November 17, 2018
I started this blog on Dec 4, 2016 as a way of monitoring the catastrophe in motion occasioned by the election of Trump. On completing two years of daily entries, I’m planning to suspend it at end of the month in order to concentrate on a book I’m writing. More about that later. Meanwhile, I plan to post occasional blogs, including one saying something about the last two years in retrospect. I hope to resume with daily entries by January 1, 2020 in anticipation of a wildly active presidential campaign season, which by then will already be underway.
November 16, 2018
Utah Canyon Lands
Driving and walking in the Utah canyon lands doesn’t just involve a change of place; it enlarges your timescale from months and years to tens and hundreds of millions of years. You can feel the ancientness of the towering canyon walls; you can imagine the millions of years that passed before a great slab of rock split off from the face of a cliff and came to rest where you can lean against it and tighten your bootlace.
Some of this terrain gives the feeling of visiting an alien planet. One place we passed reminded me of Mars. Another, a freakish gray assemblage of cliffs and rocks, surely can only exist on a planet millions of light years away. How refreshing for a few days to be transported so far back in time and so far out in space.
November 15h, 2018
Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, is no less a sociopath than Trump. He’s not a bumble-headed malignant narcissist like Trump –– he’s much more clever, much more smooth –– but he’s no less an enemy of democracy than Trump.
While the Florida recount is still proceeding in accordance with Florida law, and no evidence of impropriety has been found, McConnell has joined Trump and Florida governor Rick Scott, who is leading in the as-yet-undecided U.S. Senate race against the incumbent Democrat, Bill Nelson, in claiming that the recount is a fraud perpetrated by Democrats, and has declared Scott the winner and welcomed him as a member of the U. S. Senate. In cases of close elections, the Trumpian strategy, with which McConnell has aligned himself, is to claim fraud despite lack of any basis so that, when all votes have been counted, if the Democratic candidate wins, Republicans can raise a hue and cry that the election was rigged and, if they can get away with it, refuse to recognize the results. This is the stuff of autocratic rule, a route McConnell, no less than Trump, has shown himself willing to take.
November 14, 2018
2. Almost all Republicans in Congress are aware of it.
3. A substantial proportion of Republican voters admire Trump,
the Trump base.
4. Republicans cannot win Republican primaries without support of the Trump base.
5. Republicans in Congress have felt that they had to pretend that Trump is fit to be president to keep from losing primaries.
6. This fiction that they have adopted becomes ever harder to maintain as Trump becomes increasingly frustrated and desperate.
7. We may be approaching a tipping point where most Republican senators and representatives realize that they have more to lose than to gain by continuing to support Trump.
8. Let’s hope so.
November 13, 2018
Matt Whitaker, the ultimate in Trump lackeys, whose big career stratagem of adopting and publicizing legal positions designed to please Trump paid off when Trump appointed him acting attorney general, including authority to oversee, and thus cripple, the Mueller investigation, is likely giving some thought to consequences of actions he might take in his new position.
It’s not tremendously unlikely that Whitaker will betray Trump’s confidence and recuse himself from overseeing the Mueller investigation. This would cause Trump to get even more angry at Whitaker than he got at Sessions when Sessions recused himself, but it would insulate Whitaker from possible future prosecution for obstruction of justice, earn him widespread praise, and improve longterm prospects for his career. Matt, this is your chance to be a hero and serve your own selfish interest at the same time!
November 12, 2018
The votes have mostly been counted. The contours of the new Congress, which will convene in January, have been established. There will be no relaxation in the struggle against the baleful force personified by Trump and his enablers and emulators, which, as Jennifer Rubin so acutely states it, “pits nihilism against objective reality, the cult of personality against the rule of law, and decency against cruelty.”
November 11, 2018
To Impeach, or Not To Impeach.
There are multiple grounds, each sufficient in itself, for impeaching Trump and removing him from office. The world would be a better place if this happened. Two months from now, Democrats will take control of the House of Representatives and for the first time have the power to impeach him. Most Democratic leaders and most liberal-leaning pundits argue that they shouldn’t do so, because there is no chance that Trump would be removed from office –– the Senate will remain controlled by Republicans, and removal requires that two-thirds of the senators favor it –– and impeaching Trump would have an inflammatory and distracting effect, hurting Democrats more than helping them.
This a plausible line of reasoning, but I think it is wrong because it is complicit with the fiction that Trump is not a dangerous sociopath who does immense damage every day he remains in office. By impeaching him -–– clinically laying out the long list of his rank offenses, Democrats would lay bare for all to see just how grave Trump’s “high crimes and misdemeanors” have been. Impeaching him would be a salutary repudiation of normalization of the unacceptable. It’s arguably a moral obligation.
November 10, 2018
Trump and the Republicans
Since the election Trump has made it clearer than ever that he seeks to be a dictator. That Republicans controlling Congress are neglecting their duty to hold this grotesquely empowered sociopathic bully in check is no less of a historic scandal than Trump’s presidency.
November 9, 2018
The State of the Union is Perilous
By firing Sessions and installing Matt Whittaker, a notorious Trump toady (accurately described as a “crackpot” by Ruth Marcus in her Washington Post column this morning) as acting attorney general for the obvious purpose of ending or crippling the special counsel’s investigation, Trump supplied the country with yet another indisputable reason why he should be impeached and removed from office. Since this can’t be accomplished without two-thirds of the senate supporting it, and Republicans in Congress have shown themselves to be willing to toss American democracy on the trash heap so long as it serves their personal interests to do so, chances that Trump can be removed before January 2021 are close to nil.
For the good of our country and the entire world, Trump must be voted out of office in 2020. Democrats should be thinking, not about the person they would most like to become president, but the person most likely to defeat Trump. All other considerations are subordinate.
November 8, 2018
Trump, in characteristic fashion, has warned Democrats in Congress not to investigate him or his allies, threatening that if they do he will get the Senate to investigate Democrats. “My house of Congress can beat up your house of Congress” is the way Trump’s mind works. This presumes that misdeeds of similar gravity are waiting to be found in both camps, but there are overwhelming indications that this is not the case.
November 7, 2018
The worst didn't happen –– Republicans didn't retain control of both houses of Congress –– but it's deeply disturbing that voters didn't overwhelmingly repudicate Trump and those allied with him. American democracy is still in peril.
November 6, 2018
After the Elections
After the closing of the last polls this evening, a dam will break, one that’s been holding back two floods. One is deferred action by Special Counsel Mueller, very possibly including indictment of Roger Stone for colluding with Russia on behalf of the Trump campaign; the other is the firing of Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein, elevating the Trump-friendly solicitor general, Noel Francisco, to acting attorney general, with power to oversee, and thus cripple or even terminate, the Mueller investigation. So far, it’s been an interesting year. The remainder will likely be even more so.
November 5, 2018
Washington Post report: “In the campaign’s final days, President Trump has claimed without evidence that Democrats want to destroy the economy, obliterate Medicare and open the borders to violent criminals.”
To be content with this behavior is to lack human decency. To fail to condemn it is to repudiate American democracy.
November 4, 2018
It’s not an overstatement to say that the fate of nation hinges on the mid-term elections two days away. Trump has consistently displayed his overwhelming moral and intellectual unfitness for office, yet propagandists –– Fox News and the like –– have propped him up, and Republicans have thrown their lot in with him. If they retain control of both houses of Congress, we may expect them to accommodate him to an even greater degree; intoxicated by success, he will commit amazing new feats of self-glorification; and in the remaining years of his term, we will witness entrenchment of government of, by, and for the rich, powerful, and ruthless at the expense of everyone else.
By Wednesday we’ll have a better idea as to whether American democracy can survive.
November 3, 2018
Doing the Right Thing
I’ve started writing a book one topic in which is the desirability of invariably doing the right thing. This requires you to inquire whether you’re fooling yourself, rationalizing a proposed decision as right, or not thinking about it at all, when on conducting more searching analysis you would realize that it is wrong.
It might sound as if adopting this practice would be burdensome. I’ve concluded that the opposite is true, that its effect is to clear static out of your head. That process I also intend to explore.
November 2, 2018
Native Americans Barred from Voting in North Dakota
I read that a federal judge has upheld a law passed by the North Dakota legislature requiring street addresses on voter registrations, effectively barring native Americans who live on reservations and by long tradition have no street addresses. The sole purpose of the law is to disenfranchise a large block of voters likely to vote Democratic. Because of the law and the accommodating court ruling, Heidi Heitcamp, the incumbent senator, a Democrat, will almost certainly lose her seat to the Republican challenger. It’s through actions like this that democracies die.
November 1, 2018
A Needed Poll
Slate headline: “Even after violent attacks, Fox & Friends can’t
tolerate anyone who would criticize the president’s rhetoric.”
I’d like to see a poll that reveals the percentage of eligible voters in each state who get 80% or more of their news (or what they think is news) from Fox News. That’s because I think that people 80% or more of whose exposure to news is to Fox News are adequately shielded from truth –– truth can no longer get through to them. The poll would give an indication of the percentage of voters with captive minds.
October 31, 2018
How Trump's Brain Works
Headline: “Populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians have declined by 60 percent since 1970, the World Wildlife Fund has found.”
All those creatures are losers. Humans are the greatest. Our numbers have increased tremendously.
October 30, 2018
Trump’s Talk Repertoire
Among the good points Jennifer Rubin made in a Washington Post column yesterday was that if Trump did not divide, lie, boast, and incite, he would have nothing to talk about. Because he is unacquainted with other modes of discourse, abandoning these themes would render him mute.
October 29, 2018
The Trump of the Tropics
The New York Times reports: Jair Bolsonaro, just elected president of Brazil, “has exalted the country’s military dictatorship, advocated torture and threatened to destroy, jail or drive into exile his political opponents.”
October 28, 2018
I’ve read that population experts are pretty much in agreement that world population, which is presently about 7.7 billion, will peak at 10 -12 billion. Beyond that would be unsustainable. Either the birth rate has to come down or the death rate has to go up, or some combination of the two. Given wise world leadership, declining birth rate will be by far the dominant factor.
October 27, 2018
Reason # ? (I’ve lost count of the numbers) Why Trump Should Not Be President
News Item: “The Trump administration is preparing to tell Russian leaders next week that the U.S. is planning to exit the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.”
One of the most vital responsibilities of a president of the United States is to work unceasingly to reduce nuclear armaments throughout the world. This has nothing to do with what motivates Trump. His concern is to look tough.
In a recent New York Times column former Secretary of State George Shultz wrote, “This is the time to expand, not abandon, an important nuclear weapons agreement with Russia. . . .” A few days before, the Times published an op-ed piece by former Soviet Premier, Michael Gorbachev to the same effect. Both men are infinitely more informed of strategic considerations than Trump. Not only should Trump not be president. It’s morally indefensible to support him.
October 26, 2018
Can This Patient Be Saved?
America may lack an immunity system strong enough to survive the highly virulent disease that’s been ravaging it. Otherwise, it would have generated antibodies that would already have sent Trump back to his palaces, towers, and golf courses. Can the patient be kept alive until the disease runs its course? We’ll have a better idea after November 6th, when the patient will be treated with voter therapy.
October 25, 2018
Peeking at Future History Books
It’s getting so that, often several times a day, Trump says or does something or there’s a credible report about him that is sufficient to demonstrate that he’s unfit to hold office. What has he been doing lately? Gail Collins in her online New York Times column last night reports: “The president has been on a rally marathon in which he alternates between saying things that are meant to whip his audience into rage and things that are just wildly egocentric and imaginary.”
If you could peek at future history books, you would find that it will be the almost unanimous opinion of historians that everyone who helped Trump remain in office was either ignorant, deluded, crazed, cowardly, sociopathic, or a mix of two or more of them.
October 24, 2018
America in Decline
Yesterday, in Moscow, meeting with U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton, Putin mocked the great seal of the United States and said that the United States is no longer a superpower.
Despite this behavior by the Russian dictator, and despite our intelligence services having recently warned that Russia continues to interfere with our elections, and despite the Justice Department having just indicted a Russian agent for illegally trying to influence the 2018 elections, Bolton remained passive, commented that Russian interference had had no effect on the 2016 election, and announced plans for a December meeting between Trump and Putin in Paris. The playing out of such a scenario would have sent waves of shock and horror throughout America were we not living in the Trumpian era.
Last evening, appearing on the Rachel Maddow Show, former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul observed that Bolton’s behavior was most unusual and that Putin had reason to judge America to be in decline. Trump’s pulling out of the international efforts to combat climate change, pulling out of the Iran Nuclear Arms Treaty, spurning the Trans Pacific Partnership, undercutting our NATO allies, and just the other day, pulling out of a longstanding nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia have had a disastrous effect. According to polling results, only in Russia and Israel do people respect the U.S. more than they did ten years ago, countries whose leaders have found Trump to be wholly accommodating.
October 23, 2018
This morning I finished reading These Truths, Jill Lepore’s engaging 789-page history of the United States. For most of the last half of the book the events recounted meshed with my personal recollections.
Winston Churchill took six volumes to chronicle his history of World War II. Volume I was titled “The Gathering Storm.” Volume VI was titled “Triumph and Tragedy. The last part of These Truths, covering years that have slipped by since the turn of the century, feels both like a gathering storm and an unfolding tragedy. The story of the United States from its inception to the present has a sad ending.
October 22, 2018
The Normalization of Dirty Tricks, Continued
With few exceptions, Republicans have descended to Trump’s moral plane. Consider their wide-spread efforts at voter suppression; for example, in Georgia, voiding registrations of voters with trivial irregularities in forms they fill out, aimed at minority voters; having a system of checking absentee ballots that invites abuse and errors prejudicing likely Democratic voters; in Tennessee, closing polling locations convenient to minority voters; in North Dakota, changing requirements to exclude Native Americans living on tribal lands who, by longstanding custom, don’t have street addresses; in Texas, changing address requirements to make voting more difficult for students at a predominantly black college.
As Jennifer Rubin noted in her Washington Post column yesterday, “Two years of Trump leave us wanting to wash away the moral and financial filth that he’s tracked into the White House. If Americans turn out to vote in large enough numbers, the midterms will provide a national cleansing, a political fumigation. . . How refreshing and exhilarating that would be.”
This year, cleaning house is not sufficient. It needs to be fumigated.
October 21, 2018
The Normalization of Dirty Tricks
In These Truths, Jill Lepore’s wonderful new one-volume history of the United States, she recounts how, in the 1930s a Republican public relations team sabotaged the California gubernatorial campaign of the famous writer and muck-raker, Upton Sinclair. They poured through his books, looking for statements he had made that would reflect badly on him. They found one and featured it in a campaign ad: “The sanctity of marriage... I have had such a belief... I have it no longer.”
Sinclair had indeed written these words, but as an assertion by a character in one of his novels. The ad was no more honest than an outright fabrication. Now eight decades later, dirty tricks of this degree of crudity have become almost ubiquitous, most decidedly, blatantly, and egregiously, on the part of Republicans. More on this tomorrow.
October 20, 2018
At a Thursday rally in Montana the other day, Trump openly praised Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) for assaulting a reporter in his bid for Congress last year. “Any guy that can do a body slam, he’s my kind of — he’s my guy,” Trump said.
The survival and perpetuation of the Trumpian ethos will forever be an ugly blot in the history of our country.
“Fight against the normalization of the unacceptable,” Christiane Amanpour said after Trump’s election. Normalizing it is what Republicans have allowed to happen. The whole lot of them should be voted out of office.
October 19, 2018
The Outer Limit of the Perversion of Christianity
Pat Robertson, the Yale Law School-educated founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, may once have been true to the Faith, but he has long been marching in the opposite direction, still holding the Cross of Jesus, Going on Before. At 88, instead of approaching the gates of the Kingdom, he has arrived at their antipode, the outer limit of the perversion of Christianity, supporting Trump’s acquiescence to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, committed almost certainly on orders of the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, scion of the realm known as M.B.S. Vox reports that Robertson’s take on the matter was to remind members of his TV audience that “ . . look, these people are key allies. . .” and to urge them to remember that “we’ve got an arms deal that everybody wanted a piece of. . .”
You don’t have to be a Biblical scholar to know what Jesus would think of that.
October 18, 2018
The Most Exciting Election
Of all the election contests we’ll be monitoring the night of November 6th, the most exciting may be for the governorship of Georgia. Can Stacey Abrams, a black woman, actually beat Brian Kemp, a white standard issue politician in the Georgia Republican mold?
It would seem impossible, especially because Kemp has seemingly dedicated his career as Georgia secretary of state to voter suppression to prevent just such an event from happening. A win by Abrams would generate a fresh breeze so strong that it would dissipate the stench of racism and greed hanging over Georgia and raise the oxygen level across the entire land.
October 17, 2018
Tump and American History
Reading These Truths, Jill Lepore’s luminous new one-volume history of the United States, is to be reminded of the degree to which greed, ruthlessness, dishonesty, and, most conspicuously, racism are thoroughly interwoven in American history. I saw a TV clip of Trump in the White House. Behind him was portrait of Andrew Jackson, who forced the mass removal of native Americans from Georgia to west of the Mississippi River. Thousands died along the way. Trump, who is probably more ignorant of history even than all the other things of which he’s ignorant, is not likely aware of this episode, but if he were, he would unquestionably approve. He would say, of Jackson, “He did great things. He was so under-appreciated.” Trump is only the latest exemplar of villainy in American history, but the stakes are higher now.
October 16, 2018
I watched a short video by Jason Stanley, a Yale philosophy professor, on how fascism has become ascendent or is on the rise in many countries, including, of course, our own.
No matter where they come from, fascist leaders are cut from the same cloth. They style themselves as father figures, strong men who evoke the mythic past. They turn groups against each other, attack the truth, spread propaganda, and stir fear and hate. Trump fits the pattern. A video of him at any of his rallies of supporters exposes his character in full view.
Stanley notes that, “If you’re not worried about fascism, before long it will start to feel normal, and when that happens, we’re all in trouble.”
Agreed. Except I don’t think “trouble” is a strong enough word.
October 15, 2018
Suburban Men and Trump
New York Times Headline: “Suburban men ‘feel better’ about Trump.” Sure, he’s crude at times. I don’t agree with him about everything, but the economy is doing well. He gets things done!
Reading this in conjunction with everything else in the news, and out of the news, for example just what you learn from a review in the same issue of the Times of Michael Lewis’s new book, The Fifth Risk, is enough to make you weep.
Most of the tremendous damage that Trump has been doing to our country is out of sight, but there is plenty that's in sight for anyone with any curiosity or breadth of interest to see. “Suburban men are shown to be ignorant and shallow” would have been a more informative headline, keeping in mind that the Times isn't talking about all suburban men. I’m hopeful that there are a lot of them that don’t feel one bit better about Trump, or better yet, feel worse.
October 14, 2018
What’s the State of Georgia?
Slavery was abolished, but the mindset of proponents of slavery in the years leading up to the Civil War endures a century and a half later and is exhibited conspicuously by politicians like Brian Kemp, the Secretary of State of Georgia, who surely ranks among the most vigorous perpetrators of voter suppression in history. In his official capacity as Secretary of State of Georgia, Kemp has evidently been disenfranchising black voters at the same time as he is running as the Republican candidate for governor against a Democratic opponent, Stacey Abrams, who is black.
The difference is quality as human beings between the two candidates is startling. Abrams is brilliant, experienced, capable, and honorable. Kemp is the worst kind of hack. If he wins, the margin by which he wins will be a nice indicator of the degree of racism and cupidity in Georgia.
October 13, 2018
A Democracy of Dollars
To a large degree, we’re living in a democracy of dollars rather than one of people. Every thousand dollars has one vote. This is not the way it should be, but it doesn’t seem likely it can be fixed. Billions of dollars supporting Republicans control all three branches of government. If there’s a Constitutional Convention to deal with the situation, it’s likely that dollars will control it too.
October 12, 2018
Assaulting Democracy in Plain Sight
One of the duties of Brian Kemp, the Republican Secretary of State of Georgia, is to make sure rules have been complied with by citizens in order to be registered to vote.
Georgia’s population is approximately 32 percent black, according to the U.S. Census, but the list of voter registrations Kemp’s office has on hold is nearly 70 percent black.
Kemp is also the Republican candidate for governor.
His Democratic opponent, Stacey Abrams, is black.
Kemp has refused to recuse himself from overseeing voting procedures.
These facts don’t prove that Kemp is using the power of his office to try to steal the election, but you don’t have to be a statistician to know that they prove that the question should be intensively and thoroughly investigated.
Michelle Goldberg, in her column in today’s New York Times, quotes “the never-Trump conservative” David Frum: “If conservatives become convinced that they cannot win democratically, they will not abandon conservatism. They will reject democracy.”
Democracy is in America is fighting for its life.
October 11, 2018
Election Day Looming Closer
Bernie Sanders: “While you weren’t looking, the House of Representatives just passed another big tax cut for the rich.” Such is life in a plutocracy. Election night is going to demonstrate whether you can keep fooling most of the people all of the time, most of the time, or only some of the time.
October 10, 2018
Democracy In Peril
Republicans controlling Congress have been complicit in the transition of the United States from the world's greatest democracy to a government of, by, and for the rich and privileged –– steamrolling tax cuts primarily for corporations and the rich and especially the super rich; jamming through judicial confirmations of right-wing ideologues; making it harder for poor people and minorities to vote; undercutting access to health care under the Affordable Care Act; failing to provide oversight and investigate corruption of Trump and his appointees; undermining Congressional and Special Counsel investigations of Russian interference in our elections; and acquiescing in Trump’s habitual lying, appeals to prejudice, praise of dictators, denigration of allies, attacks on the free press, and cruel treatment of children in families applying for refugee status.
We had intimations that Republicans seek permanent control of our government when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that his top priority was to make Obama’s presidency a failure, disregarding whether that would be good for the country, then, contrary to the intent of the Constitution, prevented Obama’s Supreme Court nominee from even getting a hearing. Most recently, after a sham F.B.I. investigation, Republicans took a big step toward making the Supreme Court their political weapon by confirming a nominee who exhibited extreme bias against Democrats and holds a disturbingly expansive view of presidential immunity from legal process.
October 9, 2018
A Voting Guide for Republicans
If you’re politically inclined to support Republicans, consider that, except perhaps for Senator Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, Republicans in Congress aren't true Republicans anymore. Being Republican used to stand for being conservative, honorable, and anti-authoritarian, but has come to stand for being Trumpian. (“Trumpian” is a useful word, which can serve well both as an adjective and a noun. It means having, approving of, or going along with, significant qualities, characteristics, and behavior of Trump.) If Trumpianism appeals to you, vote Republican, but if you prefer what being Republican used to stand for, you’ll be much closer to the mark voting Democratic.
October 8, 2018
Nothing To Be Done.
Headline: World has barely 10 years to get control over climate change, U.N. scientists say.
I suppose in nine years a headline will read that the world has barely a year to get control of greenhouse gas emissions, then a month, then that the world must act by midnight, then –– you see where this is headed. Nothing to be done. Nothing to be done. The world will still be habitable for our grandchildren; never mind about theirs.
October 7, 2018
Instead of restraining Trump from indulging in his worst impulses (the only kind he has), Republicans in Congress have chosen to emulate him.
Jennifer Rubin: “Republicans under President Trump have adopted a distinct political methodology evocative of autocratic regimes: Eschew rationality and facts, whip up hate, play to the mob.”
The more of them that are swept out of office this November, the healthier America will be.
October 6, 2018
Headline: “Climate scientists are struggling to find the right words for very bad news.”
A few years ago I read Jared Diamond’s book Collapse, about how societies disintegrate through mindlessness, greed, and lack of foresight. This phenomenon appears to be happening to human civilization itself. In the next few centuries the mix of life on this planet may change with extraordinary rapidity on a geologic timescale. Within the millennium it may take on a character similar to that obtaining several billion years ago, when, as some scientists say, life was limited to certain types of bacteria, extremophiles, as they are called, that live in super-heated sulphuric hydrothermal vents in the ocean floor.
October 5, 2018
Some People Try To Do The Right Thing
It was uplifting to learn yesterday that Democratic Senator Heidi Heitcamp (N.D.) announced that she would vote against confirmation of Kavanaugh despite widespread speculation that she would have to vote in favor of it to have any chance of winning reelection in a state that Trump carried by a 36% margin.
In an interview on MSNBC, her brother explained: “She may lose. But in the morning, when she’s brushing her teeth, she needs to like the person she sees.”
October 4, 2018
I read that, when Jeff Flake was asked if he would have demanded an F.B.I. investigation if he had been running for reelection this year instead of retiring, he said something like “No way.” That was remarkably candid, admitting that he did the right thing only because it wouldn’t hurt him politically. Flake is clearly more honorable than nearly all his Republican colleagues in the Senate, but clearly not honorable enough.
October 3, 2018
The Forty Trillion Dollar Fallacy
Shouldn’t the world’s richest country –– the world’s greatest democracy–– strive to provide access to basic health care for all? What a noble goal. Republicans claim it would be too expensive. The best estimate is that Medicare for All would cost forty trillion dollars over the next ten years!
That would be bad news, except that this is The Forty Trillion Dollar Fallacy! Our present health care system is staggeringly inefficient. Based on a study by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Studies, it’s projected that the cost of health care under our present system will be fifty trillion dollars over the next ten years!
We spend twice a much on health care as other developed countries that cover all their citizens. We could provide basic coverage for a lot more people for a less money. The regime for paying medical providers could be much more fair and efficient. Immense savings could be obtained by trimming the role of insurance companies. Expanded Medicare could do what present Medicare should do but doesn’t –– negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for better prices. Enormous savings could be obtained because people with adequate health care require fewer emergency services. Added revenue could be provided by taking the rich and the super rich off Republican-constructed welfare masquerading as tax reform. The truth is that it’s too expensive morally and economically not to have Medicare for All. It’s a goal we should strive to reach.
Octoberr 2, 2018
Biden should take himself out of the running for 2020. He’s too old, he’s not bright enough or imaginative enough, he descended to Trump’s level by talking about how if they were in high school he would take Trump behind the gym and teach him a lesson. In any case, his conduct toward Anita Hill in the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearing disqualifies him.
It’s true that Biden is the kind of guy that a lot of guys who voted for Trump would feel comfortable having a beer with, whereas they wouldn’t know what to say to Elizabeth Warren, but that’s not enough. There’s a surfeit of prospective Democratic presidential candidates. Biden would perform a useful public service by bowing out.
October 1, 2018
It’s a bitter irony that this week’s F.B.I. investigation will likely turn up nothing new of significance about Kavanaugh and that this will be taken as reason for confirming him. No new F. B. I. evidence is needed. At the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last Thursday, in a single sentence, Kavanaugh supplied everything needed to show that he should not be confirmed:
This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.
It may sound like a strong thing to say, but to vote to confirm this man is to betray our country.
September 30, 2018
Awhile ago in this space, I mentioned Amy Klobuchar as an interesting possibility for the Democratic presidential ticket in 2020. Since then, she has come into higher visibility because she is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Kavanaugh behaved boorishly toward her. A Washington Post online article yesterday reported on the favorable impression Klobuchar made at the hearing Friday, noting, however, that she doesn’t have the firebrand personality some liberals think is needed to combat Trump. I don’t hold to that view. I think she would be a superb choice to run against him.
September 29, 2018
What’s Important to Republicans
Regardless of Kavanaugh’s past and present deceptions and deflections, regardless of his being chosen by Trump because he holds an unusually expansive view of the president’s immunities and powers, no F.B.I. investigation is needed to demonstrate Kavanaugh’s unfitness to serve on the Supreme Court. He wilted, not under cross examination, but on his own initiative, exposing his disqualifying partisan bias and intemperate and vengeful nature for all to see.
As Roger Cohen noted in his New York Times column this morning: “What America saw before the Senate Judiciary Committee was an injudicious man, an angry brat veering from fury to sniveling sobs, a judge so bereft of composure and proportion that it was difficult not to squirm.”
Republican members of the Senate don’t care. As of this writing, not a single one has announced that he or she will vote against this nominee. The goal of Republican members of Congress is to remain in power –– to solidify right-wing control of the country for the long term. Power is more important to them than truth, decency, honesty, and the rule of law.
September 28, 2018
Yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing will long be remembered. I watched Dr. Ford give her opening statement and answer questions, then watched Kavanaugh for a while, but found the experience so intense I had to go for a swim to calm down. (As noted in an earlier blog, I would have voted against Kavanaugh on multiple grounds even if sex assault allegations hadn’t surfaced.)
The proceedings reminded me of a theory I developed over decades of observation: that there are three distinct behavioral reactions among people who have had too many drinks: Some people get sleepy and droopy; some get silly and tend toward buffoonery; and some get mean and abusive.
Observing how Kavanaugh comported himself yesterday left me with no with doubt as to the category to which he belongs.
September 27, 2018
Extremism and Basic Decency
Republicans like to call Elizabeth Warren an extremist. That’s their word for someone who advocates basic decency, as she did the other day:
Last year, Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress gave $1.5 trillion to billionaires and big corporations. Now that they’ve picked our pockets, they want to penalize immigrants who need help buying food and accessing healthcare for their kids – the vast majority of whom are US citizens. Donald Trump is trying to turn the American Dream into a nightmare for working families. How about instead of punishing them for being poor, we ask the wealthiest to pay their fair share? Every kid deserves a chance to succeed – no matter where they're from.
September 26, 2018
The Insanity of Keeping Trump in Office
Everyone is so caught up in the multiple unfolding dramas roiling the land that we lose sight of the biggest elephant in a room crowded with them. It’s reprehensible –- it’s nothing short of insanity –– that the Republican-controlled Congress fails to impeach Trump and remove him from office. Grounds abound for doing so. Why are Republicans so insensible to or unconcerned with Trump’s rank unfitness, which he demonstrates afresh daily, sometimes hourly? Just dwell for a moment on his recent declaration that he is opposed to Puerto Rico statehood because he doesn’t like the mayor of San Juan. Alice in Wonderland never met anything crazier than this, yet we’re living with it.
September 25, 2018
Opportunity for All
Inequality has been on the rise for decades The trend has accelerated during the Trumpian era, largely because of tax cuts and tax breaks primarily for corporations, the rich, and especially the super rich. Instead of raising wages and salaries by more than token amounts or investing in new technologies and services, corporations have been putting most of their windfalls into buying back their own stock, which has the effect of raising stock market valuations and further enriching stockholders. 84% of stocks are owned by the richest 10% of Americans. Only half of households own any stocks, so they are essentially left out. Increases in ordinary wages and salaries are meager, barely keeping pace with inflation. Interest rates rise because the government must borrow increasingly to make up for lost tax revenue. The rich grow richer and the poor stagnate.
History shows that agendas purporting to equalize wealth lead to disaster. The same is true of agendas conducive to excessive concentrations of wealth. It’s not healthy for the nation when almost half the population is pinned down, struggling from paycheck to paycheck, unable to save for emergencies, education, training, or retirement, and, because of our lack of meaningful campaign financing laws, the richest people have outsized power to chart the nation’s course. Our present tax structure is tilted to favor those who are already rich. It should be tilted to promote opportunity for all.
September 24, 2018
North of Crested Butte, Colorado,
rounding a bend in the trail,
I came upon a vista of gray mountains
shimmering in “a certain slant of light”
while misty clouds passed in front of the sun.
My camera couldn’t capture it.
The clouds moved on, reducing
what had been a magical apparition
to ordinary beauty.
September 23, 2018
I’m not inherently interested in politics, but this year is an emergency, and I find myself writing about little else. Writing a daily blog is a way of forcing myself to keep up with the news in some depth, enabling me to help try to flip my Congressional district. The incumbent Republican is a fellow of mediocre intellect and subpar moral character. The Democratic challenger, whom I support, is smart, honest, experienced, energetic, pragmatic, and an immeasurably better all-round person. I’m writing a series of letters to the editor of most of the newspapers in our district. My blog yesterday, on health care, will serve as a draft of a letter I plan to send out in the next week or two.
September 22, 2018
The Forty Trillion Dollar Fallacy
Shouldn’t the world’s richest country –– the world’s greatest democracy –- provide access to reasonable health care for all?
What a noble goal!
Republicans claim it would be too expensive. It’s easy to think so. The best estimate is that medicare for all would cost 40 trillion dollars over the next ten years.
Forty trillion? Forget it. Or we would have to if this wasn’t the forty trillion dollar fallacy. It ignores that, projections based on a study by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Studies show, under our present system we are likely to spend 50 trillion on health care over the next ten years. By instituting Medicare for All, America’s health care costs could be reduced by trillions of dollars over the same period. Our present health care system is staggeringly inefficient. We spend twice a much on health care as other developed countries that cover all their citizens.
We could provide basic coverage for a lot more people for a lot less money. For example, the regime for paying medical providers could be much more fair and efficient. Huge savings could be obtained by trimming the role of insurance companies. Expanded Medicare could do what present Medicare should do but doesn’t -- negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for much better prices. Enormous savings could be obtained because people with adequate health care require fewer emergency services. Added revenue could be provided by taking the rich and super rich off Republican-constructed welfare masquerading as tax reform. And that’s not the end of savings that could be obtained. The fact is that it’s too expensive morally and economically not to have Medicare for All.
September 21, 2018
Republicans have no basis for refusing to let the FBI investigate Dr. Cristine Blasey Ford’s accusations concerning Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Republican Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley says it isn’t necessary –– his staff has investigated the matter. This kind of dissimulation without trying to create even a semblance of plausibility has become standard practice for Republicans in the age of Trump. It bespeaks what New York Times columnist Roger Cohen calls “the insidiousness of Trump’s moral depravity.”
American Democracy is capable of withstanding attack from any foreign foe, but may not be able to withstand a combine of Americans in positions of power who have no inhibitions about setting our country on an autocratic path.
September 20, 2018
The Most Unlikely Catastrophe
Of all the catastrophes that might have befallen our country, I would not have imagined that, as now appears likely, every Republican senator, 51 of them, I believe, will throw aside all sense of comity and respect for our legal traditions in order to confirm under false pretenses and at breakneck speed as a justice of the Supreme Court a man whose character and record evidence his unfitness, but, like Trump himself, they value as an instrument of their anti-democratic agenda.
September 19, 2018
Trump’s Abuse of Power
Trump has ordered the F.B.I to declassify certain documents relating to the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, claiming that they would reveal that the F.B.I. has been out to get him. The claim is spurious. The intent is to obfuscate and mislead. The effect will be to compromise sources and undermine law enforcement. Former acting CIA director John McLaughlin noted, “Much of the information will be too sensitive for the FBI or Justice Department to declassify. If forced to do exactly as the president wishes, this should be a resignation issue for someone in the Justice Department.”
Trump grows ever more desperate as the ring closes in.
September 18, 2018
The Frightening Specter of Democratic Presidential Primaries
It was alarming enough to learn some weeks ago that there might be 35 contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination. That was before John Kerry held his hat up in a way so that a mere flip of the wrist would send it into the ring. Then word came that former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg, who isn’t even a Democrat and is 76, was considering joining the fray. That makes 37 I’ve counted.
Of course, every one of them would be vastly better than Trump, but I’m worried about them standing behind 37 lecterns for the primary debates, the moderator sensibly allowing each only 13 seconds for an opening statement, and only four seconds for questioning each of the other candidates, who will have seven seconds to respond.
We’ve got to whittle this list down! First, rule out everyone who will be 75 or older on election day. So let’s bid a fond good-bye to Joe, Bernie, Mike, and John. There, I feel better already. Now, maybe it’s best to gently usher aside the coastal elites. That’s painful, losing Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Chris Murphy, Kamala Harris, and quite a number of other good people, though I’m glad it will safeguard New York State against losing its governor and its two redoubtable senators. Let’s look to the heartland. Yes, and it’s there we find someone wise, competent, and, unlike almost everyone else, impossible not to like, Minnesota’s senior senator, Amy Klobuchar. Alas, the actual selection process will be a lot more messy.
September 17, 2018
Now Is The Time, John Kasich
Kasich, the honest and competent governor of Ohio, was the most worthy of the candidates who ran in the 2016 Republican primaries. Since then, he has been a persistent critic of Trump. Now is the time for him not only to challenge Trump in 2020, but to promise to run on a Conservative Party ticket if he doesn't secure the Republican nomination. If he did that, chances that Trump would win reelection would instantly drop pleasingly close to zero, causing a sharp rise in net happiness throughout the land.
If Kasich did this, many Republicans would assert that he is in effect handing the election to whomever the Democratic candidate might be. Some would assert that he is ruining his political career. None of these prospects should deter him. It's time for him to come to the aid of his country.
September 16, 2018
A Revealing Comparison
Sometimes the simplest of statistical comparisons tells a lot; in this case about the hypocrisy of the Republican-controlled Congress. (Source: MSNBC News).
Americans Killed Investigations
Behghazi 4 10
Puerto Rico 2,975 0
September 15, 2018
Manafort’s pleading guilty to charges in the second Federal prosecution against him (having already been convicted of eight counts in the first one) and agreeing to cooperate with special counsel Mueller is a major development in the Trumpian machinations saga. Having decided not to count on Trump’s pardoning him, Manafort has to follow the new course he’s embarked upon or get into serious new trouble with the law.
The hurricane clouds approaching Trump are beginning to look darker than those approaching Nixon before his downfall.
September 14, 2018
Trump is so used to getting away with lying that he’s not able to sense when he’s getting so grossly implausible that even some of his slavish enablers begin to show signs of discomfort. This happened earlier this week when he felt free to heartily congratulate himself on his handling of last year's Hurricane Maria devastation in Puerto Rico, rejecting responsible studies showing that some 3,000 people on the island died from hurricane-related causes. Trump continues to cling to the estimate of about 16 or so deaths someone gave him after he flew to San Juan to throw rolls of paper towels to a dozen or so people gathered about him. He appears to be approaching the limit of how much he can get away with.
September 13, 2018
The Art of Diversion
A Washington Post article likens Trump to a magician who creates an illusion through diversion. The eye follows a sweep of the hand and fails to see what should be the object of attention. The more damning a truth is revealed about Trump, the more outrageously he rails against something else. No fabrication is too extravagant for him because extravagance is the key to diversion.
September 12, 2018
Advice for NASA
Headline: NASA ponders selling ad space on its rockets
A few years ago I started writing a novel to be titled The Day Bill Gates Bought Mars. The idea was that NASA couldn’t afford to send a manned mission to Mars, so they asked Bill Gates to help out. “Sure,” Gates said. “I’ll pay for the whole thing, just as long as it’s understand that I’ll own Mars.” It soon became a done deal.
My reason for bringing this up is that I’m a big fan of NASA, and I’m afraid they won’t charge enough for ad space on their rockets. I can imagine them sending a Bud Lite rocket into space for only a million bucks. Not enough! My advice to them to think big and put Mars up for sale, and charge plenty! Despite the premise of my novel, Bill Gates probably won’t be interested, but I think Jeff Bezos would be. If he needs coaxing, throw in the moon as a sweetener.
September 11, 2018
Kavanaugh is emblematic of the tragedy that has befallen our country. Revelations of his prevarications, not to mention his piles of evidence of his dedication to the radical right-wing Trump-entwined cause, raise a slim hope that he may not be confirmed. What a breath of fresh air that would be!
September 10, 2019
This Year Responsible Republicans Will Vote Democratic
Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin was a Republican until the Republican Party left her. Yesterday she wrote: “No Congress has abdicated its role as a co-equal branch to the extent this Congress has. . . voters concerned about fortifying our democracy must deprive the GOP of majorities in one or both houses.”
Agreed. Except “Fortifying” isn’t quite the right word. “Saving” or “Keeping alive” would be more accurate.
September 9, 2018
The Philosophy of Congressional Republicans
The end –– loosening environmental regulations and piling on tax breaks and cuts in return for support from rich corporate and individual donors, brutalizing immigration to please our xenophobic cheerleaders, fighting gun safety laws to please our gun lobby backers, clamping down on women’s reproductive freedom to accommodate the evangelical hucksters who scoop up votes for us, and installing in lifetime positions judges who have proven that they will play along with us –- justifies even as repulsive a means as pretending that Trump is fit to hold office.
September 7, 2018
While virtually every Republican member of Congress is intent on institutionalizing right-wing control of our government, and people of good will are intent on saving American democracy from Trump and his enablers, grave problems go unattended.
Update from The Nuclear Threat Initiative: “After years of progress on nuclear security, the 2018 NTI Nuclear Security Index finds that the progress countries have made to reduce the threat of catastrophic nuclear terrorism is jeopardized by a deterioration of political stability and governance, increase in corruption, and the expanding presence of terrorist groups around the world."
September 6, 2018
There are several reasons why Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court should not be confirmed. Most obvious is that he ducked when asked if a president of the United States could pardon himself. He should have instantly said, “Of course not.” It’s not a deep legal question whether a president can in effect declare himself to be a king. It only requires having heard of the Declaration of Independence.
September 5, 2018
Cyber Era Perils
September 4, 2018
When I was growing up, the day after Labor Day was when the academic year began. It’s about the time my first full-time non-military job began. It’s when you notice the nights are cooler and longer and summer has slipped away. It’s when the election season swings into full gear every even year, this year in just about the biggest way ever. It’s when I get the feeling someone’s whispering in my ear, as at the start of a race, “Go!”
September 3, 2018
Trump regularly displays his demagogic skills in seizing upon words that are apt to describe his character, his utterances, and his actions and ascribing them to critics and enemies. He regularly describes others as “sad,” “disgraceful,” “failing,” “fake,” “crooked,” “disgusting,” and other such terms every one of which could much more aptly be applied to himself.
In the course of his serial lying, he debases language. Some descriptive adjectives have been sapped of their meaning, so often have they been abused by Trump. Language, along with a lot of other things, will have to be revivified after he’s gone.
September 2, 2018
Unless your critical thinking ability has been impaired by watching too much Fox News or listening to Rush Limbaugh and his like, you are aware that our president is a classic demagogue and an aspiring autocrat, contemptuous of truth, outraged by dissent, and eager to be proclaimed above the law. This is not just an opinion. Trump himself reveals this is the case; for example, at a recent rally he proclaimed:
“Today’s Democrat Party is held hostage by left-wing haters, angry mobs, deep-state radicals, establishment cronies and their fake-news allies. . . Our biggest obstacle and their greatest ally actually is the media.”
It's sickening that practically all the surviving Republicans in Congress are wiling to ingratiate themselves to this man.
September 1, 2018
The Overriding Issue
I'm roughing out a series of letters to send to the editor of the many local newspapers in my Congressional district in an effort to help flip it from representation by a Trump-toady Republican to the smart, experienced, competent, honorable, pragmatic progressive Democrat running against him. My basic theme is that this year there is an issue that overrides normal clashes between "conervative" and "progressive" philosophies and policies. It's this:
Will the United States of America reemerge as the world’s greatest democracy and shining example to the world or will it fall under corrupt and self-perpetuating autocratic rule? It can rattle your head thinking about it, but that’s the point in history that we’ve reached.
August 31, 2018
The Malfunctioning and the Remedy
As Jennifer Rubin noted in a Washington Post column yesterday, “Republicans reflect the thinking of the 30 percent of the electorate Trump has bamboozled all along.”
This 30 percent of the electorate represents a clear majority of Republicans, so they govern Republicans, and because Republicans control the government, the effect is that the less than a third of voters control the government.
The remedy for this malfunctioning of democracy is to vote Republicans out and Democrats in this year’s elections.
August 30, 2018
The Affordable Clean Energy Rule
This is the name of Trump’s dispensation to coal-fired utilities allowing them to increase air pollution. The Washington Post reports: “Trump EPA’s own documents. . . reveal that the administration’s plan would result in up to 1,400 American deaths every year by 2030, as more coal burning results in more air pollution.”
If 1,400 will die each year, it’s a good bet that 14,000 will incur significant non-lethal lung problems and that 140,000 will incur some measure of respiratory distress, if only occasional coughing or clearing of the throat, or a vague sense of malaise, and 1,400,000 will notice that vistas are not a sharply defined as they were and the air doesn’t seem as clear, and 14,000,000, or maybe 140,000,000, or so will from time to time feel sick that our country has stumbled so badly as to have installed and maintained a sociopath as president and that so many of us find it to be an acceptable turn in history’s course.
August 29, 2018
Agreement and Disagreement
Republicans and Democrats appear to be in agreement that this fall’s elections are of unparalleled importance for the same reason: if Democrats gain control of either the House of the Senate, they will exercise oversight as to Trump and his confederates, including using subpoena power to conduct thoroughgoing investigations aimed at eliciting critical facts, instead of stalling or diverting attention to bogus issues, as has been the norm with committees under Republican control.
Where members of our two major parties differ is that Republicans fear that this eventuality would frustrate their attempt to submit our country to longterm right-wing authoritarian rule, whereas Democrats see in it hope that government of, by, and for the people may be restored.
August 28, 2018
The Storm, The Ship, The Captain, The Crew
A full gale is building. Were Republicans controlling Congress responsible, courageous, or honorable, they would impeach Trump and remove him from office. Lacking these qualities, they stand mute while their deranged captain steers closer to reefs lining a lee shore.
August 27, 2018
A Call to Service
Now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of their country. One man I hope will do so, because he could make a critical difference, is John Kasich, the respected, competent, and honorable Republican governor of Ohio. Kasich could challenge Trump for the 2020 Republican nomination. If he loses, he could run against Trump on a conservative party ticket. He would be certain to syphon off a large number of votes from people who would otherwise vote for Trump. Though it’s unlikely he would win, he would doom Trump’s chances of wining and thereby render our country a service of incalculable worth.
August 26, 2018
Rogue President; Rogue Republican-controlled Congress
Republicans have refused to initiate investigations or hold hearings on corruption on the part of Trump cabinet appointees. They’ve turned a blind eye to Trump’s conflicts of interests and receipt of foreign monies that violate the emoluments clause of the Constitution. They’ve sat on their hands while self-appointed Trump protectors attempt to undermine the work of the F.B.I., harassed Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, and first impeded and then shut down the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation of Russian interference in our elections.
Republicans have shown have no interest in investigating allegations in sworn testimony by Trump’s longterm lawyer that Trump prevailed on him to violate the law to influence the election. They don’t care that Trump apparently knew of a meeting between a Russian national and top campaign aides in violation of the law and did nothing to stop it.
Our country will be revitalized if Democrats take control of either the House or the Senate in this fall’s elections. Otherwise, we’ll continue to slide down the slope at the bottom of which lies autocratic rule.
August 25, 2018
The Dark Shadow of Trump No Matter What
My blog of August 16, 2018 stated: “The Manafort case has gone to the jury. The evidence against him is overwhelming. One would expect the jury to convict him. I’m doubtful this will happen. About 20% of the population have been conditioned to think that Trump can do no wrong. The odds are that at least one of the jurors is fanatically convinced that the Mueller investigation is a plot against Trump and that resistance against it overrides all other considerations. Such a juror will vote to acquit Manafort and will refuse to yield to a contrary consensus.”
As it turned out, the jury convicted Manafort on 8 of the 18 counts, but it’s an indication of how close my dark speculation came to being realized that, although 11 jurors would have convicted Manafort on all 18 counts, one juror would not budge on her determination to acquit him on 10 of them. This surely was a Trump-no-matter-what juror, who presumably would have liked to acquit Manafort on all 18 counts, but couldn’t go that far in the face of the overwhelming evidence and the shame the other jurors would have heaped on her if she’d been willing to single-handedly hang the jury on all counts. Luckily, she wasn’t sufficiently ideologically dug in enough to completely subvert the workings of justice. Will we (the public) be so lucky if and when Trump or any of his family members are subjected to a criminal prosecution?
August 24, 2018
Trump: “If I’m impeached, the stock market would crash.”
A small price to pay.
August 23, 2018
We’ll Be Lucky If
Trump is almost certainly guilty of multiple federal and state felonies. There is no question that he has committed high crimes and misdemeanors. He should be impeached and removed from office immediately, but our country is in the grip not only of a rogue president but also of a rogue Republican-controlled Congress. Robert Reich gloomily but realistically notes, “We'll be lucky if he loses in 2020. And even if he loses, we’ll be fortunate if he concedes without being literally carried out of the Oval Office amid the stirrings of civil insurgency.”
August 22, 2018
To Throw or Not to Throw
Trump has spent his entire career throwing people under the bus whenever it suits his purposes. Republicans controlling Congress must wondering whether it’s time to throw Trump under the bus. The argument for doing so is that under the bus is where Trump belongs. The argument against it is that it would alienate Trump-no-matter-what voters.
Whether Republicans do or don’t, their fecklessness in having supported and abetted this nightmare-come-true of a president is becoming increasingly conspicuous.
August 21, 2018
Letter to the Editor of the Four Corners Free Press: What This Fall’s Elections Are About
The first thing to realize is that we are not living in ordinary times. Some great historical process has overtaken us, and as responsible citizens we must come to terms with it. We need to stretch our minds to understand what this fall’s elections are about.
In ordinary times the main electoral contests were between Republican candidates and Democratic candidates. Republicans traditionally thought of themselves as conservatives. They wanted to conserve our country and strengthen our nation’s security by building and nourishing alliances with democratic allies in Europe and in Asia. They advocated fiscal responsibility, keeping a brake on the rising national debt. They valued personal integrity, respect for the rule of law, impartiality of judges, and conducting themselves with decency and respect for others.
Democrats subscribed to these principles of American government too, but Democrats were also traditionally concerned with providing a social safety net and opportunities for the less fortunate among us; whereas Republicans emphasized the value of economic freedom, arguing that growing government services and bureaucracies overburdened our society. For Republicans, free enterprise and vigorous competition were the key to America’s success.
If these were ordinary times, as a voter, you would rightly be primarily focused on such issues, but whether you were a Republican, a Democrat, or an Independent, you would expect the candidate you voted for to be dedicated to upholding the rule of law and the Constitution and to fulfilling the vision of the founding fathers and of Abraham Lincoln, whose words are as true today as they were in his own time, when, addressing Congress, he observed: “We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.”
But, as Eleanor Roosevelt said of the years after Pearl Harbor, “This is no ordinary time.” Whether you consider yourself to be a conservative Republican, a progressive Democrat, or somewhere in between, you need to be aware that an overriding issue has been thrust upon us: whether to preserve and invigorate American democracy or allow it to be subverted by a coalition of powerful self-serving factions that have gained control of the Republican Party and are using an ignorant, crude, unstable, unprincipled demagogue as their instrument to undo democratic governance and subject our country to entrenched rule serving the interests of the rich and powerful at the expense of the common good.
This year the election is only secondarily about differing political and economic points of view –– about progressive versus conservative philosophies –– it is primarily about the survival of America as a great democracy and an inspiring source of hope for the world.
August 20, 2018
My Favorite Public Figures
I have a lot of favorite public figures. In my most recent autobiographical note for a book, I cited Rachel Maddow and Gail Collins as two that I especially like.
It’s evident to me, though not universally acknowledged, that Rachel is a national treasure. As for Gail, I don’t see how can anyone cannot truly love someone who began her New York Times column Saturday, “Today let’s talk about the evil deeds of Betsy DeVos.”
August 19, 2018
Friday night Rachel Maddow interviewed former CIA director John Brennan, whose security clearance Trump recently revoked because Trump didn’t like it that, among other unflattering remarks, Brennan said that Trump’s behavior after the Helsinki meeting with Putin was “nothing short of treasonous.” Rachel asked if that meant Brennan thought Trump’s behavior was treasonous. Brennan answered obliquely.
Rachel then noted that if you diagram the sentence, “nothing short of treasonous” means “treasonous.” Again Brennan answered obliquely. I wasn’t surprised. Even though Trump is treasonous, it’s taboo to say so. And even though Trump should be impeached and removed from office, it’s taboo to say so. Such allegations are deemed to be “divisive” and “likely to stir a backlash.” Though most Americans don’t approve of Trump, most (so far) don’t think he’s treasonous. And most don’t think he should be impeached and removed from office. Democratic politicians are advised not to talk about such things. It is said that they are nonstarters for this year's electoral campaigns.This is unfortunate, because Trump isn’t merely a terrible president. We shouldn’t obscure that fact that he’s orders of magnitude worse.
August 18, 2018
Every day this country has an emergency: Trump is still in office. If Republicans controlling Congress were responsible instead of (choose your own string of pejorative adjectives), they would impeach and remove him from office without delay. But, as Jennifer Rubin writes, “We live in a world in which Republicans refuse to put country and Constitution over partisan loyalty to an unfit president. An impeachment effort conducted solely by one party will fail. The remedy, therefore, is to replace as many Republicans as possible in November and then vote Trump out in 2020.”
August 17, 2018
Trump / Nixon
Trump has withdrawn the security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan and named others he’s considering giving the same treatment. No claims have been made that any of the individuals aren’t trustworthy. The charge is that they behave erratically, “erratic” defined as being critical of Trump. Draw up an enemies list and punish them anyway you can is a practice that was the subject of the second count in the Articles of Impeachment of Richard Nixon, and may someday be reprised in a much longer list compiled in the impeachment of Donald Trump.
August 16, 2018
Manafort and the Trump Can Do No Wrong Factor
The Manafort case has gone to the jury. The evidence against him is overwhelming. One would expect the jury to convict him.
I’m doubtful this will happen. About 20% of the population have been conditioned to think that Trump can do no wrong. The odds are that at least one of the jurors is fanatically convinced that the Mueller investigation is a plot against Trump and that resistance against it overrides all other considerations. Such a juror will vote to acquit Manafort and will refuse to yield to a contrary consensus. Others on the jury will be equally adamant that Manafort should be convicted. The jury will be unable to reach an agreement. The judge will declare a mistrial. Trump and Trumpians will proclaim that the result conclusively proves that Manafort is innocent, that the Mueller investigation is a hoax, that Trump himself is totally innocent of wrongdoing, and that jurors who voted to convict Trump are aligned with the “deep state” conspiracy against him.
August 15, 2018
The Good and the Bad in Durango, Colorado
The Bad: Multiple wildfires in our region have decreased visibility. Nearby mountains are no longer sharply defined. Sometimes you can smell smoke, and sometimes after rain it smells like a campfire after you dump a bucket of water on it.
The Good: A sizable new lake –– in the works for years –– was opened for public access this year. It’s set in high terrain with uplifting views in all directions. It’s clear, cool, deep, and blue, and you can wade out a few yards and swim as far as you like, and if you get thirsty drink and not miss a stroke.
August 14, 2018
Trump and the Degradation of the Republican Party
Trump at a recent rally: “I had a great meeting with Putin. . . Now we’re being hindered by the Russian hoax. It’s a hoax, okay?”
No, not okay. Sunday, I sent the following letter to 13 newspapers. So far, just one editor has informed me that he intends to publish it.
To the Editor:
Beginning almost daily with his first tweet, the cock crowing at dawn, Trump’s contempt for truth, his cultivation of public ignorance, his vanity, his boasting, his appeals to prejudice, his ignorance of history, his dismissiveness of science, his indifference to environmental concerns, his practice of surrounding himself with sycophants and unprincipled opportunists, his adulation of autocrats coupled with disparagement of democratic leaders and our traditional allies, his attacks on the press, the Justice Department, the F.B.I., and on judicial proceedings to which he takes offense, his contempt for civil liberties, his greed, racism, hubris, and incompetence, his cruelty, even to innocent children, and his incessant self-aggrandizing are the stuff of tragedy surpassing that of Shakespeare’s King Lear, whose vanity alone brought ruin upon himself, his family, and his nation.
Loathsome as Trump is, he is a sufficiently gifted demagogue and con artist to have gained the loyalty of most Republican voters. As a result, Republican politicians who denounce him or propose to restrain him have been unable to win primary elections against opponents who propagate his confabulations. This grave problem would begin to fade away and our country would instantly be revitalized if Republican politicians –– surely a majority of them –– who are aware that Trump is grossly unfit morally, intellectually, and temperamentally to be president were themselves decent enough to put country over party, integrity over expedience, and right over wrong to say so.
August 13, 2018
Reality and Response
Don’t be like me and read MIchael Tomasky’s article, sardonically titled Hail to the Chief, in the Aug. 16th issue of the New York Review of Books, in bed before calling it a night. It can result in up to eight hours of restlessness, insomnia, and disturbing dreams, so plausibly grim is it in laying out the reality that the anti-democratic right wing Trump-supporting (or Trump-using, if you prefer) coalition has all but taken long-term control of the government of the United States and that American democracy, as the founders envisaged it, as Lincoln envisaged it, appears to be devolving in front of our eyes.
We can’t leave it at that.
August 12, 2018
Economic / Political Note
I read that the inflation rate has kicked up to 2.9% during the past 12 months and that pay for workers has not kept pace. Higher inflation rates and higher interest rates are the natural consequence of running up the deficit in order to give huge tax cuts and breaks primarily to corporations, the rich, and especially the super rich. Republicans weren’t as successful as they hoped they’d be in disguising their plutocrat-favoring new tax structure as a boon to ordinary people. They should suffer for it at the polls, but they may not, because some superrich beneficiaries of these tax cuts are investing in political campaigns to make sure control of Congress remains in friendly hands, i.e. ones with outstretched palms. From a Claire McCaskill fund-raising email I received this morning:
“The Koch network is only spending money on four Senate races this year, and here's the scary news: We made the list. (Lucky us.) The Kochs are coming out against me because I'm leading the charge to get their dark money out of our politics. And they're not alone. Right-wing dark money is pouring into Missouri — and every outlet from Roll Call to The Washington Post reports that Missouri's Senate seat is one of the most vulnerable in the country.”
August 11, 2018
Outrage of the Hour
Trumpian outrages pile on so thick and fast it’s hard to keep up with them. Florida Democrat Senator Ben Nelson is concerned that Russian hackers have gotten malware into the computers used by local election officials. Among other criminal acts, they could delete the names of registered voters, thereby reducing the number of votes cast in precincts that are heavily democratic. Besides Nelson, Florida Republican senator Marco Rubio and Republican senator Richard Burr, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, are concerned about the situation. The person with the most power to do something about this outrage, Florida Governor Rick Scott, a prominent Trump supporter, has made clear that he is not concerned about the situation. Scott, who happens to be challenging Nelson in his reelection bid, obviously won’t mind it if the Russians tilt the election in his favor.
August 10, 2018
I don’t think the stakes have ever been higher in a mid-term election. If the Republicans retain control of both houses of Congress, in their eyes Trumpism will have been validated, and they will be unrestrained in protecting Trump and completing the transformation of our form of government from a deeply flawed democracy into kleptocratic autocracy. If Democrats take control of at least one house of Congress, our deeply flawed democracy may endure.
August 9, 2018
The Degradation of the Republican Party, Continued
This is such an important topic that I decded to expand on it and send it as a letter to the editor of newspapers in my Congressional district. Traditional Republicans need to understand that their party has gone completely off the rails. Here follows my revised version:
Beginning almost daily with his first tweet, the cock crowing at dawn, Trump’s contempt for truth, his cultivation of public ignorance, confusion, and misunderstanding, his vanity, his boasting, his appeals to prejudice, his ignorance of history, his dismissiveness of science, his indifference to environmental concerns, his instinct for surrounding himself with sycophants and unprincipled opportunists, his adulation of autocrats coupled with disparagement of democratic leaders and our traditional allies, his debasement of language, his attacks on the press, the Justice Department, the F.B.I., and judicial proceedings to which he takes offense, his contempt for civil liberties, his greed, racism, hubris, and incompetence, his cruelty, even to innocent children, and his goal, to the exclusion of every other concern, of aggrandizing himself is the stuff of tragedy far outstripping that of King Lear, whose rank vanity alone brought ruin upon himself, his family, and his nation.
Loathsome as Trump is, he is a sufficiently gifted demagogue and con artist to have gained the loyalty of a clear majority of Republican voters. As a result, Republican politicians who denounce him or propose to restrain him have been unable to win primary elections against opponents who propagate his confabulations. This grave problem would fade away and our country would instantly be revitalized if Republican politicians –– surely a majority of them –– who are aware that Trump is grossly unfit morally, intellectually, and temperamentally to be president were themselves decent enough to put country over party, integrity over expedience, and right over wrong to say so.
August 8, 2018
The Degradation of the Republican Party
The dominant factor in the present political situation is that Trump’s election was a catastrophe, the effects of which are evidenced every day. As Richard Cohen noted in his Washington Post column yesterday, “Has there ever been a president as obscene as Donald Trump — a president as obtuse, as ignorant, as base, as dishonest, as indifferent to precedent, as contemptuous of civil liberties, as critical of his own government and officials, as brutish, as cold to consequences, as hostile to the media, as casually racist and as self-centered?”
Loathsome as Trump is, he is a sufficiently gifted demagogue and con artist to have gained the loyalty of a clear majority of Republican voters. As a result, Republican politicians who denounce him or propose to restrain him can’t win a primary election against a Republican who is a Trump supporter and enabler. This would not be a problem if the majority of Republican politicians, who are surely aware that Trump is grossly unfit morally, intellectually, and temperamentally to be president, were themselves decent enough to put country over party, integrity over sliminess, and right over wrong to say so.
August 7, 2018
Excerpt from Putin - Trump Private Meeting in Helsinki
Putin: Donald, It’s a good thing for Russia and a good thing for the U.S. that you and I think alike on so many of the big issues of our time.
Trump: I feel the same way, Vlad. We could accomplish so much, but I’ve been held back by the fake press always criticizing me and never saying a word about all the great things I’ve done for the country, and you should see how people admire me at the rallies I hold. They-
Putin: Yes, I’ve seen clips of your rallies. Very terrific. You generate such enthusiasm. You are a great leader, but the press in the U.S. and those cable networks –– they distort it. They are despicable, those people.
Trump: Vlad, you are so right. I think you’re a great leader too.
Putin: Donald I take that as a high compliment because I know that you have very superior judgment, better than anyone else in your country. Now, about the U.S. elections this November . . .
August 6, 2018
The Scariest Thing Yet
Robert Reich is shining a red warning light on the Koch Brothers - propelled threat of a “rogue” Constitutional Convention. It may sound improbable, but it could happen because of the great preponderance of Republican-controlled state legislatures. At such a convention anything –– anything –– could be up for grabs, and the Republican party is presently controlled by people who have shown a willingness to grab everything they can get.
December 5, 2018
A Perfect Correlation
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Thursday that “the president is rightfully frustrated” that 90 percent of the coverage on him is negative.”
Given that 90% of Trump’s behavior is reprehensible, we have here a perfect correlation.
August 4, 2018
Headline: Saudi Money Floods Trump New York Hotel:
There you go, thinking like a decent human being, concerned with factors besides how rich you can get and assuming others would think the same way. Don’t you understand that wealth is the entire measure of worth?
August 3, 2018
Until Republicans controlling Congress are willing to criticize Trump’s acquiescence in Russian interference and advance legislation to counter such threats, their condemnation of Russian interference is nothing more than show.
August 2, 2018
Blog in Process
I'm just back from travels and have lots to do. I was going to post a blog today anyway, but I need to work on it more. I'll post it tomorrow.
August 1, 2018
Republicans Controlling Congress
Republicans controlling Congress are largely composed of, and bankrolled by, self-aggrandizing corporations and greedy superrich individuals, doctrinally twisted religionists, racists, xenophobes, and other misled, misguided, and resentful persons of all stripes. Trump is the blunt instrument for achieving their aims. It’s a classic bargain with the devil with classic results: the bargainers become devils themselves, pretending not to notice, even abetting, an unremittingly destructive president whose continuing presence in the seat of power is a plague upon our country and a plague upon the world.