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Barack Obama, Stephen Curry, Chance The Rapper – “I am my Brother’s Keeper” – Video

Former President, Barack Obama joined NBA Great Stephen Curry, Chance The Rapper and MBK Alliance to create this new video – “I am my Brother’s Keeper.”

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Are You Better Off Now Than You Were Forty Years Ago?

I keep coming back to something that Rutgers University Professor W. Carey McWilliams said once at a meeting I attended at the Eagleton Institute of Politics in the 1980s. He quoted Ronald Reagan’s famous campaign line from 1980 and 1984: “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” Of course, in 1980, after Jimmy Cater’s term, the answer was supposed to be no, and in 1984, after four years of Reagan’s supply-side trickle down policies, the answer was supposed to be yes. But McWilliams had a different interpretation of what Reagan was doing, and he was not happy about it.

Said McWilliams, “Reagan has boiled down more than two hundred years of constitutional government to a question that appeals only to the citizen’s craven self-interest. It is as far from democracy as one can get.”

Exactly.

Forty years later, we are living the ultimate manifestation of Reagan’s transactional politics and for most people, we are decidedly not better off than we were in 1980. Despite repeated tax cuts, the wealthy are doing just fine while the middle and lower classes have fallen farther behind with every passing decade. Buying power has declined, and it’s now absolutely necessary for everyone in a family to work in order to pay for monthly living expenses and to save for big ticket items such as cars, appliances and college educations. Many Americans love the myth that women should stay home and take care of the children, but the reality is very different. Economically, despite the explosion of wealth tied to technology and the rising stock market, it’s difficult to make the case that the people, however we define that, are better off than they were when the conservatives took power.

In addition, the social policies of the party that supposedly supports family values have not led to stronger families, in large part because the religious conservative’s definition of the family is rooted in a gone-forever past. Regressive policies regarding women’s health, family planning and welfare programs have resulted in more families living on the margins, and the prospects are that 2018 could see major cuts in social programs in order to pay for the trillion dollar tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. The fight to reverse gay marriage and abortion rights is one-conservative-to-replace-Anthony-Kennedy-away from reality. The right of religious people to use their beliefs to discriminate could be ratified by the Supreme Court this June.

The same is true regarding foreign policy. The West’s victory in the Cold War was supposed to usher in a period of peace and prosperity led by liberal democratic values and the respect for human rights. We’ve seen glimpses of this, but since the September 11 attacks, we’ve been involved in unnecessary and unwinnable wars against foes who don’t play by World War II rules. We’ve spent trillions trying to fight or buy off countries that will never be true allies, such as Pakistan and Afghanistan, and we’ve seen a resurgence of Chinese and Russian nationalism and power rise to the point that we are now in a second Cold War being fought over economic issues rather than ideological ones. North Korea reminds us that we always one step away from disaster.

Both parties can take blame for these developments. The difference now is that we have a regime in the White House that doesn’t understand that American power is tied to its moral commitments, not just to whether a country has paid its bills. Republicans since Reagan have tried to question and undermine the role the United Nations should play in the world, and I have no doubt they would pull us out if the right scenario presented itself. The Trump Administration is fine with right-wing strong men (and it always seems to be men), and has said nothing about dictatorial actions in the Philippines and Myanmar, where a Rohingya genocide is unfolding right before the world’s Ray-Ban’d eyes.

Of course, there have been victories, and anyone who was over the age of 12 in 1970 can tell you that, this past year notwithstanding, the country does feel better about itself. Crime is down. Most of our major metropolitan areas have thriving cultural lives. Music, television and movies are far better than that of the late 1970s to the early 1990s. Inflation tamed, for now. Disco is dead.

I am of the humble opinion that we are at the end of the conservative movement and soon will be entering a period where the political pendulum will begin swinging back to the left. Perhaps the congressional elections will be the beginning of this trend. Will conservatives still win elections and continue to influence policies? Of course. And president Trump will continue to remind the majority that opposes him that his view of how this country ought to operate is an outlier, the same way that many moderates saw the counterculture of the 1960s as an outlier.

But the excesses of the conservative movement will begin to receded. The unending focus on money and competition and winning will give way to a more tempered view of what’s important in life and  our place in the world. Taxes on the wealthy will go up. We will be less divided.

Am I an optimist? You bet. Am I confident about the future of our country? Yes indeed. Will the short-term be a trying, difficult, maddening, stressful period? Afraid so.

Another year dawns. See the best. Be the best. Do your best.

Happy New Year.

For more, go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives or Twitter @rigrundfest

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Trump Lies Again about Legislative Accomplishments

The year is coming to a close, so the most inconsequential president in recent history is taking time away from his golfing to sell his many shortcomings as accomplishments. And while his Republican audience gobbles up his lies and truths, real Americans are once again, shaking their heads at yet another lie

This time, the lie is about his legislative progress. Trump calls it “a record!”

While meeting with Firefighters today, Trump was forced to praise himself due to a lack of congressional Republicans on hand to do the job.

“We got a lot of legislation passed,” Trump said Wednesday, according to a pool report. “But I believe—and you would have to ask those folks who will know the real answer—we have more legislation passed, including the record was Harry Truman a long time ago. And we broke that record, so we got a lot done.” In actuality, Trump has signed 96 bills, the fewest of any president since before Truman. Trump may have been referencing a similar claim his then-press secretary Sean Spicer made in April, when Trump had signed 28 bills, slightly more than other modern presidents had signed at that point in their terms, but considerably less than predecessors like Truman and Roosevelt.

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Trump’s Immigration Policy Based on Ignorance and Hate

I was actually looking for an uplifting article to post close to the holiday that might provide some confidence and hope. Then I came upon this posting that discussed the president’s thinking on immigration policy and how he reacted to court rulings that postponed the travel restrictions and immigration bans he tried to implement this year.
Appalling doesn’t really do justice to my reaction. According to six officials who were in the room with him, the president read a document that listed how many immigrants had received visas in 2017. Some of his responses:

More than 2,500 were from Afghanistan, a terrorist haven, the president complained.

Haiti had sent 15,000 people. They “all have AIDS,” he grumbled, according to one person who attended the meeting and another person who was briefed about it by a different person who was there.

Forty thousand had come from Nigeria, Mr. Trump added. Once they had seen the United States, they would never “go back to their huts” in Africa, recalled the two officials, who asked for anonymity to discuss a sensitive conversation in the Oval Office.

Terrorists. AIDS victims. Hut dwellers.

This is the President of the United States deciding policy.

His thought process? Bigoted. Uninformed. Under-educated. Judgmental. Ignorant.

What’s worse is that he is dragging down the reputation of the United States with him.

It’s clear that the president is not just protecting the United States from predatory foreign companies or workers who come here and take jobs that American citizens want. He believes, according to the article, that immigration is bad for the country and that foreign ideas are inferior to American ones. His nationalism is small because it rests on the incorrect assumption that our culture is superior to all others.

It’s president Archie Bunker at your service.

I suppose the good news is that much of the rest of the world ignores this nativist babble for the racism that it is, and that an interconnected, sharing world is a safer one both economically and militarily. Even allowing Internet service providers the ability to block, throttle or slow down sites will not stop people from blurring borders and searching for the best price, the highest wage, and people they can work with. A minority of voters in the United sates voted for fear, suspicion and moral relativity. I am optimistic that the majority sees through his blather and negativity.

And with that, I wish you a happy holiday, a Happy New Year and all of the other happiness that all humans so richly deserve.

For more, go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives or Twitter @rigrundfest

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Donald Trump Will Gain “Immensely” From Tax Overhaul

In addition to the praise and worship Republican lawmakers lauded on Donald Trump yesterday after passing the tax law – his first legislative win by the way, Donald Trump and his family will also draw huge benefits when the law goes into effect in 2018.

The Washington Post reports that Trump, who said he would be a “big loser” if the bill passed, stands to gain immensely from the Republican tax overhaul, including through a lower top tax rate and lucrative deductions for top-earning households, according to attorneys and tax experts who reviewed the final bill.

Trump could also take advantage of benefits that will lift specific business sectors, including a last-minute tax deduction that helps many owners of high-value commercial real estate, the industry where he first made his fortune.

The tax plan’s transformation into law crystallizes the contrast between Trump’s populist rhetoric and the private fortune he made by marketing condos, hotels and golf resorts to a wealthy clientele.

The Republicans’ first legislative triumph of 2017 will ensure a financial windfall for the president and his family in a way that is virtually unprecedented in American political history, experts said.

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Define Your Own Reality: The New Seven Dirty Words

What began earlier this year as an assault on climate science continues this week with a directive by the Trump Administration to ban seven words, which clearly rankle conservatives even more than George Carlin’s famously dirty seven words. From the Centers for Disease Control website as reported in this article in the Washington Post,

Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden words at a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget, according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing. The forbidden words are “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”

The charitable explanation for this change would be that Betsy DeVos called the president and said that these words were too big for her to understand and could the president please change them to more monosyllabic terms.

The reality, though, is far scarier. This is not a change on the order of Ronald Reagan saying that ketchup and mustard should be classified as vegetables for school lunch programs. This is censorship and doublespeak. As for what should replace these terms?

In some instances, the analysts were given alternative phrases. Instead of “science-based” or ­“evidence-based,” the suggested phrase is “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes,” the person said. In other cases, no replacement words were immediately offered.

Which means that every community in America can define its own reality. Your community doesn’t like climate change? Then it doesn’t exist. You oppose diversity? Why, feel free to discriminate. Or marginalize transgender citizens. Want to write a curriculum for your school district? No need to make it either evidence or science-based.

Can you say America Last in education and First in dirty air?

For all of their talk about allowing the invisible hand of the market a free reign, the Republicans certainly are afraid that Americans might make decisions based on science or any other information available to them. Fortunately, most Americans do not approve of the president or his policies, including this massive tax cut for the wealthy. And most Alabamans saw through the ridiculous argument that the state needed a fanatical pedophile to represent it rather than a former prosecutor who has worked tirelessly for all state residents.

The first casualty in any war, be it with weapons or policy, is language. The GOP is trying to redefine the basic elements of democracy and knowledge with a president who speaks on a fifth grade level.

Let’s define a new reality for them next November.

 For more, go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives or Twitter @rigrundfest
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Do Not Let Us Fall Into Temptation

Usually I skip over stories that have to do with the Pope, but I’ve been reading more of them since Francis took the rather large yarmulke a few years ago because he seems to get the part about treating people like humans. He still has work to do with women and the Rohingya, but his proposed new change to the Lord’s Prayer (which I have as a 45 rock version from 1973) comes at a most perfect time.

Temptation seems to be all the rage these days and I have to agree with Francis that the problem is not with a deity leading us there, but with us as functioning people resisting the lure. And we do have problems with that.

From national and state politicians, media moguls, entertainers, business executives and, yes, the President of the United States, men have been tempted to use their power and influence to harass, rape, threaten, bully and terrorize both women and men for…what? Sex? Influence? Power? Babies? There’s a pathology here because rolling the dice and hoping you don’t get caught must be part of the demonic thrill involved in the chase. And sometimes, even an apology does not substitute for tears.

But there are other temptations that are weakening us too. The Republican Party, tempted by power, is shutting out any reasonable attempt at bipartisanship on health care and taxes, and I imagine that they’ll extend their terrible ideas to infrastructure, government spending and immigration.

The Democratic Party is similarly tempted by the thought of overreaching in their opposition to the president by becoming, at times, irrational baying wolves, calling for impeachment or overturning the election results. Neither of these will lead to the path to power, nor do I believe that they will become a force that compromises or ends the partisan war being fought throughout this country.

For all of this, I am not a religious person, but occasionally religious leaders do tap into the zeitgeist, intentionally or not. We could all use a little humility, and if it won’t come from the president or his inner circle of sycophants, then it must come from us because only the American people can put an end to a tolerance of lies, misdeeds and obstinate behavior.

For more, go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives or Twitter @rigrundfest

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