Using Fake News To Demean Trump Is Wrong

by James M. Wall220px-united_states_intelligence_community_seal-svg

One week before his inauguration, President-elect Trump was dealt an irresponsible, “warped and self-destructive” blow by the CIA and its allies in the media.

This conclusion was reached by Glenn Greenwald, in The Intercept.

Greenwald was quick to point out that the “serious dangers posed by a Trump presidency are numerous and manifest. There is a wide array of legitimate and effective tactics for combating those threats: from bipartisan congressional coalitions and constitutional legal challenges to citizen uprisings and sustained and aggressive civil disobedience”.

But, as Greenwald also noted, “cheering for the CIA and its shadowy allies to unilaterally subvert the U.S. election and impose its own policy dictates on the elected president is both warped and self-destructive”. . .

This subversion involved the granting of official credence to a salacious, unsubstantiated document by a former British MI6 operative which claimed to have proof of conduct in a hotel room by President-elect Trump while he was in Moscow.

The document, which became known as the Trump dossier, originated from “opposition research” funded by enemies of Trump, first by Republicans who opposed his nomination, and then by Democrats who wanted him to lose to Hillary Clinton.

The salacious document, Greenwald writes, “was just an anonymous claim unaccompanied by any evidence or any specifics.”

Of course, the anonymous claim was of a sexual nature. Sex and violence are media’s bread and butter.

The document was circulated through unofficial channels during the presidential race, but on Thursday, January 12, it received a guaranteed ticket to public attention. Greenwald wrote:

At some point last week, the chiefs of the intelligence agencies decided to declare that this ex-British intelligence operative was ‘credible’ enough that his allegations warranted briefing both Trump and Obama about them, thus stamping some sort of vague, indirect, and deniable official approval on these accusations.

What prompted this move from the dark corners of rumor and innuendo, to the glaring sunlight of media attention? Why did the salacious document become sufficiently “credible”?

If you want to believe “the chiefs of the [American] intelligence agencies”, the document was moving so rapidly through social media and other internet channels, that it was necessary to brief both Trump and President Obama.

The intelligence chiefs thus stamped “some sort of vague, indirect and deniable official approval” on what could be pure fiction conjured by a retired British spy now doing political dirty work.

Or, the spy’s document may be rooted in reality. Take your choice. Give it credence, or not. But remember, if there are video or written proofs of the alleged hotel hanky-panky, it has yet to surface or be verified.

So here we are, one week before the inauguration, and our next president is being harassed by unsubstantiated allegations of sexual conduct in Moscow. The harassment continues in the unholy alliance between intelligence agencies and media outlets, initially BuzzFeed and CNN.

What could be behind that alliance? Greenwald offers his answer:

It is not hard to understand why the CIA preferred Clinton over Trump. Clinton was critical of Obama for restraining the CIA’s proxy war in Syria and was eager to expand that war, while Trump denounced it.

Clinton clearly wanted a harder line than Obama took against the CIA’s long-standing foes in Moscow, while Trump wanted improved relations and greater cooperation.

In general, Clinton defended and intended to extend the decades-long international military order on which the CIA and Pentagon’s preeminence depends, while Trump — through a still-uncertain mix of instability and extremist conviction — posed a threat to it.

What changed was the intelligence community’s resolution to cause this all to become public and to be viewed as credible. 

Greenwald opened his piece on the CIA and Trump by recalling the farewell January, 1961 address by outgoing President Dwight Eisenhower. He wrote:

Dwight Eisenhower delivered his farewell address after serving two terms as U.S. president; the five-star general chose to warn Americans of this specific threat to democracy:

‘In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.’

That warning was issued prior to the decadelong escalation of the Vietnam War, three more decades of Cold War mania, and the post-9/11 era, all of which radically expanded that unelected faction’s power even further.

This is the faction that is now engaged in open warfare against the duly elected and already widely disliked president-elect, Donald Trump. They are using classic Cold War dirty tactics and the defining ingredients of what has until recently been denounced as ‘Fake News.’

Greenwald traces the arc along which this “Fake News” traveled from the former spy’s oppo research document to the intelligence agencies and then to the decision by those agencies to brief Obama and Trump.

Once the spy’s document reached the current and next president, Greenwald writes: 

Someone — by all appearances, numerous officials — then went to CNN to tell the network they had done this, causing CNN to go on air and, in the gravest of tones, announce the “Breaking News” that “the nation’s top intelligence officials” briefed Obama and Trump that Russia had compiled information that “compromised President-elect Trump.”. . .

Was the decision to give a vague form of “credibility” to the Trump dossier, well-intentioned? I doubt it. The intelligence agencies have  made what they may consider part of their assignment: Alert the nation on the character of the president-elect.

Is this their governmental role? Wikipedia offers this official definition of the task of the intelligence agencies:

Intelligence is information that agencies collect, analyze, and distribute in response to government leaders’ questions and requirements. Intelligence is a broad term that entails:

Collection, analysis, and production of sensitive information to support national security leaders, including policymakers, military commanders, and Members of Congress.

Safeguarding these processes and this information through counterintelligence activities.

Execution of covert operations approved by the President. The IC strives to provide valuable insight on important issues by gathering raw intelligence, analyzing that data in context, and producing timely and relevant products for customers at all levels of national security—from the war-fighter on the ground to the President in Washington.

Does the deliberate release of negative data on the President-elect during this transition period, fall within that mandate?

That is a question we must all answer honestly. This is no time for lazy, partisan, biased thinking. 

Intense dislike of Trump is not an excuse to merely sanction the actions by our intelligence agencies because we do not like Trump.

Glenn Greenwald is not a lazy thinker. He closed his piece with these words of caution:

There are solutions to Trump. They involve reasoned strategizing and patient focus on issues people actually care about. Whatever those solutions are, venerating the intelligence community, begging for its intervention, and equating its dark and dirty assertions as Truth are most certainly not among them.

Doing that cannot possibly achieve any good and is already doing much harm.

President-elect Trump was elected as our 45th President. He deserves careful scrutiny, and unwavering attention. His public persona is new to the White House. We cannot avoid noticing what he says and how he says it.

Donald Trump will soon be our president. He deserves a fair judgment on what he does once he is in office.

Posted in Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Media, Politics and Elections, Television | 4 Comments

Trump: Stay Strong Israel; 1/20 Coming Fast

by James M. Wall

flickrgage-skidmore

As soon as the Congress arrived back to do the nation’s business on January 5, it bowed to Tel Aviv.

Politico reports that “the House voted overwhelmingly [342 to 80] to rebuke the United Nations for passing a resolution that condemned Israeli settlement construction, a bipartisan slap that also targets the Obama administration while signaling a rocky road ahead for U.S.-U.N. relations under soon-to-be-President Donald Trump”.

The encouraging sign, however, is that while 342 members supported the resolution, 80 members opposed House Resolution 11: Objecting to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 as an obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peace, and for other purposes.

To see how your local House member voted, click on this link

Alternet examined that list and found that only four Republicans voted against the resolution, joining 76 Democrats who voted to support President Obama. Given a choice between Israel’s far-right government, 109 Democrats voted with Israel, while 76 stood with the UN and Obama.

Democratic PEPs (Progressive except for Palestine) stayed with Israel. 

Former DNC chair, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, supported Bibi.
Even self-described progressive members of the party, including “Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin — who dubbed himself an ‘effective progressive’ and was described by The Washington Post as the ‘most liberal congressional candidate in a crowded field’ — voted for the anti-UN bill”.

Rep.Ted Lieu, a progressive Democrat from Los Angeles who has been perhaps the most outspoken critic of US support for the brutal war in Yemen, joined the Republicans in supporting the pro-Israel legislation.

PEPs are predictable in their fear of, or fondness for, Israel. But do not despair. Remember, the game is on; it is not over. The unknowns dominate the knowns.

Putin and Trump are clearly amigos. Bibi and Trump appear ready to create a new reality show,  Three Amigos: Trump, Bibi and Putin. But trouble looms in this three-way bromance.

To update Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, “the Twitter game is on”.

In his December 29 column, Israel First or America First?, Pat Buchanan wrote: “Having tweeted, ‘Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching,’ and having named a militant Zionist [David Friedman] as his ambassador, [Donald] Trump is certain to tilt U.S. policy heavily toward Israel”.

Perhaps he will. But he may also be driven in a different direction when he discovers he is on the same pro-Israel glide path as the U.S. Congress. Trump prefers to glide alone, showering his affections and dislikes online through @realDonaldTrump.

The Palestine Chronicle editor Ramzy Baroud offers the silver lining that Trump’s egotistical needs just might inadvertently land him with the righteous in the new era of Trump.

Baroud writes:

The US blind support of Israel throughout the years has increased [Israel’s] expectations to the point that it now anticipates US support to continue, even when Israel is ruled by extremists who are further destabilizing an already fragile and unstable region

According to Israeli logic, such expectations are quite rational. The US has served as an enabler to Israel’s political and military belligerence, while pacifying the Palestinians and the Arabs with empty promises, with threats at times, with handouts and with mere words.

The so-called ‘moderate Palestinians’, the likes of Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority, were duly pacified, indeed, for they won the trappings of ‘power’, coupled with US political validation, while allowing Israel to conquer whatever remained of Palestine.

But that era is, indeed, over. While the US will continue to enable Israel’s intransigence, a Trump Presidency is likely to witness a complete departure from the Washingtonian doublespeak.

Bad will no longer be good, wrong is not right, and warmongering is not peacemaking. In fact, Trump is set to expose American foreign policy for what it truly is, and has been for decades. His presidency is likely to give all parties a stark choice regarding where they stand on peace, justice and human rights.

Trump will not do this out of some idealistic notion of human rights, a phrase that may not even occur to him. Trump is not good at subterfuge. He says what he thinks at 3 in the morning and puts it down in a 140-character tweet.

What he feels on a given day is not derived from a lobby. He follows the 16th Century proverb, “Every man for himself and the Devil take the hindmost.”

In this case, Trump may wake up one day and poke his finger in the eyes of the
Congressional poo-bahs who love or fear Israel and its deep-pocket supporters. How would he do it? He doesn’t even know yet. He only know that he is now The Man.

Trump is not the sort of man who wants Congress to pay obeisance to a foreign leader. Anticipating Netanyahu’s visit to speak to Congress in 2015, Independent foreign correspondent Robert Fisk wrote:

Congress members of both parties have grovelled and fainted and shrieked their support for Bibi and his predecessors with more enthusiasm than the Roman hordes in the Colosseum.

Last time Bibi turned up on the Hill, he received literally dozens of standing ovations from the sheep-like representatives of the American people, whose uncritical adoration of the Israeli state – and their abject fear of uttering the most faint-hearted criticism lest they be called anti-Semites – suggest that Bibi would be a far more popular US president than Barack. And Bibi’s impeccable American accent doesn’t hurt.  

Adoration for others does not sit well with our New Leader. Be prepared for future Tweets making this clear in 140 characters.

The Trump Twitter game is on with both old and new tweets.

Last week, Vermont Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders, stood on the floor of the Senate next to an enlarged copy of a Candidate Trump Tweet, posted in May, 2015.

The Tweet reads: “)I was the first & only potential GOP candidate to state there will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid. Huckabee copied me.”

The Republican-controlled Senate, voting along party lines, has begun its repeal of Obama’s signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act. It has revealed no plan for what will replace the ACA. 

What care they for earlier Trump tweets? 

One Democratic senatorChuck Schumer (D-NY), does. He has warned Trump against relying so much on Twitter.

With all due respect, America cannot afford a Twitter presidency. Many Americans are afraid, Mr. President-elect, that instead of rolling up your sleeves and forging serious policies…that, for you, Twitter suffices.”

Schumer added, according to The Wall Street Journal, that if Trump attempts to adopt the  “time-worn policies which benefit the elites, the special interests, corporate America — not the working man and woman — his presidency will not succeed.” 

Schumer also took aim at Trump’s cabinet appointments:

.  .  .too many of his cabinet picks support the same, hard-right, doctrinaire positions that many in the Republican Party have held for years, policies that the American people have repeatedly rejected.

How will the Democrats handle the cabinet confirmations? 

Politico reports that Senate Leader Mitch McConnell will take up six Cabinet-level confirmations hearings on one day, January 11. The jammed list includes attorney general, secretary of state, CIA director, education secretary, homeland security chief and transportation secretary. 

While Democrats worry about the cabinet, Trump has his own priorities. On Friday, January 6, our next president was bragging about his previous life on the television reality show, The Apprentice.

wikipedia-commons-nate-mandosTrump’s successor on the show, movie star and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, appeared on his first episode.

Time for a Trump congratulatory word to a successor?

Hardly, remember this is Trump, whose daily focus is solely on himself. Two weeks to the day, before his January 20 presidential inauguration, Trump tweeted:

“Wow, the ratings are in and Arnold Schwarzenegger got ‘swamped’ (or destroyed) by comparison to the ratings machine, DJT.

“So much for being a movie star — and that was season 1 compared to season 14. Now compare him to my season 1. But who cares, he supported Kasich & Hillary.”

Schwarzenegger responded with his Twitter“I wish you the best of luck and I hope you’ll work for ALL of the American people as aggressively as you worked for your ratings.”

The Trump Twitter game, Dr. Watson, is very much on.

The picture of President-elect Trump is by Gage Skidmore from Flickr. The picture of former Governor Schwarzenegger is from Wikipedia Commons by Nate Mandos.

Posted in Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Israel, Middle East, Middle East Politics, Netanyahu, Obama, Palestinians, Politics and Elections | Tagged | 7 Comments

Reich’s Counsel To Trump: Grow Up

by James M. Wallford22a-4-web

New York Daily News headline published October 30, 1975, is one of the most famous headlines in modern journalism.

The headline did not quote President Gerald Ford, but it editorialized exactly what the Daily News wanted to convey.

The headline read: “Ford to City: Drop Dead“.

The succinct reference was explained by writer Frank Van Riper in his opening Daily News paragraph: “President Ford declared flatly today that he would veto any bill calling for ‘a federal bail-out of New York City’ and instead proposed legislation that would make it easier for the city to go into bankruptcy.”

Van Riper’s second paragraph from 1975, conveyed more of Ford’s distress over the city: “In a speech before the National Press Club, Ford coupled repeated attacks on the city’s fiscal management with a promise that, if default came, the federal government would see to it that ‘essential public services for the people of New York City’ would be maintained”.

President Ford was not dismissing the people of New York. He was dissing their political leadership. 

The headline on this posting (above) does not quote former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich. It is intended, rather, in the spirit of the New York Daily News, to convey Reich’s meaning.

What provoked Reich and led to his counsel, was Donald Trump’s final 2016 tweet: “Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!”

Robert Reich explains why that Trump tweet is so dangerous and so wrong:

The man who is about to become President of the United States continues to exhibit a mean-spirited, thin-skinned, narcissistic and vindictive character [who] sees the world in terms of personal wins or losses, enemies or friends, supporters or critics.

Reich’s closing word to Trump was his hope that the president-elect would simply “grow up” and discover the missing maturity of an adult soon to be president. Reich wrote:

You have 20 days in which to learn how to act as a president. All of us – even those who oppose your policies and worry about your character – sincerely hope you do.

Based on Trump’s compulsive adolescent tweeting and his crony-inspired cabinet choices, Reich’s counsel is badly-needed. Unfortunately, everything we have heard or seen from president-elect Trump assures us the counsel will be rejected. 

The man we elected as our next president is a former TV reality-show rich guy who defeated 15 Republican wanna-be presidential candidates, and then outran his establishment-blessed Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, to become the 45th president of the United States.

Trump’s long-running gig for TV’s The Celebrity Apprentice, is no longer available. It has been filled by another larger-than-life personality, twice-elected California governor and international movie superstar Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Trump’s old reality show even has a new name. Starting with the 2017 season premier that aired on Fox Monday night, the new name is, get ready for the drumroll, folks: The New Celebrity Apprentice.2016-0513-nbcu-upfront-2016-thecelebrityapprentice-about-image-1920x1080-ns

In any case, these days Donald Trump is too busy for TV reality shows. He is busy both with his compulsive tweets, and the construction of his cabinet.

The Democratic Party poo-bahs promise to examine Trump’s choice closely before they allow Senate confirmations.,

If he loses a few of his Cabinet preferences, Trump has a deep bench of wealthy moguls and Republicans he considers Trumpites, to bring into the game.

He will need his bench. The Boston Globe reports that Democratic Senate Minority leader, Chuck Schumer (NY), has notified Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Majority leader, that the Democrats will zero in on at least eight of Trump’s proposed cabinet appointees (bold face type added), listed by The Boston Globe.

Rex Tillerson, Trump’s choice for secretary of state; current Senator Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican who’s Trump’s choice for attorney general; Representative Mick Mulvaney, a South Carolina Republican tapped to lead the Office of Management and Budget; and Betsy DeVos, set to serve as education secretary.

Additional names expected to be under pressure from Schumer’s forces include: Representative Tom Price of Georgia, Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services and oversee changes to Obamacare. He will be attacked by Democrats for his support for privatizing Medicare.

Andrew Puzder, a restaurant executive set to serve as labor secretary, will face scrutiny for past comments on the minimum wage, among other policies. Also on the Democrats’s close-watch list are Steve Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs partner set to serve as treasury secretary, and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, Trump’s pick to lead the EPA.

Senator Schumer fired the first shot in the confirmation battle when he reported  the Senate Democrats’ plans:

President-elect Trump is attempting to fill his rigged cabinet with nominees that would break key campaign promises and have made billions off the industries they’d be tasked with regulating/

Any attempt by Republicans to have a series of rushed, truncated hearings before Inauguration Day and before the Congress and public have adequate information on all of them is something Democrats will vehemently resist. If Republicans think they can quickly jam through a whole slate of nominees without a fair hearing process, they’re sorely mistaken.

Not on the Democratic hit list are retired Marine General James N. Mattis, set to serve as defense secretary; Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina, who Trump has nominated to serve as ambassador to the United Nations; and John Kelly, a former Marine general and Trump’s selection to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

On Sunday, the president-elect received what he should feel is the “good news” that his proclivity to reshape the truth to suit his purposes, was granted  a free pass by one major news outlet, the conservative Wall Street Journal.

In an appearance on Meet the Press, the WSJ editor-in-chief Gerard Baker, said his paper has a strong desire to maintain what he described as “objectivity”. 

The Informed Comment website quoted Baker as saying, “The Wall Street Journal would not call a lie a lie if it was told by President-elect Donald Trump”

Politico has more on the Baker comments:

Wall Street Journal editor Gerard Baker said that despite the fact Trump often makes “questionable” and “challengeable” statements, he’s instructed his staff to keep their social media postings straight laced in order to maintain the trust of the readers.

Asked by host Chuck Todd whether he’d be willing to call out a falsehood as a “lie” like some other news outlets have done, Baker demurred, saying it was up to the newspaper to just present the set of facts and let the reader determine how to classify a statement.

“I’d be careful about using the word, ‘lie.’ ‘Lie’ implies much more than just saying something that’s false. It implies a deliberate intent to mislead,” Baker said, noting that when Trump claimed “thousands” of Muslims were celebrating on rooftops in New Jersey on 9/11, the Journal investigated and reported that they found no evidence of a claim.

“I think it’s then up to the reader to make up their own mind to say, ‘This is what Donald Trump says. This is what a reliable, trustworthy news organization reports. And you know what? I don’t think that’s true.’ I think if you start ascribing a moral intent, as it were, to someone by saying that they’ve lied, I think you run the risk that you look like you are, like you’re not being objective,” he said.

Wrong, dead wrong. Handing Donald Trump unchecked freedom to say things that are not true, is irresponsible journalism. 

Media alert: Our new President must not be allowed to get away with saying, “the dog ate my homework”.

Posted in Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Politics and Elections | 8 Comments

Kerry: Settlements Put Two States “in Jeopardy”

by James M. Walljohn_kerry_official_secretary_of_state_portrait

In a hard-hitting, long-overdue speech, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday strongly criticized Israel’s government, saying that Israel’s settlements put the two-state solution “in jeopardy”.

Barak Ravid, diplomatic correspondent for Haaretz, reported that Kerry said “trends on the ground are leading to a one-state solution”.

In his speech, delivered 23 days before the U.S. turns the presidency over to Donald Trump, Kerry said:

“If the choice is one-state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic, it cannot be both and it will not ever live in peace.” 

Kerry also presented the principles of a what he described as a “future final status agreement: An Israeli and a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines; full rights to all citizens; a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue; Jerusalem as the capital of both states; an end to the occupation, while satisfying Israel’s security needs, with a demilitarized Palestinian state; an end to all claims by both sides”.

One key foreign policy voice agrees with Kerry. David Rothkopf wrote for Foreign Policy that “The settlements are hurting Israel, and true friends have the courage to tell each other what they need to hear, even when they don’t want to hear it.” 

From the Palestinian side of what has always been an unequal “two sides”, Ali Abunimah, director of the Electronic Intifada, was harsh in his reminder of the past: 

John Kerry just gave an eloquent eulogy for the two-state solution. His detailed critique of Israeli settlements and occupation was striking in its forthrightness — rare from US officials. But it serves more than anything as an indictment of the United States, which funded, enabled and protected the brutal reality Palestinians have lived under for so long. Weeks before Obama leaves office, Kerry’s speech only underscores what a total failure this administration’s policies have been. Why did Obama wait until now when it is too late for him to do anything meaningful?

The Guardian  provided a short video of key moments in the speech. Click at left to view.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office was ready with its rebuttal:

Just like the resolution that John Kerry advanced at the United Nations, the speech he delivered was biased against Israel. For more than an hour Kerry dealt obsessively with the settlements and almost did not touch on the source of the conflict – Palestinian opposition to the existence of a Jewish state with any borders.

This is a repeat of Israel’s narrative which treats “existence of a Jewish state” as a sacred mantra which excites its loyalists and infuriates the Palestinian people held under a military occupation.

Kerry was aware that the new Trump administration brings a strongly pro-Israel attitude to the issue. Since the American voters have just delivered the presidency to the most right-wing government in this nation’s history, it was left to the Secretary to leave Trump with this warning:  

Although Netanyahu said he supports the two-state solution, his government was the most right wing in Israel’s history, and its agenda was driven by the ‘most extreme elements.’

Unspoken, but implied, was the current White House leadership saying to the next White House leadership, when the Middle East sinks deeper into a quagmire of grief and destruction, “we told you so.”

The Kerry speech was overdue by about eight years. During Obama’s two terms, Israel has marched in full view of a grumbling world, across Palestine like so many panzer divisions, imprisoning a population and stealing land for itself.

The case could be made that the U.S. Congress, accurately described by Pat Buchanan as “bought and paid for” by the Israel Lobby, has remained more loyal to Israel than it has to its own American values.

Eight years ago, Obama made his choice: In order to get Congressional support in other areas, he chose not to exert his bottom-line presidential prerogative on Israel against the wishes of a Congress that remains essentially, Israel’s puppet.

bloomberg-via-getty-imagesThe American voters chose Donald Trump as their next president, a man who has displayed little awareness of American history or the nuances of diplomacy.

He, in turn, has begun to reveal what he plans to do with this issue, naming as his ambassador to Israel, David Friedman (at left with Trump), described by the British-based Guardian as “a bankruptcy lawyer who represented the president-elect over his failing hotels in Atlantic City”.

Friedman has served on Trump’s advisory team on the Middle East and “set out a number of hardline positions on Israeli-Palestinian relations, including fervent opposition to the two-state solution and strong support for an undivided Jerusalem as Israel’s capital”.

The Guardian adds:

[Friedman] has called President Barack Obama an antisemite and suggested that US Jews who oppose the Israeli occupation of the West Bank are worse than kapos, Nazi-era prisoners who served as concentration camp guards.

Liberal Jewish groups in the US denounced the appointment as “reckless” and described Friedman – a man with no experience of foreign service – as the “least experienced pick” ever for a US ambassador to Israel.

Yossi Dagan, a prominent Israeli settler leader and friend of Friedman, welcomed the news, describing him as “a true friend and partner of the state of Israel and the settlements”. Morton Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America, said Friedman had “the potential to be the greatest US ambassador to Israel ever”.

Elections do have consequences. 

The picture of Secretary Kerry at top is an official State Department portrait from Wikipedia. The picture of Friedman and President-elect Trump is from Bloomberg via Getty.

 

Posted in Israel, Middle East Politics, Netanyahu, Obama, Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Danger Ahead: First Unfettered Twitter President

by James M. Wallgoogvle

President-elect Donald J. Trump will be sworn in January 20th as the nation’s 45th president, following the most contentious, hate-filled presidential campaign in the nation’s history.

Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic challenger, won the 2016 popular vote by more than a 2 percent majority. According to the Cook Political Report, Clinton’s final vote was 65,844,610, compared to Donald Trump’s 62,979,636. That is a difference of 2,864,974 in Clinton’s favor. The total number of votes for other candidates was 7,804,213.

How did this happen? History will blame Trump’s victory on the archaic Electoral College. But that will not be accurate. We, the American voting public, did it to ourselves. 

The Electoral College has been the basis of our presidential elections since the Founding Fathers at the 1787 Constitutional Convention, arrived at a compromise to keep the smaller states within the newly formed democracy.

There is agitation to change the process, but don’t hold your breath. Those smaller states still demand their place at the election table. It is difficult to tinker with such time-honored procedures. The sole tinkering came in 1804, when electors were instructed to vote twice, once for president and once for vice-president. 

Meanwhile, we have to accept the fact that on Monday, December 19, the 538 Electoral College electors met in their respective state capitals to confirm Donald J. Trump as the 45th president of the United States, and Mike Pence as vice-president. 

We gave Donald Trump and Mike Pence 304 elector votes, well beyond the 270 needed to win. Their Democratic challengers, Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine, received 227 elector votes. Seven “faithless electors” defected from the voting majority in their state, two from Trump-Pence states and five from Clinton-Kaine states.

Blogger John Whitbeck produces a daily group email on matters political. He writes that the seven defectors were the most defectors from a living presidential candidate in Electoral College history.

In a small historic irony, Whitbeck also found that one of the seven defectors cast a protest vote, “for Ms. Spotted Eagle, a member of the Yankton Sioux Nation who helped to block (at least for the time being) development of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. She became the first Native American to receive an Electoral College vote for the office of president.”

What exactly did the Founding Fathers send down the chimney this 2016 Christmas season? We have been gifted our first unfettered Twitter President. He will say what he wants to say, full speed ahead.

His actions will be curtailed by our procedures and laws, but his words will go forth from the world’s most important political office, unfettered.

This is a man without a single day’s experience in governance. I have my serious doubts that he has ever walked a precinct. 

If I am wrong about the precinct-walking, should I expect a correction via Twitter, or in one of his rallies before the faithful? Probably not, but many others, including a former president, will be reprimanded. 

Trump communicated with disdain and bar room bluster to a criticism from Bill Clinton. He did so via Twitter, a strange way of relating to one of his twice-elected predecessors.

There are plenty of strange things emanating from Trump’s Twitter world, mostly revelations of hatred, revenge and anger at anyone who questions or challenges him. 

What we should not expect from his Twitter feeds and controlled rallies are the essential planning and policies of a Trump administration. Trump has shown no sign he wants to reach the public through our traditional intermediaries, the media (people who ask questions).

Our new leader has held no press conference since July 27, 2016. He promised one such conference on December 15, but his minions canceled it. Will Trump hold a press conference after he is inaugurated? Don’t count on it. 

win-mcnameegetty-images-north-americaIn an interview with Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, Robert Reich (left) discussed Trump’s refusal to openly interact with the media.

Goodman noted that the last time Trump met with the media on the third day of the Democratic National Convention, “he famously called on Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s email”. Goodman played a video clip of his comment:

Trump: Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.. .

This bantering with a foreign power about an American election, displays an attitude, if continued beyond his inauguration, that will confirm his time in office as uninformed and dangerous.

Goodman reminded Reich he had written that Trump seeks “to turn the public against the media”. She played a clip from a Trump rally when Candidate Trump expressed his disdain for the traveling press corps in the building.

Trump: You know my opinion of the media. It’s very low. … The press are liars. They’re terrible people. … And the media—look at all those people back there: scavengers. They’re like scavengers. … Show ’em the crowd, press. Show ’em the crowd. Show ’em the crowd. Look, they’re not turning the cameras. They don’t even turn the cameras. They don’t even turn the cameras, because, you know what, they’re very dishonest people. … Disgusting reporters, horrible people. Sure, some are nice. … They’re scum, absolute scum. Remember that. Scum.

Reich, a former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, responded further:

Donald Trump’s modus operandi seems to be to communicate directly with followers and with the public through tweets and through rallies. And he’s signaled that he wants to continue to use rallies even after January 20th, when he becomes president.

Tweets and rallies are designed to belittle those he dislikes and remind his followers why they follow him. This is not presidential. It is not leadership and it is not a responsible way for any adult to behave in the White House or on Main Street.

Assuming President Trump maintains his campaign modus operandi, as experience tells us he will, he will communicate through Tweets and rallies while living in his fantasy bubble where what he thinks is supreme, and questions are forbidden. 

He is headed for “The Big Rock Candy Mountain”, where

        “The cops have wooden legs
        The bulldogs all have rubber teeth
        And the hens lay soft-boiled eggs
        The farmers’ trees are full of fruit
        The barns are full of hay
        I want to go where there ain’t no snow
        Where the sleet don’t fall and the wind don’t blow
        In that Big Rock Candy Mountain”

In a more pragmatic vein, Reich explains:

The fear is that . . .  what Donald Trump wants, [is] to be able to continue to state things that are simply not true,—doubting climate change, for example, or saying that the CIA report on Russian hacking was not true—and have a larger and larger number of his followers, and, indirectly, their friends and their associates and families, believe him and not believe science and not believe the media, not believe policy analysts and not believe people who are investigative reporters and not believe the actual facts out there, believe this counter-universe that is of Donald Trump’s creation.

Will Trump change, once he is inaugurated? Will a man who views the world entirely from his own narrow perspective, who shows no signs of compassion or concern for anyone or anything, outside his own private orbit, would such a man change? 

Short of a Damascus Road experience, such a man does not change. 

The picture of Robert Reich is by Win McNamee for Getty. The Electoral College map is from Google. 

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Which Trump Will We See After January 20?

by James M. Wall636172160474906214-afp-afp-j308h

President-elect Donald J. Trump will soon hold the power of the White House. Any comment on “What Will Trump Do”, depends on which Trump emerges to exercise that power once he is inaugurated.

There is the scripted Trump who does on occasion emerge with a largely-overlooked comment like his recent promise that the time for military Western-managed regime change in the Middle East is over. 

That scripted Trump is running contrary to the American neo cons who want to control the world in the “best interest” of the American empire. In a Wall Street Journal report, Trump appeared to signal: No more foolish neo con-inspired attacks on countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria.

As the Journal noted, Trump was quite specific when he said, “We will stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments, folks.”

His call for no more regime change through military power, was largely ignored by other media outlets. If Trump holds to that position, he would launch a major shift in American foreign policy.

Will the anti-regime change Trump emerge when unexpected events explode in the Middle East? Or was regime change just his thought for that particular day? 

In addition to the scripted Trump, there is the business-tycoon Trump, the man raised from childhood to view the world as an economic playing field on which to win profits by planting the Trump brand (now the Trump-U.S. brand) through economic power. 

It was the business-tycoon Trump who chose ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as his Secretary of State.  The Washington Post looked for an answer to how the decision was reached.

ExxonMobil has a relationship with the consultancy firm run by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, two influential government figures who consulted with the president-elect in Trump Tower after he had spent days entertaining familiar political names like Mitt Romney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.)

Rice and Gates knew how important the Russian oil industry was to ExxonMobil. Tillerson had become close to Russian leader Vladimir Putin, finally developing an agreement for ExxonMobil to provide the oil drilling muscle for Russia to tap into its rich oil resources in the Arctic Sea. 

The two men, Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (right) and ExxonMobil President and CEO Rex Tillerson, are shown above talking during the signing of a Rosneft-ExxonMobil strategic partnership agreement in Sochi, Russia, on Aug. 30, 2011. 

That agreement was suddenly put on hold when the U.S. responded to Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine, which began in late February 2014.

That prompted a number of governments, including the U.S., the European Union and other countries and international organizations to apply sanctions against individuals, businesses and officials from Russia and Ukraine. 

These sanctions blocked the Rosneft-ExxonMobil strategic partnership agreement. To make his case to ease the sanctions, Tillerson held several meetings with President Obama, arguing that U.S. companies like ExxonMobil were at a disadvantage in competition with European countries more willing to work around the sanctions. 

If, as the CIA insists, the Russian government used cyber warfare to help Trump defeat Hillary Clinton, it committed an international crime with a motive: Lifting the sanctions.

Now, as Trump’s designated incoming Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson will be in a better position to reactivate that ExxonMobil-Russian drilling contract. 

The scripted Trump and the business tycoon Trump, are overwhelmed in the public mind and media spotlight by the outrageous Trump, well-described by Thomas Friedman, who thundered from his influential media pulpit with all the angry fervor of a Baptist preacher leading a revival:

My fellow Americans, whatever mix of motives led us to create an Electoral College majority for Donald Trump to become president — and overlook his lack of preparation, his record of indecent personal behavior, his madcap midnight tweeting, his casual lying about issues like “millions” of people casting illegal votes in this election, the purveying of fake news by his national security adviser, his readiness to appoint climate change deniers without even getting a single briefing from the world’s greatest climate scientists in the government he’ll soon lead and his cavalier dismissal of the C.I.A.’s conclusions about Russian hacking of our election — have no doubt about one thing: We as a country have just done something incredibly reckless.

The Washington Post identified a calmer, and younger take on the outrageous Trump, in a recent Teen Vogue piece, Donald Trump is Gaslighting America.

“Gaslighting” was derived from a 1938 play, Gas Light, which inspired two movies in 1940 and 1944, all telling the story of a husband who tried to drive his young wife crazy by hiding items in dim light from her.

The best-known of the two movies was Gaslight (1944), which starred Charles Boyer as the husband, and Ingrid Bergman as his young wife.

Lauren Duca, Teen Vogue’s weekend editor and an award-winning professional journalist wrote, “Trump won the Presidency by gas light. His rise to power has awakened a force of bigotry by condoning and encouraging hatred, but also by normalizing deception.”

Her piece was a call to arms to her young readers to “regain control of the truth.”

She explained to her audience the origin of the phrase “gaslighting,” derived from a 1938 Victorian thriller. In the original Gas Light drama and two Gaslight movies, the wife

questioned her own mental stability until she noticed, while still under his control, that the items would vanish only after her husband dimmed their gas lights. It was, the wife realized, all a trick.

Duca explained further, “To gas light is to psychologically manipulate a person to the point where they question their own sanity, and that’s precisely what Trump is doing to this country. He gained traction in the election by swearing off the lies of politicians, while constantly contradicting himself, often without bothering to conceal the conflicts within his own sound bites. He lied to us over and over again, then took all accusations of his falsehoods and spun them into evidence of bias.”

Duca listed at least seven examples of Trump statements debunked by the fact-checking website PolitiFact, including comments on the Iraq War, the unemployment rate, U.S. taxes, illegal immigration and the crime rate, then laid out for her readers all the ways they can dodge propaganda and fake news in search of verified, factual information.

Teen Vogue does not usually get involved in matters political, but apparently this piece was deemed important as a way of reaching a young audience, now confused, and like many older readers, stunned, at the outcome of the election.

We are all asking: Where will Trump take this nation? The sad and frightening fact is that Trump has given no sign that he has the slightest understanding of what lies ahead.

We are left with his Twitter outbursts and his staff and cabinet choices to read like so many tea leaves.

Donald J. Trump may be a danger to the entire planet, or he may settle down and find a way to respect the complex reality of his next four years, and act accordingly.

Meanwhile, as the Nobel Prize 2016 literature award winner Bob Dylan, reminds us, “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.” It was this poem the Nobel Committee chose to include in Dylan’s ceremony.  

Before Swedish royalty, a world audience, and a large assembly, American singer Patti Smith presented Dylan’s poem with all the anguish it originally expressed in the 1960s, and presents to us today in the Trump era:

Lyrics from “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”, by Bob Dylan

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?
I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways
I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what did you see, my darling young one?
I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin’
I saw a white ladder all covered with water
I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear, my darling young one?
I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin’
Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world
Heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’
Heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’
Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, who did you meet, my blue-eyed son?
Who did you meet, my darling young one?
I met a young child beside a dead pony
I met a white man who walked a black dog
I met a young woman whose body was burning
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow
I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man who was wounded with hatred
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what’ll you do now, my darling young one?
I’m a-goin’ back out ’fore the rain starts a-fallin’
I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
Where the executioner’s face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it
Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Copyright © 1963 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991 by Special Rider Music

The picture at top of  Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (right) and ExxonMobil President and CEO Rex Tillerson, is by Alexey Druzhinin, AFP/Getty Images.

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Focusing on Trump With “A Withering Gaze”

by James M. Wallmatt-dunhamap

On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, President-elect Donald Trump met with the publisher of The New York Times and some editors, columnists and reporters at the paper.

Times’ columnist Charles Blow  was not at the meeting. The next day he wrote: “I will say proudly and happily that I was not present at this meeting. The very idea of sitting across the table from a demagogue who preyed on racial, ethnic and religious hostilities and treating him with decorum and social grace fills me with disgust, to the point of overflowing.”

Blow spoke for many of us after the president-elect’s comment to the Times‘ journalists, when he wrote: “Let me tell you here where I stand on your ‘I hope we can all get along plea.’ Never.”

You are an aberration and abomination who is willing to do and say anything — no matter whom it aligns you with and whom it hurts — to satisfy your ambitions.

I don’t believe you care much at all about this country or your party or the American people. I believe that the only thing you care about is self-aggrandizement and self-enrichment. Your strongest allegiance is to your own cupidity.

Blow concluded with a personal pledge: “I’m thankful to have this platform because as long as there are ink and pixels, you will be the focus of my withering gaze.”

It is this same “withering gaze” that all Americans should fix on our president-elect, both in this transition period, and for the next four years of his presidency.

When the gaze reveals positive vibes, it should be noted. So far, in Trump’s mixed transitional and political rallies period, the vibes are largely negative.

Our national withering gaze should fix carefully on the decisions the president-elect is making. Does his leadership team, thus far assembled, possess the knowledge and personal skills sufficient to support a president with no prior experience in political leadership?

Trump’s security leadership team up to this point includes three retired military generals, starting with retired Marine General James Mattis as defense secretary (pictured above).

What should be expected from his leadership? His expressed views on the Iraq War should offer some tentative hope that his war experience makes him more of a realist than some of the civilians who launched the Iraq war.  The Intercept’s Mattathias Schwartz wrote:

President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of defense called the 2003 invasion of Iraq a “mistake,” according to a recording obtained by The Intercept.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Mattis said, “we will probably look back on the invasion of Iraq as a mistake — as a strategic mistake.”

Mattis was one of the Iraq campaign’s most important ground commanders. He led the 1st Marine Division during the invasion and later oversaw the bloody retaking of Fallujah from insurgents in 2004. .  .  .

Mattis’s comments came during a question-and-answer session after a keynote delivered last year at ASIS International, a conference for “global security professionals” held in Anaheim, California. A conference participant provided an audio recording of Mattis’s speech exclusively to The Intercept.

Mattis’s appointment specifically contravenes a law, designed to preserve “civilian control” of the armed forces. The law stipulates that no one who has served on active duty within the last 10 years can serve as Secretary of Defense. Mattis is expected to obtain a waiver from Congress to circumvent that law.

A second general headed for Trump’s security leadership team is retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, named by Trump to direct the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). (right).

The Wall Street Journal reported that Kelly’s appointment “would put a military commander who directly supervised U.S. operations in Central and South America in charge of one of the president-elect’s signature platforms: securing the border between Mexico and the U.S.”

DHS was created by Congress after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.  The WSJ further notes that DHS has more than 240,000 employees, making it the government’s third-largest cabinet agency. Its duties includes “counterterrorism, disaster response, cybersecurity, and border and immigration controls. The Secret Service, which protects the president, is also part of DHS.

In the Trump administration, “the agency also would be at the forefront of efforts to deport illegal immigrants who have entered the U.S. from Mexico and to block the entry of certain refugees from the Middle East, should Mr. Trump act on pledges he made during his presidential campaign”.

A third general in the security leadership would be Trump’s national security adviser, retired Gen. Michael T. Flynn, shown here in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. This position does not require Senate approval.

An Associated Press story in Fortune says:

On issues of national security and intelligence, no one is likely to have more influence in Donald Trump’s White House than retired Gen. Michael T. Flynn.

Yet Flynn, Trump’s incoming national security adviser, has gained prominence in Republican politics by fueling conspiracy theories and Islamophobic rhetoric that critics warn could create serious distractions—or alienate allies and embolden enemies—if it continues.

“His job is to ensure that the White House is focused at all times on all of the threats that the United States faces abroad,” said Julianne Smith, a former deputy national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden. She said she was “deeply troubled” by a Flynn tendency to promote fake news stories on his Twitter feed.

Three retired generals on the government case, and counting (two of them require Senate confirmation). They are Mattis, Kelly and Flynn. Sounds like a law firm ready to take your case for a very high fee of trust in a time of tension and uncertainty.

President-elect Trump has chosen his generals, who now will help him with security at home and abroad. That is the assignment the voters gave our next president. It is his decision to make, pending, in two instances, Senate approval.

These generals and the President who chose them, will demand close scrutiny at a moment in history which resonates with earlier moments in history, described by Charles Dickens in the opening line of his  A Tale of Two Cities:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way–in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

The picture of General Mattis is an Associated Press photo. The picture of General Kelly is from the U.S. Defense.gov archives. The picture of General Flynn is by Tom Williams CQ-Roll Call Inc.

 

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Carter To Obama: Recognize Palestine Now

by James M. Wallobama-in-jer

In his Op-ed column in The New York Times, Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States, sent an urgent request to Barack Obama, the 44th President:

“The simple but vital step this administration must take before its term expires on Jan. 20, is to grant American diplomatic recognition to the state of Palestine, as 137 countries have already done, and help it achieve full United Nations membership”.

That column appeared on the morning of November 29, seven weeks and three days before President Obama leaves office.

President-elect Donald Trump’s attitude toward the Palestinian issue is unclear, though an Israeli rightwing minister believes Trump’s election has ended Palestinian hopes for a separate state. 

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett said Wednesday that the possibility of a Palestinian state being established had ended after the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president, calling for an end to the issue that has been at the center of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for years.

“Trump’s victory is an opportunity for Israel to immediately retract the notion of a Palestinian state in the center of the country, which would hurt our security and just cause,” said Bennett, leader of the far-right Jewish Home party.

Jimmy Carter has no way of knowing if what Bennett says may or may not reflect Trump’s future plans. Who does?

In any event, as Slim Pickens (in Dr. Strangelove) said about himself, this is not Carter’s “first rodeo”.  

In his Times piece, Carter recalls that in 1978, midway through his administration, he invited Israel’s prime minister, Menachem Begin, and Egypt’s president, Anwar Sadat, to meet him at Camp David.

He wanted them to reach an agreement that would resolve the conflict between Israel and Egypt and address Israel’s occupation of Palestine. 

Carter had initially planned on a three-day meeting, but starting on September 5, he doggedly spent thirteen days with the two leaders until the three leaders could agree on what became known as the Camp David Accords: First, “A Framework for Peace in the Middle East,” which dealt with the West Bank and Gaza, and second, “A Framework for the Conclusion of a Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel.”

The first accord was never fully implemented–as the last 37 years have continually made clear–but the second, signed on March 26, 1979, laid the basis for the first peace treaty between Israel and one of its Arab neighbors.

Israel’s ongoing refusal to implement the first accord, which was designed to end Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza, brings us to this moment in the final weeks of Obama’s presidency.

Jimmy Carter strongly believes President Obama needs to act to give Palestinians the security Carter has sought for them since he was President. 

Carter is addressing this issue in his message to Obama: Act now; time is short.  

In his New York Times Op-ed, Carter explains that the Camp David Accords were based on United Nations Security Council Resolution 242,

which was passed in the aftermath of the 1967 war. The key words of that resolution were “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East in which every state in the area can live in security,” and the “withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.”

The state of Israel has continually violated 242. It gives every sign that it will continue to do so. Carter knows this, and Obama knows this. What Trump knows remains unknown, hence Carter’s urgent request to Obama. 

Take action now and join with 137 other members of the United Nations General Assembly and bring the state of Palestine into the body of nations which will offer the Palestinian people an opportunity to “live in security”.

In the world map below, the 137 nations which have recognized the Palestinian state, are in green. 

President Obama has seven weeks remaining to unilaterally move the United States from grey to green. The clock is running.

palestine_recognition_only-svg

 

             The picture at the top is from the Times of Israel by YonatanSindel/Flash90. The map is from  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3APalestine_recognition_only.svg

Posted in Jimmy Carter, Middle East, Obama, Palestinians, USA | 11 Comments

“A tragedy in a man, a disaster in a president”

by James M. Walldarren-hauckgetty-images

In the film, The Best Man, written by Gore Vidal, a candidate for president, Joe Cantwell (Cliff Robertson), is arguing with his more principled opponent, William Russell (Henry Fonda).

Exasperated at one point, Cantwell says to Russell, “I don’t understand you”.

Russell responds, “I know you don’t. Because you have no sense of responsibility towards anyone or anything. And that is a tragedy in a man, and a disaster in a president”.

The Best Man first appeared as a play in 1960. The film was released in 1964. More than five decades later, our newly-elected 45th President, Donald J. Trump, may be the disaster Gore Vidal warned us about.

Check the record. Start with Trump’s campaign comment on John McCain (pictured above).

“He’s not a war hero,” said Trump. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

Rebecca Gordon. the author of American Nuremberg: The U.S. Officials Who Should Stand Trial for Post-9/11 War Crimes, teaches in the philosophy department at the University of San Francisco.

She has a more nuanced approach to our newly-elected president. 

In her essay, “Life Under Trump”, for TomDispatch.com, she shared stories from her classroom the week Trump was elected.

She reminded her students that Trump voters included a sizable portion of our population which feels maginalized and denigrated by our present public policies.

In due time, many of those Trump voters may find they have been conned by a master con artist who told them what they wanted to hear. Cons most often lead to disaster.

Our media was complicit in Trump’s election, treating his race as a daily horse race with winners and losers. What the media failed to do was to examine seriously the nature of the candidate who won the final race. 

In President-elect Trump’s meeting with The New York Times editorial board, he continued that con. And the Times did what media leaders do, they dutifully reported what he said, even as they certainly knew this is a man who says whatever he feels the audience in the room wants him to say. 

The mistake the Times made in its editorial comment following that meeting was to treat what Trump says, literally. They wrote:

President-elect Donald J. Trump on Tuesday tempered some of his most extreme campaign promises, dropping his vow to jail Hillary Clinton, expressing doubt about the value of torturing terrorism suspects and pledging to have an open mind about climate change.

“Tempered”, “dropped”, “expressed doubt”, are the wrong words to use when reporting on Trump. He said what he said in that given moment because he knew the editorial board members wanted to hear that his campaign rhetoric was subject to change in their direction.

I found the ideal way to understand the Trump phenomenon in an Atlantic article by Salena Zito, published September 23, during his campaign against Hillary Clinton.

In her Atlantic article, “Taking Trump Seriously, Not Literally”, Zito wrote of Trump’s visit “to a shale-industry gathering”, where he “found a welcoming crowd”.

At one point, Trump promised the shale-industry executives that he had a plan to benefit their industry.

The answer, he told them, is to provide good education and good jobs for black youth. “Fifty-eight percent of black youth cannot get a job, cannot work,” he says. “Fifty-eight percent. If you are not going to bring jobs back, it is just going to continue to get worse and worse.”

Important topic, but the facts are not even close to true, as Zico notes:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the unemployment rate for blacks between the ages of 16 and 24 at 20.6 percent. Trump prefers to use its employment-population ratio, a figure that shows only 41.5 percent of blacks in that age bracket are working. But that means he includes full time high-school and college students among the jobless.

It’s a familiar split. When he makes claims like this, the press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.

Professor Gordon takes Trump seriously in her TomDispatch essay. What she hears and sees concerns her deeply. 

In Donald Trump, we have a president-elect who has said he will simply ignore the law if it gets in his way. In a primary debate last March, he insisted that the military would follow any order he gave — whether to torture detainees or to “take out” the families of suspected terrorists. When debate moderator Bret Baier pointed out that soldiers are prohibited from obeying an illegal order, Trump answered, “They won’t refuse. They’re not gonna refuse me. Believe me. I’m a leader.

The next day Trump walked back the comments, acknowledging that “the United States is bound by laws and treaties and I will not order our military or other officials to violate those laws.”

Walking back was a standard tactic for Trump as a candidate. Walking back will be a “disaster” for his presidency. 

Gordon continues with her concern about Trump and the law:

There’s so much to worry about with a Trump presidency. Why does contempt for the rule of law stand out for me? Part of the answer is that by making laws we human beings both recognize and secure our need to live together. In the thirteenth century, Thomas Aquinas defined a law as “an ordinance of reason for the common good, made by [whoever] has care of the community, and promulgated.”

When Trump tweets or speaks on matters that reflect his non-Aquinas understanding of the law, he speaks of himself alone, the man voters have now elevated to the presidency. 

Think back, pilgrims, to what Trump said about torture in one campaign debate: “They won’t refuse. They’re not gonna refuse me. Believe me. I’m a leader”.

Trump’s response to Senator John McCain’s condemnation  of torture, which McCain experienced during his 5 and one-half years as a prisoner of war, was reported by Politico:

Appearing on Saturday at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, the real estate mogul took his running feud with Arizona Sen. John McCain to a new level.

“He’s not a war hero,” said Trump. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

The remarks, which came after days of back-and-forth between McCain and Trump, were met with scattered boos.

McCain, a former Navy pilot, spent roughly five-and-half years in a notorious North Vietnamese prison known as the “Hanoi Hilton,” where he was repeatedly tortured. He spent two of those years in solitary confinement.

The Los Angeles Times, reporting on the Times meeting, wrote that Trump “backed off on his commitment to torturing enemies of state, saying a single conversation with a retired Marine general changed his mind”.

In its reference to the torture issue, the LA Times adds:

In another significant turnabout, he backpedaled from his repeated calls for a return to waterboarding and other discredited torture techniques to fight terrorism. Trump indicated he had reversed his view after a discussion with retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, considered a possible pick for secretary of Defense.

“He said, ‘I’ve never found it to be useful,’” Trump said of their conversation on torture.

Trump said Mattis explained his view, shared by experts, that proven methods of interrogation, including building a relationship between interviewer and suspect, yield more useful information. “Give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I’ll do better,” Mattis said, according to Trump, who said he was “very impressed” with the answer.

Donald Trump appears to change his mind according to the latest person who gains his attention. 

He insulted a U.S. Senator by saying he does like “prisoners”, and he displayed no interest in the 5 and a half-years John McCain spent in a North Vietnamese prison. 

But a general, who talks tough, turned him around with one comment against torture.

Barring an impeachment, Donald Trump will be our president for the next four years.

The media will cover him in detail. It is time for media and the public to take what our President-elect says, very seriously.

Once he assumes the power the voters have given him, both the media and the public must respond wisely and forcefully.

The picture above of then-presidential candidate John McCain in 2008 is a Getty image by Darren Hauck.

Posted in -Movies and politics, Donald Trump, Media, Politics and Elections | 6 Comments

Trump Transition Begins With Bannon

by James M. Wall

dreew-angerer-for-getthOne week after Donald Trump won the presidency, he is running his transition the way he ran his campaign, like a neophyte circus ringmaster who walks into the center ring with absolutely no idea of what to do next.

The clowns are bolting from their small crowded car, the acrobats are swinging high from their wires. The elephants are standing by quietly, perhaps recalling the plains of Africa.

Lurking over in the far edge of that circus ring is a mysterious figure, maybe a lion, or maybe another being, hungry for power. It is not a presence we expected to see at this circus. The audience pays him no attention. 

What about that audience? It is now living with the consequences of the second presidential election in 16 years in which voters gave the popular vote victory to the loser of the Electoral College race, the one that counts.

The audience mourns or is gleeful. Some, but sadly not all, watch and read to see what happens next.

In Washington, The Los Angeles Times reports President Obama held the traditional courtesy talk with his successor, reporting later he tried to point Trump in the direction of pragmatism.

The president-elect’s new Capitol Hill colleagues try to pull him in a “more ideologically conservative direction”.

Ideology versus pragmatism is a common tension with any new president. Donald J. Trump is however, not cut from the pattern of previous presidents.

He is, without question, the most unqualified candidate ever to assume the office of President.

He has, throughout his improbable campaign, demonstrated in public and in recorded private conversations, that he lacks the temperament and the maturity to become president.

But Donald Trump will become our President on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017, just nine weeks from now. The transition to a new administration is launched in chaos and circus-like disarray.

Suddenly, from the chaos of the transition, comes the news that brings a disturbing clarity to the future.

On Sunday, November 13, Trump named Stephen Bannon (pictured aboveas his chief White House strategist and senior counselor. Trump also named Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus as his Chief of Staff. 

How close will Bannon be to the President? David Alexrod held the Bannon job through the first Obama term and in both Obama presidential campaigns. Chicago’s current Mayor Rahm Emanuel, was Obama’s first Chief of Staff. That close.

Bannon will be the door-keeper for the President. How he thinks and what he feels, will shape the White House agenda. Trump’s first transition decision is a signal for what we should expect from a Trump White House.

The New York Times greeted the news as ominous:

Anyone holding out hope that Donald Trump would govern as a uniter — that the racism, sexism, anti-Semitism and nativism of his campaign were just poses to pick up votes — should think again.

In an ominous sign of what the Trump presidency will actually look like, the president-elect on Sunday appointed Stephen Bannon as his chief White House strategist and senior counselor, an enormously influential post.

The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza describes Bannon:

The press release from the Trump transition staff said that Bannon and Priebus would be “equal partners.” This is a signal to Washington that Bannon will be the most powerful person in Trump’s White House.

On November 6, 2008, the day after his election, Barack Obama made just one personnel announcement: that Congressman Rahm Emanuel would be his chief of staff. Every staff member in the Obama White House reported to Emanuel, including political advisers such as David Axelrod. 

The Times offers this insight into the most powerful man in Trump’s new White House:

Many if not most Americans had never heard of Mr. Bannon before this weekend, and for good reason: He has kept a low profile, even after taking over Mr. Trump’s campaign in August. Before that, he worked as the executive chairman of the Breitbart News Network, parent company of the far-right website Breitbart News, which under Mr. Bannon became what the Southern Poverty Law Center has called a “white ethno-nationalist propaganda mill.”

The SPLC has monitored hate groups from its Montgomery, Alabama headquarters since it was launched in 1971 by Morris Dees, an advisor to the 1972 George McGovern campaign.

Bannon does not deny his SPLC description, the Times reports, “telling Mother Jones last summer that Breitbart was now the platform for the alt-right”.

The “alt-right”, the Times elaborates, is “a loosely organized group of mostly young men who believe in white supremacy; oppose immigration, feminism and multiculturalism; and delight in harassing Jews, Muslims and other vulnerable groups by spewing shocking insults on social media”.

Senator Bernie Sanders, who lost to Hillary Clinton in their race for the Democratic presidential nomination, was quick to speak out against Bannon’s appointment. 

The Associated Press reported Wednesday night that Sanders described Bannon as “totally unacceptable”.

He “called on Trump to pull back his recent appointment of a Breitbart News executive, as a top White House strategist”.  Sanders know the position Trump has given Bannon does not require Senate approval, which means it is his decision to make. 

Trump’s choice for cabinet positions, like, Secretary of State, will require a Senate vote. Former New York Mayor Rudolph Guiliani has been mentioned for that role.

Guiliani’s extensive financial international dealings with foreign governments should render his nomination highly unlikely. This is however, a highly unlikely presidency; the usual rules of politics no longer apply.  

The selection of  “alt-right” champion Stephen Bannon as senior counselor, is just the beginning. 

The time for election mourning is over. The time for monitoring and resisting destructive appointments, must begin.  As Gail Collins writes, “nine weeks and 3,998 appointments to go”.

The picture above of Stephen Bannon is by Drew Angerer/ Getty, from The New Yorker.

Posted in Donald Trump, Stephen Brannon | Tagged | 4 Comments