Category Archives: Trump 45

Our Sacred Western Values

In response to Trump’s The West is under siege speech questioning whether, “we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost,” the Washington Post’s editorial board rightfully asks if “Trump wants us to defend ‘our values’. Which ones?

This reminds me of 2003 during the Iraq War when a woman at my gym in Madrid, upon learning that I was American, felt the need to insult me over the lack of values of my country and countrymen. When I asked if she had ever been to my country to see for herself, she said that she would never go as long as we still had the death penalty.

Only four industrialized nations still have capital punishment: the United States, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan. In this sense, the Spanish woman was right. Maybe the United States does not represent Western values after all, being the only Western country on the list. In fact, the Europeans use Turkey’s continued application of the death penalty as a key reason for denying them entry into the European Union.

But as I reminded the woman yelling at me, European abolishment of the death penalty began in the 1990s. Did that mean that no one should have visited Spain prior to that time or that Europeans didn’t have values before? Europe and America have different political histories and experiences. It takes time for societies to evolve.

For example, when Medieval Christians judged the innocence or guilt of a person by seeing if he could float or endure grueling pain, Islam represented a revolution in civil and criminal rights. In order to be convicted of a crime, Islamic law dictated that there must be witnesses to the crime and evidence presented against the accused.

As I wrote recently, Christianity in the U.S. was used as the main justification for chattel slavery and the subsequent torture, killings, acts of terrorism, denial of rights, and overall brutality that constituted Jim Crow until 1970. Certainly none of those acts represent Western values today. Does that mean that Americans or American Christianity did not share Western values until recently? Or did Western values change?

When the French, Belgians, English, Spanish and Italians colonized much of Africa to the south and the Middle East, India and South East Asia to the east, whose values were they representing? For example, when the Belgians slaughtered millions of Congolese for both sport and economic gain, were they manifesting Western values? Or when the French complain today about Muslims immigrants not integrating into French society or accepting French culture, did their French grandparents integrate or show any respect for the local cultures of the societies they were raping and pillaging less than 100 years ago? Or did their grandparents simply not yet accept Western values?

In part that is why Mr. Trump’s pontification in Poland is so contradictory: he preaches the values and need to defend the West precisely on the soil where so many human lives were brutally murdered to defend the superiority of those located directly to the west (not to the east). So then what does Trump mean by the “West”?

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You Get What You Paid For: Not a Fighter but a Self-Absorbed Thin-Skinned Liar

UPDATE BELOW

They say elections matter. The people vote and get what they voted for. Back when Trump acted like a character out the Sopranos in his handling of the FBI Director, Paul Ryan excused Trump’s behavior – that in competent hands would clearly amount to an abuse of power – as innocent naiveté.  Trump is “new to this”. Maybe Mr. Ryan should have said something more akin to “every nation gets the government it deserves”. This is basically what Mike Huckabee’s daughter, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said in response to a recent twitter insult storm by the president: “Look, the American people elected a fighter. . . . They knew what they were getting when they voted for Donald Trump.”

But is Trump really a fighter? Normally when under attack, Trump:

  • cries “unfair” like a five year old child
  • throws a tantrum, like refusing to attend a debate because a female journalist wasn’t nice
  • yells “fake news”
  • bluffs (as in the Comey tape bluff); or
  • insults someone’s ratings, physical appearance or ethnicity.

So really, Sarah, is dissing someone’s ratings or calling a woman ugly or fat the trait of a fighter? Maybe ask yourself what the President thinks of your looks?

No, Trump is not a fighter. He is liar. He is a blusterer. He is a crybaby and a whiner. He is a misogynist. And he is someone that makes shit up all the time and never keeps his word. He is reality TV incarnate, a high school bully and an overall scoundrel. The American people had access before Election Day to the long, well-documented history of Trump’s multiple business failures (subsidized by the American taxpayer), gaudiness, steaks and university, nihilism and nepotism, fraud, self-aggrandizing, infidelity, conspiracy theory pushing, and lack of attention to detail and disregard for the rules.  His tweet storm was the behavior not of a fighter but of a delusional psychopath.

Nonetheless, enough Americans voted for him to make him President of the United States. So maybe Democrats should stop complaining and Republicans stop making excuses for him. Perhaps Trumpsters’ only rational argument left is that if Americans voted for Trump, they “knew what they were getting”.  In other words, that Americans must have wanted a self-absorbed, thin-skinned liar for president. And they certainly got one.

We bought what he was selling, and like every nation, we’re getting what we deserved.

UPDATED JULY 3, 2017:

As if to prove my point, Trump boasts of his fantasy world where he’s a pro-wrestler fighting the hater Fake Press. But in the real world, when it comes to fighting, what does Trump do? He posts a fantasy video about a fantasy sport or he calls people names, insults their looks or their ethnicity. I for one feel a lot safer knowing that we have Trump to fight for us.

I don’t know whether this video promotes violence or what its origin is. What I do know is that our president is a buffoon. A self-absorbed, thin skinned, lying buffoon.

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Warmbeir’s Murder is Vile, but Spare Me the Outrage

UPDATE BELOW

Otto Warmbier’s death, like the death of any young person is tragic. The fact that it was done at the hands of the North Korean regime makes is particularly vile. The thought that this could ever happen to my own son is heart-wrenching.

But Americans need to be careful in their outrage. Just yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court – the supreme guardian of our fundamental rights – ruled that those abused by the U.S. government while in custody have absolutely no right to recourse against their abusers. In other words, the hundreds of people illegally rendered, tortured, held captive without trial and even those killed in the process have no right to sue the government for their abuse.

Just take a look at the CIA Torture Report. People like:

  • Khalid El-Massri, a German citizen who was rendered in Macedonia (by mistake), held incommunicado and abused, taken to a secret prison in Afghanistan where he was tortured, and then when the CIA realized they had the wrong guy, he was left in the middle of the night on a street in Albania. Macedonia was help responsible, but the U.S. courts have refused to hear his case.
  • Abu Zubaydah who was waterboarded at least 83 times in one month, and once claimed to be one of the worst of the worst, is now considered wrongly accused, regardless of have now spend a decade and half in a cage without trial or charges. He is now mentally unfit for trial. The European Court of Human Rights ruled against Poland – who was complicit in the rendering – and awarded damages.
  • Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen, was stopped by the U.S. authorities due to transit through JFK where he was then rendered to Syria and tortured by the Syrian government and the behest of the U.S. government. The U.S. courts refused to hear his case, but the Canadian courts would and ruled in his favor.
  • Omar Khadr, Guantanamo’s youngest detainee. He was picked up in Afghanistan at age 15, tortured and sent to Guantanamo for allegedly throwing a grenade at U.S. soldiers (though it was likely a rock). He was held without trial or charges for 10 years. He was a Canadian citizen.
  • Gul Rahman was killed by the CIA while held in the secret prison in Afghanistan called the “Salt Pit”. He froze to death after the CIA order his guards to leave him chained to the concrete floor naked overnight.

Stories like these seem endless, with hundreds of people having been rendered or locked up in cages, and all end in the same way: a young man (even teenager) was wrongly accused, rendered, tortured, and then refused his day in court.

So stop for a minute and think about that. Were Warmbier killed by the U.S. instead of by North Korea under exactly the same circumstances, Warmbier’s family would be in the same predicament they are today: they have no right to sue their son’s murders. Ironically, the U.S. courts are more likely to entertain a case of abuse by the North Koreans than to hear a case against their own government.

Now, I am perfectly aware of the fact that the U.S. is not North Korea. I would never want to live in North Korea, let alone visit there. The U.S. is my country, and although I no longer live in America, it is my first destination of choice for travel.

But as an American how should I react? My heart goes out to this boy’s family, but it’s hard to argue with a straight face that Americans should be outraged, especially those who defend and defended torture – including our current president who campaigned on bringing torture back and our former Vice President Cheney who continues to defend torture today – and especially when our Supreme Court hot off the press rules against abuse victims’ rights to access our courts for redress. Or is it so hard for Americans to believe that a Muslim could be as innocent or unworthy of torture as an American college student?

UPDATED JUNE 22, 2017:

There is an article in yesterday’s New York Times about the two American psychologists who designed and oversaw the U.S. torture program. The pieces gives further insights in the program based on their own testimony. It is well worth the read and describes the torture and everlasting trauma of many of the program’s victims (some of whom were wrongly associated with terrorists), including this bit on Abu Zubaydah:

Drs. Mitchell and Jessen were sent to the jail to carry out the techniques, including waterboarding. Water was poured over a cloth covering Abu Zubaydah’s face to simulate drowning. He underwent the procedure 83 times over a period of days; at one point he was completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising from his mouth, according to the Senate report. A newly declassified August 2002 cable from the prison to headquarters noted: “At the onset of involuntary stomach and leg spasms, subject was again elevated to clear his airway, which was followed by hysterical pleas. Subject was distressed to the level that he was unable to effectively communicate or adequately engage the team.”

Imagine the outrage we would have if this was the treatment that Mr. Warmbeir had been subject to by the North Koreans.

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Unhinged and Unraveling: This Doesn’t End Well for Anyone

There is no hiding from what we already knew. Prior to entering politics, Trump was a well-documented fraud and con, a lech, a serial womanizer, classless and a blowhard. This is all well preserved in the public record.

What we are now witnessing of Trump – that sometimes successful but often times ruinous real estate and gaudiness salesman turned TV reality star, turned pusher of conspiracy theories, turned president — should also come as no surprise. As president, Trump is utterly incompetent and displays a total disregard and lack of interest in the office of the presidency, the institutions of democracy, the basics of foreign affairs and diplomacy, or American tradition. Trump has no respect for anything related to our country, arguably for anything other than himself.

We have also witnessed Trump’s questionable mental health. John Garnter makes the compelling case that Trump suffers real psychosis, which of course should also be no surprise to anyone:

His narcissism is evident in his “grandiose sense of self-importance … without commensurate achievements.” From viewing cable news, he knows “more about ISIS than the generals” and believes that among all human beings on the planet, “I alone can fix it.” His “repeated lying,” “disregard for and violation of the rights of others” (Trump University fraud and multiple sexual assault allegations) and “lack of remorse” meet the clinical criteria for anti-social personality. His bizarre conspiracy theories, false sense of victimization, and demonization of the press, minorities and anyone who opposes him are textbook paranoia.

Furthermore, we are increasingly witnessing more erratic behavior from the unprovoked insults hurled indiscriminately at our closest allies (as in the case of London’s mayor) to his prosecution complex and self-victimization at the hands of the fake news press. Trump who redefined nepotism in US politics is now facing his son-law’s likely political demise in shame, the coming testimony of former FBI director Comey, non-stop leaks from professional bureaucrats as well as his own staffers, open war within and amongst his administration and the executive branch, the inability to find anyone willing to fill the massive vacancies in his administration from prosecutors, diplomats and even the FBI director position (though today it looks like he will nominate a lawyer who specializes in governmental investigations). This is all combined with his increasing personal isolation — all alone in the White House consuming lots of cable news without friends or family. And the question is: is President Trump beginning to unravel? He is obviously unhinged, but he now also appears to be unraveling, on the verge of breakdown.

One would think the GOP is better off cutting its losses now and putting Pence in charge. They might get slaughtered in the midterms but they could potentially recover by 2020.  Meanwhile, the Democrats are banking on an easy win -basically that Trump will either self-destruct or the Russian scandal will somehow take him down. The former is probably more likely than the latter.

But the Democrats’ quick fix also highlights their denial. They can’t see that they still lose as long as they have no value proposition for voters other than Trump is undoubtedly unacceptable. Americans already knew Trump was disgusting when they elected him. And even if Democrats could take the Trump presidency down, they still have no compelling message for voters at the local level.

So here we are at a critical moment in American history. Democrats think they are winning. Republicans think they have nothing to gain. We have an unhinged president who is unraveling in a very public, arguably irreparable way. Both Democrats and Republicans are taking the wrong approach. If anyone in either party was patriotic, they’d cut a deal that allows the Republicans to get rid of Trump and still save face. I wouldn’t hold your breath.

This doesn’t end well. For anyone.

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No, It’s Not Comparable, but …

I would much rather be a Catholic woman than a woman living in Saudi Arabia any day. Women in Saudi Arabia suffer all sorts of daily humiliations, indignities and inequalities. They are prohibited from driving, their mobility is limited when not accompanied by a male chaperone, and they are subject to strict dress requirements. Furthermore, women and men are segregated in the workplace.

Lots of praise was given to Melania and Ivanka for not covering their heads in Saudi Arabia (contrasting with Trump’s own criticism of Michelle Obama for doing the same), yet not much was made of these women covering their heads when visiting the Pope at the Vatican (other than that it was mere protocol).  And there was of course no mention whatsoever about the other similarities between the Vatican and Saudi Arabia, mainly the conspicuous absence of women in official state business and the total prohibition of women in government. Without any women around, it almost looked like the Republican leadership debating women’s health.

So of course, you cannot compare the two, but still …

 * * *

This week we saw in Manchester another disgusting, gut-wrenching, and inexcusable attack on innocent lives. That someone is capable of willfully taking the lives of these young people is mind blowing. Communities around the world are and should be rightfully calling these murders an inexplicable, unjustifiable evil.

Meanwhile we have just learned that a U.S. airstrike killed 100 civilians in Iraq on March 17th.  Also “US-led air strikes on Syria killed a total of 225 civilians over the past month” including 44 children and 36 women, making it the deadliest month for civilians at the hand of American leadership since we entered the country in 2014. Those 100 people who were one moment alive in Iraq and those 225 people who were one moment alive in Syria but are all now dead today, were human beings just like those people in Manchester, Paris, Brussels, and elsewhere. They were just different people.

So of course, you cannot compare the two, but still …

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Are We the Rapists?

Just a few months ago our worst fears were confirmed: maybe Trump was right, immigrants crossing the Mexican border are a band of rapists after all. In my own backyard, in a Montgomery Country Maryland public school no less.

So goes the narrative that Mexicans, Muslims and other men of color are serial rapists and a danger to our more advanced Western Christian societies and enlightened sensibilities. In fact, during most of America’s history, so devastating was the threat of a black man entering into physical contact with a white woman, that the mere allegation that a woman had been raped (or even looked at) by a black man, sparked mass hysteria amongst white folk, leading to populist lynch mobs who would execute the first black man or child they found in their paths.

So goes the narrative that German women are suffering mass rape at the hands of refugee mobs, female journalists are being sexual assaulted by Egyptians, and of course that Mexicans are crossing the border to rape American girls.

But remember your incensed social media feed and links to conservative news sites about those two illegal immigrant teenagers who had raped wholesome white girls in a Rockville, Maryland high school? In their high school bathroom no less! Boys from Central America with very dark skin! Remember how liberal political correctness was at fault? Guess what? The prosecution will drop its case. It looks like video footage and text message evidence make proving rape very difficult.

Call me a liberal, but just because a girl sends naked pictures of herself to a boy, says she’ll meet to have sex, and then enters a bathroom with him for that purpose, doesn’t mean she loses the right to say “no” at the last minute. There still could have been rape. Nevertheless, when it is a white boy (especially a football player) being accused and when those accusations are later proven false, the right wingers are in an uproar over an epidemic of false rape accusations. Now you get why VP Pence won’t be alone with a woman not his wife. Wouldn’t want to fall into the trap of a conniving feminist.  So why didn’t we side with the boys on this one, rather than doing a Jim Crow era lynching campaign? Why weren’t we siding with those refugees accused of rape in Germany? And you guessed it: those accusations also turned out to be trumped (excuse the pun).

So the narrative goes, everyone other than us has a rape culture. But we do have a problem. Forget about journalists in Egypt. Our female journalists have been suffering sexual harassment at Fox News for years, by both its CEO and its top media star. America’s favorite TV father, Bill Cosby, turns out to be a serial rapist. And twenty years after one president was receiving fellatio in the Oval Office by an intern half his age, the American people nevertheless elect an old man who bragged about moving on a married bitch and being entitled to assault women at will, well, at least if he has a Tic Tac on hand.

Far worse, one in five of your daughters report having been sexually assaulted on college campuses. Think about that, dads. You’ll pay between $20-60k/per year to have a 20% chance your beautiful little daughter will be sexually assaulted at one of your elite clubs. And those aren’t Muslim or Mexican boys with their hands on your precious girls. They are not poor, uneducated street roughs. They are the sons of those who can afford the world’s most expensive colleges and universities. They are being groomed to be the nation’s future elite.

So forget about Mexican rapists. Think about the Baylor University football team being accused of 52 rapes, and why Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, and rich kids around the country are told that if you’re rich and entitled enough, you can move on any bitch you want. Why else would you want to go to college or be on the team? And when those hysterically clever Baylor frat boys have a dress-like-a-Mexican-day-laborer theme party, it makes a lot of sense why we mistakenly thought it was Mexicans raping our daughters. Ooops, my bad. But no need for a full retraction.

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Twenty Years

I dug up this old photo from twenty years ago. It’s of the same view that Mr. Trump would have had at his inauguration this January as he looked over the Washington DC Mall from the Capitol. Every time I’d read about the crowd size controversy, I’d think about that photo from a time when I was still living in my hometown.

Twenty years ago it was 1997. The English Patient had just won the Oscars, and Titanic was out in theaters. Notorious B.I.G., whose songs “Hypnotize” and “Mo Money, Mo Problems” were hits that year, had just been murdered. And it was the year that Mother Theresa and Princess Di would die.

I was finishing my second and entering my third year of law school. Bill Clinton was a few years older than I am now, and Monica Lewinsky was a few years younger than I was then. In a matter of months scandal would break.

Twenty years ago, a president had to lie about smoking pot and about consensual sex with an intern, long before a president could openly say inhaling was the point or another one could brag about being able to grab a woman by her private parts without her consent.

Twenty years ago, Donald Trump was getting ready for his second divorce and was about to “move on” Melania. The Twin Towers were still standing in Lower Manhattan and no one had heard of Bin Laden. George W. Bush was not yet president and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who were alive under a local dictator had not yet lost their lives to an American democracy. It would be a decade before the U.S. had its first black president or female presidential nominee.

In 1997, I was a few years away from my first cellphone, Apple still hadn’t made its comeback, and I got my email from AOL on a

desktop computer with a firm “you’ve got mail”. I made mix tapes, was building my CD collection, and apparently dedicated a lot of time to my hair.

Later that year, the Buena Vista Social Club soundtrack was released, with its stellar roster of vintage Cuban musicians, including the great Omara Portuando singing:

Si las cosas que uno quiere
Se pudieran alcanzar
Tú me quisieras lo mismo
Que veinte años atrás

[If the things that we wished for
Were ever attainable
Then you would love me the same
As you did 20 years ago]

Twenty years ago, I had no idea where and to whom my life would take me. Twenty years later, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, I wake up in the middle of the night to someone crying in the next room. I look at my wife sleeping next to me. I walk past my baby girl breathing softly, past my middle child snoring, to my eldest who’s calling for Daddy, and Daddy is me. A wife and three kids. A family. People I didn’t know or who didn’t exit twenty years ago. Who would have thought all this was possible in just twenty years and at such a young age?

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