Monthly Archives: March 2017

The Trump Administration’s Dr. Evil

Omar Abdel-Rahman, the infamous “Blind Sheikh” and mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing who died earlier this year, issued a Fatwa in 1981 calling for the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.  Later that year, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad carried out his wishes and killed Sadat.  Ronald Reagan was only months into his presidency and decided not to attend the funeral, instead asking three former Presidents to represent the United States on his behalf.  All three were present at a reception before departing for the funeral in Cairo.  So was Senator Robert Dole.  During the reception Dole looked over at the former Presidents, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, and Richard Nixon and deadpanned:   “There they are.  See no evil, hear no evil and … evil.”

Robert Dole has a brilliantly mordant sense of humor, and his quote from 1981 may never be rivaled for its sharpness, accuracy, and hilarity.  It’s unique in using the loaded term “evil” to describe an American politician without triggering a listener’s gag reflex.  Evil is a four letter word in politics and rarely necessary.  It’s acceptable to call the opposition misguided, misinformed, and misdirected, but usually not evil.  Years ago a Pima County Supervisor characterized a fellow Board Member as evil and I tensed up when he said it.  I was acquainted with both Supervisors and neither one was evil.  I was disappointed in the speaker and felt sorry for the target.  Calling her evil was just plain wrong.

Definitions of the word “evil” include harmful and causing harm.  Since political actors do cause harm, sometimes deliberately, the four-letter “e” word is occasionally appropriate.  Congressman Ted Lieu used it recently, calling President Trump evil after Trump said he was willing to passively watch the Affordable Care Act collapse.  The demise of a health system would logically result in avoidable disease and death, and Lieu assumes Trump knows that and doesn’t care.  He may be right, but Trump relentlessly acts like a buffoon and, while buffoonery is not a perfect inoculation against evil, it clouds the analysis.  Lieu also told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell that Presidential Adviser Steve Bannon is evil.  Bannon, who reportedly described himself as a Leninist who wants to destroy the administrative state, may fit the bill — but a guy who believes you can run an administration without administrators is too bone-headed to match the description.  Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt satisfy the definition for some and there is a case to be made.  However, both gentlemen are consistently acting on principles they have long advocated.  Their principles are misguided and horribly damaging to life on this planet, but are they evil?  Maybe.

There’s no “maybe” about Mick Mulvaney, the blue-eyed devil Trump selected to direct the Office of Management and Budget. 


Twilight of the Tradesman

The most tragic and sympathetic victims of the United States’ deficient Medical-Political complex might be the American blue-collar workers.  We silently honor them every day, simply by going about our daily life activities.  We awaken from sleep on a mattress assembled by American factory workers and shipped to us by truck drivers or railroad personnel.  We reach up for a light switch installed by a tradesman and turn on a light attached to wires and components installed by an electrician.  We walk to the restroom over a floor poured by concrete workers and likely covered by materials installed by carpet layers or tilers.  The restroom is attached to a network of pipes carefully laid by plumbers after being manufactured in factories and shipped by truckers or railroad workers.  We enjoy clean water thanks to plumbers, water plant workers and chemists and dispose of our waste into a vast network of pipes and wastewater facilities built by tradesmen and maintained by plant operators, chemists, pipe-fitters, welders, plumbers, equipment operators and drivers.  We steer vehicles built by auto workers over roads dug, shaped, and paved by highway contractors that are lined by curbs formed by concrete workers and painted and maintained by road crews.  Every path we tread, every building we enter, every life activity we take for granted is the product of somebody else’s sweat, busted knuckles, pulled muscles and weary body.  They are the sinew of the populace.

Most of the men and women who work in the blue-collar trades don’t have college degrees, although some may have attended a trade school or taken part in employer or union sponsored vocational training.  Some attend junior college.  Many did passably well in high school and some of them participated in sports.  Some served in the military.  Most married, had kids, settled down and tried to earn enough to buy a decent house and car or two, maybe put something away for their retirement.  Some go to church, some don’t; some drink and/or smoke, some don’t; some cheat on their spouses and some don’t.  Most try to be good parents and most succeed to some degree.  Nearly all want their kids to do better, maybe even obtain that college degree that was not in their own life plan.  And, it seems, nearly every blue collar worker entered into the trades feeling young and invincible and expecting to stay that way.



Like The Birdies Sing

In 1932, songwriters Sydney Edmund Tolchard Evans, Stanley Damerell, Robert Hargreaves, and Harry Tilsley wrote a silly little ditty that became a hit at the time and has endured in American culture. The song, “Let’s All Sing like the Birdies Sing,” is familiar to anybody who has visited Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room – and possibly found it an annoying earworm for hours after the visit. The lyrics start this way:

Let’s all sing like the birdies sing,
Tweet, tweet tweet, tweet tweet.

In 2017 that song should replace “Hail to the Chief” as the Presidential Anthem. Our new President, who bears a disturbing resemblance to a giant canary, has been tweet, tweet tweet, tweet tweeting his way through his presidency, usually from the bowels of pre-dawn sleeplessness. While that might not be a good way to govern – it isn’t – or an effective way to communicate – it isn’t –tweeting is his favorite mode of expression.

The President may be the most famous American canary since Tweety, an iconic presence in Warner Brothers Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons. The little yellow fellow starred in 47 of them and adults and kids alike could recite his signature line: “I tawt I taw a putty tat. I did! I did!” For some reason Warner Brothers and Mel Blanc thought it endearing to inflict Tweety with a speech impediment, so what he was actually saying was: “I thought I saw a pussy cat. I did! I did!”

What is it about canaries and pussies? Consider and compare the two most famous American canaries:

Tweety Bird: “I thought I saw a pussy cat. I did! I did!”
Tweety Trump: “I thought I’d grab a pussy. I did! I did!”