Ripping Up Everything

By the time this is posted – after careful proofreading (but no one catches their own mistakes) and the specific formatting and then testing the links in the text (both tedious) and running the spell-check thing (generally useless) – it will be Martin Luther King Jr. Day – on Monday of course. That’s the day after King’s birthday, but the 1968 Uniform Monday Holiday Act that took effect in 1971 is what it is – federal holidays now fall on Mondays. Everything should be tidy and systematic. Life is random enough already. King was an American hero, but he’d understand. America became more just. Much of that justice was made permanent by statute – the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and so on – so a permanently-Monday holiday to celebrate the man that forced the issue and got things done seems right too. The matter is settled. This is how it should be – but for Donald Trump nothing is settled and nothing should be.

That’s what he promised. That may be why people voted for him – for big changes – even though perhaps twenty-two million of them will lose their health insurance and Medicare will be gone too. Perhaps they didn’t thank of that. Ripping up everything means everything. There was no reason for them to expect exceptions.

They’ll have to live with that, but that’s weeks away. This was the weekend, King weekend, that Donald Trump decided it was time to sneer at John Lewis, who marched with King, because Lewis had challenged him, setting back race relations in America back to 1953 levels – as if nominating Jefferson Beauregard Sessions to be his attorney general weren’t enough. Oh, and along the way, he doubled-down doing what he could to dissolve NATO – and the European Union too – to relieve pressure on Russia perhaps – and doubled-down on ending our forty-year One China policy too. We might formally recognize Taiwan, instead of just not mentioning them. The Chinese said this could mean war. Oh, and he plans to kind of evict the press from the White House. They can do their work elsewhere. He doesn’t want them around.

Donald Trump was ripping things up left and right, but first things first:

President-elect Donald Trump lashed out on Twitter Saturday morning at Democratic congressman and civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), after Lewis said Trump’s presidency was not “legitimate” and that he would not attend the presidential inauguration.

Trump dismissed Lewis’ criticisms of him as “Sad!”

That was tweeted of course:

Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk – no action or results. Sad!

And the proximate cause was this:

In an interview for NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” released in part on Friday, Lewis said “I don’t see this President-elect as a legitimate president,” citing the intelligence community’s assessment that Russian interference in the 2016 election had helped “destroy” Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.

Lewis also said he would not attend Trump’s inauguration, his first time not to attend the ceremony in his congressional career. He will join a handful of Democratic lawmakers on the sidelines on Jan. 20.

“You cannot be at home with something that you feel that is wrong, is not right,” Lewis said of his decision not to attend.

Trump could have said that he was sorry that Lewis felt that way, and maybe they should talk, but that’s not how Trump deals with such things. When someone hits him, he hits back ten times harder. He’s proud of that. That’s why people love him.

Some don’t. Talking Points Memo reports on the wide array of reactions like this from a Democrat:

“Mr. Trump said that John Lewis is all talk and no action. I say, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, I say that John Lewis took action,” said interim DNC Chair Donna Brazile, in remarks that brought the audience to its feet at the DNC Future Forum. “He took action marching from Selma to Montgomery. He took action in marching towards men welding clubs across the Pettis Bridge. They fractured his skull because of the color of skin. But John Lewis never stopped marching for justice and equality for all people!”

And this from the former Chairman of the Republican National Committee:

“Number one, don’t tweet that. Number two, don’t go there. And number three, step back and try to appreciate what’s being said and what the concern is,” Michael Steele said during an appearance on MSNBC. “John Lewis has a walk that very few people in this country – least of all Donald Trump – have ever walked. So you have to respect that and pay attention to that in a real sense,” he added.

Trump was alone here, and the Washington Post adds a bit of background:

Trump started his presidential campaign with huge disadvantages among African Americans, in part because of his years-long questioning of whether President Obama was born in the United States. Trump also drew criticism for taking out a full-page ad in New York newspapers in 1989 urging the death penalty for five black and Hispanic teenagers accused of raping a woman in Central Park. Even after the young men were exonerated, Trump criticized the city for awarding them damages for the years they had spent in prison and continued to argue that they were “guilty of something.”

In the closing weeks of the campaign, Trump began appealing to black voters to give him a chance. Speaking at rallies, to overwhelmingly white audiences, Trump described black people as living “in hell,” stuck in crumbling, crime-ridden neighborhoods and failing schools. “What do you have to lose?” he asked.

For some people, Trump’s attack on Lewis – as well as his inaccurate description of Atlanta, a longtime haven for middle- and upper-middle-class African Americans – brought it all back.

And some people live in a dream world:

Andra Gillespie, a political scientist at Emory University in Atlanta, said that if Trump was serious about reaching out to the black community, he would have to take responsibility for a campaign whose tone was “divisive at best, seriously offensive at worst” and “dangerous” with reports of an increase in racist behavior and actions directed at minorities by some whites. She said he will have to meet with and apologize to the civil rights community and young activists in the Black Lives Matter movement.

“The burden of proof is on you. It’s not on everybody else to warm up to you because you’re the president,” she said of Trump.

That’s not how he sees things:

President-elect Donald Trump canceled plans to spend Martin Luther King Day at the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture – losing a chance for much-needed goodwill after his feud with a civil rights leader.

The incoming president, who spent this weekend waging a war of words with Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), had planned to visit the national museum in Washington, D.C. on Martin Luther King Day.

But senior level transition sources told ABC News on Sunday the visit was called off due to unspecified “scheduling issues.”

He’s too busy. These people can go fuck themselves.

No, he didn’t say that. He didn’t need to. The list of Democrats now boycotting the election is growing by the hour – and they can go fuck themselves too. He’s the new president.

This is ripping things up, all of race relations since the sixties, and there may be no more to say about it, but add this:

President-elect Donald J. Trump’s views of Africa have, until now, been a mystery. But a series of questions from the Trump transition team to the State Department indicate an overall skepticism about the value of foreign aid, and even about American security interests, on the world’s second-largest continent.

A four-page list of Africa-related questions from the transition staff has been making the rounds at the State Department and Pentagon, alarming longtime Africa specialists who say the framing and the tone of the questions suggest an American retreat from development and humanitarian goals, while at the same time trying to push forward business opportunities across the continent.

“How does U.S. business compete with other nations in Africa? Are we losing out to the Chinese?” asks one of the first questions in the unclassified document provided to The New York Times.

We are, but those people over there aren’t like “us” after all. That’s implied here, but it’s too late anyway. China moved in on Africa long ago, securing mineral rights and whatnot, and building roads and bridges and dams and schools, making themselves the good guys. Each country they stabilize will become a political ally – that sphere-of-influence thing. The only exception will be the sub-Saharan Muslim pockets, and there the Sunni folks will align with ISIS and the Shiite folks with Iran. We cede the continent. Way back when, in the Reagan years, the Cubans did what the Chinese are doing – they sent doctors and built hospitals in Angola. Reagan financed a civil war there to stop that nonsense – the Cubans would NOT be the good guys – but Trump doesn’t think that way. Bush sent all that money to fight AIDS in Africa – making us the good guys for a time. Obama’s father was Kenyan – that helped too. There was a connection. Now we walk away. Stop all aid? Pushing forward business of opportunities over there isn’t going to work when others are the good guys. Why would they do business with us?

Okay, write off Africa – rip that up too – and now add this:

Donald Trump called NATO obsolete, predicted that other European Union members would follow the U.K. in leaving the bloc, and threatened BMW with import duties over a planned plant in Mexico, according to two European newspapers which conducted a joint interview with the president-elect.

Trump, in an hour-long discussion with Germany’s Bild and the Times of London published on Sunday, signaled a major shift in trans-Atlantic relations, including an interest in lifting U.S. sanctions on Russia as part of a nuclear weapons reduction deal.

Quoted in German by Bild from a conversation held in English, Trump predicted that Britain’s exit from the EU will be a success and portrayed the EU as an instrument of German domination designed with the purpose of beating the U.S. in international trade. For that reason, Trump said, he’s fairly indifferent to whether the EU stays together, according to Bild.

The Times quoted Trump as saying he was interested in making “good deals with Russia,” floating the idea of lifting sanctions that were imposed as the U.S. has sought to punish the Kremlin for its annexation of Crimea in 2014 and military support of the Syrian government.

Josh Marshall sees what’s going on here:

Most people in this country, certainly most members of the political class and especially its expression in Washington, don’t realize what Donald Trump is trying to do in Europe and Russia. Back in December I explained that Trump has a plan to break up the European Union. Trump and his key advisor Steve Bannon (former Breitbart chief) believe they can promise an advantageous trade agreement with the United Kingdom, thus strengthening the UK’s position in its negotiations over exiting the EU. With such a deal in place with the UK, they believe they can slice apart the EU by offering the same model deal to individual EU states. Steve Bannon discussed all of this at length with Business Week’s Josh Green and Josh and I discussed it in great detail in this episode of my podcast from mid-December.

Now we have a rush of new evidence that Trump is moving ahead with these plans.

It’s just business:

Today in a new interview with the Germany’s Bild and the Times of London Trump expanded on these goals dramatically. Trump leveled a series of attacks on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, suggesting he’d like to see her defeated for reelection and saying she’d hurt Germany by letting “all these illegals” into the country. Trump also called NATO “obsolete”, predicted other countries would soon leave the EU, and characterized the EU itself as “basically a vehicle for Germany.”

Trump and Bannon are extremely hostile to Merkel and eager to see her lose. But what is increasingly clear is that Trump will make the break-up of the EU a central administration policy and appears to want the same for NATO.

My own view is that Trump and Bannon greatly overestimate America’s relative economic power in the world. Their view appears to be that no European country will feel it is able to be locked out of trade with a US-UK trade pact. An America eager to break up the EU seems more likely to inject new life into the union.

However that may be, Trump and Bannon clearly want to create a nativist world order based on the US, Russia and states that want to align with them. The EU and NATO are only obstacles to that goal.

That would be a change, but Adam Silverman points out the obvious:

The issue here is what the real purpose behind these two institutions is. It is true that both NATO and the EU were created at a different time and for reasons that are only partially why they are important today. The real genius of both NATO and the EU, regardless of how they’ve developed and recognizing that no institution or organization ever develops perfectly and that reasonable, rational adjustments to both institutions should be made as needed, is that they knit Europe together. Despite what the populist-nationalist or national-populists or whatever they finally agree on calling themselves say, the purpose of NATO and the EU isn’t the destruction of sovereignty or national independence. Rather both organizations serve as a forcing function. They force the European member states of both organizations to work together, to cooperate, to recognize that sometimes there are bigger and more important issues than simply national interests.

That’s not a bad thing:

The proof that NATO and the EU have been successful is that there has not been a war in Europe between European states over national interests, including national pride or economic disputes since the end of World War II. By stitching Britain and France and Germany and Belgium and Denmark and Spain and Portugal and France and Greece and Italy and Iceland and Norway and now all the member countries from Central and Eastern Europe together, NATO has made war in Europe among the Europeans less likely.

And it’s the same for the EU:

When Germany and France have a dispute they and their allies no longer spill blood and treasure across the fields of Belgium. Instead they meet in Belgium and talk it out. The forcing function, forcing these states and societies to work together, means that the uniformed and civilian personnel of all these countries have studied and travelled and worked and vacationed all over Europe. They all have counterparts and colleagues from the other European NATO and EU member states. Their children’s friends are the children of their colleagues from other countries. This is the real, tangible benefit of the EU and NATO. It’s not a common market or a mutual defense pact. The real benefit is that the EU and NATO have broken the reality of over a thousand years of conflicts, capped off by World Wars I and II, in Europe and among the people of the nation-states that make up Europe.

The only problem was the Russians:

Perhaps the biggest failure of the post-Cold-War period was the US and its allies losing sight of the real value of NATO and the EU. By doing so when NATO and the EU expanded they were unable for a number of reasons to expand to one crucial European nation-state: Russia. As is always the case the decision makers at the time believed they had good reasons for pursuing the policies and strategies they did after the end of the Cold War – policies and strategies that jettisoned the idea of including Russia within NATO or the EU. And as is always the case, successfully implementing strategy to achieve one’s policy creates new opportunities, challenges, and threats.

We are now facing one of those threats: a Russian led campaign to destabilize and break up NATO and the EU through the support of neo-nationalist and anti-EU parties and movements throughout Europe and the US. Regardless of what the foundational documents of NATO and the EU may say, the real purpose, whether explicitly or implicitly stated, has become to bind the nation-states and societies of Europe together to prevent future conflict.

It has worked very, very well even as the leaders of NATO and the EU couldn’t bring Russia in from the cold. Now we have to see if it worked well enough for them to survive an active attempt to dismantle them.

Yeah, well, Trump was elected to rip things up, even if no one expected a new nativist world order led by a new combined-US-Russia joint government. Did we sign up for that with our votes? Life is full of surprises, and early on Martin Luther King Day – time zones being what they are – there was this:

Two influential Chinese newspapers on Monday warned U.S. President-elect Donald Trump that Beijing will “take off the gloves” and Taiwan may be sacrificed if he continues to provoke Beijing over the self-ruled island once he sworn in on Jan. 20.

Do we go to war to save Taiwan? They may force Trump to make that decision, given what he’s been saying:

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published on Friday, Trump said the “One China” policy was up for negotiation. China’s foreign ministry said “One China” was the foundation of China-U.S. ties and was non-negotiable.

Trump broke with decades of precedent last month by taking a congratulatory telephone call from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, angering Beijing which sees Taiwan as part of China.

“If Trump is determined to use this gambit in taking office, a period of fierce, damaging interactions will be unavoidable, as Beijing will have no choice but to take off the gloves,” the English-language China Daily said.

The Global Times, an influential state-run tabloid, echoed the China Daily, saying Beijing would take “strong countermeasures” against Trump’s attempt to “impair” the One China principle.

“The Chinese mainland will be prompted to speed up Taiwan reunification and mercilessly combat those who advocate Taiwan’s independence,” the paper said in an editorial.

Expect war:

It said Trump’s endorsement of Taiwan was merely a ploy to further his administration’s short term interests, adding: “Taiwan may be sacrificed as a result of this despicable strategy”.

“If you do not beat them until they are bloody and bruised, then they will not retreat,” Yang Yizhou, deputy head of the All-China Federation of Taiwan Compatriots, told an academic meeting on cross-straits relations in Beijing on Saturday.

Taiwan independence must “pay a cost” for every step forward taken, “we must use bloodstained facts to show them that the road is blocked,” Yang said, according to a Monday report on the meeting by the official People’s Daily Overseas Edition.

Here the proximate cause is this:

The United States, which switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, has acknowledged the Chinese position that there is only “one China” and that Taiwan is part of it.

Trump has said he’s willing to rip that up, to show them who the boss really is here. He’s that kind of guy. He expects awe, and new trade deals where the Chinese cave on everything. He may get something else.

And there’s that other matter where he expects awe:

According to three senior officials on the transition team, a plan to evict the press corps from the White House is under serious consideration by the incoming Trump Administration. If the plan goes through, one of the officials said, the media will be removed from the cozy confines of the White House press room, where it has worked for several decades. Members of the press will be relocated to the White House Conference Center – near Lafayette Square – or to a space in the Old Executive Office Building, next door to the White House.

“There has been no decision,” Sean Spicer, Trump’s press secretary, said about the plan today. But Spicer acknowledged that “there has been some discussion about how to do it.”

Spicer cast the possible relocation of the press corps as a matter, in part, of logistics. “There’s been so much interest in covering a President Donald Trump,” he said. “A question is: Is a room that has forty-nine seats adequate? When we had that press conference the other day, we had thousands of requests, and we capped it at four hundred. Is there an opportunity to potentially allow more members of the media to be part of this? That’s something we’re discussing.”

Okay, this is ordinary stuff, unless it isn’t:

Another senior official, however, suggested a more pointed motivation for the move. According to the official, the potential relocation reflected a view within the transition team that coverage of Trump has been so hostile as to indicate that the press has abandoned its role as neutral observer.

“They are the opposition party,” a senior official says. “I want ’em out of the building. We are taking back the press room.”

This too is ripping things up, specifically this:

For the media, the White House press room – situated on the first floor, in the space between the presidential residence and the West Wing – is not only a convenience, with prime sources just steps away. It is also a symbol of the press’ cherished role as representatives of the American people. In the midst of the George W. Bush presidency, when relations between reporters and the Administration were growing testy, the White House press corps was removed from the press room for nearly a year, while the facility was remodeled. The move prompted such concern that the president himself had to offer his assurance that it was only temporary.

Those days are now gone, or soon to be ripped up, but David Atkins sees a silver lining:

It’s an environment almost designed for bad news, more journalism-as-spectacle than actual journalism.

Putting the dreary spectacle to bed might be mutually salutary both for the press and the public. The Trump Administration will be actively hostile to the press, and the press should see itself as hostile in return. Journalists from major media organizations would likely do better reporting separated from the high-school-cafeteria environment of the briefing room, and would be better advised to seek out leaks from disgruntled Republicans than from cozy access granted by being a good “team player.”

Perhaps some things should be ripped up:

Mainstream networks would gain credibility by establishing themselves as investigative and accountability-seeking organizations, while letting the likes of Breitbart serve as organs of state propaganda. If the Trump Administration crashes and burns from its own incompetence, organizations that played a friendly, access-seeking role will look bad in hindsight, just as they did with the Bush Administration in the lead-up to the Iraq War. If the Trump Administration turns into a would-be dictatorship of our dystopian nightmares, then it would be better for news organizations worth the name to go down fighting rather than try to protect the norms of a bygone era.

In short, it might be a win-win for the press. By pushing the press corps out of the White House, Trump will look like the petty tyrant he is, and news organizations will gain credibility and better journalism in the bargain.

That’s possible. That would be a good thing – but when Trump rips up all the progress made in race relations since the sixties, and rips up NATO and the EU and lets Europe go back to going to war with itself, and rips up the delicate balance of interests we’ve worked out with China over all the years, assuring war, that’s a small thing. For Donald Trump nothing is settled and nothing should be. Now we know what that means.


About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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