Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Trump's Racist Tweets: Are his Defenders Racists or Cowards?




Trump’s Tweets from Sunday, July 14
“So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly....and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how…it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”

Republicans (all but 4 of 197) voted to defend the President's racist tweets and words directed at 4 Congresswomen of color (all US citizens). He said basically they should "go back" to where they come from (3 were born here, but have at least one parent born in another country). 

Most Republicans have tied themselves into pretzels in defense of the President. Some of their weak or fact deficient arguments are listed below and disputed in italics.

He might not have been talking about those 4 Congresswomen, since he didn’t name them in the tweet. “In those tweets, I see nothing that references anybody’s race — not a thing — I don’t see anyone’s name being referenced in the tweets, but the president’s referring to people, congresswomen, who are anti-American,” Patrick Duffy (R-WI)
The President himself clarified that in a tweet Tuesday night: “So great to see how unified the Republican Party was on today’s vote concerning statements I made about four Democrat Congresswomen.”

The President is not a racist,” Mitch McConnell said. “I don’t have a racist bone in my body,” the President said.

The Resolution does not say the President is a racist, it says he used racist words to talk about members of Congress. Behavioral psychologists have revealed that most all of us have implicit racial biases, which means we must each be vigilant to recognize and resist that in our speech and thoughts. Obviously, the President does not make that effort and frequently makes statements that many people view as racist such as referring to African countries as s*ithole countries, Mexican immigrants as rapists, etc. 

But he just said they should go back and fix those countries, then they could come back here and show  us how it’s done. He wasn’t saying that they should leave permanently. Representative Harris (R-MD) went so far as to say, "He could have meant go back to the district they came from--to the neighborhood they came from,"

Three of the four Congresswomen were born in the U.S., so is Trump saying that the country they came from, the U.S., that he presides over, is a complete and total catastrophe, the most corrupt and inept in the world (he has actually said similar words about the U.S. in the past)? Of course that doesn’t make sense—presumably he meant the countries their families came from before they came to the U.S. (for Occasio-Cortez, that is still the U.S.—her mother was born in Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, and anyone born there is a U.S. citizen). 

When did “Love it or leave it” become racist? “I say it all the time,” said the President.

It becomes racist when out of all the people in the United States (all of whom are descended from people of other countries except Native Americans), out of all the people in the United States Congress (some of whom were born in other countries or are 2nd generation citizens) who are critical of the President or his policies, you direct those words only at people of color. 

But some of them said awful things about the President and used profane language, we should be passing a resolution condemning their words. And some of them have said they were Socialist. And some have said things about Israel that are anti-Semitic and we didn’t pass a resolution condemning them. They even accused the Speaker of racism for calling them out. Maybe we should condemn her. (This summarizes the argument of many Republicans on the House floor)

This Resolution concerns the President’s words used against members of the House of Representatives. The President’s words matter more than those of a freshman Congresswoman because he speaks for the whole nation, he is supposed to speak for all of us and the rest of the world is listening. By not signing onto this resolution, Republicans in Congress have indicated to all the black and brown people of this nation, to all the Muslims, or really any citizen, that if they criticize the President or the policies he supports, they are not welcome here and should leave. His words in the tweet and at other times have told the world that not only does the U.S. not want to accept travelers from Muslim nations, does not want immigrants from Hispanic or Muslim or majority Black countries, but that we would like to send people descended from people of those nations back. The underlying message is a full endorsement of White Supremacy.

Now, I’m going to mount a defense of the President. He was just kidding. Seriously, he sees himself as a stand up comic, a performer, an entertainer. The whole rant of three tweets that he probably composed in bed on Sunday morning ends with a punchline: “you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”

Yes, hardly a belly laugh, but I didn’t say he was funny, just that he thinks he is. Because he thought it would be funny to suggest that Pelosi would love it if these four women who have been grabbing so much attention and creating headlines about a rift among Democrats would go far away. 

Of course, if he had come out later that day and said, “Yes, I see how people might take this as racist and I apologize. I was just trying to make a joke,” the outrage might have died down without a resolution condemning his “racist tweets.” But we all know by now that’s not he operates, so he doubled and tripled down, threatening Republicans who didn’t defend him and calling the “squad” anti-American and women who hate “our country.” 

My defense is really no defense. What I’m saying is that Trump is a racist who often makes racist jokes. And thank goodness, today in America, a lot of people are willing to call him out for that. Those who haven’t should get some sensitivity training. Voters should send them that message by sending them back--to their neighborhoods--in 2020.

ps--I created a petition on Change.org to support the House resolution condemning Trump's racist tweets. I encourage you to read the text of the resolution I copy/pasted there and sign on...and share with friends. We should all "sign on" to the resolution. Click here to view/sign

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Just the Facts


Smart Republicans are ignoring, Trump is likely incapable of understanding (and if he was capable, he would deny it and lie about it), and even some responsible journalists and media personalities are finding it difficult to understand or articulate exactly what was Robert Mueller's justification for not "coming to a conclusion" on obstruction.

A careful reading of the report (which I admit I have not yet completed, but am depending on Rachel Maddow and others at MSNBC to pick out the critical passages), describe the Mueller team's approach as an almost scientifically objective one, "...we determined not to apply an approach that could potentially result in a judgment that the President committed crimes."

Why? Mueller cites in detail relevant Justice Department rules from the manual about not being allowed to indict a sitting president, and given that the unfairness of even suggesting a criminality when there was no courtroom or process for mounting a defense (apparently the bully pulpit and the court of public opinion were not considered adequately objective).
So does that mean he left it to Barr and Rosenstein? That would make no sense. They are limited by the same rules Mueller is. Their decision to absolve the president of obstruction charges, even if based on a disagreement with Mueller's justification for not coming to a conclusion, is revealed as political by the way that Barr made the announcement weeks before releasing the report and prefacing it's release with a press conference with an audience of one who wanted him publically to say "no collusion."

Someday, Rosenstein may ask the American people for a mea culpa and talk about how conflicted he felt as he stood behind Barr as he lied about the report, stoically looking straight ahead and keeping his face in a tight mask. Though he is a hero for protecting the Mueller investigation, he has also shown himself to be a company man and a coward twice--once when he did not speak publicly about Trump's lie pinning the firing on his memo, and again when he allowed Barr to persuade him to stand behind his decision to absolve Trump of obstruction.

But back to my original thought--it is very hard for anyone to understand the degree of objectivity and restraint Mueller and his team used in avoiding even seeming to pass judgement. It is a type of thinking they share with scientists--the ability to withhold judgement and simply reveal the facts. I guess in a way, it's like the legendary Dragnet character, Sgt. Friday, who used to say something like, "Just the facts, ma'am. All we want are the facts. All we know are the facts."

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The Only Road to Greatness (no, not Trump's)


Two articles on the same day in a recent Charleston Gazette-Mail highlight the damage being done to America’s self-image in the era of Donald Trump. One was about a woman who accused a man of Egyptian origin of attempting to abduct her daughter from the Huntington Mall. She later admitted she “overreacted,” and that he had merely smiled and patted her daughter’s head. The other was about a viral video that falsely claimed Syrian refugees were being given housing and money to create a “Sharia Zone” in Charleston where non-Muslims would be banned.



This hate and fear of immigrants is contrary to Ronald Reagan’s vision of America as “A Shining City on a Hill,” and described as “teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.”

That is not Trump’s vision of greatness. But what is it that makes America great? Most of us automatically respond with some combination of freedom, independence, ingenuity, hard work, and democracy. America was the first democracy in the modern world, the first to replace monarchs of the Western world with a system of electing a president whose powers are balanced by a legislative body and courts.

Another word central to America’s ideal that has caused much turmoil, is equality. “All men are created equal” appears in our Declaration of Independence, yet slavery (and its justification, white supremacy), Jim Crow laws, and unequal voting rights for people of color and women delayed that equality until….well, many would argue we’re not quite there yet.

Another concept that makes us exceptional among nations is our diversity of ethnic and racial identities. While those who wrote the Constitution were white men of English origin, the inhabitants of the new country included Native Americans and people from all over Europe and Africa. Long standing hostilities between people of different countries and ethnicities, while not absent in America, tend to diminish and disappear as generations pass and young people raised here begin to think of themselves as Americans first, and then as Italian or Chinese or Nigerian.

Alongside race and national origin as identities comes religion. America has been, and still is overwhelmingly Christian (74%; 2% Jewish; 1% Muslim; 2.5% other; 18% none). When the founding fathers wrote freedom of religion into the Constitution, they were thinking about keeping different groups of Christians from discriminating against each other and passing laws enforcing their religious morality. But even then there were Jews and Muslims living here who enjoyed more freedom than in most other countries. The church, synagogue, mosque, or other religious meeting place, are places that try to maintain cultural identity, preserving traditions often brought from other countries. Many of us have been welcomed to a Greek feast at the local Orthodox church, an Indian repast, or a Jewish Passover dinner, or enjoyed the great variety of ethnic food offered at restaurants and appreciated the diversity our country offers.

America’s remarkable ability to integrate people from all over the world, from every country, religion, race, and ethnicity is arguably the single most important factor in American greatness. When America fails in meeting its vision of equality of opportunity is when we fail to be great. We have failed many times—in our treatment of Native Americans, African Americans, the Japanese during WWII, and to some extent, Muslims since 9/11. Today we have a president who demonizes immigrants from Muslim, non-white and Latin American countries. And yet he claims to want to make America great…again.

His road is not a road back to an imagined American greatness. The only road to greatness is the road we have traveled since our founding—the road to more equality, to more freedom for all Americans; the road that is open to welcoming people of diverse origins to make their home here and participate in the American dream.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Barr's "Summary" is Spin



When the Barr letter to Congress with its summary of the Mueller Report’s main conclusion was released on Sunday, March 24, I took early media reports on it at face value and said it's time to pivot from "need to impeach" to "need to defeat." I still think that's probably going to be the end result, but I view the Barr memo as a propaganda victory, not the end of the line on the crimes this president and his campaign may have committed in getting help from Russia and trying to cover it up/obstruct justice. The Barr summary is a lawyerly piece of writing that must be viewed as a partisan document and an attempt to spin the Mueller report as an exoneration, when it clearly is not. 

Because of the way the Barr summary is written--carefully and lawyerly--the media (including some NPR news people this morning) has been largely snookered into saying things like, "there's no evidence of collusion," and "Trump did not obstruct justice." Even Barr's summary does not say that. 

Barr quotes Mueller to say they did not "establish" that anyone in the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with “the Russian government in its election interference activities." What does the word "establish" mean in this context? It means there is evidence, but not enough evidence to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. 

And why not? Mueller does not rule out obstruction of justice, though Barr tries to, by "noting" that without an "underlying crime" it is hard to establish "corrupt intent." But what if some of the evidence of obstruction is dangling a pardon to keep Manafort and others quiet? Manafort offered to cooperate with Mueller and then told lies. Why? Loyalty. Because he expects a pardon? Someday, maybe the whole truth will come out--but we deserve whatever truth is in the full Mueller report, and we should be wary of Barr's summary which is in no way the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Carbon Fee & Dividend Would Fuel Alternative Energy Boom!


I wrote the following in response to an op-ed in the Charleston Gazette Mail by David Yaussy, Feb 21. My response appeared in CGM on March 1
Predictably, a contributing columnist who represents the fossil fuel industry doesn’t find much to like in proposals like House Resolution 763, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. The columnist dismisses it as a “carbon tax” that will deprive the poor of heat for their homes and gas for their cars.

But contrary to the column that appeared on the Daily Mail Opinion page on Feb. 22 (A cure worse than the disease, David Yaussy), the carbon fee and dividend approach to transitioning from fossil fuels like coal, gas, and oil to non-polluting renewable energy is a bipartisan, market based plan that recognizes the true cost of continuing to release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and prices them accordingly.

Rather than waste time debunking the columnist's speculations about why a carbon fee might not work, why don’t we for once listen to the experts? In a letter published in the Wall Street Journal on Jan. 7, forty-five top economists from both parties, including former Fed chairs Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke, and Janet Yellen, called for a carbon tax and dividend approach.

Greg Mankiw, who chaired the Council of Economic Advisors under President George W. Bush wrote, "a carbon tax together with rebates is, in some sense, the most conservative way to deal with climate change."

Fees collected at the mine, the pump, or at our borders will be returned to American households, which will enable them to transition to cleaner forms of energy. Energy companies are already planning for this future as they shut down coal plants, open natural gas powered plants, build wind and solar farms and utilize geothermal resources. Innovations in battery technology and pump storage (pumping water uphill to be released when needed to turn turbines) are already making alternative energy scalable, and some countries, like Iceland, Sweden, and Costa Rica plan for 100 percent renewables in a few decades.

In all likelihood, this will speed the pace of a reduction of coal mining because coal will become more expensive. That is, unless new technology solves the problem of making carbon sequestration cost-effective and helps keep coal, oil, and gas competitive with non-carbon based solutions.

This is exactly the kind of approach that will unleash the forces of capitalism and the entrepreneurial spirit to slow or stop the warming of our planet. Climate change is already causing hundreds of billions of dollars in damage annually due to massive storms, droughts, fires, illnesses, and movements of populations.

Mr. Yaussy properly attributes the proposed legislation to Citizens Climate Lobby, a national organization that has been organizing volunteers to push Congress to pass this bipartisan solution for a decade.

In West Virginia, local volunteers are working to help their fellow citizens understand the facts about climate change and HR 763. We are also working with Citizens Climate Lobby groups in other coal producing states to propose a “carve out” of some of the fees collected to help affected communities.

Learn more at citizensclimatelobby.org or come to one of our monthly meetings at the West Virginia State University Economic Development Center, 1506 Kanawha Boulevard West, at noon on the second Saturday of every month.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Bush 41 No Saint

This last week there has been deserved praise for a President who exemplified what it means to be presidential. He even made sure that the least presidential President in recent history, or perhaps all our history, had to sit in the front row and draw the inevitable conclusion that no one would be saying those words at his funeral.

But now that he's in the ground, I want to remind those who may have forgotten or never have known that he was not such a great man in the eyes of many for good reasons. I'm of the opinion that no President escapes the office with clean hands (I don't know, maybe Carter? I imagine we'll soon have to confront his legacy). Many lefties criticize Obama for his drone program that resulted in civilian deaths and think he was much too soft on Wall Street execs during the Great Recession. I won't get into what the conservatives will say about him! But Bush 41 was no saint. The test of a president, I think, is not how polite they are or how much they love their families, you expect anyone who is elected President to clear that bar (and Trump trips on it....), it's how they impact the lives of Americans and people around the world.

Bush became President with dog whistles he used to appeal to the same racist underbelly of America that Trump speaks to with a bullhorn and his Twitter feed. The "Willie Horton" ad showing a threatening image of a black man was not just an ad accusing Dukakis (outsider? funny name? maybe not a true American?) of being weak on crime because as governor he oversaw a common prison furlough program that failed to prevent a rape and murder, he railed about it at every campaign stop, making  "Willie Horton (into) Dukakis's running mate," as his campaign manager, Lee Atwater boasted.

People with AIDS and their loved ones got no help from '41. He told them they ought to change their "lifestyle." He brutally pursued the war on drugs that Reagan had begun, putting nothing into helping addicts, doubling spending on "more prisons, more jails, more courts, more prosecutors,"  He vetoed civil rights legislation. He encouraged Iraqi Shiites to rebel, and failed to come to their aid when Sadaam Hussein butchered them. He pardoned his Secretary of Defense on the eve of a trial that might have implicated him in criminal acts as Vice President. But he passed the Americans with Disability Act and navigated the end of the Cold War skillfully, which could have ended in hot wars. He deserves his ranking somewhere in the middle of best to worst Presidents of the U.S.

You can't blame the father on the sins of the son, but does anyone think G.W. Bush would have ever been elected if he hadn't been H.W.'s son? Their legacies are inexorably tied together. 41 brags that he left 43 alone to make his own decisions. I think all of us probably agree that we wish he'd been more forceful in warning him off his invasion of Iraq. Perhaps W would have listened to the father he now claims to have had such respect for if he had forthrightly confronted him with what everyone knows were his unspoken beliefs in the foolhardiness of that adventure that has shaped the Middle East in ways W's little brain could not imagine.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

When Republican Lies Win, Freedom Loses

I wrote this in response to a Star Parker column that appeared in my local newspaper, The Charleston Gazette-Mail on November 29. We have an editorial page that has liberal views on the left side and conservative on the right. Here's a link to Parker's article: When Democrats Win, Freedom Loses

Star Parker is a rarity, an African American conservative Republican. As such, she is a valued commentator for them on issues of diversity. Unlike Trump, she doesn’t simply tell whoppers to keep her followers from the truth, she uses “spin” to deftly paint orange and suggest it’s green. In a column titled “National Democrats a Threat to Freedom,” she demonstrates her skill.

 She describes the diversity of the Democratic Party’s choices in the recent election including 105 women, 55 blacks (the Republicans elected no black candidates to Congress) and 14 Asians. She then makes the outrageous claim that because they are Democrats, they all think alike and are therefore not diverse. As if all the white male Republicans who were elected think in diverse ways? Sorry, Star, diversity of skin color, ancestry, gender identification, and socioeconomic status, means that the Democrats coming to Congress represent millions of people who live a different experience of America every day than the wealthy white Republicans whose interests you serve.

After redefining diversity, she redefines freedom as freedom from help from the federal government. If you’re getting help from the federal government to pay for your health care, that’s losing freedom. Or college grants, loans—giving control of your life to the government. No, we need to starve social programs that help people with health care, education, poverty and hunger. We will help them “by believing in them, by granting them freedom to take responsibility for their own life (sic).” Republicans grandly grant you the freedom to remain poor, to have to struggle even harder for the education to lift yourself from poverty. You deserve  freedom to choose between needed medication and feeding your children!


Finally, she picks up her Photoshop brush to paint all Democrats as anti-religious, secular humanist socialists. This is more of a Donald Trump style lie. I don’t know the religious affiliations of all the Democrats elected in the recent elections, but I’d be willing to bet a lot of money that the great majority, like the majority of all Americans, are Christians. I would also bet that they all believe in upholding the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion for all and a separation of church and state. Star Parker is absolutely right about one thing, however: Democrats are laying the groundwork to replace Trump with their nominee in 2020 if he hasn’t resigned or been impeached before then.