Peter J. Ponzio
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Friday, May 12th, 2017

“Hail Emperor!  Those who are about to die salute you!” Suetonius, in his book The Twelve Caesars, claims that Roman gladiators who entered the Colosseum during the reign of Claudius saluted the emperor with this refrain.  Although Suetonius mentions this quote, the phrase is of dubious historical accuracy.  Nevertheless, the idea that men who were being sent to their death offered praise to Caesar is somehow ironically fitting.  Why would a man about to engage in mortal combat salute the very man who condemned him to this fate?  Perhaps the irony of the phrase was lost on Caesar. Donald Trump, present day Caesar, the man who holds himself to be above the law, and is as tone-deaf as was Claudius, does not seem to understand irony either.  When he instructed his staff to concoct a story about why he fired FBI Director James Comey, he did not seem to understand that the initial reason for the firing—that Comey bungled Hilary Clinton’s email investigation—would not hold up under scrutiny.  Ever the spin-master, Trump later revealed that he decided to fire Comey regardless of the letter he received from Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.  Trump’s revelation was a blatant contradiction of the explanations reasons given by Sean Spicer, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Vice President Mike Pence and Kellyanne Conway.  Perhaps Trump, who is maniacal in his insistence of loyalty from his staff, should have them repeat this oath of loyalty before commenting on his actions: “Hail Emperor!  Those who are about to lie salute you!” Sad!  Very sad!

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

The Reality TV President Anyone who doubted Donald Trump’s temperament as an impediment to functioning as President of the United States, was told that his/her doubts were misguided.  As Trump has repeatedly reminded us, he is the duly-elected President of the United States.  He has also reminded everyone that as President, he is above the law (see his tweets after the executive order on immigration was over-ruled by the judiciary). His recent string of firings, fist Sally Yates, then Michael Flynn, then Preet Bharara, and now James Comey, harkens back to his days as reality-TV on The Apprentice.  With little or no warning or justification, contestants on the show would be summoned before his Trumpness and told they had been fired.  For those gullible enough to watch this pretentious, unrealistic and laughable program that was aired under the guise of a business primer, the real appeal was to find out the latest person to be savaged by Trump.  It seems that Trump, and his “producers” Sean Spicer, Kellyanne Conway, Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon have concluded that if it worked on a reality-TV show, the same drama could be repeated at the White House with similar aplomb.  You see, firing someone is great for ratings, and the Trump White House is obsessed with ratings.  From Trump’s fictional claims that he won the popular vote, to his claims that his inaugural crowd was the largest in history, to his repeated assertions that the polls which show him to have the lowest approval rating of any President in modern history for the first 100 days in office were fake, Trump is obsessed with his perception as a ‘winner” and media darling. His firing of James Comey is the latest example of Trump’s idea that the White House should be run like a syndicated television program, and that the only thing that matters is winning the ratings war.  He believed, according to reports, that his firing of Comey would be seen as positive to both Democrats and Republicans; in other words, he would score a long-sought ratings coup.  He did not count on pushback from both parties based on the, to Trump, absurd concept of rule of law.  After all, what does the rule of law have to do with ratings victories, which are more akin to the rule of the jungle? The sad part of Trump’s presidency is that the Republican Party is content to sink further into the slime oozing from this man in an attempt to pass through their agenda, whatever the hell that is, since they can’t seem to agree with each other about the nature of the agenda.  Sometimes, people speak the truth even though they attempt to obfuscate.  Consider Paul Ryan’s assertion after the initial defeat of the House bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  To paraphrase Ryan, he noted that the Republican Party had acted as an obstructionist party for so long that they did not know how to govern. It would seem that Ryan and the Republicans have hitched their wagon to a man who does know how to govern:  entertain the masses; give them an execution every few months; win the ratings war; lie with impunity; to hell with the rule of law. Sad!  Very sad!

Monday, May 8th, 2017

“This is the Trump era;” Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Yes, Jeff Sessions is correct—this is the Trump era.  And how will that era be marked by history?  If the events of the first hundred-plus days

of Donald Trump’s presidency provide any clue, we can make some predictions about how the Trump era will be viewed by historians.

It will be viewed as a time of xenophobia when fear and hatred of the “other” became normalized in America.  The Trump administration has

issued rules that are touted as attempts to protect American citizens, but are thinly disguised racial and religious forms of discrimination and

hatred.  Trump’s attempts to build a wall and deport “bad hombres,” to limit immigration and roll-back civil rights protections appeal to the

basest human instincts; instincts that fear and revile anyone who looks, thinks, or acts differently.

Trump claims to want to make America great again by eliminating regulations that protect America’s natural resources, protect consumers

against predatory practices by financial advisors, eliminating healthcare for millions of Americans in order to fund massive tax cuts that

benefit the wealthiest individuals in the country.  Trump’s campaign pledge to drain the swamp has been exposed as a plan to eliminate all

potential competitors, so that his family-run businesses can operate unfettered in the brave new world of Trump brand-building.

America’s status as world leader has been hamstrung by Trump’s utter lack of foreign policy and failure to adequately staff the State

Department.  In fact, Trump’s plan is to eliminate up to forty percent of State Department employees, while at the same time limiting the

amount of foreign aid provided to our allies.  In a similar vein, our allies must be questioning their ties to the U.S.  To date, Trump has

disparaged the Germans, Canadians, the British, and Australians, as well as backing the far-right French candidate, Marine LePen, who, like

Trump, favors protectionism, a dismantling of the European Union, and is infatuated with Vladimir Putin. 

Demagoguery is not a new phenomenon in the world; yet the extent to which the 45th President of the United States has embraced strong-

men as heroes may be unprecedented.  He has openly expressed his admiration Vladimir Putin, invited Rodrigo Duterte to the White House

and expressed grudging admiration for Kim Jong Un saying that he is a “smart cookie.”  Each of these leaders have exhibited documented

human rights abuses that Trump is willing to overlook in order to achieve his limited, short-sided, objectives.

Speaking of limited objectives, it is safe to say that strategy is not one of Trump’s strong suits.  He has been characterized as being a

“transactional” President.  According to this view, Trump makes decisions based on one-off, isolated, occurrences.  To some, this signals a

willingness to remain flexible in pursuing multiple options.  In reality, it indicates an utter lack of strategy, and a laziness in prioritizing values

and outcomes.  Of course, this assumes that there is a value structure other than the enrichment of the person of Donald Trump, to begin

with.

Trump’s idea of policy is to tweet out messages at 4:00 AM.  These messages are not crafted to emphasize a particular policy objective, but

are the ravings of a troubled mind that lashes out against anyone who dares oppose him.  They are half-formed thoughts, inarticulate

ramblings that provide a glimpse into the mind of a man so obsessed with his own self-importance that he cannot relate to the outside world

in any coordinated, meaningful way, but utters inanities in a kind of stream-of-consciousness mutter full of “sound and fury, signifying

nothing.”

Past Presidents have been admired for many qualities:  courage, resourcefulness, virtue, compassion, truthfulness, the ability to craft a

message of hope to inspire Americans.  Past Presidents attempted to appeal to the “better angels of our nature,” to be aspirational to tap

into the reserve of goodwill that Americans have for one another; to see that each citizen is bound by the “mystic chords of memory” that

bring us together.  Donald Trump possesses none of the virtues mentioned above; instead he fashions a message of divisiveness and fear.  He

does not inspire the country with a deep knowledge of and understanding of the issues that face the country:  rather he seeks to dissimulate

employing the tactics used by carnival barkers to fleece unsuspecting yokels of their hard-earned money.

Until now, there was a certain gravitas that was expected of the President of the United States:  a feeling that he was, in some way, the best

of the many citizens who comprise this country.  Instead of the first among equals, we have a reality television host who bellows out his

empty accomplishments, spews falsehoods on a daily basis, castigates anyone who has the temerity to question one of his inane comments,

excoriates judges who rule against him, or calls him on one of his many falsehoods.

Compared with the European countries, the history of the United States is more recent.   As such, remembering key historical facts should be

much easier in the U.S. than in Europe.  Yet, our President betrays a lack of historical knowledge that is mind-boggling.  Claiming that people

do not know the cause of the Civil War, or that a man dead for sixteen years was angry at the causes of the War, is something that could be

expected to be known by a fifth or six-grade student.  To claim that Andrew Jackson, a man who owned over one hundred slaves, was against

the Civil War, is ludicrous.  The same man displaced hundreds of thousands of Native Americans, simply because they were “other,” that is,

unlike their white conquerors.  Jackson is a fitting role model for Trump.  Our current President is the same man who talked about Frederick

Douglas in the present tense, intimating that he was still alive.

By the time students reach the eighth grade, they are expected to know the Constitution of the United States, and to pass a test about the

Constitution.  Our current President must have skipped the eighth grade.  He does not seem to understand that Congress, and not the courts,

pass legislation.  He does not seem to understand that he cannot issue edicts and expect them to be carried out just as they were when he

ran his family business and expected his toadies to carry out his orders as if they were etched in stone with a Roman Numeral beside each

one of the ten.  The way to Trump’s heart is paved with false praise and abject boot-licking.  There is a place in Hell reserved for the boot-

lickers; it is in the eighth section and its inhabitants are consigned to wallow in the excrement they spew out in praise of their leader.

Trump’s idea of truth is as fluid as his approach to governing in general:  it is dictated by the transaction at any given moment.  It is

therefore, in Trump’s mind, acceptable to “tweak” the facts as he sees fit.  One day, he can claim that his health program will be the best

ever, result in lower premiums and deductibles and provide coverage for everyone, and the next day endorse a Republican plan that will not

require essential health benefits, carve-out exceptions for coverage of pre-existing conditions, defund portions of Medicaid and result in

higher premiums and deductibles.  He can claim that his predecessor tapped his phones and then be told by every credible source that no

such surveillance occurred.  He can claim that he won the popular vote, and that his Inauguration was seen by more people than any other

Inauguration.  He can promise during his campaign to declare China a currency manipulator, and after receiving trade-marks for his properties

in China, decide that Chins is not a currency manipulator, after all.

His contempt for women was amply demonstrated during his life in New York when he trolled Studio 54 looking for women to pick up.  As he

once stated when asked about his military service, the New York nightlife and sleeping around was his “personal Vietnam.”  During his

Presidential campaign, a video was released showing him with Billy Bush proclaiming that because he was a celebrity, he could do whatever

he wanted to women and they would not object.  His infamous comments that they would allow him to “grab them by the pussy” is just one

of the many crude and obnoxious comments made by this man.

For Trump, winning is everything.  There is no compromise:  you either win, by whatever means necessary, or you are a loser.  Life is a zero-

sum game in which the victorious can dictate to those whom they have defeated.  For Trump, the world is painted in stark black and white

images; there are no gradations, no subtlety, no differing points of view.  There is only one view that counts:  Donald Trump’s.  There is no

inner voice that speaks to men, no conscience that pushes back when a man transgresses; there is only the outward show of a man who is

morally and spiritually as bankrupt as many of his companies.  He is the modern Kurtz leading the nation to sit back and mutter “the horror;

the horror.”

But perhaps the most pernicious effect of the Trump Presidency is that millions of American voters have embraced the gospel of Trumpism,

refusing to believe facts, accepting him as a man in their image, full of hatred, loathing, and repression.  It is as if Americans no longer cared

about helping those less fortunate, but were more concerned that someone else had more material possessions than they did.  Millions of

Americans have chosen to turn a blind eye and deaf ear to this man who would be king; preferring instead to bask in the glow of the reality

show pitchman who has promised a banquet and delivered bread to those gathered in the Coliseum to witness another staged spectacle like

those he promoted for the WWE.

We have come to believe that a huckster, a pitchman, a tasteless promoter of his cheap, kitschy, branded merchandise represents the best

hope for our country.  We no longer believe that the President of the United States should represent all that is good in our country.  Instead,

we have turned over the reins of government to a man who is more concerned with his personal business interests than he is about the

functioning of the country he has pledged to serve.

Sad!  Very sad!

Monday, March 6th, 2017

“Twitter in Chief”

On February 28, 2017, Donald Trump addressed Congress.  During that speech, he conveyed his ideas in a disciplined, concise and measured

manner.  It was hoped by many that he demonstrated a new demeanor, and a number of commentators noted that he appeared, for the first

time, to be Presidential.  The feeling of optimism, of a turning point in Donald Trump’s presidency, lasted four days.  He then returned to

Twitter.

Mr. Trump has used Twitter to lash out at opponents, those who disagree with him, the press, Democrats, and members of his own party.  He

has also floated a number of conspiracy theories that lack evidence, while at the same time reducing his credibility.  Mr. Trump does not seem

to understand that for his presidency to have legitimacy, he must have credibility.  Nor does he seem to understand that a person’s credibility

relates to the manner in which he/she provides evidence for the claims that they make.

The Tweets that he unleashed on Saturday, March 4, 2017, went beyond his usual bombastic style of baseless allegations.  These tweets

accused the prior President of the United States of unlawfully wiretapping Mr. Trump’s phones and possibly email servers.  When pressed for

evidence of these claims, Mr. Trump declined to comment, but his assistant Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, claimed that “this is a

story line that has been reported pretty widely by quite a few outlets.”  Although Ms. Huckabee did not name those outlets, it is believed that

they include Breitbart News and a conservative talk radio host, both of whom could not produce convincing evidence about the wiretaps.

What is disturbing about Mr. Trump’s allegations, as well as the responses given by Ms. Sanders, is that the President of the United States is

relying on undocumented claims made by new outlets that lack credibility, to make claims against a former President.  Mr. Trump also

rejected a call by James Comey, head of the FBI, to dispute the wiretapping claims he made on Saturday.  Ms. Huckabee, when asked whether

Mr. Trump agreed with Mr. Comey that there was no wiretapping of his phone, Ms. Huckabee replied “I don’t think he does [agree there was

no wiretapping]”.

Mr. Trump has made baseless claims before, including his contention that his inauguration was attended by more people than previous

inaugurations, that 3 to 5 million undocumented people voted in the recent presidential election, that President Obama was not born in the

United States, that his recent travel ban rolled out flawlessly, among others.  What he doesn’t seem to realize is that with every false

comment that he makes, he demonstrates that he cannot distinguish between truth and deception, reality and fiction, discernment and

foolishness. 

Sad!  Very Sad!

Monday, February 20th, 2017

Sean Spicer held a press conference today.  The following excerpts were taken from that conference. Before I begin, I’d like to thank the millions of Americans who attended President Trumps’ campaign rally this weekend in Melbourne, Florida.  As you know, the President is off to a fast start in his campaign for re-election.  His pledge to all Americans is that he will make America greater, again.  Over the weekend, the President acknowledged the movement that he started and that is sweeping the world.  It is the biggest movement in history, as the President correctly noted, and which you, the fake media, refuse to acknowledge. The President also interviewed four candidates for the position of National Security Adviser at the White House South, otherwise known as Mar-a- Lago.  He’s going to be interviewing more folks for this position because they are literally lining up for this coveted job.  Before there are questions, I’d just like to make this point clear—Mike Flynn resigned his position—which he is free to do.  And I want to emphasize yet again, that there are no ties to Russia.  As the President emphatically announced yesterday, we do not make ties in Russia.  So, Mike Flynn couldn’t buy one there when he visited in 2015.  As the Pentagon said today in a statement it released, there are no records of Mike Flynn visiting Russia, so he couldn’t buy a tie because he wasn’t there. In another development, we just want to say that Betsy DeVos did not authorize the misspelling of W.E. B. Dubois’ name.  To say that she did is just another example of the lying media trying to make up a story.  Can’t we all just get along?  Now, I’ll open the floor up to questions. “Yes, you there.” “Mr. Spicer, over the weekend, the President made reference to a terrorist attack in Sweden and claimed that it was the work of ISIS and involved poison.” “I’m afraid that’s not true, and is an example of the press stating false facts.  What the President said was that he ate some Swedish meatballs, and that he got a mild case of food poisoning while listening to ABBA at Mar-a-Lago.” “So, did the food poisoning take place at Mar-a-Lago?” “No, it didn’t.  And I’m concerned that you’re trying to impugn the character of one of the President’s fine resorts.  I’ve stayed there many times, and you should, too.  Next question.” “Mr. Spicer, the President said there were millions of people in attendance.  It appears that there were only nine or ten thousand people present at the campaign rally.” “Again, not true.  If the President says there were millions, then there were millions.  Look at these pictures.  They clearly show millions in attendance.” “Mr. Spicer, those are pictures form the Inauguration, and there weren’t millions of people in attendance then, either.” “Lies; alternate reality.  Next question.” “Getting back to the Russian question.  Congress has said they will investigate conversations with members of Mr. Trump’s staff over messages that were posted back and forth between the campaign staff and Russian agents.” “How many times do I have to tell you cretins that there are no ties in Russia?  Do I have to draw you a picture?  Okay!  Okay!  Here’s your damn picture.”   “Any other questions?” “There’s a rumor that the department of Homeland Security is thinking about using the National Guard to round up illegal immigrants.  Is that true?” “False fact!  False fact!  Where do you people come up with this stuff?” “A memo was circulated from the department of Homeland Security.” “Leaks!  Leaks!  That’s the problem; there’s leaks.  We need to prosecute the people responsible for the leaks.  First, it’s Russian ties, then it’s the National Guard.  It’s all lies.  Don’t you have something better to write about?  Why not write about the true size of the crowds?  Why not write about how well the government is functioning—it’s like a fine-tuned machine.” “What kind of fine-tuned machine?” “Sort of like a Rube Goldberg.  It’s complicated and it looks messy, but it gets the job done.” “Another rumor that we heard is that Kellyanne Conway was pissed off that you contradicted her last week on the Mike Flynn firing.  We heard that she said she’d kick your ass if you contradicted her again.” “Let’s make this clear—Mike Flynn resigned just before President Trump fired him.  But the President still holds Mike Flynn in the highest regard.    As far as Kellyanne Conway goes—did you see her hit that dude at the Inauguration Ball.? That’s one mean punch she threw there; she’s the last person I’d want to piss off.  Well, having said that, I’d like to end this press conference”

Sunday, February 19th, 2017

The following are excerpted comments from President Trump’s campaign rally in Melbourne, Florida on February 18, 2017.

Hello to everyone.  I’d like to thank the millions who have come here today to attend this rally.  And you know, this is the biggest rally ever. 

Bigger than the Inaugural rally, which by the way, was the largest on record, believe me.  You know, we started a movement. . . the biggest

movement ever. . . bigly huge.  And the movement is world-wide, although the press doesn’t cover the movement.  You all know. . . the press

is the enemy of the American people.  There are leaks. . . I’ll say it again. . . there are leaks, but the reporting is fake.  Fake news.

But we’re here to make American great.  Greater, even.  And how are we going to do that?  I’ll tell you.  But making our borders safe. . .

completely safe.  And bringing back jobs. . . and products made in America.  Now some have asked if all my products will be made in America.

. . all I can say is, those laws don’t apply to me.  I can’t have conflicts of interest.  So, it doesn’t make any difference.  But everyone else will

bring jobs back.  It’s really too bad that Pudzer quit, because we could bring the jobs back and pay people less.

And deals.  We’ll make great deals.  Like gutting the EPA and stop insane restrictions that protect useless things. . . like the environment. 

And we’ll help the little people by taking away restrictions on Wall Street that put clients first.  Sad!  Very Sad!  How can we expect people on

Wall Street to put their clients first?  How will they make money? 

We’ll also stop the so-called judges from ruling against us and preventing us from doing what we want to do.  They stopped the travel ban and

now, they’ll be responsible for every terrorist act, ever.  Like the one in Sweden that happened last night.  I heard it on Fox News.  A terrible

attack.  Bad hombres in Sweden. . . terrorists probably from ISIS who put poison in Swedish meatballs.  I love Swedish meatballs.  We serve

them at Mar-a- Lago at exorbitant prices.  Terrible!

You know, I’ve said it before. . . we’ve running the government like a fine-tuned machine. . . whatever a machine is.  It’s great, hugely great! 

There is no turmoil in the government as the fake news reported.  Mike Flynn resigned because he did.  It’s a free country (so far).  No

questions asked, no answers needed.  We’re draining the swamp and putting my relatives in place.  And when you drain the swamp, you get

alligators.  And Ivana will introduce a new line of alligator purses and shoes, and Nordstrom better buy them.  She’s been treated so unfairly

by them!

The opposition party, the press, has fakely reported that there are ties to Russia.  I say, and I repeat it, I don’t sell ties in Russia, plus they’re

made in China.  Sure, I like Vladimir Putin, who doesn’t?  He says nice things about me.  So, he’s killed a few journalists. . . lucky for him.  I

have to put up with them (for now).  He’s a great leader. . . almost as great as me.  The polls say that I have the highest approval rating of any

President, believe me.

The press also lies about my electoral vote. . . it’s the biggest ever.  And I won the popular vote. . . as you all know. . .but the illegals voted

for crooked Hillary.  That’s why we have to deport them. . . to keep them from voting illegally and violating our sacred democratic principles. 

And if the so-called sanctuary cities won’t help us deport illegal aliens, we’ll send in 100,000 National Guard troops to do it for them.

Part of our movement is to keep America safe.  Look at Chicago.  Millions dying there from violence.  Bad hombres.  If they don’t fix it, I’ll tell

Mitch McConnell to use the nuclear option on them.  That’s making America great again.  I’m tired of spending so much money making other

countries safe.  Let them pay their fair share, which is what I say it should be.  And believe me, I won’t make single cent from these

payments (dollars maybe, cents, no).  And we’ll make deals that make them pay, not like the thousands of bad deals I’ve seen so far.  Obama,

Bush, Clinton, Ford, Reagan, Eisenhower, Lincoln, Seward, Jackson, Monroe, Madison, Jefferson, Washington. . . they all made bad deals.  Not

me, I’ll make America great again.

The movement is spreading.  Isn’t Brexit great?  Bigly great!  And soon France, Italy, and Greece will all follow suit.  And then the E.U. will fall

apart because of nations.  Nations want to be nations.  And then maybe they’ll stop bitching about Crimea which isn’t a nation.  Who the hell

even knows where Crimea is?  And NATO.  What do they do?  They Nate.  What is that?  Terrible!

So, this rally is building for my next candidacy.  Because life is a candidacy.  And my life is a bigger candidacy.  So, less than 30 days in office,

I’m running for the Presidency again.  And I’m showing the doubters that not only have I done more in less than 30 days than all the other

administrations combined, but I’m running again.  And I’ll run after that.  And I’ll continue to be President for as long as I want because you

like me.  You really like me.

Well, I have to leave now.  I have to go to Mar-a-Lago to interview my National Security Adviser, since that loser Harward wanted to pick his

own staff.  Steve Bannon wouldn’t let him.  You know, maybe we’ll interview them live on the air, sort of like what we did last weekend with

North Korea.  We’ll have a National Security Apprentice show, and I can tell the losers that they’re fired.  People love that kind of stuff.

Well, thanks again for coming.  It’s great to see so many millions who are excited and happy with the progress we’ve made.  I promise never

to let you down, unless I have to, or if I can make more money by screwing all of you.

Friday, February 17th, 2017

Delusion and the Presidency

“This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine:” Donald Trump at his press conference on February 16, 2017.

One wonders if Donald Trump has ever seen a working machine in his life, much less a fine-tuned machine.  Machines are—so messy, so dirty, so

unglamorous; not to mention that you can’t gain much publicity from watching a machine working.  How would someone like Donald Trump react to

such a mundane object?  Probably not well. 

Trump’s statement, that his administration was working smoothly, seems to be another of the delusions that the Trump White House is operating

under.  In just a little more than three weeks, the Trump administration has had to deal with the following fine-tuned results.

The White House issued a ban on immigrants on January 27, 2017.  The ban prompted several court cases opposing the Executive Order, and

on February 4th a Seattle judge issued a restraining order against the ban.  Then, on February 8th the ninth district court unanimously refused to

keep the ban in place, dealing a blow to Trump’s Executive order.

The ban appears to be written by political activist and self-proclaimed Lenin-lover, Steve Bannon, who had never written an Executive order

in his life, but who does want to bring down the system.  The ban was so vague and poorly worded that airports across the country and world were

in a state of chaos after the Executive order was announced.  To make matters worse, those responsible for complying with the order either had not

seen it before it was issued, or were informed about the order just before it was announced.

On February 8, 2017, Nordstrom’s announced that it dropped Ivanka Trump’s line of accessories from their stores, citing declining sales.  Mr.

Trump tweeted: “My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person -- always pushing me to do the right thing!

Terrible!”  One wonders if every time a retailer drops of one Trump’s brands, they will be accused of being terrible and attacked via Twitter.

Kellyanne Conway, the official defender of all things Trump, went on air the same day urging viewers: “It’s a wonderful line. I own some of

it. . .I fully — I’m going to give a free commercial here. Go buy it today, everybody. You can find it online.”  Unfortunately for Kellyanne, she acts in

an official capacity, and promoting a brand is a violation of ethics laws put in place to prevent government employees from endorsing products

and/or potentially benefiting from endorsements while acting in an official capacity.

Then there’s Michael Flynn, former National Security Adviser to the President, who was fired three weeks into his tenure, for lying to the

Vice President.  The day before he was fired, Kellyanne Conway said that Flynn had the “full confidence” of the President.  Two hours later, Sean

Spicer said that Trump was “evaluating the situation.”  On the day of Mr. Flynn’s departure, Kellyanne Conway termed his departure a

“resignation,” while Mr. Spicer called it a “firing.”  Sounds like a well-tuned machine humming along just fine.

Lost amidst the reasons for Mr. Flynn’s firing, was the report that Mr. Trump knew of Flynn’s calls to the Russian Ambassador 17 days before

Flynn’s departure.  During those calls, Mr. Flynn discussed easing the sanctions against Russia, which is a violation of the Logan Act prohibiting

private citizens from conducting state department business. 

Reports continue to circulate that members of Mr. Trump’s campaign team had frequent discussions with Russian officials during the election

campaign.  These reports, along with the dossier compiled on Mr. Trump which was originally commissioned by Republican primary opponents and

then continued by Democratic party operatives, are cause for concern.  If true, the reports indicate a collusion between Mr. Trump’s advisers and

the Russian government while the dossier on Mr. Trump might include information that could be used as blackmail.  Mr. Trump, however, has

characterized such reports, as well as the dossier as “fake news.”

On February 14, 2017, Andrew Pudzer, Mr. Trump’s pick for Secretary of labor announced that he was withdrawing his nomination for the

position.  Mr. Pudzer’s nomination was marked by reports of domestic abuse, employing an illegal alien, and his many run-ins with labor unions and

workers.

On February 16, Mr. Trump’s pick to replace Michael Flynn as National Security Adviser, Admiral Robert Harward, declined the position.

What was Mr. Trump’s reaction to these events?  Blame the dishonest media for disseminating “fake news,” claim that his electoral college victory

was the largest since Ronald Reagan (it was not), and boasting that:  "We have made incredible progress. I don't think there's ever been a president

elected who in this short period of time has done what we've done." He also noted that the implementation of the travel ban went well, noting:

“The rollout was perfect.” He also claimed that his job performance ratings were in the mid-fifties, when in fact, his approval ratings hover

between 39% and 45%.

Should anyone be surprised by Mr. Trump’s attacks of the media and his handling of scrutiny in the White House?  This is a man who has operated his

businesses without public disclosure, and who has surrounded himself with people who do not question his judgments or motives.  It is one thing to

run a private business where records, including tax returns and financial statements, can be hidden from view.  It is quite another thing to be the

leader of the free world, where all decisions become public and where ill-conceived actions cannot be hidden from view.

Where does lying stop and delusion begin?  “Sad!  Very sad!”

Friday, February 10th, 2017

The Art of the Lie “Lying is second nature to him. . . More than anyone else I have ever met, Trump has the ability to convince himself that whatever he is saying at any given moment is true, or sort of true, or at least ought to be true” Tony Schwartz, who acted as ghostwriter for Donald Trump’s book The Art of the Deal, in an interview for New Yorker Magazine on 7/25/16. “Now liars either invent everything out of whole cloth, or else disguise and alter something fundamentally true.  When they disguise and change a story, if you put them back onto it often enough they find it hard not to get tangled up. . . . In truth lying is an accursed vice.  We are men, and hold together, only by our word,” Michel De Montaigne. The Trump administration has been accused of telling multiple lies since Mr. Trump took office on January 20, 2017.  The list is long and includes some fabrications that seem innocuous enough, along with others that are quite disturbing.  Among the lies in the former category is Mr. Trump’s statement about the size of the crowd at his inauguration, while his unsubstantiated claims that he lost the popular vote as a result of some 3 to 5 million people voting illegally, fall into the second category and call into question the foundations of American democracy.  Mr. Trump is not alone in his penchant for lying; several of his staff have also engaged in deceptive practices.  Kellyanne Conway’s recent claim that Mr. Trump’s ban on immigration from seven predominately Muslim countries was in response to terrorist attacks like the one in Bowling Green, Kentucky was exposed as being patently false (she later issued a correction to her statement, noting that no such attack occurred).  Similarly, Vice President Mike Pence supported Mr. Trump’s ban on immigration, despite that fact that on December 8, 2015, Mr. Pence tweeted "Calls to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. are offensive and unconstitutional."  Press Secretary Sean Spicer is continually asked to defend Mr. Trump’s pronouncements, and in the process of doing so, he engages in a series of verbal contortions that defy logic in an attempt to explain away Mr. Trump’s tweets. In an attempt to defend Mr. Trump’s assertion about the crowd size at the inauguration, Kellyanne Conway resorted to stating that the President and his team wanted to present “alternative facts.”  This is similar to Scottie Nell Hughes’ claim that “there’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore, as facts.”  Paul Ryan was even more blunt in his dismissal of the Trump administration’s penchant for lying: “Who cares what he tweeted, you know, on some Thursday night, if we fix this country’s big problems? . . .That’s just the way I look at this.” The argument made by the Trump administration seems to be this:  as long as we implement our agenda, it doesn’t matter if we engage in lies.  Yet, this policy is fundamentally unsound on several levels.  In the first place, a democracy is based upon trust:  trust in the people governing and trust in the voting public.  An attempt to cast doubt upon either the judiciary or members of Congress who disagree with the administration, as well as the results of an election, results in a lack of faith that undermines the democratic process.  Secondly, lies are counter to established norms and conventions of behavior.  As such, lying tends to de-legitimize a person’s authority and the continued repetition of lies undermines the rule of law.  Finally, lies erode a person’s credibility so that future statements or pronouncements will not be taken seriously. If the Trump administration wishes to be viewed as a legitimate branch of government, it should stick to the what is verifiable and not engage in the fabrication of “alternative facts.” “Sad.  Very sad!”

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

“And now we heard, from Pocket Number Two,/the groans and griping of another lot,/the snuffling of their snouts, their slapping palms./The banks were crusted with a slime and mould/that rose up in porridgy exhalations/and, scuffling, violated eye and nose./Reaching that point and looking down, we saw/that all of them were plunged in diarrhoea/flowing, it seemed, from human cubicles,” (Dante Inferno 18: 103-108) describing the second pit of the Malebolge, reserved for the flatters and sycophants. “There are a lot of killers.  We’ve got a lot of killers.  What do you think?  Our country’s so innocent?” remarks made by Donald Trump top Bill O’Reilly in an interview aired on 2/5/2017.  Amid the backlash of these remarks by Donald Trump, a number of politicians were aghast at what they termed Trump’s assertion of moral equivalency between the United States and Russia. Mike Pence, in an interview on Face the Nation, denied that Trump was equating the United States and Russia, saying:  “I simply don’t accept that there was any moral equivalency in the president’s comments. . . There was no moral equivalency.  What you heard there was a determination to attempt to deal with the world as it is. . . “ Earlier in the Presidential campaign, Tea Party advocate and erstwhile Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, praised Donald Trump to Greta van Susteren on the Fox news program on the record, saying:  "Here's the deal Greta, he's the best thing to happen to the permanent political class since the beauty of the Tea Party genuine movement rose up and shined light on crony capitalism, and then pulled the rug right out from under the status quo politicians who just kind of embrace the permanent political class."  Continuing, Palin gushed that Trump appealed to "Joe Six Pack,” and that he offered “common sense solutions. . . .But [it’s] amazing how it is that he's connecting with the people, and what it is that we've been saying all along. . . finally we have someone with the guts, who isn't bought by anyone, he doesn't belong to anyone. He's his own man. He's very independent. So I am very pleased that he is offering himself up in the name of service to our country." Then there’s Sean Spicer, Press Secretary for the Donald Trump administration, who has steadfastly asserted that the crowds for Mr. Trump’s inauguration were the largest ever, despite photographs which clearly indicate that the crowds were much smaller than at least the last two or three presidential inaugurations.  According to Mr. Spicer:  This was the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period. . . These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong.” Finally, Trump spin-master, Kellyanne Conway tried to divert attention away from a number of Mr. Trump’s comments, saying: “Why is everything taken at face value? . . . You can’t give him the benefit of the doubt on this and he’s telling you what was in his heart, you always want to go with what’s come out of his mouth rather than look at what’s in his heart.”  What Kellyanne doesn’t seem to understand is that most people don’t have the ability to look into another person’s heart, and must take a person’s words and actions at face value. In any event, the Trump team seems destined to take up a number of places in the second circle of the Malebolge; the only problem is, there might be so many Trumpeteers that the pit reserved for flatterers and sycophants might fill up.  Then again, the Donald is known for real estate development; maybe he could build a new Trump Tower that will rival Pandemonium. “Sad!  Very Sad!”

Monday, February 6th, 2017

Original artwork by W.W. Denslow; picture of Steve Bannon superimposed on the head of the Wizard of Oz

“Darkness is good. . . Dick Cheney. Darth Vader.  Satan.  That’s power.”  “I’m a Leninist,” Bannon proudly proclaimed. “Lenin wanted to

destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”—Steve Bannon.

“It’s been said that I believe in the power of positive thinking.  In fact, I believe in the power of negative thinking” Donald Trump, The Art of

the Deal, page 48.

“The dismal Situation waste and wilde,/A Dungeon horrible, on all sides round/As one great Furnace flam’d, yet from those flames/No light,

but rather darkness visible/Serv’d only to discover sights of woe/Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace/And rest can never dwell,

hope never comes. . .” (Milton P.L. 1: 60-66).

“Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav’n” (Milton P.L. 1: 255).

“Belial, in act more graceful and humane;/A fairer person lost not Heav’n; he seemed/For dignity compos’d and high exploit:/But all was false

and hollow; though his Tongue/Dropt Manna, and could make the worse appear/The better reason, to perplex and dash/Maturest Counsels. .

.” (Milton P.L. II: 109-114).

Steve Bannon, pictured above in the chair of the Wizard of Oz, is like the man behind the curtain:  wielding power and setting the tone of

Donald Trump’s presidency.  Yet, like the wizard, he is not what he appears.  He prides himself on being an intellectual, but in reality, he is a

fear monger, a man who has abandoned the light and turned to darkness.  His worldview is filled with hatred and lack of hope; he like Belial,

tries to make the worse argument appear to be the best.  Is there violence in the world:  build a wall to block it out.  Is there a threat from

terrorists:  refuse to let anyone from a list of “terrorist states” into the country, despite the fact that many people denied entry have no

credible links to terrorism.  Have the political parties been unable to reach agreement on many issues:  destroy the parties, the politicians,

the fabric of society in order to bring everything crashing down. 

Remember the lesson of the French Revolution, when such thoughts were last expressed in a Western country.  Everything came crashing

down and devolved into the Reign of Terror.  Drain the swamp, and what you might find is “darkness visible. . . where hope never comes.”

“Sad!  Very Sad!”

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

“2:30 PM.  A prominent businessman who does a lot of business with the Soviet Union calls to keep me posted on a construction project.  I’m interested in undertaking in Moscow.  The idea got off the ground after I sat next to the Soviet ambassador, Yuri Dubinin, at a luncheon held by Leonard Lauder, a great businessman who is the son of Estee Lauder. . . .One thing led to another, and now I’m talking about building a large luxury hotel, across the street from the Kremlin, in partnership with the Soviet government” Donald Trump, The Art of the Deal, pages 26 - 27. “In January 1987, I got a letter from Yuri Dubinin, the Soviet ambassador to the United States, that began:  ‘It is a pleasure for me to relay some good news from Moscow.’  It went on to say that the leading Soviet state agency for international tourism, Goscomintourist, had expressed interest in pursuing a joint venture to construct and manage a hotel in Moscow.  On July 4, I flew with Ivana, her assistant Lisa Calandra, and Norma to Moscow.  It was an extraordinary experience.  We toured a half dozen potential sites for a hotel, including several near Red Square.  We stayed in Lenin’s suite at the National Hotel, and I was impressed with the ambition of the Soviet officials to make a deal,”  Donald Trump, The Art of the Deal, page 364. The following information was contained in an article appearing on the CBS Website on July 29, 2016:  “The 2013 pageant remains Trump's most successful venture in Russia. When he returned to the U.S., he said he had a relationship with Putin. . . . "I spoke indirectly and directly with President Putin, who could not have been nicer,’ Trump said during a National Press Club luncheon in May 2014  . . . Nearly three years later, Trump changed his tune. . . .’I've never met Putin. I don't know who Putin is,’Trump said Wednesday during a campaign event in Florida. . . . Over the last decade, the tycoon has had at least three potential real estate developments in Russia, but those plans never got off the ground. In a 2007 deposition, he spoke about plans for a Trump International hotel in Moscow and meetings with Russian businessmen. . . .On Wednesday, however, he denied having business dealings there: ‘I will tell you right now, zero. I have nothing to do with Russia.’ On February 4, 2017, the following information appeared in the Guardian, and was widely repeated on several news outlets, video clips of Mr. Trump’s interview with Bill O’Reilly  were shown on all national television stations:  “Trump continued: ‘I respect a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to get along with them. He is a leader of his country. I say it’s better to get along with Russia than not and if Russia helps us in the fight against Isis which is a major fight, and Islamic terrorism all over the world, major fight, that’s a good thing.” . . .  “Will I get along with him? I have no idea. It’s very possible I won’t.’” “He’s a killer, though,” O’Reilly said. “Putin’s a killer.”  “There are a lot of killers,” Trump answered. “We’ve got a lot of killers. What, do you think our country’s so innocent?” Despite Mr. Trump’s denials that he has nothing to do with Russia, his own written commentary belies this fact.  Not only has he attempted to partner with the Soviet government, but he continues to defend the actions of Vladimir Putin, calling him a great leader and saying:  “He's running his country and at least he's a leader, unlike what we have in this country," in an interview he had with Joe Scarborough on the program “Morning Joe” (Jeremy Diamond, CNN, 12/18/15).  Mr. Trump also seems to dismiss the fact that Vladamir Putin is a dictator, former KGB spy and head of torture, and has brutally oppressed anyone whose opinions he considers dangerous or contrary to his own.  Wait a minute, maybe that’s why Mr. Trump likes him so much.  “Sad!  Very Sad!” Saturday, February 4th, 2017 “My style of deal-making is quite simple and straightforward.  I aim very high, and then I just keep pushing and pushing and pushing to get what I’m after”  (Trump 45). “The other people I don’t take too seriously are the critics-except when they stand in the way of my projects” (Trump 52). “When you’re negotiating with people who’ve been promised the world a half dozen times and gotten nothing, credibility is critical. ( Trump 201), referring to his attempts to build casinos in Atlantic City. “Deals work best when each side gets something it wants from the other” (Trump 335), referring to his attempts to develop on the West side of New York.  These attempts ended in failure. All quotations taken from The Art of the Deal, by Donald Trump. Donald Trump seems to contradict himself at every turn.  He claims to be  a ruthless negotiator who doesn’t make concessions and intimidates people to get what he wants.  In the next breath, he says that you have to structure a negotiation so that both sides win.  Unfortunately, you can’t always get what you want AND create a winning atmosphere in negotiations. Since becoming President, he has threatened Mexico with a border wall, and even threatened to send U.S. troops into Mexico to get rid of the “bad hombres.”  Aside from the fact that this would be a declaration of war, Mr. Trump seems to think that he can intimidate a sovereign state and get his way.  He’s also threatened the Chinese, Iranians, Muslims, and upset a number of U.S. allies, including Australia, the European Union, NATO, and the United Nations. In his book, The Negotiating Game, Dr. Chester Karrass  quotes Sir Harold Nicolson, who lists the qualities needed for successful diplomatic negotiations:  “truthfulness, moral accuracy, calmness, tolerance, patience, dignity and loyalty.  In addition, he assumes that the diplomat will also possess a high degree of intelligence, knowledge, discernment, prudence, charm and courage” (Karrass 29).  How many of the qualities that Karrass lists for diplomats does Donald Trump possess?  “Sad!  Very sad!”

Friday, February 3rd, 2017

“Pilate saith unto him ‘What is truth?’” (Matthew 18.38) “The final key to the way I promote is bravado.  I play to people’s fantasies.  People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do.  That’s why a little hyperbole never hurts.  People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole.  It’s an innocent form of exaggeration-and a very effective form of promotion.”  Donald Trump, The Art of the Deal. (Trump 58) Truthful hyperbole, an oxymoron that has been stretched to include “alternative facts,” and  the notion that there are no facts at all.  Donald Trump’s campaign and Presidency has been built on the premise that truth doesn’t matter, and that facts no longer exist.  In an interview with Esquire Magazine, Scottie Nell Hughes made the following statement regarding the administration’s views on truth and facts:  “Everybody has a way of interpreting them to be the truth, or not truth. There's no such thing, unfortunately, anymore as facts.” If Ms. Hughes’ opinion was an isolated one, it could be dismissed as truthful hyperbole; but his opinion was recently echoed by Kellyanne Conway who made the assertion that the Trump administration presented “alternative facts.”  Prior to that statement, several Trump confidants spoke of post-truth, or some alternate form of truth.  Even conservative Republicans have enabled Mr. Trump to issue statements that are patently false.  On December 4th, Paul Ryan Speaker of the House, had this to say about Mr. Trump’s tweets which contain known falsehood:s  “Who cares what he tweeted, you know, on some Thursday night, if we fix this country’s big problems?” he added. “That’s just the way I look at this.”  Of course, the “alternative facts” continue:  the assertion that Mr. Trump won the popular vote by 3  to 5 million votes that were somehow stolen from him; the notion that the wall separating Mexico will eliminate the “bad hombres” from entering the U.S.; the size of the crowd at the Inaugural ceremony; the notion that “we’re being taken advantage of by every nation in the world” at the National Prayer Breakfast on February 2, 2017. But let’s get back to the biggest offender in the spin-doctoring of the truth, Kellyanne Conway.  On February 2, 2017, she cited an attack by Iraqi refugees in Bowling Green, Kentucky as justification for Mr. Trump’s ban on refugees entering the United States.   Unfortunately, no such attack ever happened.  Undeterred, Ms. Conway charged ahead with the assertion on MSNBC’s Hardball television program.  Ms. Conway, facing criticism for her comments, retracted them on Friday, but the damage had already been done.  Radical Islamic Terrorists had been excoriated, and Mr. Trump had his justification for imposing a ban on refugees, even though no attack occurred. What President Trump and his enablers fail to understand is that each time he or one of his staff utter a false statement, he undermines his own credibility, but more importantly, the credibility of the United States itself.  “Sad!  Very Sad!”

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

In his book, The Art of the Deal, Donald Trump provides an insight into the way in which he negotiates deals with opponents, when he writes:  “Sometimes, part of making a deal is denigrating your competition” (Trump 108).  In the book, he denigrates several people, including Ed Koch, Ronald Reagan, various regulatory agencies that questioned his developments, and opposing attorneys.  During his Presidential campaign, Mr. Trump continued his practice of insulting those who either ran against him or opposed his views.  Included in this list are John McCain, whom Mr. Trump said was “not a war hero;” former President George W. Bush whom Trump claimed “didn’t have the I.Q. [to be  President];”  Lindsey Graham, Republican Senator from South Caroline, “What a stiff, what a stiff, Lindsey Graham;” Carley Fiorina, “Look at that face!  Would anyone vote for that?” Jeb Bush, “The last thing our country needs is another BUSH!  Dumb as a rock!” Ted Cruz,”This guy, Ted Cruz, is the most dishonest guy, I think,  I’ve ever met in politics;” Hillary Clinton “Crooked Hillary,” Ted Cruz again, “Lyin Ted Cruz;” Marco Rubio “dishonest lightweight.”  He also included all members of political parties when he claimed that eh would “drain the swamp.”  Prior to running for president, Mr. Trump claimed that President Obama was not a U.S. citizen, and then when his comments were shown to be inaccurate, tried to blame Hillary Clinton for starting the “birther conspiracy,” stating “Look at what she said about President Obama in 2008, believe me what I said is nothing.  Take a look at what Hillary said in 2008 when she was running against him.” But the insults didn’t stop there.  After becoming President he insulted U.S. Congressman John Lewis, “All talk, talk, talk-no action or results.”  He has also insulted Mexico and Mexican nationals, women, Australia, NATO, the European Union, The United Nations, the Democratic party in general, and just about anyone who opposes him.  While insults may help during negotiations with other companies (although I don’t believe that they do), it is quite another thing to insult sovereign nations or agencies such as the U.N. which seek to promote peace and stability in the world.  Tactics such as intimidating or insulting opponents may work once, or even twice, in the short term.  But they have a tendency to backfire in the long-term.  Once insulted or coerced into a bad deal, people have a tendency to remember this treatment in later negotiations.  In fact, these kind of tendencies often lead to negotiators trying to “get even” in later deals To paraphrase Mr. Trump:  “Sad!  Very Sad!”
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