Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Why I hate walls. It is personal.



I spent my junior year , 1958-59 in Berlin before the detested Wall was built.  Berlin in that post World War II period was an island of freedom surrounded by Soviet controlled East Germany.  What I have learned is  no wall dividing nations and people from each other will imprison the human spirit . Walls have   become symbols, more powerful than their physical being.  . Such walls  can be a representation of the sinister reasons  that cause them to be built so  they become the symbol of oppression or  of hatred.

 The Berlin Wall  was an atrocity, a knife cutting in two a Berlin I loved for its free and open  spirit where two worlds met and mingled.  Between the end of World War II and the Wall, the Berlin I knew was also the exit for refugees from the Soviet sector. Like the country, the city  was divided into sectors controlled by the victorious forces who destroyed the Nazis. The Wall   was built in 1961 by their Soviet sector  puppets to stop the brain drain from East Germany as the educated middle class and professionals  fled the oppressive regime.  My husband to be  from Communist Yugoslavia , who I met in Berlin, left Berlin in 1959 and finished his medical education in Switzerland as a refugee  to avoid  communists when he feared being forced to return to his home country . The word  refugee has  a special meaning to me. 

The Berlin Wall  became the symbol of Soviet oppression and it  inspired JFK to express his oneness with those left in the western zones with the famous speech there, proclaiming in German“ I am a Berliner” .  Toward the end of the Soviet era, it was Ronald Reagan demanding “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” 
After the Wall was erected those who escaped had many routes, tunnels, a trip through Czechoslovakia and then through a more porous neighboring countries. In fact, one of the most famous tunnels was Tunnel 57 built by enterprising students under the Berlin Wall .  Over 145 would be refugees died trying to go over the wall, shot by the East German police and Soviets, but an estimated 5000 breached it.  

The Berlin Wall was built to keep people in. Another Wall is proposed to keep people out and the symbol it has become is more powerfully divisive  than its physical ability to keep desperate refugees  from Central American violence from seeking refuge.  Do not accuse me or  Democrats for supporting open borders. We do need to be able to control who can enter our country, but we need a way to separate humanely refugees  who have an internationally recognized human  right to claim asylum from those who do not.  A wall is only a small part of that solution and given modern technology, not the most effective one, either . Even last week seven tunnels were discovered under existing walls  . Loathing of immigrants  and “others” was what set Donald Trump apart from the rest of the GOP field of candidates and he struck a chord with a large segment of that party. For those who do not share their dislike of immigrants, giving in to his demands to build the wall is giving in to his gut felt  dislike  of  immigrants, a sentiment  he extolls,  generalizing them as murderers, rapists, and terrorists, fact checking proving otherwise not withstanding. The Great  Wall of Trump  is the symbol of an anti refugee sentiment to which I object  because of my life’s experience. 

Footnote: After posting this blog, Joy Reid on MSNBC shed light on Martin Luther King Jr's visit to the Berlin Wall in 1964 and his sermons there:  He, too, saw the symbolic importance of walls:
"...Clayborne Carson, and Director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute. But in Berlin, “It was a big deal. It was major. In fact some people compared it to Kennedy’s visit to Berlin.”
Carson points out that the message King preached to those Berliners who were so moved was not a new one. In a 1953 sermon, for example, he’d urged the audience to “transcend the narrow confines of nationalism.” The Berlin Wall was a vivid and literal example of those confines, but the world was full of metaphorical walls and King had long advocated for tearing them down."https://news.yahoo.com/martin-luther-king-jr-said-170034392.html

It is estimated 5000 breached the Berlin Wall. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OcqOBF9lxQc
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/most-successful-tunnel-escape-history-berlin-wall-180953268/ 


https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/immigration/trump-claims-walls-work-discovery-border-tunnels-says-otherwise-n959311?cid=sm_npd_nn_fb_ma

https://www.yahoo.com/gma/largest-single-group-migrants-ever-tunnels-under-border-114208863--abc-news-topstories.html1400

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/376-migrants-including-179-kids-used-7-tunnels-to-get-under-the-us-border-fence-in-arizona/ar-BBSr3jx?ocid

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Trump's lies, autocratic tries, and Russian ties in the House hotseat

A version of this was published Jan. 16, 2019, in the Sky Hi News on line edition: https://www.skyhinews.com/news/opinion-muftic-trumps-lies-autocratic-tries-and-russian-ties/

Trump's lies, autocratic tries,  and Russian ties have not seemed to bother  his core  supporters and the overwhelming majority of Republicans  still  stand by their man. Per January 10-11 polls, Trump's  job approval stands little changed at around 37-40%,  but  those disapproving, especially independents , increased their numbers  since December,  reflecting the government shutdown. Time will tell whether that dip is temporary or permanent.Even constant fact checking of Trump's lies and untruths have not made a dent in his core supporters. Circumstances are about to change  with Democrats gaining a majority in the House of Representatives and his lies and ties could finally catch up with him.

There has been talk of impeachment, but if the Nixon/Watergate pattern  is followed, it will take a greater shift of public opinion against Trump  than what is revealed in the polls now.  Nixon resigned to avoid impeachment when public approval dropped to 31% and Senators saw it was no longer  in their political interest to keep him in office. What finally caused the shift in the polls from a high job approval rating and re-election  was  Nixon's White House attorney John Dean's mea culpa testimony before Congress and the release of the incriminating, smoking gun tapes of Oval Office conversations .

Until now, a compliant GOP controlled Congress had buried exploring  negatives that would have hurt the President.  The midterms were a revolt by over 53% of voters who were indeed bothered enough by some of his  shortcomings  to flip the House blue and check his  power. Trump had attacked  our democratic institutions, stacking the courts with supporters, using executive orders and threatening to call a national emergency when none exists in order  to thwart Congressional opposition to his demands.  What  the House  Democrats will do with subpoena powers and publicly televised hearings could  result in game changing  opinion polls    Trump's personal lawyer who is on his way to prison will testify to Congress in open hearings.  Special Counsel Robert Mueller is expected to present his report the the Justice Department in mid February.

Until then, the ever investigative reporting  free press will be the ones raising eyebrows and adding passion to those who oppose him.   Last week, the New York Times published  an eye opener,  that The FBI was so suspicious  of Trump's  cozy relationship with Russia they launched a counterintelligence investigation into the newly elected President.  This was not just a criminal investigation into collusion or conspiracy  or a discovery of the means and extent of Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. Counter intelligence investigations regarding the loyalty  of a president to the US have never happened before.  Counter intelligence is one of the functions of the FBI.  Raising the FBI's  suspicion level were  Trump's  firing of FBI  Director James Comey and  Trump's twice  publicly linking it to "that Russiar thing" . His campaign organization  was laced with those with Russian ties and contacts with Russian spies and oligarch friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump's  financial dealings and aspirations to build Trump Tower in Moscow,  and his stated foreign policy initiatives that supported expansionist Russian goals were in plain sight. The FBI feared he was a Russian  asset or an unwitting victim of KGB alum Putin  who had something on him or had something to offer him him.   . following the outcome of the counter intelligence investigation was the establishment of the special counsel investigation led by Robert Mueller.   Outrage, indignation at the FBI's actions and the leak to the press  were the responses from both Trump and his supporters, but they offered no  rebuttals  to the substance of the FBI counter intelligence probe. Where that counter intelligence investigation stands now  will not be known until, if ever,  or  unless a Mueller report sees the light of day.

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As it stands now,  n spite  of indictments , guilty pleas , and court filings revealing actions by Russians to help Trump get elected, his  core supporters  still give him high marks.  The A for effort  to make good on campaign promises seems to  count more than the outcome. Blaming others for shortcomings is a Trump trademark.  The results of his attempts  have had some unintended consequences and some palpable failures. He has left a track record of  using lies to justify his agenda, but have not shaken his support.  He has attacked  our democratic institutions, stacking the courts with supporters, using executive orders and threatening to call a national emergency when none exists in order  to thwart Congressional opposition to his demands. Perhaps the answer was best illustrated  by a responder  to a recent column, "I don't care if he lies; I just like what he is doing". This is in spite of a tax plan that brought no relief to the middle class ,  that did not stimulate growth enough to pay for the tax cuts for the rich, a trade policy that failed to stop automobile plant closures and a trade war that nearly destroyed Midwest agri-business,  only  saved by  a $12 billion tax payer paid bailout.  He has attacked  our democratic institutions, stacking the courts with supporters, using executive orders and threatening to call a national emergency when none exists in order  to thwart Congressional opposition to his demands.   Full employment and a thriving enough economy plus his anti immigrant, anti women's choice  stance may account for his steady core support. Many opposing  the president  suspect Trump has been successful in hyping an atmosphere of fear of "others"  among those who already are uneasy about changing demographics.




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https://www.yahoo.com/news/trump-campaign-had-more-100-100543164.html

https://uk.finance.yahoo.com/news/trump-apos-support-among-core-152400405.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/11/us/politics/fbi-trump-russia-inquiry.html

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/elections/democrats-won-house-popular-vote-largest-midterm-margin-watergate-n938996

Footnote: Jan. 14, Real Clear Politics show Donald Trump's job approval polls are tanking.

President Trump Job ApprovalIBD/TIPPApprove 42, Disapprove 54Disapprove +12
President Trump Job ApprovalCNNApprove 37, Disapprove 57Disapprove +20
Direction of CountryIBD/TIPPRight Direction 41, Wrong Track 58Wrong Track +

Friday, January 4, 2019

Trump's kitchen cabinet: Fox, Breitbart, Putin and Erdogan

A version of this was published  Jan 10 2019 online https://www.skyhinews.com/news/opinion-muftic-trumps-kitchen-cabinet-fox-breitbart-putin-and-erdogan/


In US  history a number of presidents did not rely on their staff and cabinet for advice, but took  cues  from cronies, friends, and trusted  peers. Those informal advisers were called  "kitchen cabinets".  They did not actually meet in a kitchen, but nonetheless they shaped the President's policies.  No one before has accused  the kitchen cabinet of ever working on behalf of a foreign government or radical ideologues , but this one could be a first.  Donald Trump's kitchen cabinet  with whom he has been consulting are those who are  not his official cabinet or national security advisers. Many of those  have either quit or have been fired.  There is evidence that his kitchen cabinet includes  autocrats he so admires as "strong leaders" and   who  are antagonistic to American security interests  or have their own agenda.  He has revised or commented on public policy, echoing Russian president Vladimir Putin's governments' talking points  in  verbatim terms and policy preferences.  Trump echos Putin's antagonism toward NATO and sympathizes with Russia's  invasion and takeover of  neighbors and  former satellites.  A telephone conversation with Turkey's president Erdogan resulted in a tweeted reversal of  US policies toward Syria  and calling for withdrawal of US troops, policies  to the benefit of both Turkey's and Russia's national interests. He numbers as trusted advisers   members of the media who represent some of the most extreme wings of his own party.  Criticism  by Rush Limbaugh, white nationalist leaning  Breitbart, and several Fox news personalities ended a deal with his own GOP Senate to avoid a government shutdown over his Great Wall of Trump. His daughter and son-in-law and his Mar-a-Lago members have unfiltered access to round out his kitchen cabinet.

 Since the days of Andrew Jackson in the 1830's, an  informal group of trusted advisers was called a "kitchen cabinet" because the decisions and policies were not being formed in the front parlor (the official cabinet and White House staff). Ronald Reagan's cabinet even contained a beer baron from Colorado, Joseph Coors.  Other presidents such as JFK, LBJ,  Ford, and FDR  relied on the advice of trusted friends instead of official advisers. That is not the problem. The Trump kitchen cabinet issue is the membership and their individual agenda.

Rachel Maddow, in a January 3, 2019   MSNBC program, noted  an AP report  revealed early in the administration  Trump had taken seriously Putin's  fabricated claim that Poland was going to invade Belarus. That was a Russian military disinformation campaign. She also cited  Putin's warning that Montenegro contained "aggressive  people" that could start World War III. That was Putin's view on the eve of that country's joining NATO, and  it was  parroted by Trump  in a 2018 TV interview. Trump echoed Putin's talking points  in  his January  2 2019 press briefing in which the President, out of the blue and a puzzle to  so many,   echoed Putin's  political party's  announced plan to revise  history to reflect that the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 was justified  because of terrorist threats and  was not a mistake,  in spite of historical evidence to the contrary.

 This Trump/Putin echo chamber begs the suspicion that  Trump is in sympathy or in agreement with Russia  that any country can invade and takeover another country if they feel threatened, from Crimea to the rest of the Ukraine. He agrees with Russia that NATO is an alliance the US should not continue  though Trump gives reasons it is obsolete and members do not contribute enough. Russia views NATO as a threat to their expansionism.. Trump is already on record for lifting  sanctions imposed on Russia for the Crimea takeover. He has advocated earlier that Russia should manage  the Syria conflict. That would increase Russian influence in the region.  Russian troops are now  poised on the Ukrainian border. Poland has long feared Russia would find a pretense  to take back them and the Baltic states who were former Soviet satellites and now are  NATO members.  Montenegro, population of a less than a million ,  controls a key  port with access to the Mediterranean, lusted by Russia for centuries. Trump appears to be on Russia's side  in  many foreign policy matters, but "why "is still the question.

 See my column  in the Sky Hi News,  July 25, 2018, https://www.skyhinews.com/news/opinion/muftic-trump-dances-to-the-russian-tune-on-montenegro/ and a more detailed  www.mufticforumblog.blogspot.com  posting.
A footnote:  My particular interest in Montenegro began with a visit in 1958 and frequent revisits. Our family once imported wine from there and my late husband's family roots over 500 years ago, pre Ottoman invasion, were in Montenegro. He was born in Montenegro in 1933 when his father was governor of Montenegro. Montenegro was a province of Yugoslavia then.

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Trump_administration_dismissals_and_resignations#Color_key

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitchen_Cabinet

https://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow/watch/trump-curiously-well-versed-in-specific-russian-talking-points-1419581507654

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/09/01/mick-mulvaney-omb-trump-budget-profile-feature-215546

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/12/20/conservative-media-trump-border-wall-

July 25, 2018, https://www.skyhinews.com/news/opinion/muftic-trump-dances-to-the-russian-tune-on-montenegro/

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/dec/21/james-mattis-resignation-trump-erdogan-phone-call

http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/white-house-tries-downplay-trump-echoing-russian-propaganda?cid=sm_fb_maddow