Christmas Eve Alone with Friends & Foes

(Photo Credit Mario Tama | Getty Images)

Two hundred and thirty-eight years ago, the French army was barracked in Providence, Rhode Island. On Christmas Eve 1780, the people of Providence celebrated with the Catholic French-speaking soldiers bunking at University Hall at Brown University, singing carols and lighting candles.

http://www.quahog.org/factsfolklore/index.php?id=159

One hundred and four years ago, enemy soldiers stared across the cold battlefield of northern France and, out of respect for each other, a Christmas truce sporadically broke out along the Western Front… French, German, and British soldiers crossed trenches to exchange seasonal greetings and talk. In some areas, men from both sides ventured into no man’s land on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to mingle and exchange food and souvenirs. There were joint burial ceremonies and prisoner swaps, while several meetings ended in carol-singing. Men played games of football with one another…

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/england/10455611/England-v-Germany-when-rivals-staged-beautiful-game-on-the-Somme.html

In World War II, specifically, on December 24, 1941, at precisely 4:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve, as dusk gathered and the temperature dropped, the red-coated Marine Band on the White House lawn struck up “Joy to the World,” accompanying choirs from area churches. Thousands had gathered in the fading light. After some further carols, the band began “Hail to the Chief.” As the sunset gun at nearby Fort Myer boomed, the president and Mrs. Roosevelt appeared on the South Portico with a group of guests, the Prime Minister Winston Churchill of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

http://www.historynet.com/christmas-in-wartime.htm

These days, instead of honoring allies like playing “Joy to the World” to the Prime Minister of Britain, or singing carols to French soldiers away from home to help America, no, instead of celebrating friends or even seeking a temporary white-flag with enemies like the 1914 Christmas Truce, as I’m recording this right now at approximately 6pm Eastern, the President of the United States has spent Christmas Eve 2018 sending out more than 10 tweets already today attacking Democrats, Republican Senator Bob Corker, Trump’s own former anti-terrorism envoy Brett McGurk… and complaining about US allies overseas… that’s right, rather than support foreign allies or seek a detente to the domestic tensions at home, President Trump shows he’s more Grinch than Gingrich, forcing a government shutdown for the holidays after the House and Senate had already passed a bi-partisan bill to avoid this, the third shutdown of the year. Oh, you know, the shutdown that, on December 11, 2018, Trump proudly declared I’ll tell you what: I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck. I will take the mantle… I will be the one to shut it down — I’m not going to blame you for it.”

https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/24/politics/trump-christmas-chaos/index.html

Weird how now Trump and his few allies left, like Mark Meadows are trying to blame the Democrats in the Senate for blocking the appropriations bill. Apparently, the approximately 3 million Federal civil servants aren’t as important to the Republicans as Neil Gorsuch was, otherwise the filibuster rule would be removed entirely, right?

So here we are. The second year of the Trump Administration. The filibuster rule that was in place for 100 years has been removed by Republican Senators to seat a conservative justice. The US has broken its treaty responsibility under the Paris Agreement. The US has threatened its own allies in NATO. The US was withdrawn from the Iran Framework. The US has announced its withdrawal from NAFTA and renegotiated the agreement. The US has withdrawn from a nuclear weapons deal with Russia negotiated by Ronald Reagan. And, this fall, the US has done nothing as a Saudi resident-alien living in the United States is murdered on diplomatic grounds by the goons of Mohammed bin Salaman. Most recently, Trump talks with Turkish dictator Erdogan and then announces the withdrawal of US forces from Syria. Cui bono? Who benefits? Dictator Erdogan, Dictator Al-Assad, Dictator Putin, and -ironically- even the Iranian backed terrorist group Hezbollah… and who suffers? The stateless Kurds. The same Kurds that were betrayed by the US in ‘91, the same Kurds not given enough support in IS’ Northern Iraq offensive in 6/2014 & now Trump’s betrayal in 12/2018…

Why does Trump coordinate more with Dictator Orban, Dictator Duarte, Dictator Putin, Dictator MBS, and Dictator Erdogan than Angela Merkel, Theresa May,  Emmanuel Macron, Justin Trudeau, or Shinzō Abe?

Why does Trump exude admiration for Dictator Xi when he removes term limits, builts re-education camps for the Uighers? Is it because Xi has recognized more than 125 trademarks for Trump and his families businesses in just these last two years?

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-40283830

So this Christmas Eve? December 24, 2018, when President Trump just tweeted out “I am all alone (poor me) in the White House”?

https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/24/politics/trump-christmas-chaos/index.html

I truly believe this is a man who has built his own prison. Attacking the Bush Family, attacking John McCain, attacking the Federal Judiciary, attacking Jeff Sessions, the DOJ and the FBI, pretending George Papadopoulos, Rick Gates, and Paul Manafort are nobodies, attacking Michael Cohen, building an administration with the likes of Sean Spicer, Michael Flynn, Tom Price, Steve Bannon, Anthony Scaramucci, Omarosa Newman, Gary Cohn, Ronny Jackson, Ryan Zilke,

Forcing out HR MacMaster, Rex Tillerson, David Shulkin, and firing Jim Mathis for announcing his retirement….

And let’s not forget that Trump now has had three chiefs of staff in less than 2 years…

And this is the guy who complains, on Christmas Eve, that he’s all alone….

 

 

 

The Moral High Ground

(Photo Credit: Mandel Ngan AFP/Getty Images)

Morality is individual, ethics is collective. Often we talk about the so-called “moral high ground” referring to the consistency of moral behavior or a code of morality that allows a person or even a nation-state to respond to the issues of the day or the actions of other nation-states and individuals… Nixon’s lies, Reagan’s “I don’t recall”, the Bush Family’s oil interests, Clinton’s sexual predatory behaviors… all of these call into question that moral high ground of the Presidency and of the United States of America.

Imagine that. Imagine if the preponderance of evidence indicated that a president was guilty of lies, deceptive recollections of memory or facts, business conflicts, AND sexual predatory behaviors?

  1. Before publically announcing his intention to run for president, Trump mocked President Obama for his vacation days and games of golf. How’s that working out?
  1. Trump said as a presidential candidate that he would drain the swamp and hire only the best people….
  • General Michael Flynn… has pled guilty…
  • Michael Cohen has pled guilty and been sentenced to three years…
  • The National Inquirer has admitted to conspiracy and campaign violations in a prosecuting-avoidance deal with the SDNY…
  • Campaign Manager Paul Manafort has been convicted of tax fraud, conspiracy, etc…. Trump’s defense? Well, Manafort worked for Ronald Reagan too… thought Trump seems to forget that Manafort worked for Reagan BEFORE the fraud and conspiracy, whereas Manafort worked for Trump after and during the criminal activities….
  • Rick Gates? Yup him too….
  • George Papadopoulos who has pled guilty to trying to coordinate with the Russians….
  • Trump’s friend and ally, Roger Stone has taken the 5th Amendment in regards to subpoenas by the Republican-led US Senate and is also being investigated by the Mueller probe…
  • Roger Stone’s associate Andrew Miller held in contempt…
  1. Sitting Presidents “can’t be indicted” because that’s been DOJ tradition since the early 1970s… you know what’s else has been a tradition since the Nixon Era? The release of tax returns by presidential candidates.
  1. The Russia assassination of Alexander Litvinenko? The Russian attempted-assassination of Sergei and Yulia Skripal? Horrible! Tragedies! Against the rule of law! Then there’s that assassination of American resident alien journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul ordered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman?
  1. Trump complained about NAFTA and has renegotiated with the threat of withdrawing from the agreements… like he withdrew from the nuclear weapons deal with Russia, the Paris Climate Agreement, and the Iran Framework… But he expects other countries to follow their obligations such as military expenditures under the NATO Treaty agreements… But China does not have to follow its treaty obligations under the WTO, but they do have to pay tariffs on steel and soy, but maybe not if they make a deal to buy agricultural equipment from the US, but not Harley’s because Harley is a bad company because they moved operations overseas…not like Carrier who laid off 200 employees after Trump claimed to have saved 2000 jobs… honestly, I can’t keep up with the whiplash following this guys logic…. Now arrested Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant Huawei… Trump’s dangling leveraging Meng with the tariff negotiations, but condemns the use of pressure on Trump Organization and Trump Campaign personnel as virtually criminal acts by the DOJ, you know, his DOJ that’s led by his Attorney-General and his Director of the FBI….
  1. Today, Mika Brzezinski criticized by Trump for her offensive slur against gays…. This criticism by the man who said Mexicans are rapists and drug dealers, Africans come from shit hole countries, and women should be grabbed by there genitals… only he didn’t say genitals, did he? And today, Trump criticized Comey’s non-answers to the House Judiciary Committee, while his own lawyers refuse, limit, and redact questions and answers to the Special Counsel’s Office.
  1. Also today, the House Oversight Committee under Trump ally Mark Meadows began investigations into the Clinton Foundation… what’s weird is that the House is using tax returns to investigate the Clintons…. Imagine if the same committee had access to the tax returns of the president and or the Trump Organization?
  • Then the OVERSIGHT Committee might look at the 63rd Floor of Trump Tower and Vadim Trincher, one of the leaders of a Russian-American crime ring that operated an international gambling operation from Trump Tower which laundered over $100 million, according to the U.S. attorney’s office and FBI.
  • Then there’s the 49th floor rented to ex-FIFA official Chuck Blazer frequently attended Trump’s Miss Universe competitions and let Trump film a commercial for Trump University in his apartment. That’s the “university” that Trump would settle lawsuits brought by students against the now-defunct Trump University for $25 million. As for Blazer, he went on to befriend Russian President Vladimir Putin and voted for Russia to host the 2018 World Cup before admitting in court to taking bribes and pleading guilty to tax evasion, money laundering, racketeering, and wire fraud.
  • 43rd floor –- condo of Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort.
  • 26th and 25th floors — Trump campaign and presidential transition offices It was here that Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Manafort agreed to take a meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya in June 2016 after being promised potentially damaging information on Hillary Clinton, according to email records. After the election, Michael Flynn and Kushner arranged a separate, private meeting with former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak at Trump Tower that they said was to establish a “fresh start” in U.S.-Russian relations, according to a statement made by Kushner in July 2017. Last December, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his communications with Kislyak and is now cooperating with Mueller’s investigation while facing up to five years in prison. Kushner denies any wrongdoing. https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/controversial-residents-trump-tower/story?id=52577191
  1. Then there’s the Wall Street Journal Report from today… Federal -that’s right, FEDERAL- prosecutors are investigating whether the Trump Inaugural Committee misspent $107 MILLION of donations = and is examining whether top donors gave money in exchange for access to the incoming Trump Administration, policy concessions, or to influence official administration positions…. Who!, That sounds A LOT like that whole pay for play that the Clinton Foundation is being accused of, doesn’t it? When did that House Oversight Hearing get called? Oh, right, today… the same day that the Republican owned Wall Street Journal reported that Trump is being investigated for pay for play… I wonder when Mark Meadow’s will have that hearing?

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-tells-meadows-no-on-white-house-chief-of-staff-wants-him-on-capitol-hill/2018/12/12/3148be46-fe57-11e8-83c0-b06139e540e5_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.2398a2e6d74c

https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/controversial-residents-trump-tower/story?id=52577191

A Return to Civility, Part II

In our last podcast, I spoke about the history of recent Supreme Court confirmation proceedings. But why? With so much animosity in the news, why just point out the problems in the nomination, confirmation, and SCOTUS decision-making processes?

To think, there are so many other issues facing our Federal government. Debt-ceiling gamesmanship, deficit-spending, questionable tax policy, exploding entitlement budgets, delusionally bloated Pentagon-spending, ACA, insurance premium-gouging, prescription price-gouging, questions about social media censorship and regulation, environmental regulation and climate change, election interference from overseas, immigration policy,  NAFTA, NATO, ICC, WTO, TransPacific Partnership, human rights… and on, and on…

So why obsess about the deterioration of the Supreme Court confirmation process? Well, because its symptomatic of what I see as the reductionist, myopic, and selfishness that has, while it has always been there, has now completely overtaken the American corporate and political landscape. Identity politics has replaced political debate; Political disagreement is now seen as evidence of a moral or patriotic flaw in those with which we disagree. The neo-tribalistic perceptions of political ideology have become the norm, and compromise is a now bad word. There are fewer and fewer true leaders left in elected government. Common purpose and Noblesse oblige have been subsumed by personal and partisan Machiavellianism. Relativism is now the dominant moral philosophy of Congress and the White House.

But, maybe that’s just me. It seems, to me, that the lack of political courage domestically and internationally has brought us closer to the edge – the point of no return in terms of climate change, the edge of losing the stability of international NGO regimes that were developed in the ashes of the Second World War, instead of recognizing our collective human destiny, the national and international actors seem to desire a return to the competition for international resources and hegemony that brought us colonization, jingoism, racism, two world wars, and near use of nuclear weapons during the Cold War.

To use psychological terminology, both internationally and domestically, we are regressing, not maturing. We’re playing Hungry Hungry Hippo and zero-sum games, as opposed to incorporating game theory and win-win into our mindsets and guiding principles. We need a long game, not a putting game; as the Iroquois often said in deliberations, we need to think about the Seventh Generation, not our personal checkbooks and neotribalistic aspirations.

Because, what the world needs, if American leadership. Yes, for decades, there has been a robust debate between those who support unilateral American leadership and those who believe in multilateral world leadership with a strong, active, and an engaged American presence in the world stage. What the world has now, is an international power vacuum.

Today, as we speak, there is a genocide against the Rohingya in Burma… and the Burmese say, what happened to the Native Americans, don’t you still keep them on reservations even today?

Saudi and other US allies bomb Yemenese civilians with US-made bombs, and whisper that it’s their Vietnam, their Nicaragua after all, right?

Russia commits assassinations and attempted assassinations of dissidents in the UK, and says, hey, the US did it too in 1953 Iran, 1954 Guatemala, 1963 South Vietnam, and 1973 Chile.

Russia annexes Crimea, Eastern Ukraine, and intimidates its neighbors… and sends social media bots to exacerbate divisions between Americans; all the while, the President of the United States says he respects Putin and believes the Head of State of a foreign power, over his own government’s non-partisan intelligence community.

Of course, it is not just Putin that Mr. Trump admires, he has also expressed his admiration for Duarte of the Philippines, Kim of North Korea, and Xi of China.

Yes, China, where the decades-long Hannification of Tibet is essentially complete, during which the US let China into the WTO and facilitated the transfer of technology through not just corporate espionage but nation-state espionage against US corporations… then the US became dependent on borrowing money from the very people who have stolen US technology, and even imprisoned the Panchen Lama. Would the US react so banally if the Vatican Secretary of State were kidnapped, or the heir to the Chief Rabbi of Israel?

Which brings us to this week. This week news broke that there are nearly a million Uighurs interred in concentration camps in the People’s Republic of China. Once again, the US hems and haws. Officials toss the word ‘sanctions’ out again like a panacea, whereas it is more like a placebo.

After all, China has weathered the steel sanctions well enough, while American soybean farmers suffer and Harley-Davidson has announced it is moving some production to Europe. Not overseas where its cheaper as the jingoistic narrative goes, but to the land of socialism, free university, and free healthcare… Europe.

So, how does the US tell China to stop the internment of Uighurs. The US still imprisons foreigners in GITMO without Due Process and separates asylum-seeking families at the US border. And just this week, as news of the Uigher re-education camps broke, leader of the United States has denied the death of thousands of Puerto Ricans…

And our response, as Americans and human beings, our response has been to double-down into neotribalism and identity politics. The problems facing the world are not the fault of one man, but it has been exasperated by him.

Trumpism needs to be rejected and filed away in history with fascism, Stalinism, McCarthyism, South American Caudillos, and rulers from across the globe including the Middle East and Africa who use cult-of-personality strongman tactics. I hear conservative voices cry out against the increasingly violent Left, the so-called AntiFa; but many of the same voices have been silent about the violent Right… from the the continuous presence of the KKK in America, the institutional racism of Southern law enforcement that attacked Civil Rights protesters, right up to the militia movement, the Sovereign Citizen movement, Ammon and Randy Bundy, etc.

Violent rhetoric and political violence from all sides of the political spectrum must be stopped. Instead of complaining about political violence and violence rhetoric from our ideological opposites, we all need to remove the log from our own eyes and ideologies before pointing out the splinter in others’ eyes and ideologies.

Democratic politicians who play the same games of manipulative populism and fearmongering need to be voted out; we used to talk about who we are, not who we’re not. We used to promote vision, not vitriol. Yes, its hard to be the minority party, but it doesn’t mean you have to lower your standards to the lowest forms of politics. It is also hard to be the party in power, to govern not gripe. The traditional Republicans need to regain their moral standards. Since 2010, traditional Republicans have thought they could use the Tea Party movement, only to become controlled by them… don’t believe me? Just as Speaker John Boehner. Ask Jeb Bush. The Republican leaders who have tolerated Trump in exchange for tax cuts and Supreme Court seats need to go. We need new leadership in both parties. We need national unity, not national dysfunction. The New Jerusalem is shrinking from its promise as the beacon on the hill for the world to look up to, no, America has become dystopian, not Utopian.

It’s possible. Rhode Island, long one of the most nepotistic judiciaries, implemented reforms that have ushered in candidates of qualification, not political affiliation. A return to a supermajority for Supreme Court nominations. An end to the gerrymandered districting in the House of Representatives. Bi-partisan co-sponsorship for legislation. Guaranteed up/down votes on bills offered by the minority party. Depoliticalization of the debt ceiling. Ending dark money. Rebuilding partnership with historic allies, and maybe taking a break from questionable new allies. A commitment by politicians, especially presidents, that recognizes treaties are -according to Article VI of the US Constitution- the supreme law of the land and cannot be withdrawn from, but need to be renegotiated or unratified legislatively at the 2/3 threshold in the Constitution.

We can meaningfully address the myriad of issues facing our Federal government. Debt-ceiling gamesmanship, deficit-spending, questionable tax policy, exploding entitlement budgets, delusionally bloated Pentagon-spending, ACA, insurance premium-gouging, prescription price-gouging, questions about social media censorship and regulation, environmental regulation and climate change, election interference from overseas, immigration policy,  NAFTA, NATO, ICC, WTO, TransPacific Partnership, human rights… and on, and on… We can do it if we collaborate and compromise with a win-win mentality, not the reductionist neotribal mindset that has become the norm in recent years.

It’s possible. And, even if it wasn’t, are we willing to live in the tit-for-tat Banana Republic as we’ve become, or do we want the new America to be like the old America: imperfect, but searching to be a more perfect union.

PHOTO CREDIT (Public Domain):  https://www.archives.gov/exhibit_hall/american_originals_iv/images/jfk_inaugural_address/inauguration.html
Photographer/Painter: Record Group 111, Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer (111-SC-578830)

Article 27 and Mexican Immigration

In regards to the debate on immigration, no one has pointed out that US government policy has directly caused an increase in Mexican immigration: in the interests of NAFTA, the US forced Mexico to remove Article 27 from their constitution. Article 274 had guaranteed that rural and indigenous Mexicans could never loose their land. Since NAFTA and the destruction of Mexican communal ownership (similar to what the US did domestically to Native Americans through the Dawes Act), Mexican farmers have been driven off their land (often by American agribusinesses) and have sought economic opportunities in Mexican and American cities. Maybe we shouldn’t have demanded the end of Article 27?