Monday/ Trump’s ‘Bottomless Pinocchio’ statements

From The Washington Post today: ‘The Fact Checker’ has evaluated false statements President Trump has made repeatedly and analyzed how often he reiterates them. The claims included here – which we’re calling “Bottomless Pinocchios” – are limited to ones that he has repeated 20 times and were rated as Three or Four Pinocchios by the Fact Checker.

  • The Trump tax cut was the biggest in history – Trump repeated some version of this claim 123 times
  • Overstating the size of U.S. trade deficits – Trump repeated some version of this claim 117 times
  • The U.S. economy has never been stronger – Trump repeated some version of this claim 99 times
  • Inflating our NATO spending – Trump repeated some version of this claim 87 times
  • The U.S. has started building the wall -Trump repeated some version of this claim 86 times
  • The U.S. has the loosest immigration laws in the world — thanks to Democrats – Trump repeated some version of this claim 52 times
  • Democrats colluded with Russia during the campaign – Trump repeated some version of this claim 42 times
  • The border wall will stop drug trafficking – Trump repeated some version of this claim 40 times
  • U.S. Steel is building many new plants – Trump repeated some version of this claim 37 times
  • The U.S. has spent $6 trillion (or more) on Middle East wars – Trump repeated some version of this claim 36 times
  • Thousands of MS-13 members have been removed from the country – Trump repeated some version of this claim 33 times
  • McCain’s vote was the only thing that blocked repeal of the Affordable Care Act – Trump repeated some version of this claim 30 times
  • Robert S. Mueller III is biased because of conflicts of interest – Trump repeated some version of this claim 30 times
  • Inflating gains from a 2017 trip to Saudi Arabia – Trump repeated some version of this claim 23 times

Saturday/ 2019, as a Star Wars opening crawl

A someone on Twitter says, this summary of Trump & his presidency heading into 2019, from the Washington Post (by Robert Costa and Philip Rucker), reads like a Star Wars opening crawl:
‘Facing the dawn of his third year in office and his bid for reelection, Trump is stepping into a political hailstorm. Democrats are preparing to seize control of the House in January with subpoena power to investigate corruption. Global markets are reeling from his trade war. The United States is isolated from its traditional partners. The investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III into Russian interference is intensifying. And court filings Friday in a separate federal case implicated Trump in a felony’.

‘Trump Wars’ The Year 2019. The Washington Post reporting as a Star Wars opening crawl. (I popped the text into a tool online that creates Star Wars opening crawls, with dramatic music in the background). Will we live in ‘interesting times’, as the old Chinese curse says?

Thursday/ more (really big) Trump lies exposed

Trump had lied for years about his dealings with the Russians, after his visit there in 2013 at the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. (Repeatedly saying ‘No business with the Russians’, ‘I have no connections to the Russians’).

Today, Michael Cohen (ex-Trump Right Hand Man & Fixer) pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about Trump’s connections to Russia. Cohen had in fact been negotiating with the Russians about the Trump Moscow Tower hotel all the way through June 2016.  Trump was already the Republican nominee for President at that time.

Also, from Buzzfeed News: President Trump’s company planned to give a $50 million penthouse at the proposed Trump Tower Moscow to Vladimir Putin, as the company negotiated the luxury real estate development during the 2016 campaign.

The point is that beside these shady business dealings (sanctioned Russian state bank VTB Bank was to finance Trump Tower), we also know the Russians had hacked the Clinton campaign’s e-mails, and that the Trump campaign & Don Jr met with them to discuss it in June 2016. The Russians exploited Facebook to interfere mightily with the 2016 presidential election. How extensive was Trump’s involvement and knowledge of all this?

Reporting from today’s New York Times. History might very well look back at April 2018 (when Michael Cohen’s home was raided by the FBI), as the start of Trump’s undoing as President.

Friday/ Brexit’s never-ending drama (that has to end March 29)

Cartoon from the Dutch newspaper ‘NRC Handelsblad’, titled ‘Eritreans in the Netherlands’. Says the Eritrean guy: ‘Brexit is especially difficult’. I think the joke is that the Eritrean guy has 100 other bigger things to worry about (as an immigrant), than Brexit. Brexit will be both good and bad for the Netherlands. Dutch people feel they will lose an ally in the Brits and will be ‘left alone’ with the German and the French, and trade relations with the UK will become more complicated. On the other hand, the port of Rotterdam, businesses and the economy might benefit from the UK leaving the EU.

It was a rough week for British Prime Minister Theresa May. She finally has a Brexit deal with the EU27 (European Union minus the UK), but now the hard-line Brexiteers in her own Conservative Party are revolting.  The deal has the UK stay in the European Union Customs Union, and parts of the single market. This way an international border and customs would not be needed between Ireland (Europe) and Northern Ireland (part of the UK).

The UK Parliament still has to approve the deal. Instead, the hard-liners are pushing for a no-deal Brexit. This ‘jumping over the cliff’ type of exit will have all kinds of economic and other repercussions.    Consumers, businesses and public bodies would have to respond immediately to changes as result of leaving the EU, and it’s unsure what controls will be put in place a the Ireland-Northern Ireland border.

What if Parliament does not approve the deal? Some say there may be a second referendum, then, already called the People’s Vote. (Pollsters say the Remain vote has shifted from 48% to 54% over the last 18 months).

Thursday/ a visit to the U-District

The No 48 bus makes for an easy run up to the University (of Washington) District for me, and I did that today. (The main draw there for me is the big university bookstore, and the smaller second-hand bookstores, as well).

In another two years or so, the new Light Rail train station right there will be completed, and then I can take the train instead. That would be great!

Even though these apartments on University Way are painted in pastel colors, they are still a little wild (I think). Cool ginkgo tree in front of it, leaves in yellow fall color. Ginkgo trees are living fossil plants: they are found in fossils dating back 270 million years. So they were dinosaur food.
Oh man .. I hope the author is wrong about the thesis of his book. Yes, we want another great president. How about a decent one, at least? (The author basically says being President of the United States has become too arduous a job, and that our expectations are too high. He also wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post in 2014 titled ‘Barack Obama, disappointer in chief’. Mr Miller! Distinguished scholar that you are, we would like your opinion of President Donald Trump, please. My opinion: catastrophic disaster in chief).
This dog-eared picture is in Magus Bookstore. The guy is Russian, I’m sure, I thought, and famous, but I did not know who he is. Google Images to the rescue: it’s playwright Anton Chekhov (born 1860-died 1904, much too young, at 44, from tuberculosis).
The beautiful entrance on 15th Ave NE, to the University Temple United Methodist Church. The building was completed in 1927.

Tuesday night/ got the House

The Democrats have taken back the House! Yes!
This is of monumental importance. The Speaker and the House Committee chairs are going to be Democrats. There will be a real check on Trump’s excesses and the appalling Republican legislation that have come out of Congress.  For the first time, there will be more than 100 women among the 435 House of Representatives.

The Republicans will retain the Senate. A bitter disappointment for Democrats in the Senate races, was that Texas star and El Paso native Beto O’Rourke’s inspiring campaign against incumbent Republican Texas senator Ted Cruz, came up short.

Monday/ tomorrow is almost here

Alright.  If 2016 was the Year of the Angry Older White Male in American politics, maybe 2018 is the Year of the Female College Graduate, says Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report. These suburban and younger women take a very dim view of our 45th president. (As do I).

The Democrats really need to win the House. Hopefully they will not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, like they did in 2016.
It is unlikely they will win the Senate.

There are also some very interesting gubernatorial (state governors) races. For my fellow citizens in red states (Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin): some free advice.
DO NOT vote for a Republican governor.
Republicans DO NOT CARE FOR PEOPLE, not even for you. 

Update Wed 11/7: The Dems got the house, but not the Senate. Michigan, Pennsylvania & Wisconsin voted in Democratic governors.

Katy Tur interviewing a die-hard Trump supporter. She says nothing has changed at these Trump rallies since 2016. Trump supporters don’t follow the news, or simply say: ‘Why is all the coverage so negative? We don’t believe it’. (Psst. The reporting on Trump is negative because what Trump does flies in the face of American values, democracy and decency).

Thursday/ all-out lies & propaganda

Five days to go before November 6, and Trump’s lies and propaganda are reaching a fever pitch.

1. Migrant caravans with Hondurans, Guatemalans, Salvadorans and Nicaraguans in Mexico, walking to the US border, are going to ‘invade’ the country. The Pentagon was told to ready as many as 15,000 troops to go to the Mexican border.
Fact: The threat is very small. Only a small percentage of the migrants will make it to the border, is the Pentagon’s assessment.

2. The Republican Party will protect our healthcare.
Fact: Twenty Republican governors are suing the Federal Government right now, seeking end to Obamacare. Trump supported the wholesale repeal of Obamacare.

3. Trump will reduce middle-income taxes by 10% before the midterm elections.
Fact: Congress is not even in session. A pipedream and laughable lie.

4. Trump will end birthright citizenship, presumably by executive order.
Fact: Pfft. Not going to happen. He will have to get Congress to overturn the 14th Amendment.

5. Trump warns of widespread voter fraud.
Fact: The only widespread voter fraud is that which is committed by Republican governors and legislators. They are working flat-out to prevent voters from minority groups and others that support Democrats, to vote. This is in addition to a long tradition of gerrymandering districts in many states.

A page from an unclassified document (but for official use only), that was leaked to Newsweek today. The U.S. Army projects that only a small percentage of the 7,000 migrants will actually reach the border. And those that do, will have done nothing illegal. That is how international amnesty laws work: you show up at the border IN PERSON, and apply for amnesty. These people are desperate and fleeing violence, misery and a drought that has caused major crop losses in Central America.

Tuesday/ the Facebook dilemma

I just watched the two episodes on the public television channel called ‘The Facebook Dilemma*’ – and did not find it reassuring.  Facebook has a long history of being too late to address disastrous uses of their platform: for hate speech, for spreading lies, for sowing distrust and division. Should anyone trust them again, ever?

*Facebook should be reinvented (run with different functionality & algorithms) or even be shut down, but it has become too big and powerful.

Congress – and the citizenry – have a responsibility as well. Do we care enough? Here’s former Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos: “We’ve had two years since the main part of the Russian attack against the 2016 election, and very little has been done as a country, as a government, to protect ourselves,” Stamos told FRONTLINE. “We have signaled to the rest of the world that interfering in our elections is something that we won’t really punish or react to.”

Is Facebook ready for the 2018 Midterm elections? The answer: Nobody really knows – nor does Facebook. Here’s the Facebook ‘War Room’ with the Facebook election team. The team will do real-time monitoring on election day, to monitor fake news stories and delete fake accounts. [Picture from Frontline at https://www.pbs.org]

Sunday

The official list of the victims killed in the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday:
Joyce Feinberg (75)
Richard Gottfried (65)
Rose Mallinger (97)
Jerry Rabinowitz (66)
Cecil Rosenthal (59)
David Rosenthal (54)
Bernice Simon (84)
Sylvan Simon (86)
Daniel Stein (71)
Melvin Wax (88)
Irving Younger (69)

Six people were injured, four of which were police.

Flags at half-staff on the White House and the Washington Monument.

Thursday/ don’t open that package

The count of pipe bombs sent to high-profile Democrats was up to 10 by Thursday. Authorities believe it is from the same person. The packages look similar and were sent from Florida. None of the devices has so far exploded. Investigators are trying to determine if the devices were even capable of detonating.

‘Fake mail bombs’, ‘a conspiracy from the left’ say right-wing conspiracy pushers & trolls on Twitter.  Trump blamed the mainstream media in a tweet. Nothing to do with his Democrats-are-the-mob speeches at rallies and his non-stop war with the media.

From the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC. It’s just a matter of time, then the FBI will find the sender, and lock him up for a long time. (Pretty sure it’s a him. It usually is). This is domestic terrorism.

Update Fri 10/26: Fervid Trump supporter Cesar Sayoc (56) was arrested outside a car-repair shop in the Miami area. He left a fingerprint from one of the bomb packages and DNA on two others. The van that he owned and drove around in, was festooned with delusional Trump propaganda on the windows, and pictures of his targets (Pres. Obama, Secretary Clinton, others) with gun scope crosshairs trained on them.

Tuesday/ ‘Yes’ for the carbon emissions fee

My Nov 6 ballot is in (we vote by mail in Washington State – no waiting in hours-long lines).  I voted ‘Yes’ for initiative I-1631 that proposes a carbon emissions fee. Starting in 2020, it would impose a $15 fee on large emitters of carbon, based on the carbon content of fossil fuels sold or used in the State, and electricity generated in, or imported, for use in the state.  The fee will increase by $2 increase each year until at least 2035.

Yes, it will raise gas prices and make homes more expensive to heat, and increase transportation costs. But at some point, someone needs to point the way to start to save what clean air we have left on the planet, and get serious about promoting clean energy.

As for every one the Republican candidates on my ballot: forget about it. Your party is grotesquely anti-democratic, and a lying, cheating, immoral scam of an outfit.

A sign here in my neighborhood in support of I-1631. It is the most expensive ballot initiative in Washington State’s history, because it threatens Big Oil’s Earth-destroying profit model. They have poured in $26 million to fight I-1631.

Friday/ what happened to Jamal Khashoggi?

‘The Greatest Stories from the Arabian Nights’: a childhood book that I have vivid memories of. Saudi society is difficult for outsiders to comprehend to this day. Saudi Arabia invaded Yemen in 2015 (with a coalition of other Arab states). The war has brought terrible suffering to Yemeni civilians (mass starvation), and is on-going. Osama bin Laden was a member of a wealthy Saudi family until 1994. And 15 of the 19 attackers on 9/11 in 2001, were Saudi Arabian nationals.

Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi (59) entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct 2, to obtain documents necessary to marry his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz.  He was not seen again after that.

Turkish authorities believed he was killed in the Consulate that same day. (He had often been critical of the Saudi government).

Was the killing ordered by someone in the Saudi government?
Will there be a ‘thorough, transparent, and timely investigation’ as promised by Saudi officials to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo?
Will there be ‘severe consequences’, as promised by President Trump?

The world is watching.

The front page of the Washington Post on Saturday. Says CNN Co-anchor Jim Sciutto on Twitter: ‘Having met Khashoggi, the idea of the 59-year-old bespectacled intellectual engaging in a physical fight with several intelligence agents is beyond the imagination’.

Thursday/ early voting has started

Early voting for the all-important Nov 6 midterm elections has started in many places. Some districts report that three times as many early voters have shown up so far, compared to the  2014 midterm elections.

That sounds good for the Democrats .. but in other places, Republican governors and their administrators are engaging in aggressive efforts to purge voter roles (remove voters that say, have not voted recently).  Let’s give a special shout-out to the United States Supreme Court with its recent 5-4 ruling in Hustad v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, that has enabled all of this.

In spite of all of this, I dearly hope that there is still going to be a Blue Wave that will put a brake on the destruction of our democracy, wrought by the Trump Administration.

Monday/ ‘better for the American people’

A landmark report from the United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change, is pointing to worsening food shortages and wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040.   There is also the set of  global goals for sustainable development, shown below.  (A sample: donate what you do not use | do not waste food, or water | vaccinate yourself & your family | call out sexist or racist language or behavior | recycle | bike, walk or use public transportation | plant a tree | avoid using plastic bags).

So we can all contribute, but powerful governments and corporations can have the biggest impact. The United States Federal Government with Trump at the helm is of course absolutely no help at all* (we will hopefully start to correct that in November, and get them out altogether in 2020). In the meantime, at least some State governments and cities are stepping up and the right thing.

*The State Dept: ‘We reiterate that the United States intends to withdraw from the Paris agreement at the earliest opportunity absent the identification of terms that are better for the American people’.  Really. ‘The American people’ .. they are not humans? And pray what planet will they live on in 2040? We will all be on Mars?

 

Friday/ the US Supreme Court: about to take a hit

After another week of national gnashing of the teeth, pulling of the hair and a fake FBI investigation, Senate Republicans are on now the brink of putting Judge Kavanaugh on the US Supreme Court, to join Clarence Thomas.

Trump’s nominee is opposed by 47% of the citizenry (41% in favor), by thousands of law professors, by a church council representing 40 million, by the American Civil Liberties Union, by the President of the Bar Association, by his own Yale Law School, by retired Justice Stevens, and by Human Rights Watch. The nomination is in violation of Title 18 U.S. Code § 1001 & 1621. This is a democracy at work?

It’s official. [From the New York Times homepage, Saturday]. The consequences of this confirmation will likely reverberate a long time in American politics. Writes David Faris in The Week: ‘The combination of bad faith and procedural manipulation by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his allies during this process is unlikely to ever be forgotten by any Democrat currently breathing air as a sentient adult’.

Sunday/ Vote ‘Em Out

So with September out the back door, it’s now only October between us and the important Nov 6. midterm elections here in the United States.

I see Beto O’Rourke (Democrat) had country music icon Willie Nelson (85) perform at one of his campaign rallies.  This is in deep-red Texas, to beat out sitting Senator Ted Cruz.  Nelson sang a ditty called Vote ‘Em Out.

Hopefully, scores of more young people have realized these last two years that they have to exercise their power at the ballot box.  In 2016, Hillary Clinton got 65 million votes and Donald Trump 62 million.  Another 100 million eligible voters in the country did not vote. Oy.

Headline & picture from a report on the news analysis site vox.com.

Thursday/ spare us your indignation

Kavanaugh in his emotional 50 minute opening address: ‘.. the Democrats will reap the whirlwind for decades to come’. Stephen Colbert (on the Late Show) to Kavanaugh (pointing with his finger at the camera): ‘Spare us your indignation, sir. This IS the whirlwind – and President Trump & the Republicans are responsible for it’.

There were fireworks and high drama at the Kavanaugh hearings today.

From the NYT Editorial Board: What a study in contrasts: Where Christine Blasey Ford was calm and dignified, Brett Kavanaugh was volatile and belligerent; where she was eager to respond fully to every questioner, and kept worrying whether she was being “helpful” enough, he was openly contemptuous of several senators; most important, where she was credible and unshakable at every point in her testimony, he was at some points evasive, and some of his answers strained credulity.

What I believe: Judge Kavanagh drank beer like a fish in high school & college, to the point that he blacked out.  Who knows how many times. Of course: he denied it; refused today to say how many beers are ‘too many’. He possibly assaulted Christine Blasey Ford, and forgot about it, or he now chooses to have forgotten about it.  He refuses to agree that the FBI (it’s standard procedure) should look into Ford’s claims. Ford is only one of three women accusing him of misconduct, and all want the FBI to investigate.  It does not add up for Kavanaugh.

Update Fri 9/28: There is going to be an FBI investigation into Ford’s claims, after all. They would have to work quickly: they only have one week.

Wednesday/ America’s ‘Himpathy*’ reckoning

*Himpathy: the inappropriate and disproportionate sympathy that powerful men often enjoy in cases of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, homicide and other misogynistic behavior. Kate Manne uses the word in an opinion piece in the NYT.

Thursday morning, all eyes will be on the hearing of Dr Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony and (Supreme Court nominee) Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony, before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington DC.