Saturday, December 30, 2017

It's Bizarre, But Let's Be Thankful for Trump

It’s end of the year time when journalists reflect on the last 12 months, a time to give thanks, or note regrets, for all that has transpired since the ball dropped on Times Square (here’s as good example as any of the recap genre:

First and foremost, let’s be thankful Donald Trump was elected. WHAT, you say!?! Hear me out …

Had Hillary Clinton won residency in the White House, no doubt we would be months into pending impeachment proceedings as Republicans would be like a dog chewing on a bone. If you thought their nonstop investigations of Benghazi and her emails while she was merely a candidate were over the top, imagine for a moment what they would have been like had she coupled her popular vote win with an Electoral College victory. 

The impeachment proceedings anti-Trumpers have been longing for would be a reality had Clinton won, not that I believe anything she did deserved such action, but impeachment is a political, not legal, affair and it is evident Republicans think political profit is more important than adherence to principle and the welfare of the country. 

Moreover, assuming the #MeToo movement would have occurred, as well, Bill Clinton’s past would have been dredged up again, further tainting and weakening a Clinton presidency.

Bottom line: Hillary would be spending too much energy and time defending herself and Bill against a Republican controlled Congress. 

Counterbalancing that sad prospect would be Clinton’s more humane stewardship of our legacy. She would not have appointed unqualified or conservatively biased cabinet and agency heads or judges with extreme, reactionary opinions or who lack qualifications for life-tenured office. She would not have alienated our international allies.

But she lost. We have to deal with the reality of a Republican president. So we are left with being thankful for The Donald. You have to admit. He has been entertaining, by himself and with the aid of inept acolytes like Sean Spicer and Anthony Scaramucci. And by the daily ripostes of late night comedians.

Some context is in order. Having the blowhard-in-chief in the White House is preferable to any other Republican, even the warm-and-fuzzy-on-the-outside John Kasich. Trump has done what virtually any Republican would have. Indeed, someone with more Washington insider experience might have been more accomplished. The saving grace during this Year of Living Dangerously is that Trump has kept the intense dislike of his actions and policies red hot, thus igniting the potential for Democrats to have a chance to take over one or both houses of Congress next November. 

Trump galvanizes opposition. He will not change. Given enough rope Trump will hang himself. He cannot contain his toxic tweets and outlandish comments and actions which will inspire anti-Trump votes. They will energize Democrats and revolted true Republicans/Conservatives to show up at the polls next November in numbers generally reserved for presidential elections. 

It’s a long game, I know. Darkness has descended on the “city upon a hill,” Pilgrim John Winthrop’s Biblical visualization of a free society. But it is a game worth playing. And, for now, it is the only game in town.

Here’s hoping 2018 will be a healthy and happy one for all. Gilda and I will be spending New Year’s Eve attending the wedding of our dear friends Beth and Lloyd’s daughter Marin to Eric. A perfect way to end and start a year. 

Friday, December 15, 2017

Catching Up On the News: Playing Trump, English Corn, Christmas Lights, Mall Stores

Not sure how many of you read the business pages of your newspaper but there’s a lesson to be gleaned from an article in Tuesday’s New York Times Business Day section: It pays to look beyond the public announcements and hoopla for the real reason why companies take action and the resulting impact.

Case in point, according to The Times, is the intriguing reason Broadcom, a semiconductor maker, announced last month it would move its headquarters from Singapore back to the United States. Donald Trump hailed it as another example of his ability to lure companies to return to America, thereby increasing domestic jobs. 

But after looking behind the PR wall, The Times reported Broadcom’s real reason for the move was to remove an obstacle it might have faced as a foreign-based company in its hostile pursuit of Qualcomm, a major chip manufacturer. Moreover, if the takeover were successful, it would be likely that the net U.S. employment level of the combined companies would be lower than current figures by perhaps as many as 5,400 workers. 

One wonders if Trump has any idea of how he is being played by savvier business executives.

Ears of Corn: As a former editor I like nothing more than finding inconsistencies (okay, mistakes) in texts or film/TV show dialogues. So I immediately stopped my viewing of the first episode of the new season of Vikings when I heard Bishop Heahmund of England pray for vengeance against the invading Norsemen that included “slaughter them in battle, cut them down like ears of corn at harvest.” 

That last sentiment would have been a neat feat considering that the time period portrayed in the show was the fourth decade of the ninth century—corn was not known in Europe until after the New World was discovered more than 650 years later!

Christmas lights:  Does anyone else see the irony of the inept New York City Times Square subway bomber using Christmas lights to detonate his pipe bomb? 

You would think a devout Muslim would not risk the success of his venture on infidel-inspired holiday lights. Or perhaps he was hoping the lights would be a reversal of the peace on earth message extolled by Christmas. 

At any rate, one would think a lesson learned is not to trust the quality of Made in China products.

Souie: When I read Trump’s tweet about Senator Kirsten Gillibrand I immediately thought, “What a pig Trump is.” 

In case you didn’t see it, you might appreciate the response from USA Today which begins with the following statement:

“A president who would all but call Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a whore is not fit to clean the toilets in the Barack Obama Presidential Library or to shine the shoes of George W. Bush.” Click on the link for the full editorial:

Mall Stores Ban Moore: Among comments to The Times article on the selection of Democrat Doug Jones over Republican Roy Moore as Alabama’s U.S. Senate replacement for Jeff Sessions was one Gilda noted for me from nilootero: “Evidently, black lives, and black votes, really do matter.”

In voting for Jones, Alabamans rejected his opponent whose resume includes the fact he was banned from a mall. Take a moment to view Seth Meyers’ mall store sendup of Moore’s failed candidacy (it begins around 46 seconds into the accompanying clip:

Monday, December 11, 2017

Economy, Not #MeToo, Will Decide 2018 & 2020

As much as it pains and disgusts me to acknowledge it, the elections of 2018 and 2020 will not be tipped by the revulsion to sexual predators generated by the #MeToo movement. To be sure, the reaction to sexual harassment will introduce the electorate to more female candidates, but their success will largely depend on the state of the economy of the individual household rather than on the abstract level of the stock market or the unemployment rate, the latter superceded by the growth, decline or stagnation in real wages, the former being mostly a measure important to those lucky enough to have a retirement fund linked to Wall Street investments.

As I write this, it is less than 24 hours from the verdict Alabama voters will provide on whether their state has the backward values ascribed to them by Eastern and Western establishment liberals by voting in an alleged pedophile as their next junior U.S. senator, or if they will provide a solid rebuke to an administration and Republican Party that has abandoned principle in favor of grabbing power for power’s sake. 

Donald Trump is taking a victory lap for the state of the economy during his first year in office. Too bad he is dissembling and claiming credit for a recovering economy Barack Obama set in motion.

It is generally recognized that the economy during the first year of a new presidency is reflective of the prior administration’s handling of fiscal matters. Obama, for example, had to deal with the recession he inherited from George W. Bush. Unemployment kept rising during his first year as president. But the last seven years of his presidency saw economic growth, which has continued into the first year of Trump.

Trump can aptly claim a reduced regulatory environment as his cabinet and agency heads dismantle protections. Wall Street, which cares not about the long term impact of fewer immigrants to fuel farms, manufacturing and high-tech industries, and is indifferent to lower environmental and worker protections, is at an all-time high. 

But the true test of Trump’s reforms will come later, as most voters will find their taxes are not lower, especially compared to the whopping reductions the super rich will receive. Their real income will not go up, as business leaders will not flow their companies’ reduced taxes into higher wages. And industries Trump said would rebound, such as coal and construction, will not bounce back. 

The other day the Associated Press fact-checked Trump’s claims during a stump speech in Florida. His dissembling is historic.

The ironic thing is that Trump blasts the media when mistakes are made. He is right to demand accuracy. But he wants reporters who make mistakes to be fired. Imagine if he abided by his own standard. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Time for a Few Good Reads

Today’s a day for some interesting reads. 

Donald Trump made himself into a champion of the coal industry. But his proposed tax reform bill might have a devastating impact on the fossil fuel segment, according to a coal company executive who has been one of his biggest supporters: 

There is a romantic view we have of America before World War II. The 1930s was a time of Andy Hardy movies depicting idyllic life in small towns. Racism and anti-Semitism were never mentioned. Shirley Temple could dance up and down a grand staircase with Bojangles. The Marx Brothers were zany. 

Across the Atlantic, however, America was seen as a template for what turned out to be the greatest evil the world has seen. Hitler and his henchmen fashioned their repressive society on American laws:  

Just as neo-Nazis have resurrected the culture of oppression, the Ku Klux Klan has experienced its own reincarnation, twice in fact, as described by this book review:

As Republicans in Congress push federal legislation to allow concealed weapons to be carried legally across state lines, thereby undermining the state’s rights issue they have long championed, here’s a graphic that puts in context the carnage wrought by our inadequate gun control laws: 
Not every conservative shares the xenophobic attitudes of Trump and his ignorant supporters. Consider Bret Stephens. From a speech he recently delivered on “American Greatness,” here are some facts about immigration into the United States: 

“Did you know that immigrants account for 35 percent of all U.S. Nobel Prize winners? Did you know that 83 percent of the finalists in the 2016 Intel Science Talent search—widely known as the junior Nobel—are the children of immigrants? Did you know that 40 percent of all Fortune 500 companies—accounting for $4.8 trillion in revenues and 19 million employees—had founders who were immigrants or the children of immigrants? Did you know that immigrants start businesses at about twice the rate of other Americans? Did you know that without immigrants we would have had no population growth whatsoever since 1970, putting us on a path to a Japanese-style demographic death spiral?

“It is, of course, true that immigrants put strains on their host societies. It is also true that in any immigrant population there will be thieves, rapists, killers, scallywags and layabouts—though, by the way, did you also know that the incarceration rate of illegal immigrants is nearly half that of U.S. citizens?” (For a full read of his remarks, click

As the Supreme Court mulls whether a Colorado baker can withhold his services from a gay couple seeking a wedding cake, it might be illuminating to think about what our world would be like without the contributions of confirmed, not rumored, famous people who were or are gay, lesbian or bisexual, according to Wikipedia. Here’s a partial alphabetical list:,_lesbian_or_bisexual_people:_A

Hypocrisy in Action: My friend Arthur sent along a cartoon (which I can’t reproduce because of my limited tech capabilities). The illustration shows 10 Republican senators sitting at a conference table. The chairman says, “Before we discuss raising taxes on the poor & middle class, adding $1 trillion to the deficit, taking health insurance away from 13 million, raising premiums by 10%, defending treason and swearing in a pedophile, let’s begin with a prayer.”

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Art of the Mis-Deal, A Senate Quid Pro Quo, Media Values and Lessons from Frederick

The Art of the Mis-Deal: What a thoughtful Christmas gift Donald Trump gave the world: Turmoil in the Middle East and anywhere else Islamic extremists operate. I do not envy pilgrims to Bethlehem during this holiday season, or tourists walking the maze-like corridors of the Old City of Jerusalem. Nor did the tumulter-in-chief do any favors to Jews the world over by sanctifying Jerusalem as Israel’s capital Wednesday. Jews already considered Jerusalem that way, but by caring more for fulfilling a campaign pledge to evangelical Christians than the safety of Israelis and Americans traveling abroad and here in the United States, the provocateur-in-chief has imperiled any hope for a substantive restart of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians for a two-state solution. 

Maybe that was his intention all along, a stealth strategy in support of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lip service endorsement of a two-state plan while all along enacting and enabling actions that undermine such a solution ever having viability.

Let’s not mince words—Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Judaism. But under Netanyahu’s capitulation to ultra-Orthodox political parties the city has lost much of its religious appeal to Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Jews who are accorded second class status there. 

Trump cared not what leaders around the world cautioned him not to do. It is not too outlandish to presume that if he does not see positive movement by Palestinians toward the negotiating table Trump will radicalize them even more by first recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided” capital, followed by a declaration that the entire West Bank captured in the Six Day War is to be considered part of Israel.

Here’s a Trade—Al for Roy: Is it too outlandish to ask the U.S. Senate to operate under a quid pro quo system? If Democrats require Al Franken to resign because of alleged sexual harassments, Roy Moore should, in turn, be denied the seat he covets from Alabama. Such a tit-for-tat arrangement would not upset the balance of power as Franken would be replaced by a Democrat appointed by the Democratic governor of Minnesota and Moore (assuming he wins next week’s special election) would be replaced by a Republican chosen by a Republican governor.

Here’s a message my friend Linda sent along that bears consideration:

“Seriously! If baking a cake for a gay wedding is endorsing homosexuality, then voting for a pedophile is endorsing pedophilia.” 

Now that the twitter-in-chief was not named Person of the Year by Time, how long before he tweets an attack on the magazine and the women it recognized for their courage in speaking out against harassment?

If you’re an All in the Family fan, you might remember a Christmastime episode about a vacuum cleaner present Edith Bunker did not receive from Archie. The poor fellow had to fess up that the Christmas bonus money he would have used to buy the vacuum was docked because of a shipping mistake he made at work. He sent a package to London, England, instead of London, Ontario. 

I was reminded of that faux pas by the recent mistake ABC News chief investigative reporter Brian Ross made that earned him a four week suspension without pay. Ross had erroneously reported “candidate” Trump had asked Michael Flynn to contact Russians. He corrected his report to say “president-elect” Trump had made the request (

It was a big mistake, made all the more grievous by the extraordinary times we live in, when a president and his surrogates berate legitimate news media for delivering “fake news” and when a president and his surrogates repeatedly lie to the public. 

Mistakes in reporting happen. That’s why newspapers and magazines, and electronic media, print or air corrections. No one is infallible. But the Ross snafu transpired during a time when the credibility of the media has taken some extraordinary hits, not because of errors in reporting but rather because of character flaws. 

Charlie Rose. Matt Lauer. Roger Ailes. Bill O’Reilly. Glenn Thrush. Eric Bolling. Bob Beckel. The list of prominent journalists and TV hosts accused of sexual or racial improprieties undermines the credibility of the fourth estate at a juncture in our nation’s history when the value of a free, independent and credible press cannot be overestimated.

Frederick the Great: One of the favorite books Gilda and I read to our children and now to their children is Frederick by Leo Lionni. While his four fellow field mice gather food for the coming winter, Frederick spends his days seemingly shirking any communal responsibilities. He sits on rocks admiring flowers. He absorbs the warmth of the sun as the other mice scurry about collecting grain and tasty foodstuffs for the desolate months ahead.

The other mice chastise him for not collecting winter provisions. To which Frederick responds he is indeed doing his fair share. He is collecting sun rays for the cold, dark winter days, colors for winter is grey, and words for winter days are long and many.

Inside their home once winter arrives the mice munch away until they are almost out of food. They ask  Frederick to talk about his supplies. His words warm them with memories of summer days. 

Frederick is a charming book with a strong message that work is not just physical labor, that poetry, appreciation of nature and the transmission of culture are just as  important to sustain life. (For those not familiar with Frederick, click on this link for an animated reading: 

I was reminded of Frederick’s message by Trump’s decision Monday to reduce by millions of square feet the footprints of two national monuments in Utah. Ostensibly a move to give local officials more control over land in their backyard, Trump’s action was portrayed as a job creator as it will open the areas to drilling, mining and other activities. 

Coupled with antipathy for funding for the arts and other cultural programs, Trump and his acolytes demonstrate a philosophy that focuses solely on the muscular. Even in his dedication to jobs, Trump supports fossil fuels versus clean energy alternatives, despite the fact that more workers are employed in the solar power segment than in coal mining. 

I wonder if Trump reads books to his grandchildren. I wonder if he ever gets the messages behind those books.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Thoughts on Sexual Harassment and Racial Discrimination

If you believe in god, and perhaps even if you don’t, there are one of two prayers you are most likely reciting daily. If you trust in Donald Trump, you are praying the domino scandal of inappropriate male sexual behavior engulfs special counsel Robert Mueller before he uncovers any evidence of illegality involving The Donald. If your decency index swings the other way, you are hoping beyond prayers that Mueller has no sexual indiscretions in his closet.

Oh, how our stature as a country with morals and integrity has fallen in the last 24 months. To be sure, we always have had leaders with outsized egos and even larger libidos. Mostly, their sexual peccadillos were kept under wraps until their respective infidelities were exposed, as happened when House Ways and Means chairman Wilbur Mills drove his mistress Fanne Fox into the Washington Tidal Basin in 1974. The dalliances of FDR, JFK even Ike came to light only after they no longer graced the earth.

No less a family values proponent than Ronald Reagan managed to project wholesomeness despite divorcing his first wife and later marrying Nancy, whom he had impregnated before they exchanged their vows.

Would Bill Clinton get elected today if we knew of his indiscretions? Perhaps, for after all, we did know of them but chose not to believe his accusers. Similar revolting behavior did not stop evangelical communities from voting for Trump. And many in Alabama seem poised to accept a flawed sexual predator as their next senator, especially now that the predator-in-chief has endorsed him, as has the Republican National Committee. They believe being a Democrat is more evil than any other sin.

Hollywood Casting: When they make a movie of Hollywood’s, the media’s and Washington’s continual fall from social grace (get real people, it is only a matter of time until the film starts rolling), here’s the perfect actor for the role of the corpulent predator at the heart of sexual scandaldom: Jeff Garlin should play Harvey Weinstein.

For those who don’t immediately recognize Garlin’s name, he plays Murray Goldberg on ABC’s The Goldbergs. But that traditional sitcom portrayal is not why he would make the perfect Harvey Weinstein.

It is his role as Jeff Greene, Larry David’s lascivious, scruples-be-damned agent and co-conspirator-in-mischief on HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm that earns him his Weinstein creds. Not to mention his girth and no neck physical resemblance. Put a few days’ scruffy growth on his face and he’s camera ready.

With apologies if any of my projected cast for the Weinstein-inspired sexual harassment flick fall victim—that is, are exposed as a sexual aggressor—before filming can begin, here’s a lineup of players for the depraved:

Jeff Garlin as Harvey Weinstein
Frank Langella as Roy Moore
Christopher Plummer as Charlie Rose
George Wendt (Norm from Cheers) as Al Franken
Leonardo DiCaprio as Kevin Spacey
Tom Hardy as Matt Lauer
James Belushi as Bill O’Reilly
Paul Giamatti as Roger Ailes
Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump
J.B. Smoove (from Curb Your Enthusiasm) as John Conyers
Austin Pendleton as Woody Allen
Macaulay Culkin as Ronan Farrow
John Lithgow as Louis C.K.
Rainn Wilson as Garrison Keillor
Dana Carvey as George H.W. Bush
Ed Asner as James Levine
Kenan Thompson as Clarence Thomas
Larry Fishburne as Bill Cosby
Jimmy Kimmel as Roy Moore

Unfortunately, there no doubt are many more, known and unknown at this time, to be cast. As for the courageous women coming forward to reveal the sexual harassment they endured, they should play themselves so they could at least reap some compensation for their collective trauma.

Happy Out, Angry In: I happily traveled with Gilda down to Washington, DC, to spend Thanksgiving with my brother and his family. I came back angry.

Fear not. There was no family squabble. No real life representation of countless movie or TV family meals turned into shouting matches.

Rather, my anger stemmed from a visit to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. It was among the most moving, enlightening, and educational exhibits I have witnessed. It should be required viewing by all politicians and corporate leaders. 

Anyone who takes the time—half a dozen hours, as we spent the day before Thanksgiving, does not complete the experience—will come away with a deeper understanding of the contributions Afro-Americans have made to our country during their years of bondage, repression under Jim Crow laws, and the current contradictory phase of presumed equality masked by racial discrimination.  

I exited the museum angry that anyone could deny the righteousness of the fight for equality. That anyone could support laws that perpetuate inequality. That anyone could   work to suppress voting rights. 

I wondered what Trump took away from his visit last February to the museum, given the minimal time his schedule would have permitted him to spend there. I wondered if he was intelligent and curious enough to go back after hours for a longer, deeper dive into the history and culture displayed there. He did, after all, say he wanted to return for a more comprehensive visit. 

Based on how he has addressed issues affecting minority communities, from voting rights to programs to help the disadvantaged, I surmise he has not followed through. In his own favorite word, sad.