Is Sen. Hawley a danger to our democracy?

Josh Hawley, the junior senator from Missouri, was mostly unknown until he joined a few other newsworthy seditionists to attempt to deny certification of Joe Biden’s election on January 6, 2021.

Hawley became a poster boy for the cause, caught on camera fist-pumping outside the Capitol just prior to the insurrection. 

Sen. Josh Hawley at the Capitol, January 6, 2021

His re-election campaign now uses this photo to embellish a number of trinkets available on his website – for example, a coffee mug is available for just $20.00.

Hawley graduated from a private Jesuit high school where he was valedictorian; is a graduate of Stanford; and of Yale Law School where he was an editor of the Yale Law Journal and also served as president of the Yale Federalist Society chapter. Prior to his election to the Senate in 2018, he held a number of positions, including a stint as an associate professor at the University of Missouri Law School, where he taught constitutional law.

But, please don’t be fooled by his pedigree, boyish good looks or his melodious baritone delivery.

Hawley clearly has a penchant for disloyalty and rebellious activities focused on undermining the workings of the United States government.

And, his recent performance interrogating Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has given new meaning to the phrase “badgering the witness.”

Some Thoughts on CPAC 2022

February 28, 2022

Has our education system failed us?

Over the past 3 decades, the U.S. has slowly lost its edge as the world leader in public education.  U.S. student proficiency in science and math – generally thought to be the foundation for independent and critical thinking – is mediocre, at best.

In a recent international comparison of achievement among 15 year old students from 71 countries, U.S. students ranked 36th in math, and 24th in science.

Some of these students — who have already been denied a rigorous education – are most vulnerable to inculcation and indoctrination.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that young adults who lack independent and/or critical thinking skills are likely to become the next generation of CPAC attendees.

Donald Trump is an expert communicator, highly skilled in techniques which are frequently cited by experts in mind control.

Trump focuses on a small number of issues which are emotionally important to a narrow group of people who feel lost or disenfranchised.

His communications are intended to provide understanding, comfort and answers to his audience, thus to gain their trust, despite often vague solutions to the identified problems.  Here are a few actual and verified Trump communiques (in no particular chronological order) which may have helped rally and solidify his audience:

  • “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”
  • “I am the only one who can make America truly great again.”
  • “This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps, and our GW scientists are stuck in ice.”
  • “I’m intelligent. Some people would say I’m very, very, very intelligent.”
  • “Sorry losers and haters, but my IQ is one of the highest – and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure; it’s not your fault.”
  • “We need a president with tremendous intelligence, smarts, cunning, strength and stamina.”
  • “Obama and his attack dogs have nothing but hate and anger in their hearts and spew it whenever possible.”
  • “I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will have Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”
  • “I’m the least racist person you have ever interviewed.”
  • “I have a great relationship with African Americans, as you possibly have heard. I just have great respect for them. And they like me. I like them.”
  • “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
  • “[John McCain is]… not a war hero. He’s a war hero – he’s a war hero ’cause he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, OK, I hate to tell you.”
  • “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”
  • “Crooked Hillary Clinton is the worst (and biggest) loser of all time. She just can’t stop, which is so good for the Republican Party. Hillary, get on with your life and give it another try in 3 years!”
  • “Russia will have much greater respect for our country when I am leading it than when other people have led it… If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability, because we have a horrible relationship with Russia.”
  • “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”
  • “We can’t let people down when they can’t get any medical care, when they’re sick and don’t have money to go to a doctor. You help them.”
  • “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides.” [post-Charlottesville, VA; 2017].
  • “Corporations are literally going wild over this, I think even beyond my expectations.” [Tax Cuts and Jobs Act; 2017]
  • “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. It’s going to be just fine.” [Re: Covid-19:  Jan. 2020]
  • “We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election. We will never let them do it. Votes cannot be cast after the Polls are closed!”
  • “So, look, all I want to do, is I want to find 11,780 votes.”
  • “We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
  • “This election was rigged. And the Supreme Court and other courts didn’t want to do anything about it.”
  • “Nobody has done more for Christianity or for evangelicals — or for religion itself — than I have.”
  • “They say, ‘Trump said Putin’s smart.’ I mean, he’s taking over a country for two dollars’ worth of sanctions. I’d say that’s pretty smart. He’s taking over a country — really a vast, vast location, a great piece of land with a lot of people, and just walking right in.”
  • “As grave as the dangers are abroad, it’s the destruction within that spells our doom. Our most dangerous people are people from within. These are people that must hate our country because they make us weak. They indoctrinate your children to hate their parents while calling you a hateful racist. They use big tech to censor you. They use the deep state to spy on you. They use the intelligence agencies to frame you. They use the media to slander you. They use the legal system to persecute you. It is a persecution. They use rigged elections to disenfranchise you and destroy you and ruin your lives.”

Yes, Mr. Trump.  If we follow your lead, we must fear the left-wing fascists and dumb political leaders from within.  Some have said that these dumb political leaders are ‘truly evil people’ who are ‘afraid to do the right thing.’

Meanwhile, others have singled out a contingent of Republican elected officials – including: Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida; Sen. Bill Hagerty of Tennessee; Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana; Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma; Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida; former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas; Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio; Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, and several more.

Concurrent with the CPAC conference, Rep. Greene distinguished herself as a speaker at a white supremacist event — the America First Political Action Conference (AFPAC) – also held in Florida.

Guests at the AFPAC conference openly cheered Russian President Vladimir Putin, and approved comparisons between Putin and Adolf Hitler, while calling the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol “awesome.”

Despite a subsequent statement from the RNC Chairwoman saying “white supremacy, neo-Nazism, hate speech and bigotry are disgusting and do not have a home in the Republican Party,” there was no rebuke of Marjorie Taylor Greene by name.

Yes, Mr. Trump.  There may be some left-wing fascists and dumb political leaders who were elected as Democrats.  If you could take just a moment to identify them and accurately describe their aberrant behavior(s), that would really be great.

Yet, we have irrefutable media evidence of public officials who were elected as Republicans and who have gone out of their way to favor Mr. Putin over our elected president.

Best I know:  This is clear essence of sedition, perhaps emanating a whiff of treason.

Perhaps, Mr. Trump, you will take a few moments to respond to these conclusions drawn from real facts?

During my college years, I was introduced to the writings of Franz Kafka; that may help explain my rather bizarre sense of humor.

Day by day, week by week: The behaviors of many of these elected officials devolves toward the bottom, the base, the nadir.

The Untouchables

April 23, 2019

The Untouchables television series debuted in 1959 loosely based on a memoir written by Eliot Ness, chronicling his career as a federal Treasury enforcement agent in the 1930’s.

The TV series starred Robert Stack (as Eliot Ness) as the leader of a team of Prohibition Agents employed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury following their efforts to bring down the bootleg empire of “Scarface” Al Capone.

The team of agents was nicknamed “The Untouchables” because of their courage, moral character, and incorruptibility; legend said they could not be bribed or intimidated by the Mob.

The Untouchables was a landmark television series that spawned numerous imitators over the decades, including S.W.A.T.;  The F.B.I.;  Crime Story;  the original Hawaii Five-O;  and countless more.

Those were the days when the American public proudly looked up to…

  • Our elected leaders in Washington;
  • Their appointed cabinet heads; and
  • The career public servants who signed on to protect our country against rascals, scoundrels and scofflaws.

Today (April 23, 2019), U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin failed to meet a final congressional deadline for turning over President Donald Trump’s tax returns to lawmakers, setting the stage for a possible court battle between Congress and the Trump Administration.

Last week, we witnessed William Barr — the current Attorney General of the United States – in a nationally televised press conference deliver a fully fabricated introduction to a 400+plus page summary of a Special Counsel independent investigation (“The Mueller Investigation”) into allegations of Russian government  efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

We have a sitting President who has frequently and publicly besmirched, criticized and/or called into question the abilities, intentions and loyalty of the entire U.S. intelligence community, including the FBI, CIA, Treasury Department and National Intelligence Agency,

Trump’s decision to revoke the security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan in August 2018 – apparently in retaliation to Brennan’s comments that Trump was incapable of managing the office of POTUS – is cast in complete juxtaposition to the forced security clearances for Jared and Ivanka.

Make America Great Again?

Yeah.

Let’s go back to the time when Eliot Ness and his team of Untouchables were revered by virtually all Americans, and when we were willing and able to unite against Mobsters and Criminals who threatened the very essence of our Constitutional Republic.

Where’s Mitch McConnell?

January 17, 2019

Where’s Mitch is a question many people are asking.

There are 800,000 federal workers and their families who are going without pay right now – including thousands of Kentuckians.

Here in Florida, we have about 5,000 Coast Guard members doing their jobs to protect our 1,350 miles of Gulf and Atlantic coastline, and they are not currently being paid.

The new Democratic House, on its first day in office, passed two bills funding and reopening the government.

McConnell has refused to allow a vote on any of those bills in the Senate. He’s even twice blocked a bill reopening the government from coming to the floor that he himself voted for back in December.

Despite the fact that Majority Leader McConnell has the ability to end this shutdown right now, Mitch is seemingly nowhere to be found.

I’m angry that this one man who has the power to stop this absurd drama has refused to do his job.

If you are nearly as angry as I am, perhaps you will consider donating $15 – or what you can afford – to the Ditch Mitch movement.  Let’s shine a bright light on McConnell’s irresponsible behavior.

http://ditchmit.ch/

 

Remember Benghazi?

January 16, 2019

I refer to a deplorable attack by members of the Islamic militant group Ansar al-Sharia on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya during which four U.S. citizens were killed. That atrocity occurred in September 2012, just over 6 years ago.

Today (January 16, 2019) — just a month after President Donald Trump declared that the Islamic State had been defeated and that he was pulling U.S. troops out of Syria — a suicide bombing in northern Syria attributed to the Islamic State killed at least 16 people, including two U.S. service members and two American civilians.

About four hours after this vicious attack by Islamic Militants – and after having been briefed on the bombing — Vice President Mike Pence told the world, “Thanks to the leadership of this commander in chief and the courage and sacrifice of our armed forces, we are now actually able to begin to hand off the fight against ISIS in Syria to our coalition partners. And we are bringing our troops home. The caliphate has crumbled, and ISIS has been defeated.”

Cold? Callous? Confused? Disconnected?

Even some senior Republican elected officials have pushed back on this mess, warning President Trump that his statements have served to encourage and inspire ‘the enemy we’re fighting.’

Back to Benghazi: At two years and four months, Trey Gowdy’s Benghazi investigation was longer than previous Congressional probes into 9/11; Watergate; the JFK assassination; and Pearl Harbor. Add to that time wasted: the $22 Million of public money spent in a clearly partisan attempt to “get” former Secretary Clinton, it must have been deeply disappointing to those who backed Gowdy when they read the final report which found no evidence of wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton.

Lessons Learned: Despite the temptation, let us be sure to tell our elected officials in Washington:  Please don’t waste any scarce government resources investigating the direct impact of President Trump’s actions on the January 16, 2019 Islamic State fatal attack on innocent people in northern Syria.

Trump does what he is told, and there is no reason to investigate what we already know.

Constitutional Conflicts

August 11, 2018

We frequently hear from advocates of the 1st amendment, the 2nd amendment, the 4th amendment, et al.

We don’t often hear about one of the key concerns of our ‘Founding Fathers’, perhaps best voiced by James Madison who said, “The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted.”

Indeed.

Madison and his colleagues made sure that one of the basic precepts of the U.S. Constitution was to ensure a separation of powers enforced through a series of checks and balances to prevent a single person (or branch of the federal government) from becoming too powerful, thus thwarting the potential for fraud, self-aggrandizement and to encourage timely correction of errors or omissions.

The system of checks and balances is intended to act as a circuit breaker over the separation of powers, balancing the authorities of the separate branches of government.

It assumes honest and impartial actions by each department charged with the responsibility to verify the appropriateness and legality of actions initiated by the others.

Never before Donald Trump have we had a senior elected federal official who refused to disclose the details of his finances.  And, in U.S. history there has never been a president for whom it was more important that we know the details of his finances.

Trump has a well-documented history as an incompetent and perhaps corrupt businessman. After election, he refused to divest himself of his holdings, providing an open window of opportunities for bad people to entice him – and his family – with unimaginable advantages.  Why?  Trump’s income comes from an incredibly complex web of companies that are impossible for outside observers to comprehend.

We know from public information that the Trump Organization is not just one company, but a very complex assemblage of pass-through entities.  In a March 2016 letter from his tax lawyers, Donald Trump’s financial situation is described as “inordinately large and complex for an individual” because he holds “interests as the sole or principal owner in approximately 500 separate entities (which) are collectively referred to and do business as The Trump Organization.”

Now, more than 18 months after Trump was inaugurated, The Trump Organization continues to bring in money from deals involving potentially questionable characters and foreign governments possibly looking to influence POTUS. We have no idea who his partners in those hundreds of pass-through companies are, and whether they might have compromising information on him.

How can it be that we have allowed Mr. Trump to get away with keeping his tax returns secret?

Why?

Members of Congress have abdicated their role as arbiters of Executive Branch ethics by refusing to demand release of current (2014 – 2017) business and personal federal income tax returns from Donald Trump, The Trump Organization, and any relevant and/or related entities.

We can only conclude that this is clear evidence of dereliction of duty by these officials whom we elected to represent the interests of the American people.

Economically and financially competent American voters must demand full and immediate disclosure of current tax returns by senior elected officials, particularly at the executive and legislative level.

If they who wish to serve don’t wish to disclose, they shouldn’t run for public office.

If they who are elected refuse to disclose, they should automatically be removed from public office.

No exceptions. No excuses.

Today, Donald Trump was in Brussels representing the U.S. at a NATO summit.

His documented behavior was at best, rude. Some have called his actions to be “obnoxious and uncivilized.” Others have said, “…consistently appalling and despicable behavior.”

Trump continues to test the lower boundaries of bad behavior, creating an internationally negative aura against the people of the United States.

How to explain this immature and puerile public conduct by a man who is currently serving as the President of the U.S.?

Here is one clue: In his 1987 book, The Art of the Deal, Trump states, “Even in elementary school, I was a very assertive, aggressive kid. In the second grade I actually gave a teacher a black eye. I punched my music teacher because I didn’t think he knew anything about music and I almost got expelled. I’m not proud of that, but it’s clear evidence that even early on I had a tendency to stand up and make my opinions known in a forceful way.”

The Donald attended an exclusive private elementary school (Kew-Forest) from 1950 to 1959.

Ann Trees, one of Trump’s elementary school teachers (now retired), was quoted in a 2016 Washington Post article as saying, “Who could forget him? He was headstrong and determined. He would sit with his arms folded with this look on his face — I use the word surly — almost daring you to say one thing or another that wouldn’t settle with him.”

Sound familiar?

An unsubstantiated story from Trump’s youth adds some additional credence to the potentially negative effects of a weak upbringing. The story dates to the early 1950’s (likely 1954) when The Donald would have been in 3rd grade.

Donald’s father, Fred, entered young Donny into a contest, ‘King of the Playground Bullies’. Despite being one of the youngest contestants, The Donald took second prize.

Donald’s father was quite disappointed, and from that point forward, Donald himself vowed to become the best and meanest bully the world would ever know.

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Fast forward 65 years, and The Donald proved his mettle today on the world stage in Brussels.  Let’s hope his father Fred is proud of his progeny.

The headline comes directly from Steven Mnuchin, our U.S. Treasury Secretary, who recently penned an op-ed piece which appeared in print in the Tampa Bay Times (July 3, 2018).  https://www.whitehouse.gov/articles/trump-tax-cuts-strengthened-u-s-economy/

Mnuchin’s opinion piece seems to consist primarily of fluffed-up puffery related to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017.

Mr. Mnuchin omitted several critical issues which most economists agree must be included in any analysis of the U.S. economy.

First is the ‘business (economic) cycle’.  The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) has been tracking the U.S. economy for 160+ years.  NBER defines one business cycle as: A period of economic expansion; followed by a contraction (recession); ending at the next point of recovery.

NBER’s 160+ years of records reflect that (over that time) the U.S. economy experienced 66 business cycles. Since 1945, we have experienced 11 business cycles with an average length of expansions of 5 years, followed by an average length of recessions of 1 year.

We can’t forget that the U.S. economy almost collapsed in early 2008 following a period of ebullience and expansion apparently accompanied by loose regulatory oversight of the financial sector.

Quick intervention in 2008 by our federal government saved the U.S. economy from the deepest and longest downturn since the Great Depression.  NBER data reflects the point of recovery (beginning of expansion) of the U.S. economy occurred in June 2009, and has now entered its 10th year (109th month) of growth.

Our current economic expansion is now the second-longest expansion on record, exceeded only by the expansion from March 1991 to March 2001, which lasted a full 10 years.

History tells us we are very close to the point of contraction (recession) of the U.S. economy.

Second is the ‘Skills Gap’.  When Mr. Mnuchin tells us that “…there are enough job openings in America for every unemployed person in the country” he fails to explain that the majority of open jobs require skills which the majority of unemployed people lack. In other cases, the unfilled jobs are located hundreds – maybe thousands – of miles away from the location of potential job seekers.

One solution to filling the open jobs is to encourage migration – or immigration — of skilled workers.

Another solution is to recruit, educate and train currently underemployed or unemployed U.S. residents who live in near proximity to the open jobs.

Third involves a dangerous combination of tax cuts and deficit spending to finance those tax cuts.

Mr. Mnuchin touts benefits to U.S. workers as a result of repatriation of hundreds of billions of dollars from off-shore corporate subsidiaries to the U.S.  In fact, companies thus far have paid out dividends and other withdrawals of $305.6 billion from foreign receipts which far outstripped the amount of this cash which was reinvested domestically.  By some estimates, corporations have spent 72 times as much on share buybacks as they have spent on one-time worker bonuses and raises.

The U.S. ‘current account deficit’, which measures the flow of goods, services and investments into and out of the country, widened by $8.0 billion to $124.1 billion, or 2.5 percent of national economic output in the first 3 months of 2018, virtually all of which seems to be attributable to the repatriation tax holiday.

To make up for the loss of tax revenue, the Trump administration is relying on a combination of debt financing and mystical economic growth which they expect to occur at the end of an extended business cycle.

Mnuchin tells us that U.S. economic growth is on steroids.

Some observers have noted that the appearance of economic growth is highly influenced by the infusion of repatriated cash – somewhat similar to feeding 2nd graders sugar before sending them out onto the playground.

The energy is intense, but it won’t last very long, and it is just not sustainable.

A recent report (6/21/2108) from the U.S. Office of Government Accountability (GAO) warns that responsible action is needed on the nation’s growing federal deficit, which grew to $666 Billion in FY 2017 (10/01/16 to 9/30/17) and is projected to surpass $1 Trillion by 2020.

According to the GAO’s 2017 financial report, the federal deficit in FY 2017 increased by 13.5% from $587 Billion in FY 2016 and $439 Billion in FY 2015. Federal receipts in FY 2017 increased by $48 billion, but that was outweighed by a $127 billion increase in spending.  (Note that Deficit is an annual measure; National Debt is aggregate, an accumulation of annual shortfalls.)

The aggregate (gross) amount that the U.S. Treasury can borrow is limited by the U.S. debt ceiling. As of April 30, 2018, our National Debt was $21 Trillion, about 78% of GDP.

Since its passage in December 2017, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has warned that TCJA will add $1.84 Trillion to the federal deficit over the next 10 years, which they estimate will push the National Debt to an unprecedented 152 percent of GDP by 2028, significantly increasing the odds of a new financial crisis.

Interest rates are rising, and National Debt is increasing, thus interest on National Debt will consume an ever-increasing amount of future federal budgets.

And, of great concern is the flattening of the ‘yield curve’.  Traditionally, interest rates on short-term debt are lower than rates paid on long-term obligations.

The spread between the yields of the 2-year Treasury note (2.55 percent) and 10-year Treasury note (2.89 percent) was 34 basis points on June 23. That’s less than half of what it was in early February and the narrowest it’s been since August 2007.

An inversion of the yield curve — when long-term rates fall below short-term rates — traditionally predicts a looming recession.

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It’s not clear why Mr. Mnuchin – a seasoned financial services sector professional with a clear expertise in fixed income securities – would omit such important information in his assessment of the U.S. economy.

I am drawn to conclude Mr. Mnuchin is using his position as a high-ranking federal official to ‘butter his own toast’, likely through complex – and undisclosed — derivative positions.

We’ll have to see if the Walrus is correct…..

This event — June 20, 2018 — represents a fabulous ‘photo op’ for Trump, and it results in a Pyrrhic victory for oppressed and victimized mothers and their minor children who are fleeing horrific conditions in their homelands of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala -the so-called Northern Triangle.

Read between the lines of Trump’s Executive Order and you will find little change in the draconian American policy of abusing and torturing women and children.

Trump and his administration have embraced a tactical wholesale approach to focus, apprehend and detain the most vulnerable – and least dangerous – people who seek asylum in the U.S.

Trump has – and continues to – proclaim that “..most immigrant families and minors from Central America who arrive unlawfully at the border cannot be detained together or removed together – only released.  These are crippling loopholes that cause family separation which we don’t want.”

Probably not true, and even if true, completely irrelevant.

Statistics tell us that:  (1) Immigrants who come to United States seeking asylum from horrible conditions in their countries of origin are generally women with minor children who pose little to no criminal or other risk to the U.S.;  (2) Immigrants who come to the U.S. seeking work to support families left behind in their country of origin are predominantly men who strive to make enough money to send for the rest of their family to bring them into a positive environment.

Yes, each of these scenarios illustrates a likely violation of current U.S. immigration laws.

However, let’s not lose sight that the foundation of immigration laws of the U.S. is the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, sometimes known as the McCarran–Walter Act.  Yes, 1952.

Parts of that Act remain in place today.  It has been amended several times and was modified substantially by the Immigration and Nationality Services Act of 1965.  Yes, 1965.

No doubt, there exist a small percentage of people who illegally enter the U.S. with nefarious intent. It seems that most of these ‘bad actors’ do not travel with children; are not female; and do not enter over the southern border.

If Trump — and his band of complicit Republican cronies – really desire to improve our national security through better immigration strategy and policy, they need to focus on fact-based, root cause analysis, and to invest in solutions which utilize “evidence-based targeting,” an approach which uses objective data to focus limited resources toward those individuals who pose the highest risk of danger to the U.S.

Evidence-Based Targeting is a strategic approach which requires planning; careful research; and a blind approach to race, religion, gender, national origin or other irrelevant factors.

Yes, Mr. Trump, we are in lock-step with you on secure borders.  We – even those of us who are not registered Republicans – demand secure borders and we want to have modern policies and procedures in place which keep bad actors out of the U.S.

That said, we need to ask you to stop acting as a bully, stop picking on defenseless women and children, and start focusing on Evidence-Based Targeting to help protect our domestic security.

And, concurrently, it would be really great if you could work with Congress to modernize that 1952 McCarran–Walter Act which probably made sense back then, but seems to need some tweaks to address the huge demographic changes which have occurred since then.

Please, Mr. Trump:  Stop the puerile ‘Beavis & Butt-Head’ rhetoric and start acting like a leader.