Wonderland

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I started this long holiday weekend with several medical issues.  On Friday I had a heart catherization due to a poor stress test following my reports of  minor chest contractions.  The test showed that two of my bypasses had collapsed.  Fortunately the most important third looked great,  pumping blood.  Meds can be taken to control the contractions (angina, not a heart attack).  Good to know.  In addition my abscess-fistula was swollen, sore, with increased discharges. Maybe due to the fact that my colonostomy wasn’t producing anything.  (I have a reluctance writing about this but for any of my friends getting older, medical information is important.)

I started Saturday and finished Sunday in my recliner chair.  Reading, napping, surfing the Internet, e-mail, Facebook, a bit of TV.  The news always seems to intrude. It use the words “news” cautiously.  Trump news; White House news.  The most prominate being the President’s attacks on the media.  The infamous Scarborough-Brzezinski tweets; the CNN attacks, icluding the juvenile wrestling with the CNN icon.  But then there is the WH commissions request for voting information (states are refusing);  jibberish about infinity and space (look at Buzz Aldrin’s face); Republican defense of their health care bill; Trump’s tweet to repeal today and replace tomorrow (contradicting previous statements), the President’s upcoming meeting with Putin (he will wing it); turmoil in the WH; Tillersen can’t get his staff appointments.  .  . It doesn’t stop.

And the President hours of watching cable news. Welcome to Wonderland.

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I went to find a fresh book to read from a shelf in my bedroom and was drawn to Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass.”    I began the trip down the rabbit hole and a day later through the looking glass.  I couldn’t help asking: were there similarities between Carrol’s  Wonderland and the White House?  I don’t mean there are direct parallels in story, plot or characters.  But when the Red Queen shouts “Off with their heads.”  You decide.

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There is no logic in Wonderland; nonsense reigns.  I’ll share some quotes; you can decide if it relate to Trump, the White House and our current political discourse.

“Always  speak the truth, think before you speak, and write if down afterwards.”

“I don’t think . . .” said Alice.  “Then you shouldn’t talk,” said the Hatter.”

Can you imagine Trump tweeting:

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”  We are going to do great impossible things.

Trump likes us to focus on himself.

“Who in the world am I?  Ah, that’s the great puzzle.”

And does this sound a bit like administration spokesperson?

“Contraiwise,’ continued Tweedledee, ‘If it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t.  That’s logic.”

“We’re all mad here.”

Mad Hatter: “Have I gone mad?”  Alice: “I’m afraid so. But I’ll tell you a secret.  All the best people are.”

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Womderland is an alternate world.  Different from the real word.  Words take on different meanings.  There are alternative truths.

“When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — nothing more or less.”

Alice: How Long is forever?”  White Rabbit: ” Sometimes, just one second.”

“Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.”

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And then we have the Cheshire Cat, always grinning:

“I’m not strange, wierd, off, nor crazy, my reality is just different from yours.”

 

There was a lot more in Wonderland that reminded me of the White House.  A good reread.             “Off with their heads.”

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History and Trump

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I recently finished reading E.H. Gombrich’s best selling “A Little History of the World.”  Gombrich is primarily known for his history of art, his world history is aimed at young kids.   Much of it is familiar from high school and college history classes.  At the same time, there are events, wars, and personalities that I don’t remember.  But it’s  good friendly, easy read overview of world history.

As I read, I frequently wondered how history will evaluate the American Trump administration.   Will Trump be viewed as a “champion” of the middle working class?  A President who “Made American Great Again.”  Or will he be viewed as a sick, self-serving President who appointed a cabinet and advisors that twisted government, no matter how it effected the average American?

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Will Trump be applauded for limiting government, slashing budgets for departments like the Environment Protection Agency and Department of Education; eliminating regulations that protect clean water,  shifting public education funds to private schools?  Will  Trump be seen as a force that cut unnecessary government regulation and spending?

Or will Trump will be held accountable for dismantling many important and or compassionate government programs. Will history record that many of Trump’s cabinet appointments were chosen to dismantle the agency or Department they would lead?   As the federal military budget increased, did Trump cut funding for the Arts, Public Broadcasting, and as many as 19 other social programs, even Meals on Wheels — a few million to help volunteers deliver meals to poor seniors.

Did Trump build a wall on the Mexican border that provided increased immigrant security?  How will history view cutting the Coast Guard or putting a surcharge on flood insurance to help fund the Mexican wall  — or was it paid for by Mexicans as Trump consistently promised.  Or was the wall never build because it wasn’t necessary or cost effective — just a crazy campaign promise?

Will Trump be seen as a hero challenging federal courts that stopped his immigration bans and funding cuts to sanctuary cities?  Or will the courts be seen as stopping Trumps extreme, unconstitutional executive orders?

Will Trump and the Republicans in Congress come up with an alternative to the Affordable Care Act that doesn’t strip millions of the poor from coverage and provide rebates for the wealthy?  Or will the repeal and replace “Obamacare” rhetoric ultimately be seen as political absurdity?

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Did the Russians interfere in the 2016 election– supporting Trump?   Did President Obama “wire tap” Trump Towers as twittered by President Trump?  Or has the liberal media made this up?  Will history see Trump as a hero or a crazy scroundel? Did the Russian question end the Trump administration or did the issue turn into a historical footnote?

Did Trump protect us from a crazy North Korea armed with neclear weapons; or did a crazy Trump lead the country into an unnecessary, possible nuclear war?

Did Trump reform and make the tax code better or did he provide major tax cuts for millionaires and corporations; cutting many of the tax deductions that benefited the middle class?  Did the national debt shrink or balloon to unprecedented numbers?

Did Trump make America Great or did he and his family use government to advance and advertise Trump interests, making Trump great?    Why did he refuse to share his tax returns?

Will Trump be seen as a leader that united  the Republican Party, the country or will he be seen as a destructive force that destroyed the Republican Party and exasperated divisions in the country?

Will  Trump be known for telling it like it is, telling the truth? Or will he b remembered as the most consistently lying President in history?

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Today we approach the 100 day mark of the Trump Presidency.  How has he done?  What has Trump accomplished?  He got an appointment to Supreme Court by having Congress change the rules — no filibusters on Supreme Court appointments.  He’s changed some labor and environmental regulations, by executive orders.  He’s made strong foreign policy announcements and a few actions in the Middle East and Korean peninsula. Otherwise he has a string of failures. Not much of all he promised in the first 100 days has happened.  He claims 28 bills signed; nothing major in any of them.

How will Trump’s 100 days be viewed by historians?  How will his administration be viewed historically?

Will Trump and his administration be seen as “Making America Great Again.”  Or will it be seen as a lying, tweeting, alternative truth, cabal of phonies?

 

 

 

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Need to Resist

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We are one week into the Trump Presendency.  I never felt that I needed to give him a chance.  He had said enough during the campaign to earn my scorn.  At the same time, I never thought or said I was scared.  It wasn’t the end of the world, democracy or the U.S.  And I didn’t like those that went  down the lane of Hitler and  totalitarian comparisions.  It seemed too far.  Now I’m not so sure.

Trump is an assault on logic, truth and rational thought.  He cannot accept criticism; wants to control what is believed or not believed; and will use whatever authority or power to “get it his way.”  Did he play the Sinatra song “My Way” at an Inaugural Ball?

Some of Trump’s executive orders or policy announcements fall within the range of debate and discussion.  I’m not 100% sold on international trade agreements like NAFTA.  Never much liked the IMF.  Maybe NATO needs reforms.  And the Affordable Care Act needs tweaking — maybe major changes, I certainly don’t know; and Republicans haven’t explained.   Abortion; beliefs differ.   These are ideological and/or policy differences. And there can be many; sometimes strong.   They lead to debate and often compromise.   It’s part of what make democracy so great.

Trump’s threat is much different.  He attacks media when it doesn’t agree with his view.  He ignores factual evidence, attendance at his Inaugural, for instance.   If he kept his mouth shut, the low attendance issue would have gone away.  But he sends out Spicer to lie and uses Conway’s “alternative truth,” to justify the lie.    And then Trump repeats and reinforces the lie.   He doesn’t back down but wants the National Park Service to provide evidence that he had historic crowds. Photoshop, anyone.

Trump lost the popular vote.   So what?  Win the electoral college and you are President.  But now he is calling for an investigation of illegal voting.  Millions?  Millions!   Standard sources have stated, “no wide spread fraud.” But Trump claims, yes, wide spread fraud.We are suppose to listen to Trump and believe.

Trump claims he has created jobs when serveral US companies decide not to have factories leave the US.  The CEOs tell us it had nothing to do with Trump.  Whether Trump was or wasn’t responsible, the sad, sick commentary is Trump’s smiling egoism, “I am the best. . . only I can create jobs, save the country, the world.”  I think he believes it.  Some write that he is mentally disturbed.  Your call!

Trump’s wall and the suggestion of a major tax on Mexican imports.  Is he so stupid that he doesn’t realize the implications or so egoistic that he doesn’t care?  You don’t need to be an international trade expert to realize that the tax will be passed on to American consumers, in addition to the actual cost of the wall.  American taxpayer could be paying twice.  Trade war.  For what.  Trump’s ego.  Is the Trump line of clothes “made in the USA?”   I laughed when Great Britian’s Theresa May was asked what she thought about Trump and Mexico, he jumped in with, “she has other things to think about.”  Did that mean he didn’t want her to comment as she did on Russian sanctions.

John McCain says he won’t back down on Russian sanctions.  What will Trump say to Putin during their talks today.   Whatever, if necessary, Senator McCain, resist.

The EPA and other agencies have been silenced.  Trump knows more than scientists and professionals.  They are expected to be a propaganda arm for the Trump world view.  Interesting, it seems some in the National Park Service are resisting.  There is a FB page.  Only guessing it’s legit.

Trump has begun his assault on Muslims.  No entry for individuals from some Arab nations.  Is it possible those Muslim countries not on the list are places where Trump has investments?  There will be resistance in the courts.

The repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act is in disarray.  Republicans are realizing, it costs to provide health insurance for those uninsured.  Maybe some Trump voters may resist if they lose benefits.

New pipelines will probably be built.  Will there be environmental damage; injury to Native American rights?  Maybe coal miners can be hired to build the pipelines.  If they don’t get jobs maybe they will resist.

The good news is that resistance to Trump is growing.  I’ll admit I’m worried, a bit scared.  But I believe the pendulum will shift as it always does.  Maybe dramatically; maybe quickly.   In the end, I believe,  Tinkerbell say it,  everybody say it, say “I believe.”  Trump won’t win.

 

 

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Inauguration and beyond

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Eight years ago, Dan Ryan and I drove to D.C. for the first inauguration of Barack Obama.  Not since John Kennedy’s election, when I was a high school student, was I as excited about a Presidential election.  Finally, I felt a President who will contribute to the progressive, yes liberal, democracy I’ve always believed in.  Issues of equality, social justice, economic fairness, and environmental concern would take center stage.

We left Yardley early.  Traffic was heavy but moving and we arrived at my cousin Ellen’s about 9 o’clock.  We drove to the mall, mingling and talking to people from all over the country.  There was a sense of unity and common spirit.  With some luck we got a table at the famous Ebbit’s Grill, blocks from the White House.  Dan’s daughter met us. She was twittering.  I had no idea what it was but signed up for an account later that day.  Now we have a President whose major form of communication is Twitter.

We spent all afternoon on the mall.  That night we met friends for dinner in DuPont Circle. We were unable to prepurchase Metro tickets, so the morning of the Inauguration, we decided to try driving as close as we could.  We slid through Georgetown and ended up parking two blocks in front of street closures near the White House.  I think in the area that say violent protests in 2017. At about 8 o clock we joined crowds flowing onto the Mall.  Ellen and I lost Dan within minutes and settled in near a large screen TV, somewhere behind the Washington monument.  Cell phones didn’t work.  But a wind of hope and change was in the breeze.

With 1.8 million fellow citizens we watched and listened as Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th and first African American President in U.S. history.  We were proud and excited.  We loved the spirit, music, pageantry and speeches.  That evening, Dan and I went to a party in Georgetown, heading back to Bucks County the next day.

Obama faced tremendous economic and foreign policy challenges.  Unfortunately his Republican opponents did everything possible to block his agenda.  And to their credit, they organized and took control of both the House and Senate.  I believe the rancor of some opposition was due to racism, “a Black family in the White House?”   He was labeled a socialist, a Muslim, a traitor, not even born an American citizen — lies that took on a life.  The last promoted by Trump who now denies it.  Despite this he was re-elected to a second term.  The overall economy improved and we withdrew troops from war zones.  A health care bill attempted to provide insurance for all.  Gay marriage was legalized.  But the successful Obama agenda was limited, the Republican party of “no” did not allow for any form of bipartisan compromise.

In the end I think Obama attempted to be too accommodating; the Democratic Party too smug in their Presidential victories.  Was it his personality and style or what he felt was needed?  Meanwhile the Republicans moved further to the right and further outside the mainstream.  From Palin to the stage (was it 18) of Republican candidates in 2016 and then the  selection and eventual election of Donald Trump as the 45th President.

Several years ago I chided Republican friends that the Republican  party was being destroyed.  I didn’t like Reagan or father and son Bush; we had strong policy differences.  Admittedly I didn’t think young Bush was very bright.  But they were normal, should I say mainstream — as dirty a label today as “liberal” has been for many, for decades.  During the campaign I’d accepted that about 35% of the electorate would support Trump.  But like many I didn’t see the other disaffected 15% that eventually  voted for him.  Forget that probably less than half of eligible voters actually vote and that Clinton won the popular vote by about 3 million.  Trump had the electoral college and the Presidency.  Not the landslide he claimed but a win.

Beginning about 10 a.m., last Friday, January 20, Diane and I left the TV on playing inaugural coverage.  We faded in and out.  My emotions were flat.  Not amazement; not anger; not resignation; not acceptance.  I thought the Obamas were gracious and maybe too accommodating. But maybe that’s real class.  I found Trump’s speech unfriendly and confrontational to those that didn’t support him.

In fact a majority of Americans do not support Trump’s Presidency.  His current approval rating (I don’t put tremendous faith in these polls) is 40%.  But whatever the polls, it’s clear that he has a limited mandate.  It seems that more people turned out for the Women’s March on Saturday than turned out for the Inauguration.  Of course in Trump’s world that’s not possible and so we heard his Press Secretery, Sean Spicer attack the media, dismiss photographic evidence and claim “lies” about attendance as truth.  Advisor Kellyanne Conway label his remarks as “alternative facts.”  Trump tweets about it and goes after the media while meeting with members of the CIA.  Yes, were in for a rough road.

I never followed much about cabinet appointments.  I remember talk of Kennedy’s Wiz Kids and then James Watts, Reagan’s Secretery of the Interior who wanted to sell off federal lands, open them up to logging and oil.  He increased membership and contributions to  environmental organizations.  But I have been following (too much really) Trump’s cabinet appointments and his policy tweets and rants.  Almost every appointment sounds like a disaster.  I am far from alone in my analysis.  Sadly many of his most loyal supporters don’t read or listen to mainstream media.  Or if they do; it’s not believed.

There was so much disinformation, exaggeration, fake news and lies during the campaign and it continues.  Were the Russians involved?   Conventional thinking says, yes.  Of course Trump says no.  And this is one of the most scary things about the Trump phenomena.  He lies and lies and is believed by far too many.  It’s surreal and Orwellian. And it’s not going to stop.

I was stunned by the number of crazy conspiracy theories posted on Facebook, defended and repeated, during the campaign.  It’s made me much more careful about what I accept as true.  The disinformation and false news goes in both conservative and liberal directions.  I’ve always said we don’t ever have 100% truth; always some room for doubt.  But we want to in the ball park.  I’m sure there’s  a batting average analogy.

I’m strongly liberal but conservative policy positions don’t frighten me.  You can be for or against affirmative action, free trade agreements, coal plants, or charter schools.  Debate and frequently compromise are important components of the American system.  Many of my most memorable and enjoyable political discussions were with emerging conservative students at Holy Ghost Prep.

There are however core American values of equality, fairness, and social justice that should transcend political ideology and party.  Racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice and discrimination are not acceptable and must be resisted.  Trump has been guilty in crossing this line many times.  A percentage of his supporters (certainly not all) regularly cross that line.  You either believe that or you don’t.  I’m not going to change any minds here.

I don’t need to give Trump a chance.  He ran his campaign, told us who he was, courted his constituency.  He’s 70, not going to change.  In fact he believes he has a winning formula.  I can only hope it’s short term.

What do I (we) do now?  I’ve spent several days thinking about it and surprise, don’t have any catchy answers.  I want to encourage thoughtful activism.  I want to actively resist any attacks on core American beliefs.  I want to participate in policy debate and respect those whose opinion may differ from my own.  I want encourage involvement by the young and disenfranchised. I want to let my elected representatives know where I stand.  I want to do what I can to blunt the influence of fake news, conspiracy theories,  and lies that has contaminated our political discourse.

I guess I want to be a responsible American citizen.

 

 

 

 

 

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