Tag Archives: Ronald Reagan

Hypocrisy in Action

I’ve often noted that conservatives can be incredible hypocrites.  For years they said no divorcee would be elected to the presidency.  Then they got Ronald Reagan, the nation’s first divorced Chief Executive, whose wife was the nation’s first divorced First Lady.  They dubbed Bill Clinton a draft dodger and condemned him for protesting against the Vietnam War while he was in college.  Then they elected George W. Bush who earned a comfortable spot in the Texas National Guard in 1968 and failed to complete his tenure.  They also elected Dick Cheney who claimed he had “other priorities” during the 1960s.

Conservative hypocrisy has reared its bigoted head once again – this time in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland.  Republican Senators Ted Cruz, Ron Johnson, Mike Lee, Rick Scott and Tommy Tuberville submitted the correspondence to Garland complaining about what they perceive to be a double standard in punishment by the U.S. Department of Justice against the January 6 Capitol Hill rioters.  In contrast, they declare, many of the various protestors to the George Floyd killing who became violent haven’t met the same degree of discipline.

In part, the letter states:

“DOJ’s (U.S. Department of Justice) apparent unwillingness to punish these individuals who allegedly committed crimes during the spring and summer 2020 protests stands in stark contrast to the harsher treatment of the individuals charged in connection with the January 6, 2021 breach of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. To date, DOJ has charged 510 individuals stemming from Capitol breach.  DOJ maintains and updates a webpage that lists the defendants charged with crimes committed at the Capitol. This database includes information such as the defendant’s name, charge(s), case number, case documents, location of arrest, case status, and informs readers when the entry was last updated.  No such database exists for alleged perpetrators of crimes associated with the spring and summer 2020 protests.  It is unclear whether any defendants charged with crimes in connection with the Capitol breach have received deferred resolution agreements.”

Please.  Spare me the anxiety.

The five angry White male senators don’t seem to understand the difference in the two events.  While some of the Floyd protestors devolved into rioting and vandalism, the original intent was to demonstrate against police violence; a recurring dilemma in the U.S.  The intent of the Capitol Hill rioters, however, was to disrupt congressional business and kill someone – most notably Vice-President Mike Pence.

Conservatives have warned about threats to national security posed by Islamic vigilantes and illegal immigrants for as long as I can remember.  But, these weren’t the people who stormed Capitol Hill on January 6, 2021, as Pence oversaw certification of the 2020 presidential election.  The rioters were mostly White people – many of them former military and/or law enforcement – from across the country who felt their dear leader, Donald Trump, had been cheated out of a second term by a corrupt electoral system.  I can almost hear Al Gore and Hillary Clinton laughing.

But I don’t recall bands of angry liberals storming Capitol Hill in January 2001, demanding Al Gore be lynched.  I also don’t remember seeing similar renegades bursting into Capitol Hill in January 2017, calling for Joe Biden’s head.  And it’s obvious to most of us with more than half a brain that the 2000 and 2016 presidential elections were fraudulent.  Yet conservatives denounced anyone voicing their disdain to those two events as whiners and sore losers.  We were justified, though, in protesting.  But we never got violent.  No one smashed windows, kicked in doors and hollered for blood to be spilled.  Neither Al Gore nor Hillary Clinton stood before angry supporters, urging for violent retribution against Congress.

It’s ironic, however, that Merrick Garland is in a leadership position.  Five years ago President Obama nominated him to replace Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court.  Republicans – who held a majority in the Senate – refused to grant Garland the decency of a fair hearing.  Yet, they rushed through the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett last year, following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Again – hypocrisy in action.

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Creepiest Quote of the Week – March 13, 2021

“What I’m trying to do is just harness the magic.  To me, Donald Trump is sort of a cross between Jesse Helms, Ronald Reagan and P.T. Barnum.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, on Axios

“There’s a sucker born every minute.”
P.T. Barnum

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Don’t You Understand? They’re Victims!

“The Devil made me do it!”

Flip Wilson

You have to understand something about the people who stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6.  They’re not entirely responsible for their actions.  They had merely responded to the words of their newly-formed deity, Donald Trump.  In the hours leading up to the siege, Trump had infused them with idea that he had been wronged by the voting process; that the 2020 elections had been manipulated by covert gangs of leftist forces determined to enforce abortions and gun confiscations upon helpless, red-blooded, bible-carrying Christian American citizens to ensure his loss.  He was a victim, Trump maintained, and vicariously so were his minions.

CHARGE!!!!!!!!!

Thus, the Trumpians had been victimized by the same queer-loving renegades and they were justified in storming the Capitol, tearing through offices, screaming like children told to come in for dinner, threatening others because they got their feelings hurt – all while dressed like ghosts of the Civil War and refugees from a Comic-Con conference gone wrong.

Please!

The Capitol Hill warriors are no more victims of enraged rhetoric than porn stars are of poor script-writing.  For years conservatives have proclaimed the tenets of individual freedom and personal responsibility.  They declared such values in reactive angst to a welfare society and relentless victimhood proclamations.

They loathed when non-White people bemoaned centuries of Euro-colonial oppression and systemic racism.  They rolled their eyes at the thought of women hollering about sexual harassment in the workplace and on college campuses.  They snickered at queer folks complaining of innate homophobia on the job and in school.

Then the U.S. Congress met on January 6, 2021 to certify Joe Biden as the winner of last year’s presidential contest, and – as Dante Alighieri once wrote – all hell broke loose.

The Trumpian crowd became maddened by the process and felt they had no other recourse but to subvert that constitutional mechanism in the most violent manner possible.  Their voices and votes had been ignored and they had to stop the madness.

So, in the name of Ronald Reagan, where the hell was all that talk of personal responsibility?  Where were the people to take ownership of themselves and their actions?  In other words, why do the Capitol Hill rioters suddenly see themselves as victims of…well, anything?!

They all sound like a bunch of – oh, God!  A bunch of minorities, women and queers!  Pass the rifle and heaven forbid!  Now these “victims” have placed themselves in the same category as tree-loving, pot-smoking, Muslim-loving liberals!

What’s going to happen next?  The magnetic poles will switch sides – like communist traitors – and life as we know will extinguish itself?

Again – please!

I personally don’t care to hear the anguished state of mind of these mentally- challenged pencil-dick and cavern-cunt imps.  What happened with last year’s presidential elections is something known as democracy.  It’s the sustenance upon which civilized societies survive.  We cannot exist without it.  The goons who stormed the Capitol three weeks ago didn’t fall victim to the verbiage of Donald Trump; they were victims of their own damned stupidity.  If they truly were swayed by Trumpian oratory, they are as gullible as a child believing in Santa Claus.  They roared into that building because what was left of their brain cells had perished in the swamp of their own hysteria.

It’s just so incredibly interesting that these right-wing extremists who wrap themselves in the American flag and cry freedom – while waving the loser traitorous Confederate flag – are suddenly helpless and violated.  They couldn’t help themselves.  Their faux president told them to do it.

The reality is quite simple: they’re violent and they’re stupid.  But they aren’t victims.

Flip Wilson on “The Ed Sullivan Show” January 11, 1970

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Melting

President Trump walks to Marine One Friday, October 2, on his way to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

“Kennedy deserved to be shot because he was a Catholic!”

My father looked at the old man with the hottest level of anger he could muster in a split second.  All of 30 with a newborn son, my father blurted back at his coworker, “He was our president, you son-of-a-bitch!  No one deserves to get shot!”

It was November 22, 1963, and the news of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination had just spread around the print shop in downtown Dallas where my father worked.  Emotions were already raw, and my father didn’t care that he – a young Hispanic man – was yelling and cursing at a much older White male; in Texas; in 1963.

The antagonism towards Kennedy and the Democratic Party in Dallas and Texas – and throughout much of the Southeastern U.S., for that matter – couldn’t be more palpable on that tragic day.  Even decades later I’ve heard some conservatives say November 22, 1963 was one of the best days in modern American history.  One was a former friend – an openly-gay Jewish man – in 2003.  The rest of us seated with him at a restaurant table after a Toastmasters meeting were stunned.

“Yeah,” I casually responded.  “Just like the day Hitler escorted the first rabbi into a gas oven.”

No one in their right mind celebrates the death or illness of a national leader.  Even as much as I dislike Donald Trump, I’m not happy to know that he’s come down with the dreaded COVID-19 virus.  Late on Thursday night, October 1, news broke here in the U.S. that Trump and his wife have tested positive with the virus.  Earlier this evening, Friday, the 2nd, Trump was escorted to the hospital.  While I’m sure some leftist extremists are thrilled with this development, I see it for the national implication it has.  This poses a serious threat to our national security.

In 1918 President Woodrow Wilson was concerned with the “Great War” (now known as World War I), which was consuming Europe and now involved the U.S., when a mysterious influenza began rampaging across the globe.  Now known simply as the “Spanish flu”, the scourge afflicted some 500 million people and killed an estimated 50 million.  Understand this occurred long before the jet age.  According to historians, Wilson ignored the severity of the health crisis, even as it began taking lives here in the U.S., and vigorously pursued the end of the war.  In April of 1919, he arrived in Paris for peace talks – and left sick with the very flu he never publicly acknowledged.

Once back home, Wilson was quickly sequestered, and White House press reports simply indicated that overworking had caused the president to come down with a cold and a fever.  The Associated Press emphasized Wilson was “not stricken with influenza.”  In the aftermath of the greatest conflict the world had known, the mere thought of the president contracting the dreaded flu surely would have sent the nation into a panic.  So the true nature of his illness was stifled.

Six months later matters worsened for Wilson when he suffered a debilitating stroke.  It’s plausible the flu exacerbated the onset of the stroke.  Wilson never really recovered and would die in 1924.  During the 18 months he had left in his presidential tenure, Vice-President Thomas Marshall should have taken his place.  But, at the time, the vice-president was little more than a figurehead.  In fact, throughout Wilson’s presidency, Marshall later claimed he performed “nameless, unremembered jobs” that had been created solely to prevent him from doing any harm to the nation as a whole.  But, as history eventually revealed, First Lady Edith Wilson served as de facto Commander-in-Chief.  She literally presided over cabinet meetings and other presidential duties; all while hiding her husband’s grave condition.

After Woodrow Wilson’s debilitating stroke in October 1919, First Lady Edith Wilson practically took over his White House duties.

Just less than four years after Wilson endured his stroke, President Warren Harding suffered a similar event – but with fatal consequences.  Harding and his wife, Florence, had just arrived in San Francisco after touring the Alaskan territory when he experienced a heart attack.  Vice-President Calvin Coolidge was at his father’s home in Vermont; a dwelling without electricity or a telephone – not uncommon in rural abodes even by the 1920s.  When word reached Washington of Harding’s death, two Secret Service agents got in a car and drove all night to Vermont to rouse Coolidge.

It’s difficult to imagine that now: a house with no phone and Secret Service agents having to drive to scoop up a sleeping vice-president.  It’s equally unimaginable what allegedly happened in the days following Harding’s demise.  First Lady Florence Harding charged into the Oval Office upon returning to the White House and cleaned out her husband’s desk; apparently removing a number of documents along with personal effects.

Secrecy has always been a part of any presidential administration.  It has to be.  And sometimes it’s mixed with basic respect for an individual’s privacy.  Not until after Franklin D. Roosevelt died, for example, did many Americans learn he had been stricken with polio in the 1920s and was all but bound to a wheelchair.  At the 1940 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Roosevelt fell as walked to the podium.  Film footage of the event wasn’t released until a few years ago, and most convention-goers remained quiet about the incident.  Footage of Roosevelt being wheeled onto the deck of a military vessel almost remained hidden for decades.

Most Americans weren’t aware of the severity of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s heart attack in the fall of 1955; the White House press initially disguised it as a cardiac event.  As with Roosevelt, the American public bestowed respect for medical privacy upon the president.  But when Eisenhower experienced a mild stroke two years later, some questioned his fitness for office.  By the time he left the White House, he truly looked like the 70-year-old man he was.

Therefore, most Americans were thrilled when John F. Kennedy – the first president born in the 20th century – arrived.  He wasn’t just handsome and charming; he was vibrant and energetic.  Yet not until long after his death did the public learn that Kennedy had become addicted to a variety of pain pills to help him cope with both a back injury he’d suffered in World War II and the effects of Addison’s disease.

Kennedy’s assassination was the first since William McKinley in 1901 and his death the first in nearly 20 years.  It had been a given that the vice-president would succeed the president, if something detrimental happened to the latter.  But, what if something happens to the vice-president?  McKinley’s first vice-president, Garret Hobart, died of heart disease in November 1899.  McKinley didn’t replace him, even though he selected Theodore Roosevelt as his running mate during his 1900 reelection campaign.

The question of succession became urgently relevant on November 22, 1963.  Many people forget that Vice-President Lyndon Johnson was in the same motorcade as Kennedy; a few cars away.  When shots rang out, a Secret Service agent shoved Johnson to the floorboard where the vice-president began complaining of chest pains.  That was kept secret from the public, as a horrified nation needed no further bad news.

Thus, the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was created.  It established a definite line of succession to the office of the president, beyond just the vice-president.  And it received its first real test on March 30, 1981 when President Ronald Reagan was shot just outside a hotel in Washington, D.C.  Vice-President George H.W. Bush was aboard Air Force Two, returning to the nation’s capital, when a Secret Service agent informed him of the shooting.  Back in Washington chaos rocked the White House, as the country felt the nightmarish echoes of Kennedy’s death.

On March 30, 1981, Vice-President George H.W. Bush sat aboard Air Force Two watching news reports about the shooting of Ronald Reagan.

A junior in high school at the time, I vividly remember the confusion.  While most of my classmates seemed oblivious to the fact the president of the United States had just been shot, I was worried.  The Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan more than a year earlier and were poised to invade Poland to squelch a labor uprising.  As with rumors about the Kennedy assassination, was this a Soviet plot?  I knew Bush was vice-president, but I didn’t know he’d been in Texas.

I remember Secretary of State Alexander Haig stepping into the White House Press room and announcing, “I’m in control here.”  Haig was criticized later for inserting himself as the interim authoritarian.  But, in a morass of hysteria, someone had to take command!

I also recall my mother sitting before the TV upon returning home from work that evening – and tearing up as news of the shooting spilled out.  It took her back to that tragic autumn day in 1963, as she sat down to watch “As the World Turns” while nursing me, and Walter Cronkite suddenly interrupted to tell of Kennedy’s shooting.

The magnitude of the Reagan shooting didn’t come into full view immediately as news figures couldn’t determine if Reagan had, indeed, been shot.  (It turned out a fragment of a bullet that had hit a car had struck Reagan.)  The White House later concealed the seriousness of Reagan’s health in the aftermath.  Days after the incident, Reagan posed for a photograph; clad in his robe and smiling.  No one knew at the time he was running a high fever and almost collapsed once the picture was taken.

Reports of Donald Trump’s condition continue to flood our news feeds.  We’re now learning that several people within the President’s inner circle have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and that the outdoor ceremony on Saturday, September 26, announcing Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court, may have been the “super spreader” event.

Trump is now in isolation and being treated for the ailment.  I don’t bemoan that he’s being treated with the most potent medicines available and has a complete medical staff around him.  Whether anyone likes it or not, he IS president of the United States, and his health is extremely important.  I don’t care much for Donald Trump, but I don’t want to see him get sick and die.  I only wish the best for him in this crisis.

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The New World Order According to Pat Robertson: Drugs Are Vegetables

With age often comes wisdom; sometimes strangeness.  With the indefatigable Pat Robertson… well, who knows what the hell the old bastard is going to say!  In a recent radio interview with conservative commentator Sean Hannity, Robertson declared that marijuana and cocaine are essentially – vegetables!  Yes, the verbose curmudgeon who once said America was going to Hell because of feminists and queers stated:

“All this drug addiction, can you imagine somebody made in the image of God is a slave to a bunch of weeds? I mean, you know, they’re plants and vegetables.  Cocaine, marijuana, all these things are vegetables, and we’re supposed to be in charge.  He said I’m going to give you dominion over the whole Earth, and yet we’re slaves to vegetables.  I mean, this is so humiliating.”

If one contemplates – before using any intoxicants – marijuana and cocaine are, indeed, the products of plants.  Humans have been using them for thousands of years.  Long before monolithic pharmaceutical companies hijacked health care, old people in huts would dispense Earth’s natural remedies with love and prayer.  No child-resistant caps!  No tamper-proof packaging!  And no warnings about addiction!

I keep thinking this is akin to the time Ronald Reagan allegedly wanted to declare ketchup a vegetable because it’s tomato-based.  That’s what happens when you let right-wing conservatives manage education AND economics at the same time.

But I also cogitate that, if ketchup, marijuana and cocaine are technically vegetables because they’re plant-based, then so are vodka and wine.  They’re grain- and grape-based, respectably, so my reasoning is valid.  Damn!  I’ve been a vegetarian since age 14 and never knew it until now!

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100,000 Dead and Still a Circus

“When the final bulb pops alight, and the smoke and sparks dissipate, it is finally legible, this elaborate incandescent sign. Leaning to your left to gain a better view, you can see that it reads: Le Cirque des Rêves. Now the circus is open. Now you may enter.”

– “The Night Circus”, Erin Morgenstern, © 2011

On Wednesday, May 27, the COVID-19 death toll here in the United States achieved a brutal milestone: 100,000Globally, some 5.6 million infections have been confirmed, with more than 353,000 fatalities.  Bearing only 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. has roughly one-third of deaths directly related to the COVID-19 scourge and about 1.7 million infections.  Sometimes being first isn’t such a good thing.

About 300 municipalities in the U.S. boast populations of about 100,000.  We have sports arenas that can seat 100,000 people.  Despite the viral carnage, many cities across the U.S. are moving towards a re-opening; albeit with a few restrictions.  The limitations appear subjective.  Some restaurants, for example, remain delivery or curbside pick-up only, while others allow a small number of patrons indoors, with tables kept at least six feet apart.  Most demand employees wear masks and latex gloves at all times, but don’t require the same of guests.  Then again, it’s sort of difficult to imbibe in food and beverages with one’s mouth ensconced in a piece of cloth – no matter how fashionable it might be.

Is this the new normal?  And who designates what is or is not normal?

For me social distancing and frequent hand-washing have been normal since color television was still a novelty.  Yes, I am that…mature and I was that precocious!  But, for some people, washing their hands after they pick up dirty laundry or take out the trash is a catastrophic lifestyle change.  Hence, my social distancing predilection.

Such habitual alterations aside, I can only shake my head at the blatant disregard some people have for their neighbors – what I also call downright stupidity.  Am I sadistic in chuckling at the thought of moronic infidels perishing in the morass of their viral incompetence?  I view it merely as being practical – in a Darwinian frame of mind.  Among lower mammals, those that cannot maintain pace with the herd are sacrificed to the course of nature.  Among humans – at least in democratic societies – even the stupid are afforded some level of sympathy.

However, it’s tough for me to sympathize with many of our elected leaders, including the psychotic, discombobulated clown the United States calls its president – Donald J. Trump.  The alleged liberal media has noted the president’s distortion of facts regarding the COVID-19 pandemic – from his pronouncement that April heat will kill off the virus to his suggestion that injecting basic household cleaning chemicals into one’s corpus is good preventative medicine.

One hundred thousand is not just a number – it represents human beings; lives lost to a disease that, oddly enough, has a low fatality rate.  The U.S. death toll to COVID-19 is equal to the number of fatalities in this country to the 1968 Hong Kong flu, which killed roughly 1 million people globally.  One would think a nation as developed and affluent as the United States would be able to confront any scourge as influenza.  But looks are often deceiving.  The U.S. has been good at developing weapons of destruction.  Our military is the most highly-trained and well-prepared fighting force in the world.  Yet health care issues always seem to be relegated to a Neanderthal-style the fittest shall survive type of mentality.

And it goes back to what political structure is in place at the time of the crisis.  Forty years ago, when AIDS arrived on the world stage, the U.S. was beset by the ultra-conservative Ronald Reagan – a half-ass actor cum political assailant.  While contemporary conservatives deify Reagan and tumble into near-orgasmic frenzies at the mere mention of his name, the rest of us clear-headed folks understand what an incompetent dolt he was.  And not just because he turned his back on the working folks of America!  As a social conservative, he and his minions felt justified in categorizing people into those who deserve to live and those who don’t.  With his banshee of a wife beside his feeble body and mind and an attorney general who thought waging war on the adult film industry was a noble cause, the Reagan Administration ignored the very real calamities of a growing crack-cocaine epidemic and the burgeoning AIDS crisis.  Thus, thousands died, while Reagan uttered a few quaint phrases that cemented his aw-shucks persona as adorable to his legions of blind disciples.

I see much of the same happening now with COVID-19.  As thousands fall ill and the economy sinks, Donald Trump is more engaged with his Twitter account and continues propagating the myth of rampant voter fraud.  Now we have 100,000 dead from this novel coronavirus – and growing – with more than 1 million infected.  And despite that low morbidity rate, just recovering from the ailment seems to be a slow ride through the fires of Hell wearing tissue paper-thin clothing soaked in lighter fluid.  Moreover, scientists still aren’t certain of the long-term effects of COVID-19.  Most people recover, yes, but at what cost?  How will the disease impact their health years from now?  What of their cardiovascular system?  Respiratory system, metabolism, digestive tract, immunity?  Like AIDS forty years ago, COVID-19 is fresh off the virological boat.  We just don’t know.

I do know, however, that a conservative ideology is bad for health care.  Like the schematics for the Titanic, everything looks great on paper – until it slams into something, and we see what happens.  No one knows what the hell to do!  Except pass judgment and make light of the matter.

That’s what Reagan and his ilk did during the AIDS mess: toss around cruel jokes and tap-dance on the graves of the fallen.  And it’s pretty much what Trump is doing now.  He’s not exactly making jokes – his presidency and leadership have taken the top awards on that.  But he’s not providing any true direction.  He did order some manufacturers to being producing much-needed medical supplies.  But even that came with some arm-twisting!

Think about that number, however: 100,000.  What number of dead do we have to see before everyone takes it seriously?  When is it no longer just a very bad day?  What price is a life?

Images: Alejandro De La Garza

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Gang of Imbeciles

Woodall Rodgers Freeway, heading into downtown Dallas, sat nearly empty at 7:26 am on Tuesday, March 24, 2020 – the first morning after Dallas County’s “shelter in place”. This stretch of highway is normally packed with vehicles during morning rush hour. Photo by Lynda M. Gonzalez, Dallas Morning News).

“Greatness in the last analysis is largely bravery – courage in escaping from old ideas and old standards and respectable ways of doing things.”

James Robinson

Crises can make or break a leader.  The 1979-81 Iran Hostage fiasco decimated Jimmy Carter’s final year in office and assuredly caused him to lose his 1980 reelection bid.  The 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing helped secure Bill Clinton’s image as a stalwart president.  The Hurricane Katrina debacle, on the other hand, proved George W. Bush was incompetent and ineffective as Commander-in-Chief.

The current COVID-19 scourge is Donald Trump’s national crisis.  It could be the savior of his presidency; the one element that ensures his place in the pantheon of great world leaders.  Or it could be his death knell; the catastrophic event which will equate him with failure, except his most devoted followers.  As things appear now, it’s turning into the latter.

Yesterday, March 26, Trump signed a roughly USD 2.2 trillion stimulus package unanimously passed by the U.S. Congress.  Because the COVID-19 mess has created a new set of “social distancing” protocols aimed at subverting the virus’ spread, a large number of Americans have suddenly found themselves jobless.  Restaurants, nightclubs, gyms, and tattoo parlors have been forced to shut down.  History will determine if that achieved its intended goals.  But, as of March 26, the number of jobless claims set a record at 3.3 million.  Who would’ve thought an invisible microbe could wreak such havoc?

Amidst this cataclysm, our dear leader, Donald Trump, has openly considered easing restrictions to the practices of social distancing.  Earlier this week, he suggested the U.S. could return to normal by Easter.  “I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” he said.  That’s akin to the captain of the Titanic shouting, “Pool party!”

It’s almost painful to watch Trump and his band of clueless minions pretend this crisis will obey a presidential command.  Many conservatives tried to explain George W. Bush’s pathetic handling of the Hurricane Katrina fiasco by claiming his adversaries wanted him to stop the storm from terrorizing the Gulf Coast.  I heard a few actually say that aloud!  And I had the pleasure of telling them, ‘No.  The issue was RESPONDING to the hurricane!’  Bush and the Republican Party were quick to declare war on Iraq in 2003.  But, when a REAL threat emerges, they failed miserably.

If anything, the start of the AIDS epidemic in the U.S. some forty years ago proved how dangerous social conservatism can be to a health crisis.  Admittedly, thousands of people didn’t come down with HIV in a matter of days, as with the COVID-19 virus.  But the reality is that national policy should never be based on individual predilections or religious ideology.  Every time people make health-based decisions on their own personal religious beliefs, people die.  Every single time!

But the AIDS epidemic showed that a slow federal response to a health concern can be lethal.  I’m watching the COVID-19 pandemic unfold here in the U.S. in stark realism.  As of March 27, the U.S. has achieved the dubious distinction of the most number of COVID-19 cases in the world.  Meaning we’ve now surpassed China and Italy.  Trump always declared America is #1 – and what do you know?!  The old bastard has finally been proven right!

I really don’t want to see Donald Trump fail in this entire imbroglio.  It’s not good to wish your national leader stumble and falter as a national crisis of any kind grips the nation.  But, thus far, Trump has shown no real leadership, with the exception of the aforementioned stimulus package.

It doesn’t need to be this way for him – or for anyone.  This could be his golden moment to prove he’s an authentic leader, not the failed businessman / tax cheat others claim he really is.  Every country’s leader is forced to confront a national emergency of some kind or another.  It just comes with the territory.  The U.S. presidency, in this case, is not school a crossing guard-type of position.  It requires more fortitude and clarity than most jobs, when in fact, the presidency is not a standard job.  It’s more of a calling – kind of like human rights work, or teaching.

As I view it in this moment of national surrealism, Donald Trump is not listening to the tragic sounds of that call.

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Morass

Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill conceded they didn’t get along personally.  O’Neill would go so far as to say Reagan was one of the laziest presidents he’d ever known.  It was ironic that two old Irish-Americans would have such disparate viewpoints, as they each reached the apex of their careers.  Yet, despite their differences in how government should function and what policies were best for the nation, they did try to work together.  Those differences fell into the background in March of 1981, when Reagan almost fell victim to a would-be assassin’s bullet.  O’Neill visited Reagan in the hospital and the two even read biblical passages together.

Flash forward nearly four decades and try to imagine such comingling in Washington now.  On Tuesday, Donald Trump gave his State of the Union address.  As required, he provided copies of his speech to Vice-President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  Despite intense animosity between Trump and Pelosi, the latter extended her hand to the president – which he deliberately ignored.  After Trump concluded speaking, Pelosi ripped up her copy of the speech, explaining later that Trump had “shredded the truth,” so she saw fit to shred the speech.  Then, on Wednesday, the U.S. Senate voted to acquit Trump of both articles of impeachment the House had brought up at the end of last year.  Over these past couple of days, Trump has gloated over his acquittal; proudly displaying various newspapers announcing the trial verdict and – in a live press conference – condemned the entire fiasco; ultimately calling it “bullshit”.  Yes, he really did utter that word on live television.  Then again, it’s Donald Trump.  Nothing he says or does should surprise anyone by now.

I have NEVER seen anything like this in my lifetime.  In my own 40-plus years of studying American politics, these past four have been surreal and almost otherworldly.  Donald Trump is the stress test of all stress tests.  And I thought George W. Bush was disoriented!  Trump is one block away from full-fledged derangement!  Bush’s actions in office embarrassed me more than once.  But Trump has stained the U.S. presidency with a new level of disgrace and shame.

It’s disillusioned me to the point where I’ve begun deleting all incoming emails of a political nature – even from Democratic and Green Party candidates.  I disliked Bush, but I absolutely loathe Trump.  I don’t like to say I hate someone I don’t know personally.  However, Trump has come as close to it for me as have only a few others – animal abusers, neo-Nazis, Caitlyn Jenner.  Just to name a few.

And none of that gives me pleasure.  It’s easy to hate and demonize.  It’s harder to dismiss bad behavior, especially from our political leaders.  I’ve been watching this circus and cringe at the thought of foreign opinions.  The United States is the self-claimed beacon of democracy and national dignity.  We’re supposed to be far above these kinds of third-world antics.  Now we’ve dropped into the abyss of antagonism and mockery.  People in Somalia must be laughing.

After Bush ascended to the presidency in 2001, some outspoken liberals announced they would actually flee the country.  Even with the current political diorama, I’m not ready to update my passport.  Well…not yet.  I just don’t know when this somnambulistic nightmare will end.  But the dénouement can’t arrive soon enough.

Thanks goodness all bad things – like blind dates and ptomaine poisoning – must come to an end!

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One Last Angry Clarion Call

Trump looking out in anger.

“It seems clear that [Attorney General William Barr] will do or enable anything to keep Trump in office.  And Trump will do anything to stay there.  Suspension of the election, negation of the results, declaration of martial law are not simply fanciful, alarmist or crazy things to throw out there or to contemplate.  Members of Congress, governors and state legislators, leaders in civil society, lawyers, law enforcement figures and the military need to be thinking now about how they might respond.”

Norm Orenstein, Chair of American Enterprise Institute of Public Policy Research

Donald Trump has joked recently that he might not leave office after a second term, as mandated by the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  This particular amendment was ratified in response to the 12-year tenure of Franklin D. Roosevelt.  The original authors of the Constitution had never intended for any elected Chief Executive to hold the position as if it were a divinely-inspired monarchy.  They certainly didn’t anticipate Roosevelt, but they most likely designed the Constitution with concerns about scandalous characters like Trump.  Our 45th Chief Executive made his claim about an extended presidency last month at a conference of the conservative Israeli-American Council in Hollywood, Florida.  I’ve always found it oxymoronic – downright hypocritical, actually – that Trump bears such ardor for Israel and the Jewish people, while openly courting White supremacists.  But that’s a different subject.

The thought of Trump holding just one term in the White House was frightening enough three years ago.  That he could be elected to a second term is deeply unsettling.  That he could somehow forcibly remain in the office even one day longer makes the bloodiest horror films look like Hallmark greeting card commercials.

Yet Trump is delusional enough to believe that’s a real possibility, and he has plenty of supporters who would be comfortable with such a scenario.  Those of us who live in the real world understand this simply could not be allowed per that pesky 22nd Amendment.  Still, even some constitutional experts have surmised Trump might make such an attempt.  That would be reality TV at its worst!  Richard Nixon quietly left the White House, following an impassioned farewell speech to his staff, in August of 1974.  There were no guns blazing or hand grenades exploding.  Nixon and his family weren’t spirited out of the White House through a tunnel to avoid angry mobs of detractors.  The Nixons simply strolled onto the South Lawn, accompanied by newly-appointed President Gerald Ford and his wife, Betty, to Marine One.  The helicopter made the loudest sound of anything.  That’s how a peaceful transition of power occurs, even in the most dire and tense of situations.

With Trump, I can almost see him and his wife, Melania, scurrying through that tunnel in a setting reminiscent of Romania’s Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu.  I honestly don’t believe it will ever come to that sanguineous of a climax.  Yet, I wouldn’t put it past the infantile Trump to grip onto the door frame of the master bedroom.

But, while Trump’s behavior can’t be taken too lightly, another aspect of the current American experience that definitely shouldn’t be dismissed is the effect Trump’s presidency has had on his faithful minions and the sentiments that put someone like him into office.  Decades of socially progressive behavior and legislation gave us Barack Obama and others like him; individuals who didn’t meet the traditional standard of those in position of power.  In other words, Obama and others weren’t White males.  Just a half century ago it was inconceivable that someone like Obama could ascend to the highest elected office in the land.  It was unimaginable that Nancy Pelosi would be the one banging the gavel in the House of Representatives.  Only a handful of visionaries thought it possible that Hilary Clinton could be a serious contender for the presidency, or that Pete Buttigieg could live openly gay AND serve in the U.S. military AND talk about having a “husband.”  People born, say, since 1990 have no idea what a vastly different world it is today than in the few years before their time.

Now, it seems the nation has digressed with Donald Trump.  Decades ago, Ronald Reagan aspired for America to return to a time before the 1960s messed up everything.  That was a simpler time for him and others just like him.  But it meant Blacks sat at the back of the bus; women sought nothing but marriage and motherhood; queers remained in the closet; and Native Americans languished as comical figures on TV screens.  The 1960s may have messed up the world for the likes of Reagan and Nixon, but it opened up the universe for everyone else.

As I marched through my junior year in high school, I began receiving phone calls from a man with the local recruiting office of the U.S. Army.  I believe I’d spoken to him at least twice, before my father happened to answer the phone one day; whereupon he politely told the man that I had plans for college and that he and my mother were determined to ensure I get there and graduated.  Just a few years later I’d openly stated I had considered joining either the Navy or the Marines.  And each time my father talked me out of it.  In retrospect, I understand why.

As a naïve high school student in the late 1940s, my father had been convinced NOT to take a drafting course and instead go for something in the blue collar arena.  “Most Spanish boys do this,” is how he quoted the female school counselor telling him.  My father liked to draw and – much like his own father – had the desire and talent for an architectural profession.  But he’d been talked out of it.  Because that was what most “Spanish boys do”.  College was for White guys.  Trade school and the military were for everyone else.

Years of struggle – working twice as hard for half as much – and assertive civil rights action had led America to the early 1980s, when I graduated from high school.  And didn’t have to join the military.  In the spring of 1983, I was sitting in a government class at a local community college, when the instructor asked, “What do we owe minorities in this country?”

Seated in the row in front of me was a young man who had graduated with me from the same high school.  I knew his name, but I didn’t know him personally.  Without missing a beat, he muttered, “Nothing.”

Only the few of us nearby heard him.  He was White, as was most everyone else seated on either side of him.  From my vantage point directly behind him, he looked angry; as if he’d been robbed of something that was rightfully his.

I finally spoke up and informed the class that “this country” owes the same thing to minorities that it does to everyone else: equality and fairness; “the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, as prescribed in the Declaration of Independence.  I added, “Nothing more, nothing less.”

That one young man and the others nearby nodded their collective heads and looked at me, as if I’d said something unbelievably profound – which, to them, it may have been.

That level of total fairness and freedom hasn’t been easy.  But nothing so monumental as dramatic cultural changes are.  The Civil War, for example, ended more than 150 years ago.  Yet, some people in the Deep South of the United States still can’t let that go.  They still insist it was a war over states’ rights, not slavery.  They’ve been fighting that conflict all these years and they still haven’t won!

That’s a little of what Donald Trump’s presidency is all about: a bunch of old-guard folks wanting to maintain things as they were way back when.  And it’s just not going to work for them any longer.  The old White Republicans dominating the U.S. Senate disrespected Barack Obama as much as they could without making it too glaringly obvious.  They did everything they could to undermine his presidency and essentially failed at every step.  If anything, they only hurt the country and their reputations.

Social and political conservatives can’t return to an America of the 1940s and 50s any more than liberals can return to an America of the 1990s.  Memories are forever, but time marches onward.  It always has and it always will.  Trump’s presidency may be the final battle cry of the angry White male.

But we can’t go back to whenever.  Time continues.

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Voodoo You

“It just isn’t going to work, and it’s very interesting that the man who invented this type of what I call a voodoo economic policy is Art Laffer, a California economist.” – George H.W. Bush, Carnegie Mellon University, April 10, 1980

 

I’m frightened for the United States, and it’s not just because of my disdain for our faux president, Donald Trump.  I’m genuinely concerned about what could happen over the next few years.

In the above quote, George H.W. Bush was referring to the plans of fellow Republican and 1980 presidential candidate Ronald Reagan for revitalizing a stagnant U.S. economy.  Then, when Reagan won in most of the primaries, his camp offered Bush the vice-presidential position, and the former Texas congressman shut up about economics.  In 1980, the nation was in a bad financial situation.  The costs of the Vietnam War, coupled with oil embargoes from OPEC nations, had finally taken their toll.  Unemployment stood at nearly 10%; the prime interest rate was 21%; inflation was 14%; home mortgage rates were 17%; and the top marginal tax rate was 70%.  In the second quarter of 1980, the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) declined by 8%.  By the end of the year, the overall GDP boasted about $3 trillion (in today’s dollars).

With the help of some Democrats in both houses of the U.S. Congress, Reagan was able to generate an agreement that slashed taxes down to 50% on wages, to 48% on corporate income, and to 20% on capital gains.  These measures initially jumpstarted the economy.  Average citizens had more expendable income, which they poured back into the economy by purchasing many so-called big ticket items, like vehicle and electronics.  By 1990, the size of the U.S. economy had grown from $3 trillion to $6 trillion, with roughly 4 million new businesses and 20 million new jobs created.  Although the national debt increased from $1 trillion to $4 trillion during the same period, overall revenues doubled.

Reagan’s economic policies were in line with conservative views on taxation: if we give the “investing class” (meaning, the most affluent) generous tax breaks, they will respond by expanding their businesses or starting new ones, which in turn, will create more products and / or services and more jobs.  Along with reduced business regulations (“job killers” in conservative lingo), average citizens will have more income, which of course, they will pour back into the economy.  Such growth then will expand the tax base; the additional revenue will replace any money lost to the initial tax cuts.

Ask any frustrated project manager and they will tell you that everything always looks great on paper.  While Reagan disciples keep championing his financial moves, the reality is that “Reaganomics” didn’t work out as planned.  One thing people forget is a little thing called the Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act of 1982, which rolled back financial regulations that had been established by the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt to prevent further damage caused by the 1929 stock market crash and the ensuing Great Depression.  It’s interesting that Bush’s voodoo comment was made at Carnegie Mellon University.  Founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1900 as Carnegie Technical School, it merged with the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research in 1967 to become Carnegie Mellon.  The Mellon Institute had been established in 1913 by brothers Andrew and Richard B. Mellon who, like Carnegie, were self-made businessmen and titans of early 20th century America.  Andrew Mellon served as Secretary of the Treasury from 1921 – 1932, one of the longest tenures for this position.  He created the “trickle-down” economic theory by declaring, “Give tax breaks to large corporations, so that money can trickle down to the general public, in the form of extra jobs.”

But Andrew Mellon is also known for a notoriously rotten hands-off policy with the Great Depression.  The banks that failed had put themselves in such a precarious financial position, he believed, and thus, they were responsible for extricating themselves from it.  It didn’t seem to matter that these bank failures took people’s money with them; therefore, amplifying the effects of the 1929 crash.

Still, President Reagan – like any good fiscal conservative – held onto these beliefs and eagerly signed the Garn-St. Germain bill.  That reduced the number of regulations on financial institutions and allowed them to expand and invest more of their customers’ deposits in various ventures, particularly home mortgages.  Again, that looks-great-on-paper ideology swung back around to bite everyone when the Savings & Loans Crisis erupted.  Between 1986 and 1995, 1,043 out of the 3,234 savings and loan institutions in the U.S. failed; costing $160 billion overall, with taxpayers footing $132 billion of it.  It was the worst series of bank collapses since the Great Depression.  That led to the 1990-91 Recession, the longest and most wide-spread economic downturn since the late 1940s.  I started working for a large bank in Dallas in April of 1990 and saw the S&L crisis unfold in real time.

Nonetheless, trickle-down economics saw a rebirth with George W. Bush, as his administration further deregulated the banking industry and also deregulated housing.  Combined with the costs of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. economy almost completely collapsed at the end of 2008.  The 2007-08 Recession was the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.  Unemployment reached double digits for the first time since the start of the Reagan era, as millions of citizens lost their homes and their savings.  Had it not been for such programs as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (the FDIC, established by Roosevelt), we surely would have plunged into another depression.

Now, with Donald Trump in office, I fear we’re headed for the same morass.  On December 22, 2017, Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act; the largest overhaul of the U.S. tax code in 30 years.  Financial prognosticators have already forecast the act will raise the federal deficit by hundreds of billions of U.S. dollars over the next 10 years.  The law cuts individual taxes temporarily, but cuts corporate tax rates permanently.  As suspected, the most affluent citizens will benefit greatly, as they experience a significant reduction in their taxes.  The rest of us lowly peons may see a tax increase after those temporary provisions expire in 2025.

You know that classic definition of insanity?  Doing the same thing over and over, while expecting different results.  It’s more like, well, if you keep doing stupid shit, stupid shit will keep happening!

Ignore Russia-gate for a moment and the fact Melania’s side of the First Bed is colder than a Chicago winter.  This past week Trump visited the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.  This is where the most elite members of the business world meet (conspire) with leaders of developed nations to create economic policies and decide what’s best for us peons.  Kind of like evangelical Christians often meet to decide what people should see and read.  They’ve set themselves up as the righteous few; the ones who supposedly understand exactly what works and what doesn’t and are divinely compelled to bestow such knowledge upon the rest of us.

Trump ran his presidential campaign on the wave of anti-Washington sentiment; appealing to average citizens about reviving a once-lost “Great America” with a variety of clever ruses: ban Muslims, build a wall along the Mexican border, etc.  So many people, of course, bought into it.  Like Ronald Reagan, Trump was able to tap into that sensitive nerve of everyday angst; spitting out a slew of quaint buzz words to appeal to average folks.  He had said he would never take part in a WEF convention.  Yet, there he was; leading a parade of those self-righteous few into another kind of revitalization: the Gilded Age.

I doubt if most Trump voters even know what Davos means and how it could impact their lives.  Understand, though, that Switzerland is a place where Hollywood celebrities often went for a retreat or a little vacation – code words for cosmetic surgery; long before Phyllis Diller made it openly acceptable.  That’s essentially what Donald Trump did this past week.  He flew to Davos to tell the world, “America first is not America alone.”

I’m frightened for the United States.

 

Image: Golden Spike National Historic Site, Utah.

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