Thursday, March 23, 2017

Lead Me To The Low Road

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As a Democrat here's what I wish that my fellow Democrats would do -  simply refuse to be involved with the Gorsuch hearings in any way. I wish they'd register their rejection of this theft of a Supreme Court seat by walking out, denying the process their cooperation and their votes. The Republicans have the power to confirm Judge Gorsuch and undoubtedly they will, but at least there would always be an asterisk beside his name due to being given a stolen seat despite the disapproval of the Democrats.

I have nothing personal against Gorsuch and I never have would never have recommended such a strategy two years ago. I doubt I'd agree with the Judge on many issues but I always believed that our constitution gives a president has the responsibility for nominating SCOTUS justices while in office, even ones who aren't my personal cup of tea.

But then, Antonin Scalia died and the Republicans engaged in an astoundingly egregious display of dishonest partisanship regarding President Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland for the Court. They could have simply voted him down. They had the votes but instead, they took it to the nth degree of insult by refusing to conduct hearings or even interview him.

Mitch McConnell simply stated that Obama would not be allowed his constitutional privilege in his last year in office. In fact, he took it further by suggesting that if Hillary Clinton won the presidency, they would hold the seat open for four years! Only a Republican, I guess, in Republican eyes, would ever be allowed to choose new justices for the SCOTUS bench.

Now the tables have turned. McConnell intones in that irritatingly unctuous manner he has that the Democrats must stop stonewalling and get with the program of confirming Gorsuch. The Supreme Court needs that ninth justice (unlike the entirety of Obama's last year). Judge Gorsuch, McConnell tells us was overwhelmingly approved when he was nominated as judge - as was Garland. He is extremely highly thought of among his peers - as was Garland. Gorsuch is an good and honorable man - as was Garland. Garland's integrity and honor didn't cut any ice with Old Mitch when the shoe was on the other foot but now, Democrats need to be bipartisan good citizens and confirm Trump's choice. Uh huh.

Michelle Obama said, "when they go low, we go high". It's an honorable philosophy but we've seen how well that technique worked, haven't we? Those who took the low road seemed to always reach the finish line first. While they leveled howitzers at us, we tried to defend ourselves with squirt guns. Not very effective.

So where's that path down to the low road. I'm ready to take it all the way to the end.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Land of the Dumb and Home of the Mean

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I thought when I was in high school, I got an excellent education. (I graduated in 1964). Even the kids who dropped out to go to work in the factories got a thorough grounding in the basics before they turned sixteen. You could have a conversation with a guy who left school and went to work as a punch press operator at General Tire and you might know some things about physics and sociology that he didn't know by virtue of those missing years of education, but over all, he was just as intelligent as you. (Chances were, he was quite a bit smarter than me about math). He watched the news and read the newspapers and knew what was going on in the world around him. We had some less than average bright people then too, of course, but they were the exception rather than the rule.

I don't know what happened in the intervening years but America seems to have gone dumb and mean. And it doesn't have anything to do with i.q. They've chosen to be dumb. They've chosen to be mean. They've chosen to sneer at science and history. They are contemptuous of smart people, like college professors and economists and chemists. I had a Facebook debater tell me the other day that we don't need the arts and sciences anymore. We can figure out our own answers through our own rational thinking. It's safer that way, he said, because you can' trust anything the "Deep State" tells you anyway. The hoax of climate changes proves it. The vast majority of scientists who say they believe climate change is real are being paid off by the "global cabal" and only those few who deny it have integrity.

These are the people who elected Donald Trump despite the big black writing on the wall that was obvious to anyone who wanted to see it. They ignored his corruption, his constant lying, his hateful allegations about his opponents, his lewdness and crudeness and rudeness. They gloried in his cruelty, seeming to think hatefulness is funny....and they followed him right down into the gutter.

Someone on Facebook signed me up to a site called The Deplorables. You have to be approved to join so I assume someone did it as a prank but it has been an eye-opener. To me, these people are the heart and the soul of Trumpism. They glory in the title and try to prove it with everything they say. They seem to compete with one another to see who can be the coarsest. Their language is rife with niggers and skanks and wetbacks and sluts and towel-heads. It is not enough that they hated Obama and Hillary. They want to see them hung or shot or tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail. At the very least, they want to see them in handcuffs and orange jumpsuits being led to prison. Presumably, the watchers would throw stones and laugh during the perp walk. One Deplorable said if they hung Hillary and put it on Pay per View, they could raise enough to pay off the national debt.

They revel in outdoing one another in nastiness. I can't even tell you some of the sickening things they say. They truly are the Deplorables. Hillary was absolutely right about them.

They believe Trump can do no wrong. The things they ranted and raved about with Obama are no big deal any more. They no longer care about their president spending millions of taxpayer dollars on luxurious vacations. They no longer care that Trump has played golf nine times in seven weeks. They no longer care if Trump has outdone his predecessors in signing executive orders. Ask them sometime what those executive orders were for and they don't have a clue. They no longer care if he does government business on an unsecured phone or that Steve Bannon has a private server. They exhorted Darrell Issa and Trey Gowdy to keep investigating Benghazi - time and money were no object. But when Trump's first mission in Yemen failed bigly and lost us the life of a Navy SEAL and an expensive plane, hey, it wasn't his fault, nothing to see here.

For all that they love investigations, they want no investigations of President Puffy Butt's Russian connections. Practically every member of Trump's inner circle had communications with the Russians during the campaign and lied about it until they got caught. And yes, Pence lied about knowing about it too. Elijah Cummings himself sent the head of the Transition Team, which happened to be Mike Pence, a letter saying that General Flynn was working for and getting paid by Turkey even as he was attending Presidential Briefs but Pence stood before us, all innocence, and said it was news to him. (The General has since registered, retroactively, as a foreign agent). Flynn got fired for supposedly withholding information from Pence but Trump himself  knew so if he knew, why didn't he tell Pence. The answer is: he probably did.

The Deplorables have bought into Bannon's Deep State myth and wish for nothing more than for Trump's appointees to take a wrecking ball to the agencies of the federal Government. Do they truly believe the country, and they themselves, will be better off when this is done? Do they truly believe Trump is doing it for their sake and the rich won't be the ones to profit from his tax reform and deregulation.

Some how they must have convinced themselves that the FDA and the EPA and the Department of Education and the Food and Drug Administration and the food stamp program and Medicaid and Social Security and OSHA and the National Parks and the Endangered Species Act have never provided them any benefits. They must believe that the diversity that has always defined America is a negative thing.

I sometimes ask them what America will look like if they get their way in everything but none of them have thought that far ahead, or if they have, they can't articulate their vision.

The other day on a conservative website someone said, "hey, you fucking libtard bitch, someone ought to knock your goddamed teeth down your throat". (This wasn't the Deplorable. I've never come out to them because I know they'd instantly block me. They only want to share with their like-minded pals. I want to stay on because I have a kind of sick curiosity about just how low they will go).

We used to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. Now we seem to have become the land of the dumb and the home of the mean.



Thursday, March 2, 2017

Take Your Unity And.....

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Well, I didn't keep count but I probably said "fuck you" at least 20 times during the course of Trump's speech to a joint session of Congress so that will probably give you a small clue about how it affected me

He modulated his voice somewhat more than he usually does. That's about the only difference I noticed between "presidential" Trump and not presidential Trump. His hateful policies are all the same. His details are as sketchy as ever. His pie in the sky promises still float over a rainbow of unreality. It seems that he equates being presidential with the inability to smile. If smiles were paid for in dollars, he'd be standing in a soup line.

We had to watch his speech punctuated by the fawning smiles and claps of the Bobblehead Twins behind him. Did they coordinate their wardrobes in advance do you suppose?

He's going to try for a new immigration ban that will pass muster with the courts, which means, the administration will have to be a little more careful about semantics....but the bottom line will not change. In fact, we are still causing pain for people who don't deserve it. A teacher who couldn't come to the United States with his students. A girl's soccer team. An elderly Australian children's book writer. Mohammed Ali's son and mother, for God's sake. What any of these people have to do with terrorism in America is absolutely zilch, zero, nada.

His own National Security Adviser tried to convince him to quit using the term "radical Muslim terrorists", saying it wasn't helpful in recruiting the Muslims who are our allies. But he couldn't resist. In fact, he placed special emphasis on those words Radical "Muslim Terrorists". You wonder how long the sane members of his cabinet will stick around when they are so disrespected. (McMaster doesn't even have Open Door privileges to come see Trump).

He still wants to build a wall and  round up millions of illegals....not just criminals, unless you count as the fact that just being here makes you a criminal, which they do. Your guess is as good as mine whether they getting hearings or simply being booted across the border (even non-Mexicans are being dumped in Mexico). You can practically feel the private prison companies salivating at the thought of all the big new prisons that will have to be built to detain them.

His new VOICE (Victims of Immigrant Crime Engagement) is absolutely ridiculous. Illegal immigrants commit fewer crimes than native Americans but I guess their victims are more worthy of attention than those black kids shot by police (the Justice Department informed us they'd no longer be monitoring police departments with histories of abuse, like Chicago) or victims of drunk white good old boys with guns.

Here are some of the things I remember about his planned spending: $20 billion for the Wall, $54 billion (just a down payment) for defense, a trillion for infrastructure, thousands of new border patrol agents, massive tax cuts across the board (although if you believe the rich and corporations won't get the lion's share, I have a bridge in Brooklyn for sale). Isn't it amazing how Republicans care so much about the deficit when Dems are in charge but max out the old credit card when the responsibility is on them?

We still don't know about Obamacare. Trump says he's going to give us something that includes more people, is cheaper while offering better coverage than the ACA. (Remember that bridge in Brooklyn?)

I can't help but smile a little when I read articles about how farmers are terrified that they won't have immigrant labor to help them pick their crops. Or poor white Appalachians who are deathly (yes, deathly, is the word) that they are going to lose their healthcare. These are all people who voted for Trump. Maybe they should have given that decision a little more thought.

I thought the wife of the Seal who died in Yemen was one of the saddest things I've ever seen. It started out all right but it went on and on, like a kind of torture. It looked to me like the poor woman was thinking, "oh, God, please, let this be over." I actually thought she might be going to faint.

And what did Mr Trump believe the spirit looking down on his grieving wife was thinking - "gee, wow, what an ovation!" No, Donald, that would be you that puts cheering crowds above everything else in your life.

We got a few little tips of the hat to unity. Yep, now that the Republicans have it all their own way, they think it would be great if we could just get over this petty divisiveness that has ruled the U.S. for the last 8 years.

Ain't gonna' happen. I despise everything Donald Trump stands for, everything he wants to do to my country to make it seem small and backward and cruel.

There will be no unity from me, Mr. Trump.




Monday, February 20, 2017

Not So Brave; Not So Free

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I'm ashamed of my president and ashamed of my country for electing him and the Republicans. I'm ashamed of how mean so many of us are in 2017. What gutless cowards we have become in our irrational fear of Muslims and Mexicans and anybody else that differs from us. 9/11 totally broke our spirit. We are not the country we used to be or the people we used to be. Our determination to help the world become a better place is all but gone. Our dedication to helping struggling people has all but disappeared.

We've become a nation that loves walls now. Common folks want a wall between the U.S. and Mexico ('cause don't you know, Latinos are taking all those lovely dishwashing and tomato picking jobs we are clamoring for). But can't you see, it's no different than the walls the rich put up around their gated communities to keep us out? We are no better than migrant workers to them.

If you cannot find as much compassion in your heart for the brutalized refugee children of Aleppo as you can for a fertilized egg, then I don't want to hear about how you revere the sanctity of life. If you would deny South American children fleeing the death and destruction in their homelands the opportunity for food and a safe place to sleep and medical care, then don't give me any bull about what a loving, motivated Christian you are. If you piss and moan about the amount of your taxes that go to food stamps and Medicaid but you're fine with Donald Trump spending a gazillion dollars a month flitting around in Air Force One, then you're a hypocrite in the first degree. (Remember how you complained about Obama's vacations. Trump has spent almost as much in a month as Obama spent in a year but I guess it doesn't seem so bad now, huh?)

My God is not your God. I'm not sure I even have a God but if there is a Creator, the one I envision does not divide his children up between black and white and brown and red. I think he would feel agony at seeing babies mute from fear and loss. I think he would feel even more agony at those of us who could help but choose not to.

Our president sits in his gilt-encrusted penthouse or his fabulous beach front resort consorting with the rich and power and issues orders that will rip people lives apart without, apparently, giving it a second thought.

He has a rally and tells his followers how happy he is to be among them - his people. But when the rally is over, does he eat with them or sleep with them? No, he flies back to Mar a Lago to the soft beds and fine foods and the uppercrust of our nation and they plot how to sell our national parks and refuse to raise the minimum wage and kill off the endangered Species Act and allow coal companies to once again dump their sludge into our rivers and streams and rescind the regulation that puts a ceiling on how much the banks charge us poor schlumps who sometimes overdraw our checking accounts and repeal the Transparency Law that mandates that corporations must report payments they get from foreign governments and cut school breakfast programs and food stamps. (Yeah, that'll show those lazy bums...most of whom work, incidentally, but don't make enough to support themselves).

We love that his cabinet has almost no experience with the agencies they are expected to oversee and in fact, most likely are hostile to those very organizations. The Education Secretary who hates public schools. The EPA Secretary who despises the EPA. The Health and Human Services Secretary who detests Medicare and Medicaid. The Energy Secretary who sits on the boards of Energy companies. The Labor Secretary who, until he withdrew his name, had nothing but contempt for workers.

So, tell me, Republicans, what about any of this do you find supportive of working people?

Or of any people, really, except those you used to call The Swamp - the Goldman Sachs honchos and the multi-million dollar donors and the lobbyists and the Putin apologists.

We have become people who'd rather believe lies than the truth, people who look down on the poor and adore the rich, people who believe being selfish and hateful will make America great again.




Sunday, February 12, 2017

Stolen Election - Illegitimate President

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I think our election was stolen, plain and simple. Stolen by Russia and the Trump campaign.

We have known for quite some time that Russia hacked our election to favor Donald Trump. We know that they fed "fake news" about Hillary to publications and programs such as the Enquirer and Info Wars and others. Stupid stuff like her failing health and the child sex ring she ran out of the basement of a D.C. pizza parlor. Stories so crazy that no one with a semi-rational mind would believe them...except Trump supporters did. We know that Russia passed on information to WikiLeaks, who then released it into the public...and that Donald Trump used this information frequently to criticize and excoriate Hillary. We know that high Russian officials toasted themselves and high-fived each other at the news that Trump had won. We know that Mike Flynn (now Trump's national security adviser), Paul Manafort (former campaign director) and Roger Stone (casual adviser and long-time Clinton hater) all had close ties to the Russian government.

All these things have been known.

But we have more recently learned that there was way more to it than that. After we put sanctions on Russia for their hacking, we expected paybacks because that's always the way it is with Russia. But nothing happened. Putin, that ever-laid back dictator, said no big deal and invited American children in Russia to attend a Christmas party at the Kremlin. Wasn't that sweet?

As you might imagine, this made our own government go hmmm. Why the turnabout from Russia's usual modus operandi when they feel they've been disrespected? Our intelligence services began an investigation.

Now both the Washington Post and New York Times have reported (with deep sourcing from multiple national security officials who've read the transcripts) that General Flynn had been in contact with the Russian government and essentially told them to let the sanctions go because it would all get fixed after Donald Trump was sworn in.

Now mind you, this was before Trump was president - a private citizen, Michael Flynn, consorted with a foreign power to undermine our own government's foreign policy decisions. I'm not a lawyer but if this isn't against the law, it should be. In fact, it seems close to treason to me.

The Post and Times further reported that this wasn't the beginning of a new, wonderful relationship between the Trump administration and Putin but rather, it was on-going and had been since the campaign. Well, of course. Who is surprised about that? Trump sometimes got the WikiLeaks information before anyone else. It has always struck me as a joint effort.

But Flynn denied, denied, denied. He'd only called Russia to wish them Merry Christmas and extended sympathy for a downed plane.

And Reince Preibus, Mike Pence and Sean Spicer all swore to the truthfulness of Flynn's statements. Now that we know they weren't true, we have to decide whether Flynn lied to them or they lied to us. Which do you think it is? Faced with so much evidence from people who've actually read the transcripts, Flynn now allows to how, maybe he just forgot.

Lastly, there is the matter of the dossier compiled by a former British M-16 agent. Some of it has now been verified. Not the slimy stuff about ugly sex acts but the more serious part. The accusation that the Trump administration worked in concert with a foreign government, one of our main enemies, to sabotage our election to get the Russian's pet politician placed in the White House.

Now the question is: what do we do about it. This is the kind of story a top novelist might write. A movie could be made out of it. America's election stolen by Russia. Do we just let it pass and pretend it didn't happen.

My guess is that is exactly what we will do. We'll make the calculation that the harm done to our democracy if we flat out admit we were snookered by the Russians would just be too great to accept. We'll decide that the chaos and uproar, hell, maybe revolution, caused by the Trump true believers would be intolerable.

And so, we'll go along with our illegitimate president.






Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Bottom-Feeders Are Us

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I've always lived the life of a bottom-feeder. Oh, maybe, not the very bottom-est. I never had to sleep under a bridge or visit a soup kitchen. In fact, I've never been on any kind of assistance but that was because I was lucky about having parents who were both able and willing to help.

I guess what I mean about being a bottom-feeder, is that life for us is always insecure. We can go along okay for a while but it only takes a small catastrophe to plunge us into disaster. An unexpected lay-off is almost life or death, or at least eviction or repossession. It takes us three or four months to bounce back financially after the auto insurance premium is paid. Our heart sinks when we need to buy a new tire (bottom-feeders usually buy their tires one at a time)

We're are at the low end of the trickle-down scale of economics. After the fat cats get their fat chunk and the medium cats get their medium chunk, we are down here here waiting for the crumbs that sometimes drift our way (or not).

If you've never lived our lives, you have no idea how much the deck is stacked against us by society and the powers that be.

At one time or another, as a single Mom, I experienced most of the humiliations of being a bottom feeder. I've bought cars from "buy here-pay here" places, knowing I was probably purchasing a piece of previously wrecked junk that would be lucky to last much beyond the 30 day warranty. And knowing, I'd probably still have to pay because the car dealers have lawyers write up those contracts so the sellers have every advantage. I've known people who had their wages garnished or had their taxes attached paying on cars that blew up long ago, but what choice do they have? You have to have a vehicle to work. (The owners of cheap apartment complexes are notorious for this as well). And you know, if they take you to court, they can pile on a whole bunch of interest and penalties for "defaulting".

I've written bad checks in my younger years. Yep, I knew it was going to cost me a stiff overdraft fee but I had to balance that with letting the electricity get shut off and the even stiffer re-connect fee they'd charge. Overdraft fees have continued to go up and up (and so have re-connect fees). I think it is about $35 to bounce a check today. I have over-draft protection now that I don't need it. You still have to pay through the nose if you overdraw. The only difference is that they don't send out those letters that made you feel ashamed and worthless (even though you knew you'd probably be doing it again because.....life).

Because, yeah, I know what it's like to have this or that utility turned off. Once my gas was disconnected when my son was a baby. My Dad happened to come in to see John and I dressed in snowsuits. He was furious and immediately went and paid my bill and said to never let it happen again. I knew I could go to him or Mom but I just hated to look like such a loser.

Of course, there are late fees for every kind of bill - utilities and house payments and car loans and credit cards. The more you struggle to pay, the more they charge you...and if you're habitually late (even if you pay every month), they'll probably raise your interest rate and you'll pay through the nose even more.  Because, you know, you have to be punished for being a dead beat and you'll never get ahead of the system.

Did you know that if you let your car insurance expire, even for a short while, then go in to have it re-instated, you'll have to carry expensive high risk insurance until you prove you're a solid citizen again?

Did you know that if you owe the I.R.S. $10,000 or more, they'll make a deal with you but if you owe under $10,000, you have to pay back every penny? Why is that, do you suppose? I knew a man once who owned a restaurant and got behind on his taxes. He hired a tax attorney and settled for 10 cents on the dollar. He paid $8,000 on an $80,000 debt. When I got in trouble with the Department of Revenue, I owed $7,000. They put a lien on my house and my in-law's house (because we'd given them an acre in a life estate). I sold the house to get out from under that debt.

A few months later, they returned $700. They said I'd paid too much. I called them to ask if they were sure and they said yes. Several weeks later, they informed me that unfortunately, I did  owe that $700 after all - plus penalties and interest. They told me I could appeal the ruling. I lost. I was furious and told them if they wanted that money to steal it like the thieves they were. Within 48 hours, they'd sent a wage garnishment to my job.

It is easy to get discouraged when you're a bottom-feeder because it seems as if the people who make the rules have a boot on your neck and the more you struggle to crawl out of the hole you're in, the harder they press.

So, honestly, I can see the appeal Donald Trump had for some of the kind of people I'm talking about. He called them forgotten. He told them he was on their side and he was going to help.

I think they were conned by a charlatan. I think he enjoys pressing his boot on people's necks even as he pretends to care. Not one thing he's done so far will help the bottom-feeders, in fact, their lives will be worse.

But I do understand why they want to hope.









Friday, February 3, 2017

A Merger of State and Corporate Power

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Every morning when I wake up since the election, one of my first thoughts is: "oh, my God, we put Donald Trump in the White House". This thought is immediately followed by a sick feeling in my stomach.  

I've heard so many talking heads try to analyze Trump's strategy for governance when it comes to foreign policy but I have yet to divine any method to his madness. To me, it seems that he simply shoots from the hip with no forethought and very little advice from experts. He fights with Mexico and Australia (Australia! Seriously!). He meets with Therese May, then undermines her as soon as she's out of his sight. He threatens Iran and China. His foreign policy appears to be all over the map. I can't make heads or tails of the overarching theme of it and people a lot smarter than me don't seem to be able to either.

In fact, in my view, Trump isn't especially interested in foreign policy except for building his reputation as a tough guy. He doesn't appear patient enough to do his due diligence regarding his Presidential Daily Briefs. From what I've read, he didn't have a top level meeting regarding the disastrous Yemeni attack. Instead, he and a few of his top level honchos discussed it over dinner. He signed off on it and then didn't bother coming to the Situation Room to see how it turned out. I believe he leaves it to his advisers, then signs whatever is put in front of him.

Because he really isn't that interested. His real agenda, his passion, revolves around business and money. That's where his heart and his mind are. He is all about giving business everything it wants and getting handsomely rewarded in return. (We won't know the extent of that since he's never released his taxes).  Luckily, that dovetails perfectly with what the Republicans have always wanted as well. How can business pay less and rake in more?

Look at his cabinet nominees. His pick for Education Secretary, billionaire, is all about removing funding from the public schools and sending it to for-profit schools. His nominee for Labor Secretary, billionaire, looks for ways to take pay and benefits from workers. He's been sued several times for cheating his own employees. Ideally, they could replaced with automation. Human beings can be so irritating and demanding, don't you know?  His choice for Health and Human Services wants to repeal Obamacare and privatize Medicare and Medicaid. His HUD selection believes poor people should pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. He has six ex-Goldman Sachs executives (millionaires and billionaires) in his cabinet. You remember Goldman Sachs, right? That's the bank he excoriated Hillary Clinton for even speaking to. Back then he called them a "global cabal". 

That's only part of them but do you see a pattern here? His administration is all about business. I think some of the crazy foreign policy stuff (the wall, immigration) is simply a distraction from his real goal, which is to make his cronies and himself pots of money while he's president.

How ironic is it that so much of the working class came to see this charlatan as their savior?

One of his very first Executive Orders was one to allow the Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota pipeline to go forward. Oh, well, Native Americans are used to getting shafted, they'll probably take it in stride. When he had a come to Jesus meeting with the biggest CEOs in the country, it was mainly about Donald promising to give them big league tax relief and even bigger league reduction of regulations. He recently had a get-together with Big Pharma. He was going to go in there and by God, get the costs of medicines reduced. Instead, again, he promised to lower their taxes and lessen their regulations. 

And meanwhile the Republicans are busily working on the other end to reach the same end point. They've written legislation that will gut Dodd-Frank and once again, allow the big banks to work their will even if it risks our economy. They removed the rules for transparency that used to guide Big Oil. They gleefully talk about turning our parks, rivers and mountains over to the miners, the drillers and the frackers. What's an earthquake....or 50....a day? Of course, they are still working on a way to repeal Obamacare and leave millions without healthcare. 

So this is what I think Trump is really all about...and the Republicans too - a merger of state and corporate power, which is what Mussolini called fascism.

We have sold our country down the river.