The Empire Has No Clothes

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Yesterday, the world stood witness as Trump spent over an hour roadblocking the major cable networks across the United States as he gave a rambling, stream-of-conscious, lie-riddled press conference. In a stunning portrayal of the fragility of Trump’s ego, the president’s veritable nervous breakdown in front of the world on the heels of almost four weeks of absolute dysfunction and abject chaos in the White House demonstrates how unfit he is to serve the great citizens of this country. Trump opined that he “inherited a mess” from President Obama. If only President Obama hadn’t set Trump up to fail – then maybe Trump would have a single legislative accomplishment to show for the last month.

Of course, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Obama was elected as the economy collapsed from the weight of 8 years of dysfunctional Republican government, which dragged the United States into two major wars and inflated the unemployment rate to nearly ten percent. At the end of the Obama administration, unemployment was at 4.7%; there were 75 straight months of job growth; the stock market hit record highs, the housing market was healthy, corporate profit and consumer confidence were high, and middle-class incomes were spiking. Things weren’t perfect, and many communities still struggled, but America did pretty well under Obama.

The last four weeks of chaos and incompetence should especially concern people because there is no reason that any of it should have happened. All of Trump’s major stumbles have been self-inflicted. His White House has not had to respond to a single crisis, and they inherited a country that could function fine on auto-pilot. Instead of working to build a legislative coalition, draft policy, and iron out administrative duties – the White House has spent the last four weeks engaged in petty temper tantrums directed at the press while desperately trying to explain Trump’s most recent erratic behavior. After the election, with his political capital at an all-time high, Trump – the self-proclaimed legendary deal maker – squandered it by starting his presidency off by blatantly and resiliently lying about the crowd sizes at his inauguration, clumsily rolling out a Muslim ban, and conveniently forgetting his promises towards reforming the Affordable Care Act.

The press conference that Donald Trump held yesterday was a perfect example of why he is such a terrible president. Trump accused the news of being fake despite admitting the authenticity of the leaks, trying to utilize bizarre verbal jiu-jitsu to explain his logic. He asked a black reporter, April Ryan, to set a meeting up with the Congressional Black Caucus after she asked him a question about his relationship with them. Ranted and raved about his portrayal in the media as someone that rants and raves. Bragged about America’s nuclear capabilities. Told a Jewish reporter that “I am the least anti-Semitic person you know” in response to a question about the rise in anti-Semitic attacks in the United States. Lied about the scope and size of his electoral victory. And complained in general about his portrayal in the media – while musing that he would have been a tremendous reporter – and the epidemic of fake news in an unending tirade that only ended after his aides stepped in.

The same erratic, temper driven, lying, cheating, racist, and sexist behavior that pushed Trump’s campaign for President has defined the first several weeks of his presidency. At the press conference yesterday Trump demonstrated that he is unfit to serve as President of the United States. He is not running for president anymore, he is president, and he must act like it. Trump sits in a gold tower all day surrounded by sycophants and liars. As the fires burn around him, his court jesters whisper sweet praise into his ear and assure him that he is doing an incredible, tremendous, great, bigly job. It has become such a joke that even his own advisors talk openly of their ‘alternate facts,’ as though the truth is up for debate. Like the Empire with no clothes, Trump has become untethered from reality. America is a democracy, and our leaders must be accountable to the truth.

 

 

Trumpocalypse – The Storm That Breweth.

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As a consummate outsider with no experience in government, no one expected that the Trump administration would transition into governance without incident. It has been nearly four weeks since the inauguration, however, and Trump has barely gotten off the starting blocks. People did not expect perfection, but they did expect a modicum of competence. What they have gotten is the bumbling efforts of a racist old man who is too weak even to lead the sycophantic billionaire club that fawns over Trumps every move. Trump has made a ton of noise, but he hasn’t accomplished anything of merit since he has been sworn in. The Republican party controls an enormously disproportionate share of government right now, and even with veritable super-majorities across every branch of government, they have been unable to coalesce around even the most simple of policy goals. Instead of reaching across the aisle to unify an electorate that overwhelmingly voted against them, the Republican party – spearheaded by the Donald Trump Kremlin club – have stoked controversy, sewn racial resentment, and threatened war.

Every day is the same. Trump does something terrible, stupid, or just plain incompetent. His minions go out onto cable news shows, and make up lies to justify the cacophony pouring forth from the White House. Journalists call the White House out, and – in a cruel twist of fate – the White House accuses the media of promulgating fake news. And so the cycle continues. But amidst all the noise, there is something else happening. Slowly, but surely, a storm is brewing. Trump has survived until now because his braggadocio and bullying gives allows him to deflect hard questions and subvert political norms. But incompetence can only be hidden for so long. The cracks are starting to become apparent, and they have an overwhelming Russian tint to them.

Throughout the campaign, Trump had to release many advisors because of their suspicious links to Russia. During the Republican National Convention, the Trump team specifically altered the Republican platform in only one instance, to make sure that Putin was treated more favorably. After Trump had become President, more and more information came out that confirmed what many had already suspected, that Russia had worked during the campaign to help smooth Trump’s path to the presidency. Trump laughed off the allegations and continued to blame Obama and the Democrats for his woes – again despite overwhelming Republican majorities across every branch of government. Since that time, however – like a cat unwinding a spool of yarn – the thread of Russian ties to Trump has grown longer by the hour.

The Russian troubles that so plague Trump have been exponentially compounded by the absolute incompetence with which he runs his administration. Like many of Trump’s greatest stumbles, his most severe wounds are self-inflicted. The lying, double-speak, and internal strife that clouds the executive office have found Trump in a knot between his advisors, the intelligence community, and the American people. Trump doesn’t make decisions based on empirical facts or even ideology, instead preferring to captain the ship with his emotions. That may have been an effective strategy for him during the campaign, but it is quickly showing its limitations in real government.

As dissent continues to crescendo across the United States, and to reverberate in the halls of Congress and the Senate, the veneer of legitimacy that protects Donald Trump hangs in a fragile balance. For the first time, Republicans are starting to call for a truly independent investigation into the Russian ties to Trump. But instead of focusing on the very clumsy and very chaotic unrolling of the Trump administration to improve itself, Trump has spent nearly every waking minute engaged in petty twitter beef’s, or pathetic temper tantrums against the media and protesters.

In a tumultuous – and rare – press conference today Donald Trump blamed his incompetence on the Obama administration and the media. He proclaimed that his administration was “running like a fine-tuned machine,” despite the porous nature of the leaks that have sprung forth from his office like a well tapped for the first time. He lied about his relationship with Russia, which he has previously boasted about. And he defended Michael Flynn, while simultaneously blaming him for being distrustful. It is not shocking that Trump has had so much resistance since he got sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, but it is shocking how poorly he has handled it.

President Nixon was a chaotic player in a dangerous world, and Trump has been compared to him aplenty. The controversy that toppled the Nixon administration was slow-burning and took a while to hit its mark. The stewing controversy around Trump, however, is moving much faster. How much longer will Republican Senators be able to defend the ever-increasing list of Russian ties to the Trump team, how much longer will they be able to ignore the blatant racism, and how much longer will they be able to obfuscate the incompetence that runs through it all?

At this point, it is clear that there must be a truly independent investigation of Trump’s ties to Russia. The Republicans that gleefully supported over 30 hearings in the Benghazi witch-hunts have remained silent thus far, but their cowardly complicity can only go on for so long. It is time for Congress to do its job. America is starting to wake up. A storm is brewing, and it is looking absolutely, tremendously, yuge.

President Bannon: How White Supremacists Took Over The White House.

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The Trump administration has only been in power for a little over a week. The first week of his administration has been marked by chaos, protests, and the massive overreach of executive authority. Attempting to keep up with the daily deluge of insane executive orders, mandates, and false tweets that pour forth from the Trump camp is like trying to drink from two firehoses at the same time. From ill-prepared and ambiguous orders aimed at dismantling the Obama legacy to blatantly anti-constitutional and racist driven anti-Muslim bans, there is no shortage of things to critique for Trumps first week in office. In any other political climate, the Republican party would already be preparing impeachment proceedings. But as the GOP has been driven further and further to the right, they have gotten increasingly comfortable with the more insidious elements of their coalition. Namely, the racists and white supremacists that so energetically and enthusiastically constitute their base.

During the campaign, Trump promised that he would surround himself with the smartest and best people as President, to counterbalance his inexperience, similarly to the way that Reagan campaigned. Since Trump won the electoral college, however, he has surrounded himself with conspiracy theorists, like Michael Flynn, and white supremacists, like Steve Bannon. These people have wielded an inordinate amount of influence on the ever-impressionable Trump, to the extent that it appears Trump is merely a puppet for the truly evil characters that he surrounds himself with. Trump may hold the title of President, but it is clearly Bannon who wields power.

The Muslim ban, which was announced out of thin air and which promptly thrust the United States, and its airports particularly, into a state of chaos, bewilderment, and shock reeks of Bannon. Further, in the wake of the uproar surrounding the ban, the Trump administration quietly downgraded the role of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence and created a permanent seat on the “principals committee” of the National Security Council for Bannon. Essentially giving an unvetted political operative the same amount of national security influence as the secretaries of state and defense. Bannon, whose rise to prominence came from tirelessly promoting white supremacist, anti-Semitic, and misogynistic propaganda through the Breitbart platform has long held a vendetta against immigrants, non-Christians, and all but the most extreme right-wing movements. The radical unfolding of the Trump administration has not followed traditional Republican orthodoxy, but rather embraces the much more authoritarian and race driven ideology embraced by people like Bannon and Breitbart.

Bannon, who bragged about turning Breitbart into a platform for the alt-right – read white supremacist, Nazi sympathizing, rabble rousers – was instrumental in getting Trump to institute the Muslim ban overnight. He most certainly had a role to play in scrubbing any mention of Jews, or anti-Semitism from the White Houses statements on Holocaust Memorial Day. And he has managed to finagle himself an unvetted spot on one of the most important national security positions in the United States. The deluge of delusion that spills forth from the White House every day is in no small part connected to the influence that the Bannon wields over Trump. Political operatives have no place in the day-to-day administration of the government of the United States of America, and they certainly have no place in national security discussions. Trump may be the 45th President of the United States, but he is little more than a rubber stamp for the racist agenda of Bannon.

Though it is easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of controversy spewing from the White House, there are some things that we can not afford to lose track of. The rising power of white supremacy, misogyny, and anti-Semitism that Bannon embodies and promulgates is amongst this bunch. Just as people take to the streets to protest the unconstitutional Muslim ban, so to must they take to the street to protest the power that Bannon is slowly amassing. Otherwise, he is sure to continue to play Trump like the marionette puppet that he is.

 

 

The Trump Administrations Assault On The Obvious.

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During the campaign season, Trump spent much of his time lambasting the media for not spending time talking about the enormous crowds that would show up to his rallies. Before the inauguration on Friday, Trump promised that the crowds would be tremendous and record setting. During the actual event, however, it was painfully obvious that the crowds he had promised would not be realized. As networks rolled live coverage, large areas completely devoid of any personnel dotted the landscape and betrayed President Trump’s unprecedented unpopularity. The next day, millions of women, men, and children took to the streets in protest. Absolutely dwarfing the scale and scope of the crowds that came to witness the inauguration of America’s 45th President.

Trump has always been very sensitive about size. He is peculiarly defensive about the size of his hands. He defended the size of his manhood on live television during a presidential debate. And he regularly boasts about the size of his social media followers and the crowds that attend his rallies. But on Friday it was immediately evident that the man who cares so much about size was only able to draw a tiny portion of the viewers that more charismatic people like President Obama were able to in their own inauguration. For a sense of scale, in 2009, for Obama’s inauguration, over 3,000 buses applied for parking on the day of the event. For Trump, however, there were less than 300 such requests.

Because the inauguration was an event that was broadcast around the world live it did not take long for people to notice just how few people were attending. Live broadcasts offer little room for manipulation on the part of the broadcaster. What you see is what you get. It didn’t matter if you were watching from MSNBC, Fox News, Facebook, or Twitter. Wherever you were watching, it was immediately apparent that very few people cared enough to go see the 45th President get sworn in personally. In contrast, the crowds that showed up the following day in protest of President Trump absolutely dwarfed his supporters showing. The crowds were so enormous that many of the march’s had to be canceled by the police when they realized they had enormously underestimated the number of people that would show up.

In response to the massive crowds at the protest and pathetic turnout for the inauguration, one of President Trump’s first actions as President was to send Sean Spicer, his Press Secretary, out to lie flat out to the press and then storm off without answering questions. Spicer, visibly agitated, came out and spent five minutes ranting to the media about how Trump’s inauguration had the biggest crowds in history – in spite of the overwhelming and indisputable evidence against that – and attacking the media for its alleged dishonesty. He presented that the President and his team had alternative facts that demonstrated just how popular the inauguration had really been.

Trump lying is nothing new. He spent the vast majority of his campaign telling lies. What is new is the absolute shamelessness with which they have begun to lie. Spicer came out and complained that the media had lied about the crowd size at Trump’s inauguration even though it was painfully obvious that Trump’s crowd was easily half the size of the one that showed up to support Obama. Before Spicer’s rant, Trump supporters on social media were arguing that fewer people came to the event because Trump supporters were busy working. After Spicer’s rant, they all began to pick up the Trump byline and pretend that the media was altering live shots of the broadcast in tandem to make his support appear diminished. Demonstrating just how willing they are to suspend reality to support their narrative.

The fact that Trump spent the first full day of his administration desperately lying about the size of the crowds that attended his inauguration is a sign of what his relationship with reality will be during the rest of his administration’s tenure. How are American’s supposed to believe a single thing that comes out of any person’s mouth that is affiliated with Trump? From Conway to Priebus, his motley crew of sycophants has desperately defended every lie that he has uttered. Lying about crowd sizes – in spite of all evidence otherwise – may not have physical repercussions on people’s lives. But it demonstrates that there will be no ability for people to trust anything that comes out of his administration. The era of credibility for the office of the President of the United States of America has come to an end. And it happened with the full support and vindication of the Republican party and its supporters.

It is important, in this new era, to not let Trump and his desperate group of plunderers ultimately devalue the word of the United States of America. Where is the outcry from the right? The protest? The American conservative movement, and the GOP particularly, must demonstrate that they stand for something other than a love of power. It is clear that love of country is not what motivates them. President Trump must be held accountable to the truth.

 

 

Trump Honors MLK Weekend By Attacking Civil Rights Icon John Lewis.

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A Civil Rights Icon and Democratic Representative from the state of Georgia, John Lewis, met with Chuck Todd on Friday and told him in an exclusive interview that he does not believe Trump is a “legitimate president.” He went on to say that he will not be attending the inauguration of the President of the United States – for the first time in three decades – to protest the results of the unfair election that Trump won. Lewis has spent his entire life fighting for civil rights. He was beaten within an inch of his life by police officers, he remained devoted to peaceful resistance, and he walked across that fabled bridge in Selma that gave the civil rights movement the spark that it needed to ignite the passions of white America against intolerance. If there is any moral compass in Congress, it is John Lewis. Whether or not one agrees with Lewis’s representation of the results of the election, the eve of MLK weekend is not the time to start fighting with him about it.

Trump will be the next President of the United States of America. But there is plenty of reason to suspect the legitimacy of President-elect Trump.He won the electoral college – an archaic institution designed to protect slave states – but lost the popular vote by several million votes and counting. There is mounting evidence that his campaign either colluded with or has been coerced by the Kremlin and Vladimir Putin. The Civil Rights Act was gutted by the Scalia Supreme Court in 2013, which promptly led to a number of States putting harsh voter restriction laws into effect. And it is increasingly clear that the FBI and Director Comey, disproportionately and with partisan intent, helped drive a witch hunt against Hillary Clinton despite any evidence of anything malignant.  Representative John Lewis was the first to say it aloud because that is who he is. He has always fought for what is right and refused to stay silent.

While John Lewis was putting his life on the line for civil rights, Trump was occupied with getting his daddy’s doctor to help him avoid conscription for the Vietnam War. Lewis has dedicated his life to public service and the pursuit of civil rights. In comparison, Trump has devoted his life to pursuing sexually predatory behavior, cheating on his wives, defrauding his employees, and enriching himself at the expense of everyone and everything. The past aside, Trump promised on the night that he won the presidency that he would be president for all Americans, not just those that voted for him. Trump could have responded to the comment by Lewis with maturity and poise, by thanking him for the service he has done and agreeing to disagree yet work together. Instead, he attacked him on Twitter, writing,

Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to……mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk – no action or results. Sad!

PolitiFact rated the accusations within the tweet “Mostly False.” While residents of Lewis’s district were quick to rally on social media and fight back against the President-elect’s characterization of their community and defend their congressman.

The fact that Trump decided to start the MLK weekend by accusing the Civil Rights Icon and MLK associate John Lewis of being ‘all talk and no action or results’ says everything there is to say about his character. Trump made a name for himself in politics by attacking the legitimacy of the first Black President, it is ironic that he is so sensitive to the matter now that it is his legitimacy in question. Trump is deeply disliked by the vast majority of American people, is likely to violate the Constitution his first day in office, and refuses to clear even the most basic ethical obligations in politics. He lost the popular vote by millions and was helped by the FBI and Kremlin alike, en route to a historically average electoral victory. Trump’s legitimacy is going to be questioned routinely during his administration because there is an enormous amount of reasons to suspect it. If he is going to be President for all Americans, then he needs to make his peace with that and do what can be done to mend the divisions that he has driven a wedge into over the past several years. His attack on John Lewis over MLK weekend shows that he has no intentions of being either a unifying president or even a decent person.

In memory of MLK, everyone should consider what he might have done to resist Trump and take inspiration from it. Progress isn’t free or easy. Men like Rep. Lewis know that better than anyone.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

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[Via McFadden]

The GOP spent the last eight years of the Obama presidency furiously pounding their fists and working themselves up into a fury over – dubious at best – allegations of corruption. Last week the House GOP tried to kick off the first day of the GOP-led Congress by gutting the Office of Congressional Ethics via a secret, closed-door roll call. The first opportunity that they had when they were in power they used to try and remove any independent oversight of their actions. Actions speak louder than words. It is clear that despite the outcry that House Republicans made about the Obama administration facilitating corruption and cronyism, that they have no intentions of abstaining from the gluttonous buffet of hypocrisy that the Trump team is engaging in. Now, when it comes to corruption, the only question House Republicans have is, “how can I get a piece of the pie.”

Congress is divided into two pieces – the House and the Senate – and this division has a powerful tempering effect on legislation. The House is generally more chaotic and erratic, while the Senate is traditionally much more statesmanlike. The House is bigger, and the members therein have a higher rate of turnover, so the House generally tries to take more extreme legislative actions. The Senate, however, is much smaller and it’s members stay for much longer. They have more rules and more traditions, which tends to keep any Congress from being able to pass anything too extreme. The Republican House Caucus has been growing more aggressive in the past years, so it is not surprising that they tried to weaken the Office of Congressional Ethics in their first-day convening since the election. But it is a worrying sign of what is to come.

Though the Senate is generally a force for moderation, the new Senate GOP seems bent on destroying any artifice of the democratic process. The Senate is expected to hold a number of confirmation hearings this week, despite several of Trump’s appointee’s failure to complete the background checks and ethics clearances that are required before the Senate begins cabinet-level confirmation proceedings. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader in the Senate, said that “I believe [that] all the president-elect’s cabinet appointments will be confirmed.” In the last four decades, the Senate has not held confirmation hearings until all of the candidates had undergone the ethics review process, but forty years of tradition and diligence mean nothing to the new, unshackled, GOP.

The words ‘Trump’ and ‘Unprecedented’ have grown too familiar over the past year-and-a-half, but there appears to be no end in sight. The Republican party has abandoned all pretext of a Constitutional process and is eagerly consumed with snatching up as much power as they can before the country realizes that it’s been hoodwinked and taken for a ride. The president-elect has not even been sworn in and yet he has already fundamentally changed the way that politicians behave. There used to be a bar in American politics. A certain standard of civility and decorum that kept American politics above the pettiness and chaos that engulfed other nations. But that is no longer the case.

Trump has demonstrated a reckless disregard for the rules, but it is especially troubling that his attitude is infecting other members of the Congress. Republicans are sacrificing decades of tradition and process to squeeze every last drop of influence and power that they can from Trump’s victory in November. The way that the House and Senate Republicans are comporting themselves betrays their fraudulent relationship with ethics and the law. It is clear that the Trump administration will not be held in check by the House or the Senate, as the Republican party is entirely too excited to have the opportunity to engage in the same kind of corruption that so embodies Trump’s entire character. Obama has not yet left the Oval Office, and the GOP has already tried to strip the OCE of its power and confirm cabinet-nominees without having them go through the review process. Through their actions, the GOP is making it clear what kind of administration the American people can expect. Trump first, Congress second. While regular American’s can pick themselves up by their bootstraps.

 

 

Holiday Hypocrites: The GOP Edition.

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Throughout the Obama administration, the GOP held the country hostage multiple times by threatening to default on U.S debt to get the Democrats to capitulate to their demands. Fiscal responsibility has been the holy grail that GOP leaders like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have held up to defend their intransigent political maneuvering. The Republicans, led by the infamous Freedom Caucus, pushed John Boehner out of office because they believed that he was too soft when it came to managing the national debt. Of course, now that Trump is the President-elect, the GOP is starting to show its true colors. Fiscal responsibility and conservative values have never been what modern day Republicans stand for. Like any good authoritarian, the only thing that they value is absolute power.

Republicans are all too eager to bring the government to a crashing halt and lurch the world into economic disparity if it means preventing a Democrat from providing adequate healthcare to American citizens. But when Bush was President, they had no qualms with storming into two massive wars – which have gone on longer than any in American history, slashing taxes enormously, and significantly expanding Medicare; without paying for a single dime of it. But when Obama tried to fix the economic disaster that Bush and the GOP left the country in, the Republicans decided that borrowing money during a fiscal collapse was unreasonable. Republican hypocrisy has never been buried too deeply; it just requires a peek behind the curtains to expose the full veracity of their shame.

Of course, there isn’t a Republican in office with the tenacity to admit the truth. During the early years of the Obama administration, the GOP defended their unwillingness to work with Democrats by saying that they were mostly correcting for the mishaps of the Bush years. Now that a Republican is back at the White House, however, they appear to have forgotten all about that fabled deficit they held so dear and near to their heart for the last eight years. It doesn’t end there, though. Republican hypocrisy runs so deep that the only thing that it is evident they value is power.

Republicans have torn their hair out over the past eight years decrying what they say is Obama’s crony capitalist government, where he picks the winners and losers in the economy based on political relationships. Trump, obviously and without a hint of shame, has been gleefully parading announcing his intentions to engage in crony capitalism. He won’t divest himself from his international company, which arguably violates the Constitution. He’s named billionaire businesspeople to posts that no other administration would have dreamed of. And he’s openly bragged about shaming and bullying American companies into compliance with his will. There is nothing free-market about the way he operates if anything, Trump defines the very nature of a crony capitalist. But GOP stalwarts that have stood in the way of economic progress for the past eight years, like Mike Lee and Raul Labrador, have had nothing but praise for how Trump has acted since the election.

In 2012, Mitt Romney decried Russian influence in America and warned that Vladimir Putin and his cabal of billionaires were the number one geopolitical threat to the United States. Today, Republicans view Vladimir Putin six times more favorably than they see the sitting President of the United States. In the last four years, Russia has not gotten any better on humanitarian rights or democratic ideals, if anything, it has become even more entrenched as a Kleptocracy. The only thing that has changed is that now the Republican Party is led by a man who has a suspiciously intimate view of Mr. Putin. Republicans have long defended their actions by pointing to their alleged ideological purity, but the 180 that they have pulled with Russia strips this illusion naked. Power, and the pursuit of is the only thing that matters to the GOP.

The GOP had the chance to prove, once and for all, that they stood for something. Everything that they have done since Trump got elected has proven how pliable their backbone is. With the holidays descending upon us all, now is the time to reflect on the last year and learn lessons to extrapolate for the future. After Bush, the Republicans managed to convince Americans that they stood for something again. It is evident now that they do. They stand for the naked pursuit of power without regard to human cost. They are hypocrites of the highest order, and it is time to stop pretending that there is any ideological merit or value to what they preach.

Nuclear Nutter

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When someone with no experience, a sharp temper, and a fragile ego gets the power to destroy the world multiple times over in the course of a single day, the results can be understandably catastrophic. It has been a long time since anyone around in the world has had to seriously consider the possibility of an actual, all-out, Nuclear War. Since Donald Trump narrowly and controversially won the Presidency of the United States, however, it has become a topic of real importance once again. For decades now the U.S has tried to lead the world in reducing the world’s nuclear arsenals – not since President George H. Bush has the country talked about aggressively expanding our bloated repertoire – but, with just 140 characters, Donald Trump has shaken the world order to its very core. Early yesterday morning he tweeted that,

The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.

Nuclear weapons are no trifling matter. When President Obama articulated his nuclear policy in 2010, it took over 64 meticulous pages of comprehensive policy to enunciate. Trump, who seems unable to understand nuance, wrote his policy in one sentence. To many Americans, this isn’t a big problem. After all, they are fed up with the bureaucratic, committee driven, consensus-based, and bipartisan government which they feel has left regular American’s behind over the last couple of decades. Trump represents a departure from the norm, and to voters that barely pay attention and are not steeped in political history, it’s easy to feel like all he is doing is cutting through the weeds to get things done. But nuclear proliferation and policy are fraught with peril, and even errant comments can threaten to plunge the world into a nuclear winter. Now that Trump is going to be President of the United States; it’s time to take him seriously.

When Reagan made a joke off of the record during a sound test for the Radio about getting the bombers ready to erase Russia, it almost provoked a nuclear holocaust. International diplomacy is important and intricate. And Trump and his band of misfits have no idea what they are doing. As their roughshod call to the Taiwanese president and subsequent bewilderment at the Chinese government’s actual, physical retaliation – by seizing an American drone – demonstrates. Unlike phone calls, however, it’s nearly impossible to walk back nuclear problems. Nuclear policy is a matter of life and death for every single person on the planet, and one off-the-cuff comment by Trump could tip the world into a truly unexplored apocalyptic dystopia.

The U.S already has the capability to destroy the world several times over, its military prowess is exponentially stronger than the next closest nation, and nuclear leaders in the U.S have been calling on politicians to roll back the nuclear triad for decades now. There is simply no logical reason for the U.S to expand its nuclear arsenal. Trump campaigned in large part on the premise that American politicians have been leading the country into stupid wars and conflicts for too long, which has bankrupted working class people and embarrassed our Union. Now that he is a couple of weeks from taking the mantle of President of the United States of America, he appears hell-bent on wielding American military power on a scale that has not been imagined since the end of the Cold War.

This morning, Trump told Ms. Brzezinski, of Morning Joe, “let it be an arms race,” as a response to the tweet that he published yesterday. It is clear that he continues to speak before he thinks. The problem is that when you are President, words matter, and they matter a ton. While Trump continues to lavish Putin with puppy-like adoration, he also appears willing to re-engage in the insane game of chicken that the Cold War and the weapon competitions therein represent. There is no continuity, no consistency, and certainly no cohesive byline to anything that he says or does. His press secretary, Sean Spicer, explained the comment by saying that, “it’s putting every nation on notice that the United States is going to reassert its position in the globe.” Which is clearly antithetical to many of the themes that Trump campaigned on!

An arms race would not make the American people safer, and it certainly wouldn’t help them economically. The Cold War and ensuing arms race is a huge part of why Islamic terror groups like ISIL can arm themselves so well. The proliferation of weaponry, much of which must be offloaded as new munitions and weapons are produced, makes it easier for everyone to get their hands on weapons. In the U.S there is already serious safety concerns over what nuclear material has fallen through the cracks and of the vast nuclear stockpiles that the country is sitting on today. Rachell Maddow’s book, Drift, explores these topics in depth; but the bottom line is that America has a ton of nuclear weapons sitting around in silos in the middle of nowhere with little oversight and lazy security. That situation is not going to get safer by making more bombs.

The language of nuclear diplomacy is extraordinarily complicated and nuanced; it can’t be dealt with using the vocabulary of a fourth grader. There are no second chances with nuclear weapons. Trump is not running a campaign anymore, and it’s time to grow up and get real. The President-elect of the United States cannot continue to tweet every errant thought that pops into his head. Actions have consequences, and as the next – somewhat ironic – leader of the free-world Trump’s efforts for the next four years will be the difference between life and death for millions and millions of people across the globe. As the majority shareholders of power, it is up to the Republican lawmakers to impress this upon their duly elected leader, lest he leads this great Republic to its final ruin.

Shame!

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Yesterday, after over nine hours of deliberation, lawmakers in North Carolina were unable to repeal House Bill 2, which gets rid of legal protections for some of North Carolina’s most endangered communities. The law is most famous for its provisions that require transgender people to use public bathrooms that correspond with the gender they were assigned at birth. HB2 has prompted massive outrage, economic boycotts, lawsuits, and national embarrassment; but discriminating against the LGBTQ community is clearly more important to Republican lawmakers than improving the welfare of all their constituents or the state that they purport to serve. Republicans control both houses of the legislature in the state, and the inaction on HB2 comes on the heels of the embarrassing soft coup of Democrat Governor-elect Roy Coopers powers. They have the wherewithal and consensus to undermine a democratically elected official, but not the strength of conviction to stand up for what is right and just. So, just business as usual for Republicans these days. Shame must not be a part of their emotional repertoire.

The real, tangible, and unquestionably negative impact that HB2 has had in North Carolina has been evident since it passed in March. A big reason that Roy Cooper won his election for Governor was on the back of the resentment and backlash against HB2. After the law was passed the NCAA canceled seven championship games in North Carolina, the ACC decided to move its championship game from Charlotte, and major companies – like PayPal – announced they would not be expanding their businesses into the state. Major performers like Bruce Springsteen have refused to perform there, and protests have become entrenched in its capital city. All because Republicans feel icky about the members of the LGBTQ community using the bathroom that they are comfortable in, and frequenting establishments that they enjoy.

The Republican party loves to preach small government and fiscal responsibility, except for when they want to be the morality police. HB2 has wrought economic devastation upon the state, which is estimated to have lost nearly 200 million dollars in revenue since the passage of the bill. Nearly two-hundred business have asked the state to repeal the ordinance, but despite the overwhelming pressure – both economic and social – the Republicans have held steadfast in their commitment to protecting their right to discriminate. In defending the indefensible, Republican lawmakers have retreated to the kinds of arguments and rhetoric that States used during the Civil Rights Era to justify institutionalized racism. Pat McCrory, the current Governor of North Carolina, has defended HB2 by claiming that if private businesses and people want to discriminate, then that is their prerogative. Which unmistakably ignores the widespread opposition from private companies and is intentionally obtuse about the intentions of the ordinance.

It is ironic that the Republican party, which so loudly decries Islamic extremism for its melding of state and scripture, are always so eager to impose their own biblically ordained moral values on others through the power of the legislature. The Constitution of the United States forbids the mixing of state and church, but the way Republicans act in government means they must not have gotten the memo. The fight over HB2 in North Carolina is part of a bigger cultural struggle that is happening in the U.S today. It is time to stop pretending that states rights, small government, and individual sovereignty are the driving motivators behind these kinds of statutes.

The Republican party wants to protect their right to continue to promulgate racism, sexism, and homophobia throughout America, unfettered by the law or meddling urbanites. If they are going to fight so bitterly for hate, then they must not be allowed to couch it behind rhetoric that obfuscates their true intentions. It is time for the Republican party to grow up and put its shame in the past. As long as they continue to fight these battles around the country, it is every patriotic citizen’s duty to stand up for what is right, just, and lawful. We are living in the 21st century. Repeal HB2.

 

O-Bummer: Hacker No Hack

Armsmor Sanctions

On Tuesday, President Obama blacklisted 15 Russian companies and individuals for their actions in Crimea and the Ukraine. The new sanctions are going to test the Trump administration from the start, which has been advocating for warmer relations with Putin and his cronies. In the aftermath of the Cybergate revelations, wherein the CIA and FBI confirmed that Russia – led personally by Vladimir Putin – hacked into American political institutions and actors in order to help Donald Trump’s election, every move with Russia has become even more loaded than before. John E. Smith, the director of the Treasury’s office of foreign assets control, said in a statement, “today’s action is in response to Russia’s unlawful occupation of Crimea and continued aggression in Ukraine.” The timing of the sanctions, however, call their motive into suspect. The U.S. has been struggling under Obama’s leadership to confront Vladimir Putin over his empire building in Crimea and the Ukraine, but they have used sanctions already. The Obama administration says that the sanctions get updated biannually and that the newest restrictions are routine, rather that retributive. But in the aftermath of Russia successfully disrupting and manipulating the U.S. election, these sanctions look like a pathetic attempt to try and fight back the proverbial Russian bear.

The Obama administration has been many things, but decisive is not among them. The administration has developed a reputation for caution and intransigence. From the infamous Syrian ‘red line,’ to Obama’s unnervingly slow response to the Russian attacks, inaction has followed more often than not. While the Obama administration has asked for a full investigation into the hacks, which will force intelligence agencies to put everything they know into writing and let reporters and Congress follow the crumbs for themselves, they have done nothing conclusive to respond to what are essentially state sanctioned Russian attacks. Members of the intelligence community have even compared it to a political 9/11, even calling it reminiscent of Pearl Harbor. These comparisons are a bit draconian, but Vladimir Putin personally directed these attacks. A response is prudent, and a small increase in sanctions – none of which will personally harm Putin to any great extent – barely registers in the public conscious one bit. It has become clear that the Obama administration mishandled the Russian hackers during the crises, but their response in the aftermath of President-elect Trump’s election has been even more suspect.

President Obama has come out and said that he told Vladimir Putin to ‘cut it out’ during the election and that after that the attacks stopped. But neither Obama or Trump have made any indication that they are going to do anything in response to the attacks. As Obama fights to secure what legacy he can in the closing days of an administration that looks like it is in death throes, every action, or inaction, takes on more meaning. As President-elect Trump prepares to take the office of the President in just a few short weeks, the latest round of sanctions against Russia appear to be nothing more than a shortsighted attempt by the Obama administration to avoid accusations of inaction.

Last Friday Obama said that the U.S. would respond to the Russian cyberattacks with a mixture of public and covert actions before he left office, but he declined to give details and has not publicly connected these sanctions to the attack. President-elect Trump continues to fill his cabinet with Russian lap dogs and publicly praise Vladimir Putin, so it seems unlikely that Russia will face any real backlash for their attacks on American sovereignty. American’s – never  ones for a long memory – have already started to warm up to Putin and his Kleptocratic ways. The Obama administrations inability to decisively deal with Russian interference will be a scar on his legacy that will not fade. There needs to be a real message sent that this kind of meddling will simply not be tolerated. And sanctions, which appear to be headed towards dissolution soon anyways, are not going to accomplish anything.