Point of View Columns

Pelosi and Taiwan and Poking the Bear and a History Lesson

If there are any historians around 500 years from now, an academic specializing in Ancient American History will be tackling a never solved question – why, in August of 2022, did United States Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi decide that it was a good idea? All writings from the time will yield nothing that seems like a satisfactory answer because it would seem self-evident, viewed through a 500-year lens, that there would seem to be no possible good that could have come from that trip.

Of course, we are in the here and now, and the rationale for the Pelosi in Wonderland Tour has ranged from the Speaker of the House can travel anywhere in the world, whenever she wants to it is critically important that on August2, 2022 the highest ranking American official to visit Taiwan since Newt Gingrich in 1997 just had to be in Taipei.

No matter that the China of 1997 is not the China of 2022.

No matter that Xi Jin Ping has become the very clear leader of a China that is on a path to global importance that has not been seen in centuries.

No matter that the very existence of an independent Taiwan, buttressed by support from Americans and Europeans is a constant reminder of the humiliation visited upon China by Americans and Europeans for several centuries. (more on that in a moment)

What is clear is that somehow, in the middle of a continuing global pandemic, a war in Ukraine that is a few missteps from engulfing a good part of the planet and a global economy that is spinning madly to who knows where, the Pelosi Braintrust (now there is an oxymoron) thought it was a good idea for her to visit Taiwan. And we should keep in mind that the Taiwanese leadership has not stayed in control in Taiwan, less than 80 miles from China by poking the bear unnecessarily. In other words, this visit was engineered by Nancy Pelosi herself and so-called “hawks” in America (“hawks” who never seem to find their way to a battlefield) who thought that it was important to poke the Bear Called China in order to prove American strength and superiority and not the government of Taiwan.

The best way to explain the peril of this particular strategy is for Americans to suspend their knowledge of history and imagine that a few hundred years ago the Chinese Empire, with superior weapons and technology, took over major parts of America. Subjugating Americans, degrading American culture and religion and treating this country (along with the Japanese Empire) imposed a colonial structure on Americans.

Imagine that American churches and cultural buildings were defiled and destroyed. Imagine that American women were treated as whores or servants and that American men were considered to be disposable labor that could be shipped to China to work in mines or infrastructure projects until they died. And imagine that at some point the Chinese left but considered California to be a colonial possession because of its gold and agriculture.

Imagine that after the Civil War the defeated Confederates fled to what is now Florida and declared it an independent state and that China recognized the Republic of Florida as an independent state although the American government had never agreed to such an arrangement.

Now imagine that over a century later America has gained new strength and power. Now America reclaims California because it had always been a part of America until the Chinese came along. Now America resents the Republic of Florida as an insult to its sovereignty and does not accept the Republic as a permanent arrangement, especially since the Chinese continue to assert the independence of the Republic of Florida as a nation worth defending with Chinese blood and treasure.

If you can imagine this historical arrangement and change the time and place and players you can begin to understand that China’s concerns regarding the West are not imaginary. The Chinese suffered degradation and humiliation at the hands of the West for centuries even though the West acts like the past – particularly the uncomfortable truth about the past – is no relevant.

But sometimes it is good to look at the world through the eyes of the person on the other side of the table.

Clearly Speaker Pelosi and her enablers have failed to do that and the world is less safe today because of her thoughtless actions.

Point of View Columns

Reflections during October 2021

Reflections During October 2021

October 4, 2021

It now appears that Cult of Trump entails a full and complete divorce from reality, no matter that there are billions of witnesses to that reality. Case in point, former Vice President Mike Pence has reduced the 1.6.21 insurrection to “a single bad day”. And he says this even though the insurrectionists announced a very clear intention to hang him.

Perhaps he is hoping that this act of act of abject fealty will put him back in Trump’s good graces.

If not, I am sure that he will still continue on his own personal downward spiral of obsequiousness.

October 5, 2021

Not that it should come as a total surprise, but even though pigs are not soaring through the air in formation, there has been real and actual bipartisan activity in Congress. The reason for this seeming miracle is Facebook, and its continual refusal to embrace any corporate responsibility that does not involve pure profit for Mark Zuckerberg & Co.

Even though it is now absolutely evident that Facebook has facilitated teenage suicides and enhanced the clear and present danger of insurrection in the United States and abroad, Facebook has clearly taken pages out of the Standard Oil playbook – straight out of the 19th century.

But, as John D. Rockefeller & Co. learned, the absolute embrace of power and wealth despite human and institutional costs does have consequences.

Stay tuned for Congressional oversight regarding Facebook and other tech companies in the days and months to come.

October 6, 2021

Yesterday Pope Francis issued a formal apology of the Catholic Church for the over 300,000 instances of the sexual abuse of children by thousands of members of the clergy in France. This savagery took place over a period of 70 years and is probably not the complete number. And we can be sure that the situation in France is not an isolated instance as revelations in Ireland and the United States make very clear.

There are no words to describe the betrayal of trust and faith that these revelations reveal. What is also revealed is how institutionalism and bureaucracy can obscure even the saintliest of intentions.

October 11, 2021

While some people will persist on celebrating this day as Columbus Day, it makes more and more sense to go by the more useful celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day in order to serve as a reminder that this nation is literally built with the combination of stolen land and genocide. Of course there is the expected opposition from those who don’t deny the facts, they just don’t want to be made to feel uncomfortable with the reality of “discovery” and “settlement” which presumably is kinder to the ear than “genocide” and “stolen land”.

There will come a time in American history when the sordid history of its origins can be told honestly and without rancor, but with the understanding that, even now, we all have to do better.

October 14, 2021

As every day goes by, it becomes very clear that the elections of 2022 and 2024 may be the most important elections since 1860. We are now witness to hundreds, indeed thousands of elected officials and political operatives who (a) are denying the validity of the 2020 elections and (b) are taking legislative and administrative steps to insure favorable outcomes even if that means invalidating votes that have been cast legitimately.

There has to be a question as to how did so many (predominantly) white Americans decide that, in the face of a growing non-white national population, the best response is not cooperation and collaboration. Rather the sad course that they have chosen sets the stage for something resembling a civil war as efforts continue to impose minority rule in this nation.

Meanwhile China and Russia watch this passion play and don’t have to raise their hands as this country suffers from self-inflicted wounds that could prove to be mortal.

October 15, 2021

Historians will one day look at the 2020’s and wonder at the extreme separation from reality and even a semblance of fairness that seems to have suddenly gripped virtually half of the American people.

Whether it is the denial of election results or the national campaign to restrict the voting rights and political power of non-white people to the cruel imposition of draconian abortion bans after a half-century of providing women with the right to choose what happens to their bodies – madness and meanness seem to be the themes in which the American people have adopted as the “new normal”

October 21, 2021

It is in the realm of possibility that we will come to understand Senator Joe Manchin’s opposition to dental and vision care for the elderly. There is literally no hope that we will ever understand Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s opposition to even a “one penny” increase in the tax rates for millionaires, billionaires and multi-billion dollar companies.

In the meantime, it appears that President Biden is practicing the art of the possible by supporting a scaled down version of his Build Back Better plan. But it should be clear that even a scaled down version represents a major change in American public policy, moving away from decades of penurious and skimpy social service programs (certainly skimpy when compared to any other industrialized countries).

And that being said, it may be possible to see a further expansion if the Trump-led Republicans don’t trash the entire package a little more than three years from now.

A hell of a thought.

October 23, 2021

Somebody in the Biden Administration seems to think that, even though the administration is already dancing on the razor’s edge of multiple crises, it would be a good idea to indicate that this country is prepared to use military force against China in defense of Taiwan. Aside from the fact that such public provocative language will never cause China to pause, there is no sense that the American people are prepared to support another foreign war – with an incalculable cost of blood and treasure – when the interests of the United States are not directly at risk.

Diplomacy exists as an alternative to war. It is spectacularly useless if it is not employed in a timely fashion.

October 24, 2021

The joke of the day is that Trump is starting his own version of Facebook/Twitter through his personal communications company which is in the process of formation. The joke, of course, is that the list of investors who made money in a Trump venture could fit on the head of a pin – a very small pin. The list of Trump founded companies that have been successful could fit on the back of a cocktail napkin – a very small cocktail napkin.

Yet the investors, reputedly some large ones, along with the denizens of MAGA nation will probably put Trump in a position to partially start the company and pocket much of the invested funds if the past is prologue.

October 28, 2021

As President Biden gets ready to leave for the G-20 conference in Rome later today, it would be wise to remember that each of the other 19 countries have paid family leave for the citizens of their respective country. The United States, ostensibly the wealthiest nation in the history of the planet does not.

Somehow this is the only country where providing basic benefits for its citizens is seen as either some kind of gift for the worthy or a payment that must be earned according to some mysterious formula.

What is most astounding is that people who oppose paid family leave, like Senator Joe Manchin have no shame when it comes to this incredibly low level of meanness and disdain for his fellow citizen.

Shameful is the only word that comes to mind.

October 29, 2021

It is very clear that the Democrats, especially those in Congress, cannot break the circular firing squad habit. We saw it during the 2020 presidential campaign and we are seeing this movie again as they seem determined to find a way not to pass the infrastructure and Build Back Better legislation. On the one hand some so-called moderates (why are conservative Democrats called “moderates” when there is nothing “moderate” about denying hearing aids to the elderly of objecting to paid family leave for people who really need that support, especially in these days and times).

On the other hand, we have the self-proclaimed progressives who seem prepared the object to the good in search of the perfect. Considering the fact that the United States is behind every single industrialized country when it comes to the extent and scope of its social safety net, any advance in these areas will begin to change the conversation regarding care for the American people.

Meanwhile the Republicans must be chortling with glee as they hope and wish that the circular firing squad will result in nothing being done – in which case the results of the 2022 and 2024 elections will be easy to predict.

October 31, 2021

The Republican candidate for governor in Virginia, one Glenn Youngkin, is presenting himself as Republican who is not a Trump Surrogate. This despite the fact that all through the primary contest he refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the election of Joe Biden.

Now that he is on the cusp of victory in his race against Terry McAuliffe, he is finding that the biggest boost for his campaign has been to promise to ban the teaching of critical race theory in Virginia public schools because “it teaches white children to hate themselves”.

A few facts – remember those? – are in order. First, critical race theory is not being taught in Virginia public schools. Second, the corrections made to the narrative of American history is meant to remove all of the negative stereotypes of the past, lies and omissions that have given Black boys and girls little of which to be proud except for the passing mention of George Washington Carver, Jackie Robinson and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Finally, while the reform of the American historical narrative replaces myth with facts, it does reveal much about American history of which no white child or Black child should be proud. Consider – slavery was imbedded in the Constitution in its original iteration. Consider – ten of the first twelve presidents were slave owners. Consider – literally thousands of Black Americans were victims of white domestic terrorism between the end of the Civil War and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – it was known as lynching. Consider – during World War I blood from Black donors and white donors were segregated so that no white soldier would receive Black blood. Consider – during World War II the American military remained steadfast in its racial segregation policies even while fighting an existential war against the Axis powers.

What American, white or Black should be proud of these facts? What American, white or Black should be proud of the genocide and land theft perpetrated upon the indigenous people of this continent?

And why should white children feel that they should hate themselves in learning about the sordid facts of American history. German children are taught about the Holocaust and there are no reports of German children hating themselves. Japanese children are taught about the atrocities committed by the Japanese Imperial Army and there are no reports of German children hating themselves.

But it is clear that Mr. Youngkin has discovered a tune with which he can use his dog whistle. Animosity against Black people has worked for white candidates many times, and it should be no surprise that he would whistle that tune just as voters are going to the polls.

It is shameful what he is doing. But since he is a Republican he is certainly not alone.

Point of View Columns

Three Days in the Life of America – August 8-August 10, 2020

August 8, 2020

4,942,746 –161,365 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

If there was any doubt that we live in the United States of Crazy, the events in Sturgis, South Dakota should remove all doubt. Here are the facts:

  • The United States is in the midst of an historically massive pandemic.
  • Already 5 million Americans have been infected and over 160,000 have died with conservative estimates of 250,000 deaths by October.
  • There are no reality-based expectations of reducing the contagious aspects of this disease.
  • And 250,000 maskless, helmetless motorcycle enthusiasts from all over the United States have decided to continue their annual ritual of gathering in Sturgis, South Dakota – a small town with a population (and attendant resources) of 7,000.

There just aren’t any useful words to describe the folly of this “super spreader” event. We can wish that not a single one of the 250,000 cycle revelers was infected before he/she came to South Dakota – then the accelerant would not be poured on to the national conflagration. But science and common sense tell us that this wish is a forlorn one and that further pain and tragedy will result from this insanely reckless behavior.

Meanwhile, it should come as no surprise that Trump denied that there had been a proposal from his administration that his likeness be carved onto Mount Rushmore. Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States and the most recent of the four presidents on Mount Rushmore.

Including Trump there have been 19 presidents. And there is no way that one becomes President of the United States without having a healthy sense of self-esteem and yet there has never been the hint of a suggestion by any president that he should be on Mount Rushmore – until Trump came along.

He is truly a sad little boy who grew old but never grew up.

 August 9, 2020

5,036,387 –162,851 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

The madness in Sturgis continues. Indeed, it appears that 250,000 people are not only intent in dying for their liberty, they also intend to come back to the other 49 states from which they hail and try to kill the rest of us.

And the only reason that there are not more of these suicidal/homicidal cyclist in South Dakota is due to the implosion of the American economy over the past five months. Of course that will be small comfort to the thousands of men, women and children who will be infected by the returning defenders of personal liberty – public health be damned.

And one has to wonder when did the concept of personal liberty begin to conflict with public health concerns. It is hard to recall the last time we heard of some mass protest against the mandatory seat belt law, although it is hard to come up with a more obvious restraint of personal liberty of movement. The public health benefit has been too obvious for there to be serious argument.

There have been very few protests against laws against public urination. It can be assumed that someone extreme libertarians would suggest that this restriction is an instance of government overstepping its bounds, but the public health concerns are so obvious that even Rand Paul would be reluctant to support the Freedom to Urinate movement.

So what is it about masks? The science seems to be pretty clear that during this pandemic we are all safer with masks than without. And how going without a mask in the midst of a truly lethal pandemic is a legitimate expression of personal liberty is difficult to comprehend.

And, in the meantime, this false conflation of personal liberty and public health strategies will result in millions more infections and tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths.

And we can be sure that when Patrick Henry said “give me liberty or give me death” he didn’t have this in mind.

And, one of the many problems with Trump being president is that while we are transfixed by his transgressions and his outrageous conduct, real damage is being done by the right wing of the right wing adults who actually know how to wreak true institutional damage.

Take for example, the Office of Postmaster General. Quality postal service has been considered such a priority of the federal government that the office is actually embedded in the Constitution. There have been 75 persons who have held the office – Benjamin Franklin was the first, and now someone named Louis Dejoy runs the U.S. Postal Service.

And who is this Louis Dejoy? He is a multimillion dollar contributor to the Trump campaign. He and his wife have multi-million dollar interests in firms that are in the universe of the United States Postal Service. He is the first Postmaster General in over two decades with no record of experience with the postal service except licking a stamp.

Louis Dejoy is also a passionate supporter of Trump and the Republican Party. And, in the name of cutting costs, he fired 24 senior executives of the USPS, virtually guaranteeing the that voting by mail in November just became more difficult.

Trump is literally sabotaging the Postal Service in order to create sufficient chaos on November 3rd that his almost certain defeat by vote can be salvaged by alleging fraud, mismanagement and a flawed postal service.

All provided courtesy of Louis Dejoy.

That’s who Louis Dejoy is.

If you weren’t worried before, you should be worried now.

 August 10, 2020

5,045,564 –162,938 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

And we wake up to the news that Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar is in Taiwan meeting with the leaders of this country. By this visit Azar becomes the4 highest ranking representative of the U.S. government to visit Taiwan in decades, spanning Republican and Democratic administrations.

Questions abound, of course.

Starting with why, in the middle of a massive pandemic in the United States is the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services in Taiwan instead of being tethered to his desk in Washington helping to craft a rational governmental response to this rolling tragedy?

Second question would be why would Trump choose to provoke China, which considers Taiwan to be a rogue province of China? One would hope that Trump and his minionwould want to focus every waking hour on the pandemic and the continuing collapse of the American economy and leave China the hell alone.

In a partial response China flew several fighter jets into Taiwanese air space shortly after Azar’s arrival. Stern criticism of the visit also emanated from Beijing.

But the question still stands – with 160,000 dead Americans and a pandemic raging throughout the land, why is the Secretary of Health and Human Services flying to Taiwan? The official explanation was to “learn about Taiwanese pandemic measures”.

Which makes no sense. There are so many better ways to get information on “pandemic measures” other than an onsite visit.

It appears that this was nothing more than an effort to once again distract the American people from the Trump-made disaster that afflicts us all.

But Trump may not be such a master of distraction after all.

And speaking of distractions, at the beginning of Trump’s press conference there was an incident of shots being fired outside of the White House and Trump being hustled out of the press conference by Secret Service. Eight minutes later the press conference resumed and Trump basically used the event as a campaign rally.

His attacks on Biden for example, had no connection to fact or logic. When he was asked how he could suggest that a devout Catholic like Biden would “attack God” Trump went on a riff about the Bernie Sanders platform and then he just went into deep outer space.

He spoke about China as having released the COVID-19 virus on the world in some kind of Lex Luthor plot that could only be thwarted by Superman – i.e. Donald Trump. He also offered the absolute lie that the health care plan advocated by Biden would result in 180 million Americans losing their health care.

There is simply no way to fact check a fact-challenged person for whom truth is just a word. But we should be concerned about who believes his lies, because millions of Americans do believe him – even now, even after 10,000 lies and counting, even now after the revelation of scandal and corruption, even now after the brazen degradation of the Constitution and the governmental norms that used to be so very important. Even now after the race-baiting, name calling and childish antics that wouldn’t be tolerated of a five-year-old.

Even now.