Trump World and the Beaver

Trump World and the Beaver

“Leave it to Beaver” was a television show from 1957 to 1963. It presented the model suburban family, the Cleavers, living in Mayfield, Anytown, USA. It was a tranquil world, as June cleaned the house in pearls, dress and heels and Ward went to work in shirt and tie, then came home to the business of raising Wally and “the Beaver”.

It was white, middle class, suburban, and has become a model of what life used to be like. “If only we could go back to those innocent times,” before Vietnam (though we were already there), civil rights (Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, 1955), and grateful Muslims (“Lawrence of Arabia,” 1962). Jobs seemed plentiful (unemployment rates averaged 6% – currently 4.8%) and crime didn’t happen (1.6 in a hundred thousand chance of violent crime, versus a high of 7.6 in 1992, and a current 3.8.)

All of those issues existed, but Ward, June, Wally and the Beaver never had to deal with them. And with the election of 2016, many in this nation were trying to go back to that idyllic, make believe, world. Gay marriage, immigrant rights, global warming, a black President: the drumbeat of change, change, change that many want to escape. Escape back to Mayfield, to a non-existent time when everything was “right.”

Did this nation’s reach towards acceptance and freedom exceed its grasp? Here is just a few of the changes we’ve gone through in the past 50 years:

1993 – President Clinton authorizes “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for gays in the military
2011 – President Obama allows military service regardless of sexual preference
2016 – President Obama allows transgendered to serve in military

1970 – US Census defines minorities at 16.5%
2020 – US Census projects minorities at 39.9%
2042 – US Census projects “minorities” at 50.1%

1990 – Major Broadcast News – ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS
2016 – Major Broadcast News – ABC, CBS, NBC – MSNBC, FOX, PBS,
hundreds(thousands?) of online sites

1990 – Flags memorializing the Confederacy flew over the state capitols of South Carolina, Florida, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Georgia
2017 – Mississippi still displays the Confederate Battle Flag, some other states still have some symbolism of the Confederacy in their flags.

Our nation has moved towards change with what to some is alarming swiftness. While there were plenty of issues specific to the Trump/Clinton Presidential race, there is a much larger context that should be considered. Many in this country, after electing the first African-American President in 2008, were demanding a halt. The first woman President was beyond them. Even Donald Trump was better than this crazy pace of change: to go back to a calmer time, when Wally and the Beaver went to school in Mayfield, and the world was predictable and constant.

That world existed only on television. But its “reality” still exists in many minds. If we look at the “Red and Blue” schism (or the “flyover country schism”) we need to acknowledge that the pace of change in America is incredibly unsettling to many. They feel left behind, looking at a country they don’t recognize, seeing things they didn’t think were possible, and facing challenges that Ward and June never acknowledged.

As one of her final acts of the Presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton and her staff wore purple to symbolize a uniting of America. As the “resistance” movement moves forward, we should not be secure in a 2.8 million vote majority. We need to find ways to assuage the concerns of those who feel left behind by the rapid pace of change.

The Bully and Bannon

The Bully and Bannon

As the Trump Administration moves into its second month, it is clear that the “brains” behind the operation is Steve Bannon. To understand Bannon is to understand the direction of the Trump Administration.

In my first blog, Astronomy and the New Trump Administration, I talked about the different spheres of influence over President Trump. While the Flynn resignation has already altered some orbits, it is clear that the alt-right Bannon sphere still controls the policy making machinery.

How does Bannon view his opportunity to govern?

“It’s going to be an insurgent, center-right populist movement that is virulently anti-establishment, and it’s going to continue to hammer this city, both the progressive left and the institutional Republican Party.”the radical anti-conservatism of Steve Bannon

On Thursday, February 23, Bannon spoke at the annual CPAC convention. His stated goals:
Economic nationalism
National sovereignty
Administrative deconstruction

Bannon details Trump plan for deconstruction of state
So what does this all mean? If you watched Trumps’ demeanor during the campaign, a touchstone of his candidacy was bullying, the idea that he could bully other candidates and force them to operate on Trumps’ terms. “Little Marco, Tired Jeb, Crooked Hillary,” all come to mind. Apply that bullying strategy to national policy, and you have Steve Bannon’s governing policies.

Economic Nationalism and Sovereignty

Bannon (and by extension Trump) believe that the United States is best served by signing bilateral economic treaties with individual countries, rather than multi-national pacts like NAFTA or TPP. This is for an obvious reason: the United States is in a superior position to every economy in a one-on-one negotiation. While that actually sounds like a reasonable position, the difficulty is that it makes it harder to deal with regional and global issues: NAFTA in part tried to deal with the reasons for illegal immigration to the United States, TPP was linked to competition with China in the Pacific, and certainly the Paris Climate Accord tried to improve the global climate.

Bannon doesn’t see the value in global cooperation. As then Senator now Attorney General Sessions explains it: “We shouldn’t by tying ourselves down like Gulliver in the Land of Lilliputians with so many strings a guy can’t move.”
It also means that the Trump Administration is going to naturally be against the European Union, as that presents economic competition to the United States. It should be no surprise then that Trump/Bannon find common cause with the Brexit politicians from the United Kingdom. It serves their purpose. By being the biggest economy “in the room” in any negotiation, it allows the US to “bully it’s way to victory.”

This is in contrast to the previous administrations (both Democrat and Republican) strategies of building world coalitions to deal with over-arching world problems.

National Sovereignty and Foreign Policy

The “bully” analogy continues, as the Bannon plan is for the United States to be the biggest, strongest, and “baddest” by rebuilding the largest nuclear arsenal in the world, adding more ships and planes, and increasing troop levels. Bannon’s view is similar to Putin’s view, if we are so big, no one will “mess” with us. The problem of course is that Putin does feel the same way, and another arms race is a possibility, as both countries try to outdo each other. Last time (the 1980’s) it bankrupted the Soviet Union, but it also almost tripled the US national debt.

This conflicts directly with the Bannon/Flynn view that Russia is our natural ally in the struggle with “Radical Islamic Terrorism.” They see a union of the Northern Europeans, the “Christian-Judeo West” against what they see as billions of Muslims lined up to try to take over the world. If this has undertones of racism, of white versus brown, so be it.
Bannon explains his world view
This also fits with the mixed messages the Trump administration has sent about NATO and the United Nations: while Trump says it’s out of date, Pence and Mattis say we are committed. From the Bannon standpoint, NATO and other alliances hamstring the US ability to use its overwhelming advantage in power to get what it wants.

Deconstruction of the Administrative Government

Bannon sees the departments of government (see the blog Astronomy and the New Trump Administration) as forces of inertia, maintaining the “old” government that he wants to rip out. The “old” government represents the policies of the past (not just the Obama Administration, but really all Administrations) and won’t bend easily to his priorities. He sees this as being done through the regulatory process, as departments and agencies write regulations for the laws passed by Congress. Bannon wants a government essentially free of economic regulations, allowing individuals to do whatever they want to succeed. The “biggest bully” gets to be the biggest company. Agencies like the EPA represent impediments to industry and “progress”. They certainly are impediments to polluting by the Oil and Coal industries, both well supported by the Trump Administration.In the same way, the Dodd/Frank Regulations on the stock market and the Consumer Protection Agency stand in the way of the progress of Wall Street investment. Bannon, himself a former Goldman-Sachs executive, believes that regulation only “restrains” a free market.

Just a brief sampling of “deconstruction”:
EPA – removing water protection regulations from coal mining
Department of Interior – placing millions of acres of public land for sale
Department of Education – removing Title IX Act guidance regarding transgender students
Department of State – multiple high level officers resigned or were fired.

What will it look like?

If Bannon has his way – the United States Government will be much less involved in the day to day like of it’s citizens. Less regulations, less protections, less interference, and less assistance: that is what Bannon wants.

It also means a world where the United States is less of a leader and more of a single actor. Like the 1920’s and ‘30’s, the United States will step back from leading on the world stage, and focus on it’s own strategies and problems.

And how did that work out? Well start with the Great Depression, add World War II, and it would be better to learn the lessons of history rather than repeating them.

Gender Identity at the Restroom Door

George Takei made a statement about transgender kids being forced to use their “biological” restroom rather than their “identified” restroom – “this is a made up issue.”

On NPR, a man answered the question about transgender and restrooms by saying, “I don’t hang out with people like that.”

I have had the opportunity to interact with transgender kids. They are not a “danger” to “our children.” They are kids: kids who have made the most difficult decision of recognizing that their brain sexual identity and their biological sexual identity are not the same. It is such a powerful force that they are willing to face all of the barriers which society marshals against them, just as the kids who find they are gay or bisexual do. It’s not a “choice,” it’s a recognition of who they are.

It’s been going on in our schools for years. Many schools have quietly taken care of the problem: transgender girls (biological boys) who dress like girls, act like girls; use the girls restroom and no one is the wiser. The same is true with transgender boys (they go in the stalls, as do many non-transgender boys). The old argument of locker rooms and showers is from a totally different generation: today’s kids don’t “get naked” in schools anymore. Most shower rooms (other than for wrestling teams, where most kids wear some form of swimsuit) have become storerooms.

Most kids don’t have a problem with any of this. They accept the differences of their friends. It’s the adults who are hung up.

Transgender is the new frontier for identity law. Our society has reached a general understanding of gay and bisexual people; we have removed most of the laws that discriminate against their conduct. In public schools the era of the being gay meaning getting bullied and attacked has changed, the school administration is now often in a role of protecting the victims, rather than enabling the perpetrators. While incidents still occur, in general, kids accept their friends.

Transgender kids (and adults) are not “molesters” sneaking into the opposites sexes’ restroom to “catch a peep.” They are generally the victims. As a society, protecting the civil rights of folks is not a state’s right’s issue. While Attorney General Sessions argues that states should be able to determine these rights, that old argument, a hold over from the Civil War, does not pass legal muster. As the 14th Amendment to the Constitution and the multiple civil rights acts passed since it’s inception state: a citizen of the United States enjoys the rights and protections of all US citizens in every state.

We should not have different rights in Pennsylvania than we have in North Carolina. This should apply to all forms of discrimination, including transgender folks. And we must NOT discriminate against the most fragile members of our society, children who are discovering that their differences are so much greater than their peers. That’s got to be hard enough, without the government (or the Principal) checking their genitals at the restroom door.

It’s Not Just about Trump

It’s not just about Trump

*note – this one gets in the “weeds” of politics in Ohio

Flynn resigns, Russian connections: how different would Trump world be if the Democrats had a majority of either the House or the Senate. The Affordable Care Act would still be intact, there already would be investigations of the administration, and several of the Cabinet picks, particularly DeVoes, Mnuchin, Sessions, and Price (as well as Pruitt at EPA) might not have gotten through.

The changes brought about by the Presidential election of 2016 are more than momentous. The fact that the Democratic Party failed so miserably at every level of government means that there are few checks on what Trump can do.

Why did it happen?

The Republican Party (well before Trump was even an official “Republican”) did a tremendous job of taking control at the state level. This was through a series of steps, starting in the early 2000’s. The first was the use of “wedge” issues to drive up the Republican Party identification, and Republican turnout in the election. An example of this was the 2004 Presidential election in Ohio, George W Bush versus John Kerry. The then Republican Ohio Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell, played a pivotal role in Ohio in two ways. First, he was the main statewide official supporting an amendment to the State Constitution outlawing gay marriage. That amendment was on the statewide ballot at the same time as the Presidential vote, and helped drive up the Republican turnout throughout the state. Kerry lost to Bush by 2% of the vote.

“Wedge” issues not only increased the amount of Republican voters to the polls. It also caused many voters who had traditionally been economic Democrats to switch to the other side. The Republican Party was essentially able to label the Democratic Party as anti-traditional Christian, the party of minorities and of big cities. Scioto County (Portsmouth, Ohio) is a good example of this. In 1996, Scioto went 48% Clinton, 37% Dole, and 14% Perot. In 2004 it was Bush 52%, Kerry 48%. 2008 it went McCain 52%, Obama 46%, and in 2016 Trump 66%, Clinton 29%.

The Republican Party used this “wedge” issue tactic to drive up votes and party identification throughout the country. The second method used by the GOP was to press for more restrictive voting and identification laws, called by Democrats “voter suppression”. Limited time to vote and the requirement of photo identification almost always favored economically better-off voters, and therefore makes it more difficult for economically disadvantaged voters, many of whom were minorities, to vote. The net effect: drive down the voting percentage, therefore increasing the percentage of Republican voters.

Both of these techniques were very effective in the first decade of the 21st century, and allowed Republicans to gain complete control of the Ohio state government in the 2010 election (Kasich-R versus Strickland-D). This gave Republicans what they wanted most: control of re-apportionment. They were able to control how voting districts would be drawn, both on the Congressional level, and for state legislative seats.

Elbridge Gerry, the Democratic-Republican Governor of Massachusetts in 1810, gave his name to the process of drawing legislative districts to favor one political party or the other. Gerrymandering has been a long time political art, but with the advent of the computer, it has become a science. With Republicans in charge of all phases of the re-districting planning in Ohio, the drawing was done carefully to minimize Democratic strongholds and maximize Republican dominance.

The most obvious example is the 9th Congressional District of Ohio, currently a Democratic district. It stretches for downtown Toledo to downtown Cleveland, barely edging from the Lake Erie shore (a some points contiguous by only a bridge), over one hundred miles. It put the inner cities of Toledo and Cleveland in the same district, taking two old (and generally Democratic) districts and throwing them into one.

This was done at the state legislative level as well, generally guaranteeing a Republican majority in both houses of the legislature.

Unintended Consequences

The unintended consequence of this re-apportionment is that by creating such Republican and Democratic districts, there were no longer any “moderate” seats. The general election (Dem versus Rep) was not the one that mattered anymore, its outcome was a foregone conclusion. What mattered was the primary election. In a primary, where voting participation is down, the “core” of the political party has sway over the outcome. The consequence was that the “hardliners” were able to control the primary process, and the moderates, who might have had more sway in a less slanted electorate, were driven from office (on both sides).

It makes sense then that the hardliners are unable to negotiate with each other when it comes to the legislature (and as this has happened throughout the country – at the national level as well). Not only are they less likely to anyway, but if they do, they risk getting “Primaried” in the next election, out flanked by an opponent who can use their compromising as a campaign issue.

What can be done?

This makes the next couple of election cycles so important. To reverse this cycle of polarization, districts need to be made more competitive again. This is even recognized by the current “masters” of re-apportionment, the Ohio Republicans. Secretary of State John Husted has pushed for re-apportionment reform to allow more bi-partisan input into the process. But for Democrats to make real headway, they have to win elections. However, with current Districting, what elections can be won?

Statewide – Ohio is still a “purple” state. The Governor and Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, and Auditor are all up for election, as is a US Senate seat (Sherrod Brown-D). They are all statewide, where re-districting doesn’t matter. Under Ohio’s new apportioning law, the Governor, Auditor and Secretary of State are members of the Board. Also members: a majority and a minority party appointment of the state House of Representatives, and the same from the State Senate. Therefore whichever party wins the most statewide seats in 2018, controls apportionment.

It’s a long way back for the Democratic party. But winning control of statewide offices will be the first step to gaining some control, and making Ohio’s government more representative of a “purple” state rather than the “red” state it appears. The problem: finding candidates that can succeed.

Two Universes of Facts

Two Universes of Facts

In 1968 there were three television networks, CBS, NBC, and ABC. The vast majority of Americans got their up-to-date facts on the evening news from one of these three. While I was raised in an NBC household listening to the Huntley/Brinkley report (Dad worked at an NBC affiliated TV station), the number one newscast in America was the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. Cronkite inherited the CBS mantel from Edward R Murrow, the legendary reporter/anchorman who broadcast as the bombs fell in London during World War II, and took on Joe McCarthy.

On February 27, 1968, Walter Cronkite made a three minute commentary at the end of the nightly news, saying that the he didn’t believe that the US could win the Vietnam War, that it would at best end in a stalemate, and that we needed to negotiate with the Vietnamese communist. Historians may argue whether this altered US opinion on the war or merely reflected the change, but what it did do was make opposition to the war acceptable to the mainstream of America.

Walter Cronkite and Vietnam

During this time, Daniel Ellsberg leaked a classified Pentagon study of the war, called the “Pentagon Papers”. The New York Times and the Washington Post wanted to publish these documents, which showed the war in an unflattering light for the US government. The Government went to court to stop them. The US Supreme Court ruled that the papers could be published.

Pentagon Papers Case

Why dredge up all of this old Vietnam history (with CSNY in the background)?

This was an America divided by the war, yet able to agree on a reasonably common set of facts about what was going on there. While citizens had widely different opinions about the war, they could argue from a single foundation of knowledge.

In 1996 Fox News was founded by Roger Ailes, a highly successful Republican media consultant, and Rupert Murdock, an Austrailian media mogul who owned newspapers and broadcast outlets throughout the world. Fox News claimed that other media outlet (notably NBC, CBS, ABC and others) were biased, and that they were “fair and balanced”. This began a campaign of “differing” interpretations of news (MSNBC was founded in 1996 as well) that led many Americans to “shop” for the news that fit their own ideas.

Enter the internet, and news shopping became an art form.

Today you can choose your “facts” completely based on your political bias. Here are some examples:
Trump News


Here’s a chart of the biases of various media sources:

Media Bias Chart

So what’s the problem?

You can’t have “civil discourse” if you can’t find common ground on what “the facts” are. You can’t begin to bring the country together, or even have a reasonable discussion, if one side or the other simply thinks that the arguments are “lies”. And you can’t begin to understand what other people think, if you don’t understand what they are being told.

By the way, looking at my past blogs, quoting MSNBC, the Washington Post, and the New York Times; firmly establishes where my foundation of facts begin!!!!

So – to begin to persuade, you need to be have at least a passing understanding of “their facts”. If finding common ground is the beginning, then we must find some ground to share.

And — who is the Walter Cronkite of our era, whose word will allow more Americans into the discussion?

What happened to Flynn?

for a timeline of General Flynn’s up and dramatic down see this link:

“>NBC timeline

It is clear that on December 29th, after President Obama placed sanctions on the Russian Government for “meddling” in the 2016 election, General Flynn had a conversation with the Russian Ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak.

As former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, General Flynn knew or should have known that the conversation would be recorded by US intelligence.

In the conversation, General Flynn discussed President Obama’s sanctions. He then denied publicly that he did so for the next month and a half. Even now, he simply “doesn’t recall”. News sources state that it was an extended conversation
Washington Post Article
White House officials, including Vice President Pence, stated that Flynn never talked about the sanctions in the conversation. When that became public before the Inauguration, Intelligence Officials became concerned that Flynn might be subject to Russian blackmail, since he did have conversations about the sanctions and then apparently told (at least Vice President Pence) that he did not.

On January 12th, David Ignatius of the Washington Post raised the question of Flynn’s conversation (and clearly had sources providing him with information about the recorded calls).

On January 15th Vice President Pence stated that the sanctions were not talked about, and on January 23rd Sean Spicer repeated this in a press conference.

On January 26th, the Acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, informed the White House Counsel of the concerns. On January 30th, she was fired for refusing to enforce the immigrant ban. The Counsel to the President, Mike McGahn briefed the President and a small group of aides. Pence and Spicer were not informed.

The Trump Administration knew that General Flynn lied to Vice President Pence and the rest of the Administration about the phone call (and didn’t tell Pence or Spicer until February 9th), and Administration knew and tried to “gut it out” to see if it would go away.

It clearly is possible (especially in light of today’s New York Times story) that the Trump Administration knew and condoned the phone calls, and General Flynn has “fallen on his sword” for the Administration.

New York Times – Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence

The nature of the Trump Administration and Russia – another topic to talk about.

Resistance is NOT Futile!!*

Resistance is NOT Futile*

Why is there resistance to President Trump, and what is driving it?

There is still tremendous shock that Trump won. The election outcome was completely unexpected. Many, including the Trump campaign itself judging from the transition, were unprepared. To the opposition, the Trump Presidency represents a fundamental threat to the things they believe in, including:
– the rights of women (including reproductive rights)
– the advances in rights and acceptance of LGBTQ citizens
– the progress made towards protecting the environment
– the increases in health care protection covering more and more citizens
– the future peace and prosperity of the world
– the vision of America as a diverse and welcoming nation to the world.

Each of these will be the topic of future blogs, but added together they represent the weight of concern that drives many to want to find a way to “save” these issues. It makes it a time of Resistance (much like the Civil Rights and Anti-War movements of fifty years ago). So how should the Resistance proceed?

In Trump world, while the “facts” may be malleable, getting “the cover, the lead, above the fold, breaking news” is ALWAYS important. During the election, it was a fundamental truth of the Trump campaign that any publicity is better than no publicity. The Trump use of Twitter reinforces that truth, and continues today. Here’s the list from Sunday morning (2/12).
live joint statement with Prime Minister Abe
– crackdown on illegal criminals
– 72% of refugees
– Two days of productive talks
– I know Mark Cuban
– Congratulations Stephen Miller.

He dominates the medium, and uses it to force mainstream media to respond. You might not like the topics or the results, but the strategy works.

So How Does The Resistance Respond?

First it is important to compete. Competition in the media means to consistently find a way to fight for coverage. Marches, protests, pressing Congress for responses (even if it’s from the Republicans) puts the Resistance in the news. But it’s not only the coverage that matters. It’s also the message – that there are a MAJORITY of Americans who are NOT represented by the current President (sorry Trump-World, but even in the lost election almost 3 million more folks voted against Trump and for Clinton). Not only does that demand attention, but it also may prove to be a modifying force. President Trump needs legislative, judicial, state and executive branch cooperation to get things done, and all of those individuals will be impacted by what goes on outside “Trump-World”.

Second, it is important to discuss what the future will look like. It is not just resistance to the current administration, it is planning to achieve the next administration. It is also planning to rebuild the Democratic party, moving it from its current inability to win state and local elections to a party that can compete at every level of the process. Rebuilding the Democratic Party is a better choice than starting over. The Democratic Party is a vessel – a structure that already exists. It’s difficult to get a “third party” on the ballot, the legal structures are designed for the two-party system. And, as the Trump campaign proved, parties can be taken over and changed!

While there will be a lot more to say about how to rebuild the Democratic Party, here’s just one example: Ohio is a “purple” state, it has supported Democratic Presidential candidates often. Even in the last election, it was very close. Yet almost every statewide office is controlled by the Republican Party (the two exceptions: Justice William O’Neil and Senator Sherrod Brown). The Democratic Party has ceded all power in the state and remains only a feeble opposition.

One difficult question that will arise will be: how will the remaining Democrats in power respond to the Trump Administration? Should they follow the Republican playbook of opposition at all costs, a strategy that proved to be very effective politically, but kept the country from progressing. Or should they cooperate when it benefits all interests, such as infrastructure, or even the Republican re-write of the Affordable Care Act (if they ever get around to doing it!)? What will the “Resistance” demand – and what price will they force “cooperative” Democrats to pay?

The McConnell led Republicans did a huge disservice to the Nation by refusing any cooperation with the Obama Administration. While it seems to have worked politically, it failed the basic test of Government – to serve the people. I hope the price of Resistance will not be that Democrats are forced into the same role.

Third, Resistance needs to be inclusive. It must include both Clinton Democrats and Sanders Democrats, and also those that could not support either. Soon there will be a lot of folks who voted for Trump disappointed in his Presidency: the Resistance needs to be open to them. They must not be excluded, they must be welcomed as they join in.

Fourth, Resistance must be sustained. This is not a short-term project, Resistance will be required through the 2020 election or even longer. This requires organization, and commitment. Will it work?

In 1964 Texas Democrat President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, breaking the Democratic Southern coalition. That move was a direct result of the civil rights movement. In the early 1970’s, Republican President Nixon began a slow process of moving out of Vietnam, a direct result of the pressure brought about by the anti-war movement. So movements of this kind work – Resistance is NOT Futile!!!!!

*(yes, besides being a snowflake, I’m a Trekkie as well!!!!!)

Astronomy and the Trump Administration

I’m Marty Dahlman. I spent most of my career teaching government, and a lot of my spare time working on politics (from local to national campaigns). In this age of “identification”, you can put my ideology in the Liberal column (I hate the new-speak “Progressive”) and politically in the Democratic party. Now you’ve got me categorized, it might be time to “turn me off”.   That’s what we do in this new political world: “turn off” any ideas that might conflict with our own: ideas that might pierce our little bubble.

But if you’re still here, I’d like to talk about the new world we live in: Trump-World.

As a Democrat I closely identify with what President Obama said during the campaign: that in the near past, both candidates for president might disagree, but both were actually qualified for the job. Is Donald Trump qualified for the job he holds now? And if not, then what might happen to us all?

Chaos Theory – the science of non-linear surprise events that are inter-connected and create unforeseen consequences.   Sounds like the first week of the Trump administration. From the travel ban (which sounds a lot like the promised “Muslim ban”) to the executive order to end the Affordable Care Act (more symbolic than real) to the now rumored executive order to “insure religious freedom” (and deny civil rights to those whose lives don’t pass the religious right’s litmus tests); the Trump administration seems to bump from one chaotic moment to another. It’s the same way the Trump campaign operated, and while it seems impossible, it’s the strategy that won the White House. I don’t think it’s an accident, there is intent to the constant “new issue”, the next “tweet” or pronouncement. And whether it’s factual or actual, it doesn’t even matter: it can be addressed by new “alternate facts” or constant modification of what was said or meant.

It’s a clear strategy – how many times can the New York Times say falsehood or dis-credited or even call a lie a lie, before we stop listening or stop believing anything. And when we do stop listening, the only “facts” we will hear are those from the administration. Besides, a large minority (those that voted for Trump) already believe that “alternative facts” are true, and aren’t interested in hearing anything else.

I’d say it’s time to take the camper and head up to Montana to hide out – wait, isn’t that where the “Breitbart” guys are??

So what happens next?

Spheres of influence – like orbits of planets around a sun, the Trump administration has set up, intentionally or not, spheres of influence. And while from my ideologic/political standpoint none of these guys comes close to representing me, there still may be some that are better than others.

Clearly the first sphere of influence (over Presidential decisions) is the Bannon/Flynn sphere. They have the President’s ear now, and Bannon represents the current instigator of Chaos Theory in Politics.   The “shock and awe” of the past ten days is thanks to his influence. Certainly the removal of the Director of Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Staff and their replacement by Bannon was a move to consolidate power. So to was the removal of the Presidential Daily Briefing authorship from Central Intelligence to the While House National Security office. As long as they hold sway, we can expect this constant drip of adrenalin and anxiety to continue (and the cheering of our “alt-right” friends.

The second sphere, and one that might offer some hope for a future that doesn’t feel “on the brink” at every tweet, is the “old GOP” sphere, represented by the Pence-Priebus-Ryan-McConnell constellation. They are the remainders of the conservative wing, with the same old tired conservative ideas of less government in business, more government in private lives, and let the rich get richer.

They have their own agenda, and as Trump’s administration moves to actually trying to pass legislation (as opposed to governing by executive order – say – isn’t that what they were so angry at Obama for?) they will gain more influence over the President.

The third sphere is the cabinet secretaries, particularly State, Defense and Homeland Security. General Mattis seems to be a consensus pick at Defense as does Kelly at Homeland Security, and while Tillerson doesn’t come from a background that thrills an old liberal Democrat, he does seem to have an air of competence and leadership that feels steadier than the current direction. As this administration ages, it will be interesting to see if it matures through the counsel of these secretaries, or if their influence is ignored. If that happens, expect that these men will make an early exit from the fray.

The fourth sphere is the Executive Branch of the United States. We’ve already seen some stand up: the firing of acting Attorney General Sally Yates and ICE Director Daniel Ragsdale and the letter of dissent by the career State Department employees. These represent the top of the pyramid, but there are thousands (maybe millions) of employees, many of whom have a clear idea of what a “lawful” order is. This could be the “dark hole”, a constant force that is unrecognized and unseen.

And the final sphere: the Courts, with over eight hundred Obama appointees scattered throughout the country. They have been nurtured in an era of civil rights applying to all forms of human differences: they will not easily be persuaded to curtail those rights. And while a battle looms for the control of the Supreme Court (not this appointment as much as the next one); those judges stand as a counter-force to the loss of freedom and human dignity.

This is the “night sky” we see: all trying to gain influence over the actions of the nation. Whether there are “winners and losers”, or much more complicated interactions among the forces: this is the “chaos” that represents the Trump Administration.


“The Bowling Green Massacre”
“Hundreds of Terrorists Acts not covered”
only…”109 people were effected by the travel ban”
“If you were a Muslim, you could come in, if you were Christian, it was impossible”
“That was the largest audience to witness an Inauguration, period”
“Those were alternative facts”
For a more inclusive list – try here:


The Trump administration has taken “political spinning” to a whole new level. No longer is it about changing the subject, the famous “Kellyanne Pivot.” No, it’s different: if the Trump administration doesn’t like reality, they simply create a new reality, a new set of “alternate” facts. Some are arguable, most are outrageous, and a few are laughable (especially if you sell pizza in Bowling Green, Kentucky where the “massacre” pizza sales were on record pace!!).
As a believer in the American Republic, and a student of American History, this blatant alteration of reality is beyond belief. Why would any serious political organization determine that it’s “OK” to lie to the American people?

Why LIE?

Donald Trump’s most successful undertaking prior to running for President was the reality show, “the Apprentice.” In a reality show, producers create an artificial set of circumstances, and have “real” people interact within the fake situation. It made for successful television, and the principals have been applied to American politics where Trump (and his political producers) drove the narrative just as they did on the show. From “Tired Jeb” to “Lying Ted” to “Little Mario”, and finally “Crooked Hillary,” he was able to bring the political debate to territory where he could be successful. In the same way, he is trying to shape the current narrative by creating “facts” that aren’t factual.


In order to “fact-check” the Trump administration, you have to have something to measure against. The “media” (the fourth estate) is the main way that facts are checked. Rather than debate “facts,” the Trump administration simply changes reality. The media becomes “the dishonest media” who have their own agenda and cannot be trusted. To many who voted for Trump this is exactly what they want to hear: that the beliefs they have are backed by “facts,” and that those who say different are “liars” and “dishonest.” A reasonable political debate is based on a shared set of “facts,” abolish that basis, and reasonable debate simply turns into “I’m right, you’re wrong” Reality TV brought to Reality Politics. Trump maintains his political base (and his hold on the Republican legislators through the threat of that base to their survival) and reasoned discussion stops.
In addition, the Trump administration constantly puts out different versions of its own narrative. The Navy Seal Operation in Yemen is a good example: at first, a success with the gathering of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula intelligence with the unfortunate loss of an American Seal’s life, then a huge operation to capture on of Al Qaeda’s top leaders, then back to gathering information. All of this information (including that which was “leaked” to the media) comes from “inside” sources. Is the Trump administration so full of holes, or is this a concerted effort to confuse the issue in order to make all “facts” suspect? Which version to believe, if any?
If no one trusts the facts, then it’s impossible to have a debate, and that’s just what the “Reality Presidency” wants. No debate, just the insults and innuendo, where the Trump team excels. It puts them in charge.
The lies create chaos and confusion: who and what to believe. Confusion not just by the civilian observer, but also by the news media, who clearly are struggling to determine how to cover the chaos; what’s important, and what to believe among their myriad of White House sources. And as the Trump Administration leaks one thing then disavows it the next day, they further undermine the credibility of those trying to find “the truth.” The “chattering classes of New York, Los Angeles, Washington DC and San Francisco,” as (WH Deputy Ass’t and Breitbart alumni) Sebastian Gorka puts it, are made to look confused and foolish. This plays to the base of Trump supporters, and further divides the country: all to Trump’s advantage.

So what is the rest of the country supposed to do?

1. Hold fast to the “facts” that are actual facts. Don’t fall into the trap of allowing “alternate facts” to take hold as reality. Remember, the formula for Trumpian success is to establish the “rules” for his reality – pressing REAL reality onto that forces the administration to defend their “alternative.”

2. Chaos creates “the fog of war.” It is within the false reality of that “fog” that the Trump Administration operates. Don’t get distracted by the “alternate fact” of the day (whether it’s Ivanka’s clothing line or Trump’s latest “SEE YOU IN COURT” tweet). Cut to the important decisions and news that is underneath: Trump losing in court (and working on another plan), Trump talking to China (and agreeing to the “One China” policy).

3. Recognize the “Trump Plan” – and begin to counter-plan!!!

Next time – the beginning of the counter-plan