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Out the Window

In 1866, the Civil War barely over, German immigrant William A. Breyer of Philadelphia was unemployed with a family to support. He got the bright idea of making ice cream in the family kitchen and selling it around the neighborhood.

Breyer made a variety of flavors, and he advertised that his home-made ice cream contained only the finest all-natural ingredients: cream, cane sugar, fresh fruit, nuts, and healthy, yummy flavorings.

Further, Breyer did not add egg yolks to the product for richness, which was the practice with the French style of ice cream popular at the time. (The Breyer style later became known as Philadelphia or American ice cream.)

Breyer’s ice cream was a hit, and his business venture clicked. Family members pitched in to increase production. To reach more customers, Breyer purchased a horse-drawn wagon, insulated to hold blocks of ice and equipped with a dinner bell to announce its approach.

Soon, several horse-drawn rigs were in operation. Before long, the family opened a retail shop.

When William died in 1882, his son Henry took over the business. In 1896, the era of hand-cranked Breyers came to a close when the family opened a manufacturing plant.

In 1908, Henry incorporated Breyer Ice Cream Company. Trucks replaced the horses and wagons. By 1918, the company was producing and distributing over one million gallons of ice cream annually.

Through it all, the Breyers organization built its reputation on using only a few select, wholesome ingredients.

Even after Breyers was purchased by Kraft in 1926, the “all-natural”mystique was so strong that the ice cream remained relatively unchanged — carefullyunsullied by the sinister-sounding additives and preservatives that were creeping into competing ice cream brands.

You had to wonder how long that mystique could prevail over the baser instincts of capitalism.

———

As far back as I can remember, Breyers was the Smith family ice cream of choice. Flavor preferences varied, but, when it came to birthday parties and holiday get-togethers, only Breyers would do.

The brand became a family tradition because, first, it was great ice cream, and second, we admired Breyers for keeping the ingredients minimal and natural.

The label would read MILK, CREAM, SUGAR, VANILLA; or MILK, CREAM, SUGAR, COCOA; or MILK, CREAM, SUGAR, STRAWBERRIES.

Sure, a random new ingredient would sneak in now and then — TARA GUM and SOY LECITHIN and such.

Sure, that was unsettling. But maybe, we thought, the additives genuinely benefited the product. Or perhaps they were required by some new government safety regulation. Besides, it still tasted like good old Breyers. So we looked the other way.

———

Clearly, Breyers was aware of the value of its “all-natural” reputation. A few decades ago, the company ran TV commercials featuring children struggling to read the names of the ingredients in competing brands. The ads were quite effective.

Those sentiments, of course, were phony. Sheer corporate crapola. They were ironic, too, considering the downward spiral, ingredient-wise, that Breyers soon would enter.

The decline of Breyers can be traced to 1993, when Kraft sold its ice cream brands, including Breyers, to the British-Dutch company Unilever. That was when the Breyers commitment to making ice cream with simple, all-natural ingredients went out the window.

Under Unilever, Breyers folded like an empty ice cream carton. Steamrolled, as it were, by expediency and the pursuit of profit.

Today, a Breyers product can contain up to 40 additive ingredients.

For example:

Breyers-1

Food additives fall into a range of categories: preservatives, stabilizers, sweeteners, thickeners, bulking agents, coloring agents, antioxidants, emulsifiers, flavor enhancers, and more. All have legitimate purposes.

But some varieties of Breyers now contain so little milk and cream that, legally, they no longer can be called “Ice Cream.” They are classified instead as “Frozen Dairy Dessert.”

To be fair, Breyers branched out to market a range of dessert variations — Gelatos, CarbSmart, Lactose Free, Fat Free, Gluten Free, Non-Dairy, Non-GMO. In those cases, simple and all-natural are not going to happen anyway. But the classic flavors have been adulterated, too.

The company does its best to apply lipstick to the pig, but only embarrasses itself:

“Only the highest quality ingredients go into Breyers® original flavors. We start with fresh cream, sugar, and milk and then add ingredients like real fruit and chunks of chocolate.”

“Add ingredients,” indeed.

———

Speaking of additives, here are the ingredients of “Breyers No Sugar Added Light Vanilla Ice Cream”:

Breyers-2

And here are the ingredients of “Breyers Blasts! Sara Lee Strawberry Cheesecake Frozen Dairy Dessert”:

Breyers-3

Indeed, the mighty have fallen.

At least William Breyer isn’t around to see what the suits have done with his legacy.

———

I close with one final observation.

Here are the ingredients of “Breyers Natural Vanilla Ice Cream”:

Breyers-4

To the company’s credit, the ingredients are few and the additives minimal.

But please note that vanilla is not an ingredient of Breyers Natural Vanilla Ice Cream.

 

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Fealty

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a rant about the noxious, obnoxious gasbag now serving as President. I haven’t felt the need, really. Most of the country opines about Trump non-stop, ad nauseam.

And it’s the same old story. The conservatives and their propaganda outlets — Fox “News” et al — stand obediently and cynically with dear leader Trump. So do the dim bulbs who voted for him.

Meanwhile, normal people and the real news media see Trump for what he is. Normal people and the real news media rightly are outraged, indignant, dismayed, appalled, and disgusted that Trump is in the White House.

Donald Trump. My God.

Let’s be real here. Trump is not only the worst president ever, but he also is a corrupt, immoral, incompetent, contemptible human being. He has no class, no scruples, no integrity, no shame. He has been that way all his adult life. He will never change, because being Trump got him where he is.

Thanks to the aforementioned conservatives and dim bulbs, aided by the artful interference of Russia’s gangster-led government, Trump is President.

And, as was easily foreseeable, he is careening through his term, wrecking norms, damaging institutions, straining alliances, and expressing a sick admiration for despots and autocrats.

But this week, I feel compelled to post another Trump tirade.

Why? Because he went to Helsinki and, publicly and shamelessly, expressed fealty to Vladimir Putin. If anyone had lingering doubts that Trump is beholden to Putin in some unsavory way, those doubts should be gone now.

Trump confirmed his true loyalties by ignoring the fact that Russia insinuated itself into our 2016 election in order to tilt the outcome in Trump’s favor. The meddling isn’t conjecture; the American intelligence community has presented ample proof.

Yet, Trump accepts Putin’s word that Russia is innocent. Astonishing.

(When he began taking fire for kowtowing to Putin, Trump responded by proposing a second summit. It was the kind of “Oh yeah? Take that!” reaction we’ve come to recognize as typical Trump modus operandi.)

Why Trump is under Putin’s thumb, we don’t yet know. I suspect Putin owns Trump by virtue of the Russians having propped up Trump’s businesses financially for several decades.

Also, being a KGB guy, Putin probably has personal dirt on Trump that could bring him down and/or put him in jail.

Is Trump guilty of treason, as some now claim? Legally speaking, apparently not. Treason can happen only when we are at war. Putin is a thug and a threat and a menace to us all, but Russia and the U.S. are not at war.

But this is what really matters: it is beyond contempt to side with Putin, a murdering gangster, over the country you swore an oath to defend.

At the very least, Trump is guilty of dereliction of duty. He has failed to confront Russia for cyber-attacking us in the past, and he has failed to take steps to protect us from future cyber-attacks.

It comes down to this: Trump is unfit to serve as President. He jeopardizes the safety and security of our country, he should be booted from office as soon as legally possible, and he should face all criminal and civil charges that the courts allow.

How this squalid business ends is anyone’s guess. The outcome largely depends on the results of the Mueller investigation and how, ultimately, Mueller’s findings play out legally.

Trump could face any number of charges, from plotting with the Russians to influence the election, to illegally enriching himself at public expense, to laundering money for the Russian mob. That list is just off the top of my head.

Up until now, the right-wingers have choked back the bile and stood by this terrible man, no matter how scandalous his behavior, how incompetent his performance, or how brazenly he uses the Presidency to benefit himself and his friends.

And, frankly, if the conservatives didn’t abandon Trump after the Access Hollywood tape went public, they never will.

Think what reacting to that tape with a shrug says about a person’s character and integrity.

Clearly, the Republican politicians and their allies — the NRA, the big-money donors, the Christian evangelicals — have sold their souls for political advantage. History will judge them as contemptible hypocrites.

As for the people who voted for Trump, and who support him still, my view is marginally more charitable.

As a group, I don’t consider the MAGA crowd to be hopelessly malicious, unkind, or prejudiced people, although many undoubtedly are. Rather, I see them as short-sighted, ill-informed, and misled.

Many are blinded by bitterness. They resent minority populations for diluting their European-based culture. They resent the liberal snobs who look down on them. And, after four decades, they still aren’t over their deep hatred of the hippies.

Speaking as a liberal and probably sometimes a snob, I can report that I don’t disrespect conservatives or hold them in contempt. Except when they earn it.

Lately, a fantasy has coalesced in my head, and it is this: one day, when the legal noose tightens beyond the comfort level of the Trump family, they will flee the country. Defect.

Possibly to Saudi Arabia, but more likely to Russia, where Putin and the oligarchs can welcome them, openly at last.

It’s only a fantasy, mind you. But if that’s the way this sorry episode in our history ends, fine.

In fact, the sooner it happens, the better.

Trump-Putin

 

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The concept in literature and the movies of a fictional universe, a fully-formed imaginary world, goes way back. Thomas More wrote Utopia in the 1500s. Conan the Barbarian appeared in the 1930s. The Lensman sci-fi novels came out between the 1930s and the 1960s.

We have the worlds of Middle Earth, Narnia, Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Game of Thrones. Not to mention the endless parade of comic book superheros. (A tiresome fad that I wish would go away, but, alas, will not.)

This proliferation of alternate realities surely says something about society, the national psyche, and the mentality of the average Joe.

But I’m not here to address that. I want to gripe about something that has mystified me for years — specifically, since 1977, when the original Star Wars movie came out.

Why, I want to know, do the characters and places in the Star Wars movies have such dopey, feeble names? With very few exceptions, Star Wars names are turkeys. Gutterballs.

In most fictional universes, the creators take special pride in the names they choose. Names are an opportunity to make a statement. Names can be revealing, evocative, dramatic. At minimum, you want them to be appealing and memorable.

Not in the world of Star Wars. In Star Wars, the names elicit a “Whaaaa???”

Take, for example, this list of duds:

– Chewbacca
– Lando Calrissian
– Jar Jar Binks
– Qui-Gon Jinn
– Poe Dameron

Yes, I know, Star Wars is popular and beloved. Those names and others are now familiar, and people have become accustomed to them. But as character names, what were the writers thinking? Were the names generated at random? Did they just string a few syllables together and move on?

With those possibilities in mind, consider these misfires:

– Emperor Palpatine
– Grand Moff Tarkin
– Darth Vader
– Count Dooku
– Yoda

Palpatine? Grand Moff? Dooku? Huh?

My first suspicion was that Georgia Lucas simply has a creative blind spot for names. Indeed, that may be the case. But when Disney assimilated Lucasfilm in 2012, the names, if anything, got worse.

For example, here are the main characters in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story:

– Cassian Andor
– Jyn Erso
– Baze Malbus
– Chirrut Îmwe
– Bodhi Rook
– Saw Gerrera
– Mon Mothma

With a little effort, I was able to commit the first two names to memory. But the others? Ha!

In contrast, consider some of the character names created by J. R. R. Tolkien and J. K. Rowling in their Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter novels.

Tolkien gave us these excellent and emotive names:

– Aragorn, son of Arathorn
– Thorin Oakenshield
– Smaug
– Arwen Evenstar
– Meriadoc Brandybuck

Rowling matched him with these:

– Hermione Granger
– Albus Dumbledore
– Severus Snape
– Nymphadora Tonks
– Draco Malfoy

As for place names, here are some destinations in Middle Earth:

– The Shire
– Rivendell
– Fanghorn Forest
– Mordor
Lothlórien

Place names in the world of Harry Potter:

– Hogwarts
– Little Whinging
– Slytherin House
– Ollivander’s, Makers of Fine Wands Since 382 BC
St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries

Meanwhile, in the Star Wars universe:

– Naboo
– Dagobah
– Mos Eisley
– Tatooine
– Hoth

The pattern is clear and painful.

Part of the explanation may be that, as a creative enterprise, Star Wars doesn’t come close to Tolkien or Rowling. Mind you, I’m as fond of Star Wars as the next guy. But viewing them as artistic works, if Tolkien is George Washington and Rowling is Abraham Lincoln, Star Wars is Donald Trump.

That aside, being a lesser form of art is no excuse for:

– Padmé Amidala
– Obi-Wan Kenobi
– Darth Maul
– Biggs Darklighter
– Jek Porkins

Remember, I brought up this subject because I find it curious and a little baffling. I didn’t say it was remotely significant or consequential.

But Jek Porkins? Seriously?

Jek Porkins

Jek “Piggy” Porkins, X-wing pilot for the Rebel Alliance, call sign Red Six, a casualty of the Battle of Yavin. (Yavin?)

 

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Insanity Writ Large

Well, we’ve had another school massacre, this time in Florida, and the gun reform issue is back in the news.

The high school protesters have been impressively sincere and articulate, but other than that, not much about this round of the debate is fresh or notable. Same song, 30th verse.

My opinion on this subject doesn’t count for much, but I’ll express it anyway.

Clearly, the US needs to put more restrictions on guns and gun ownership. We’re killing each other at record rates. Nothing gets done about it because the conservatives, malignant as always, block every reform effort, however modest. Because freedom.

For me, this is easy. We can reduce the numbers of gun deaths quickly and significantly. Other countries have done it.

I favor vigorous reforms to the gun laws for two reasons. First, it’s the right and rational thing to do.

And second, I simply don’t like guns. I have no use for them, don’t want to be around them. To my mind, firearms have no redeeming qualities except as necessary tools for police and soldiers in their official capacities. This isn’t the frontier anymore.

Further, I have no sympathy for gun lovers — be they hunters, collectors, or people trying to compensate for a personal shortcoming — because guns are too dangerous to be so easily obtained, brandished, and used.

My common sense tells me to avoid things that imperil me and others when I have no legitimate need for those things.

As a civilian in America in 2018, I have no reason to possess dynamite, nitro, TNT, nerve gas, cyanide, Samurai swords, or firearms. Especially when the restrictions on possessing and using them are so feeble.

It should be an easy call. My access to dangerous stuff should be either denied or severely restricted to protect me and the people around me.

Nationally, we regulate motor vehicles quite effectively, to the detriment of virtually no one. Couldn’t we manage firearms in a similar way?

At this point, gun people trot out the Second Amendment.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Dreadful syntax, archaic (227 years old), and vague enough to allow a range of interpretations.

One interpretation is that the Second Amendment was ratified so we can protect ourselves in case of a coup or an outbreak of sinister government trickery.

Another take: it was added to secure the Virginia vote in the ratification process, because well-regulated militias kept the slaves under control.

(The founders were accustomed to having, and comfortable with, separate state militias. There was no such thing as a national army until after the US was created. Actually, many of the founders opposed forming a standing national army.)

To my mind, the Second Amendment refers to arming police and soldiers, not to allowing every bonehead with a manhood problem to amass an arsenal.

Well, that’s a bit unfair. Not all boneheads have a manhood problem.

The Supreme Court, I realize, has ruled that the Second Amendment allows civilians to own guns. But the court also made clear that limits and regulations on firearms are acceptable.

The fact is, most Americans live in a bubble regarding this issue. People tend to pay attention to what goes on in the US, but they don’t understand, and usually don’t care, what happens in the rest of the world.

That’s a mistake. Understanding what happens elsewhere is important. Facts can contradict predetermined beliefs, and reality can be unsettling and annoying, but we need the context.

Let me lay some statistics on you.

———

In 2016, the American Journal of Medicine looked at total gun deaths in the world’s 23 highest-income nations during 2010. It found that 82 percent of the gun deaths occurred in the US.

The US had half the population of the other 22 countries combined, yet our gun-related murder rate was 25 times higher.

Of those 23 high-income nations, the US had the highest firearm homicide rate, the highest firearm suicide rate, and the highest total firearm death rate.

In 2010 in those 23 countries overall:

— Of the total gun deaths of people 14 and under, 91 percent happened in the US.

— Of the total gun deaths of people ages 15-24, 92 percent happened in the US.

— Of the total gun deaths of women, 90 percent happened in the US.

———

According to statistics, Norwegian police drew their weapons 42 times during 2014. Of those 42 incidents, two shots were fired, and no one was hit.

We don’t know how many shots were fired by American police officers in 2014, because, incredibly, keeping the stats is prohibited by federal law; however, we know that police shot and killed 632 people that year.

But Norway is a tiny country compared to the US. Consider how we compared to the UK.

In the UK, population 65 million, 51 gun homicides occurred in 2014. In the US, population 318 million, 8,124 gun homicides occurred in 2014.

In other words, while the US population is roughly six times that of the UK, we experienced 160 times as many gun homicides.

According to the World Health Organization, Americans are 50 times more likely than citizens of the UK to be shot to death.

———

More random facts to contemplate…

— Compared to the rest of the world, Americans are 10 times more likely to be killed by a gun and six times more likely to be killed accidentally by a gun.

— The US has more firearms per capita than any other country in the world.

— 31 percent of global mass shootings occur in the US.

— In 2007, it was estimated that 650 million guns were owned by civilians worldwide. Americans, accounting for five percent of the world population, owned 48 percent of those guns.

— Since the 2012 shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, 1,600 more mass shootings (those involving four or more fatalities) have occurred in the US, resulting in 1,800 dead and 6,400 wounded.

— Annually, about 100,000 Americans are shot, and 30,000 are killed. Two-thirds of the gun deaths are suicides.

— 400,000 guns are stolen each year in the US.

— A 2015 survey found that about 50 percent of US gun owners possess just one or two guns, and 14 percent have between eight and 140 guns. That 14 percent, amounting to three percent of the US population, owns half of all the civilian firearms in America.

———

We all have beliefs and belief systems that we champion. On issues large and small, we instinctively take the side that makes us feel good about ourselves — makes us feel respected for our values, maybe accepted by a group we admire.

Some people share their feelings freely, some keep it to themselves, but the behavior is natural and universal.

When you do it right, it’s a healthy thing. When you engage your brain, apply your common sense, fire up your BS detector, and come to conclusions that are reasonable, honest, helpful, and fair, good for you.

But it isn’t healthy when you do it wrong. When you let the talking heads do your thinking for you. Or fall for propaganda. Or buy into conspiracy theories. Or accept the notion that entire groups, mostly people who don’t look like you, are a threat.

If you want to feel good about yourself, try using your intellect — your advanced reasoning abilities as a homo sapien — to decide where you stand.

If you want respect, earn it. Stop going with your gut and your reptilian brain. Break from the herd.

You might see that guns and gun ownership can to be regulated in rational ways for the public good, while affecting you virtually not at all.

You might realize that evil forces are not plotting to confiscate your guns.

You might conclude that, when a country has 90 guns for every 100 citizens, and even minor safeguards are stonewalled, that is insanity writ large.

SP-1

Student protests-2

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A Few Observations

A few observations of a sociopolitical nature…

A Fine Mess

Well, this is a fine mess the country is in, owing to the fact that great numbers of us (specifically, the political conservatives) are being played for suckers and are too bone-headed to realize it.

Let me put it another way.

The USA — the government, the private sector, and most of American society — is effectively run by, is under the thumb of, a rich and privileged mini-minority that has a lock on power. Look around. The wealthy own or control virtually everything. If you’re one of the elites, or are essential to them, you’ve got it made.

The same evolution happened in Russia after the fall of the USSR, but much more rapidly. Russia is now fully controlled by Putin and the Oligarchs. The occasional minor protests are of no consequence.

In the U.S., the transition happened slowly over many decades. The purpose, of course, was to amass wealth and power. The methodology: systematically vilifying certain people and groups — people not like you — and blaming them for your problems.

To make that happen, it was necessary to make the concept of compassion for others, and of using the resources of government to benefit everyone, seem weak and wasteful and stupid. Anti-American.

Think of the rich and powerful as an overlord class. They remain in charge by artfully keep the rabble — people like you and me — distracted and off balance. Fear-mongering is their tactic of choice. It works really well.

Joe Average in Rustbelt, Indiana, is told that he struggles and has a crappy job because black and brown people flood into the country illegally, joining those lazy welfare freeloaders, and they all get preferential treatment from the bleeding-heart liberals.

Joe is too busy hating on black people, brown people, and Democrats to ask why his wealthy employer can’t forego a teeny slice of the profits to pay him a living wage.

The truth is, the members of the rabble class could undo this preposterous situation in one election cycle. But there are too many Joes out there, perpetually seething with anger about illegals, welfare queens, and lib-tards.

Oil and Wealth

About a year ago, I wrote a post about how U.S. sanctions against Russia are blocking a giant oil deal between ExxonMobil and the Russian oil company Rosneft.

In spite of the fact that Donald Trump is now President (!!?), the sanctions are still in place. The latest:

— ExxonMobil asked for a waiver of the sanctions, hoping Trump would go along. He did not, probably because of the heat he is taking about his long-time personal and business ties to the Russian government, Russian banks, and Russian gangsters.

— Congress passed a bill that not only imposes additional sanctions, but also limits the President’s power to lift them. That was a shocker. Trump grumbled bigly, but he signed the bill.

Encouraging, yes, but hardly the end of the story. Not when a deal reportedly worth $500 billion is on the line. Russia and ExxonMobil will never give up and move on. Not ever.

So, if the sanctions eventually are lifted and drilling begins in the North Sea, what will be the consequences?

— All the bad actors with a stake in this are personally enriched and their power further strengthened.

— Russia gets away with invading and assimilating Crimea, which is, like, you know, legally a part of Ukraine.

— The world’s addiction to oil is prolonged for a few more generations.

— Cronyism seems more inevitable, more normal, more futile to resist.

— The gap between the haves and the have-nots widens further. This at a time when eight grotesquely rich men possess as much wealth as the poorest half of the world. Think of it as a scale being balanced with eight people on one side and 3.8 billion people on the other.

Thumping Trump

When the Orange Vulgarian first took office, his relationship with Putin was cozy to a creepy degree. But it didn’t last. Putin thought he was buying a compliant President. He expected the sanctions to be gone by now, and it hasn’t happened.

Trump turned out to be unpredictable and difficult to manage. He is vain, vindictive, and volatile. He shoots from the hip. Smart? Gifted? No, just a con artist, forever winging it, living in the moment.

It seems curious that Putin has not yet exacted his revenge, even though Trump has failed and displeased him in a major way. Why he hasn’t is anyone’s guess, but you can bet it will happen eventually.

What form will it take? How will Putin thump Trump? He has plenty of choices. We learn more every day about Trump’s personal and financial peccadilloes and indiscretions. They range from embarrassing to unethical to illegal — and more revelations are on the way. When Putin strikes, expect it to be inspired and devastating.

Trump’s tendency to admire dictators was always unsettling, but it’s especially so in the case of Putin. Putin is not the legendary evil-genius-master-politician that some people claim, but he is powerful, calculating, ambitious, and ruthless.

Clearly, Russia isn’t enough for him. He dreams of expansion — putting the old Soviet Union back together, and then some. He sees himself as Vladimir the Great.

That’s why the infatuation with Putin by a lightweight, thin-skinned amateur like Trump is scary.

Consequences

A point about where recent phenomena such as the election of Trump and the Brexit vote could lead us.

The wretched masses of the world have a boiling point. As their numbers grow, as their situations worsen, as they watch the rich get richer, they will become steadily more restless, angry, and defiant. When people become so desperate that they react in protest, consequences such as Trump and Brexit are no surprise.

But those in power have boiling points, too. Eventually, any government or regime will retaliate to protect itself and its interests. It will proclaim that the rule of law must prevail. Civil disorder can’t be tolerated. Send in the troops.

That scenario usually ends in one of two ways.

In one, “the people” somehow prevail, boot out the ruling class, and, nobly and piously, set about trying to create a social system equitable to all. Usually, the experiment devolves to rancorous infighting and disintegrates in chaos. Down through history, not an uncommon occurrence.

In the other, an autocracy or oligarchy prevails, with the leadership even more powerful and more deeply entrenched. Also a regular occurrence throughout history.

If you can see a just or happy ending to any of this, I would love to hear your story.

Trump at work

 

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This is important. Probably not a watershed moment, but a big deal nonetheless.

I’m referring to the tide of women coming forward to report past instances of well-known men in business, politics, entertainment, and the media using their power to intimidate, harass, or assault them. Women are emboldened, and they are seizing the moment.

In our hearts, we know that most of the stories, probably all of them, are true. It’s a man’s world, and this is what some men do — what some men always have done.

Entrepreneur Malcolm Forbes said, “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” (His use of man undoubtedly means person.)

Forbes framed the point positively, referring to behavior that reveals good character. Well, it’s equally clear that men preying on women is revealing of poor character.

And character certainly is the issue here.

Most likely, none of these revelations will do much to change the behavior of the non-famous predators among us — the countless anonymous bullies and abusers who make life miserable for girlfriends, spouses, and employees.

What’s happening to Weinstein et al is progress. But is it seismic? I doubt it.

Still, it’s refreshing. And, as new names and charges surface and more melodrama is uncorked, all thoughts should turn to Donald Trump, the orange vulgarian, who has been accused of sexual predation for decades.

Trump’s deplorable character and lack of integrity are glaringly obvious, but most Republicans give him a pass. To them, he is Teflon Donald.

This is appalling, but no surprise. To the occupants of the right-wing fact-free zone, Trump is simply their guy. Go, team. To some supporters, he is innocent. To others, his behavior doesn’t matter. Either way, their fall-back position is that Trump’s accusers are liars. Better yet, paid liars.

It’s a sorry spectacle. Regardless of anyone’s perceived grievances, no matter how conservatives rationalize it, to vote for and stand by such a flawed, disreputable, unqualified person is indefensible.

Years ago, when writer Harry Hurt III was doing research for his 1993 book “Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump,” he obtained a copy of the sworn divorce deposition of Trump’s first wife, Ivana. In the deposition, Ivana claimed that in 1989, Trump “violently raped” her.

According to Hurt’s book, Trump had undergone a scalp reduction procedure to eliminate a bald spot, using a plastic surgeon recommended by Ivana. The procedure was unexpectedly painful. Hurt wrote that, in a rage, Trump tore out a handful of Ivana’s hair and forced himself on her sexually.

By the time Hurt’s book was released, Trump’s legal team had done its work. The book publisher had agreed to paste a special statement from Ivana inside every copy. The statement confirmed her claim of rape, but not in “a literal or criminal sense.” The statement read, “As a woman, I felt violated.”

Hurt contends that Ivana agreed to add the statement in exchange for finalizing the divorce settlement. She reportedly received $14 million.

According to government records, when Trump was deposed during the divorce proceedings and Ivana’s lawyers questioned him about reports of his history of adulterous relationships, he invoked his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination 100 times.

Over the years, a parade of women has come forward to accuse Trump of varying degrees of sexual advances and assaults. After some relatively easy Googling, I came up with this list.

———

Jill Harth, who worked with Trump in 1996 on a beauty pageant in Atlantic City, claimed Trump groped her under a table at a business dinner. Later, she said, he cornered her and kissed her while she was “desperately protesting.” She filed a sexual harassment suit that accused Trump of attempted rape, but, as part of the legal maneuvering, withdrew that specific claim.

Natasha Stoynoff, a writer for People Magazine, said that when she interviewed Trump at Mar-a-Lago in 2005, he pushed her against a wall, held her there, and forcibly kissed her as she struggled. She said Trump told her they were going to have an affair. She said the attack ended when a butler entered the room.

Temple Taggart McDowell, the 1997 Miss Utah USA, said Trump twice kissed her on the mouth, aggressively and without warning. She said a pageant chaperone advised her never to be alone with Trump.

Rachel Crooks, a receptionist for a real estate company in Trump Tower, said she introduced herself to Trump outside an elevator in 2005. She said Trump held her hand, kissed her cheek, and, quickly and unexpectedly, kissed her on the mouth.

Jessica Leeds, a saleswoman for a paper company, said Trump sat beside her on an airline flight in the mid-1980s. During the flight, Leeds said, he lifted the armrest, grabbed her breasts, and tried to put his hand up her skirt. “He was like an octopus,” she said.

Mindy McGillivray said Trump came up behind her and grabbed her buttocks at Mar-a-Lago while she was working there as a photographer’s assistant in 2003..

Kristin Anderson, a restaurant hostess, said Trump put his hand under her skirt and touched her crotch. The incident happened in the early 1990s on a couch in a crowded night club.

Summer Zervos, a former “Apprentice” contestant, said she met with Trump in his office in 2007 to discuss job opportunities. She said he forcibly kissed her and grabbed her breasts as she tried to push him away. She filed a lawsuit.

Jennifer Murphy, also a former “Apprentice” contestant, said Trump walked her to the elevator after an interview in 2005 and, instead of hugging her as she expected, leaned forward and kissed her on the mouth.

Cathy Heller said she was introduced to Trump at a brunch in the late 1990s. When she extended her hand, he pulled her toward him and tried to kiss her on the mouth. She said she turned her head and pulled away, and he grew angry and said, “Oh, come on!”

Karena Virginia, a yoga instructor, said she was waiting for a cab in New York City in 1998 when Trump walked by with a group of men. She said he told the men, “Look at those legs.” She said he approached her and grabbed her right arm, touching her breast in the process. She said Trump asked, “Don’t you know who I am?”

Jessica Drake, described as a sex educator and a former porn star, said Trump grabbed her and kissed her “without asking permission” at a golf tournament in Lake Tahoe in 2006. She also said Trump offered her $10,000 and the use of a private plane if she would come to his room and later go to a party with him.

Ninni Laaksonen, a former Miss Finland, said Trump grabbed her buttocks while photos were being taken of Trump and a group of beauty pageant contestants in New York in 2006.

Cassandra Searles, a participant in the 2013 Miss USA Pageant, said Trump “lined us up so he could get a closer look at his property.”

Kelsey Wheeler, another 2013 pageant participant, said Trump made them pose for uncomfortable photos with visiting businessmen.

Samantha Holvey, also a pageant participant, said Trump personally inspected each girl backstage, “from head to toe, like we were just meat.” She also recalled private parties where the contestants had to mingle with “old, rich, drunk guys ogling all over us.”

Rowanne Brewer Lane, an aspiring model, said Trump took her by the hand at a Mar-a-Lago pool party in 1990, led her upstairs, and gave her a bikini to put on. When they returned to the party, he said to the group, “That is a stunning Trump girl, isn’t it?”

Mariah Billado, a contestant in the 1997 Miss Teen USA Pageant, said Trump walked into their dressing room while many of the teens were undressed and said, “Don’t worry, ladies, I’ve seen it all before.”

Victoria Hughes, who was 19 during the 1997 Miss Teen USA Pageant, confirmed that Trump entered the dressing room unannounced while they were changing clothes. She said the youngest contestant in the room was 15.

Bridget Sullivan, a contestant in the 2000 Miss USA Pageant, said Trump entered the dressing room when “we were all naked.”

Tasha Dixon, a contestant in the 2001 Miss Teen USA Pageant, said Trump once walked unannounced into the dressing room. “There was no second to put a robe on or anything,” she said. “Some girls were topless. Other girls were naked.”

———

Of that list of 21 women, the first 13 accuse Trump of being a sexual predator. The last eight accuse him of being an obnoxious creep.

Is this a complete list of the women Trump has assaulted or intimidated? I find that inconceivable.

Ironically, after I spent time assembling the above info, the Washington Post published a nice summary that would have saved me the trouble. The Post listed not only the women and their stories, but also the names and accounts of corroborating witnesses — friends and associates of the accusers in whom they confided soon after their encounters with Trump.

As you know, Trump has flatly denied all such accusations. He claims the women are lying. But, at the same time, his trademark boasting confirms some of the women’s stories.

In 2005, on The Howard Stern Show, Trump bragged about going into pageant dressing rooms without warning.

He told Stern, “No men are anywhere, and I’m allowed to go in because I’m the owner of the pageant, and therefore I’m inspecting it. ‘Is everybody okay?’ You know, they’re standing there with no clothes. ‘Is everybody okay?’ And you see these incredible-looking women, and so I sort of get away with things like that.”

Then there is the infamous “Access Hollywood” video, in which Trump proudly admitted that predatory behavior toward women is his modus operandi.

Sometimes, I get distracted by the accumulating evidence that Trump has been doing business for years with Putin and his Russian oligarch/mobster friends — which, now that Trump is President, falls somewhere between disqualifying and treasonous.

I get distracted, and I tend to focus on other matters — not just Trump’s ties to Russia, but the blatant conflicts of interest, the reckless foreign policy, the terrible people who surround him, and the damage inflicted by the loony-tunes Republicans now in charge.

I shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that, simply as a human being, Trump is loathsome, amoral, and wildly unfit to be President.

Because, fundamentally, Trump’s character — his appalling lack of positive character traits — explains everything else.

Miss USA

Trump 1998

 

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We don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.”

— Eric Trump, 2014

———

For a host of obvious reasons, most Americans did not vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 election.

Of course they didn’t. Nobody with their wits about them would want such a flawed person, who has dangerous connections to our enemies, to lead the country.

But, astonishingly, enough people voted for him, in just the right places, to give him an Electoral College victory.

Why? The reasons varied.

Some did it because Trump was the Republican nominee, and they are loyal to the Republican team, no matter how far the party descends into fantasy, delusion, and paranoia.

Some did it because of the vague notion that Trump would “shake things up in Washington.” Nothing gets done anyway. Maybe a trainwreck is what we need.

Some did it to give a middle finger to the snooty, holier-than-thou liberals — those annoying left-wingers they perceive, sometimes correctly, to be looking down on working-class conservatives.

Some did it because they hate the lazy, whiny black and brown people who get a free ride from government, at the expense of hard-working, God-fearing, patriotic white people who just can’t get a break.

Some did it because they were taught to loathe Hillary Clinton by people they watch and listen to — you know, like Fox News, Limbaugh, Beck, and all those right-wing televangelists.

I get all that. Intellectually, I understand the motivations, as naive and wrong-headed as they are.

Still, it baffles me that all those Trump voters, knowing about the guy’s character, his history, his ties to foreign adversaries, his conflicts of interest — knowing all that, they were willing to risk the safety, security, and well-being of the country for reasons that are, frankly, trivial and infantile.

And risk it they did. They saddled us with a president who, in the eyes of the rest of the world, is a dangerously unpredictable buffoon.

They saddled us with someone erratic and impulsive enough to pick a fight with a madman like Kim Jong Un. The two of them are playing nuclear chicken, and if you aren’t frightened by that, you need to pay attention.

They saddled us with a man who is beholden to an unknown degree to Vladimir Putin, the evil little despot who single-handedly dragged the world back into a Cold War.

Eventually, I expect, proof will surface that Russian money has bailed out Trump and his businesses multiple times, starting back in the 1990s.

I expect we’ll discover that Trump is indebted to Putin, the oligarchs, and the banks they control, not just for coming to his aid when he needed it financially, but for stacking the deck by meddling in America’s campaign and elections.

There are rumors that Russia has dirt on Trump for unsavory personal behavior. They’re only rumors. They could be false, they could be exaggerated.

But if they’re even partly true, Trump knows the Russians could damage him, or at least embarrass him, by releasing the evidence. If that’s so, he is bought and paid for.

———

In case you missed it, Trump got 63 percent of the votes of white men and 53 percent of the votes of white women.

The white male vote isn’t too surprising, but the white female vote certainly is. 53 percent of white women voted for one of the most infamous misogynists on the national stage. Unbelievable.

For all of his adult life, Trump has disparaged, objectified, and leered at women as a matter of routine. Probably, in his mind, this makes him manly and clever.

In a rational world, his record of shameful behavior towards women automatically would have doomed his chances with woman voters.

When the “Access Hollywood” video came out before the election, in which Trump made his infamous grab-’em-by-the-private-parts remarks, I was convinced his campaign was over. I couldn’t see how any woman could vote for him after that.

By all rights, that incident should have sent Trump back to private life in disgrace. It should have guaranteed that no self-respecting female would dream of voting for him.

But 53 percent of white women voted for him anyway.

It appears that my confidence in the wisdom and maturity of the electorate was sadly misplaced.

AH video

 

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