Friday, January 27, 2017

Stars & Stripes in Distress: week 1

When I changed my Facebook profile picture to the "distress flag" for the inauguration of Donald J. Trump, I thought it was a one day thing. I now realize that I may need to fly this flag until Donald Trump is out of office. He was inaugurated a week ago today and the sheer number of retrograde actions he's taken is shocking even for someone like me who had very low expectations from him to begin with. I’ve decided to use this blog as a log of his poor decisions. 
Day 1 (Friday, January 20, 2017): Donald J. Trump gives his inaugural address, written by Brietbart editor Steve Bannon and Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller (just 32 years old), to a crowd estimated at between 300,000 and 600,000 people by crowd scientists. The speech is bleak and nationalist, even referring to “this American carnage” ... which is shocking since crime and poverty are at historic lows relative to the past.

Day 2 (Saturday, January 21, 2017): Donald J. Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer criticized the media for underestimating the crowd sizes, unequivocally claiming, “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.” Every evaluation of available information clearly demonstrated that President Obama’s historic inauguration as our first black president drew a crowd approximately 3 times that of Trump. Couple that with the fact that Washington, DC, is a very liberal city (just 4.1% voted for Trump), and Republican presidential inaugurations are typically smaller than Democratic inaugurations, and it’s clear that Spicer was trying to create a false narrative. It was later revealed by Spicer himself that Trump was “demoralized” over the crowd size estimates - not shocking from a narcissist like Trump. 
Also on Day 2, Trump visited CIA headquarters at Langley where he: A) whined about crowd size, B) told attendees he was “at war with the media”, C) suggested we should have violated international law and kept Iraqi oil after the invasion, D) admitted he did not finish his CIA Director interviews after meeting with his nominee, Mike Pompeo (R-KS). Just so we are clear, none of those things are presidential. Or acceptable. 
Finally, on Day 2, the Women’s March on DC was attended by more than 500,000 men, women, and children, and an estimated 4 million more marchers appeared in hundreds of cities across the United States and even internationally. As expected, Trump took to twitter to criticize the women’s march crowd size estimates compared to his own inauguration crowd.
Day 3 (Sunday, January 22, 2017): In an interview on “Meet the Press”, Trump senior adviser and former campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, coined the term “alternative facts” when referencing Sean Spicer’s crowd size claims. She went on to claim that the press’s job wasn’t to question the veracity of statements made by the president or his press team, but to report on what was said. By Tuesday, George Orwell’s “1984” would top the Amazon Best Seller list with its infamous “Ministry of Truth”. 
Day 4 (Monday, January 23, 2017): On the first full weekday of his presidency, Donald J. Trump pulled out of the TransPacific Partnership (TPP), which was an ambitious 12 nation trade deal that would have given the US a strong economic relationship with Pacific nations including Japan, Australia, and South Korea, exclusive of China. The deal, which had become a political hot potato during the election, was likely dead anyway, but Trump threw away the chance to use the TPP as leverage against China. Now China is free to create partnerships with former TPP member nations to the exclusion of the US. 
Also on Day 4, Trump vowed to cut $10 trillion from the federal budget over the next decade with a budget plan pulled whole cloth from the conservative Heritage Foundation. This budget includes the end of the National Endowment of the Arts, National Endowment of the Humanities, and gutting many other programs in federal agencies that protect the health and well-being of American citizens. 
Finally, on Day 4, Trump met with lawmakers and repeated the lie that he lost the popular vote due to millions of unlawful votes by illegal immigrants. There is no evidence of voter fraud on any scale, let alone the scale that he refers to. Another “alternative fact” from the Trump regime.
 Day 5 (Tuesday, January 24, 2017): Donald J. Trump confirmed he would restart the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline projects, overturning President Obama’s decisions to halt those projects to protect the environment and native lands. Reports also emerged on Tuesday that the Trump administration had decided to restrict scientists working with several federal agencies from communicating with the public. Most notably, the USDA and EPA were issued gag orders. Further, the EPA was instructed to freeze all active grants and contracts pending a review by the administration. This freeze is expected to be lifted by Friday, January 27th, but that remains to be seen.

Further, Trump threatened to “send in the Feds” to the city of Chicago to stem the crime in that city, which had an uptick in its murder rate in 2016 after decades of decline. This reinforces his false narrative that urban America is a hellish place despite violent crime nationally being at historic lows.
Day 6 (Wednesday, January 25, 2017): Donald J. Trump doubled down on his lies about voter fraud, vowing to launch an investigation into the millions of illegal votes. He also signed an executive order to build his border wall, a move that Congressional Republican, Will Hurd, from Texas District 23, replied to the news with, "Building a wall is the most expensive and least effective way to secure the border.” Another executive order stripped federal grant money from “sanctuary cities” that do not prosecute illegal immigrants and issues sanctions against countries that will not take back their undocumented immigrants. 
On Day 6, Trump also claimed “torture works” and said he was open to the possibility of allowing the CIA to reopen “black sites” - secret CIA prisons for interrogation and confinement around the world. 
Marches were announced by opposition groups focusing on: another women’s march scheduled for Tax Day (April 15th), a scientist march (April 29th), and a gay pride march on DC Pride Weekend (June 10). 
Day 7 (Thursday, January 26, 2017): The Mexican president canceled a scheduled trip to Washington, DC, over Donald J. Trump’s persistent calls for a border wall coupled with a call to renegotiate NAFTA and threaten a 20% import tax on Mexican goods. This devolving relationship with our 4th largest trading partner (13.5% of all US trade involves Mexico) does not bode well for the US economy. 
The NY Times revealed that Trump strategist Steve Bannon tells US media to “keep its mouth shut” and that it’s the opposition party against this administration. This unprecedented description of the media as not the 4th estate, but as an opposition party in this political environment represents a damaging departure from the norms. Bannon, who has previously declared that he wants to destroy government institutions, is making good on his promise to tear things down by attempting to further divide the public from the media on which the public relies for information. 
That’s week one.
More to come as things get worse ....