President Trump

It’s been a long time since I posted. I think like over two years. To sum things up, I got busy with grad school, work, and looking for a new job. Yes, I have a masters and a new job now. Since that is out of the way, let me talk about President Trump.

Like many people, I am shocked that he won. I thought it was a far off possibility, but that wasn’t going to happen. Well, he did win and now he’s the 45th President of the United States.

So on Election Night, I was watching MSNBC with my father and around 10pm when Chris Matthews started freaking out we knew there was trouble ahead. I went to bed around midnight and when I woke up the next morning Trump had won the electoral vote, but not the popular. To be honest, I felt pretty shellshocked that day.

So where to start with this thing… when Trump announced he was running for president, I thought he would drop out after a few months. He would have gotten the publicity he wanted and that would be that.

I didn’t have much of an opinion of him before the race. I just thought of him as an annoying egotistical gaudy loud mouth who hosted a stupid reality show. Him running for president revealed more than that about him. The man is just horrible in every sense of the word. He is every -ist in the book and there are too many to type. John Oliver’s bit about him a few months ago that provides a good summary.

As we’ve seen Trump’s whole style has been crude. I expect a certain amount of civility and decency from a presidential candidate, president-elect, and president and not just those people, but human beings in general. I never thought I would hear in a debate a candidate defended the size of his penis. That’s like something a 12 year old boy would do. Then again, he was in WWE WrestleMania and many young boys would want to be in that too.

His entire attitude towards people who are different from himself is disgusting. He has consistently derided minorities (especially Mexicans), Muslims, the obese, women, people with disabilities, and the list goes on. The clip below is a good example.

He is mocking a reporter with a disability and he is taking joy in it as is the crowd behind him. When I saw that clip, it infuriated me. What kind of person would do such a thing? How small do you have to be to take pleasure out of mocking a man with a disability?

I honestly thought that the Access Hollywood tape was going to be the final straw that got people to open their eyes. All his other moments of spewing vitriol hadn’t gotten the populace to stop and say, “this isn’t right,” but this was going to be the one. He talked about how he was entitled to sexual assault women because he’s rich and famous. His defense that it was was “locker room” talk and in the past. Well, I don’t know what “locker room” talk is, but I don’t imagine it involves explaining how one has the right to grab a woman’s genitals. Yes, it was years ago, but his language towards women hasn’t changed (it’s been well recorded and just google Megyn Kelly and Trump and you’ll get a slew of stuff). The reaction of most people to this tape was “Oh that’s just him.” That reaction just boggles my mind because I don’t understand how anyone cannot be offended by this.

His campaign didn’t have a message. It had a slogan “Make America Great Again” that was plastered on a bunch damn baseball hats. The slogan makes no sense because things are pretty good. Yes, there are systemic problems that have been around for decades, but he campaigned like the country was a dystopian hellhole. He played up to the fears of the majority of whites, especially males, who felt that they got left behind during the Obama years.

I’ll be honest, Hillary Clinton wasn’t the most exciting candidate, but she was the adult in the room when compared to Trump. She’s experienced, decent, extremely intelligent, and had actually policies. Trump has none of these.

Frontline’s The Choice 2016 gave a detailed background about both Clinton and Trump. The two could not have been any different. Hillary worked hard to get where she is. Trump was handed everything by his father and the banks that bailed him out in the 1990s.

Why did Hillary lose? There were a variety of reasons. As I stated, she wasn’t the most exciting candidate. Many people have a illogical hatred for her. And I think a lot of people cannot handle a powerful woman either.

The news media deserves a lot of the blame. They thought Trump was a fun oddity that would drive up ratings, and gave the man all this free coverage that was unprecedented. Guess what all that free coverage did? Got his face out there more. Their coverage was sexist because Hillary got grilled much harder than he ever did. Then there’s the fake news that spread misinformation about her and the Democrats.

Then there’s the whole email debacle. I don’t want to retread through it, but it was a whole lot of hoopla over nothing. She was cleared by the FBI over the summer. Only to have FBI Director James Comey in a partisan move come in at the last second and say the bureau was reopening the investigation because new emails were discovered. They found no wrong doing, but it caused her campaign extreme damage in the homestretch. Comey broke government protocol by doing that.

Finally, there was the Russian hack which we’re still learning more about. The Russians stated that Trump was their preferred candidate. His argument that it changes nothing is totally wrong because it was hostile involvement of foreign power in an American election. It was kept quiet during the election because government officials didn’t want to seem partisan. This is infuriating for two reasons:

1) The public should have been informed.

2) It’s very hypocritical for Comey making that argument considering what he did with the Clinton emails.

I hope it does get throughly investigated and the Republicans don’t try and push it under the rug.

Since winning the election, Trump has acted petty. Using his Twitter to attack anyone who disagrees with him. Picking fights with the Obama administration and demeaning its intelligence experts. And generally picking fights with anyone. His first press conference in months was a fiasco of him calling many reporters “fake news.” The truth is selective to him and his people. I think the argument that his administration is pushing that his inauguration had record crowds is another example of this.

His cabinet picks reminds me of an evil 1980s corporate board with it being filled with clueless billionaires, climate change deniers, anti-regulators, and so much more. The confirmation hearings this week seem to show how unprepared these people are. First, his pick for Treasury Steven Mnuchin failing to disclose $100 million in assets. I can understand forgetting a couple thousand in assets if your that wealthy, but that much just raises serious alarms. The Betsey DeVos hearing for Education Secretary was super cringeworthy. I’m not even going to talk about Ben Carson for HUD Secretary because really? You’ve got to be kidding me. The man himself has said he’s unprepared for it.

There’s so much I can write about this topic. I will say that I have a jaded worldview, but deep down I thought that the American sense of common decency would prevail in the 2016 Election. I really did. And it’s heart breaking that it didn’t. The country has elected egotistical hateful man who preyed on people’s fears. He tapped into the underlying primal instincts of people to cut each other down and hate. The lack of empathy for the poor and downtrodden that he and his people have attacked is the most disheartening for myself. We are a country that has always strived to live up to the ideals of acceptance, helping each other out, and doing right. Unfortunately, we became petty and small and elected someone who reflects that.

 

Fall Movies

The leaves are turning and that means all those great Fall movies are starting to come out. They come out around this time to get Oscar buzz. So below is a list of films I hope to get to over the few months. Hopefully the $13 a ticket doesn’t deter me.

Birdman

Whiplash

Interstellar

Foxcatcher

Inherent Vice

A Most Violent Year

The Unknown Known

It’s definitely been awhile since I posted. I think April was the last time. Let me get to the meat of this post. A few days ago I watched Errol Morris’s The Unknown Known.

It is a interview with former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The documentary follows his career, but concentrates on his time as secretary. I don’t have a high opinion of the man and I never will. I think he’s arrogant opportunist who caused a lot of damage on this country and the world. He isn’t the only one to blame from the Bush administration. Lets not forget the former president, Cheney, Rice, and Wolfowitz.

The really disconcerting part of the whole interview is the fact that Rumsfeld has no regrets over his actions. None. I don’t even know where to begin. Really check out this film because it is interesting to watch, but it leaves you with a very bad taste in your mouth.

Kev’s Favorite Films: Magnolia

I was thinking yesterday on the subway that I haven’t posted anything in a long time. So here’s a quick entry in the Kev’s Favorite Films category. Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia is one of my favorite movies ever. I saw it in theaters when I was in seventh grade. My dad took me to see it. When I think about, it wasn’t a movie that a twelve-year-old should see, but I guess my dad thought I was mature enough for it. Magnolia is a multilayered story that follows a large cast of characters. There are several plot lines throughout the film, but they are all connected. The film addresses regret, isolation, and forgiveness. William H. Macy and Tom Cruise give excellent performances and as do all the actors and actresses, but theirs stand out. Jon Brion’s score and Aimee Mann’s songs add to the texture of the movie. If you haven’t seen this movie, I highly recommend it.

Port Authority Proposed Capital Plan

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey released its proposed capital plan for the next decade earlier this month. In so many words, a capital plan is a wish list of projects over the next decade. This one is no different.

Many of these projects have been discussed for years and are needed. It’s taken the Port Authority awhile to get to them because of construction commitments at the World Trade Center, which are ramping down. The first project mentioned is raising the Bayonne Bridge’s roadway. This has to be done because the new Panamax container ships will  be unable to fit under the current structure. If they cannot get under the bridge then the ships cannot get to Port  Newark and the region loses out. It is always important to realize that infrastructure does not last forever and that’s why a new Goethals Bridge has to be built. The current one is obsolete. This project is being done as a public-private partnership, which is not really done in the Northeast. Work to replace the George Washington Bridge’s cables and replace the Lincoln Tunnel’s helix are necessary if you don’t want the structures to break.

The plans for the authority’s airports have garnered some attention. Lets start with LaGuardia, which was termed a third world airport by Joe Biden. The airport is considered one of the worst in the country and every New Yorker agrees with that. The plan is to build a new central terminal and expand capacity. Newark Liberty is getting renovated, but the big news there is extending the PATH to it. I disagree with that since the airport is already served by NJ Transit rail and Amtrak. Second Avenue Sagas has written some good articles about it. The site also put together a nice summary of why a subway extension has never been built to LaGuardia, which in the opinion of many needs one. It’s the only airport in the region that does not have any rail connection.

And since the Port Authority is also a piggy bank for politicians and full of their hacks, take a look at this WNYC article about Chris Christie using it to advance his goals and line the pockets of David Samson, chairman of the board, and others.

Chris Christie

What was thought to be a act of retribution that nobody would question has snowballed into scandal for New Jersey’s governor Chris Christie. For the past couple weeks there have been questions about why were lanes closed on the George Washington Bridge (GWB). These lane closures caused massive traffic jams that lasted for days. At first it was said that the lane closures were for a traffic study, but no one really brought that. So investigations were started. People ended up resigning or were fired. And finally this week, we hit a crescendo moment of Mr. Christie sort of apologizing and blaming his staff and making himself the victim.

What exactly did happen? This is the story that has been pieced together. During his reelection campaign, Mr. Christie wanted to get bipartisan support from the state’s mayors and elected officials. The mayor of Fort Lee, which is at the foot of the GWB, said he wouldn’t support Mr. Christie and then there was that massive traffic jam, which was retribution for not backing him. So far the blame is being put on two of his acquaintances. He is saying that he didn’t know anything about this.

Now… that’s pretty far-fetched. He had to know.

I’m not a fan of Chris Christie. I think he is bully and opportunist. The man was appointed by George W. Bush as US Attorney for New Jersey. Did Mr. Christie have experience as a criminal prosecutor? Nope. He turned the office into a springboard for his future aspirations. He went after all the state’s Democrats and crafted an image as a tough prosecutor who cleaned up New Jersey politics. Any criticism was met with immediate punishment. He challenged Jon Corzine in 2009 for the governorship of the state and won. Mr. Christie used a regular everyday joe image to court the state’s voters. It wasn’t a landslide victory for him. He attacked Mr. Corzine for being a rich guy during the Great Recession and won because of it. As governor, he lied about cost overruns of the ARC rail tunnel to look like a fiscal hawk to the Republican establishment. New Jersey was basically getting a free tunnel from the federal government and Port Authority. He went after the teacher and public employee unions. I can go on and on.

Is the man planning a presidential bid for 2016? Probably. He has the name recognition and people love that phony tough guy image he has. Will this scandal with the GWB damage his chances? This is only a minor dust up. If there’s ever a smoking gun that directly links him to the lane closures then he’s wounded. We’ll see how the rest of the scandal plays out.

The Atlantic Cities: Can a City Really ‘End’ Homelessness?

A couple days ago the Atlantic Cities published this article about how Phoenix has housed all its homeless veterans.  It’s an achievement. Getting homeless individuals into housing is not that easy for various reasons. First, funding is always an issue. There is only so much money to go around, and in the United States social services gets a pittance compared to other programs. Second, the homeless are not an easy population to work with. The majority have mental health and substance abuse issues. We also must take into account the basic issue of trust. This group has been mistreated constantly and forming trust with outsiders is extremely hard.

Can a city end homelessness? As a society, we can take steps to prevent it, but homelessness will always be around. It is an extremely complex issue that cannot be solved by single solution. Multiple solutions are needed.

Lets start with funding. The majority of Phoenix veterans were probably housed through VASH (Veterans Administration Supported Housing). It’s a Section 8 voucher. To qualify for a VASH voucher, the veteran needs to meet certain criteria, such as honorable discharge and length of service. If the individual does not meet the criteria, they do not qualify for the program. Localities can come up with different vouchers and it sounds like Phoenix did, but will the funding be there lets say in 5 years? In New York City, there was the disastrous Advantage program that got many homeless individuals and families housed, but once that program lost its funding all those people ended up on the streets.

Providing adequate social services is another part. The homeless population needs a level of support that normal people do not. They became homeless because they didn’t have the necessary support of family or the government to begin with. Supportive housing is a way to do this. The basic idea of supportive housing is that individuals live in a building that has social service staff on premise. There are all different models. Some are more supportive than others. I hope that the Phoenix veterans are receiving some form of social services because if they do not some may end up back on the streets in a few years then.

Finally society must become more understanding to the plight of the homeless. The reason there are so many mentally ill individuals on the street is the fact that states did not provide services when institualization ended. We closed down these mental institutions (for good reason, many were horrific) and did not have anything to replace them with. Also, a person cannot live on the street for an extended period of time without developing a mental illness in my opinion. Americans need to get over substance abuse. It is a disease as far as I’m concerned. It is part of this country’s puritanical nature to look down at drunks or drug users and that attitude is wrong. We need to get over that aversion and provide services to these individuals.

Homelessness is not a simple issue and as a society we must do our best to address it. The problem is never going to be fully solved. We have to take the effort to help these people because inaction is wrong.