Saturday, April 29, 2017

Trump’s First 100 Days, Czech-Cuban Human Rights Partnership, FMG, Transgenderism

Six days before marking his first 100 days in office, President Trump had the lowest approval rating of any president in the more than 70 years since such polls have been taken, this, according to a pair of polls published Sunday. However, true to his past reaction to bad news both in his business and personal life, he has been tweeting about how great he is and how successful—showing, he says, the most achievements of any president ever! So far, apparently, his hard-core base has been willing to still believe in him, but will they continue to be satisfied with nothing but hot air and self-promotion? About the only victory he can really point to is the appointment of a Supreme Court justice, that accomplished by the questionable shenanigans of the Senate, refusing to give a hearing to President Obama’s nominee. I guess Trump cannot control his urge to brag about himself. Trump's popularity in polls has never risen, though apparently his smallish hard-core base remains stubbornly loyal. 
As Donald Trump completes his first 100 days in office, he has, of course, characterized them as the most successful ever in the history of the American presidency. By any other measure, they have been one of the least successful, but who cares if you are citing “alternative facts?” And when news media and think tanks contradict Trump, he just attacks them as “fake news.” All his life, he has been winging it, tricking others, and boasting about himself, so why stop now? Vicariously, his base identifies with him and loves his boldness in saying whatever he wants, whether true or not. But can the country and the world survive a Trump presidency?
I’ve tried to imagine Donald Trump when he was a roly-poly baby or a silly blond elementary school kid. He was probably a fairly likeable human being back then—when did he start morphing into the obnoxious braggart and bully that he has since become? Are his parents somehow to blame? When did he become tone-deaf to how other people think and feel? How could the warped development of someone like him be prevented? Now that he is 70 years old and showing no signs so far of learning from the experience of actually being president, it may be too late for him to change. Very sad for him, for his family including his wife and young son, for our country, and for the world although perhaps Trump himself, who seems to live exclusively in a virtual world inside his own imagination, feels no sadness at all, though he says being president is harder than he had expected. I will grant Mr. Trump one achievement since he has assumed the presidency: his anti-immigration stance has had a psychological effect in reducing the numbers of people trying to illegally cross our southern border. He doesn’t even need that wall! And it’s better that he leaves details to others. Also, while chaos may put his political adversaries (and friends) off guard and give a strategic advantage as an opening gambit, some coherence needs to develop over time. Obama may have been too predictable—mostly you knew where he stood and he seemed to have a plan laid out.  Trump likes to upset the applecart with weird out-of-the blue tweets. I suppose his followers like it that he can upset the political establishment and world markets with just a simple tweet, sometimes containing bad grammar and misspellings.
               Trump may be the law-and-order candidate but when it comes to skirting the law himself, he doesn’t hesitate (though this was taken down after protests, slowing that protests sometimes work):
When Trump gave a speech at the NRA, I would bet that the audience was not allowed to carry guns. Why not, if guns are so protective and, of course, a patriotic constitutional right under the Second Amendment? Concealed carry, open-carry, who cares, as long as you have your firearm always at the ready, even on a college campus or in church or at your bedside at night?
Say what you will about Donald Trump and the Republican Party, the Democrats have been MIA. They seem to have been confused and devastated and unsure about what to do next. Of course, we all have to roll up our sleeves and not just lament, but get to work at the grassroots level. I agree with West in the following article:

The Democrats delivered one thing in the past 100 days: disappointment
Cornel Westw Democrats delivered one thing in the past 100 days: disappointment | Cornel West | Opinion | The Guardian 
Bernie is not the answer any more, neither is Hillary, but then who is? Any volunteers? We Democrats need new faces, fresh blood, something to light a fire under us. A dark horse! I don't think we’ve gotten over being stunned by Hillary's loss, even though many folks weren't crazy about her, and not yet over the shock of Trump's unimaginable ascendancy to the presidency--I still cannot bring myself to actually say he won, because of his big loss of the popular vote. As I've mentioned, I was in Chappaqua for a book talk the day after the election where the whole town was in mourning. I've been pretty depressed myself about the election ever since and Trump's performance hasn't improved my mood. He's as crazy, dishonest, and unreliable as we had feared. But we Democrats have to start climbing out of the slough of despond and get to work! And do more than just sign petitions and march, because this administration and this Congress don't care about any of that, they just care about their own voters and campaign donations. Unfortunately, we here in DC are handicapped by being dis-enfranchised. I’ve been waiting, looking for a silver lining with Trump, but haven’t found it yet.

While reducing upper income tax brackets may promote some job creation through rich peoples’ investments and purchases, giving tax breaks and income support to lower income levels can also increase jobs by producing customers for basic products they would be unable to afford otherwise like food, housing, transportation, and child care. My vote instead would be for lower level tax benefits—even subsidies—to promote more overall economic activity.
As with Trump supporters here--or Brexit, or Le Pen supporters in France—Hungary’s Prime Minister Orban is playing on people's suspicions and fears of outsiders. But nothing stands still. The political pendulum does seem to swing back and forth--let's hope it's gone as far as it can in this protectionist xenophobic direction and that a backlash will push it again more toward the center--though not too far in the other direction either, as that brings its own problems.  

The Opinion Pages | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR,

NY Times, The Cost of Trump’s Retreat From Rights

[Scathing article about Trump administration’s human rights record.].html ays-disappointment the opportunity to attend a talk and film showing by Dr. Marin Palous on Czech-Cuban human rights collaboration at European Union Delegation headquarters. The late Cuban democracy advocate Oswaldo Paya had a chance to meet Vaclav Havel in Prague and their meeting was filmed. (I also once met Paya in Cuba before his movement was underway, as recounted in my Confessions book.)

It turns out that FGM on some young girls is being practiced in the US, despite being illegal. It would be even more harmful for girls living here because it is not the cultural norm and so they won’t have cultural and social support which may to some extent mitigate the harm where it is widely practiced. Misery loves company. I do recall it was a routine practice in South Sudan when I was there, sometimes with fatal consequences, but not all tribes participated. At least one tribe whose members I met there had another rite of passage for children of both genders, still harmful, but much less so, namely extracting their 2 lower permanent front teeth. Why or what that signified, I am not sure, but they were able to manage by biting with side teeth. Scarring, ear piercing (I have that myself), and neck stretching are other practices, though some are dying out. In the US and the west, tattoos are in vogue.  The girls in my family all have them.

The most drastic sort of body change now apparently gaining popularity is transgenderism, but not just cross-dressing and passing for a person of the opposite sex, as happened at times past—especially among women passing as men to engage in work open only to men, such as joining the military or a ship’s crew.  Now, hormones and surgery are available to actually transform the physical body and probably even the emotions and intellect in the direction of the desired gender.  A hundred years ago, a man aspiring to become female could not actually grow breasts and a woman aspiring to become male could not grow a beard and deepen her voice. But the voice apparently doesn’t go in the opposite direction—the male voice remains  despite hormone treatment. Have you ever heard Caitlyn Jenner being interviewed? Sounds pretty much like Bruce.  

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