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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

On this week's extra-presidential (for better or for worse) weekly Independent comics page: The K Chronicles pays tribute to wifey; This Modern World shares some Trump valentines; Jen Sorenson ponders our democratic crisis; and Red Meat enjoys some special effects.

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With the stroke of his pen, President Donald Trump on Jan. 30 unleashed the biggest assault ever made by a president on the government regulations that protect Americans and nature.

In an executive order, he mandated that two existing regulations be eliminated for every new regulation issued—and he dictated that the costs of any new rule be offset by savings from the regulations that are repealed.

Sitting in the Oval Office, surrounded by people he described as small business owners, Trump boasted: “This will be the largest ever cut by far in terms of regulation.”

The president’s actions coincide with a legislative blitz by congressional Republicans to remake the basic system under which government regulates a whole slew of industries, from banks to auto manufacturing to mining and drilling companies. Environmental regulations and rules limiting pollution on public lands are among their prime targets. These rules, mostly mandated by Congress, are intended to safeguard people and natural resources like air, water and land. But many Republicans argue that regulations have gone too far, and prevent businesses from starting up and thriving.

The president’s action, while monumental in scope, presents practical challenges.

“This is overthrowing the history of regulatory procedures that were initiated by Ronald Reagan,” says Robert Stavins, professor of environmental economics at Harvard University.

What makes the order potentially unachievable is that most rules aren’t written at agencies’ discretion, but are mandated by Congress or courts. Statutes drafted by Congress and signed by presidents often direct agencies to write regulations and set deadlines. If agencies fail to do so, courts often step in and order them to meet certain deadlines. Once implemented, a rule is quite durable.

“An agency could not undo it unless a statute allowed that,” says William Buzbee, professor at Georgetown University Law Center. “Often, it will not allow it.”

Even if a regulation is not protected by legislation, an agency cannot just simply strike it from its books. It must go through a lengthy new rulemaking process required by the Administrative Procedure Act to undo it, including seeking public comment. The agencies also must find justifications for undoing regulations that agencies already have analyzed thoroughly and justified as beneficial to the public. Buzbee says court challenges are likely.

“They will probably meet with a lot of rejections,” Buzbee adds.

The idea of streamlining regulations is not new. Since the 1970s, presidents, including Barack Obama, have directed agencies to review their rules and simplify or strike cumbersome or outdated ones.

But Trump’s executive order goes further, reframing the way government looks at regulations. Presidents since Ronald Reagan have required that government weigh the cost and benefits of major rules. Reagan, for instance, decided to take lead out of gasoline because a rigorous analysis found that although it was costly for some refineries, the health benefits—such as reduction of blood lead levels in children—were far greater.

Trump’s executive order, however, looks only at costs. It requires that in 2017, the total cost of regulations be “no greater than zero.” It responds to Republican objections that rules are expensive for business and overburden them with delays and red tape. Environmental regulations carry an especially heavy price tag. A 2011 study by Obama’s White House Office of Management and Budget found that major rules issued over 10 years by the Environmental Protection Agency cost $23 billion to $28 billion. At the time, that was more than the combined costs of regulations from the Departments of Agriculture, Energy, Labor, Justice, Transportation, Health and Human Services and Housing and Urban Development. But those same EPA rules had benefits to society that outweighed the costs by at least three times. For instance, President Obama’s 2011 rule to slash mercury and other toxic air pollution from power plants was estimated to cost the electric power industry $9.6 billion—but the agency calculated that Americans would receive health benefits from the rule valued at three to nine times as much.

Longtime regulators predict that the executive order will create chaos in agencies and stymie the important work agencies do. Margo Oge headed the Environmental Protection Agency’s office of transportation and air quality from 1994 to 2012. Under both Republican and Democratic presidents, her office issued scores of rules that cleaned up the exhaust from cars, trucks, trains, ships and other vehicles, significantly improving Americans’ health. She predicts the order, which she called “ridiculous,” will shut down that work.

“It will be legally impossible to remove an existing regulation, because all the existing actions have been based on protecting public health and environment,” Oge says. And if they can’t get rid of old rules, they can’t write new ones. “No new action will take place to protect public health, environment or safety.”

Courts won’t let agencies just sit on their hands, some experts say, creating a huge mess for the new cabinet. Trump’s own appointees may find it difficult to write new regulations. For example, Trump’s EPA head nominee Scott Pruitt says he’s “concerned about high blood (lead) levels in children.” He told a Senate committee in answers to written comments: “I will make issuing revisions to the Safe Drinking Water Act Lead and Copper Rule a priority.” The EPA has been reviewing the science and planning to revise its lead and copper in drinking water rule. But under Trump’s two-for-one order, Pruitt may have to identify two existing rules to eliminate before he could move forward.

“(Republicans’) only thought is: ‘We need less government, and this is how we’ll get it,’” says Holly Doremus, a professor at the UC Berkeley Law School. “They’ll find the job of governance requires regulations.”

Elizabeth Shogren is a correspondent for High Country News, where this piece first appeared.

Published in National/International

On this week's extra-persistent weekly Independent comics page: Red Meat debates learning a musical instrument: Jen Sorenson looks at conspiracies; The K Chronicles salutes ... teen pregnancy?; and This Modern World giggles at liberal frustration.

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WASHINGTON/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters)—The Trump administration wants to revamp and rename a U.S. government program designed to counter all violent ideologies so that it focuses solely on Islamist extremism, five people briefed on the matter told Reuters.

The program, “Countering Violent Extremism,” or CVE, would be changed to “Countering Islamic Extremism” or “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism,” the sources said, and would no longer target groups such as white supremacists who have also carried out bombings and shootings in the United States.

Such a change would reflect Trump’s election campaign rhetoric and criticism of former President Barack Obama for being weak in the fight against Islamic State (ISIS) and for refusing to use the phrase “radical Islam” in describing it. Islamic State has claimed responsibility for attacks on civilians in several countries.

The CVE program aims to deter groups or potential lone attackers through community partnerships and educational programs or counter-messaging campaigns in cooperation with companies such as Google and Facebook.

Some proponents of the program fear that rebranding it could make it more difficult for the government to work with Muslims already hesitant to trust the new administration, particularly after Trump issued an executive order last Friday temporarily blocking travel to the United States from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Still, the CVE program, which focuses on U.S. residents and is separate from a military effort to fight extremism online, has been criticized even by some supporters as ineffective.

A source who has worked closely with the Department of Homeland Security on the program said Trump transition team members first met with a CVE task force in December and floated the idea of changing the name and focus.

In a meeting last Thursday attended by senior staff for DHS Secretary John Kelly, government employees were asked to defend why they chose certain community organizations as recipients of CVE program grants, said the source, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the discussions.

Although CVE funding has been appropriated by Congress and the grant recipients were notified in the final days of the Obama administration, the money still may not go out the door, the source said, adding that Kelly is reviewing the matter.

The department declined comment. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.


PROGRAM CRITICIZED

Some Republicans in Congress have long assailed the program as politically correct and ineffective, asserting that singling out and using the term “radical Islam” as the trigger for many violent attacks would help focus deterrence efforts.

Others counter that branding the problem as “radical Islam” would only serve to alienate more than 3 million Americans who practice Islam peacefully.

Many community groups, meanwhile, had already been cautious about the program, partly over concerns that it could double as a surveillance tool for law enforcement.

Hoda Hawa, director of policy for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said she was told last week by people within DHS that there was a push to refocus the CVE effort from tackling all violent ideology to only Islamist extremism.

“That is concerning for us, because they are targeting a faith group and casting it under a net of suspicion,” she said.

Another source familiar with the matter was told last week by a DHS official that a name change would take place. Three other sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said such plans had been discussed but were unable to attest whether they had been finalized.

The Obama administration sought to foster relationships with community groups to engage them in the counterterrorism effort. In 2016, Congress appropriated $10 million in grants for CVE efforts and DHS awarded the first round of grants on Jan. 13, a week before Trump was inaugurated.

Among those approved were local governments, city police departments, universities and nonprofit organizations. In addition to organizations dedicated to combating Islamic State’s recruitment in the United States, grants also went to Life After Hate, which rehabilitates former neo-Nazis and other domestic extremists.

Just in the past two years, authorities blamed radical and violent ideologies as the motives for a white supremacist’s shooting rampage inside a historic African-American church in Charleston, S.C., and Islamist militants for shootings and bombings in California, Florida and New York.

One grant recipient, Leaders Advancing and Helping Communities, a Michigan-based group led by Lebanese Americans, has declined a $500,000 DHS grant it had sought, according to an email the group sent that was seen by Reuters. A representative for the group confirmed the grant had been rejected but declined further comment.

“Given the current political climate and cause for concern, LAHC has chosen to decline the award,” said the email, which was sent last Thursday, a day before Trump issued his immigration order, which was condemned at home and abroad as discriminating against Muslims, while the White House said it was to “to protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals.”

(Reporting by Julia Edwards and Dustin Volz in Washington, Kristina Cooke in San Francisco; Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball in Washington; editing by Jonathan Weber and Grant McCool)

Published in National/International

On this week's deeply depressing weekly Independent comics page: This Modern World looks at the reign of the mad king; Jen Sorenson looks at the detainment of America; The K Chronicles fears this is just the beginning; and Red Meat goes for a swim.

Published in Comics

NEW YORK (Reuters)—After immigration agents detained two Iraqis on Saturday at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, their lawyers and two U.S. congressional representatives accompanying them tried to cross into a secure area—and were stopped themselves.

"Step back! Step back!" the agents shouted at them.

A few minutes later, Heidi Nassauer, chief of passenger operations for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the airport, was called over. 

Representatives Jerrold Nadler and Nydia Velazquez, both Democrats from New York, wanted clarification on whether an immigration ban issued on Friday by President Donald Trump prevented the Iraqis from consulting with attorneys.

Nassauer had no clear answer. 

"We are as much in the dark as everybody else," said the border protection official at one of the largest U.S. airports. 

The tense exchange, witnessed by Reuters, was representative of the confusion at airports across the United States and others overseas after Trump abruptly halted immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries and temporarily put a stop to the entry of refugees. 

Throughout much of Saturday, government officials and security workers were left to guess who from those countries could enter the United States legally and who could not. 

The day ended with U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly in Brooklyn issuing an emergency stay that temporarily allowed stranded travelers with valid visas to remain in the United States. The American Civil Liberties Union, which sought the stay, said it would help 100 to 200 people with visas or refugee status who found themselves detained in transit or at U.S. airports. 

Across the country, more than a dozen similar petitions on behalf of individuals being held at airports had been filed by the end of Saturday, according to a Reuters review of data collected by WestLaw. By Sunday morning, federal judges in three more states—Massachusetts, Washington and Virginia—issued orders blocking authorities from deporting travelers impacted by Trump's executive orders.


'RECKLESS'

In a media briefing on Saturday, the Trump administration said it would have been "reckless" to give details to government agencies and airports more broadly in advance of launching the security measures, which it says are aimed at preventing attacks from foreign groups.

But career officials in the Homeland Security and State departments told Reuters the administration failed to appreciate the complexity of enforcing the order consistently or the need to prepare agencies and airlines.

Affected travelers had varying experiences at different airports, according to nearly 200 accounts gathered by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). 

Many holding visas told the association they were allowed into the country without a problem despite Trump's executive order banning them.

But some lawful permanent residents—those with so-called green cards—were turned away despite guidance to airlines from the CBP that they should be allowed to travel.

At about 10 p.m. on Friday in Seattle, some eight hours after Trump signed the executive order, an Iranian with dual Canadian citizenship from Vancouver was sent back to Canada, the traveler reported to AILA. A half hour later in New York City, an Iranian arrived at JFK and entered the United States on a valid visa without any problems, according to AILA.

A senior administration official said Trump's order—aimed at citizens of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen—needed to be implemented urgently to protect Americans.

"There's a very strong nexus between our immigration and visa programs and terrorist plots and extremist networks inside the United States," the official told reporters in a briefing. "It would be reckless and irresponsible to ... broadcast to the entire world the exact security measures you're going to take."

Key figures at the Department of Homeland Security were informed, the official said, declining to elaborate.

"I’m not at liberty to reveal exactly who was briefed and who wasn’t briefed, but everyone that needed to be briefed was briefed," the official said.


OUT OF THE LOOP

At the State Department, one of the main agencies dealing with visas and immigration, most officials first heard of the executive order on immigration through the media, according to two department officials. 

While some offices were aware an executive order was coming, there was no official communication or consultation from the White House, they said. 

"Was there any inter-agency coordination or consultation? No,” said one senior official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Immigration enforcement is among the federal government’s most complex endeavors, involving seven agencies from the U.S. Coast Guard and CBP to the State and Justice Departments.

Two senior officials in the Department of Homeland Security said on Saturday that they had not heard of any officials in the relevant agencies—or the congressional committees and subcommittees that oversee them—who had been consulted by anyone who helped draft the president's order.

"If the result is confusion and inconsistency, the responsibility all lies at one address," said one of the officials, referring to the White House. 

The official, like others, requested anonymity to discuss Trump's order. 

Another Homeland Security official told Reuters that the White House worked on the executive orders with “limited department participation.”

“It has been a challenge, but folks are working through it," the official said.


CONFUSION OVER GREEN CARDS

One of the Iraqis detained at JFK was Hameed Khalid Darweesh, a 53-year-old Kurd who had worked as a U.S. Army translator in Iraq and had been threatened there for helping the Americans. 

Visas for him and his family were finally issued on Jan. 20, according to a lawsuit filed on behalf of Darweesh and another Iraqi, who had also worked with U.S. military. But as soon as he landed at JFK, he was detained by CBP officers and barred from contacting his attorneys.

When his attorneys, from the International Refugee Assistance Project, asked the CBP officers whom they could contact, the agents responded, “Mr. President. Call Mr. Trump,” according to the lawsuit. 

Eventually, Darweesh was allowed to leave and met the lawmakers and his lawyers, clutching his passport and weeping with joy. The other Iraqi who was detained, Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, was also allowed to enter the country. 

But dozens of others were less fortunate.

Conflicting media and government reports caused confusion for airlines struggling to deal with the order.

CBP informed air carriers about the executive order in a conference call late on Friday, said a person familiar with the agency's communications. CBP then sent written guidance before noon on Saturday saying that green card holders were "not included" in the ban and could continue to travel to the United States. The source said airlines were allowing travelers with green cards on flights until told otherwise. 

The Trump administration official later told reporters that U.S. green card holders traveling outside the United States need to check with a U.S. consulate to see whether they can return.

"It's being cleared on a case-by-case basis,” the official said. 

On Sunday morning, the administration addressed the issue again but left questions over how green cards holders would be screened and by what agencies.

"The executive order doesn't affect green card holders moving forward," White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus addressed told NBC's Meet the Press. He added that they would be subjected to extra questioning by CBP agents when they tried to re-enter the United States. 

A senior administration official told Reuters, however, that it had not been determined where and how those screenings would be carried out. The nature of the screening will be up to CBP or the State Department, the official said, and specific guidelines were being drafted.

"They could be screened in many different ways and in many different places," the official said in an interview.

(Additional reporting by John Walcott, Jeff Mason, Mica Rosenberg, Lesley Wroughton, Jeffrey Dastin, Yara Bayoumy, Yeganeh Torbati and Doina Chiacu; Writing by Brian Thevenot; Editing by Kieran Murray and Bill Rigby)

Published in National/International

The teams of President Trump’s temporary appointees who are laying the groundwork for taking over and remaking federal agencies refer to themselves as “beachheads” or “beachhead teams.”

That’s a military term for the point of invasion.

Politico reports there were approximately 520 members of such teams when Trump took the oath of office. In any presidential transition, there will be tensions between career civil servants and political appointees pushing a new president’s agenda—but according to experts on the matter, this administration’s use of the term may exacerbate those relations.

The term was offhandedly used in 2000 by George W. Bush’s incoming press secretary, Ari Fleischer. It was central to the language of Mitt Romney’s 2012 transition plan, which was provided to the Trump team. But its use here seems systematic, making many within various federal agencies feel they are being conquered.

“The language of war being used suggests that cooperation is not the primary philosophy dictating this transition period,” says professor Heath Brown, who studies presidential transitions at CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “If the operating philosophy is one of combat rather than cooperation, then we’re in for some trouble with how these agencies are going to function on a day-to-day basis.”

Because the Trump team threw out Chris Christie’s transition plans and “started from scratch on Election Day,” Brown says, there is “a larger level of chaos in the past for an already chaotic process.”

Given the fact that Trump was a reality TV star, it is not surprising that communications is the main focus of these beachhead teams.

“(Trump’s people) want to control message in a lot of different ways, and for that reason, I think they have made that a priority,” Brown says. “The Trump transition team devoted a lot more staff resources to communications than transition teams in the past. … In the past, communications just hasn’t been a first priority.”

In 2009, Obama only had two communications people on his 13-member senior transition staff. In contrast, at least 10 of 23 staffers in Trump’s transition team served some communications function, Brown says.

In the process, they may well be changing what “communications” means—from informing the public, or even spinning the message, to something more like outright propaganda.

I uncovered a 1996 Cornell Daily Sun article about then-CNN analyst Kellyanne Conway that shows she has been thinking about media and manipulation for at least 20 years. The story paraphrases Conway (née Fitzpatrick) speaking to student groups about “manipulative media and political jargon.” In the talk, she also criticized people for “following what is decided by a few elite.”

A section of the article subtitled “Questions of Reality” notes: “In a generation where television and Internet images ‘bombard our senses,’ it is essential, according to Fitzpatrick, to realize that the soundbytes or visuals prepared by the evening news editors do not represent reality.”

Conway, the article reads, “applauded (Bill Clinton’s) ability to use the media to his advantage.”

While this shows that Conway’s obsession with controlling the media narrative is not new, it also underlines how she and her boss are pushing from the standard spin of ’90s-era Washington into the full-blown denial of reality in the age of Trump.

During the Trump campaign, Politifact found that only 4 percent of his claims could be considered entirely truthful. Some, including President Obama, naively thought the power of the presidency would curb, rather than increase, Trump’s tendency to lie. But thus far, truths remain merely occasional, and almost accidental.

On Jan. 21, during the first “unofficial” press conference of the new administration, press secretary Sean Spicer stood in front of reporters and repeatedly lied to the press about things that didn’t matter. It was pointless from any standard political means-ends perspective. (The Baltimore City Paper did a great job putting together the actual numbers.)

Later, in his first “official” press conference, Spicer said, “Sometimes we can disagree with the facts.”

Between Spicer’s two statements, on the Sunday talk shows, Conway baptized Trump-speak with a succinct name: “alternative facts.” She also threatened to “rethink our relationship” with NBC if Meet the Press host Chuck Todd persisted in saying Spicer had lied.

A couple of days later, Trump advisor and Lenin wannabe Stephen Bannon called the press the “opposition party,” which, he said, should “keep its mouth shut.” Almost immediately after this, Trump gave Bannon a spot on the National Security Council.

The attacks on the press, however, are only part of a larger attack on facts themselves—attacks beginning, appropriately, with the communications-obsessed beachheads now inside federal agencies.

Trump ordered the EPA to freeze all of its grants, to take down the climate change section of its website, and to cease all communications with the press.

Then, according to an email obtained by BuzzFeed News, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s research division prohibited employees, including scientists, from communicating or sharing information with the public. The USDA later lifted the gag order, saying that it was released “without departmental direction” and was not sent at the request of the Trump administration.

The Trump team also censored the Badlands National Park Twitter feed, deleting tweets mentioning climate change. In response, people claiming to be rangers created a Twitter account for the AltUsNatParkService, which tweeted that it was activated “in a time of war and censorship to ensure fact-based education.”

But information about climate change is not the only thing at risk—data, science, and research are being suppressed. And Trump’s congressional allies are all too happy to play along.

Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar introduced bills this week that say “no federal funds may be used to design, build, maintain, utilize, or provide access to a Federal database of geospatial information on community racial disparities or disparities in access to affordable housing.”

This racist bill, which would help maintain the kind of segregation affecting cities like Milwaukee, Baltimore and St. Louis, could still die in committee, but it is of a piece with Trump’s all-out War on Facts. Deprived of access to facts, citizens are incapable of making decisions. This is an essential feature of tyranny.

As an air of war prevails in Washington, using the term “beachhead” may, in fact, be among the small minority of things the Trump team is honest about.

Democracy in Crisis is a joint project of alternative newspapers around the country, including the Coachella Valley Independent. Baynard Woods is editor at large at the Baltimore City Paper. His work has also appeared in The Guardian, The New York Times, the Washington Post, Vox, Salon, McSweeney's, Virginia Quarterly Review, and many others. He is the author of the book Coffin Point: The Strange Cases of Ed McTeer, Witchdoctor Sheriff," about a white sheriff who used hoodoo to govern a largely black county for 37 years. He earned a doctorate in philosophy, focusing on ethics and tyranny and became a reporter in an attempt to live like Socrates. He wrote the libretto for Rhymes With Opera's climate-change opera film Adam's Run."

Published in Politics

On this week's liberal-elite-media weekly Independent comics page: Jen Sorenson looks at how President Trump's cabinet picks are sticking it to the elites; The K Chronicles pays tribute to the participants in the women's marches; This Modern World examines our new political reality; and Red Meat learns about God's arsenal.

Published in Comics

I’d like to share some of my reactions to the inauguration—rough notes I took while watching wall-to-wall coverage from Thursday through Sunday.

Think of it as a sacrifice made on your behalf.

TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER

I’m a sucker for tradition and ceremonial continuity. Even parades make me cry. So when President-elect Trump and Vice-President-elect Pence visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to place a wreath on Thursday, my first tears of the weekend began to flow.

When representatives of the armed services marched out—holding the flags of their service, along with the American flag—and then executed the perfect turn and dipped the service flags just the right amount to highlight the national flag for the playing of the national anthem, I was moved. The solemnity of the event and the significance of what that location represents cannot be minimized.

INAUGURAL CONCERT

I didn’t cry at all watching this event. In fact, I must admit I occasionally laughed. Aside from the fact that the Trump inaugural committee had trouble booking any major talent … did you notice that whenever Donald Trump puts his hand over his heart during the playing of the anthem, he occasionally pats his chest, apparently attempting to keep the beat with the music? What made me laugh was the realization that the president has no rhythm at all. And who pats their heart during the playing of the national anthem?

THE INAUGURATION

Again, this is a solemn rite of passage in our democratic history—opposing members of Congress greeting each other; four past presidents attending to acknowledge the peaceful transfer of power; and a crowd of well-wishers (along with some protests that included burning trash cans—I’m still not sure what the political significance of that is).

The lasting impressions for me are the appearance and demeanor of our new first lady, and the poise and grit of Secretary Hillary Clinton. Both women did themselves, and us, proud.

The inauguration speech was unfortunate, painting a picture of a dystopian America and playing directly to the president’s election base—with little regard to the majority of Americans who did not vote for him.

There was one fantastic statement made by President Trump—if only it had been indicative of the overall tone, which, alas, it was not: “No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America.”

He should have stopped there.

At lunch after he was sworn in, President Trump made a gracious statement acknowledging the Clintons for attending, and saying how much he respected them. This is the same man who only a couple of weeks ago said that Secretary Clinton was “guilty as hell” and should not have even been allowed to run for president.

I guess it’s easier to trash people when they’re not right in front of you.

THE INAUGURATION BALLS

Let’s start with how truly stunning Melania Trump looked, and give her credit for having the good sense, at the third ball—honoring the Armed Services—to thank the veterans for their service and to say how proud she is to be their first lady. If only President Trump had shown that much grace—all he talked about was his crowd numbers and the assumption that those attending the ball had voted for him. His absolute favorite word is “me.”

Let’s also give a nod to Ivanka Trump, whose ball gown, hair style and demeanor was exquisite. However, watch for criticism of the way she attempts to identify with average women and their policy issues when she has never faced any of the same situations. Time will tell what influence she may be able to have on her father, but it’s somewhat telling that it’s her husband who got hired for an important job, not her.

The most glaring reality of the balls was that men can’t dance—regardless of age. Neither Trump nor Pence have any sense of rhythm, and they come from a generation when ballroom dancing was actually taught in school. The younger men in both families are hopeless, too. It did make me miss President Obama—remember his first dance with Michelle?

Also, have you noticed that Donald Trump seems to have no sense of intimacy toward his wife? She often reaches for his hand, but he almost never reaches for hers. While “dancing” with her on inauguration night, Trump could barely keep his attention on her, constantly waving to others in the crowd or doing his signature “thumbs up” gesture. Even during the playing of a romantic song, he wasn’t into her—he was into the adoring crowd. He’s the guy you meet who’s always looking over your shoulder to see if there’s anyone more important in the room. There was maybe one moment of affection, and it came from her toward him.

The catty side of me thought: I don’t care how much money or power he has … can you imagine sleeping with that man? Petty, I know, but I’m just sayin’ …

THE DAY AFTER

At the prayer service the morning after the inauguration, the president seemed to have trouble staying awake and engaged. During a prayer, he was looking around the crowd in the church, occasionally with his signature “thumbs up.” He can’t sit still or stay focused for very long. His grandchildren were better-behaved.

Then there was the visit to the hallowed wall honoring lives lost at the CIA—Trump’s first official stop, to assure the intelligence community of his support. He began by saying how much he respects them, then spent two-thirds of his time defending the inauguration attendance, bragging about having the most appearances on Time’s cover (which is not true, by the way), and blaming the media for inventing a rift between him and the intelligence community after he had compared them to Nazis.  

WOMEN’S MARCH

What can one say when millions of women, children and men take to the streets in solidarity across the world?

“What are they marching for?” asked some. As someone who has marched in the past, against the Vietnam War and for civil rights and women’s rights, here’s what: They marched to show that women’s rights cannot and must not be rolled back, and to show their lack of confidence in a president who has publicly disrespected women and the real-life issues that are important to them.

Whatever the differences in individual issues among the marchers, they all stood up for equality without exception.

Marches took place in more than 600 cities across the country, with total estimates now topping 3 million marchers throughout the U.S. More than 1,500 women marched in Palm Desert, and locals Carlynne McDonnell, of Strong Women Advocacy Group; Dori Smith, of Moms Demand Action; Amalia deAztlan, of Democratic Women of the Desert; and Palm Springs resident Eileen Stern made a trip to Los Angeles or D.C., along with many others.

Women and their supporters also showed up by the tens of thousands around the world, from New Zealand and Australia to Rome, London, Austria, Mexico City, Paris, Barcelona and even Kosovo—concerned about not only women’s rights, but also international security, which they believe is threatened under a Trump presidency. Watching this amazing outpouring of support worldwide once again brought tears.

I thought the best sign at the marches was: “Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them.” I loved the guy from Long Beach who said, “I’m marching for my 91-year-old mother and my 30-year-old daughter, who both taught me how to be a man.”

Meanwhile, amidst this historic outpouring of solidarity and concern, the new president could only talk about how big his crowd was and how he was being disrespected by “the media” in their mostly accurate reporting.

By the way, in case you didn’t understand the pink-knitted caps with pussycat ears, I’ll leave you to figure that one out for yourself.

If you are blasé about the changing of the guard, or disgusted with everything political, I want to remind you that your grandchildren’s grandchildren will study the current period in their history classes. We’ve seen the election of the first private-sector president—with absolutely no political experience and no apparent interest in history or traditions or self-restraint. There is much to make fun of in this unfolding reality show; in truth, when you’re worried or afraid or angry, humor can help.

It’s important to remember we’re living in unfolding history. That’s worth paying attention to, regardless of who gets the biggest crowds or who gives the better speech or whether you believe the political process works to your advantage.

I didn’t vote for Donald Trump, but the bottom line for me is that the peaceful transfer of power transcends all else. It endures as the epitome of what we stand for as a nation.

And that makes me cry.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays at noon on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

On this week's frightened inauguration eve edition of the weekly Independent comics page: Red Meat goes to mail-order medical school; Jen Sorenson looks at a new beginning; The K Chronicles has a coffee-shop confrontation; and This Modern World examines the Unbelievable Baby-Man!

Published in Comics