Tuesday, June 19, 2018

THE TRUMP PRESIDENCY: A MONSTROUS MORAL AND POLITICAL MISTAKE

Many US voters anticipated and feared that a Trump presidency would be a disaster, and could readily sense, from it's very beginning, that his reign would be a very troubled one for the nation.  When he began forming his Administration with Cabinet Secretaries and other top officials chosen with the express intent of dismantling everything the Obama Administration had set in motion, not just revise specific things that experience showed needed some adjustment, it was obvious to many that the nation was in for a rough ride. Few, however, anticipated just how bad it would become. With the current moral and human atrocities now taking place on our southern border, with children being separated from their parents in callous disregard for their well-being, in Trump's hastily announced "zero tolerance" approach to dealing with asylum seekers crossing the border without papers, it is abundantly clear that the Trump administration has irrevocably crossed the line. His Administration is morally bankrupt, his election a monstrous mistake, one that it may take the nation decades, if ever, to recover from. For Trump, the month of June 2018, may well live on, in painful, lingering infamy, for our nation and for the world.

Trump has shown an amazing ability to survive through multiple misdeeds and outrageous behaviors during both his election campaigning and the first year and a half of his presidency.  His insulting attacks on rivals, his demeaning, sexist behaviors towards women, his appointment of administration officials that have turned the White House into a veritable Den of Vipers, Liars, and Thieves (making other historical references to such terminology seem like minor offenses in comparison), his embrace of racists and white supremists as if that kind of ideation is still officially acceptable in the United States, his rejecting and insulting our primary, longstanding international allies one day, then showing a willingness to embrace dictators who have been threatening destruction on our nation and our allies on the next day.  The list of his offensive behaviors could go on, his disparaging of the Never Again movement, ignoring the pleas of high school students to do something about the easy accessibility of assault weapons that has turned too many schools into shooting grounds,  an incident occurring at a rate of approximately one per week during his presidency. His mocking of the Me Too movement, not taking seriously that many women have a serious issue with having been violated by males in our society, whether in the form of sexual abuse, harassment, or disadvantageous employment or financial opportunity.  Trump has somehow survived all of his outrageous offenses, through deflection, counterattacks, or distracting the attention of the nation to his next outrage, which will consume media attention for a period of time, allow the energy and momentum of previous protest movements to dissipate, and soon yet another outrage will be emitted by the White House, media attention again shifts, and on the process goes. Its been that way for a year and half, that's life with Trump, the guy who believes, and I quote, that "conflict is good".

Its a tough call to judge what is worse, what Trump has done so far, or what he hasn't done, the nation's myriad problems that are laying dormant, that he's not dealing with. What he has done is given the nation an absolutely terrible role model as a leader, one who vents anger freely, attacks, divides, is unthinking and heartless in considering the consequences of his actions. Our nation's political divisions are greater than ever, with no middle ground, no end in sight. Our position as a reliable leader of nations in the free world has been uprooted, we still have the power, but have seriously compromised our working relationship with our allies, and Trump is not one to make amends, only to cajole and attempt to exert power.

 Trump has destroyed numerous domestic programs that served real needs, what he hasn't done is provide any creative problem solving on how to replace what he has dismantled. The major tax cut bill he signed will lead to massive deficits in future budgets, that only voodoo economics believes will be offset by revenue gains.  The government's ability to fund needed infrastructure repair and development is at risk, as are the funds for both mandated and other needed social service spending. Environmental Protection regulations are being eliminated, as are consumer financial protection regulations. The ravages of climate change are not being addressed, not even being acknowledged as real.  In financial matters, its "let the buyer beware", and "let corporations, and those with wealth, make all the money they can, by hook or by crook".  That's how Trump made his money, why shouldn't it work for the government?  Its not really America First that Trump proclaims, its Me First.  Forget the greater good, the consideration of All, the truth of real fact, and of Science. Trump has been labeled by some as a malignant narcissist, and he is governing like one.  He is the law, he determines fact and truth, and his narcissism spreads and effects those around him, and threatens to infect the nation.

Will Trump survive the current uproar of June 2018, as he has survived his past misdeeds?  Or will the outcome this time somehow be different?  Will enough Republicans in Congress be offended by  the obvious heartless child abuse that is involved in the child-family separation that is going on at our borders that they will rise up and demand change?  Holding children hostage as leverage to obtain funding for his stupid Wall! Come on! A majority of the nation is outraged, ashamed to see our nation violate accepted humane standards so cruelly, but will their offense last, or again blow over with the passage of time?  Trump has been able to rely on the support of "His People", the 25 to 35% of Americans who seem to have a cult-like capacity to support whatever he does.  Will some of this group begin to fall away from their omnipotent one?  For the children, and for the nation, for all of us, let's hope this particular policy is changed by the time this commentary is read.  But our nation is severely at risk with a man like Donald J. Trump as President. What will his next induced crisis be, his next power play, his next outburst of anger or retaliation for a perceived political slight or failure? Let's hope its not North Korea, if his bromance with Kim fails, or China, or Iran. His list of targets is extensive, and they won't all be children. He does hold the power, the Button is in his hands. Our nation spent decades containing a foreign enemy. Now a policy of containment is again necessary, this time unfortunately for a power that resides in the White House.



Thursday, February 22, 2018

TRUMP, THE NRA, AND OUR ESCALATION INTO A VIOLENCE-PRONE SOCIETY

It took less than a year for the election of Donald Trump to lead to some of the most grim, horrifying results imaginable. He is a master at sewing discord, division, and hatred-inflaming rhetoric, and leaving a trail of chaos and violence in his wake. From his early campaign rallies in 2016, when he encouraged his supporters to "slug" those raising their voices in opposition to him "for him", and he would pay any resulting legal fines for them, he has, and is continuing to, demonstrate that he is the worst possible role model the nation could possibly have, certainly by far the worst that has ever occupied the White House. He intentionally baits his opposition, insults allied nations while at the same time having no compunctions against praising the most dictatorial of world leaders, whether they are friend or foe. Trump's political agenda is one thing, as confusing, convoluted, and self-serving as it seems to be. His personal style, breeding division, animosity, and violence among those observing his actions, may be even more insidious in its effects on the nation.

Its dangerous enough having such a man in the nation's top leadership role, appointing like-minded people to sensitive governmental positions. Our nation does have some controls on presidential powers by our system of checks and balances, including the legislatures, the judiciary, the upcoming elections, and powers reserved for the individual states. These, however, have yet to exert significant influence, if any at all, on Trump. He seemingly has no internal system of checks and balances on his own dynamics and behavior, and the Republicans who control power in Congress act like his willing servants, beholden to his desires and whims, regardless of whatever personal sense of morality and ethics they may otherwise claim. The resulting picture creates a virtual "perfect storm" in the White House, spreading its ripples throughout the nation and into the rest of the world.  We are all intensely watching the drama play out, and love it or hate it, we are all under its influence, and effected by it, in negative, divisive, potentially violence-prone ways.

It is impossible not to be aware of the dramatic increase in irrational, unprovoked outbursts of violence and assaultive behavior in our society. The school shootings are one especially tragic and heart-breaking example of the deplorable uptick in violence, and one that everyone is rightly raising their cries demanding something be done to prevent. Yet, we have heard these cries before, and little to nothing has changed to offset the tragic occurrences. In fact, they have become more frequent, some school-related gun incidence reported on an average of one every 2 to 3 days so far this year. Students themselves are now raising their voices, louder than any others this time. Maybe that will make a difference, get their parents and other responsible adults behind them, and shame the politicians, the established powers, and the gun lobby into allowing some vitally needed changes.

While the gun issue is the key stumbling block preventing effective action being taken to reduce and ultimately eliminate the occurrence of mass shootings, those defending gun possession, like the NRA, do have some arguments in their favor. Mental health is a major issue, our system of preventing mentally disturbed individuals from being able to buy guns needs to be massively improved, and some ways of converting weapons into rapid-firing guns should be banned, and has NRA approval. Their position fails to resolve the problem, though. Mental health problems will always exist, and trying to squeeze money out of Congress to create any mental health detection and prevention program that would be even partially more effective than what now exists is virtually impossible.  The NRA also consistently fights against waiting periods for purchases, so that effective background checks can be accomplished.  It also allows all kinds of private sales and gun show loopholes to occur, so that control of who has weapons can never really take place.

Trump's proposal to arm school teachers, paying them a bonus for carrying a weapon and being trained to use it, is, of course, no solution at all.  The public is against it, school administrators and teachers are against it, and students are against it.  It would only be a step towards accepting being in a society which has adapted to violence occurring at any moment, and a step towards an open-carry society which in reality makes none of us more safe. The only people favoring such a proposal are those who for their own reasons believe that there should be no limitations placed on the right of citizens to buy and possess armed weapons, including even AR-15's and other types of rapid-firing assault weapons.

The kicker, of course, is that the NRA, and the politicians who court its favor, fully support military-style, assault weapons being legitimately sold, no registration, no control, apparently believing it's a basic right granted by the Constitution several centuries ago. The types of guns then existing were allowed to be in  the hands of regulated civilian militias in those days.  This is a far cry from the types of guns now readily available to be in the hands of civilians and the bands of unregulated militias currently active in many states. The NRA and its supporters fail to make a distinction between guns for use in hunting, marksmanship practice, and domestic self-defense, and those that are for use in the military at times of war, otherwise their only use is for wanton random killing of numerous people at once.  In defending assault rifles and other rapid-firing weapons being in civilian hands, the NRA and the politicians who support them are complicit in every mass shooting involving such weapons since the ban on them was overturned, and are further complicit in every subsequent attempt to reinstitute the ban which has failed to be approved by Congress.

Two major thrusts are necessary. The first, focusing opposition to the NRA, and the backing of anti-gun legislation, should be limited to the immediate need to restrict assault-style weapon availability to the public, and branding a "badge of shame" characterization on those who resist these obvious efforts to allow our school children, and the rest of the civilian population as well, to live more freely from the danger of assault weapons being in the wrong hands.  The second thrust of the drive for a much safer, more civil society for all of us, is to label the role model that enters our living rooms daily, emanating from Donald Trump himself, needs to be clearly labeled for what it is, a highly divisive, destructive, and dangerous model for our society, adding to the conflict and violence that is becoming all too prevalent in our nation.  When Trump rants, insults, and threatens "fire and fury", is that the model we want our children, ourselves, and other people to follow. If not, we need to speak up loudly and clearly, and vote with real conviction. Our values, and our nation's future, is at stake. We could go in either direction, Trump's, or those deserving of much more respect. The direction we take is up to us. It could not be more important!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

GOP'S LOST SOUL: SOLD OUT TO THE HIGHEST DONORS AND LOWEST INSTINCTS

How could a political party lose its soul, its integrity, its commitment and responsibility to serve the best interests of the entire nation more dramatically than the Republican Party has in recent decades? The current plunge is into the depths of irresponsibility, as the last vestiges of its moral fiber have disappeared with the advent of the Trump presidency and the party's calculated mixture of acceptance, toleration, and silence as it encounters the accumulation of fake news (i.e., open-faced lying)   and the persistent self-promotion and self-aggrandizement of the president, regardless of the cost to the nation. His numerous violations of precedence and of laws in pursuit of his self-serving ends have all been tacitly accepted by party leaders, as their only real commitment is to pursue their immediate political goals, e.g., repealing the Affordable Care Act, passing their Tax Reform act which so clearly favors the most wealthy, reducing financial and corporate regulations that previous administrations have passed to provide greater consumer safety and protection, and decimating attempts to counter the adverse effects of human-induced climate change. The list could go on. The bottom line is that the Trump Administration is intent on dismembering the very things that have made America a great nation, especially those that have been fought for and enacted during the last 50 years, starting with the Civil Rights legislation of the  1960's.  This legislation was meant to further counter the greatest blight on our nation's history, that of slavery and the continuance of human rights violations and implicit white supremacy. Trump's clear desire, as a closet white supremacist, is to roll back the clock, and the GOP has been willingly complicit.

The GOP's fall into the very depths of depravity have been highlighted by its choosing to ignore the sexual harassment charges that numerous women have raised against Donald Trump, regardless of the presence of considerable evidence, including self-statements made by the violator himself. While some party leaders did draw the line and refused to support accused child sexual harasser Roy Moore in his bid for a Senate seat, their silence in regard to Trump's sexual history speaks volumes. Their agenda must move forward, in their eyes nothing is more important.  It's a sorry sight for a nation that likes to proclaim itself as "exceptional",  valuing itself as a worthy model for the rest of the world, and often even trying to export its way of life and governance to other parts of the world, through nation building efforts supported  by assistance or by force.  Leaders and populations of other nations are looking at us with bewilderment, wondering "what's going on, how could a usually reliable, level-headed nation and ally get so far off the track?" It is not just a question of how did Trump, an egotistic, volatile, self-serving narcissist, become President. The Republican Party's downfall, its loss of integrity, began much earlier, Trump is just the ultimate culmination. How that happened is a fair question, one that deserves a serious answer.

The Republican Party began its history on the moral high ground with Abraham Lincoln, and the new party with which he was elected president, taking on the monumental task of ending the grossly inhumane and unjust practice of slavery which had been accepted by our nation's founding fathers some 80 years earlier.  No cost was too great for Lincoln to succeed in this endeavor, a war was fought, the fracturing of the nation was risked, his own life was lost to the hatred inbreed in the battle. It was that important! The slaves had to be freed, no human being in our nation should be sentenced to serving as a slave for life.  The Republican Party also maintained much of the moral high ground during the presidency of Teddy Roosevelt, with his persistent efforts to preserve public lands, establish National Parks, and protect the interests of all Americans, not just the most wealthy, influential, and privileged among us. His battles in fighting corporations, trusts, and holding companies ultimately cost him the presidency, but he was fighting for the interests of all Americans, not just the few powerful string-pullers at the top.

 The GOP also demonstrated high integrity through some of the significant programs spurred by the Eisenhower Administration of the 1950's. Taxes were high, in some cases more than double or triple what they are now, but the money was well spent on programs that served to benefit the needs of all Americans. Our public education system was greatly expanded and improved, at primary, secondary, and college levels. Our interstate highway system was developed at great cost but to the tremendous advantage of all citizens.  Government was actively and effectively working to improve the quality of its citizen's daily lives. A final high note of Eisenhower's presidency was his issuing a warning, as a last presidential act, of the growing power of the military and defense industries, and the real danger of that power being misused.  Tragic for the nation that the warning was not heeded in coming years, especially by two Republican presidents, Nixon in markedly escalating and expanding the Vietnamese War, and the Bush-Cheney Administration in initiating the Iraqi War.

The GOP's decline as a party that maintained some degree of moral integrity was clearly evidenced during the Nixon years, continuing a war that was dishonestly conceived and prolonged, and then, of course, his presidency ending with the Watergate debacle. It was hoped that Watergate would be a "never again" occurrence, an end to dirty, dishonest politics at that level. Unfortunately, such has not been the case. Politicians have just gotten better at concealing their underhanded tactics and dishonest ways to win. Reagan, for instance, was expert at pretending to be the friend of the middle class, to focus on serving their needs, and those in the middle class did tend to love him and to reward him with their votes. His tax cuts and policies, however, strongly favored the most wealthy, and the percentage of the nation's wealth in middle class hands began dropping steadily during his presidency, and has yet to significantly recover. No way were his policies a "friend" to the middle class. He loved proclaiming that the ten most dangerous words in the English language were "I'm from the government and I'm here to help".  A perfect excuse for his Administration to end policies and programs that did serve public needs, and redirect those resources into programs that benefited his donors and wealthy friends.

The latest impetus to the GOP's descent into moral turpitude was their reaction, as a unified party endeavor, to block, resist, and defeat everything the Obama administration attempted to achieve, even if Obama was undertaking policies and programs that the GOP had previously embraced. Nothing was more important than ensuring the failure of Obama, the best interests and needs of the nation during his presidency be damned.  Politics over patriotism!  Once they gained control of Congress, GOP leadership used their power, not to present any proposals to counter the policies Obama was putting forward, but rather only to see that Obama's programs were defeated. Was it racism, or just short-sighted, self-serving politics?  Either way, no wonder Congress's approval ratings hit all time lows, Obama's years were less successful than they otherwise may have been, and all of government was getting a terrible reputation.  A perfect scenario for a totally wild card, anti-establishment, out-of-the-loop candidate to enter the scene.  Too bad it had to be someone as unqualified politically and as destitute morally as Donald J. Trump.

As the opportunist par excellence that he is, Trump took ideal advantage of the situation that presented itself. The Republican Party leadership had gotten unpopular even with its own voters, he had little difficulty finding fault with, attacking, and dispelling 15 other candidates vying for the party nomination. The primary voters were angry enough to put up with his outrageous attacks, insults, slurs, etc., some even embraced and parroted them.  GOP leadership dutifully stuck with their voters choice, perhaps not liking it, but readily becoming subservient to it.  Mike Pence, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, etc., may be decent men in their own personal behaviors, but they are acting disgracefully in politically becoming beholden to, supporting, and applauding the policies and actions of a man as disgusting and despicable to Trump. Trump has incorporated into his Administration the very worst of the models presented by the Nixon and the Reagan administrations.  He believes and acts, as Nixon did, that the president is above the law, can not be charged with any wrongdoing, so why not use his powers as president to enhance his own wealth and financial holdings, and share it with his family and those in his inner circle. Like Reagan, he claims to be a friend of the middle class, praises his voter base, presents past governments as their enemy but he will change all that.  He does, in fact, the opposite, cutting programs which serve their needs, along with those of the vast majority of citizens, while serving himself, his ego, and his chosen few. In the meantime, the real needs of the nation are floundering.

How long will the GOP leadership continue to tolerate this situation?  No one, of course, knows, not even the leadership itself. They couldn't like the predicament they are in. They have already seriously compromised their integrity and whatever principles they may have. They have to know that the nation is in serious jeopardy, but they seem paralyzed to do anything but what they have already committed themselves to, to plow ahead with an erratic, unprincipled, volatile bordering on crazy leader at the helm. It's unchartered waters, for the party, for the nation, and for the world.  GOP leadership could regain some of their soul and rebel against Trump, but probably won't, they are too compromised already.  Voters may, and probably will, increasingly rebel against Trump, the spectacle they are observing is too odious, and their real needs are being too damaged and neglected. Much of the world finds Trump so distasteful they will reject Trump's style, some of his policies, but will find it difficult to distance themselves from what the US, with its power and wealth, does have to offer to the well-being of their own countries.  Both at home and abroad, it will become obvious that Trump's reputed skill at "the Art of the Deal" is a massive hoax, he is only skilled at fighting Winner-Loser battles, and if he is winning, everyone else is likely to be the loser. Many knew this before the election, but took a chance and hoped for the best. Now the reality is undeniable. The Republican Party is clearly a loser in continuing to support his presidency. If it begins to rebel against Trump now, it will likely fracture the party, and weaken the remaining GOP most likely for decades to come. Doing so would, however, put them on a road to regaining some remnants of the soul, of the integrity, of the patriotic spirit, that once was the hallmark of the Republican Party.



Wednesday, October 4, 2017

TRUMP IS HELLBENT FOR CONFLICT AND WAR: TIME FOR THE PUBLIC TO SAY "YOU'RE FIRED!"

After eight full months of the presidency of Donald Trump, the evidence is now totally clear, the man is completely unfit to be President. He has demonstrated a lack of respect for the Constitution, for our Judicial System, for the people he is meant to serve, and for the demands of the office. Being totally lacking of any real empathy for other people, his only focus is on trying to enhance himself, make himself look good, and receive the praise of others. He is failing miserably in this endeavor, as his personal dynamics leave him with only one way of responding in the conflict situations which are so constantly encountered, both domestically and internationally, by a president: attack, insult, and threaten to destroy his opposition. He lives, breathes, and breeds conflict. As President, this quality is potentially devastating, for the nation and for the world.

 In business, Trump's wealth and financial power allowed him to achieve a modicum of success in gaining his goal of respect, along with a lot of notoriety.  In TV entertainment, his outrageousness gained him an audience, but denied him the respect an EMMY carries.  As President, he has already lost the respect of the majority of our nation's citizens, who find that his proposals undercut their best interests and that his incapacity to lead results in an absolute lack of major policy accomplishments. As a world leader, he is seen as a veritable laughingstock, a leader the world needs to take seriously because of the power he commands as US President, but one they cannot take seriously as a person because of his obvious incompetence.  How can our nation, or the world, grant respect to a leader who does not himself grant respect to those he is dealing with in consequential affairs?  In a more fluid type of democracy, such  as a Parliamentary system, Trump would perhaps already have been voted out of office, or would be very close to seeing his tenure end. Our system moves slowly in such circumstances.  Presidential elections are only every four years, impeachment is a lengthy, cumbersome, uncertain process. Special investigations, whether by the Department of Justice or by Congress, take time, and are subject to the usual political pressures. Protests and resistance efforts can help sway public opinion, bringing more people into the movement, but little can really change until voters have a chance to undo the damage at the ballot box. Congressional elections in a little over a year necessarily become the next focal point.

As concerned citizens continue to mobilize their efforts against the reign of Trump, let's take a look at what are seen as his major offenses, and why his Presidency should not continue. His first major responsibility was to appoint the Cabinet members who would serve under him, leading his Administration's federal departments. Without exception, his appointments were people, often with limited or no experience in the field in which they were entrusted responsibility, who were motivated through political or business connections to undo and reverse many of the social, environmental, educational, scientific, medical, or other gains that their agency had produced during the last several decades. Trump had promised to "drain the swamp".  One might hope he was thinking of reducing the lobbying influence of Wall Street and other special interest groups on policies emanating from Washington, or lessening Defense Department spending in maintaining our heavy military footprint in numerous overseas nations.  Putting a halt to being engaged in endless, winless wars in the Middle East would also be consistent with his pledge to "drain the swamp", as would becoming a leader generally responsive to the needs of the primarily middle class people who formed his base and celebrated his victory. The results, unfortunately, have been quite to the contrary.  Vested interests, whether family, corporate, business, or right-wing establishment, prevail more than ever.

Trump's supporters insist, "give him a chance".  Any elected leader does deserve some months to settle into office, discover what works, begin to prove themselves worthy of the office. Giving Trump a pass on his first six months, let's just look at a few of the things that have transpired recently. He took the onset of Hurricane Harvey as an opportunity to announce his pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, freeing him from serving any jail time on his judicially imposed sentence. He choose  the time of maximum TV coverage because of Harvey  so that his anti-immigrant base would have full exposure of his finally achieving  a success in one of his campaign goals. While he does have the right to issue the pardon, most presidential pardons are issued at the end of the President's term, and after the convicted person has served some prison time. Not so with Trump, which goes along with the lack of respect he had previously expressed for judges and for our judicial system. Some legal authorities would find him guilty of contempt of court, in an implicit fashion.  Trump would undoubtedly like to fashion himself as "an Imperial President", able to have the other branches of government follow his whims and do his bidding. Fortunately, he is discovering otherwise.

A second major transgression, recent and still ongoing, concerns his verbal, tweet-generated threats against North Korea, and his continuing a running battle of attack and counter-attack with their immature, pompous leader. Real leaders, in fact, real men, do not do that! It reveals Trump as an equally immature, hot-headed, buffoon-like individual.  Certainly not representative of the way to engage in any kind of competitive interaction with a nuclear-powered nation with nowhere near our strength and resources.  Trump wants his threats of "we will destroy you" to stand alone, even ridiculing his Secretary of State for mentioning that we do have channels available for communicating with North Korea diplomatically, saying such efforts are a waste of time, adding he would take care of North Korea in his own way. Diplomats are aghast with Trump. Does he really prefer war to negotiation and diplomacy?  Let's hope that cooler minds will prevail in the resolution of issues with North Korea, as well as with Iran and with Venezuela, two other nations Trump has sounded off against impulsively, while other officials and advisors are working in more strategic, quieter ways to navigate the conflicts that exist in our relationship with those governments.  A steady hand at the helm would be preferable, not an erratic hothead.

Two other recent examples of Trump's failure at being a president are his response to the Charlottesville rioting, where he had difficulty finding the white supremacy group of rioters, which included people with Nazi and Ku Klux Klan banners and emblems, any more at fault than those who were protesting their march, and also his handling of the Hurricane Maria devastation to the island of Puerto Rico. The later revealed his total lack of empathy and understanding of what the people of Puerto Rico were experiencing, his lack of awareness of the history and the people of the island as US citizens, his putting down of their needs and minimizing their tragedy, and his tendency to attack, this time very viciously and unseemingly, when his leadership ability is questioned. In this case, was it ignorance, racism, or just Trump being Trump?  Does it matter? There can be a tendency to passively accept what cannot readily be changed. With Trump, we cannot let that happen!  It is too important, he is too dangerous, in his mindlessly arrogant, self-serving way. If you share these perceptions, get involved, join groups, speak out, write letters, contact legislators. The country that needs different leadership is our own, our children's, and our grandchildren's.  It's not too late, but the need is imminent, and the dangers are too real.


Thursday, September 7, 2017

THE REIGN AND THE RAGE OF TRUMP: OUR NATION AND THE WORLD AT GREAT RISK!

For many observers of Donald Trump, their worst fears of his Presidency are becoming all too true. The open war of words he has been engaging in with North Korea's intemperate leader is the last thing needed if there is to be a genuine endeavor to resolve the differences without nuclear missiles flying in both directions. The young leader of North Korea is well known as speaking like a hothead, making extreme, unrealistic threats as a demonstration of strength, while the reality is he is the leader of a small, economically weak, strategically vulnerable nation surrounded by South Korea (defended by the US}, China, Russia, and Japan. In a world that has not done well to prevent the gradual spread of nuclear technology and weapons, despite extensive efforts, he has acquired considerable nuclear capability, and is working on further developments. The last thing needed by the leader of the nation with the most nuclear destruction potential in its hands is to engage in a war of words with North Korea, with ever escalating threats. Only Kim Jong-Un has much to gain from this, his stature and perceived power being enhanced by open conflict with the US, whether through hostile words or military action. Experienced military and political leaders throughout the world, as well as in the US, advise Trump to cool the rhetoric, nothing is to be gained by  "fire and fury" threats except to perpetuate the danger, to expand Kim Jong-Un's ego, and to provide external justification for his harsh military rule over his oppressed domestic population. Diplomatic professionals strongly recommend working with regional allies, Japan and South Korea, along with Russia and China, to encourage North Korea to come to the negotiation table. This is what these nations, having the most to lose through active warfare, clearly favor. This is not done with threats, only with a "carrot and a stick" approach, with some consideration of incentives for North Korea to reach a non-conflict resolution to the issues which have only magnified since the Korean War was left without any real settlement after the active fighting stopped over 60 years ago.  Asking for submission without offering any inducements or benefits does not work. This has not been Trump's way, his emphasis seems only on threats, maximum exercise of power, and unilateral winning. His constant record of engaging in conflicts, lawsuits, attacks on allied world leaders, on members of his own party as well as on opposition leaders, is an ominous record for a novice in the international field.

Similarly, elsewhere in the international arena, the inexperience and unfitness of Trump is unfortunately all too evident. He has attacked and insulted the leaders of many of our strongest NATO allies, leaving them bewildered and uncertain as to the nature of continuing American leadership in the Western alliance.  His often contradictory statements satisfy no one, adding only to the confusion.  He is threatening going down the same road with Iran as he has been with North Korea, talking of unilaterally cancelling the US's involvement in the multi-nation nuclear agreement the Obama administration negotiated with Iran, regardless of our partners stance on the issue. Trump's own advisors are not in favor of our terminating the agreement, but this has not effected the nature of Trump's threats and charges. In the turbulent Middle East, threatening war with Iran is the last thing needed, but Trump seems to have little regard for facts on the ground or the realistic, reasonable, professional ways issues and conflicts can best be resolved. His threat and attack-oriented approach drives the opposing side toward greater enmity, and risks making the ultimate conflict inevitable.

 His lack of expertise in dealing with the Middle East was further evidenced when he announced his decision to raise our troop level in Afghanistan. While our continuing troop level there, after our already 16 years of involvement, is a legitimately debatable issue, he was at least following military advice in making that call. His statement, though, revealed his absolute ignorance of the political dynamics involved, and included insulting and making unrealistic demands of Pakistan, India, Afghanistan itself, and our other potential allies in the region, all at the same time. In making demands that Pakistan as well as India support our efforts in Afghanistan, he showed he knows nothing of the long-standing, bitter rivalry between those two nations, and that India would have no reason for, and nothing to gain through, their involvement.  In suggesting that we expect to ultimately get something in return from Afghanistan  (eg, natural resources, money, etc.) for our military efforts, he shows no understanding of the history of our involvement there or of the Afghani people, and raised questions as to our bottom-line motivation for being there. In expecting other regional allies and NATO allies to join us in raising their involvement, they were not involved in the decision itself, why should they automatically be expected to support our efforts.  Again, it all suggests an absolute novice at the helm, and if his advisors suggest more sensible policies or statements, his instincts lead him to override them.

Trump's rejection of the Paris Climate Accord constitute another major way in which Trump is clearly threatening the well-being not only of our nation but of the entire world. In trying to satisfy his dwindling base of climate change deniers, Trump has gone against an agreement signed by most other advanced nations of the world, including the major carbon producers and other emitters of dangerous toxins into our atmosphere, oceans, and ground soil.  So the US, rather than following Obama's lead, is no longer the leader of nations in acting to halt the destructive effects of scientifically-proven human-induced climate change. Instead, we are modeling for other nations to disregard the concern.  While ozone depletion, polar melting, ravaging storms, ocean toxicity, etc., continue to increase in intensity and frequency, Trump and the deniers in Congress chose to look in the other direction, not willing, apparently, to offend their political base, or lessen the short-term profits of their donors. Whether blind, weak, or insecure, one must ask, who are they serving?  Themselves? The limited few?  Certainly not the collective best interests of their fellow men, of humanity, or of nature!

In short, it hasn't taken Trump long to reveal that he is in no way fit to be President. Above are mentioned only a few of the dangerous international ramifications of his Presidency.  Domestic examples could have as readily been offered.   The point is that his volatile, erratic, explosive temperament; his absence of knowledge about our Constitution, our history, or the cultures of other peoples we share the world with; and his inability to work with other people in a civil way, an inability to express disagreements and work  sequentially toward a common solution, all these character shortcomings leave him incapable of serving the nation with the type of Presidential leadership that is required.  In a Parliamentary system, he would be immediately at risk of losing his leadership role. Since it takes much longer, and through a much more complex process, to remove a US President, it is our nation, as well as the world, that unfortunately bears the risk of his remaining time in office.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

DEVIANT DONALD, AND THE DESTRUCTION OF THE AMERICAN DREAM

Through a strange sequence of highly unlikely events, the United States has elected a President like no other. In just over four months in office, Donald Trump has created a tremendous amount of chaos and turmoil in Washington DC, throughout the nation, and in the world. Opposition to his Administration is rapidly spreading, and is reaching severe intensity. For some, it was not unexpected, as there were ample warning signs about his character, his emotional nature, and his fitness and preparation for office expressed and widely circulated prior to his election.  Others, including many swing voters who did want a change in Wash DC, hoped he would grow into the office, rise to the occasion, and disprove the concerns that had been expressed about him.  This has not happened.

The concerns about Trump's nature are again being expressed, now in more serious form, amplified by the reality of the policies he is proposing.  Is he evil, "dancing with the devil", with no regard for the damaging effect of his actions on others?  Is he mentally or emotionally disturbed?  He has been labeled  a psychopath, sociopath, narcissist, self-serving opportunist, megalomaniac, etc. by various mental health professionals. His angry, insulting outbursts, and erratic twitter behavior do raise questions.  Does he have fascist leanings, expressing an attraction for dictators, revealed by making some positive comments about leaders such as Hitler, Mussolini, Saddam Hussein, and Rodrigo Duterte? Is he a racist, influenced by the association his father had had with the Ku Klux Klan; and also by early experiences in real estate, employing questionable management practices when owning tenement housing complexes in minority-dominant areas?  Is he a sexist, in the most negative connation of the word, attracted to women mainly for their beauty, exercising control and dominance over them, and using them readily for his own pleasure, whether consensual or not?  Is he overly combative and conflict-prone?  The fact that he has been involved in over a thousand lawsuits must mean something. The list could go on, serious charges all.

But Trump was elected in spite of these concerns being fully aired. His core backers, perhaps 20 to 30% of the population, are still solidly supporting him, and Republican party leadership is staying with him, to enact as much of their agenda as they can while he is in office, and also to not alienate Trump's voter base from supporting their party,  since they couldn't stay viable politically without the backing of Trump's core supporters in elections. Otherwise responsible Republican leaders are remaining mute or offering support in reacting to Trump's often disturbing antics or questionable actions, seemingly swallowing their principles and their pride in the process. So the Trump machine is rolling on, in spite of the damage it is leaving in its wake, and this is still after only four plus months in office.

Since it is clear it will not be the nature of Trump's character alone that will disqualify him from office, and the potential danger to the nation of a long Trump rule is too great for many who oppose him to accept, what options are open to them. Two immediate avenues remain that could lead to his removal. One is being found guilty of illegal, unconstitutional actions, and a special investigator and congressional investigations are already looking into questionable actions which could ultimately implicate Trump, but only over a long, uncertain, circuitous process. The other option is ever-increasing public opposition to his actions, focusing on the damaging effects his policies are having, and proposed policies likely to have,  on a majority of the nation's population. Whether dealing with healthcare, financial regulation, the environment, education, human rights, consumer protection, women's rights, gun control, voting rights, foreign affairs, etc., many of Trump's actions and proposals are downright dangerous, endangering the well-being of most citizens, especially the most vulnerable, while favoring vested interests, the select few, and his own self-serving biases. Opposition to his designs and policies is spreading in ways not seen since the Vietnamese War opposition. It needs to be vocal and heard loud and clear in the hallways of the Capitol, as Congress will typically not move until they are forced to by their electorate.  The gravity of the threats is seen by many as necessitating such a response, and the crescendo is rising.

Campaigns have been mounted to fight Trump on many of the specific areas in which large groups of citizens feel threatened, and these will grow in size and intensity as the threats come to be more fully experienced. One potentially powerful, overarching campaign which could be launched against Trump is that his entire campaign, Make America Great Again, was based on an entire fraud, just as much of what Trump is, and has done, is based on fraud. He campaigned on becoming a voice for the person in the street, to speak for the forgotten people, neglected by the establishment in Wash. DC and taken advantage of by Wall Street.  His Administration, in fact, is doing exactly the opposite, creating,  a new establishment of the millionaires and billionaires like himself who will call the shots in moving the nation towards Trump's own, more exclusionary, vision for America.

Trump seems intent on destroying the very process that has made America great. During our nation's over 200 years of history, there has been a progressive forward movement, with more and more Americans, often through long-fought political struggles, receiving the rewards of being included in The American Dream. The American Dream involves inclusiveness, equal opportunity, fair play, acceptance of differences, the possibility of upward mobility. It is an ideal, an objective our nation values and tries to achieve, however rarely if ever fully obtained.  Trump's policies directly attack the fundaments of The American Dream.  They are destroying the very principles, purpose, and policies that have made our nation great, the inclusion of more and more people in The American Dream. The progress, through sweat, toil, and tears, our nation has made, he seems intent on rolling back, reversing. Those protesting are equally intent on not letting this happen.

The American Dream is deeply embedded in the American psyche. When people think of America as an "Exceptional Nation", that is one of the prime qualities they are referring to. The long, arduous process leading to the American Dream being what it is today is not to be taken lightly. There was a political battle for non-property owners to gain the right to vote, an even more intense, lengthy battle for women to become able to vote a century later.  Women are still battling for their full share of rights, and against strong forces preventing them.  A Civil War was fought to free the slaves, and another hundred years passed before civil rights legislation was enacted to give African Americans other rights they had long been denied. Intense battles were fought to regulate corporations and holding companies from grossly unfair business and employee practices.  Setting aside some public land to preserve its natural beauty and keep it available for public enjoyment occurred only after long political effort. Programs like Social Security and Medicare, for citizens in their later years, were fought tooth and nail by conservatives. And so it goes. The American Dream had to be fought for, long and hard. Retaining it in the current political climate, especially under Trump's influence, will also be a real battle. One well worth fighting for!

The current weakening of the American Dream began before Trump. A strong, vibrant, mobile Middle Class is vital to the concept of the American Dream, and the Middle Class in America has been under attack and in decline since the eight years of Ronald Reagan. The tax, labor, and budgetary spending changes which were a part of Reaganomics began the decline of middle class strength in the US, and the percentage of wealth held in the hands of an ever smaller percentage of the population began to increase.  Neoliberal trade and economic policies enacted during the Clinton years increased the pressure on the middle class, and its decline, in numbers and in percent of wealth held, continued.  The Bush-Cheney era Iraq War diverted needed domestic spending to defense and war budgeting, while continued lax financial regulation set the nation up for the economic collapse of 2008, from which only the most wealthy have fully recovered. The middle class is still struggling with the effects of employment offshoring and limited domestic employment opportunity, and homelessness and extreme poverty have become growing problems. Obama did what he could to expand healthcare to millions of citizens who lacked insurance, met massive resistance on this and other attempts to met social needs, and was fortunate to achieve what he could. The government was becoming dysfunctional, caught up in polarization and political gridlock, failing to meet people's needs.

Enter Trump, an opportunist of the highest order. He saw an opening, set himself up as an anti-establishment candidate on the right, took advantage of a vast field of  establishment-based Republican candidates, and won the nomination through an insult, divide, and conquer process.  The presumptive candidate the Democrats offered, Hillary Clinton,  assumed victory was hers against such an unlikely candidate, failed to understand and speak to the voters anti-establishment fervor, and was lax in campaigning, not going to some key Democratic, labor-based states,  Not too surprising she lost, considering the lack of enthusiasm her campaign aroused, but still amazing that Trump won, leading to the chaos the nation now encounters.

Domestically, there is a battle going on between Corporatocracy and Democracy.   Thanks to Trump, it is now the high rollers in the corporate world that are not only winning, but winning more than ever.  His  "draining the swamp" is better identified as clearing out all the rules, all the regulations, letting those with the most money and power have their way.  The lust for mega-wealth he exemplifies is creating a capitalism gone berserk, a world of winners and losers, a no holds barred Zero Sum Game, let the participants beware, winners take as much as they can get.  In the Trump World, the Golden Rule as a social ethic, in personal life or  in government, is being perverted from "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" to "Whoever Has the Gold Rules".  Perfect for Trump, for his family, his corporate supporters, the Koch brothers, etc. Not so good for the rest of us! Internationally, too, Trump has his own agenda. The world, to him and his foreign policy advisors, is an "arena" in which to compete. Cooperation, alliances, attempting to work together to resolve international conflict, is overrated, lessening ones ability to gain the advantage. Perhaps Trump offers  the kind of world he is most comfortable in, and the kind of nation he wants to live in. Its not at all the kind of nation and world that many of us desire to be a part of. It is incumbent on us to mobilize our resources and our energies to ensure that his intent, his vision, his inversion of the American Dream does not become the reality we live under. We deserve, and demand, a much better, more just, more inclusive, destiny.




Wednesday, May 3, 2017

AMERICA IS STANDING AT THE CROSSROADS: WHICH WAY, USA?

Four score and one years ago, our country's blues mythology tells us, an itinerate country blues musician, Robert Johnson, stood at a crossroads in Mississippi and made a deal with the devil. To become a great musician, perhaps the greatest ever, all he had to do was sell his soul to the devil. Johnson, legend has it, made the deal. For the next two years, 1936 to 1938, he was incredibly prolific, writing and performing dozens of blues songs which, when they were fully discovered and circulated after his untimely, premature death in 1938 at the age of  only 27,  came to be recognized as true classics which established Johnson as a legendary blues musician whose influence was seen in all the great blues and rock music that was to follow. Eric Clapton, for one, has called Johnson "the most important blues singer that ever lived", and Johnson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at its first induction ceremony in 1986.

Why bring up the story of a blues musician, perhaps partially true, perhaps more mythological fiction than true, in a political commentary?  Many of us who celebrate the overall progressive direction that has occurred in the history of the United States since the Declaration of Independence in 1776, now find that hard-fought-for progress to be under serious attack, under threat of reversal, with reverting to a much more restrictive, divisive, unjust society a real possibility. It is akin to the US standing at a crucial crossroads, perhaps the most significant  one faced since the Civil War, uncertain which road will be followed, and which side will prevail. A significant portion of our population, 35 to 40% if the polls are to be believed, are steadfast in their support of Donald Trump, accepting whatever gyrations in his alternative facts, twitter words, or policy statements he is feeding them at the moment, with his Republican enablers in Congress seemingly swallowing their principle and their pride in going along with him in the hope of furthering the Republican agenda, especially in rolling back the social, human  rights, and economic equality progress our government has made in the last 50 years, in any way they can.

Trump's unexpected victory has activated the progressive, more inclusive, socially responsible factions of our society in ways not seen since the Vietnam War protests and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's. In contrast, the Far Right, and the more reactionary elements of our society that came out more fully in the open after Obama's election and were adamant in protesting his eight years as president, succeeded in gained a strong foothold within the Republican Party, quieting its more moderate voices.  Trump and his anti-establishment, throwback views were very much  to the liking of this far right faction of the party, creating the energy among Republican voters that allowed them to virtually capture the party from its established leaders and then prevail over their uninspired, dis-organized Democratic opponents in the general election. Hence, the current standoff at the crossroads. Progressives  are struggling to find a way to return the nation to resuming on a path towards more social and economic equality, more acceptance of diversity, and more respectful of our natural environment and the scientific knowledge that has played such a significant role in human progress.  Blocking their way, they are engaged in having to fight against a virtually alien immediate governmental power structure, one that has very vocal supporters, and with a seemingly opposite agenda.

Trump is almost daily revealing that he does not have the background, the knowledge, or the temperament to be President. It is easy to find fault with him as our leader.  It is much more difficult to find ways to effectively combat the vast array of Americans, both the ordinary citizens and those in responsible leadership positions, who are continuing to grant his administration their support. With policies that if fully imposed would literally turn back the clock by decades on advances affecting the social, economic, healthcare, environmental, and educational well-being of the vast majority of our citizens, the lines could not be more distinctly drawn. Democrats during the past 25 years have admittedly been weak in effectively pursuing a strong progressive agenda, and the anti-establishment, Sanders, Warren wing of the party have given and are giving expression to this failure. The  Obama administration did attempt to move the nation in a generally positive direction, but was blocked and largely unsuccessful in this endeavor.  The direction Trump is attempting to take the nation is clearly reverse gear; opposite the general progressive direction of our nation's history. The most notable Republican presidents would be aghast at current Republican  policies, Lincoln protesting their tolerance of civil rights violations, Teddy Roosevelt fighting both the lack of respect and protection of our natural environment, and excessive deference to corporate influence, profit, and power. Eisenhower would not tolerate the presidential arrogance and facility at glibly lying, nor its emphasis on loosely-controlled military and defense expenditures. Even Nixon, Reagan, and the Bushes would obviously be often shaking their heads in disbelief at the antics of this administration and current Congressional leadership. There is much to protest, but will the attempts take hold, and return us to a more positive path?

Right now all the real power is still in the hands of the Trump administration and a subservient Congress which has yet to challenge him in telling ways. Little has changed yet in actual policy, after just over 100 days, but the threats are there, and they are all too real. Democrats are not united, and not effective in their opposition. Various citizen groups are mobilizing, have real potential, and are not likely to disappear. They have, however, not come together with a clear focus or agenda.  There are so many elements of the Trump agenda to fight, all bear significant importance, all variously central to different factions of the progressive electorate. So the nation stands, at this moment, at the crossroads, the lines are drawn, the feelings are intense, but no clear movement has yet been made.

Will the same energy be fully activated that has carried our nation generally forward, often hesitantly and haltingly, throughout our past history?  Our nation's founding fathers had  progressive intentioms, their lofty words and intent framed their hopes for the country and its future citizens, but they knew it would be a long term process turning their words and purposes into actual policy and reality.  They knew that future advances would be achieved only through the dedication, commitment, and struggles of citizens willing to work for continuing advances and deal with emerging challenges, new realities, and serious threats. Such are the crossroads where we now stand. The crossroad Robert Johnson stood at when he made his deal with the devil; while it may have had an effect on his life and on musical history,  is likely more mythological than fully real.  The political crossroad our nation stands at is all too real, can have a massive effect on all our lives, and on the world we live in.  Let's choose wisely, and ensure the necessary energy is expended, by all of us who care about our nation's future, in the right direction!