Tag Archives: donald trump

Thing One and Thing Two

On this, the day that thousands gathered on the National Mall for an annual “March for Life,” a family of thirteen children in California has only days ago been freed from a life of torture at their parents’ hands.

So far, we have learned nothing of the torturers’ motives for mistreating their children, but what are the chances that they are NOT adherents to some kooky fundamentalist principles?

According to Dad David Turpin’s parents (per  Wikipedia),

“God called upon them to have a large number of children.” 

We’ll see if that is borne out by future reports.

The pictures of the children, with faces obscured and wearing identical conservative outfits are all too reminiscent of cult photos we have seen in the past. But there is a new kind of sick irony in the one that shows the children dressed in identical red teeshirts labelled “Thing 1,” “Thing 2,” “Thing 3,” “Thing 4,” etc.

The fact that the youngest of the children, still a baby, has not yet been subjected to the abuse suffered by the elder children makes one wonder if each of them was spared so long as they were infants, only to reach an age where the mistreatment began. Such a betrayal is difficult even to think about. The family’s two young dogs appear to have been better cared for than were the children, who suffer from a variety of physical and psychological afflictions, presumably resulting from abuse and neglect.

It always gets my goat that, when it comes to procreation,“Christian” fundamentalists who go on and on about their religious freedom, want the government to prevent women from controlling their own bodies. Then, when it comes to contributing to government programs that care for the needy, often children whom their parents can’t afford to care for, they want the government to butt out and allow their churches to avoid paying taxes.

Who is going to end up paying for the care that the Turpin children will undoubtedly require through the remainder of their lives? Not whatever crackpot font of religious zealotry inspired the Turpins to bear thirteen children, then starve and abuse them for years!

No, it will be up to those of us who pay our taxes and advocate for a just and merciful government that cares for the least among us.  Life only begins at birth.  Being “pro-life” should carry with it an obligation to the quality of life beyond birth. For those who are “pro choice” and thus, consider the child’s quality of life beyond birth, that extended interest in the child that is born is a given.

In Donald Trump’s America, it is apparently okay to hook-up with a porn star while your wife nurses a newborn at home… so long as you can buy the porn star’s silence. You can boast about grabbing women by their private parts without permission; and you can vindictively renege on a promise to 3.5 million Dreamers out of jealousy and spite; but a woman cannot make a very painful and private decision about her own body without the disrespectful interference of a bunch of self-interested strangers in Washington.

Maybe its time for more regulation, not less, of activities like home-schooling that can shield private crimes from public eyes. Shouldn’t the privilege of home-schooling carry increased obligations of care for parents and supervision for the state? When it comes to child welfare, privacy must take a back seat to protection.

A Whistleblower on the Front Lines

There are so many angles to explore in the dysfunctional presidency of Donald J. Trump that we sometimes are overwhelmed into silence by the sheer number and variety of horrors unfolding before us. It is necessary, from time to time, to simply reach into the grab bag and drag one forward.

An essay in the Washington Post, by Joel Clement, a scientist punished by Trump for “whistleblowing,” is definitely worthy of attention.

Until last week, Mr. Clement, was the director of the office of Policy Analysis at the Department of the Interior. He has been reshuffled to the Department’s Office of Natural Resource Revenue where his scientific training will be ignored for financial number-crunching duties.

“…on June 15, I was one of about 50 senior department employees who received letters informing us of involuntary reassignments. Citing a need to ‘improve talent development, mission delivery and collaboration,’ the letter informed me that I was reassigned to an unrelated job in the accounting office that collects royalty checks from fossil fuel companies. “

His “crime?” Mr. Clement dared to opine on the impact of climate change on Alaskan native communities. In other words, he was just doing his job.

Mr. Clement had been vocal to his superiors about the urgency to address health and safety issues for indigenous peoples, stemming from the climate crisis. It was not something that the administration cared to discuss.

“A few days after my reassignment, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke testified before Congress that the department would use reassignments as part of its effort to eliminate employees; the only reasonable inference from that testimony is that he expects people to quit in response to undesirable transfers.”

Mr. Clement does not intend to quit. He has chosen instead to become a whistleblower to alert fellow citizens to the gross and deliberate misuse of human resources that this represents.
All those unfilled administration positions we keep hearing about?  They are just a symptom of the systemic collapse that is already underway, engineered by Steve Bannon and enabled by the Know-Nothing President, Donald J. Trump.

Who ‘turned’ the 2016 GOP Convention Platform?

As Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller hunkers down, subpoenas stalk the corridors of power, and James Comey is set to testify before Congress, how about having a word or two with the Chair and Co-Chairs of the 2016 GOP Platform Committee?

‘Seems like it’s about time to revisit the story of changes to the 2016 GOP Platform that
dramatically altered the party’s position on arming the Ukraine to resist Russian incursions.

Perhaps Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming (chair), Governor Mary Fallin of Oklahoma (co-vice-chair) and Rep. Virginia Foxx of N.C.(the other co-vice-chair) could shed some light on the subject.

News reports contemporary to the Convention indicated that, at the behest of the Trump team, the party platform was altered,  eliminating a call for lethal defense arms to be supplied to the Ukrainians for their fight against the Russians. That story was later challenged by, among others in the Trump campaign’s inner circle, Paul Manafort, international man of mystery, himself.

On July 18, The Washington Post wrote:

The Trump campaign worked behind the scenes last week to make sure the new Republican platform won’t call for giving weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces, contradicting the view of almost all Republican foreign policy leaders in Washington.images

Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, worked as a lobbyist for the Russian-backed former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych for more than a decade.

“This is another example of Trump being out of step with GOP leadership and the mainstream in a way that shows he would be dangerous for America and the world,” said Rachel Hoff, another platform committee member who was in the room.

Of course Mr. Manafort has suffered a marked credibility downgrade since last summer, but the FBI would, nevertheless, very much like a word with him.

If we are to believe the denials of Manafort and the rest of Trump’s retinue, we are forced to accept that the revision to the platform just happened spontaneously, unaided by human intervention. It certainly wasn’t proposed by any mainstream Republicans, who have predictably been even more hostile to the Russians than have Democrats.

One could be forgiven for forgetting Republican hawks’ traditional  hard position on Russia, as they have recently become such fervent apologists for Donald Trump (and, by extension, Russia) tut-tutting the very idea of Russian intervention on Trump’s behalf. Only Lindsey Graham and John McCain seem at all familiar on the subject.

It’s positively surreal; but that’s the new GOP.

Anyway, if the chair and co-chair persons can’t shed some light on this odd transformation of policy, there are a couple of other platform delegates whom I am sure would be more than happy to tell us what happened.

According to NPR (Aug. 21, 2016):

“It started when platform committee member Diana Denman tried to insert language calling for the U.S. to provide lethal defensive weapons to the Ukrainian government, which is fighting a separatist insurrection backed by Russia. Denman says she had no idea she was “going into a fire fight,” calling it “an interesting exchange, to say the least…

The Trump campaign convinced the platform committee to change Denman’s proposal. It went from calling on the U.S. to provide Ukraine “lethal defensive weapons” to the more benign phrase “appropriate assistance…”

…Another GOP delegate on the platform committee, Rachel Hoff, is a national security analyst with the American Action Forum and believe the final platform language signals that a Trump administration would refuse to send lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine.”

Wouldn’t you like to hear from both of these delegates?

Son of Citizens United?

Weary as we all are of the daily news about the Trump administration, it occasionally foreshadows general issues that could achieve much greater importance in the future.

This past week, as Donald Trump and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, “lawyered up,” and Mike Flynn’s prospects looked increasingly bleak, there was speculation that everyone’s business records would soon be the subject of subpoenas.

Not so fast, came the counter-argument from Flynn’s attorneys; the Citizens United decision might extend to protection of corporate records. If an individual has the right to refuse to testify on the grounds of self-incrimination, so might the corporation refuse to share it’s “testimony” (corporate records) on the same grounds.

A desperate claim, for sure, but the idea of civil rights for corporations, once elevated to that of the individual, was certain to raise bigger issues down the line. If money is the corporation’s constitutionally protected “voice,” why wouldn’t all the protections for the individual against self-incrimination be equally valid for corporations?

The favorite fantasy scenario has always been around attempting to convict a corporation for first degree murder. Who would potentially serve the sentence? You can’t execute a corporation or lock it up for life.

Now we are seeing the real nub of the question. If a corporation succeeds in arguing its fifth amendment right to remain silent; and sharing its records is deemed to be a violation of that right; we might as well wave goodbye to legal resolution of disputes, entirely.

It’s unlikely that such an argument would succeed in the normal course of court proceedings; but given the unprecedented nature of the circumstances and recent partisan incursions on the justice department, it’s worth considering.

One would naturally think that the corporation, like any citizen, could still be compelled to share its records, but the flawed Supreme Court logic that awarded civil rights to corporations might just as easily favor the argument that documents, like money, are a form constitutionally protected “voice” for the corporation. It would then be a fairly simple matter to extrapolate from that narrow protection to a broader protection against self-incrimination through documents for all citizens.

Poof! There go the underpinnings of our justice system.

What next, Democrats?

A respected Special Prosecutor, former FBI chief Robert Mueller, has been appointed to investigate the Trump campaign/Russia question; and though still early days, the process is in motion to neutralize Donald Trump’s current threat to the Republic.

He is, it would seem, the lamest of ducks.

It’s time for Democrats to turn the lion’s share of their attention to the needs of the people, as urgently expressed since well-before the last election cycle.

Meet or even precede every Republican policy pitch with a well-developed counter-pitch. They are in complete disorder, with a mortally wounded leader who, at the best of times, can’t think in a straight line.

This is Democrats’ chance to show what they can offer in the way of measured, human-friendly policy around job creation, improvements to Obamacare, infrastructure priorities, social justice, education and national security.

If Democrats waste this opportunity by focussing only on the Trump melt-down, they will have squandered the advantage they should have in 2018.

Job 2 is to begin a serious look at reforming the presidency. In the words of the president, “who knew” that so many ethical issues were not codified, but simply left to the discretion of the president?

Nothing speaks so clearly to the eighteenth century sensibilities of the “Founding Fathers” as their apparent confidence that gentlemen will behave as gentlemen should when elected to the single highest office in the land. Those esteemed founders did not trust unbridled democracy. They imposed restrictions on the roll of the individual electorate, but not, curiously enough, on the power of the head of state. The United States was, after all, the immediate if rebellious offspring of monarchy, retaining a fundamental affinity for the institutions of its royalist parent.

What was once little more than a quaint convention of the past, has, under Trump’s administration, erupted into a full-on constitutional crisis.

I don’t expect the Republican-held Congress to lift a finger while they are in power to repair the mighty gaps in the powers of the presidency through which an autocrat (or a selfish child), carried into office on a whim of the electorate, might throw centuries of ethical convention to the four winds and behave like an absolute monarch.

If Democrats are wise and see to the urgent business of their constituents, they can seize the House in 2018. It then behooves them to set about codifying some limits on the presidency; like, for instance, he/she must share his taxes both as a candidate and throughout his/her administration. In order to qualify to appear on the ballot in the first place, every candidate’s tax returns for at least three years should be publicly available.

Divestiture of financial interests by the president must also be codified under the law; and conflict of interest must be more clearly defined, including specific rules governing the president’s family members, former business partners etc. Remedies for violation of these rules must be clearly laid out and include stiff penalties.

While they are at it, a scrub of gerrymandering is very much in order, too! Partisan divisions are too great to allow one “side” or the other full discretion to control districting.

Until some of the vulnerabilities in presidential privilege and voter suppression are effectively addressed, we are in no position to pontificate to younger nations on the lessons of democracy.

We have the high-ground here; and the vast majority of Americans disapprove both of this president and of the Republican controlled Congress. It’s a perfect opportunity for Democrats to win over hearts and minds. Let’s not squander it by focussing entirely on the toddler in the room.

Here’s to our French allies!

In a sweeping rejection of her nationalist and xenophobic message, French voters have chosen Maria LePen’s rival and opposite, Emmanuel Macron as the next President of France.

Preliminary vote counts give Macron something like 65% of the vote, while LePen could only manage 34%.

This is a victory for progressive values that we can ALL celebrate, and it has been a while since we Americans have had much of anything to be glad about.

It seems that Donald Trump’s antics have provided just the cautionary tale that French voters needed in order to sober up and see the writing on the wall/.

Too bad the Brexit vote came too soon to benefit from the same dose of cruel perspective.

Tomorrow morning’s 3:00 AM tweets from King Donald will no doubt deliver angry rebukes to former President Obama for “interfering” in the French election.

Maybe the “coincidence” that Macron’s party headquarters was hacked will somewhat dampen his inclination to shoot off his twitter mouth, since it does simply add more credibility to the ever thickening tissue of evidence that his own inner circle may have colluded with Russia in undermining the 2016 U.S. election.

But never mind all of that for today. Let’s relish the moment with a toast:

“Liberte, égalité, fraternité!”

Eyes on the sideshow while the Big Top burns

One mistake that Democrats made in the 2016 presidential race was to allow themselves to be distracted from an issues based campaign by the constant barrage of outrageous behavior that Donald Trump exhibited throughout.

They overestimated voters interest in and ability to follow the bouncing ball of policy consequences from the relatively brief attention that policy received when Donald Trump himself was not the subject of hyperbolic conversation.

Now, we are all in danger of falling for the same bait and switch during the reckless reign of Citizen Trump.

While we and the media react in slack-jawed disbelief to every new demonstration of Trump’s impulsiveness, and every new hint that the Russians might be his handlers, the real policy impact of the Trump presidency only gets attention as an afterthought.

Meanwhile, the administration is moving quickly to try and reduce the U.S. government to a single purpose war machine.

With the stroke of a pen, vital safeguards for streams and waterways are eliminated; with another stroke, outgo consumer protections.

Trump has installed as his cabinet people who have contempt for the very institutions they now oversee. His picks have the added advantage to someone bent on crippling government agencies, of being demonstrably incompetent.

While we focus on the trail of Russian toilet paper that dangles from Trump’s right shoe, he is dismantling important environmental regulations, gutting entire agencies and defunding almost every social service in order to finance the biggest military build-up in modern history.

Why do you think he’s doing that? Wrong question.

Never mind why HE is doing that. He probably just wants to play soldier. More to the point: why do you think his advisers are encouraging him to do that?

We don’t really know enough about son-in-law Jared Kushner to speculate on his world view, but we know that Steve Bannon belongs loosely to that lunatic fringe who see Armageddon as the only way to salvation…and if you don’t want to be bested in Armageddon, you better have enough military might to crush all comers in a single earth destroying act.

Many of Trump’s most ardent supporters would be perfectly happy with this scenario, because they fervently believe that we are in the End Times and have no interest in preserving the natural world for future generations, or providing for the real needs of a population that may soon cease to exist.  Others simply don’t care because their interests are so narrowly focussed that they simply don’t see beyond sunset in their own backyard.
Now that Mike Flynn has been ejected, the generals in Trump’s cabinet represent the only real bench of competence in his sphere. Even Rex Tillerson seems to have been relegated to a back seat as the State Department prepares for massive funding cuts in favor of nuclear and conventional armaments.

Military leaders are a boon to Trump’s agenda, not only because they are unlikely to object to massive spending in their sector and elevation of “readiness,” but also because they come from a culture of unquestioning obedience to the will of the Commander in Chief.

No one seems to care that all he is offering is a lot of talk and a handful of magic beans.

Trump’s tame billionaires and bankers are cooing contentedly over a roaring stock market, convinced that they can be long gone before Trump’s voodoo math hits the fan.

Don’t look to Republicans for a timely rescue. They, too have sold their souls for a Supreme Court pick and one final chance to railroad the bigotry and fear of their voting minority into policy advantageous for the privileged.

Here it is six weeks into an administration that threatens to dismantle all the hard won refinements of our enlightened democracy and all we’re talking about this Sunday morning is another unhinged wee hours tweet from the Screwball-in-Chief.

If we don’t start to pull focus on policy immediately, we can only expect the worst.

Saffron or Algae Blooms?

I’m sure I wasn’t the only Messenger reader who noted the ironic coincidence of headlines in last nights paper.

Just as President Donald J. Trump signs his second attempt at a Muslim travel ban, the early cost of this administration’s arbitrary agenda is vividly illustrated by two local examples.

Saffron: Vermont’s next cash crop?

The feature story tells us that, thanks to an Iranian postdoctoral student, we may soon see an extremely valuable cash crop, saffron, cultivated in our own backyard…at St. Albans Bay.

In the “brave new world” of Donald J. Trump, just being Iranian would be sufficient to invoke the President’s travel ban against him. That Dr. Ghalehgolabbehbahani is also a man of science would surely serve only to reinforce the administration’s antipathy toward him.

The President’s clumsy attempts to target Muslim countries for exclusion is already impacting interest in travel and study in the U.S. That doesn’t bode well for several industries which heavily depend on foreign dollar infusions.

Over to the side, on the same front page, is a warning from Senator Patrick Leahy. Being in a position to know, Sen. Leahy predicts that Donald Trump’s massacre of the EPA budget will imperil cleanup of Lake Champlain.

It’s a pretty easy guess that Leahy’s prediction will prove accurate. In the new federal budget, funding for clean-up of Chesapeake Bay has been slashed from $73-million down to just $7-million. Somehow I suspect that if the waterways lapping near to Capitol Hill merit so little support from the Trump administration, Lake Champlain, way up here in blue country, will receive less than none.

It should be noted that, even though funding for water protection is being sacrificed on the pretext that an exponential hike in military spending is urgently required, the President isn’t prepared to abandon his frequent getaways to Mar-a-Lago (four so far) that had already cost the tax payers $10-million before the paint was even dry in the Oval Office. That’s $3 million more than the Chesapeake Bay clean-up funds! The indignity is only worsened when a translation of “Mar-a-Lago” is considered. (Look it up!)

So, once the clean-up funding runs out and the stench of algae blooms hangs heavy over St. Albans Bay, perhaps we will at least be grateful that one Iranian chose to locate here before Donald Trump closed the door.

Words Matter

Listening to Steve Bannon on stage at CPAC last week was a painful but necessary way to get in touch with what the Trump White House has on its collective mind.

Moderates are alarmed at the expressed hostility to a free press, but may entirely overlook the still more sinister sub-text. When Bannon railed against the “globalist and corporate media” he was drawing on language that the far, far right “Nazi” fringe understands is anti-semitic.

Under Bannon’s thumb, “America First” has become a favorite slogan of Trump accolades, a direct descendent of the same phrase used by Nazi sympathizers like Charles Lindbergh before the U.S. entered WWII.

Later at CPAC, Donald Trump doubled down on the dread in his own anti-media speech in which he ominously suggested that he is going to “do something” about media outlets that are at odds with his preferred narrative.

Excluding the New York Times, CNN, Politico and others from a press “gaggle” at the White House on Friday afternoon, may indeed represent the opening salvo in delivery on his threat.

Trump has repeatedly referred to the media as “the Enemy of the People.” When challenged, he says he is only referring to the “fake news” media; but then he lists among those who promulgate “fake news,” sources like the New York Times and Washington Post that have a sterling reputation for accountability and pointedly praises the most questionable outlets which justhappen to have a bias in his favor.

A great piece in the New York Times takes a closer look at this “Enemy of the People” phrase, tracing it to legendary Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. Post-Stalin, even hardliners like Kruschev avoided the phrase, recognizing it as a bridge too far.

Russian scholar Mitchell A. Orenstein points out that Donald Trump seems to deliberately repeat this kind of Soviet era language because it inflames his supporters as it renders the words meaningless for opposition purposes:

“He is only alienating them, and they are the people he wants to alienate anyway,” Mr. Orenstein continued. “His base sees comparisons with Stalin as just more evidence of the liberal mainstream media going haywire.”

Moreover, by using such a loaded term in such a cavalier fashion, the president “is in the process of rendering it meaningless,” Mr. Orenstein said. “It becomes just na-na-na-na-na,” he added, because nobody really thinks Mr. Trump will bring back the guillotine.

Returning to Bannon’s CPAC speech, he used the term “economic nationalism,” and that, too, merits deconstruction for all it may portend. An excellent article in the Washington Post examines the practical economic consequences of pursuing a course of economic nationalism. When taken to it’s logical conclusion, with all the deregulation and protectionism Trump would like to impose, the policy favors sectors that can prosper in global isolation. Sectors like fossil fuel energy and housing become “winners,” while others like tech and higher education are the losers. The result would be a dumbed-down America, fed on “alternative facts” and ripe for the kind of third-world political chaos that Bannon would dearly love to see.

But for those like Donald Trump who have no patience with book learnin’ and studied history, “economic nationalism” sounds superficially like a good thing. The fact that “nationalism” has long been code for the racist/xenophobic view of “us over them,” lifted straight out of the Third Reich’s playbook, means nothing to them.

Focussing on the “economic” preface to Bannon’s nationalism pretty much misses the point.

Like “white nationalism,” “economic nationalism” seeks a new world order in which the interests of a single homogenous group are placed above the well-being of everyone else, eschewing any moral or ethical responsibility for the greater good. Efforts at shutting down immigration, deportation and suppressing the minority vote, which are also on the agenda of the Bannon/Trump world order, serve to further isolate and elevate the privileged population.

“Nationalism” of any kind is not to be confused with patriotism, which is love of country. Nationalism is an expression of contempt for the rights and interests of any people other than those who are recognized as belonging to the dominant population, whether it addresses exclusion as a cultural or a national matter.

It’s as if this administration is, through its choice of isolationist language, pulling up the drawbridge on diversity and intellectual growth. Mr. Trump perhaps forgets how much our economic prosperity was built on risk taking, immigrant ingenuity and a open-armed national persona.

If Trump has his way, America is about to get a lot smaller, colder and poorer.

Donald Trump’s Terrible Awful No Good Very Bad Day

There have been many days that prompted bloggers to adapt the popular children’s book title to frame the immediate chaos around Donald Trump’s political misadventures; but today of all days seems to cry out more than most for that redundant banner headline.

Leaving aside the trail of stinking piles drying in his wake every day, today might one day be remembered as the day that his epic losing streak began.

This morning, like so many Americans (and as I have done every morning since the inauguration), I reflexively turned on the news even before the coffeemaker in order to find out what new region of Twitter hell Donald Trump had taken us to overnight. Despite his best efforts to gin up international tensions, nuclear war hadn’t yet broken out, so I settled into my kitchen chair with a sigh  and a steaming cup of relief. It was going to be a pretty good day after all.

Mr. Trump’s immediate national concern seemed to be his adult daughter’s broken heart at being told by Nordstrom that they could no longer carry her line of merchandise because sales had been so poor over the last quarter. Never one to underplay a family slight, Mr. Trump had tweeted how “unfair” Nordstrom’s decision was; that it obviously was politically motivated, and that his daughter is such a good person who is always trying to get him to do “the right thing.” Then, for good measure, he tweeted it again to the vast readership of his official @POTUS feed.

Even though, for some reason, this gross exercise of  conflict of interest doesn’t set him up for immediate consequences, it does add to the growing file of transgressions that may ultimately be his undoing. Furthermore, Nordstrom probably has a pretty good case for a lawsuit.

Apparently Ivanka hasn’t been very successful at getting Dear Ol’ Dad to do the “right thing”, either.

The new twist this morning was that shameless Trump sycophant and consigliere Kellyanne Conway had taken it upon herself to ‘right’ Nordstrom’s ‘wrong’ by appearing on Fox news to give impromptu commercial endorsement for the First Daughter’s products and exhort the faithful to go forth and buy Ivanka’s crap.

Like so many of Trump’s closest advisors, Kellyanne’s qualifications for the job must be seriously questioned. Supposedly she is a lawyer, and yet, she seemed to be totally unaware that what she was doing in hawking Trump family merchandise on TV represented an immediate and gross conflict of interests, a breach of White House ethics, and a set-up for worsening optics on the general issue of conflicts within the Trump administration.

It seemed that what Kelly Anne had crossed was an ethics bridge too far even for the Donald, because it wasn’t long before the word came out that counsellor Kelly Anne had herself been “counselled.” What exactly this means is unclear, but it seems to suggest some acceptance of responsibility was finally being broached within the administration, if only by a side flunky.

But we had to wait until evening for the best news, when the 9th Circuit Court Decision came down as a sweep in favor of the plaintiffs. A crushing defeat for King Donald!

It ain’t over ’til it’s over, and there are a few more innings to be played in the game of anti-American immigration policy; but tonight we can pause in the battle for a little celebration, knowing that it’ must be somebody’s job at the White House tonight to sit on Donald and restrain his little fingers from unleashing a Twitter storm of unintended consequences.