Don’t Humiliate China

China does not yet have the economic power that America has. And it is likely that if the trade war escalates, China will, indeed, be hurt by it, more so than we will. Of course, so will the world economy.

I doubt that China will back off if Trump follows through with his threat of imposing more tariffs, even though it appears that they are dependent on American technology companies as suppliers of component parts.

But why abuse our position of strength?

Why try to bring China to its knees?

I think it is a mistake.

There are, presently, in China, sectors that are deeply wedded to the notion of a more democratic society. They battle daily the state’s oppressive surveillance system and still they are growing.

It will take more time for these resistance sectors to eventually make their presence felt in the existing power structure, but one day they will. Any effort on our part to “beat” China economically, is likely to increase political repression and weaken their struggle.

Pushing China around economically will not last long, anyway. Eventually they will find their stride for they are resilient and strong. And when they do, then what?

Jack Ma, the head of Alibaba – the gigantic online commerce platform – is a communist party member. A multibillionaire enlisted by the Communist Party. Does that not tell us something about what is going on in China? Is that not the height of contradictions? Is that not a glaring example of a country in transition?

Mr Ma represents the Chinese state’s reliance on men and women who’ve been able to channel their creative energies and generate all manner of opportunities for the rest of the nation.

The Chinese model has transformed a nearly feudal society into a world powerhouse. But lagging well behind is the push for human rights. As dissenters have said, they not only want rice, they want rights too. And their drive will continue to grow.

Just this weekend a large mass of protesters in Hong Kong showed their opposition to a law to extradite residents to the mainland.

Mr Trump needs to look at his choices with a sense of history.

An escalation of tariffs may win him some points in the short term and satisfy some of his supporters, but in the end will amount to little more than a pyrrhic victory. So we may win the battle today but not the war tomorrow.

Oscar Valdes

Trump, Tariffs and the Reelection Bid.

Battle for the Nation (3)

There is no question that the tariffs Trump is imposing on China and the threat to impose them on Mexico are a burden to the American taxpayer. Both sides are hurt by them but Trump is betting that they will hurt the other side more than us. Tariffs have not yet derailed our economic expansion but they may well do so.

Are there problems with our trade with China? Of course. Do they need addressing? No doubt. But what happened to gradualism? Wouldn’t that approach give our industries and every other nation’s enough time to make the necessary adjustments?

Yes, it would.

The reason Trump is rushing headlong with tariffs is clear. He is convinced that they are his ticket to reelection. He appears to think that pushing tariffs will project him as the great American gladiator, the sublime avenger of all injuries inflicted upon us.

But we will not beat China on tariffs. They will fight back and even endure much pain rather than bow to Trump’s demands. In the 80s we could impose tariffs on Japan and stem their rise because we had defeated them in WWII. We did not defeat China. She was not even a nation.

China has become a formidable opponent. Their brand of state sponsored development, their drive and ambition, has challenged our position in the world.

Their commitment to technological superiority, their advances in 5G and artificial intelligence, all make it evident that their push for world dominance is here to stay.

Should we be frightened? It depends on how capable we perceive ourselves to be. 

China’s rise and defiance should be seen as a warning that we have to reorganize our economy and the way we connect to ourselves and to the world.

To do that we need to think clearly as to what our priorities are.

Take immigration: immigrants have contributed enormously to who we are now and what we have. A Russian immigrant is Google’s cofounder. Apple’s Steven Jobs’ father came from Syria. Intel’s Andy Grove, a leading figure in the company’s growth, came from Hungary.

Present day Silicon Valley is filled with first or second generation Indian entrepreneurs.

I live in California. There are several buildings going up near where I live. The major component to the labor force pushing up those structures are Latinos.

When I go for medical care the likelihood is high that the nurse or doctor assisting me will be a first or second generation immigrant. And so too when I go to the pharmacy to pick up my meds.

Same at the bank or when I go for coffee or to get something to eat.

We are immigrants. That’s who we are. We have needed the numbers and immigrants have provided them.

China’s story is different. They have the numbers. But they started to thrive quickly only when they opened to the world. It was that influx of ideas and technologies that, coupled with their drive and ingenuity, lifted them to their present status.

Again, openness.

In China’s case, however, selective openness. They have not been willing to import democratic ideals and so their population remains severely bereft of individual liberties.

The West bet that trade with China would inevitably stir a strong desire from within to transform their communist ideology. It hasn’t happened but it does not mean that it will not.

We got wrong the time table for political change but the central concept remains. Sooner or later China will open up politically.

Trump’s intemperate push for tariffs betrays a sense of panic.

China announces their desire for being the worldwide leader in technology and Trump frets that we will be at their mercy.

He bangs his tariff drum – the louder the better – thinking that it will deter China.

It will not.

The Chinese must love that our president is showing so little confidence in all the pain and effort that it has taken to build America. But Trump has little sense of history.

Our concept of liberty is the distillation of hundreds of years of thought and discussion, struggles and wars.

China has not done that work. They went from a near feudal economy to world prominence in a very short time. Much like South Korea did, except that we could exert political influence there because we fought for their freedom.  

Why then are we panicking with China’s rise?

There is no need to do so. In fact, it is counterproductive.

To panic is to doubt that our model of governance is effective.

It is effective not only because of our economic and military strength but because it keeps attracting millions of people from all over the world. And yet, it needs to be fairer.

As we embrace greater fairness we will help release the fullness of our citizens’ productive capacities.

Rather than panic with China’s rise, we should welcome it, for it challenges us to remake our society.

Let us not forget that our society is not in its final form. Far from it. It is designed to be in a continuous state of flux because the complexity of life demands it.

China’s spectacular growth has contributed to the rise of nationalism both here and abroad. But reacting in such way is going in the wrong direction. We must not lose faith in man’s thirst for freedom and how it unleashes their creative forces.

China lags way behind the West in allowing the fundamental freedom that man has long aspired to. In time, and with visionary leadership, they will come around.

Immigration needs reform in that the nation must have control of its borders. Let’s tackle that. Let’s discuss it. Let’s do a referendum on the issue.

But let us not allow a leader without a sense of history, to throw us into a state of panic that leads us to question the fundamental values that we have struggled so hard to maintain.

Oscar Valdes

Battle for the Nation (2)

Dear Male Democratic Candidates for President:

To the pulse of Mr Trump’s mantra, Make America Great Again, our internal divisions continue to deepen and by now it is evident that the president has no desire – or capacity – to mend our rifts.

Mr Trump’s behavior toward women and his inability to apologize means that a deep wound has been inflicted on the American woman’s psyche. That the electorate overlooked such behavior and still voted for him reflects a profound disregard for women’s contributions to the nation.

But women are responding. They have become more and more vocal and are running for office in greater numbers than ever before.

Since inception women have fought to have parity with men. They have had to fight hard for their right to get an education, the right to vote, to have an abortion, the right to equal pay.  The struggle goes on. And yet there remain many women today who, having internalized the contempt in which some men have held them over the years, continue to undervalue themselves.

The vote that some women gave to Mr Trump in 2016 epitomizes the denial of such contempt.

How else could these women make light of this man’s open mistreatment of their sisters, mothers and daughters?

Without a doubt, and in response to wave after wave of feminist movements, men have made strides to counter their propensity to see women as sexual objects. Today such attitude still persists, but as we interact and discover that they are human beings in the female condition – to borrow Simone de Beauvoir’s phrase – we discover that we are them and they are us.

Even as our capacity to identify with the plight of our sisters, mothers and daughters continues to grow, the fact is that no one can speak for them as well as they themselves.

The wounding of the American woman’s psyche has had such enormous repercussions that I hold that the divisions that now beset the nation exist, in large part, because we have not allowed women all the freedoms they are entitled to as fellow human beings.

Had the nation long ago heeded their voices, had the nation allowed them to be present at the table in full body and mind, our country’s decisions, in matters at home and abroad, would most certainly have been wiser.

As I write, a predominantly white and male cabinet is backing the Trump administration’s increasingly war like stance against Iran. A predominantly white and male cabinet stands passively while the president rattles the financial markets with ill conceived tariffs that threaten the health of the world’s economy.

The lack of women’s full participation in the affairs of the nation represents the most significant block in the effort to fully integrate America and release the powers that lie within.

There are no signs today of any national healing underway. Instead, instances of our mistreating ourselves remain part of the daily news. Again and again, the headlines are filled with yet another episode of cruelty, of Americans killing Americans, of Americans hating Americans. These acts are overwhelmingly committed by men, toxic men, poorly integrated men who are symptoms of the power imbalance in our midst.

With our collective despair growing I ask, where is the leader that can halt this mindless tearing apart of our spirit? I ask, where is the leader that can take command and speak to us as a nation and say ‘Stop! Please! Let us find a way to be kinder to each other, for there has to be such a way and I assure you that it is within us to find it.”

Alas, in this hour of protracted national grief, when the need is great, we cannot look to the White House for guidance because the House is empty. Oh, yes, there is someone living there, eating there, tweeting there. But there is no one there to which the collective nation can turn and ask, “Where have we gone wrong?” and expect an answer.  There is no one there who can hear us. There is no one there with the emotional capacity to grasp the depth of the deepening national anguish.

America needs now such a person. Someone who can bring us together, someone who can remind us that our powers lie in our connecting to each other and to ourselves, not in pulling away. There is no task as important.

I contend that, at this critical juncture, a qualified woman candidate would have the political and spiritual reach to bring forth the parts of America that have not felt included and thus profoundly enrich the national debate.

And so I propose, that to make that more likely, all male democratic candidates bow out of the race.

Having as we do, among the current candidates, highly qualified, battle tested women who have achieved their political stature on their own, let them vie for the nomination free of male interference. They do not need to be retested against male democratic rivals. They have had to do so, time and again, to reach and maintain their current positions.

This next election is unique. It offers the opportunity to bring to center stage the grave matter lying at the heart of our national divisions: the imbalance of power between men and women.

It would pit Mr Trump, the embodiment of male privilege, against a strong woman candidate who came into her powers on her own.

Withdrawing from the quest for the nomination for this one election, male democratic candidates would make it easier for the electorate at large to clearly see what these strong women candidates have to offer. It would spare much needed resources for the final battle.

It is a concession that you would be making but also a gift to the nation. A gift to your daughters, to your wives and to your mothers.

For this one election, and in the interest of the future unity and healing that it portends, I ask that you consider deferring your presidential ambitions and instead throwing your support behind the woman candidate of your choice.

I have no doubt that, in doing so, one of you would be chosen as vice presidential candidate, making good on that old saying, that behind every good woman stands a good man.

The nation is counting on you.

Oscar Valdes

Open Letter to Kim Jong Un

Dear Kim:

With your people facing greater scarcities at home and you not being able to provide, it follows that you are getting anxious again. Will North Koreans see you as a failure? Will the growing unease spark a revolt?

Knowing that the mounting distress could turn explosive, you have gone back to doing what you do best – making noises with your rockets.

It doesn’t help, of course, that you’ve painted yourself into a corner and antagonized the international community, although you’re still able to reach out to other iron fisted rulers (Putin and Xi Jinping) and beg for assistance.

But since the pattern keeps repeating itself, I think the US and the international community have to get more imaginative in addressing the problem.

The fundamentals are clear: you will not give up your nuclear weapons and you will not surrender your leadership. But it may be possible that, with a little effort, you might be willing to embrace the state capitalism that has worked so well to lift up China.

Here’s how I think the US and the international community could take a fresh approach. They could say to you, “Kim, let’s accept the facts, you are a nuclear power. Your cunning and persistence have outwitted every American administration and all the sanctions they have set up and you are now an undisputed nuclear power. We give you that. You are nuclear, baby. You did it.”

But that is not going to feed your people and you and I know North Koreans deserve a great deal more.

So here’s a deal for you. The US lifts all sanctions and we start doing business.  How would that work?

In exchange for the lifting of the sanctions, you would grant American businesses the exclusive right to set up ventures in North Korea for a period of 10 years. This may include technology transfers with appropriate payment for patents. This will stir up the spirit of entrepreneurship in your people and be good for both countries and for the world.

Look, as a capitalist nation, we know how to make money, and we can help you learn how to do it, too.

Should this idea take hold, very soon North Koreans would be raising their standards of living, and if you keep a good system of surveillance in place – the technology is amazing – like the Chinese do, you will be able to stay comfortably in power.

Only 10 years, Kim. After that your land would be open for you to do business with whomever you would like.

During those 10 years we would invite you over to the White House and to Mar-a-Lago (while Trump is president) so you can get to meet all kinds of interesting men and women.

We’re all grownups here, so you should know that our intentions are clear. We, in America, would like for you to become more like us. And make money as you go. You don’t have to give up being communist, but you would be a money making, high living communist, like Vladimir and Xi (Trump could even get you started in the hotel business, building towers and the like. Imagine yourself building a ‘Kim Tower ‘ in Moscow?)

This idea may not be easy to sell but it’s worth a try. Trump may be initially resistant because he’s surrounded by some people who still believe that America can change another nation’s way of governing themselves. But those ideas are fast going out of fashion.

To make it easier for Trump to consider this lifting of all sanctions, you could tell him, “Look Donald, during those 10 years during which America would have exclusive rights to doing business with us, I promise that I will not sell my nuclear weapons to other nations. I won’t because there will be no need for it. My people will be properly clothed and fed, well educated and happy, and I will enjoy international recognition.”

Mind you, Trump may be reluctant to accept this promise – because you have made so many and broken them all – but the thought of lifting all sanctions is so radical that he just might go for it. Remember, he prides himself on being different.

One more thought. We know that you would like a unified Korea. I think that may be possible, down the line, and having a strong economy with a rising GDP will be a great incentive to persuade your brothers and sisters in South Korea. But for the foreseeable future, America should keep South Korea well armed with nuclear weapons, in keeping with the concept of MAD (mutually assured destruction).

How’s your golf game? We can help you with that too. We’ll be glad to send Tiger Woods over to teach you some moves. He’s the best.

Oh, before I forget, I think your sister should be given more authority. Equality for women is just good for business. We haven’t yet elected a woman president but it may happen soon.

Here’s my very best to the North Korean people.

Oscar Valdes

PS: I know that Trump has spoken in favor of tolerating torture but, for most Americans, that’s not a cool idea. So, please, don’t torture your enemies.

Trump and White Supremacy

By Oscar Valdes 4/26/19

One of the issues at the core of Mr Trump’s turbulent presidency has been and remains his unwillingness to take the lead in confronting the resurgence of white supremacy in our nation. His inability to do so defines him as a man who is not integrated, a person that although intelligent and energetic, appears unable to confront his fears. Therein lies the great paradox of his presidency, that the leader of the free world is not a free man himself.

Free men will have prejudices – it comes with being human – but truly free men are willing to question themselves and struggle to resolve such prejudices. More than two years into his presidency we have yet to see evidence that Mr Trump has such ability.

Racism is a false belief, born out of a desire to prematurely close the inquiry into what makes each of us human. At the root of such desire is fear – fear of knowing the other – and when such fear is unexamined it leads to their devaluing and opens the door to their mistreatment.

Members of the white race have done wonderful things for humanity. Their accomplishments have been there to be enjoyed by all. The great men and women of science, industry and the arts, who happened to be white, never did think that what they had accomplished had anything to do with the color of their skin. Rather, they were well aware that their contribution to their fellow human beings rested solidly on the capacity to conceive and imagine the fullness of ideas, and then to muster the tenacity to carry them out.

Members of the white race have also done horrible things to humanity; the Holocaust, the torture and enslavement of Black Americans, the cruelty to Native Americans. And yet, through it all, the majority of the white race strives on, willing to examine themselves, determined to reach the higher ground that comes from greater self knowledge.

But where is Mr Trump? Where is the leader of the Free World? Where is the leader of the evolving consciousness that lies at the heart of what means to be free?

The great performer, the entertainer, the great seeker of attention, is sadly silent on the issue.

Not willing to confront his own fears he is thus unwilling to take on white supremacists, and so ends up encouraging them.

Mr Trump seems to believe that sitting in the White House absolves him of his flaws. Alas, it has  magnified them. What his followers fail to see, so far – for eventually they will – is that our president is a distraction leading us away from the path to greater achievement, which comes from our full development as human beings and is only possible when we accept our flaws as a necessary first step to understanding them.  

The hatred of others is incompatible with the path to self realization. And it is so because ‘the other’ lies within us – deep in our breast – ingrained in our soul, ceaselessly yearning to be embraced. Each one of us is all of humanity, containing at least a sample of nature’s plenitude, at least a grain of the misshapen, the ugly, the restricted, the divine, the beautiful and the gifted. And so with colors, for whiteness, a beautiful color indeed as all colors are, is but a variety in the garden of nature and not a reflection of supremacy.

To hate the other is to hate ourselves. The self aware struggles with such hate, day in and day out, for it is the price of calling ourselves free.

Mr Trump has been unable to grasp this essence and so he is not a free man. He cannot or will not perceive the larger picture. He cannot or will not say to his base, ‘let us join hands and overcome our fears and we shall seek real freedom, the freedom that comes from the quest to find our truth and which will lead us to genuine achievement’.

That more than 2 years into his presidency Mr Trump has been unable to do so, is a grave flaw of character and a blatant shirking of responsibility, the responsibility that comes from being the leader of the most powerful free nation in the world – a country that remains a beacon to the hopes of mankind – and a fountain of ideas to remedy some of the most difficult problems humanity is facing.

America – all included – the white, the black, the brown and the yellow; the blue, the red and shades in between; the fully developed and the developing, the clear headed and the confused, the open hearted and the presently bigoted, all deserve a better president.

The Trade War. Envy and Competition.

A centerpiece in the increasingly toxic trade war is the fact that China pushed for forced technology transfers from American and other foreign companies seeking to do business in their country.

Did this practice begin recently? No. It’s been going on for years and years.

So why, then, did it take so long for the US government to bring it up and demand that it be stopped?


American and foreign investors agreed to Chinese demands because profits made it worthwhile. In the meantime, the Chinese learned from the technology, improved on it and now have risen to become our rivals.

If that has made us upset then it’s time we got over it.

The Chinese did what they did and we let them do it.

One American administration after another talked about stopping the forced technology transfers but ended up doing nothing.



Maybe we thought the Chinese could never get it together or that we would keep coming up with even better technologies and ideas and forever hold an edge over them.

The growth of China forces us to take a good look at ourselves.

Are we being outcompeted?

Have they copied us too well?

If so, then let’s pull up our sleeves and get to work, not just start a trade war.

We’re envious of China. Envious of their drive and their success and we’re not dealing with it appropriately. Instead, we’re choosing to bellyache and let our president be the bellyacher in chief.

The Chinese have succeeded, no question about it, but they are also paying a heavy price for it. They are a regimented society.

We are not and should take comfort in that.

But not too much.

And I say that because there are now forces here in America that would not mind sacrificing basic freedoms so as to increase growth and ape the Chinese.

Look at the steady rise of mega companies and their continuing effort to dominate markets, making it hard to let in new companies so they can vie for a piece of the pie.

Look at the rise of autocrats, who have got into office because we put them there.

What are we thinking?

Companies that moved into China and agreed to the technology transfers demanded by their hosts did so because they were advocates of growth at any price. Never mind what or whom they left behind. Cheaper labor won the day. And they’re still there. Feeding at the trough. Still doing business. Still making money. So what’s the flap about?

If American companies handed over trade secrets and are now outcompeted and not able to come up with better ideas, then get out. Face it. You lost. No bellyaching, please.

The Chinese are coming into their own and are in contention for the title of world’s leading superpower. They’re not there yet but they’re pushing. That’s a reality. We have no choice but to compete.

This trade war we’re in is unnecessary and a dangerous distraction. It is yet another bid for world attention by our self-aggrandizing president. But it is not just any other bid. It carries with it the high risk of driving us into a world recession.

Growth at any price won’t do. The voices that cry for more competition and for greater opportunity here at home must be heard. And so must the voices that say that we have to stop abusing others, and so too the voices that call for curbing carbon emissions. We need the balance because it brings us dignity.

Safeguarding our freedoms is as important as economic growth. In that sense we’re ahead of the Chinese. So let us value what we have. It’s not all about GDP as we have come to know it but just as importantly, about that other kind of GDP, the Growth Dignity Product. We’re still a long way from getting it right but we’re getting there.

We should not let a narrow minded president think that starting a trade war with China and the world is the way for the nation to pull itself up.

Try investing in Americans. Try raising expectations. Try demanding that we rise to the task.

Human Folly – Episode 1 (Khashoggi, The Prince and Trump)

The world had been shocked by his assassination. The victim, a distinguished journalist who had been an adviser to the Saudi royal family, had decided to take a different direction in his life. If he had been a soft critic of the royal family’s injustices against the citizenry, now he would become a harsh one.  

The gradual transition from insider to outsider had been driven by the journalist’s conviction that he had an obligation, as a man and as an intellectual, to stand up for himself and for his fellow countrymen who did not have the gifts and resources he had.

The journalist had weighed the pros and cons carefully. He knew there would be risks, but never did he imagine that the end would be so brutal.

A team of Saudi Arabian hitmen had been lying in wait at theSaudi consulate in Istanbul when the journalist entered. He wanted to get married a second time and needed some paperwork done. He didn’t have a chance. Audio tapes provided by Turkish intelligence revealed that a chain saw had been used to cut him into pieces before disposing of the body.

The world reacted.

There was nearly universal condemnation of the action as calls for justice rang loud.

American intelligence agencies reviewed the facts, listened to the audio tapes the Turkish government had provided and concluded that the assassination could not have happened without the reigning Saudi prince knowing about it.

But our president demurred. He said there was no clear proof. And anyway, our nation needed the oil and money the Saudis had.

Many were critical of the president while others supported him, saying that the world was a rough place and that, in the interest of realpolitik, we all have to swallow some hard facts. In other words, if you have the power, then you get away with it.

The journalist, in his idealism, had thought that standing for principle would give a special meaning to his life. As a man of conscience, he knew he could not turn a blind eye to the suffering of his fellow Saudi Arabians. He had worked as a foreign correspondent and travelled widely. He knew his country stood as an anachronism, out of synch with the rest of the emerging nations. And it pained him.

Saudi Arabia had the good fortune of being one of the leading oil producers, but the wealth was mainly kept by the royal family. Still that was not enough. The Saudi royals also enforced a rigid code that dictated what women could and could not do. And if you objected you were put in jail and kept there.

While in the rest of the world women rose to become heads of state, leading scientists and politicians, prominent artists, intellectuals and creators, in Saudi Arabia the royal family had a code to enforce. Keep the women down.

All of us that pumped gas, paid for the oil that kept the royal family in power while they oppressed more than half of their population.

A distinguished journalist and man of conscience had been  savagely killed and our president, a businessman and father of an independent business woman, didn’t have any pangs of conscience with his decision to ignore the atrocity. If he did, he kept it to himself.

Saudi Arabia is an ally after all, his reasoning went. In addition to the oil, they are a player in the Middle East to help check Iran and they also buy their weapons from us. How can we lose? 

Realpolitik they call it.

By now the journalist’s fate is gradually fading from the headlines. Soon he will be forgotten. Fellow journalists who are sympathetic to his cause will remember him but the public at large will forget.

Our president will meet with the prince and salute him and support him, and we’ll see it on TV, both men smiling.

But did it have to be that way?

Our president could have raised his voice and endorsed the findings of his intelligence services. He could have said, “a prominent journalist who chose to stand for more freedom in his country was murdered by the leadership.” He could have added that America would not stop investigating the crime. But our man did not do that.

Here was an opportunity for a world leader to influence the course of the history of a nation and instead he settled for oil and a contract to buy weapons. Never mind that we have become the top oil producer in the world.

There’s something wrong with that stance, isn’t there?

Yes. Something deeply wrong.

The president’s supporters should pay careful attention.

The man may call his decision an instance of realpolitik and that he is doing it for you. I call it an instance of being amoral and predict it will come back to hurt us.

But it’s not the first time, is it?

No. In fact, it’s happening here at home too, in full view, and we’re looking the other way.


A National Referendum on Immigration. America Needs One Now.

The NY Times, in an article dated 11/22/18

reports on a recent interview The Guardian did on Hillary Clinton. She spoke of Europe needing to get a handle on immigration because that is what lit the flame. Responses from the left were critical, while one leader from a far right Italian party stated, “Maybe Hillary has understood the lesson.”

The European Union has had a rough time dealing with the large number of refugees from Syria, the Middle East and Africa. Merkel in Germany was a strong advocate for welcoming them at first but eventually opposing parties forced her to compromise. In time, pacts were made with Turkey, Libya, Sudan and Niger to stem the flow and as a result the number has dropped by about 90% as the article states.

Hillary’s statements were addressed to Europeans but arrived at a time when the worst of the storm appears to have passed for them. For us, however, with dark clouds above us, her words are timely.

Trump would not have won the presidency if he had not seized on immigration – ‘lit the flame’- and run with it. He demonized and mocked immigrants at will, rousing enough voters to gain a narrow and bitterly contested victory. 

To many of us it was clear from the outset that Trump was scapegoating immigrants. We also thought that the tactic would be clear to most Americans. Sadly, it was not.

Whomever composed what came to be known as his base, was willing to ignore the obvious flaws candidate Trump showed. That the economy was recovering nicely under Democratic leadership and promised greater gains did not, in the end, make a difference. That Obama was enforcing immigration rules and deporting people living here illegally, did not either.  

The base was angry and wanted something right away.  

Globalization was browning America.

And there was Obama on our screens every day as a reminder of it.

The base, mostly white, said no.

That Trump is a clever manipulator there is no doubt. He knew that globalization had taken away jobs and that governments – both Republican and Democratic – had failed to institute the needed measures to remedy the damage and that therein lay the problem. But harping on that was not incendiary enough to fuel his campaign. Painting a black and white picture was. For a segment of Americans that had felt left behind and wanted quick answers, it was an approach made to order. “You’re good, they’re bad,” cried the great wizard from his mighty pulpit, “Yeah! We got this!” And emotions were roused. The hustler from New York was in a hurry to get elected. He was 70 years old and running out of time. He needed to act fast.

He’s still doing it.

So why is the democratic party still uncertain as to what to do about immigration?

Is it a problem or not?

How does it break down?

Who should come in and who shouldn’t?

Are immigrants needed?

What skills should they have?

The answers may be obvious to some but not to all. Why, then, not bring the issue directly to the people? Why not hold a National Referendum on Immigration where both sides present their views to the country and then we vote on it?

A National Referendum on Immigration would put the matter front and center and allow all of us to pause, assess the arguments in favor and against and make a choice.

Otherwise, the issue is likely to linger on unresolved and remain a force that the president uses to stir up sentiment and advance an agenda that is not in the interest of the nation.

It is clear that Trump does not speak for all Americans, nor does he seem intent on it. Criticisms of his conduct have been loud and harsh from the start, with his electoral win in 2016 tarnished given the evidence of Russian meddling and his having lost the popular vote.

Add to that the results of the recently concluded mid term elections. The House being a better representation of the country at large than the Senate, is there any doubt that the results were a referendum on Trump?

So now is the time to push forward boldly and bring clarity to the question of immigration.

If the majority of the nation were to vote that, yes, we need to restrict the flow, then that is what we should do. But we ought not to let Trump continue to use the issue to brazenly stir dangerous nationalistic sentiments that if not checked, will divide us further and lead us down the road to ruin.

Presented with the facts – through a rational discussion of the pros and cons of immigration – Americans will do what makes sense for the nation today and help clear the path for the country to come together.

Presented with the facts, we stand a chance to stop tearing each other apart and focus on pressing matters.

A National Referendum on Immigration will help us get there sooner.

Trump and Jamal Khashoggi. What the Affair Reveals.

Please see for yourself the entire statement released by the White House on 11/20.

Here’s the 5th paragraph,

“Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an “enemy of the state” and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that – this is an unacceptable and horrible crime. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”

There’s no evidence that Jamal Kashoggi was an enemy of the Saudi state. He was a critic of it, a man who wanted to help steer the Saudi leadership away from the repressive practices that stifle voices of dissent, the very forces that killed him. He had been close to the leadership but had felt compelled to speak more openly, which is why he chose to move to our country while simultaneously holding residence in Turkey.

The CIA, after careful review of all the evidence produced by Turkey, where the murder took place, concluded that Mr Khashoggi could not have been assassinated without the knowledge of the crown prince. But Trump has no qualms rebuffing such verdict and instead accepting the king and crown prince’s denials. Did the crown prince have knowledge of the event? “Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” says Trump. Hard to believe.

But it sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Indeed, Trump said something eerily similar in Helsinki this last July – after a question from a reporter regarding Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections – immediately following his summit meeting with Putin.

“… my people came to me, Dan Coats (from National Intelligence) came to me and others, they said they think it’s Russia… I have President Putin… he said it’s not Russia. I will say this… I don’t see any reason why it would be… I have confidence in both parties… I have great confidence in my intelligence people… but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

Why should Trump not trust his intelligence agencies?

If Putin and the crown prince deny strongly their wrongdoing, is that supposed to negate the conclusions drawn by teams of seasoned experts in intelligence gathering?

Additionally, Mr Trump has openly stated that he will not listen to the tape produced by Turkey containing the gory sounds of the killing of Mr Khashoggi.

What does that mean?

When Trump chooses to not listen to the tapes of Khashoggi’s murder it is not just him not listening, it is all of us. It is America not listening.

What image do we project to the world when we behave as such?

Can Trump not find the strength to face the facts?

There’s something sordid and venal about Trump’s willingness to excuse the Saudi prince.

That Saudi Arabia has signed up to invest 450 billion in our country, a sizable portion going to the buying of weapons, is not a reason to hide from the truth.

This is not to say that geopolitical considerations should not be weighed in.

Saudi Arabia is a long term ally of ours and as such a counter to Iran’s aggressive influence in the region, but giving the Saudi elite a pass in this heinous act is not compatible with the Saudi people’s aspirations to become a modern state.

Why not, for instance, call for the prince to stand trial for the offense, in the presence of international observers?

Would that be a destabilizing event for Saudi Arabia? Maybe, but it would be an important step toward introducing political accountability in the country and preventing the crime from happening again.

It may well be resented and seen as interfering with their governance, but in the end, likely to invigorate the forces of reason and enlightened civility.

As a sovereign nation, it will be up to the Saudis to do as they wish, but taking a public stand for justice leaves us in a strong position while sending a message to all of our allies.

If we were dependent on Saudi oil, the geopolitical considerations would be quite different. But we are not. Thanks to the spirit of innovation that our nation retains, we have become the largest oil producer in the world. That matters. And so does our moral integrity, for it fuels courage, creativity and vision.

So far, Mr Trump has been unable or unwilling to grasp this essence.

This is not lost in the eyes of the world. Appearing to be beholden to a ruling elite is not only detrimental to our image abroad but also, and more importantly, to the image we have of ourselves.

Either way, America loses.