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A Different “Veterans Day”

November 11, 2019

This Veterans Day seems different, as does our universal celebration of Veterans, and not merely those old guys, some 389,00 World War II veteran who are still alive. Our politics is seeing a plenitude of Iraq war vets running for office, even Leftists like Mayor Pete and the two Democrats who knocked off Republican incumbents in Virginia Districts 2 and 7 in 2018, extolled their government service, Elaine Luria a career Navy officer and Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA analyst.

I guess we’ve recovered from our “anti-government” ways during the war in Vietnam!

The motion picture, “Midway,” is a box office hit seventy-seven years after those June events of 1942 when American carriers under Admiral Nimitz destroyed Japanese carriers headed toward Midway Island. I’m a bit surprised by the enthusiasm of American movie goers for a movie about a battle so long ago. Since for at least 45 years American colleges and universities have failed to educate students for their responsibilities as citizens of a self-governing democratic republic.

Maybe that’s getting to Americans today who have been intentionally denied knowledge of their historical past and are mocked when their ignorance is revealed in “Watters’ World”  interviews.

Clearly, Americans are experiencing a rush of patriotic feelings “in their bones.” Actually, this has been around a long time. I was surprised, for example, when on business in Minneapolis I took time off to attend a showing of one of the Batman films at Mall of America. When a character in the film described Batman’s commitment to “truth, justice and the American way” the audience burst into applause!

A residue of common sense resides even today in the lives of citizens of the United States and they seek out opportunities to celebrate their “Americanhood,” their sense of themselves as belonging to a greater enterprise.

Apparently sources of wealth in Communist Party dominated People’s Republic of China also have a sense of patriotic history, as they financed the movie “Midway” when American investments couldn’t be found. The PRC authorities would have authorized that investment because they remember the Japanese invasion of China and have Japan in their long term plans for hegemony in Asia.

The success of the film “Midway” also tells us that executives in the film industry are out of touch with the lives of their fellow citizens, indeed there are signs that senior management in many large corporations are out of touch. Witness the stupidity of executives at Nike, the National Football League and the Bank of America whose CEO appeared on MSNBC last week to announce his bank’s commitment to the “cause” of Environmentalism.

When I use up my supply of Bank of America checks, I’ll close that checking account.

 

Leaving America

November 10, 2019

Richard Gilman‘s 1961 essay “Americans Abroad” and David McCullough‘s The Greater Journey are two interesting accounts of Americans who deserted America to live, work, study and paint in 19th century London and Paris.

A century before, Benjamin Franklin lived for many years in England and France and Benjamin West made his career in London where he was favored by George III.

Samuel F. B. Morse, a painter and inventor, began his sojourn in 1811. Washington Irving, began his stay abroad in 1815 that included a seventeen-year sojourn in England and Spain.

James Fenimore Cooper, had gone to France in 1826 as United States consul at Lyons, but remained there for seven years after giving up his consular position.

Augustus Saint-Gaudens and painters Mary Cassatt and John Singer Sargent thrived in Paris and London and Sargent, Henry James and James McNeill Whistler, virtually the first American expatriates living in Paris, knew and socialized with one another.

Harriet Beecher Stowe traveled to Paris to escape the controversy generated by her book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor in America, had her reasons, too.

Henry Adams, who had been his father’s secretary at the London embassy during the Civil War, overwhelmed by the death of his wife spent summers in Paris where he encountered Augustus Saint-Gaudens whom he commissioned to create a monument at the grave of his late wife in Washington’s Rock Creek Cemetery.

On a happier note, William Dean Howells, who had been awarded a position as consul at Venice for campaign work he did for Abraham Lincoln, was married to Elinor Mead in the American Embassy in Paris on Christmas eve in 1862.

But, Henry James put into words the reasons that attracted Americans to lives as expatriates: America had

… no sovereign, no court, no personal loyalty, no aristocracy, no church … no army … no country gentlemen, no palaces, no castles, nor manors, nor old country-houses, nor parsonages, nor thatched cottages, nor ivied ruins; no cathedrals, nor abbeys, nor little Norman churches; no great Universities nor public schools … no literature, no novels, no museums, no pictures, no political society, no sporting class … The elements of high civilization, as it exists in other countries … are absent.

For us today, as we contemplate the Two Hundred Years War that began with the election of a celebrity as President who brings to office no ties to American conservatives nor knowledge of history, foreign policy and the operations of government, we must reflect on the dearth of political leaders and a future series of failed celebrity presidents.

Like these 19th century expatriates, leaving America seems like a good way to watch the carnage to come in safety.

 

When the Wall fell

November 9, 2019

Today, November 9, is the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I was in Warsaw, Poland, that weekend before the wall fell, and saw video news reports of demonstrators in Berlin. You had to be in other cities in Eastern Europe at that time to accurately assess what sound this felling of a wall made: the sound of freedom!

After we abandoned so many East Europeans to the USSR after World War II, they felt betrayed by the Western powers.

Finally, citizens of East Germany had had enough.

It’s difficult for totalitarian regimes when their people have had enough and that is the reason that the People’s Republic of China is worried about riots in Hong Kong: the PRC is next!

 

 

 

 

 

Trump’s Morality and Policies

November 8, 2019

Now that President Trump has admitted to crimes against regulations governing tax exempt charities, the nature of the Trump Organization as a criminal enterprise is coming to light.

During my 36 years experience managing several 501(c)(3) tax exempt organizations, never once was I cited for violating IRS regulations. I know something about regulations governing how “c3s” dispense funds and was not shocked, therefore, when the Trump Foundation was compelled to close.  Now we learn that the President settled a lawsuit against his Foundation to the tune of  $2 million dollars.

During my 8 years working in Eastern Europe from 1987 to 1995, I was asked to pay substantial bribes. I could have done that, but the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act makes bribery in foreign transactions a crime.  Other countries permit bribery and one actually treats bribes as a deductible business expense. The Trump Organization could not have done business in Russia and some other countries without bribing government officials. Needless to say, in New York City only bribery makes real estate transactions possible.

Money-laundering is also a crime and financing for Trump projects from Russian oligarchs clearly comes close, or crosses the line, into money laundering.

If you play fast and loose with laws in business, you may assume the same in politics.

Though Trump ran for President as a Republican, Trump was a registered Democrat longer than he was registered as a Republican. As a former political appointee in the Reagan and Bush 41 administrations I did not engage in “outside” dealings. Trump has not shut his ties to a variety of businesses.

That explains why the policies of the Trump Administration are irrational, based on a mistaken understanding of how government and foreign adversaries operate.

Bloomberg will Run!

November 8, 2019

Mike Bloomberg (assets of $53 billion) who ran and won as a Republican candidate for Mayor of New York will run to become President of the United States as a Democrat. Bloomberg’s policies, except for his belief in abortion rights, are fiscally conservative.

The current leaders in the race for the Democrat Party nomination–Warren, Biden and Sanders–are deficient in so many ways that Bloomberg “looks good”  from the perspective of a Republican who believes Donald Trump is a danger to the national security of the United States.

That won’t get Bloomberg the nomination, but before we write him off,  let’s see how much $53 billion can buy in Democrat Party politics these days.

After yesterday, I have two questions

November 6, 2019

The 1972 “post-Watergate” elections gave the Democrats 60 seats in the U.S. Senate and 292 seats in the House. Forty-nine House Republicans were defeated in that election and Republicans did not gain control of the House for twenty years until 1994.

General elections yesterday gave control of the General Assembly and Senate in Virginia to Democrats, and saw election of a Democrat governor of Kentucky.

These GOP losses could have been predicted by GOP losses in 2018 that were the biggest midterm victory for Democrats in U.S. history, greater than losses in the disastrous 1964 Presidential election in which Sen. Barry Goldwater was defeated decisively by President Lyndon Johnson.

These losses presage massive GOP losses again in 2020 and compels that we ask two questions:

How long will the GOP remain a minority party?

Is this the permanent condition of American politics?

Though nothing in politics is permanent, the future for Americans who want a limited Federal government is very bleak.

 

 

US/Mexico Policy

November 5, 2019

President Trump’s personnel selection process, that one experienced observer has likened to “Ringling Brothers” circus, has often chosen persons on the basis of wealth, friendship or standing with Establishment Republicans.

In the case of Ambassador to Mexico, Trump selected a superb candidate–and just in time. Close to three years into Trump’s first term, his pick of Christopher Landau is as good as it gets in this Administration.

Our relations with Mexico have been overshadowed by Trump’s “border wall” controversy and increased activity of Mexican drug cartels were ignored. The murder of nine Mormons in northern Mexico, however, reveals acceptance of cartel activity by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. That should be confronted immediately.

Ambassador Landau has no personal ties to President Trump, but now he has the President’s attention and should work with the President to confront President Obrador.