The Taxman

“Now my advice for those who die / Declare the pennies on your eyes”

Among a thousand wonderful lines in the Revolver album, this one always stood out, even as a teenager listening to his mother’s vinyl record.  Then, because miracles abound, Stevie Ray Vaughn recorded a cover that blew the original out of the water.

If you’ve followed me on Twitter for any length of time, you may have gotten a hint that I am not the President’s biggest fan.  You’d be correct, but I won’t belabor the point since I believe my Twitter timeline speaks for itself.  What has stuck in my craw almost since the moment he announced his candidacy are his obstinate refusal to disclose his taxes despite promising to do so (among myriad other promises) after the election; the imperial attitude that we lowly serfs needn’t worry ourselves with the finances of a president who sold his business acumen as all the experience he needed to run a country of 300 million people; disregarding this historic petition (full disclosure, I signed); and simply not giving a damn about this alarming poll.  Even his erstwhile helper gnomes at WikiLeaks pushed back against this broken promise.

On 29 January, the military executed the first publicized counter-terror attack of the Trump administration.  The raid on a purported Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) compound in Yemen resulted in the death of Chief Special Warfare Operator William Owens, and the loss of one MV-22 Osprey aircraft.  The President, as is his wont, took to Twitter to claim a great victory over terrorists.  Interestingly, he also took the time to attack those who questioned any aspect of the raid, from its inception, planning, execution, and the disturbingly high number of civilian casualties.  Silly me, but I never equated criticism of the mission, or its planning, with denigrating the immeasurable loss of Chief Owens.  If anything, I believe that we – as a military, as a society, as a country founded on morals – can and should do better.

Chief Owens, like over a million of his comrades in the American military, swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.  More telling, the oath of enlistment, but not the oath of office, includes “I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the officers appointed over me.” (emphasis is mine)  When I was a young soldier, we had several officers and noncommissioned officers counseled about derogatory comments towards the new President, Bill Clinton, punishable under Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.  One of the kinder things said about him at the time, at least to me, was why on earth did I vote for “that draft dodging dope smoker who hates us (the military).”

There appears to exist a similar rift in the force today, but now I see the lines drawn more starkly, between those who question President Trump’s policies vs. those who seem willing to blindly follow him.  Neither is a bad thing, necessarily.  Soldiers love clarity, in their government, those in charge of it, and that government’s policies.

What remains chilling is the lack of anything resembling clarity in this administration.  In light of President Trump’s refusal to release his taxes, and the business interests from which he has not been proven to divest, who can authoritatively say that future military action might not benefit the President’s business ventures in the Middle East?  Will my comrades, acquaintances, and friends, die so that the Trump Organization can turn a profit?  How would we even know without substantive proof to the contrary?

How can the nation’s commander-in-chief, a man who is a living breathing antithesis of the Army Values, be trusted when he orders another mission like Al-Bayda last month?  What will he tell the widow and orphaned children when Daddy died on a mission to protect a the Trump property in the Middle East?  I’m sorry for your loss, but here’s a comp weekend stay and meal vouchers for Mar a Lago?  Since it’s been proven that anything that affects the President’s businesses also affects him personally, wouldn’t the natural extension of our foreign policy be to protect those businesses from the UAE to Kuwait?  Our new Secretary of ExxonMobil State doesn’t seem like the kind of person who could implement a foreign policy not guaranteed to protect the President’s business interests.

I’ve been telling folks that, in some respects, I feel like I’m reliving the early 1990s.  As the 90s opened, I was just another protesting college student in Lafayette Park with a sign that said “No War For Oil.”  Regardless of anything then-President Bush said about how he wouldn’t “let this stand,” or that the coming war was about containing aggression (true, as it turns out), it was also ultimately about making sure oil continued to flow freely from the Arabian Gulf.

We all want to believe in something, to know that sacrifice is worthy and serves our country.  The sacrifice could be to depose a Panamanian strongman in an extreme interpretation of the Monroe Doctrine, contain an Iraqi dictator, or to secure food convoys for starving East Africans.  But now?  I don’t know.  I’ve attended a dozen funerals in the last 24 years and honor each sacrifice.  I mourn them.  I miss them.  We want the loss to stand for something, to be worthy of what Lincoln called “the last full measure of devotion.”

But without a fully transparent divestiture from the Trump Organization, without releasing his taxes, we can and will never be certain that future sacrifices will not be in vain.


Kiss My Birthright Citizen Backside

From Wikipedia: An unperson is a person who has been “vaporized”; who has not only been killed by the state, but effectively erased from existence. Such a person would be written out of existing books, photographs, and articles and the original copies destroyed, so that no trace of their existence could be found in the historical record. The idea is that such a person would, according to the principles of doublethink, be forgotten completely (for it would be impossible to provide evidence of their existence), even by close friends and family members. Mentioning his or her name, or even speaking of their past existence, is thoughtcrime; the concept that the person may have existed at one time and has disappeared cannot be expressed in Newspeak.

That’s me – an unperson.  That is, in the unlikely event that Trump, Paul, Walker, or Santorum are elected President next year, and follow through on their shared promise to effectively repeal the 14th Amendment.  40-some years ago I benefited from birthright citizenship as the son of two legal and hard working immigrants.  Funny thing, this citizenship, especially here in the US.  It isn’t Heinlein’s world, where it must be earned, though if that standard were upheld, I daresay I’ve earned my citizenship a thousand times over; here it’s easily and readily conferred, literally a constitutional right guaranteed by the very amendment these presidential candidates want to delete.  Moreover, it is a human right.

These days I often wonder what scares these men so, and by extension, the people who support them?  Was Pat Buchanan ahead of his time, then?  Are they simply afraid – terrified, even – of the decline of the white America they used to know?  Or is it, judging from the ethnicity of all the Republican candidates save Piyush Jindal (himself a recipient of birthright citizenship) and George Pataki (part Hungarian, hence not a member of the WASP Republican set), pushback against that dreaded “other?”  This goes far beyond any Republican fear and/or exploitation of African Americans (see Southern Strategy or Atwater, Lee).  The bogeyman is now brown or yellow, bringing disease and crime into our great nation, so burdening the health care and education systems that we must defund everything from the Department of Education, Planned Parenthood, Medicare, Obamacare, the list goes on.

“They’re taking our jobs,” I read almost daily.  Whom, Congressman King?  Are your mythical illegals with calves the size of cantaloupes marauding through the job market like modern Visigoths?  Or are we now supposed to be terrified of Mexican STEM graduates who will take well paying tech jobs away from lily-white Silicon Valley?  And which jobs are “they” taking, precisely?  The last time I saw a white person washing dishes was in a restaurant in Portland, Maine, probably only because I noticed a dearth of Latinos willing to take on such menial work.  Find me a white person, then, who is willing to pick produce in Watsonville, California, for minimum wage (or, far too often, less than minimum wage).  Find me a white person who is willing to wash dishes in a restaurant like the one I manage, where my guys clean after hundreds of people’s meals per night?  No?

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,” Trump famously stated when he announced his candidacy for the presidency.  To rebut His Hairness, using the small sample size of my Latino immigrant employees, none of them are rapists.  They didn’t bring crime from El Salvador, Peru, Honduras, Ecuador, or Mexico; if anything, they came here to escape it.  None of my guys use illegal drugs; even if they did, they know I have a zero tolerance policy and act accordingly.  But Trump was right about one thing.  They are good people.

“For more than a century, innumerable studies have confirmed two simple yet powerful truths about the relationship between immigration and crime: immigrants are less likely to commit serious crimes or be behind bars than the native-born, and high rates of immigration are associated with lower rates of violent crime and property crime. This holds true for both legal immigrants and the unauthorized, regardless of their country of origin or level of education. In other words, the overwhelming majority of immigrants are not “criminals” by any commonly accepted definition of the term. For this reason, harsh immigration policies are not effective in fighting crime.”

To add to the IPC’s fantastic study quoted above, even the Congressional Research Service disputes the notion that higher levels of immigration, documented or not, leads to higher criminality.

So what, then, can we do?  Let’s take away the very thing so many people cherish, their citizenship!  Let’s take away the constitutionally guaranteed right to be a citizen in this country because someone was born here.  Gosh, Congressman King, that’s a swell idea, let’s fight the brown hordes, here’s 27 white people who agree with your base appeal to the lowest racist denominator.  There’s a little hitch with your plan, though.  How, unless you carry various “papers” like Soviet citizens did under Brezhnev, does one prove citizenship?  Is it skin color, as seems to be the prevailing sentiment?  Or would any white person who didn’t speak perfect American English be lumped in with the “other?”  Is it religion, as the American Taliban evangelical Christians would want?  What, then?  How many generations of one’s family must prove legal residency in the US to prove worthy of being bestowed citizenship by the People’s Jumhuriya of Americastan?  Two?  Three?  Does one need to provide a ship’s manifest from when it docked at Ellis Island in 1885?

Here’s a simple solution, besides the obvious resurrection of the Chinese Exclusion Act along with its inevitable expansion to include most of the rest of Asia, Africa, South America, and the Middle East.  Count the “other,” whomever they may be, as simply three fifths of a person.  It worked before, why can’t it work again, right?  God knows, you wouldn’t have to jerrymander congressional districts nearly as much anymore, and non-whites like me would get put into their place.  I understand that Republicans’ definition of “other” in the context of this post changes frequently, but I digress from the intellectual backflips that cceptance of this would require.

After all, I wouldn’t want to seem uppity.