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Peter J. Ponzio
© Copyright 2007 - 2018   Peter J. Ponzio
Political Blog Page 2 Friday, January 12, 2018 Trump and Immigration Reform On Monday, January 8, 2018, Mr. Trump assembled a bi-partisan group of lawmakers to address immigration issues.  In a rare move, Mr. Trump opened up the meetings to reporters, ostensibly to cover the results of the meeting.  Coincidentally, the meeting might have been held to show that Mr. Trump could act in a civil manner, after the criticism he received as a result of the release of the book Fire & Fury. During the course of the meeting, Trump urged lawmakers to devise a solution to DACA and went even further, encouraging them to work on comprehensive immigration reform.  Trump went so far as to say:  "I will say when this group comes back hopefully with an agreement, this group and others comes back with an agreement, I'm signing it. I will be signing it."  He added that if there were objections from other members of Congress "If you [Lindsey Graham] want to take it that further step, I'll take the heat."  The heat came later that night from conservative members of Congress as well as his allies on Fox News and other conservative outlets, with Ann Coulter, Mark Kerkorian and Roy Beck of NumbersUSA quickly denouncing Trump’s actions.  On the following morning, January 9th, a federal judge, William Alsup, blocked the attempt of the Trump administration to end the DACA program, indicating that the administration must continue processing DACA applications for prior recipients.  Trump’s reaction to the judge’s order was typical Trumpian bluster, as evidenced by his tweet “It just shows everyone how broken and unfair our Court System is when the opposing side in a case (such as DACA) always runs to the 9th Circuit and almost always wins before being reversed by higher courts.”  Trump’s antics continued on Thursday, January 11, when he rejected a proposal crafted by the Senate bi-partisan panel on immigration reform.  Remember, just 3 days before, he vowed to sign the agreement that the Senate group proposed.  As if his rejection weren’t enough, Trump added in comments before the committee “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” which referred to immigrants from Haiti and Africa.  On Friday, January 12th, Trump appeared to back away from his comments about African and Haitian immigrants, tweeting “The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made a big setback for DACA!”  Trump’s denial was immediately rejected by Illinois Senior Senator Dick Durbin who noted that, “He said things which were hate-filled, vile and racist," Durbin continued, saying "I cannot believe that in the history of the White House, in that oval office, any president has ever spoken the words that I personally heard our president speak yesterday."  In a week that started with the Trump White House reeling from the reporting in Fire & Fury, and attempting to demonstrate that Trump was not a moron, idiot, or racist, it was Donald Trump himself who seemed to confirm that the picture painted of him in Michael Wolff’s book.  While Trump may brag that he’s “like, really smart,” and “a very stable genius” the rest of the world, and many members of the public and Congress, beg to differ with him.   Tuesday, November 21, 2017 When does party loyalty stop and common decency begin?  For Trump and the Republicans, never.  Amid allegations by eight women that Roy Moore either assaulted them or attempted to date them while in their teens, Republicans in Alabama have continued to support Roy Moore.  The White House, and advisors to President Trump, initially attempted to distance themselves from Roy Moore, indicating that Moore’s behavior was unacceptable.  But when it became clear that Moore might lose the Senatorial race and jeopardize the Republican tax bills that are in both houses of Congress, White House advisors began to change their rhetoric.  No longer was Moore’s behavior the issue; it was now an issue of passage of a tax bill that became the overriding concern of the White House.  First Kellyanne Conway, then Steve Bannon and finally, President Trump condoned Moore’s behavior rather than allow a “liberal democrat” to be elected to office in Alabama.  It should come as no surprise to anyone who is aware of Trump’s behavior that accosting women against their will was no big deal; even women who were not of the age of consent.  It seems that passage of the “tax reform” plans in Congress, plans that are overwhelmingly seen by the general populace of the United States as benefitting corporations and wealthy individuals, is more important than common decency.  Ever since the passage of Citizens United (funded in part by the Koch Brothers) which allowed corporations to be viewed a “persons,” well-heeled donors have lined the pockets of Republicans to influence their votes.  The findings of the Supreme Court, that corporations can be viewed as persons, goes against years of court rulings that corporations are entities, but because they have unlimited life, cannot be viewed as persons.  The time has come for payback:  big donors now want to be rewarded for their campaign donations, hence the push for “tax reform” that favors big business and multi-millionaires.  Unfortunately, things like morality, common decency, and rule of law must be brushed aside to deliver a tax package to Republican donors.  Finally, we see the convergence of a series of events that have played out in the past ten to twelve years:  corporate donors expect to be rewarded for their campaign contributions as a form of quid-pro-quo.  With the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, morality, character, and leadership no longer matter in politics.  And finally, if you spout sanctimonious phrases long enough, and pretend to be “holier than thou” your actions no longer have to align with your religious proclamations (an interesting aside, Jesus said similar things some two thousand years ago about other groups of sanctimonious hypocrites known as Scribes and Pharisees).   Sad, very sad.   Thursday, November 9, 2017 The following is a letter I sent to President Trump on 10/20/17.  Dr. Peter J. Ponzio	 									1445 Souders Avenue 									Elburn, IL 60119  									October 20, 2017  The President 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W. Washington, D.C. 20500  Dear Mr. President:  I am writing to you today to address and important topic:  your legacy and how you will be perceived not in the bustle and flurry of recent events, but through the more sedate and stately perspective of time.  Time has a way of either burnishing images or of tarnishing them.  Whether your administration will be judged to be successful, or will be relegated to the dustbin of history is entirely up to you.  The office of the President of the United States was, from the beginning of the nation’s founding, intended to be a departure from the notion of hereditary monarchies that lacked accountability to the populace and dominated the political landscape of Europe.  The position of the executive was designed to be a symbol to the world that an elected representative of the people would uphold the rule of law and conduct himself in such a way that his behavior would provide an example of all that was right and good about the United States of America.  Former Presidents have attempted to uphold this tradition, some with more success than others.  Perhaps no other President expressed the values of the United States towards its citizens and to the world body better than Abraham Lincoln when he delivered his Second Inaugural Address, which came near the end of the divisive Civil War:  “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”  Lincoln could have excoriated those who opposed him; he could have heaped opprobrium on his critics who chided him for being ape-like and for claims that he favored miscegenation.  Instead, he asked for healing and charity and for this reason he is considered the greatest American President.  His First Inaugural Address, given at a time when Civil War looked inevitable, strikes a similar note of unity and brotherhood when he proclaimed: “We are not enemies, but friends.  We must not be enemies.  Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.  The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearth-stone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” Mr. President, I ask you to compare these two eloquent examples of American patriotism, two speeches which sought to unify the country to your Inaugural Address which spoke of “American carnage” and which painted a bleak picture of the American dream, a dream which you equated with prosperity and riches instead of charity and unification.  Mr. President, you seem to equate prosperity, wealth and celebrity with a person’s worth.  This belief seems to reflect your personal philosophy which equates riches with power; prosperity with being right.  Such a belief system undermines the basic dignity of the individual, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr noted: “We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles, rather than by the quality of our service and relationship to humanity.”  Dr. King is not alone in stating that wealth and power are not the measure of a man, and that society’s problems cannot be solved by acquiring additional material goods.  The Dalai Lama in his address to crowds gathered in Central Park in August 1999, echoed Dr. King’s words: “I think that it is wrong to expect that our problems can be solved by money or material benefit.  It is unrealistic to believe that something positive can come about merely from something external.”  In the same address, the Dalai Lama went on to say that: “Another problem we face today is the gap between rich and poor.  In this great country of America, your forefathers established the concepts of democracy, freedom, liberty, equality, and equal opportunity for every citizen.  These are provided for by your wonderful Constitution.  However, the number of billionaires in this country is increasing while the poor remain poor, in some cases getting even poorer.  This is very unfortunate.”  Mr. President, I ask you to reflect on the words of Dr. King and the Dalai Lama as you attempt to strip away the health care of millions of Americans, and look to enact a tax reform package that will benefit the top 1% of Americans to the detriment of the remaining 99% of Americans.  Please remember Mr. President, that you were elected to SERVE ALL Americans, not just the privileged few, yourself, your family, and cabinet members.  The notion of service is inherent in the very fabric of our Constitution, and it is incumbent in the President to act as the preeminent public servant.  In a letter to James Conkling, Abraham Lincoln made this point clear when he wrote: “I freely acknowledge myself the servant of the people, according to the bond of service—the United States Constitution; and that, as such, I am responsible to them.”    Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order, was also a proponent of service to others.  To Loyola, service was man’s primary mission on earth, as he noted in his writings: “God’s purpose in creating us is to draw forth from us a response of love and service here on earth. . .”  Dr. Martin Luther King also talked about service to others, and the requirement for that service: “Everybody can be great.  Because anybody can serve.  You don’t have to have a college degree to serve.  You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve.  You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve.  You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve.  You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve.  You only need a heart full of grace.  A soul generated by love.”  Mr. President, please remember that your highest duty, as President, should be service to others and not service to oneself.  Deporting hundreds of thousands of children who have known the United States as their home, is not service.  Cracking down on illegal immigration without displaying mercy and compassion towards them is not service.  Responding inappropriately to those who have given their lives for freedom in the hope of scoring political points, is not service.  In the previous paragraph I spoke of compassion.  You may think that compassion and strength are antithetical concepts.  This is not the case.  The Dalai Lama has this to say about compassion: “In the first step toward a compassionate heart, we must develop our empathy or closeness to others.  We must also recognize the gravity of their misery.  The closer we are to a person, the more unbearable we find that person’s suffering.  The closeness I speak of is not a physical proximity, nor need it be an emotional one.  It is a feeling of responsibility, of concern for a person.”  Mohandas Gandhi aligns compassion with forgiveness both on an individual and on a national level when he writes: “What is true of individuals is true of nations.  One cannot forgive too much.  The weak can never forgive.  Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong,” (italics mine).  Mr. President, compassion and forgiveness are cornerstones of all true religions.  This is not more evident than in the Gospel of Matthew, when Jesus instructed his followers: “But I say unto you.  Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. . . (5:44).    Mr. President, your frequent twitter outbursts reflect on your level of compassion and forgiveness with regard to others; even those whom you have placed in positions of power.  In a similar vein, please look to the suffering of the people of Puerto Rico as a result of the recent hurricanes, and instead of attempting to score political points, look to serve those in need.  Now is not the time to rate your response to the Puerto Rican crisis; history will judge your response.  You have spoken in the past about your intelligence, your education, and your ability to create deals that will benefit the country, while at the same time you abandoned deals that have already been negotiated and agreed-to.  Yet, education and ability without one vital component—character—is not enough.  Dr. Martin Luther King spoke about education and character when he said: “We must remember that intelligence is not enough.  Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.  The complete education gives one not only power of concentration but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate.  The broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living.”  The purpose of education is rooted in the formation of character as Dr. King’s comments make clear.  The formation of character derives from an understanding of morality and law.  The concepts of morality and law cannot be separated; for a law to be moral, it must conform to God’s law as Dr. King makes plain in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” “A just law is a man- made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God.  An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.  To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: “an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law.’  Any law that uplifts human personality is just.  Any law that degrades human personality is unjust,” (italics mine).  Dr. King’s notion of just and unjust laws is derived from the writings of St. Augustine, who states that laws and society are not “right and good unless it obeys you [God].”  It would be helpful for you to consider the writings of St. Augustine and Dr. King as you seek to implement laws which do not uplift human personality, but instead degrade human personality.  Finally, I have come to the point expressed in the opening paragraph of this letter, your legacy.  I apologize for the length of this letter, but believed the forgoing discussion was necessary to frame the subject of legacies.    Mr. President, you are now of an age when it is natural to begin thinking about how one will be remembered when one’s time on earth has elapsed.  I have arrived at a similar time in life, and hence, I have taken the time to write to you.  Dr. Johnson, the famous English essayist and author of the first English Dictionary, used to pray that his sins would not be held against him, and that his shortcomings would be compensated for by his “paltry work.” Dr. Johnson was a man of remarkable talents and prodigious output, yet he was concerned about the after-life and how his legacy would be viewed.  How much more should you and I be concerned about our legacies, we who have accomplished much less than Dr. Johnson.  Plutarch wrote his famous work, Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, to illustrate how the famous rulers of antiquity would be viewed by posterity.  Plutarch notes that when he began the work “It was for the sake of others that I first commenced writing biographies; but I find myself proceeding and attaching myself to it for my own; the virtues of these great men serving me as a sort of looking-glass, in which I may see how to adjust and adorn my own life."    Self-reflection, or as Plutarch writes, a “looking glass” can be beneficial for the soul.  It can reflect back that which is good in our lives, or that which is bad.  For the leader, the reflection is not merely personal, nor is it a reflection of the leader’s own time.  It is a reflection that will last throughout recorded time, and this reflection will determine how one is viewed by history.  Will a leader be viewed as a success or failure by future generations?  Plutarch’s Lives are intended to be a guide to ordering one's life; the individual men are intended to be guideposts along the way.  Some of these guideposts will point the way to a life that is noble and virtuous; others will point the way to a life that is consumed by personal glory and ambition. Along the journey, Plutarch defines the virtues which are required of a good leader:  justice, the education of his people, the ability to develop equitable laws, and concern for the public weal.  There are personal characteristics that are essential to have in a good leader:  a sense of gratitude, a greatness of soul, and the ability to set a virtuous example for others to follow.  Similarly, Plutarch delineates those personal characteristics which are found in poor leaders:  an overbearing ambition, the desire for personal glory at the expense of the state, a lack of principles to guide one's life, a certain pettiness which is the opposite of greatness of soul, and finally, a sense of ingratitude for benefits conferred on the leader by the gods or fortune.   To Plutarch, the most important requirement of a leader is a sense of justice, for justice is a virtue which is closest to the divine.  Justice requires the use of reason, which is a quality unique to mankind and practiced by the gods.  Justice which serves a narrow political belief system or is used to belittle and harm innocent people is not justice, but injustice.  Mr. President, there is still time to change the way that you will be perceived by history.  Up until now, in my opinion, you exhibit the characteristics that Plutarch defines in a poor leader:  an overbearing ambition, the desire for personal glory at the expense of the state, a lack of principles to guide one's life, a certain pettiness which is the opposite of greatness of soul, and finally, a sense of ingratitude for the many benefits you have received in your own life.  Whether your administration will be judged to be successful, or will be relegated to the dustbin of history is entirely up to you.  Sincerely,   Dr. Peter Ponzio   Tuesday, October 24, 2017 Here he goes again It could have been a routine telephone call to extend his condolences to the widow of a fallen soldier.  These calls are never easy to make, but they seem to become an impossible task when handled by a ham-fisted president.  Sergeant LaDavid Johnson was killed on October 4th on a mission in Niger; it took Donald Trump nearly two weeks to make a phone call to Sergeant Johnson’s widow, Myeshia Johnson.  When Trump called Myeshia, he is reported to have said “He must have known what he signed-up for, but these things are never easy.”  It was reported that Trump repeatedly called Sergeant Johnson “your guy,” and “he,” only calling Sergeant Johnson by name after looking at his duty file. The contents of the phone call were verified by Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, Sergeant Johnson’s mother, and Myeshia Johnson.  Trump denied that he said that Sergeant Johnson “must have known what he signed-up for,” and called the Congresswoman’s claims totally fabricated.  Four-star General John Kelly admitted that he coached Donald Trump about what to say to the young widow, and related that his best friend counseled him with the same advice that Trump provided to the young widow. Not content to admit that he made these comments to Myeshia Johnson, Trump claimed that he was respectful to her, and that he called her husband by name. This is a troubling state of affairs for several reasons.  First, when Trump was questioned by reporters about the events in Niger, he claimed that he, unlike other presidents, called every member of the armed forces killed under his watch.  Both statements are false:  past presidents have called members of the families of servicemen who were killed fulfilling their duty.  The second statement, that he called all families of servicemen under his watch was also proven to be false. Secondly, while John Kelly still grieves for his lost son, it is one thing to be told by your best friend and fellow serviceman that his son “knew what he signed-up for,” it is another thing to advise a ham-fisted chief executive to say this to a widow he does not know.  But Kelly went further and claimed that Congresswoman Wilson was grandstanding at a ceremony dedicating a building for fallen FBI agents.  A video of the event showed Congresswoman Wilson praising the FBI agents and not claiming that she secured funding for the building, as Kelly claimed. Thirdly, Trump attacked a twenty-three-year-old widow who has two children and is pregnant with a third child a few days after learning that her husband had been killed.  How can a sitting U.S. President feel compelled to attack a twenty-three-year-old woman who has lost her husband just days after her husband was killed? This is not the first time that Trump, who received five deferments from combat duty in Vietnam (one for bone spurs), has attacked military families.  He attacked Khizr Khan, the father of a soldier who was killed in the Iraq war for a speech that Khan made at the democratic national convention.  Trump also attacked John McCain, and American hero who was captured by the Viet Cong and subjected to five years of imprisonment and torture, and who refused an early release from prison.  Trump claimed “he’s [McCain] not a war hero.  He’s a war hero because he was captured.  I like people who weren’t captured.” Isn’t it ironic that the coward-in-chief who received five deferments from military duty in Vietnam can attack the twenty-three-year-old widow of a true war hero, who can attack Khizr Khan and John McCain, and then lack the courage to own his words to Myeshia Johnson? Shame on you, Donald Trump.  Tuesday, October 17, 2017 A True Patriot Yesterday, October 16, 2017, Donald Trump, when asked why he had not contacted the families of four special forces members who were killed in Niger, responded that he wrote letters to the family members and would send them out shortly.  He then continued by saying that he would also call those family members, something which Barack Obama and other presidents did not do.   As with so many things Trump says, this was a lie.  Reaction to his comments was swift, with people relating their stories, pictures and videos of Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama comforting the families of slain warriors.   Trump has bragged about his patriotism and love of the military.  He has launched an attack against NFL players who have taken a knee during the national anthem to protest violence and discrimination.  In true Trump fashion, he has turned this action of nonviolent protest into an attack on patriotism and the flag.  He has stated that these NFL players are disrespecting the flag and America.  As president, he should lead by example in showing respect for America and its values. So how did the Commander in Chief provide an example of respect for the flag and American values?  On October 11, 2017, the defender of the flag talked and joked with Sean Hannity as “Retreat” was sounded at the National Air Guard base in Pennsylvania.  The protocol for the playing of “Retreat” is for all talking to stop, and for people—civilians and military—to stand with their hands placed over their hearts to honor the flag.  Trump continued talking to Hannity, joking that the bugle was being sounded for Hannity’s high ratings. Trump went to military school, so he should have known the protocol for “Retreat.”  But more importantly, he is the President of the United States and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed forces; he should have provided an example to the men and women of the armed forces of how to act when “Retreat” is sounded.  Instead, he joked and talked with his right-leaning, Fox news apologist and acted as if he did not have to follow protocol (someone once again trying to tell him how to act) when “Retreat” is played. Just another example or two of the hypocrisies that Donald Trump engages in on a daily basis.  Donald Trump is many things, most of them immoral, inimical and dangerous, but he is no patriot.   Monday, October 9, 2017 The lap dog, the pit bull, and their moronic master  Lap dogs squeak and whine and do their master’s bidding.  They’re harmless, but can sometimes be annoying.  Over the weekend, vice-presidential lapdog Mike Pence took a trip to Indianapolis to attend the Colts football game.  He went at the behest of his master, who told him to leave if any NFL players insulted the flag by kneeling for the national anthem.  True to form, Mr. Pence left the field after players knelt during the anthem.  Like all lapdogs, he did his master’s bidding and whined that he was leaving because the players disrespected the flag.  Congratulations, Mike Pence, now maybe you could stop licking your master’s face and leave his lap for a while.  Good boy, Mike; try not to soil yourself on your master’s lap. Pit bulls growl and bark and carry on, often without knowing why they are doing either.  Kellyanne Conway is a prime example.  Always eager to growl and bark on behalf of her master, Donald Trump, Kellyanne often does so without having a clue about what she is doing.  This weekend, she chastised Bob Corker for having the nerve to stand up to her master.  Kellyanne remarked that Mr. Corker’s tweets were “incredibly irresponsible.”  Kellyanne obviously thinks her master’s tweets are something else: something akin to a revelation from on high.  His tweets are always grounded in fact, mature, well-spoken, grammatically correct and imbued with grace, wit, and well-reasoned judgments.  Bark on, Kellyanne, bark on.  Good girl, Kellyanne. And then there’s the master; he of the twitter feed.  He has boldly gone where no president has gone before.  He is an inspiration to all morons; if he can be president, anyone surely can.  If can ascend to the highest office in the realm without a shred of decency, morality, shame, taste, class, or a clue about what is going on in the world, then anyone who is a functional illiterate can be president.  If he can insult Democrats, Republicans, former presidents, sports figures, leaders of other countries, women, minorities, US citizens, boy scouts, and people harmed through no fault of their own by natural disasters, then he gives hope to all the idiots who live blithely unaware of what is going on around them.  Good boy, Donald.  Now, go and play with your lapdog and pit bull while you can.  Saturday, October 7, 2017 He’s a f*****g moron” Well said, Rex Tillerson.  Thanks for voicing an opinion of Donald Trump that over 2/3rds of Americans hold, based on his approval rating of just 32%, according to a poll published by AP NORC in September, 2017.  In addition, according to the same poll, only 24% of Americans believe the country is headed in the right direction.   Of course, none of this matters to either Donald Trump or his supporters who have consistently said that they support the president, no matter what he does.  They dismiss his Twitter attacks as a way to connect directly with each of them.  They dismiss his actions as being hampered by Democrats, and increasingly, by traditional Republicans.  They seem to think, like Kellyanne Conway, that they should dismiss his tweets and actions and “look directly into his heart.” How, though, are people supposed to look into a person’s heart?  Most rational people realize that it is impossible to look into a person’s heart.  Instead, rational adults look to a person’s words (oral and written) and actions as a key to understanding another person’s belief system and values.  Based on these criteria, it is abundantly clear that Donald Trump is as Rex Tillerson allegedly commented, “a f*****g moron.” Not only is Trump a “moron,” which is a judgment of intellectual capacity, he is also incapable of empathy, has no understanding of morality, is using the office of the president to enrich himself and his family, is a serial liar (according to PolitiFact, Trump tells the truth only 5% of the time), and based on his comments, is a racist and misogynist.  Is this the type of person who should be running the most powerful country on earth? On October 5th, Trump assembled a number of military personnel to the White House for dinner.  After dinner, he called in the press and announced that Americans were witnessing “the calm before the storm,” and refused to say what the storm might be.  The next day, official Trump spokesperson and Sycophant in Chief, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, refused to provide clarification for Trump’s comments about “calm before the storm.”  As a result of Trumps’ comments, millions of Americans have agonized about what this might mean:  war with Iraq, ISIS, or North Korea, or some new threat imagined by the “f*****g moron.” When will Congress wake up and realize that this man who was called out by one of his own cabinet members, is unfit to serve office?  Maybe there is more than one “f*****g moron” currently office in Washington, D.C.  Tuesday, October 3, 2017 It’s Not Time The Republican Party and the Trump administration have coined a phrase to ignore issues which they do not wish to address: “It’s not Time.”  They trot out this phrase at the most inopportune times in an attempt to change the conversation and avoid action on important issues that affect the country. It’s not time to talk about immigration reform, but it is time to deport people. It’s not time to talk about protecting the dreamers, but it is time to send them back to the country of origin of their parents.   It’s not time to fix health care in this country, but it is time to concoct a series of ill-conceived plans that would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and in the process, deny basic health care to over twenty million people and increase costs, deny coverage for pre-existing conditions, and gut the Affordable Care Act in the process. It’s not time to talk about climate change after three record-breaking hurricanes inflicted untold damage on the residents of Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, but it is time to lash out at the mayor of San Juan for having the temerity to say that the relief efforts in Puerto Rico were insufficient. It’s not time to talk about gun control after yet another senseless act of violence took the lives of fifty-nine (59) people at last count and injured over five hundred people in Las Vegas.  It’s not time, but it is time to offer meaningless condolences to the families of those whose lives were cut short, and to cater to the NRA and their meaningless slogans like “Guns don’t kill people.” It is time, however, to enact a tax plan that would cut taxes for the President and his family, for the millionaires who serve in Trumps’ cabinet, for the wealthy and powerful who control the lobbyists who push for cuts in their taxes to maintain their lifestyles while those less fortunate see their lives ruined. It’s never time to talk about important issues for those who put their own self-interests above those whom they are elected to serve.  It’s always time for the greedy, the rich, the self-satisfied, the powerful, to enrich themselves at the hands of the less fortunate, the downtrodden, those without voices, those who need help the most. It’s time to “Make America Great Again” by retreating into a fetal position on the world stage and abdicate any moral authority this country once had in order to supplicate a minority of people who see themselves as somehow falling behind other people who have overtaken them in terms of economic status, importance, social standing, or protections (?). It’s not time to talk about diplomacy in attempting to solve some of the more intractable problems in the world:  North Korea, Iran, and the Middle East come to mind.  It is time, however, to threaten and bluster and step towards the brink of nuclear annihilation in order to justify the ego of the current president. It’s time to use the color of a person’s skin as the basis for determining who receives help or assistance, because the current administration sees the world through a lens of color:  the color white being the preferred color, and all others being inferior.  According to this administration it’s time to embrace the idea of a new era of colonialism where the notion of the white man’s burden is suddenly popular again. It’s not time.  It will never be time.  According to Trump and the Republican Party, it is never convenient to talk about race, or immigration, or health care, or racial equality, justice and compassion. It is not time.  There is only one question left to be asked:  when will it be time?  Saturday, September 30th, 2017 “I certainly don’t like the optics,” Donald Trump 9/29/17  You have to hand it to Donald Trump when it comes to optics.  He knows good optics from bad optics.  Good optics are when you get headlines and praise.  Bad optics are when you get caught in a lie, prevarication, ethical misdeed, or anything that is uncomplimentary.  It’s obvious that Donald Trump was incensed with Tom Price not because Price was wrong for taking chartered flights, but that he was caught in the act and made the Trump administration appear clueless—yet again.    Trump’s penchant for optics—the appearance—and not the reality of a situation, is well-known.  Forget morality, forget ethics, forget right and wrong:  these concepts are meaningless to Donald Trump.  What he cares about is appearances and ratings, everything else be damned. Trump’s penchant for optics was on display early Saturday morning (9/30/17) when he lashed out at San Juan’s mayor, Carmen Yulin Cruz, for having the temerity to disagree with acting homeland secretary Elaine Duke who said that the relief efforts in Puerto Rico was a “good news story.”  Trump criticized Cruz as a “poor leader” for her remarks.  The optics on the ground in Puerto Rico tell a different story from Duke’s assertion that relief efforts were a “good news story.”  More than 80% of the island has no electricity; they are running out of food and water; hospitals are devastated, and containers filled with good and supplies are trapped in ports because many roads are unpassable; fuel for trucks is unobtainable; and the communications infrastructure is so damaged that truck drivers are unreachable.  Of course, optics like this are bad for Trump, so he does what he always does when criticism hits too close to home; he attacks others.  Calling Cruz a “poor leader” might strike some as hypocritical.  Trump is, by all accounts (mostly his and his coterie of sycophants) a great leader, (look to his many accomplishments since taking office) so he is in a position to assess the leadership skills of others.  A great leader leads from behind as Trump has done; he has yet to make a trip to the island, which is “an island surrounded by water, big water, ocean water,” but he’ll get there eventually, preferably with a photo-op showing him rescuing the people of the island, or possibly after issuing another round of tweets about the NFL and NBA which most people know, is more important than dealing with a humanitarian crisis.  Optics, eyeballs; this is what Trump cares about most.  Forget the oath of office in which the President declares that he will execute the duties of the Presidency; it should be restated to defend the office of the Presidency when it results in good optics or favorable press coverage; believe me.   Friday, September 29th, 2017 How to drain the swamp while taking private jet flights and emailing from your private email accounts  You have to hand it to Donald Trump:  he is making good on his pledge to drain the swamp.  Forget about the $400,000 in private plane trips by HHS Secretary Tom Price, who said just a few years ago that members of congress should not be allowed to take charter flights when serving the country.  Never mind that Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency spent $58,000 on chartered flights, or that he requires a personal staff of bodyguards that prevents him from taking commercial flights, or that he plans to build a $25,000 sound-proof chamber in his office for “security reasons.”  It must be remembered that Steve Mnuchin really wanted to see that solar eclipse and as for his request for a government jet for his honeymoon, who wouldn’t want such a perk?  Of course, Trump is trying to drain the swamp for ordinary Americans, like those people in Puerto Rico who are literally living in a swamp without adequate aid from the U.S. (does Trump realize that people living in Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens; more importantly, does he care?) while Trump diverts attention from his swamp draining efforts by criticizing the National Football League for not firing the “son-of-a-bitches” who have the nerve to protest for fair treatment of minorities.  And then there’s the tax plan that Trump is hailing as the biggest win for the middle class ever.  He apparently forgot to mention when he announced that his tax reform package would not benefit him personally, that it would benefit his heirs to the tune of $500 million, if the repeal of the estate tax goes through.  Sure, he criticized Hillary Clinton of using personal emails for government business and encouraged chants of “lock her up” at his political rallies.  After all, this was a prime example of how corrupt things were in Washington, leading to his claim that “only I can fix things,” by draining the swamp in Washington.  Well, it appears that six or more Trump appointees (including Ivanka and Jared “the woman” Kushner) used private email accounts to conduct business at the White House.  All in all, Trump has made good on every one of his campaign promises as he continues to serve his, make that the American people’s, best interests.  It’s great to know that team Trump has done such an outstanding job of passing legislation; bringing the country together; healing the racial divides which plague the country; providing relief to areas struck by natural disasters; showing support for our allies; acting in a mature and deliberative manner in dealing with North Korea; taking the high road when tactfully accepting well-intentioned criticism; acting Presidential; protecting the health of millions of Americans through his health care plan which will lower premiums and provide better coverage than the ACA; doing everything in his power to protect immigrants and their families; improving the public educational system; being an advocate of the environment by ensuring that future generations will be able to have breathable air and clean drinking water; and most importantly in the eyes of Evangelicals, being a moral, upright, honest, principles-driven advocate of multiple marriages and serial adultery.  Yes, the swamp is being drained and in its place, we are left with Trump-scum floating on the surface of a fetid, polluted, EPA mandated, rotting cesspool that was once known as the United States of America; believe me.   Monday, September 25th, 2017 It’s almost impossible to keep up with the continual absurdities and hurtful comments made by Donald Trump.  From his failure to denounce white supremacists to his dangerous taunting of North Korea’s dictator at the United Nations, to his proclamations that sports figures need to be fired for peacefully expressing their first amendment rights to free speech, he never seems to know when to stop his tweeting.  Of course, Mrs. Trump has spoken against bullying, most recently at the United Nations; apparently, she forgot to speak against her husband who is the biggest bully in the free world.    Thursday, August 17th, 2017 The demise of the Republican Party under Donald Trump “. . . [slavery] was a continual torment to me. . .”  Abraham Lincoln, remembering his first sight of slaves being sold in New Orleans. “We are not enemies, but friends.  We must not be enemies.  Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.  The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearth-stone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”  President Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address. “. . . let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”  President Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence—on many sides, on many sides. . .”  Donald Trump in remarks made in the aftermath of a white supremacist rally on 8/12/17. “I think there is blame on both sides. . . You had a group on one side that was bad.  You had a group on the other side that was also very violent.  Nobody wants to say that.  I’ll say it right now.”  Donald Trump’s remarks on August 15, 2017 a day after he read a prepared statement condemning white supremacists. Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican President of the United States.  He was an outspoken critic of slavery and his anti-slavery convictions were based on his belief that slavery was wrong and that it was immoral to enslave another human being.  Lincoln spent his presidency attempting to prevent the union from dissolving as a result of the slavery issue, writing that “One section of our country believes slavery is right, and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is wrong and ought not to be extended.” Since Lincoln’s time, the Republican Party has considered itself to be the party that is morals-based; that it is better to uphold the values of the country than to pursue expediency and easy victories by abandoning the principles of the party of Lincoln. The Republican Party can no longer make the claim that it stands for a government that places principles before expediency.  By embracing the amoral, hate-filled, discriminatory, misogynistic ravings of Donald Trump, the Republican Party has abandoned the principles for which Abraham Lincoln stood.  It has sold its soul in embracing Donald Trump and his brand of hatred and contempt for those who disagree with him.  It has turned a blind eye to a man who embraces white supremacists and neo-Nazis, and who has legitimized a hate group that embraces the Nazi culture that produced World War II, and killed six million innocent Jews and over 20 million innocent Eastern European civilians.   There can be no equivocation regarding the movement that produced the single greatest genocide in the history of mankind.  There can be no equivalence between fascists and those protesting hate groups and hate crimes.  There can be no turning our backs on the events that unfolded in Charlottesville this past weekend. The Republican Party is dead.  The party Lincoln helped found, the party that stood to defy white supremacists some 150 odd years ago, no longer exists.  It has been replaced by a party that fawns on an ignorant, amoral, thin-skinned man-child, who should have never been elected to office. The better angels of our nature have departed, to be replaced by the demons of an unbalanced man.  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!  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 “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!”