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?

Foxes in the Henhouse, Part 2

An Oklahoma oil man and climate change denier as head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

What could go wrong? Scott Pruitt has said he wants to dismantle the EPA. And now he’s in charge of it.
The new president doesn’t know how much damage he’s doing, but up in the penthouse, he doesn’t much care. Note to Trump voters: It’s your children and grandchildren who will pay the price for your stupidity.


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?

Leaving The Table

I have loved the music and words of Leonard Cohen since I first encountered him in 1964.

I used to joke that if you dared to listen to a whole Leonard Cohen album at one sitting you’d have to have a counselor on hand, because you would become so sad you might decide to take your life.

Today, however, I am listening to DJ Chris Douridas’ sweet tribute to Leonard on KCRW in Los Angeles. My heart is in pieces, but the music is graceful and healing, melancholy and uplifting. I’m grateful that Leonard was in the world at the same time as me, and that his spirit was woven through my life in the best and worst of it, and that he shared with us his graceful sadness and his gentle smiles.

I say goodbye today, but I will return to him for the rest of my life.


We Are All Fascists Now

It should be noted that Donald Trump ran for president as a fascist and won.

So it looks as if half the country is fascist, although most of them would scream if someone called them that. Jailing opponents, rounding up undesirables, silencing journalists, torturing prisoners — these were all part of his campaign. These are the things 50 million voters want him to do. Can anyone stop him? We’d better hope.fascist-trump