Churchill: Polymath with Cigar

In Washington in 1943 to see President Roosevelt, Churchill wore his famous siren suit, which he delightedly displayed for American cameramen. This suit, which he had specially made, could, he claimed, be zipped on in less than a minute, thus saving valuable time for decisions of state. Date: 1943

Churchill may have matured into a rotund adult with a level of confidence that came with an aristocratic upbringing, but there are, I imagine, shy or reclusive people even among aristocrats. Churchill was definitely not one of them. He could be down when parliament went sour on him, which was often, or when a military strategy he pushed failed and young men lost their lives. But, given his ebullient nature, he tended to quickly float back to the top.

He had many detractors and we know this because they were all public men and women who kept private diaries for their future biographers (just in case). Andrew Roberts, in Churchill: Walking with Destiny had access to all the diaries of Churchill’s contemporaries, including King George VI, who was his confidante and leader throughout WWII. Andrew Roberts is British and not always kind to the Americans when they finally joined to help fight Hitler’s Germany and Japan. Roberts brought Churchill and his contemporaries to life for me but he did it from a very British perspective, although he had a more positive take on Churchill than many modern British historians tend to have. Roberts tells us the charges leveled against Churchill and then he tries to explain Churchill’s rationale.

Churchill hated school and was a torment to his schoolmasters, but he was very intelligent. Roberts calls Winston a polymath. He committed all the important speeches in Shakespeare and his favorite poems to memory and could still quote them as he aged, and he lived to be 91. He read the great military strategists (especially Napoleon) and often seemed able to predict future conflicts well before others sensed them.

Although Winston Churchill was born in the Victorian Age, cultural changes did not faze him. He befriended Dr. Lindemann, a physicist who answered Churchill’s questions about atoms and the details of the developing scientific discoveries about nuclear fission and fusion. Churchill understood the importance of code-breaking in fighting wars. He travelled extensively and knew the famous figures of his times personally. He often took his wife Clementine, and his children with him. He was fascinated with airplanes and learned to fly as soon as he could.

Churchill was not self-conscious in the least. He spoke to his colleagues from Parliament while bathing or dressing if that happened to be when they came to see him. He swam naked in bodies of water all over Europe and Northern Africa. During the Blitz, when Brits had to drop everything and go to shelters, he had what he called “siren” suits designed and made. He wore them everywhere sometimes even when meeting important dignitaries. They were essentially jump suits with zippers and a fabric belt, not quite the style for the portly statesman.

Winston drank quite a lot, but he watered it down and spread it out so that he rarely seemed drunk, although at least two of his children seem to have been addicted to alcohol. He became attached to cigar smoking and enjoyed his cigars almost until the end of his life. His father had been a politician, a Tory in the House of Lords. Randolph Churchill, the father, made a misstep that ended his political career, but Winston felt his father had been treated unfairly. Many of Winston’s peers felt that Churchill spent his life trying to please his judgmental father, even after his father died. But despite family tradition, Winston did not want to be a Tory. He did not want to serve in the House of Lords. He felt that all the action was in the Commons.

Churchill was sometimes a Conservative, sometimes a Liberal, which is another way in which he was unique. He was not married to one political point of view. Some saw this as a lack of authenticity and conviction, but given that all politics is complicated and can be corrupt or get stuck in cultural ruts, Churchill’s prescience may have just helped him steer his way through social change. For example, Churchill, although a Conservative at times, believed that there would eventually have to be a social safety net (although he despised socialism). He mixed with all classes of the British people and he knew the protections they lacked. He sometimes represented the Labour Party and he had both sympathy and respect for people who labored. Until he saw the way women shared the burdens of war, he did not support giving women the vote. The war changed that particular view, possibly a last vestige of his Victorian upbringing. Being flexible allowed Churchill to thread his way around political roadblocks to get things done (sometimes). Backlash could also be fierce.

Winston Churchill was very much an imperialist. He loved the British Empire and many times he rationalized his military strategies as designed to preserve the empire. He did not just attend to Great Britain in the home isles. When he served in the cavalry he served in India. He escaped from a prison in South Africa when he was captured in a Boer War. England had a foothold in Egypt. He travelled to Canada. Although the Age of Imperialism was ending Churchill never wanted to neglect the far-flung lands he considered parts of the British Empire, although some leaders, like Gandhi in India, did not feel the same and wished for self-rule. By the time WWII ended so did the British Empire, and Great Britain became the small United Kingdom that it had once been. Churchill still believed great, educated, and civilized nations such as England had a responsibility to enlighten nations that were not as modern, well-ordered, and prosperous.

What did Churchill do to relax? He was a painter, actually a pretty good one. Museums have shown Churchill’s paintings. He would often bug out to some tropical locale, or mountain retreat, or to a wonderful estate in a desert place like Morocco and paint and swim and drink and smoke cigars. He tried to fly his own plane but eventually Parliament decided that it was too risky. He was also a butterfly enthusiast, and, something we judge harshly now, he was a wild game hunter. He was rarely wealthy, but he was invited everywhere by people who were. Churchill was a prolific writer. He wrote hefty historical tomes which are still considered classics. After a while he received valuable advances and his books made money for him, but he owned his beloved estate Chartwell which was a money pit. There was another more manual talent Churchill used at his estate; he could lay bricks.

Diaries attest that Churchill could be delightful, he could be irritating, he could be a sponge soaking up whatever was cogent and new, and he was capable of deep political and military analysis. His trademark humor popped up at moments some considered appropriate and others considered inappropriate, but the humor had the effect of keeping monumental events at human scale. His speeches were well-attended by both allies and detractors because they were powerful, outspoken, and funny, and just could not be missed.

It seemed that Churchill did not really try to be a great man. He did feel that God put him on earth for an important reason (although he was not at all religious), and the whole world finally agreed when Hitler set out to gobble up every single person and nation in his path. Churchill had so many gifts that it is fairly easy to believe that he had a destiny and that he fulfilled it. He was not a perfect man, but he was, in every way, a larger-than-life man, a great man. I think that although being a polymath is something admired in modern times, Andrew Roberts makes his case that Churchill was definitely a polymath.

From Churchill: Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts

“He was protean. One of Churchill’s biographers, Robert Rhodes James, described him as a ‘politician, sportsman, artist, orator, historian, parliamentarian, journalist, essayist, gambler, soldier, war correspondent, adventurer, patriot, internationalist, dreamer, pragmatist, strategist, Zionist, imperialist, monarchist, democrat, egocentric, hedonist, romantic.’ He was indeed all of those, but to them might also be added: butterfly-collector, big-game hunter, animal-lover, newspaper editor, spy, bricklayer, wit, pilot, horseman, novelist and crybaby (this last the Duke and Duchess of Windsor’s nickname for him).” [I forgot to mention that  he was very emotional and tears often ran down his face as he spoke.]

“He viscerally hated Lenin, Trotsky and Hitler – but remarkably few others.”

“‘Absorbed in his own affairs,’ wrote Commander Tommy Thompson, his personal assistant throughout the Second World War, ‘he seemed to many people brusque, vain, intolerant, and overbearing.’ He could also be idiosyncratic, stubborn and an interfering micromanager. Several of these failings he turned into strengths, however, and some were necessary to help him through the crises he faced in peace and war. He could be intensely lovable, too, of course, when taken on his own terms.”

“Churchill’s written output was similarly immense. He published 6.1 million words in thirty-seven books – more than Shakespeare and Dickens combined – and delivered five million in public speeches, not counting his voluminous letter- and memorandum-writing, Partly because he was such a polymath and so prolific, he also seemed to be a mass of contradictions. His Atlantic Charter proclaimed a belief in democracy that did not extend to Indian independence; he championed the weak, but briefly believed in eugenics; he was a duke’s grandson who ended the peer’s veto; he ordered the Combined Bomber Offensive and loved butterflies; he was a rugged soldier who wore silk underwear; he crossed the floor of the Commons, not once but twice. (Pg. 972)

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Media Storehouse

 

 

 

 

Foreign Policy and the 2020 Election

Will we look for a President in 2020 with foreign policy roots close to the post WWII approach? Will we stay with Trump’s approach of isolationism and of undoing all the post-war organizations and alliances? Or will we look for a totally new approach to foreign policy?

On Tuesday, 2.19.19, when Mike Pence, the American VP said he was speaking at the Munich Security Conference on behalf of Donald Trump, the President of the United States of America, he waited for applause from the gathered world leaders after he passed on the greeting that Donald Trump had sent to his peers. There was only silence.

Also on Tuesday, 2.19.19, Joe Biden was interviewed live at the same Munich meeting. He is something that Trump is not. He’s nice; not soft-nice, but calm and nonconfrontational, unless confrontation is called for. What would happen if a President Biden was introduced at a Munich meeting? First of all, he would most likely be present at the meeting. Would there be applause? There was plenty of applause. Perhaps we should apply this test to each of the many candidates for President running as Democrats. What will their foreign policy be? How will they be received by our allies and our closely-held enemies?

When it comes to Joe Biden, I believe that we would find him continuing the post-World War II alliances and working with Europe to ensure peace; at least peace in Europe. I am not backing Joe Biden. He isn’t even running yet. But he could be expected to follow traditional guidelines for foreign policy. These policies are older than Biden and he knows the protocols and our allies well.

After World War II Europe became ground zero for a tug of war between Russia and America, between capitalism/democracy and communism. For the past 70 years it seemed that America and the other world proponents of capitalism and democracy were winning nations over to these ideologies. We did not have a new war, but neither did we have peace. We ended up in a ‘Cold War’, that apparently did not end when the Iron Curtain parted.

As early as 1945 Churchill warned us that after WWII our temporary and very valuable ally, Russia, had turned its back on Western Europe already, taking most of Central and Eastern Europe with it. America and Russia conducted opposing campaigns to win new recruits to either communism or democracy. While the US offered economic prosperity and military security, Russia offered weapons and oil. For a while it seemed we were winning but now, not so much.

The USSR died a mostly economic death and split back into the satellite nations it had sucked up after World War II. These newly released nations had been split along unnatural geographic lines that divided the cultural groups which had learned to live peacefully within old national boundaries. Once released from Russian domination old hostilities that had festered since WW II, and while behind the Iron Curtain, reared their ugly heads and we had things like what happened with Croatia and Bosnia. This release of pent up hostilities was similar to what we saw in Iraq.

Our own President seems to back authoritarian states in Europe (while he tries to topple them in South America), and he smiles on Putin in Russia and makes us very nervous. There is also a huge backlash against capitalism in America on the left which complicates the outcome of the democratic/communist war for ascendancy even more. It looks like the future of the world may be authoritarian. Some leaders seem to want to bring back the monarchy. Others back a very loosely defined socialism.

There are many factors which have contributed to this decline in democracy and capitalism. With the more aggressive ideology of a newly empowered Putin who wishes to create a new Russia that looks a lot like the old USSR, with the arrival of the Great Recession which hit Europe rather hard, with the angers of people from austerity economies, the disruptions of terrorism, the waves of immigration as people escape cruel war in Syria, and the military moves by Russia in Georgia and the Ukraine, ‘strong men’ have begun to look attractive as chaos seems imminent. Authoritarianism, as we have seen, is on the rise. Will these new authoritarian states align with Russia or with the United States? Given that even president Trump seems to be more interested in aligning with Russia than any past President, the order imposed on the world after WWII, which never took into account the rise of the USSR, could easily dissolve.

Many have been critical of America’s aggressive moves to turn Europe towards capitalism and democracy. They have felt that our control in Europe has been antithetical to the values of a democracy and that we have often had selfish goals, as opposed to more altruistic ones. In fact, some even express horror and grief at mismoves we have made in our supposed diplomacy, although perhaps our worst moves have not occurred in Europe. Perhaps we did go off the rails a bit, but wanting a future that is democratic – is this still a goal people have? Capitalism, on the other hand, has become so rapacious that it will be overthrown if capitalists continue to refuse regulation. Although democracy is in more trouble at the moment, younger people are poised to exert pressures that may shift the target to capitalists.

What will happen in the world if we back off the agreements reached at the end of WWII? Is the UN obsolete? Is it weak and ineffective or secretly plotting a new world order? Which thing is true? Are we done with NATO? Should we loosen the bonds made after Hitler almost turned Europe into a white supremacist dictatorship? What will happen to the 70 years of “relative” peace our leaders forged after WW II? Were these protections essentially training wheels and the world is now ready to take them off? With “illiberal democracies” multiplying like flies this hardly seems like the moment to pull US bases out of Europe and make nice with Putin in Russia.

Will we look for a President in 2020 with foreign policy roots close to the post WWII approach, will we stay with Trump’s approach of isolationism and of undoing all the post war organizations and alliances, or will we look for a totally new approach to foreign policy? If so, what will it be? I want to hear each of the Democratic candidates on this topic. Should one person be able to set America’s foreign policy? We used to have a strong Department of State and a Congress that weighed in (sometimes too much so). How will foreign policy be handled in the future? Will we elect a person who will be applauded in Munich? If we don’t want an authoritarian future how must we proceed?

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – CBS

 

 

“Baby Ballerinas” of Journalism

Baby Ballerinas of Ice Skating

 

30 Oct 1999: Sarah Hughes of the USA skates during the Womens competition during the National Car Rental Skate America at the World Arena in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Perhaps you follow the ice skating circuit of pre-Olympic style competitions that ranks the most proficient figure skaters in America and in the world. Perhaps you were tuning in during the 2000 season when a group of young skaters decided to leave the junior competitions early to try their luck on the senior circuit. These included female skaters like Michelle Kwan, Sasha Cohen, Tara Lipinski and Sarah Hughes. They were only 12 and 13 and they had already conquered triple axles and double loops, and more. They were so tiny and light that they flew through the air like baby birds.

https://goldenskate.com/2010/01/the-u-s-ladies-of-2000-where-are-they-now/

“But the big story was the baby ballerinas, as Dick Button so playfully called the bumper crop of pre-pubescent skaters who stormed onto the national scene on the ABC broadcast.  Five of the junior ladies from the 1999 Championships, including the four medalists, qualified for the senior ladies competition, and each were looking to make a name for herself against the reigning queen of U.S. Figure Skating.”

(This article has a list of  the ‘baby ballerinas’.)

Baby Ballerinas of Journalism

So what, you might say. The baby ballerinas are old news. What does ice skating have to do with journalism any way ? But during the 2016 election campaign we met a trio of ‘baby ballerina’ journalists. Of course they weren’t 12 or 13, but they seemed so young and fresh as they did on-site reporting and traveled along with the campaigns. Sadly most of the baby ballerinas of ice skating fizzled out rather early, except of course Michelle Kwan who was amazing, and Tara Lipinski who also was an award winner. (There is not total agreement about who actually was in the group of ‘baby ballerinas’.).

But fizzling out is not what has happened to the baby ballerina journalists: Katy Tur, Hallie Jackson, and Kasie Hunt. In 2019 each of these three poised young women now has a show of her own on MSNBC. They each have married. Katy Tur will soon have a baby and at least one of these young ladies has already gone through a divorce. Their youth, confidence, comfort with broadcast news, and their energy has allowed these three young women to rise quickly through the ranks. These qualities also make them valuable subs for more established news figures on the network, which helps keep them popular with veteran news commentators. It has been interesting to watch the steep trajectories of their careers since the bad old days of the 2016 election campaign (it was a tough campaign). Hopefully they will not share the fate of some of the precocious baby ballerinas of ice skating, but will enjoy long and illustrious careers in journalism, something that is not at all guaranteed these days.

Photo Credits: From Google Image Searches: Ice Skating, Sarah Hughes, Journalism (in order), Katy Tur, Adweek, Hallie Jackson, Duke U, Kasie Hunt, YouTube

Churchill: Walking With Destiny by Andrew Roberts – Book

Churchill: Walking With Destiny by Andrew Roberts – Book

Andrew Roberts, in his biography Churchill: Walking With Destiny tells us that Churchill was not ubiquitously or universally beloved, until he was. As he tells it even Churchill’s detractors enjoyed his wit, his oratory, and his intelligence. Having just spent over a month in the company of Winston Churchill, and an enormous cast of famous cohorts, I am surprised and almost sorry to find myself back in the weird politics and tenuous peace of the 21 st century.

Churchill was born in Blenheim Palace into the family of the Duke of Marlborough, a family whose most famous member was known to have been an excellent military strategist. Randolph Churchill, Winston’s father was the third son of the 7th Duke of Marlborough. Churchill seems to have been born with an interest in military matters. He studied what was known about his ancestor and he wrote a book about him. In fact, Churchill was a prodigious writer and authored many books now considered classics. He also studied the life and battles of Napoleon. He was in the cavalry for his own military service and, on a hiatus from politics he served in the trenches in France in the Great War (which we call WW I).

Churchill was born at the end of the Victorian Age and lived until the 1960’s. The changes in politics and wars were dizzying and many of his contemporaries held onto the “old rules” they learned as children. Churchill was an unruly child, a challenge for the schoolmasters at the very aristocratic schools he attended. Roberts suggests that Churchill was an original who had no problems with the changes he lived through because he was never a rule-follower. He further marshalls the facts of Churchill’s life in such a way as to suggest that Churchill was born to lead the UK into war against Hitler. Churchill believed that he was safe from harm because he was destined for some greatness which made him seem almost fearless. The author suggests that Churchill could never guess what moment he was destined for so he tried to be a great man all his life. This occasionally ticked everyone off, especially some in both the Conservative and the Labor parties in Parliament. Churchill did not want to serve in the House of Lords. He never worried about not being a Lord like his parent, and he never accepted the title, because he would not have been able to serve in the Commons as he wished.

Roberts’ book is close to 1,000 pages long, longer if you count the photo section, the footnotes, the bibliography and the index. By the time Roberts, a respected and prize-winning British historical writer, tackled Churchill’s biography he had access to documents previous biographers never had. He had official papers but also the diaries of almost everyone who had known Churchill. I found myself interested in how British politics differs somewhat from our democracy, interested in Churchill’s political ups and downs, in his political and military successes and failures. Along with the public side of Churchill’s life, the diaries of his contemporaries, his secretaries and aides, his wife Clementine, and even occasionally his children give Roberts and us access to the private side of his life, even some gossipy bits.

If Churchill was destined for any one time it was 1939-1945, the World War that we call World War II. Truly the entire world was involved in this terrible conflagration with Hitler and his Germans, and the Japanese as instigators, and Russia under Joe Stalin as our rather frightening ally. Roberts makes us understand what we owe Winston Churchill, who almost single-handedly encouraged his Brits to stay in the war, a war they only believed they could win because Churchill kept telling them so. He had faith that America would eventually have to come into the war and, although he hated Communism, he set that aside so Russia would also be an ally. Although Russia gave everyone big headaches after the war, if millions of Russians hadn’t died to beat back Hitler, Churchill and all the British people could not have held Hitler off long enough for America to come into the war. Without Churchill and, indeed, without Russia, World War II could have been a tragic turning point for democracy and humanity, and Andrew Roberts makes that very clear.

I have barely scratched the surface and the depth of Churchill’s life, but Andrew Roberts does. I say “bravo”. I highly recommend that reader’s spend some time with Churchill : Walking with Destiny. I doubt if it will take a month. I was dealing with some other challenges at the time. This is one of those books that becomes a part of you. I will make my highlighting public, but I will warn you it is voluminous. It might be easier just to read the book.

Please find me on goodreads.com as Nancy Brisson and on www.tremr.com as brissioni and at https://nbrissonbookblog.com/

Photo Credits: From a Google Image Search – The Spectator, AZ Quotes

Howard Schultz for President???

When Howard Schultz announced that he was thinking about running for President in 2020 he came at me out of the blue. I do not keep up with corporate leaders, except the most obvious ones, like those who made their fortunes in technology. I realized I knew nothing about him, except he was introduced as the retired CEO of Starbucks. I also knew very little about Starbucks as a company except that you can find one almost anywhere. Starbucks hit my small city very late and just at the same moment that Tim Horton’s Coffee shops (of Canada) were being built and Dunkin’ Donuts was making big moves in our small market. When New York passed the $15.00/hour minimum wage (to be phased in), Starbucks abruptly pulled out, but given all the competition, the reason for pulling out may not have been a result of the new law. The reason is actually unknown to me. Tim Horton’s pulled out at the same time. However Dunkin’ Donuts kept expanding and is still building new coffee shops here.

It turns out that things I have learned about Howard Schultz make him a fairly unusual CEO because he has shown a willingness to offer social and financial programs for his employees (who he calls partners) and has shown a cultural consciousness that is out-of-step with these times, when most businesses seem to have cut back on employee perks.

An Abbreviated Timeline

In 1988, he offered full health benefits to eligible full- and part-time employees, including coverage for domestic partnerships.

In 1991 he offered a stock option program which was even open to part-time employees.

In 1992 he took the company public with an IPO.

In 1998 he opened in underserved neighborhoods through a joint-venture partnership with Magic Johnson.

He also started the CUP fund, an emergency financial assistance fund for partners (employees).

In 1999 Schultz bought Tazo Tea. He joined with Conservation International to promote sustainable coffee-growing practices. He bought Hear Music. He also signed a licensing agreement with TransFair USA to sell Fair Trade certified coffee in the US and Canada.

In 2002 he made Wi Fi available.

In 2006 his stores began using the 1st paper beverage cup containing post-consumer recycled fiber.

In 2007 he eliminated the use of artificial trans-fat and switched to 2% milk for all espresso beverages.

In 2008, Howard Schultz became the CEO (new title) and adopted a new mission statement, “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.” He opened Starbuck’s first online community, joined Twitter, and debuted the Starbucks Facebook page.

In 2009 Schultz opened the first Farmer Support Center in Kigali, Rwanda.

In 2010 customers got unlimited free Wi Fi.

In 2011 the company celebrated its 40 th anniversary with a Global Month of Service.

He opened two community stores, one in Harlem, one in the Crenshaw neighborhood, also a second Farmer Support Center in Mbeya, Tanzania. He launched Create Jobs for USA to encourage small business.

In 2012 Schultz opened Farmer Support Centers in Manizales, Columbia and Yunnan, China. He bought Teavana.

In 2013 Schultz opened a coffee-farming research and development center in Costa Rica to strengthen ethical-sourcing.

He reinforced his commitment to marriage equality.

In 2014 he launched Starbucks College Achievement Plan with Arizona State University giving partners an opportunity to complete a college degree through ASU’s online degree program.

He hosted a series of Partner open forums to discuss race relations in America after a misstep that was creating waves in the media.

In 2015 Starbucks stock split for the sixth time.

Schultz committed to hiring 10,000 opportunity youth by 2018.

He expanded Starbucks college achievement plan to offer full tuition coverage for all four years of an undergraduate degree program to qualifying Starbucks partners hoping for up to 25,000 degrees by 2025.

He achieved the goal of 99% ethically-sourced coffee.

This time line ended in 2015.

https://www.starbucks.com/about-us/company-information/starbucks-company-timeline

Corporate Expansion

The same source offers these facts: Howard Schultz joined Starbucks in 1982 as Director and bought Starbucks in 1987. By the end of 1987 there were 17 Starbucks “stores”. By the middle of 2015 the number was 22,519 and by 2018, a Google search says the number is over 28,000. In 1982 there were “stores” in the US and Canada only. By 2015 there were “stores” in 67 countries. (Most “stores” are coffee shops.)

Observations

Clearly Howard Schultz is a very good businessman. He did not just build coffee shops; he acquired roasting facilities, he answered the demand that coffee beans be purchased through fair trade arrangements, he went to the countries that grew coffee and opened farmer support centers, he made sure that he opened and could control his own research and development center in the interests of quality, but also in the interests of using coffee that was ethically-sourced. Other than that he just sort of stamped out Starbucks shops everywhere, and it also seems he was willing to close shops that were not profitable.

He was willing to install certain progressive programs to benefit his employees. Employees who reviewed Starbucks online praised the health plans offered by the company. He was willing to treat all couples, same-sex, traditional, even unmarried, as couples for the purposes of health insurance. Stock options, if affordable, could have offered good returns (even great returns). And free college, although a fairly recent offering, is something most retail companies do not offer, although some offer help with college expenses. Obviously he gets points for having a social conscience.

What bothers me is the Capitalist “imperialism” of  a policy of manifest destiny that insists on planting Starbucks retail outlets in more and more locations and in more and more nations. Coffee has appealed to humans ever since it left the lands of its origin and came into general use. People love their coffee. Many nations had excellent indigenous coffees before Starbucks arrived on the scene. How many of these coffee customs have lost ground, and how much homogeneity has entered the world coffee scene? There is a race to monopolize the coffee market evident in this kind of aggressive expansion that seems a bit piggy. How many coffee shops will be enough for Howard Schultz? Will he be able to quit his obsession with world conquest if he becomes President or will it end up being Trump 2.0, at least in terms of conducting a personal business while running the government. Although Howard Schultz has retired what will he do if his business falls on hard times.

Another thing that really bothered me about Howard Schultz was his insistence that he would like to be a centrist, although he ran his business as someone who is somewhat progressive. And then he had a strong negative reaction when he was asked about raising taxes. He gave a  response typical of a billionaire, who had worked hard and believed he deserved to keep what he had earned with the sweat of his brow or the brain cells in his well-educated brain. He didn’t give much credit to his beloved “partners” (employees) who made his retail operation function and allowed him to conquer markets around the world. He is only one person. He could not have met his grand expectations all alone. If you look up salaries of Starbucks employees, they are not terrible, but they are also not great. Waiters/Waitresses make about $5.45/hour, not counting tips. Baristas make from $8 to $12/hour based on length of service. What employees complained about most was a lack of opportunities to advance. To advance you have to leave, but you can now leave with a college degree that is paid for, which is something.

https://www.glassdoor.com/Hourly-Pay/Starbucks-Barista-Hourly-Pay-E2202_D_KO10,17.htm

https://www.indeed.com/cmp/Starbucks/reviews

I admire what Howard Schultz has been able to accomplish, at the same time I find myself a bit nauseated by the excessive and obsessive number of shops he has felt driven to build, staff, and brand. Personally I will not vote for any millionaire or billionaire who thinks they profited completely by their own efforts, who chose to expand instead of sharing the wealth with employees, and who thinks raising taxes on the very wealthy is shocking and something they would never consider, even as they were supposed to consider the needs of our entire nation. Such a person would come to office with a bias that would not allow them freedom of action.

An additional objection came almost immediately from the media who expressed a belief that if Howard Schultz runs as an Independent,  putting a third party in play, it will make if more likely that Trump will win a second term. If people are told that Howard Schultz was the marketer who gave Starbucks such a well-known brand and such an enormous market presence, with big profits from sales of items that cost relatively small amounts, chances are many voters will check no further. They may think that they can trade in a tainted tycoon for a shinier one. The newest Democrats have no problem with Schultz running. They would like to see more political parties offering candidates to voters. As for me, I won’t mind seeing more parties and more choices but I think this may be a bad time to make that move. I don’t even want to wait until 2020 to be done with 45. Four more years after that makes me think that one more election cycle with only two major political parties would be just fine, as it gives us the best chance to elect #46, who is highly unlikely to be an Independent.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – CBS News

Everyone Has Something to Say About the Democrats

The Democrats – the Focus of Some Fascination

Democrats have become the focus of lots of attention since 2018. Some of this focus is actually because, against all Republican attempts to rig the system in their favor (voter suppression, gerrymandering, propagandizing), Democrats managed to elect a majority to the House of Representatives. Some of this attention arises from the shock of a party who thought they had set up a situation where they would be the majority party in perpetuity going forward. Republicans felt that they had begun the dissolution of the Democratic Party. There was also shock on the part of our president whose ego kept telling him that he was universally beloved.

Republicans clearly will want to attack Democrats in any way they can, in hopes that winning these seats in the House is merely an anomaly or that a blue wave can easily turn red again. Republicans who make all party members memorize “talking points”  and pass purity tests are astonished and entertained at the diversity among Democrats and thrilled to speculate that trying to embrace so many voices will be the Party’s downfall.

And the new Democrats, who are seen as almost radicals even by more moderate Democrats, are swimming against lots of speculation in the media about whether the party is actually a big enough tent to include all of the different levels of policy that exist under that tent without splintering in enough pieces to make reelection of Trump inevitable.

The media seems almost as gleeful as the Republican Party at the prospect of a Democratic Party in disarray. They have made Alexandria Ocasio Cortez a darling of the media, but not always out of interest in what she espouses, but rather to present her as the new, extremely radical face of the newest members of the Democratic Party. She also has plenty of poise and gives a very good interview, which adds to her appeal.

Media seems to be setting up a radical v moderate Democratic race for 2020, possibly to split the Democratic vote. Why does the media want to split the Democratic vote? Much of the media is aghast at the behavior and policies of our current president. Is it all about drama and ratings? It is not as if these new ideas have not already been put into place in other modern nations. Many modern nations have far better safety nets than our supposedly enlightened nation does and they function without constant means testing and angst about abuse.

How much do the media’s attempts to get enough information to predict future outcomes contribute to determining future outcomes? We can see that modern media can persuade voters to hold a particular point of view. Given this power it is clear that the media could also function to downplay the distance between younger and older members of the Democratic Party, to help integrate the two views, which are really not as distant as they have been made to appear. Even supposedly objective media figures seem to be playing up the distances between platforms in the Democratic Party.

There has already been much discussion about “socialism”, about AOC’s outspokenness, about radical and outrageous policy ideas like Medicare for All, taxing the rich. Our president remarks, on no less an occasion than the State of the Union address, that we cannot expect to have any legislation going on in Congress at all as long as there are investigations being conducted in the House. The policies that the new members of Congress subscribe to evoke strong reactions. Heresy! Sacrilege! Impossible! Will explode the deficit! Yikes!

Playing Defense

But consider the policies the Democrats have already been pursuing: validity of the Trump election, foreign intervention in an American election, collusion to invite foreign intervention in an American election, is the President of the US a criminal, has the President of the US violated the Constitution of the United States, ending voter suppression strategies including extreme gerrymandering, protecting health care (both the ACA and women’s reproductive health), protecting our alliances, protecting the UN, protecting the environment, protesting systemic economic inequality, immigration policies and secure borders, laws about guns to prevent mass shootings, areas of concern that have arisen from having a white supremacist in the presidency such as racism, the #metoo movement as pushback from having a misogynist in the presidency, pushback against appointments of people whose beliefs are antithetical to the agencies they head, reform of overly zealous and racially uneven imprisonment realities.

It is a long list of Democratic concerns, but all of these issues have tended to be the defensive actions of a party that does not have a majority in power. I don’t remember a time when there were so many policies where approaches were so divided along partisan lines. I believe that Republicans are deliberately partisan and unwilling to compromise and that they have a purpose in mind, an undemocratic purpose, which is to make the policies of the right the basis of our entire governance once and for all. I believe that we are basically in a war to determine what “future-America” will be like.

Our president chastises Democrats and insists that they present him with a bipartisan solution to secure our southern border. But the President has already dictated what laws and offerings he will accept. He requires that any border security arrangements include a wall, not something about which there is bipartisan agreement. Therefore, he has already made bipartisanship an impossibility and has bought himself more opportunities to impugn Democrats for being stubborn and inflexible, although the same adjectives surely apply to Trump.

Playing Offense

New Democrats in the House could be seen as simply upping the ante in the Party wars which have been steadily escalating in this past decade. New Democrats do not want to be on the defense. They say why don’t we play some offense. Since the Republicans think they have us on the ropes, why not play a little rope-a-dope. AOC says “we can be audacious”. Perhaps she is saying that Democrats have plenty to lose by playing it safe, by simply trying to plug the holes that Republicans are blowing in the protections we have for “we the people”, and by passing policies that blast new holes in protections the people rely on to keep them from exploitation, poverty, and labor abuse. Without a majority in any branch of government, defense was the Party’s only move. But this is a new day, winning the House in 2018 has perhaps given Dems enough encouragement to go on the offensive. The people may be more than ready to accept things that have never actually been offered before.

Medicare-for-all, for example, if implemented could prove as difficult to overturn as any other useful social program. Republicans are not the only ones who oppose it, although they will be fierce in their opposition. Americans may not like the idea of giving up their private health insurance especially if an employer pays. Americans are being told that they will have long waits for treatment and the options for treatment will be curtailed. The private health insurance industry will not go ‘gently into that good night.’ There are many obstacles. However single payer insurance is available in almost every modern industrialized nation so there is plenty of evidence that it can be successful. It will be labelled a socialist program, and the very whiff of socialism, considered anathema by Republicans, may be enough to kill the idea for most Americans.

But Paul Krugman had a few things to say on this topic in this morning’s NYT.

“What Americans who support “socialism” actually want is what the rest of the world calls social democracy: A market economy, but with extreme hardship limited by a strong social safety net and extreme inequality limited by progressive taxation. They want us to look like Denmark or Norway, not Venezuela.”…

“On the other hand, we should never discount the power of dishonesty. Right-wing media will portray whomever the Democrats nominate for president as the second coming of Leon Trotsky, and millions of people will believe them. Let’s just hope that the rest of the media report the clean little secret of American socialism, which is that it isn’t radical at all.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/07/opinion/trump-socialism-state-of-the-union.html

Just the mention of raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans makes Republicans speechless, if you can imagine that. And the Green New Deal strikes people who don’t believe climate change is caused by human activity as a direct attack on Capitalism and also impossible.

A homeowner with a bully pulpit on the Washington Post opinion page, Megan McArdle, wrote an article today to share how expensive renovation on her own home has been and what had to be done to make her home more energy efficient. She’s right. If we have to pay to retrofit our homes with efficient windows and doors, adequate insulation, solar panels, efficient heating systems, etc. most of us cannot afford to comply with any Green New Deal that requires such things. The Green New Deal seeks to make us rely less on private automobiles and trucks and more reliant on mass transit. This shift will be a difficult one for most Americans. What if the world begins to put pressure on nations that are energy hogs? What if climate change becomes absolutely impossible to ignore? Will that make a Green New Deal more palatable?

The author of the WaPo article says that implementing such policies quickly will inspire chaos and anger. Perhaps if government subsidizes some of these changes they will likely be met with less anxiety, but a slow step-by-step approach could bypass much social upheaval. Will speed of implementation prove to be necessary? How much time will environmental changes allow us? This author also raised the specter of guaranteed pay, another Progressive ask, being greeted with cheers by deadbeats. However there are people who cannot work for many valid reasons. Why should they have to jump through stigmatizing hoops because some people abuse any social program? Why should all social programs be twisted to assume that everyone will want to abuse the system?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/were-nuts-isnt-a-great-pitch-for-a-green-new-deal/2019/02/07/f605b220-2b2f-11e9-984d-9b8fba003e81_story.html

There was also this cartoon this morning, which offers AOC a bit of support:

I am not allowed to capture it, so use the following link to see it.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/02/08/how-is-it-that-occasio-cortez-is-one-described-irresponsible/

Conclusions

So we are most likely to continue to be inundated by speculations about that Democratic Party full of voices that are all saying different things at the same time. The problem will be not to set a platform in stone until Dems see how public opinion is trending in 2020. By the time of the Democratic convention we can hope that some kind of policy platform is decided on that is acceptable to all members of the party and gives Dems an electable set of initiatives. Too bad Dem party heads are not as good at creating consensus of action (if not thought) as Nancy Pelosi is. There is nothing to be gained from being a meek party, a party on defense. It does seems that if you don’t want the ‘less’ agenda of the Republican Party it is time to go all out and ask for the ‘more’ agenda of the Democratic Socialists. Compromising from the right to the middle is unlikely to solve any of America’s current issues. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez seems to have ideas that offer the most juice for Democrats. Why not be audacious?

Photo Credit: Google Image Search – Fox News

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 2019 Book List

February 2019 Book List

There is no clear pattern in the books available this February, most of which were published in January. Topics are varied. Fiction seems to have made a comeback. Fiction titles outnumber nonfiction. Plenty of crime offerings and some thrillers that look quite interesting. There is even an offering from a daughter whose mom was a numbers runner. I am still working on Churchill: A Walk with Destiny by Andrew Roberts, which has me immersed in British politics, and right now in World War II. This is a great book but very long and I have not been able to set aside good time for reading. However, this book is well worth the investment in time that it takes to read the over 1,000 pages. Churchill is a fascinating political figure and, given his contributions to bucking up Britain, which had to fight Germany almost alone until America finally entered the war, he was a true hero in Britain. In fact he should be remembered as a hero by all of us, because Hitler didn’t win and we owe that to Churchill and the people of the UK.

Amazon

Literature and Fiction

The Cassandra: A Novel by Sharma Shields

The End of Loneliness: A Novel by Benedict Wells

Golden Child: A Novel by Claire Adam

The Age of Light: A Novel by Whitney Scharer

The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin

Lost Children Archive: A Novel by Valeria Luiselli

The Study of Animal Languages: A Novel by Lindsay Stern

Finding Dorothy: A Novel by Elizabeth Lells

The Night Tiger: A Novel by Yangsze Choo

Enchantée by Gia Trelease

Mystery and Thriller

American Spy: A Novel by Lauren Wilkinson

Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds: The First Official Stranger Things Novel by Gwenda Bond

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Early Riser: A Novel by Jasper Fforde

Stalker: A Novel (Joona Linna) by Lars Kepler

The Next to Die: A Novel by Sophie Hannah

Never Tell: A Novel by Lisa Gardner

The Killer Collective by Barry Eisler

The Moroccan Girl: A Novel by Charles Cumming

Biographies and Memoirs

Wise Guy: Lessons from a Life by Guy Kawasaki

Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country by Pam Houston

Jimmy Neurosis: A Memoir by James Oseland

The Unwinding of the Miracles: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything that Comes After by Julie Yip-Williams

Wild Bill: The True Story of America’s First Gunfighter by Tom Clavin

No Beast So Fierce: The Terrifying True Story of the Champawat Tiger: The Deadliest Animal in History by Dane Huckelbridge

Figuring by Maria Popova

Together: A Memoir of a Marriage and a Medical Mishap by Judy Goldman

Sounds Like Titanic: A Memoir by Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman

Daniel Morgan: An Inexplicable Hero by James Kenneth Swisher

Nonfiction

Drug Warrior: Inside the Hunt for El Chapo and the Rise of America’s Opioid Crisis by Jack Riley

The Wild Bunch: Sam Peckinpah, A Revolution in Hollywood, and the Making of a Legendary Film by W. K. Stratton

Liquid Rules: The Delightful and Dangerous Substances that Flow through Our Lives by Mark Miodownik

Parkland: Birth of a Movement by Dave Cullen

Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster by Adam Higginbotham

Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport

Nature’s Mutiny: How the Little Ice Age of the Long Seventeenth Century Transformed the West and Shaped the Present by Philipp Blom

How to Disappear: Notes on Invisibility in a Time of Transparency by Akiko Busch

Good Kids, Bad City: A Story of Race and Wrongful Conviction in America by Kyle Swenson

The Shape of Life: One Mathematician’s Search for the Universe’s Hidden Geometry by Shing-Tung Yau, Steve Nadis

Underground: A Human History of the World’s Beneath Our Feet by Will Hunt

Science Fiction and Fantasy

Black Leopard Red Wolf by Marlon James

Polaris Rising: A Novel: The Consortium Rebellion by Jessie Mihalik

Early Riser: A Novel by Jasper Fforde

Broken Stars: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation by Ken Liu

A People’s Future of the United States: Speculative Fiction from 25 Extraordinary Writers by Charlie Jane Anders, Lesley Nneka Arimah, Charles Yu, Victor LaValle, and John Joseph Adams

The New York Times Book Review

Jan. 6th

Crime

The New Iberia Blues by James Lee Burke

The Burglar by Thomas Perry

No Sunscreen for the Dead by Tim Dorsey

Lives Laid Away by Stephen Mack Jones

North of Dawn by Nuruddin Farah

Poetry

The Flame by Leonard Cohen

Nonfiction

Born to Be Posthumous by Mark Dery

The Future of Capitalism by Paul Collier

Never Home Along by Rob Dunn

The War Before the War by Andrew Delbanco

Fault Lines by Kevin M. Kruse and Julian E Zelizer

Nonfiction Shortlist (Topic-Food)

The Bread and the Knife: A Life in 26 Bites by Dawn Drzal

Crave: A Memoir of Food and Longing by Christine S. O’Brien

Kitchen Yarns by Ann Hood

Jan. 13 th

Fiction

Sugar Run by Mesha Maren

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

The Red Address Book by Sofia Lundberg

Revolution Sunday by Wendy Guerra

My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite (Nigeria)

The Shortlist – 2 Japanese Writers

The Frolic of the Beasts by Yukio Mishima, trans. by Andrew Clare

The Cake Tree in the Ruins by Akiyuki Nosaka, trans. by Ginny Tapley Takemore

Nonfiction

Anne Frank’s Diary in Graphic Form by Ari Folman and David Polonsky

Duped by Abby Ellin

An Unlikely Journey by Julián Castro

The Breakthrough by Charles Graeber

Jan. 20 th

Late in the Day by Tessa Hadley

Unquiet by Linn Ullmann

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

Restoration Heights by Will Medearis

Nonfiction

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff

The Birth of Loud by Ian Port

Breaking and Entering by Jeremy Smith

Bluff City by Preston Lauterbock

Prisoner by Jason Rezaian

The Shortllist

Nervous States: Democracy and the Decline of Reason by William Davies

The Free Society in Crisis: History of Our Times by David Selbourne

Try Common Sense: Replacing the Failed Ideologies of Right and Left by Philip K. Howard

Jan. 29 th

Nonfiction

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee by David Treuer

Inheritance by Dani Shapiro

The World According to Fannie Davis by Bridgett M. Davis (A daughter writes about her mother – a number’s runner)

In My Mind’s Eye: A Thought Diary by Jan Morris

Help Me by Marianne Power

Aristotle’s Way by Edith Hall

The Longest Line on the Map by Eric. Rutkow

Russell Baker books (Mr. Baker just passed)

So This is Depravity

Growing Up (Pulitzer Prize)

The Good Times

Book of American Humor

The Upside-Down Man

The Norton Book of Light Verse

Fiction

Hark by Sam Lipsyte

The Perfect Nanny by Leila Silmani

The Falconer by Dana Czapnick

An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria)

The Shortlist – History in Fiction

The Churchill Woman by Stephanie Barron

The Eulogist by Terry Gamble

The Perilous Adventures of the Cowboy King by Jerome Charyn

Mad Blood Stirring by Simon Mayo

Feb. 1 st

Best Winter Thrillers

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

As Long As We Both Shall Live by JoAnn Chaney

The Plotters by Un-Su Kim

Watching You by Lisa Jewell

The Current by Tim Johnston

The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Fay

Crime Fiction

Tombland by C. J. Sansoms

The Black Ascot by Charles Todd

The Suspect by Fiona Barton

The Murder Pit by Mick Finlay

Fiction

Where Reasons End by Yiyun Li

The Weight of a Piano by Chris Cander

The Dakota Winters by Tom Barbash

The Spirit of Science Fiction by Roberto Bolaño

The Shortlist – 4 novels

Golden Child by Claire Adam

The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay

The Patricide of George Bejamin Hill by James Charlesworth

Talent by Juliet Lapidos

Publisher’s Weekly

Jan 7 th

New Iberia Blues: A Dave Robicheaux Novel by James Lee Burke – F

Thick: and Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cotton – NF

Burned: A Story of Murder and Crime that Wasn’t by Edmund Humes – NF

The Banished Immortal: A Life of Li Bai by Ha Jin – NF

Lives Laid Away by Stephen Mack Jones – F

Wanderer by Sarah Léon, trans. from the French by John Cullen – F

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss – F

An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma – F

How to Date Men When You Hate Men by Blythe Roberson – NF with humor

Mouthful of Birds by Samantah Schweblin, trans. from the Spanish by Megan McDowell – SS

Looker by Laura Sims – F

The Drowning by J. P. Smith – Thriller

Slayer by Kiersten White – F

Jan 11 th

The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders – Science Fiction

Big Bang by David Bowman – F

The Breakline by James Brabazon – Thriller

Diderot and the Art of Thinking Freely by Andrew S. Curran – NF

No Sunscreen for the Dead by Tim Dorsey – Crime novel

Aristotle’s Way: How Ancient Wisdom Can Change Your Life by Edith Hall – NF

Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal (Pride and Prejudice Pakistani-style) – F

Last Night in Nuuk by Naviaq Komeliussen, trans. from the Danish by Anna Halager – F

Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee – F

Hark by Sam Lipsyte – F

Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer – YA – F

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro – NF

Unquiet by Linn Ullmann – F

The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay – F

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson – F

Jan. 18 th

The Weight of a Piano by Chris Cander – F

The Kingdom of Copper by S. A. Chakraborty – Fantasy

The Current by Tim Johnston – Thriller

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land – Memoir

The Alarming Palsy of James Orr by Tom Lee – F

Camelot’s End: Kennedy vs Carter and the Fight that Broke the Democratic Party by Jon Ward – NF

The Magic Feather Effect: The Science of Alternative Medicine and the Surprising Power of Belief by Melanie Warner – NF

The Nowhere Child by Christian White – F

Last Boat of Shanghai: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Fled Mao’s Revolution by Helen Zia – NF

Jan. 25 th

Golden Child by Claire Adam – F

The Twenty-Ninth Year by Hala Alyan – SS

The Prisoner of Limnos by Lois Mc Master Bujold – F – Series

Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen – F

Deep Creek: Finding Hope I the High Country by Pa Houston – Essays

Out of the Dark by Gregg Hurwitz – Orphan X – F

The Plotters by Un-Su Kim, trans from the Korean by Sora Kum-Russell – Thriller

We Cast a Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin – F

Feb. 1 st

Stalin’s Scribe: Literature, Ambition, and Survival: The Life of Mikhail Soloknov by Brian J. Boeck – Bio

Empty Planet: The Shock of Global Population Decline by Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson – NF

Europe: A Natural History by Tina Flannery with Luigi Boitani – NF

El Norte: The Epic and Forgotten Story of Hispanic North America by Carrie Gibson – NF

Lady First: The World of First Lady Sarah Polk by Amy S Greenberg – Bio

What We Did by Christobel Kent – F

A People’s Future of the United States: Speculative Fiction From 25 Extraordinary Writers, edited by Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams – SS

The Ruin of Kings: A Chorus of Dragons, Bk. 1 by Jenn Lyons – Fantasy

Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken – F

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides – F

I Am A God by Giacomo Sartori, trans. from the Italian by Frederika Randall – F

The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer – F

Off Season by James Sturm – Graphic Fiction

The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays by EsméWeijun Wang – NF

The Glovemaker by Ann Weisgarber – F

 

 

 

If You Give Trump the Purse Strings (Dark Version)

If you give Trump a presidential campaign he will seek out a Russian leader to help him win.

If you give Trump help from Russia he will win. He will become the President of America.

Then he will want a White House like a Saudi King’s palace.

If he can’t have a palace he will have a fancy golf club or two – his fancy golf clubs

If he appoints all his cronies to govern/rule with him they will fight to be Dad’s favorite, give bad advice; they will leak the chaos.

If he fires the most contentious ones we will get a lot of new books. The new cronies he appoints will be just like the old ones.

If he can’t get absolute loyalty from his staff and cabinet he and his family will govern America all alone.

If the Democrats take the House he will find a way to bring them to heel by insisting that we need to build a wall along the southern border.

If he gets a wall, he will know he can have anything he wants.

If he can’t get his wall he will shut down the government until he finds out he can’t give the SOTU in the House of Representatives.

If he gives the SOTU he will declare a National Emergency to get his wall.

If he declares a National Emergency he can wrest control of the purse strings away from the House.

 

If he gets control of the purse strings, he may be able to turn the White House into a Saudi King’s palace.

If he gets control of the purse strings, he will know he can have anything he wants.

Trump will finally be a winner.

America and “we the people” will have to do whatever Trump says.

What will we be doing?

Photo Credits: From Google Image Searches – scoop nest.com, Reductress, Mondo Design, USA Today’s FTW, ibtimes.com, YouTube, The Wrap, CNBC.com, Business Insider, Times of Israel, The Daily Beast, CNN.com, CBS 42,Ya Libnan.jpg, Etsy, tenor.com, IBTimes.UK

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Dividing the World

Dividing the World Then

In 1494 Spain and Portugal signed a treaty (the Treaty of Tordesillas) which divided the New World (of which very little was known) between the two nations. They had the Pope (Alexander VI) back their treaty. Reactions of the rest of Europe were muted according to historical accounts (no TV, no radio, no tweeting). Spain and Portugal dominated trade because they had the most ships. This treaty was mostly about trade. Places discovered by and claimed for Spain could only trade with Spain and vice versa. Brazil, a nation that speaks Portuguese, is a legacy of this treaty.

By the time other countries entered the age of discovery they defied the treaty and traded with Spanish land claims and Portuguese land claims indiscriminately, although often by smuggling or other clandestine approaches. In this age when Protestantism was growing, the value of a Papal Bull did not carry the same cachet it once did. Today we see it as kind of the height of imperiousness to divide the New World between two of the many nations in Europe, but these were imperial times, the days of Kings and Queens, and divine right. Cockiness was an expected characteristic of royalty.

Dividing the World Now

What if Putin and Trump, in their mysterious private conversations have been indulging in something very old and once a prerogative of royalty. What if they have been discussing an arrangement to divide the world between them, each laying claim to a sphere of influence with the other vowing to stay out unless an agreement is reached to act together. What if Trump has agreed to leave Eastern Europe, the Middle East (except Israel and Saudi Arabia), and Africa to Putin and Trump gets everything in the Western Hemisphere (with Western Europe, China, Japan, and perhaps Korea existing outside the sphere of influence agreement).

This could explain why Trump is retreating from the Eastern Hemisphere, resigning from wars, old alliances, treaties, organizations and even the United Nations which many (especially Republicans and Russians) would like to see disband. If Putin has “kompromat” on Trump, if Trump is under his thumb, Putin might convince Trump to comply with such an arrangement. Kompromat may not even be necessary as coercion. It is not actually out of line which what Trump wants with his America First policy and his ridiculous obsession with America’s victimhood at the hands of all our allies. It seems that Trump does not have a problem believing, at one and the same time, that America is both a great nation and a victim of every other nation.

Dividing the world with Putin might explain why Trump suddenly wants to pull all of our troops out of Syria and Afghanistan and put troops into South America. This might explain why he wants to leave NATO. It would make Russia quite happy if we end our alliances in Western Europe and it would leave Russia free to restore the former boundaries of the Soviet Union by gobbling up states freed by the collapse of the USSR (and perhaps add new states). It would leave Africa to Russia and China and they would have to either share the troubled continent or compete to influence/exploit African nations. Trump, who doesn’t like brown people or Muslims would be freed of dealing with “shithole” countries and people.

Now this is a totally speculative theory that I have been considering, but not totally outside the realm of possibility. In a history stack about the Spanish/Portuguese Treaty to divide the New World two responders had this to say:

In 1497 John Cabot (aka Giovanni Caboto) claimed the Grand Banks off Newfoundland for England in the name of Henry VII.

In 1524 I of France commissioned Giovanni da Verrazzano to explore the coast of North America from Florida to the St. Lawrence. Ten years later, in 1534, Francis commissioned Jacques Cartier to explore the coast of Newfoundland and the St. Lawrence River further. curiouser

@curiouser: For much of the last 1000 years European monarchies have treated the world as a giant “boys only” playground. When one or two of the bigger boys are playing at one end and claim the whole field for themselves as “private territory”, the point of the game for everyone else doesn’t have to actually be spoken – it is simply to see who can flaunt the claim most boisterously without getting beat up. – Pieter Geerkens

https://history.stackexchange.com/questions/23650/what-did-other-european-powers-say-when-portugal-and-spain-signed-the-treaty-of

Perhaps there is not an explicit agreement between Putin and Trump to divide the world between them, but they talked about something that they did not want the rest of the world to know about. These behaviors we are seeing, this flirtation, may not be part of an actual agreement, but just the twisted tango of two narcissists who have different goals, although Trump seems to think their goals are the same.

If Putin wants acceptance and inclusion on the world stage then Trump seems determined to get that for him even if we choke as he tries to shove an alliance down our throats. Clearly the way that Putin runs Russia is still unacceptable to most Americans. We have no desire to live in a state that uses fear to keep citizens in line and threats to weaken the knees of target states. Putin governs like the mafia once governed neighborhoods, by bullying and requiring payment for protection to the very people who are doing the bullying. But the ultimate threat underlies it all. You could be imprisoned, or you could die.

Our survival instincts warn us away from making friends with a nation that governs its people in these ways. Why isn’t this survival instinct functioning in our President? Does he think he can keep Putin friendly by admiring him? All of these considerations explain why many Americans await the outcomes of the Mueller investigation with such a mixture of hope and fear. We have never before had a President who seemed enamored of our enemy.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Pixels

 

 

 

 

Trump, America First, and Venezuela

Trump, America First, and Venezuela

America First, as Trump proclaimed it during his campaign for the presidency in 2016, sounded good to some Americans (MAGA). Trump promised to put America’s interests first. He railed against all our allies who, according to his reckoning, had let America pick up the tab for far too many military operations over too many years. His followers, the Trumpers, also were led to believe that Trump intended to take care of the forgotten Americans who had lost their jobs to outsourcing and industrial migration.

To give some credit to Trump, he has tried to do this. Someone said on the news just today that the problem Trump has is that he is trying to bring back the America of 20 or 30 years ago and that the world does not do business the same way now (not an exact quote). Trump does seem out of step with economic changes that are most likely irreversible. He tried to save the Carrier plant in Indiana. That fell through. He tried to help Harley Davidson but made things worse. He celebrated when FoxConn said it would bring 13,000 jobs to Wisconsin, but today’s news suggests that that will not happen. Of course he also stepped all over his attempts to keep jobs in America with his tariffs.

Trump said he would deport illegal immigrants who were taking American jobs and using American benefits. Trump backed himself into a corner when he promised a wall that many think is a waste of money and which will not address the real reasons for high numbers of folks living here without proper documents. Despite the fact that just building a wall is an oversimplification of a more complex problem, to his “cult” members it said not only America First, but Americans First.

America First is a slogan that was not greeted with cheers by many other Americans who did not end up being followers of Trump. It harkens back to things that Hitler promised the German people that lead to World War II and the murder of 6 million Jews. It echoed the words of Nazi sympathizers in American who liked to repeat the slogan ‘America über alles’, because it echoed Hitler’s slogan for Germany. There are far too many authoritarian and genocidal memories to make this stance palatable to Americans who remember the history of the slogan. Did the President know about the connections to Nazism? His family immigrated to America from Eastern Europe so he probably did. It doesn’t matter if he makes the connection or not, and we cannot read his mind, but it matters to many Americans who don’t like the slogan and don’t like the isolationist positioning that goes with it.

But, this America First policy may have a lot to do with speculations about our future activities in Venezuela and with the drumbeats of war that are sounding, at least in the media. It happens that John Bolton, for one reason or another, did not hide his notebook from the press. The list on his legal pad had the mysterious entry 5000+ troops to Columbia. Guess where Columbia is? It’s in South America, bordered by Panama, Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador and Peru.

This is John Bolton we are talking about, a man with a reputation as a war monger. If his list has an item that says 5000+ troops to Columbia, media sees that as a possible step towards intervening in Venezuela. Venezuela is an oil rich nation, but Nicolás Maduro, dictator-in-charge is either not good with economics (at all), or is a big time thief because his people, living in what was once a thriving economy and what is now a failed state, are starving. Oil is a commodity that has fallen prey to a set of market circumstances that have hurt its value. There is a lot of competition in the oil market these days and price per barrel rates have vacillated accordingly. Natural gas is readily available because of fracking and is cleaner to burn than oil, so that is helping to drive down the price of oil. Perhaps Maduro is not completely to blame but has still proved to be incompetent.

When Trump was running for the presidency he often chided America for leaving Iraq without taking over the oil and annexing those sites for America. He attributed the fact that we left the oil wells for Iraq (or perhaps ISIS) to the wimpy behavior of President Obama, who took the last troops out of Iraq. It appears that Trump would fit in well back in the Age of Imperialism.

It is not as if modern America has never been guilty of taking advantage of another nation; we have meddled often and deeply in the name of both democracy and capitalism. Since World War II many nations give space to American military bases, berths to our ships, and hangers for our planes, and not always out of the kindness of their hearts. But it’s not easy to steal oil  or annex oil wells. There is the problem of manning these operations, even if ownership is not disputed, the problems of shipping the oil, and the problems of optics, since the media sees all.

So, although Trump’s eyes may light up at the thought of all that oil, that is unlikely to be the reason that we are backing Juan Guaidó as the man to take Maduro’s place. He is the man the people of Venezuela want, but so far Maduro controls the military.

Perhaps the reason for tiptoeing so close to the regime change line has to do with Trump’s passion to stem migration from Venezuela and neighboring countries. People have been flooding out of Venezuela. Many have gone to Chili and Columbia. Current wisdom advises Trump that if he wants to stem migration he needs to attack the problems people are facing in South America from bad leaders, to violent gangs, to changes in climate that have made food production unpredictable. Add these problems to those that are plaguing oil markets and you have a perfect storm. People cannot stay where life has no quality, where food is scarce, and where their children are either starving, or forced to join a gang or die.

Trump’s America First stand has him withdrawing from international entanglements around the globe. He took us out of the Paris Climate Accord, decided not to join the Trans Pacific Partnership. He wants to leave NATO and the UN. His isolationist tendencies argue against American involvement in the affairs of South American nations. However, if propping up South American economies and cleaning up violent gangs will end the caravans of people so traumatized that they can’t wait to leave home, if it will end the lines of “undesirables” seeking asylum in America, then sending troops to Columbia sounds like something Trump’s people might suggest (or that Trump might suggest). Trump does not want brown people, people who don’t speak English, or people who are poor. He says there is no room for these people in America. He wants a wall to keep them out. But he may be hedging his bets on the wall by supporting a little regime change and a little military action to reverse the decline of certain South American or Central American nations.

Perhaps that cryptic note on Bolton’s tablet meant that sending 5000+ troops to Venezuela is imminent, especially since the first thing on the list had to do with Afghanistan, but experts say that sending troops into a large failed state like Venezuela would be like getting America involved in another Vietnam. Experts also tell Trump that a wall is not what we need to solve the problems of migrants who enter America illegally. However, once Trump decides that he know best, all the expert advice in the world will not sway Trump. He is busy listening to his gut, which he tells us he trusts more than he trusts experts.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – New York Post

This is a view from the cheap seats.