Author Archives: William W. Starr

Democracy, Schmocracy…

So, Donald Trump can invite brutal dictator and mass murderer Kim Jong Un to visit the White House but not the Philadelphia Eagles? Welcome to American Democracy 2.0.

Trump had his summit with Rocket Man and swooned. Kim was “very honorable, “very smart” and “very worthy.” He’s beloved by his people which anyone can tell because of their “fervor,” says our president. And yes, viral threats of death will have a lot of helpless citizenry shouting adoration with fervor.

But let’s not kid ourselves even as if Trump can so easily delude himself. This summit was a victory for Kim: recognition as legitimate on a world stage, securing an apparent end of U.S. military maneuvers with South Korea, and a limit on further economic and political sanctions. And what did Trump get out of this? A vague agreement for North Korea to work toward denuclearization, something the regime there has promised at least three other presidents without taking anything seriously. In other words, Trump remains a unable to broker a fair deal for the country he professes to care about.

This was a kind of diplomacy to be sure, but it was at the very least bad diplomacy. We’ll have to wait a bit to see how it turns out, but most of us already can make an educated guess: Trump somehow managed to bankrupt his gambling casinos, and now he’s proving he can do it on a much bigger and more important stage.

Our new friend is Kim Jong Un. Our new enemy is Canada? How backwards have we become. Allies are enemies, vicious dictators are our best buds. America is in trouble.

And by the way, the dishonesty of Donald Trump knows no limits, up or down. The New York attorney general has filed suit against the Trump Foundation and three of his family members for persistent illegal conduct in the operation of their supposedly charitable foundation. It seems Trump oversaw a foundation that didlittle for charities while enriching itself by paying off his business creditors and becoming entangled in his election campaign.

The suit is far-reaching and is humiliating. To have a man holding the greatest office in the land to have done such small, mean and selfish acts through his charitable foundation is atrocious and ought to disqualify Trump from the human race (at least for decent members of that race). And the suit notes that the foundation board of directors — mostly Trump’s family — failed to oversee the organization’s operation and, in fact, haven’t had a meeting since the beginning of the 21st century.

The bar is now so low, of course, that it’s actually reasonable to wonder how many people will be upset by this revelation, and how many will simply toss it off as “doesn’t matter” because “he has my back,” whatever that means in a nation gone awry.

The Simple Truth…

When the king is a liar, truth becomes treason.

Not my line, but it certainly resonates in the wake of Donald Trump’s assertion that he regards himself as above all laws. Didn’t this country fight a war with Great Britain to remove itself from a monarchy that believed itself above all laws? Well yes, but that was a long time ago, right?

This is, after all, a president who has fired his FBI director in an effort to halt an investigation of his possible links to Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. This is the president who has made clear he detests his Justice Department director because he refused to stop the investigation. This is a president who has committed all sorts of lies in an hapless effort to divert attention from that investigation, and who most recently says he could even garden himself if he were to be convicted as a result of the investigation.

This is a president who words and behaviors bear no relation to truth or honesty and whose administration seems committed only to enriching itself while wreaking havoc on American democracy. Trump remains a malcompetent person — a bumbling, inarticulate shadow of a leader — whose danger to the health of the country he heads cannot be overstated.

His words that he is above all laws and can pardon himself from any crimes show exactly who he is: a tyrant in the making and a man whose removal from office is not merely a remedy but a requirement for all of us concerned about the country we love, a country whose greatness is under assault.

Free Speech Tested

Those of us who advocate free speech and believe that freedom applies even to cranks, crazies and congenitally disposed-to-lie presidents have quite an on-going test these days. What’s going on is exposing ever-more fissures developing between the political left and right.

First it was Roseanne, she of noxious conspiracy theories and racist tweets, who compared former White House official and African American woman Valerie Jarrett to an ape. That was “vile and vicious” indeed, and her employer ABC promptly fired her. And while Roseanne had every right to say what she did, merely confirming her blatant racism, her employer had every right to permit her to feel the consequences right away. Liberals applauded, the Trump White House could not manage to offer a single word about it.

A few days later when TV comic and commentator Samantha Bee called the president’s daughter a very ugly “c” word, the White House was quick to label the remark “vile and vicious.” Thats because she’s perceived as a liberal, and conservatives jumped aboard the blame express, the same they missed with Roseanne. Samantha Bee of course had every right to say what she did even though it was vulgar. Whether or not she pays a similar price as Roseanne remains to be seen.

What stands out from this, unfortunately, is that we are so terribly polarized in every aspect of our society that we can no longer acknowledge what’s wrong unless it happens to the other side. And the actions of the President of the United States makes this even more egregious by his choosing to ignore and failing to condemn racist words and behaviors (remember his comments about the Nazi white supremacists in Virginia last year?).

Maybe Roseanne felt is was ok to say what she did because she’s only following in the path trampled by the president. Maybe Samantha Bee felt she could say what she did because the level of public discourse has rarely been so low. Whatever the case, these incidents contribute to the poisoning our democracy. They are shameful and they demean us all.

More Money for You?

So, how are hard-working, low-income Americans faring under the economics of Donald Trump these days? These are, after all, Trump’s electoral base, people who voted for him in 2016 and who still loudly proclaim they are die-hard Trump backers.

First, take a quick look at Trump’s tax plan, approved by Republicans last year. Have incomes are the majority of Americans gone up? For a few hourly workers, there’s been a modest one-time-only bonus. For even fewer there’s been an increase in their take-home pay. But who’s gotten the real benefits, the tens of millions dollars? It’s been the wealthiest Americans and large corporations.

And how about costs for low-income folks? Health care costs are rising, largely because of the fumbled efforts of Trump and his GOP allies to dismantle Obamacare, which has resulted only forcing more people into uninsured ranks and forcing others to pay more for less.

And then there’s the cost of gas at the pump. Are you better off now than you were before Trump came into office? No way. Prices are now approaching $3 per gallon in Connecticut and such more elsewhere. That will quickly eat up whatever tiny increases workers found in paychecks. And it’s only going to get higher, thanks to Donald Trump.

And speaking of health care, by the way, Trump once vowed he would take serious steps to trim rising health care costs. But yesterday he announced a “plan” to lower costs which eliminates any serious steps he once advocated. Indeed, his plan has pleased big pharma so much that when the plan was announced, drug company stocks jumped upward. That’s a “plan” that will have little or no effect on tens of millions of hard-working Americans. Thank you, Donald Trump. You and your Republican allies can celebrate doing nothing helpful to people who need help the most while assuring big corporations they will have a free hand in socking it to everyone else.

Still feel like thanking Donald Trump for getting more money for you?

Just Ask Stormy

I’m wondering what the voters who were the loudest of Donald Trump’s presidency might think of his performance 14 months into office. After all, this is a President whose promises have mostly melted into the air, and whose behavior would shame anyone in a much less important position.

Let’s consider that very first pledge of Trump: to build wall on the border and have Mexico pay for it. That was baloney from the get-go, of course, but we see now how empty a promise it was. There is no wall, no wall is nearing construction, and Mexico isn’t paying for anything anytime anywhere. And if anything should eventually happen, it will be Americans who will pay more taxes to accomplish that. And, by the way, Trump lies when he speaks of the border being overrun; in fact, illegal immigration is at its lowest level in four decades. Nobody is fighting to get into Trump’s America.

So much for the border promise. How about Trump’s promise to put more money in your pocketbook. That tax bill passed last year apparently hasn’t led to increases in many paychecks. Oh, there have been some bonuses, but few weekly bumps in pay for anyone in the middle class and lower wage earners. Another Trump lie.

And then there’s the confusion over America’s foreign policy. Trump says he wants American soldiers out of Syria. Less than 24 hours later the military says it will be staying. Trump wants to get out of the agreement with Iran; others in his administration say nope. What are we to believe? More importantly, what do our allies (or even our enemies) make of this behavior? Possibly that the President is a fool. A lousy deal-maker, a pompous blowhard and congenital liar. Maybe just a simple man unqualified to be President and morally unfit for office.

Just ask Stormy about that.

They Are Our Heroes

It’s required a little time for me to take in all the meaning of Saturday’s march for life by hundreds of young people and adults. The turnout all over the country was nothing short of astounding, a nationwide demand for an end to the “do nothing” approach to gun control in America. It was a demonstration by the kids who have been the targets of shooters telling us they are tired of the status quo, of bending to the will of the NRA and its lackeys in Congress, and they aren’t going to take it any more.

To which we can add only “amen.”

We know — because poll after poll tells us — that a great majority of Americans want sanity in our gun laws. They want an end to the efforts by opponents over the years to foster a deadly gun culture in this country, a culture that has led to the targeted murder of thousands of people, many of them school students.

More people die from gunshots than car accidents. And of course cars don’t kill people, people do. Just like guns don’t kill people, people do. well that is just the bullshit that’s no longer serviceable. We regulate automobiles in many ways – it’s way past time to do the same with guns.

And no, no one is seriously proposing to take people’s guns away. What the country is demanding is more background checks, an end to assault weapons sales. and increased efforts to locate and treat unstable people who have easy access to weapons.

And while we’re at it, let’s have Congress repeal laws that make it impossible to pursue lawsuits against gun sellers and manufacturers. No other industries have such absurd protections. They exist only because the NRA pushed its toadies in the Congress to enact those self-serving measures.

We have a lot of bad people in this country, a lot of people whose behavior has led to the deaths of many others. But let’s be honest about this: the actions of the NRA and their do-nothing jackals in Congress bear responsibility, too. They cannot be allowed to continue.

That’s what the young people in the march are telling us. It’s time to restore responsibility to our gun control laws, to make them meaningful, and to ensure that students can go to classes without the fear — the prospect? — of being murdered in their schools. The time is here. Heed the voices of the young and the caring. They are our heroes.

Speak Up!

No one should be surprised that President Trump — two words that sound increasingly obscene — has reversed what little movement he proposed to make on gun control measures. You remember, of course, that when he was face-to-face with survivors of the Florida school shooting, Trump seemed willing to take action to restore a measure of sanity to our gun laws. Not so.

Once the survivors left, Trump found himself facing the NRA and his Republican allies in Congress, a group of people whose behavior over the years has been nothing more than craven and cowardly, totally ignoring the will and wishes of a great majority of the American people. There’s a word for such people’s irresponsibilities, and it rhymes with “season.”

In Trump’s case, after meeting with NRA officials — after he met with survivors — the President, as usual, heeded the advice of the last person he spoke with, though there was hardly any doubt about what he would eventually do. Laughingly, Trump said a few weeks ago that the NRA held little power over him. That may be added to the list of more than 1,200 Trump lies since his inauguration.

Trump now declines to push for raising age limits for certain purchases because, he says,there’s no political support in congress. And that’s right. Republicans in Congress are in thrall to the NRA and its tiny group of supporters. Let’s recall again its membership is about 5 million; the other 350 million people in this country are non-NRA members, and a huge majority of them have consistently pushed for tougher gun control laws.

There’s a walkout by students in schools across America tomorrow, tens of thousands of them, and beyond them are millions of other people who grow more and more angry about the irresponsible, callous attitudes of Republicans and the NRA in blocking responsible gun control laws.

Let’s make our feelings known. At the ballot box. Ask your local officials how they feel about tougher background checks, raising age limits for purchases and limited the sale of assault weapons. If they support those issues, vote for them. If they don’t make noise about it, speak up, let others know that they do not merit votes. They deserve shame.

The Beginning of the End?

Don’t get distracted by all the jabber over arming teachers with weapons. That’s a red herring from the President and the radical right-wing NRA to keep you away from talking about what’s really at issue here: stopping the sale of assault weapons, raising the age for purchasing any guns, and seriously tightening background checks.

Teachers — the ones affected by this absurd palaver — don’t want to be armed. Most of them say, rightly, that where will the country get the money for this, and why aren’t teachers getting more money for what they actually do: teach our children. Teachers are among the most underpaid of professionals in this country, and trying to arm them, adding to their mission, is ridiculous. It’s just conversational fodder for Trump and the NRA.

This nation wants more controls over the sale of guns. A huge majority of people polled say so. Millions of them. Far more than endorse the NRA position. And by the way, the NRA has something over five millions members; there are tens of millions more who are not members and who oppose the NRA effort to prohibit any sort — ANY sort — of controls over the sale of guns.

And by the way, gun manufacturers share in the blame for the situation this country finds itself in right now. They have supported pro-NRA politicians to the extreme, and their lobbyists have done everything possible to prevent action on gun control.

But the tide may be turning. Just today Dick’s Sports Goods stepped up and announced it will halt the sale of assault weapons and raise the age to 21 for anyone to purchase guns. That’s a positive step; hooray for Dick’s, which will now get my business. And kudos too to Delta and MetLife and other big organizations that are cutting business ties with the NRA. That’s responsible corporate behavior.

And that’s a signal that the NRA and its radical supporters are suddenly — and we hope finally — losing favor with their criminal insistence on spreading guns throughout the population. It also seems like the United States is growing up a bit. We all pray it continues.

Trash the NRA

It didn’t take Wayne LaPierre, director of the National Rifle Association, long after the Parkland school shooting to reaffirm that the NRA still believes guns are more important than people.

The NRA resists any effort to make it more difficult for anyone to buy assault rifles. To seriously tighten background checks. And to ban anything to do with guns. Honest to God, their solution to deadly mass shootings is to give more people more guns.

President Trump put up a front of listening to students yesterday, but the only thing he seems genuinely committed to is arming teachers. And paying the ones who become shooters a bonus. That’s a great idea. Teachers already have too much to do just to teach, and they’re seriously underpaid. Now Trump wants to give them more money but only if they are carrying? There are so many things wrong about that. Get serious. That’s the proposal from people who don’t give a damn about massacred children. Like Wayne LaPierre, for instance, a radicalized paranoiac who ought to be chained up somewhere quiet.

So where are the adults in this discussion. It turns out the adults ARE the children: the strong, clarion voices of the survivors and other teens who say the time is now to end this foolishness. Lawmakers are cowards for the most part, craven in their fealty to the NRA and voters in their districts who are outspoken about using assault weapons in their daily lives.

Let’s hope the kids can drive this home: there is no further excuse for inaction. Those of us who demand more gun control measures — no, we’re not taking away people’s guns, only inserting means of controlling the uncontrolled slaughter of our citizens — have got to make it clear to our legislators that there is no more important issue for them to confront. It is time to stop treating guns and the right-wing gun-owners as if they matter to lawmakers. There are far more of us Americans who want sanity back in our gun laws, and if our lawmakers won’t do that, we must drive them out of office. Americans by a whopping majority want tougher gun laws that will protect people, and that is a far cry from the “they want to take or guns away” crowd.

There is no room for cowards in Washington or in statehouses around the country. It is past time to stand up and say we won’t take it any more. The NRA and its radical allies are beyond truth. What matters is saving our children. Now. Now. NOW.

Can It Get Any Worse?

We now know why Donald Trump knows so much about shithole countries. That’s because he’s created one in his White House. His administration is now so mired in muck it may sink of its own heft (239 pounds worth) and corruption.

Where to start? We have the astonishing sight of all of the nation’s security agencies warning of Russian interference in our upcoming 2018 elections, evidence of a continuing pattern by that nation. Yet the President continues to deny Russian meddling in the 2016 election — also confirmed by those same security agencies — and can find nothing to say in support of the 2018 findings. In other words, he shows little concern for a foreign state perverting the American election process.

So what is the President focused on? It can’t be spousal abuse, for this administration — in an almost comical series of “official” comments — can’t get its story straight about why it continued to keep presidential aide Rob Porter on the job when the FBI warned the administration he had committed spousal abuse. And the administration kept him on the job for months, apparently in spite of what Trump’s closest aide John Kelly has insisted. And why did Porter continue to have access to the highest government documents though he lacked permanent security clearance?

Of course Porter isn’t the only aide who has quit his job after it became know he had no permanent security access. That’s part and parcel of the kind of people who work at the White House these days.

And then there are the Trump cabinet secretaries whose acquaintance with corruptive practices is close and frequent. Former HHE Secretary Tom Price was fired — finally — for his flagrant misuse of government travel funds. Now we have another secretary who falsified emails so he would take his family on expensive overseas trips. And another who regularly flies first class (in violation of government stipulations otherwise) and chooses the most expensive hotels for his ill-timed visits around the country. What a shabby bunch of faux public servants, whose chief occupation seems to be in trying to steal from taxpayers. Donald Trump sure knows how to hire good people, doesn’t he?

But the President has his own growing concerns, too. It seems his personal lawyer, out of the goodness of his lawyerly heart, paid a porn star $130,000 not to talk about her relationship with Trump. Trump, of course, had nothing to do with this payoff and never had sex with this woman. And the Pope doesn’t wear funny hats.

And we have Trump saying he is not in favor of spousal abuse (Is it really necessary that the President of the USA confirm that? Well, yes it is.), though he admits he loves to grab women sexually (isn’t that sexual abuse?) and was messing around with that porn star while married to Melania (isn’t that some kind of spousal abuse?). The word “shame” seems unaccountably missing from all of these discussions. But perhaps that’s what happens when you are dealing with a shithole administration.