Neil Young remembers

Tin soldiers and Nixon’s comin’
We’re finally on our own
This summer I hear the drummin’
Four dead in Ohio
Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are gunning us down
Should have been done long ago
What if you knew her and
Found her dead on the ground?
How can you run when you know?
Na na-na-na, na-na na-na
Na na-na-na, na-na na
Na na-na-na, na-na na-na
Na na-na-na, na-na na
Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are cutting us down
Should have been done long ago
What if you knew her and
Found her dead on the ground?
How can you run when you know?
Tin soldiers and Nixon’s comin’
We’re finally on our own
This summer I hear the drummin…
Four dead in Ohio…

Yesterday, was the 50th anniversary of the horrific and needless tragedy at Kent State University. Four young college students were killed and more injured when President Nixon called out the national guard on a college protest. This is as asinine a move that a US president could make. Young adults with rifles caused the situation to get out of hand and kids died.

Along with Watergate, Kent State paints a picture of what happens with a paranoid and corrupt president. It should give us pause with the corrupt and paranoid president we have now who is even more deceitful than Nixon.

“Ohio” is an anthem written and sung well by Young and bandmates Crosby, Stills and Nash.

This should never happen again. Yet, with this president, anything is possible.

Trumbo – a great movie about a dark time in America

Earlier in the week, I was watching the excellent movie called “Trumbo” about the black-listed screenwriter Dalton Trumbo starring Bryan Cranston and an excellent cast such as Helen Mirren, Diane Lane, Elle Fanning and John Goodman to name a few. I missed it the first time around in 2015 when it was released.

The movie was written by John McNamara and Bruce Cook, on whose book the movie is based. It was directed by Jay Roach. Trumbo was one of the Hollywood Ten who were blacklisted early on for alleged communist activities. He spent time in jail for being in Contempt of Congress for refusing to name names. Trumbo would go on to ghost write two Oscar winning screenplays for “Roman Holiday” and “The Brave One.” He would perpetuate an underground screenwriting group and eventually, Kirk Douglas and director Otto Preminger, would let him sign his name to the movies in 1960 with “Spartacus” and “Exodus.”

I was reminded of the House Un-American Activities Committee, which began in 1947 and was in exisentence until 1975, that started these investigations leading to Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s communist witch hunt efforts. It should be noted that 1975 is the year following Richard Nixon’s resignation. Nixon was a key ally of Sen. McCarthy. It should be noted Nixon kept an enemies list due to his paraonoia. Nixon did some good things, but he turned out to be a crook.

What is interesting is McCarthy’s attorney through this dark period was Roy Cohn. Cohn later became a mentor to a young real estate developer in New York named Donald J. Trump. Trump’s biographers wrote that Cohn told Trump to never apologize and sue everyone. Trump has followed these mandates for his entire career.

Bringing this full circle. Trump is the most corrupt and deceitful president in my lifetime, including Nixon. But, both me were influenced by Sen. McCarthy who led this dark period in American history who made up things to support his claims. It should be noted that both Nixon and Trump blame the press for not sufficiently kowtowing to them. As the Sec. of the Army asked famously of McCarthy, “have you no sense of decency, sir?” The same could be asked of the current US president.

So, we must protect America against those who wave the flag and tell people it does not stand for the things that it does.

Half a dozen heroes to think about

My wife and I watched the movie “Harriet” on Friday about the American hero Harriet Tubman. She helped over 300 slaves find their way to freedom. Her courage, tenacity, faith and smarts are highly commendable. The movie is excellent and quite moving.

It got me thiking about a few other heroes. Let me mention three more historical heroes who need more notoriety, before I close with two current ones who deserve the shout out.

I have written before about Alan Turing, the father of modern day computing. He led a team that cracked the Nazi Enigma code used in secret transmissions. Allied Commander General Dwight Eisenhower said Turing and his team helped shorten the war by two years and save 750,000 lives. Sadly, Turing had to hide the fact he was gay and was later imprisoned after his sexual preferences were discovered. What if they had discovered he was gay in 1940 rather than 1950? Would those 750,000 people have died?

Two men who should get more acclaim are Elliott Richardson and William Ruckelshaus. What did they do? In October, 1973, they refused in succession to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox at the direction of President Richard Nixon and were themselves fired. This was the beginning of the end of the Nixon presidency. Nixon called the Watergate investigation a “witch hunt” and said repeatedly “I am not a crook.” He was wrong on both counts. It wasn’t and he was.

A current hero is only sixteen years old, Greta Thunberg, the climate change activist from Sweden. She has inspired tens of millions kids, teens and adults in urging the need for more climate change action. I find her candor and can-do attitude refreshing. She has gotten the attention of legislators, but they need to act. We are behind where we need to be.

The other current hero is former US ambassador to Ukraine, Maria Yovanovitch. She was the first to testify to the House impeachment committees. Her political courage and respect for the US constitution is enviable. Her testimony led others to also brave testimony, especially in light of a vindictive president who they reiterated abused his powers. I cannot emphasize their courage enough, as more than a few Republican legislators feel the same but are not as courageous and fear the wrath of the president and his base.

Going against the grain in the face of adversity should be valued. Tubman freed herself and traversed over one hundred miles alone. Then she went back at great personal risk and freed more people. I applaud her and these other five people. We all should.

A talented person

Below, is an edited version of a letter I forwarded to the USA Today which they graciously improved and used in their Weekend Edition.

“President Donald Trump is a talented person.

It consistently amazes me how the most untruthful president (including Richard Nixon) in my memory can convince his followers that everyone else is lying about him.

His biographers have noted the president has a problem with the truth.

So, on any issue about which Trump denigrates critics saying they are lying, Americans should dig further.

As an independent, I don’t mind people being more conservative or progressive than me on various issues.

What I do mind is when politicians lie or forget what they said earlier pretending as if it never happened.

That practice is especially bad when the person doing it is our president.”

What I found interesting is in the same section of the USA Today, the front page said the two people arrested for campaign finance fraud had dinner in the White House. Why is that important? The president said he did not know these people the day before.

The climate of untruthfulness has become more untethered with the departure of more reasonable voices and as the president has painted himself into a corner with rash decisions and inappropriate actions. His lying as a means of defense seems to have ratcheted up. It will only get worse as more people testify.

 

Senator Joe McCarthy, Donald Trump and Richard Nixon

What do the above three people have in common? It is more than one might think. The two deceased members are being invoked about the living one’s actions. There is ample reason for that, but there is even more commonality.

Senator Joe McCarthy ran roughshod over America playing on people’s fears during the Communist witch hunts. It took the efforts of Joseph Welch, the legal counsel to the Army, who uttered this plea under oath to the Senator, “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?” It also took the considerable reporting from an honorable man Edward R. Murrow, who highlighted McCarthy’s fearmongering.

President Richard Nixon resigned as President before he was impeached and convicted. In essence, he ran a burglary ring from the White House and went to great lengths to cover it up. What did Nixon in was his paranoia. He wanted the dirt the Democrats had on him for the 1972 election, so he authorized a burglary of the headquarters at the Watergate hotel and office complex. Plus, he paranoidly taped every conversation in the oval office, which was his Waterloo.

The current President is being investigated for any links to colluding with Russian agents to win the election. Yet, like Nixon, he is condemning the actions as a witch hunt and may be guilty of obstruction of justice, which was item 1 on the Nixon impeachment paperwork in Congress. It should be noted that Michael Cohen’s eight guilty pleas and Paul Manafort’s eight guilty verdicts bring the total Mueller convictions to seven people – that does not seem like a witch hunt to me.

Yet, there is even more in common than misuse of power, fear-mongering and paranoia. A key advisor to Donald Trump early in his career was an attorney named Roy Cohn. Cohn told Trump two key pieces of advice – never admit a mistake and sue everyone – which Trump follows to this day. But, Cohn also served as an advisor to none other than Senator Joe McCarthy during the Communist witch hunts. What other advice did Cohn share with Trump?

But, it does not end there. As a Congressman, Nixon also participated on the House Un-American Activities Committee, which was heavily influenced by Senator McCarthy. So, Nixon adds his name to another one of America’s biggest black eyes.

My point is should Trump be found guilty of obstruction of justice and collusion with the Russians, these three men would join together, with a link of Roy Cohn, to three of the worst misuses of power in American history. And, all three are associated with “enemies lists.” Talk about fear-mongering.

Ironically, a key characteristic of a narcissist is to echo back criticism he is getting, so Trump is calling Mueller’s investigation akin to McCarthyism and has referenced White House Counsel John Dean who testified against Nixon as a “rat.” Dean actually found his conscience and is viewed as somewhat of a hero. As Trump has done before, he is trying to paint others with his own justifiable criticism. To me, the fact all three men kept enemies list is telling by itself.

So, the names of McCarthy, Nixon and Trump will live on infamy. And, they should.

Thoughts for Thursday – Conspiracies abound

Water, water everywhere. While the wildfires burn out west and in Greece, I live on the east coast of the United States and we are inundated daily with heavy rain. It feels like a wet version of “Groundhog’s Day,” where Bill Murray’s character relives the same day.

Here are a few random soggy thoughts for Thursday.

Conspiracy theories abound on the web. Yet, every once in awhile justice may be served. Alex Jones of Infowars is trying to stop a trial where he is rightfully accused of spreading a false story that the Sandy Hook shooting story is a hoax. As a result, these poor families who lost a child or adult relative, have to be taunted and harassed by Jones’ followers. This is far worse than the Westboro church that picketed military funerals because of the nation’s stance on allowing LGBT people join the military. Jones is touting free speech, but this man has caused mental anguish because of his blatant misuse of his voice and disregard of any common decency.

The US President continues to claim the Mueller investigation is a “witchhunt,” the same term that President Richard Nixon used to decry the Watergate investigation. So the day after President Trump says collusion is not a crime after repeatedly saying he did not collude, he wants to end the Mueller probe. Help me understand how a thin-skinned man was not aware of a meeting in a building with his name on it where he works and lives, attended by his son, son-in-law and campaign manager to get dirt to throw at his opponent, a favorite tactic of his? After his Putin fawning performance in Helsinki, I am 100% convinced POTUS is guilty of more than just obstruction of justice. This is certainly no witch hunt, says this former Republican and Independent voter.

Speaking of conspiracies, a bona fide real one was captured in the “Pentagon Papers.” While Nixon did his level best to prevent The Washington Post and The Nee York Times from publishing these stories, this conspiracy involved Nixon and his two predecessors (LBJ and Kennedy) fighting a battle started by Eisenhower. These Presidents knew the Vietnam War was unwinnable, but kept fighting it to avoid the disgrace of losing. Tens of thousands of Americans (and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese people) died after we knew the cause was lost. The North Vietnamese and Viet Cong were fighting for their country, while we fought for a corrupt leader sympathetic to the US. It was not in the Pentagon Papers, but years later it was discovered Presidential candidate Nixon secretely waylaid a peace deal underway, saying he could get better terms. Four years later and after more deaths, peace was brokered. Nixon denied this, but his voice was caught on tape as the South Vietnamese leader was being surveilled.

It should be noted that LBJ knew of Nixon’s “treason” as he called it, but chose not to bring it out, so as not to sway the election. It should be noted that Obama did the same thing when he knew the Russians were trying to influence the election in Trump’s favor. Both LBJ and Obama were wrong. However, while Trump tries to blame Obama for inaction, he was already touting the election was rigged. He was right – it was rigged to favor Trump.

That is all for this Thursday. Conspiracy theories abound. Most are only that. Yet, when they are true, they are whoppers. Usually the greater the effort to squelch them indicates their veracity.

Sometimes a quote says it all

Quotes can sometimes be painfully pertinent. Yesterday, I read the following quote from a Chinese source as the country develops a response to US tariffs. China’s official Xinhua news agency added: “The wise man builds bridges, the fool builds walls. With economic globalisation there are no secluded and isolated islands.” I think their point is about more than tariffs.

Politicians unfortunately have a hard time with the truth, some moreso than others. One of my favorite quotes is from former Senator John Kyl of Arizona when caught in a lie. “You mistook what I was saying as the truth.” In other words, it is your fault I am lying,

This is an excellent segue to a current politician who is on record as lying more than he does not. Congressman Trey Gowdy said the following about such man. “If the President is innocent, it would help if he started acting that way.”

On a more humorous note, actor Abe Vigoda from the movie “The Godfather” and television show “Barney Miller,” was reported to have passed away. Upon reading of his death in the newspaper, Vigoda sent a press release that said “The reports of my demise have been overly exaggerated.” This was in keeping with his deadpan comic delivery.

Getting back to politics, a famous quote used often by President Richard Nixon was “I am not a crook.” The fact that he felt the need to use it again and again begged the question, who are you trying to convince? After over twenty convictions of his co-conspirators, Nixon only escaped  criminal judgment because of President Gerald Ford’s pardon. Mr. Nixon, you were a crook.

Let me close with one of the finest quotes in American history. It was so crucial it helped lead to the eventual downfall of Senator Joe McCarthy, of Communist witchhunt infamy. After John Welch, General Counsel of the US Army had given testimony over several hours, he said to McCarthy, “Do you have no sense of decency, sir?”

I close with these two examples as they remind me of our current fearmongering President. “Decency” is not a word I would use to define the man.

 

 

 

Nixon’s Enemies List Redux under Trump

It was reported yesterday the President is asking Homeland Security to track bloggers, media etc. who have the ability to influence negatively thoughts toward his administration. This is akin to Richard Nixon’s enemies list which is due directly to his paranoia that people were out to get him. Ironically, it was Nixon’s zeal toward guarding against his paranoia that caused his downfall.

It should be noted that paranoia goes hand-in-hand with narcissism. Trump has an unhealthy dose of both, which is a key reason he wants sycophants all around him. As he has a hard time with criticism, he attacks all critics usually via personal attacks. Like Nixon, his paranoia, lying and denigration will bring him down.

Part and parcel with this are his continuing attacks on The Washington Post and other media because they dare speak the truth. It has gotten so bad, he is attacking Amazon because Jeff Bezos owns both, to the chagrin of the US Chamber of Commerce. The Post is also being defended by the editor of The New York Times who is calling  the President on the carpet.

Last time I checked, Trump is President of the United States. This is not a kingdom or dictatorship. It is a Republic. We have every right to tell the President and members of Congress that we disagree with them. We have every right to demand they stop lying and start doing their job.

If the President cannot handle the fire, then maybe he should get out of the kitchen.