The Most Corrupt President

Collage adapted from works by Flickr user DonkeyHotey and Damian GadalThis is a guest post by Laina Farhat-Holzman. Laina is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at or  This article first appeared in The Pajaronian on Jan 11, 2019.

Our founding fathers were trying to create a new sort of government, and they were very aware of how corruption corrodes a society. Far from being naïve about a brave new world, they created a government with checks and balances against abuse of power. Our system is not designed to be efficient; rather it is designed to protect us from our worse instincts.
As long as the American government was in the hands of the original founders, their code as gentlemen (keen sense of honor and responsibility) prevailed. However, with the election of Andrew Jackson, a populist, the country entered into four decades of abuse of power. Elections were fueled by clandestine payoffs and alcohol, presidents were weak, negligent, or in someone’s pay, and the country suffered. Lincoln broke this pattern, but his assassination ushered in heavily corrupt governments until President Teddy Roosevelt cleaned house.
Over time, most presidential behavior was largely governed by norms, practices honored as important traditions. These norms arose as needed: Presidents revealing personal wealth and disposing of it while in office; annual medical examinations (after the secrecy of FDR’s health); gentlemanly language and courtesy; efforts to appoint the best managers of government agencies and departments available; presidential advisors the best and most respected that they could find. By 2008, these norms were practiced.
The above list has been violated in every instance by President Donald J. Trump. He has never released a tax return; never put his businesses into blind trusts; has never released an honest health report; never sought the best men and women to appoint to run government departments; never took advice and never observed courteous speech. The consequence of this behavior has resulted in rampant corruption: he, his family, and most of his appointees have made money out of their positions, or have attempted to destroy the very agencies over which they preside.
So far, in just two years in office, a flood of officials, including relatively good ones, have been driven from office, to be replaced by Trump toadies. In his inner circle, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Michael Flynn, Michael Cohn, George Papadopoulos, have all pleaded guilty and will face prison. Almost everybody around Trump lies, just as he does (compulsively); even Chief of Staff John Kelly, who lied despite knowing better, about a Black congresswoman. Rob Porter could not get security clearance because he was a wife beater, yet he handled classified documents. 
Almost every department head selected by Trump has had to leave because of blatant corruption, not to mention abuse of power, attempting to scuttle the very agencies they run. The list includes Ben Carson, Urban Development and Carl Icahn, senior advisor on regulatory issues, using the job to further his own financial interests.

Secretary of Health and Human Services resigned over spending more than $1 million on private and military jets. Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin was a lavish traveler. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt used money for luxury transport, in addition to rolling back every safeguard to clean air and water. These are just a sample. The list is depressingly long.

Then there is the issue of personally benefitting financially from his position as President. His Trump hotels have raked in huge profits, money from Russians, Saudis, and others seeking something for their largesse. Money laundering will undoubtedly be another crime attached to this president. His children have used their positions to seek profits in China, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. Trump’s son-in-law may well be the next to go to prison. He sought money from the Saudis to bail out his family’s failing business.
For corruption, we must look at Quid Pro Quo, getting something for one’s money. What did Donald Trump give in response to the Russians loaning him money when American banks refused him? How much of our Democracy has been given away?
Congress and the Mueller Report will uncover the Quid Pro Quo.

Trump's Border Wall or Arctic Sea National Security?

Until today, I considered Trump’s discussion about the Wall to be just another distraction while he revved up his political base and conspired to build his personal empire. Trump is a master of smoke and mirror tactics and he’s kept the nation in the dark about our national security in the Arctic Sea.

According to Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif), "The United States is at an increasing disadvantage in the Arctic compared to the Russian fleet and we can no longer afford to delay," she said. "This is a major area of weakness in our national security." Russia has stepped up its production of icebreaker ships to meet President Putin’s vision of the Arctic Sea as the future of the Russian empire. As the world’s super power, the United States is not prepared to protect this region.

I knew he was pulling funds to build the Wall from somewhere, but didn’t know where until now.  The 2018 budget originally included $169 million for the Coast Guard’s Icebreaker Program to build another 1 icebreaker ship to replace our only ship capable of handling national security and emergency services in the Arctic Sea.  Russia has 40 icebreakers – almost more than all nations combined. We have just 4; but only 2 for military purposes.

Although $750 million had been approved to build the new icebreaker ship in the 2019 budget, the House recently stripped ALL icebreaker funds in order to build the $5 BILLION wall.  The lame duck Congress faces a crucial decision to approve the construction of the icebreaker or divert funds for the wall by Dec. 21st.  Seriously, this wall nonsense has gone on for too long.

The Coast Guard’s polar mission also includes gathering scientific data, rescuing ships stranded in ice, and investigating oil spills.  The Coast Guard’s only icebreaker, the Polar Star, is over 40 years old and more than 12 years past the recommended date to replace it. 

What’s worse, more ships are traveling through the Arctic Sea because of the vast melting of the glaciers.  With more traffic, ships are spilling oil, smuggling illegal cargo, and getting stranded.  We need more icebreakers to provide both environmental and humanitarian crises.

Don’t get distracted by all the noise from the White House.  Follow the money to see what is really going on.  I could think of a dozen real issues that could benefit from the $5 billion dollars that Trump has allocated to build that ridiculous wall!


Trump Administration Wants To Protect Sexual Predators on Campus

In a time when women are stepping up and speaking out, our Education Secretary Betsy DeVos just proposed to “protect” students accused of sexual misconduct while undermining victims’ rights. Seriously? One step forward, two steps backwards.

DeVos just released a proposal to add due process protections for accused students. Rather than stepping up protections for victims of sexual assault or misconduct, she is pushing policy that better protects the accused sexual predator.  Remember Brock Turner?  He’s the Stanford student who was convicted of 3 counts of felony sexual assault back in 2016.  Because the court believed that a harsh prison sentence would “ruin his life,” he got off with just 3 months of jail time.  When did we start worrying more about the perpetrators than the victims? 

This proposal also requires that colleges be responsible for investigating misconduct that occurs within the colleges’ own programs and not in off-campus college activities or events. If a victim confides in a person who is not the “proper official on campus,” the college will not be responsible for investigating the case.  Wow! The colleges will be allowed to set their own evidentiary standard for discovering these findings, and what’s worse, they could cross examine victims – the reason so many victims of assault don’t speak out against their perpetrators in the first place.

So colleges have less responsibility to protect and investigate their students, and victims will face scrutiny for standing up for their rights. Washington Sen. Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said Devos and President Trump were “trying to take another step toward sweeping the scourge of sexual assault under the rug.”


Time to Boycott our President! Here's How:

If you’re feeling helpless and hopeless these days, you’re not alone.  When our own government systematically removes our healthcare, environmental protection, and now safety in our schools, it’s time to fight back.  But, I’m not talking about marching or signing petitions.  Yup, I’ve been to dozens of marches and signed hundreds of petitions, but we’re still losing civil rights and protections that we had before this administration took office.
What would MacGyver do?
Cripple the real problem – President Trump!
How do you do that?  
Boycott all of the companies that carry Trump products or advertise on The Sean Hannity Show or Breitbart.  Hit him where it hurts – his pocketbook and bank accounts. Now that’s something you can do.   
Better yet, email these companies to tell them that you are boycotting them until they stop carrying Trump products or advertising on hateful shows. Click here to get the email addresses and/or phone numbers to let these companies know why they need to dump Trump!  I emailed all of the retailers that I frequent and I plan to boycott them until they stop carrying Trump products.  

Another Oil Spill? 30% Tariffs on Solar Panels?

The Iranian oil tanker, Sanchi, sank on January 14th, after colliding with a Chinese cargo ship in the East China Sea. Over 135,000 tons of condensate, a ultralight crude oil, has been pouring out and burning for over a week. This may be the worst oil spill in 35 years, and it comes at a time when the Trump Administration is trying to open up drilling for oil on the east and west coasts of the United States.


Why are we drilling for oil when there is a finite amount of crude oil left in the world and it wreaks havoc with air quality, pollution, and climate change?

Better question: Why did Trump slap a 30% tariff on solar panels produced outside the US?

Answer: Trump is supporting the oligarchy by protecting the oil and coal industries’ bottom line -- PROFIT.


Trump Can't Stop Climate Scientists!

I have renewed faith in humanity.  Albeit, I’m grabbing for straws, but, when I hear terrifying stats on melting ice caps, sinking ocean floors, and rising sea levels, I’ll take it!  A year ago (can’t believe it’s only been a year since Trump took office – it feels like four!), the Trump administration FIRED the top climate scientists in the world. Seriously?  But the amazing news is that Richard Moss, the former member of the Federal Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment, has pulled together several of the scientists who were fired last year to continue their research. 


Even though the team is not funded by the federal government, they are banding together to continue their research to find solutions to our climate change problems. New York’s Governor Cuomo plans to help fund this research, and others will hopefully follow suit!  I think that their research will probably find “real” solutions quicker because they won’t be fighting an uphill battle with a president and administration that doesn’t believe climate change is real. 

Why College Students Are Becoming Interested In Becoming Lawyers

The number of students who took the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) increased by nearly 20% this year.  That’s the biggest jump in over 15 years.  So why the sudden interest in law?


As students have watched the Trump administration flagrantly misuse the law since January 2017, these students are starting to see the necessity for laws.  Hmm.  So whether or not you’re wanting more government, we are going to have more lawyers in the future.  I think environmental law is going to be a booming industry soon.

10 Books to Help Preschoolers Learn to Love Themselves

Seems like we’re all on edge because we really don’t have control of our future due to the lunatic in the Oval Office. As I flip channels, the news centers around uncovering lies and announcing really scary scenarios about him on the brink of starting a nuclear war, building oil pipelines, and restarting the coal industry.

Our tension fills the air and unfortunately our children often feel our stress. When parents have such uncertainty, it leads to self doubt in our children. 

Here’s a list of 10 books (compiled by Melissa Taylor) for preschoolers to help them get to know and love themselves – despite the world around them.

Be Who You Are!
by Todd Parr

The Things I Love About Me
by Trace Moroney

I’m Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem
by Jamie Lee Curtis

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon
By Patty Lovell

By David McKee

Giraffes Can’t Dance
By Giles Andreae

The Sneetches and Other Stories
By Dr. Seuss

You’re Here for a Reason
By Nancy Tillman

Red: A Crayon’s Story
By Michael Hall

Stephanie’s Ponytail
By Robert Munsch


Why Facts DO NOT Change Our Minds

If you’re like me, you’re numb from the onslaught of drastic cuts to the protections that we’ve worked so hard to establish over the past half century.  We don’t know who voted for Trump and simply can’t believe that there are that many stupid people out there who would actually vote for someone who will hurt them. How can these same people watch Trump strip them of medical care, environmental protection, and civil liberties and continue to cheer him on? After pondering this for weeks, I just read an interesting article “Why Facts Don’t Change our Minds” in The New Yorker that helps make sense of this phenomenon. I’ve summarized it here:

Once an opinion is formed, these impressions are remarkably perseverant, according to Stanford researchers in 1975.  In other words, even presenting real facts – pure scientific evidence – may not change the person’s opinion.  Since Trump took office, we read about this every day.

According to Harvard cognitive scientists, Mercier and Sperber, “One implication of the naturalness with which we divide cognitive labor,” they write, is that there’s no sharp boundary between “one person’s ideas and knowledge” and “those of other members” of the group.  So when someone is influenced by the people around them, herd mentality kicks in and the entire group becomes strong advocates for their shared belief.  But when you separate the members and individually ask them to explain the impacts of their proposals, many are not able to.  It turns out that they often don’t fully understand the issues and can’t defend their beliefs without their crowd.  When they were asked to rate their opinions about the same issue again, their enthusiasm for it significantly dropped. Hmm.

That said, this type of community knowledge can be very dangerous.  Sloman (Brown University) and Fernbach (University of Colorado) suggest that we spend less time pontificating about the perils of our government, and more time working through the implications of policy proposals.  Then we might realize how clueless we really are, and we’d moderate our views. This may be the only way of thinking that can shatter the illusion of explanatory depth and change people’s attitudes and beliefs.

Naturally, this is easier to assume that the other side should stop pontificating and listen to our arguments and facts, but it’s something that we all need to do. I’m not backing down on fighting the many atrocities that are taking place today; I’m simply going to listen more carefully so I understand what is really going on.  My hope is that if everyone did this, we might join forces to ensure that the majority of Americans benefits from policies being placednot the corporations and special interest groups.


How to Win Back Our Democracy With Words

The words we use determine what people hear.  Using the power of the word – linguistics – we can win back our democracy. By tweeting lies and repeating them over and over again, Trump reaches and influences millions of people who are too busy and stressed to vet out the truth. So to beat him at his own game using his skillful techniques, we shouldn’t attack and repeat what he says (because that just reinforces it in everyone’s minds), instead, we should state what the public needs and frame our message in terms of the public good.

I’m reading George Lakoff’s book Don’t Think of an Elephant to learn how to use linguistics to frame your message.  Lakoff sent his piece called “Understanding Trump” to the entire Clinton campaign management team and PAC (Political Action Committee) to help them understand Trump’s skillful brainwashing techniques last year - but nobody was listening. So now, I think the world is listening. 

Lakoff suggests that we do 2 things:

(1) Create a citizen’s communication network that lays out our values, and

(2) Train leaders and media how to frame their messages from a positive point of view.

What’s good for the public actually goes against everything that Trump is doing, so this will be easy to do. Read Lakoff’s book Don’t Think of an Elephant to better equip yourself whether you’re posting on social media or running for President of the United States.



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