Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Failed Leader, Failed State

Failed state. There was a time when these words conjured up images of faraway places like Somalia or Syria. Not anymore. Donald Trump has made this phrase applicable right here at home.

Of course, America’s basic administrative functions will continue more or less as before, but the nation’s moral leadership is gone. Because now, at the heart of the Trump presidency, instead of valorous virtue, there festers an ineradicable foul and acrid stench, the stench of unapologetic racism.

Trump didn’t absorb his bigotry the way people like David Duke did - that is, by coming of age in some benighted sector of the old Confederacy. No, Trump identifies as a racist for the same reason he places himself into any category: it serves his interests. He believes that a lot of bigots were included among those who voted for him, and so he feels compelled to throw those bigots a lifeline. If they hadn’t voted for him, he would surely be denouncing them as “very bad people.”

In a way Trump is like the Tyrannosaurus Rex in Jurassic Park, the monster predator that could only see entities if they moved. It was completely blind to stationary objects. In Trump’s case, he seems only to be responsive to people who reflect on him, for either good or ill. If you support him or praise him, you are the most amazing specimen that ever walked the earth; if you oppose or criticize him, you are a failing entity, a loser, a purveyor of fakery. Sad!

Anything that is neither for nor against him, he doesn’t seem to notice at all.

                                    T. Rex - Thanks, Science Daily

His Tuesday press conference was an exercise in barely controlled rage. Apparently, he was frustrated at having been convinced on Monday to issue a condemnation of the white supremacists that paraded through Charlottesville over the weekend shouting slogans like “Jews will not replace us!” and “Blood and soil!” So, seething with anger, Trump lashed out Tuesday in a furious effort to bully the media into reporting the news the way he wanted it reported – that is, in praise of him.

One thing that might come out of Trump’s bigoted temper tantrum is an opportunity to test the mettle of hopeful politicians. Here in Florida, for example, we have several Republicans who will be running for governor next year, most prominently Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam. In addition to this, current Governor Rick Scott is said to be eyeing Bill Nelson’s senate seat. What our media should be doing is probing these politicians, finding out whether or not they support Trump’s pro-white supremacy statements.

If nothing else good comes of Trump’s moral failure over the Charlottesville tragedy, at least we might be able to see who among Florida’s Republicans has the courage to do the right thing here. So, what do you say, Orlando Sentinel, Tampa Bay Times, etc.? Isn’t it time to step up and find out where these leaders stand?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

El Sexto Mes: La Mierda Continua Suceder*

BREAKING NEWS!Trump’s Unmitigated Assholery Continues Unabated!

The Guardian has been running a series of interviews with Trump supporters, the most recent of which concluded with these comments from Rich and Kim Green of small-town Pennsylvania:
“I would go more towards the person, than the party, myself. I’m more about, let’s do the right thing here,” Green said. “It is kind of stupid to be diehard Democrat or Republican.”
Kim Green, 52, agreed that Trump the man – his personal sympathies and his policy priorities – was more important than Trump the Republican.
“Because he’s for the common man,” she said. “And I don’t care what anybody says about how much money he has and everything else. He’s just like everybody else, he’s for us.”
“Or it’s the biggest scam America’s ever fell for,” Rich Green interjected. “One of the two.”

I would advise you to pick Door Number Two, Rich, because here’s one thing you can be sure of: Donald Trump is NOT for the common man, much less, the common woman.

I confess, it’s a bit tiring reporting on, or even reading about, all the sleazy, self-centered, and dishonest things Trump has done over the past six months, but what the heck – we don’t want to pretend everything’s normal, do we?

Trump’s latest screw-up was his effort to ram through a repeal and replace Obamacare plan. It failed for the simple reason that most people like Obamacare, especially the people who faced financial ruin before it was enacted. And now, those same people, many of them the “common man and woman” types that Trump pretended to care about, will be ruined if the GOP succeeds in repealing the Affordable Care Act.

The mess that Trump and the Republicans have conjured up over health care stems from their grossly dishonest claim that Obamacare was a failure and that they would put a much better plan in its place. There was never any chance they would put a better plan in place because doing so would involve either instituting a public option or increasing costs to the wealthy in order to subsidize insurance for poor families, neither of which Republicans (nor “Mr. Common Man Trump”) were willing to do.

So why did the Republicans loudly denounce Obamacare for seven years if they couldn’t improve on it? Because it was Obama’s program and, as Mitch McConnel made clear in January 2009, the Republicans’ primary goal would be to see Obama fail.

Well, the failure is real enough, Mitch, but it does not belong to Obama.

Besides failing at health care, continuing to lie about the Russian ties of many of his people, shocking the world by pulling out of the Paris Accord, baffling our closest allies with disengaged and aimless policy statements (about North Korea, for example), steeping his administration in corruption through his family’s businesses, and lying nonstop on twitter and elsewhere, Trump has also managed to drag down the world’s confidence in the U.S.

A recent Pew survey has shown, for example, that in almost every country friendly to the U.S., respect for America’s leadership under Trump has declined. Declined a lot.

Here are some numbers indicating how much lower confidence in the U.S. is under Trump as compared to Obama:

Germany         75% lower

South Korea    71% lower

France             70% lower

Canada            61% lower

UK                  57% lower

Japan               54% lower

The news isn’t all bad for Trump. In Russia confidence in American leadership has increased by 42%.

Here are some charts from the Pew study illustrating the general decline in American prestige under Trump.

The sad thing – well, one of the many sad things – about the Trump presidency is that to a lot of us it feels like the country doesn’t have a president at all. Yes, he occasionally undoes some aspect of environmental protection, or working people’s rights, but in general he seems to spend his time thinking about how to increase his personal fortune and to get people to tell him he’s an amazing guy. But in the meantime, who’s leading the country? I really don’t know. Steve Bannon maybe?

Anyway, in spite of the increasingly slimy Washington swamp (which may become an actual swamp if Trump’s environmental policies lead to further rising of the ocean levels), I encourage all to have a pleasant summer.


*Month Six: Shit Continues to Happen

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Stalwarts and Turncoats in Today's GOP

Thank you, Richard Painter.

For those of you who haven’t been keeping up with the news lately (and really, who can blame you), you should know that Mr. Painter is one of the few Republicans who has not cast his lot with the grossly unpresidential President Trump.

Richard Painter was the chief White House ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush administration. Yes, George W. Bush had an ethics lawyer, at least late in his term he did, and, based on what Painter has been up to lately, he must have been quite a good one. Mr. Painter, along with other legal specialists, has filed suit against Trump for failing to divest himself of properties that stand to benefit from his policies. Every other president has sold off or put in a blind trust their economic holdings, why hasn’t Trump?

Well, because he’s a shockingly dishonest and thoroughly self-centered egomaniac. Trump’s single-minded interest in his own well-being gives me the unsettling feeling that the nation doesn’t really have a president – there’s just some guy in the White House who is trying to promote his brand and get the people around him to tell him he’s awesome.

This is tragic, but equally tragic is the fact that the Republican Party, with the exception of a few good souls like Richard Painter, Joe Scarborough, and Ana Navarro, has sold its soul to the Trump franchise. What Republican sell-outs like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell seem to think is that they can get their pound of political flesh from the system before the whole Trump presidency begins to collapse.

And collapse it will. I’m not at all sure that Trump will be impeached, but I do feel sure that by the end of this year, his dirty dealings will be out in the open and then his political wings will be clipped. He may end up sitting in the White House tweeting out his accusations at the world, but the world will have moved on.

On Trump’s fatal weakness, I agree with commentator Donny Deutsch. Speaking on Morning Joe, Deutsch has convincingly argued that to get to the bottom of the Trump Swamp, we need to follow the money. Shades of Deep Throat.

According to Deutsch, Trump has very likely taken lots of money from nefarious Russian sources, and this is why he won’t release his tax returns. And won’t criticize Putin.

Let’s not forget that when golf journalist James Dodson asked Eric Trump about funding for the Trump golf courses a few years ago, Eric said, “Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.”

Dodson reported this conversation during a WBUR interview last May, and Eric, of course, immediately denied that he had said it. I don’t know about you, but I believe the journalist, not the Trump Boy.

Donald Trump himself also denied the story, tweeting, “Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!”

Well then, Mr. Trump, release your tax returns.

Those of us who still have the capacity to tell up from down recognize that Trump lies at least as often as he tells the truth.

The undeniable fact is that scads of Trump’s campaign team talked to the Russians and then declined to admit they had done so, including now Attorney General (!) Jeff Sessions, son-in-law Jared Kushner, and former National Security Adviser (!!!) Michael Flynn – to name a few.

Interestingly, Kushner had a previously unreported conversation with officials from the Russian bank Vnesheconombank. He claimed that he talked about diplomatic issues, but the bank reported that the conversation concerned finances.

Who’s lying now? I’d say very likely Kushner - because he does not want us to “follow the money.”

Donald Trump is likely to be known as the worst president ever to ooze his way into the Oval Office. But as his house-of-cards administration crumbles under the weight of his rank corruption, what will happen to Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and the other Republican Turncoats who put their own interests ahead of the nation’s? I’d like to think they will be disgraced along with the man whose fate they are now trying to exploit. Certainly, that’s what they deserve.

But in the meantime, let’s not forget to express our appreciation to Republican Stalwarts like Richard Painter who are standing with us, the American people.

                              Richard Painter
Image from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities