Friday, June 28, 2019

Take Back Your Tired, Your Poor

Next newspaper column:
Behold the newly-made greatness of Trump’s America: Ben Ferencz, last surviving prosecutor of Nazis during the Nuremburg trials, calls Trump’s policy of separating refugee children from their families “a crime against humanity.” He should know. 
And that was before we heard of hundreds of children crowded into foul-smelling detention facilities designed for far fewer, without soap, toothbrushes, showers, or beds. His remarks were also before a DOJ lawyer testified to Congress that kids really don’t need those things. Another 3,500 are being held in for-profit “facilities.” 
Behold the greatness of Trumpists’ America: “They’re children of criminals,” some have said. “They deserve what they’re getting.” In fact, they’re children of desperate refugees, of whom Jesus is reputed to have spoken favorably. 
Rather than considering the outrage itself, rightists attack those who’ve called those places concentration camps. Which is consistent with their general rejection of facts. If climate change, why not dictionaries? 
Outrage. Attorneys had to force Border Patrol agents to hospitalize children dying before their eyes. Unresponsive. “Eyes rolled back in her head.” Absent adequate help, older children are caring for neglected younger ones. At least seven have died, so far, in American custody, in our name. To be silent, to rationalize, is to expose one’s enjoyment of Trump’s cruelty.  
Notwithstanding statements last weekend from our “president” and vice-president, this is not okay. Nor is it a continuation of Obama’s policies, or the fault of Democrats, as those men lied, respectively, to Chuck Todd and Jake Tapper; the latter of whom tried, unsuccessfully, to get Godly Mike Pence to stop changing the subject and admit the inhumanity.  
With few exceptions, people arriving at our southern border are refugees, not criminals. Seeking asylum, they’ve escaped from intolerable conditions. Trump’s policy of effectively kidnapping their children, placing them in filthy, neglected, intentionally horrible, “message-sending” conditions, ought to be denounced by even the most avidly pro-Trump (and pro-life?) Americans. Surely, were it their children, they could imagine the pain. Surely, they retain a modicum of un-Trumpian empathy. 
But it’s not denounced. Defended, denied, excused, is what it is. What’s that word, again? Oh, right: deplorable. Or, like a recent letter-writer claiming Democrats want illegal immigration to get voters, Foxified. You have to lap up lots of lies to believe such absurdity.  
Failure to address our immigration problems has been bipartisan. If answers are hard to come by, though, making things worse ought to be off the table. Yet that’s exactly what Trump, in his short-sighted, ill-considered, please-the-worst-among-us manner, is doing. 
These people are fleeing their countries out of fear, or hunger, or hope for their children. An obvious, cost-effective, long-term approach would be to help improve the conditions from which they’ve fled. In reducing aid to the Central American countries refugees are abandoning, Trump does the opposite. “Punishing” these poor countries for not stemming the tide. It doesn’t get more bass-ackwards than that. 
Moreover, as previously noted, Trump is actively making a root cause – climate change – worse. This he’s doing purposefully, apparently motivated by sticking it to liberals and universally more-admired President Barack Obama. Drought, famine, and floods: all results of climate change, compel those people to leave. Some, who ran for their lives, were sent back home, where they were killed. Just now, U.S. asylum officers are requesting a court injunction against Trump’s simplistic “remain in Mexico” policy, saying it endangers asylum-seekers’ lives. But it pleases his base.  
We Americans are facing imminent, critical decisions about no-longer-ignorable issues, solutions to which will be difficult and costly. Not just immigration: climate change, deficits, health care, education, infrastructure, energy. But first we must decide whether to reaffirm or renounce what we once were: generous, welcoming, innovative, willing to sacrifice when the times required it. Which, if any, of those values remain? Are we willing to spend money in service of them? Are there better investments than weaponry to protect the futures of our children? Are we ready to make them?  
Can we even discuss these things as long as we have a “president” who tells his supporters that over half of Americans want to destroy them; whose party seems fine with it? Preserving their power takes precedence, evidently, over future sustainability. Unwilling even to debate Democrats’ solutions, Trumpists reject them reflexively, obediently branding them as socialism, as told to. 
It’s a downward spiral with nothing but bad outcomes ahead. Only they can stop it. 
[Image source]

Friday, June 21, 2019

Hard To Believe

My next newspaper column:
Turns out, truth matters. Turns out, having a “president” who’s exceeded ten-thousand documented lies in office, and a party and millions of voters who don’t care, isn’t ideal. Who knew?  
If ever it’s preferable to find this “president” believable, it’s as he dangles desire for war. Tells us another country threatens us, violating agreements, moving weapons around ominously, attacking tankers. 
Time was, I believed our government wouldn’t lie about war. When in college, I signed a letter to LBJ, attesting that if he says we need to be in Vietnam, we trusted him. Two years later, my graduating class staged one of the earliest war protests, on the occasion of Robert McNamara receiving an honorary degree. Several classmates turned their backs; more walked out; one refused his diploma. By then, my certitude was wavering. When drafted, though, I went. If not me, someone else, I reasoned. Unlike Trump.  
And now, this draft-dodging man of ten-thousand lies, who gathers around him people similarly disposed, whose appointees turn over like rocks in a tumbler, tells us Iran is making warlike moves. The same man who assured us, after an hour with Kim Jong Un, that North Korea’s nuclear threat was no more; who said he had no business interests in Russia; who still contends Putin didn’t mess with the election and refuses to protect future electoral integrity. 
The man who’s broken his promises to replace the ACA with something better; balance the budget; eliminate our debt; protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; build a Mexico-funded wall. The man who says liberals want to end capitalism and execute newborns. The man who says China, not US consumers, pays his tariffs; whose EPA, disliking death projections from coal-fired pollution, plans to change the projections, and increase the pollution. The man who’s been calling our intelligence officers traitors.  
That man. Who continues to insist Hillary Clinton received millions of illegal votes, that his electoral win was a historic blowout, that he barely knew Paul Manafort, that Robert Mueller said there was no obstruction; who’s blocking testimony from witnesses to his obstruction; fires pollsters whose results he doesn’t like, after telling George Stephanopoulos those polls “don’t exist.” Priming us for war on claims he says are true but which our allies insist are false. 
Also, he cheats at golf.  
No longer is naiveté like mine, back then, an excuse. There remain people who insist Trump doesn’t lie, that he’s fulfilled every promise, that he rescued our economy after Obama, not Bush, crashed it. To such loyalists, truth stopped being important long ago, as they welcome authoritarianism with blinkered enthusiasm, figuring they’ll not be among those endangered by it.  
But now we’re talking war. Trump has threatened that, if it comes, Iran will cease to exist; in which case millions will die. Muslims, mostly. Perhaps that’s why so many Trumpists claim Jesus put him in office. 
Iran is breaking agreements and mining ships, Trump tells us, after he broke the nuclear pact they were, by all accounts, honoring. In doing so, he goaded them to do the same; yet we’re to believe it’s Iran that wants war. Maybe. But by what standard can we believe this “president,” downstream from his scaturient mendacity? After how many lies is trust extinguished? Fewer than thousands, surely. 
Neither owned nor flagged as American, it’s unclear why Iran would attack those ships. Perhaps they did. Shall we go to war, though, to protect Saudi oil? The Saudis, to whom Trump would sell weapons without Congressional approval, whose murders he ignores? Who he wants to build our high-tech weapons? His personal business partners, urging him to attack? And where was that drone, really? 
Approaching an election clouded by unfavorable polls and calls for impeachment, Trump faces the very situation in which he claimed Obama would start a war with Iran. Repeatedly, Trump serves his own interests above all else. Reasonable conclusions may be drawn. Based on simple observation, past and present, it’s wise to assume Trump is lying, unless proved otherwise. It is, as we’ve seen, what he does.   
Timely update: Last week, I pointed out that would-be despots create enemies for people to fear and hate. At his reelection kickoff rally, rife with animus and paranoia, Trump shouted, “Democrats want to destroy you.” Sharing space with Proud Boys and Q-Anon believers, attendees cheered him and praised the Lord, believing every word.  
Then, he lied some more. 

[Image source]

Friday, June 14, 2019

Coming To Terms

My upcoming newspaper column, previewed:
Hoping to divert attention from their agenda of enriching the rich, cutting Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid, censoring science, polluting the environment, taking healthcare access from millions without replacement, controlling women’s bodies, worsening climate change, gutting consumer protections, and suppressing minority voting, it’s clear that Republicans’ cries of “Socialism” will be central to their attacks on Democratic candidates. So let’s address it, starting with three compendious definitions:  
Socialism: state-owned production and commerce; workers are government employees. 
Capitalism: private ownership, workers employed by the owners. 
Communism: ownership of everything by everyone. Give what you can, take what you need. No private property. 
Only right-wing media and people unhappy with certain opinion columnists mention communism, and no Democrat advocates it. In purest form, it’s existed only on Russian kolkhozes, Israeli kibbutzim, and a few ephemeral, utopian enclaves in this country. A socialist dictatorship, the USSR was never “communist.” Because humans tend toward greed and jealousy, comm-baya fails. 
So does pure socialism. Which is why, Trumpic lies notwithstanding, Democrats aren’t proposing it. Touring the Soviet Union when a student of the Russian language, I saw it. Their products were junk, their workers unproductive, and it seemed their only incentives (other than avoiding Siberia) were omnipresent warnings of an enemy to fear and hate: namely, us. It’s what despots do. And would-be despots. Not that anyone comes to mind. 
Venezuela, the right’s disingenuous definition of Democrats’ desire, and one of two potential stages for performing our next war, is failing for many reasons, including incompetence and authoritarian corruption. For those seeking partisan analogies, there they are. Venezuela is as far from what liberals want as Trump is from veracity.  
We’ve never seen pure, unfettered capitalism, either, although the US came close in the Gilded Age, when regulations were few, capitalists were extraordinarily wealthy and oligarchical, and their employees, including children, were overworked, undercompensated, and disempowered. Workplaces were unsafe and unhealthy, often fatally. Along came liberalism and unions to rectify, at least partially, the inhumane inequality, but not before unbridled greed led to the Great Depression. MAGA, it turns out, means Make America Gilded Again. 
So there’s a spectrum, at the unoccupied extremes of which are absolute capitalism and absolute socialism. Most countries lie somewhere between. Given the worldwide breadth of that scale, differences between Democrats and Republicans are comparatively narrow, and none but hardcore Libertarians and “Freedom-Caucus” Republicans are aiming for a far end, despite what one hears from Sean “Tell ‘Em Liberals Hate America, Donnie” Hannity, and Donald “Liberals hate America” Trump. 
Believing regulations stifle growth, conservatives favor abrogating most of them, arguing “market forces” will ensure that corporations won’t, say, pollute, and, out of charitable patriotism or something, they’ll do right by their employees. History suggests otherwise. 
Liberals are proud of producing workplace-safety, child-labor, and pollution-control laws, plus other Republican-hated programs like SNAP and Medicaid. They believe seniors are better off with than without Social Security and Medicare, that education and press freedom protect our constitutional democracy, and that voter suppression doesn’t.    
Some prefer to disparage these accomplishments, but it’s Fox-level fakery to suggest liberals want anything like pure socialism. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) and other targets of right-wing lies have issues with the sort of capitalism in which widespread, crushing poverty exists alongside unimaginable wealth; in which enormous corporations pay no taxes; which creates leaded drinking water, contaminated canals, and coal-ashed rivers. Everyone should.  
Which brings us to “Democratic Socialism.” Before reflexively dismissing it, people should consider what it is, not what they’ve been told to think it is. In short, it’s capitalism with a conscience. Flourishing capitalism. Like Sweden’s, with worldwide, for-profit, tax-paying corporations: Volvo, Saab, Ericsson, Ikea, and more; and, by all measures, happier, healthier, better-educated, more financially-secure citizens than Americans. Higher taxes, better perks. Fewer worries, better sleep.  
Democratic socialism replaces profit-above-all with profit for a purpose, recognizing that capitalism endures when its workforce is educated, healthy, has decent benefits, predictable retirement, and enough income to buy what capitalists produce. It thrives by not salting the soil in which it grows. 
Rather than engaging in honest debate, Trump’s rally-joiners prefer chanting “AOC sucks.” That’s Trumpism: reflexive, simplistic nescience replacing thoughtful discourse. That’s fatal to democracy. And it’s intentional. 
Among those who’ve gained the most and will gain still more from progressive policies are Trump’s fact-free adulators, obediently swallowing the lies without a moment’s thought to who’s telling them, and why. 
[Image source]

Friday, June 7, 2019

A Climate Of Lies

My upcoming newspaper column:
I’m just back from Boston, having accompanied my wife to her fiftieth college reunion. There, classmate Al Gore spoke about, no surprise, climate change. Nothing he said was surprising, though; not to those who’ve read the science and are awake to the disinformation campaign from polluters and their payees, which makes Big Tobacco’s campaign against cancer-causation seem like George Washington’s cherry-tree confessional.  
The science is clear. Everything happening has been predicted by climate scientists; their errors only in underestimating speed and severity. Drought, floods, cataclysmic rainstorms, stronger hurricanes, the Polar Vortex sending frigid air to North America, changes in ocean currents. Record-breaking heat, bone-chilling cold. 
Across the planet, it’s affecting food and water supplies, creating climate refugees by the millions, inflaming politics here and abroad. Honduras, for example, is among the countries most affected by climate change; from the resulting poverty and hunger, citizens flee to our borders. As with his policies in other areas, Trump’s climate denial makes our immigration problem worse. 
Iran, which Trump pretends wants war, is suffering climate-related disasters. Deluges inundate homes and buildings, wash cars and buses down city streets like corks, even as overheated farms die. A country suffering such conditions seems unlikely to attack us.  
Among Gore’s slides was a picture from space, of Earth and its tiny atmosphere. Our planet is rare fruit with the thinnest of peels; into this fragile layer of life-support we dump forty-billion tons of pollutants yearly. The heat energy added to the planet by human activity is the equivalent of five-hundred-thousand Hiroshima-type atom bombs. Every. Single. Day. If, as some say, only God can affect climate, that’s how He’s doing it.  
The morning after Gore’s lecture, the New York Times reported Trump’s redoubling his ignorant attacks on climate science and President Barack Obama’s carbon-pollution regulations. It’s madness. It’s dereliction of his sworn duty to protect Americans. Never mind his documented obstruction and attempted destruction of Constitutional governance: this alone deserves impeachment. It’s tantamount to premeditated murder.  
And, whether it’s just more of Trump’s insane need for revenge for President Barack Obama’s prior humiliation of him, or run-of-the-mill cravenness toward big-money donors to him and the Congress-dwellers who’ve sold their souls, it’s depressing as hell. Typical swamp politics, augmented by the delusional actions of a damaged human being. Who knows?  
More depressing is how easy it’s been for Trump and those who smuggled him into office to convince so many voters to spurn reality. And not just climate change. It’s broad-based, carefully-cultivated, factual illiteracy. Disagreeing with opinions is one thing; it’s what makes for the sort of useful dialog that finds workable solutions. But pigheaded rejection of facts is something else entirely. 
Is it that Trumpists continue to excuse his lies because they justify their empathy-free selfishness? (Some people don’t like my shared-hatreds proposition.) Those moral failings were always present; Trump just allowed them out of the closet.  
This strenuously-maintained disbelief applies equally to the Mueller report. Well-aware of the tractability of his supporters, Trump, aided by the least general Attorney General in decades, set the narrative before truth had a chance. Only days ago, after his stage-managed walkout on Pelosi and Schumer, for a “spontaneous” press conference, he arrived at a conveniently waiting rostrum festooned with signs lying, “No collusion, No obstruction.” 
By now, presumably because someone drew him pictures, Trump knows what’s in the report. Unless they’re as pathological as he, those repeating his lies cannot have read it. Moving their lips to words of another like ventriloquists’ dummies, they’ve chosen ignorance. After Mueller’s subsequent speech laid the truth out, they shouted, “La la la, we can’t hear you.”  
How nice if all discourse began with factually factual facts. Manmade climate change is real, it’s existentially dangerous, and it’s accelerating. Mueller documented multiple acts of obstruction and, but for destroyed documents, would have about collaboration. Before opining on climate, or Mueller, deniers ought to read the report, investigate climate science, and become enlightened. It’s what honest, truth-seeking, self-respecting people do.   
Al Gore ended with hopeful inklings: China and India, the greatest contributors to climate change, are converting to renewables faster than any other country. Europe is close behind. And, despite Trump’s efforts, the US is, too. Where people recognize and understand the future, his lies fail. 
Climate. Mueller. Unlike today’s Republican leaders, Democrats believe truth-telling makes better policy than lies. In Trump’s America, who’s right?
[Image source]

Popular posts