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Friday, September 23, 2016

TRUMP: the CON MAN (Part II)

HEADLINE: “Donald Trump releases list of supreme court nominees.  Back in March of 2013, when Trump was challenged by one of the other Republican candidates (Cruz?) he came up with a list of probable nominees to the Supreme Court that included several judges who are favorites of conservative legal scholars.  Several of the jurists previously clerked for conservative Supreme Court justices after law school. The state supreme court justices include one who was former clerk to Justice Scalia, and three of them clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas (the Donald’s favorite Justice). Another state supreme court justice on the list previously worked for the Bush White House’s office of faith-based initiatives and later in Texas government, where he pushed to keep a monument of the Ten Commandments on public property and the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, issues he has promoted on his Facebook page. 

Let us look a bit closer at some of the decisions and concepts promoted by just three of the possible nominees (for the sake of brevity), with thanks to ThinkProgress.com and People for the American Way for the following information:

·         backed voter ID laws

o   one helped uphold a restrictive Georgia voter ID law and joined one other judge in claiming that “racially disparate effects” should not be enough to prove a violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, even though the Supreme Court has ruled precisely the opposite.

o   dissented from a decision finding that a city had violated the Voting Rights Act by improperly diluting the voting strength of Native Americans

·         criticized not just women’s right to choose under Roe v. Wade but even the constitutionality of the New Deal

·         wrote a decision expanding religious objectors’ ability to limit their employees’ access to birth control coverage that has been described as “the broadest ruling so far by a federal appeals court barring enforcement of the birth-control mandate in the new federal health care law. 

·         showed anti-reproductive-choice views in providing a lenient sentence to two anti-abortion protesters who had to be forcibly removed from blocking the entrance to a Milwaukee abortion clinic and had previously been arrested 100 times for such offenses; this judge praised them for their “fine character” and expressed “respect” for the “ultimate goals” the blockade “sought to achieve.”

·         made the argument that anti-gay groups have a constitutional right to continue receiving government subsidies even if they engage in discrimination. 

·         argued in favor of big business and against consumers and discrimination victims, tried to limit corporate liability for product defects and overturn a $1 million damages award; to protect a corporation from having to defend against an employee’s claim of discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and to reverse a $3.5 million bad faith judgment in favor of a Lutheran church against its insurance company.

·         asserted in dissent that a jury verdict against a criminal defendant should have been upheld even though there was extensive evidence that one of the jurors did not understand English (including a statement from the juror himself), which disqualified him from serving on a jury under state law; 

·         that a prosecutor should be immune from a claim that he fabricated false evidence that wrongly convicted a man for 17 years

·         that a conviction under federal law against someone convicted of domestic violence for possessing firearms should be reversed and that the law itself could well be unconstitutional

·          favored a claim by a student group that it should receive state funding and recognition despite its violation of a university rule prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, an issue on which the Supreme Court reached exactly the opposite conclusion several years later.

·         wrote decisions that reversed an $8.1 million award to whistleblowers who helped bring a defective pricing and kickback claim against a large corporation and a nearly $19 million class action judgment against Tyson Foods for violating the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

·         dissented from a number of Eighth Circuit rulings that have upheld the rights of employees, consumers and others against big business and government agencies;

o   In three separate cases, dissented from decisions that employees should at least get the chance to prove in court that their employers retaliated against them for filing sex harassment, age discrimination, or other discrimination claims. In two more decisions, argued in dissent that public employees should not have the opportunity to prove that they were retaliated against

·         dissented from a decision giving African-American shoppers the opportunity to prove discrimination claims against a large department store

·         dissented from rulings that gave individuals a chance to prove claims of use of excessive force and, in one case, that a city’s policy to use police dogs to bite and hold suspects without any warning was unconstitutional.  

IT IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT TO BE CLEAR ON THIS:  Trump as President, would have one Supreme Court vacancy to fill immediately that is now being held up by Senate Majority Leader McConnell on the premise that the new President, and not Barack Obama, should have the right to appoint Scalia’s successor.  Trump has clearly indicated that “he would draw from the most conservative segments of the judiciary to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court.”
If Trump is elected President, this will be his first nomination to the Court, but probably not his last.  In addition to the open seat left by Scalia, there are three current justices who are quite elderly. The next president could fill as many as four seats.  As a result, the nature of the Court could be “locked-in” for several generations; a Court that will have an ultra-right-wing majority bent on over-turning many of the decisions now extant that influence everyday life.  This will not only include over-turning Obamacare, but many programs like Medicare that provides some insurance and protection for a large group of citizens.  Such a Court will also be hell-bent on overturning certain civil and human rights that we now take for granted, such as the Violence Against Women Act, Roe v. Wade, Miranda, speedy trial, and much more.  Further, government programs for people who happen to be poor, underprivileged, handicapped, challenged, or in need of special consideration will, if not voided entirely, face restrictions that essentially change the nature and structure of any such programs.  

So, here’s the deal for all of the disgruntled unemployed and unskilled workers, blue and white collar workers, low wage earners, and all those who simply support Trump because they want their leader to be tough with everyone and everything:   YOU WILL GET WHAT YOU VOTE FOR!

NO MINIMUM WAGE and courts that won’t hear your complaint

NO NEW MANUFACTURING JOBS – they are permanently GONE and not coming back to any great extent, and any that do will soon be replaced by robots and electronics that can do those jobs more efficiently and at less cost per unit than YOU can.  Since Trump regards science negatively, and believes that human-caused climate change is a “hoax”, and that fossil fuels are our future, where does that leave YOU in terms of NEW JOBS coming on-line in the alternative fuels industry? 

NO ENHANCED SKILL TRAINING OR RE-TRAINING - the Donald has no plan for getting our workforce ready for a new techno-world.  Technology is taking over and Trump hasn’t a clue as to how YOU will be trained to meet the challenges.  Besides, practical application of technological advances promises increased corporate profit with fewer personnel costs, so how does an untrained or re-trained worker match up with that?

PUBLIC SCHOOLS ARE NOT GOING TO SOLVE YOUR PROBLEMS:  Trump wants to keep them under local control, and many local school boards think ‘innovation’ and ‘creativity’ are dirty words.  Too many public schools are not prepared or equipped to meet the 21st century – not by curriculum, technology, teaching new work skills, emphasizing math and science, or teaching citizenship and its responsibilities, as well as its rights and freedoms.  Schools are caught in the 19th and 20th centuries, and have no inclination to change.  And, school choice which the Donald favors, will only denigrate and re-segregate our public educational system at a faster pace, since making education, research, learning and community internships dependent on profit does not benefit anyone but the profiteers. 
NOT to WORRY – the Donald will fix it right away by giving you the choice of sending your children to a private, for-profit school that costs an arm and a leg; to a charter school that cherry-picks the best students; or, you can keep your children in a public school that has been deserted by all those who could afford to send their progeny to a private (or charter) school.   By the way, you know what that means, right?  Higher taxes to pay for your children’s local public school plus having to pay for those private and charter school subsidies mandated from the federal tax coffers!  Nice Play, Shakespeare!  

NO SYMPATHY or DECISIVE ACTION WHEN BUSINESSES ABUSE YOU because this will be the BUSINESS PRESIDENT, and workers who join together to take their cases to court, will be shunted aside in favor of BUSINESS every time, and Trump’s Supreme Court will take that same side against YOU

EVERYTHING YOU HAVE COUNTED ON TO GET THROUGH IS IN JEOPARDY – including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, pension rights, adequate health care, unemployment insurance; even food stamps and Pell grants

LAW & ORDER will bring results YOU DO NOT WANT:  city curfews for whole neighborhoods, areas or communities; neighbors spying and snitching on neighbors; your home will no longer be your castle – your home will be able to be invaded by the police, even if it’s a mistake;  innocent people will be caught in police militarism to establish Law & Order; some people will be targeted for harassment, arrest, unreasonable charges and unfair sentences; YOU WILL BE ONE of THEM if you look or act or talk in a “foreign” or “different” manner, or happen to be dark-skinned.

THE WALL WILL NOT SOLVE THE UNEMPLOYMENT PROBLEM – Illegal immigrants are not taking away your jobs (first jobs 'taken' by many illegal immigrants are so menial that most working Americans will not consider them).  Under Trump, Businesses will have all the privileges and subsidies and breaks applied to companies with those menial jobs.  Some businesses will be allowed to hire “temporary” aliens – unvetted, unscreened, unprotected, but useable for profit. 

COSTS OF MILITARY BUILD-UP will not simply fall to the wealthy – YOUR sons and daughters will be the FIRST to get the call to volunteer or face a draft; then YOU WILL ALSO HAVE TO PAY THE BILL for all those new unnecessary weapons systems; all the contractors’ over-time, excess time and failures; YOU WILL PAY, not those Businesses and wealthy CEOs who will be benefitting from your lack of consumer protection, lack of rights, and lack of power, as well as from the many tax breaks that only they can access.

YOU are going to PAY MORE IN TAXES to fund the WAR AGAINST ISIS and potentially against Middle East countries that are in turmoil like Syria and Libya; to say nothing about that country that D. Trump says has gotten so much out of the recent Treaty signed with us and several other countries (by which the advance of nuclear power is now restricted), but which Trump wants to renegotiate.  Trump has no idea what he is talking about, and YOU will bear the consequences when IRAN becomes belligerent.

LABOR UNIONS WILL BE OF LITTLE HELP to you because the restrictions already upheld and those that are still to come will cripple the Labor Movement beyond repair.  Just try negotiating with a business on your own and see how far you get in this pro-business climate.  Retaliation and firing-without-cause plus lower wages and lack of benefits will from now on be a normal part of what you will have to face wherever you may work.

CONSUMER PROTECTION and ADVOCACY ARE OUT THE WINDOW:  If you don’t catch-on soon, this will all come back to haunt you under ‘der Donald’ as President.  Remember EPA, OSHA, FTC, AAI, NLRB, FEC – and a myriad of others?  Well, these government-based consumer protection agencies have all been under attack when Republicans are in the White House, and some have never returned to the staffing and budgeting levels necessary for effective inspection and advocacy since the time of the great destroyer of consumer advocacy, Ronald Reagan.  Donald Trump will give them all the heave-ho if given the chance because he wants “interference” with financial interests and business interests to be minimized beyond their present status.  Beyond government, don’t forget that this attack has also been made on private consumer-based groups known for citizen advocacy – such as ACORN, Legal Aid, Planned Parenthood, and Community Action agencies.  Consumer advocacy is GOING, GOING, GOING – and under Trump --GONE!    

With a radical Republican President Trump, an ultra-right-wing majority on the Supreme Court, and a Congress controlled or obstructed by Tea Party ideologues, YOU ARE ABOUT TO WISH YOU HAD NEVER HEARD OF DONALD TRUMP.  Just as Ronald Reagan betrayed his union followers when he fired striking Air Traffic Controllers, Trump followers are about to be betrayed beyond their wildest fears.  THEY ARE ABOUT TO BE EATEN ALIVE by the forces of destruction, division, diminution, denigration, deregulation, distrust, demonization and demoralization. 
I tend, therefore, to pity those followers who believe that Donald Trump, once in office, will carry out every promise he has made to help particular groups of people.  Why do I say that?  Because he has constantly demonstrated in his life and in his work that his personal status, profit, power, prestige and winning are all that matter.  Equality and Justice, Charitableness and Service to others are not important to him unless they can be used as tools to CON others into following his lead.   Therefore, I end with a personal message to Trump supporters: 
 
YOU WILL LIVE TO REGRET YOUR SUPPORT OF TRUMP because his support ultimately means your downfall, and the probable deterioration of our economy, our daily existence, our democratic values and your livelihood.  This is my fervent plea -- Don't fall for the CON MAN'S Tricks -- Realize the potential danger you are in and CHANGE YOUR VOTE NOW!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

TRUMP: the CON MAN (Part I)

“The only thing we have to fear is FEAR itself!” A classic phrase from our Depression-tested and World War-embattled President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who made it clear that fear is one of the strongest motivators of the human spirit, and if we give in to it, we then have much to fear.  Right now, in this somewhat tumultuous time, I fear that too many of our citizens are caving in to exaggerated fears, and unwilling or unable to realize that a modicum of fear may be reasonable in some circumstances, but it is all-consuming in far too many instances. 
Some of the more reasonable fears are quite obvious – fear of unemployment, fear of not having enough to live on, fear of a life more daunting than expected  But there are many exaggerated fears as well – that some virus will spread like wildfire across our nation; that Muslims will institute Sharia Law in this country, that ISIS will attack us ‘right here in River City’; that the Russians will decide to invade or that N. Korea will start shooting missiles at the United States; that  a lone wolf terrorist will attack my particular home or neighborhood, that non-white people get all the breaks; that foreigners are taking away all the jobs and that we are all being ripped off every day by government. 

Both reasonable and exaggerated fears are currently gripping the hearts and souls of many of our countrymen and women.  That grip is so forceful that, for all practical purposes, rationality and common sense, hopefulness and charitableness have been thrown to the winds.  Instead, we find many simply wanting to allay their fears by trusting their present and their future to a self-aggrandizing con man who is using them to further his own ambitions, his own fortune, his own status within the billionaire class.  I fear they are pawns in a grand scheme to win the Presidency for a bigot, a liar, a cheater, a presumed “strong man.”   

That strong man is nothing but an actor in a fictional world, a con man attracting followers who are angry at their circumstances and therefore easily beguiled and fascinated by a “bad boy,” often described as a narcissist who uses others to get his way and to promote himself.  It’s easy to do – all you need is to mix together the ingredients of public fears and frustration with the characteristics of supposed success, doses of unreality, bravado, some nastiness and bullying, some outrageous concepts/proposals, and the supposed” strength” to stand up to everybody who wants to bring America down or to destroy what we have.  The ingredients mixed together give Donald Trump the ability to convince certain voters that he is the one person who can “fix it all.” Just such a smokescreen gives him the bravado to state that he knows more about how to destroy ISIS than the current generals do.  His unreality show provides him the cover to declare that he is the great deal maker and that he will remake several of the treaties and agreements that are already in effect to the benefit of this country.  His followers have granted him the ability to say that HE will make America Great Again!  

This is called the “cult of the authoritarian leader.”  It is not new; it is ancient and it is modern.  The cult of a leader who mimics “der fuehrer” is not outmoded.  All of the ingredients are there; it’s just that people refuse, or are without the capacity to recognize, that the same tactics that brought other fabricated dictatorial ultra-right-wing leaders to power are very much in our midst, and are being perpetrated upon the voters to win them over and to inspire their backing for the rise of a strongman leader and the demise of many of the principles of democracy. 

All of which leads me to ask one question of Donald Trump fans:

Q #1:  Just what do you expect to get out of his presidency?  I believe that many of the following are close to the answer. 

They expect a President who will:

  • know what to do about the economy so that jobs are brought back to America, plus preventing jobs from being lost overseas
  • inspire creation of an ‘atmosphere’ in which jobs will be created so that everyone who wants can end up making a living wage and enjoy the American Dream of affording a decent standard of living
  • keep foreigners out of this country so they do not take jobs that should be available to American citizens
  • negotiate (and re-negotiate) trade agreements that lead to advantages for American workers
  • not involve the US in foreign wars that are “none of our business” but simultaneously
  • rid us of the threat of ISIS by bombing the hell out of them
  • promote the superiority of rich and successful Americans; especially of white Americans
  •  undo the wrong direction which this country has taken by getting government off our backs:
    • repeal Obamacare
    • lower taxes, including those on the rich and corporations that keep our economy sluggish
    • reduce regulations that are detrimental to a free economy and are unnecessary burdens for state and local governments
    • get rid of entitlements like food stamps, Medicaid -- abolish them or let states run their own programs
    • allow personal accounts for Social Security so we can invest our own money
  • put America first in all things
  • re-establish Law & Order especially in the inner cities; re-introduce “stop and frisk” as a strategy
  • strengthen our military beyond belief so that we can remind others that we have the strongest and most heavily-armed nation in all the world
  • make America Great again!
So, if these are followers’ expectations of Donald Trump as President, then the question becomes:

Q #2:    What will Donald Trump actually provide the average follower when it gets right down to the nitty-gritty of doing something as President that actually puts into practice what he claims he will do while a candidate?  Well, sorry to say, I believe he will do just enough to maintain the support of about half of those who support him now.  This would mean about a 25% approval rating by the end of his imagined first term.  Here’s why I can predict such an outcome. 

Donald Trump’s modus operandi is not anywhere close to the guiding principles of justice or equality or even just plain charity for all that inform the values of this nation.  His guiding principles consist of:
  • taking full advantage of the little guy or those who are powerless to hurt him
  • engaging in practices that put his name in front of everyone so they cannot ignore it
  • always playing the system to his advantage: if the system gives you a gift – take as much as you can and then some more; if the system doesn’t have a law against it, take it to the limit. Use other people’s money whenever possible
  • always pay less than the actual cost – get it reduced anyway you can, including through the courts
  • be aggressive and assertive with everyone who has power; fawn over those who can profit you; belittle and insult anyone who is perceived as an attacker or detractor
  • take advantage of everyone who is powerless or challenged in some way
  • It’s all about profit; status; superiority; self-promotion and self-aggrandizement.  Everything else is for losers.  Real estate development is not for the faint-hearted and neither is leading a government. 
By way of illustration, let’s take a look at an interesting record accumulated by Mr. Trump  – some of the court cases that have piled up in Mr. Trump’s wake.   USA TODAY Network has an ongoing review of his empire's litigation , both by and against Donald Trump and his businesses, and claims that there are over 4,000 cases that have been filed in the past three decades.  It “includes companies that he owns and other involvements that are arms-reach arrangements in which he licenses his name or brand to other companies’ building or products.”

Generally, Trump’s cases fall into these categories: branding, politics, casinos, contract disputes, employment, his golf courses, government and taxes, media and defamation, personal injury and real estate.  The main point to be made about them, I think, is that Trump uses the law and the courts as an essential negotiation strategy or tool.  USA Today says: “Trump uses the lawsuits to negotiate throughout his business relationships. He turns to litigation to distance himself from failing projects that relied on the Trump brand. And he uses the legal system to haggle over his property bills and contracts with vendors.   Others who have filed against him generally have been attempting to right a wrong done by the Trump organization or by Trump himself.  USA Today puts it quite simply and forthrightly (any EMPHASES are mine): 

“Just since he announced his candidacy, at least 70 new cases have been filed, about evenly divided between lawsuits filed by him and his companies and those filed against them. And the records review found at least 50 civil lawsuits remained open even as he moved toward claiming the nomination at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Court documents were released in one of the most dramatic current cases, filed in California by former students accusing Trump University of fraudulent and misleading behavior. 

“The legal actions provide clues to the leadership style the billionaire businessman would bring to bear as commander in chief. He sometimes responds to even small disputes with overwhelming legal force. He doesn’t hesitate to deploy his wealth and legal firepower against adversaries with limited resources, such as homeowners. He sometimes refuses to pay real estate brokers, lawyers and other vendors. 

“As he campaigns, Trump often touts his skills as a negotiator. The analysis shows that lawsuits are one of his primary negotiating tools. He turns to litigation to distance himself from failing projects that relied on the Trump brand to secure investments. As USA TODAY previously reported, he also uses the legal system to haggle over his property tax bills. His companies have been involved in more than 100 tax disputes, and the New York State Department of Finance has obtained liens on Trump properties for unpaid tax bills at least three dozen times. 

“And despite his boasts on the campaign trail that he “never” settles lawsuits, for fear of encouraging more, he and his businesses have settled with plaintiffs in at least 100 cases reviewed by USA TODAY. Most involve people who say they were physically injured at Trump properties, with settlements that range as high as hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

“Alan Garten, general counsel for the Trump Organization, said in an interview that the number and tenor of the court cases is the “cost of doing business” and on par with other companies of a similar size. "I think we have far less litigation of companies of our size," he said. 

‘However, even by those measures, the number of cases in which Trump is involved is extraordinary. For comparison, USA TODAY analyzed the legal involvement for five top real-estate business executives. The analysis found Trump has been involved in more legal skirmishes than all five of the others — combined.” Let’s gather a few more relevant facts (again using information from USA TODAY): 

“A handful of the ongoing cases involve local or state government entities, with the possibility of personal legal disputes between the president of the United States and other branches of government if Trump is elected.  For instance, the Trump team has filed a lawsuit seeking a state ethics investigation of the New York attorney general. The suit was filed in response to an ongoing fraud investigation into Trump University by the attorney general, an elected state official.” 

And at a campaign rally in San Diego, Trump railed against a federal judge overseeing an ongoing lawsuit against Trump University. Trump said Judge Gonzalo Curiel "happens to be, we believe Mexican," and called him a "hater of Donald Trump" who "railroaded" him.” 

USA TODAY comment: “Trump’s history of legal actions provides clues about his style as a leader and manager. While he is quick to take credit for anything associated with his name, he is just as quick to distance himself from failures and to place responsibility on others. In one lawsuit — filed against him by condo owners who wanted their money back for a Fort Lauderdale condo that was never built — he testified in a sworn deposition: “Well, the word ‘developing,’ it doesn't mean that we're the developers.”

Now just take a moment and think about this:  if Donald Trump uses the court system as a strategy for promoting himself, an excuse for fraudulent behavior and a means for using power to charge officials with whatever, and also a tool by which he can intimidate those who owe him or sue him; if he plans to use the federal court system to harass, intimidate and bully others, including elected officials, are we not in danger of a breakdown of our entire legal system?  Are we not on the threshold of the Executive controlling the Judicial branch and using it for his own ends?  Are we not in the precarious position as citizens of being at the mercy of the central government to an extent not seen in our lifetimes?  Please indulge me for just one more piece to this nefarious scheme (find it in Part II)