Friday, August 25, 2017

So Who Needs the Statue of Liberty Anyway?!

Guest Blogger - Randy Hamud, Civil Rights Attorney

While the Statue of Liberty still stands proudly atop Liberty Island and beckons the world to give her “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free,” President Trump would turn his back on all of them. In a heartbeat.

As you may have read recently, our President supports a new immigration proposal that would reduce the present foreign-born percentage of the U.S. population from approximately 14% to less than 10% by halving legal immigration from approximately one million per year to 541,000.

Since arriving immigrants and their children would comprise approximately 90% of our future population growth, lessening their numbers would result in fewer consumers to buy our products, reduced income-tax receipts, and a shrunken workforce.

Worse yet, the proposal would limit family reunification to spouses, parents, and minor children of our immigrants, and create a points system favoring English-speakers, educational achievement, and skills that would benefit the U.S. economy.

When asked whether that system betrayed the Statue’s call for the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses, administration spokesperson Stephen Miller noted that the poem “came later” and did not define the immigration system as protecting them.

So, who needs the Statue of Liberty anyway? In this Administration, she has been reduced to no more than a magnificent - and expensive - anachronism. Henceforth, the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses will just have to go elsewhere.

Though approximately 4 million tourists visit her every year, none of them pays an entry fee. And it costs approximately $61,000 per day to operate her. That translates into more than $22 million annually, a definite drain on the federal budget.

Yep, our best bet is to dismantle her. After all, she does have some intrinsic monetary value, and that's what matters most, right?

Her 60,000-pound copper body and 250,000-pound steel inner-frame are worth approximately $260,000 on the metals-recycling market. The 5,000 sheets of 23.6 kt. gold leaf (approximately 5.8 oz.) cladding the torch are collectively worth approximately $6,500 at today’s rates.

The pedestal itself is mostly poured concrete with granite facing. Not much value there.

But if we were to cast some of her metal components (but for her head, torch and tablet) into commemorative coins, and sell each one for, say, $20, we could raise $15 million to $20 million to contribute to the U.S. Treasury. Or perhaps to pay off the legal bills of Trump'd cabinet members.

And we could make money off Liberty Island, too. Work now proceeds there on a new, 26,000-square-foot Statue of Liberty Museum, being built with money raised by private benefactors.

Displays featuring the Statue’s actual head, torch, and tablet would be irresistible to tomorrow’s tourists.

The U.S. Treasury could cut itself in on the museum’s entry fee and generate millions of dollars for the general fund.

The other 14 acres of the Island are also ripe for development. Because the Island rests on bedrock, a high-rise, 50-story, mixed-use building housing a hotel, apartments, and condominiums could be easily constructed on the site.

Such a building could provide up to 400,000 square feet of usable space at a rental rate of $2,000 per square foot, the present cost of prime South Manhattan real estate. That’s approximately $800 million, which would be taxable by both New York State and New York City.

And don’t forget that a certain real estate mogul would find this business opportunity irresistible. He presumably already has a name for the building: Trump Liberty Tower. 

It's gonna be yuge!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Trump and Obama: All Wrong on Afghanistan

There was nothing new under the eclipsed sun today or in President Trump's speech tonight on Afghanistan. What we heard was mostly incoherent war-like bromides from a man who said repeatedly for the last seven years, at least, that the war in Afghanistan is a "total disaster" that needs to end.

In 2013, Trump declared, "I agree with Pres. Obama on Afghanistan. We should have a speedy withdrawal. Why should we keep wasting our money -- rebuild the U.S.!"

He was right then. He's wrong now. Trump's allegedly bold new approach to the longest war in American history is simply another extension of a failed policy dictated by his Generals.

I daresay it sounds just like President Obama, if a tad more hawkish. The choices Trump made in his speech tonight are actually just about identical to what Hillary Clinton would have done had she been elected. She is in fact a more consistent hawk than Trump or Obama.

I was hoping Trump would keep his campaign promise tonight and follow his earlier instincts to end this quagmire once and for all. But I was hoping against hope: he's lied and/or flipped on literally every single political issue. Name one, and I'll show you a flip and/or a lie.

There was resolve in his speech tonight, and some frustration. But there wasn't much substance. He has no plan. His only genuine idea is to add 4,000 troops. And that came from the Generals not from him. There will no real change in outcomes.

It just won't work. No matter how you loosen the reigns of warfare, no matter what you do, none of this will work. Afghanistan is a train wreck.

Do I want the Taliban to flourish in Afghanistan? Of course not. Was I for the U.S. going into Afghanistan after 9/11? Of course! But this war needs to end.

The war against terror is indeed worldwide. It is not against one country, and for that reason we need to focus on the world, on ISIS, on terror at home, and not put all our eggs in one corner of the world that will never change no matter what we pursue.

Neither Trump's rhetoric tonight nor his new plan will change that.

Taking More Credit for an Obama Operation

Trump also made the preposterous claim today that Obama withdraw too hastily from Iraq, when in fact the decision to leave was settled by Bush before Obama was even in office.

Laughable, too, is the fact that Trump took credit tonight for the recent success in Mosul, which was an Obama operation that Trump condemned before he took credit for it.

The only really "new" ideas Trump proffered tonight was his empty threat to Pakistan and his characteristically stupid decision to incite India and Pakistan, two countries with nuclear bombs that already despise each other and don't need any excuse to increase the hostilities.

Trump is a nothing. He stands for nothing. He's an empty suit. The guy who said he "knows more than the generals" knows squat. His "plan" is, in style and substance, almost exactly like Obama's plan, which of course did not work, either.

The Obama bashers tend to forget that it was Obama who was ultimately responsible for the surge in Afghanistan of 100,000 U.S. troops. But he realized that this civil war, with all its players, is a quagmire and is un-winnable.

And that is the only message, the only lesson, the only mantra, that anyone should take away from this open-ended conflict:

Afghanistan is a U.S. military operation with no endpoint, and it's not making us any safer!

Obama wasn't willing to pull out, and Patraeus was subsequently inexplicably praised for his counter-insurgency plan that in fact was an absolute mess, as I reported for The Daily Beast in 2012.

Obama was a much better president, a much better leader, and a much better commander in chief than Trump, in every demonstrable way. But neither one knows what to do with Afghanistan.

It isn't an easy decision, to be sure. But Trump has no idea what he is doing. And whether or not we tell our enemies when we will withdraw is a moot point. Timelines are virtually meaningless in a war that has lasted almost 17 years.

It's time to get out of Afghanistan.


Back When Trump Was Semi-Sane

Trump believed this whole-heartedly. For years. Tonight, he should have listened to his former self when he actually, at times, made some sense.

Courtesy of CNN, here's a telling look back at what Trump has said about Afghanistan dating back seven years:

October 7, 2011
"When will we stop wasting our money on rebuilding Afghanistan? We must rebuild our country first."

February 27, 2012
"It is time to get out of Afghanistan. We are building roads and schools for people that hate us. It is not in our national interests."

March 12, 2012
"Afghanistan is a total disaster. We don't know what we are doing. They are, in addition to everything else, robbing us blind."

August 21, 2012
"Why are we continuing to train these Afghanis who then shoot our soldiers in the back? Afghanistan is a complete waste. Time to come home!"

January 14, 2013
"I agree with Pres. Obama on Afghanistan. We should have a speedy withdrawal. Why should we keep wasting our money -- rebuild the U.S.!"

March 1, 2013
"We should leave Afghanistan immediately. No more wasted lives. If we have to go back in, we go in hard & quick. Rebuild the US first."

May 8, 2013
"We continue to lose our nation's finest in Afghanistan almost daily. The Rules of Engagement are costing lives."

November 20, 2013
"Afghanistan leaders want the U.S. to keep 20,000 troops there for many more years, fully paid for by the U.S., but first they want apology."

December 1, 2014
"Now Obama is keeping our soldiers in Afghanistan for at least another year. He is losing two wars simultaneously."

October 6, 2015
"We made a terrible mistake getting involved there in the first place. It's a mess, it's a mess and at this point we probably have to (leave US troops in Afghanistan) because that thing will collapse in about two seconds after they leave."

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Trump on Charlottesville: An Epic, Cowardly Fail

With white supremacists descending on Charlottesville, Va., today in an ugly "Unite the Right" rage that predictably turned violent, President Trump had an opportunity to unite all decent Americans and once and for all distance himself from all white supremacy.

Instead, Trump delivered a pathetic, feeble speech that didn't even mention the word white supremacist or even racism. He even had the audacity to suggest there were "many sides" to blame for the violence.

We already know that Trump is a smarmy, silver-spooned realty TV show host and pathological liar who brags about molesting women and is a bad and unethical businessman who defrauded thousands of students with his fake university and has bankrupted four or five of his businesses.

But today, he reached a new low. I never thought Trump was a true-red racist. But what he is, clearly, is a Machiavellian man-child who will say or do virtually anything to win favor. He simply did not possess the character or courage to do the right thing today.

And it's crystal clear why: He can't afford now to lose what little support he still has. Trump's only remaining loyal base are angry white males on the far fight -- some of whom are racists. God forbid he should alienate them by calling out the neo-Nazi protestors that wreaked violent havoc today and once again made our country look bad in the eyes of the world.

Not sure why I should be surprised by this. Two of Trump's closest advisors, Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, are unapologetic racists. The engine that drove Trump's presidential campaign all the way to Pennsylvania Avenue and now drives his ugly presidency is in fact white nationalism.

It's an unabashedly anti-black, anti-muslim, anti-hispanic, anti-gay, anti-LGBT, anti-jew administration that frankly mirrors the motivations of the protestors in Virginia today. The evidence is overwhelming, in both the rhetoric and the actions. Just listen to and look at his speeches. They're filled with red meat for this hungry crowd.

More importantly, look at his policies. Virtually every act in the failing Trump regime has been anti-minority, and anti-poor. He wanted to decimate Medicaid, which would have been disastrous for millions of working-class and poor African Americans and Hispanics. Ironically, though, it would have also hurt millions of poor white people who voted for Trump.

The President also recently ordered Trump's cracker lapdog, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a known racist who once said the only thing he didn't like about a Klansman was that he smoked pot, to re-evaluate and potentially get rid of affirmative action.

Meanwhile, unlike Trump, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe did the right thing, right away. At a press conference this afternoon in which he announced that three people had died in the violence, he delivered the unambiguous message to these haters that Trump just didn't have the stuffing to say.

Go home," McAuliffe said flatly. "You are not wanted in this great commonwealth. Shame on you."

This president should have said something like that. He doesn't shy away from calling out the North Korean president. But he won't go after evil in his own backyard.

Trump is a coward. A full-bird coward. His general, garden-variety condemnation of violence today was not enough. It wasn't even close to enough.

Trump declined to answer shouted questions about the white nationalists marching today in his name, or whether the car plowing into a peaceful counter-protest could be called terrorism. Of course it's terrorism. But you didn't hear Trump say it.

America is not blind. From the moment Trump officially entered the political arena, many of us saw with clear eyes that he was opportunistically ramping up the hate and fire of the alt-right.

Trump could have steered a new course today. But no. He doesn't have it in him. He has done nothing to improve race relations since he was elected. He has in fact made it safe for these white-or-fight scumbags to act out.

His plan from day one was to reach out to angry white male voters, to whip them into a frenzy by any means necessary -- including lying over and over and over about his opponents.

And now that he's got ‘em, he's not gonna let them go.

Because most Americans have widely already abandoned Trump's leaky boat.

The underlying but absurdly false message Trump has been trying to spread since he was elected is that that there is no more racism in America.

Graphically, tragically, today's events in Charlottesville prove otherwise. Racism is alive and well in this country, and the racists are feeding off this coward in the White House.