Thursday, March 30, 2017

Some Weird Shit

or The Gang that Couldn't Shoot Straight

Leave it to W to sum it up perfectly.  He was referring to Trump's inauguration speech but it just as easily describes Trump's time in office.  Not a day goes by without some weird shit happening.

While we are still digging ourselves out from Devin Nunes "deep throat" contact on the White House grounds, Ryan Zinke tells us clean energy is a hoax and that he is all for his commander-in-chief lifting the temporary bans on coal mining leases on federal lands.  Dig, baby, dig!

The Secretary of Interior doesn't say that wind energy requires a certain amount of fossil fuels to get the turbines moving, he cites the loss of migratory birds as an inhibiting factor.  This has been an argument tossed out by birders, anti-wind groups and conservative pundits for years now.  The energy department devoted a paper to this during the Obama years, noting that efforts were being made to better locate turbines so that they kill less birds.  However, wind turbines kill a lot less birds than cars, windows, high tension wires, communication towers and cats.  But that isn't stopping our man who rode in on horseback his first day of work from spouting this nonsense.  He's the same guy whose first act was lifting Obama's ban on lead bullets on federal lands.  Hunting kills far more birds than wind turbines as well.

Our new administration doesn't seem overly worried about pesticides either, as EPA chief Scott Pruitt sided with pesticide lobby groups over science in overturning a ban on chlorpyrofis, whose toxins have been known to cause brain damage in children.  Pruitt doesn't see anything wrong with leaded gasoline either.  He too seems to think much of this environmental awareness is a bunch of bunk.

Meanwhile, Energy Chief Rick Perry is more worried about Texas A&M (his alma mater) electing its first gay student body president than he does anything going on in his new department.  Chief Rick was furious, as he felt the election had been stolen when the other candidate was disqualified for trying to intimidate voters.

As if that weren't enough, Spicey scolded a black woman reporter for shaking her head as he tried to brush off her question about the image problems the Trump administration has.  This incident certainly didn't help matters.

Trump's administration has become The Gang that Couldn't Shoot Straight.  It would be funny if all these actions didn't have serious consequences.  The shift back toward fossil fuels and the repeal of environmental regulations threaten to undo much of what the Obama administration accomplished in making a bold move toward sustainable energy and greater environmental awareness.

Under Obama we saw solar and wind energy soar.  In 2016, the solar energy sector created over 260,000 new jobs, or roughly two per cent of the entire new work force that year.  By comparison, oil and gas were forced to shed over 20,000 jobs the same year.  I would think a self-proclaimed business man could understand those numbers and see which direction the economy is headed?

Unfortunately, our commander-in-chief relies way too heavily on conservative blogs and ignores the business magazines that all show the positive impact solar and wind are having on the economy.  Even Rick Perry was forced to admit wind energy might not be a bad thing his last years as governor of Texas, but in the end former Governor Rick chose coal over wind.

No matter how hard you try to reverse America's energy policy, coal is not coming back on the scale Trump and his supporters imagine.  There is simply no longer a great need for it.  Like the dinosaurs, this is an industry that is dying out and good riddance.  It has been the dirtiest form of energy for decades, resulting in respiratory ailments that are incurable.  Oh, and coal kills far more birds than wind, solar, oil and natural gas combined.

So, Cowboy Zinke, that's some pretty weird shit you are trying to pull on us!  Maybe you and your buddy, Scott, should crack open a book on energy sources before spouting off on clean energy and the environment.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Deep State

His Trumpness has tried to imply there is a silent coup going on, pinning much of the blame on the former Obama administration.  Spicey in a March 21 press conference sent everyone googling the term "Ramspecking," claiming the Obama administration had planted moles in bureaucratic positions who are now thwarting Trump's agenda by leaking information to the public.  The Ramspeck Act, which he was referring to, expired in 1997 and has not been renewed, so it would be illegal for Obama or any president to do this.  But, of course that doesn't stop this administration from slinging wild accusations.

However, the idea of a "deep state" has been around for a long time, although such conspiracy theories usually refer to the national security departments teaming together or working independently to push their own agenda counter to that of the President.  This season's Homeland is exploring just such a "deep state" during the transition of one president to the next.

The creators of Homeland have gone to great lengths to link elements within the CIA to right-wing movements that want to see a certain agenda pushed in foreign policy.  When a President doesn't go along with that agenda, they will use whatever means at their disposal to force her (in this case) to stick with the game plan or face ruthless consequences.  It's not a big stretch as the CIA long used these tactics in third world countries, even taking out foreign leaders if necessary.  So-called Black Ops are still in use, although seem to be subcontracted to private companies these days to avoid incrimination, which Homeland also explores.

All this got me thinking what would the CIA or other national security agencies do if they didn't like the way an election was turning out?  For the better part of four years we saw what could only be described as a hit job on Hillary in regard to Benghazi to undermine her credibility as a Presidential candidate.  This eventually led to the e-mail scandal that was dragged through the campaign and many believe proved to be her ultimate downfall when FBI director Comey revived it in an October surprise statement.

I don't think the national security agencies were too excited about the idea of a Trump presidency, especially after some of the things he said on the campaign trail, but they might have felt they had enough dirt on him to keep him in line, and if not they could always expose him when necessary.  For whatever reason, Hillary Clinton was seen as a threat to their autonomy.  

The investigation into alleged Russian hacking of the DNC headquarters was launched by the Obama administration back in July, 2016, but didn't gain much traction in the media because of the flood of e-mails that ensued.  Julian Assange adamantly denied Russia provided him this information, but his links to the Russian sponsored news program RT call his assertion into question.  After the election, the FBI expanded their investigation into possible election tampering and the links Trump campaign managers and advisers had with Russian officials and surrogates.

Trump felt he was partially vindicated by the message Devin Nunes relayed to him that some of his campaign advisers had been subject to incidental surveillance as a result of the FBI probe, but his "source" apparently came from the White House grounds the night before.  This "Deep Throat" may very well be Stephen Bannon or Miller hoping to cast shade on the investigation.

Others feel Comey has become the latest incarnation of J. Edgar Hoover, who was notorious for keeping files on politicians, which he could use against them if his authority was challenged.  This in itself implies a deep state where persons within the labyrinthine national security apparatus can secure their place in government for a very long time.  They don't need the Rampseck Act and can pretty much maintain their autonomy under any presidential administration.

Not surprisingly, the Trump administration would prefer to keep on reasonably good terms with the FBI and CIA, so it makes the former Obama administration its punching bag.  It's one thing to take down a Presidential hopeful like Hillary, but quite another to tarnish the reputation of the White House, which national security departments would like to keep intact.  After all, these same agencies worked with Obama for eight years and were pretty much able to maintain their influential role.  Who is Trump to call this special relationship into question?

His volatility is a major concern, not just because of our relationship with traditional allies, which his administration recently called into question, but for his casual handling of confidential information as witnessed at Mar-a-Lago where he shared sensitive material with the Japanese prime minister in an "open-air situation room."  As a result we are seeing more and more incriminating information being leaked as to Trump's Russian connections.

He doesn't seem to be taking the hint.  He has doubled and tripled and even quadrupled down on his absurd accusations of wiretapping.  Reince Priebus dismissed FBI director Comey's appraisal of the situation in an interview with Chris Wallace.  And, Spicey keeps pressing the issue in daily briefings.  This can't sit well with the FBI or any other national security agency.

The national security network has a president-in-waiting in Mike Pence, who is much more discreet in his demeanor.  It seems to be only a matter of time before they force Congress to take action against Trump.  The only question is whether His Trumpness will quietly abdicate his presumptive throne or if he makes an even bigger stink out of the situation.  I guess it all depends on how the right-wing media reacts, as they are not one to turn their backs on a juicy conspiracy theory.

Maybe I've just been watching too much Homeland, but it seems Trump has drifted into the deep end of the pool.  It's just a matter of whether he will be able to keep his head above water or find out the hard way just how deep this "deep state" really is?

Monday, March 27, 2017

It's a rare day when a conservative radio talk show retracts a statement much less what he regarded as a "major story," but Alex Jones did just that.  He has apologized for spreading the inflammatory "pizzagate" conspiracy theory that had actually drawn former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn into its web.  We are still waiting on Jones to drop his long standing view that Sandy Hook was a "false flag."

These faux news outlets are coming under increased scrutiny now that we have a President who draws heavily from them.  Trump's wiretapping claim was pulled from Breitbart, and Spicey spread a story aired by Judge Nap that Obama outsourced surveillance on Trump Tower to the UK Government Communications Headquarters.  Fox News later took action against Judge Nap for spreading a false story.

The basis for much of this fake news emanates from Russian and Eastern European sources.  Some of it is child's play like these Macedonian kids who were taking advantage of the gullibility of Trump supporters to score hits on social media, hoping to draw advertising dollars.  But, the UK outsourcing story emanated from RT, or Russia Today, an English propaganda news site sponsored by the Kremlin.  Once these stories get picked up it is pretty hard to shake them, as they are shared widely through social media and picked up by news commentators to provide credence for their opinions.

What makes the wiretapping story particularly noxious is that it was given credence by the White House.  While some Republicans are questioning Trump's grasp of reality, no Republican has yet to accuse him of lying.  I suppose if the story first came from Mark Levin, Trump isn't lying but rather spreading an erroneous story, which Spicey augmented by referencing Judge Nap's additional accusations.

Rather than disown the story,  Trump stated he was "somewhat vindicated" by the report Congressmen Devin Nunes gave him that some members of his campaign team were the subject of "incidental surveillance" after the election.  Trump had specifically accused Obama of tapping Trump Tower before the election.

I seriously doubt we will ever get an apology from Trump.  Chris Wallace pressed Reince Priebus on the matter, and Trump's chief of staff adamantly stated that they don't accept the findings of the FBI chief on the wiretapping.  In their minds, Mark Levin's unfounded story stands.

This makes Alex Jones a better person than Donald Trump as he was finally able to let one of his conspiracy theories go.  That had to be a bitter pill to swallow for a man who has only two entries in the correction section of his website.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

"Nobody knew health care could be so complicated."

It's been a another rough month for the Donald.  This Presidential thing isn't working out quite like the flamboyant one thought it would.  Granted, he wasn't too keen about the health care bill GOP Congressional leaders were offering, but he threw his support behind it, even tried to strong arm wavering House Republicans into accepting it or face the consequences at the polls.  Anti-climactically, the bill couldn't even get through committee, leading Trump to tell Ryan to pull it from a floor vote so that was spared the ultimate indignity for "Trumpcare."

This is what happens when you have no game plan but rather try to do things on the fly.  Of course, Trump can blame Paul Ryan, which I'm sure he will do, as he is the one who came up with this noxious health care plan that no one wanted.  Only 17 per cent of Americans showed support for it, and it is highly doubtful any of these persons knew what was in it.  

Republicans had been met by raucous town halls in their Congressional districts, demanding they come up with something better or leave Obamacare alone.  Too many persons have come to rely on the current affordable care act to have it gutted the way Ryan and his Republican cronies wanted to do, essentially dressing up a trillion dollars in tax cuts for the wealthy as a health care bill.

One would like to think that the veil has been lifted and conservative voters will finally realize they have been had, but it is unlikely that is the case.  Trump still has an approval rating in the high 30s, which means most rank-and-file Republicans continue to support him despite what has been a horrid two months in office.

His attempt to establish a travel ban on predominantly Muslim countries was shot down again.  This time in a Hawaiian federal court, leading many Trumpkins to voice their indignation at the Aloha State rather than a President who doesn't know how to write an executive order that sticks.  

It takes months to prepare an executive order.  It has to be run through any number of legal experts to see if it will hold muster in a federal court.  Still, there are no assurances, as former President Obama found out several times.  The Constitution is the Holy Grail of our American legal system.  Even Neil Gorsuch believes himself bound by it, although his "textualist" approach to the Constitution is deemed heartless by some.   

Paul Ryan tried to brush off the raucous town halls, believing Republicans would fall in line behind his bill.  Unlike the Affordable Care Act that went through any number of agonizing revisions, the American Health Care Act was presented as if handed down from up high in tablet form and no one should question it.  But, House Republicans weren't too anxious to face the wrath of their Congressional districts with elections coming up within a year and doubted its legitimacy.  Ryan could barely hide his contempt.  He tried to strong arm wayward Republicans only to find opposition grow.  So, he enlisted Trump to take the GOP health care bill on the road, only to find the Donald was more interested in the latest Mack truck than he was so-called "Trumpcare."

There was no easy answer, as Trump himself proclaimed, which may explain his reluctance to enthusiastically sign onto this stinker of a bill.  Republicans were essentially forced to come up with an alternative, when many wanted to do away with subsidized federal health insurance all together.  The bill called for massive cuts in Medicaid and Medicare that would have left the most disadvantaged Americans shit out of luck.  The CBO estimated as many as 50 million Americans would lose their health insurance as a result of this bill.  How could Trump or any Republican Congressperson explain this to his or her constituency?  For the moment, Democrats can gloat as Hillary is doing in this epic fail by the new Republican administration.

While some Republicans may be holding their heads down in shame, there will be a round two.  They didn't work this hard to gain control of all branches of federal government only to see Obamacare become "the law of the land."   Most likely they will wait till the new fiscal year to find ways to defund it.

Of course, it is convenient this way as Republicans can continue to blame the Affordable Care Act for rising premium rates.  This had proved a very effective campaign mantra the past 6 years.  But, having failed to get an alternative bill through their own Congressional committee it is going to be hard to push this issue once again on the campaign trail.  More likely they will press ahead with tax cuts and try to pretend this ugly little chapter never happened.  A somewhat humbled Trump seems quite prepared to move on from this debacle.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Last year Tony Toccone and Lisa Petersen adapted Sinclair Lewis' 1935 novel, It Can't Happen Here, into a play at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre.  They avoided updating the setting to reflect the ongoing election, preferring to stay in the Depression era when fascism was a palpable threat.  Lewis had teamed up with John C. Moffitt to first stage the book in 1936.

Since the rise of Trump, many periodicals have called attention to the novel.  However, critics then saw Lewis' principal inspiration as being Huey Long, who was toying with the idea of a run for President before being assassinated the same year.  Lewis certainly gave "Buzz" Windrip a down-home feeling, but he was projecting the rise of autocratism in Europe on America.

Oddly enough it was Roosevelt who took on an authoritarian air after his victory in 1936, as he tried to stack the Supreme Court in 1937 to obtain favorable rulings on his New Deal legislation.   Congress blocked these efforts, dealing the President one of his biggest blows in office.

For these reasons and others, I thought it would be fun to revisit the book and draw our own conclusions.  All readers are welcome.  Please feel free to comment.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Trump's Left-hand man

There seems to be an odd alignment taking place in politics.  Listen to Dennis Kucinich defend Trump's allegations that he was wiretapped.  Kucinich also came out very favorably on Trump's first major speech to Congress.  He has become a Leftie apologist for Trump on Fox News, defending numerous positions the President has taken, including Syria.

Kucinich views Trump as a "transitional figure," although it is pretty hard to discern what that means.  It seems our erstwhile legislator thinks Trump will force a reassessment in traditional party alignments.  He is oddly optimistic that the new President will take a softer approach to climate change and foreign policy than his rhetoric suggested during the campaign.  However, Trump's first two months in office has pretty much made it clear that this will be a pro-fossil fuels administration and that its foreign policy will not be a radical departure from that we have seen the last 60 years.  Nevertheless, Kucinich is willing to "see how this plays out."

The former Ohio representative has always been one to move to the beat of his own drum.  He was a vocal critic of the affordable health care when it was being moved through Congress back in 2009 and 2010, preferring the single-payer plan the House Democrats first proposed, and was very critical of Obama throughout his administration, particularly of the ongoing drone war.

He has become the Ron Paul of the Democratic Party, pitching from the left wing of the Libertarian Party.  In part because he has an ax to grind.  The congressional district he once represented in Ohio was merged into another, forcing an election against fellow Democrat Marcy Kaptur, which he lost.  Rather than take his ire out on the Republican legislature that merged the districts, he seems to be venting his anger on the Democrats who didn't vote him back into Congress, preferring Kaptur instead.

Since then, he has not only been pitching up at Fox regularly, where he is a paid contributor, but also at CPAC conferences like this one in Cleveland.  Dennis said he felt comfortable holding a joint interview with the notorious Steve King, and proudly boasted he wasn't afraid to work both sides of the aisle in Congress despite the many obvious differences.

That may help explain why he is dredging up a phone call with a foreign official from 2011 in defense of Trump's wiretapping allegations.  He was only made aware this "extralegal tap" took place when the Washington Times offered him a tape of a conversation he had with the son of Moammer Qaddafi.  The meeting took place in a Chinese restaurant in Washington in 2015, four years later.

Kucinich claims it was within his constitutional rights to communicate with Libyan officials, having cleared it with the House general counsel.  No attempt apparently to reach out to the state department or the president, whose authority on such matters he was overstepping.   He really played up this call, suggesting it might have been used as a homing beacon for a drone strike, so he used a disposable cell phone to receive the call to minimize such risks.  Sounds like he had a lot of contempt for the White House.

This story appears as far-fetched as Trump's 3:35 am morning tweet.  The tape apparently turned up in Tripoli, so it is just as likely Libyan authorities were monitoring the call, if such a call even took place.  After all, we are relying on an infamous right-wing newspaper that was using the call as part of its smear campaign in regard to Hillary's role in Benghazi, which Kucinich seemed to have no problem playing into it.

Even odder is how Kucinich can square Trump's willingness to side with Russia in Syria with his own opposition to Obama's engagement in Libya?  The civil war that started back in 2011 has led to one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent decades and is the prime cause of the refugee crisis in Europe.  If Dennis Kucinich is any indication, the Libertarian Left has lost its moorings.

Bernie recently said he believes many of his supporters did vote for Trump in the general election, particularly in the Midwest.  It appears the Left has turned on the Democratic Party and having nowhere else to go many Leftists lodged their protest vote with Trump.  The odd thing is that Kucinich seems to be actually aligning himself with Trump, touting the president's infrastructure pipe dream and other parts of his agenda on Fox News.

Why is anyone's guess?  We have to figure Kucinich is smart enough to know that Trump has long dealt in such pipe dreams.  The Donald was going to resurrect Atlantic City back in the early 1990s with the grand opening of his Taj Mahal.  The city was declared bankrupt in 2016 and taken into receivership by the state of New Jersey. The Taj Mahal had gone belly up long before.  Sadly, this is what has happened with most of Donald Trump's ventures so why should anyone, particularly a tenacious bulldog like Dennis Kucinich, have any faith in Trump's plans?

It seems a lot of persons want to ride the Donald's coattails to celebrity status, maybe even make another bid for Congress or the Presidency itself in 2020.  Kucinich tried twice before in 2004 and 2008.  He didn't get very far with either campaign because his ideas sit too far on the Libertarian left for many voters beyond his former Congressional district to identify with him.

Before his 16-year tenure as the US Congressional Representative of Ohio's 10th District, he was the youngest mayor of Cleveland at the age of 31.  It was a tumultuous two years which even saw the mafia take a hit out him for trying to clean up the city.  Cleveland was on the verge of bankruptcy but Kucinich refused to go through with a fire sale of the city's assets, particularly its publicly owned electric utility, which earned him the enmity of the local mob that had its eyes on this utility.  He lost the subsequent municipal election but won the hearts of local residents for standing up to the banks and the mob.

It's the kind of play a guy like Trump would make, so I suppose this could be another reason Kucinich feels he has found a kindred spirit in the President.  I well understand the frustrations that Lefties have with the Democratic Party, but they would be truly fooling themselves to think Trump represents their interests.  Trump's little trip to Flint, Michigan, was nothing more than a photo op, just like that little jaunt down to Louisiana when the floods ravaged the state last Fall.  He has no real interest in the American people.  The only thing he is interested in is protecting his brand name.

If Lefties like Kucinich genuinely want to see the country invest more in itself then I suggest they start by retaking cities like Cleveland and putting their plans into action, not lodging protest votes against the only political party we have that offers anything akin to a European socialist vision for this country.  The health care plan the Republicans are currently promoting to replace the Affordable Care Act should make a guy like Kucinich cringe.  And, you can bet that whatever "infrastructure plan" the Republicans eventually propose will be one that favors oil companies and other major industries not local redevelopment projects.

Unfortunately, the Lefties in this country are mostly talk and little action.  They love to stage rallies to call attention to themselves but rarely if ever offer a constructive plan much less vision of what they hope to accomplish.  Even Bernie, who I love, was notoriously vague on how he would pull off many of the promises he made on the campaign trail.  But, Bernie at least understands the legislative process, which it appears Kucinich never really made the effort to learn.  Too busy trying to negotiate backdoor peace deals with Libyan officials I guess.

He is perfect for Fox News, filling the void left by Alan Colmes, whether it be engaging in faux debates or offering Leftist support of Trump's agenda.  Good luck, Dennis, don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Fearless Girl takes on Wall Street

A Day Without a Woman sounds like the title of a campy science fiction movie from the 60s, but it was an attempt to show the world how important women are in the work force.  Unfortunately, it didn't gain the kind of groundswell the March on Washington and its sister marches did, and left some women wondering if this was more about privilege, as many women couldn't afford to take the risk of striking against their employers.

Nevertheless, the general strike created plenty of photo opportunities, keeping the issues of equal pay and health care in the public light.  On the same day, the little tiny country of Iceland, with the highest representation of women in parliament, went one step further by passing legislation that forces businesses to prove they are paying genders equally.  Little chance of that here in the US.  Most states have equal pay laws but they go largely unenforced.

Politicians pay lip service to the idea of equal pay.  Even His Trumpness tweeted how much he respects women.  It's the kind of patronizing attitude many women are rebelling against, but unfortunately just as many women seem to accept the status quo.  How else to explain that 54 per cent of white women voted for Trump?   So, yes, it is a matter of privilege, but not quite the way news pundits are presenting it.

This is why the attempt to evoke Lysistrata failed.  Unless you can get the overwhelming majority of women on board, these kinds of protests are doomed, and usually end up working against women in the collective American mind.

The news media loves presenting the women's movement as fanatical.  Some years ago, Rush Limbaugh coined the term "Feminazi" and it has stuck.  It didn't help matters when the organizers of the Women's March on Washington turned a cold shoulder to pro-life feminists, which was heavily reported in the conservative press.  Many pro-life feminists turned out for the march just the same, as they feel the issue of feminism is much broader than choice, which has been at the center of the movement ever since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.  However, it is not likely that the National Organization of Women will bend on this issue.

That's exactly how conservative politicians want it.  They know there is a lot of sympathy for a number of issues the feminist movement promotes, but as long as these politicians can create a divide over the issue of abortion they can effectively splinter this movement.  This has been the case in party politics as well, and why less than half of white women voted for Hillary in November.

You'd be hard pressed to find a woman who doesn't support equal pay for equal work, which was what this "strike" was about.  However, the stigma of "feminism" keeps many women from showing their support in public.  So, it seems a greater grass roots effort is necessary to make more women feel comfortable with such a "movement."

A greater awareness of the discrepancies needs to be shown, and this means reaching out to men as well.  The value of a woman goes far beyond equal pay and to the way she is treated in the work force.  Too many companies objectify women.  Not just restaurants like Hooters but throughout the workforce and especially in the entertainment industry.   Not much has changed since the images Mad Men and Masters of Sex presented of the late 1950s.

Women may have greater access today but it comes at a price.  They are constantly being graded not just for their ability but for their looks, and are expected to remain "feminine."  The double standard is nowhere more apparent than in sports, where lady tennis players are still required to wear skirts in most tournaments.  The internet is filled with images of nubile young women athletes constantly being graded for their looks.  When women come across as too masculine they are often "shamed," as has been the case with Serena Williams throughout her long illustrious career.  This is just as true in everyday life, which is how we end up with terms like "bulldyke."

The entertainment media could do much more to help shatter these stereotypes but for the most part plays into them.  Even women's magazines have a tendency to objectify women.  Noah Berlatsky points out in this article from The Atlantic that many women's magazines still use the same tropes from the Victorian era, not to mention that the women represented are often very attractive and helped feed many a young boy's erotic fantasies before discovering Playboy, as these magazines are readily available in most homes.

For these and many other reasons, the women's movement needs to be taken to a much broader level, not continue to be narrowly defined by spokespersons and pundits, whether from the left or right of the political spectrum.  The situation at Fox was a valuable "teaching moment" but now seems largely lost because the news media has gone right back to the same old double standards.  Maybe what we need is a day without the objectification of women, reminding us that women are a valuable part of our life at every level.

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Rocking Horse Presidency

Just when it seemed that the Trump administration had found its footing, one of its key figures turns out to be neck deep in what is quickly becoming Russiagate.  The wily little former senator from Alabama wasn't forthcoming during his confirmation hearings for Attorney General and now finds himself on the hot seat.  Not only that but Donnie Jr. and his son-in-law Jared are similarly being implicated in the confidence game the Trump campaign played with Russia to undermine Obama's sanctions back in December.

All this came after the news media essentially gave His Trumpness a free pass on his Address to the Nation, heaping all sorts of praise on him for having found his presidential bearing after one month.  Van Jones, one of his fiercest critics, even opined that Trump could very well be a two-term president if he keeps giving speeches like that.

It wasn't like Trump offered any broad bipartisan plan.  What the media reported favorably on was his tone, with many comparing the speech to that of Reagan.  Music to Mr. Trump's ears, but he still chose to freeze CNN out of the loop the next day, with Mr. Pence skipping a stop at the cable news studio in favor of other news outlets.  So much for playing nice.

CNN seemed willing to shift the narrative but allegations of Sessions' link to the Russian ambassador has forced the little weasel to recuse himself from the ongoing investigation.  This opens the door once again for journalists to investigate this matter even deeper, as Congressional Republicans so far have dragged their feet.  The media should have never dropped its guard in the first place, but those favorable polls following the speech probably had them thinking the public is tired of their critical stance and wanted them to look on the bright side of the Trump administration.

The address was riddled with the half-truths and lies we've come to expect from Trump.  Politifact pointed out his whoppers, such as continuing to insist nearly 100 million persons are out of work, failing to consider that the vast majority of these persons are either retired or in school, and do not participate in the work force.  He uses this hyperbolic rhetoric to try to convince Americans we are in a deep shit hole, despite conventional unemployment figures like the U4 and U6 that put the unemployment rate at 4.7 and 9.4 per cent respectively.  This simply doesn't fit into his narrative so he continues to peddle the same campaign rhetoric that won him the presidency.

Unfortunately, the major news outlets refuse to hold him accountable to facts.  Most of these outlets want to stay on his good side so that they don't get frozen out of the White House Press Corps as was the case with CNN, the Washington Post and other major news outlets.  If Trump is trying to delegitimize these press outlets, it isn't working as the Washington Post and New York Times are both recording a spike in subscriptions and CNN is enjoying a surge in viewership.  In other words, it pays to remain on the Donald's bad side.

Yet, the staunchest criticism is coming from late night comedy, as it was during the Bush years.  MSNBC did manage to catch an unguarded Trump practicing his speech in his limo, which became instant fodder for jokes, but it too became the brunt of jokes by Seth Meyers, who skewered the media coverage of His Trumpness' speech, noting all the faux anticipation and salivation that followed.  It was like a debutante ball for Trump.

Never mind that the guy signed an executive order to erode the clean water act earlier that day, while proclaiming himself an "environmentalist."  Or, his brazen use of the widow of a Navy Seal to promote his strong relationship with the military, without owning up to the failed raid.  He first blamed the military for the botched raid, then had Sean Spicer try to play it up as a "successful operation by all standards."  It's this ability to play both sides of an issue that keeps the media off balance and leaves the public to wonder where Trump actually stands on the issues.

Nothing is more confusing than the Russiagate scandal that is unfolding.  It is clear that Trump's campaign and congressional advisers met with Russian officials during the campaign and transition period, but Trump continues to insist it is no big deal.  Everybody does it!  As a result, much of his constituency feels the same way.

His advisers were actively engaging Moscow and giving Russian officials the impression that his administration would immediately move to lift the sanctions Obama imposed on their country in late December.  This flies in the face of the Logan Act, and points to a clear attempt to undermine US policy that is in direct response to Russian aggressive acts over the past two years.

Because of the pressure put on him by the media and members of Congress, Trump has backed away from lifting the sanctions, which no doubt has left the Kremlin feeling uneasy.   As a result, they are increasing military movements in the Baltic region.  This has led Sweden to reinstate the draft, and other Baltic countries to increase military spending.

To a large degree, Trump feeds off this confusion.  It has long been his modus operandi in the business world to create a volatile market which he feels he can take advantage of.  However, when dealing with governments, such a tactic undermines confidence and gives foreign leaders false impressions that very well could plunge regions of the world into chaos.  All we have to do is look at the lessons of WWI and WWII and most recently the Ukraine.

There is no clear idea who his most trusted advisers are.  We hope that he listens to General Mattis and VP Pence, who both support a strong NATO and European stability.  However, it seems he is drawn more to the rhetoric of his son-in-law Jared and his chief strategist Stephen Bannon, who both have used conservative media to promote conflict.  Bannon undermined Pence's recent European tour by offering support to separatist movements in the EU.

Many of the high rollers that support Trump are profiteers and a war pays big dividends.  There is a huge private military industry that profited immensely from the Iraq War and no doubt feels that it could profit even more from a larger global conflict.  Trump himself has intimated war several times, even implied that maybe we would get another chance to seize Iraq's oil supply.  Freudian slips?

Whatever the case, the media should never drop its guard with Trump.  It should continue to challenge him on every issue and force him to define his overall policy, which to this point he has not done.  His executive orders have largely been superficial, designed more to give the impression that he is a "decider."  However, as Fareed Zakaria correctly pointed out, we shouldn't confuse motion with progress, comparing Trump's first month in office to a kid on a rocking horse.