Our Democracy in Peril from Trumpworld

Since Donald Trump ran for the presidency, we have encountered new norms:  name calling of people and institutions, a president who won’t release his tax returns, insults to foreign leaders, lying, coming into office under investigation, travel bans, executive orders, controversial cabinet appointments and dismantling our democracy. Trump’s first 100 plus days in office have been mind blowing.  Daily press reports show a presidency in turmoil.  We the public are left in shock and amazement.  The most troubling of his actions involve his abuses of power, which could include possible colluding with Russia in influencing our 2016 presidential election.  Let’s take a look at his recent firing of James Comey, former FBI Director.  In addition to these actions, the Republican Party has been basically mum on the troubling issues swirling around Donald Trump.

Donald Trump seems to have problems accepting how our government operates and the separation of powers.  He fired James Comey at the time that Comey wanted to expand the investigation of Trump’s campaign ties to Russia by increasing the budget.  Trump also asked Comey to shut down the investigation into Mike Flynn, which is an offshoot of the investigation in question.  From these actions, the activities being investigated have broadened to possible obstruction of justice.  This is where, I think, our Constitution is weak and needs to be shored up.  The founding fathers did not foresee our present day situation with the Trump presidency. What Trump did is perfectly legal, but the creators of the Constitution did not see the president being the boss of the person investigating the president’s own wrongdoing.  Donald Trump should not have been the boss of James Comey.

I feel an amendment should be made to the Constitution creating an elected special prosecutor who would handle criminal matters involving the president.  As I said before, the president should not be allowed to fire the FBI Director, who is investigating wrongdoing by the president and/or his staff. The president should not be allowed to influence investigations of his branch of government involving high crimes and misdemeanors, and that which is criminal in nature, which he may have done. There should be a separate office to handle this.  The current majority party in the Congress is Republican. This politically partisan climate seems to have helped to impede the progress of the investigations in both houses of Congress, which could ultimately lead to impeachment.  The will to take such actions against the president may not be palatable to Republicans now that they hold a majority in Congress and the White House.  So, we, the public, can’t count on them to take appropriate action to hold the president and members of his staff accountable for their improper and maybe illegal actions.  They have failed to do so up to this point.  We should, therefore amend the Constitution accordingly, to make sure that if Congress does not do its job, an elected special prosecutor will.

If something is not done now to correct this weak part of the Constitution, our democracy could fail to exist.  Now, we can only rely on our elected officials to do the right thing.  That’s not enough.  We have three co-equal branches of government: legislative, judicial and the executive.  Overreach of the executive branch of government has happened twice in the past 45 years, by Richard Nixon and now perhaps Donald Trump.  We won’t know the extent of Donald Trump’s effect on the democracy until the investigations are finished. The other two branches of government are made up of more than 400 people and their power is shared. They are elected locally and are not as well known to our populace as the president is and can’t act singly to affect the laws or the course of the nation as the president can.  We just assume that the person who is elected president will perform the duties of the presidency as those before him/her.  Donald Trump has not.  The people of this nation must be protected from a president who would do harm to our system of government—which is  now a democracy.

Donald Trump has an overbearing personality.  He is very rich.  He pretty much bullied his way into the presidency.  We don’t know how rich he is because he won’t release his tax returns.  With his tax returns we could see to whom he has financial ties and to whom he owes money.   He is running the presidency like his business, by answering to no one.  With the investigations of his 2016 campaign ties to Russia and the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s emails, he and his White House staff will be compelled to answer for their actions.  The talk is now that they should all lawyer up and some of his staff has done so including the president.  It is getting serious.  I wonder, though, about his intent for the direction of this country in the future.  Does he have a plan to change our nation going forward?  Is he satisfied with our country’s Constitution and its system of checks and balances?  Does he want to forge close ties to Russia, an adversarial nation, and Vladimir Putin?  Does he wish to change our democracy into a monarchy or a dictatorship?  Are his family members being installed in influential positions to carry on his line of succession when he can no longer carry out his duties?

All of these questions need to be answered, although Donald Trump seems to be answerable to no one.  I hope that we don’t wait so long that there is nothing that we can do to preserve our democracy.  What happens if Trump fires the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller who has basically replaced James Comey?  Will the investigations end?  He is well within his rights to fire him, as the head of the Executive Branch of government.  However, if an amendment to the Constitution is created, the president could not fire this person.  This weak part of the Constitution needs to be addressed by creating an elected position to protect us from a Congress that will not act and from a president who has run amok. We need assurance that this situation will never occur again.  Let’s examine how we got here.

We have a Congress that is controlled by the Republicans.  The president is Republican.  The Republicans are in no mood to hold the president accountable for his actions for fear of angering him. We know what happens when someone angers Donald Trump.  Doing so could also jeopardize their agenda of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (Obama care) and passing a budget that benefits the wealthy and hurts the middle class and the poor. The president will not veto the bills that they pass.  So, it’s in their best interest to keep Trump in office. The only elected Republicans who have expressed dissatisfaction with Donald Trump are Lindsey Graham and John McCain.  Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House, has a much improved relationship with the president since he was elected to office.  He sees a way of getting his Republican agenda passed.  He will and has done nothing to rock the boat.  Paul Ryan has neither uttered a word of displeasure with Trump’s actions since he has taken office nor made any comment on the three investigations or Comey’s firing.

The president’s campaign is under investigation for its ties to Russia.  Former FBI Director James Comey was in charge of the criminal aspect of this investigation.  He was fired by President Trump when reports surfaced that Comey was expanding his investigation of the Trump campaign and Russia. It has been reported that President Trump asked Comey to shut down the investigation into Mike Flynn, who has been paid as a foreign agent to Turkey and has direct ties to Vladimir Putin.  Mike Flynn was hired by Donald Trump as the National Security Advisor in Trump’s cabinet even though he had these ties to Russia.  So Trump fired Comey when Comey did not pledge his loyalty to the president, instead Comey pledged his honesty.  That gives Comey instant credibility in my estimation.  This is dubious behavior on the part of the president if he does not have anything to hide.  The Acting Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, appointed Robert Mueller as a Special Counsel to continue the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign.  The president can still fire Robert Mueller since he is the head of the Executive branch of government.  That is unacceptable and why we need to have that position beyond the president’s official capacity.  We need this position to be beyond reproach and non-partisan by having the person elected by the people of the United States.  An amendment to the Constitution will accomplish this and should set up the parameters under which the Congress could use it to invoke an investigation of the president.

We need to have the assurance that our democracy will not be subject to dissolution when threatened from agents within or are foreign to our country who have nefarious intent and would demolish what it took us 241 years to achieve.  A confluence of events has occurred to cause this situation.  The Congress has a majority of Republicans.  Our President is Republican.  Since both houses of Congress are Republican, they are resisting any notion of holding President Trump responsible for the actions that he, his campaign staff, and White House staff have committed.  We have witnessed Devin Nunes try to affect the investigation in the House by reporting back to the White House about information  supposedly helping the President when Trump charged that President Obama had Trump Tower wiretapped, which was found to be untrue.  Nunes was heading the House investigation of the Trump campaign ties to Russia.  He cancelled the testimony of Sally Yates when she was to testify before the House Intelligence Committee, which was to be publicly televised.  She would testify, but only after a long delay. I must mention that there is also a Senate investigation.

If it is found that our president colluded with Russia in influencing our 2016 election and was involved in the subsequent investigation including obstruction of justice, he could be impeached by the Congress.  If there are criminal charges, he and others targeted would be subject to prosecution. Impeachment can only occur in the Congress.  How likely is that to happen with the majority of both houses Republican?  Now, the Republicans must not close their eyes to the actions of the president.  It is their patriotic duty to do the right thing.  They were elected to defend and protect the Constitution, not President Trump.  However, can we be sure that they will do the right thing?  No we can’t.

Trump has installed a cast of characters who has ties to Russia.  There was Michael Flynn, who was appointed as the National Security Advisor in January.  Sally Yates, Acting Attorney General, informed the White House that Flynn was a security risk because he could be blackmailed by Russia. The White House did not fire Flynn for 18 days, until it was reported by the news media and the excuse was made that Flynn lied to Vice President Pence.  Instead of firing Flynn immediately, Yates was fired.  To this day, Trump has expressed his support for Flynn.  Mike Flynn has offered to tell his story in exchange for immunity from prosecution.  It has been reported that the Congress will not grant him immunity, because it is too early in the investigation and they can’t give immunity from criminal prosecution.

Other ties to Russia in his cabinet appointments, campaign staff and White House staff include Jeff Sessions, Attorney General who had to recuse himself from the criminal investigation into the Trump ties to Russia probe, Paul Manafort , Trump’s  2016 campaign chairman who took money from a Russian oligarch to help advance a pro- Putin campaign in the U.S, Wilbur Ross ,Trump’s Commerce Secretary has ties to Russia through the Cyprus Bank( a bank that is used to launder Russian money)  and a Russian oligarch, Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, who has met with Russian officials and did not disclose those meetings on a required secret service clearance  form, Betsy DeVos, Education Secretary, whose brother, Eric Prince worked with the United Arab Emirates to make a backchannel to team Trump & Russia, Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State, who was given the order of Friendship in Russia by Vladimir Putin,  not to mention Carter Page, campaign advisor on foreign affairs and Roger Stone who is currently a suspect in the FBI investigation of the Russia probe.

Since Trump has been elected president, he has maligned the press (he calls them dishonest), our intelligence agencies (he did not accept the intelligence collected by the 17 agencies including the FBI and the CIA about Russia hacking the DNC emails), he has not staffed certain positions in the Secretary of State’s Office, he called Judge James Robart a so-called judge when he ruled against Trump’s travel ban, Trump has appointed people to Cabinet positions whose ideology conflicts with the mission of the agency that they lead, such as, Scott Pruitt, head of the EPA and Betsy De Vos, Secretary of Education.  In addition to these troubling appointments, Trump’s budget will cut social programs and increase the defense budget.  His budget will decrease by $800B from Medicaid which will throw 24M people off their healthcare or Obama care over the next 8 or so years.  These funds will be used to give wealthier Americans tax cuts.  I have not reviewed the budget, but it is said to result in a deficit—expenses exceeding revenue.  This kind of spending can be compared to a family whose income is $50K a year and spending 75K a year.  Over time it will catch up to them and some kind of drastic action will have to be taken, such as maybe, bankruptcy or losing the family home.

That is the state of affairs in our country now.  Firstly, I think we need to have a 28th amendment to the Constitution because we have aweak part of the Constitution that needs to be addressed before we find ourselves in an untenable position from which there is no return.  If the founding fathers had envisioned this predicament; it would have been included in the original Constitution.  They wrote the Constitution with King George III in mind.  We have to do something to protect us from people like Donald Trump with strong personalities, who have some type of plan to erode the freedoms we enjoy and would do harm to the country.    We need to be protected against the Trump’s and Nixon’s of this country.  And remember after all of this, Donald Trump has nothing but praise for Russia and Vladimir Putin.  Why?

The backdrop of all of this intrigue is that Russia has been accused of interfering with our 2016 Presidential Election.  They may have affected the outcome.  17 of our intelligence agencies found that Russia did hack into the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) emails.  Russia and Vladimir Putin wanted to help Trump win the election and he did.  It was found that Russia did not affect the popular vote count, so I think we should be thankful for small favors.  The Republican Congress has done nothing about it.  No Russian sanctions.  No outrage over the Russian’s interference in our election.  No actions taken to ensure the Russians don’t interfere again. We need assurance that it won’t happen again. So what happens next?  We have to decide.

This broadcast is not in keeping with the subject of education.  I feel, though, that if something is not done to address what’s happening in our nation’s White House, we will be looking back at a time in the past when we had a democracy.  It kind of sounds Orwellian.

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THE END OF EDUCATION AS WE KNOW IT

A lot has happened in Illinois this year, 2016.  The stop gap budget has ended and a new one hasn’t been passed.  The $215M promised for Chicago schools was vetoed by the governor. The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is left to fend for itself.  Now, where do we go from here?  The election happened and that seems to have emboldened our Republican governor.  He seems to think that he has gotten some kind of mandate.  I don’t know why.  He was able to pick up a few seats in the House, but not enough to take control away from the Democrats.  His pick for State Comptroller was defeated by a Democrat and the Democrat legislator who voted with Republicans on the budget was targeted by Democrats and lost in his bid for reelection.  So, that says enough about his mandate—he doesn’t have one.  The legislature in Illinois is Democratic and he was not able to get any meaningful change in the makeup of the House or Senate.  They are both Democratically, capital d, controlled.  The governor is very wealthy and could afford to bankroll candidates to run against the Democrats.  His main target, though, is the House Speaker, and he was not able to curtail his power base.  The state Congress is still controlled by the Democrats.

Unfortunately, now CPS does not have a balanced budget and it looks like it will not get that permanent pension funding that it needs so much.  The question is:  what will CPS do to get its fair share.  If past actions can predict their response, then CPS will do nothing.  The governor will continue to deny fair funding to Chicago and nothing will be done.  And while all of this happens, the Republican governor continues to tout his Turnaround Agenda, which is pro business and anti-union.

Now, we come to the presidential election.  We now have a President Elect Trump, a Republican.  He ran on a populist agenda promising to build a wall blocking illegal immigration from Mexico and bringing jobs back to the United States.  After the election, people marched in the street saying that he is, “not my president.”  I am pivoting to the presidential election to draw a correlation to the Republican ideology in the Illinois statehouse and the one entering the White House.  Our President Elect has named Betsy DeVos as the Secretary of Education.  This may be the absolute worst thing to happen to public education.  Our Republican governor is pro charter schools.  Now the leadership at the state level and the federal level will be in lock step.  Sort of like the goose step.

I have been pretty clear on my position on charter schools.  I don’t think they are necessary.  I believe that we should do something to improve public neighborhood schools.  Well, Betsy DeVos is a proponent of charter schools.  She is a wealthy philanthropist and businesswoman from Michigan.  This is the person who has been put in charge of public education.  That’s like putting a fox in charge of the henhouse.  Changing to charter schools is a way of privatizing public schools.  If education is taken out of the hands of government, as it now is, it would be in the hands of profit mongerers.  Placing our schools in the hands of business would make the schools nothing more than another for profit enterprise.  Do you think their interest would be centered on a quality education for everyone?  No, I think not. Watch out for anyone who wants to do too much privatizing of government assets, like the schools and public housing.  Chicagoans, remember the privatization of the parking meters.  How well did the public fare on that deal?  Your parking meter fees have gone up threefold.  That money is not going to city government.  It is going into the pockets of the investors of that deal.

Taking the jobs of teachers in the public school system and putting them in the hands of private companies sounds an awful lot like our governor’s Turnaround Agenda.  To me, this is not coincidental.  It appears to be a plan to put education in the hands of private business.  Chicago alone has a budget in excess of $5B.  How many schools across the nation are there?  To calculate the number would have to result in a huge amount of money, maybe in the trillions.  I think most profit minded people would salivate at the chance to share in a slice of education as a new business enterprise.  Make no mistake about it, someone has looked into it and seen the possibilities of profitability.  Don’t let this happen to the public schools.  It could become the next parking meter deal on a national level.

What is happening in education is similar to what is happening in the other cabinet choices being made by the new President Elect.  His choices of appointments to cabinet level positions have conflicting ideologies with the mission of the departments that they are entrusted to lead, such as the one he made for education, Mrs. DeVos.  He is also selecting military men to head up key positions on his team.  Considering the fact that he did not win the popular vote by about 3M votes and the possible interference from Russian president Vladimir Putin, I question his legitimacy as president elect. I also question his long term goals.  Is it to enrich himself?  Maybe he wants to be a trillionaire.  How powerful does he want to be? Does he want the military at his beck and call?  Is that why he is appointing so many military men?  Since he was not required to state his platform when he was running for president, I don’t expect transparency when he assumes office.

The way the whole election was run was problematic to me.  First of all, the press did not report on issues in this election.  Donald Trump seemed to set the agenda and the press followed his lead.  He was also not very truthful and was not brought to task for it. They, the press, appeared to be afraid of antagonizing him.  So he dominates the conversation. He is the definition of a bully.  He called his opponents names as if he were a kid taunting another kid on the playground.  Hillary Clinton has been dogged by the Benghazi story since she was Secretary of State.  This story morphed into her private server and the emails.  Even though she was investigated eleven times, the story would not go away.  I believe the press was complicit in perpetuating the story because they kept reporting it.  After Donald Trump became the Republican nominee, he kept the story going and exacerbated it by calling her Crooked Hillary. And then it was found that the Russians were responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee(DNC) and John Podesta, Hillary’s campaign chairman,emails.  The Russians were also complicit in interfering with the election process.  So the election results may have been skewed based on this interference from Russia with Vladimir Putin’s knowledge and approval.  That would mean that Russia chose our president elect.

Since the election, Mr. Trump has talked directly with Taiwan, ignoring the One China policy, which has been in place for many years.  China is very important to us because we have sent many of our American jobs there.  China is also the holder of much of our American debt.  Hopefully, China will realize that Mr. Trump has no government experience and will not make too much of his political faux pas.  And hopefully, Mr. Trump will not insult China further.  During the election, Mr. Trump did not release his tax returns and still hasn’t.  Mr. Trump has not divested of his assets by putting them in a blind trust and is scheduled to take office in about a month.  I believe this would be a violation of our law?  He has said he will put his assets in the hands of his children instead.  That is not the definition of a blind trust.  Will this lead to impeachment after he is sworn in?  Mr. Trump has not had daily intelligence briefings since the election, saying that he doesn’t need to listen to the same information every day.  He said he is very smart.  Mr. Trump has brought his children into his role as president elect, inviting them to a meeting with business executives.  Is this not a conflict of interest, especially since he intends to put his assets in the hands of his children?  Will he do this with heads of state of foreign countries when he becomes president?  Mr. Trump has not had a press conference since the election was over.  And most troubling is that Mr. Trump has denied the validity of the information about Russia being involved in hacking the DNC and John Podesta’s emails and interfering in the election process.  He initially said that China could have done the hacking or some other country.  He also referred to some 400 pound man sitting on a bed doing the hacking.  He does not believe that Russia is involved in the hacking.  Why?  He doesn’t say why, but he does say that he likes Vladimir Putin.  He evidently likes him more than he does our intelligence agencies.  He doubts the seventeen agencies who agreed that the hacking was done by Russia, probably with Mr. Putin’s OK because he says these are the same agencies who said there were weapons of mass destruction preceding the Iraq War so, therefore, there are trust issues with our intelligence agencies. This includes the FBI and the CIA.  Mr. Trump also called for the Russians to find Hillary’s emails on live national TV during the election debate.   These are very serious positions for a president elect to have and a sad state of affairs.  Because of his position on Russia, I have a question.  My question concerns whether Mr. Trump knew about these hackings and the interference of Russia before they happened and was he complicit in them?  If he did, wouldn’t that be treason?

All of the machinations of Mr. Trump remind me of what happened during the Nixon years.  I believed that President Nixon was setting himself up to be a monarch of the USA.  I find that the things that are happening in our nation today are very reminiscent of Watergate.  Mr. Trump has talked about abolishing Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act.  This would deprive people of much needed health care. With Mr. Trump’s ascendancy to the presidency, the Republicans will control all three branches of the government.  Mr. Trump has thumbed his nose at the way America conducts elections and if he continues answering to no one, who can say where our democracy is headed, maybe into a monarchy or a dictatorship.  There is one last chance that this mistake can be corrected.  The Electoral College could vote to keep him out of the presidency.  If you, the listening public, would like to change the outcome of this election, make your feelings known. Let’s do something.

I feel the country is on the precipice of revolutionary change.  I don’t want it to fall off a cliff and into the abyss.  I don’t believe that the founding fathers believed this country would devolve into a one man rule.  This setback would result in the top 1 percent being the ruling class and Donald Trump being our King George III.  It could do away with the middle class.  The creators of this democracy were very careful to put many checks and balances into the Constitution and our form of government.  The Electoral College was intended to play a part as well.  Well, this Electoral College can do their job and make sure that this vindictive megalomaniac bully does not become president.

Every American citizen should be concerned about this election and to a lesser degree education.  I feel so moved by the turn of events of this election that I feel like going out into the street with my sign and protesting.  I wish that everyone felt the same way.  I feel like the man in the movie who said, “I’m mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.” Please join me in showing your outrage too.  Let’s go out and demonstrate that we want our voices heard.  Let’s organize and be heard.  I’d like to hear your ideas.  The Electoral College votes tomorrow.  This could be the end of education as we know it today and the beginning of the end of our democracy.

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