True colors?

Trump WaPost

It amazes me that the President of the United States of America said this today:

“George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down—excuse me—are we going to take down—are we going to take down statues to George Washington? What about Thomas Jefferson?”

That is what a Klansman would say to defend himself, by making comparisons to our Founding Fathers, many of whom were slave owners.

Trump is a dangerous man. He stands for the ideals of the extremists of the white nationalists, and that’s not what America stands for.

Advertisements

Words that never were true

…just spoken to help nobody but you.

word cloud

In our 24/7/365 news cycle, there’s never a moment when the world stands still and gives us a chance to get caught up on the events of the day. For a newspaper columnist the challenge is to try to keep up, knowing that the next blockbuster headline is just around the corner. So, while they are fresh in our minds, let’s explore some recent events.

Seeing is believing?

After much speculation, we now know that members of the Trump presidential campaign were in direct talks with Russian contacts who were seeking to influence the 2016 election. This isn’t speculation. All parties who attended, including Donald Trump Jr., have come forward to admit that the meeting occurred, though there have been conflicting stories about the topics that were discussed.

Now, in a normal world, you’d think that we could agree on most of the facts. But since last November, it’s not as easy to call things ‘normal’. Take for example this excerpt from the results of a recent survey by Public Policy Polling. (This is insane.)

“On Russia related issues we find a certain degree of willful ignorance among Trump voters that can possibly best be summarized by this finding: only 45% of Trump voters believe Donald Trump Jr. had a meeting with Russians about information that might be harmful to Hillary Clinton…even though Trump Jr. admitted it. 32% say the meeting didn’t happen and 24% say they’re not sure.”

Notice that? Junior admitted that the meeting occurred, and he even released the emails that prove his intention was to obtain materials from the Russians that supposed would be harmful to Sec. Clinton’s chances in the presidential race.

Nearly a third of Trump voters deny the meeting occurred… EVEN THOUGH JUNIOR SAID IT DID. The facts are undeniable, yet most Trump voters can’t allow themselves to see the truth that’s right before their eyes. That’s much more than willful ignorance. That’s self-imposed destructive stupidity.

It’s not the crime, it’s the…

Even more mind-boggling than the average Trump voter’s inability to grasp reality is the public’s quick and easy acceptance of any wrongdoing by the president’s inner circles. Part of Donald Junior’s rotating fairy tales about his secret chat was an effort to make it seem like it was all about trying to help Americans adopt Russian children. Now we know that President Trump dictated Junior’s official statement, trying to give it a spin of innocence. Does the elder Trump have no trust in his oldest son’s ability to speak for himself, or is twisting the story part of a plan to hide something nefarious?

By taking charge and re-directing the narrative, President Trump took the lead role in an attempted cover-up. This could be the opening special counsel Robert Mueller needs in his investigation into the Putin-ordered hacking and other efforts to help win the election for Trump.

Maverick? Meh.

As one of three Republican senators who voted against an Obamacare-killing bill, John McCain has been hailed as a hero by many on the political left. But let’s not rush into that. Senator McCain may have been standing up for what he thinks is right, although he’s not shown any previous love for the Affordable Care Act, so I doubt he’s suddenly decided that President Obama’s big achievement is worthy of his support.

It could be that McCain truly wants to see Congress return to the days of bi-partisanship on major issues, and thinks that his vote will convince others to regain a bit of sensibility. Then again, McCain may just have wanted to deny President Trump a victory.

For me, I have strong doubts that Senator McCain can be seen as an advocate for expanded health insurance coverage. That would take much more political courage than I’ve seen from him in many years. Now, if he were to go on Meet the Press and apologize to the American people for making Sarah Palin famous, then I might be convinced that he has honorable intentions.

How much is too much?

One final thought: as President Trump wrapped up his first six months in office, his administration saw many internal shake ups. His press secretary resigned under pressure, his newly-named communications director was hired and fired in just eleven days, his Chief of Staff was replaced, and numerous attorneys and spokespeople have come and gone. You have to wonder if the well will run dry. I was asked, “How long until Trump has alienated a critical mass?” That is, will we reach the point where no one else will work for him?

I think not. Considering the players that have been members of this administration so far, I’d say this:

There’s plenty of evil, untalented fish in the ocean.

(Originally published in the Morrisons Cove Herald August 3, 2017.)

The price is right

Groucho glasses

There’s a famous joke that’s been told in various forms for at least a hundred years. Usually it’s attributed to a famous personality such as George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill or, in the version I’m using here, Groucho Marx. It involves the individual having a somewhat naughty conversation with a woman, and it goes something like this:

Groucho turned his attention to a lovely young lady and, in his usual style, asked her, “My dearest desert flower. What would you say if I offered you a million dollars in exchange for spending a romantic weekend with me in Paris?”

Taken by surprise, she replied, “Why, Mr. Marx! I’m flattered! Of course, I’d love to be your travel companion.”

Without hesitation, Groucho then said, “My darling. What if I wined and dined you and invited you to spend the night with me in my New York penthouse and gave you $100,000 for your troubles?”

“Mr. Marx, you’re such a flirt! Most certainly I would accept your invitation,” she replied.

“Well, then,” Groucho said with a wide grin, “how about I give you ten dollars and we sneak off for a little fun in the next room?”

“I’m shocked,” the young lady snapped. “What kind of woman do you think I am?”

“We’ve already established that,” Groucho responded. “Now we’re just haggling over the price.”

 

Yes, it’s a bit risque. But it suggests that people can be convinced to do things if they expect a reward in return. The greater the pay-off, the more likely someone will agree to activities they would otherwise avoid. And that brings us to our present political climate.

Are there limits?

You’d have to be in worse shape than the Pinball Wizard himself to not realize that our president leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to maturity and leadership. Even being deaf, dumb & blind, I still think Tommy would have had no problem recognizing that President Trump falls far short of the standards set by our founding fathers.

 

I’ve made it clear that I’m not a supporter of this president. I have great respect for our nation and the office of the chief executive, but I simply cannot hide my disgust for the words and actions of the current White House occupant.

 

I would take some reassurance if a few prominent men and women provided a counterbalance for Mr. Trump. That is, people in leadership positions who would step in and steer Trump on the right path, showing that cooler heads are in charge. But that’s not the case.

While President Trump is attacking cable news hosts on Twitter, or leering uncomfortably at a female reporter from Ireland, or sharing an altered video that portrays the president tackling and pummeling an entire news organization… the Republican leadership in the House and Senate do little more than offer a “tut-tut”. We would expect the adults in the room to step up and tell Trump that his behavior is disturbing, embarrassing, disrespectful, and most certainly beneath the dignity of the office he holds.

Instead, those members of Congress, along with media commentators and employees of the Trump administration, are often found making excuses, telling Americans that this is the type of president they voted for so they should just accept it.

How much?

There has to be a reason that otherwise clear-thinking people would enable someone so lacking in maturity and decency, and there is. You see, all people like Speaker of the House Paul Ryan want is a huge tax cut for the richest people. That’s the brass ring they’ve been reaching for over the past several years. If that means the less fortunate Americans are going to lose health insurance or government services or other benefits that should be expected from what has been the richest nation on the planet, then so be it.

And while we’re on the subject of tax cuts for the rich, I’d like to draw a distinction. Republicans try to tell us that cutting taxes on the super rich will result in better jobs and higher income for the rest of us. The thing is, those rich people aren’t the employers. It’s the corporations they own that actually hire and fire us. And those corporations already do a great job in avoiding paying taxes. No, the millionaires and billionaires want tax cuts on their personal wealth. Granting their wish is not going to help the working class at all. But the GOP has been trying to sell their trickle-down economic plans since the days of Ronald Reagan.

Reagan. You remember him, right? He’s the guy who pointed at Moscow and called it the “Evil Empire”. Back in those days, Vladimir Putin was a KGB agent, one of the guys President Reagan despised. Today, Putin is the leader of Russia and the chief organizer of efforts to tamper with ballots worldwide, including our own recent presidential election.

I have a feeling that Reagan would not approve of President Trump, especially his efforts to block investigations into Russia’s actions.

(Originally published in the Morrisons Cove Herald July 6, 2017.)

He ain’t heavy

unabomber

David had a problem. He had a story to tell, one that he himself didn’t believe. Couldn’t allow himself to believe. And yet, he knew he had to share the secret. Or, did he?

If he let the cat out of the bag, people might get hurt. Reputations would be damaged, perhaps ruined. Maybe it was best if he just kept it to himself.

But he knew he couldn’t. Deep down in his heart, he knew that the right decision — the only decision — was to come clean. To talk. And so he did.

 

Mailbomb murder mystery

Beginning in 1978, the United States was at the mercy of a serial killer. One of a different breed than most. Unlike the habits of murderers like Ted Bundy or The Zodiac who selected victims at random, this killer’s targets were associated with advancing technology. Mail bombs were sent to universities, airlines, computer stores, and private homes. In its investigation, the FBI decided to condense the words ‘university’, ‘airline’, and ‘bomb’ to tag the case file as UNABOM. Thus, the still-unknown killer was nicknamed The Unabomber.

Three people died and 23 others were injured in a murder spree that lasted nearly two decades. But the killer said he would stop if a major publication would print a lengthy essay that was harshly critical of industry and technology. The New York Times and The Washington Post agreed, and the so-called “Unabomber Manifesto” was printed verbatim.  

And that’s when David Kaczynski recognized the words as those of his estranged brother.

David and other members of his family had had very little contact with his brother, Ted, for many years. At first, David wasn’t convinced that his older brother was responsible for the string of deadly attacks. Before contacting the authorities, he organized a team to investigate privately. A few months later, David made the decision to speak to the FBI. His brother was arrested a few weeks later. He eventually pled guilty to multiple charges and was sentenced to life in prison.

Kaczynski

A matter of conscience

There’s no way to know if The Unabomber would have continued his terroristic ways if his brother had kept quiet. But it was clear that the FBI was stumped in its investigation. Because David Kaczynski acted when he did, any future attacks were clearly thwarted.

Essentially, lives were saved because David decided that it was more important to protect the nation than to keep his brother’s identity hidden. By putting his country first, he made the right decision.

Congress should do the same.

Which way will they choose?

The decision put before politicians in Washington isn’t one of trying to capture an elusive killer, but it’s no less serious. We’ve been hearing for months about Russia’s efforts in trying to influence the USA’s 2016 presidential election. (Note: I said “trying” for a reason. More on that later.) Seventeen intelligence agencies agreed that such attempts did occur, and their early investigations strongly suggested that members of the Trump campaign had been in contact with Russian government officials at the same time. It’s just common sense to find out who knew what, who did what, and what steps can and should be taken to prevent an adversarial government from manipulating American elections.

But that’s not what’s happening. Instead, members of Congress and others both within and outside the federal government are in denial mode. Rather than wholeheartedly embracing their oath to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States”, we’ve seen high-ranking officials work to delay or derail these investigations. Whether it’s the Republican chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence cancelling hearings in order to have semi-secret chats with the White House or President Trump’s move to end the FBI’s investigation by firing its Director, our elected officials are certainly not putting any meaningful effort into learning the truth about Russia’s activities.

Can you imagine the Reagan Administration working to protect Russia? Me neither, but today’s Republicans sure seem to be eager to cater to the nation that Ronald Reagan called the “Evil Empire”.

Let’s be clear: I’m not saying that Russia actually caused the election to go Trump’s way. But they sure tried. What I’m saying is that Vladimir Putin wanted to see how far he could go to meddle in the most important part of our nation’s very being: our election.

We need to know what they did, how they did it, and who (if anyone) helped them. Most important: we need to know what to do to make sure they aren’t successful when they try again.

Our elected officials need to decide what’s more important: covering for somebody from their own party, a member of their own “family”… or protecting the entire nation.

It’s not a hard choice. Ask David.

(Originally published in the Morrisons Cove Herald June 1, 2017.)

Buckle up! It gets worse.

buckle-up

It’s not possible for me to update this blog fast enough to keep up with all the wrongdoings of our president.

But here’s a brief rundown.

 

Let’s review:
 
1. Trump gave Russia, an adversary, highly classified information… gathered from intelligence sources from a nation friendly to us, an ally.
 
2. Trump administration officials spent most of yesterday in Deny, Deny, DENY! mode, claiming that this never happened.
 
3. Trump this morning tweeted… yeah, it happened.
 
4. Trump administration officials are spending most of today telling us that it’s all hunky-dory, that it wasn’t classified but was common knowledge stuff, and it was “wholly appropriate” to give that information to Russia.
 
5. The intelligence came from Israel.
 
6. Russia is on very good terms with nations that are sworn enemies with Israel… Iran, for one.
 
7. Trump administration continues to tell us that it’s not a BFD that the president gave Russia the intel. What really matters, they say, is that knowledge of what happened in the meeting was leaked to the media. In other words, it’s NOT a concern that Trump is giving out secrets like candy… the problem is that someone TOLD us he did it.
 
What I need to know is: how is this going to play with evangelicals? You know, the folks who voted for Trump and who claim that they REALLY LOVE Israel (even though they sure don’t care much for Jews).

 

 

I pledge allegiance to…?

US Russia flag composite

Firing FBI Director Comey in order to impede and, potentially, influence the Russia investigation…

 
Holding a meeting in the Oval Office with two Russian officials while blocking American news media access BUT inviting Russia’s government-controlled media to attend…

 
Giving highly classified information to those Russian officials in violation of agreements between the US and our allies’ intelligence agencies…

 

And yet, we’re supposed to pretend that President Trump was serious when he swore to “…preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

I’m not convinced.

No matter what

A road sign with the word Choose and arrows pointing left and right

In America, we like to choose sides. We make a decision and then stick to it. Nothing you can say or do will convince your buddy to change his ways.

Take for example the Cola Wars. There’s been a rivalry between the drinkers of Coke and Pepsi for generations, with both sides insisting that their favored beverage is better. While I’m sure you know somebody who has no preference, most of the people in my circles are dedicated to one brand over the other. One side insists that Coke is the only soda worth drinking, while the other will select water rather than accept a cola other than Pepsi.

It’s the same thing with sports teams. Or Ford vs Chevy. Or those old commercials with a bunch of guys yelling “Tastes great!” and “Less filling!”

In most cases it’s all in good fun. But often we invest so deeply in our devotion toward one side over the other that it’s no longer trivial. Eventually, these disputes become much more heated when the loyalists on the two sides face off on a political issue.

The Truth, the Whole Truth

If you’ve been following this column for any period of time, you know that I have no patience for liars. If your argument is built upon a foundation of falsehoods, I want no part of it. I wouldn’t want to stake my reputation on something I know not to be true, and I can’t conjure up the desire to have a conversation with someone who deals with fantasy rather than facts.

We have a world of knowledge at our fingertips. Our computers and smartphones can lead us to the answers to just about any question imaginable. But we have to be willing to use discernment. We have to take precautions, to make sure that what we hear and what we read is honest and trustworthy.

Sometimes the lies are obvious. Others, though, are partially shadowed. Whether these are half-truths or unspoken realities, we can count them as lies because of how they’re presented. We may be told a less than complete story or, quite often, we just don’t listen well enough. We hear the things we want, and ignore the rest.

If you always believe what you’re told without doing a bit of investigating on your own, you’re taking a big risk. You could end up putting your trust in a person or an ideal only to be greatly disappointed in the long run.

Take for example the woman in Indiana who counts herself as a supporter of President Trump. She voted for him because, among various reasons, she liked his tough stance on undocumented immigrants. But she didn’t think that her husband, who came to the States illegally from Mexico nearly twenty years ago, would be deported. She heard Trump talk about kicking out criminals, but never suspected he was talking about people like her husband. And yet, he was detained, then sent to Mexico on a one-way trip.

Or the mother in Tennessee who told the Washington Post that it was tax credits from Trump that made her unemployed son’s health insurance premiums drop by nearly 85 percent. In reality, those savings were the result of subsidies from the Affordable Care Act, which is still the law. Ironically, repeal of the ACA – a key talking point of Trump’s campaign – will cause those subsidies to end, thus causing her son’s insurance premiums to skyrocket.

In both cases, and a multitude of others, overwhelming loyalty prevented these people from seeing and understanding basic truths.

It becomes part of you

Dan Pfeiffer, who served as Senior Advisor to President Obama, recently said, “Being for Trump becomes part of someone’s identity.” While he is clearly partisan, Pfeiffer’s words ring true. Trump himself made the claim that he could shoot someone and not lose support. Based on the enthusiastic attendees at Trump’s rallies, he’s right. There are a lot of people who are willing to accept anything Trump says or does and remain on his side.

It didn’t matter to them when Trump reversed his campaign promise to label China a “currency manipulator”. They seem okay now that Trump has changed positions on NAFTA and NATO, and that he has flip-flopped on several health care issues. They stand by their votes for him, and they eagerly sign up for tickets to his rallies where they laugh at his jokes and feel good about the choice they made.

They refuse to be convinced otherwise, perhaps because they just don’t want to admit that they fell for a con.

I wonder what it will take, what abuse of power or act of greed, before they see clearly.

(Originally published in the Morrisons Cove Herald May 4, 2017.)