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Sunday, April 23, 2017

TRUMP DIARIES: WEEK 13 

 




LITTLE FINGERS & BIG EGOS

91 Days of Trump

By Jack Random


The twelfth week of Trump’s rule was notable for his turn to militarism as well as the total abandonment of campaign promises.  Trump returned to Florida for Easter weekend and no doubt another round of golf.  His twitter feed went strangely silent.  One rumor says we are going to war with North Korea. 

I don’t think so.  Trump got what he wanted out of dropping missiles on Syria and a big bomb in Afghanistan.  He is posturing like a fighting cock with his chest out and his feathers primed.  He is enjoying the respect and media fawning he gets from being “strong” and tempting fate.  He is acting a lot like the little dictator in Pyongyang. 

The media has spent much of its time chronicling Trump’s reversals:  China does not manipulate its currency after all.  President Xi Jinping is Trump’s new best buddy.  His policy of non-intervention in Syria is dead.  He now apparently favors regime change.  He has forgotten about NAFTA and CAFTA.  To the extent he thinks about trade policy at all, he now favors renegotiation over repeal.  He once promised to fire Janet Yellen as chair of the Federal Reserve.  Now he likes her.  On and on, Trump is the ultimate pragmatist or an extreme panderer.  We have no idea what operates beneath the curtain of his coifed exterior.  We do know that he is not to be trusted. 

This is the thirteenth installment of the Trump Diaries. 

DAY 85:  STORM CLOUDS OVER PYONGYANG
April 14, 2017

With a US naval strike force heading to the coast of North Korea, a US military exercise with South Korea and North Korea providing a display of their most powerful weapons, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warns both sides that they are drifting toward military conflict.  He describes the situation as “storm clouds” over the Korean peninsula. 

Head of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt advocates leaving the Paris agreement on climate change.  The White House is surprisingly divided on the issue with the recently demoted Steve Bannon on one side and Jared Kushner on the other.  The biggest surprise is that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his former company Exxon-Mobil support remaining in the accord. 

DAY 86:  TAX PROTESTS
April 15, 2017 

Thousands of protestors take to the streets in an estimated 150 cities across America to demand that our president release his tax returns.  Trump is the first president since Richard Nixon not to do so.  We all know how it turned out for Tricky Dick, who won the 1972 presidential election by one of the greatest Electoral College margins in history.  How will it turn out for Donald J. Trump? 

Vice president Mike Pence heads to South Korea as the president remains hunkered down in Mar-a-Lago.  Would the president approve a shock and awe attack on Pyongyang while Pence is in the neighborhood? 

A failed missile launch by North Korea leads to speculation that the US sabotaged the effort.  My question:  If they did, did they let Trump know about it?  

DAY 87:  EASTER SUNDAY
April 16, 2017

Trump tweets his conviction founded in the universe of alternative facts that the Saturday tax protesters were paid.  Now that’s a job I’d like to get: getting paid to march in protest!  We could end homelessness overnight.  Where do we sign up?  Happy Easter! 

The Washington Post reports that immigration arrests rose nearly 33 percent in the first weeks of the Trump administration.  Contrary to his expressed policy the arrests have not focused on immigrants with criminal records: 5,441 of 21,362 arrests involved individuals without criminal records. [1] An internal Homeland Security memo suggests they are mobilizing to create a national deportation force, including expanded detention facilities and lowered standards for recruiting 5,000 new ICE and Border Patrol agents.

Anyone who thought Trump would soften his stance on immigration – considering the acute labor shortages in agriculture and service fields – is dead wrong.  Trump and his attorney general intend to deport as many as they can as fast as they can and they want to spend a lot of money doing it. 

The mass deportation is coming and it will create a massive new police apparatus.  It will also trigger a massive resistance and feed an underground economy. 

DAY 88:  LITTLE FINGERS AND BIG EGOS
April 17, 2017

Vice foreign minister Han Song-Ryol informs British Broadcasting that North Korea will continue to test missile technology on a “weekly, monthly and yearly basis.” [2]

Vice president Pence warns the North Koreans “not to test” the commander’s resolve.  Hasn’t the VP heard Trump has no resolve?  He has yielded military decisions to the generals.  He loves the generals.  Civilian control of the military is an overrated and outdated concept – like representative democracy or separation of church and state. 

The pissing contest between the little dictator and the man with little hands (actually little fingers; his hands are fairly large) goes on unabated.  It is developing into a classic game of chicken with literally millions of lives in the balance.  I have to ask those who supported Trump in his march to the White House:  How do you feel about the future of the planet – or at least the planet’s ability to sustain human and animal life – being in those large hands with little fingers?  Is this the gamble you wanted to take?  Is this the message you wanted to drive home to a government that has ignored your welfare for as long as we can remember?  Was it worth it?  Will it still be worth it if Trump drops the big one?  Do you still believe he’s a rational businessman? 

Trump has already yielded control of the military to the generals.  Do the generals want another crack at victory on the Korean peninsula?  Are we counting on China to rescue the world from global catastrophe?  Roll the dice and take your chances.  No one voted for the generals.  And no one voted for war.  I seem to recall a candidate who condemned the warmongering politicians and promised to extract us from stupid wars. 

A Gallup poll reveals that only 45% of the people believe Trump keeps his word.  The number is down from 62% in February.  His daily approval rating is up two points to 41 percent. [3] It seems Trump has to keep bombing people to bolster his support – a dangerous phenomenon for a man who so wants to be liked. 

Trump calls to congratulate Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his success in the recent referendum transforming Turkey into a dictatorship.  The contested referendum abolishes the office of Prime Minister and grants Erdogan final approval of nominees for parliament.  The vote was conducted under a state of emergency with thousands detained in the wake of a failed coup last summer. 

Trump has a vested interest in Turkey:  Trump Towers in Istanbul was completed in 2012.  The ceremony was presided over by then Prime Minister Erdogan. [4] It does not bode well for the Kurds – our strongest ally in Iraq and Syria but Turkey’s mortal enemy. 

The president also has a Trump Tower in the Philippines, where strongman president Rodrigo Duterte is committing his version of genocide under the name of a war on drugs.  In 2015 Duterte promised to kill up to 100,000 people to eradicate the drug problem and compared himself to Hitler. [5] Duterte has expressed admiration for the American president and told reporters that Trump told him in a December phone conversation that he was going about his drug war “the right way.” [6] If the “right way” is extrajudicial assassination let us hope Trump never gets the authoritarian power he seems to admire in other nations. 

DAY 89:  THE LOST ARMADA
April 18, 2017

Those fighting ships that were heading to the Sea of Japan off the coast of Korea – the ones described as an armada by our president – were never headed there after all.  Was it miscommunication?  Was it a bluff?  Has our president completely lost touch with the military?  Or was it a fleet of Spanish ghost ships from the sixteenth century?  No one seems to know. 

Trump signs what he calls a “Buy American and Hire American” executive decree that makes modest changes in the hiring of highly skilled foreign workers.  Like his stipulation that the Dakota and Keystone oil pipelines use American steel, it turns out to be little more than lip service.  They will not use American steel.  It was just a talking point.  Buy and hire American is more of the same. 

Trump targets Georgia congressional candidate Jon Ossoff and takes credit when the Democrat falls short of winning the special election outright.  Ossoff will face Republican Karen Handel in a June runoff. 

DAY 90:  KILLING THE DREAM & TILLERSON’S PAYBACK
April 19, 2017

On February 17, 23-year-old Juan Manuel Montes became the first dreamer under the protection of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) to be deported by the Trump administration.  DACA was implemented by the Obama administration to protect immigrants who entered the nation as children and who have since led law-abiding lives. 

Immigrant groups rightly fear the beginning of mass deportations without regard for family bonds or humanitarian interests.  Many of the immigrants who arrived as children have no family or community ties in their nations of origin. 

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina joins the hypocrisy parade, pledging his undying devotion – formerly reserved for Senator John McCain – to the president.  Said Graham on Fox & Friends:  “We have got a president and a security team that I’ve been dreaming of for eight years.” 

This from the man who led the Never Trump movement and refused to endorse the Republican nominee for president.  All it took was 59 Tomahawk missiles and the Mother of All Bombs to turn on Graham’s love light. 

Bill O’Reilly is out at Fox News.  Fellow woman groper Trump has said he doesn’t think O’Reilly did anything wrong.  Of course you don’t, Donald.  You can get away with anything when you’re rich and famous. 

Exxon Mobil applies to the Treasury Department for a waiver to the sanctions that blocked former CEO and current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s deal with Russian oil giant Rosneft. [7] Is this the payback both Putin and Tillerson expected when they made the Donald king?  That it comes only ninety days into Trump’s reign is an indication of their collective arrogance. 

The Trump people do not believe they will be held accountable for anything: corruption, cronyism, conflict-of-interest, tax evasion or collusion to defraud an election.  They believe Russia Gate is a done deal.  The president can get away with pretty much anything he wants to do as long as he’s willing to drop a few bombs and toe the party line.  Out goes Bannon and friends; in come Kushner and the Wall Street Crowd. 

We’ll hear no more of “deconstructing the administrative state.”  We’ll get tax reform and budget cuts and military adventurism. 

Lindsey Graham joins the party but John McCain steps back, tweeting in response the Wall Street Journal’s story:  Are they crazy? 

Yes, they are, senator.  Crazy like a fox.  Billions upon billions are in the balance – an estimated half a trillion.  If Putin can swing the Arctic deal with Exxon, he would buy a few more years for the stumbling Russian economy. 

DAY 91:  NO MAN IS AN ISLAND
April 20, 2017

The day speaks for itself.  A new CBS poll finds that 61% favor legalization and an even greater number support medical use of cannabis.  Unfortunately, our antebellum attorney general Jeff Sessions is not among the majority. 

Sessions tells a rightwing talk show he is amazed that “a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific” can block the actions of the president.  He was referring to U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson of Hawaii with equal amounts of contempt for the judiciary and the state of Hawaii. 

The Department of Justice is preparing to indict WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange despite his assistance in putting Trump in the White House and Sessions in the attorney general’s office.  “I love WikiLeaks” used to be a virtual campaign slogan. 

Trump issues an executive order calling for a study of the problem of dumping on the American steel industry.  That’s like a study to determine if smoking cannabis is related to a feeling of euphoria.  He doesn’t mention China – his new best friend – but he has plenty of venom for the Canadian dairy and lumber industries. 

China is on alert and preparing contingencies in the event war breaks out between America and North Korea. 

Secretary of State Tillerson notifies Speaker of the House Paul Ryan that Iran is complying with the agreement not to develop nuclear weapons.  Had the Trump administration refused to certify compliance, Obama’s five-nation deal with Iran – a deal Trump called the worst ever – would have collapsed. 

Clearly, there is nothing Trump the candidate said that Trump the president stands by.  His entire presidency is some kind of charade, a display of smoke and mirrors, a two-bit magic act or a carnival trick show.  Look as hard and long as you like, there is nothing there.  He stands for nothing, envisions nothing, understands nothing and hopes for nothing. In the thirteenth week of his presidency, he is trying to run the clock out. 

Trump swears that his healthcare program is still alive despite the collective groan emanating from the halls of congress.  He swears they’ll bring it up again and maybe they will.  They have nothing else.  They can’t push through tax reform, infrastructure spending or immigration reform.  Trump has no legislative agenda.  He expected Paul Ryan to provide one for him but Ryan wants nothing to do with Trump. 

We are witnessing a presidency that practices incompetence on a level never before experienced.  We have had incompetent presidents but this is a president who doesn’t want the office.  Trump wanted to win the White House but he didn’t want to run it.  He has no clue how to operate government.  He has no idea what to do next.  He knows he’s in over his head.  He just wants to play golf and dream of happier times when he was a billionaire alone in his tower, groping women and boasting about what he would do if he were in the White House. 

Jazz. 

1.  “ICE immigration arrests of noncriminals double under Trump” by Maria Sacchetti.  Washington Post, April 16, 2017. 

2.  “North Korea ‘will test missiles weekly’ senior official tell BBC.”  British Broadcasting Corporation, April 17, 2017. 

3.  “Majority in US No Longer Thinks Trump Keeps His Promises.”  Gallup, April 17, 2017. 

4.  “Donald Trump Has a Conflict of Interest in Turkey.  Just Ask Donald Trump.” By Ashley Dejean.  Mother Jones, April 18, 2017. 

5.  “How Donald Trump’s Business Ties are Already Jeopardizing U.S. Interests” by Kurt Eichenwald.  Newsweek, December 13, 2016. 

6.  “Duterte: Trump Says Philippines tackling drug problem ‘the right way’” by Ivan Watson, Kathy Quiano and Bijan Hosseini.  CNN, December 3, 2016. 

7.  “Exxon Seeks U.S. Waiver to Resume Russia Oil Venture” by Jay Soloman and Bradley Olson.  Wall Street Journal, April 19, 2017. 

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Saturday, April 15, 2017

THE TRUMP DIARIES: WEEK TWELVE 

 




DRIFTING INTO WAR

84 Days of Trump

By Jack Random


The eleventh week of the Trump presidency brought a dramatic turn of events that have yet to play out.  On Thursday Trump ordered the bombing of a Syrian air base in retaliation for the apparent use of chemical weapons by the regime of Syrian President and Russian ally Bashar al-Assad.  Russia denied that Assad was responsible and condemned Trump’s action. 

In a single day all the alliances shifted.  Trump’s harshest critics, Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain, assumed the roles of the president’s cheerleaders, urging him on to a deeper commitment and greater acts of war.  After eleven painful weeks of ignoring the assassinations of political opponents, the suppression of dissent and acts of aggression, Trump finally stood up to Vladimir Putin.  Or did he? 

It must be noted that the Russian military was forewarned before the attack and the base was back in operation within twenty-four hours.  Trump desperately needed to do something in opposition to Putin to counteract the daily drumbeat of collusion with Russia to win the White House. 

Was this an elaborate charade or was it a real change in policy?  If Trump has taken a stand against Putin, will his former ally retaliate?  The plot thickens. 

This is the twelfth installment of the Trump Diaries. 

DAY 78:  BEAUTIFUL DESTRUCTION
April 7, 2017

Neil Gorsuch is confirmed to take his seat on the bench of the Supreme Court.  His harshest critics say he is to the right of Antonin Scalia, the man he is replacing.  Respectfully, no one is the right of Antonin Scalia.  The real damage begins with the next Trump appointee – or the next Pence appointee. 

Armed with cruise missiles, a missile defense system, anti-aircraft guns, torpedoes and artillery, the Russian warship Admiral Grigorovich sails to the site of the battleship that launched the missile strike on a Syrian airbase.  Beleaguered Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev states that Moscow and Washington are on the verge of military confrontation. 

MSNBC anchor Brian Williams – the same “journalist” who fictionalized an account of coming under fire in Iraq – proclaims the launching of American missiles beautiful.  Fareed Zakaria of CNN declares that Donald Trump “became president of the United States” by his action.  Neocon Elliot Abrams states that Trump’s presidency begins now.  Former Defense Secretary William Cohen declares the president a man of action. 

Across the board the mainstream media that Trump has so often demeaned has heaped praise on the commander for bombing an airbase and placing us at odds with Russia in the center of a civil war.  This is why presidents yield to the drums of war.  The media cannot get enough.  It clamors for more and the people wave the flag and send their children to far away lands to serve as pawns in the cause of geopolitical chess games. 

Here we go again. 

Entertaining Chinese president Xi Jingping at Mar-a-Lago, Trump proclaims “tremendous progress” in China-American relations.  Translation:  Trump beat him by three strokes on the front nine before retiring to watch the Masters golf tournament. 

DAY 79:  BASKING IN THE GLOW
April 8, 2017

Trump is in seclusion at Mar-a-Lago, basking in the glow of positive reviews from talking heads and media pundits.  He takes issue with those critics who claim that the strikes did little real damage.  He didn’t even bomb the runway. 

Trump needs to learn:  On good days you only read the good reviews.  On bad days you don’t read at all. 

The critics are correct that Trump’s bombing did not have an impact on the conflict in Syria except to incite the Russians and inform Assad that we will not tolerate anything he wishes to do.  We have not yet advanced a clear policy. 

What the attack did accomplish was that it changed the topic from Russian collusion to Russian retaliation.  It is a risky maneuver with unpredictable consequences. 

DAY 80:  REGIME CHANGE & 18 HOLES
April 9, 2017

On the final day of the Masters Golf Championship, Trump plays golf at the West Palm Beach golf club. 

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley declares a policy of regime change in Syria – a policy her boss has yet to articulate.  The ambassador seems to be writing her own script.  This is not the first time she has given speeches or made statements that conflict with those of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson or Secretary of Defense James Mattis.  One wonders if she ever communicates with her boss.  Her words reflect the president’s policies like a carnival mirror reflects reality. 

DAY 81:  THE CRY OF PATRIOTISM
April 10, 2017

A CBS polls finds that 57% of those polled support the bombing of a Syrian airbase.  They do not support military intervention to affect regime change. 

Maybe the American people have learned something from our disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Neither the media nor the government seems to have learned much of anything.  Once the cry of patriotism goes forth and the bombs begin to fall, those who should lead line up behind the warmongers and call for blood. 

Neil Gorsuch is sworn in as a justice of the Supreme Court. 

DAY 82:  TILLERSON GOES TO MOSCOW
April 11, 2017

Rex Tillerson arrives in Moscow and checks into his hotel with two teams of security experts to scan the room for bugs.  The French foreign minister reports that Tillerson on his recent visit to Europe expressed the opinion that American voters have no reason to care about what happens in Ukraine. 

The Secretary of State is playing both sides against the middle.  The only one who has any idea what to expect may be Vladimir Putin and he’s not talking.  There are no official meetings scheduled between the old friends. 

France and Britain join the United States in demanding United Nations Security Council support for an international investigation of the chemical attack in Syria. 

As the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson arrives off the coast of North Korea the little dictator Kim Jong Un warns that any military aggression by the Trump administration will be answered with nuclear retaliation. 

The Washington Post reports that a federal judge issued a FISA warrant to monitor Trump advisor Carter Page way back in July.  The walls are closing in on Page.  He’ll talk if he gets the chance. 

DAY 83:  THE SUFFERING OF BABIES
April 12, 2017

Putin welcomes Tillerson by announcing on state television that Russian-American relations have deteriorated.  After Tillerson meets with foreign minister Sergei Lavrov for three hours, Putin yields to a face-to-face meeting with his old friend and partner in the oil exploitation business.  [1]

Russia continues to proclaim Bashar al-Assad’s innocence and accuses Trump of acting irrationally and defying international law. 

Either this is an elaborate charade or Trump is teasing a new cold war.  I suspect he has no idea what he’s doing.  After all the hype, neither does Tillerson. 

Trump explains that his policy or non-policy has not changed.  He has no intention of escalating our engagement in Syria despite the fact that he has done exactly that.  He simply could not endure the images of babies and children suffering.  Now that the world understands what moves our president, you can be sure the White House is being inundated with images of suffering infants and toddlers in all parts of the world – Yemen, Somalia, Niger, Nigeria, Mali, Chad, Congo, Sudan, Libya, Myanmar, Ukraine, Turkey, Afghanistan, Iraq, Mexico – many of them as the result of our policies, drone strikes or bombing campaigns.  [2, 3]

This is the president whose proposed budget cuts foreign aid to a skeleton.  The childhood misery index will rise as a direct result and the suffering will be chronicled and delivered to the president’s eyes.  Who do you bomb for starvation and disease? 

When the dust settles nothing but the politics have changed.  Nine Syrian military personnel are dead, a Syrian airfield suffered minor damage and Russia will have to replace a dozen or so fighter jets but nothing of substance has changed.  We will allow Assad to continue as Syria’s president.  We will soon resume coordinated actions with the Russian military.  More children and babies will suffer and die.  It is not within our power to end this carnage alone and it is beyond the reach of our leader to negotiate an end with others. 

Trump tells reporters at a news conference with the head of NATO that American-Russian relations have reached an “all time low.”  By that he means big league.  Apparently the president has never heard of the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

In a wide-ranging interview with the Wall Street Journal, Trump reveals he will not accuse China of currency manipulation. [4] He seems to believe he has an understanding with President Xi Jinping: Trump will give China a favorable trade deal if the Chinese help with the North Korea problem. 

DAY 84:  MOTHER OF ALL BOMBS
April 13, 2017

The US military drops the mother of all bombs – the largest non-nuclear bomb in our arsenal – on a cave complex said to shelter Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan. 

This does not appear to be an administration that wants to withdraw from America’s long war in Afghanistan.  The eleven-ton bomb had never been deployed.  Now it has.  It is time to recognize that all that talk by candidate Trump about not getting entangled in foreign wars was just that.  If you give a man with an insecurity complex access to weapons of mass destruction, you cannot be surprised when he uses them. 

The White House declines to take responsibility for the decision to drop the massive bomb, apparently yielding strategic decisions in Afghanistan and elsewhere to the military.  What could go wrong? 

For those who were somewhat surprised by the presence of ISIS in Afghanistan as I was, reports refer to ISIS-K or ISIS affiliates.  ISIS-K refers to ISIS Khurasan: a province traversing the Afghan and Pakistani border.  The peripheral group consists largely of Taliban defectors who have joined the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. [5]

The group is capable of isolated attacks but it is not considered strategically viable.  ISIS Khurasan is at odds with our enemy, the Taliban, making it exactly the kind of engagement Trump the candidate wanted to avoid.  We are attacking the enemy of our enemy.  Note that Russia recently made overtures of an alliance with the Taliban.  Destroying an enemy of the Taliban may ultimately work to Russia’s favor. 

The situation is clear as mud and the one thing candidate Trump got right was:  We would be wise to stay out of it.  I didn’t believe him then and I don’t believe him now.  Trump has no strategy, no philosophy and no guiding principles.  He loved the adulation his bombing of Syria engendered so he thought he’d try another in Afghanistan. 

TRUMP:  What have you got for me, General? 

GENERAL:  MOAB.  The Massive Ordnance Air Blast.  We call it the mother of all bombs. 

TRUMP:  Bigger than the bunker buster? 

GENERAL:  Bigger.  Much bigger. 

TRUMP:  Where can we drop it? 

GENERAL:  It has to be rural – preferably isolated.  We’ve got our eyes on these caves in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan. 

TRUMP:  Is that where we lost bin Laden? 

GENERAL:  I’m not sure, sir. 

TRUMP:  I like it. 

GENERAL:  Would you like cover, sir? 

TRUMP:  How’s that? 

GENERAL:  If things go wrong, we can assign blame.  If everything goes well you get the credit. 

TRUMP:  You can do that? 

GENERAL:  Yes, sir. 

TRUMP:  Drop it, General.  And make sure we have pictures.  The people love pictures.  Big league. 

GENERAL:  Yes, sir. 

Recall that Trump the candidate speculated that we should use whatever weapons we have.  He refused to rule out the first use of nuclear weapons and all but welcomed a new arms race.  The only promise the president has kept thus far is the promise to be unpredictable.  When unpredictable includes the possibility of nuclear annihilation it is not a good thing. 

Dropping the mother of all bombs may be a warning and a challenge to our enemies.  If Putin takes the challenge, he already has an answer: the father of all bombs. [6] The Aviation Thermobaric Bomb of Increased Power reportedly has four times the destructive force as MOAB.  It has replaced smaller nuclear bombs in the Russian arsenal of weaponry. 

If Putin finds an opportunity to deploy the father of all bombs, he will challenge Trump to take the next step: tactical nuclear weapons. 

Jazz. 

1.  “Putin says trust erodes under Trump, Moscow icily receives Tillerson” by Yeganeh Torbati and Vladimir Soldatkin.  Reuters, April 12, 2017. 

2.  “It had a big impact on me – story behind Trump’s whirlwind missile response” by Luke Harding.  The Guardian, April 7, 2017. 

3.  “10 Conflicts to Watch in 2017” by Jean-Marie Guehenno.  Foreign Policy, January 5, 2017. 

4.  “Trump Says Dollar ‘Getting Too Strong,’ Won’t Label China a Currency Manipulator” by Gerard Baker, Carol E. Lee and Michael C. Bender.  Wall Street Journal, April 12, 2017. 

5.  “What Happened to ISIS’s Afghanistan-Pakistan Province?” by Arif Fasik.  The Diplomat, February 2, 2016. 

6.  “Russia unveils the ‘father of all bombs’” by Luke Harding.  The Guardian, September 11, 2007. 

JACK RANDOM IS THE AUTHOR OF THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES, GHOST DANCE INSURRECTION, PAWNS TO PLAYERS AND OTHER WORKS (CROW DOG PRESS). 

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Monday, April 10, 2017

TRUMP DIARIES: WEEK ELEVEN 

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COMMANDER IN A BOX

77 Days of Trump

By Jack Random


We have survived ten weeks of the Trump White House.  Trump has failed to pass healthcare legislation.  He has failed to get his Muslim ban past the courts.  He has failed to secure a down payment on The Wall.  He has failed to withdraw from NAFTA and CAFTA. 

The president has succeeded in stripping away regulations that deter polluters.  He has made it legal to dump toxic wastes in rivers and streams.  He has pushed through major oil pipelines that will inevitably break and contaminate drinking water. 

In the shadows of the Pentagon while our attention was focused elsewhere, Trump has quietly raised troop levels in Iraq and Syria.  Without official announcement 400 marines were deployed to Syria in early March.  Three hundred paratroopers were added to Iraq.  What appears to be mission creep is underway as civilian casualties rise under Trump’s reign.  [1] There are now 5,200 official troops in Iraq and 500 in Syria.  There are an additional 1,000 soldiers with “temporary” status and several thousand mercenaries.  Our bombs and air strikes have killed over a thousand civilians in March alone as Trump fulfills his promise to “bomb the hell out of them.” [2] 

The problem is:  We were supposed to bomb the enemy. 

This is the eleventh installment of the Trump Diaries. 

DAY 71:  TRADE POLICY RUNAROUND
March 31, 2017 

Trump signs executive order on trade policy – one calling for study of the causes of imbalance and the other calling for stronger reactions to unfair dumping.  These are hardly the vision of trade policy reform that the candidate trumpeted during his campaign.  Remember when he knew better than anyone what the causes of trade imbalance were?  He has discovered that his own party is the strongest opposition to fair trade.  They may give him the power to impose selected tariffs but they will not upend the free trade mandate. 

His Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin says they are preparing to renegotiate our trade agreements.  Whatever happened to withdrawing from NAFTA and CAFTA?  Trump could have posted notice on day one; now he wants to study the issue. 

Secretary of State and former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson announces that sanctions against Russia for its actions in Ukraine will remain in place until it reverses its actions. 

Is this a gambit meant to placate the nation’s growing suspicion that Tillerson and Trump are assets working for the Russian government? 

Secretary of Defense Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis expresses concern in London regarding Russia’s recent support for the Taliban – America’s enemy in Afghanistan.  Should that support take a military turn we could find ourselves on opposing sides of an Afghan battlefield.  Dangerous games. 

DAY 72:  PREEMPTIVE STRIKE
April 1, 2107

Late at night, Trump calls his team to the situation room and orders preemptive strikes on Pyongyang (North Korea) and Tehran (Iran).  The president announces he will bring down the wrath of God on anyone who opposes the mighty will of the United States of America.  Experts fear hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, are dead as counter attacks are launched on Seoul (South Korea) and Tel Aviv (Israel). [3]

The president tweets an attack on NBC’s Chuck Todd for not covering the Obama surveillance scandal. 

DAY 73:  GOLF WITH RAND PAUL
April 2, 2017

Trump plays golf with Kentucky Senator Rand Paul ostensibly to discuss the future of healthcare in America.  That should be a short conversation.  Senator Paul fundamentally does not believe in government healthcare – including Medicare. 

Trump teases the idea of using trade leverage on China to force them into dealing with the North Korea problem.  He will retract the notion in less than twenty-four hours. 

DAY 74:  EGYPT COMES TO WASHINGTON
April 3, 2017

Egyptian President-Dictator Abdel Fattah el-Sisi pays an official visit to Trump at the White House.  Trump expresses admiration and support.   “You have a great friend in the United States and in me.” 

El-Sisi is responsible for a brutal crackdown in the wake of a coup that overthrew elected president Mohamed Morsi, killing hundreds if not thousands of political opponents.  He has secured his power through torture, mass arrests, forced disappearances, extrajudicial killing and abolishing the right to dissent, the right to assemble in protest and the right to a free and independent press. [4]

Still, Trump is downright effusive in his praise of el-Sisi.  Well, we’re all killers anyway, aren’t we?  We’re all strong men.  We do what we have to do to obtain and secure power. 

The war on terror makes strange bedfellows indeed. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee puts forth the name of Neil Gorsuch as a nominee to become an associate justice of the Supreme Court.  The Democrats claim enough pledges to block the vote from coming to the floor in what passes today as a filibuster.  With pained expressions, the Republicans swear they stand ready to invoke the dreaded “nuclear option.” 

The Democrats better hold on this one.  Goodbye, filibuster!  You will not be missed. 

DAY 75:  BLACKWATER BACKCHANNEL
April 4, 2017

The Washington Post reports that the United Arab Emirates arranged a clandestine meeting between Trump supporter Erik Prince and an unidentified Putin surrogate on January 9th of 2017. 

Prince is the founder of mercenary contractor Blackwater and a major contributor to Trump’s “self-financed” campaign.  The alleged purpose of the meeting, according to unnamed UAE sources, was to explore a deal exchanging Russian concessions on Iran and Syria for reduced sanctions. [5]

What scandal would be complete without the involvement of a mercenary army?  As noted above, there are several thousand mercenaries under American contract in Syria and Iraq. 

Breitbart and Fox News go crazy over the revelation that former Obama national security advisor Susan Rice sought to identify Trump associates inadvertently recorded in surveillance operations. 

While the Trump propaganda machine believes it has the real scandal in hand, to the rest of us it seems reasonable if Trump’s associates were suspected of colluding with an adversarial foreign government. 

Something’s got to give. 

A chemical attack in Syria kills dozens of innocent civilians.  The international community blames Bashar al-Assad and waits for a coherent statement from the White House.  After hours formulating a response, Trump blames Barrack Obama. 

Back in 2013 when Assad used chemical weapons in Ghouta, Trump pleaded with Obama not to intervene. 

North Korea launches yet another ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan, once again challenging Trump to act or back down.  No response from the president. 

Clearly, Trump is in over his head.  He’s already given Iraq, the Middle East and reorganizing the federal government to his son-in-law.  At some point he’s going to have to take on the presidency himself. 

DAY 76:  THE BUTCHER’S BILL
April 5, 2017

Images of the victims of the chemical attack in Idlib province arouse the indignation of the international community.  The latest death toll is seventy-two – including twenty children.  Russia holds up the possibility that the attack is the result of rebels blowing up a chemical weapons depot. 

British clown and foreign minister Boris Johnson lays the “butcher’s bill” at the feet of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.  UN Ambassador Nikki Haley goes beyond blaming Assad, demanding that Russia act.  Days after proclaiming a hands-off policy on Assad, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson joins the chorus of denunciation.  Finally, standing in the Rose Garden next to King Abdullah of Jordan, Trump points the finger firmly at Assad. 

One day after blaming Obama for drawing a line in the sand and not following through with military action (Obama negotiated an agreement with Russia for the removal of chemical weapons), Trump tells a reporter the events at Idlib go “beyond a red line.” 

It is the first time in his presidency that Trump has personally challenged a direct ally of Vladimir Putin.  Having drawn the line, he is obligated to act.  If he does we may soon find out what if anything Putin has on our president. 

In a stunning presidential rebuke, Steve Bannon – the dark mastermind of Trump’s rise to the Oval Office – is relieved of duty on the National Security Council.  The move reportedly comes at the request of Trump’s new national security advisor, Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster.  There’s a new sheriff in town. 

Bye, bye Bannon!  We hardly knew you.  You should have known the boss would not long stand for anyone getting credit for his success. 

DAY 77:  SENATE REPUBLICANS KILL THE FILIBUSTER
April 6, 2017

Senate Republicans in a fit of righteous indignation revise the antiquated rules of the Senate so that only a majority is required to confirm a nominee to the Supreme Court.  The revision keeps the filibuster (60 vote requirement) alive for legislation but enables Neil Gorsuch to take his seat on the nation’s highest court. 

Congratulations to the Senate Democrats for holding their ground.  Ultimately, this decision may have the most enduring impact on the future of the nation.  The balance of the court could move to the far right with two of the court’s liberal leaning justices – Ginsberg and Breyer – ages 84 and 78 and the traditional swing vote – Kennedy – age 80.  With the 49-year-old Gorsuch taking his seat, if Trump is allowed two more nominees, the corporate court could be cemented for decades. 

Representative Devin Nunes steps down from his role as chair of the House Intelligence Committee under the pressure of an internal ethics investigation. 

As the death toll in Syria’s Idlib province climbs to 86, including 26 children, Trump raises the possibility of military action.  This is of course the first occasion where our president has broken from the Putin playbook.  The Russians are challenging Trump to state his policy and take whatever actions he will.  Trump has painted himself into a corner.  If he negotiates with the Russians and Syrians he will have done precisely what his predecessor did.  If he engages troops to take on Assad as well as ISIS he will put us in military conflict with Russia and in the crossfire of a civil war – precisely what he promised he would not do. 

What he does next may be the most important decision of his presidency.  

Thursday evening Trump orders a Tomahawk missile strike at the Syrian airbase where US officials believe the chemical weapon attack was launched.  The Russian military was given prior notice but nine are reportedly killed. 

This action marks a new and more aggressive direction in the Trump administration.  It is a political coup for an unpopular president, winning praise from hawks on both sides of the aisle. 

What do presidents do when they have lost the support of the American people?  They launch an attack and raise the flag.  In this case, the greater question is:  What does Vladimir Putin do?  The next move is his. 

Jazz. 

1.  “Trump administration stops disclosing troop deployments in Iraq and Syria” by W.J. Hennigan.  Los Angeles Times, March 30, 2017. 

2.  “Under Trump U.S. Military has allegedly killed over 1,000 civilians in Iraq, Syria in March” by Jason Le Miere.  Newsweek, March 31, 2017. 

3.  “Breaking News:  Trump to Resign” by Kimberly Morin.  The Federalist Papers Project, April 1, 2107. 

4.  “We Agree on So Many Things:  Despite Human Rights Abuses, Trump Heaps Praise on Egypt’s Al-Sisi” by Andrea Germanos.  Common Dreams, April 3, 2017. 

5.  “Blackwater founder held secret Seychelles meeting to establish Trump-Putin back channel” by Adam Entous, Greg Miller, Kevin Sieff and Karen DeYoung.  Washington Post, April 3, 2017. 

JACK RANDOM IS THE AUTHOR OF THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES, GHOST DANCE INSURRECTION AND A PATRIOT DIRGE (CROW DOG PRESS). 

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Sunday, April 02, 2017

THE TRUMP DIARIES: WEEK TEN 

 
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FOLLOW THE DEAD RUSSIANS

70 Days of Trump

By Jack Random


Through nine weeks of his presidency, Donald Trump has stumbled like a blind man without a cane from one incident to another, demonstrating beyond reasonable doubt that he is ill equipped for any facet of the job. 

The great blessing of every inhabitant of the planet is that our president has not yet stumbled into a major catastrophe.  He has not yet done harm that cannot be undone.  He has not committed us to war or sold the Grand Canyon.  He has signed a lot of presidential decrees, hosted photo shoots and tossed random accusations in all directions but he has in fact done very little.  Let us all hope it stays that way. 

This is the tenth installment of the Trump Diaries. 

DAY 64:  BLAME THE DEMOCRATS & MOVE ON
March 24, 2017 

Trump orders Speaker of the House Paul Ryan to stand down before bringing a vote on Trumpcare to the floor of congress. 

In a testament to twisted reasoning, Trump blames the Democrats for not coming on board.  He is counting on the healthcare system to either “implode” or “explode” so his good buddy Ryan can get his way.  The fool actually believes he can wipe his hands of the whole complicated mess despite the fact that his party – the party that has promised to repeal Obamacare every day for seven years – holds all the cards:  both houses of congress, the executive branch and a friendly Supreme Court.  If you can’t get it done under these conditions, you can’t get it done.  And you can be sure the people know exactly who to blame. 

We now know that the self-proclaimed champion of all negotiators is a novice when it comes to the politics of legislation. 

Presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, the Donald Trump of French politics, announces her advocacy of lifting sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Crimea.  Le Pen is welcomed to the Kremlin by Vladimir Putin. 

DAY 65:  SUPREME COURT CHALLENGE
March 25, 2017

The Democrats warn Trump that they are prepared to invoke the filibuster to stop Neil Gorsuch from taking a seat on the nation’s highest court. 

After four days of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, in which Judge Gorsuch skillfully avoids saying anything of substance, key Democrats emerge suggesting they are prepared to plant the staff and hold their ground. 

We have seen this act before.  In the end they have always found a way to compromise.  They are fully expected to capitulate once again.  This is the problem with Democrats.  They have become predictably and reliably complacent. 

If you believe that the Republicans were right to table the nomination of Merritt Garland for over a year, then by all means compromise.  If you believe that the future of democracy in America depends on the obsolete filibuster rule, then throw in the towel. 

I believe the Republicans were wrong and should be punished for their unconscionable obstructionism.  I believe the filibuster is distinctly anti-democratic and should be abolished.  I also believe the Democrats do not possess the courage of their convictions. 

DAY 66:  CIRCLE OF BLAME
March 26, 2017

The finger of blame for the failure of Trump’s healthcare bill makes the rounds.  Trump first blames the Democrats and then the Freedom Caucus and then by innuendo Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.  In yet another bizarre twist, Trump tweets that his loyal following should watch a certain show on Fox.  The show opened with a call for Ryan’s resignation. 

As our bombing campaign stands accused of killing hundreds of civilians in Syria and Iraq, Russians take to the streets to protest Vladimir Putin’s oppressive government.  Putin is accused of a series of targeted political assassinations in the last year, the most recent that of Denis Voronenkov in broad daylight on the streets of Kiev. 

Not a sound or a syllable of concern from Mr. Trump – or for that matter from Marine Le Pen.  Well, we all do our share of killing.  Don’t we, Donald? 

No matter how bad it seems and it could surely get far worse, Trump is not eliminating his political opposition with targeted assassinations. 

DAY 67:  DEMOCRATS GO ALL IN
March 27, 2017

On the day that Trump’s approval rating hits a new low and the Dow Jones Industrial Average suffers its longest losing streak since 2011, we learn that the House Intelligence Committee Chair had a secret meeting at the White House prior to his convoluted announcement that gave momentary credence to the president’s bizarre claim of wiretapping Trump Tower. [1]

Ranking Democrat Adam Schiff demands that Devin Nunes recuse himself from all matters concerning Russian interference in the presidential election. 

Nunes began backtracking almost immediately after publicly making his claim.  The suggestion now is that he was used as a fence for White House information of questionable validity. 

The Democrats are going all in on the Russia-Trump connection.  They had better produce the goods and sooner than later or the resistance will have lost all momentum. 

Son-in-law Jared Kushner has a new job:  He will redesign government in the streamlined image of a large corporation.  Whatever happened to peace in the Middle East? 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions serves warning to all sanctuary cities that he’s prepared to withhold federal grants to cities that do not fully cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 

It’s shocking that Trump’s new streamlined Justice Department has over $4 billion in grants.  We’re going to need that money for the wall.  And the Mexicans will build it.

DAY 68:  KUSHNER IN THE HOT SEAT
March 28, 2017

The NY Times revealed on Monday that Jared Kushner met in December with Russian banker Sergey Gorkov.  Vnesheconombank, a state owned institution, was under sanctions for Russia’s annexation of Crimea. 

The White House explains that the meeting concerned diplomacy but the bank states that the topic was financing of a Manhattan office building.  Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, the man who seems to have his hands on all Trump-Russia connections, reportedly arranged the meeting.  Gorkov is a former intelligence officer who was appointed to his position at the bank by…you guessed it: Vladimir Putin. [2]

The Senate Intelligence committee wishes to have a conversation with Mr. Kushner. 

DAY 69:  BACK AGAINST THE WALL
March 29, 2017

On Tuesday Trump requested $1.5 billion in supplemental funding as a down payment on The Wall.  On Wednesday Senator Roy Blunt, senior member of the Appropriations Committee said not now.  Congress is up against an April 28 deadline to keep the government running. 

Americans elected Trump to run the government like he runs his business and that’s exactly what he’s doing.  He wants a lot in goods and services but he doesn’t want to pay for them.  Maybe Russia can launder some money through the Bank of Cypress to get things going. 

The White House announces that Ivanka Trump will be a special assistant to the president though she will not be salaried.  Papa Donald doesn’t like to pay women or assistants. 

While there was once hope that Ivanka could moderate her father’s extreme policies and views, reports that she has already taken a leading role in the Trump White House suggest there is no moderating influence.  Maybe Ivanka was not the pro-environment progressive we were led to believe she was.  Trump’s latest assault on Obama’s modest climate change policies leave no doubt as to where this administration is headed:  To hell with the air, the water or any other life sustaining element.  Use it all up and let future generations pay the price. 

The earth will survive.  Humans may not. 

DAY 70:  FOLLOW THE DEAD RUSSIANS
March 30, 2017

While the House Intelligence Committee goes down the rabbit hole behind their fearless leader Devin Nunes, the Senate Intelligence Committee gets under way by taking the testimony of cyber security expert Clinton Watts. 

Watts of George Washington University describes a Russian propaganda campaign that chose Trump as their candidate early on, targeting his primary rivals “Little Marco” Rubio and “Lying Ted” Cruz.  The Russians fed the Trumpeters fake news and the Trumpeters made sure it got a good run on social media. 

Wrap that around your mind.  Putin was not solely or primarily motivated by a desire to disrupt American democracy.  We do an excellent job of that with gerrymandering and the two-party system.  He was not solely or primarily motivated by his disdain for Hillary Clinton.  She was just another typical Democrat.  He chose Trump.  Why?  We can assume his love affair began before one of Putin’s oligarchs purchased a Florida estate at a ridiculously inflated price.  We can assume it began before Trump staged his beauty contest in Moscow.  Why?  Does he like Trump’s style?  Does he like Trump’s negotiating prowess?  Or is there something else? 

Watts advised the committee to “follow the trail of dead Russians,” adding:  “There have been more dead Russians in the past three months that are tied to this investigation.” [3] 

Disgraced former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn offers to testify before congressional committees and the FBI on the condition that he’s granted immunity from criminal prosecution.  [4] 

“Nothing-to-hide” Mike took a job as the right hand man of the president while working as an agent for at least one (Turkey) and possibly two (Russia) foreign nations.  Unless he has the smoking gun, he doesn’t deserve a deal. 

What would be more disturbing: that Trump is a willing asset of Russia or that he is simply a Russian dupe?  Both seem entirely plausible. 

For those who believe it is time to move on from the Trump-Russia connection, I respectfully disagree.  Every day and every week we remain fixated on this scandal is a day and a week that cripples the Trump presidency.  It is a day and a week that empowers Republicans to refuse to do the president’s bidding.  It is a day and a week that empowers Democrats to resist.  It is a day and a week that pushes back the White House assault on the environment.  It is a day and a week that delays the wall and the Muslim ban.  It is a day and a week that Trump will do significantly less harm than he would otherwise do. 

Until it is definitively resolved, Russia is the issue.  There is no other. 

Jazz. 


1.  “Nunez Had Secret White House Meeting Before Trump Monitoring Claim” by Ken Dilanian, Alex Moe and Ali Vitali.  NBC News, March 27, 2017. 

2.  “White House’s explanation for Kushner’s secret meeting with a Russian banker unravels” by Aaron Rupar.  Think Progress, March 28, 2017. 

3.  “Follow the money and the trail of 'dead Russians,' expert urges senators” by Del Quentin Wilber.  Los Angeles Times, March 30, 2017. 


4.  “Mike Flynn Offers to Testify in Exchange for Immunity” by Shane Harris, Carol E. Lee and Julian E. Barnes.  Wall Street Journal, March 30, 2017. 


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