investigations.

Trump’s position may now be even more precarious than Nixon’s. Leaks from inside the White House suggest that Trump does not enjoy the confidence of officials in his own administration.

Trump has been likened to Nixon from the first day of his presidency.

Will the combination of Mueller and a blue House kick the bum out? Or has America changed so much that Trump can withstand allegations that, on his watch, "American democracy has been subverted and its very foundations shaken”? Wait, and see.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

***TREASON*** (?)

In the sentencing hearing for former national security adviser Michael Flynn, the presiding judge, Emmet Sullivan, denounced Flynn and argued that he might be guilty of treason.

Judge Sullivan now asking whether Flynn could have been charged with treason (!).
Van Grack (Flynn's defense lawyer) didn't answer.
Flynn was pleading guilty to making false statements to the FBI, special counsel Robert Mueller, and his team.

Treason, by contrast, is a capital crime.

It is possible that the judge was making a rhetorical point.

He was clearly outraged by Flynn’s conduct (“Arguably, this undermines everything this flag over here stands for!” he exclaimed).

There is a colloquial meaning of “treason,” in which it consists of betraying your country in favor of the interests of another country. Flynn took money from the Turkish government shortly before delaying an anti-ISIS military plan Turkey opposed.

“Lots of disloyal, dangerous behavior that amounts to a betrayal of the country can’t technically be prosecuted as treason,” UC Davis professor Carlton Larson wrote in an email. “Flynn’s behavior is a good example.”

Treason is defined within the Constitution, Article III, Section 3: . . . . . "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court. The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted."

Now, Michael Flynn is obviously not going to be prosecuted for treason. The claim that he provided aid and comfort to our enemies in some way (Judge Sullivan was specifically referencing to Flynn’s ties to Russia) is an interesting point - pointing at Trump.

Judge Sullivan also asked prosecutor Brandon Van Grack whether Flynn's conduct (promising to revisit/undo the sanctions that had just been imposed by the US in response to Russia's attack on the election) rised to the level of treason.

Treason is a very limited crime. It’s rarely prosecuted outside of wartime.

Besides, the Trumps have other issues - in spades!

Monday, December 17, 2018

Pattern Recognition

Pattern recognition is considered a "higher-order' intelligence. Not everyone has it.

So computers are sometimes used to parse out the patterns.

We can also play with patterns - misplace things for a visual pun.

An abnormal number of departures does not fit a pattern.

On the other hand, obvious patterns such as "witch hunt" or "HOAX" are easily detected. Intelligent people do not take these as a Mantra. A mantra is a sequence of words or syllables that are chanted, usually repetitively by devotees.

Anyone who has recently taught elementary school will estimate the "ability group" of the above tweeter.

The Dow closed at 19,827.25 on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2017.

Trump claimed to have 'a strong stock market performance' often since he took office.

He doesn’t talk about it as much as he used to.