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Posts Tagged ‘Vladimir Putin’

Anthony Scaramucci, a leftover from the cutting room floor of “Goodfellas” is hired and fired by Donald Tinyhands in the span of ten days. The White House Chief of Staff and the White House Communications Director are unceremoniously jettisoned during that same day period. Nowhere is it written in the Constitution that the White House cannot be a circus act. There is no clause or amendment which prevents the President of the United States from turning his/her administration into, by turns, a vulgar, bizarre or ludicrous set of sideshows that would make the most jaded vaudevillian blush.

The last several Point of View columns have pointed out that that burlesque-like chaos in the White House should be viewed as a sideshow lest we take our eyes off what is really going on during the first six months of the Trump presidency. While SNL writers rub their hands with glee every time Kelly Ann Conway or Sean Spicer or Anthony Scaramucci have executed rhetorical pratfalls every time a microphone is near, the soundtrack for this madness could easily feature the Temptations “Ball of Confusion” as its theme song.

While Donald Tinyhands plays the part of maestro while the West Wing staff plays musical chairs on hoverboards, the blood soaked regime Kim Jong-un in North Korea threatens this country with a nuclear holocaust. While President Trump touts the record gains on Wall Street, unemployment and job growth, he recalls the rooster who takes credit for the sunrise, since he clearly believes that no one is aware that he Administration is riding the wave of economic growth and progress that began 7 years ago during the Obama Administration.

Meanwhile, Russia has imposed the harshest diplomatic sanctions on the United States since 1917. As the Trump administration has misplayed it hand when it comes to sanctions vs. rapprochement with Russia, Vladimir Putin is clearly outplaying President Trump at every turn.

Nevertheless, the Trump White House Follies have become Must See TV for anyone who has a passing interest in what the hell is going on in this country. Anyone who has ever managed a company, government agency or candy store knows that stability and predictability in that management is critical to the success of the enterprise. The fact that Donald Trump has tried to graft his cult of personality onto the American presidency bespeaks a level of pathological narcissism not seen in the American White House in history of the Republic.

Quite frankly, the narcissism and self-adulation and infantile demands for personal loyalty would not be such a problem if Trump was able to produce results that benefited the American people. But unless you believe that demolishing environmental protection regulations, reviving the era of mass incarceration and managing to alienate the leadership of most countries on the planet are accomplishments, it is pretty clear that “failure” and “Trump” will be synonyms in the dictionaries of the future.

Even the hard core of the hard core supporters of Donald Tinyhands have to be asking where is the wall? Where is the replacement for Obamacare? Where are the new jobs in our shuttered factories? And, exactly when is America going to be great again?
The takeaway lesson from what historians will one day refer to as “The Trump Tragedy”, is that elections do matter? Participatory democracy, but so is participatory politics.

Barely half of the Americans eligible to vote did so in the 2016 elections – and less than half of those who voted cast their ballot for Donald Trump.

What has happened is that a motivated, dedicated and desperate minority has hijacked the American government, leaving most Americans in the unenviable position of clinging to the desperate hope that 2018 and/or 2018 will make a difference.

Perhaps it will. But wishing will not make it so.

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Clearly the one of the life missions of the Teapublican Chicken Hawks is to get the United States involved in another war – anywhere. There is no other reasonable explanation for the bellicose saber rattling that we are hearing from the right wing of the right wing. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton must have sipped some Teapublican Kool-Aid by going so far as to compare Russian President Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler. And, not to be outdone, Teapublican Congressman Darrell Issa has proved by his behavior that there is no limit to rudeness, crudeness or barbaric conduct in the congressional right wing of the right wing.

The “Freedom Loving” People of Ukraine

To hear Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham and their Teapublican colleagues tell it, the United States has some kind of moral imperative to intervene militarily in the Ukraine. This is the same John McCain who went to Syria and posed for photo ops with a known Al Qaeda operative, and the same Lindsay Graham who thought that it would be a good idea to put “boots on the ground” in Libya.

The facts are that the relationship between Russian and the Ukraine is complicated, to be charitable. And any policeman will tell you that intervening in a domestic dispute is dangerous business.

And we should be clear that the “freedom loving” peoples of Ukraine boast a robust anti-Semitic population segment and they are very vocal and very active. These same “freedom loving” people have no problems calling black soccer players “monkeys” and worse in their Ukraine stadiums.

And one has to wonder exactly who are what American troops would be fighting for in a worst case scenario?

Hillary’s Misstep

Virtually every political expert concedes the fact that Hillary Clinton will run for president. The problem with being the early prohibitive frontrunner is that such a candidate is forced to comment on anything and everything in order to establish bona fides on this issue or that one which may come in handy when the real campaign begins.

That may explain why Ms. Clinton felt compelled to say anything about the faux Crimean crisis (faux in terms of direct American interests). Endeavoring to demonstrate that no potential Democrat (or Republican) will be able to impugn her willingness to project “strength”, she compare Russian President Putin’s tactics in Ukraine to Adolf Hitler’s tactics in Austria and Czechoslovakia.

This was wrong on so many levels. We can begin with the fact that the relationship between Russian and Ukraine is complicated and similar to the German/Austrian/Czechoslovakian situation optically, but not substantively. But it is also wrong because to compare Putin to Hitler because the Russians lost 30 million people in a war with Hitler’s Germany and that particular comparison is grotesque insult that is stained with stunning insensitivity and ignorance of history.

There are many reasons why Hillary Clinton might be a great president; her comments regarding Putin and Hitler are not part of that list.

Barbarians in the House

Less than two weeks ago at a House Oversight Committee meeting Chairman Darrell Issa decided that he had had enough of Congressman Elijah Cummings so he peremptorily adjourned the meeting and ordered that Congressman Cummings’ microphone be cut off. Just like that.

It should not come as news that yet another Teapublican, this time Congressman Issa, seems to have majored in rudeness and minored in crudeness in a previous life. Partisanship in Congress is approaching the levels of blood sport and it is clear that there is very little benefit to the American people coming from this.

There will be commentary about there being raucous and reckless and rude behavior on “both sides of the aisle” but it will be hard to find comparisons to Congressman Issa’s behavior or that of Congressman Joe “You Lie” Wilson on the progressive side of the aisle.

Clearly on the Planet Teapublican being right makes it alright.

Have a great weekend – stay strong and be great!

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Recent events in Ukraine have resulted in predictable, though bizarre, reaction in the United States. Suddenly people who couldn’t spell “Ukraine” if you spotted them a “k” and a “U” are clamoring for President Obama to take bold action. American politicians who couldn’t find Crimea on a map with the aid of Google maps now make the argument that American interests are at stake because of the invasion tactics employed by Russia.

The rest of the world must find the United States to be increasingly odd in its world view. Because it is the United States that has invaded Iraq and Afghanistan because it believed that its national interests called for such action. And, going back just a little further in time it was the United States that invaded Grenada and Panama for the same reasons of self-interest and continues to beleaguer the Republic of Cuba because its sociopolitical structure is not to the liking of a very loud and very vocal minority in this country.

Of course that is just relatively recent U.S. history. A further review of this country’s invasions and incursions include the occupation of Haiti and the annexation of Texas along with the overthrow of the democratically elected government in Iran at the behest of oil interests. The point is, the United States is the historical invading pot that should have difficulty calling any other invading kettle black.

The reality of the Planet Earth is that countries take actions to protect and preserve what they perceive as their national interests. Russia has taken actions in the Ukraine that certainly have a plausible connection to that country’s perceived national interests however inconvenient that particular truth might be. And, as noted, the United States is one of the last countries on earth that should criticize another country that utilizes military action to protect and preserve those national interests.

But, never letting reality getting in the way of an opportunity to attack President Barack Obama, the Teapublicans are now claiming that Russian President Vladimir Putin felt emboldened to invade Ukraine because of some undefined weakness that President Obama has shown. These same Teapublicans conveniently forget that President Putin also felt emboldened to invade Georgia when Republican President George W. Bush resided in the White House. Perhaps Mr. Putin doesn’t really care what the United States thinks when he acts on behalf of his country.

Nevertheless, we are being showered with by the Teapublican noise machine with the usual suspects, chicken hawk Senator Lindsay Graham, twice failed presidential candidate Senator John McCain and has been wannabe celebrity Sarah Palin claiming that President Obama is not demonstrating “leadership”. Their thought process must embrace the notion that the only leadership that counts is leading a country into war even as President Obama has been leading this country away from war and perilous military actions.

Another failed presidential candidate, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has contended that President Obama hasn’t shown “leadership” because he takes too long to think and consider various options and that he consults with his advisors to excess. He favorably compares Vladimir Putin as a “leader” because he makes up his mind quickly and acts.

One would think that after the disasters of Afghanistan and Iraq the one thing that the American people want, and the one thing that this country needs, is a leader who thinks about the consequences of acting before acting. If it were up to the Teapublican chicken hawks the United States would be mired in wars in Libya, Syria, Ukraine and North Korea right now. And if it were up to these same Teapublican chicken hawks more Americans would be killed and maimed, more of this country’s wealth would be squandered and the security of this planet would be all the worse for these actions.

History will show that by being a thoughtful and deliberative president, Barack Obama has been a good steward of the White House. Although it is doubtful that the Teapublicans who are determined that All Things Obama Are Bad will ever come to that realization.

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The New Year has transitioned seamlessly from 2013 with double standards in full bloom. Most recently former NBA star Dennis Rodman has led a delegation of basketball players to North Korea as part of a cultural exchange program. It is not clear what North Korea is offering to exchange but Rodman’s sojourn has lifted the steel curtain that surrounds that country just a bit allowing for the possibility of light of inquiry and the air of communication to slip in. And for that, Dennis Rodman and his colleagues have been excoriated by members of the American press.

In the view of some commentators, by merely setting foot in North Korea, Dennis Rodman is providing some kind of tacit endorsement of that country’s government and its peerless and apparently brutal leader Kim Jong-un. In condemning Rodman it appears that the naysayers are simply not willing to take his words at face value while also refusing to face the realities of world politics.

If American cultural exchange initiatives were to be limited to countries whose policies and practices are completely acceptable to the American people there would be very few countries left off the “no fly” list. Political opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin have routinely disappeared or ended up in Siberia. Yet an American delegation is at this very moment packing its bags to participate in the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Israel is routinely acknowledged to be the key and primary ally of the United States in the Middle East. The partnership between Israel and this country is historic and institutional. Yet, in 1967 Israel attacked and sank the American navy vessel U.S.S. Liberty killing 34 Americans. An apology was issued and accepted and both countries found a way to move on.

Moving on, there are virtually limitless claims of human rights abuses taking place in China. The Chinese government has imprisoned dissenters and simply does not acknowledge any criticism of its practices and shows no signs of changing in the near, or far, future. Yet most American observers contend that continued engagement with China offers the best chance of meaningful and institutional change in that country.

Accepting the fact that Dennis Rodman is better known for his outrageous conduct, clothing and hairstyles, there is every reason to believe that only someone like Dennis Rodman could gain admittance to North Korea and achieve some measure of communication with Kim Jon-un. There really doesn’t seem to be a downside to whatever inroads that he and his band of ball players might make since they are clearly not diplomats and they are just as clearly not endorsing anything.

But just as a generation ago a series of ping pong matches opened the way for formal diplomatic relations between the United States and the People’s Republic of China, is it too farfetched to imagine that basketball diplomacy might succeed in prying open a door to actual communications between two countries that have spent over half a century demonizing each other?

There may be many reasons to criticize Dennis Rodman – role model he is not – but his role in changing the interaction between the U.S. and North Korea may turn out to be more meaningful than all of his NBA championship rings.

 

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It appears that, for the moment, the Obama Administration has avoided the potential twin disasters of involving this country in yet another war-not-war in the Arab-Muslim world while simultaneously being repudiated by a majority of the people who voted for President Obama in 2012. In a scene straight out of “The Perils of Pauline”, none other than Vladimir Putin stepped in and put forward a proposal to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal. Fortunately, the Obama Administration put a leash on its military dog and agreed to stand down.

We will now witness a series of diplomatic and political maneuverings that may or may not result in the destruction of Syria’s weapons of mass destruction. In the meantime we cautiously hope that President Obama will not come to the conclusion that he has to declare another “red line” as justification for this country committing unilateral acts of war.

While we can slowly exhale as this country grudgingly retreats from the brink of yet another war without end, we should take a moment to determine how this dilemma came about. We have been told that somehow, after the death of over 100,000 Syrians, the use of chemical weapons finally made this multi-year massacre too horrible. The fact that the United Nations had not as yet come to this conclusion was brushed aside with talk of the “moral imperative” that makes this country “exceptional”.

It is always dangerous to believe in any person or any country being infallible. It is also dangerous for the President of the United States to seriously believe that the unilateral use of military force is justifiable even when the security of this country is not directly (or indirectly threatened). And it is definitely dangerous for us to believe that we won’t find this country slip sliding to another blood soaked precipice under this president or a future president, unless and until the people of this country start to rethink this whole business of “exceptionalism”.

Historically speaking there are certainly “exceptional” aspects pertaining to the establishment of representative government, however flawed that government was at the outset, even to this day. But there is nothing particularly exceptional about countenancing the slavery of black Americans.

And there is nothing noteworthy about a governmental policy of genocide committed against Native Americans or denying suffrage to women for over a century or a legalized apartheid system that succeeded slavery and whose vestiges remain to this day. And there is certainly nothing “exceptional” about a country that acknowledges incredible economic and quality of life disparities as the “American Way”.

This country is made up of many good people who desire a just and fair society – however that may be defined. But the people of this country have an “exceptional” capacity for believing that unilateral American military action makes sense to the rest of the world. And Americans have the further “exceptional” capacity for believing that any retaliation is unjust, unwarranted and deserving of further retaliation. Of course, this is exactly how wars have been started since the beginning of time.

The United States of America should not be branded as either the Policeman of the Planet or the Global Bully. There is no reason for this country to undertake the Sisyphean task of ridding this world of cruelty and injustice by itself. Aside from the fact that it is virtually impossible to tell the “good guys” from the “bad guys” in Syria or elsewhere, there are also legions of lobbyists and professional persuaders who will advance one cause or another based upon fees that are paid for their services.

Engaging in a bit of alternative history one wonders on whose side these United States would intervene in a war between its ally England and the colonist terrorists of America? And who would these United States support in a protracted civil war between the Confederacy that was committed to self-determination and the economically and militarily superior Union? Perhaps a negotiated settlement would have been preferable?

The point is, of course, that the world is complicated. Its problems are vexing. And solutions rarely come out of the barrel of a gun or at the tip of a Tomahawk missile.

We can hope that President Obama, and future presidents, have learned a lesson as this country has hopefully averted another potentially bloody disaster.

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Ever since he was elected president, we knew that Barack Obama’s reelection campaign would be different. We had no idea……from Sarah “Lock and Load” Palin to Rick “Oops” Perry to Herman “Pizza Man” Cain, the Teapublicans have emptied the barrel in an effort to find the ABO candidate, Anybody But Obama. And scraping the bottom of the barrel, the G.O.Tea Party presents us with Mitt “Etch and Sketch” Romney, a political weather vane with millions of dollars stashed around the world. Really?

There are so many bizarre aspects of Mitt Romney and his overseas accounts. We could start with the fact that this is the first time in memory that a person has run for president of the United States with multiple multi-million dollar accounts in Switzerland, the Cayman Islands and Lord knows where else. While it is not illegal for Mr. Romney to put his money anyplace in the world, one would think that the American people would be a little uncomfortable with a president who hedges his bets on America by placing considerable sums of money abroad.

And before Teapublican zealots begin to foam at the mouth because someone is besmirching the sacred cause of capitalism, think of the furor that would have consumed whole sections of this country if it turned out that President and Michelle Obama had Swiss bank accounts. This would have been seen as absolute proof that Barack Obama was some kind of Muslim Manchurian Candidate and calls for impeachment would ring from sea to shining sea.

It is also worth considering what the world reaction would be to a United States president who kept untold millions of dollars in secret bank accounts in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands (we just don’t know about the Isle of Man, Vanuatu and other havens for the tax averse, the secretive and the wealthy individuals who are obsessed with amassing great wealth and then hiding it). It may be perfectly legal but appearances mean something too.

It is doubtful that Angela Merkel of Germany and Vladimir Putin of Russia have Swiss bank accounts. We do know that former Nigerian dictator General Sani Abacha had Swiss bank accounts. We do know that Congolese president for life Mobutu Sese Seko had Swiss bank accounts. We can safely assume that former Liberian president, Charles Taylor (recently convicted of war crimes), had a Swiss bank account.

Other heads of state that have had Swiss bank accounts would include Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, Juan Peron of Argentina and Jean-Bedel Bokassa of the Central African Republic. This would be truly strange company for the president of the United States to be keeping.

Mr. Romney and his cast of defenders and apologists will point out that all of his financial dealings are “perfectly legal” and indeed they may well be. But it is fair to wonder if the code of conduct for the president of the United States should simply entail his/her staying within the boundaries of the law pursuant to the advice of well-compensated lawyers who specialize in taking clients right up the line of legality.

There is no compelling reason for Mitt Romney and his wife to have millions of dollars deposited in accounts in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands except to avoid tax consequences. Certainly Mr. Romney cannot be worried about the safety and security of American banks.

Mitt Romney has been quoted as saying that he pays all the taxes that he is required to pay “and not a penny more”. That doesn’t sound like the patriotic attitude that built this country, it sounds like someone who wants to get the benefits of living in the United States on the cheap.

And it is also worth asking what, if anything, is Mitt Romney doing with his great wealth aside from building more mansions than he can ever need and two Cadillacs for his wife? After all, he has claimed that wealthy people are the “job creators” of this country. But we have yet to learn of firms or businesses or start up ventures in which he has invested his personal wealth. It doesn’t seem like he has been pushing the job creation button for quite awhile, if he ever did.

United States Supreme Court Chief Justice once said “taxes are the price that we pay for a civilized society”. Clearly Mr. Romney either wants the discount version of civilization for you and for me or he just wants you and me to pay for it – not him and his family.

Remember November 6th!

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