System Check 

I think it’s time to fully test the system. Let’s see if the dam will hold.

The dam of American checks and balances is leaking, and there are few fingers in the dike. The presidency of Donald J. Trump is stress testing our systems and I think the opportunity to fully test the system is upon us, like civil engineers testing a bridge to be sure it will hold.

We can talk about the campaign for the White House, but that was more a display that the delicate political norms we all take for granted were nothing more than a thin veil covering the dark underbelly of racism, tribalism and nationalism. Voters still voted for the man who called Mexicans rapists, who mocked the disabled, who threatened to jail his political opponents, who proposed banning an entire religion from entering the United States. This was shocking certainly, but not a failure of the underlying principles of our governing process. No, the first test of the system would arguably have been the Convention; where the delegates could have selected someone else as the nominee, despite the voters preference, but this did not occur.

The next test was the election itself, which demonstrated yet again that this geographic parsing of the weight carried by votes in a given state failed to put forth the most popular candidate to the highest office, and instead elected someone despite the fact that 11,000,000 more Americans had voted for someone else. The actual Electoral College then had an opportunity to use their judgement and not cast their state’s votes for a man so obviously ill-equipped and ill-prepared for the position that a minority of American voters chose him for. They did not, and Donald J. Trump, a 70-year old former Beauty Pageant owner and Game Show Host with no political experience, became the President of the United States.

As Trump appointed sycophants and cronies to cabinet positions, selected according to some analysis as the persons most opposed to the function of their assigned department, the confirmation process was another failsafe built into the system. However, it also failed to prevent the ascendancy of the ironic appointments to positions of power. Underlying it all was the overwhelming weight of evidence indicating that a foreign power had interfered with the American election, and that the President’s own team had been aware of it, actively encouraged it, and potentially colluded with the attempts to discredit and undermine the opposition candidate. Despite all the evidence, the President refuses to acknowledge even the possibility that it occurred.

A Supreme Court vacancy was filled by discarding existing Senate rules to allow a simple majority of Senators to approve the President’s nominee, despite having obstructed the former President from allowing his nominee to ever get a hearing or consideration for the position. Again, a systemic failure allowed the unthinkable to occur right before our eyes. The President has refused to divest himself from his business interests and is actively using the office of the Presidency to enrich himself and his family. He has elevated members of his family to fabricated positions of power in the White House and his children are featured regularly on the propaganda wing of the Republican Party, FOX News, to disemble, convolute, confuse, distort and demean. The Department of Justice, the ultimate overseer of legal compliance, has deemed it lawful for the President to receive income from foreign powers who stay at his hotels, use his golf courses, or otherwise engage in business with the Trump Organization’s private, for profit ventures, in spite of the Constitution specifically prohibiting it. The dam is proving to be straining to hold back the flood waters.

And now we come to the most pressing issue we face as a nation of laws and founding principles. The President himself appears to have obstructed the judicial process by attempting to influence the law enforcement agencies investigating his campaign for their involvement in the interference by a foreign nation of our election. On more than one occasion, the President attempted to sway the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s attempts to get to the bottom of the breadth of knowledge, cooperation and potential collusion with the Russian government or Russian operatives by his team or possibly the President himself. When this attempt failed, the President fired the head of the FBI. To avoid any confusion, the President went on national television and assured the American public that he, Donald J. Trump, had fired the head of the FBI because of the investigation into Russian interference in our election: “And in fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said ‘you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won’.”

James Comey then appeared before Congress and provided significant details about his private conversations with the President, including indicating that he had asked not to be left alone with Trump. Trump had asked for loyalty, and as this 1992 interview with Trump will show, being disloyal to him is unacceptable:

 

Meanwhile, the Deputy Attorney General appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the ongoing election interference and potential collusion with President Trump, his campaign personnel and/or members of his current administration. Robert Mueller, a former head of the FBI, is now in place with wide powers of investigation, and as one would expect under a systems stress test, rumors are floating about that the President is considering asking the Deputy Attorney General to fire Mueller, or if he refuses, firing him and replacing him with someone who will do his bidding, or potentially testing his legal authority and just firing Mueller himself.   According to some legal minds, this would create a Constitutional Crisis in the United States, where the President has placed himself above the law and will do everything in his power to prevent a true accounting of any possible illegal activities he or his team may have been involved in. A Constitutional Crisis is defined as a situation where “separate factions within a government disagree about the extent to which each of these factions hold sovereignty. Most commonly, constitutional crises involve some degree of conflict between different branches of government (e.g., executive, legislature, and/or judiciary), or between different levels of government in a federal system (e.g., state and federal governments).”¹

The history of Constitutional Crisis in this country is a sordid one, with epic, far-reaching effects that are still felt to this day. The most significant was the secession of seven states from the Union over the issue of slavery which lead to the American Civil War, with countrymen killing and maiming each other within our own borders. But the most recent is also the most familiar. In 1972, President Nixon, under investigation for his part in a political hacking eerily similar to the foreign hacking we are dealing with in 2017, fired the special prosecutor assigned to investigate him. The President ultimately was forced to resign when informed the votes existed to impeach him, and have him legally removed from office.

This is where we stand today. On the precipice of another dam-breaking crisis despite the systems erected after every preceding crisis to prevent this exact situation, and I say it’s time to see if the dam will hold. I want to see President Trump exert every effort, including firing the special prosecutor, to rid himself of this investigation into his possible collusion with the Russians to undermine his political opponent and ascend to the highest office in the land. I want to see the Republican majority in the House and Senate put to the ultimate test of party vs. country. I want to see if a minority party, in this case the Democrats, have any power at all when in the minority. I want to see if the Judiciary will be truly independent of the Executive and the Legislative bodies of government. We’ve come this far, we are in it deep, and we need to see if the freaking dam will hold.

 

¹ Constitutional Crisis

 

Corruption

The degree of corruption in this President and his Administration is so exhaustive it’s difficult to quantify. From the level of dishonesty on all things–from the most petty to the most consequential–the complete ignorance of, and most disgracefully, the complete disregard for the law, the Constitution and our bedrock principles of democracy, to the overt self-enrichment and promotion of the Trump brand using his position as President, the most audacious aspect of it all is its obviousness! It’s completely in your face, out in the open, bald-faced corruption. His children wield vast powers in fabricated positions in the White House. Government agencies promote the Trump family’s books and their Florida resort. The President relentlessly attacks and maligns all adversaries, imagined and actual. He has filled his cabinet with cronies and is hellbent on undoing all things done by his predecessor through the very same Executive Orders he maligned him for using.

But the most chilling event in this terrifying experiment of having an ignorant old con man running the nation is his firing of the Director of the FBI, who was leading an investigation into the ignorant old con man running the nation. Again, the overt outrageousness of this action, reeking as it does of covering up wrongdoing by getting rid of the guy uncovering the wrongdoing is its most appalling aspect. I mean, there isn’t even an attempt at subtlety! The President and his minions will just blatantly lie, on television, in front of cameras, knowing full well that video exists to prove that they are lying. It’s as if they are daring the nation to try to stop them from doing precisely what they appear to be doing, which is enriching themselves by using the full power of their elected positions and ousting anyone who gets in the way.

I’ve stopped sharing the news articles on social media because they’re ubiquitous. The only question that remains unanswered is if our Republic’s systems of checks and balances and law and order are sufficiently solid to take the needed steps to remove this President and his people from their lofty perches. Impeachment seems like the least that should be done! For the full weight of justice to be felt would likely involve imprisonment of who knows how many people.

A Proclamation!

This is a truly astounding document, but what makes it so is that it isn’t irony or satire. The President of the United States has proclaimed that the date of his inauguration as the 45th man to lead the nation is a day of patriotic devotion. Par for the course, to use a metaphor near and dear to the President’s heart, Mr. Trump makes bold assertions which are extravagantly exaggerated, and devoid of any real substance. In the face of historic protests against his rise to power, he proclaims that a new national pride has swollen the breast of every American, and that despite 11 million more citizens choosing someone other than him as their desired leader, we are united by a common purpose.

The best one say about this proclamation is that for once, Mr. Trump doesn’t only speak of himself in the highest regard, but throws a bone to the American citizen as he proclaims them the greatest of all the world’s people.  There is a disclaimer though, as he warns that there is no freedom where the people don’t believe in it, no law where the people won’t follow it, and perhaps most absurdly, no peace unless the people pray for it.

I strain to see the value in this proclamation. It feels disconnected from the reality of this tumultuous transition of power, with its false attempts at lumping all Americans in the same pot. It reeks of isolationism and overt nationalism, hammering away at the theme of the Trump campaign to restore a still nebulous and ill defined greatness to the country. Ultimately it comes across as yet another pat on one’s own back for ascending to the ultimate celebrity, while ignoring the excruciating blow to the American psyche from the inversely lopsided victory, cloaked in suspicion of foul play. Perhaps my cynicism is reaching critical mass, so I will leave the Proclamation here to revisit at some future date where perhaps, in spite of seemingly overwhelming obstacles to the path of unity, we will find our bonds strengthened under the astute leadership of the Celebrity President.

 

National Day of Patriotic Devotion

 

Carnage, Blood and Tombstones

Cities ablaze, gunfire in the streets, decaying structures collapsing all around us. Anarchy has taken hold in America and the rule of law has broken down. Looting and pillaging is job #1 in these United States, as our crumbling schools produce illiterate drones who stumble out into the impoverished wasteland to die in gun battles over scraps of food, as the toughest among them organize into gangs hiding in rusted, hollowed out warehouses waiting to ambush the desperately underfunded and poorly equipped law enforcement organizations. No, this is not the plot of a dystopian Hollywood B Movie, but the picture of America painted by its fearless leader. Donald J. Trump, celebrity game show host and Wrestlemania star, has spoken to the people and declared that he alone can repair the disastrous state of our Union that sounds oddly unfamiliar to the thinking person.

This 70-year old alleged billionaire has descended from his gold plated tower to save us from ourselves, seeing unemployments rates only he can see, a stock market waiting to crash that only he can foretell, crime-infested inner cities that only he has seen, as it was only he who saw thousands of Muslims cheering in the streets of New Jersey on that fateful day when terrorists brought havoc to our shores. Donald J. Trump isn’t afraid to tell it like it is and he has told us all that the carnage ends now. Drawing on his long experience of screwing over contractors, investors, creditors and business partners, of bankrupting companies leaving thousands unemployed, of evading taxes and litigating his way to the top of a tower that bears his name, he informs the American people that Washington, DC has done to them what he has always done, but it ends now.

Entering the top job in the nation, having been ushered in by a minority of the populace, Mr. Trump faces a test of character in order to accomplish this promise of giving power over to the people. No longer can he demonize and attack his critics, no more can he ridicule the less fortunate, the disabled, the losers and the haters. He is the voice of the people now, the American people, who salute the same flag and live under the protection of an all powerful deity. With the lowest support of any man entering the White House before him, he will have to open his mind and listen to the voices of those he is claiming to represent. It is not within the realm of possibility that any leader can secure the support of all the people, but Mr. Trump will now have the arduous task of finding out what the majority of the desperate American people want, so that he may deliver to them the things he has promised.

A new American landscape will emerge behind the leadership of Donald J. Trump. All across this land, new roads will be built, new bridges and tunnels, new railways and airports. American labor will build this magnificent land of the future. We will free not just America, but the entire planet of disease. We will unlock the mysteries of space, because we all bleed the blood of patriotism. Yes, America is a complete disaster today as Mr. Trump looks out the window of his 757, but Donald J. Trump knows how to bring about greatness, not just for a chosen few, but for all Americans in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, from ocean to ocean. Donald J. Trump is a man of the people, the voice of the voiceless, who knows how to win, and winning after all, is what every American dreams of. Fear not citizens, your days of huddling in terror are over.