Point of View Columns

Requiem for America

Any honest appraisal of the history of the United States would conclude that this is a highly imperfect country. Founded on the conquest and slaughter of the indigenous people encountered by the first Europeans on this continent, there is no way to find any aspect of its beginnings that should be celebrated.

Built upon the unholy twin pillars of slavery and white supremacy, the establishment of what became the United States of America cannot possibly be the source of pride for any human being with a sense of decency and an appreciation of universal humanity.

Any student of American history, which Donald Trump is decidedly not, would have to admit that the notion of Making America Great Again is a logical impossibility, since there has been no point at which this country has been great, its aspirations and mythologies notwithstanding. There have too many crimes against humanity and nature, too many inequities and far too many lies that would make any claim to greatness a false one.

Yet, in these days and times, there is a sense of danger and true peril. There is a sense that whatever pretensions or aspirations to greatness there might be, whatever glimmer of hope there might be for the future of this country, whatever possibility that dreams could become reality are in jeopardy. And that danger, that peril, that jeopardy is clearly seen in the presidency and person of Donald Trump.

For decades Trump skulked and slinked across the tabloid headlines of New York City, always pretending to be more than he was when clearly he was a lesser human being and a very unfunny clown. He claims to great fortune were always untrue and his claims to great achievement were always provably false. The bankruptcies, fake universities, unbuilt developments, sunken casinos, multiple avalanches of lawsuits, cheap steaks and even cheaper ties and general turmoil that surrounded this man condemned him to always being a sideshow in the big circus that is New York.

Historians in the future will always wonder how this classic example of the word “charlatan” ever became President of the United States. And those same historians will be very clear that Trump is the most dangerous president that this country has ever had.

While the daily kaleidoscope of his malodorous persona seeps into our consciousness through Twitter, news shows and the very atmosphere that he seeks to pollute, we are distracted from the very real danger that he personifies. We awaken with dread, wondering what terrible lie he will tell, what war he will threaten, what ally he will insult, what enemy he will bait or what part of the black community, the LGBTQI community, the women’s community or anyone who is non-white community he will seek to demean and dehumanize.

Meanwhile his minions and footmen are busily reincarnating the incarceration state and tearing down the scaffolding of regulations that protect our food, our air, our environment, our climate and our future. Trump’s reckless use of executive powers, this time seeking to circumvent the Supreme Court decision that prevents his administration from using a citizenship question in the census because of its racist and partisan intent, is yet another step in his efforts to virtually demolish the concept of balance of power and checks and balances in the federal government.

Trump will abide by no article, section or interpretation of the Constitution that keeps him from getting his way. And history clearly tells that this is how failed democracies devolve into autocracies and finally into dictatorships.

Trump personifies the trouble with modern day America. The pseudo-Christian ethno-nationalism that neatly describes what passes for his political philosophy appeals to the basest fears and meanest prejudices of his so-called base.

And, in the final analysis, Trump may be the one who proves that, despite all of its faults and errors, America could actually be worse.

 

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Point of View Columns

War is No Game

In the military, efficiency is based upon training, practice and training and practicing. Some of that practice involves simulations of combat and those are called “war games”. However, it is clear to anyone and everyone connected to the military that war is not a game.

That particular wisdom has not seeped into the American bunker also known as the White House. It appears that Trump and his enablers, particularly Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton, have concocted an international policy modus operandi that entails threats and faux confrontations, goading and threatening adversaries and then stepping back from the brink of actual confrontation and combat….just in time.

But if anyone seriously thinks that tightrope diplomacy is a good thing in these days and times of instantaneous communications and response, they also think that dancing on airplane runways is a good thing.

What is most disturbing in the recent near-clashes with Iran is that there are people in the Trump administration who think that a war with Iran is a viable option and that it is “winnable”, whatever that means. Even more disturbing is that some of these people are the same people who said that a war with Iraq was “winnable” and that a war in Afghanistan was a viable option.

How these advisors can be credible after a trillion dollars of expense and the loss of life of thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan men, women and children. One would think that John Bolton and his running partners – like Mike Pompeo and Liz Cheney – should be banned from ever advising anyone about anything, much less advising the President of the United States on matters involving war and peace.

Mike Pompeo is graduate of West Point and served in the Army for five years. He never went near a combat theater and left the military to pursue and career in business and politics. John Bolton was eligible for the draft during the tail end of the war in Vietnam and joined the National Guard as a way of assuring that he would not have to go into combat. Research does not indicate any military service by Liz Cheney.

So the three loudest voices in favor of military action against Iran have never been in combat, have avoided combat when there was any opportunity to do so (Pompeo could have re-enlisted in participated in Desert Storm, the war in Afghanistan and the 2003 war in Iraq). They are certainly intellectually capable of understanding the human and financial costs of war, but they ignore these costs so as to support a world view and could turn apocalyptic and dystopic.

It almost seems that these pseudo-war hawks look at war as being part of some great global game where they get to play Masters of the Universe. But in fact, they are playing with the lives of Americans and men, women and children all over the world. And if they think for even a brief moment that America is not vulnerable to a counterattack by Iran then they clearly have managed to erase 9/11 from their collective memories.

But Americans in New York and Washington, remember 9/11. Americans who are in veteran’s hospitals suffering from PTSD and countless other injuries and disabilities remember the cost of war. And if these pseudo war hawks think that bombing Iran today and North Korea tomorrow will make America safe they are either stupid or deranged or both.

America and Americans have interests all over the world – therefore we are vulnerable. No American city will be safe in the event of another conflagration along the lines of an Iranian war. No American who travels anywhere in this world will be safe at a time when America is at war with the world.

Trump has shown some sign of baseline intelligence and common sense by calling off a missile strike against Iran – 15 minutes prior to launch. How close did we come to Trump Induced Trauma throughout the world, we don’t know.

But Trump cannot continue to play with fire without America getting burned.

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Point of View Columns

Trump Has No Sense of Decency

On June 9th, 65 years ago, the United States was awash with the stench and slime that was the result of Senator Joseph McCarthy‘s Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigation – a true Salem-style witch hunt for Communists in every nook and cranny. As the abuse and human wreckage mounted, Joseph Welch, who was counsel to the United States Army in these hearings, confronted the beast that was McCarthy as he endeavored to destroy the life and career of yet another witness and stated – “At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” And that question marked the beginning of the end of the American nightmare that was McCarthyism.

We fast forward 65 years and we get to witness Trump attending D-Day 75th anniversary ceremonies. As Roger Cohen of the New York Times pointed out, someone almost certainly had to tell Trump that the D in D-Day did not stand for “Donald”. And it was during a pause in these solemn ceremonies that Trump was interviewed by Fox News in the actual cemetery where thousands of American soldiers are buried. And it was in that hallowed and sacred space that Trump saw fit to ignore the sacrifice and sadness of the venue and instead launch yet another infantile, brainless attack on one of his political enemies – this time it was Nancy Pelosi.

Somehow, there is not even a shred of decency or self-awareness in this man for him to recognize that the D-Day ceremony at the U.S. military cemetery at Normandy was not the place for him to engage in school yard catcalls and insults. The men and women who were buried just a few feet from his over privileged and pampered self deserved better than Donald Trump as President of the United States, and the same can be said for all Americans.

There are multiple partisan and philosophical divisions in this country. There have always been multiple partisan and philosophical divisions in this country. There will always be multiple partisan and philosophical divisions in this country. But with Trump there is something different going on.

The normalization of nasty and disgusting. The ordinariness of stupidity and lying. The consistency of error and stubborn adherence to ignorance. And then there is the racism, always bubbling beneath the surface of his self-proclaimed outsize persona, his blisters bursting and oozing slurs, invective, dog whistle stereotypes and more flammable fuel for the tiki torches that may one day light his way to his own personal, custom made hell, complete with his name in lights for eternity.

Of course there is the misogyny and sexism and dissolute frat boy attitude towards women that seeps into his rhetoric and even worse, into the governmental policies that he supports. But the fact that he thinks that demeaning the appearance (or “energy”) of a female critic provides meaningful insight into how he could easily look at any woman as either an object for enjoyment or a target for his cruelty.

The nativism, white supremacy, xenophobia and slavish worship of stupidity goes so far beyond politics and policy it is almost as if Trump is some kind of alien from a planet that destroyed itself many eons ago – kind of like Krypton. Except that instead of Superman we got Trump.

The American people deserve better than Trump. The people of this planet deserve an American president that is better than Trump. Every day that he is in office he represents a moment that is pregnant with disaster. Every time he tweets he reveals new depths in that subterranean morass of unintelligible logic and just plain dumbness that serves as his brain. And every time he speaks he manages to recycle old lies while weaving horrific fantasies that seem to hypnotize his so-called base.

The thing is, his base deserves more than the thin gruel of lies and moronic imagining that he serves them. Certainly all of the American people deserve more. His normalization of the basest of instincts and the worst of behaviors is not normal and never should be.

And finally, sometime soon someone, somewhere must address this question to Trump, “At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”, and that will mark the beginning of the end of our national nightmare.

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Point of View Columns

The Unending Saga of Trump against America

The Mueller Report and the Barr Cover Letter bring to mind the old fable about the mountain laboring and bringing forth a mouse. There is no rational scenario whereby Donald Trump was going to be indicted and now lawyers can dance on the tip of a needle deciding whether he might be guilty of obstruction of justice, even though he has stated in his own words that he did seek to impair the process of justice at every turn during these past two years.

And so it would seem that the Saga that is Trump will continue to torment this country and this world. But for those that were hoping that the Mueller Report would signal the beginning of the end for Trump, an end that looked a lot like impeachment, it is important to note that this Report might be the gift that keeps on giving. And the final gift might be a new President of the United States in January of 2020.

But before moving on, however, it should be noted what the Mueller Report appears to say, and as importantly, what it does not say. The Report does say that there is not sufficient evidence to conclude that Trump and his minions colluded with the Russian government. To translate into simple English, the Report states that at this point it is not possible to prove collusion beyond a reasonable doubt.

What the Report does not say is why at every possible opportunity Trump has chosen to praise Vladimir Putin on every conceivable issue. The Report does not say why at every possible opportunity Trump has chosen to take the word of Putin over the national security and intelligence community of the United States. And the Report certainly does not explain why Trump has never provided any contemporaneous notes or reports of his solitary private meetings with Putin, even going to the extent of confiscating the notes of his interpreter.

What the Report does say is that Trump is not exonerated when it comes to the issue of obstruction of justice. But anyone with eyes and ears over the past eighteen months has seen Trump say and do everything imaginable and unimaginable to derail the Russia investigation.

From firing the FBI Director (James Comey), to harassing and bullying his Attorney General (Jeff Sessions), to publicly dangling the offer of pardons to witnesses and defendants called to account by Robert Mueller and my casting major shade at Mueller. And then, there is the constant “witch hunt” refrain that Trump has repeated whenever and wherever. These actions and rhetoric by the President of the United States with respect to the Russia investigation certainly sound like the quacks of an obstruction duck.

It is highly doubtful that the current Attorney General William Barr will ever pursue this matter any further, regardless of any feckless rhetoric that his office might issue. He may not have taken a bloodbrothersohelpmeGod oath to protect Trump with the lives of his children if necessary, but it is a pretty safe bet that he accepted the appointment with the clear understanding that his job was to play the role of Tom Hagen to Trump’s Vito Corleone. And, by the way, there is probably no truth to the rumor that Barr also had a hand in crafting the Jussie Smollett exoneration letter.

Democrats have to be careful not to wrestle with the Russia/Collusion Tar Baby in Trump’s briar patch. Because while the nation is watching the multitude of sideshows that characterize his presidency, other of his minions are working to take away the current healthcare apparatus for over 150 million Americans, as well as destroying the environment and degrading America’s international relationships, to name just a few really important issues. And while it might provide psychic satisfaction to have a Trump impeachment, the Trump lackeys, a.k.a. Senate Republicans, will never convict him.

Nothing would please Trump more than to be able to play the role of Trump Agonistes – a Martyr for All Time. And make no mistake about it, martyrdom might be the role that could actually result in Trump being a two-term president, dooming this country to an unimaginably bleak and dystopian future.

There are enough reasons why Trump should not be president aside from the Russia issue. The busloads and boatloads of Democratic candidates for president would do well to focus on the reasons why they should be president as it is already painfully obvious as why Trump should not be president.

It is said that free advice is worth what you pay for it. But in this case let’s hope that the Democrats are listening.

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Point of View Columns

All Along the Watchtower

“There must be some way out of here
Said the joker to the thief
There’s too much confusion
I can’t get no relief”
Bob Dylan – Sung by Jimi Hendrix (among others)

Ever since the inauguration of Trump on January 20, 2017, there has been apocalyptic visions and versions of what is happening to these United States expressed in news commentaries and columns, Saturday Night Live and on every late night television show. And Trump has obliged the purveyors of doom and naysayers by reigning over the most destructive, pernicious and dysfunctional presidency in the history of the Republic. And yet, just when you don’t think that he can be any worse, sink any lower or be a true imitation of an avatar of doom, Trump gets worse, he sinks lower and he makes national doom seem like a real possibility.

Trump’s recent Executive Order proclaiming a fake national emergency would seem to be his final step in convincing even his most fervent supporters that this man should not be President of the United States for even another nanosecond. Of course, the cold shower of conflict politics in this country informs us that there may be literally nothing that Trump can do that will dislodge his base from believing that he is their Orange-Haired Savior come to rescue from the black and brown hordes that would keep America from Being Great Again.

Most Americans cling to sanity and believe that something called the American Way will certainly sort out whatever damage that Trump is wreaking havoc on America and the Planet Earth. However, this declaration of a faux national emergency in order to circumvent Congress and the Constitution constitutes a national emergency in and of itself. And even the laziest students of history in the modern era must understand that this is how dictatorships begin, flourish and reign.

It is no small thing for the President of the United States to actually state that he will circumvent the Constitution, which vests Congress with the sole power to allocate monies for government activities, in order to pursue his blatant political goals. This particular of allocation of power to Congress is in the first Article of the Constitution, which convince anyone of how serious the framers of the Constitution were when it came to the allocation and separation of powers. For Trump to consider the words “national emergency” as the equivalent of “open sesame” in granting him powers that supersede that of Congress is way beyond dangerous.

It would do well to remember that dictatorships in the modern era find minorities to demonize and mobilize their base, cast the media and journalists as enemies of the state, degrade the electoral process and slowly but surely erode the modes of government until all that is left is an imperial executive. We would do well to remember that Hitler was elected. We would do well to remember that Mussolini was elected. It was what they did after they were elected that created dictatorships which ruined Germany and Italy respectively.

The historic government shutdown, the dog whistle appeals to the worst racists that this country has to offer, self-aggrandizement of Trump Incorporated on an epic scale, the strong scent of collusion with Russia and the energized and intentional demolition of international alliances are turning out to be just a warm up for Trump. While it is probably true that since he does not read and apparently has no knowledge of history, Trump has no real idea of what he is doing. But like the proverbial bull in a china shop or the four year old at the controls of a 747, he is capable of doing great harm.

It is now up to Congress – not Democrats or Republicans, and the Supreme Court – not Conservatives or Liberals – to decide to keep political battles within the demarcated boundaries of the playing field. Trump embraces chaos and wants this country to go there and stay there.

Congress and the Supreme Court need to make sure that this does not happen.

And if they don’t it will be up to you and me. Things have gotten that serious.

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Point of View Columns

The Two Faces of America

The United States was founded while suffering from moral schizophrenia. While words of freedom and liberty and human rights were being written into the Declaration of Independence in 1776 the systematic genocide campaign against the indigenous people of this continent (erroneously and carelessly labeled as Indians) continued at an horrific pace. And as the Constitution was written in 1787, the unspeakable peculiar institution of race-based slavery was literally written into that national founding document.

This bizarre compulsion on the part of Americans to deny and/or ignore this country’s history is clearly a part of the DNA of these United States. And this chasm that separates noble ideals from sad reality is on display in so many ways every single day.

A recent news report described a settlement between a Dutch railroad company (NS) and the families of Holocaust survivors which will result in payments to those families in recognition of the fact that NS transported Dutch Jews to concentration camps. While no amount of money could ever erase that singular evil, the attempt at justice is noteworthy.

What is also noteworthy is that this same news report stated that the Dutch company was pressured by U.S. lawmakers to arrive at a reparations settlement. Those would be lawmakers from the same United States that has yet to reconcile the genocidal near destruction of the lives, property and culture of the indigenous peoples of North America. And that would be the same United States that has yet to fully reconcile or recognize the virtually permanent damage that race-based slavery has caused along with its spawn of discrimination, bias and prejudice that lasts to this very day.

And the two-faced nature of America was seen again in Mississippi this week as we witnessed the election of a white woman named Cindy Hyde-Smith who proudly wears the hat of a confederate soldier and brags about being willing to accompany a supporter to a “public hanging”. And it should be understood that the confederate states fought to maintain the so-called peculiar institution of slavery and that the public hanging and assassination of black Americans has been a blood sport in Mississippi for almost two centuries.

Yet, this woman was elected by a large margin in Mississippi, the so-called Magnolia State. And yet, this woman will be sworn in and admitted to the United States and she will be counted as one of 24 women in the Senate – an historic high that will be celebrated even though Number 24 is a clear and present and unrepentant racist masquerading as a family values conservative. And while the presence of 24 women in the Senate could be the cause for celebration it is worthwhile to note that there have only been seven black Americans in the entire 229 year history of the Senate.

And yet business as usual will continue in these United States. And the accompaniment to that business as usual will be the continued moral schizophrenia that is so perfectly American that rarely is the dichotomy pointed out in polite company.

It is that dichotomy which results in a black security guard being gunned down by police as he tried to apprehend an offender while white perpetrators of mass shootings are “talked down” by the police. It is a sign of American schizophrenia that when with all deliberate slime Trump singles out several black female reporters by name for insult and disdain his actions merit a passing commentary in the news. But when Trump attacks Jim Acosta, a white man, CNN and every major news organization in America takes him to court. Did someone say “double standard”?

And it the two faces of America are there for all the world to see in this most recent instance of U.S. lawmakers pressuring a Dutch company to pay reparations to the families of Holocaust survivors (which is the least that NS should do as an accomplice to horror). All the while these same U.S. lawmakers will not even consider any kind of reparations for the families of survivors of the Holocaust suffered by the indigenous people of North America or for the black American families of the victims of slavery.

The dichotomy, the two faces, the schizophrenia of America needs to come to an end. And it begins with realizing the deep-seated and race-based hypocrisy that enables the daily injustice that arises from such hypocrisy.

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