Category Archives: media

Press freedom

Traitor in the White House?

A photo that seems to me to sum up Helsinki.

 

From the Washington Post Worldview July 19, 2018. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Putin looking like the cat who swallowed the canary with Trump who looks like the kid who just got chewed out in the principal’s office, busily searching his brain for excuses to tell his parents about his bad behavior.

Good grief, America! What have we done to ourselves, our USA? There is no doubt we have let ourselves be taken in by a con man who has no interest at heart but his own, who has been so twisted by reliance on the fringes of right-wing conspiratorial political thought that he could think of selling us out to our firmest of enemies. I suppose that he does not recognize the possibility that his behavior could have that result, but what, exactly, is he thinking?

I wrote that just after the disaster in Helsinki. My gut reaction to Trump now seems to have roots I have known about for a long time, but haven’t researched in any organized way. Today I came across an article in the Smithsonian by Sasha Isenberg that reminded me of the long history of the fundamentalist right in the USA with all the conspiracy theories and religious zealotry. It reminds me that Trump is not an aberration, but a continuation of line of political-religious fever that’s been part of this country practically since the beginning.
Trump’s rallies have a lot in common with the descriptions of camp meetings in Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis.

One small detail from Isenberg’s article gives food for reflection. Hargis and Walker did their tour in 1963.

Walker arrived back in Dallas on April 8 to a
home filled with drifts of fan mail and financial contributions. Two
nights later he was sitting at a desk in his study, working on his
income-tax return, when a bullet shattered his window and lodged in a
wall just behind him, spraying metal shards into his arm. He grabbed his
gun and went outside to look for the shooter, but found no one.

… It would take months for Walker to learn the identity of his would-be assassin: Lee Harvey Oswald.

Irony of ironies.

Go read Main Street and Elmer Gantry and find what we now call Trumpism buried in our roots.

Let down

Last night I watched the movie “All the President’s Men”. In its way it was exciting and a bit scary wrapped in what was at the time the fear of spies and spooks both foreign and domestic. It does a fine job of showing the viewer the kind of hard work that goes into the best of our American journalism and deserves all the praise and awards it got.

I missed something when the film came to an end. I missed what I had always thought of (having lived through it) as the real drama of the Nixon downfall, and that was the hearings by the Congressional Committee where the various members of Nixon’s administration had to anwer the questions of the members of Congress. While the stories of the Woodward and Bernstein are the key ingredient that brought on the hearings, the fact that members of Congress stood up for our country’s democratic principles against their gross distortion by a man obsessed with punishing his “enemies” by any means whatever is the truly heroic feat we should look back on.

It is worth the time in the era of Trump to look back on what was said and done in the Watergate Hearings during the spring and summer of 1973 as a useful insight into what we should think about in the era of Trump. Video of the hearings can be found here. Take a look.

Children as pawns

 

We now know that this particular child was not taken from her mother, but it doesn’t really matter. The symbolism of the photo is what matters expressing as it does the harsh cruelty of what Trump is doing with the migrants on the border. The cover should become the premier statement of the Presidency of Trump.

They say that the policy of separating parents and children is no longer in effect. If that is true, why is this 9-year old still in custody while his Mom is free? At least, she was able to locate him, but only from a chance conversation with another parent.

There was a time when the Trump admin incompetence seemed amusing. Not any more. No one, least of a a child, should be put through the terrors that incompetence and confusion have condemned them to.

Confusion

In the New Republic, Jeet Heer says:

If  “zero tolerance” was suspended, it is only as a stop-gap measure. It does nothing to address the problem of family reunification for those already separated by the policy. Further, it is a temporary
measure which could be reversed once the administration has more resources in place to enact a renewed “zero tolerance” push. But the
larger story is that the White House has no real policy and different factions are making up rules willy-nilly.

In other words, those children and parents who have already been separated may have little or no chance of being reunited. Trump didn’t really back down. He just tweaked his cruel policy a bit in an effort to get the photos off the TV screens. Maybe Melania can show him that what he sees on Fox News is not true (no child actors).

I hope the photographers and reporters will continue to hunt down the sites where kids are being kept and manage somehow to show us what happens inside. When will we be able to see the inside of the facility those little girls arrived at last night in New York? Are they still there? Or have they been moved again? If so, where are they?

Bret Stephens thinks that Republicans have lost their moral sense (did they ever have one?). He also thinks we need immigrants. The space is waiting. The jobs are waiting. The demographics of an aging population tell us of our need.

 

If anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools, then opposition to immigration is the conservatism of morons. It mistakes identity for virtue, entitlement for merit, geographic place for moral value.

Where to?

Way back in 2016, before the election, I said something about American’s Common Sense. Somewhere between 2008 and 2016, we lost it, or at least, enough of us lost it to make Trump our President. Since then fear, anxiety and sadness battle for the front of my brain. The latest disaster in Quebec just makes things worse.

We have a madman for President who has turned on our closest friends with a viciousness that’s hard to endure. Trudeau didn’t deserve his Twitter lashing.

I worry about my sons and their families. What will be left of the United States when Trump finally leaves office? Will he give us away to Putin or China or even to Kim because of ignorance or fear or both? If he loses the next mational election, will he accept the results or say he was cheated and it was rigged? What then? How do we remove a President when Congress refuses to do its job? Whatever happened to the spines of those members who cower and refuse to see the destruction of our Rule of Law smacking them in the face?

If Trump can be cruel and vicious toward seekers of asylum and Prime Ministers both, it’s only a short step to cruelty and viciousness toward all of us. The memories of the rise of Hitler have grown too faded. There aren’t enough of us left who grew up dudring WWII and saw and heard all that was awful to sound the warning.

This is inexcusable:

 

It constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment” which I thought somehow was illegal. (See Ammendment 8 to the US Constitution.) How many of those babies is Sessions going to traumatize with his cruel and unusual “solution” to our immigration problems? The last count I saw was near 2,000 children forcibly separated from their parents. Tyranny has indeed reached American shores.

 

The North Korea Summit: Could it be that Trump did this made-for-TV-event to boost his approval ratings ahead of the November elections? Since it’s hard to see that anything was actually accomplished in the way of nuclear reductions or eliminations on the part of the North Koreans and they are now talking of promises of sanctions reductions, it looks like it might be a typical Trumpian short-term “deal” that does little but generate a small bit good publicity for him and a freebee for the other party. Speaking of “nothing burgers”!

On the Justice Department IG’s report: The lesson to be taken, in my small point of view is that people in civil service and government in general need to get a lot smarter about their use of email and text messaging. Rule No. 1: Don’t ever use private email for government communication. Rule No. 2: Don’t ever use your government issued phone to text personal messages to colleagues and friends. They will come back to haunt you and be used by your enemies to destroy your reputation if not your job prospects.

My take on the latest uproar

The brat (my word) in the Whitehouse has decided that we need to be “protected” from terrorists native to countries that have never perpetrated a mass attack on anyone in the US.  His ban on those from 7 countries in the Middle East and Africa (Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen) is the first step to a complete ban on all Muslims (unconstitutional).  Just give him time.  Along the way, he sows disrespect  for our justice system on Twitter by attacking judges whose opinions or decisions cross him.

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The Donald is always right, never wrong about anything he on which chooses to have an opinion.   If only he had some real knowledge to back up those tweets! What does he know about those countries, their histories, their cultures?  Does he really think that because a person is a Muslim, that person is “bad”?  Does he understand that no one in the US has been killed by any person from those 7 countries?

More twitter tantrum on judge Robart’s original decision:

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“Ridiculous” to try to protect the separation of Powers outlined in the Constitution? And why is Trump having fearful nightmares about “bad people” who do not, in fact, pose a threat?  Women and children threatening?  Our “President” has a bad case of paranoia based on little but scare mongering pushed by Breitbart, Fox News, and the Drudge Report.  We do not make America GREAT by showing the extent of our fears to the world, and lashing out against anyone who disagrees with the man a few of us elected to the Presidency.

 

ETHICS?

What ethics?  Trump’s “newsconference” proves, as if there were any doubt, that he has no idea of ethics.  He’s the spoiled child who insists on having his cake and eating it too, both the Presidency and his business, all for the glory of Trump, and to the sorrow of all those Americans who thought he would be their savior.  Seems to me that he would rather have his business than be President, and it may possibly happen that he will get his choice.  How long will Americans put up with the kind of childish behavior he showed on Wednesday – piles of papers so we’d see how impossibly complicated divestiture would be for him, a baseless attack on a CNN reporter, and an imported audience of employees who cheered and applauded like those at his rallies.  Not all of us are stupid enough to be fooled.

It wouldn’t hurt to remember the history lessons we once knew about state sponsored propaganda and the kinds of skepticism needed when approaching performances like Trump’s Wednesday news conference.  I wonder if it will be as easy or easier even to stage such performances once in the Whitehouse.  Common sense says we’d best be on our guard against manipulation by TV performance by a man who is something of an expert showman and manipulator.

 

Libya, the blunder

The Globalist today had an essay by Hardeep Puri who was President of the UN Security Council in August 2011 and November 2012.  He pins responsibility for the present mess in Libya on feelings of guilt in the West over its inaction in Rwandan genocide in 1994 during Bill Clinton’s Presidency.  The use of military force was supposed to rid the country of Libya of a terrible dictator and protect the people from his supposedly brutal treatment of his population.  There was no government structure as the west might recognize such.  Gaddifi was all there was.  This was to be “humanitarian regime-change”, at least that was how it was sold.  And the result?

The result is out there for the world to helplessly watch – a desperate migration crisis leaving hundreds of thousands of refugees either dead or deserted, and an unraveling country overrun by mercenaries, militia, and the world’s worst nightmare today – the ISIS – with a paralyzed government at the apex.

Whether the West likes it or not, there is a reason the Libyan “mad dog” managed to rule the country for 42 years. The articulation of pro-Gaddafi sentiment and demonstrations in what’s left of Libya testify exactly to that.

Our adventure in Iraq has taught us nothing, and sadly, it could still be true that we will sell ourselves on the idea humanitarian “rescue” of a country we do not understand.

Censorship?

I visited the website of Aljazeera English this morning, and discovered something that surprised me.  The live videos I used to watch in order to learn a different point of view of what was happening in the Middle East are blocked and can’t be watched from America.  Why?  What for? By whom?  If I go to america.aljazeera.com the videos I want to see aren’t there – at least I didn’t find them.  I did find some reports on Iraq, though, that were infinitely better than anything I’ve seen at the New York Times or the Washington Post, both of seem to be just echoing the administration or the neocon lines.

I can still read the reports at Aljazeera English, so I guess maybe I shouldn’t panic, but it sure was odd and a bit creepy to have this box or something like it pop up with each video:

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I have been so short of time to spend on this blog, or doing the research of Middle East happenings that I’ve been doing for so long that others may well have picked this up long before I ever found it.  It makes me feel that the talk of the loss of our freedoms here in the US, is not at all just talk.  What’s happened to freedom of information?  What else are they trying to hide?  What’s happened to the media in this country?

Decision time

It’s coming soon now.  Next week we will have the votes in Congress that determine to a large extent whether the US attacks Syria or not.  The administration has certainly been trying its best to stir up support both at home and abroad without a great deal of success.  The media seems to be behind Senator McCain’s pro-war, pro-rebel stand to a great extent, but the larger public keeps saying, “no”.  Little of the mainstream media is skeptical of this possible effort, and the reports that cast doubt on Administration propaganda are mostly ignored.  If the President decided to  wait for a Congressional decision, he doesn’t seem to have wanted to use it to change his mind, which I hoped for at one point.  This morning’s New York Times talks of air raids by US and French planes as well as the missiles to “degrade” Assad’s ability even more.  That would mean even more civilian casualties, death, and destruction than there has been already.  I fail to see how such a plan would deter the Assad regime from the path it is already on.  If it is true, that the regime feels itself as backed into a dire corner between life and death, as I believe it does, it is bound to choose its own survival by whatever means.  Nothing much that the West can do aside from wiping the slate clean as in Iraq, will have much effect.  All sides in this fight have been incredibly brutal, and to pick one as the incarnation of evil is to misread the people involved and the facts on the ground.

The article also contains this statement:

“They are being pulled in two different directions,” a senior foreign official involved in the discussions said Thursday. “The worst outcome would be to come out of this bruising battle with Congress and conduct a military action that made little difference.”

I think that’s what’s likely to happen anyway, no matter what John McCain and the hawks say. The President has not seemed to want another war, and has tried to reassure people about no boots on the ground.   That doesn’t mean he can’t be dragged into more agression.  Once begun, military action of any kind has been rather self-perpetuating.  If the military action makes little difference, it might cause an uproar here at home among the war party, but it will not change the ultimate outcome in Syria, even if there are cries for more attacks.  The Syrians themselves have to sort out what is to become of them.  Whoever or whatever caused the deaths by poison gas, our entry into a local civil war will not change the ultimate resolution on the ground.  Morality has nothing to do with this other than as a propaganda tool.

Nothing we did in Iraq turned the country into that shining example of democracy that President Bush promised.  It only served to make most Iraqis detest us for the foreseeable future.