Blame It On Biden?

If you were to listen to Republicans, their propaganda networks and the corporate media, you would almost certainly believe that President Biden’s administration has been a disaster for America – worse even than that of his treasonous predecessor who used the White House as his own personal ATM and tried to violently overthrow the will of the people. But let’s take a closer look at the nation’s many problems and their actual causes. For example:

Afghanistan – Biden was blamed for our ugly exit from Afghanistan. He was accused of abandoning Afghanistan’s women and allies who worked with U.S. troops during that 20-year war. But examine the events leading up to our withdrawal, and you’ll discover that the terms and timing of our departure were negotiated by the Trump administration. So, when Biden took office, he was faced with an impossible choice – either pull our troops out of Afghanistan by the negotiated deadline. Or risk escalating the war and possibly cause it to continue for decades more.

Pandemic – Biden inherited a raging pandemic that had killed hundreds of thousands of Americans and savaged our economy. True, three vaccines were created during the previous administration. But many of Trump’s supporters steadfastly refused to take them. And by angrily refusing to wear masks, they helped spread the virus. Nevertheless, by relying on science and increasing the availability of vaccines, Biden’s administration has been able to mitigate the pandemic and to quickly restart the economy causing unemployment to drop to near historic lows.

Inflation – Biden’s stimulus plans have been blamed for overheating the economy and leading to the highest inflation in 40 years. But, when you realize that corporate profits have simultaneously reached 50-year highs, another picture emerges. The primary cause of inflation is corporate profiteering, plain and simple. Other factors include disrupted supply chains, overwhelmed seaports, understaffed trucking companies, exhausted front-line workers, and pent-up consumer demand – all the result of the Biden-inherited pandemic. It’s a basic tenet of economics that reduced supply plus increased demand equals higher prices. The administration has few tools to address that reality. It must rely on the independent Federal Reserve, and its only tool to address inflation is to increase interest rates.

Fuel Prices – Perhaps the greatest driver of inflation is soaring fuel prices. Certainly, that must be Biden’s fault. Right? Wrong! Fuel is subject to the same economic principle that affects all pricing. During the pandemic as most people worked from home, oil producers and refiners cut supply in order to reduce costs. When the country reopened, suppliers say they were unprepared for the sudden increased demand. At the same time, Russia invaded Ukraine leading to sanctions on one of the world’s largest oil producers. The administration has reacted in the only ways it can – by releasing some of our nation’s oil reserves, calling on Saudi Arabia to increase production, and trying to shame the opportunistic oil companies into lowering prices.

Moreover, given the fact that the five largest oil companies are enjoying record profits, there are legitimate questions that they may be inflating prices in retaliation against Democrats who want to force them to pay their fair share of taxes.

Federal deficit – Having refused to admit that Covid-19 was a serious threat to the U.S. lest it interrupt Trump’s “beautiful” economy, the previous administration borrowed trillions to avoid an economic collapse. Unfortunately, government revenue had also been dramatically reduced by the Trump tax cuts. That led to massive deficits. Yet the Biden administration was not only able to restart the economy. Since taking office, it has cut the deficit by $1.5 trillion.

Immigration – Republicans would have you believe that Biden has pursued an open border policy. If that’s so, how do you explain the 1.6 million immigrants waiting on the other side of our border? While it is true that Biden wants to end Title 42, he has committed to maintaining border security. He simply wants to make our border policy more humane by making it easier for immigrants to apply for refugee status if their lives would be endangered by returning to their country of origin. And, given that most of our businesses are understaffed, an increase in immigration could only help our economy.

Baby Formula – Of course, Republicans jumped on the opportunity to blame Biden for the baby formula shortage. What they fail to acknowledge is the impact of the industry’s consolidation to just four suppliers. When the FDA forced the largest of those to close a plant after dangerous bacteria were found in its products, grocery shelves emptied. Transportation issues caused by the pandemic only added to the problem as they caused delays in importing formula from other countries. To overcome those delays, Biden did the one thing he could. He turned to the military to transport formula from Europe.

Child Tax Credit – Many parents are frustrated by the end of a program that lifted millions of children out of poverty. Yes, that did happen on Biden’s watch. But it was largely due to GOP obstruction.

War in Ukraine – Russia’s latest invasion of Ukrainian territory also happened on Biden’s watch. But, in reality, it is a continuation of Russia’s 2014 capture of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. There has been fighting along the border of the two nations ever since. Unlike the previous administration that withheld nearly $400 million of congressionally approved military aid in order to gain damaging information on his likely political opponent, Biden has led an international coalition to provide military aid and sanction Russia’s plutocrats.

Surprisingly, it’s not just Republicans who are unfairly heaping blame on the Biden administration. Many Democrats and independents are frustrated that Biden hasn’t yet dealt with their long wish list of wants and demands. Why hasn’t he instituted stricter gun safety measures? Climate change is worsening. Why hasn’t he done more to address that? Why can’t he lower the cost of pharmaceuticals? Why can’t he do more to protect abortion after the conservative majority in the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade? What is he doing to protect voting rights? Why hasn’t he forgiven all student loans? Why hasn’t he expanded the number of justices on the Supreme Court.

The answer to most of those questions and more is the recalcitrance of fifty Republican Senators, two Democratic Senators and the filibuster.

Biden certainly isn’t perfect. But his administration has been faced with an almost unimaginable number of challenges. And, unlike his twice-impeached predecessor, he didn’t encourage one of our nation’s greatest rivals to help him get elected. He didn’t receive campaign funds from foreign powers. He hasn’t stuffed his pockets with taxpayer money. He hasn’t bullied allies while playing footsie with dictators and enemies of our nation. He hasn’t ordered children to be ripped from their mothers’ arms. He hasn’t tried to extort favors from a foreign leader. He isn’t a pathological liar. And he hasn’t defiled Congress and our Constitution.

Part John Gotti. Part Vladimir Putin.

That is the takeaway from Donald Trump’s hour-long call with the Georgia Secretary of State, in which he begged and bullied Brad Raffensperger, telling him he was “taking a big risk” unless he is able to “find” 11,800 votes that would give Georgia’s electoral votes to Trump.

The message was clear. Trump wanted Raffensberger to rig the election for his benefit.

Indeed, the whole tone of the recorded conversation was what you’d expect from a mafia boss speaking to a member of his mob. It’s also what you might expect from dictators such as Vladimir Putin, Viktor Orban, Bashar al-Assad, Nicolas Maduro, Kim Jong-un, Abdullah Aziz al Saud, or the late Saddam Hussein.

The call was not unlike the “perfect” call Trump made to the newly elected president of Ukraine in which he threatened to withhold US foreign aid unless Zelensky agreed to announce an investigation of Hunter Biden to help Trump win the 2020 election.

If you are familiar with Trump’s background, his attempts to defraud American voters should come as no surprise. As a developer in New York, New Jersey, Florida, and Nevada, Trump long played footsie with the Mafia. He was schooled in the ways of the mob by his late attorney, Ray Cohn. (Cohn’s clients also included Joseph Gambino along with other Mafia figures and the infamous Sen. Joseph McCarthy.) With Cohn’s mentorship, Trump was able to perfect the art of the con, which helped him defraud those who were enthralled by Trump’s “celebrity” to enroll in Trump University, to donate to Trump Charities, and to purchase overpriced Trump real estate. Ultimately, it’s what put him in the Oval Office.

Cohn taught Trump to exaggerate and lie. (On average, Trump has lied more than 23 times a day while in office.) Cohn and his successors helped Trump cheat at every turn, which may explain why Trump’s name appears 3,450 times in the Panama Papers, a database of those who avoid taxes by investing in offshore tax shelters. And, under Cohn’s tutelage, Trump learned to never admit failure or a mistake. Instead of apologizing or facing the consequences of his actions, Trump learned to bully, threaten, and sue to get what he wants. That’s why Trump has been involved in more than 3,500 lawsuits.

Like a mob boss, Trump has surrounded himself with loyalists to do his unconstitutional bidding. When they have been caught, he has used his pardon power to keep them quiet. While following the tyrant’s playbook, he has used every lever available in his efforts to stay in power. And, in doing so, he has created more damage to our democracy than any of our external enemies could hope to do, which must make his current mentor, Vladimir Putin, very proud.

Will he ever pay for his cons and for the harm he has done to our nation?

At this point that’s unclear. He will likely try to pardon himself from his federal crimes. But that won’t save him from state crimes. And, given that the Southern District of New York is investigating his businesses for potential bank fraud and tax fraud, he may well end up like another crime boss – Al Capone.

Trump’s Broken Promises. (Part Five – Defense and Foreign Relations)

The Trump White House is fond of sending out emails and Tweets stating “Promises Made. Promises Kept.” And certainly Trump has kept a few of his campaign promises. But the promises broken far outnumber those kept. Following are but a few examples:

North Korea: Trump promised to bring an end to North Korea’s nuclear program. In fact, after emboldening Kim Jong-Un with two meetings, North Korea has not only accelerated its program. It has developed long range missiles capable of reaching North America.

Afghanistan and Iraq: Trump promised he would bring our troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq. Instead, after his ill-conceived assassination of Iran’s General Soleimani, we now have 14,000 more troops in the Middle East than before he took office.

ISIS: Trump promised he’d defeat ISIS. But it was the Kurds, Iran and Russia who did the most to defeat ISIS. And after they helped defeat ISIS, Trump abandoned the Kurds to be slaughtered by Turkey. He then provoked Iran by assassinating its leading general.

Palestine: Candidate Trump said that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be easy. Apparently, what he really meant was that it would be easy to pander to Israel while completely ignoring Palestinian issues. His actions have been completely one-sided: Recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capitol, legitimizing the Israeli development of the West Bank, legitimizing Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, and “negotiating” an Israeli-Palestinian “peace plan” without Palestinian participation.

China: Trump promised that he’d declare China a currency manipulator on day one. But, since the election, his administration announced that China is not a currency manipulator.

Syria: Trump promised he wouldn’t bomb Syria before ordering the bombing of Syria.

Russia: Trump promised that “nobody would be tougher on Russia than me.” But his election was aided by Russia and he kowtowed to Vladimir Putin at a summit meeting in Finland. Then he delayed congressional-imposed sanctions intended as punishment for interfering in our elections and took the word of Vladimir Putin over our own intelligence agencies.

On top of his broken promises, Trump has undermined our relations with allies, weakened NATO, and withheld nearly $40 billion in military aid to help Ukraine in an attempt to collect dirt on a political rival.

Why Impeachment Is Necessary.

The Founding Fathers were so concerned about the very real possibility of their new nation being taken over by an authoritarian president, they crafted the Constitution to create three co-equal branches of government: Congress, the executive branch, and the judicial branch. The idea was that Congress and the courts would serve as a check on presidential abuse of power. The Founders also provided for a mechanism to remove the president from office. But rather than specify the actions which would justify the president’s removal, they vaguely referred to them as “high crimes and misdemeanors,” trusting that members of Congress would recognize abuse of power when they see it.

Given the following actions of Trump and his administration, it’s difficult to imagine that the Founders wouldn’t have expected such a president to be impeached and removed from office:

1 – Although Mueller could not find enough evidence to indict the president, his family and his campaign for criminal conspiracy, he documented dozens of instances of collusion and cooperation with Russia and Wikileaks to subvert the 2016 election. In fact, the president’s campaign manager is now in prison as a result of campaign violations and several others are awaiting sentencing. And Trump’s personal attorney is in prison for violating campaign laws at the direction of the president!
2 – Mueller cited at least 10 instances in which the president engaged in obstruction of justice during the Russia investigation, including the suborning of perjury by his associates. The only reason he was not indicted is because of a questionable DOJ opinion that a sitting president cannot be indicted for crimes.
3 – Despite the Mueller investigation and the subsequent convictions of members of his 2016 campaign, Trump announced during an interview that he would again accept illegal help from a foreign nation in the 2020 election.
4 – Trump has admitted to illegally holding up congressionally-approved aid to Ukraine in exchange for Ukraine agreeing to open an investigation to obtain dirt on one of Trump’s political rivals.
5 – Trump and his administration have routinely and illegally obstructed congressional oversight by refusing to turn over documents and ordering anyone connected to the administration – even those who do not work for the government – to refuse to testify by claiming executive privilege.
6 – Trump has routinely violated the Constitution’s emoluments clause by encouraging foreign representatives to meet in his resorts and hotels at the expense of taxpayers.
6 – Trump encouraged the vice-president to stay at one of his resorts during his recent trip to Ireland even though the resort was more than 100 miles from his official meetings.
7 – The US military has engaged in a questionable contract with the Prestwick Airport near one of Trump’s resorts in Scotland. In addition, it has quartered military personnel in the resort to financially benefit the Trump organization.
8 – Trump has routinely spent weekends at his resorts along with his government entourage at great expense to US taxpayers. And great profit to his company.
9 – Virtually the entire Trump cabinet has engaged in corrupt activities for personal gain.
10 – Trump’s family and others in the administration have conducted business via personal emails and illegally failed to keep records of their communications – the very thing they accused Hillary of doing.
11 – It has been documented that the president and his administration routinely lie to the American people. According to the Washington Post and other fact-checkers, Trump has made more than 12,000 false or misleading claims since the inauguration.
12 – Trump and his administration have violated numerous federal and international laws in their handling of Central American refugees seeking asylum, including the separation of children from their parents.
13 – Trump has undermined our nation’s relationships with many allies while pandering to the planet’s worst dictators.

The House’s impeachment inquiry may find numerous additional abuses. But, regardless of the findings, the president and his supporters will do everything in their power to dismiss it as another Democrat-led “Witch Hunt.” As you listen to their spin, keep in mind that the “Mueller Witch Hunt” caught a lot of “witches” who were members of the Trump inner circle, some of whom are now in prison.

We do not know if the House will vote for impeachment. And we don’t know if the Senate will convict and remove the president from office. But we do know one thing for certain: If the roles were reversed and a Democratic president had committed even one of the crimes listed above, the GOP would have already impeached, convicted and likely executed that president.

Yes, He Really Is A Russian Asset.

Trump loudly and repeatedly proclaims that there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia. Yet, beginning in 2015, after Trump announced his presidential bid, there have been 272 documented contacts between the Trump team and Russia-linked operatives. That includes at least 38 face-to-face meetings with those representing our nation’s most dangerous rival. As a result, the Special Counsel investigation obtained indictments, convictions and guilty pleas for 34 people and three companies. Those include several of Trump’s top advisers.

And that’s not the worst of it.

Once Trump assumed office, despite losing the election by nearly 3 million votes, he has taken numerous actions that appear to aid and abet our enemy. To begin, he has steadfastly refused to acknowledge that Russia helped his campaign and interfered in our election despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. He invited the Russian ambassador into the Oval Office along with the Russian press while denying US press access to the meeting.

Against long-standing international protocol, Trump attended private meetings with Vladimir Putin with only their personal translators in attendance. In one of their meetings, only Putin’s translator was present. And, afterwards, Trump took extraordinary measures to conceal details of the meetings, even from officials in his own administration. No detailed record of any of his conversations and interactions with Putin exists…at least not outside of Moscow.

In Helsinki, Trump publicly bowed to Putin by accepting his denial of Russian interference in our elections while ignoring the overwhelming evidence obtained by US intelligence agencies. At a G20 meeting in Germany, Trump met with Putin for more than two hours then followed that up with a second private meeting that he denied ever happened. In total, Trump and Putin have conducted at least 5 off-the-record meetings. No one knows how many off-the-record phone conversations they have had.

All of this raises concerns about the official actions Trump has taken for the obvious benefit of Russia.

For example, he verbally attacked NATO and our European allies which, in effect, weakens the greatest counter to Russian aggression. He appeared to kowtow to Russia in the Syrian civil war and the fight against ISIS by allowing Putin to prop up Assad. Despite saying that “nobody has been tougher on Russia than I have,” Trump ignored a congressionally-mandated deadline for imposing sanctions on Russians. Trump withdrew the US from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia, a move that actually benefits Russia, which has been suspected of ignoring the treaty for some time. It also puts all of Europe at greater risk.

Trump has campaigned for Russia’s re-admission to the G8 after Russia was denied participation in the group following its invasion of Ukraine and its occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula. And now we’re learning that Trump apparently held up $250 million in US military aid to Ukraine in an attempt to elicit a Ukrainian investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son – a move intended to get dirt on a 2020 Democratic rival which raises questions about abuse of power and federal election violations. It is also an obvious threat to Ukraine at a time when it’s vulnerable to further Russian aggression.

Add to all of this Trump’s long-standing attempts to build a Trump Tower Moscow, the extraordinary number of purchases of Trump properties by Russian oligarchs and Russian mafia figures, the fact that Russians were running an illegal gambling operation out of a condo one floor below Trump’s living quarters, and rumors that Russian oligarchs backed loans to Trump in 2009 to help him salvage his near-bankrupt organization.

It’s preposterous to believe Trump and his supporters when they dismiss all of the evidence and rumors of collusion between Trump and Russia as mere coincidence. As many have said, “There are no coincidences in politics.”

Trump truly is Putin’s bitch.

Crimean Crisis Began With Bush.

When Mikhail Gorbachev called an end to the Cold War, President George H. W. Bush agreed that there would be no expansion of NATO. Bush also agreed that, following the reunification of Germany, NATO troops and weapons would not be permitted on former East German soil. This was not only necessary to ensure the security of the Russian Federation. In part, it was to prevent a reunified Germany from ever posing a danger to Russia again. After all, the Soviet Union lost more than 20 million of its citizens during World War II.

The agreement was short-lived.

Almost immediately, NATO expanded into the former East Germany. Then, during the Clinton administration, NATO expanded into the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. Then George W. Bush pushed NATO to expand into Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania and Croatia. In addition, Cyprus, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro have considered membership. And, before the end of his second term, Bush made it clear that he wanted Georgia and the Ukraine to join NATO, as well.

This expansion of Russia’s former enemy into nations that were once part of its Warsaw Pact has led Putin and the Russian government to distrust the ultimate goals of NATO, Europe and the US. Add the Bush/Cheney doctrine of pre-emptive war along with Bush’s assertion that the US has the right to use nuclear weapons, and Russians have reason to question our intentions. At the same time, the US has continued to develop and deploy our National Missile Defense (NMD) throughout Europe. Even though it is called a “defense” system, Russians see it differently. They view it as making a first strike survivable.

The NMD is unlikely to be capable of intercepting a massive first strike by Russia. On the other hand, it could more reasonably be seen as capable of intercepting a much smaller retaliatory strike by Russia following a first strike by the US. In other words, it very much upsets the balance of power. Combined with the US thirst for oil which has led us to interfere with governments around the globe, and you can easily see why Putin would be unwilling to see its long-time partner nation, the Ukraine, move away from Russia and join the European Union. Even worse, Russia would lose its naval base at Sebastopol, Crimea, which is home to Russia’s Black Sea fleet.

If you still think this crisis is the result of the Obama administration’s “weak” foreign policy, consider this: What if “independence” groups in Canada or Mexico suddenly took control of the government and formed an alliance with Russia? And what if they signed a treaty of mutual protection? What then? Would you support your neighbors? Or would you demand that the US do something to stop it?

I thought so.

Men (And Women) Of War.

Now that the political upheaval in Ukraine is reaching a critical juncture, the usual warmongers are blustering and calling for military threats. At the same time, they’re blaming President Obama for “weak foreign policy.” Exactly which foreign policy do they consider weak? The policy that ferreted out and killed Osama bin Laden? The policy of targeting al-Qaeda leaders with drone strikes? The policy of providing air support for Libyan rebels? The policy of mandatory inspections and destruction of chemical weapons in Syria?

Or is it the policy of allowing the people of other nations to select their own government and leaders? Is it the peace negotiations with the new moderate President of Iran who requested a dialogue to end the severe economic sanctions in exchange for Iran ending its ambition for nuclear weapons? Or is it the resumption of US-led peace talks between Israel and Palestine? All of these are positive steps that stand as a welcome contrast to the Bush administration’s “you’re with us or against us” black and white approach to foreign policy.

The world is not merely black and white. It’s nuanced and complex. For example, Russia still has thousands of nuclear warheads with the capability of extinguishing all life on this planet. The US, Great Britain, France, China, India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea all have nuclear weapons. And all but North Korea have long-range delivery systems for their warheads. As a result, military threats and war are seldom the best solutions.

Without using nuclear warheads, which could escalate into the complete destruction of our planet, our options are limited. We have seen what happens when we involve our military in nation-building projects such as Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. We have seen what happened when we used our CIA to overthrow leaders in Chile, Iraq, Iran, Vietnam, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and too many Caribbean and Pan American countries to count. We have seen what happens when we serve as the world’s largest arms and munitions dealer.

All of these tactics have created anti-American sentiment, anti-American terrorists and legions of heavily-armed militias who are determined to fight us and each other. Yet this reality seems lost on the neocons who still cling to Cold War beliefs and the ideals of the Project for the New American Century…a plan to expand the American empire by using our status as a superpower by bullying and threatening other nations to obtain an endless supply of cheap raw materials and underpaid labor.

It was neocons from both parties who led us to arm the Shah of Iran to help him oppress his people in exchange for selling us cheap oil. It was Teapublican neocons like Donald Rumsfled who armed Saddam Hussein to fight Iran. It was the neocon Richard Perle who convinced Ronald Reagan to rebuff Mikhail Gorbochev’s attempts to rid the world of nuclear weapons. It was the neocons who led us to arm and educate the radical Islamists of western Pakistan to fight the Soviets. It was neocons like George H.W. Bush, Oliver North, Elliott Abrams, Caspar Weinberger and Richard “The Dick” Cheney who arranged to sell arms to Iran in exchange for the illegal funding of death squads in El Salvador and Nicaragua. It was the neocons who supported the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in hopes that the Taliban would allow US oil companies to build a pipeline across Afghanistan so that they could gain access to Caspian oil and gas. It was neocons like Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Scooter Libby and Condoleeza Rice who used the attacks of 9/11 to lead us into Iraq in order to ensure access to Iraqi oil.

More recently, neocon-lite Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham called for direct military involvement in Libya and Syria despite the fact that many of the militias involved in the war to overthrow Assad in Syria are allied with al-Qaeda. McCain, Graham and other warmongers from both political parties have called for increased sanctions on Iran – even as serious negotiations are underway – a move that would be likely to result in war with Iran. And now, the neocons are calling for confrontation and intervention in Ukraine. They are claiming that the problems in Ukraine are the result of the Obama administration’s “weak” foreign policy.

Seriously?

What do they want the administration to do? Invade Ukraine despite the fact that Ukraine has long been allied with Russia? Such an intervention rightly would be seen by Russia as an act of war. Since the end of the USSR, we have already broken our promises by moving NATO to the very doorstep of Russia, a move that is seen as a very real threat. We have already deployed our missile defense system in Europe, an act that is also seen as a threat to Russia by making a US first strike seem like a real possibility.

Any threat to use military force in Ukraine would, in effect, create a reverse version of the Cuban missile crisis. And there’s no guarantee that Putin is as realistic as Nikita Kruschev and as determined to avoid nuclear war.

The Project for the New American Century ended in 2006 in the aftermath of the group’s disastrous plan to invade and remake Iraq. Unfortunately, its members and proponents, including Richard “The Dick” Cheney, William Kristol, Robert Kagan, William Bennett, Jeb Bush, Steve Forbes, Dan Quayle and many others continue to sell the same bad ideas. Their ideas need to be relegated to the toxic waste dump of history where they belong. While we’re at it, we should bury the racist notion of American “Exceptionalism” along with the top-down economic policy known as Reaganomics, aka Trickle Down theory, Horse and Sparrow economics, and Voodoo economics. It’s time to leave the military and economic thinking of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries behind us.

It is a new century with new possibilities. It requires new thinking and new strategies.