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Archive for February, 2018

Originally published in RURAL RUMINATIONS

On Sunday, July 23rd on CBS’ “Face the Nation”, Congressman  Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said that the most important issue facing the country in the Russian matter was whether or not the President had some as yet unearthed vulnerability that might make him susceptible to political control from Moscow.

In this crazy world, the President is his own worst enemy.  Despite his virtually endless statements about “fake news” and this “witch hunt”, all he has managed to do with his constant tweets is keep the matter alive and on the front pages, to the detriment of his own and the Republicans’ agendas.

In what clearly was a rash initiative on the President’s part, he said recently of those states that refuse to participate in the work of his “Election Integrity Committee”, “If any state does not want to share this information, one has to wonder what they’re worried about.”  Did it not occur to him that the exact same question could be asked about his dogged refusal to release any information on his tax returns?  What then would be his reason to worry of those returns became public.  Parenthetically, it is beginning to look as if the Mueller investigation may go after that information.

There is a wealth of factual information available that reveals much of what motivates the President.  Just look at the Mueller investigation and the events that led up to it.  Start with the firing off FBI Director Comey whom he has ever since done his very best to vilify.  Move on to Attorney General Sessions who is now be castigated for having recused himself from the investigation of the Russian matter, despite the fact that that recusion was dictated by Justice Department rules.  Just now we see the President attacking the acting Director of the FBI for not vigorously pursuing Mrs. Clinton and her “wrongdoings”.

The President clearly will do or say anything to get the Russian investigation off his back.

One must ask if the vilification of Sessions is a precursor to his firing, to the appointment of a new Attorney General and to the ultimate firing of Mr. Mueller.  In the meantime, it has been widely reported that the Trump White House has ordered that Mueller and his investigators be thoroughly vetted with the goal of impugning their integrity and impartiality.  That sounds like the good old Nixon days!

It would appear that, irrespective of his success in denigrating the Mueller group, the President will have to deal with increasingly bipartisan motivated investigations in the House and Senate Committees.  And in the midst of all this, some of his closest advisors and family members are being asked to appear before those committees.

That apparently has persuaded the President to ask about his ability to pardon people, even including himself.  In this specific case, the President has reacted to outside stimuli in a way totally consistent with someone who is guilty of something.  It is certainly not the reaction of a person who has nothing relevant to hide.

Finally, and in the same context of the issue put by Congressman Schiff, we need to look at the President’s policies as reflected in his actions and statements, to see if they are  consistent with the goals of any foreign power.

Examine the moves made by President Trump during his short time in office.  Under hostile influence, every move would have to undermine American strength.  He would have to undercut NATO, weaken the European Union, causing dissention within the former East European countries, damage US foreign policy goals, weaken the international influence of the US, encourage the destabilizing flow of refugees from the Middle East to Europe.  He would move us out of international agreements (Climate, NAFTA and the Trans Pacific Partnership). Trump’s recent move to cease support for anti-Assad rebels in Syria is a specific Russian goal, now achieved.

He would get an A+ from any hostile country on all of these issues.

Putin’s underlying goal is to return Russia to the kind of “glory” and “power” that it had during the Cold War. To do that, he would have to somehow reduce the vast world-wide influence of the United States.  It really doesn’t matter whether, as suspected by Rep Schiff, the President is under Russian influence.  The President could see Russia as a power base and consider his close support of their policies to be his exploitation of the Russians, rather than their exploitation of him..

What really does matter is that Trump’s policies are clearly closely aligned with and supportive of Russian goals for the world, making our current policies a real cause for worry for Americans who recognize that Russia is not our best friend.

Haviland Smith is a retired CIA Station Chief who served in East and West Europe, and the Middle East working primarily against Soviet and East European targets.  He was also Chief of the Counterterrorism Staff and Executive Assistant to the Deputy Director of the CIA. 

The author’s other writings can be seen on https://rural-ruminations.com

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Originally published in RURAL RUMINATIONS

 

The National Rifle Association’s basic policy on the issues of gun ownership and control is to relentlessly fight any and every proposal for change that comes to the surface, irrespective of its relevance and importance to the issue of the Second Amendment. This view is not shared by the vast majority of Americans.

 

Those issues which have been successfully fought and defeated by the NRA at the national level, include all efforts to control guns and ammunition, the use of Saturday night specials, cop-killer bullets, plastic weapons, machine guns and a waiting period for the purchase of weapons (the Brady Bill).

 

The problem with this policy is that at some point in the future, perhaps in the aftermath of some particularly egregious “mass shooting”, the Congress, under nation-wide pressure, might turn on the NRA and enact some laws that would, for the first time ever, actually threaten the Second Amendment and thus make legitimate gun ownership far more difficult to enjoy.

 

If the definition of “mass shooting” is restricted to four or more dead, we have seen 146 of them between 1967 and 2017 with an average of 8 deaths per incident, or a total of over a thousand killed.

 

The 10 deadliest single day mass shootings since 1966 alone have produced 287 deaths or an average of 28.7 per incident.

 

So, the numbers are going up and recent events in Fair Haven have shown us clearly that Vermont is not immune to this ongoing madness.

 

Sadly, during the periods under examination, virtually nothing has been done in the Congress or the Vermont legislature to help law enforcement authorities deal with mass shootings.

 

There are a number of steps that would not threaten our Second Amendment rights, but which would almost certainly make mass shootings far more difficult to carry out.  In this context it is critical to remember the comments of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia  who shepherded the 2008 decision on the Second Amendment through the Supreme Court.  The majority opinion ruled that the Second Amendment does create an individual right of gun ownership.  However, the opinion, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, makes it clear that federal, state and local governments can act in their own interests.

 

Justice Scalia wrote, “Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

 

One can only speculate on the impact that our most recent mass shooting in Florida is likely to have on the ownership and use of weapons in America.  Of course, the main question is how powerful the upcoming country-wide demonstrations by American students is likely to be with a Congress that has clearly been more oriented toward the perceived needs of the NRA than those of its youth.  If it is truly nation-wide and manages to persist, it could be quite powerful.  It might even persuade some of our congressmen who cleave so strongly to the NRA that they also have some level of responsibility for the security of our youth.

 

No Vermont hunter seeks protective measures that would seriously threaten his Second Amendment rights.  However, if one can step back from the “all or nothing” approach of the NRA, there are a number of steps that could be taken which would maintain those rights and at the same time provided us all, not just our children, with increased security.

 

These include background checks on all gun purchasers, waiting periods for handgun purchases, no sales to those with violent criminal backgrounds or those on terrorist watch lists, and the banning of all automatic rifle sales.

 

Slightly more intrusive and threatening for the NRA would be the banning of large capacity magazines, assault rifles and weapons that could be converted to automatic from semi-automatic using bump stocks.

 

The issue here is to find which of those measures will accomplished the desired goals.  Perhaps the best way to go about that in Vermont would be to have Governor Scott, who, unlike he NRA. does not seem generically opposed to constructive change, appoint a qualified panel to sit down and work through the problem and its potential solutions.

 

Haviland Smith learned about guns and hunting in NRA programs in the l930sand 40s.  A life-long hunter, he has been a Life Member of the NRA since 1968 and was a member of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board from 1989-1995.

 

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