Tag: Donald Trump (Page 1 of 17)

State of the Union highlights: Trump’s unpatriotic appropriation of the flag

Donald Trump attacked free speech in his first State of the Union address (and second speech to Congress) on January 30. As usual, he tried to claim the mantle of patriotism by referencing acts and words of others whose values he himself doesn’t appear to share.

In one case, he returned to one of his greatest hits tracks: the national anthem and attacking those NFL players who have been taking a knee to protest.

Preston’s [referring to a 12-year-old boy, Preston Sharp, who put flags in front of veterans’ graves] reverence for those who have served our nation…

It is worth noting here, that reverence for veterans is not something Trump shares with Preston. Trump has diminished the sacrifices of veterans, referring to John McCain as a “loser” for having served something larger than himself, and saying of prisoners of war, “I like people who weren’t captured.”

Trump doesn’t understand why anyone would be an official, because he doesn’t understand serving the public

…reminds us why we salute our flag, why we put our hands on our hearts for the pledge of allegiance, and why we proudly stand for the national anthem.

Context and subtext are inseparable from meaning. That’s why Trump can say, “It’s big enough. Believe me,” and people know what he’s meaning without him saying it directly. Communication would be an impossible task if people didn’t include context and subtext in their analysis of meaning. (And, indeed, Trump’s speechwriters and supporters do so, too, even if they feign otherwise when it suits them.)

In this case, the context is clear. Trump has been attacking Colin Kaepernick and other football players who have been taking a knee to protest, both in support of #BlackLivesMatter and, later, in protest to Trump’s attacks on free speech. Trump lashed out and called for the firing of any player who takes a knee. He has also issued words of support for criminalizing burning the flag with punishments up to loss of citizenship.

In this case, by proclaiming “stand[ing] for the national anthem” as something “we” do, he is saying anyone who does otherwise is deviantly violating the rules and norms of our society. In fact, the vast majority of people already do stand, and it wouldn’t even be an issue in the NFL anymore if Trump hadn’t made it an issue (the number of players kneeling in solidarity increased hugely after his attacks), and anyone who kneels isn’t actually disrespecting veterans or causing any material harm. (The only potential harm they might be causing is offending—or annoying—people who are offended by words and speech, and Trump says he is against political correctness.)

Trump doesn’t have to say he’s specifically attacking those who protest, nor does he need to issue the threat, which he has already made clear in the past, any more than a triad collector needs to spell out what happens if you don’t pay your protection fee.

Of course the Republicans gave Trump a standing ovation for this bit of low brow refuge-seeking.

Even divorcing the words from all context, they are empty drivel not worthy of applause, much less ovation. Any president and any politician and the vast majority spectators do the ceremonial standing at the sound of the anthem. It doesn’t require any sacrifice. It doesn’t help the soldiers injured in Iraq and those still serving in Afghanistan and elsewhere. At best it is a symbolic gesture, and at worst, as in Trump’s State of the Union, it is a manipulative appropriation of a symbol of patriotism used to prop up a man who values the flag only for what political value it might bring him.

Feature photo by Shealah Craighead, official White House photographer. Public domain.

Trump doesn’t understand why anyone would be an official, because he doesn’t understand serving the public

DOJ staffers who don’t support Trump agenda are “Trump women”, officials earning six figures are dismissed as poor

In Fire and Fury, Michael Wolff reveals Donald Trump’s fascination and confusion over bureaucratic professionals. The out-of-touch president is amazed that anyone would work for such a pittance as three or four times the average US salary.

In chapter 7, commenting on Trump’s antagonism towards Sally Yates and other Department of Justice career officials, Wolff wrote:

Here was an elemental divide between Trump and career governmental employees. He could understand politicians. But he was finding it hard to get a hand on these bureaucrat types, their temperament and motives. He couldn’t grasp what they wanted. Why would they, or anyone, be a permanent government employee. ‘They max out at what, 200 grand, tops?’ he said, expressing something like wonder.

Trump can only understand power and use of power to enrich oneself. “He could understand politicians.” Politicians get to be courted. They get to go on the Sunday shows. They get to write themselves tax cuts and trade their votes for personal benefits.

But career professionals just get to keep the country running and maintain the institutions of democracy. They aren’t even dedicated to pursuing an ideological agenda. For Trump, it is literally inconceivable how anyone could care about serving the public. Particularly when the salary they take is a pittance compared to what could be made conning white working class aspirers into enrolling in threadbare “real estate courses.”

His view, on that point, is also at odds with a long-held view of conservative Republicans that government employees are paid too much. As someone cooped up in a blindingly gaudy 1980’s apartment, Trump has no clue how ordinary Americans live.

The chapter also reveals the Trump administration’s contemptuous sexism towards women in power. Trump staffers already hated Yates from the start due to stereotypes about “Obama women” and “Hillary women.”

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Chinese Constitution Day: “Study the Party Congress”

The current constitution of the People’s Republic of China was adopted on December 4, 1982, making December 4 Constitution Day. Some of the subway stations in Nanjing are blanketed this month with ads calling for the public to “study the implementation of the 19th Party Congress.” The high-level Communist Party meeting was held this October and ushered in a new Politburo Standing Committee. In the photo above, I have added the English translation.

Public propaganda hailing the party and calling for study of recent political doctrines is common around China. On the campuses of universities, the 19th Party Congress is often hailed.

A banner at Hehai University in Nanjing calls for studying the implementation of the 19th Party Congress.

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Republicans investigating political enemies, defending power

In November 2016, I questioned whether Republicans who investigated the Obama administration with passion would do their job as a check on the president.

“Many Republicans are more concerned about excusing Trump’s abuses of power than investigating them,” I wrote.

We’ve seen their performance for one year. How have they done? There are token efforts in the House and a somewhat more critical effort in the Senate to look into the Russian controversies. The Republicans haven’t even lifted a finger to investigate Trump’s conflicts of interest as owner of a vast business network, including a DC hotel where foreign diplomats like to stay.

But there have always been a Trumpist Republicans eager to run interference for their guy. Rep. Devin Nunes met with the White House to coordinate talking points this spring. Now Nunes and other Republicans are using their powers to try to undermine the FBI. Rep. Matt Gaetz called for firing Mueller.

Attacks on Special Prosecutor and Republican Party member Robert Mueller have been picking up in recent weeks. Republicans have just held an investigatory session of FBI Director Andrew McCabe, and asked seemingly tougher questions than they ask of Trump’s allies.

The Trumpist wing of the right-wing media is picking up any and every straw they can find to try to undercut the investigation. The conservative wing of the right-wing media is often downplaying or ignoring revelations.

Meanwhile, Republicans are pushing harder and harder for Trump to investigate people who aren’t in power, like Hillary Clinton. Department of Justice director Jeff Sessions, after being pushed by Republicans to pick a Special Council to investigate Clinton, has “begun asking FBI agents to explain the evidence they found in a now dormant criminal investigation into a controversial uranium deal that critics have linked to Bill and Hillary Clinton, multiple law enforcement officials told NBC News.”

The idea for many Republicans seems to be to be a check (or even obstructionists) on watchdogs like the FBI and defeated politicians like Clinton and a guarddog on power.

I want to immigrate to America, and I think Trump is right

Trump has been called an “anti-immigrant” extremist, but I’m telling you, as a Korean aspiring to immigrate to the United States, that is simply not true. Trump wants to set a new way of immigration system by following both Canadian model and Australian model. Both Canada and Australia are far stricter than the United States when it comes to immigration. They do not have a lenient policy on illegal immigration. They do not try to attract people without a high English-speaking ability and high education level. And there’s no green card lottery in those countries. Rather, they give points to the immigrant applicants when they have accomplished each step of requirements such as official English exam scores (Either TOFEL or IELT), high educated diploma in the speaking-English countries, certified careers of occupations.

Trump and some of his allies in Congress are pushing to abolish the diversity lottery for green cards and increase security on the borders. He has put a halt to Obama’s DACA policy of giving temporary citizenship-level status to illegal immigrants who came to America as children. To be honest, many international students who come to America legally quite agree with suppressing the number of illegal immigrants because they might reduce the potential for legal immigration. At the least, it is extremely unfair to let illegal immigrants stay—or even become citizens, as some have proposed—while enforcing a harsh line on law-abiding students and foreign workers who have to jump through many hoops to try to get a job or student visa in the States.

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Just a reminder: Trump is unhinged

Donald Trump went off on another gibberish-filled rant at 5 am EST today, as he does most days. I would like to say this is “bad even by Trump’s standards,” but that would be a cliche and not true. His ordinary level of discourse is extremely coarse.

But that doesn’t mean we should ignore reality just because some of the press that covers Trump wants us to define down deviancy. If you saw this message and didn’t know who wrote it, you would think that person was an extremely thin-skinned, ill-tempered, vain man with no self-control.

He doesn’t respond to the charges. He doesn’t sound original or unaffected. His message contains precisely no useful information to reflect poorly on his presumed target (and no truthful information whatsoever). The only person who would be moved to support the message is someone who values the power of emotional charisma, the low-brow “dominance” politics of a tyrant, and “loyalty” to a political leader.

Trump’s attacks on the foundational tenets of republican democracy are important. The health of our republican form of democracy is not trivial. The American system is based on rational-legal authority. Revolutionary systems like fascism and communism are often based on the charismatic authority of a Mao, Pol Pot, Stalin, Chavez or Duterte. The megalomaniac in charge asserts someone hasn’t been “loyal” to him personally, and that is taken as a criticism–and grounds to rise up in fury–by the leader’s cultish followers.

Trump’s purposeful divide strategy is contributing to the biggest partisan division Pew has found on record. The president attacking the legitimacy of his political opponents–who make up a majority of the country–and acting in a manner undignified of his office, or of anyone speaking in society, really, is a recipe for creating social strife.

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A solution to sexual assault

The epidemic* of men being fired for sexual harassment and assault has laid bare the scale of men abusing their power at the highest levels—and the depths to which their depravity extends.

Pundits, journalists, reformers and the public are talking about what can be done to solve the problem. For some men, solving the problem doesn’t so much mean decreasing the incidence of sexual assault as it does protecting themselves from getting fired for allegedly committing sexual assault.

Proposals have included refusing private meetings with women (i.e. students, coworkers, and partners in deals) and invoking US Vice President Mike Pence’s personal policy. If I don’t meet with women, I will never be accused of assault!, the thinking goes.

One obvious problem at the start is that men often have to meet with women to correct papers or discuss topics relating to their work. Shutting women out could deny women opportunities—simply because of improprieties committed by other men.

I would propose what might be a better idea: not sexually assaulting women. Reading the cases from Harvey Weinstein, Louie CK, and Matt Lauer to Roy Moore, Al Franken, and Donald Trump, it’s amazing how many of these controversies could have been avoided if only they didn’t sexually assault people in the first place.

Louie masturbated in front of women in his office. Lauer locked women in his office and attempted to seduce and/or coerce them. Weinstein allegedly raped a dozen women.

The Washington Times paraphrases Jay Richards of the Catholic University of America:

The entry of women into the workforce since World War II, followed by the sexual revolution and the erasure of well-established sexual mores, has left men and women with little guidance as to how to interact in the workplace, Mr. Richards said.

Don’t give women sex toys, like Lauer did, for starters. Don’t make passes at every woman in the office, particularly employees in low-level jobs, and use appurtances of power to pressure them. Don’t meet your subordinates in a hotel room, as Weinstein and Trump made a practice of doing.

Basically, not doing things against someone’s will is a pretty easy and universal rule.

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When will conservatives admit that sometimes a Democrat is better than a Republican?

If you want to vote for the lesser of two evils, then you would vote for the Democrat in Alabama, for the US presidency.

The Federalist published an article by a Christian studies professor at Ouachita Baptist University arguing for Alabama voters to vote for “the lesser of two evils”–by which he meant Roy Moore. Christians supporting a corrupt liar and sexual degenerate guilty of assault? Wouldn’t be the first time they’ve done it in the past two years.

After both questioning the heavily-substantiated allegations and stating that the allegations are probably true, he eventually gets to the meat of his argument:

If one can’t vote for someone who is better (that is, less bad or less evil) or who is equally bad but has better policies, then one should opt out of politics and the voting process altogether!

That sentence, itself, is absolutely true! So why do conservatives and Republicans–including the writer himself–never follow it? To wit, why, if he thinks we should vote for the lesser of two evils, did he write an article expressly advocating for voting for the most evil candidate (“Why Alabamans Should Vote for Roy Moore,” it is titled).

A lot of conservative Republicans are so extremely partisan that they think the very fact of one being a Democrat is the worst thing anyone can do in the world.

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Michael Flynn plea explains a lot

From Trump’s transition, his demands for loyalty, to his recent unhinged tweets, Mike Flynn’s plea deal brings things into focus.

The news that former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn plead guilty to lying to the FBI is a bombshell that opens up uncertainties and rumors to clearer interpretations.

The one single charge appears small when compared to news reports detailing Michael Flynn’s alleged actions as a foreign influence-peddler, his failures to disclosure Russian-sourced income, and even his possible consideration of a scheme to kidnap a Turkish disident living in America and send him to Erdogan in exchange for $5 million dollars. As others have pointed out, including David French, Lawfare’s team, and David A. Graham, intense prosecutors, like the one who threw the books at Manafort, don’t give away sweet plea deals for nothing (Flynn is recommended to face no more than 6 months). This points to Flynn likely cooperating nicely with Mueller and offering useful testimony.

Lawfare noted that Flynn’s deal doesn’t absolve him from all potential charges. Again, another reasonable interpretation is that if Flynn doesn’t deliver he might be facing much worse.

What could the promised testimony be? Already there is a flood of articles reporting that high-level Trump administration officials directed him to communicate with the Russian government, with Jared Kushner being named personally. ABC News reports that Flynn is prepared to testify that Donald Trump directed him to talk to Russia about ISIS. Eli Lake reports that Kushner told him to contact Russia. BuzzFeed reports that Kushner also told him to call foreign countries to lobby them on the controversial UN resolution on Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory that the Obama administration refused to veto. Kushner had previously been reported to have tried to set up a backchannel to Russia.

All three reports, or some variation, could be simultaneously be true; if Trump personally mentioned ISIS, whether as a pretext or otherwise, when telling Flynn to contact Russia, Kushner could have given more specifics. Also worth emphasizing is that the ABC story refers to things Flynn is allegedly prepared to testify to, while the other two refer to things that reportedly happened, the difference between a reporter substantiating a story enough to say it probably happened and investigators substantiating something enough to convince a witness he has no choice but to admit it happened.

The documents reveal what had been reported in the first two months of the Trump administration: that Flynn lied about discussion sanctions with Russian officials. The documents state that Flynn then informed Trump transition team officials stationed in Mar-a-lago about his communications. At the time, Russia abstained from ratcheting up its response, and Trump praised Putin for his “smart” decision. Trump officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, made public statements denying that Flynn had discussed sanctions. Flynn was then fired on the pretense that he had lied to Pence.

At the very least this is reignites the political problem for Trump that it seems that he and his leading deputies likely intentionally misled about Flynn, even after having been warned by Sally Yates.

Furthermore, it makes Trump’s attempts to get the stiffle the Flynn investigation even more suspect. At the time, the Flynn was the particular individual mentioned specifically to Comey in the Oval Office. That he wanted Comey to “see to it” to drop the investigation, and then fired him on pretenses that he would let slip days later were unreliable, suggests with a very high degree of likelihood that he knew something that reflected poorly on him or his administration would be uncovered.

Reports from late in the campaign through the transition up until now about the nature of Russian meddling and the investigation are being confirmed or corroborated with each new indictment that comes out.

Trump Tweets Mirror Flynn Cooperation

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Kim: Trump Korea trip highlights ties, Moon wins over conservatives

From Korea, former Korean army soldier and Bombs + Dollars contributing analyst Daniel Kim explains how Koreans think of Trump’s trip.

What do you personally think of Trump’s Asia trip so far, and what has the Korean press said?

It was a very remarkable and important trip. His first trip to Japan was successful because Prime Minister Abe was treating him and his cabinet as kind of royal family. Trump, regardless of Japan’s treatments, has left Japan lots of messages of which he wanted to say about trade deals and North Korea solutions. His trip in Korea was shorter than his in Japan, yet the trip for him here was much more meaningful.

Unlike lots of expectations (actually worries) about him of the press, he has been behaving well with concerned vernaculars to deal with the president Moon. The Korean press and many Korean supporters are excited and grateful for his visiting to be honest. Conservative media like the Choson Ilbo and other conservative newspapers are evaluating Moon and Trump’s meeting as a particular milestone as they have made sure that ROK-US alliance is utterly solid and unbreakable by abolishing the restriction on Korean missile developments in 38 years.

For 38 years, Korea has not been able to develop and produce heavy bombs like the American MOAB (mothers of all bomb), bunkerbusters, JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition), etc, due to restrictions that regulate both weights of the warheads and effective range. However, now the weight restriction is lifted and the restrictions on distance were loosened.

Furthermore, another agreement to make our alliance great was to let Korea allocate more U.S strategical weapons including tactical nukes, nuclear power generated submarines, and even Global Hawks (Airborne Early Warning). Although these agreements were just made yesterday, they are good enough to be praised especially in the eyes of conservatives.

The greatest doubt about President Moon from conservatives was on national security related to Korea-US Alliance. However, due to the new agreements announced at the meeting, many conservatives are quite surprised and relieved to see what have happened. Still, we do not know that Korea will really deploy new high tech weapons yet, but if that takes in place, Moon is going to make conservatives his supporters.

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