Picture Diplomacy

Syria launched a chemical attack on its own people, and the world saw the twisted and outright sickening pictures outlining the aftermath. The pictures moved President Trump, too.

The difference is that the pictures moved the man to launch a missile strike against one of Syria’s airbases, and he probably did so simply because he could. That is a chilling thought, because behind his actions lie no real foreign policy or vision. Instead, it is a simple reaction to an alarming provocation and reveals a simple truth – the man does not have a coherent vision when it comes to foreign policy. Examples include: naming China a currency manipulator on day 1 in office, but never did; and, calling NATO obsolete, but now calling it essential.

Going forward, foreign policy decisions will be a reaction to a provocation, which may be real, perceived, or simply something President Trump happens to see while watching Fox News or reading Breitbart. We simply do not know, and neither does the world. An unpredictable man with little respect for critical thinking, let alone facts, can do a lot of damage. At best, it is hard to see how his temperament will bring tangible benefits, and the next round of pictures hitting the airwaves may result in a runaway reaction that brings about something far worse.

March on Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. felt like a ghost town yesterday. Donald J. Trump became the 45th President of the United States of America yesterday, and the 92.8% of Washington, D.C. that voted for Hillary Clinton could not be found.

Today the city burst into a sea of pink, a vibe of feminism, and tsunami of liberalism. An estimated 500,000 people went to the National Mall, easily doubling Donald supporters’ presence the day before. What a difference a day makes.

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Photograph by author. January21, 2017

Nobody should be fooled; dark days are ahead. Traditionally strong alliances will be sorely tested. Canada and Mexico would suffer economically if Trump scraps NAFTA outright. Donald just last week lashed out at Angela Merkel’s refugee policy, which no doubt emboldens nationalists in Germany who want to keep Germany for themselves. If that makes people shudder from echoes of Germany’s not too recent past, it should. New alliances with unsavory characters like Russia’s Vladimir Putin will likely be forged in a mutual pursuit of petrodollars and utter contempt of criticism. On the domestic side, a newly constructed wall and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) appear to be the priorities for the administration. An ultraconservative Supreme Court nominee is in the works, and whose decisions will try to place the brakes on an increasingly-progressive America.

Today the city bled pink, and cities all over the United States of America did the same. It is reassuring to find Americans uniting around a common set of progressive ideas, and uplifting to find Americans rejecting the newly minted President Trump not through hate, but by bonding with love. President Trump may have won the election, but he lost the popular vote, and he sure did not win the hearts and minds of the majority of Americans.

Once again there is hope. Not because the road is short, or easy, or at times outright terrifying. Rather, there is hope because my fellow Americans will stand up for what is right. Today is the start of the resistance. Today is a reminder that love trumps hate.

Donald, good luck enacting your agenda. For come tomorrow, we are here to stop you.

Politico provided the information on Merkel and voting data for Washington, DC

 

 

 

A New World Order?

Writing this post is no easy task because it means recognizing the reality we are now in. Donald Trump is the President Elect, and even writing these words should be a reminder that – even six weeks removed from the election – we should never feel fully comfortable with a President Trump nor his administration. Here are some reflections on Donald so far.

Words matter. Donald’s promises throughout the campaign hinged on the inane to the insane, and were above all provocative. Donald used his words to invoke racism, misogyny, jingoism, and in doing so harnessed a groundswell of anger in his most devoted followers. Donald appealed to the worst characteristics we have as a nation, and used that as a vehicle for victory.

Actions matter more. So far, Donald’s picks for key cabinet positions and national security reflect a desire to convert his words into actionable policy. Two examples:

  • Under a Department of Justice led by a racist senator so vile even a Republican-controlled congress under Reagan would not appoint him to a federal judgeship, mass deportations could become a reality.
  • An Environmental Protection Agency led by a man who sued the Obama administration for its pro-environmental positions, will be redesigned to protect business interests at the expense of environment.

Whether or not his words become actions will depend on those who carry them out. Congress bending to Donald’s will will become the biggest story to follow in 2017.

 

A disregard for the current world order. Since World War II, the United States has worked with allies to expand trade and lower barriers. Secretary Clinton failed to adequately defend NAFTA and other free trade agreements during the debates. Like them or not, free trade ensures cheap goods arrive at our shores, at the expense of some jobs at home. More importantly, free trade binds nations and economies together. The chances for war decrease proportionally. By contrast, Donald targeted NAFTA consistently through his campaign, with a vow to renegotiate NAFTA on more favorable terms, or leave NAFTA entirely. “Build the Wall” became a rallying cry and, frankly, will become a symbol for the new U.S. style of diplomacy. Trade wars with key partners (i.e. China) will usher in a new era of protectionism, higher prices, and mutual distrust. The chances for war increase proportionally.

Other actions point to a new way of doing business and, by extension, a new world order. Assuming Donald reinstates Bush-era torture, the United States will lose further standing, especially amongst its key allies. Meanwhile, Donald’s warm relationship with Russia’s Vladimir Putin suggests an era of cooperation between the superpowers, wherein economic sanctions are lifted, oil and gas flow freely, and the two countries cooperate on defeating ISIS. The price of cooperation could easily be a tacit agreement to let Eastern Europe fall back into the Russian orbit.

 

Facts matter not. Donald lied his way to the presidency by making outlandish remarks, and continues to do so. That Mexicans are rapists and murderers, that the inner cities are crumbling, that millions of people somehow voted illegally in the presidential election. Global warming is a hoax invented by the Chinese. Today, Donald takes very few national security briefings, reaffirming the idea that Donald operates not by fact, but on his gut.

 

What the future beholds. Working with a U.S. President that cares not for facts or data will be, in short, a challenge.

What should concern every citizen is that a foreign power or an interested party can plant fake news in a story or in a headline that will grab Donald’s attention. Seems outlandish? If Donald has already dismissed factual reports that Russia swayed the U.S. election, then little would keep Russia or the alt-right from spoon feeding news into Donald’s worldview.

Will those who have been elected or appointed to key positions in the U.S. government have the strength, will, conscience, and/or ability to counter Donald? U.S. institutions are indeed resilient. Yet we have failed so many times already. Nobody could stop Donald from winning the primary, nor the presidency. An Electoral College, whose very mission is to stop a potential tyrant from taking power, failed miserably.

 

Does the average citizen even care? The split in the United States is real, be it republicans vs. democrats, or distinguishing fact from fiction. Did people really believe that Pope Francis endorsed Donald? Did people really believe that Clinton ran a secret child sex ring from the basement of a pizza shop? The answer to both questions is, yes, and both stories got thousands upon thousands of views thanks to social media, even though both stories are unequivocally fake.

Enemies foreign and domestic now have a blueprint and a vehicle for causing unprecedented disruption to domestic and foreign policies they deem unacceptable to their own interests. I count Donald as one of them, as he is a wedge that he will use throughout his presidency to divide us.

 

In short, until and unless we can even agree upon a common set of facts and rules for human decency, Donald, his appointees, his supporters, and foreign powers can and will exploit this divide.

Those opposed to Donald need to stand up and unite. Failure to do so will cause tremendous damage to democracy and peace, and will usher in a new and dangerous world order.

Large Crowds, Big Losses

The 12+ month-long election cycle is finally – thankfully – coming to an end. Judging by Mr. Trump’s remarks, however, the election will not end with a whimper, but a bang. Trump and his supports believe in two things: 1) that their preferred candidate will win, and that 2) only a rigged election will keep Trump from doing so.

Trump points to abundant evidence that he is winning. During an August 2016 speech, Trump noted:

We go to Oklahoma, we had 25,000 people. We had 21,000 people in Dallas. We had 35,000 people in Mobile, Alabama. We have these massive crowds,” the Republican nominee said. “You’ve got thousands of people outside trying to get in [today], and this is one hell of a big stadium.”

Do you ever see Hillary Clinton? If she speaks in front of 24 people she’s got the teleprompter. If she came here tomorrow — so look at this place, packed, thousands outside, we actually put screens outside — so, Hillary, if she came here, if she had 500 people I’d be surprised.

http://beta.hotair.com/archives/2016/08/04/trump-with-crowds-like-these-how-come-were-not-winning/

Trump also points to online polls after debates. By October 20, 2016, mere hours after the third and final debate, Donald Trump’s Twitter feed claimed victory. The Washington Times and Drudge Report hosted online polls wherein 77% and 75% of respondents gave Trump the win over Secretary Clinton, respectively.

We have heard similar arguments before. In 2012 Politico wrote:

Since his strong presidential debate performance last Wednesday night, Romney has seen a bump in the number of people attending his rallies, which the campaign calls a sign of new enthusiasm in the final month of the campaign.

In the past week alone, Romney’s campaign says at least three of its rallies have, per the campaign’s crowd counts, exceeded 10,000 people: an Oct. 4 event with country singer Trace Adkins in Fishersville, Va., which was Romney’s largest event ever at 14,000 people; a rally last Sunday in Port St. Lucie, Fla., that drew 12,000; and one in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, that fire marshals estimated also drew 12,000.

Romney’s other rallies this week have been large as well: in Asheville, N.C., Thursday night, just before the vice presidential debate, Romney’s rally filled the venue and had an overflow crowd of about 8,000.

 

http://www.politico.com/story/2012/10/mitt-drawing-larger-crowds-082348

There is just one problem – a dedicated fanbase that votes on online polls and fills stadiums does not necessarily translate into a victory in November.

Just ask Mitt Romney.

Trump, and the End of the World

Donald Trump, meet Evangelical preacher Harold Camping. Harold Camping analyzed the bible and determined that the end of the world would come on May 21, 2011. Camping disseminated the message through his radio show, 5,000+ billboards, and twenty RVs. The prophecy proved to be…not correct. Camping later issued an apology.

For the believers in Donald Trump, a similar story appears to be unfolding. Trump predicts a massive victory based on the massive number of people at his rallies, the online polls showing decisive victories over Secretary Clinton, the millions of followers he has on Twitter. On Oct. 19, 2016, Time Magazine reported that “65% of all bets on the market have backed Trump to win the U.S. presidential election.”

In parallel, Trump lays the groundwork for second guessing our election system. Trump tweeted on October 16, 2016,

  • The election is absolutely being rigged by the dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary – but also at many polling places – SAD

Trump did so again last night (Oct. 19, 2016) during the third and final presidential debate, as he declined to say whether or not he will accept the election results.

So while Trump cites anecdotal evidence to support his theory that he will win the presidential election, objective facts (i.e. unbiased statistical analyses by the team at 538) state otherwise. To bring the comparison full circle, Harold Camping made bold predictions that turned out to be spectacularly wrong. Donald Trump is currently in the same position.

If there is a lesson learned, it would be this: Camping’s predictions left his loyal followers, some of whom had quit their jobs, dejected. In response, Camping apologized. When Donald Trump leaves his supporters dejected come November 9, he must do the same.

 

http://apprising.org/2011/05/22/outreach-to-followers-of-false-prophet-harold-camping/
http://time.com/4536465/donald-trump-bet-victory-brexit/

 

An Open Letter to Wells Fargo

To Whom It May Concern:

I opened a checking and a savings account with Wells Fargo in 2007. By the end of this month, I will have closed both. If there is any doubt as to my motives, I will outline them below:

  • Wells Fargo committed fraud. Wells Fargo opened approximately 2.1 million accounts without their customers’ knowledge. Wells Fargo may have committed additional fraud in its Brokerage Business.
  • Wells Fargo employees felt compelled by policies dictated by CEO John Stumpf and others at the highest levels of management to open the 2.1 million accounts, out of fear that they may lose their jobs.
  • Wells Fargo fired 5,300 of its own employees for “engaging in Improper Sales Practices.”
  • Wells Fargo awarded Stump made $161 million between 2011 and 2015 in bonuses and performance awards while the fraud occurred.

When I leave Wells Fargo for good, I will only have the inconvenience of closing two accounts, not eight. And while I am relieved that Wells Fargo did not open accounts without my express knowledge and consent, I am nevertheless outraged. Outraged that my savings and checking accounts formed a portion of Wells Fargo’s bottom line and a bonus check to CEO Stumpf. Outraged that those fired were not those who formulated these reprehensible practices, but rather those who felt compelled to carry them out.

Admittedly, my net worth is relatively small and therefore largely insignificant to your day-to-day operations. As such, my departure from your bank will not matter. Nevertheless, it matters to me.

It matters because by withdrawing my money, I will not aid and abet Wells Fargo’s attempts to resurrect its image by paying for an expensive PR firm. By withdrawing my money, I want Wells Fargo to acknowledge that its actions – as well as its banking and fraud policies – affect peoples’ lives in a very direct and real way. And by withdrawing my money, I want to encourage Wells Fargo customers to do the same, for together we can make a difference.