I wonder if we are not any more divided now than we were during Vietnam…

December 31, 2019

As the decade of the 2010s comes to a close I keep hearing about how this nation, the United States of America, is more divided than it ever has been or at least since the Civil War.

But I am not sure about whether we are more divided than say in the 1960s and early 1970s during the Vietnam War. At least, I think, that may be when the trouble started.

We seemed to fall into that war gradually before anyone noticed and once it was noticed it was like it was too late. We were at war. You can’t quit till the war is over. You can’t question if it is right or wrong, it’s the U.S. fighting and we are always on the side of right. And somehow we are always fighting for freedom, ours, and that of the whole free world and even for those who want to be free (free of despots).

To be sure, there was some disagreement as to whether we ought to get involved in a land war in the jungles of Southeast Asia. Those old and wise enough knew that the conditions there were not ideal for us. They recalled Japanese soldiers in World War II subsisting on little but rice and a blind aligience to the Emperor and a belief that one must never surrender, that death is better. But in the end, the U.S. and the allies persisted, not only because of the fighting and bravery of those who fought but because of the overwhelming force we could bring to bear from our own resources.

We had far more resources than the Japanese. In fact that is what the war was about, resources, ones the Japanese wanted. Heck, that is basically what almost all wars are about, isn’t it?

But in the 1960s we were glued to the domino theory which asserted that if we did not resist nations would fall one by one like a row of dominos to communist insurgents, supported by the USSR and to some extent Communist China (the later still being weak at the time).

We eventually found ourselves in a full-fledged war. I mean we sent advisors in the 50s and 60s and we conducted clandestine operations. But when you inject yourself into a war zone I’ll be darned if someone does not shoot back at you. So when we got shot at we retaliated. We kept upping the troop strength.

Once we were in the war for real our leaders did not know what to do. It was not like World War II where you recaptured ground and pushed the enemy back eventually causing it to surrender. It was a complicated civil war and communist-led insurgency. Gaining ground, taking a hill resulted in no strategic value. The enemy disappeared into the terrain and came back to fight again. We took ground to show we could and then abandoned the worthless posts we took, after thousands of soldiers were killed. The enemy was a combined force of guerrilla fighters native to the country of South Vietnam (itself an artificial construct created in negotiations between the West and the communists that gave the communists the north part of Vietnam), eventually backed up by regular troops from the north, particularly adapted to their own native terrain and having no choice but to fight till the war or their own lives were over. American troops just had to stick it out a year and then if they survived go home.

So anyway the war got nowhere and many young people and their parents began to see the futility of it all and the injustice in requiring primarily young men to go fight a hopeless cause with no real direct connection to the United States.

Even so, despite their misgivings, many simply complied with the call and went, and parents tried to be supportive from home.

And then there were the stories of the reluctance by South Vietnamese to fight and their preference toward letting the Americans do it, and to be sure there were forces within our own nation who pushed the Americans to take the lead to get it done.

A major debate not only within the halls of congress but within American society ensued about what to do.

And then the stories of atrocities committed not only by the enemy — we expected that — but our own forces.

(You send a young man to a strange country where he is told that he is supposedly helping peasants fight off forces who want to enslave them but you often cannot distinguish the good guys from the bad, even little children can be planted with bombs that are booby traps for an unsuspecting GI. Some fear, some resentment, and orders, both ambiguous and direct, from higher up result in atrocities such as the infamous Mai Lai massacre when American soldiers virtually murdered two whole villages, mostly women and children and the elderly. This was not representative of our forces as a whole, but these things happened.)

Also, there was this, to me, idiotic debate about whether we should push harder to win but if we did we might “escalate” the war. I don’t care what kind of a war it was, or is, you have to fight, you have to do what is necessary to win or simply choose not to fight or even quit — we eventually quit and in short order South Vietnam fell to the communists.

And then the anti-war protests and the draft dodgers. This just did not sit well with whole bunches of folks. One could debate war policy or tactics but in the end you support your country.

But what if the war really is wrong? Have you no recourse?

No the nation was divided. Families were divided. I, the baby of the family, was in the army but safely in Germany. My elder brother retired from 20 years in the Navy in the 60s. But my other, older brother, was drafted and sent to Vietnam. I was as I say away in Europe. But I can only imagine how my folks felt. I know my mother told me that during a Thanksgiving dinner one of the men present was talking up the war and lauded my folks for having a son in it. My mom told him she was against the war and just wanted him to come home. I imagine that shut down the conversation or at least I hope so.

(For my own part I was divided. I saw its futility and even questioned its legitimacy, but I wanted to be on the side of my own country too.)

But it has been my observation that among what we generally call working men, typically those whose craft is with their hands, even if they have no military service themselves, but many have, their sensibilities lean toward duty and allegiance to country. The anti-war movement stuck in their craws.

Added to that, during all this time we had the civil rights movement and its demonstrations, often violent — even though they may have historically began peacefully.

And there was the fledgling women’s movement. And then came the gays. And now we have those who proclaim that they are not men or women or gay, they are some kind of combination or whatever — I am not being sarcastic here or dismissive, I’m just saying it causes mass confusion and in some cases fear or resentment, rightly or wrongly.

And injected into all of this you have our two major political parties who since the Civil War have gone back and forth and traded places with whom they proclaim to represent. And in many cases people feel neither one represents them.

But money controls. The haves can pretty much buy politicians, especially when the public is complacent. But when one section of the public decides not to be complacent, watch out, you get — well you know who.

Society is in turmoil, but I think it has been most of the time.

It never really has calmed down, save for maybe a brief interlude after we pulled out of Vietnam and perhaps during some of the Reagan years when we tried to shake off the despair of losing Vietnam.

To add to the confusion, the information overload from the internet includes a new dimension of disinformation. The mainstream press, often accused, perhaps unfairly, of disseminating disinformation itself, is no longer the gatekeeper. Anyone, anywhere, and for any purpose, has instant access to the whole world.

We may only think that we are in the most tumultuous time in our history.

Happy New Year of 2020!

Go out and cause a little tumult — in a friendly way though, just to celebrate the new year.

p.s.

There are of course a lot of things I did not mention, gun violence being one of them. I have no easy explanation for that except that we live in a hyper-charged society with the news cycle running 24-hours a day and possibly inducing troubled minds to work overtime.


The silliness in witholding whistleblower’s name when it is already in the public domain…

December 29, 2019

So how long are we supposed to play out this farce of hiding the Trump whistleblower’s name?

I never thought that I would use the term “mainstream media” (well maybe I have previously, but sparingly) because it is code in hard-right speak for left-wing propaganda which it claims is the product of major news organizations, but nonetheless it seems that the mainstream media is acting absurdly by refusing to mention or write his name when it is publicly known.

I heard the name mentioned several weeks ago, a month or more, and I am sure it has been out there a lot longer. I heard it first from Ronn Owens on KGO Radio, San Francisco. He used to have a talk show but now just does a spot I think he calls the Ronn Owens Report. Owens is no far-right guy. I think he claims to be middle of the road but he leans to the left on most things.

But this is not about Ronn Owens. It is about a CIA analyst named Eric Ciaramella. There I wrote it, the alleged name of the alleged whistleblower. And if this is not true — and I cannot attest that it is for sure — then sorry for the error. I was in the news business at one time. If one had to wait until he or she was solid on everything not much would get reported — one does need to be careful and use good judgment, of course. The name and description is indeed on the internet on several places, which of course does not in and of itself support the veracity of it all.

I don’t know what the exact law is on whistleblowers but apparently the idea is to make it possible for some low-level person who witnesses wrongdoing to report it without fear of reprisals. I am also hazy on how far the ban on reporting the name goes in the law. Owens indicated the press (or “media” as some call it — I just think that tag is a pejorative when uttered by right wingers) is not prohibited from reporting the name. I mean that makes sense to me. If we have freedom of the press, as spelled out in the First Amendment, then it would be hard to prohibit an act of press freedom. Such prohibitions have been enacted at times — most famously by alien and sedition acts in war time.

And as Owens himself said, there is a problem here. From what we or he or whoever knows about this whistleblower, he is not non partisan. And who is?

Even though I do not support Trump, the president’s side has a point that Trump should be able to face his accuser.

Being able to face one’s accuser is the backbone of our justice system. I mean how would you like to face false accusations out or nowhere and never be able to come face to face with who is accusing you?


Below all of this I relate such an experience I had.


The fact that the accuser is with the CIA (that is if we assume that is a fact) lends credence to the Trump accusation that there is an entrenched bureaucracy out to get him, he and his followers call the “deep state”.

Now it could be that all or most of the accusations against Trump are true even so. But so far most of what we have are second hand recollections. In some ways Trump has confessed to exactly what he is accused of, that is requesting aid in digging up dirt on a political opponent in exchange for congressionally-approved military aid to the nation of Ukraine. But Trump and his supporters either spin all that another way or just don’t care.

As I understand it, various partisan sites on the internet, Trump supportive of course, have reported the whistleblower’s name. Trump and his supporters, including I guess most Republican senators, who would take part in an impeachment trial, are calling for the whistleblower to testify.

Trump’s legal team is using the tactic of going after the prosecutors. They want one of Trump’s political opponents Joe Biden to testify — he being the subject of the requested probe by Trump. While that to me seems out of order, I am not at all sure whether it is wrong to request or demand that the whistleblower testify in public. After all, he started the whole thing — or at least that is the narative. The whistleblower complaint was used as the pretext for much or all of the investigation against Trump.

I’m a little shaky on the concept of whistleblowers but I see the logic of allowing low-level staffers within government who witness corruption to be able to report it without reprisal. But it seems here we are dealing with a member of a secretive organization, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which leads to suspicion that the president is being attacked by an opposing force in government, much like what happens in non-democratic nations, such as a military coup or one by the secret police.

We have of course already learned that the FBI skirted or broke the rules in obtaining search warrants in the related Russia investigation in which some claim shows that Trump and his campaign colluded with the Russians in the 2016 election. Protections against illegal searches and seizures are a cornerstone in our Bill of Rights. While if you have nothing to hide one might say you have nothing to lose, the problem is that if government authorities can willy nilly search and seize your property and documents, you really are not a free person — someone or some body with an agenda can use searches and seizures as harassment and can twist things with them.

I have to realize that one reason for not using the whistleblower’s name is that then he becomes the story. That of course is what Trump the accused wants — change the subject, shift the focus.

Perhaps the whistleblower should testify in public. If he has the courage of his convictions, he can let the senate and the American public hear what he has to say and judge accordingly.

And if there is a value to the whistleblower law then he should not face any retaliation. Of course the White House does not have to let him work there, which he reportedly did at one time.

I think there are far worse things Trump has done and could face impeachment for. For one thing, treason comes to mind. His overly-friendly dealings with Russia and North Korea come to mind.

And maybe the biggie of them all is the indication that Trump cronies somehow capitalized or tried to capitalize on their government connections in shady business deals in Ukraine and elsewhere, ironically what they accuse the Bidens (former VP and son Hunter) of doing.

(That would be a good thing for a free press to sort out.)

And even Trump’s demeanor, his crude behavior, would be a reason to kick him out. He sullies the name of the United States. Yes other countries or people or leaders act like him and worse but we are the United States and should be better than that.

But in the end, if Trump is to be defeated it will likely come at the ballot box.

I just hope that impeachment does not become a common political tool in the future, such as the Democrats win the presidency and right away the Republicans counter with an impeachment probe.

No president so far has been removed from office via impeachment. Nixon came close but he ducked out on his own before he could be kicked out. Well, so in a way, impeachment did oust him, that is the threat of certain impeachment and conviction.

But how that came about is instructive. After the revelations of the Watergate hearings the public, across parties, had finally had enough of Tricky Dick. So the lesson is, it seems, the American people have to support impeachment.

And let’s be honest: Richard Milhouse Nixon for all his flaws was a patriot, a World War II veteran of the Pacific theater of war (not a draft dodger), a keen observer and tactician of international politics, and a man who devoted nearly his whole working life to public service — he had deep-rooted insecurities (don’t most of us?) and he got carried away with the power of the presidency. He paid the price.

I thought Nixon was bad at the time, but compared to Trump he seems like an angel in retrospect.

Trump has devoted his whole life to self-glorification and I guess gratification in a world of sleaze — sleazy business deals and sleazy sex.

I should not go on but I just want to say that even with all of this, Trump has managed to shake things up and make us aware.

So now that we are awake to what can happen when we are complacent, let’s do something about it.

p.s.

A link to the Ronn Owens Report:

http://www.kgoradio.com/2019/11/05/ronn-owens-report-the-whistleblower-has-been-identified/

p.s. p.s.

In my first job as a news reporter I had a boss who decided he did not like me for some reason (the feeling was mutual). So one day out of the clear blue he called me in, behind closed doors, for a private chat. He claimed that certain people claimed that my reporting on county Board of Supervisors meetings was not accurate. I was somewhat taken aback. I asked for examples. None forthcoming. I think I may have allowed that no matter how one reports things, someone is bound to claim bias but that I always did my best to be fair and objective. What I failed to ask was: who are these people who are accusing me? I would have liked to have heard first hand from them what the specifics of their accusations were, if indeed these people existed.


I majored in political science but usually avoid the subject…

December 26, 2019

I almost never talk politics with co-workers. That’s not hard since I am a truck driver working hour upon hour by myself at the wheel of a semi. I don’t even have a CB radio — used to but got tired of the profanity and nonsensical commentary, often filled with hate. Why do these people hate so much? They seem frustrated.

(If you were to ask one of them they would probably shout: “it’s people like you!”)

But two times in the past 48 hours I ventured accidentally into politics. In the first instance I made a silly comment about an incident during my army service and that brought on a comment from a fellow driver about how it might be better if there was still compulsory military service or the draft. I think the idea was that it would teach young people more discipline. I don’t know about that one. I was glad to get out of the army and away from such discipline, although I quickly found out civilian life has its own discipline. You’re never really free, unless you just drop all sense of responsibility. But anyway, I sometimes wonder myself if eliminating the draft was wise. My reasoning is that if people knew that they or their loved ones would be subject to the military draft we would not likely have so many foreign wars. We’d become a lot more selective. And I voiced that opinion. Not sure my friend bought that one, not sure. I know the subject was quickly changed.

The second instance was somewhat jolting. I stupidly mentioned that I subscribed to the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal (digitally I clarify for the reader here). I might as well have said I subscribed to the communist Daily Worker or some publication of a terrorist group such as Al-Qaeda or ISIS from the reaction I got from a security guard I was talking to. I asked him where he gets his news, and he answered Newsmax and Mark Levin, as his major sources. I should have left it there. But I commented that I had heard of Newsmax but did not know much about it (I later confirmed for myself that it is a right-wing publication). Levin is a beligerant radio host who spews hatred toward anyone and everyone who does not agree with his reactionary right-wing views — that at least is my take from hearing him on radio. I simply replied to the guy that I was aware of Levin and not impressed. He shot back that I must love Nancy Pelosi (crap! busted!). I said I was middle of the road. Then he claimed I must be a follower of Ron Paul — not sure if he said or meant Ron Paul or his son Rand Paul — who wants to let everyone do everything. Not sure what that was about, except that I know Ron Paul is a libertarian and that they tend to be fiscally conservative but socially liberal (ah, the best of both worlds — you really can have it two ways at once).

I joke around with the guy a lot, and perhaps we were just really engaged in lighthearted small talk. But the level and tone of his voice took me aback. I left it at that, and we parted ways with good-natured goodbyes, but not before he declared that Levin knows more about politics than I do. I did not dare mention that I had a bachelor’s degree in political science (which does not prove anything I admit, except that I attended classes and and was forced to buy those books professors write and require of their students). I know to quit when I am ahead, or behind, as it were.

We are indeed polarized in our politics in this nation. And maybe our news has always been slanted (I have some experience myself in journalism — I never tried to slant, consciously anyway). But the way to get to the truth and live peacefully with one another is not to stick to our own slant and wear blinders, but to be objective and weigh arguments for debating sides.

I try to stick to publications that appear to be balanced in their presentations but of course that is hard to determine these days.

While I have not conducted a survey or study, I have always felt that such publications as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, while they have certain stances on their opinion pages, tend to be fairly balanced in their news coverage (lately not as sure as I once was). The Times and the Journal usually have divergent official stances from one another on their opinion pages and also have outside opinions that counter their official stances. But both publications offer what purports to be straight news reporting not subject to the official editorial stances (the term editorial being kind of ambiguous in that it in some contexts simply refers to reporting and in others opinion).

There have been controversies from time to time at both publications concerning whether opinion was not bleeding into or running the reporting side. Even so, I have felt both in general are good and fair sources.

Fox News, the Washington Times, not at all.

And you just can’t beat PBS and NPR, public broadcasting — but even there I think there is a liberal bias. But then again, how does one detect liberal bias? I know that when a conservative hears anything about climate change or conservation or immigrant rights (legal or otherwise) he or she thinks: liberal bias. Going against the status quo is always suspect (and usually by definition liberal).

To further add to the confusion, we find out things like the FBI investigation into candidate Trump’s purported dealings with the Russians is tainted by the securing of surveillance warrants by use of misleading affidavits (creating the appearance that it was political rather than legal). And we find out that just like in the Vietnam era where there was the secret Pentagon Papers that revelaed that we had been steadily losing in a hopeless war and all the while our government was lying to us, we now have what are called the Afghanistan Papers where we are seemingly faced with the same predicament.

What’s that saying?

Something like: the truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.

But anyway, on this Christmas night of 2019 as I write this I hope that you all enjoyed Christmas and I wish you a happy and prosperous new year.

p.s.

Oh, my security guard friend also claimed that I must be a follower of James Comey. No, in fact I think that man was a little mixed up and overstepped his bounds as FBI director, not towards President Trump necessarily but by acting as a judge and jury before the election in the mater of the Hillary Clinton emails, with an on and off and on and off virtual conviction of her right up to the wire in the presidential voting. His job was to supervise investigations not make political statements. He should have been canned before Trump took office.


On Trump’s letter: not unhinged, just outlandishly aggressive and twisted as usual…

December 18, 2019

On this infamous letter President Trump has sent to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi: it’s pretty aggressive but I don’t see evidence in it that the president is unhinged (I mean maybe in reality that is just his natural condition). Yes, he makes some questionable arguments but really no more than any lawyer (he is not a lawyer I know) might make.

With all the things Trump has done I guess the impeachment argument really breaks down to two things: firstly, did he commit a high crime or misdemeanor by suggesting that the leader of Ukraine should investigate a Trump political opponent as a favor in return for the U.S. providing military assistance to that nation in its war with invading Russian forces? and secondly, did he obstruct justice (or congress) by preventing administration officials from testifying before the congressional impeachment committees and refusing to hand over various documents in relation to the investigation?

No one would rather see Trump gone from office more than I but I am a little leery of seeing it happen through impeachment with the electorate split down the middle on the issue and an election a year away.

If polling showed an overwhelming majority of the electorate favored removal, well then why not? But this is not the case. I don’t buy the case that the Democrats are only doing this out of solemn, patriotic duty. The very nature of impeachment is political, especially the impeachment of a president. A president does not have to actually commit a codified crime or specific crime to be removed from office via impeachment. Impeachment as set forth in the Constitution is a political and quasi judicial process combined, as I understand it (and I am neither a lawyer nor a constitutional scholar, just an informed citizen).

The way some of the mainstream press (or media if you will) has described Trump’s defensive letter you would think he called Ms. Pelosi a dirty name (if he did, I missed it. Okay, I think on other occasions he may have). No, he used his usual overblown rhetoric. I think someone, though, must have written it for him or helped him — judging from his normal speech I have heard on videos, I don’t think he would be capable of forming such arguments as he made.

But let’s go to the two basic charges against him: there seems to be no question that Trump and his administration did try to pressure Ukraine into publicly investigating former vice president and now political rival for Trump’s job, Joe Biden. They tried to do so by holding up congressionally-approved military aid to Ukraine. In the end the aid was provided without the demand or request being met. Some suggest, sure, Trump et al. backed off after their little scheme was made public.

Okay, I and any other honest person, even a Republican, could see how all that goes. But when one is defending himself, one can always, or usually, make a counter argument by suggesting a different interpretation of the facts. Not sure I understand Trump’s argument but it is something like, no it was not a demand just a request for a friendly favor. And Trump insists that Biden needed investigating over the fact that while he was vice president his wayward son with no experience landed a job for a Ukrainian energy firm under investigation for corruption (the firm and/or its owner). The job paid big bucks, reportedly in the millions of dollars. Were they really buying influence with the U.S.? And Trump points out that Biden even bragged that he threatened to withhold aid if Ukraine did not fire an investigator, and that the investigator was fired. Trump and his supporters claim the investigator was on the trail of the firm who employed Biden or its owner — I think Biden claims the investigator was in fact not doing the investigation of corruption he should be doing. It may well be that Trump and company have twisted that argument but it is pretty effective. Even if there was no direct wrong doing on Biden’s part it does not look good. In fact it is rather damning.

Now as far as the obstruction of congress (like obstruction of justice kind of) in respect to the impeachment investigation, I think Trump is asserting that since there are no grounds for impeachment (his assertion) he is not obligated to cooperate. I’m not sure, though, that he gets to decide that. If the DA charges you with a crime, you do not get to simply decide the charges are false and refuse to cooperate. At least you are obligated to show up in court. You do have a right to defend yourself of course. Or, I guess you could go to court and get some kind of writ if you thought the whole process was illegal.

It seems to be a foregone conclusion that while the Democratic Party-controlled House will impeach (and it may have by the time anyone reads this), the Republican-controlled Senate will not vote to remove Trump from office. In fact leading senators have made it clear they see their job as defending the president.

So, if there is value in this whole impeachment process I suppose it is simply to bring out facts (and people will interpret facts differently).

Even though at times it has seemed that the president and his lawyers and other defenders have admitted (inadvertently?) to his crimes — it’s all in interpretation, and interpretation colored by partisanship.

Even Republican office holders who are uneasy about Trump or who in fact in their hearts might oppose him are reluctant or scared to admit it in public. They have to live with themselves I guess. They want to keep their jobs too and fear the Trumpistas.

In all of this there never really has been that smoking gun that would turn the tide against Trump. What would it be? We are living in a new era. We might not know a smoking gun if it rode past us on a bicycle. I mean maybe he really could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in New York and not even be charged.


Biden needs to come clean on appearance of corruption, otherwise it’s Trump vs Trump light…

December 7, 2019

JFK, the first Catholic president of the U.S., as a candidate made a special address to voters to assure them if elected president he would not be taking orders from the Pope in Rome. Barack Obama had to disavow comments by a black preacher whose church he attended. The minister had disparaged the USA with an obscenity.

Before Obama, Bill Clinton appeared with his wife to at least tacitly admit to the bimbo eruptions but to assure everyone he was trying to do better (well we see how that turned out, but he did win two terms of the presidency and survived his impeachment to boot).

I think Joe Biden needs to have a heart-to-heart talk with the American people about the controversy over his son Hunter Biden working for that Ukranian energy company Burisma and getting all the big bucks when he (Hunter) knew nothing of the business and the fact the elder Biden even bragged that as vice president he pressured the Ukranian government to fire a prosecutor in connection with the investigation of that company or its chief. It’s kind of a complicated story and it may well be that there was nothing untoward save for the appearance. But I think the onus is on Biden the candidate for president to explain in detail. You can’t on the one hand be ready to impeach the president of the United States over a closely related matter but not come clean yourself. I mean Trump claims he himself did nothing wrong as if that alone absolves him. But Biden is essentially doing the same thing.

If Biden can just come clean with all that, go through the details, then he could let it go — that is no need for further explanation. But he faced a heckler at a campaign rally the other day and blew his cool when the man charged him with being corrupt over the whole thing. Some say he just stood his ground (thus even proving he could go up against Trump in a debate). No, he called the man a “damn liar”. Maybe the man was but unfortunately Biden ended up acting like Trump. We don’t need that.

How Biden gets to be the lead candidate among the Democrats is almost as much a mystery to me as how Trump took over the Republican Party. But Biden still seems to be on the trajectory to win the Democratic nomination. I’d hate to see the final contest being Trump vs Trump light.


Kamala Harris makes wise decision to drop out of presidential race, her time could be later…

December 3, 2019

I think that Democratic U.S. Senator Kamala Harris of California made a wise, albeit painful I am sure, decision announcing today (12-3-9) that she is dropping out of the presidential race. She is still a senator and has demonstrated in that position her skills as a former prosecutor, as when she grilled now Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh. Prosecutorial skill can come in handy both in digging out the truth and in making a case before the public.

Harris is young enough (55) to go fight another day — she can run for president if she chooses in the future when she has more of a record behind her. She is still in her first six-year term in the senate.

Her weakness this time around seemed to be you did not quite know where she was on some key the issues, such as health care. Did she not say she was for totally eliminating private insurance only to walk that back a little? She was all over the place on other things as well. She has walked a tightrope in her career. As a prosecutor and a woman of color she was attuned to the plight of minorities who find themselves disproportionately incarcerated. But she was also attune to the fact she was put there to dispense justice for all the people and to fight crime. Being able to see more than one side of an issue in and of it self is not a weakness. It’s a strength. But sometimes you have to decide.

I look forward to seeing how she does as a senator moving forward and if she compiles a record of leadership good enough to take another shot at the presidency.

 

 

 


Is Trump just a cruder version of the same old same old?

December 3, 2019

I saw the headlines: Republicans rate Trump above Lincoln. At first startling. But then I had to realize that for one thing this was just from a poll of which I have no idea how the question or questions were asked or the size of the sampling, and I don’t know much about the science of polling anyway.

Another thing, most people alive today know little to nothing about what things were really like in Lincoln’s day or really much about him. Unless we major in history, what we know is that from grade school on we were taught mostly that he was the guy who wore the funny stovepipe hat and freed the slaves, serving as president during the U.S. Civil War (called the “War Between the States”, in the South).

And even if you have read up on Abraham Lincoln, all that was then, a long time ago, in a world we would not understand in today’s terms.

Moreover, it seems the public mood has solidified on Trump — you’re either fer him or agin him. Facts do not matter (well especially on the Republican side but perhaps even on the other side to a degree — I know after what I have seen of Trump so far it would be impossible for me to support him).

Oh, I do know from hearing people talk that many don’t approve of all the things Trump does, especially his crude behavior, but somehow they see him as better than the alternative. Don’t ask me why.

Former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal that seeks to explain the allure of Trump among the masses. He speaks of “populist patriots” who reject the establishment of both the Democrats and the Republicans. I actually understand to a degree what he writes and maybe even agree with some of it and yet it leaves me somewhat baffled too. I don’t consider myself much different than say your average Trump enthusiast (except maybe I have paid a tad bit more attention to history and current events through the years). Trump does nothing for me, well except make me uneasy and concerned for our democracy and standing in the world.

(Jindal himself was an opponent of Trump and a critic of Trump’s narcissistic and crude behavior, but perhaps as a Republican political realist has come to support him. )

Trump did face a flawed candidate on the other side in 2016. Poor Hillary Clinton could not seem to relate in a sincere way to common people. And her line about putting coal miners out of business (out of context maybe; also she admitted to poor phrasing) used in the very areas where coal is an important part of the economy and where she eventually lost in the Electoral College voting, put the nails in the coffin for the Democrats (yes, even though she got 3 million more votes among the electorate). She was seen as someone more interested in grabbing millions of dollars in speaking fees from corporate entities. And then, unfortunately, when she acted tough, due to our sexist culture, she was seen as “pushy”, where a man (say Trump) would be seen as resolute, powerful, something we want in a leader

Geez! that makes it tough for women candidates. I mean I kind of like Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, but she seems so mousy at times, even if she did brave snowflakes in her presidential campaign announcement. She needs to be more strident — but then she runs the risk of being called a bit.., well you know. And you know who I have found to be the toughest on women who want to be tough? Other women. But I, a man, just have to say: “you go girl”.

And this impeachment of Trump thing. Just heard a political observer say the same thing I have concluded, that the Democrats are going to have to come up with something better than what they have to sway public opinion. It’s not that Trump has not done wrong, but it seems his acts have not done anything to move the needle on the frozen positions of each side of the debate, with the division clearly along party lines.

Let’s look at what the Democrats have zeroed in on for the impeachment: evidence, from Trump’s own statements even, indicates that the president tried to pressure the president of a foreign nation, Ukraine, to investigate Joe Biden, former vice president of the United States and opposing candidate to Trump, and to make a public announcement as such, in order to get military aid already authorized by congress but frozen by the Trump administration. So the charge is that Trump was trying to get a foreign power to intervene in a U.S. election — something that would seem clearly illegal.

But the aid was released without the investigation or announcement of — conveniently after Trump found out others were on to him. He has claimed he only was asking a favor and there was actually no quid pro quo demanded. I should add that simply not going forward with what seemed like blackmail or extortion or bribery is not a defense in that there is such a thing as “attempted crime” which is illegal.

However, all of this gets confusing in that most or all of what might have been said is recorded only in notes or memory and startlingly in an eavesdropped cell phone call from the president. He said, she said, they said, whatever.

Even so, there is enough evidence to make it plain that Trump wanted the Ukrainian president to publicly announce that he was investigating Biden and his son in connection with his son’s receiving what is reported to be millions of dollars for sitting on the board of a Ukrainian energy firm, whose chief was known to be corrupt, when he had no experience in the field but of course had a direct connection with the man who was the vice president at the time — his daddy.

Perhaps asking a foreign power to help the U.S. investigate wrongdoing involving American citizens is not in and of itself wrong but probably such a matter would properly be handled through the Justice Department — and the factor that the subject or one of the subjects of the investigation is a political opponent adds a troubling wrinkle to the whole thing. No sane person can question what Trump was trying to do — dig up dirt on a political opponent, using his powers as president.

But let’s see. A president of the United States involved in crime in connection with dealings with a foreign nation — how about murder? Although it was not completely new to me, I just read an account about how President John F. Kennedy sanctioned the coup against the then leader of South Vietnam that resulted in the murder of that leader and his brother. It seems a bit murky as to whether JFK realized such a coup would result in the murders, but he incriminates himself in a taped dictation as giving the go-ahead for the coup.

(This was in 1963. Ironically only a few weeks later, JFK was himself assassinated.)

I only bring this up to show that presidents, ranked as good or bad or in between, do bad stuff.

Lincoln suspended the right of habeas corpus (basically the right of arrested persons to appear before a judge) during the Civil War. There is some question as to whether that was legal on his part. No connection but he was of course assassinated. Oh, and no connection, but coincidentally his vice president and successor was impeached (but not convicted and removed from office).

But anyway, getting back to the central poin, if there is any, Trump is more likely to be removed from office by election of the people (well via the Electoral College) than impeachment. But the impeachment process is valuable to the extent it brings out facts/information that gives the electorate more to work with in making a decisions.

But just like the old adage that you can take a horse to water but you can’t make him drink it applies here: you can present the voters the facts but you can’t make them believe it all or even care.