Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Just over a week ago, America suffered through the worst mass shooting in our nation's history, with more than fifty people killed and over five hundred wounded. The shooter was an older white man with no religious affiliation or history of violence, who horrifically carefully set up his hotel suite to be a killing stronghold to maximize the number of people he could shoot before being stopped.
As always, the first reaction in the wake of such a shooting is for the blue side of this country to say that some kind of gun control laws must be passed, while the red side responds that now is not the time to have that discussion because it politicizes" the tragedy (although if the shooter had been a Muslim, there would have been no hesitation to politicize the shooting). While it appears that this shooting will inspire the same thing as every other recent mass shooting has, that is, little to nothing, there does appear a possibility that both the NRA and their friends in congress will support banning bump stocks, a device that the shooter used, which can, when attached to a rifle properly, turn a semi automatic into a fully automatic. While this is hardly a major shift in the NRA's normal reaction to mass shootings, it does show that they are at least open to some kind of legislation.
But then a cynic may point out that bump stocks are mostly manufactured by a small independent company that can't afford the kind of enormous donations to the NRA that other larger gun manufacturers can. In other words, banning bump stocks won't hurt the bottom line for the gun companies who pump millions of dollars into the NRA every year to support what they see as their unfettered right to sell guns to almost anyone with the money to buy one. And that really gets to the root of the problem: money.
American politics is awash in money. Although there are some limits to just how much money can be donated, there are numerous loop holes that allow the rich and the powerful far more influence than the average voter. And it's only gotten worse in recent years: in 2010 the Supreme Court ruled in the Citizens United case that donations from corporations and unions are considered a form of free speech and are unlimited when given to a candidate's Political Action Committee instead of a candidate directly. Which opened the floodgates; in 2016 Clinton raised over a billion dollars for her campaign, with Trump closely behind. And that doesn't count the countless billions that go into congressional elections, state and local elections and votes on propositions.
Personally, I think that the Supreme Court's ruling that equates money with speech was undemocratic, essentially legalizing political bribery. While running a campaign is obviously expensive, the debt that politicians owe to big money donors dwarfs the debt they owe to their constituents, not to mention the amount of time they have to spend calling potential donors and attending fund raisers instead of doing the jobs they were elected to do.
And then consider just how much advantage political spending gives to the rich in spreading a message to the world. For decades now, billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch have been funneling massive amounts of cash into campaigns and think tanks with the intention of discrediting the science behind climate change. Sadly, their spending has had an effect; even as more Americans believe that climate change is happening and is man made than not (48% to 31% according to a 2016 Pew research poll), the Koch brothers money has brought victory to conservative candidates opposed to any kind environmental regulations across the nation, public opinion be damned.
Money in politics effects so much in this country: it's why Republicans tried to pass a repeal of Obamacare that was supported by only 20% of the country, because their big money donors demanded action. It's why our income taxes are so complicated, because big corporate accounting companies like Turbo Tax don't want Americans to do their own taxes. It's why we keep minting new pennies every year, even though we certainly don't need any, because the Jarden Corporation lobbies congress to get the penny minting contract every year.
So what can we do about this situation? Well, other countries have realized that a mix of government funding and private funding, but as long as we have a Supreme Court that feels that money is speech, there really isn't much that we can do. Unfortunately, political groups like the NRA and donors like the Koch brothers will pushing their agendas with cash for years to come.
Saturday, September 30, 2017
With his continual lying, childish insults and petty vindictiveness, Donald Trump has proven to truly be a president like no other. But in some ways, he has been just another modern Republican: he denies the science of climate change, surrounds himself with hateful homophobes, and now he has just released a tax plan that greatly favors corporations and rich Americans, in much the same way that Ronald Reagan and George W Bush's tax plans did. So much for the forgotten middle class man that he claims to stand for!
The constant drum beat for more and more tax cuts really began in the nineteen eighties, when Ronald Reagan, promoting a theory put forth by the ironically named Arthur Laffer, claimed that tax cuts paid for themselves by increasing economic growth. During the primaries, then primary opponent to Reagan George Bush called the idea "voodoo economics", although he later swallowed his pride and supported Reagan's tax cutting after becoming vice president. And while there definitely was some economic growth during those years, the massive national deficit that those tax cuts created, showed just how absurd the idea of tax cuts paying for themselves was. And the eighties sadly began a trend that continues to this day, with the middle class losing ground in this country as the rich get richer.
And yet, here it is decades later, and the Republican party is still pushing this crazy idea. This despite the enormous economic growth that occurred in the nineties even after President Clinton raised taxes, and the lack of growth that occurred after George W Bush cut them.
The tax issue is just another way that the modern Republican party is both supported by and completely out of touch with its base. They win elections on racial divisive issues like building a wall with Mexico and demonizing undocumented immigrants, and then once in office go about trying to overturn Obamacare, which would hurt states that went for Trump most of all, and cutting taxes for the rich, which has hardly any benefit to the blue collar middle class white voters who put him in office.
Trump's response to this is, as always, to lie, claiming that the tax cuts wouldn't benefit him at all, even though his most recent released tax returns show that he would save millions every year under the plan. The rest of the party is more subtle in their lies, claiming that the tax plan would help "middle class" families, implying that people who have six figure salaries are somehow in the middle class! While I do think some Republicans honestly believe that tax cuts will help the country on the whole, I believe privately most of them realize that modern politics is run on money, and big money donors to the Republican party expect a return on their investment with tax cuts for them or their businesses.
There's an even more cynical aspect to this: the Trump plan, if passed, would blow a hole in the federal deficit to the tune of one and half to two trillion dollars over the next ten years! It would take an awful lot of economic growth to make up for that, but do Republicans really want to? Remember that for years now they have wanted to reduce the size of (or privatize) Social Security and Medicare, despite how popular those programs are with the general public. Why? Because they disprove the argument that federal government programs designed to help the poor (Social Security was created during the depression to help impoverished seniors) actually work. Just cutting the programs as a matter of course would be politically dangerous, but by saying that the cuts would have to be made in light of the government having less revenue might be the way to convince the public that those cuts are necessary to save them. It's the kind of bait and switch that is falsely called "fiscal responsibility", when what it should be really called is a hand out to rich donors, paid for by the poor and middle class.
Friday, September 1, 2017
In a depressing, but not surprising move, last Friday Donald Trump pardoned convicted Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was famous for his racially motivated profiling of latinos in the state of Arizona. In a typical lack of sympathy and human emotion, the following Monday Trump admitted that he picked the day that Hurricane Harvey was bearing down on Texas to make his announcement of the pardon because, “Actually, in the middle of a hurricane, even though it was a Friday evening, I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they were normally.” Yes, that is the President of the United States saying that he wanted to use the media hurricane warnings to help raise the ratings of his controversial announcement. Once again, Trump has shown that his only interest in office is the same as it is in the rest of his life: to pump up his own bloated sense of self worth!
The Arpaio pardon is just the latest chapter in Trump's long string of playing to white supremacist attitudes, from saying that Barack Obama was not an American citizen to calling Mexican immigrants rapists. But the Arpaio pardon is particularly galling in that his crimes were so horrible; known as "America's toughest Sheriff", he was actually far worse: he and his men would round up anyone that was Latino, demand citizenship papers, and jail anyone without such papers. The conditions of his jail were so bad, he himself referred to it as a "concentration camp". The prisoners were routinely brutalized and humiliated. One woman claimed that she was shackled during her pregnancy, and not allowed to hold her baby after giving birth. All in all, the legal bills the state was forced to pay out during his reign of terror ran into the tens of millions of dollars. The final straw came when he refused to follow a court order that he stop racially profiling people who were not accused of committing a crime, an order that he publicly said he would refuse to follow. Can we just sit back and take a minute to gawk at the spectacle of a self styled law and order candidate pardoning someone who openly broke the law?
Now let's look at the recent history of white supremacy in this country: the Klu Klux Klan, which had mostly disbanded in the 1870's, began their second reign of terror around a hundred years ago. The number of Americans involved in that movement, or others like it, has waxed and waned over the last century. A real spike in their membership began in the year 2000, when the gallup poll reported for the first time that white Americans were projected not to make up more than 50% of the population within forty years. The election of Barack Obama in 2008 also sadly led to an increase in their numbers.
Given all of this, Trump's successful sowing of white resentment was really more an inevitability than many of us thought: Trump is much worse than a terrible president, he is a negative reflection of the racist attitudes of country, attitudes that so many of us wished were at the very least in decline. Recently, in the wake of the Charlottesville white supremacist rally, a recent poll found that 9% of Americans are OK with people having pro Nazi or white supremacist views. While that may not sound like a lot, remember that in a country that has around three hundred and twenty million people, that 9% amounts to somewhere around thirty million. Look at the math, Trump won the presidency with sixty three million votes; assuming that all of those thirty million people who are OK with Nazi views voted for him (a safe assumption, given his campaign) and we can see that almost half of his voters were racially motivated bigots, who will never turn on him, no matter what he does, as long as he continues to do things like defend Nazi marchers and pardon people like Arpaio. Those thirty million are single issue voters of the worst kind. (Clinton was right, half of Trump's supporters were from a "basket of deplorables"!) All we can do is hope that we can sway the remaining thirty million not to support him next time. Assuming he isn't impeached or resigns before then, which, given his erratic behavior, is a possibility.
Tuesday, August 15, 2017
As the situation got uglier and uglier, Trump inevitably had to make some kind of statement. Speaking in a bored monotone, clearly annoyed at missing his golf game, Trump at first seemed to be issuing a standard presidential statement, until he paused and repeated the now much analyzed phrase, that there was violence on "many sides". He also did not once mention any of the white supremacist groups at the rally by name. Yes, we now live in a country where a president can look at a literal Nazi rally and not condemn them by name. It's clear why he feels this way: he and his advisors realize that a large part of his unlikely victory lay in the white resentment and anger exhibited in the rally; that these marchers and the voters who agreed with him were his base. Furthermore, Trump's bloated ego clouded his mind and showed him a group of people cheering for him, so he couldn't condemn them; not when they supported him so strongly. They saw him as being as wonderful as sees himself as being.
While it was good to see quick and strong criticism of Trump's comments, I am unmoved by the fact that many Republicans also were critical. Where were they we he was making racist comments on the campaign trail? Paul Ryan once described Trump's attack on a Mexican American judge as the "textbook definition of racism", why then did Ryan wind up supporting Trump? The fact of the matter is that the Republican party has been playing up white resentment to get an electoral advantage for decades. Trump is just the inevitable culmination of the racist dog whistles blown by the likes of Ronald Reagan and George H Bush. The party lost all credibility on this issue the day they decided to make an unexperienced egotistical bigot their party nominee. Don't tell me you're surprised that a hateful campaign produced a hateful president!
It should be mentioned that on Monday, Trump finally gave a stronger statement in which he called racism evil. While his words (which he obviously didn't write) were an improvement, it still was a case of a little too little, a little too late. If he really hates racism, why is his Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a man who was considered too racist to be a judge back in the 1980's? Why is one of Trump's top advisors Steve Bannon, a self proclaimed member of the white nationalist alt right movement?
Amazingly, this has all gotten even worse! Today, Trump gave a press conference in which he ignored his stronger words delivered on Monday and doubled down on his original comments. Conjuring up some imaginary image of the violent "alt left", Trump implied that many of the marchers were not actual white supremacists (did he not see the flags?) and that the violence that occurred happened because of the alternate protestors attacks. He failed to mention that the man who plowed into a group of anti-Nazi protestors was described by a former teacher of having once written a paper that was “very much along the party lines of the neo-Nazi movement,”. Instead, as Trump put it: “You had a group on one side that was bad. You had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say that. I’ll say it right now. You had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent.” Words fail me as to how many excuses one man can make to not condemn a racist rally in the proper way that an American leader should in 2017. So I'll just close this by quoting David Duke again in a tweet: “Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville."
Wednesday, August 9, 2017
During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump broke precedent by using blunt, unsubtle rhetoric time and time again. This especially applied to his talk about the military and his expected roll as commander in chief; saying he would "blow the shit" out of Isis, and use "waterboarding and a hell of a lot worse" on suspected terrorists were common statements from him. These childish comments were often mentioned when people like myself said that he lacked the proper temperament to be president. Sadly, his base seemed to love him for it.
So here we are, less than a year into his presidency, and already that blunt talk of his may lead to some dangerous consequences. Recently, in the wake of the UN passing sanctions against his country, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has ramped up his own threats against the US, discussing the possibility of attacking Guam, which has an American base. He has even raised the specter of launching nuclear missiles at the US, although according to the New York Times, there's some debate as to whether such an attack is possible. Trump's response to these threats was something no president has every publicly said before: he said that North Korea faced "fire and fury like the world has never seen." Although the implied use of nuclear weapons against our enemies has been part of American foreign policy since the late 1940's, no president has ever so openly and forcefully threatened another country in this manner. The fact that he made those comments while vacationing at a golf course adds to the surreal nature of what this country has become since he took office!
To be fair to Trump, there are no easy answers to the problem of North Korea; Kim Jong-Un is an absolute unstable dictator, and the new round of sanctions will probably have little affect other than making him angrier. He seems determined to develop more and stronger weapons, realizing that the possibility of a vicious nuclear strike will prevent invasion from other countries. Despite all of this, Trump's approach of threatening some kind of a massive attack is frightening and over the top; hopefully he and his advisors realize that both a nuclear strike or a military invasion of North Korea would be an epic disaster, with perhaps millions of lives being lost. Given those stakes, it's terrifying that the fate of the world now rests in the hands of two hot headed, egotistical men. All we can hope for now is that the people around them are smarter and more level headed then they are, and that they will listen to them.
Thursday, July 20, 2017
Shortly after he won reelection in 2004, President George W Bush, armed with Republican majorities in the house and the senate, planned to spend the political capital he had gained from his victory by "reforming" Social Security. His plan for privatization proved so unpopular that congress never even debated it. At one point, the more he promoted it publicly, the less people seemed to like it. The Republicans in congress now have made a similar discovery when it comes to repealing Obamacare: people who rely on a government program don't like to see changes in that program, especially when it appears that those changes will hurt them or their family members. It's common sense: people would rather stick with something that seems to mostly work for them, rather than try something that may not work at all.
It may only be seven years old, and it may have had a wobbly beginning, but Obamacare (or as it should be known as in the future, the American Health Care Plan) is starting to reach the same sacred space that Social Security and Medicare have in this country: that is, it's a program that has helped millions of Americans and that most people don't want changed. It's also painted the Republican party into a corner; for years, Republican congress members repeatedly voted to repeal it, knowing full well that then president Obama would veto their repeal, making their vote a purely symbolic one, a simple way to whip up their anti Obama constituents without actually having to do anything. But when Trump somehow won the presidency, they were forced to actually work out a plan that would not only repeal but also replace Obamacare. And then their problems began, the major one being that the Republican economic philosophy of tax cuts for the rich and the defunding of federal government programs is not one that coincides with making health care more widely available for Americans. While millions of citizens are still without healthcare under Obamacare, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reviewed every version of the Republican bill and estimated that it would result in around twenty two to twenty three million more people losing their health care in this country, and in a cruel bit of irony, most of those people live in states that went for Trump. These estimates have rendered the bill's popularity in the country as toxic (it's popularity has reached as low as 17%!), so toxic that even several Republican members of the senate have said they can't vote for it in its current state, and it appears that repeal is dead.
For his part, President Trump has done a poor job of pushing for the bill, discussing it without seeming to really know what's in it, and at one point even calling the House of Representatives version "mean"! Certainly, it does fall short of his lofty promises made on the campaign trail about replacing Obamacare with a system in which everyone would be covered and see their premiums go down (hardly a plan that would have gotten through a Republican congress!). Unfortunately, his new plan of "letting Obamacare fail" can gain some traction, as he has certain powers (like refusing to release federal funds to repay health care companies that cover the poor) that he can employ. Hopefully, one of his advisers will sit him down and point out to him that the American public will not allow a president to continually blame his predecessor for everything that goes wrong in his presidency. If Obamacare fails, voters will know who to look at to blame for its failure. And I doubt they will forget.
Friday, June 30, 2017
“The final key to the way I promote is bravado. I play to people’s fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That’s why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration—and a very effective form of promotion.”- Donald Trump, THE ART OF THE DEAL
Our president is a liar, and that doesn't even scratch the surface of him; he lies constantly, in nearly every speech or interview. He lies to support his policies, underline his childish insults and puff up his bloated ego. And he doesn't just evade, use obfustication, or exaggerate, like all politicians do, he just straight up says things that are factually incorrect. How much does he lie? The New York Times recently ran a huge list of all of his lies since he took the oath of office on January 21st.
Here's what it looked like:
|100 lies in 6 months|
And note that those are only the lies he's told as president, it doesn't count his years of lying about Barack Obama's birth certificate, or mention the fact that when he finally, reluctantly, admitted that Obama was a legitimate American citizen, he still lied about who started the conspiracy!
So our president lies constantly, in a manner unprecedented for any other president. But what's worse to me is why he lies; I've said before that I believe that Trump is truly a psychopath, and they have an enormously inflated sense of self importance, which is where a large part of his dishonesty comes from. Here is a man who never apologizes, openly refers to himself as smart, and sees his six bankruptcies as good business moves. His main guiding principle in life (perhaps his only one) is that he, Donald Trump, is a great, amazing, and virtually god like person, and he wants all other people to agree with that principle. So it's easy for him to go from being a man who's donated to Democrats and Planned Parenthood to being a rabid Republican who wants to defund Planned Parenthood. When he started publicly questioning Obama's birth certificate, he found that it made him popular with Republican voters, so he just kept repeating it, soaking up their adulation and doubling down on his dishonesty (He once claimed to have investigators in Hawaii who were finding out "amazing things" about Obama's birth certificate. We still haven't heard from them.). And when he started giving speeches at his rallies, his posture and body language clearly showed him feeding off the crowd's adulation, literally almost swelling up with pride as he spoke. From the beginning, it was obvious that he would just say things to make the crowd cheer for him, with his lies getting bigger and bolder ("Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are the cofounders of Isis!") as the campaign went on. Many people in the crowd realized that he was not telling the truth, but they were untruths that they wanted to hear, that espoused a world view they agreed with, so they cheered anyway, building an almost circular symbiotic relationship of lies between him and his crowds.
And he can pivot on a dishonest dime if he needs to; during the campaign, Trump spoke repeatedly about The New York Times, saying that it was "failing" and "dishonest". But after he won, he did an interview with reporters from The Times, in which he openly praised the paper and humbly said that he hoped he would "make them proud". And then he went right back to giving speeches assaulting the Times, as if he had never met with those reporters! How can he do this? Again, his guiding principle is to convince everyone else in the world of his greatness, so he will calibrate what he says to one group of people, and then completely change his words when speaking to another, and again, while all politicians learn to do this, he takes it to an extreme. He can be superficially charming to a person's face, and then have no qualms about stabbing them in the back once they're gone.
Will Trump's lies every really catch up with him? Sadly, they haven't so far, but hopefully someday, when the coal and manufacturing jobs don't come back, and his healthcare policies harm people who live in states that voted for him, people will start to see him for the habitual liar that he is and turn on him. Really, it can't happen soon enough.
Monday, June 19, 2017
|FBI Agents look over the crime scene|
Last Wednesday a lone gunman opened fire on a congressional softball game, hitting four people and seriously wounding Representative Steve Scalise. The shooter, James Hodgkenson, was a big supporter of Senator Bernie Sanders, and was reported to have been distraught over the election of Donald Trump. Hodgkenson is a sad reminder that there are dangerous, crazy people on either side of the political fence, and that in a deeply divided country with easy access to guns (even for a man with a history of domestic abuse like he had), violence seems inevitable. And with social media spreading thoughts at light speed, over the top rhetoric and outright fury can be dispensed almost too quickly. Add to that pundits who foment hatred of the other side, from Cathy Griffith posing with a decapitated Trump head on the left, to Rush Limbaugh calling Hodgkenson a "mainstream Democratic voter" on the right, our divided nation becomes even more polarized.
While I can never condone what Hodkenson did in any shape or form, his actions reflect the sense of anger and loss that around half of the country feels due to Trump's election. Part of the problem is that feeling of anger and loss on the left was the exact same way that the right felt when Barack Obama was president, anger which also sometimes boiled over into violence, like the shooting of Representative Gaby Giffords in 2011. Many studies have been done in recent years on the differences between conservatives and progressives, and it would appear that there is a definite difference in brain chemistry, with conservatives having larger fear and revulsion centers. (Putting it simply, conservatives are from Mars, progressives are from Venus). This raises a simple question: can this union be saved? If half the country is completely set in one way, and the other half is diametrically opposed to the first, how can we really survive as a nation? We really do seem to live in two separate worlds; I'll be the first to admit that I can't even understand the mentality of a Trump voter, even if I have some sympathy for the coal miners and factory workers who believed his promise to bring their jobs back.
Many progressives like to point to Trump's low approval ratings as proof of how terrible he is, and while I take some cold comfort in those numbers, he still won, he probably won't be impeached any time soon, and he may even serve two terms. That's how divided this country is, that, really no matter what, Trump will always get a significant part of the country's vote.
Years from now, historians are really going to look back on this time with wonder; under Barack Obama, there were no great catastrophes in the country: there were no large scale terrorist attacks on our shores, no economic crashes, and job growth was slow but steady. And yet somehow in 2016 America turned to a man who ran a campaign in which he promised to reverse everything that Obama had been doing as president. He repeatedly called Obama's presidency a disaster and a nightmare, and openly lied about the country's low unemployment and violent crime rates. In essence, he wanted to erase Obama from the history books altogether implying that white male supremacy must be restored. And somehow the country bought it, or to put it more precisely, fifty three million voters bought it.
So our country seems to wildly swaying from one direction to another, with neither side ever completely gaining the upper hand, while other countries watch in amazement. I used to be optimistic about America's future, with demographic changes and the move to more people living in cities pointing towards a more progressive direction, but after this brutal, ugly campaign and presidency, I have to wonder. Is there really any way that a country made up of two such different groups of people survive the way it is? I just don't know anymore.
Saturday, June 3, 2017
America is unique in a number of ways: for one thing, for good or for bad, our media dominates the world's media; that is, although every large country has its own film industry, Hollywood earns the lion's share of the world's box office. And the same goes for our TV shows and music industry; The whole world watches and listens to things made in the US. Even in North Korea there is an enormous market for black market Hollywood movie DVDs.
There are other things that make America unique that we shouldn't be so proud of, like the fact that we have the world's highest prison population, and that we're the only country to have those horrid baby beauty pageants. Another thing to add to that list is that America is the only country in which political money spent equals free speech, meaning that individuals, corporations and unions can legally make the kind of massive campaign donations that would be considered outright bribery in other countries. Although there are some limits to campaign contributions in America, there are easy ways to get around them, especially after the 2010 Citizen's United ruling by the Supreme Court relaxed limits on spending into Political Action Committees, opening up the floodgates to even more of what is essentially legalized bribery in our political system.
Which leads us to the subject of climate change. It is the overwhelming belief of the global scientific community that climate change is real and man made, and that the negative effects of it, ranging from crop failure to droughts, are already with us and will continue to escalate. But in America, people who doubt climate change or down play it's effects hold prominent places in congress and the White House. How did America wind up on the wrong side of this issue? Because of that legal political bribery that I mentioned. For decades now, oil and gas companies, led by the billionaire Koke brothers, have poured billions of dollars into political campaigns and think tanks to muddy the waters of scientific research on climate change. Like the tobacco companies of old that buried reports on the dangers of smoking, the coal and oil interests have put their own short term financial gains over the good of the general public.
And yesterday, they saw the fruits of all that spending, with President Trump officially pulling America out of the Paris Climate Accord, an agreement that President Obama had signed onto in 2015. While it looked like there was no way under Trump that the country could possibly have met the goals of the accord anyway, by yanking the country out the president sent a strong message to the other 190(!) countries that signed on: don't look to the US to be a leader on this issue despite the fact that our country pollutes the earth more per capita than any other. Or to put it another way, in Trump's America first era, the profits of our companies must be put ahead of any concern for the world's environment. Not only is this policy wrong headed, it's economically foolish; the renewable energy job market is rapidly growing while jobs in the coal industry have been shrinking for years. Trump's action has put us on the wrong side of history and plunged us backward into a time when coal and oil were the energy kings of this country. Now we will lose ground in the rising green energy market to countries like India and China, who are both moving forward on solar power and other renewable energy sources.
While it remains to be seen just how much damage Trump's disastrous decision will have on the world, one thing seems clear: the country's experiment in having a president with no political experience is leading us down a darker and darker hole with no easy end in sight. If America is doomed to fracture or fall like Ancient Rome did, or to have some kind of civil war again, its breaking point will begin with the Trump election, and the damage he has caused the country and the world. I hate to be so bleak, but we do seem to be standing on the precipice as a country, with a egotistical psychopath about to lead us in.
Sunday, May 28, 2017
During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump became famous at his rallies for his belligerent attitude towards protesters: Some times he would talk about the "old days" when protesters would be "taken out on a stretcher." Another time, after fearing that protesters might throw tomatoes at him, he said, "So if you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of 'em, would you? Seriously. Okay? Just knock the hell — I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise. I promise." And his angry, brutish statements somewhat inevitably led to many verbal altercations, and a few actually violent ones, (most infamously an African American man was elbowed in the head while being taken out of a rally) none of which Trump ever apologized for.
|Pictured above: America, sadly enough|
Yes, on the campaign trail Trump proved himself to not only be a bigot, a liar, an egotist and a misogynist, but also an outright bully, one who seemed to openly implore his minions into violent behavior. The fact that his rallies never turned into full blown riots seems to be a combination of luck and good security. Not surprisingly, the Southern Poverty Law Center noticed a marked an increase in hate crimes across the nation the more Trump campaigned.
To be fair, Trump has not made as many hateful statements in office as he did on the campaign trail, but that seems to be more because he has other things to do than hold ego bloating rallies, like, say, running the country. Still, his bullying manner still manifests itself in his late night tweets and ranting interviews. Even more disturbing is his seeming admiration for authoritative leaders, like Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, whom Trump has praised despite the fact that Duterte's government has used death squads to kill thousands of suspected drug dealers.
Now, once elected, a president becomes not only the leader of the country, but also the leader of his party, who then sets the tone for that party. And Trump's influence on other Republicans seems to be appearing in several recent cases: in Montana, congressional candidate Greg Gianforte physically assaulted a reporter who had the audacity to ask him a question about the Trumpcare bill. Sadly, that didn't stop Gianforte from winning. Just two days later, while doing a photo op at a gun range, Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott joked that “I’m gonna carry this around in case I see any reporters.” Continuing the combative nature of Republican press relations in the Trump era. And in Mississippi, State Rep. Karl Oliver, R-Winona posted on Facebook that people removing Confederate monuments in Louisiana should be "lynched". Although he later apologized, the fact that he would post such a thing while representing a state that has a truly horrid history of lynching is stunning. While I'm not obviously blaming Trump directly for these actions, I think it's fair to say that when a bully runs the White House, it emboldens other bullies.
Not surprisingly, there has been no comment on any of this behavior by the White House; except that, concerning the Montana election, Trump tweeted: “Does anyone notice how the Montana Congressional race was such a big deal to Dems & Fake News until the Republican won?”. Obviously to him, a win is a win, and a bully on his side is a hero.
These are some really dark times for this country; when a major political party gets its cues from a president who ran a campaign full of anger and hatred; the only silver lining is that Trump has been extremely unpopular from the moment he took office, with his approval ratings sinking lower in a few months than Barack Obama's did in eight years. This combined with the ongoing investigation of Trump's campaign ties to Russian influence could mean that Trump's effectiveness as a president will be negligible, and his impeachment possible. Although some people on the left point out that Vice President Mike Pence replacing an impeached Trump as president would not be an improvement, and may actually be worse, I believe that Trump's humiliation if he were impeached would at the very least reduce the energy that various hate groups have with him in office, leading to a reduction in hate crimes overall in this country. For that reason alone, I would prefer President Pence.
Friday, May 12, 2017
The stereotype has been around for years: Republicans are the daddy party, Democrats are the mommy party. The daddy party will keep the country safe by spending more money on defense, making sure you can buy any kind of gun you want and acting tough. And it dispenses tough love by saying that you have to earn what you have, sink or swim. The mommy party wants the country to more fair by making sure that schools are well payed for, and that the poor and middle class should be given some help. While both of these stereotypes are often untrue, (although Republicans like to paint Democrats as weak on defense, the US's defense budgets under Barack Obama were still much larger than any other country's) they still seem to define both parties in the modern world. This is especially true in right wing media, where accusations of Democrats "feminizing" our country are common place.
One of the realities of these seemingly different world views, is just how much more aggressive the Republican party is grabbing onto and holding power; put simply, they always seem to want to lead more than the Democrats do. Back in the presidential election debacle of 2000, they very effectively pushed the narrative that Al Gore was trying to "steal" the election with recounts. And then when George W Bush won with out winning a majority of the popular vote, he swaggered into office as if he had a sweeping mandate from the people instead of a narrow victory in a deeply divided country. And the Democrats in congress, for the most part, went along with it; some of them even voted for his tax cut plan.
Conversely, when Barack Obama won a far more sweeping victory in 2008, the Republican party acted as if his win was not legitimate, from spreading false rumors about Obama's birthplace to filibustering his every move in the senate, they showed none of the acceptance that the Democrats had in 2000. And in 2016, the Democratic party got more overall votes, but hold no majorities in congress, thanks to Republican drawn congressional districts, while Democrats saw another presidential candidate go down to defeat while winning the popular vote. Somehow, in a divided country, the Republicans have gamed the system, giving them more power than they proportionally should have.
This lust for raw power has now lead the Republican party into supporting and defending both a
candidate and president that may be threatening American democracy itself. They fell in line with Donald Trump as a candidate, despite his lack of experience, and racist and misogynistic comments, and now that his actions as president are becoming less and less easy to defend, the vast majority still stand with him. Just a few days ago, he fired James Comey, the head of the FBI, in a completely unprecedented move; although the firing is within presidential power, and he's not the first to do it, the firing came while the FBI was still investigating Trump's campaign ties to Russia. While Trump's people have given a flurry of answers as to why he did this, from Comey mishandling the Clinton email investigation (which Trump actually praised on the campaign trail), to workers at the FBI losing confidence in him (which was contradicted by testimony from actual FBI members), to Trump himself in an interview dismissing Comey as "a grand stander" and "a showboat." (Projecting a little there, Donald?). The most convincing reason to me is that POLITICO magazine reports that Trump would watch TV reports on the continuing Russian investigation and scream and yell at the screen like a psychopathic toddler, leading to him inevitably lashing out at Comey, foolishly assuming that this would somehow end the Russian investigation.
The good news is that the Comey firing has had the opposite effect, drawing even more attention to the possible treasonous collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. The bad news is that the Republican party is still almost entirely standing behind him, with Mitch McConnell and others rejecting a call for an independent investigation. Worst of all, as an apparent distraction, Trump has appointed a panel to investigate so called voter fraud, a panel that includes Kris Kobach, a proponent of tough voter laws that inevitably target minority voters. (In yet another example of their raw quest for power, the Republican party has no problem with suppressing the rights of minority voters to gain a political advantage.)
Yes, just as they ignored Trump's use of the White House to expand his and his family's wallets, while appointing unqualified family members into important positions (the president's son in law Jared Kushner, has been given many different governmental duties, including negotiations in the middle east, not bad for a real estate business inheritor with no political experience!). And they ignored or tried to defend his absurd accusations of millions of illegal voters going to the polls, or that Barack Obama had him wire tapped. And now here they are, going along with Trump as he tries to distract and move the country along from what could be the biggest presidential scandal in our nation's history. In the past few days, there have been numerous comparisons made between Trump and Richard Nixon, and while many of these are apt (Nixon fired a special prosecutor instead of the head of the FBI, but the nature of the firing was very similar), the sad fact of the matter is that in Nixon's time, there were enough Republicans of principle willing to stand up to him in the face of obvious wrong doing. Do such Republicans even exist today? Perhaps a handful, but for the most part it appears that the Republican party is just fine with Trump acting more and more like a corrupt third world dictator than a president as long as he can bring them the tax cuts for the rich, rollback of environmental regulations and the removal of Obamacare that they so crave for. It's getting really hard to feel any kind of patriotism for this country and its leader these days.
Tuesday, May 9, 2017
In the many, many analytical articles that have been written about the still shocking result of the 2016 presidential election, one theme is often repeated: among Clinton's problems was a lack of a compelling message, a strong reason as to why she should be president. The slogan her campaign came up with was the vaguely feminist "I'm With Her", which obviously failed to break through. *
On the other hand, Donald Trump's campaign slogan was, I must admit, simple, catchy and memorable, even if it made me cringe every time I saw it. Part of the success of "Make America Great Again" was that it echoed the slogan of Ronald Reagan's popular 1980 campaign slogan, "Let's Make America Great Again", giving older, Reagan loving voters a nostalgic connection. More importantly, it implied that once upon a time there was a glorious time in America in which all was wonderful, and somehow Trump was going to take us back there. But back where? When exactly was this glorious time?
Well, many people look at the 1950's , as a time when America appeared to be prosperous and happy. The both ridiculed and loved TV shows of that era, like LEAVE IT TO BEAVER and THE ADVENTURES OF OZZIE AND HARRIET portrayed a peaceful, suburban view of the country, with parents in traditional family roles and children that were respectful of them. In stark contrast to the tumultuous times of the 60's, the 50's are seen as a time of wholesome values.
But were the 50's such a perfect time? Well, as with many things in life, the truth lies in the middle. Culturally, the 1950's was certainly a conservative time, with segregation still the law in Southern states, women treated as second class citizens, and gay people all closeted, it certainly was a good time for heterosexual white men. But here's the odd part of the 50's: it was also a time of progressive economic policies. The top tax rate on the wealthiest Americans was around ninety percent(!).
|Image Take from Business Insider|
Even with all the various write offs and deductions rich people could make, it's safe to say that they were paying a much higher rate than the current rate of thirty nine percent. So the government, led Republican war hero Dwight Eisenhower, had money to spend, and it was mainly spent on three things: education, infrastructure, and scientific research, and the result was the largest growth of the middle class in our nation's history, as better schools, roads, highways and bridges, along with advances in science, made for a happier populace. This is the part of the 1950's that conservatives seems to forget, they just revere the traditional values and forget the part about how government investment in the country made our nation more, well, swell.
Looked at historically, the notion that high taxes on the wealthiest Americans can't lead to economic growth simply doesn't hold up, and yet the Republican mantra of tax cuts for the wealthy is still one that holds sway in modern America. To me it seems to be more about rewarding wealthy campaign donors than spurring the economy. Hopefully, someday the government will come to its senses and realize that government spending, done properly, can result in more of the kind of widespread prosperity that Trump promised but will probably fail to deliver. Interestingly, the one thing I do agree with him on is his proposed plan to increase infrastructure spending by a trillion dollars, which is sorely needed. But, considering his budget and tax proposals don't allow for that kind of spending, it seems that that promise from him is just another one of his many lies.
*And really, this just plays up to the fact that she has often been a hard luck candidate: back in 2008, while running against Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination, she decided not to play up her gender, and she lost. In 2016 she played up her gender more, (which seemed logical while running against a man with multiple sexual assault charges!), and yet she still lost.
Thursday, May 4, 2017
Well, when it comes to the passage of a disastrous health care bill in the House of Representatives, it would appear that the third time's the charm. When the first health care bill was with held from a vote in March, it looked like the majority Republicans couldn't even compromise with each other. After another attempt failed attempt, it looked like the party might give up entirely. But today, by a final vote of 217 to 213, it squeaked through. One of the lessons they learned from before was to push the bill through before the non partisan Congressional Budge Office could give a full report as to its expected full effect. But such analysis is not needed when it's clear to see effect of a bill that cuts a stunning eight hundred and eighty billion dollars from Medicaid over the next ten years, ends most protections for people with pre existing conditions, and guts Planned Parenthood while also handing a huge tax cut to the rich, will have. Healthcare premiums will rise, and tens of millions of Americans will be unable to afford it. The fact that the American Medical Association, the American Association of Retired People and several other prominent health groups oppose the bill means nothing to them.
As with each version of the bill, President Trump has supported it without seeming to know what's in it. Although it comes nowhere near the healthcare plan he claimed to support on the campaign trail, he will, of course, ignore what he said earlier, and his promise of cheaper coverage for all will go down as just another one of the many lies he told in order to win. He obviously cares more about his own personal goal of destroying Barack Obama's legacy than he does about the millions of people who will lose healthcare if he signs the bill. His own glory is his only concern.
So all we have left to stop a bill that will prove horrible to most Americans is the Senate. The good news is that the Republicans have only a slim majority (52-48), and even if they use a rule that avoids the filibuster, there are some moderate Republicans who may see the light. Even better, not only does this bill stand a chance of going down to defeat, all of the Republican house members who voted for it are going to have to somehow defend a bill that is wildly unpopular in the polls in 2018 when they run for reelection. So, it's possible that the House Republicans cheering today may be sealing their own doom. I certainly hope so.
Thursday, April 27, 2017
Every time there is a horrific mass shooting in America, members of the National Rifle Association give media interviews decrying even the slightest attempt to pass gun control legislation. This phenomenon reached a peak in 2012, when, after the horrific shooting of elementary school children in Sandy Hook Connecticut, then president Barack Obama tried to pass an extended back ground gun check law that would have included gun shows. Despite polls showing a staggering ninety percent of the American public agreed with what was only a mild piece of legislation, the law went down to defeat in congress. Why? Because the NRA has an absolute stranglehold over many members of congress; they give letter grades to each congressperson and campaign heavily against any one of them that does not toe their line of opposition to virtually any kind of gun control.
The amazing thing about this is that the NRA's membership , according to their own website, hovers around five million people. In a country with three hundred and twenty million people, why does a group representing such a small part of the population have such influence? Part of the reason is that those five million members can be mobilized to vote and they can help sway an election in many states. Also, the NRA is extremely well funded: although they claim to speak for just gun owners, much of their money comes from gun manufacturers, who of course want their products to sold to as many people as possible. And given the fact that the Citizen's United ruling by the Supreme Court in 2010 put very few limits on campaign donations, the undue influence of the NRA is probably going to continue for years to come.
This leads to another group of people in this country who seem to have an undue influence today: coal miners. During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly talked up the importance of keeping coal mining jobs in America. And as president he has passed legislation allowing coal mines to dump waste into streams under the belief that restricting such dumping costs jobs. All of this cow towing to coal miners would seem to imply that they are a large part of the American work force, but a recent article in the New York Times told another story: in energy jobs today, coal employs around one hundred and sixteen thousand people (about eighty three thousand of whom are miners), while natural gas employs a whopping three hundred and ninety eight thousand. Even the solar industry, often dismissed as a pipe dream by Republicans, now employs around three hundred and seventy three thousand people, more than double the number of coal workers. While conservatives have blamed the loss of coal jobs on government regulations, in reality more jobs have been lost due to either mechanization or the free market; energy from natural gas is now cheaper to mine and sell than coal. Put simply, hanging on to coal jobs in 2017 is like hanging on to horse and buggy wagons in 1917.
So why is Trump doing this? Why hang on to an outdated energy source? While part of it may be Trump's support from blue collar workers like coal miners, another part of the answer is, once again, money. According to Vice News, the Murray Company, the country's biggest coal company, donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Trump's campaign, and other coal companies made similar donations. And so we have a president who ignores the science of global warming and pretends to care about blue collar workers while letting companies pollute our air and water while hanging onto an energy source that is slowly dying off no matter how many regulations he removes, all so that the wealthy corporate CEO's that donated money to him can squeeze every last penny out of their dwindling business as they can. It's hard no to be disillusioned by the state of the country today, but despite our president's best efforts, the world continues to move forward, and someday soon solar, wind and water energy will be an important part of the world's energy. Even the president cannot turn back the clock.
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Perfect poetic justice: Bill O'Reilly, one of the most popular of the right wing bloviators on Fox News, has been fired because he has a history of sexual harassment against several female coworkers. Rumors of his crude and unwarranted behavior have been floating around for almost a decade, with the network shelling out millions of dollars in damages to protect their profitable star. But apparently, the latest round of complaints, accompanied by advertisers pulling their commercials from his show, have pushed the network, (which had already forced out former news chairman Roger Ailes on similar charges), too far.
Part of me is thrilled by this: good riddance to a loud mouthed jerk who often held himself up as a paragon of moral rectitude (in a truly delicious bit of irony, he once co-authored a book for children entitled GIVE PLEASE A CHANCE [!]). Over the years O'Reilly has called for a terrorist attack on San Francisco's Coit Tower because he didn't like the way people there voted, shouted down anyone who disagrees with him, and sent camera crews to verbally attack people who didn't want to be on his show. Although he occasionally made feints to common sense to show he wasn't just a mouthpiece for the Republican Party (he admitted Barack Obama was born in America), he has mostly been an echo chamber for cranky old white men to hear him yell about how rap music is destroying the country, or whatever.
There is another part of me that is perplexed by this whole thing; while what O'Reilly is being accused of is certainly repulsive, none of the charges are any worse than what twelve separate women have alleged against our current president, who infamously was caught on tape bragging about sexual assault. Is it possible that the sudden, shocking election of Donald Trump, despite all those allegations, so outraged women's advocates that they are now hyper vigilant? Are they partly taking their anger at Trump out on one of his fanboys? While part of me says, good for them, another part of me wonders why they couldn't have pushed harder to convince the 53% of white female voters who went for Trump to not vote for him? Or at least have gotten more people to the polls in the first place? The sad fact of the matter is that O'Reilly, despite his popularity, had little to no actual political power, while Trump has already made decisions that deeply affect the world, and may do so for years. I guess what I'm asking is, if one person's career had to be destroyed by sexual assault charges, why couldn't it have been Trump's?
Friday, April 7, 2017
President Donald Trump recently engaged in a wide scale military strike on the military government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. The strike was made in retaliation to a brutal attack Assad made on suspected Syrian rebels with chemical weapons that resulted in the ghastly death of scores of people, many of them children.
Trump's decision to strike is a major change in his previously stated view on the subject: in 2013 he tweeted that then president Obama should not attack Syria, even though al-Assad had crossed a red line Obama had set by using chemical weapons against the rebels in his country. And repeatedly on the campaign trail he decried the idea of the US getting further involved militarily in the Middle East. But now he has changed his tune, saying, “I will tell you, that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me — big impact. That was a horrible, horrible thing. And I’ve been watching it and seeing it, and it doesn’t get any worse than that.”
It's possible to be of two minds on this issue: first, it is obvious that al-Assad's attack was horrific and deserving of a military strike, the kind that Obama himself regretted not making in the past. According to the New York Times, al-Assad's motive for the attack was to completely demoralize the rebel movement, with civilian casualties being part of that demoralization. In another words, it's possible to be a progressive pacifist that despises Trump and still feel that he acted rightly here.
On the other hand, it also showcases Trump's impulsive behavior, as he acted without speaking to congress about it first, and seemed to be basing it on what he was watching on TV that day. Even worse, his anger at the death of children stops at our borders; he appears to have no intention of changing his policy of not allowing Syrian refugees to enter America, which would save more lives than missile strikes. Also, is this just the beginning? Will America continue bombing in Syria, or even send in ground troops?
My mixed reaction to the president's action is mirrored by many political figures: some of Trump's most conservative supporters have condemned it, feeling that it wasn't putting American first, as he so often said he would during the campaign. While many other Republicans and some Democrats have offered praise. Meanwhile, there's even been a debate as to whether or not it was legal, not that there's likely to be any consequence for Trump on that matter; he isn't the first president to launch such a strike.
And if that weren't complicated enough, the attack has soured relations between America and al-Assad ally Russia. Somewhat amazingly, the same candidate who never said anything negative about Vladimir Putin during the campaign, and who benefited from Russian computer hacking into the Democratic National Committee files, has now gone against Russia. Could this backfire on him? Do the Russians have some dirt on Trump, as has been often rumored?
One thing is sure, once again the unpredictable, even deranged style of leadership that Trump promised has led to an unknown conclusion. Trump may prove to be a transformational president to both the country and the world, but we'll have to hold our breath to see if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
Sunday, March 26, 2017
Yesterday, the Republican party proved something: they are a party that is great at opposing Democratic policies, but terrible at actually creating policies of their own. Yes, after eight years of demonizing Obamacare and sending literally dozens of repeal bills to Barack Obama's desk for him to veto, the Republican party couldn't even get their own healthcare bill out of the House of Representatives. The cracks in the party were readily apparent: the moderates didn't want to support a bill that the Congressional Budget Office estimated would take healthcare away from over twenty million people, and that was opposed by every major health providing organization in the country, and the conservatives didn't feel that the bill went far enough(!).
On the campaign trail, Donald Trump said that the healthcare plan he would replace Obamacare with would cover everyone, let you choose your doctor and lower premiums (somehow he forgot to promise free unicorn rides to the doctor's office!). Not surprisingly, just how he planned to pay for such a plan was not mentioned: his healthcare promises were about as vague as his promises to get Mexico to pay for a border wall. It was also not surprising that the healthcare bill that Paul Ryan created in the house fell short of Trump's lofty goals, even as he openly supported it.
While I'm certainly glad that the bill went down to defeat, the contents of the bill say much about the party and the man who leads it. Along with giving an enormous tax cut for the rich (the Republican solution to all of life's problems), the bill would make it harder for the old, the sick and the poor to afford healthcare. A study by the Bloomberg political group found that most of the people who would benefit from the tax cut resided in cities that voted for Clinton, and that many of the people who would lose out the most from the bill resided in counties that went for Trump. This fact was brought up by conservative talk show host Tucker Carlson in an interview with Trump, who agreed that it was true, and then shrugged it off by saying "this is going to be negotiated."
Now let's compare the healthcare bill to the recently released Trump federal budget; while it takes a meat axe to the usual Republican targets like public broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts, it also included eliminating the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), an independent agency set up in 1965 “to address the persistent poverty and growing economic despair of the Appalachian Region.” The same Appalachian region that turned out to vote for him in large numbers. He also wants to get rid of the Economic Development Administration, an organization that in recent years has been trying to help out communities devastated by the closing of coal mines. Again, the same communities that turned out to vote for him. Now to be fair, those two programs are a minuscule part of the budget, and he probably had no idea what they were of why they got cut (I'm going to assume that the actual writing of the budget was accomplished with very little input from him), but when the budget is combined with the healthcare bill, it looks like a double backstab aimed at the very people who voted for him. Oddly, the president's biggest supporters should all be glad that the healthcare bill failed and that his budget will be altered by congress.
So what gives? Why do so many poor and middle class white voters vote for candidates who try to pass legislation that doesn't benefit them, and may actually harm them? Sadly, this tradition has long roots that reach to the days of slavery; back then, most white people who lived in the South did not actually own slaves, and most of them were laborers who were forced to compete with slave labor; they would have actually benefited from slavery being abolished. And yet, when the civil war began, those poor white Southerners were willing to fight and die for the right of the rich to have slaves because they were sold a bill of racial superiority; as free white men, they would always have more rights than slaves. And what Trump said on the campaign trail, demonizing Mexican immigrants and Muslims, falls into that same tradition of racial superiority. In fact, I would argue that this racist theme is what pushed Trump over the top to victory in November.
|Jared Taylor, Trump supporter, white supremacist, asshole|
Consider that, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are now 130 Klu Klux Klan groups, 100 White Nationalist groups, and 99 Neo Nazi groups, scattered around the US, mostly in the red states. Now while these groups usually abstain from politics and abhor politicians, the Trump campaign absolutely energized them. Just listen to Jared Taylor, a prominent white supremacist, talking to the New York Times: "I've never met him, and I cannot read his mind any better than you can. But someone who wants to send home all illegal immigrants and at least temporarily ban Muslim immigrants is acting in the interest of whites, whether consciously or not." Trump, naturally, repeatedly denies that he's racist, but that's hard to believe given the level of his campaign rhetoric and his appointment of Steve Bannon, a former editor of a white nationalist website, as a chief White House strategist. It's undeniable that the Trump presidency is popular with most hate groups. This popularity may explain why so many pollsters got the election wrong; polls are done with likely voters, not with white supremacists who rarely show up to vote. Now, am I saying that all sixty three million Trump voters are Klan members? Of course not. But consider that Taylor claims that his white supremacist website American Renaissance gets 300,000 unique views a month, and Stormfront, a similar site, claims to get the same number. In an election as close as the last one, people in those kind of numbers, especially ones that don't normally show up to vote , may very well have lifted Trump to a win. Much to our nation's disgrace.
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.