Twilight in America

Truly inauspicious  beginnings.

Even mainstream media outlet CNN is beginning to acknowledge the cancer they enabled with unlimited access to live air time whenever Donald Trump called into the station in his early candidacy. Remember how shamelessly they stooged for him? Even as they rolled their eyes at his outrageous antics, they never held him accountable for the poisonous lies he propagated.  Donald Trump was making them his creatures before dashing them against the wall.

This opinion piece on CNN.com is well worth sharing; but what truly is disturbing are the comments it has provoked.

Many of us saw signs of proto-facism even in the early days of Trump’s bid for the presidency, when CNN and others, not recognizing his authentic potential to do harm, allowed Donald Trump free reign of the airwaves to propagate messages of hate, misogyny, dystopia and pathological nationalism. CNN slavishly covered every minute of his blood-thirsty rallies, accepting abuse and coming back for more.

Like a malevolent Pied Piper, Trump cleverly used these broadcast opportunities to reach into the dark hearts of all those in the shadows who have chafed at the evolution of race and gender roles in America, and felt their impotent rage suppressed by the forces of political correctness.

It is an all too familiar scenario, replaying the script of authoritarian adventure that has undone older republics than our own. Now, even this CNN opinion writer sees that it won’t end well for American democracy.

Amid a frenzy of increasingly irresponsible tweets, on Martin Luther King Day, Trump upped the ante by savagely attacking civil rights icon John Lewis for simply refusing an invitation to the Inauguration. If he had it in his power now to impose penalties for non-attendance, I have no doubt that Congressman Lewis would be in jail, once again, right now.

What’s crazy is that a number of pundits, and even a few Democrats, have taken the position that even though Mr. Trump’s characterizations of Congressman Lewis were clearly out of line, Lewis was somehow also in the wrong, simply  for stating his reason for refusing  to attend. Unprincipled shills for corporate ‘neutrality’, they priggishly invoke the importance of upholding the outward appearance of an “orderly transfer of power”  etc., etc.

That is absolute bullshit! This is not the time to indulge in a game of false equivalence.

The President Elect set fire to those traditions himself, long ago; first of all by falsely imputing the legitimacy of the previous president; then by refusing to share his taxes with the American people; by indulging in flamboyant acts of cronyism and nepotism, and refusing to divest in order to avoid conflicts of interest; by public disloyalty to the national interest; and finally by lying so fabulously and unapologetically as to consign the notion of executive honor permanently to the scrap heap.

Other behaviors and comments showing a pattern of disrespect for minorities and women have so thoroughly violated his responsibility as the head of state as to leave little doubt of his illegitimacy, even before we consider the evidence of interference by a hostile foreign state and the possibility that his campaign was in cahoots with the Russians.

Donald Trump has no respect for the office or for more than half of his constituents; so why on earth should we be expected to indulge his vanity by pretending nothing’s rotten in DC?

To my mind, anyone who treats this transition and Donald Trump’s presidency as ‘legitimate’ is guilty of complicity.

Surely there has never been a better reason to set aside tradition than when the President Elect himself shows no interest in upholding the traditions of democratic consent.

Donald Trump and his sycophants have wrapped themselves in the delusion that he is somehow above reproach and possessed of an unimpeachable mandate from the people, when nothing could be further from the truth.

But even “truth” doesn’t have the weight that it did a year ago, before Donald Trump reshaped it as a negotiable commodity.

Donald Trump: Yes, to Beans, No to Don’s Johns

The Office of Governmental Ethics issued a general reminder to the incoming administration that government officials should refrain from endorsing any product, company or service days after Donald Trump tweeted we should go out and buy LL Bean products. Is it possible they have taken it to heart? Or is Team Donald simply picking winners and losers: ‘Yes’ to Beans and ‘No’ to Don’s Johns ?donaldsjohns

 

In an “unpresidented” move, the logo reading “Don’s Johns” (Motto: We’re #1 in #2 ) on almost three thousand portable toilets rented by the government for use along the National Maul during the inauguration are having their logos hidden from view with tape.

Don’s Johns has provided portable toilets for many large events in Washington, including the 2009 and 2013 inauguration ceremonies for President Barack Obama, Weghorst said. No logos were taped over during those events, he said. And here is Don’s Johns homepage  — he has testimonies and a blog … really!

The Washington Post reports the Architect of Capitol has come clean and is taking responsibility for ordering the cover-up, which, they say, will bring the toilets into compliance with previously ignored restrictions on Don’s Johns logo “advertizing”.

It could be sensitivity to the Ethics Office warning. Or perhaps someone in the Trump camp is hyper-sensitive after his rumored Russian hotel exploits to the possibility of  the logo Don’s Johns  being shown around the world and permanently associated with Donald’s Presidential inauguration ceremony. Always protect the TRUMP™ brand — keeping him #1.

Ethics, anyone?

Ethics in elected office has been a big topic of discussion since the latter part of the 2016 presidential campaign.

The highest profile issues are those surrounding President-Elect Trump, who still hasn’t shared his taxes with the public, and apparently doesn’t intend to distance himself from his business holdings; and from his roster of administration appointments in which billionaire tycoons and former lobbyists figure heavily.

Apparently Republicans aren’t interested in questioning anybody’s ethics but those of Democrats.

Emboldened by majorities in the House and Senate, as well as control of the Oval Office, Congressional Republicans attempted to castrate the independent Office of Congressional Ethics. That effort was scrapped only twenty-four hours later, when news of the sly maneuver reached the greater constituency and all hell broke loose.

Still, it was a reminder to me to check on the progress of Vermont’s own belated attempt to establish ethics rules in the wake of the sensational Norm McAllister sexual assault scandal.

Efforts to establish a State Ethics Panel were allowed to languish and die before summer recess. In a measure of progress, though, the Senate’s own version, propelled forward by the McAllister debacle, does establish certain new disclosure guidelines for senators.
With the 2017 winter session comes new hope that a State Ethics Commission, which already has broad support in the Senate, will finally obtain House approval.  It’s far from all we might wish for, but it’s better than nothing.

Here in Franklin County, the salacious topic of Norm McAllister’s unwholesome appetites simply refuses to go away. Shortly after a jury was selected to hear the case of the second of his three alleged victims, it was announced that Mr. McAllister had copped a plea to avoid a trial and was facing up to seven years in the sentencing phase, but would avoid potential penalties (up to life in prison) for the most serious charges.

That was Tuesday. Today came the news that McAllister had told WPTZ that he “might” change his mind.

While I would relish the opportunity to finally hear McAllister being examined on a witness stand, I can’t imagine that the continued suspense provides anything but further suffering for his victims.

Who knows whether he will really change his plea? This is the same guy who has essentially both admitted to and denied his guilt in the assorted pre-trial depositions.

In Post-Truth America I suppose we shouldn’t be at all surprised.

 

Does Trump really know beans about brands?

Donald Trump is once again demonstrating his knack to distract. Trump found time amid confirmation hearings for his cabinet and a brewing scandal over his relationship with certain Russian men and women to tweet this:beans

The Trump tweet is referencing a squabble about oversized donations Linda Bean, the granddaughter of the founder of LL Bean,  made to Making America Great Again PAC, a Trump campaign organization. These contributions resulted in a call by a group called Grab Your Wallet to boycott LL Bean products.

The AP reported in Maine days ago that Bean’s contributions to Trump’s Making America Great Again PAC that may have been more than ten times  the amount allowed for individual donations.

Making America Great Again LLC [not a super PAC, and which also goes by the name “Making Maine Great Again”] was limited to individual contributions of $5,000, according to a letter Wednesday from federal regulators obtained by The Associated Press. Federal campaign finance reports show Bean contributed $60,000 while the group spent $66,862.

A longtime Republican activist, Linda Bean has run for a seat in the US Congress, operates Linda Bean’s Lobster Dreams in Maine and also is on the LL Bean board of directors. LLBean Inc. was forced to reiterate an earlier statement that the company is “apolitical” following Trump’s enthusiastic shop at LL Bean’s message.

The donation to MAGA and Trump’s subsequent tweet of solidarity could prove grating to many people not enamored by the soon-to-be president. LLBean may be just another sporting goods and outdoor clothing retailer to some, but for others the clothing is a sort of liberal/outdoorsy ID badge or icon. Just take a look at former Vermont Governor Howard Dean’s official state portrait. govdeanbean

Howard Dean, as you can see, is practically wrapped in LLBean outdoor iconography. The painting could stand in for the cover any LLBean fall catalog.

And as for Donald Trump? Well he may not know beans about the outdoors but he knows how to engineer a good distraction from his daily crisis — LOOK SQUIRREL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Donald’s poll numbers are falling, not good…sad.

How bad are President-elect Trump’s poll numbers? Well, so bad they may be record setters. You can find the newest Quinnipiac poll results here. And the Washington Post has rundown of how bad they are and what rough a honeymoon Trump is having as president elect. The poll was conducted here in the USA, not Russia.

Trump’s favorability rating, which had risen slightly since the election, is shown by Quinnipiac to be quickly dropping back to record lows for a president-elect. Here are some highlights or low-lights if you want: American voters give President-elect Trump a negative 37 – 51 percent favorability rating, compared to a divided 44 – 46 percent favorability rating November 22. trumpoww

Vice President- elect Mike Pence gets a split 37 – 34 percent favorability rating. [Note: the second number is the unfavorability rating.]

Before entering office recent U.S. Presidents have had much higher numbers than Trump now has: Bill Clinton 58%, George W. Bush (2000) 59% and Barack Obama 68%.

Before he’s even sworn in Trump has already got a rough task ahead — making his favorability poll numbers “great” or even “good” again.

GOP governors: It’s Numberwang !

Does anyone wonder how Vermont GOP Governor Phil Scott’s fellow “fiscally responsible” Republican governors have done keeping their state’s fiscal houses in order? numberwanged

Well, as early as last spring US News&World Report noted that at least a half dozen Republican-governed states that had been running “real life experiments” with Laffer inspired tax and budget cuts were “awash in red ink, facing nine- and ten-figure deficits heading into the new fiscal year.”  So mostly, It’s Numberwang!

In Kansas, as of early this past year, Governor Sam Brownback’s program of budget and tax cutting had created a state budget that’s nearly $1 billion in the red, forcing deep cuts in education, social programs and some services.

Now, with Trump about to be in control of the White House and GOP majorities in the US Congress — all poised to do god-knows-what in terms of tax “reform” at the national level, some GOP red states are now considering the unthinkable — raising taxes to correct severe budget shortfalls.

The GOP tax ideas run the board from raising gas taxes, shifting from property taxes to some combination of sales taxes, gross receipts taxes, and internet sales taxes, and/or raising taxes on alcohol or cigarettes (sin taxes). That’s quite a menu of choices, but not surprisingly for states enjoying Republican rule, raising income taxes on the wealthy or perhaps capital gains taxes seem to be off the table. You may notice too that most of these suggested revenue enhancers under consideration would have a heavier impact on lower-income earners — those already under stress from GOP cuts to education and social services.

And with Republicans’ “real life” Laffer-curve experiments knocking budgets out of whack and their resulting looming fiscal disaster, can you guess what is about to happen in states that now have newly elected GOP governors and majority legislatures?  Well … In New Hampshire and Iowa, states now wholly run by Republican governors and legislatures, leaders say they will work to reform the tax code by condensing the number of individual tax brackets or by cutting corporate tax rates.

It’s almost unbelievable, but it appears that states currently on reasonable financial footing but now under Republican control are about to swallow the same GOP tax-cut medicines that failed so spectacularly elsewhere. With President Trump and GOP control at the federal level the Laffer dose could be double strength.

Here in Vermont Democrats control the legislature which likely may save us from a full-scale GOP Numberwanging.

But why take foolish chances? Keep an eye on Phil Scott. He may just be settling in but right off has drawn a line in the sand — promising to veto any budget that grows faster than wages or the state economy in the previous year.

The Numberwang game: Once finished, becomes “WangerNumb”, where the players, in a more tense situation, say numbers until one gets “WangerNumb.” In the end, one contestant loses (almost always the same contestant) and is tortured in a way such as being arrested by the police.

Makes about as much sense as the numbers games Republican governors are playing.

 

Van lines survey: VT second highest number of people moving in

For the third year in a row a survey by United Van Lines suggests Vermont is a desirable location for people wishing to relocate. movinvtUnited is one of the nation’s largest moving companies and has tracked customer state-to-state migration for the past 40 years.  In the 2016 national study Vermont moved up from third to the second of the top states with increases of inbound moves.

Moving In: The top inbound states of 2016 were:

  1. South Dakota
  2. Vermont
  3. Oregon
  4. Idaho
  5. South Carolina
  6. Washington
  7. District of Columbia
  8. North Carolina
  9. Nevada
  10. Arizona 

Vermont’s jump continues our state’s trend up, which runs counter to other states’ trends in the Northeast. New Jersey tops outbound states with New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania continuing to have substantial outbound moves according to the United Van lines survey.

Despite certain demographic challenges to population growth (aging population, people leaving, and a low birth rate) Vermont is, at least according United’s survey, going against a trend toward outbound growth in Northeastern states. Although our population is staying the same or slightly declining we are doing something right regarding this positive trend.

Obama, Sanders and Clinton beat Trump! Says end of year poll

What was wrong with 2016? Well at least it is coming to a close and various year end lists and polls are appearing. One of them is Gallup’s most admired person poll.wwww2016

Since 1946 the Gallup organization has conducted a poll of Americans asking them which man or woman in the world they admire the most. Perhaps the good news for Democrats stung by the recent election is that for the ninth year in a row President Obama was the one found to be most admired. Hillary Clinton was named the most admired woman. The poll conducted Dec. 7-11, 2016, was based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 1,028 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Obama won with 22 percent of the vote. Trump came in second with 15 percent, Pope Francis was third with 4 percent and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders came in fourth place with 2 percent of the vote.

Obama has the second-largest number of first-place finishes among men. The first place goes to former President Eisenhower, who was named Most Admired Man 12 times.

On the female side, Americans named Hillary Clinton their Most Admired Woman. It was her 15th consecutive year at the top spot, and her 21st time overall at the top of the list, a Gallup record.

First lady Michelle Obama came in second among the most-admired women, followed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres. 

Not sure what value any of this has in the bigger scheme of things but given the grim year coming to a close maybe it offers a wee bit of a bright spot.

The not-so-good news is President-elect Trump was only seven percentage point behind Obama. So what was wrong with 2016?

waylaughing

Santa and the Doodle-Li-Boop

This version of Twas the Night before Christmas is  worth hearing at least once a year.It’s suitable for work and guaranteed Trump free!

And it seems this was just one of Art Carney’s “hits” –along with “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”, his spoken-word record, accompanied only by a jazz drummer, poem in syncopation Carney performed “The Song of the Sewer”, sung in character as Norton (This was the character Carney played on the early TV  comedy The Honeymooners)

 

A visit from Old Nick

Christmas is just one week away, and democratic oblivion may not be far behind.  In this darkest of times, I thought it appropriate to revisit a classic, seen through a new lens.  The words are mine, but when I turned to the internet for images, I found surprisingly many. My favorite was the one signed “Hefner 2015” and sourced from consumepopculture.com.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the housetrumpus
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
Prayers had been said and candles snuffed out,
The children lay dreaming, no clue what about.

The grownups were gone; they succumbed to the flu
Leaving two little girls to try and make do.
The peace of their sleep was abruptly ended
As the clear sense of evil upon them descended.

Away to the window Meg crept from her bed
And peeped through the curtains, heart pounding with dread.
The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow
Lent an eerie suspense to the quiet below.

Drawn as she was to see what was out there
Meg failed to notice the smell of burnt hair.
It came from the hearth in that very room
And from it delivered a Creature of Doom.

Out from the chimney his minions they came
And he whistled and cackled and called them by name;
“Now Hellfire! Now Brimstone! Now Pitchfork and Vixen!
On Pestilence, Plague! On Donder and Blitzen!”

“To the one by the window! To the one in the bed
Don’t let them escape or it’s off with your head!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle mount to the sky;
So into the room came the hell angel flood
Surrounding the children and screeching for blood.

Then He Himself emerged from the din,
Ultimate Evil, the Father of Sin.
Meg recoiled at the vision and raced to the bed
To save her wee sister, the last of her kin.

She gathered herself to her maximum height,
Picked-up the broomstick and charged him with might.
The Terrible Beast was so taken aback
That he momentarily ceased the attack.

Too soon he recovered, his fury excited.
He reached for Meg’s sister; the room was ignited.
But before he could carry the child away
The trumpet of dawn introduced a new day.

Their evil tormenter now cringed from the light;
He and his minions were ready for flight.
As the shriveled-up husks of the nightmare receded,
Meg said to herself, something final was needed.

Drawing a breath from the depth of her being
She blew like the wind as the specters were fleeing.
A cloud of grey dust was the only left trace
Of the horrible hoards and the devilish face.

Then in a twinkling as daylight poured in,
Up the chimney it went and away with the wind.
But as it flew off, Meg could still faintly hear,
“Just wait ’til I get you the same time next year!”