Sunday, December 18, 2016

Trump supporters: victims of the Stockholm Syndrome?

Given the intelligence community’s belief (supported by overwhelming evidence, apparently) that Russia intervened in our election on behalf of Donald Trump, it’s probably premature to say that, like it or not, he won fair and square, so let’s just say for now that he won it square. My heart can never accept this individual as the leader of the free world—hell, I wouldn’t accept him as leader of a Cub Scout troop—but, my mind says that once the voters have spoken, the system must be allowed to work its way back to something approaching normal.
With the things he said, and the things he’s done since the election, though, my mind is having trouble coming to grips with the adulation and adoration he still gets from crowds of supporters. It’s like they exist in a different universe from me and are not seeing and hearing the same things. Or, maybe they are, and they just don’t give a damn, because to them, ‘he’s one of us,’ and he’s saying what’s in our hearts.
Trump got tons of support from poor whites in the south and desperate working class whites in the Rust Belt base on his promise to ‘Make America Great Again.’ He’s never explained just what that means, but it seems to have struck a chord. What are some of the things he’s said he’d do to make America ‘great?’ Well, he’ll cancel all trade agreements. Sure, they hurt factory workers and unskilled labor in this country, but they help the overall economy, and contrary to the misinformation, they do create jobs, just not rust belt assembly line jobs. We should be beyond the smokestack economy anyway, or if not, should be supporting an education system that helps us get beyond it. He’s going to ban all Muslims from entering the country. Good luck with that one. As someone who has done visa and immigration work, I can tell you that making changes of that nature to our immigration system is complicated, and the backlash from the Muslim world will be swift, and possibly violent. Oh, and in the meantime, we’ll look even more like hypocrites than we do now. None of these things benefit Rust Belt workers.
What has he done since the election to benefit his supporters?  Well, he started.a spat with China when he had a phone call with the president of Taiwan and turned our longstanding China policy on its ear. Then, he doubled down with a Twitter rant that ticked the Taiwanese off when he referred to them as a bargaining chip in our trade negotiations with China. Smart move, considering the economic ties between the US and China. Sure, we have a deficit, but we have a deficit with almost everyone, and it’s never been a big deal except during elections. We still sell a lot of junk to Chinese consumers. Start a trade war, and that junk doesn’t get sold.
He’s been cozy with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, despite the belief that Putin directed the hacking of our election. Now, he’s even started a war of words with our intelligence community, supporting the Russians over our own people. What has Russia done for the Rust Belt lately? Right, nothing.
His cabinet and advisor choices so far have been a lot of military guys and some of the richest guys in the country; the same guys who’ve moved jobs abroad, used foreign labor over US workers (Trump himself has done this, hasn’t he, and his daughter sources goods from overseas?), been involved in destroying the environment, and basically enriched themselves at the expense of those avid Trump supporters.
But, they still support ‘their’ man. What’s going on here? Social scientist Arlie Russell Hochschild addressed this issue in her book, Strangers in Their Own Land, a study of the emotional appeal of the Tea Party among residents of Louisiana, despite clear evidence that the Tea Party politicians and corporations they support have abused them and despoiled their environment. She attributes this irrational behavior to the fact that political beliefs are often grounded in emotion rather than fact. Despite evidence to the contrary, they cling to their beliefs and continue to vote for the same politicians and support the same corporations that are giving them the shaft.

I’m seeing that same thing happening with hard core Trump supporters. Despite evidence pointing in one direction, they continue to look in the direction his little orange finger points. He talks about grabbing women’s privates, and they laugh and say ‘it’s just locker room talk;’ he flaunts his wealth, and they look on in awe. It’s like the Stockholm syndrome of politics, or a real bad dream. Only, we’re not waking up from this one. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Two foreign policy problems for the new administration

The following post is from Niume on December 16, 2016 (https://niume.com/post/197173)

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As an artist, I'm (somewhat) apolitical. But, sometimes, the only way I can express my political feelings is through my art. I did this repeatedly during the political campaign season. There were just too many crazy things happening, and it would have taken too many words to express them. During the final days leading up to the election, for instance, I listened to Donald Trump promise to 'make American great again.' How was he going to do it? Well, there was the wall between us and Mexico, a ban on Muslims entering the US, repeal of the Affordable Care Act, downsizing our efforts in NATO, killing the Trans-Pacific Partnership as well as taking another look at all of our trade treaties, and kicking all undocumented aliens out of the country--and, that's not even a complete list.
Needless to say, not one of these can be accomplished quickly--if at all. But, there are two issues that Trump will have to deal with right away; our relations with China and our policy vis a vis Russia; and these thanks to his own actions (one might even say misdeeds).
So, over the past few days, I've been thinking about these two issues, and just how one might highlight them, and, of course, I reached for my pen and ink.
Trump had a phone call with Taiwan's president which, unsurprisingly, provoked a negative reaction from China. He then went on a Twitter rant, questioning the One-China policy and indicating that the way we relate to Taiwan could be used as a bargaining chip to get concessions from the Chinese. Guess what? That not only upset the Chinese even more, but ticked the Taiwanese off. They don't like to be thought of as bargaining chips. Considering the complexities of our relationship with both China and Taiwan, Trump will have some fence mending to do early in his administration.
Several times during the campaign, Trump praised Russia's leader, Vladimir Putin; praise which the Russian tepidly reciprocated. Some of Trump's confidantes and nominees have uncomfortably close ties to the Russian. Now, US intelligence is saying that Russia, probably under Putin's direction, hacked the US election which helped Trump win, an assertion that Trump continues to deny (one of his minions even suggested that this was a 'false flag' operation by US intelligence to undercut his election. Needless to say, even his GOP apologists in Congress will be hard pressed to keep supporting him unless he shows that he will put American interests first in dealing with Russia.
Oh, and lest I forget, his attacks on the intelligence community, and his aversion to intelligence briefings (because he's so 'smart') don't bode well for harmony in the coming four years.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The generals, the gentry, and the goon: what a Trump administration might look like

You can tell a lot about people by the company they keep, and while it’s often a useless and vain exercise to try and make political predictions, you can tell a lot about a president’s plans for his (and I use the masculine pronoun here, because I’m convinced that Americans, for all their protestations to the contrary, are not yet ready for a woman head of state) administration from his cabinet nominations, and his choices for advisors and senior staff.
So, a month away from the inauguration of America’s 45th president and commander-in-chief, I’m going out on a limb and making some prognostications about the administration of Donald J. Trump, and I’m going to do it based upon his announced nominations and advisor choices.
I’d like to clarify one thing before getting into the rogue’s gallery; this list of names is as accurate as I can make it, given the Trump transition’s team bandying about of names like a ping pong tournament (remember the ongoing saga of who would be nominated secretary of state?). But, even considering an individual sends a message, so take it for what it’s worth.
Some general comments: the cabinet and staff of a Trump administration is going to be heavy with brass. A number of retired generals have already been named for top positions, including secretary of defense and national security advisor. This is also likely to be the richest cabinet in history, even adjusting for inflation. The number of mega-rich people being nominated or considered is mind-boggling. And, finally, there are the people whose views of the world are far, far from the mainstream (I fervently hope), either in terms of their knowledge of science (or, pretty much anything), their views on sex, race, and humanity, or their propensity (preference?) for violence over diplomacy. Scary? If you don’t think so, you scare me.
The Generals
Retired General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis for secretary of defense. Congressional action would be required to confirm him because he hasn’t been retired long enough to legally fill this position. His nickname, ‘Mad Dog,’ says a bit about the type person he is.
Retired General John H. Kelly to head the Department of Homeland Security. Long military record, and experience in counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism, but can he supervise a diverse civilian organization with confusing chains of command and sometimes overlapping jurisdictions? What does he know, and how does he feel about immigration?
Retired General Michael T. Flynn for national security advisor. This one doesn’t require senate confirmation, and is in many ways the scariest. Flynn subscribes to a number of social media sites that expound racism and conspiracy theories, and along with his son, has spread a number of fake news stories, including the story of a child slavery ring in a DC pizza parlor that caused a North Carolina man to go there ‘loaded for bear.’
These are just the ones whose names have appeared publicly. Who knows how many more are lurking in the wings, being groomed for jobs not requiring senate confirmation. I would imagine that this worries even Republican lawmakers.
The Gentry
Many of Trump’s other nominations are uber-rich or have worrying reputations.
Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil for secretary of state. His company is under investigation for possible fraud, and is reported to have funded efforts to debunk climate change for decades (despite its own engineers finding that burning fossil fuels impacts the climate). Tillerson has close ties to Russia, and was awarded a Russian medal.
Betsy DeVos, a billionaire who is a strong supporter of charter schools and not very supportive of public schools, to be secretary of education.
Former Texas governor, Rick Perry, who vowed in the 2011 election campaign to shut down the department of energy, but couldn’t remember its name when questioned by a reporter, to be, you guessed it, secretary of energy.
Ben Carson for secretary of housing and urban development. He’s a surgeon of some renown who came up from poverty and once lived in public housing, which he compares to Communism. Would he not have been a better pick for health and human services?
Steve Mnuchin, a Wall Street trader known as the foreclosure king for the number of people he has made homeless, for secretary of the treasury.
Jeff Sessions, congressman from Arkansas, who has publicly made statements so racist that even a GOP congress is wary of him, for attorney general.
Andy Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants, and a strong opponent of raising the minimum wage, for secretary of labor.
Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma’s attorney general, who has been an opponent of clean water and clean air legislation, to head the environmental protection agency.
The Goon
Steve Bannon, former head of Breitbart News, a home for conspiracy, supremacist, and racist news, who has himself been accused of making some rather inflammatory statements, is Trump’s strategic advisor. Bannon is a supporter of the white supremacist alt-right.
The Trumpkins
Other than the fact that Trump is leaving his business empire in the hands of his children (or, so he says), and that they played key roles in his campaign, we’re left to guess what role the Trump kids will play in his administration. Of course, we can guess. Even before the inauguration, they’ve been running around the globe meeting with senior officials on a number of foreign policy issues. All I can say on this is, stay tuned.
What does it all mean?
I wish the hell I knew what all of this means. I know, at the outset I said we would know him by the company he keeps. But the signals are decidedly mixed. There will be strong military influence in the administration, which could mean even more reliance on force over diplomacy going forward. The civilian positions definitely favor the 1%, so that leaves the middle class, working class Trump supporters out in the cold. I can’t see any policies coming out of this crowd that favors the working stiff. The environment’s in for a hard time. Here you have a cabal of deniers and despoilers who make the 19th century robber barons look like saints (almost).
Already there have been ominous signs. The transition team asked the energy department for a list of the names of employees who worked on climate policy during the Obama administration. Now, why in hell would they need that? Thankfully, DOE refused to divulge names, but I don’t think we’ve heard the last of it.
We are where we are because millions of American voters wanted change. Well, all I can say is, you have to be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.
Caveat Emptor.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Freelance Writer's Success Kit

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Monday, December 12, 2016

The Truth About Donald Trump’s 5 Kids YouTube - International News

Help Us Run This Ad on Fox News to Expose Trump’s Corruption

Trump on the back of the Tiger

Donald Trump might think his stardom entitles him to grab any pussy, but this time he's
latched onto one that can bite back. An old Chinese proverb says, 'it's easy to get on
the back of a tiger, but hard to get off. It'll be interesting to see how he disengages.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

You only make progress by moving forward



    “Where you come from matters less than where you’re going” is the title I gave to the book of my essays that was published in Zimbabwe in 2011. That’s a long title, and there are those in the writing world who think book titles should be short and snappy. I don’t disagree with that generally, but I also believe they should convey a message about the contents, and my lengthy title was intended to do just that.
    It also generated a lot of comment, some negative; one critic panned it, saying that I was attempting to rewrite or erase history. That person missed my point entirely. I did not say, nor was it my intent to say, that where you come from doesn’t matter – anyone who reads the title carefully, as well as the essays contained in the book, will see that. I said that your origins matter ‘less’ than your eventual destination. Thomas Wolfe wrote a novel, “You Can’t Go Home Again.” The essential meaning of that phrase is that time is an ever-moving stream, proceeding inexorably into the future. The past is just that, the past, it can be recalled, but never recaptured or relived. We will all get to some point in the future, but the quality of that journey will depend on whether we’ve set our sights in the right direction.
    An obsessive preoccupation with the past; using the past as an excuse for present failure; will diminish the quality of the future when it arrives. Where we come from provides the foundation from which the building of our future springs, but we can improve upon that foundation if we deal effectively with the present as we prepare for the future. Whether the past was good or bad, while it can affect us, is not all that relevant. You can’t undo the past, but by letting it anchor you too much, it can undo your future.
    We are all the captains of our own ship; the masters in the end of our own fate. Perhaps another way of putting it is “Where’re you’re going is more important than where you’ve been.”

    Sunday, December 4, 2016

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