Point of View Columns

It’s All Fun and Games Until It’s Not

One can imagine that there are significant numbers of Donald Trump worshipers who took great pleasure in watching him dismantle the norms of propriety along with the protocols of American government from the moment that he took the oath of office. His refusal to be guided by common sense or good advice must have been refreshing to those who felt stifled by the so-called Deep State.

Trump’s adoration of Vladimir Putin might have given some members of the Trump Base pause. But like their leader, they like strong leaders who don’t respect convention.

The false equivalency between neo-Nazi nationalists and civil rights advocates was clearly not a problem and even Trump’s servile posture at the altar of the National Rifle Association was o.k. Even as the American body count from mass shootings and random gun killings continued to mount, the Trump Nation was clearly willing to Stand by Their Man.

Insulting foreign leaders and entire countries was just Trump being Strong. And besides, these leaders and countries were FOREIGN and not American and therefore not worthy of even basic respect.

Railing against black Americans, Latino Americans, Mexicans and “others” was not only not a problem for Trumpistas, it was what they wanted, indeed needed. Validation that the American that was going to Great Again was also going to be White Again washed away any and all missteps, misspeaks and misdeeds when it came to Donald J. Trump.

Indeed it was all fun and games until Trump found a toy that should have been put in a shoe box in the back of a top shelf of a closet, the way dangerous items are kept hidden from children. Because when Trump discovered that he could engage in trade wars with the world without the consent or approval of Congress, the Supreme Court or any other aspect of government, he found his ultimate toy.

Trump found that he could threaten allies and enemies at will, with his tariff pen in hand he could roil the financial markets of the planet and be assured that everyone would care about what he might do next. Indeed, tariffs turned out the be the ultimate toy for a bully like Trump in that he discovered he could threaten without fear of any serious harm – at least that’s what he thought.

And then Harley-Davidson decided to build its next plant abroad in the wake of yet another tariff tsunami. Other U.S. companies reduced or shut down operations, and the entire auto industry and its millions of direct and indirect employees tried to tell Trump that he was playing with their livelihoods.

And then the bully decided it was time to punch up in class and go after China. The thing is that not being a student of history, or anything else for that matter, Trump did not realize that China would be more than sensitive to being bullied by foreign powers, the era of European-American neo-colonialism in the 19th century not being that far away. And so when Trump punched, China punched back. And then Trump nation got punched in the nose.

Farmers, manufacturers who literally earned a living selling to China found themselves on the outside looking in. Trump has been providing bailouts to some farmers, but those “farmers” are typically corporate behemoths and the MAGA hat-wearing tractor drivers are weeping in their beer.

What is tragic about all of this is that the carnage that will soon hit American consumers in a very real way could have been easily predicted and just as easily avoided. Trump minions keep saying that the harm to the American public will be “minimal”, but when people are already earning “minimal” paychecks, even “minimal” harm will hurt.

It remains to be seen whether Trump nation will turn on its hero because of the pain of the tariff wars. Keep in mind that racism, stupidity, coarseness, ignorance, misogyny and lies have not moved the needle. But economic pain has a way of drawing attention and the weeks and months to come we will learn whether Trump has overplayed his hand —–again.

 

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Point of View Columns

Cuba Si! Finally!

On December 10, 1898, the Treaty of Paris which ended the Spanish-American War also granted the people of Cuba independence. However, from that day until January 1, 1959, the United States continued to alternatively treat Cuba as a colony, protectorate, playground and private plantation. Ironically, when Cuba achieved true independence; that is when the real conflict between Cuba and the United States began.

When Cuba achieved its true independence, first from Spain and then from the United States, the United States acted like a spoiled child that had been deprived of a favorite toy or plaything. And, despite the fact that this country has a long history of embracing its former enemies (England, Germany, Japan and Vietnam come to mind), there has been something about Cuba that has precluded reconciliation for over a half century.

The British committed war crimes during the American Revolution and the War of 1812. Thousands of American men, women and children were murdered, abused and subjected to incredible hardship as part of the military policy of the British. Yet Great Britain has become America’s closest ally and it is considered poor taste to reference past crimes.

During the Civil War that was started by the treasonous Confederate States of America. Over one million people died in that war – which represented 3 per cent of the country’s population at that time (that number would be over nine million today). At the conclusion of the war, even though a supporter of the CSA killed the President of the United States, even though the CSA was clearly guilty of war crimes like the death camp in Andersonville and the slaughter of black troops at Fort Pillow, despite all of these offenses (and many more) there were no mass war crime trials attempts at systemic punishment.

Despite all the justification for retribution there was Reconstruction instead. Despite the horrific results of the Civil War the former CSA states are allowed to fly their flag of rebellion and celebrate their treason without fear of punishment to this very day.

Total American casualties in World War II exceeded one million with over 400,000 members of the military killed. Yet, within a few years of the cessation of hostilities the United States helped to rebuild Japan and Germany, their defeated foes. Within 15 years Americans were buying Toyotas and Volkswagens and all was forgiven.

Over 200,000 members of the American military were killed or wounded in the Vietnam War. Today members of the American military wear clothing made in Vietnam and American tourists travel to Vietnam for holidays on a daily basis.

The People’s Republic of China is unapologetically communist. With a population of over one billion people it is clearly, and obviously, the largest communist country in the world. Yet China is also one of America’s largest trading partners and an embargo against that country would be unthinkable.

Although the current Cuban government has never attacked the United States (although the U.S. has attacked Cuba, i.e. The Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961) an embargo has been in place for over 50 years. The level of American governmental hostility and animosity directed against Cuba has the feel of a David and Goliath scenario except that this David has neither stone nor slingshot and this Goliath possesses nuclear weapons and the largest economy in the history of the planet.

There are so many reasons why the characterization of Cuba as an enemy of the United States is wrong and illogical. And that is why it is a sign of long overdue progress that, due to the leadership of President Obama, the commencement of diplomatic relations and the resumption of trade with Cuba has begun.

Progress long overdue is still progress.

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Point of View Columns

The Road to Nowhere

It is very clear that just when you think the political scene cannot get any crazier, it does. The Teavangelical wing of the Republican Party has not only hijacked the party, it has dominated political discourse with a philosophy based on mini-facts and micro-knowledge. It is a scenario that could be the result of collaboration between Mel Brooks and Franz Kafka.

Consider the latest misadventures that are dumped in front of us on a daily basis. Just a few weeks ago Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann was the belle of the ball. After winning the absolutely meaningless Iowa straw poll some of her supporters were measuring the White House windows for red, white and blue Tea Party drapes.

And there she was, on the cover of Newsweek, national talk shows – all the time proving that when you don’t know what you are talking about it is better to be quiet. Ms. Bachmann proclaimed that the credit rating of the United States would not be damaged by a budget debate-fueled default. And then the U.S. credit rating was downgraded just for coming close to default.

Her proclaiming the national gay community as being in league with Satan was somehow considerable a passable point of view for a national political candidate. And she never backed away from that position. And, of course, she continued to announce that God had instructed her to run for president which, in the many empty rooms in her mind, should have settled the entire matter and made the actual campaign and election a mere formality.

And then, Rodeo Rick Perry jumped into the race with his spurs jangling and his six guns shooting. This would be the same Rick Perry who publicly entertained the advisability of his state seceding from the United States.

The current governor of Texas crowed that while he has been in office his state has led the nation in the creation of jobs. However, Rodeo Rick has neglected to mention that Texas also leads the nation in minimum wage jobs and if the Texas model were to somehow be applied nationally, it could only work if oil is discovered in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada and Arizona and most of us could find a way to work for less than $10 per hour.

Not content with shadow dancing with the truth regarding his so-called job creation skills, Rodeo Rick has also proudly proclaimed that he doesn’t believe in evolution or global warming and the United States Departments of Education and Energy should be dismantled. And, by the way, Social Security should also be dismantled and handled at the state level.

The breadth of his bizarro approach to the issues and challenges that this country faces would be laughable except that he is serious and he is also now the leading candidate for the G.O.Tea Party nomination. He has somehow managed to outcrazy Michele Bachmann – no mean feat – and the zealots of the right wing of the right wing are following their man like lemmings headed for the cliff.

I am just fine with Rodeo Rick not believing in evolution even though there is over a century’s worth of science that he is choosing to ignore. But it is criminal for believers in intelligent design to have their faith-based beliefs taught as science. Indeed, it is as criminal as advocating the dismantling of the Department of Education at a time when educational system of this country is facing unprecedented global challenges.

Nigeria, Ghana and Tanzania are all considered to be developing countries. They all have ministries of education. Japan, China and Germany are considered to be developed countries. They all have ministries of education. In what parallel universe could it make sense for the United States to abandon its efforts to establish a world class national educational infrastructure?

Rodeo Rick has mangled history in order to compare global warming naysayers to Galileo. He would do better to liken these pseudoscientific scientists to Jim Jones serving Kool-Aid to those who would believe.

And what must the rest of the world think? The leading G.O.Tea Party candidate does not believe in evolution or global warming, thinks that the Social Security system is a “Ponzi scheme” and has warned the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank against “treasonous” acts.

Imagining Rodeo Rick Perry on the national stage might be the stuff of late night humor, but we ignore or laugh at zealots at our own peril. Imagining Rick Perry bringing his faux Wild West demeanor to the global stage is the stuff of nightmares – and we would be wise to wake up before this nightmare comes true.

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