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 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
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.”
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
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
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 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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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 tyranny. Among 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
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
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
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?
3. Who do you think is the least racist person in the United States?
4. Who do you think has the biggest nuclear button in the world?
5. What kind of genius do you think you are?
a) stable ?
b) very stable?
Please, Mr. President. Which of the two choices above. Just point at which one. . . the choices. . . . Right!
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
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.