Sunday, December 18, 2016

Electoral College Vote, Cuba, Dakota Access, Update on Friend Anna, Child Sex Abuse

My older son Andrew, who died Dec. 19, 1994--we still miss you!

El Sexto, Cuban graffiti artist, with a fellow former prisoner of conscience, both at a Human Rights Day (Dec. 10) 2015 letter writing event at Amnesty Int'l DC office; this year, we were writing letters on El Sexto's behalf as he is back in prison--and so is his American lawyer.
I wasn’t planning to post again on this blog until after the Electoral College vote Dec. 19, but do think it germane to pass along a message from a friend who has researched why the Founders first established the Electoral College--it was to stop candidates like Donald Trump!

Here’s what he has to say: The electors from the College of Electors have already started to consider to not vote to officially elect Donald Trump, on the basis of what is now a plethora of evidence that Trump fits exactly the criterion of character bereft of “ability” and “virtue,” which were the words used by Alexander Hamilton in his “Mode of Electing The President” published on Friday, March 14, 1788.

Donald Trump does not fulfill the prerequisites outlined for the Electoral College via the Federalist No. 68 article to qualify him as shown infra:

The process of election affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States. It will not be too strong to say, that there will be a constant probability of seeing the station filled by characters pre-eminent for ability and virtue. And this will be thought no inconsiderable recommendation of the Constitution, by those who are able to estimate the share which the executive in every government must necessarily have in its good or ill administration. Though we cannot acquiesce in the political heresy of the poet who says: “For forms of government let fools contest That which is best administered is best,’’ yet we may safely pronounce, that the true test of a good government is its aptitude and tendency to produce a good administration. 

Some investigators are looking for a Donald Trump connection to the Russian hacking. Apparently, electors do want a briefing on the hacking before they vote; some Democrats are asking for a delay in the Electoral College vote until after that briefing:

To actually nullify the election or name Hillary Clinton president, some Republican electors would have to jump ship. They've been holding off so far out of party loyalty and an aversion to Hillary. If a few started doing so, maybe others would follow suit. McCain, Romney, even Paul Ryan, are not crazy about Trump, but don't dare say anything about his lack of qualifications for fear of incurring the wrath of Trump supporters, who are also Republican voters, and of losing total control of the government, which their party would have (sort of) if Trump remains. But can they control Trump? It looks unlikely. It would be better to get this over with now, messy as that would be, than to go to impeachment. There are even calls to run the election over again in light of the Russian hacking. Trump would not win on a second vote. (In fact he did not "win" anyway in terms of the popular vote, though polls indicate that most Republican voters believe he actually did win the popular vote.) 

Although the majority of Americans who did not vote for Trump might wish for a miraculous reversal of the presidential election outcome, that appears unlikely, and we, along with the whole wide world, will be stuck with Trump, for better or for worse, probably for 4 more years. He may temper his behavior and the Republican Party may have a modifying influence, though, so far, judging by many of Trump’s erratic and inappropriate appointments, little modification appears to be occurring. Except maybe for consulting daughter Ivanka on some women’s issues, Trump does not seem to have sought advice. He refuses daily intelligence briefings and is used to making decisions alone, based on gut feeling. In some cases, because he is nominally a Republican, Republicans may decide to go along with some of his proposals, whereas they would have blocked the very same if proposed by Obama or Hillary—for example, infrastructure spending and increasing the national debt. We will have to cope with Trump’s election like the terrible accident it was--and, like most accidents, due to a strange, unusual, and unanticipated convergence of forces, like an earthquake or a terrorist attack, and we'll have to simply do our best to confront, cope with. and try to remedy it.

Trump’s surrogates and spokespersons keep trying to put the best spin on his unorthodox and outrageous utterances, justifying them or saying, as Conway does, that his supporters know very well that he doesn’t mean what he says. Maybe he is just trying to entertain us and get news coverage by saying provocative things? He is not trying to win over those who failed to vote for him, but is keeping us all engaged with his showmanship, and doing pretty well at that. He seems able to say and do anything to get attention—saying now that he really actually loves conflicts of interest and wants daughter Ivanka in his administration. She and her husband are apparently planning to move to DC. In fact, she seems more level-headed than he, so she might be helpful. Otherwise, we are going to have perpetual insecurity and instability, not good for government planning, markets, or international relations. Democrats have been aroused now to be in a perpetual fighting mode. 

Republicans are uncertain whether to support or oppose Trump on specific issues. He is sure to go on public attack-mode against whoever opposes him. And he’s planning for 8 long years in office, based on what he’s said so far (if he doesn't get too bored). Woe is me! Woe are we! Will I live long enough to see the end of his administration? I don’t wish any ill will to Donald Trump and is family—may they flourish. I know it would be a big disappointment to him, his children, and their ardent followers if he did not actually become president, but for the greater good of the country and for humanity, it would be best. Melania would appreciate it also. 

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

A friend hopes there is a chance that President Trump will surprise us all and rise to the occasion, growing in competence with the demands of the job. Even at age 70 and despite the bad habits of a lifetime, is personal change on his part still possible? For the sake of us all, for humanity's sake, let’s hope so. But it would require a yuge effort and character reversal on his part. It’s more likely that we are in for a long rocky road. Trump already seems impaitent with the minutiae of the presidency (those pesky daily intelligence briefings), but perhaps Pence, Conway, and his children will keep him on task or take the burden mostly off his shoulders. GW Bush didn’t like to read, went to bed early, took long naps, and would decide to go out for a bike ride on a whim. Meanwhile, Dick Cheney was still on duty, stealthily plotting what to do next. (Now GW seems much happier in retirement, painting images of his dog or of himself in the bathtub and proudly displaying his adolescent-style art at occasional shows. Once in a while, he accepts a high-paying appearance.) We are all waiting to see what Barack Obama will do post-presidency. 

Another friend tells me the following—is this true or is it fake news? It’s hard to tell sometimes and assassination accusation claims do seem exaggerated. He says: Obama just declassified docs. which show that "Operation Condor" of the Kissinger / Nixon years targeted Amnesty International officials and officials of other human rights associations for assassination by CIA agents.

Here are 2 of my new public blog postings the wake of Fidel’s death:

Human Rights Day, Dec. 10, fell on a Saturday this year, so at the Amnesty International (AI) USA office in DC, we celebrated on the following Monday, writing letters to authorities about prisoners of conscience, that is, people imprisoned only for non-violent expression or association. Last year, El Sexto, the Cuban graffiti piglet-painting artist had joined us in the office for that letter-writing event. This year, he is back in prison, as I’ve stated before on this blog. Now, we were there writing letters on his behalf.


In Castro's Cuba, a kind of Macondo in real time, anything can happen. For example, the jeep carrying Fidel Castro's ashes can even break down as it enters Santiago de Cuba, with the shrine's solemn keepers having to get out of the vehicle and push. (From Diario de Cuba)

Here is Americas Quarterly, sometime after my Confessions book came out, corroborating my contention there that Afro-Cubans are especially disadvantaged because of receiving fewer remittances and not often being chosen by the government to work in tourism. That was one of the initial arguments, which my “nunny bunny” critic forcefully disputed, that first led me to write that book. It is not so surprising that Afro-Cubans would be at the bottom of the heap, but a number of Fidel’s American partisans have argued against the very notion, still caught up in the Castro rhetoric and mystique.

Talked by phone with Sirley Avila, the Cuban woman maimed by a machete attack. She is in a shelter in Homestead, FL, with more than 400 other people, sharing a room with bunk beds (she has a bottom bunk) with 24 other women, all there for various reasons (I wasn't clear if all are refugees, migrants, asylum seekers, or what--maybe some are awaiting deportation?). They eat in a central dining hall, have few activities, and she is waiting for assistance to move into her own place. The Directorate is still in touch and staff from there sometimes take her out, but they are no longer in charge and are leaving her to go through the government system. She says she is glad to have left Cuba when she did, as after Fidel's death, matters have gotten worse there for dissidents. 

This is about Venezuela, not one of my Amnesty International Caribbean countries, but one that used to have the highest per capita income in Latin America, now apparently with families unable to feed their children.

The Dakota pipeline access protest seems to have been vindicated by an oil spill only 150 miles away:

I believe I’ve previously mentioned my friend Anna, whom I knew as a teenager in Colombia and who visited me in Honduras, as per my Peace Corps book. I won’t give out her last name or where she lives, only say that 2 years ago, she was gravely injured by a vehicle belonging to her assisted living compound, which ran over her. After a near-death experience, multiple surgeries, including the amputation of a leg below the knee, and 2 years in the hospital, at age 79, she is finally out, with a wheelchair and an artificial leg, residing now in another assisted living facility. Congratulations, Anna! But her lawsuit keeps getting delayed because—no doubt—the original facility, where the injury occurred, hopes that she dies first so they won't have to pay. That side keeps putting up roadblocks. Meanwhile, she still has a humongous bill from the hospital she just left, but is waiting for her settlement, if it ever comes through. I will keep you posted.

Finally, the Catholic Church is not the only one that has covered up child sexual abuse, though it does seem to finally be coming clean and making reparations to victims. Not so the Jehovah’s Witnesses, where a cover-up of ongoing and extensive abuse has been underway for decades and where church officials have only turned over court-ordered documents with names redacted. That’s according to a recent NPR program devoted to the subject. In the Trump era, we need NPR more than ever! 

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