Another White House Scandal; Another Divisive Distraction from Trump

Another divisive distraction

Top screenshot (Sept. 25th) from “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” on MSNBC | Bottom screenshot (Sept. 25th) from “CBS This Morning”

 

Officials from Trump’s Administration have claimed that six current and former West Wing Advisors used private emails to discuss sensitive White House matters rather than use their government emails, or at the very least forward it to their WH email accounts. In an effort to distract the public and media outlets from another egregious and hypocritical impropriety in the White House, Trump took a calculated risk in attacking the NFL, its athletes and referees. The undercurrent of racism streaming through his public and social media invectives is palpable and predictable. It did not go unnoticed by Trevor Noah from The Daily Show, and late night talk show hosts Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers… or Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas… or Vietnam Veteran and Texas Sports Anchor Dale Hansen. There is also a misogynistic tone in Trump’s mocking of the NFL: he implies referees are making the violent game of football “too soft” by calling unnecessary penalties so they can impress their wives “sitting at home”.

In an exchange Monday on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Dr. Jason Johnson shared an interesting perspective on the predominantly white NFL team owners, who appeared to show solidarity with players on Sunday and Monday Night Football. He pointed out “That was just a bunch of rich guys arguing with each other… when Bob Kraft [New England Patriots owner; close friend and outspoken supporter of Donald Trump] takes a knee, or Jerry Jones [Dallas Cowboys owner/GM; friend of the Clintons and Donald Trump; Trump inaugural donor] takes a knee, they don’t care about police brutality [or domestic violence].” Prof. Johnson went on to say “Jerry Jones [signed a player who was arrested for brutally assaulting and threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend and later found guilty on another DV case].” He also added “Most of these owners don’t care about these moral issues. They were protesting because they don’t like another rich guy telling them how to run their business.” However, “the players who have been doing this all along [Colin Kaepernick started the protest of injustices to African Americans and other non-whites last year during the national anthem]: they were the ones speaking up [and demonstrating] for justice.”

Meanwhile Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, is desperately dealing with an unprecedented disaster from Hurricane Maria, which dismantled the island’s entire power grid, leaving over three million people without electricity. Puerto Rico has exhausted its limited resources and needs immediate U.S. assistance to tackle the numerous catastrophes, including massive flooding, widespread infrastructural damage, very limited cell phone access and minimal access to clean water, food and fuel. Since the hurricane hit the island on September 20th through this past weekend, Trump had not expressed support—either publicly or via Twitter—to the millions suffering in Puerto Rico and the families in the U.S. worried sick about their loved ones. Instead, Trump focused on creating a diversion to mitigate further damage to his public image. Even if the president had not intentionally attempted to redirect attention from another unraveling scandal, the latest vituperative diatribe is yet another demonstration of his shallow and unpresidential behavior. Moreover, Trump’s preference to spew insults at the NFL rather than champion a caring message for the devastated Americans in Puerto Rico is reprehensible.

 

 

 

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Tough opposition talk within the GOP has no effect on the decline of democracy

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Juxtaposition of Sen. John McCain (left) referring to the need for “free press” on ‘Meet the Press’ with Chuck Todd on Feb 19th; and President Trump (right) during CPAC speech on Feb 24th reiterating his claim that news media is the “enemy of the American people”.

 


Last Sunday, February 19th, on Meet the Press, U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) defended the need for a “free and [often times] an adversarial press” in order to “preserve democracy”. And he raised concerns about President Trump’s bellicose dialogue with press coverage at the White House. Some liberals were impressed with the Republican Senator’s warning against the “consolidation of power” as a sign of dictatorship in reference to the president’s excoriation of the press, including a tweet in which he claimed “fake news media… is the enemy of the American people”. A few Democrats went further to say they “respect” McCain’s seemingly strong stance against President Trump. Many would agree politicians who are consistently fair, broadly just, and who follow through on tough talk deserve respect. McCain may be more respectable relative to fellow GOP Congressmen including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT). However, ask American Indians and Native activists in his home state how much respect they have for the Arizona Senator: McCain may have voiced support for Native people, yet his contradictory actions have led to decisions and policies that undermine the protection of their sacred land.

 

Last August, McCain officially endorsed Donald Trump as the Republican presidential nominee. Reluctantly, McCain had expressed support for Trump as early as May 2016. This despite having been criticized numerous times, including Trump’s claim in July 2015 that “[McCain’s] not a war hero. Well, he’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”  McCain finally withdrew his endorsement of Trump only after a crude and vulgar 2005 tape from “Access Hollywood” was leaked to the media in October–in which Trump admits to groping women by their private parts and trying to have sex with a married woman. Progressives hope McCain would assert his supposed “maverick” influence and seniority in the Senate to rally Republican outcry against Trump’s despotic tendencies and his unpresidential behavior. It is a futile sentiment given the historical dichotomy of McCain’s rhetoric and his actions. The U.S. Senator was a “maverick” of sorts–not in a good way!–as a minority in Congress when he voted against establishing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a national holiday in 1983. Even though his position eventually changed, McCain has a track record of blocking civil rights legislation.

 

In 2008 when John McCain was the Republican presidential nominee, one of his supporters at a townhall meeting in Minnesota said Barack Obama, then Democratic presidential nominee, is untrustworthy because “he’s an Arab“. McCain corrected the woman: “No ma’am. [Obama is] a decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues.” Problem is McCain did nothing to assuage rising Islamophobia, especially within his party: he missed an opportunity of telling his misinformed supporters that equating the entire Arab population and Muslim men to jihadist extremists is no different from saying all white male Christians are domestic terrorists (the latter would be statistically closer to the truth).

 

On Friday, February 24th, the White House made an unprecedented decision of denying several news outlets–called out by Trump as “enem[ies] of the American people”–access to an off-camera press briefing with White House press secretary, Sean Spicer.  Included on the banned list were CNN, the New York Times, Politico, the Guardian, and the BBC along with a few others. Conservative media groups were welcomed such as Breitbart News, the Washington Times, and One America News Network, as were TV networks Fox, ABC, CBS and NBC. The Associated Press and Time magazine were allowed but boycotted. Is this the beginning of the president’s censorship of the press? Moreover, is this the inchoate workings of a dictatorial regime in the White House?

 

Getting to higher ground as the waves of despair approach

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Composite images, vertically juxtaposed, based on Google search for “tsunami and politics”.

 


It is impressive to witness the organization and efforts put in by many groups, protesters and activists. Although I’m opinionated person, sometimes to a fault, activism is not necessarily for me. My passion for fairness is strong, but I’m not someone who gets pumped up for protesting on the street. I partake in other forms of protest, like boycotting Driscoll’s Berries and Walmart. I try to do the little things that add up… so says my rationale. It’s been overwhelming to hear and read about highly questionable actions and untruths from the POTUS and from his Administration. Feels like a tsunami of bad news engulfing the shoreline on a daily basis. At times, it is hard to tell if the media–having often normalized Donald Trump’s absurd and hostile demeanor–is overreacting. Or is it really that dire?
For my part in opposing the President’s Cabinet nominations, I’m making phone calls to Republican Senators, urging them to reconsider voting “No” for the Secretary of Education nominee. Cold-calling is definitely not my thing! That’s why I was in project management and operations instead of Sales and Business Development. Sometimes we have to go out of our comfort zone for something that is bigger than ourselves. I urge you to do the same. This is the contact information for our U.S. Congress members.
http://www.whoismyrepresentative.com
This is the verbiage I crafted–what best resonates with me. It gets fumbled no matter how many calls I make.

I’m sure you ‘feel’ Betsy DeVos could do a good job, but I urge you to thoughtfully consider and closely examine her qualifications with respect to her inexperience and unfamiliarity with all aspects of the education system. And do you truly think she will be the much-needed advocate for strengthening our public schools? I sincerely hope your conscience and courage guide you to making the right decision in voting ‘No’ for DeVos.

Perhaps it could be stronger, but my plea comes from a place of genuineness, not outrage. When it comes to any form of activism or engagement you believe in, it’s about finding what works best for you while endeavoring to do the right thing for others.

Size Matters: Electoral Votes vs. Population

2016-electoral-college-projections_cartogram

2016-presidential-election-projections_map

There has been no shortage of complaints and comparisons regarding the electoral college since the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Based on the tally of individual votes, Donald Trump took 30 states totaling 306 electoral votes–more than the 270 needed out of 538. Hillary Clinton won 20 states plus the District of Columbia earning 232 electoral votes. An argument for wanting to get rid of the electoral college is the disproportionate representation of electoral votes from larger states versus smaller states in relation to population. But how much of a difference is it when you look  at the U.S. map? Refer to the two maps below for a comparative illustration between population-sized states and electoral-sized states (states won by Trump are represented in red; states won by Clinton are represented in blue). Overall, there is not much difference.

2016-presidential-election-distorted-by-pop_map

2016-presidential-election-distorted-by-ev_map

Based on 2015 U.S. Census Bureau data, California is the most populated state with approximately 39.1 million people. Wyoming is the least populated state with an estimate of 586,000 people. Consequently, California has the most Congressional districts (U.S. Representatives) plus two U.S. Senators giving it 55 electoral votes. Wyoming has the minimum number of electoral votes with three: one U.S. Representative; two U.S. Senators. If the total of 538 electoral votes were adjusted to population per state, California would get 65.5 (10.5 more votes than represented in the electoral college); and Wyoming would get 1.0 (2.0 less votes than represented in the electoral college).

Montana has almost twice as many residents as Wyoming, yet it has the same minimum number of three electoral votes. Washington state has approximately 7.2 million people with 12 electoral votes. This means each electoral vote counts for 597,500 residents in the state. If the electoral votes in the ‘Evergreen State’ is adjusted to population, it would still calculate to 12.0 electoral votes. However, Wyoming gets over three times more weighting per electoral vote than Washington, because each vote from the ‘Cowboy State’ accounts for one in every 195,369 residents. The aforementioned figures are pulled from 2015 U.S. Census Bureau data. The KUOW graphic below is based on 2014 U.S. Census Bureau data. It’s close enough to illustrate the point.

electoral-votes-to-pop_wa-vs-wy

Had this presidential race been decided by popular vote, Clinton would have won by a margin of at least 1.5%, having gained two million plus more votes (64.6 million) than Trump (62.4 million). If the race was to be determined by electoral votes proportional to population, Trump’s lead would not be much different at 303.6 to 234.4. Clinton would still need to win the closely contested swing states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, which she narrowly lost. Hence, the slightly disproportionate electoral votes compared to population by state did not effect the outcome of the presidential race. This is not surprising given the similarities between the two maps shown above, distorting U.S. states by population and by electoral votes. The ultimate question for future presidential elections is whether we move to abolish the electoral college without doing away with Congressional districts. Congress should also do away with gerrymandering.

2016-presidential-election-results_11-25-16

 


References

http://www.businessinsider.com/2016-election-results-maps-population-adjusted-cartogram-2016-11 (November 16, 2016)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_2016

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electoral_College_(United_States)