Saturday, June 10, 2017

Trump Poisons The World

This week, two of Donald Trump’s top advisers, H. R. McMaster and Gary Cohn, wrote the following passage in The Wall Street Journal: “The president embarked on his first foreign trip with a cleareyed outlook that the world is not a ‘global community’ but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage.”
That sentence is the epitome of the Trump project. It asserts that selfishness is the sole driver of human affairs. It grows out of a worldview that life is a competitive struggle for gain. It implies that cooperative communities are hypocritical covers for the selfish jockeying underneath.
The essay explains why the Trump people are suspicious of any cooperative global arrangement, like NATO and the various trade agreements. It helps explain why Trump pulled out of the Paris global-warming accord. This essay explains why Trump gravitates toward leaders like Vladimir Putin, the Saudi princes and various global strongmen: They share his core worldview that life is nakedly a selfish struggle for money and dominance.
It explains why people in the Trump White House are so savage to one another. Far from being a band of brothers, their world is a vicious arena where staffers compete for advantage.
In the essay, McMaster and Cohn make explicit the great act of moral decoupling woven through this presidency. In this worldview, morality has nothing to do with anything. Altruism, trust, cooperation and virtue are unaffordable luxuries in the struggle of all against all. Everything is about self-interest.
We’ve seen this philosophy before, of course. Powerful, selfish people have always adopted this dirty-minded realism to justify their own selfishness. The problem is that this philosophy is based on an error about human beings and it leads to self-destructive behavior in all cases.
The error is that it misunderstands what drives human action. Of course people are driven by selfish motivations — for individual status, wealth and power. But they are also motivated by another set of drives — for solidarity, love and moral fulfillment — that are equally and sometimes more powerful.
People are wired to cooperate. Far from being a flimsy thing, the desire for cooperation is the primary human evolutionary advantage we have over the other animals.
People have a moral sense. They have a set of universal intuitions that help establish harmony between peoples. From their first moments, children are wired to feel each other’s pain. You don’t have to teach a child about what fairness is; they already know. There’s no society on earth where people are admired for running away in battle or for lying to their friends.
People have moral emotions. They feel rage at injustice, disgust toward greed, reverence for excellence, awe before the sacred and elevation in the face of goodness.
People yearn for righteousness. They want to feel meaning and purpose in their lives, that their lives are oriented toward the good.
One of his friends, who witnessed this small act, later wrote: “I felt like jumping out of the car and hugging this guy. I felt like singing and running, or skipping and laughing. Just being active. I felt like saying nice things about people. Writing a beautiful poem or love song. Playing in the snow like a child. Telling everybody about his deed.”
Good leaders like Lincoln, Churchill, Roosevelt and Reagan understand the selfish elements that drive human behavior, but they have another foot in the realm of the moral motivations. They seek to inspire faithfulness by showing good character. They try to motivate action by pointing toward great ideals.
Realist leaders like Trump, McMaster and Cohn seek to dismiss this whole moral realm. By behaving with naked selfishness toward others, they poison the common realm and they force others to behave with naked selfishness toward them.
By treating the world simply as an arena for competitive advantage, Trump, McMaster and Cohn sever relationships, destroy reciprocity, erode trust and eviscerate the sense of sympathy, friendship and loyalty that all nations need when times get tough.
By looking at nothing but immediate material interest, Trump, McMaster and Cohn turn America into a nation that affronts everybody else’s moral emotions. They make our country seem disgusting in the eyes of the world.
George Marshall was no idealistic patsy. He understood that America extends its power when it offers a cooperative hand and volunteers for common service toward a great ideal. Realists reverse that formula. They assume strife and so arouse a volley of strife against themselves.
I wish H. R. McMaster was a better student of Thucydides. He’d know that the Athenians adopted the same amoral tone he embraces: “The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.” The Athenians ended up making endless enemies and destroying their own empire.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Keeping The Faith

Ever since Trump has become president, I have been dragged through the mill. I will admit that right up until the very day of his inauguration, I was in deep denial and secretly hoped that someone would announce it was all a big hoax, Hillary would magically appear, place her hand on a bible, and make everything in my world right again. But that didn't happen. To thwart the onslaught of a deep depression, I got on a bus in the middle of the night to Washington DC the day after the inauguration and attended the Women's March.

Looking back, that was the one of the best things I ever did. It taught me that whenever I feel like I am a victim of one of Trump's cruel executive orders that he flippantly enacts with the stroke of his pen, I can counter that by taking my own action. I can pick up the phone and call a congressman that supports that legislation and voice my opinion. I can go to one of Senator Richard Blumenthal's town halls and linger on the sidelines to ask him my own direct questions. I can petition. And I always have my protest gear ready in the front closet door if I want to join another march.

The Fearless Girl
The Russian-Trump FBI investigation gave me yet another ray of hope. I've become addicted to watching Rachel Maddow cover the story with her top-notch reporting. It made me long for the days of my old journalistic career when I had to doggedly hunt for information and track down sources. What I would give to be in that job in the quest of holding a mirror of truth up to Trump now.
But after three months of this emotional roller coaster binge watching TV news over the travel ban, the Obamacare debacle and now the bomb frenzy, I decided, enough.
Finally, on Palm Sunday, I got up early and jumped on a train to New York City. Whenever I fall into a funk, a day in Manhattan pulls me out of it. As soon as I walked into Grand Central Station, I felt my worries of the world start to fall away.

I decided to spend my time in lower Manhattan by visiting the Fearless Girl bronze statue on Wall Street then see the Statue of Liberty. As soon as I saw the bronze statue of that defiant little girl staring down a big bull in the face, something moved me. The little girl, so small, looking at this powerful beast, as if to say: "I am not afraid of you, I will beat you, despite all odds, I will crush your evil agenda as God is my witness." In that moment, I felt like that little girl was me, determined to stop Trump from destroying out country. The very vision of those two bronze sculptures juxtaposed gave me a surreal sense of relief.

The Statue of Liberty
After that I walked down to Battery Park. Initially, I had just planned to sit on a bench and stare at the Statue of Liberty from afar. But as I watched people board the ferry to Liberty Island,  I thought, what the Hell? I hadn't visited Lady Liberty since May 1979 and on such a beautiful spring day, this seemed as good a day as any to visit her again.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

To Trump Supporters That Say They Suffered Through Obama's Presidency

One of many, many infuriating parts of having Trump as the President is the insufferable smugness of conservatives. When they’re not telling you to “suck it up, snowflake” or trying to sell you fake news, they’re gloating: “We suffered for eight years under that tyrant Obummer. Now it’s your turn.”
One man, Scott Mednick had enough with his Republican acquaintances and penned this powerful response:
“I am surprised you would wish suffering upon me. That, of course, is your right, I suppose. I do not wish harm on anyone. Your statement seems to continue the ‘US v THEM’ mentality. The election is over. It is important to get past campaigning and campaign rhetoric and get down to what is uniting, not dividing and what is best for ALL Americans.
There will never be a President who does everything to everyone’s liking. There are things President Obama (and President Clinton) did that I do not like and conversely there are things I can point to that the Presidents Bush did that I agree with. So I am not 100% in lock step with the outgoing President but have supported him and the overall job he did.
And, if you recall, during the Presidential Campaign back in 2008 the campaign was halted because of the “historic crisis in our financial system.” Wall Street bailout negotiations intervened in the election process. The very sobering reality was that there likely could be a Depression and the world financial markets could collapse. The United States was losing 800,000 jobs a month and was poised to lose at least 10 million jobs the first year once the new President took office. We were in an economic freefall. So let us recall that ALL of America was suffering terribly at the beginning of Obama’s Presidency.
But I wanted to look back over the last 8 years and ask you a few questions. Since much of the rhetoric before Obama was elected was that he would impose Sharia Law, Take Away Your Guns, Create Death Panels, Destroy the Economy, Impose Socialism and, since you will agree that NONE of this came to pass, I was wondering: Why have you suffered so?
So let me ask: Gays and Lesbians can now marry and enjoy the benefits they had been deprived of. Has this caused your suffering?
When Obama took office, the Dow was 6,626. Now it is 19,875. Has this caused your suffering?
We had 82 straight months of private sector job growth – the longest streak in the history of the United States. Has this caused your suffering?
Especially considering where the economy was when he took over, an amazing 11.3 million new jobs were created under President Obama (far more than President Bush). Has this caused your suffering?
Obama has taken Unemployment from 10% down to 4.7%. Has this caused your suffering?
Homelessness among US Veterans has dropped by half. Has this caused your suffering?
Obama shut down the US secret overseas prisons. Has this caused your suffering?
President Obama has created a policy for the families of fallen soldiers to have their travel paid for to be there when remains are flown home. Has this caused your suffering?
We landed a rover on Mars. Has this caused your suffering?
He passed the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Has this caused your suffering?
Uninsured adults has decreased to below 10%: 90% of adults are insured – an increase of 20 Million Adults. Has this caused your suffering?
People are now covered for pre-existing conditions. Has this caused your suffering?
Insurance Premiums increased an average of $4,677 from 2002-2008, an increase of 58% under Bush. The growth of these insurance premiums has gone up $4,145 – a slower rate of increase. Has this caused your suffering?
Obama added Billions of dollars to mental health care for our Veterans. Has this caused your suffering?
Consumer confidence has gone from 37.7 to 98.1 during Obama’s tenure. Has this caused your suffering?
He passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Has this caused your suffering?
His bi-annual Nuclear Summit convinced 16 countries to give up and destroy all their loose nuclear material so it could not be stolen. Has this caused your suffering?
He saved the US Auto industry. American cars sold at the beginning of his term were 10.4M and upon his exit 17.5M. Has this caused your suffering?
The deficit as a percentage of the GDP has gone from 9.8% to 3.2%. Has this caused your suffering?
The deficit itself was cut by $800 Billion Dollars. Has this caused your suffering?
Obama preserved the middle class tax cuts. Has this caused your suffering?
Obama banned solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prisons. Has this caused your suffering?
He signed Credit Card reform so that rates could not be raised without you being notified. Has this caused your suffering?
He outlawed Government contractors from discriminating against LGBT persons. Has this caused your suffering?
He doubled Pell Grants. Has this caused your suffering?
Abortion is down. Has this caused your suffering?
Violent crime is down. Has this caused your suffering?
He overturned the scientific ban on stem cell research. Has this caused your suffering?
He protected Net Neutrality. Has this caused your suffering?
Obamacare has extended the life of the Medicare insurance trust fund (will be solvent until 2030). Has this caused your suffering?
President Obama repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Has this caused your suffering?
He banned torture. Has this caused your suffering?
He negotiated with Syria to give up its chemical weapons and they were destroyed. Has this caused your suffering?
Solar and Wind Power are at an all time high. Has this caused your suffering?
High School Graduation rates hit 83% – an all time high. Has this caused your suffering?
Corporate profits are up by 144%. Has this caused your suffering?
He normalized relations with Cuba. Has this caused your suffering?
Reliance on foreign oil is at a 40 year low. Has this caused your suffering?
US Exports are up 28%. Has this caused your suffering?
He appointed the most diverse cabinet ever. Has this caused your suffering?
He reduced the number of troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Has this caused your suffering?
Yes, he killed Osama Bin Laden and retrieved all the documents in his possession for analysis. Perhaps THIS caused your suffering?
From an objective standpoint it would appear that the last eight years have seen some great progress and we were saved from a financial collapse. Things are not perfect. Things can always be better. We are on much better footing now than we were in 2008.
I look forward to understanding what caused you to suffer so much under Obama these last eight years.”

Why Trump Is Good For America

Trump is actually "Making America Great Again." Just look at the progress he made since the election.

1.Unprecedented levels of ongoing civic engagement.
2. Millions of Americans now know who their state and federal representatives are without having to google.
3. Millions of Americans are exercising more. They're holding signs and marching every week.
4. Alec Baldwin is great again. Everyone's forgotten he's kind of a jerk.
5. The Postal Service is enjoying the influx cash due to stamps purchased by millions of people for letter and postcard campaigns.
6. Likewise, the pharmaceutical industry is enjoying record growth in sales of anti-depressants.
7. Millions of Americans now know how to call their elected officials and know exactly what to say to be effective.
8. Footage of town hall meetings is now entertaining.
9. Tens of millions of people are now correctly spelling words like emoluments, narcissist, fascist, misogynist, holocaust and cognitive dissonance.
10. Everyone knows more about the rise of Hitler than they did last year.
11. Everyone knows more about legislation, branches of power and how checks and balances work.
12. Marginalized groups are experiencing a surge in white allies.
13. White people in record numbers have just learned that racism is not dead. (See #6)
14. White people in record numbers also finally understand that Obamacare IS the Affordable Care Act.
15. Stephen Colbert's "Late Night" finally gained the elusive #1 spot in late night talk shows.
16. "Mike Pence" has donated millions of dollars to Planned Parenthood since Nov. 9th.
17. Melissa FREAKING McCarthy.
18. Travel ban protesters put $24 million into ACLU coffers in just 48 hours, enabling them to hire 200 more attorneys. Lawyers are now heroes.
19. As people seek veracity in their news sources, respected news outlets are happily reporting a substantial increase in subscriptions, a boon to a struggling industry vital to our democracy.
20. Live streaming court cases and congressional sessions are now as popular as the Kardashians.
21. Massive cleanup of facebook friend lists.
22. People are reading classic literature again. Sales of George Orwell's "1984" increased by 10,000% after the inauguration. (Yes, that is true. 10,000%. 9th grade Lit teachers all over the country are now rock stars.)
23. More than ever before, Americans are aware that education is important. Like, super important.
24. Now, more than anytime in history, everyone believes that anyone can be President. Seriously, anyone. -

 Susan Keller

Monday, January 30, 2017

Celebrating My 60th Birthday Marching In Washington D.C.

Celebrated my 60th birthday at the Women's March in Washington DC among more than 500,00 protesters. Best birthday ever!

When I first heard about the Women's March back in late November, there was something about it that intrigued me. I felt drawn to the possibility of being a part of American history.

So I started looking into buying a bus ticket through the CT Chapter of the Women's March facebook page. But then I got distracted over my Christmas trip plans to Florida where I would be hosting an early 60th birthday party among family and friends.

When I returned to Connecticut and as my birthday--January 21--started drawing near, I thought what the hell? Why not celebrate in the name of something that I really care about? The problem was all the Connecticut buses to DC were booking up. Luckily, I got a notification that two tickets opened up on the 4th bus going out of New Haven due to a cancellation. I jumped on it and nabbed a ticket at the last minute.

Getting on a bus at 2:00 AM out of New Haven, CT to get to Washington DC was not comfortable or fun. It was a challenge to sleep. But once we arrived in Washington DC, at 8:30 in the morning, everything changed. As we walked towards the mall, residents of the Capital Hill neighborhood came running out of their beautiful brownstones welcoming us with coffee, donuts, and even hugs. We passed the National Armory where dozens of National Guards waved and took pictures of us. One handsome black National Guard came bouncing down the steps with his fist raised and shouted "Welcome to DC sisters, you rock! Of course we all cheered back to his response.

The police were smiling and clapping for us as we walked by and were happy to take pictures of us with our cellphones. We thanked them for their service. They thanked us for coming. Right away, it became clear this would be no violent protest, this was more like a love fest. In fact, there was not ONE arrest at the biggest Washington DC protest in American history. That's what I call positive female energy.

Yet even with all that uplifting energy that infused the nation's capital, it was far from comfortable. For starters, the city just couldn't handle the massive amount of people. There were not enough port-a-potties. And even the food trucks had long lines where people had to wait over an hour just to get a hot dog. It was so crowded, you couldn't get anything to eat, drink or find a place to pee. But we women our resourceful. After waiting an hour and a half to go to the bathroom, I spotted a ring of women surrounding a bush against a building. There was a roll of toilet paper sitting on the window sill. We lined up and concealed each other as each of us squatted down behind the bush to do our business.

I was hungry. I was thirsty. I held my bladder for as long as I could. After pushing and shoving my way through the subway system back to the bus parking lot--that held 200 buses--I was lost in the maze and could not find my own departing bus. It was frightening. I called the bus captain and she finally retrieved me as I waited at a designated spot under silver balloons.

But for the first time since November's presidential election, my depression was lifted. I felt joined as one with those who felt like me. Serenity at last had befallen me. In the words of Oprah, I had an aha moment. I felt I had the power to actually impact my country. Yes, there truly is strength in numbers. And that's why attending The Women's March in Washington DC will forever be one the most pivotal moments of my lifetime.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Dear World: We Americans Are Sorry

Article written by John Pavolitz

Dear World,
We felt we needed to say something while saying something is still allowed.
This man is not normal.
He is unstable, malignant, devoid of integrity—and he does not speak for us.
Things we took for granted in our leadership: things like goodness, wisdom, and basic truthfulness are no longer in play, and as things are eroding quickly we wanted to let you know that we’re sorry.
We’re sorry that our apathy and laziness have yielded such a reckless, impulsive, small man to steward this nation.
We’re sorry for the jagged, bitter ugliness that is characterizing us in these moments.
We’re sorry to those suffering greatly, who have braved such peril to seek refuge here and who’ve now been turned away based on the faith they profess.
We’re sorry to Muslims everywhere who’ve been used as pawns to generate irrational fear among those already susceptible to bigotry and discrimination.
We’re sorry to the leaders of the world, who instead of being met by level-headed, measured, intelligent dialogue, are now greeted with the social media rantings of a furious child.
We’re sorry to those who now experience the Christian faith as a racist, Nationalistic bully pulpit wielded with malice toward the very diverse Humanity Jesus lived and died for.
We’re sorry to people everywhere whose lives are made more tenuous, more violent, less safe, less secure than it has been before.
Dear World, we’re sorry and we hope you’ll endure these days with us.
With Despair and Hope in equal measure, in Peace and Unity with you,

Saturday, October 1, 2016

What If Melania Trump Got Breast Cancer?

Like so many other Americans, I have gotten caught up in the drama of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump's ferocious battle to become our next president. Just to be clear, I hate Trump for a multitude of reasons. But amidst all his racial slurs and narcissistic sound bites, what throws me into a rage the most are his sexist comments against women.

The value of  Melania's breasts
Knowing how important a women's looks are to Donald Trump, one can only imagine the pressure Melania Trump must feel to maintain her beauty. By all accounts, it is a full-time job and as she marches towards her 50th birthday, that work sure as hell won't get easier.

In an article written by Elspeth Reev entitled The Horror of Being Melania Trump for the New Republic, she writes: "Melania takes assiduous care of her body, walking with ankle weights, eating seven pieces of fruit a day, and diligently moisturizing her skin." As a model, she knows her looks are at the core of her worth to her husband. And given Donald's history, she also knows her financial stability and luxurious lifestyle depend upon her holding up that beauty currency.

This familiar beauty-power maritial agreement got me thinking. What if life threw Melania a curve ball--as it always does at one point for everyone--and something bad happened to her gilded physicality that was totally out of her control? What if, as Melania Trump indulged in her daily ritual of slathering cream all over her body, she felt a lump and found out she had breast cancer?

I can tell you right now, that would be a total game changer for The Donald. There is a long, recorded history of sordid comments by him on The Howard Stern Show to tell us how he would handle that information. Once Howard Stern asked him: If  Melania Trump were to get into an accident that would disfigure her, would he leave her? Donald's answer?: "Only if her tits survived."

Only if her tits survived. Sooooo. What if Melania Trump had to have a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery? In that instance, her tits surely would not survive. And even if she got a top-notch plastic surgeon to do her reconstructive work, (which she surely would) those lovely "tits" that Donald Trump values so much would forever after be indelibly scarred.

Even if Melania got Stage 1 breast cancer--at a minimum--she would need a lumpectomy, In which case Melania would most likely survive, but her perfect breasts--God forbid--would be perfect no more. And if we are are to believe Donald's words, that would mean Melania would get kicked to the curb for getting cancer. She would lose her lofty status for getting a disease that 1 out of every 8 women get each year--myself included.

The Donald would then do what he has done twice before: trade Melania in for a new model. Of course, having perfect boobs would be a non-negotiable requirement. Because, as Donald says: "It's hard to be a 10 when you are flat chested." In his view, having a wife with breasts unscathed is more important than looking beyond physical beauty, valuing the spirit of someone you say you love, and being emotionally supportive.

Imagine. Donald Trump standing by his wife during a health crisis that has physically marred the essence of her femininity and still adoring her.  What a novel concept.