The Trump Administration Is Out of Gas

On Monday March 13th 2017 the 45th President’s first administration ran out of gas. Only 50 days into his first 100 days it has become clear that the idea of a businessman with corporate experience would be a great commander in chief is (at least in this case) failing spectacularly.

The issue is that the administration since day one has taken an active role in picking fights when it does not need to take them. Things that would have taken up hours of airtime during the campaign and would have been good for the then-candidate are now consuming hours of airtime when there is governing that needs to be done. One of the most essential tools in a president’s tool kit, the authority and trust in what the president says, has been grinded down with constant non-issues that the administration brings up.

This has caused a lot of clean up duty on behalf of others in the administration like Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who in the past month have been going to long time allies promising nothing is going to change in their relationship. But the old status quo is no longer the new status quo. Stability and consistency, a hallmark of American stability, is now being replaced with silence and uncertainty.

Yesterday we had Press Secretary Sean Spicer make two statements that kicked the can of responsibility down the road when the president speaks. He said that the president should be taken seriously in what he says when he isn’t joking in response to a question of whether we can take his word seriously. On top of that, he said that one of the tweets accusing Obama wiretapped Trump Tower Spicer said that since wiretap was in quotations he meant surveillance more generally.

Spicer was echoing Kellyanne Conway’s deflection when asked a similar question about the wiretapping in which she referenced the mass capabilities of surveillance where even your toaster can spy on you (it can’t)! She was also deflecting the question of whether Trump has proof of the wiretap (he doesn’t). But this is major, even the most protective and prominent members of Trump’s cabinet who have agreed with nearly everything have stopped here in something people want proof for and nobody can provide.

Just a  reminder there was a deadline yesterday for the Justice Department to release evidence to Congress for proof of the Obama wiretapping claim, they asked for another week.

Even though Trump has mostly stopped tweeting shocking statements and allegations, for the past week anyways, it shows that Trump’s administration has not been able to get out of his own way. In a political climate ripe for Republican policies to produce fruitful legislation with both chambers of Congress, the Executive, the Supreme Court, and a majority of state governments it is clear that the administration has run out of gas. Prepare for months of failed discussion on important issues like the ACA repeal or reform, the debt ceiling, and infrastructure and more issues arising with Russian investigations and Twitter tirades.  

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The Details in the Smoke

We are not even a month into the Trump administration and there is already the smoke of scandal hanging in the air. The proverbial ship of the White House is experiencing more leaks than most people in living memory can recall for any other president and while Trump might be blaming the intelligence agencies for illegally leaking information, there are plenty of leaks coming from his own staff. The leaks eventually culminated in Michael Flynn’s resignation over his discussion with Russian officials in December apparently discussing sanctions from the Obama era. Flynn had previously denied the claim, even telling the Vice President that he had not done so.

While the story from the White House is that Flynn was forced to resign over his dishonesty to the Pence, it’s clear that this resignation is also an attempt to stem the bleeding from the looming spectre of the Russian influence that the administration has never been able to fully overcome. But the suspicion has continued, more leaks are surfacing with claims that the Trump campaign staff were in contact with Russian officials and the fact that Trump knew of Flynn’s discussion of sanctions even though he denied it today.

In a normal world the agencies and institutions that check the president’s power would check for a fire when they see this much smoke. A thorough, open investigation would be taken place to put the full Russian spectre to bed. That would be a normal world, we don’t live there; instead the GOP is looking for the details in the smoke. There is literally more concern for the leaks than the information coming out of them and how they implicate Trump and his team.

Trump has led this call of course, wanting to distract from the multitude of problems that are plaguing his administration. He’s generalized the whole issue of leaks down to the fact that they are illegal which is not entirely true. Leaks coming from the White House about its current disheveled state are not illegal if they do not release actual classified documents, although they may be annoying.

The intel leaking from the intelligence agencies is where Trump and Congress can work together to plug the holes in it, but that’s not the issue at hand. A majority of high ranking GOP see leaks concerning possible connections between Trump and a foreign power and their concern is more about where the leaks are coming from than the actual substance.

It makes sense for the GOP to do this, they have a lot of legislation that they have been promising to constituents for most of the Obama years and Trump, for now, seems to have an aligned interest with them. But we are nearly a third of the way through the first hundred days, the apex of presidential political capital and we still have not seen solid legislative proposals, only a few dozen executive orders.

The GOP needs to realize that Congress is on a collision course with Trump. There are inherent checks and balances but Trump is different than most of his predecessors, clearly willing to employ dirty tactics to get what he wants and the dysfunction within the GOP Congress is probably not ready to deal with it.

So You Marched Today

So you marched today. You donned your pink knitted hats and drove to a nearby city or made the trek all the way to DC. You stood in the cold, maybe it was your one hundredth march or your first, but you were still there. You spent the previous night coming up with signs that you carried all day, your voice now sore from shouting.

Now your home, maybe it’s been a couple days and you just got home. You’re tired, you’re hungry, but you still have a burning inside. The inner desire to make things better, to see a country you can be proud to give to your children and their children. Where they do not have to face the same prejudice you or your parent’s faced.

But change never comes quickly, or else it would be lost just as fast. No. Change comes from the blood, sweat, and tears of patriots; those who love their country so much they recognize its flaws and work on improvements, no matter the price of time it will take.

Some may have taken that first step to patriotism today, some may have been doing it their entire life, but from today forward we all recognize this is not the end. This can be the beginning of something bigger, a movement for change, for bettering the country we all call home.

But the dream of an optimistic future rely on the ever-persistent present. A march is good but organizing is better. Talking to people in your community and getting them involved is hard, but it’s what has gotten this march in the first place, and if it can bring this many people together, it can continue to bring change.

So you marched today, you made history, but today is over. Tomorrow we organize. We grab our clipboards, comfortable shoes, and a bottle of water and hit the pavement. It is not glamorous, but in a week or a year or a decade you will look back and realize how much you were capable of and how much more work we all still have left to do.

The Legacy of Obama: or “You Don’t Know What You Got ‘Til It’s Gone”

President Obama gave his farewell address a few nights ago, January 10th 2017, in Chicago. His entrance to the stage was created with the roar of the crowd shouting a phrase that has become common in recent years, “Four more years.” Although it is constitutionally impossible, there is something else that is important about the ending of Obama’s term, it will make many of us appreciate just how good we had it the last eight years.

The first black president was not the panacea to race relations, although he never claimed to be. However, Barack Obama represented what makes America unique, a half white half black kid from Hawaii raised by a single mother from Kansas could make his way into the highest institutions of higher education and eventually the highest office in the land.

But once he got there it wasn’t easy. He experienced some of the greatest partisan opposition in modern history with members of Congress openly advocating for obstruction. And despite all the best efforts to prevent progress the president managed to save the economy from a second Great Depression, ensured more Americans than ever before in history, and stabilized multiple geopolitical issues.

Obama will be missed, no matter who would be entering the White House after him. One of those “this is history” moments for me was in the summer of 2015. It was the summer that a white supremacist wrent into a historically black church in Charleston South Carolina with the intent to kill African Americans to start a race war. He killed nine people.

Like many Americans, the events in Charleston were beyond disturbing. But the aftermath in Charleston did not turn violent, the people of Charleston did the exact opposite, they came together. During the eulogy for those that had their lives ended far too soon Obama spoke. At the time I was driving in my car on a long road trip and just happened to be listening to NPR. Hearing the president speak after times of tragedy was always comforting, but what happened during it was one of the most remarkable moments, he sang Amazing Grace. It just seemed so right, that the sitting president did not come to Charleston to speak of revenge or further violence, but to celebrate the lives of those that left too soon.

It is a moment I often look back on and it’s something that will have no equivalent in the next four years, let alone the next twenty years.

From January 21, 2009 to January 20, 2017 my president was black. Although he was not perfect, he brought forth a demeanor an understanding of issues that will forever be missed. Like many great presidents before him he changed the office in so many ways we won’t notice until he has already left the White House. He inspired millions to care about politics. And like many great things in life we won’t realize how great it was until it has already ended.

Thank you Mr. President.  

Narcos: Who’s Afraid of Escobar?

Pablo Escobar is easily the most infamous character of the final decades of the 20th century. His lavish gangster lifestyle coupled with his elusiveness allowed him to become an international vocal point for the international war on drugs and the mythos surrounding it. Many shows that follow similar paths such as Breaking Bad try to draw parallels with Escobar, but nobody in western media has attempted to actually tell the story in a dramatic way, until Narcos.

I had the benefit of watching Narcos two seasons uninterrupted which wraps the story of Escobar in a nice bow.

I think the show altogether is great, if you are looking for a series to binge watch it is one of Netflix’s best, but there are some problems with it.

The biggest one is a disjointed narrative that exists within the story. The show is trying to do two things at once which leads to this disjointed narrative that is being told. We are initially introduced to Agent Murphy, the DEA agent sent to Colombia to assist in finding Escobar and his story through it all. Murphy voices over a lot of the show to explain plot without ruining the drama of the story, but the story is never solely about Murphy. In fact, Murphy is not really the main character. The show gets into longer and longer sessions of events from Escobar’s point of view.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it creates two shows within one. You’re never sure what the show is trying to say. Should we kind of feel sorry for Escobar since he himself is human and we have humanizing moments even when he is committing heinous acts? Should we look down on agent Murphy as we see him go to a dark place as he tries and hunt down Escobar?

The show never seems to get a clear answer, in the end the final episode of season two felt like a lost cause. All this work for the past couple hours seemed to fizzle away as the payoff didn’t really seem to, you know, payoff.

Maybe I’m just over analyzing, anyways I give Narcos a 7/10

Tarantino Continues his Wild West Rampage

If someone had asked me years ago if I wanted a modern Agatha Christie mystery set as a Western I don’t know how I would’ve responded. But after watching Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight I can safely say that I would want even more movies like this.

Tarantino is one of the most interesting and talented directors and writers of our time. His films are always so over the top and have such memorable characters along with his distinct directing style. They call back to so much film history and you can tell there is an overwhelming passion in the director about what he is putting onto the screen.

The movies been out for a while now so the rundown for those of you who haven’t seen it is pretty simple. A bounty hunter, known as the Hangman, is taking his current bounty to the town of Red Rock, Wyoming in the middle of a blizzard. Through unlikely circumstance he ends up having to hold out in a lodge with questionable characters who the Hangman feels might be there to aid in the escape of his current captured bounty.

But what this movie does so brilliantly is not give a clear perspective of who is someone you can support until the end of the movie, which even then considering the “good” guys final act is questionable. There is no one main character and the characters all bring something questionable to the table to make you think they might have something to do with it.

As with all Tarantino movies, the blood flows like water down a waterfall but unlike other works of his, the gore and deaths are a payoff and not really the main attraction here. Despite the nearly three-hour time span of this movie I still had a great time.

I’m gonna give the Hateful Eight a 8.0~8.5/10.

Ali Wong’s Baby Cobra Review

As Comedy Central has moved away from the typical stand up specials it had in the 2000s, Netflix has begun to take up the vacuum. It is difficult to find a stand-up comedian that hasn’t done a stand-up special with the streaming service. But instead of one of the many comedians I love, I decided to watch someone new, Ali Wong.

Prior to this special I had no idea who Ali Wong was. I was only vaguely familiar with the show Fresh Off the Boat, which she is one of the writers for, and besides that had never heard of her. But this special got me interested in her comedy and I look forward to more performances by her in the future.

Since comedy is highly subjective, my take on Baby Cobra might be very different than others. Frankly, the special was an hour of almost constant laughs and good jokes. It is clear that Wong has a persona on the stage that she sometimes goes out of in between jokes that is noticeable.

The show also seems to follow a basic storyline of how she “trapped” her Harvard husband into marriage in order for her to quit her day job in order to become a housewife. Most of the laughs come out of this basic premise.

In a world where Amy Schumer, someone who in my opinion is not that funny, I am glad that there are other female comedians getting some spotlight that are hilarious.

I am going to give Baby Cobra the rating of a hilarious time.