Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Back from Honduras. Will post my Honduras trip report and photos shortly; also report on Amnesty International conference, Albuquerque, March 9-12. Thanks for your patience!

Have met three admitted and proud Trump voters, one an American doctor from Minnesota met again now in Honduras, someone I worked with last year at a medical brigade, another a former Cuban political prisoner hoping for sterner tactics against the Castro government, and a fellow Spanish interpreter from a South American country who says that he and his family came here “legally” and he resents those who have not. They all say let’s give Donald Trump a chance. I think we’ve given him enough chances already and the result is not a nation that I and many others can be proud of or that we even want to continue belonging to. Trump is not making American great. Rather, it’s sickening to be identified with a government that intends to take away health insurance, cut Peace Corps, abolish school lunches, make it OK to disparage and harm foreigners, and separate refugee mothers from their kids. At the same time, a big tax cut is proposed for the wealthiest among us, while cruelty is praised and lies are dispensed daily. Trump has had enough chances!!

Donald Trump’s speech to Congress did stick to the script for a change, no more wild ad-libs; it was pretty straightforward in delivery, though skimpy on details. Trump sounded dead-pan, but better that than shouting and gesturing and making blatantly false and contradictory statements. (Saturday Night Live wasn’t given much to work with there.) Can he keep up this tone? Massive protests at town halls and from Republican constituents may have tempered his delivery.

Rhetoric about “illegals” has softened in the Republican Party, especially in regard to DACA young people, as the public, even in red states, is not so anti-immigration after all. Trump’s abysmal popularity polls, plus Republican lawmakers’ fears of being defeated themselves in the mid-term elections, has moved them and Trump more toward the center, at least rhetorically. About the only red meat to his base in his Congressional speech was Trump’s mention of building “the wall.”  He’s got to come up with some sort of symbolic wall—not just the high fence that’s already on so much of the border. As for health care reform, by identifying himself as a Republican, Trump may get Congressional Republicans to go along with changes they would have automatically blocked for a Democrat. However, Peace Corps is apparently on the chopping block, along with foreign aid, something very short-sighted. Build up the military, but cut peaceful outreach.

Vladimir Putin, with the help of Julian Assange (continuing to live in the 
prison of
his own choice at the UK Ecuadorian Embassy), may have not only tried to 
manipulate the victory of Donald Trump, a more malleable candidate, but to 
undermine the international 
standing and influence of the United States by promoting someone obviously 
unfit to assume 
the presidency. Trump’s accusation of wiretapping by Obama was calculated 
to move the news cycle away from Russian election interference claims. 
Read detailed and 
convincing article in the New Yorker, March 6, with Putin staring through his 
monocle at a tiny,
fluttering Donald Trump on the cover. 

Too bad Ivanka Trump’s clothing and jewelry lines are tanking; can she imagine that people are still going to want to pay big bucks for stuff associated with her father’s name? Hope the same happens with hotels, apartment buildings, and golf courses all over the US. Unfortunately, enterprises associated with the Trump name abroad are likely to see an uptick, as foreign entities will try to curry favor with the administration. No doubt that happened with the Clinton Foundation as well when Hillary was Secretary of State.

OK, Republican Party, if you really want our country to be great (and to win re-election yourselves), please step up to the plate, and promote fact-based policy development and prevent government by clich├ęs, tweets, and whims. If every government or other entity opposed to Trump is wrong or untrustworthy, what do we have left? Donald Trump is not a king or dictator. Act governmental, Republicans, and be open to the press.

OAS Secretary General Almagro’s proposed visit to Cuba, to receive an award in honor of the late human rights activist Oswaldo Paya (whom I once met), was blocked by the Cuban government, along with blocking entry by other Latin American leaders planning to attend. That was a big mistake by the Cuban regime, rejecting an initiative coming from fellow leaders in the region, not from the US. The Cuban public, except for dissidents, would not have known about it, but apparently the regime did not want to have the precedent or to show itself yielding, even to other regional players.

Brazen Cuban street artist El Sexto talks about his work, prison, and activism.
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article130632799.html#storylink=cpy

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