Voters Vent Anger at Town Hall Meetings  Voters across the country continue to stage massive protests against the Trump administration and its policies. The movement was nationwide. The lead story on the front page of the LA Times on Feb. 23 read: “Voters across U.S. overrun town halls.  They vent anger at Republicans at district meetings – when the lawmakers are brave enough to hold them.”

This Town Hall effort follows some of the largest protests in history in January organized by women’s groups.  Visit the photo gallery tab on this website for numerous pictures of local gatherings – maybe you are there carrying a sign!  More photos are needed of other protests, so if you have any to share please mail to socprogressives@gmail.com.  Locally, Darrell Issa did not show up at his own Town Hall meeting.  Hundreds packed the Jim Porter Recreation Center while over a thousand outside chanted “Where is Darrell??”  

Another Way to Protest  It is no secret that Donald Trump takes every opportunity to promote himself and the Trump brand.  In a more sinister way he goes well beyond that demanding that people boycott particular newspapers, particular reporters, particular TV stations (except of course FOX News, the main source of fake news), particular movie stars, etc.  Taking a page from Trump tactics, people are fighting back.  Even Michael Moore is wearing (and plugging) Nordstrom jacket (after they dropped the Trump line).  Check out www.grabyourwallet.org which asks you to boycott companies from Amazon and Walmart to Coors and Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  The woman behind this effort is Shannon Coulter who became enraged when Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women.  Working from her basement in San Francisco, she decided to do something about it.

Should We Blame Trump or Blame Those Who Voted for Him?  Trump is an easy target (watch Steven Colbert any night on CBS at 11:30) and Trump’s approval ratings are in the toilet but who should we blame?  Here is a LTE which is food for thought:

To the Editor NYT:

Re “Fight Trump, Not His Voters” (column, Feb. 23):

It’s hard to disagree with Nicholas Kristof: Stereotyping is indefensible; demonizing the opposition feeds the dysfunction; and name-calling will win no votes. But it’s also entirely possible that Mr. Kristof has it backward: President Trump is not the true enemy; his voters are.

Donald Trump is an unabashed bigot, a baldfaced liar and someone who bragged about groping women. But as nightmarish as it seems to have those qualities in the White House, sooner or later his presidency will come to an end. And when it does, we will be faced with the true American nightmare: that almost 63 million of us, knowing full well who Donald Trump was, voted for him anyway.

They will not be smarter than they were in 2016 — they will have spent the interim being lied to constantly — and they will not be less angry, because the Trump presidency will certainly have failed them. As all reasonable people know, trashing trade deals won’t bring industrial jobs back; building walls won’t make us safer; and market forces won’t deliver health care or educate our children.

So while Donald Trump is certainly the enemy of both reason and compassion, I’m much more frightened of the 63 million people who either didn’t know they were voting against everything this country stands for, or didn’t care.

DAVID BERMAN

New York

Books in the News:  The Politics of Resentment  The letter above raises some troubling questions that many people are not asking.  There have always been crooked and even evil politicians and it is easy to blame them for everything.  But is there something fundamentally wrong with American society where so many people don’t object to bigotry, racism, and attacks on women and minorities (or even worse, they are attracted to such values)?  One interesting analysis is a book by Univ. of Wisconsin professor Katherine Cramer called “The Politics of Resentment.”  It focuses on Wisconsin and how a demagogue like Scott Walker became popular but it could apply anywhere and it might shed some light on the popularity of Donald Trump.  Yes, there are a lot of disaffected folks with limited understanding of the complexities of national government and world affairs.  They blame their own problems on the chattering class and the elites of the media and the big coastal cities.  Resentment runs deep, and the simple-minded solution is to lash out and try to bring everything crashing down even if it ends up hurting themselves in the long run.  A demagogue like Trump is perfect for this resentment. So perfect that they overlook the fact that he is an unprincipled, lying, and scheming Manhattan billionaire with expertise in beauty contests and gambling casinos. If you have enough resentment, who cares if he molests women (and brags about it), cheats on his taxes, and is ruthless and greedy beyond belief?

How do you talk to people who admire Trump?  Here is another engaging book by Berkeley professor George Lakoff entitled “Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate.”  This book gives a lot of advice on how to articulate and frame your values and how to talk to conservatives.  It was the focus of the League of Women Voters book club meeting recently.

But let’s lighten up. Are you a foodie (who isn’t)?  Take a look at the recent book “Real Food, Fake Food: Why You Don’t Know What You are Eating and What You Can Do About It.”  Author Larry Olmsted is the food and travel editor of Forbes. If you want to know what is really in your seafood, beef, olive oil, cheese, or wine, check out this book.

What Does It Mean To Be A Conservative?  The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) made news recently by inviting Steve Bannon and uninviting pedophiliac Milo Yiannopoulous.  Previously banned from CPAP, Bannon now became the keynote speaker.  Bannon joked that Reince Priebus, White House Chief of Staff, was making the trains run on time, an obvious reference to fascist dictator Benito Mussolini who made that expression famous.  Also attending was white supremacist Richard Spenser, famous for his Heil Trump salute when Trump was elected.  So what does it mean in the age of Trump to be a conservative?  Is it a big tent or a circus tent?    

What Does It Mean to Be a  Republican?  The very first thing that House Republicans did Jan. 2 after taking office was to approve a measure to gut the House ethics committee.  The purpose was to allow crooked members of Congress avoid scrutiny, or to put it bluntly, to fill the swamp.  Then the Republicans wanted a huge sell-off of millions of acres of government land.  Private developers, especially those with close ties to the Republican Party licked their chops.  Fortunately, this did not go anywhere because the folks back home, even in red states, protested loudly. This (and the anti-Trump rallies) shows how out of touch Republicans are with average voters, even in their own party.  The Republicans in congress quickly voted to allow the mentally ill to buy guns.  While schizophrenics now have freedom to own guns, transgender students are regulated on where they can go to the bathroom.  Republicans are eager to cut health care for women, repeal the affordable health care act, build walls, block immigration, favor pollution (especially if the polluters donate heavily to the Republican Party) and forcibly expel people who belong to groups or religions the Republicans don’t like. Their priorities are obviously anti-woman, anti-teacher, anti-labor, anti-Mexican, anti-refugees, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-LGBT, and anti-media. The list is long and the focus on hatred is obvious.

But this was only the beginning.  The target list broadens.  The hated New York Times recently reported that Republicans want to eliminate Public Broadcasting, the Legal Services Corporation (free legal assistance for people earning less than $14,713 per year),

The National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities, American Public Radio, and the Corporation for National and Community Service. Since 1994, over a million AmeriCorps volunteers have provided service at 21,600 sites in the country including nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and community and faith-based groups across the country.  Over a dozen bills have been introduced by Republicans to strip consumer protection laws such as the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Law and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which protects consumers from financial fraud by banks, insurance companies, and Wall Street corporations.  Republicans want to emasculate clean air and water regulations and consumer protections offered by the Food and Drug Administration.  One of the first priorities of the Republican Congress was to overturn the Stream Protection Act so that polluters will be free to dump toxic waste into rivers.  Trump quickly signed the bill.   Another top Republican priority is to gut the Environmental Protection Agency, reverse action on global warming, and more generally eliminate as many government regulations as possible.  All of these program cuts will have a minimal effect on the federal budget (although Trump will claim the opposite).  As Steve Bannon bragged recently at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the goal of this administration is “Deconstruction” of government.  But don’t worry, the Republicans are not against everything. They love prisons for profit (see below).  And of course top priority, as always, remains tax cuts for the rich and big increases in military spending (military contractors donate overwhelmingly to the Republican Party). Donald Trump has helped cement what it means to be a Republican.  Remember to watch what the Republicans do, not what they say.

Who is in Charge of the Country?  Is Steve Bannon the real President and so-called President Donald Trump the fake president?  On Jan. 30, the NYTimes lead editorial was President Bannon? Columnist Thomas Friedman calls Bannon the undisputed boss of the Trump Crazies in the White House.  Many feel that Bannon is running the country.  As Chief Political Strategist with an office next to Trump, he is out of the public limelight but calls many of the shots. Trump made Bannon  a permanent member of the National Security Council even though he is only a political appointee (something unheard of in our history).  Bannon’s goal is to be a disruptive flame-thrower in order to create chaos and keep opponents off balance with seemingly irrational moves.  This would explain many of Trump’s bizarre and contradictory statements. Bannon hates checks and balances and wants an authoritarian strong leader who cannot be challenged.  Or as senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller recently stated: “The president’s power will not be questioned!” 

Creeping Fascism  Many have quickly noted how Trump has adopted the tactics used by fascist dictators in the past.  The first thing dictators do is to portray the world as a chaotic mess in need of a   strong Leader who demands blind obedience to authority.  The You portray the Leader as infallible, a man who is always right, never apologizes, and can do no wrong. Check.  Next, you inflame hated and blame foreign enemies.  In Hitler’s case it was the Jews. In Trump’s case it is Muslims, Mexicans, and immigrants.  It is important to have big enemies.  Check.  Next, you destroy government from within.  Attack the courts, Congress, the FBI, the intelligence community.  You hire people who swear loyalty and obedience and promise to carry out the will of the great Leader. Why else would Trump nominate an education secretary who is the enemy of public education, and environmental secretary who is anti-environment, a labor secretary who is anti-labor, an attorney general with a racist background, etc.?  Check.  Finally, you undermine and attack the free press and the media. Do not trust the media!  The free press is the enemy of the American people, says Trump.  The media must be censored and anyone who does not agree with the great Leader should shut up and listen, says Steve Bannon.  Check.

Breitbart News Strikes Again  Steve Bannon was the former CEO of Breitbart News.  It specialized in alternative facts, fake news, and conspiracy theories.  Under Bannon, Brietbart championed right-wing extremist views including White Supremacy, Anti-Semetism, and Anti-Immigrant, Anti-Muslim, Anti-African American, Anti-Latino, anti-Asian, and misogynic views. No wonder Trump chose him as his top advisor. But now there is a new wrinkle.  Another one of Bannon’s achievements was to hire conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulous as a senior editor at Breitbart.  Milo’s job was to inflame and divide. Conservatives loved him.  The American Conservative Union invited him (and later had to uninvited him) to be a key speaker at its convention.  A few conservatives had reservations such as  Charlie Sykes, conservative talk show personality.  He said “We’ve created a competition for being the most offensive and the most outrageous in order to stay relevant”(Sykes is the author of “How the Right Lost Its Mind”).   But outrageous right wing rhetoric finally caught up with Milos when he went on a podcast called “The Drunken Peasants” and condoned pedophilia.  Used to creating outrage, he was now the target of outrage.  On Feb. 21 he resigned from Breitbart News.  He claimed that it was his own decision and not because Breitbart found any offense in what he said.  “Breitbart News has stood by me when others caved,” he said.

The Russian Connection Just how deep is Trump’s involvement with Russia?  How do we explain why Trump sounds like a big hawk (or is he a chicken hawk)?  Everyone knows that Putin is an autocratic dictator, authoritarian demagogue, ruthless in his pursuit of money and power, former head of the KGB whose goal is to weaken and divide NATO and all Western democracies.  Is Trump in bed with him because Trump admires Putin and wants to be like him?  Or has Trump already been black mailed?  Maybe Putin has videos of Trump cavorting with Russian prostitutes as alleged by a reliable British intelligence agent.  Maybe Putin has evidence of criminal activity by Trump or his close associates.  Maybe Trump conspired with Putin to throw the election.  We already know that a number of Trump’s closest confidants made repeated contacts with many Russian officials over a long period of time well before the election. We know that Trump is making a big effort to silence any investigation of the Russian Connection.  We know that the White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus (sent by Trump?) secretly (and illegally) went to the FBI to try to squash the investigation.  Maybe Trump knows that he better play ball with Russia or Putin will spill the beans and end Trump’s career.  Click here for some theories about Trump’s Russian motives.

Orange County: Key to Control of Congress in 2018  Closer to home, things are changing in Orange County. The LATimes reports Democratic voter registration is up sharply and way above Republican registration which continues to decline and is barely above the numbers for voters with no party affiliation.  There are more voters in Orange County than all of Iowa.  Darrell Issa barely won the closest House race in the country, a contest which was the last one to be decided.  Many other Republicans could fall in the next election.  

Pajama Games  On Feb 5, a NYT reporter wrote about how Trump spends his evenings now that his wife and son remain in NY.  Apparently he quits work at 6:30, has dinner, then watches TV and wanders around the White House in his bathrobe.  Trump was furious.  The White House immediately attacked not the reports but the newspaper itself calling the NYTimes a failing newspaper with dishonest reporters writing fake news.  This kind of venom probably means the story is true.

The bathrobe episode brings to mind President Reagan when he began to display symptoms of  Alzheimer’s disease.  His son Ronald recounted how his father began to lose his mental sharpness even before the end of his first term in office (Ronald tried to convince him not to run for office a second time).  President Reagan sometimes lost his train of thought and stumbled while speaking. He read from note cards when speaking to people on the phone and it was reported that he could not remember the name of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. President Reagan famously dozed off in many meetings and he once even joked that he might put a sign above the Cabinet Room “Reagan Slept Here.”

More serious were stories by high White House aides that Reagan was dangerously inept and inattentive and spent many hours watching old Hollywood movies and wandering around in his pajamas.  Aides said that he wouldn’t read papers and briefings given to him, something for which President Trump is already famous.   Concern about President Reagan’s mental stability was so serious that Chief of Staff James Baker looked into the possibility of having the President declared incompetent and removed from office under the 25thAmendment of the Constitution. In March of 1987, Baker, James Cannon (who later confirmed the incident) and two aides spent a day closely observing the President.  They finally concluded that he was competent enough to continue in office and did not need to be removed.  Maybe President Trump should undergo the same test.  Psychiatrist Jeffrey Freedman asks, “Should the President Be Seen by a Psychiatrist?”    Other mental health professionals also warn about Trump.

Mincing Words  Donald Trump doesn’t mince words when he personally attacks his critics. But he has a thin skin when others do the same.  Here is a sample of what some are writing about him. For example, Charles Blow, Op-Ed writer for the NYT writes that Donald Trump is number one in at least one category, the number of days it takes for recent presidents achieve majority disapproval ratings. It took Reagan 727 days, George H.W. Bush 1,136 days, Clinton 573days, George W. Bush 1,205 days, Obama 936 days but Trump trounced them all: only 8 days to achieve majority disapproval ratings.  Blow goes on to comment “Donald Trump is a vulgar, uninformed anti-intellectual, extremely unpopular grifter (someone who cheats others out of money)….Unethical is too kind a word for these classless cretins.  Furthermore, Trump has nominated and his Republican conspirators in the Senate have confirmed a rogues’ gallery of some of the least qualified and most questionable appointees in recenty memory.”

David Brooks, conservative columnist writers:  “President Trump’s mental state is like a train that long ago left freewheeling and iconoclastic, has raced through indulgent, chaotic and unnerving, and is now careening past unhinged, unmoored and unglued….. To say that it is amateur hour at the White House is to slander amateurs…. it’s becoming increasingly clear that the aroma of bigotry infuses the whole operation, and anybody who aligns too closely will end up sharing in the stench…. it is hard to think of any administration in recent memory, on any level, whose identity is so tainted by cruelty. The Trump administration is often harsh and never kind.”

Paul Krugman:  “Many Trump voters certainly thought they were choosing a smart businessman who would get things done. And even those who knew better may have hoped that the president-elect, his ego finally sated, would settle down to running the country — or at least delegate the boring business of governing America to people actually capable of doing the job….But it’s not happening.  Mr. Trump hasn’t pivoted, matured, whatever term you prefer. He’s still the insecure, short-attention-span egomaniac he always was. Worse, he is surrounding himself with people who share many of his flaws — perhaps because they’re the sort of people with whom he is comfortable…. So there you have it: an administration unprecedented in its corruption, but also completely unprepared to govern. It’s going to be terrific, let me tell you.”

Former Bush administration official Eliot Cohen wrote in The Atlantic:  “Precisely because the problem is one of temperament and character, it will not get better. It will get worse, as power intoxicates Trump and those around him. It will probably end in calamity — substantial domestic protest and violence, a breakdown of international economic relationships, the collapse of major alliances, or perhaps one or more new wars (even with China) on top of the ones we already have. It will not be surprising in the slightest if his term ends not in four or in eight years, but sooner, with impeachment or removal under the 25th Amendment.”

Here is columnist Timothy Egan: “Every day brings some fresh affront to decency, some assault on progress, some blow to the truth. The people who run the White House can’t spell, can’t govern, can’t get through a news cycle without insulting an ally or defaming a cherished institution. Republicans just shrug and move on, in lock step with a leader who wants to set the country back a century. From their view, things are going swimmingly…. Millions of reasonable people are appalled that a madman is in charge of the country. But tell that to Mitch McConnell when he cuts off the right of a fellow senator to speak. Or tell it to Paul Ryan when he can’t find his copy of the Constitution he has sworn to uphold. These invertebrate leaders don’t care if Trump’s residence is a house of lies. They don’t care that their president is a sexual predator, or that his family is using the office to enrich themselves. All they care about is the R stitched to his jersey.”

Nancy Pelosi:  “This is our moment in history. This man in the White House is incoherent, incompetent and dangerous. And we have to protect children and other living things from him.”

Media Wars  Donald Trump continues to viciously attack the media and labels any criticism as fake news.  At news conferences, he ignores mainstream media reporters and calls on ones friendly to him in an obvious effort to slant the news.  Recently, he blocked a New York Times reporter from a briefing, something which has never happened before.  Trump has hauled in the top corporate brass of CNN and demanded more favorable coverage.  The Wall Street Journal is reported to be having an internal struggle. The paper’s long reputation has been for a very right wing editorial page coupled with an independent news department famous for responsible reporting.  But rumors have it that conservative WSJ top editor Gerard Baker is trying to “Murdoch-ize” the news department by politicizing the news.  For example, a story about white supremacist support for Trump was deleted as were stories about Muslims, climate change and immigrants. They were replaced by glowing accounts of Trump.  Newsroom editors are fighting back.   Meanwhile, the former Orange County Register owners of Freedom Communications, the previous publisher of The Orange County Register and The Press-Enterprise newspapers, and their insurance brokers have been sued by company creditors over failed pension investments.  

Buy Stock in the Prison Business The day after Trump “won” the election, stock in the Corrections Corporation of America jumped up 43%.  Stock in its nearest competitor CEO Group leaped 23%. Stock in both companies are now up 100%.  Both companies have doubled their revenue since 2006 (now well over $3 billion).  New Attorney General Sessions announced as one of his first actions the return to prisons for profit. No wonder the Republicans favor harsh mandatory sentences and three strike laws. It’s a great way to get big returns for shareholders.  President Obama was phasing out private prisons because research showed they performed worse than government prisons.  Now there will be new incentives to lock up more people so private contractors in the prisoner business can make more money.  The United States is by far the world leader in the percentage of its population in prison.  It easily beats out Russia, Rwanda, and Turkmenistan who also imprison a lot of their people.  The USA imprisons about 14 times as many people as countries such as Sweden, Finland, Japan, and Iceland.  Sessions is already hard at work to lock up more people in order to make America great again! 

Fukushima Radiation Contaminates the Pacific Ocean  The disaster at Fukushima continues. Because the reactor is too hot to be sealed and the plant continues to leak 300 tons of radioactive waste into the ocean every day.  According to this report, radioactive levels at California beaches have risen dramatically.  Click here  and here. 

New Research Shows that Charter Schools Can Harm Students  Charter schools, not public schools, are the priority for the new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.  She never attended public school and has no experience with public education but she is extremely rich which is probably why Trump likes her.  She is also famous for being the sister of Eric Prince, founder of Blackwater.  In any case, read:  “Dismal Results From Vouchers Surprise Researchers.

Is There Life In Outer Space?  Astronomers are pretty convinced. Last year, astronomers announced the discovery of an Earth-sized planet around Proxima Centauri, the closest star which is “only” 4.24 light years away (you could get there in 4 years if you traveled at a speed of 186,000 miles per second).  More recently the Trappist-1 planetary system was discovered a bit farther, 39 light years away (still very close by galactic standards).  They have identified 7 Earth like planets with climates that could sustain water and life.  If you want to go for a visit on a jet plane, it would take you about 44 million years to get there. Scientists believe that probably every star in our Milky Way galaxy has at least one planet.  That would mean 100,000 million planets. But there are at least 10 trillion galaxies.  You do the math.  

Briefly Noted  FOX News is under investigation by United States attorneys for attempts to cover up payments in sexual harassment suits (including the $20 million payout to Roger Ailes). The allegation is that FOX tried to make the payments appear as “salaries” so they would not be reported.

A huge crack in an Antarctic ice shelf is moving about 500 yards a day.  It is already 100 miles long, a third of a mile deep, and a chunk the size of Delaware threatens to break off and fall into the sea. Meanwhile, for the third year in a row planet Earth set a new heat record.  And by the way, we now have a president who does not believe in Climate Change.

Larry Colburn has died.  In case you don’t remember, he was the 18 year old helicopter pilot who stopped the My Lai massacre in 1968.  When he saw American soldiers gunning down unarmed civilians he landed his chopper between the troops and the civilians who were about to be shot and pointed his guns at the Lt. William Calley and his troops.  Colburn and his fellow pilot Hugh Thompson are true American heroes.

Trump has made the world a more dangerous place according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.  The Bulletin moved its famous Doomsday Clock to 2.5 minutes before Midnight.

Hate crimes are on the rise according to the OC Register with 58 hate incidents in Orange County since Trump was elected.  In fact, the Hate Map compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center shows that southern California leads the nation when it comes to hate groups.

On Feb. 23, the OC Register reported that 27% of the children in Orange County live in poverty.

A new 10 year nationwide study of elderly women reported powerful evidence for a link between air pollution and dementia risk.  Meanwhile, Trump issued an executive order to allow coal companies freedom to dump tons of mining waste and debris into rivers and valleys.

Sweden is in the news, not because of fake news about fake violence which a fake president heard on fake FOX News.  It is about towns in Sweden worried about declining birth rates.  According to the NYT, many towns are now considering giving municipal employees one hour of paid leave per week to go home and have sex! Not only would this nudge dwindling populations but it would also add spice to marriages, improve employee morale, and be a good form of exercise.  In Denmark, concerned about the same issue, there is now an advertising campaign “Do It In Denmark!”

 

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