The Next Civil War

The Next Civil War

As many in our nation struggle over what to do with the relic monuments of America’s Civil War, others fear that we are on the brink of the next.

There are the ridiculous. Roger Stone, former Nixon dirty trickster and long-time political advisor to President Trump stated last week: “…Try to impeach him, just try it,” Stone continued. “You will have a spasm of violence in this country, and insurrection, like you’ve never seen.”[1]

Pamela Geller, an anti-Muslim columnist for Breitbart uses the works of Ayn Rand to back her prediction of insurrection. She sees the “left” as advocating a breakdown of institutions (including the Presidency), leading to the vision of Rand:

“Politically, mass civil disobedience is appropriate only as a prelude to civil war—as the declaration of a total break with a country’s political institutions.”[2]

And then there are the more serious. The National Rifle Association has put out videos calling for a “counter-resistance” and threatening “elites.” “We’re coming for you…”

“The times are burning and the media elites have been caught holding the match,” NRA spokeswoman and radio host Dana Loesch says in one video aired on NRATV, the gun lobby’s web video site, as it shows footage of people fighting police, breaking storefront glass and burning the American flag.”[3]

And the violence of Charlottesville by the white supremacists and in Berkeley by the antifas demonstrates that for some violence is more than just threats.

If, as the “resistance” hopes, we are moving into a time of open investigation and the beginning of the end of the Trump administration, what should we expect?

Looking back at the Nixon era, Roger Stone believes that there was a “vast conspiracy” to unfairly end his Presidency. That is a re-writing of history. It was in fact the leadership of the Republican party that convinced Nixon that it was time for him to resign or face impeachment and removal. While, as Stone embodies, there were true believers in Nixon, a large proportion of the country (over 75%) had lost confidence in him.[4]

It was a different time. Today we are faced with even greater divisions in America.   It is greater than the “blue and red” seen in electoral results. There is a clear division in “culture” as seen in the details of the Trump election. It isn’t the overall numbers, it is the overwhelming percentages Trump was able to gain in rural America, versus the less dramatic but still dominating numbers that Clinton got in the cities.

Trump has definitely tapped into an American reality: there are a substantial number of Americans who feel left behind by the social changes of the last decades. They look to solutions much like ones that appealed to Americans in the past. From World War II: the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, all Japanese are bad, put Americans of Japanese descent in relocation camps. That sad view is reflected in the anti-Islamic views of today: terrorists claiming to follow Islam caused 9/11 and other acts, therefore all Muslims are bad, and lets ban them.

In the same way, Trump has tied illegal immigration and globalization to the failure of the US economy to provide “great paying” jobs. Just as the coal miners in West Virginia didn’t want to hear Hillary Clinton tell them that mining jobs were gone for good, some Americans are looking for easy answers to go back to the “good old days.” And while most Americans wouldn’t do the jobs done by illegal immigrants, they accept that excuse  rather than face the changed climate (both economically and literally.)[5]

Some Americans are armed and prepared to fight by the NRA, threatened by new social mores which include open acceptance of the LBGTQ, told that they CAN go back to the days of great factory jobs and big paychecks, and allowed to disregard all the information they get to the contrary as “fake news.” And they are made afraid: afraid of the vision provided by Trump of “the urban area” where people are constantly shot on the street and other crime and violence are so rampant that “it’s worse than Afghanistan.”[6] It plays to the white supremacist ideology still lurking under the table of American life.

Trump has pandered to the worst “angels” of America, and in doing so has found a strong vein of support. That’s why it is so important for the process of removing Trump to be not only beyond reproach, but clearly define his illegality and illegitimacy. It cannot be just a list of “obstruction of justice” charges: Trump’s followers already believe that the entire “establishment” is arrayed against him and that his obstruction would be justified. And it cannot be just firing Comey or pressuring Sessions: Trump followers believe that people who work for the President SHOULD  ALWAYS obey the President.

And while the case showing that Trump was a criminal financier and developer might be compelling to those who already don’t like him; to his base there is acceptance that this is “Wall Street” behavior. We’ve seen it in all of the movies. It’s how they all act, Democrats and Republicans, when Goldman Sachs and politics come together. It’s probably  illegal, but it’s not the impeachable issue.

No, the case against Trump has to prove that Trump cooperated with another country, Russia, in order to win the Presidency. It needs to show that in fact Russia has had Trump “by the balls” for years; that he is NOT the powerful leader they are looking for, but simply a controlled man fidgeting to avoid “the squeeze.”

In short, Trump needs to be proven weak and manipulated. Months ago I wrote an essay about Trump’s view of manliness.[7]  Part of Trump’s allure is that he is the worldly, manly billionaire who can fix things ( and, who has “big hands”.) If the “resistance” can demonstrate that Trump is not that man but as a “gig0lo” used by the Russian kleptocracy, then even those who have swallowed his bile will not rebel. They will grouse, and a few will scream, but they will turn their back on him. If not: then there will be a percentage of Americans (20%?) who will always believe that their ideals and beliefs were ignored. They may or may not be violent, but they will always be there.

Whatever you think of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, he did do one last thing for the UNITED STATES. As he contemplated surrendering his army at Appomattox, some of his junior officers proposed to dissolve the army, to slip away into the mountains and reconstitute as a guerilla force. Some of his generals in the West, notably Morgan and Mosby were already using these tactics. Lee absolutely refused, recognizing that the war he was fighting was to gain legitimacy, not for never-ending violence and illegitimacy. The next day he surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Grant, and spared our nation a protracted guerilla war.[8]

In the same way, we need to make sure that the removal of Donald Trump from the Presidency doesn’t just meet the standards of the “resistance.” We must be able to convince all but the most crazed that he is an illegitimate President who represents the interests of the Russian kleptocracy, not American citizens. That is the rationale needed so that ALL Americans  accept the conclusion.










It Ain’t All Their Fault

It Ain’t All Their Fault

It feels like America is truly divided. Even before the election of Donald Trump, the nation felt like two different places: the progressive trans-national vision of Barack Obama, and the protectionist, nationalist philosophy of the Republican right. And now we have the “alt-right” outflanking the already conservative Republican party. There is little room left in the middle. There are few “blue-dog” Democrats, liberal on social issues, but conservative on defense and economics. And there are almost no “moderate” Republicans. The few that look moderate now (John Kasich for example) are far more conservative than Jacob Javits or Edwin Brooke of the past, or even Mitt Romney in his Massachusetts Governor days.

Some would argue that America is essentially a “purple” country. While a look at the 2016 Presidential election map is quite stark in its red and blue contrast, an analysis of the election show state after state had incredibly narrow results. In “all Republican” Ohio, Trump received 2.8 million votes, but Clinton had 2.3 million. North Carolina, Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania: all were narrow wins. There was no “mandate” for President Trump, just a perilously close electoral win.

Others would take the same evidence and note that Clinton won only 8 counties in Ohio, while Trump won 80. The contrast was clear: the urban areas of Cleveland, Toledo, Dayton, Cincinnati, Youngstown and Akron, along with “liberal” Athens County went for Clinton: the rest were for Trump. In many of those counties Trump gained more than 70%.

The “progressives” feel that the gains of the past decades in LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, national health, education, the environment and a multitude of other issues are being lost. They also feel that the President at the helm might get the US in a war across the world.

Conservatives feel like even though they “won,” Progressives still rule. They feel that the institutions of government (the “DeepState”) are preventing the “winners” from running the country. They feel  that Trump’s win should give them the right to rewrite the changes of the past decades. Instead, they feel that America is re-writing its own history, writing out the role of traditional heroes, and defiling the symbols that represent our nation.

Are we re-writing history? Today we are tearing down the monuments to the Confederacy, declaring all Confederates “supporters of slavery.” We are focusing our rear view vision on the war fought over 150 years ago. And just as the idea that the South was fighting for “states’ rights” only and not slavery is foolish, so is the idea that every Confederate was a “traitor” fighting for slavery. Like all history, it’s a whole lot more complex than that.

While slavery was always an issue for the United States, the dynamic of state versus federal power was always on the table. We struggled with that from the writing of the Constitution. Madison had to add the 10th Amendment, reserving rights to the states and the people, to try to clarify the issue, but it didn’t. The first great argument for secession was from New England, facing economic losses from Jefferson’s embargo prior to and during the War of 1812.

The next was between President Andrew Jackson and Vice President John C. Calhoun, both slaveholders, over taxation in South Carolina in the early 1830’s. Calhoun argued the concept of nullification – that a state could nullify a federal law within its jurisdiction – originally authored by Jefferson in the Kentucky Resolution. Jackson proclaimed that the union must be preserved. Calhoun ultimately resigned from the Vice Presidency, and Jackson sent Federal troops and ships to the state. A compromise was reached: the state dropped nullification, the taxes were reduced and the troops removed, but the argument of the power of states versus the federal government would continue.

So to claim that the state’s rights argument was only about slavery is far too simplistic. Had slavery not existed, there probably would not have been a Civil War, but the issue was more complicated than just slavery. And while Northern abolitionists were loud and clear about ending slavery, they truly represented a small minority of Northern thought before the war.

Prior to the Civil War, Lincoln, like Jackson, declared that the Union was inseparable. When the Civil War began, Lincoln made the war one of union versus dis-union, not slavery versus freedom. It was only after a year and a half of war that Lincoln began the process of emancipation.

So does this mean that we should maintain Confederate monuments? Whether they were fighting for states’ rights or slavery, they were fighting for dis-union. We should begin our discussion there, and determine what is right today. And we should do so as communities, not as a national showdown. We should remember that while Confederates were fighting for dis-union, most perceived the fight as protecting their homes. At the least, we should allow their cemeteries to be honored for the sacrifice they made, even for a losing cause.

And “progressives” should not make re-litigating the Civil War as the cause of the day. There are too many issues of NOW that we must contend with as we attempt to maintain the progress of the last twenty years. To allow our focus to be drawn to the alt-right distracts us from that more important cause.

This is but one issue that divides our country, and one where some feel that “progressives” are changing the nature of it. Others “hot button” examples:  kneeling during the national anthem as a  form of protest, or university campuses providing “safe zones” from free speech, all make “the red” side of our nation feel like the nation is changing beneath their feet. Right or wrong, it ain’t all their fault that they feel that way.



Contempt of Court

Contempt of Court

Yesterday President Donald J. Trump pardoned the former Sheriff of Maricopa County (Phoenix, Arizona) Joe Arpaio. Arpaio was convicted in Federal Court for Criminal Contempt. His department was profiling Hispanics, stopping and placing them in custody until they could prove their US citizenship. When some of the US citizens who were jailed went to Federal Court, the Court agreed that the Department was violating their 4th and 14th Amendment rights. The Court ordered Arpaio to stop these actions. He continued the profiling for years, and therefore was held in contempt.

Trump’s actions really surprised no one. He has made it clear that he will go to great extents to keep “undesirables” out of the United States, including his Muslim ban and asking local police departments to enforce immigration policy. Arpaio decided he knew better than the Courts what was “good” for Maricopa County, mirroring Trump’s own view.

Trump has demonstrated disdain for the Courts. His career in real estate began in Court, as he was sued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development for discrimination in leasing apartments. His businesses have used the Courts to avoid paying debts, to declare bankruptcy, and in general as a tool for furthering their own financial interest.

Trump doesn’t recognize that judges might operate without bias. His claim against Gonzalo Curiel, who heard the case against Trump University, was that of course Curiel would rule against him;  he was Hispanic and Trump was against illegal immigration. (Curiel, the son of legal immigrants, was born and raised in Indiana and got his law degree at Indiana University.)

Trump has constantly criticized the judges (as opposed to the decisions) of the Courts that have ruled against his various immigration schemes. Most notably, he has claimed that the 9th Circuit of Appeals is an “Obama” court,  getting back at him for being elected.

Trump clearly has contempt for the Courts, and his pardon of Arpaio allows him to display that contempt. It also fits in with his current strategy of “playing to the base.” More insidiously, his preemptive use of the pardon power at this time also may be the beginning of a grander strategy to “pardon” his way out of the Russia crisis.

Here’s how that might work. The Mueller investigation in part is based on pressure. Like any criminal enterprise investigation, it begins with the “smaller fish:”  truthful testimony elicited with promises of leniency. The information gathered is then used to get the “bigger fish.”

A Presidential pardon can be for actions that might have occurred (see Ford’s pardon of Nixon) and prevents any Federal prosecution. However, it would also remove the “pardonee’s” 5th Amendment right to refuse to testify due to self-incrimination. Should a person who is pardoned refuse to testify, the next leverage against them is criminal contempt of court. However, with the Arpaio pardon, it is clear that the President would be willing to pardon that infraction as well, thus closing down that entire line of testimony.

It would be incredibly ugly, but it would work. There is absolutely no legal check on the President’s right to pardon, with the exception that it applies to Federal cases only. State cases could continue. (Could Trump pardon himself?  There is no precedent, and it would certainly end up in the US Supreme Court.)

There is, of course, one massive check on Presidential power. If it became clear that President Trump was using the pardon power to obstruct justice, that certainly would be an impeachable offense. It would require the members of the House and the Senate to put down their political battles, and find the courage to do what’s right for the country. If Trump starts to “pardon his way out” of this, let’s hope they find it.



The Speed of Air Force One

The Speed of Air Force One

Was it the weekend before last that there were marches and tragedy in Charlottesville? Was it just a few days later that we realized that the President of the United States was implicitly endorsing white supremacists? Was Bannon fired just last Friday? Was it only two days ago that the President announced a “new” strategy in Afghanistan – and then the next day back to the same old stuff at a rally in Phoenix? And Trump himself has gone from New Jersey to Washington to New York, to New Jersey to Washington, to Virginia, to Washington, to Phoenix and back. Whew!!!!!!

It is no wonder that Americans are tired: tired of the constant tirades, tired of chaos, tired of living in hysteria. Thank God for the total eclipse, we got a breather from our “real” world to marvel at THE REAL world. The Chaos theory of Trump is pretty effective though, as we focused on his tirades and questionable loyalties, we missed the slow drumbeat of Russia building momentum to threaten the Presidency.

Glenn Simpson, the President of Fusion GPS, spent ten hours talking to Senate investigators yesterday. He also left 40,000 pages of documentation. Fusion GPS is the organization that contracted with Christopher Steele to produce the “Steele Dossier” which detailed contacts, collusion and cooperation between Trump and Russian intelligence agencies. While the full text of Simpson’s testimony is still held private (Simpson himself has asked that it be made public) the one point that came out: Simpson and GPS Fusion stand by the accuracy of the dossier.

Billy Piper, a Republican lobbyist and former Chief of Staff to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell raised the “I” word in remarks about Trump: “The quickest way for him to get impeached is for Trump to knock off Jeff Flake and Dean Heller and be faced with a Democrat-led Senate…”[1] The relationship between Trump and McConnell has gone from shaky to bad, as Trump targets GOP senators (Flake, Heller) for primary challenges by candidates more “Trump-like.”

In addition, Trump has consistently attacked McConnell for the failure of the health-care legislation in the Senate, and now, according to the New York Times, berated McConnell for failing to protect him (Trump) from Russia investigations. Some GOP Senators have been willing to criticized Trump publicly, notably Bob Corker from Tennessee, who raised questions about Trump’s competence to be President. Others are reported to being  very critical, privately.

In the meantime his Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, is under investigation by the department’s Inspector General for the “strong arming” Alaska’s Senator Murkowski to pass the health-care legislation. His Treasury Secretary’s wife is attacking folks who complain about her use of public monies for travel, and his Secret Service is running out of overtime money from covering the travels of Trump and his family.

It’s August. We will get back to the meat of the Russia investigation soon, when Congress returns from the August recess. We know that the Mueller investigation is proceeding, with requests for information from the White House itself. We also know that there will be confrontations in Congress about taxes, and more immediately, about the budget and the debt ceiling. The next crisis may be a government shutdown at the end of September.

As events seem to move at the speed of Air Force One, behind the scenes there is the building momentum of the Russian investigation. As Trump  burn more bridges, those that could protect him seem less and less inclined to do so.   For some of us, the results of the investigation can’t come out soon enough. Expect that there will be more distractions, but know this:  we will eventually know what really happened between Trump and Russia.


PS – on a wholly different subject – what is the likelihood that the most professional Navy in the world would have four ship collisions in the same geographic area in the past several months? Several sailors have been killed in these incidents. The Navy is treating this as human errors and has relieved the three-star admiral in command as well as others. But as all of these events are in proximity to China, and China has a huge interest in dis-crediting the US Navy in the region, is someone checking that our incredibly complex navigation computers haven’t been hacked?






Darkness at 2:31!!!!

Darkness at 2:31!

President Trump tweeted

North Korea and Venezuela have managed to use crooked – stolen technology from fine American Industries TO BLOT OUT THE SUN!!!!  SAD!!!……

New Tweet

  ….So we will now BUILD A DOME WITH CLEAN COAL POWRRED LIGHTS  over the entire United States and the CHINESE will pay for it!!  We will MAKE AMERICA LIGHT AGAIN #MALA

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later said the President’s statement speaks for itself and she could think of nothing to add….

Happy Eclipse Day!!  I’m in Oak Ridge Tennessee waiting for totality!

PS – my wife says to tell you I made this up! Too many people will think he really tweeted it!!  SAD!




You break it, You Buy It – The Republican Dilemma

You break it, You Buy It – The Republican Dilemma

The Republican Party is facing a difficult dilemma. They leadership of the party accepted, with reservations, the candidacy of Donald Trump. They allowed him to have their nomination for President, against their own better judgment, and now they are faced with the reality of his actions as President.

Let’s look at the facts. The Republican leadership, and by that I mean, Paul Ryan, Reince Preibus, John McCain, and the rest; fell in behind the Trump juggernaut at the Republican convention. They were faced with a difficult choice: turn against the party they love, the supporters they worked with, and the voters they needed; or accept Trump’s legitimacy as the Republican candidate. They could have done it: John Kasich did. They could have divided the party, taking the moral position that Trump should not be the President.

They didn’t. They didn’t because they were afraid of the backlash of their own voters. They didn’t because they were afraid that taking that moral view would mean they would lose their personal power. They didn’t because (some) hated the Clintons with such virulence that they were willing to make a “deal with the devil” than to allow her to win the Presidency. They didn’t because they didn’t think it was possible he could win.

They had a second chance to do so when Trump demonstrated his own personal immorality in the famous “bus tapes.” Some stepped back from Trump then, stating that they couldn’t explain support for him to their families. Yet, a week later, they were back with personal endorsements. Jason Chaffetz is the prime example of this (and it seems the decision so soured his gut, that he left Congress.)

They didn’t. They swallowed their pride and their morals, and probably secretly wished that the polls were right and Clinton would win. They began planning their “resistance” to the Clinton Presidency, preparing more hearings on Benghazi and e-mail.

And then Trump won. The legitimacy of his win is questionable. There is the known Russian interference in the election, and the unknown question of whether votes in key states were tampered with. Republicans in those key states have block inquiry into the voting totals: but like the questionable elections of the past, Trump is the President (Bush/Gore, Hayes/Tilden, JQ Adams/Jackson.)

And as President, Trump is demonstrating the incompetence and incapacity that everyone from Jeb Bush on, knew. It’s not just his inability to get his own agenda through Congress; it’s his willingness to risk the nation by foolhardy saber-rattling in North Korea, and his tacit support of white supremacy in Charlottesville. The Republican leadership now is faced with the dilemma: can the country survive a Trump Presidency without irreparable damage.

As a Republican leader the choice is the same one that faced them in August. Allowing Trump to be President lets them temporarily keep their party, their power, their base. But there must be a “tipping point” where they recognize that they will inevitably lose that party, power and base with Trump: and perhaps their nation too.

There are more than just the political issues involved. To some principled members of Congress it is most difficult to overturn what they see as the decision of the American people by attempting to throw out a duly elected President (though they didn’t seem to have much of a problem when that President was named Clinton.) Their concern extends beyond the precedent of second-guessing the electorate: it also raises questions about the stability of the American government and the Constitution.

And to some, there is the real concern that Trump supporters will do more than just scream and wear MAGA hats if he is removed. Pence is not a legitimate substitute for those folks, he does not represent the “outsider” they were looking for in a candidate. The marches in Charlottesville, while NOT representing most Trump voters, might pale in comparison.

And what of the Democrats? Their role in this is to accept the “conversion” of Trump supporters to the current reality, without blame or recrimination. They must recognize that for the good of the Nation, those who finally recognize the incompetence and inability of Trump, even as late as now, have a role to play in what happens next.

But in the end, it is the Republican leadership that still controls what happens: Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and the number of Congressmen and Senators who can recognize that we have reached the “tipping point.” It will take the political courage that failed them twice already. But in the end – they broke it – they bought it – they better fix it.




Who Are Those Guys?

Who Are Those Guys?

This week the President of the United States drew a “moral equivalency” among all of those at Charlottesville last weekend. In fact, the President watched (more carefully than the reporters did, he said) the “tiki torch march” on Friday night, and saw some “very fine people”. (It’s amazing what Fred Perry polo shirts, khakis and a permit can do!)[1]

A “moral equivalency”: that both sides in a struggle have no more or less claim to being “right” (that’s right versus wrong – not right-wing). The President also introduced a new term in the ongoing debate over the division of America: “alt-left.” No one had heard that one before.

It’s time for a “scorecard.” Who are these groups, what do they stand for, and who, if any, has the “moral high ground”? Names are thrown around: Alt-Right, Nazis, Ku Klux Klan, Black Lives Matter, Anti-Fascists, and White Supremacists (Nationalists); all need to have some meaning. As Butch said to Sundance: who are those guys?

Let’s do the historically clear groups first. The Neo-Nazis (current) are those who espouse the racial message of Hitler. Hitler believed in the racial superiority of the Aryan race, Aryan being defined as white, Northern Europeans. According to Hitler, other races existed to serve the Aryans. He also believed that the Jewish people subverted the power and authority of Aryans, and must be eliminated.  Neo-Nazis (and the modern KKK) believe in the creation of a white “ethnostate” in America.

When the “boys” in their Fred Perry Polos chanted “Jews won’t replace us” they were echoing the cries of the Hitler brownshirts from the 1930’s. When they carried their “tiki torches” they were purposefully imitating Hitler-era demonstrations. The fact that they dress like “preppies” does not change the hate in their words, thoughts and deeds. [2]

The “anti-fa,” or anti-fascists trace their origins to the anarchists of the late 19th and early 20th century. Dressed in black, they believe that the only way to confront Nazism and White Supremacy is through intimidation and violence. To them, Trump and “Trumpism” represents the triumph of those views. They argue:

“to call Trumpism fascist” is to realize that it is “not well combated or contained by standard liberal appeals to reason.” The radical left, it said, offers “practical and serious responses in this political moment.”[3]

In other words, you can’t reason with facists, so attack them physically.

Black Lives Matter is an organization developed after what they see as government sanctioned killing of black men over the past few years. From the Trayvon Martin case in Florida, through Michael Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in New York, and Tamir Rice in Cleveland: the Black Live Matter movement cites a continuing number of unarmed men being killed by police as a reason for protest. Their goal: to raise awareness and create change through marches and protests. Critics have said that the BLM movement has encouraged rioting, particularly in Ferguson, Missouri where national attention was first focused. The organization itself states:

“We are committed to embodying and practicing justice, liberation and peace in our engagements with one another.”[4]

The Ku Klux Klan has a long history, starting from the end of the Civil War in 1866. Its goal was and continues to be to champion the supremacy of the white race over other races, and Protestant Christianity over other religions. The Klan has had several eras of resurgence, usually coinciding with an era of increased civil rights. The end of the Reconstruction Era in 1876, after World War I and into the 1920’s, and in the 1960’s in opposition to the Civil Rights movement; all were times of high visibility. [5]

Historically it should be no surprise that they have gained notoriety again, given the progress in civil and social rights of the last twenty years. The Klan has also worked to become more “mainstream alt-right” by toning down its hoods and robes and blending into the other white supremacist groups.

The “alt-right” is a more modern (internet) version of the far right represented by Breitbart “News.”  While many of the same ultra-conservative views are espoused by the alt-right, there is a more Libertarian bent, which allows for more individual differences. This is perhaps best shown through Milo Yiannopoulos. A 32 year old British man, Yiannopoulos is openly gay, and was a leading speaker and writer in the alt-right community. He led the tech section of Bretibart “News.” His recent statements regarding gay men and teens have taken him out of the limelight, but his alt-right success demonstrates the difference between alt-right and neo-Nazis.

The Resistance” is a loosely associated group of millions of folks who feel that the election of Donald Trump threatens the progress in American society made over the last sixty years. There is no membership card or uniform, and people of all ages, races, particular areas of concerns and motivation have participated in protests and demonstrations against a wide number of actions by the current government majority.

The “anti-fas” and Black Lives Matter groups are often a part of those “Resistance” activities, and while a vast majority of BLM and the Resistance are non-violent, the anti-fas are willing to use violence to achieve their goals.

In full disclosure, I started blogging as part of my contribution to the “Resistance”. In addition, I have marched and demonstrated, both against President Trump and the results of some of his actions (cutting Medicaid in Ohio for example.) I am a believer in the First Amendment (as well as the rest of the Amendments – including the Second) and I believe that, particularly in our current time of political unrest, it is important for voices to be heard.

Destruction and or physical violence do not advance the causes I believe in. During the lates 1960’s and early 70’s, there were widespread protests against the Vietnam War. A vast majority of those protests were non-violent, learning from Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement. But there were also groups that used destruction and violence to protest, notably the SDS (Students for Democratic Society).  Violence and destruction did not end the war. It gave “the establishment” an excuse to restrict protest.

There is clearly no “moral equivalency” between the white “supremacists” and those who are protesting against them.  The fact those some of the counter-protestors came ready for a fight should not diminish the reality:  we should ALL (you too Mr. President) stand up for American values, and denounce hate and prejudice.






More Perfect

More Perfect

The proximate cause for the events in Charlottesville last weekend was the city’s decision to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from what was once “Lee Park,” now “Emancipation Park.” The leadership of newly empowered white/racist organizations used this as an excuse to assemble and make demands in the academic home of the University of Virginia and Thomas Jefferson.

The history of the United States is full of good and evil. The vaunted ideals of the founding fathers in 1776, “…we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” were tempered by the reality of slavery. They recognized the contradictions, and were haunted by them. It is no accident that the preamble to the Constitution contains that awkward phrase, “…in order to form a more perfect union…”

 More Perfect: the phrase debated by every high school government class. It was the recognition by Madison of the contradictions of their situation. More Perfect: the concept that the United States, while based on the highest values, would have to continue to evolve to reach those values. More Perfect: setting the standard to achieve for America. Establishing the mission, the goal.

We have monuments to those founding fathers. The monuments reflect what they attained as they worked towards those goals. Those monuments are not to flaws, to bad decisions, to contradictions. They recognize that as humans are not perfect, neither were our founders, nor all those who followed. We recognize their dreams, goals and accomplishments, despite the flaws.

Washington’s home at Mt. Vernon is a clear example. A beautiful home on the banks of the Potomac, a clear escape from the wars and the politics. The key to the Bastille of French Revolution fame hangs above the stairway, a gift of liberty from Lafayette. And the slave quarters are around the side.

Slavery, “the serpent under the table,” was the issue that shaped our government. But it is simply re-writing history to say that this was a case of racists versus non-racists. Frankly, a vast majority of Americans of the time would be considered racist by today’s standards, including Abraham Lincoln. And that is the danger of applying the standards of today to the values of the past. By doing so, we deny the evolutionary impact of the events in history. We as a people and a culture have changed, and while we can regret some of our history, we cannot deny it, nor is it fair to alter it.

Having said that, the Lee statue in Emancipation Park was erected in the mid-1920’s, at a time after World War I when the United States recoiled from the world, and the power of the Ku Klux Klan was at its zenith. Only a year before, over 25,000 Klansmen in full regalia marched down the streets of Washington, DC. The Lee statue was less a memorial to the General, than a symbol for the empowered racists groups of that time.

In the same way, the historic battle flag of the Confederacy, the official flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, had been co-opted to represent the racist views of the White Supremacists and Ku Klux Klan. What originally was the rally point for those fighting for their friends, families, and state; has become the symbol of hate. We, as a society, should not uphold these symbols of hate, even if that was not their original intent.

Last month I walked the battlefield at Gettysburg. I saw the monuments and the graves of the many thousands who fought there, both North and South. The soldiers of both sides were fighting for what they believed was “their” country. While slavery caused the Civil War, to most of the soldiers battling at Gettysburg, it wasn’t about slaves, it was about country. Right or wrong, winner or loser, they still deserve to be honored there for the sacrifice.

We now have to distinguish between what represents history, and should be preserved, and what represents racism, and should be removed. It is important that we don’t erase history, and it is equally important that we don’t represent the old values that accepted racism. We have to also recognize what in our history has been co-opted into racist symbolism.

So we have a complex history. We have to do both, honor our history, and recognize our growth. We have to be proud that as difficult as it was, ultimately the United States freed slaves, and perhaps with even more difficulty, it is still working towards equality for all. We have to recognize the difference between the racism then and now, and history. We must still become More Perfect.


The Box is Open

The Box is Open

I am sitting here, 2:46 pm on Saturday afternoon, August 11th. I watch my computer and my television, and see the white supremacists in Charlottesville, and the protestors countering their views. A car plows into the counter-protestors, several are injured, perhaps killed. The box is open.

The box is open – the box of hate and violence. Our President has brought into the White House advisors who have pandered to this view. They have changed the language of the movement, “metropolitan bias” has replaced “Commie Jews.” But the Breitbart alumni, Miller and Bannon and Gorka, have made this terrible undercurrent of America acceptable again.

Some will say that this in no different than Black Lives Matter and President Obama. But of course that’s not true: Obama recognized why Black Lives Matter was important; he never justified violence. And of course, Black Lives Matter does have a point, that it does seem like their lives don’t have the same value to society as others.

The two movements are different because Black Lives Matter was not a movement of hate, but of respect. The White Supremacist movement, with the neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan doctrines that serves as its foundation, is  based on hatred of those that are different.

The box is open. The President has used this hate to help fuel his campaign, and election. He allows Bannon, Miller and Gorka to continue to represent him, and through him, the authority of the United States.

We don’t know who was driving the car that crashed into those folks, yet. We don’t know that it was a “white terrorist” attack. It really doesn’t matter. Trump opened up “the box” of racial hatred, and we are now reaping the whirlwind.

The President is about to speak. He didn’t say a word about a mosque attacked in Minnesota last week, and he has “tweeted” that this is “sad.” I expect his words will be “sad” too.

I’ll add more later…

The President is speaking.  It’s all about him.  “Children should be able to play” and “we are doing so well.” My administration is “restoring the sacred bonds of loyalty.”  Sacred bonds of loyalty – a term that harkens back to the basis of the “alt-right” philosophy of tribal loyalty, not particularly accepting of a multi-cultural society (1).

I know I long for President Obama to make sense of the senseless actions we have seen today.  I know – but I wish the current President would be a leader instead of a follower of those who he works for, oops, works for him.



Five Generals and a Baby

Five Generals and a Baby

James Mattis – Secretary of Defense, General, US Marines (4 Star). Final military command – US Central Command

John Kelly – Chief of Staff, General of US Marines (4 Star). Final military command – US Southern Command

Joseph Dunford – Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General, US Marines (4 Star) – still in service – prior command, Commandant US Marine Corps

H.R. McMasters – National Security Advisor, Lt. General, US Army (3 Star). Still in service- prior command, Army Capabilities Integration Center

Michael Flynn – Fired National Security Advisor, Lt. General in US Army (3 Star) – final military command – Director, Defense Intelligence Agency

Donald J Trump – President of United States, attended New York Military Academy as high school.  Captain of A Company NYMA his senior year, was transferred to Admin Staff when hazing occurred under his command. 5 deferments from Vietnam Draft, never in US military

As the nuclear showdown between North Korea and the United States grows more intense, risking a war that could result in millions of casualties, two leaders are “nose to nose.” Trump and Kim are facing each other across the Pacific Ocean, determining the fate of the Pacific rim. It’s not Churchill and Hitler, it’s not Kennedy and Khruschev, it’s not even Bush and Hussein. Kim is a farcical character, a child dictator who would be funny except for the strength of the North Korean armed forces, ranked 23rd in the world, with fully 25% of the population in military service. Oh, and he has nuclear weapons and 10,000 artillery tubes pointed a Seoul, South Korea, population over 20 million.

The problem is, Trump “ain’t no Jack Kennedy” either. He had decided to meet Kim’s bluster with braggadocio of his own, quoting video games as he promises “fire and fury” against North Korea. Trump has the most powerful military in the world, but so far has shown that he doesn’t believe Theodore Roosevelt was right: instead of “speak softly and carry a big stick,” Trump is yelling loudly.

Trump has shown, through his decidedly short political career, that he is enamored with the military. His trusted foreign policy advisor, Lt. General Michael Flynn, was so important that Trump was willing to accept his lying to the Vice President and conducting private foreign policy as long as he could keep Flynn’s advice. With Flynn gone, former cadet captain Trump has surrounded himself with more generals. While we hope that these are the “best and the brightest” the military has to offer, it should be a concern that these leaders, all steeped in the traditions of US military service, may be the only voices he is hearing.

This is not to fault Mattis, Dunford, Kelly and McMasters. Not only are they the best of the best, they also are some of the “outliers” of military command. Mattis is known as the “Warrior Monk,” dedicated to his service, and willing to think “outside the box.” Dunford, the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, is a former subordinate of Mattis, and noted for his dedication. McMasters jump started his career by writing a book about the flaws in the military command system in Vietnam, and earned a PhD at University of North Carolina. And Kelly, a man who has made the ultimate sacrifice (he has a son buried in Arlington National Cemetery, an Afghanistan casualty,) is another noted for his intellectual approach, with master degree’s from the National Defense University and Georgetown.  While they are all brilliant military minds, they also have lived lives  filtered through military thought and process, which like any profession, creates a structured way of problem solving.

These are the men advising President Trump, and while Mattis and Kelly are technically now civilians, this is exactly the kind of concern George Washington had when he turned down the Presidency of the United States at the end of the Revolutionary War.  He was afraid that as the conquering general, leader of the American Army, he would begin a national tradition of following “the man on the white horse.”

During the Kennedy Administration, one of the hardest lessons that former  Naval Lt. John F. Kennedy had to learn was not to completely trust “the Generals.” This first became apparent early in his Presidency. The Bay of Pigs was the US sponsored insurgent invasion of Cuba. Part of the decision making process going into the operation was the agreement that US forces would not be directly involved. The flawed plans failed almost immediately, and the attack collapsed on the beach. As the invasion failed the Joint Chiefs of Staff demanded that the US Air Force bring in air cover to protect the beachhead. Kennedy faced his Generals demanding action, and the reality that a US invasion of Cuba (as US involvement would certainly be seen) could trigger a Soviet response in Germany, perhaps triggering World War III.

Kennedy left the invasion force alone, and they were killed or captured on the beach. He grew to take a critical view of the military, resulting in his willingness to look beyond military options during the Cuban missile crisis two years later. In that, he avoided a nuclear war with the Soviets.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis it was UN ambassador, former Governor of Illinois and two-time Democratic candidate for President Adlai Stevenson who stood up to the generals. When a pre-emptive attack on Cuba was the leading strategy in discussion, Stevenson said to the World War II veteran President, “now I know how Tojo felt before Pearl Harbor.” The statement resonated with Kennedy, and he began to search for other options to avoid all-out war.

As Trump continues to ratchet up the tension with North Korea, now threatening even greater destruction if the North Koreans should attempt to strike Guam, where are the non-military voices proposing solutions? Tillerson and Haley don’t seen to have any influence in Trump World, while Bannon, Gorka and Miller have  even more warped views.

We can only hope that either the Generals themselves, or calmer voices that we don’t know about, are suggesting alternatives to Trump. Otherwise this governing “baby” is only getting advice filtered through lives of military thought and process.