Thursday, June 1, 2017

Stupid Planet. Who Needs It?

Screw the Paris Agreement! 

Or so says Donald Trump by backing out of the international effort to protect the global community from catastrophic climate change. Just before he rejected this agreement, two members of his administration pointedly dismissed the idea that there is such a thing as a global community. Let's be real now: to deny that we are part of an international community, albeit an occasionally contentious one, is absolutely loony. However, I am willing to grant that Donald Trump, with his astonishingly shallow and narrow grasp of history, may honestly not understand this fact.

The latest evidence for his failure to grasp the reality of the global community is revealed in an op-ed piece in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal by National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster and Economic Advisor Gary D. Cohn. Here are some excerpts:

“The president embarked on his first foreign trip with a clear-eyed outlook that the world is not a ‘global community’ but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage.”


“We bring to this forum unmatched military, political, economic, cultural and moral strength. Rather than deny this elemental nature of international affairs, we embrace it.”

Ironically, this article, in which the authors portray America as an ass-kicking cage fighter, is titled “America First Doesn’t Mean America Alone.”

Some observers have accused Trump’s team members of competing against each other to get the “employee of the month award” from their boss, and perhaps this explains how two intelligent men could produce such childish drivel. For sure, Trump will approve of these words if he reads them. The image of America swaggering about in an arena, dominating all others with its matchless prowess, has got to warm the Donald’s heart, or whatever he has where normal people nurture a heart. So, brownie points for McMaster and Cohn.

But, like so much that comes out of the Trump White House, it’s nonsense. Just to focus on one questionable point, America’s “moral strength” is anything but unmatched these days. The very fact that we have allowed into the Oval Office a man whose behavior includes outright fraud (Trump University), anti-Muslim and anti-Mexican bigotry, admitted acts of sexual assault, pathological lying, mocking of people with disabilities, and of military heroes, etc., etc., naturally throws our nation’s moral standing into question. I may be called unpatriotic for suggesting this, but if there were an international survey in which respondents were asked to rank the leaders of the following countries in terms of their moral standing…






…I don’t believe we would come out on top.

Same goes for our “political” and “cultural” strength. The election of Donald Trump, which sent shock waves throughout much of the world (not Moscow), has actually given Jeffersonian democracy a serious black eye.

This leaves America’s military and economic strength, and on these fronts, I believe we are still unmatched. These may, in fact, be the only fronts that the Bullshitter in Chief genuinely cares about.

But why would Trump want to follow up his rude and pushy European visit with an editorial that emphasizes his contempt for the world community? Either he wants to make sure our (former) allies understand he regards them as adversaries or he’s struggling to pretend he did all that political damage on purpose - for his own secret, covfefe* reasons maybe? Or perhaps he simply believes that this message is the perfect concoction for getting his base to continue loving him.

Honestly, I’d like to ask McMaster and Cohn why they don’t believe there is a global community. Have they never heard of the United Nations? Are they not aware that all 190-plus of the world’s nations are linked together through an intricate web of international treaties? Do they not understand that rising ocean levels and increasingly brutal storm systems affect us all? Have they forgotten that there is, after all, only One World and, that we Earthlings, as its only caretakers, are obligated to work together to maintain it?

Or what?

               March for Science, March 22, 2017

* Culture World’s crack team of cryptographers has finally determined the meaning of the mysterious Trump tweet term “covfefe.” It is Russian code for “They’re on to us!”

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Trump Accidentally Makes Sense

Stop the presses! Big news! Donald Trump said something that wasn’t bullshit!

The Trump comment that blew open the news cycle is this: Turning to Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, he said, “You have better healthcare than we do.”

Yes, like pretty much every developed country in the world except ours, Australia has government-mandated universal health care. As Bernie Sanders tweeted in response to Trump’s accidental truth-telling: “President Trump is right. The Australian healthcare system provides healthcare to all of its people at a fraction of the cost than we do.”

This leaves us with two questions. (Three, if you count, “How did this clueless blowhard get to be president?”): First, “Why don’t we have inexpensive universal coverage like Australia, Canada, France, South Korea, etc.?” and, second, “Why, if universal health care is a good thing, did Trump push for the repeal-Obamacare vote in the House that made this worthy goal ever more unreachable?”

The answer to both of these questions is money - foul and fetid money. Such money has an epoxy-like grip on our elected officials, and, since a lot of this dirty money comes from the insurance and pharmaceutical companies, our GOP-controlled Congress favors these corporations while giving the shaft to the rest of us. A health care plan that enriches Aetna and Allstate by stripping away our coverage, makes conservative Republicans happy. Right now, they are ecstatic.

A Brief Lesson in Washington Ecology:

Corporate money lets callous bastards win elections;

once in office, these bastards rewrite laws

that help corporations suck more money out of us

which they funnel to their pro-corporate conservative reps for the next election cycle.

It’s the Circle of Life, Washington Swamp version.

The system wouldn’t work if more voters could figure out how to protect their own interests. But this doesn’t seem to be in the cards right now. Millions of them were duped last November by a corrupt, bullshit-spewing, corporate bastard who seems to regard the White House as his family’s latest marketing platform. Of course, when they start to lose their insurance coverage because of the new so-called health care plan, some voters may start to see the light. Should that happen, I wonder if they will remember the one honest comment that Trump made about health care – that our system is worse than Australia’s government-mandated, universal-coverage program.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Fake News in Paradise

We are living in crazy times. A lot of Americans have decided that a story is only true if it fits their political disposition. 

So here's a question: Did President Obama wiretap Donald Trump?

The answer, if you believe the FBI and other authoritative sources, is NO.

But,  if you really like Donald Trump, the answer is YES!

In an environment like this, where a story's truth depends on the reader's prejudices, Fake News will inevitably rear its ugly head. And sadly, the hoary visage of Fake News has succeeded in blemishing our own paradisiacal campus here at Rollins College.

The real story is this: A Rollins student, Marshall Polston, was temporarily suspended from the campus for his behavior which was making some people quite uncomfortable. Mr. Polston had, at the same time he was causing this discomfort, managed to have ongoing disagreements with Professor Areej Zufari, the instructor in his Middle Eastern Humanities class.

Mr. Polston has been spending a lot of time talking to right-wing media sources about his disagreements with Professor Zufari in connection with his suspension, but has apparently declined to mention to these sources that he was suspended not for any such disagreements but by virtue of the complaints made by those individuals, both females (one of them Professor Zufari), to whom he was causing distress.

Here is a link to an analysis by Snopes which includes a letter from Rollins to Mr. Polston which identifies those with whom he was instructed to avoid interaction. The student's name, no doubt for legal reasons, is obscured by a blue marker.

But Rollins is not the only place where Mr. Polston's behavior has caused trouble. Here is a March 31 story from the Independent Alligator of Gainesville, describing his suspension from the University of Florida for behavior similar to that which he has exhibited at Rollins.

But sadly, those sources that indulge in conservatively biased fake news have been posting headlines like this:

From The Blaze:

School suspends Christian student who challenged Muslim prof who said Jesus' crucifixion is a hoax

And from the Washington Times:

Rollins College lifts suspension of student who disagreed with Muslim prof over Jesus' crucifixion

In fact, Mr. Polston's suspension (from Rollins and, I'm guessing, from the University of Florida) had nothing to do with Muslims, Christians, crucifixions or hoaxes. It had to do with behavior that made  people uncomfortable both in and outside of class.

Mr. Polston has retained an attorney and, in addition to sending out misleading stories to fake news purveyors, has claimed innocence on the basis of a weirdly unconvincing videotape that he offers as proof that he was not present when he was described as being on campus causing distress. 

But I don't think Mr. Polston needs an attorney. He needs a friend. Or someone who cares enough about him to sit down with him and let him explore whatever impulses he is feeling that are causing distress to those around him. I believe that, though these individuals are upset by his behavior, he is, at bottom, more upset than any of them.

Best wishes to you, Mr. Polston. And please remember the commandment against bearing false witness. (I haven't been to church in about 50 years, so I can't say which number Commandment this is, but I'm quite sure it's one of them.)

           Rollins College - Paradise, I tell you!