The Real Fraud

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Those who want to maintain the illusion the recent presidential election was completely legitimate claim there’s no proof the Russians hacked our voting machines. But it is far too soon to state that as fact; and in a sense, it’s beside the point. It wasn’t necessary to hack the machines, when it was so much easier and cheaper to hack the machine operators.

Clearly, the machine operators – the voters – were hacked by leaked emails, countless fake news stories, and social media posts and comments harmful to only one of the major party candidates . And just as clearly, the hacking was done by Russian operatives. Sadly, it’s becoming more and more likely the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians.

The machine operators – the voters – were also hacked by the Trump campaign’s promulgation and promotion of vicious lies. Some will say this was just politics as usual, but this was one of the dirtiest campaigns in American history.

The machine operators – the voters – were also hacked by FBI Director James Comey, who twice publicly commented on an ongoing investigation involving Hillary Clinton’s emails.  That broke with a longstanding FBI precedent, whereby ongoing investigations were not confirmed or denied.

To make matters worse, Comey did not reveal that the Trump campaign was also being investigated as to possible collusion between the campaign and Russian operatives.  That was potentially a much worse charge, and Comey’s double standard cast considerable doubt on his own fitness for office.

The machine operators – the voters – were also hacked by gerrymandering and voter suppression, including in North Carolina, where a court ruled the excision of minority voters was done with almost surgical precision.  If you’re prevented from voting, then surely your vote was hacked.

Even now, some in positions of power – not to mention a large percentage of the public – are in denial about all this. But to deny all this is to deny the obvious. It is to say countless leaks and fake news articles did not effect the choice of voters. It is to say advertising and propaganda have no effect. In short, it is to deny the power of suggestion. Only a practiced liar would make such fraudulent denials.

Speaking of practiced liars and fraud, the putative president fraudulently claims he actually won the popular vote because millions voted illegally. There’s only two possible conclusions to draw from that: Either he’s lying through his teeth or he’s non compis mentis, which is a high-toned way of saying he’s nuts.

Time will tell whether this president is truly crazy, but there’s little doubt he’s a pathological liar.  And history will judge his presidency the greatest fraud ever perpetrated on the American people.

©Tom Cordle 2017

Buddha Blinked

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I was there at the creation, but I nodded off to sleep
It was only for an instant, but my deepest demons leaped
From the dreams I dare not tell you, for you would not understand
And in that awful blinking instant rose the horror known as man

Can the Buddha be in error?  Can the godhead feel chagrin?
If I could be in that instant, would I fall asleep again?
Buddha tires of all these questions, for the answers are too deep
Let the manchild search for answers, while the gentle Buddha sleeps

Enemy of the People

 “If I had my choice, I’d kill every reporter in the world, but I’m sure we’d be getting reports from Hell before breakfast.”   William Tecumseh Sherman

It’s apparent Donald Trump shares General Sherman’s low opinion of the press.  During his campaign, he viciously attacked reporters, and at one point seemed to be contemplating violence against some of them.

“I hate some of these people, I hate ’em, but I would never kill them.”  Then, after a dramatic pause, as if he was reconsidering, he continued. “Uh, let’s see, uh?  No, I would never do that.”

All presidents have a hate-love relationship with the press, but this president is exceptionally hateful.  And now he’s called the press the enemy of the people.  That charge is especially alarming, since it was commonly used during Stalin’s bloody purges in the Soviet Union.  Since the president is clearly no student of history, it’s reasonable to suspect he borrowed that phrase from his chief strategist Steve Bannon.

Infatuated with this borrowed intellect, the president repeated his “enemy of the people” charge, and added that he was going to do something about it.  Soon after, several news organizations that reported on meetings between people in Trump’s inner circle and Russian operatives were banned from a meeting with press secretary Sean Spicer.  Ironic that a president incensed about reports of a Russian connection would behave like Putin.

There’s that pesky Russian connection again.

This sudden and extreme hatred of the press seems odd, given that he’s spent most of his life courting the press.  This inveterate publicity hound was willing to do almost anything to get a little free press – including on several occasions pretending to be his own press agent.

Trump didn’t seem to care what was written about him, as long as something was.  He even welcomed articles that exposed his pathological philandering, perhaps because he thought that would improve his chances with the ladies.

There were limits, of course; reporters who questioned his business acumen became persona non grata.  And those who questioned his manhood or sexual prowess became mortal enemies.

Graydon Carter and Kurt Andersen were high on that list.  They coined the phrase “short-fingered vulgarian” to describe this short-fingered vulgarian.  The phrase stuck – especially in the craw of you know who.  There’s even a group calling itself Americans Against Insecure Billionaires With Tiny Hands.

The tenacity of that phrase makes it more than just a cheap laugh; it’s also proof that words are powerful; and thus, journalists are powerful.  That’s one small compensation for the myriad indignities that come with the job.

This undignified president is heaping indignities on the press and taking full advantage of the fact the news media is generally disliked and distrusted.  But that’s not surprising, since it’s a business that depends on sticking your nose in other people’s business.  But politics is, or at least ought to be, everybody’s business.

Sad to say, too many politicians tend to be far more interested in the business of the rich and well-connected, rather than the business of the people.  The only way we have of knowing what’s really going on behind the scenes is a free and nosy press.  In fact, these days, it’s not Congress, but the press that minds the people’s business.

Not so long ago, a vigilant press exposed a nattering-nabob and a prevaricating nutjob as crooks who deserved to be removed from the two highest offices in the land. There’s a joke making the rounds – George Washington couldn’t tell a lie, Richard Nixon couldn’t tell the truth, and Donald Trump can’t tell the difference.

Trump would do well to heed the wise words of another Republican president, Theodore Roosevelt, a true conservative:

The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile.

To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.”

As for the charge of liberal bias in the media, even if that were true of journalists, it is absurd to allege that the giant corporations that own and control mainstream media are liberal.  Journalists are all too aware of the consequences if they displease their corporate masters – just ask former CBS news anchor Dan Rather.

The plain truth is journalists in the mainstream media are held to a high standard of proof, both to uphold journalistic ethics and to protect the corporations that employ them from costly lawsuits.  Furthermore, when they make mistakes, mainstream journalists generally own up to them and apologize very publicly.

The same can’t be said for the denizens of this White House, where the President and his surrogates freely admit to peddling alternative facts – more commonly called lies.  That isn’t surprising in an administration fronted by a former shady real estate developer.

The real media bias is at Fox News and other outlets that behave like the propaganda arm of the Republican Party.  Even more dangerous are fringe outlets like Breitbart, Info Wars, Newswire and National Enquirer that peddle deliberate falsehoods and crackpot conspiracy theories. Unfortunately, these outlets are where Trump and his cronies seem to get most of their “alternative facts”.

Bottom line?  It is not the press, but those who bash the press and try to muzzle the press who are the real enemy of the people.

©2017 Tom Cordle

One if by Land … Two if by Sea

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Donald Trump is obviously no student of history; so despite his financial interest in Scottish golf courses, it’s probably safe to assume he knows nothing about the Antonine Wall or Hadrian’s Wall. But surely even he has heard of the Great Wall of China. All these walls were built to keep people out, but instead they eventually became tourist attractions that invited people in.

The Berlin Wall, on the other hand, was built to keep people in, but instead it became an indictment of a nation so awful it had to hold its own people prisoner. Eventually, that wall was reduced to rubble and made into souvenirs.

The lesson of history is that walls simply don’t work. But in spite of that, candidate Trump repeatedly vowed to build a wall on the border with Mexico. When he was unexpectedly and unfathomably elected, he found himself backed into a corner by this and other foolish promises he made.

As he did with his Muslim ban, Trump tried to pitch the wall as a necessity, but the only necessity was a political one. In fact, a majority of Americans don’t want the wall – and they certainly don’t want to pay for it. Homeland Security estimates it will cost $21 billion, but an estimate from MIT runs much higher. So how to pay for this boondoggle?

When Mexico rightly refused to pay for the wall, Trump proposed a 30% border tax on Mexican goods. The blow-back was swift and certain, since even Trump supporters were smart enough to figure out that tax would simply be passed on to American consumers. So that plan was shelved – at least temporarily; but its return is still a possibility, provided a less obvious scam can be concocted.

So now what? A desperate Trump has foolishly proposed cutting money from the Coast Guard to pay for his wall. Really? Has he never heard of the Mariel boat-lift? Or the Vietnamese boat people? Doesn’t he know countless refugees from Africa arrive in Europe by boat? Doesn’t he know the US has an enormous coastline, a coastline protected by the COAST GUARD?

Before this foolish plan is put in place, someone should reissue an old warning:

“One if by land, two if by sea.”

©2017 Tom Cordle

On A Collusion Course

Collusion: a conspiracy or secret agreement, especially for fraudulent purposes; a secret understanding between two or more persons to gain something illegally, or to appear as adversaries though in agreement.

The phrase “to appear as adversaries though in agreement” seems to perfectly describe the strange behavior of Donald Trump and his advisers when it comes to Vladimir Putin and his cronies. Something is rotten in DC, and Trump and his fellow travelers are on a collusion course with history.

Trump and members of his inner circle repeatedly denied meeting with Russian officials during the campaign and the transition. The facts say otherwise, and Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell has connected the dots:

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was forced to resign after it became clear he lied about his involvement with Russians. His lies cost him his job and what little was left of his reputation – a reputation already irreparably damaged by his trading in crackpot conspiracy theories.

Newly-minted Attorney-General Jeff Sessions also denied meeting with the Russians. But when confronted with evidence to the contrary, he was forced to admit he met with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign.

That admission contradicted oral and written testimony he gave during his confirmation hearing in the Senate; and since that testimony was given under oath, he is subject to a perjury charge.

Sessions lamely claimed these were simply misstatements he made due to confusion or forgetfulness. But that claim was met with widespread skepticism, and more than a hundred members of Congress have called for his resignation.

Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort continues to insist he had no direct contact with Russian officials. But in the unlikely event that claim is true, it’s beside the point, because of Manafort’s ties to Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Putin former president of Ukraine. Manafort was forced to resign from the Trump campaign because of those ties and allegations he received at least thirteen million dollars in secret payments from Yanukovych.

Trump business associate Felix Sater and Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen also denied meeting with Russian officials. But once again, that’s beside the point, since both were involved in Ukraine politics. The exact nature of their involvement is unknown, but it’s a safe bet they favored Russian interests.

Russian interests were also served when Trump aides insisted language that favored Ukraine be removed from a plank in the Republican Party platform. Trump has repeatedly said he had nothing to do with that; but another of his advisers, J.D. Gordon, now says otherwise. Indeed, he claims Trump ordered the change.

For months, Carter Page, another shadowy figure in Trump’s inner circle, denied meeting with Russian officials. But faced with increasing scrutiny, he has finally admitted (sort of) meeting with Kislyak, but he refused to say what the meeting was about. It’s a safe bet he also met with Igor Sechin, CEO of Russia’s state-run oil company Rosneft. He reportedly offered Page a deal to broker the sale of a 19.5% interest in Rosneft, in return for lifting sanctions against Russia.

The brokerage fee on that multi-billion-dollar transaction would have been worth millions. But from public records, it appears Page was not involved in brokering the deal – appears being the operative word, since the real buyer or buyers of the 19.5% interest in Rosneft remain a mystery.

Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner also met with Kislyak. That meeting was held in Trump Tower; but unlike the many other supplicants ceremoniously paraded through the front door, Kislyak was secreted in through a private entrance. If, as alleged, this was just a routine meet and greet, why all the secrecy? Good question, and we’re still waiting for an answer.

We’re also still waiting to find out why there were so many persistent denials about all of these meetings, and more importantly, what was discussed during them. So far we’ve been told only that these were simply courtesy visits, during which season’s greetings were offered. Beyond that, aides to Trump claim they can’t recall what was said or even what subject matter was discussed.

That is, of course, utter nonsense, since newspapers at the time were filled with stories about Russian interference in the campaign and stories about the new sanctions placed on Russia by the Obama administration. To deny that those subjects came up in those meetings strains credulity to the breaking point.

There is a strong and growing suspicion those subjects were in fact the point of the meetings and that some or all of these men may have intimated – at the very least – that if the Russians helped put Trump in the White House, the sanctions would be lifted. If it can be proven such a quid pro quo existed, that could bring down Trump and send some of his closest associates to prison.

So far, there is no hard evidence to confirm that suspicion, certainly none that is admissible in a court of law. But when it comes to politics, there is another court – the court of public opinion. In that court, a strong suspicion is admissible.

Former Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev had his own suspicion in an interview with Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC. He flatly stated that in any meeting with Russian officials, the first order of business – even before a handshake – should have been to demand all election interference cease immediately – or else. In his opinion, the failure to do so amounted to tacit approval.

A wink and a nod “diplomacy” is all too apparent in this case. And in the court of public opinion, a wink and a nod can be as damning as a signed confession.

But the best evidence of collusion came straight from the horse’s – er, mouth. Time and again, Trump refused to say anything negative about Putin or condemn Russian aggression in Crimea and Ukraine. Nor did he even once condemn Russian involvement in the campaign, let alone demand that it end.

On the contrary, Trump repeatedly praised Putin and Wikileaks, and even went so far as to implore the Russians to hack and leak emails. That kind of behavior goes far beyond a wink and a nod … it goes straight to collusion … it goes to aiding and abetting a crime against the United States of America.

The nature and extent of that crime is yet to be determined. But if investigators want to get to the bottom of this sordid mess, they should follow the money – the billions of dollars Russian kleptocrats have siphoned-off from their country, and the billions more that could be stolen here under a kleptocratic president.

Given the scale of the corruption and the wealth and power of the individuals involved, prosecuting this case may take years; and sad to say, there may never be enough evidence to convict any of them in a court of law. But meantime, they will be judged in the court of public opinion.

And so will Republicans in Congress. If they fail to thoroughly and relentlessly pursue this matter, the court of public opinion may render some verdicts of its own come the 2018 midterms.

©2017 Tom Cordle

Written on the Wind

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I stumble in this foreign tongue and try to make the talk
I speak of when this land was young and of my brother hawk
My spirit voice is hard to hear … I have so long been gone
But I will whisper in your ear and having spoke move on

This finger pushed into the sea of sand and swamp and pine
Has been a welcome home to me … I sing this land of mine
Of night-song sung in joyous trill, by every kind of fowl
Of chickadee and whippoorwill … of warning from the owl

Of plenty fish and wild oats … of berries blue and red
That danced their way down happy throats to bellies always fed …
Of rivers coursing through green world of gleaming golden lake
Of alligator hog and squirrel … of moccasin, the snake

The screaming panther ruled the pine … the eagle ruled the sky …
Aah! Will you hear these words of mine? Will you even try?
I have no words on talking leaves, for you to read, my friend
For all this simple man believed was written on the wind

©2014 Tom Cordle