Dear Trumpers,

Dear Trumpers,

I wish I could get through to you. I wish I could understand why you don’t see the “wrongness” of Donald Trump, why you can’t see that the way he behaves is selfish and un-American and that he should be removed from his place of honor as the 45 th President of the United States of America. I wish you didn’t fall for the hype that he is some sort of messiah, appointed by God to get rid of the notion of religious freedom that is a legacy of our founders, and to turn America into a Christian nation, a nation that will make sure that no other religion can survive in America. The biggest problem with this is that these particular Christians could dictate how we live and how we school our children; they could, given their belief in their own righteousness, begin an inquisition if they felt it was necessary. They have an authoritarian bent.

Whenever someone interviews a Trump follower out there in America somewhere they always say they like what Trump is doing. They always praise the healthy state of the economy. But is it really all that healthy? People have jobs but the jobs don’t pay well. These are not the old jobs that Trump promised to bring back to you. These are not the old salaries that Trump promised you, the old job securities.

Many people still have to work more than one job. If you are well paid you are most likely quite happy with Trump’s economy but there are signs that this may not be a solid, lasting economy. The deficit is sky high. Republicans, before Trump took office, complained mercilessly about the deficit. You folks agreed with them that we all needed to tighten our belts. Well everyone was asked to tighten their belts except the wealthy who got a whopping tax cut. If you are one of those people who benefited from the tax cut, I understand why you might feel elated. But I bet you did not get that enormous tax cut; you probably got the same measly one the rest of us got.

Trump is supposedly draining the swamp by closing agencies, reversing regulations, not replacing people who leave or who retire thus depopulating government agencies. But now our meat has pieces of metal in it and must be recalled. Or our frozen food has pieces of plastic and must be recalled, or glass. This may have happened occasionally in the past, but it is happening with greater frequency. Why? Could it be that rules no longer require inspections at food-producing factories? Could it be a lack of inspectors? Is our food produced in other nations and shipped here? Why are so many small planes falling out of the sky onto houses, and highways, and rivers? Is it because aviation regulations are no longer in place? I don’t know the answers, but each time I hear about these things on the news I wonder. Well at least you get to own as many guns and trucks as you could ever want.

Trumpers, I see you at rallies and you do not look like you are all wealthy, although you do look like your lives are in the comfortable range. Did you find that your wages rose appreciably after the tax cuts? Is your town full of factories that came back from their “world tour”? Do all your children have great jobs? Do they live nearby or far away? Are their lives better than yours were? Did some of your grown children have to move home? We do feel like we have climbed out of the Great Recession. But are we on a path that will offer your children a good life that is steady, that they can count on for life and in their old age. Will your children’s children be better off than they are? How will that happen?

Will we have enough to eat now that our farmers are being used as pawns in a trade war with China? Is China being hurt by the trade war? Did you know that in Brazil they are burning up the jungle so they can produce soy beans for China to replace the ones they no longer get from us? Did you know that without that canopy of carbon-dioxide-eating trees, trees that turn carbon dioxide back into oxygen, the climate change that is not happening is likely to get far worse, the oceans which are not dying are likely to heat up until nothing we would recognize as food can live there? What if our farmers can no longer afford to be farmers What will happen to our food supply?

Trump tells you this is all lies and you believe him, but what if he really is the one lying? Are you absolutely certain that everything people besides Trump say is “fake news”? You certainly sound convinced but do you ever wonder? I, on the other hand, am not at all convinced by Trump’s anti-intellectual rantings. I think if it comes to food wars or trade wars that China can outlast us. They are an authoritarian nation. They do not value human lives the same way we used to. They can afford to lose millions of people, and grief will just not be allowed.

You resent immigrants, apparently legal or undocumented. You felt they were using up our benefits (which you were told were about to run out and which would barely cover “real” Americans). You believed they were taking your jobs, (jobs that were also running out). You did not blame the economy, the recession caused by bad business practices in the stock market and in mortgages, you blamed your neighbors who you perhaps did not even know were undocumented. You gave Trump permission to be as racist and inhumane as he liked and he proved well up to the task (separating children from their parents at the border – and no, Obama did not do that). Well perhaps you are enjoying the fact that fear is making things real quiet on the undocumented immigrant front, but you are also changing America beyond recognition. Institutionalizing meanness will not serve us well down the road. Do we really want our neighboring nations in South America to hate us? Could that not come back some day to bite us in our butts (what if we need help some day)?

Do you like the behavior of your paragon? You said that you like his irreverence, his bullish manners which make him sound like he is not afraid to bad-mouth anyone (except dictators). Well he certainly hates Democrats and he is not afraid to call them names and make everything they believe in sound either ridiculous or illegal. Can you even see that all the while it is Donald Trump who is trashing the Constitution? Don’t you hear the evidence that he wanted to cheat in the 2020 election so he bribed the leader of a foreign nation, a nation called Ukraine, a nation that is trying to become a democracy. I hear politicians say that they think you cannot understand what Trump did. I think you understand it very well but you refuse to care about it.

I wish you could accept that your hero is tarnished by his inability to understand the Constitution, or his refusal to abide by it. Why does he want absolute power? What will he do with it? How will that make American great for your children? Please listen and think before you let America become a nation none of us will recognize. There may not be much time.

Why do I feel like I just entered a paint ball tournament? This is a view from the cheap seats.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Washington Post

Keep Impeaching

Keep Impeaching!

Unbelievable! The President of the United States of America, our resident con man is trying to micromanage his own impeachment. He wants to call the shots even as he raises a dust storm of distractions and resorts to all his usual tricks.

The whole thing is a scam he has the Republicans contend, so therefore no one has to comply with this process. It is being run by the corrupt Democrats, so not only is it partisan, but it’s a deliberate “witch hunt” meant to reverse the results of the 2016 election. You would think that Trump could at least think of an original term this time instead of just reusing the old witch hunt label he used to discredit the Mueller report. He could have saved himself a lot of verbal energy if he just hired William Barr earlier than he did. Rumor has it that Barr is preparing a report that will blow up the entire impeachment process like dynamite.

Trump gives nicknames as he has always done. Shifty Schiff is the nickname Trump has given to Adam Schiff who is heading the impeachment process. These nicknames are always corny and they generally exaggerate a minor character flaw or attack someone’s body image, with the purpose of robbing the opponent of their personal power by turning them into an object of ridicule. Adam Schiff is probably the least shifty person in the entire House of Representatives but that doesn’t stop Trump’s smears from being effective. And why are they effective? We see right through them and they still seem to work. It boggles our minds.

He has his toady toads out working the room, Devin Nunes (really?), Lindsey Graham, Mark Meadows, Steve Scalise, Mr. Gaetz, and the “star”, Mr. Jim Johnson, the man whose wit works best when he is in destruction mode. There are more of these Republicans who will sit stewing as they age wondering what happened to them to turn them into history’s villains. They will finally understand that this charlatan in our White House mesmerized them and they traded their gravitas for embarrassing antics. C’est la vie.

Well, let’s just keep the impeachments coming then, one after the other. Why stop at one. There are plenty of violations of our Constitution and our system of governance to go around. While he is out there showing his fear and his disdain by bringing out all the bizarre facets of his repertoire of vituperations we could just slap him with another impeachment investigation. We could investigate why people who were never elected, like Rudy Giuliani, are doing State Department business in foreign nations, because our president knows that real State Department employees will not comply with his corrupt wishes.

We could investigate all the times Trump has violated the emoluments clause. We could investigate the stuffing of the courts with unqualified judges. We could heat up the search for Trump’s taxes. We could investigate why all his best guys are in prison or have served time and yet he has remained free. We could discuss whether or not we want to turn the Presidency into a get-out-of-jail-free card. We could impeach him for turning the executive office into exactly the thing it was never intended to be, an imperial office that wields absolute power. We could do this in order to save our Constitutional government. Impeaching this President is not a scam. It is richly deserved, and an existential necessity. Stay within the lines drawn by the founders but be brave and bold.

We could be as litigious as Trump and embroil our president in one impeachment charge after another. We could give up worrying about whether or not the charges meet the level of high crimes and misdemeanors, acknowledging the possibility that Trump, for one thing, has never minded trumping up charges, and, for another, these charges are just the tip of the iceberg. Then when he acts all wounded and victimized we have to harden our hearts because it is just a strategy and if we get soft we become the losers he wishes us to be. Mr. President, you do not get to dictate the terms of your own impeachment. Impeachment is the province of the people’s House and then of the Senate.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Sunday Post

Do Numbers Count?: Russia/Ukraine/Trump

Do Numbers Count?

We did not have, until now, any way to connect our president, Donald J Trump to any actual criminal conduct in either Russia or Ukraine. We had no concrete proof of high crimes and misdemeanors. The House of Representatives would not have voted to hold a formal impeachment inquiry without considerable evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors. Many Americans have seen the president’s disregard for our constitution, our traditions, and our system of checks and balances as worrisome. Books have been written on the subject, like How Democracy Dies by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt. No matter how many times the Republicans say this is all about overturning the 2016 election, there are plenty of Americans who know this is not the case.

But I have to ask, do numbers count? Even without proof that Trump had actually done anything unconstitutional or unlawful the number of connections between Trump’s campaign staff and Russia and Ukraine during the 2016 campaign and immediately after the inauguration, the number of Trump references to Russia, and his interactions with both Russia and Ukraine are extraordinary. America does not usually have a lot of business in this part of the world, the part that was in a Cold War with us, that isolated itself behind an Iron Curtain. It could all be about business, but talk of getting rid of the sanctions on Russia is definitely about politics.

In fact Russia is in the process of invading eastern Ukraine in an attempt to annex (steal) several Ukrainian oblasts (provinces). Still Ukraine has many connections to Moscow and all this activity by Trump’s guys may have been, in part, an attempt to open a back door into Putin’s Russia. Although many attempts were made by many “friends” of Trump to open such a back door, there is no proof that any of these attempts actually succeeded. Perhaps this explains Trump’s continued hyper-interest in Ukraine.  An article in today’s Washington Post suggests that Trump has actual animosity towards Ukraine. Or perhaps Trump has no faith that he can win an election without cheating.

As we approach the 2020 election we again begin to hear more and more references to Russia and those sanctions and to Ukraine right up to the moment of the now famous phone call. (As I write this Jonathan Capehart is reading aloud the transcript of this Ukraine/Trump phone call in front of a crackling TV fire a lá Franklin Roosevelt thus beating Trump to it). You would think with all the hair-on-fire reactions to Trump’s coziness with Putin and Russia and his campaign staff’s many illegal financial ops in Ukraine that Trump would have stayed far away from Ukraine in the run up to this elections.

 

But it seems that once he gets a bee in his bonnet he cannot let it go and the current bee in his bonnet is a whole hive. Biden and his son Hunter are bees buzzing around in Trump’s brain because he likes to have plenty of dirt on potential political opponents so he can effectively demonize them. Then he is still after Hillary and still trying to help out his whatever, Putin, by pursuing a discredited theory that it was actually Ukraine that interfered in our 2016 election thus getting Putin off the hook and closer to seeing those sanctions go away. Why an American president is so obsessed with Putin, and other dictators and why Americans are traipsing all over Kiev in Ukraine are questions we want to know the answers to.

Here are names connected with Trump and with Ukraine: then and now:

Then: Mueller investigation

Leshchenko, a Ukrainian legislator fighting corruption. He exposed the illegal payments made by Mr. Yanukovych’s party to Paul Manafort, Trump’s 2016 campaign chair

Michael T Flynn – resigned as national security advisor – 1 week earlier a sealed proposal was delivered to his office, outlining a way for Trump to lift sanctions on Russia.

Felix Sater – a business associate who helped Trump seal deals in Russia

Michael Cohen – president’s personal lawyer who delivered the sealed proposal to Michael Flynn. Michael Cohen is married to a Ukrainian woman and tried to help relatives start an ethanol business there so he, at least, had legitimate business in Ukraine. He delivered the sealed proposal which suggested a way to bring peace between Russia and Ukraine, (this was written by a Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Artemenko trying to rise in the political opposition movement in Ukraine with the help of Paul Manafort). This proposal was not sanctioned by the government of Ukraine.

It was thought that Trump possibly wanted to end Russian sanctions and wanted to create a back channel to Moscow through Ukraine.

[As I make this list Rachel  Maddow is talking about a new article by David Ignatius which says president Poroshenko of Ukraine was trying to get a meeting in the oval with the newly installed president Trump. He wasn’t getting anywhere until Giuliani went to Ukraine. Magically, after this visit in 2017, Ukraine stopped an investigation into Paul Manafort and then Poroshenko got his meeting with Trump and his javelin missiles.

Rachel asks, was this a rehearsal for what Trump did recently? Was this a quid pro quo he got away with which emboldened Trump to try again. There have been references to the Black ledger case. This ledger included the name of Paul Manafort and the huge sum he had been paid, but after the “bargain” with Poroshenko the Black Ledger disappeared – poof.]

Back to my list:

Rick Gates – a Trump campaign aide was Manafort’s longtime junior business partner.

Alex Vander Zwaan – London lawyer, had contacts with Rick Gates and another unnamed person based in Ukraine.

Konstantin Kilimnik , Russian/Ukrainian– a longtime business associate of Manafort and Gates.

Sam Patten – Republican operative and lobbyist – pleaded guilty because he was not registered as a foreign agent for his work with “Ukrainian bigwigs”

During the Mueller investigation we learned the following from reporters who investigated the people called in to testify:

“Donald J. Trump and 18 of his associates had at least 140 contacts with Russian nationals and WikiLeaks, or their intermediaries, during the 2016 campaign and presidential transition, according to a New York Times analysis.”

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/01/26/us/politics/trump-contacts-russians-wikileaks.html

and, in case you are not a New York Times fan,

“There are now more than 101 known points of contact between the Trump campaign and Russian-government linked people or entities, including 23 meetings or calls.”

https://www.businessinsider.com/trump-campaign-russia-government-contact-timeline-2018-7

Now: Impeachment inquiry

Rudy Giuliani and his associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman (these two have been indicted for campaign finance violations.) Rudy Giuliani’s activities in Ukraine on behalf of the president were happening long before the fateful phone call.

“The three amigos” all were busy in Ukraine pushing Trump’s agenda:

Rick Perry was the Head of Energy Department–  after being called to testify before the impeachment inquiry he quit his cabinet position

Kurt Volker – US Special Representative to Ukraine

Gordon Sondland – US ambassador to EU

Bill Taylor – US chargé d’affairs in Ukraine who questioned holding up military aid in exchange for “oppo” information for the 2020 election

Ukrainian oligarch – Dmytro Firtash has been mentioned in connection with these events. There is a current attempt to bring him to America to testify.

Three Ukrainian Presidents involved because each had involvement with Americans connected to Trump:

Petro Poroshenko

Viktor Yanukovych (former president – said to be “stooge of Putin”)

Zelensky – current president of Ukraine

Viktor Shokin – Prosecutor General in Ukraine – forced out for blocking prosecution of corrupt officials and oligarchs

Lutsenko – new prosecutor general – also at war with anti-corruption group backed by

Serhiy Leshchenko – a liberal legislator and journalist who fights corruption

Marie Yovanovitch – US Ambassador to Ukraine recently relieved of her duties for no apparent reason. – She said the new prosecutor was still blocking corruption probes.

Conspiracy theory – Lutsenko said that George Soros was involved with Biden and Hunter Biden. He said that Yovanovitch gave him a list of people not to prosecute, which she says did not happen.

When did we ever spend this much time and energy and have this many Americans who were not spies interacting with Russians and Ukrainians and bugging Ukrainian presidents? (Right now on my TV Louie Gomert – (Rep.) is threatening Civil War if Democrats impeach Trump, which makes me nervous because Democrats are not the ones who have been stockpiling guns. Don’t they sound a bit desperate?) (Michael Steele (who has distanced himself from the Republican Party, asks, would we really have a Civil War over this man, over Trump, really?) This Russia-Ukraine-Impeachment is obviously incendiary.

Ukraine is known to be a very corrupt country, which means that the government protects oligarchs who basically steal from the Ukrainian people and the treasury like a bunch of crooks. Trump seems to many of us to be our most corrupt president ever, perhaps because he is  so crude and so blatant about it. Is this simply a case of crooks of a feather flock together? Except this is like a flock of crows that wants to pick our government clean and leave it as road kill. This amount of interaction with a nation which governs by fear and intimidation, a nation with a system of government we have fought against (Vietnam, Korea) losing the lives of our young men and women, should be problematic to all Americans. Why isn’t it?

And Ukraine is fighting for survival right now, both survival from corrupt and selfish men, and in an actual military operation to repel Russia from its threatening position within its borders. Despite Ukraine’s internal struggles we find Trump’s “troops” all over Ukraine selfishly “phishing” for Trump’s dirt on an opponent to “fix” the 2020 election (and possibly end those sanctions on Russia by blaming election interference in 2016 on Ukraine, not Russia). Since when have we been so cavalier about a nation so at risk. Given all of this it is not really out of line to hope that Trump gets stung by one or more of those bees he can’t seem to get out of this bonnet.

After I posted this article two more interesting reads came up in online news media:

https://www.thedailybeast.com/andrii-telizhenko-source-for-ukraine-collusion-allegations-met-rep-devin-nunes

 Michelle Goldberg’s article explaining more Ukraine complexities.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/04/opinion/trump-ukraine.html

 

 

Photo Credit: From Google Image Searches – New York Post

Bringing Down An Elephant with a Mouse

Elephants are Afraid of Mice: The Impeachment of Donald Trump

The newest Republican/Trump argument about impeachment is that the charge is so narrow and small that it cannot possibly serve as the basis for impeachment. The president insists that he did not do anything wrong when he spoke to the new president of Ukraine, Zelensky (or Zelenskiy, or Zelenskyy). He repeats again and again that he gave the Democrats the entire transcript of the call, word for word, comma for comma and that the transcript is a “perfect” script of a “perfect phone call.” Trump never mentions his use of the phrase, “I would like you to do me a favor, though.” It is perhaps just too subtle for this theatrical guy to accept that the House could launch an entire impeachment process on the basis of what is implied in that one phrase. Of course there was more. Turns out this transcript had been stored incorrectly in a special server reserved for extremely classified materials. Oops, kind of a dead giveaway.

This time he has not been well served by his cronies and his appointees. Rudy Giuliani agreed that he had been in Ukraine asking the new president to look into the corrupt behavior of Joe Biden and his son Hunter. I guess he thinks that there is nothing wrong with doing this kind of strong arm extortion, that a nation with a reputation for corruption must be used to it. It became clear that the Ukrainian president was being pressured to announce his findings publicly through the media.

Mick Mulvaney in a very public news conference affirmed that there were two quid pro quos. Money (that had been promised to Ukraine to buy weapons to use against Russian troops attempting to annex part of Ukraine for Putin) was being held up, and the new president would not be invited to visit Trump in the oval office until the dirt on Biden was presented. As time went on it became clear that our AG, William Barr was also in Europe trying to find information about the DNC hacking and to try to pin it on Ukraine instead of Russia. Mick Mulvaney, acting Chief of Staff, said these kinds of quid pro quos happen all the time in politics and we should get over it. But I do not recall ever hearing any other American presidential candidate asking a foreign nation to meddle in an American election. And yet we heard Donald Trump do that twice. He asked Russia for opposition info on Hillary Clinton in the campaign, and he asked China for info about Biden and Hunter Biden while the helicopter blades whopped. Normally we do the opposite. We try to protect our elections from foreign interference.

It is definitely wrong to bribe a foreign official by delaying military or any other aide in order to force a foreign government to do anything, but even worse when it involves election interference on behalf of the American president, and when the nation being extorted is under attack by a superior force, when delay could mean higher numbers of casualties. There has been, as we were told on MSNBC, “a parade of patriots” who are civil servants and could lose their jobs who are willing to testify about what actually happened. These loyal Americans who sworn oaths to uphold the Constitution work for the state department and Ukraine is their assignment. Trustworthy evidence is piling up, enough to allow a vote in the House to formalize the Impeachment Inquiry today, Thursday, October 31.

Most of us know in our hearts that this is not the first time Trump has done things that are unconstitutional. We read the Mueller report and we know that while Mueller stopped short of indicting Trump, there were enough Russians canoodling with the Trump campaign staff to make it clear that there was some collusion going on. Five of Trump’s campaign staff people, all men he considered loyal to him, are now either in jail or waiting to go to trial. There were at least ten examples of obstruction enumerated in Part 2 of the Mueller report. When William Barr was placed in the Attorney General position at the head of our Department of Justice we were already aware that he believed that the office of the President of the United States was all powerful, that the president could not be indicted or tried, and that he could not even be investigated. I have read the US Constitution. That is not what my copy says. We knew that he would have control over the Mueller investigation and we despaired when he suddenly ended it. We knew his brief four-page summary was incorrect, but it stood for a month and by then the real content of the report was considered deniable by Trump’s strangely loyal followers.

Our frustration has been building as Trump has been able to wriggle out of things that seemed pretty criminal, and unconstitutional, even worse in a president. But Trump had years of practice in the private sector surrounding himself with cronies who would do his dirty work for him, often for a fee, but sometimes simply as members of some mafia-esque  happy-to-be-lawless, boy’s-just-like-to-have-fun-and-get-away-with-things club. We can see that the president does not see our constitution as any kind of rule book, as any limit at all on his absolute power. It is this lack of reverence for democracy that makes us nervous, but it is the disregard of our laws that makes us angry. We might have been able to learn more about Trump’s role in the many questionable policies  and actions we have observed, if Trump did not forbid any one who ever met him from testifying claiming that it would be against national security to tattle about the president’s business (however dubious such behavior might be). He just uttered the magic words “executive privilege” and, until now, no one would testify. Maybe he is channeling Lethal Weapon 2, where the villain’s defense was “diplomatic immunity.”

So we have been unable to pursue impeachment because the Trump has been able to cloud our minds with tactics that should not work, like flatly declaring that people we know to be reliable are lying, accusing others of doing the very things we suspect him of doing, accusing the Democrats of still trying to get revenge for 2016, doing things out in the open to suggest that there is nothing to see here, offering pardons to toadies who will lie for him or refuse to testify against him, threatening his cronies families, playing the victim, and taunting us that we have no proof and that we couldn’t use it even if we had it because an American president now has absolute power and his every action is considered sacrosanct, (as if Mr. Trump even understands the meaning of sacrosanct).

To find that Trump finally has a chink in his armor, that he may have acted on his own, thinking that the coded threats he used were too subtle to decipher, that he had no deniability because people were listening to and taking notes on every presidential call to a foreign leader, is a relief. Perhaps it is now not quite so inevitable that  we will not be able to dislodge this particular very destructive president. Perhaps this one seemingly small, but very significant error will bring down this charlatan, or at least curtail his ability to damage our republic. Our love of our country means that it is our responsibility to defend it. We know that sending this Trump packing may not be possible but he has given us an opening and we at least have to use the tools our founders gave us. We have to impeach even if it is only a way to discredit Trump’s behavior.We have to impeach even if it seems like we are bringing down an elephant with a mouse. As I understand it elephants are afraid of mice.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Blog: MPOWR

Mixed Emotions/Trump/al-Baghdadi

President Donald Trump speaks in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) From a Google Image Search-KTUU

Mixed Emotions/Trump/al-Baghdadi

It is a day of mixed emotions for me. This is the day after our troops flew into northeast Syria in 8 helicopters (so the story goes) and killed the current leader of the ISIS terrorist group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. So that is good news. But with the possibility that thousands of ISIS fighters might escape or be freed from prisons in the territory the Kurds once occupied, I’m not sure it will matter in the long run. It is highly likely that a new leader will rise, forged in the furnace of war and incarceration and more radical than the older leaders we have come to know. Still it does not take away from the operation to behead jihad and take out a person who might have been a unifying figure for the caliphate to coalesce around. Perhaps these extremists will have found a longing for an end to hate and a desire to while away their future days in sweet enjoyment of children, wives, prayer, and community. Highly unlikely, but I wish it for them and for us.

Trump handled his messaging quite well this morning. He did not gloat and steal credit from the military. He was appropriately somber. Too bad there is that niggling voice in the back of our minds saying that the timing of this attack is quite serendipitous for our beleaguered president. I can see this as a gift from his cohort to help distract from his serious and unconstitutional behavior in Ukraine, from the impeachment inquiry, from his surprise withdrawal of troops in Syria, apparently at the request of world powers who may not have America’s best interests at heart, and Trump’s betrayal of our allies the Kurds. It’s difficult not to be cynical. But Trump certainly won this Sunday morning.

This tactic, if that’s what it is, certainly has better optics than grown men and women storming into a secure room to act like the Merry Pranksters with pizza. Will it win Trump the points he needs? Will it change any minds about whether or not he should be impeached? According to the reporting, Trump had cleared this with Russia, Turkey and Syria to insure that our soldiers would not be shot from the sky. And they were not shot down which is perhaps a sign that no one is interested in starting a world war right now. Hard to be cynical about that. We cannot know how close Trump is to these authoritarian leaders, but we know he admires their “strength.” We can only watch and wonder how all this will change the messaging over the next week.

Perhaps Trump will become more the braggart as time passes. Is he trying to distract us also from the distance we have travelled from our old NATO allies (except for Turkey who probably should not even be in NATO)? Was he perhaps not subtle enough in the missteps he made in our current foreign affairs hot spots, did he tip his hand and did his strong man friends have to rein him in? Even his toadies and the so-called deep state were shocked. Did Trump’s army change the narrative and will next week’s news have to smile favorably upon him and give him some good press. Although we may breathe a sigh of relief that one more aggressor is gone from this world, forgetting Trump’s “sins” will remain a bridge too far for most of us, I suspect. As advertised; mixed emotions.

 

Being Nice to Dictators

Being Nice to Dictators

This is what American foreign policy has come to. We give dictators whatever they want in order to keep the peace and to keep migrants from flooding Europe and by extension, eventually, America (and for oil). Today Trump announced that he will end the sanctions against Turkey in exchange for a cease fire in the land grab against the Kurds in Syria and to end the presence of a minority group despised by Turks for reasons that are rooted in ancient animosities. Ending sanctions may not be a done deal yet, but it most likely will be. Next the Russian sanctions will end by executive decree because Trump likes to imagine that he is a strong man, despite the fact that he is just a corrupt bombastic pawn.

Once again the president exerts his executive power as if Congress does not exist. He does not see this as breaking an oath to uphold the Constitution because he sees the executive branch as all-powerful and he finally has a Chief Justice who agrees with this self-serving interpretation of our founding documents. Once again the president of America chooses to please Putin in Russia and Erdogan in Turkey, both “strong men.”

We have been wary of backing these men because their goals in Europe (and now in the world) are imperialistic as well as political, and because the spread of authoritarianism was something we have opposed for decades as democracy offered the world more freedoms. Now that capitalism has spread everywhere, perhaps we see that greed was our true goal, and now that we achieved our economic goals our humanistic goals of encouraging nations towards democracy have become expendable.

So we remain silent as the citizens of Hong Kong demonstrate to preserve freedoms they already own from being taken away. China’s business is China’s business, until one day in the not-so-distant future it becomes our business. We don’t want a war with China, but we should take a principled stand in support of human freedoms and telegraph that we mean what we say. We do not usually knuckle under to dictators until now when the economy of the entire world is so tied to the new capitalist China that stock portfolios trump humanitarianism.

China has also become a bit scary. It is so big and it is a giant machine run by one man. There is no way to be disloyal to the leader in China except from jail or from exile. Capitalism run by one leader is intimidating enough; the thought of a military with unlimited human resources run by one leader who demands absolute loyalty is terrifying. If we are afraid to stand up to China on the small things, I think we can one day expect to have to face this giant on some fairly big things, or perhaps we will just capitulate and keep our thoughts to ourselves. Isn’t love of freedom the reason we are usually not nice to dictators?

Of course we can’t have this conversation without a few words about North Korea and the mythic-dispenser-of-cruelty-to-his-own people, and dictator supposedly in a “love affair with our President. Sometimes people are so convinced of their own deity that no amount of “tough love” will change the way they behave. North Korea is a bit quieter but it could be a silence that is covering up a plan to treat the world to some future dastardly deeds with killer results.

It is difficult to believe that someone as egomaniacal as Kim Jong-Un plans to go peacefully into the sunset. Exactly what his plans are it is difficult to discern but if he ever teams up with Russia, China, and Turkey he will have access to some pretty enormous pieces of world real estate and whatever assets and weapons the leaders of these nations choose to grant him. Perhaps this is the reason that Trump thinks cozying up to all of these nations is a necessity right now. Sadly what seems to be the case is that he would like to become a member of this “strong man” group.

Goodbye freedom. Goodbye Republic. Goodbye democracy and free speech, including freedom of the press. Learn to follow orders blindly and just do the tasks assigned to you by the Big Brothers and you will be fine. Life will be a grim business and mercifully short. This could be our future if we don’t figure this out now. This is what being nice to dictators wins us.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-poised-to-make-statement-on-turkey-syria-situation-amid-mounting-concerns/2019/10/23/809d3e80-f5a1-11e9-a285-882a8e386a96_story.html

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – BBC

We Are Waiting

We are Waiting

Waiting for the end of the Trump years is truly an exercise in patience, although our patience constantly wavers. Waiting to see if our democracy/republic survives seems far too passive. Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s ersatz chief of staff, tells us that Trump’s administration uses political extortion all the time and we need to get over it and get used to it. Will we ever get over it? Should we get used to it? Mr. Mulvaney acknowledged that using a quid pro quo to get a deal, or even to order a foreign government to do Trump a favor though, is just business as usual. The extortion comes in because this little piece of coded conversation intimates that before we send you the military aid we promised you must do us the favor of providing dirt on one of my (Trump’s) political opponents. This is also called a quid pro quo and it is an impeachable offense against our Constitution.

Even after we are done with waiting for Trump to leave office we will not be done with waiting. Next we will be waiting for the GOP to act like the real GOP or perhaps a better GOP, or suffer big losses at the ballot box, which could take decades because they have “stacked the deck.” Waiting and waiting has consequences. Time is not on our side.

Don’t we all feel such a sense of urgency. Years of climate denial. Years of backward and racist ideology. Years of pushing against our documents and our traditions to mold them to accord to the Party’s desires. Their legacy, a mad and bad boss that they cannot even control.

It seems that we will never be free to tackle our most important issues and that our freedoms could be lost any day now, are being lost already. Watching decades of painstaking compromises disappear in a sharp, Sharpie minute is excruciatingly frustrating. Watching our allies treated with contempt and accused of not having value because the only value America now understands is money is embarrassing and actually against our best interests. Watching dictators sit in the Oval Office as honored guests makes us ashamed of what our government has become. But there are losses even greater than this although not in the Washington limelight.

There are 3 billion fewer birds in the world. Perhaps it is difficult for news like this to compete with the way we have betrayed the Kurds in Syria who helped end the caliphate and lock away ISIS terrorists. It sounds anticlimactic. These birds are, however, the proverbial “canaries in the coal mine.” That’s 3 billion canaries. It’s a loss of song and beauty. Birds keep insect populations under control. They spread seeds. They twitter and flit and entertain. But the loss of so many birds is also a warning that if we stay on our current path, if climate deniers keep all of us from devising ways to keep our planet balanced and healthy, then we will soon be reading articles about human population loss. There will be mass migrations, food shortages, water shortages, epidemics, fights, and chaos everywhere. This GOP government will not have predicted apocalypse; they will have caused it.

We need these people gone before they trash civilization and the planet. We must turf these gas-guzzling, authoritarian-loving, lawless, regulation-banishing, money-grubbing people out of our government. The dilemma is that we must turf them out using the tools our nation has given us in order to stay true to our Constitution and our laws, in order not to have to begin again from scratch. Can lawfulness win out over such flagrant and brazen lawlessness? It is not looking at all promising. Our tools require that laws still matter. But it seems we have a president and a party that no longer has any respect for laws.

We are hoping to outwait Trump as we are watching our 243 year old republic turn into an authoritarian state in the tiny hands of a man who engenders pride and trust in no one. This man will say that it is the windmills that killed the 3 billion birds, but he will be wrong. He doesn’t care about facts but some of us still do and the fact that you can still look this up on the internet tells me that we still have some time to rescue ourselves and our offspring from oblivion, or the demise of our republic.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – The Independent

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates – Book

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates – Book

For me, it’s official, Mr. Coates can write. In The Water Dancer, Ta-Nehisi Coates proves he can write fiction that is just as deep and accessible as his nonfiction. In The Water Dancer he writes about slavery (which he calls the Task) and abolitionists and the Underground, a subject that has had some good authorial attention in recent years. But, although the movement is present in the story, for Coates it is the people affected by slavery, the families torn apart, the histories lost, that matter. It is the inspirational struggles to create new family ties and to hold on to traditions, even if they had to be formed anew in a strange and terrible land.

Virginia is the state where the Lockless plantation tries to maintain an idle lifestyle, maintain a genteel veneer which rests on the shoulders of those who are tasked to do anything that might even vaguely be considered work. Every white person even has a personal maid or valet, a slave, who bathes them, grooms them, and dresses them.

These white plantation owners were supposed to be farmers but they were so greedy and so tied to the payouts from their tobacco crops that they refused to believe that the crops they depended on were depleting the land they were planted in. Some of those who “tasked” on the land understood what was happening but either no one listened or, as the land produced less income, those who understood the land and the crops were sold away south and west – to Natchez and beyond. Slaves really were sold away to Natchez but Coates also uses Natchez as a symbol for family separation, for sorrow, for harsher conditions, for loss.

Plantation owners, slave owners, sold off the most valuable “taskers” first so the family members who remained were left without the strongest among them, perhaps the most characterful, and the older slaves who kept the stories of celebrations and family ties alive. Sorrow that is never given time to abate collects and turns “the task” into a sadder, even more burdensome duty to preserve a failing white lifestyle even as the “taskers” see the community of their own, that they have been able to create in their captivity, disintegrate daily into grief and tearful good-byes.

Hiram Walker is a mixed-race son of Howell Walker, who also has a son by his white wife. Hiram who finds a home on the Street where the “tasked” live, a home with Thena, a women he is not related to, is a child with an excellent memory. He remembers every detail of what he sees and hears. But he cannot remember his mama. He knows her name is Rose. He knows she was a water dancer. He has seen her dancing in a vision on a bridge. A water dancer can dance joyfully and gracefully with an earthenware jar full of water on her head and not spill a drop. He knows his mother was a beauty, and he knows she had a sister, Emma – also a water dancer – because his “adopted” people have told him so. But where his own memories of his mother should be there is a hole.

Hiram also has a special talent. He can conduct himself across distances without being seen. In a land where no slave can walk off the land of his/her “master” without a pass, and where running away can be punished by near death (slaves are valuable property and so are rarely killed outright), someone who can “conduct” himself unseen has a very great gift indeed. But Hiram cannot control his talent and this is somehow related to what he does not remember about his mother. His love for another Lockless slave, Sophia, has grown over the years and it allows him to also accept and love her mixed-race child. Hiram needs to learn how to control his talent so that he can take the two women he loves and the child to freedom in the North.

Whether or not Hiram learns to control “conduction” and how he uses it is at the heart of this story but for me toil and survival, family and heritage; anger and sorrow and the mistaken idea that one person can “own” another – these things are the true heart and soul of this story. Conduction is part of an almost-lost origin story which never died even though the people the story belonged to were kidnapped, abused and held without freedom (in a land that supposedly treasured freedom).

I happen to be reading the Frederick Douglass biography by David Blight at the same time as I am reading Coates’ novel. These two book pair very well and one book seems to riff on the other. If white folks ever hope to understand not just why slavery was wrong but how the repercussions of this aberrant human behavior will echo forever in the souls and families of our fellow Americans of African Descent then The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates should add depth to your quest for understanding. I cannot speak to how black and brown people experience Coates’ novel but I hope to get exposure to some of their reactions.

Catching Up with Trump

Call me…

Catching up with Trump

In order to catch up with Trump we first have to talk about Ukraine. Wow! Ukraine. Who knew that Ukraine was the center of all intrigue. Well I guess many people knew this. I could see that Russia was being very aggressive towards Ukraine, that Ukraine is actually a divided nation and that its future as an independent state is not at all certain. Russia has troops in Ukraine, it has allies among some of the Ukrainian people. Reporting on Radio Free Europe classifies the Russian presence in Eastern Ukraine as an occupation. “The U.S. special envoy on Ukraine has called Russian activity in eastern Ukraine an “occupation” and has called on Moscow to start implementing its obligations under the 2015 Minsk accords — the international agreement aimed at ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists.” https://www.rferl.org/a/ukraine-russia-occupation-volker-zelenskiy/29969431.html

Ukraine’s government has long been seen as corrupt; operating on a system of cronyism and favors, threats and blackmail against any who sought to expose the corruption, and with a series of prosecutor generals who prosecuted only the enemies of the corrupt. An article from the Washington Post sums up some of what is known about corruption in Ukraine and if you follow the link to the article you can get more of the juicy details.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/10/10/trump-administration-wasnt-rooting-out-corruption-ukraine-it-was-encouraging-it/

“Ukrainian presidents have used their prosecutor generals to prosecute their rivals for corruption since the country was founded in 1991. If there was one constant in Ukrainian politics before the election of Zelensky, it was the use of graft to enrich the top elite — and the threat of selective prosecution to keep that elite in line.”

“…behind the facade of Ukraine’s formal institutions, there have always been elements of a “blackmail state.” Thus, in seeking the criminal investigation of a rival, Trump administration officials weren’t fighting corruption in Ukraine — they appeared to be reactivating corrupt networks for their own political gain.”

“The real problem lies with the informal rule of Ukraine’s presidents

Scholars have shown that informal institutions such as those in Ukraine can be very sticky. Two Ukrainian revolutions — in 2004 and 2014 — didn’t end the widespread corruption of Ukraine’s elite, or the role of the Ukrainian prosecutor general in protecting that elite from prosecution.”

“The Trump administration, in its push to get the Ukrainian government to investigate Burisma Holdings, the firm whose board Hunter Biden served on, was not rooting out corruption in Ukraine. With the help of people such as U.S. envoy Kurt Volker, who knew how to navigate Ukraine’s shadows, the Trump administration was trying to reactivate that old corrupt system for its own ends.”

For President Trump to add to the problems already faced by Zelensky, the new President of Ukraine, to set this leader who promised to reform Ukraine and end corruption back on the old corrupt pathways, is a kind of politics that should never be practiced by a President of the United States of America. Ukraine obviously has quite enough problems with a Russian leader plotting to restore the old boundaries of the Soviet Union sitting in the nation’s eastern provinces and threatening war. Add in the president of our still powerful nation pushing from the west and we wonder how a state so beleaguered is supposed to have any room to solve its pressing domestic problems and end the cycle of corruption in which it has been trapped.

This is fascist Trump, back in election mode, Trump the thug, who demonizes his political opponents by repeating or inventing any political blunders these politician might have made as they came up through the ranks, or as they pursued their private careers. These blunders, whether real or made-up, are then blown up into fatal flaws and repeated by Trump and Republicans as slurs until the opponent is so tarnished that s/he no longer is any threat to candidate Trump, who already holds the added advantage of incumbency. In this manner you beat up on your opponents without using any actual violence.

Trump apparently tried to work through his usual method of sending his henchmen to do his bidding so that he could claim his innocence and no one could offer any proof of his guilt. So he sent Rudy Giuliani to Ukraine and perhaps Rudy enlisted the help of two busy and previously light-hearted Trump donors with ties to Russia. Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were part of a conspiracy to funnel foreign money into U.S. elections and are now found to be interested in the fortunes to be made in legal marijuana.

Trump seems to have made a big mistake this time and lost his deniability because he thought he was being subtle enough in a phone conversation with Zelensky, that his coded words would protect him from discovery even though he knew many were listening in on the conversation (because they were supposed to listen in). For backup he knew that transcripts of the conversation would be filed away in an unusually secure place. His code was a bit too transparent on this particular occasion and there was a whistleblower who called attention to what transpired on the call. That’s how we arrived at the impeachment inquiry.

Trump also backs a complex conspiracy theory that assigns blame for Russian interference in the 2016 election to Hillary Clinton and the DNC, the FBI and the CIA. He has the people’s Justice department and State department heads, who are his toadies dashing off to Europe and China to find or invent documentation to prove his nutty nonsense, which has already been discredited. Trump simply keeps attacking the credibility of any government agency that denies the truth of Trump’s ridiculous theory. He does the usual; he blames someone else for his own criminal or un-American activities.

At this point, even if Trump finds “proof” that the “deep state” (any enemy of Trump) got Russia involved in the election, who will believe his so-called proof except his base. He uses all these people who sworn oaths to work for the American people because he thinks doing so either protects his part in the scheme, or gives his “investigations” legitimacy. But, in the process, he has to destroy every institution of our democracy/republic that we have always relied on to be nonpartisan. He turns the very people appointed to run our American government into lackies. He turns what was a swamp when he entered the Oval Office into a sewer. Well, America happens to possess a sewer drain. It is called Impeachment.

Photo Credits: From Google Image Searches – Al-Monitor, NPR, Drain Cleaners

 

 

 

 

 

Xi and Hong Kong – and Communism

Communism – Xi and Hong Kong

Communism sounds so good in theory but, so far, it is a system that never works. There is no such thing as a nice little (or big) communist country. The people own the means of production the theory goes. What exactly does that mean? You would think that it means that each person has a share of ownership of their workplace whether it is an office, a factory, a shop, or a farm, and they share in the profits.

But communism has turned out to be something much grimmer than that. In order to share the booty of trade, production, etc. you must belong to the communist party. The communist party has an inner circle of ideologues who end up being more powerful than other members of the party. After a power struggle at the top one person usually emerges as the Dear Leader. Party members are constantly tested for the purity of their beliefs and must answer questions with the ‘right’ answers according to an ever-shifting doctrine. If wrong answers are given punishment can result. In the case of the USSR, people who were not loyal enough were executed, sent to prison or to serve a long grueling sentence in a gulag until considered sufficiently subdued to offer no further trouble to the regime.

The inner circle, if they manage to toe the party line can make out like bandits, stealing or skimming from the projects or operations they are supposed to oversee on behalf of the people. Since no one is allowed to spread failures or corrupt practices as news, news sources and journalists are carefully controlled and all media is state-operated. Poets and authors who try to write exposés of the flaws in the system, or the brutal acts against any who are even thought to be dissenters, are fair game for imprisonment and even execution. Sometimes though the books or poems are smuggled out for the world to see. Perhaps a writer gets punished less if the outside world is watching.

Why would a system the people love need an ‘Iron Curtain’ or a Berlin Wall? It wouldn’t. Why is North Korea so secretive? China? Is it because they are basically slave states and they don’t want anyone to know the lengths they must resort to in order to keep the people under control? It is most likely also because if people could see the freedoms others around the world enjoy they would be in despair or revolution. In every communist country I have seen in the news or read about in books, the people are virtually captives. Trying to leave and move to another country is called a defection and is a crime. Imagine if it was a crime to leave America. Not as hard to imagine today as it once was, but we are not there yet.

Now imagine that you have lived in Hong Kong, once a protectorate, not part of China, where you lived a basically free existence. China (Beijing) recently decided to send people who break a law in Hong Kong to the mainland to be tried and punished if found guilty. The once-free people of Hong Kong see this as a major step to a total loss of autonomy, the end of their special status as a part of China, but a relatively free part of China. Now Tiananmen Square could happen in Hong Kong. Now their purity as communists and subjects of Xi can be tested and they can find themselves losing all their freedom for the slightest infraction. They can be removed from their home city, an island far from Xi, and can find themselves in trouble, with totally arbitrary punishments since no code dictates what punishments will be used, no impartial court exists to hear the details of their case.

I could be wrong about this but from all I have read and heard, from Solzhenitsyn to The Three Swans of China to the Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson, communism involves anything but the people owning the means of production or owning anything else. There is always a capricious leader who uses fear and harsh punishment to keep people in line, as if without making people fear you there would be chaos all the time. Fear is used, more likely, to keep people from banding together and revolting and from noticing how deeply they are being ripped off.

So when I see the people of Hong Kong out protesting in the streets of their island city, when I see the city streets packed with thousands of bodies all at risk, I admire the bravery of the people of Hong Kong even as I am already mourning their eventual failure. Who can they turn to for help to keep their freedoms? Well not us that’s for sure and actually not anyone. No one wants to or can take on Xi’s China which is perhaps not powerful enough yet for world conquest, but is certainly powerful enough to defend its boundaries.

To take freedom away from people who have tasted its heady rewards, its unfettered mind, is a very tough task indeed. The people of Hong Kong deserve our praise, and once we might have gone to war to help them win their fight, but not now. Perhaps they will just be our shining example so that we don’t give up our own freedoms, any more of our own freedoms, without a fight. I wish that for once the underdog would win and Xi would decide to back off, find a way to do it without ‘losing face’, if that is still a thing, and let the people of Hong Kong go back to living with the freedoms they are used to having. -Just because Xi is President for Life and he can do that.