The True Cost of Trumpism

I was reading a column by Max Boot in The Washington Post a day or two ago about Trump’s decisions regarding the Middle East, and the damage he is causing to our alliances, when one sentence jumped out at me:

“It’s dangerous to have a president who truly does not know what he is talking about.”

We can sugar-coat issues and say that Trump is merely playing to his base, which is partly true, but the bottom line is that Mr. Boot is right … Trump does not know what he’s talking about and it is dangerous … very dangerous.

Freedom House is a U.S.-based non-governmental organization (NGO) that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom, and human rights.  The organization’s annual Freedom in the World report, which assesses each country’s degree of political freedoms and civil liberties, is frequently cited by political scientists, journalists, and policymakers.  The latest annual report was released on Tuesday, February 5th, and I think it’s important that we think about what it says.  The report is too long for me to replicate here, but I would urge you to read some of it, at least the section on the U.S. — The Struggle Comes Home:  Attacks on Democracy in the United States.  Meanwhile, I have included some of the most relevant points.  All highlighting is my own.

Freedom report

At the midpoint of his term, however, there remains little question that President Trump exerts an influence on American politics that is straining our core values and testing the stability of our constitutional system. No president in living memory has shown less respect for its tenets, norms, and principles. Trump has assailed essential institutions and traditions including the separation of powers, a free press, an independent judiciary, the impartial delivery of justice, safeguards against corruption, and most disturbingly, the legitimacy of elections.

So far, America’s institutions have largely honored this deeply democratic sentiment. The resilience of the judiciary, the press corps, an energetic civil society, the political opposition, and other guardrails of the constitutional system—as well as some conscientious lawmakers and officeholders from the president’s own party—have checked the chief executive’s worst impulses and mitigated the effects of his administration’s approach.

But the fact that the system has proven durable so far is no guarantee that it will continue to do so. Elsewhere in the world, in places like Hungary, Venezuela, or Turkey, Freedom House has watched as democratic institutions gradually succumbed to sustained pressure from an antidemocratic leadership, often after a halting start. Irresponsible rhetoric can be a first step toward real restrictions on freedom. The United States has already been weakened by declines in the rule of law, the conduct of elections, and safeguards against corruption. The current overall US score puts American democracy closer to struggling counterparts like Croatia than to traditional peers such as Germany or the United Kingdom.US_Democracy_Scoreboard_Resized_FIW2019.jpgWhile not without problems, the United States has enjoyed a strong tradition of respect for the rule of law. President Trump has repeatedly shown disdain for this tradition. Late in 2018, after a federal judge blocked the administration’s plan to consider asylum claims only from those who cross the border at official ports of entry, the president said, “This was an Obama judge. And I’ll tell you what, it’s not going to happen like this anymore.”

As a candidate in 2016, he questioned the impartiality of an American-born judge with a Hispanic surname who presided over a fraud suit filed against “Trump University.” Soon after taking office, he disparaged a federal judge who ruled against his travel ban on several Muslim-majority countries as “this so-called judge.”

The president has since urged the Department of Justice to prosecute his political opponents and critics. He has used his pardon power to reward political and ideological allies and encourage targets of criminal investigations to refuse cooperation with the government. He has expressed contempt for witnesses who are cooperating with law enforcement in cases that could harm his interests and praised those who remain silent.

An array of independent media organizations have continued to produce vigorous coverage of the administration. But the constant vilification of such outlets by President Trump, in an already polarized media environment, is accelerating the breakdown of public confidence in journalism as a legitimate, fact-based check on government power. We have seen in other countries how such practices paved the way to more tangible erosions of press freedom and, in extreme cases, put journalists in physical danger. It would be foolish to assume it could never happen here.

Previous presidents have criticized the press, sometimes bitterly, but none with such relentless hostility for the institution itself. Trump alone has deployed slurs like “enemy of the people,” flirted with the idea that the media are responsible for and perhaps deserving of violence, and defended his own routine falsehoods while accusing journalists of lying with malicious, even treasonous intent.

From the outset of his administration, the president has been willing to ignore obvious conflicts of interest, most prominently with his decision not to divest ownership of his businesses or place them in a blind trust. Instead, he moved them into a revocable trust, managed by his sons, of which he is the sole beneficiary. During his presidency, his businesses have accepted money from foreign lenders, including banks controlled by the Chinese government. Trump has swept aside the norm against nepotism by having his daughter and son-in-law, both seemingly saddled with their own conflicts of interest, serve as senior White House advisers. He also rejected the tradition obliging presidents to release their income tax records.

Trump properties have hosted foreign delegations, business dinners, trade association conferences, and Republican Party fund-raising events, complete with Trump-branded wines and other products, likely arranged in the hope of earning the president’s gratitude. The Washington Post revealed that a month after President Trump’s election, lobbyists representing Saudi Arabia booked hundreds of rooms at Trump International Hotel in the capital. Indeed, a number of foreign and domestic interests allegedly sought to influence the new administration by arranging donations to Trump’s inauguration festivities, which are now under investigation.

The importance of credible elections to the health of a democracy should be self-evident. If citizens believe that the polls are rigged, they will neither take part in the exercise nor accept the legitimacy of those elected.  During the 2018 midterm elections, he suggested without evidence that Democrats were stealing a Senate seat in Arizona and committing fraud in Florida’s senatorial and gubernatorial balloting. He complained that undocumented asylum seekers were invading the country so they could vote for Democrats. He suggested that Democratic voters were returning to the polls in disguise to vote more than once.

At the same time, the administration has shown little interest in addressing genuine and documented threats to the integrity of US elections, including chronic problems like partisan gerrymandering and the fact that balloting is overseen by partisan officials in the states. But the most glaring lapse is the president’s refusal to clearly acknowledge and comprehensively combat Russian and other foreign attempts to meddle in American elections since 2016.

Trump has refused to advocate for America’s democratic values, and he seems to encourage the forces that oppose them. His frequent, fulsome praise for some of the world’s worst dictators reinforces this perception. Particularly striking was his apparent willingness, at a summit in Helsinki, to accept the word of Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence agencies in assessing Russia’s actions in the 2016 elections.

Cambodian strongman Hun Sen consolidated one-party rule in sham elections last summer after banning the main opposition party and shutting down independent media. He acknowledged that he and President Trump shared a point of view about journalists, saying, “Donald Trump understands that are an anarchic group.” Poland’s president, whose party has sought to annihilate judicial independence and assert control over the press, similarly thanked Trump for fighting “fake news.” Saudi Arabia’s crown prince almost certainly ordered the assassination of a leading journalistic critic, apparently believing that the action would not rupture relations with the president of the United States. It seems he was correct.

All of these are things we already knew, things we have written of and bemoaned for the past two years.  But, seeing them cited by a respected bipartisan watchdog group as threats to our core principles, as a weakening of our democracy, should give us all renewed reason to sit up and take notice, to keep on fighting against these injustices.  According to the President of Freedom House, Michael Abromowitz …

The grim reality is that Freedom House now ranks the United States well below other large and long-standing democracies, such as France, Germany and Britain.

As Mr. Boot said, It’s dangerous to have a president who truly does not know what he is talking about.”

While We Were Watching The Circus …

clown trumpWhile we keep watching the circus playing out before our eyes, the clown with the funny hair and weird makeup who keeps tweeting mindless inanities, things are happening in our government.  Things that will have an effect on our health, our freedom of press, our very lives.

We may wake up some morning and find that any number of things have changed overnight.  For instance, we might wake up and find that our national parks and wildlife refuges no longer exist as such, for they have been sold to ExxonMobile for drilling rights, or dispersed to various coal companies for mining rights.  Or we might waken to the news that an entire Indian nation has been forced to leave their land for lack of water.nat'l park shutteredWhy, you ask?  In late December, amid the government shutdown, the U.S. Department of Interior, currently under the direction of Acting Secretary David Bernhardt, proposed changes that would make it harder for the public and media to obtain records of agency dealings.  According to The Guardian (you don’t find these things in U.S. news)

“Among other wide-ranging revisions to its Foia [Freedom of Information Act] regulations, the interior department’s proposal would enable the agency to reject Foia requests that it considers “unreasonably burdensome” or too large, and it would allow the agency to impose limits on the amount of records it processes for individual requesters each month.

The department oversees hundreds of millions of acres of public land, including national parks, as well as the country’s endangered species programs. Under the Trump administration, the department has embarked on an aggressive agenda of opening these lands to oil and gas drilling and mining while rolling back a wide variety of environmental regulations.

Records uncovered using the Freedom of Information Act in recent months have revealed the department’s close ties with energy industry groups as well as several apparent ethics violations among top political officials.

Daniel Jorjani, one of interior’s top lawyers and a former employee of the Koch-brother-backed conservative group Freedom Partners, signed off on the proposed revisions, which are facing harsh criticism from civil society groups that rely on Foia to track the department’s actions.

The changes are part of a broader drive to limit public access to interior department records. In October, the Guardian reported on a leaked interior department guidance that directed US Fish and Wildlife Service employees around the country to take a less transparent approach when responding to Foia requests about the agency’s endangered species programs.”

zinke

Ryan Zinke

The proposal was made by Ryan Zinke before his contentious departure, and the announcement was made on Friday, December 28th, in the midst of the chaos of the government shutdown and the circus acts that accompanied it.  The public was invited to comment until January 28th (three days ago) with no extension.  Local, regional, and national organizations including the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), the Wilderness Society, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Sierra Club are among those who submitted comments, as well as organizations representing the media, including the Society for Environmental Journalists and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

As part of the change, requests would be transferred to Deputy Solicitor General Daniel Jorjani, a former advisor to the mega-donor conservative Koch brothers. Interior career staff previously oversaw the requests, while Jorjani is a political appointee.

FOIA requests would also need to be much more detailed according to the new rules, and among other caveats, Interior “will not honor a request that requires an unreasonably burdensome search.”  And of course it is incumbent on the Department of Interior’s Jorjani to determine what constitutes an “unreasonably burdensome search”.  The proposal comes amid a large uptick in FOIA requests as journalists, climate advocates, and others work to gain information about the Trump administration’s large-scale environmental rollbacks and efforts targeting public lands.

Last week, the Interior Department announced that it would extend the comment period by only one day, from January 28 to January 29, after more than 150 organizations requested an extension. The department said the 24-hour extension was to “ensure interested parties have the full 30 days to submit their responses.” Without a second extension, the comment period ended at midnight on Wednesday.

And in related news … The Wilderness Society reported yesterday that in Wyoming, 140 parcels, totaling 150,000 acres were posted for sale.  Meanwhile, in Utah, 156 parcels, totaling 217, 475 acres were posted. These actions, also, had been announced during the shutdown, but the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had only a week to review comments from the public.  The entire process brings into question, how much consideration the BLM gave to the comments submitted.  That is our land, folks … public land.

Funny, but I remember some point during Trump’s campaign that he said he would “drain the swamp” and make government more ‘transparent’.  Apparently the words ‘swamp’ and ‘transparency’ have been re-written under the alternative dictionary of Trump & Co.

What could possibly go wrong if this proposal is finalized, as I expect it will be?  Let’s think about what the Interior Department does.  It is responsible for the management and conservation of most federal lands and natural resources, and the administration of programs relating to Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, territorial affairs, and insular areas of the United States.

With both actions and speech, Trump has shown time and again that any respect he has for the public lands, for the protection of wildlife, and for the Native American tribes takes a backseat to profit for the oil, gas and coal industries.  His massive de-regulations on the fossil fuel industry, his promotion of pipelines such as the Keystone XL and Dakota Access, and his lack of concern over clean air & water, marine life, wildlife, and human health make it essential that we have transparency in the departments (Interior, EPA and Agriculture) that manage these functions.  And now, that is being taken away.  And we hardly noticed, for we were focused on the circus.circus.jpg

An ‘Almost’ Lynching …

Earlier today I wrote about the state of homophobia in this nation, and I asked, first of all WHY we have to legislate equality — why people cannot simply act like humans, and second of all why our government, even including the Supreme Court, are turning the clock back on the civil rights of the LGBTQ people, African-Americans, women and others.  And then, this morning I woke to this headline …

‘Empire’ star Jussie Smollett attacked in Chicago by men hurling homophobic and racial slurs

It happened in Chicago, but it could have happened in any city or town in this country, or perhaps the world.  This one is particularly troubling.  According to the police report …

“Two unknown offenders approached him and gained his attention by yelling out racial and homophobic slurs towards him. The offenders began to batter the victim with their hands about the face and poured an unknown chemical substance on the victim. At some point during the incident, one of the offenders wrapped a rope around the victim’s neck. The offenders fled the scene.”

jussie-smollettThey wrapped a rope around his neck.  That one sentence sent a chill down my spine.  In my earlier post, I suggested that it sometimes seems we are walking backward, back to a time of racial segregation, back to the days of the KKK setting fire to crosses on the lawns of homes owned by black people, back to the time … of lynchings.

Caught up as we are in the everyday detritus that is the Trump circus, and the antics of the clowns in that circus, we are allowing other news to go unnoticed.  In my book, there is not much that is more important than the attempted lynching of a young, African-American gay man.  It is far too chillingly reminiscent of the 1950s.

“Given the severity of the allegations, we are taking this investigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hate crime,” Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said. “Detectives are currently working to gather video, identify potential witnesses and establish an investigative timeline. The victim is fully cooperating.”

A ‘possible’ hate crime? What else could it be, since the perpetrators taunted Smollett with racial and homophobic slurs???  The victim is fully cooperating.  But what if the victim were dangling from the branch of a tree, dead?  Is that next? Are we going to turn a blind eye until finally it happens?  And will we even know when it does, or will the reporters be too busy off chasing the circus clowns to inform us?

ASSAULT! … On Freedom of the Press

Donald Trump on Tuesday said he told White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders “not to bother” with press briefings anymore.

“The reason Sarah Sanders does not go to the ‘podium’ much anymore is that the press covers her so rudely & inaccurately, in particular certain members of the press. I told her not to bother, the word gets out anyway! Most will never cover us fairly & hence, the term, Fake News!”

Olivier Knox, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, decried the growing infrequency of press briefings in a statement Tuesday, warning that the trend could set a dangerous precedent …

“While other avenues exist to obtain information, the robust, public back-and-forth we’ve come to expect in the James A. Brady briefing room helps highlight that no one in a healthy republic is above being questioned.”

This headline from The Washington Post seems fairly accurate …

The White House has transitioned from daily press briefings to monthly press beratings

Here’s what happens, folks, when an autocrat moves in and tries to assume power.  Little things, like repeatedly calling the free press the “enemy of the people”.  Little things like pulling a reporter’s press credentials because he asked tough questions.  Little things like calling every legitimate news story “fake news”.  Pretty soon, it seems commonplace and before long nobody thinks much about it.  Oh, those daily press briefings only happen on rare occasions now?  Hmmm … hadn’t noticed.

The first step on the path to authoritarianism is to make sure the press never has the whole story to tell the people.  Make it hard for them to get information, maybe even toss out a few scraps of false information.  Close the blinds and paint over the windows … no need for transparency … nothing to see here, folks.

The New York Times, which is not, by the way, the “failing” New York Times, as Trump has claimed, published a list:  The 551 People, Places and Things Donald Trump Has Insulted on Twitter: A Complete List  

Let us take a look at just the things he has tweeted about the mainstream media in general (just skim the list, for it is mostly repetitive, but I wanted you to see the volume of his denigration)

 “Fake News Media”“Fake News Media!”“Fake News”“Fake News Media”“Fake News”“FAKE”“Fake News”“tries so hard to paint the opposite picture”“Fake News”“Fake News”“Never in the history of our Country has the “press” been more dishonest than it is today”“Stories that should be good, are bad”“Stories that should be bad, are horrible”“bad!”“Fake News”“Fake News”“has it purposely wrong”“Please report news correctly”“Fake News”“Fake News Media”“totally out of its mind”“truly the Enemy of the People!”“Fake News Media”“FAKE NEWS”“THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!”“Fake News”“disgusting Fake News”“Fake News”“Fake Media”“FAKE NEWS”“They never like to ask me for a quote b/c it would kill their story”“Fake News Media”“Fake News”“Fake News”“FAKE NEWS”“the Enemy of the People!”“Fake News”“FAKE NEWS MEDIA, crazy”“always seeking to make us look as bad as possible”“Very dishonest!”“Fake News!”“Nasty”“Hostile”“FAKE NEWS!”“Fake News”“Fake News”“Disgraceful!”“Fake News”“keep purposely and inaccurately reporting that I said the “Media is the Enemy of the People.””“Fake News”“Enemy of the People”“false information not good!”“Fake News”“Enemy of the People”“dishonest reporters”“Fake News”“Fake News, Fake & Dishonest reporting”“inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news”“Fake News Media”“the true Enemy of the People”“Fake News, Fake & Dishonest reporting”“purposely false and inaccurate reporting”“Fake News”“so bad and hateful that it is beyond description”“Fake News”“FAKE NEWS!”“FAKE NEWS (of which there is plenty)!”“Fake News”“Fake News”“hates to discuss the real facts!”“Fake News”“going Crazy – & they don’t know what to do”“going CRAZY!”“constant and intense Fake News”“totally dishonest”“Truth doesn’t matter to them”“they only have their hatred & agenda”“This includes fake books, which come out about me all the time, always anonymous sources, and are pure fiction”“Enemy of the People!”“Fake News”“They love to portray chaos in the White House when they know that chaos doesn’t exist”“Fake Reporting”“Fake News!”“fiction!”“Fake”“made up stories”“Fake News”“trying endlessly to make me look as bad and evil as possible”“Fake News”“worked hard to get Tiger Woods to say something that he didn’t want to say”“phony story”“Fake News Media!”“Fake News, of which there is soooo much”“Fake News”“the Enemy of the People”“So bad for America!”“Fake News”“don’t watch at all”“THE FAKE NEWS MEDIA IS THE OPPOSITION PARTY”“very bad for our Great Country”“much of what it says is FAKE NEWS, pushing a political agenda or just plain trying to hurt people”“Fake News!”“Fake News”“Fake News”“Fake News”“hates me saying that they are the Enemy of the People only because they know it’s TRUE”“purposely cause great division & distrust”“very dangerous & sick!”“Fake News”“refuses to report the lies and corruption having to do with the Rigged Witch Hunt”“FAKE NEWS!”“FAKE NEWS”“the enemy of the people!”“Fake News Media”“going CRAZY!”“totally unhinged”“In 7 years, when I am no longer in office, their ratings will dry up and they will be gone!”“Fake News”“Fake News”“Enemy of the People”“driven insane by their Trump Derangement Syndrome”“Very unpatriotic!”“anti-Trump haters”“dying”“they try to distract and cover it up”“Fake News”“Fake News”“Fake News”“Corrupt”“Fake News”“always anonymous sources”“Wrong”“Fake News, Hypocrites!”“Fake News”“going Crazy!, They make up stories without any backup, sources or proof”“total fiction”“Fake News”“wants so badly to see a major confrontation with Russia”“the real enemy of the people”“Fake News”“Fake News”“Fake News”“going Crazy!”“Fake News”“it is FAKE NEWS!”“the enemy of the people”“Fake News”“doesn’t want to report the truth”“Fake News”“constantly likes to pore over my tweets looking for a mistake”“Fake News is working overtime!”“Fake Media”“Fake News”“Fake News”“Total corruption”“Fake News”“the enemy of the people”“Fake News”“they put their own spin on it – truth doesn’t matter to them!”“Fake News”“Fake News”“Fake News”“Fake News”“only shows the bad photos”“Fake News”“once again, WRONG!”“Fake News!”“Fake News”“Our Country’s biggest enemy”“Fake News”“easily promulgated by fools!”“Fake News”“so unfair, and vicious”“Fake”“Fake News is really bad!”“Fake News”“desperate to distract from the economy and record setting economic numbers”“Fake News”“corrupt”“working overtime not to mention the infiltration of people, Spies (Informants), into my campaign!”“Corrupt”“Fake”“run the most highly sophisticated & dishonest Disinformation Campaign in the history of politics”“No matter how well WE do, they find fault”“corrupt”“Fake News”“Fake News”“got it purposely wrong, as usual!”“Fake News”“Fake News”“got it purposely wrong, as usual!”“Fake News”“made up, unsourced stories”“Fake News”“Much of the Media may be corrupt”“Fake News”“Fake News”“a disgrace!”“The Fake News is working overtime”“Fake”“Why do we work so hard in working with the media when it is corrupt? Take away credentials?”“FAKE NEWS”“Fake News”“going crazy making up false stories and using only unnamed sources (who don’t exist)”“totally unhinged”“the great success of this Administration is making them do and say things that even they can’t believe they are saying”“Truly bad people!”“Fake News”“going ‘bonkers!’”“so silent”“Fake & Disgusting News to create ill will!”“93% bad stories”“Fake News Media”“phony an dishonest press”“Fake News”“Fools”“Fake News Media”“Much of the media is a Scam!”“Fake News Media”“phony stories”“Fake News”“Fake News”“Fake News”“dishonest and corrupt!”“Fake News”“among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with”“So much Fake News”“Never been more voluminous or more inaccurate”“Fake News Media”“crazed”“They are wrong!”“Fake News”“beside themselves that McCabe was caught, called out and fired”“Fake News Media”“they are lying”“Turn off the show – FAKE NEWS!”“being mocked all over the world”“They’ve gone CRAZY!”“Total Fake News!”“Fake News Media”“Fake News Media”“Fake News Media”“approval ratings are correctly at their lowest levels in history!”“untruthful”“Fake reporting”“FAKE NEWS”“very corrupt”“dishonest”“Fake News”“talks about anything negative or that can be turned into the negative”“contrived!”“So much Fake News is being reported”“They don’t even try to get it right, or correct it when they are wrong”“crazed that WE won the election!”“Fake News”“Fake News”“corrupt & biased”“losers”“lapdogs”“Fake News Mainstream Media”“screaming mental stability and intelligence”“Fake News”“Fake News”“DISHONEST”“CORRUPT”“Dishonesty & Bad Reporting”“Fake News”“very dishonest”“Fake News”“VERY dishonest”“unfair”“Fake News Media”“Phony and non-existent ‘sources’ are being used more often than ever”“Many stories & reports a pure fiction!”“Fake News”“loves to talk about my so-called low approval rating”“massive negative Trump coverage”“The Fake News”“refuses to talk about how Big and how Strong our BASE is”“They show Fake Polls just like they report Fake News”“only negative reporting”“Fake News”“Fake”“the Fake Mainstream Media will NEVER talk about our accomplishments in their end of year reviews”“Fake News Media”“Fake News Hate Shows”“Fake News”“working overtime to follow the lead of their friends, the defeated Dems”“Fake News Media”“untrue stories”“has become a joke!”“Fake News”“purposely false and defamatory stories”“Fake News Media”“They are out of control”“correct reporting means nothing to them”“Major lies written”“a stain on America!”“Fake News!”“Fake News”“FAKE NEWS!”“dishonest”“corrupt”“distorted in its political coverage of your favorite President (me)”“They are all bad”“FAKE NEWS”“their ratings are terrible, nobody cares!”“Fake News”“#FakeNews”“They are wrong”“Fake News”“Fake News”“Disgraceful!”“Fake News”“Fake News”“Fake News”“FABRICATE STORIES ABOUT ME”“FAKE NEWS”“Lost cred”“Fake News”“Fake News”“Fake News”“Fake News”“going crazy”“Fake”“Fake News”“Fiction writers!”“Fake News”“has become so partisan, distorted and fake”“licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked”“going all out in order to demean and denigrate!”“Such hatred!”“Fake News”“story is totally made up”“dishonest”“Fake News”“one-sided coverage”“Fake News Networks”“just made up”“FAKE!”“Fake”“Fake News”“No matter what I do or say, they will not write or speak truth”“Fake News”“out of control!”“Fake News”“Fake News”“working overtime in Puerto Rico doing their best to take the spirit away from our soldiers and first R’s”“Shame!”“Fake News”“#FakeNews!”“Because of #FakeNews my people are not getting the credit they deserve”“FAKE NEWS”“anti-Trump”“Collusion?”“Fake News”“totally biased”“dishonest”“Fake News”“they know nothing about me & have zero access”“#FAKE NEWS!”“false reporting”“dying magazines”“Fake News”“Fake News”“a platform to hate groups”“turns a blind eye to the gang violence on our streets!”“Fake News”“very dishonest, Fake News”“worst”“dishonest”“Fake News reporting”“Fake News”“dishonest”“Fake News”“totally misrepresent what I say about hate, bigotry etc. Shame!”“Fake News”“truly bad people!”“Fake News Suppression Polls!”“Fake News”“refuses to report the success of the first 6 months”“phony”“Fake News”“Fake News”“Fake News”“TOTALLY UNTRUE”“Fake News”“Fake News!”“Fake News”“Purposely phony reporting.”“Fake News”“Fake News”“LEAKS”“FAKE NEWS”“Fake News”“sick”“Fake News”“becoming more and more dishonest”“Even a dinner arranged for top 20 leaders in Germany is made to look sinister!”“Fake”“phony”“unnamed sources”“highly slanted”“fraudulent reporting”“#Fake”“DISTORTING DEMOCRACY in our country!”“when you hear the words “sources say” from the Fake Media, often times those sources are made up and do not exist”“Fake News”“Fake News”“Fake News”“will never cover me accurately but who cares!”“dishonest”“FAKE”“FRAUDULENT”“working hard to convince Republicans and others I should not use social media”“#FakeNews”“Fake News”“likes to say that I am not totally engaged in healthcare”“Wrong”“Fake News”“Fake”“hates when I use what has turned out to be my very powerful Social Media”“made up a phony collusion with the Russians story”“has never been so wrong or so dirty”“Purposely incorrect stories”“phony sources”“agenda of hate”“Sad!”“at an all time high”“Where is their apology to me for all of the incorrect stories???”“#FakeNews”“report the great economic news since Election Day”“FAKE”“working so hard trying to get me not to use Social Media”“They hate that I can get the honest and unfiltered message out”“Fake”“Fake”“works hard at disparaging & demeaning my use of social media because they don’t want America to hear the real story!”“fabricated lies”“#FakeNews”“fake”“fake”“#FakeNews”“Fake”“Fake”“Fake”“fake”“fake”“#FakeNews!”“Fake”“FAKE”“Fake”“did everything in its power to make the Republican Healthcare victory look as bad as possible”“Fake”“rarely reports Ocare is on its last legs”“Fake”“officially out of control”“will do or say anything in order to get attention”“FAKE”“refuses to state our long list of achievements”“fake”“FAKE”“almost always negative”“FAKE”“BAD!”“Fake Media (not Real Media)”“has gotten even worse since the election”“Every story is badly slanted”“Fake News”“Fake News”“now pushing the phony Russia story”“vicious”“inaccurate”“Fake News”“FAKE NEWS”“rude”“FAKE NEWS”“Russia talk is FAKE NEWS put out by the Dems, and played up by the media”“FAKE NEWS”“knowingly doesn’t tell the truth”“A great danger to our country”“Sad!”“FAKE NEWS”“fake news”“Fake”“FAKE NEWS”“the enemy of the American People!”“FAKE”“Dishonest”“FAKE NEWS”“makes up stories and ‘sources,’”“fading fast!”“fake news”“going crazy with their conspiracy theories and blind hatred”“FAKE NEWS, Very dishonest!”“FAKE NEWS”“lies!”“lied”“Very dishonest”“dishonest”“Dishonest”“fake!”“Dishonest”“Terrible!”“dishonest”“lies”“dishonest”“More dishonest than anyone knows”“distorted and inaccurate”“Serious bias – big problem!”“crooked”“typically false”“Very unfair!”“Very dishonest”“We are winning and the press is refusing to report it”“Don’t let them fool you”“in the tank for Clinton”“refuses to talk about the three new national polls that have me in first place”“has deceived the public by putting women front and center with made-up stories and lies”“dishonest”“distorted”“rigging election!”“rigging election!”“pushing false and unsubstantiated charges, and outright lies”“dishonest”“So dishonest!”“want me out of the race so badly”“totally one-sided “spin””“VERY dishonest”“just made up lies!”“never covered Hillary’s massive “hacking” or coughing attack”“It is being reported by virtually everyone, and is a fact, that the media pile on against me is the worst in American political history!”“dishonest”“corrupt”“dishonest”“My rallies are not covered properly”“never discuss the real message”“disgusting”“corrupt”“dishonest”“desperate to distract from Clinton’s anti-2A stance”“totally distort so many things on purpose”“Very dishonest!”“very dishonest”“totally biased”“distorted”“one-sided”“biased”“dishonest”“dishonest”“coverage this morning of the very average Clinton speech and Convention is a joke”“phony”“dishonest”“will find a good spinnnn!”“biased”“spending more time doing a forensic analysis of Melania’s speech than the FBI spent on Hillary’s emails”“so dishonest”“If I make a statement, they twist it and turn it to make it sound bad or foolish”“They think the public is stupid!”“Dishonest”“trying their absolute best to depict a star in a tweet as the Star of David rather than a Sheriff’s Star, or plain star!”“so totally biased”“dishonesty”“one big lie!”“totally biased”“biased”“phony”“on a new phony kick about my management style”“dishonest”“dishonest”“disgusting”“really on a witch-hunt against me”“False reporting, and plenty of it”“pushing the false narrative that I want to raise taxes”“unfair”“has not covered my long-shot great finish in Iowa fairly”“able to so incorrectly define a word for the public”“sad!”“dishonest reporters!”“dishonest”“always tough when they falsify”“won’t report!”“dishonest”“wants to surrender constitutional rights”“they only want negatives”“will not report the highly respected new national poll that just came out”“how will the media put a negative spin on this one?”“troublemakers”“despite the[ir] best efforts, the people are speaking loudly and clearly”“totally dishonest”“So sad!”“lies”

WHEW!  And that doesn’t include the filth he has spewed about virtually every journalist and media outlet who has ever criticized him.  Look back throughout history … has any president of the United States ever spoken so?  I think not.  Thus far he has stopped short of actually having journalists jailed, as other autocrats such as Putin and Erdoğan have done, but what he is doing is only one step short of that.  Never before in any democratic nation has a leader been so irresponsible in his dealing with the press.  And now, he has told the Press Secretary to ‘not bother’ communicating with the press, not bother providing information that enables We The People to know what our government is doing.

Remember last July, when Trump spoke to the VFW annual convention in Kansas City, where he said …

“Stick with us. Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news. … What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

Believe, in other words, only what he tells you to believe.  Believe only what the man who lies virtually every time he opens his mouth, tells you to believe.  Lies are truth, truth is ‘fake’.

Without a free press, folks, our boat is sunk.  Without a free press, we will live under a dictatorship.  Donald Trump was given the keys to the White House without the majority approval.  He has occupied that house illegitimately for two years now, and in that two years he has made a mockery of many of our institutions, many of our freedoms and protections, and the very foundation of our government, the document he took an oath, swearing to “preserve, protect and defend”.

No more daily press briefings.  Trump will tweet you what you need to know.  Nope, nothing to see here, folks …

We Have Met The Enemy …

… and it is us.

This is an OpEd written by former Nightline host and journalist, Ted Koppel, in The Washington Post yesterday.  His words ring true, predictive, and if so … we are our own worst enemy.  The “enemy of the people” may well be … the people.


ted-koppelOn July 21, 2016, just hours before he accepted the Republican presidential nomination, Donald Trump and I sat down for an interview. What he said on that occasion would serve as a remarkably candid foreshadowing of how Trump would handle his relationship with the media in what, on that day, seemed the unlikely event that he would actually become president.

“I don’t need you guys anymore,” Trump told me.

He pointed to his millions of followers on Twitter and Facebook, explaining that the days of television anchors and commentators acting as gatekeepers between newsmakers and the public were essentially over. Without discernible acrimony, Trump trotted out one of the early versions of what would eventually become a leitmotif of his presidency: The media was made up of largely terrible people trafficking in fake news. There was nothing personal in the observation. It was the unsheathing of a multipurpose device, one he used adroitly in tandem with the endlessly adaptable political vehicle provided by social media during the election campaign and now during his presidency.

Is there any reason to believe that what worked for Trump before he was elected and while in the White House won’t be equally effective after he leaves office?

There is a disarming innocence to the assumption that whether by impeachment, indictment or a cleansing electoral redo in 2020, President Trump will be exorcised from the White House and that thereby he and his base will largely revert to irrelevance.

It imagines that, for some reason, Trump in defeat or disgrace will become a quieter, humbler, more restrained presence on Twitter and Facebook than heretofore. It assumes further that CNN and Fox News and MSNBC, perhaps chastened by the consequences of their addictive coverage of Trump the Candidate and Trump the President, will resist the urge to pay similar attention to Trump the Exile.

Let the record show that Trump has launched the careers of numerous media stars and that expressions of indignant outrage on the left and breathless admiration on the right have resulted in large, entirely nonpartisan profits for the industry of journalism. Why anyone should assume that Trump and those who cherish or loathe him in the news business will easily surrender such a hugely symbiotic relationship is hard to understand.

It is all but inevitable that whoever succeeds Trump in the White House will be perceived by 30 to 40 percent of the voting public as illegitimate — and that the former president will enthusiastically encourage them in this perception. Whatever his failings, Trump is a brilliant self-promoter and provocateur. He showed no embarrassment, either as candidate or president, about using his high visibility to benefit his business interests. Untethered from any political responsibility whatsoever, he can be expected to capitalize fully on his new status as political martyr and leader of a new “resistance” that will make today’s look supine.

The dirty little secret about the United States’ relationship with Trump is that we have become addicted to him. His ups, his downs, his laughs, his frowns are (as the lovely song from “My Fair Lady” once put it in another context altogether) “second nature to [us] now, like breathing out and breathing in.”

When he fails to tweet for even a few hours, Trumpologists search for meaning in the silence. Hours are devoted on cable television, each and every day, to examining the entrails of his most recent utterances. Has there been a day in the past two years without a Trump-related story on the front page of every major U.S. newspaper? How does the president lie to us? Let us count the ways. And we do, endlessly, meticulously.

Do you believe for a moment that Americans are ready to give that up merely because, for one reason or another, Trump has been obliged to reoccupy Trump Tower full-time?

A President Pence would not satisfy that hunger. Nor, for now at least, is it easy to discern within the growing ranks of potential Democratic candidates a man or woman with a matching aura of glitz, a similar degree of shamelessness, a comparable pairing of so much to be humble about with a total lack of humility.

A new president may provide a sense of relief and normalcy. But he or she will not satisfy our craving for outrage. Trump’s detractors are outraged by him. His supporters are outraged with him. He is a national Rorschach test. Love him or hate him, you can’t ignore him. One way or another, Trump will be renewed for another season.

It Can’t Happen Here …

sinclair lewis.jpgA few days ago, Robert Vella commented on one of my posts that those who think I am over-dramatizing my take on Trump & Co., might be well-advised to read Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here.  Why hadn’t I thought of that comparison?  It has been around 50 years since I read the book, although I do remember the general premise.  Still, I went to Wikipedia for a brief synopsis, and I thought it apropos to share with you what I found:

“It Can’t Happen Here is a semi-satirical 1935 political novel by American author Sinclair Lewis, and a 1936 play adapted from the novel by Lewis and John C. Moffitt.  Published during the rise of fascism in Europe, the novel describes the rise of Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, a demagogue who is elected President of the United States, after fomenting fear and promising drastic economic and social reforms while promoting a return to patriotism and “traditional” values.”

Anything in that paragraph sound familiar?

“In 1936 Senator Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, a charismatic and power-hungry politician, wins the election as President of the United States on a populist platform, promising to restore the country to prosperity and greatness …”

Power-hungry … populist platform … promising prosperity … greatness …

“Though having previously foreshadowed some authoritarian measures in order to reorganize the United States government, Windrip rapidly outlaws dissent, incarcerates political enemies in concentration camps, and trains and arms a paramilitary force called the Minute Men, who terrorize citizens and enforce the policies of Windrip and his “corporatist” regime. One of his first acts as president is to eliminate the influence of the United States Congress, which draws the ire of many citizens as well as the legislators themselves. The Minute Men respond to protests against Windrip’s decisions harshly, attacking demonstrators with bayonets. In addition to these actions, Windrip’s administration, known as the “Corpo” government, curtails women’s and minority rights, and eliminates individual states by subdividing the country into administrative sectors. The government of these sectors is managed by “Corpo” authorities, usually prominent businessmen or Minute Men officers.”

Want to know more?  Read the book.  But here’s my thought.  All of us have at least one or two friends who are still supporting Trump, whether because they truly believe in his lies, honestly think something he’s doing is right, or are just too ashamed to admit they were wrong about him.  The book isn’t expensive, so I say we should each buy one in paperback to give to each of our wayward friends or family members.  And if you really need a lot of copies, you can download it for free from the Project Gutenberg, or you can download the .pdf file, also free, then email it to your friends and relatives.

I just wish I had come up with this idea a week or two before Christmas, and we could have given a copy to those ‘in need’ of reading it for Christmas!

 

The Top 50 Trumpaus From The Atlantic

The Atlantic has done a series that I found to be both comprehensive and interesting.  What they did was … well, I’ll let Jeff Goldberg, Editor in Chief tell you …

In an October 2016 editorial, The Atlantic wrote of Donald Trump: “He is a demagogue, a xenophobe, a sexist, a know-nothing, and a liar.” We argued that Trump “expresses admiration for authoritarian rulers, and evinces authoritarian tendencies himself.” Trump, we also noted, “is easily goaded, a poor quality for someone seeking control of America’s nuclear arsenal. He is an enemy of fact-based discourse; he is ignorant of, and indifferent to, the Constitution; he appears not to read.”

In retrospect, we may be guilty of understatement.

There was a hope, in the bewildering days following the 2016 election, that the office would temper the man—that Trump, in short, would change.

He has not changed.

This week marks the midway point of Trump’s term. Like many Americans, we sometimes find the velocity of chaos unmanageable. We find it hard to believe, for example, that we are engaged in a serious debate about whether the president of the United States is a Russian-intelligence asset. So we decided to pause for a moment and analyze 50 of the most improbable, norm-bending, and destructive incidents of this presidency to date.

Our 2016 editorial was a repudiation of Donald Trump’s character as much as it was an endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president. It was not meant to be partisan. The Atlantic’s founders promised their readers that we would be “of no party or clique.” This remains a core governing principle of the magazine today. What follows is a catalog of incidents, ranked—highly subjectively!—according to both their outlandishness and their importance. In most any previous presidency, Democratic or Republican, each moment on this list would have been unthinkable.

There are 50 articles in the series, and while I have not read them all, the ones I have read are spot-on.  I list them here, with links, so you can decide which, if any, you would like to read.  Click on any title to go directly to it … all links will open in a separate tab:

  1. Children are taken from their parents and incarcerated
  2. “Very fine people on both sides”
  3. The president still hasn’t released his tax returns
  4. Putin and Trump talk without chaperones
  5. James Comey is fired
  6. Trump declares war on black athletes
  7. Trump picks the wrong countries for his travel ban
  8. The president calls his porn-star ex-paramour “horseface”
  9. Covfefe
  10. “I have the absolute right to pardon myself”
  11. Trump throws paper towels at Puerto Ricans
  12. A new term enters the presidential lexicon: “shithole countries”
  13. Trump mocks Christine Blasey Ford to a cheering crowd
  14. You know you’re in a constitutional crisis when…
  15. The CIA dead become a TV prop
  16. Public humiliation comes for everyone in the White House
  17. Trump threatens to press his “nuclear button”
  18. The president lies constantly
  19. The president learns about the Justice Department
  20. The president learns about separation of powers
  21. Rain stops Trump from honoring the dead
  22. The UN General Assembly laughs at the president
  23. America gets a first daughter
  24. The president can’t stop talking about carnage
  25. “We’re gonna have the cleanest air”
  26. Trump helps the Saudis cover up a murder
  27. Turkish agents assault protesters near the White House
  28. Trump tweets the wisdom of Mussolini
  29. The president tries to kick transgender service members out of the military
  30. The buck stops over there
  31. The White House punishes a CNN reporter for asking questions
  32. Trump disseminates Soviet propaganda
  33. The chief justice of the United States corrects the president
  34. Trump leads the country to the longest government shutdown in American history
  35. Mueller’s “witch hunt” is good at finding witches
  36. Trump threatens to strip security clearances from his critics
  37. The president just wants to go home
  38. Trump holds a top secret confab on the Mar-a-Lago dining terrace
  39. A White House economist creates facts for the president
  40. The president’s most trusted adviser is his own gut
  41. Trump waits 19 months to pick his science adviser
  42. The first president to complain about an election he won
  43. The nation loses its consoler in chief
  44. The WikiLeaks president goes silent
  45. A name-calling feud ends with the secretary of state’s ouster by tweet
  46. Trump tells the Boy Scouts about a hot New York party
  47. An overcompensating press secretary lies about crowd size
  48. The president praises the congressman who body-slammed a reporter
  49. A Cabinet officer likes private planes too much
  50. Donald Trump touches the magic orb

2018

I came across this post this afternoon through our friend Xena’s blog, and found this to be the best summation of the past year that I have seem. Clear, concise, and accurate. Short enough to hold my interest, yet detailed enough to be meaningful. Thank you, Abagond, for your kind permission to share this insightful post with my own readers!

Abagond

November 25th 2018 at the US-Mexican border. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

My look back on the year 2018 as it ended:

The bad news: Donald Trump is still the US president.

The good news: Trump lost control of the lower house of Congress in the midterm elections.

This year’s theme: Fear. Criminalizing and fear-mongering on mom-and-pop asylum seekers from Central America. The caravan of several thousand asylum seekers crossing Mexico were painted as an invasion bringing disease, crime, and terrorism to the US. When they tried to cross the border, they were gassed, men, women, and children (pictured at top).

Making a comeback:family separation.

This year’s new/old trend: Calling the police on Black people minding their own business. Among this year’s trendsetters: Starbucks, #BBQBecky, #PermitPatty, #PoolPatrolPaula, #CornerStoreCaroline, #BrooklynBecky, #PaulBlartPoolCop, #BaggageClaimBecky, #CouponCarl, #DepressedDebbie.

Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed by the Senate to serve on the US Supreme Court, giving…

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Executive Power …

More than a few times over the past year or so, people have tried to assure me that there are limits to what Trump can do, that the Constitution, Congress, and the Courts will stop him from going too far, and all will be well.  It is true that the Constitution defines and limits the power of the office of president … except in certain circumstances.  And Congress has a large degree of control … if they can agree to agree on anything and if the issue at hand cannot be done by executive order.  And the Courts can intervene … but there are levels within the court system leading up to the Supreme Court – the one that Trump is stacking with his and the Federalist Society’s hand-picked justices.

On a Friday afternoon in July 2016, a faction of the Turkish military launched a coup attempt allegedly aimed at toppling President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government.  Although Turkey is considered a democracy and Erdoğan was democratically elected, he was and is clearly a threat to Turkish democracy and secularism.  As leader of the AKP Islamist party, Erdoğan had ‘reformed’ Turkish schools along Islamist lines, cracked down on freedom of the press, and pushed constitutional changes that would consolidate dangerous amounts of power in the president’s hands.

It has been my belief since the beginning that Erdoğan himself played a leading role in staging the coup.  If so, to what end?  To give him the justification to declare a ‘state of emergency’ that would increase the powers of his office.  As part of the state of emergency, Turkey temporarily suspended part of the European Convention on Human Rights.  The initial state of emergency was for three months, but in October 2016, it was extended to be for a year, and the following year it was again extended, and was only lifted in July 2018, after new elections that gave Erdoğan greatly expanded powers.  During that time, there was an extensive purge of the Turkish civil service employees, with more than 45,000 military officials, police officers, judges, governors, and civil servants arrested or suspended, including 2,700 judges, 15,000 teachers, and every university dean in the country.  Turkish authorities said the crackdown was meant to “suppress dissent”.  journalists-TurkeyAccording to Amnesty International, detainees in Turkey have been denied access to legal counsel, have been beaten and tortured, and have not been provided with adequate food, water, or medical care.

Now tuck into the back of your mind for a bit the fact that Donald Trump made the decision, without consulting Congress, without consulting his military and foreign affairs advisors, without consulting our allies, to withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria based on a telephone conversation with Erdoğan.  Consider how much Trump admires those ‘strong-arm’ leaders such as Erdoğan, Putin, and even the Philippine’s Rodrigo Duterte.  Ever since he took office, Trump has chafed against the constraints of the office, believing that as president his powers ought to be unlimited.

Fast forward … it is rumoured that Robert Mueller will complete his investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. 2016 presidential election, and the Trump family/campaign role in such interference around mid-February.  While that is strictly rumour at this point, the timing makes sense.  What do you think will happen if, as I firmly believe, Mueller has evidence that Trump’s family with Trump’s knowledge, and perhaps even Trump himself were involved in underhanded dealings to influence the outcome of the election? Trump-angry What if it is proven that Trump broke the trust of his office?  No doubt impeachment proceedings would begin in the democratic-majority House of Representatives.  Given what we know about Trump and his erratic temperament, what is your best guess about his reaction?  Think he’ll just sit down and shut up?  Yeah, right.  If you believe that, please contact me, for I have a lovely bridge in Brooklyn that I’ll sell you dirt-cheap.

Fast forward even more … the year is 2020 and the election for which Trump has been campaigning for four years is rapidly approaching.  And yet … Trump is not winning any popularity contests … his temper tantrums are no longer playing well among his masses, in light of the financial recession caused largely by his tariffs and by the chaos he wrought at the end of 2018 by shutting the government down needlessly while demanding billions of dollars for his ignominious border wall.  Trump is not being supported by the majority of the GOP in Congress, and the Republican Party is lukewarm about his re-election bid, at best.  trump-tantrumThink he’s going to just put his nose to the grindstone, do the best job he can while trying to win over the masses with his honesty and integrity?  Again … see above comment about my bridge.

Not quite two years into his term of office, Donald Trump has signed …

  • 86 Executive orders
  • 42 Presidential memoranda
  • 12 Presidential determinations
  • 01 Administrative order
  • 22 Presidential notices
  • 01 Presidential sequestration order
  • 07 National security presidential memoranda
Trump-sign-bill

Can’t you just hear him saying, “nyah nyah nyah nyah-nyah”?

None of these required the advice and consent of Congress.  Many were to overturn regulations that were in place to safeguard our health and safety.  Others were simply to exert his power.  None, as far as I can tell, were in our collective best interest.

Back now to 2019 when impeachment is looming, or 2020 when an election looms large.  What does Trump do?  Does he follow the example of his buddy Erdoğan and create a diversion that will allow him to declare a ‘state of emergency’?  Oh yes, he most certainly can do that, and with little or no reason.  The decision to declare a ‘state of emergency’ is entirely within his discretion, and it makes more than 100 ‘special provisions’ available to him.  The framers of the Constitution never in their wildest dreams imagined a Donald Trump, never believed the nation would need to be protected from its own leader.

What, then, could happen if, say to detract from impeachment proceedings, Trump declared a state of emergency?  Worst case scenario, he could shut down electronic communications.  He could freeze the bank accounts of those he believed to be subversive.  He could disperse troops within the country to subdue domestic unrest, ie., legitimate protests.  And the list goes on.state-of-emergencyIt is not my intent to fear-monger … I don’t play Trump’s games.  It is, however, my intent to proclaim that the time is now to rein in this president.  Now, before it becomes impossible, is the time to set limits on the ‘executive authority’ that the Founding Fathers never thought would be necessary.  When the 116th Congress is seated next Thursday, one of the first orders of business, besides getting the government open without giving in on “the wall”, should be to set limits on what the president can and cannot do without the consent of Congress.

Personally, I would like to see strict guidelines for declaring a state of emergency, and a very narrow interpretation of what he can or cannot do under such a state.  He must not be allowed to shut down the internet, the only means many of us have of getting news of national and world events.  He must not be allowed to stifle the freedom of the press or our First Amendment rights of free speech.

There have been situations before where a president overstepped the reasonable limits of his power and Congress or the Courts stepped in, such as the Youngstown Steel case in 1952 where President Truman attempted to take over the steel plants, but the Supreme Court said, “no”.  But with Donald Trump the bully in office, I don’t think we can assume that he would be easily stopped from assuming far greater power than he should have, and it would behoove us to put restraints in place before they are needed rather than wait until it is too late.

Bits ‘n Pieces of …

I’m not sure if this post can legitimately be called one of my Snarky Snippets pieces, for there really isn’t any snark involved, just anger and disgust.  So, we’ll consider it to be just a Bits ‘n Pieces post, for lack of a better name.  I’m suffering mind bounce and exhaustion, so I was working on a longer piece but kept losing focus, and all these little things were weighing on my mind, so how could I not share them with you, my friends!


Poetic Justice …

David-BerryDavid Berry, Jr. along with his father and brother are the most despicable of all people.  What did they do?  They are murderers.  They are serial poachers, convicted of killing not one, not two, but hundreds of deer, taking the deer’s heads, and leaving their bodies in the woods to rot.    DeerThe case is reportedly one of the biggest poaching cases in Missouri’s history.  So far Berry’s father and brother have not been sentenced, although both have lost their hunting and fishing licenses for life.  But last week, David Jr. was sentenced by Judge Robert George.  His sentence was only one year in prison, along with another 120 days for firearms violations.  Not nearly enough … but there was a caveat that I rather liked.  Berry Jr. is to watch the Disney animated movie Bambi prior to December 23rd, and again once every month for the rest of his one-year sentence. BambiThe judge likely thinks that seeing the scene where Bambi’s mother is shot and killed by a hunter will induce some empathy, perhaps even instill a conscience.  I sincerely doubt it, but I rather liked the sentence.  I would like it better if it accompanied a 35-year prison sentence.


Above the law???

Article I, Section 9, Paragraph 8 of the United States Constitution reads …

“No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no person holding any office or profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.”

This short clause is known as the Nobility Clause, or the Emoluments Clause.  In short, the clause prohibits federal officeholders from receiving any gift, payment, or other thing of value from a foreign state or its rulers, officers, or representatives.  The intent at the time the framers were drafting the Constitution was to ensure that the country’s leaders would not be improperly influenced, even unconsciously, through gift giving, then a common and generally corrupt practice among European rulers and diplomats.

That seems laughable in this, the Reign of Trump, for it is obvious he has no qualms about making profit from foreign entities.  Today, there is a lawsuit against Donald Trump, brought by the District of Columbia and the State of Maryland. The suit alleges that Trump has violated the emoluments clause, in part by accepting payments from foreign governments that patronize the Trump International Hotel, just blocks from the White House.

A trial court judge has ruled that the case may proceed and has authorized some 38 subpoenas for Trump’s financial records, including tax returns.  Needless to say, Trump is fighting against providing the information.  He claimed, erroneously, that ‘emoluments’ referred only to outright bribes.  Wrong.

And so yesterday, the Department of Justice asked a federal appeals court to throw out or at least temporarily halt the lawsuit.  Don’t you just love it when they say “The Justice Department asked …” or “The administration says …”  The Justice Department is comprised of a number of humans, as is the administration, and likely one specific individual is responsible for that request, but we are not told who … only that the department requested.  I could make a good guess, and I’m sure you can too … the ‘acting Attorney General’ Matthew Whitaker who is naught but a boot-licker planted in the position for this very reason.

In asking that the case be thrown out or delayed, Trump is, via the voice of the Department of Justice, claiming that he is above the law.  He is claiming that he is superior to you, to me, to any other individual in this nation.  If, in fact, the rule of law does not apply to Donald Trump, then he is no longer the president, but rather the dictator.  Let us hope that the courts have more of a conscience, more concern for the laws of this nation than the boot-lickers at the Justice Department.  Stay tuned …


Freedom of Speech vs Donald Trump

You’ll remember long ago when Trump said …

“We are going to take a strong look at our country’s libel laws, so that when somebody says something that is false and defamatory about someone, that person will have meaningful recourse in our courts.”

Instead, he decided early in his tenure to simply discredit the media by calling them “fake news” and worse, “the enemy of the people”.  Unfortunately, the 40% or so of people who actually think Trump has legitimacy, believed him and turned, instead, to state media outlet Fox News. But Trump never tires of finding ways to heckle the press.  It was just last month that he pulled the press credentials of CNN reporter Jim Acosta when Acosta repeatedly asked Trump a tough question that he didn’t want to answer.  The court overruled him and Jim now has his press creds back.

However, this week the thin-skinned ‘man’ in the Oval Office is taking up the issue once again, for he was offended by a Saturday Night Live sketch depicting what life might be like had Donald Trump never been elected, in the style of the 1946 film, It’s A Wonderful Life.  (Sounds like a winning scenario, don’t you think?)  Take a look … I promise it is worth the few minutes …

On Sunday morning, Trump tweeted …

“A REAL scandal is the one sided coverage, hour by hour, of networks like NBC & Democrat spin machines like Saturday Night Live. It is all nothing less than unfair news coverage and Dem commercials. Should be tested in courts, can’t be legal? Only defame & belittle! Collusion?”

trump tantrumIn response, a number of people took to Twitter to remind Trump of that little part of the Constitution that we refer to lovingly as the First Amendment, that thing that separates a democratic republic from a dictatorship.  Yes, he’s blowing hot air … again … and no, he isn’t going to be successful in taking Saturday Night Live or CNN or The Washington Post to court.  But it’s the fact that he keeps doing this that is wearing thin, grating on our nerves.

After the horrendous murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi and Trump’s nonchalant response, I think most thinking people in this nation, most people possessed of a conscience, are sick and tired of Trump’s juvenile rantings against the press. His attacks against the media are dangerous and it’s time to put a stop to them.  Words have consequences, even for the ‘man’ who considers himself to be above the law.


And on that note, I bid you ‘adieu’.