Sunday, December 11, 2016

An Anniversary, International Adoption, Trump, Cuba, South Sudan

Grandfatherly Fidel tells Cubans there is nothing impossible to achieve starting with today (photo from my Confessions book).

Dec. 19 is my daughter Melanie’s birthday and also the day that my son Andrew died.

International adoption is getting more complicated and expensive. (Reminder, my son Jon was adopted from Colombia and my late Cuban foster son arrived from Cuba via the Mariel boatlift.) Yet there is a point of diminishing returns in adding more layers of cost and protections that actually impede such adoptions and prevent children from finding homes. There is no way for any human endeavor to provide a 100% guarantee of success. Granted, that there have been unscrupulous practices in the past that have harmed some kids and families, but most have now been taken care of, almost to the point of overkill. Speaking as both an adoptive and a birth parent, I do think there are additional factors and complications involved in becoming a parent by international adoption, but current practices are more than sufficient to address them. Adding unnecessary and costly hurdles serves only to discourage would-be adoptive parents. Adoption, like any other human endeavor or relationship, involves a degree of chance or risk that cannot be entirely eliminated. The adoption process should try to prepare parents to cope with possible problems, but cannot make them all magically disappear. An adopted child, like any human being, is not a cookie cutter image, but flesh and blood responsive to the emotional environment of his or her new home. Parent-child relationships develop over time and cannot be guaranteed in advance. We all know that, but some adoption policy makers seem clueless and overly concerned about rules.

Recently, I got together with the daughter of a good friend who died recently. The daughter works at a school in my neighborhood that my kids once attended. Her mother, Hope Marindin, was a single adoption pioneer, about whom I once wrote in the Washington Post. In her late 40’s, she adopted two boys and the daughter with whom I recently met. The daughter, originally from Vietnam, has visited there twice, including going to her old orphanage. Now she and her husband want to adopt a child from Asia.

Elaine Chao, Trump’s new Transportation Secretary pick, is Mitch McConnell’s wife and also a former Peace Corps Director. Trump is beholden to McConnell for his support. Trump’s announced future appointments are all over the block, most seeming quite inappropriate for or even antithetical to the mission of the agency involved. Whether or not Donald Trump dons the Republican mantle, might some Republican lawmakers balk at some of these nominations?

Why doesn’t Trump bring many of his overseas businesses back to the US to provide jobs here?

The more Donald Trump keeps on traveling around the country arousing his supporters and also naming staff, thus keeping himself in the news, the harder it will be to overturn this election without a civil war, which may be part of his strategy. Trump obviously enjoys speaking extemporaneously at rallies and being cheered on by crowds much more than actually engaging in the nitty gritty of governing. He doesn’t appreciate being mocked and is also facing widespread civil disobedience by cities, churches, and universities regarding his intended wholesale deportations. The fact that he lost the popular vote by such a wide margin (now 2.7 million and counting) has made his mandate seem illegitimate, which may be one reason for him abandoning his promise to “lock up” Hillary Clinton. Lock her up for what? Hillary has been cleared and reportedly got the highest vote count ever for a presidential candidate.

 Nor have Trump’s appointments or statements since the election given those opposed to him any more confidence in his leadership. He says he doesn’t need daily intel briefings because he’s “smart.” His appointments are top-heavy with generals and regulators opposed to the regulations they are supposed to support. They may face sabotage in the ranks. He may not even enjoy a post-election honeymoon. And while a Republican House and Senate may give him the benefit of the doubt initially, they must also be aware that a large proportion of the public has not been won over and may even oust them at the mid-term elections. Despite extensive gerrymandering, not all Republicans are in safe districts. The electorate is fickle and impatient and some Trump voters have taken all his wild promises literally. Like spurned lovers, will they seek their revenge? Some high-profile conservative supporters, like Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter, have already jumped ship. 

Apparently, unlike other presidents, Trump won‘t divest himself of his overseas holdings nor is he giving up his role in “The Celebrity Apprentice.” And he will probably stay involved with his US businesses despite saying his kids will manage them, while also holdings meetings at his conveniently located DC Trump Hotel. “Conflict of interest” is not part of his vocabulary—he seems bent on using the presidency to increase his fortune. How much money does one person and one family need to amass? Trump flaunts the usual rules and expects to get away with it and certainly, so far, his Republican supporters and advisers seem poised to give him that leeway. For someone who attacked Hillary Clinton for her association with the Clinton Foundation, an actual benevolent foundation supporting many useful projects around the world, Trump certainly holds himself to a different standard.

It would be great if a majority of members of the Electoral College would not
actually vote for Trump. Some have resigned rather than vote for him, though it would have been better if they had stayed on and simply not given him their vote. Five million have already signed an on-line petition in favor of Hillary Clinton and against Trump. If that number swells before Dec. 19, when the Electoral College vote, will it have any effect? Probably not, because the signatures will not have been checked against voter rolls. (There was no internet, obviously, when the Electoral College was formed.) And these eager signers may not have actually voted for Hillary on Nov. 8. People who were lukewarm for her may have decided instead to vote for a 3rd party or not at all, confident that she would win anyway, but not wanting to feel responsible. Some of them are sorry now; Trump’s margin of victory in battleground states was so small.

According to Michael Moore, who had predicted Trump’s victory, it's not impossible that the Electoral College will deny Trump the presidency. If that should actually happen, we will have a major tweet storm and all hell breaking loose. The several retired generals whom Trump has nominated will be on the warpath.

Unfortunately, at this point, it’s probably wishful thinking that Trump could actually be dislodged. We may have to endure him, just as we endure other life challenges and reversals such as illnesses, accidents, job losses, relationship problems, and natural disasters. He can do a lot of damage in 4 years, but, so far, there seems to be no way to avoid a looming accident or catastrophe. We can always hope that he won’t be as bad as we had feared.

Jill Stein has certainly elevated the profile of the Green Party and her own standing with her recount efforts. The fact that so much money poured so quickly into her effort is a tribute to her, as well as to Clinton. Of course, Trump's folks are fighting tooth and nail to stop the vote recount, even though, if Trump believes there actually were irregularities and that "illegals" voted, he should welcome the recount. Probably, the biggest take-away from the effort will be that vote counting is an inexact science, that each time it’s done, a different outcome emerges.

Now a NY lawyer is trying to show that the Trump camp informed or urged Comey to investigate Weiner's e-mails for a Clinton connection:

I would hope that at least some Republican Congress members who have supported Trump will take a drubbing in the mid-term elections. Little he has said or done so far gives much hope for moderation or even focus when he actually assumes office. At least, the Trump phenomenon has been interesting, gobbling up lots of ink and bandwidth. If Hillary had won, it would have just been business as usual and rather dull. Sensationalism has been Trump’s wild card all along. As it stands, I suppose that like with any catastrophic event, we will adapt somewhat over time to his election.

Opinions about Cuba and the Castro regime continue to be strongly polarized. It's very easy, even for a visitor there who is Spanish-speaking, to view Cuba through a partisan lens. Certainly if you were inspired by Fidel Castro's rhetoric and early vision (as many of us were, including me), you would be able to find Cubans still supporting him, though some of those won’t be sincere and will only be expressing what they think you want to hear. The degree of subterfuge and secrecy among Cubans, especially when relating to foreigners, or even among themselves, is sometimes hard to discern. Many are on guard until they find out just where you stand. There are sincere partisans of Fidel and some tears now being shed are real, but others are fake and some people cry when they see others doing so, as there is also crowd contagion. And many of those along the parade route of Fidel’s ashes were either expected or forced to be there. It's hard to tell the difference between the willing and unwilling in a dictatorship.

In any case, I would hope that Cuba will gradually open up now to more tolerance of differing views and, especially, move toward a greater economic opening along the lines of China and Vietnam, unfortunately, still one-party states with political prisoners, executions, and censorship. However, both nations allow Peace Corps volunteers and most people there are doing better due to greater economic opportunity, with most being satisfied with that, like most Cubans would be. In fact, most Americans and citizens of western democracies are also more concerned with economic opportunity than with civil rights. Raul Castro has expressed admiration for the Chinese/Vietnamese model, so now that Fidel is gone and the influence of his partisans is diminished, Raul may well move in that direction. 

Apparently, machete victim Sirley Avila, about whom I have written previously, was in DC recently, but I didn’t know about it:

I'm sorry that painted pig artist Danilo Maldonado is back in prison; at Amnesty Int'l, we've issued an Urgent Action for him. He was planning to repeat his painted pig caper ("Fidel" and "Raul") again this Christmas, but the authorities are preventing that now. With Fidel dead, they should just ignore him and his "performance art;" instead, by making a big deal, they are arousing support for him and against the Cuban government from around the world, though perhaps not within Cuba, where such information is blocked. 

Dissident artist jailed in Cuba beaten and fed sedative-laced food, family says | Fox News

Carlos Eire, a Cuban American history professor at Yale, has written a bitter diatribe against Fidel Castro, of which here is only the last paragraph: Fittingly, his arrogant deceitfulness extended past his death. In Havana, tens of thousands of Cubans were forced to trudge to the Plaza of the Revolution, to bow before his ashes. Attendance was mandatory—as it was whenever Fidel needed to be surrounded by a throng of slaves—but the ritual was grotesquely hollow. After they had waited in line for hours, all that those Cubans got to see was a small framed photo of the ex–Maximum Leader and a kitschy display of some of his medals, guarded by four young soldiers. The ashes were not there. They were at the Ministry of the Armed Forces headquarters, accessible only to the top brass of the Castro military junta. For a final time, Fidel had hoodwinked his slaves, and the aging oligarchs gathered around his relics probably laughed.

Yes, how would Americans feel if now they had to look forward to more than 50 years of Donald Trump as president? That’s how many Cubans feel after more than 50 years of Fidel.

Cuban exiles speculate that Fidel forbade any monuments in his honor not out of humility (which he never expressed), but because of fear that they might be defaced in the future, as happened to Communist Party monuments elsewhere.

While South Sudan is far afield from our orbit, it is of special interest to me ever since my mission there in 2006, before independence. Now the tribal warfare between the president and his former vice president seems to have escalated to almost to a Rwanda-type situation. South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, is a nation with so many needs and whose people have such a long history of suffering that it is cruel that its leaders cannot settle their differences and seem determined to drag the people into a brutal civil war.

Police shootings, including of a Nevada boy wielding a knife, make me wonder whether when the attacker doesn’t have a gun, if the police could use a stun gun instead? Of course, there is usually little time for reaction and maybe police don’t always have stun guns handy, but it seems that a gunshot should be a last resort. I realize that occasionally someone dies when being hit by a stun gun, but very rarely.

At my age (78), I no longer expect to become stronger, smarter, or more successful in the future, rather, simply to delay inevitable decline, a realization that has come on gradually. By the way, I still do plan to go to Honduras again next Feb. When I stop going there, you will know that I have given up an important part of my life. 

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