Trump Blinked on Separating Families — Now What?

Trump Blinked on Separating Families — Now What?

“Look,” a Republican friend said to me recently, “President Trump needs time to show what he can do. We elected him because we thought he’d shake things up – fix things. No more Washington ‘Business as Usual.’ You have to give him a chance. That’s only fair.” (I resisted asking how “fair” Republicans had been to President Obama when he took office.) So let’s honor that request. We’ve had ample opportunity to take the measure of President Trump’s operating style. It reflects his family and upbringing, his innate personal character and values, and his experience. That experience was forged in the nasty, dog-eat-dog world of New York real estate development, captured in his book The Art of the Deal, and dramatized on his TV show “The Apprentice.” Its essence is the testosterone-driven battle of confrontational bargaining. It’s a zero-sum game: somebody wins, somebody loses–there’s no middle ground. It’s narrowly time-limited: no long-term view—win today’s battle, whatever it takes, and go on to the next one, always with the same question, “Did I win or lose?” In the kind of transactional, win/lose battles Donald Trump built his life and career on, “Truth” is whatever you say it is–at the moment–in order to gain advantage. There are no “rules,” no overriding ethics, moral principles, or even compassion. You get what you want by brute force, fear,  intimidation, and dissimulation … or outright lying. A world like this, devoid of guiding principles, is a world without consequences. Of course, nobody wins all the time in a world of unrelentingly constant battles: witness Trump’s multiple bankruptcies and business failures. So if a deal...
America Has Lost Its Mind … How Can We Get It Back?

America Has Lost Its Mind … How Can We Get It Back?

Our country is on fire. We have become a viciously crippled, polarized society.  These days, an increasing majority of Americans passionately ally themselves with one or the other of two competing ideological extremes, then accuse the other side of every imaginable economic, intellectual, social, spiritual, and moral flaw. Now the people who disagree with us aren’t just “wrong,” they’re grossly stupid and evilly sinful. I’m old enough to remember when  people of good will who disagreed with each other on matters of policy and action could respect their differences but still work through them to reach consensus on what all parties could commit to support. These were consensual agreements based on fact — what’s actually happening — and anchored in a common ground of shared beliefs.  We have lost that good will. In fairness, the differences that now tragically and ominously divide us have always existed in the deep fabric of our nation  since the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1789: finding the delicate balance between the liberty granted individuals in a republic and the responsibilities of all people in a democratic society; between the powers relegated to the states (large and small) and to the federal government;  between the proper authority exercised by the three separate branches of government; between the enabling strengths and crippling limitations of both capitalism and socialism; between the promise of unlimited entrepreneurial possibilities and the harsh reality of working for a wage — or in the case of African slaves, no wage at all;  between our prosperity as a nation and our membership in a global economy;   and between the ideal of...
5 Reasons Trump Could Involve Us in a Disastrous, Needless War

5 Reasons Trump Could Involve Us in a Disastrous, Needless War

The idea of Trump propelling America into a major, devastating war – with North Korea, Iran, or even China −  is a threat all of us need to take seriously, and act on in 2018, by restoring a two-party balance (or a Democratic majority) into Congress as a check on Trump’s dangerous instability. Colin Powell, unlike Donald Trump, served in Vietnam at the beginning of a distinguished military career.  What has become known as “The Powell Doctrine” reflects his deep knowledge of the enormous waste of war that makes it only sensible as a national strategy when all other  political, economic, and diplomatic means have been exhausted.   Is a vital national security interest threatened? Do we have a clear attainable objective? Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed? Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted? Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement? Have the consequences of our action been fully considered? Is the action supported by the American people? Do we have genuine broad international support? The answer to all these questions regarding the disastrous Iraq War was “No.” As a country, we shouldn’t repeat that mistake, especially now because it involves the potential for nuclear war. Regarding North Korea and Iran, none of those preconditions – not even the first − has been met. More dangerously, none of them are characteristic of how Trump has demonstrated he would deal with the very real foreign policy threats the U.S. is now facing. Trump has no foreign “policy” based on a well-informed, rational understanding of global threats to America’s safety and...
Make America GOOD Again

Make America GOOD Again

Consider how we use the word “good” in our daily lives: “He’s a good man.” “She’s a good friend.” “They’re good kids.”  “They’re good parents.” “I live in a good neighborhood.” “My kids go to a good school.” “I’m in a good place in my life right now.” “I feel good about this.”  “I’m blessed with good health.” My first work out of college was as a teacher and coach. I vividly remember seeing a kid come off the field having played his or her heart out and saying “Good job!!” A lot of us used to be able to say:  “I work for a good company.” “I work for a good boss.”  “I’m making a good salary.” (A whole lot fewer of us are able to say that now). We know, deep down, what the word “good” means in real, living ways. So here’s the first question: “Is President Trump a good human being?”  When I ask this question of my Republican friends, often I get a “Whatabout…” non-answer.  “Well, what about Bill Clinton?  Or Hillary?” That’s ducking the question. If you say the question doesn’t matter, as many of Trump’s supporters do, then you’re saying that “goodness” no longer matters as a value — not just for presidents and elected representatives, but as an essential human value. I’m not suggesting that the people we elect to public office should be saints. Few of us rise to that standard in our own lives. But if we don’t hold our leadership to some level of fundamental integrity and decency, our society and our country falls apart. One measure of...
Another Rave Review for The Most Bold and Daring Act of the Age

Another Rave Review for The Most Bold and Daring Act of the Age

Hi folks – Clarion Reviews, the industry’s first and most trusted review service for indie and self-publishers, praised The Most Bold and Daring Act of the Age. “In The Most Bold and Daring Act of the Age, the latest book in E. Thomas Behr’s rollicking historical series, it is the relentless action that grabs audience attention and sustains interest from beginning to end.  The plot moves quickly, capturing what is essentially a guerrilla struggle for national strategic influence. Action scenes that represent turning points are nicely drawn, from hand-to-hand combat …  to sea skirmishes where deadly splinters sweep ship decks of life. It pulls as much entertainment from history as is possible, and does so well; this is a believable peek into the past, with enough detail and thrills to enliven the record. The Most Bold and Daring Act of the Age makes a cinematic hero come to life, putting him in the midst of many thrilling action scenes, with moments of romance offering pauses along the...
Liar in Chief

Liar in Chief

OK. I understand why Congressional Republicans running for office won’t criticize Trump. They run the risk of getting kicked off the gravy train: a hefty salary, better health insurance than most of us can afford, a fat pension, a luxury lifestyle paid for by wealthy donors, and absolutely no accountability to have to DO anything. If, God forbid, they were voted out of office, they might actually have to work for a living (unless they got hired as million-dollar-a-year lobbyists). But I don’t understand why my Republican friends, who are decent, well-educated people, continue to support a president who is an incorrigible, pathological liar and narcissistic egomaniac. Set aside the factual whoppers:  more people attended his inauguration than the inauguration of any other president; the Trump Tower has 68 stories (it really has 58);  the U.S. has the highest tax rate in the world; the murder rate in our country is the highest it’s been in 47 years; The Art of the Deal is the best-selling business book in history; the number of illegal immigrants in the United States is 34 million; thousands and thousands of people were cheering in Jersey City, N.J. as the World Trade Center collapsed; the unemployment rate may be as high as 42 percent; Trump University received an “A” rating from the Better Business bureau…  the list goes on and on. Clearly he believes his own lies. As he described them in The Art of the Deal, they are just “truthful hyperbole.” But how can someone create sane public and foreign policy if he has so little awareness of factual reality (or history, for...
How to REALLY Put Coal Miners Back to Work, Mr. President

How to REALLY Put Coal Miners Back to Work, Mr. President

Instead of the deluge of unfulfilled and unfulfillable Trumpian boasts about jobs creation “I’ll be greatest jobs president that God ever created” (so far his record on NEW jobs created is about the same as Obama’s), here’s how you really create jobs. Upstanders: Planting Hope in a Coalfield These former coal miners are helping rebuild the Appalachian region from the ground up. Posted by Upworthy on Friday, November 3, 2017 To my Republican friends:  this is REAL news from REAL people. At least look at the video – and then compare it with Trump’s grandstanding to his base “Trump Digs...

Planet Grim: A Stunning Debut Book You Will Want To Read

Five Stars for Planet Grim –    A Courageously, Brilliantly Truthful Book Review by E. Thomas Behr, Ph.D., www.tombehrbooks.com Alex Behr’s newly-published collection of stories, Planet Grim, is a stunning debut work by an important writer all of us should get to know. Ernest Hemingway said, “A writer’s job is to tell the truth.” Easier said than done. The “Truths” of our lives typically change as we struggle along the path that life lays out before us. And along the way, we are assailed by self-doubt: “Is this the ‘Truth,’ or am just fooling myself? And how in the world can I know?” So it takes great courage to live up to the challenge of “telling the truth.” In that regard, Alex Behr is one of the most courageous writers I have ever known. Because she is writing at a painful time in her life, her “Truth,” as shared in her aptly-named collection of stories, Planet Grim, is hard, almost unbearably honest.      “I cry in therapy. Divorce is violent. My husband. A nice person. Except when he swears. Except when he looks at me sobbing on the chair, on the rug. Anywhere. Our house is welcome to all tears. Moths eat the felt pads inside the piano.” And what wonderful writing! She is a magician with language, even if it often bites hard – even if single words, phrases, and images fall like hammer blows. “My husband breaks a slat of the bed I grew up in. It’s a mahogany sleigh bed from the 1800s. The headboard is stained with handprint ghosts from our son’s dreams.” Wounds bleed....
Sorry About Your Statue, Bobby Lee

Sorry About Your Statue, Bobby Lee

All across the South, statues to the South’s heroes of the Civil War are tumbling down in protest or quietly disappearing. We are living through the firestorm of Donald Trump’s thinly-disguised celebration of the moral crime and tragedy of white superiority. And we are being tested and challenged, once again – as individuals and a nation – fully and completely to live up to the liberating vision in whose light our nation was founded. The issue is complex for me. On my mother’s side, the first Thomas settled in Maryland in 1651. The Thomases, for many generations, were aristocratic planters. They owned slaves. My direct ancestors, from Decatur Georgia, all fought – and many died – for the South. I have the family’s records and collection of faded daguerreotypes of men in grey uniforms: “Killed at First Manassas, age 17.”    “Killed at Second Manassas, age 17 1/2.” “Killed Nov. 22, 1864, near Macin Georgia.”  “Died in the attack on Ft. Saunders, Tennessee.” My mother’s family moved to Plainfield, New Jersey, when  my grandfather became President of U.S. Steel Products in New York; that’s where my mother met my father and I was born and raised. I was raised a “Yankee,” but somehow, the old myths persisted.  Maybe I made the mistake of reading too much Faulkner at an early, impressionable age. It wasn’t the “Civil War,” but rather “the War Between the States” (or better ‘The War of Northern Aggression.”) I grew up with the stories of how the family home in Decatur had been spared by Devil Sherman on his bloody, burning swath through Georgia to the...
Killing American Healthcare:  We’re Failing to Solve the Wrong Problem

Killing American Healthcare: We’re Failing to Solve the Wrong Problem

The goal of reasonable, affordable health care for all American citizens, to borrow Susan Milligan’s metaphor[1], is on life support in the Republican-controlled Congress, kept alive by feeding tubes. What We’re Ignoring: A Healthy Patient The current Republican Health Care Act seeks to solve the challenge by radical, high risk amputation whose aim is to kill the disease, even if it costs the patient his life. (We should be calling the GOP plan “McConnellcare,” not “Trumpcare,” since President Trump has little interest in or mental capacity for actually making good on his promise “to have something that’s really good and that people are going to like.”)[2] The current treatment, the Democrats’ Affordable Care Act, by the same analogy, amounts to keeping the patient alive by an unsustainable-, expensive regimen of drugs with lots of damaging, unanticipated side effects. But the patient is dying. Conservative Congressional Republicans are, in effect, now saying “We’ll let the patient die, but preserve the brain.” The liberal Democrats’ response: “We’ll let the patient die, but preserve the heart.” Either way, the patient is dead. What’s wrong: neither the Affordable Care Act nor the latest GOP version of healthcare Mitch McConnell is desperately trying to get passed by the Senate actually deals with the illness. Even worse, neither has any ability to deliver what’s really needed: a patient capable of enjoying robust, sustainable health. We’re Just Making a Sick Patient Sicker The core of the problem: Constantly escalating, uncontrolled increases in the cost of drugs, unregulated discrepancies in the cost of medical services, and equal discrepancies in what insurance companies pay to compensate patients and...