Thursday, September 21, 2017

Tween boys and the fate of the world?

First Donald Trump, inexplicably in the ill-fitting role of the President of the United States of America, threatens to go totally criminal, to “totally destroy” North Korea. This violates international laws to which past US presidents have signed and far better US Senates have ratified. Killing civilians. Shooting rockets into cities. Committing genocide. All totally immoral and illegal.

Then the Spoiled Brat Ruler of North Korea responds: 'I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire.'

How, how on God’s green Earth could humankind have permitted us to be in this untenable position, with aged boys taunting and reviling each other, manchild specimens whose only actual achievements were being born sons of powerful men? The tween in his dotage in the US is far older, but no wiser, just a sad blustering narcissist seemingly utterly unaware of just what a pathetic cheap fool he is. The twerp in North Korea earned nothing, son of a son of a brutal ruler, as endowed with a human conscience as, say, Uday Hussein or Curtis LeMay.

These are two poor excuses for humans, clearly addled by their upbringings and the forbearance shown them even when their behavior is kindergarten immature, even when testosterone, greed, gluttony and power over others corrupts all their actions.

And, dammit, they both have nuclear arsenals.

Seriously, humankind, what are we going to do? Even Nixon, as maniacal as he was, visited Leonid Brezhnev and gave him a Cadillac. He really thought better about starting an atomic slugfest.

Not Trump, referred to by many nowadays as ONE (Our National Embarrassment). How many North Koreans have participated in terror acts against the US? How many times has North Korea conducted war games just off the coast of the US? How many times has North Korea attacked US soil?

Oh, that’s right. Zero.

How many times has the US conducted intimidating war games all around the northern half of the Korean Peninsula? How many North Korean civilians were slaughtered mercilessly by the US military in the 1950-’53 bloodletting, in attacks on North Korean cities, towns, and villages? Just sayin’.

If we would prefer to avoid a nuclear war, if we would rather not have a few US cities immolated and Far East Asia burned down, the US and North Korean peoples need to swing into action, and, as we live in a putative democracy in the US, our duty is even more clear than that of North Koreans.


Impeach.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Is Donald Trump a Hitler nouveau? Probably not.

Still, in this time of preparing a switch from mild, articulate, scandal-free Obama to Wall Them Out Shut Them Out Kick Them Out Trump, it might be worth a historical review of German Martin Niemöller (1892–1984), a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps. His postwar sermons feature various versions of this:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Donald Trump has doubled down now on his anti-illegal-Mexican intent. He announced that he will be deporting millions of “criminal” Mexicans first thing. Of course if a Mexican, in flight from a drug cartel war more deadly than most wars on Earth, crosses our border she has broken our law and would be regarded by some, possibly our next President, as therefore a criminal to deport back into poverty and violence. Only another scofflaw would help her.
I suppose this makes me a scofflaw. I hope there are many of us.
If a family in desperate flight from Aleppo manages to make it to our shores, apparently our President-elect Trump plans to turn them away, very likely to their deaths. Only someone who fetishizes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or possibly the Sermon on the Mount might risk offering that Syrian family shelter or help with safe passage to somewhere more welcoming.
I hope there are many such fetishizing folks.
The thing is, dear friends, democracy has its limits; it is not two cats and a mouse voting on what’s for lunch. Substituting the tyranny of the numerical majority over the most vulnerable minorities is in truth no longer a democracy and we are skating dangerously close to that abyss. If Trump plans to violate human rights, and he announces it, and the vast majority of Americans vote him in, that is not license to violate those rights.
Of course it was actually a large minority of Americans who voted for Trump and the majority voted for Hillary Clinton, but I don’t want to split hairs. My point is that it is now up to each of us as individuals to confront any overt violations of basic human rights, civil rights, and Plain Decency.
I am not calling Donald Trump a dictator, but I do worry about him leading a nation into that tyranny of the majority that produced all the greatest crimes we and other nations have committed, from theft of native land to slavery to death camps under Nazis to genocide in Rwanda and more. To update Niemöller, If you see something, say something.
Or don’t. The Underground Railroad led by Harriet Tubman and others was action, not words. The Danes hiding and then helping virtually all Danish Jews to escape to Sweden, the brave farmers and villagers of Vichy France who hid 5,000 French Jews in and around Le Chambon for the entire Nazi occupation, and many other instances of the relatively privileged or safe helping the oppressed, suffering, and in danger—all these courageous movements were silent but took action.

What will happen when Trump takes office? It’s scary to many. I hope we can all ponder and prepare. As my old friend Louie says, “Now we’ll earn our stripes.”

Friday, November 04, 2016

Trump and the cop killers

When you hear that a police officer was ambushed and shot to death, what is your first image? For many Americans, it’s an angry black man who seeks revenge for police shooting black men. And that has certainly happened.
But imagine my surprise when I read about the Des Moines, Iowa case of a man shooting two police officers in two ambush attacks, read that the alleged shooter had been in contact with police in the past while waving a Confederate battle flag at black people, and had been calling at least one black man the n-word, and then when I later listened to National Public Radio they reported this new Iowa case as part of a wave of police shootings in retaliation for police violence against black males. Really, NPR? Is that the best imitation of Fox News you can do?
In the end, I believe that most psychologists would agree that cop killers are suffering from mental illness first and most primarily, with other motives a distant second. Yes, police kill unarmed black people at a far higher rate (not raw numbers, but as a percentage of the population). Yes, police will try (in most cases) to intervene on boisterous racially offensive behavior and thus may be the target of white men who wish to freely use racial epithets and symbols of slaveholders. So the cursory motives are understandable intellectually, but seriously, the blatant insanity of randomly shooting police officers? Why isn’t that proclaimed first and foremost as the controlling engine to those heinous acts? None of the attacks in the past year were targeted at the cops who actually did the things that produced the nominal reason for the murders. Shooting a target of opportunity without specifically choosing the actual perpetrating officer is not remotely sane.
When will we take gun control seriously? If for no other reason than to stop so many cop killings, we should elect officials who will get this job done. The blundering police unions endorsing Donald Trump are acting on emotional affinity with a man who says he supports police, but Trump’s unreserved support for no limits on firearms for anyone will only result in more unstable people gaining access to all the guns they can afford. More cops will die.
The import of this election is tough to overstate. Trump will exacerbate all the worst developments—fewer resources to assist folks who struggle with mental health issues, fewer controls on access to weaponry by anyone, no help from a Trump Department of Justice in improving police-community relations. This will lead to more tragedies like the one we saw in Iowa. I admit I strongly disliked voting for Hillary Clinton, but a Trump presidency is many giant leaps backward. Let’s prevent this.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Supremes, the Senate and the Dirty Donalds, Segretti to Trump

OK, the Republicans said when Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away late last winter, we are not going to do our Constitutional work reviewing any nominations President Obama might make because we think the American people should have a voice in choosing the members of the highest court in the land.

Huh? The American people elected and re-elected Barack Obama. That is called having a voice. That is called voting. That is a democracy. What the Republicans did was entirely bogus, but, as usual, the American people didn’t seem too excited about it, so the Republicans were able to get away with that blatantly unfair move.
Now, unbelievably, Ted Cruz has threatened to block any nomination on an indefinite basis, if in fact Trump is unsuccessful in his groping campaign for the presidency.
This now disqualifies all Senate Republicans. Every single one of them up for election or re-election should be defeated to clear the way for government to actually function again.
Trump says he’ll only accept the election results if he wins.
Ted Cruz says if needed, the GOP will abdicate its Constitutional role in affirming Supreme Court Justices, based on likely losing the White House.
Republicans are simply racing to the bottom and are displaying all the moral fiber of the average junior high bully, completely unable to accept any defeat without having an adolescent hissy fit. Grow up, people!
Since that seems to be the phenomenon we see, it is clear that no Republican should be voted in this year, at least in the Senate and obviously the White House. In my 66 years on this planet, I’ve never seen a US campaign season so despicable, uncivil, boorish, and infantile. Add to it all the Comey move—the FBI tampering with the election? It is the Donald Segretti School of Political Chicanery arcing forward to the Donald Trump Malevolent Machine. These people can’t win a fair fight, so they resort to their bottomless barrel of dirty tricks; we are called to teach them better.
For the good of the nation, defeat every Republican running for US Senate in 2016, so we have some chance for a bit of normalcy and progress in the US.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Bad Hombre

Watching the 2016 campaign is hypnotically akin to the gawker slowdown that affects traffic with the slightest accident. Rubbernecking the three most recent Trump offenses in any given week has given America an entirely new hobby.
  • ·         He might be insulting KIA Muslim American soldiers or their parents, as he did with Capt. Humayun Khan. That was brilliant. Tack on his clumsy idiocy about John McCain, telling us that he, Trump, prefers pilots who don’t get captured. Does he not realize he sounds like a sociopathic son of Saddam with these chickenhawk utterances?
  • ·         He might be mocking people with disabilities, as he did with reporter Serge Kovaleski. That took courage. Trump, for all his bluster and pomposity, is a profile in pusillanimity.
  • ·         Inexplicably meeting with Enrique Peña Nieto, President of Mexico, without bringing up The Wall he’s designed against all the rapists crossing the border now, The Wall that Trump decides unilaterally that Mexico will pay for. Ineffable.
  • ·         He really fixed that when he called Pope Francis “disgraceful” for the Pope’s critique of the proposed Wall. Just to continue with the Catholic vote, he managed to be the first candidate in memory to get booed at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation traditional candidate roast.
  • ·         Perhaps his basket of deplorable comments about women in general and specifically. Maybe he’s caught on tape bragging about his woman-groping. Donald! Basic Groper manners—get permission, then grope away. Calling Alicia Machado, the former Miss Universe, Miss Piggy. Women are loving you, Donald. Referring to Carly Fiorina, he said, “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?” (OMG, Trump, look in the mirror when you say that and same thing when you call someone a “nasty woman.”)
  • ·         Luckily, he is on top of the refugees-as-terrorists-in-the-US crisis. Oh, that’s right. Zero terror attacks by refugees inside the US to date. Looks like they’ve all been vetted adequately, so far, despite his hysteria.

We could go on, but let’s just leave it with a secret for The Donald: Oscar Wilde was brilliant, but your devotion to his erroneous dictum, “There is no such thing as bad publicity,” is your political undoing. You have your base of basket cases and that’s it.

Michelle, you get four years off for great behavior but we want to see you run in 2020. No one could heal this nation better. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Negative coattails good for Senate


Donald Trump is in love.
Like any narcissist, he sees his heart’s desire in the mirror and is pathologically incapable of transferring that love of self to others, except to love what they can do for him—financially, sexually, politically, or simply helping him be in the spotlight.
For Trump, everything is a contest and he is the best at every one. If he doesn’t win, others obviously cheated or his helpers failed him. He has made exactly zero mistakes in his life that weren’t caused by others, as he sees it.
It has all caught up with him at last, and the Trump circus tent is collapsing. Republican candidates for the US Senate are scrambling to escape the suffocating mess. Some renounce their endorsements, some express regretful continuation of support for the Trumpwreck, and some avert their eyes, curl up, and just hope to survive the election.
But imagine a US Senate out from under the blockading, bludgeoning control of the Republicans. I’m not suggesting the Democrats are particularly good for those who want peace and justice, but they are lightyears better than the likes of Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ron Johnson, Rob Portman, Jeff Sessions, Tom Cotton, Lindsey Graham, John McCain and the rest of the corporate-loving, New Jim Crow, anti-education, war-profiteer-champions who have been running the Senate for the past two years. The Republicans running for Senate—mostly incumbents—who are most vulnerable include Johnson (WI), McCain (AZ), Portman (OH), Roy Blunt (MO), Richard Burr (NC), Pat Toomey (PA) and Kelly Ayotte (NH). Congressman Joe Heck (NV) is running for the seat being vacated by retiring Harry Reid and Congressman Todd Young is running for the seat vacated by retiring Dan Coats (IN). All these Republicans are threatened by Trump’s tailspin. My operative word, I confess, is schadenfreude today.
Like any true narcissist, Trump is certain that everyone else is at fault for his poor performance and the only response is to attack, excuse, justify, blame, and lash out some more. If his dysfunctional displays cost both the White House and the Senate, we may see a decent US Supreme Court in the future and that could mean overturning Citizens United and other rotten, anti-democracy decisions. We might see the US join the rest of the world in signing and ratifying the International Criminal Court, the Comprehensive Test Ban and other international laws and treaties benefitting all of humankind. We might even see some glimmer of peace in our time as well as development of US infrastructure instead of the vast war machine that consumes half your tax dollars every year.
The Senate needs to flip for the good of all Americans. Thank you, Donald Trump, for your key role in all this. Carry on with your bellowing, blaming Tweetment!

Friday, October 07, 2016

Rethinking killing civilians

When challenged about airstrikes that kill civilians—whether from drones or jets with “smart” ordnance—the excuses given by government and military officials are twofold. Either it was a regrettable error or it was a regrettable side effect of targeting a known “bad guy”—an ISIS leader, al Shabaab terrorist, a Taliban boss or al Qaeda commander. Collateral damage. The LOADR response. Lipstick on a dead rat. 
So committing a war crime is OK if you say it’s regrettable?
“Yeah, but those guys behead journalists and enslave girls.”
True that, and ISIS has well earned the hatred and disgust most decent people on Earth feel for them. As well, when the US military strafes and bombs hospitals, can we wonder at all why the US is hated with enough venom to overpower morality? Yes, it’s true, when the US slaughters civilians it calls it a mistake and when ISIS does so they crow like proud two-year-olds with zero sense of right and wrong. But my question is, when are the American people going to stop allowing our military—representing all of us in a democracy—to commit crimes against humanity?
The Obama administration claims that the only civilians worth worrying about are in countries not designated as war zones and that, in those countries the US has only killed between “64 and 116 civilians in drone and other lethal air attacks against terrorism suspects.” Those nations presumably include Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. No numbers need be given for Iraq, Afghanistan, nor Syria. Civilians there are presumably fair game. 
At least four organizations are keeping independent tallies and all are far higher in their assertions of minimum civilian deaths in those designated non-war zones.
What of the broader picture?
The Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University frames the largest study and tracks civilian deaths from military actions; their study estimates from documented accounts that as of March last year approximately 210,000 noncombatants have been killed in the Global War on Terror launched in October 2001. 
So, at some point, we have to wonder; If the US intelligence services determine that an ISIS homegrown leader is living in a building in Queens or North Minneapolis or Beaverton, Oregon will it be OK then to target that building with a Hellfire missile launched from a Predator drone?
How ridiculous, right? We would never do that. 
Except that we do, routinely, in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Pakistan. When will this stop? 
It will stop when we are not only morally opposed to it but when we decide to be effective. Our violent response to terrorism escalates at every turn, guaranteeing that, in turn, terrorism against the US will also escalate. It is time to reject the idea that a nuanced, nonviolent approach is ineffective. Indeed, it’s a bit reminiscent of what Winston Churchill said about democracy, that it’s the worst form of government—except for all the rest. Nonviolence is the worst way to manage conflict—except for all the rest. 
We not only create more terrorists when we accidentally or mistakenly take out a hospital, almost more importantly, we create a widening, deepening pool of sympathy for any sort of insurgency against the US. While it is true that sympathy and support for terrorists is nowhere near the support for armed insurgency—and there is a great deal of difference—why on Earth would we continue to essentially guarantee that this global war on terror is permanent?
Why indeed? There are those who gain in status, power, and money by a continuation of this godawful war. These are the people who lobby hardest for more war. 
Those people should be absolutely ignored. We need to fix this with other methods. We can, and we should. 
If the US would rethink its methods of conflict management it might come to solutions without bloodshed. Some of problem is simply who is asked to advise the deciders. In some countries the officials consult with expert scholars and practitioners of mediation, negotiation, humanitarian aid and sustainable development. Those countries keep the peace much better. Most—e.g. Norway, Denmark, Sweden—have better metrics of citizen well-being than we do in the US. 
We can help. As an example in our hemisphere, the rebels and the government in Colombia waged a 52-year war, each side committing many atrocities and the well-being of the average Colombian suffered for more than a half-century. Finally, peace and conflict scholars from the Kroc Institute were invited to help—the first time any academic program in our field was invited to do so in the West. They introduced new ideas and the happy outcome is that finally—finally—the Colombians have a signed peace accord. Yes, the voters narrowly rejected it, but the principals are back at the table, not the battlefield, to work on a more agreeable agreement. 
Please. We have the knowledge to end this terrible dance of death known as war. Humankind now knows how. But do we have the will? Can we step up as voters and require our successful candidates to stop boasting about how tough and lethal they will be and instead insist that the successful candidate will explain and commit to a productive peace process that is proven to produce much more gain with far less pain?
Published by PeaceVoice and CounterPunch.