Refugees

Salvadoran Refugee and Daughter Drowned While Attempting to Swim the Rio Grande

The photograph above of the bodies of a Salvadoran refugee and his two-year-old daughter will be the iconic image of our president’s attempt to stem the tide of immigration from so-called “shithole countries” to the south. I have visited a number of these countries and found myself admiring the people I met.

Many of these refugees are Guatemalan Maya escaping the bad government that has dogged their country ever since 1954, when the United States deposed President Juan Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán in a coup d’état for daring to oppose the destructive policies of the United Fruit Company. I guess that made him a Communist in the eyes of the U.S. State Department under John Foster Dulles. Ever since 1954, Guatemala has been ruled mostly by rightist generals, some of whom, like the infamous Kjell Eugenio Laugerud García and José Efraín Ríos Montt went in for large-scale genocide of the indigenous population. Some 200,000 Maya men, women, and children lost their lives.

Jacobo Arbenz, Deposed President of Guatemala

Since 1996, the scale of the killings has abated, but not stopped. Under Jimmy Morales, Guatemala is not an entirely safe place unless one has renounced indigenous ways. That’s why many of the refugees from Central America are Maya from Guatemala.

I have also gone across the border into Honduras (to see the Maya ruins at Copán). If I thought Guatemala was a poor country, as soon as I crossed the border into Honduras, I saw that the economic situation was more dire. That, plus one of the country’s largest cities, San Pedro Sula, was ruled by criminal gangs and, for a while, was the murder capital of the world.

My concern is that the United States under Trump is slowly turning into a shithole country. If so, where will we go for aid? And will we be welcomed? Not likely.

 

Serendipity: MAGA and Hells Angels

A Hells Angels Vest

It is amazing to me that a work written more than half a century ago could so accurately have predicted the mentality of the Trump voter with his red MAGA hat. Back in 1967, Hunter S. Thompson came out with Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga about the iconic motorcycle gang. In it, I found the following quotes:

To see the Hell’s Angels as caretakers of the old “individualist” tradition “that made this country great” is only a painless way to get around seeing them for what they really are—not some romantic leftover, but the first wave of a future that nothing in our history has prepared us to cope with. The Angels are prototypes. Their lack of education has not only rendered them completely useless in a highly technical economy, but it has also given them the leisure to cultivate a powerful resentment … and to translate it into a destructive cult which the mass media insists on portraying as a sort of isolated oddity, a temporary phenomenon that will shortly become extinct….

Hells Angels Members in the 1960s

Tell me if the following does not describe the MAGA hat wearers to a tee:

In the terms of our Great Society the Hell’s Angels and their ilk are losers—dropouts, failures and malcontents. They are rejects looking for a way to get even with a world in which they are only a problem. The Hell’s Angels are not visionaries, but diehards, and if they are the forerunners or the vanguard of anything it is not the “moral revolution” in vogue on college campuses, but a fast-growing legion of young unemployables whose untapped energy will inevitably find the same kind of destructive outlet that “outlaws” like the Hell’s Angels have been finding for years. The difference between the student radicals and the Hell’s Angels is that the students are rebelling against the past, while the Angels are fighting the future. Their only common ground is their disdain for the present, or the status quo.

 

Serendipity: The Art of the Deal?

Let’s Not Leave Foreign Policy to Rank Amateurs!

The following is the first paragraph in an article in the April 18, 2019 issue of The New York Review of Books entitled “What Happened in Hanoi?”

Shortly after the success of The Art of the Deal (1987) made Donald Trump a supposed expert on negotiation, he lobbied the George H. W. Bush administration to put him in charge of arms reduction talks with the Soviet Union. The position went instead to Richard Burt, an experienced diplomat and arms control expert. When the two men met at a New York social event, Trump pulled Burt aside to tell him what he would have one—and what Burt should do—to start off the negotiation. Greet the Soviets warmly, he said. Let their delegation get seated and open their papers. Then stand up, put your knuckles on the table, lean over, say “Fuck you,” and walk out of the room.

Burt didn’t follow Trump’s advice, to which which we owe the fact that the world didn’t end in a nuclear holocaust well before the start of the new millennium.

The Way Forward

It’s Time to Plan Ahead for a Presidency Without Trumpf

Now that the Mueller Report is out, and our Presidente has apparently dodged yet another bullet—for now. I discuss here, in brief, my attempt at a pragmatic look at the way forward.

Impeachment and Conviction

Any concerted effort to impeach Trumpf at this point will lead to wasted effort. Two U.S. presidents so far have been impeached: Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. According to the Constitution, the House of Representatives is charged with impeaching a president for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” But to remove a president, it is the Senate that decides whether the president is guilty. Moreover, a two-thirds majority of the Senate must vote for conviction. Article I Section 3 of the Constitution says: “The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.”

When (and if) the vote is for conviction, the president is out of a job and may possibly be sentenced to a jail term.

There is no doubt that Trumpf could be impeached by the Democratic House, but there are nowhere near enough votes in the Senate to convict. The result: The business of this country is held for ransom while a political battle royal ensues. Probable outcome: Trumpf emerges triumphant from this “witch hunt.”

The Election of 2020

The best way of getting rid of Trumpf is to vote him out of office in 2020. He knows that, and that is why he has been trying hard to stroke the egos of ignorant voters in small states, most of whom remain solidly in his camp.

For the Democrats to win, two things must happen:

  • Instead of the usual circular firing squad, the Dems must come together behind an attractive candidate, of which there are currently several possibilities. In the months to come, we shall see who survives.
  • Democrats must engage with the enemy. That involves interviews on Fox News, visiting Red States, and in general going beyond the bubble. That’s why Hillary lost in 2016.

The Electoral College

The United States is no longer a sparsely populated agrarian nation. Of course it is manifestly unfair. The Huffington Post expresses the situation well:

But the biggest vice of the Electoral College is its blatant unfairness to voters in the bigger states. As a resident of the largest state, California, I look at the residents of the smallest state, Wyoming, with particular envy during election season. Each vote cast in Wyoming is worth 3.6 as much as the same vote cast in California. How can that be, you might ask? It’s easy to see, when you do the math. Although Wyoming had a population in the last census of only 563,767, it gets 3 votes in the Electoral College based on its two Senators and one Congressman. California has 55 electoral votes. That sounds like a lot more, but it isn’t when you consider the size of the state. The population of California in the last census was 37,254,503, and that means that the electoral votes per capita in California are a lot less. To put it another way, the three electors in Wyoming represent an average of 187,923 residents each. The 55 electors in California represent an average of 677,355 each, and that’s a disparity of 3.6 to 1.

How do we change that? It is not likely that we can do anything about it. Here is Article V of the Constitution in its entirety:

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.

I do not think that, as presently constituted, the House of Representatives and Senate could produce a two-thirds majority to say that water flows downhill, let alone amend the Constitution. And as for a three-fourths majority of the State Legislatures—Fuggedaboutit!

 

Portrait of the American Voter

Villagers with Torches from Frankenstein

It suddenly came to me this evening that, whatever happens with Trumpf, America is in for a rough time of it. Martine and I were at the Siam Chan, a local Thai eatery, and we overheard two elderly couples praising our Presidente’s performance over the first two years of his term. My reaction surprised even me: I toyed with the idea of getting up and giving them a tracheotomy with the fork that had plunged into my stuffed chicken wings. (No doubt, they got their money in the real estate business.)

Sad to say, the American voter is like the villagers in the Frankenstein movies. It doesn’t take much to get them all outraged and go after the monster with flaming torches. Except, instead of the monster, the victim of their wrath is anyone who doesn’t agree with them. I wanted to fricassee these two couples, shove them into their car, and set it alight. Not exactly a rational response, but that was the way I felt.

Now, the other side is exactly the same. I sincerely doubt there is much of a chance of compromise with a MAGA-hat wearer. Just as there was no love lost between many flyover Americans and that nigra Obama.

In this environment, political arguments can escalate to lethal plus in microseconds. This country is going to be riven between two opposing armed camps until we all learn that we inhabit the same land and have to find some way of coexisting peacefully. Is that possible? In time, yes; but in the near term, we’re all in for it.

So when you meet up with that crazy uncle of yours at some family dinner, it’s probably best to change the subject if anything like politics or religion is discussed. I mean, they burned heretics, didn’t they?

 

 

Can the Democrats Come Together?

The New Zealand All Black Rugby Team Performing a Haka

My first introduction to the Maori haka dance was watching a YouTube video of the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team. According to Wikipedia:

It is a posture dance performed by a group, with vigorous movements and stamping of the feet with rhythmically shouted accompaniment. Although commonly associated with the traditional battle preparations of male warriors, haka have been performed by both men and women, and several varieties of the dance fulfil social functions within Māori culture. Haka are performed to welcome distinguished guests, or to acknowledge great achievements, occasions or funerals.

The other day, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer met with the ogre Trumpf to discuss a wall separating Mexico from the United States. It was an interesting moment, fraught with symbolism of a changing order. As a result of last month’s midterm elections, the Democrats were (at least in the House of Representatives) no longer in the minority. If anything, the elections proved that Trumpf’s support was beginning to erode. Even though he gained in the Senate, the gains were in two Republican butt boy states: Indiana and North Dakota. It was interesting to see Schumer rub this fact into Trumpf’s face.

Our president repeatedly threatened to shut down the government if he didn’t get his wall. Then he lied egregiously, as is his wont, that much of the fence was already built. (Not even remotely true.)

I saw the meeting as a haka by the Democratic leadership that the game to follow was going to be different. Trumpf and the Republicans have proven that they are incapable of governing: All they can do is strip Americans of their rights and privileges and satisfy their corporate paymasters.

Then, as the meeting ended, Nancy Pelosi crowned her haka by putting on a fashionable coat and a pair of cool shades, as if acknowledging that, this time, she won; and the Democrats were not merely a circular firing squad. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

OK, Reality TV “Star” Trump Gets Trumped by Nancy Pelosi

Identity Politics vs Power Politics

How We Liberals Fritter Away Our Access to Political Power

I am no longer a Democrat because I saw that the party’s emphasis on identity politics was leading it into a quagmire from which it might never return. No longer am I emboldened by gigantic protest marches—irrespective of the issues involved—nor do I care that somebody gets beaten up on Twitter or other social media. Have Liberals all become whiny little bitches who would rather be right than holding the reins of political power?

Evidently.

Hillary Clinton, Tom Perez, even Nancy Pelosi—all have been guilty of surrendering political power while pursuing some vague identity politics rewards points, which have a monetary value of $Zilch.

We are all victims of one sort or another. Instead of trading bubble-gum cards, let’s all get together, make deals with one another, and get rid of the clowns who have turned our country into a Tea Party Trash Bin. If you must insist on whining about your victimhood, lock yourself in your closet and do it in the dark, alone.