Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Nigeria, France, Cuba, Life in these United States with President Trump, Quality vs. Length of Life, Honduras, Dreams

After complaining about the cold since their arrival in late March (45-55 F), now when we had a couple of humid days in the ‘80’s, my Nigerian visitors began complaining about the heat. They each have window A/C in their rooms and can turn it on any time, also fans. I’ve told them this has been nothing compared to the heat and humidity in June and July.

As I said to my Nigerian visitors: Congratulations to Nigeria on the release of some of the Chibok girls. However, the girls have apparently not been returned to their families—at least not yet—but have been put on display as a group by the government to tout its success in recovering them. My visitors have reminded me that the capital of Nigeria, where they work, is Abuja, not Lagos, as many Americans seem to think.

Glad Macron won election in France, breaking the retrogressive streak started by Brexit, continued full bore by Trump.

I have a new article on-line: https://democraciaparticipativa.net/forum/iberoamerica-y-espana-latin-america-spain/9328-for-sirley-avila-a-bridge-too-far.html#9886
I usually also try to post on Huffington Post, but now they’ve changed the name to HuffPost and have a new system that I haven’t been able to figure out yet.

According to Spanish-language news service Cubalex, our Cuba panelist at Amnesty Int’l USA’s 2016 annual conference in Miami, attorney Laritza Diversent, is throwing in the towel and has been granted asylum in the US along with 13 other members of her legal office. Their harassment, no doubt, was exacerbated by her appearance on our forum.
Todos abandonar├ín la isla por estar “en situaci├│n de riesgo”
Jueves, mayo 4, 2017 | Agencias

Juan Gonzalez, one of the 26 Cuban political prisoners released with Jesse Jackson, as per my Confessions book, has just died. After more than 20 years in prison and with indefinite sentences, they were all released overnight back in 1984, thanks to the intervention of our local Amnesty International group, 211, and, of course, Jackson. Juan had spent his first nights in freedom at my house. At least, they all enjoyed some post-prison years, though Juan had been paralyzed and bedridden after a stroke, so his death had been expected for some time.

In a reversal of Cuban government policy of sending doctors abroad (to earn money for the Cuban government)—now volunteer American surgeons are going to Cuba to perform knee and hip replacements.  Of course, I am very familiar with such medical and surgical brigades to Honduras and have participated as a helper and interpreter in many. I do think such exchanges are helpful not only to the patients but in terms of intercountry relations, whatever country is involved.

May 4, 2017 Russia resumes sending oil to Cuba News expected to raise eyebrows in Washington, D.C.
By Thomson Reuters, Russia has begun shipping large quantities of oil to Cuba for the first time this century, sources said, as supplies to the island from crisis-wracked Venezuela have dwindled.

Russia has also agreed to foot the repair bill for Havana’s crumbling capitol building, its design inspired by our own capitol.

I did take time out the other evening with a friend to attend a new Lin-Manuel Miranda musical, performed in Spanish, at the Gala theater in DC. Called In the Heights, it follows events day and night in NYC’s Washington Heights’ neighborhood, using a very authentic-looking stage set. Miranda, who appeared as the lead in his creation Hamilton, alas was not at our performance. A very lively bilingual cast made up for it, including singing and dancing with flags, showcasing the rivalry between Dominicans and Puerto Ricans. I was glad to see a senior citizen in a lead role.

I agree with Neil Buchanan that Hillary Clinton has been criticized well beyond what she deserves.  I have thought that ever since I first met her as First Lady years ago. She is not charismatic—no dis agreement there-- but is that the most important attribute of a president? Apparently so—Trump seems to have it, at least according to his supporters. I thought both the emphasis on Clinton’s e-mail server and Benghazi were overblown and I have said as much previously on this blog. I was surprised at a recent conference when a woman from Germany told me Hillary Clinton had been a weak candidate. Why did she think that? Because “everyone” knew it. I think Hillary got a bad rap. And I’m glad she’s going to try to get Democrats more involved now in challenging Republicans at all levels.

One advantage of not having a single payer health system, like we don’t have now, is that our country is less vulnerable to the sort of cyberattacks that have hit other nations.

Can I avoid mentioning Donald Trump? Living here on Capitol Hill, in the belly of the beast, it’s hard to avoid even thinking about him. He does seem to have a way of grabbing attention.  Now he has declared himself inventor of the phrase “prime the pump,” as if that didn’t come out of the experience of getting a water pump going long before he or any of us were born.

Whatever Trump’s true motivations in firing Comey, at the very least, it looks suspiciously like a cover-up. He seems hell bent on squelching any further investigation into his Russia ties and is pulling out all the stops in self-defense. OK, Republicans, time to step up to the plate and, even though you may have no feeling of responsibility to the nation as a whole, for the sake of your party and of your own political survival, it’s time to jettison your support of Trump although he has hypocritically adopted the Republican label. Is he loyal to you and your party? Does he care if you get re-elected?

Robert Reich sent out this message, which seems to hit the nail on the head:
I've got a bridge to sell to anyone who believes Donald Trump's claim that he fired FBI Director James Comey because Comey wasn't fair to Hillary Clinton.
Trump fired Comey because the FBI was getting closer—by the day—to the truth about Trump's ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign.
Just days before he was fired, Comey had asked for more resources for the investigation. And prosecutors had just issued grand jury subpoenas for associates of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Trump is not just a liar (although that's well established). He may also be a traitor. And for the sake of our democracy, we need to know the full truth.
Republicans have, to put it politely, not led the way in doing what's necessary to protect our democracy.
When Trump walked off in an apparent huff when questioned about his accusation that Obama had “tapped my wires,” you certainly have to wonder again about his mental health—also his mental acuity. In anyone else, his confusion, lack of comprehension, and garbled vocabulary all would be signs of dementia and/or mental illness. (Apparently his father had dementia.) Of course, for his base, it doesn’t seem to matter what he says, does, or actually achieves—they are simply in love with the guy and so whatever he says or does is fine by them. And Trump is in love with himself too and apparently feeling no pain or self-doubt. Either Trump is crazy and/or demented, or he is crazy like a fox (less likely as the days go by), trying to throw off everyone else—all of whom he sees as adversaries. That may be what he has been doing his whole life and either he doesn’t care for any real connection or communication with others or he is leading a very lonely existence. Say what you will about Hillary, she is not crazy. I think that Jared and Ivanka may have inserted themselves into the White House partly to do damage control.

Some Trump supporters have been thrilled at be given apparent license to express their basest feelings, throw temper tantrums, hurt or bully others, lie, and amass unneeded wealth, beginning with the example set by president himself and others among his appointees who already have more money than they can actually spend. I do think a president and other public officials should lead by example. Trump’s supporters say he “won,” so that gives them license. He won only because of a quirk in our laws that allowed a minority vote getter to triumph. Many of his supporters are saying “it’s our turn,” after having long felt disenfranchised by so-called “liberal elites.” It’s understandable that those who feel they are in the minority would resent being ruled by a majority, but is it better that the minority now rules over the majority and is exacting its revenge? From what’s been happening at town halls, it does seems that the fickle electorate and even some Trump sycophants are now turning against him and his Republican sheep, so populism can also go the other way. If the Republican Party cannot stand up to Trump, then they have to be defeated at the ballot box, but that means a two-year delay while still more damage can be done. Now Trump’s possible sexual exploits in Moscow seem trivial compared to more serious Russia charges, the former only important in terms of their blackmail potential. While decrying the emphasis on his collusion with Moscow, Trump apparently ends up sharing classified information with the Russians.

As usual, many Republican spokespersons, both in Congress and in the right-leaning media, have bemoaned the leaks flowing out like from a sieve rather than on the actual contents of the leaks. Does it occur to them that the leaks are the result of genuine concern by public servants about the unprecedented carelessness of our current president. (I bet Melania is sick and tired of her marriage and is only sticking with it now because of her son and maybe because she fears retribution from her husband if she should complain at this juncture. If Trump is forced to leave office soon, maybe she doesn’t have to move from NYC after all.)

It is not so surprising that Mr. Trump invited Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to the White House. Birds of a feather.

In the May 1 issue, New Yorker editor David Remnick has written a long, thoughtful, and scathing piece about Donald Trump and his first 100 days as president, his history of trickery and dishonesty to get where he is, his excessive self-inflation and lying, but what to do about him is the problem. It’s hard to keep saying and hoping that the government will settle down to business as usual, because obviously as long as Trump is in office, that won’t happen. The man appears to be incapable of learning on the job or learning anything. He’s not funny anymore.

Conservative pundit George Will has also written a blistering article questioning Donald Trump’s state of mind which, I hope, will cause some Republicans to take notice and take action. As Americans, we are pretty much at the mercy of the Republican establishment and of the Republican Party, now holding all the reins of power. It has an obligation to protect us that goes above party loyalty to Trump. After all, Trump evidently feels no particular loyalty toward the Republican Party.

George F. Will: A president who does not know what it is to know

Trump is already warning that Sen. Elizabeth Warren, whom he derisively calls “Pocahontas,” may run for president in 2020. Well, I hope she will, especially if Trump is her challenger and, this time, we will swamp him so completely in the right states (having learned that bitter lesson from 2016) that his only defense will be to blame “fake media,” “illegal voters,” and “voter fraud,” or maybe even “Obama,” all favorite scapegoats, and to exit the presidential stage saying he was absolutely the very best, most fabulous, greatest ever American president, bar none, that our nation has ever known. He can then still travel around the country giving speeches to his few remaining adoring supporters to stoke his ego. (Warren, no doubt, will sew up the Native American vote, thanks to Trump’s derisiveness toward that small, but, iconic constituency.)

Republicans in general and Trump in particular seem to be appealing to voters’ most vengeful and just plain mean instincts, countenancing the bullying of others by name-calling and punishing them with new laws, whether tax, gun, or so-called religious freedom laws. Muslims, Hispanics, gays, women, poor people, the mentally ill, racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, and others are all fair game. And voters are being deliberately misled. In Kentucky, the expansion of Obamacare or the ACA was sold to voters as a program called “Connect,” to deliberately disassociate it from the actual program of which it is a part. A majority of that state’s voters went for Trump and probably have no idea that their “Connect Care” is in any way threatened by the Republican health care plan.

Of course, there must be some limits on what health care, whether or not publicly supported, can provide. Potential costs are almost unlimited—limited only by current knowledge and resources. We have already extended life perhaps beyond optimal limits for many people. Very wealthy people are now able to invest in cryonics, efforts to freeze their bodies after death and potentially revive them. Also, there is a move afoot to do a “head transplant,” really, as I understand it, a body transplant onto someone’s head and brain. These might be seen as efforts to extend life indefinitely and defer death, but death—I would argue—will always come sooner or later. Over many years, accidents will inevitably happen to an individual and, at the very least, when earth implodes at the end of eons, human beings, if any are still left, will go with it. The whole effort to keep extending life and deferring death, while understandable, has been taken to extremes by some fanatical death avoiders. What about trying to live the life you now have as well as possible? What about extending quality of life for all people, rather than focusing on life extension for a few? And maintaining quality of life may require some limits on how many lives Mother Earth can accommodate at any one time. Life extension means fewer people living longer rather than more people living shorter, but perhaps more fulfilling and productive lives. Already, with so many dependent elderly people who are disabled and mentally challenged having their lives extended in group care facilities, fewer resources are available for younger people who must sustain them. At the same time, cutting back on current levels of care and support will be felt as a deprivation, so it may be best to proceed slowly in adding new benefits.

While Trump’s ascendency to the US presidency might be reversible, at least so far, Republicans have mostly been clinging to him—not breaking faith, trying to make excuses for him, defending his obvious gaffes. With the Republican Party holding so many political cards, it may be hard to overcome their unified hold—and by extension—that of Donald Trump. But we must be aware and beware, learning from the example of other nations where a leader who seems to have been elected democratically slowly erodes democratic institutions to seize more lasting power. There are many examples: Russia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Turkey, just to name a few, and perhaps our country is not exempt. So, we have to keep on pushing, even as the other side has so many advantages of money and influence. And while I don’t think at age 79, I am the right person to enter the political arena right now, younger folks do need to step up and not lose heart of they are defeated on the first round. (I might actually do as well as many of them, but ageism would defeat me.) They need to make their plans and ideas known to voters and constituents. And I put my hope in the usual oscillation between political extremes and the backlash that the current Trump administration might be promoting.

Here was a woman’s reply to Congressman Rod Blum (R-Iowa) (perhaps referring to himself?)  asking why a 62-year-old man has to support maternity care in the health care system. By any chance, do women just spontaneously become pregnant and cannot a 62-year-old man still impregnate a woman? It takes two to tango.

Meanwhile it is no surprise to me to read that Honduran violence especially targets women. We who are familiar with that country already know that. When I was in the Peace Corps there, Honduran women who had been raped and impregnated by their rapists would never dare report the rape to the police. Instead, they just went ahead and bore the child. Do I have fear every time I go to Honduras? Yes, and I do take precautions, but you cannot take every precaution. Even wealthy families with servants and security guards have their members kidnapped and killed.  I just accept the risk as part of the territory. But, at some point, I have promised my kids that I will stop going—though not yet.

In my writings, in speeches, and on this forum, I have said before that as an adoptive as well as a birth parent, I am not 100% pro-choice on abortion and that I attended the January women’s march because of other issues.  Most of the American public wants some limits, despite Roe vs. Wade—or perhaps because of it. A morning-after pill, no argument there—maybe even no limits on abortion within the first trimester. After that, the question and opinions get more nuanced and less dogmatic, in fact, most Americans do favor some limits after three months. Hispanic voters especially, by and large, are anti-abortion. Being pro-life is pretty well embedded in Hispanic culture, which is one reason that the Democratic Party and candidates need to open the party’s tent to pro-life Democrats. (Even Hillary has said they should be welcome.) http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-robert-pro-life-democrats-abortion-20170501-story.html

Lately, in my dreams—at least those I can remember—my late ex-husband Tom and I are together once again, interacting quite amicably. It surprises me that we get along so well and naturally in my dreams (wishful thinking?) when that wasn’t the case near the end of and after our 24-year marriage in 1980, when he left the family, married someone else, became a father again, and died in 1999. In my dreams, as in real life, he is blind but unusually friendly toward me. Nothing there about how I had to struggle to try to get adequate child support, nothing about his refusal to even speak to me for so many years. Very interesting how the unconscious may play into our desires, even though Tom and I broke up 37 years ago and he died in 1999.