The Twelve Lies of Christmas

It’s getting difficult to keep track of all the lies. They’re multiplying like tribbles. And I guess that’s by design. The point, I suspect, is to lie so much that we focus on the lies instead of on the underlying facts, like the fact that the stock market is having its worst December since 1931, or that the Kurds in Syria are talking about releasing over 3,000 ISIS prisoners, or that hundreds of thousands of federal workers aren’t getting paid as a result of the government shutdown. With that said, though, I can’t help but focus the lies themselves, which seem to be growing more egregious by the day. So, here, in the spirit of the holiday, are my top twelve lies… Actually, as of right now, there are only eight, as I have holiday-related things to do, but I may add more later. Or, better yet, you can help add to the list in the comments section… At any rate, here are the first eight of the Twelve Lies of Christmas.

LIE NUMBER ONE. Donald Trump mentioned on Friday that, like him, Ronald Reagan wanted to build a border wall. This is a lie. In fact, when asked about illegal immigration during a 1980 campaign debate, Reagan said, “Rather than… talking about putting up a fence, why don’t we work out some recognition of our mutual problems, and make it possible for them to come here legally, with a work permit, and, then, while they are working and earning here, they pay taxes here.” And that was pretty much a constant theme through his presidency, from beginning to end. Regan not only wanted more immigrant-friendly policies, but he wanted to offer amnesty to undocumented workers already in the United States. During the 1984 presidential campaign, Reagan said, “I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and who have lived here, even though, some time back, they may have entered illegally.” And he continued to push for more immigrant-friendly policies until the end of his 8-year term in office. Describing America as a “shining city” in his farewell address, Reagan said the following about those who seek to make their way here. “If there had to be city walls, the walls had doors, and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here,” the Reagan said. “That’s how I saw it, and see it still.”

LIE NUMBER TWO. The day after Trump stunned our allies, elected officials, and military commanders by announcing an immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria, he tweeted that Russia was “not happy” about the move. This, as we know, is an enormous lie. In fact, Putin just said the following about Trump’s decision. “American troops should not be in Syria and have been there illegally… If the decision to withdraw them was taken, that’s the right decision,” The Russian dictator said. And yet Trump, and other members of his administration, still maintain that Putin is angry that we’re pulling troops out, giving the Russians free rein in the country. [According to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, “The idea that Putin is happy about this is ridiculous.”]

For those of you who still might be tempted to believe the President when he says that the Russians aren’t happy about what he just did, check out this post from professional Russia-watcher Julia Davis.

LIE NUMBER THREE. Trump, over this weekend, has started blaming Democrats in Congress for the government shutdown, which we all know that he’s the architect of. He’d essentially told Republicans in Congress that he’d support a continuing resolution to keep the government funded, even if he didn’t get funding for his ineffective and ridiculously expensive border wall, but, when they came to the White House with a resolution agreed to by both the House and Senate, he told them that he wouldn’t accept it. Apparently, it would seem, the mockery of right wing pundits like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter had gotten to him, and he’d decided to change course. So now he’s saying, “The Democrats now own the shutdown!” One would think he’d know better than to try this, as we have him on tape from December 11 saying, “I am proud to shut down the government for border security… So I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame (the Democrats) for it.” Here, in case you missed it, is the video.

LIE NUMBER FOUR. Donald Trump just sent out a tweet about how he’s decided to forgo a 16-day golfing vacation in Florida to stay in DC and sign important bills in the Oval Office, apparently unaware of the fact that people can just zoom in and see that he’s just pretending to sign a blank piece of paper.

It’s also worth noting that, according to White House reporter Kathryn Watson, Donald Trump was not in the Oval Office when he tweeted this out.

LIE NUMBER FIVE. Trump Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin just put out a statement saying that, “We continue to see strong economic growth in the U.S. economy.” The statement, which he issued from the super-exclusive El Dorado resort in Cabo San Lucas, comes out as the markets are in free fall, and investors are experiencing the worst December since 1931. [By the way, we should also be alarmed by the fact that Mnuchin, from this same resort, just called the CEOs of America’s six largest banks, asking if they have “ample liquidity.” This demonstrates pretty clearly, I think, that they’re scared of a crash. Perhaps more alarming, however, is the fact that Mnuchin is conducting stress tests by phone, from a resort.]

LIE NUMBER SIX. According to Washington Post White House Bureau Chief Philip Rucker, Trump is claiming that “many” federal workers want the government to stay closed. Trump, according to Rucker, told members of the press, “Many of those workers have said to me, communicated, stay out until you get the funding for the wall. These federal workers want the wall.” As I understand it, Trump did not offer any proof that he had, in fact, talked with any of the nearly 400,000 federal employees who are currently working without pay, or the 350,000-some more who have been furloughed. And, for what it’s worth, J. David Cox, the president of the American Federation of Government Employees… who, you can be sure, has talked with many of these 750,000 people… just issued a statement calling on Congress to “immediately fund and reopen the government and stop holding the people’s government hostage”.

LIE NUMBER SEVEN. The President just tweeted out the he has awarded a contract for a construction firm to build 115 miles of wall across our southern border. This cannot be true, as, under our Constitution, it’s the legislative branch of government the controls our nation’s purse strings.

LIE NUMBER EIGHT. Following the example of Jim Mattis, Brett McGurk, the State Department official tasked with coordinating international efforts to fight ISIS, handed in his resignation a few days ago in protest over Donald Trump’s surprise announcement that the U.S. would be pulling troops out of Syria. Trump responded by saying that he did not know McGurk, and suggesting that he was just grandstanding… So, taking Trump at his word, this would mean that, after two years in our office, the President of the United States still did not know the man responsible for overseeing the international coalition against the Islamic State… Either that, or he was lying… Here are two of my favorite responses to Trump on this matter.

[note: McGurk didn’t enter the government under Obama, as Trump suggests in his tweet. He began his work in the Middle East under President George W. Bush, and continued under Obama.]

[note: Jason Rezaian, a global opinions writer for the Washington Post, was taken prisoner by the Iranian regime in 2015, while serving as the Washington Post’s Tehran bureau chief. His 2016 release was negotiated by McGurk.]

LIE NUMBER NINE. Donald Trump, under intense pressure at home, and looking to turn the tide in a more positive direction, finally went to visit our troops in Iraq. While talking with men and women in uniform at the Al Asad Air Base during his visit, Donald Trump said, “You protect us. We are always going to protect you. And you just saw that, ’cause you just got one of the biggest pay raises you’ve ever received… You haven’t gotten one in more than 10 years. More than 10 years. And we got you a big one. I got you a big one. I got you a big one.” This, of course, was a lie. Members of the military have seen their pay increase every year for more than 30 years. Pay is increasing by 2.6% in 2019 as a result of the National Defense Authorization Act, which is the biggest jump in the past nine years, but it did just go up 2.4% in 2018.

OK, I need to clean the house now, and get ready for relatives. Please feel free to finish this post on your own.

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Trump’s unilateral decision to pull out of Syria sends Defense Secretary Jim Mattis for the door

Today, in the wake of Donald Trump’s surprise decision to pull American troops out of Syria without first consulting either our allies, or our military leaders in the field, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis submitted his letter of resignation, making the revered General the most recent in a long line of people to either walk away from, or be forced from, the increasingly unstable Trump administration. For those of you who don’t have time to read the letter of resignation, which you can find below in its entirety, here’s the gist of it… “I’ve had enough of your lying to the American people, licking the boots of dictators, and treating our allies like shit.”

Here’s the letter.

Dear Mr. President:

I have been privileged to serve as our country’s 26th Secretary of Defense which has allowed me to serve alongside our men and women of the Department in defense of our citizens and our ideals.

I am proud of the progress that has been made over the past two years on some of the key goals articulated in our National Defense Strategy: putting the Department on a more sound budgetary footing, improving readiness and lethality in our forces, and reforming the Department’s business practices for greater performance. Our troops continue to provide the capabilities needed to prevail in conflict and sustain strong U.S. global influence.

One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships. While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies. Like you, I have said from the beginning that the armed forces of the United States should not be the policeman of the world. Instead, we must use all tools of American power to provide for the common defense, including providing effective leadership to our alliances. NATO’s 29 democracies demonstrated that strength in their commitment to fighting alongside us following the 9-11 attack on America. The Defeat-ISIS coalition of 74 nations is further proof.

Similarly, I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours. It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model – gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions – to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies. That is why we must use all the tools of American power to provide for the common defense.

My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues. We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.

Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position. The end date for my tenure is February 28, 2019, a date that should allow sufficient time for a successor to be nominated and confirmed as well as to make sure the Department’s interests are properly articulated and protected at upcoming events to include Congressional posture hearings and the NATO Defense Ministerial meeting in February. Further, that a full transition to a new Secretary of Defense occurs well in advance of the transition of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in September in order to ensure stability Within the Department.

I pledge my full effort to a smooth transition that ensures the needs and interests of the 2.15 million Service Members and 732,079 DoD civilians receive undistracted attention of the Department at all times so that they can fulfill their critical, round-the-clock mission to protect the American people.

I very much appreciate this opportunity to serve the nation and our men and women in uniform.

We are entering a very frightening time, folks. The bottom is literally falling out. The markets are in disarray, the indictments are piling up, and Donald Trump is becoming increasingly isolated, as people like John Kelly and Jim Mattis walk away. This will not end well.

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Trump blindsides Congress and U.S. military commanders, announcing that American forces will be leaving Syria, much to the delight of Putin

This past March, Donald Trump threatened to pull U.S. troops out of Syria. “We’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon,” the President said. “Let the other people take care of it now.” Well, today, Donald Trump made good on that promise, announcing though Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White that, “We have started the process of returning U.S. troops home from Syria as we transition to the next phase of the campaign.” Explaining the controversial move in a tweet, Donald Trump said that it made sense, given that “we have defeated ISIS in Syria.” This, of course, is not true. The terrorist threat, as UK defense minister Tobias Ellwood said shortly after the announcement was made, is still “very much alive.”

The response in the U.S. was extremely critical, even among Republicans. Senator Lindsey Graham said, “An American withdrawal at this time would be a big win for ISIS, Iran, Bashar al Assad of Syria, and Russia.” He then went on to add, “I fear it will lead to devastating consequences for our nation, the region, and throughout the world.” And Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker said, “I’ve never seen a decision like this since I’ve been here, in 12 years, where nothing is communicated in advance.” And, it would seem, not only did Trump not tell Congress what he had intended to do, but he didn’t even tell the military. “The President’s generals have no idea where this weak decision came from,” Senator Ben Sasse told reporters this afternoon. And the Washington Post reported “confusion as military officials raced to outline plans for a rapid departure of the entire U.S. force of more than 2,000 troops” that have been on the ground since 2015, leading the NATO coalition.

As Graham said, this was a big win for Bashar al Assad of Syria, and Russia. In fact, according to CNN’s Jake Tapper, a Pentagon official asked him, once the story broke, “So, when does Russia announce their victory?” The answer came just a little later, when the Russian embassy in the U.S. posted the following, praising the President’s surprise move.

It’s no secret that Putin has long wanted the U.S. to leave Syria, where, since 2015, Russian forces have backed the brutal dictator Bashar al Assad, who, you can be sure, will step up his attacks against our Kurdish allies once we leave. As Bret Stephens of the New York Times wrote this afternoon, this is “a gift to Iran, Hezbollah, and Putin, and a shameful betrayal of our Kurdish allies,” who have been been fighting alongside us in the battle against ISIS these past several years. But it would appear that these “American allies (who) will be slaughtered,” as Ben Sasse referred to them earlier today, don’t matter all that much to Donald Trump.

As for what does matter to Donald Trump, once again, it would look as though he’s primarily motivated by an all-consuming desire to please Vladimir Putin, who, coincidentally, will be holding his annual press conference tomorrow in Moscow. And, as no other explanation seems to make sense as to why Donald Trump would do this today, I’m inclined to agree with Russia watcher Julia Davis when she says that this was a “gift” to Putin, who, you can be sure, will hold this American retreat up as a great victory tomorrow. [Davis wrote earlier today, upon hearing the announcement about our pulling out troops, that “champagne will be flowing at the Kremlin.”]

Davis, for what it’s worth, isn’t just speculating here. She knows that, when Trump met with Putin in Helsinki, without any other representatives of the U.S. government present, that Putin stressed his desire to have our troops pull out of the global proxy war being waged in Syria. As Davis points out, we even have some of Putin’s notes from Helsinki, which were photographed in his hands upon leaving the meeting with Trump, which, coincidentally, sound very much like the talking points being offered by members of the administration today in Washington. [Just compare the above quote from Dana White to what Putin has written in his notes.]

Oh, and it was also announced today that the Tump administration would be lifting sanctions on Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a close personal friend of Putin’s… Make of that what you will.

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Michael Flynn’s sentencing was postponed to give him time to cooperate more fully with federal prosecutors

One year ago this month, General Michael Flynn, Donald Trump’s national security advisor, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations he’d had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak while working on the Trump transition team, and, today, he was supposed to be sentenced. That, however, never happened.

As I understand it, things were moving along somewhat normally until someone on Flynn’s legal team, echoing a recent Fox News talking point, made the claim that FBI agents had tricked Flynn into perjuring himself during their questioning of him, ostensibly by not telling him that they already possessed audio of the General speaking with Kislyak. The idea that the FBI is under any obligation to warn suspected criminals that they’re about to commit perjury is, of course, laughable, but apparently Flynn’s team thought that they’d give it a shot. And, by the sound of it, it didn’t exactly go over well with Judge Emmet Sullivan, who asked the attorney if, in his opinion, Flynn really was “entrapped by the FBI.” Flynn’s lawyer responded, “No, your honor.” The Judge then asked Flynn if he knew at the time that lying to the FBI was a crime, to which the General responded, “I was aware.” And, with that, several months of framing by Trump, and members of the far-right media, was immediately undone… There was no so-called “perjury trap.” Flynn knew that he was lying to the FBI. He knew the penalty for lying. And he did it anyway.

Judge Sullivan didn’t stop there, though. He kept right on going, calling Flynn’s crimes, which included being an “undeclared foreign agent” for the Turkish government while working in the White House, “very serious,” and even raising the question of whether or not they might qualify as “treason.” [Sullivan later apologized for broaching the subject of treason, which can carry with it a death sentence.]

After saying, “Arguably you sold your country out,” Sullivan told Flynn that he was inclined to sentence him to prison, in spite of the fact that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had requested that he serve no time. And it was at this point, with people outside the courthouse chanting “lock him up,” that Sullivan suggested that Flynn go back to Mueller and keep cooperating. “If you want to postpone this, and come back at some later point, that’s fine with me,” Judge Sullivan said. “I have to caution you that the sentence imposed today may not be the same sentence you would get after cooperation ends.”

This, I think it’s safe to say, is not what the Qanon folks, and Trumpists like Jeanine Pirro, thought would happen today. Yesterday, Pirro was suggesting on Fox News that Judge Sullivan, who she described as “a jurist unafraid of the swamp,” would trow out Flynn’s guilty plea altogether. Sullivan, Pirro said, “has a track record of calling out prosecutorial misconduct,” and, as such, he would not “tolerate (the) injustice or (the) abuse of power” shown by the Special Counsel.

Well, that’s not what happened. Sullivan, saying that Flynn’s actions, “undermine everything (that) our flag… stands for,” pretty much told the General that he’d better go back to Mueller and keep talking. It’s impossible to know, of course, but it sounds to me as tough Sullivan felt, based on the unredacted filings that he’d read, that Flynn, even after his 19 meetings with investigators, still had more to say. And, it sounds as though, Flynn agreed, ultimately taking Sullivan’s advice, and asking for another 90 days to work with prosecutors. [Apparently he didn’t like the idea of being sentenced to prison.]

Donald Trump, by the way, had a message for General Flynn this morning. “Good luck today in court,” he said in a tweet, seemingly confident that, whatever Flynn had said to investigators over the course of those 19 interviews, hadn’t implicated him. I’m curious as to how Trump came to be so confident that Flynn hadn’t “flipped” on him, “despite (the) tremendous pressure,” but one suspects he’s being fed information from inside the Department of Justice through men like Matthew Whitaker. At any rate, it’s interesting to see how the President is treating Flynn in comparison with how he’s treating Michael Cohen, who Trump has repeatedly called a “rat” for talking with prosecutors. [I mean, Flynn talked with prosecutors 19 times, and didn’t get called a rat, right? I’m curious as to why that is.] Speaking of rats in the administration, did you happen to see Sarah Huckabee Sanders today, defending Trump’s calling Cohen a rat? “Seems like a pretty appropriate term,” the White House Spokesperson said, marking yet a new low.

So, yeah, that was today. A federal judge, saying that he was finding it difficult to hide his his “disgust” and “disdain,” told Michael Flynn that he’d “sold (his) country out.” And, in spite of this, our President, and his administration, continue to praise the man, saying that he’d been “ambushed” by the FBI, and tricked into a “perjury trap” by deep-state Democratic investigators.

Here, if you’ve yet to see it, is footage of Sarah Huckabee Sanders telling the White House press corps today, “We wish General Flynn well,” then going on to agree with the President that those who offer evidence against him are “rats”… We live in truly crazy times.

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Snyder signs SB 1171 and SB 1175 into law, fucking Michigan workers, and once again illustrating why we need to vote the anti-democratic Republican Party out of existence

I know I should probably be writing about something a little more in my wheelhouse this evening, like Stephen Miller’s spray-on hair, or the fact that Ivanka Trump could very well end up being indicted for the misallocation of donor funds collected for her father’s inauguration, but I feel obligated to at least note the fact that, this past Friday, outgoing Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed into law two Republican bills that would gut existing minimum wage and paid sick leave laws.

First, here’s the history as I understand it… At some point this past year, a group calling itself One Fair Wage of Michigan proposed raising the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2022, and to $12 an hour by 2024 for tipped workers. As you might imagine, there was a lot of grassroots enthusiasm, and the polling looked good. And, by September, One Fair Wage of Michigan had received approval to begin collecting signatures to put it on the November 2018 ballot… And, had it been on the ballot, along with recreation marijuana and the redrawing of Congressional districts, I have little doubt that it would have passed.

It never made it to the ballot, though.

The Republicans, you see, preempted the citizen-led initiative, by taking the ballot language, and just passing it into law themselves.

I know what you’re thinking… “Since when did Michigan Republicans start caring about minimum wage workers?” Well, I’m sorry to break it to you, but that’s not what motivated their decision to pass the legislation, which they called the Michigan Minimum Wage Increase Initiative. No, they passed it because that was the easiest way to stop the citizen-led initiative, and keep it off the ballot, so that they could kill it later.

You see, if it had passed as a ballot initiative, Republicans would have needed a three-fourths vote in the legislature to amend the legislation, and make it more acceptable to the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and other proponents of cheap-labor. As they passed it themselves, though, all they’d need to change it, or kill it, in the future, was a simple majority. And that’s what just happened. During the current lame duck session, Republicans passed SB 1171 and SB 1175 to roll back their own Michigan Minimum Wage Increase Initiative… Sneaky, right? And, by “sneaky,” I mean, “anti-democratic as fuck.”

So, just to recap… On September 5, 2018, Republicans in Lansing, in hopes of killing the One Fair Wage of Michigan ballot initiative, proposed legislation that would increase the state minimum wage from $9.25 to $10.00 in 2019, $10.65 in 2020, $11.25 in 2021, and $12.00 in 2022. And, starting in 2023, the minimum wage would then be adjusted annually to remain on pace with the consumer price index each year (unless the unemployment rate were to reach 8.5% or higher). The legislation also mandated an increase in the minimum wage for tipped employees from 38% of the minimum wage to 48% percent in 2019, 60% in 2020, 70% in 2021, 80% in 2022, 90% in 2023, and 100% in 2024. And, among other things, the legislation also called for overtime compensation of 150% for employee work in excess of 40 hours during a given workweek… But, as we know, they never intended for any of that to happen.

For what it’s worth, this strategy of theirs wasn’t a huge secret. Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof said at the time, “We’ll consider different options and a whole suite of things we think are more friendly to Michigan, to make sure that workers are indeed cared for, and that still provide for economic development moving forward.

While Democrats knew exactly what was going on, and acknowledged the truth of what Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich said when he referred to the Republican “approve and remove” strategy as “undo and screw,” some voted for it anyway, as they believed in the legislation, and perhaps felt that they might be able to keep their conservative counterparts from watering it down after the election. [All 10 Democrats in the Michigan Senate voted against the initial legislation in September, 2018. 21 Democrats in the House, however, voted for it. It would have passed without their votes, however, so it’s not as though it wouldn’t have happened without their support.]

Acknowledging the situation, House Democratic Leader Sam Singh said at the time, “What we’ll do between now and the election is make sure that they commit to not gutting this in lame duck. If they can’t commit to it, then it’s very clear for the voters that the only people who will protect the things that we got today are Democrats.”

Well, the Democrats, for all their efforts, weren’t able to stop it from happening during the Republican’s lame duck assault on working Michigan families. Not only did the original legislation pass on September 5, but SB 1171 and SB 1175, written to water down that initial legislation, passed the Michigan and House and Senate last week, and were just signed into law this past Friday by our craven and cowardly Governor, Rick Snyder… So, now, the minimum wage in Michigan will just go up 23-cents a year, and not reach $12 an hour until 2030.

And, this, my friends, is why we need to vote the Republican Party completely out of existence. They knew that this ballot initiative would pass, and they purposefully interceded to subvert the will of the people, putting the financial interests of their donors above the families of their constituents. This is the Michigan Republican Party, folks. It’s anti-democritic and corporatist to its core, and it needs to be completely eradicated.

[The lead paint portrait of Rick Snyder at the top of the post was painted by Michael Dykehouse.]

Posted in Civil Liberties, Corporate Crime, Michigan, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

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