19 March 2017
After fifty some days of the presidency of Donald Trump, what can one say but, "Oh my!" I don't know where to begin commenting on the changes I see. Part of my difficulty stems from being of an age that society relegates to the sidelines, for the most part, leaving only commentary and observation to be the only functions appreciated.
At 72, I can no longer avoid the reality of being old. In my sixties, I could imagine that those television ads about strength and vigor were directed at me, too. Those ads promoting arthritis and other pain medications were for old folks, even though the actors therein were in their late-forties. My mental self-image continues to confound society's: I think as if I were 37 still. What to do? I do enjoy napping more than before and I appreciate not having a tight schedule for my days. Nevertheless, there is this overshadowing fact that I am in my seventies and society considers me to be peripheral to the mainstream, no longer a gym enthusiast or a national figure in higher education and health care administration.
It is with this existential awareness that I observe the Trump Administration. There are plenty of liberal sources declaiming the evils of the manner in which Trump has staffed his cabinet. In a manner recalled from childhood, Trump decided to "get back" at the individual departments that his base debases. The EPA and Energy Department are two of the most obvious, with long-time political enemies of their regulations being put in as director and secretary. What better revenge than to put someone in charge of the very thing they despise! With juvenile delight, Trump manages his staffs through particularly insidious manipulating of selective meeting invitations, listening to Bannon and Miller, ignoring traditional and internationally recognized protocols of including cabinet secretaries in his face-to-face meetings with foreign dignitaries, and tweeting nonsensical comments around his own communications staff.
Even the way he schedules his travel between the White House and Mar-a-lago communicates a distance from the everyday work of being President. Without appointing deputies to his cabinet secretaries, and displaying a disconnect between himself and those secretaries already in place, President Trump sort of hangs out there in suspended reality that gives the impression of being disconnected from his own administration. Because of the 2016 election results, I don't see an opportunity for changing this disconnect before the 2018 elections.
The Republicans seem unaffected by the town meetings that various groups have insisted upon. After all, most of those attending voted against the incumbent, viz. winner. Why should the representative in Congress pay attention to those clamouring for input into their agendas when the Speaker can affect their daily lives more directly than the voters? Hopefully, the spirit of objection and rallies against Republican incumbents will last for the next two years and result in changes to the partisan make-up of the House and Senate. A vote is the remaining tool I have to affect the national agenda. Perhaps the power of the pen can resurface in this country to allay some of my fears and qualms.
22 December 2016
Why Iran Seeks a Nuclear Deal
01 February 2016
Where Does Your Anger Go?
A common theme among prospective voters in this year's presidential primary season is that the supporters of Donald Trump, Ted Cruze and Barney Sanders are angry persons. Most often, these supporters feel betrayed by their in-office representatives, senators and the president (for whom they may not have voted). Social and economic conservatives are angry that government spending seems to go on without any real attention paid to the desires of the religious right, and those who want to shrink the size of government and reduce the government's interference with their personal and business decisions. Social liberals and economic conservatives are angry because the Republican Congress continues to attack Obamacare and Planned Parenthood, yet also feel that the government spending is out of control and has been since the Iraq and Afghanistan wars overtook our foreign military engagements.
Progressive voters are angry because there were no criminal charges brought against the Wall Street hedge fund managers and giant bank executives for the Great Recession they caused. "Too big to fail"
has become the mantra of those targeting big banking institutions and insurers who failed to manage their investment risks sufficiently to prevent the nation-wide mortgage crisis and subsequent credit crisis of the Middle Class.
Each political party has a new force coming into the presidential election season that is populist at its base and fueled by the anger of those who feel they have been disenfranchised politically and financially. The makeup of this base comes from persons who have lost their social standing as part of the Middle Class and those persons who aspire to the American Dream from lower income classes.
One policy target for expressing extreme dissatisfaction with the status quo is immigration. Donald Trump said he would build a wall along the Mexico-US border and get Mexico to pay for it. He then characterized the illegal Mexican immigrants as rapists and opportunists to get anchor-babies with US citizenship. The anti-immigrant stance has since been extended to Muslims, including American citizens who are muslims. Clearly, this racist, chauvinistic and religiously prejudiced policy position by Mr. Trump feeds into a sense that immigrants have taken away jobs from American citizens and are trying to establish an anti-Christian country in the US. His campaign rallies draw thousands. He offers no details, except that he would expel all of the estimated 11-million undocumented immigrants to their countries of origin "in a very humane way." How he would accomplish this way of tears remains unclear, except that he would begin with all incarcerated persons.
Observing the popularity of Mr. Trump's immigration policy, all of the other Republican candidates have taken strong positions demanding a wall on the border and some espouse deportation extremes as well. Trump even called for the State Department to suspend all visa privileges for Muslims --both foreign and US citizens-- seeking entry or re-entry into the US following the Paris terrorist massacre last Fall. We have seen such demonization of races before in this country and in Europe during the last century. The most poignant example was Hitler's extreme anti-Semitism that began in Germany to remove all traces of Jewish life from Europe as a means of purifying the culture. Hitler was fond of large, spectacular rallies of the Nazi and other sympathisers during which he would speak his venumous ideas. After being defeated in World War I, Germany was experiencing runaway inflation and political instability that left many Germans ripe for a charasmatic, authoritarian leader who promised to make Germany great again. Are we seeing a similar phenomenon in Donald Trump 90 years later? As the Greatest Generation dies off, are there sufficient number of thinking people in the US who recall the social and economic forces that resulted in World War II?
What is the angry American supposed to do with his or her anger today? Is voting sufficient? There doesn't appear to be any compromise in the policy statements being made by the Republican candidates this year. Senator Bernie Sanders draws large crowds with his progressive, democratic socialist economic policy war against Wall Street. Running for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, he calls for "an economic revolution" in this country. His following includes many disillusioned Progressive democrats, young people who are just beginning to make their political statements in their communities, and many liberals who want to punish Wall Street executives for the Great Recession of 2008-2010.
The anger expressed by Sanders' followers is different from Trump's followers. The anger of Sanders' followers is at its base populist, with feelings of disenfranchisement due to the lack of economic growth in their futures and real animosity toward the Republican Congress' efforts to obstruct any and all policies of the Obama Administration. Further, there is real anger against Republicans for failing to acknowledge the results of the Bush-Cheney Administration's leading America into an unnecessary and very costly war in Iraq and the concomitant hiding of the war's cost from the federal budget discipline. Those costs gave President Obama a deficit of $1.7 trillion at the beginning of his presidency. In addition, the Republicans' antipathy toward financial regulation is seen by Progressives as the fault that created the Great Recession.
The inability of any constructive Congressional-Presidental discourse during the entire Obama presidency remains at the heart of the anger one sees in Bernie Sanders' followers. Since Sanders is the underdog in the minds of most Democratic Party potential voters, there is worry in the Hillary Clinton camp that her more centrist policies may not be sufficient to attract Sanders' followers to her campaign. Nevertheless, Secretary Clinton's bona fides as a senator, social liberal policy advocate for women, and as a Secretary of State offer a hopeful, not angry base to the Party.
The question is: can Hillary get more done with a Republican Congress than Bernie can? More and more people are concluding that she can. Instead of sowing gloom and doom, Hillary at least represents hope for some positive change in the coming years.
10 March 2015
How Far Will They Go?
President Obama has to deal with continual challenges to his leadership even when conservative pundits decry his lack of leadership. They only conclusion I can discern is that all of this opposition--beginning with Mitch McConnell's stated goal to make Obama a one-term President--stems from deep racism across the Republican spectrum.
25 November 2014
A Secret Trial
10 September 2014
Oh, Suleiman, You Were So Right
18 August 2014
- First, using military garb and weaponry when confronting a demonstration by the citizens of Ferguson, the police created an “us vs. them” dynamic that inhibited any peaceful outcomes those first few nights. Even though 70+ percent of Ferguson residents are African-American, the police assumed they were wrong on site; because they were black. Some police referred to the crowd as “animals”.
- The appearance in the minds of the neighborhoods was that Mike Brown was murdered, yet as of eight days after his killing, local officials have yet to release the police report on the shooting nor the initial autopsy. Would the same process have been followed if Mike Brown were white? Perhaps the community’s reaction to the shooting would not have been a volatile and large, nevertheless would the police have been as aggressive against a gathering of white people asking for information about the circumstances of the killing of an unarmed man by a policeman? I doubt it, even if the victim had tried to assault the officer before being shot.
- This afternoon and tonight there will be another demonstration by Ferguson citizens demanding more information about the killing of Mike Brown. Last night there was some looting and the police responded with smoke and tear gas grenades. The police were outfitted like a military platoon. The police leaders chose to escalate the level of violence. One has to ask why the police do not approach demonstrators who are violating the curfew with demands to disburse or to receive citations on the spot—not arrest—for curfew violations. Given the overwhelming armaments and physical outfitting of the police, they could engage individuals calmly without threatening arrest or injury. If there is looting, then a squadron could be dispatched to prevent further property damage without trying to arrest everyone in sight first. Let the community punish the looters; let the community disenfranchise the outsiders who are trying to roil the situation into a race war. If the Missouri Highway Patrol cannot contain the actions of the local police, then I think President Obama should activate the National Guard to restore peace and to separate the community from an out-of-control police department at city and county levels. Local police units should be shut down until new leadership can retrain and redeploy police officers with the mission of “to protect and to serve, not corral and intimidate.” If not already in place, the City Council should require all city employees, including police, to live within the boundaries of Ferguson. Military gear, weaponry and vehicles should be decommissioned within the police department and given to the Missouri National Guard. Neighborhood policing on foot should become the norm within Ferguson so that residents can learn who their police protectors are and vice versa.
- If these reforms cannot occur, then the residents should demand the Council create a Citizens Review Board to oversee police department activities.
12 July 2014
Domestic or International Migrant Crisis?
02 July 2014
Capitalism 2014: Profit Versus Women's Health Policy Parity
The dissenting justices offered what should have been overwhelming evidence of the error being made by the majority. Precendent, legislation and plain reasoning could not budge the five men who ruled that if a for-profit corporation was closely held its owners could refuse to offer contraceptive medicine insurance coverage as mandated by the ACA. The majority opinion will make many graduate students delighted because they will be able to reveal the heuristic bias of the majority justices: teachings and socialization of the Roman Catholic Church. Every justice ruling in favor of the plaintiffs is Catholic and male. It would appear that capitalism's basic tenent of commerce, the purpose of business is to acquire capital or wealth for the owners, now has a caveat. Three of the four justices dissenting are women.
Even Adam Smith distinguished between an owner's profit purpose and that owner's public responsibility in using capital. The local religious bookstore seems covered by this exception to the purpose for which the owners' incorporated their assets.
One has to wonder whether another religious belief would rate equal worth in determining the health care insurance coverage for a corporation's women employees. What criteria beyond the number of shareholders will qualify an employer for a coverage-exemption to ACA? This ruling is a can of worms just waiting to complicate federal regulations. Look forward to another 600+ page set of regulations arriving from HHS.
04 April 2014
Corruption In the United States of America
11 February 2014
Insurers Get A Free Ride
Some Questions, Thoughts and Observations for Today
What a charge to watch the women's ice hockey games! No body checking allowed! The game emphasizes skill rather than brute strength, although I would not like to cross any of the players. Another rules difference from professional hockey is that a goal during a power play does not erase the remaining time on a penalty. Today, the Japanese team was robbed of a goal and yet came on so strong in the first of the third period with a brilliant goal.
US versus Canada tomorrow. Must watch game!
Yesterday the House voted to prevent the EPA from enforcing its rules and regulations on federal lands. What arrogance! If the EPA cannot keep federal lands (meaning those that belong to all the people) then what agency will? The history of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is not exactly pristine in the trade offs between commercial interests and the people's interests. This is just another Republican attempt to emasculate the EPA, one of Nixon's primary achievements. It is also a Christian premise to be the stewards of God's Creation and I cannot see how this legislation furthers that objective. Talk about your cafeteria Christianity.
This weekend's tributes to the Beatles brought back so many good memories of the 1960s. Good memories are not numerous on my memory list for those years, and much of my discontent was fostered by the disconnect between what the "greatest generation" was doing to the country politically and in Indo-China. I wish the musical tribute had included "Imagine," a humanist charter of peace and community for the world. It seems we cannot achieve the ideals of this song, so I hope God will listen to our intentions to achieve John Lennon's words.
Are there still wars in Afghanistan? Syria? Egypt? Ukraine? South Sudan? Ethiopia and Somalia? One has to chance upon any television news concerning any conflict in the world as long as the Olympics are going on.
Of course, MSNBC continues to keep the world informed about Christie's bully politics in New Jersey. Seems ordinary to me. Remember Teddy Roosevelt? If you do, you're very old. The historians and biographers have shown us how this Bull Moose was admired for his aggressive personal style in politics and war.
Has no one realized a valid reason for listening to Chancellor Merkel's phone calls? We want to know what trade negotiation tactics and strategies the Germans are going to use when they negotiate trade agreements with the US and with other countries. Trade! The two significant, opaque trade agreements being negotiated today are the TPP in the Pacific Rim and an unnamed one with Europe both along the lines of NAFTA. Remember the promises of NAFTA for US commerce? See how NAFTA has ruined self-sufficient agriculture in the Americas. How many US jobs went south--because they went South. Now the US Trade Representative wants to fast-track these two new trade agreements through the Congress. There is more transparency in our Afghanistan plans. Watch the NSA continue to monitor trade issues through its new, mega-databases. The original intent for NSA was valid during the Cold War, but is industrial espionage worth the money spent in secret and the amount of un-monitored activity?
It appears another American citizen was killed by a drone (not sure if it was a CIA or DOD weapon) this week. When asked about the process for permitting this kind of murder, the official responded with an equally alarming statement.
First, there are several sources of information brought forward to identify an enemy combatant who is an American citizen. CIA, other informers, self-identification, and NSA-obtained phone data are analysed within the National Security Administration with conclusions forwarded with recommendation as to the accuracy of identity to the National Security Council members. The NSC, which included the Defense Department and CIA input, makes a recommendation "up the line" ultimately to the President for a decision.There is for me a serious omission in this vetting process: the NSA's stated database content. To allay privacy opponents within the US, the NSA has repeatedly said that it only records the telephone numbers of all conversations and never the content. How can a life-and-execution decision use such data without knowing the content of the phone call(s)? Suppose suspect X phones Pasha Pizza in downtown Tripoli. NSA considers Pasha Pizza to be an Al Qaeda front. The NSA, according to its stated protocol, identifies suspect X as contacting Al Qaeda and sets up suspect X's call as a probably enemy combatant communication. All they need is a pattern for pizza-loving X's calls to Pasha Pizza for X to be labeled an enemy, who happens to be a Brooklyn-born freelance reporter living in Libya.
Ignorant of the phone call content, NSA can be a party to this reporter's execution by drone, justified as his being an enemy combatant in contact with Al Qaeda.
Think this could never happen? How reliable a system do we have? Is the President forever immune from sanction or prosecution for ordering the assassination of an American citizen through this type of "due process?" Before answering "yes?" remember the Lettres de Cachet under the French kings that put people in the Bastille for indefinite periods of time without trial or recourse to appeals. Also, recall that the idea of appeals following an execution is rather moot.
This project is bad for the country. First, why do we need to risk our central plains watershed and aquifer so that Canadian oil companies can send their dirty, shale oil to Texan refineries? How many permanent jobs will remain after the pipeline is built? 50? No one states or estimates an exact answer. With the Texan refineries already operating at full capacity processing American Sweet Crude, where will this Keystone petroleum go? Onto the world market, that's where. Since this is Canadian product, the only income the US will gain are transport fees, distributor commissions, and shipping fees for the international trade. I wonder if the State Department asked if there would be a net increase in the risk of environmental damage due to the increased ship traffic for this exported Canadian oil. "No problem, we've all the protections in place," or words to that effect.
Why do we need this project? We have our own supply and let Canada pollute the rest of the world with its dirty crude. Why should we be complicit when the western Canadian provinces refuse to allow a pipeline across to the Pacific?
That's enough for today. Be sure to send your comments and to forward these snippets to your friends. Comments should be addressed to <firstname.lastname@example.org> or as listed below.