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Monday, August 14, 2017

Charlottesville: Ugly American Fascism Revealed

More than once, Donald J. Trump excoriated former President Barak Obama for not calling ISIS or Al Qaeda members by the phrase “Radical Islamic Terrorists.”  Trump wanted the correct term used so that we would have no doubt about their background or about their intentions.

Taking his own advice, does that mean he should have used his Saturday press conference following the Charlottesville, VA domestic terrorist attacks to condemn the forces that attacked peaceful demonstrators for what they truly are:  Nazis, Racists and white supremacists?  After all, did they not advertise openly those names for themselves? Of course they did, because they now know without a doubt that they have not only a sympathizer in the Oval Office; they also know that they have their own true believers in the Trump administration, one of whom – Steve Bannon – is a prime policy advisor.
Despite Trump speaking out against violence and hatred – “on many sides” – he missed an opportunity to identify the radical domestic terrorist groups present in Charlottesville, who have activated a plan that seeks the destruction of a democratic agenda, and of a diverse society.  It also includes the destruction of the liberal press, the elimination of certain rights and freedoms, and the destruction of a government that supports 'liberal' programs and policies that do not favor white Americans.
Does Trump really believe that his Monday press statement before a television audience absolves him from that indiscretion?  In my opinion, it does not.  It was a crude attempt to right the wrongs of that first statement, but it falls short in two respects: (1) it did not renounce that phrase of “violence on many sides”, and (2) it did not ask the Justice Department to investigate more than the killing and injuries.  In other words, there was no mention of possible “hate crimes” that should be investigated by federal officials.  Trump once again fell short of true presidential prowess and moral leadership.
This event in Charlottesville is a benchmark and perhaps a red line.  It has marked the open defiance of avowed fascists against a fundamental civil right: that of peaceful protest. It has marked the public demonstration of Fascist and white supremacist ideology and vitriol.  It has identified the violent nature of this country’s Fascist movement: they will kill innocent people to advance their agenda (a very adequate definition of “terrorism”).  And, it has released upon this country a plan of attack that has characterized fascist groups throughout the world (see my Blog posts of 11/23/2015).  
Make no mistake about this so-called “incident.”  It is not incidental; it was not unplanned; it is not a one-time occurrence (reports of other possible events are already circulating).  Those terrorists who were dressed in military garb have declared just what they regard this to have been – an opening battle for the supremacy of the white race and for the “de-construction” of democratic governance.  The minimization of this event is a huge mistake, like that made by much of the populace of Germany in the 1930s and 40s.  I say this because:
1.      Fascism is, by definition, a terrorist plot that uses hate and violence as essential tactics. “One common definition of the term focuses on three concepts: the fascist negations (anti-liberalism, anti-communism and anti-conservatism); nationalist authoritarian goals of creating a regulated economic structure to transform social relations within a modern culture; and a political system of romantic symbolism, mass mobilization, a positive view of violence, and promotion of masculinity, youth and charismatic leadership. According to many scholars, fascism—especially once in power—has historically attacked communism, conservatism and parliamentary liberalism, attracting support primarily from the far right.”  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism).
2.      Fascist tendencies are alive and well in another segment of society that also seeks the de-construction of rules and regulations of government that (supposedly) suppress the free market, free trade and the ability of rich capitalists to reap tremendous profits (by hook or by crook) from the rest of mankind.  The financial support by oligarchs of the type of Fascism displayed in Charlottesville will be a force to be reckoned with.  It might even be the unstoppable “juggernaut” the Nazis developed in Germany.    Those commentators who remind us of the smallness of this Charlottesville contingent have forgotten their European History, for the German Nazis were also ignored at first for their relatively small presence.  Stopping a Fascist movement of any numbers must begin in earnest precisely when they are small and seemingly insignificant! Consult the following for a listing of these groups in the USA:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:White_supremacist_groups_in_the_United_States
3.      Third, do not for a moment forget that avowed Fascists, white supremacists and radical nationalists exist within the Trump administration, and they are key players in the production of the policies and rhetoric of this administration.  Steve Bannon, who is a special policy advisor to the President, has been a leading advocate of Fascist and racist-type views for a long time, but until now, did not have an inside office and position from which to spew his Fascist rhetoric into the ears of the Executive of this branch of the federal government.  Briefly, here is a picture of two insiders from Tribune News Service, authored by Tony Pugh:
WASHINGTON _ Religious and civil rights leaders called on President Donald Trump to fire White House advisers Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, whose association with the white-supremacist "alt-right" movement has come under heightened scrutiny after Saturday's violent clash in Charlottesville, Va.
 
"Supporters of white supremacists, violent extremism, racial bigotry and neo-Nazis should not serve in the White House or any level of government," said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

Bannon, Trump's chief strategist, is the former executive chairman of Breitbart News, a right-wing news site that's a favorite with white nationalists and the so-called alt-right movement of anti-Semitic and white-power groups, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Bannon also was CEO of Trump's presidential campaign.

Gorka, a deputy assistant to Trump, has ties to anti-Semitic, right-wing groups in Hungary.  Farhana Khera, president and executive director of Muslim Advocates, said Gorka "gave cover" to individuals who bombed a mosque in Minnesota when he called it a "possible fake hate crime." 

"Until the president purges his staff of supporters of the white supremacist movement, the president's condemnation (of violence in Charlottesville) has no credibility. The presence of Bannon and Gorka in the administration is the president's silent message to extremists to continue their march of terror against our communities. And it must stop," Khera said.

Trump has faced widespread criticism, even from within his party, for not denouncing the incident as domestic terrorism and for refusing to directly condemn the white supremacists, racists and neo-Nazis who organized the event.   (www.mcclatchydc.com)

Two points: 1) this is the right kind of pro-active step taken by the religious and civil rights leaders, and they should be supported in their stand that Trump should remove avowed Fascists from appointed positions in the White House and Executive Branch, and 2) a simple denouncing of the domestic terrorists who ravaged Charlottesville and who killed and injured peaceful protestors is not enough. 
  • They must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law;
  • There must be a federal investigation of the terrorist intentions of the groups involved; and
  • Every measure should be taken by governments and citizens of every state to financially burden and weaken every organization on the list mentioned above at Wikipedia.com. 
  • We must use every measure possible, including boycotts of revenue-producing events and products in every state that harbors such organizations. 
  • Every Fascist organization (and their oligarchic sponsors) that advocates the destruction of our rights, freedoms and democratic institutions must be investigated, boycotted, vilified, and forced into the mode of de-construction that they so lovingly proclaim through their WH spokespersons, especially Steve Bannon.  
The items that emboldened the Nazis in Germany are instructive:

§  the passive reactions to their demonstrations, their rhetoric and beliefs,
§  displays of violence that went unpunished by authorities,
§   the easy conversion to their movement of certain citizens within the population, many of whom had experienced what was later described as a “moral numbness” induced by lack of leadership and lack of good people organizing to resist
§   the ignorance and lack of resolve on the part of the leaders of the Weimar Republic, and the inability of local leaders and citizens in towns and villages to comprehend what was happening (and what was likely to happen); they just didn’t see Nazism in its full hideousness
§   the refusal of many citizens to listen to the warnings provided about Nazis by professors, some experienced politicians, clergy, and philosophers.  They were all ignored (read my post, “The Bonhoeffer Warning” 11/9/2015).
We must be prepared to follow former Congressman John Dingle (Democrat from Michigan) into battle against this foe.  Anyone who believes this incident to be a distraction or a one-time occurrence is delusional.  Dingle is right – they are Nazis, and they can’t be ignored.  He is correct again when he recognizes that this unseemly crew of domestic terrorists must be opposed in battle. And again, he is right: Trump must resign, or be fired! 

POLITICS 08/13/2017 11:57 pm ET
Congress’ Longest Serving WWII Vet Vows to Fight Nazis Again After Violent Protest
Former Rep. John Dingell had a message for white nationalist groups that incited violence on Saturday.
By Rebecca Shapiro  

“Former Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), 91, known on Twitter for his bristling and often comical political observations, had a clear message following Saturday’s deadly violence incited by a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.  Dingell, the longest-serving member of Congress in history, was also one of the final two World War II veterans to leave office in 2014. On Sunday, Dingell tweeted that he enlisted once to fight Nazis, and he’d do so again if necessary. 

Dingell enlisted when he turned 18 in 1944. He told NPR that he did not see combat but said had the atomic bomb…not been dropped, he would have been part of a ground attack on Japan. 
 
The former congressman, who served in Congress from 1955 to 2014, is a vocal critic of President Donald Trump. He most recently used the anniversary of former President Richard Nixon’s resignation from office as an opportunity to show Trump how such a decision could be made.  ‘You could even fit it in a tweet,’ he wrote to the president.” 

The threat of Fascism – in its various forms of radical nationalism, race hatred, Nazism, and its violent and destructive ideology – must be defeated whenever it raises its ugly serpent head.  Charlottesville is the starting line.  We must begin the battle right now, and never stop until the Fascists are vanquished, their financial sponsors are jailed and their Chief Abettor in the White House is removed from Office, along with his government de-constructionists (Bannon and Gorka must be the first to go), and that should be the first order of business for every progressive activist in this land. 

 

 

 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Is 'Scapegoating': another Signpost?

In the Declaration of Independence, there is much concern about something we probably minimize, or think about less than our Founding Fathers did. They were, of course, dealing with a situation that demanded their full attention, and here are a few of the phrases they used to describe the Tyranny of England’s King George III:

He has refused his assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.”
 
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.”

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states.…obstructing the Laws of Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither…”

He has erected a multitude of new offices and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people…”

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws…”

For cutting off trade with all parts of the world.”

For imposing Taxes on us without our consent.”

For…abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our Governments.”

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with the cruelty and perfidy scarcely unparalleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.”

A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

Tyranny” is not a pretty term. Nor is it unfamiliar to our own history. As a matter of fact, we have had Presidents and Legislators, right on down to governors and local office holders like mayors, who from the very beginning of our Republic through to modern times have let their tyrannical or authoritarian tendencies rule their better natures. Unfortunately, tyranny comes in many forms and can get loose from a democratic foundation in varying increments of time. But one thing is consistent: in whatever mode and at whatever acceleration, tyranny is marked by oppression, repression, injustice and, perhaps most often, by uncommon cruelty, harshness or harm.

Instead of reviewing numerous examples of such perfidy in our history, let us concentrate on a few basic premises that may have escaped our attention in the chaos of a Trump administration and its accompanying cruelties and injustices. As one author suggests, “Americans today are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism in the twentieth century. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so.” (On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder).

One of the very basic items that Tyrants depend on for eventual ability to control large numbers of people is one of humanity’s basic flaws: an inability to control one’s impulses, to self-evaluate or to question authority. It is, in some sense, wrapped-up in our origins, in human nature, and in the slow adaptation of our brains beyond tribal myths, norms, behaviors and group-think. We are, as a result, intrigued by new leaders who can easily demand our obedience born from the fundamental aspects of our nature. We are willing to cast aside many things we have learned (or could learn) and to give our loyalty to such leaders according to our basic instincts.

Donald Trump is quite adept at capitalizing on this “anticipatory obedience,” as it is termed by author Snyder. Trump is eminently successful at manipulating the fundamental instincts of citizens including deep-seeded loyalty to family, a local area, and to country above all. Playing on those loyalties, he tends to over-emphasize the glories of the military, touting as well the importance of devolving programs like Medicaid and many others to administration by states and local entities. Thus, he uses in-bred instincts and loyalties to build a militant nationalism that gathers support for “America First” and “Making America Great Again” which demand a leadership that is uncompromising, and a constituency that is militantly loyal.

The unthinking obedience he counts on is also connected to the human instinct to blame someone else for life’s problems, exigencies, unfairness, and injustices, and for the nation’s ills. Such scapegoats are perceived as possessing characteristics, appearance, language or religious beliefs that are different from the accepted norm. That kind of scapegoating is the essence of what an authoritarian leader needs to inspire: unquestioning personal loyalty to him (or her) as the supreme leader and savior they can admire and serve. Donald Trump has chosen “radical Islamic terrorists” as his primary scapegoat (he has many). Starting with his much-maligned ban on Muslim immigrants from seven countries he has broadened this target to, by inference, include all Muslims, even though he continues to deny it! But those denials pale in the light of additional facts and actions:
  • Friday, July 29th – in a speech before law enforcement officers, Trump praised the aggressive tactics of immigration officers (CNN.com)
  • December 2016 – quietly began having immigration officials ask foreign visitors for their social media accounts on a voluntary basis (Politico via CNN)
  • Increase in deportations
  • Extreme vetting” instituted in January and has been characterized as a “euphemism for discriminating against Muslims” (CNN.com)
  • Use of anti-Muslim rhetoric
  • Elevation of Islamophobic staff members to key positions in the White House
  • Lack of response to the rise in hate crimes targeted at Muslims (Brennan Center for Justice)
  • Anti-Muslim bias in the workplace; complaints to EEOC are up substantially (Brennan Center)
  • Mosques around the country under attack
  • Some cities and towns have changed their laws to prevent the building of mosques (Brennan Center)
  • An “anti-sharia movement” seeks to convince Americans that courts need to be stopped from applying Islamic traditions – 34 states have considered such legislation (Brennan Center)
  • Policies that allow profiling on basis of religion and treatment of American Muslim communities as “pools” of potential terrorists resulting in constant surveillance by police authorities
It goes without saying – but I will not hesitate to say it – this all sounds so akin to what Hitler and the Nazis did toward German Jewish citizens in the 1930’s and 40’s that it is absolutely frightening. Innuendos, lies, inflammatory rhetoric, and manufactured phantom threats (like sharia law) are all a part of what it takes for authoritarian leaders to cultivate a rabidly loyal following toward the ultimate goal of dictatorial control. One thing we should have learned by now: Donald Trump is not a thoroughly committed advocate of democratic principles. He is imbued with values and verities that challenge democratic ideals, most likely implanted in his psyche from the shabby (and shady?) business practices and principles he has absorbed and cultivated over the years. Under the guidance of Steve Bannon and others, he has begun to act on those values and we as a country are beginning to show the signs of an entrenched minority who are fiercely loyal enough to become his staunch supporters and henchmen.

We are not far removed from a nation transformed into something it was never meant to be. Consider the following list of attributes of a Fascist regime (per Prof. Lawrence Briggs):
  1. Powerful and continuing nationalism
  2. Disdain for human rights
  3. Identifying scapegoats
  4. Military supremacy
  5. Rampant Sexism
  6. Control of mass media
  7. Obsession with national security
  8. Religion and government intertwined
  9. Business interests protected
  10. Labor power suppressed
  11. Disdain for the arts
  12. Obsession with crime and punishment
  13. Rabid cronyism and corruption
  14. Fraudulent Elections

Now ask yourself: how can we resist these trends? How can we stop this de-construction of our democratic government? How can we turn away from this path leading to destruction and begin to regain the spirit of independence, democratic participation, and truly representative democracy built on justice and equality; on checks and balances of political power? What will it take to re-invigorate our rule of law?

It certainly will not be accomplished by the current Executive or Congress or Supreme Court; what does that leave? It leaves that branch of government on which our Constitution ultimately depends: The People. We are the answer; we are the resistance; we are the reformers; we are the only ones who can rejuvenate a weakened and failing Democracy. Citizens must resist appeals to base instincts and stand instead for our basic democratic beliefs and ideals; must formulate policies and programs that advance the well-being of all, not of the few; must run for office to represent local constituents, not to manipulate them into following party lines nor to become beholden to an elite corps of monied sponsors and lobbyists; must demand of office-holders that they solve real problems rather than dither with political party philosophies.

We are faced with the tyranny of despotism, not unlike the experience of our Founders. If we fail to resist the authoritarian Trumpian philosophy, and fail to recall this nation to a progressive ethic of liberty and justice for all, we shall awaken to a reality that is unfathomable and to a nation that is known for its perfidy rather than its compassion; for injustices rather than a passionate fervor for human rights and universal justice. We must not minimize the Danger! We must Press On with the passion that has characterized progressive democratic humanitarian movements throughout our history. We Must Not Give In or Give Up!

[There is more to be said on this theme, but, in keeping with a new self-imposed rule for this Blog, I am limiting this, and future posts, to a more reasonable word limit of around 1,500. I hope that you, dear reader, will find this appealing and return as often as is convenient. Thank you for continuing to follow my Blog!--- I.M. Publius 2]



Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Unqualified to be President

Boy Scout Oath or Promise:
On my honor, I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.

Boy Scout Law:
A Scout is:
  • Trustworthy,
  • Loyal,
  • Helpful,
  • Friendly,
  • Courteous,
  • Kind,
  • Obedient,
  • Cheerful,
  • Thrifty,
  • Brave,
  • Clean, and Reverent.
Boy Scout Motto:  Be Prepared! 

Boy Scout Slogan:  Do a Good Deed Daily!  

============================================================================

 Yes, that is a red line drawn across this page.  Just in case you did not perceive its color or
significance, let me make it clear:  as the elected Leader of this nation, Donald Trump crossed a red
line that demarcates a faux pas from a more serious impropriety.  More than a social gaffe, Trump
perpetrated mistake, blunder, gaffe, indiscretion, impropriety, solecism, barbarism, boo-boo, bloopera stupid, tactless, thoughtless, and embarrassing, almost barbaric, blunder.  He has
trespassed beyond the bounds of decency into the realm of abusive behavior. For he abused his
audience, mostly made up of young boys – many still meeting a definition of children – with adult-
oriented verbiage and story-telling that had little or nothing to do with the promises or ideals of the
Boy Scout Oath, Law, or Motto. To be fair, Trump did make a slight mention of Boy Scout values by
saying:Boy Scout values are American values. And great Boy Scouts become great, great
Americans.” 

Donald Trump failed – once again – to lead, to inspire or even to speak clearly about the democratic values and truths that move this nation toward greatness.  Instead, as usual, he impulsively talked about himself and his adventures, his campaign and his wins.  It was mainly about his story rather than the story of the Boy Scouts in the context of the story of America’s core values and ideals.

 Instead, this man chose to demean our immediate past president, to talk of his own accomplishments, to praise acquisition of a yacht, and to politicize the entire event with rantings about his own “successes” of the last 6 months in office.

He offered nothing of value for these young men who have promised to meet their obligations to be good citizens, to be “physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”  In sharp contrast to speeches by President Obama, Trump gave little or nothing of moral value to the thousands of young boys who attended this Jamboree.  He left nothing upon which they could build – no character lessons, no memorable guideposts (like: “ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country”), and certainly no specific challenges, goals, dreams or horizons toward which they might direct themselves.  He left them the old saw of “work hard” and then offered this as his conclusive, rather confused value: “In life, I always tell this to people, you have to know whether or not you continue to have the momentum. And if you don't have it, that's OK. Because you're going to go on, and you're going to learn and you're going to do things that are great. But you have to know about the word ‘momentum’.  But the big thing, never quit, never give up; do something you love.”

 That’s it: know about momentum.  It was a sad end to a sad story he told about a successful man who lost his momentum and couldn’t come back from bankruptcy. One problem: he never explained what momentum has to do with the values of the Scout Oath, Law or Motto, or with democratic values.  

Donald Trump failed the Boy Scouts of America in the very same manner in which he has failed all Americans: his values are those of a narcissistic, grossly impulsive, selfish, egomaniacal seeker of wealth and status, making him virtually unable to lead a people whose values, ethics, principles and everyday concerns (for the most part) are much different.  Donald Trump has little or no sense of community or even of neighborliness; his world is one of competition and winning, not primarily one of sharing, giving, or of helping “other people at all times.” 

Likewise, the  "values" expressed by Donald Trump do not mesh well with the values and principles of the Boy Scout Law.   Generally speaking, the ideals and values therein are mere tools in Trump’s world – meant to be used to achieve his primary goal: the aggrandizement of self and family.  Here are just a few samples.

Loyalty – “As the Scout law says, a scout is trustworthy, loyal -- we could use some more loyalty I will tell you that.”  By these words, DJT, seems to admit that loyalty means something only in the context of loyalty to him as epitomized by the “loyalty oaths” uttered by cabinet and top staff in the Oval Office at a meeting early-on with the newly inaugurated Trump.  Since then, we have seen several persons in his administration resign because they either didn’t meet the standard of loyalty demanded or they could not accommodate themselves to such an oath or declaration – the names James Comey and Sally Yates (and now perhaps Jeff Sessions) come to mind.

 Friendly, Courteous, Kind – certainly little evidence of this in his Boy Scout speech.  But the pictures I will always carry in my mind are from other events: 1) Encouragement of his supporters at campaign rallies to “take care of” “and “throw out” peaceful demonstrators, some of whom were then physically attacked by his supporters or personnel; 2) Donald Trump willing to perform a  take-down and fight with a supposed newspaper reporter at a wrestling match; and 3) Trump pushing and shoving aside the President of Montenegro at an international conference, and then preening in front of the TV cameras as he gained front row status by means of his aggressive action.

 Trustworthy – again, to DJT, this is important only when applied to others, not to himself. Or, when used as a tool to demean and disparage or “fire” others. Think of that Trump-designated “great American”, General Mike Flynn, who got sacked as National Security Advisor when he failed to reveal some important facts about himself and lied about that to the Vice-President.  He was then deemed untrustworthy.  Now apparently, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is on-board the same boat, as he is accused of both disloyalty and untrustworthiness. Handy values when used against others.

But when applied to Donald Trump, this value has no meaning, especially to him.  He can lie, dissemble, change definitions, be “just joking” when he demeans and belittles others, or he can tweet outrageous untruths and personally denigrating characterizations, and escape any consequences from his base supporters. He can maintain untrustworthy relationships (most likely questionable financial deals and transactions) with this country’s adversary Russia, and its leader Vladimir Putin (former KGB agent), and not even flinch as he alienates long-time allies.

Nor does he get any criticism of note from his own Party, who have chosen to put politics (and winning elections) above the interests of this country by maintaining a cowardly silence.  He cannot even be trusted to undertake the arduous tasks involved in leading this country - the Executive Branch, the Cabinet, the Armed Forces - and the free world.  He does not prepare, he does not consult, he does not keep his word, he does not even read reports, if media sources are accurate.  According to these same sources, he often does not know what is in important pieces of legislation such as that produced during the recent Healthcare debacle.

Finally, he cannot be trusted to keep any promises he has made, especially to a base of people who matter little to him in the general scheme of things.  He has used a dissatisfied, disassociated, disgusted and disparaged group of people as his base of election and operation.  But he doesn’t have any loyalty to that base; nor does he particularly identify with them. Nor will he hesitate to abandon them when they prove disloyal, hostile, too demanding or too needy. 

The base followers of Trump do not yet realize that one of his most untrustworthy characteristics is to turn on people when they can no longer meet his needs; or to fire them when they no longer serve his purposes; or to sue them in Court to wiggle out of a contract, a promise, an obligation or a failed venture or project.  He may not be able to take his base people to court to sue them, but he can get at them through existing, or soon-to-exist, laws and rules, and one of those tools is the Tax Code. 

I predict right now that Tax Reform is going to be the petard on which the base of Trump voters will be hung.  The untrustworthiness of Donald Trump is  tied completely to the fact that his administration, and the GOP-controlled Congress, are wedded to one major mission, goal, and objective: the further enrichment of the wealthy and of every substantial business (especially large corporations) that will continue to “pay-to-play” on a grand scale; to pay large dividends and subsidies to their puppets in the White House and Congress, so they can continue to bilk the vast majority of taxpayers out of billions and billions of tax revenue.

It is their Plan.  It is their platform.  It is their destiny.  And every Trump base follower will begin to feel the pinch in spite of a slight tax break given to the lower echelon taxpayers.  That tax break will begin to feel like the sop it is when:

·         healthcare costs return to unmanageable levels under Trumpcare;
·         when prices on imports go up because of bi-lateral trade deals that yield little benefit to the average consumer;
·         when there are no organizations or boards left through which one can complain or file a grievance or consumer appeal;
·         when privatized services become so expensive because of administrative costs that a new car or new house or tuition for a privatized school seem like an impossible dream.  

But that is not the end of it.  The Trump federal budgets will produce consequences unheard of in modern times: 

  • slums growing in lieu of Section 8 housing;
  • adult children having to care for elderly parents because Medicaid no longer pays for a nursing home;
  • jobs scarce as hen’s teeth because of corporate dedication to new technologies that eliminate even white-collar workers;
  • a rising unemployment rate that also produces consequences of mental illness, a rising suicide and crime rate, and maybe chronic sickness and a lowering of the average life-span 
And then, of course, is the toll that an unattended environmental crisis will take upon us all, aided and abetted by the fossil fuel industry.  We will, as a people, suffer the deadly consequences of environmental neglect, and included will be the growth of both public and personal physical damage and destruction caused by unregulated over-use or dumping of toxic chemicals in food, water, earth and air. 

We will undoubtedly reap the consequences of political and social ineptness and barbarity from the untrustworthy, uncaring, unprepared and unqualified Donald Trump and the Republican Party failure to live up to the simple virtues of the Boy Scout Promise and the Boy Scout Law.  The barbarous blunder of Donald Trump’s speech is not just it’s irrelevance, its crassness, or its lack of inspiration.  That speech stands as the redline between a nation of negative regression, repression and de-construction, and a nation of progressive promise. 

Donald Trump failed again – he failed to give those young boys a vision and a purpose upon which to build a future of hope and the reality of a renewed nation.  This cut-throat businessman -- unqualified to be President -- failed us all.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Did Trump Use G-20 to Advance His Own Agenda?

Having been on hiatus longer than expected, this Blog post is something of a follow-up to the posts of 11/23/16 and 6/13/17. 
 
 Professor Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each. 
 Let me say once again, as I have said in other posts: I am not accusing anyone in the Trump circle, including The Donald himself, of being a Fascist or a Nazi. I am simply saying that certain characteristics of such a regime are present in the words and actions of some members of the Trump campaign, and of appointees to certain posts in his administration, and finally in the tweets, orders, speeches and actions of the POTUS.  Let’s have a brief look at just the first of those fourteen points, and some of the progress made toward its accomplishment under the Trump administration.  Then I have a point to make that involves what I think is the real motivation for Trump’s use of such concepts.

 Powerful and Continuing Nationalism.   Trump’s inaugural address on Jan. 22, 2017 was noted for its nationalistic and somewhat belligerent tone – ‘America First’ was the constant theme.   By the way, that slogan – “America First” was a favorite slogan of aviator Charles A. Lindbergh, a leading 1930s isolationist and one-time Nazi sympathizer.   Trump revealed more of his view of “America First” in a Jan. 25 interview with ABC News.  He explained, “We should’ve kept the oil when we got out” of Iraq in 2011. “To the victors go the spoils,” said Trump in another interview, arrogantly declaring an intention to steal Iraq’s national resources.    A few inaugural quotes should suffice to recall the tone: 
  •   Trump argued that this nationalism will bring the country together. “At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other,” he said. “A new national pride will stir ourselves, lift our sights, and heal our divisions.”
  • The new administration plans a major shift in trade policy, and Trump has already threatened Mexico with a 20% tariff if they don’t pay for the wall on the border, and similar penalty-type threats have been made toward other countries.
  •  According to Trump, the U.S. role in the world will reflect “a new vision … America First,” to advance U.S. domination and supremacy over world markets by means somewhat different from past administrations. His aggressively nationalistic foreign policy will strive toward free reign for the huge multinational corporate and banking interests to dominate and control the world economy. 
  • He said: “buy American and hire American.”  And, “The American Carnage stops right here and right now!  From now on, it’s America First!” 
  •  He also said: “We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries.”
  • Trump again:  "we will unite the civilized world against radical terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.”
  • "When America is united," Trump said, "America is totally unstoppable." He said "we must think big and dream even bigger. In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long as it is striving."
  • And he said, "Do not allow anyone to tell you it cannot be done. No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America. We will not fail; our country will thrive and prosper again."

Following that speech, he began to put some definition to his words in the form of Executive Orders.  Here are a few that speak to the powerful nationalism that continues even though at one point he tried toning down his rhetoric in a speech to Congress on Feb. 28, 2017. Orders have been issued to:

  • take first steps to construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, which will cost up to $25 billion;

  • hire 5000 additional Border Patrol agents and 10,000 additional immigration officers to intensify harassment; and return of illegal aliens to their homelands

  • target undocumented immigrants for removal who have been convicted or accused of a law violation;

  • end federal aid to “sanctuary cities”;

  • institute a 90-day ban of nearly all permanent immigration from seven majority Muslim countries (Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen), with provision to extend the ban indefinitely; suspend the entry of refugees into the U.S. for 120 days, and direct officials to determine additional screening; (after lower court delays, partial implementation has begun with SCOTUS approval)

  • just recently, the SCOTUS issued a ruling that allowed some of the ban to proceed, but also lifted the ban on any refugees whose families or substantial contacts are already in the USA.an executive action to bring sweeping changes to the nation's refugee policies and put in motion his plans to build up the nation's military.

  • Prior to that, and in seeming contradiction, Trump had said: "We want to ensure that we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas," he said. "We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country and love deeply our people."
Having just concluded an apparently disastrous meeting with the former G-20 (now becoming known as the G-19 + 1), Donald Trump so isolated himself and the USA from the rest of the group as to be seen standing alone on issues of trade, climate change, and attitudes toward other nations such as North Korea.  Of course, the Donald is delighted to have things turn out this way, since he is promoting America as so great that it can stand alone and promote itself (and him) in bi-lateral talks and treaties and actions.  He will, of course, use the support of other nations when necessary just to stage the strength of America in pulling together meaningless actions like the fly-overs in Korea or the bomb runs in Syria (where ground troops have had to clean out ISIS fighters from various strongholds).
So just what did Trump gain by his behavior and actions at the G-20 conference?  In my opinion, he gained a reputation as an untrustworthy loner, but not necessarily a leader; certainly, not the “Leader of the Free World.”  He gained for himself and America a sense among other countries that America can neither be trusted to lead on vital issues, nor to respond to the needs of other countries, unless at a price.  Above all, he gained the disdain of so many of the leaders that it would be no surprise to me to hear someone say that they would trust Putin more than they would trust Donald Trump.  A few random quotes from The Guardian may suffice to bolster this assessment:

 “Trump expects trade deal with UK to be completed 'very, very quickly.'  US president also confirms he will be visiting London as he has meeting with Theresa May at G20 summit in Hamburg”
“German chancellor Angela Merkel speaks to the press at the end of the G20 summit in Hamburg on Saturday and addresses the clear split between the positions of the US and the remaining 19 nations over climate change in the summit’s joint statement notes.  G20 leaders’ statement on climate change highlights rift with US
According to Rex Tillerson, Trump delivered on confronting Putin about interference in America’s 2016 elections.  Putin denied it, and, apparently, Trump accepted that denial, although the WH denies that.  One commentator indicated that “What we don’t know –and may never know – is what Trump said when Putin looked him directly in the eyes and claimed he didn’t have anything to do with it.”  A blogger commented: “The whole thing is theater for domestic consumption.”
“G20 summit: 'G19' leave Trump alone in joint statement on climate change.  Final G20 communique isolates US opposition to Paris Agreement as Theresa May meets other world leaders.”
 “No wonder Trump is Putin’s favorite: he’s making America weak again” -- Jonathan Freedland

BUT, the Donald did not fail his base. From a distorted sense of what makes America great, he will be seen by his base as having “stood up to Putin and all those foreigners.”  He will be seen as having made America great again by not giving in to pressure to join others in a globalist effort to coddle other nations while giving ourselves a bad deal.  His base will see his shenanigans as putting America -- not Russia, or Putin or Paris Accords, or China or bad trade deals with Regions – FIRST before anything else.  To himself and his base, this G-20 conference will stand out as an enormous success (for all the wrong reasons!).
What will his followers conclude about Trump’s acceptance of Putin’s explanation that Putin (or Russia) had nothing to do with interference in America’s 2016 elections? The base will uneasily conclude that it is “time to move on” with Russia since they may well be convinced by their leader that the US and Russia can both gain through a vibrant trade partnership in certain areas.  Is it all about the money and the profit to be gained? 
Of course it is; why else would Donald Trump even want to be President except to win for himself and his family-owned multi-national business, favorable bi-lateral agreements containing measures that will eventually pay-off for both the family and the business?  Donald Trump will use any method at his disposal to increase his fortune.  He has forever made use of the Courts to advance that fortune; he has used government laws and regulations that benefit him (probably to the extent of lowered taxes and maybe NO taxes in certain years).  He has no limits (indeed, has very few self-limits).  He is no public servant.  He will use the Presidency as he has used other aspects of government, to benefit himself and his family.  It is who he is, and nothing will escape his manipulation in the quest to become the richest family in the world. 

If I am right in my assessment, he will also use the fascist concept of hyper-nationalism in that quest.  Unfortunately, “putting America first”, making America great again” or making America Number One in all we do is tailor-made for his manipulation of the international trade scene.  He is not advancing strongman tactics or rhetoric, or hyper-nationalism as visionary political concepts.  He is using those very concepts to attract and hold a base of support that will never understand they are being used in one cause only – not the greatness of America, but the aggrandizement of Donald Trump and his family business.  Why else does Ivanka Trum attend these international conferences,  sit in the President's chair, and meet privately with the leaders of countries through which Trump Enterprises might benefit from more favorable trade deals (both public and private)? 

Donald Trump is not a nationalist, nor a globalist, nor a fascist.  He is not even a skilled politician.  He is an authoritarian businessman whose sole purpose is to use every means at his disposal to realize his capitalist dreams.  To see him as anything less, or as anything more, is to miss the essence of his motivations, his goals, his orders and pronouncements, his tweets (and other bizarre actions) and his role as Commander-In-Chief which might more appropriately be termed: “Manipulator-In-Chief!”
It is almost laughable lately to hear the lengths to which analysts and commentators will go to try to explain why Trump is doing or saying or tweeting something outrageous, contradictory, or just plain stupid.  It is laughable because the Donald does not care much about politics, rhetorical nuance, political correctness, diplomatic speech and custom, or even about policy consistency.  What he cares about is how everything he does or says influences the end game – his assets, his fortune, his ability to control deals.  It seems possible to me that trade deals with the U.K., with Russia, with Australia, with South Korea, with Japan and others may be just what he is looking for in the long-term – all of which could contain favorable terms for his own business enterprises.   

A NOTE to mainstream media:  try to analyze Trump’s words and actions less in terms of short-term political categories (since often they have no relationship at all), and start analyzing his words and actions more in terms of his profit motive and longer-term goal of huge aggrandizement for Trump and Trump Enterprises.  Research and explore in-depth his manipulations and his possible future asset gains, and you will better understand why he does what he does.  He may be crazy to some, but he may also be “crazy like a fox!"   Follow the money and future opportunities for profit-taking because that is the essence of what drives Mr. Trump.   

Monday, June 19, 2017

Let's Be Clear: Governing Does Involve Regulation

 U.S. Rep. Claudia L. Tenney (R-NY 22nd) is applauding House passage of the Financial Choice Act which, she claims, will free Wall Street from many of the constraints put in place after the 2008 financial crisis in the Dodd-Frank legislation. She claims loosening of regulations on Wall Street firms will help to grow the economy.  Last time (and every other time) we have loosened regulations for the Financial Business, the economy may have grown somewhat, but mainly for the rich and powerful who were the clear winners.  Let’s review a bit of recent history.
First, it was the lack of financial restraints under the Bush Administration that got us into the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.  A housing crisis taught us that mortgage lenders were not solvent enough to back-up their products and were using account monies to invest in near fraudulent stocks.  The complicity and scheming of too-big-to- fail banks and other financial firms led to bail-outs that further weakened the economy.  Because of lack of fiscal restraints, and sometimes despite existing laws and regulations, Wall Street, multi-national corporations and financial institutions wreaked havoc for the 99% of us living below the highest tax brackets.  The middle class was devastated.  The poorer members of society were caught in a whirlwind of economic assault. 
The Dodd-Frank bill was one way to put on the brakes and to restore some sanity to the economic system.  But Republicans, who believe firmly in trying the same old failed policies repeatedly -- theories and policies that do not work for democracy - became the Party of “NO.”  They obstructed every jobs bill, every infrastructure bill, every equal pay for women bill, and every bill that tried to give a boost to those living at poverty level, including the Affordable Care Act (derisively called “Obamacare”).  They succeeded in being the Party that slowed the recovery for the 99% of us while the 1% or less of the richest people in our nation prospered on the backs of all those who were suffering the consequences of Republican do-nothingness.
And now, Ms. Tenney wants us to swallow her line that “Americans have seen the worst economic recovery in 70 years.”  And she added: “Hardworking taxpayers have seen their paychecks stagnate, mortgages have grown increasingly expensive and small business owners are unable to access the capital they need to grow their businesses and to create jobs.”  But, whose fault is that?  She seems to imply that it is the fault of a past administration, and we all know which one she means. 
But, here’s the rub, when the Republicans took control of the House in 2010, and then of the Senate in 2014, they have done very little or nothing to advance the standing of blue collar or white collar workers.  On the contrary, they have spent all their time playing politics with recovery, blocking legislation that would have put unemployed people to work, or trying to get rid of every social program they term as a “hand-out” or “social welfare.”  In other words, Tenney’s own Party has been the major contributing factor to the decline and fall of the middle class, to the lack of healthcare access for every child in this nation and to that slow economic recovery.
Let me make one more point in this regard.  It has been the Republican Party that has tried to eliminate every organized entity that might lend-a-hand to consumers in general.  They started on Affordable Health Care (ACA) repeal early which has culm innated in their abominable legislation that will leave at least 20 million people uninsured. And within the ACA, they targeted the appeals panel that would have given consumers a voice and support when Big Pharm and large insurance companies tried to cheat them out of coverage or access to services.  Look carefully consumers: there has been a covert aggression by Republicans on Consumer-based advocacy units throughout government, and you will have little recourse left if you want to grieve any decision by these huge companies.  Let me simply list some of those consumer-oriented agencies and programs that have been weakened or eliminated by the legislative mouthpieces of the wealthy.
Head Start – it isn’t just day care; it was also designed to help parents advocate for their children
Universal Pre-k education:  not passed due to Republican opposition, even though early education has been shown to bolster the chance for good outcomes throughout later grades
Consumer Protection Agency -- Republicans are working on a new plan for weakening the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by stripping the agency of its independence and severely limiting its ability to go after corporations. House Republicans intend to de-fang the consumer protection agency and make it more susceptible to political leverage by granting more control and oversight to the White House so the agency director can be fired by the President.  In addition to the leadership changes, the CHOICE bill would strip the agency of its power to enforce a law that bans companies from using “unfair” or “deceptive” practices. That would bar the CFPB from being able to take enforcement actions against some financial companies such as Wells Fargo.  A staff attorney for the National Consumer Law Center said the proposals would "kick the legs out from under the CFPB," which reported it had provided nearly $12 billion in relief and assistance to more than 29 million consumers from its 2011 opening through the end of February 2017.
Planned Parenthood – not just a center for abortion counseling and procedures, or access to contraceptives, but a clinic designed to support women’s health and to encourage women to advocate for themselves.  Republicans have always feared the advocacy of the underclasses because they know how often and how thoroughly they have robbed those classes of resources, dignity and money to enrich themselves.
Legal Services Corporation – has been gradually eroded by Republican budget cuts and is now marked for elimination in Trump’s Budget. 
Here are some other quasi-advocacy groups targeted for major cuts in the Trump Budget:  Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Community Action Agencies, Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigations Board, U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.  It is possible that the Trump administration will not be satisfied until all forms of citizen advocacy and appeal are undermined.
Tenney’s parting shot is pure political gibberish: “It will require financial institutions to be strongly capitalized to lay the groundwork for a stable resilient financial system that can support a robust economy.”  Translation:  What the Financial CHOICE Act will do is to strip away restraints upon commercial activity so that capitalist oligarchs can proceed to enrich themselves once again at the expense of all those who work hard just to live from paycheck to paycheck. 
Let me be quite clear here:  The ‘Free Market’ does not exist except in the fantasy world of conservative ideologists who want you to believe that freedom is that with which markets and marketeers concern themselves.  Don’t be bamboozled by their devaluing of the word ‘Free.”  Capitalists are only concerned with what advances profits.  That is their greed creed.  They could care less about freedom, equality, justice, or any other values of a Democracy.  Those are not their core values unless they can be used to sell you something! 
Let me be crystal-clear:  the values, aims and hoped-for outcomes of Capitalism – Big Business – Financiers – Banks – and for-profit industries are very rarely compatible with the values, aims, and hoped-for outcomes of a Democracy.  They are indeed, at most times, incompatible with one another. (see my posting of April 15, 2017)
So, let us be even clearer:  the role of democratic government is not to accommodate, inculcate, or boost the aims, values and purposes of Capitalism (except when doing so can bring greater freedom, opportunity, justice and equality to all its citizens).  The role of a democratic government in relation to capitalism and business enterprises is not to do their bidding, but to uphold, as its primary responsibility, the constitutional verities on which this nation and its government was and is founded. 
One of the major faults of Capitalism and business enterprises is that they have an unfortunate tendency to want to control government, to use government, and to weaken the power of government to direct their enterprises and their outcomes.  What they forget and often ignore is that they are creations of the State with certain responsibilities spelled-out in their charters and documents of incorporation.  They are not ‘persons’ or ’individuals’ or ‘citizens’ with inalienable rights and freedoms, despite the egregious error of the SCOTUS in declaring them to be such in relation to free speech in the “Citizens United” decision.  There is absolutely nothing in the Constitution which would support that conclusion.
Therefore, it must be made abundantly clear that IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF OUR DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT to restrict, regulate, direct and call to account all business enterprises in order to place upon them the duty and obligation of acting as creatures of this democratic form of Government.   The values, truths, freedoms and the responsibilities of this Democracy come first; the operation of business enterprises must be brought into accord with those democratic principles. 
Congresswoman Tenney has another assertion in her statement that cannot go unchallenged.  She said, “In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, Washington Liberals passed the Dodd-Frank Act with the promise that this sweeping legislation would provide a stronger, healthier economy.  Instead Americans have seen the worst economic recovery in 70 years.”
Having already dealt with the last part of that quote, let us concentrate on the first part.  Evidently, Tenney fails to comprehend that the Dodd-Frank legislation was primarily designed, not to build a stronger economy (except as a by-product) but to curtail and prevent financiers, bankers, industries and corporations from continuing practices that, in the final analysis, seriously harmed and hurt millions of fellow-citizens of our nation.  Dodd-Frank took on the anti-democratic values and behaviors of unscrupulous practitioners of unprincipled profit-taking and profit-making, and offered a message that must be heeded:  capitalism must work within the confines of democratic and constitutional principles and values.  Neither Capitalism nor other entities (such as Religions and Educational institutions) can be given a green light to make up rules that circumvent the law – this is a government of laws, not of men or of business enterprises, and Capitalism must be restrained when it chooses to circumvent its democratic responsibilities.
I have submitted to you my criticisms of Congresswoman Tenney’s statement.  Perhaps Congresswoman Tenney doesn’t know her history, doesn’t understand the intent of the Constitution (it’s in the Preamble), or doesn’t have the capacity to deal with the demands of her oath of office.  Or, maybe she is just parroting a Party line or an abusive right-wing ideology that is, at its core, anti-democratic.  She seems to believe strongly that her role, and the role of our government, is to bolster the economy and to strengthen Business of all sizes by removing restraints, restrictions and regulations (or whole laws as in the case of the ACA) that were intended to prevent businesses from exploiting citizens, laws, courts, tax codes and legislation for their own aggrandizement.  Perhaps too, she has little understanding of the radical Far Right cohort that has more than once reared its ugly head in the form of big business oligarchs who despise democracy.  Furthermore, it seems to me she may harbor a limited view of just what her oath of office means:  uphold the Constitution and its principles as your primary responsibility instead of acting as though the business of governing consists mainly in supporting oligarchs and plutocrats like Donald Trump and his multi-millionaire/billionaire Cabinet.
There is this simple fact to consider: there are no references in the Constitution to protecting, boosting, or even supporting Capitalism and Big Business interests, although there are a few references to regulating Commerce with other nations and restricting commerce between the states, and there is also mention of protection for inventions, property and copyright.  In contrast, there are many references to supporting the welfare and freedoms of the People, as citizens and voters.  So, here’s a bit of advice for Congressional representatives:  
First, do no harm to the People;
Second, look after the welfare of your at-home constituency above that of your group of "sponsors" 
Third, put business interests in proper perspective and guard against their takeover of government, and replacement of democratic values;
Fourth, make your oath of office real by putting liberty and justice for the 99% of us above the protection of the wealthiest and most privileged few 

If you can’t get on-board with these fundamentals, then I suggest retiring from elected office!