Friday, February 10, 2017

Nordstrom and Neiman and Trump, Oh My!

Donald Trump received an intelligence briefing early Wednesday morning and then apparently just 21 minutes later used the bully pulpit of his personal and then the official Twitter account of the U.S. presidency to slam the retailer Nordstrom over its decision to drop his daughter Ivanka's clothing line

Furthermore, at his daily briefing, White House press secretary Sean Spicer referred to Nordstrom's decision as a "direct attack" on the president, adding "I think this was less about his family business and was an attack on his daughter."

An attack? Really? Is that what this is, or is it simply a decision by a private company to do what it deems is in its best interest? Is Nordstrom, or any company that does business with Ivanka, obligated to continue its relationship regardless of economic and/or public relations factors that arise, especially those driven by the Trumps themselves?

It's extremely hypocritical for Trump, who's spent the better part of his first three weeks in office issuing executive orders limiting government's influence on private enterprise, to stick his Pinocchio-nose in Nordstrom's business. This latest breach of his so-called conservative, small government principles is a blatant attempt to use the presidency to benefit the business interests of a member of his family. It's an unconscionable abuse of power.  It also intensifies the concerns over his overall conflicts of interests and whether they are influencing his policies and affecting his ability to perform the duties for which he was elected.

Let's be crystal clear on one thing: despite the spin of Trump's surrogates, it doesn't matter if Nordstrom's decision was purely political. If the retailer decided that Trump's consistently egregious behavior has been bad for business on any level, be it economic or from a PR standpoint, it's within their right not to associate with Ivanka, who's wading in the same swamp as daddy. Nordstrom operates in a free and open marketplace, as do consumers, who've been boycotting various Trump businesses for the same reason. Seems the thin-skinned Trumps have made a bed in which they apparently have serious trouble sleeping.

Let's not feel too sorry for Ivanka. She's not a victim, and she certainly hasn't been "attacked." She's a very smart adult and entrepreneur. And she knows her father better than anyone. Trump's on track to be the most offensive, polarizing, unpopular president in history and Ivanka's hopped on that train with full throttle. She's moved her family to Washington, DC to be even closer to him and has taken an extremely intimate, active role in his controversial administration. She's done her cost/benefit analysis, and she's made her choice with eyes wide open. Just as it's the public's choice to shun her clothing line, and Nordstrom's choice to end their relationship with her over declining sales and/or political reasons.

Nordstrom's decision (and that of Neiman Marcus and others) sends a strong message to Trump that there are consequences to his sexist, racist rhetoric and admitted sexually abusive behavior. That there's a literal financial price to be paid which, to the Trumps, is the greatest price of all. He, Ivanka, Eric and Don Jr. may feel they have the inalienable right to do and say whatever they want to matter how outrageous, divisive and unAmerican, but these words and actions will continue to be judged within the standards and norms of a capitalist society. The Trumps will continue to be on the losing end of that battle.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

The Top Five Reasons Why Becoming President Will Prove a Disaster for Trump

It's hard to fathom it's been only two weeks since Donald Trump took the oath of office. During this infancy period he's threatened trade wars; angered several allies; botched a Yemen raid which killed a navy Seal; suggested a moral equivalency regarding murder between Russia's Vladimir Putin and the U.S; threatened our free and open press; disparaged the judiciary; demeaned the intelligence community; politicized the military; circumvented his cabinet; saw major leaks from staff; deregulated Wall Street; empowered corporate polluters; created a Constitutional crisis over his Muslim ban; and has taken lying to new extremes with "alternative facts."

But as unsettling as the above may be, the real loser by 2020 (more likely well before), will be Trump himself. I'm not worried about America. We are the most determined, resilient, resourceful nation on Earth which operates under the rule of law and a time-tested system of checks and balances. We've survived and continue to thrive despite revolution, civil war, slavery, World Wars, The Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, McCarthyism, Vietnam, assassinations, Watergate, 9/11 and more. The Framers knew what they were doing. We'll be just fine.

Trump, on the other hand, will, if he hasn't already, rue the day he slithered down that escalator and descended into his worst nightmare. The person who will suffer the most from Trump's presidency is Trump himself. By the time he leaves office--be it involuntarily through impeachment or from serving out his term--he will be ruined. He will exit Washington a national disgrace with a very 'bigly' damaged legacy. Here's where he'll be hurt the most:

1. His voters/supporters: Trump conned his angry white working class base once, but they'll eventually abandon him when they realize just how much they were duped. That their factories and coal mines never returned; the minimum wage was never raised; Obamacare was never repealed; their Social Security and Medicare benefits were reduced; the Mexican-paid border wall was never built; and his Muslim ban was a sham. More so if the economy turns negative and/or there's a terrorist attack, both of which would counter the narrative of Trump-as-exceptional-businessman-and-great-protector. 

2. His business/brand: The ubiquitous Trump brand is found on a variety of products and real estate, from suits and ties to apartment buildings, hotels and resorts. Trump makes most of his money from licensing. But at some point his sexist, racist, divisive behavior, and his eventual ranking as the worst, most unpopular president in history, will tarnish that brand beyond recognition and it'll be worthless. He's already experienced terminated entertainment contracts, cancelled real estate deals and the removal of his name from the facades of NYC buildings. 

3. His family: During inauguration week, First Lady Melania Trump appeared visibly miserable,  as if she could foresee the familial dysfunction that lie ahead but was powerless to stop it. This wouldn't be the first time she's been bullied into unpleasant, uncomfortable situations in order to feed her husband's pathologically rapacious hunger for attention and validation. Her life, and their marriage, or whatever little may be left of it, will never be the same. And while Trump's adult kids might currently be drunk on daddy's newfound power, and thus their own elevated status, they will soon discover that riding torn, tainted coattails won't have a happy ending. Witness that Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom have just dropped Ivanka's products. This is surely just the beginning.

4. His Manhattan social standing: Trump is said to have few close friends, and his stint in DC will ultimately render him persona non grata in his hometown.  He'll be ostracized. An outcast. Like kryptonite. No one will want to be seen in public with him. I doubt even Rudy Giuliani will take his calls.

5. His obsession with celebrities: nothing turns Trump on more than celebrity, whether it's hanging out with them or being one. But ever since he first began his unconscionable birther campaign to delegitimize Barack Obama six years ago, he's become a pariah in the creative community. These days he couldn't get himself arrested in Hollywood if he whipped out his micro-dick and spanked that lil' monkey in the middle of Rodeo Drive. He's lucky if he gets to party with Scott Baio and American Idol contestants. As for his own 'fame,' by the time he leaves office he won't even be D-list enough to be a contestant on "Celebrity Apprentice."

For Donald Trump, running for president was supposed to be fun. A huge ego boost. Free publicity for his brand and business. Actually getting elected was never the plan. As a result, he's on a blinding supersonic path to self-destruction via the most gargantuan ego trip known to man.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Why Donald Trump's Presidency is Good For Children

Let me first say that I think Donald Trump's presidency is on a dangerous collision course which threatens our Democracy and the freedoms on which it's built. These are very scary times. Which is exactly why I believe it's an incredibly significant moment in history for our children.

Growing up in the 1960's and '70's in middle class Queens, NY I held the belief, like most other Americans at that tumultuous time, that I'd never live to see the day that a black man would become President of the United States. Thankfully, Barack Obama proved us all wrong. America is a very different place than it was back then. When it comes to racial, sexual and gender equality, my 13-year-old daughter is experiencing what I could only dream of at her age in 1972.

But that's precisely the problem. Our nation's young have been lulled into a false sense of progress. Children today only know of an America with a black president. And how awesome is that? But the sad truth is, the 'post-racial' America that Obama's victory allegedly ushered in never quite materialized. We've actually gone backward. It feels more like the 1950's. Civil rights, McCarthyism, misogyny, homophobia and a palpable intolerance are once again shockingly en vogue. And how quickly it occurred.

Trump's ascension has served to normalize this intolerance and bigotry. A white supremacist is his top advisor. A racially insensitive former general is now Secretary of Defense, and another is about to become Attorney General. The racists are empowered and now have a leader sitting in the Oval Office. They have cultish hats. And transparent code language. They conflate "Making America Great Again" with making it white and male again. During a CNN segment this week, an older white man in Wisconsin sat across from the reporter, Jason Carroll, and unabashedly and with a smile on his face admitted his prejudice against people of color. Hatred is now out in the open, and seemingly acceptable to at least half the nation.

Trump's victory should scare the bajesus out of our young folks. It should teach them the very valuable lesson that they cannot take our progress to-date for granted. That America isn't just lollypops, ponies and Obama. That it can be, and currently is, an ugly place. A place where ignorance, anger and fear can quickly consume and bury for a long time whatever progress we've made and set us back decades.

Trump's victory is a wake-up call. Our children hopefully will grow to know the importance of being engaged. Of knowing that eight years of hope and change can so quickly devolve into darkness and despair. Maybe as they grow they'll be more realistic and respectful of the power they have in their votes than their slightly older 2016 counterparts; the naive, misguided #NeverHillary Bernie Bro's who were so wrapped up in their fantastical Brexit-like 'revolution' that they de facto supported an ignorant sexist, racist tyrant instead of the most qualified candidate in history who voted with Sanders 92% of the time and shared almost all of his, and their, progressive views.

Maybe now America's young will appreciate that in a Democracy a vote means everything. It's the difference between having healthcare or not. Between cherishing the planet or defiling it. Between being protected from Wall Street corruption or fueling it. Between improving public education or dismantling it. Between corporate regulations or unchecked greed. Between welcoming immigrants or banning them. Between diplomacy or hate-Tweets. Between transparency or secrecy. Between real progress or regression. Sadly, not enough of our young voters ran this very simple cost-benefit analysis last year. They were too caught up in registering their protest votes. And now they're protesting.

To be sure, Trump is now inspiring a generation of young people, and children brought by their incensed parents, to march in the streets. To resist. To demand change. To fight against outrageous, oppressive behavior in Trump's reign of terror. The next four years will not be pretty, but they will pass quickly. In the process, they will serve as an incredibly important education for our young.  They, and America, will be much better off in the end.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

What Would Jesus Think About Trump?

The past couple of weeks of Donald Trump's nascent presidency have been a bit trying to say the least. His "Make America Great Again" promise sure looks like it's having the opposite effect. Our great nation is becoming unrecognizable. Lies are the new facts. Fantasy the new reality. Our democracy is threatened by fascism. And those of 'faith' seem frighteningly comfortable accepting, under the cloak of God, the most abhorrent, abusive, discriminatory behavior. 

I hope evangelicals, who shockingly abandoned their core beliefs to support a sexist, racist, pussy-grabbing serial sinner, feel righteous in their cold hearts as Trump attacks the Pope, mocks the disabled, abuses the powerless and rejects the persecuted. Is that what Jesus would do? Tell me again which chapter described how he felt about the meek? Oh wait, it's the meek shall inherit the Earth, right? Or is it the meek shall be banned because we like simplistic, racist solutions to extremely complex issues that we don't begin to understand because we don't believe in briefings, facts or intelligence? It all seems so confusing right now. Maybe Trump, who's so well-versed in all things Biblical, can clear that one up for us.

Lady Liberty, a pretty awesome chick who for 131 years has been a storm-weathered symbol of freedom in America and a beacon of hope for immigrants, shares with us the following inscription at her feet: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" But that's not what's happening in Trump's xenophobic reign of terror. Perhaps it's time to drape Ms. Liberty in a burka for a few weeks as a reminder to conservatives of what she stands for.

How is it that those who profess to be the most devout and godly can sit idly by as an ugly nationalist movement sweeps across America driven by an engine fueled by sexual, gender, religious, ethnic, racial and cultural discrimination? What would Jesus think about that? You remember Jesus, right? The poor, tolerant, compassionate liberal who rejected greed, violence, the glorification of power, the amassing of wealth without social balance, and the personal judging of others, their lifestyles and beliefs? It's the exact opposite of what we're seeing from Trump and Steve Bannon. From Republicans. And from evangelicals. Hypocrisy reigns supreme in the most sinful administration in presidential history.

I suspect Jesus would be shedding tears over the judgement, intolerance and hatred that's ripping apart society and shattering our faith in humanity. Over the flouting of his teachings:

Love your neighbor as yourself.

So in everything, do to others as you would have them do to you.

If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.

But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.

Do not judge, lest you too be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Just a few reminders of what Jesus would do...

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Fuck You Trump. America is So Much Better Than You

Fuck you Trump. In just a little over a week into your (or should we say Steve Bannon's) nascent presidency, you've already managed to create chaos at home and abroad. You've angered members of your own cabinet, Congress, Republican leadership, the media and have fostered an early atmosphere of contention among White House staffers. Overseas, you've pissed off our allies, ignited trade war talk, incited terrorists and are threatening global stability. You're an incompetent, malevolent, horrible leader.

Wait, there's more. You're an intellectually-bankrupt, thin-skinned, insecure, delusional, paranoid, heartless, soulless, attention-starved pathologically-lying maniac suffering from an extreme case of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. You view disagreement as betrayal. As Carrie Barron, M.D. wrote in Psychology Today, this disorder renders you "scary, dangerous, and ruthless."

But fuck you, Trump. We are not frightened by you. Not because we feel comforted by the protections of the Constitution or from our system of checks and balances and due process, but rather because we the people own you. We pay you and you work for us. We have all the power, not you. You're not living in Trump Tower anymore. You're in the people's house now. To paraphrase Sting, every breath you take, every move you make, every bond you break, every step you take, every single day, every word you say, every game you play, every night you stay, we are watching you.  And we will do anything and everything in our power to marginalize you and ultimately kick you out of our house.

We will not tolerate your sexist, xenophobic, racist views and policies. We will not allow bans or registries or discrimination of people based on race and religion. We will not legitimize your alternative facts, fake news and faux hysteria to manipulate the masses and justify your abhorrent behavior. We will not allow you to use the presidency to feed your rapacious Id and enrich your wallet.

We will keep marching in the streets. We will keep fighting in Washington. We will keep filing lawsuits. We will keep using the pages and airwaves of the nation's free and open press. We will never stop waging our moral and legal war with you. Never.

We will be your worst enemy. Worse than Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un and Bashir al-Assad combined. Because we are the American people, and we will never allow a self-serving fascist dictator to destroy our beloved democracy.

You are a tyrant, and there's no place in America for tyranny.

So,  fuck you, Trump. America is so much better than you.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Is Donald Trump Having a Meltdown?

Donald Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by 3-million votes. And it's absolutely killing him. Witness all the whining and conspiratorial rhetoric he's been spewing since his controversial victory November 8th. Clearly, he's unhealthily obsessed with this humiliating margin and has been waging a bizarre self-sabotaging campaign which counter-intuitively calls into question the very legitimacy of his presidency. We can only conclude that his megalomania is so out of control that we're experiencing the first-ever presidential meltdown.

The most unpopular incoming president in modern history this week called for a "major investigation" into what he claims was such widespread election fraud involving undocumented immigrants that it cost him 3-5 million votes and tipped the popular vote from him to Clinton. It's a patently false charge for which he's not presented a single shred of evidence, and one which has been repeatedly debunked by fact-checkers and the Pew Study, which Trump disingenuously cites as his proof. FraudGate is a solution in search of a problem.

We should be witnessing the honeymoon phase right now between Trump, Congress, the press and voters. Instead, he's obsessing over numbers, ratings and the trivial 'bigly'-ness of things like his inaugural crowd, the size of the protest marches and the popular vote count. If he is this thin-skinned, erratic and distracted now, imagine what Trump would be like if the economy turns negative, the stock market crashes and/or there's an act of terrorism. If this is Honeymoon Trump, what the hell does Stressed-Out-National-Crisis Trump look like?

Most alarming is that Trump's emotional unraveling is occurring in just the first week of his nascent presidency. What seems to matter most to the new Leader of the Free World is not uniting the electorate, growing the economy, creating jobs or fighting terrorism. Trump's number one priority is Trump. He's commander-in-chief alright, but the mission is Operation Self-Aggrandizement: Please America, give me the attention, praise and credit I so desperately crave.

To be sure, Trump's victory was a truly spectacular accomplishment in which he defied all odds, bucked traditional wisdom and played the game of politics by his own rules. But it's not enough for him. He's simply incapable of feeling a genuine sense of satisfaction, pride and accomplishment, and instead constantly seeks the validation and vindication from others. When they don't comply, he's deeply rejected, offended and cravenly takes to his bully pulpit (usually Twitter) to strike back. It doesn't matter who or what is left in his wake.

There are truly dangerous consequences to Trump's lingering Id-driven fixation with the general election results. His egomaniacal quest to rewrite history is undermining the integrity of our democracy, suggesting instead a banana republic sullied by rigged elections and illegitimate leaders. More unsettling is how he's expending his political capital on this bogus fraud claim rather than the indisputable fact, according to 17 national security agencies, that Russia, an enemy state, hacked the election. In what many believe is an act of treason, he's defended Vladimir Putin while disparaging the Unites States intelligence community.

But perhaps the greatest threat to America's democracy is that we're now living in the "post-truth" age of "fake news" and "alternative facts." Trump's lying is pathological and stunning in its depth and breadth whether, for example, it involves voter fraud, crowd sizes, crime rates, Mexico paying for his wall or Muslims dancing in the streets after 9/11. For the first time in history, we're unable to trust any information that comes out of the White House. Our new reality is that there is no reality. We can no longer distinguish fact from fiction. Lying is the new spinning. The truth is whatever Trump & Company says it is. Our free and open press is being attacked and restricted. Propaganda now rules the day. And we're looking more and more like a fascist state. That's some seriously scary shit, people.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Media's Existential Crisis

January 11, 2017. The day not-my-President-elect Donald Trump had a Hollywood-worthy showdown with the media during his first press conference in five months. The only thing missing was the cheesy soundtrack from a Sergio Leone Spaghetti western. We'll give this one to Trump. The losers? CNN, its reporter Jim Acosta and the entire 4th estate. What happens next will determine whether the media survives the Trump era and continues to play a central role in American politics and daily life, or if it limps away a sad broken footnote in the most bizarre, divisive administration in history.

It's definitely time to sound the alarms, as we've entered unchartered territory. The media should be terrified, as its very existence is in grave danger. Trump and the press have raced right past whatever honeymoon normally exists and have stage-dived into the contentious, punitive phase of this dysfunctional relationship. And it's the American public who will suffer. Transparency, accountability and freedom itself are on the verge of extinction. The administration's utter disdain for the press has become the biggest threat to our democracy.

The confrontation with Acosta erupted when the reporter, after Trump accused CNN of being a "fake news" network, attempted to ask a question. He was summarily denigrated and dismissed by Trump who used his bully pulpit to be, well, an obnoxious, petulant, vindictive bully. 

Acosta sat frustrated and silenced. And his colleagues got the message: cross the big guy (with at least what he thinks is a slight) and he will berate you and likely have his press secretary threaten to throw you out, as Sean Spicer did to Acosta. It was tough to watch, and a harbinger of future Trump-era pressers. In a matter of seconds, America's free and open press didn't seem so free or open.   

The episode with Acosta was just the tip of the iceberg. As retribution for what it deems "unfair" coverage, the administration is considering making drastic, unprecedented changes to standard practice and protocol including ejecting the press from the West Wing; limiting or eliminating daily White House briefings and press conferences; denying credentials; ending the Saturday morning presidential radio address; and placing limitations on the press pool. It's also threatened to expand the nation's libel laws granting Trump greater punitive power against reporters and media outlets critical of him and the administration.

At this extremely critical juncture the media cannot allow itself to be marginalized, hampered and/or restricted. It must exert itself and regain control of the process, not be neutered into submission. The White House is the people's house, and whether he wishes to accept it or not, Trump works for the people. And since 320-million citizens cannot fit into the briefing room, the 49 reporters who represent them there must be free to challenge the president without fear of reprisal, threat of ejection, or being banned.

If one of their own gets "Acosta'd" again, perhaps all 49 White House reporters should get up and leave Trump and Spicer standing alone in the briefing room. I suspect that would make a strong point. And if the administration carries out its threatened changes and severely limits future media access, perhaps it should no longer cover Trump's bombastic tweets. Maybe it should also place a moratorium on appearances by Kellyann Conway and other surrogates who use the generous airtime afforded them to spread the administration's propaganda. 

To be sure, Trump needs the media more than it needs him. He's an attention-starved, self-aggrandizing showman, and without the media there is no show. And no one knows this more than Trump himself. Without the media the administration cannot spread its message, promote its agenda or tout its successes. No one's expecting a love affair between the press and the White House. But the American public has a right to know what's going on within the presidency at all times, and the administration should not hinder or obstruct that Constitutionally-protected access.