Trump’s Evangelical War Against Women Took A Dangerous Turn

In yet another despicable move to sate evangelicals crusading towards transforming America into an evangelical theocracy, Trump continued 2017’s pandering to the religious right with another attack on a greater number of the people. Anyone still curious about why the evangelical right adamantly supports a proud sinner who blatantly rejects the concept of repentance and contrition, Trump’s prioritization of evangelical’s freedom to control the rest of the population should explain why bible-thumpers love what decent human beings consider to be a seriously evil man.

For an administration allegedly opposed to federal regulations and federal government agencies, Trump announced some new federal regulations and created a new federal government “division” to protect evangelical workers who refuse to do their jobs and provide medical care. That medical care can be anything that offends the “conscience” of the evangelicals who are cheering Trump for finally  “prioritizing” their religious freedom to discriminate according to their religious conscience. Make no mistake, this new “division” and “new regulations” are specifically protecting evangelicals who intend to discriminate primarily against women and gays by refusing to provide medical care and services that are required as part of their jobs.

If an atheist public school teacher refused to teach any student who was an evangelical Christian on the grounds it violated their conscience, religious Republicans would go ballistic and attack that teacher mercilessly; despite the teacher was immediately terminated for refusing to do the job they were hired to do. Likewise, if a Jew or Muslim worker claimed it violated their conscience to accommodate an evangelical or Catholic because they ate pork products, then they would be summarily fired and Republicans and the evangelical right would go ballistic and attack them mercilessly.

But when pharmacists refuse to fill a physician’s prescription because the medication offends their morality, or the patient is not in compliance with the evangelical’s religious edicts,  there is a new Trump-created federal agency to protect their jobs; because Trump is all about “prioritizing” conscience protections for evangelicals that allow them to violate anti-discrimination laws.

Many have warned for years that so-called “conscience protections” for evangelicals pose a serious danger to the population, and now there is an official division in the Department of Health and Human Services. It is not, as Trump or the White House claim, about protecting healthcare workers opposed to abortion or assisted death based on their “religious” or “moral beliefs;” it is another Republican “license to discriminate” with lifelong, and possibly, life-threatening consequences for a large percentage of the population. Basically, any American who fails to hew closely to religious edicts evangelicals believe should be federal law is open for trouble from the faithful who work in the healthcare industry.

The new theocratic agency, the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, is a monumental victory for evangelicals who complained bitterly for eight long years that President Obama failed to give evangelicals what they demanded – much more authority under the guise of “religious freedom.” And it is noteworthy that in 21stCentury America, religious freedom means federal power for evangelicals to impose their religious beliefs on the nation to control women and impose some biblical punishment on members of the LGBTQ community.

The language in the new regulations is so broad that only an idiot cannot see that the “rule” is a veritable license to discriminate and withhold “access to medical care” from anyone if the religious worker does not approve of that “medical care” or the patient’s lifestyle. It is about more than just evangelicals opposed to abortion or birth control, it will lead to legalized discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, lifestyle, marital status, and sexual orientation; the main categories evangelicals firmly believe fall under their purview as theocrats running the government.

In keeping with the “poor persecuted Christian” sentiment based on the inability to control the population, the “poor persecuted” president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s lobbying arm said:

I am thankful that [Trump’s] HHS recognizes how imperiled conscience rights have been in recent years in this arena and is actively working and leading to turn the tide in the other direction.”

It is important to note that this new theocratic solution for persecuted evangelicals and their wicked imperiled consciences is about much more than giving pro-life healthcare workers the religious right to refuse performing an abortion or sterilization as HHS claimed. The Obama Administration left in place the decades-long federal protections for evangelical healthcare workers who objected to performing abortions or sterilizations. President Obama’s HHS also kept the George W. Bush rule’s formal process for workers to file complaints if they were expected to do the job they applied for and were hired to do, and then refused according to their “godly morality” or “deeply-held beliefs.”

This latest theocratic advancement is primarily an attack on women’s right to self-determination regarding their reproductive health, but no American is safe from evangelicals who believe their “conscience rights” have been “imperiled” for too long; now they want revenge and Trump willingly  complied.  What is new in 2108 is a full frontal assault on transgenders to bolster the already vicious religious attacks on the LGBTQ community based on evangelicals’ morals and their renowned Christian consciences.

Here’s the thing, if any of these cretins had a conscience, especially a “follower of Christ” conscience, they would never support Republicans who are gleeful at taking away healthcare, food, retirement, and housing from Americans to enrich corporations and the wealthy. Their objections to providing healthcare services, whether it is contraception, abortion, or transgender hormone therapy are not founded on their morality or religious conviction. They object to being prohibited from controlling other Americans who fail to toe the religious right line; it is the only reason why evangelicals vote for Republicans religiously. If they were “followers of Christ” or “Christians,” they would oppose Republicans like plague.

It is a dangerous sign that despite at least four or five Trump administration actions legalizing discrimination against women and the LGBTQ community in 2017, now the religious people who provide healthcare services possess their own federal license to discriminate. Trump’s Department of Justice and Education have openly legalized discrimination against women and the LGBTQ community under the heading “protecting evangelicals’ religious liberty,” and last month the Republican Congress followed suit in an education bill. This latest move at the start of 2018 is the result of an executive order Trump signed last May.  As noted by Sarah Warbelow in the U.S. News and World Report, “Trump’s executive order directed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to seek a license to discriminate in agencies across the federal government.”

There has been a deliberate and concerted effort to impose religion as governance and law for a couple of decades, but now that Christofascists co-own and co-control the federal government, the theocrats are having a field day. All the while, Americans await Trump’s next “tweet” with bated breath and many could not possibly care less because they are not women or members of the gay community. Remember, religious zealots are not known for restraint when they are empowered and when Mike Pence and his religious right fanatics finish putting women and gays in their “biblical” place, they will turn their attention to the rest of the population. If anyone is not terrified at the idea of medical professionals refusing to treat anyone based on conscience objections, then maybe understanding that now fire fighters, police officers, and paramedics can refuse to do their jobs according to their consciences represents a clear and present danger to all Americans.

Jeff Flake’s Speech Targeted Republicans and Trump

It is unusual for a sitting United States senator to publicize their intent speak about a member of their own party in a less than flattering manner, but these are unusual times with an unusually despicable malcontent in the Oval Office. What is not unusual for the Republican Party is to stand unified behind a despicable malcontent in the White House no matter the danger that cretin poses to the nation; Republicans’ party loyalty supersedes any regard for the nation. No matter what Arizona Senator Jeff Flake said about his party’s standard-bearer in his speech to the Senate, Donald Trump personifies the Republican Party and he enjoys telling the entire world how much of a true Republican he really is.

The only issue Republicans as a political party will ever have with Donald Trump is his big mouth and it is high time “the resistance” gets the message that one Republican senator’s criticism of Trump is the extent of the GOP’s opposition to anything Trump has done or will do. If that were not the case, Republicans would have impeached Trump and threw him out of office months ago because Mike Pence would do their bidding with much less controversy than Trump.

Is is interesting that Jeff Flake has been criticized for speaking out against Trump by Americans on the left and the right. One understands why dyed-in-the-wool Republicans condemn Flake, but it is an honest-to-dog mystery why anyone on the left calls him a hypocrite, or claims he is insincere for not “taking action” to thwart Trump’s agenda. Flake has never been a fan of Donald Trump, but he has voted faithfully with his fellow Republicans and that seems to be an issue with some people as if Flake is supposed to vote like a strong progressive just because Trump is in the White House.

In his Senate speech on Wednesday, and since Trump’s poorly attended inauguration, Flake never criticized Trump’s policy positions because they are by and large Republican policy positions. However, he has condemned Trump for the damage Flake thinks Trump is wreaking on the Republican brand with his lying big mouth.  It is almost certain that Flake’s condemnation of Trump is founded on preventing what he says is “Trumpism making Republicans unelectable” and little else. Flake is a Republican and it is naïveté to believe his criticism of Trump is driven by some altruistic regard for the state of the nation. If that were the case he would not vote with the Republican Party to dismantle the government.

Ed O’Keefe over at the Washington Post said Mr. Flake’s remarks were scheduled to coincide with Trump’s “Oval Office awards show” when he announces the federal government’s official “fake news prizes.” And although most of Flake’s comments went straight to the only issue Republicans have with their hero in the Oval Office, his speech should be seen as a damning indictment of the Republican Party.

Republicans have spent the past year sitting idly by and tolerating Trump saying out loud what the majority of Republicans believe as strong conservatives, but it was not why Flake attempted to humiliate Republicans. Apparently Flake is concerned about Trump’s shameful and repulsive statements about the news media as “enemies of the people” that few Republicans have had the nerve to criticize. Flake said:

It is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own president uses words infamously spoken by Joseph Stalin to describe his enemies.

This alone should be a source of great shame for us in this body, especially for those of us in the president’s Trump’s party. For they are shameful, repulsive statements.

It bears noting that so fraught with malice was the phrase ‘enemy of the people,’ that even Nikita Khrushchev forbade its use, telling the Soviet Communist Party that the phrase had been introduced by Stalin for the purpose of ‘annihilating such individuals’ who disagreed with the supreme leader.

Of course, the president Trump has it precisely backward — despotism is the enemy of the people. The free press is the despot’s enemy, which makes the free press the guardian of democracy. When a figure in power reflexively calls any press that doesn’t suit him “fake news,” it is that person who should be the figure of suspicion, not the press.”

There have been commentaries criticizing Flake for comparing Trump to Stalin and they are only valid to a point. Of course Trump has not embarked on the murderous rampages Stalin is noted for,  but he has praised vicious 21st Century murderous tyrants and it should raise red flags among more than just one sitting Republican senator. Nevertheless, Mr. Flake is right that Trump has incorporated many of the “memes” tyrannical dictators like Stalin and Hitler used to great effect.

What is noteworthy is that Flake has never criticized Trump for promoting typical Republican policies or issuing executive orders rescinding Obama-era measures Republicans have vehemently opposed since their inception. It is why he is not a hypocrite for criticizing Trump while voting for Republican legislation that Trump pledges to sign into law. When Jeff Flake, or any Republican in Congress, votes for Republican (read Heritage Foundation) measures, they are not voting either “with Trump” or “for Trump.” Flake would vote with his party no matter if a Democrat or Republican is in the White House. If anything, Flake should be given some credit for at least a semblance of respectability to criticize what are clearly the words of a despot.

Flake’s condemnation of Trump was not necessarily meant for Trump’s ears or he would not have addressed his colleagues in the Senate.  Although it is likely that Flake was happy to unleash a little criticism in Trump’s direction, his speech was for Republicans in hopes they will distance themselves from an honest-to-dog maniac, however unlikely that seems. It is curious that Republicans are still standing united behind Trump and it cannot possibly be, as many pundits claim, because they need Trump to sign any legislation they pass. If Trump is gone then every piece of legislation passed by Republicans would be immediately signed into law by any other Republican along the chain of succession. It is likely that Republicans as a party really do not have many issues with Trump and it is not solely because they fear repercussions from the base.

Republicans really only have one issue with Trump and it is not his racism, pathological lying, devotion to foreign leaders, or using his position to enrich himself and his family; those are all uniquely Republican traits. The GOP’s only problem with Trump is that he is not timid about vocalizing his uniquely Republican traits. Just because Republicans are not openly calling  the news media “enemies of the people” for debunking Republicans’ lies and misinformation campaigns, they likely have harsh words for the press behind closed doors.

It is unclear exactly what Jeff Flake expected to accomplish criticizing his own party for tolerating a “shameful and repulsive despot.” He may be legitimately concerned that “Republicans are as damned if they stick with Trump” as Flake is “repulsed” by Trump calling the media “enemies of the people.”  The only thing that is crystal clear is that Republicans as a political party are not going to abandon Trump; because although he is shameful and repulsive, he is a dependably staunch Republican.

As Amber Phillips at WaPo noted, Flake’s speech should be “categorized as one more example of the no-win situation Trump is putting the Republican Party in.” It is a situation that Flake said “Republicans have to stop excusing or ignoring or we are lost.”

To Celebrate Roe v Wade Senate GOP Plans A Religious Attack On Women

While many Americans are either mesmerized over another wealthy celebrity entertainer contemplating a run for the presidency, or the current White House occupant’s racist pejoratives aimed at other countries’ citizens, the Senate is poised to attack women on behalf of the Vatican and evangelical personhood movement.

Of course another religious attack on women is the new normal since America was taken over by evangelical theocrats at the highest levels of government, but it doesn’t mean the media or the resistance should keep silent over another assault on 51 percent of the population. What it does mean is that the so-called “resistance” had better start confronting these evangelical machinations head on before Republicans deal a deathblow to women’s constitutional right to self-determination; a right religious Republicans are crusading to eliminate. And that deathblow starts with controlling women’s reproductive choices with theocratic legislation with no basis in reality – like “The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.

It is noteworthy to state right away that this piece of legislation is based on a seriously bastardized and heretical interpretation of the Christian religion. It is, however, part and parcel of the Catholic faith founded on a 1968 Papal encyclical, but it is not “scriptural” to evangelicals by any stretch of the imagination. Evangelicals and Republicans embrace the Catholic  personhood movement’s biblical heresy because it originated in the mind of a powerful male tyrant who devised a simple means of controlling his Catholic adherents around the world. Religious Republicans and their evangelical masters are using “the fetus” in hopes of controlling American women and keeping them “in their place” as birth machines like god and the male clergy intended.

According to reports from women’s rights activists, while the public is waiting for Trump’s next Twitter tirade Senate Republicans are preparing to vote on a 20-week abortion ban next week. It looks as if the vote is going to be on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade as a nod to the fanatical personhood movement that the GOP is  repaying loyal evangelical voters by using religion to control women with a ban on their right to self-determination. Trump promised his extremist religious disciples that he would sign the Vatican-inspired ban when it reaches his desk.

The Republican dominated House already passed a 20-week ban based on radical Christian claims that a 20-week fetus is a child that feels pain. It is noteworthy to mention that the age of fetal viability is pegged at 28 weeks” when pathology shows there is enough  neurological development in a fetus to breathe oxygen and start feeling anything, even though at 28 weeks the survival rate is at about 50 percent.

The religious Republican ban is founded on the stunningly absurd notion that at 20 weeks of gestation a fetus has full neurological development more than sufficient to feel pain. The reality is that at 20 weeks there are no neurological structures in place for that organism to feel anything according to a clinical professor and OB-GYN at Stanford University. Jennifer Conti is also a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health and she said:

Twenty weeks is just an arbitrary limit set in place by [religious Republican] politicians that has no medical or scientific backing. There’s actually conclusive evidence that shows that the neurologic structures in a fetus aren’t complete and working until much further along in pregnancy, we think the third trimester.”

Ms. Conti is right, of course, and the scientific medical community concur that the neurological structures are “probably in place at about 28-29 weeks,” not 20 weeks. In fact, according to a comprehensive review reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, “the structures needed for fetuses to feel [anything] only begin to develop between 23 and 30 weeks of gestation.” That biological fact was verified by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists who reported that “premature babies cannot feel anything [much less pain] until 29 or 30 weeks.

For the ignoramus zealots among the evangelical sect, a “premature” baby is one that has left the mother’s womb and breathes oxygen; what the evangelical god of the bible calls “a living being.” It is not a zygote, not an embryo or a fetus that the anti-choice morons claim are “children” that feel pain. The point is that If a living, oxygen-breathing “premature baby”  cannot feel anything until 29 or 30 weeks, then it is biologically impossible for a 20-week old fetus to be “pain capable.

It is questionable whether the Senate version of the 20-week ban will pass due to requiring a supermajority vote (60) to advance to Trump’s desk, but that is not a completely unwanted result for the religious Republican movement. In fact, it is likely that anti-women’s rights groups, evangelical fanatics, Republicans, the Vatican, U.S. Catholic Bishops, the personhood movement, and all Christofascists want to see the ban fail for an obvious reason; to use the legislation’s defeat during an election year to focus attention on every candidates’s position on women’s reproductive rights.

If the measure fails in the Senate, Americans can expect a very heavy dose of attacks by religious Republicans on any candidate who either voted against, or would have voted against, a theocratic fetus law. And that opposition would be heavily promoted as Democrats who “willfully refuse to protect the voiceless, the vulnerable, the marginalized children who science has proven can feel pain.”

As noted above, fetuses are “not children” and they are not living beings according to the evangelical Christian’s god of the bible. And, science has proven that a fetus at 20 weeks has no neurological structure to feel anything. Still, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said there are marginalized children in mothers’ wombs who are in pain and only Republicans can save them. Republicans will beat that dead horse mercilessly in the leadup to the 2018 midterms and the “resistance” will do what they typically do when confronted with “the fetus” by lying Republican theocrats, lose elections.

Republicans have had incredible electoral success with the fetus over the years and it was an important part in Trump garnering support from the evangelical extremists that make up the majority of his base. Besides bringing about the End Times, the religious right flocked to Trump on his pledge to put an end to women’s reproductive freedoms; and for the personhood evangelicals that means abolishing birth control according to the 1969 Papal document that bans abortion, the Humanae Vitae.

This ridiculous fetal pain nonsense has failed in the past but now that evangelicals co-own and co-control the federal government, their assault on women represents a clear and present danger.

Remember, one of the first acts of the evangelicals running the federal government was designating a eukaryotic cell (zygote) as a living human being worthy of federal government protection. Republicans followed suit in the House version of tax reform giving zygotes, embryos, and the fetus federal personhood status for the sake of evading taxation. Theocratic Republicans are setting a precedent to ban all forms of what the Vatican calls “artificial birth control” and every attack on women’s reproductive rights is setting up that ban; and all without the Catholic Pope ever having to utter one edict.

If there is a real “resistance” movement, they have been extraordinarily silent on the not-so-stealthy and sustained attack on women over the course of the past year. A monumental part of the problem is that no organization, or Democrat for that matter, is willing to cite the only source of these unrelenting attacks on women. Believe it or not, there are no laws forbidding anyone from condemning the Republican attacks on women as borne of religion. Oh some people will claim that mentioning religion will kill the message or alienate the faithful, but that kind of mindset is precisely what the religious right, Republicans indebted to the religious right, the religious right clergy, and the anti-women’s movement is counting on. They know that everyone in America is too terrified to say out loud that religion is the only basis for the misogyny and patriarchal attacks on American women and it is why they continue unabated.

Image: Eclectablog

It’s Time For Media and Liberals to Stop Helping Trump Win

It is curious that a fair number of Americans claim to detest Donald Trump like plague, and yet they are at the forefront of promoting him and his agenda due to their obsession with his social media activities. By now everyone on the planet knows Trump is an incompetent fool and a mentally unstable narcissist, so it is mind boggling that so many allegedly “smart” people hang on his every social media action and then share his message with the world. It is something he depends and thrives on and uses to his advantage.

Early on in Trump’s tenure a few pundits and some relatively intelligent people said it would be helpful if Americans would just ignore Trump’s Twitter tirades and not give the petulant little child the attention he craves.  Finally, one of those “smart guys” made an easy to understand graphic titled “A Taxonomy of Trump Tweets” explaining how Trump uses Twitter to his advantage and how the media is complicit in giving Trump the messaging advantage.

The “smart guy” is a real academic who has spent years explaining exactly how a tyrannical maniac like Trump could easily garner support in America among a certain group of people. They are the kind of people who need a strong daddy figure to tell them how, what, and when to think, and who to turn to for the solution to all their perceived ills.

George Lakoff was describing a “Trump-like” personage ages ago and he has once again taken the time to inform Americans, especially those in mainstream media and active on social media, how they are complicit in helping Trump’s strategy by repeating his messages.

Mr. Lakoff knows of what he speaks as an acclaimed Professor of cognitive science and linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He recently put his expertise to work outlining the “four ways that the president Trump uses his tweets to control the news cycle.” Lakoff took to Trump’s favorite media outlet, Twitter, to inform journalists and social media devotees how “Trump uses social media as a weapon to control the news cycle. It works like a charm. His tweets are tactical rather than substantive. They mostly fall into one of four categories.”

The categories begin with “preemptive framing;” such as promoting the idea that the “hacking of the DNC” was the DNC’s fault and that Hillary Clinton “lost by a wide margin.” Both claims are false, but with valuable assistance from the media and Democrats “retweeting” Trump’s lies, he was wildly successful “framing and promoting an idea” with no basis in fact. Both of those ideas still resonate with his base of support because “real media” types kept his false assertions in the news for months.

Trump has survived thus far using another strategy, “diversion,” to shift attention away from his corruption and incompetence as well as his Russia problems. It is a tactic he was busy using throughout the 2016 campaign continuing to the present. Mr. Lakoff referred to Trump attacking a Hollywood icon, Meryl Streep, in a tweet two weeks prior to his poorly attended inauguration to enrage Americans and shift their attention away from the reporting on his personal conflicts of interest and his administration’s Russia-collusion problems.

A related scheme, “deflection” has been a mainstay of Trump’s Twitter strategy and an integral part of his administration’s messaging, especially when dealing with any unflattering or factual media reporting. A perfect example is what Lakoff noted was “attacking the messenger” to reframe a story to benefit Trump. By attacking the media as “fake news” Trump not only “erodes public trust,”  he “establishes Trump as the only source of truth and facts.” Trump began calling any media outlet that reported truthfully “fake news” early in his campaign and it was so successful he has had no reason to stop now.

The last category is what Mr. Lakoff calls the “trial balloon” to test the media and public’s reaction to an idea; such as his public flirtation with starting a new nuclear arms race or an actual American nuclear first strike. In fact, Mr. Lakoff noted that Trump’s “big nuclear” button tweet was another “trial balloon which Trump deployed spectacularly.”

Professors Lakoff explained on Twitter that:

Each tweet gets his message retweeted so he dominates social media. Reporters, social media influencers, and many others fall for it hook, line, and sinker. Every time…They may think they’re negating or undermining him, but that’s not how human brains work. As a cognitive scientist, I can tell you: Repeating his messages only helps him.”

Lakoff explained that repeating his tweets are helping “embed Trump’s message into the brains of millions of people, increase his credibility with his base,” and focus all attention on Trump as if “he is the most important thing in the world.”

As this author has preached since last November, Trump’s Twitter activity needs to be completely ignored. Or at least as Professor Lakoff suggested; “take a different approach to Trump’s social media antics” and “put them in a quiet corner of the newspaper like a throwaway item at the end of the newscast.

Professor Lakoff said one thing that cannot be overstated. Instead of being captivated by Trump’s social media activity, Americans should be “keeping a steely focus on what actually matters.”

Honest to dog, it is a travesty that many Americans are still unaware that their government is being dismantled, Republicans are transferring the Treasury and wealth of the nation to the richest one-percent, and religious Republicans are in the midst of a monumental assault on women and gays. It is not that these stories are being neglected; it is that too many Americans are focused on the latest tweet from what Lakoff said is “this disgraceful man” who dominates the media.

At this point, no media outlet or journalist has to use Trump’s “Twitter” outrages to portray him as “childish or deranged,” and the same is true of social media devotees. Of course Trump is a screaming lunatic, but spreading his insanity across social media is not “negating or undermining him.” It just emboldens him and makes him appear to be the most important thing on Earth. It also feeds his narcissistic need to dominate social media and the current news cycle; it is why he never fails to unleash something bizarre at the beginning of every weekend to keep his name in the news.

Mr. Lakoff makes many good points, but none better than “we must stop letting Trump control the media — and Americans’ minds.” While Trump dominates every stinking new cycle because the media is laser focused on his twitter activity, Republicans are raping and pillaging the nation and the government with little to no public outrage or media coverage. What is particularly appalling is that while Americans, and the media, are enthralled with Trump’s latest Twitter activity, Republicans are viciously attacking women’s rights for the evangelical fanatics in league with the Vatican.

It has now been nearly two years since Trump became “a thing” of interest for the media and they have made him the most important story on Earth based on “tweets.” It is damned high time for journalists, the media at large, and “social media influencers” to grow up, focus on how Republicans and religion are destroying America and for dog’s sake stop helping Trump win the media war.

White House Official and DHS Debunk Trump’s Voter Fraud Lies

If deceitful Don Trump had even a modicum of shame, the news of yet another of his lies being debunked by his own White House would send the mendacious miscreant into hiding; but Trump has no shame any more than he has an honest bone in his corrupt body. After months of Trump’s tired claim that he was a victim of “massive voter fraud” in the 2016 election, Trump’s lie was put to rest by Trump’s  White House “announcement” that Trump’s “controversial voter fraud commission” failed to “uncover any findings of voter fraud in the 2016 general election.” The announcement comes a few days after Trump’s announcement disbanding the ridiculous “commission.”

Since Trump’s pathological narcissism prevented him from accepting that he lost the 2016 popular vote by about 2.8 million votes to Hillary Clinton, he claimed there was “massive voter fraud” in numbers exceeding about 2.8 million votes. So he tasked preacher Pence and Kris Kobach with convening a “commission” to ferret out “vulnerabilities in voting systems” that lead to the massive voter fraud Trump complained about. Trump even claimed that the commission had actually uncovered “substantial” voter fraud findings that were going to be handed to the Department of Homeland Security for further investigation and prosecution.

Commission co-chair, voter fraud fanatic, and current Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach joined Trump in lying about the “evidence” and told Breitbart News last week that the commission’s significant findings were being “handed off” to the Department of Homeland Security because “Democrats were becoming uncomfortable with how much [evidence] Republicans had discovered thus far.” Like Trump, Kobach is a dirty liar because the official word from the White House was that there are zero findings so the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would be receiving zero records, findings, or data.

Kobach was not finished lying and said that despite Trump abolishing “the commission,” as a state official from Kansas he was too important to be ignored and would be in the middle of the federal effort to stop “massive voter fraud.” Kobach said he would be:

“Working closely with the White House and DHS to ensure the investigations continue. What’s happening is a tactical shift where the mission of the commission is being handed off to Homeland Security without the stonewalling by Democrats. They have absolutely no interest in stopping voter fraud. It’s truly extraordinary that one party in our system has made clear that they don’t care. Some people on the left were getting uncomfortable about how much we were finding out.”

Kobach must be maneuvering for a top spot among Trump’s liar’s club elite, because everything he said regarding “the commission” is a lie; and the Department of Homeland Security called him out. A DHS spokesperson put it bluntly:

Mr. Kobach is not advising DHS in a formal or informal manner. Of course, if an issue were to arise, we would work with him in his official capacity as the Kansas secretary of state as we do with any secretary of state and other state and local officials.”

The White House “officially” contradicting Trump and Kobach came in the form of a “sworn court declaration” by Donald J. Trump’s director of White House Information Technology, Charles Herndon.

Mr. Herndon said no matter what Kobach claimed, there would be “no Commission records or data transferred to the DHS or another agency” because the commission had no findings to “hand off.”  He did say that whatever “data” the “Commission” possessed would be given to “NARA [the National Archives and Records Administration] in accordance with federal law.” Otherwise the White House will destroy any state voter data pending a lawsuit against the “Commission” by a member of the “commission.”

This news that the commission found zero evidence of voter fraud is no revelation, but it does expose another Trump lie; that he disbanded the commission to save taxpayer dollars in legal fights with the states. It is not clear if Trump’s commission actually intended to take 44 Republican and Democratic states to court and attempt to force them to violate constitutional privacy laws or not. However, even Trump’s lawyers and Department of Justice had to fathom the folly of such an absurd scenario.

Besides finding zero evidence of any voter fraud, it is possible that “the commission” may have had to reveal the one legitimate “vulnerability in the voting systems” that Kris Kobach and Mike Pence embrace because it suppresses votes. Both of “the commission” co-chairs support Kobach’s “Interstate Crosscheck Program” that was devised specifically to create the appearance of “duplicate voter registrations” in the millions.

In fact, using the “Crosscheck” data of a person’s name and year of birth, the Washington Post discovered that in the 2016 general election:

Mike Pence registered to vote eight times and cast seven ballots across six states in the November 2016 election.”

It appears that Trump’s Voter Integrity Commission co-chair and vice president committed vote fraud several times in the last election and escaped detection or prosecution.  But all that really happened was that eight different men named Mike Pence born the same year as Trump’s Pence registered to vote in 2016, and seven of them went to the polls and cast a ballot. It is highly likely that neither Kobach nor Pence want any media reporting that their “Crosscheck” system is just a deceitful means of suppressing votes.

Despite report after study proving that “suspected vote fraud” was at most about 0.0000002 percent in the 2016 election, Trump and Republicans maintain it is a massive problem. That minute percentage squares with another humongous comprehensive study published in 2015 and ignored by Republicans nationwide. The study found that from 2000 to 2014 out of 1.2 billion votes cast in every federal, state, city, municipal and county election for every elected office in America, there were exactly 31 “officially suspected” cases of voter fraud. That amount of  “suspected fraud” is not “massive;” it is 0.0000000026 percent and yet since 2008 Republicans have used every voter suppression tactic under the Sun based on their assertion of “massive” voter fraud destroying democracy.

There is massive voter fraud but it is at the hands of lying Republicans with valuable assistance from the Koch brothers’ legislative arm, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). There have been never-ending attacks on voting rights by Republicans nationwide and their typical ploy is founded on some devious ALEC-created legislation that only stops people of color and the poor from voting because they do not support Republicans.

The White House actually admitting that the real reason Trump had to disband his vaunted voter integrity clown show was because there were zero findings of voter fraud should have sent the lying Trump and Kobach into hiding. Despite the White House and Department of Homeland Security debunked Trump’s and Kobach’s lies about voter fraud, the Republicans will ramp up their attacks on voting rights in the upcoming midterm elections. Now that Republicans understand they can lie profusely and face no repercussions, Americans can expect a monumental Republican crusade to implement Pence and Kobach’s beloved “Crosscheck” system nationwide; not to stop voter fraud, but to aid the fascist Trump put the final nail in American democracy’s coffin.

Trump’s America Is In Thrall of Special Interests

Donald Trump’s crusade to neuter federal regulatory agencies by appointing nominees with monumental conflicts of interest, and in many cases outright animus for whichever agency they eventually run continues unabated. It is a sad commentary, but it appears there are no federal agencies remaining to protect the American people from predatory special interests because they are run by predatory special interests. It is unclear if it was the kind of change Trump and Republican supporters really wanted, but regardless their intent, it is a travesty that malcontent racists, bigots, and religious fanatics have put all Americans at the mercy of predacious special interests.

As has been the case for the past year, the newest head of an important federal regulatory agency spent three decades waging war on the agency he is now leading. Obviously, Trump is too much of a lazy ignoramus and too disinterested in governing to have sought out a confirmed enemy of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), so it almost certainly fell to the Heritage Foundation to find the perfect energy industry surrogate to run the agency responsible for regulating the energy industry.

The newly sworn-in head of FERC, Kevin McIntyre, was a partner in a “prominent” Washington, D.C. law firm with close ties to the energy companies that are now under his regulatory purview. The law firm also represented Trump during the 2016 campaign.

As ThinkProgress reported, the energy industry advocate had close “ties to energy companies that fall under the FERC jurisdiction that were so numerous and ran so deep that his swearing-in as chairman of the agency was delayed to give him more time to ‘officially’ sever his close attorney-client relationships.”

This is the first time in nearly 30 years that a nominee went directly from representing the energy industry to running the agency responsible for regulating the energy industry. Moreover, in Kevin McIntyre’s case, those so-called “former” energy industry clients are “numerous and powerful” entities.

According the financial disclosure McIntyre submitted to the Office of Government Ethics, during the past two years the Trump-appointed FERC chairman represented several different “energy and utility companies” that have cases currently before the FERC. Those former clients include energy industry giants American Electrical Power Corp. (AEP) and Enable Mainstream Partners LP.

As a legal advocate for the energy industry for decades, it is not out of the ordinary for a partner in a “prominent” law firm fighting regulatory agencies to represent giant corporate interests. However, both of those energy giants McIntyre representedagainst the FERC have important “cases under consideration” by the same FERC he now heads as chair. In normal times, McIntyre’s nomination would have raised ‘conflict of interest’ red flags and engendered major opposition from every direction, but these are far from normal times because America is in thrall of special interests.

For a perfect example of why an energy industry advocate running a federal agency tasked with “regulating” a former client is sheer madness, consider two cases involving McIntyre’s “former” client AEP.

Several of AEP’s subsidiaries are accused of generating profits exceeding the rate rules set by the FERC, a case that Mr. McIntyre likely was at least aware of as a member of the legal team representing the energy giant. Similarly, another AEP subsidiary filed a complaint with the FERC accusing an electrical grid operator of unfair treatment. There are only two options to settle both of the cited cases involving McIntyre’s “former” client AEP; including one that seems unrealistic at best.

With a former corporate energy industry lawyer leading FERC, it does not appear likely that AEP will choose the option to reach an equitable settlement each side can live with. If AEP just refuses to reach an equitable deal and opts for option two, then their former legal advocate and now head of FERC will settle the issue for them with his majority Republican “commission.” One cannot imagine energy giant AEP having any interest in a deal that is fair to both sides with their former legal advocate as adjudicator.

McIntyre is just one in a long list of Trump appointees with strong corporate ties and just as strong conflicts of interest. By now a couple of Americans may realize that a significant number of Trump’s appointees hold radical views about the agencies they run whether they represent a corporate or religious special interest. As noted by Mark Hand, Trump’s corporate and special interest radicals “hold views that are much more extreme than policy positions espoused by officials in previous presidencies.”

That is very bad news for Americans who have all but lost what little protection they had prior to special interests running the government. In McIntyre’s case, there is no better example of a special interest advocate running a federal regulatory agency — like nearly all of Trump’s administration.

Mr. McIntyre admitted to reporters that the past thirty years of his career have been solely dedicated to defending the energy industry from the FERC, but he also claimed that he could stay neutral – under certain conditions.

McIntyre pledged in an ethics letter that he would not “participate personally and substantially in any particular manner involving specific parties” with ties to his former law firm; unless he obtains a waiver from one of the ethics officials at the agency he leads. He also claimed that he would not be a participant in any case that involves a former client; unless he receives prior authorization from an official at the agency he runs as Chairman.

It is now clear that there was a definite plan to fill top positions at regulatory agencies that had nothing to do with protecting the people. Trump has put a rash of corporate lawyers and special interest lobbyists to regulate the special interests they recently lobbied or advocated for in court and they have already started adversely impacting the people.

Obviously, Trump and Republicans comprehend that it is no easy task to abolish regulatory agencies and departments, but they are doing the next best thing by either starving them of funding or putting people in charge who have no interest in enforcing any regulations that protect the people. At this point it is difficult to tell if there are any federal agencies not being run by either the special interests they are supposed to regulate or long-time enemies of the agency they run; like Scott Pruitt at the EPA or Betsy DeVos at the Education Department.

It is no exaggeration to claim that the great majority of the federal government is now being run by corporate and religious special interests controlled and funded by a few Republican donors and oligarchs. The depressing aspect of this horror story is that this is the new “normal” and apparently it is no big deal that another corporate surrogate is running an important federal regulatory agency. Americans will soon learn that they now live under a government in thrall of special interests with no regard for the general welfare of the United States as a nation or the people. This nation’s government is the definition of a corporate fascist state and instead of a power-grab or coup d’état, all it took was a system that allows stupid, racist, and religious people to vote.

Inherent Cruelty Drives Sessions’ Reefer Madness Obsession

Any American who still believes Republicans are not inherently cruel after the past 12 months is either brain dead or a savage. In case anyone needs an example of just how fiendish Republicans are according to their political nature, Trump’s lying attorney general is the poster child for what any decent person considers unusually cruel.

Sessions more than meets the definition of cruel because he is not only the kind of sub-human that “willfully causes pain or suffering to others and feels no concern about it,” he embraces it with religious fervor as his personal cause célèbre. British authorGeorge Eliot once explained that for people like Sessions and his Republican cohorts, cruelty for the sake of being cruel is its own reward and motivation. He said:

Cruelty requires no motive outside itself; it only requires opportunity.”

As attorney general, Sessions has a stellar opportunity to exercise a particularly nasty form of cruelty; cause pain and suffering to other American citizens for no apparent reason other than causing pain and suffering.

It is true that Republicans are cruel in taking healthcare, food and housing from the poor, the elderly and children, but at least they attempt to justify that barbarism with fake regard for the national debt and deficit. Of course, that justification is sheer bunk and does not excuse the Republicans’ cruelty, but they are being cruel for a reason; an expectation of recompense from their wealthy donors.

However, this Jeff Sessions character is a different breed of cruel and barbaric. He is on an obsessive religious crusade to punish Americans suffering myriad infirmities, deadly diseases, injuries and disabilities because he is in a position of authority. Sessions intends to punish sick Americans for no other reason than satisfying his unhealthy obsession by restricting access to a medicine that provides relief to millions of suffering Americans.

Even though there is no profit to him in advancing the “reefer madness” crusade, there are Republican donors in big pharma and the private prison industry that see dollar signs if Sessions succeeds in shutting down legalized medicinal and recreational cannabis in the states. Nevertheless, even that motivation appears to play little role in Sessions’ personal religious crusade against weed.

Sessions has had an unhealthy obsession about marijuana for ages and last week he turned that obsession into a seriously cruel action. As expected, Sessions rescinded the “Cole Memo” that protected states with legal cannabis and sent warning letters with “factual errors to the leaders of four states with legal cannabis markets.” He also asked Congress to give him permission to act on his obsession to prosecute medical marijuana companies because they provide relief for suffering Americans.

That Sessions again asked Congress for permission to pursue legal cannabis sales is further proof he suffers an honest-to-dog religious fanaticism about reefer. He even told Congress that legal weed is responsible for what he said was “the current historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime.”

The DOJ must be in a position to use all laws available to combat  drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives.”

Sessions was referring to states that have legal and regulated medicinal and recreational cannabis that have no connection to “drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers.”  Legal cannabis also has no connection to “the current historic [opioid] drug epidemic” much less “a potential long-term uptick in violent crime.” This lying freak of nature Sessions is obsessed to a level that precludes him from serving in any government capacity, much less as attorney general.

Sessions has already spent no small amount of time this year pressuring Congress not to reauthorize the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment that prohibits the federal government from interfering with states that decriminalized medicinal or recreational pot use. The House told Sessions no, and for good measure Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced a Senate amendment identical to the House version that easily passed over Sessions’ objections. Congress does not believe Sessions is in line with the will of the people or medical science of the past 40 years or so; he certainly has no compassion for the suffering of others.

These actions are not new for the reefer-obsessed Sessions. If he would exercise a fraction of regard for Americans’ civil and voting rights as he does people using a medicine he does not like, then he may not be a complete waste of oxygen. It is not just that Sessions lusts to restrict Americans from gaining relief from cannabis, he wants to eliminate what is being reported everywhere as “an effective tool for opioid users to break addiction cycles.”

This is particularly telling after Trump made a big deal about addressing the opioid crisis and epidemic, and after a House Democrat schooled and scolded Sessions for spreading lies about cannabis. He still maintains that the weed has no medicinal value for anything despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. In fact, in a speech at the Heritage Foundation recently he blamed the opioid crisis and epidemic on states that legalized medicinal or recreational cannabis use.

Sessions is as big a liar as he is a racist religious fanatic and he is stuck in a long-gone era when another maniac created “reefer madness” to scare the life out of Americans.  Sessions actually told a group that his plan to strike down state cannabis laws is by utilizing more “reefer madness” propaganda; what he calls “education.” He told the group:

I do believe … that the public is not properly educated on some of the issues related to marijuana.”

Sessions does not have any “issues related to marijuana” to educate the public with; he has 1936-era government created “Reefer Madness” propaganda, but there are no issues to support Sessions’ religious belief that cannabis has no medicinal properties or value whatsoever. If Sessions is a predictably deceitful liar, and he is nothing if not a predictably deceitful liar, he will repeat what he said at the Heritage Foundation and launch a taxpayer-funded campaign blaming the opioid epidemic on states with legal cannabis.

Seriously, even as study after study after state-level data demonstrates that cannabis is an effective means of reducing opioid use, Sessions blames the epidemic on reefer. Sessions has no excuse for not knowing cannabis is effective in reducing opioid use because in late October House Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN) informed him about the data and benefits of cannabis. Mr. Cohen told Sessions:

“Twenty-eight states or 29 states and the District of Columbia have legalized it [marijuana] for medical purposes; eight states and the District of Columbia for recreational purposes. In states where they’ve got medical marijuana, they have 25 percent less opioid use. It gives people a way to relieve pain without using opioids, which inevitably leads to death and crime. So I’d hope you’d take a look at that.”

Sessions promised Representative Cohen under oath in the House that:

“I will take a look at it. We will be looking at some rigorous analysis of the marijuana usage and how it plays out. I am not as optimistic as you.”

Sessions did not look at anything or he would not launch his fanatical religious crusade to stop Americans from using cannabis as medicine or for recreation. The research about the benefits of cannabis for a rash of ailments is beyond dispute and easily accessible to everyone. If Sessions really wants to “properly educate the public on some of the issues related to marijuana,” he can send them over to the NIH’s federal government website page titled “Cancer and Cannabis,” or refer them to a fairly technical medical study describing in great detail exactly how the THC in cannabis kills cancer cells.

Sessions has what appears to be a certifiable obsessive disorder about cannabis that no amount of empirical data or pathological proof will alter whatsoever. If Sessions were not certifiably batshit about weed, he would believe the mounds of research disproving his unfounded faith. However, losing his faith about cannabis would impact his intrinsic need to willfully cause pain and suffering to others by eliminating their access to a safe medicine.

Look, there is no reason for Sessions to pursue the states that decriminalized weed except to punish the people who get relief from cannabis. Medicinal or recreational cannabis does not cost the government any money and in fact is a revenue-generatingbit of commerce for states. That revenue stream is helping fund law enforcement, drug treatment programs, education and other social programs. Legalization has also eliminated the need for anything resembling “black market transactions.

Of course, Sessions is getting push-back from Republicans and Democrats alike, especially from the states. However, the issue is much more than about states’ rights or the will of the people or the benefit to state budgets with regulated cannabis sales. Although those are all valid reasons to rail against Sessions’ religious crusade against cannabis, there is the issue of him openly campaigning to deliberately inflict pain and suffering on the people he is supposed to protect.

Sessions deserves to be figuratively crucified as a cruel savage for making moves to “willfully cause pain and suffering to others without an ounce of remorse.” One would call Sessions a savage beast, but there are no “beasts” in the animal kingdom that inflict pain and suffering for the sake of inflicting pain and suffering; that is unique to human beings and wholly embraced by Jeff Sessions because he is a uniquely cruel Republican.

Image: Cannabis Culture

Republicans Set The Stage To Dismantle the Federal Government

It has taken decades, but it appears that anti-government crusader Grover Norquist’s dream of cutting the government down to a size he can drown in a bathtub is on the verge of becoming reality. No doubt 2018 will go down as a watershed year for Republicans who finally have the authority to at least begin achieving one of the conservative movement’s raison d’être.

It has been the Republican Party’s wet dream to “devolve government to the local level” since FDR and the 1930’s New Deal and they took a giant step towards that goal with a massive gift to corporations and the wealthy who own them. In case there is any confusion, “devolve government to the local level” means abolishing the federal government in its entirety – including all agencies, acts of Congress, departments and programs created for “the general welfare” of the people.

Many Americans are either too stupid or have not been paying attention to the ulterior motive behind the GOP’s “monumental tax scam;” it goes beyond forcing the majority of population to fund corporate and religious entitlements or transferring the U.S. treasury to the oligarchs funding the Republican movement. Although those are crucial to the Republicans’ and Trump’s plan to make America great for the wealthy, they are not the only goal.

The larger goal is what Trump’s chief advisor Steve Bannon described as “deconstructing the administrative state.” Since Trump, the Kochs, and congressional Republicans are prohibited from issuing an edict abolishing all federal agencies, acts, departments and established laws, they will “defund the administrative state” instead.

Republicans will still collect taxes from working class Americans, but instead of funding federal agencies that serve the people, they will give those tax dollars to corporations and religious groups in the form of entitlements. When tax revenue stops covering entitlements for the rich and the religious, Republicans will “defund the administrative state” with extreme prejudice; that will be a major Republican goal in 2018.

Bloomberg reported yesterday that former Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said that Trump and congressional Republicans’ decision to add significant debt in the form of tax cuts for the rich is leaving the country broke. Mr. Lew said in a Bloomberg Radio interview that:

It’s a ticking time bomb in terms of the debt. You cannot run a fiscal policy by spending trillions of dollars you don’t have at a time that the economy is doing well.”

Mr. Lew thinks that because Republicans created tax reform for the rich and corporations without Democrats’ input, it will be difficult for “the administration” to convince Republicans to fund any “basic functions of government.” For dog’s sake, Mr. Lew is smart enough to know “the administration” could not possibly care less about “a functioning government, deficit or debt, or whether children get thrown off healthcare;” Trump cares about Trump.

It isn’t clear which “administration” Mr. Lew was referring, but it was not Trump or any of his conservative cronies.  It is no secret that Republicans pledged to the Koch brothers two years ago that when they controlled Washington they would “go after the federal government, all of it,” and “the administration” has done its part to begin the purge. At least Lew has been paying attention to congressional Republicans’ own statements about where they intend to start deconstructing the government and who they intend to hurt in the process. He said:

The next shoe to drop is going to be an attack on the most vulnerable in our society. How are we going to pay for the deficit caused by the tax cut? We are going to see proposals to cut health insurance for poor people, to take basic food support away from poor people, to attack Medicare and Social Security. One could not have made up a more cynical strategy.”

The strategy was “made up” at least a couple of decades ago and of course, it is “cynical” by design. It is a conservative strategy that involves abolishing every last element of the New Deal and any federal program since leading up to today. The tax reform is vicious in enriching the already wealthy, but it is the permanent corporate tax cuts that will be the end of “basic government functions.” Remember, the corporate tax cuts are forever and they will allow a greater number of the biggest corporations in America to avoid paying taxes forever — by design.

John Cassady at the New Yorker fairly summed up what is going to happen. After noting the “tax reform” is already going to bring in much less revenue, he concurred with other experts that it is not only “unworkable,” it has already “launched an avalanche of new loopholes to exploit.” He explained:

What isn’t yet fully appreciated is how porous and potentially unstable the rest of the tax code will be. With a corporate rate of just 20 percent, and a big new break for proprietors of unincorporated businesses and certain types of partnerships, the new code will contain enormous incentives for tax-driven restructurings, creative accounting, and outright fraud.”

Mr. Cassady said “these contortions” are designed to undercut federal revenues, which he acknowledges many Republicans welcome as an easy means of shrinking the federal government.

“The shortfall in tax revenues could be enormous. That is what Republicans want to happen. There are some in the Party who would like to see the tax base decimated, the I.R.S. crippled, and the federal government forced to slash spending on domestic programs, particularly entitlement programs. Nevertheless, for anybody who believes in a properly functioning government, a rational, clearly defined tax system is essential. The Republican reform doesn’t meet that standard.”

As one or two Americans might be aware, the concept of a “properly functioning government” is anathema to Republicans. Their idea of a functioning government is one that takes assets from the masses to fund “the security state,  the religious state, the military state, and  the corporate state.”

As this author has noted for a few years now, if any American wants a preview of how this “dismantling of the administrative state” plays out and the deleterious effects it will have on the people they can look at what happened in Kansas. Republicans gave massive tax gifts to the rich and corporations and raped the state government in the process by design.  In fact, one Kansas Republican appealed to congressional Republicans barely two months ago and warned them to avoid Kansas’ tax cut disaster. However, true to his word to Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, Mitch McConnell and Republicans are “doing the exact same thing to the federal government” that Brownback did to Kansas because they control Washington.

It is an unpleasant fact that most Americans have no awareness that their government is under assault from the people they elected to “govern” on their behalf.  It is a bigger travesty that many Americans are unaware exactly what their federal government does; Americans are inherently ignorant. But they will get a clue when their workplace protections, safe transportation, clean air and water standards, safe medicine, equal rights protections, education, healthcare, and national parks are abolished under the guise of reducing the deficit to pay for corporate tax cuts. It is what Republicans are celebrating will be a very Happy New Year.

Trump Signs Secret Pact With Israel To “Deal With Iran”

It is no revelation that a fair number of Republicans have dreamed of a “substantial” war with Iran going back to 1979 when the Islamic population chose its own government. Imperialist regimes always have problems when sovereign nations reject foreign domination, and America’s conservatives are still angry the leader they installed in Iran was sent packing and the Ayatollah became Iran’s Supreme Leader. Add to that simmering anger the Republicans’ devotion to executing the demands of a foreigner who dreams of America waging war on Iran and any idea of peace in the region looks bleak at best.

Because Republicans control the entire government, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a devoted puppy in the White House, it was just a matter of time before the Israeli leader exercised his authority to set American Middle East (war) policy. It was something he enjoyed during the Bush administration where he successfully directed George W. Bush  to attack and invade Iraq. He missed having that awesome authority during President Barack Obama’s tenure and it informs his willingness to humiliate himself by pandering to Trump’s narcissism and assuming a man-crush on an honest-to-dog moron.

Now Netanyahu is imposing his will and flexing his American puppet’s muscle and setting the stage for the war Steve Bannon, most Republicans and some Israeli-Democrats want American soldiers to engage in on Israel’s behalf. Trump is an ignorant buffoon who needs a new distraction so he is obviously doing his best to satisfy his Middle East war policy advisor Netanyahu – at least as long as good old “Bibi” continues stroking Trump’s ego.

According to Israel’s Channel 10 News, Trump and Israeli “officials reached a highly secretive closed-door cooperation agreement on how to deal with Iran” a couple of weeks ago.  The “Times of Israel” reported that the “deal” was signed at the White House on December 12 with the specific aim of countering Iran’s nuclear and missile programs. The “agreement” is being touted as “translating Trump’s decertifying the Iran deal into steps [boots] on the ground.

An Israeli official commented on the purpose of the “highly secretive” agreement thus:

“The U.S. and Israel see eye to eye the different developments in the region and especially those connected to Iran. We reached at (sic) understandings (sic) regarding the strategy and the policy needed to counter Iran. Our understandings deal with the overall strategy but also with concrete goals, way of action and the means which need to be used to get obtain (sic) those goals.”

Most of the world believed that any “developments connected to Iran” were adequately dealt with two years ago by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreed upon by Iran and the so-called P5+1 nations (America, United Kingdom, China, France, Russia and Germany). Trump and Netanyahu refuse to acknowledge the validity of a major deal with the world’s leading powers and Iran because it did not plan for American military action against the Islamic Republic.

It is important to note that when Trump refused to certify Iran’s compliance with the P5+1 nations, he did so despite confirmation from all the parties involved that Iran was in total compliance with conditions of the agreement. As noted here, even the “Iran nuclear deal’s critics in Congress said it was in the best interest of all parties to stay in the deal” and they were not alone by any means.

For example, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is responsible for verifying whether Iran has been in compliance and that organization reported just prior to Trump’s decertification that “Iran has been fulfilling the commitments it entered into” under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). That “official agency” confirmation was in addition to American intelligence agencies, America’s top military brass, Israeli intelligence, and Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary who all verified and assured Trump that “there is no evidence that Iran has violated the terms of the deal.”

Still, no matter how many times he has been told Iran is fully compliant with the terms of the JCPOA, Trump is fulfilling months-long rumors that a war with Iran is in the near future. That Trump made a “closed-door” secret agreement with Israel to “deal with Iran” to “translate decertifying the Iran deal into steps on the ground” is fairly telling about the warmongers’ intent.

Apparently, the rumors that Trump would make a move in October or November to expedite a conflict with Iran were not rumors after all. Decertifying the Iran deal in October and then entering into a secret agreement a mere month later to “deal with Iran” was part of a strategy to start a conflict. Moreover, it appears the strategy has been in the works since before Trump’s poorly attended inauguration.

Remember, Steve Bannon promised very early in Trump’s tenure that America would have to be at war with Iran prior to starting a war in the South China Sea.  It is noteworthy that a war with Iran will not only sate the neo-con warmongers in Trump’s administration, it will satisfy the demands of the military industrial complex for more wars to sell more weapons. However, the primary purpose of decertifying Iranian compliance and making a secret pact is to satisfy Netanyahu’s demand that America wages war against the Islamic Republic of Iran.

As a brief aside, it is important to note that Iran has never attacked or invaded any nation in over 240 years; something Israel can never claim in its short 69 year existence. And yet America under Trump and Israel are promoting the Islamic Republic as an aggressor that needs to be “dealt with.

It should not surprise anyone that Trump signed a secret pact with Israel “to deal with Iran.” It is fairly obvious that because the official  P5+1 Nations’ “deal with Iran” did not give Netanyahu the American attack and invasion of Iran he wants, Trump stepped up to do the foreigner’s bidding. Trump wants to show Netanyahu that he will use American military might to “deal with Iran” the same way Israel deals with Palestinian civilians.

Only an idiot doesn’t believe that “deal with Iran” is not-so-subtle code for “start a war with Iran” to assure Netanyahu that with a Republican controlled government, Israel effectively controls America’s Middle East war policy. With a willing sycophant in the White House and an obedient Republican majority in Congress, it appears that going forward Netanyahu will determine which majority Muslim nation America wages war on.

Image: Evan Vucci

Under Trump America Goes From World Leader to Banana Republic 

On Christmas eve conservative pundit William “Bill” Kristol made it clear that in its current iteration, the Republican Party he identifies with has become a cult of personality worthy of a banana republic. Kristol didn’t mention Trump by name, but he almost certainly was projecting his abhorrence of Trump on the entire GOP; a surprising development for a dyed-in-the-wool conservative but an apt projection all the same.

It is true the Republican Party is taking the country back to the 1920’s long before America became a global leader and was hardly a world super power, but even during the Great Depression when the filthy rich became incredibly wealthier, America was hardly considered a banana republic. All that changed less than a century later.

Whatever leadership role America enjoyed prior to Trump’s poorly attended inauguration is now just a memory despite what Trump claims. World leaders are well aware that although America has military might, and is a rapidly waning economic force, its influence globally is second-rate at best; in many areas it is nothing more than an irritating spectator.

Instead of leading on addressing climate change, America under Trump is watching China “assume the leadership mantle,” and subsequently the economic prosperity that will accompany it. And as the Los Angeles Times noted, “Russia has taken over Syrian peace negotiations that Moscow officials only allowed America to attend as observers.”

Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) look to Germany and France for leadership since Trump has isolated America from even its allies and trading partners. And speaking of international trade, America is now a global trade outlier and any number of American industries are living proof that Trump’s big mouth and isolationism kills American businesses.

This is an issue because Trump gave his assessment of America’s place on the global stage during a speech last week that is as far from reality as the Earth is from the edge of the observable universe. (Roughly 46.6 billion light years)

Trump claims that since January there has been a never-before-seen “broadening of U.S. influence throughout the world.” It is an odd assertion even for a buffoon like Trump; particularly since his executive actions since January are the sole force behind America ceding its global leadership role.

That is the consensus opinion of international leaders, diplomats, and foreign policy experts who contend that Trump is guilty of “reducing U.S. influence or altering it in ways that are less constructive on a broad range of policy issues.” In fact, what those leaders and critics actually say is that “Trump has taken positions that disqualify the United States from the debate or rendered it irrelevant on that ‘broad range of policy issues.’”

This is a serious issue because no matter what horrors Republicans are in the process of unleashing on Americans, Trump represents an existential threat because besides the insanity of isolationism in a truly global era, America under Trump is dangerously unreliable and untrustworthy to the rest of the world.

In India, a nation Trump has not attacked yet, the leaders are like most sane human beings concerned about ‘Trump’s unpredictability” and doubt that he can be trusted “as a reliable partner;” especially with his rush towards isolationism. Manoj Joshi is a scholar at a New Delhi think tank, Observer Research Foundation, who fairly summed up what the rest of the planet knows about Trump.

The president Trump can and does turn things inside out. So the chances that the U.S. works along a coherent and credible national security strategy are not very high.

Nicholas Burns, a long-serving senior diplomat under both Republican and Democratic administrations said Trump’s strategy, or lack thereof, “has left the U.S. ineffective.” Mr. Burns continued by remarking on an issue many critics have warned about to no avail; a weak and aimless Department of State.

“Trump needs a strong State Department to implement its strategy. Instead, State and the Foreign Service are being weakened and often sidelined. Trump’s policy of the last 12 months is a radical departure from every president since WWII. Trump is weak on NATO, Russia, trade, climate, diplomacy. The U.S. is declining as a global leader.”

What seems to be the final straw for nearly the entire world of nations was Trump’s gift to Benjamin Netanyahu that eliminates any opportunity for a “two-state” solution. The only people Trump “delighted” by formally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital were many Israelis.  Trump incited rage in the Muslim world, wiped out decades of “international consensus” on a peaceful Palestine-Israeli resolution, and incurred the wrath of “an overwhelming majority of the U.N. General Assembly.

As most of the world understands, Trump unilaterally eliminated America as “an honest broker in mediating peace by clearly siding with Israel.” As many world leaders have noted, “From now on it is out of the question for a biased United States to be a mediator between Israel and Palestine; that period is over.”

A former U.S. ambassador to both Israel and Egypt under Presidents Clinton and Bush, Daniel Kurtzer, said  that any peaceful resolution in the Middle East  “won’t be from American policy. Trump took America out of the peace process for the foreseeable future.”

There is probably a detailed list of the myriad ways Trump single-handedly diminished American influence globally, but the real horror is that he accomplished that feat in less than a year. America is going to be in trouble going forward just on the basis of Trump’s isolationism and withdrawal from trade agreements and never-ending threats against our allies and United Nations member nations for daring to disagree with Trump. Add to that prospect the Republican Congress’ well-laid plans to wipe out the government and create an impoverished population; it is no longer a question of “if” America is a banana republic, but when the entire world recognizes what it is and turns against it.

Image: Matt Rotman