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TomCADem's Journal
TomCADem's Journal
December 31, 2016

WaPo Editorial Board - Trump refuses to face reality about Russia

Nice editorial from the WaPo urging the public to demand answers to questions regarding the extent of Russia's efforts to aid Trump's election effort, as well as Trump's ongoing refusal to be transparent about his financial dealings.


ALTHOUGH PRESIDENT Obama’s sanctions against Russia for interfering with the U.S. presidential election came late, his action on Thursday reflected a bipartisan consensus that penalties must be imposed for Moscow’s audacious hacking and meddling. But one prominent voice in the United States reacted differently. President-elect Donald Trump said “it’s time for our country to move on to bigger and better things.” Earlier in the week, he asserted that the “whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what is going on.”

No, Mr. Trump, it is not time to move on. U.S. intelligence agencies are in agreement about “what is going on”: a brazen and unprecedented attempt by a hostile power to covertly sway the outcome of a U.S. presidential election through the theft and release of material damaging to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. The president-elect’s dismissive response only deepens unanswered questions about his ties to Russia in the past and his plans for cooperation with Vladi­mir Putin.

For his part, Mr. Putin seems to be eagerly anticipating the Trump presidency. On Friday, he promised to withhold retaliatory sanctions, clearly hoping the new Trump administration will nullify Mr. Obama’s acts. Then Mr. Trump cheered on Twitter: “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) — I always knew he was very smart!”

* * *

Why is Mr. Trump so dismissive of Russia’s dangerous behavior? Some say it is his lack of experience in foreign policy, or an oft-stated admiration for strongmen, or naivete about Russian intentions. But darker suspicions persist. Mr. Trump has steadfastly refused to be transparent about his multibillion-dollar business empire. Are there loans or deals with Russian businesses or the state that were concealed during the campaign? Are there hidden communications with Mr. Putin or his representatives? We would be thrilled to see all the doubts dispelled, but Mr. Trump’s odd behavior in the face of a clear threat from Russia, matched by Mr. Putin’s evident enthusiasm for the president-elect, cannot be easily explained.

December 21, 2016

Trump's Pro-Russia/Big Oil Agenda - Making The US Guzzle Again!

Trump's proposed policies are a study in disaster capitalism, as Trump pursues policies designed to increase oil demand, increase oil prices, and allow domestic oil companies to drill for more oil in the artificially inflated oil market that Trump's policies are designed to create. It is not an accident. It is part of the plan to fleece American consumers for the benefit of Trump's Russian and Oil Industry sponsors:

1. Under President Obama, even though domestic oil production grew in the U.S.:

2. But, gross and per capita oil consumption fell:

3. And the Iran Nuclear Deal further put downward pressure on oil prices:


Iran nuclear deal pushes oil prices lower

Thus, even though oil production grew under President Obama due to greater efficiency in oil production and the Iran nuclear deal, consumption went down in the U.S. despite falling gas prices due in large part to the Obama administration's increased auto efficiency standards and emphasis on renewable energy.

4. However, Trump has proposed to scrap fuel efficiency standards:


Under Trump, fuel economy standards for cars and trucks may be scaled back

5. Scrap the Iran Nuclear Deal:


Trump Pledges To Rip Up Iran Deal

6. While allowing oil companies to drill for more oil in environmentally sensitive areas in order to meet the increased demand and rising oil prices due to Trump's afforementioned actions:


What Trump's pro-drilling stance means for oil, gas industry

7. And, with Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, oil exploration in Russia will expand allowing Russia to gain more influence over an increasingly oil dependent U.S:


Why Russia Is Excited About Donald Trump’s Pick for Secretary of State

December 20, 2016

We Should Only Let Democrats Choose Our Nominee

I don't understand the point of letting non-Democrats participate in choosing our parties nominee. Republicans rarely allow open primaries, yet Democrats use them in several states.

Likewise, in a large state like Washington what is the point of a caucus that only a few Democrats can participate in? I can understand a caucus in a smaller, less urban state, but a caucus disenfranchises Democrats who cannot devote the time to attend.

The vote of several WA electors chosen through a caucus that went for Bernie even though Hillary won that State's primary for a Republican illustrates how the system works to disenfranchise Democrats.

I don't mind getting rid of superdelegates, but we should get rid of open primaries and most caucuses, except for smaller rural states.

December 20, 2016

Kansas Is a Testing Ground of Trump-onmics. It Failed, Yet Kansas Is Still Deep Red

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback embarked Kansas on a right wing economic experiment based on the fantasy that huge tax cuts to the rich would pay for themselves and lead to a roaring economy. When that did not occur, Brownback argued that Kansas did not have a revenue problem, but a spending problem, and predictably cut health care and education funding, which still did not lead Kansas to the economic promised land. Yet, despite these economic struggles, Kansas still a deep red state, which went for Donald Trump.

There is this theory that Trump won because he was responsive to the concerns of the working class. Yet, in Kansas, its citizens have suffered through year's of right wing economic policies designed to favor the rich, yet Kansans continue to vote for Republicans.

Personally, I think that the Republican party has found something more powerful than offering an economic solution to its voters. The Republican party offers a scapegoat. Consider that Kris Kobach, Kansas's chief voting official, has rose to popularity by championing the cause of fraud by immigrants even though Kansas is one of the less diverse states in the Nation. Put another way, Kansas has become a prime testing ground for using racism to oppress white people. Kansas is over 75% white. Yet, Kris Kobach has become one of the most prominent Republicans in the State based on his voter suppression efforts in a State that is already very white to begin with.

I personally think that it is not either/or question for Democrats between addressing social justice issues regarding racism and sexism versus issues of relevance to the white working class. To the contrary, I think it is vital to raise awareness of how Republicans are using racism and sexism to not only oppress minorities and women, but to oppress working class white males. Nowhere is the more apparent then in Kansas.


Hard times for Kansas and its schools as economic 'experiment' creates gaping budget hole

Kansas began a supply-side economics experiment five years ago that was supposed to showcase a grand economic expansion. Here's why the state is struggling financially.

In February 2015, three years into the supply-side economics experiment that would upend a once steady Midwestern economy, a hole appeared in Kansas’ finances. To fill it, Gov. Sam Brownback took $45 million in public education funding. By April of this year, with the hole at $290 million, Brownback took highway money to plug it. A month later, state money for Medicaid coverage went into the hole, but the gap continued to grow.

Today, the state’s budget hole is $345 million and threatens the foundation of this state, which was supposed to be the setting for a grand economic expansion but now more closely resembles a battleground, with accusations and lawsuits flying over how to get the state’s finances in order.

The yawning deficits were caused by huge tax cuts, championed by Brownback and the Republican-dominated Legislature, that were supposed set the economy roaring. They didn’t.
December 20, 2016

By Accident or Design, Trump Will Make US Oil Dependent on Russia...

...for the benefit of Russia and U.S. Oil interests. It is a pretty straight forward three step plan.

Step One: Trump will support Russian military intervention in the Middle East - Under the guise of fighting terrorism, Trump has signaled that he is willing to support Russia's military intervention in Syria. Also, by threatening to walk-away from the Iran nuclear deal, Trump is isolating the U.S. by signaling that it is unreliable when it comes to such deals. Russia alone becomes the consistent and active power in the Middle East, particularly given Trump's reluctance to confront Russia. Indeed, U.S. oil interests may support policies that inflate oil prices as a result of turmoil in the middle east.

Put another way, remember when McCain attacked candidate Obama for failing to have a plan to combat high oil prices near the end of Dubya's term? Well, with the Iran deal, oil prices have remained at historic lows:


A Trump administration's threats to walk away from the Iran deal would cause an increase in oil prices, which benefits U.S. oil interests, but harms U.S. consumers.

Step Two: Trump will work to roll back sanctions against Russian, particularly with respect to oil exploration. This is why Trump's appointment of Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State is key. As Russian oil interests are developed, and the U.S. becomes dependent on Russian oil, Russia is in a better position to both profit, as well as manipulate oil prices and threaten energy supplies. In addition, this puts Russian in a position to threaten the U.S., China, as well as Europe's energy supplies:


Thus, Russia accomplishes the hat trick of marginalizing both the U.S. and China, which are heavily dependent on foreign oil.

Step Three: Trump will work to roll back U.S. renewable energy initiatives - Trump's skepticism regarding climate change and hostility to the EPA serves as a foundation for Trump to walk away from renewable energy sources, thus increasing U.S. dependence on fossil fuels, which Russia will be in a better position to control. Also, as oil prices increase, Trump will predictably call for further roll backs against environmental regulations and allow expanded drilling, which again serves U.S. oil interests, but hurts consumers and the environment. Finally, Trump will use the increased oil prices to argue for further oil deals with Russia, thus further increasing U.S. dependence on Russia.

Put another way, whether by accident or design, Trump's policies will put Russia in a position of strategic dominance over the U.S. by allowing Russia to both control oil while also increasing U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

December 12, 2016

C.I.A. Judgment on Russia Built on Swell of Evidence

Source: MSN/NY Times

WASHINGTON — American spy and law enforcement agencies were united in the belief, in the weeks before the presidential election, that the Russian government had deployed computer hackers to sow chaos during the campaign. But they had conflicting views about the specific goals of the subterfuge.

Last week, Central Intelligence Agency officials presented lawmakers with a stunning new judgment that upended the debate: Russia, they said, had intervened with the primary aim of helping make Donald J. Trump president.

The C.I.A.’s conclusion does not appear to be the product of specific new intelligence obtained since the election, several American officials, including some who had read the agency’s briefing, said on Sunday. Rather, it was an analysis of what many believe is overwhelming circumstantial evidence — evidence that others feel does not support firm judgments — that the Russians put a thumb on the scale for Mr. Trump, and got their desired outcome.

It is unclear why the C.I.A. did not produce this formal assessment before the election, although several officials said that parts of it had been made available to President Obama in the presidential daily briefing in the weeks before the vote. But the conclusion that Moscow ran an operation to help install the next president is one of the most consequential analyses by American spy agencies in years.

Read more: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/cia-judgment-on-russia-built-on-swell-of-evidence/ar-AAlrchP

My take is that it is like the US operation to kill Osama Bin Ladin. Leading up to it, information was kept very well secret. Of course, once it happened, people rushed to take credit for the success of the operation even if it may have compromised intelligence sources. Human nature is universal.
December 11, 2016

The Difference Between the CIA and FBI In Their Own Words

Rience Preibus has been strongly arguing on the Sunday news that the FBI has concluded that Russia was not trying to get Russiua elected and that the CIA assessment to the contrary should not be believed. However, this argument misconstrues the basic difference between the FBI and the CIA. The FBI is responsible for domestic law enforcement. They (should) enforce the law. In contrast, the CIA is responsible for intelligence gathering. They do not have law enforcement authority.


How does the FBI differ from the Central Intelligence Agency?

The CIA and FBI are both members of the U.S. Intelligence Community. The CIA, however, has no law enforcement function. Rather, it collects and analyzes information that is vital to the formation of U.S. policy, particularly in areas that impact the security of the nation. The CIA collects information only regarding foreign countries and their citizens. Unlike the FBI, it is prohibited from collecting information regarding “U.S. Persons,” a term that includes U.S. citizens, resident aliens, legal immigrants, and U.S. corporations, regardless of where they are located.

What authority do FBI special agents have to make arrests in the United States, its territories, or on foreign soil?

In the U.S. and its territories, FBI special agents may make arrests for any federal offense committed in their presence or when they have reasonable grounds to believe that the person to be arrested has committed, or is committing, a felony violation of U.S. laws. On foreign soil, FBI special agents generally do not have authority to make arrests except in certain cases where, with the consent of the host country, Congress has granted the FBI extraterritorial jurisdiction.


Myth: The CIA spies on US citizens.

Reality: The Federal Bureau of Investigation has the lead on intelligence matters in the United States, especially those directed against US citizens. However, the CIA and the FBI work together as needed to protect the interests of US national security. The CIA does not collect information concerning the domestic activities of US citizens, but its foreign intelligence collection mission can be conducted anywhere.

Myth: The CIA arrests people who break the law.

Reality: The CIA, unlike the FBI, has no law enforcement authority. The Agency’s mission is foreign intelligence collection and analysis. If you have a law enforcement issue, contact your local police department or the US Department of Justice.

December 11, 2016

NYT Editorial - Truth and Lies in the Age of Trump

In the made-up world of alt-right media and fake news, Trump is truth, America's problems are caused by minorities, immigrants and political correctness, and by repealing regulations designed to protect Americans, he is actually helping them.


Donald Trump understood at least one thing better than almost everybody watching the 2016 election: The breakdown of a shared public reality built upon widely accepted facts represented not a hazard, but an opportunity.

The institutions that once generated and reaffirmed that shared reality — including the church, the government, the news media, the universities and labor unions — are in various stages of turmoil or even collapse. Because Mr. Trump himself has little regard for facts, it was easy for him to capitalize on this situation. But even as Americans gobble up “fake news,” there is the sense that something crucial has been lost. A North Carolina man told The Times that while he regularly clicked on links to stories claiming that Hillary Clinton was indicted or that Mexico built a wall along its southern border, he missed the days when Walter Cronkite delivered the news to the nation.

He’s not alone; it was different then. Americans knew that whatever they were hearing on the news, their neighbors were hearing, too. Cable TV fractured that shared experience, and then social media made it easier for Americans to curl up in cozy, angry or self-righteous cocoons.

The rise of social media has been great in many ways. In a media environment with endless inputs and outlets, citizens can inform and entertain one another, organize more easily and hold their leaders accountable. But it also turns out that when everyone can customize his or her own information bubble, it’s easier for demagogues to deploy made-up facts to suit the story they want to tell.
December 10, 2016

The Congressional Oath of Office - Those Covering Up Russian Interference Are Violating It

This is not a Republican versus Democratic issue. If you are covering up and suppressing evidence of foreign interference in the U.S. election, then you are violating the fundamental oath of your office.


I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”
December 10, 2016

The GOP unveils a 'permanent save' for Social Security with massive benefit cuts

Next up, a plan to "save" Medicare, by replacing it with healthcare saving accounts, and calling them Medicare.


Amid all the hand-wringing over Republican plans to eviscerate Medicare and Medicaid and repeal the Affordable Care Act, it shouldn’t be overlooked that the GOP has the knives out for Social Security too.

The latest reminder comes from Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Tex., chairman of the Ways and Means Social Security subcommittee. Johnson on Thursday uncorked what he termed a “plan to permanently save Social Security.”

Followers of GOP habits won’t be surprised to learn that it achieves this goal entirely through benefit cuts, without a dime of new revenues such as higher payroll taxes on the wealthy. In fact, Johnson’s plan reduces the resources coming into the program by eliminating a key tax --another way that he absolves richer Americans of paying their fair share, while increasing the burdens of retirement for almost everyone else.

Predictably, this plan has already been hailed by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a billionaire’s front group that likes to portray itself as a neutral budget watchdog. (The foundation of hedge fund billionaire Peter G. Peterson, whose hostility to Social Security is well-documented, provided $3.3 million in funding for the committee in 2015; that’s the equivalent of about half the group’s revenue of $7.1 million in 2014)

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