Tag Archives: Trump

Governing By Scuttle

On the day Virginia seceeded from the Union, there was a scramble for control of Navy ships. The USS Merrimack was a steam powered frigate which had been in federal service for five years. She was moored at the Norfolk Navy Shipyard, along with many other Union vessels. In preparation to move the Merrimack to Philiadelphia, her engines were lit and plans were made to take her out to sea, away from advancing Confederate forces. However, during the night, small ships were cleverly sunk by the enemy, thereby blocking the Merrimack in dock. Her commanding officer ordered the crew to set fire to the ill-fated vessel and burned her down to the water line to prevent her from falling into Confederate hands. The USS Merrimack sank right where she had been moored.

USS Merrimack

Desperate to develop a navy, the Confederates raised the USS Merrimack and remade her into an ironclad ram. Nearly two years after being burned and sunk, she was renamed the CSS Virginia and put to use to disrupt the Union blockade. The Virgina saw action on several occasions, but was eventually trapped in a bay and faced the threat of being taken by the Union. The Confederate commader ordered her to be stripped of all value and destroyed (yet again). After plundering guns and munitions, the CSS Virginia was filled with a good amount of gunpowder. The resulting blast ripped her in two and sent her once again to the depths.

CSS Virginia

Scuttling, the deliberate sinking of a ship by it’s commander, commonly involves opening valves and hatches, lighting fires, or blowing a hole in the vessel. Donald Trump is the commander of the USS America. Surrounding himself with former military leaders, there is a wartime-like obsession with disabling our great vessel. To his devoted crew who romanticize authoritarian rule, scuttling makes perfect sense. It is adrenaline charged action against all that has stood in the way of right wing rule. The crew cheers with each destructive event, even as water rushes into the hull and our government rides low in the waves.

Never in the history of political transitions have there been so many unfilled leadership positions. Many agencies are running on autopilot. And in those cases where leaders have been appointed, many of those chosen have openly professed the intention to cause damage to the agencies they lead. Before being appointed as the 14th Secretary of the Department of Energy, Rick Perry ran a campaign to shut that department down. Before being appointed as the 11th Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos made it clear her intention was to divert public education funds to private schools. And before becoming the 17th Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson said poverty is a state of mind and stated his intention to cut services to the poor.

Domestically, Trump has knocked great holes in the side of our boat by defunding insurance subsidies for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), threatening the program’s solvency and ultimately threatening the health insurance of 20 million citizens. With another blast, he has defunded the Chidren’s Healthcare Insurance Program (CHIP) blowing 9 million poor children out of Medicaid coverage. White Supremacists have and been made to feel confortable on deck with their guns and axes and torches. They are chopping away at civil rights and setting fires. Smoke is billowing into the sky.

Internationally, the historical good will and trust of our allies has been badly damaged. Explosive charges have been detonated, blowing holes in the base of our great ship by questioning the US commitment to NATO, backing out of the Paris Accord thereby hampering an international response to global warming, decertifying the Iran nuclear deal and opening the door to future military engagement, and brushing aside diplomacy in favor of threatening North Korea with nuclear strikes.

Finally, plans are underway to remove plunder from our sinking ship. Beautiful yachts, the best money can buy, have pulled alongside the USS America. They wait greedily to load their hulls heavily with tax cuts for the richest citizens while Commander Trump falsely assures passengers there is no cause for concern as this massive removal of wealth will benefit everyone.

Like the USS Merrimack, the USS America is moored in her home port. The engines are lit, but she will not be going out to sea. No course has been charted. On the distant horizon, a potential rescue can be seen coming toward us, but it won’t arrive until November 2018. Will we be prepared to lend a hand?

[Special thanks to American Research Writer Micah Crittenden for critical input]

Corporate Culture, Ashley Madison, and Trump

Many of us have heard of the salacious AshleyMadison.com, an internet resource platform for people seeking extramarital affairs. In 2015, the Ashley Madison website was hacked and gigabytes of scandalous information was released to the public. Interestingly, many of the exposed accounts were registered with corporate email addresses. This provided an opportunity to make comparisons between Ashley Madison activity and corporate behavior within the companies where account holders worked. 

In an article cleverly entitled 50 Shades of Corporate Culture, researchers found corporations which fostered a culture of innovation and risk-taking had the most Ashley Madison accounts. These were companies with business models built around rapid financial cycles and cut throat competition. The research also showed that high rates of Ashley Madison account ownership strongly predicted corporate tax disputes, lawsuits, product quality concerns, and financial misstates due to bribery, fraud, and inflated earnings. These findings built upon research conducted four years earlier, where Harvard business scientists described “the dark side of creativity.” Turns out inventive individuals show a propensity toward dishonest behavior. 

President Trump was elected by an impatient group of citizens to change government using his wealth building ingenuity. There are certainly many historical examples where Trump skirted the rules to avoid an obstruction or to cash in on profits. One example of this involved a financial crisis at Trump’s Taj Mahal. The casino was on the verge of missing a critical bond payment when father Fred walked into the casino and bought 3.5 million dollars worth of chips and walked out without gambling. This action immediately put money on the books to pay the bond debt (Trump was later assessed a $30,000 fine by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement for this illegal loan). Trump came up with a creative solution to get around an obstacle. 

As we would expect in the life of a very creative person, there are also many articles about Mr. Trump’s pre-POTUS years as a man who has lived his personal life outside the box. The dark side of creativity is evident. Professionally, Trump has evidenced cycles of dizzying success followed by bankruptcy and reorganization. We have also seen tax disputes, lawsuits, product quality concerns, and financial misstates. Personally, Trump has had high profile affairs and failed marriages.

And who does Trump surround himself with? Other ingenious individuals who see opportunities to cash in on their seats at the White House. Jared Kushner aiding his family’s real estate business, Stephen Bannon hanging on at Breitbart News, Ivanka Trump hawking jewelry, and General Michael Flynn working deals for his consulting firm during the Trump transition. Trump fills his executive stable with business people who live their lives outside the box.

From the Ashley Madison study, there were corporations which had very few accounts. They came from industries which favor slower paced business models where steady, smooth operations yield the best profits. These included fabricated products, mining, shipbuilding, railroad equipment, textiles, rubber/plastic products, and coal. The federal government might best be compared to these corporations. There’s a place for some ingenuity, but steady and smooth operations yield the best results.

Trump is the lead engine of a federal freight train pulling 110 cars. He wants to use his ingenuity to suddenly change course, and he’s getting frustrated that flashy moments of deal making aren’t impacting the speed and direction of the load. 

For those worried about a train wreck, we have two things going our way: inertia and the inevitability of serial scandals due to the dark side of Trump’s creativity. 

 

Georgia’s 6th Special Election:  A Referendum on Trump

Today (Tuesday, June 20th) the voters in Georgia’s 6th congressional district go to the polls in a special election to choose their new representative in the US House.  This election is incredibly important for many reasons:

 

1.  This is a traditionally conservative district in a conservative state.  

district-6-map

Georgia’s 6th congressional district, just north of Atlanta, was Newt Gingrich’s home district from 1979 to 1999.

In 2016, the Republican incumbent won this district with 61.7%.  In 2014, it was 66.04%.  In 2012, Price won with 64.5%.  This trend can be traced all the way back to 1978 when Newt Gingrich won the seat for the GOP by 7,500 votes.  (https://ballotpedia.org/Georgia%27s_6th_Congressional_District_election,_2016)

The current polling between Democratic candidate Ossoff and Republican candidate Handel is within the margin of error.  That means they are in a statistical tie.  Come rain or shine, turn out will determine the outcome of the election.  

The simple fact that the race is in a statistical tie is, to quote Joe Biden, “a big f***in’ deal”.  This seat has been a guaranteed Republican seat since 1979.  If guaranteed conservative seats are up for grabs in 2018, this will send a shockwave through all members of the Republican controlled House of Representatives.

 

2.  If this district swings from being a GOP stronghold to being a Democrat-held seat, it will concern all members of congress up for election in 2018.

Certain congressional seats are considered guaranteed Republican holdings.  These seats often breed the most conservative members of the House of Representatives as they have no need to be moderate, Democrats will simply never win.

Georgia’s 6th isn’t the only seat like this.  Texas-26, the seat held by Michael Burgess, is another inherited Republican “guaranteed” seat.  Michael Burgess is the author of the disastrous AHCA and a vocal advocate for big Pharma.  From places like Georgia’s 6th and Texas’s 26th we find the most partisan, divisive rhetoric.  They can say what they want about women and their bodies, about African Americans, about LGBTQ without reproach because the Democrats in their districts will never get loud enough to say “THIS IS NOT AMERICA.”

If Ossoff wins, every red district will be considered a toss-up for 2018.  The rhetoric will become less extreme.  The Democrats will nominate stronger candidates.  The people will have a choice across the country that isn’t based on identity politics, but instead, based on issues and trust.

This means, the Republicans in congress will be afraid to push far right-wing agendas from now until election day in 2018.  They will back peddle on the AHCA.  They will avoid tax breaks for the rich.  They will be more inclined to investigate into the cyber war propagated by the Russian Government.  They will hold town halls.  They will listen to our phone calls.  They have to or, for the first time in many years, they could lose the House Majority.

 

3.  If Ossoff wins, conservatives will blame Trump.

In mid-term elections where the President has an approval rating over 50%, his party loses an average of 14 seats in the House.  In mid-term elections where the President has an approval rating below 50%, they lose an average of 38.  That is a massive gulf.

The investigation into collusion with Russia has been stalled by Republican members of the House (remember Devin Nunes) in an effort to wait it out and hope it goes away.  If Ossoff wins, it will show the GOP that the public not only supports an investigation into Trump Team’s collusion with Russia, but that defending Trump is a dangerous political decision.

97% of voters who strongly disapprove of Trump say they’re voting for Ossoff.  If he wins, that will indicate that the public disapproval of Trump is so strong that it will harm Republicans in 2018 mid-terms.  The coat-tails will be bad.

 

4.  Dark posts are back.

The same team (Giles-Parscale) that engineered the dark posts in the November 2016 election are back to disenfranchise African American voters.  They have sent out ads mis-quoting President Obama yesterday morning.  On Sunday, Handel’s husband shared this post on Facebook:

Aviary Photo_131423619876787802

The goal is to get the 13.4% of Georgia’s 6th that is African American to stay home.  If you are in the 6th district and see an ad on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram today that is disparaging about African Americans regarding Democrats, Obama or Ossoff – SAY SOMETHING.  This type of advertising is not intended to help democracy, its intended to dissuade voters from going to the polls.

Statistically, Democrats vote earlier than Republicans.  That means all information that comes out in the next 12 hours will affect Republican turnout more than Democratic.  Expect extreme rhetoric.  Expect lines.  Expect disenfranchisement.  Stand up against it.

handel-ossoff

In conclusion, if Georgia’s 6th is won by the Republicans, nothing changes.  We continue on with the division in our country and with no check or balance against the Obstructionist policies of the House and Executive Branch.  Trump is emboldened.  House Republicans feel safe to spew extremist rhetoric.  Strong Democratic candidates will stay out of “red district” races.  We get more of the same for the next year and a half.  Maybe longer.

But, if Ossoff wins tonight, it changes everything.

Micah Crittenden is a Senior Writer for American Research and is available on Twitter at @thatgingerish

Trust in Trump

My wife and I recently went car shopping. The moment we stepped on the lot, a salesman was there to greet us. His tactics were familiar, starting with a smile, handshake, and light hearted joke. Within a minute he was trying to bond with us over dogs (leashes on the seat), grandkids (car seats buckled in), and marriage (“How long have you two been together?”). He was doing his best to elicit a positive emotion because he knew by training and experience, if he can hook us by the feels, we will be more likely to give him our trust. Trust can be a profitable thing.

Trust is willingly becoming vulnerable with the hope of a positive outcome. Most of us like to have first order information (convincing experience) before committing to trust. We want to see things in action, make sure they work, or go for a test drive.

In the absence of that, second order information can supplement. This could be a referral from a family member, numerous good reviews, or an endorsement by a trusted group.

What do we do when first and second order information doesn’t answer the question? We trust our gut.

If you can believe social science, there are several studies suggesting human emotion is a highly valued source of information for most people when they are making decisions (here). The business world takes stock in this theory, writing about it often. Many stock traders, sales staff, loan officers, and marketing reps get training about the connection between human emotion and the development of trust. Most can verify from professional experience that competence is profitably enhanced when clients are groomed for a positive emotional experience.

Gut-based decision making has some limitations (we all have that one friend who serially enters one bad dating relationship after another). In an oft replicated classic study, a pair of researchers collected life satisfaction data from college students. Those social scientists also kept track of the daily weather. When the sun was shining, subjects rated greater life satisfaction than when it was raining! (Schwarz & Clore)

When human beings feel good, they are more likely to let their judgement lean in a positive direction. When they feel bad, the world around them looks more negative than usual. These social scientists also found they could eliminate the attributional connection between mood and judgement by simply letting subjects know that decision making can be corrupted by emotions.

When Trump showed up in political force, most of us had very little first order information. We knew Trump was in real estate, he ran a casino, and was the star of a reality game show that judged the business skills of contestants. However, we did not know how he would run a government or collaborate with Congress for the good of our nation.

When it came to second order information, there were not many endorsements or recommendations. The Republican Party was slow to lend support. GOP politicians seemed reluctant to endorse. Media outlets mostly attacked Trump and rarely gave a positive write up.

Undecided voters were left to trust their gut. Citizens searched their hearts. The man was rich, had beautiful kids, conducted some pretty exciting campaign rallies, and claimed with great confidence he had the skills to Make America Great Again.

The sun was metaphorically shining when undecided voters stepped into the voting booth and made a heart-felt decision.

Things are different today. We now have 142 days of first order information about how Trump will continue to govern. His flamethrower approach is well documented in speeches and tweets. He has burnt Congress, the Intelligence Community, and world leaders. The porous boundary between his presidency and the family business looks to be permanent. This means Making America Great Again also means keeping Trump Industries flush with WH generated contacts and opportunities. Trump’s godfather-like kiss the ring loyalty pledge is the standard which seems to come before Constitution. Finally, despite his best efforts to stomp out the embers of investigation, the fire surrounding Russian interference in the last election continues to grow.

We also have new second order information available to us. An erosion of support is evident by the polling data from multiple sources. Most critically, Trump is not winning new supporters as he governs.

Do we declare our Trust in Trump or put him on notice and demand better? After 142 days we can say the test drive is over. We’ve read the reviews and the nation doesn’t appear to be going through a Trump conversion. What of trusting our gut feelings? Fading away is the rush of emotionally charged campaign rallies, the excitement of those flashy red ball caps, and the thrill of shoot-from-the-hip speeches. A thunder cloud is on the horizon and the smell of rain is in the air.

Obstruction of Justice

What is Obstruction of Justice?  According to 18 U.S.C. § 1503, “whoever . . . corruptly or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication, influences, obstructs, or impedes, or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice, shall be (guilty of an offense).”

In light of James Comey’s prepared remarks (which can be found here:  https://www.intelligence.senate.gov/sites/default/files/documents/os-jcomey-060817.pdf) we need to evaluate whether President Trump has committed the aforementioned offense.

1.  “Whoever corruptly or by threats or force” — this indicates that force or threat of force is not necessary for one to be guilty of Obstruction of Justice.  It is enough to be acting corruptly.

2.  “by any threatening letter or communication” — This indicates the offense does not need to be in writing but can be verbally or by direct action.

3.  “influences, obstructs, or impedes, or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice, shall be (guilty of an offense).” — Indicates that it is not necessary for the crime to be successful, but rather, the attempt to obstruct justice is sufficient for conviction.

Information we have received from the Comey statement:

Second Meeting (page 3):



From this section we can infer that the President was using Director Comey’s desire to stay in his position as a bargaining chip for “loyalty”.

Second Meeting (page 4):


Through this we see a specific aim voiced – to “let Flynn go”.  In every aspect of the definition of Obstruction of Justice, this fits. This statement alone is a clear instance of the aforementioned crime.

Final Meeting (page 7):


This is a clear request for the Director to have acted to benefit Trump in the middle of the investigation.  This was his final conversation with the President before being terminated on May 9, 2017.
Based on the prepared testimony and before we have the opportunity to hear what other issues will be brought to light tomorrow, it is clear that President Trump at least committed Obstruction of Justice in relation to the Michael Flynn case.  He also appears to have attempted to influence justice on his own behalf on at least two separate occasions listed by Director Comey.  For this reason, we must begin impeachment proceedings.
“It is almost always the cover up rather than the event that causes trouble.” – Howard Baker

Micah Crittenden is a writer for American Research and is also on twitter at @thatgingerish