WHAT TRUMP HAS TAUGHT ME

Little Donnie Dictator & the Sycophants

It might be funny if this fiasco of a president didn’t hurt so many with his words, actions and policies. The lunatic in the White House has clearly shown us that we have some serious flaws and cracks in our democracy that need to be repaired and reformed. I do think Little Donnie Dictator & the Sycophants would make a great name for a punk rock band.

Little Donnie Dictator

If I stand far back from the vapid and endless discussions on cable news, which they’ve perfected into an art form, I can objectively see some strategies for making America stronger. Here are some starting points.

First, it’s time for us to review the distance between our Founders’ intent and the reality of life today in the United States of America. We should think about the three branches of government and do everything we can to preserve the checks and balances while establishing clear definitions of the duties of each branch.

Here’s a short civics lesson. The Legislative Branch makes the laws. Congress is made up of two houses, the Senate and the House of Representatives, with a slight whiff of checks and balances between the two. The Executive Branch enforces the laws and spends the money appropriated by Congress in a legal way that benefits the citizens. The Judicial Branch interprets the laws as they apply to disputes in the nation, but If the Judiciary gets out of its lane then Congress should step in and make a law. The president has the power to veto if Congress goes too far, but the genius of the Constitution gives Congress the power to overrule the president. Both the Congress and the Judiciary have the power to check a president’s unconstitutional acts. The Supreme Court can rule and the Congress can impeach.

The always polite and positive first leaders of our nation never thought that a president was a king so they gave the holder of that office an amazingly long arm. Part of this stems from a belief that a president would never be so ruthless as to work with a foreign power to undermine our country. The intent of the Foreign Emoluments Clause was making sure Congress knew about any titles granted, money given or valuables exchanged for something from another country and, in a sense, either approved or disapproved. The lack of teeth in this clause must be reformed. By law, any member of the federal government, including the president should be compelled to give up any ownership or financial connection to another country or even donations which could be exploited for favor.

Because Donald Trump withheld his tax returns, we don’t know if he owes money to a foreign entity. We need a new tax law to insure all presidents and candidates for the office release the last ten years of their tax returns. The need for such a regulation shows the current president’s lack of respect for that custom. When a tradition doesn’t work, we must make a law. We cannot afford to have another Trump. Ever.

Like the power of transparency, oversight is a good thing, but it must now be redefined with the current experience in mind. Congress has the power to ask for a person’s legal testimony, and they have the power to subpoena a person to appear before them, but we need to establish a hardline on compliance. The evil corruption of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and Senator Joseph McCarthy may have made Congress more careful about “witch hunts” and federal interventions, but the pendulum has swung too far to the other side.

Think about this. According to Forensic News, “The White House leads the count [of those who refused to appear], followed by personal associations of Donald Trump and the Justice Department. Attorney General William Barr refused to comply with five demands addressed directly to him, three of which were subpoenas.” So, the man in charge of the Department of Justice refused three subpoenas. If you or I did that we’d be arrested and put in jail. The Trump administration has blocked or refused to comply with 82 House Committee requests for testimony and/or documents.

This must be changed, and anyone subpoenaed who refuses to appear before Congress should be charged and jailed. They are free to plead the Fifth, but they must appear. It’s time Congress gets some respect, even though many say they don’t deserve it. We should be a country of laws.

Now let’s look at reform of the Supreme Court. Those who work in law and order might say that nothing is broken, but over time its appointed justices seemed to be stamped for life with a certain political bias or leaning. Just as I am writing this piece, the Supreme Court sent a ruling back to a lower court regarding a lawsuit filed by a police officer who claimed he deserved damages from the man who led a 2016 Black Lives Matter protest in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The BLM leader countersued, claiming his protesting was protected by the First Amendment. The Court sent it back to the state, giving Louisiana the opportunity to decide if their constitution would allow recovery. Why? If this lawsuit is permitted to go forward, wouldn’t anyone be able to sue Donald Trump for everything he has done to gin up the power of right-wing militias and white neo-Nazi groups?

The court wants to move slowly, and that is probably good. They shouldn’t care who the president is, but they also should not allow their political viewpoints to guide their rulings. For example, Brett Kavanagh doesn’t like Hillary Clinton. How do I know this? He admitted it during his hearing, which should have disqualified him. That brings us to this harsh reality. No job in any of the three branches of the federal government should be for life.

The California Constitution provides a term of twelve years for state judges. That makes sense. In Pennsylvania, voters narrowly agreed to raise the age limit of judges from 70 to 75, but Oregon voters handily defeated a proposal to repeal the age limit entirely. It will stay at 75 in Oregon. So, the notion of age limits for government workers, like age restrictions for drivers, is not an unreasonable provision. Had there been an age limit, the Supreme Court would have been changed long before Justice Ginsberg passed. Also, the Senate Leader should never be able to stop a nominee’s hearing after being appointed by the president. That is tantamount to one-man fiat without representation, which is certainly unconstitutional, at least in spirit.

Finally, we must resolve this lying thing. Maybe we need a permanent special counsel to challenge any lie being perpetrated a member of Congress or the White House. Yes, we have Inspectors General, but even when they disclose an event that harms another what happens to the wrongdoer? If the president, who is also a liar, doesn’t fire that person our only current recourse is voting him out of office in the hope we can trust his replacement. There must be a better way.

More than anything else, Donald Trump has taught me the true meaning of the word “charlatan.” He has enticed his followers to believe the centuries old myth that Black people are not as smart as white people. His base may not be dumb, but if they cannot see beyond his lies then they are at least not paying attention. If they really believe all of us are better off than we were four years ago, then perhaps they are stupid. Can’t they see that this colossal failure of a man has killed hundreds of thousands of people? If they don’t care about death, they must be a little bit dead already. I know you’re not in that camp. You are smart and have a solid understanding that TRUMP MUST BE DEFEATED!

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The book that tells it like it is…

Gold, God, Guns & Goofballs: If you only read one chapter of this book, try “Take a Knee for America” and think about our never-ending conflicts between minorities and the police. I’m not asking you to take a stand but having a deep and honest conversation about why some people think the way they do would be productive. This is a book for the moment which seeks to start a conservation about peace. And if you are worried about social media, you really should check out the chapter called “Social Media Menace.”

Get the Kindle Version HERE. Or order your paperback edition HERE.


NEGATIVE PARTISANSHIP

The Real Challenge for America

Getting rid of Donald Trump will not cure the deep-seated resentment in the hearts and minds of Americans. I have often written about my country, and my book Gold, God, Guns & Goofballs lays out my thoughts about weaknesses and solutions for this great nation. Those essays in the book, even though written in ink, will be reevaluated over time because life in this country is mercurial. Each statement must be viewed considering the current space in time.

One of the amazing structural strengths designed by our founders is the balance of powers. With three branches of government, each is supposed to check for any abuse of power by the others. Like a healthy tree, each branch provides the whole with enough power to stand tall, grow and be nourished through the seasons. Political parties were not mandated or endorsed by the Constitution, but it was inevitable they would surface.

Money was at the core of early debates in our country. If you had the pleasure of seeing the brilliant Broadway musical Hamilton, you saw the deep struggle Congress experienced when establishing a federal banking system. From there, we fought over which countries to support or remain neutral. That was the beginning of foreign policy and international standing. We had to be cool back then so that other countries would take us seriously. That’s why we sent our smartest and best people to fill diplomatic posts in England and France. It was important for Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams to be away from native soil to keep us safe from hostile invasions.

As we all know, the communication networks of the 18th and 19th centuries were not that good. On some occasions we fought wars for months after a peace treaty was signed because it took so long to get the word. Because of today’s hyper fast and extreme news blasts we are constantly ingesting data, be it true or false. It’s difficult enough to discern the difference between a joke and a lie, an attempt at sarcasm or a legal policy statement, and Donald John Trump has only confounded clarity. I, for one, would appreciate the next president not using Twitter for any purpose other than sharing good news.

There are ways to effectively release official information, policies and rules to the public. That is the purpose of the press and communications office in the White House. I am tired of the banal “I’ve been hearing that…” statements from this president. Before the President of the United States makes an assertion, they should KNOW THE FACTS by thoroughly vetting the information and its source. We don’t need a commander-in-gossip; we need a real leader.

Why the divide in our country? First, people are different. I oversimplify by using the terms altruistic and selfish. I’m puzzled by rich people like Peter Theil, a co-founder of PayPal and billionaire immigrant, giving millions of dollars to organizations designed to curb and slow immigration. It’s like, “Hey, I got in, let’s close the doors.” I am also a bit befuddled when I hear people talk about the relationship between the poor and the Holy Bible. Seriously, if our religious institutions spent as much time helping the unfortunate or feeding hungry children as they do with draconian birth control measures, we would be much better off. Yes, I am saying a little more altruism in the church would profoundly improve our circumstances. The current Pope gets this. Why aren’t more people listening to him?

The Pope of the Poor

Both Republicans and Democrats say things that show their biases and racist thinking. One of my neighbors talked about a video of a woman being stopped by police. He was going on and on about how the woman reacted and I asked, “Was the woman Black?” He said, “Yes, as usual.” He didn’t realize how racist he was being because he doesn’t even know what the word racism means. It’s not his fault, or is it?

Why do we have such sharp divisions? People like Donald Trump really do see things as Black and White, and I mean that both ways. He views rich people as somehow better than those folks who are down on their luck while bouncing off bankruptcies because he’s been a millionaire since the day he was born. He pledges to keep African Americans and poor whites out of your neighborhood. That’s not a dog whistle. It’s a giant fog horn blast. His words and actions make the divide wider, deeper and more damaging than those of any other president in our recent history.

Political parties arose to help organize people having particular beliefs or ideologies. Parties have platforms, which help voters to understand the broad perspectives of each candidate. When a leader strays from their platform, some voters get confused and then lump all politicians into one big basket. Trump has decided to not have a platform so he can never disappoint, or could it be that is he just too lazy to develop a plan?

As a critic, I state my opinions in clear language. I passionately believe that Justice Brett Kavanaugh should NOT be on the Supreme Court. I feel this way not because he drank too much beer in high school or was accused of attempted rape. It’s because he went after a political candidate during his confirmation hearing. He showed himself to be a true Republican and Conservative with an agenda. Supreme Court justices should not use their position as a political weapon. Bad Brett! The court system must be reformed. Why is it okay to count ballots in Pennsylvania and North Carolina after election day, but not in Wisconsin? There’s an example of bad decisions which should be handled by local jurisdictions, not the Supreme Court. Or maybe, it’s time to codify all the election rules under a federal umbrella.

Congress must be reformed. There is no way that one man like Mitch McConnel should have the power to force a Supreme Court nomination vote desired by a sitting president. We also must figure out how to end the gridlock and wasted time of hearings and procedures. Without this, Congress will never get above its 18% approval rate.

As for the President, we need to reform the pardon laws and the various ways the Chief Executive deals with oversight. The White House should NOT be able to keep a person from testifying to Congress. Those who do not respect the use of a Congressional subpoena should be arrested and jailed until they agree to do so. They have the right to take the Fifth Amendment, what then are they afraid of? I guess they fear being abused or fired by a bad president. Okay, then let’s make a law that the president should NOT be allowed to intimidate a witness. WAIT, we already have the law! Perhaps the law should be modified to include that every time a president blocks a witness, the President should lose their veto power for one round of legislation. That would get their attention.

Republicans pay taxes and have a right to be heard. Democrats believe they are right just as much as Republicans and they should demand truth from our leaders. As I said to my neighbor, we will never agree on “talking points” of the parties, but we can always agree on FACTS. COVID deaths should not form a talking point. They are facts. WAKE UP AMERICA, and go VOTE.

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