Tag Archives: donald trump

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.

Perjury could save the nation.

Sunday musings in a flu and Robitussen-induced fog:

Congressional Republicans have all the power to stop Donald Trump’s march to catastrophe, but recognizing that they have been effectively castrated by fear of populist revolt from their base, we are left frantically looking for a “Plan B” before the Doomsday Clock strikes twelve.

Apparently our best legal opportunity to curb the insanity is to get him into court for any reason and force him to testify under oath. This has been suggested repeatedly in the media but, IMHO, hasn’t gotten nearly enough traction.

The man appears incapable of distinguishing truth from fiction and it is unlikely that he can restrain himself from at least one boldface lie in the course of any sworn testimony, no matter how brief.

Therein lies the easily pulled lynchpin to impeachment.

I would guess that, by the time he lies under oath, at least half of all congressional Republicans would leap at the chance to push him toward the exit sign if given that opportunity through a simple impeachable offense such as perjury.

They’ll know, of course, that they will still have Mike Pence (God forbid!) to do their rightwing bidding…but Pence is considerably less likely to launch a missile strike on a whim.  We might actually survive to to see another election.

The beauty is that Donald Trump has done so many nasty and double-dealing things to so many people over the course of his personal and business history that the opportunities for court-ordered depositions abound.

What the public and the media must do is find some way to reassure his myriad victims that they have the opportunity to do the country a great service simply by dragging his ass into court.

Donald Trump will inevitably do the rest. He is programmed to lie even about trivial things. He simply can’t help himself.

“Quick, Kellyanne, he’s gonna blow!”

Donald Trump and his newly minted Press Secretary/attack dog, “Spike” Spicer, just spent the first day of his administration whining about the turnout for his inauguration and attempting to bully the press into confirming his false assertion that it was the biggest turnout in history.

It was speculated that, in typical Trump fashion, this was a diversionary tactic to distract from the unflattering super story of the day, the “Women’s March on Washington.”

Aerial photos left little doubt that the first Obama inauguration drew a vastly greater turnout than did Trump’s little do, nevertheless Trump and his stooge eagerly and persistently plunged into perjury in defense of his fragile ego.

Aerial photos also delivered the unmistakable message that turnout for the “Women’s March” dwarfed the modest captive gathering on the mall the day before.

How must it feel for Donald Trump to gaze upon the photos from across the country of the throngs and throngs of demonstrators who rose in coordinated opposition to his agenda, all in a single day? Does he understand that the volume of demonstrators across America who braved traffic jams, dangerously crowded subway cars, and other inconveniences to take a stand against him probably numbered in the millions but still represented no more than half the number of votes by which Hillary Clinton won the popular vote?

If he does, Kellyanne must have him hog-tied in the White House mess to keep him from tweeting away his rage. All he wrote was

“Watched protests yesterday but was under the impression that we just had an election. Why didn’t these people vote?”

Newsflash, Donald, these people did vote and you lost the popular vote.

Marchin’ in the Streets

It’s a nice day for the Women’s March in Montpelier with unseasonably mild temperatures (up to 41-degrees) and only a 10% chance of rain.

Over the past twenty-four hours, I have spoken with my sister who will join the March in Portland, Oregon and my son’s Significant Other, Sarah, who, with her mom, her sister and her sister’s boyfriend have made the drive to D.C. for the big March down there.

My friend Cheryl and I will head to Montpelier to join with  Progressive Party members at 1:00, at Montpelier High School, where we will merge with other activist assemblies in the Vermont Women’s March to the State House.

Our brand new Progressive Lieutenant Governor, Dave Zuckerman, will be among the speakers that include former Governor Madeleine Kunin,  Meghan Gallaher of Planned Parenthood, Ebony Nyoni of Black Lives Matter and former Transportation Sect. Sue Minter.

You can feel the crackle of connectivity in the air as parties of friends and family members all over the world make their way to the March routes.

Donald Trump’s angry supporters supposedly voted for ‘change,’ but what we are getting instead is regression.

The only real change will come when paleolithic patriarchy in America is finally left behind and women are represented in positions of power equal to their actual numbers in the population.

Donald Trump, one must hope, is the last desperate gasp of that regressive impulse, destined to be cast aside on the scrap-heap of historic errors in judgement and temporary insanity.

It is fitting that women should lead the keynote resistance against the man who single-handedly is attempting to reverse decades of progress in women’s and minorities civil rights, defense against climate change, educational opportunity and first amendment rights.

Donald Trump clings to the idea of American exceptionalism, yet his vision for the country would set this nation well-behind the rest of the developed world in so many fundamental ways.

Let’s make the next president (after Darth Pence replaces an impeached Donald Trump) a progressive female from one of our valuable minority communities. She is out there somewhere. Our job is to find and empower her.

See you at the March!

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 embraced.  Donald Trump was making them his creatures, only to later dash 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.

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.