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Friday, April 28, 2017

Anti-Immigration Sentiment: What Trump and Sessions Need to Know

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump hit immigration issues hard, much to the delight of his Rust Belt supporters. Since his inauguration, he and his attorney-general, Jeff Sessions, have endeavored—not too successfully—to fulfill his campaign promises. In their efforts to appeal to the nativism and economic angst of denizens of America’s Rust Belt, they have repeatedly stressed the three main points of his campaign:

-          A ban on granting entry to the U.S. of people from certain predominantly Muslim countries.

-          Building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico to stop the flow of people from south of the border.

-          Punishing U.S. cities who refuse to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement; the so-called Sanctuary Cities.

So far, the administration’s efforts have met with a resounding lack of success. Federal judges shut down two attempts to impose a Muslim ban, and a federal judge in San Francisco has temporarily halted DOJs attempt to withhold federal funds from sanctuary cities. Noise continues to be made about building the wall, but Mexico has been adamant in its refusal to pay, and it’s unlikely that the congress will come up with the massive amount that would be needed to build the bloody monstrosity.

If Trump and Sessions were more aware of history, in particularly, America’s fixation on anti-immigration, they might have taken a saner approach to this whole issue.

The history of opposition to immigrants in America is older than the nation itself. Before independence, for example, Benjamin Franklin railed against the increase in the number of Germans arriving in the colonies, fearing that they would not assimilate, and would overwhelm the ‘English’ community.

Starting in the late 1790s there was vociferous opposition to political refugees from France and people from Ireland fleeing the potato famine, mainly on the basis of their Catholic faith, which led to the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, which sought to stem that flow, and Catholics in America were banned from holding public office.

In the 20th century, anti-immigrant sentiment took on a racial tone in response to the number of Asians arriving in America and competing with native born for jobs, particularly in the western states. The federal government, wanting to avoid alienating Asian countries with whom we had diplomatic relations, held out against this sentiment for a long time, but finally caved to domestic pressure, leading to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1902, which stopped all immigration from China, and the Gentleman’s Agreement with Japan in 1907, which limited immigration from that country. The Chinese Exclusion Act was not repealed until 1943, as a gesture of goodwill to our Chinese ally in World War II, but the full limitations of the act weren’t abolished until 1965.

Despite being thought of as a nation of immigrants, American nativists began pushing for exclusion of people not from northern Europe in the late 1800s, and labor unions opposed many immigrants on economic, moral, cultural, and racial reasons. Publicly, the unions stated that this influx of ‘undesirables’ would flood the labor market and lower wages.

The sentiment against Mexican immigrants, legal and illegal, which saw an upsurge in the 1990s, and a giant uptick with the rise of the Tea Party movement after 2014, is not a recent phenomenon. Anti-Mexican movements began in the early 1920s, often involving the mass deportation of Mexicans.

These past anti-immigration activities and sentiments have created foreign relations problems for the U.S., often at critical times when we’ve needed the cooperation of other countries.

More recent anti-immigration sentiment, though, has had more direct consequences. In Georgia, for example, when the state legislature passed a draconian anti-immigration law in 2011, thousands of agricultural workers fled the state for more hospitable locations, resulting in an over $300 million loss in the state’s melon crop, and a potential total economic loss of $1 billion. There have been similar losses in other states that have dipped their oars in the immigration enforcement waters.

Another important aspect of the new administration’s push for local and state governments to participate in enforcement of immigration laws (civil rather than criminal, which they have a responsibility to do) is that these police forces are ill-equipped for such work. In addition to a lack of training in the complex civil laws relating to immigration, they lack the manpower to take on immigration enforcement and still protect their communities. Further, when local police begin to involve themselves in identifying, detaining and deporting foreigners, it complicates their ability to gain the trust of the very communities they need in order to perform their principal mission.

One can’t help but wonder if the president and attorney-general have given any thought to the complexity of what they’re insisting that states and cities do. Or, do they even care?

The nation’s reputation, at home and abroad, has suffered because of past actions that were counter to our professed credo. Are they setting us up for another round of the same?

Sunday, April 23, 2017

At the Circus

Brief video clips of my visit to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus at Royal Farms Arena, Baltimore, MD on April 22, 2017.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

We need the art of leadership, not the art of the deal

In today’s climate of moral ambiguity, ethical lapses, and political uncertainty, having competent leaders at all level of government is more essential than ever.
What, though, makes a leader? Too many people believe that the mere possession of power or a fancy title makes a person a leader. Power and a title make a person a boss, or in the case of nations, a leader—but, leadership is an entirely different kettle of fish.
True leadership is not about giving orders or receiving obedience from followers. One can be a leader without a title, and with no more power than the ability to motivate people to achieve more than they believe themselves capable of achieving.
A leader, first and foremost, is someone who cares about those who follow. A true leader is more a guide and mentor than a director. The best leaders, in fact, seldom give orders; they create visions and communicate those visions to others in such a compelling way, they’re followed out of curiosity. Great leaders are great communicators. They are able to paint a vision of a positive future, and translate that vision into terms that others can understand and believe in.
Leaders are honest. They don’t tell people what they ‘want’ to hear, but what they ‘need’ to hear. They have integrity. A good leader does not have to describe correct behavior and conduct—he or she models it in every action. A good leader has the courage to take unpopular actions for the good of others, rather than pander to special interests, put personal interests first, or take the easy way out.
A leader, in order to be effective, must put the good of the many ahead of the benefit of the privileged few.
The world is a complex and dangerous place. Groups without effective leadership are little better than mobs, surging from crisis to crisis, energy dissipated in unfocused groping for coherence. Leadership is essential to move the mass in a positive direction. It doesn’t matter if it’s a social club or a nation, without effective, enlightened leadership, progress is accidental, often in the wrong direction, and many opportunities are missed.
Good leaders focus on doing the right things, rather than appeasing special interests. This is not to say that things shouldn’t be done right, but before expending energy on a task, a good leader asks if it should be done at all. One can argue that the Holocaust was an efficiently run program attempting to annihilate an entire race of people, but it’s inarguable that it wasn’t the ‘right’ thing to do.

We have lots of bosses and rulers, people who are expert at ‘making deals,’ but, if we’re ever to have true peace, security, and prosperity, what we need is better leadership.

Friday, March 24, 2017

General Michael Hayden, former director of NSA and CIA, speaks at Cold War Museum

On March 19th, General Michael Hayden, the former Director of both the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), gave the third address in CWM’s Presentation Series, CIA and NSA: A View from the Top.  Many of General Hayden’s comments were connected to his recent New York Times-bestselling book Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror.  

A very knowledgeable and enthusiastic sellout audience of 132 followed the talk with interesting questions, which was to be expected, as many were retired CIA officers.  General Hayden was very gracious throughout, including in fulfilling many requests for photos with him, and later signing copies of his book which he donated to the Museum.  He also took the time to come briefly to the Museum, despite a need to get home to deal with a family concern, and said that he would visit again for fuller tour.

Old Bust Head brewery, next door to the Museum, hosted this fundraising event for CWM on their production floor and provided great cooperation with us for it, including providing a $7 ticket for credit towards their excellent draft beer as part of the event ticket.  We expect to continue working with both the Vint Hill Winery and the brewery to host coming Presentation Series events.

The next of those, on May 21st and which will also be at the brewery, is Eyewitness as the Wall Falls: A Fateful Week in Berlin.  Col. Jim Gray (USAF Ret.) will give us a gripping day-by-day oral and visual account of his week in Berlin while the Wall slowly became more and more permeable as he crossed the border repeatedly over that time.  He will also take us into the thinking of people on both sides as much as possible, at a time when no one knew how this would turn out, and whether this would provoke a violent response from the Soviets.  For further information, please see CWM’s posting on Eventbrite:  (If you are interested, you may want to purchase tickets soon, as all three of the previous presentations sold out weeks in advance of the event.)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

pattimari: PnPAuthor Magazine

pattimari: PnPAuthor Magazine: PnPAuthor Magazine ________________________________________________________________ Cover Page                              April i...

Friday, March 3, 2017

What will replace the 'deconstructed' administrative state?

At last month’s CPAC, Trump White House strategist, Steve Bannon, vowed to ‘deconstruct’ the administrative state. While Bannon didn’t go into detail as to what such ‘deconstruction’ would consist of, administration actions in the first two months do give some clues. The first White House budget proposal, along with a hefty increase in defense spending, has drastic cuts in the budgets of civilian agencies, including a more than 30 percent cut in the State Department and foreign aid budget. In addition, appointees to head civilian agencies are both being sidelined and ignored, or are individuals who have a track record of opposing the agencies they’ve been designated to lead.
Looking at what’s going on one could easily reach the conclusion that what Bannon actually meant to say was ‘destroy.’
While die-hard Trump supporters are probably cheering as he sticks his finger in the eye of the bloated, unresponsive Washington bureaucracy, one also has to wonder if anyone is giving any consideration to what this all means.
Let’s start by conceding that government is often inefficient; many agencies are probably overstaffed; and services are not always delivered where and when they’re needed. But, is the answer to that the abolition of the agency that’s supposed to deliver those services?
Over the last decade there’s been a marked trend to militarize American foreign policy. If we strip the already modestly funded civilian foreign affairs establishment (foreign aid in its entirety accounts for less than two percent of the budget), do we plan to give that mission over to the defense establishment? Will the military be called in to patrol our national parks, or will we turn that job over to the energy and timber industries that will be given uncontrolled access? Who will assume responsibility for air traffic control, water and air quality monitoring, food and drug safety standards? These are not jobs that will do themselves, and leaving it to the industries isn’t such a good idea—don’t forget; it was shortcomings in these industries that led to the need for government monitoring in the first place.

Does government need improvement? You bet it does, but when the bath water is dirty, let’s change it, not toss the baby out in the process.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Abnormal is the new normal

The mainstream media, dubbed an ‘enemy of the people’ by Donald Trump, struggles to come to grips with an Administration that promotes falsehoods as ‘alternative facts,’ there is a plea from some conservative quarters to give the new administration a break. It’s difficult to do in the face of some of the things that have flowed from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
When State Department Foreign Service employees signed a Dissent Channel message disagreeing with Trump’s Muslim visa ban and proposing alternatives that would better achieve his oft-stated security goals, and the message was leaked, Trump’s spokesman, Sean Spicer, rather than decrying the leak of an internal document, basically said the employees should ‘get with the program or get out.’ On the other hand, when documents were leaked showing that Trump’s national security advisor, retired general Michael Flynn, lied when he said he’d not discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador and was forced to resign, Trump maintained that Flynn had done nothing wrong and the leak should be investigated.
When the media exposes another ‘alternate fact’ coming from him or one of his minions, they’re labeled ‘fake’ and ‘enemies of the people.’ When he decided to replace Spicer at a press conference, he spent most of the time ranting at the ‘fake’ press for its unflattering coverage of him and his administration.
Oh, and before I forget, much to the discomfort of many senior GOP elected officials, Trump continues to float the lie that the only reason he lost the popular vote by some 3 million votes is because there were 3 million illegal votes cast. The only support he’s received in this blatant falsehood, again, is from his minions. And now, rather than focusing on getting his administration’s act together and governing, he seems to be going back on the campaign trail, which appears to be his comfort zone.
I could go on and on, but it’s just too depressing. Some of my friends and former colleagues (a very few, I might add) tell me that I’m being too hard on the man, and that he’ll come to his senses soon and things will be normal again. I wish I could believe them, but my 50+ years of dealing with people in cultures all over the world, from kings to cannibals, have led me to conclude that absent a truly cataclysmic event, people seldom change their basic nature.  Nearly two months into the Trump Administration and I have yet to see signs of change.
I am forced, sadly, to conclude that waiting for things to return to normal is like pushing a rope up a hill. It appears that abnormal is the new normal.

Global Journalist: Zimbabwe after Mugabe

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Start your spring off with free e-Books

Beginning on March 1, and for each week following, I'm offering one of my Kindle books free to readers. This means some great reading with savings of up to $6.95, so don't miss it. The first book available is Buffalo Soldier: The Piano, a great western, which will be free for Kindles and Kindle apps March 1 to 5. If you click on the image below between March 1 and 5, you can get it free, and while you're at Amazon, check out some of my other books, or take a look at my store in the sidebar of this blog.. Check out my publisher page on Facebook for other freebies in March as well as the rest of the year.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Retired Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, Ia Drang battle commander, dies at 94

Retired Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, Ia Drang battle commander, dies at 94: Retired Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, the commander at the Battle of Ia Drang in 1965 that led him to co-author the book, “We Were Soldiers Once, and Young,” died Friday at his home in Auburn, Ala. He was 94.

Is the GOP response to the Flynn fiasco a double standard or what?

Retired General Michael Flynn, Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor, has officially resigned from his post after finally admitting that he’d lied about his pre-inauguration conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the US. While this is frankly the only honorable (and I hate having to use that word for Flynn) course of action, there is still a bit of stench associated with this debacle that hasn’t been cleared.
First, there’s presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway’s statement that the president still had ‘faith’ in Flynn just a day or two before his resignation. She obviously neglected to clear her talking points on that one. Then, there’s Trump himself saying that he was ‘unaware’ of Flynn’s situation, despite DOJ having alerted the previous administration of the problem, and presumably the Trump team as well. Then, there’s this little kick in the pants.
The Devin Nunes (R-CA) chairman of the House Intelligence Committee announced that he would not open an investigation into Flynn, citing executive privilege, but would investigate who leaked the story that led to his resignation, and why his conversation with the Russian ambassador was recorded.
I find this interesting, considering all of the congressional inquiries into former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email server, and how that might have compromised national security. I’m not even going to call this a double standard—it’s so far beyond that, it’s mind boggling. My willingness to give the new Administration and the GOP-controlled congress the benefit of the doubt is being severely tested.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

US Court of Appeals gives Trump a taste of the real world

 When former acting-Attorney General Sally Yates, a 27-year DOJ veteran, refused to defend Donald Trump’s travel ban, she was fired and replaced by Dana Boente, US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, pending Senate confirmation of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as AG. Boente promised to defend the ban, which had been ordered temporarily suspended by a federal judge in Washington. Under Boente, the DOJ immediately filed a request to restore the ban on immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
On Sunday, February 5, the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco denied the request for an emergency of the original suspension order pending a full consideration of the motion. The court requested the AGs of Washington and Minnesota to respond right away, and the DOJ to respond by Monday, February 6.
In response to the original order by US Justice James Roberts, an appointee from the Bush Administration, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) suspended ‘any and all actions to implement the ban.’

The Trump Administration, one of the least-prepared White House teams in modern history, will now get a look at how real government works. It’s not like a reality TV show where you can shoot a retake or change the script if you don’t like the way things are going. In the real world, the judicial branch is independent from the executive, and for the most part, justices take their responsibility to uphold the law and Constitution seriously, regardless of their politics. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Third record-breaking hot year in a row. Still think climate change's not real?

 In February 2015, Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, hefted a snowball on the Senate floor to underscore his denial that climate change was nothing more than a hoax. Inhofe’s circus act was part of a rambling speech trying to rebut, among other things, scientific evidence that 2014 was the warmest year on record due to climate change. Inhofe, who along with his grandchildren built an igloo near the Capitol during a record snowstorm in 2010, is noted for claiming that global warming was ‘the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.’
At the time of Inhofe’s stunt, and despite Washington’s cold weather, January 2015 had been one of the warmest January’s on record.
Now, here we are in mid-January 2017. If Inhofe wants to pull his snowball stunt this month, he’s out of luck. At 5:30 pm on January 19, 2017, the thermometer at my house in suburban Maryland, just outside DC reads 48 degrees Fahrenheit. We’ve even had a couple of days when it was near 60, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that 2016 was the hottest year on record since such we began keeping records in 1880. In fact, this marks the third year in a row of the hottest temperatures on record, and NOAA’s findings have been supported by NASA, the World Meteorological Organization, the British meteorological office, and other monitoring groups.
Now, don’t break out the sunblock just yet. Even though the U.S. northeast is warming faster than other regions of the country, it hasn’t yet reached the point where you can sun bathe year round. But, scientists see a clear warming trend since the late 20th century, and have determined that most of it’s due to heat-trapping gasses from the burning of fossil fuels. The average amount of ice in the Arctic Ocean, for instance, reached a record low in 2016.
Only the blind or the incredibly stupid could fail to see that the climate has changed. I recall in 1968, the first time I went to Southeast Asia, you could almost set your watch by the Monsoon rains. When I returned to the region in 2002, you could no longer predict when, or if, it would rain during Monsoon season.
What worries me, and should worry everyone, is that too many of the people in positions to do something about climate change before it’s too late, are too political, too greedy, or too stupid to take the necessary actions to forestall it. They’d rather say it’s a hoax created by the Chinese, or that it’s just a hoax, and the presence of the occasional snowfall proves their view. One has to wonder what they’ll say when we all wake up one day and discover that we should have done something the day before.

Somehow, ‘oops’ just won’t be enough. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

My America - it's already great, so don't demean it

After the terrible rhetoric of the 2016 presidential campaign, and with the possibility of some really exclusionary and divisive words and actions over the next four years, I think it appropriate that all Americans stop and remember that this country is, in fact, a country of immigrants--that, the Founding Fathers were immigrants or sons of immigrants--and that it is this diversity that makes us great. We don't need to make America great again, we have to ensure that it remains the great nation that it was intended to be.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

After watching this, your brain will not be the same | Lara Boyd | TEDxV...

Same car, different driver - same terrible route!

As an American, I'm conditioned to wish things will turn out for the best after an election, even when my preferred candidate doesn't win. Having watched last year's campaign, and now, watching the Trump Administration try to put saddles on bucking broncos, all the while making some really disturbing noises, I have to wonder. Do I wish this bunch well? I do want my country to prosper--I want everyone in my country to have peace and prosperity, not just a select few. But, I don't want that prosperity to be gained by short-sighted, short-term strategies that will come back in a not-so-distant future to bite us in the butt.

For several years now, I've watched certain Republicans (let's be blunt, mainly, but not solely, the Tea Party activists) pushing the GOP in the direction of exclusiveness, us vs. them, destruction, creating an America that would no longer be welcoming to people like me, an America that seems hellbent on giving the rest of the world the finger and pulling back into its shell of racial, religious, sanctimonious isolation.

Now the Republican ship (car, bus, train, some form of transportation - oh, hell, let's say car because of my illustration) has a new captain/driver. Just when I thought they'd found the worst possible leadership, they went and outdid themselves. Now, they have a . . . not sure what's the appropriate label here . . . wild driver?? at the wheel. Now, they're not just weaving back and forth all over the road, they're ignoring the road entirely.

The problem if they crash and burn is, we're in the path of that careening vehicle, and could very well become collateral damage.

Here's my graphic view of the current situation:

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Temptations - Ball of Confusion

Trump voters after the election

Trump wants to use taxes to build his wall (he'll make Mexico pay later), and he's stocked his cabinet with mega-millionaires who owe more to Wall Street than to Main Street. The poor schmucks who fell for his promises to make things great for them will, if the weeks leading up to his inauguration are any indication, have a long, long wait.

When It Comes to Trump’s Foreign Policy, Loyalty Takes Precedence over Experience

When It Comes to Trump’s Foreign Policy, Loyalty Takes Precedence over Experience

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah - A farewell address from President Obama's anger translator

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

No New Year's Resolutions for me - I'm just following my grandmother's advice

My grandmother and her first husband some time
in the early 1900s
 It is now officially 2017 and 2016 is just sad history. Many people are already failing to live up to the resolutions they made two days ago. I, for one, don’t make resolutions. I follow the rules set by my grandmother, who was mainly responsible for raising me from around the time I turned twelve; her philosophy was that if you had to make resolutions to do better at the end of the year, it meant that you’d been slacking off for a whole year, and that you’d  likely slack off again, resolutions or not, so it would be better to try and live right all the time, and not have to worry about making amends at the end of the year.
As a gag once, I used one of those computerized sign generators found online to make a little poster of Bart Simpson writing on a chalkboard, “I am what my grandmother made me.”  This was a parody of the central thesis of my first published book, a short essay on leadership entitled, Things I Learned from My Grandmother about Leadership and Life.”
Subsequently had occasion to reflect on that sentence (I am what my grandmother made me) and I came to the conclusion that what I meant originally as a joke has a larger truth imbedded within it.  Furthermore, I realized that for leaders, this is a truth that must be fully grasped.  As we mature, we are shaped by our education and experience, but the basic core of who we are has already been formed by those who guided and mentored us in our formative years.  For many of those of my generation that was largely grandmothers and other older relatives who were too old to work in the fields; and to whom fell the responsibility of “taking care of the young-uns.”
Places like West Point or the Harvard School of Business might teach us the sophisticated techniques for gaining the trust of our followers, but the basic traits of honesty and integrity either will or will not have been engraved into our behavior at the knees of that older relative before we hit our mid-teens.  Lacking that basic honesty and integrity learned from them, the techniques you learn later in life become merely tools of manipulation and exploitation.
Self-confidence is enhanced by increased knowledge and experience.  But, a true belief in yourself and your ability to succeed will have been learned from a caregiver who treated you with respect and taught you that you were a person of worth; who taught you to think highly of yourself—but, hopefully, not too highly.
This is not to say that people are incapable of change.  Far from it, but, without understanding the influences that have shaped a person during the formative years of childhood, change is more difficult. It is especially difficult, as a leader, to change people who have had the wrong values engrained from childhood.
Most importantly, though, if you’re to understand what motivates you as a leader, it helps to consider your upbringing.  You might be surprised to learn that your habits and preferences in leadership or in life in general, stem from what you learned as a child.  Once you have that knowledge about where you came from, you can more clearly see where you are, and plan intelligently and effectively for where you want to be.
So, instead of making resolutions, I make a call to action: decide what you want to be, and then be that person all year long. You’ll slip now and then, but you’re only human, and to err is human. When you do slip, pick yourself up, admit your mistake, and get back on track. That way, come the end of 2017, you won’t need to make resolutions.

It’s just that simple. That’s what my grandmother taught me.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Trump supporters: victims of the Stockholm Syndrome?

Given the intelligence community’s belief (supported by overwhelming evidence, apparently) that Russia intervened in our election on behalf of Donald Trump, it’s probably premature to say that, like it or not, he won fair and square, so let’s just say for now that he won it square. My heart can never accept this individual as the leader of the free world—hell, I wouldn’t accept him as leader of a Cub Scout troop—but, my mind says that once the voters have spoken, the system must be allowed to work its way back to something approaching normal.
With the things he said, and the things he’s done since the election, though, my mind is having trouble coming to grips with the adulation and adoration he still gets from crowds of supporters. It’s like they exist in a different universe from me and are not seeing and hearing the same things. Or, maybe they are, and they just don’t give a damn, because to them, ‘he’s one of us,’ and he’s saying what’s in our hearts.
Trump got tons of support from poor whites in the south and desperate working class whites in the Rust Belt base on his promise to ‘Make America Great Again.’ He’s never explained just what that means, but it seems to have struck a chord. What are some of the things he’s said he’d do to make America ‘great?’ Well, he’ll cancel all trade agreements. Sure, they hurt factory workers and unskilled labor in this country, but they help the overall economy, and contrary to the misinformation, they do create jobs, just not rust belt assembly line jobs. We should be beyond the smokestack economy anyway, or if not, should be supporting an education system that helps us get beyond it. He’s going to ban all Muslims from entering the country. Good luck with that one. As someone who has done visa and immigration work, I can tell you that making changes of that nature to our immigration system is complicated, and the backlash from the Muslim world will be swift, and possibly violent. Oh, and in the meantime, we’ll look even more like hypocrites than we do now. None of these things benefit Rust Belt workers.
What has he done since the election to benefit his supporters?  Well, he started.a spat with China when he had a phone call with the president of Taiwan and turned our longstanding China policy on its ear. Then, he doubled down with a Twitter rant that ticked the Taiwanese off when he referred to them as a bargaining chip in our trade negotiations with China. Smart move, considering the economic ties between the US and China. Sure, we have a deficit, but we have a deficit with almost everyone, and it’s never been a big deal except during elections. We still sell a lot of junk to Chinese consumers. Start a trade war, and that junk doesn’t get sold.
He’s been cozy with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, despite the belief that Putin directed the hacking of our election. Now, he’s even started a war of words with our intelligence community, supporting the Russians over our own people. What has Russia done for the Rust Belt lately? Right, nothing.
His cabinet and advisor choices so far have been a lot of military guys and some of the richest guys in the country; the same guys who’ve moved jobs abroad, used foreign labor over US workers (Trump himself has done this, hasn’t he, and his daughter sources goods from overseas?), been involved in destroying the environment, and basically enriched themselves at the expense of those avid Trump supporters.
But, they still support ‘their’ man. What’s going on here? Social scientist Arlie Russell Hochschild addressed this issue in her book, Strangers in Their Own Land, a study of the emotional appeal of the Tea Party among residents of Louisiana, despite clear evidence that the Tea Party politicians and corporations they support have abused them and despoiled their environment. She attributes this irrational behavior to the fact that political beliefs are often grounded in emotion rather than fact. Despite evidence to the contrary, they cling to their beliefs and continue to vote for the same politicians and support the same corporations that are giving them the shaft.

I’m seeing that same thing happening with hard core Trump supporters. Despite evidence pointing in one direction, they continue to look in the direction his little orange finger points. He talks about grabbing women’s privates, and they laugh and say ‘it’s just locker room talk;’ he flaunts his wealth, and they look on in awe. It’s like the Stockholm syndrome of politics, or a real bad dream. Only, we’re not waking up from this one. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Two foreign policy problems for the new administration

The following post is from Niume on December 16, 2016 (

As an artist, I'm (somewhat) apolitical. But, sometimes, the only way I can express my political feelings is through my art. I did this repeatedly during the political campaign season. There were just too many crazy things happening, and it would have taken too many words to express them. During the final days leading up to the election, for instance, I listened to Donald Trump promise to 'make American great again.' How was he going to do it? Well, there was the wall between us and Mexico, a ban on Muslims entering the US, repeal of the Affordable Care Act, downsizing our efforts in NATO, killing the Trans-Pacific Partnership as well as taking another look at all of our trade treaties, and kicking all undocumented aliens out of the country--and, that's not even a complete list.
Needless to say, not one of these can be accomplished quickly--if at all. But, there are two issues that Trump will have to deal with right away; our relations with China and our policy vis a vis Russia; and these thanks to his own actions (one might even say misdeeds).
So, over the past few days, I've been thinking about these two issues, and just how one might highlight them, and, of course, I reached for my pen and ink.
Trump had a phone call with Taiwan's president which, unsurprisingly, provoked a negative reaction from China. He then went on a Twitter rant, questioning the One-China policy and indicating that the way we relate to Taiwan could be used as a bargaining chip to get concessions from the Chinese. Guess what? That not only upset the Chinese even more, but ticked the Taiwanese off. They don't like to be thought of as bargaining chips. Considering the complexities of our relationship with both China and Taiwan, Trump will have some fence mending to do early in his administration.
Several times during the campaign, Trump praised Russia's leader, Vladimir Putin; praise which the Russian tepidly reciprocated. Some of Trump's confidantes and nominees have uncomfortably close ties to the Russian. Now, US intelligence is saying that Russia, probably under Putin's direction, hacked the US election which helped Trump win, an assertion that Trump continues to deny (one of his minions even suggested that this was a 'false flag' operation by US intelligence to undercut his election. Needless to say, even his GOP apologists in Congress will be hard pressed to keep supporting him unless he shows that he will put American interests first in dealing with Russia.
Oh, and lest I forget, his attacks on the intelligence community, and his aversion to intelligence briefings (because he's so 'smart') don't bode well for harmony in the coming four years.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The generals, the gentry, and the goon: what a Trump administration might look like

You can tell a lot about people by the company they keep, and while it’s often a useless and vain exercise to try and make political predictions, you can tell a lot about a president’s plans for his (and I use the masculine pronoun here, because I’m convinced that Americans, for all their protestations to the contrary, are not yet ready for a woman head of state) administration from his cabinet nominations, and his choices for advisors and senior staff.
So, a month away from the inauguration of America’s 45th president and commander-in-chief, I’m going out on a limb and making some prognostications about the administration of Donald J. Trump, and I’m going to do it based upon his announced nominations and advisor choices.
I’d like to clarify one thing before getting into the rogue’s gallery; this list of names is as accurate as I can make it, given the Trump transition’s team bandying about of names like a ping pong tournament (remember the ongoing saga of who would be nominated secretary of state?). But, even considering an individual sends a message, so take it for what it’s worth.
Some general comments: the cabinet and staff of a Trump administration is going to be heavy with brass. A number of retired generals have already been named for top positions, including secretary of defense and national security advisor. This is also likely to be the richest cabinet in history, even adjusting for inflation. The number of mega-rich people being nominated or considered is mind-boggling. And, finally, there are the people whose views of the world are far, far from the mainstream (I fervently hope), either in terms of their knowledge of science (or, pretty much anything), their views on sex, race, and humanity, or their propensity (preference?) for violence over diplomacy. Scary? If you don’t think so, you scare me.
The Generals
Retired General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis for secretary of defense. Congressional action would be required to confirm him because he hasn’t been retired long enough to legally fill this position. His nickname, ‘Mad Dog,’ says a bit about the type person he is.
Retired General John H. Kelly to head the Department of Homeland Security. Long military record, and experience in counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism, but can he supervise a diverse civilian organization with confusing chains of command and sometimes overlapping jurisdictions? What does he know, and how does he feel about immigration?
Retired General Michael T. Flynn for national security advisor. This one doesn’t require senate confirmation, and is in many ways the scariest. Flynn subscribes to a number of social media sites that expound racism and conspiracy theories, and along with his son, has spread a number of fake news stories, including the story of a child slavery ring in a DC pizza parlor that caused a North Carolina man to go there ‘loaded for bear.’
These are just the ones whose names have appeared publicly. Who knows how many more are lurking in the wings, being groomed for jobs not requiring senate confirmation. I would imagine that this worries even Republican lawmakers.
The Gentry
Many of Trump’s other nominations are uber-rich or have worrying reputations.
Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil for secretary of state. His company is under investigation for possible fraud, and is reported to have funded efforts to debunk climate change for decades (despite its own engineers finding that burning fossil fuels impacts the climate). Tillerson has close ties to Russia, and was awarded a Russian medal.
Betsy DeVos, a billionaire who is a strong supporter of charter schools and not very supportive of public schools, to be secretary of education.
Former Texas governor, Rick Perry, who vowed in the 2011 election campaign to shut down the department of energy, but couldn’t remember its name when questioned by a reporter, to be, you guessed it, secretary of energy.
Ben Carson for secretary of housing and urban development. He’s a surgeon of some renown who came up from poverty and once lived in public housing, which he compares to Communism. Would he not have been a better pick for health and human services?
Steve Mnuchin, a Wall Street trader known as the foreclosure king for the number of people he has made homeless, for secretary of the treasury.
Jeff Sessions, congressman from Arkansas, who has publicly made statements so racist that even a GOP congress is wary of him, for attorney general.
Andy Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants, and a strong opponent of raising the minimum wage, for secretary of labor.
Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma’s attorney general, who has been an opponent of clean water and clean air legislation, to head the environmental protection agency.
The Goon
Steve Bannon, former head of Breitbart News, a home for conspiracy, supremacist, and racist news, who has himself been accused of making some rather inflammatory statements, is Trump’s strategic advisor. Bannon is a supporter of the white supremacist alt-right.
The Trumpkins
Other than the fact that Trump is leaving his business empire in the hands of his children (or, so he says), and that they played key roles in his campaign, we’re left to guess what role the Trump kids will play in his administration. Of course, we can guess. Even before the inauguration, they’ve been running around the globe meeting with senior officials on a number of foreign policy issues. All I can say on this is, stay tuned.
What does it all mean?
I wish the hell I knew what all of this means. I know, at the outset I said we would know him by the company he keeps. But the signals are decidedly mixed. There will be strong military influence in the administration, which could mean even more reliance on force over diplomacy going forward. The civilian positions definitely favor the 1%, so that leaves the middle class, working class Trump supporters out in the cold. I can’t see any policies coming out of this crowd that favors the working stiff. The environment’s in for a hard time. Here you have a cabal of deniers and despoilers who make the 19th century robber barons look like saints (almost).
Already there have been ominous signs. The transition team asked the energy department for a list of the names of employees who worked on climate policy during the Obama administration. Now, why in hell would they need that? Thankfully, DOE refused to divulge names, but I don’t think we’ve heard the last of it.
We are where we are because millions of American voters wanted change. Well, all I can say is, you have to be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.
Caveat Emptor.