Finally!


by Roxanne Tellier

” There is something almost arbitrary about this scandal instigating impeachment, given the barbarity of Trump and his administration. On a scale that includes keeping immigrant children in cages, I’m not quite sure where to rank the president’s pressuring the leader of a foreign country to investigate a political rival’s son. But it also doesn’t really matter. Impeachment is long overdue. If Trump’s call with Zelinsky is what gets us there, so be it.”   Alex Shephard, The New Republic

I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve been banging the impeachment drum since almost  the moment the inauguration balloons began to sadly deflate.

When the Democrats took the House in November 2018, public sentiment seemed to point to a belief that they would move towards impeaching Trump, based on any number of issues. And when the Mueller Report landed with all the grace of a mother dropping a baby on it’s head, the impeachment issue was again raised. After all, Mueller’s ‘conclusion’ was that he’d done his job, and now it was up to the Democrats to move forward.  

Nancy Pelosi, however, disagreed on moving to impeach the president. Repeatedly, she told her party and her country that she’d rather beat him, resoundingly, in the 2020 election.

Many of us wondered if America could last that long.

Beyond the mental and emotional exhaustion that has been engendered by Trump’s incessant need for excitement and attention, there was a case to be made that failing to prosecute the president for his misdeeds, based on a fear of electoral retribution, made us wonder how long the Dems could shirk their constitutional responsibilities to hold him accountable for his many crimes, whether real or perceived.

Of course, they – and we – knew that any accusation levelled at Trump or his administration would result in a solid phalanx of his highest level co-conspirators rising up through the swampy waters to defend his right to do whatever he wanted, up to and including a late night whim to shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, just to see if it lost him any of his base. (It wouldn’t.) 

We knew in advance that the pearl clutching, eternal victims would level false accusations at those whom they would accuse of simply being jealous rivals, and call any attempt at bringing the executive branch into control as an undeserved ‘witch hunt.’  “Smoking gun? What smoking gun? ”    

But Trump, like any addict, simply couldn’t help himself. The very day after the Mueller Report toothlessly mamby pambied through a sorta kinda accusation of Russia having meddled in the 2016 election (to help Trump)  he was on the phone to the newly elected Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenksky, asking for ‘a favour’ …. that Zelensky take his focus off protecting his own country to investigate the son of Trump’s political rival, Joe Biden.  

Trump subscribed to a debunked conspiracy theory that accused then Vice President Biden of urging the Ukrainians to fire the Kyiv general prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, in order to save his son, Hunter Biden, from being accused of corruption. In fact, this position on Shokin was supported by Ukrainian anti-corruption activists, European allies, and groups like the International Monetary Foundation. (IMF)

Trump’s phone call to the Ukraine was asking for ‘dirt’ on a political rival, from a foreign country – exactly what he’d been accused and found guilty of doing in 2016. “Russia … if you’re listening… ‘

However, his own Department of Justice so roiled the waters that the Democrats knew they’d have trouble convincing the nation to agree that this was an impeachable offence.

Trump’s call also had a more sinister overtone; a week prior to the call, Trump had told his acting White House Chief of Staff, Nick Mulvaney, to slow walk the Congressionally approved $390 million dollars of military aid that Ukraine desperately needed to fight back against Russian advances.

Implicit in Trump’s request for ‘a favour’ was that the aid might never actually reach the Ukraine at all, should Zelensky refuse to investigate the Bidens.

On August 12th, a whistleblower reported an ‘urgent concern’ to the Inspector General of the Department of National Intelligence (DNI) Michael Atkinson. After review, the inspector general deemed the complaint to be credible, and he kicked it upstairs, to the attention of the acting director of the DNI, Joseph Maguire.

For reasons that still don’t make any sense, Maguire opted to ask for the recommendations of both the Oval Office, and the Department of Justice, despite the complaint explicitly naming both Trump and AG Barr as the focus of the complaint. And .. wonder of wonders! both Trump and Barr thought it would be best to just let this complaint go, unheard.

On September 9th, the inspector general reported the complaint to House Intelligence Chairman, Adam Schiff, advising him that Maguire had dismissed the complaint. On September 19th, the House Committee met with Atkinson behind closed doors to discuss the situation, although Atkinson did not disclose the nature of the complaint.

But the word was now out on the street – something worthy of whistleblowing had happened in the Oval Office. No one knew what that might be – at first.

It wasn’t long before Trump, and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, began speculating to the press that it might be about this phone call. They hadn’t done it, they assured the world, but if they did, it would be okay because .. Trump is above the law. Or so it was inferred.

With information that pointed to an abuse of power, a request for help in getting dirt on a political rival, AND the appearance of a cover up in hand, Pelosi announced on September 24th that the House would begin a formal impeachment enquiry into Trump.

Unsurprisingly Trump’s defence was to produce a heavily redacted five page summary of the thirty minute conversation that they believed would exonerate the president. In fact, it only dug the hole deeper.

When the actual whistleblower’s complaint was declassified and released the following day, the nation discovered that the issues raised had to do with the president “using the power of his office” to solicit foreign election help, and included a description of efforts by senior White House officials hiding away and ‘locking down’ access to all records of the call.

Forget Roy Cohn – what Trump really needed was a Rose Mary Woods.

As more information has appeared, it’s become apparent to about 70% of Americans that this president needs to be investigated, and probably, impeached. The 30% that disagree are his ‘deplorable’ base, and his highest ranking party members, who have circled the wagons to protect his criminality…. again.

As Giuliani, Lindsey Graham, and other GOP talking heads made the rounds of the Sunday morning political talk shows, it became clear that they have decided to use the same old defences of the last hundred scandals; start by denying, deflect by saying someone else did the same thing, and then distract by having a temper tantrum, complete with raised voice and red face.

Just as he and his party did when Brett Kavanaugh was accused of sexual improprieties, they would blame and shame the victim … and let the accused walk free to take his throne again.

Last night, Graham was overheard having a full blown, loud conversation on his cell phone with “Jared” – presumably Jared Kushner, on a Jet Blue flight. He mentioned that he would be on Face the Nation, and coordinated his talking points, saying, “Listen – this is what I’m going to lay out. This is Kavanaugh on steroids! This is hearsay – and this person has bias.”

This morning, on Face the Nation, Mr Graham equated the whistleblower’s complaint to the sexual accusations against Kavanaugh, saying – without truth – that the transcript of the call, and the particulars of the complaint, were not matched. He became increasingly angry with the interviewer, who disagreed, and he then proceeded to demand to know, ” Who is this whistleblower? What bias do they have? .. I wanna know why the whistleblower was told about this phone call … Who told the whistleblower about the transcript? Who helped this person write this complaint? Who told the whistleblower about a phone call between the POTUS and a foreign leader? Who are these people and what are they up to?”

This is ‘whataboutism‘ to the nth degree; faced with what seems to be a credible accusation, that the president and his personal lawyer have, even unwittingly, confirmed, Graham reacts with indignation towards an unknown person who acted with more backbone and courage than Graham could ever scrape up in all of his miserable 64 years on the planet. Shoot the messenger! It’s a witch hunt!

Lindsey Graham wants to speak to your manager!

(damn … I’d love to know what they have on Graham. It’s gotta be some very, very fine kompromat.)

These efforts to uncover the whistleblower’s identity are not only dangerous to the wellbeing of the whistleblower, but in the long run, may well serve to compromise, and perhaps fatally damage, the very act of whistle blowing, which has been an important weapon in finding and rooting out political corruption at the highest levels.

At this point, it would seem that the whistleblower’s words have been corroborated, in some cases, by the president himself.

We can probably already guess exactly how Trump will defend himself through this trial …. he will react as he always does, with denial, deflection, whataboutism, and then just simply walking away to play another game of golf at the tax payer’s expense.  That’s his pattern.

Trump is incapable of seeing himself as a teammate in a party, just as good or as bad as previous American presidents, because he demands to be considered better than all the presidents who’ve gone before him. His allegiance to Russia is beyond troublesome, and Russia’s request that any phone calls between Trump and Putin remain classified also suggests that there’s been the same sort of extortion discussed in those calls – though which side is pressuring which is yet to be determined.

We know he will denigrate the media, and, with his usual projection, proclaim them  “the laughing stock of the world.” And we know he will dump manure on the heads of America’s intelligence officials, willy nilly, because any kind of intelligence just scares the pants off of little Donny.

And in the end, Trump will proclaim that the whole thing is ‘just a continuation of the witch hunt.’  But I don’t see any witches around here. What I see is a president betraying his country, to achieve his own personal ends.

The other day, Trump told his cronies that he believed the whistleblower was a type of spy, and he lamented that spies were not treated as harshly as they’d been, back in the day. Well, there’s a very large segment of the population that wishes that traitors who committed treason were punished as they were, back in the day, as well.

Be careful what you wish for, Mr Trump.

Liar Liar Pants on Fire!


by Roxanne Tellier

When we’re kids, we’re terrible at telling lies. You can spot a kid that’s telling a tall tale a mile away, because they’re just not great at deceiving others.

Deception and lying are all part of a cognitive understanding called a Theory of Mind. That’s the realization that we all have our own knowledge, beliefs and opinions … that development informs us that we all have different minds.

Over time, we learn to tell ‘social’ lies, the fibs that get us through our days. “How are you today?” the cashier asks us, and we cheerily inform her that we’re just fine, despite the screaming headache we’re trying to ignore. Or someone asks if they look good in their new coat, and we tell them they look amazing.

pinochioSalespeople lie a dozen times a day, or if not lie, at least they’ll minimize the defects of an item, and maximize it’s benefits. We lie on our resumes, and on our dating profiles .. at least a titch … and we lie when we want to look smarter or more informed than we really are.

Peer pressure and our need to fit the perceptions and expectations of others drives a lot of the lying. We want to look good to others, and to do so, we often have to ‘enhance’ our reality.

We lie to avoid the consequences of mistakes, we lie to buy time, we lie to spare other people’s feelings. We may be lying for all the right reasons, but we’re still lying.

All of that lying comes at a cost. What we really crave is honesty, or at least the belief that someone is being honest; complete honesty is the access to ultimate power. When we feel that a person is telling us the truth, we hand over our power to their keeping. We believe that they have our best interests at heart, and, in effect, must be better people than we assume ourselves to be.

But trust is a fragile thing. And even if the person who broke that trust tells us with sweet words and warm embraces that our trust was broken for a very good reason … once we no longer trust, we can no longer cling to a faith in the person that has broken the code of truth.

And when you pile lie upon lie upon lie … the very foundations of a relationship proves to be built upon quicksand. Not a great thing if it’s in a romance, but if that relationship is between a nation, and it’s leader, there’s an enormous price to pay, and it’s a dangerous place for a nation – or a planet. Especially a planet where Pinocchio demands absolute fealty, constant attention, and has the codes to a nuclear football.

“On January 20, Trump’s truthful hyperboles will no longer be relegated to the world of deal making or campaigning. Donald Trump will become the chief executive of the most powerful nation in the world, the man charged with representing that nation globally—and, most importantly, telling the story of America back to Americans. He has the megaphone of the White House press office, his popular Twitter account and a loyal new right-wing media army that will not just parrot his version of the truth but actively argue against attempts to knock it down with verifiable facts. Unless Trump dramatically transforms himself, Americans are going to start living in a new reality, one in which their leader is a manifestly unreliable source.” Politico, January 1, 2017.

There’s a crushing irony in Trump, who promised to be the ‘law and order’ president, who has racked up a blinding total of over 6000 lies since taking office, telling Americans and the world that he believes the words of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who denies having been involved in the murder of U.S.-based, Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

don't lie to meBelieves MbS, may I add, over the findings of his own CIA, the actual tape of the screams of the man being murdered, and the fact based reality that nothing happens in the Kingdom of the Saud’s without the leader having full knowledge of all actions taken in his kingdom, and in his name.

I’m sure it’s not only those of us who are parents or grandparents that smelled the aroma of defensive lies well before they were fully baked in Trump’s oven of hypocrisy. He did, after all, begin cooking them up even before the Saudi’s had had a chance to properly season those lies with the blood of their tortured and murdered victim.

Kids lie because they have no power. They lie to protect themselves from the consequences of their actions. But leaders have ALL of the power; if what they are doing or proposing is in the best interest of those they lead, there’s no need to hide their words or deeds. Trump’s deep dish lying is only necessary when there’s double dealing, corruption, and personal greed afoot.

But then again, Trump has a lot of practice in both the telling of, and the swallowing of, lies. He’s essentially based his entire presidency and legacy on a roiling sea of tall tales, myths, innuendo, misrepresentations, denigrations of truths, and lie after lie after lie. And his claims are usually at the expense of those whose sole mission in life is to present truths – be it the CIA, the FBI, or the free press.

He’s denied that Russia had any interest in putting him into office, even as witnesses, texts, and chains of emails come to light proving his collusion. No matter what proof is laid on the table, Trump, that sly dog, manages to twist and turn the truth, until his base can be convinced that there’s no smoking gun of evidence, just a ‘light’ claim of wrong doing that he denied at the time, but that if you look at it from his point of view, was never wrong doing, and even if it was, it wasn’t a crime and certainly not illegal .. and hey presto! There’s your new normal … a candy coated lie that everyone wants under the tree at Christmas.

The Teflon coating of Trump’s America is nothing but a veneer of protective lies. Just ask special counsel Mueller, who’s spent the better part of a year and a half exposing the lies of 45’s cronies, lies that come to them as easily as breathing. Or ask those he’s caught in those lies, those that once swore utter loyalty to the Father of Lies, in exchange for a sniff of power … Michael Cohen, George Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort, and Michael Flynn, to name but a few.

Whether it was lying about the paying off of sex scandals, the fiddling of campaign finances, or Russia’s involvement and meddling into the 2016 election, and whether it was for power, loyalty, or reasons we may never understand, Trump’s ex besties will be paying a steep price for lying to federal authorities.

Yes .. I’m aware that all presidents lie. The difference here, though, is the frequency, and the intent .. Nixon, Reagan, Clinton... no question that they were caught lying, in attempts to protect their reputations.

But Trump seems to lie because he just can’t help himself. There’s no matter so small that he can’t find a lie inside it; during the campaign, PolitiFact found that he lied 70 percent of the time. It’s knee-jerk, it’s just what he does … George Washington could not tell a lie, Trump cannot tell a truth.

(anecdotally, Trump once told his butler, Anthony Senecal, that the tiles in a nursery at MarALago‘s West Palm Beach club had been made by Walt Disney himself. Knowing that was false, Senecal protested. Trump’s response was: “Who cares?”)

He is the Boy that Cried Wolf. Many of us can no longer believe anything he says, ever.

Even the most brilliant human brain can only cope with so much misinformation. For the majority of us, we’re easily overwhelmed with a flood of false statements. Our coping mechanism soon becomes overburdened, and ultimately, we begin to absorb the disinformation as a new reality, no matter how implausible those statements may be.

yes masterAnd Trump is also the master of another form of lying, so insidious that most people don’t even see it coming …he practices ‘illusory truth,‘ … the sheer repetition of the same lie until it begins to register as truth in our minds, and even causes the actual reality and truth to be erased from our memories.

Keep repeating a lie and it begins to seep into our minds as truth. Say it enough, and we’ll no longer be able to recognize truth at all.

Worse still, our efforts to refute those lies only serves to solidify the lies as truths. The brain can’t parse out a phrase like, “it’s not true that all migrants are gangsters.” Instead, it filters out the first part, and seizes upon the second as what is important. Refutations and retractions will do nothing to change judgments and decisions we make based upon false information.

I wish that I could tell you that there is an easy way to change the minds of those who have absorbed this administration’s lies and misinformation and made those deceptions into core beliefs. But I cannot. In point of fact, the processing of all of this false information has physically altered the minds of the ‘true believers’ as surely as those of religious cultists. They literally cannot hear any information that does not correlate to what they have accepted as truth.

The base of Trump’s followers will not willingly drop their acquired values; they are far more likely to double down on their emotional connection to the lies than to hear statements that belie what they have come to consider gospel. Trump’s base will have to be ‘deprogrammed’ by someone able to reshape their minds. We can only hope that whomever comes along to do so, has honorable intentions, and the good of their country top of mind.

 

Addendum:  When I first started writing this column, I came from a very different perspective. By the time I was winding up the piece, I was shaken to my core.

“Lying” sounds like something we have to teach kids not to do; kid stuff, not all that important, a mere peccadillo, as they used to say.  But it’s so much more than that. When the people we are meant to trust … our elected leaders, civic leaders, religious leaders … lie to us to further their own agendas, their words can warp the teachings and beliefs of a lifetime. And that is some scary stuff. Manchurian Candidate stuff.

If you have an interest in the science of lies, please read this article – especially the second half – and be prepared to look at America with an entirely different and more educated eye by the end of the read.

The distressing reality is that our sense of truth is far more fragile than we would like to think it is—especially in the political arena, and especially when that sense of truth is twisted by a figure in power. As the 19th-century Scottish philosopher Alexander Bain put it, “The great master fallacy of the human mind is believing too much.” False beliefs, once established, are incredibly tricky to correct. A leader who lies constantly creates a new landscape, and a citizenry whose sense of reality may end up swaying far more than they think possible. It’s little wonder that authoritarian regimes with sophisticated propaganda operations can warp the worldviews of entire populations. “You are annihilated, exhausted, you can’t control yourself or remember what you said two minutes before. You feel that all is lost,” as one man who had been subject to Mao Zedong’s “reeducation” campaign in China put it to the psychiatrist Robert Lifton. “You accept anything he says.””

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/01/donald-trump-lies-liar-effect-brain-214658

Meep Meep! and other Augusty Thoughts


No matter how you may feel about Senator John McCain‘s political past, with his recent demise, you cannot help but remember that he was a war hero, and a stand up guy. His passing leaves us short of what might have been the last real gentleman standing in the Senate. As his life becomes a memory, those who knew him well remind us of those moments that defined a Giant of the Senate and of a politician who frequently eschewed partisanship for a wholehearted defence of democracy.

Even in death, McCain holds firm to his principles. As I read this morning, “John McCain told friends months ago that he didn’t want Donald Trump at his funeral. Instead he wanted former President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush to attend his funeral and deliver the eulogy. McCain famously lost to Bush in the 2000 Republican primary race for President, and then lost to Obama in the 2008 general election for President. Yet McCain chose these two men — one Republican and one Democrat — to eulogize him.

McCain thus ensured that his funeral would be bipartisan and inclusive, making it all the more glaring that current “President” of the United States wasn’t invited.”

Imagine what a horrific human being you have to be, to be barred from both McCain’s funeral, and the funeral of Barbara Bush. And this is the guy who thinks he deserves a Nobel Peace Prize. He couldn’t negotiate peace between the two types of candy in an M&M bag.

November can’t come soon enough ….

storms coming

 

In a week that hints of a possible end to the Trump administration’s reign of terror, it is a real comfort to know that the rule of law must ultimately prevail, even over an administration as venal and corrupt as this one.

And yet, there are still those that hold a grudging admiration for the Grifter in Chief, and his army of wily surrogates and spokespeople who seek to stop his feeling any sort of retribution for his heinous , malicious whims and vindictive executive orders.

wile e coyoteThey will assure you that they would never .. NEVER … vote for the Orange Manatee. But they just can’t help themselves from grinning – just a little – when he wriggles out of yet another moral or ethical dilemma.

It’s like Trump is the RoadRunner, constantly outwitting the smarter, but nonetheless ultimately hapless, Wile E. Coyote. 

For many who feel vaguely discontented with their lot, there’s a real anger towards ‘smart people,’ those who ‘caught the breaks,’ and are often considered part of a group that seems to be determined to keep the regular Joe down. There’s a resentment for those who have more success, and a belief that somehow, those guys had more, and unfair, advantages.

tall poppies 2Because of the tales and tropes we’ve grown up believing, there can be a real bitterness in some. It is as though they believe that intelligence is a negative characteristic, that should be hidden from others, or at least, played down with great modesty.

They believe that “Real Men” don’t have to study, let alone ‘think’ … Real Men just DO! They naturally have all the information they need to solve any problem, even if it’s not in their field, or their realm of expertise. They are simply born with that ability. It’s just something that ‘real men’ know in their always righteous guts.

So when a confident, if completely incapable, con man comes along – especially one that ticks so many of our culture’s other boxes .. he’s tall, he’s imposing, he takes no shit, he is in charge, he’s got a lot of women in his life, whether through matrimony or a lifetime of libertinism … those same people can feel like they’re looking at a man of action. If not a hero, then at the very least, an anti-hero, whom they can admire.

They look at this man who will literally shove aside other men to be fully spotlighted and in charge … and something inside them admires that brutality.

trump shoves PM of Montenegro

Mistaking recklessness for bravery, lasciviousness for virility, and self-preservation for selflessness, they are happy to carry the 72 Year Old Toddler‘s water.

The OranguTAN likes to come off as a sort of lovable rogue, always ready with a quip, even when it is completely inappropriate or critically cruel of others. It’s all about the luck, the wit, the simple act of being The Donald, rather than any sort of actual information, data or reality. He is completely averse to any pretension of knowledge, or the acquiring of same, disdaining his crucial daily briefs and demanding that they instead be solely bullet points and pictographs. Because a man of his stature, you see, must always be on the run, on the go, being a manly man, playing golf, grabbing pussies. Busy busy!

Eventually, of course, there will be retribution. But up until that fateful day, there will be many who will throw their careers and bodies in front of Mad King Donald, as he stumbles toward a possible impeachment and a probable indictment, believing that their loyalty will be rewarded, if not in the White House halls, than in the publishing offices where they will flog their memoirs for big bucks, in hopes of bringing joy to the slathering, puerile readers who will never come within a thousand miles of such proximity to ‘greatness.’

Until the day that the roadrunner catches Mr Wile E.

the muellering

……………………………………………………..

In the flurry of convictions, plea bargains, and requests for immunity this week, one long time comrade of the Gibbering Gibbon found his string of publications in the spotlight – and most definitely not in a good way.

David Pecker, notorious tabloid king, owns nearly every supermarket tabloid and gossip sheet in the United States, including the flagship publication National Enquirer. In an effort to get ahead of the rush of those seeking immunity deals, he’s admitted to having withheld stories detrimental to the Trump campaign, by using ‘catch and kill;‘ the practice of buying up a story and then burying it. This would very likely constitute an unlawful contribution to the Trump campaign of 2016.

He’s even admitted to having an office safe dedicated solely to stories and photos of Trump in flagrante delicto. This ain’t no Geraldo hoping for an Al Capone bonanza – this is the real deal.

But while we wait, and silently shudder at what might lie within the safe’s depths, I think it has to be noted that Pecker did not just hide Trump’s offences, he maintained a constant assault on Hillary Clinton throughout the course of the campaign, on his tabloid’s covers.

national enquirer hillary covers

Despite all this Democratic insistence of ‘going high when they go low,‘ this abuse of the public’s trust, in the lies and smearing of one presidential candidate in favour of the other, cannot be ignored. While the tabloids may be considered ‘entertainment,’ there are many parts of the United States when their words are considered ‘gospel,’ based mainly on how many lesser educated people were raised – to believe that words in print must be true, simply because they have been printed.

We already know a big chunk of Americans – the ones Hillary so rightly called ‘the deplorables‘ – did and do believe these accusations and lies. They continue to buy into Pecker’s steady drip of venom against Democrats, anti-gun activists, and civil rights advocates .. every damn Saturday when they pick up their groceries at the local Wegmans or Albertsons, and then trot down to the VA for a rousing chorus of “lock her up.’

If Hillary can’t bring herself to sue the bejeezus off this turd, a civil suit should be brought against his publications. His stories constitute a willful assault upon the attention spans of the ignorant and the poorly educated.

Lies, propaganda, and a relentless, overt attack on one candidate to assure the political success of another is not free speech – it is collusion between Trump and Pecker, and campaign meddling, and it needs to be acknowledged as such.

trump pecker enquirer