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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Filling the Swamp

I haven't been very active on this blog since the national election, and have been refraining from posting comments on social media, because - honestly - the gloom and despair I feel after this election is beyond anything that I have ever experienced.  The most central source of my frustration was the ever-present "fake news" which flooded Facebook prior to the election, and continued for a couple of weeks after.  Nothing could have prepared me for the outcome, as the consistent message from national polls continually gave HRC the edge.  Boy, where they wrong!

Admittedly and unabashedly, I would have loved to have seen America vote in their first woman president, but far, far beyond this, the fact that Hillary Clinton was the candidate that possessed the most direct and relevant experience in both foreign and domestic matters.  I continue to admire her legendary tenacity and veins made of steel.  She may not have been perfect, but the now shocking alternative is still completely incomprehensible to me. 

During her 40 years of public service she has been an ongoing advocate for women and children, an equal-pay proponent and she continues to fight for women's rights to equal pay.  She has fought for the LGBT community and  gender equality.  She was instrumental in the redevelopment of New York City after the country's worst tragedy as the result of terrorism on 9/11.   Hillary Clinton negotiated a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, as well as negotiating a deal to placate Iran's nuclear weapons.  She has experience with Free Trade, is an advocate for climate change, an advocate for not just civil rights but human rights and her stance on gun control is actually in harmony with a majority of Americans. 

Prior to the election, I was continually shocked and amazed on social media that no Trump supporter seemed to hear or fathom the relevance of HRC's direct experience to the election.  It seemed to me that they had made up their minds and were unable to actually look at (or even read) these facts.  Their hatred of her seemed to override all common sense and logic.  I pressed these same people to present their own facts regarding their support for Trump and not once did I receive an actual response and relevance to the topic always veered into other opinions and accusations.  When attempting to make strong statements, many proffered only links to rhetoric, right-wing propaganda or opinions in favor of the orange huckster.   That didn't help matters.  No doubt, I have lost friends over this election, as I was quite fierce in my stance.  I'm sorry if this offends anyone, but I won't apologize for my posts or reactions, for as I long as I live and breath, I will never support Donald Trump.

Each day, as new cabinet picks are announced by the Trump camp, I feel as if someone has draped a soaking wet, woolen cloak over my head, slowly suffocating the life from me.  I took a moment to Google if others were experiencing this reaction and was relieved to learn that I am not alone in my depression and anxiety.  Well, at least it eased my own paranoia for a bit, however, after reading jokes that librarians across the country are now sliding George Orwell's 1984 into the non-fiction section, the humor wanes.

Are we doomed to suffer a Trump-Apocalypse or a Donald Doomsday?

Will he be the reason for the world spinning off it's axis and our earth being sucked into a catastrophic black hole thereby imploding on itself?

This is a bit extreme, yes, but as we begin to consider his history of being....shall we say... unsteady.... and extremely narcissistic, a consummate liar, not to mention the potential for unraveling decades of fighting and even dying for fundamental civil and human rights, it is enough to make me want to crawl into the rabbit hole, and simply hibernate for the next 4 or - gasp - 8 years.   I suddenly am aspiring to be Alice in Wonderland, where my "Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.”   ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

During the campaign, we frequently heard Hillary Clinton remark that someone (meaning Trump) who could be baited with a tweet, should not be responsible/trusted with nuclear weapons.   Now, by the electoral college's outcome, we are suddenly faced with the reality of this unstable man being responsible for making crucial decisions which could affect not only Americans, but the entire world.   

My reason for concern is based on his narcissism, and if you consider other individuals throughout history who have been classified with this disorder, you will realize that I am justified in my thinking.  Here are a few links in which some experts attempt to explain the frightening psychology of our new president elect:

Donald Trump: Profile Of A Sociopath

The Mind of Donald Trump

Understanding Donald Trump’s Narcissism

The Mayo Clinic gives this description of Narcissistic personality disorder, which essentially describes Donald Trump to the proverbial "T":    "Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that's vulnerable to the slightest criticism." 

You can easily witness the latter, as his insecurities are often defended and projected by attack and duplicity.   And, just to drive home my point, here is a list of the most evil and notorious narcissists of our time.  And if that wasn't disturbing enough, we can add Napoleon Bonaparte, Stalin, Saddam Hussein, OJ Simpson, Pol Pot, Hermann Göring, Heinrich Himmle, and Hitler to the list.   If that didn't frighten you, it should.

The problem with attempting to define Donald Trump is that there is no subsequent precedents or examples of someone like him.  We really have no one to which to compare.   I can only speculate that perhaps that was the inverted appeal and his lack of political experience had no bearing with American voters.

Clearly, Americans were drawn to his "Make America Great, Again" slogan, but now we need to consider the consequences of this outcome, and what his cabinet picks mean for our country.  You may have voted for Trump because he seemed defiant and his message was that he was a renegade and a rebel, and he was going to ride his white stallion into the White House and save the country.  

His repeated message was clearly anti-establishment, however, the establishment from which you wanted change is the precisely the empire he is building.

As Trump continues to fill his cabinet with the filthy rich, and, combined with his recorded history of lying, aggression, and possessing an ego larger than life, not to mention the other scandals in which he has been legally involved.  The list includes his so-called University, antitrust violations, alleged marital rape, four bankruptcies, tenant intimidation, multiple alleged sexual assaults, racial housing discrimination, mafia ties and more.  

Here is a man who has thrived on business deals that repeatedly cheated "the little guy", by his refusal to pay people for the labor that they completed for him.  I must question if you really think he has Americans interest at heart, or is he really looking to fill his own - and his buddies - pockets?   He has an established, long history of legal conflicts in which he has been party to some 4,000 lawsuits.  That is four-thousand lawsuits, which range from Trump University to several sexual harassment claims; from libel to taking fees from an individual who had been blocked from his golf club.  He is suing celebrity chefs for walking off the job, after making inflammatory statements against Mexican immigrants.  

Then there is the ongoing matter of his taxes in which Trump solicited charitable donations without proper approval, and found evidence that Trump used foundation money in ways that could benefit him personally, which is against the law.  

Trump's companies face open cases of fraud, unpaid bills, contract disputes and sexual discrimination in the 75 lawsuits.

As an example of Trump's blatant hypocrisy, if you recall that during the latter part of his campaign, Trump ran commercials in which he personally blamed Wall Street for robbing the working class, stripping the country of its wealth and giving the money to corporations.   It was his resounding voice that was dubbed over pictures of Wall Street executives, supposedly in opposition of big money.  

Here is the same man damning the government for giving jobs to Mexico and China, and yet uses Chinese steel to build his own massive structures.  He criticizes our government, repeatedly calling it a "failed" and "corrupt political establishment" promising to give the United States "a new government" controlled by the American people.  

He accused the government for putting "money into a handful of large corporations and political entities."   I ask you now to consider his cabinet picks and to seriously think about what is Donald Trump's current message to Americans?   Can you look me in the eye and say that he has no special interest? 

It is also very important to remind everyone that this man has 144 businesses around the world, in 25 countries. So, to me, that shows that he does have special interests.  And just yesterday, this questionable activity raised the eyebrows of global leaders.  

Don't you remember why you elected him?   Come on, THINK!  Don't you remember he said he was going to DRAIN THE SWAMP?  

Well, he lied.  

Now his swamp is effectively being filled with crocodiles and alligators.  

So, America, if you are reading this you should understand that this is in direct contrast of his promise to you, because to start with, he is filling his cabinet with the wealthiest choices of people he can find, which eludes to special interest. 

So, in opposition to his promise to America to take the wealth out of Wall Street, he is embracing the elite, and filling his cabinet with billionaires and multimillionaires, super rich financers and industrialists who will favor only the rich getting richer, and don't think that for one second that Trump favors the poor or the working class.   His picks are all very clearly self-serving.   

He has named a former "Goldman" executive, Steven Mnuchin, " a Wall Street "insider" and  trader turned hedge fund manager and Hollywood financier to be our Secretary of the Treasury.  He is known for being a financier of Hollywood films like "Avatar" and "American Sniper" which has made him millions.  He has zero political experience and served as Trump's chief  fundraiser, which made Trump a lot of money.  All of his policies and ideals are a complete mystery, so all we can do is wait and see.  Like Trump, Mnuchin has no political or government experience.  

Wilbur Ross, appointed as Secretary of Commerce, became a billionaire buying and restructuring steel and coal companies.  He owned the Sago Mine when 12 miners were killed after an explosion knowing that there were multiple safety violations, and with this knowledge sent workers into what he reported to be a safe situation.   He is against free trade agreements, and saved Trump's financial ass during the 1990's when his Taj Mahal Casino almost failed by convincing investors to keep their money with Trump.

Let's look at his pick for Attorney General.  The Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, is an individual who was instrumental in Trump's choice for his Vice President.   The Washington Times states that "Sessions has opposed nearly every immigration bill that has come before the Senate the past two decades that has included a path to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally."   He is skeptical of climate change and has been accused of racism during testimony of his own colleagues joking about the KKK and using the "n" word.  And here is what you should know:  He will be the nation's top law enforcement official, may have the authority to carry out Trump's “law and order” agenda. The nominee could change how civil rights laws are enforced.

The Representative from Georgia, Tom Price, has been appointed Secretary of Health and Human Services. As you may know he  has been one of the fiercest opponents of the Affordable Care Act.   This nomination is a good indication that Trump intends to make huge changes to Obamacare, and make dramatic changes to health care law by offering tax credits for people to purchase health insurance based on their age.   What does this mean?  "The premium tax credit is a refundable tax credit designed to help eligible individuals and families with low or moderate income afford health insurance purchased through the Health Insurance Marketplace, also known as the Exchange, beginning in 2014. The size of your premium tax credit is based on a sliding scale."  Price opposes abortion and is against gay marriage.

So, Price will work on revamping and repealing Obamacare, so the lingering question of affordable health care will be paramount.  The HHS Department approves drugs, regulates food,  and operates biomedical research. This department also is responsible for administering Medicare and Medicaid, which insures more than 100 million people.  Think of your parents and grandparents who rely on these fundamental benefits for which they paid throughout their lives to be cared for, and continue to pay today.  The latter will be of most concern to many Americans, as these programs are actual lifelines, and we will all anxiously wait to see if this administration will throw a line or cast a sinker.

There are also concerns that Social Security and SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamp Programs) benefits may be cut.  Senator Patrick Leahy said during an interview on NPR, stating that both the Republican and the Democratic have agreed for decades that by any decision to cut these programs would be "morally wrong".  These programs are designed and often are successful in lifting people out of poverty. 

To take away money from the populations, who through no fault of their own, must rely on these programs would punish those who are the most vulnerable for they cannot change their circumstances because they are medically or otherwise incapable of earning wages.   Many uninformed people frequently and mistakenly believe that this reliance is laziness, but what you should know is that at the state and federal level, there is an ongoing system of checks and balances.  Individuals who referred to as able-bodied (called ABAWD - Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents) do not automatically just obtain assistance.  There are work requirements involved and documented proof of fulfilling these requirements must be given in order to receive benefits.  Here is the federal law.

The Vermont lawmaker, Bernie Sanders, outlined Price's positions and said Trump should publicly admit that his promises "were just lies."  He said, "Donald Trump asked workers and seniors to vote for him because he was the only Republican candidate who would not cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — programs that are of life-and-death importance for millions of Americans."

Sanders added, "Rep. Price has a long history of wanting to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. What hypocrisy! Mr. Trump needs to tell the American people that what he said during the campaign were just lies, or else appoint an HHS secretary who will protect these programs and do what Trump said he would do."

For the Secretary of the Department of Education, Trump has appointed Betsy DeVos, another billionaire philanthropist who is a proponent of school voucher programs.   The appointment of Betsy DeVos will mark a turning point as she would be the first education secretary who has never attended public school nor has their children. You can read about what school vouchers are here and judge for yourself.

I saved the best for last.  Donald Trump has named Steve Bannon for his Chief Strategist and Senior Counsel.  Bannon became chief executive officer during the 2016 presidential campaign of Donald Trump in August, 2016.  

Until very recently, Bannon was executive chair of ultra-conservative Breitbart News, a far-right news, opinion and commentary website which associates itself with the Internet-based alternative right, or "alt-right".  Recently he attempted to mock the alt-right accusation, even though he, himself, declared the website "the platform for the alt-right" in 2016.

Senator Harry Reid's spokesman, Adam Jentleson, stated that Bannon's ex-wife claimed in court that the new chief strategist "doesn't like Jews" and allowed Breitbart to post anti-Semitic articles.  "President-elect Trump's choice of Steve Bannon as his top aide signals that white supremacists will be represented at the highest levels in Trump's White House," Jentleson said. "It is easy to see why the KKK views Trump as their champion when Trump appoints one of the foremost peddlers of white-supremacist themes and rhetoric as his top aide."

The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League were also groups condemning Bannon's selection, which criticized his commitment to provide a platform for  conspiracy theories and racial stereotypes about immigrants on which the alt-right has founded its movement.

He was quoted about his role at Breitbart, saying: "We think of ourselves as virulently anti-establishment, particularly 'anti-' the permanent political class."   He has been involved in the film industry as a Hollywood producer and various media outlets.  He has an estimated net worth of around $10 Million.

In essence, all I can say is that Trump is not the person for whom you voted.  He is a chameleon, and an opportunist.  It is time that everyone who voted for Trump as a beacon of change and defiance to be realistic about the fact that has already changed his mind about virtually everything he promised.  Here's the list, so far: 

He has back-pedaled on prosecuting Hillary Clinton.  Don't you remember hearing his audiences during the campaign, rant, "Lock her up!"?  Now he is on record, stating that he doesn't want to hurt them [the Clintons], "they're nice people."

He now wants to keep components of Obamacare, after initially stating he would repeal the entire program. 

Regarding the Paris Climate Agreement, he has agreed to keep an open mind about climate change. In the past he stated that he did not believe the scientific evidence, that climate change is real.  Now he wants to study the information.

He is still not sure about waterboarding - which is a tactic of torture that illegal under U.S. and international law.  Initially he had stated with regards to ISIS that the U.S. should “fight fire with fire", but now after meeting with President Obama, has changed his mind.

Trump vowed to take legal action against the media that spoke against him during his campaign, but now acknowledges that this is in violation of the First Amendment, and that if he softened those laws, he may be sued more frequently.

He pledged to you that he was going to get rid of the elite class which occupied Washington, and get rid of the corporate lobbyists.  Trump has already hired his own lobbyists, though to his credit, put a 5 year ban on anyone else joining his administration.

He promised to rid America of 11 million immigrants, and now is only interested in the 2 to 3 million "bad hombres" with criminal records, which is actually consistent with Obama's reasons for deportation.

He is not going to build the wall, along the Mexican border.  Originally he told Americans this wall would be "at least" 35 to 50 feet high, and that Mexico would pay for it.  Now, Trump states he will accept fences around certain parts of the border. 

He called for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S.  Now, he states they must endure "extreme vetting". 

"He promised to reduce the U.S. trade deficit in part by revoking trade deals and bringing companies and jobs back home.  Now, Trump's other promises for deficit-financed tax cuts, U.S. defense rebuilding and public-works spending, along with the approach of the Federal Reserve's tighter monetary policy, have pushed up interest rates. Under Obama, the economy is already growing more quickly and nearing full employment. With the dollar rising against most major currencies (putting U.S. exporters at a disadvantage), the result could soon be larger trade deficits, fewer jobs and higher consumer prices."  -Seatlepi

"On his first day in office, Trump said he'd label China a currency manipulator for purposely holding down the value of the yuan against the dollar. Obama steadfastly refused to impose such a label, which could lead to penalties such as tariffs on Chinese imports.  Now, China's currency, if anything, is undervalued, economists say. Chinese officials are trying to prop it up, not drive it down, by intervening in foreign-exchange markets. That means China is doing the U.S. a favor by preventing the yuan from going into free fall."  -Seatlepi

"Rudolph Giuliani, a possible Trump Cabinet member, urged the president-elect to set up a blind trust into which he would place his business interests, thus insulating him from charges that his official government decisions benefit him personally. A blind trust would also help Trump avoid the perception that "drain the swamp" applies to everyone but him.  Now,  Trump is turning his businesses over to his children and won't be setting up a blind trust, a legal device that would have given a trustee authority over his assets while keeping him in the dark about specific gains and losses."  -Seatlepi

Trump was critical of Hillary Clinton's plan to create an infrastructure bank because, he indicated that it would be "controlled by politicians and bureaucrats in Washington" and funded by a "$275 billion tax increase on American businesses."  Now,  Steven Mnuchin, says the incoming administration is exploring establishing an infrastructure bank.

These were all key components to his campaign strategy.  He hasn't even taken office yet, and has already on track to break all of his campaign promises.  

J.J. Citron of the Colgate Maroon-News summed up my thoughts brilliantly.  He wrote,  "...Perhaps Trump’s ever-changing platform will move farther away from his far right campaign. His policies could be moderate, more so than anticipated. Or, he could rely on Mike Pence for political insight and knowledge. This possibility raises a red flag for Democrats. Mike Pence, an opponent of Roe vs. Wade, Medicare and same-sex marriage, poses an imminent threat to the existing liberties enjoyed by the American population. Taking policy advice from Pence is like letting a child drive a car; in either of these situations, you’re screwed. Trump’s ever-changing platform poses a big question mark to the American public. The next four years are uncertain, and a large portion of the public, including myself, fears ambiguity. Hopefully the government will not crash and burn as fast as Trump University did."  

All I can say is, America, you picked him.