The VORACS Scheduling Change
Now that it’s apparent the conspiracy charge from Mueller’s investigation is off the table, it looks like Trump’s impeachment/resignation is a ways off if ever, with the unfortunate likelihood we may need to endure his leadership nearly two more years. So in light of these new developments that now seem to lack the anticipation of soon removing a demagogue, here at The VORACS we’ll be cutting our number of weekly posts in half. Rather than doing all 3 parts twice per week, we’ll cut back to once per week & spread those 3 parts out. If the congressional & district probes someday start uncovering major illegal activities serious enough to threaten this presidency, which they really are exploring credible potential financial crimes by Trump, along with political corruption & counterintelligence investigations spun from the Mueller probe, we could always ramp up our schedule again.
Looking at the bright side, it may be better to rid ourselves of this menace in the White House by voting him out, rather than through impeachment which could really rip our nation apart into violence. And the timing is right for us to curtail our schedule not only because of the disappointment the Mueller report is not an imminent threat to this presidency, but also due to some new projects we’ve embarked on. The SEO company who hosts our blog not only offers advanced SEO which is very effective getting companies’ websites ranked high on the search engines like Google, but they’ve also launched cutting-edge software to help retailers better manage their sales & inventory through Amazon. With me devoting more time to that service, something had to give with my schedule.
In Part 2 we always focus on the threats to our democracy & delusions put forth by the far-right messaging echo-chamber, which we call echo for short. So until the legal jeopardy to Trump’s presidency heats up again, our restricted schedule will post Part 2’s once per week in the middle of the week as we’ve done here. Part 1’s that were always focused on the Russian probe will land once a week probably on Monday mornings (which out of necessity will likely shift topics to the congressional & district investigations), & there tends to be plenty of overlap in the news stories seen in Parts 1 & 2. Part 3 is always about the economy along with our selected song at the bottom, which will appear at the end of the week, probably Saturdays. Some of the articles posted may not be quite as current as before, but they’re all pertinent & important. And whenever major breaking news about Trump’s indiscretions break, we can always break in to post comments & articles any time that happens. So let’s begin here with Part 2 the midweek edition.
Trumpism More Dangerous than Ever
There are some excellent articles posted near the bottom explaining the risks America faces from Trumpism which have only become more threatening. We have an American president gloating he has yet to be proven as a criminal, quite an accomplishment for him, although the campaign finance crimes already look like a slam-dunk case. Following the Mueller probe, Trump is more emboldened than ever in his mission to take over & pack the courts & intelligence agencies with his loyalist cronies, while weaponizing his attacks on political opponents. He’s even looking to put a nudnik minion on the Federal Reserve board, while attempting to lionize Fox & the echo as official state-sponsored media.
His fascist enablers are calling on faux investigations into any non-loyalists who played a role in the independent investigation, with those corrupt Trump henchmen serving their leader by attempting to stage a coup over the Justice Dept. That’s the modus operandi of dictatorial regimes throughout history, ruthlessly cracking down on any opposition & usurping control over the institutions of power, such as the courts, security agencies, the media & other branches of government. We never thought this could ever happen in America, but with the full backing of Fox & the rest of the echo, plus their bamboozled audiences, this is getting scary. If you’ve read many of my Part 2 commentaries, you’ve seen my constant refrain I repeat often, don’t think fascism couldn’t happen in America.
We cannot dismiss this ominous attack on our democracy as Trump-world in unison launches relentless assaults against their opponents in Congress, the DOJ, FBI & the media. Consider we haven’t even seen the Mueller report yet & they’re already jumping to conclusions, weaponizing that Russiagate probe based on a short summary from a Trump loyalist. Here’s what we do know based on the factual evidence from the past couple years. Russian did attack our election campaign process & tainted the 2016 election. The Trump campaign had multiple suspicious contacts with numerous shady Russians, then lied & covered up about it all along. We also see this ongoing siding with a pro-Kremlin agenda featuring Trump’s perplexing cowering to Putin.
This cult of Trumpism going after opponents are just more attempts to deflect & hide any further revelations which might still be revealed about their Russian connections, which with House committees now following the international money trail, it could help answer some of those loose ends. When Trump says this type of investigation should never happen to a president again & he threatens to do something about it, that’s code for unleashing his authoritarian instincts to control the pillars of our democracy, trampling on the constitutional balance of powers potentially putting us on the slippery slope into fascist dictatorial rule.
We’ve Seen the Barr Report, Now Show Us the Mueller Report!
Keep in mind we’ll likely find the actual Mueller report will present quite a different story than the fluffed-up Barr summary we saw which smoothed over the rough spots. So we must insist the full report be largely released, which the American people & Congress had expressed overwhelming support for doing so, plus we should also see the underlying materials. Barr says his version of the Mueller report will be sent to Congress in “weeks,” which we already know the original report surely contained some really bad stuff about Trump, such as detailing evidence why obstruction of justice was very much an open matter. There were also clear signs of collusion, though it was not deemed to rise to the level of criminality through proof beyond a reasonable doubt, but we won’t have a complete explanation till we actually see the report. Reports are the Mueller report is hundreds of pages.
This was a good week for the prez, but be patient. In this chaotic administration, the next calamity is always right around the next corner. A new revelation next week or next month could expose a whole new set of illegalities or corruption from which the headlines will once again cast doubt over Trump’s fitness to be president. A positive while the special counsel probe was active, it may have served as a means to hold our prez accountable & rein in his worst instincts. Now without the Mueller probe hanging over his head, his demagoguery might really spin out of control & we may actually need negative/scandalous headlines to keep him on his best behavior, although the best for this prez is an extremely low bar. So even if the 17 or so still active investigations fail to expose the worst of his criminal behavior, we must never forget who he really is.
While the Dems can turn their attention to a sensible policy agenda that can resonate with voters in 2020, they can also be mindful of new evidence which may come out of the various probes which could highlight the likelihood Trump operated a criminal enterprise. But they must pick their spots so they’re not perceived as overreaching. And the Trump presidency is really putting our democracy to the test. So far the Russian probe did not find collusion & obstruction rising to the level of criminality, despite the fact they did exist, which might incentivize future presidential campaigns (& even congressional campaigns) to coordinate with foreign powers in stealing elections with the hopes they too can get away with it. But as the GOP does their victory dance, I still believe this prez is guilty of serious crimes which the different investigations could still uncover.
Short Bits from the Newsfeeds
As we wait to see the full Mueller report, we know many of the investigations he started have been handed over to other jurisdictions, or Congress has picked up on them. So we’re also waiting on these 17 other probes to dig up the facts on legitimate legal cases where signs of potential wrongdoings have been established, justifying each of those inquiries:
Plus we just got word the Mueller grand jury still lives on, which is curious…maybe Barr forced Mueller to shut down prematurely &/or influenced his final conclusions? Chances are the most logical explanation for the ongoing grand jury would be Mueller handing over active cases to district prosecutors. There’s still so many unanswered questions! The Mueller probe does live on with various offshoots:
Even California is jumping in on the act:
Barr has agreed to a congressional testimony, but doesn’t commit to releasing the whole report:
Trump may have won the battle these past few days, but we have a long long ways to go:
It appears Mueller wanted to leave the question of obstruction open for Congress to decide, but Trump’s handpicked AG who’s previously expressed the belief in broad powers for the executive branch butted in:
Jong Un totally controls his North Korean media & Putin largely controls the Russian media, which is essentially what Trump is trying to do here:
Mueller & Barr
As we knew would happen, the newsfeeds have been overflowing this week with news on the Mueller report, or rather Barr’s very brief description of the long report we have yet to see. These were selected the most pertinent & perceptive on this huge headline story, the first lucky 13 links being live, while the rest you could search if you wish. Even just the link titles are informative:
There’s Something About Hillary
She wasn’t elected president & never will be, yet Trumpeters & the echo remain obsessed about her:
Something Happened to Lindsey
I once respected Lindsey Graham, but that was back in the days when his buddy John McCain could keep him grounded. Now that Graham has buddied up to Trump, it appears he’s gone totally berserk with his own sanity hanging by a thread. Yes indeed, as I’ve often said, Trump corrupts everyone he touches:
Fox Fake News Buffoons
I don’t want to waste any of our available live links on these clowns on the crazy train, but you could do a search to see any of these articles describing the one organization deceiving more Americans than any other in our nation’s history:
Alex Jones in Hannity’s League
Speaking of the crazy train, echo-conspiracists like Alex Jones are very dangerous, sometimes even to the point of having blood on their hands:
Congress has Crazy Nuts Too
On Capitol Hill, here’s the biggest nut in the Planters jar:
While criminality on the part of Trump that would rise to the level of impeachment has yet to be proven, we do already know this administration is the most corrupt in history. Again I say, Trump corrupts everyone he touches:
Trumpism…Great Articles Here & Even Greater Dangers
How contagious is Trumpism? Whatever the fallout from the Mueller report, that will be a question for voters to answer in 2020. A populist demagogue is dangerous not only for the actions he takes but also for the corrosion of norms he sets in motion. Other politicians take his misbehavior as a model: “He got away with not releasing his tax returns. Why should I release mine?” Worse, partisans on the other side fuel the descent. If the next Democratic president fails to declare an emergency to impose gun control, say, or fight climate change, he or she will be branded a naive sap. Once a political culture begins to erode, in other words, it is hard to stop the rot. But voters can do it, if they demand to be treated with respect rather than be lied and pandered to. In that cause, here is a brief voters’ guide to some warning signs of Trumpism. You will know your candidate is succumbing to populist demagoguery if she or he embraces:
●The simple over the complex. As a rule, if the problems facing the nation had easy solutions, we would have implemented them by now. When Trump told us he could solve immigration, and the opioid crisis, too, simply by building a wall (and Mexico will pay!), he was lying. If candidates tell you now that they can solve health care just by abolishing private insurance companies (it worked in Canada!), be nervous.
●Giveaways over hard choices. Rule No. 1 notwithstanding, some problems do have fairly obvious solutions. Alas, the solutions are not popular. If Congress modestly raised the tax on gasoline (or transitioned to a tax on vehicle-miles traveled), it could repair the nation’s roads and bridges and build new bikeways and mass transit, as Congress is forever promising and failing to do. No magical infusion of private capital will get the job done, Trump’s blandishments notwithstanding. But many politicians are afraid to tell voters that there is no free lunch. When Trump told us he could cut taxes, protect Social Security and Medicare, and erase the debt, he was lying. If candidates tell you now that they can give you free college and free health care and no one — or, maybe, only billionaires — will have to pay, be nervous.
●Scapegoats over solutions. When simple remedies fail, and giveaways prove impossible, the demagogue’s fallback is to find someone else to blame. For Trump, the list is always growing: Muslims, Nancy Pelosi, globalist Jews, Central American gangs, Central Americans in general, John McCain (alive or dead), the media, Jeff Sessions, James B. Comey, Jay Powell, Canada, Paul Ryan, NATO allies . . .No candidate is likely to match Trump’s preternatural ability to see the traitor lurking within every friend while never, ever holding himself accountable. But if your candidate starts telling you that everything would be fine if we just went after billionaires, or big banks, or big tech, or . . . be nervous.
●Winner-take-all over compromise. Democracies work when people can hold strong views but accept that others may disagree in good faith; form coalitions on some issues with people who on other issues remain in opposing camps; and, even on those other unreconciled issues, find points of common ground. Trumpism scorns compromise. He could have had $25 billion for his wall in exchange for legal status for the “dreamers”; he preferred no deal at all. Trump did not introduce this phenomenon to Washington, of course. (See: Harry Reid and the nuclear option; Mitch McConnell and the Merrick Garland stonewall.) But he accelerated the trend; for Trump, every adversary is an enemy. The sadly predictable response is equal and opposite intransigence. So if your candidates say they won’t accept legal status for a million dreamers unless all 11 million undocumented immigrants get citizenship, too, do not be surprised. But for the country (not to mention the poor dreamers), be nervous.
This may be the saddest effect of Trumpism. It squanders opportunities that would benefit everyone. It assumes that in every fight, only one side can win. Yes, many of America’s problems are difficult; many can’t be solved pain-free; many spark passionate and emotional disagreement. But it’s also true that, with a bit of leadership and a dollop of bipartisanship, many problems could be tackled in ways that leave everyone better off. You could impose a carbon tax to slow climate change, and share some of the proceeds with people left behind in coal country. Everybody would benefit. If your candidate insists that the other side has to lose for you to win, be nervous. It is Trumpism that will be winning.
If it is not already apparent, I will make it explicit: because of Donald Trump, the world is giving up on American leadership. As the prominent global risk analyst Ian Bremmer tweeted from the Munich Security Conference last month: “The US foreign policy establishment here … believes, to a man, that we can return to a US-led Global Order after Trump is gone. Nothing could be further from the truth.” He went on to say, “they’re almost all white men over 60.”The Munich Security Conference is an annual meeting of political leaders, diplomats, and foreign policy experts who debate international security issues, with a focus on the transatlantic alliance. The most important confab of its kind, it provides a valuable platform for world leaders to reach a consensus on how to confront global challenges. Vice President Mike Pence represented the U.S. administration. His greeting on behalf of his boss was met with an embarrassing silence. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on the other hand, eviscerated Trump’s “America First” doctrine. The U.S.-led global order “has collapsed into many tiny parts,” she lamented. “The question now is, do we fall apart into pieces of a puzzle and think everyone can solve the problem for himself alone?” That line received a standing ovation.
The contrast spoke volumes on how the United States is losing trust and respect under Trump’s presidency. A dour pessimism pervades relations between the U.S. and its NATO allies. Some pundits like Bremmer see nothing but doom and gloom, heralded by an unfit president presiding over the deconstruction of the multilateral alliances that have maintained global order since the end of World War II. But, to borrow from Mark Twain, reports of the transatlantic alliance’s death are greatly exaggerated. Throughout its history, America has undergone periods of withdrawal, xenophobia, and political derangement. In each case, it has changed course. As Thomas Jefferson foresaw after the Constitution came into force: “Whenever our affairs go obviously wrong, the good sense of the people will interpose and set them to rights.” So, I’ll go out on a limb and predict that after the country brushes off the dust left from Trump’s inevitable crash, it will climb its way back to being the “indispensable nation.”
But to restore American leadership abroad, we first need to clean up things at home. For Trumpism to be vanquished, U.S. policy makers need to address the root of the problem: the growing income gap that has left too many Americans cut off from the promises of globalization. Today in the U.S., the top one percent own almost 40 percent of the nation’s wealth, according the Federal Reserve. Feeling left out, millions of voters turned to Trump’s populist appeal. Unless capitalism is reformed—and these inequities are alleviated—too many Americans will likely still gravitate toward a Trump-like isolationist who will cede global leadership to authoritarians like Russia and China. The last time the country faced such a serious crisis was during Richard Nixon’s presidency. We pulled out of the Watergate scandal only after Nixon’s own party would no longer stand by him. Unfortunately, today’s Republican Party displays no such backbone. Therefore, the challenge is greater than simply defeating Trump. It’s not even necessarily about defeating Trumpism. It’s about changing the conditions that made Trumpism appealing in the first place.
In his study, Brahmin Left vs. Merchant Right, French economist Thomas Picketty compared electoral trends in the U.K., France, and the U.S. over the past seventy years. He caught a disturbing trend: a “complete realignment of the party system along a ‘globalists’ (high-education, high-income) vs ‘nativists’ (low education, low-income) cleavage” that is bringing a “return to class-based redistributive conflict.” Large blocs of voters feel marginalized and view the political parties as being in thrall to the very wealthy; the gap between the rich and everyone else is even greater today than it was during the Gilded Age. In similar fashion, Steve Brill explains in his book Tailspin that, by manipulating the tax and legal systems to their benefit, the American meritocratic elite has built a moat around itself that excludes the working poor, thereby limiting their upward mobility and increasing their sense of alienation. Picketty and other economists point to the need for a more progressive tax code to reduce wealth disparities and social inequality.
This publication has called for breaking up industrial and agribusiness monopolies that are the source of so much of our nation’s economic ills—stagnated wages, increased prices, and the clustering of wealth and opportunity to a handful of coastal cities while the heartland is left out to dry. Since Ronald Reagan dismantled U.S. antitrust enforcement in the 1980s, corporate concentration has been steadily exacerbating American inequality. If we want to reverse this, we’ll need more members of Congress and, hopefully, the next occupant of the White House, to take on the threat of monopoly power. While the Civil War cost some 700,000 American lives to end slavery, America’s record of more-or-less peaceful self-correction is impressive. The Progressive Movement was a grassroots reaction to the excesses of the Gilded Age, when the wealthiest two percent of Americans owned more than a third of the nation’s wealth. It gave rise to consumer protections, labor reforms, trust busting, women’s suffrage, environmental protections, electoral reform, and progressive taxation that gave citizens a more equal playing field.
Watergate exposed out-of-control abuses of executive power. That era was also marked by the Vietnam War, political assassinations, urban riots, gas shortages, and deep political polarization. Predictions of America’s decline were rife. But constitutional checks and balances, abetted by rigorous investigative journalism, led to needed reforms, and the nation ultimately moved forward. We can survive Trumpism, too. But we will need visionary, dynamic leadership in promotion of progressive reforms. Our democratic system is designed to blunt, if not prevent, corrupt demagogues like Donald Trump. The new Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, the media, and, to an extent, the judiciary are doing just that. But to overcome the age of Trump, we will need to tackle the inequalities that midwifed his perverse brand of populism. “America First” is not our future, despite what world leaders who attended the Munich conference may think. There was, in fact, a reassuring sign at the conference: the U.S. sent its largest contingent ever, including more than fifty Democratic and Republican members of Congress, a sign of strong bipartisan interest in American global engagement. As Joe Biden told attendees, “This too shall pass. We will be back.” He’s right. But we have some work to do to make that happen.
With our extremely divided partisan polarization, America has become like a yo-yo or roller-coaster, with Americans & foreign allies not knowing which country will come out of each presidential election. We’ve been bouncing back & forth from one extreme to the other without getting many constructive things done, as explained in the beginning & ending to americas-dangerous-inconstancy:
Partisan polarization is bad. But it may be far worse — and far more damaging to the United States — than we commonly recognize. Slight variations in policy priorities from one presidency to another are perfectly normal and expected. When a Republican holds the White House and a congressional majority, for example, we expect taxes to go down a bit, foreign policy to be somewhat more combative, and environmental concerns to be de-emphasized relative to what one would expect from a Democratic president and Congress. Such modest shifts are the natural result of democratic elections and the alternation of power between parties. But over the past couple of administrations we’ve begun to see something different: much more dramatic swings and shifts from one presidency to another. The United States has started to act like a psychiatric patient with multiple-personality disorder. That’s bad for America at home and even worse for our standing abroad. And it’s likely to get even worse over the coming years.
This would be an entirely self-inflicted wound — one growing out of our incapacity to reach anything approaching a consensus about our problems and how to address them. Every time one party hands off power to the other, it’s as if an entirely different country with a wholly distinct outlook takes charge, yanking the nation in one of two polar opposite directions. It’s a dangerous situation, and we have no idea how to address it.
Evangelicals Should Serve the One Holy God
Trump’s religious adviser who has him hornswoggled is hearing voices, apparently coming from the wrong deity. For details you could search for these:
Buffoonish Trumpeter Robert Jeffress claims his brand of evangelicalism has “deeper convictions” than other Christian believers. But the question becomes which master do they serve? We’ve seen how evangelical leadership like him is driving people away from the faith, or at least their twisted version of the faith, as seen in this posted article from fox-news-pastor-christians-follow-trump-spiritually-superior-believers:
Texas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, a Fox News contributor, said on Sunday that Christian followers of President Donald Trump tend to have “deeper convictions” than other believers. While appearing on Fox & Friends, Jeffress dismissed a poll that showed a drop in the number of people who call themselves evangelicals. According to the Texas pastor, Trump has nothing to worry about because evangelicals show up in larger numbers at the ballot box than other religious groups. “[I]n the poll we’re talking about today,” Jeffress said, “even though the evangelical number has dropped as a whole, the number of evangelicals turning out at the ballot box is greater than other groups, and it’s because evangelicals have deeper convictions. They believe in absolute moral and spiritual truth, and they tend to vote those convictions at the ballot box.” Jeffress did not explain how or why he came to the conclusion that evangelicals were spiritually superior to other believers.
This next opinion piece is painful to read. But I post it to show how the outside world is increasingly viewing our church religion, in that the evangelical brand is being tarnished beyond recognition by the self-inflicted wound of faithfulness to an earthly leader demonstrably seen as morally reprehensible. These excerpts come from evangelical-christianitys-brand-used, indicating despite all the outside worldly threats to our evangelical faith, the greatest threat of all comes from within:
And thanks to the fact that American Evangelical leaders sold their congregations to the Republican Party in exchange for political power, Evangelical Christianity is now distinctive—and widely despised. Another way to put this is that the Evangelical “brand” has gone from being an asset to a liability, and it is helpful to understand the transition in precisely those terms. A generation ago, the Republican Party realized that Evangelical Christianity could be a valuable acquisition. “Evangelical” had righteous, “family values” brand associations, the unassailable name of Jesus, the authority of the Bible, and the organizing infrastructure and social capital of Evangelical churches. Republican operatives courted Evangelical leaders and promised them power and money—the power to turn back the clock on equal rights for women and queers, and the glitter of government subsidies for church enterprises including religious education, real estate speculation, and marketing campaigns that pair social services with evangelism. As in any story about selling your soul, Evangelical leaders largely got what they bargained for, but at a price that only the devil fully understood in advance. Internally, Evangelical communities can be wonderfully kind, generous and mutually supportive. But today, few people other than Evangelical Christians themselves associate the term “Evangelical” with words like generous and kind. In fact, a secular person is likely to see a kind, generous Evangelical neighbor as a decent person in spite of their Christian beliefs, not because of them.
The Evangelical brand is so depleted and tainted at this point that Russell Moore, a prominent leader of the Southern Baptist Convention recently said that he will no longer call himself an “Evangelical Christian,” thanks—he implied—to association between Evangelicals and Trump. Instead he is using the term “Gospel Christian”—at least till the 2016 election is over. While Trump has received endorsements from Evangelical icons including Jerry Falwell, Jr. and Pat Robertson, other Evangelical leaders (e.g. here, here) have joined Moore in lamenting the deep and wide Evangelical attraction to Trump, which they say is antithetical to their values. But how much, really, is the Trump brand antithetical to the Evangelical brand? Humanist commentator James Croft argues that Trump is what Evangelicalism, in the hands of the Religious Right, has become: “The religious right in America has always been a political philosophy based on bullying, pandering, projecting strength to hide fear and weakness, and proud, aggressive ignorance. That’s what it’s been about from the beginning. Trump has merely distilled those elements into a decoction so deadly that even some evangelicals are starting to recognize the venom they have injected into American culture.” Croft says that Pastors like Joel Osteen and Rick Warren use Jesus as a fig leaf “to drape over social views that would otherwise be revealed as nakedly evil.” As a former Evangelical, I have to side with Croft: the Evangelical brand problem is much bigger than Trump and his candidacy or the morally-bankrupt priorities and theocratic aspirations of fellow Republican candidates Cruz and Rubio. Evangelicals may use the name of Jesus for cover, but even Jesus is too small a fig leaf to hide the fact outsiders looking at Evangelical Christianity see more prick than heart.