Thursday, November 17, 2016

Team Trump's chilling harassment and threatening of Megyn Kelly before possessing real power is a frightening preview of what is likely to come.



Threatening journalists and attacking or killing them is, or at least has been, one of the things we Americans point to regarding third world dictators and other oppressive regimes as justification of why our system of government is so great in comparison. The State Department and other Executive Branch agencies complain about those kinds of governments and their practices and try to influence them to change their ways, well at least up until now.

Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are important values for Americans and central to the rights afforded to us in our Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Megyn Kelly is one of the most prominent political personalities in media today and she has the support of the top folks of a powerful network behind her. Trump and his team went after her and harassed and threatened her. They encouraged their supporters to harass and threaten her.



The fact is that despite all the help and resources supporting Kelly, her last year was something that sounds to me like a nightmare. What will happen to those in the media who criticize Trump who don't have the kind of support and protection behind them that she does?

The question that every member of the media is now asking themselves is, once inaugurated, when team Trump is upset with a journalists coverage, will they engage the security services of the country against them? When I write of security services, I am referring to the FBI, CIA and NSA. Is there any thinking person out there who thinks that kind of abuse of power and disregard for Constitutional freedoms is beyond team Trump? Does anyone think it is beyond Trump himself? I would answer no to both questions.

This would be yet another piece of evidence supporting the idea that Trump is leading the country into oppression, hate and Fascism. If this starts to happen, Americans need to quickly mobilize to stop it.

----------------------

See the full interview of Megyn Kelly here where she details even more about her harassment by Trump himself and members of his campaign leadership team and his supporters:


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Trump's First Post-Election Statement on Violence against Minorities, LGBT, Jews and Muslims is Woefully Inadequate


While the world watched as hundreds of acts of hate and violence in the US were perpetrated against women, Jews, African Americans, Latinos and Muslims in the wake of Trump's election on November 9th, there was near complete silence from Trump and his team for three days. The only statement was from spokesperson Kellyanne Conway that Hillary and Obama needed to fix any protests or issues in the country happening right now.

That statement by Conway suggests that she and Trump don't understand to what position he was just elected. There is no issue or policy in the country outside of your responsibility when you become President.

As Harry Truman noted, when you get elected President, The Buck Stops Here with you.



Conway and Trump need to meditate on that concept because at least right now they clearly don't get it.

Finally, five days later, Trump broke his silence on the subject of bigoted members of his followers engaging in hate crimes. On 60 minutes, Trump had the following to say about it:

Lesley Stahl: Do you want to say anything to those people (those perpetrating hate crimes)?
Donald Trump: I would say don’t do it, that’s terrible, ‘cause I’m gonna bring this country together.
 Lesley Stahl: They’re harassing Latinos, Muslims--
Donald Trump: I am so saddened to hear that. And I say, “Stop it.” If it-- if it helps. I will say this, and I will say right to the cameras: Stop it.
------------------

"Stop it". That's Trump's tepid comment on the subject. After five days of hate crimes with nary a comment by him that is a wholly inadequate response.

I wrote on my blog "The Shadow President" what any President or President-elect should say if these crimes were being committed by their supporters:

"My fellow Americans. My transition team and I have been receiving reports about an increase in hate crimes since election day. These reports have been disturbing to me but what has been even more disturbing is that it appears some of them have been done in apparent support of me or in my name. 
I categorically reject any and all acts of hate against any group whether that group is ethnic, racial, religious, gender, orientation or any other segment of American society. 
America is a place where all are created equal and where all afforded the same rights and that is what my administration is about. Anyone who commits acts of hate is a criminal whose support I do not want and who should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and I will make it a priority of my administration to do that. 
Steven Leser
The Shadow President
http://www.theshadowpresident.com"
------------------

That's how you handle something like that. A Willy Wonka-esque "stop, don't"



not only doesn't cut it, it will further embolden the bigots doing this to engage in more hate crimes.

If those of us who are Jews or Black or Latino or Muslim or LGBT wanted to hear something that would make us feel better about whether Trump would stand up for equality, instead this statement seems to confirm our worst fears.

On the LGBT front, Trump seemed to try to assuage fears he would try to rollback marriage equality with this exchange:

Lesley Stahl: Well, I guess the issue for them is marriage equality. Do you support marriage equality?
Donald Trump: It-- it’s irrelevant because it was already settled. It’s law. It was settled in the Supreme Court. I mean it’s done.
Lesley Stahl: So even if you appoint a judge that--
Donald Trump: It’s done. It-- you have-- these cases have gone to the Supreme Court. They’ve been settled. And, I’m fine with that.
------------------

I thought about this for a while and I realized it is not a reassurance at all. Lots of cases have gone to the Supreme Court and been decided one way and then have been reversed years or decades later. Trump is about to completely change the composition of the court. One vacancy is pending and at least one or two more will come up during his first four years. Appointing two or three conservative, anti-LGBT judges would almost certainly be enough to overturn the marriage equality ruling.

Trump saying "I'm fine with that" referring to the existing ruling is no reassurance at all and here is part of why I think that. Later in the interview, Trump had this to say about Supreme Court justices:

Lesley Stahl: During the campaign, you said that you would appoint justices who were against abortion rights. Will you appoint-- are you looking to appoint a justice who wants to overturn Roe v. Wade?
Donald Trump: So look, here’s what’s going to happen-- I’m going to-- I’m pro-life. The judges will be pro-life. They’ll be very—
Lesley Stahl: But what about overturning this law--
Donald Trump: Well, there are a couple of things. They’ll be pro-life, they’ll be-- in terms of the whole gun situation, we know the Second Amendment and everybody’s talking about the Second Amendment and they’re trying to dice it up and change it, they’re going to be very pro-Second Amendment. But having to do with abortion if it ever were overturned, it would go back to the states. So it would go back to the states and--
 Lesley Stahl: Yeah, but then some women won’t be able to get an abortion?
 Donald Trump: No, it’ll go back to the states.
-----------------
The kind of Conservative activist judges that are looking to overturn Roe v Wade are overwhelmingly also anti-LGBT equality. Not 100% of them, sure, but it's not easy to find those that are for one but not the other.

Trump was talking out of both sides of his mouth during discussions on equal rights for all minorities. There was no statement that he supports equal rights for any of these groups. We must all stay vigilant and be prepared to demonstrate and fight to support equality in the face of an incoming administration that is either hostile or indifferent to those rights.

The entire 60 minutes interview transcript and video can be seen at http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-donald-trump-family-melania-ivanka-lesley-stahl/ 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

I told you all that hate crimes would increase with Trump’s election and it’s happening


In my article election night at 3:21am (Technically Wednesday November 9th), “Hate wins an election - America at Risk of Becomingthe Fourth Reich?”  I said:

… Trump rose to the position of winning the Republican nomination by attacking/blaming a lot of the country’s problems on Latino immigrants and by attacking Muslims. Trump was also cited early in his real estate career for discriminating against African Americans, refusing to rent them apartments in his buildings…  Let’s also not forget that an important part of Trump’s base is the alt-right who are basically Neo-Nazis, KKK members and other White Nationalists
.
.
.
Something else is coming too and much faster than legislation-enabled bigotry. In Russia, right after Putin passed the anti-gay laws three and a half years ago, anti-gay bigots in Russia felt empowered by the support in the government and the frequency of attacks by bands of bigots in Russia against the LGBT community there immediately went up by several orders of magnitude. That’s what happens when bigots feel empowered by the government, they act on that empowerment. Will we see that here? I have no doubt about that whatsoever. Once Trump is installed as President, I expect attacks on Muslims, Latinos, African Americans, Jews and LGBT to begin or accelerate.

It looks like that is what has happened. From the November 12 article in USA Today “Post-election spate of hate crimes worse thanpost-9/11, experts say” :

What may seem like a dramatic rise in the number of hate harassment and hate incidents happening across the country in the wake of Tuesday's general election is not in anyone's imagination, experts say. 
There indeed has been a spike in the number of reports of such incidents, say representatives for two organizations that track such occurrences. A representative for one group, in fact, said the rise appears to be even worse that what was took place immediately after the terror attacks in 2001. 
"Since the election, we've seen a big uptick in incidents of vandalism, threats, intimidation spurred by the rhetoric surrounding Mr. Trump's election," Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., told USA TODAY. "The white supremacists out there are celebrating his victory and many are feeling their oats," Cohen said.
.
.
.
The SPLC, which tracks hate crimes, says it has logged more than 200 complaints since the election, and while it could not provide a figure for the average number of complaints it takes in each day, Cohen assured that the number is much larger than what is typical. Anti-black and anti-immigrant incidents are generating the highest numbers followed by anti-Muslim incidents, Cohen said. Part of the reason it is happening is that hate group leaders are encouraging members to intimidate people, according to Cohen.


Among the reports of events occurring in the aftermath of the election:
A San Diego State University student walking to her vehicle had her purse, backpack and car keys taken by two men making comments about the president-elect and the Muslim community, university police said. She walked away to report the incident, and then returned to discover her vehicle was missing. Police are investigating the attack as a hate crime. 
A short video posted Wednesday and viewed at least 250,000 times on Facebook showed students at a school carrying a Trump sign while someone can be heard saying "white power." Two students at York County School of Technology in Pennsylvania walked with a sign into the lobby and chanted "white power" twice before the director "squelched it," said communication outreach coordinator Renie Mezzanotte, who added that "the administration has been absorbed by" the incident for two days, the outcry has become disruptive to instruction, and that instruction and student and staff safety are always the school's priorities. An officer at the York Area Regional Police Department confirmed that they investigated the incident.

Police were investigating the appearance of a swastika, the word "Trump" with a swastika replacing the T and the words "Seig Heil 2016," on a store front in South Philadelphia hours after the election was called. The Anti-Defamation League said it was disgusted to learn of the graffiti.

If you want to get close to a real-time report of a good number of the hate crimes that have been happening, browse to Shaun King’s twitter feed https://twitter.com/search?src=typd&q=%40Shaunking

I take no pleasure in being right about this. First, it wasn’t that hard to predict. As I said in my election night article, this is what happens when hate groups feel empowered and emboldened because of having a person or party they perceive as being on their side in power. Bigots of all kinds are generally base, visceral and undisciplined people who act on impulse and are thus their actions are easy to predict.

This is America with the election of Trump. It will be interesting to see the reaction from Trump; it will tell us a lot about the rest of what I talked about in my election night article. So far Trump and his team have been silent and I know they have seen the same reports about an escalation in hate crimes, so perhaps we have our answer.


Here are some photos from the above articles and from people who have reported hate crimes to Shaun King on Twitter.







Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Hate wins an election - America at Risk of Becoming the Fourth Reich?


This article has been written in my mind since the moment Donald Trump won the Republican nomination. I wanted to write it before now, but I think it would have been discounted in the run-up to the general election as election theater and strategy. It very much is not that.

I’ve wondered since before I was a teen what it would be like to have been my father growing up. My father was born in Hamburg, Germany, July 23, 1927 and that side of my family is Jewish.

When he was five and a half years old Hitler was elected Chancellor of Germany. The Nazis influence and antisemitism in Germany of course did not begin with Hitler’s election. From his earliest years, my father had to contend with growing up in a country with a political party and movement that virulently discriminated against him and scapegoated him and people like him for all the problems in the country going back to the loss of the first world war fifteen years earlier. At age five and a half that party and movement came to power and began to pass laws that enshrined in law Jews as inferior people with ever decreasing rights.

The German state itself, under the Nazis, hated my father, my family and other Jews. Jews were forced to leave their homes and apartments and live near each other in depressed areas of the city that became known as ghettos. My father was required to leave his school and go to a Jewish school. Jews were required to wear yellow stars of David on their clothes. The state, it’s leader and its movement and party hated Jews. There was no question about that. That hatred would ultimately end in the deaths of over 6 million Jews. The Nazis also hated many other groups of people. They hated LGBT, Roma, Slavs and various other groups and they killed many of those people too. My father and his family were sent to concentration camps in 1941 a few months after his thirteenth birthday. His mother, father and brother were killed in the camps along with almost all the rest of the extended family I would never get to meet. My father was starved on 600 calories a day, tortured and worked nearly to death 18 hours a day 7 days a week under unhuman conditions in the freezing weather of the Baltics with inadequate clothing for the climate and this was during ages 13-17. My father told his story in the German magazine Welt back in 2011 https://www.welt.de/regionales/hamburg/article13544356/Rueckkehr-an-den-Ort-der-Kindheit.html

From my earliest readings about the Third Reich in my pre-teen years I wondered what that would have been like for my father. I tried to imagine it. How can one imagine that level of hate, persecution and torture? I concluded as a kid that I should stop trying to imagine what it was like to be in the camps because that kind of hell you have no chance of imagining, but the run up to that happening, the decent of the state into raging over the top bigotry towards you, what would that be like? I spent a lot of time thinking about that. I felt secure and lucky that I would never have to experience such a thing. The naivete of youth.

I thought about this with Trump because Trump rose to the position of winning the Republican nomination by attacking blaming a lot of the country’s problems on Latino immigrants and by attacking Muslims. Trump was also cited early in his real estate career for discriminating against African Americans, refusing to rent them apartments in his buildings so his racism and bigotry goes beyond Latinos and Muslims.  In terms of Latinos, just earlier this year Trump issued verbal attacks against a Latino judge who was born here as someone who could not be impartial because he was a Latino. The other side of my family is Latino. Yes, among other nationalities and backgrounds I am Latino and German-Jewish. Let’s also not forget that an important part of Trump’s base is the alt-right who are basically Neo-Nazis, KKK members and other White Nationalists who hate Jews, Latinos, LGBT, African Americans and various other people. Trump and his supporters would try to counter my bringing up the alt-right in connection with him by saying that he has repudiated some elements of that group on occasion. Sure, but there have also been plenty of moments where it seems he and his campaign deliberately reached out to them and that includes his adult son tweeting out a picture which included alt-right icon Pepe the frog.

These groups will now have a President in the White House. Trump and his surrogates can try to deny it but they are a significant part of his base. This part of Trump’s base recently tried to reassure people by holding a press conference in early September where they expressed their affection for Donald Trump and expressed their hopes for a white homeland. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/09/09/alt-right-leaders-we-aren-t-racist-we-just-hate-jews.html this will help you understand what they are about:

The three alt-right leaders who gathered in D.C. this afternoon made two things very clear: They think white people are genetically predisposed to be more moral and intelligent than black people, and they do not want to share their envisioned utopian ethno-state with folks of the Jewish persuasion. There’s some disagreement in the alt-right on what they refer to as “the Jewish question.” But the big take-away was that Jews are suspicious.

Jared Taylor, who founded the white supremacist American Renaissance site, explained the alt-right as predicated entirely on the belief that some races are inherently superior to others—the movement, he said, is “in unanimity” in rejecting “the idea that the races are basically equivalent and interchangeable.” There are genetic differences in race that make some races more ethical and intelligent than others, he said. That’s what the alt right is all about.

“They also differ, as a matter of fact, in the patterns of the microbes that inhabit their mouths,” he said.

Thus, he continued, we shouldn’t expect black kids to do as well in school as white kids.

This philosophy, nationalism plus racial superiority, added to economic conservatism which isn’t indicated above but is part of the alt-rights belief system, is classic Nazism.

Do I still need to wonder as a mental exercise what it would be like to be my father existing in a country where the leader of the state and the movement that elected that leader hates him and people like him? I don’t think so, I think we are there. We have a President and movement that hates Latinos, Muslim and Black people and that movement also hates Jews. The only reassurance we have that Trump doesn’t hate Jews is that he refers to his Jewish son in law which is perilously close to the “I can’t hate Jews/Black People/etc because I have some as friends” cringe-worthy kind of statement. 

No, I think I’m right where my father was in 1933 with the added bonus of being hated for two plus parts of my heritage, not just one. Don’t forget that the Concentration camps and Death camps that we think of when we think of the Holocaust didn’t open until 1940-1941 (I’m discounting the earlier incarnation of Dachau that began housing prisoners after the Nuremberg laws in 1935 as not being part of the holocaust per se until later). That kind of discrimination was 7-8 years away in 1933. Few Germans in 1933 foresaw that things would go so far.

Things might not get that bad, sure. A guy who spent the entire campaign scapegoating vulnerable minorities may not turn out to be the kind of guy who follows up that scapegoating with action. Or that action may not be so severe. I don’t find that kind of thinking reassuring.

Some of you may argue we have three branches of government and a Constitution and that would stop things from becoming too bad here. That sounds good, except, the next President, now Donald Trump, will get to appoint three Supreme Court Justices. He can mold the court in his image and the court decides what is Constitutional and what isn’t. And the congress? Do you think the Republican congress would stand up to a President Trump? They might at some point if Trump tries to go too far too fast but I bet in the beginning, you will see a lot of racist legislation aimed at Muslims and Latinos that the Republican congress will happily pass.  

If Trump moves in that direction I think it will become the boiled frog syndrome with congressional Republicans. The Republican congress will pass what it considers to be minor and acceptable racist and bigoted legislation against Muslims and Latino immigrants desired by Trump and it will get worse and worse from there and expand to other ethnicities. By the time the Republicans in congress realize what is happening they will have gone too far. The water temperature will have been turned up slowly until the frog boiled before he knew what was happening.

Sound farfetched? Is Trump not that bad? Well, a lot of Germans would have thought so in 1933 too. Those who lived through it and are still alive will tell you that. My father in the above linked article briefly discusses how his family had tickets to leave Germany and go to Shanghai but then decided things wouldn’t get so bad and that his father mused that Hitler would be stopped by the British before long.

Of course, if you are familiar with the internet and its culture, the use of a reference to Nazis in an article is the same as begging someone to accuse you of violating Godwin’s law https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_law . Godwin himself however noted that if you are talking about actual Nazis, which the alt-right definitely contains (See http://www.mediamatters.org/blog/2016/09/29/neo-nazi-writer-virtually-every-alt-right-nazi-i-know-volunteering-trump-campaign/213423 ) then Godwin’s law isn’t actually violated. Godwin also acknowledged that it can be appropriate to use Nazi references with Trump (See the above wiki article). If you don’t understand the Godwin’s law reference just move past it in this article, it isn’t that important.

Getting back to my point about Trump and bigoted positions and policies. Something else is coming too and much faster than legislation-enabled bigotry. In Russia, right after Putin passed the anti-gay laws three and a half years ago, anti-gay bigots in Russia felt empowered by the support in the government and the frequency of attacks by bands of bigots in Russia against the LGBT community there immediately went up by several orders of magnitude. That’s what happens when bigots feel empowered by the government, they act on that empowerment. Will we see that here? I have no doubt about that whatsoever. Once Trump is installed as President, I expect attacks on Muslims, Latinos, African Americans, Jews and LGBT to begin or accelerate. Trump has already said that he completely sides with the police in the disputes with the African American community so you can use your own imagination of how those kinds of issues will be repeated with more frequency. If you are a person of color, don’t even look crosswise at a police officer post January 21 because it will be open season on you and yes, more than it already seems like it is now.

The alt-right has tried for years to gain a foothold in the mainstream of American politics and now they and their hatred are here, thanks to Donald Trump.

Van Jones on election night on CNN described Trump’s election as a nightmare. That those of us who teach children not to be bullies, not to be bigots and to do their homework now must to contend with a President elect who is the opposite of those values and we are faced with the task of explaining that to our kids. Jones said he has Muslim friends texting him asking if they should leave the country and that he knows families of immigrants that are terrified tonight. Jones said this election was a “Whitelash”, a Whitelash against a changing country and a black President. I think he is right about all of that and the bigotry, bullying and disdain for knowledge about the job that it represents. Where I disagree with Jones is that Jones said it is the responsibility of Trump to come out and reassure all the people he insulted and offended, etc. That reassurance wouldn’t mean anything. Trumps bigotry against Muslims, Latinos and African Americans is too central to his candidacy and now Presidency and they are too central to who he is as a person. They are what he is about. Any such reassurance would be a lie in my opinion. I am upset at what Trump represents but I don’t want to be told reassuring lies about it either.



Should Muslims and undocumented Latino immigrants leave the country as Van Jones discussed? “For their safety” is the presumed ending to that question. How about Blacks and Jews? I can’t honestly answer that question. In the 1930s my family in Germany wrestled with that question and they made the wrong decision. How do you know when it is going to get that bad and when it is too late? I’m certainly not going to try to tell anyone else. I know that I personally will be watching very carefully how things develop, how bad the bigotry against Muslims, African Americans and Latinos gets and whether it expands beyond those groups. I would love to say I was going to try and do something about it, but Republicans will have a stranglehold on all branches of the federal government and control most of our state governments, and I remember from the Bush administration how unresponsive Republican administrations are toward concerns from citizens, particularly Democratic ones.

Here is part of the reason why I am so pessimistic, Trump doesn’t have much else in the way of polices beyond his bigoted proposals. That’s what he campaigned on and who he is. Everything else Trump talked about is silly nationalistic rhetoric. Put it another way, to discount my concerns, you would have to believe that 70% of what Trump talked about are things he cares nothing about and he instead has this brilliant set of policies he wants to implement that hid from view during the campaign even though some of the major knocks on him were his lack of ability to do the job and the dearth of real policy proposals.

So sure, we elected a bigot and energized the White Supremacist/Neo-Nazi alt-right bands of bigots but things may not get that bad. Sounds great. How many days until election 2020?



p.s. This will be the first of several articles that discusses the disaster that a Trump Presidency represents.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Yes, far too many of Trump supporters are DEPLORABLE. Yesterday one of them punched an elderly woman sporting an oxygen tank in the face


ABC News photo of Shirley Teeter lying on the ground on top of her oxygen tank after being punched in the face by a Trump supporter at the Trump rally in Asheville NC on Monday. 

Hillary Clinton should not have apologized for calling some of Trump's supporters deplorable.

Shirley Teeter, a 69 year old woman who needs an oxygen tank to assist her with breathing, attended a Trump rally in Asheville NC to protest the candidate.

A man standing in front of her facing away reacted to some of her comments about Trump and his candidacy by turning around and punching her in the face. The 69 year old fell to the ground on top of her oxygen tank.

The aftermath was caught on camera and Teeter called ABC News affiliate WLOS to tell her story.

She is a veteran of protests that go back many years and has never been hit or subjected to violence before.

At the end of her contact with WLOS, she asked them a question she clearly wanted everyone out there reading this to ask themselves:

"She asks if people find a Trump supporter punching her in the face deplorable."
Several news media like the NY Times have been reporting on the violence at Trump rallies and how Trump incites the attendees but so far there has been no attempt by the Trump campaign to change how he behaves at rallies. The only thing Trump spokespeople have done in response is to deny that he is deliberately inciting attendees to violence.

The NY Times posted this video after a year of research into what Trump rallies are like. It's clear from this video that Trump and the campaign are very aware of what happens at his rallies, they just don't care:



Now his supporters are beating up on elderly people on oxygen. To answer Shirley Teeter's question, yes, they are deplorable.

-------------------

More News links to the story:

http://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2016/09/13/69-year-old-woman-punched-asheville-trump-rally/90301468/ 

http://wlos.com/news/local/69-year-old-woman-punched-in-face-outside-rally-by-trump-supporter

http://wlos.com/news/local/breaking-warrant-out-for-man-who-hit-three-people-at-asheville-trump-rally

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Trump the Traitor working to put America first… under the boot of Putin.

The thing that concerns me about what is happening with Trump and Putin is that so many ridiculous and scurrilous things get said during an election that many folks will not give this the attention that it deserves.



There are too many things that now show that there is a connection between Trump and Putin and that Putin is willing to pull out all the stops to try to throw the election to Trump. As bad as that is, what is worse is that Trump is willing to hurt American national security to foster his relationship with Putin and Russia. We don’t yet know all the specifics of the relationship between Trump and Putin but here is what we do know so far:

  • Trump has expressed admiration for Putin on multiple occasions. This is strange behavior for a nominee for President from one of the major parties to express admiration for a foreign leader who has had an adversarial relationship with the United States for the past 12 years versus Presidents of both US parties.

  • Trump has had relationships with Billionaire oligarch friends of Putin going back a number of years.  Trump’s obsequiousness toward and attempt to attract the attention of Russian leaders goes back to Soviet times. He so badly wanted to meet Gorbachev that he was tricked into meeting with a Gorbachev impersonator and this was caught on camera. See here for more information about Trump’s Russian connections throughout the years http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/cover_story/2016/07/vladimir_putin_has_a_plan_for_destroying_the_west_and_it_looks_a_lot_like.html  also here http://www.politico.eu/article/donald-trumps-russia-connections-foreign-policy-presidential-campaign/ and see here https://www.buzzfeed.com/andrewkaczynski/from-russia-with-love for video of Trumps embarrassing meeting with a Gorbachev impersonator.

  • One of Trump’s top campaign personnel, Paul Manafort, has worked with Russian backed candidates in Ukraine including being on the payroll of  Viktor Yanukovych, the former Ukrainian president and a Putin ally. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/22/opinion/donald-trump-the-siberian-candidate.html

  • It has now been confirmed that Russian intelligence services were behind the hack of the Democratic Party email system and the Russians released that information just before the Democratic National Convention when it would be sure to cause problems for the Democratic nominee’s efforts to build cohesion versus Trump. It’s impossible that this was done without approval from Putin. To put it succinctly, Russian intelligence, at the behest of Putin, is trying to help Trump win the election via nefarious means. See the below posted ABC News video.

  • The Trump campaign refused a plank in the GOP platform, pushed by all other factions of the Republican Party, that would guarantee weapons to Ukraine if Russia attacked them. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/trump-campaign-guts-gops-anti-russia-stance-on-ukraine/2016/07/18/98adb3b0-4cf3-11e6-a7d8-13d06b37f256_story.html 

  • Most concerning is that Trump has broken with over 60 years of NATO policy in suggesting that if he were President, the US might not come to the aid of a fellow NATO member if attacked by Russia. http://www.theatlantic.com/news/archive/2016/07/trump-nato/492341/  This is a huge blow to the members of NATO, particularly in Eastern Europe, who live with an ever increasing aggressiveness from Russia and depend on their membership in NATO to stay free from Russian domination. Newsweek published an article earlier this year titled “Counting Down to a Russian invasion of the Baltics”, http://www.newsweek.com/counting-down-russian-invasion-baltics-414877 , which outlined how aggressive Putin has been in putting political, economic and business pressure on the Baltics in what can only be assumed to be a prelude to attempting to take control over those countries in one form or another. Trump’s comments must seem particularly terrifying to the people and leaders of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. It could drive countries like these or others who share borders with Russia to decide it would be easier and safer to capitulate to Putin’s demands to return to the Russian sphere of influence, and turn away from NATO and the EU. You can see the argument being made, better to do that now with some bargaining chips to be played than be overrun and have no say in how it’s done. I promise all of you reading this that those kinds of discussions are being had in countries that border Russia after Trump’s comments. I am not saying those proposing such things will win those arguments, but they are being said and are being taken seriously. 
I am not exaggerating the effect of Trump’s comments on NATO. As reported by Esme Crib in Talking Points Memo, condemnation on that front was swift by a diverse group of people on both sides of the political aisle, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI). John Bolton, former ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush, criticized Trump's stance as "an open invitation to Vladimir Putin" and said that he hoped that "whoever advised Mr. Trump on this rethinks it." See this video of John Bolton, who is otherwise a Trump supporter, talking about how wrong-headed Trump's comments were regarding NATO:



The Clinton campaign was also quick to respond to Trump's suggestions.

“The President is supposed to be the leader of the free world,” senior policy advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement. “Donald Trump apparently doesn’t even believe in the free world.” He went on to say that it was "fair to assume that Vladimir Putin is rooting for a Trump presidency."

Trump’s response to criticism was to double down on his position regarding potentially not coming to the aid of fellow NATO countries.

Why is Trump clinging so hard to a bad policy denounced from all corners that hasn’t been defended by any foreign policy expert at any position in the political spectrum? Why is hurting US National Security by weakening NATO so important to him?

The only person who benefits from Trump’s proposed change in NATO policy is Putin.

My contention, and I will argue this point with anyone, is that Trump’s statement on NATO has hurt American National Security more than any single act by any President in US History, and Trump managed to do that without ever being elected to any political office.

The Washington Posts’ Anne Applebaum put it this way:

For even if Trump never becomes president, his candidacy has already achieved two extremely important Russian foreign policy goals: to weaken the moral influence of the United States by undermining its reputation as a stable democracy, and to destroy its power by wrecking its relationships with its allies. Toward these ends, Trump has begun repeating arguments identical to those used on Russian state television. These range from doubts about the sovereignty of Ukraine — earlier this week, Trump’s campaign team helped alter the Republican party platform to remove support for Ukraine — to doubts about U.S. leadership of the democratic world. The United States has its own “mess” to worry about, Trump told the New York Times on Wednesday: It shouldn’t stand up for democracy abroad. In the same interview, he also cast doubt on the fundamental basis of transatlantic stability, NATO’s Article 5 guarantee: If Russia invades, he said, he’d have to think first before defending U.S. allies. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/how-a-trump-presidency-could-destabilize-europe/2016/07/21/9ec38a20-4f75-11e6-a422-83ab49ed5e6a_story.html

Ms Applebaum also alluded to Trump being an actual Manchurian candidate.

From the links on several of the points I noted above you can see that various major media organizations are starting to report on the kinds of things I have written about here. ABC News did an excellent piece on the hack and some of the other disturbing elements of seeming cooperation between Trump and Putin. See this video from ABC News:



Putin is a bully who has invaded and taken over pieces of half a dozen neighboring countries. The surest way to deter a bully is by a rock-solid alliance between countries so that the bully knows in no uncertain terms that if he attacks one of the alliance members, all will come to the aid of the country attacked with devastating consequences for the attacker. We saw what happened in the run-up to the Second World War when dictators exploited the reluctance of countries to support each other by swiftly taking over large portions of Europe and Asia. Trump is working to bring those same conditions about by eroding the support of NATO alliance countries for each other.

This is an enormous issue. Beyond all the other reasons why Trump would make a terrible President, this issue of Trump selling out American National Security to Russia stands above them all as a critical reason why Trump should not never be President.

-----------------

For reference I included NATO’s article 5 from http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/official_texts_17120.htm

Article 5
The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security .

Sunday, July 24, 2016

So Many Folks Confused About What Impartiality in the Primary Means for a Democratic Party Organization or Official

With the current brouhaha about Debbie Wasserman Schultz and whether emails leaked by a hacker in Russia show wrongdoing, I think it’s important that folks know exactly what the applicable rules mean in terms of how Democratic Party officials are supposed to conduct themselves with regards to contests for a Democratic nomination.

Many people seem to be attempting to apply these rules in a way they were not intended.
I’ve been subject to similar rules in the past. As a past precinct chair, then District Leader and then County Public Relations Chairperson for the Pinellas County Democratic Executive Committee in Florida, we were subject to the following rule:

PCDEC Bylaws
ARTICLE XIII
Endorsement of Candidates
The endorsement of candidates in Primary elections is prohibited to the County Committee, the Chair of the PCDEC, and all groups within its jurisdiction, except as otherwise provided by the FDP Bylaw

Every two years, at least while I was an officer of the PCDEC, the county chairperson would go over with us exactly what that means and how it affected us.

The main idea is, you cannot endorse any candidates or make it seem to voters as if you were using your office to promote a candidate for the Democratic nomination or that the local county apparatus endorsed someone. You were absolutely permitted to volunteer for a campaign, work for a campaign and to have a strong personal preference for a candidate.  The key is not to make a public endorsement. If you think about it, it doesn’t make sense to do otherwise. To prevent all local Democratic Party officials from working on campaigns removes the most active Democrats from helping candidates until very late in the process. That is not the intent of the rule.

Now let’s examine the DNC bylaws applicable to the situation with DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz:

DNC Bylaws Article 5, Section 4
In the conduct and management of the affairs and procedures of the Democratic National Committee, particularly as they apply to the preparation and conduct of the Presidential nomination process, the Chairperson shall exercise impartiality and evenhandedness as between the Presidential candidates and campaigns. The Chairperson shall be responsible for ensuring that the national officers and staff of the Democratic National Committee maintain impartiality and evenhandedness during the Democratic Party Presidential nominating process.

The bold, italics and underlining are mine and they are the key point to this rule. Again, the point is not that the national chair and DNC members can’t have a strong preference for who wins the nomination it also doesn’t mean that the national chair and other DNS members can’t express their preference privately. It doesn’t mean that a candidate can’t anger them or that they can’t express that anger privately.

Understanding the rule, did Debbie Wasserman Schultz break it? I don’t think so.

Let’s also understand that we are dealing with extraordinary circumstances here. I want everyone reading this to picture this scenario. For 25 years you have been a member of an organization that you believe in and whose goals you believe are very important. During that time, an outside individual has been attacking your organization and calling it insincere. He says he upholds the principles your organization espouses better than you do and says joining your organization would be committing treason to his beliefs. He belittles and criticizes your organization at every turn. When it comes to making decisions in a group he does support what members of your organization are doing but only because it serves his interests to do so.

At the end of those 25 years, he joins your organization, something he said he would never do, only because it is the only way he can try to get something he wants and he contends in the highest level election against someone who has been a loyal member of your organization for 30+ years. Your responsibilities are as article 5 section 4 express them above.

Do you think you and/or members of your organization would have a strong preference against this individual? Do you think you might express that privately in emails since that does not violate the rule? When it turns out that members of this individual’s campaign have early in the process improperly used computer resources to gain an unfair advantage in the campaign, do you think it would make you upset? Whose fault is it that there is antipathy toward this individual in your organization? I think the answers to those questions are obvious.

But hold on, it’s more than that. When Sanders’ campaign was caught improperly accessing Hillary Clinton campaign information on DNC servers and the DNC moved to sanction him, Sanders sued the DNC to avoid the punishment. So you have retaliatory litigation against the DNC by Sanders on top of everything I discussed in the previous two paragraphs. Now what kind of a relationship and private opinion do you think DNC leadership and staffers have with/of Sanders?

One of the things I keep asking myself when I think about the relationship between Sanders and the DNC is, did Sanders ever do anything to reach out and mend fences? You have his 25 years’ worth of attacks on the Democratic Party. If you were in the position he was in at the start of his campaign, wouldn’t you have seen the need to try to work to improve the relationship because of your prior behavior/statements? Did Sanders ever do anything at all along those lines? If so I haven’t heard of it. For someone who purports to have the skill to be President, a job where negotiations, diplomacy and dealing with countries and foreign leaders, not to mention domestic members of the opposite party, whose opinions might differ for yours and where you need to be able to craft compromises, are we to understand he was unable to reach out and try to come to some sort of d├ętente with the DNC?

Another issue is whether any of this had any impact on the race. Hillary’s early and insurmountable lead came from winning African American votes in the South by huge margins and from Florida which has long been a Clinton stronghold. Nothing that I have seen has proposed anything that suggests that the DNC influenced that in any way. I am not sure African Americans in the South care that much about what the DNC says nor is there much else the DNC could do to change how they would vote. So whatever the DNC did had little impact on the race.

Of course the other upsetting point is that the leak of the DNC emails comes from a Russian hacker who almost certainly operates with the tacit or full-fledged permission of Putin. People in Russia who do things Putin doesn’t like have a tendency to disappear or turn up dead see http://news.sky.com/story/the-putin-critics-who-have-been-assassinated-10369350 and note this is an abbreviated list. Even when they escape Russia, many of them have a tendency to end up dead before their time and some by horrific means, like Alexander Litvinenko https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poisoning_of_Alexander_Litvinenko so I think it’s fair to say that this hacker operates with Putin’s permission. Putin’s attempt to put his finger on the scale here for Trump against Hillary indicates one of two things, either he really likes Trump and thinks Trump sees eye to eye with him on world affairs, or it means Putin thinks Trump is a dupe who would be easy to control or subvert. Neither possibility is a good one.


I don’t care what things were said about the candidates among DNC members in private emails. But, if Debbie Wasserman Schultz or other members of the DNC went beyond privately talking/emailing and expressing personal preferences, even though it’s something that any sane person knowing the background would probably understand, they should face repercussions for that. To this point, I haven’t seen any evidence that they did.  

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Hillary vs Trump regarding Wall Street and Brexit



The turmoil in the wake of Brexit particularly with the markets has raised the question of who is better qualified to lead regarding matters of Wall Street, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

I was asked to appear on two shows on Fox News regarding that topic, one on Friday afternoon on the Cavuto show guest hosted by Maria Bartiromo and one Satuday morning on the Cost of Freedom hosted by David Asman.

I want to discuss Brexit in general and what it means for the election and what Hillary and President Obama as well as leaders of other European countries should do but the Wall Street question is an interesting one. Below is the video of my appearance Saturday morning on the Cost of Freedom opposite Mark Serrano.



One of the first things that went through my mind during this discussion is that Trump and his surrogates are trying to have it both ways with Hillary. On the one hand they are trying to extend and capitalize on criticism levied by Sanders and his supporters that Hillary is too close to Wall Street and presumably would favor them too much. At the same time they want to claim she would enact proposals that are bad for Wall Street. That thought was going through my head as I exited the studio and ran into my old friend Jonas Max Ferris who said that very thing to me right after the segment. I hope everyone reading this gets that you can’t have it both ways. I don’t blame Mark Serrano. I think that Trump has a massive problem in general with flip-flopping, contradictory statements and being on both sides of every issue and that sets the tone for the campaign and its surrogates. My last article on the campaign and Trump, “Trump’s Torrent of Flip-Flopping makes Mitt Romney look like Steady Eddie”, http://steveleser.blogspot.com/2016/05/trumps-torrent-of-flip-flopping-makes.html noted that several articles have now been written by reporters doing research into Trump’s statements and the amount of contradictory statements Trump puts out there is beyond bizarre to the point of being pathological. This article by Politico, “Donald Trump’s Greatest Contradictions” http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/05/donald-trump-2016-contradictions-213869 is perhaps the best catalog of them. Politico’s catalog of Trumps flip flopping and contradictions goes on for 23 pages. It still shocks me and I have read it several times now.

But getting back to the debate I had Saturday morning, as far as Hillary and Wall Street is concerned my position hasn’t changed since early in the Democratic primary and that is that to really do a good job reforming an industry you have to have a deep understanding of that industry. Hillary has cultivated that understanding over the last 16 years, not just by doing paid speeches but by having an ongoing dialogue with various leaders and other folks on Wall Street and the banking industry. The fruits of that effort are many including:

  • .      Hillary’s plan to reform Wall Street was voted best by a large majority of Liberal and Progressive economists. In other words, her plan will do the best job of reigning in the bad practices that led to the mortgage crisis and various other issues we have seen in finance and banking over the last 30-40 years.
  • .      Wall Street and the Banking industry feels comfortable that Hillary will address the problems but not prevent or hinder them from ethically doing their business.


Number two will be dismissed by various folks as unimportant or undesirable, but the Financial Insurance and Real Estate industry is over 20% of the US Economy. If you end up crippling or destroying that industry, you better have a plan for recreating that contribution to the economy and the tens of millions of jobs that come with it.

This is the kind of politics I prefer, engaging the people involved and trying to gain a deep understanding of all the facts surrounding issues so you can most successfully deal with them. Demagoguery against Wall Street and the Banking industry and refusing to talk to leaders of companies in both may be good politics on both sides of the aisle but it doesn’t help you craft good policy to address the problems. Of course, with this belief system of mine there was no question of who I would support in the Democratic primary.

On the other hand, Trump has a lot of problems where Wall Street and the banking industry is concerned. They will never forget how he left investors holding the bag for his four bankruptcies. All told, for investments of billions of dollars, investors got pennies on the dollar for such debacles as the Trump Taj Mahal bankruptcy in the early 90’s. Whenever journalists have gone to Wall Street to assess how Wall Street and Bankers think about Trump, they have found a very small group who like him, like Carl Icahn for instance, and a lot of folks who refuse to do business with him. There apparently is even a pejorative term in the industry for how bad of an investment it is to loan Trump money. It’s called “Donald Risk” as Susan Craig noted in a May 23rd article in the NY Times.

Adding to those kinds of problems is that Wall Street values consistency above almost everything else. Given consistency Wall Street can react to and successfully deal with almost anything. But as you can see from the Politico article I linked above, Trump doesn’t do consistency. He is a wild card and you never know what to expect from him. During the campaign he has at times attacked Wall Street and Hedge funds, and then at times he has tried to paint himself as a big friend of Wall Street. You can bet this hasn’t gone unnoticed by folks on Wall Street and the finance industry.

Regarding Brexit, I think for those of us in the US and in other European countries who support immigration and the acceptance of refugees, Brexit was a wakeup call that we need new short and long term approaches to these kinds of issues.

Before I get into that, I just want to point out that while Trump was out in Scotland on Friday and Saturday cheering Brexit and saying the citizens of the UK were right to “take their country back” (all the while hawking his golf course), in 2013 he said something very different as the Daily Caller noted (http://dailycaller.com/2016/06/25/before-the-brexit-donald-trump-was-a-transnationalist-who-wanted-to-leave-borders-behind ):

In January 2013, Trump wrote an op-ed in the cyber pages of CNN enthusiastically endorsing the economic benefits of Europe-wide interdependence and calling for nations “to leave borders behind.” 

“The near meltdown we experienced a few years ago made it clear that our economic health depended on dependence on each other to do the right thing,” Trump wrote in 2013. 

“I think we’ve all become aware of the fact that our cultures and economics are intertwined,” Trump said. “Never before has the phrase ‘we’re all in this together’ had more resonance or relevance.” 

Trump also expressed his support for transnational globalism. 
-----------------------------------

Everywhere you turn you find a striking example of Trump reversing himself. As I noted earlier, Trump’s contradictions and flip-flopping are pathological, but I digress…

In terms of leaders in Europe and the US who are in favor of immigration and accepting refugees, it’s time to step back and reassess.

I think there are a lot of people in Europe and the US that are uncomfortable with immigration and refugees at the levels they are right now. Rather than doing things like dismissing them or calling them Xenophobes or racists, it may be a good time to examine the impacts and come up with concrete facts and new policies with which we can reassure folks who are concerned.  Studies should be conducted in terms of how some of the new immigrants are settling in and assimilating. We’ve all heard the horror stories, some of which are true and some are no doubt exaggerated. So let’s do a study and find out how big the issue really is. Are there parts of cities in Europe that really have defacto Sharia law being enforced? I don’t think so, and the few attempts to investigate indicate that this isn’t true but let’s take each of the specific accusations and debunk them or prove them. How many incidents do we have of new immigrants abusing women or trying to force women to cover up or obey whatever social mores that existed in their host country but not in their adopted one? How different is the overall crime rate of new immigrants and refugees versus the crime rate of the communities in which they are living? What percentage of the unemployment rate in each city and district can be attributed to new immigrants or refugees if any?

Let’s take a rigorous approach to studying the reality of the situation so we can combat the fear mongering by Trump in the US and by folks in Europe like UKIP’s Farage. We should also highlight the benefits of immigration, globalization and EU membership. One of the more stunning facts to come out of Brexit is that the cities and communities that voted to leave the EU are more economically dependent on the EU than those that voted to stay in it. See this graph from Press Association's John Springfield, Philip McCann, Bart Los and Mark Thissen. 


I think these statistics are stunning. They tell me that those of us in favor of things like the EU and globalization aren’t doing the jobs we need to be doing to explain their virtues in terms of each community.

I also mentioned new policies, and let me introduce that by saying there are many good ideas we could come up with including I wonder whether in the US, UK and EU we are doing an adequate job explaining to immigrants what we expect of them as good citizens. I think we should take specific examples of unacceptable cultural norms in other regions of the world and explain to prospective immigrants that those things are not acceptable in their new homes and that attempting to continue them in their new countries will result in deportation and then follow through on that threat if necessary. I think that’s fair. It should be explained to immigrants that things like female circumcision, harassing or assaulting women who aren’t covered up enough in the eyes of certain cultures, discrimination against people of other religions and race, sexual orientation or imposing religious jurisprudence on unwilling recipients and various other things are unacceptable behavior and will get them deported. I’m saying this as someone who is in favor of tolerance, multiculturalism and diversity.  


In short, let’s address the concerns of those who currently have issues with immigration and refugees and globalism with facts and responsible new policies. We have no choice but to try. The Brexit vote shows the consequence of ignoring those concerns is very likely to be exploitation of them by far right demagogues. I'll leave you all with this additional graphic from Lord Ashcroft polls showing what motivated people in the UK to vote for or against Brexit.