Sunday, March 12, 2017
When former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher died in 2013, the public pushed the song "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" to number two on the UK singles chart, and many people who opposed her reign were open in their lack of remorse. Comparatively, when disgraced former president Richard Nixon died in 1994, most Americans were either remorseful or silent; the fact that he committed crimes and resigned in disgrace was whitewashed to the point that he was simply called "controversial". It appears that while America may never have had royalty, we are expected to respect the office of the president so much that ex presidents are treated that way, even criminal ones like Nixon. Just look at how Ronald Reagan has been held up as some paragon of presidential greatness, with the fact that his administration illegally sold weapons to Iran and then used the profits of those sales to fund an equally illegal war in Nicaragua almost never mentioned. And Bill Clinton's near impeachment was mostly forgotten and ignored by the press until his wife started running for president, and even then it was hardly seen as an issue.
This is manifesting itself right now in the rehabilitation tour that former president George W Bush has been going on; in the past few weeks he's been popping up on talk shows, showing off his paintings (which really are awful looking), and laughing and joking around, promoting himself as some kind of lovable grandpa figure. I find his self serving attempt to improve his image as utterly disgusting.
Has America forgotten that Bush led us into a an utterly disastrous war in Iraq based on charges of weapons of mass destruction and links to Al Qaeda? And how that war lead to the death of thousands of American soldiers, ten of thousands of Iraqi civilians and threw the region into such chaos that over ten years later the world is still dealing with the fall out from what was one of the worst foreign policy decisions in modern history? And what about the illegal wire tapping of Americans his administration carried out? Not to mention water boarding and other torture techniques being used on terror suspects? Is all that supposed to be forgotten because he's been out of office for awhile? How short is the American memory?
The image that bothers me the most is of Bush visiting the Ellen DeGeneres show and clowning around with the host. Has she forgotten that in 2004, Bush waged the most openly homophobic presidential campaign ever? Why would an out lesbian who has pushed for gay marriage do a friendly, outright fawning interview with a president who repeatedly stated that he wanted an amendment barring gay marriage enshrined in the constitution? And who packed the supreme court and the judiciary who judges who agreed with him? She couldn't summon up the strength to ask him one tough question about all this? Imagine Arsenio Hall giving a cute interview with David Duke!
History must not forget: when George W Bush left office, his approval ratings were lower than Nixon's during Watergate, in fact, his low ratings lasted longer than any other president ever. We must remember not just the Iraq war and his opposition to gay rights, but also his pathetic response to hurricane Katrina, and, of course, the economic policies he supported that laid the groundwork for the biggest economic crisis since the depression. When Trump haters look back on Bush's regime with nostalgia, they seem to forget all these things. While I think Trump has all the potential to be an even worse president than Bush was, he hasn't gotten there yet. Bush wants to improve his image as a terrible president and somehow absolve himself from stumbling into a horrific war. Let's not let him.
Saturday, March 4, 2017
Last Tuesday President Donald Trump made his first official address to Congress, and the fact that he got through a mostly positive speech without complaining about illegal voters or bragging incessantly was greeted with rapturous praise from much of the media: "he has pushed reset on his presidency", they exclaimed, "for the first time he seemed presidential" they gushed. Amazingly, some of this praise came from the very media outlets that Trump had earlier described as enemies of the people!
Honestly, the reaction to him getting through a teleprompter speech that he probably didn't even write any of is very similar to first time parents gushing with praise as a toddler learns to walk. Are the media so dispirited about the chaos and disorder surrounding the leader of the free world that they feel that any movement towards normalcy must be praised to the hills? Has this country really sunk to the level of giving glowing media coverage to the president just for showing up?
The sad answer to that seems to be a resounding yes. And just how long did Trump's reset of the presidency last? Less than a week. Yes, just after giving a speech in which he said that it was time for the country to move beyond petty squabbles, Trump entered into yet another one by embracing a conspiracy theory without proof on twitter, reverting to the same childish, whiny, bratty behavior he's shown since he first announced his candidacy. At 4 AM this morning, Trump tweeted this:
"How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!"
Yes, the same man who held on to the idea that Barack Obama was not born in America for years, even after Obama's long form birth certificate was released, and who later accused Obama of being "the founder of ISIS", is now saying that the former president had Trump's phones tapped during the election. Just like his claim that millions of undocumented immigrants voted illegally in the last election, he offers no proof of this claim. And once again, his official spokespeople are silent, scrambling to come up with some kind of reason for why the president would claim to believe something so crazy without evidence.
So why is he saying this? Well, it's a conspiracy theory making the rounds in the conservative media that Trump is so fond of following, but like most conspiracy theories, it make little sense. Sadly, we are now living in a country where its chief executive believes whatever he wants to believe and spreads absurd rumors to his followers without any verification. And like we saw a few weeks ago when a lunatic shot up a pizza parlor because he believed a different conspiracy, they can have dangerous consequences.
And just for the record, it should be pointed out that the president is not just allowed to wire tap whomever he wants. If Obama's justice department did indeed wiretap Trump's phones, it could have only have been because they were able to obtain a warrant to do so by a judge. Which means that there would have to be a compelling belief that criminal behavior was being conducted on those phones. If Trump really thinks all of that happened, then is he admitting that there was reason for the government to believe that his campaign was up to something illegal. So his childish attempt to lash out at Obama may just wind up drawing attention to the fact that his campaign may very well have been up to something, like, say, coordinating email leaks with the Russians during the campaign. Will this latest crazy tweet wind up turning around and biting him? Well, Trump seems to be a man who can't shoot himself in the foot no matter how much he tries; sadly, it will probably fade into the fog of crazy that he has been projecting now for months. Somehow, time and time again, he gets away with saying and doing things that would sink any other politician. Hopefully, someday his lies will stick to him.
Thursday, February 23, 2017
A new president comes into power, marking a definite change from the previous one, sparking protests nationwide, that spill over into loud, almost violent town hall meetings with members of congress. Am I talking about the Trump administration? Yes, but I could also be talking about what happened in 2009 when the so called Tea Party movement targeted President Obama and the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
Above are two pictures: one of the Tea Party in 2009, the other taken less that a month ago. Although the signs may be different, the anger is the same. In fact, the similarities are striking: in 2009, rumors were spread by Democrats saying that the Tea Party was funded mostly by the conservative billionaire Koke Brothers, now Republicans are saying that Anti-Trump protestors are being paid by progressive billionaire George Soros. Both sides embrace the expression "not my president", as if a president they disagree with is somehow invalid. Both sides often not so subtly use Nazi imagery in making their point against whomever they disagree with. And just as some people in Texas flirted with the idea of seceding from the country during the Obama years, now California is considering the same thing under Trump.
As a progressive myself, I know which side my sympathies lie with, but the anger both sides express reveals a sad, bitter truth about just how divided this country is. Progressives and conservatives now live in not only separate red and blue states, but separate communities within those states. And the media they consume only echoes their own feelings about the world. It is entirely possible in the US to encase oneself in a cocoon in which only people you agree with ever enter, except for a few angry holiday dinners.
Americans have to accept one undeniable fact: however you voted in the last presidential election, over sixty million of your fellow countrymen voted in the opposite direction. It's become a cliche for news reporters to say this, but it's true: we are a deeply divided nation, in fact the divide right now has not been this strong since the Civil War. While clearly the notions of outright warfare or California succeeding are extreme, it does often seem that red states and blue states contain people with such radically different world views that nation wide unification on many important issues is almost impossible.
So what can we do? Well, part of the reason Trump won is the fear of white Americans of the demographic changes the country is going through, which will eventually result in white people no longer making up over fifty percent of the country. (Yes, even if Trump gets his wall and deports eleven million people, it will still happen). What is going on now in the US may be a repeat of what happened in the state of California in 1995, when Governor Pete Wilson strongly ran against immigration, running race baiting political TV ads about undocumented immigrants that Trump echoed in his campaign. While Wilson won his reelection, the backlash against the Republican party was so strong in the state that now Democrats run almost all the wheels of power. So, it appears that time is on the side of progressives, with America slowly but surely turning to the left as older white conservatives die off, to be replaced by a more diverse and progressive generation. Looked at this way, the Trump victory will probably be remembered as the last gasp of the older white Americans fighting the inevitable.
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
While I intensely disagree with almost everything Donald Trump stands for as both a political figure and a human being, I will give him his due and admit that he was right about one thing in his campaign: his unlikely march to the White House is a lot like the recent English vote on Brexit. Like that vote, Trump went into election day an underdog and came out an unlikely winner, surprising the world and making many voters wonder what kind of country they were living in the next day. Sadly, there are even more similarities: both campaigns were full of exaggerations, and outright lies, and both won out on the votes of working class whites and their fear of immigrants and refugees. And just like how many pro Brexit voters are admitting to now having buyer's remorse, many pro Trump voters are realizing that an unexperienced man who promised to "shake things up" in Washington may not be the best person to run this, or any country.
Yep, Trump has now been president for less than a month, and it feels like years to many of us. While any presidential transition can expect some turbulence, especially when it involves a switch in party affiliation, Trump's transition has resulted in chaos. It's so jolting to move from the cool, professional Obama administration to this drunken herd of elephants led by a lying narcissist! From the craziness of his foreign travel ban, to spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway violating ethics laws by openly advertising for his daughter's product line on television, to him still maintaining that somehow millions of illegal immigrants voted in the election, it's hard to believe he's barely into his first term.
Today Andrew Puzder, his controversial choice for Labor Secretary, withdrew his name from nomination due to serious questions about his hiring of an undocumented immigrant as a maid, among other things. And that's not even a big deal; the big deal is that Micheal Flynn, who had been appointed to be National Security Advisor, had to step down after only days in the post due to a possibly illegal phone call he made to Russia before he was a member of the Trump administration. The fact that Flynn, who led chants of "lock her up" about Hillary Clinton at the Republican National Convention, may himself be locked up, could be a delicious piece of irony. And it may just be the tip of the iceberg; new evidence has arisen showing that members of the Trump campaign were communicating with Russia during the campaign, although it is uncertain what that communication was about. Could the Trump people have been conspiring with Russia on the release of embarrassing emails that Russian hackers obtained from the Democratic National Committee? It's possible that we have a president who won by coordinating his campaign with a foreign power to give it an electoral advantage. It may even be possible that Russia is pushing Trump to end sanctions that the Obama administration put in place by blackmailing him with wire tapped recordings of his recent trips to Russia, which may be embarrassing, or even criminal. Or it may just be that his still unreleased tax returns would reveal enormous economic dealings with Russia, dealings that would be put in jeopardy if he didn't end the sanctions.
Although getting a Republican majority congress to open investigations into what could be impeachable (and outright treasonous!) actions by Trump may not be easy, some are getting the message, like Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa. Remember, when Trump started winning primary victories at the start of his campaign, there was a general belief that he would do irreparable harm to the Republican party. Once he surprisingly won, the party generally seemed pleased to have one of their own in the White House, but given his insane first month, he still may destroy the party. Sadly, now he could take the whole damn country with it!
Monday, January 30, 2017
It is generally believed that the first 100 days of a new presidency is a real make or break period, in which a generally positive feeling from the public combines with new cabinet members to make some real changes in both the country and the world. If that's true, the next 90 days are going to be hellish.
Donald Trump spent the first week of his presidency lying about the size of his inauguration, attacking the media, and lying about how he would have won the popular vote if millions of undocumented immigrants hadn't illegally voted. (While defending that last claim, Sean Spicer, the president's press secretary, was reduced to saying the president "believes what he believes", without any proof whatsoever.)
He also signed a number of executive orders (while Republicans who once attacked Obama for signing such orders were strangely silent). Most of them passed with some debate in the media but there was not a lot of outcry; and then came last Friday when the president signed an order entitled "Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States". And with that, ten days into his presidency, with all the dignity of a hippopotamus trying to tap dance, Trump hit his first Constitutional crisis.
The order indefinitely suspends the resettlement of Syrian refugees, and temporarily bans all people from seven mostly Muslim countries from entering the US. One of the worst of many lies that Trump stated on the campaign trail was the notion that refugees from Syria were not being vetted before entering the country; they are, in fact, heavily vetted in a process that lasts over a year. And now many of them, who are literally fleeing for their lives, are having the door to safety shut in their face. Just how far this ban extends has already become debatable, with green card holders initially shut out, and then later allowed. Trump has said it not about religion, but the fact that it makes exceptions for Christians from those banned countries shows what a lie that is. It's also mysterious that of the seven countries that are banned, none of them have any ties to Trump's economic empire, but countries that do have such ties are not on the list. Saudi Arabia, for example, where 18 of the 19 terrorists that attacked us on 9/11 came from, is not on the list; according to the New York Times, recent financial disclosures showed that Trump had several limited liability corporations there. What could possibly be worse about this order? How about that it was signed at the behest of White House Advisor Steve Bannon, the former editor of Breitbart News, an "alt right" white supremacist web site.
It should also be pointed out that this order is terrible even when the war on terror is considered: this kind of divisive, America against all Muslims move plays into the very West Vs. Middle East ideas promoted by ISIS and other terrorist groups, aiding their recruitment. If America is ever going to win the war or terror, it can only be done with the help of Muslims standing up to terrorism with us. This order alienates many potential allies.
On Saturday, a federal judge ruled that people already in airports in the US could not be deported, but the ruling stopped short of taking on the very Constitutionality of the order. Legal challenges will inevitably continue, and hopefully the whole thing will be thrown out. Also, the chaos of the order has lead to enormous protests taking place in airports nationwide; this marks the second massive protest against President Trump only ten days into his first term. And I say, keep up the pressure America. Let the world know that our president does not speak for all of us.
Monday, January 23, 2017
President Trump's advisor Kellyanne Conway recently gave an interview in which she defended him by coining an interesting term:"alternative facts," as in, you have your reality with your set of truths, and we have ours. Alternative facts could be the perfect term for Trump's entire political career. While anyone who thinks they can be president has to have a sizable ego, It's clear that Trump's is so big that when he believes something to be real, he honestly thinks it must be, evidence be damned. So if his inauguration had less people than Obama's, he can just say that the media is lying about it and leave it at that. This worldview has some frightening ramifications; in his inauguration address he painted a view of America in "carnage", wracked with violence and unemployment. Even though violent crime is mostly down in this country, and unemployment is also low, his unrealistic, almost apocalyptic view of the country means we may be in for an increase in tough on crime laws that could swell our already bloated prison population, combined with roll backs of "job killing" environmental regulations that will make our air and water less clean and contribute to climate change.
And that's just of the tip of the iceberg that he could be steering us into; Trump clearly intends to be the same kind of president that he was a candidate. Which means he will lie, insult and boast constantly, which was bad enough before, but now that he has the biggest military in the world behind him, could bring disaster on a global scale (his apocalyptic world view could become a reality!). Honestly, the best thing we can hope for with him is that his well documented short attention span will keep him from focusing too much on one thing, and that he will spend most of his time giving speeches in front of adoring crowds or engaging in pointless twitter wars with celebrities, while his more mature cabinet members (extreme conservatives though they may be) actually engage in running the country. It's depressing to think that former Exxon CEO and soon to be secretary of state Rex Tillerson may be all that stands between America and World War III, but here we are.
If anything positive can come from Trump's victory, it's that he has united and enraged the world against him; last weekend saw the women's march against Trump bring in what might have been the biggest protest in American history, with thousands more marching in cities like London, Paris and Berlin. Let's hope this anger doesn't dissipate; really, what the left needs to do is what the Tea Party group did so effectively against Obama back in 2010: outspoken protest combined with electing congressional candidates who pledge to keep the president in check. If they can somehow claim a mandate against a president who won the popular vote, then certainly the left can against one who didn't!
Saturday, January 7, 2017
And in another odd turn, the CIA has submitted direct evidence that Russian hackers, working on the orders of leader Vladimir Putin himself, hacked into the emails of the Democratic National Committee with the express purpose of undermining the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. This raises the truly odd notion that for the first time ever, both the FBI and the KGB were on the same side, working to influence the election of the most powerful person on the planet. In typical Trump fashion, the President-elect first denied Russia's involvement, going so far as to berate the CIA and compare their findings to their failed intelligence on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq back in 2003. But after a full on information briefing for him and Vice-President-elect Mike Pence, even Trump himself has admitted that the DNC hacking came from Russia.
So just how much influence on the election did Putin have anyway? We'll never really know, but it's undeniable that the leak of thousands of emails from the DNC, and their inevitable inspection and analysis by the media, dominated the headlines for weeks during the election. Even though there was nothing criminal in them, and only a few things that could be considered truly embarrassing, to Clinton they put the words "Clinton" and "emails" next to each other in headlines, and that was enough to implant the idea that she was somehow corrupt in the minds of voters. This was then exploited by Trump and his supporters gleefully, with chants of "lock her up" in regards to Clinton echoing through his speeches. So Putin definitely had some influence.
Things get even stranger when one considers that Trump's refusal to release his tax returns (which, sadly, never became the major issue that it should have) may very well reveal that he has enormous financial dealings with Russia. In fact, Trump's son Donald Jr. according to the Washington Post, in a posting on the website of eTurboNews, once said at a real estate conference in 2008, "Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross section of a lot of our assets." He also added "We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia." Surely Putin was aware of that money pouring in, and he knew that he could use it to leverage Trump, if Trump were elected, into dropping economic sanctions put in place by the Obama administration after Russia tried to annex Crimea. Yes, it is entirely possible that we have a president who will ignore enormous human rights violations because he wants to protect his own wealth. This may very well be true, and it's breath taking. And something even a Republican congress should investigate.
While, sadly, there is no way to overturn the presidential election, can the country just agree that Trump is now a deeply weakened president with little to no mandate? When you combine this hacking revelation with the fact that he lost the popular vote by three million people, how could anyone other than Trump himself come to that conclusion?