Category Archives: Trump 45

Brand USA® and What Makes America Great

As an American in Europe for more than fifteen years, I have a pretty clear idea of what makes America great and where we could also use some improvement. Contrast this month’s decision by the EU Court of Justice to permit employers to discriminate against employees based on religious practice to the U.S. courts’ repeated decisions to overrule or stay the sitting president’s orders to bar entry to nationals from six Muslim countries. And I am reminded of what I love about my country.

According the EU Court of Justice,

An internal rule of an undertaking which prohibits the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign does not constitute direct discrimination,” the court said in a statement.

This is, of course, the exact opposite of the right to freedom of expression, association and religion enshrined in the First Amendment to the US Constitution and guaranteed to Americans by more than two hundred years of legislation and jurisprudence. Europe has never experienced anything similar to our anti-discrimination laws, Civil Rights Movement, or other social movements to make the “the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” of our Declaration of Independence available to all. Looking at the European court’s ruling with the eyes of an American lawyer, the Europeans have in fact perfectly defined and then legalized direct discrimination.

If you’re not convinced about the difference, read the rules prohibiting religious discrimination in the American workplace, including “religious garb”. Or read the judge’s decision on the second Trump travel ban:

According to Plaintiffs, the Executive order also results in “their having to live in a country and in a State where there is the perception that the Government has established a disfavored religion”

But isn’t that the real difference between how Americans and European define themselves? A large part of the American self-image is based on living in a society that does not promote or prohibit religion; in theory thus allowing for new entrants to compete for the American Dream based on economic ambition, rather than pure cosmetic and ethno-cultural assimilation. Of course in practice the reality has been less than optimal, but at least as a society we are able to aspire to the principles of our founding, and with the help of lawyers and activists, improve step by step. Where were the religious freedom activists when the EU Court of Justice gave its ruling? Meanwhile, there were scores of pro bono lawyers camping out at airports around the country when Trump passed his first ban.

On the other hand, Europeans have a lot of trouble figuring out what it means to be European other than simply being from Europe. So Europeans expect you as the new entrant to become just like them. To eat, dress, and talk like they do. In fact the biggest compliment a European can give you is “you are just like one of us”. Almost every single day of the week when I go to lunch an hour earlier than my colleagues here in Spain, I always get a comment about how strange I am for eating at 12:30, instead of at 2:00pm. Or for eating just a sandwich instead of a hot meal.

It’s no doubt that after having cleansed themselves of practically all non-Christians in the 20th Century, Europeans find any other form of religious expression, foreign and confrontational. No one finds it strange that women have to wear a veil when meeting the Pope at the Vatican, but could never understand why a woman would voluntarily wear a Muslim veil, unless under male duress.

They also forget that European women wore scarves well into the last century. In Madrid, for example, on the feast day of their patron Saint Isdro, local women and little girls were the traditional Chulapa dress and headscarf. And in my old neighborhood of Chamberí, if you saw a woman dressed like she was from Saudi Arabia, she was usually a Catholic nun (and teaching at a publicly subsidized charter school).

From an American perspective, having grown up in a multicultural town where my next door neighbors were Jewish, Iranian, Hindu, Black, Mormon, Nicaraguan, and Korean, there was nothing strange about having, for example, a Jewish or Sik boy sitting next to me on the yellow public school bus wearing a kippah or turban respectively or seeing my friend’s mother get the mail dressed in a sari.  As long as you bought into the fiction of the American dream (hard work and meritocracy), you could be whatever religion you wanted.

While I enjoy some of the significantly more civilized and advanced aspects of European life (few guns, low crime, free universal health care, generous vacation and paid maternity/paternity leave), when I read about the EU court permitting religious discrimination in the workplace by the same Je Suis Charlie hypocrites, I dearly miss my First Amendment right to be both free from religion and free to be openly religious.

But it’s not just the Bill of Rights. As my former boss and now president of George Mason University, Angel Cabrera, wrote yesterday in the Washington Post,

American innovation has been the envy of the world for the last century. Our ability to discover scientific breakthroughs, invent disruptive technologies and build successful companies that make those advances broadly available has been unparalleled. This creativity is the product of a culture that is uniquely open to new ideas, that encourages and rewards risk taking, that values people for what they achieve, not where they come from. It is also the result of a constant supply of talented people from outside the United States, many of whom came to this country seeking world-class education and an open society where they could thrive.

America is more than just my rights story. It’s a global brand with its can-do outlook. It’s about being solution-driven, making things happen, and moving forward. It’s about striving to be the best. But, people around the world don’t buy the American flag t-shirt or beach towel because they think it stands for “America First” or you are not welcome or trusted here. For that, they could have worn a different flag on their outfit.

Of all people, Mr. Trump of the Trump brand empire should understand that his words, travel bans, walls and nativism will have a major effect on the American brand.

So it is to Trump and Trumpsters that I ask: when you talk about “making America great again” what exactly is it that made us great in the first place? And when the rest of the world looks at USA® what is that you want them to buy into?

 

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Becoming a Developing Country

Back in January I asked the question, “Have You Ever Been to a Developing Country” to describe how Trump and Republicans’ vision of America would bring America closer to resembling a developing country where you cannot drink the water, only the rich can prosper, educate themselves, afford health care, and where the government only spends money on national defense and the police.

Guess what? Now it is official. Trump’s budget proposal looks just like that of any third world Banana Republic. At least unlike third world despots, we know that our president is not milking the presidency for personal gain.

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The Healthiest President Ever!

I apologize for the revisionism, but these photos speak for themselves.

Need I continue?

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Bipartisan Collusion to Make Russians More Important Than They Are

sessions-i-lie-because-i-can

 

UPDATED BELOW

Let there be no doubts. I have no love for Mr. Trump who I believe to be a uniquely unqualified mediocre businessman blowhard psychotic old man with small penis syndrome. But let’s be honest: This whole Russian thing is a big joke on Americans. The Russians did nothing and are nobodies.

The real scandal should be that the tiny brained Democrats need a tiny brained reason for Americans to hate Trump that does not bring to light the fact that Democrats have nothing to offer the American people and are in bed with the same Wall Street and corporate interests as Trump & Co. Then you have the dumb-ass Republicans who wrongly think the Russians did them a favor and somehow want to both show Russia their gratitude and hide that fact at the same time. Furthermore, Mr. Trump’s ego is so vulnerable to manipulation, that the mere hint that a foreign power favors him over Obama turns him into putty in their hands.

But the fact of the matter is that the hacked emails revealed absolutely no wrong-doing on the part of Hillary. Of course, Americans are too tribalistic and persuadable to have realized that it was all about nothing. All they knew was that there was supposed to be something bad about her private email server (but they don’t know what) and that there were hacked emails. Add those two together with 30 years of brainwashing that Hillary is evil, and ergo email scandal proves she’s Crooked Hillary.

Even though the investigations were never about corruption and those emails revealed no wrong-doing, I believe they were ultimately in the public interest, just as the leaked “grab’em by the pu$$y” recording of Trump was. Does it matter who disclosed them? Americans, Russians or others? The information was true and newsworthy. Had the Russians hacked voting booths, this would be a very different story.

Objectively the Trump recording should have been more damaging to Trump than the Hillary emails were to her, but it wasn’t. Evangelicals still voted for a disgusting con artist pig with no moral or business scruples while far too many Democrats stayed home on Election Day. Personally, I think the FBI decision to pretend to reopen the investigation was decisive but not the email hack.

Now we have Mr. Sessions (and other Trump appointees) lying about having spoken to Russian officials. In the case of Sessions, it makes absolutely no sense that he lied under oath. He had plenty of valid justifications as a Senator for having met with the Russian ambassador. So why does the person who is now Attorney General, the highest ranking US official in charge of enforcing the laws of the nation, commit perjury? Surely if he really is one of the top lawyers in the country, he understood the question and knew that his answer was false. Either he’s an idiot and unqualified or he is a felon. But in America, if you are a person of color or an average white dude, our judicial system is unforgiving. When you are an immigrant, you get deported. When you are part of the ruling elite, you keep your job and pay absolutely no personal or professional price for your actions. So much for Personal Responsibility in America. It reminds me of this silly kids song – Johnny Johnny Yes Papa – my 20 month old  loves. I have my own version:

Father: Jeffrey Jeffrey
Little Jeffrey: Yes, Papa
F: Speaking to Russians?
LJ: No Papa
F: Telling Lies?
LJ: No Papa
F: Open your mouth
LJ: Ha ha ha

Mr. Sessions lies like a little boy because he can get away with it. Ha ha ha.

But overall, the tragedy of going retro with the Russian paranoia is that both Democrats and Republicans have colluded here, arguably unintentionally for their own selfish reasons, to rehabilitate Russia as a global powerbroker and force to be reckoned with. Everyone should be ashamed of themselves. It’s just really dumb geopolitics.

UPDATE 5 March 2017:

Now that it is clear that various Trump advisors and appointees, including his son-in-law, had meetings with Russian officials during the campaign and prior to entering office, Trump has decided to go with “but Obama was illegally wiretapping me”. Here are some quick observations:

  • Again, who cares about the Russian meetings? Does anyone doubt that Bibi – who openly hated Obama – had conversations with Trump & Co.? I don’t think there is anything wrong per se with Trump speaking to Russians. I think he did engage with them because he has a pathetic need for attention, as said above. What doesn’t look good, though, is for the Trump team to try to cover up the meetings. While I am not concerned about those meetings (at least based on the evidence we have to date about Russia’s involvement in the election), I am concerned by (i) Trump’s need to cover it up with lie, (ii) having a president who is so easy for foreign governments to bait, and (iii) Trump’s decision to scapegoat a former president with wild, unfounded allegations.
  • Even if the Obama administration had wiretapped Trump, that would not absolve Trump if he or his team had acted illegally or excuse their instinct to lie about the meetings.
  • Explain this to me: Trump first asked that someone hack Hillary’s emails, congratulated the Russians for the hack, but then whines incessantly about leaks against his administration. Either leaks are bad or they are not.
  • The Republican mantra about domestic surveillance post Snowden has been “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about”. I guess that doesn’t apply to Trump.
  • Trump loves to keep a scandal alive. Instead of moving on, he goes off on twitter and tries to blame someone else, this time Obama. One would think this is just bad political strategy. If Trump were a master strategist, he might be doing this on purpose to distract Americans from, say, quietly pushing Bannon’s dark policies. But, Trump is both a nihilist who couldn’t care about policy and too dumb to think that far ahead.
  • After the election, Democrats criticized Obama for not having intervened on the Trump/Russian relationship. As the argument went, if Trump was in bed with the Russians, the intelligence communities would have informed Obama and he could have done something about it. But Obama remained silent. My guess is that Obama was smart enough to know that you don’t want to give Putin the free publicity. Had O Obama really wanted to get Trump, he would have had ample opportunity.
  • One of my biggest criticisms of Obama was his Look Forward Not Backward policy relating to the egregious law breaking of the Bush Administration because it meant that future presidents could commit the same crimes with the same impunity. In part that is how people like Trump could campaign on reinstating torture or reviving Guantanamo. But my purely political criticism was that no Republican president would ever respect Obama’s gesture of not investigating him. Clearly Trump never got that memo. As with everything else, he just doesn’t give a fuck.
  • No president in American history has ever played the victim as much as Trump. He won the election but still can’t come to terms with it. Everyone is unfair to him. Poor boy.
  • Welcome to Great Again!

Note: this post is derived in parts from comments I made on this subject on Facebook this week.

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Have You Ever Been to A Developing Country (or Making America Great Again)?

polluted-waterHave you ever been to a developing country? One where you can’t drink the water, the roads are full of potholes, the air reeks of car emissions and pollution, tree branches and fields are littered with plastic bags, trash piles up on street corners, you can’t afford to go to the doctor, public schools are atrocious, corruption is endemic, but at least you see people in police or military uniform everywhere?

china-air-pollution

In many developing countries, government investment in public services is almost zero, and government regulations of the environment or business activities are non-existent. The only real use of government spending is to build up the military and the police forces to protect the elite. Call it choosing growth over sustainability, if you like. But the effect is that only the rich, who can afford huge 4X4s, expensive private schools and hospitals, bottled water and cronyism can thrive.

And that’s basically Mr. Trump and the GOP’s vision of America. I suggest you get vaccinated, travel abroad, and then come back and see if you can stomach making America Great Again.

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The America I Hope They’re Watching

no-muslim-ban

I hope that when people around the world look at what Trump is doing and saying, instead of the hate and ignorance, they’ll see the enormous outcry of support for Muslims’ humanity from average Americans at protests and on social media, including the massive support shown by Jewish Americans (despite the animus you’re supposed to believe exists between Jews and Muslims). Of course, Americans could have shown similar concern when we were bombing, droning and killing innocent Muslims throughout the Obama administration.

synogue

Nevertheless, I do hope that the world sees the protests in our streets, campuses, at airports, and on social media against the Trump administration’s policies and actions. In my own little social media bubble, I have read countless stories shared by my American friends of Jewish, Iranian, Arab, Latin American, European, and Asian backgrounds about their own families’ courageous journeys to America as refugees and immigrants during times of political violence or severe economic turmoil.

That is the America I hope the world is watching. They are the people that make me proud to be American.

I have also been very impressed by the many Germans  who — usually so reluctant to discuss their own country’s shameful past — have been sounding the alarm about how easy it is for a people and their nation to take a nose dive into the abyss.

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Why Lie about Election Results?

Isn’t it the epitome of stupidity to question the validity of an election you just won? Especially if you just won the election based on very small margins in a few key states and after every poll in every major news publication said you were going to lose big.

Of course, Trump is spinning this to be about 5 million or so votes that lost him the popular election. If there really were 5 million fraudulent votes isn’t it possible that many of those were in the decisive states where Trump won, like Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin? And isn’t it possible that those votes tipped the election in favor of Trump? In that case, is Trump willing to call for a reelection if voter fraud tipped the election in his favor?

In terms of just basic reality, it makes no sense that illegal immigrants would come out and vote and expose themselves to possible deportation. If you know anything about those who are undocumented, you know they stay as far under the radar as possible and avoid consuming or participating in public services or going anywhere where they may be confronted by the authorities. That 5 million illegal immigrants risked getting caught just to sabotage the election is absolutely absurd.

So why lie? I think there are four main reasons the President and his entourage lie:

  1. Small Penis Syndrome. You lie to yourself because you cannot face the fact that you are a very, very small man.
  2. The Emperor has No Clothes. You lie to your boss because that is what he wants to hear. Trump has never been employed. He has always been the boss and no one has ever told him he is wrong. So if you tell him what he wants to hear and it reinforces his narcissistic self-image as a winner, then you can keep the boss happy. In this sense, Trump will be the easiest president in history to manipulate. All you need to do is play into his ego.
  3. Testing the Limits and Alliances. You lie to see how far you can get lying, how much your fan base will accept your blatant falsehoods, and which news outlets and political allies will defend you no matter what you say or do. This is the test of committed tribalism. And so far he’s gotten away with it.
  4. Voter Turn-Out and Fighting Against the Inevitable. In both Bush 43’s first election and Trump’s, the Republican candidate won the election but did not win the popular vote. Trump arguably did worse than Romney yet was able to pull off the election due to the Electoral College. In order words, there is no real popular support or mandate for his policies. But as demographics continue to move against the GOP and its policies, elections will continue to be won by Democrats getting high voter turn-out and Republicans trying to make it harder and harder for Democrats to vote. One of the major reasons for the voter fraud lies of the past few years – and now even more evident with Trump’s massive lack of popularity – is to create enough hysteria to pass draconian voter suppression laws. The GOP simply has not other long term game plan to the White House. On the congressional level, they achieve the same by gerrymandering.

Personally, I think it would be interesting to get an independent panel (which we know will never happen) to review votes, especially in close states. But when that was suggested by Jill Stein with support by some people in the Hillary camp, the Trumpsters cried foul. Now ironically, Trump is questioning his own victory. Both amusing and scary.

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