Trump/Russia; Hungarian/American Eyes

Quotes:  Judged by every standard,,.the Soviet Government of Russia is one of the worst tyrannies…It accords no political rights.  It rules by terror.  It punishes political opinions.  It suppresses free speech.  It tolerates no newspapers but its own…It is engaged at this moment in trampling down the peoples of Georgia and executing their leaders by the hundreds.  (Winston Churchill, Missouri, Iron Curtain Speech, 1946)

Nothing has changed in Russian policy.  Her methods, her tactics, her maneuvers may change but the polestar of world domination is immutable (Karl Marx, London speech, 1887)

So long as man remains free he strives for  nothing so incessantly and so painfully as to find someone to worship (Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, 1880)

In the news:  Poll fraud in Hungary/Communists’ swoop (The Sydney Morning Herald, 9.02.47)

1956: Soviet troops overrun Hungary (BBC, on this day, 11.04.56)

Berlin Wall Tumbles. “Beginning of the End” for Communism (London Herald, 9.11.89) 

Gorbachev, Last Soviet Leader, resigns; US recognizes Republics’ Independence (New York Times, 12.25.91)

The Perils of Trump’s meeting with Putin  (LA Times, 7.05.17)

Vladimir Putin talks ruling the world, future wars and life on Mars (Newsweek, 9.01.17)

In context:  Only about ten years ago with 20 years of United Nations experience under my belt did it occur to this Hungarian-American to ask her mother a question that had always puzzled me.  How was Russia able to dominate half of Europe after the Second World War?  “They installed national leaders and moved in with heavy artillery to put down opposition.”

Fifty-odd years passed before this seven-year-old child processed the experience of losing the world as she knew it overnight when parents whisked her and her brother out of harm’s way during the dead of a 1956 winter after the Hungarian revolution against Soviet domination collapsed.  Losing the known world in the impressionable early years leaves scars.  New languages are learned, adaptation to a better life is certainly an up-side, but early memories haunt and are passed down through generations.

That legacy of receiving needy new peoples with open arms and easing their adjustment to new conditions so as to contribute to society is at the very heart of America.  It has been the hallmark of the geographically blessed United States ever since native Americans relieved sea-weary voyagers from the Mayflower that turned out to be a Trojan horse.  Openness is a big part of the US genetic make-up, which has been ever since then the gold standard for national benevolence regardless of misfires.  By now, that reputation for good-will is on par with the equally prized gold-standard of the American currency.  It is a unique marriage of spirit and cash that has readied the country for an info-based global world complete with misinformation, the hazards of naive short-sightedness and outside interference.

The recent crackdown on immigration under President Trump has stirred deep-seated memories in this long-time United States citizen.  They are dark forgotten images of a pre-seven year old child huddling with her brother during midnight AVO police raids where parents scrambled to hide photos and letters from relatives out in the west, of a parent being hauled out for interrogation in the dead of night, of whispered scared-child exchanges at school the next day about fathers or mothers who disappeared and about how children could help the family cope.

That was Hungary in the early 1950’s under the Soviet-backed Hungarian Communist party. and all memories of that young child are not bad.  Waiting in bread lines on the way to school with a guardian was rather fun and chicken from the black market once a month turned the usual meal of sugar-sprinkled bread into a downright feast.  Even the 40-km trek across no-man’s land between Hungary and Austria in December 1956 was an adventure to a child totally secure with parents nearby after they were mere ghosts while they played out parts in the five- and ten-year Soviet plans for making Hungary profitable for them, the only source of security in a rigidly controlled and isolated world suffering scarcity in a post-war Europe in shambles.

That Iron-Curtain world was cut off from the global mainland through propaganda, parade-level theatrics and restrictions on information flow.  It took dogged, zealous effort on the part of those both behind and beyond the Curtain to dodge those restrictions..  Letters in both directions were written in code to shield identities and anticipate censorship.  Incoming packages from the West were torn open and no one questioned the obviously missing content.  More formal information inflow was downright deadly to access.  If caught, listeners to The Voice of America, for example, were imprisoned or “disappeared.”  Scarce short-wave radios served as foundations for basement community centers where neighbors huddled for news and encouragement  despite uneasy fears that the desperate and/or greedy among them would “inform” to authorities.

The Soviet domination of Eastern Europe between 1946 and the 1989 fall of the Iron Curtain now seems unreal in easy-going blessed America, but it is still very real to Europeans sliced in half during that period.  It is very real to former Soviet Republics like Georgia still experiencing first-hand the iron-fisted grip of Russia beyond even its Soviet period.  It is apparent in the present global world with its shifting geopolitics encompassing all basic human social elements from economics to ideologies, from gender matters to traditions, and most acutely, historical hierarchy and racial dominance..

Two world leaders now represent the old order standing staunch against a radical shift in the values of a global reality.  Vladimir Putin of Russia and Donald Trump of the United States are both macho white men, the former playing geoglobal 3D chess with the world’s other near-200 countries and the latter a lightweight entertainer playing at being president.  They seem linked by a symbiotic affinity.  Donald Trump does not seem to care about leading his country.  His interests seem to lie in making money and magnifying a reputation as a business deal-maker wizard.  Vladimir Putin provides the ideal environment for Donald Trump.  Russia’s lax legal infrastructure maintained that way by Putin allows oligarchs to flourish and provide  opportunities for Trump.  That structure seems to work well for Putin playing chess with global geopolitics while Trump distracts the pesky American free press informing national and international publics and their law-makers.

This Hungarian-American has become a global citizen thanks to warm memories of Kraft American Cheese that the Red Cross delivered by five-pound cartons to Hungarian refugees in Austria.  She has a lifelong soft spot for refugees the world over regardless of whatever intolerable cause got them running and abandoning the only life and culture ever known.  America, the land of opportunity, is safe harbor to those suffering from the political oppression or extreme poverty afflicting much of the world today due to geographical and cultural history.

The US Constitution and the infrastructure based on it makes the country a stable landing field for the world’s dispossessed.  A history of serving as such a base has created a country where new arrivals are not just received but integrated.  They become part of their communities rather than becoming ethnic enclaves as they do in more established cultures.  The process is certainly fraught with complications but it is grounded in a legal foundation that makes the country hospitable to the ambitious wanting to take advantage of opportunities in accordance with law.  That is the way forward, according to data on millennials and the silicon valley projections toward the future.  Those seeking gain through good old-fashioned strong-arm techniques are better off in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.  There, a judiciary entrenched in central politics makes the country an incubator for opportunists without impunity.

The US is far from free of crooks but they are held accountable by law and by cultural genetics.  The land of opportunity allows for the daring of outlaw tactics, but it also provides sheriffs to maintain order and a judicial system to oversee the sheriffs.  In Putin’s Russia, big-time crooks run free and carry a lot of clout.  In the US, Trump supporters who would indeed back the president if he shot someone in plain sight may indeed be better off in Russia.

Like most immigrants, this one loves and appreciates the new home she found as a child with a depth of ardor singular to immigrants .  And with that love based on personal experience, this American immigrant feels a protective dread that good-hearted America is naive in a global world.

To date, America has been spared the annihilation of world war but Europe along with Japan has learned first-hand the lesson of two world wars.  Russia, too, has learned its lessons from historical vampirism, brutally clearing out the traditional tsars to make way for the Soviet Marx/Engels experiment until it failed dramatically.  Then it shifted 180 degrees, allowing the rise of oligarchs to infiltrate and bleed dry vulnerable targets in a drive to dominate and subjugate the world.

Russia empowers underworld oligarchs because its legislative framework allows for collusion between governmental entities and wheeler-dealers bringing in money and laundering it when necessary to comply with international standards.  America’s legislative infrastructure based on the Constitution prohibits malfeasance and provides penalties for infractions.  The United States is a rule-of-law country.  The rule of law may not always be followed but its intent is in the right direction of providing the maximum play between freedom and social security.  Mafia cartels in the United States are brought down by legislative and judicial actions.  In Russia, they thrive and are partners with the government.

The third part of government dealing with rule of law is the executive., the person in charge and those carrying out executive decisions.  In Russia, that person is Vladimir Putin, in power now for 17 years and still running strong with brutal actions against opponents.  In the United States, the executive head of the country is Donald J. Trump, a business huckster seemingly hand-in-glove with Russia’s Putin.

The near-200 countries of the world have their own personalities just like individual people and they have their own codes of conduct.  Some countries are liberal, some are restrictive in favor of preserving social order.  But another character of global countries today is that also found in individuals.  Some are benevolent, nurturing. and constructive.  Others are misanthropic, belligerent, predatory,  greedy and destructive.

Russia may have given up on Communism because it didn’t work and it still may be fanning leftover pockets for its own benefit, but the real pay-off in today’s global world is in getting the free-for-all Russian Oligarchs to huddle with freewheeling biz-whizzes like Trump.  It’s a global mafia underworld in a 3- chess game where all players have divergent rules for dealing with transgressors.

The United States forgives and forgets.  Russia imprisons, poisons or otherwise quiets the opponents of its supreme power-loving ruler.  China stifles and Arabic countries dismember according to Shariah law.  In the absence of American world leadership at present, Europe is the force holding the world steady.  It is the parental forebear of America, the child of Europe made even more robust than the parent by its receptivity to new blood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The People vs. Ultra-White Trump

Quotes:  Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely (Lord Actor, 1887); It is better to be feared than loved (Machiavelli, 1532); Let them eat cake (misattrib. Marie Antoinette, c.1782); The rich are different from me and you (F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1926);  I’m a New Yorker and I know a con when I see one (Michael Bloomberg, 2016).

In the news:  Admit It:: Trump is Unfit to serve (Washington Post, 2.15.17); The Alt-Right Gives a Press Conference (New York, 9.11.16); Trump Family’s elaborate lifestyle a logistical nightmare at taxpayer expense (Washington Post, 2.10.17);  Trump buses entire Senate to White House because he can (Crooks & Liars, 4.27.17); The UN is Giving up on Trump (Politico, 6.27.17); “My Country First” Threatens global goals with US, China, Russia Lagging (T. Reuters Fndn, 7.06.17); Trump leaves leaders fearing the future as G-20 summit closes (Washington Post, 7.08.17); KKK rally in Charlottesville outnumbered by protesters (CNN 7.08.17); How Putin helped Trump defeat his Republican primary rivals (Newsweek, 7.19.17).

In perspective:  On a technicality in 2016, America leapt off the cliff and handed its mightiest powers to known business huckster Donald Trump.  His election may have been the starting gun for proof that the white-male stranglehold on global power just may be over because Trump in the Oval Office has triggered the worst excesses that runaway white testosterone has inflicted on the world for millennia.  The contrast with his immediate predecessor Obama is both glaring and definitive.

Donald Trump emerged as an American cultural figure in a splash of news coverage over the years by making himself a media magnet, compelling attention through an assault on the expected much as a traffic accident draws a crowd.  He made his mark in the cut-throat world of high-end New York real estate by leveraging interests, dodging laws and selling schemes so successfully that local banks stopped lending him money never repaid on failed ventures.  The self-promoting deal-wizard then found financing among more fluid overseas opportunities and diversified into glitzy fields ranging from beauty contests to product branding, TV, entertainment and the get-rich-quick version of education with the unaccredited Trump University.

Class-action lawsuits against the bogus and defunct U were in the works when Trump won the 2016 election and he quickly agreed to a $25 million settlement with the public boast that he did so only for the good of the country so it would not be distracted as he governed.  An avalanche of less time-sensational lawsuits and probes fell by the wayside like road-kill, including the questionable status of his Trump Foundation and possible Trump ties to far-flung Russian money-laundering schemes.  Six months into the Trump tenure, the Federal Prosecutor in the latter two cases had long been fired, the Trump U settlement money was still outstanding and the FBI Director investigating a Russian role in the election itself had also been fired.  Those developments, which amounted to blocking ongoing actions, were mere details in the tornado of Trump blasting through limits on his unparalleled new powers and opportunities.

Trump won the conservative Republican party’s nomination for president by bush-whacking 17 rivals with an aggressive savagery that left them numbed as if struck by cobra venom.  He then flayed his female Democratic opponent with the same tactics ramped up to the target.  He loomed, lurked, threatened, accused and shamed her through her spouse, freely resorting to such dirty tricks as resurrecting the man’s past indiscretions while burying his own blistering disgraces with media distractions.  Overall, his crude behavior was treated as a trademark splurge of theatricality in a bogus bid for president but a handful of followers gave his campaign traction.

Whether or not the first Trump supporters were paid actors as rumored, the core base snow-balled throughout the campaign as Trump gave loud voice to primitive raw sentiments seething over eight years, ever since America made history by electing the western industrialized world’s first non-white Head of State.  That was in response to a global economic crisis brought on by eight years of Republican policies that no longer worked in a global world.

The backlash to the historic 2008 election of Barack Obama was instantaneous and fierce.  It grew rabid as Obama succeeded despite best Congressional efforts to thwart him.  From Tea Party to the outrageous Trump-led birther movement to the Alt-Right, white conservative fervor exploded once Trump hit his mark and found the sweetspot with the angry, frustrated and disenfranchised rust-belt middle class left behind by a rapidly changing world in which Washington and coastal elites had abandoned them.

Trump opponent Hillary Clinton characterized the base as a basket of deplorables, a term that actually referred not to the people but to the traits that Trump was able to rouse in them.  Clinton was pilloried for the comment but the base wore the title with renegade pride as Trump plied the bitter underemployed group that was easy prey for his well-honed skills in leveraging interests, reading people and selling schemes to win the trust needed for getting people to hand over their money or, in 2016, their vote.

The trademark Trump skill-set is known as manipulation when used for self-interest and numerous other names when exercised for deceit.  Whatever his motivation, Trump pumped the base by inflaming deplorable traits to build symbiotic affinity over perceived injustices and a drive to exact harsh pay-back by any means necessary, branding the baseball cap and milking its discord with tailored suits to build team spirit until he was a virtual Pied Piper in a leveraging move to ensnare Republicans.

Like others apart from the base, Republicans started out by quite rightly castigating Trump for ugly below-the-belt behaviors like attacking family members of rivals.  But when Trump became the official Republican nominee for president, he proved out the faulty truism that the end justifies the means and that however ugly his means, Trump did achieve his ends.  Criticism softened as Trump stoked deplorable traits and swept up even a a sizable portion of the mainstream with a message of change, polls indicating that many saw Trump’s crudeness as refreshing and courageous, as blunt and honest in an uncaring world of politics-as-usual.  When Trump actually won the election with or without outside help, Republicans came out in full-throated support of what had become a redeemer for the near-lost hope of restoring a status quo that Obama had disrupted and Hillary Clinton had threatened.

That status quo, of course, was the premise reinforced over two-plus millennia that  whites had a birthright to the lion’s share of the world’s wealth and that white men had the right to manage it.  When Trump trampled Hillary Clinton who would have cemented the crack Obama had made in that time-tested system, Republicans became full-fledged Trump enablers, tolerating and justifying an avalanche of assaults on American values, laws and norms because he was a bull in a china shop with the law and that was precisely why the base had rewarded him with its vote.

Trump was and is a renegade hero to the truly rabid base and the mainstream part that would indeed back him even if he shot someone in plain sight as he boasted.  Perhaps those rebels get a vicarious thrill from “their man” doing just what they would given the opportunity.  Maybe boredom in dead-end jobs that provide much-valued security makes the Trump reality show drama a heady outlet.  But whatever the Trump attraction, that kind of thinking calls for an epic disconnect in common sense in voting for a leader who would never be a role model for kids, as if leading a country had no relation to decency and was above and beyond morality.  Were that the case, Italian/American Mafia boss John Gotti would have died in the White House and not in prison to show a level of logical disconnect suggestive of fairy dust with only the very personal issue of healthcare breaking through the haze and forcing Congressional Republicans to straddle a very uncomfortable fence.

Obamacare to the Republicans has never been about reform but on outright repeal, as if to erase Obama and roll back the progress made under him on behalf of America’s mainstream, from protecting the environment to curbing corporate greed.  The debate over healthcare turns a searchlight on that agenda of obliterating non-white Obama’s presidency.  It brings to light deep social inequities in American society with the implied corollary that Trump has failed to state in so many words despite his base-admired bluntness, that none in league with Trump have a horse in the race to better the lives of ordinary Americans who may become competition like Obama was.

Cutting Medicaid in favor of tax cuts for the rich is a nakedly miserly move associated with the privileged rich white elite that is a throwback to the bad old days before Obama.  It is also  a direct contrast to the modern American wealthy of both genders and all races who come into money based on talents and then generously share earned blessings with those they can help. Trump in the Oval Office embodies the rich white male miser who fits only into the extinct category of marauding conquistador destroying cultures and building empires merely by projecting a ruthless, unstoppable power to overcome because he is unfettered by morals and backed by an army that established powers commissioned to support a venture successfully pitched to them.

Securing the White House keys seems to have unleashed the Trump drive to fulfill his full potential for capitalizing on his trademark skill-set to maximize profit for as long as the opportunity lasts.  That is evident in his presumptive air of having  taxpayers foot the bill for his obscenely lavish Oval Office lifestyle despite his boasts that he is so wealthy he is beholden to no donors as other politicians are.  In the Oval Office, Trump is an extinct white-male relic seated by alienated whites and kept there by white Republican enablers fighting tooth and nail to retain privilege.

The level of Congressional Republican Trump enabling attests to the magnitude of the task in overturning two-millennia-plus of exclusive white power.  The enabling is largely passive, letting Trump take his full measure of liberties in lining his pockets and trampling the Constitution as he romps through his presidency like he did as host of The Apprentice reality show where he fired people with relish to skirt the truth exposed in the White House limelight that he is a real-life coward whose bodyguard or son-in-law has to do the firing for him.  Republican enablers clinging to white-male-primacy at all costs are shameless in applauding Trump as he plays at being president, brandishing pen and waiting for servants to deliver a health care bill he can sign in a gala Rose Garden event where he also photo-ops himself as Commander-in-Chief of America’s mighty armed forces and character-assassinates those deemed disloyal regardless of the fact that one-way loyalty is despotism, not trust.  In fact, Republicans enable the utmost outrages from Trump because they themselves are lost white men on the verge of extinction in a global world and Trump has the back of the white American heartland that has no interest in a world bigger than already familiar.

That base is an important part of American society but it is not the entirety and it would not hurt that part to stretch a bit and connect with the American mainstream, the coastal elites and the global world beyond the American shores.  They may then see that Trump may seem a refreshing outspoken hero in a politically jaded America, but in reality he is a small-town playground bully in a global big-city gang ‘hood where leaders have graduated to legitimate venues.  A broader vista may clear Trump fairy dust from eyes to show him obviously uncomfortable with peer world leaders, eager to rumble with small-time despots like Jung-Un of North Korea and definitely enthralled with Russia’s prominent despot, possibly because the business guru is indebted to Russia or because Trump the would-be leader emulates Putin and envies his ability to make opposition “disappear” because there is no nosy free press to ferret out facts.

A certain portion of the base will undoubtedly cling to Trump and the right-wing media backing his view of reality, but others will be unable to keep denying that Trump in the Oval Office is banging symbolic horns against the paddock fence of America’s checks and balances, that he is a 16th century Machiavelli updated to the age of the electronic superhighway who has taken even conservative Republicans further back than they intended in merely taking the Trump opportunity to erase Obama.  They will see that Trump tweets have created a superhighway speed demon weaving so recklessly through traffic that other drivers pull over to calm and process what happened.  In essence, Trump is an American adrenalin rush that has the whole world reeling, baffled by how Americans can be taken in by an obvious defrauding liar who touts a “Made in America” theme while having his goods made overseas and who cracks down on illegal alien workers while he hires them on his Florida golf courses.  And many of the logical and less rabid Trump base must start to question why neither the right-wing nor establishment media asks Trump the blunt question of where he intends to get his cheap labor once he deports all those he now exploits.

America, the land of opportunity, has again made history with its courage in breaking ground across the pendulum swing of one-step forward and two steps back toward an equitable global world still dominated by white men clinging to exclusive power.  As the epitome of that obsolete white male power structure complete with white women hangers-on, Trump has brought a farce into the White House where conservative white enablers endure trivial lies about popularity while authoritarian China makes trade deals with the European Union for jobs that Trump claimed he would bring back to America while also threatening China with trade sanctions if China did not do his bidding on North Korea.  Likewise, trusty ally Japan hedges its bets about Trump-led America by finding new partners in the Trans-Pacific Partnership from which Trump withdrew America.  Those are just two examples of the world moving on while Trump acolytes play a brutal version of Survivor in the White House.

The difference between the Trump White House and America under Obama is best summed up by personal experience.  In the early Trump days when the Fifth Avenue Trump Tower was newly opened, the glitzy Trump offices were mirror-lined to afford leader Trump with a view of all his domain.  The hallmark of that workplace was dry mouth and bad breath, a sign of indigestion as staff and associates walked in to work each day prepared for a pink slip on the desk with no clue about why or who was involved in the firing.

By contrast near the same time, the United Nations was a healthy mayhem of bonding as people of all cultures the world over performed the same jobs with varying skill levels.  Tensions, pressures and rivalries abounded galore, as did intrigues and back-stabbing.  But the solution to handling hostilities was by forming alliances, the direct opposite of the Trump method of alienating, isolating and befogging support staff and keeping them on their toes by selling himself as the grand wizard of the great white male WIN by outfoxing the establishment white-shoe BIG-SHOTS.

Donald Trump is the mythical American lonesome cowboy who has captured the imagination and loyalty of the lost American rust belt cut off from the larger world.  That accomplishment is to his credit, but a history of huckstering, leveraging interests, skirting laws and selling losing schemes suggests that Trump is a menace in the Oval Office since, as the saying goes, a silk purse can’t be made from a sow’s ear.  Legal cautions must be exercised, of course.  Investigations into Trump activities must not force Americans to stoop to fraudster Trump levels   But since Trump is obviously a formidable person with no scruples or respect for either persons or the law, those pursuing the American staple of honest integrity in a global world may take a cue from the words of Nobel laureate Bob Dylan.  You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

Two millennia-plus of a white male monopoly on global power will not be unseated overnight and with the rules presently prevailing, white men will need to bolster the inroads of non-white males like Barack Obama, the non-male whites like Hillary Clinton and the outspoken non-white establishment negotiators like Cory Booker and Maxine Waters. Those heroic maverick white men seem scarce in a Trump-dominated America, but they do exist in the likes of integrity-rich John McCain and stellar Bob Mueller.  They are the powerful white men capable of sharing the future, both that of America and the world, instead of ruthlessly, pathetically and hopelessly hogging it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

s a historically-based fact today and far from all white men exploiting or advancing it, plenty of rich white men like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates devote their fortified resources to advancing the standing of all humanity.  Trump and the Republicans controlling Congress at present are not of that category.  They are the rich who are jealous of their wealth and privilege, who don’t want poor people to advance to become possible future competitors.  They are the ones who quietly endorse the Republican plan to cut medical assistance to the poor who don’t matter i their world.  They are the status quo establishment members of the white old-boy’s network accepting Trump as useful tool they would not welcome as a member of their circle.

Trump, the high-powered media hungry bully, may have captured the American presidency in 2017 America on a technicality but he does not play well on the global stage.  He is a small town schoolyard bully transported to a big-city world of gang warfare.  He falls for the taunts of lesser thugs and grovels to those more practiced while totally uneasy with the true global leaders stumped at how the beacon of democracy could have elected him as its leader.  The answer to that large question lies in the same principle that operates in a small schoolyard.

Trump is a social misfit clever enough to have won the support of followers satisfied with vicarious strength through him in a world where they can never hope to gain anything better.  He vindicates all those grown-up adolescents who never got to the prom and those schoolhouse bad boys pulling pigtails for attention.   In an adult global world, he is a dinosaur and caricature of the white male privilege destined for  extinction in a global world.

The legitimacy of Trump as America’s president is unquestioned in the mainstream media however Trump bashes any investigation into foreign meddling in the election.  Aside from that questionable legitimacy in some minds, Trump’s execution of his mighty powers raises serious questions about his readiness to assume his position.  He plays at being President,  signing executive orders with a flourish and hosting Heads of State in the Rose Garden while ignoring the mainstream media he beckons at his pleasure.  He presumes that taxpayers will fund his extravagant lifestyle and seems blithe in his role, as if failure was merely another bankruptcy in his march to greatness in history, whether with a war while he’s in office or as the global magnate ever should he be forced out before accomplishing the wartime historic high.  And even if investigations into Constitutional violations should result in a truncated Trump presidency, the goals of both Trump the businessman and the conservative Republicans would have been advanced.

Trump the business mogul who seems a Bernie Madoff on steroids, is occupying the Oval Office for a dual purpose, first to enrich himself at maximum capability and second to reap the rewards of adulation and explosive splash.  Should he leave the country in a shambles as happened with his casinos, he would have helped his Republican enablers save the white male power status quo and keep all others in their place.

Luckily for progressives, the rest of the world is on their side and geopolitics bears that out.  Europe has learned from two millennia of strife over global power including through periods of colonizations still resonating in global tensions while  Russia has learned the opposite lesson and has aligned with Trump as its easy mark in a game of one-upmanship for winning a p-ss fight between two bullies.  China meanwhile, advances its own progress by peacefully aligning over basic economics with Europe, Asia and Africa while its people agitate for social progress via global contact through the internet even as the Arabic countries strive to stifle freedom and progress, thus giving rise to a terrorist movement directed against the outside Westerners just as antiquated as they are.

Any snapshot from the Trump presidential album demonstrates just how antiquated is the uber-white male mode of governing.  His cabinet photos could just as well be a portrait of the pilgrim fathers and his portraits with the First Lady are recreations of the stiff farming couple in Grant’s American Gothic.  It’s all male testosterone in a global world where half the population is female and where the majority is non-white and where the majority is comfortable with change.

First hand experience with the Trump Organization in the mid-1980’s portended the chaos that the Trump style of rule would inflict on the country and the world.  The mirrored thirty-eighth floor of the Trump Tower afforded the boss in his central office an opportunity to surveil all those under him.   The hallmark of that lavish new place needing constant repair due to shoddy construction and economical supply requisition was bad breath and dry mouth among staff.  No one knew on which day they would walk in to work and find a pink slip on their desk without notice.

Contrast that scenario with a snapshot of the United Nations press office

disconnect between Trump the leader and their presumably civilized values.

Two-fifths of America were thus duped by Trump’s well-honed hustling skills but that support has dwindled to one-third under all the ugliness and broken promises within six months.  Three-fifths of America were never taken in by Trump’s crude power ploys, and neither was the rest of the world, including their leaders.  Therein lies the clue to America regaining its position as leader of the free world in a modern global age.

The army of those immune to Trump’s trumpet-calls for misogyny, racism, xenophobia and just plain overall fear is swelling as the base becomes disillusioned with the real threat that they may lose the basic right of staying alive.  The  vestigial traits that Trump rouses in his base are coming to light and stripped of their power as reality sets in.  The loss of affordable health care, however imperfect in light of the fierce opposition that white conservative Republicans put up against non-white Obama’s pro-people initiative, is on the verge of being wrested from those who need it due to the conservative determination to stamp out all things Obama and the progress made as if neither had ever existed.  The global world, however, is on the side of progress against despots and it will rescue America from the malady of  Uber-white Trump fever.

America is safe and on an even keel with its Constitutional system of checks and balances.  Trump may rape the country as Republicans enable him to do so in their commitment to maintaining the white-male dominated global status quo.  That complex may be buttressed by the Trump core base who have conservative votes as their bargaining chip.  But the rainbow of the world’s little people who are now the economic and social majority will unseat the human dinosaurs and will amend the Constitution to prevent abuses by future con-men.

 

 

 

Reclaiming the Force of Fiction in a Fact-Fogged World

Facts seem to dominate life since the explosion of the digital age.  Google news, texting about activities and e-mails about polling numbers for political candidates, say, seem to create reality.  But what is personal reality and how can it be found beneath the novelty of digital ease?

Sadly enough, there seems no easy way to know the self.  Emotional fits, drug dependencies, listlessness, lack of direction, drive and ambition all make that reality evident.  Even more significantly, many modern young people raised on television, the web and computer games seem to lack imagination, the ability to think creatively about existence and what to do with it.

Fiction is the medium that sparks creative thinking just as poetry does in an imagistic way.  Fiction contributes to an inner world that makes it possible to make meaningful decisions about the factual world presented by Google news that changes by the time the end of the listing is scrolled.

Fiction is fun, satisfying and easily learned by digital kids getting a little coaxing from a person who remembers its pleasures.  The activity of sitting still and absorbing words on a page for the absorption of sparked ideas can be evidenced in a concrete benefit.

A strong and active imagination seems to be a vital element in a person’s character.  It seems to lessen bored impatience and drug–dependence to tame the malady.  A lively imagination also leads to better decision making in every area of life from politics to the increasingly interwoven realm of entertainment.

Reruns of Law and Order and revivals of Broadway plays are not the answer to today’s repeats and lame.

Reality shows have tyranized the airwaves in recent years.  Yet what practical ideas are sparked by a program that inspires nothing more than impatient phone dialing for a chance at the 15 minutes of fame in the limelight?

A reading of a Henry James novel or of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, on the other hand, could just spark the insight to inspire the first great global novel that captures the modern reality.  Politics are inseparable from entertainment and all other aspects of life. 

Such a reading augmented by newly minted classics as a result of activated imaginations could also bear another side benefit.  They could lead to better decisions than at present for the country and for the world.

            

 

What Is the Role of Print in a Digital World?

Anyone over 40 will forever be amazed at the ease of Googling a question for an answer.  They will always remember the pre-web days of library and book store trips.

Yet somewhere on the page of the easy Google answer the print icon can be found.  The purpose of that icon is to make concrete what the eyes and brain have digitally taken in.

Digital data is ephemeral.  Print information is permanent.  Print contains messages about experiential novelties important enough for long-term storage and processing.  Print promotes the process of learning about ourselves and the world in the same manner as a hearty meal satisfies after taste buds are tickled by the appetizer of a digital glimpse.

Learning is gratifying in and of itself.  Any kid successfully riding a bike will bear out the truth of that notion, as will any teen with a car driver’s permit or a patient undergoing rehabilitation after an injury.

Learning, however, is often happenstance and not a matter of direct inquiry.  As Fred Alan Wolf pointed out in his book The Body Quantum, we often learn more from our mistakes than from our successes.

Therein lies the trouble with the easy Google answer.  We often don’t know what we need or want.  We don’t know the question we need to Google.

That is precisely the time when a library surrounding the Googling computer station comes in handy.  A swing around in the ergonomic chair will provide an infinity of ideas.  They will be sparked by the thoughts of wise persons expressed throughout the ages by authors ranging from Chaucer to Freud, Thomas Jefferson and James Joyce.

The books themselves do not need to be read right then and there.  They will remain there to be perused at will.  But the titles and all they imply about the wisdom contained within the covers is sufficient to spark the next Google question about what we’re seeking to learn about ourselves and our world.

That sparking of ideas beyond the individual capacity to generate is the strongest argument for why faith in the print medium must be restored in a world presently enthralled with digital ease.  Life isn’t always easy.  Drugs boosting other drugs is not the answer, particularly in a blessed country such as the United States where opportunities for socioeconomic and personal advancement are unparalled.

America’s young people don’t need more McMuffins and they don’t need more video games.  They need to be shown that the print media can help them solve problems.

That exercise of warming kids to print communication can be beneficial not only to them but to harried working parents with no time or interest in books.  By building a home library together, they just may learn that print is a great adjunct to the web.  They may also learn that a home library is more gratifying, cheaper and easier than investing in drugs to boost other drugs.

A Portrait of Innocence in the Face of Frank Wetzel

Red Flags in Media Hands and the Case of Frank Wetzel

definition:  red flag, something that provokes an angry or hostile reaction (Dictionary.com)

quote:  The evidence of Mr. Wetzel’s guilt…is highly suspect.  [attorney Mark Edwards, Petition for (Wetzel) Clemency, December 18, 2002]

He would have had to average a speed of 140 and 190 m.p.h. (to have committed the two crimes of which he was convicted) (court document requesting reconsideration of Frank Wetzel’s convictions as cited in Lost Angels Times article “1957 Murders Leave Lingering Mystery…)  

Getting any governor to commute the sentence of someone who killed a trooper is almost impossible…we get into the politics of it… opponents would use that… (attorney Jim Cooney, Family of Elderly Convicted Killer Wants Him Released, WSOCTV.com, Juny 8, 2011)

in the news:  1957 Murders Leave Lingering Mystery Despite a Conviction (Christopher Sullivan, AP February 5, 1995)

Family of Elderly Convicted Killer Wants Him Released (WSOCTV.com, June 8, 2011

Scandal-Plagued North Carolina Crime Lab Sued By Exonerated Man (Huffington Post, June 30, 2011)

in perspective:  Frank Wetzel was convicted in two separate trials of killing two state troopers within 15 minutes of each other at a distance of 45 miles apart.  The murders were committed in November, after 8 p.m. on North Carolina backroads.

Frank Wetzel is now 90 years old and has been eligible for parole since 1978.  His case comes up annually for review and the board still rules that he can benefit from further rehabilitation despite the fact that he has Alzheimer’s and has a 56-year-old half brother whose family would welcome Frank into its home with open arms.

The powerful force that has kept Frank Wetzel imprisoned for 54 years is the same one that brought about his convictions in the first place, despite numerous determinations that he did not have fair trials, despite recantation by a sole eye witness to the first murder who was allowed to testify in the second trial though he was not present, and despite the findings presented in a 2002 petition for clemency on Frank Wetzel’s behalf that said the evidence of his guilt was highly suspect.

That strong force more powerful than the law is the effect of red flags waved by the media to sway and motivate public sentiment according to a barometric reading by decision-makers about  the information the public should consume.  Viewership is important because it translates into ratings and sponsorship dollars.  It also translates into political and social power.

The WSOCTV.com article of June 2011 on the “Family of Elderly Convicted Killer Wants him Released” is one example of how the powerful red flag works in media hands when covering a story.  The local TV channel that conducted an interview with Frank Wetzel’s half-brother Richard never mentioned the facts of the case.  Among others, that included the timing of the two murders that would have required unreachable speeds for one perpetrator to accomplish.  The article also never stated other obvious factors that contributed to determinations that Frank Wetzel was innocent, including a recantation and claim of coercion by a sole eye witness and the staged planting of evidence linking the two killings.

Furthermore, rather than recounting the true facts of the murders, the article repeatedly states the fact of the convictions, even if erroneously since two juries and not just one convicted Frank as stated in the item.  In addition, the article quotes a top North Carolina defense attorney as stating point blank that Frank was among those who “killed a trooper.”  The article quotes North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue as saying “she won’t consider” commuting Frank’s sentence.  It also ends with Richard Wetzel saying he thinks it will take a death certificate to free his brother from prison.

Yet the case of Frank Wetzel deserves more careful consideration by media, political and legal powers than simply a wave of the “trooper killer” red flag.  If Frank Wetzel was really innocent, then a reexamination of his case while he is still alive would demonstrate the strong grip of injustice in our society.  It would also reaffirm the power of justice to defeat the unjust however long it takes.

The Case of Frank Wetzel as a Window on Global to Local Law

quote:  My clan against the enemy, my brother and I against the clan, me against my brother (Somali saying)

Like a fable…the fact of (Wetzel’s) guilt has been handed down and believed (Bill Currie, unpublished biography)

The Highway Patrol hopes (Wetzel) never will (win parole) (WRAL.com, January 22, 2004)

No governor wants to touch this (Rev. Jim Lewis, LA Times, February 5, 1995)

Parole of this inmate would…be an affront to all law enforcement officers (Gov. James B. Hunt, ibid)

in the news:  Convicted Murderer Wetzel Denied Parole (after 50 years) (WRAL.com, February 4, 2004)

Two 1990’s War Crimes Suspects Nabbed in One Day (UN Dispatch.com, May 27, 2011)

in perspective:   Once upon a time the only laws were those of Mother Nature.  The caveman took what he could until he clashed with another doing the same.  Thereon they agreed to set up boundaries and cooperate according to rules.   Those rudiments of law, however, did not end the poaching and pillaging that has necessitated the continued evolution and refinement of law at every level.

By the twenty-first century, law is led by international regulation that for the most part lies beyond individual awareness.  United Nations Conventions and other instruments set standards, as in the Geneva Conventions regulating the conduct of war, the treatment of prisoners and protection of civilians during times of conflict.  The International Law Commission sets new standards for emerging situations such as the need to protect the environment.  The Commission for Trade Law (UNCITRAL) sets guidelines and rules for emerging economic activities such as e-commerce.

In addition, courts and related bodies have been established to oversee the carriage of justice.  The International Court of Justice adjudicates disputes between countries, including those involving borders and the use of natural resources shared by multiple countries, such as water supplies.   Tribunals preside over the proceedings of specific situations such as the investigation into the 1994 Rwanda massacre or the genocide in the Balkans.

The newest such body is the International Criminal Court, established in 2002 by the Rome Statute once 60 of the world’s 170 countries had signed on.  As of October 2010, 114 countries are parties to the Statute.  The United States is not one of them, in part because of concern about frivolous suits being brought against a superpower.  Other concerns include a controversy about whether the Court helps or hinders the process of bringing to justice the pepetrators of grave crimes such as genocide in a world where national legal systems are vastly diverse in development.  Nevertheless, on May 26, 2011,  the Court arrested two major leaders allegedly  responsible for the Rwanda and Balkans crimes against humanity.

The alleged atrocities in both cases occurred in 1994, meaning that both suspected masterminds were able to elude the law for 17 years.  At that level of national prominence, the individuals were protected from the law at every tier, from sympathetic governmental involvement to that of municipal authorities as well as close associates along with friends and families.

That large-scale evasion of the rule of law is demonstrated on the local scale by the opposite case of 88-year-old Frank Wetzel, who in 2011 has been confined in a North Carolina prison for over 50 years although he has been eligible for parole since 1977.  The influences keeping him confined involve the American national legal system, state-level interests, prison authorities and the ephemeral element of communally projected personal perception fueled by emotion.

There can be little doubt that Frank Wetzel took the fall for crimes he did not commit and was convicted by an unregulated sensationalist media in pre-Miranda protection days.  He was not represented by counsel in first hearings, conflicting testimony was unquestioned at his two trials, the only prosecution witness recanted his testimony in 1987 and the jury foreman admitted leniency in sentencing because the jury was not convinced of Frank Wetzel’s guilt.

Despite those serious irregularities, every request for a review of the case has been denied with no reason required to be cited.  The routine parole board decision is that the prisoner will benefit from further rehabilitation.

The facts of the case have been cited repeatedly from the time of the 1957 trial themselves.  Two State Troopers were killed within twenty minutes of each other at a distance of 80 miles apart, meaning that the driver would have had to travel over 100 miles on 1957 back roads to have been responsible for both killings.  Evidence against Frank Wetzel was skimpy and transparently manufactured.  Yet once behind bars with the label of law-enforcement-killer on his back, Frank Wetzel was intended to never get out regardless of who had committed the crimes of which he was convicted.

In his still-to-be published biography of Frank Wetzel, sportswriter Bill Currie outlined the grounds for giving credence to rumors involving in-fighting and personal hostilities in the North Carolina State Trooper system.  The state itself, however, has more than its fair share of corruption-tainted allegations.  In addition, as is well known, the American criminal justice system is shrouded in secrecy at the state and local levels.  Political appointments are routine.

Finally, the uncrackable bars of Frank Wetzel’s cell are cemented by the most common element of all, the personal investment poured into a strong belief, whether right or wrong.   More than 50 years after commission of the crimes, Trooper families come to Frank Wetzel’s parole hearings to lend support to the notion that no Trooper-killer ever be freed.

Support for the rule of law and for those involved in its implementation are among civilization’s highest ideals.  However, as evidenced by the case of Frank Wetzel and the refusal to review a very shaky pair of convictions,  it is obvious that the law comes from above but is carried out on the ground.  where it is human to err and not unknown to err intentionally.

Failure to carry out justice by a review of Frank Wetzel’s case casts a shadow of doubt on the entire law enforcement and criminal justice systems, not just in North Carolina but at the American national level.  A review of those systems should begin in North Carolina just as soon as Frank Wetzel is granted clemency for the long sentence of injustice he has already endured.