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The first 100 plus days of the Trump presidency has turned out to be a compelling horror show for anyone who cares about governance, the Constitution or the future of this nation. It is hard not to watch an individual who seems to be dedicated to offending, insulting and repelling virtually every person who does not swear absolute fealty to him, and him alone. The institutional damage that he has committed in so little time is awesome to behold. But it is important to note that when the history books are written the Hurricane Called Trump may turn out to have been a head fake, a distraction from the real damage that is being done to the American people.

Consider the fact that we stared in awe and dismay at the naked lawlessness and infinitely perfect and disgraceful bad taste of President Trump in firing FBI Director James Comey. Meanwhile a mouth breathing direct descendant of Neanderthals named Scott Pruitt heads up the Environmental Protection Agency.

All that Mr. Pruitt has done has been to fire scientists who have been trying to quantify the effects of climate change. He has also declared the policy of his agency as denying the impact of human activity on climate change. And, just to keep things interesting, Mr. Pruitt has begun to allow coal and oil exploration on federal lands in the Arctic and through the lower 48 states.

One day the Terror of Trump will fade into the dustbin of history, but yet unborn children will suffer from the diminished and degraded environment that they will inherit thanks in no small part to Scott Pruitt and his science denying minions. The damage that Pruitt can wreak in just a few short years is fearsome and real.

Consider the fact we are absolutely dumbfounded by the notion that the President of the United States would bar American press from his meeting with senior Russian officials while allowing Russian press to attend. And then, to keep things interest, Terrible Trump shared highly confidential and classified information with these same Russians.

But while the Trump Circus lumbers through the American political landscape, President Trump appointed as Attorney General, none other than Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III from Alabama – a state whose flag is modeled after that of a Confederate State of America regiment (to remove any doubt regarding the heart and soul of the ruling citizenry of that state). Aside from lying to Congress regarding his association with representatives of Russia, Mr. Sessions has been quietly at work reviving the spirit of mass incarceration.

Mr. Sessions has already stated his belief that maximum criminal penalties for even low level marijuana usage will be the hallmark of his tenure. He has also directed all United States Attorneys to seek maximum prison sentences whenever and wherever possible. While the executives and shareholders of CoreCivic (formerly known as the Corrections Corporation of America) are doing the 21st century version of the Macarena, hundreds of thousands of American families and thousands of American communities will suffer due to the revival of punitive action as the driving force of the American criminal justice system.

Recent news has reported that in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Officer Betty Jo Shelby (who is white) has been acquitted of all charges in the shooting of the unarmed Terrence Crutcher (who was black). Prior to this verdict, Attorney General Sessions had announced that the United States Department of Justice will no longer look into these matters, thereby turning back the clock to a time when black Americans could be beaten and killed by police with apparent impunity. Perhaps this is what Making America Great really means.

We have been watching the Trump Rocky Horror Show, wondering who will be fired, indicted or arrested next. Meanwhile his appointee to the Office of Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Dr. Ben Carson, has been busy supporting a proposal to totally eliminate the 42 year old Community Development Block Grant Program.

During the Republican presidential primaries Dr. Carson did two amazing things. He made “brain surgeon” a pejorative term and he actually made Herman Cain look good as a black Republican presidential candidate. Now that he has a real job, Dr. Carson seems to be operating on the assumption that he should perform surgery, indeed amputations, on the programs upon which poor and aspiring Americans have depended upon for years. Even the short term impact of his short term thinking can be horrific – and over the long term the damage may well be unknowable.

The point is that in less than four months Donald Trump has proven himself to be miscast as President of the United States. He may or may not be “fired” at some point. But while we are watching the Spectacle That is Trump, we should not lose sight of the real damage that his Administration is doing every day – out of sight of the news cycle.

Watching shiny objects can be dangerous to your health.

It has been said before and it is worth repeating, the best way to boil a frog is to place it in a pot of water and then slowly raise the temperature until, before he knows it, the frog is cooked and ready for dinner. And in some ways, too many ways, the American electorate is rapidly morphing into that boiled frog, especially when it comes to one Donald J. Trump.

When Donald Trump first announced his candidacy for president, he was considered a side show, a carnival act who would serve as the intro act before the presumptive main event players like Bush, Rubio, Kasich and all the other forget me nots and remember me nevers that became forgotten in the Trump avalanche. If Trump was considered a danger to America it was because too many people would hurt themselves laughing at his gaucherie, buffoonery and defiance of facts, logic and basic intelligence. And the American Frog barely stirred.

When the Trump campaign started to move into high gear, winning primary after primary notice was surely taken. But his bankruptcies, outright lies, misogyny, blatant racism, invisible tax returns, numerous sexual assaults and multiple frauds (remember Trump University?) were clear warning signs that Donald Trump could be a dangerous man if he ever became president. The needle moved on the water temperature, but again, the American Frog barely stirred.

By the time that he secured the Republican nomination for president, some real consideration of the danger that President Trump could represent to the Republic was a topic of serious conversation and commentary – if only occasionally. After all, it was incomprehensible that women, working class white men and the working poor would vote against their self-interest and actually elect a man who promised to promote programs and initiatives that were decidedly wrong for them. By now the temperature in which the American Frog was swimming, would have been too hot at first, but by now the American Frog was getting used to the heat.

In his inaugural speech, President Trump spoke of the nonexistent “carnage” in this country and set the stage for creating a climate of crisis that so-called strong men from Caesar to Peron have used to justify the exercise of extraordinary personal powers. By then the American Frog was truly cooked, but it has taken awhile for the erstwhile electorate of 2016 to realize that we are now on the verge of becoming history’s biggest entrée.

Beginning with a flurry of blatantly unconstitutional executive orders and institutionalizing nepotism as the new normal in American government, Donald Trump has shown a truly amazing disregard for history, science and the value and importance of constitutional governance.

He has also chosen to erase the visible progress of racial and gender diversity in American society by choosing to surround himself with as many white men as he can find to the exclusion of blacks, Latinos, Asians and women of any and every color. Indeed, the LGBTQI community is now so isolated in the Era of Trump that they may want to keep an eye out for errant Immigration Control Enforcement agents who might get carried away during their deportation sorties.

We have now also learned that in the Era of Trump it can always get worse. And this week, in what appears to be an expression of monumental narcissistic pique, Donald Tinyhands stomped his feet in rage and fired FBI Director James Comey because he didn’t feel that Mr. Comey was a “team player”. What President Trump didn’t mention is that Mr. Comey was relentlessly pursuing the connection between Russia and the Trump campaign, the Trump administration and President Trump himself.

While we know that President Trump treats the Constitution like a soiled Mar A Lago dinner napkin, it is still stunning to find out that he believes that the American people will believe that he fired the FBI Director for his mishandling of the matter of Hillary Clinton’s email server. Somehow we are supposed to forget who was that orange-haired leader of the “Lock Her Up” chants that echoed through the campaign.

It is said that pride goes before the fall. In the case of President Trump, this epic constitutional crisis that he has created with his own Tinyhands is almost a sure predicate to his eventual fall. What we should worry about is whether America falls with him.

I recently had the privilege and honor to be the master of ceremonies for the Paralyzed Veterans of America – www.pva.org – 2017 Partners Conference in New York City. I could not help but admire the courage, perseverance and strength of spirit of the men and women who attended – men and women who had overcome heartbreaking bodily damage – and the men, women and children who provide love, support and comfort to paralyzed veterans every day of the month, every month of the year, year after year.

During course of this daylong event, I could not help but reflect on the decidedly mixed history of this country and its veterans. After the successful conclusion of the Revolutionary War America’s first veterans had to threaten the new Congress in making demands for back pay and benefits. The threats were so real that those first members of Congress fled the new capital of Philadelphia in order to escape the wrath of the disgruntled first warriors of the Republic.

Indeed, after World War I, soldiers of the United States Army led by Douglas MacArthur shot and killed veterans who had the temerity to march to Washington, D.C. This took place in 1932 as the United States government turned its back on the men who had fought for this country.

Further reflection focused on the fact that the G.I. Bill and other post World War II benefits were certainly a step in the right direction. Nevertheless, despite all the Fourth of July and Memorial Day and Veterans Day rhetoric that is embedded in American culture, a cabinet level Department of Veterans Affairs was not established until 1989, 213 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

What I learned during the PVA conference is that the convoluted and dysfunctional relationship between America and its veterans, particularly its wounded veterans continues to this day. Nevertheless, from President Trump to each and every Teapublican member of the so-call Freedom Caucus in Congress to all the leaders of the Democratic Party – all are more than willing to put their hands over their heart as the “Star Spangled Banner” is played before a ballgame or convention and then sit down and enjoy the festivities while injustice rains on the heads of the men and women who have suffered and sacrificed for this country.

This is not about policy arguments regarding the righteousness of any war or military action. This is about justice and compassion and true honor being afforded to the men and women who fought and died/survived while most Americans stay at home and channel surf from battle footage to the latest sitcom.

Clearly it is past time to hold the U.S. government and its citizens accountable. How is it possible that citizens elect representatives who propose to cut the funding for the National Institute of Health which is engaged in cutting edge research that will allow some paralyzed veterans to walk again? It is time for accountability.

What right does any member of Congress have to deny paralyzed and wounded veterans benefits that included in vitro fertilization so that they can enjoy the warmth and comfort of children and a family? It is time for accountability.

How can there be six month delays in granting benefits and service at V.A. hospitals when we live in a country where Amazon can deliver damn near anything we need in a day? It is time for accountability.

And what President or Member of Congress can dare speak about any future military action in Syria, Afghanistan and North Korea or anyplace on this planet without first mending promises to too many veterans that have already been broken? It is time for accountability.

It is a true national shame that paralyzed and wounded veterans should suffer in a country that lifetime pensions to one term members of Congress and incredible tax breaks to the incredibly wealthy. It is time for accountability.

The designation of the first hundred days of an American presidency as being of singular importance began with the inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933. Since then, the first one hundred days have been seen as a window in the extent to which the new president is on a path to success, mediocrity or failure. Using that basic set of demarcations, it is possible to seriously take stock of the Trump administration to date.

One thing that any president has needed to do is to staff an administration. Aside from the Reagan cabinet in 1981, President Trump is presiding over the largest congregation of white men as senior cabinet officials in almost four decades. But aside from giving the cabinet a retro-ivory glow, he has not done much.

Consider that, after one hundred days Barack Obama had appointed 69 officials, George W. Bush had brought 35 people on board, Bill Clinton had appointed 49 men and women and George Herbert Walker Bush had appointed 50. As this is being read, President Trump has appointed on 26, outdueling George W. Bush in a race to the bottom of the mediocre barrel.

It should be clear that there are 1028 positions requiring Presidential appointment and Donald Trump has only nominated 37 individuals for that position. Indeed, President Trump has publicly stated he may not fill many of these vacancies because he does not see the need to have that many people staffing the government of a country with a multitrillion dollar economy and interests literally all over the planet.

In actuality it may be that Donald Trump simply does not want to go through the trouble of actually working like a real executive instead of a reality-show imposter and that it is easier to just keep kicking the can down the road. After all, he has freely admitted that he thought that the job of President of the United States was “easy” and amazingly, it has turned out to be harder than he thought.

Whatever the case, the desultory approach to executive staffing by the Trump Administration may turn out to be the first halting baby steps down the road of inevitable mediocrity (see George W. Bush) or epic and historic failure (see Warren G. Harding). And of course, the true tragedy would be the demolition of the hopes and dreams of the American people, hopes and dreams that he has pretended to cherish, not realizing that even his most ardent supporters want something more than a speech and a slogan.

The First Hundred Days of Trump has given the nation a collective case of whiplash as the Administration has lurched from one firestorm – failed immigration – to another maelstrom – picking petty fights with the leaders of Australia, Mexico and Germany for starters.

And all the while the sickly sweet stench of Trump-Russian involvement never leaves the room – and continues to linger as a ticking time bomb for President Trump. He may just find out that there is a limit to how far his lies may take him.

The blatant hypocrisy of the Teapublicans in Congress has also been revealed for all to see. There has to be universal agreement that if President Hillary Clinton had appointed Chelsea Clinton to do anything in an official governmental role, the Teapublican hounds would be baying for immediate impeachment.

But when President Trump appoint Ivanka Trump to be some kind of aide without portfolio, representing the United States around the world while her personal brand of clothing and accessories gets a billion dollars’ worth of exposure, those same Teapublican hounds are as quiet as the lap dogs that you see carried around in the purses of stylish models and movie stars.

What is clear and certainly more important than the Marxist (as in Marx Brothers) antics of the Trump administration, is the clear intent of this president to try to erase every bit of evidence that Barack Obama was President of the United States.

Most presidents during their first one hundred days have sought to establish their own vision for the country and then have tried to transform that vision into reality. Donald Trump has spent the most time issuing a raft of executive orders designed to erase the Obama legacy in areas ranging from the environment to the rights of women.

Interestingly, what President Trump will learn over time is that Barack Obama’s place in history is engraved in the granite of time. And at some point he might try to focus on coming up with a coherent vision for this country that would actually make things better in this country.

The recent departure of Bill O’Reilly from Fox News amid accusations of consistent sexual predatory behavior raises several important questions and points to a larger issue. First, the questions:

  1. We are told that 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News, along with Bill O’Reilly paid approximately $13 million to 5 women based upon sexual harassment and generally obnoxious behavior. Question – What company pays $13 million dollars due to the misconduct of its employee and keeps its employee? Question – what collective brain lapse affected the shareholders of 21st Century Fox that they would allow management to pay out shareholder assets in defense of behavior that can simply be described as lousy and borderline criminal?
  2. We are told that upon his departure Bill O’Reilly will be receiving approximately $25 million. Please see Questions 1 and 2.
  3. Since the revelations about O’Reilly and the recently departed and never-lamented Roger Ailes from Fox News, there have been multiple reports that the their behavior was neither incidental or accidental, but represented a pattern of consistent conduct over years. Question – stripped of the defense of ignorance, what explanation do the senior management of Fox News and the senior management and board of directors of 21st Century Fox have for turning a blind eye to ubiquitous slime that too often characterized the experience of women who had the misfortune to work at Fox News. Also, please see Questions 1 and 2.

It should be further noted, that before the American media or Americans in general break their arms patting themselves on the back for bearing witness to the humiliation (with payout) of two sexual predators, this country has a very long way to go before American women achieve anything resembling parity and equity. There is a dangerous tendency to label Fox News and its cretin-like behavior as an outlier, although any woman in any profession will attest to the absolute untruth of that tendency. And there is even further danger in thinking that the possible resolution of sexual inequity at Fox News means that there are no problems left to solve in these United States.

While any number of corporate leaders have criticized Fox News and 21st Century Fox for their outrageous institutional culture, we are reminded that of the Fortune 500 companies only 27 have female Chief Executive Officers. Or how about the fact that in the 240 year history of the Republic there have been exactly 41 female governors and that as you are reading this column, out of 50 states only 5 have women in the State House.

The disgraceful status of women in America is found in every marketplace. Nationally, women make 80% of what men earn in a compilation of earnings in every sector. And the poverty rate for women far exceeds that of men in this country.

And academia provides no safe haven for women. Every year 5% of female college students are raped and throughout the country over 1.2 million are the victims of rape.

Clearly, this country is not in a position to engage in self-congratulation because 21st Century Fox is experience a wee bit of penitence and public shaming. The true shame is that the tragedy of the status of women is not viewed as a national crisis. The progress of many women cannot deflect attention from the greater number of women who suffer from violence, poverty, degradation and absence of opportunity every day.

One can only hope that the only good thing in the slime trail left by Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes is a public awakening to the fact that there is a lot more work to be done.

Having recently finished reading “Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead, I was absolutely pleased to learn that this book, in addition to having won the National Book Award, had been awarded the Pulitzer Prize. Indeed “Railroad” is that rare combination of artistry, passion and genius that makes it a book that can be simultaneously savored and devoured.

“Railroad” is a work of historical fiction that begins by chronicling the horrific banality of slavery in America. An America where torture, damnation and misery were the ordinary characteristics of the ordinary life of a black slave. From “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” to “Twelve Years A Slave” to “Roots”, the slime of America’s Original Sin and its Lingering Stain has been told and retold, but America has neither fully accepted the reality of its origins or the absolute fact that the Shadow of Slavery dims the lights of freedom and decency which are supposed to illuminate this land. And that is why America needs to buy “Underground Railroad”.

That is because at some unknowable point this work fiction literally jumps the rails and becomes a work of fantasy woven into an unforgettable fable. But with every word and every page, Colson Whitehead never lets the reader forget that for black Americans in that era, slavery was a constant nightmare – a nightmare from which there was no awakening.

And it is the constancy of horror and fear and humiliation and abject surrender that accompanies the reader on every single page that forces the reader to understand that slavery was not simply a bad but best forgotten chapter in American’s history. “Railroad” has the potential to help every American understand that the institutionalized, regularized and humanized degradation of black Americans for centuries has deformed the character of this country to this very day. And the truth is that this deformity cannot be cured until it is recognized in the first place.

For those who would contend that the combination of the Emancipation Proclamation at the 13th Amendment to the Constitution freed and empowered the men and women who were formerly chattel, “Railroad” clarifies matters. For it is not possible for an entire nation to either enslave or countenance the enslavement of human beings for centuries and then proclaim and amend a new vision and a new day.

Because it is clear that the racial disparities that prevail in these United States 152 years after the end of the Civil War do not exist because of inferiority of black Americans or a lack of remediating strategies ranging from legislation to Supreme Court decisions to black capitalism to affirmative action. The disparities exist because the equality of black Americans is not a fully accepted fact – indeed it is still subject to dispute, particularly when that dispute is thinly veiled in sociological jargon.

Disparities in incarceration rates, mortality rates and unemployment are the strange fruit of the slavery vineyards that were planted centuries ago. The insults and venom that were leveled at the first African American president had little to do with politics and everything to do with his genetic condition to former chattel.

The mandatory reading of “Railroad” will allow all Americans, black and white, see in the book the very clear connection between the language, behavior and spirit of the overseer and the owner in the current political discourse. Because as has been seen in Germany and Bosnia and Armenia and now in Syria, if it is possible to deny the humanity of another human being, it is then possible to do anything and everything to that human being.

And that is why, in addition to the well-deserved accolades, every American should read “Underground Railroad” as a very important first step in finally finding a way to bury the past and to create a future that every American deserves.

Trump as Avatar

Trump as Avatar

What follows are excerpts from a paper on the Socioeconomic Impact of the 2016 Presidential Election presented on 4.11.17 in New York City at the Academy of Business and Retail Management 6th International Conference on Business and Economic Development

The morning of November 9, 2016 was like no morning in recent American history. There have been upset elections in U.S. presidential elections, but Donald J. Trump’s candidacy was sui generis. His fact-free and gaffe-full campaign shouldn’t have even come close to being successful – but it was. And there was a reason.

The Trump campaign may have been fact-free but it also offered simple solutions to America’s socioeconomic challenges, both real and imagined. For example, Candidate Trump bemoaned the rising crime rate that was sweeping the country when in fact during the past two decades the American violent crime rate fell by almost half, from 758.20 per 100,000 in 1991 to a low of 387.1 per 100,000 in 2011. Nevertheless, Candidate Trump created a new reality that supported the overly simplistic Law and Order solution to a nonexistent American crime wave.

 Similarly, Candidate Trump argued vehemently in his uniquely fact-free fashion that the American economy was “a mess”. ……….. What is so remarkable about this alternative fact is that by any useful indicia, it is simply not true. What is true is that between 2009 and 2016, the timeline and arc of the Obama presidency, unemployment declined from 9.4 % to 4.9 %. What is true is the Dow Jones Industrial average rose to a record high of 10,000 during this same period. What is also true is that in this fact-free and truth-challenged reality authored by President Trump, the truth doesn’t matter. …..in examining the socioeconomic impact of the election of Donald Trump, it would be a mistake to overstate it since November 8, 2016 was really a time of revelation. ………..Donald Trump’s successful campaign for president was the result of over 40 years of conservative progression. These efforts, carried on largely by the Republican Party, have sought to deconstruct the federal government so that the dispersal of power to the individual states would have the desired effect of diminishing the power of the federal government – forever.

 This vision of American governance is literally older than the Constitution itself. ….. a cursory reading of the contemporaneous writings of Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, John Jay and James Monroe, including the formal presentations in The Federalist Papers reveal an almost genetic conflict built into the Republic, in effect a contest between those who believe in the need for a strong and powerful central government and those who champion the autonomy and sovereignty of the various and several states of the Union…..Donald Trump is a showman, marketer, occasionally successful real estate entrepreneur and most importantly, he is a man who has cracked the code on how to turn himself into a brand and then sell that brand worldwide.

President Trump is not the leader of a movement to change America. He is an avatar who conveniently appeared at a time when he could ride the rising tide of the conservative agenda – a tide that has been rising for half a century.

 There are deeper trends and movements that lie just below the surface and we ignore those trends and movements at our own peril. That is because the 2016 U.S. presidential election is mirrored in France and Germany and Poland and in the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom. …..there is more to the ascendancy of Donald Trump than the vengeance of underemployed angry white men who never could accept the reality of an African American President of the United States. Although it would be a mistake to ignore the race rage that Donald Trump has been able to channel.

 There is the reality that the deconstruction of the American economy played a major part in the Trump as President scenario. Theories about the rights of states and the role of the federal government do not resonate as loudly with the base of his electorate as the very real fact that access to a better life is less accessible than ever before.

Terms like “leveraged buyouts” and “green mail” and “corporate raiders” and “vulture capitalists” entered the vocabulary of global finance about 35 years ago. Since then there has been an incredible accumulation of wealth for bankers, financiers and well-placed corporate executives……….This upward distribution of wealth – and power – is unprecedented in world history and has created political debates and contests that are unknowingly based upon new and uncomfortable economic realities.

 In this kind of a scenario, a Donald Trump can be successful because he has continuously provided simple solutions to what should be obviously complex problems. ………one could argue that Donald Trump is the perfect candidate for the conservative movement.

 First, viewing his public persona over the last four decades, it is clear that he is politically agnostic when it comes to most major issues………… Donald Trump weaves between expediency and reflecting the loudest, last voice that he has heard.

 As a result, he has been able to levitate from one political position to another without regard to his precedent position or his latest speech. Being politically agnostic also has allowed Donald Trump to espouse contradictory statements with ease and more importantly, he has advanced the conservative agenda without seeming to be fully conscious that he was doing so……………………Because he has few core beliefs, Candidate Trump had no problem advocating incredibly simple solutions to incredibly complex challenges facing the United States. Consider, for example, his “solution” to the issue of illegal immigration – deport over 12 million men, women and children, many of whom have established credible and worthwhile lives in this country – all while building and unbuildable wall…………………His position with respect to trade deficits and how the three card Monte of international trade had left many Americans with hands thrust into their empty pockets – to “get tough” with China and Russia and Mexico – toughness that to date has produced late night television fodder but no new jobs for Americans. And yet, the Trump base” has not wavered in its support.

The real issue for the United States, however, is how the various socioeconomic challenges of the world’s largest economy can be addressed. It is fair to state that many of these challenges – health care, income inequality, trade deficits, the lingering legacy of racism, structural unemployment, urban displacement and environmental endangerment, lend themselves to simple conservative solutions. In many instances that solution can be summarized as giving the power to the states – a.k.a. the people – denying the reality that these challenges are impervious to local or regional solutions.

Donald Trump is the perfect messenger for these simplistic solutions.

 And, since many Americans do not have the appetite for, or interest in, the more complex and nuanced solutions to these challenges, progressives find themselves marginalized as the United States careens from crisis to crisis, a player in a demonic pinball game where the American people lose every time. And, in the process the socioeconomic changes do not disappear, they do not go away, they do not get better.

 The delays in addressing these concerns only exacerbate these concerns and, in the final analysis we find that the socioeconomic challenge of the Trump presidency is the deferral of legitimate and thoughtful solutions. And since the time of any nation is never infinite, delays can result in irreparable damage.

 This vision only seems apocalyptic if viewed in a singular prism. But history tells too many stories of great civilizations that became memories because they did not act,