Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Biden's quiet, muscular diplomacy: A new foreign policy sheriff in town

 One autocrat got the message. There is a new foreign policy sheriff in town. Erdogan's Turkey is a member of NATO that bought missiles from another autocratic regime. Russia, an adversary and cyber attacker of the US. Biden was not pleased and still is not completely pleased as Turkey returns the experts Russia sent with their missiles, but not the missiles. More to come. Putin massed his military at the Ukraine border, implying a threatened invasion and testing Biden's intent to resist. Biden and NATO reaffirmed their commitment to defend Ukraine's embryonic democracy on the border with other NATO members. Quietly, Putin withdrew his troops after a telephone conversation with Biden. . Next, there were threats by Russia to move their influence into the Balkans through Serbia. Slovenia proposed eliminating the autonomy of Bosnia and dividing it up. That was a concept the US slapped down. That has been met as well by calls to fast-track membership of countries there not already members of NATO, including Bosnia. Most in the Balkans already are NATO members, including Montenegro with its best submarine port in the Mediterranean. The Balkans are still a work in progress. Biden is no fool, nor is he ignorant, having served both as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for years and as vice-president. He will be meeting with both Turkey and Putin this summer. That should be interesting and maybe tense. This is a significant change from the Trump era, whose foreign policy was bootlicking and praising nuclear powers governed by autocrats, mostly adversaries of the US. The technique resembled appeasement, and the autocrats were emboldened to expand and rearm further from Russia to Iran to North Korea. His ending treaties designed to restrain China's expansion into the southeastern Pacific, and Iran's military nuclear ambitions backfired. Both China and Iran took advantage of the opportunity Trump's foreign policy gave them to expand economic and military interests into sensitive areas..of the South China Sea and Hamas and nuclear re-armament in the mid-east. Since Trump backed out of the Iran nuclear deal, it has increased its enriched uranium stockpiles. It has, however, agreed to international inspections fearing more international backlash and economic sanctions. Trump was a fool who thought flattery got him somewhere because he craved flattery himself. In foreign policy, that tomfoolery may have kept the guns from firing. Yet, it gave our adversaries a chance and breathing space to creep into our national interests and fill the void left by Trump's isolationist policies. In foreign policy, brute power and economic self-interest count above anything else.

If I have any bone to pick, it would be Biden turning over Afghanistan to the Taliban as he pulled out our skeleton force there. Whether Afghanistan will be a terrorist threat in the future to the US remains to be seen. However, the damage it will do to the rights of women there is going to be heartbreaking. The US has spent the past 20 years empowering and educating girls and women, and they will be the Taliban's first victims.

In defense of democracy...Biden's stirring remarks on Memorial Day, 2021

 In case you missed it, Biden's stirring remarks on Memorial Day in defense of democracy, read it or pick it up on You Tube.

Democracy needs defending? I never thought in my life an American would have to make a case for democracy v dictatorship, a government ruled by an autocratic person. What in the world did my uncles, cousins, son in law fight for? It wasn't to keep a national leader in power to tell you what to think or to support the laws that benefitted him or a preferred racial or ethnic group he supported to dominate others he considered lesser. Why did my husband flee a dictatorship? It was for the same reasons to avoid the rule of such a leader. What fools we are to wish for another form of government. Biden lays out the contrast between being governed by an individual who feeds his own greed and lust for power and a government ruled by the people with the purpose of creating a society that strives for fair play and decency for all of its citizens. It is one that believes all men are created equal. That is the soul of America. But I am paraphrasing his eloquent words. Read them for yourself. His comments on democracy begin about halfway through his speech. I have excerpted them here as posted by the White House.

Are we justified in claiming Trumpists are dangerous enough to destroy democracy? I am in the midst of reading "How Democracies Die" by Daniel Ziblatt and Steven Levitsky, a history of past and current takeovers by autocrats and dictators of democracies. What I have learned from the book, the problem comes from all shades of political philosophy, right and left, socialists, communists, fascists, and militaristic power grabbers. In current times, the autocrats and dictators gain power not so often by military putsch but by the voting booth. However, Mike Flynn and Matt Gaetz are both talking military-style violence to "restore" Trump to power. Trump himself incited a violent takeover of the certification of the election on January 6. These were no tourists, but they were there to scare Congress to overturn certification by 50 states after months of review by judges of all political stripes. The rioters, when in court, claimed they acted because Trump told them to do it. Over 500 arrested and the trials are just beginning. The methods these aspiring dictators use to gain power and destroy democracy are what all of these anti-democrats have in common.. Once in power, they slowly stack the courts and military, purging those who may oppose them, asserting through lies and propaganda their opponents who beat them in elections were not legit, (Obama born in Kenya, Biden "stole" the election in spite of 60 judges ruling otherwise), destroying the free press by various means and setting up his own version of reality on TV and social media, ignoring their constitutional constraints. claiming they were above the law and could not be prosecuted for violating it, (as Trump claimed), and abusing their power to persecute those who would challenge them using his own justice department's investigative powers to ignore supporter's actions and to investigate even conspiracy theories while twisting the findings( as Bill Barr did in the Russian interference investigations and as Trump ordered the DOJ to investigate wild conspiracy theories). Donald Trump is a prototype personality of a wannabe dictator and even in his four years in power, he attempted some of these techniques. He took over the GOP dominance of local to state governments with leaders and candidates and legislators who dare not cross him for fear they would lose their power to win in primaries. Tell me this is not true.

Now to Biden's words:

"The soul of America is animated by the perennial battle between our worst instincts — which we’ve seen of late — and our better angels. Between “Me first” and “We the People.” Between greed and generosity, cruelty and kindness, captivity and freedom.
The Americans of Lexington and Concord, of New Orleans, Gettysburg, the Argonne, Iwo Jima and Normandy, Korea and Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, and thousands of places in between — these Americans weren’t fighting for dictators; they were fighting for democracy.
They weren’t fighting to exclude or to enslave; they were fighting to build and broaden and liberate. They weren’t fighting for self; they were fighting for the soul of the nation, for liberty and simple fair play — simple fair play and decency.
Today, as we remember their sacrifice, we remind ourselves of our duty to their memory, to the future they fought for. We owe the honored dead a debt we can never fully repay. We owe them our whole souls. We owe them our full best efforts to perfect the Union for which they died.
We owe them the work of our hands and our hearts, to make real the promise of a nation founded on the proposition that all of us — all of us — all of us are created equal and deserve to be treated that way throughout our lives.
Democracy is more than a form of government. It’s a way of being; it’s a way of seeing the world. Democracy means the rule of the people — the rule of the people. Not the rule of monarchs, not the rule of the moneyed, not the rule of the mighty — literally, the rule of the people.
The lives of billions, from antiquity to our own hour, have been shaped by the battle between aspirations of the many and the greed of the few. Between people’s right to self-determination and the self-seeking of the dictator. Between dreams of democracy and appetites for autocracy, which we’re seeing around the world.
Our troops have fought this battle on fields around the world, but also the battle of our time. And the mission falls to each of us, each and every day. Democracy itself is in peril, here at home and around the world.
What we do now — what we do now, how we honor the memory of the fallen, will determine whether or not democracy will long endure. We all take it for granted. We think we learned in school. You have to — every generation has to fight for it.
But, look, it’s the biggest question: Whether a system that prizes the individual, that bends towards liberty, that gives everybody a chance at prosperity — whether that system can and will prevail against powerful forces that wish it harm.
All that we do in our common life as a nation is part of that struggle. The struggle for democracy is taking place around the world — democracy and autocracy. The struggle for decency and dignity — just simple decency. The struggle for posterity — prosperity and progress. And, yes, the struggle for the soul of America itself.
Folks, you all know it: Democracy thrives when the infrastructure of democracy is strong; when people have the right to vote freely and fairly and conveniently; when a free and independent press pursues the truth, founded on facts, not propaganda; when the rule of law applies equally and fairly to every citizen, regardless of where they come from or what they look like.
(Coughs.) Excuse me.
Wherever Americans are, there — there is democracy: churches and synagogues and mosques, neighborhoods and coffee shops and diners, bleachers at kids’ baseball or soccer games, libraries and parks. Democracy begins and grows in the open heart and the impetus to come together for a common cause.
And I might note, parenthetically: Thank you, TAPS. That’s what you do.
And that’s where it will be preserved. For empathy is the fuel of democracy. Let me say that again: Empathy — empathy is the fuel of democracy, a willingness to see each other — not as enemies, neighbors. Even when we disagree, to understand what the other is going through.
To state the obvious: Our democracy is imperfect. It always has been. But Americans of all backgrounds, races, creeds, gender identities, sexual orientations, have long spilled their blood to defend our democracy. The diversity of our country and our arm- — and of our armed services is and always has been an incredible strength.
And generation after generation of American heroes have signed up to be part of the fight because they understand the truth that lives in every American heart: that liberation, opportunity, justice are far more likely to come to pass in a democracy than an autocracy.
If every person is sacred, then every person’s rights are sacred. Individual dignity; individual worth; individual sanctity; the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We say those words so often, but think of it: the right to vote, the right to rise in a world as far as your talent can take you, unlimited by unfair barriers of privilege and power — such are the principles of democracy.
So how would you put these noble principles into practice? How do we do that? How do we make the idea real, or as close to real as we can make it?
This nation was built on an idea — the only nation in the world built on an idea. Every other nation was built on ethnicity, geography, religion, et cetera.
We were built on an idea: the idea of liberty and opportunity for all. We have never fully realized that aspiration of our founding, but every generation has opened the door a little wider, and every generation has opened it wider and wider to be more inclusive, to include those who have been excluded before. It’s a mission handed down generation to generation: the work of perfecting our union.
In 1830, when we were a young nation, dis-unionists put their sectional interests ahead of the common good. A great senator, Daniel Webster, rose in the Capitol to defend the Union. To him, we were not just a collection of competing forces, but a coherent whole.
His cry, first uttered just across the Potomac in the Capitol, resonates even now. He stood on the floor and he said, “Liberty and Union, now on forever, one and inseparable.” Liberty and Union.
More than 142 years later, when I first came to the United States Senate — at a time when our country was so deeply divided over Vietnam, the struggle of civil rights, the fight over women’s rights — I had the notion that my first task, as I stood to make my first speech on the floor of the Senate — it all of a sudden hit me: I’m standing where Daniel Webster had stood; his desk was next to mine.
And I was struck by the weight of history, as corny as it sounds, by the legacy of the work we’re charged to carry forward: liberty and union, now and forever.
Now as then, unity is essential to life; liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And so we remember those who gave their all in the cause of unity, in the cause of a nation that endures because of them.
We must honor their sacrifice by sustaining the best of America, while honestly confronting all that we must do to make our nation fuller, freer, and more just. We must remember that we may find the light and the wisdom and, yes, the courage to move forward — in the words of that great hymn, fight as they “nobly fought of old.”
For in remembrance lies not just our history, but our hope. Not just our solemn remembrance, but our renewed purpose. Not just our solace, but our strength.
This Memorial Day, remember that not all of us are called to make the ultimate sacrifice. We all are called, by God and by history and by conscience, to make our nation free and fair, just and strong, noble and whole.
To this battle, may we now dedicate our souls, that our work may prove worthy of the blood of our fallen. For this work — the work of democracy — is the work of our time, and for all time. And if we do our duty, then ages still to come will look back on us and say that we too kept the faith. And there’s nothing more important, nothing more sacred, nothing more American than keeping the faith. "
________________________________________________________________________________________________________
I have noticed that most media critical of Trump have used the term "autocrat" to apply to him. He was voted out of office before he could in an effect be one, but he certainly had aspirations, expressed admiration of that kind of government style and had advocated and practiced some of what he could do at the time that resembled some of the characteristics.
https://www.8sa.net/10-characteristics-of-dictatorship/... have called him a wannabe dictator. Just making executive orders does not make a person a dictator so long as laws and the constitution are not violated. Executive orders can be easily reversed, unlike laws passed by Congress and apply to execution of details of by the executive branch. Biden has issued many executive orders, but most had to do with overturning Trump's executive orders and COVID relief and policy. I found this definition...of what is a dictator ..on line....that seems the clearest.
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"  Total served: 40 villages, 2000 families, 160 families with at risk girls, and 40 university students and bringing literacy to 30 Roma girls. 

Here is what they did:  organizing and curriculum development for workshops for educators and parents, supervising and training student volunteers, hiring a teacher to provide literacy education for Roma (gypsy) girls, conducting a public education campaign promoting girls education and warning about human trafficking.  These projects were fully implemented with the final report approved by RI in January 2019 of the final grant #3; #2 approved 2016.  Note: the entire country is a now little more than half   the population of Colorado.  Sarajevo was the  of the 1984 Winter Olympic Games."


(I might add, Denver Rotary's contribution was to write the grant applications with input from Mostar Rotary and Novi Put, the NGO contracted to execute it), sell it and get matching funding from other Rotary Clubs, including producing the video), and coaching NOVI Put and Mostar Rotary throughout the entire process of execution in compliance with RI requirements of reporting and compliance.  We also maintained a large web site: My Business - Home with constant updates and pictures.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Political correctness has been replaced by tongues of hatred

Dana, a close friend of my daughter dating to their high school years and their parents became friends of our family, a friendship lasting over 30 years. They had a horrific experience last year.  Dana's mother Sally passed away, and last July they held a zoom memorial service because their synagogue was closed due to COVID-19. This year, another daughter of mine, age 53, passed away and we also opted for a zoom celebration of life hosted by my church pastor. Ours worked beautifully and the recording of the service is a treasure.  Sally's zoom service was hacked by Nazis and swastikas appeared on their screen.  That was just one of the horrors committed by those who felt the time was right to tout their hatred more openly. The numbers of reported antisemitic crimes have tripled since 2018 in Colorado.  Dana's recounting of the incident was featured on television and is available on You Tube. https://youtu.be/59jErmUmI4w      What makes such hate groups feel they have gotten permission to increase their public activities?

Whatever happened to political correctness? The sad state of our nation is that civility, any veneer of supporting a common good, has "gone with the wind". Too often it has been replaced by tongues of hatred and followed by some committing crimes. Even those who do not fancy themselves as hate group fellow travelers are contributing to the atmosphere that encourages them to be more public. Any attempt to castigate some for the lightest tinge of comments defending racial or religious bias is met with counter-accusations from the right of "cancel culture" and anger that "libtards" are trying to do it to them. The definition of culture they feel is under attack has been left to the imagination of others. Some on the left reacted in kind in countering what they see as racial suppression. The country has been divided as speech gloves have been taken off and anger is raw and little hindered. It is clear there is a revolt against "political correctness", once a general agreement among most Americans not to be overtly racist and anti-semitic, to keep noncorrect jokes and slurs hushed, or not to appear publicly antagonistic toward "others" that did not mirror their own ethnic, racial, or religious group. In right-wing demonstrations from Charlottesville to the US Capitol nazi and nazi derived symbols and antisemitic hate slogans are chanted or on display in banners and shirt patches among the other marchers. They and their hate-mongering ilk have always been around, but not so brazenly and publicly in many years as they are now. In the past four years, more have crawled out from under the shadows of rocks to openly flaunt their hate in the light of day. Why?

While verbal and social media barbs are thrown by both sides, the end of more recent societal ethics of political correctness can be traced to the beginning of the Trump era. Donald Trump's words had consequences. The lid of political politeness and respectful speech became something of the past as Trump ripped off the scab of a festering white resentment to the rise of the political power of minorities. Early in the Donald Trump presidential campaign, the slogan that caught fire was Make America Great Again. Reporters had no luck in getting Trump supporters to put into words on camera to which era did they want the US to return that they considered good "again". Trump's oratorical and media skill set was his ability to tap into their gut feelings and to channel them into support of public policy issues which also contributed to his own political power. No longer carried in his favored media were inconvenient facts or embarrassing videos. The media on the left responded by giving focus to what they saw as the truth and reality. Those who tuned in solely to Trump's preferred media still get a view of the world filtered to create a reality that is not shared by viewers and readers of non-Trump media. Recent polls revealed that over half of Republicans believe the election was stolen and Joe Biden was not elected legitimately. At rallies, Trump's devoted audiences cheered racist dog whistle oratory as they jeered at those they disdained. The 1/6 rioters were just tourists viewers were told and they were shown carefully edited videos that neglected to show the violence, vandalism, and combat with police that ended with some dead and 140 injured, and nearly 500 arrested and charged for their alleged criminal behavior. Even with his tweet and facebook wings clipped, Trump's threats to take revenge on non-loyalists get conveyed through other means. Trumpism is now more than just a cult of one person. It is a movement that controls the GOP and uses the fear of being primaried to keep discipline among officeholders and candidates.

Now, in any case, political correctness appears to be no longer part of the culture many assert is being canceled. What this end of political correctness means could also be deduced from which public policy initiatives those decrying political politeness supported that resembled the era before civil rights legislation and the increase in immigration from south of our border. Recent examples are cries of protest against banning Dr. Suess or the renewal of barriers to voting by demographic groups who are viewed as their political opposition. These issues have occupied the Trump media for some time. No government banned any of his books, but the publisher ceased printing several of them at the request of the Suess heirs who did not want Dr. Suess' reputation to reflect racism in a few of his illustrations and words he used in less sensitive times. The other is the wave of voter suppression legislation aimed at making it harder for students, and minorities with lower income and education levels and/or access to transportation to vote. A further objection to the exposure of the participation of neo-Nazis and white nationalist groups in the January 6 riots is also part of the same syndrome. Most of the GOP Senate closed ranks to scuttle further exposure of GOP culpability by voting against an independent commission just before Memorial Day designed by bi-partisan legislators to discover and expose to the public what happened on January 6. Sweeping that embarrassment under the rug will not work and Democrats via hearings and campaign advertisements will make sure voters understand the January 6 rioters were no tourists. Democrats branding Trumpist GOP candidates as anti-democracy will be front and center in the 2022 election campaigns. Exhibits one and two will be videos of January 6 violent rioters carrying Trump banners and airing tactics by GOP Trumpists in state legislatures to suppress certain demographics' ability to vote conveniently and to get their votes counted fairly.

Donald Trump's unique contribution to the end of political correctness was to light a fire under the smoldering sores of divisiveness, resentment of an Obama presidency, and disrespect and hatred of others not like them. . This resulted in more openly expressing intolerance of "others, couched in social media memes and postings, and advocacy of certain public policy positions.. His contribution to racial and religious divide was flagrant, from Charlottesville's new-Nazi parades to Michigan statehouse to the US Capitol, calling white nationalist militias patriots or containing "some good people", his thinly disguised racism tagging one racial group as he kicked off his 2016 campaign with the broad brush of "rapists" and "murderers" or banning another group from entering the US solely because of their religion. Others took the end of political correctness to mean it was a permission slip to be rude and inconsiderate to others or to ignore Covid masking rules and vaccinations as some liberal scam cooked up to control them, to battering innocent Asians on the streets, and to rising antisemitism. That is the sad state of our nation today.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/13/video/extremist-signs-symbols-capitol-riot.html

Why Attacking ‘Cancel Culture’ And ‘Woke’ People Is Becoming The GOP’s New Political Strategy | FiveThirtyEight

A Disturbing Number of Republicans Still Believe All the Lies Donald Trump Tells Them | Vanity Fair

Over half of Republicans believe Donald Trump is the actual President of the United States | Ipsos

Poll: Quarter of Americans surveyed say Trump is 'true president' (usatoday.com)

https://www.adl.org/2017-impact-report/racists-converge-on-charlottesville


Wednesday, May 19, 2021

GOP voter suppression initiative 38 to end fraud free Colorado mail voting

 GOP voter suppression...coming to your Colorado ballot soon.

Update: June 2, 2021, Title board denied the petition to put #38 on the ballot on the basis that it was not a single issue...a requirement in Colorado that an initiative could only address one single issue. This means the issue will not be on the Colorado ballot in the fall.

Alert: Initiative 38 would end mail-in voting in Colorado and require fingerprinting to get a voter registration card, requiring a person to vote in person, end drop boxes. If the initiative's title is approved, supporters would have to collect 124,632 signatures of registered Colorado voters by August 2 and get signatures verified as legitimate to make the 2021 fall ballot. .Per the publication Colorado Politics, a weekly publication, the initiative is being reviewed for "ballot title" for compliance that it would address a single issue and reflect the title. This initiative would break whatever is considered one of the most fraud-free, largest voter participation systems in the US. If approved, and the number of validated signatures is gathered, it will be on the Colorado ballot. If there is no evidence of fraud in Colorado elections, why is the GOP making the effort to fix something that does not need fixing even in states with a clean record? It is not that the election was stolen from Donald Trump in many of those states. Could fraud happen in the future? Colorado's mail-in ballot system has been fraud-free for the past eight years. that past is a pretty good predictor of the future. Here is are some possible reasons: Donald Trump told his supporters to do it anyway. Fixing what is not broken is another way the Trumpsters try to verify the fraud must have happened as the conspiracy theorists said even though it could not be proved. Just going through the act of fixing the system means it was broken to the true Trump believers who are willing to swallow any illogic on behalf of their leader. It is an old propaganda trick: Even when it is not true, if you act like it is, then some will even believe it.

A summary of Initiative #38 per Colorado Politics
"A proposed ballot initiative that would do away with mail voting in Colorado, forbid the use of drop boxes, and require a fingerprinted "government-issued elector card" when voting will appear before the Title Board on Wednesday. " While the first appearance resulted in rejection, the second attempt will be June 2.
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Frank Zaveral