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The Caligula Presidency: a Weekly Ovi Column - Week 9
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2017-08-12 09:42:52
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Week 9 - Columns 57-63 (6-12 August 2017)
On: Trump’s coming Impeachment, Trump’s Dishonesty, Trump’s suppression of Internet Privacy Protection, What makes Trump furious, Taking from the Poor to give to the Rich, Getting closer to the truth on Russian entanglement, “Might makes Right” as Strategic Foreign Policy.


Column 57

Some US Municipalities have Introduced Resolutions
Advocating Trump’s Impeachment


A Cambridge City Council is slated to vote on a resolution calling for the U.S. House of Representatives to begin impeachment procedure based on alleged conflicts of interests. Other city councils who have also initiated such a procedure are Richmond, Virginia, Berkeley, California, and Alameda, California.

The resolution states the following: "The City Council calls upon the United States House of Representatives to support a resolution authorizing and directing the House Committee on the Judiciary to investigate whether sufficient grounds exist for the impeachment of Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, including but not limited to the violations of the Foreign Emoluments Clause and the Domestic Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution

From the moment he took office, President Trump was in violation of the Foreign Emoluments Clause and the Domestic Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution. On January 11, 2017, nine days before his inauguration, Donald J. Trump announced a plan that would, if carried out, remove him from day-to-day operations of his businesses, but not eliminate any of the ongoing flow of emoluments from foreign governments, state governments, or the United States government. Such violations, undermine the integrity of the Presidency, corruptly advance the personal wealth of the President, and violate the public trust."

Is this a snowball coming down the mountain that may eventually become an avalanche? It remains to be seen.


Column 58

“Our Dishonest President”:  A L. A. Times Honest Editorial


A scathing first of four parts editorial on President Trump has appeared in the Los Angeles Times.  It said, among other things, that “It was no secret during the campaign that Donald Trump was a narcissist and a demagogue who used fear and dishonesty to appeal to the worst in American voters. Nothing prepared us for the magnitude of this train wreck,…But, chilling as they are, these radically wrongheaded policy choices are not, in fact, the most frightening aspect of the Trump presidency. What is most worrisome about Trump is Trump himself.”…

It goes on to conclude that “He is a man so unpredictable, so reckless, so petulant, so full of blind self-regard, so untethered to reality that it is impossible to know where his presidency will lead or how much damage he will do to our nation. His obsession with his own fame, wealth and success, his determination to vanquish enemies real and imagined, his craving for adulation — these traits were, of course, at the very heart of his scorched-earth outsider campaign; indeed, some of them helped get him elected. But in a real presidency in which he wields unimaginable power, they are nothing short of disastrous.”

Among newspapers’ editorials of all kinds, this one from The Los Angeles Times dares speak truth to power. It can safely be compared to Andersen’s little boy in his famous fable “The Emperor’s clothes,” who has the sheer courage and temerity to shout to the world that “the emperor goes around with no clothes.” Come to think of it, it is the very mission of an honest media and/or press. It is a sure win for democratic free speech, and the defense and the fearless proclamation of truth. Bravo for the Los Angeles Times.


Column 59

Trump’s Suppression of Internet Privacy Protections


President Donald Trump has recently signed a repeal of internet privacy rules despite criticism that it threatens to undermine online safety as well as to enable unconstitutional mass surveillances.

The paradox is that lately he has been complaining that allegedly former President Obama violated his privacy during his campaign for the presidency. Equally paradoxical is the rant of libertarians that Deep Government is out to suppress citizens’ freedoms and that Trump is the protector of those freedoms. 

The overturning of the Obama-era privacy protections, which was supported by Congress will allow internet providers to share personal information with advertisers and other third parties without consumer consent.

The collection and sharing of personal information puts internet users at risk to hackers and identity thieves, while at the same time expanding the abilities of government surveillance programs.

 “Donald Trump said he was going to drain the swamp, but it didn’t take long for the swamp to drain him,” Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, said in an emailed statement to Newsweek. Indeed, populism’s great danger is that in the name of the people enormities are committed that ultimately harm the people.

Major providers—including AT&T, Comcast and Verizon—support the overturning of the internet privacy protections, saying companies like Google and Facebook did not face the same restrictions for how they handle user data.

Privacy advocates argue that the same rules do not apply for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and technology companies because ISPs are fundamental for accessing the internet. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) claims the move will increase competition and make it more fair for internet providers.


Column 60

North Atlanta Congressional District Making Trump Furious


Despite his recent popular bellicose foreign policy initiative in Syria Donald Trump’s approval ratings continue to slide. A Democratic Atlanta newcomer from the Millennial generation, Jon Ossoff, is politically positioning himself to take advantage of the situation. He is a former congressional aide and a film maker by profession.

Ossoff is aiming at a House of Representatives seat that has been held by Republicans for decades. At this point the Democrats need a total of 24 seats to reclaim the House. Ossoff’s theme is that what’s going in Washington nowadays does not represent America’s values. His campaign slogan is “Make Trump Furious.” He has raised more than $ 8 million in the first quarter and is well ahead of all his rivals.

Important to keep in mind that the North Atlanta district of Ossoff is white collar, educated and doing well economically with a median household income of $80,000 versus the $50,000 statewide. Also, the college educated in the district are twice the statewide average, with a diverse well-educated immigrants from India and other parts of Asia. More than 40% of those are naturalized citizens eligible to vote. It is harder to fool the well educated but not impossible, as the eventual results of this campaign have already shown.


Column 61

Funneling more Money to the Rich at the Expense of the Working Class


As part of his so called tax reform agenda Trump has put on the table a proposal which is quite revealing of his true intentions: elimination of the payroll tax which funds Social Security and part of Medicare, or at the very least cut it drastically. It’s nothing short but a back-door way of cutting Social Security benefits. While it appears to be a gift in the form of middle-class tax relief, it will ultimately result in the destruction of working Americans’ economic security. It functions as a Trojan horse of sorts.

The contributory nature of Social Security through which beneficiaries pay for their future benefits via the payroll tax dates back to its inception with FDR in 1935. What Trump has revived is the debate on whether to fund Social Security via government revenues or from workers’ contributions. It focus of attack are disability recipients. Why does of all people? To make clear that Social Security is not meant to be a welfare program but a retirement insurance benefit provided by right. Hence a “gratuitous” pension must be conditioned upon a “means’ test,” that is to say, it ought to be delivered only to the poorest Americans. It must hold all grantees down to a minimum standard.

The aim is to cut off the expansion in 1956 to disabled citizens. As FDR had foresawn, by endowing Social Security with its own revenue stream, it remained protected from grasping politicians who wished to eviscerate the program. It gives workers a hard to undermine proprietary interest in benefits. 

The Trump proposal is designed as a permanent conversion of Social Security’s revenue stream from the payroll tax to general revenues, a wide-open door to budget-cutting at the expense of retirees and workers. Budget hawks are already going around with the mantra that the cost of Social Security is “unsustainable” never mind that the program still runs a surplus and the fact that its sustainability for the future would only require a modest increase in the tax rate or removal of the cap on taxable wages

Scrapping the payroll tax would make it easier for Congress to cut Social Security benefits under the guise of saving government money. It would be another way to funnel more money to the rich. So much for a populist president out to defend the interests of the people.


Column 62

The Plot Thickens but gets Closer to the Truth:
Trump’s Former Foreign Policy Adviser Carter Page, Russia and the FBI


Since last summer, when Trump was a presidential candidate, the FBI has been secretly monitoring the communications of one of his advisers for possible links between Russia and the Trump campaign. To spy on American citizens a court order is mandated by law. The FBI did in fact obtain from a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge. The probable cause adduced by both FBI and Justice Department to convince the judge to grant permission was that Carter Page, the adviser in question, was acting as an agent of a foreign power, namely Russia. Page has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in his dealings with the Trump campaign or Russia in 2016, but the suspicions of a nexus persist.

It is a publicly known fact that the former adviser to Donald Trump on foreign policy lectured in Moscow on December 12, 2016. In any case, both the White House and the FBI are not commenting on the breaking story. It is well known that the FBI and congressional committees are in the process of investigating whether Russia put its thumb on the scale and tried to influence the election in Trump’s favor, mostly by hacking Democratic operatives’ emails, releasing embarrassing information and/or colluding with Trump’s associates. Both Russia and Trump dismiss those allegations, albeit at one point of the campaign Trump publicly urged Russia to reveal the hacked emails.

Nobody has been accused yet of any crimes or illegal actions, but the investigation goes on.  It’s sure to get more intriguing. Inspector Clouseau is on the prowl, and anything can happen at any time.


Column 63

Is “Might makes Right” the only Strategic Foreign Policy
of President Trump?


No coherent long range foreign policy seems to be discernible in the White House so far. What one hears are plenty of bosterous threats and dire warnings. It seems that for this administration the use of force is a policy in itself.

Trump has used massive force twice: once in Syria destroying an airport at the tune of $100 million dollars to the taxpayers, and once in Afghanistan where he exploded the mother of all bombs without ever explaining the strategy behind those military actions. His motives and intentions seemed to be right and his popularity went up. This is dangerous: the monkey playing on the piano got a note right by pure chance and now thinks it is a great composer.

The only discernible strategy behind those military action is to avert attention from the Congressional investigation into the Russia-campaign ties and to restore his sagging popularity. If it works, it is predictable that the use of mindless force will become addictive.

Comments like “Kim Jong Un is making a big mistake,” or “he is doing the wrong thing.” What those mistakes or wrong things might be is never analyzed and explained. It is just stated. One gets twits such as “we are sending an armada, very powerful,” or “We have submarines, very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier, that I can tell you.”

There seems to be a childish fascination with raw power, as if that by itself will solve any geo-political conundrum. There is also a complete lack of coherence by which to assess the threat. As Trump puts it: “I don’t talk about the military. I’m not like Obama.”

Trump said he discussed the situation in North Korea with Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., last weekend. “I explained to the President of China that a trade deal with the U.S. will be far better for them if they solve the North Korean problem!” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning.

His comments on North Korea came after a pair of tweets in which he seemed to suggest that he would sweeten the terms of a trade agreement with China if Beijing assists in solving the North Korean “problem” — but that the U.S. is prepared to move forward in the western Pacific without Chinese help. On Tuesday, Reuters reported that China had ordered its trading companies to return coal shipments, a key North Korea export, to the Stalinist regime in Pyongyang.

This kind of “bully diplomacy” used to be called “gun-boat diplomacy” or “saber rattling” during the period of Western Imperialism One gets what one wants by threats of force under the slogan “might makes right.” Those who think that it works just fine, are usually ignorant of world history, never mind human nature. It usually leads to disastrous and destructive consequences for millions of people.

Trump may be adopting those military tactics not for long range geo-political purposes but as a way of diverting attention from the Russia Trump campaign investigation or to boost his sagging popularity; or, even more obscene, to feel more like a brilliant commander in chief. All the while the world feels much less safe. Were one to tweet about this situation, it would be one word: “sad.”


End of Week 9



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