Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Truthless Presidency

The first time I heard Donald Trump speak as a candidate, he said that Obamacare was so bad that even if you got hit by a truck you wouldn't be covered.  At that time I had been covered by the ACA for over a year and found that it wasn't just really "affordable," but it was the best coverage I had ever had.  The alarms went off in my head and haven't stopped since.

The man is a liar.  What we do with that is what truly concerns me.  We have never had a pathological liar as president, or even as far as I can recall, as a candidate.  I believe that, without both his celebrity and wealth, his apparent lies would have discredited and disqualified him from his first trip down that escalator.  When, by the way, he paid $50 per head for extras in the crowd.

But those who support Trump don't just support him, they crave him.  They feel about Trump pretty much the way I felt about Paul McCartney when I was 14 years old.  They would believe anything he said and follow him off any cliff, assuming he was fully aware of what he was doing and knew better than anyone else that it was the right thing to do.

Rationalization knows no better friend than the Trump supporter.  The proof of that has been over the past couple of weeks, as his past promises and claims have fallen by the wayside.

The most oft-repeated of course is that he would lock Hillary up.  In a cross between a WWF chant and one delivered at a Third Reich rally, the crowd couldn't wait for the moment they could start to yell, "Lock her up."  It had been a proud moment during the convention, and several speakers, some of whom are now in the Trump cabinet, ran with the cry.  In the true promotional spirit of the event, t-shirts had already been printed with the chilling slogan, along with Hillary behind bars and other similarly ugly and extremely un-American and undemocratic sentiments.

I would like to say that this was a new low in politics, but the Obama presidency was what truly set the animals free of their restraints.  Hitler mustaches on Obama's face along with obscene references to his ancestry have just become the norm for the supremacist lover of free speech over the past eight years.

And Donald Trump may not be "like smart," but he has an uncanny sense of what brings the crowds to the carnival -- and what shocks and intimidates his opponents.  So he caught a whiff of that mob mentality and harnessed the power.  It worked, too.  While the crowd went wild, the media spent a year and a half silenced while Trump ran rampant over the truth.  And while they lacked the spirit to defend the truth, they still, like deer in the headlights, kept the cameras on while the abominations grew.

If Donald Trump is a stupid man, and he is, his followers are mindless and devoted believers.  When he tells a lie, they believe it.  When it is proven to be utterly false, they still believe it.  When Trump and his minions finally admit the lie, the believers know that he had a good reason for telling it.

And he is happy to confirm it.  Trump, these days, has been inoculating his followers by simply explaining what he was thinking and that now he's changed his mind.  "Lock her up:"  "that plays great before the election -- now we don't care, right?"  And while the first reaction may be that of disorientation, it doesn't take long for his fans to get it:  he just said it to get elected, what a great idea.

Except that that may also be a lie.  When Trump starts to actually take heat for his ideas exploding in his face, I have no doubt "Lock her up" will resurface.  That herd of sycophants that comprises our republican Congress have already shown us that there is no expiration date on hating Hillary; it's been working for them for decades, with the enthusiastic help of the media.  Except that this time Trump will turn on Congress the instant it becomes expedient; a few days ago he called Paul Ryan "genius" and added, "now if he ever goes against me I'm not going to say that."

And so, having a presidential candidate prove that the brazen lie is the path to power, and do it more brazenly than the congress critters, has sealed the fate of this republic.  And our society.  The president can now ignore laws with the blessing of a congress that will accept, just as do his followers, whatever he tells us today.  And taking it from the Trump playbook, who got it from Putin, it doesn't matter if the rules change, wrong is now right and after all, might is right.

And, have I said, he is a stupid man?  So what he says today not only won't make sense today, but may change tomorrow, to something that equally makes no sense.  And the media will chase it like a dog chasing a bus.  Or, every now and then, by chance, he may say something that does make sense.  And then the media will marvel at the possibility that he may be beginning to figure things out.  Except that won't be the case at all.  Unlike W., who did begin to figure some things out, and was guided by some kind of moral imperative, Trump is guided by no such thing.  Trump is guided by ego.  And money.  Period.

The "liberal media", while doing mea culpas about the mistakes they made by giving him exposure during the election season, yesterday spent hours slicing and dicing and analyzing his 74 second "interview" in his own hall of power.  When I turned the TV on this morning, they were still talking about it.  Yes, they were snarky, but as Donald Trump knows, a camera is a camera, and they always work in his favor.  And he will continue to use the media, because he knows how to make news, and the media has hours to fill.

Once again, I end by urging caution.  And cynicism.  We can all get caught up in this era of truthlessness.  It took only days for the Trump minions, after the media uncovered "fake news" and its influence on the election, to start to call anything questioning Trump -- you got it -- "fake news."  It didn't start this year, or even with the internet.  George Orwell called it "newspeak" and we have heard it with every invented right-wing word or phrase that has been created to curb our critical thinking skills with emotional rhetoric.

With Donald trump as the figurehead, and white supremacists making their way to the White House, with a greedy and insecure republican Congress and fearful Democrats rewriting the election to urge us all to listen to the neglected white men, we are about to take a step backward that will cause us to topple off that cliff.

These days, when the biggest liars claim to be calling out liars, we need to search for our moral compass.  Black people are being killed by cops, and white people are yelling for more guns.  Despite Dylann Roof and PizzaGate, radical right-wing Christians are calling for Muslims to be registered and tracked.  Gun deaths in the US far outnumber those in other major countries, yet legislators dog-whistle abortion and curtail women's reproductive rights in order to detract from gun deaths as well as death caused by poverty.

There is truth out there, and we can track it down.  But we need to ask the right questions.  If something doesn't make sense, it often only takes a minute to track down the source on this amazing internet.  A headline sounds incredible?  Shocking?  Too good/bad to be true?  Track it to the publisher.  Some jackass gets an award -- or gets promoted for a cabinet position?  Find out what organization is giving the award, or how the promoter connects with the nominee.

And then share the information.  We all need to be fighting for truth these days.  We'll be getting our lies straight from the leader of this currently free country soon, and the media is as vulnerable as the next person, so it is up to us to question, to learn, to inform, and, yes, to keep our media honest.

1984 comes late, but we have been warned about the normalization of Donald Trump, and we don't have to let it happen here.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Hating Hillary

About a year ago I decided it was time to read Hard Choices, Hillary Clinton's account of her years as Secretary of State.  As I began to listen to the audiobook, I was aware that I was listening for signs of dishonesty, superficiality, dodging important questions.  My approach to the book astonished me.  I had read everything she had written up to then, and was thrilled, along with so much of America and the world, by It Takes a Village, which she wrote in 1996 as First Lady.  Of course, back then the attack machine was already in full swing, with Whitewater and the idiotic Travelgate investigations.  The rumor mill was churning out lies that she murdered Vince Foster (who had committed suicide).  But I was a liberal Democrat, the internet wasn't in full political porno mode just yet, and I saw all the attacks on the Clintons as politically motivated bullshit.

Hillary sounded good then, and as I listened to Hard Choices, I realized that nothing had changed.  She was still smart, honest and caring.  But now she had the knowledge and skills that made her sound indeed like a world leader.  She dealt with the chapter on Libya and the attack in Benghazi with honesty and integrity, and provided detail that made the tragedy come alive.  What had changed, tragically, was that all those years of lies and attacks had influenced my perception of her.

This presidential election has been, really, about two people whose personas have come from decades of media attention.  For Donald Trump, it began with a very conscious effort to mold his public image.  As told in some of the excellent biographies that have come out this year, notably, Trump Revealed, The Making of Donald Trump, and Never Enough, his need to break free of his father's more modest ambitions led him to set his sights on Manhattan real estate, and on becoming known around town:  known as a lady's man, as someone who hung around in the most desirable establishments, with the most important people, and mostly, as a man of great wealth and power.  With the aid of his father's money he got his foothold in Manhattan and obsessively pursued those goals.  There was absolutely nothing Donald Trump would not do to promote his successes, even lie.  Ghostwriter of The Art of The Deal Tony Schwartz claims he's never seen Trump pick up a book to read it, but he has "written" a dozen of them, all with co-authors.  It wasn't until this presidential campaign that we saw a number of objective biographies hit the shelves.

On the other hand, hate books about Hillary have been a cottage industry for decades.  She has not ever had the luxury of building a public image on her own terms.  Hillary's public career began as Bill's wife, in Arkansas, where she immediately became ostracized for having a mind of her own and daring to speak it.  From attempting to keep her family name of Rodham when she got married, to her independent work as an attorney, it seemed everything she did riled the people of Arkansas.  And there were no worse critics than the women.

As First Lady, and with Bill's enthusiastic support, she continued to set goals that had been beyond former First Ladies.  As the left-leaning wife of a centrist president, she was charged with developing a health care proposal and ended up getting battered with the full force of the animosity of the corporate fueled right-wing political machine.  Misleading headlines and a $20 million dollar advertising campaign sponsored by the health insurance lobby fired up the public, and led to the death of badly needed health care reform.

Oh, and while she was First Lady, the press never met an issue that was too petty to critique:  along with her name, there was her hairstyle, and of course, those pantsuits.  Throughout her campaign for president, the press couldn't decide whether to ask her about her emails or go on about what she is wearing.  They mock her laugh, then complain that she doesn't smile enough, and then Breitbart comes in and attributes evil connotations to her grin.

Especially interesting is that, for all the people who hate Hillary, the best you can get from them are vague but passionate claims that "She lies," or the one word "Benghazi."  How about asking somebody what was in a single email that cost us so much in tax dollars and goodwill.  And then contrast that to the criminal activity that has, is and will continue to go on during Trump's political life.

I would like to put this into a popular culture historical perspective.

Since he threw his silly hat in the ring, Donald Trump references seem to be everywhere.  I was listening to a 1993 book by the wonderful travel writer Bill Bryson recently.  There was something in his travels that he enjoyed so very much that he would "sell his grandmother to Donald Trump" in order to be able to take one home with him.  Funny at the time, I guess.

And then there are the movies and television.  I don't believe Trump has ever said no to a cameo.  And of course, his celebrity coup was his role in The Apprentice, which I am proud to say I have never seen.  But, as I said, you never know when he will pop up on the screen.

Because I do a lot of reading and writing about the horrific state of our country these days, my nightly movie watching has taken a radical turn into rather juvenile escapism.

A couple of days ago, the movie was Home Alone 2 (1992).  Spoiler alert, Macaulay Culkin ends up in New York City.  In the Park Plaza Hotel, he stops and asks Donald Trump where the lobby is.

The following night, for a change of pace, it was Hot Shots: Part Deux (1993).  A very funny spoof of Rambo, with lots of other movies tossed in, and featuring Saddam Hussein.  But for no apparent reason, during the big fight scene with hero Topper Harley and Saddam, the phone rings, Topper picks it up, listens, then says, "It's your wife, Hillary Rodham Hussein."  Turns out that all the female characters had the middle name Rodham.

Two candidates for president, one with a nurtured public persona, the other carved over the years with rusty knives by politicians and media.  Oh, and did I mention that one of them is a woman?

Samantha Bee, also a woman, and by the way, one who was passed over to replace Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, is burning up late night TV these days with her hysterically funny and passionate political diatribes.  On her last episode before the election, she narrated a memorable history of Hillary Rodham Clinton that tells her story far better than I have.

I still wake up thinking about what we could have had.  It happened this morning.  But then I remember that, if Hillary was now president, congress would be preparing to investigate and impeach her for her imaginary crimes.

And even knowing that the hate machine would grind on, she was willing to step up and fight for us.  And she still is.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Dems Are Asking: Is It Safe to Come Out Now?

I don't know about you, but I just keep asking myself these days, "Where the hell did the Democrats go?"  There was a Senate election in Louisiana last weekend, and just as with Patrick Murphy in Florida, nary a Democrat around to throw their support to him.  It was that important that, even though the republicans had already won the Senate, both Trump and Pence were out there stumping for their guy.  But no Dems.

And we here in South Carolina have resorted to sending thanks to republican Senator Lindsey Graham for taking a stand on investigating Russia's manipulation of our presidential election.  Meanwhile, google our own Jim Clyburn and all you come up with for news is that on November 30 he announced his support for Jaime Harrison for head of the DNC.  Try googling "Jim Clyburn Russia" and the lack of news will make you want to cry.

Or spit.  Which is what I have been doing a lot of lately.  With twitter rants that threaten to destroy US / Fill In Country Here diplomacy and major US businesses, our president-elect is just beginning to enjoy the power he will wield on January 20.  As we have come to expect, our Democrats in Congress, with a very few notable exceptions, are willing to crawl as one under a rock and wait till it all blows over, at which time we may well no longer have a democracy.

Let us take a moment to remember the Obama Inauguration in 2009.  At the very time we were tearfully welcoming in our hope and change president, republican leaders were secretly congregating to figure out how to block him from seeing any of that hope and change materialize.  And then they came out in public and said the same thing.  It was just that important to them.  So all we can conclude is that the threat of disemboweling all the positive change that Obama got through that obstructionist congress is just not worth sticking your neck out for.

And those brave Democrats who are speaking out against this clear threat?  The republicans have them in their sights.  Elizabeth Warren will be attacked at every turn.  Al Franken will be in the crosshairs.  Nancy Pelosi, well, they might leave her alone this time because her considerable power is already being eroded by those white men of the Blue Dog conservatives.

Way to stick together, Dems.  Don't ever disappoint us.

While creeps like Tim Ryan advise that the reason the Dems lost was that they didn't fawn over the white middle class enough, the Russians and Giuliani's New York FBI got away with the most egregious fowl play ever to happen in US electoral politics.  Trump was in charge of misdirecting the uninformed masses, Russia provided the props in terms of constant email leaks, republicans like Trey Gowdy gave the lies the guise of authenticity in Congress, and FBI Director James Comey was coerced into nailing the election with the last-minute sleight-of-hand that kept just enough Democrats away from the polls.  Meanwhile, idiots like Andrea Mitchell and Chuck Todd did the dirty work we all thought was the purview of Fox News by prefacing every damn news segment by saying that Trump and Clinton were the most disliked candidates in history, equating the proven crimes of Donald Trump with the mistruths being spread about Clinton.

And when our Democratic Party adds that all up, what do they come up with?  That Hillary didn't reach all those white voters; that she didn't show enough of herself; that people don't trust her; that she wasn't genuine; that blah blah blah....

Well, let me tell you, Party Dems.  You may be afraid to come out and represent all of us.  Or you may not think it is possible to reach out to all those white middle class working folk if you keep talking about what the rest of us need.

Or maybe you think that the country blames you for being in the "do-nothing" congress.  If that is true, it is because you have failed to speak up EVERY TIME the republicans blocked progress.  This should have been a piece of cake.  The republicans gave the narrative to us on a silver platter:  "Our economy has gotten stronger since the last failed republican administration in spite of the obstructionist republicans.  Just imagine if Obama had had a majority in congress that was willing to work with him to move the country forward -- imagine what he could have done."

But instead, in 2010, Blue Dogs lost in Kentucky and Texas (yes I mean you Wendy Davis), by backing away from both liberal issues and from President Obama.

And here they are, once again, after the incredible popularity of Bernie Sanders, talking about how they are going to cooperate with the takeover of our government by a plutocracy which purpose is to further the wealth of the few, predominantly the Trumps.  Admitted ties to Russia, and nobody on our side is yelling for the release of tax returns.  Remember Paul Manafort, former Trump campaign manager?  After he was found to have ties to the Ukraine, Trump let him go with a nod and a wink, and sure enough, now that he doesn't need your vote anymore, Manafort is back, bigger and dirty as ever.  For gods' sake, Democrats have been heard singing the praises of racist Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, likely our next attorney general.

So while Paul Ryan is scheming over taking away our social security and medicare (food stamps is small potatoes these days), the Democratic Party is waiting for the republicans to take front and center against the incoming corrupt regime.  That is, when they are not debating among themselves as to whether they should bring a gift or just wave a white flag on Inauguration Day.

Shame on you for not uniting to depose the biggest threat to the country we have had in our lifetimes.  Stop fighting over what you think Hillary did wrong and get it together to fight the real bad guy.  The voters will remember you if you do; if you don't they may never have the chance. 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Another Sleepless Night

It is 5 a.m. and I am lying in bed, and I am crying.  This is not me.  Or, at least, it is not the person I was before November 8.  As I lie in bed, I think, desperately, about my options.  I am tempted to clear my DVR of all the MSNBC and CNN news shows I tape regularly; I listen to them during the day and they haunt me at night.  I think I might try a couple more Tylenol, or a cup of tea.  Then I decide to get up and post.

After a lifetime of being afraid of dying, I find myself relieved that most of my life is past.

I try not to think about my kids.

It is quite amazing, watching our democracy being destroyed.  We have seen the wealthy fighting with their many dollars to take over the whole thing for decades now, since they nearly lost the fight in the middle of the last century.  They won't let that happen again.  Irony is the policy that prevails as Trump lines up an anti-education billionaire to run the department of education, an anti-worker billionaire to head the department of labor, an oil billionaire to run the EPA (into the ground), a billionaire whose life goal is privatizing Medicare to head HHS,  a racist to run the department of justice, and for balance, a couple of idiots for HUD and the UN.

And these are not the scary appointments.  They are the ones that can take down our programs, but it is the military arm of our new cabinet that will take down our democracy.

Our furor enjoys his Victory Rallies (He wanted to call them "Thank You" rallies, but KellyAnne advised him to tone it down.).  He especially likes the cheers he gets when he proclaims General "Mad Dog" Mattis as his choice for secretary of defense.  His voice gets all funny when he says, "Mad Dog" and as much as I fight it, I can imagine him lying on his side of the bed getting hot over the thought of the Mad Dog.  "Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet," is a quote for which Mad Dog Mattis is famous.  He has a lot of them.

On our own shores, Trump has picked paranoia and son, General Michael Flynn and Jr., for national security adviser, the latter more in an advisory role.  He was pursuing a security clearance for junior, who came close to blowing it by having his crazy tweets implicated in the incident of the nutcase who "self-investigated" the satanic cult hiding in a pizza parlor.  I say, came close to blowing it, because we all know that Trump sees the word "no" as only a temporary barrier, a challenge, one that money and influence can easily remove, and these days he has ever more of both.

National security adviser.  If you can continue reading after that, there is indeed more.  On the foreign front is Mike Pompeo, proposed head of the CIA, who can now continue to investigate Hillary with new purpose and energy.  Here on the home front, to head the already creepily named Department of Homeland Security, will be another retired general, John Kelly.  He will be in charge of rounding people up:  Hispanics, Muslims, and I imagine anybody that gets in the way of his round-up.  Maybe journalists and, I don't know, bloggers.  There will certainly be investigations of commie groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center.  And Kelly is the moderate of the bunch.

Also lined up to militarize these United States is David Petraeus, maybe for the big enchilada, Secretary of State.  But first they have to figure out what to do about his guilty charge for mishandling classified materials, leaking secrets to his lover.  Wonder where Jason Chaffetz and Trey Gowdy are these days?  I would think that after all the Sturm und Drang (yeah, I know how appropriate that is) over Hillary's emails, they would at least wake up long enough to make a statement of concern.

Here is the thing.  Trump is an insecure, obsessive narcissist who we know is motivated by revenge.  And he has -- oh, I haven't mentioned it yet? -- Steve Bannon as his Trump-whisperer.  This is how bad Bannon is -- Karl Rove and Glenn Beck have spoken out against him.  Bannon is the secular evil to Mike Pence's religious evil.  Bannon is Hitler's adviser, and Trump adores Bannon.  Bannon knows just the right way to flatter the leader of the once-free world.  He also knows how to rile the crowd. was his trial run for taking over the country.

I know where in Trump's brain the billionaires came from.  Helped along by the right-wing GOP and huge donations, those picks were no-brainers.  But the military, the military came from the kind of evil that is Steve Bannon.

I am thinking in phrases of 140 characters these days.  And hashtags.  When I wake up in the middle of the night I find myself thinking of tweets that I could send out like alarms to people who could save us.  To the Democrats, who at this point can't even get it together to fight for the one Senate seat up for grabs in Louisiana, much less fight for our democracy.  And who continue to want to prove that they aren't obstructionists.  To the media, who mostly I think we should give daily, "Most Inane Question" awards to.  Just how many times can you ask various Trump minions whether Mitt Romney is still being considered for Secretary of State?

My heart goes out to the Democrats who are smart and courageous enough to see this threat for what it is, and who plan on fighting.  And journalists who will in the days to come be risking their careers (maybe even their freedom; remember Judith Miller).  I hold great hope for Obama to come forward and fight to maintain the democracy he has already saved from the brink of economic failure.  And after a time, Hillary will join the fight.  But there may be a day, with all those generals and all those police forces that Trump courted with his vows of "law and order," when imprisoning political enemies in the United States of America becomes a reality.

No, I am not paranoid.  I know just enough history to see the signs.  Thinking that we are above the fray because we have a strong democracy means that our leaders, from the spineless Paul Ryan to the West Virginia "Democrat" Joe Manchin, would have to fight the abhorrent and extremely telling staff choices Trump has made.  And they won't.  Biden and Harry Reid have both made conciliatory noises pretending to like some of Trump's picks.  Will Dems run scared and choose someone safe to lead their party over progressive black Muslim-American Keith Ellison?  Boy, now is not the time to cower, folks.  (Note to media:  the most pressing issue about Ellison's bid is NOT whether he stays in Congress while he serves as DNC chair.)

Well, the sun is coming up.  I had an emergency piece of medicinal chocolate that I smuggled home from Denver before I began my blog, and I am hoping I will be able to escape through sleep for a couple of hours.  But we all have to keep returning to the reality of a Trump oligarchy.  We have to stop trying to find the good in the turd.  We have to keep trying things we've never done before, like appeal to the Electors to dump Trump.  We can't use ignorance as an excuse.  We can't let Democrats compromise us out of our democracy.

We can't let the generals take over.  And we have to #StopBannon.

Trump is an idiot.  But he is a rich and powerful idiot, and he knows how to buy smart and powerful people.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Challenge to Democratic Party: Why Should I Care?

In its typical tone-deaf fashion, days after "Giving Tuesday," when we were all exhausted from being hammered by requests for donations by hundreds of worthy causes, I got an email from the South Carolina Democratic Party asking for -- not $3, not $5 -- a $25 donation.

The accompanying message, which I scanned rather than read, included the words "whites only."  It contained the terrifying idea that Henry McMaster would be our new governor soon, as though he might be worse than Nikki Haley.  Basically, the message was, "Scary things are happening, so give us money."

Meanwhile, on another absurd front, SCDP Chair Jamie Harrison, who kept popping up on MSNBC before the SC primaries and then disappeared during the general election, has resurfaced in order to seek the position of -- and I can't believe I am saying this -- Chair of the Democratic National Committee.  When asked why he feels he is qualified, we hear all about how he came up in politics.  Nothing about anything important that is going on right now.  Not to mention, why he should be considered given the sad state of Democratic politics in South Carolina under his watch.

This is what the SCDP is missing:

Voters can't possibly understand the complexities of the dirty games being played in politics (and I try, I really do).  We don't have the time to follow bills being introduced on a state or national level, much less sort out the meaning behind the bills.  Or where they come from.  They don't know the candidates or office holders, really.

What people know about politics is in the headlines.  And if it is too dense, they dismiss it.  Which pretty much describes the success of the republican party.  They, and their current leader, have been able to reframe issues and point voters in any direction they choose, just by using simple and stark phrases.  Remember the threatened "death panels" from Obamacare?  How about "death taxes," leading us all to believe that after we die, the government would take all our hard-earned money from our children?  Trump turned it into an obscene art form, boiling down the essence of his opponents to easy-to-remember memes like "lying Ted" and "crooked Hillary."

If the SCDP, or the DNC for that matter, want to get voters involved, they need to do two things:  educate themselves about the bills that are being written, and then educate the voters in a way that is meaningful to us.

For weeks, we have been hearing about the "emoluments clause" of the constitution.  Don't feel bad if you don't know what it means, even though you've heard it in the news a zillion times.  It has no meaning to us.  The first thing the republicans would do if they wanted voters to pay attention to the emoluments clause is:  rename it.  Turn it into a catchy, solid, simple phrase that is full of emotional meaning.  "Gifts for favors" conveys the idea more simply, but it doesn't have the emotional punch.  So I posted the idea on Facebook and Twitter, in the hope that others more clever than I will come up with the phrase that will let everybody know that the Trump family is planning on wheeling and dealing with corporate and world leaders while he is president so that he can increase his power and fortune.  In other words, reaping emoluments.

And let's take a look at Congress.  Just this week, to great fanfare about the new bipartisanship, the grandiose "21st Century Cures Act" passed the House, 392-26.  I heard it was to honor Joe Biden and his work to fund cancer research in the name of his son.  Even so, this was highly suspicious.  It took a little research, but not too much, to find that Elizabeth Warren in the Senate, had spoken in opposition to this bill.  Apparently, the pharmaceutical industry is going to make out like bandits from its passage.  Listen to Senator Warren:

You may be wondering a few years from now why we haven't cured cancer.  This is a clue.

And on the subject of Elizabeth Warren, Congress has set its sights on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which she designed in order to curb overpricing and fraud in financial services, like in those credit cards we all carry.  Along with that, they plan on deregulating the banking industry further by cutting back if not eliminating the Dodd-Frank Act and the Volcker Rule, which were intended to prevent the financial chaos and destruction of the 2008 Recession, you know, where people lost their houses because big banks were allowed to gamble them away.  And this bill is called -- are you ready for it? -- the Financial Choice Act.

Feeling the need to further mask their true intent, the House this week passed a bill that moved forward tsunami research AND tweak -- deregulate -- Dodd-Frank:

H.Res.934 - Providing for consideration of the Senate amendment to the bill (H.R. 34) to authorize and strengthen the tsunami detection, forecast, warning, research, and mitigation program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and for other purposes, and providing for consideration of the bill (H.R. 6392) to amend the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to specify when bank holding companies may be subject to certain enhanced supervision, and for other purposes.

Now this is something we might pay attention to.

If the Democratic Party, both state and national, were to send out alerts whenever an explosive bill comes to the floor and tell us 1) what it means and 2) why it matters, and in actual easy to understand English, we all might become more invested in seeing our interests served.

And yet.  All we get are scary images of Henry McMaster taking over for Nikki Haley.  Or vague threats of what a Trump presidency will do to our country.

Y'all got to do better, Democratic Party.  Because nobody is hearing you.  And sending out a fund raising email three days after Giving Tuesday trying to get us to cough up another $25 without giving us a solid reason is proof that you aren't hearing us.

Friday, December 2, 2016

What We Want to Hear

I turned on the TV last night and of course, there was that ugly face with the tiny mouth.  Surrounded by gullible people hanging on every ridiculous word.  I was only able to watch for less than five minutes.  I had heard it all before, in various forms, many times over the past couple of years, but not by someone who had the authority of the presidency behind him.  So, nauseated, I turned it off and watched a movie.

The thing that is hardest to grapple with, and I am being brutally honest with myself here, is that the words coming out of the mouth are words we all want to hear.  Jobs are going to come back.  We are not going to let corporations push us around.  We are not going to have to suffer low wages anymore.  And all in that calm and sonorous voice that he has rehearsed, so that he doesn't break into the rhythms and bellicosity of the madman that he really is.

And so, he tells us what we want to hear.  And then he tells magnificent, appalling lies.  Millions of illegal votes.  Lying media.  People who are going to try to stop him from fighting for us, and to prevent us from getting what we deserve.

This is the world of the dictator.  This is how it happens.  Convinced that we should be afraid, that our secure lives no longer exist.  And the germ of truth is that, yes, our way of life has been threatened, our quality of life drastically reduced.  But the bait and switch is that those who have caused this to happen -- greedy corporations, right-wing millionaires and billionaires, power mad religious leaders and arms dealers -- are the ones who will be given greater power in the years to come.  Job security, health care, safety in our homes and in the streets, they will continue to die.

If Trump does his job well, the blame for the failure to come will be placed solidly in the laps of those who are trying to right the wrongs:  liberal democrats, the media, progressive leaders, responsible and knowledgeable judges.  He succeeded so well in turning reason on its head during his campaign, it stands to reason that these falsehoods will continue to work.


...except if the media continues to expose the lies.  They need to continue to learn to stop focusing on the wizard and get behind the curtain to expose the carnival barker.  And they need those of us who can to pay for their product, the hard won facts of the investigation.

...except if those lawyers and legal systems that have fought against discrimination and hate continue to make public the evil that turns us one against the other.  Who have run on a shoestring budget under the best of times, and now need more staff and greater publicity, and who need us to give what we can whenever we can.

...and except if each of us will fearlessly defend each of us.  We need to be united in the face of bigotry and scapegoating, because turning us against each other is the clearest path to the success of a dictator.  This is not just trying to correct lies and misleading information when our family and friends repeat it, although this is important.  We need to see each of our causes as our own.  I am a white-haired white woman who will never be stopped and frisked; I am not going to be forced to register my existence based on my religion.  But my daughter's reproductive freedom, and her privacy and right to the best medical care and advice will be threatened.  I will never have laws made that will monitor my use of a public restroom, or will tell me who I can marry.  But I may well lose the admittedly minimal financial security provided by social security, and like others of all ages, my health insurance.

Our right to live where we want will be jeopardized, especially if the Kochs or Trumps decide they need an oil pipeline or a luxury hotel or golf course where our homes are located.  We will be excluded from ever more places in our own country.  We will be denied access to information, as well as the right to speak our mind (as I am doing now) or question the words of others.

We -- most of us -- have lived under the assumption all our lives that we were free.  Free to talk, free to move around, free to believe as we choose, free to associate with whomever we want.

Imagine those freedoms gone, because they may be.  The "law and order" candidate will soon be in charge.  Those who thought that was a good idea may soon find that they are also on the wrong end of the law, especially if it conflicts with the special interests that will be running the country.  People who thought "religious freedom" meant that they were free may be shocked to find that some of their beliefs are no longer able to be freely expressed.  Chances are, every one of us could be on the wrong side of the "law" in these years when might will make right.

Yes, that has always been true.  But some of us were safer than others.  And most of us could feel secure in the knowledge that our own little differences weren't the ones under scrutiny.  But in a dictatorship, the tides can turn in an instant.  We have seen the man coming into power contradict himself within the same sentence.  He holds to no moral code, his only consistent value is his own importance.  He will and has attacked a perceived enemy and then welcomed him as a brother; likewise, he has thrown partners to the wolves and will do so again if it serves his own ego.

So who can trust Donald Trump?  Not any of us.  But today he is the most powerful man in the world.  Today it is us against him.  When he tries to tell us what we want to hear, we need to be brutally honest with ourselves.  If we can do this, and if we stand together, we can fight the tyranny.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Let Us Recount Together

I heard the wonderful Joy Reid say yesterday, with passion, that people who are donating toward recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania should instead send their money to Democrat Foster Campbell, towards a yet undecided senate race in Louisiana.  It is a long shot indeed, but boy wouldn't it be nice to have another Democratic senator.

Well, the recount is certainly a long shot, but wouldn't it be great to have T. Rump's "presidency" overturned before the cast of The Deplorables takes over and all we can do is damage control.

So why not donate to both?

I am surprised, as always, by my fellow Democrats' willingness to fight over just about anything.  I even heard some trash talk about Jill Stein, Green Party presidential candidate who has spearheaded the move to recount, and her possible involvement with Russia, based on television interviews on Russian TV network, RT.  Come on folks, can we not throw out the baby with the dirty bath water here?  Faux president T. Rump has more than enough ties to Russia to keep us paranoid.

I don't know why Stein is on Russian TV.  Maybe she believes we can all be friends, maybe she secretly owns a hotel there.  But let us stop being yanked around by those who have been silent about the T. Rump Russia connection and are now trumpeting the news that Stein has ties to Russia.

I for one, am glad that Stein has taken up this cause.  There were so very many raised eyebrows over how Hillary could lose those three states, that had been in her column for months, and lose by so very little.  Whether it is fraud or the kind of callousness that happens when those in charge are being pressured to come up with definitive results, that small margin in those three states certainly makes a recount reasonable.

I'm wondering why we should go quietly.  Just look at the hissy-fit the madman has been having over Twitter since the recount actually became a thing.  Shouldn't we be tired of being beaten about with lies, threats and braggadocio by this small-minded bully?  We still, for awhile, live in the strongest democracy in the world; now would be the time to push our rights to the limit.

Don't forget, it was T. Rump who on election day, attempted through a lawsuit to force Nevada to omit certain votes obtained during early voting in high Latino areas.  He falsely claimed voters were let into polling places after hours; in fact, it was voters who were already in line when the polls closed that were allowed to vote.    Even if it didn't work, it may have kept a few people from exercising their rights, so, to T. Rump, it was a win-win.

And how about North Carolina soon-to-be-unemployed governor Pat McCrory and his expensive and time-consuming tantrum over his losing tally?   Democrat Roy Cooper is ahead by nearly 8,000 votes, but McCrory just can't believe that this is happening.  And for good reason.  He and his minions in the state legislature have worked hard to rig the election to prevent Democrats from voting.  He is like the Grinch when he hears the Whos in Whoville singing even after he has stolen their Christmas.  How can this be???

If you are still wondering why we should be backing this recount effort, convinced that it will not change results, you may be right about the latter.  But there are so many reasons we should be behind this.  The one that smacks me in the head every time is all the various dirty tricks that have been played during this election season, from lies to the actual republican woman who was caught trying to vote twice for the Rump.  There were the repeated calls during rallies for supporters to "watch" suspect polling places -- "because of you know what I'm talking about."  Then there is the Crosscheck software program, ever popular when you want to purge the voter rolls.  And don't forget the Russians: spies, hackers and fake news.

Here is the greatest reason of all.  We now more than ever need to ask the questions.  We need to insist on facts, not tweets and tantrums.  We need to insist that we see what is going on in our government.  There is nothing wrong with demanding an audit of our voting process, especially now.  Especially when there has been so much proof that the other side will stoop to whatever it takes to win.  If we believe that our democracy is important, and I'm hearing from a lot of us that they -- we -- are fearing its loss, we need to stand up for transparency.  Our voting process has been under attack for far too long, while we have had too few defenders.

Maybe Pat McCrory will win back the governorship, fair and square.  I hope not, but it could happen.  He is not going to leave any stone unturned in his quest for victory.  And we should not leave any stone unturned either.  Because our quest is not just for victory; it is to stand up for our democracy, and for our right for our votes to be counted.

So, Jill, I'm all in.  And thanks for stepping up.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

ACLU -- Now More Than Ever

On October 3, I wrote about the American Civil Liberties Union, and their upcoming visit to Charleston County Democratic Women.  Then along came Hurricane Matthew, and the meeting was postponed.  And then, along came the presidential election, and the world truly shifted.  So that the rescheduled presentation by the ACLU at CCDW seems even more relevant than it was two short months ago.

It is obvious that during the upcoming administration, the only people whose rights will not be violated are those of the Trump family.  Now, don't get me wrong, Mike Pence is the religious right's version of Dick Cheney, and he deserves whatever he gets.  But I am betting he has had to compromise every day since he has accepted that unholy deal for power.

There is already a line of supplicants who have or are in the process of being humiliated by Trump.  In true godfather fashion, he publicly banished Chris Christie as a favor to the hideous Jared Kushner, his son-in-law.  He has forced Rudy Giuliani to scrape and bow while keeping him in the wings waiting for the announcement regarding his choice for secretary of state.  And the media is all over the rumor that Mitt Romney will have to publicly apologized to Trump for his (truly justified) attacks during the campaign.

But those are his friends, those with political power and status, ethically questionable though it may be.

Trump loves to push the powerful around.  But he also has a special place for the rest of us.  Donald Trump likes us to be there to work for him, to flatter him, to need him, to be at his mercy.  He doesn't see us as individuals, not even the ones who stood out at his rallies: "Look at my African-American over there."  Of course he usually has a hard time distinguishing all but our dominant characteristics, so at another rally he called another black supporter a "thug" and had him thrown out.

Donald Trump will go after pretty much all of us in the end.  We once, just a couple of months ago, could talk about groups that are getting discriminated against and vilified.  In this new America, there is not anyone outside of the Trump family that is not at risk.  I have been losing sleep over the thought of mass deportations and internment camps, journalists and Hillary Clinton being imprisoned for being considered threats.  I have worried about workers who will lose their admittedly shaky claim to wages and benefits, and those who have been covered by Obamacare, as well as the poor who have relied on what little Medicaid had to offer.  I have thought about the increased risk that union leaders and peaceful protesters will now face.  I have worried about those whose skin is darker, who already feared walking down the street or wearing a hijab, those whose sexual identities make them vulnerable to bullying and violence.

Last night, though, I lost sleep because I heard that Paul Ryan is salivating at the thought of putting social security and medicare on the chopping block.

So, we are all truly in this mess together.

Yes, there are more of us.  But the others have power, and money, and too often even the law and lawyers on their side.  Before Trump, cops killed innocent people with impunity, and resented having their actions called into question, even if more often than not, they were not made to pay.  And Trump has bragged that he will be "the law and order president."

What we need right now are the organizations who have stood by us in the past, and fought for us.  Groups like the ACLU.

On Thursday, Executive Director Shaundra Scott and Legal Director Susan Dunn will be the speakers at the Charleston County Democratic Women monthly meeting.  It will be held at the  Riverview Holiday Inn at 6:00.  The cost of the dinner buffet is $20.  If you can, please donate to both the ACLU and Charleston County Democratic Women.  These organizations will continue to exist and be strong as long as we stand behind them.

I am looking forward to this meeting, even more than I was in October.  I hope to see you there.

(RSVP to Jan Leonard, or at the Charleston County Democratic Women Facebook page, under events.)


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Know Your Enemy

The Ironic Cherry reads...

Trump Revealed
by Michael Kranish & Marc Fisher

In its wisdom, The Charleston County Library acquired Trump Revealed one week before the election.  I was first on the waiting list, but happy to see that they had at least ordered several copies.  It is an easy read.  As it turns out, there is absolutely nothing about Donald Trump that is complicated.  But it was still hard for me to swallow, so I paced myself at thirty pages a day, after which I still felt I needed a shower.

Then came election day, and I decided to set it aside, and finish it after a few days, when the need was no longer so pressing.  As if.

Please, please, please read this book.  It is written by two Washington Post journalists, with the contributions of many more Post writers.  Each took a topic from Trump's life and thoroughly researched it.  So we have good insights and information on Trump's father, Fred, and his immigration to America through his real estate career.  Donald at his side, learning the family business, and then to military academy, and then branching off into his own career.

Though we have learned a great deal of Trump history over the past year and a half there is detail in this book that adds much important information, both in understanding the personality and in all the controversies we have heard about.

It was Donald Trump's father that went through the Depression, but Trump retains that penny-pinching need to accrue ever greater wealth that we associate with survivors of that depression.  The authors describe the Spy Magazine prank in which they sent celebrities checks for miniscule amounts to see who would cash them -- Trump cashed a check for 13 cents.  On a grander scale, it explains his lack of charitable giving, and his use of Trump Foundation funds for personal acquisitions.

On the other hand, while he is truly cheap, Trump has a strong need to be perceived as "rich."  He has sued publications for asserting that he is not as wealthy as he claims.  His denials of help from his father are vehement, and false.

Which leads to his lies.  And Donald Trump is a compulsive liar.  He lies even when he has nothing to gain from it.  He lies unflinchingly when he senses opportunity, either to win someone over or knock someone down.

The authors describe an aspect of Trump's manipulation of people that I found particularly interesting and clarifying.  If he perceives someone as threatening to him (and yes, we all know about his thin skin), he will attack.  Attack with insults, threats and lawsuits.  But quite often, after some time has passed, he will reach out to that person, complimenting him for example on what a talented individual he is, and inviting him to partner with him.

We look on in puzzled horror as Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz and all the other spineless members of the republican party have caved.  Trump has perfected this type of manipulation in his life in business, and weak-kneed politicians who are concerned only with self-preservation are proving to be easily sucked in.

He is NOT smart, but he has the narcissistic fine tuning of the successful bully that picks up weaknesses, twists arguments, throws his weight around, pits people against each other to his advantage, and when the time is right, uses sweet talk to seal the deal.

I am watching the manipulations with members of Congress unfold, and while it is not rocket science, Trump's tactics work.

Our liberal defenders need to understand what is happening.  And we need to understand as well, because we are the ones who will be in a position to explain to other Americans what is happening.  The better to defend ourselves from the onslaught of the what Paul Ryan yesterday gleefully referred to as the unified republican party.

So please make time to read this important book...

...even if you can only stomach a few pages at a time.  And even if you have to set it face down -- as I did -- when you aren't reading.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Silver Lining

It occurs to me that Silver Lining is the color of the roofing tiles I am having installed this very minute, with great noise and fanfare, thanks to Hurricane Matthew.  There have been a few Hispanic men hammering away since minutes after seven, no coffee break, no stopping to talk, just hard, physical work.  I don't know if they are legal immigrants or not, and, honestly, nobody really cares if it keeps the price of their new roof lower.  All the protests are bullshit and dog whistles, shamefully attacking and victimizing good people.

But other than the coincidental title of this post, that is not what I need to talk about today.  Today I'm not quite through my period of mourning, for Hillary, for our country, for all the mean and ignorant or just naive and foolish voters who hammered their own nails into all our coffins on Tuesday.  But I have been commiserating with friends, and posting on facebook, and talking to my kids, and just as with George W. Bush in 2000, there is a day after this one too.

In fact, I have started to compile a list of all the things we have to look forward to during the "presidency" of He-Who-Just-Cannot-Be-Named.

For one thing, once they have worked through their own mourning, our wonderful comedians will have far better fuel than they would have had with Hillary in the White House.  I imagine Samantha Bee has only just been getting warmed up during the election season.  And Alec Baldwin, after working so hard to nail Trump, surely will be willing to show up (or call in) to SNL from time to time.  After all, we did miss Tina Fey's Sarah Palin once we didn't have the original around anymore.

I am also thinking that, given Trump's failure to grasp economics and his need to continue to be adored by those undereducated and underpaid workers, it is just possible that those of us liberals who work hard for too little will also reap the benefits, at least till the crash.  And as long as Donald doesn't insist on an ideological test for us white Americans, I should be okay for awhile.  It occurs to me with some relief that when the Bush years started I was on the low end of the wage scale, so when they ended I hadn't lost anything.  And now that I am attempting to live on Paul Ryan's social security, it seems not that much has changed.

Let's be honest, Donald Trump is a hoot.  He is every bit as stupid as W., but without the charm.  I am looking forward to those 365 day calendars of Trumpisms, and for a couple of reasons.  Not only were those idiotic gems ("More of our imports come from overseas.") something to brighten the dark days, but at the end of the Bush years I had stacks of scrap paper, perfect for phone messages and grocery lists.  And I am running low.

The younger generation, those we have been falsely accusing of being disinterested in politics, are infuriated.  They have truly had it with people trying to legislate their bodies, and sexual and marital choices.  They are sick to death of big corporations getting handouts from the government while they are spending their young lives trying to pay back student loans while failing to get a job that pays what they are worth.  They are not going to tolerate intolerance of race or religious choice.  The riots and protests over racism aren't going to stop, and women are not going to be forced to choose between an unwanted  pregnancy or a backroom abortion.  My son, who could be safely ensconced in his Ph.D. program, has told me that as he has become an activist, he knows he may someday be arrested, and it is a risk he is willing to take, a sentiment that fills me with pride even more than fear.

It will be fun to see the reaction of Trump supporters when Congress finally succeeds in repealing Obamacare.  They apparently had forgotten that before the ACA insurance premiums rose precipitously each year.  That will be a happy thing to watch, for me anyway.  As long as the Democrats are ready to yell loud and long when the right wingnuts try to blame it on Obama -- and probably Hillary as well.

And while they are targeting others for their failures, let us also remember that our new "president" gets bored with people when they have outlived their usefulness.  I can only imagine that it won't take long for the smugly pious Mike Pence to get under Donald's skin.  Imagine the name calling, followed eventually by the inevitable tweets.  And wouldn't it be fun at some point to hear that Pence has been "fired."

Of course, once Pence is gone it will be safe to impeach Trump.  And wasn't that clever of whichever brains-behind-the-boss manipulated Trump into choosing the white-haired Satan for his running mate?  Anyway, point being, nothing lasts forever in Trumpworld.

Along the way, it isn't going to take long for these characters to put the economy into the toilet.  And once it is there, I would say by 2018, the voters will be ready to appeal to a Democratic Congress to get us out of the toilet.

Again, though, let us not forget the Bush years.  And Trump's reigning philosophy.  When some lose, others win.  For a couple of years I had been able to afford amazing timeshare rental vacations, weeklong getaways at resorts for $500 a week, the cost of the annual maintenance fee for those who needed to recoup the cost more than take the vacation.  That ended with the resurgence of the economy (thanks, Obama).  Now, the vacations that went for $60 a night are up over $300 a night.  But when the economy tanks, and until they take away my social security, I'll be able to get in on a couple of weeks a year of vacations on the beach once again.

I honestly can't believe that here we are, doing the Bush years over again.  But our electorate truly does have a short memory.  And they are gullible, easily manipulated.  It takes the pain of an interminable war and the tanking of the economy to the point of loss of jobs and homes before they realize that those sugar-spun fantasies of cutting taxes in order to make us rich are just fantasies.

On Tuesday afternoon, before the end, it occurred to me that this race was more like Nixon than Bush.  The Trump crowd that adopted "lying Hillary" as their mantra and made excuses for Trump's blatantly illegal and immoral behaviors could have been the same hardhats that chanted that they would rather have a crook in the White House than Hubert Humphrey.

It is hilarious that in retrospect, Nixon doesn't look that bad.  It is criminal though, that our memories have been so thoroughly wiped of all the damage done in the Reagan years that Democratic and republican politicians alike would no sooner fail to mention Ronald Reagan than walk onto a stage without a flag pin.

And then there were the Bush years, as we went from a growing economy to the brink of disaster.  Bad choices made by a gullible president at the behest of the evil Dick Cheney.  And surrounded by a cabinet of ideological idiots.

And finally, here we are again, with a growing economy, a strong military, better foreign relations than we have had for quite a while, more jobs and even wages slowly rising.   Instead of Bill Clinton, we have the most admirable couple to grace the White House maybe in my memory.  And instead of Al Gore, we have Hillary Clinton.

Instead of the evil capitalist Dick Cheney behind the wheel, we have the evil religious fanatic Mike Pence.  And then we have the proposed cabinet of deplorables:  Chris Christie, the guy who claims he didn't know about "bridge-gate;" Newt Gingrich, the man who ended his marriage at his wife's hospital bed, and last but truly least, Rudy Giuliani, whose contact with reality is so completely shot that he believes the US was not attacked on George W. Bush's watch.  That same Giuliani by the way, who giggled like a madman a couple of weeks ago when he alluded to his knowledge of the FBI re-opening the investigation into Hillary's emails as another surprise.  Yeah, he's going to be the next attorney general.

So, lots of reasons to weep, and hopefully lots of comedy potential as well.  And lots of reasons to get fired up to fight.  It is true that we will be fighting two branches of government rather than just congress.  But with a cast of characters as shady and corrupt as this bunch, as long as we fight as fearlessly as did Bernie and Hillary for what is right, as long as we don't let the bullies intimidate us, we can not only survive but win this thing.  And by "this thing" I pretty much mean our country and our freedoms.