This Cannot Become “Normal”

I came across this OpEd in the New York Times by one of my favourite opinion writers, Nicholas Kristof, earlier today.  It is a prescient warning that I think is worth sharing.


Don’t Let Trump Make You Numb to What’s Unacceptable

Our species has an ability to adapt. Now’s not the time.

nicholas-kristof-thumblargeBy Nicholas Kristof

Opinion Columnist

  • Nov. 6, 2019

The problem with being a frog in a beaker is that you may not notice the water temperature rising to a boil.

Humans, too. In New Delhi, people get used to air that is filthy. In Syria, to checkpoints. In Angola, to corruption. In China, to propaganda. And in America, we risk becoming numbed to a political, social and moral breakdown.

Scandal and dysfunction dribble out from Washington day by day, numbing us so that we may forget just how unprecedented and outrageous the trends are. It was only five years ago that Fox News was deploring a “shocking” and “desperate” presidential scandal that Republican Representative Peter King described as inexcusable: Barack Obama wore a tan suit! Now we can’t even keep track of how many countries President Trump has asked to do him political favors.

I’ve been traveling abroad, so I’ve been asking journalists and officials how they see America, and from a distance they offer blunt assessments. “If your president isn’t a Manchurian candidate,” one senior European official said, “he’s doing a pretty good imitation of one.”

In 2016, Obama’s passivity and Republican intransigence may have allowed Russian cyberattacks to swing the presidency to Trump (there’s no way to be sure, but that’s what the forensic work of Kathleen Hall Jamieson suggests). Yet despite improvement, the United States still doesn’t have an adequate strategy to foil Russian or Chinese interference in the 2020 election.

Trump is a hero of many evangelical Christians who previously emphasized the importance of personal values and restoring “honor and dignity” to the White House. Meanwhile, he is on his third wife, has cheated on all three and has been accused of sexual misconduct by 25 women. And Trump tweeted a supporter’s praise likening him to “the second coming of God.”

Since taking office, Trump has made more than 13,400 false or misleading statements, according to a Washington Post database. The Post found that he has recently accelerated his falsehoods to a rate of 22 per day, more than one per waking hour. (I’ve covered many world leaders, and the only two whom I consider pathological liars are Trump and former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.)

Trump has declared “I am the chosen one.” His press secretary last month spoke of “the genius of our great President.”

Trump, who according to a Times investigation is wealthy partly because of fraud, pledged to fight corruption and “drain the swamp.” Since then, he has lost more first-term cabinet members to scandal than any president in history.

 “I’m not going to have time to go play golf,” Trump said before his election. In fact, he has visited golf clubs approximately 224 times since taking office, including more than three months in total at Mar-a-Lago. These vacation trips have cost taxpayers more than $100 million.

Trump’s mother was an immigrant, as are two of the women he married (his current wife may have been undocumented). Yet he has ripped children from parents at the border, and his administration has argued that detained immigrant children do not need soap or toothbrushes.

We haven’t even gotten to Trump trying to buy Greenland, marching into women’s changing rooms to admire undressed teenagers, borrowing Stalinist language to denounce the press as the “enemy of the people,” claiming that climate change is a Chinese conspiracy, banning Muslims or diverting money to build the wall that Mexico supposedly would pay for.

Oh, and that multibillion-dollar wall is now being cut open by smugglers with $100 saws.

Yet America’s dysfunction goes beyond Trump, and it will outlast Trump, even as it is aggravated by him.

American kids ages 1 through 19 are 57 percent more likely to die than those in other advanced nations, according to a study in the journal Health Affairs. That’s partly because the United States is virtually alone in failing to provide universal health coverage: Trump didn’t create that problem, but he did magnify it so that the number of uninsured children is now increasing.

Longstanding economic inequality in the United States, exacerbated by Trump’s tax cuts and other policies, is staggering. A single hedge fund tycoon, James Simons, made $1.6 billion last year, or more than $4 million each day — yet the United States has 100,000 children who on any given night are homeless. Since 2000, 61,000 foster kids have simply gone missing. Girls and boys are sold by pimps for sex in every American city.

America is not, as President Trump once called it, a “hellhole.” It is a nation of enormous strengths and resources, but we need to muster them now. A merit of our species is that we are adaptable and resilient and can get used to almost anything.

But we should never get accustomed to all this. Let’s not let ourselves be numbed by the daily drip into accepting a level of Trumpian dysfunction that should always be unacceptable.

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Deconstructing government in Trump’s America

The important things, as I have said before, are slipping under the radar. Jeff, from On the Fence Voters, has shone a spotlight on one such thing. This administration is working so hard to destroy not only the nation, but the entire globe. Please take a minute to read Jeff’s assessment. Thanks, Jeff, for keeping us informed!

On The Fence Voters

Bannon’s prophetic prediction playing out before our eyes at USDA

In the early days of the Trump administration, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon declared that the President’s cabinet picks are well suited to implement a complete “deconstruction of the administrative state.” The quote by Bannon is relatively well known. Unfortunately, large swaths of the American people do not understand that that deconstruction is not only alive and well, but proceeding with lightning speed—with no end in sight.

To put it in more simpler terms, the administration is on track to weaken regulatory agencies and other bureaucratic entities, faster and more extreme than any previous Republican administration had ever tried to do. And it’s not like George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan didn’t try mightily to achieve this end. After all, less and smaller government is one of the main objectives of most Republicans as it is. But the…

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The Dirtiest Game(s) in Town

Trump’s staff and cabinet are among the most corrupt people in the nation.  Remember EPA head Scott Pruitt and his abominable misuse … downright theft, actually … of taxpayer money?  Then there was Tom Price, Secretary of Health & Human Services (HHS) who wasted more than a quarter-million on charter flights to jet all over the country.Pruitt.pngPrice & Pruitt are gone, but the corruption remains. Take, for example, Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Acting Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).  Mulvaney has a friend, Michael O’Shaughnessy, back in his home district in South Carolina.  O’Shaughnessy is the founder and president of Element Electronics, a television assembly plant in Winnsboro, South Carolina.  O’Shaughnessy was also a financial contributor to Mulvaney’s 2016 Congressional campaign.

mulvaney toonElement Electronics stands to be seriously hurt by Trump’s tariffs, and O’Shaughnessy has said the plant will close in October if they cannot be exempted from the tariffs.  Mulvaney is doing everything in his power to see that an exemption is granted to Element.  Now, it isn’t that I am unsympathetic to the situation Element finds itself in, but many, many other companies are in the same boat, and is Mulvaney trying to help them?  No, because they are not owned by his friend.  Trump’s tariffs are destructive and despite his claims, are going to cost jobs and hurt the U.S. economy.  But we cannot single out only certain companies to help because they are friends of somebody on Trump’s staff or cabinet.Zinke toon.jpgAnd then there’s Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Interior who, at his confirmation hearing in January 2017, said, “I am absolutely against transfer or sale of public land.”  And again, in March 2017 … “You can hear it from my lips. We will not sell or transfer public land.” Doesn’t that one remind you of that infamous Bush Sr. line: “Read my lips — No new taxes!”? And yet, last week watchdog environmental groups got wind that Zinke was negotiating to sell off some 1,610 acres of public lands that had been part of the Grand Staircase national monument until Trump radically shrunk the size of the monument last December.  The planned sale included 880,000 acres carved out by Trump from Grand Staircase and the 200,000 acres remaining in Bears Ears from its original 1.35 million acres.

The planned sale was cancelled last Friday, after questioning by the environmental groups, and Interior Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt took the blame, saying it was an “oversight” …

“The failure to capture this inconsistency stops with me.”

Most, myself included, are not buying it, for Zinke surely cannot be so out of touch with the department he is tasked with overseeing that he was unaware of this.  These are public lands, folks … OUR land!  stompingIt does not belong to Mr. Zinke nor to Mr. Trump and it certainly is not their right to sell it.  I’m still not convinced they had the right to shrink it.

But Zinke’s corruption doesn’t end here.  Earlier this year, he and his wife entered into a business agreement with Halliburton, one of the world’s biggest oil field services firms and a company that, needless to say, does quite a bit of business with the U.S. government, including the Interior Department that Zinke oversees.  You can find the details here.ethics scrutiny.jpgAnd then there’s Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Commerce who not only failed to properly divest himself of certain investments upon taking his position but has continued to meet in an official capacity with the chief executives of the companies in which he owns millions of dollars’ worth of stock.  There is no evidence that he discussed deals that could be considered conflict of interest, but there is the appearance of wrongdoing.  If I meet with a hitman, and the FBI gets wind of it, given my supreme dislike and public criticisms of Trump, guess what the FBI will assume, and guess where I’ll be going? Appearances are important in the eyes of the public.

Ross has denied wrongdoing but admitted only to “inadvertent errors”.  Last month, Ross came under fire by the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) for failure to divest certain holdings that he had agreed to do upon taking office. One of those holdings was Invesco, where Ross once worked and still owns stock valued at up to $50 million.  Ross recently met with a board member of the Qatar Investment Authority, a sovereign wealth fund that had given Invesco money to manage.

Ross has met with auto executives who are customers of the company he founded and still has a financial interest in. He has met with the chief executive of a rail car manufacturer whose board he once sat on and whose shares he still owns.  Sorry, Wilbur, but there is too much smoke here for there not to be a fire somewhere.

Helaine Olen, an opinion writer for The Washington Post, recently began her column …

“At least once a week, a member of the Trump administration demonstrates in an entertaining way that public service can be a great way to make a buck.”

She hit that nail spot on the head, didn’t she?  But then, when the ‘man’ who is over all these people is the most corrupt leader in the western world … what else can you expect?drain the swampIsn’t it interesting that Trump’s administration contains some of the wealthiest people ever to hold government positions, and yet they are the most corrupt, bar none?  It would seem to me that this is as good an indicator as any that wealth is addictive, always seeking more, willing to go to great lengths to obtain more, not caring a whit who they step on in the process.  It rather reminds me of a drug addict who will do anything and everything, including murder, to get his next fix.  What’s next?  Stay tuned.

Monday … So Smile for a While and Let’s Be Jolly!

Monday

Good Monday morning, once again.  It sure does seem to roll around fast these days, doesn’t it?  I still think it’s a government conspiracy to take all our free time away from us!  Hey … think I could be a guest on Sean’s or Alex’ shows and promote my conspiracy theories?  I mean heck, mine make every bit as much sense as theirs do!  And I can practice, and probably get that red-in-the-face-rant thing down pat … I shall have to ponder upon this.  But first, let’s enjoy our Monday morning together and find some happy, fun things to start the week out, shall we?


Contributing to the delinquency of … a raccoon???

marijuanaThe folks in the Wayne Township, Indiana, fire department were having a slow night last Monday.  A slow day or night in a firehouse is a good thing … it means nobody has set their kitchen afire like some people who shall remain nameless!  But then … the doorbell started frantically buzzing at 2:00 a.m.

“As many times as the doorbell on the firehouse was pushed, the firefighters were quite certain that something bad was going on outside.”

raccoonWhen Fire Captain Mike Pruitt raced to answer the door, he found a woman holding … a raccoon!  The raccoon was lethargic, and there was no mystery about it, for the woman plainly told the firemen that the raccoon had smoked too much marijuana!  Yes, folks, you heard me right … wacky weed, pot, Maryjane … whatever you call it, the raccoon was high as a kite!  I don’t think he voluntarily smoked the weed, as the woman said he had been exposed to too much of ‘someone else’s’ marijuana smoke.  Ahem … a likely story.

The raccoon will likely be fine, as the firemen told the woman, there was nothing to be done but to wait a few hours for the effects to wear off.  I wonder if he had the munchies?


$500 reward offered for … a teddy bear?

The Earley family of New York vacationed at Disney World in Florida this year, with their three-year-old daughter, Morgan.  On the way home, as they passed through North Carolina, the little girl apparently stuffed her beloved teddy bear out the window.  Nothing too unusual there … some kids actually try to force their younger siblings through the window of a moving car!  But little Morgan was bereft at the loss of her bear.Morgan and bearNow, personally, I would have stopped at the closest Toys ‘R Us, bought the kid another bear, and been done with it.  But Morgan’s parent a) are nicer than I am, and b) have more money than I do.  They are offering a $500 reward for the safe return of the bear, named only Baby Bear.  There is even a Facebook page  with a few thousand sappy, empathetic comments from people around the country trying to be helpful.


Talk about ‘draining the swamp’ …

There is a lesson to be had in this story.  If you’re going to run from the cops, know where you are running to, else just let them put the pretty bracelets on you and go quietly.

Paul Andrew Smith swamp 2Pasco County Sheriff’s Deputies pulled over … or rather, tried to pull over … Paul Andrew Smith last Tuesday after he nearly hit their cruiser.  Only Paul had other ideas and jumped from his car, running as fast as he could run … right into the swamp … where he promptly sunk in up to his neck.

A K-9 named Knox is credited with finding Smith, and it took several deputies and some time to free Smith from the muck.  Knox, it is said, kept licking him.  After being freed from the swamp, do you think Mr. Smith was grateful?  No sir … he cursed the police up one end and down the other, though he did seem to enjoy Knox’ licks, nearly laughing at the dog’s antics.

Turns out Smith was wanted by authorities in neighboring Hernando County, too.  The guy gets around.


It’s just a cat, man!

I came across these adorable pics on Bored Panda last week and I couldn’t resist sharing them today.  This is known as a Sphynx Cat and his name is Loki.  Loki lives with his human family members, Sara and Brent, in Brooklyn, New York and they say he is nowhere near as grumpy as he looks!

“This cat has more personality and sass than any animal I have ever met. We are inseparable. We are best friends. Loki is incredibly affectionate, cuddly and chatty. He loves napping on our bellies, eating chicken and scrambled eggs and receiving hearty head scratches.”

It could be that he isn’t too keen on all the strange outfits his humans keep putting on him.  For more fun pictures of Loki, check him out on Bored Panda


And now, dear friends, it is time for us all to get this week rolling.  You go earn the bacon, I’ll wash the laundry, and the rest of you will go write wonderful books for us all to read!  Please share your smiles, give hugs freely, and remember to be kind.  Keep safe and have a great week!  Love ‘n hugs from Filosofa and the Significant Seven!Mother Theresa quote

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