Friday, December 30, 2016

Trump-Free Zones, January 20th... and Beyond

     Many years ago, Richard Nixon proclaimed that he had the support of a “silent majority”.  Years later, Jerry Falwell and extreme right-wing allies in the Republican Party touted their so-called “moral majority”.  Well, my friends, the cold hard truth is that we are an actual majority.  Donald Trump received only 46.1 % of the popular vote.  That means that the majority of Americans (53.9%) voted for someone else.  In fact, if we remove the votes cast for Jill Stein and Gary Johnson, Trump lost to Hillary Clinton by almost three million votes.  Contrary to his rants and tweets, his victory in the Electoral College does not constitute a mandate, but rather a mishap; a national tragedy.  And, as evidence continues to come to light regarding Russian tampering on Trump’s behalf, along with the deliberate timing of James Comey’s letter, the very legitimacy of any Trump presidency is called into question.
     This leaves us with the question of how best to deal with January 20th... and beyond.  I would suggest that we initially celebrate the many “Trump-free zones” already in existence, and endeavor to create many more.  Certain locations automatically qualify as TFZs:  institutions of higher learning, and every public school across the country (along with any number of private schools), for example.  Anywhere where healing is practiced:  hospitals, clinics, doctor’s offices, birthing centers, rehabilitation facilities... all of these would automatically be “Trump-free zones”.  Then, of course, places of beauty, art, culture, etc... all of these would also be regarded as TFZs:  museums, theaters, concert venues, galleries, public gardens, parks, etc.  Finally, our churches, temples, and mosques--anywhere that welcomes faith and contemplation--these would also be TFZs. 
     Based on the popular vote, it’s certainly reasonable to conclude that most homes across our great country (and it never stopped being great), are Trump-free zones.  We must nourish the TFZ within each of us, and support it in others.  We are called to cultivate more and more Trump-free zones, thereby creating a brighter world based on justice and respect.  It may take time, but we have to believe that in the end love and decency will indeed trump hate.  If TFZs flourish throughout the land, the roots of racism and fascism will be choked--and those weeds will dry up, crumble, and the ashes will be blown into the darkest recesses of history.

     Beyond January 20th, it will be up to each of us to speak up and act out.  Talk to your friends and neighbors, use every facet of social media, and even go “old school” by writing letters to the editor of any newspaper or magazine you may read.  Because, one thing is for certain:  virtually every Trump proposal or policy will require determined and constant opposition.  We must take a page from the Republican playbook of 2008 wherein McConnell famously (infamously) stated that the primary Republican achievement had to be that of insuring that President Obama would be a one-term President (sorry Mitch, you failed).  Democrats should remember McConnell’s obstructionist tactics, minus one key component.  While McConnell, Ryan, Boehner, and Cantor (remember him?) could scarcely conceal the racism at the heart of their hatred for Obama, we’ll be battling Trump on the basis of truth, social justice, and a genuine concern for the future of our country.  That, my friends, is genuine patriotism.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

No Christmas from Trump

     If America checks her Christmas stocking early this year, she'll discover that Donald Trump has stuck her with nothing but coal.  No chance at achieving greatness again (not that America was ever anything less than great), no shining city on a hill, nothing huge, tremendous, incredible, or fantastic... just lumps of coal.  A quick review of some of Trump's selections for key government positions are enough to conjure a deep winter chill.
     Jeff Sessions as Attorney General... probably the biggest lump of all.  Throughout his distinguished career he's labeled the NAACP as an un-American, communist-inspired organization that forced civil rights down our throats.  Meanwhile, he saw fit to refer to a black Assistant U.S. Attorney as "boy", and a white civil rights lawyer as a "disgrace to his race".  He's fought against immigration reform and favors mass deportation--maintaining that immigrants "create culture problems".  He's opposed marriage equality (and would like to see it rolled back), he'd like to gut federal funding for food stamps, repeal Obamacare, and essentially eliminate the safety net.  He'd certainly give the Grinch a run for his money when it comes to tiny hearts.
     Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education.  Who'd bring a fresher perspective to the table than another privileged white billionaire?  DeVos has no government experience and her sole focus has been on promoting school voucher programs (at taxpayers' expense) and charter schools.  Expect her to broaden the right-wing extremist war on public education.
     Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development?  Wow... a week before the appointment an aide quoted Carson himself as saying he wasn't qualified for such a position.  Clearly, actual qualifications mean nothing.  Given Carson's propensity for off-the-wall comments and space-shot behavior during the primary campaign, it's safe to assume we're in for an interesting ride.  I wonder if Michele Bachmann was otherwise engaged?
     Nikki Haley as Ambassador to the United Nations.  Again, why would you need qualifications (such as foreign policy experience)?  Haley will also have the opportunity to undermine environmental progress; and one look at her record would lead one to believe that's precisely what she'll do.  In 2013 she buried a report from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources on the challenges climate change would bring to the state.  In 2015 during devastating rains and floods, Haley refused to make a connection between an increase in the number of extreme weather events and climate change.
     America should have realized right off the bat that there would be no genuine Christmas gifts from Trump when he named Steve Bannon his chief strategist.  A racist is about as far removed from Jesus Christ as war is from peace.
     Hunker down, America, and settle in for the long haul.  You'll get no merry Christmas from Trump!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Donald Trump: The Tears of a Clown

     It’s a relief to know that when he’s not preoccupied with cabinet picks guaranteed to scare the crap out of any rational/sane person, Mr. Trump is now demonstrating a new found restraint and maturity.  The facts speak for themselves, don’t they?
     Our first example of this new-and-more-mature Donald came in his response to Hillary Clinton’s ever-increasing margin of victory in the popular vote count.  The most recent tally had her up by over 1.5 million votes, and climbing.  There is obviously no Trump “mandate”; in fact, he will serve as a minority president (based on the sort of campaign he ran, I doubt that’s a word he wants applied to him in any way!).  So, how did Trump respond?  He took time out from the trivial matters of assembling a government to whine that he could have easily come away with a “huge” popular vote victory if he’d decided to campaign more often in states like California or New York.  Notice the new maturity?  The man can’t stand to lose, by any standard.  He needs to understand that Clinton will likely win the popular vote by a significant number (most estimates are 2-3 million votes) and that he’ll govern courtesy of the Electoral College.  Incidentally, when President Obama was re-elected in 2012, Trump mistakenly thought Romney had carried the popular vote, and he denounced the Electoral College--deeming it a “disaster for democracy”.  He claimed the election was a total sham & travesty, and suggested “revolution” was necessary.  Hmmmm.
     This past Friday we were treated to another glimpse of the new Trump “restraint” when he settled three lawsuits (one brought by the New York Attorney General, and two class action suits filed in California) alleging Trump had defrauded hundreds of individuals who had enrolled in real estate seminars he had launched in 2005.  The Donald has always maintained he never settles lawsuits, and he proclaimed Trump University was fantastic, hugely successful, etc.  After quickly coughing up $25 million to settle these three suits, Trump took to Twitter to denounce the plaintiffs, to proclaim he’d actually “won” by settling for so little, and making it clear that--under other circumstances--he would have never folded like a newspaper.
     Finally, the two most recent examples of Trump’s “new” temperament--revealing the thick skin required of a commander-in-chief--came to light this past weekend.  First, after Vice President-elect Pence ventured to Broadway and chose to attend a performance of “Hamilton” where he was roundly booed once he was recognized, Trump was livid.  He was apparently further incensed by the eloquent words directed at Pence by a cast member at the end of the show--as Pence was making a hasty exit.  After conducting one of the nastiest campaigns in the history of our country, and refusing to ever apologize for the countless individuals and groups he deliberately chose to persecute and insult, Trump actually demanded that the cast of “Hamilton” apologize!
     Then, in the wee hours of Sunday morning, the President-elect felt obliged to take to Twitter in order to attack “Saturday Night Live” for Alec Baldwin’s hilarious portrayal of Trump in Wonderland.  If we’re constantly subjected to his whining over inconsequential matters such as these, what’s he going to do in the rough-and-tumble world of international politics?  The tears of this clown won’t cut it at that point.  Kellyanne Conway, Trump's own campaign manager, admitted he's a ridiculous man-baby... it's going to be an awfully long four years.  God save us all.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

After Trump

     The unimaginable has happened.  Donald Trump, who ran a campaign based on bullying, bigotry, misogyny, half-truths and outright lies, will be making himself at home in our White House... the People's House.  The "basket" of deplorables that Hillary Clinton made reference to morphed into an eighteen wheeler truck.  Much was made of that label, "deplorable"... I don't doubt that many of Trump's  supporters are indeed white supremacists who are panicked at their diminished influence/control.  Many others are alt-right types willing to do whatever it takes to further a dangerous agenda.  "Some, I assume (yes, I'm quoting Trump), are good people..." likely motivated by genuine economic frustration and fear.  They're wondering what happened to their seat at the table.  What happened to their American Dream?
     It's hard to be sure what Trump's economic policies might entail, since he seemed to go to great lengths not to engage in a detailed discussion of the issues during the campaign.  If it wasn't "great", "huge", "tremendous" and didn't involve a wall, it was unlikely to be mentioned.  In any case, Trump has given no indication that he either understands or cares about income inequality.  Furthermore, he'd never do anything that wasn't in the best interest of his fellow one-percenters. 
     For Trump supporters then, this lack of any economic agenda only seems to leave racial and cultural resentments as their unifying doctrine.  Not much in the way of building a better America...
     One would have thought that given the slow-but-steady forward march of history we wouldn't be confronted by hatred, fear, and paranoia on this scale again... yet here we are.  We'll need to raise our voices to defend immigrants, Muslims, the millions of our fellow citizens who'll have their health insurance stripped away, the environment, Mitch McConnell's plan to turn the Supreme Court into a cluster of ultra-conservative tools... you name it.  We have our work cut out for us.  As much as it may be tempting to look toward a more progressive society (Canada), this is our country.
     We can take comfort in the realization that we're not alone.  In fact, we are the majority.  53% of us voted for someone other than Donald J. Trump. Even setting aside the votes cast for Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote (by a margin of at least1-2 million, depending on the estimates).  So, although Trump and his supporters would be appalled at having this word attached to them, they're a minority.
     Leading up to the election, Trump and his supporters whined for months about how unfair "the system" was.  They assured us the election was rigged.  Funny how all that talk vanished in the blink of an eye! 
     In the next few weeks the President-elect is scheduled to appear in court to face allegations of massive fraud (Trump "University") brought in a lawsuit.  Perhaps he won't even make it to the White House... Even if he does, we'll use the same system he derided and demeaned to take our country back.  God knows, we all deserve better... even James Comey. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Massacre in Orlando; Trump's Disgrace

     Like millions of Americans, I awakened this morning to news reports about the horrific slaughter in Orlando's "The Pulse" night club.  The headlines state that this is the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, with 50 dead and another 53 wounded--many critically.  My heart goes out to the victims, their families and friends, and to the entire LGBT community.
     One might have hoped that politicians would refrain from pronouncing judgment on this tragedy--at the very least until all the facts are known.  Donald Trump, however, felt compelled to weigh in (to no one's surprise) by informing the waiting world that these events prove he was "right" about terrorism... whatever that means.  He reiterated his call for a "ban" on Muslims entering the U.S. (of course, the suspect is an American citizen--born and bred here--and appears to have acted alone), he denounced our "weak leadership" --demanding that President Obama resign (!), and he attacked Hillary Clinton for not speaking the words "radical Islamic terrorist".  Of course, not once in his statements did he express his support for the LGBT community. Given his recent run of bad press, significant Republican buyers remorse, and dropping poll numbers it's no wonder he'd want to point fingers elsewhere--but, no one needs to hear more of his bigotry and intolerance--least of all the Orlando community.  He's only making a horrendous situation even worse.
     Since he decided to politicize this tragedy, instead of showing restraint and decency, I only hope Trump's actions serve as a wake-up call for those who might actually contemplate voting for him.  He is a demagogue, and an arrogant bully.  His hate speech accomplishes nothing but serving as a recruiting tool for ISIS.   I have to believe that the inherent goodness and decency of the American people will ultimately prevent Mr. Trump from getting anywhere near the Oval Office.  It's obvious that this great country deserves far better.

     After posting the above, I read that Trump has achieved a new low--even for him.  He said that the President "either doesn't get it, or... he gets it better than we understand".  The implication is obvious, and disgusting.  This man has no shame whatsoever.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Despicable Donald, Part One

     Donald Trump's blatant hypocrisy is downright fascinating... and perversely entertaining. Take notice of how Herr Trump repeatedly whines whenever a news outlet raises the specter of past failures or questionable antics. For example, he goes a little bonkers when he's reminded that he posed as his own publicist in 1991, but his orange hues turn bright red when mention is made of Trump business bankruptcies in 1991, 1992, 2004, and 2009. Duplicitous Donald strenuously objects to any journey through HIS past. And yet, he's decided that Hillary Clinton's past is fair game. Duplicitous Donald has determined that Whitewater is a relevant issue here in 2016! Not that anyone likely remembers--or cares--but there where allegations that President Bill Clinton (while serving as Governor of Arkansas in the mid 1980s) used his influence to arrange a $300,000 loan to the Clintons' partner in a real estate deal.  The Clintons actually lost tens of thousands of dollars in the deal; it was thoroughly investigated, and they were never indicted for anything.  Duplicitous Donald knows there's nothing to this, but he believes in repeating lies enough so that his supporters will believe him.
     Even more disturbing is Herr Trump's ill-advised decision to raise questions that have already been answered about the suicide of a Deputy White House Counsel, Vince Foster, in 1993 (during the first year of the Clinton presidency).  Multiple investigations concluded that Mr. Foster did indeed commit suicide:  the U.S. Park Police (with F.B.I. assistance) in 1993, independent Counsel Robert Fisk in 1994, and even Whitewater independent Counsel Ken Starr (who certainly disliked the Clintons) reached the same conclusion in 1997--after a three-year investigation.  Despicable Donald, however, has no decency or regard for the Foster family--instead, he and assorted talk radio conspiracy lunatics say or do anything to assault the Clintons.  Just a reminder:  this is the same Despicable Donald who touted a bogus National Enquirer photo to smear Ted Cruz; claiming that the photo showed Raul Cruz (Ted's father) with Lee Harvey Oswald.  Of course, we all know what Despicable Donald wanted everyone to think.
     As Herr Trump's campaign melts down into an orgy of bigotry, sexism, and hatred, be prepared for Desperate Donald.  He'll reveal that, among many other things, Hillary broke up the Beatles and staged the moon landing. 
     In the end, Despicable Donald has nothing.  He's a hot air balloon incapable of rational discussion of issues he's unable to understand... and the air is beginning to escape, but like a cornered cobra he'll strike out randomly and repeatedly.  He's dangerous, he's despicable... let's hope he's done.


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Trump-George Zimmerman 2016

The world must really wonder what the hell is going on in the United States of America. In the past few years we've embarrassed ourselves in multiple ways, and God knows we're continuing to do so on a daily basis. I'm reading headlines about Sheldon Adelson vowing to spend $100 million dollars to fund the "self-funding" Donald Trump's presidential campaign. It's billionaire to billionaire and racist to racist (check out Adelson's comments about Palestinians). This news accompanies a New York Times report on Donald Trump's decades-long history of inappropriate behavior toward women. A "rich" history of lewd and unwelcome advances... And yet, as a result of the hijacking and disemboweling of the old Republican party, this lunatic will be nominated for president.
Given the general insanity, I suppose it's entirely appropriate to see George Zimmerman back in the news. This thug who shot Trayvon Martin on 2/26/2012, and escaped justice on 7/13/2013 (when he was somehow acquitted of second degree murder)actually has the cojones to try and auction off the gun he used to commit the killing. Get this: he pledged that a portion of the sale (initial bid was $5,000)would be used to fight Black Lives Matter "violence" directed against law enforcement officers and to counter "Hillary Clinton's anti-firearms rhetoric". Disgusting... on so many levels. Trayvon Martin's family must feel as though this cretin is dancing on their son's grave. For George Zimmerman to have the audacity to talk about violence is astounding. One look at his lengthy arrest record--dating back to 2005--and it's obvious that this man should never have been allowed to own a weapon. A domestic violence arrest in 2005, plus another arrest that year for shoving and threatening an undercover alcohol control agent. After shooting Trayvon in 2013, he lied about his assets during bail hearings, but that was just the beginning. 9/9/2013 he threatened his estranged wife and her father with a gun (and punched the father in the face). 11/18/2013 he pointed a shotgun at a girlfriend and began destroying her possessions. 1/9/2015 he proved he didn't need a gun when he was arrested for aggravated assault for throwing a wine bottle at another girlfriend.
It makes perfect sense, in a perverse way, that George Zimmerman would crawl out from under his rock in the era of Donald Trump. I'd be willing to bet there are more than a few in that crowd who view him as some sort of persecuted hero, On the plus side, his "auction" has been subverted by numerous internet Gods and Goddesses who've pushed the winning bid up to $65 million last I checked. (Thank you "Racist McShootface" and others).
Don't give up on us yet... maybe Trump can be stopped and we can live up to our ideals and be our better selves. In the meantime, it would seem fitting that Trump capture this unique and deeply disturbing moment in our history by choosing George Zimmerman--the poster boy for Trumpism--as his running mate.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Name the Donald

Donald Trump is notorious for many things. Among them is his childish and annoying need to try and assign a nickname to his many political opponents. We're all familiar with (and sick to death of hearing) "Lyin' Ted". Before that, when Trump was engaged in a size-of-penis war with Marco Rubio (a new low in American politics, I might add), we heard "Little Marco". Most of his Republican opponents escaped an actual nickname, but suffered a barrage of personal insults instead. Jasmine C. Lee and Kevin Quealy have compiled an interesting list (210) of the people, places, and things Trump has insulted on Twitter. If you're ever feeling insecure about your writing skills, or command of the English language, you might want to check it out--you'll walk away feeling so much better about yourself.
Lately, of course, Donnie is trying to develop a nickname for Hillary Clinton. He started out with "Crooked Hillary", but seems to have had second thoughts since he began trying out "Corrupt Hillary" instead.
I'd like to suggest that while he works overtime on solving that dilemma (as opposed to taking the time to learn about foreign or domestic policy), we ought to return the favor. Donald shouldn't be left out in the cold without a nickname of his own. Elizabeth Warren recently summed him up on Twitter ("weak"), but we need to give him something that reflects his persona: big, boorish, stupid.
I'm hoping people will help me out with this... let's have some fun!
"Trumpus Rumpus" seems a little silly...
"Deplorable Donald" has promise...
"vulgar" is too soft, "sleazy" is on the money, but it needs to be a catch phrase.
Come on people, he's given us so much to work with. Let's hear those names!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Trumpus Interruptus

The presumptive nominee of what remains of the Republican Party (the tea-partiers and lunatic right-wring fringe have successfully carried out purges that might have made Pol Pot blush; not a moderate remains standing) has given new meaning to the term "whiplash".
Throughout the nomination process Mr. Trump has seen fit to engage in the most childish and nasty name-calling imaginable... usually late in the evening on Twitter. One look at the caliber of his tweets leads to the conclusion that alcohol was likely involved. The "New York Times" provided a public service in compiling a listing of the late-night rants (The Upshot, 4/4/2016) and it was disturbing, to say the least. To think that someone so unstable might be sitting in the Oval Office, or anywhere near the infamous "red button", is enough to make the skin crawl.
Let me state upfront that I am not a Republican, and I am certainly no fan of Ted Cruz. Yet throughout the campaign Mr. Trump saw fit to tweet: "a nasty guy", "world class liar", "biggest liar in politics", "dishonest", "deceptive", "cheater", "didn't win in Iowa, he stole it", "ultimate hypocrite", "says one thing for the money, does another for the votes", and my personal favorite--"doesn't have the temperament to be president" (!). These are but a few of the Trump tweets... what a statesman! To put the icing on the cake, he actively supported the "National Enquirer's" attack on Cruz's father--placing him in Dallas with Lee Harvey Oswald.
Yet, less than 48 hours later after his win in Indiana, Trump said: "Ted Cruz... I don't know if he likes me or doesn't like me, but he is one hell of a competitor. He is a tough, smart guy. And he has got an amazing future."
As I listened, my brain almost exploded and my neck suffered excruciating whiplash. It's what the Manson family would have sounded like had they returned to the scene of the Sharon Tate massacre the next morning: "We didn't really mean it, we're fans".
Words have consequences, Mr. Trump, or at least they used to. Hopefully all the lies, vitriol and negativity will come back to bite you before it's too late for the rest of us. "Instant Karma's gonna get you".

Monday, May 2, 2016

Enough with the Shtick, Bernie

It appears increasingly likely that a fanatical minority or Republicans will succeed in nominating Donald Trump as the party’s presidential candidate. In the world of politics it’s not unusual to hear dire warnings about the importance of “this” election versus “that” election; or the need to defeat candidate X because he or she represent(s) a threat to the very survival of our democracy. We’ve heard these claims so often now that it’s admittedly tempting to ignore the boy who cried “wolf!” entirely. However, given the number or racist, sexist, and just plain bat-s**t crazy rants emanating from the Donald, it’s plain to see that if he succeeds in getting anywhere near the White House, our homes may indeed collapse in the rush of hot air, and the republic may well be screwed.
It would seem that the sooner the Democratic Party is able to unite, the better off we’ll be. Given the lure of Justin Trudeau’s bold new visions and proposals, it’s certainly tempting to consider a mass emigration to Canada (if they haven’t built a wall), but we can’t afford to leave our country in the clutches of an intolerant, hateful minority.

Sen. Bernie Sanders has surprised almost everyone by running an inspirational and powerful campaign. His focus on issues such as income inequality, the influence of big money in politics, universal healthcare, free tuition at public colleges and universities, and offering a legal pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants have resonated with millions across the country.
Unfortunately, he has recently veered off course and misses no opportunity to try and inflict damage on Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Setting aside the simple arithmetic, it’s simply disappointing to hear Senator Sanders resort to such tactics.

For example, it’s silly for Senator Sanders to try and claim the mantle of the “anti-establishment” candidate when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1988, where he served until being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006. These are among the most exclusive and powerful legislative bodies in the world. (It’s also worth noting that in every election campaign Sanders has benefitted greatly from the support of a Democratic party that he then attempts to keep at arm’s length.)
It’s absurd for Senator Sanders to attack Secretary Clinton (at the contentious Brooklyn debate) on the issue of global warming and then turn around and charter a private plane for a 8500 mile round-trip flight to Rome—for a conference on wealth inequality? The Mail Online calculated 33,193 gallons of fossil fuel were used for this jaunt. Now that’s some carbon footprint! Another moment at that debate was particularly striking. While Secretary Clinton clarified a comment she’d made regarding the proportion of guns from Vermont used to commit crimes in NYC, Senator Sanders almost chuckled. He seemed to find the topic amusing, until Secretary Clinton reminded him that “gun violence is not a laughing matter”. Unfortunately, Senator Sanders also passed up on an opportunity to apologize to the parents/families of the Sandy Hook massacre for his comments in an interview with the “N.Y. Daily News” maintaining those parents didn’t have the right to sue the gun manufacturers.

A few days ago, Jane Sanders sounded uncannily like Donald Trump in a recent interview with Fox Business Network’s “Cavuto Coast to Coast” as she complained that the delegate selection process “isn’t fair”. To make matters worse, in today’s headlines I’m seeing that Senator Sanders himself is promising a contested Democratic convention. I have no doubt this provided tremendous glee at Trump headquarters.
I can only hope that, in time, Senator Sanders and those supporters who’ve promised not to vote for Secretary Clinton, will look again at the danger posed by Donald Trump and think long and hard about what they’re doing.
I plan to vote for Hillary Clinton not as the “lesser of two evils”, but as a capable, experienced candidate whose time has come. I believe that the basis for much of the antipathy toward Hillary Clinton stems from one of the most brutal and disingenuous hatchet jobs ever to emerge from the world of public relations. In 1994, in response to President Clinton’s proposed health care plan (with Hillary taking point), insurance companies launched a year-long, multi-million dollar smear campaign (“Harry and Louise”) that seems to have shaped perceptions of Hillary Clinton ever since. I admire Secretary Clinton for her resilience and determination in facing down decades of uninformed vitriol, and look forward to her election as President of the United States.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Paul Ryan's Smirk or Scowl

In a few short hours, millions of Americans will be subjected to Paul Ryan's supposed "poker face". The only real question is: will he be smirking, or scowling? As Speaker of the House, Ryan will be seated next to Vice President Biden and behind President Obama as he delivers his final State of the Union address. Ryan’s dark suit will undoubtedly be festooned with his usual American flag pin. Unfortunately, Ryan is unable to grasp or appreciate the incredible strength in the diversity of our nation, so the pin is quite meaningless. If he truly understood, then there’d be no excuse for either his voting record, or for what I’m convinced is the racist manner in which he, Mitch McConnell, and countless other Republican “luminaries” in Congress have consistently interacted with President Obama throughout his two terms. Frankly, their behavior has been so blatant I’m shocked that the word “uppity” hasn’t escaped their lips. Ryan’s disdain of the President has long been palpable, but it’s hardly surprising.
Ryan, who is actually considered a “policy wonk” by some, demonstrated his racist proclivities this past year when he linked poverty to “this tailspin of culture in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work”. Rep. Barbara Lee of California immediately (and quite correctly) took him to the proverbial woodshed. Noting his use of “inner city” as code for “black”, Rep. Lee pegged it as a racist attack.
Ryan is a part of the mindset that would find such statements/views acceptable. Today, nine out of ten Republican supporters are white; and 98% of elected Republican officials are white. Ryan continues to fly in the face of diversity. It’s ironic, then, that he actually held a poverty “forum” in South Carolina last week. Given the fact that Ryan has voted against raising the minimum wage ten times since coming to the Congress, and that he envisions one of the “solutions” to poverty as being slashing proven/effective Federal anti-poverty programs and putting them in the hands of the states, it’s hard to take him seriously. Unfortunately, he’s just so dangerous…
As he glowers or glares behind the President this evening, consider the respective messages each man represents. I’m certain President Obama’s will accentuate the positive, while Ryan will embody the party of opposition-with-no-plan. Ryan will undoubtedly make every effort to ensure his flag lapel is in full view, but Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine (a band Ryan claimed to be a big fan of) summarized it best several years ago when he called Ryan out for “his rage against women, immigrants, workers, the poor, gays, and the environment”. We’d all best beware of Paul Ryan, smirk or scowl.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A New Year, The Same Old Governor

While we would normally look to the start of a new year with the hope that better times lie ahead, unfortunately Paul LePage remains our governor, so we the citizens of Maine have learned to expect nothing but more of the same.
In what was likely a foreshadowing of things to come, a memorial service was held in front of the Christmas tree in Monument Square on December 21st to acknowledge and offer respect to the 43 homeless people who died in Portland this past year. Yet as the number of these deaths continues to climb, LePage and his notorious aide-de-camp Mary Mayhew (director of Maine’s Dept. of Health and Human Services) offer little in the way of compassion. Instead, they made it clear this past year that they were intent on cutting state funding to the city’s homeless shelters. To quote Randy Newman, “human kindness is overflowing”. LePage and Mayhew would undoubtedly point to Maine’s heroin epidemic as a factor in the number of deaths, and there is likely some correlation. But the LePage “solution” to this problem focuses exclusively on hiring more law enforcement, and on whatever “remedies” are engineered by prosecutors and judges. It should be noted that in 2013 LePage vetoed a bill to make Narcan—a potentially life-saving drug for overdose victims—more widely available, claiming it provided “an excuse to stay addicted”. Furthermore, the LePage administration has done nothing but observe from the sidelines as several drug addiction treatment centers have been forced to close their doors; as the state opted not to pursue a pool of $3 million in federal aid available to states to improve services and increase medication-assisted treatment. God forbid the state should seek federal aid, even in times of crisis!
This anti-federal government posturing is made even clearer when we hear LePage promise to veto a proposal by two courageous Republican State Senators, Tom Saviello and Roger Katz, who are seeking to expand Maine’s Medicaid eligibility. They’re hoping to gain access to federal funding that could be put to good use in Maine’s battle against the out-of-control heroin epidemic. Of course, what Saviello and Katz are actually perceived as supporting by LePage (and like-minded fanatics) is an expansion of the Affordable Care Act, more ominously known as “Obamacare”. Never mind the fact that by expanding Medicaid as allowed by the AFC some 60,000 additional people could be added to the state’s Medicaid rolls. Translation: they’d gain access to health insurance. However, these are not the sort of people LePage or Mayhew are interested in serving. Their opposition to raising Maine’s preposterously low minimum wage ($7.50) to anything even approaching a livable wage, along with recent revelations regarding the mismanagement of Maine’s Food Stamp program (Maine’s SNAP program is the most poorly administered in the nation, ranking dead last) and service delays that effectively punish those in need of food assistance makes their priorities all too clear.
It’s a new year, but we’re unfortunately stuck with the same old Governor.
Postscript: It's apparently going to be a very long long year as well. As I finished this post I discovered the Governor had once again embarrassed himself--and the state--with a racist comment. The man truly has no shame.