Tag Archives: Donald Trump

North Korea, the USA and a few thoughts from me.

This will be a blog post with a few bullet point lists. That is often a sign of not having fully absorbed the material or not being willing to aim it at a very particular audience or readership when one creates such a list. A well written prose paragraph has many advantages. The real lead in this story consists of a seven point bullet list below the big group of pictures. I have my reasons for burying it a little bit. But any reader may skip to it and find the points that I think I most have to offer this discussion of North Korea.

I realize that only the President of the United States can deal with the US foreign policy as regards North Korea. I also know that there have been many surprised by both the ICBM capacities of North Korea among those in intelligence and among media experts reporting on North Korea. Articles discussing this gap in knowledge and it meaning can be found here and here. beyond merely being an ICBM program the North Koreans of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea have demonstrated a mobile ICBM program. Mobile ICBMs are harder to wipe out completely as they can be continuously moved. In addition, North Korea has a network of fortified tunnels as a large part of it defense obsession — probably a tiny percentage of these can accommodate the huge trucks that carry these ICBMs,  but if they have 1,000s of miles of tunnels (and I have heard credible reports and seen images that make my believe that they do then perhaps they have a few hundred or even a hundred mile of key tunnels ready to accommodate these large vehicles and help them move in and out of air attacks and back and forth to different launch sites. Whether they can miniaturize atomic warheads, guide ICBMs to precise targets for small scale nukes and how long it will take them increase the range to affect not only Alaska but the rest of the United States — these are things we cannot now be sure about.

America has strong and historic interests and some or other treaty obligations in South Korea, Japan, the Philippines and Taiwan. None of these countries is in exactly the same state of being nor the same relationship with the United States. But they are real and important interests. President Donald James Trump is facing new challenges with North Korea as manifest in their ICBM test. His tweets on the occasion of the recent test do reveal something about what is on his mind.

 North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life? Hard to believe that South Korea….and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!

I think that there are lots of good reasons to seek to cooperate with China in meeting the North Korean threat, lots of great things about China generally and lots that the U.S.A. and China can do at people to people, business to business, military to military intelligence to intelligence, and  at the highest levels of government. But I also believe that while academic, religious and commercial outreach to China is in the interest of all Americans and of the Chinese we should remember that they see the Korean Peninsula and the Yellow Sea very differently than we do and that they are a very different country.

Yantai where I lived and taught in China was 258 miles from the Capital of North Korea and about 200 miles from the relevant part of the Korean coast for accessing North Korea. It was there that I lived and had a chance to observe the way that North Koreans interacted with their neighbors from China, South Korea and  Russia within the context of Chinese society. It also was a good place to observe how Chinese and China’s government viewed Korea. However, that was in 2004 and 2005 and so many things will have changed.  Most things have changed in ways that are less promising for the kinds of pro-American visions I could see as worth working for at the time. But some underlying conditions are the same.

 

 

However, I think that the main thing I learned from interacting with North Koreans and those who knew them when I lived in Yantai, China is that they are stuck in ways and to a degree that virtually non of our rhetoric allows for…
Public rhetoric and internal agency policy may be different but when rhetoric goes on for decades it is policy.
1.North Korea is a racially and ethnically hyper-conscious regime that sees in the mingling allowed in South Korea a kind of defeat that makes their regime superior. This is rooted in Korean history.
2. China and Russia both use North Korea as an actual and potential cat’s paw for confrontation with the United States. They wish a force to balance US interests in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines and North Korea fills that bill.
3.Korea’s economy is crippled in large part because it spends so much on defense — perhaps more as a percentage of GDP than any other country in the world. That is more of a factor than any other aspect of their many problems.
4.Their economic crisis and international sanction regimes which never ends keeps them dependent on private funds from all secret enemies of the USA, aid from China, aid from Russia (mostly employment and covert aid) and involvement in activities not allowed by international law .
5. The ongoing crisis keeps the centralization of power a practical arrangement and China will not easily allow a collapsed state with millions of refugees into China or an American led invasion of the north.
6. They do realize war with the USA could be as close to suicide as one can get but they hope to deter it without losing their position and they have made decades of preparations including very sophisticated worldwide networks of operative of many kinds, cyberwar capacity, a hope to blackmail key players in crucial Asian countries, networks of fortified tunnels, massive artillery arrayed against South Korea, propaganda assets ready to deploy misinformation and the cultivation of huge units prepared for suicide missions.
7. It is certain that we do not hear reporting here on there most unique human assets and whether that is good or bad I am not sure but the absence of such reporting makes those same assets more impressive to those with whom they interact daily. In another way of saying it, they seem like invisible supermen because nobody talks about them and when they show up in any setting that makes them more credible.

We think far too much of North Korea as isolated and its leadership as crazy. That is pleasant for us. But we have to tell our military that they may have to fight, kill and die for a conflict with a less isolated and crazy regime than they have been told they were fighting. Battle commanders can tell young infantry whatever it takes to get them fired up in the field  but North Korea is a regime supported by many in South Korea as an alternative to total American dominance int he region my guess is as many as 25% would rather have North Korea continue to exist than have a Western Dominated Korean Peninsula. The Chinese and the Russians will never really support a Greater South Korea solution. North Korea has support from terrorist networks, despots and isolated states who want their weapons and expertise and are willing to return favors for such help with their own problems. There are also many Koreans who would like to see a new kind of North Korea or united Korea more like the South Korean Republic of Korea but find almost nothing helpful from the West in that decades long struggle. I support with passion a US military presence in the Far East. As corrupt as I find our society to be it still offers some support to Christians, orderly world commerce, women’s institutions,  and Americans traveling abroad. Those are all things worth fighting for. But Korea is deeply rooted in a sense of its own Korean race, culture and tradition on both sides of the DMZ. They also have deep traditions of meaningful ties to China and Japan. Those relationships are ancient and profound and full of chapters of problems we can legitimately exploit to gain Korean support but most Koreans see their country in terms of being between those two countries in lots of meaningful ways.

So there is very little chance of mobilizing a sense of wiping out the crazy North Korean regime. The regime is often able to exploit our very poor understanding of the situation.    Their commitment involves millions of people including skilled linguists with athletic ability and cosmetic surgery planted across the world. It includes hundreds of thousands  perhaps even millions who are by Western standards chronically suicidal. In addition there are things they are right about and we are wrong about. They do some things well and cherish some great values. Yes they have a society of mass killings, brutal slavery, incredible militarism and other horrors but they are a society full of millions who love their country and culture and who see that that they have patiently worked for and waited for a process of peaceful unification. They are real people in a real country whom we will have to interact with as such.

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Flynn,the Grammy Awards, Trump and American Me….

I am posting this blog post on Valentines Day with only the very slightest nod to love, friendship, the life of St. Valentine, the history of the holiday or the specific women I have loved and nearly loved in my life.  I put a Happy Valentine’s Day balloon on my parents door and gave the aunt with whom I share a roof a smaller balloon. After leaving the  library where I am typing this a friend who went to school with Sean Spicer in high school and is temporarily without a car is going to buy me a hamburger. I did send one woman I actually have care for a Valentine’s Day note online but it is not a romantic day. This all falls into the American Me part of the post. I also changed the spark plug on my lawn mower and cut and vacuum raked the large lawn around the house where I live for much of the day. But politics is much on the mind of many Americans and it is much on my mind as well.

Michael Thomas Flynn, Mike T. Flynn, has resigned his White House appointment as National Security Adviser.  He was the 25th National Security Adviser serving from January 20 to February 13, 2017. Many people including me, believed that to some degree he and the vision he laid out in book The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies, co-authored with Michael Ledeen,  laid out a key component or sets of key components of President Donald (yes John !) Trump’s military philosophy and grand strategy. Some, like me, who believe such things, really do not know the book as well as we should. Flynn was only technically in office since the Presidential Inauguration on January 20, 2017 but he has served in the transition position more or less since the election. I have said in a recent previous post here that he and Bannon, De Vos and a few others may represent the first real members of the far right to have key roles in an administration in many years. But Flynn served as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency under President Obama, was reared in a family of Democrats in Rhode Island and had many moderate credentials. He has a Rhode Island connection in common with Sean Spicer who was both a fellow  Rhode Islander himself and unlike Flynn attended the very distinguished Catholic boarding school — Portsmouth Abbey in that State. Spicer, Flynn and Bannon all had in common an Irish Catholic background, military experience and service as well as appearing to challenge the political correctness of our time as a real threat. Now Flynn is out of the loop. that will be a reality which will be visited again to some degree over time. Spicer has said that Flynn has been fired by President Trump.  However, it is also reported that President Trump had no particular problem with Flynn’s initial contact with the Russians and was aware of it.  The strong and tough man seems to have struggled awhile against the inevitable. But at the time of this posting his resignation is a well established fact. One has to ask what this may portend for the future of the Trump Administration, it seems that the way they have been doing business has a cost and Flynn has paid and himself become part of that cost.

So that is the big news, as Confirmations continue in the Senate and the President seems to be getting mostly what he wants we are also seeing that he can lose a key figure who never needed a Senate confirmation. The follow through from the  transition and the new Trump era is moving forward with some alacrity.  But there is also plenty of committed resistance, close scrutiny and outlandish attacking going on with the trump Administration at its center.  The sense of many Americans, again such as myself, that America needs a dynamic new direction, does not assure the Trump Administration of broad support for his policies and initiatives. He will have to build that support and confront the criticism and deal with the costs and outcomes  of the things he does. The change in the Supreme Court that will come with appointing Gorsuch to fill Scalia’s seat should be one conservative for another. It really does seem to me, a Catholic Christian, that there ought to be a Protestant Christian on the court and Gorsuch is such a judge and such a man. But there will be acrimony and Gorsuch has already said that Trump’s comments about the US judiciary were disheartening.

Disheartened is a state of mind which I know very well. I am so very disheartened at so many levels. My resources are strained, my options constrained and my prospects few. That colors my view of the world and of the country. Lots of people are disheartened about their careers, professions and communities these days. Perhaps some of the anger associated with this time comes from such an overall position in life and in their minds.

This post is largely about American me… It is less of a personal post than the last one but it still carries some personal baggage pretty well.  This is of course my personal blog. One cannot help but feel  that the Trump administration is being savaged by much of the media  when one turns on the recent television broadcasts of important major media events in many cases that  have included the Golden Globes, several episodes of Saturday Night Live, The Grammy Awards and any number of other events. America has also seen a wide variety of demonstrations and protests and the social media networks are buzzing with anti- Trump activity. Although there are crowds supporting Trump and there are many on the social media supporting him as well. But the striking thing is how much flack he is taking from the media. We cannot say for sure how much it all matters.  The President seems to be making adjustments for the struggle, and he still catalogs perceived slights from the media. His nominations seem likely to get through the Senate and Flynn seems not likely  to represent the coming collapse of the administration any time soon. On the other hand there is trouble and plenty of signs of it.

There is a television series on public Television called American Experience which is at the least kind measure  a pretty good show, with a broad title which allows them to choose a wide variety of topics and subjects for the many episodes. I am sure the producers of the American Experience can predict the course of the show into the near future.  But the   ) of the American experience that all of us will have to live is not so very easy to predict. The challenge of this moment in history is very real. I am invited to go to the confirmation of my nephew in Dallas in a couple of weeks where my sister works at a Catholic school. I hope to go, but my resources and energy are too limited for me to feel really enthusiastic about the trip even for such a good cause and reason. I hear a lot of Catholics worried about the mistreatment of Mexicans especially but also those hoping the Trump administration will bring new protections for religious freedoms.    But I am largely preoccupied by the many crises in my own personal life. My own American Experience is precarious and largely bad these days.

I had two friends nominated for Grammys this year. Barry Ancelet and Sam Broussard were nominated as were other Cajun artists in the regional roots category which my ethnic community and the associated Creoles frequently dominate. I consider the distinguished Professor Ancelet a friend although just barely. Hewrote the lyrics and the Warren Perrin’s brother in law (Mary Broussard Perrin’s brother) wrote and performed the music. nwith they nor any Cajun artist won the category this year. I also have a friend named Julie Yannatta  who was my study group partner at Tulane Law School    She has founded Be Why or Being the Why which has produced and supported various recording artists and their works. She participated in the win of her artist White Sun for beast New Age recording. Julie and I have drifted in and out of touch but she is  definitely a friend. I was happy for her and disappointed for Ancelet. I had been especially thing of Julie partly because she was sick and I was worried about her and whether the event would worsen her recovery. While she was not breathing well Maddie Briann Aldridge daugheter of Jamie Lynn Spears who was my Facebook Friend for a good while and who is the sister a multi Grammy winning Britney Spears who is also form Louisiana — little Maddie was fighting for breath and life as well after an ATV flipped over and held her under water. Both people I care about seem to be OK. Britney was not in evidence at the Grammys and posted this about that time:

britney-on-maddie

 

So there was a fundamental sense of relief as I watched the Grammys. But as I watched the show and found out results on social media I enjoyed the entertainment but  was very disappointed at the absence of these categories and others from the television spectacle broadcast on CBS.  While the Grammy Awards Show could not be bothered to cover large portions of recording excellence they could make room for a full out assault on Trump as a political and media figure using political media and music tools. This reached its zenith in the performance of the Tribe Called Quest. That is a lot of acrimony so early in a regime.

So this is the environment in which a new  Justice and a new Cabinet are being introduced to America. As is almost always the case I am not so much reaching the end of the post but simply stopping it. This American me wishes all of you a Happy Valentine’s Day — although I have had happier ones, myself. There is evidence of America in a worrisome place and I cite a great deal of it in this blog now and then. But people are finding it easier not to choose us, key grad schools see foreign student leave when they seldom did before, but the trend is broader than that. American me finds it hard to feel optimistic but still does not completely despair.

 

 

The Donald, Darwin, David Duke,the DOD and Deconstruction

The alliterative title of this post leaves out one important d: Derridas, Jacques Derridas is the founder of Deconstructionism and that is a formidable achievement that had a lot of impact in field I studied formally at the universities. This post will do a quick and dirty job of asking if his theoriesJ have anything to do with the Trump phenomena in foreign policy. Bannon is perhaps a deconstruction of the far right which has poisoned itself with bad interpretations and self- destructed as with David Duke’s political career. Generals Mattis, Flynn and Kelly  may represent a deconstruction of American politico-military ideology in favor of something more real. The other big thinker and academic behind this piece on current events is Charles Darwin. I think he has given us a view of the harshest realities which is distorted in favor of extermination. I think deconstructing Natural Selection theory — known as the theory of evolution — would show that Alfred Russel Wallace offered a healthier, richer and more nuanced view and the credit he deserved was stolen by Darwinists. Trump is doubtlessly affected by Darwinism and the ideas he has of the basic reality underlying convention are shaped by Darwinism.  His promise to wipe Radical Islamic Extremism off the face of the earth has a possible Darwinist ring to it.

Deconstruction is getting old without ever really having had its day in the popular mainstream of American culture. It comes from literary studies and is a way of looking at literary texts which strips away a great number of assumptions, conventions and  ways of looking at things which might stand between a reader and a text. It claims to allow a reader or critic to approach a text in new ways. It claims to allow for new insights and more effective forms of expression by freeing up and destroying the constructed interpretations of the text. The term deconstruction has not been applied to the Trump phenomena very much so far — as far as I can see. Partly because President  Trump is seen as rightist and Deconstruction tends to be the province of the allegedly liberal and avowedly leftist parts of society. There is also a competing term — new breakout forms of behavior in business are described as disruptive. The business analogies are quick and easy for a business man like President Trump. But Deconstructionism has been applied to politics before, here is an article which outlines a deconstructionist political view.  The question I would like to begin to ask here is whether Bannon, Trump and Generals Kelly, Flynn ans Mattis form a new deconstructionist military bureau? Unfortunately for serious readers, in this post I only pose that question and abandon it as this discussion largely goes elsewhere.

I used to belong to more groups, administer a lot of them and like a lot of pages on Facebook. That has been reduced a good bit over time.  The image below this paragraph comes form a group that you may not be able to access but is linked here.  Like a lot of pages it was cross shared to another group that I belong to.  There are many kinds of ideas and conversations floating through the blogosphere. the webs and crazy labyrinths of the totality of social media present us with various ways of looking at the world which are not ones we might otherwise have had available to us. The Department of Defense in the United States government is charged with doing the hardest and most unalloyed calculations of human cost in preserving our union and society. They will not be likely to be going out of business any time soon. But of course merely knowing that hard choices must be made does not determine how those choices must come out.  James Mattis, known as “Mad Dog” Mattis is the current Secretary of Defense. He is both a soldier and public servant and has distinguished himself as a competent general officer in the armed services of this country. I am sure that I will be visiting his career again in this blog if it continues in operation. But he heads an enormous organization which is far more than a manifestation of his will and ego. But the image below and the name Mad Dog Mattis related to a direct and perhaps deconstructed view of America’s military realities.  One hears “let’s be real here” in various phrasings around the country. There is a sense that things have not been real lately.

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Donald John Trump, yes I wrote John, is of course the Commander in Chief. There is a lot to wonder about as regards President Trump. There is plenty to wonder about as regard his views of the military and their mission and function. We will have see what his plans and positions will be over time and he is in fact quite likely to cost us something real as we find these things out — as would anyone else. But he is part of the conversation a manner based on learning in classrooms and the experience of an academic journey –like Deconstructionism.

Trump is not entirely devoid of military experience. Nor do I entirely discount the experience he had. The history of dealing with conflict and knowing combat is just one part of the experience of military life and culture. President Trump may have gained something of that kind of experience in his many dealings across the world, in dealing with the organized crime elements that lurk around the construction industry in New York and in dealing with whatever personal crises may have affected his life which I am not fully aware of and not going to blog about now. But there is also a culture and body of knowledge related to the military and things martial which one can learn in school and arguably The Donald has brought that knowledge into the oval office in no small degree. He is an alumnus of the New York Military Academy and may or may not have played a crucial role in keeping it afloat since his graduation. I value military education and although I have not had much of any myself it was a part of the environment in which I taught at the Shandong Institute of Business and Technology in Yantai, China. In addition I have relatives that have attended Riverside Military  Academy, Forks Union Military Academy, the Virginia Military Institute and the United States Military Academy at West Point. I have visited most of those family attended academies although mostly not in the company of the right student or alumnus when they were in attendance or even afterwards. All in all, I think it is a lot more than nothing for Trump to have had some military education.

In recalling these moments of conflict and the visions that they can produce, I think a bit of David Duke who was a major political figure in my state at one time. For a little information about his run for Governor of Louisiana in which he was in the run-off as the soul Republican against the Democrat Edwin W. Edwards look here. While the significance of the following statistics can be overblown, it is nonetheless useful to remember that he won a small majority of the White votes cast in that election. Which means that a whole lot of White people in Louisiana voted against him as well. A popular bumper sticker during the election said, “Vote for the Crook, It’s Important”. People in other places took this often as a joke, but it was a serious recommendation tinged with wry humor for many who posted it. there were those who tried to see the Trump — Clinton election in those terms.  But in Louisiana it played out quite differently Trump won big. Duke was actually on the ballot for Senate in this election and did not make the run-off. His presence in the election gave people a lot to talk about but he only polled 3.4 percent of the vote in a 24 candidate field. Moderate(ish) Republican and former State Treasurer john Kennedy won the seat. The rough tough populist of the season who succeed was the Congressman from my District Clay Higgins. I supported Charles Boustany for Senate and Scott Angelle for Congress. So neither of these two victorious gentlemen owe me a vote although I have some real if minimal ties to both Kennedy and Higgins. The complexities of the electoral process or two numerous to completely discuss in this blog much less this post. Duke wrote a long and detaled book which sold well but alienated a lot of people. Bannon meanwhile has stayed alive and alert and open to new ideas and fresh influences.  Although Duke earned a Ph.D. after running for governor his views seem more alienated over time.

 

I have never corresponded with any of the generals or with Bannon nor really with Trump. But I have corresponded just a bit with David Duke. It did not lead to a great deal of communication but it does show how  we disagreed  and what some of my questions were by implication. With no real excuse I excerpt some of my own correspondence with  David Duke reproduced from years ago without his permission, for honesty sake at least his letter is reproduced in full from March 4, 2012:

Dear Frank,

Nice to hear from you, but frankly surprised that after reading My Awakening you are not concerned about a hyper ethnocentric tribe with clear group interests having so much dominant influence in Media, Government and Finance, and the fact that such could bring us to such catastrophic and, dare I say it, evil wars in Iraq and now the planned one in Iran.

Dialogue is fine with me, but I can’t understand if you know the facts of the incredible Jewish domination of the media and its impact, that you don’t have a problem with it.

I have a B.A. in History from LSU and in 2005 I completed my Doctoral studies and Defense at MAUP, the largest university in Ukraine, I was living in Eastern Europe for six years.

Best to you,

David Duke

But the elections did winnow out some hopes and dreams and fan the flames of others. America is moving forward in a trump direction and not in any of another set of possible directions. Trump and Bannon are disruptive forces within the political system. Bannon is a military veteran and a successful and serious man and President Trump has never been a joke to me. But they are outside the mainstream  of where American politics have been going. Not as far out of the mainstream as I am of course. Darwin had a focus on death as the means of evolution which I think was different than his rival Wallace. One day I hope to post just about those two men. But his legacy stays at our center. We all are obsessed with life or death scenarios even in political terms. Whether are not any particular political future is dead is not so clear as with some other issues.

Of course not all dialog in this country is at the level of survival and conflict. Millions of people have intense political interest right now and think in other terms. I also think of them when I consider where the Trump wave is headed, of these people who want to show an image of their daily lives and of how it all plays out as they live those lives in America. There is a blog post here from a young mother who shows how each person faces the truth of daily existence and wonders how they will bring up their children in the emerging world which has challenges new and familiar. The woman’s point of view is still something that interests me in and of itself. One person who has embodied that point of view for me in American society is Amy Hungerford. She and others at Yale and such places in literature may have things to say about this election and presidency and perhaps will consider deconstructed theories.

As often is the case, my post has no final point. It simply is a post. It simply expresses a few insights. the closest I come to points of the kind many wish to see is in my long winded model constitutions. I like to think I could make a point with a sword point if required to do so by moral duty, but that is easier said than done. There are those in power now who do have such duty every day and my only point is that we should all make it a point to see them as clearly as we can.

MLK Day, Inauguration Anticipation and Me…

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There has been a good bit of discussion of Congressman John Lewis’s interview with Chuck Todd of NBC News in which he said that he didn’t believe that Donald Trump is legitimately the President of the United States. Lewis stated that this is because the Russians and other parties conspired to damage the candidacy of Hillary Clinton and to elect Mr. Trump.  There has also been a great deal of comment about President-Elect Trump and his Tweets regarding Congressman Lewis. There is plenty of room for discussion about the ways in which each of these men do and do not understand each other and the people who support them and with whom each of them most identify.

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My farewell address On Tuesday, January 10, I’ll go home to Chicago to say my grateful farewell to you. In 1796, as George Washington set the precedent …….poP

However, two events on the calendar make this exchange more poignant and different than it would otherwise be. One reality of the calendar is that Monday, January 16 is Martin Luther King Day. African American groups and associations can readily rally around the ideas expressed by Congressman Lewis, as can others — such as the Democrats already using his words in their fundraising programs.  MLK Day is when I am typing this post. Race is highly relevant to all these discussions, but it is not entirely clear how it is relevant. President Obama of course is of different racial connections than President-Elect Trump. Most Americans have noticed this. But how all this relates to Civil Rights history is less clear. Trump wants to make a new case to racial minorities– especially Blacks in the inner cities. Lewis does not represent a poor inner city district, but Trump may have believed that he did. That’s suggested by a Trump Tweet.

The other big day is on the twentieth of this month. That is the day on which Donald J. Trump is supposed to be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. Lewis and at least twelve other members of Congress have said that they will not attend. I have hopes of watching most of the Day’s events on television as usual. Lewis does not seem aware of how messy many elections in our history have been. But more likely he simply believes he must rally certain forces in the country. The Russian hacking is mostly an excuse, I think. A better excuse than many its our history.

The new administration comes in at a time when I find myself uniquely alienated, despite an alienated life. My life is largely spent in ways that I own to which have left me deeply and broadly aware of how entirely devoid of success a life can be and yet remain the life one chose. Both Lewis and Trump are largely successful. Both are committed to the lives and paths which they have lived and blazed. Less alienated Americans will feel the divide between them more intensely. The empathy of millions will, for a while, center around one or the other.

Today is also the birthday of Ernest Gaines the prominent African American writer associated with my alma mater. I have read a good number of his novels and short stories and attended his lectures in the distant past. He also plays some role in shaping how I see this time.

But I am mostly preoccupied with concerns not much discussed nationally. I am going to be watching the next state in our affairs for any shadow of relevant hope. I will not expect much more.

 

 

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Meryl Streep, Donald Trump, Barack Obama and Other Strangers

There are different levels of winning and losing. In the the lifelong, trans-generational and eternal perspectives and in the quarterly earnings report or even shorter term perspectives. I would say that by most standards I consider myself to be very far from either success or influence. The news is mostly about successful and influential people and that is not a bad thing in itself. This post is about some of the influential people who are very far from my daily life.

President Barack Hussein Obama who said his farewells in Chicago recently was just one of several people who has recently grabbed national attention with words about this transition. I listened to and watched this speech and also heard Meryl Streep’s speech on the occasion of winning the Cecil B. De Mille Award at the Golden Globes.  In addition, I have been told about the Trump Tower Press Conference where Donald Trump laid out his plans for distancing himself from the Trump Organization while President of the United States. But I only saw the end of it and some clips and highlights over the last few days. One of the subjects of the press conference was the dirty dossier claiming that Trump was compromised by information collected by Russian intelligence. That report (it appears) was prepared by a former British intelligence officer for  private interests.

Many people have chosen to way in on these varied acts of communication. Much of the Hollywood community has banded together in support of the nearly legendary Ms. Streep — although some, such as Mark Wahlberg have been critical of her effort to politicize the occasion. One person who did reach out to her in support was Robert De Niro. His letter has since been published in the media.  “What you said was great. It needed to be said, and you said it beautifully. I have so much respect for you that you did it while the world was celebrating your achievements.” De Niro’s letter. Although MS. Streep is someone for whom I have the greatest respect as an actress she has been largely confined to her excellence in that field in my mind. I did not include her or very many other actors in my list published in 2011 of the Most Watchable People in the Coming Decade.  Clearly not including her or Donald Trump seems to indicate some limitations to the list. However I did include Robert De Niro in the list the link to his biography is here. What follows is the totality of his biography as it appears in this post about five years ago:

4. Robert De Niro, Jr.  was born August 17, 1943 and is an American actor, director, and producer. His father was a well-respected expressionist painter who was well-educated and whose own father was an Italian-American but whose mother was Irish American. Serious artistic respect runs in the family. This living DeNiro is widely considered one of the greatest actors of his generation and just a day or so before this posting he received the Cecile B. DeMille Award from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association ans that is a high ranking lifetime achievement ward presented at the Golden Globes. DeNiro’s first major film role was in 1973’s Bang the Drum Slowly. In 1974, he played the young Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II, where he created a legendary niche for himself with an iconic character in a role that won him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He made the first of a number of significant films Martin Scorsese in 1973 when he played in  Mean  Streets.  Later  DeNiro worked with Scorsese  and earned an Academy Award for Best Actor  for his portrayal of Jake LaMotta in the 1980 film, Raging Bull. Other Scorsese films for which he was nominated  but did not win were  Taxi Driver (1976) and  Cape Fear (1991). In addition, he received nominations for his acting in Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter (1978) and Penny Marshall’s Awakenings (1990). This was one of the many roles he has done which was outside of the urban American tough guy.   Outside of the Oscars he earned four nominations for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy: New York, New York (1977), Midnight Run (1989), Analyze This (1999) and Meet the Parents (2000).  He has made a large number of appearances in film and has succeeded as a director as well as an actor.  However DeNiro makes this list largely because he founded the Tribeca Film Festival in 2002 with Craig Hatkoff and Jane Rosenthal.  This festival is part of Deniro’s identity as a New Yorker and was founded  in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center  and the many faced loss of vitality  and hope in the TriBeCa neighborhood and the rest of  Manhattan. The festival has featured hundreds of films and is making the world more aware of New York’s significant role in world of film. DeNiro  has tied himself into the story with which this series and this list is intimately tied.

De Niro did not make the top ten people on the list although he did make the list. However, two people much discussed in these days did make the top of the list. The truth is that these are strange times but Russia, Hollywood and the Presidency are predictably interesting parts of our lives in this society. Vladimir Putin has been the focus of a great deal of discussion and one wonders if there will still be and effort to nullify the election based on his alleged involvement. I say one wonders, we shall see  what happens next before and after the Inauguration Day events.

One of the strangers I choose to mention in this post who has been in the news a lot lately is Vladimir Putin. Following this sentence, I quote in its entirety here my brief biography of him which appeared in this blog in a post in 2011 to be found here:

 

5. Vladimir Putin ,Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, Влади́мир Влади́мирович Пу́тин, born on October 7, 1952 is a vigorous probably more physically fit than I on almost every measure despite being almost eight years my senior at an age where that really matters. Putin served as the post Soviet Russian Federation’s second President and is the current Prime Minister of Russia, as well as chairman of United Russia and Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Union of Russia and Belarus and he is a man of broad appeal among several segments of Russian society. He may be that kind of person once referred to as a reappearance of Aratos (a Greek politician of long ago) and because of who he is and his attitudes he will remain Putin while he remains alive. He became acting President as the world celebrated huge numbers of parties and even those disputing the calendric significance on all sort of bases had gotten into the act of a millennial party this happened on my ex-wife’s thirty-third birthday which was December 21, 1999, when president Boris Yeltsin resigned in a surprising move. Putin’s rise to office slipped under this worldwide camouflage in a way that would be worthy of a former intelligence officer. He then began consolidating his power in a way that combined traditional Russian, Soviet, progressive democratic elements into a new decisive style. won the 2000 presidential election and in 2004 he was reelected for a second term lasting until 7 May 2008.He has many hopes he still cannot really do anything to achieve but he keeps chipping away at the obstacles. Putin did not demonize Yeltsin and the recent regime nor set about abolishing its forms and reforms in a systematic and aggressive way. Most of his harshest critics would acknowledge his role in creating or restoring political orderly process and Securing the rule of law. His presidency included gains such as the fact that Russia’s economy avoided a terrible and developing crisis, the increase by over 70% in the GDP , and probably lifting half the Russian poor out of poverty as well as securing the fragile middle class and working class segments of the new Russia by seeing average monthly salaries increase from less than $100 to well over $500. While high oil prices were part of this miracle his management of the oil boom was among the better responses to such mineral driven influxes of wealth in a crisis which the world has seen. He likes healing and building better but could become a figure of destruction fomenting hate — it just depends on too many factors to sort out here. His conduct in office has not always earned the respect of independent evaluators and its faults have been shown forth by domestic political opposition. Mostly he can be criticized his record of both real and perceived restoration of some Soviet abuses which have violated human rights and freedoms; this has included improper conduct toward vocal opponents acts towards the former Soviet Republics both aggressive and of questionable legitimacy. He has shown a talent for balance, both in becoming Prime Minister and waiting to be able to run again and in his UN behavior with former Soviet Republics he seems to play a very hard game of politics rather than the great communist fault of abolishing civilized politics until the need becomes to great to avoid restoring them. He helped save what he could of socialist safety nets, bureaucratic expertise and tradition while securing emerging capitalism, free markets and private property. President Putin passed into law essential reforms such as a flat 13% income tax , a reduced profits tax, was well as credible and juridically workable land and legal codes . Based on his achievements, Putin is a man about whom pop songs have been written and performed. He is still exceptionally vigorous. There is little that can be done to contain his personal networks or his base of popular support within and around Russia.
He is a man with whom a new future could be negotiated for the world should that happen and that has not been true of most Soviet leaders in my view.

 

Another stranger who was also on the list of Watchable people and made the final ten was President Obama. His biography appears just after this sentence, the link here is the same as the one above Putin’s biography.  The tone of both biographies written half a decade ago is  what it is and i do not shy away from either one. The truth is that Obama and Putin are juxtaposed at the middle of this decade as they were at the middle of my list.

4.President Barack Hussein Obama This President of the United States of America will continue to set the tone for much of the American future and its policies for the foreseeable future. We face the future as best we can in a world where the election of Barack Obama has already shown us as profoundly weak in the eyes of so much of the world.Barack Hussein Obama it is to be noted is the descendant of an American mother and has married and had children with an American wife. The mother was white, the wife is black. Obama’s father was an African student and he also had an Indonesian stepfather. In a society where forty-one percent of children are currently born out of wedlock, Schwarzenegger has been Governor of California, Jindal is currently Governor of Louisiana, Granholme was Governor of Michigan until two weeks ago and tens of millions live here without documents Obama has a strong basic appeal to our society which is committed to its own utter destruction at this time. Obama is a man with a very impressive resume and a lot of lessons and experiences that have not come together in the same individual before. Obama does not have any desire to compromise with the vast complicated burdens of American History. He is less aware of them than most Presidents have been and is more committed to policies and procedures that will undermine this country than he would be if he did not have the background he actually does have.

President Obama has been the expression of decades of continuous confusion and staggering forward. What will happen to him and to the country before he leaves the Oval Office behind is not entirely predictable. Nor is it it clear what he or the Presidency will be like after his administration ends. If he leaves office alive after completing one or two full terms then the Presidency of the United States will be part of his impressive curriculum vitae which includes editing Harvard Law Review , traveling the world, authoring two very successful books, serving in the United States Senate and given many famous speeches. If a major constitutional change occurs in the United States of America after his retirement from this office he will be in a powerful position to broker part of this change. However, his own tenure in office has contributed to America’s inevitably worsening troubles unless it does seriously reform.

The Trump saga is trying to start. I will try to cover it here. One person who is not in any loop in or out of the Beltway who was on my list is myself the author of this post. Perhaps, the future will seem me yet more isolated and alienated or perhaps not. But I am like a lot of other Americans to some degree who are watching these events not entirely surprised by anything  — but aware of the large events among influential strangers.

Obamacare, the long Christmas and Inauguration Day

With its embedded links this post is a kind of ambitious round up. It comes on the twelfth day of Christmas and a time for  dealing with cold weather in Louisiana. January 6, 2017 the votes of the Electoral College have been certified on the Feast of the Epiphany. I have written about the Epiphany before and about the bridge between Christmas Season and Carnival Season. I have discussed much of the meaning of Christmas as I see it in an unpublished novel, several chapters of which I have included in this blog as well. I am not celebrating in great style this year, I covered some plants against the cold. i smoked a cigar and shared some hot cocoa in two different occasions with two different friends  –and the day is not over just yet.

 

I started typing this post  today on the Feast of the Epiphany — January 6. My thoughts included the following Epiphany related thoughts, “I love to go to Mass on that day but it did not seem to be likely this year. I love a lot of things I do not do. I love to buy a King Cake but probably won’t make that happen either. ” This was also the same January sixth when there was cold weather that needed to be dealt with and when I had to help a friend at the library delete a Facebook account. Then while I had already been thinking about the certified votes I had a chance to hear and see some of them during the break between typing and editing here.

Donald Trump ran in part on the promise that people would start saying “Merry Christmas” again. (I have blogged a good bit about Christmas and love it plenty well.) My sister’s recent blog post about a Christmas tree.  But about much more than a Christmas tree. But like many things Christmas is a complicated matter if you look at it hard enough. The holiday season is not the only thing in contention (having ended for most Americans but not all). The new assault on an airport in Florida has many Americans facing this day with familiar and not festive feelings.

 

There has been a bit more fuss than usual in this certification day in Congress. I also noted a greater awareness in the morning news shows that this was the day assigned for the Congress to certify the Electoral Votes of each State.  However, the protests appear to have been ineffectual,the process moving the President -Elect one step closer to being President. The heritage of representative government and electoral governance and Western Civilization are linked in complex ways. But when we think of Greek roots of Democracy we must remember Greek roots of organized Royalist Monarchy and Aristocracy as well. The Greek ideas of the role of the One, the Many and the Few are beyond what I can discuss today but Greece continues to yield up new wonders from its storied past .I remain convinced that our Constitutional tradition needs to be both relatively conservative and dynamic. I have spelled that out here and here — at least in brief. I have said much more in other places in the blog. But this is the star of a new year and the start of a new Presidential administration is on the way and I am in no position to exert influence of any kind. One of the issues in this transition relates to the nature and state of race relations in the United States of America. Two stories frame this debated and reported struggle. One story is the sentencing phase of the trial of Dylan Roof, convicted of the Hate Crime killing of the people known as the Charleston Nine:

  • Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd (54)
  • Susie Jackson (87)
  • Ethel Lee Lance (70)
  • Depayne Middleton-Doctor (49)
  • Clementa C. Pinckney (41)
  • Tywanza Sanders (26)
  • Daniel Simmons (74)
  • Sharonda Coleman-Singleton (45)
  • Myra Thompson (59)

While only one of these was a politician several were leaders in the Black Church communities int he region. Dylan Roof gives every evidence of being a militant and selective terrorist. The other story is that of the hate crimes committed by four African Americans against a white guy of limited capacities which was broadcast on Facebook Live. these things remind us all of the racial tensions and animosities that exist in this country.

Those extreme situations only underline and bookend the much large tensions that involve race and other factors in more complicated ways. The Obamacare issues and the proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act are only part of the overall struggle. people who do lots of work for which they are not paid at all or are paid far less than one can survive on are taxed and fined to pay for the most irresponsible, expensive and uncontrolled medical economy in the world  on behalf of those privileged to have had good jobs are willing to admit that they have no work at all. Our society is deeply corrupt in countless ways that rest heaviest on those most victimized by Obamacare. the repeal will likely benefit not those people as much as the richer people who will pay less for the healthcare insurance premiums under a new regime and the more successful small business people who may see their deductibles go down. For some people it may always seem like Santa Claus is coming on Christmas to those watching, for others like the winter in C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia — very cold and brutal with no Christmas in sight. The middle fifty percent are the ones who can really afford to get excited about arguing the merits of the plans put forth.

For me this portends to be a very bleak year. But the actual Christmas that is ending has been better than average. I would like to hope for a happy New Year as well. But I am not there yet….

 

The Trump Transition Transpiring

This is the Trump Transition Time. Today is also Veterans Day, an occasion for more than one seasonal post in past years.  However for blog purposes this year this event is trumped however by other realities in this blog centering around the Trump transition.  All of us in this country are aware of the challenges that face our country to differing degrees. Bu there are serious problems in the transition period itself. The election has reminded those who — as regards the complexity of American realities — have more skeptical minds than my readers in general, that we are not a trailer full of identical marbles. That is not the right physical analogy of who does the voting in America. We are a complicated and diverse people and a complex society. The protests that have gone beyond the norms of political decency are fairly widespread. Responses from the Administration and the Democrats to try and control this chaos have been muted or at least less than vigorous.  However the actual mechanics and interpersonal interactions at the apex of the transition seem to be going along smoothly. I have found that to be encouraging.

For the countless Americans in rural America, mill towns, shrinking labor unions, small business and the National Guard posts and VFW halls along America’s Main Streets, Blue Highways and town squares — the need for change seems acute they cannot help hoping that Trump will accomplish a great deal. He has promised to do much to make things better. Some worry already that he will not really be a new broom that sweeps clean. He is not so much appearing to be the dangerous loose canon to some as he is dangerously close to the Republican center (not the national center) he chose to separate from before.


For me the question of how this will affect me is not a pressing one. I have already slipped so far away from the center of things, so far off the road of personal hope and so deep into financial penury that the transitions going on are not likely to have any very positive effect on my life. But for one set of those who can benefit from such things this is  a time of opportunity — among connected and hopeful Republicans. For another set, prominent Democrats, it is a time of devastating loss and bitter defeat. Trump won well over the 270 votes needed in the Electoral College.  It seems  clear that Hillary won more votes overall. Many Americans no longer understand or accept Federalism and certainly not when they lose and election. But it is not enough to win the most votes in an fantastical republic and call it a union. One has to work in the magic of our system that assures representation to all regions, social types and most of all states. This is only a shadow of our true heritage but thank God for it. Nonetheless, among the hopes of some out there may be the hope that the Elctoral College will be forced to abandon the commitment to their party pledge and may restore Clinton — who knows.

Bernie Sanders is aware that he and President Elect Trump have some common concerns as regards election reform, trade deals and infrastructure. I think that he also believes that they face a common sense of how much they need to get to know the heartland of the United States better than they have for most of their lives. But whether they will interact in worthwhile ways over time remains to be seen.

I do not identify all that much with the majority of the Trump supporters. I am not well suited by temperament perhaps or other factors to thrive in this society it is not a close thing, whereas for many of them it is a close thing – a matter of almost having things work out. For me it is not. I see layer upon layer of impossibility in my own life. But I do share their feeling that the heart of America has been shriveling. All the volunteer work, lawn work, substitute teaching, sales, regular jobs and micro businesses that I have been involved in have  always been clearly less than enough to get by. I could live on less well somewhere less but not here. here the capacity to earn is axiomatically less than it costs to thrive. That is outside of hopes and dreams. I cannot make amends for mistakes, save for the future or deal with upset projects almost at all and have had things get much worse every year for many years.   I have so many excellent reasons to be angry and resentful. But I also hope for a change for the better. I hope Trump and the team he and Pence are forming will have a chance to try and make a difference — whether I am a beneficiary or not.

But I always live as though hope is possible. I will for as long as I do live. So I am also one who hopes that America may find a better way forward and it may benefit me too — somehow…

 

Hillary’s History and Politcal Conventions in a Time of Crisis

The conventions have had a bit of time to fade into the background. Both campaigns have been unconventional and both candidates experienced something different about their conventions.  In the DNC there was the contention between  Sanders supporters and the Hillary majority that she might have wished was less than it was. In the RNC,  Donald Trump was operating in a situation where Ted Cruz was booed off stage for not endorsing him and where not a single former President spoke to endorse him. Hillary had President Hubby and President Hussein. Trump did not have  have George War Hero Bush, George Texas Rangers Bush,  or Mitt Romney captain of the very loyal GOP block of moderate Mormons.  But if both sides had memorable conventions the most historic was the Democratic National Convention where a woman we all know very well if we know politics was nominated as the candidate for the Presidency of the United States.  I have no wife, no daughter and largely followed the conventions on both sides alone. I have a lot of female relatives and correspondents. But no matter what their political beliefs I would have to expect that most American women felt some kind of identification with Hillary.  It has been a long road here and she has earned the nomination by dint of creating an unequalled record of engagement in the affairs to which it relates in our time. That does not mean I will vote for her. I have not decided whom to vote for but I do want  recognize that as a student radical,  constituent advocacy attorney, First Lady of Arkansas, First Lady of the United States, United States Senator from New York,     U.S. Secretary of State and Presidential Candidate twice she has paid her dues. She simply cannot be denied that statement — no Democrat has ever had more sweat equity than she has…

She faces a candidate who is running on the plat form of building the Great Wall of the United States and encouraging an immigration policy led by wives for billionaires — although Marla Maples snuck in there somehow…. So we will see.  She is likely to be the next President of the United States of America.  She and her hubby do not make me happy about America’s future but unhappiness is a fairly permanent and pervasive thing for me.  I began my Mon ay with a meeting with the police to reclaim a relatives lost dog who had innocently enough put another relative into medical (really dental care) and then escaped the makeshift tethering the owners had done  as they left for the hospital.  Sunday after the DNC which was yesterday I had a very pleasant dinner with family but there was a potentially serious injury on both the way out and the way home.   Not traffic injuries but unrelated things. My life is full of little problems and medium size problems and big distractions but like most Americans I feel that I have a connection to Presidential politics.  Madame President or President Trump seem the only alternatives likely and Madame President is more likely. I do care and have a few things to say now.

Hillary Clinton has emerged as the first truly serious Presidential nominee by a major party in American history.  Victoria Woodhull’s candidacy in the Equal Rights Party in the nineteenth century was not a joke and has has been followed by many other minor party candidates but none of them had a realistic chance of winning. In addition, Geraldine Ferraro failed spectacularly on her ticket and Sarah Palin first lost with John McCain and then resigned the governorship of Alaska whereas before the national run she had reason to believe that she would be a reasonably successful governor and a fixture in Alaskan and regional politics for years to come.  Both women had some real success and fame after their losing bids, but not enough to say in either case that the run was entirely good for their public and political status. Palin did better in the creation of other opportunities than Feraro. But neither had as much to lose as HRC. Her selfish political reason for running (along with whatever noble and other reasons she has) is that she has done everything else except the VP and the Presidency that would constitute a climb up this ladder. Hillary Rodham Clinton has  a lot of valuable experience and also has a great deal of history to overcome. The Democratic National Convention was her time to try to cement her position leading the charge of the Democrats to regain the White House and also to show she can be an asset on down ballot elections. I think that it is fair to say that it has not gone all that smoothly. Thursday evening was the peak and the key of her efforts to legitimize and secure her position. The precedent had been set by Ivanka Trump introducing her father at the Republican National Convention, Chelsea and her mother would follow suit. But the crucial difference in a daughter introducing her mother was lost on nobody.  The question many were asking was whether a woman’s moment could be an effective reality. I thought that as regards the evening as a whole the jury is still out and may always be out. But Chelsea did a fine job.

Thursday evening Chelsea Clinton looked the best I have ever seen her look on a big stage and she spoke with virtually flawless delivery and presentation as she introduced her mother.  Then there was a video in the hall and a great deal of commentary by people who get paid to comment on most networks.  Bernie Sanders supporters in yellow shorts emblazoned with a dove of peace and the slogan “enough is enough” were much in evidence and some were interviewed.  Almost everyone was respectful of Chelsea and what she had to say.  It was much like Ivanka’s introduction at the Republican National Convention, in that it was hard not to at least wish to allow the speaker in each case a chance to rejoice and be proud of their respective parent.

Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech was another matter. There were several times when chants of “Feel the Bern” had to be drowned out by her supporters chanting “Hill-a-ry” but that was not like a cheer at the right spot — it still disrupted her delivery. That was despite several points in the speech where she made overtures to Sander and his supporters including directly thanking him and adopting his cause. She also attacked Donald Trump a great deal.

 

Wednesday, I did watch the Democratic National Convention during most of the nearly two hours that they were broadcast on broadcast networks in what seems like a later version of primetime than I remember primetime being. But actually the speeches by Tim Kaine and President Obama had little trouble keeping my interest. While I was tired and my nerves were frayed from a hard day I was eager to hear what they had to say. Of course, it bears saying that I had a high level of interest when watching Donald Trump and Ivanka as well as Ben Carson and some others who spoke at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last week. Both conventions have been contentious. Both seem to have achieved unity by their respective Wednesday evening speeches…. the contest between the parties can in fact take place.

 

I went out to dinner with an old friend on Tuesday evening and so we both missed the Bill Clinton speech. It is a tense time in the country and in the world as all times are but more so.  The country is at its most partisan, the supremacy of these two parties no matter what is more clear than ever in a year like this if there have been any other years like this. Monday July 25, 2016 the Democrats got their convention started. Most people seemed to agree that the highlight of the evening for the party was the speech given by Michelle Obama, the First Lady of these United States.   The news was not all good. there were scandals with the DNC, which has been hacked and has  leaked emails some say show they acted unfairly in favor of Clinton and against Sanders. Those scandals with the DNC are bound to make some people wonder about what was in the Clinton emails lost from her private server when she was in the State Department. Donald Trump has certainly already tried to make the connection. But regardless of what this means for the long history of apparent improprieties among the Clinton network and its two principal actors there were more direct concerns early on. It seemed clear enough that  not all Sanders supporters were in the mood to forgive and forget or to focus their anger on the hackers or any support the hackers may have received from Donald Trump or Russia. That is not likely to change completely even if it turns out that Russia is launching deliberate attacks on the Democratic party. Some evidence suggests there may be a pattern of such attacks.

They were already annoyed and now some of them are really angry. Debbie Wasserman Schultz had not planned to start the convention with her own public resignation from leadership. But her resignation and the hard work, symbolic gestures, speeches and other activities of the Democratic National Convention do seem to have worked to bring the discordant party together.  We must see the struggle as one aided by the supposed sharp contrast between the parties and candidates. However, when that is said one wants to remind everyone of all the candidates have in common although there is no reason to believe that that matters all that much. This is a season of conflict and competition….

Some will rejoice at the tone of the Hillarious  Democrats, peaceful and Kind compared to some in the GOP. But others will wonder if that is realistic.  Trump is not seeking world war or genocide. He is more alarmed than alrmist. The events around the world kept conspiring to make alarm seem reasonable. Japan had is largest mass killing in over half a century without firearms and a saintly old priest was immolated by ISIS in a French church. The Convention seemed tone deaf to some outsiders.  The message of universal tolerance, equal opportunity and average wonderfulness did not jive well with all the headlines. Of course the Democrats are in executive power that has two very different effects which play out across long periods of time.  First, a certain amount of relevance is assured and more is presumed. It’s almost impossible to be as out of touch as a party out of power can be. On the other hand, the portion of the electorate seeking change is likely to want to change such a party into an out of power party. But, in our current situation –and unlike the way many but not all countries work– the roles of the parties are reversed on the legislative side of things. Dems are out there and GOP holds sway. Both sides experience the two effects listed above in a limited and complicated way…

So the country has a complicated set of signals being sent…. But one of these people is going to be President.  Republicans just had their big political convention a few weeks ago at the longest description and it fades from memory. Hillary had her moment and now the Democrats are having their own chance for the Convention to fade in memory. The press is on for the vote. The election matters and I will return to it. But I do want to look at this moment as well.

 

 

Clinton’s Campaign: Does She Have Credibility, a Creed and a Contest ?

Will Secretary and Senator and Former First Lady  Hillary Rodham Clinton be the first female President of the United States? It certainly seems likely. Here you can read my first post when she became the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party.  Since the very first version of this post came out the Washington Post has run an article saying that her credibility is damaged, that article is here and it may or may not represent political reality. But the contention made here in all versions of this post so far is that there appears to be a small chance that she will be indicted, arrested and charged in the email scandal or in any matter to do with Benghazi. By small of course I mean that there is not a large chance. There appears to be a miniscule chance that Bernie Sanders will mount a successful revolt or set up a powerful third party challenge which would derail her path to the presidency. There is more or less no realistic chance that she will be stopped from being elected except by the victory of Donald Trump as the Republican Nominee over her as the Democratic Nominee in the general election. Almost no chance is not the same as no chance. Any number of things could happen including death of physical impairment. But the odds seem to be better than fifty percents that she will be the next POTUS. Few people have ever had more relevant work or official experience when approaching the highest office in the land. To be a Senator is a lot, to be Secretary of State is a lot, to be First Lady is a lot — to be all three is a staggering degree of experience. Of course I physically stagger more easily than some more physically gifted readers and so I go to that adjective and the related adverb more readily than they might. But if one does not stagger one at least must take notice of the degree to which she embodies tremendous experience. Compared to her:

  1. Donald Trump has never held elected office,
  2. he has never lived in the White House,
  3. he has never lived in the executive mansion of a State,
  4. he has never held an office appointed by a President,
  5. he has never led a sustained policy discussion as Clinton did with healthcare,
  6. he has never been officially invited to sit at the table to negotiate  a formal treaty on behalf of the United States.
To safeguard liberty we must be able to adapt to the changing times.

To safeguard liberty we must be able to adapt to the changing times.

On the other hand they do have some lack of experience in common:

  1. Neither on has held a major post in a religious institution,
  2. neither has served in the military,
  3. neither has served in the workaday world of the intelligence community,
  4. neither has lived on our borders or in border towns for any length of time,
  5. neither speaks Spanish of French well, official languages of our neighbors,
  6.  neither has lived and worked as a citizen in the way business people, missionaries, journalists and  volunteers do every day across this world as they forge an American identity abroad.

Ambassador Stevens was an unusually high ranking victim of violence abroad. In the last few days other Americans have lost their lives around the world but a glimpse into the kinds of decisions he faced is also a glimpse into kinds of decisions that Americans who believe in what they are doing abroad face every day.  The following excerpt is from the recent report on the Benghazi incident:

While the end of the fiscal year funding deadline was looming, the Diplomatic Security Agent in charge at the Embassy in Tripoli was, nonetheless,
concerned about Stevens’ trip to Benghazi. Although his first planned trip to Benghazi in the beginning of August 2012 had to be canceled because of security,14 Stevens was adamant, however, about going in September.15 The Diplomatic Security Agent testified:
Previous to this—to his decisions to going up there, there was— we would meet weekly to discuss the security situation in Libya.…[
T]here was a specific meeting regarding what was happening in Benghazi. In that meeting, we reviewed incidents and  probable causes, what’s initiating it. And a lot of discussion was that it was the conflict or the incidents up there were, you know, local population against local population and that that they weren’t specifically targeting Americans … up there. I expressed my concerns about the incidents that did involve us. And the basic response was that they … were anomalies.

We all have images of what leadership should look like which are not simple portrayals of reality.

We all have images of what leadership should look like which are not simple portrayals of reality.

Romney was a missionary in France during anti-American times, Bill Clinton visited Russia as a student in the Cold War years and there are other connections to tat least the same world Chris Stevens lived in that can be found in other political lives outside the military but not in the lives of Hillary Clinton or Donald trump so far as I know. Both have traveled a great deal. both have been at some risk but the proportion of risk to resources has never been equal in my opinion to the baseline many Americans abroad have experienced every day all of my life.

The other thing that they have in common is access to fame, fortune, privilege and the people in power. This is not an even contest between the two of them but neither does it really matter who has had more of such opportunity. These opportunities have defined both of their lives for a long time. One big difference of course is that Trump like all previous American Presidents is a man and Clinton is a woman. I visited that in the post where her candidacy was all but assured but I am not going to deal with it much in this post.

There are issues related to Clinton that have very little to do with the fact that she is a woman. Trump recently said he just knew very little about her religion and she responded by declaring her self emphatically enough to be a Methodist. My own take on some of the discussion of Clinton’s religion has been posted in this blog before and can be seen here. Of course there may be more to say as time goes on.  One fact about the election of the first Clinton to the Presidency is that the result was likely determined by the most credible third party candidate in presidential politics in my lifetime — Ross Perot. He made it more than possible for Bill Clinton to defeat George Bush Senior. Thus Clinton did not face the kind of intense contest he would have otherwise.  This kind of splitting is well established in British politics and may have been fostered in some way or another by the Rhodes Scholar, Bill Clinton as the biggest take home lesson from his time in Oxford. Some may see Trump as Ross Perot on steroids. He is the third party candidate who became the  candidate of a major party and the main obstacle to Clinton’s election. that would still be true even if Romney or someone becomes a real third party candidate somehow. So how does trump match Clinton on matters of faith?

To see Clinton’s faith in political terms this season means to examine Donald Trump’s faith as well. He seems to be a person, like Clinton, about whom one could say a great many contradictory things based on pretty good evidence. That is not necessarily because he is deceptive or a hypocrite but may be because of the place he comes from in his life context. Interestingly enough he has made it clear that he supports Christmas as a national holiday and seeks to preserve it. That was the narrow subject of my original blog post about Clinton’s faith and the faith of other candidates.    Christmas was of course never my only interest in the religious identity of candidates. I love Christmas very much and the Christian observance of it by this country is a tradition I think worth striving for and worth some sacrifice. However, it is interesting that the ugliest rumors and suspicions about Donald Trump involve the ways in which he reminds people of the NSDAP or Nazis and the Third Reich. While many Christians nothing like the Hitlerites have rallied around Christmas, there is also no doubt that the Nazis made Christmas and especially the control of Christmas tree sales and early focus of political activity.  In further clarification, it is interesting to note that the list of candidates in the Democrats poll I posted in that article did include Biden but did not include Sanders. Even more interesting is that Trump does not appear among the six Republican candidates who appear in the poll I posted and reviewed in terms of the religion of the candidates. Huckabee was the leader in the poll and he was of course a Baptist minister who claimed the same hometown as President William Jefferson Clinton — Hope, Arkansas. So where does that leave the discussion of religion as I saw it back in 2014? It is not a perfectly relevant post in every way  then.  But here is the principal quotation from that blog post as it pertains to understanding Clinton’s faith in very general political terms. The first paragraph below deals with how Americans likely to vote Republican were thinking about Republican candidates in 2014 and how that related to Christmas and it observance by the Christians of this nation . However the remaining paragraphs  relate to what Clinton’s religious identity is likely to be. It is perhaps best to look at the text:

There is a lot of shaking out to do if these numbers mean any thing before any Republican can claim the nomination.  But it does indicate perhaps the streams of thought that are shaping the country as regards finding a religious root for values expressed by America’s  “right” in politics.

What then about the left? Where does the other side of American  political energy come down on our connecting with the roots of Christianity.  Unlike the possible GOP nominees, Hillary Clinton has tended to tower over her challengers for the 2016 Democratic nomination. Some people are saying that candidates like Elizabeth Warren are poised to show explosive growth but it would take a lot of growth to challenge  Clinton in the primary.

Joe Lieberman who ran with Al Gore was not a Christian but a Jew who seemed to tolerate a good deal of public Christmas. Mitt Romney belonged to what most scholars consider to be a post-Christian religion but it is one that celebrates Christmas as an American holiday and the birth festival of Jesus Christ. Many presidents have been devout Christians: Washington, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, Woodrow Wilson, John Kennedy and half a dozen others are clearly men who in my opinion must be seen as Christians entirely. Whatever they did not achieve of the Christian ideal is not because they did not adhere to that faith and religion. Richard Nixon was reared as a Quaker and (though many American Quakers seem pretty much to be Christians) Quakers as a whole are not a Christian faith but one which grew up among Christians.  It is hard to say what Nixon was when he was President. With men like Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and  a few others it hard to say where they stood in terms of religious classification and identity.

So that brings me to Clinton. She is a favorite enemy of the Christian Right and other religious people in American politics and she may well deserve it. She has a background which is mostly verifiable: Clinton was reared a Methodist Protestant Christian, belonged to a Senate Prayer Group and has spoken at Prayer Breakfasts.  Her profile may seem different to American atheists than to most other people. Here is an atheist site evaluating Clinton’s background and religious values.  It is hard to know how  she would deal with Christmas.

I have just finished observing the Independence Day  holiday in a minimal sort of way. It is always a time that I like to think about what it means to be an American and posts about those thoughts can be seen here. But although those ideas have been posted here they have more often been shared in other places and my thoughts about America have been posted here on other holidays. Those holiday thoughts on Memorial Day have been  here and on Veterans day have been here. While I have in common with Clinton and Trump that I have not a day of service in the military in my past it seems to be the military holidays that most inspire my patriotism. My observation of the Independence Day holiday was not entirely minimal by every standard and I did post quite a few notes and the lyrics of the National Anthem on my Facebook profile but minimal my observance  certainly was  in some measures. Neither Trump nor Clinton were very visible in my own perusal of our nation’s birthday. But one of them will likely be the American Head of State by next Independence Day. Unlike Christmas these holidays are not specifically Christian. I am a Christian and for me Christian prayer is part of these national holidays. I am not sure how the faith of either major candidate informs  their celebration of these days.  But faith and the most gung ho kinds of patriotism are linked by many as can be seen at links here and here. What else does  America expect from a leader and does Clinton have it?

Clinton has a lot of government experience, but the range is not infinite. One of the big achievements of this week has been the placement of the Juno observatory in position as a satellite of Jupiter. Some of the reason many people around the world are interested in this project can be gleaned here.  Neither Clinton nor Trump seems to be the kind to play an extraordinary role in blazing a pioneering trail into space.  These kinds of brave explorations may shape the future or not but they do not seem to define the vision of either Clinton or Trump.

One question many people have about religion is whether or not someone who prays for help should be President. Perhaps prayer means one cannot do the job. But some contend Clinton had private emails because she did not want to disclose the degree to which she could not do her job. That story can be seen here. It is to be noted that this not entirely clear story comes from a publication as biased in favor of Clinton and against Trump as one can get. But the point is here only that Buzz Aldrin, a rocket scientist, astronaut and space planner is a noted public prayer promoter in his own life and not being known for religious acts makes nobody a scientist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BRexit from the Bayou

What will become of the Special Relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom in coming months and years?

What will become of the funds in peoples varied accounts and peoples varied investments in America and the world?

What will become of the European Union?

These are all questions brought to the fore by the recent event called the BRexit Referendum.  They are important questions and will only be slightly ventured into within this post but it is possible that some more insight may be forthcoming from other portions of this site past, present and future.

This blog is a place in the wide world where very ambitious plans (which to many would seem absurdly ambitious and very unusual) are put forward. But the reason that I do put forth such plans is in part because the economy does not just respond to purely economic forces and purely economic plans made by typical economists are not likely to steer it all that well. Nor do I believe that conservatism — which I lay claim to here repeatedly –means having no plans at all. In fact I believe both planning and a limited socialist and communitarian element belong in any  healthy conservative economic philosophy. Among many plans in this blog is a desire expressed to bring the United States to a floating quatrimetalism which is something like the gold standard. As I type this many are rushing to gold. Compared to either panic or the pure gold standard this standard might actually seem moderate. But in recent years it would usually have seemed very bearish and conservative indeed.

 

The Current Queen of England and Scotland's United Kingdom with Eisenhower

I don’t think any two constitutional changes are the same. The British Monarchy is not our target here in the problems I as an American and a Cajun may point out.  But it was among the targets of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

Do you come to this blog to get a sense of what stock market and financial  trends are urgently important? Perhaps you should. I seldom discuss market volatility or warn of impending short term risk in that aspect of life but prior to one of the biggest crashes in my lifetime my humble blog warned of the possibility in time for a handful of readers to have called their brokers and accountants if they were inclined to do so . But I make no claim to being unique in pointing out the risk, nor to having given specific advice. Nonetheless, the overall pattern of advice here seems to have been better than that being offered in some other quarters.

 

Britain Exits — the United Kingdom is finding a path forward without EU membership. Company will not be kept by the same countries in the same way ant longer — or so it all would seem. The news which has been developing includes a seeming set of contradictory signals from various places as to how fast this split should be. Voices are urging speed in the EU, as seen in detail here. But there have been voices from Spain, the UK and several other countries that have emphasized the need to proceed at a measured and not overly hasty pace.  The question on the most minds these days seems to be how severe the financial and economic impacts will be. Alan Greenspan. former Federal Reserve Chairman of the United States of America  has been a voice warning that there could be extensive and extended effects. TIME has been able to put together an article that is much more optimistic, that is linked here.

France one would think is still France, Germany is still Germany, the UK is still the UK. Italy may even be Italy and so forth. One feels when a severe corrections sets in that there were reasons in the market for panic. One suddenly sees Europe, the U.K.,  stock markets and financial markets as well as other institutions in a different way than one saw them before. During the Chinese crisis a while back I urged a more moderate view of the crisis than was then in vogue but I did not produce any large autonomous piece on the subject which I can now locate. However in the case of BRexit I posted on this subject just a day before the historic vote. That post is here.

I began with these words:

 

The British who it seems are by far America’s closest association in the world — even if to me it is not obvious that this must or even should be the case or deciding whether of not to leave the European Union.  NATO is surely in decline and is troubled despite being very big and victorious. As a Cajun I would like to see better relations between the US, France, Belgium,  Spain and the UK especially. But realistically those relationships may be as good as they are going to get.  the Brits who want to stay in the EU fall into those who see Europe as a country and say the sooner it becomes a superpower nation state the better and those who believe it is better for British interest to stay in the EU.  Those who want to leave include people who fear woes of limitless migration, economic collapse and cultural corruption in the new order. But the real thorny issues are not simply resolved into two camps  — but the votes are in tow camps. Some have said the shooting in Orlando helped the leavers most — called Brexit. BRexit can argue that families like the Mateens can arrive anywhere in Europe and strike anywhere else and nobody has a chance to know the risk.  Some who want to stay in believe Europe must change and offer better collective security and that will be best for Britain.

Armed with a few links to various articles, I raised the alarm on a potential Stock Market  Crisis to those among my readers who might not have been prepared.

The lack of certainty this vote has created in the stock market and elsewhere is discussed here.  But this is an analysis mostly of how the markets will react if BRexit beats the Remainers. It is a bit more complicated to decide whether the current process itself is affecting financial markets and other economic indicators, perhaps some of that complexity can be recaptured here.

So BRexit has happened. Why did it happen that Britain left first because there was a referendum. Lord Norton discusses that here. TIME has put together an approach to why there was a referendum as well, a sort of history linked here. But here is a telling quote from Lord Norton in a post linked herein a post linked here:

In the post-war era, the issue of European integration has been a fault line of British politics.  Both main parties have been divided internally  and both have changed their stance on the issue.  However, there has been no formal requirement for a referendum on the issue.  Harold Wilson used a nation-wide referendum, a constitutional innovation, in 1975 in order to resolve conflict within the Labour Party.  David Cameron moved to initiate one in response to conflict within Conservative ranks.  The roots are to be found in the last Parliament.  Details can be found in the chapters by Phil Cowley and me in Seldon and Finn’s The Coalition Effect.

There was no commitment in the Conservative 2010 manifesto to a referendum on continued membership of the EU.  The crucial development was the decision of the newly-formed Backbench Business Committee to schedule a debate, initiated by Conservative MP David Nuttall, in October 2011, calling for a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU.  Had the Committee not come into existence the previous year, with responsibility for scheduling debates (which it did on the basis of proposals from private Members), there would almost certainly not have been a debate – the Government would not have found time for it.   Despite a heavy whipping operation against the motion, 81 Conservatives voted for it.

The Referendum may or may not have been the right or best thing to do but it was note purely inevitable. Had it not happened the EU and the world would have muddled a long a bit longer on a more similar path. What happened after that is up for debate. I discuss reasons below why I think that things were not so secure as they seemed. But for now let us turn to what did happen.

This is the link to the speech in which David Cameron announced his intention to resign after the BRexit vote.  Cameron invested his very considerable political capital very heavily in this referendum. We may well hear from him again but he is tied to it forever. Tizres a commenter on this blog on occasion has on her own blog posted a while ago a post linking Cameron and the EU over time and this has surely proven her right on that and other scores as well. The BRexit may well see a resurgence of the Commonwealth, a stimulus to improve the EU constitution, the impetus for liberty enshrined in better rules around the world. It may be a very good thing. Whether good or not it may be necessary. But today it is a scary thing for many and the most obvious sign of that is the crash in the stock markets and the worldwide wealth erasures. We shall see where all that leads.   There is a great deal more that can be said about BRexit and that has to be said somewhere and perhaps many places if the current political environment is to be properly understood. Here is one place I have been discussing such things. Lord Norton had already had something to say on all of this issue which has led to BRexit, he tangentially discussed it here and has now said a good bit about the mechanic of the thing here in a brief and early post. The results of all this are likely to be significant for many people.

The European Union has 28 member countries, here is the list from the European Union’s own official website :

On the road to EU membership

Candidate countries

Potential candidates

The list above shows the difficulties compared to the United States of America. In the United States we have the Senate where votes are equal and the House where votes are by population. Then we have an Electoral College where votes are identical to a State’s votes in each of these houses and they elect our President. We have a Supreme Court charged with seeing that the basic system is preserved.  i think our own system is corrupt and this blog is a place where I have spelled out model constitutions for the United States and for Louisiana.  But our Constitution as it was originally approved and as  it exists today has the basic components to make it possible to preserve healthy state identity and a healthy federal union — just barely so in my view. However, the EU is made to work by will and skill without really having anywhere near and adequate constitutional framework. Whether others leave or not that is clearly the case. But it has been a socially and politically cheap arrangement and now it has failed a major test.  The people who paid r it to survive as it as it was were equally the US tax payers and the Soviet and Russian people who kept up a nuclear terro balance that left Europe’s great powers and their vast depository of skilled diplomats and diplomatic resources free to patiently deal with many issues while not being pressured to clearly lead or fight for survival. Would it have been good for them to become a true United States of Europe? People will disagree for good reasons about the answer to that question.  But they never built the structures we have. The comparison was always a misplaced one by any standard. Now what will happen next is a different matter — I am not making predictions in this posting.