Monday, January 30, 2017

Hypocrites Ignore the First Amendment

Hypocrisy is all around us, but none so great as that of the conservative Republicans who claim they believe in the Constitution of the United States, yet support policies that contradict their words.  You cannot pick and choose which constitutional amendment you will abide by.  If you insist on our country abiding by a certain amendment, you should then support them all.   Either you “is or you ain’t a constitutionalist.”  For instance, there are those that would lay down their life to protect the rights afforded by Amendment 2 of the Constitution.  Amendment 2 protects the right to bear arms.  The question is, are you also willing to support Amendment 1 as vigorously as you do Amendment 2?

Amendment 1, the first of 10 amendments in the Bill of Rights, written by our founding fathers, was surely the most important and foremost element of democracy based on the prominent placing of this amendment.  To refresh your memory, here is Amendment 1:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This weekend, President Trump signed an Executive Order to ban travel from seven countries consisting predominately of Muslims.  Muslims practice Islam as a religion!  If you believe Trump’s hype, all Muslim’s are killers. I suggest, no more than all Christians are killers. We all knew he said he would ban all Muslims during his campaign rallies.  However, you, me and I daresay his “base,” thought it would be done in a humane and thoughtful manner.  One would think certain planning and directives would be instituted before slamming the door shut.  The haphazard manner in which this Executive Order was implement created a hot mess.

Banning people from our country based on religion is NOT consistent with our democracy.  However, the people protesting at all the airports in this country IS consistent with our democracy and based on Constitutional Amendment 1, they are defending our Constitution.  As Thomas Jefferson said, “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.”

While we’re talking about Amendment 1, let’s discuss freedom of speech and freedom of the press.  President Trump announced this week that the Media was an opposition party.  I’ve told you many times how Trump implants his crazy ideas in your brain--by repetition. “Lying media.  Lying media.”  How many times have you heard that?  Trump demonizes the media every time a microphone is in front of his mouth. Last week, Steve Bannon, Trump’s Chief Strategist and Counselor visited the New York Times and told them they needed to “keep their mouth shut.”  Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to President Trump said, “The media figures who criticize President Trump should be fired.”  Her panties were in a wad because she was ridiculed for saying that the Trump facts were “alternative facts.”  Oh, I digress. 

Trump and the Trump whisperers are sadly mistaken if they think they can keep the media from printing and reporting the truth.  The media is all that stands between an authoritarian government and us.  Those that think the media should “keep their mouth shut” and let Trump run willy-nilly over our republic do not believe in the Constitution and are hypocrites.

One person who is not a hypocrite is Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief whisperer.  He has never boasted about loving the Constitution.  Bannon and his Breitbart News is the father of fake news.  He declared his Breitbart News as the “platform of the alt-right” in 2016. He has deep ties to white nationalists, racists, and anti-Semites.  In 2014, Bannon compared himself to the Russian revolutionary Lenin. "He wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal, too,” The Daily Beast quoted him as saying. "I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment."

It is becoming more apparent with each Executive Order Trump signs, that Steve Bannon is President Trump’s chief architect.  On Friday, Trump signed an Executive Order that gave Steve Bannon an additional job…he gave him a seat at the table of the National Security Council as a permanent member.  As if that was not hair-raising enough, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence were not included as permanent members but on a “we’ll call you if we need you” basis.  Who do you think will call the shots on our national security now?  Steve Bannon and Lt. General Mike Flynn, Putin’s good buddy.  Sweet dreams!

More bad news.  I heard Ann’s Deli is closing shortly.  As much as we will miss them, we can’t blame them for moving on to the best part of their life—retirement!  Stop by and wish them well.

Monday, January 23, 2017

I Survived a Bipolar Week

As a columnist, I find the only thing worse than having nothing to write about is having too much to write about.  The latter is certainly my situation today.  The word that best describes my world last week is bipolar. 

Grief.  Early in the week, a major player in the life and times of the Langford’s passed away—General David Poythress.  In 1979, George and I were a struggling young couple, with a child, living in Savannah.  George read in the Atlanta Constitution that a man whose name he wasn’t sure how to pronounce, had been appointed to fill the un-expired term of long-time Secretary of State, Ben Fortson.  George said to me, “He’s going to need someone to help him—I’m going to Atlanta and ask him for a job.”  For several years, George had talked about wanting to work in State Government and I always balked at moving to Atlanta.  This day, I called his bluff, or so I thought.  I said,  “Okay!  You go to Atlanta!  You get the job!  And I will move there!”  He left on a Tuesday, returned on a Wednesday with a job.  I might add that he neglected to ask the most basic of questions of Mr. Poythress, like his title, his duties, and his salary!  Wives are sticklers for the small details.  We learned the answers to all those questions in an article in the Savannah Morning News a couple of days later.  Thus, our journey with David began.

David Poythress served Georgia with distinction as Commissioner of Department of Medical Assistance (Medicaid), Deputy Revenue Commissioner, Secretary of State, Commissioner of Labor and The Adjutant General.  David Poythress, a three-star General in the U. S. Air Force, speaks volumes of his leadership abilities.  Having won two statewide elections, David ran for Governor twice and came up short both times.  We know all too well that voters make mistakes sometimes.

I would like to take this opportunity to give sage advice.  If you have someone in your life that was a major player in your life and times, do not miss an opportunity to tell that person how much they meant to you.

Joy. On Wednesday, I felt sheer joy!  I witnessed the birth of my fourth grandchild, our first baby in the family in eleven years.  A beautiful and healthy boy! 

Foreboding.  On Thursday, the reality of what was going to happen in Washington on Black Friday, at 12:00 noon started to sink in.

Happy.  On Friday, no televisions turned on to spoil my mood.  I spent the day with like-minded friends, old and new. Laughed a lot. Just like the marches on Saturday, we expected few, but got a full house. 

Hopeful.  Saturday when I saw the historic turnout for the Women’s March, my hope was restored in America.  Unless you watched only Fox News, you know this protest against Trump and for women’s rights will make it to the history books.  Protests in all 50 states, in at least 600 cities, on 7 continents (even Antarctica had a march), 500,000 in Washington, DC, 200,000 in Chicago, largest protest in history of New York City, over 60,000 in Atlanta (and many marchers from Georgia went to Washington).  It appears that Donald Trump may have chewed off more than he can bite. 

Homicidal/Suicidal.  Saturday afternoon, when on Day One of his presidency, Trump went to the CIA Headquarters in Langley and desecrated the Wall of Honor, I thought, “I can’t take this insanity for four years!”  He stood in front of those sacred stars that represent the names of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, and did not pay homage to them.  Few know the names that the stars represent. Their funerals are secret.  Their families cannot boast or brag about the career and bravery of their loved one.  All they have is that star on the wall.  As a former employee of an intelligence agency, I assure you, I am not alone in my pure disgust with Donald Trump and you should be, as well.  He doesn’t get it.  He just doesn’t get it.  He has no clue what “sacrifice” means.

President Trump used his time at the wall to talk about his war on the dishonest media.  It’s obvious from the other events of the evening that our leader’s long-range goal is to demonize and minimize the national media until they are no longer believable on any level.  He is using the tactics of an authoritarian leader, like Putin.  At the CIA and later at the first press briefing, he and his press secretary told us that what we saw with our own eyes was not a “fact.”  He said we saw a million or more people at his Inauguration.  We actually saw photographic evidence of 250,000.  What a stupid thing for a President to argue about!  But that’s the way you sow the seed of doubt in a subject’s mind.  Who are you going to believe, Trump or your lying eyes?  If you chose Trump, then kiss the First Amendment goodbye.

Scared.  The rolling thunder and the explosive lightning in the wee hours of Sunday morning jarred me from my bed.  I wasn’t sure if it was a tornado or Trump playing around with the nuclear codes.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Intelligence Officials Send Ominous Warning in Intel Report

I feel I’m Paul Revere except I’m yelling “The Russians are coming!  The Russians are coming!”  That was my take-away from the combined Intelligence Report on Russia Hacking last Friday.

We now have concrete proof; we have something we can see and feel.  The Russians ARE coming and since we have a President-Elect that pretends to be as blind as a bat, it will happen sooner, rather than later. 

I read the unprecedented Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent Elections Intelligence Report, not once, but several times.  I know enough about classified and non-classified reports to know if it did not happen, it would not be said.  I trust the intelligence agencies in our country to know the hard evidence is there.  I worked for the National Security Agency for twelve years. I know their professionalism. I know each individual employee considers it an honor to work for this agency that provides the utmost in security for our country.  You can sleep because they are on the job.  The same is true with the CIA, FBI, and the lesser-known agencies.  I know first hand these are very dedicated employees who are passionate about their work and totally self-less.  They get no “thanks.” They can’t talk about their work—they can’t even tell anyone where they work.  They only know within their heart they are serving their country. To hear an American President mocking these dedicated public servants disgusts me.  In fact, to denigrate these agencies is unpatriotic. 

I urge you to read this report in its entirety.  Google it.  Don’t take my or Trump’s word for it.  Until then, I will spare you the “government-eze.”  The Report is five pages and discusses how they determine the degree of certainty of the information.  The report explains the analytic process and how it is determined who did the hacking.  Finally you get to the meat of the report—Key Judgments.  Interspersed in the key judgments are interesting tidbits like no voting machines were compromised. We learned that the Republican Party Headquarters was indeed hacked.  It was made clear that Putin ordered the hacks.  Also certain was Putin had a clear preference for Trump and helped make his chance possible by discrediting Hillary Clinton and contrasting her unfavorables to Trump’s favorables.  Their intelligence covert operations, like cyber attacks, were followed up with overt efforts by Russian Government Agencies, State funded media outlets, third party intermediaries, and paid social media users, known as “trolls.”  The Russian Military Intelligence (GRU) provided the hacked documents to Julian Assange of WikiLeaks for release.

We all followed the campaign, right?  So, let me tell you how it works.  An email from Hillary is released by WikiLeaks refuting what she said earlier.  It has a salacious title, Hillary Lies!  That same day, Trump would repeat it at his rally and say, “Hillary lies!  She lies!”  Then Alt-right news sources, like Breitbart or Matt Drudge take it from there and repeats, “Hillary lies!”  The trolls join in on social media sites frequented by right-wingers.  The next day, the next, and months later, it is the same routine, with a different headline.  By the time they are through, Hillary’s character has totally been assassinated.  And that, my friends, is one way Russia influenced our election. 

But wait!  I knew all that!  What’s the big deal of this report?  Like many, I thought that was the end of the report the first time I read it.  The second time I read it, I started questioning the page numbers. I saw a page entitled Annex A. As I read on, I realized that Annex A had little to do with the hacking or influencing this election. When I finished reading, that’s when my abject horror (my word of the week) kicked in!  That’s when I realized that the heads of all these Intelligence agencies were telling us something that we needed to know, but since Trump’s handpicked intelligence leaders are taking over, this was the last and only opportunity they had to get the message out to America.  That’s when my abject horror kicked in.  The Russians are no longer coming!  They are here! 

Annex A is seven (7) pages exclusively reporting the emergence of RT, a television network tied to, funded by, and controlled by the Kremlin.  RT was formerly named Russia Today, but when ratings showed it failing, the connection to Russia was removed to make it more palatable to international viewers.  Putin’s appointed editor-in-chief Margarite Simonyan, speaks candidly about the channel’s “importance to the Kremlin as a messaging tool” and indicates a “Kremlin-directed campaign to undermine the U.S. Government and fuel political protests.”  The network has a very substantial social media staff with paid “trolls.”  A United Kingdom report states that RT was the most-watched foreign news channel in the UK. According to the report, RT has expanded its programming in the U.S. and highlights criticism of U.S. short-comings in democracy and civil liberties. This is a warning to us!  Don’t ya’ll remember I told you that Trump’s National Security Adviser, General Mike Flynn worked for RT?  And I thought FOX News was bad!

So much more to say, so little space.  I leave you with this.  Trump said about the hacking, “I know things nobody else does.”  Yep, I bet he does!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Trump: We Will Not Move On!

While drinking my coffee this morning and catching up on the news of the day, I found myself humming the old Credence Clearwater song, “Bad Moon Rising.”  You know the one, “I see a bad moon arising. I see trouble on the way”….  This song, written by John Fogarty, was released in 1969.  It came at a time in the late 60’s when our country was in great turmoil over the Vietnam War, race relations, and the assassination of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.  Whether it was meant to be, this song sent an apocalyptic warning to the world by using the weather as a metaphor.  This song could have been written yesterday, instead of nearly 48 years ago. 

With the election results, I knew the bad moon was gonna rise.  I just didn’t expect it to be before Trump even took office.  His reaction this past weekend over President Obama’s sanctions on Russia and his expelling so called Diplomats (many were spies) was sophomoric. Trump blamed the hack on computers, then, he said, “We need to move on.”  Even after incontrovertible evidence of Putin’s direct involvement in the hacks, Trump still is not willing to accept this.  His schoolgirl tweets between he and Vladimir Putin should remove any doubt about Trump’s fitness to be a President of anything other than Trump Enterprises. 

Move on?  No way!  We cannot move on from a hostile attack on our democratic process!  We cannot let the love affair between Putin and Trump go unquestioned.  If Russia does not suffer the consequence from this cyber attack, we have far more to lose than e-mails as Putin becomes more emboldened.  We have too much at stake. If we let them get by with this, our country is theirs for the taking.  We Americans will never have faith in our democratic elections again.  All of our businesses’ proprietary information is subject to their hacking, including all research and development.  Our electrical grids are all computerized.  Our transportation systems depend on computers.  Our bank accounts are computerized.  You get the picture.

In 1972, we didn’t move on when President Richard Nixon’s re-election committee broke into the Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate hotel to wiretap and steal documents.  This country had exhaustive investigations and a hearing lasting nearly a year, culminating in impeachment and Richard Nixon’s resignation as President.  This was only an interrupted break-in.  Nothing stolen.  Our election was not affected.  But, we did not move on until we learned the truth.

We didn’t move on when President Bill Clinton committed sexual indiscretions in the Oval Office.  Kenneth Starr was appointed Independent Counselor (actually, a not-so-independent Prosecutor).  Ken Starr made a fortune investigating the Clintons for any conspiracy theory possible—Whitewater, the suicide of Vince Foster, the Rose Law Firm, Paula Jones’ lawsuit, White House Travel Office, and failure to return their library books on time.  For five years, there was a steady drip, drip, drip, but it was fizzling out until…Monica Lewenski fell in Starr’s lap (not literally, of course).  Clinton was impeached (accused) for perjury and obstruction of justice.   After $80 million dollars of our tax dollars, Bill Clinton was NOT convicted and served out the rest of his term.  But, we did not move on until we learned the truth.

We didn’t move on after the Benghazi attack in 2012, even though there was no there, there.  After many investigations with outcomes contrary to Republican dreams, Representative Trey Gowdy, opened the House Select Committee on Benghazi. After subpoenaing Hillary Clinton’s private emails, Gowdy made an inadvertent discovery and he thought he hit “pay dirt.”  Secretary Clinton was using a private e-mail server!  Like Starr, Gowdy moved on from Benghazi to e-mails. You know how that turned out.  Gowdy had to put his signature on a letter that stated no wrongdoing was found.  This result was after spending $11 million of our tax dollars.  It didn’t stop there.  Good ole, straight arrow FBI Director James Comey ran up a tab of $30 million of our tax dollars to tell us Clinton was careless.  But at least we didn’t move on and we learned the truth.

You see, that’s the real reason Trump wants us to move on.  He knows that Americans, our Congress, and our Senate do not move on until we know the truth.  Trump knows that if we dig long and deep enough, the truth will come out. We Americans have to know the truth to get closure and be accepting of what the future holds.  We have too many unanswered questions to move on.  If Trump is not a legitimate President, we have to know.  We need as many investigations as it takes to get to the truth, and we need to spend as much money as it takes to get to the truth, even if it means using Trump’s “wall money.”  History has proven that’s the way we roll.