Nothing Is Sacred

I have tried to write this three times now.

There is so much B.S. surrounding the Trump Condolence Call Controversy that I keep getting sidetracked trying to include all of it. Here’s what I want to say: John Kelly is a dinosaur, and his defense of Trump is dishonest at best.

He says it’s a “sacred” thing to join the U.S. military. Of course he thinks so — he’s been in the Marines all his life. He doesn’t know better. All those young people have their reasons for joining, but it’s absurd to call it sacred. The army represents mankind’s worst failure — the failure to figure out a way to come together in peace. No doubt this was not on the minds of enlistees, but that just goes to show the pervasive influence of patriotic thinking.

Kelly and Trump have both said they knew what they were signing up for, but those kids couldn’t know what they were signing up for. No kid thinks s/he is ever going to die, much less get blown up or torn to pieces by machine gun fire. Snap out of it, General. They are not engaged in a “sacred” mission. Whatever they may think they are doing, you and I know they are defending our right to rule the world. I suppose you could call that a “sacred mission.” But honorable? Maybe not.

Kelly says the people around his son and the four who were killed two weeks ago were “the best people on earth.” How the hell does he know that? No doubt some were great people and some were assholes, but Kelly is telling us that simply by virtue of their participation in the U,S. military, they are sainted.

General Kelly also spent a little time waxing nostalgic about the place of women in the good old days, saying they were “looked upon with great honor.” Who knows why he brought that up, but could any public figure be more out of touch with the reality women have faced and continue to face in this country, from casual sexual harassment to unequal pay and treatment in the workplace? We have a long way to go in this regard, but even though we’ve made some progress Kelly seems to think women were better off in the past.

Kelly also took the opportunity to attack Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson on bogus grounds, which she easily refuted the following day with video evidence. To be clear, I don’t think he was lying about the congresswoman. He probably got misinformation from a staffer in the White House, someone who long ago lost sight of the difference between fact and fiction.

The victim here seems to be the good standing of General Kelly himself, heretofore seen as a stabilizing force amid the chaos of the Trump White House. At first he looked like the life preserver we could cling to for safety from the ignorant, childish president. Now it looks like he’ll be going down with the ship, too.

Republicans Not Concerned About Flynn

For those who were scratching their heads in December,

Devin Nunes: “MUST track down leaks!”

…wondering why Vladimir Putin did not respond in kind to President Obama’s expulsion of Russian diplomats as part of the sanctions leveled for Russia’s meddling in the presidential election, here’s your answer: Mike Flynn.

In his illegal phone conversations with Russian officials he apparently let them know that they need not worry about those sanctions, once Donald Trump was sworn in. Wink, wink.

Flynn was forced to resign over this but, as I predicted last night, Republicans in Congress are not the least bit interested in investigating this scandal, or making any effort to answer the question “What did Donald Trump know and when did he know it?”

Out Like Flynn

The Associated Press and New York Times are reporting that General Michael Flynn has resigned as National Security Adviser. (Story here.)

This comes just a couple of hours after he had “the full confidence of the president.” Given his obvious criminal and unethical behavior both before and Michael Flynnafter he (and Trump) took office, this turn of events was inevitable, and I’m sure he was ordered to resign. Trump’s inner circle is no doubt hoping that, now that he’s gone, there will be no investigation, as that would surely implicate others in the new administration. They’ll be saying “It’s over, nothing to see here, let’s move on, the nation has more important problems, blah, blah, blah.”

But can you imagine how this would go down had Hillary Clinton been president? Every committee in Congress would open investigations, and they would continue for eight years. Of course, Republicans control both houses of congress, and run all the committees, so there won’t be any investigations of the Flynn scandal.

It’s time for the mainstream press to hitch up their big girl pants and look into this, no matter how long it takes or where it leads.

Product Placement

I’m not going to pretend that this pisses me off any more than everything else Donald Trump and the gang are up to.

The Trump Administration is looking less like the second coming of the German Nazi Party every day, and more like a Keystone Kops comedy. Their barrage of Executive Action signings are mostly just photo ops, and the one they really got behind — the Muslim Ban — has now been stayed by a federal judge and the stay has been upheld by a panel of the 9th Circuit. This is not to say that they won’t hurt a lot of people before it’s over, but at least there is hope that they won’t bring down the Republic.

But Donald Trump’s refusal to divest himself from his businesses, create a blind trust and stop hiding his financial dealings from the American people remains the most serious of his betrayals. While the president gets some legal leeway in this matter, there is a reason all previous presidents have taken steps to separate themselves from business activities while in office. Doing a good job at being president should be the only thing on Trump’s agenda. Instead, he remains the owner of his company, and stands to benefit WHILE IN OFFICE from income generated from it.

He has tweeted in support of his daughter’s clothing line. Ivanka herself has advertised jewelry she is selling as having been worn on a 60 Minutes interview. Melania has recently admitted in court that she plans to enhance her own wealth as a result of being First Lady. The whole family, not to mention Trump’s sycophantic staff (see Kellyanne Conway article), is trying to cash in.

Trump has serious ethical and criminal issues. He must address them now. We need a president focused on the nation, not on getting richer. If he wanted to remain in the business world he should not have run for president.

Separation

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.

Negotiator-in-Chief

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

Apprentice-Prez
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!

Foxes in the Henhouse, Part 1

Will this be the cabinet appointment that finally makes it clear to the chumps who voted for Donald Trump that he has no intention of helping working people?andy-puzder

Andy Puzder opposes the minimum wage as well as regulations to protect workers, and 60% of all
Labor Dept. investigations of his company found violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Get used to it, suckers: President Trump plans to reverse a hundred years of gains for wage earners in the United States.

A Way Forward?

The delay we must all now undergo as we wait a couple of months for the Trump Administration to get itself organized and finally take office is actually MORE suspenseful than the run-up to Election Day.

We knew what to expect from President Hillary. It would have been a simple matter of finding out whom she would appoint to carry out the expected policies. But throughout the campaign Trump’s many random and contradictory pronouncements and promises have muddied the water so thoroughly that no one is quite sure what he’s really going to do.

trumo-maga-hatI admit to a high level of apprehension about this — as I have written elsewhere, Donald Trump campaigned as a fascist, and 50 million people voted him into office. Forgive me if I now wake up screaming occasionally, from dreams of jackboots kicking in my front door. But one thing I have discovered is that if you step back from believing imaginary things that haven’t happened yet and study the situation as it really is, it is possible to start breathing normally again, and even to see a way to live with our new political reality. It doesn’t look like it will be a fun time, but it looks like we’ll survive it.

For one thing, I expect that being the (totally) out party will bring the left together – the moderates, the center-left, the really left and even a few of the radical left. We know what we want for the nation, for the world, for each other: freedom, civil rights, human rights, education, peace in the world, a healthy planet, a decent life. Lofty goals, and hard to achieve. We’ll need to pull together if we’re to have a chance of getting there. Losing all three branches of the federal government and a whole bunch of state governments ain’t a picnic, but it should focus our thinking in his regard. We must respect our institutions, but we must engage the opposition, and for the good of us all we must never surrender.

A thought that’s haunted me in the days following Trump’s victory is that those who voted for him must, to some degree, agree with him. Without going through the whole litany of regressive, unconstitutional, violent or ridiculous proposals he has made, can we stipulate that this is pretty scary? (If you really need a reminder, here you go.)

But I no longer think his supporters are all racist nationalists. Certainly some of them must be, and many of them are willing to tolerate that rhetoric and behavior, but here’s another possible explanation for why anybody might vote for someone as abhorrent as Donald Trump: They don’t take him literally.

They never did. They don’t expect him to do all the things he has “promised” to do as president. This doesn’t mean they wouldn’t like him to do some of them: jail Hillary Clinton, ban Muslims, round up all the undocumenteds and ship ’em back. They want those things, but they’ll settle for just getting their jobs back. They don’t know what happened to those jobs, but they know that politicians so far have not seemed willing or able to bring them back, and so they voted for a non-politician. Not only will he get those jobs back for them, because he is a self-made highly successful businessman, but as a twofer he will go to Washington, kick over the tables and piss on the floor. That will teach those effete politically correct career hacks a lesson they won’t soon forget!

In other words, they thought they were “sending a message” to the Washington Establishment. They just didn’t think it through, to the succeeding four years of a Trump administration. This is both dispiriting and encouraging. Dispiriting because how could that many voters be that ignorant and short-sighted?? Encouraging because maybe — just maybe –when I look at the faces in a crowd at the mall I won’t necessarily have to think “Half of these people are violent xenophobic racists.”

Don’t get me wrong. The prospect of a Trump presidency is still profoundly frightening and depressing. I know there is no school for presidents, no place where you can learn the job in advance. Except for a short period after the election and before the inauguration, when you are briefed for the first time on challenges no one but the president ever has to deal with, you learn on the job, period. But as President Obama has said, this particular student is uniquely unqualified for the job. He has zero experience in government, he seems to have a narcissistic personality disorder, a short fuse and the attention span of a child.

How can he manage the most powerful nation in the world?