The latest best “seller” spy thriller

Why bother reading a long Tom Clancy novel when you can read USA v. Internet Research Agency (PDF) in only 37 double-spaced pages. This indictment of thirteen Russian nationals by special prosecutor Robert Mueller reads like spy fiction. But it’s a true story of the subversion of USA’s 2016 federal election by Russia and its American agents.

The part that caught my attention is the clause that says “defendants knowingly and intentionally conspired with each other (and with persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury) to defraud the United States.” The defendants are now in Russia and will never see the inside of an American courtroom on this matter. So why would Mueller indict them? The indictment lays the foundation of the crime out to the American people for later when Mueller charges the Americans who conspired with the Russian agents.

So who are the conspirators “known and unknown to the Grand Jury”? One thing you can be sure of is that the court filings Mueller has made to date are just the tip of the iceberg of evidence he has already assembled.

As we know, president Donald Trump’s disgraced former national security adviser Michael Flynn has already pleaded guilty of lying to the FBI and will cooperate with the Russia inquiry, as has a member of candidate Trump’s foreign policy advisory panel George Papadopoulos (PDF). Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort has been indicted on multiple related counts including conspiracy against the USA. And Manafort’s campaign deputy Rick Gates is close to a plea deal with Mueller.

The conspirators unknown to the Grand Jury are part of the Mueller iceberg we can’t see (yet). I think we will find that they are associates of the ones we already know about. They will likely include Donald Trump Jr. and president Trump’s senior adviser (and son-in-law) Jared Kushner, among other people involved in the Trump campaign or working in the West Wing. But there’s one key person who is centrally related to all of the aforementioned gang of crooks—the Fraudster in Chief, Donald Trump himself.

As fascinating as the USA v. Internet Research Agency indictment is, I’m really looking forward to its sequel. That will be the articles of impeachment against president Trump.

Focus the resistance

President Donald Trump is getting a lot of resistance since he was inaugurated—maybe too much. Complaints about the president going to Mira Lago every weekend, the amount of taxes he paid, and his latest tweet turning the blame for something he did on his target du jour are all over the media. But in the big scheme of things, these are trivial issues that have little import to the typical American. The ubiquity of these inconsequential issues becomes noise that drowns out the critical issues that Americans should be resisting.

Even Trump’s signature Wall is not worth the Resistance. Net illegal immigration from Mexico has hovered around zero for the past few years, so little would change with a wall on the border. There would continue to be a strong legal interchange of people, products, and culture across the border. The Wall would not stop the twelve-million undocumented Mexicans already in the USA from continuing to be our friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors. Sure, it would be a waste of $20-billion, with all the more advanced technological solutions that could be deployed on the border, but that’s just a drop in the federal budget bucket.

Americans need to tamp down the noise and focus their resistance to the president’s agenda on the issues that are seriously detrimental to Americans. The most critical are his efforts to create a Trump autocracy. Muzzling the Fourth Estate and dictating what is legitimate press and what is fake news is the first step in implementing an autocracy. Trump’s constant distortion of the meaning of English words to fit his demagogic or authoritarian needs is an Orwellian page right out of 1984. His attempts to delegitimize the courts and claims that the president is immune to laws are tactics that would be taught in Autocracy 101.

It’s also important for Americans to see Trump’s tax returns. But it’s not so we can know how much taxes he paid. Any shrewd businessman will do their best to minimize their tax liability and they should not be criticized for doing so in a legal manner. We need to see his tax returns so we can learn how his personal finances could influence the actions he takes as president. What if Trump owes a Russian oligarch a large sum of money? What if he is trying to get permits to develop properties in China? What if he passes a law or removes a regulation that favors his companies in the USA? These are important things Americans can learn from Trump’s tax returns.

Americans need to resist Trump’s environmental agenda if they care about their children and grandchildren. The damage that would be caused if Trump is successful at rendering the Environmental Protection Agency impotent would be slow to notice but would endure for generations to come. Many Americans have forgotten or are too young to know that the skies of Los Angeles used to be so smoggy that you could rarely see the Hollywood Sign from the Hollywood Freeway and our waterways used to be so polluted that the Cuyahoga River in Ohio literally caught on fire. But Trump will reverse the gains we’ve made cleaning up the environment in recent decades if he is unchecked. And the international community must begin combating Global Warming immediately to prevent irreversible damage to the entire planet but Trump’s denial of Climate Change will jeopardize the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Health care is another issue of significant importance to Americans because we pay more than any other advanced country for our health care but have some of the worst outcomes. Both Democrat and Republican presidents tried for decades to reform health care for Americans. None of their efforts were successful until President Obama passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PDF) (ACA). The ACA is not perfect but it’s much preferable to the system we had before the law was passed. Yet the GOP is intent on repealing it and replacing it with a bill that would result in over twenty-million Americans losing their health care insurance and the costs rising even more dramatically—especially for seniors and Americans with disabilities or other pre-existing conditions.

There are other important issues that Americans face with Trump in the Oval Office and Americans need to resist all of the most harmful ones. But most of the criticisms levied against him in the media are relatively trivial compared to these. In fact, it might be a deliberate tactic on Trump’s part to get Americans talking about his tweets to distract them from things like his connections to Russia. Don’t let him get away with it. Stop posting every trivial criticism of his administration on facebook and focus your resistance on the issues that really matter.

Not my president — NOT

I have been a vocal critic of Donald Trump since he began his campaign for president. Against all odds, he somehow managed to win the election and is now the president-elect. Nonetheless, many of my fellow Trump opponents assert that he is “not my president,” not only meaning now while President Obama is still in office but also after Trump’s inauguration in two weeks.

I don’t share this sentiment. Yes, I know that Trump lost to Hillary Clinton in the popular vote by around three-million votes but that’s irrelevant. The US Constitution says that our president is elected by electors, not the American electorate, and the Electoral College has certified Trump’s win. So there’s no denying that Trump will be sworn in to the office of POTUS and I am a citizen of the USA.

Therefore, although I don’t have to like it, I acknowledge that he will be my president. I think that those of the not-my-president camp should also acknowledge it and here’s why. If Trump were not my president, then I would not care about him. I could put him out of my mind and focus on other issues. But I’ve already expressed why it will be so dangerous to our country for him to be the president.

This danger is real enough that Americans should not hide their heads in the sand and deny his position. We need to stand up to him and fight to protect our civil rights. Acknowledging that Trump is our president is the first step to being committed to the struggle. It is the very fact that he will be our president that makes the fight so important. And it won’t be just one battle. This will be a war that will likely stretch on for four years, with at least two of them having a majority of the legislature backing Trump (for the most part).

So drop the “not my president” line and take up arms against our president-elect with me. I don’t mean physical weapons; I mean political weapons. Arm yourself with the facts about what Trump will be doing as president. Speak out loudly about what he does and why it’s wrong before he begins muzzling our free speech. Vote for legislators in the midterm election who will join us in the fight against our president. Don’t let to-be-President Trump’s fact-free zone drown out our fight.

This is Trump. This is your country on Trump. Any questions?

It’s final—Donald Trump will become the president of the United States of America in a couple of months. So it’s now relevant to contemplate what the USA will be like under his administration. First off, it’s clear that he will not enter the Oval Office with a mandate of the American people. While Trump is sure to be elected by a strong majority of the Electoral College next month, Hillary Clinton will probably win the popular vote for president. Trump will lead a country in which a majority of American voters do not want him to be their president.

He will also have to forge foreign relations in a world where he is very unpopular. While it is not a globally unanimous sentiment, Europe hates Trump and according to Pew Research, much of the world has no confidence that Trump will do the right thing regarding world affairs. So it’s likely that all of the wounds that President Obama has healed in international relations with the USA after President Bush so badly damaged them will be reopened if you trust Trump’s words.

But neither foreigners nor Americans who have been paying attention to Trump will be able to trust the president’s word after he takes office. I’ve already written about how much of a liar Trump is. I realize that everyone lies, including Hillary Clinton, so it’s not that he lies that bothers me. It’s the extraordinary scale of his lying that concerns me. FactCheck.org dubbed Trump the “King of Whoppers” and PolitiFact awarded Trump’s campaign misstatements “Lie of the Year” in 2015. He even lies about his lies by switching his positions on issues from one side to the opposite and back at a dumbfounding rate and regularity. That’s why the world feels so much uncertainty about Trump’s presidency and Americans will be unable to rely on anything he will say as president.

In terms of the homeland itself, your country on Trump will be wet…and dry. Miami won’t be flooded by the Pacific Ocean during his administration but Trump has pledged to cancel last year’s Paris Climate Change accord and dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It’s a miracle that the world could reach an agreement that 193 countries would sign on to, so it’s likely to unravel with the world’s second leading emitter of carbon dioxide leaving the accord. That means you can expect Global Warming to continue and the seas to rise over the USA’s coastal cities after Trump has done his damage and left the White House. And without an EPA, Flint, Michigan won’t be the only place where you won’t be able to drink the water.

Americans will also have less access to health care on Trump. I continue to be a critic of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) but it’s preferable to no Obamacare at all. I know Trump has promised to replace the ACA after he repeals it but he has told you nothing about what he would replace it with. And it’s completely unrealistic to think that your Republican-dominated congress will pass any health care reform law, so you will be back to the way things were before the ACA: more than 15-million Americans who gained health insurance under the ACA will again have to go without it while the cost for health care will return to its pre-ACA levels of skyrocketing increases.

On Trump, ethnic relations among Americans will be rent to pieces. Between calling Mexicans rapists and murderers, calling for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” and countless other xenophobic comments, Trump has made America hate again. Because Trump is setting an example that it is acceptable, many Americans will be more willing to publicly express racism and prejudice of people who don’t look or act like a WASP. And the American targets of that bigotry will suffer from it and fear showing their diversity in public, thereby creating divides between “us” and “them” in whatever forms we and they take.

But perhaps the greatest damage the USA will sustain on Trump is the erosion of your freedoms and civil rights. Trump has repeatedly exhibited extensive disregard for the USA’s constitution. And by calling for “taking out” (he did not mean on a date) the families of members of ISIS and torturing terrorists with waterboarding, he has shown that he’s also willing to commit international war crimes. Trump threatened to throw Hillary Clinton in jail, if he were president, for charges that FBI director James Comey said “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring and has called for new libel laws to quash any journalists who publicly disagree with him. These are the actions dictators, including King George III of England, have historically taken to suppress any political opposition and wrest power from their people in totalitarian states.

The harmful side effects of Trump are many and I could go on at much more length about what your country will be like on Trump. But if, after fifteen months of Trump’s campaigning, you still support him, you already know everything about him that will damage your country but have chosen not to acknowledge it. It won’t change your denial to read about it here. And everyone else already knows the repercussions of the USA being on Trump. So I’ve said my peace and I’ll leave the next four years on Trump to history. Any questions?

Defining Donald Trump

The surprising success of Donald J. Trump’s primary campaign shows that he is unquestionably appealing to millions of Americans. This made me curious as to what about him is appealing to them. I started my analysis by describing Trump to see which of his characteristics are the most appealing. So I thought of all the words I could come up with that describe him.

Donald Trump is a narcissist, a racist, a megalomaniac, a demagogue, an oligarch, an egomaniac, and a sociopathic liar. He’s bombastic, arrogant, delusional, embarrassing, habitually litigious, and politically inconsistent.

At first glance, it might seem that this is not a serious description of Trump but is simply just a caricature. After all, how could a real person actually exhibit all of these traits? So I hyperlinked each one to the word’s definition in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. If you follow the links and read the definitions, you’ll see that they literally define Trump—without exaggeration, every one of them!

So what then is the appeal of this kind of a man? It turns out that many Americans do not so much support Trump as they oppose Hillary Clinton. The biggest criticism of her is that she’s a liar and it’s not hard to make that case. This is an understandable reason to oppose Clinton but it’s a poor reason to support Trump.

When it comes to lying, Trump makes Clinton sound like George Washington admitting to chopping down the cherry tree. Trump lies so blatantly that he doesn’t even care that it’s obvious and simple to show his lies to be false. Even his supporters know that he was lying when he claimed that “thousands and thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey were “cheering” the 9/11 attack. This is the man who stuck to his claim that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, even after the president released his long-form birth certificate to the public.

He lied so much that FactCheck.org dubbed Trump the “King of Whoppers” for 2015. Then they went on to cite a long list of lies he said over the course of the year and presented evidence that the statements were all false. PolitiFact put many of Trump’s statements through its Truth-O-Meter. It turns out that Trump made far more statements that were false at some level than he did statements that were at least partially true. Of PolitiFact’s six rulings of truthfulness (or lack thereof), only three percent of Trump’s statements were completely true—the fewest of all the categories.

Trump’s statements by ruling

Chart of Donald Trump's statements by ruling
Source: PolitiFact

After my analysis, I got a clear picture of what Donald Trump is really like. But I never found out what is so appealing about him. If you find him appealing, please make a comment below telling American voters why. If you think any of my characterizations does not apply to Trump, let me know which one and I’ll cite evidence that the definition is accurate in his case.