Trump wants to do away with the so-called “Johnson Amendment.”

This is an IRS rule that prohibits churches and non-profits from politicking from the pulpit. The current batch of radical Republicans think that is an infringement on their freedom of speech.

Fair enough. Let them exercise their First Amendment right. Cancel the rule and let them tell their parishioners how God wants them to vote. But they must disclose their donors (*cough* Koch Bros. *cough*), and NO TAX EXEMPTION FOR YOU!!!!

Donald Trump’s Conflicts of Interest

Donald Trump is planning to loot the United States Treasury.

This has always been the plan: to enrich himself and his family at the expense of the taxpayers. To gain more for himself he is likely to compromise the security of the country. Yes, he’s an incompetent, narcissistic sociopath, but THIS IS SERIOUS.
He is hiding his financial dealings, but now it comes out that “The president is the sole beneficiary of the Donald J Trump Revocable Trust, which is tied to his social security number as the taxpayer identification number, according to documents published online by the investigative nonprofit ProPublica.”

Read the article at The Guardian.


Kevin Drum notes that Donald Trump is a lay-down* at the negotiating table:

Donald Trump, two weeks ago: “Pharma has a lot of lobbies, a lot of lobbyists, and a lot of power. And there’s very little bidding on drugs. We’re the largest buyer of drugs in the world, and yet we don’t bid properly.”
Donald Trump, today, after meeting with Pharma lobbyists: “I’ll oppose anything that makes it harder for smaller, younger companies to take the risk of bringing their product to a vibrantly competitive market. That includes price-fixing by the biggest dog in the market, Medicare, which is what’s happening.”

*car dealer talk for a pushover

Celebrity Apprentice

Welcome to Celebrity Apprentice President!
Our contestant is billionaire real estate mogul Donald J. Trump, and he’ll be gunning for the title of Best President Ever! Unlike all previous contestants, Donald has no prior experience in government, foreign policy or domestic policy, although he says “I’m, like, a smart guy.” Even so we’d say he’s got quite a job ahead of him. Let’s see how his first 10 days went, shall we?
  • Inaugural Speech: Whoa, what a downer! In a surprise move, Donald broke the tradition of new contestants trying to say something uplifting and unifying, at least for his very first public speech as Apprentice President. Instead he painted a bleak picture of a nation in decline, rampant with starvation and misery, and overrun by drugs, gangs, terrorists and immigrant rapists. And carnage! Interesting strategy, Donald!
  • Inaugural Crowd Size: Donald was mad the whole first weekend after he was inaugurated because it turned out that more people had attended previous inaugurations than his own. Heck, the Women’s March that was held the very next day was bigger than his inauguration — and Donald suspected that the March may have secretly been a protest against him, which made him even more crabby. He figuratively stamped his foot for three days, but the numbers didn’t change. So not much presidentin’ got done for a while, but the Trump administration did at least create a new category of lies, called Alternative Facts. These are facts that are not true in this universe, but may be true if you enter a parallel universe. Score one for Team Trump!
  • To make up for looking foolish, Trump then decided to issue a whole bunch of “Executive Orders,” based on his belief that he is elected King and whatever he says goes: He’s restarted the dead oil pipelines across U.S. land that is sensitive ecologically and culturally; fixed it so safe legal abortions around the world will be harder for women to get; raised the price of mortgage insurance for working class home buyers; signed an order “repealing” the Affordable Care Act (this doesn’t actually repeal anything, but it signals that he wants to take health care away from millions of Americans); cut off funding to American cities that won’t let their cops hassle immigrants, or otherwise do the job of federal immigration authorities; reduced the rigor of environmental impact reports so as to fast track construction projects; instructed the EPA to scrub talk of climate change from its website.
  • TV Face Time: Trump has finally made it clear that he intends to continue to hide his tax returns from the American people, but it’s not because he’s shy: he always makes sure television cameras are in the Oval Office to record his many signing sessions. Nice move, Donald, letting your base know you’re keeping those vindictive campaign promises!
  • Banning Muslims: Just kidding — it’s not a Muslim ban! Still, if his blizzard of Executive Orders weren’t enough to show the world who’s boss, he slipped another one in on Day 7 that we’re still trying to understand. But the main thrust seems to be that we don’t want any Muslims trying to sneak into the United States and blow stuff up. To ensure that he received maximum TV coverage on this one, he made sure not to tell the Department of Homeland Security, the Office of Legal Counsel or anybody at the State Department what he was doing, instead turning to new National Security Council member and white supremacist Steve Bannon to draft the order. So it basically didn’t make any sense, and — you guessed it — chaos ensued! At airports all over the world! Team Trump scores again!
Looks like Donald is on his way to the Presidentin’ Hall of Fame, if he can keep up this pace. But there are challenges ahead that will test his mettle: a Senate filibuster of his Supreme Court appointment, law suits against some of his more unconstitutional actions, and protests across the country and and around the world.
Stay tuned to Celebrity Apprentice President to find out!

Wake Me When It’s Over

Holy shit, what a crazy dream I was having.
There was a TV game show host running for president against 16 nincompoops. The game show host was like, the head nincompoop: loud, obnoxious, insulting, racist, misogynistic, vindictive, and ignorant. Of course, in my dream, he gets the nomination, and ends up running against a really accomplished candidate from the other party.

Dream-Trump-2Nobody, including the game show host, thinks he’s going to win, but he’s so needy for attention that he plows ahead, improvising his campaign and preening before his supporters. Somewhere along the way it comes out that Russian computer hackers are helping him get elected by humiliating his more qualified rival for the job. Totally not believable, right? And then — you know how the weirdest things happen in dreams? — the game show guy — get this — wins the election! Nuts, huh?

Of course he has no idea how the government works, but he’s shot off his mouth for months about all the outrageous and hurtful things he’ll do when he’s the prez, so he has to go through the motions of “transitioning.” He spends the first month letting everybody know that he’s planning to renege on every single one of his campaign pledges except one: he’s going to take away everybody’s medical coverage! And his fans, for some reason, love it! Then he blows off daily presidential briefings because, he says, they’re too boring. “Oh oh,” I think in my dream, “he’s going to improvise his presidency, too!” I mean, I told you it was a crazy dream, right?

After a while he starts picking who he wants in his cabinet. He likes this part, because on TV he played a “boss,” who was powerful and smart and fired people on every episode. Here’s his chance to do it for realz! But remember, this is just a nutty dream — for each department he chooses somebody who’s made a career of destroying the very department they are now in charge of! If I were not sleeping, I could never make this stuff up!

Anyway, my dream starts to feel more like a nightmare as the game show host goes on Twitter day after day — and sometimes in the middle of the night — to attack people he hates for one reason or another, or to take credit for things that are happening around him that he had nothing to do with. It’s beginning to look like I’m about to descend into some kind of bizarre political hell for at least four years. I mean, a revenge-minded, petty, narcissistic sociopath is about to be handed the nuclear codes! Seriously, I must need psychiatric counseling or something, to be dreaming shit like this, right? This nightmare seems to last all freakin’ night, and finally, just as the obnoxious game show host is about to be inaugurated, I cry out and wake up in a cold sweat.

Thank God it’s only a dream.

Divest, Donald!

It’s now clear that Donald Trump intends to enter the White House…

…without resolving the many conflicts of interest between his business holdings and his new job as defender of the Constitution. In his charade Wednesday morning he told the nation he could easily run his company and the country at the same time if he wanted to, and that he’d be really good at it. Then he brought out his lawyer to announce that it would be a satisfactory solution for him to turn over control of the company to two of his sons, who would run it without any input from Trump himself. There are no ethics experts who agree with him on this. Furthermore, his lawyer said, it would be really hard for Trump to divest or to set up a legitimate blind trust. To that I say, Mr. Trump, if you didn’t want to comply with the United States Constitution, you should not have sought the presidency. I mean, some things are hard.

What this means is that from the moment he takes the oath of office he will be in violation of the constitution. If this is not a “high crime and misdemeanor,” nothing is. I’ve heard that I should “wait and see” what he does as president, before I criticize him. I don’t think this is a “wait and see” situation: He has already announced his intention to break the law: No need to wait.

The standard resolution of a situation like this is impeachment. But guess what? Articles of impeachment must begin in the House of Representatives, and the House majority is Republican. Do you think they will allow their boy to be impeached? Not until they get him to sign a bunch of their bills, including the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, tax cuts for the rich, removal of many corporate regulations, defunding of Planned Parenthood, and more. You say someone could file a lawsuit to have him removed? Someone probably will, but it will be thrown out of court, because no one can claim to have sustained “direct injury or harm” as a result Trump’s crime — no one has “standing” to sue. Hey, it’s a legal thing. We don’t have to understand it.

There is no likely avenue to correct this.

Maybe the new president will commit more crimes while in office. Maybe he will be so blatant in his arrogance and lawlessness that even the Republican held House will feel they must act. Certainly if your district is represented by a Republican you should write and encourage her to do the right thing. But while you’re holding your breath for that to happen, don’t forget there’s a congressional election in two years, and a 3-million strong majority did vote against Donald Trump. If everyone who thinks we’ve made a terrible mistake gets out and votes in 2018, we can begin to rescue our government from this unqualified man and start on the road to recovering some of our national integrity.

A No-Conflict Situation

Our boorish, loudmouthed new president finally held a press conference today.

Naturally the reporters who were there mostly wanted to know about his ties to the Russian government and whether the Russkies really had blackmail information about Trump’s sexual perversions. For the record, his response was simply to deny everything, say it was “fake news,” and call the Washington Post and CNN disgraceful liars.

But the single most critical issue facing the new president — and the American people — is the inherent conflicts of interest he has, and his refusal to take the necessary steps to end such conflicts. Experts on matters of governmental ethics have said that Donald Trump will be in violation of the constitution the minute he’s inaugurated. Trump’s response is “I can’t have a conflict of interest, because I will be the president.” So basically his defense is “Nuh-uh!”

Today at his press conference he even brought in a lawyer to explain to us lesser folks that as president he can do anything he wants, and because he says it’s OK, it’s OK. It’s reminiscent of Nixon’s statement that “If the president does it, it’s not a crime.” The Office of Government Ethics says he must divest completely, or place all his holdings in a verifiable blind trust. They say handing control of his company over to his children does not constitute any kind of blind trust, that there is no way he’d be able to say truthfully that he is not compromised. So today his lawyer said Trump will turn over control to his two sons, and that should do it. Besides, she announced, it would be really hard to comply with ethics standards and laws.

So that’s it. The final word from Team Trump. He’s not going to comply with the law, the constitution, or with traditional standards of ethics. Don’t forget this day. Trump’s posturing, his name-calling, his bragging, his willful ignorance of policy, tradition and governance is truly offensive. But it now appears that we have not only elected a braying, obnoxious jackass. We have elected a criminal.

Who knew the American voter could be so easily conned?

The Greatest President

Donald Trump is as unqualified for his new job as anyone who’s ever won an election,

and yet his first four years as President of the United States may indeed turn out to be “successful.” Even though his complete lack of experience and inability to focus will lead him to turn over most governing to Congress and underlings in his administration, his habit of using Twitter and pep rallies to talk directly to his supporters could allow him to create an aura of “getting things done.” He takes credit for things he hasn’t done, pretends he didn’t say things that he was recorded saying and endlessly promotes his superior intelligence and knowledge of subjects finger(foreign policy, cyber security, military strategy) that he clearly knows nothing about.

And many of his supporters believe him, or at least they act as if they do. This phenomenon has been explained by Trump spokespeople as “…taking him seriously, but not literally.” Thus, for example, he’s able to promise over and over for a year that he will definitely build a 2,000-mile wall across our southern border, but nobody gets upset when he reneges on that pledge a week after the election.

If he can get away with this kind of thing for four years, a large segment of American voters is going to think he is The Greatest President Ever. Thanks to the gullibility and/or ignorance of a lot of us, and Trump’s instinct for finding the shortest route to a cheap pat on the back, together with his willingness to say anything without regard to the truth, he may be able to sustain the charade long enough to be a viable candidate for reelection in 2020.

The Trump Administration is going to go down in history as the era when “truth” finally became completely uncoupled from actual facts. We saw this coming 16 years ago when an aide to George W.Bush told Ron Suskind of The New York Times that the reason he (Suskind) couldn’t understand the new administration was that he was living in the “reality-based community,” a place that Bush & Company did not reside. But during the past election campaign Trump abandoned even the pretense of caring about truth. He just made stuff up whenever he felt like it, so fast that there was not enough time to refute all his BS.

But if we are going to get the country back on track we are going to have to refute the BS. I’m a political junkie, and I spend a lot of time reading and studying what’s going on in government and public policy, so I usually can tell when a politician is dissembling or shading the truth. Whenever I see a falsehood on social media I try to correct it. I don’t expect Trump’s most ardent supporters will be swayed — they don’t take him literally, after all — but it’s important that blatant lies or completely inaccurate statements are challenged, so that uninformed readers won’t be confused when they come across something that makes no logical sense.

Trump’s preferred method of spreading these falsehoods and pumping up his own image is just talk on social media. When his talk is untrue, let’s call him out on it, on Facebook or right back at him on his own Twitter account.

Score One for The People

Last night, behind closed doors and with no warning or debate,
House Republicans voted a midnight rules change, gutting the Office of Congressional Ethics, the agency that watches Congress to see if any of them might have a hand in the cookie jar. Essentially the Office was neutered, losing its independence from the legislators it is supposed to be policing. With the incoming Trump Administration, I expected the executive branch to be corrupt and sneaky, but I didn’t see this coming. Apparently Congress thinks if Trump can get way with thumbing his nose at the very idea of governmental propriety, so can they.
But this morning, after a deluge of criticism from Democrats and some Republicans, the press, and phone calls from constituents, House Republicans hastily backed off their gambit. Their excuse is that they “need more time” to research the rules changes they favor, but the more likely reality is that they didn’t think they’d get caught pulling this particular shenanigan, and once they were busted they had to retreat.
So for now there will still be an independent panel keeping an eye on them, but by August they might try this again. Between now and then I suspect we will all get really good at dialing our congresspersons and senators, so stand by for the next Republican attempt to free themselves from those pesky ethical constraints.

Merry Christmas Baby

Merry Christmas! (And when I say “Christmas,” I mean ALL the holidays that happen at this time of year.)

[Copied from the YouTube page]
2016. It’s been a rough year for me and, I suspect, for some of you as well. But we go on, don’t we? My Christmas song this year is a Beach Boys tune, from back in their early days when they were under pressure to put out as many albums as possible, before their flash-in-the-pan popularity disappeared. They cranked this one out in 1964. The writing is credited to Brian Wilson, and while it’s true that on his own Brian did not always come up with the most sophisticated lyrics, this one is so lame I have to suspect the influence of Mike Love, who wrote even dumber lyrics than Brian, and who sang lead on this one.

As usual, the images in the video are of the homes of my neighbors here in Bixby Knolls. Let’s give them a big hand for the great job they have all done with their lights. And I owe a great debt to The Bixby Knolls Men’s Chorus, who helped me with the background vocals. Thanks guys, and to all a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, and best wishes for 2017.

It has to get better, doesn’t it?