Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Trump Initiatives Imperil the World

A brief look at the news these days makes it clear that new President Trump meant what he said and intends to carry out exactly the kinds of things he was campaigning on. An era of extraordinary danger is upon us. Here are some of the more ominous.

Taking health care away from millions will result in the deaths of many thousands of people. His China ideas are playing with fire and could end in global depression and even possibly war. His environmental ideas could speed the path to a mega extinction epoch punctuated by trade wars, the rise of totalitarian regimes and imperialist wars of resource acquisition. His NATO ideas could lead to the dismemberment of the alliance and a Russian calculation that wholesale aggression might pay off. In my judgment, the world has not been at as perilous a juncture since 1939, the eve of World War II.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Details of Trump-Russian Campaign Collusion

Former British counterintelligence officer Christopher Steele has compiled an extensive report based on his contacts that conclusively identifies the specifics about the Russian hacking operation mounted against the Hillary Clinton campaign throughout 2016. Particularly damning are its findings that Russian officials up to and including President Vladimir Putin were personally involved in approving and directing the operation and that Donald Trump himself was aware and approved cooperation between the top brain trust of his presidential campaign and these same Russian agents. As former Labor Secretary Robert Reich has commented, if such allegations are true they fit the constitutional definition of treason.

Here is a link to a detailed report on Steele's findings by investigative reporter Ronnie Dugger as published in Reader Supported News yesterday, January 18.  I invite you to take a close look at this report. Prepare to be flabbergasted.

As for me, I will not be watching the inauguration tomorrow. It seems to be a matter of great importance to Trump that he gets a large crowd and that his TV ratings are strong. He has lately taken to bragging about the size of his prospective audience. To do my small part to frustrate these hopes, I will have the television on to a channel that is not showing the inauguration. If you have cable an action like this will be compiled into their viewing statistics.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Why Rep. Barbara Lee is Boycotting the Inauguratiion

Representative Barbara Lee of California will be boycotting the Trump Inauguration on January 20. Her statement below concisely expresses what many of us believe about the incoming administration.

“Inaugurations are celebratory events, a time to welcome the peaceful transition of power and honor the new administration. On January 20th, I will not be celebrating or honoring an incoming president who rode racism, sexism, xenophobia and bigotry to the White House.

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 29:  Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) accepts the Elizabeth Taylor Legislative Leadership Award at the AIDSWatch 2016 Positive Leadership Award Reception at the Rayburn House Office Building on February 29, 2016 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation)

“Donald Trump ran one of the most divisive and prejudiced campaigns in modern history. He began his campaign by insulting Mexican immigrants, pledging to build a wall between the United States and Mexico and then spent a year and a half denigrating communities of color and normalizing bigotry. He called women ‘pigs’, stoked Islamophobia, and attacked a Gold Star family. He mocked a disabled reporter and appealed to people’s worst instincts.  I cannot in good conscience attend an inauguration that would celebrate this divisive approach to governance.
“After the election, many hoped the president-elect would turn toward unifying our country. Instead he has shown us that he will utilize the same tools of division he employed on the campaign trail as our nation’s Commander-in-Chief. We need look no further than the team he is assembling to find signals that the era of Trump will be one of chaos and devastation for our communities.

“The president-elect has named Steve Bannon, a white nationalist as his chief strategist. He has nominated Senator Jeff Sessions to the office of Attorney General, despite his long career of opposition to civil and human rights. And in perhaps the most damning sign of the chaos to come, the president-elect has expedited the process to repeal the Affordable Care Act and make America sick again.”

“To make matters worse, after the intelligence community reported Russian interference in our election, Donald Trump frequently and forcefully defended Vladimir Putin. He insulted senior intelligence officials in order to preserve his reputation and disguise the truth. The American people will never forget that when a foreign government violated our democracy, Donald Trump chose the interests of another nation over our own.

“Donald Trump has proven that his administration will normalize the most extreme fringes of the Republican Party. On Inauguration Day, I will not be celebrating. I will be organizing and preparing for resistance.”

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Obama Farewell Address Looks to the Future

 Obama Forever

On Tuesday January 10 President Barack Obama delivered his Farewell Address at the McCormick Center in Chicago, bookending his improbable ascent to the presidency in the city where it began. The speech was vintage Obama, displaying his remarkable oratorical gifts, hopeful and optimistic despite all he's had to endure, and calling us to answer our better angels while remaining committed to staying involved to make our world a better place.

There was just a bit of self-congratulation, modest compared to what the President could have said. He pointed out that "no foreign terrorist organization has successfully planned and carried out an operation in America during these eight years." We have "cut our dependence on foreign oil in half and doubled our production of renewables." "If, considering the economic conditions we came in on, someone had said eight years ago we would have been able to cut unemployment more than in half and have a record 75 consecutive months of positive job creation" that would have been hailed as quite an achievement. We also have "the lowest uninsured rate in history and the growth in health care cost is the lowest it's been in 50 years." These are all accurate assessments for which the Administration has every right to be justly proud.

Obama also administered "three warnings" based on his assessment that "American democracy is under assault." "We must guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are," he said. The warnings had to do with income inequality, race relations and excessive partisanship. Growing income inequality threatens to poison society by denying upward mobility to average Americans, creating cynicism and desperation that finds expression in extremist solutions. It also feeds demagoguery that points to groups as scapegoats for lack of progress, turning Americans against one another.

He mentioned that some felt his election in 2008 meant the country had entered a "post-racial" phase, but that such a view is unrealistic. He said "I've lived long enough to be able to say that things have definitely improved in the past 30 years, but we still have work to do." In the fields of housing, criminal justice and education "hearts must change." He quoted the fictional character Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird that to understand another person you must have empathy, to be able to imagine what it's like to walk around in their skin.

Excessive partisanship was the President's third cautionary warning. Too often, he said, "we retreat into our own bubbles." He pointed out a "fragmentation, only accepting information that fits our opinions." We need and must accept "a common baseline of fact and information," that "science and reason matter," and that "without common ground compromise is impossible." He decried the "selective distortion of the facts." The entire tendency is, he summed up, "self-defeating." It is characterized by a "fear of change, fear of differences, and intolerance of free thought." Quoting George Washington from the first president's Farewell Address, Obama said "We should reject the first attempt to alienate any part of the American people from another."

He ended with an appeal to activism, saying that the system does respond to the strong voice of the people when it is loud and insistent. He called upon the young, who "do not see change as something to be feared" to spearhead a renewed drive for "a fair, just, and inclusive America." Leaving the presidency at just 55, one can well imagine Barack Obama continuing to serve as an active catalyst for the vision he has worked so hard to further over the past eight years in the White House.