Writing

Piece 54 – The Presidency Unhinged By. Raimondo Graziano

                                                         The Presidency Unhinged

                                                           By. Raimondo Graziano

            The American Presidency occupies but only a small portion of the Constitution, the strong yet oft tested guardrails of our republican democracy. The executive has over many decades and nearing three centuries now gradually expanded its powers, authority, reach, and influence. Many presidents have used the executive branch to propel their agenda forward, cement their legacy and undermine the other branches of government meant to be coequal in their distribution of power and authority.

            From Andrew Jackson to Franklin Roosevelt and to Donald J. Trump, those at the helm of American democracy have steadily expanded the ‘imperial authority of the Presidency.’ As we venture further into the next century and as partisan divisions grow ever entrenched, the dangers that are posed by a Presidency unhinged, unrestricted in the exercise of its perceived and unspoken powers, grows ever stronger. With each passing day of apathy from the American public and dereliction of duty by the Congress and the threats of partisanship within our courts, we teeter closer toward elected dictatorship.

            The influence of the two parties within the country have helped to elevate their standard bearers, their leaders of the party, to a powerful evocative symbol – a dangerous symbol. A unflinching loyalty to not a man, but to an idea. The man as an idea. But the inherent danger is to, in our blind pursuit of personal and ideological agendas, elevate dangerous demagogic figures with their own personal agendas to the heights of power, because we believe they represent more than simply the man. We are allowing the festering of an unhinged Presidency disseminate amongst us.

            In short – we forgive the once unforgivable, we accept the once unacceptable, we endorse the once impeachable. In short, we have given the Presidency, and the man who occupies its office, an endorsement to pursue an agenda at any cost. Today it is the Republicans, tomorrow perhaps the Democrats. Though the day after? Perhaps Julius Caesar himself, seizing the authority of Rome and ceding its powers to one man veiled with the veneer of a populist fury, promising to liberate the people. In our continued longing for a savior, we will bring about the degradation of our liberties and the utter dismantling and destruction of our democracy.

Writing

Piece 53 – A Condemnation of Congress By. Raimondo Graziano

                                                     A Condemnation of Congress

                                                        By. Raimondo Graziano

            If there is any American institution which stokes ire and contempt from the public it is Congress. Congress has become a woefully partisan gymnasium, full of hacks and political lackeys for their respective parties and interests as well as lobbying groups and a whole cacophony of dirty phony patriots, apologists and agitators of the highest order. These representatives that we have put into office are beholden not to the voters but to those who cut the checks that line their pockets, and fill their campaign coffers. It goes without mentioning that Congress rarely passes pieces of legislation that have any major bearing to what it is the American public is seeking. The American public longs for systematic institutional change to address the harrowing issues that they face. They mask themselves in a facetious love of the country, yet they do nothing for the people and the nation that afforded them the highest opportunity to serve the public. They serve themselves.

            This deformation of patriotism, this false love of country is borderline treasonous, and most certainly negligent and a dereliction of duty. They are ardent apologists for themselves, blaming their inability to do what is right on obstruction that they themselves have caused. They are hacks and lackeys because they perpetuate lies, and they peddle talking points fed to them by their national committees, and of course the special interests and lobbying firms that feed to them the policies that they know little to nothing about. They are bought and paid for by both foreign and domestic entities all with competing interests – none of them, the interest of the American people.

            They serve themselves, enrich themselves and blame the constituency for not being informed about the issues, they blame everyone but themselves. Their hubris and their blatant malice towards the American people is dually noted in the hearts and minds of many. It reflects in the discourse, and the American people know that those whom they send to Washington on the taxpayer’s dime, are frauds – they feel as though they have no true power or say in the political process. And of course, they don’t – Republicans work to suppress the vote, disenfranchising millions from voicing their truths, and Democrats work to suppress dissenting opinion, they suppress anything that works to move them closer to a progressive stance. In truth – Republicans and Democrats alike are cut from the same political cloth soaked in blood, a disengaged, out of touch political class of elites licking the boots of industry and anyone or anything which can keep them clothed in the black sackcloth that is American power.

            Congress has routinely failed to live up to its constitutional duties to serve, protect and defend the American public – let alone our founding documents, and our guiding principles. To the congress, these things are simply trivialities, things to be referred to rhetorically, or used as a nod to principles which they lack wholeheartedly. Governing is the duty bestowed upon these men and women, and they skirt this moral responsibility habitually. Why not, when accountability is neither an issue nor a concern – when the media on either side bolsters the arguments of these bonafide talking heads who perpetuate falsity, after falsity and continually undermine the American people. It is a vast understatement to say that reforms are needed – to campaign finance, to term limits, in regards to accountability and in regards to very premise and foundations of what it means to be a member of what is meant to the greatest deliberative body in the world.

            The corruption and rot within the hallowed halls of Congress runs deep, and if the American public does not wake up to the siege laid upon them then The United States of America will befall the same fate as the Roman Republic. In these times of trials and tribulations and with no stern captain at the helm of our democracy, of our republic, with no statesmen left and with no leaders to lead it is up to the people to keep their republic, it is up to the people to shake the shackles of corporate oligarchy that besets this country, it is up to the people to refresh the tree of liberty for all Americans. It is, and shall always be, up to the people. One can only hope, that the fickle hand of fate is on our side.

Writing

Piece 52 – Trumpian Foreign Policy

Trumpian Foreign Policy
By. Raimondo Graziano

The last few years of American foreign policy have been astoundingly dismal. In truth, the rot within the American diplomatic corps, the policies that have been put forth by the intelligentsia of the United States have been guided by faulty premises, a lack of a coherent national vision and have been held hostage by the whims of the ever changing administrations that occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue – these failures in American leadership have been piling up for decades. Those at the top, have a vague understanding of what the national interest ought to be. They are guided by misjudgments, corruption and a lack of direction.

The same can be said of the President today. While the man, and unlike other administrations who’ve worked collaboratively on policy, dictates his policies to be enacted in what seems to be a whimsical manner – he still touches upon issues which are relevant, and perhaps have been pushed to the wayside by the mainstay politicians of Washington. From immigration reform, to the depleted nature of our nation’s military, then on to Washington’s corruption and the reluctance of our allies to share the load in regards to the maintenance of the international order. Yet when he goes about pursuing his talking points and turning them into policy, often there is a divide between results and rhetoric.

There is a propensity to pursue an independent American foreign policy, pushing aside our allies and the decades of built up relationship building. While a strong rhetoric is something to be admired, especially in a world marked by consistent challenges to the order we have established. Then there is the insistence on following through on campaign promises, even when the national security and national interests of the country might be threatened. What is most glaring is the withdrawals of troops throughout the Middle East; which leaves room for other nations – Iran, Turkey, Russia and other non-state actors to fill the gap in American leadership. The pulling back from multilateral agreements which the President argues undermine American sovereignty and self-determination has not always been the right course. The critiques leveled at Iran and the deal struck just four years ago are valid. The agreement did push the issues down the road, and did not address the missile capabilities of Iran. While with the trade agreement struck between the United Stated and the Pacific nations would’ve been a boon to the country in combating China.

The President may touch upon the surface issues, on the pulse so to speak of the times; but the nuance and complexity of the issues, the need to rope together differing alliances and competing interests to pursue grand strategy is lost on this administration. The opportunity to boldly lead in tackling corruption, holding our allies accountable, and standing up to the worse rogues that plague this world is there. But in many ways, the administration is guided by the impulses of a man, who is guided by conflicting personal interests and a pride unlike no other. In the end, in this era of Trumpian policy, the people are yet again let down. Perhaps in the years to come, the revolutionary ideas of the Presidents brand of politics will translate into something truly transformative and bring about top down change, and sweep away the ever-rising tide of apathy, corruption and dereliction of duty. But for now, the same old persists under the veneer of change, under the guise of bringing America back to greatness.

Writing

Piece 50 – The Promise & Perils of New York City By. Raimondo Graziano

The Promise & Perils of New York City

By. Raimondo Graziano

 

New York City is one of the most diverse and wealthy cities in the world. Wealth in it’s people, and their character and the stories they hold. And wealth in the sheer abundance of opportunity and promise it holds. Though here there is wealth, monetary and material wealth which abounds in a great thunderous exchange of goods, services, luxury and great inequality. Great, terrible inequality.

This city has a history of corruption and governmental neglect and negligence at the hands of those the people dually elected. In some cases democracy does not always work to the favor of the people of this city. As rent rises to highs not seen before in this cities history, the wealthy move in and supplant neighborhoods and peoples who have had roots here for generations. Our elected officials do little to nothing to mitigate this. Often they are in the pockets of those they are meant to protect the people from.

Often it is the power of political parties and the monied interests of Wall St. And the Real Estate industry who hold our elected officials hostage with exorbitant campaign contributions. These in the hands of the powerful, the movers of the levers of government though not elected, are a dangerous tool acting as near as can be though skirting the gray moral line that divides contributions and bribes. It is not this city rejects wealth and chastises it. Rather welcome it with open arms. We must take a cautioned, measured and practical approach to the wealth that enters this city uninhibited.

If those that seek to come in look to benefit from the promise this city has, from its story and its trials – then they need to invest in these communities which have been here for generations. That’s individuals and corporations alike! No one ought to get a free ride and welcome mat laid out simply because they have a fat wallet. What message are we then sending our children? The stewards of this city in the years to come? As our mayor returns from his quixotic campaign for the Presidency, as he flies in, and prepares to get back to the job he was elected for let him be reminded of the issues facing this city.

Firstly, a housing crisis in affrodabilty, while countless tens of thousands of New Yorkers remain homeless, and a shelter system that many outright avoid. Secondly, a crisis in our wellbeing and health. I’m talking about the Overdose Crisis, where we have lost thousands of New Yorkers to a preventable overdose and countless more the horrors of addiction and the stigma that comes with it. Thirdly, a mayor who cannot work effectively with his Police Department to ensure that they receive the support they need while at the same time holding them accountable for their actions and in many cases negligence. Fourthly, educational disparities within our school system, disparities in opportunity.

The way we tackle this is not through ending programs for gifted students, but rather expanding access and resources to the people of New York, to those who don’t have access to begin with. To tackle a nuanced problem we needn’t follow the recommendations of the mayors bureaucratic commission, to penalize those who do well, but to gove opportunity to those who haven’t been given the chance to succeed!

Fourthly, the lack of expanded economic opportunities to smaller business which are struggling to compete with larger and often aggressive chains and other corporations. Let’s empower the people, and unleash the untapped potential in many cases lying dormant in this great city. We needn’t demonize corporations but rather, we can say to them – You have had your fill, let the people profit from the well too. We can reward responsible corporate practices, and those which are sustainable and empower workers by encouraging the growth of unions, while scrutinizing those who face no such oversight.

In other words, what this city deserves, what it’s people deserve and what is long overdue is a city government that works for the benefit of the people, responsible progressive and pragmatic governance for the benefit of all New Yorkers, those here for generations and those who seek to plant their roots. We can achieve this together, it is our hope that together this vision for a truly progressive, responsible and action oriented city government can become our reality. That is the hope of this city, that reason and justice, and personal responsibility projected outward can uplift and transform this city into a model for responsibility and duty and honor the world over.

 

Writing

Piece 49 – Damn the Iran Deal, The West Should Not Give An Inch By. Raimondo Graziano

Damn the Iran Deal, The West Should Not Give An Inch

By. Raimondo Graziano

 

The United States has been known from time to time to wage wars based on the premise of regime change. That of toppling governments that do not align with the views of the United States based on the followings premises- antipathy toward democratic values that the West as a whole holds close to its heart, violent and virulent actions taken against the people of whatever nation it may be, and when the national security interests of the United States are jeopardized. In this The United States is acting on the right side of history, not only for it’s own sake but for the sake of the West as a global institution responsible for the longest sustained peace in history, democratization for the vast portions of the people of the world, and for the unleashing of sheer human potential.

As the first among equals, the United States holds the unique responsibility of ensuring peace across the world and the continued dominance of the West as the captain of the ship dubbed human history. With that stewardship comes harsh realities and sometimes even harsher choices. We have had leaders who would defer these responsibilities and we have had leaders who have stepped up. We have had leaders that have done both at the same time. In some cases their decisions have been for the better and others for the worse, far worse. Perhaps the harshest lesson we can learn from history is that appeasement in the face of a belligerent, anti-democratic actor can lead to utter catastrophe. I need only say Neville Chamberlain, our good friend from across the Atlantic, who spoke of “peace for our time” referring of course to the chancellor in Germany, Adolf Hitler. Appeasement is the way forward for those who haven’t the stomach for the necessary task of confronting aggression wherever it may be coming from.

Whether they are motivated by domestic politics, the specter of reelection, or simply fixated on legacy building. Who doesn’t like the still quiet of peace? It is something that everyone can readily get behind. However, peace at any cost is never the answer. Today we face a similar threat, though perhaps we wouldn’t like to admit it. Iran is a rogue actor in the Middle East and has funded numerous terrorist organizations throughout the region and around the world, they have leadership both within their armed forces and politically that speak enthusiastically about the demise of Israel and the West. They threaten and intimidate Europe with their medium and short range missiles, saying they can increase their ranges to put the whole of Europe at risk. They have been accused, with evidence of pursuing nuclear weapons and with their coziness to rogue organizations, this is recipe for calamity. It is probable that they have attacked oil refineries in the region, they have seized a British tanker and have refused to let it go, while the British have released their own, which was seized in the first place for violating sanctions rightfully slapped on them.

The JCPOA or the Iran Deal as it is referred to was a hardly fought diplomatic effort which in the end did not guarantee that the nation would not seek nuclear weapons, nor was their any provisions regaridng their human rights abuses or their funding of extremist groups – it simply put a cap for a number of years, and in return sanctions were lifted and their capital frozen from the sanctions, measuring in the hundred billion dollar range was released to them. Not to mention no addressing of the short range or medium range ballistic missiles. All in all it punted the issue down the road for some other administration to deal with while our esteemed politicans had praise heaped on them by the mainstream media for their efforts at securing peace. This was not peace, this was appeasement. Now the current administration has pulled out from the deal, rightfully. Iran has begun enrichment once more and has stepped up their dangerous and reckless behavior in the region once more using the Strait of Hormuz, where a large portion of the worlds oil supply moves through, hostage – using it as a bargaining chip or an overt threat more aptly put. They have effectively signaled their unwillingness to comply with the accord, and they stick to it in nothing but ink on paper. Lest they forget that the deal has other signatories, they care not for the deal or they would adhere to it regardless of the United States’ involvement.

The harshness of sanctions is the right path forward, a pressure campaign meant to cripple their capabilities to continue to sow discord throughout the world. Their behavior cannot go unchecked and it is the United States who has the heavy burden of leveling these actions, holding them accountable. This will give the United States no great honor or accolades from the international community nor support from our European allies who are poised to lose the most should Iran continue its belligerence. They would rather appease further and undermine the United States and its diplomatic efforts. Sanctions may be a harsh tool, but they are a diplomatic tool, a bludgeon, nonetheless. France today is offering an aid package to Iran to account for the lost revenue from oil Iran has suffered because of the sanctions. The aid package would effectively blunt the blows The United States needs to deliver to secure true and lasting peace. France, thinking itself the steward of the European Union, seeks to go the route of appeasement, just as Chamberlain, another steward of Europe, did nearly eighty one years ago. Less than one year later, the world was plunged in darkness. Damn the Iran Deal, let it whither and die the rightful death it deserves, the West should not give one single inch.