Edward Packard
Daily Blog

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.


 

 

March 31, 2018

 

Ignoring the Second Amendment

 

Three facts: The Second Amendment provides that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. A lot of people have guns and feel more secure knowing that they can defend themselves. Last February we had Parkland, the latest in a string of horrors.


The Second Amendment recites its purpose –-“a well-regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State.” Recurring massacres are not something the drafters of the Bill of Rights had in mind. The Second Amendment doesn’t preclude common sense gun safety laws any more than the First Amendment precludes banning yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater.


In 2008, in D.C. v. Heller, the Court struck down certain gun control measures, but writing for the majority, Justice Scalia noted that there is no right to “carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose” and that “nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of fire arms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”


The NRA assails efforts to institute sensible gun safety laws as ignoring the Second Amendment. In fact it is the NRA that ignores the Second Amendment –– by tirelessly working to expand it beyond its Constitutional bounds.


 

 

March 30, 2018 

 

Elizabeth Warren 

 

Thinking about the post-Trump White House, the 2020 presidential election comes to mind, and with it names of prospective Democratic candidates. I recently saw a list some pundit had compiled, ranked in order of likelihood of becoming the nominee. Bernie was at the top, but he will be 79, and that strikes me as a serious handicap, plus I wonder how broad Bernie’s appeal is, and how pragmatic he is. Biden is high on the list, but he’s only a couple of years younger than Bernie. Never enthusiastic about him, I ruled him out after he renewed a tiff with Trump over who could beat who up if they were in high school. Was that Biden’s way of trying to win the “Who would you rather have a beer with?” contest? 


Coming on strong is Elizabeth Warren, senior in a cast of impressive women seen as possibilities –– she’ll be 70, not ideal, but not too old in my book, given her vitality. I recently saw her Facebook post about her recent trip to Japan, where she met with Japanese government officials, U.S. military and State Department officials, and a lot of other people. I see this trip and her report on it as a clear-cut clue that she is likely to run. 


She is so smart and has such deep knowledge and understanding of the law, is so obviously sincere, and so right about so much, and has such passionate energy that right-wing politicians revile her. As is the case with every one of the prospective Democratic candidates, political pluses and minuses attach to her. I like her. She’s in my top five.

 

 

 

 

March 29, 2018 

 

Thugs and Thugishness 

 

Yesterday I said that the Republicans running the country were thugs. Later, it occurred to me that this might be too harsh a comment. On further reflection, I decided it wasn’t. Stripping away the institutional framework of American democracy is thuggish. True enough, thuggishness is generally understood to be practiced on a small scale and to be accompanied by, or involve the threat of, physical violence. But surely it can’t be true that you can be a thug if you abuse individuals but not if you abuse entire countries! That would require too narrow a definition of the word.


Democrats have acted thuggishly too, of course. Before its current term ends the Supreme Court is expected to hand down decisions on two gerrymandering cases, one the result of irresponsible action on the part of a Republican-controlled state legislature in Wisconsin and one the result of irresponsible action on the part of a Democratic-controlled state legislature in Maryland. (Don’t assume that the Supreme Court will order that the districts be redrawn. Thuggish behavior often slips through cracks in the law.)


Though Democrats sometimes act thuggishly, they haven’t engaged in sustained multi-pronged efforts to disenfranchise large segments of the population for the purpose of maintaining control of government contrary to the will of the majority of voters. People who do that are thugs.


 

 

March 28, 2018 

 

The Latest Assault on American Democracy 

 

Trump and the other unprincipled Republicans running the country, fixated on retaining power and caring not a whit about  justice, fairness, and American Democracy, have been implementing a strategy for keeping control while remaining in the minority, Their methods include, but are not limited to, (a) financing of lobbyists and massive campaign donations by super rich individuals and big corporations to politicians compliant with their wishes; (b) the services of right-wing propagandizing operations, pre-eminently Fox News; (c) legislation designed for voter suppression of people partial to Democrats; and (d) gerrymandering to achieve disproportionate representation in state legislatures and in the House of Representatives. Their latest assault on American democracy is to rig the 2020 census by requiring people to state their citizenship, a maneuver certain to result in undercounting and distortion of demographic data with a view to ensuring that people more likely to vote Democratic, like many Hispanics, will be underrepresented.


Most of these Republicans wear business suits, neckties, and expensive shoes –– they look like respectable people, and most of them are well-spoken. It’s easy to mistake them for people who aren’t thugs.


 

 

March 27, 2018 

 

Disaster or Apocalypse 

 

Former under secretary of state for political affairs Wendy Sherman’s op-ed piece in yesterday’s New York Times lays out the future that likely awaits us after Bolton takes over as captain and Trump becomes helmsman of our Ship of State.  

 

Bolton, imagining that the ship will crush every reef it strikes, will order Trump to steer full speed on a course that dooms every vessel that follows it. Full speed until forward motion stops and fatal tons of water gush through the hull and the ship lists to starboard, or to port, then sinks. 

 

Every sign is that this is what will happen, but it may not! Trump, as erratic a helmsman as ever placed his hands on the big spoked wheel of a ship, may veer off to starboard, or to port, bringing the ship to rest on on sandy shoals, a disaster but not the apocalypse that’s close to certain if he holds fast to Bolton’s course. 


 

 

March 26, 2018

 

An Impossible Challenge

 

It’s an impossible challenge to describe Trump in a single sentence and capture the measure of how vile the man is. Employment of all the requisite pejorative adjectives would produce a hopelessly run-on sentence. 


Impossible a challenge as it is, I commend those brave souls who attempt it. Today I salute former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough for his recent observation that our “country is dominated by the bloated presence of a man who embraces dictators, vilifies the free press, corrupts religious leaders, absolves white supremacists, degrades women and continues a life’s work defined by little more than the amoral pursuit of material wealth.” A good start, Joe!

 

 

 

March 25, 2018

 

The First Principle of Voting 

 

NRA statement yesterday: “Today’s protests aren’t spontaneous. Gun-hating billionaires and Hollywood elites are manipulating and exploiting children as part of their plan to DESTROY the Second Amendment and strip us of our right to defend ourselves and our loved ones.”


Henceforth the first principle of voting should be: Vote against any politician who has taken money from the NRA.


 

 

March 24, 2018 

 

A Scene in the Oval Office Some Weeks Hence?

(courtesy of W.S.

 

Enter Trump and Bolton. Trump closes the door behind them.

 

Trump 

 

We will proceed no further in this business:

Kim’Jong hath honour'd me of late; and I have bought

Golden opinions from all sorts of people,

Which would be worn now in their newest gloss,

Not cast aside so soon.

 

Bolton

 

Was the hope drunk

Wherein you dress'd yourself? hath it slept since?

And wakes it now, to look so green and pale

At what it did so freely? 

{fiddles with his mustache} Wouldst thou have that

Which thou esteem'st the ornament of life,

And live a coward in thine own esteeme

Letting 'I dare not' wait upon 'I would,'

Like the poor cat i' the adage? 

 

Trump 

 

Prithee, peace:

I dare do all that may become a man;

Who dares do more is none. 

 

Bolton 

 

What beast was't, then,

That made you break this enterprise to me?

When you durst do it, then you were a man;

And, to be more than what you were, you would

Be so much more the man. Nor time nor place

Did then adhere, and yet you would make both:

They have made themselves, and that their fitness now

Does unmake you.  

 

Trump  

 

If we should fail? 

 

Bolton 

 

We fail!

But screw your courage to the sticking-place,

And we'll not fail.


 

 

 

March 23, 2018 

 

Make or Break for American Democracy

 

A political analyst recently estimated that the Democrats could flip as many as 119 Congressional Districts this November. It’s extremely unlikely that they will do so, but they need to flip only about 25 to take control of the House, and though my 3rd Congressional District in Colorado isn’t even rated flippable, maybe it is.

 

We first have to get through a Democratic primary battle. The primary election is scheduled for June 26th. Only then, with funds depleted from the primary fight, can the Democratic nominee begin to campaign against the Republican incumbent, who will have been doing little else for the first half of the year but depositing checks from big corporate donors. Even so, I think it’s an even bet we can flip our district. We have no excuse to not try.


Jennifer Rubin: “We {can} be fairly certain that these Republicans will never take serious action against Trump no matter what. Reelecting Republicans to majorities in both houses is a green light for Trump to fire Mueller, double down on his extreme agenda and whack away at our democratic institutions and norms.”

 

 

 

 

March 22, 2018

 

The Equivalent of Treason

 

Russia’s dictator, Vladimir Putin, has been conducting, and continues to conduct, cyberwarfare and disinformation campaigns against the United States and works strenuously to disrupt our elections and tilt their outcomes to his liking  and to gain the capacity to shut down U.S. electric utilities. These are acts of an enemy of the United States.


Putin just had his term of dictatorship extended after an election notable for the suppression of the opposition press and opposition candidates and recently conducted a targeted attack in the United Kingdom with a banned nerve gas.


Trump just called Putin to congratulate him on being reelected as Russia’s ruler. Trump failed to mention the nerve gas attack or other acts of aggression.


The United States Constitution defines treason as specific acts, namely "levying War against [the United States], or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”


 

In calling Putin to congratulate him and not mentioning Putin’s aggressive acts, Trump gave Putin aid and comfort. Is this not treason!? Even if it isn’t technically, it is the equivalent of treason. Republicans controlling Congress betray our country by tolerating him.

 

 

 

March 21, 2018

 

Missed Blog today. Trip to inspect the Bisti Wilderness in New Mexico. 

 

 

 

March 20, 2018 

 

Going Along with Trump 

 

The single greatest grim fact of 2018 so far is that Republicans in Congress, clumping like a massive flock of birds, are going along with Trump, the lot of them bent on protecting their political careers, knowing that Trump’s support is strong enough so they can’t win a Republican primary if they repudiate him.


How many of them know that they should repudiate him –– that it is the only honorable thing to do –– but are so spineless that they can’t bring themselves to do it? How many are so Trump-like in character themselves that they can’t tell what is right and what is wrong?


Either way –– it hardly matters ––  the lot of them, going along with Trump, has set off an enduring, faintly audible, low-pitched moan, the sound of our country in distress. 

 

 

 

 

March 19, 2018 

 

Trump 

 

Trump is beside himself trying to think how to get rid of Mueller. Right-wing media eggs Trump on. Republicans in Congress are unwilling to reign him in.


Multiple clocks are ticking, including one that runs out on April 17th, when James Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty –– Truth, Lies, and Leadership, will be publicly released. Most issues are shades of gray, but some are black and white. Comey’s book has a black cover with white type. Comey says it will be up to the American people to decide who is honorable and who is not. Terrible tweets lie ahead. 


 

 

March 18, 2018 

 

The Broken Outrage Meter 

 

Terrified of the evidence Trump knows Mueller is amassing against him, Trump ratchets up pressure to end the investigation. Fox News fills his needs for morning tweets. He slashes at foes, gathers flunkeys about him, dismisses those who fail to placate him. We check the outrage meter. Surely the needle is tilting so far that Republicans in Congress will reign him in. Alas, the outrage meter is broken, slammed against its inner casing too many times and too hard, and those who lack their own moral compass and depend on it have lost theIr way.

 

 

 

March 17, 2018 

 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! 

 

I’m just back from four hours in the political trenches, having  somehow become a delegate to the county Democratic Assembly and. I left before debate on resolutions, which looked like it would take a couple of hours more. More about this another time. I’m going for a swim.

 

 

 

March 16, 2018 

 

Three Ugly Facts 

 

1. Russia is conducting ever more sophisticated cyber and disinformation warfare against the United States, most conspicuously by interfering with our electoral processes and infiltrating our utilities’ computer systems with the aim of being able to shut them down at will.


2.  The president of the United States, who gives every evidence of having a personal reason to be deferential to Russia’s dictator, refuses to respond to the Russian threat to our democracy and national security. 


3. Republicans controlling Congress are either passive in the face of the president’s shocking dereliction of duty or are actively working to shield him.

 

 

 

March 15, 2018 

 

A Defining Moment 

 

The nomination of Gina Haspel as director of the CIA thrusts a defining moment into our midst. She was involved in torturing prisoners. 

 

I remember the shock and disgust I felt when I learned that the United States government tortured prisoners during the presidency of George W. Bush. If ever America had been a “shining city on the hill,” it was no more. I later wrote:


"The scale of torture under the G. W. Bush Administration has 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 in a blog in The Huffington Post quoted 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.'" 

Barrack Obama repudiated and banned torture as an instrument of American policy. Trump, true to his character, expressed his desire to revive it. If, during her confirmation hearings, Gina Haspel doesn’t apologize for her conduct, unequivocally pledge her opposition to torture, and promise that she will never countenance it under any circumstances, and she is nevertheless confirmed, it will be a major milestone on the path of this country’s moral descent. 

 

 

March 14, 2018 

 

True Trumpians 

 

There are 13 Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee and 9 Democrats. The majority members, without consulting the minority members, declared that the investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. elections and possible involvement of the Trump campaign with the Russians was completed, and that they had found that there was no collusion with Russians on the part of anyone in the campaign and that the Russians didn’t attempt to interfere in U.S. elections.


This may be the most extraordinary exhibition of chutzpah in the history of the world, a collective lie in the face of contrary facts in plain sight, what minority ranking member of the Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff, noted was not the finding of an investigation, but a coverup, “a grave disservice to the country.” 


The Republican members of the committee should be removed from office and condemned to spend eternity as Trump’s golf caddies, following him from hole to hole and, each time they get a chance, kicking the ball closer to the pin. 

 

 

 

March 13, 2018

 

Attraction to Repulsiveness

 

How Does Trump Get Away with Being So Repulsive? An excellent column by Anne Applebaum in yesterday’s online Washington Post reviews the recent history of democracies that ceded control to autocratic rulers who turned their office into personal money making machines and enwrapped their slimy tentacles around every public and private institution and enterprise within reach. 


It’s an ancient pattern. Applebaum notes that “Latin American history is strewn with ‘men of the people’ who rode anti-elitist sentiments to power and then used that power to enrich themselves and their friends.” The most glaring close-up tragic example is the reign of the late Venezuelan dictator-president, Hugo Chávez, and his successor, Nicolas Maduro, who hasn’t missed missing a beat carrying on Chavez’s wrecking the country.


Hungary and Poland have fallen into the hands of self-enriching xenophobic demagogues. Other European countries are under siege. 


How do they get away with it? By feeding on resentment; by claiming to be preserving sacred values; affecting to work for “moral, hardworking ‘us’ and not for the immoral, or even foreign, ‘them’.” Corruption spreads, deepens, and becomes the norm. Voters become cynical; they turn away from politics; they think of democracy as a lost ideal. Trump-type leaders is what fate bestows upon the world and upon them in particular. They wince; they shrug. They try to live their lives as best they can.

 

 

March 12, 2018

 

UFOs

 

An article in yesterday’s Washington Post by Christopher Mellon, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense, describes multiple sightings of UFOs by pilots of military aircraft. The UFOs were so fast and maneuverable that our super speedy jets had no chance of keeping up with them. The sightings, verified by ground radar, were so credible that Mr. Mellon says we should make a much bigger effort to investigate them.


The great twentieth century physicist Enrico Fermi doubted that advanced aliens ever visited Earth. “Where are they?” he famously asked. The answer is the same as for people who can’t believe there might be mountain lions in their environs –– they see you, but you don’t see them. Aliens visiting Earth are at least as advanced as mountain lions.


Seriously, Mr. Mellon says we shouldn’t just scoff at these reports. And I have to say that these are the most authentic seeming sightings I’ve read about. Think of it: super intelligent aliens who could wipe us out whenever they like. It’s a sign of the times that this was the most soothing news story I’ve read in months.


 

 

March 11, 2018 

 

Political Matters Up Close

 

I'm backing one of two candidates seeking to be the Democraic nominee to run against our incumbent Republican congressman in the November election. I expect both of them to be on the ballot for the Colorado primary election June 26th. A problem, replicated in many districts for both Republicans and Democrats, is that much time, money, and energy has to be expended on primary contests before the battle in the general election begins.


I have a clear preference for one of the two Democratic candidates, obliging me to call shortcomings of the other one to public attention, but carefully! I can't be sure he won't win the primary, and I know that I would want to support him in the general election. Meanwhile, our Repubican opponent, who is unopposed, can happily watch Democrats scrap with each other.

 

In my brief experience, being involved in politics is both fascinating and maddening.

 

 

 

 

 

March 10, 2018

 

The Meeting with Kim un-Jong 

 

Confusion abounds, but as of this writing it’s a good guess that the meeting between Kim un-Jong and Trump will not happen. Trump’s advisers have been telling him that it would require diplomatic preparation: determining where to meet, working out ground rules, consulting with experts, staking out goals and contingent positions, and other daunting tasks.


The only certainty is that North Korean scientists and engineers are continuing to work 'round the clock developing and refining their capability of mounting nuclear warheads on ICBMs.


Kim will be disappointed if the meeting is called off or postponed. As Jennifer Rubin noted yesterday:


  The president’s enormous ego makes him easy prey for experienced flatterers. ‘He’s such an easy mark’, says Eliot A. Cohen, a former State Department official and frequent Trump critic. ‘Particularly for world class thugs — he’s just a petty grifter who thinks he’s in their class.’”


It’s sobering. Trump is not even a world class thug.


 

 

 

March 9, 2018 

 

An Alternative Strategy to Impeachment? 

 

There have long been ample grounds to impeach Trump. The Republican-controlled Congress is in dereliction of duty in not impeaching him and removing him from office.  

 

In one of her Washington Post online columns yesterday, Jennifer Rubin notes that, even if the Democrats take control of the House and impeach Trump, it would only be a symbolic act because conviction and removal of Trump requires assent of two-thirds of the Senate, which is extremely unlikely no matter how how long the list of Trump’s transgressions gets. Rubin acknowledges that there is merit in symbolic impeachment, in refusing to pretend that Trump’s behavior hasn’t crossed the line into the territory of what is just cause for his removal under the Constitution, but she suggests that, even if we could get rid of Trump by impeachment and removal, the controversy and turbulence generated by the impeachment battle might well be more harmful than helpful. She writes:


The constant fights over legitimacy . . .  will be corrosive and make governance in the future even more problematic. A large segment of the country will argue that there has been a political coup. Trump supporters will claim the “establishment” took him down and overrode the will of the people.


She suggests an alternative set of steps: “Investigate, expose, legislate, censure, defeat and prosecute,” and she elaborates persuasively on each. Following Rubin’s prescription might indeed be the best way for us to get through this wretched period. Still, failing to work to impeach and remove Trump smacks of being cowed by the threat of mob hysteria.


 

 

March 7, 2018 and March 8, 2018

 

The Bad, though Best, Form of Government at Work 

 

One blog for two days because of unusual busyness. I attended one of the caucuses held Tuesday night all over Colorado. Our county has 32 caucus precincts. Our Democratic caucus was held in a nearby school classroom. About 23 people in our precinct were in attendance, none of whom I knew. When I arrived, nearly everyone else was already there, sitting in chairs in a rough circle. People were not “politicking,” as far as I could tell, just chatting or otherwise occupying themselves. A big card was pinned on the wall, stating the agenda. I planned to speak on behalf of Diane Mitsch Bush, one of the two Democratic aspirants for the Democratic nomination. Because of an odd set of circumstnaces, this didn't happen, but I distributed materials supporting her. I'll say more about Diane's campaign in a future blog.

 

I can’t sort out voices intelligibly when a lot of people are talking, so I didn’t attempt to strike up any conversations before the caucus was called to order. At last it began. After some preliminary remarks etc., a straw poll (by raised hands) was taken for gubernatorial candidates. About nine people, including me, voted for Cary Kennedy, whose candidacy had been recommended to me by old friends who know her. I think two voted for Jared Polis, one for someone named Ginsburg, and none for others. Later, there was discussion of their relative merits. One attendee read off a lengthy pitch she had received from the Polis campaign. Later a final vote was taken, I don’t think with any change from that in the straw poll. The next morning I learned that Kennedy had apparently won about half the votes statewide. The primary runoff for governor, slated for June 26th, will likely be between her and Polis. 


At some point I learned that our precinct was authorized to send eight delegates to the County Assembly. I had decided not to “campaign” to be a delegate because of my hearing problem, but it turned out that there was no competition –– three more delegates were needed –– so I volunteered and was officially designated as a delegate, and I expect to show up at the County Assembly on March 17. I don’t know the names of the other delegates for our precinct, but I’m under the impression that five of the six of us are supposed to vote for Kennedy for Governor and one for Polis. I plan to vote for Kennedy. Just as I had only a sketchy idea of what would go on at the caucus, I have only a sketchy idea of what will go on at the Assembly. 

  

March 6, 2018 

 

Cruel and Unusual Becomes Cruel and Usual 

 

A Washington Post editorial yesterday rightly decried the Administration’s action in separating a seven-year old Congolese girl from her mother. The two had crossed the Mexican border seeking asylum. There was no allegation that the mother was a terrorist, or implicated in criminal activity, or otherwise unfit to care for her child. The mother and child could have readily been kept together in a detention center. According to the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, children and parents have been arbitrarily separated like this, without cause, 53 times.

 

Of course there is some cause to such forced separation. Based on a statement by the Trump administration, its purpose is to set an example to other families contemplating crossing the border: We’ll rip your child out of your arms if you do.

 Our Constitution proscribes “cruel and unusual punishment,” because civilized and decent people don’t torture or abuse others, even those guilty of the most despicable and grievous crimes. The Trump administration, nevertheless, has chosen to impose such a punishment on innocent people, even young children, simply to set an example. 

 In setting an example, the policy is a total success, the example being to show to what moral depths this country has descended since Trump took office and to be illustrative of Trump’s loathsome character, a piece of which attaches to every man and woman who acts in compliance with his ugly whims.

 

 

March 5, 2018 

 

Movies and the Central Character 

 

Along time ago I read a book by Sid Field on how to write screenplays. Something he said stuck with me: that successful movies always have a central character. Just one. Well, what about movies about a couple? Same principle, says Sid Field: the couple is the one central character. Well, what about a movie like Nashville? Same principle, says Sid Field: the city of Nashville is the one central character.

 

 Nominated for best picture at the Oscars last night, and my personal favorite of the ones I saw, but not the winner, was The Post. I got emotionally involved watching this movie, but it wasn’t because of the lead actress, Meryl Streep, playing Katharine Graham, though she turned in a superb performance, it was because of the movie’s one central character, the free press.

 

 

 March 4, 2018 

 

2018 Campaign Issues  

 

Suppose you are a Democratic candidate hoping to oust a Republican incumbent in this fall’s Congressional elections. There are many issues you could emphasize, contrasting your positions with those of your opponent. 

 

To take one that is exceptionally important: Russia is attacking our electoral process with hacking, bots, scams, and every other technique they can think of that doesn’t involve firing a gun or setting off a bomb.

 

Trump is as aware of this as anyone else, but he has chosen to pretend it’s not happening. In these circumstances Congress, at the very least, should take the initiative by passing veto-proof legislation authorizing defensive and retaliatory measures against our attackers. By failing to do so, the Republicans who control Congress are complicit in Trump’s breach of duty to faithfully execute his office and preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. This is reason enough to defeat them at the polls.

 

 

 

March 3, 2018 

 

REVEILLE 

 

Trump: “Trade wars are good, and easy to win.” 

 

When I was in the Navy, every morning at 0600 a voice came over the loudspeaker: REVEILLE! REVEILLE! UP ALL IDLERS.

 

Something like that is needed; then, GENERAL QUARTERS. ALL HANDS MAN YOUR BATTLE STATIONS. 

 

. . Something like that done to get the Republicans who control Congress off their asses and remove this mortal menace from office. 

 

 Too late could happen any time.

 

 

March 2, 2018 

 

Trumpian Horrors

 

 Trumpian horrors beset us daily. Rachel Maddow reported last night on Scott Lloyd, whom the White House put in charge of the Office of Refugee Resettlement of HHS. Lloyd is a Trumpian loyalist who was given this job not because of his qualifications or experience, but because it existed, and there he was, ready for a reward. 


Lloyd is a religious extremist of the anti-abortion-for-any- reason anti-contraception variety, or a sadist, or both. He has control over pregnant refugee teenage girls in his custody and is holding them incommunicado and denying them the right to get abortions and denying them access to legal counsel. Trump would never intervene to counter this outrage because religious extremists comprise an important segment of his base. 

 

How is it that in this country the life trajectories of a man like this and of innocent girls can converge in such a way that he has sole control of their lives? The damage done because Trump is in power is vast, incalculable, and continuing. 

 

 

 

March 1, 2018  

 

A Short Story 

 

Three volumes, each an anthology of “The Best,” or “Great,” short stories arrived a few days ago. I ordered them because I agreed with two of my high-school-age grandchildren to give them a course in literature and composition this summer. They are actually enthusiastic about this project, unless they are just fooling me, and if they are just fooling me, at least it shows they are compassionate. 


The idea is that they each read a couple of short stories and write papers about them; then we talk and I help them improve their analytical and compositional skills.  I’m going through these volumes, reading at least bits of most of them to see which would be best to assign. One I read yesterday, Araby, by James Joyce, should be perfect. The Semplica-Girl Diary, by George Saunders, = wonderful, but I don’t think it’s right for this project. 

 

I notice that a lot of the best short stories are like sonnets, the last two lines of which tend to be a punch line, so to speak. Powerful short stories often end with a revelation, sometimes an epiphany, which, while ringing true with what’s come before, jolts the reader into a state of reflection and self-reflection.


 

 

February 28, 2018  

 

Impeach Trump? 

 

NSA Director Mike Rogers testified yesterday that Trump has issued no directives to counteract ongoing Russian interference in U.S. elections. Add this to the already long list of grounds for impeaching Trump and removing him from office. 


There is only one argument against impeaching and removing Trump, but it’s an extremely strong one: Pence. 

 

Extremely strong, but far short of being strong enough. 


 

 

February 27, 2018

 

Passionate Intensity and the NRA

 

The National Rifle Association has been so successful in stirring up passionate intensity in its 5,000,000 members that for many of them gun rights have become more important than any other issue. People so stirred won’t vote for a candidate who doesn’t have a high approval rating from the NRA. It’s almost impossible for Republicans who favor sensible gun control laws to win a Republican primary contest. Nearly all Republicans in Congress have high NRA ratings.


Most effective among NRA techniques for stirring up its members is the slippery slope argument. The NRA hammers on it continually. Whatever modest gun control proposal is put forth, the NRA claims that it’s the first step toward banning all guns. NRA publicists raise the specter of Federal agents storming your house, determined to take your guns. You need to get even more guns than you have already, ones that shoot more rounds per minute so you can hold off attackers.


 In the wake of the Parkland, Florida, school massacre, thanks especially to students, the passionate intensity of the NRA and its loyal members is being matched, at least for the moment, by advocates for sensible gun control. To change the dynamic which has for so long held the country in its grip, proponents of gun control must work hard, organize, speak out, and never let up. Politicians who receive donations or high ratings from the NRA must be ejected from office the next time they run. 

 

 

February 26, 2018

 

Madness in Our Midst

 

A spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association denounced proposals to raise the minimum age for purchase of semiautomatic weapons to 21. She said that the NRA’s opposition to such a change is “incredibly clear.” 

 

The NRA isn’t just wrong, it’s depraved.


 

February 25, 2018

 

The Convenient Influence of Ayn Rand

 

Reading Robert Reich’s short but important new book, The Common Good, I got some idea how someone like Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, an intelligent looking devout Catholic, a self-proclaimed Christian, can look himself in the mirror every morning given his behavior, for example being instrumental in jamming through new tax cuts and tax breaks primarily for corporations, rich individuals, and especially super rich individuals, knowing that the new law will add about a trillion and a half dollars to the national debt, likely cause increased inflation and higher interest rates, and will further worsen inequality in our society. 


Ryan, like most other Republicans in Congress, isn’t a sociopath. He bears little resemblance to a noted huckster and chiseler whose appalling behavior Reich describes in the opening chapter of his book. Like many of his Republican colleagues and right-wing media allies, Ryan has seized upon a justifying body of ideas for aligning himself with the rich and greedy –– the faux philosophy that emerges in the novels of Ayn Rand, a Russian émigrée whose credo was that it’s natural and good to be selfish and not give a damn about others or about the common good. Her writings are intellectually and morally discreditable, but her persona and her ideas became a convenient cult. Reich says that Ryan requires members of his staff to read her books. 

 

If Rand had not existed, Ryan would have found some other source for self-justification of his mean-spirited and wrong-headed conduct. He’s that decent a man.

 

 

 

February 24, 2018 

 

Rod Rosenstein

 

As Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team chug along, I’m taking a moment to salute Rod Rosenstein. There’s been reason to criticize RR, but when the history books about our era are written, chances are that he will be seen as a hero. He has acted on occasion in a way that appears to be deferential to Trump, spectacularly so when he drafted the memo about how James Comey had acted improperly by announcing, just before the election, that the F.B.I. investigation of Clinton’s emails was still ongoing. RR must have known that the memo would be used by Trump as a phony pretext for firing Comey. 


 It seemed like a bad thing to have done, but RR’s sins can be forgiven in light of his superb move in appointing Mueller, who has proven to be the best possible person as special counsel to investigate “the Russian thing,” and his unflagging support of Mueller in the face of bursts of flack directed at him by Trump. In fact, I don’t think RR has any sins to be forgiven. I think that all his acts that seemed deferential to Trump were calculated to make it more difficult for Trump, psychologically and politically, to fire him. Happily, RR is still on the job, and Mueller’s work continues at a furious pace, yielding new intriguing results by the day.  

 

 

 

February 23, 2018 

 

A Challenge for Democratic Candidates  

 

Recent polls show that the Republican tax cuts and tax breaks for the rich act is being viewed with increasing favor by voters. It’s a horrendously bad piece of legislation, but great numbers of ordinary working people will be delighted by finding their take-home pay has been modestly increased. The natural reaction is to view this as a good thing, a good reason to vote for those who voted for the law and to vote against those who voted against it or who criticize it. The natural reaction is to feel the way Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme victims felt when they saw what high returns they were getting on their investments.


For most people, (A) a lecture about how, despite decades of inequality increasing to a degree to which it has become damaging to the social fabric and the common good, Republicans tossed aside their claim of being fiscally responsible and rushed to passage without hearings, or input other than from their own fat-cat donors, legislation that, at a time when fiscal stimulus is contraindicated, would add 1.5 trillion dollars to the national debt to the overwhelming benefit of the rich, and even more so to the superrich, and will likely exacerbate inflation and lead to higher interest rates, all at the expense of slashing funds critical to the well-being and long-term future of our country is less persuasive than than (B) some extra money deposited in their bank accounts each payday.


 This presents a challenge for Democratic Candidates. It won’t help much that they are right, if they can’t present their argument in simple, easy to grasp, convincing terms.

 

February 22, 2018

The Epitome of Corruption

In a recent Washington Post piece reflecting on the recurrent massacres in American life, E. J. Dionne notes: “At the heart of our political system’s failure to address the epidemic of violence is the Republican Party’s decision to become a paid agent of the gun manufacturers’ lobby. The party of law and order cares about neither if doing so means causing the least disturbance to the National Rifle Association.”

 A double-page ad in yesterday’s New York Times lists the amounts of contributions senators and representatives are known to have taken from the NRA. The list is long, and the amounts are large. 

We will never know how many lives might have been saved over the years if the NRA publicity, propagandizing, and lobbying machine, coupled with handouts to compliant politicians, had not been so successful in inhibiting members of Congress and state legislatures from passing sensible gun-control laws, but we do know, or should know, that even though the behavior of politicians who are compliant with the NRA wishes has not been illegal, it is the epitome of the corruption.

In the 2018 election Congressional and state elections, candidates who take money from the NRA and like-minded donors should be voted out of office, and candidates who credibly promise to press for sensible and meaningful gun-control laws and regulations should be voted in to replace them.


 

February 21, 2018

 

Reasonable and Unreasonable Fear

 

Trump could keep pretending that Russia didn’t help him get elected and still show some interest in protecting our electoral process from interference by hostile foreign powers and other malefactors. If he did, he would earn some of what is most precious to him next to money –– praise. Trump has directed harsh criticism at almost every individual and group in the world except Putin. Why is it that he is so deferential to the Russian dictator? There may be another explanation for this anomaly, but the most likely one is that Putin is blackmailing him. 


As Jennnifer Rubin noted yesterday, “What is even more remarkable than Trump’s unwillingness to put America first is Congress’s failure to do anything, either. Where are the hearings? Where is the legislation to pay for paper voting-system backups if states request it? Charitably one can say that the GOP majorities in the House and Senate suffer from sloth and lack of leadership. The more disturbing theory is that they won’t move to protect our election system out of fear of enraging Trump.”


 If Rubin’s more disturbing theory is correct, these Republican politicians deserve even more contempt than Trump. Trump apparently has good reason to be afraid of Putin. No member of Congress has good reason to be afraid of Trump.  

 

 

 

February 20, 2018 

 

The Depths  

 

Jennifer Rubin’s Washington Post column yesterday was headlined, “Trump, panicking, reveals the depths of his awfulness.” 

 

Indeed, Trump lately has been plumbing ever greater depths, e.g. his tweet over the weekend: “the Democrats, led by their fearless leader, Crooked Hillary Clinton, lost the 2016 election. But wasn’t I a great candidate?” 

 

“Trump will be Trump.” “Ignore his tweets.” “He’s just blowing off steam.” None of these will do. Let Trump’s remarks sink in! Consider what they mean about his mental state and the mortal danger he poses to our country and to the world.


What doesn’t sink in for me –– what I can’t understand –– is why the Republicans controlling Congress can’t see beyond their immediate partisan interests. Remember the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers? Maybe not. It was released in 1956. The alien villains were actually brain snatchers. The Earthlings’ bodies remained the same, but their brains became corrupted. Are we experiencing a new invasion? 

 

 

February 19, 2018 

 

The Challenge 

 

An unlikely conjunction of circumstances brought about upon this nation the presidency of a demagogue, a scoundrel morally and intellectually unfit to govern. He exposed himself as an aspiring autocrat; yet, despite ample grounds to impeach him, the representatives and senators who control Congress have either watched passively or given him active encouragement as he stomped ahead on his destructive path. 


 Lincoln wrote, in a message to Congress, December 1, 1862, “We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.” It is a challenge that Congress and the nation now face again, this time with Lincoln’s antipode in power.

 

 

February 18, 2018 

 

NRA-Loyal Politicians 

 

Yesterday’s online Washington Post has a tabulation of all members of Congress who have taken money from the NRA during recent election cycles. My Congressman, Scott Tipton, has taken NRA money in each of the last five election cycles, including this year. He is an NRA-loyalist. 


 The NRA is the driving force against sensible regulation of guns. Taking money from the NRA marks politicians as NRA-loyalists, and is reason enough to vote against them.

 

 

 

February 17, 2018

 

 The Intellectually and Morally Feeble 2-16-2018 Wall Street Journal Editorial on the Parkland School Massacre

 

The author or authors of the editorial say that there is no credible evidence that, for example, regulating bump stocks and AR-15 rifles and ammunition magazines would deter mass shootings. This amounts to saying that there is no credible evidence that a shooter who can fire only one round at a time and must reload after, say, six shots are fired is as likely to succeed, before being stopped or before prospective victims can escape, in committing as much carnage as a shooter can by holding the trigger down and spraying bullets in machine gun style, which has been a feature of almost all the most deadly mass shootings in American history.


It’s a disingenuous argument in the extreme. We don’t need comparative studies to know that in the case of a shooter intent on committing carnage, the more bullets that can be fired in a given amount of time, the more victims there are likely to be. The writers of this editorial show themselves to be incapable of thought beyond that needed to parrot the publicity releases of the National Rifle Association.

 

What solutions do they propose? 

 

1. Have more security guards, more heavily armed. Do they imagine this is an argument against gun control?

 

2. They quote Trump, of all people, specifically his statement that we need to “Create a culture in our country that embraces the dignity of life.” Sure. Once we’ve done that, it won’t matter how many mentally disturbed people have assault rifles.

 

 The writers of this editorial are either totally stupid and moderately honorable, or moderately intelligent and totally dishonorable, or moderately stupid and moderately dishonorable, but they are not both intelligent and even minimally honorable. 

 

 

February 16, 2018 

 

Guns 

 

Cars can and do kill, and we don’t ban cars. Guns can and do kill, and we don’t ban guns. But, just as we have regulated cars in the interests of safety, with dramatic results since the first federal safety standards for cars were established in 1968, we need common sense regulations and programs to curb gun violence. 


The Constitution provides that the right of free speech shall not be abridged, but no Constitutional argument can be made that you have a right to cry Fire! in a crowded theater. Similarly, no Constitutional argument can be made that everyone has a right to own military style weapons that, within a few seconds can kill dozens of people. 


In his inaugural address in 1941, Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed that people everywhere in the world should have four fundamental freedoms, including freedom from fear. Today, three-quarters of a century later, because most of our public servants lack enough courage to defy the NRA, not a single schoolchild in America has freedom from fear.


The Washington Post published a ringing editorial yesterday urging that military style weapons, guns capable of rapid fire carnage, be banned. The editorial concludes: 

 

"Is it any surprise that the weapon used in this week’s carnage was the same style of semiautomatic assault rifle that was used with deadly efficiency at a concert in Las Vegas, a Texas church, an Orlando nightclub,a Connecticut elementary school? These weapons designed for combat, accompanied by multiple ammunition magazines, have become the weapons of choice for mass shooters. It is time for a national ban on their sale and possession. Now, before the next set of parents face the unimaginable agony of the phone call that never gets answered."


 

February 15, 2018 

 

Under Putin’s Thumb 

 

A great virtue of Rachel Maddow is that she puts news in perspective. She reveals patterns in the rapid-fire succession of events. The other night she documented the only instances she knew of in which high ranking Russian officials have met with Trump or their American counterparts or Putin and Trump have met –- eight altogether since Trump became president. All eight were reported first by the Kremlin, including a meeting at the White House, to which no U.S. reporters were invited, that included video footage taken by Russian camera operators.  


Most recently, three high ranking Russian intelligence and counter-intelligence officers visited the U.S. Two met with their American counterparts. It is not known with whom the third one met with or what his business was, only that he had been mysteriously granted a visa despite being on the list of Russians barred from entry because he heads the Russian efforts to disrupt and influence American elections. 


Maddow’s guest, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia and Stanford professor Michael McFaul, agreed with her that it was hard to understand why in each case it was the Kremlin that first announced that these meetings were held, and only later, if at all, were they confirmed by the White House. He said that past U.S. policy was to report these meetings immediately so our officials could frame their purpose and describe what was accomplished. 


It’s hard to account for this pattern of Kremlin announces first other than to speculate that it results from an understanding between the leaders of the two countries that benefits one of them psychologically and substantively at the expense of the other. It’s one of many pieces of evidence that Trump is under Putin’s thumb.

 

 

February 14, 2018 

 

 Madness, or Worse 

 

Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence, and Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, both Trump-friendly characters, both hand-picked by him for their jobs, both warn that our electoral process has been under attack and continues to be under attack from Russia. Trump pretends it’s not. He likes Russian interference. He courts it. Is this not treason?  

 

Allowing Trump to remain in office is madness, or worse. 


 

 

February 13, 2018 

 

 Republicans 

 

Republicans enacted tax cuts and tax breaks primarily for the rich and the super rich that will drive up the national debt by 1.5 trillion dollars. Added to that will be sharply increased deficit spending in whatever new budget deal is enacted, resulting in even more trillions added to the national debt. So what?


 So what? is the new Republican credo. They used to call themselves conservatives, but they no longer qualify to call themselves that. They have become so irresponsible –– so antithetical to the traditions of their party –– that they no longer qualify to call themselves Republicans. If they were honest, they would rename themselves the Reprobate Party.

 

 

 

February 12, 2018 

 

Consequences That Should Follow 

 

 An article by two scholars in the March issue of the Atlantic argues convincingly that the Republican Party should be boycotted. The authors do not say that citizens should vote Democratic because they favor left wing rather than right wing policies. They oppose Republican candidates because Republicans haven’t resisted Trump’s efforts to turn our democracy into an autocracy.


 It’s clear that Trump is an aspiring autocrat; yet instead of reining him him, or better yet, impeaching him and removing him from office, Republicans have been complicit with him. They have refused to perform their duty to protect and preserve the Constitution. Apart from some isolated yelps of protest, their behavior has ranged from passivity to complicity with Trump’s attacks on the administration of justice and his denial of systematic continuing interference in our electoral process by foreign powers, particularly Russia. Republicans are abetting Trump in his quest to be above the law, to be the law. For that reason alone, they should be voted out of office. 


 

February 11, 2018 

 

Lesson from a Close-Up Look at a Trump Supporter 

 

 New York Times columnist Roger Cohen, an eloquent critic of Trump, recently conducted in depth concentrated research on one of the great mysteries of our time: How can any reasonably intelligent, reasonably informed, reasonably decent person support Trump? After thinking he had found such a person, a fellow named Shannon Kennedy, of Syracuse, New York, Cohen spent some time with him. 


 “The thing about him,” Kennedy told Cohen, speaking of Trump, “is that there’s forward energy. He’s like a horse with blinders at the Kentucky Derby. If there’s another horse in the way, knock it out and ride the rail. I listened to him, on immigration, on draining the swamp, on lobbyists, and I liked that. As I recall, it was ‘We the people’ not ‘We the empowered.’”


Kennedy wants a horse with no peripheral vision as president? That doesn’t strike me as reasonably intelligent. He believed Trump would drain the swamp? Trump, of all people?  


 Kennedy a veteran who has had a lot of gritty experiences and thinks he knows the ropes, was conned, but there’s a convenient way for Trump’s victims to inoculate themselves against enlightenment, which is to keep tuned to right-wing media. Less than an hour a day watching Fox News will probably suffice. I suspect that’s how Kennedy still thinks Trump represents “we the people.”


Cohen doesn’t scorn Kennedy –– that wouldn’t accomplish anything. He writes:


The message is clear. The same old, same old (for example, Joe Biden) won’t work. A whiff of got-the-system-rigged elitism from the Democrats will be fatal. A strong economic program for working Americans is essential. Look to purple-state America, not blue-state coastal America, for a candidate who is grappling with the country’s toughest issues and is strong on can-do, down-to-earth values.


 Cohen could have done better in his prescription –– Hillary thought her values were much more down-to-earth than Trump’s, and they were –– but he’s on the right track. The Democrats next presidential candidate must come across as fresh, strong, pragmatic, and authentic, a person who, it is clear, can do and will do the right thing.

 

 

 

February 10, 2018

 

 The Latest Ominous Happening

 

News Report: Rachel Brand, number 3 official at the Justice Department, is “stepping down.” She’s actually stepping up, taking a top position at Walmart in which she’ll probably make about ten times as much as she was in her government job, not including stock options, not including incentive bonuses, not including a golden parachute when she leaves, not including a lot of extra take-home pay thanks to the recently enacted tax cut and tax breaks for the rich act.


 This may be fine for Brand, but it’s ominous for our country. As I understand it, the only person who can fire special counsel Robert Muelller is Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Rosenstein has shown no inclination to fire Mueller. Trump has been trying to get up enough nerve to fire Rosenstein. A disincentive for him has been that if he fired Rosenstein, Brand would become Deputy Attorney General, but she would be no more likely to fire Mueller than Rosenstein. Trump was surely thrilled to hear that she’s leaving.


 Next in line after Brand is Solicitor General Noel Francisco. Francisco is (to me) a cypher. He may be just the man Trump can rely on. If he’s not, Attorney General Sessions, though recused from matters relating to the Trump / Russian investigation, might not shirk from appointing a Trump-friendly replacement as acting attorney general. Trump may have the power to appoint someone himself. We can be sure he’ll do whatever he can get away with, and, thanks to his enablers in Congress and the power of his media alllies, he can get away with a lot. Too bad Brand chose to take the money and run.

 
 

 

February 9, 2018 

 

Stirring Events

 

About a year ago Robert Reich posted on Facebook “Ten Signs of Impending Tyranny –– things tyrants do as they try to get control of democracies.” This morning he updated the list. Now there are twenty signs of Impending tyrannyAmong the additions, as you might guess, is “Organize military parades and other choreographed shows of force.”


No informed person can doubt that Trump is an aspiring autocrat. The Republicans controlling Congress show no signs of repudiating him and every sign of being willing to abet him in his designs. If Democrats don’t get control of the House or the Senate in this November’s elections, Trump will likely not just be a blot on the history of our country –– his term in office a mere horrifying interlude –– but the instrument of America’s transition to a Putinesque state.

 

Better than to sit and fret is to try to do something meaningful. It’s an aberration from my normal indolent existence, but I’m going to do my best to help flip my Congressional District this fall. There’s a chance that my efforts will matter, and that's mootivation enough.

 

 

 

February 8, 2018

 

Have They Eyes, but Cannot See? Ears, but Cannot Hear? 

 

 Washington Post columnist Karen Tumulty reports that about a week ago she had the opportunity to ask Trump how people would know that America had been made great again. “We’re going to display our military,” he answered. “We’re going to display it. That military may come marching down Pennsylvania Avenue. That military may be flying over New York City and Washington, D.C., for parades. I mean, we’re going to be showing our military.”


 How can anyone in Congress not realize that it’s imperative to impeach this man and remove him from office immediately?

 

 

February 7, 2018

 

Trump and His Enablers 

 

It would take volumes to itemize all that’s wrong with Trump. He unfailingly demonstrates why he’s unfit to hold public office, much less the presidency. Any one of thousands of his utterances would be reason enough to repudiate him. Recent example: people who don't clap their hands during this State of the Union address are treasonous. He was just kidding, the White House now says, won’t do. 


 Far closer to treason is failing to repudiate a graceless president who shows contempt for the Constitution, fails to distinguish between truth and falsehood, and whose only allegiance is to his own hyper-inflated ego. If the Republicans in Congress can’t send Trump packing, they should be sent packing.

 

 

 

February 6, 2018 

 

The Nunes Memo

 

All informed and fair observers have all pointed out that the Nunes memo, designed to take the heat off Trump and redirect it on key F.B.I. and Justice Department officials, was totally unpersuasive except to inadvertently suggest that the F.B.I. has acted professionally and properly in investigating Russian interference in our electoral process and Russian connections with members of Trump’s inner and outer circles. Unsurprisingly, Trump claims it vindicates him.


  Slate columnist Diana Lithwick, one of the critics of the memo and its release to the public, called it “incomprehensible and deeply misleading," but she pointed out that, because it is incomprehensible, it is subject to multiple interpretations, including those of Trump’s propagandists at Fox News and of his other allies, including the chief Congressional flunkey himself, Devin Nunes. Obfuscation, deception, and deflection are techniques Trump and Trumpians deploy with consummate skill. The Nunes memo was dead on arrival. Its afterlife may have just begun.

 

 

February 5, 2018

 

 Words Can Mean More Than They Say 

 

 Paul Ryan tweeted that his secretary was pleased that the new tax law would net her $1.50 a week more take-home pay! A fusillade of ridicule followed, and Ryan withdrew the comment. The incident is revealing not so much of the new tax law as of Ryan’s mindset and that of like-minded Republicans. 


 Ryan knows the benefit to ordinary workers like his secretary is puny compared to the benefit to high salaried employees, well-heeled investors, and savvy professionals and business people able to take advantage of the loopholes and quirks of the new law, and even more a benefit to Ryan’s super rich donors. The Republicans who drafted the bill wanted to get broad support for it, so, relatively speaking, they threw crumbs in the direction of lower income earners. The lower income workers are gobbling them up. The tax cut for the rich scheme seems to be working! So Ryan thought when he sent his tweet. So pinched and crabbed is his view of the world, so caught up is he in the false narrative he spins, that he didn’t grasp that the words he tweeted revealed his contempt the public’s intelligence.


 

 

February 4, 2018 

 

An Interesting Enigma  

 

The great majority of Trump enablers and supporters are either (a) stupid, ill-informed, or ignorant, or (b) have defective characters, or (c) both, but a sizable minority, perhaps 10 percent, are intelligent, reasonably well-informed, and have good character. I’ve wondered for a long time how this can be. I’ve personally conversed with some of these people. By way of research I’ve read Wall Street Journal editorials and columns by Trump-enabling pundits (they’re generally intellectually feeble and buttressed with loaded words, e.g. Democrats don’t “criticize,” they “howl.”)


 I can’t claim to have cracked this enigma. My guess is that people who are complicit with Trump even though they are intelligent, informed, and have good character have some deep-seated embedded emotion that drives their decision making in the political realm, possibly a mixture of resentment and pride; just guessing. In any case, being intelligent and informed is no defense against harmful embedded emotions. The more brilliant you are, the more brilliantly you can rationalize your wrong-headed conclusions.


 

February 3, 2018

 

On Maintaining Perspective

 

 Apart from all the other perils facing us is the tendency to get numbed out by the continual succession of bizarre events. The torrent of news and opinions immerses us in a microcosm in which we react and draw conclusions as if we were in a normal political, social, economic, military environment, when in fact we have been exiled from the world we thought we were living in.

 

New York Times columnist Roger Cohen is unsurpassed at helping readers keep or regain perspective on what’s happening to this country and to the world. Example, yesterday, speaking of Trump, he writes:


 The greatest danger from a man so unerring in his detection of human weakness, so attuned to the thrill of cruelty, so aware of the manipulative powers of entertainment, so unrelenting in his disregard for truth, so contemptuous of ethics and culture, so attracted to blood and soil, was always that he would use the immense powers of his office to drag Americans down with him into the vortex.


Trump is succeeding in this. He is having his way, for all the investigative vigor of the free press he derides, for all the honor of the judiciary that has pushed back against his attempts to stain with bigotry the law of the land. Slowly but surely, the president is getting people to shrug.


 Cohen has a lot more to say in this column. I wish it could permeate the psyche of everyone.

 

February 2, 2018 

 

Billionaires and Politics

 

 Unprincipled Republican politicians rely on donations of unprincipled billionaires to ramp up their campaigns. The Koch brothers are reportedly planning to pump $400,000,000 into federal and state contests, money that will go to individuals who the Kochs feel confident will be compliant with their wishes. I got an email solicitation yesterday from a Democrat candidate, decrying what he’s up against and asking me to chip in $5.00 to help fight against big monied interests and subsidies for fossil fuel companies. 

 

 It’s a one-sided contest. The progressive tycoon Tom Steyer is making a noble effort to level the playing field, but he is a relatively poor billionaire –– he can’t possibly match the kind of money the Koch Brothers throw around.


There are some really rich billionaires who could play in this league. My impression is that Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Jeff Bezos are decent fellows. Couldn’t they help counter the Kochs and their ilk? They might if they weren’t hampered in a way the Kochs aren’t. All three are the face of publicly held companies that would be vulnerable to boycotts instigated by Trumpians. The Kochs' business interests are privately held. They don't need to worry about shareholders' reactions. It doesn’t look like Buffet, Gates, and Bezos will step up the plate. I’m sending my five bucks to help counter the Kochs today.

 

 

February 1, 2017

 

The Wall and the Dreamers

 

One of the things Trump wants right now is a 25-billion dollar appropriation for a tremendously extravagant wildly cost-ineffective showpiece in the same vein as Trump’s palaces, towers, and hairdo, and what the Democrats want is legislation that is overwhelmingly compelling from a humanitarian standpoint, would increase the vitality of, and respect for, this nation, and is supported by a sizable majority of Americans. Trump’s message –– shamefully supported by the Republicans who control Congress –– is “no Wall, no Dreamers.” Trump also wants to further limit legal immigration. 


 In an opinion piece worth reading in today’s online New York Times, Thomas Edsall explains why Democrats would suffer more politically by rejecting this deal than accepting it. Sacrifice principle for political advantage? Yes, when there is a bigger principle at stake: it’s vitally important to the future of this nation and the world that the Democrats gain control of either the Senate or the House in the November elections, preferably both –– they need every political advantage they can get. If Edsall is right about why Democrats should accept the deal –- and I think he is –- the Dreamers will be saved from deportation and the Democrats will be better positioned to win in November. Critical to this calculation is that, if the Democrats gain control of Congress, they could kibosh the Wall and liberalize immigration rules, but they couldn’t stop Dreamer deportation, because it would already have happened.

 

 

 

January 31, 2018

 

Dark Forces

 

 For the past century the greatest threats to Western democracies have been the twin evils of Communism and Fascism, which in their worst form yielded up Stalin and Hitler. The myths of the dictatorship of the proletariat and of the master race destined to rule the world are no longer with us, but the thuggish, authoritarian, malevolent, ruthless, ethnocentric, cruel, self-perpetuating, and aggrandizing ethos that powered these monstrous movements flourish in Europe and on the American continents today.  


 A Washington Post editorial notes that the recently re-elected president of the Czech Republic “defends the seizure and annexation of Crimea by the regime of Vladi­mir Putin, denies the presence of Russian forces in eastern Ukraine and calls for the lifting of all sanctions on the regime” and that he "reiterated his proposal that Czechs vote in a referendum on whether to remain in NATO and the European Union — the fracturing of which is the Kremlin’s most treasured goal.” A vicious online disinformation campaign directed against Zeman’s opponent, a defender of pro-Western pro-democratic institutions, was almost certainly funded by Russia.


Right-wing nativist, anti-democratic regimes are in power in Hungary and Poland. Austria tilted far right in its most recent elections. Similar forces in Britain brought about Brexit. The Trumplike character, Silvio Berlusconi, is expected to regain power in Italy. Succumbing to demagoguery and the illusory promise of autocracy has become a world-wide trend, one nowhere more manifest than in our own country, in which leaders of the majority party are increasingly exhibiting their willingness to transgress norms of decency, undermine national security, and trash democratic institutions in order to protect an aspiring autocrat whose only competency is charlatanism and whose only loyalty is to his puffed-up ego.  

 

 

January 30, 2018

 

People Types: MM or MM 

 

Who do you like better, MM or MM?* To put it another way: who do you like better –– people who undermine American democracy and are greedy and smug or people who work to restore American democracy and are generous-spirited and open-hearted.

 ______________________________

 * Mitch McConnell; Michael Moore

 

 

January 29, 2018 

 

Lying and the U.S. Criminal Code

 

 In a recent New York Times op-ed article New York University law professor Ryan Goodman pointed out that a terrible toll of indictment counts of Trump and members of Trump’s inner circle may issue from grand juries for lying, sustained lying, a pattern of lying, concerted lying, and encouraging others to lie to federal authorities. These would be counts apart from any for obstruction of justice, conspiring with a foreign power in its efforts to interfere with American elections, and money laundering. Storm clouds are gathering for Trump and his enablers, even as Trumpians in Congress work frantically to dissipate them. 

 
 

 

January 28, 2018 

 

Men Who, Like All Others, Should Be Judged by the Content of Their Characters

 

Trump-appointed Republicans F.B.I. Director Chrisopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein visited Speaker of the House Paul Ryan to seek his good offices in dissuading fervid Trump supporters in Congress, particularly the supposedly recused but malignantly active Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, from maliciously and under false pretenses attempting to undermine and discredit the F.B.I. and the Mueller investigation, even to the point of releasing information that would prejudice their ongoing work. 

 

Ryan declined. He too prefers to be one of the president’s men. 

 


 

January 27, 2018 

 

A Case Study in Legal Corruption 

 

 In a Facebook posting yesterday, Robert Reich noted that “Just days after Congress passed sweeping tax cuts for corporations and the super rich, Charles Koch and his wife donated $500,000 to House Speaker Paul Ryan's campaign coffers. How much does the Koch family stand to gain from the new tax law? They will take home an additional $1 billion every year because of the lower rates and special loopholes, according to a report by Americans for Tax Fairness. That doesn't even include the billions they will be able to pass on to their heirs with the elimination of the estate tax.”


Nothing illegal about it. You’ll never find that one of the Koch brothers promised Ryan to make a huge donation like this if Ryan could deliver tax cuts and tax breaks for corporations and the super rich, and you’ll never find that Ryan delivered because a Koch brother promised he’d make such a donation,  but you can be sure that Ryan and Koch both knew they could count on each other. It’s legal, but it’s corruption just the same, and it’s a mortal threat to American democracy.

 

 

January 26, 2018

 

The Trumpian Ethos

 

Headline: “A volunteer for an Arizona group seeking to prevent migrant deaths in the desert at the U.S.-Mexico border was arrested after giving food and water to undocumented immigrants.” 

 

Let them eat sand.

 

 

January 25, 2018

 

Server down today.


 

 January 24, 2018

 

 Republican's Spin the New Tax Law 

 

 As a result of the new Even More Tax Breaks for The Rich and National Debt Escalation Act, many workers will find that less is deducted from their periodic pay checks –– that their take-home pay has slightly increased. Corporations are raking in so much money under the new law that some of them are distributing bonuses to workers. An op-ed in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal urged companies to give employees a bonus and tell them that it was made possible by the new Republican tax cut and that all the Democrats voted against it. The message is: Republicans are the ones who really care about workers and the middle class! Vote for them!

 

That the personal income tax cuts are temporary and that the corporate cuts are not is just one indication that there’s something rotten about this new law and the way Republicans promote it. Republicans are silent about how –– despite decades of widening inequality and an increasing array of tax measures favoring the rich ––  an overwhelming percentage of the long range benefit of the new law will inure to the richest 1% of the population. 

 

 The projected effect of this gift to those who don’t need it is that it will increase the national debt by 1.5 trillion dollars, requiring a bigger slice of government revenues to service it. Inflation or higher interest rates, or both, is likely to erase, or more than erase, the gains of ordinary workers who were pleased to find that their paychecks were a bit larger. 

 

 What the Republicans have accomplished, apart from throwing a sop to ordinary people, has been to make an immense gift to the rich of money the Treasury doesn’t have and will have to borrow. You would have to be really stupid not to spend money you don’t have better than the Republicans are doing –– America has other, far more urgent, needs. But it’s not stupidity at work here, it’s the greed of Republican politicians and of their super rich donors.

 

 

 

January 23, 2018 

 

The Shutdown, CHIP, DACA, and the Restart

 

Democrats succeeded in getting reauthorization of the bipartisan-initiated-and-supported Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which ensures access to adequate health care for 9,000,000 children, leaving the question hanging in the air as to why, instead of reauthorizing this exemplary program on their own initiative, Republicans preferred to oppose it and use it as a bargaining chip. 


The Democrats also wanted –– and so did a large majority of people in the country, including a significant percentage of Republicans –– legislation ensuring that 800,000 Dreamers, immigrants brought here illegally as children but now grown and fully integrated into our society, will be protected from deportation and offered a path to citizenship. This DACA program is overwhelmingly compelling from a humanitarian and economic standpoint. If instituted, it would increase the vitality of, and respect for, our country. 

 

Republicans stiff-armed Democrats, the Dreamers, and the Dreamers’ families. Republican senators made sort of a vague concession by promising to take up the matter and put it to a vote. Maybe they will, but so long as Democrats keep acquiescing to Republican demands, odds are that Republicans will keep the possibility of DACA dangling ever in front of them like at a dog track where the operators make sure that no matter how fast the dogs run, they can never catch the rabbit that moves effortlessly along a few feet in front of their noses.

 

 

 

January 22, 2018 

 

 Conservatives and Republicans 

 

I check the opinion pieces of a number of commentators on political affairs. I think the most incisive and penetrating critic of Trump and his enablers writing today is Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin. This might surprise anyone who is aware that she is a conservative. Her column is titled Right Turn. But, as a conservative, she can’t support the Republican majority in Congress, much less Trump.

 

 She explains why in her column posted online yesterday afternoon, headlined “What happens when a party becomes unmoored from the American creed?” It's available at the Washington Post website –– click on “Q” in the upper left corner and type in “Jennifer Rubin.” She lays out how the Republicans in Congress have betrayed conservative principles and compromised their integrity. It’s a sickening story.


 

January 21, 2018

 

Shutdown

 

In an op-ed piece in yesterday’s Washington Post, Eric Cantor, a former House majority leader, lamented the inability of Congress to avoid a government shutdown. Why, he asked, couldn’t they make a deal whereby the Democrats agreed to substantially increased border security and the Republicans agreed to DACA (ensuring the “Dreamers” right to stay in the United States and become eligible for citizenship)?

 

 The main reason why is Trump, who regularly destroys the negotiating process with conflicting signals. Though he affects being a strong leader, he’s yanked every which way by people on his staff and other influences. In her Washington Post column Jennifer Rubin notes: “There is a large majority for a deal that includes border security, a DACA fix, extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program and increased defense spending. Put it on the floor and let it pass — by a wide margin. Send it to the president, who said he’d sign whatever was agreed to.” 

 

He would too, attributing it to his great leadership.

 

 

 

January 20, 2018

 

 Space Trips

 

 I’m reading Scott Kelly’s memoir, Endurance, in which he tells what it was like to spend a year aboard the International Space Station. Our bodies are designed to resist gravity. It’s not good for your health not having any. A year without it may be close to the limit humans can endure.


 Kelly tells of looking down on Earth, an incomparably beautiful planet except where swatches of air pollution clog the air above the ground. I wonder if he’ll tell about looking out the windows, at the stars –– at the cosmos.  


The ISS orbits Earth at about one-thousandth of the distance to the moon when it passes overhead, and the moon is about about one-two hundredths of the distance to Mars when Mars is closest to Earth. Fifty years from now astronauts will be extremely smart robots. We might be sending them on a trip to another star system, but I’ve read that such trips will keep getting postponed because a generation after a ship is launched a new faster one could be developed that would overtake the first one on its journey, so there’s no point in launching the first one. And the same is probably true of the second one too.

 

 

 

January 19, 2018 

 

 Roth on Trump 

 

I read an interview with Phillip Roth. Now 85, he no longer writes. Asked about Trump, he observed; “Trump . . . is a massive fraud, the evil sum of his deficiencies, devoid of everything but the hollow ideology of a megalomaniac.” 


 Who could have said it better in so few words?


 

 

January 18, 2018 

 

Desperately Needed Deterrence 

 

 Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Chris Van Hollen have introduced a bill titled the Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines Act (the DETER Act). Its purpose is to deter foreign powers from interfering with our elections. It would institute extremely severe sanctions in the event of non-compliance. 


 Much more needs to be done, but this bill is a commendable step in the right direction. Members of Congress who fail to support it are in effect declaring that they prefer to support and protect Trump rather than American democracy.

 

 

January 17, 2018

 

The Cognitive Test Given Trump

 

1.  Who do you think is the president of the United States?         


       A. Trump


2. What do you think is the name of the most impressive tower in New York? 

 

     A. Trump


 3.  Who do you think is the least racist person in the United States? 


      A. Trump


 4.  Who do you think has the biggest nuclear button in the world?


 A. Trump


 5.  What kind of genius do you think you are? 

 

           a)  stable ?

 

                            or

                 b) very stable? 

 

A.  Trump

 

 Please, Mr. President. Which of the two choices above. Just point at which one. . . the choices. . . . Right!

 

 Score:  100%

 

 

January 16, 2018 

 

Trump and Hitler 

 

Stirred by thinking of similarities between Trump and Hitler, I’ve  begun reading William Shirer’s monumental book, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Trump and Hitler differ in many ways, and the United States differs in many ways from Germany at the time of Hitler’s ascent. But similarities there are. 


 Shirer quotes the eminent German historian Friedrich Meinecke, saying, of the Third Reich, “It is one of the great examples of the singular and incalculable power of personality in historical life.” Shirer adds, “To some Germans, and no doubt to most foreigners, it appeared that a charlatan had come to power in Berlin. To the majority of Germans Hitler had –– or would shortly assume –– the aura of a truly charismatic leader.” 


 Trump is much less clever than Hitler, but Trump is like Hitler in having an outsized personality, which coupled with highly improbable success, is an attractant for multitudes who yearn for magical redress of their discontent. 

 

 

January 15, 2018

 

Two Senators Reveal Who and What They Are


 Senators Perdue and Cotton, stalwart Trump-enablers, were present at a meeting in which Trump referred to Haiti as “a shit-hole country.” Trump’s comment was reported by others who were at the meeting. Senators Perdue and Cotton both said, “I do not recall” the president saying this. “I do not recall,” is a common utterance in judicial proceedings. It’s a subjective statement that’s hard to disprove. It’s a safe statement to make, usually, but in this case it’s safe to conclude that it was a lie. 


 If the president of the United States made such a self-revealing and incendiary statement in one’s presence, it would burn into the mind. It would be impossible not to recall it, at least for a long time! Suppose Trump didn’t make that statement. Suppose that Perdue and Cotton had never heard it. They would not have said that they “do not recall” the president’s saying it; they would have said that they were shocked at the accusation. They would have said that Trump never said such a thing in their presence. In saying “I do not recall,” they revealed themselves for who and what they are.


 Note: After writing the above, I read that both Perdue and Cotton now claim that Trump didn’t say the offensive words. One called the report a “distortion” and the other called it a “gross misrepresentation.” After their recollections had so strikingly improved, why didn’t they tell us what they claim Trump did say? By lying to protect Trump, they betray their country.

 

 

 

January 14, 2018

 

 Trump Enablers, Mueller, and Time

 

Trump long ago ran off the rails and been running roughshod over the land. Occasional peeps and chirps of protest have sounded among the Republicans controlling Congress, but none of them has shown more than a momentary preference for defending truth, justice, and the Constitution instead of defending and protecting Trump. Meanwhile, special counsel Robert Mueller and his team work methodically at their task. A cataclysm awaits us. We drift toward it on the river of time.


 

 

January 13, 2018

 

 The Greatest Danger

 

In a recent interview Bruce Blair, a research scholar at Princeton and former ICBM launch-control officer, cast a bright light on the risk of nuclear war. Blair notes, “The president has roughly six minutes to make a decision if it appears that we are under attack. The whole process is very mechanical.” A president who is momentarily irrational or panic-stricken can initiate an exchange that could kill hundreds of millions of people. Survivors would wonder why our leaders failed to institute safeguards. 


 Only the demented and deluded can imagine that Trump is mentally or morally fit to be in control of our nuclear arsenal. The most urgently needed safeguard is his removal from office through the impeachment process or under the 25th Amendment. Additional  safeguards are needed in any event. The assent of at least two people should be required to initiate a nuclear strike. Such a requirement on a Russian submarine during the Cuban Missile Crisis may have been all that shielded the Soviet Union and the United States from mutual destruction. A bill in Congress that will probably go nowhere denies the president the power to initiate a nuclear strike unless Congress has declared war. America should adopt a no first use policy. If our country took these initiatives the world would become very much safer, and we would be too.

 

 

January 12, 2018

 

An Interesting Contingency

 

 What would happen if special counsel Robert Mueller subpoenaed Trump to testify before a grand jury? It’s hard to imagine how Trump could get through such an ordeal without committing perjury or admitting to commission of one or more felonies and actions that would be within the scope of “High Crimes and Misdemeanors” under the Constitution. 


 Odds are that he would decline to honor the subpoena, and the case would go to the Supreme Court. There is an old saying that “the Constitution is what the Supreme Court says it is.” A ruling that Trump had no duty to honor the subpoena would mean that, contrary to what we all thought, the Constitution provides that there is somebody who is above the law. 

 

Suppose the Supreme Court rules that Trump must honor the subpoena, but he refuses to do so. Then he would be in contempt of court and subject to arrest. U.S. marshals would come to the White House to arrest him. They would be met by secret service officers. What happens next would depend on a number of factors, including how low Trump-enabling Republicans in Congress are willing to sink.


 

 January 11, 2018

 

The Happiest Thing 

 

 It’s best not to think too much about what’s the saddest thing happening in the Trumpist Age. It could get impossibly time-consuming, so multitudinous is the list of Trumpist topics, each saturated, many oversaturated, with sadness. There are happy things to think about. There are lots! Here is the happiest thing I learned yesterday.

 

 Jennifer Rubin, in The Washington Post: 

 The announced retirements of Republican Senators Bob Corker (Tenn.) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.) — plus Democratic Senator Doug Jones’s stunning upset in Alabama and the emergence of crackpot Republican candidates (e.g., Joe Arpaio and Kelli Ward in Arizona) — have put the Senate majority in play. A tidal wave of retirements in the House, including nine chairmen as of today, increases the chances of a GOP wipe-out.

 I’m on the lookout for happy things!

 

 

January 10, 2018

 

The Saddest Thing

 

There are so many sad things about Trump and his enablers, which include just about every Republican member of Congress, that it’s not easy to identify the saddest. Fair minded people may disagree, and I may change my mind by tomorrow, but for the moment I think the saddest thing is the contempt for American democracy shown by powerful Republicans in impeding and diverting attention from investigations of the Trump - Russian connection, politicizing the Justice Department, and ignoring ongoing Russian attempts to manipulate our elections. 

 

 

January 9, 2018

 

 A Peek at a Future History Book

 

A history book, written a few decades in the future, has the familiar title, What Happened, but it’s far more revealing than Hillary Clinton’s book, published last year. The author recounts in detail how the greatest country on Earth spun out of control. In the book’s introduction she writes:

 

 What still seems inexplicable is that, even in remote communities, almost everyone in the world was aware that the president of the United States was incompetent, corrupt, and mentally impaired; yet the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress, though it had unquestionable Constitutional authority to impeach and remove him, allowed him to remain in office despite the grave danger he presented to American democracy and to the entire world.

 

 The contemporary scholar James Mann summed up the state of affairs at the beginning of 2018 in a publication called The New York Review of Books:  

 "After Trump’s first year in office, what is clear beyond doubt is that the damage he is causing to the nation, to its domestic and foreign policies, and even more to the rule of law, to its constitutional system, to its social fabric, and to its very sense of national identity, is piling up week by week. The longer he stays, the worse it will get."

“Trump stayed in office longer, month after month after month, and each month it got worse. We all know what happened next.”


 

 

January 8, 2018

 

Urge Impeachment, or Not?

 

Among those people in Congress –– nearly all Democrats ––  who think that Trump should be removed from office as soon as possible, there is a divergence of opinion between those who argue that impeachment proceedings should begin immediately and those who think that, given its present political impossibility, urging impeachment would be premature and counter-productive. 


Trump should be removed from office. It’s not a close question. Ample grounds exist. To remain silent on the subject is to support the fiction that Trump is, or conceivably could be, fit to serve as president, but there is some merit in holding back on calling for impeachment, because chances of getting the Republican-controlled Congress to impeach Trump are nil, and futile initiatives, however laudable, are vulnerable to being perceived, and assailed, as political posturing.


 This said, quiescence isn’t an acceptable. The position of every person of good will in Congress, whether Republican or Democrat, should be that Trump should be impeached as soon as possible, and in the meantime he should be opposed continually, strenuously, and without compromise. 


In particular, and of the moment, all people of good will in Congress should resist Trump’s attempts at extortion. For example, they should refuse to authorize abominable projects, such as Trump’s wall, in exchange for Republicans agreeing to what anyone with the least sense of decency would support without hesitation or seeking favor–– protecting the “Dreamers” from deportation. 

 

 

January 7, 2018

 

Emily Dickinson Looks in on 2018

 

I’m a very stable genius.

 You’re not a very stable genius too!

 There cannot be a pair of us.

 They’d advertise –– I’d sue.


 How dreary to be just very smart.

 How dull to care what’s true, 

 To spend each day working

 Honestly –– as you do.

 

 

 

January 6, 2018

 

Forms of Derangement

 

Brandy Lee, an assistant professor in forensic psychiatry at Yale, has spent 20 years studying, predicting, and preventing violence. She and other experts have observed that people who become violent tend to exhibit behavior predictive of violence. Trump fits this template. In the new book The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump 27 psychiatrists reinforce the point. Meanwhile Republican members of Congress, exhibiting their own form of derangement. have stepped up efforts to divert attention from and stifle the Russian - Trump investigation,  

 
 

 

January 5, 2018

 

 America’s Second Civil War 

 

 Former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks: "I know I can" make an obstruction case against President Trump. "The pieces of the puzzle are fitting together and they spell obstruction." 

 

 More than at any time since that of Lincoln this country is engaged in civil war. It may not seem that way because no shots are being fired. But war it is, this time, instead of a war between the proponents and opponents of slavery, a war between proponents and opponents of constitutional democracy.  

 

 By now Trump must realize that he is at risk of spending time in prison unless he can bend judicial and administrative processes to his will. Like so many southern confederate officers a century and a half ago, from Robert E. Lee on down, most Republicans in Congress and in high positions in the Administration have chosen to take a stand against the Union: they've thrown their lot in with the aspiring autocrat in the White House. By their complicity with him they betray their country.

 

 The forces content to turn America into an autocracy would transform our revered Constitution into as meaningless a piece of paper as the constitution of Russia and that of all other countries governed by the rule of man, not law. The year 2018 will long be noted in memory.


 

Janurary 4, 2018

 

The Republican Leadership: Open Your Eyes


Jennifer Rubin: “Republicans remain silent, making a mockery of their own oaths of office. Their cardinal sin — pretending that Trump is emotionally, intellectually and temperamentally fit to govern and could be used for their own partisan ends — is belied by Trump’s daily utterances, whether they are an attack on the institutional norms that block his acquisition of unlimited power or the reckless threat of nuclear confrontation with North Korea.” 


 E. J. Dionne: “Trump is, without question, doing enormous damage to the United States’ standing in the world, and his strategy for political survival is rooted in a willingness to destroy our institutions.”


Will the Republican leadership come to their senses in time? Or will they keep propping up Trump until it’s too late to save our country? 


 

January 3, 2018 

 

 My Guiding Principle for 2018

 

 It’s the same as for 2017: Christiane Amanpour’s injunction: “Fight against normalization of the unacceptable.” 


 Recently I read a comment by a pundit in which he described Trump’s presidency as “unconventional.” As in “my nuclear button is bigger than his nuclear button,” for example? That won’t do. “Unconventional” allows a positive inference in a situation where none is justified.

 

 Any statement anyone makes that implies that Trump may not be utterly unfit to to be president of the United States is an act of “normalization.” We need to fight against that every day until he’s gone.


January 2, 2018 

 

 Best Quote in 2017 about 2018 

 

Former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks: “It’s going to be an exciting year.”


 

January 1, 2018 

 

 Looking Ahead

 

Watching events unfold during the past two years, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s considerably more likely than not that, in addition to two of Trump’s associates who have already pleaded guilty and two more under indictment, Trump himself, two members of his family, and a half dozen or more of his close associates, including the vice-president and at least two cabinet members, have all committed felonies, and if the relevant facts about their behavior were exposed to the light of day and they were not politically protected by complicit allies in Congress or pardoned, they would in due course be indicted and convicted of numerous violations of federal and state criminal codes. If anything close to such a scenario evolved, among other effects would be exposure to most of those to whom it has not already been evident that the Republican party is controlled by fools and knaves. 

 

Trump and those in his entourage apparently failed to imagine that, once he was inaugurated, he would not have complete control of the administrative arm of the United States government. It’s doubtful that it ever crossed his mind that a special counsel could be appointed to investigate his Russian ties and other malefactions. Surrounded by the trappings of grandeur, he lives a life of unquiet desperation. Within the next three years, the American Dream may be extinguished, or it may be resoundingly revived.