Edward Packard
Daily Blog

July 18, 2018

 

Time To Indict Putin 

 

This past week Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation brought about indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers, all of whom worked under the direction of Putin. It makes no sense to prosecute mob members and ignore the mob boss, so Putin should be indicted too. Putin should be indicted, tried, convicted, and given a good stiff sentence. He won’t submit himself to U.S. jurisdiction, but he has so many billions of dollars stashed all over the world that our authorities should be able to seize a half dozen or so of them, maybe some as handy as in Trump’s pocket.

 

 

 

July 17, 2018  

 

There Is No Excuse 

 

There is no excuse for anyone to defend, support, acquiesce in, cajole, play along with, attempt to instruct, show patience with, work for, or with, or tolerate in the slightest in any respect whatsoever Trump. Failure to work for his removal from office is a failure of moral responsibility.


 

 

July 16, 2018 

 

Note from a C.D. Battleground 

 

Scott Tipton, the Republican Congressman in my district, is an archetypal Trump-enabler backed by the Koch Brothers and the NRA. Though he is favored to hold his seat in the coming election, his Democratic challenger, Diane Mitsch Bush, is more formidable that any opponent Tipton has previously faced. Districts like ours can be flipped and must be flipped if American democracy is to survive the accelerating drift toward autocracy propelled by the right-wing coalition that controls the Republican Party. 

 

Lately, Tipton has been sending studious well-crafted emails to his constituents in an attempt to get across what a great job he’s been doing. It’s a good bet they are drafted by operatives at right-wing think tanks. They are artfully designed to fool people into thinking that Tipton’s continuing incumbency would be good for our district and our country. I’m committed to helping dispel such illusions.


 

 

July 15, 2018 

 

Attitude 

 

I hear this a lot: Trump is winning. It’s a terrible attitude. It's a prelude to despair. Never allow it.

 

 

 

July 14, 2018


Fox News  –– A Unique Phenomenon


At a press conference, Trump refused to answer a question from CNN. He then accepted a question from Fox News. Fox News is almost unfailingly supportive of Trump. Trump likes Fox News like no other media organization. Fox News acts as if Trump is the dictator of the U.S. and Fox News is state-sponsored media. If Trump gained dictatorial power, he would not have to create a new organization. Fox News would be in place to serve that role. 


Fox News’s existence is responsible in large part for Trump’s durability. Fox News is a unique phenomenon. It would take only two or three other unique phenomena to create the perfect storm that would end America’s existence as a democracy.

 

 

 

July 13, 2018 

 

Every Day a Fresh Spectacle, or Two  

 

Yesterday, two: Trump excelling himself playing the role of the mad king at the NATO meeting and Republicans in Congress trying to protect him by intemperately attacking FBI agent Peter Strzok in an attempt to elevate revelation of Strzok’s negative personal feeling about Trump during the 2016 campaign into a wholesale condemnation of the FBI and the Mueller investigation.

 

 

 

July 12, 2018 

 

Trump Builds His Protective Wall 

 

Trump recently nominated Brian Benczkowski to head the Criminal Division of the Justice Department. Benczkowski has had no prosecutorial experience. For that reason alone he is manifestly unqualified to hold such an important and powerful job. Moreover, he represented Alfa Bank, a Russian bank with close ties to Putin that was subject of an FBI investigation of Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. Everything about Benczkowski suggests that he is a Trump toady. 


Fifty-one Republican senators voted to approve Benczkowski's   nomination, thereby demonstrating that they too are Trump toadies and that American democracy is on the ropes, off balance, and in danger of being knocked out of the ring.

 

 

 

July 11, 2018 

 

Hysteria 

 

I heard an acquaintance remark that Democrats attacking Trump are hysterical. Elizabeth Warren is shrill. Bernie Sanders is a crank. Michael Moore is a buffoon. On the contrary, I think most Democrats and independents are too phlegmatic. Life goes on. Shrug. That’s how democracies die. Every day is an emergency. Democrats must gain control of either the House or the Senate in this fall’s elections, or the Trumpian transformation will become indistinguishable from occupation by a foreign power.


 

 

July 10, 2018 

 

Another Sickening Day in the Trumpian Age 

 

I’m reading Democracy in Chains, by Nancy MacLean, a Duke history professor, which traces the "origins and development of the attempt by the billionaire-backed radical right to undo democratic governance.” Trump is the blunt instrument forces fueled by greed and resentment are using to bludgeon American democracy out of existence.


Trump’s pick for a Supreme Court justice from a list provided to him by an extreme right-wing organization takes its place among the seemingly inevitable sequelae of the tragedy that overtook our nation when an unlikely alignment of the stars left America vulnerable to blows from which it may never recover. 

 


July 9, 2018 

 

Conservative Values  

 

Many Republican-affiliated voters imagine that their party stands for conservative values. That was once the case. Not any more. Fiscal responsibility, competence in governance, rooting out corruption, respect for scientific findings, cultivation of bonds with allies to strengthen national security, protecting our democratic processes from foreign interference, respecting the integrity of families, fostering economic opportunity, refusing to give comfort to dictators and autocrats, adherence to the rule of law –– these are conservative values that the Republican party has thrown overboard by signing on to the demagoguery of Trump and Trumpism. 

 

Traditional Republican values are more closely exhibited by Democratic candidates than by their present-day Republican opponents. 


 

 

 

July 8, 2018 

 

Religious Liberty 

 

The radical right wants to shrink government –– they have succeeded in lowering taxes primarily for rich and especially for the super rich and in slashing regulations and programs established for the common good, and they want to keep at it.  

 

They want judges who will promote what they call “religious liberty.” Everyone should be free to embrace whatever religion they want. But members of the radical right have something else in mind. They see what they call religious liberty as an instrument for disallowing government action that violates claimed religious beliefs. 

 

In America, antidisestablishmentarianism lost. The prime goal of the founding founders was to construct a system of government that would be resistant to authoritarian rule. The world’s most pervasive religions are authoritarian. Our Constitution assures us of freedom of religion. That it assures us of freedom from religion too the radical right is working to strip away.

 

 

 

July 7, 2018 

 

Sign of the Times 

 

Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott (i) signed off on an $800 million allocation for border security and (ii) vetoed funding of about one one-thousandth of that amount for the Colonias Initiative Project, a long-running state effort to help poor communities on the Texas border obtain drinking water, wastewater service and roads.


 

 

July 6, 2018 

 

Trump’s Servility toward Putin 

 

How can Republican members of Congress tolerate Trump’s servility toward an autocrat who, among other crimes, has strenuously interfered with American elections and continues to do so for his own malevolent purposes? 

 

That Trump tolerates, indeed encourages, Putin for Trump’s own malevolent purposes is the scandal par excellence in Trump’s scandal-ridden administration.

 

Trump’s place in the history of infamy will be shared by his supporting cast. 


 

 

July 5, 2018 

 

Democracy in Decline  

 

When I was growing up, it was self-evident that the United States was the greatest democracy in the world. From sea to sea the blessings of liberty and justice shined. Our Constitution guaranteed free speech, free elections, religious freedom, due process, equal protection, and a lot of other rights. With some exceptions, freedom rung.  

 

The Varieties of Democracy Project 2018 Report rates the state of democracy in each of 178 countries throughout the world. The survey is based on the opinions of more than 3,000 scholars and experts on particular countries who are asked to evaluate the quality of core features of democracy in each country. Most countries today hold elections. Some of these elections are free and fair, others are compromised to varying degrees, and others are so rigged that they are meaningless except for propaganda purposes. 

 

The latest survey paints a distressing picture of the United States. Looking at the ratio of influence on politics exercised by people with average income to that exercised by people with high income, the United States scored lowest among Western countries. 

 

Our country ranked 7th as to the quality of democracy in 2015. By 2017 it had fallen to 31st. The undermining of the Affordable Care Act by the present Administration and this year’s mammoth tax cuts mainly favoring the rich and especially the super rich have almost certainly driven our country further down on the list. If the trend isn’t reversed beginning with this fall’s elections, America’s greatness may be largely eclipsed by the greed, cynicism, and chicanery that through the ages have plagued our human family.


 

 

July 4, 2018

 

Independence from Trumpism Day?

 

Some time ago, Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin noted that there have been 80 different contacs and at least 23 meetings between at least 24 Trump associaters and Russian operatives; that Trump and a number of his allies repeatedly and falsely denied such contacts; that Trump went so far as to draft a misleading account to explain away the Trump Tower meeting. It’s shocking to those not numbed to a state of insensibility that he's still in office.


Michael Flynn is cooperating with the special counsel. It appears that Michael Cohen will too. Meanwhile Trump keeps raking in millions upon millions of dollars from his businesses and rich hangers-on. He has a protective wall in Congress and a protective wall in the Supreme Court that he is poised to build higher. Will he withstand the workings of the justice system and achieve de facto immunity? Will we citizens get to celebrate independence from Trumpism day? If Democrats gain control of either the Senate or the House in this fall's elections, I think it’s likely; otherwise, not.


 

 

July 3, 2018

 

The Country on the Other Side of the Border

 

Mexico’s new leader, López Obrador, is something of a cypher. Is he a muddy brained demagogue like Hugo Chavez and Donald Trump, or a high-minded politician determined to set his country on a better course? A former U.S. ambassador to Mexico who has known him a long time argues that he is both pragmatic and driven by a desire to improve the living conditions of the half of Mexicans who remain poor. Just thinking this might be true brightens this hot and smoggy day. 

 

 

 

July 2, 2018

 

If the Truth Could Be Known


If everyone could be made aware of the degree to which policies of Republican politicians are designed to make the rich richer, how little they care for the disadvantaged, how money and power mean everything to them, and how our sweet land of liberty is being despoiled by their mendacity, cynicism, greed, and obsequiousness to their sociopathic leader, the whole lot of them would turned out of office, with Trump on their heels.


 

July 1, 2018 

 

If Your Outrage Meter Broke, Get a New One 

 

I keep thinking of the woman at the supermarket who looked

at someone and thought, How can you be buying broccoli when our country is being wrecked? Then she herself bought some broccoli. For many people, their outrage meter is broken; just not built for such a succession of violent shocks.  

 

It’s critical not to shrug. There are lots of inspiring people working to save American democracy. Be inspired yourself, I keep telling myself.


 

 

June 30, 2018

 

Dreamtime 

 

About a week ago Jennifer Rubin observed:  “ . . .one can see the decline and eventual elimination of this rogue presidency. It just takes time.”


 

 

June 29, 2018 

 

Democracy on the Ropes 

 

American democracy is on the ropes. Democrats must take back either the House or the Senate to keep it from being knocked out of the ring.

 

I’ll do what I can in my Congressional district by working to replace the Koch Brothers-funded Republican incumbent, Scott Tipton, with the experienced, competent, and uncorruptible, Democratic challenger, Diane Mitsch Bush. 


 

 

June 28, 2018 

 

A Dark Turn 

 

American history took a dark turn this week. In upholding Trump’s muslim travel ban, accepting the baseless claim of national security needs and ignoring its true discriminatory purpose, and in other rulings, the right-wing-ruled court showed its political stripes. Justice Kennedy’s retirement will allow Republicans to consolidate the court as a political weapon. The odds against resisters to Trumpism ratcheted up another notch.


 

 

June 27, 2018  

 

21 Signs of Impending Tyranny

 

Soon after Trump was elected president, Robert Reich posted a list of signs of impending tyranny. I think there were about ten of them. The other day he updated it, adding new signs evidenced since Trump took office. Here’s the latest list.


As tyrants take control of democracies, they typically:


1. Demand total personal loyalty from all appointees. 


2. Organize military parades and other choreographed shows of force.


3. Threaten to fire independent prosecutors who get too close to the truth.


4. Spread conspiracy theories about "deep state" forces seeking to oust them.


5. Refer to top-ranking military leaders as "my" generals.


6. Threaten to jail political opponents.


7. Claim to have won an election by a landslide even after losing the popular vote.


8. Stoke tensions abroad, such as trade wars and even the specter of nuclear war, to distract from their efforts to consolidate power at home.


9. Circumvent the independent press and communicate directly with their followers.


10. Turn the public against journalists or media outlets that criticize the regime, calling them “deceitful” and “scum.”


11. Vilify legislators and judges who are critical of the regime.


12. Repeatedly claim massive voter fraud in the absence of any evidence, in order to restrict voting in subsequent elections.


13. Repeatedly tell big lies, causing the public to doubt the truth and to believe fictions that support the tyrants’ goals.


14. Blame crime on immigrants or racial or religious minorities, and foment public bias and hatred against them.


15. Threaten mass deportations, registries of religious minorities, and the banning of refugees.


16. Separate refugee children from their parents, and incarcerate all of them. 


17. Attribute acts of domestic violence to “enemies within,” and use such events as excuses to beef up internal security and limit civil liberties.


18. Appoint family members to high positions of authority.


19. Draw no distinction between personal property and public property, profiteering from public office.


20. Make personal alliances with foreign dictators but express indifference if not defiance toward leaders of democracies.


21. Maintain a powerful propaganda arm that claims to be "fair and balanced" but only amplifies the tyrant's lies and accusations.


I imagine that once the list reaches a certain length, it’s no longer one of signs of impending tyranny, but of indicia of present tyranny.




 

 

June 26, 2018 

 

Tipping Point

 

Can anyone doubt that Trump would like to assume autocratic power? 

 

There are innumerable chilling passages in William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, among them, page 185, “The cardinal error of the Germans who opposed Naziism was their failure to unite against it . . . The Germans imposed the Nazi tyranny on themselves.” 


Jennifer Rubin: “We .. . face an election in which the soul of America is up for grabs.”


 

 

 

June 25, 2018


A Master Charlatan at Work


An article in the Washington Post describes a Trump rally in Duluth. It’s a case study of a master charlatan at work.

 

Trump rallies often feel like rock concerts. There are groupies who travel to as many rallies as they can and camp out at the front of the line. Many rallygoers show up wearing as much red, white and blue as possible — and then accessorize their outfits with T-shirts, campaign pins, hats and flags sold by vendors not sanctioned by the campaign. And there are the chants that allow rallygoers to feel even more a part of a movement: “Lock her up.” “Drain the swamp.” “USA!” “Build that wall.”


It's a safe bet that not a one ever read Huckleberry Finn.

 

 

 

June 24 2018


Can You Overblow Criticism of an Overblown Man?


News Item: “With President Trump’s approval rating at 90 percent among Republicans, his supporters say they defend him  because they feel criticism of him is constantly overblown.”


Ninety percent of Republicans appear to be intellectually or morally deficient. “Feeling that criticism of Trump is constantly overblown” is too weak a reed to lean on. How about “Trump has done a superb job!”?  That would be reason to support him. Except he hasn’t. 


As to overblowing criticism of Trump, it simply can’t be done.

 

 

 

 

June 23, 2018 

 

Trump is a Mass Child Abuser 

 

The buck starts and stops with Trump. He has caused more than two thousand children, including infants, to be abducted from their parents and warehoused at sites around the country without any plan for reuniting them with their families. A pediatrician on the Rachel Maddow show described the adverse effects this practice will have on its young victims. It was a chilling recitation. 

 

Trump is a mass child abuser. For this alone he should be reviled and removed from office. For the moment, he survives, shielded by protective walls of nihilists, sycophants, opportunists, and fellow sociopaths.

 

 

 

June 22, 2018 

 

Disturbing Parallels  

 

In the June  28 New York Review of Books, Cass Susstein examines three books dealing mostly with life in Nazi Germany as Hitler was consolidating power. Susstein’s piece is headlined “It Could Happen Here,” and despite our having greater institutional safeguards and traditions as bulwarks against tyranny than Germany had after the collapse of the Weimar Republic, there are disturbing parallels between the Nazi and Trumpian eras. One contemporary observer of Germany in the 1930s “pointed to a regime bent on diverting its people through endless dramas (often involving real or imagined enemies), and the ‘gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise’.” In one witness’s account, “each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained, or, on occasion ‘regretted’, that people could no more see it developing from day to day than a farmer in the field sees the corn growing. One day it’s over his head.” 


 

 

 

June 21, 2018 

 

A Good Billionaire is Hard to Find 

 

Some time ago I noted that many bad billionaires –– people like the Koch Brothers and the Mercers –– are backing right-wing candidates and agendas for their own greedy sakes rather than for the sake of our country and that, pending radical campaign finance reform, which more and more seems like a fleeting dream, good billionaires need to step up to the plate. Tom Steyer has done so, but rather ineffectively it appears, running ads urging the impeachment of Trump, but most other good billionaires have seemed reluctant to get involved on the scale they need to. For this reasonI I was happy to read yesterday:Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, will throw his personal fortune behind the Democratic campaign to take control of the House of Representatives.”


Mr. Bloomberg is a conservative who knows a scoundrel when he sees one. He opposed Trump during the 2016 campaign, commenting, “This isn’t a reality show. This is reality.” He’s fully aware that it would be a grave calamity, on top of the one we’re already living with, if Democrats can’t take control of at least one branch of Congress in this year's elections. Here’s to you, Mr. Bloomberg.


 

 

June 20, 2018 

 

No Republican Should Survive This at the Polls. 

 

All 49 Democratic and Independent senators have signed on to Diane Feinstein’s  legislative initiative to end the abduction and sequestration of children from their parents at the Mexican border. A few Republican senators have expressed dismay with Trump’s barbaric policy, but none has demonstrated a sense of urgency in addressing it. A statement issued by the office of Congressman Scott Tipton is typical of Trumpian thinking : “The blame for the problem lies with undocumented parents who bring the children into the U.S. illegally.” This is wholly unacceptable as a justification for being cruel to innocent children.

 

 

 

 

June 19, 2018 

 

Res Ipsa Loquitur 

 

Ripping children from their parents and sequestering them in what amounts to concentration camps with no plan for reuniting them with families is beyond abhorrent; it’s a crime against humanity. Yet a recent poll showed that this policy was favored by Republicans by something like 60% for; 40% against. This fits with the problem moderate Republican politicians have: they can’t win a primary contest against an opponent who courts voters who are racist, xenophobic, sociopathic, clueless, generally resentful, or simply mesmerized by Trumpian propaganda or religious sophistry. Though some Republicans in Congress have bewailed some of Trump’s policies, not a damn one of them seeking to remain in office has had the moral integrity to denounce him, to acknowledge that the country has fallen into the grip of a monster who has surrounded himself with monster worshippers, a monster who must be opposed at every turn, who should be committed to prison or, at the very least, to his golf courses, palaces, and and towers and never permitted to cross the White House threshold again.

 

Trump and Trumpism dwarf all other issues. To denounce Trump isn’t partisan; it’s a moral duty. Every person of good will should work relentlessly to commit him and his enablers to the darkest pages of history. They will reside there someday, the sooner the better.


 

 

June 18, 2018  

 

The State of the World  

 

George Soros: “Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong.” 

 

Yet for the most part to be felt: the consequences.

 

 

 

June 17, 2018 

 

Trump and the Frogs in Hot Water 

 

You probably know the story about the frog in a kettle of water on the stove: the water gets heated gradually, so the frog barely notices the increased gradations even though it feels increasingly uncomfortable. After a while the water gets so hot that the frog would have immediately jumped out if it had been dropped into the water, but the heating has been so gradual that the frog doesn’t react; it gets numb; then it’s too late: the water is boiling.

 

This is America in the time of Trump and his enablers: daily new outrages, increasing in degree, people feeling increasing in discomfort; getting numb, leaving the burner on under the pot instead of turning it off.


 

 

June 16, 2018

 

Circumspect Language

 

Responsible observers, reluctant to sound inflammatory, often use circumspect language, which phrased differently, though logically unchanged, has a lot more impact:


Jennifer Rubin, in a recent column:


“The contrast between {Trump’s} antagonistic relationship with democratic allies and his never saying a bad word about Russia defies explanation, unless one is to buy into the theory that he is indebted in some fashion to Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose campaign to interfere in the U.S. elections helped land Trump in the White House.” 

 

Translation, without logical distinction: 

 

“The only explanation for the contrast between Trump’s antagonistic relationship with democratic allies and his never saying a bad word about Russia is that he is indebted in some fashion to Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose campaign to interfere in the U.S. elections helped land Trump in the White House.”


 

 

June 15, 2018                                                                             

 

The Clingers Explained 

 

Why do Republicans in Congress cling to Trump even though they surely know he’s a con artist and a destructive fool? 

William Kristol, an observer with impeccable conservative credentials, explains: “Behind all the high-flown rhetoric is a worship of power when exercised by a leader on their side, a worship more intense the more thuggish the manner of exercise.”

 

 

 

 

June 14, 2018 

 

The Challenge

 

Kim Jong-un is a bellicose, brutal, totalitarian dictator. Trump said of him that he was "very open," “very honorable,” “very smart,” “very worthy” and “very talented, and “someone who “wants to do the right thing.”

 

Let us not waste breath excoriating Trump. His behavior is what we would expect of the ignorant, egomaniacal, sociopathic narcissist we know him to be. Let us direct our energies to calling to account the Republican members of Congress, members of the Administration, and billionaire media moguls who support him. Our challenge is to wrest our country’s destiny from the grip of perverted minds.


 

 

June  13, 2018 

 

Headline: “Trump Bets on Special Bond with Kim” 

 

This makes some sense. Trump has more in common with Kim than any previous president had or could have. Still, one wonders if Trump is aware that Kim isn’t betting on a special bond with Trump.


 

June 12, 2018 

 

A Case Study in Word Triage


Headline this morning: “Trump again scolds Trudeau, says his criticism will cost Canada ‘a lot of money’.”

 

Criticize Trump and it will cost you a lot. You better praise him if you know what’s good for you.


Every good writer knows that you should avoid run-on sentences. Suppose, for example, you want to describe Trump as accurately as possible, but know you should limit the number of adjectives you string together in a row. Exercising reasonable circumspection, staying within the bounds of propriety, five is probably about the limit. 


It can be painful to leave out any pejorative adjective on occasions when a great many are needed, but, whether you like it or not, you have to do it! I think Jennifer Rubin showed commendable self-restraint and made an excellent selection yesterday, noting that Trump is “irrational, cruel, impulsive, anti-democratic and stubbornly ignorant.”


Not name-calling; just a statement of facts.

 

 

 

 

 

June 11, 2018 

 

Trump in a Nutshell 

 

Trump’s grotesquely warped psyche was on full display at the Group of Seven summit. Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, sized him up in a nutshell.


“The president, unmoved by history, ignorant of facts and guided by sycophants, has not been forced to grapple with the real world nor to hear views that don’t coincide with his twisted worldview, in which allies are ripping us off and aggressive strongmen are to be admired and accommodated.”


June 10, 2018 

 

Fire 

 

Oxygen comprises about 21% of Earth’s atmosphere. I once read that if there were something like twice as much oxygen, all terrestrial plant life would burn up. I formed a mental image of forests going up in flames. Lately that image returned. 

 

The American Southwest has been having a severe drought for months. Summer will be notable in many states for fires. One has been burning the past seven days about 20 miles and upwards north of my town in southwestern Colorado. Crews have been fighting it on the ground and from the air with helicopters and tankers. A crack team joined them Friday. The fire fighters haven’t been trying to put out the fire, which as of this writing has burned out at least twelve square miles of woodlands; they have only been trying to keep it from reaching houses. 

 

Winds at night tend to be light and variable and mostly from the north. Daytime winds tend to be southerly. Stronger winds are due today. No change of weather is in sight.  The fire may burn all summer –– there’s plenty of wood for it to consume wherever it roams. No one knows how much damage smoke is causing to people’s lungs. The authors of two letters to the editor of the local newspaper say we should fight global warming.


 

 

 

June 9, 2018

 

The Pervasion of Christianity

 

The perversion of Christianity is one of the tragic phenomena that, woven with others, produced the affliction of government that grips our country. I thought of this reading Brian Palmer’s article about Scott Pruitt in Slate. Pruitt, the E.P.A. Director, as everyone should know, is corrupt to a degree rarely approached in American history. No matter. Palmer writes:


Pruitt has been polishing his evangelical bona fides for years, building a bulwark of unwavering Christian support. In 2003, as an Oklahoma state senator, he championed a bill to insert a disclaimer into school textbooks noting that evolution is just a theory. . . He attends Bible study with Ralph Drollinger, pastor to the Republican political elite. . .”


Pruitt’s “Christian” “bona fides” have inoculated him with a large segment of Republicans. Trump can safely let him keep trashing the environment. The perversion of Christianity is a recurrent historical tragedy, rarely more so than in our own time.


 

 

June 8,  2018 

 

The Arsonist

 

The president of the United States is supposed to be a person of high moral character. Among his or her noble traits would be insistence on telling the truth. This is required on both moral and practical grounds. As president, you are highly visible. Thousands of journalists and politicians are checking your statements for veracity. It’s easy to catch a president who lies. At some point no one can rely on anything you say. Keep it up and you’ll be held in universal contempt. That's what one would have thought.

 

Trump lies constantly –– it’s the most notable feature of his character. And he is caught lying all the time, which is part of the problem. He’s like a crazed arsonist, lighting fires so frequently and in so many places that the fire department spends all its energy answering each new alarm. About half of Trump’s lies consist of accusing others of lying, accusing the fire department of setting the fires.


Trump is a master liar, but he wouldn’t get away with it if he weren’t aided by hordes of confederates whose character is almost as flawed as his own, in his Administration, in Congress, and in the outsized segment of the media financed by money-glutted barons and run by acolytes who gain sick satisfaction from propelling our country in the direction of fascist rule. 


The effectiveness of this baleful combine is much in evidence; for example, a recent poll found that 61 percent of Republicans think the FBI is framing Trump, and only 13 percent believe the special counsel’s investigation is legitimate. This is bad, and it is sad, a word Trumps likes to use when referring to the proper workings of justice.


 

 

June 7, 2018 

 

How the Republicans Could Win in 2020 

 

Unless the Democrats self-destruct in the course of having something like 25 aspirants competing for the presidential nomination, none of them a standout favorite, roughing each other up in debates and primaries, whoever becomes their anointed leader will be a strong favorite to defeat Trump, who by 2020 it’s likely all but the most slavish loyalists will be ready to shed.


Suppose, however, that as the fateful year approaches, Republicans grasp that they have hitched their star to an imitation gold-plated chariot that is losing its wheels. Suppose they grasp that the Grand Old Party is in deep existential trouble. Suppose they hit on the idea of seeking a leader who is rational, capable, honest, and perceived generally as the antithesis of Trump, namely Ohio Governor John –– “all my options are on the table for 2020” –– Kasich. Kasich could be just what Republicans need to cruise to victory. ]Fortunately for Democrats, Republicans are no less likely than Democrats to blow their chances. 


 

 

June 6, 2018 

 

Bifurcated Nation 

 

Unemployment is low. The economy is doing well. With the new tax breaks they got, companies have had extra tens of billions to buy back shares of their stock, so their stockholders have benefited. So why not vote for Republicans in November? Maybe, among other extraordinarily compelling reasons, because, as Katrina Vanden Heuvel noted in her Washington Post article yesterday,  speaking of our country: “About 40 million live in poverty, 18.5 million in extreme poverty, and 5.3 million live in Third World conditions of absolute poverty. It has the highest youth poverty rate in the [industrialized world] and the highest infant mortality rates. . . . Its citizens live shorter and sicker lives compared to those living in all other rich democracies, . . . The United States has the highest rate of income inequality among Western countries.” 

 

 

 

 

June 5, 2018 

 

America the Ugly 

 

Last night I saw a video clip of a visit by Senator Jeff Merkley (D.  Oregon) to a detention center where our government houses children it rips away from their parents at the Mexican border. He asked for a tour of the facility, but was denied admittance, which wasn’t surprising. When you’re running a concentration camp for hundreds of children you’ve abducted, you don’t want anyone to know what it’s like for them inside. Some policeman were hanging around, I imagine to make sure Senator Merkley didn’t break the door down. If he'd been allowed to do that, some of the children might have escaped! Worse, he would have documented their plight. 


 

 

 

June 4, 2018 

 

Supreme Court Proceedings  

 

Trump’s lawyer (TL): May it please the Court, the subpoena of the president to appear before the Grand Jury is null and void. The president has absolute authority over the United States Department of Justice. Therefore any insubordinate act by a DOJ official, including a subpoena issued by a prosecutor in defiance of the president’s order is void ab initio. 


A Supreme Court Justice (Justice SC): So, the president is above the law? 

 

TL: Not at all, Justice SC. The Constitution provides a mechanism to make sure that, although the president has full authority over the Justice Department including the power to prevent it from instituting or pursuing legal proceedings against him, Congress has the power to impeach the president and remove him from office. It gives a sense of how baseless this Russian investigation is that, apart from a few strident voices within its ranks, Congress has chosen not even to raise the question of impeachment, much less initiate impeachment proceedings. Our system of checks and balances is alive and well. Congress stands ready to exercise its impeachment authority but has found no basis to do so.


Justice SC:  As you know, Mr. TL, under the Constitution, even if the president is impeached, removal from office requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate. That means, according to you, that out of 100 senators, if just 34 are willing to stand by the president, then no matter how many crimes he has committed, he can do anything he wants and get away with it. He needs only that many  accomplices to turn our government into an autocracy. 


TL: It’s true, Justice SC, that there is no limit to what the president can do in those circumstances, legal or illegal. But the Constitution provides yet another safeguard, presidential elections, and the next one is only a little more than two years away. So you see, Justice SC, our system was designed to check the power of the president even though he has full control of the Justice Department and has a sufficient number of allies in the senate to protect him.


Justice SC:  But you are aware, are you not, that no one can seriously question that the Russians did interfere in our 2016 election, and, according to former Director of U.S. Intelligence, James Clapper, tipped the scales for Trump. And there’s no question that they will be at it again, frustrating the desire of what might be a majority of voters to remove Trump in 2020. What safeguard is there against that? 


TL.  The president has the authority to provide such a safeguard. 


Justice SC: But he he’s not doing it.


TL: That’s his decision, Justice SC, and within his authority.


Justice SC:  So you’re saying that he can choose, with impunity, to let American elections be undermined and possibly controlled by a foreign power?


TL:  Justice SC, that’s within his prerogative, but-


Justice SC: The same prerogative claimed by George III of England in 1776?


TL:  I don’t think that’s a fair comparison, Justice SC. But In this limited sense that’s the case.

 

Justice SC:  So, the Declaration of Independence, the American Revolution, and the Constitution never happened?



 

June 3, 2018 

 

Trump's Name's Fate 

 

In a Washington Post op-ed yesterday, Garry Kasparov, who knows what he’s talking about, defended the faked murder of Arkady Babchenko as a desperate but necessary ruse to foil Russian assassins, and added some context:

 

"There's a war going on in Europe, and Ukraine is on the front line. Babchenko and others like him are targets of a system of assassins run by Russia around the world. Putin is also backing Bashar al-Assad’s brutality in Syria, hacking elections in the United States and Europe, and spreading lies and propaganda. He began this war years ago, and he won’t stop until he and his gang are faced with isolation and the loss of their power, riches and access to the West.”


Just how Trump should be dealing with Putin! Instead, he has expressed his admiration for Putin, and in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, a lot of it provided unintentionally by Trump and his family members, called the investigation of Russian interference in his election a hoax, attempted and continues to attempt to obstruct, undermine, and terminate it, and refuses to take any measures to counter ongoing criminal Russian interference in U.S. elections. This is nothing less than a rank betrayal of his oath of office, a failure to faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and, to reduce it to its essence, treasonous. By protecting Trump, most of the Republican members of Congress have been aiding and abetting, and continue to aid and abet, a man whose name who will be reviled in history.


 

 

June 2, 2018 

 

The Pardoner 

 

Pardoning people least deserving of compassion is Trump’s way of saying, “Don’t talk. I’ll pardon you!” to associates who might rat on him to avoid going to prison. 

 

Some communications of Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, also known as his “fixer,” have recently become public. They could serve as a parody of a Mafia thug. Cohen appears to need to be pardoned, though no more than Trump himself. 

 

 

 

June 1, 2018  

 

If 

 

If America withstands the assault on its foundations perpetrated by Trump, Trump boosters, and Trump-enablers, historians will look back on our era as one that proved American exceptionalism. Surviving a scourge as persistent and pernicious as we are enduring would demonstrate that America’s bedrock principles are deeply ingrained in us and that our Constitution is as great a work of genius as we had hoped.


 

 

May 31, 2018  

 

The Normalization of the Unacceptable  

 

Trump goes to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastates the island, tosses rolls of paper towels to an assembled gathering, says how wonderful it is that only 16 or 17 have died as a result of the storm, praises himself, leaves, and ignores the plight of the population thereafter. Now a Harvard study estimates that the Puerto Rican death toll was at least 4,645 people. Shrug. What we should expect. The way Trump is. Nothing abnormal. Get over it?

 

 

 

May 30, 2018 

 

Our Execrable President; Our Feckless Congress 

 

“Put pressure on the Democrats to end the horrible law that separates children from there [sic] parents once they cross the Border into the U.S. Catch and Release, Lottery and Chain must also go with it and we MUST continue building the WALL! DEMOCRATS ARE PROTECTING MS-13 THUGS.” 

 

You wouldn’t need to know any facts other than that we have a Republican president and a Republican-controlled Congress to know that this Trump tweet is dispositive on its face, as lawyers say; that Trump is a deranged and malevolent sociopath. When you consider a few other relevant facts, such as that there is no such law, that conclusion is horrifyingly amplified. 

 

As Jennifer Rubin noted in a Washington Post piece yesterday:  

“Nothing so personifies the administration’s lack of humanity coupled with its utter cowardice as its attempt to duck responsibility. . . This is a moral and legal abomination. The affected children did not decide to come here illegally; their parents did. It is therefore entirely insufficient to insist that the United States, which now chooses to arrest everyone crossing the border, has no obligation to treat the children humanely.” 

 

The more execrable Trump is, the more feckless is the Republican-controlled Congress for failing to restrain him.


 

 

May 29, 2018 

 

Truth in Politicizing  

 

If I were drafting a “truth in politicizing” law, it would ban referring to Republicans as “conservatives.” As a result of the extra tax cuts and loopholes primarily for the rich and especially for the super rich act that the Trump-enabling Republican- controlled Congress rammed through this past winter, budget deficits over the next decade are now expected to total $9.5 trillion, far higher than the Administration has admitted. In the absence of an economic collapse or catastrophic armed conflict, such a radical escalation of the national debt bespeaks irresponsibility, recklessness, and greed, the antithesis of conservatism.

 

 

 

May 28, 2018 

 

Truth on the Ropes 

 

Fact: The Meuller investigation has produced not only numerous indictments but also guilty pleas to felonies by several of Trump’s close associates. Poll: 59 % of Americans believe the Mueller investigation has found no evidence of criminality.  

 

How could this be? 

 

The explanation lies in the combined effect of Trump’s staccato output of lies punctuated with code terms like “F.B.I spy” and “witch hunt,” echoed, embellished, and amplified by right-wing media propagandists such as Fox News, Sinclair Broadcasting, Rush Limbaugh, and their allies, intensified by shamelessly irresponsible members of Congress like Devin Nunes and Trey Gowdy, and voiced most recently by Trump’s new lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. When CNN’s Dana Bash asked Giuliani the other day whether he thinks the Mueller investigation is legitimate, Giuliani said “Not anymore, I don’t. I did when I came in. But now I see—I see spy gate.” Now he sees “spy gate” because that’s the code term Trumpian propagandists have resolved to pound into everyone’s head. 


It’s unethical and grounds for disciplinary action for a lawyer to make false public statements on behalf of his or her client. Giuliani has thrown such strictures to the winds, preferring to join the cacaphony of miscreants who have been warping public discourse to a degree that threatens America's survival as a democratic nation. Truth is on the ropes.


 

 

May 27, 2018 

 

America the Ugly 

 

Trump has exceeded himself in reprehensible behavior in ordering that children of refugees –– even babes in arms –– be separated from their parents in order to deter more refugees from entering our country. As a result, officers who swear to be loyal to the Constitution of the United States have been obeying orders to rip young children from their mothers’ arms and send them to what Chief of Staff John Kelly says is “foster care or whatever.” Our government has lost track of 1,500 refugee children in the process. 

 

This is not just a mass violation of civil rights, it is a crime against humanity and, as such, another abuse of power by Trump; yet another reason why he should be impeached and removed from office.

 

 

 

May 26, 2018 

 

Report from the Chess Board 

 

In the chess game between Trump and his enablers on one side (“TRUMP”) and truth, justice, democracy, the Constitution, the rule of law, and basic decency on the other side (“TRUTH”)` this past week TRUMP moved a rook, Devin Nunes et. al., deep into TRUTH’S territory in a direct attack on TRUTH’S king, special counsel Robert Mueller. TRUTH was forced to retreat two knights, FBI director Christopher Wray and deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, to protect loss of material. TRUMP has a well-positioned phalanx of pawns, and his fingers are twitching on one of his bishops, so eager is he to press his attack. 

 

TRUTH’S defensive position looks perilous, but TRUMP’s king is  vulnerable, and TRUTH has a long history of coming back from seemingly hopeless positions. If TRUTH’s queen can get unblocked, checkmating TRUMP is just a matter of time. 

 

 

 

May 25, 2018 

 

The Last Refuge of a Scoundrel: a Case Study 

 

Trump to football players: "You have to stand proudly for the national anthem, or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.” Such an exemplar of patriotism, yet unconcerned with Russian interference with U.S. elections because it helps him personally.

 

 

 

May 24, 2018 

 

Infinite Capacity 

 

The heading for one of Jennifer Rubin’s WaPo pieces yesterday was, to say the least, arresting: “Trump officials’ infinite capacity for self-debasement.” This was not hyperbole. It was evidenced most recently by Department of Homeland Security Director Kirstjen Nielsen’s statement that she was unaware of intelligence reports that concluded that Russia interfered with the 2016 election in an effort to get Trump elected. In fact, this was the conclusion of all our intelligence services, and publicly available evidence of it has continued to pile up since Trump’s inauguration. 


Aspiring autocrats don’t gain one-man rule on their own. They need a cadre of strategically placed underlings to help them, and if they are lucky enough and clever enough, they find them: people so intoxicated by the lure of money and power that they are willing to cast aside any sense of decency and duty to serve and protect the anointed leader and, through their abasement, gain his favor and the bounty he bestows on them.


 

 

May 23, 2018

 

Trump at Bay

 

There’s a nice correlation between the degree to which evidence has piled up of corruption, obstruction of justice, collusion on the part of the Trump campaign with Russian operatives, abuse of power, failure to faithfully execute the laws, and other transgressions by Trump and his members of his cabal and the degree of hyperbole, hysteria, fabrications, and rank mendaciousness on the part of Trump. For example, this morning he released a series of tweets referring to the “Corrupt Deep State, a “major SPY scandal,” (the work of Democrats, of course), and “one of the biggest political scandals in history.” The intensity of such outbursts is a good indication of how worried and desperate Trump is and of why he should be. 

 

The temperature is approaching ignition level.



 

May 22, 2018

 

William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich 

 

I’ve returned to reading this classic work after a six-month layoff, occasioned by other books taking priority and because this one is so thick and heavy I haven’t wanted to travel with it. I’m resuming where Shirer is describing the last days of the Republic and the machinations that eventuated in Hitler’s taking power. I began reading it because of curiosity about the ways in which Hitler’s rise compares with that of Trump’s. Of course, there are striking differences between Germany’s political setting in 1931- 1933 and that of the United States 2016 - 2018 and between the two men –– to give just one example, Hitler read books. They shared at least two significant traits, a tendency to rant and rave and tremendous chutzpah. If, instead of FDR, Trump had taken office in 1933, he probably would have expressed his admiration for Hitler just as he has for Putin. 

 

 

 

May 21, 2018 

 

Oddball Democracy

 

The Colorado primary elections will determine the Republican and Democratic nominees for the state’s congressional districts. In my district the Republican incumbent, Scott Tipton, is running unopposed, but there are three candidates competing in the Democratic primary. Only two are serious contenders, and the race is likely to be quite close between them. I have been active in supporting one of them and plan to send letters to the editors of newspapers in the district this week, arguing that she is the best candidate and the one most likely to unseat Tipton in the general election. 


Confronting me in this task is an oddball feature in the Colorado election law. Regardless of what party you’re registered in, you have the right to choose whichever party’s primary you want to vote in. Of course, Democrats won’t vote in the Republican primary–– there’s only one person running. But Republicans, having no need to vote in their own primary, are free to vote in the Democratic primary, and many will probably do so. If they exercise that right, whom will they vote for? –– in most instances the Democratic candidate least likely to beat the Republican candidate in November. Therefore, in my letters to the editors of newspapers, to the extent I persuade Democrats that my candidate is more likely to win in November and therefore they should vote for her in the primary, I’m persuading Republicans that they should vote against her! 

 

My candidate may win a clear majority of votes cast by Democrats, but lose to her opponent because Republicans vote overwhelmingly against her. This is not a good system.

 

 

 

 

May 20, 2018  

 

Someone. Anyone.  

 

In an impassioned piece in the Washington Post yesterday Mathew Dallek calls for someone -– anyone –– to run against Trump for the Republican nomination in 2020. Retiring Senator Jeff Flake, of Arizona, and retiring (because of term limits) Ohio governor John Kasich, who have both been strongly critical of Trump, are logical possibilities. 


Dallek is surely right. The Republican party needs someone to try to pull it up from the depths to which it has sunk.

 

I’ve read that 86% of Republicans support Trump. This is a terrible indictment of Republicans, because, as should be evident to all thinking people, anyone who by now has not repudiated Trump must be either (a) ignorant, or (b) debased. A primary campaign against Trump even if almost certain to fail would be worth it, if only because it might enlighten some of the ignorant and point the way to rebirth of the Republican Party as a respectable and honorable institution.

 

 

 

March 19, 2018 

 

He Should Be Gone 

 

Thoughtful pundits and important Democratic politicians tell us not to talk about impeachment, because it’s divisive, and the country isn’t ready for it, and we need to let special counsel Mueller finish his investigation and report to Congress, and it could backfire on Democrats who push for it while Republicans are still in power and there’s no chance of it happening, but the grounds for impeachment keep piling up –– the latest being Trump’s abuse of power in trying to get the Post Office to punish Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos because of articles in the paper Trump doesn’t like. 


In normal times Trump would have been shamed out of office by now, (normal times being, like, when Nixon was president!), but Trump has been protected by accomplices in Congress and allied right wing media, so he stays in office and threatens and blusters, and the country suffers and the world suffers. The rot runs that deep in our country. He should be gone.


 

 

May 18, 2018 

 

Some Country  

 

Commenting on the confirmation of Gina Haspel as Director of the CIA, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats asserted that her confirmation “represents the best we have to offer as a country.” 

 

Someone who oversaw and refused to condemn torture. Some country if this is the best.


 

 

May 17, 2018 

 

If Only 

 

It causes dissent when facts unfavorable to great leaders are circulated, and dissent is bad. To run their countries efficiently great leaders must suppress all media that is not state-controlled. Putin knows that. Kim Jong-un knows that. Trump knows that too, which is why it is so agonizing for him that his control of the media is so incomplete. If only all media outlets were like Fox News, what a wonderful world it would be!  

 

Jennifer Rubin explains: “Fox News’s business model is built on promoting crackpot ideas and airing hateful rhetoric that feed the anger and resentment of its base. That means tearing down genuine heroes who challenge the Great Leader Trump. They are utterly comfortable voicing obnoxious slurs, revealing a stunning lack of human decency. They are superstars in the right-wing ecosystem, not in spite of their crass, bigoted views, but because of them.”


 

 

 

 

May 16, 2018 

 

Rule of the Mean-Spirited 

 

Battered by fast-breaking waves of bombast and distractions, it’s easy to overlook the daily damage inflicted by Trump and his cohorts; to not notice, for example, that the Administration is engaged in:


>rolling back teen age labor regulations that have substantially reduced deaths and injuries;


>cutting seven billion dollars from the children’s health insurance program for nine million low-income kids and pregnant mothers;


>tripling the rent paid by the poorest Americans in federally subsidized housing;


>Tearing immigrant families apart; taking babies from refugees, defended by White House Chief of Staff Kelly thus: “The children will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever.”’


>working to slash food-stamp benefits.

 

 

 

 

May 15, 2018 

 

Imagine 

 

News Item: “California has become the first US state to mandate solar panels on new homes and apartment buildings built after 1 January, 2020.”

 

Solar energy becomes ever more efficient, and the industry continues to grow, even though politicians friendly to, and befriended by, fossil fuel interests hold power. Imagine if by some miracle our country suddenly started being governed rationally. Within ten years we would have solar panels on almost every structure in America, vastly reducing dependence on oil, gas, and coal; most vehicles would be powered by electricity; air quality would be much improved, and we would be much less dependent on the “grid.” Going solar makes sense as a matter of increasing national security, decreasing vulnerability to a wide range of catastrophes, improving public health, and slowing the rate of global warming.  

 

 

 

May 14, 2018 

 

Legal Corruption and How To Fix It 

 

Billionaires and super-billionaires have the ability to swing races, and this year they are trying especially hard to do so. Among others, the Koch brothers, oil and gas tycoons who are worth about $90 billion, are dedicating $400 million to back right-wing candidates, and Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino magnate, about $30 million. Then there are the super-billionaires, like Rupert Murdoch and the Sinclairs, who own publishing and TV and cable properties that give them the ability to spread their propaganda to more than half the population.


Virtually every Republican in Congress returns the favor by voting for the kinds of legislation these fat cat donors desire, like the recently enacted tax law, 83% of the benefits of which will go to the richest 1%.  If Republicans in Congress were honest, they would have titled it “The Tax Cuts and Extra Tax Loopholes Primarily for the Rich and Especially for the Super Rich Act." 

 

Because it’s legal corruption at work here, the only way to fix it is at the polls. If that’s not possible this year and in 2020, it may never be.


 

 

 

May 13, 2018 

 

Rapture of the Mindless 

 

During a rally in Elkhart, Indiana, last week, Trump suggested that his presidency should be extended beyond eight years, an utterance in the “I could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and get away with it” genre. His audience roared their approval. 

 

During the 2016 election campaign, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, arguing that Trump should not be elected president, observed: “This isn’t a reality show. This is reality.” 

 

It’s a distinction Trump supporters have never grasped.

 

 

 

May 12, 2018 

 

Air Quality and Public Policy 

 

The writer of a recent letter to the editor of the editor of my local newspaper, in south-west Colorado, railed against “green tyrants” and asserted that “the climate change movement is far more about governmental control and power than based on reality.” Thus displayed is the mind of a typical Trump supporter, a self-assured citizen whose participation in the political process consists of regurgitating propaganda ingested from Fox News, right-wing talk radio, and similar dispensers of the Trumpian line.


A few pages later in the same issue of the paper was an article headlined: La Plata County {our county} receives an “F” for ozone pollution.” The article noted that the area is “home to and adjacent to one of the largest coal-bed methane gas fields in the country and is also near two major coal power plants.”


Even if human-caused climate change weren’t a serious threat to humanity –– and there is overwhelming scientific evidence that it is –– from a public health standpoint alone we should restore and strengthen environmental safeguards and accelerate the conversion of energy production from fossil fuels to solar and wind. You can wait till the cows come home to hear that from Fox News.


 

 

 

May 11, 2018  

 

Getting a Good Return on Your Investment 

 

Billionaire capitalists are accustomed to investing large sums of money. The goal is to maximize return on investment. The Nevada casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson, smart businessman that he is, is no exception. That’s why he’s investing 30 million dollars to help Republicans keep control of the House of Representatives in the upcoming elections. Adelson and other profit-minded multi-billionaires are already getting a terrific return on previous donations to Republican campaigns. The elected officials they supported were instrumental in passing the tax “reform” act that is yielding tens of billions of dollars in tax savings for rich and super rich donors, an exceptionally generous return on investments of only tens of millions of dollars! The richest one percent of the population will receive about 83 percent of the benefit of the new law. 


 

 

May 10, 2018 

 

Thumbs down, way down, on Gina Haspel.


I used to love watching Siskel and Ebert’s weekly review of recently released movies on TV. They both died prematurely, and I’ve never quite gotten over it. 

 

As a great number of older Americans know, they would illustrate their comments with short clips from films and conclude by giving the movie a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down.” They often disagreed, which made the show more interesting, but when they agreed, you could be sure that the movie they were reviewing was certainly worth seeing, or not. Only rarely, in exceptional cases, would they give a movie a “thumbs way up” or a “thumbs way down."


I never met either Siskel or Ebert personally, but I can tell you with absolute authority that these were two good and wise men. I can also tell you that they would give Gina Haspel, Trump’s nominee to be CIA Director, a “thumbs down, way down.” 


Haspel was involved the in torturing prisoners held by the CIA during the G. W. Bush Administration. She testified at her confirmation hearing that she wouldn’t countenance torturing prisoners now because that’s not the current policy. She declined to repudiate torture as an acceptable form of human behavior. 


Some observers have supported Haspel’s confirmation on the grounds that, if she is not confirmed, Trump would nominate someone even worse. There’s some merit to that argument, but far short of enough. It should get a thumb’s down too. 


 

 

May 9, 2018

 

Descent 

 

Yesterday Barrack Obama released a statement on the occasion of Trump’s action in withdrawing from the nuclear deal with Iran. It’s sickening to read because of the enormity of the folly it exposes, and even more because of the glaring light it casts on how fast and how far our country has fallen since it submitted itself to Trump. 


 

May 8, 2018 

 

Sleepwalking through History 

 

It’s not name-calling to refer to Trump as a petulant, grossly irresponsible, narcissistic sociopath –– it’s stating an exhaustively well-documented fact. Pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump has said he intends to do today, is folly of the highest order, yet unsurprising in light of his warped personality and despicable character. In giving license to him to continue in office, the Republican-controlled Congress has been sleepwalking through history. What next ensues we cannot say. “The weight of this sad time we must obey. . .”

 

 

 

May 7, 2018

 

Our Democracy of Dollars 

 

Imagine that, all dollars being created equal, the way our democracy works is that wads of dollars can vote and that every wad of dollars gets one vote. You don’t need to imagine! That’s the way it is, e.g. news item: “Behind just about every divisive Senate Republican primary this year, a shipping-supplies magnate {Richard Uihlein} is bankrolling the candidate who claims to be the most hard-charging, anti-establishment conservative in the race.”


 

 

May 6, 2018

 

Pence 

 

What Goes On in the Head of Mike Pence? (continued)

 

Experiencing a religious upbringing, Pence noticed the power of mind-stabbing precepts derived, however speciously, from the Bible: abortion is sinful, contraception hardly less so; prayer yields esteem; unfettered acquisitiveness is holy; guns are good, immigrants bad. Insights like these rose in a gelatinous wave and coursed through his brain.


Trump signifies God choosing not to reveal his motives as foretold in the Book of Revelations, the mysterious drama ever about to unfold before our eyes. Religiosity is a sign, if not of amazing grace, of an amazing base, an amalgam of the resentful ever acquisitive superrich propagandizers of Trumpian faith and the bewitched and befuddled “everyday” people Hillary so conspicuously failed to understand.


Pence is a hedgehog who knows one thing: he would have no chance striking out on his own; he must cling to Trump and grovel before him, day after day. That’s the full sum of his mental life and all he is capable of thinking about for now.


 

 

May 5, 2018 

 

What Goes On in the Head of Mike Pence?

 

Pence must be at least moderately intelligent or he would not have gotten as far as he has; yet his brain must be in the grip of a neuronal-twisting pathogen. You can see it looking at any of the video clips and photos showing him sitting or standing a bit behind or beside Trump, the thin smile remaining ever in place, the attentive pose and lip lines signifying approval of whatever Trump is saying regardless of tone or content.


Maricopa County Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio was found

guilty of criminal contempt of court for his flagrant disregard of an order to stop racially profiling Latinos in traffic stops. Trump pardoned him, signaling that that there will be no limit to how he’ll exercise that power. In a speech the other day Pence called Arpaio a “champion of the rule of law.” It's an indication that Pence’s overriding rule of conduct is to say whatever he thinks Trump wants him to say. I’ll speculate as to what goes on in his head tomorrow. 

 

 

May 4, 2018

 

Thug-Speech 

 

Rudy Giuliani, long-time most of the time Trump devotee, recently joined his legal team and jumped right in, asserting that FBI officers, acting under authority of a duly obtained judicial warrant in searching Michael Cohen’s office, home, and hotel room, acted like “stormtroopers.” 


Trump and Trump supporters have been conducting a campaign to smear the Justice Department, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the FBI, and Special Counsel Mueller in an effort to mislead and confuse the public as to how our constitutional system works. In a Washington Post article Jennifer Rubin exposed Giuliani for what he is: “Giuliani disgraced himself by using a term often meant to invoke Nazi paramilitary groups. . . The notion that American law enforcement operating within a constitutional system is in anyway comparable to Nazis is deeply offensive and wrong. It smears admirable men and women who put their lives on the line, and trivializes the Holocaust." 

 

Giuliani has no qualms about using thug-speech, a desideratum as far as Trump is concerned.


 

May 3, 2018 

 

Showdown at the Not-So-O.K. White House Corral 

 

What if Trump is subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury, he refuses to obey, he is held in contempt of court, the ruling is upheld by the Supreme Court, United States marshals are sent to the White House to bring him into custody, and at the front door they are confronted by Secret Service agents who, following Trump's orders, deny them admittance. 

 

Here we have a Constitutional crisis writ large. The marshals would retreat. The question is whether the Republican-controlled Congress would then impeach Trump and remove him from office. If that happened, Trump’s orders to fend off marshals would not be obeyed –– he would have to go. That’s comforting, but it would take only 34 senators to block Trump’s conviction in the Senate, thereby effecting conversion of our country into an autocracy, or an oligarchy, call it what you will.

 

 

 

May 2, 2018

 

Equal Justice for All

 

Martin Luther King, Jr. said he looked forward to the day when a man would be judged by the content of his character rather than the color of his skin. If King’s hope were realized, rather than being discriminated against because of the color of their skin, people of color with high content to their character would be held in high esteem. 


Let us attend to the corollary: people with popular color of their skin and financial clout, but lacking high content of their character, should be treated with no more favor than a common street thug. Much less should any person, no matter what their status, be held to be above the law.

 

 

 

 

May 1, 2018 

 

Life in the Kleptocracy 

 

Robert Reich reports: “The Environmental Protection Agency has granted an oil refinery owned by billionaire Carl Icahn a so-called "financial hardship" waiver. The exemption allows the facility to avoid clean air laws, potentially saving the company tens of millions of dollars. Icahn served as one of Trump's economic advisors until he resigned amid questions about his conflicts of interest last summer.”

 

 

 

April  30, 2018

 

Antipodes in Character 

 

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: “Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.”

 

Trump:  “I don’t pay taxes. That makes me smart.”  


 

 

April 29, 2018 

 

Slouching Toward Autocracy 

 

The Washington Post is reviled by Trump for good reason –– it has some of the sharpest, most perceptive, and most honorable op-ed columnists of all time. (It also has some shoddy-thinking Trump enabling types who are there to provide balance.) 


The brightest stars in the WaPo firmament are Jennifer Rubin, E. J. Dionne, and Anne Applebaum. Here's Applebaum, after describing some factual occurrences and situations in Malta and the United Kingdom, on how there is more than one way for democracy to fail:


"If independent legal institutions are deprived of resources and understaffed, if journalists who report on crimes are ignored, if the public is indifferent — these, too, are sure paths toward democratic failure. And such things can happen slowly, quietly, almost imperceptibly — at least until a crisis, or a bomb explosion, reveals that its citizens are living in a country they no longer recognize. . . "


 

 

April 28, 2018

 

Crystal Clear

 

You don’t have to perform an exhaustive analysis of the recently enacted Republican big new tax cuts and tax loopholes primarily for the rich and even more for the super rich law to understand how it works. A few statistics make it crystal clear. 


1. According to new analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, the richest one percent of Americans will receive a $33,000 tax break. The poorest Americans will receive a $40 tax break.


2. In the three months since it’s been in effect, it has delivered  $3,590,000,000 added after tax income to the six biggest Wall Street banks.


3.  Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s secretary will be making  $1.50 more after taxes a week.


 

 

 

April 27, 2018

 

Nikki Haley

 

Former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough, co-host of  Morning Joe on MSNBC, recently noted that it’s doubtful that Trump will be the Republican nominee for president in 2020. Trump has a famous base and, for the moment, powerful propaganda-spewing allies, but a majority of people realize that he’s a disaster of a human being and a disaster for our country, and the number of those so enlightened will likely rise.


As 2020 approaches there’s a high probability that members of the Republican establishment will give increasing indications that they care more about keeping the presidency than about keeping Trump. Who would be their best bet to replace him? Scarborough hinted that it might be Nikki Haley. She has the credentials, having been a state governor and, presently, United States Ambassador to the U.N. She recently showed –– on the Russia sanctions thing –– that she has more class than anyone in the White House. She is more impressive than any of the contenders who flailed haplessly against Trump in the 2016. She is the daughter of immigrants, and nobody, except maybe Trump, is going to say she was really born in Mumbai. 


 

 

April 26, 2018

 

Huckleberry Finn 

 

If The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn had been required reading for graduation from high school for every student in the country instead of being largely ignored and even banned, we would not be enduring the presidency of Trump. It’s as simple as that. Huck would see through Trump faster than a cat can flick its tail, and Jim probably sooner.


 

 

April 25, 2018

 

Trump and the Torturer 

 

Trump has nominated Gina Haspel, a CIA officer who oversaw torture during the G. W. Bush administration, to be the Agency’s next director. It stands to reason. Trump expressed his enthusiasm for torture during the campaign.

 

The scale of torture under the G. W. Bush Administration has only partially come to light. It is all the more distressing that, apart from the high-level officials and their legal lackeys, who should bear prime responsibility, so many of those who carried out these execrable practices followed orders even though any sense of decency would have inhibited them from treating prisoners in the manner of ruthless despots. This was the view too of Matthew Alexander, a retired military officer and prisoner interrogator, who quotes George Washington’s view on the subject: 

 

Should any American soldier be so base and infamous as to injure any prisoner . . . by such conduct they bring shame, disgrace and ruin to themselves and their country. 

“Base and infamous.” That’s a pretty good description of Trump. It would do well for Gina Haspel too.



 

 

April 24, 2018 

 

Contemplating Future Enlightenment 

 

Considering the case in New York State of the caged chimps that animal rights activists are suing to have released to a sanctuary ––the closest thing to restoring them to freedom that their ancestors enjoyed for millions of years –– it occurred to me that in some to-be-hoped-for future era in which humans have attained a degree of enlightenment considerably greater than they have thus far displayed, people will look back with chagrin at how their ancestors allowed animals to be treated.


The owners of the chimps, claiming the right to keep them caged, argue that civil rights can only be claimed by “persons.” Putting aside, but not very far aside, that the Supreme Court of the United States has recognized the religious rights of corporations, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, given that, to adapt the remonstrance of Shylock, these chimps have “hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; {are} fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer,” is it morally defensible to allow their owners to confine them indefinitely in a cage because they are not “persons”?

 

 

 

April 23, 2018 

 

The Great Perversion Conversion 

 

I’ve read explanations about how this came about, but they keep deliquescencing in my mind: why Christian evangelicals overwhelmingly support Trump.  

 

Isn’t he more likely the AntiChrist? Maybe so, but it’s part of God’s plan, so that's fine?

 

Maybe Trump is God’s punishment, like Hurricane Katrina was for tolerating gay people, so to oppose Trump is to oppose God's punishment, which is to oppose God?


Trump supports us and cares about us Christians, so it doesn’t matter if he doesn’t obviously fully reveal that he shares our faith?


Whatever the reason, supplementing the pervasive and perverse propagandistic impact of Fox News, Sinclair Broadcasting, and the like is the Christian Broadcasting Network (Pat Robertson) and the Trinity Broadcasting Network (Mike Huckabee) Collectively they are as terrifying as a Biblical flood.

 

 

 

 

April 22, 2018 

 

The Greatest Plea Bargain of All Time 

 

Trump still struts proudly about, despite the peril he’s in. If events are allowed to continue on their present course, it’s probable that in due course he and some of his family members will be indicted for committing multiple state and federal crimes. Meanwhile, he will likely cause much more damage to the country than he already has, and national turmoil arising from his presidency will likely ramp up even more.


Because neither Trump nor his family members and associates for their reasons, nor intelligent people of good will for their reasons, want events to continue on their present course, the stage is being set for the greatest plea bargain of all time. Here are suggested terms: Trump and certain family members and close associates plead guilty to a range of crimes; Trump resigns from office and is remanded to Mar-a-Lago to serve two years house arrest on such premises, including its attendant golf course; Trump family members and associates agree to similarly modest constraints on their freedom commensurate with their degree of culpability; neither Trump nor any member of his family or close associates is otherwise incarcerated. 


 

 

April 21, 2018 

 

The Rudy Giuliani Show 

 

Longtime prominent Trump booster Rudy Giuliani has joined Trump’s legal team and immediately assumed a commanding position, saying, “I hope we can negotiate an end to this for the good of the country and because I have high regard for the president and for Bob Mueller.” 

 

Having high regard for both Trump and for Robert Mueller strikes me as a condition that can’t last. I predict that Giuliani’s regard for Mueller will drop precipitously once he finds that Mueller isn’t malleable –– that he’s determined to see his investigation continue until he reaches its natural conclusion. This discovery by Giuliani may distress him so much that he tells Trump that the investigation must be ended unilaterally.

 

 

April 20, 2018

Republican Miscalculation: What To Do?

 

Republicans thought they could fool most people into thinking their new tax cuts and tax breaks primarily for the rich and even more for the super rich law was a good thing by throwing in a few bucks in cuts for ordinary people. Even so, as Robert Reich has written:


The Trump tax cuts will go down as the largest redistribution of wealth from middle-class and working families to the rich and corporations in our nation's history. According to new analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans will receive a $33,000 tax break. Meanwhile, the poorest families will receive a paltry $40. As for those middle-class families receiving a few hundred dollars, those tax cuts are only temporary. The breaks for the rich are permanent.


Yesterday I read that, despite months of whooping it up by Fox News, Sinclair Broadcasting, and all the other right-wing media propagandists, the new tax cuts and tax breaks primarily for the rich and even more for the super rich law isn’t the big hit with ordinary people that Republican strategists thought it would be. 

They’re scrambling around trying to figure out how to rectify the problem.


April 19, 2018

Does a Constitutional Crisis Lie Ahead?


Many observers have said that if Trump effects Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s removal, presumably by first replacing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein with a Trumpian puppet, it would precipitate a Constitutional crisis. 


It’s not clear to me what a Constitutional crisis is. If Trump gets rid of Mueller, it would be in the service of obstructing justice and would strengthen the case for criminal prosecution against him. Congress would be provided with yet another ground for impeaching him and removing him from office. But suppose they don’t? Suppose that, fearing Trump’s Fox-News-fed “base,” they are content to let him get away with anything? 


This appears likely, but, if it happens, the Constitution won’t have been violated, except by Trump, but he has been violating it since the day he was inaugurated, so this is just an other instance. The real danger of a Constitutional crisis lies in the possibility that right-wing forces succeed in convening a Constitutional Convention and amending this hallowed document to accommodate an autocrat’s whims. 

 

 

April 18, 2018 

The Autocrat’s Must-Have Asset 

Control of the media is the autocrat’s must-have asset. At the very least, the pro-autocrat media must be dominant in the marketplace of ideas. This presents a formidable problem for the aspiring autocrat in the White House. Formidable but not necessarily insuperable thanks to an amalgam of American oligarchs so deficient in character that they view transition of this country from a democracy to an autocracy as a means of feeding their appetites for ever greater power and wealth. Thus, billionaire-backed right-wing Trump supporting media outlets work their wiles on listeners, viewers, and readers with effect so potent that it’s almost impossible for a moderate Republican to withstand a Trump-enabling challenger in a primary election. Our aspiring autocrat’s must-have asset is tantalizingly close to being in hand.

 

 

 

April 17, 2018 

 

Report from the Political Trenches, Concluded 

 

Friday evening I was among about 350 delegates from the 29 counties in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District who voted for contenders for the Democratic nomination to oppose the Republican incumbent this November. Two of the three got more than the required 30% to earn a place on the ballot and will face each other in the primary election this June. 


This event was the culmination of an extravaganza that began with precinct caucuses about a month and half ago. Throughout the process I’ve wondered why selection isn’t made by tabulating the thousands of votes cast in precinct caucuses throughout the district, rather than bestowing that power on delegates who only roughly reflect the voting preferences of citizens in their home counties, cities, and neighborhoods. The process seems designed to invest power in those who manage to stick it out through their local and county gatherings and trek between 130 and 400 miles (depending on where you’re coming from) to Broomfield, a suburb of Denver, where the district assembly was held. It took a non-trivial amount of money, time, determination, and energy to vote for candidates at the C.D. assembly, which is not exactly perfectly democratic, but a lot better than having political bosses picking the candidates in a formerly smoke-filled room, and the same two candidates will be on the ballot for the primary election as would have been if they had been chosen at the local level.

 

 

 

April 16, 2018 

 

Report from the Political Trenches, Cont. 

 

Last month I walked into our county’s Democratic assembly thinking that the votes of delegates like me would bind the delegates selected for the Third Congressional District Assembly to be held on April 13th, where it would be determined who would be on the ballot for the primary election to be held on June 26th. Instead, after a preference poll was taken, people were told to cluster in groups corresponding to the candidate they had voted for. Delegates were then selected from each group in proportion to the votes their presumably preferred candidate had received, but, as was the case at the precinct caucus level, there weren’t enough people volunteering to be delegates at the district assembly, so the ratio of people who actually became delegates associated with their supposedly preferred candidate was not necessarily proportional to the ratio of preference votes cast. Moreover, as had been the case with delegates to the county assembly, delegates to the district assembly were not bound to vote in proportion to the votes received by each candidate at the county assembly. Thus, the approximately 350 delegates from the various counties who showed up at the district assembly were free to vote for whomever they liked. 

 

Tomorrow: what happened at the district assembly and my thoughts as to the pros and cons of this strange system.


 

 

April 15, 2018 

 

Report from the Political Trenches, Cont. 

 

Democracy at work, sort of, is Colorado’s system for selecting nominees to run for Congress. First we have local precinct caucuses. I think the population of a precinct might be about a thousand voters. At the caucus for my precinct last February about 20 people showed up. The main business was a preference poll as to who should be the Democratic nominee to run for Congress. Another item on the agenda was the selection of delegates to attend the county assembly. Our precinct was authorized to send eight delegates. It soon appeared that there wouldn’t be eight people willing to go, so I volunteered, and was duly appointed as a delegate.


I think there were five of us, so our precinct would be under-represented. That was probably the case with most precincts. Several people told me that the delegates were supposed to, or requested to, or it was suggested that, their vote at the county assembly reflect the preference poll results at the precinct caucuses, but there was no mechanism for achieving this.  (I never even learned who the other delegates from my precinct were). As a result, delegates at the county assembly tend to vote for the person they personally think would be the best candidate, and, if successful, the best representative in Congress. The preferences of voters at the precinct level who do not become voters are mostly lost in translation. Tomorrow: how a further loss occurs in the translation of preferences from the county level to the Congressional district, which in our case –– being vast and largely rural and wilderness ––  comprises 29 counties.


 

April 14, 2018 

 

Report from the Political Trenches  

 

On the road home today after attending the Colorado Democrats 3rd C.D. Assembly in Broomfield, a Denver suburb, last evening. I was a delegate from my county so I participated in voting for aspirants to be the Democratic nominee to oust Scott Tipton, the Republican incumbent Congressman in November. My favored candidate, Diane MItsch Bush, got the most votes, but her main opponent, Karl Hanlon, got more than enough to qualify to be on the ballot in the primary election to be held June 26th.  

 

The process for candidates getting to this point in this electoral serves as an example of both the commendable and the distressing aspects of the way democracy works. More about that tomorrow.

 

 

 

April 13, 2018 

 

Comey’s Book and Trump

 

I’ve missed Michiko Kakutani since she retired as chief book critic for The New York Times and was happy she made a return appearance to review Comey’s new book, a memoir in which he reveals his witnessing of the just how depraved Trump is.  

 

Comey is hard pressed to explain why just before the election he gratuitously announced that Clinton’s emails were still under investigation. The psychodynamics are complex and subtle, but it emerges from Kakuatani’s review that Comey was not trying to tilt the election to Trump; bumble-headed as his thinking was, he was trying to do the right thing. It also emerges that Trump has no mitigating, much less redeeming, qualities. His whole life is a compendium of examples of how not to be.

 

 

 

April 12, 2018 

 

Trump’s Chief Rabble Rouser at Work  

 

From Sean Hannity's radio show last week (courtesy of Robert Reich):


"This country is headed towards a civil war in terms of two sides that are just hating each other and if Robert Mueller wants, there’s a big red button in the middle of the table. And if Robert Mueller is so pompous and so arrogant and so power hungry and so corrupt that he’s going to hit the red button and he’s going to ignite a battle that we’ve not seen in this country before. You think it’s, and I’m not talking about a war, I’m talking about, in terms of, there’s going to be two sides of this that are fighting and dividing this country at a level we’ve never seen.”


This travesty of political commentary –– on the level of the inflammatory snippets that stream forth from the mouth of Rush Limbaugh –– tells you a lot about what’s wrong with this country.  Why the reference to a big red button, evoking Trump’s bragging that his red button (for initiating nuclear war) was bigger than Kim Jong-un’s? What is Hannity trying to conjure up in the minds of listeners? That Mueller may commit an act so monstrous that it can be likened to starting a nuclear war? Such as obtaining indictments that would illuminate the full scope and depth of Trump’s criminality? Evidently, Hannity would have his listeners believe, that would be “pompous,” “arrogant,” “power hungry,” and “corrupt,” rather than a triumph for the rule of law.


Hannity wouldn’t want his listeners to analyze what he’s saying, so he pushes his own big red buttons of provocative verbiage. The extent to which people think he’s putting forth persuasive arguments is a measure of deficiency in our educational system.


 

 

April 11, 2018

 

Single Issue Voting 

 

Some voters care so much about a single issue that a candidate’s position on it is determinative of how they will vote. Guns, abortions, and even marijuana are examples. Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne writes: “Revulsion at Trump is now the driving force in American politics.” It should be. Trump is the biggest single issue. Any candidate who supports him, whether expressly or by implication, should be rejected for that reason alone.


 

 

April 10, 2018

 

Impeachment 

 

Leading Democrats are downplaying talk of impeaching Trump, apparently worried about inadvertently motivating higher Republican trunout at the polls. Other Democrats argue that, even if they gain control of the House and are able to impeach him, there’s no chance of getting the required two-thirds of the Senate to convict him. Why ratchet up divisiveness, they ask, when there’s no chance of removing him before the 2020 elections.


The trouble with this line of argument is that following it –– not impeaching Trump if Democrats gain control of the House, or not advocating impeachment proceedings if they don’t –– amounts to playing the game of “Let’s Pretend that Trump shouldn’t be impeached and removed from office at the ealiest possible moment.” 

 

Every day Trump remains in office is a bad day for our country. There are plenty of grounds for doing impeaching him. Tiptoeing around the subject amounts to normalization of the unacceptable, and there has been far too much of that already. 



 

 

April 9, 2018

 

Democracy at Bay 

 

During early days of the Cold War, the economist Barbara Ward wrote a prescient book titled The West at Bay. If she were alive today, she might be writing one titled Democracy at Bay. That title would be apt for an article in yesterday’s New York Times by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. As Albright states, “fascism — and the tendencies that lead toward fascism — pose a more serious threat now than at any time since the end of World War II.” She neatly outlines the threats and trends. By doing nothing to counter them, the United States is heightening them. Albright asks, “Can a nation merit {the label of being great} by aligning itself with dictators and autocrats, ignoring human rights, declaring open season on the environment, and disdaining the use of diplomacy at a time when virtually every serious problem requires international cooperation?” The answer is self-evident. The Trumpian ethos is pandemic throughout the world. We don’t know whether it can be reversed or whether it’s a preview of a dismal brutish era that lies ahead.


 

April 8, 2018 

 

Conservatives Who Refuse to Play “Let’s Pretend” 

 

Some of the most articulate and forceful voices decrying Trump and Trumpism are conservatives whose natural inclination is to be Republicans  –– Jennifer Rubin, Joe Scarborough, and Senator Jeff Flake, come to mind ––  but refuse to play the game of Let’s pretend that Trump is remotely close to being morally, intellectually, or temperamentally fit to hold the office of president of the United States.

 

That the overwhelming majority of Republican members of Congress, lack sufficient integrity and courage to emulate them is a central tragedy of our time.

 

 

 

April 7, 2017

 

The Wall and DACA

 

I felt great resistance to giving in to Trump’s demand that Democrats agree to fund his beloved wall as a price to pay for allowing the Dreamers to stay and gain a path to citizenship. Pay $25,000,000,000 to save 800,000 people fully integrated into American society from being deported to what for most of them would be a strange country. The word for that is extortion. The Democrats refused to give in, and now, although Trump’s wall may thankfully remain forever in the spasmocically turning world of his imagination, it looks like the Dreamers will be deported. 


I’ve come to think I was wrong; that the Democrats should have given in. Taxpayers would be on the hook for another big chunk of money, but not that much compared to the more than 1.5 trillion the government will have to borrow to finance the recent tax cuts and tax breaks primarily for the rich and the super rich and the more recent gargantuan spending bill, but 800,000 people would not suffer the gross and cruel abuse of deportation, and the wall, if ever built, would eventually be torn down, or if not torn down, stand indefinitely as a fitting anti-monument to the catastrophe that befell our country in November 2016.

 

 

 

April 6, 2018  

 

The Common Good 

 

“The Common Good,” which is the title of an excellent new book by Robert Reich, is what responsible elected and appointed officials should work for regardless of their political orientation. 

 

Many people are all out for themselves and don’t have the slightest interest in the common good, and a lot of them get rich this way. Societies where such behavior becomes the norm are likely to fall under autocratic rule. The United States has been trending in this direction. A charlatan like Trump only becomes a societal problem when a lot of powerful people who could stop him don’t because they are so fixated on increasing their own wealth and power. The culture of caring only about yourself leads to disaster on a national scale. If Americans working for the common good don’t prevail, we’re lost.


 

 

April 5, 2018

 

The Magic Genie 

 

Are you are greedy and rich, or greedy and super rich, or whether rich or not, resentful of the way you’ve been treated, or undifferentiatedly resentful, or cynically opportunistic, a conniver, xenophobic, racist, or simply reflexively mean? A magic genie is here for you, come to share your soul.

 

 

 

April 4, 2018

 

America’s Two Civil Wars

 

Once again our country is engaged in a civil war, the first in a century and a half. No shots have been exchanged in this one, but similarities abound. Again, the fate of the Union, the fate of our democracy, is at stake. 

 

The previous war was between the blue and the gray, this one between the blue and the red. The blue comprises those who believe in honesty, justice, fairness, and decency and revere our Constitutional government and the rule of law. The red is an amalgam of the greedy rich, the affronted resentful, the cynical opportunists, the smarmy connivers, and the self-professed Christians who have adopted a perverted version of their faith. Trump is the apotheosis of the spirit that drives them all.

 

This war will determine whether the United States is redirected on the noble path upon which it embarked at its inception or be transformed into an autocratically run oligarchical kleptocracy bent on bullying its way toward a new American destiny in a world of competing factions united in their contempt for the common good.

 

Where are we now? About where the Union was in 1862. Reeling but resolved.  


 

 

April 3, 2018 

 

Corruption Tipping Point 

 

In some places littering is almost non-existent. In others, littering gets so common that it seems useless to protest it, then useless not to participate in it. Littering has passed the tipping point. Litter is everywhere.


The same effect occurs with corruption. If the corruption exemplified by Trump, members of his family, most members of his cabinet, many of his enablers in Congress, and important segments of the business community becomes the norm, the tipping point will be passed. Corruption will be a core characteristic of the United States of America.


 

April 2, 2018 

 

Daydreaming Days of Spring 

 

It must be spring fever that brings a recurrent image of Trump’s last moments in office to my mind: His successor is there, promising that he (or she) will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and to the best of her (or his) ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. The ringing of church bells fills the air. People are cheering as if a great and terrible war had come to an end. 


No war has ended –- the struggle for truth, justice, and decency must ever continue, but our hearts feel lighter. The heaviness that was there is gone. People everywhere are proclaiming, “America is what it was again,” taking time only, before resuming work and play, to deliver Trump and his enablers to the historians to pick over their remains.


 

 

April 1 2018 

 

Looking into the Minds of Trump Supporters 

 

I’ve been reading letters to the editor in the newspapers I skim through. Editors attempt to print letters expressing a variety of opinions, including those of Trump supporters. Most of the latter display a distinct commonality. One of the two I noted yesterday referred to “the mainstream media’s brutally ceaseless anti-Trump narrative” and condemned the “blatant partisanship coming from artists, journalists and tech titans.” The other lamented that the “morality, decency, integrity and accountability that was once strong in America has been booed, denied and belittled as ‘racist’ or some other moronic description,” and that “liberal judges consistently turn loose criminals who should never see the light of day.”


People who express such opinions appear to have a shared resentment that, however it may have formed in each case, has been funneled and reprocessed by Fox News, Trump tweets, right-wing talk radio, and the like into abhorrence of liberals and liberal views. The writers inevitably reveal that they are ignorant of facts, stuffed with misinformation, fortified with misconceptions, and possess only sufficient mental and moral resources to recite excerpts from a script.