Sunday, January 29, 2017

Trump's Unamerican religious ban on Muslim immigrants

Doesn't President Trump's executive order to ban Muslims from seven select Muslim countries violate the First Amendment?

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Isn't imposing a religious test on immigrants a violation of the black letter language of the First Amendment? I'm sure he has some lawyers who can find a way to parse it out in defense of the constitutionality of his executive order, but it's intent and meaning are plain - keep Muslims out, just as he promised on the campaign trail.  I expect this to be overturned in the courts, maybe by the Supreme Court if it gets that far.

By the way, it is interesting which countries are included in the "ban".  Alex Nowrasteh of the conservative think tank, the Cato Institute, points out how many Americans have been killed on U.S. soil by the banned countries:

  • Syria - 0
  • Iraq - 0
  • Iran - 0
  • Libya - 0 
  • Sudan - 0
  • Yemen - 0
  • Somalia - 0
And here are how many Americans have been killed on U.S. soil by majority Muslim countries not on Trump's list:
  • Saudi Arabia - 2,369
  • United Arab Emirates - 314
  • Egypt - 162

Indeed, 98.6% of American terrorist deaths on U.S. soil happened on 9/11.  Our security apparatus has been remarkable in keeping America safe in the last 16 years.  Trump stokes paranoia and rode that fear of terrorists and immigrants to the presidency.  

Fareed Zakaria on his Sundayt GPS broadcast pointed out that "none of the Majority Muslim countries that have a Trump hotel, building, or office are on the list."  Coincidence?  Perhaps.

So, isn't it essentially unAmerican, and thus unpatriotic, to impose a religious test to keep out Muslims form these selected countries? 

The United States has many allies in these countries who are being banned by the Trump dictate.  We have many Iraqi allies who fought on our side against the terrorists, and they were promised sanctuary in the U.S. and who are to be turned away.  Isn't this just wrong?

How do we fight the terrorist branch of Islam without imploring the assistance of our natural allies in this fight, the rest of Islam - who are the primary victims of the Islamofascists?  

Isn't banning Muslims from U.S. entry adding power to the Islamofascist recruiting narrative that the U.S. and the West are fighting a war against all of Islam?  Isn't banning Muslims from U.S. entry a tremendous boost the the recruitment of Muslims into becoming Islamofascists?

I have been trying to focus on Trump's actions rather than his distracting statements and tweets. This is an action, and it is unconstitutional, unAmerican, and dramatically hurts our war against the Islamofascist element of the Muslim world.

Fortunately, Mr. Trump is not our King, and his unAmerican dictates can be overturned.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Trump who would be king

The very start of Trump’s presidency could well be his favorite time. We have pictures of him sitting very seriously and very importantly at his desk signing executive orders in his very bold, angular signature.  With one stroke of his pen he changes the country and the world!  Or so he thinks.

I wonder.

For example, he will build the wall along the Mexican border! Well, I think it takes $15 billion to do that, and that is up to Congress to fund.  I understand he has some administrative funds at his discretion, but we shall see if the tight-fisted Republican Congress obeys his commands.

(No, wait!  News just came across the wire! – Trump will pay for the wall with a 20% tax on the food and goods imported from Mexico – yes, of course, Mexico will pay for the wall after all!  No, wait… Americans will pay for the wall by paying higher prices for Mexican food and goods. It’s going to take a lot of beer and tomatoes to pay for a $15 billion wall.)

Is this what he promised - to have Americans pay for the wall in higher prices?

I think he thinks he has been made king. We shall see.  I believe General Eisenhower was surprised to learn that the Executive Branch was not like the Army – giving an order didn’t mean that it was carried out.  It’s more complicated in politics than the military - or in a privately owned one man business enterprise.

Here is a list of his executive orders and tweet commands so far per Lisa Desjardins of PBS:
12. Border wall.  This order also directs the hiring of an additional 5,000 border patrol agents, subject to funding.  Congress?
11. Deportations and sanctuary cities.  The order also directs the hiring of 10,000 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, though it states that is subject to funding.  Congress?
10. Review manufacturing regulations. With the aim of finding ways to speed up permitting and all federal processes for them. Congress? The Courts?
9. American steel in pipelines.  “to the maximum extent possible.” Congress?  The Courts?
8. Speeding up environmental reviews for all priority infrastructure. Congress?  The Courts?
 6 + 7. Speeding approval of Dakota Access and Keystone Oil Pipelines. The Courts?
 5. Federal hiring freeze. The president has told agencies they cannot fill any vacant positions nor open new ones, with two exceptions: military personnel and critical public safety positions.
4. TPP. This memorandum withdraws the United States from all Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations and from signing the trade deal. Congress is already refusing to ratify this.
3. Abortion. President Trump has ordered that federal dollars cannot go to organizations that provide abortion services. Oh well, when Reps gets into office this is what they do.
2. Regulation freeze. The president has frozen all regulations now in process (but not approved) until they are approved by him or an agency after he took office. Obama's symbolic actions at his end are being countered by Trump's symbolic action at his start.
1. ACA rollback. Mr. Trump has allowed all agency heads to waive requirements of the Affordable Care Act to the “maximum extent permitted by law.”  Congress and the Courts will have a lot to say about this.
It’s possible that he and his team will get everything on this list, plus the multitude of executive orders and Command Tweets to come, but … really? 

I think Mr. Trump may find out he is not a king after all, but just the top person in one third of the government – Executive, Legislative, and Judicial.  And, by the way, since he has decided to wage war against the Fourth Estate – the press – and his own Intelligence agencies, I am not sure that he is in quite as commanding position that he thinks he is right now.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

American Civil War?

A conservative friend pointed out an article by the conservative talk show host, Dennis Praeger.  Praeger opines that America is in its second Civil War.  His reasons seem to be focused a lot around the notion that schools and universities are brain washing good American children to become radical left wingers who are opposed to all that America stands for. And he adds a hit list of exaggerated left wing atrocities.

In addition to being paranoid, isn’t it unpatriotic to call for Civil War in America?  

But I have a different view of Mr Praeger’s article – he’s competing for an audience.

Praeger, like all good conservative talk show hosts, communicates so as to boost his ratings.  So, isn’t sowing paranoid visions that those who disagree with them are unpatriotic and that nobody can be trusted to tell the public the truth other than themselves primarily just their marketing strategy?  Limbaugh was probably the source of that strategy, and he relentlessly rails against the “mainstream media” or “drive-by media.”  The idea is - don’t pay any attention to those other guys, just come to us on the radio and Fox News and Brietbart, etc., and we will tell you the truth and you can’t trust anything that you don’t hear from us.

This is a remarkably effective marketing technique, and has built massive audiences and fortunes for the Right Wing Media Complex. But isn't it terrifying when the real President of the United States literally disbelieves actual news offered by the mainstream media (who are genuine trained reporters who professionally gather and report news rather than just google it).  Doesn't it send up warning flags when we have a president that thinks Infowars is a news source?  I find this pretty scary.

I think conservatives are seeing the opposition to Trump as being opposition to conservatism.  Although liberals can be counted on to differ with conservatives, the opposition to Trump goes way beyond opposition to conservatism.  It is a desperate opposition to someone they see as a madman, a mentally and emotionally unstable threat to America and the world.  He is seen as either someone who will kill millions by accident, or become an American Caesar that our Founding Fathers fought so hard to prevent when they drew up the Constitution.

I don’t see Trump as a Republican.  I don’t like Republican ideology anymore, but my disgust for Trump has to do with his incivility, crudeness, childishness, and desperately fragile and needy ego.  It’s not about the programs (which I will likely write against as they are revealed) but it is about the danger of the character of a tyrannical child being given the keys to space ship America. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Trump rides three waves into White House

Trump was sworn into office yesterday.  Sad. Sad.

There are many explanations for his win, here are three forces in the country that I think were critical.

First, he ran as a Republican and it was just the Republicans' time to win.  Loius C.K. mentioned a few months back that the country is split 50 -50 and the government switches back and forth regularly.  The Dems had it for 8 years, maybe it was just time for the Reps to get it.  I have many conservative friends, and I think that was what was important to them.

Second, all across the world as well as America, people are turning to the "Strong Man", the authoritarian, to keep them safe from the Islamofascist terrorist element of Islam.  Get scared? Vote for our own scary guy to fight them off.

Third, I believe America and the world are going through a major paradigm shift of consciousness - away from the twisted notion of manhood and Chauvinism and toward a true masculine and a true feminine. And the Trump victory is a kind of last gasp to cling to the past, to the old paradigm, to "Make America Great Again" by making it some fantasized version of Rough Tough Real Men Taking Charge.  True masculine is not dominating, or intimidating, or bullying, or frightening.  Those are confusions that the country and the world have been burdened with for centuries.  And I believe the time is happening right now where we are walking away from those mistakes.

True masculine is noble, virtuous, giving, protecting, providing, truthful, courageous, valorous, chivalrous.  It is something to be proud of.  The masculinity represented by Trump is none of these things, it is the pathetic remnants of selfishness, brutality, and cold-hearted domination.  Trumpism is just a milder version of the fascist elements of Islam, as well as those energies of Russia, Germany, and Japan that plunged the world into the nightmare of WWII and the Cold War.  It is something to be ashamed of.

It could be that an important step for the country to turn away from the twisted masculinity of domination and chauvinism for the country to really see it in operation in a Trump administration augmented by a Republican Congress which is lost in terrible, uncaring ideologies. This may end up being a tipping point - away from the old paradigm of masculinity that is actually a twisted chauvinism of domination and fear, and toward a discovery of the nobler energies of true masculine, which unites synergisticallly with a true and powerful feminine of feeling, imagining, and caring.

I choose optimism.  Plus, who knows, Mr Trump may surprise us all and be the black dog that tears apart the fossilized dogmas of both the Right and the Left.  I am willing to hope.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Russia withholding Trump leaks as evidence of Russian influence to defeat Clinton

The leaked intelligence document dump claiming - that Russia had intelligence support for Trump for about five years - that they fed him opposition research on Clinton during the campaign – and that Russia had humiliating evidence of his sexual activities – has caused a predictable outraged reaction by Trump.  He has a point in that the leaked documents had been in possession of most legitimate news and government organizations for some time, and indeed, since they could not verify the allegations they didn’t reveal them.  He claimed they were totally false, which I doubt, but that is not the point.

The actual point of the story is not the content of the blackmailable stuff, but the fact that Russia had this opposition research on Trump and did not use it prior to the election.  Why?  They had plenty of stuff they dumped to harm Clinton during the campaign, but withheld stuff they could have dumped to harm Trump. 

The briefing that the intelligence chiefs gave to the President and the president elect included info on these documents.  It was part of their case that the Russians interfered with our election to help Trump and hurt Hillary.  It was evidence that they only went after Clinton even though they could have gone after Trump as well, or instead.

Now David Ignatius, a very savvy foreign policy thinker, wonders whether the Russians stopped Clinton for reasons of their own, and now are out to torpedo Trump after he has won.  Perhaps Putin wants Trump to be president because he thinks that would be better for Russia than a Clinton presidency.  But, perhaps the real game has always been to elect the weaker candidate and then destroy him when he wins. 

Perhaps Putin’s goal is to destroy the United States in a way that he otherwise could not do.  He doesn’t have the military or the economy to humiliate and harm the United States, but he does have the decades of perfecting the very sophisticated weaponry of disinformation and propaganda. 

It’s hard for me to imagine any more effective means of destroying America than having the impetuous, uncontrolled, foolish child that is Donald Trump become president, and then undermine him with propaganda and disinformation.  

Given this silly man’s history, it doesn’t seem too hard for expert hackers, propagandists, and disinformation artists to destroy him, but I think America will definitely survive Trump and Putin as well.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Russian disinformation and Trump

James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, testified that the intelligence services have concluded with high certainty that a foreign power, Russia, interfered with the presidential electoral process in favor of Trump. There is no claim that actual vote tallies were interfered with.  It was a disinformation campaign, long ago perfected by the Soviet Union KGB, that influenced the voters.  Putin, of course was the head of that infamous organization prior to the fall of the wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Empire.

Using their pawn, Julian Assange and his WikiLeaks platform, the Russians dumped hacked Clinton emails at strategic times in the run-up to the election, planted fake news and disinformation designed to undermine Clinton.  Trump squeaked out a win, and U.S. intelligence monitored celebrations by upper level Russians.

"The ebullient reaction among high-ranking Russian officials — including some who U.S. officials believe had knowledge of the country’s cyber campaign to interfere in the U.S. election — contributed to the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Moscow’s efforts were aimed at least in part at helping Trump win the White House.

Obama has responded to this outrage, publicly by expelling 35 Russian diplomats, and with actions that will not be made public. 

This is a well established pattern in recent years by Putin.  He has interfered in Ukraine, now in Germany and likely France for upcoming elections.  Putin's Russia doesn't have many ways to be an empire, but disinformation is a highly developed and effective weapon against democracies. And delegitimizing democracies, influencing elections, and turning factions against each other in his targeted democracies is what he wants, and he is succeeding.  

It is how he makes Russia important - not by making Russia more powerful economically or culturally, but by weakening and destroying the rest of the world.  Strange and pathetic little man.

How much of the polarization in America is coming from these disinformation efforts?  The Alt Right news sources like Brietbart, Drudge Report, and Infowars, as well as the viral postings on social media, all of which get picked up by right wing talk radio and Fox News, has created an alternate reality for conservatives that believe that the disinformation they are being fed is showing them the real world, and convincing them that the actual news organizations - NPR, PBS, and various forms of "mainstream media" are actually distortions of the news due to a liberal bias.  

So, we live in two worlds.  A world of news and a world of Russian and Alt Right disinformation.  It is little wonder that good people voted against Hillary and for Trump.  Their world view was influenced by Putin's disinformation and the Alt-Right's paranoia.

Trump, of course, wants to make sure that nobody thinks that he won because of anything but his own glorious magnificence.  So, he denigrates the U.S. Intelligence services.

I'm not sure it is a smart idea for a president in waiting to attack the intelligence services of his own country, especially if that person my have many secrets that he is trying to hide.  Business corruption?  Sexual debauchery?  Massive debts to Russian oligarchs? Disgusting personal vendettas against helpless civilians who irritated him?

And how happy can my conservative friends be about all of this?  Haven't they spent decades warning against Soviet and Russian infamy?  Are they actually praising Putin and Assange for interfering with American elections?

The world is upside down.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Thinking About America and the World - 2011 through 2016 - a Boomer's Journey of Hope

I have published a book containing five years of my blogs thinking about America and the world - a Boomer's journey of hope.  I have found it fun to write.  It is a track of how my thinking about current events has retained some constancy, as well as how it has changed.  I have been a liberal, then a conservative, and then the Tea Party, the Alt Right and Trump pushed me back to liberal once again.  Fun to write.

THINKING ABOUT AMERICA AND THE WORLD: 2011 through 2016 - A Boomer’s Journey of Hope Kindle Edition

Link to book: