Thoughts At Large

Passionate thoughts on random topics

Category: Donald Trump

Today

Picture1We are divided. We are angry. Regardless of what side of the political chasm you stand on, we each scream at ears that cannot hear. Each side can site their own origin for our condition, but increasingly, our cold civil war is getting hot.

And now we have lunatic sending bombs to critics of the president while the president continues to pour gasoline on the growing firestorm.

Words are my religion. They are far more important to me than physical persuasion. Books are portals. Carl Sagan wrote as part of his incredible Cosmos series,

“What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”

And yet, in our hurry-up world of 280 character pontifications, arguments and debates are reduced to ad hominem attacks and ad reductio gotchas. We are a heavily armed society with hair-trigger sensitivities and no sense of personal responsibility. That’s a terrible combination.

Cicero wrote, “He only employs his passion who can make no use of his reason” and I understand the sentiment. As of right now, three bombs have been sent to New York City. My son lives in New York City. This individual has subjected everyone handling these packages (whether politically likeminded or not) and everyone around them to harm from within a potential blast radius. I look at Google Maps to identify where the newest bomb has been located and then see where my son should be at that moment. I am a civilized man, but also a father. I do not own a gun, and I treasure words. However, as a father, should I encounter the individual sending these bombs, I would not hesitate to punch them in the face.

Perhaps that makes me part of the problem, maybe I’m merely a parent, regardless, we all must do better. And it starts at the top. And it begins with the individual. The president leads, and we are responsible for ourselves. I’ll do my part. Mr. President? #Vote

Rules

Rules

 

Following the news that the Trump family cheated us out of over $497.80 million in estate taxes comes news that son-in-law and senior White House advisor Jared Kushner paid little or no federal income taxes between 2009 and 2016. Couple that with the “still being audited” bullshit being run by Trump as the reason why he “can’t” release his tax returns and we can only guess whether we, as taxpayers, are subsidizing the current kleptocracy at an over or under $1 billion price tag.

And yet, at this point, we have been conditioned by the daily shitstorm of Tweets, rants, insults, and societal oversteps that we simply yawn. Shame on us. Our gag reflex at the absurd and unacceptable has been blunted by repetition and callused by social media. But Viktor Frankl said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” That is the freedom we should be seeking, that is the independence we should be searching for and celebrating, not whether our president weirdly hugs a flag or misrepresents a football player for kneeling before a game.

My life is extremely important to me and me alone. My story will appear in no history book, my children my only legacy. I get up, go to work, do my best and I pay my taxes. We are all the result of our circumstances and our decisions based on those circumstances. I have raised children the best I could while making mistakes for which I will forever be ashamed. That said, they are the best thing that has ever happened to me and the best thing I will ever leave this world. I have willingly sacrificed a career to be a caregiver. I have buried my wife and tried to find happiness in a world I hardly understand. In other words, there is absolutely nothing remarkable about me. And I pay my taxes. I am happy to do so. I enjoy driving on paved roads. I complain about potholes. I enjoy living in the United States. I complain about military spending. I enjoy pizza. I complain about being too heavy. I still think I can hit a fastball and I see wrinkles in my neck.

But I am tired of playing by the rules when the rulers do not. I doubt Donald Trump has paid any taxes in the past 20 years. None. And he claims to be worth $10 billion. Jared Kushner paid little or no taxes over an 8-year period. And he’s worth $324 million. How many potholes would that have filled? How many schools would that have built? How many teachers would not have to buy their own supplies with that influx of taxes? Not to mention the $497.80 million Donald’s Daddy bilked us out of over the years by funneling money to his children. How many veterans, that the president claims to adore, could he have been personally treated or outfitted?

Having been raised Roman Catholic, and hard-wired with intrinsic guilt, the old saying, “How can you sleep at night?” always played in my head. That was always the guilt trip for past transgressions. Too late for future improvements. I always liked to play it in advance with the opportunistic, “What would I do in that situation?” This has afforded me the chance to make decisions, not always the correct ones, that I could defend to my children at a future date. “What did you do about gun violence after the murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School, dad?” I can answer that.

But kleptocrats answer to neither guilt nor history. To the question, “How can you sleep at night?” Trump answers, “Fine, either in the White House or in one of my gold palaces.” To the question, “What did you do about climate change?” Trump will answer, “Got us out of the Paris Climate Accord, watched the icebergs melt and the polar bears starve to death (before poor Don Jr. and Eric could shoot them to death), watched Florida sink into the Atlantic, and spent my gazillion, tax-free dollars golfing and eating KFC. I’ll be dead before the air is too toxic to breathe and burns you to ashes. Now go pay your taxes, suckers.”

 

MLK, Jr. Today

MLK MonumentToday we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in America. We mark it under a racial cloud because of what our president said recently about African and Caribbean nations. “Shithole/Shithouse nations” according to our, at best, racially obtuse president, and at worst, racist president.

Solomon Northup, in Twelve Years a Slave, wrote, “There’s a sin, a fearful sin, resting on this nation, that will not go unpunished forever. There will be a reckoning yet… it may be sooner or it may be later, but it’s coming as sure as the Lord is just.”

Northup wrote that in 1853, eight years before the outbreak of the American Civil War, 10 years before the Emancipation Proclamation, 12 years before the ratification of the 13th Amendment, 76 years before Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birth, 111 years before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and 115 years before King’s murder. And today, 50 years after King’s assassination and 165 years after Northup’s account, we are still paying the price of what President Obama termed “America’s original sin.”

There are epochs in history, categories into which we place significant events. We may consider ancient history to encompass the construction of the great pyramids or the rise and fall of Rome.  And we may believe the American Civil War to be “ancient” within the framework of the United States’ existence. Too quickly we relegate events to history and therefore outside an era upon which our brains must examine events contemporaneously. If we think of an event as being “history,” we can, to a certain extent, dismiss it as being old and no longer relevant.

Consider this, then: Martin Luther King, Jr. would have been 89 years old today. Conceivably still living, had he not been murdered in 1968. His contemporaries, those also born in 1929 and still among us include journalist Barbara Walters, actor Christopher Plummer, actor/comedian Bob Newhart, actor Ed Asner, author Eric Carle, and actor Max von Sydow. Dr. King was only 39 years old when he was murdered. This April 4th will mark 50 years since his slaying. By 2008, King had been dead longer than he had ever lived. Imagine what he might have achieved, where we might have been as a nation concerning race relations, had he lived these past 50 years.

Martin Luther King, Jr. is not the monument in the photo above that I captured in Washington, D.C. last summer touring the city with my children. Do not let the black and white pictures you have seen or grainy, less than 1080p online video fool you. He is a contemporary man who was trying to make the world a better place, not an ancient figure no longer relevant. He words still give rise to voices now because we still have work to do.

Perhaps the rise of nationalism and xenophobic tendencies we see, not only in America (Trump) but all around the globe, is cyclical. At its worst, we devolve into world wars. I hope that what we see today is a venting, a voice being periodically given to those otherwise so staggeringly ignorant we usually must drag them kicking and screaming toward a better future for all creatures living on this small blue dot careening through the universe. I hope that this is only a venting and authoritarian plutocracies do not get a foothold. I hope that we will again celebrate President Kennedy’s (via Ted Sorensen) aphorism “a rising tide lifts all boats” and we are not moving toward a future resembling 1853 or some other cataclysmic date in our collective “ancient” history.

25

Trump Twitter

The President of the United States yesterday showed the world who he really is. However, instead of revealing a wizard behind the curtain, this reveal was no reveal at all. Many believed the mantle of the presidency would temper Trump’s showmanship, believing there was a measured, intelligent individual behind the bluster; that he used television and social media to gain the position but that he would eventually perform some hairpin pivot. Yesterday proved once again that his use of social media simply displayed the real man in plain sight. To appropriate his apologists’ favorite phrase, “there is no there, there.”

Yesterday’s rambling press conference essentially threw a grenade on the measured clarification (read: hostage tape video) he issued Monday to the outrageous, equivocating statement he made on Saturday. The statement on Saturday was, as written, not offensive. It did not call out the neo-Nazis, white supremacists, or KKK by name, but it was not unseemly. How low a bar we have set for this president! Instead, he went off script and injected his actual position by asserting blame be placed “on many sides, many sides.”

While Robert Mueller continues his investigation, whispers have once again been heard of invoking the 25th Amendment. For that to work, for America to cast off a racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, pathological liar, three individuals and the majority of the Cabinet would have to summon true courage (and face withering condemnation from Trump). Vice President Mike Pence, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and Senate President pro tempore Orrin Hatch (numbers two, three, and four in the line of presidential succession) would need to invoke Section 4 of the 25th Amendment. It reads:

Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

However, if today’s Republican reaction to yesterday’s press conference is any indication, nothing will happen. Republicans, on congressional recess, are harder to uncover today than white truffles in an Italian forest. That silence is in itself a statement. Perhaps it is fear of being the “victim” of a Trump Twitter tirade, maybe it is the fear of being out front on such an issue, or perhaps it is because they do not want to anger their base, which includes some pleased with Trump’s comments yesterday. Nevertheless, it is just these people, emboldened by Trump’s comments, who need to be brought to task and this is just the time to be out front. All politicians fancy themselves historical figures who changed the world. Has there ever been an easier softball for them to hit? So, where are they?

Just as politicians envision themselves historical figures, the average citizen must have wondered what they would have done during historical events. What would you have done during the Revolutionary War? How would I have acted during the civil rights movement? It is against that backdrop that we must ask ourselves, what do we do now? Moreover, looking toward the future, when this week’s events are indeed history, how do we respond to our children and grandchildren when they ask what we did when President Trump defended bigotry? History and our descendants will ask.

Publius ad absurdum

 

“Bill rejected coverage for my new knee,” bemoaned Karen as she read the form letter with the very personalized facsimile of Bill’s signature.

“You’re kidding!” exclaimed Harry. “And after I sent him that Bundt cake and paid for his lawn to be thatched!”

“I know!” continued Karen. “What is this country coming to if the head of the homeowner’s association can’t see his way clear to providing coverage for necessary medical procedures. And just because I told his wife, Claire, that I liked their old flowerbed better than that mulch monstrosity they now have!”

“I liked it better when the cities and towns used to control healthcare,” said Harry, wistfully.

“Me, too,” Karen said softly. “The Henderson’s moved from Cypress Heaven to Wimbledon Estates and Ken lost coverage for his cancer treatment. A “pre-existing condition” they said. Remember when the city used to cover healthcare?”

“Remember? I can remember when the state used to provide coverage! And my parents remember when the federal government used to cover it! Something called Obamacare, after that old guy, Brock Obama. Used to be president.”

“My parents remember that too! They said it provided coverage for the majority of those who didn’t have coverage, but then something called the Tea Party obstructed Obama on everything he tried to do, just so they could prevent him from succeeding. That was standing up for your principles! Of course, then Supreme Leader Trump was elected, isn’t that quaint! They used to elect leaders! And in order to make the federal government smaller, he transitioned most essential services to the states, who in turn, transitioned it to the cities and towns, who, ultimately, transitioned it to the homeowner’s associations.”

“Yeah, I’ve read about that. Back when Supreme Leader Trump was just the president he said the federal government should only be responsible for dealing with things like North Korea. Of course, that was back before we had a coalition with North Korea, Russia, and China against the aggressors from South Korea, Australia, and Canada.”

“Strange, though, the federal budget still runs a deficit. I wonder what might cause that?”

“In fact, I looked it up on EuroGoogle, the illegal search engine not associated with the officially mandated WikiLeaks search engine, and the federal budget in 2016 was half the budget of 2020. It seems that when essential services were transitioned to the states, the budget for the military doubled. I guess that’s why they make us drive half-tracks and tanks now instead of sedans and SUVs.”

“I guess. But back then you didn’t get free upgrades on handguns, rifles, and silencers. Talk about pre-existing conditions! Can you imagine living in a country where it wasn’t mandated that everyone openly carry his or her firearm? How barbaric! What were people supposed to do? Talk to one another? Trust people? Come on!”

“Anyway, I guess I’ll have to continue using this wheelchair. We can’t afford the surgery and maybe Ken’s cancer will just go away.”

“Let’s pray it does.”

“Did you hear about Madge?”

“No! Is she okay?”

“She’s fine, but was raped.”

“I don’t understand. Are you saying what I think you’re saying?”

“I’m afraid so. She’s now got a pre-existing condition and will lose her health coverage.”

“That doesn’t seem fair! I mean, I could understand it when Claire lost her coverage after she left David because of the domestic violence. After all, she used to wear those jeans that showed almost all of her ankle, but Madge? She didn’t do anything wrong!”

“Well, to paraphrase that great statesman, Mo Brooks, why should all of the good people, who’ve led good lives pay for those who haven’t.”

“Will she be okay?”

“Oh, sure. She’s still got her job. Although teaching over at Glen Estates Heaven Cypresswood isn’t what it used to be.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I mean, that subdivision lost quite a few residents after the deportation squads cleaned the Others out.”

“Oh, right. They had non-Christians over there. Yikes!”

“Well, at least if she loses her coverage and her job she’ll be among those like her.”

“Hey, like the Supreme Leader had inscribed on Trump Patriot Lady after he had that silly Statue of Liberty renovated, “Made America Great Again.”

“Thank God for Trump!”

Women

“That we have the vote means nothing. That we use it in the right way means everything.”  Lou Henry Hoover, First Lady of the United States 1929-1933

As we wind down to the end of a presidential campaign that feels as if it’s been going on since the early Bronze Age, the overarching story of this election can be summarized in one word – women.

It began with the nomination of a woman by one of the two major parties. It devolved into stories about the treatment of women by the nominee of the other major party. And it will be settled by the largest demographic within the voting public – women.

According to one recent poll, Hillary Clinton is leading among women by 33%. Eric Trump famously made the mistake of posting a map showing his father ahead nationally but omitting the fact that the map showed what the results would look like if only men voted. Here is that map:

if-only-men-voted

The map shows Mr. Trump winning the White House with an Electoral College tally of 350 versus 188 for Secretary Clinton. Unfortunately for Eric Trump, people noticed, and the response was savage. Here is the obverse map showing what the election results would look like if only women voted:

if only women voted.png

As you can see, Secretary Clinton would win the Electoral College with a staggering tally of 458 votes versus Mr. Trump’s meager 80 votes. And therein lies the story of this election. Women will decide the outcome. Here is Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight site on the potential effect this disparity would have on the general election:

“To put those numbers in perspective, that’s saying Trump would defeat Clinton among men by a margin similar to Dwight D. Eisenhower’s landslide victory over Adlai Stevenson in 1952, while Clinton would defeat Trump among women by a margin similar to … actually, there’s no good comparison, since no candidate has won a presidential election by more than 26 percentage points since the popular vote became a widespread means of voting in 1824. To get to 33 points, you’d have to take the Eisenhower-Stevenson margin and add Lyndon B. Johnson’s 23-point win over Barry Goldwater in 1964 on top of it.”

And while you may not like everything (or anything) about Secretary Clinton, she has worked hard to earn women’s votes. One of her greatest surrogates has been another woman, First Lady Michelle Obama, who has been phenomenally effective on the campaign trail. On the other hand, Mr. Trump has stumbled his way toward the election by demeaning women (among many other groups) and been accused of sexual assault by eleven women. And one of his greatest surrogates has been Mayor Guiliani who has himself had a checkered past with women and who recently suggested that Mr. Trump would be better for the United States “than a woman.” Considering that women constitute the largest voting block in America, wouldn’t it be better for Republicans to embrace women than to shun them if they ever hope to win the White House again. Especially given the inevitable demographic changes altering the United States, all of which favor Democrats and which Republicans have ignored to this point at their peril. Sorry, but gerrymandering can only take you so far.

2016 will be known as the year that a woman shattered one of the greatest glass ceilings left in the world, the American presidency, but perhaps it should be better known as the year that women used their collective voices to change the course of an election and therefore history.

Trumpeter

 

Trump

“The first sign of greatness is when a man does not attempt to look and act great. Before you can call yourself a man at all, Kipling assures us, you must “not look too good nor talk too wise.”     ― Dale Carnegie, The Art of Public Speaking

 

Play to your audience. Anyone who speaks publicly knows this truth. You must know your audience. Donald Trump plays a part whenever he speaks. He plays the petulant child, name calling and telling untruths in order to manipulate his audience into mindless chants and savage beatings. He is a very bright person, a narcissist no doubt, but very smart. He has motivated a portion of the Republican base disenfranchised by years of political correctness (read equality and empathy) and sinking political clout as the aging white male vote shrinks in influence nationwide. Whether he believes what he says is immaterial as his words are taken at face value by his crowds and they leave impassioned and validated.

However, one area that seems to reveal the real Trump behind the curtain is his relationship with women. Whereas his rants on Mexicans, Muslims, and any other minority he feels like denigrating is done for the benefit of his audience, his comments on women seem genuine and therefore especially troubling. Whether it is his comments about Megyn Kelly or Rosie O’Donnell or his feud with Ted Cruz regarding their respective wives, his words ring with a certain veracity that escapes his comments on other groups and reveals him beyond the part he is playing.

Don’t get me wrong, I find Ted Cruz to be far more dangerous than Donald Trump, and while I don’t believe either of them can win a general election against either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, Cruz’s beliefs are calculated and cold. Every time he speaks my skin crawls as he slowly forms each sentence in an effort to cause maximum damage. He truly believes what he says. And while his honesty is refreshing, his goals and methods are beyond frightening. Even the tea party and their minimalistic government stance overwhelmingly find Cruz dangerous. His colleagues in the senate despise him and neither his Ivy League pedigree nor his debate championship skills can overcome his personality or end game. And his Morton Downey, Jr.-esqe war with Trump is now childish, unhealthy, and boring.

But it is Trumps position with women that genuinely disgusts me. “No one loves women more than I do, I can tell you that,” claims Mr. Trump. However, he’s been married three times. Does he mean that he loves all women but he’s only gotten to three so far? Nothing in his relationships with women is encouraging and to alienate such a demographic before the general election, when women make up the majority of voters is political suicide. Especially if he intends to make up for the loss of the female vote with other demographics. His approval among all minorities is woefully low. There is no mathematical formula that garners him the White House without women and I believe women are far too intelligent to be convinced of his “love” of women at this point. He objectifies women and dismisses them as things to be possessed.

Know your audience is something about which Trump knows quite a bit, but his blindness toward the females in his audience will ultimately be his undoing.