When Donald met Vladimir

If you’re tired of hearing about Trump and the Russians, skip to the bottom where you’ll find a video of a golden retriever saving a fawn from drowning.

OK, so Trump met with Putin. For an hour. In the same day the two had met for a highly-anticipated two hour closed door meeting in which both nations expressed entirely different readouts on how it went.

Consistent with the way the whole #KremlinGate scandal has gone thus far, I presume people on the left will label this as another element to the biggest scandal in political history; people on the right will shrug and wonder why we’re so consumed with this topic; while Trump and his team will condemn the news media as “fake” and “sick.”

All three are wrong. At least, so far they are.

As I have expressed before, anyone who doesn’t fully comprehend why even the semblance of collusion between the U.S. and Russia is newsworthy is clearly ignorant or indifferent towards history.

You know the phrase the “Evil Empire?” A Mets fan might respond and say, “Yeah, the New York Yankees.” Well, no. The Evil Empire is the Soviet Union. A country whose name, when spoken aloud, would force high school students to retreat under their desks 60 years ago.

A country that once threatened our annihilation by pointing missiles at us from less than 500 miles away.

Since World War II, there has been practically nothing to gain from cooperation with Russia. Nothing. They have been a hostile actor not only to the U.S., but to our global allies. Their goal, even today, is to disrupt the world order to better align with their own interests.

Russia ceased to be the Soviet Union in the late ‘80s. Thus, millennials grew up without a fear for Russia. And even though Russia is no longer a communist state, they have reverted back to being an authoritarian state since Putin’s ascent to the presidency at the turn of the century.

In short, Russia is not our friend. President Trump is right in that it is not a bad thing to engage with countries who we have long been feuding with. Diplomacy always trumps hostility (no pun intended). But Russia is a special exception. For years, their country has been in decline. International sanctions have left them economically crippled. Unpopular invasions (in Crimea, Ukraine) have left them geopolitically alienated.

Russia is a declining state. But they are compensating for this downturn by asserting their influence on global order by intervening in other country’s elections in support of candidates who they believe would be more lenient towards them. And it’s working.

So given all of this history, both historically and currently, and given the hysteria surrounding the investigation into possible collusion leading up to the election, it is nothing short of mind-blowing that Donald Trump, in a room full of 19 leaders from our nation’s most powerful countries, some of which are our staunchest allies, would bypass them and head straight to Vladimir Putin for a one-hour, private chat. With only a Russian translator.

Never mind the security issue of not knowing what exactly the Russian government translator literally said to Trump and Putin — considering where his national interests lie – but the fact that Trump didn’t realize that this would be a significant event in light of all that’s already going on shows just how obtuse this man really is.

#KremlineGate is probably the most avoidable scandal in political history. First you have Fredo, I mean Donald Trump Jr. accepting a Russian meeting last summer under the context of it being part of Russia’s support for Donald Trump, and now Trump sitting down and yapping with Putin like they’re old buddies — all in plain sight of other world leaders who have every right to wonder what the heck is going on between these two guys.

Any collusion between Russia and the U.S. is a big deal. Will it ultimately be impeachable? Who knows. But this isn’t a left/right issue. It’s a new chapter in what has been a very complicated and unfriendly history between the U.S. and Russia.

OK, I’m done. Here’s the dog video I promised.

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We’ll always have Paris

It’s basically gotten to the point where we are living in a cartoon world where the Trump administration is playing the role of the archetypal bad guys.

Like, if you were to write a kids’ movie or a dystopian novel, and you envisioned an adversarial government as the story’s antagonist, but exaggerated it so much that the reader or viewer would find it implausible that such evil would exist in real life– that’s what we are dealing with.

Our president is boorish and immature. The chief strategist whispering in his ear is a present day Joseph Goebbels. Our Attorney general embodies the appearance of a generic southern racist.

They’ve scaled back on civil rights, LGBT protections, healthcare protections, and now, they are doing all they can to repeal environmental protections.

The latest being Thursday’s announcement to rescind our involvement in the Paris climate accords – a pact signed by 195 countries to limit carbon emissions with the hope of saving the planet, an agreement that was spearheaded by Barack Obama two years ago.

I feel like I say this every week, but … how is this real?!

Trump climate

The one silver lining I tell myself is that just because Trump states something aloud or signs an executive order doesn’t mean things change with the drop of a hat. There’s still checks and balances that limits his abilities and other mechanisms that act as a bulwark against his tyranny.

In this instance, the climate accords state that there is about a 4-year removal process, meaning that full removal from the agreement may be determined by who elect in the 2020 presidential election.

Hate is building for Donald Trump. It’s been happening since day one. But it’s only a matter of time until there is an unprecedented, large-scale rally in Washington, D.C. calling for his ouster.

And if that occurs, I don’t think I’d be able to live the rest of my life with dignity if I don’t go.

Not only is Trump enraging so many with his mind-boggling decisions, but he’s also corrupting our intelligence by making up words.

Either you know about “covfefe” or you don’t. In short, Trump tweeted a made-up word, didn’t delete it for five hours, and the world scratched their heads until then trying to figure out what he meant.

When the media asked Press Secretary Sean Spicer what the president meant — fully expecting him to say it was a typo — Spicer answered seriously, “The president and a small group of people know what he meant.”

I’d say the inmates are running the asylum, but I think we’re well past that.

All I know is that if things don’t change quickly, I think we’ll all be drinking at Tiger Woods levels really soon.

Tomorrow is Friday. after all. The perfect time to start.

Happy covfefe everyone.

Mr. Trump goes to Riyadh

Every day that step further into the Trump administration feels more and more like we’re living in a bad dystopian fiction novel.

Seeing the man who at one point on the campaign trail called for “a complete and total shutdown” of Muslims entering the U.S. being presented with a gold medal by Saudi leaders in full hijab attire was as mentally puzzling as if you told me that Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner were getting hitched after meeting on Grinder.

It’s like the entire world has gotten together on one big practical joke, and the American people are the victims.

And no soon did my brain complete processing that image when I suddenly was presented with the visual of Donald Trump in a yarmulke praying at the Western Wall.

I normally refrain from using millennial vernacular, but … dafuq?

The most sacred site in Judaism being intruded upon by an orange-haired buffoon who thinks the generations-old conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians is as simple as solvable as a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos.

His next stop? The Vatican.

Trump Saudis

Trump, a man who lives a life so glamorous that the inside of his penthouse suite is literally made of gold, meeting with a man who empathizes so much with the poor that he voluntarily shunned the papal apartment to live in the more modest Vatican guesthouse. They should get along as well as Voldemort and Harry Potter.

(Someone teach Pope Francis two words quickly: Avada kedavra).

This “religion tour” was apparently designed to be a symbolic sojourn to bind the three doctrines under a call for peace, while joining together to combat terrorism.

It’s a noble message. Just not the right messenger.

This was one of my biggest fears when Donald Trump was running for president. The fact that he would be the one representing America on an international stage.

People can definitely scrutinize some of Barack Obama’s domestic and global policy initiatives. But one thing that is undeniable was that the man held himself with grace and dignity wherever he went. He respected foreign cultures and customs, he was well-versed in his host country’s history, and he had a nuanced understanding of the conflicts he was speaking about.

Trump, meanwhile, has shown a tendency to have his opinion changed in a single conversation with a foreign leader, and knows as much about history as my cat understands particle physics.

Everything just seems backwards right now. Donald Trump is our president (still), and The Rock might be our next president.

Which would mean that we may be able to live in a country where we can tell people our last two presidents were victims of a Stone Cold Stunner.

If you, like me, needed something — anything — to take your mind off these chaotic current events, then enjoy this viral video from today of a girl being pulled into water by a sea lion.

I’ll be out of town for most of the week through memorial Day weekend. i’ll try to check in at least one more time before then, but no guarantees.

Until then, enjoy the “Pope-Trump Happenin’ at the Vatican.”

You heard that name here first.

When your country no longer upholds its values

There once was a time – not too long ago – when the United States of America was the standard bearer for democracy. When we set the example for the rest of the world to follow.

Look around the globe. Pick any country. In nation after nation, you’ll find authoritarianism, corruption, inequality, crime, nepotism, oppression, racism. It’s rampant. Some countries contain all the above.

And we’re not immune from those evils. America has never and will never be perfect. We’re still an evolving process.

But very few countries have achieved what we have. The checks and balances we have in place to oversee our president are abundant, and they’re there for a reason — to protect the American people from a despotic leader.

Donald Trump is rewriting the book on 240 years of history.

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And while he’s raised many red flags, and alarmed not only the American public but members of Congress, not much has stood in his way. At least not yet.

People excuse Donald Trump’s behavior because they say he has yet to do anything illegal (yet). But what we fail to realize is that the goalposts of what we consider illegal actions from a president are becoming narrower and narrower.

What’s illegal and what’s not should not be the benchmark for our nation’s highest office.

It’s really the unwritten rules of governing, which Donald Trump has repeatedly torn to shreds, that we should be concerned about.

It’s not illegal to undermine a federal judge, but no one ever does it. Except Donald Trump.

It’s not illegal to discredit the entire press corps, but no one ever does it. Except Donald Trump.

It’s not illegal to share top secret, classified information with hostile foreign nations, but no one ever does it. Except Donald Trump.

It’s not illegal to fire the FBI director midway through his term while he’s investigating you, but no one ever does it. Except Donald Trump.

These are the boundaries that Donald Trump is destroying. And all those other countries who are guilty of all of those heinous actions I listed above, well, we can no longer tell them that they need to be more like us. Not if this keeps up.

Now, they can look at what’s going on here and say, “Hey, if they’re doing this, then we can do whatever we want.”

We used to look at backsliding democratic nations like Venezuela, Turkey and Russia and hold our head high. We’d say that this could never happen to us.

Now we’re the ones who other countries are laughing at.

And it will take a while to fix what Donald Trump has done. A significant portion of our credibility has been shattered. But it’s not irreparable.

At the end of the day, we must remember that we brought this onto ourselves. We voted.

We’ve made a lot of mistakes in our country’s history. But we’ve always learned from them.

Let’s just hope this is another learning experience.

I just met you, and this is crazy. Here’s my number, so Comey maybe

Well, it did not take long for another head of a major federal organization to be relieved under the nascent presidency of Donald J. Trump. And this time, it will have major ramifications.

Tuesday was otherwise a relatively boring day until breaking news dropped in the early evening, capturing every news channel’s full attention.

The resignation of U.S. Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson.

I take pride in knowing I’m maybe one of four people in the world who knows that happened yesterday.

Obviously, the dismissal I’m actually referring to was the firing of FBI Director James Comey. Arguably the most well-known FBI chief since J. Edgar Hoover, Comey will forever be remembered as the man who may or may not have influenced the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.

His decision to disclose to Congress that the bureau was re-opening the Hilary Clinton email investigation – an extraordinary deviation from the bureau’s normal investigation protocol of maintaining confidentiality – without acknowledging that they were also investigating Donald Trump will forever go down in infamy.

Within one year, I predict that the words “Comey Letter” will have its own Wikipedia page.

James Comey fired

No one will shed any tears over the firing. In fact, some may look at is as long overdue. Doubts to his credibility from both parties was casting a dark cloud over the FBI.

But I don’t think there’s any question that the timing was extremely odd. It would have been commonplace if Trump removed Comey at the beginning of his presidency. It’s his turn at the helm, and it would have been understandable if he wished to start anew.

But why wait three months? Especially after he previously announced that Comey would keep his job?

If anything, it continues a pattern of unpredictability and spontaneity that makes his administration seem disorganized and incompetent. He also told Preet Bharara he would keep him on as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Weeks later, he fired him.

And now here’s the same story with Comey.

What’s the common trend? Both men were investigating Trump’s ties to Russia. That doesn’t look good for Trump. Saturday Night Massacre, anyone?

Trump cited Comey’s mishandling of the Clinton email investigation as his rationale, but it will take weeks to parse through the specific details of the events that led up to the firing. Already, it’s being reported that Comey had requested additional resources to further his investigation into Trump’s Russian ties.

At the end of the day, though, this is just another bad day for our democracy. You have one side calling this move “authoritarian” and “Nixonian,” and the other lauding it as a “decisive.”

It’s hard these days to be liked in Washington. James Comey learned that the hard way.

And now, Donald Trump must find a replacement to lead the agency that may or may not still be investigating him, while obtaining Senate approval.

That will end well.

It wasn’t hard to predict that we were in line for four years of chaos. Let’s just hope 2020 brings us a cast of inspiring figures who wish to make a run for the presidency, because we’re going to need something to be hopeful about.

And this time, James Comey, when October 2020 rolls around … keep your god damn pen to yourself.

 

Hasan Minhaj … PREACH

One of the most important ingredients for a healthy democracy is a free and open press. History has been marked by nefarious and corrupt leaders who, over time, abuse their power to clamp down on civil liberties and control the national press.

Journalists serve as a check on any regime. People may not always like what they have to say, but investigative reporting is what prevents a dictatorship.

In nations across the country, the press serves as an extension of the government. In those cases, instead of receiving the truth, the public is hearing propaganda that bolsters government influence. It sedates and essentially brainwashes people, and creates an environment that allows a government to run amok.

This is a divisive time for America. There are people who loathe our president and adore the press; and then there’s people who revere our president and abhor the press.

I’m not using this post to tell you how you should feel about the president. But we should all be thankful that America possesses an open and independent press that is able to inform the public of things they otherwise would never know. It’s one of the most important tools that keeps our government from breaking the law.

And that’s why the White House Correspondents’ Dinner is such a big deal. Founded in 1921, the event celebrates the First Amendment and the free press, and serves as a lighthearted evening that reminds us all that, at the end of the day, the White House and the press corps are allies.

Until today. Because Donald Trump didn’t go.

The list is endless, but this yet another reminder that our president does not care about protecting the fabric of our democracy.

Last Saturday’s event, nicknamed the “Nerd Prom” – which happened to coincide with Trump’s 100th day in office – was hosted by Hasan Minhaj, who you would only recognize if you are a frequent watcher of the Daily Show.

I have no insider information, but I saw Minhaj as a top candidate to replace Jon Stewart upon his departure. He is young, funny, energetic, and brings an outside perspective unique to most Americans. The job ultimately went to Trevor Noah, who is doing a nice job in his own right, and I’m glad to see that both men have found success.

Nonetheless, Minhaj has some pretty damn poignant things to say at the close of his speech, and I think it’s important for all of us to hear. I’ll share with you a snippet.

“We are in a very strange situation where there’s a very combative relationship between the press and the president. But now that you guys are minorities, just for this moment, you might understand the position I was in. And it’s the same position a lot of minority kids feel in this country. You know — do I come up here and just try to fit in, and not ruffle any feathers? Or do I say how I really feel?”

I don’t really have much more to add.

And know that now, more than ever, is the time to support journalists.

Why Trump’s first 100 days in office have been an abject failure

The fact that Donald Trump’s approval rating has been hovering somewhere around the mid to high 30 percent range since he took office should not surprise anyone.

Of the American electorate, it’s safe to say about one-third are die-hard Trump supporters. The ones who flooded his rallies. The ones who you saw quoted on television saying that we need to ban Muslims and build a wall at the expense of the Mexicans.

That last 20 percent or so of voters who supported him enough to get him over the hump and into the White House were clearly moderate Republicans who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Hillary Clinton.

And if you flash back to Nov. 8, it’s hard to blame them. The propaganda machine about Hillary Clinton’s potential conflicts of interest and corruption was in full swing, boosted – as we know now – by state-backed Russian hackers.

Just days before the election, FBI Director James Comey announced that his agency was reopening their investigation against Hillary Clinton, in what will infamously become known as “The Comey Letter.” What he did not say was that his agency was also investigating Donald Trump.

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So of the steadfast conservatives who would never vote for a Democratic candidate, it stands to reason why those dark clouds hovering over Hillary Clinton would sway them to vote for Donald Trump, even with all the controversies of his own.

Is that a legitimate excuse to vote for a narcissistic, mentally unstable xenophobe for the most powerful position in the world? No. But that’s why it happened and that’s how we got here.

Saturday marks Trump’s 100th day in office, a milestone that Trump has publicly criticized but also privately obsessed over.

Any one that has spent any time studying how government works – especially one like ours, with its extensive checks and balances – understands that a president can only be effective through diplomacy and compromise by working with both sides.

If you pedal a set of campaign promises that were never too popular to begin with, and then proceed to double down on them while ignoring one half of Congress, then any half-wit who took one undergraduate course in political science understands that’s the opposite way to run a country.

Donald Trump ran a business as a one man show. It was his way or the highway. That doesn’t work for government. And voters have no one to blame but themselves for not foreseeing this.

At this juncture, it’s apparent that Trump is more concerned with pleasing his base than governing.

Which leads us back to that dismal approval rating. Trump will shrug it off as “fake news,” but the educated Republican voter who relied on Trump to live up to his campaign promises is likely to be disappointed at this point.

And unless Trump suddenly learns the fine art of diplomacy, that’s not likely to change.

Yes, there’s still a lot of time left in his presidency *shudders*. But if his first 100 days are any indication for how he will approach healthcare, tax reform, foreign policy, national security and other important issues that affect the day-to-day lives of Americans, then those swing voters are probably going to be experiencing some serious regret. And soon.

But while it’s been a bad 100 days for our president, it’s been a good 100 days for a lot of other people: the grassroots activist. The protester. The men and women who suddenly found their political voice amid this tumultuous regime.

Trump will one day be gone.

But those voices will linger.