Wednesday, January 11, 2017

I say Goodbye To Obama With Mixed Emotions

President Barack Obama has given his farewell address to the nation after eight years at America’s helm. As I’ve said in the past, I truly like Obama as a person and there is no other living President that I’d rather have a beer with than Barack. He is intelligent, articulate, compassionate and has a great sense of humor. And I stand in awe of his family and his relationship with Michelle, which has been so loving and true through very difficult times as they endured years of vilification and racist attacks from hateful conservatives.

All of that said, my assessment of Obama’s tenure as POTUS is mixed, and I cringe when I hear supporters trying to elevate his status to one of America’s greatest leaders. The highest praise I have for Obama is that he had the strength to accomplish what he did in office in the face of a hostile, obstructionist Republican congress. Getting the Affordable Care Act passed, his success in keeping the economy growing consistently, his dedication to dealing with climate change and his positive steps toward normalizing relations with Cuba are wonderful accomplishments, especially when you consider the ceaseless opposition of Obama-deranged congress-people.

The biggest disappointment I’ve experienced with Obama revolves around his early promise of “change.” When Barack first campaigned for the presidency in 2007-08, his rallying cry was “change,” and many of his speeches reminded us of the myriad failures of the two-term Bush administration, from 9/11 to the invasion of Iraq to an economy in the tank. Myself and other progressives were inspired by this rhetoric, believing that the Senator from Illinois meant that he was going change course from the horrid policies of George Bush and take us in a new direction. Unfortunately, this did not happen in some very important areas.

The undemocratic, unconstitutional security state set up by the Bush administration after 9/11 remains intact under Obama. The Patriot Act, Homeland Security and other excuses for invading privacy in the name of fighting terrorism continue to hum along undeterred despite the revelations of criminality and overreach by Edward Snowden. And it is reprehensible that the Obama administration has cared far more about intelligence leaks and how to stop them than it has about the intelligence abuses revealed by the leaks. The drone program was expanded under Obama and he has authorized more secret military operations in countries around the globe than any of his predecessors.

While his rhetoric makes him sound like one of the common folk, his actions have often been aligned with the interests of corporate America over what’s best for the rest of us. Despite the devastating effects of the 2007-08 financial crisis on this country’s economy, Obama’s corporate friendly administration refused to bring criminal bankers to justice, and he failed to support any substantive measures to rein in Wall Street. And his support of the horrid Trans-Pacific Partnership has been inexcusable. This secretive multinational agreement is a disaster for the environment and workers, allowing corporations to put profits above all else.

There is more — the Obama administration’s lackluster response to the failed war on drugs, allowing hundreds of thousands of prisoners to rot in jails for non-violent drug-related offenses, his wrong-headed, weak-kneed support of public education, his deportation of more immigrants than any president in history — and it doesn’t paint a picture of the progressive reformer many of us had hoped for.

The question is whether Obama was a good guy who was simply overwhelmed by the entrenched Washington elites or that there is a darker side to the man than his public personae lets on. I want to believe it’s the former, but either way, this is not a president who I would rank among America’s greatest.

Look In The Mirror America And The Reflection Is Trump

It has come to this. In the historical blink of an eye, the United States government will be run by a pack of delusional, reactionary sycophants who will gladly grovel before a modern-day coke-snorting Caligula, who himself lusts after a pouting barbaric strongman. Imagining they will ride grizzlies shirtless together over endless fields of supine serfs, Trump dreams of Putin, armies of Orcs and an all-seeing eye finding and destroying his pathetic, weak enemies.

America is now in the clutches of a soulless narcissist with daddy issues, a Dickensian monster who would gladly provide gruel for school lunches and send children to work in coal mines if it enhanced profits. Trump is the ultimate capitalist writ large, an amoral huckster always searching for the deal, whether he’s working the C-suite office or the Oval Office. Capitalism has no soul, no morals, no impetus to do good. The bottom line is all that counts, and that is the genetic soup out of which Donald Trump slithered.

Centuries of historical whitewashing, nationalistic cheer leading and media propaganda have led us to this moment in history. Trump is the monster that western capitalism created. He is the ultimate icon of the greed, racism and classism that this country was built on, which no one is willing to acknowledge. Trump is America, the all too real face of genocide, racism, nationalism and Christian extremism. Trump is the last great white hope and he will fail. The only question is how much damage he will cause before he meets his destiny.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Our President-elect Has The Maturity Of A Nine-Year Old

The big news of the day is actress Meryl Streep’s passionate take down of Donald Trump at the Golden Globe Awards, specifically citing his public mockery of a New York Times reporter with a physical disability who dared to cross the president-elect’s path. Mature adult that he is, Trump almost immediately started twittering about Streep, hurling personal insults at her because, well, he’s Donald Trump. And Trump had the audacity to say it didn’t happen and he would never mock a physically disabled person.

Of course, there is a very widely circulated video of Trump mocking the physical disability of a New York Times reporter (see photo above). One of Trump’s supporters popped up in a comment section trying to defend Trump by wondering why anyone would take Streep seriously, as she is a liberal talking to a liberal audience.

I imagine sitting at a bar enjoying a beverage with the person who wrote that comment and what I would want to say in response. “If you had a physical disability or a child or a spouse with one, and a man publically mocked that disability, would it matter to you if he was a conservative or a liberal, or would you just consider it demeaning, hateful and wrong?”

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Trump Is A National Crisis, But Don’t Take My Word For It

Living in the midst of a non-violent (as of today) national crisis is far different than viewing that crisis through the lens of historical scrutiny. If you strap on your blinders and turn off the parts of your brain responsible for critical thinking and common sense, the reality as it stands today is that Donald Trump won the Electoral College vote and that we should all simply accept that the system still works and move on with our lives. Trump supporters are more than eager to point this out in comment sections across the Internet, and there are even Democrats who are more interested in talking about 2020 than what is happening in the present moment. For them, it’s a done deal.

Yet republics rarely fall with an earth-shattering crash. Rome wasn’t built in a day and it certainly didn’t fall in 24-hours. The rise of Nazism in Germany didn’t happen overnight and was preceded by WWI and two decades of growth within the German political system. Trump’s quick ascendency to the most powerful office in the country isn’t the result of one crazy day when millions of Americans suffered a bout of temporary insanity and voted him into office. It has taken at least three decades of conservatives stirring up the anger of white Americans with a poor-oppressed “us” against the powerful, elitist “them” storyline to take us from the affable but dim-witted Ronald Reagan to the racist demagogue Donald Trump.

Talk of America being in a national crisis is even too much for a lot of middle-of-the-road Americans to accept, with many characterizing it as “the-sky-is-falling” hyperbole of left-wing losers. What is making me stand up and take notice is that it is not just the usually vocal lefties who are sounding the alarm, but many more liberals who would normally be considered anything but Chicken Little alarmists like former Clinton administration member Robert Reich and Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman. These guys are not prone to yelling “fire” unless there is ample solid evidence a fire is truly burning. According to columns and posts by these two and others over the past couple of months, there is genuine concern about the future survival of this country under Trump.

It’s important to understand that Reich and Krugman are not just worrying about this new administration and Congress enacting bad policies or passing faulty legislation, they are fearful of Trump’s threats to the very fabric of our democracy, such as free speech, a free press, and the rights of citizens to peacefully protest, not to mention this administration’s dangerously antagonistic and militaristic approach to foreign affairs. 

To Reich, Krugman and myself, Donald Trump represents a real and present threat to American democracy and to this country’s physical safety. We know Trump is a dangerous loose cannon, an adolescent in an orange man’s body capable of making mistakes on a scale unimaginable in previous administrations. Not only is Trump a loose cannon, they warn, but he is surrounding himself with reactionary ideologues who have no business working at such high levels of government.

Trump is not business as usual. He is not merely Bush with a fake tan. His willful ignorance and childish, reactionary decisions are dangerous and will have very serious and potentially life-threatening consequences for Americans. If you don’t want to listen to me, okay, but how about a Nobel Prize winning economist?

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Trump’s Attacks on the First Amendment: How Far Will He Go?

America, the ship of state is being steered into very dangerous waters by Republican fanatics who are avowed enemies of democracy. Yesterday, House Speaker Paul Ryan demonstrated the attitude of the Trump administration and its lackeys in Congress toward the first amendment. Ryan has made no secret of his desire to completely defund Planned Parenthood. In response, supporters of Planned Parenthood brought a petition to Ryan’s Washington office with nearly 90,000 signatures, hoping to present it to the congressman. Before they arrived, Ryan was meeting with constituents. When the Planned Parenthood group showed up at his office, they were met by a locked door and a security team. Ryan didn’t accept the petition or meet with any of the PP members.

Trump and his loyalists have absolutely no respect for free speech or freedom of the press, two cornerstones of American democracy, and administration spokespeople (particularly Kelly Ann Conway) and The Donald himself, have routinely made hostile threats against people and media outlets that criticized the incoming President. The irony that everyone but Trump can see that this comes after eight years of virulent and racist right-wing attacks on Barack Obama.

The alarms being sounded about the Trump administration’s attacks on free speech and freedom of the press are not coming solely from left-wing pundits, but from media outlets as staid and mainstream as Newsweek. In a November article titled, “Donald Trump’s Threat to Press Freedom: Why it Matters,” the author writes, “With little more than two months before Trump takes the oath of office, the threat to the media — and the public’s right to know — is reality.”

The question is, how far will Trump go to try and silence his critics? This is not a rhetorical question. In an interview with a CBS Miami affiliate, Trump agreed with the statement that the First Amendment provides, “too much protection.” He said, “our press is allowed to say whatever it wants,” and vowed to try and change current laws to make it easier to sue media companies.

There's no question the Trump administration will work hard to circumvent the First Amendment to silence critics. It’s up to us, we the people, to make our voices heard loud and clear that freedom of speech and freedom of the press must be protected if we are to continue calling ourselves a democracy. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Give Trump A Chance? You Don’t Need A Crystal Ball To See The Problem With That.

Someone on my Facebook page responded to a derogatory post about Trump by writing, “This is the most ridiculous thing ever. Give the man a chance. He hasn’t even been inaugurated.”

I generally refrain from responding to comments like this on FB, because it is an exercise in futility. Trumpites live in an alternate reality where logic and reason as we know it do not exist. Since this is my blog, however, I can write what I damn well please, so there.

Under many circumstances, I might agree with the commenter, but we’re talking about Donald Trump here, and that’s a whole different ballgame. It’s different because we already know Trump all too well after months and months of campaigning and debates. We know for certain he is a habitual liar, and seems a true believer in Hitler’s observation that, “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”

We know Trump has no interest in facts, science or the constitution. He has demonstrated this on numerous occasions by skipping important intelligence briefings, condemning the well-established fact of climate change as a hoax, and by harassing and, in some cases assaulting, people who openly disagree with him.

Based on recent comments and tweets, we know that Trump has no problem with starting a new arms race with Russia and trade war with China. What kind of a fool thinks those are good things to do or will help our country in any way?

With state electors abrogating their duty to be the last line of defense against a tyrannical leader in America, we have no choice but to give Donald a chance, so the FB commenter will get his wish, to everyone else’s detriment.

Bill Maher made the observation that watching Trump in action is like watching a three-year old play with a loaded gun. You already know things are not going to turn out well.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

“Destroying America Is Hard Work,” Claims Trump

WASHINGTON, DC — President-elect Trump fired back at critics today who claim he is spending too much time Tweeting and meeting with rappers and too little time on his transition to the duties of the President.

“It’s just another mainstream press attack on me. They hate me. Listen, I am busting my butt here yelling at people, firing people and making very, very tough decisions,” said Trump, who seemed to be suffering from a cold as he was constantly rubbing his nose. “Do you think it’s easy to find the worst possible candidates to be a part of my administration? It is hard work, let me tell you.”

Trump pointed to an easel behind him with a lengthy appointee checklist. Categories included “unhinged,” “easy scapegoat,” “sycophant,” “poorly educated,” and “stinking rich.”

“You see that?” asked Trump. “Every candidate must meet all these criteria to serve in my administration. Obviously, there are only an elite few who can cut the mustard. It took like, three hundred years or something for this government to get where it is today, and it’s going to take some time to tear it all down.”

When asked why Trump wanted to tear down the very system that allowed he and his father to become wealthy, the President-elect laughed.

“You’re looking at it. Giving every redneck, low IQ individual the right to decide who will lead them simply because they’re of a certain age is a recipe for disaster. The morons made me President of the United States. Me! What more proof do you want that the system is broken beyond repair? I’m just going to speed things up a little bit.”

Before asking another question, Trump’s phone rang and he answered it.

“Vlad, good to hear from…. You’re angry? Why? No, that isn’t exactly true. I did precisely what you said, down to the letter. The transfer will be made today. Please, calm down. Listen, come to Washington after the inauguration and I’ll show you the time of your life. Don’t you want to see Romney squeal like a pig? I thought so. Da, da. So long.”

Trump smiled and put away his phone. “See? I’m working my ass off here."

Monday, December 12, 2016

America’s Conundrum: Trump Is Horrible And Should Go, But Does Anyone Want A President Pence?

Today’s Boston Globe includes an article titled, “Who will stand up to Donald Trump?” The author of the piece chronicles the many times Trump has bullied his critics on Twitter and in speeches in recent weeks, and notes the lack of backbone shown by the mainstream press, congressional Republicans and, of course, his inner circle of sycophants. Will anyone stand up to Trump, wonders the author?

This is actually a complex and subversive question. It chills me to the bone to read an article in one of America’s premier mainstream newspapers calling for someone, anyone, to give our bully President-elect a beat down. And yet here we are as a country, seemingly helpless against the dangerous loud-mouthed fraud who scammed the system to become President.

The question of who will stand up to Trump becomes subversive when you consider its scope. If all legal means of keeping Trump out of the White House are exhausted, who can stand up to Trump? Even if a large number of American people rise up en masse against his administration, Trump will always claim he was legitimately elected President, which is technically true (at this point), and he will never voluntarily step down.

The only scenarios I see for rescuing America from President Trump are that he’s convicted of a federal crime or impeached with the help of the less crazy Republicans in Congress. But neither of these storylines has a happy ending, because getting rid of Trump means helping religious lunatic Mike Pence become our Commander in Chief. So we’d be trading a narcissistic bully for a fanatical Christian. It’s a lose/lose situation.

I was always taught that nobody likes a bully, but that was obviously a fairy tale because a whole lot of Americans just voted for one. Thanks to our poorly educated, racist, reactionary friends and neighbors, we have boxed ourselves into a corner that will be almost impossible to get out of. Hard as it is to believe, standing up to Trump and forcing him from office might be worse than keeping him in.