Andres Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), was inaugurated President of Mexico today. He declared a war against corruption by slashing government spending, including government salaries, ending neo-liberal policies, and fighting drug-trafficking-related violence, all of which he believes he can achieve without new taxes. He will not prosecute corrupt officials of the past. He said little about President Trump, but his few words were positive.


* He rode in a conventional, white, 2010 VW sedan to his inauguration with a small police escort, not in a big, black SUV.

   * He said:

-“Material things do not interest me”

-“I will cut my salary by 40%”

-“I will not live in Los Pinos” (a luxurious executive mansion)

-“I will end all corruption”

-“I will not allow my wife nor my children to gain through politics”

-“I don’t have the right to fail you”

-“In 2 ½ years you can vote me in or out”

Wow! The statements above, coming from a freshly elected president, rang loud and clear in my mind, and I think you know why, these days: our President Trump is openly benefiting from business ties and his children are too, and all we can do is gape open-jawed.

Mexico recognized AMLO as the new president today, December 1, 2018, and I saw and heard his entire inaugural speech on Televisa and was very encouraged. I regretted not being in Mexico City, even though, had I been a Mexican citizen, I wouldn’t have voted for him back in November.

Having followed the presidential campaign there, I was dubious of his candidacy in part because I’ve studied Mexico nearly all my life and concluded that he was an old 1970’s leftist who was out of touch with 21st century politics. I sympathized with his political leanings but felt that the political winds were moving on and so should he. I wrote as much on my blog.

He won with 53% of the electoral vote (he was one of 4 candidates) and his coalition party captured both houses of Congress. He achieved a clear and overwhelming victory and utterly defeated the PRI, the party that ruled Mexico for nearly a century, building up a selective and muscular apparatus of generously-paid government and party leaders. Clearly, Mexican voters turned their back on the political status quo. AMLO is now all powerful because his people-oriented party (populist?) will most probably endorse his initiatives; there was every indication of that today. No one would have predicted this last year.

             AMLO in his VW sedan


I paid attention to things he said and did after he won and before he was officially installed today. An old-line politician, he hails from a modest, traditionally agriculture southern state (Tabasco) and his personal behavior also appears modest and unassuming, hence the 2010 VW white sedan instead of a big, burly, black SUV, and his refusal to live in luxurious Los Pinos on the edge of Mexico City (he’ll live and work in the presidential palace, in front of the zócalo, where most presidents did long ago). He strikes me as an honest ol’ chap; campechano, his friends might say.

      Benito Juarez

He is inspired by 19th century liberal leaders, like Benito Juarez, Mexico’s only Indian president, many of whom fought to the death in favor of a secular and fully democratic republic. This is what AMLO pledged today, and this impressed me very much, since I too admire Juarez and his comrades.

As AMLO spoke in front of both chambers of Congress, I paid attention to his predecessor, Ernesto Peña Nieto, who minutes earlier had removed the tri-colored presidential sash from his shoulders, signifying executive authority, and handed it to AMLO. He sat impassively nearby, listening to AMLO’s powerful repudiation of his PRI administration and the other preceding regimes. (Historically, this is hugely important since previous outgoing presidents did not easily walk off the political stage).

No more corruption, AMLO promised throughout his campaign. He emphasized this message today too, in a country whose high-ranking government officials earn U.S. $ 65,000 to $100,000 per year when you include generous end-of-year bonuses, allowances for new autos, gasoline, I-phones, life and medical insurance, private hospital care, paid vacations, and so on. He vowed that no government employee will earn more than he does and swore today to cut his own salary by 40%, averaging about $65,000 annually. He’s also selling the nation’s presidential airplane and already stopped the completion of what would have been one of the world’s biggest airports near Mexico City. Mexico doesn’t need such costly expenditures, he insisted. Trimming these allowances will eliminate the need for new taxes, he contended, and there is no doubt it will affect many well-heeled families in a country where government jobs prevail and enjoy high status but  where the average worker earns no more than $5 a day.

My biggest concern is that AMLO linked far too many challenges to corruption in his speech today. This is one of the reasons I would not have voted for him had I been a Mexican citizen—he spoke too vaguely about big issues, even today. For example, he devoted a good part of his speech to condemning Mexico’s neo-liberal economic policies of the 1980’s (i.e., free trade, privatization of government owned enterprises, and the general dominance of the public sector in the economy) suggesting that ending them would help eliminate corruption, somehow, yet he welcomed foreign investment and continued free trade!

He clearly suggested too that wiping out corruption would, by some means, bring down drug-trafficking violence but provided no details except for a reorganization of the nation’s security forces, controversial even now, plus a vague reference to amnesty, although he didn’t use the word. He won’t prosecute past acts of corruption but promised to bring closure to the 43 Guerrero students who disappeared.

Without going on too long here, the bottom line is that AMLO sounded good today, but as many street people interviewed on TV said: “I hope he keeps his promises.” AMLO recalled a young citizen on a bike riding up to him (AMLO doesn’t like too much security) recently and telling him, “you cannot fail us!” In his speech before Congress today he said, “I don’t have the right to fail you.” You can remove me in two and a half years if I do.

The world awaits, including me.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis–a book review

Vance, J.D. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis (New York: Harper, 2018), with a new Afterword. With good reason, Hillbilly Elegy received widespread attention when it was first published. Put on the market by Harper in 2016, it coincided with the rise of Donald Trump as a presidential candidate and his getting elected soon thereafter. His popularity was attributed to his being able to speak on behalf of poor white Americans, especially those from the south who had supposedly been neglected by Democratic administrations. To my knowledge, Mr. Trump did not use the term, “hillbilly” to refer to his loyal supporters but Vance identifies hillbilly people as Trump supporters. Understanding them came to mean also understanding Trump’s inveterate supporters.

In any case, this book offers a penetrating insight into the people who live in Appalachia, mostly under-privileged whites who allegedly claim Scot-Irish descendence, a cultural note discussed far too briefly. The author writes his book in a compelling and disarming manner, boldly revealing personal family information, sometimes in a startling way. This combination helped give Hillbilly Elegy considerable attention.

The author tells us that he grew up, surrounded by his extended family, in one of the many hollows (“hollers”) scoured into the Allegheny Mountains near Jackson, Kentucky, and so his book puts a spot light on his mountain people, a harsh light. Many of them manifest varying levels of paranoia, to tell the truth. His grandfather’s obsession with guns and a willingness to draw one from behind his back at the slightest threat, his grandmother’s use of foul language and his mother’s abuse of drugs and her chronic inability to keep a husband or boyfriend are examples of this neurotic-paranoiac behavior. In addition, many of the author’s relatives and friends are described as “welfare queens,” some who “drive a Cadillac,” allergic to holding a job, and hostile to the world outside, interest in politics being unquestionably peripheral.

I concluded that a large part of the behavior described in Hillbilly is reminiscent of many poor families, working class and non-working, including Mexican American families and other minority families of color in the United States. Hillbilly thus confirmed in my mind that skin color and cultural antecedence are only casual differences among underprivileged people and they all feel put upon by the people who do not live on the edge. Except for a handful of words, here and there, the author does not make these cross-cultural observations.

Another parallel with minority families is that Mamaw, the author’s grandmother, was able to recognize a gem in the rough, despite her educational and social limitations: the gem is the author, himself. She nurtures him, because his parents couldn’t, even when she skewers him with unexpectedly obscene language, and helps him become somebody (a Yale lawyer and author!). This happens in minority communities too where someone discovers a child possessing enough internal fire to escape the ghetto, in this case, to flee the “hollers” of Kentucky. This book is an elegy to the author’s grandmother, most of all.

Mamaw takes young Vance to live in Middletown, Ohio. On page 252 the author writes that he felt like a “cultural emigrant” in Ohio. He came to regard white middle-class people in Middletown as aliens and so the latter half of Hillbilly Elegy offers an account of his painful assimilation into White Middle-Class America.

Blacks, who fled the South in the 1940’s, landing in places like Detroit, felt something similar, just more extreme. Immigrants, Mexican or otherwise, know fully well what it feels to be a “cultural emigrant,” as I show in my own book, Becoming Mexican American: How Our Immigrant Family Survived to Pursue the American Dream.

Hillbilly Elegy helps us understand less privileged white Americans to be sure. But, as I note, it is a study of poor people anywhere. And, for this reason it also contains cross-cultural implications of the kind I identify here that many emigrants from Appalachia might not relish.

Mr. Trump is a mini-dictator desperately trying to rise to the status of big-dictator.

Donald Trump’s firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions today, November 8, 2018, is nothing else but the first step to get rid of Robert Mueller, the Special Counsel investigating Trump’s unlawfulness.

Mr. Trump is a mini-dictator desperately trying to rise to the status of big-dictator. His constant battle with the press (Trump’s removing Jim Acosta of CNN from the White House press pool, for example) and his many negative encounters with his own Justice Department (not only Jeff Sessions but many others) are just two examples.

We must stay alert and give strength to our national institutions that can protect us from a Trump dictatorship. We must also press our senators to create a barricade against despotism. Write to them today and tell them: “STAND UP TO TRUMP! PUT UP A BARRIER AGAINST DESPOTISM!



Is there anything good to say about Donald Trump’s administration on the eve of the November 6th elections?

 Short answer:

No. I must confess I’m bending backward in trying to answer this question. But, I can say the following, in trying to be honest with myself and with you and be as fair as possible with this man that we have in the White House:

Yes, there are a couple of things to which I give a reluctant but very limited endorsement. One, is the issue of trade, and the other is immigration.

Beyond these two issues I cannot find anything positive in Trump’s administration. I conclude below that he is a danger to America and to the world.

Longer answer:

Regarding trade with China

On this topic I endorse the direction of his thinking. I say “thinking” because, as you know, he is unable to explain anything intelligently. He can’t say more than 5 meaningful words about any idea or policy. So, I can only refer to the actions executed in his name by his top officials. Knowing, or guessing at the direction of his thinking, they assemble the facts, he nods in approval, barely reading a page or more of what they write, and they produce a Trump action or policy. I think that’s the way his administration is running.

His nod, in this case, recognizes that our trade relationship with China is not right. I agree. The Chinese governments makes demands of American companies wanting to do business there that our government generally does not require of foreign companies wanting to do business in the U.S. In some cases, our firms are prodded to share critically important internal information with local Chinese officials. Apple, Google and Amazon are cases at the top of an iceberg there.

This puts our American firms in jeopardy. The fact that the Chinese practice a form socialism is very much involved here, and that fact changes the playing field, but that’s a huge and separate topic. Chinese muscling American companies is unfair in any case. (Curiously, Mr. Trump hardly ever complains that almost everything we buy at the store is made in China.) There are many other one-sided situations that put our companies and our country against the wall there.

For those of you following these matters you may agree that Obama didn’t push very hard in trying to find a balanced relationship with the Chinese and Bush didn’t either.

So, what is my beef? Why do I give Mr. Trump a failing grade? The answer is that while I support his facing off with the Chinese about trade matters, his approach has been to throw the baby out with the bath water. To use a different metaphor, instead of fixing the house he is wrecking it with a giant backhoe. The tariffs (import taxes) he has ordered on Chinese goods arriving at our ports have the effect of a wrecking machine.

And, how have the Chinese answered? With more tariffs against things we sell to them, in other words, more wrecking machines. It’s the Hatfield’s versus the McCoys. Shoot them before they shoot you. Is that smart? Ask an American farmer about this and he’ll/she’ll tell you how they’re hurting.

If you’ve done some homework on Mr. Trump, you’ll agree with me that he is doing to the Chinese what he used to do when selling real estate in New York and New Jersey. He didn’t negotiate with his business partners, he’d try to cheat them or threaten to sue, or find ways not to pay his due if he didn’t get his way. He left a string of unpaid business partners and employees before campaigning for the presidency, and he paid only if a judge ordered it, settled quietly. That’s who the guy is. (See my book review, The Making of Donald Trump at

So, I give him an F for failure on trade with the Chinese even though I recognize he is looking in the right direction.

Regarding trade with Mexico

The other trade-related comment has to do with NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. We’ve had this pact with Mexico and Canada since 1994. Mr. Trump swore up and down he was going to tear it up because it was “worst trade deal the U.S. ever signed.” Now that the negotiations are done we discover he didn’t tear up anything, but claims he has. Lying and posturing is what he does. The truth is that his trade officials badgered Mexico and Canada to sweeten the agreement a bit, but not much.

We now have a NAFTA 2.0. The biggest changes have to do with all those cars we buy, made in Mexico and Canada–that they will now have more parts made in the three countries than before, 75% up from 62.5%. Another big change is that workers, mostly Americans, will begin earning $16 an hour beginning 5 years from now, but only some of them, less than half. Five years from now, did you get that? So, big deal. Amazon is paying employees $15 an hour now. American NAFTA 2.0 workers will have to wait five years to get a raise! And, NAFTA products and merchandise will cost us more money too.

So, has Mr. Trump resolved the “worst ever trade deal?” Of course not. He deserves an F for failure here too and a U for unsatisfactory in lying about it. That’s what I give him, and you should too.

Regarding immigration.

Here, again, as I read and hear about the “Central American caravan,” I bend over backwards in trying to assess this issue as honestly as possible. I theorize that when he decided to run for office, Mr. Trump discovered that our immigration program needed major repairs, but only then. Even so, I agree that it needs major work; I’ve been saying as much for a long time.

However, I am convinced that when he discovered immigration to be a hot button issue he also decided he would handle it in a red neck fashion in order to gain voter support. And, he did, and he got it. Bless our blind-sided folks, right?

You know the dismal story about Trump’s views of immigrants and immigration. Referring to people like us, and the people we’ve known all our lives in San Fernando CA, where I grew up, he called us “drug traffickers” and “rapists,” and has refused to explain or apologize so far. He doubted the efficacy of a Mexican American judge who made a decision that he didn’t like, just because the judge was Mexican American—like me! My daughter is a judge! He may as well have said that about her too! That made me so angry!

His comments about Muslims and Muslims immigrants to the U.S. tell us that he doggedly refuses to separate the few bad ones from the rest. His comments about Africans and Africa reveal his crude and abysmal ignorance of that part of the world. The fact is that all Americans of color are suspect in his juvenile brain. He is a bigot.

Our immigration program (the sum of all our immigration policies) needs fixing, for sure. Having to witness the “Central American caravan,” plodding northward as I write these words, underlines this fact. (By the way, Mexico has prevented more non-documented northward crossings than we have.) There is no doubt that our country possesses the right to control its borders, like all other countries. But, the men and women who are responsible for our immigration policies, including Mr. Trump, insist on overlooking the fact that migrants from Mexico and Central America (the biggest portion of Latin American immigrants at this time) come for jobs, primarily. They are economic migrants, for the most part. They want a better economic life, like my ancestors did, and possibly yours too. They come here because our economy attracts them, like bits of metal to a gigantic magnet and this means nothing to our government leaders. This magnetic attraction has been going on for a hundred years.

If we had recognized the economic pull decades ago and assisted Central American leaders in the creation of more jobs there, we wouldn’t have to be fretting about these Central Americans knocking at our southern door today. Have we addressed this option in a forceful and intelligent manner? No, we haven’t. The fact that Mexican illegal immigration has diminished to historic lows while Mexico’s economy has grown, is testimony to what I’m saying.

Instead of helping El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras strengthen their economies in order to create more jobs and assist them in the way the govern their countries, we’ve directed most of our efforts at the eradication of illegal drugs. It hasn’t worked a bit; money misspent.

Migrants crossing our southern border have gained more attention lately because drug gangs have taken advantage of many of them, forcing some of them to transport drugs into the U.S. While recognizing that there is a whole lot more to say about this, I cut to the core directly:

It is our demand for marijuana, methamphetamines, cocaine and other such drugs that lies at the bottom of this Trumpian scare about immigrants posing as security threats. Drug gangs in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are endangering ordinary citizens there and further corrupting local government officials with the piles of cash they get from selling drugs to us, and now to their own people. What has Mr. Trump said about this? Besides flashing the idea of a death penalty for drug traffickers. He’s said nothing.

So, what are his flagship answers to fixing our immigration program?

Build a wall! Bar all Muslims! Separate immigrant children from their parents at the border to stop the flow of Central Americans! These simple-Simon proposals further show his incompetent leadership.

So, I give Mr. Trump an absolute failure for the way he has handled our immigration problem.

Other reasons why Mr. Trump is a total failure:

  • Russian interference in our 2016 elections: everything indicates that he accepted, at the least, their interference placing him a hairline away from treasonous; illegitimate in my view;
  • Global warming: he refuses to accept that our Mother Earth is being choked by industrial fumes. He doesn’t care that these gases are causing us to endure ever increasing wild weather, like the more recent hurricanes, and the end of many forms of animal and plant life. How to understand this colossal disregard? He’s not a reader to begin with, and he is protecting his business supporters who stand to lose money with earth-friendly policies;
  • Good health for Americans. Mr. Trump does not seem to care that far too many Americans, especially those who support him (can you believe this?) lack health insurance and they lack health care (something he’s never been without) . He tried to kill President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, but Americans have fought back because healthcare is important for them and it appears Mr. Trump can’t stop them.
  • Hatred for woman. He has no qualms in disrespecting women, all the way from Hillary Clinton to Stormy Daniels and now it’ll be Senator Elizabeth Warren. Has he ever talked about his mother? She must have done something to him to make him a misogynist when he was a child.
  •  Disregard for NATO and our most important allies. Being the ignoramus that he is, he has brushed aside our vital relationships with Europe. He ignores their past internal wars and Russia’s expansionary designs on them. Mr. Trump is weakening the peace-oriented system we helped build after World War II.
  • Safe and honest college education for young Americans. Mr. Trump’s education secretary has been looking for ways to protect the fake universities that cheated many young Americans. Trump University is the best example of the fraudulent institutions that preyed on American families eager to higher-educate their children. Let us not forget that he paid $25 million to keep Trump University details from being exposed in court. What shame!
  • The list of Trump’s incompetent and disastrous decisions is long. Don’t you get it by now? He’s a danger to America and to the world. 


Young Mexican voters will settle for a “blank slate”

Young Mexican voters will settle for a “blank slate” in their presidential elections, on voting day, July 1st, according to the article linked below.

As I wrote in my recent blog, ( ), Mexican citizens in general are turning to an independent presidential candidate who has promised to clean up Mexico’s “swamp.”

Maria, a student quoted in the article, reflected this sentiment: “We have gone out to the streets to protest, to demand change and answers about the thousands of disappeared people, the violence, and nothing changes. It feels like we have no control left over our lives.”

Indeed, she and her fellow citizens seem to be fed up with their traditional politicians. Mexico has long been afflicted with government officials, elected or otherwise, who do little or nothing for their constituents and prefer to kick back and collect their fat checks when they’re not involved in corrupt deals of one kind or another.

The independent candidate is Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a 65-year-old politician, also known as AMLO (his initials), who relied on a simple, 2-point campaign slogan: 1) I will eliminate corruption along with the political mafia that enabled it, and 2) the corruption money will be used to pay for social programs.

AMLO has offered no details about how he’ll accomplish this.

And, Mexicans, young and old, appear to be so fed up with the status quo that they are reportedly intent on electing him, anyway, like saying, it’s better to start from scratch, from a blank slate. One person in the article below is reported as saying, I prefer to hold my nose for a while to see what happens.

Do you think a senior, independent politician, who has promised the world, will be able to do as he says? I have grave doubts. In any case, we’ll see.

Oddly, we, in the United States, find ourselves in the same situation. We elected an independent candidate who promised the world and we elected him blindly. Now, we are well into his first year running our country, internally and externally, and you can’t dispute the fact that it has been chaotic, puzzling, disheartening and downright frightening.

One major difference between AMLO and Donald Trump is that AMLO maybe an ambiguous populist who may lead Mexico into a series of crises but he is not the bruiser, racist thug that Trump is. God help us!

Keep for-profit schools away from your children Here’s why.

President Trump and Secretary of Education, Betsy De Vos, do not care if you or your children enroll into a fake school or college and waste your money as a result. Think of the enormous feeling of deception for a youngster too. A fake school or college places profit above honest training or education. Their degrees are suspect and sometimes totally fictitious.
You can check-out the list of these fake schools here: .
  • Left
  • Center
  • Right

click to add a caption

President Trump’s failed and disgraced Trump University is the best example of what I’m talking about. I discuss Trump University in my book review of Donald Trump in my blog:
The topic of for-profit colleges became newsworthy last week when reporters discovered that Secretary De Vos’s department stopped investigating fraud in these phony schools. President Obama had initially ordered a crack-down on these sham schools and so, obviously, Trump is now rolling it back and De Vos is ok with this. Frontline, a well known investigative television program made the announcement.
If you or your children are considering educational training beyond high school, check out the wikipedia list of schools I identify above before you make a decision.
Our American economic system allows quack schools to flourish just for the sake of making money. This is immoral, but many Americans uphold this practice as a basic American freedom without thinking too much about it, most Republicans included. Other countries do not allow this kind of social forgery. Go figure!
We’re walking into a wilderness.

Something Sinister is Brewing in Washington D.C.

Stay alert because something sinister is a brewing in the White House this week before Christmas.

Rumors are flying that President Trump is going to fire Special Counsel, Robert Mueller. The reason seems to be that Mueller’s investigation into Mr. Trump’s campaign last year may ultimately reveal that Donald Trump did indeed have connections with the Russian government, which helped getting him elected. This is treasonous.

If President Trump finds a way to get rid of Mueller, major repercussions will come to pass.

If you are confused about the Russian investigations, here is an article that summarizes things. It is written to provide you the larger idea more quickly. Look at it.


The Making of Donald Trump by David Cay Johnston (Brooklyn: Melville House, 2016), a book review by Carlos B. Gil

The author of this book is a widely recognized investigative crime reporter; I see him interviewed on television from time to time. In 2001, he won a Pulitzer Prize for Journalism for his work on tax dodges and loopholes. Because of the way he works, critics and admirers tagged him the “de facto chief tax enforcement officer of the United States.” I therefore consider his book as credit worthy. He wrote the book as a warning, as I explain below.

I took the time to read The Making of Donald Trump in an effort to comprehend our current president, hoping, in a way, that I might find something redeeming, but I did not. Johnston’s sleuthing and investigating failed to turn up any evidence contradicting the image that Donald Trump has carved out for himself in his first twelve months in office. His tweeting, and his speeches, if they may be called that, serve to confirm Johnston’s findings. Johnston helped me by tracing and explaining some of Trump’s ways of saying and doing things but the point is, that Trump hasn’t changed an iota since Johnston began investigating him.

Because the subject of this book is the President of the United States, I began taking extensive notes, something I do not do for other book reviews that I publish online. I append these notes below for your going-over, if you so wish. They provide more details.

Trump’s apparent “obsession with money,” is something he learned from his ancestors, according to Johnston. His father, Fred, appears to have taught him the tricks of the trade, including his worldview: money means everything, and looks are second in importance. There is no mention of Donald Trump’s mother, by the way.

Despite his silver spoon upbringing, the ways of the Bowry (one of New York’s rough and tumble wards) seem to have gotten stamped on Donald Trump. His closest friends turned out as shady characters, in some cases outright gangsters.

The best example is Roy Cohn, one of America’s most malicious figures, who served as Senator McCarthy’s right hand man, back in the 1950s. McCarthy took it upon himself to find Communists in the U.S. even when then there were not any, and ruined the lives of many people in the process. He quickly became a hated figure and ultimately resigned in disgrace, but Cohn, his lawyer, who looked like a gangster himself, egged him on with wicked malevolence. Cohn taught young Trump to smear anyone who was not friendly: confuse and disarm your critics by attacking them ten times as hard with foul words and false lawsuits. Indeed, we’ve seen this pattern many times, already. The two were close friends.

Johnston’s reasons for writing this book echo my own for reviewing his book and sharing it here. He wrote that he gathered “nearly half a century” of documents to bring them to the attention of American citizens. They “are most important for voters to ponder,” he explained, because they reveal much about “that person’s character. He adds that Donald Trump’s “obsession with money and the trappings of wealth…and his many comments about women, not as equals but objects,” tell us much about him. Moreover, “His vision is, in many ways, not that of a president but of a dictator.” (my emphasis)

Johnston’s deeply felt conclusion about our president is easy to see since Trump entered the White House. His one-sided immigration bans, insulting judges, even his own Attorney General, dismissing the importance of the FBI, and his constant flattering of Vladimir Putin, Russia’s dictator, come to mind immediately, alongside his out-and-out accusations of Hilary Clinton.

The crowning illustration of this tendency, for me, made the news recently when Trump shook hands with the President of the Phillipines, Rodrigo Duterte, who vowed to get rid of drug traffickers. Thousands of Filipinos have died at his command because he accused them of dealing drugs. They didn’t have to be arrested, they didn’t need a courtroom. Duterte’s accusatory finger was all that was needed. Duterte has blood on his hands and is proud of it. He boasted of killing people himself, even when he was a teen ager, “A human. I stabbed him because he starred at me.”

Trump was quoted as saying, “I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem…Many countries have the problem. We have the problem, but what a great job you are doing…” He may have also kept in mind that his business organization was in the process of building a Trump Tower in Manila.

I do not believe any American president, up to now, would have shaken hands with Duterte or even be seen with him on the same platform, not even the two Bushes, conservative as they may have been. Their moral standards would not have allowed them.

The editors of the New York Times wrote that Trump fawns and smiles, offering “effusive rhetoric” in the company of strongmen like Putin and Duterte. “Perhaps he sees in them a reflection of the person he would like to be.” Amen, to that.

Notes for a review by Carlos B. Gil of The Making of Donald Trump by David Cay Johnston (Brooklyn: Melville House, 2016).

–Johnston has been an investigative crime reporter since the 1980s. In 2001 he won a Pulitzer Prize for Journalism for exposing tax dodges and loopholes, he earned the nickname, the “de facto chief tax enforcement officer of the United States.” ( x). [words in quotations are taken directly from Johnston’s book and the page numbers are placed in parantheses]

–Trump followed the footsteps of his father (Fred) from whom he learned the ways of a landlord: own fancy apartment buildings for well-heeled whites and avoid Blacks and Puerto Ricans. Woody Guthrie rented an apartment in Beach Haven and when he discovered this pattern, he called it “bitch haven” and so he wrote a song about it:

Beach Haven ain’t my home! / No, I just can’t pay this rent! / My money  is down the drain, / And my soul is badly bent! / Beach Haven is Trump’s Tower / Where no Black folks come to roam / Old Beach Haven ain’t my home! (35).

–In gathering information, Johnston had lunch with Trump in 1990 (104)

Chapter 5 “Making Friends” is about Roy Cohn, who was “nearly a second father,” according to Trump himself (33). In the 1950s Cohn became infamous as Senator Joseph McCarthy’s lawyer and adviser; McCarthy was the disgraced legislator who hounded Americans as Communists.

–When the Department of Justice accused Donald Trump and his father for refusing to rent to people of color, Donald Trump sought Cohn’s advice and the two became close friends. Johnston informs us that Cohn served as a lawyer for “two of America’s most powerful Mafia figures” at the time. (39) Cohn taught Donald Trump a lesson that he took to heart: when someone threatens you, you attack that person harder: file a huge lawsuit and wear him or her out in the process (37).

–In a 1973 law suit filed against Donald Trump for racial discrimination in renting his apartments, Trump “folded and settled;” it was “a complete loss for Trump” (38), but he spoke about it as if he had won. He broadcast his own positive angle on the matter, a lesson learned from his father: spin the news in your favor; people won’t know the difference. “Offer a simple and quotable narrative” and then just move forward (38). Trump employed this strategy as a politician.

–When Donald Trump began the construction of the Trump Tower on the Atlantic City boardwalk, he was required to submit to an 18-month personal investigation by state authorities to make sure he was not connected with any gangsters. Trump used his connections, financial and political, to dodge it. As a result, his application to build the Tower was approved in a record 5 months’ time and his shady relationship with Mafioso union leaders was overlooked. He used union labor run by Mafia gangs to build his Trump Tower in record time. See “Trump’s Most Important Deals.” Chapter 6.

Chapter 7, “A Great Lawsuit.” In 1983 DONALD TRUMP invested into the New Jersey Generals, a football club associated with the USFL (US Football League), which was trying to compete with the NFL; he became part owner of the USFL this way. He thereupon devised a lawsuit against the NFL for monopoly practices arguing that the NFL had violated the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. He wanted to force the NFL to admit his team and the USFL and thereby share in the NFL’s money making capacity. Aided by his Mafia lawyer, Roy Cohn, he sued the NFL and the court agreed that the NFL had violated the Act; he won on the monopoly part of the lawsuit, but was awarded only one dollar for damages! An appeals court ruled that the NFL had indeed violated the Sherman Anti-Trust Act by maintaining “monopoly power in the market consisting of major league professional football in the US.” (55)

However, the one dollar damages award meant that the USFL and Donald Trump couldn’t break into the NFL because they had not done the slowly built legwork that the NFL accomplished over many years. Johnston views Trump’s actions as “seeking quick and easy riches from the lawsuit.” (55) Trump appealed to the Supreme Court and it declined to hear the case but required the NFL to send a check to the USFL for 76 cents as interest on the dollar (55). Trump’s strategy to get rich quick via the NFL failed. Years later, however, he issued his own fake news by calling it “a great lawsuit.” As he would do often, he blamed someone else for the loss, his USFL TV associate, calling him a “loser” in disgust. (57) The author emphasizes that DONALD TRUMP employed “a ruinous legal strategy” that “flouted conventional rules of conduct.” (58)

Chapter 8, “Showing Mercy,” has to do with Joe Weischelbaum, a drug trafficker and racketeer friend of President Trump whom he helped and nurtured whenever he got in trouble, even let him live in the Trump Tower after serving time in prison for drug trafficking and tax evasion. Weischelbaum offered Trump helicopter services, confirming the President’s friendliness with shady characters. Johnston suggests that Trump was receiving as yet unnamed services, in addition to piloting the helicopter, but he doesn’t clarify this allegation.

Chapter 9, “Polish Brigade,” looks at Trump’s willingness to cheat and lie in order to get his way, and make money at the same time. In order to build his Trump Tower, on 5th Avenue, New York City, Donald Trump had to tear down the BonWit Teller Department Store. He did so by hiring hundreds of Polish undocumented workers to do the job, all non-union, with no safety standards of any kind, all using sledge hammers! No hard hats, no goggles, no power tools, no face masks, no nothing! In addition, he promised to pay them $4 an hour, and then reneged so that some of the workers went to the extent of threatening the life of the superintendent. Trump had asked Roy Cohn to help him get workers and the Mafia lawyer made it possible by hiring nonunion workers in a pro-union state thanks to his contacts with Mafia-ridden union officials. One worker, Harry Diduck, sued Trump for cheating on the workers and the judge agreed, finding Trump guilty of violating his fiduciary duty to the workers and to the union. Donald Trump settled secretly.

Chapter 10, “Feelings and Net Worth,” reveals Donald Trump’s consistent hiding his net worth in a court room, and out of it. The author writes that Trump lies about it under oath and insists on deliberate ambiguity. In a 2005 lawsuit, he charged an author for undervaluing his net worth. The author’s lawyer asked him under oath what his net worth was and Trump answered, “it varies,” according to how he feels, Johnston added. The judge dismissed the case. (79) The author further remarked that Trump’s ego is imperative. He presents his net worth in high values to bankers, investors, and the public, but low for tax authorities, contractors, or vendors. (95)

Another example regarding net worth involves Mar-a-Lago, his estate in Palm Beach FL. It was originally owned by the heiress of Post Cereal who gave it to the US government for use as a presidential winter home, but the government put it on the market. Donald Trump boasted that he bought it for “cash” in 1985, but this was a lie. He borrowed from Chase Manhattan based on a non-recorded mortgage, guaranteed by his signature, agreeing to pay the loan back on time.

Chapter 11, “Government Rescues Trump,” examines Donald Trump’s mismanagement of his Atlantic City casinos, the Trump Castle and the Trump Plaza, between 1986 and 1990. He drained the cash out of them to the tune of $375 million. (87) As a result, in 1990, he could not pay his bills. Consequently, his creditors took over the casinos to try to make sense of the financial mess and discovered that Trump had borrowed from 70 banks at once, owing them all money and with no way to pay them. The bottom line of this story is that the New Jersey Gaming Commission overseeing the economic functioning of Atlantic City decided Trump was too big to fail and ultimately agreed to rescue him at a great loss to the State of New Jersey. In the spring of 2016, during his campaign, he admitted that he borrowed “knowing you can pay back with discounts. And, I’ve done very well with debt. Now, [I know that] I was swashbuckling, and it did well for me…” (93)

Chapter 12, “Golf and Taxes” describes Donald Trump’s managing property taxes to his advantage by finding a way to devaluate his property. His Trump National Golf Club Westchester, 30 miles from the New York Trump Tower, is an example. He bought a failed golf course there in the 1990s, fixed it up by adding a clubhouse, and so on. Members paid $300,000 initiation fees (including Bill Clinton). Boasting that the value of the course now rose to $50 million he declared the tax value as $1.4 million. When news reports publicized this unusual devaluation, Trump upped the declared value to $9 million. A local legislator complained bitterly that the local county was subsidizing a billionaire “so he can enjoy even more profits at that property.”

When a big storm hit the area and water run off flooded the municipal swimming pool near the golf club, obligating the city to spend money to clean it up, Trump refused to cooperate. It was the city’s fault, he insisted. The suit was unresolved when Trump began his presidential campaign. Johnston added that other golf courses owned by Donald Trump reveal similar chicanery on his part.

Chapter 13, “Income Taxes,” lets the author explain why Donald Trump can boast he can pay little or no incomes taxes: Congress allows real estate professionals to take “unlimited tax deductions against their other income.” Therefore, in 1992 and 1993, Donald Trump “had no income tax obligations” because “he had losses so large that he could apply them to future tax seasons.” (108)

Chapter 14, “Empty Boxes” is about Donald Trump buying expense jewelry worth $15,000 and mailing it out of state to save on the sales tax. When New York auditors discovered this, he avoided prosecution by cooperating and settling with them to avoid back taxes.

Chapter 15, “Better than Harvard” takes a look at Trump University in New York, an outright fraud. In 2005, Donald Trump announced to people interested in signing up that, “We’re going to have professors and adjunct professors that are absolutely terrific—terrific people, terrific brains, successful! We’re going to have the best of the best.” (118) We’re going to teach you better than business schools can teach you.” (118) These were all lies.

When the State of California sued Donald Trump for civil fraud about it, in 2012, the California Attorney General, Rachel Jensen, asked him to identify any one person in the faculty. He could not. He couldn’t remember even one. They were not real professors. They were real estate agents posing as faculty, “one managed a fast food joint.” (118)

The State of Texas investigated his Trump University seminars and discovered they were subterfuges for selling “Gold Elite” packages for $35,000.

The bottom line is that “the desperate and the gullible” paid Trump about $40 million dollars for what turned out to be the outcome of high-pressure salesmanship.

Chapter 16, “Trump Charities.” Johnston writes, “These day Donald Trump calls himself “an ardent philanthropist” but there is almost no public record that he has made much in the way of charitable gifts, and certainly not gifts in line with his claimed wealth of more than $10 billion. (132)

Chapter 17, “Imaginary Friends.” In this chapter, Johnston shows that in the 1980s Donald Trump made it a practice to impersonate a public relations officer for himself, often using the name John Baron, and feed reporters information that made him look like he was closing a lucrative business deal, or how “this or that woman was in awe of him.” (135) Libby Handro’s unflattering film, Trump: What’s the Deal, illustrates this allegation and it remains on YouTube even though Trump threatened Handro with a lawsuit if she went public with it. (138)

In Chapter 18, “Imaginary Loves,” the author writes that Trump also used this mode of deception to boast about his male prowess. Johnston describes how “beautiful” women often looked for him or called him.

Chapter 19, “Myth Maintenance” reviews two core strategies that Trump has employed to manage his public image, one he has “spent decades creating, polishing, and selling.”

  1. A) “He exploits a common weakness in news reporting” which is an avoidance by reporters to analyze and insert themselves, so they try to stick to the facts. Trump’s objective is to strike fear in his critics by threatening to sue, even when he knows he is going to lose. This was the case with Tim O’Brien and his 2005 book, Trump Nation (78-79). O’Brien reported that Donald Trump was inflating his self-worth. Johnston quotes Trump as saying, “I spent a couple of bucks on legal fees, and they spent a whole lot more. I did it to make his life miserable, which I’m happy about.” The court dismissed Trump’s lawsuit but O’Brien’s publisher had to pay legal fees. (147)

(B) The second strategy is that he “distorts information, contradicts himself, and blocks inquiries into his conduct by journalists, law enforcement, business regulators and other people’s lawyers.” (140) Trump’s track record in public office amply demonstrates this.

David Cay Johnston identifies Trump’s friends as shady people. One is Joseph Cinque, a drug mobster, also known as Joe No Socks, who claimed attending Trump’s New Year’s parties. Another of his friends is Felix H. Satter, a “convicted stock swindler.” (162).

Why JOHNSTON wrote this book: He writes that he collected “nearly half a century” of documents regarding Trump’s conduct. He believes these documents “are most important for voters to ponder” about. Then he added if you examine someone’s conduct “you gain a better understanding of that person’s character. Donald Trump’s “obsession with money and the trappings of wealth…and his many comments about women not as equals but objects” tell us much about him (206). “His vision is, in many ways, not that of a president but of a dictator.” (209)


What Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio means for Latinos: “We mean little to President Trump.”

President Trump’s pardoning of Joe Arpaio, the former Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, represents a slap in the face to the Latinos of the United States, clear and simple. Everything indicates that our president did this with total impunity and without a trace of shame or regret. We, Latinos, mean little to him so he shoved us aside when he cancelled the criminal contempt case against Arpaio, as widely reported. That he did it early in his administration, an exceptional occurrence as many commentators have noted, simply underscores my observation: we mean little or nothing to him. (His ending of the DACA program on September 5, 2017–Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals–illustrates this quite clearly: he didn’t take a lead on it, he passed the fate of these young culturally assimilated Americans on to Congress. No one can call that leadership.

Why is Arpaio an issue?

Everyone in Arizona knows that as sheriff of Arizona’s most important county, Joe Arpaio brazenly went out of his way to tear every shred of dignity from the Latin Americans, mostly Mexican, he accused of entering the country illegally, men, women and children. It seems he enjoyed doing it, according to reports. It is apparent that like his protector in the White House, he considers all migrants, who cross the border without permission, as sub-humans and criminals. According to The New Yorker, up to 2009 only, his department cost the State of Arizona more than forty three million dollars for settling lawsuits that alleged mistreatment of the lowly migrants, and even their wrongful deaths. He mocked them by putting them in gaudy colored uniforms, fed them two meals a day that cost less than fifty cents each, and even marched them publicly in chain gangs, women too. His deliberate scare-‘em Gestapo tactics generated more than twenty two hundred court cases, exceeding the worst raids of undocumented workers in the 1950s, some of which I witnessed.

All this is against the moral standards we Americans have always considered fitting and proper, but Mr. Trump turned a blind eye, insisted Arpaio was a “good man”, and pardoned him.

Clearly, the Trump administration is anti-Mexican, anti-Latino, and anti-immigrant. And, the 30% of Americans who continue to support him are too, apparently.

Should we worry about this?

Should we, Latinos of the United States, who don’t have to worry about getting picked up and deported care about this? Of course, we should, if for no other reason than the fact that the hapless deportees look like our ancestors, they look like us. They speak as our descendants spoke, they eat what they ate, they worship as they did. They are as we were. In addition, you and I know that most of them crossed the border to find work, keep their heads down, and send a few pennies back home.

To call them “criminals” is repulsive and immoral. They may have broken a law to get into the U.S. but that does not give any American official license to diminish their humanity. Arpaio swaggers about it according to reports. His tactics, his demeanor, and his penchant for publicity remind us of the black-booted Nazis persecuting Jews in the 1940s (he would have made a good Sturmmann or Storm Trooper).

What can we do?

We can speak up. We can make known our contempt to our friends personally, and through Facebook, Twitter and other social media. We can ask our pastors to help raise awareness in our communities.

We can ask our community organizations to help spread the word about Trump’s anti-immigration stance. There are groups like CHIRLA (Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles), and the NCLR (National Council for La Raza).

Get their address and send them a note with $5 or $10. You surely must know a DACA youngster (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, also known as “The Dreamers”), the ones who were brought to the U.S. from Mexico without documentation; they are being persecuted by Mr. Trump and his ilk (all this sounds so Nazi like). Talk to the young Dreamer; ask how you can support their cause. To have them deported is immeasurably immoral, a stain on America!

Most importantly, YOU CAN REGISTER TO VOTE. NEXT TIME MAKE SURE YOU GO OUT AND VOTE! OUR ONLY LINE OF DEFENSE IS POLITICAL! We can vote. Let us stand up against Mr. Trump and the Joe Arpaio’s who support him.

¡Si se puede!


Today the editors of The New York Times published a spectacular rebuke of President Donald J. Trump that I believe has no historical precedent and you should know about it, if only for that reason. You may read the full editorial in the attachment below but here are the highlights:

  • “With each day, President Trump offers fresh proof that he is failing the office that Americans entrusted to him…This, in essence, is where we are now: a nation led by a prince of discord who seems divorced from decency and common sense.[my emphasis]”
  • As only one example of his “failing the office” he holds, the editors properly called his penchant for twittering as “twitter bursts of anti-historical nonsense.” I would say twitters that betray his infantile mind. The latest one cites General John Pershing stopping Islamic terrorists in the Philippines a hundred years ago by killing them with “bullets dipped in pig’s blood,” suggesting our soldiers should imitate him. Only an undeveloped intellect, a man who is still a child, would make such a claim publicly—and he is our president!
  • As a measure of our national “despair,” the editors write, “we find “ourselves strangely comforted” by his inability to carry out his half-baked ideas, like “destroying the Affordable Care Act [Obamacare],” or fully implementing his “demonstrably cruel deportation policy,” and, I would add, building his border wall, and scuttling plans against global warming.
  • “Here is yet another oddity,” the editors remind us (and I am glad they did because otherwise it would fly past us without our giving it a second thought). As Americans we are proud of our democratic civilian society, free of military dictators, yet Mr. Trump appointed three military men as top aides (John Kelly, the new White House chief of staff; H. R. McMaster, the national security adviser; and Jim Mattis, the secretary of defense). Why does he willy-nilly violate our important political tradition by having three generals help run our country? The answer is, “to stop Mr. Trump from going completely off the rails.” (God succor us, right?).
  • In my young-man-hood, I proudly served in the State Department helping to press for our nation’s interests diplomatically, but under Mr. Trump the State Department “has been robbed of expertise and traditional diplomacy [and it] has been marginalized,” which many of us consider a gigantic mistake.
  • Lastly, the editors find comfort with “signs that our democratic system is working to contain Mr. Trump” but what are we to think or make of the Americans (a small minority) who blindly support him? “The deeper question…is..[a] moral [one]…will they continue to follow a standard-bearer who is alienating most of the country by embracing extremists” including white supremacists? What’s the answer?
  • In closing, the editors refer to Mr. Trump’s statements about Charlottsville: “He chose to summon not America’s better angels, but its demons.” I agree.

Again I say: how low we have come! How can we regain what we’ve lost!?