As we get dumber and dumber…

June 11, 2019

Often I get my ideas for a post from one article. The following paragraph from a piece in the ny times opinion section caught my eye:

Automation, robotics and machine learning will, as many august bodies, from the Bank of England to the White House, have predicted, substantially shrink the work force, creating widespread technological unemployment. But that’s only a problem if you think work — as a cashier, driver or construction worker — is something to be cherished. For many, work is drudgery. And automation could set us free from it.

———-

I’ll have more later, but for now I can only say that true some jobs are pure drudgery, and where they can they should be replaced with technology or eliminated outright. But then again our work is part of our soul. It is part of what makes us human. And do I think my work as a truck driver should be cherished? Well each month when I pay my rent and each year when I take what has become my annual trip to Spain I do. And also when I awake each day and realize that I have a purpose. And what happens when we automate everything, even those cerebral jobs, with not only mechanical tasks but artificial intelligence? In a generation we will dumb down ouselves to the point of oblivion. No one will have to do or think anything. And no one will be able to.

Maybe I just said it all there.

Advertisements

Trump: the good, the bad, and the ugly…

June 8, 2019

How can I be upset with President Trump’s efforts to slap tariffs on other nations when it comes to protecting American jobs?

(Of course he is also using tariffs as a power play in international relations — later on that.)

To the extent it protects American jobs I am not upset. Problem is we are so far into the global economy with our own so-called American industries inter-tied in an integrated global network, with components of products supposedly American made, that tariffs come back to bite us. We can put ourselves out of business if we go too far with tariffs.

But it would be nice to see a re-emergence of good ol’ American industry (not that it ever died; it is alive and well, just not as mighty as it once was). I always thought the move away from industry to the service economy was a bad idea. We need both. But dumping industry in a land with so many resources is absurd.

I mean nations such as the Netherlands (Holland) historically became world traders because they lacked land and resources.

But I think American capital moved toward the service economy because it was seen as a way to make money without so much overhead, that is without having the burden of a large payroll of workers. If there is one thing capital detests it is having to pay workers.

“Rob a man of his money!”, Scrooge sniffed, at the thought of poor Bob Cratchit, his clerk, wanting Christmas Day off (and with pay!).

Don’t get me wrong. I am not an anti-capitalist. Seems like capitalism is just human nature for the most part. But human nature can be good and bad, so we have to set some amount of control. How much is always the question.

Trump has upset all norms. He has broken presidential protocol, defied rules of public decency, attacked our allies in the world and cozied up to those who would likely do us harm, and set himself up as a near dictator.

But he was elected according to the rules, and the party he used to get into office I suppose feels stuck with him because to break with him would be to give up their own power and to admit to their own ineptitude by letting him win their nomination for the presidency in the first place. I well remember those so-called presidential debates where all those other Republican candidates seemed dumfounded and could not stand up to the bully.

And there is the fact that Trump has put forth or backed some policies Republicans like, such as tax breaks for business and the dismantling of those pesky health and safety and environmental rules.

Also, even his detractors (even I) cannot complain about a good economy. However, there is the economy of the nation as a whole and then there is the economy for individuals — they of course do not always jive. But you have to make policy more on the macro level and individuals have to figure out how to get by within it.

My question is why could have not Trump done whatever good he might have done without all the vitriol? Probably because it is the only thing he knows. While he tells us all that he is highly intelligent I think savvy to the poorer side of human nature, which he twists and turns as a demagogue to his benefit, might be more accurate, or savvy to realpolitik, the practicalities of the moment, but not history nor ideology nor morals.

And as far as the economy — there is the luck of timing to consider. Trump has been able to build on the recovery that began under Barack Obama, the recovery that came after the disaster that hit us under George W. Bush, our first Master of Business Administration president, I always like to add, sarcastically. W’s only valuable credential in business was the family name. And I doubt, by the way, that the Great Recession was all his fault. Presidents get the blame for bad economies and the credit for good ones (well not always — Obama seems not to get much credit for the upturn).

I imagine the economy was going to rise just as it fell but when you add the promise of a little more of a laissez-faire approach that Trump presented, that probably gave the big boost capital was looking for. But now I notice capital watchers, such as the folks of the Wall Street Journal opinion section, are wondering how long the good times can be sustained.

The economy is Trump’s trump card. Without it he is toast in 2020 no doubt.

One curious thing is how Trump has unilateral power to enact tariffs as he pleases. Well one thing, he just does it. But another is apparently over the years, like in so many other things (such as waging wars), congress has ceded powers over to the president. Congressmen and senators are notorious for covering their behinds in the blame game. They prefer the rewards at the public trough over the responsibilities.

But of course in crises, the people may feel more secure with a powerful president who does not have to or cannot take time to go before congress to plead his case.

However, not everything is a crisis. I feel congress has abrogated too much of its constitutional responsibilities.

Over the last 12 or more hours as I am writing this Trump announced that he has called off the plan to place punitive tariffs on Mexico over a non-trade issue — that is migration. Trump had threatened to use his questionable power to enact a punitive tariff on Mexican goods coming into the United States over his complaint Mexican authorities were not doing enough to stop Central and South American migrants from going through Mexico and pouring over the U.S. border to seek asylum. Mexico apparently felt the pressure and/or Trump also felt pressure from members of his own political party who thought disrupting important trade might have been a bridge too far for even their own fearless leader.

What really confounds me is the fact that Trump, using a power ceded him by some past congress, has by declaring an emergency allowed the sale of U.S. arms to Saudi Arabia, arms guided by sophisticated technology, heretofore closely guarded, but that now will be shared with the Saudis. It is feared by some that the Saudis, using the technology, will be able to make their own bombs. Something no one wants to seem to take the responsibility for are mass casualties among civilians, including a lot of women and children, in the war being waged in Yemen by Saudi Arabia with the backing of the Trump administration — and apparently the Republican-controlled senate.

Is what little good Trump might have done worth it all?

My opinion is no. I think that the Republican Party and the evangelical movement that so wholeheartedly supported Trump made a deal with the devil.

We will all pay for that deal one day, if we are not already.

With Trump it may be a case of the good, the bad, and the ugly.


Maybe we should try respect with Iran, nothing to lose…

May 26, 2019

After president Trump lobbed insults at Iran, I think it was their foreign minister who suggested that Trump should try respect, it’s better for diplomacy.

The Iran hostage crisis was decades ago and the U.S.’s installing of the Shah of Iran to be the dictator of that country and the subsequent takeover by Islamic fundamentalists was a long time ago too.

And there is no more Soviet Union, so Iran can’t be a vassal state of the old Soviet empire we faced off with in the Cold War. It is apparently a sponsor of world terrorism — that’s a problem. But mean words will not stop that. It seems doubtful an invasion would be practical — we’d get bogged down in a monumental conflict no doubt, which we might not be able to end, except possibly by the doomsday weapon, a terrible weapon that has such limited use. The United States is the only one to have ever used it  (that of course was the two A bombs we dropped over Japan to end World War II). Today’s nuclear weapons are far stronger and more lethal. We might well end the world to save it, which of course makes no sense.

I have written in the past more than once that we should never let Iran get the bomb. My idea was not to be so outward about it, but to let that nation’s leaders know through indirect channels that we would take the necessary steps to prevent it. That would give them an out to halt their progress towards nuclear weapons and save face — they just decided to save the time and effort and money and work on their economy. We could offer the olive branch and an openness to trade.

But of course small nations want the bomb because it commands respect. Look how Kin Jong-un of North Korea has used it. He made the leader of the world’s most powerful country deal with him.

The United States must do what it must do for its own defense. But overdoing it by going to war unnecessarily with no end game gets us nowhere, only deeper in the mire.

Perhaps a little respect for Iran is in order. What have we to lose? If all else fails we still have our military might. But diplomacy never offered can’t be said to have failed (and I am referring to between the current U.S. administration and Iran).

Even so, once committed to battle, there really is likely no overdoing it. As in sports, winning is everything. No more Korea stalemates, Vietnam capitulations, Iraqi half way measures, or impotence against Iran (where the holding of hostages resulted in an American president sequestering himself in the White House rose garden).

If we can have friendly relations with Saudi Arabia, where 9/11 really stemmed from —  most or all of the perpetrators were from there — why can’t we deal with Iran?

p.s.

And please no George W. Bush-style nation-building (something he vowed never to do but did so anyway, or tried to).

The Saudi link to 9/11 has never been officially recognized but evidence suggests either the government of that nation or officials of the government helped sponsor the attack.

 

 

 


History shows impeachment of a president is not successful without public support…

May 23, 2019

It seems impeachment does not work in the effort to take down a president unless the American people are behind it.

The only president to face impeachment and lose his office was Richard Nixon, and of course he was neither impeached nor convicted, although the impeachment process was initiated against him. After being informed by leading members of his own party, The Republicans, that they would vote for impeachment, he decided to resign (and save his pension — good decision).

The key in the Nixon case was a so-called “smoking gun”. After being forced to hand over secret tapes he made of White House meetings, it was clear he was in on the Watergate break-in and various dirty tricks and that he directed a coverup of illegal activity that included payoffs.

But two other presidents, Andrew Johnson who succeeded Abraham Lincoln after he was assassinated, and Bill Clinton, were impeached, that is the impeachment articles against them were drawn up by the congress, but both escaped conviction in the senate.

In both cases there was not solid public support for removal from office. In Johnson’s case, as I understand it, one of the main contentions was his refusal to follow a law congress passed to prevent him from firing a cabinet officer — that law was later found to be unconstitutional anyway.

And in Clinton’s case, he was accused if sexual harassment by one woman and in the course of the investigation and litigation on that it came out that he had been sexually cavorting with a young lady not his wife in the oval office. Clinton denied it but later admitted it.

It was clear the Republicans were having a field day releasing all kinds of salacious information but the public did not see how it all rose to the level of removing the president from office. The actual sexual harassment case was thrown out of court. Clinton’s public support actually rose. The impeachment backfired against the Republicans.

With all that has come out about Trump, or simply all he displays each day, there is but little doubt in my mind that a good solid case for impeachment could be brought. But with the solid Republican control of the senate, unless a real smoking gun comes out, and unless public opinion, now predominantly (2/3) against impeachment, it seems highly unlikely Trump will lose his office through that course of action.

I have not read the full Mueller report, still, but if there was a smoking gun there surly we would know it by now.

Perhaps some witness will come forward with it, like Alexander Butterfield and the Nixon tapes.

Again, that is not to say that there are not solid grounds for impeachment. And impeachment is a political process that does not require all the restraints as the normal judicial process. But the public has to be for it as far as I can see. It is not. That could change.

So the Democrats can and probably should keep probing. But at the same time they have to put most of their effort into convincing voters that they should be returned to power in the senate and ultimately the White House in 2020.

Who knows? Trump just might do something yet to turn the Republicans against him. I think he’s capable.

p.s.

And let’s don’t forget what the real potential crime of Trump is: there seems to be strong circumstantial evidence that he had commercial dealings with the Russians as a candidate and before and maybe as president and offered them things, such as a reduction in trade sanctions and turning a blind eye to some of their aggression on the world stage and praising their leader. In exchange the Russians supported his candidacy and conducted cyber dirty tricks aimed against his opponent in the presidential election. There is still a question on whether Trump is compromised by the Russian secret police by way of, possibly, sexual escapades, and thus vulnerable to blackmail. And besides the Russian issue, it seems that Trump and family are shamelessly using the office of the presidency for commercial gain. But again, no smoking gun, unless possibly the available evidence could be presented in a way as to be a smoking gun (sometimes presentation is everything).


Talk of war with Iran: we should be mostly quiet but vigilant and ready…

May 17, 2019

Why is the Trump administration talking war? To change the subject? Nothing like military action as leverage to shut down the opposition. You can’t bad mouth the Commander in Chief when he’s conducting a war they say.

Certainly if there is an increased threat to our military and our interests in the Persian Gulf region from the forces of Iran and their terrorist buddies then we have to increase our readiness (we’re sending and aircraft carrier and possibly other forces). But why so much talk about it? Is the administration trying to impress Iran or trying to impress its own domestic opposition?

Any potential adversary must know that the United States will not back down if attacked (of course we have to know who attacked). But we don’t need to stoke the fire with so much belligerent talk out of the administration.

We the public are getting still fuzzy information about indications that Iranian forces or Iranian-backed forces are or were planning to attack our assets in the region.

I hope it’s not the yellow cake, weapons of mass destruction canard that got us into the Iraq War. Is the secretary of state Mike Pompeo the new Dick Cheney? Pompeo claimed that intelligence indicated Iran was preparing to attack American targets. But at least one story in the Wall Street Journal indicated that Iran thought the U.S. was about to attack (probably from statements from the likes of Pompeo).

The Gulf of Tonkin incidents in 1964 got us into a decade-long costly and futile war in Vietnam — which I always say we lost by default, since we finally gave up and left (the only thing left to do at the time). The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which backed the war, was based on sketchy and possibly erroneous reports. We don’t want to go through that again.

Now it is reported that the president says he does not want war with Iran. That’s a relief.

A statement by the president to the effect that we will defend our interests in the region should suffice.

And should we suffer some kind of attack, let’s hope we go full out after the perpetrators and not invade the wrong country (9/11, going to full-out war in Iraq instead of going after the culprits, whose leader was eventually found hiding in plain sight in Pakistan, after apparently instigating the 9/11 attacks from Afghanistan).

There is something about a war that excites the would-be macho men, most of whom have never served and never will and causes so much grief for everyone else.

My quick (and I cannot be sure accurate) research indicates that Pompeo was in the army but did not see combat and that another war hawk, national security advisor John Bolton, avoided combat in Vietnam by joining the national guard (in that time guard troops were not used as much in foreign operations, although a few units saw action in Vietnam). Bolton reportedly admitted that although being a hawk on Vietnam he felt the war already lost by the time he would have had to serve and did not want to die in Southeast Asia. Well, I could at least sympathize with that (except those kind seem to think it might be okay for others to).

Congress must demand that no war be instigated without its constitutionally-mandated approval.

But the problem has been these past many decades that the presidents get us into war before going to congress and then demand that congress and everyone else back the policy or be accused to “not supporting the troops”. That “supporting the troops” phrase is a false and misleading trick of a concept. Except for perhaps an all-out pacifist (and maybe not even one of those), virtually everyone supports the troops. But we might not support the policy that puts them in harm’s way.

We don’t live in the same world as our founding fathers of course. They could have had no idea that their upstart of a country would one day be the world’s super power. But I think their writings indicate that they were not for foreign entanglements. However our early history shows we would not put up with foreign threats, such as the Barbary pirates who menaced our shipping off the North African coast  (our economy depended upon international trade from the beginning).

In addition, President Monroe issued his famous doctrine (eventually called the Monroe Doctrine) against the meddling of foreign powers in our hemisphere.

The president of course must have the power to act in our defense in the event of attack and cannot necessarily await the chance to go before congress. However, he can notify the congress and immediately thereafter go before it.

And the congress has to have the fortitude to do its own thinking and decide whether there is call to go to actual war.

Sometimes there is an argument over what constitutes war. But I think we all know it when we see it.

One more thing. I am not a war hawk. But if we are to fight a war, we must fight for all-out victory. Anything less to me is futile and unconscionable to those who we send to fight it.

p.s.

What did the Japanese admiral supposedly say after the Pearl Harbor attack by his forces? “I’m afraid we have awoken a sleeping giant”.

Of course that was back in the day when we fought to win, rather than to just make a statement in geopolitics. In more modern times, smaller forces seem to bedevil us.

War is fought differently today. We have to be flexible and more efficient.

But one thing has not changed: we must win. Anything but victory is futile.

How do we know victory? people always ask.

You know it when you see or experience it.

 

 

 


What a twist: Trump’s lawyer goes to jail while his client skates free (so far); Media credibility low…

May 7, 2019

A couple of things: why does the big cheese go free and the underlings go to jail?

Why does the public not trust the press, which is under constant attack and threat by the president?

I don’t see the logic nor justice in the fact that President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen is beginning a three-year prison term today (5-6-19), in part for a crime that he committed with Trump, and yet Trump remains free — not even charged.

I refer to what was called a campaign finance violation, the paying of hush money to women Trump, a married man, cavorted with. Trump wanted to hide the fact from the public while running for president. Trump initially claimed he knew nothing about the payments but later admitted it. Now Trump questions whether it was even a crime. Well for that matter so do I. Unethical and immoral perhaps, but crime? And a campaign finance violation? But I don’t decide those things. The court convicted Cohen. But since they were both in it together it would seem to me that Trump is as guilty if not more so.

But that is the way of things. Richard Nixon’s henchmen went to prison, and of course found Jesus along the way — those kind of people always do — while Tricky Dick never served a day in jail.

While the Supreme Court held back during Watergate (in the early ’70s) that the president of the United States is not above the law, I wonder.

The U.S. Justice Department has some kind of working policy that a sitting president cannot be indicted. It is not a law, just a policy. Of course once he is not president that should be a different story.

But again, Nixon, who directed and approved the breaking into of the Democratic National headquarters and who did the same to Danielle Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office and who had the IRS audit the tax records of political enemies never went to jail even afer he resigned the presidency. Oh, I recall now. President Ford, who had become Nixon’s vice president after his first one was convicted of taking bribes (Spiro Agnew) had to resign, pardoned Nixon.

Maybe Trump will have to hope someone pardons him.

And back to Cohen for second. He is also going to prison for tax evasion and other charges that are all on him, about his own behavior. But none of that would likely have come to light had he not been caught up in the FBI and Justice Department investigation of the connection of Russia and the Trump campaign and the election itself.

And now the distrust of the press or the “media” (the more modern term, especially now that there are far fewer printing presses in action).

Surveys invariably show that a large number, almost half or even over half, of the public does not respect or trust the media. I have to wonder then who they do trust or believe. I also wonder who the media (as if it was one entity) is. I shake my head when right-wing reactionary bloviators, most notably on AM radio, blast the “media”. They are part of the “media” themselves. Of course I guess they feel they are separate from the crowd or pack of journalists who they would have you believe all run together and think alike and compare notes before writing or presenting their stories.

There may be a bit of truth to that, but just a bit — I mean the logistics to such a conspiracy would be incredible. And the irony here is that even if the larger pack seems to ape each other, well so do the reactionary right-wingers (for the most part).

The main problem here as I see it (and I have mentioned this many times) is that you almost cannot sort fact from opinion in modern news stories and newscasts. The journalistic rules seemed to have changed. Yes, once American journalism was just opinion essays. I’m not a journalism historian but I think modern news reporting began in the American Civil War. The news was what was going on at the battlefield, not whether slavery was right or wrong. The recent invention of the telegraph made it possible to send dispatches to far away places right from the battlefront. But those dispatches had to be short and to the point, lest the lines be cut or some other circumstance of battle got in the way. Thus a new style or method of news writing emerged, the inverted pyramid. Like just the facts mam. You placed the most important facts right up front in as few words as possible and the rest followed in descending order. If part of the dispatch did not make it, then at least something, the most important news, would, hopefully. And of course all of this was transmitted via the dot dash of Morse Code and then had to be translated back into written form at the other end.

And while we went through a period of what was called “yellow journalism”, basically propaganda designed to sway public opinion via slanted news — It was said William Randolph Hearst got us into the Spanish American War through slanted reporting of his newspapers — over the years a more factual-based, balanced form of journalism was developed. It was taught at colleges. Both my father, who was a journalist, and I, who worked in journalism for many years, used the same journalism text book, “Interpretive Reporting”. He went through school in the 1930s. I took journalism classes in the 1970s. Don’t let the name fool you like it did some of my classmates and me as well. Interpretive sounds like one putting a spin on something. But actually, except for first-person accounts, such as in natural disasters, news stories are usually an interpretation of what took place, such as at a public meeting (which I covered far too many of; enjoyed it at first). How else would you do it? You could simply present a transcript or you could show a video of the meeting but what good would that do? It would still require the reader or viewer or listener to makes sense of it all and he or she would have to sit through the whole thing (and I almost guarantee you would get lost; they often speak in shorthand). The job of a reporter is to develop an understanding of the issues involved and the participants and to be able to sort the wheat from the chaff, but just as important, to present a balanced and fair report. The reporter’s job is not to inject opinion or unfairly just report one side or write quotes out of context.

But of course reporters have opinions and even if they try to be fair, those opinions, which often seem like no more than common sense, can find their way into a story.

Be that as it may, for decades the rule was — and now I am talking about the old relic called the newspaper — to separate the straight news columns from the Opinion Page or from clearly designated opinion columns. And I know here I am repeating myself from other blog posts, but there was that hybrid of straight news and opinion called “news analysis”. To me that is often closer to an opinion piece than not. But I think most news stories, whether they are in newspapers, on the air, or on the web, fit into analysis nowadays.

People don’t have time to sort through things. They just want the headlines. And you know important people are always depicted as not poring through detail but depending upon their minions to present them summaries. I often wonder why the minions are not in charge. Like you know presidents who have to be coached. Why not put the coach in charge?

(There are exceptions. Some public figures were supposedly known for deep reading, such as Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama, Bill Clinton? He was a policy wonk.)

Newspapers lost their circulation when people decided it was easier to catch up on the news from talking heads on TV and radio and they lost their supporting advertising revenue to the broadcast, the internet, and Craig’s List.

My hometown newspaper gave up on lengthy stories and wide coverage. I quit subscribing. They wanted me to pay more for less.

But for a long time now, the style of reporting has become more aggressive, with writers rightly or wrongly zeroing in on what seems to be the inner truth and running with it, often leaving little semblance of objectivity.

But a CNN truth can often differ from a Fox truth. Presidential spokesperson Kellyanne Conway famously suggested that there are “alternative facts”.

No, the facts are the facts but are often or usually difficult to discern. It takes objective reporting and open-minded and objective readers to get to the truth or at least the truth as far as it can be discerned.

So now I have just discovered by writing this that the problem lies with both the authors of news reports and the readers or viewers and listeners.

But I would like to see a return to a more balanced approach to the news.

But there can be no control of news in a free and democratic society.

It is chilling when the president of the United States lambastes all news and calls it fake if he does not like how it portrays him or his policies and when he singles out individuals and calls them by derogatory names and when he threatens to change libel laws to make it possible for public figures like himself to sue journalists for stories he does not like. A famous case called New York Times versus Sullivan made it more difficult for public figures to sue for libel — they can but they have to show malice and intent.

We are in the midst of a great constitutional crisis right now with the president defying the lawful powers of the congress and disregarding the constitution.

A free and responsible press (or media) can keep our democracy on track. But the public must play its part as well by paying attention and being more particular about its news consumption. Just reading what appeals to your belief system is a little pointless to say the least.


Trump probably was not a Manchurian candidate but just a target of opportunity that paid off…

April 26, 2019

We don’t really know whether Donald Trump was or is the Russian Manchurian candidate but he might as well be.

And this is of course old stuff by now but I was just reviewing in my own mind what the fuss is all about.

I posted something the other day that was indirectly related to the Trump/Russia thing, that is a little and incomplete history of U.S. presidential candidates working with foreign governments. Perhaps I should have mentioned that Hillary Clinton in a way sought foreign assistance when she or her campaign (someone’s campaign to me is generally the same as that someone) contracted with the  private propaganda firm called Fusion GPS. Well actually that firm is headquartered in Washington D.C. But a former British spy named Christopher Steele was working for it. He wrote the famous Steele Dossier which alleged that the Russians were cultivating Donald Trump to be their man to put in the White House. The Wall Street Journal has now published an opinion piece that questions whether the Russians themselves may have been behind the dossier just to sow discord in the American election process. The piece offers no evidence just speculation.

Maybe that does not qualify as working with a foreign government on the part of Mrs. Clinton. But certainly she and her husband former U.S. President Bill Clinton have worked with foreign governments through their Clinton Foundation. It is only my opinion, but to me that foundation is more about allowing the Clintons to be jet setters and keep up their political influence than anything else.

One thing that I don’t think has ever been sorted out is what a deal in which a Russian company was allowed to buy a substantial portion of the rights to uranium mining in the U.S. was all about (uranium of course used in nuclear power and weapons). Coincidentally or not this occurred in some seeming conjunction with dealings between Russians and the Clinton Foundation, which involved speaking fees for Bill Clinton — this taking place when wife Hillary was Secretary of State.

The Clintons and their defenders claim all was above board and there was no quid pro quo and that Mrs. Clinton had no direct role. And of course Trump and his gang have tried to use it for all it’s worth, such as chanting “lock her up” during the 2016 presidential campaign and even after. The facts in all of these things are always murky.

But it would be nice to have people in power who had no murky facts of foreign intrigue to explain away.

But back to Trump. While partisans argue over the accuracy and the meaning within the Mueller Report there is something that is not in dispute. Trump’s involvement in Russia goes back years. Like so many business people he was looking for opportunities there afer the fall of the old Soviet Union and Russia’s entry into the capitalist system. The Russians were freed of the yoke of communism and in return are instead under the control of the super-rich oligarchs.

One project Trump had in mind was the building of a Trump tower in Moscow. I just read he first envisioned the project when Russia was still the Soviet Union. But I imagine it became even more plausible when Russia went capitalist. Well, anyway, no project has ever got off the ground. But there is evidence (perhaps not proof) that once the Russians saw that Trump was running for president and at the same time that Mrs. Clinton was they saw a chance to cultivate Trump. They did not like Mrs. Clinton because she had said unfriendly things about Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Probably also because she had actual experience in foreign relations as secretary of state, while Trump had no experience in government or foreign relations per se and no interest in it.

One thing that has been reported is that they dangled the tower project before him and in return got some U.S. sanctions lifted, plus an awful lot of kind words and apparent glowing admiration by the American president for the dictator Putin.

I have to admit having good relations with all nations, as far as possible, is not a bad thing. But Trump seems to have love fests with your average dictator/strong man, i.e., Putin, Kim Jong-un, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia (known often as MBS), the latter of which just had 37 people executed in one day this week and who earlier ordered the killing of a journalist for one would suppose unflattering coverage. In that Arab kingdom people are not given access to legal council and the court proceedings are secret (I mean some people might be legitimately guilty of crimes, but how would you know? And of what?)

Well anyway, shady dealings seem to be something people in public life have in common with each other.

But here is a big problem. Unlike other presidents in recent history, Trump has failed to give up direct control of his business assets while serving in the White House. He made a sham presentation of essentially doing so right after his inauguration but all it was was a photo-op with a bunch on binders on the table. In reality he still has control. So he can use his power of the presidency to influence things and profit from being the president. In addition he has appointed members of his own family to government posts and they are all joined together in Trump business enterprises. If it is not illegal it certainly is unethical and immoral to use their position in government to enhance their private business or fortunes. And it would seem they might be calculating just as much or more on how policy decisions might line their own pockets rather than help the nation at large.

And Trump, unlike other modern presidents, refuses to publicly release his tax returns.

I suspect that Trump is not the Manchurian candidate. He was just a  convenient target of opportunity seen as malleable to Russian interests. Also it was a sure bet that if he got into the White House he would stir up discord within our government and make us vulnerable in the face of threats from without.