One Nation United Against Trump – Why Not?

Fox News Michael Cohen hearing

One Nation United Against Trump – Why Not?

You would think when we elect as President (and I use that term loosely because I will never be sure that the 2016 election was a fair election) – a man whose only loyal friends and employees are crooks (8 have been indicted and convicted) – a man who lies to the American people he is supposed to serve over 5,000 times in 2 years – a man who uses intimidation regularly and publicly – a bad, bad President who trashes American institutions (the IRS, the FBI) to hide his own wrong-doing and much more; you would think the Republicans and Democrats would be united in trying to get this shyster out of the oval office. But Republicans deride the Dems and back the bad President for their own reasons.

Watching the House Oversight Committee in Congress question Michael Cohen shows how very adversarial the relationship is between our two major political parties. But I have to keep asking myself, why? The answer goes all the way back, several years back, to events that reached a crescendo in the two terms of Barrack Obama.

Many bemoan the fact that our Constitution and the body of laws that keeps it current seems to have no teeth. But the Constitution is not at fault. The Republican Party members are the real culprits. They are the very ones who decided to exploit loopholes, and sections in the Constitution that our forefathers left deliberately vague, to make it possible to keep the Republican Party in power far into the future.

The Republicans set out to take over our federal government. They did not act alone. They were backed and pressured by many wealthy Republicans and conservative and evangelical organizations. Americans for Tax Reform, and their enforcer Grover Norquist, turned a pledge Republicans signed to never raise taxes into an instrument that extorted compliance through threats to destroy the career of anyone who broke his/her pledge and demonstrated that the threats were real.

Republicans were backed in their attempt to turn our government into a one-party government by the NRA whose leaders created and spread a conspiracy theory which made Americans believe that Democrats wanted to overturn the Second Amendment and take away guns from private citizens, when they knew this was not true.

Republicans were backed by the Koch brothers and a web of conservative organizations who claimed to be 501 C-3’s – nonpolitical groups, but who then found sly ways to be political. These groups then claimed that the IRS was being partisan in only examining the Republican 501-C-3’s and since that was basically true, because Democrats were not abusing nonprofits, the IRS ended its perusal of Republican nonprofits. This began the Republican strategy of declawing the IRS. Trump continues to use partisan labelling to control the IRS and keep his tax returns secret.

This Republican Party had to stick to a list of demands made by their donors/owners* which they called “talking points”. They have to try to pursue limited federal government and stronger state governments; they have to overturn Roe v Wade; they have to dismantle the social safety net (they call them entitlements); they have to sabotage the ACA; they have to do all in their power to suppress Democratic votes; they have to deny climate change; they have to lower taxes; they have to stuff the courts with conservatives. In other words the Republicans are following marching orders from wealthy donors (our Capitalist overlords) to take over and turn the US into a single party puppet government fulfilling capitalist and Christian demands. (I do not say this because I am opposed to capitalism; I am not. I am opposed to unfettered capitalism, so don’t just write this off as the rantings of a socialist.)

Every action of the Republican Party explains why they will never unite with the Democrats to unseat a bad President. Every action explains why every member of this House committee hearing who is a member of the Republican Party uses their five minutes to discredit this witness, Michael Cohen, who is trying to offer proof about the criminality of our current President. Cohen is also trying to help us understand that Trump continues to be a criminal even while he sits in the oval office of the government of the United States of America. If proof was also available to show that Trump is treasonous, that would be a relief.

The Democrats are in a fight for the life of their party, for our democracy and for the Constitution which underlies our government. The Republicans are acting like this hearing is about unseating the President, but that is not the goal of this committee hearing. However, it should be a goal of a nation that is allowing itself to be dragged through the mud and muck by a man who is unsuited to be our leader and whose election was possibly assisted by the Russians.

The Democrats and Republicans should be united on this. The reasons why they aren’t are frightening and possibly apocalyptic. This is not just incivility, although Republicans would like us to think this. This is still an on-going attempted coup designed to turn America into a one-party government with no checks and balances.

*Parts of the Conservative Web:

Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation

American Academy for Liberal Education

Ethics and Public Policy Center

Capital Research Center

Mercatus Center

Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow

Sarah Scaife Foundation

Americas Future Foundation

Allegheny Institute for Policy Research

Manhattan Institute for Policy Research

David Horowitz Freedom Center

And at least 50 other foundations and research center.

From a muckety.com or mucketymaps.com graphic published in or around 2013. This graphic was later taken down. I captured this and one other pertinent graphic. They appear in my book: The US Republican Constitution: A Nonfiction Constitutional Thriller, by N. L. Brisson, 2016, ISBN 9780692793206 – on Amazon.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Fox News

Churchill – Aprés La Guerre

BigThree at Yalta wwii timesofmalta.com

Churchill: Aprés La Guerre

Having read about treaties and the formalities that end a war, but never having given much thought to what actually goes on after a war, reading Churchill: Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts, offered some detailed insights. Wars do not end when treaties are signed or agreements as to punishments and rewards are reached. Cities are in ruins and must be rebuilt. People do not forget their wounds and hostilities so easily. Feelings run deep and memories of wrongs are long. Even without armies, hostilities can continue. Whole nations can nurse resentments long after treaties are negotiated. Vengeance may be fomented inadvertently, and a war may erupt again. Once there was a Hundred Years War. It was a war that just wouldn’t stay ended. This same dynamic, Churchill believed, is how Europe ended up in WWII so soon after what Britain called The Great War.

Winston Churchill was old enough to be an adult during the two “world” wars in Europe, both of which centered in Germany. Not only was Churchill an adult, he was in Parliament, he was influential in the decisions made during and after these wars. Actually, Churchill tended to serve the nation best when Great Britain was at war. Churchill, though, had a sort of fixation with trying to win wars in Europe by going east towards Turkey through the Dardanelles as he did in WWI (big mistake) or capturing the Dodecanese Islands in WWII which was a strategy his American allies disagreed with. Roberts thinks Churchill had the protection of the far-flung members of the British Empire in mind when he made these decisions. The Dardanelles decision was a disaster, so much so that Churchill, sidelined by opponents, left the government and joined the British troops (actually the Scots Fusillars) dug in in France for a while in order to at least feel useful. In WWII, America had no interest in preserving the British Empire and after Pearl Harbor America had different priorities. Before Pearl Harbor Britain’s only ally was Stalin in Russia, an alliance that was a necessity but went against Churchill’s strong opposition to the Bolsheviks. Churchill was also privy to some top secret news about a mass execution of Poles in Russia. America eventually did decide to help end the war in Europe first, and the war in Japan second as Churchill wished.

Churchill was unhappy with the way the nations who won World War I dealt with the nations who lost the war. He worried that Russia and Germany would become allies. He felt that the harsh treatment of the Germans led to the rise of Hitler. Churchill knew what Hitler was from the moment he appeared on the scene. He wanted to be sure to do better after that second World War. But Churchill’s main fears after WWII were about Russia. There was little that could be done to weaken Russia however. Without Russia Hitler might have eventually annexed Great Britain. Millions of Russian soldiers lost their lives in WWII. Forcing Germany to fight on two fronts, or counting North Africa, on three, kept Britain in the fight until America joined the allies.

Churchill after wwii npg.org.uk

According to Andrew Robert these are some of Churchill’s reactions to WWI and its aftermath:

Pg. 266

“Repair the waste,” he said, “Rebuild the ruins. Heal the wounds. Crown the victors. Comfort the broken and broken-hearted. There is the battle we have now to fight. There is the victory we have now to win. Let us go forward together.”

“He later regretted saying of the starving Germans, “They were all in it, and they must all suffer for it.”

Pg. 266-67

“His true policy of advocating large grain shipments to Germany was the one he summed up with admirable brevity to Violet Asquith: “Kill the Bolshie; Kiss the Hun.”

(Churchill was 43)

Pg. 267-68

“Instead, on 10 January 1919, to the press’s almost  universal displeasure, Churchill became secretary for war and air.”

“Churchill faced enormous problems in demobilizing an army of 2.5 million men. His primary task was to get as many men back to their homes and jobs as quickly as possible, but he also needed to find enough troops to police the German occupation zone, Constantinople and the Dardanelles, Palestine and Iraq, and to reinforce a small contingent that in 1918 had been sent to help White Russians fight the Bolsheviks.”

Pg. 270

He had been unimpressed by the way that Wilson had kept the United States out of the war for as long as he had, almost two years after the sinking of the Lusitania, and he thought that the President’s haughty treatment of the Republicans in 1919 was not the way to build the necessary consensus in Washington for the country to join the new international body set up by Versailles, The League of Nations. His estimation of Wilson in The World Crisiswas therefore harsh. ‘The spacious philanthropy which he exhaled upon Europe stopped quite sharply at the coasts of his own country’ he wrote. ‘His gaze was fixed with equal earnestness upon the destiny of mankind and the fortunes of his party candidates. Peace and goodwill among all nations abroad, but no truck with the Republican Party at home. That was his ticket and that was his ruin, and the ruin of much else as well. It is difficult for a man to do great things if he tries to combine a lambent charity embracing the whole world with the sharper forms of populist party strife.’

‘The aid which we can give to those Russian armies which are now engaged in fighting against the foul baboonery of Bolshevism can be given by arms, munition, equipment, and by the technical services,’ he said at the Mansion House in February. Churchill’s extravagances in his anti-Communist language served to undermine the very accurate predictions he made about the vast numbers of Russians that the Bolsheviks would kill’

Pg. 273

“The Versailles Treaty was signed on 28 June 1919. Churchill deplored the harsh economic and financial provisions the Treaty imposed on Germany, which had been insisted upon by Clemenceau, but he was not in a strong enough position to do anything about them. He later described these clauses of the Treaty as ‘malignant and silly to an extent that made them obviously futile’ and ‘a sad story of complicated idiocy.’ He instead urged the humane treatment of Germany, warning of the ‘grave consequences for the future’ should the Russians and Germans ever come together.

Pg. 276

‘Since the Armistice,’ he told Lloyd George on 24 March, ‘my policy would have been “Peace with the German people, war on Bolshevik tyranny.” Willingly or unavoidably, you have followed something very near the reverse.’

WWII and churchill The international churchill society

Here are some of the things Roberts tells us about Churchill after WWII: (pg. 894-95):

“[Churchill] was already also denouncing the tyrannical behaviour of the Communist government of Poland, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Romania, and Bulgaria, the night-time ‘knock at the door’ from the secret police of these countries prior to the disappearance of citizens.”

“Churchill’s speech at Fulton was officially entitled “The Sinews of Peace” but was quickly called ‘The Iron Curtain Speech’, Andrew Roberts tells us.”

“The United States stands at this time at the pinnacle of world power’, [Churchill] began…It is a solemn moment for the American Democracy. For with primacy in power is also joined an awe-inspiring accountability to the future. If you look around you, you must feel not only the sense of duty done but also you must feel anxiety lest you fall below the level of achievement.”

“Of the United Nations, [Churchill] said, ‘We must make sure that its work is fruitful, that it is a reality and not a sham, that it is a force for action, and not merely a frothing of words, that it is a true temple of peace in which the shields of many nations can someday be hung up, and not merely a cock-pit in a Tower of Babel”….

“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, he declared ‘an iron curtain’ has descended across the continent. Behind that line all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe: Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all those famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject, in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high, and in many cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow”….

“The dangers would not be removed by appeasing Russia, [Churchill] argued. “From what I have seen of our Russian friends and Allies during the war, I am convinced that there is nothing they admire so much as strength, and there is nothing for which they have less respect than for weakness, especially military weakness.’ He urged that therefore ‘the old doctrine of a balance of power is unsound.”

 

America did not react well to this speech. Russia had lost so many to the war. It was obvious they needed to be rewarded, but Churchill also proved to be correct. Russia could not be appeased.

Photo Credits: From a Google Image Search – TimesofYalta.com, nor.org, theinternationalchurchillsociety

 

 

Churchill: Polymath with Cigar

Winston Churchill in siren suit, 1943

Churchill may have matured into a rotund adult with a level of confidence that came with an aristocratic upbringing, but there are, I imagine, shy or reclusive people even among aristocrats. Churchill was definitely not one of them. He could be down when parliament went sour on him, which was often, or when a military strategy he pushed failed and young men lost their lives. But, given his ebullient nature, he tended to quickly float back to the top.

He had many detractors and we know this because they were all public men who kept private diaries for their future biographers (just in case). Andrew Roberts, in Churchill: Walking with Destiny had access to all the diaries of Churchill’s contemporaries, including King George VI, who was his confidante and leader throughout WWII. Andrew Roberts is British and not always kind to the Americans when they finally joined to help fight Hitler’s Germany and Japan. Roberts brought Churchill and his contemporaries to life for me but he did it from a very British perspective, although he had a more positive take on Churchill than many modern British historians tend to have. Roberts tells us the charges leveled against Churchill and then he tries to explain Churchill’s rationale.

Churchill hated school and was a torment to his schoolmasters, but he was very intelligent. Roberts calls Winston a polymath. He committed all the important speeches in Shakespeare and his favorite poems to memory and could still quote them as he aged, and he lived to be 91. He read the great military strategists (especially Napoleon) and often seemed able to predict future conflicts well before others sensed them.

Although Winston Churchill was born in the Victorian Age, cultural changes did not faze him. He befriended Dr. Lindemann, a physicist who answered Churchill’s questions about atoms and the details of the developing scientific discoveries about nuclear fission and fusion. Churchill understood the importance of code-breaking in fighting wars. He travelled extensively and knew the famous figures of his times personally. He often took his wife Clementine, and his children with him. He was fascinated with airplanes and learned to fly as soon as he could.

Churchill was not self-conscious in the least. He spoke to his colleagues from Parliament while bathing or dressing if that happened to be when they came to see him. He swam naked in bodies of water all over Europe and Northern Africa. During the Blitz, when Brits had to drop everything and go to shelters, he had what he called “siren” suits designed and made. He wore them everywhere sometimes even when meeting important dignitaries. They were essentially jump suits with zippers and a fabric belt, not quite the style for the portly statesman.

Winston drank quite a lot, but he watered it down and spread it out so that he rarely seemed drunk, although at least two of his children seem to have been addicted to alcohol. He became attached to cigar smoking and enjoyed his cigars almost until the end of his life. His father had been a politician, a Tory in the House of Lords. Randolph Churchill, the father, made a misstep that ended his political career, but Winston felt his father had been treated unfairly. Many of Winston’s peers felt that Churchill spent his life trying to please his judgmental father, even after his father died. But despite family tradition, Winston did not want to be a Tory. He did not want to serve in the House of Lords. He felt that all the action was in the Commons.

Churchill was sometimes a Conservative, sometimes a Liberal, which is another way in which he was unique. He was not married to one political point of view. Some saw this as a lack of authenticity and conviction, but given that all politics is complicated and can be corrupt or get stuck in cultural ruts, Churchill’s prescience may have just helped him steer his way through social change. For example, Churchill, although a Conservative at times, believed that there would eventually have to be a social safety net (although he despised socialism). He mixed with all classes of the British people and he knew the protections they lacked. He sometimes represented the Labour Party and he had both sympathy and respect for people who labored. Until he saw the way women shared the burdens of war, he did not support giving women the vote. The war changed that particular view, possibly a last vestige of his Victorian upbringing. Being flexible allowed Churchill to thread his way around political roadblocks to get things done (sometimes). Backlash could also be fierce.

Winston Churchill was very much an imperialist. He loved the British Empire and many times he rationalized his military strategies as designed to preserve the empire. He did not just attend to Great Britain in the home isles. When he served in the cavalry he served in India. He escaped from a prison in South Africa when he was captured in a Boer War. England had a foothold in Egypt. He travelled to Canada. Although the Age of Imperialism was ending Churchill never wanted to neglect the far-flung lands he considered parts of the British Empire, although some leaders, like Gandhi in India, did not feel the same and wished for self-rule. By the time WWII ended so did the British Empire, and Great Britain became the small United Kingdom that it had once been. Churchill still believed great, educated, and civilized nations such as England had a responsibility to enlighten nations that were not as modern, well-ordered, and prosperous.

What did Churchill do to relax? He was a painter, actually a pretty good one. Museums have shown Churchill’s paintings. He would often bug out to some tropical locale, or mountain retreat, or to a wonderful estate in a desert place like Morocco and paint and swim and drink and smoke cigars. He tried to fly his own plane but eventually Parliament decided that it was too risky. He was also a butterfly enthusiast, and, something we judge harshly now, he was a wild game hunter. He was rarely wealthy, but he was invited everywhere by people who were. Churchill was a prolific writer. He wrote hefty historical tomes which are still considered classics. After a while he received valuable advances and his books made money for him, but he owned his beloved estate Chartwell which was a money pit. There was another more manual talent Churchill used at his estate; he could lay bricks.

Diaries attest that Churchill could be delightful, he could be irritating, he could be a sponge soaking up whatever was cogent and new, and he was capable of deep political and military analysis. His trademark humor popped up at moments some considered appropriate and others considered inappropriate, but the humor had the effect of keeping monumental events at human scale. His speeches were well-attended by both allies and detractors because they were powerful, outspoken, and funny, and just could not be missed. It seemed that Churchill did not really try to be a great man. He did feel that God put him on earth for an important reason (although he was not at all religious), and the whole world finally agreed when Hitler set out to gobble up every single person and nation in his path. Churchill had so many gifts that it is fairly easy to believe that he had a destiny and that he fulfilled it. He was not a perfect man, but he was, in every way, a larger-than-life man, a great man. I think that although being a polymath is something admired in modern times, Andrew Roberts makes his case that Churchill was definitely a polymath.

From Churchill: Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts

“He was protean. One of Churchill’s biographers, Robert Rhodes James, described him as a ‘politician, sportsman, artist, orator, historian, parliamentarian, journalist, essayist, gambler, soldier, war correspondent, adventurer, patriot, internationalist, dreamer, pragmatist, strategist, Zionist, imperialist, monarchist, democrat, egocentric, hedonist, romantic.’ He was indeed all of those, but to them might also be added: butterfly-collector, big-game hunter, animal-lover, newspaper editor, spy, bricklayer, wit, pilot, horseman, novelist and crybaby (this last the Duke and Duchess of Windsor’s nickname for him).” [I forgot to mention that  he was very emotional and tears often ran down his face as he spoke.]

“He viscerally hated Lenin, Trotsky and Hitler – but remarkably few others.”

“‘Absorbed in his own affairs,’ wrote Commander Tommy Thompson, his personal assistant throughout the Second World War, ‘he seemed to many people brusque, vain, intolerant, and overbearing.’ He could also be idiosyncratic, stubborn and an interfering micromanager. Several of these failings he turned into strengths, however, and some were necessary to help him through the crises he faced in peace and war. He could be intensely lovable, too, of course, when taken on his own terms.”

“Churchill’s written output was similarly immense. He published 6.1 million words in thirty-seven books – more than Shakespeare and Dickens combined – and delivered five million in public speeches, not counting his voluminous letter- and memorandum-writing, Partly because he was such a polymath and so prolific, he also seemed to be a mass of contradictions. His Atlantic Charter proclaimed a belief in democracy that did not extend to Indian independence; he championed the weak, but briefly believed in eugenics; he was a duke’s grandson who ended the peer’s veto; he ordered the Combined Bomber Offensive and loved butterflies; he was a rugged soldier who wore silk underwear; he crossed the floor of the Commons, not once but twice. (Pg. 972)

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Media Storehouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foreign Policy and the 2020 Election

Biden in Munich - CBS

Will we look for a President in 2020 with foreign policy roots close to the post WWII approach? Will we stay with Trump’s approach of isolationism and of undoing all the post-war organizations and alliances? Or will we look for a totally new approach to foreign policy?

On Tuesday, 2.19.19, when Mike Pence, the American VP said he was speaking at the Munich Security Conference on behalf of Donald Trump, the President of the United States of America, he waited for applause from the gathered world leaders after he passed on the greeting that Donald Trump had sent to his peers. There was only silence.

Also on Tuesday, 2.19.19, Joe Biden was interviewed live at the same Munich meeting. He is something that Trump is not. He’s nice; not soft-nice, but calm and nonconfrontational, unless confrontation is called for. What would happen if a President Biden was introduced at a Munich meeting? First of all, he would most likely be present at the meeting. Would there be applause? There was plenty of applause. Perhaps we should apply this test to each of the many candidates for President running as Democrats. What will their foreign policy be? How will they be received by our allies and our closely-held enemies?

When it comes to Joe Biden, I believe that we would find him continuing the post-World War II alliances and working with Europe to ensure peace; at least peace in Europe. I am not backing Joe Biden. He isn’t even running yet. But he could be expected to follow traditional guidelines for foreign policy. These policies are older than Biden and he knows the policies and our allies well.

After World War II Europe became ground zero for a tug of war between Russia and America, between capitalism/democracy and communism. For the past 70 years it seemed that America and the other world proponents of capitalism and democracy were winning nations over to these ideologies. We did not have a new war, but neither did we have peace. We ended up in a ‘Cold War’, that apparently did not end when the Iron Curtain parted.

As early as 1945 Churchill warned us that after WWII our temporary and very valuable ally, Russia, had turned its back on Western Europe already, taking most of Central and Eastern Europe with it. America and Russia conducted opposing campaigns to win new recruits to either communism or democracy. While the US offered economic prosperity and military security, Russia offered weapons and oil. For a while it seemed we were winning but now, not so much.

The USSR died a mostly economic death and split back into the satellite nations it had sucked up after World War II. These newly released nations had been split along unnatural geographic lines that divided the cultural groups which had learned to live peacefully within old national boundaries. Once released from Russian domination old hostilities that had festered since WW II, and while behind the Iron Curtain, reared their ugly heads and we had things like what happened with Croatia and Bosnia. This release of pent up hostilities was similar to what we saw in Iraq.

Our own President seems to back authoritarian states in Europe (while he tries to topple them in South America), and he smiles on Putin in Russia and makes us very nervous. There is also a huge backlash against capitalism in America on the left which complicates the outcome of the democratic/communist war for ascendancy even more. It looks like the future of the world may be authoritarian. Some leaders seem to want to bring back the monarchy. Others back a very loosely defined socialism.

There are many factors which have contributed to this decline in democracy and capitalism. With the more aggressive ideology of a newly empowered Putin who wishes to create a new Russia that looks a lot like the old USSR, with the arrival of the Great Recession which hit Europe rather hard, with the angers of people from austerity economies, the disruptions of terrorism, the waves of immigration as people escape cruel war in Syria, and the military moves by Russia in Georgia and the Ukraine, ‘strong men’ have begun to look attractive as chaos seems imminent. Authoritarianism, as we have seen, is on the rise. Will these new authoritarian states align with Russia or with the United States? Given that even president Trump seems to be more interested in aligning with Russia than any past President, the order imposed on the world after WWII, which never took into account the rise of the USSR, could easily dissolve.

Many have been critical of America’s aggressive moves to turn Europe towards capitalism and democracy. They have felt that our control in Europe has been antithetical to the values of a democracy and that we have often had selfish goals, as opposed to more altruistic ones. In fact, some even express horror and grief at mismoves we have made in our supposed diplomacy, although perhaps our worst moves have not occurred in Europe. Perhaps we did go off the rails a bit, but wanting a future that is democratic – is this still a goal people have? Capitalism, on the other hand, has become so rapacious that it will be overthrown if capitalists continue to refuse regulation. Although democracy is in more trouble at the moment, younger people are poised to exert pressures that may shift the target to capitalists.

What will happen in the world if we back off the agreements reached at the end of WWII? Is the UN obsolete? Is it weak and ineffective or secretly plotting a new world order? Which thing is true? Are we done with NATO? Should we loosen the bonds made after Hitler almost turned Europe into a white supremacist dictatorship? What will happen to the 70 years of “relative” peace our leaders forged after WW II? Were these protections essentially training wheels and the world is now ready to take them off? With “illiberal democracies” multiplying like flies this hardly seems like the moment to pull US bases out of Europe and make nice with Putin in Russia.

Will we look for a President in 2020 with foreign policy roots close to the post WWII approach, will we stay with Trump’s approach of isolationism and of undoing all the post war organizations and alliances, or will we look for a totally new approach to foreign policy? If so, what will it be? I want to hear each of the Democratic candidates on this topic. Should one person be able to set America’s foreign policy? We used to have a strong Department of State and a Congress that weighed in (sometimes too much so). How will foreign policy be handled in the future? Will we elect a person who will be applauded in Munich? If we don’t want an authoritarian future how must we proceed?

Photo Credits: From a Google Image Search – CBS

 

“Baby Ballerinas” of Journalism

Baby Ballerinas of Ice Skating

Sarah Hughes

Perhaps you follow the ice skating circuit of pre-Olympic style competitions that ranks the most proficient figure skaters in America and in the world. Perhaps you were tuning in during the 2000 season when a group of young skaters decided to leave the junior competitions early to try their luck on the senior circuit. These included female skaters like Michelle Kwan, Sasha Cohen, Tara Lipinski and Sarah Hughes. They were only 12 and 13 and they had already conquered triple axles and double loops, and more. They were so tiny and light that they flew through the air like baby birds.

https://goldenskate.com/2010/01/the-u-s-ladies-of-2000-where-are-they-now/

“But the big story was the baby ballerinas, as Dick Button so playfully called the bumper crop of pre-pubescent skaters who stormed onto the national scene on the ABC broadcast.  Five of the junior ladies from the 1999 Championships, including the four medalists, qualified for the senior ladies competition, and each were looking to make a name for herself against the reigning queen of U.S. Figure Skating.”

(This article has a list of  the ‘baby ballerinas’.)

Baby Ballerinas of Journalism

Katy Tur Adweek

hallie-jackson-Duke University

kasie hunt You Tube

So what, you might say. The baby ballerinas are old news. What does ice skating have to do with journalism anyway? But during the 2016 election campaign we met a trio of ‘baby ballerina’ journalists. Of course they weren’t 12 or 13, but they seemed so young and fresh as they did on-site reporting and traveled along with the campaigns. Sadly most of the baby ballerinas of ice skating fizzled out rather early, except of course Michelle Kwan who was amazing, and Tara Lipinski who also was an award winner. (There is not total agreement about who actually was in the group of ‘baby ballerinas’.).

But fizzling out is not what has happened to the baby ballerina journalists: Katy Tur, Hallie Jackson, and Kasie Hunt. In 2019 each of these three poised young women now has a show of her own on MSNBC. They each have married. Katy Tur will soon have a baby and at least one of these young ladies has already gone through a divorce. Their youth, confidence, comfort with broadcast news, and their energy has allowed these three young women to rise quickly through the ranks. These qualities also make them valuable subs for more established news figures on the network, which helps keep them popular with veteran news commentators. It has been interesting to watch the steep trajectories of their careers since the bad old days of the 2016 election campaign (it was a tough campaign). Hopefully they will not share the fate of some of the precocious baby ballerinas of ice skating, but will enjoy long and illustrious careers in journalism, something that is not at all guaranteed these days.

Photo Credits: From Google Image Searches:  Ice Skater, Sarah Hughes, Journalists, in order, Katy Tur-Adweek, Hallie Jackson-Duke U., Kasie Hunt-YouTube

Howard Schultz for President???

Howard Schultz - CBS News

When Howard Schultz announced that he was thinking about running for President in 2020 he came at me out of the blue. I do not keep up with corporate leaders, except the most obvious ones, like those who made their fortunes in technology. I realized I knew nothing about him, except he was introduced as the retired CEO of Starbucks. I also knew very little about Starbucks as a company except that you can find one almost anywhere. Starbucks hit my small city very late and just at the same moment that Tim Horton’s Coffee shops (of Canada) were being built and Dunkin’ Donuts was making big moves in our small market. When New York passed the $15.00/hour minimum wage (to be phased in), Starbucks abruptly pulled out, but given all the competition, the reason for pulling out may not have been a result of the new law. The reason is actually unknown to me. Tim Horton’s pulled out at the same time. However Dunkin’ Donuts kept expanding and is still building new coffee shops here.

It turns out that things I have learned about Howard Schultz make him a fairly unusual CEO because he has shown a willingness to offer social and financial programs for his employees (who he calls partners) and has shown a cultural consciousness that is out-of-step with these times, when most businesses seem to have cut back on employee perks.

An Abbreviated Timeline

In 1988, he offered full health benefits to eligible full- and part-time employees, including coverage for domestic partnerships.

In 1991 he offered a stock option program which was even open to part-time employees.

In 1992 he took the company public with an IPO.

In 1998 he opened in underserved neighborhoods through a joint-venture partnership with Magic Johnson.

He also started the CUP fund, an emergency financial assistance fund for partners (employees).

In 1999 Schultz bought Tazo Tea. He joined with Conservation International to promote sustainable coffee-growing practices. He bought Hear Music. He also signed a licensing agreement with TransFair USA to sell Fair Trade certified coffee in the US and Canada.

In 2002 he made Wi Fi available.

In 2006 his stores began using the 1st paper beverage cup containing post-consumer recycled fiber.

In 2007 he eliminated the use of artificial trans-fat and switched to 2% milk for all espresso beverages.

In 2008, Howard Schultz became the CEO (new title) and adopted a new mission statement, “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.” He opened Starbuck’s first online community, joined Twitter, and debuted the Starbucks Facebook page.

In 2009 Schultz opened the first Farmer Support Center in Kigali, Rwanda.

In 2010 customers got unlimited free Wi Fi.

In 2011 the company celebrated its 40 th anniversary with a Global Month of Service.

He opened two community stores, one in Harlem, one in the Crenshaw neighborhood, also a second Farmer Support Center in Mbeya, Tanzania. He launched Create Jobs for USA to encourage small business.

In 2012 Schultz opened Farmer Support Centers in Manizales, Columbia and Yunnan, China. He bought Teavana.

In 2013 Schultz opened a coffee-farming research and development center in Costa Rica to strengthen ethical-sourcing.

He reinforced his commitment to marriage equality.

In 2014 he launched Starbucks College Achievement Plan with Arizona State University giving partners an opportunity to complete a college degree through ASU’s online degree program.

He hosted a series of Partner open forums to discuss race relations in America after a misstep that was creating waves in the media.

In 2015 Starbucks stock split for the sixth time.

Schultz committed to hiring 10,000 opportunity youth by 2018.

He expanded Starbucks college achievement plan to offer full tuition coverage for all four years of an undergraduate degree program to qualifying Starbucks partners hoping for up to 25,000 degrees by 2025.

He achieved the goal of 99% ethically-sourced coffee.

This time line ended in 2015.

https://www.starbucks.com/about-us/company-information/starbucks-company-timeline

Corporate Expansion

The same source offers these facts: Howard Schultz joined Starbucks in 1982 as Director and bought Starbucks in 1987. By the end of 1987 there were 17 Starbucks “stores”. By the middle of 2015 the number was 22,519 and by 2018, a Google search says the number is over 28,000. In 1982 there were “stores” in the US and Canada only. By 2015 there were “stores” in 67 countries. (Most “stores” are coffee shops.)

Observations

Clearly Howard Schultz is a very good businessman. He did not just build coffee shops; he acquired roasting facilities, he answered the demand that coffee beans be purchased through fair trade arrangements, he went to the countries that grew coffee and opened farmer support centers, he made sure that he opened and could control his own research and development center in the interests of quality, but also in the interests of using coffee that was ethically-sourced. Other than that he just sort of stamped out Starbucks shops everywhere, and it also seems he was willing to close shops that were not profitable.

He was willing to install certain progressive programs to benefit his employees. Employees who reviewed Starbucks online praised the health plans offered by the company. He was willing to treat all couples, same-sex, traditional, even unmarried, as couples for the purposes of health insurance. Stock options, if affordable, could have offered good returns (even great returns). And free college, although a fairly recent offering, is something most retail companies do not offer, although some offer help with college expenses. Obviously he gets points for having a social conscience.

What bothers me is the Capitalist “imperialism” of  a policy of manifest destiny that insists on planting Starbucks retail outlets in more and more locations and in more and more nations. Coffee has appealed to humans ever since it left the lands of its origin and came into general use. People love their coffee. Many nations had excellent indigenous coffees before Starbucks arrived on the scene. How many of these coffee customs have lost ground, and how much homogeneity has entered the world coffee scene? There is a race to monopolize the coffee market evident in this kind of aggressive expansion that seems a bit piggy. How many coffee shops will be enough for Howard Schultz? Will he be able to quit his obsession with world conquest if he becomes President or will it end up being Trump 2.0, at least in terms of conducting a personal business while running the government. Although Howard Schultz has retired what will he do if his business falls on hard times.

Another thing that really bothered me about Howard Schultz was his insistence that he would like to be a centrist, although he ran his business as someone who is somewhat progressive. And then he had a strong negative reaction when he was asked about raising taxes. He gave a  response typical of a billionaire, who had worked hard and believed he deserved to keep what he had earned with the sweat of his brow or the brain cells in his well-educated brain. He didn’t give much credit to his beloved “partners” (employees) who made his retail operation function and allowed him to conquer markets around the world. He is only one person. He could not have met his grand expectations all alone. If you look up salaries of Starbucks employees, they are not terrible, but they are also not great. Waiters/Waitresses make about $5.45/hour, not counting tips. Baristas make from $8 to $12/hour based on length of service. What employees complained about most was a lack of opportunities to advance. To advance you have to leave, but you can now leave with a college degree that is paid for, which is something.

https://www.glassdoor.com/Hourly-Pay/Starbucks-Barista-Hourly-Pay-E2202_D_KO10,17.htm

https://www.indeed.com/cmp/Starbucks/reviews

I admire what Howard Schultz has been able to accomplish, at the same time I find myself a bit nauseated by the excessive and obsessive number of shops he has felt driven to build, staff, and brand. Personally I will not vote for any millionaire or billionaire who thinks they profited completely by their own efforts, who chose to expand instead of sharing the wealth with employees, and who thinks raising taxes on the very wealthy is shocking and something they would never consider, even as they were supposed to consider the needs of our entire nation. Such a person would come to office with a bias that would not allow them freedom of action.

An additional objection came almost immediately from the media who expressed a belief that if Howard Schultz runs as an Independent,  putting a third party in play, it will make if more likely that Trump will win a second term. If people are told that Howard Schultz was the marketer who gave Starbucks such a well-known brand and such an enormous market presence, with big profits from sales of items that cost relatively small amounts, chances are many voters will check no further. They may think that they can trade in a tainted tycoon for a shinier one. The newest Democrats have no problem with Schultz running. They would like to see more political parties offering candidates to voters. As for me, I won’t mind seeing more parties and more choices but I think this may be a bad time to make that move. I don’t even want to wait until 2020 to be done with 45. Four more years after that makes me think that one more election cycle with only two major political parties would be just fine, as it gives us the best chance to elect #46, who is highly unlikely to be an Independent.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – CBS News

 

Everyone Has Something to Say About the Democrats

crazy Dems Fox News

The Democrats – the Focus of Some Fascination

Democrats have become the focus of lots of attention since 2018. Some of this focus is actually because, against all Republican attempts to rig the system in their favor (voter suppression, gerrymandering, propagandizing), Democrats managed to elect a majority to the House of Representatives. Some of this attention arises from the shock of a party who thought they had set up a situation where they would be the majority party in perpetuity going forward. Republicans felt that they had begun the dissolution of the Democratic Party. There was also shock on the part of our president whose ego kept telling him that he was universally beloved.

Republicans clearly will want to attack Democrats in any way they can, in hopes that winning these seats in the House is merely an anomaly or that a blue wave can easily turn red again. Republicans who make all party members memorize “talking points”  and pass purity tests are astonished and entertained at the diversity among Democrats and thrilled to speculate that trying to embrace so many voices will be the Party’s downfall.

And the new Democrats, who are seen as almost radicals even by more moderate Democrats, are swimming against lots of speculation in the media about whether the party is actually a big enough tent to include all of the different levels of policy that exist under that tent without splintering in enough pieces to make reelection of Trump inevitable.

The media seems almost as gleeful as the Republican Party at the prospect of a Democratic Party in disarray. They have made Alexandria Ocasio Cortez a darling of the media, but not always out of interest in what she espouses, but rather to present her as the new, extremely radical face of the newest members of the Democratic Party. She also has plenty of poise and gives a very good interview, which adds to her appeal.

Media seems to be setting up a radical v moderate Democratic race for 2020, possibly to split the Democratic vote. Why does the media want to split the Democratic vote? Much of the media is aghast at the behavior and policies of our current president. Is it all about drama and ratings? It is not as if these new ideas have not already been put into place in other modern nations. Many modern nations have far better safety nets than our supposedly enlightened nation does and they function without constant means testing and angst about abuse.

How much do the media’s attempts to get enough information to predict future outcomes contribute to determining future outcomes? We can see that modern media can persuade voters to hold a particular point of view. Given this power it is clear that the media could also function to downplay the distance between younger and older members of the Democratic Party, to help integrate the two views, which are really not as distant as they have been made to appear. Even supposedly objective media figures seem to be playing up the distances between platforms in the Democratic Party.

There has already been much discussion about “socialism”, about AOC’s outspokenness, about radical and outrageous policy ideas like Medicare for All, taxing the rich. Our president remarks, on no less an occasion than the State of the Union address, that we cannot expect to have any legislation going on in Congress at all as long as there are investigations being conducted in the House. The policies that the new members of Congress subscribe to evoke strong reactions. Heresy! Sacrilege! Impossible! Will explode the deficit! Yikes!

Playing Defense

But consider the policies the Democrats have already been pursuing: validity of the Trump election, foreign intervention in an American election, collusion to invite foreign intervention in an American election, is the President of the US a criminal, has the President of the US violated the Constitution of the United States, ending voter suppression strategies including extreme gerrymandering, protecting health care (both the ACA and women’s reproductive health), protecting our alliances, protecting the UN, protecting the environment, protesting systemic economic inequality, immigration policies and secure borders, laws about guns to prevent mass shootings, areas of concern that have arisen from having a white supremacist in the presidency such as racism, the #metoo movement as pushback from having a misogynist in the presidency, pushback against appointments of people whose beliefs are antithetical to the agencies they head, reform of overly zealous and racially uneven imprisonment realities.

It is a long list of Democratic concerns, but all of these issues have tended to be the defensive actions of a party that does not have a majority in power. I don’t remember a time when there were so many policies where approaches were so divided along partisan lines. I believe that Republicans are deliberately partisan and unwilling to compromise and that they have a purpose in mind, an undemocratic purpose, which is to make the policies of the right the basis of our entire governance once and for all. I believe that we are basically in a war to determine what “future-America” will be like.

Our president chastises Democrats and insists that they present him with a bipartisan solution to secure our southern border. But the President has already dictated what laws and offerings he will accept. He requires that any border security arrangements include a wall, not something about which there is bipartisan agreement. Therefore, he has already made bipartisanship an impossibility and has bought himself more opportunities to impugn Democrats for being stubborn and inflexible, although the same adjectives surely apply to Trump.

Playing Offense

New Democrats in the House could be seen as simply upping the ante in the Party wars which have been steadily escalating in this past decade. New Democrats do not want to be on the defense. They say why don’t we play some offense. Since the Republicans think they have us on the ropes, why not play a little rope-a-dope. AOC says “we can be audacious”. Perhaps she is saying that Democrats have plenty to lose by playing it safe, by simply trying to plug the holes that Republicans are blowing in the protections we have for “we the people”, and by passing policies that blast new holes in protections the people rely on to keep them from exploitation, poverty, and labor abuse. Without a majority in any branch of government, defense was the Party’s only move. But this is a new day, winning the House in 2018 has perhaps given Dems enough encouragement to go on the offensive. The people may be more than ready to accept things that have never actually been offered before.

Medicare-for-all, for example, if implemented could prove as difficult to overturn as any other useful social program. Republicans are not the only ones who oppose it, although they will be fierce in their opposition. Americans may not like the idea of giving up their private health insurance especially if an employer pays. Americans are being told that they will have long waits for treatment and the options for treatment will be curtailed. The private health insurance industry will not go ‘gently into that good night.’ There are many obstacles. However single payer insurance is available in almost every modern industrialized nation so there is plenty of evidence that it can be successful. It will be labelled a socialist program, and the very whiff of socialism, considered anathema by Republicans, may be enough to kill the idea for most Americans.

But Paul Krugman had a few things to say on this topic in this morning’s NYT.

“What Americans who support “socialism” actually want is what the rest of the world calls social democracy: A market economy, but with extreme hardship limited by a strong social safety net and extreme inequality limited by progressive taxation. They want us to look like Denmark or Norway, not Venezuela.”…

“On the other hand, we should never discount the power of dishonesty. Right-wing media will portray whomever the Democrats nominate for president as the second coming of Leon Trotsky, and millions of people will believe them. Let’s just hope that the rest of the media report the clean little secret of American socialism, which is that it isn’t radical at all.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/07/opinion/trump-socialism-state-of-the-union.html

Just the mention of raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans makes Republicans speechless, if you can imagine that. And the Green New Deal strikes people who don’t believe climate change is caused by human activity as a direct attack on Capitalism and also impossible.

A homeowner with a bully pulpit on the Washington Post opinion page, Megan McArdle, wrote an article today to share how expensive renovation on her own home has been and what had to be done to make her home more energy efficient. She’s right. If we have to pay to retrofit our homes with efficient windows and doors, adequate insulation, solar panels, efficient heating systems, etc. most of us cannot afford to comply with any Green New Deal that requires such things. The Green New Deal seeks to make us rely less on private automobiles and trucks and more reliant on mass transit. This shift will be a difficult one for most Americans. What if the world begins to put pressure on nations that are energy hogs? What if climate change becomes absolutely impossible to ignore? Will that make a Green New Deal more palatable?

The author of the WaPo article says that implementing such policies quickly will inspire chaos and anger. Perhaps if government subsidizes some of these changes they will likely be met with less anxiety, but a slow step-by-step approach could bypass much social upheaval. Will speed of implementation prove to be necessary? How much time will environmental changes allow us? This author also raised the specter of guaranteed pay, another Progressive ask, being greeted with cheers by deadbeats. However there are people who cannot work for many valid reasons. Why should they have to jump through stigmatizing hoops because some people abuse any social program? Why should all social programs be twisted to assume that everyone will want to abuse the system?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/were-nuts-isnt-a-great-pitch-for-a-green-new-deal/2019/02/07/f605b220-2b2f-11e9-984d-9b8fba003e81_story.html

There was also this cartoon this morning, which offers AOC a bit of support:

I am not allowed to capture it, so use the following link to see it.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/02/08/how-is-it-that-occasio-cortez-is-one-described-irresponsible/

Conclusions

So we are most likely to continue to be inundated by speculations about that Democratic Party full of voices that are all saying different things at the same time. The problem will be not to set a platform in stone until Dems see how public opinion is trending in 2020. By the time of the Democratic convention we can hope that some kind of policy platform is decided on that is acceptable to all members of the party and gives Dems an electable set of initiatives. Too bad Dem party heads are not as good at creating consensus of action (if not thought) as Nancy Pelosi is. There is nothing to be gained from being a meek party, a party on defense. It does seems that if you don’t want the ‘less’ agenda of the Republican Party it is time to go all out and ask for the ‘more’ agenda of the Democratic Socialists. Compromising from the right to the middle is unlikely to solve any of America’s current issues. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez seems to have ideas that offer the most juice for Democrats. Why not be audacious?

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Fox News