Tuesday, Mar 21, 2017

Crisis: On Trump's Tweets, Trump's Fights, Trump & Diplomacy, Robert Reich

Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. FBI Director James Comey Takes On New Role Fact-Checking
     the President’s Tweets

2. Trump Picks Fights With Germany, U.K., NATO and EU
Trump Is Waging War on Diplomacy Itself
4. My Visit to Trump’s Washington

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday
, March 21, 2017.

Summary: This is an ordinary
crisis log with four items and four dotted links: Item 1 is about the outcomes of the FBI's Comey and the NSA's Rogers and is quite interesting; item 2 is about how Trump - apparently through a combination of ignorance and dishonesty - is upsetting Germany, the U.K., the NATO and the EU (which is made much more serious by Trump's megalomania); item 3 is about how Trump is in fact preparing for war; and item 4 is about an interesting article by Robert Reich who describes political Washington-as-is: it seems a major mess, and the main reasons are the combination of Trump's nuttiness with his foreign policies.

Also, I did at long last sleep a bit better (and strongly hope this will continue), and it is Spring now, after another autumn-like "winter".
March 21: As to the updating problem: The Danish site was again on time today; but the Dutch site again stuck on yesterday. If over a year of signs are correct, this means it will NOT be updated for at least
another week.

Where my site on stuck for others I have NO idea AT ALL: It may be December 31, 2015. (They do want immediate payment if you are a week behind. has been destroying my site now for over a year. And I completely distrust them, but also do not know whether they are doing it or some secret service is.)
1. FBI Director James Comey Takes On New Role Fact-Checking the President’s Tweets

The first article is by Robert Mackey on The Intercept:

This starts as follows (and is about yesterday's hearings):

In a first for Congressional hearings, James Comey, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was asked to say under oath on Monday if the official Twitter feed of the President of the United States was lying about the testimony he was still giving.

The extraordinary moment came after Comey had confirmed to the House Intelligence Committee that there is indeed an ongoing counterintelligence investigation of Russian interference in the election of Donald Trump as president and “whether there was any coordination” between the Trump campaign and the Russian effort.”

I say. It seems the question wasn't answered, because this is "an ongoing investigation" that Congress should not know about (?!) until it is finished. But indeed the question is quite significant, because it does explicitly address Trump's honesty.

Then there is this, which at least suggests that Trump either lied or fantasized about Obama:

Comey also stated categorically that there was no evidence to support the conspiracy theory that former President Barack Obama had ordered the wiretapping of Trump Tower, speculation Trump himself had stated as fact in a moment of Breitbart-induced delirium earlier this month.

Incidentally, I'd say that - regardless of Comey's honesty, about which I have serious doubts - Comey should know such evidence from the extremely wide and secret phonetapping the FBI and the NSA are doing anyway. He says he does not know any such evidence.

Then there is this about Russian hacking of the American elections:

After those revelations, Comey and Michael Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, were asked by Rep. Devin Nunes, the Republican chair of the intelligence committee and a former member of Trump’s transition team, if they had any evidence that Russian hackers had tampered with the counting of votes in the small number of states that swung the electoral college in Trump’s favor. Both men replied that they did not.

Again no evidence, while Comey and Rogers should have known if there were (which is indeed what I have been repeating - following Binney and McGovern - since December 2016).

Of course (I'd say) Trump could not let that pass without lying:

Video of that exchange was soon posted on the president’s official Twitter account, @POTUS, which is managed by Trump’s former caddy and current social media director, Dan Scavino. The president’s Twitter spokesman, however, added a caption which mischaracterized the testimony of the two men as proof that “Russia did not influence electoral process.”

That was incorrect.

Because "no evidence" is not the same as "not". The same "mistake" was made two more times yesterday in the name of POTUS. You can click the last dotted link if you want to know more.

And this is a recommended article.

2. Trump Picks Fights With Germany, U.K., NATO and EU

The second article is by Juan Cole on Truthdig and originally on Informed Comment:

This starts as follows:
After Trump accused President Obama of having him wiretapped at Trump Tower during the campaign, Sean Spicer upped the ante by charging that Obama could have used the British GCHQ electronic surveillance agency to carry out the monitoring.  GCHQ does in fact outrageously invade people’s privacy online, but there is no reason to think it targeted Trump or that President Obama could have ordered them around.  Although initially it was reported that Spicer apologized to an outraged British government, he denies any apology was proffered.
I say. First note that Trump does not seem to have had any evidence for his accusation (and see item 1). Next, his spokesman Spicer seems to have fantasized his own evidence, namely that the British GCHQ did it. But the British denied this angrily and said there was no evidence. But Spicer did not apologize. Those were the British offended by Trump.

Next the Germans:

After an awkward meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the leader of the Free World, Trump tweeted out an insulting message accusing Germany and other NATO countries of not paying the US enough for the “very expensive” defense umbrella Washington spreads over Europe.

But NATO countries don’t pay anything to the United States.  Trump does not understand how NATO works.  They just devote some proportion of GDP to their own defense.
Why Merkel is asserted to be "the leader of the Free World" completely escapes me, but let that be. What is evident is that Trump's insults of Germany and other NATO countries were based on a combination of Trump's ignorance and Trump's dishonesty.

And this is about German cars:
Trump’s threat to slap a 35% tariff on BMW automobiles made at a new plant in Mexico and exported to the US could meet with a German lawsuit at the World Trade Organization, German experts agree.
The article (which is not long) ends as follows:
At this rate we won’t have any allies soon.
Yes, and the main reason is that Trump's allies are - also - faced with Trump's ignorance and Trump's dishonesty (as are most people, including now some Republicans): What Trump doesn't know - most things presidents are supposed to know - he makes up, and because He Is The Greatest In Everything Of Importance (in Trump's opinion, of course) he also cannot be made to act differently.

I think this will have consequences, though I do not know which ones. And this is a recommended article.

3. Trump Is Waging War on Diplomacy Itself

The third article is by Jefferson Morley on AlterNet:

This starts as follows:

"There's no question this is a hard-power budget," budget director Mick Mulvaney said of President Trump’s proposal to slash spending on diplomacy while increasing military spending. "It is not a soft-power budget....

The idea seems to be that U.S. "hard power"—as articulated by Trump and bolstered by a $54 billion increase in military spending—will deter America’s enemies and result in fewer wars. So the United States will need less international involvement and fewer diplomats.

It's a far-fetched argument, if not entirely bogus.

It seems entirely bogus to me: If you "slash spending on diplomacy while increasing military spending" you are preparing for war, and that also seems obvious.

Here is Jefferson Morley's explanation:

Trump’s budget cuts are not a harbinger of pacification, but an attack on the profession of diplomacy and the practice of international cooperation. They reflect White House adviser Steve Bannon's agenda of dismantling America’s alliances built since the end of the Cold War.

The goal is to replace the United Nations, the European Union, NATO and other multinational organizations with a more transactional diplomacy. Trump and Bannon prefer bilateral deals with partners that are willing to take on the “civilizational struggle” against “radical Islamic terrorism.” The template is gendered: abandon the soft, feminized European Union and embrace the hard, manly Putin.

I agree with the first of the above two paragraphs. The second is considerably more speculative, but may be true.

Here is more on how the cuts of the "hard-power budget" are going to be made:

The U.N. will bear the brunt of the cuts, reports Colum Lynch in Foreign Policy:

State Department staffers have been instructed to seek cuts in excess of 50 percent in U.S. funding for U.N. programs, signaling an unprecedented retreat by President Donald Trump’s administration from international operations that keep the peace, provide vaccines for children, monitor rogue nuclear weapons programs, and promote peace talks from Syria to Yemen, according to three sources.

Also, Trump and Bannon will not discuss their cuts or their changes in policies:

Trump and Bannon know the best way—the only way—they can win such debates is not to have them. They want a vacuum in which Trump will be free to escalate the struggle against “radical Islamic terrorism.” The State Department budget cuts are not intended as a prelude to peace as Tillerson suggested, but as preparation for the "clash of civilizations" Bannon yearns for.

Possibly so. This is a recommended article.

4. My Visit to Trump’s Washington

The fourth and last article today is by Robert Reich on his site:
This starts as follows:

I spent much of this past week in Washington – talking with friends still in government, former colleagues, high-ranking Democrats, a few Republican pundits, and some members of Congress from both sides of the aisle. It was my first visit to our nation’s capital since Trump became president.

My verdict:

1. Washington is more divided, angry, bewildered, and fearful – than I’ve ever seen it.

2. The angry divisions aren’t just Democrats versus Republicans. Rancor is also exploding inside the Republican Party.

3. Republicans (and their patrons in big business) no longer believe Trump will give them cover to do what they want to do. They’re becoming afraid Trump is genuinely nuts, and he’ll pull the party down with him.

Since I have been saying now for more than a year (starting here) that a psychologist like I am agrees with the judgements of many other psychologists and psychiatrists that Trump "is genuinely nuts", I am rather pleased that some Republicans seem to be seeing the same as I do, indeed not because I like Republicans, but because I fear a madman who has the power to blow up the whole world in a fit of insane pique.

Also, I think Reich's judgement in (1.) above is very probably correct, and Reich has worked for the American government (Clinton's) as secretary of state, so he does know "Washington" better than most.

Here is more on Trump's policies:

5. I didn’t talk with anyone inside the White House, but several who have had dealings with it called it a cesspool of intrigue and fear. Apparently everyone working there hates and distrusts everyone else.

6. The Washington foreign policy establishment – both Republican and Democrat – is deeply worried about what’s happening to American foreign policy, and the worldwide perception of America being loony and rudderless. They think Trump is legitimizing far-right movements around the world.

Incidentally, it seems, talking about point (5.), that Trump has appointed "assistants" to his various ministers who are not so much assistants as spies for Trump. There will be more on this in a later Nederlog if I have better evidence.

Here is more:

8. Republican pundits think Bannon is even more unhinged than Trump, seeking to destroy democracy as we’ve known it.

9. Despite all this, no one I talked with thought a Trump impeachment likely, at least not any time soon – unless there’s a smoking gun showing Trump’s involvement in Russia’s intrusion into the election.

10. Many people asked, bewilderedly, “how did this [Trump] happen?” When I suggest it had a lot to do with the 35-year-long decline of incomes of the bottom 60 percent; the growing sense, ever since the Wall Street bailout, that the game is rigged; and the utter failure of both Republicans and Democrats to reverse these trends – they gave me blank stares.

I agree more or less with point (8.), at least in the sense that I probably agree with the "Republican pundits". (Both Trump and Bannon are unhinged, but Bannon probably more so, and indeed not as Trump is.)

And I agree also with point (9.) and have been saying so since Trump was elected, indeed mostly because the Republicans currently do have almost all the powers there are in the USA.

Point (10.) is interesting as well: It seems as if most of the US political establishment, indeed both Republicans and Democrats, are so far removed from poor and the suffering middle classes that they don't - even - know how these have been effected since 1980 (!!).

I say. And this is a recommended article.

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