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Archive for May, 2017

The simulated bumper car administration of Donald Trump seems to lurch from fiasco to faux pas with practiced ease. Whether he is leaking confidential files to the Russians or shoving the Prime Minister of Montenegro out of the way like a fevered Black Friday shopper, President Trump has shown himself to be a master of shameless error. But it is worthwhile to imagine what it would be like if other names could be substituted for the players in the Drama Called Trump.

Consider Donald Trump’s campaign and the moment of disgrace occasioned by the release of the Access Hollywood tapes where he confessed to sexually assaulting women on numerous occasions. Without comment I am asking you to estimate the lifespan of the presidential candidacy of Senator Barack Obama if he were starring in the Access Hollywood Tapes.

Consider that Donald Trump admitted to providing the Russian Prime Minister and the Russian Ambassador the United States with classified information obtained from the Israeli government, claiming that as President of the United States he has the right to disclose classified information to whomever he wants (which, in keeping with the best traditions of Donald Tinyhands, is not quite true). Again, without comment, I am asking you to consider the number of minutes it would take the Republican Congress to begin impeachment proceedings if President Hillary Clinton were to take such action.

To continue this Name Game, imagine that President Obama had hung up the phone with the Prime Minister of Australia, had the President of Mexico hang up the phone on him and that he had also shoved the Prime Minister of Montenegro out of the way for a photo op. It is fair to believe that if President Obama had mimicked actual behavior by President Trump the media in general and the right wing mouth breathers like Rush Limbaugh would be bellowing about President Obama being unfit for the office.

And in this last round of the Name Game, if President Hillary Clinton had fired FBI Director James Comey after being rebuffed in his request for a pledge of personal loyalty – acts taken by Donald Trump – it is fair to say that the Teapublicans would be baying at the moon and waiting for their leashes to be slipped so that they could hunt Hillary Clinton to the ends of the earth if need be.

The point of this Name Game is that Donald Tinyhands is the beneficiary of a bizarre double standard. Whether it is traditional white privilege or the revenge of the Angry White Men, there doesn’t appear to be any bottom to the pit of ignorance, misogyny, bigotry and bad behavior into which Donald Trump has cast the public discourse. And yet, he is seriously defended- and excused – for his bad behavior, his inappropriate language and his possible illegal actions.

There is no doubt that as a black American President Obama was held to an almost impossibly high standard and the fact that he mostly succeeded in adhering to those standards will forever irk the Obama haters. Similarly, as the first woman to be that presidential candidate of a national party, Hillary Clinton was held to an impossible standard of needing to be super competent while be an engaging and non-threatening female. And in the end, that impossibility was one of the main reasons for her defeat in 2016.

It remains to be seen how long Paul Ryan and Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich and Mike Pence can continue to excuse and defend the inexcusable and indefensible outrageous and shameful conduct of the Trump Who Would Be President.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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