Truth is the ultimate weapon, but sloppy reporting will dull it…

January 23, 2017

Journalism is under attack from the Trump administration.

And what else is new?

Journalism is almost always under attack by presidential administrations or sometimes administrations cozy up to it and use it for their own purposes, which can be more damaging than a head-on assault.

Right now it appears that in its first days the Trump administration is desperately trying to convince everyone that unfavorable reports are all lies, even though in many things there seems to be so much evidence to the contrary — I mean crowd sizes are always hard to estimate, but it seems clear that way more people turned out Saturday in Washington D.C. to protest the new president than for Friday’s inauguration.

First Trump and then his surrogates claim it is all press lies, and then confronted with the truth they fall back to the size of the crowds is really not important, the important thing was that he was elected.

But Trump and his surrogates have to keep hammering at the journalists because they need someone or something to distract from the truth. Journalists play the part of their foil. As long as they can project the notion that people in the media are spewing lies about the Trump administration they feel or hope they can keep the story focused on what they claim is unfair reporting rather than the real issues.

On the other hand, journalists play right into their hands when they are too cavalier with reporting as fact or implying fact without named or credible sources.

Case in  point, media outlets jumped all over a New York Times story that Trump’s Secretary of Energy nominee Rick Perry (former Gov. of Texas) did not know that the department he agreed to head oversaw the nation’s nuclear arsenal. And so a plethora of headlines proclaimed his ignorance. Now there is a controversy over the fact that the Times failed to cite actual sources and the story itself does not quite live up to its headline or its lead.

As far as I know, Perry has not said what he knew and did not know exactly, but in his confirmation hearing he admitted to changing his mind about the role and responsibilities of the department.

Of course Perry is such a good story. He’s the guy who could not remember the name of the department he now wants to run. During a presidential candidate debate he began naming federal departments he wanted to scuttle, energy was one of them, except when he got to the point where he was intending to name it there was a pregnant pause and then he admitted he forgot the name of it (did not have a clue, did a complete flop sweat). Biggest campaign gaffe in history maybe. But to mis-report something about him or report without confirmation of the facts is a major gaffe as well and has implications on a whole profession and the public’s ability to be accurately informed.

A candidate only hurts himself, sloppy journalists do damage to the whole profession and the public at large.

The best thing journalists can do I think is stick to the verifiable truth and not be drawn into skirmishes with the administration that only serve to discredit themselves. Report the facts and let them speak for themselves, I’d say. But don’t be bashful about reporting those facts. And sometimes when something is important enough, that is deemed so crucial the public needs to know now, then great care should be taken to emphasize that all the facts are not in — and mere rumor reporting is seldom justified in honest journalism.

Gossip and rumor reporting only hurts the cause of mainstream journalism and should be left on the supermarket checkout stands with the tabloids (and fake news sites on the web are a form of as yet seemingly incurable cancer that threatens the lifeblood of journalism).

And simply reporting Trump tweets is not journalism. Yes, he is president, and they have to be acknowledged, but there is more of substance to report and it should be given more play.

I do find it strange that Trump personally and his staff got so riled about the crowd size reporting. I think it makes them look awful silly when they have to lie about the crowd size to dispute reports and when Trump special advisor Kellyanne Conway has to come up with something about while the journalists have one set of facts the administration has an “alternative set of facts”. It’s Trump against the world I guess.

And poor Trump, first it was the gibe during the campaign about the implications of his stubby fingers, and then the size of the crowd at his inauguration.

I guess he is worried that size matters.

 


Trump may have awakened a heretofore silent majority — against him…

January 22, 2017

Not only is President Donald Trump scary. He is creepy. There is something particularly eerie and diabolically sinister about the way he talks sometimes (well all the time?). I watched a few minutes of his address to CIA officials and he was projecting or setting an ominous tone. He was saying that he knew that most of the people present voted for him (I’m not sure whether he was being sarcastic) and then he allowed as he was not going to actually put anyone on the spot about it.

While Trump is accusing journalists of misrepresenting his back and forth with the U.S. intelligence community as a conflict with him bashing intel folks, the evidence is in the video tape and Trump’s own Twitter tweets for all the world to see. He is a strange person who can lie to your face even as evidence to the contrary is plain for all to see and so widely disseminated.

The shot I saw just showed Trump and not the assembled intel officials, but I have to think with the known bad blood between them and Trump there had to be some nervous folks out there. Trump had that silly half smile and half scowl on his face. It sent chills through me. It reminded me of Saddam Hussein speaking before a room full of government people in Baghdad and then naming names, as people were hauled out of the room one by one — one man wiping sweat from his face (that was on video).

But maybe the most creepy thing of all is his constant self-promotion about how great he is. He told some strange story about people questioning his intellect and then Trump said something to the effect — I’ll tell you I’m a real smart guy (I was not taking notes, but you can no doubt catch it on CNN — his visit to the CIA).

It is hard to know why Trump is so all-fired eager to dismantle Obamacare — yes I know it is an issue pushed by the Republicans, who on the one hand may have legitimate concerns but who I suspect are mostly jealous that they could not figure something out on health care before Barack Obama did. Trump has already won the presidency. He could let congress fix Obamacare’s shortcomings, something that was going to have to be done anyway no matter who won.

(But no, it is more important to trash Obamacare as a symbolic act for the new leader and political tactic for Republicans and who cares about all those who have their health put in jeopardy by the un-needed upheaval in health coverage?)

And it is hard for me to know why so many people admit being a tad concerned about Trump’s super bad manners and his strange and threatening demeanor but cautiously support him anyway because he “tells it like it is” or says things they claim they cannot say. And what would that be? racial epithets that have gone out of style (or so we thought), to heck with poor people it’s their own fault but help me because I overcharged my credit card and bought a house that was too expensive and then mortgaged it to the hilt, or if you don’t follow my religion you are evil? I mean last time I checked we are free to say what we want (with a few exceptions such as crying fire in a theater). Yes I know about “political correctness” and people can get carried away with going out of their way to not offend people — but sometimes you just have to swallow hard and figure what you believe in and why you do and have the guts to speak your mind but at the same time have the common courtesy and common sense to not needlessly hurt people’s feelings for no positive purpose. But at the same time silent prejudice and discrimination practiced by one group over another in society is just as dangerous as open bigotry if not more so — at least when someone publically states he or she is a racist you know where the threat is coming from.

As I write this I know there are protests against Trump around the nation (and world). But to be effective they have to be kept up (and I would say non-violent/no property damage) and that is hard to sustain — witness the flash-in-the-pan life of Occupy Wall Street.

The current protests seem to be centered around the rights of women but also expanded to the rights of both sexes and of minorities and immigrants and so on. That is a much larger force than the so-called millennials of the Occupy thing. And again it is not tied to just one group or cause, except perhaps a more liberal populist cause.

Added to that protest must be the longer-range program of political organization. Theoretically, with such a wide margin of the voters having voted against Trump it would seem organization against him would not be so difficult.

Maybe much of the anti-Trump forces or potential forces have been a new silent majority. Maybe time to speak up.

p.s.

When I began this blog eight or more years ago, and since, I have identified myself as “middle of the road” in politics. With this latest turn of events it is difficult to find middle ground, although in normal times I think that is where most Americans stand — these just don’t appear to be normal times. But I am still uncomfortable with the radical left and the reactionary right, except I don’t know whether those two designations adequately describe politics just now.


Trump displays the II Duce fist bump…

January 21, 2017

trump-fistdbb8b39d7d7f504adfd9d3b1c19ac77a

So just as I suspected our new president Donald Trump is imitating the fascist gesture of Benito Mussolini.

While II Duce or his estate (if there is any) does not have a copyright on that and that alone would not make Trump a fascist, it is just one of many traits of his we have all noticed that seems to match the nationalist and xenophobic tendencies of the fascists and Nazis of the World War II era, when western democracy was under siege from extreme right-wing forces who played on the misery and fears of people living through the extreme hardships and hopelessness of the world-wide depression. While Germans were suffering for the sins of their fathers and the war reparations the western allies were forcing them to pay back for the cost of the Great War, Mussolini in Italy infused the downtrodden masses with the dream of bringing back the glory of Rome and foreign colonies.

There is nothing wrong with pride in your own country except when it goes too far and causes people to turn on their own neighbors and conflict between nations and tramples on the rights of other Peoples of the world.

Some people perhaps see the only hope in a strong leader who talks tough and stirs their soul — right up until it all ends in catastrophe.

And woe to the dictator who disappoints the people.

 

 

 


The people are like Dorothy in Oz, they had the power all along…

January 20, 2017

With a clenched fist (and once or twice two fists) Donald Trump dropped the bomb. He declared that the people are taking over from a powerful inside-Washington elite who have put their own financial interests first. And from now on, he said, it will be America First! and he actually used the term protectionism or he said we are going to protect our industries and rebuild our infrastructure and the rule will be products and materials made in America by American workers.

And even after praising the outgoing president Barack Obama and now former First Lady Michelle Obama for their graciousness and assistance in the transition of power, he without naming them or anyone else lashed out at the present government (without saying so, Republicans and Democrats) for being blind to the needs and aspirations of the people and only caring about enriching themselves. But he said all that changes now, this minute.

I do not want anyone reading this to construe that I buy what he said. I will say this: this was the most momentous political speech I have heard in my lifetime. Trump has promised us all the world. He has a lot to live up to. While all such speeches are filled with rhetoric, the tone of his was much more forceful. If you look at old newsreels and maybe read translations (you can do that on the internet these days) you will see in his speech elements of the Adolf Hitler style, appealing to national pride, and calling for world dominance by the people of one nation.

There was one line, though, that captured the essence of what I think about U.S. foreign policy. He said that the U.S. under his leadership will not seek to impose its form of government on any other nation but instead lead by example, thus showing the rest of the world the merits of our form of democracy (I am paraphrasing of course). He also said all nations have a right to do things that put their own people first. I could buy that. I mean is that not the reason we have individual nations or nation states?

So here’s the deal. I found his speech both inspirational and a little scary at the same time. I don’t really think Trump is Hitler. He at times has seemed to borrow gestures from that grand Italian buffoon and dictator Benito Mussolini — not so much today, except maybe for his raised fist; I don’t specifically recall whether Mussolini raised his fists but, whatever, Trump has previously used that strut and kind of scowl and pursing of the lips characteristic of the Italian fascist.

Today Trump actually delivered a speech in full sentences and in an articulate manner. Just like Obama’s I think unfortunate line “you didn’t build that” I almost felt like saying, “you didn’t write that”. But maybe he did or at least maybe those were his own thoughts.

And actually, have things been all that bad in America, especially these past four years? One commentator was citing various statistics, economic growth, decline in unemployment and such, and we have to remember, many more people actually voted for a virtual continuation of Obama (via Hillary Clinton). But the state of the nation is like beauty is to each individual — beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

But back to Trump’s line about protectionism. Protectionism has been given a bad name because back in the 1920s the U.S. and other nations of the world engaged in protecting their own industries so much so that it is said to have resulted in the Great Depression.

But of course today a lot of nations (China?) engage in some form of protectionism. I’m thinking maybe the Wall Street crowd has been pretty free and easy in promoting the opposite in this nation because they don’t care how the money is made as long as it comes back to them.

If we close our borders to foreign goods it will work against us. But certainly we can promote our own products and at least have some form of partial protection.

And a prime example of wrong-headed thinking is when the San Francisco Bay Bridge was rebuilt (in part) a few years ago, the steel came from China. With all the steel we have in America that is preposterous — I mean what were they thinking?

As long as he doesn’t do anything stupid I think we just might survive Trump. We might even prosper.

And this would be a good point here to mention that Trump vowed to wipe Islamic terrorism of the face of the earth (that is that practiced by forces claiming to be Islamic, not all Muslims; I’m adding that for clarification). Sounds good to me, but that is a proposition that is fraught with traps (wars that bog us down, itchy trigger fingers or the firing of nukes in desperation, leading to our own self-destruction). But I do agree we have to face the fact that in some way we have to face up to the threat of Islamic terrorism head on — rhetoric will not do it (I know Obama has certainly tried, but perhaps he has been hampered by the diametrically opposite concerns of fighting terrorism and, in his own words, “not doing anything stupid”.

Oh, but one more thing. Trump said over and over again in his speech that the power has been given back to the people. But we live in a constitutional representative democracy. The power is with the representatives whom the people elect. But it has always originated with the people. Kind of like Dorothy in the land of Oz wanting to find her way home. She had that power all along.

p.s.

I continue to be amazed at how Trump has managed to in some ways combine the disenchantment of people on both the politically liberal left and the conservative right in some new form of populism. And it is ironic that while nominally white and conservative Tea Party-inspired folks who supported Trump now have their man in charge his gesture is just like the radical Black Power gesture of the 1960s, a raised fist.


Tick, tick, tick, the Trump time bomb is almost ready to explode…

January 19, 2017

Been through a quite a few presidents now in my adult life.

But waiting for Donald Trump to officially become president is like waiting for a ticking time bomb to go off.

There was Richard Nixon. I was not a Nixon supporter. And toward the end there were concerns that he might have gone a little off his rocker and that he might do anything — surround the White House with troops to hold on to the presidency he was losing due to the Watergate scandal, do something with the nukes to pull a victory out of defeat in Vietnam, declare martial law to put down the protestors and protect himself from being removed from office. I don’t know if there was any substance to these concerns, except several of those who were in his inner circle have claimed such. I myself at the time heard reports in the news and thought that he might well declare martial law. There were riots and public disobedience brought on by a combination of racial strife and civil rights concerns and opposition to the Vietnam War.

(Vietnam has to have been our nation’s greatest blunder. We meant well but somehow we lost our way, but the issues around that fiasco are too complex to dismiss in one or two sentences I admit.)

I’m not going through all the presidents since then, but I will say I felt Jimmy Carter was hopeless. His presidency was held hostage by Americans being held hostage in Iran. All he could do it seemed was to sit in his Rose Garden contemplating. He did order the military to perform a surprise rescue mission but it ended in deadly failure — that was not necessarily Carter’s fault but it seemed to paint a picture of the impotency of his presidency and of the U.S. as a faltering once great power, now held at bay by a hostile and much smaller Middle Eastern nation.

I was not worried, just disgusted with the whole thing.

And there was Ronald Reagan, a hero to so many. I was never impressed with him, except that I thought he had a good, dignified presidential look, and he was a gentleman. And I would say he made the right moves in negotiating with the old Soviet Union, which was staggering under its own weight of the failures of socialism and a totalitarian government and its own Vietnam — its war with Afghanistan (ironically which would eventually become a trap for the U.S.).

Bill Clinton. Love/hate. In the end, just tired of the Clintons — Mr. and Mrs. But in the recent election I recall hearing some Hillary speeches I thought were well done. But good words are only part of the process of getting elected and this time around they meant less than in previous times.

(But did I vote for Hillary? I certainly did not vote for Trump. And now I almost sound like those people they say voted for Trump but won’t admit it, except maybe in the reverse. This is getting complicated. Why do people say how they voted anyway? Isn’t is supposed to be a secret ballot?)

Barack Obama: Yup I voted for him twice (and there I go disclosing my secret ballot). I think it was more out of the fact I was voting against the Republicans. Like I have always said I am perfectly willing to vote Republican — they just have to give me a reason.

But, except maybe for the last days of Nixon, I have never felt the sense of foreboding I have now. And really this is worse. Nixon, a little wobbly at the end, was a conventional politician based in reality. Trump defies reality or redefines it.

Trump, a blow-hard real estate mogul, whose positions (if you can even call them that) change in mid-sentence, is just about to take the oath of office.

He is like nothing or no one I have ever seen in politics. He is foul-mouthed, sometimes almost inarticulate with his extreme brevity and clipped sentences that lack any eloquence, vile, and most of all unpredictable verging on the irrational. Oh, and he spreads fake news stories either because he is too lazy to verify them or he seeks to confuse things (or both). And due to our system, although he appears to be indeed legitimately elected, he has no solid mandate, being so far behind in the popular vote (Clinton garnered 66 million votes, 3 million more than Trump), but of course he got more Electoral College votes by winning in key battleground states and taking advantage of winner-take-all in the Electoral College.

And as I continue to write this tome late Thursday afternoon zero hour is now less than 24 hours away. Scary. Maybe the world won’t end even then. I mean it might take a while. Who knows? We might even survive. Trump assures us that we will in fact be so proud of him — and that seems to stretch my imagination.

No one knows what he will do or how he will act. Professional observers kept saying or hoping that he would go into general-election mode rather than stay in the down and dirty primary election mode, but he did not. And then surely after being elected and just waiting for the inauguration he would become presidential. Well he has not.

His own party, or at least the one he latched onto to win the presidency, does not know whether to be giddy with victory or nervous about what he will really do.

I think Trump has the Republican Party and the nation and the free world held hostage.

A smooth, non-threatening, and even conciliatory speech Friday would help calm nerves possibly, but that is not his usual style, and one speech will not eliminate all the bad will.

Yeah I alternate between concern and all-out dread.

And still another thought I add now:

That is one more criticism of Trump: his penchant for constantly praising himself is annoying and unseemly and way over the top, even for a politician. You don’t have to be into psychology to detect something unsettling there, an insecurity, a need for constant reassurance. Why of why does he have to be the one to be the leader of the free world? But it’s too late folks.

p.s.

Some possible insight into Trump’s electoral success with enough voters to win was brought out in an interview by the German publication Der Spiegel. Newt Gingrich, a confidant of Trump, was asked if he recalled when he knew Trump would win:

Gingrich: Oh yes, very early. There was this debate in August 2015 with the TV anchor Megyn Kelly, and everybody in the elite said he had lost that fight. But people on the internet, by about 60 to 70 percent, said he had won. I thought, If the gap between the elites and the average citizens is that big, something unusual is happening. The country is fed up with political correctness, and it is fed up with government that doesn’t work. It’s fed up with weakness being interpreted as wisdom. It’s pretty straightforward.


I think he was talking about that incident in which Kelly asked him about his history of crass behavior with and comments against women. Trump in his little boyish and bully way later implied Kelly was just being bitchy because it was that time of the month. But yeah, Trump voters no doubt just want their problems solved individually without all the niceties of getting along with each other and the complexities that real-life issues always involve. Okay fine. But a loose cannon with the power that is his alone in this government to end the whole world with the order to use nukes — I mean he likes to cut through the bull crap — he might just think nuke-em.


On Trump: populism without bad manners would be preferable…

January 18, 2017

Could we have populism without all the invective? It’s the bad manners and hateful speech that really bothers me.

I mean I think I could like the idea of populism and of shaking up the world order, and I don’t mind the idea of some form of nationalism versus globalism. One-world government and economy (globalization?) does not appeal to me.

There is a reason we have different nations (perhaps some good and some bad). It is just a fact of life, based on race and language and culture and geography and so on. And that does not mean we cannot all live together in harmony — but at times we need our space. And yes, America, the United States of America, is different. We are a hodgepodge of races and culture, except there is the inescapable fact that our roots and traditions are European, English and Germanic in particular. But of course people came here from all over the world (some people involuntarily at first). We have evolved but cannot escape, or at least have not escaped, our roots and cultural traditions, good and bad.

And let me get to the point. Donald Trump is not one for complex thoughts (which is not to say he is actually an ignoramus). But that appeals probably to so many who get tired of hearing all those complex thoughts and then not seeing any good outcomes for themselves. Actually there may have been a lot of good outcomes but we all get used to them and take then for granted and ask what have you done for me lately?

And the Trump tweets. Really they are a modern version of the fireside chat made famous by FDR on the radio giving pep talks to the public during the Great Depression. They are just much abbreviated and without any eloquence, to say the least.

But it would be somewhat more palatable without the invective — without all the name calling, and without the sexism.

There is a tradition of presidents using the so-called bully pulpit (originating they say with Theodore Roosevelt) to go directly to the people. Trump seems to be putting an emphasis on bully and using it against anyone he thinks questions him — maybe not against the general public but then again in the atmosphere he creates there is something left not completely said but understood that to cross the great leader is to flirt with personal danger.

I have no idea what Mr. Trump’s actual mental abilities are. I’ll assume he is of at least average intelligence. What he does have is gut instinct, street smarts, and the advantage of having a rich father who got him started with that little million-dollar loan.

And those vaunted Trump negotiating skills: I don’t know how much of that is overblown. But what I see is crude salesmanship composed of meaningless hyperbole and pressure tactics, and appeal to an adversary’s or a potential partner’s own greed.

(We have all read that victims of a swindle often have succumbed to their own greed.)

The way I see it is whether in the business world of deals or in world leadership, the person on the other side of the table from Trump might not even believe him, but that person might be intimidated or might be intrigued by the aura of power and the chance to score big. While Trump is untested on the world leadership stage, as far as I know in business when the dust settles and things go sour, he just walks away with cash. He has admitted he has used the bankruptcy courts as a tool of the trade. I don’t know if that style can work in international relations — seems doubtful.

So anyway, with his form of bully pulpit, even before being sworn in as president in this awkward interim with a lame duck still officially at the helm (until Friday), Trump has already scored some seeming victories with his tweet version of the bully pulpit, getting some corporations to promise to move fewer jobs overseas — they are scared, no doubt.

One has to wonder why Barack Obama did not use some pressure like that in the wake of his initial victory in 2008. Of course his way would not be crude like Trump, you know, blunt force, but he had political capital.

But I have some ideas on that. You know he did not want to push it. Here he was the first black man to be elected president. But he wanted to appeal to the still white majority, and I think he truly believed in people of all races getting along. I was going to write that he did not want to be seen as being “uppity”, but I feared that would make me sound racist (as if I thought he would be uppity if he did). But somehow I think the Republicans in  congress faced with his eloquence in public and his attitude in perhaps private meetings that he did have political capital saw it as just that, uppity. Whereas someone like Trump would be seen as strong-willed.

I do not like the tone Trump is setting with our allies, particularly in Europe. While it may be true that they have taken advantage of the shield of protection the U.S. has offered over the decades by not always paying their fair share to NATO for defense, the other side of the coin is that has kept the U.S. as the leader of the free world and with that has given it the privileges of its rank as leader in trade and world politics.

(I won’t even go into Trump’s outrageous accusations and depiction of the situation with Mexico — well except to say that while Mexico has major internal problems, the U.S. benefits greatly from trade with it, and good or bad, the U.S. seems to depend upon a labor supply from there — and I have to guess that even with the problems it is all a net benefit for the U.S.)

It was surprising to see President Obama use the method of leading from behind in the NATO operation in Libya. Military alliances are tricky but I have to think it is better to be the stronger power.

While I think Trump is right to question the continued need or role for NATO (post-Soviet Union/Warsaw Pact) and the relationship between its partners, and the financing of it, I cannot see why there is need for bad words or threats over it all. But that is the Trump style. And we have yet to see whether there is any substance to match with that style. And I have to say, the style is ugly.

But still, if I have any hope (and that is about all I could have), it is that our government will focus on the need of the populace as a whole. There have been too many blunders by the elites (but non-elites are not blunder-proof).

Just watched a little piece on Morning Joe about the effect of Trump’s twitter statements and his not-so-veiled threats against U.S. corporations and business engaging in importing goods from overseas and shipping production out of country. There are benefits and disadvantages. Cases cited were U.S. final production facilities where American workers produce products that have components made out of country (cost is always a factor). So on the one hand, anything Trump can do to cut foreign competition would seem to help American workers. However, if his actions cut into the ability to import component parts, then some of those American factories will be priced out of the market. And I would add, the U.S. has an export market to be  concerned about that could be adversely affected by an upset in trade rules.

So, we will see what we will see. After Friday, the time for talking is finished. The public will want to see action.

In his original campaign Obama promised to ride herd on the Wall Street crowd and the corporations whose actions were blamed for creating or exacerbating the Great Recession. He did not. He was re-elected, partly because he may have done a good job anyway and some political blunders made by his challenger, and the advantage of being the incumbent.

Trump’s brand of politics seems to have been defined as some form of populism. Trump has very little history in politics. He has funded and talked in support of both the traditional right and left in politics at various times.

There was during the campaign the strange phenomenon of the meeting of the minds to some degree between the supporters of Bernie Sanders, an avowed socialist (the ultra left in politics), and Trump who in his strategy nominally aligned himself with the far political right — but maybe the Tea Party brand, which itself is a version of populism of the right. At one time populism was seen as more of a phenomenon of the left — attacking the establishment. But in this case, elements of the right and left both took on what they perceived as an establishment out of touch with everyday people (workers and small businessmen in particular). And that weird coalition squeaked out a victory in the Electoral College.

I still think that with all his bombast and outright threats to the world and even those of us in the U.S. who may not agree with him we face peril in the Trump presidency.

p.s.

Teaching children good manners and good behavior would seem a lost cause in the Trump era. Kind of mixed signals. On the one hand we have a movement against bullying and on the other a bully has just been elected president.


The most unnerving thing about the coming administration is Trumps’s control of the nukes, and our vulnerability to aging technology is no comfort either…

January 15, 2017

I would not be at all surprised if Donald Trump will wind up being impeached and convicted and losing his office. And then we get Mike Pence? Yikes. Maybe more conventional, but better?

Okay, still Trump has not even taken office. And since no one really knows what he believes in (except himself) what with all of his contradicting statements, pure platitudes (make America great again), outright and transparent lies, fragmentary speech and so on, it might be premature to predict disaster.

But one thing that makes me nervous is that he and he alone could launch a nuclear attack. Why he would do that I don’t know, but he hates to lose face and if someone or group provoked him, he just might go off the deep end (and some say he is already there).

Not long before Richard Nixon gave up his presidency under the threat of impeachment the word went out to ignore any orders he might give for a nuclear attack (we were still fighting the Vietnam War), even though the law as it is interpreted does not provide for such a refusal unless the commander-in-chief can be officially declared incompetent (and I don’t know how that is supposed to take place — probably like the military when you are not required to follow an illegal order, except that when the dust clears and the court-martial decides it was a lawful order, you are in deep doo doo).

But this nuclear thing is really I think an underestimated danger. The president is the only one who can order the use of nuclear weapons.

And even with a president in a fit of pique with a screw loose not being part of the scenario, the command and control of our nuclear weapons is precarious. There have been hundreds or actually some sources say thousands of incidents over the years in which there could have been a devastating, even civilization-ending, outcome due to pure accidents and old equipment that is part of our nuclear arsenal. And I will bet you that a lot of otherwise intelligent and reasonably informed citizens don’t even know we still have nuclear weapons — missiles and bombers — poised to go into action and vulnerable to accidents even now, despite disarmament treaties. I mean just one of those missiles is as deadly powerful as all the ordnance dropped in WWII, including the two nukes we dropped on Japan.

If you have not, you ought to watch the documentary Command and Control about a missile that blew up in its silo in Arkansas in 1980 after a workman accidentally dropped a wrench, puncturing a hole in the missile and causing fuel to leak out and resulting in an explosion that sent the nuclear warhead flying into a ditch some distance away. It was later determined that it would have been possible for the warhead to have exploded and wiped out much of Arkansas and that part of the nation (no jokes like, who cares? please) and spewed radioactive clouds to a much wider area.

And there have been many other incidents since. News reports (oh, I know, we are not supposed to trust news reports since they are all propaganda — who do we trust then? Oh, yeah, fake sites on the internet, the Russians) have told us that much of our nuclear arsenal is still controlled by old technology, such as floppy discs (and younger people will be asking: “what the heck is a floppy disc?”).

So seriously, having someone as unpredictable and paranoid, narcissistic, and so full of the need to take revenge, as Trump with a stubby finger on the nuclear button is unnerving.

(sorry, the use of  “stubby” was gratuitous)

It was said that Barack Obama’s shortcoming was that he was too cool. No-drama Obama.

For the sake of our safety and that of the world, I already miss the cool-headed Obama.

And I do want the United States to stand tall and take no guff from our enemies and to demand that the free world partners take a stand — you are either with us or against us, and you have sure lived off our security for all these years.

But a lot of that can be left unsaid. If we are strong, it will be apparent. Calm, cool, level-headed action is much better than bellicose rhetoric that often results in over commitment and putting yourself at the point of no return.

No one is perfect. Obama would have done better to simply take action (or not) than to draw that line in the sand concerning Syria.

We cannot expect perfection from our leaders perhaps.

But sanity we should insist upon.

p.s.

A link to Command and Control (I hope this works):

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/command-and-control/player/