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Donald Trump has played so fast and loose with so many hot button topics in his brief political career, none so hot as playing footsie with the Nazis. That’s strange considering that Trump is our oldest president. The son of Tom Brokaw’s ‘Greatest Generation,’ especially as a German, Trump should be extra touchy whenever the N-word is thrown around, in my humble opinion, and not so much with the ‘good people on both sides.’ From what I can see, the only group marching in the ‘Unite The Right’ protest in Charlottesville that had any claim to legitimacy were the weird ‘Promise Keepers.’ The rest were a bunch of asshole quasi-Nazis, spouting hateful, anti-Semitic nonsense.

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Impeach The Witch!

After 20 people had been brutally put to death in 1692 (one pressed!) for the crime of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts, merchant Thomas Brattle, Jr. wrote a letter to a cleric associate that was widely circulated among the citizens of a fearful and angry Salem. His thoughtful, reasonable answers to the religious and legal questions at hand were a carefully worded argument against the ghastly trials. His letter could be considered a founding document of the United States, a forceful rebuff to the judges and accusers in the ‘oyer and terminer‘ court of the time. The ultimate proof of power was that the trials ended less than a month after it’s circulation and opinion shifted virtually overnight. No one has ever been convicted of witchcraft in America since. That, of course, until the sad case of United States v. Donald Trump – as he has continuously tweeted, the Russia investigation is nothing but a ‘WITCHHUNT.’

Brattle attended Harvard College in 1676, after graduating from the Boston Latin School, where classmate Cotton Mather (son of Harvard President Increase Mather) would go on to become one of the leading prosecutors of the Salem Witch Trials. Donald Trump is such a blithering moron that his cries of ‘WITCHHUNT’ have little meaning when Twittered to his 30 million Celebrity Apprentice fans. The red hats will probably confuse the reference with Frankenstein anyway and carry torches to Congress in some midnight, Roger Stone-led ‘protest’ when he finally gets impeached.

The 1692 trials have spawned eternal clichés about witch hunts since the servant and sassy slave got devilish in the forest. Their acts and words have had reverberations throughout American history, lately verbed by our President, Donald J. Trump. He claims he’s the worst treated president ever! The Russia investigation is fake news cooked up by the Democrats! The case against him for obstruction of justice (real or not) is a WITCHHUNT! What’s lost in much of the discussion, as per usual with Don John, is what actually happened. Playwright Arthur Miller struck back in the same way Thomas Brattle struck back at the original time of the trials, only in his medium, drama. The Crucible stands as a powerful indictment of lying and manipulation, highlighted by the powerlessness, fear and humiliation associated with an aggressive and unjust prosecution. Cotton Mather, stung the most by Thomas Brattle’s even-handed indictment, never recovered his reputation and was denied the presidency of Harvard College. He is remembered today as the personification of pompous and brutal judgement.

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Trump/Nixon

With reported leaks of ‘back channels’ and secret negotiations with Russia in the news recently (as well as the ongoing furor over the firing of F.B.I. Director James Comey), I thumbed through Richard Reeves’ excellent bio, President Nixon: Alone in the White House to bring myself up to speed on the master secret negotiator and power broker himself.

After World War II, the transition from war and conflict to peace and stability was the main problem in which most U.S. presidents grappled. Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. the U.S. Senator from Massachusetts and also U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam from 1963-1964 during the Kennedy Administration, which viewed South Vietnam’s President Ngo Dinh Diem as an ineffective leader, tacitly supported the coup d’etat that overthrew his presidency. In reviewing the conditions that lead to U.S. involvement in Vietnam, Lodge said in an interview in 1979:

Well, there was a big to do in the Eisenhower administration. Vice President Nixon took part and Admiral Radford took part, about uh sending US forces into…into Vietnam. And Eisenhower let them all talk and the upshot was he was against it and we didn’t do it. It was just as simple as that.

The interviewer pressed:

Interviewer: Do you think perhaps the attack on the pagodas was calculated to impress you as you were on your way out to Saigon? In other words, do you think the attack was staged to coincide with your appointment and your imminent arrival in Saigon?

Lodge: That might have been. I’ve often thought of that but you can’t tell. You don’t know.

Interviewer: Now, just the day, about the day after your arrival, two South Vietnamese generals, Le Van Kim and Tran Van Don, made contact with two CIA representatives in Saigon, Rufus Phillips and Lucien Conein and the generals wanted to know whether the United States would support the army in a coup against Diem.

Lodge: I [had] discussed it with uh, um, with Tran Van Don.

Recognizing that this was not going to be a relaxing, nostalgic interview about the good ‘ol Kennedy years, Lodge quickly lost interest in answering any further questions. As Ken Burns and Lynn Novick revisit the Vietnam War this summer with their new PBS documentary, I recommend also the seminal Vietnam: A Television History as well.

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100 Crazy Nights

Photo: NBC News

The first 100-days (and nights) of Donald Trump as president has gone just about as well as I had expected: Not. Republicans usually enjoy such a low bar of expectations that most people I know are just happy that the world hasn’t ended since he took office. His latest dumb remark about Korea once being a part of China, and the problem that caused with all Koreans, is an allegory for his dumb presidency and his first 100-days. Trump is an absolute lightweight politically and his presidency a real-time, abject failure. Can you imagine if half of his lousy executive orders had become enacted, save a few judges stopping the most egregious because of their lousiness? What effect on the U.S. economy would that first idiotic executive order on immigration had wrought hadn’t the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit not struck it down?

It makes sense that when faced with a metric, in this case the first one hundred days as president, that Trump simultaneously blunts expectations by Tweeting that it’s a ridiculous standard while holding a media event to trumpet his massive 100-day successes. Of course any standard to Donald Trump is a ridiculous standard. Standards can be met and unmet. When you’re always right, you don’t need standards. My mother once told me (actually, often) “Even a broken clock is right twice a day.” That’s an apt analogy to Trump’s veracity. He averages about 1 out of every 12 statements as being true. Full disclosure, my dear, sainted mother was a Reagan Democrat – who would have probably voted for The Donald – bless her sweet heart.

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Warning: Fake News Alert!

Let’s get this out of the way: The Newes from America is Fake News. We are as fake as a $2 bill. Even our name, the ‘Newes’ isn’t real. It’s Olde English. I’m not John Underhill. We’re not even a real news gathering site. Our only agenda is to provide links to the stuff we like and tell the stories we want to tell while trying to make you laugh every once in a while. Donald Trump may have introduced the term Fake News into the lexicon, however, he is far from the first politician to call into question what’s real and what’s fake. Manipulation of the truth is a human trait, and Trump is correct in pointing out that sometimes, even the New York Times is Fake News and sometimes, even the National Enquirer is Real News.

Fake News is not a new thing. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams trolled each other on ‘Colonial Twitter’ – pamphlets and gazettes – before they became cordial and even friendly in old age. Bad mouthing and planting lies in the press is standard practice in American political life since before our founding – and it’s been the task of citizens ever since to sleuth out the fact from the fiction. Coherent arguments, supported by facts, are the only way to achieve a meaningful understanding and trust in our institutions. Democracy is like the social scientific method – a free and open inquiry style government.

We at the Newes from America do cite our sources with the help of links that take you to articles and information available on the big, wide, world web. Readers have always been responsible to figure out for themselves what’s true and what’s not. It’s called freedom. When your government gives you one newspaper, radio channel, blog and TV channel to watch – and tells you what to think – the true propaganda danger of Fake News comes to life.

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So-Called President Trump*

Charles Krupa, Associated Press

There once was a time when I actually admired Donald Trump. I had never liked him before – for all the obvious reasons – yet on August 18, 2006, I was watching a Friday night Red Sox game against the Yankees and there he was, throwing out the first pitch in hallowed Fenway Park. There was a different vibe to the usual, let’s say, ungracious response from the crowd to the hated Yanks that evening – it was the kick-off to the annual, late summer Jimmy Fund telethon. The Jimmy Fund is one of those great organizations that make you proud to be a Sox fan. They support the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, raising millions of dollars to help save lives and give hope to cancer patients everywhere.

It was a brutal day for the home team, losing the first game of a double header by double digits, then later in the second game, which the Yankees won 14-11, The Donald visited the broadcast booth and he had a very good appearance with announcers Jerry and Don. They yakked about baseball stuff and then Trump had a lot of nice things to say about the Red Sox organization and the Jimmy Fund. That went a long way with me, and I found myself thinking, “Hey, maybe he’s okay.“ He was funny, engaging and even came off sounding a little humble.

After raising $2.3 million in 2005, they were aiming to reach a target of $2.6 million that year and were only $60,000 away from reaching their goal. Like a golf ball teed high, Trump struck – I’ll cover it! He said without hesitation. PING! It was one of those perfect moments that will be part of the Trump Presidential Library collection, I assure you (admission fee required). It was as if the billionaire from New York swept the broadcast booth and the audience off their feet while his team swept the Red Sox off the field. The Sox would go on to finish third in the AL that year, 11 games behind the first place Yankees.

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What Sank The Titanic?

With President-elect Titan Donald Trump’s cabinet now firmly in place, it’s abundantly clear that he will most definitely not govern with rational thought as his guide. He will, as he has always done, conduct himself in a way that is highly emotional, compulsive and weird. That millions of Americans voted for this buffoon is befuddling enough, yet it’s with this prerogative (if not mandate – the guy lost the popular election by THREE MILLION VOTES), Trump is still Tweeting inane rants about the CIA, Jill Stein and the recount and anything else that keeps him up at night. It’s all so very unsettling. In the elitist enclaves of Harvard Square, liberals are freaking out as never before while my barber, an early Trump supporter, gave way with some back story on Christian Evangelical Trump support during my latest haircut: apparently, some firefighter predicted Trump would win the Presidency back in 2011 and save America. He then prophesied that Armageddon would be next on the agenda. Makes sense to me!

End of the World prophecies are as old as the written word itself and there’s no shortage of end-time entertainment to suit all tastes, from Michelangelo’s The Last Judgement to the film 2012 (2009) when, as you may remember, the world was supposed to end because it was penciled in the Mayan calendar. The Four Horsemen have been corralled since then, but with the ascendancy of Donald Trump to the United States Presidency, our culture is once again primed and ready for some serious Revelation! Make that Revelations 21:8:

But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

Baba Vanga, the Russian mystic who predicted that the world would end in the year 3793 and who foretold the break-up of the Soviet Union, the Chernobyl disaster, the date of Stalin’s death, 9/11 and the Kursk disaster, also said that America’s last president would be black. The human tendency to self-fulfill prophesies will spawn insane Alex Jones-style theories that wackos who believe in Fake News will greedily lap up, re-tweeted by Steve Bannon’s idiot fear machine – all care of septuagenarian Donald J. Trump at 3AM Washington time. Let the tribulations begin!

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Donald Trump: America’s First Italian-American President

When Bill Clinton was elected president in 1992, there were claims that although he was of English, Scottish and Irish descent, he was really America’s first black president. Writer Toni Morrison, in an article in the New Yorker in 1998 summed it up this way:

Years ago, in the middle of the Whitewater investigation, one heard the first murmurs: white skin notwithstanding, this is our first black President. Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime. After all, Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas.

With the election of Barack Obama in 2008, that notion seems almost quaint by today’s standards. Back in the late eighties and early nineties, however, the idea that Bill Clinton represented an alliance and identification with African-American voters was very much appreciated by George H.W. Bush, for one. Republicans were blindsided by a man from humble origins, who worked his way up through Hope High School to Georgetown and a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford and Yale Law School to the governor’s office and the presidency – all the while speaking like a preacher.

We remember John F. Kennedy as the first Irish-Catholic President of the United States, yet on his final visit to Ireland as president, Bill Clinton said on December 12, 2000:

When I started to come here, you know, I got a lot of help in rooting out my Irish ancestry and the oldest known homestead of my mother’s family, the Cassidys, is a sort of mid 18th century farmhouse that’s in Rosleigh and Fermanagh. But it’s right on the – literally right on the border. And in my family, all the Catholics and Protestants intermarried, so maybe I was somehow genetically prepared for the work I had to do. Maybe it’s because there are 45 million Irish Americans, and I was trying to make a few votes at home. The truth is, it just seemed to me the right thing to do.

Here, Bill Clinton suggests that his gift of empathy began in his family and naturally gave him advantages when growing up in the Deep South in connecting with African-American voters – in addition to his Irish brethren. Identity politics, that ugly step-child of the civil rights era, was well understood and embraced by Bill Clinton in a way never seen before. Donald Trump has certainly learned this lesson.

President-elect Donald Trump has long been proud of his German heritage, yet keenly aware that being identified as German was a liability when collecting rent from Jewish tenants, some of whom were survivors of the Holocaust. His father Fred Trump identified himself as Swedish for this reason and this lie may have shaped young Donald’s adolescent thinking back in Jamaica, Queens – his family home. Donald’s mother was born in Scotland in 1909 and I would suggest that Scottish was his considered ethnicity before John Oliver outed him as a Drumpf.

Being German and Scottish is run of the mill stuff as far as U.S. Presidents are concerned. Kenyan Barack Obama is also of Scottish and German ancestry, as are the last five or six presidents for that matter. There have been dozens of German and Scottish presidents, yet there is now one Italian-American president for us to take (some) pride in: none other than Donald J. Trump. The J, by the way, is for John. So yes, his name is Don John Trump. Don Juan Trump. Just suffice it to say that he’s our first Italian president.

What does he sound like, you may ask? Well, he sounds like a New York GC (General Contractor) with a little Tony Soprano sprinkled in for effect when he’s among friends. His weird vocal inflections that Alec Baldwin so perfectly nails on Saturday Night Live are the result of his holding back on his natural country club dragged r’s and jutting chin drawl. How arrrre you? See you at the Cluuuub. He’s figured out a way to talk as plainly as he can, but when a deal is on the table and The Donald wants his way, it’s Queens Italian all the way. Just ask the owners of Carrier, United Technologies, who were somehow convinced by The Donald to change their minds and keep 1000 jobs in Indiana.

Queens, Brooklyn and New York City have more Italians than any other place outside of Italy. (Actually two other places supposedly have more Italians, but I find that hard to believe. I want a recount!) The influence of Italians on New York City identity and culture cannot be overestimated. A product of New York City, Trump is at least as “Italian “ as he is German and Scottish. The neighborhoods of Greater Jamaica, Queens, where Donald grew up, including Woodhaven; St. Albans; Rosedale; Springfield Gardens; Queens Village, Howard Beach and Ozone Park were an enclave of German, then primarily Italian families. The following funny video, featuring comedian Mike Marino, imagines an Italian-American president and was recorded in 2010:

If the US had an Italian President

If you watched the video, I’ll just rest my case. We have an Italian president. Still not convinced? How about Italians themselves recognizing the similarities between Trump and their former Playboy President Silvio Berlosconi? It’s not just the machismo, it’s the Italian way of making it all look so easy. Fuggettiboutit! Donald Trump once told Sir Richard Branson that his life’s mission was to destroy five people who went against him years ago. That’s all he had to say to him. Now that’s Italian.

Joking aside, millions of Italian-Americans hate to be associated with the mafia and are appalled that the history of the United States is rife with anti-Italian hate,  yet the mob is all anyone ever wants to talk about. The largest lynching in American history was committed against Italians and future President Teddy Roosevelt, then heading the United States Civil Service Commission, wrote to his sister Anna Roosevelt Cowles on March 21, 1891 and had this to say about it:

Monday we dined at the Camerons; various dago diplomats were present, all much wrought up by the lynching of the Italians in New Orleans. Personally I think it rather a good thing, and said so.

We’ve come a long way. Trump inner-circle ally Rudolph Giuliani, for all his get-off-my-lawn crazy grandpa routine lately, is a proud Italian American. He did more to change the negative perception of Italians in America since the great Fiorello La Guardia, when in the 80’s, his fearless prosecution of La Cosa Nostra in New York set the stage for a new day for Italian history and culture in the United States. Give him the credit he deserves and as far as I’m concerned, he would make a superb Ambassador to Italy – not so much Secretary of State.

Today over 17 million Americans claim Italian ancestry since Christopher Columbus sailed from Europe, among them the identity of America itself: explorer Amerigo Vespucci. The list of Italian-American sports heroes and entertainers is too long to list and a glimpse of the Pioneers of Italian-American history include such luminaries as New York Governor Al Smith; Bank of America founder Amadeo Giannini; Businessman Lee Iacoccoa; Inventor Enrico Fermi (and an honorary mention to Nicola Tesla); Film Directors Frank Capra, Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese; Actors Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro; Artists John Singer Sargent and Frank Stella; Writers Don DeLillo and Camille Paglia; Cardinal Joseph Bernardin; Politicians Mario Cuomo, Geraldine Ferraro and Justice Antonin Scalia.

In fact, the first non-native American to be appointed to a U.S. Cabinet position was Italian-American Anthony J. Celebrezze, Secretary of Health and Human Services during the Kennedy Administration. The current Chief of Staff of the United States Army, General Raymond T. Odierno, is Italian-American, as is General Anthony Zinni, former Commander in Chief of U.S. Central Command. And let’s not forget Nancy Pelosi – the first woman in U.S. history to hold the office of Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. Someday, an inheritor of this rich Italian-American heritage will hold the office of President of the United States. Until then, we have Donald Trump: America’s First Italian-American President.

 

John Underhill

November 30, 2016

Fidel Castro is (Finally) Dead!

Fidel Castro died today, November 26, 2016, at the ripe, old age of 90. In response to this (not unexpected) news, Donald Trump Twittered© “Fidel Castro is dead!” That Donald Trump is no threat to Cicero is not breaking news. When the adults came to work at Trump Tower (Do they get double time for Saturday?) they released the following statement:

“Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights,”

Still, Trump didn’t repeat a vow made during the campaign to reverse Obama’s normalization process, saying that his administration will:

“Do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty… While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve.”

I’ll add this to the expanding list of campaign flip flops in the fervent hope that Trump remains, wait for it – rational in his approach to governance. All elected officials lie – and for good reason. For those who find this appalling, I suggest you pull your head out of your ass. The nuance is how, when and where they use the unique gift of rhetoric called lying. I have some confidence that the Donald Trump that I know from NBC’s “The Apprentice” will be a bright-eyed student on this subject, albeit continuing education for seniors.

To govern well, and to remain in power to govern at all, is underpinned by a field of study called politics, of course. It would be a fool who would get involved in something that they know absolutely nothing about without first learning something about it. As a businessman, I’m certain that Trump has read and can quote from Sun-Tzu’s The Art of War. It’s required reading for the potential billionaire, almost as important as Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged in the halls of the Wharton Business School. For the politician, it is Cicero and more relevantly, Machiavelli that Trump must read and understand, insofar as Donald Trump is now the Orange Prince of America.

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Mourning in America

There is no analogy in U.S. history to compare to the election of Donald J. Trump as our 45th president. Perhaps Ronald Reagan in 1980 is the only case study for historians. What President Trump does going forward will define his legacy – not his past. As with Ronald Reagan, Donald Trump will be the oldest United States President ever. The implications of this were apparent in the final years of the Reagan Administration. Can you imagine an Access Hollywood exclusive about Melania Trump consulting Baba Vanga on how to handle The Donald? Try.

The Reagan comparison was sagely made by Frank Rich on June 1st of this year when he wrote, “All the empty boasts that have marked Trump’s successful pursuit of the Republican nomination, his affinity to Reagan may have the most validity and the most pertinence to 2016.” Unlike Reagan, however, Trump didn’t need to waste money on expensive advertising. He simply blurted out whatever came to his mind on Twitter.

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