August 20, 2017

My Middle-aged White Lady Perspective: It's Not the Statues

I've seen this meme on Twitter, on Instagram and on Facebook in the past few days - you may have seen it too, if you spend any time on social media.

It's just one of several making the rounds these days, post Charlottesville, when self-proclaimed neo-Nazis, white supremacists and white nationalists from Union states and Confederate states gathered, with first with torches, and then with helmets and shields and clubs and a well-armed 'militia' of supporters to protest against the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee.

I can't help thinking that the people who thought the original meme was funny would not think the same of the one to the left; would you agree?  Would we see a lot of high fives and "damn straight" and "exactly"and similar comments on this?

From my middle-aged white lady perspective, people (on both sides) don't care about the statues per se - certainly not because "the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!"

People do care, deeply, about what the monuments symbolize. And what they symbolize, if we are to believe the ones who protest in their favor, is a white heritage, where blacks are not taking over our country, where Jews are not replacing them, and where, it seems, whites would not be failing in procreative department, and would be popping out babies left and right to ensure that the white race does not get trampled by blacks, browns, and yellows.

And, they symbolize a country where whites are in control "culturally, politically, socially - everything. We define what America is."

The statues, particularly those that rise on government property, symbolize our history of racism, of institutionalized racism, not just the personal kind that people of color experience every day.  And it is our history, yours and mine, even though we were not alive at the birth of America, or during the civil war, or Reconstruction

Because in our lifetimes - for  Pete's sake, I'm only 59, my husband 10 years older - in our lifetimes, America struggled with racism, continues to struggle with racism, a century and a half after the Civil War.

Would it surprise you that there have been over 4,000 lynchings in America, from the 1870s to the 1950s?

In 1951, the family of 8 year old Linda Brown sued because the child was bused to a segregated school when she lived within walking distance of an all white school; this was the Brown vs. Board of Education case, which was sort of resolved in 1954, when the Supreme Court ruled that  'separate but equal' schools for blacks violated the 14th Amendment - which was adopted in 1868. The Court in 1955 ordered states to integrate their schools (Brown II). And finally, in 1958, the Court ordered desegregation of schools (Cooper vs Aaron case) was required, and that the threat of violence was not a reason for continued segregation.

Also in 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for not giving up her seat on a Montgomery bus to a white man. Several months earlier, Claudette Colvin, a 15-year-old schoolgirl, was arrested for a similar offense. Parks' arrest led to the lengthy Montgomery bus boycott; in 1956 that the Supreme Court ruled that the bus segregation ordinance violated the 14th Amendment.

How about voting rights? Blacks were given the right to vote under the 15th Amendment, which was ratified in 1870. The Civil Rights Act of 1957 allowed the federal government to investigate and prosecute cases of voting rights infringement. Later, we had to enact the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to try and eliminate requirements such as poll taxes, literacy tests, and other inhibitors to voting, and also established the practice of federal approval of changes to voting laws in states where discrimination had historically occurred.

The VRA has been updated many times over the years, in part because of efforts to restrict voting rights continue to occur to this day.  According to the Brennan Center for Justice,
Overall, at least 99 bills to restrict access to registration and voting have been introduced in 31 statesThirty-Five such bills saw significant legislative action (meaning they have at least been approved at the committee level or beyond) in 17 states.
Federal courts have called out in gory detail the extent to which several of these laws are driven not by any sense of urgency for protecting the sanctity of the ballot, but rather to limit the ability of blacks to vote.

In the 1950s and 1960s, African-American churches were regular targets of violence, including one incident in September 1963 that killed four schoolgirls. It didn't stop in the 1960s. In fact, Congress passed the Church Arson Prevention Act in 1996.  Not 1966, folks - 1996.  And it didn't stop then, either.

Yes -- in my lifetime, and yours, America has had issues with racism; we have issues with racism today, and we will continue to have issues with racism in the future, if we pretend that it's just the symbols that people are upset about.

It won't go away if we pretend it doesn't matter or doesn't impact us. It won't go away if we pretend the problem is violence, not racism. It won't go away if we pretend that speaking out against racism is the flavor of a day, rather than the flavor of several generations.

It won't go away unless we want it to.

August 18, 2017

TGIF 8/18/17

I've been tinkering with a post all day long, without getting past my own objections to my writing, so I'm throwing in the towel for now on that, and instead will just noodle about some random things tonight.

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump's main accomplishment,will be speaking to a conservative group at the end of September.

At Trump's Washington DC hotel.

Now, I've always been squeamish with SCOTUS justices giving speeches to ideological organizations - regardless of the ideology in question; something about that just doesn't smell right. Gorsuch's address to the Fund for American Studies at Trump's hotel comes just days before the first Monday in October, when the Court's term kicks off; their docket includes Trump's travel ban. That leaves a bad taste in my mouth, to go along with the smell.

In contrast, some organizations are coming to the decision that holding big charity functions at Mar-a-Lago, Trump's Winter White House and home of the 'Have Your Photo Taken with the Football' event. David Farenthold, a reporter for the Washington Post who has been focusing on Trump businesses and charitable acts (or the lack thereof), is reporting that seven organizations have moved from the 'yes we'll be back' column to the 'no, we won't' column. Groups include the Susan G Komen Foundation, the Cleveland Clinic, the American Cancer Society, the Salvation Army, and the Red Cross, which has cancelled its event all together.

So here's a question for you: how long before the president starts attacking these organizations on Twitter? We all know how he hates when people do mean things to him, and taking high profile events away from his beloved Mar-a Lago sure counts as mean.  This has to be way up there on his list of acts requiring retribution. And not only that, but will his base stop donating to these organizations?

On another topic, it seems historians and others have noticed a striking resemblance between monuments to Union soldiers and to Confederate soldiers.  The Washington Post has a story today that includes these two pictures. I know people have long said that the Civil War had brother fighting brother - can you tell who's Blue and who's Grey?

from the Washington Post
That's Union on the left as you look at the pic, and Confederate on the right. The difference? The belt buckles - US for the North, CS for the South. As the article notes,
To the Monumental Bronze Co. in Bridgeport, Conn., it was all just business. Union or Confederate, a customer was a customer, another $450 for a zinc statue that could mean whatever you needed it to mean. It was a business model that could appeal to president Trump - a highly profitable product that could dress up a drab little town and make many Americans feel great again.
One American who's not feeling great again is Susan Bro. The mom of Charlottesville terrorism victim Heather Heyer, Bro has said in an interview that she has received death threats sand that she's not interested in talking to the president.

It seems the White House has reached out a few times, including the first time which might have actually been during Heather's memorial service; there were others after that as well. Bro was too tired to watch the news, and when she did, her opinion changed dramatically - after all, she had thanked Trump earlier in the week for his kind words. But now?
I hadn't really watched the news until last night and I'm not talking to the president now. I'm sorry, after what he said about my child. It's not that I saw somebody else's tweets about him, I saw an actual clip of him at a press conference equating the protesters...with the KKK and the white supremacists. You can't wash this one away by shaking my hand and saying "I'm sorry." I'm not forgiving for that. 
She also offered some advice for Trump:
Think before you speak. 
And finally, one more touch on the #MAGA theme. Trump has been telling us that Foxconn, the foreign company that makes electronics (including Apple products) in Taiwan, was going to be opening a factory in Wisconsin. Jobs, jobs jobs, he told us - that'll keep us from treating each other like crap, quell the racism and white supremacy and whatnot.

For some reason, when I heard the president going on and on about these great Foxconn jobs, I wasn't thinking we were buying those jobs through a massive corporate welfare program, did you?
Well, that's exactly what happened.

The Wisconsin state Assembly reached a deal on the economic development package for Foxconn, which will be putting its new factory in House Speaker Paul Ryan's district. I kid you not. Anyway, the deal is worth $3B -- billion with a B - in mostly cash incentives. The plant will eventually employ 13,000 people (less than the 50K the company said they wanted to create here) and average wages will be around $54K for the first 3,000 hired.

Oh - those incentives? The break-even point on that investment is not expected to hit for at least 25 years.

TGIF.

August 16, 2017

Wondering on Wednesday (v99)

As I write this post, on lunch break from my day job, things seem pretty quiet out there.

Oh, sure - people are calling for Trump's impeachment or resignation; defenders are defending and detractors are detracting, and there's still a ton of head-shaking going on about the press conference yesterday. That all matters, somehow, but something else that happened today matters more.

A memorial service was held today to honor and remember Heather Heyer, the Charlottesville "road rage" victim. Honestly, that's how some on the alt-right are describing her murder. I won't go into details on other comments, nor will I provide the link to the article, but it's out there.

Heyer's mother, Susan Bro, spoke eloquently about how her daughter should be remembered.
My child’s famous Facebook post was: "If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention." She paid attention. She made a lot of us pay attention. Oh, my gosh, dinner with her, we knew, was going to be an ordeal of listening. And conversation. And perhaps disagreement, but it was going to happen. And so, my husband would say, "OK, I’m going to go out in the car and play on my video game for a while." And we would sit and would grill. And she and I would talk, and I would listen. And we would negotiate, and I would listen.
And we talked about all this stuff. We talked about politics. We talked about anything that caught her eye that she felt was fair, unfair. She’d talk about her feelings about the office and how things were going. I mean, she just talked. The girl loved to talk. And she was single, so there was nobody to listen at home, so mama got a lot of it. And that was wonderful.
You never think you’re going to bury your child. You never think to take those pictures. They asked me for pictures for this, and I struggled. I had pictures from her childhood. But I had to go to Facebook to find pictures of my child, because we were always together. I saw her a couple times a month, at least, and we would text each other fairly often, and we would Facebook message at bedtime, "I love you," "I love you. You doing OK?" "Yeah, I love you." So I have no regrets on that part. Take pictures of the ones that you love, because you don’t know when they’re not going to be there. 
But here’s what I want to say to you today. This could be a storm in a teacup, and it could all be for nothing. This could have—I could have said, "Let’s don’t do this publicly. Let’s have a small private funeral." But, you know, that’s not who Heather was. Anybody who knew Heather said, "Yeah, this is the way she had to go, big and large." Had to have the world involved, because that’s my child. She’s just that way. Always has been, and she will continue to be.
Because here’s the message. Although Heather was a caring and compassionate person, so are a lot of you. A lot of you go that extra mile. And I think the reason that what happened to Heather has struck a chord is because we know that what she did is achievable. We don’t all have to die. We don’t all have to sacrifice our lives. They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well, guess what. You just magnified her.  
So, here’s what I want to happen. You ask me, "What can I do?" So many caring people, pages of pages of pages of stuff I’m going through. I’m reading pages of pages of pages how she’s touching the world. I want this to spread. I don’t want this to die. This is just the beginning of Heather’s legacy. This is not the end of Heather’s legacy. 
You need to find in your heart that small spark of accountability. What is there that I can do to make the world a better place? What injustice do I see—and want to turn away: "I don’t really want to get involved in that. I don’t want to speak up. They’ll be annoyed with me. My boss might think less of me." I don’t care. You poke that finger at yourself, like Heather would have done, and you make it happen. You take that extra step. You find a way to make a difference in the world. 
My child had a high school education. My child was no saint. She was hard to raise, because everything was a negotiation. Not kidding. But you know what? She was a firm believer in whatever she believed. And let’s do that. Let’s find that spark of conviction. Let’s find in ourselves that action. Let’s spread this. Let’s have the uncomfortable dialogue.
It ain’t easy sitting down and saying, "Well, why are you upset?" It ain’t easy sitting down and going, "Yeah, well, I think this way. And I don’t agree with you, but I’m going to respectfully listen to what you have to say. We’re not going to sit around and shake hands and go 'Kumbaya.' And I’m sorry, it’s not all about forgiveness. I know that that’s not a popular trend. But the truth is, we are going to have our differences. We are going to be angry with each other. But let’s channel that anger, not into hate, not into violence, not into fear, but let’s channel that difference, that anger, into righteous action." 
Right now, down the road, there is a blood drive going on in Heather’s name. Right now, there are people who are here willing to listen to one another and talk to one another. Last night in New England, they had a peaceful rally in Heather’s name to have some difficult dialogues. If you ever want to see what one of those dialogues looks like, look at her Facebook post. I’m telling you, they were rough sometimes. But they were dialogues. And the conversations have to happen. That’s the only way we’re going to carry Heather’s spark through.
So, remember in your heart: If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention. And I want you to pay attention, find what’s wrong. Don’t ignore it. Don’t look the other way. You make it a point to look at it, and say to yourself, "What can I do to make a difference?" And that’s how you’re going to make my child’s death worthwhile. I’d rather have my child, but, by golly, if I got to give her up, we’re going to make it count.
You know what I'm wondering today, right? The questions are right in front of us.

Will we poke that finger at ourselves, and make something happen, 
make a difference?

Will we find the spark of conviction, and be true to our values,
even if it's hard?

What about those difficult dialogues? Can we have those? Will we?

Will we pay attention, or just turn on the TV 
and watch football, as a friend of mine suggested (probably correctly)?

Will we really make Heather Heyer's death count for something? 

The alternative, as the president seems to have suggested, is that we go back to our selfish worlds, focusing on those great jobs, our great deregulated economy, our own individual universes, Made Great Again? 

I wonder: Are we Heather, or are we Trump?

August 15, 2017

Trump Charlottesville Take 3

The more he speaks, the more I cringe. Trump let his freak flag fly at a press conference today, addressing again the murder in Charlottesville of Heather Heyer, who died when a white supremacist apparently purposefully gunned his car into the back of a group of people.

Want some examples? Here's why it took 48 hours to get his second statement out. 
I wanted to make sure — unlike most politicians, that what I said was correct. Not make a quick statement. The statement I made on Saturday, the first statement, was a fine statement. But you don't make statements that direct unless you know the facts. It takes a little while to get the facts. You still don't know the facts, and it's a very, very important process to me, and it's a very important statement, so I don't want to go quickly and just make a statement for the sake of making a political statement. I want to know the facts. If you go back to — I brought it. I brought it. I brought it. As I said — remember this, Saturday — we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence. It has no place in America, and then I went on from there. Now, here's the thing. Excuse me, excuse me. Take it nice and easy. Here's the thing. When I make a statement, I like to be correct. I want the facts. This event just happened. In fact, a lot of the event didn't even happen yet, as we were speaking. This event just happened. Before I make a statement, I need the facts, so I don't want to rush into a statement.
So, making the statement when I made it was excellent. In fact, the young woman, who I hear is a fantastic young woman — and it was on NBC — her mother wrote me and said — through I guess Twitter, social media — the nicest things, and I very much appreciated that. I hear she was a fine, really actually an incredible young woman. But her mother on Twitter thanked me for what I said. And honestly, if the press were not fake and if it was honest, the press would have said what I said was very nice. But unlike you and unlike — excuse me — unlike you and unlike the media, before I make a statement I like to know the facts.
Um... I don't even know where to start. Maybe birtherism? I'm pretty sure you still owe us the 'facts' on that one.  And the young woman who you hear is a fantastic young woman, a fine, really actually an incredible young woman? Her name is Heather Heyer. Say her name. Pick up the phone, have a conversation with her mother. 

Here's another, on whether the CEO of WalMart was correct that a critical opportunity was missed in helping bring the country together. 
Not at all. I think the country — look, you take a look. I've created over a million jobs since I'm president. The country is booming, the stock market is setting records. We have the highest employment numbers we've ever had in the history of our country. We're doing record business. We have the highest levels of enthusiasm. So, the head of WalMart, whom I know, who is a very nice guy, was making a political statement. I mean, I do it the same way. You know why? Because I want to make sure, when I make a statement that the statement is correct, and there was no way — there was no way of making a correct statement that early. I had to see the facts, unlike a lot of reporters — unlike a lot of reporters. I know, David Duke was there. I wanted to see the facts, and the facts as they started coming out were very well-stated. In fact, everybody said his statement was beautiful. If he would have made it sooner, that would have been good. I couldn't have made it sooner because I didn't know all of the facts. Frankly, people still don't know all of the facts. It was very important — excuse me, excuse me. It was very important to me to get the facts out and correctly, because if I would have made a fast statement — and the first statement was made without knowing much other than what we were seeing. The second statement was made with knowledge, with great knowledge. There's still things — excuse me, there's still things that people don't know. I want to make a statement with knowledge. I wanted to know the facts. Okay.
No, no, no, no -- seriously: you were asked if you missed a critical opportunity to bring the country together, and THAT was your answer? #WhatTheEverlovingSniff

How about throwing Steve Bannon under the bus, are you willing to do that? Sorry, that was the answer, not the question - the question was "do you still have confidence in Steve?"
Well, we'll see. Look, I like Mr. Bannon, he's a friend of mine, but Mr. Bannon came on very late — you know that. I went through 17 senators, governors and I won all the primaries. Mr. Bannon came on very much later than that, and I like him, he's a good man. He is not a racist, I can tell you that. He's a good person, he actually gets a very unfair press in that regard. But we'll see what happens with Mr. Bannon, but he's a good person and I think the press treats him frankly very unfairly.
Hey Steve, get Reince on the phone, maybe he can pick you up and give you a ride home? Unless, I drag you on a junket with me and kick you out of the big boy car like I did to him, that was fun.

Is the president concerned about race relations, are they better or worse since he took office? 
I think they have gotten better- or the same- I- look. They've been frayed for a long time, and you can ask President Obama about that because he'd make speeches about it. But, I believe that the fact that I brought in, it will be soon, millions of jobs — you see where companies are moving back into our country — I think that's going to have a tremendous positive impact on race relations. We have companies coming back into our country, we have two car companies that just announced, we have FoxConn in Wisconsin just announced. We have many companies, I say pouring back into the country. I think that's going to have a huge, positive impact on race relations. You know why? It's jobs. What people want now, they want jobs. They want great jobs with good pay and, when they have that, you watch how race relations will be. 
I gotta tell you, I think people marching around giving Nazi salutes don't really give a good goddamn about jobs. Unless "Jew will not replace me" means "I can't wait to go work in a coal mine."

How about reaching out to Heather Heyer's family, have you done that yet?
No, I'll be reaching out. I'll be reaching out. 
When will you be reaching out?
I was very — I thought that the statement put out, the mother's statement, I thought was a beautiful statement. I must tell you, I was- it was something that I really appreciated. I thought it was terrific, and really under the- under the kind of stress that she's under and the heartache that she's under, I thought putting out that statement to me was really something I won't forget. Thank you all very much. Thank you. Thank you.
One more. When asked if he was going to go to Charlottesville, not for a golfing vacation or anything like that, but you know, to help heal the wounds and presidential stuff. 
I own a house in Charlottesville. Does anyone know I own a house in Charlottesville?  (Reporter: Where is it?)
Oh, boy, it's going to be- it's in Charlottesville, you'll see. (Reporter: Is it in the winery or something?)
It's a- it is the winery.
I mean, I know a lot about Charlottesville. Charlottesville is a great place that's been very badly hurt over the last couple of days. I own- I own actually one of the largest wineries in the United States that's in Charlottesville.
Before you make a statement, you need to know the facts. You would not want to make a statement without knowing the facts. You still don't know the facts, and it's a very important process to me. 





August 14, 2017

Trump Charlottesville, Take 2

The president, after being hammered left, right and center for his wishy-washy condemnation of the 'Sad!' actions in Charlottesville on Saturday, took another stab at it today. 

His initial comments, which you can see in their entirety here, did not specifically condemn the alt-right, KKK, Nazi, White Supremacist, White Nationalist provocateurs who were behind the 'Unite the Right' rally that ultimately led to the murder of Heather Heyer, and peripherally the accident which took the lives of Virginia State Troopers Jay Cullen and Berke Bates. Instead, he mentioned the 'many sides' who, by his comments, were equally responsible for the death and destruction. 

An anonymous spokesperson at the White House on Sunday tried to help the president out, saying that those specific groups were included in Trump's comments, even though he didn't actually say name them, or any others. 

So, today he did - after, of course, patting himself on the back about the stock market and optimism, and companies moving back to America, yadda yadda yadda blah blah blah
...We will be discussing economic issues in greater detail later this afternoon, but, based on the events that took place over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, I would like to provide the nation with an update on the ongoing federal response to the horrific attack and violence that was witnessed by everyone.
I just met with FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The Department of Justice has opened a civil rights investigation into the deadly car attack that killed one innocent American and wounded 20 others. To anyone who acted criminally in this weekend’s racist violence, you will be held fully accountable. Justice will be delivered.
 As I said on Saturday, we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence. It has no place in America.
And as I have said many times before: No matter the color of our skin, we all live under the same laws, we all salute the same great flag, and we are all made by the same almighty God. We must love each other, show affection for each other, and unite together in condemnation of hatred, bigotry, and violence. We must rediscover the bonds of love and loyalty that bring us together as Americans.
Racism is evil.  And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans...
That he can lash out at radical Islamic terrorism immediately, no matter where it occurs around the world and have to be prodded into saying Nazi, KKK and White Supremacist speaks volumes. That his daughter responded significantly more appropriately on Saturday than he did speaks volumes. 

Also speaking volumes? Two members of his American Manufacturing Council have resigned. Kevin Plank, CEO of Under Armour, was the second to leave the group, posting this message on Twitter this evening:


The first to resign was Kevin Frazier, the head of Merck, who offered his statement this morning, before Trump's comments:


Trump's response was predictably quick and predictably personal - in fact, he had to respond twice, some nine hours apart:



We'll have to see how long it takes Trump to attack Under Armour, if he does at all. Kevin Plank, after all, supported Trump shortly after the inauguration, causing a great deal of angst among the company's stable of athletes and personalities. Plank has since commented publicly and politely about the Muslim ban (against) and about Trump leaving the Paris Accord (against), but as a businessman I suspect Trump would understand the need to protect a brand.

However, UA's list of suppliers is prime for a Trump attack: only one American supplier. The rest: Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Columbia, Egypt, El Salvador... you get the drift. We'll have to see if we get a tweet storm tomorrow morning. 

Oh -- speaking of Twitter, I'll leave you with this loving and affectionate shot at the media from Trump.



August 13, 2017

No Skin in the Game

The president's full statement yesterday afternoon on Charlottesville makes it pretty clear he has no skin in the game. 

A man apparently incapable of speaking with any emotion unless he's talking about himself, bashing others (bad hombres, Muslims, members of the judiciary, his opponents, other Republicans, a Gold Star family, a bona fide American hero, members of his cabinet, former presidents, foreign allies, members of the media, etc.) or gushing about dictators and other horrible people, had this to say yesterday afternoon.  The words are his; the emphasis is mine. 
Thank you very much. As you know, this was a small press conference, but a very important one. And it was scheduled to talk about the great things that we're doing with the secretary on the veterans administration. And we will talk about that very much so in a little while. But I thought I should put out a comment as to what's going on in Charlottesville. So, again, I want to thank everybody for being here, in particular I want to thank our incredible veterans. And thank you, fellas. Let me shake your hand. They're great people. Great people.
Yeah, I guess as president, you should say something about a clash between White Supremacists, or White Nationalists (sorry - it seems they prefer the less direct term) carrying Nazi flags, Confederate flags, some wearing KKK regalia, and counter-protesters, the 'antifa' or anti-fascists. 
 But we're closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia. We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence (on many sides--on many sides). It's been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama, this has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America. What is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives. No citizen should ever fear for their safety and security in our society. And no child should ever be afraid to go outside and play or be with their parents and have a good time.
Many, many sides? Really? What side is it that drove the car into the crowd? Was that many, many sides, or was it just one side?  And whatever are you thinking, talking about children going outside to play or "have a good time" with their parents? Is that what they were showing on Fox News? 
I just got off the phone with the governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, and we agree that the hate and the division must stop, and must stop right now. We have to come together as Americans with love for our nation and true affection-- really, I say this so strongly, true affection for each other.
Have I missed your affectionate offerings of olive branches to any of the millions of Americans you have offended since becoming a presidential candidate (and before).
Our country is doing very well in so many ways. We have record -- just absolute record employment. We have unemployment the lowest it's been in almost 17 years. We have companies pouring into our country, Foxconn and car companies and so many others. They're coming back to our country. We're renegotiating trade deals to make them great for our country and great for the American worker.
An act of terrorism just occurred in Charlottesville, and as president you can't help talking about your record, such as it is, after seven months in office? Do you really think that anyone gives a rat, at the moment domestic terrorism occurred in Virginia, about NAFTA and China? 
We have so many incredible things happening in our country, so when I watch Charlottesville, to me it's very, very sad. I want to salute the great work of the state and local police in Virginia. Incredible people. Law enforcement, incredible people. And also the National Guard. They've really been working smart and working hard. They've been doing a terrific job. Federal authorities are also providing tremendous support to the governor. He thanked me for that. And we are here to provide whatever other assistance is needed. We are ready, willing and able. 
Never mind that some question the response of law enforcement during the altercations before the 20-year old terrorist drove his car into a crowd marching in the opposite direction, including a hands off, stand down approach according to some - just make sure to mention yourself.
Above all else, we must remember this truth: No matter our color, creed, religion or political party, we are all Americans first. We love our country. We love our god.
Never mind that the Unite the Right rally participants apparently don't share your thinking that we all love the same god - nor do many Americans who don't worship 'your' god. Never mind that many of us don't worship a god at all - and we too, are Americans, just like you. 
We love our flag. We're proud of our country. We're proud of who we are, so we want to get the situation straightened out in Charlottesville, and we want to study it. And we want to see what we're doing wrong as a country where things like this can happen.
For starters, I suggest you study your own words, your campaign rallies, your tweets, your interviews, and more. And then study this Michael Jackson classic.  Or, you could study David Duke; he's certainly studied you:
We are determined to take our country back... We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That's what we believed in. That's why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he's going to take our country back.
Or, maybe you could study Steve Bannon, or Sebastian Gorka or your friend Alex Jones. Anyway, let's continue with your statement:
My administration is restoring the sacred bonds of loyalty between this nation and its citizens, but our citizens must also restore the bonds of trust and loyalty between one another. 
#WhatTheEverlovingSniff are you even talking about - "the sacred bonds of loyalty" between the country and its citizens? That's truly laughable given your appointments, your pronouncements, your actions, your exhortations of division throughout your official political career.
We must love each other, respect each other and cherish our history and our future together. So important. We have to respect each other.
If you had any skin in this game, you'd know that it is our very history that brought the alt-right and the antifa groups to Charlottesville in the first place. It is our very history - slavery, discrimination, criminalization, and more - that the alt-right and others absolutely do not agree on, will never agree on, and will never 'cherish together.'

And our future is a joint venture only in that it is our future - but it is not, again, a 'cherish together' future in the eyes of many, when one group wants to eliminate the other, oppress the other, stake a higher claim on their Americanism than the other - or it feels that way to the other side, whether it's angry white men like the ones on the alr-right or their opponents like the ones that were mowed down. What history and future are you cherishing, and with whom?

If you had any skin in the game, you would not be spouting emotionless, #MAGAfortunecookiebullshit -- you'd be screaming "radical right-wing terrorism" from the roof of the White House as you did "radical Islamic terrorism" so many times over the years.
Ideally, we have to love each other.
You actually said that? Tell you what -- you go first. Move on us like a bitch and show us the love.

Get rid of the alt-right members of your administration. Take back a single hateful discriminatory, sexist, violent comment you've made just in the last two years. Apologize to a single person - not a whole race, religion, or country - just a single person.

Try loving someone else for a change.

August 12, 2017

OrangeVerse XIV: The Apprentice

The working vacation at Bedminster has been a goldmine for poetry lovers. Here's one exercise in free verse, on jobs and women and stuff. With Trump were Labor Secretary Rene Acosta, Secretary of (destroying) Education Betsy DeVos, and the First Daughter.  

This Stuff is Very Hard
Thank you...for joining us today.
And thank you 
all because we 
have been working
very hard on being sure that
Americans have the training
they need for
the jobs in the future.

Namedropping
I also want to thank Ivanka,
my daughter,
for her leadership
on workforce training
and her efforts.
You're working very
very hard
to create new economic opportunities
for women across America
and, actually
for women across the world.
You've been working with the 
Chancellor of Germany
on helping women all over the world.

Enormously Optimistic
In the past seven months
we've made enormous gains
in getting Americans
back to work.
The stock market is
at record highs
Unemployment is at a 16-year low
And manufacturers have never
expressed more optimism about the future.
The optimism
has been incredible.

Moving on Back
We have a lot of companies
moving back to our country.
You're probably seeing that.
Two major automobile companies
just announced they're moving back...
and they're going to build
major plants.
They're looking for the site.
They're putting it out
to seven or eight
different states
and they're going to be
very happy
building in the United States.
It's going
to work out
very well for them.

Who More Than Me?
That's why...
we began a historic initiative
to expand apprenticeships and
workforce training programs
in all industries. 
We're expanding
pathways to success.
So important.
And apprenticeships are one of the
many avenues that lead to the great jobs
completely debt free.
And who knows more about 
the work 'apprentice' 
than Donald Trump?

The Best Part of Waking Up
In fact, under the apprenticeship
you earn while you learn.
So important and so great.
And you love getting up
in the morning
and going to work
and a lot of great things
involved here.

Grab the Brass, er, Ring 
We're also here today
to discuss additional steps
we will be taking to
expand apprenticeship programs,
especially for women and minorities
in STEM fields where
women have been 
truly under-represented - really
I guess you could say
under-represented
for many, many decades.

 You Go, Girls!
Technology has become a part
of nearly every industry
from manufacturing
to retailing.
And we want
all of our citizens
every single citizen
including women and minorities
to have access to 
high paying tech jobs and
other STEM related jobs.

You Are Aware, Right?
American workers are the best
there is anywhere in the world
and we're finding work for them.
They built the
skyscrapers of our cities
the roads and bridges
across our land
and we'll be building plenty of
new roads and bridges
by the way - 
the technology that has
revolutionized the glob
and so much more,
as you're well aware.

 I Like it on Top...
Their skills, talent and grit
have always put America on top.
And we're going to 
remain on top
at a much higher level
than we are right now.
And speaking of now
it is our job
to make sure that
they have the training
immediately!
to lead us to the future.

And I Like it Down Low
We have
great, great hope
We have a
great, great future
in this country.
There's never been
more optimism.
And again, unemployment at
a 16-year low.

Any Questions?
So we're honored to have all of you.
Mr. Secretary, thank you
very much.
Betsy, thank you
very much.
We appreciate it.
And Ivanka,
congratulations on
working
so hard. 
We really do
appreciate it.
Thank you.
Any questions?

August 10, 2017

OrangeVerse XIII: Don The Builder

Quick -- you're the president and you have two minutes to speak at FEMA headquarters. GO!

Elaine Duke
I just want 
to congratulate
Acting Secretary - 
this is really a big - this
is a big position --
Elaine Duke.
A terrific person. 
She has done
an amazing job
for the Trump Administration
and everywhere
she preceded. 
So congratulations. This
is a very important
thing you're doing. 

I'm a Builder
We are very strong
on homeland security and
we are very strong
with respect to
FEMA.
FEMA 
is something that
I've been very much
involved in already.
We've had some things
during the last six months
including the highway
in Atlanta, 
where I have to say 
the Governor and all concerned
did a fantastic job
of rebuilding that stretch
of highway
that ended up burning
badly. 

We found the reasons why
and it wasn't for a good reason. 
But nevertheless
they did it in record time.
I'm a builder
and I understand
they did it ahead of schedule
and under budget
and that was very nice
to see.

Elaine, Elaine
So I just -- 
we have many many things
like that.
We've already taken care
of many of the situations
that really needed
emergency funds.
We did it
quickly.
We did it
effectively.
We have an
incredible team.
And I just
want to thank, 
Elaine, 
all of your people
and your representatives.
They have really
done a fantastic job.

Thank you
very much.
Thank you
very much,
everybody.

August 9, 2017

Wondering on Wednesday (v98)

Sleep well, tonight, America. Rex Tillerson's got our back.  Fire and fury will rain down upon them, says Trump. Knock off actions that will lead to the end of your regime - and people, said Mad Dog Mattis. Is all of that causing you to wonder, this Wednesday, about our position on North Korea?

Many folks say no, this is all part of the plan, everything's OK, we're all on the same page; others say this is just more of the mixed messaging that comes regularly from the Trump administration. Me? When it comes to sleeping well, something I've had a lifetime of not doing - if the answer to that is all of this saber rattling between the unpredictable, petulant Kim Jong Un and the unpredictable petulant Donald Trump, I guess I shouldn't complain.

And it's good for #MadeinAmerica, too. The Rising S Company, a bunker manufacturer in Texas, is reporting a 90% jump in sales, according to Fox News. I wonder if a bunker is what I've needed all along to get that good night's sleep?

Of course, my bunker would only be a good deal if there were no illegal immigrants working for the company, right? Or unqualified legal immigrants, for that matter. The president, you'll recall, recently announced his support for the RAISE Act, a bill sponsored two Republican senators that, in addition to severely limiting immigration into the US, would institute a scoring tool to help prioritize the folks we let in. It's all about #MAGA and #PAFA, Trump tells us.
This legislation demonstrates our compassion for struggling American families who deserve an immigration system that puts their needs first and puts America first.
 Thankfully, we have Time magazine to help us understand how the point system will work. In an article titled Find out if President Trump would let you Immigrate to America, we learn that a person would need at least 30 points to even be considered, unless you were directly related to someone already here - no more extended family stuff.

The most impressive way to get to 30 points? Be a recent Olympic medal winning (15 points) Nobel laureate (25 points).  The most likely way to get to 30 points? Be 26 to 30 years old (10 points), fluent in English and able to prove it (12 points), and either have a big fat job offer with a $155K+ salary (13 points) or have at least $1.8M in foreign currency to invest (12 points).

When I took the test to see if I would be eligible to come here, the answer is no. I'm too old, not educated enough, not rich enough, and not 'impressive' enough. How many of you would be eligible, I wonder? Go ahead, take the test and let me know.

One thing that's missing from the discussion on immigration is any kind of affirmative action  (unless you count that medal winning thing).  And affirmative action, of course, is what we're talking about - you know, the kind of admission decisions that Harvard uses to discriminate against whites and Asian-Americans. We'll be hearing a lot more about that, I'm sure, but it does make me wonder about the proposed changes to our immigration plans.

If we are looking to invite wealthy, English speaking, highly educated young professionals to come here, who will those folks be?  And who is it that purchases E-2 work visas?  Likely candidates in both cases are folks who will come in to the US and take jobs away from our best and brightest.

And I have to wonder, how does that jive with "our compassion for struggling Americans" and putting America first?

August 7, 2017

Mythbusting a Businessman in the White House

One benefit of the weekend is that I have more time to pay attention to interesting things that come across my various news and social media feeds. I stumbled upon a article on Alternet.org by Sophie A. McClennen, a Penn State professor of international affairs and comparative literature that caught my eye.

McClennen's article, which originally appeared on Salon, addresses a subject that I've covered in the past: the concept of having a CEO president - and why Trump may be the one who puts that idea to bed - for good.

I originally posted on this subject in May of 2016, admitting that I had considered the possible benefits of having an experienced businessman in the White House.
You know the drill -- we need someone who's actually run a business, met a payroll, fought through countless ridiculous regulations, someone who knows how to balance a budget, someone who understands the real world ramifications of what policy changes mean, someone who is accountable to auditors...  And maybe most importantly, someone who is accountable to customers and shareholders. 
I say the last two - customers and shareholders - are possibly the most important, because if nothing else,  those of us who bother to register and actually vote  year in and year out are the customers and shareholders of all politicians, even though they don't seem to act like as if that's the case. 
And, I expressed some specific concerns abut comments then-candidate Trump had made that suggested such a thing, with him in command, would be a no-go for me.

A year later, four months or so into this administration, I revisited the idea, and remained convinced that it would be a bad thing.

Seems I'm not alone; McClennen comes to the same conclusion. Along the way, using Anthony "the Mooch" Scaramucci and the Wall Street movie franchise as an example of how "weirdly confused" we have become, she says
For some bizarre reason the public is aware that businessmen, whether they work on Wall Street or are New York real estate moguls, are often shady, greedy and selfish, but they still believe somehow that they possess critical and valuable skills that could transfer to running government. There is the public sense that businessmen are effective leaders despite overwhelming evidence that businessmen can and have been vile, corrupt and incompetent. 
Generalizations are always a fraught enterprise: clearly not all businessmen are terrible people, but that isn't the point. The point is that the mistaken idea that businessmen are better equipped to run the country is exactly why our nation is poised for catastrophe. And that's not an exaggeration.  
She doesn't put politicians on a pedestal, nor should she. After all, there are more than enough examples of shady, greedy and selfish politicians to go around, in both parties and at every level of government. But she contends
...there is a basic difference between people trained to accumulate profit and people trained to foster public support.
Specifically in reference to the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave,
Put simply, there is not one facet of the job of president that Trump seems to have gotten even remotely right. Only a few months into the job it was stunningly clear that Trump wasn't just addicted to attention and overwhelmed by poor impulse control, but that he really didn't understand the job he was elected to do...
The list is literally endless at this point. But part of the reason why it is so long is because Trump had no idea how the shared governance of a democracy functions or what it means to work with allies because in his businessman model he really can make absolute decisions without building consensus or making compromises. He has zero appreciation for the notion of the public good, of the value in supporting allies and of the need to respect the opinions of other leaders.
The 'profit-accumulator' would think this type of thing is perfectly normal, but the 'foster public support' person would be, rightfully, aghast -- as has been the case time after time after time.  

For example, Trump has repeatedly called for Mitch McConnell to "go nuclear" and move all votes in the Senate to a simple majority - which it seems, would make Mike Pence the most important man in the country, as the tie-breaker in McConnell's fractured chamber.

There have been other occasions, too - for example, when Trump tweets and instead of marching in step, members of his administration jump back from his pronouncements; or when he calls for suing reporters who print mean things about him, or otherwise shutting down our 1st Amendment rights; or when he calls out the 'Mexican judge' for his assumed lack of impartiality, or other courts that disagree with him...

We love a businessman, even as he makes decisions that take away pensions and benefits; send our jobs overseas, or to cheap regions of the country; demand that taxpayers train their employees even as they sit on piles of money offshore to avoid paying taxes; raise prices beyond what we can afford; fight every regulation that protects workers, the environment, and our futures; buy politicians lock, stock, and barrel; and more.

Weirdly confused, indeed.

Back in May, here's what I said about future prospects of a businessman in the White House:
Since he became president, my opinion that Trump was the wrong one has only been confirmed, and he may have forever ruined the chances for any future businessman-candidate in my eyes.  
And here's how McClennen closed her piece:
None of this mess gets better until this nation takes responsibility for its unfounded adoration of businessmen. The notion that a businessman is better at politics than a politician isn't just wrong; it's led to the Trump administration. And if that doesn't kill the myth, I don't know what can.