Hurricane Michael Comes Ashore Near Refuge For Escaped Slaves

Hurricane Michael came ashore today very near an area of Spanish West Florida that was a refuge in the early 19th century for both escaped slaves and “Red Stick” native Americans.  As historian Steven Hahn tells it in A Nation Without Borders: The United States and Its World in an Age of Civil Wars, 1830-1910 (Penguin, 2016), “the defeat of the Red Sticks and the British in the South during the War of 1812 reconfigured the borderlands of West and East Florida and southern Alabama and Georgia, as both Red Sticks and fugitive slaves looked to regroup.  They collected, together with Seminoles, around a makeshift British post at the mouth of the Apalachicola River in Florida’s northwestern corner.  And once the British evacuated, the blacks remained behind in what became known as Negro Fort, drawing more fugitive slaves from near and far who settled along the river’s banks” (p. 28). Enter General Andrew Jackson, fresh off his January 1815 victory in New Orleans, and now commander of the US regular army’s southern division.  On Jackson’s orders, Lieutenant Colonel Duncan Clinch attacked Negro Fort in the summer of 1816, setting off an explosion that killed most inside. Some survivors retreated toward the Suwannee River and reorganized with aid from Seminole Chief Bowlegs.  In early 1818, Jackson–“with a force of army regulars, Tennessee militiamen, and Lower Creek warriors (bitter enemies of the Upper Creek and Seminoles) totaling thirty-five hundred–move to ‘chastise a savage foe, who, combined with a lawless band of Negro brigands, have—been carrying on a cruel and unprovoked war against the citizens of the United States’….the blacks were heavily outnumbered and only had muskets to fight off long rifles…Jackson occupied the Indian towns, and his troops laid waste to what had been a ‘fertile country.'”

Jackson referred to the army campaign as a “savage and negro war.”  Then as now, who gets labelled “savage” or “not civil” or “a mob” is tied to issues of privilege and power and whose lives matter.  Andrew Jackson’s face looks down on the people in today’s Oval Office.  How much of this history is known to the current occupant?  The elective affinity is clear enough, though.

 

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Judge Kavanaugh Assassinated His Very Own Character And Torched His Own Reputation, Senator McConnell, So Stop Whining

President Trump, if I am parsing his remarks today accurately, realizes that his nominee to the Supreme Court is damaged goods.  Trump is not ready to let go quite yet–he would prefer that McConnell or Grassley or Kavanaugh himself do the dirty work and pull the plug–but his admission the other day that Blasey Ford was credible, and today’s remark that Brett had a serious drinking problem (though Kavanaugh himself did not acknowledge as much as Trump claims Kavanaugh acknowledged) tells me that Trump realizes he is being soiled by the media coverage of Kavanaugh and would likely be stained further if and when Democrats take hold of subpoena power in one or both Houses of Congress.

Senator Mitch McConnell promised today that he would force a Senate vote this week, and attacked Democrats for their supposed “character assassination” of the judge.  Hey Mitch, we didn’t need to watch Saturday Night Live to know that you are only gaslighting yourself.  Mitch, would you feel safe sitting down for a few pints with either the young Brett or the angry judge we saw last Thursday? Right, I didn’t think so.

By the way, all the talk about “no corroboration” is bull.  Corroboration is pertinent information and testimony that confirms or support the testimony of a witness. There is plenty of corroboration for what Dr. Blasey Ford said: her therapy sessions several years ago and her friend’s account of what Ford said at a local restaurant in 2013–that’s all corroboration.  Not proof, but it is corroboration.  The many accounts of classmates of Judge Kavanaugh that he was an out-of-control belligerent drunk in college as well as high school (including Mark Judge’s memoir references to “Bart O’Kavanaugh”)–those accounts all impeach and “assassinate,” so to speak, Judge Kavanaugh’s portrait of his youthful self in his Fox TV interview as well as his Senate Judiciary Committee testimony.  So let’s not get taken in by any talking heads claiming that Blasey Ford’s testimony lacks corroboration.  Furthermore, her credibility was enhanced, in my opinion, by her unwillingness to “force” her memory by claiming things she was no longer able to recall.  The same cannot be said for Kavanaugh’s incredible and unbelievable claim that he suffered no memory loss from alcohol.  He may well be confirmed, and if so it is up to voters to do the most important sorting and sifting and judging.

McConnell and Trump, Speaking From 8th Circle Of Hell, Assail “Uncorroborated And Unsubstantiated” Accusations

President Donald Trump was offered–and accepted–a temporary upgrade from his usual dwelling in the 9th and lowest circle of Hell to join Senator Mitch McConnell in the 8th circle.  Both gave speeches attacking the credibility of women.  After the speeches McConnell stayed amongst the “barrators” (corrupt politicians) in the 8th circle of Dante’s Inferno, while Trump was remanded downward to the bottom basement reserved for the treacherous.  Mark Judge had no comment as he read Superman comics in the back seat of his car in Bethany Beach, Delaware

Lay Off The Cocaine Mitch! (Or At Least Put Him On A Zero-Hour Contract)

Why was Senator “Cocaine Mitch” McConnell (as Don Blankenship called him) lying about the Constitution–on Constitution Day?  What was he thinking when he made up the utterly fake news that the sexual assault allegation against Brett Kavanaugh was put forward at the “11th hour” in an “irregular manner”?  The Constitution, I can assure the Senator, says nothing about any deadline or 11th hour or timeline of any kind for considering Supreme Court nominees.  Also, Merrick Garland, but I digress.  Article 2, section 2, clause 2 of the Constitution gives the president of the United States the responsibility of appointing people (not necessarily judges or even lawyers) to become “Judges of the Supreme Court,” and also gives the Senate the power to “advise and consent” on nominations.  There is nothing in article 2 or anywhere else in the Constitution about an “11th hour.”  Of course the Republican-controlled Senate is eager to confirm this nominee, and to attack the credibility of anyone standing in the way of their project to reshape the high court.  But they are hesitating, for good political reasons, to go forward with a vote on Kavanaugh.  And it has nothing at all to do with respect for the text or the original public meaning of the United States Constitution.

The midterm elections are so close now that as far as I am concerned, Mitch McConnell can do whatever he sees fit, and reap the benefit or pay the price.  He has no good choices, and he knows it.  When McConnell starts making process arguments, and dishonest ones at that, he’s losing.

Just A Day Of Ecumenical Outreach To The English Goths. No Poisoning, None At All, Why Would You Even Ask?

Salisbury Cathedral was marvelous, especially the 123-meter spire–no I did not just look that up on Wikipedia, I always wanted to see a spire of exactly 123 meters, in order to promote interfaith cooperation between the great Orthodox Christian white Russians and the antifascist English Gothics.  Poison? Why do you even bring that up, we were not in Ukraine or Moldova, we were in the land of the second homes of our best oligarchs, why would we risk poisoning one of their serfs?  The Czar would not ask us to do such a thing.

Putin’s trolling of the Anglo-Americans may have hit a peak of cynicism with the interview on Russian TV of the two alleged poisoners.  They say they were just visiting Salisbury Cathedral because they appreciate Gothic architecture, and the clock. Uh-huh.  Did they also enjoy Salisbury Cathedral’s (said to be the best preserved of the original 1215 documents) Magna Carta?  Maybe next time, eh?

https://www.salisburycathedral.org.uk/magna-carta/what-magna-carta

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/we-were-just-visiting-the-cathedral-say-poison-suspects-8kwg225mg

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Russian_Orthodox_Church

Google Pretends To Testify Before Congress Today, Raising The Question: Evil Or Stupid?

An official statement from Google’s public policy blog yesterday announced “Our Testimony to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.”  But it wasn’t actually testimony, or even prepared remarks to kick off a day of actual testimony by a living human being.  It was merely a series of bullet points purporting, absurdly, to be “testimony.”  Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and Jack Dorsey of Twitter, bless their living beating hearts, actually showed up and testified this morning–perhaps evasively and self-servingly, but they testified.

Should we conclude that Google’s pretend testimony is the first fruit of their quiet abandonment of “don’t be evil” as company motto?  Or that Alphabet’s AI engines have malfunctioned and cannot comprehend the plain meaning of the word “testimony”?  In other words, “evil” or “stupid”?  I am agnostic on this question.

https://www.blog.google/outreach-initiatives/public-policy/our-testimony-us-senate-select-committee-intelligence/

https://gizmodo.com/google-removes-nearly-all-mentions-of-dont-be-evil-from-1826153393

Why Do We Perpetuate The Soft Bigotry Of Low Expectations For Republicans In Congress?

It was nice to see yesterday that Republican Senator Ben Sasse recognizes that the United States is in danger of becoming a banana republic (in his statement criticizing President Trump’s tweet attacking the Attorney General for not blocking indictments of Republican Congressmen).  It was nice to see that Senator Jeff Flake also realizes that Trump’s open assault on the rule of law is problematic.  What’s more problematic, though, is that neither Sasse nor Flake seem to feel obliged to do anything about the threat of Trump’s subversion of justice.  I expect they want to run for president, and what senator doesn’t?  But they do not seem to see far enough out ahead to imagine that they have responsibilities, so long as they are in the Senate, to preserve and protect the Constitution.  If they want to be remembered well in the end, they and other Republicans in Congress would do well to realize that the crisis is upon them, and upon us.  Not that they should become Democrats, if they believe that the Republican Party can still be a vehicle for positive things.  But they can and should put sand in the gears of Trump’s attacks on the Department of Justice and the legitimate and necessary checks and balances on an obviously out-of-control president.  If they think that their actions and inactions are not being watched, they are fooling themselves.  They are in a pickle, all right.  I am honestly not sure what I would do in their position.  But if they want to be American heroes, this is their moment, now and for the rest of this Congressional session. Same goes for the rest of the GOP, including Speaker Ryan and Senator Collins and even Orrin Hatch and Chuck Grassley.  Even Dana Rohrabacher and Louie Gohmert.  Why let them be judged by the soft bigotry of low expectations?

If Rudy Giuliani Won’t Pontificate On Moral Theology, Who Will?–Or, “On The Splendor Of Rudolph Giuliani’s Moral Theology Of Truth”

It is a sad day when Rudy Giuliani crushes our spirits by asserting that he will not “pontificate” on moral theology.  This comes after he appeared to do a full “final, essential command” straight outta 1984 by saying that “truth is not truth.”  Let me be perfectly clear that I do not wish to entrap Rudy in a moral theological perjury trap. He did it all by his very own faux-thug self.

Why don’t we leave aside the evident falsity of Mr. Giuliani’s assertions that nobody knew nothing about any Russian government involvement in the June 9, 2016 meeting; and moreover, let’s ignore the does-not-pass-laugh-test claim that the colluding colluders did not even know that “Natalia Veselnitskaya” was a Russian.  The cardinal point Rudy both fails to enunciate explicitly–and yet paradoxically embodies–is the urgency, in our current predicament, of an accurate interpretation of the moral theological principle St. Thomas elaborates in his Commentary on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Book Seven.  I refer of course to “Continence and Incontinence.”  (Certain chapters in Book Six, which explicates the intellectual virtues, are certainly relevant here, e.g. the chapters on “eubulia” (excellence in deliberating) and “moral virtue and prudence,”  but tant pis, tempus fugit, so on we go to continence and incontinence.  This is the elephant in the room, really: we have an incontinent president–seriously, if not literally.  There’s no getting around it and there’s no easy way of hiding from the stench.  Thomas Aquinas, as ever, is expert at sorting out the subcategories and distinctions.  Are we dealing with partial or unqualified incontinence? What is the relation of continence to pleasure-seeking?  Is all pleasure-seeking “softness”?  In what circumstances are incontinent persons reduced to bestiality?  Are the intemperate worse than the incontinent?  How is obstinacy related to continence and incontinence?  I refer readers to the print version of Thomas’s Commentary, available in English translation by C.I. Litzinger, published by Dumb Ox Books (1993). Or to the online link via DHSPriory.org (won’t copy and paste for some reason).

As Mr. Giuliani said in his “pontification” tweet this morning, “sometimes further inquiry can reveal the truth other times it doesn’t.”  I say we must have a thorough investigation into the following question: in what ways is our president continent or incontinent? I am confident that a fair and rigorous, though not obstinate, inquiry will be a balm for our country.  Our country has a habit of turning all political questions into legal questions (as de Tocqueville wrote almost 200 years ago).  This has had some good consequences, and limited some bad effects of our often intemperate habits.  But along with the urgent legal questions we are now marinated in, let us raise our sights–not in a pontificating way, but in an inquiring way, and see where the inquiry takes us.  And let’s not let anyone short-circuit either the legal inquiry or the moral inquiry.

 

P.S. A reading suggesion for co-religionists of Mr. Giuliani, and perhaps others–a papal encyclical on the splendor of truth, “Veritatis Splendor.”

 

 

 

 

 

Are 13 Angry Democrats Enough? 17? How About 535?

At first there were, in the president’s deceitful tweets, a mere 13 “angry Democrats” after him.  Now, I guess in homage to Q or Qanon or whatever, the number has increased to 17 supposedly “angry Democrats” from the purported “criminal deep state” who are hell-bent on colluding to take down this amazingly patriotic president.

If there really was a deep state intent on stopping Donald Trump, he would be in prison right now (h/t Howard Fineman twitter).  He would have been exposed during the 2016 election, if not before.  He would be doing hard time for any number of financial crimes, not to mention witness tampering, obstruction of justice, tax fraud, and on and on.  I suppose it’s a good thing that the country is not what Trump says it is.  That said, I don’t think 13 or even 17 angry Democrats is nearly enough, not this year.  This country needs 535 Democrats (or close to it) elected to Congress this November 6, because the entire Republican Party–from Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan on down to bozos and Russian puppets like Dana Rohrabacher, Steve King, Rand Paul, Louie Gohmert, and Jim Jordan–have shown themselves almost completely incapable of any oversight of the corrupt executive branch and the apparent foreign asset in the White House.  The Republican Party agenda has devolved into nothing more helpful to the “forgotten men and women” than tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. Rather than protecting Americans against evildoers, they have either accepted or insisted on the dismantling of regulations that protect clean air, clean water, collective bargaining, and safe food and drugs.  The Republican Party does not deserve the benefit of the doubt when it fails to protect Americans against the tyrannical impulses of our toddler-in-chief.  I am all for voting for the best candidate in local and even state-level elections, and ordinarily for the best available candidate in federal elections.  But this year, to preserve and protect the Constitution and to protect the greatness of this country, Republicans must be sent packing.  Let them regroup and rethink what they’re doing for at least a couple of years. We had best not miss this chance to put a check on a president who has no feel for freedom, or separation of powers, or checks and balances, or much of anything that has made this country great.

P.S. Of course the 535 do not all need to be angry all the time–but they should be capable of outrage at what is outrageous.

Lowlife Says What?

Why on earth is President Trump bothering to tell us that he condemns “all types of racism”?  Why is signifying worse than lying? Why doesn’t he just admit that Christmas this year is going to be whiter than ever in his White House? Why, that is, is he insisting on being so pseudo-correct?  We know that he is pretending to believe that discrimination against forgotten white people is a greater threat than any other form of discrimination.  We do not need Omarosa telling tales about the bad words he supposedly spews to know that he is playing his base of the “poorly educated” (his words) white non-college graduates for fools.  Why do I say “for fools”? Because he is trying to sell them junk streetsurance, trying to get them to accept the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act by insinuating that it benefits the wrong people, trying to distract them with trash-talking black athletes, trying to bamboozle them with tough talk about brown people in Iran and Chicago and on the border and in the bushes of their neighborhoods, that’s why.  Trump is trying to get his base riled up so they put aside his attacks on collective bargaining and safety net programs and environmental laws (that hurt the “forgotten men and women” sooner and more than they do the wealthy).

But I believe that the mask has slipped a little when the president of the US is calling a woman he knew for many years before his election, and hired for a White House job–which cost taxpayers like you and me hundreds of thousands of dollars–when he calls her names like “lowlife,” you have to wonder, who is really the lowlife?  You have to wonder whether and hope that voters will take the time to show up in November and put a check on the power of our lowlife president.  Sorry if that’s not politically correct, but let’s call it what it obviously is.  Let the president whistle his fake-PC condemnation of “all types of racism,” and let voters condemn all types of Trumpism.

At Least He Didn’t Chew The Incriminating Paper While Wearing A Tan Suit

Who among us is surprised to hear (from possibly unreliable witness Omarosa!) that President Donald J. Trump chews and eats paper in the Oval Office? Not you and not me. Especially if it was a piece of incriminating paper given to him by Michael Cohen, as reports today indicate.  But, to be fair, the president of the “forgotten man” was at least not wearing a tan suit, so we’re good.  Unless we hear next that there was collusion involving illegal insider trading and newsprint tariffs.

 

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/jul/03/paper-paging-through-history-review-mark-kurlansky-rembrandt-gutenberg-picasso-apple-pencil

New York Times and Times of London Appear, Sadly, To Have Run Out Of Ink To Write Headlines

Today brought almost identical headlines from the NYT (“President Admits Focus of Trump Tower Meeting Was Getting Dirt on Clinton”) and the Times of London (“Trump admits son was getting dirt on Clinton”).  What set me off was not the difference in capitalized vs. non-capitalized words.  Nor was it that one paper may have copied from the other.  What got to me was the sad feeling that they had both clearly run out of digital ink.  Did they not have enough to inform readers? To say clearly what the real headline ought to have been?

Real headline from a hypothetical real paper: “President Trump Admits Campaign Meeting Was Getting Dirt On Clinton From Foreign Nationals, Which Is A Felony–And By The Way Throwing Son Under Bus By Claiming He, Trump Sr., Knew Nothing, Which Is Both Terribly Implausible And Utterly Dishonorable.” There, fixed it, you’re welcome, Timeses.

Could This Q Person Be That Nasty Queen Who Kept Our Great President Waiting?

Cannot believe the nerve of that old woman Queen Elizabeth 2, keeping our wonderful president waiting for several agonizing minutes at Windsor the other day.  That is, I literally cannot believe the story, because I literally saw the queen of England standing in the heat and looking at her watch at 4:57 or so.  The American president did show up at 5 or 5:01, so he perhaps did not break protocol, strictly, but come on, Trump–she kept you waiting? Please, your emperorship, stand down for once in your life.

Re this whole Q thing, since O Anon seems to be taken, which I would otherwise have used (Occamites Anonymous), I am going to have to settle for a counter-protest group that I will call P Anon, for Parsimonious Anonymous.  PP Anon (for Parsimonious People Anonymous), alas, is already taken up by the “dodgy dossier” conspiracists.  Speaking of unbelievable, it is beyond obvious that the president of the United States is acting as if he’s guilty of something really bad.  That’s good enough for me to vote for Democratic candidates across the board, even if they may not have always blown their noses into silk hankerchiefs with the utmost discreetness at all times.

From Gaslighting To Shovelware: A Brief History Of The Propaganda Techniques of Our President

First off, I am tired of hearing the word “meddling.”  Russian military intelligence officers and Internet Research Agency trolls did not merely “meddle” in the 2016 election.  Those who repeat this minimizing term are doing our democratic republic no favors.

Second, it is past time to give this president the benefit of the doubt about anything he says.  I get that many of us have a deep desire to believe that our authority figures are protecting us, or are at least on our side, or failing that at least somewhat reliable witnesses.  I like presidents who haven’t been captured as much as the next person, but this president is compromised.  We need to deal with it.

My best hope is that enough eligible voters will be motivated to show up November 6 and put Trump in check, the way the framers of our Constitution hoped would happen when despotic political leaders took office.  Alexander Hamilton would be surprised by the election of someone like Trump (see Federalist #68), but he would be truly appalled if the people failed, at their next biennial opportunity, to use the checks and balances written into the Constitution to limit the power of somebody like our 45th president.  My best hope, in other words, is that enough voters have enough sense to see Trump’s gaslighting (impressively diligent though it is) for what it really is–just shovelware.

https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=shovelware

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shovelware

https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Hamilton/01-12-02-0184-0002–See Objection XIV

Al Sharpton To Michael Cohen: “What The Hell Do You Have To Lose?”

And still Donald Trump continues to insist that “karma is not a bitch,” even as Michael Cohen realizes that, as Al Sharpton told him, “what the hell do you have to lose?”  I am thinking, maybe there’s something going on.

New Presidential Clarification: I Meant To Say Karma Is Not, Repeat Not, A Bitch

Responding to the revelation that (hallelujah) there is a tape (how many?) of Mr. Trump talking hush hush with Cohen, Donald J. Trump has announced that all these years he has really been saying “karma is not a bitch.”  And we were mistaken, Trump added, to think that when he said “lock her up, lock her up” that he meant those words to be taken literally or seriously.  In related news, Vladimir Putin denied that he was not thinking about flipping his support to the Democrats for the midterms.

New York Times And Washington Post Struggling To Stop Giving Trump The Benefit Of The Doubt Today

Today’s top headlines are still Trump-indulgent, for shame.  NY Times: “Trump Says He Misspoke On Russian Role; Under Fire, He Says He Accepts U.S. Reports On Meddling.”  Yes those things happens, but in the very same breath, President Trump said “could be other people also. A lot of other people out there.”  He did not say “what about the 400-pound guy on the sofa in Jersey,” but Trump followers got the message, which is, yeah he said thing A because the lugenpresse and Soros and the Left made him but he also said thing B (the 400-pound guy) to own the libs, and we get it and the elites don’t.

The Washington Post fell into the same trap of indulging the rightwing strategy of getting-dotard-off-the-hook-and-pass-more-tax-cuts-quick.  Their story quoted the “could be other people” message in the first paragraph, but the headline was just as off base as the NYT’s: “Under fire, Trump says he accepts intelligence on Russian interference.”  True as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough.  What part of their own columnist Margaret Sullivan’s advice about giving readers a “truth sandwich” do the Post headline writers still fail to grasp?

P.S. To its credit, CNN (both Brooke Baldwin and Jake Tapper) have dealt skeptically today with Trump’s message, dealing precisely with the issues above.  Note to Marty Baron: I know you are busy, but headlines are very important. To Dean Baquet: it’s not a “great f—ing story” anymore if you eff it up.

Trump (On Hannity’s Show) Confirms “President Putin Is Living Rent-Free In My Head”

In case it wasn’t absolutely clear from the Helsinki press conference, Donald J. Trump has officially confirmed in a TV interview aired on the Hannity show yesterday that Vladimir Putin is giving him direction on how to respond to Robert Mueller’s investigation. Also, in 2013, many many years ago, as President Putin said, I Donald Trump was just one more wannabe pimp. And “he also says there is absolutely no collusion, which you know, and Tucker standing over there definitely knows, because he gets it.  He’s one of the people that get it.”  Now I’m wondering whether Putin gets it, or Tucker gets it, or both.  I think they both get it, it being the absolute lack of collusion.  OK settled that.  Four hours ago, everything changed at the end of a very very long period of time when we came to a lot of really good conclusions. And “foreign relations, I’m going to have a great story.”  A story of me bowing low.  “I did say, you have to pay up.”  And President Putin, he told me to tell everybody that the Mueller witch hunt is a real shame and Russia might have to attack us if we don’t get rid of the Mueller shame. He, Putin, felt is was very hard for me, Donald Trump, to make a deal because of, you know, all of this nonsense and much of the muchness of the case.

Lots Of Low Energy Learned Helplessness From Republicans Today, Wonder Why?

Donald Trump is very strong. He tells it like it is. The world is very dangerous, but Mr. Trump is the one, the only one, who can keep us safe.

That was before yesterday.  Now what?  Many Republicans are now in hiding.  A few (many of whom are retiring) have made critical statements referencing “Russia” as a problem, but not “Trump,” as if “Trump” had little or nothing to do with “Russia.”  Funny, my lying eyes just witnessed President Trump bowing down low, sucking up, accepting a large ball as a gift, and disrespecting American law enforcement and intelligence agencies while standing right next to the former KGB agent who has been the dictator of Russia since before Trump even made it onto reality TV.  Maybe I’ll forget all about that quickly.

As far as I can tell, the Republican appeasement-of-the-appeaser strategy is going as follows: yeah, it wasn’t a good moment, but her emails, but dangerous gangs of Central American brown people, but it’s really all under control, but your tax cuts and Supreme Court.  Maybe it’ll work.  But the “Democrats are talking crazy talk about Russia” thing is not going to fly so well anymore.  The “witch hunt” thing isn’t looking so good anymore (Ryan even said explicitly today that Mueller’s investigation should continue).  Most of all, the “Republican presidents are strong and tough” thing has been pretty well punctured.  Some people on Fox will say Trump can “correct his mistake.”  It’s not so easy, we saw what we saw, the nonverbal messages are not so easy to erase with a tweet or with blathering words.

The learned Republican helplessness won’t help them much either–at least if Democrats continue to pound them every day with the things that Congress actually can and should do: pass a law to protect Mueller.  The Senate Judiciary Committee already passed such a bill 14-7 out of committee, but McConnell refuses to put it on the Senate floor, because of course it would pass. It would not be law unless the House passed it, which is unlikely, but it would be some deterrent to Trump.  Congress could subpoena Trump’s tax returns and business records as part of an investigation into what he owes to Russia.  The House Intelligence Committee could reopen its investigation into Russia-Trump ties, without Devin Nunes on the committee.  All of this might or might not result in impeachment–which is fine, because what is most urgently needed right now is not immediate impeachment, but actual oversight.  The media should not excuse Republicans for their learned helplessness–that would be the soft bigotry of low expectations, wouldn’t it?

Spare Us The “I’m Shocked, Shocked” Reactions To The Helsinki Press Conference

Yes, Trump did go overboard in blowing any remaining cover.  In fact Putin may have tried to dial it down a couple of times (along with dunking on Trump a couple of times, e.g. “are you kidding, of course I wanted this puppet Trump to become president”).  But some of the hot takes from reporters that they are “shocked” makes me wonder: have you considered reassessing your assumptions? your reflexive “bothsidesism”? what news sources have you been reading and watching for the past three years?

Rootless Cosmopolitan President Loses The Run Of Himself In England

Between “I miss the name ‘England’ and insulting the Prime Minister in a tabloid interview and making Queen Elizabeth II wait ten minutes for his arrival while she stood out in the hot sun, the President of the United States lost the run of himself this week.  I agree with the notion that it’s not enough to say that he is a moron–it’s more complicated.  I’m sure that along with the buffoonish commentary about “the name ‘England'” that he intended to bully Prime Minister May by touting Boris Johnson and insinuating that he had a secret sauce for negotiating Brexit and that May has foolishly failed to heed his (so far and probably forever unspecified, like his taxes) brilliantly “brutal” advice.  The purpose of all that was to weaken the existing government, making the “Leavers” feel Trump will surely give them a deal that is the “highest level of special,” all for the sake of making Trump look like he alone can solve the UK’s problems.

He, Trump, may or may not be consciously following a playbook that Putin or his minions have laid out explicitly.  Trump has, though, had contacts with Russians going back over thirty years, long before Putin became czar.  Nevertheless, the Soviets of the 1980s had and Putin today has a consistent purpose: attack the main enemy, the US, via maskirovka aimed at sowing internal divisions.  With Trump they managed to hit the jackpot.  Bullying and autocratic rule and thuggishness have been in Trump’s head (and heart, to speak loosely) for his whole life.  When Trump warned the other day that Europeans had “better watch themselves” lest they lose their “culture,” he was parroting straight-up white nationalist rhetoric, rhetoric that many in Congress, Republican as well as Democrat, have denounced for decades.  But the Republican Party leadership, Senate and House, is now going almost completely silent as Trump becomes ever more open in his alliance with voices that until very recently were completely off-limits for their openly racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-Muslim abuse.  Sam Brownback, Trump’s “ambassador for international religious freedom,” has apparently threatened British officials with reprisals if they do not release Tommie Robinson–that is way out of the bounds of how the US and UK have dealt with one another.  It is apparently not enough for the president to issue pardons to wingnut “sovereign citizens” and arsonists, now they want to meddle in British justice on behalf of the so-called English Defence League.

Who is really the “rootless cosmopolitan” in 2018?  That phrase was used to target Jews in the 20th century. Trump has his own version of racial dog whistling and targeting.  His rhetoric is approaching klaxon horn volume–but he is dangerous precisely because, as so often, he is projecting onto others his own weaknesses.  If there was ever a truly and pitifully rootless wannabe cosmopolitan in our time, he’s it.

https://thinkprogress.org/trump-people-dont-talk-about-england-d3924f0b548b/

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jul/14/trump-may-and-fake-schmooze-todays-front-pages

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-britain-robinson/trumps-ambassador-lobbied-britain-on-behalf-of-jailed-right-wing-activist-tommy-robinson-idUSKBN1K331J

Mueller Removed Agent Strzok From The Trump-Russia Investigation A Year Ago So He’s Old News–But Today’s Hearing Is Still Quite A Show

Robert Mueller removed Peter Strzok from the Russia case about a year ago.  Strzok exercised poor judgment on several fronts. I do not have great faith in Strzok’s assertions that his official actions were not affected by his personal opinions–though it’s worth saying that Strzok, unlike the NY FBI office, does not seem to have threatened to leak or have leaked for political purposes any damaging information about FBI investigations I think Mueller did the right thing sending him packing.   I am thus not sure what point Republicans thought they would be making today, other than to air out Strzok’s embarrassingly dirty laundry, which at this point has little to do with Mueller if one is actually following facts rather than titillating insinuations.  Though I don’t trust Strzok much, the behavior today of Congressmen Goodlatte and Gowdy is at least as tawdry.  Goodlatte has little clue about parliamentary procedure, which may have led him into a Democratic trap.  It is pretty rich that Goodlatte would threaten Strzok with contempt citations (for following FBI legal instructions to refrain from answering any questions bearing on an ongoing investigation) when Steve Bannon faced no such similar compulsion.  Goodlatte’s refusal to let Strzok consult an FBI lawyer this morning would be laughably corrupt if it weren’t such an ominous sign.  Republican refusal to conduct impartial oversight–or much oversight of Trump at all–was never on clearer display than today.  Congressional hectoring of witnesses looks unseemly, but that’s not new.  What’s dangerous is Republican political sabotage of an investigation into Russian political sabotage of our elections.

 

P.S. Further evidence of meddling:

https://mobile.twitter.com/KBAndersen/status/1017459271821381634

The President Doesn’t Need To Read The Black Book Of Communism, Putin Will Read It Aloud For Him

 

The Crimes, the Terror, and the Repression that the Black Book of Communism (1997) describe are likely to fascinate Donald Trump as Vladimir Putin–who speaks pretty good English, I have heard–reads the black book lullaby aloud during their summit meeting.  I expect Putin to lull Trump into a dreamlike fugue state as Trump imagines how beautiful it would be to wield dictatorial power that so far he has just glimpsed longingly from afar.

By the way, what the hell were 7 Republicans from the US Senate doing in Russia on the 4th of July? Where, in particular, do Senator Ron Johnson’s loyalties lie?

If Donald Trump is not following Putin’s script in Europe this week, how would we know the difference? Yes, some NATO countries have not yet reached the 2% of GDP military spending target yet, but the agreed deadline is 2024. Yes, Germany’s dependence on Russian pipelines is troubling (at least to some Eastern Europeans, whom Russia could cut off more easily if Germany increases capacity on a route that bypasses East Europe; also US natural gas producers don’t like it), but Trump gave a wildly exaggerated picture.  Germany gets less than 10% of its energy from Russia.  Trump may have been accurate when he threw out “60-70% of gas,” but natural gas is just a small part of Germany’s energy use. Trump probably knew he was spreading lies when he said Germany is “totally captive to Russia,” and he has already moved on to spread other lies in Brussels and London.  Europeans would do well to increase military spending–for their own reasons–but Trump forgets to mention that NATO’s Article 5 clause of mutual self-defense has been triggered just once–in the fall of 2001, after the 9/11 attacks on the United States.  NATO soldiers from several countries have died in Afghanistan and Pakistan and elsewhere in support of policies driven by American presidents. Trump does have at least half a point in pushing NATO nations to increase their spending (the “half against” argument might be that the US spends far less than 2% of its GDP on military efforts related to NATO countries, though some military assets are mobile enough to reach Europe fairly quickly), but his careening from one extreme position to another is not encouraging me that we have a very stable genius as president.

 

P.S. The latest revelations from the Financial Times about Russian money in Trump’s Toronto project are looking unclean:

http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674076082

Are You Being Groomed To Love The New Name Of Our National Capital?

“Chinese government bans media criticism of President Trump”–today’s Washington Post.  And why not, in spite of the tariffs thing, dictators gonna dictate it comes to suppressing free speech and showing that they’re “strong leaders.”  Speaking of which, the summit is going to be so easy for our Trump because he has a special gift for Putin, even better than a Rocket Man CD.  Trump will be announcing that our national capital will be renamed in October (to commemorate the October Revolution, naturally) as “Putingrad,” which may not roll off the tongue quite yet.  But after a few years of mandatory Russian in mandatory Christian academy white nationalist charter schools, it’ll go down easy.

Trump Announces That Merkel Is The Puppet Not Him–And That Next War Will Be Fought On Rockaway Beach And Virginia Beach, Not (As We Had Figured) In Latvia And Estonia

If President Trump had called out German Chancellor Angela Merkel to her face for Germany’s supposed “captivity” to Russia, instead of yammering at a Norwegian (Stoltenberg) about Germany’s pipeline, I would be ready to say he might have half a point.  But as it is, he smiled in the photo shoot with Merkel, and so I have to keep it 100 and call our US president the cowardly weasel he is.  It was embarrassing and sickening to see Trump try his “no puppet, no puppet, you’re the puppet” routine on Merkel.  She had a firm yet courteous response to Trump: I grew up in Russian-controlled East Germany, and am happy to live in a unified and free Germany where we make our own decisions. Other European leaders will, I hope, learn from Merkel’s response to Trump.  Trump’s cult followers may be willing to have Trump groom them to see Putin as an ally in the white nationalist cause, but I expect a wave of anti-Trump revulsion this November.  European leaders and others will, I hope, hang in there until Trump is cut down to size by actual constitutionally-based oversight from the next House of Representatives.

To Win Midterms, Democrats Need To Reset Their Heuristics About Other People’s Availability Heuristics

Fancy words, I know.  I just mean that leading Democrats–from Schumer and Pelosi on down–ought to get more realistic about what their likely voters are really like.  Their likely voters, contrary to some Democrats’ pleasantly self-flattering availability heuristics, are not necessarily very well-informed about the details of government policy, or federal agency regulations, or the subtleties of Chevron deference.  Also, Trump lies, but not as many people care about that as Democrats would like to think.  Democrats, to win the midterms, must transmit cues to voters that are easily understandable and emotionally compelling–healthcare sabotage by Trump; the threat to pre-existing conditions coverage; the threat to women’s access to birth control as well as abortion; the crushing burdens of our new Gilded Age, especially the social insecurity.  Trump boosters love to say “promises kept,” but Democrats need to counter that by saying over and over that wage growth is stagnant, that regular people are bearing heavier burdens while the 1% and fake corporate people are living high on the hog, and most of all, that Republican cruelty and harshness is not a natural law but a deliberate choice Trump’s party has made because Trump could not care less about working Americans.  Seventy-eight foreign workers at Mar-a-Lago is not America first. Tolerating Wilbur Ross’s insider trading is not draining the swamp. The swamp creatures in Trump’s cabinet.  The see-no-evil denials of sexual abuse by people like Jim Jordan.  And the danger of an out-of-control president who has no clue about what has made America great and no respect or feeling for freedom.  Democrats must not assume that people have leisure time to keep up with complicated story lines.  Motivating those who already despise Trump and will crawl over glass to vote Democratic this November–that’s already baked in, but it’s not enough to win.  Democratic politicians who really want to put a check on Trump’s power must stop flattering themselves that “their” voters are more informed and can’t be fooled by Trump.  The millions of disaffected, jaded, harried, troubled, people who may or may not bother to vote need to hear short and sweet messages, over and over.  They need to hear that Republicans are not doing squat to protect the forgotten men and women, and on the positive side that Democrats will defend economic opportunities for young people, healthcare security for everyone, and American freedoms against anybody who thinks that they are king.

Zero Tolerance For Noncompliance With Federal Court Orders–Looking At You, ICE And Jeff Sessions

It would be sad and low energy for the bureaucrats at ICE and the Justice Department to fail to comply with federal court orders regarding their abusive, inhumane, and illegal treatment of asylum seekers.  Maybe the judges should issue contempt citations and lock up a few of the recalcitrant bureaucrats to focus their minds.  I am not saying that any particular asylum seeker is entitled in any way to refuge in the United States.  I am not saying that everyone seeking entry into the US has a valid claim.  I am not in favor of open borders. I am in favor of zero tolerance for felonies.  For example, securities fraud and insider trading. If, and only if, Wilbur Ross has committed crimes, he should be locked up.  If, and only if, Jeff Sessions has committed perjury, he should be locked up.  Same goes for Donald Trump Jr.  Money laundering, zero tolerance. Perjury, zero tolerance. Tax evasion, zero tolerance.

P.S. I think “abolish ICE” is a dopey approach from a political standpoint for many if not most Democratic politicians, who should join together to push for better health care for all Americans and better educational opportunities–starting with early education.  And do attack Republican corruption and child abuse, the more vividly the better.  Do not assume that any potential voter has time to pay attention to the NYT or the Washington Post or even CNN, because many are too busy getting by. Re the Supreme Court, yes Roe is important, but so is the way the Supreme Court has made life more and more difficult for working people, in or out of unions.

Theresa May And Her Cabinet Play “Let’s Keep Pretending A Little Longer”

UK Prime Minister Theresa May kidnapped her Cabinet, brought them to Chequers in Buckinghamshire, and emerged triumphantly with promises of “Deal for Britain” and “Brexit Clarity.”  One can imagine that her ministers did not want to resign now, if only to avoid the mile walk down the Chequers driveway during a heat wave–but the clock continues ticking toward March 2019.  There is no way the EU is going to go along with the UK renouncing free movement and “taking back control” of borders; and avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland as well as Northern Ireland and Great Britain; and enjoying a UK-EU free trade area for agricultural products and industrial goods; and the UK renouncing ECJ jurisdiction and common fisheries policy.  She might convince many Leavers that the EU is rude and treacherous when they refuse to go along with this; she might even snap and start mouthing lines like Boris’s “F— Business” herself.  Maybe the UK will be in a stronger bargaining position next winter and May will get everything she is promising, but it’s hard to see how that’ s plausible.  It’s not easy to accept being a former empire in continuing (relative) decline.

https://twitter.com/hashtag/DealForBritain?src=hash

When President Trump’s Older Sister Was Two Years Old, The Soviets Bombed Helsinki

Does President Trump know that Finland was attacked by the Soviet Union during his sister’s lifetime? Or that Finland was part of the Russian Empire during his father and mother’s lifetime? History sometimes seems to have begun fresh every morning for the president of the United States.  If only someone suspicious of the Russians and Chinese and North Koreans–John Bolton comes to mind–were keeping an eye on this, and giving the president good advice, and not buying into the talking points of Putin and Kim Jong Un and Xi Jinping.  If only two or three Republicans in the US Senate cared enough about “country over party” to say out loud that the Russians and the North Koreans and the Chinese might not actually follow up on their very beautiful handshakes with our stable genius president.  If only…

 

Update: and now we learn that US Secretary of State Pompeo delivered a Trump-signed CD of Elton John’s Rocket Man to Kim Jong Un the other day.  There is no bottom.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_Finnish_wars

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_War

On Civility: Democrats Should Be Wise As Serpents And Innocent As Doves–Absolutely, Be Civil, But That Is Not The Same As Being Deferential Or Patient

David Gergen, among others, was dragged a lot recently for saying that the civil rights movement (and antiwar movement) was very civil in tone when compared with today’s protesters.  He seems to have had a memory lapse about the antiwar movement, but he did have a point about the civil rights movement, up to and including the events in Selma of 1965.  Of course the police were not very civil (with the notable exception of Laurie Pritchett of Albany, Georgia, which progressive activists should study), and King wrote a searing critique of white moderates in his “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” but King and other leaders of the freedom movement preached and practiced nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience as both strategy and way of life.  The attacks on the freedom riders and voting rights organizers were not civil at all, but the ideology of the freedom struggle itself was focused on resistance that respected the humanity and dignity of everyone, including and especially the oppressors.

Today’s protesters, if they really want to advance the cause of refugees, people of color, poor white people, and alienated white working-class (and relatively wealthy but anti-cosmopolitan) Trump supporters who knew he was a horrible human being but figured what the hell let’s roll the dice–winning the votes of enough people to grab some levers of power and oversight to put a check on the abuses of Trump is going to take some self-discipline and focus.  Restraint and civility and decency are not for suckers, they are virtues for serious people determined to make a change for the better.  Civil resistance to Trump is not at all about placating or deferring to Trump or his sometimes vicious cult followers.  It’s about regaining our democratic republic and our Constitution and our freedoms.  Civil resistance to Trump is not accepting mental Finlandization, it’s the best way to keep our whole country from being Finlandized by a rogue president.

 

https://newrepublic.com/minutes/149387/civility-debate-forgetting-70s

https://docsouth.unc.edu/sohp/B-0027/menu.html

https://books.google.com/books?id=OtlLAwAAQBAJ&pg=PA29&lpg=PA29&dq=sheriff+laurie+pritchett+will+campbell&source=bl&ots=cuK0GSmynr&sig=zdU3Z8-jrJYjjJVai-_ksuprNbA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjku7fo0_7bAhX4HTQIHcofCsAQ6AEINDAC#v=onepage&q=sheriff%20laurie%20pritchett%20will%20campbell&f=false

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/trump-is-pushing-the-atlantic-alliance-to-the-breaking-point/2018/06/30/c054f0dc-7c8e-11e8-80be-6d32e182a3bc_story.html?utm_term=.2a7f7baac6b6

https://www.aeinstein.org/nonviolentaction/198-methods-of-nonviolent-action/

Will Senator Susan Collins Apply Strict Scrutiny To The Next Supreme Court Nominee?

Three of the five Republican women in the US Senate are ostensibly pro-Roe.  Of those three, Murkowski and Capito have kept, as best I can tell, a prudent public silence about the impending Supreme Court nomination. Susan Collins of Maine, however, has been eager to let us all know that she has red lines.  She has said she cannot support a nominee who shows “hostility” to the Roe precedent.  If she actually applies “strict scrutiny” to the statements the president and the nominee make in coming weeks, good for her.  But she has a history of gaslighting her own constituents (the ACA repeal vote was an exception, to be fair) and I suspect she will find a way to apply “pretend-basis scrutiny” and be “shocked, shocked” when she runs for re-election in 2020.  Or, if the Court does not officially overrule Roe but merely narrows it to the width of the “eye of a needle,” Collins will say with a cheerful smile that there really isn’t any problem.

P.S. Of course the president says he has told not to ask potential nominees about Roe.  As John Poindexter said, it’s all about plausible deniability.

The “Cut Flower Culture” Of Rootless Anti-Cosmopolitan Republicans In The Time Of Trump

Will Herberg, Jewish Marxist-turned-National Review conservative, coined the phrase “cut flower culture” to criticize the rootless modernity he saw as destined to wither and die.  Today’s Trump cult followers may believe they are in glorious full flower.  Do they have any sense of what they have abandoned?  I would think it take some fancy mental footwork to toss aside so many purportedly deep convictions: judicial restraint, respect for precedent, hatred of tyrannical government, devotion to states’ rights, resistance to overbearing executive power, antipathy toward any politician who shows disrespect for veterans and women and POWs and free speech and who says “I alone can fix it”–I could swear that all of that would matter to anyone who is actually attached to small-c conservatism and our constitutional republic.  But the Trump cult shows up how shallow the roots of Republican principles really are.  Selective memory understates the problem.  The followers of Trump have shown themselves to be rootless anti-cosmopolitans.  Their inevitable withering will not be pretty to see.

Yes You Will Keep “Funding This Tripe”

Following the Brexit bickering in UK papers, I see quite a few Leavers intoning that they will “no longer fund this tripe,” meaning they want to stop paying into the bank accounts of bothersome bureaucrats in Brussels. But do these leavers know from whence their tripe soup cometh?  Yeah, Eastern Europe, very likely.  I’m betting that the anti-tripe-funders are going to find themselves paying even more for their beloved tripe next spring, unless they can boost UK tripe production numbers in a big way–which actually seems probable, judging from the comical to-and-fro of blame-shifting that will only intensify between now and next March

My Not-Flashy-Slogan Is “Restructure ICE,” and Why “Abolish ICE” Is Not And Should Not Be The Same As “Open Borders”

“Restructure ICE” is not exactly a sexy clickbait slogan, but it is a better slogan, tactically and strategically, than Abolish ICE.  The government employees who work for ICE are a mixed multitude, I imagine.  Some may have joined for better reasons than others.  Some, I suppose, were working for a different agency and got folded into ICE.  Any political slogan that fails to recognize the humanity and the need for a paycheck of ICE employees is not based on sound strategic thought.  That said, calls by Senators Kamala Harris, Jeff Merkley, and Kirsten Gillibrand are worth looking at for what they actually propose.  If ICE is not fulfilling a mission that we the people are happy with, we need–via our elected representatives–to alter (or, if necessary, abolish) it.  The thread below by Moira Whelan explains the issues very well, in my opinion.  “Open Borders” is never going to be a popular proposal, by the way.  Democratic politicians should make that clear yesterday–do not let Trump lie about you without hitting him back ten times as hard with tireless repetition of your actual positions, and then (and only then) by pointing out his deceptions and deflections and lies.  Customs agents have been around for centuries, and they will, and should, continue to be there for border control.  But if ICE is not protecting us from terrorists and gangs and drugs, and if the president’s policies are giving us less protection against gangs and drugs, we ought to know that–and Democrats as well as conscientious reporters should emphasize it.

https://mobile.twitter.com/moira/status/1012882770207571968

Charting The President’s Complete Disregard For The “Forgotten American Men And American Women”

The chart below, from the St. Louis branch of the Federal Reserve, shows the dramatic shift in who’s carrying the burden of funding the US government.  No wonder the corks popped in the boardrooms and the third homes of the super-rich!  There are minor shifts and there is one huge drop-off–that would be corporate tax payments to the Treasury.  No problem? Not unless you were expecting that you, a living, breathing person, wouldn’t be stuck paying for the two big-ticket items, that is the military and the social safety net.  If corporations don’t pay nearly as much, guess what? You and I, natural persons, we pay.  If your income is mainly from investments, you are probably in luck, though–the class war has gone your way.

 

https://fredblog.stlouisfed.org/2018/06/movement-of-the-federal-tax-receipt-front/

(H/T Paul Krugman tweet)

Supporting Seniors! Women’s Rights! The Real Elitists Of Hannityworld Say “Quelle Horreur”

Sean Hannity actually put up the graphic shown below on his TV show the other day.  He apparently thinks it’s a horror story.  Who will let him know that his day has come and gone?  He and Trump may have “nicer boats,” as Trump said in Fargo, but I sure hope they don’t have more votes!

https://mobile.twitter.com/nycsouthpaw/status/1012403674562297856

“One-on-One” Talks In Helsinki? Isn’t There A Third In The Room?

Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump are planning to meet in Helsinki next month for what will reportedly be “one-on-one” talks.  There is plenty of reason to believe that this is a misnomer.  What worries me most is the “third” lurking in the background.  Putin, you can be sure, does not actually need to bring a literal pee tape into the room.  Putin does not need to place on the table a pile of transcripts of all the kompromat material he has intercepted from Trump Tower and Trump’s Samsung phone.  Putin is already living, as the saying goes, rent-free in our president’s head.  No wonder if Trump agrees to do Putin’s bidding.  Easing off sanctions imposed by the US and EU after the little green Russian men invaded Crimea and eastern Ukraine in 2014, that would be a big plus for Putin.  Russian state TV is already crowing that “Trump is ours.”  Imagine what they will say after this summit–especially if Putin leans on Trump to say negative things about NATO.  I’ll concede that Trump, even leaving aside the likely effect on his brain of Putin’s kompromat and blackmail operation, is temperamentally opposed to alliances of democratic republics, and temperamentally attracted to thuggish rulers.  But what Putin has on Trump sure seems to be pretty heavy.  I do hope that Robert Mueller, the Southern District of NY prosecutors, the NY Attorney General, and the media bring even more unambiguous evidence of Trump’s collusion to light, and soon.  If Manafort really owed Oleg Deripaska ten million bucks, for example, that in itself may not implicate Trump–but it’s just one example of a nefarious web, far worse than Watergate or the Teapot Dome or Iran-Contra, in my opinion.

The one-on-one is bad enough.  It’s the “third” mediating terms that are even more dangerous.

Justice Kennedy Concurring This Morning: “But Don’t Think You Can Turn Up The Temperature Of The Water In This Pot Which Is Already Hot Enough For Me”

Justice Roberts this morning: I am signaling my virtue by issuing the dicta that  Korematsu was a bad decision and totally not relevant to 2018.  Also we are not experiencing anything like the 1930s at all.

Justice Sotomayor: I see your Calvinball game and I am old enough to remember Masterpiece Cakeshop (H/T nycsouthpaw).

Justice Kennedy: This big cast iron pot I am now sitting in seem to be getting warmer.  I am warning you politely in my concurring opinion, do not turn it up any higher or I will become even more uncomfortable (still, money is speech, as I said in 2010).

 

 

Why Did No-Deal Trump Give Harley-Davidson Any Excuse?

Our president-who-will-never-be-blamed-no-matter-what has blamed Harley-Davidson for their plan to move production out of the USA.  “Of all people,” he exclaimed.  They are using my tariffs as an excuse, he moaned.

Wouldn’t it have been smarter and higher-IQ, Mr. Dealmaker President, if you hadn’t given them the perfect excuse to lay off American workers?  Maybe they were looking for an excuse–why the hell did you give it to them?

Update: Trump has freaked out over Harley-Davidson in a series of tweets. Could he be worried that some cult followers might be quite attached to their Harleys, and to the very idea of Harleys, and that he better sic the dogs of tariff (and tax! wow!) war on them before they come out and criticize him directly?  When a guy from Bikers for Trump goes on TV this morning and dares to say he’s not as loyal to his Harley as he is to Trump, you have to think, maybe this Trump thing does have a teeny tiny bit of cultishness going on?

President Trump Ridicules Magna Carta As “Very Weak” And “Very Unfair To The King”

President Trump has reportedly announced his intention to visit the City of London’s Trump Street and Russia Row–which are located right next to each other, but there’s no collusion at all. Then he plans to walk a block to the Guildhall galleries, with their nearly pristine copy of the Magna Carta, where he is said to plan a photo spray while he attacks the document on display as a very bad idea, very weak, and very unfair to the King. He is also said to be interested in learning more about the impure ethnic origins of the “barons.”

The attack on judges, courts, and due process?  The grasping after the “dispensing power” that went out in the 1680s? All that was just a warm-up act.  Now he’s coming after the politically correct 13th century.

Due Process Good For Me But Not For Thee

In February due process was good, it was important, it was under assault by the deep state, it was the foundation of our constitutional republic.  Now, who needs it, it’s a relic of the past, it’s just political correctness, we can’t afford it no more.  Trump and/or whoever is tweeting from his social media account complained loudly in February that due process was dead, alluding to his former aide Rob Porter.  In fact Trump made the choice to ask for or accept Porter’s resignation.  The only “due process” issue was in Trump’s scheming mind.  Porter’s ex accused him of abuse, more accusations followed, and Porter left the White House (how and when he left was obfuscated and muddled, at a minimum, by John Kelly).  Trump could have stood up for Porter and kept him on, but he didn’t.  He is never accountable for anything, but he loves to play the snowflake victim card.  That was February.  Today, President Trump tweeted on his way to the golf course that “we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came.”

My takeaway is a) that Trump is not confident that the Supreme Court will back him up this week on the travel band and b) that due process is good for some people but not for “those people,” who not so coincidentally happen to be brown, black, poor, and in general vulnerable.  Trump hosted a TV event with “Angel Families,” whose anguish seemed very real.  I believe their suffering should be taken into account in any consideration of US immigration policy.  So should the needs of job-creating American businesses.  That includes tech companies in Silicon Valley and elsewhere.  That includes the nail factory hurt by Trump tariffs–tariffs are taxes, btw–and it includes the many businesses who are shorthanded and can’t find enough medium-skilled factory workers or retail workers or bus drivers or restaurant workers or hospital workers or delivery drivers.  It even includes big agribusiness operators in California and Arizona and Texas and the Midwest who need as many harvest hands as they can get.  I also believe that Rupert Murdoch was right when he tweeted on July 12, 2015: “Mexican immigrants, as with all immigrants, have much lower crime rates than native born…Trump wrong.”

Trump’s attacks on Mexicans, immigrants, judges, due process, and political correctness–it’s all of a piece: “I alone can solve it.”  And I alone can protect you forgotten men (women, maybe or maybe not) from the elites who disrespect you (and gave you that horrid Obamacare which we will replace with something beautiful someday).  I alone can protect you from the “American Carnage” caused by mongrelization.

It was possible to vote for Trump, and to vote for Republicans, in 2016 and still believe that he would “pivot” and become more “presidential.”  It is no longer possible to pretend that Trump has any respect or any “feel” for our constitutional democratic republic.  It is not possible to believe that a Republican Congress will do its constitutional duty and give us any oversight of Trump’s assault on our Constitution.  Trump has–or ought to have–forced us to act to preserve and protect our freedoms by tossing Republicans overboard this November, almost regardless of who seems to be the “best candidate” in a particular race.  If our political leaders do not defend due process, we must remove them, via the due process of elections.  Trump may walk back his tweet and say it was sarcasm, and why can’t people take a joke.  He is welcome to tiptoe off the political stage, and that’ll be when I laugh at the joke.  I know, I know, he’s not much of a tiptoeing guy.  Still I’ll humor him for his effort and laugh.

 

I Favor Zero Tolerance For Idiots Who Throw Starburst Candy At The Leader Of The Free World, Angela Merkel

Among the many “no, really, not-the-Onion” and not-funny-either stories these past few days, Donald Trump throwing Starburst candy at German Chancellor Angela Merkel and spewing out “don’t say I never gave you anything” at her–that is about the stupidest and most disgraceful, despite all the competition for “worst.”  Though the Melania Trump jacket that said “I don’t really care, do u” is bad too.  The euphemisms and denials are horrible, too: a person who says “tender age shelters” out loud should have their mouths washed out with soap.  Yes, I am sure that some celebrities and some so-called “leftists” have been vulgar and rude and profane.  I disapprove of their immature behavior.  But it is pretty hard to be disrespectful of the office of the presidency these days.  I favor a new policy: zero tolerance for criminal behavior by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  Did you know lying to Congress is a crime, including lying about your contacts with agents of foreign adversaries such as Russia?  I favor zero tolerance for insider trading, which is a felony crime.  Hello there Wilbur Ross–have you no shame?  I favor zero tolerance for money laundering, even if it means a former campaign manager for a president, a man who, as the president pointed out, has served other presidents (and very possibly other criminals, I might add) over several decades–even so, money laundering is a felony, and there should be zero tolerance for money laundering, otherwise we become infested with money launderers.  If a money launderer makes it all the way to the presidency, that person should still face justice, in this life, and with zero tolerance for criminal behavior.  Mercy is important too–all in good biblical time, my pretty little Trump.

This Truth Sandwich Is So Delicious! I Am Feeling Disenthralled Already

Margaret Sullivan is on target again with her June 17 Washington Post column, “Instead of Trump’s propaganda, how about a nice ‘truth sandwich’?”  She amplifies George Lakoff’s framing of how to respond to Trump’s deceitful framing: reporters should “first, get as close to the overall, big-picture truth as possible right away…then report what Trump is claiming about it…And then, in the same story or broadcast, fact-check his claims.  That’s the truth sandwich–reality, spin, reality–all in one tasty, democracy-nourishing meal.  Avoid retelling the lies.  Avoid putting them in headlines, leads or tweets, [Lakoff] says.  Because it is that very amplification that gives them power.  That’s how propaganda works on the brain: through repetition, even when part of that repetition is fact-checking.”

Many good reporters–or previously good reporters who have not yet adjusted to Trump’s relentless gaslighting–were schooled to adopt a fact-based, objective viewpoint, a “view from nowhere,” and to avoid imputing bad-faith motivations to public figures, especially presidents.  Also, many if not most of us would dearly wish to have a president who is a reliable witness and a trustworthy steward.  Our wish to grant legitimacy and respect and dignity to our leaders (whether “biblically” based or not) has been abused by presidents in the past.  I am old enough to remember Lyndon Johnson and the “credibility gap,” and several mendacious presidents since.  But Trump is really different, not in a good way.  His open authoritarianism and disdain for liberty is new and ominous.  Trump has been a deceptive salesman for almost fifty years, and a vicious bully for longer.  He is not going to change–the only issue is how we will respond.  Daniel Dale has wisely advised TV and print reporters that to cover Trump adequately at all, they need to match his energetic and consistent lying with equally energetic and consistent debunking.  That debunking, and the truth-sandwich approach, give busy-yet-concerned voters a fighting chance to absorb what is at stake this November–and perhaps sooner, if the rhetorical attack on Mueller escalates into another Saturday night massacre.

There is no good substitute, painful as it may be, for constant suspicion of this president.  The truth sandwich is not just a technique, it is a survival manual if we really care about preserving, protecting, and defending the freedoms many of us have come to take for granted in our constitutional democratic republic.

For President Donald Trump, lying is an everyday, all day thing; and signifying is sometimes even more fabulous than lying.  Do not get hung up on whether a particular utterance of his is a “demonstrable falsehood” or a bald lie–but do match his energy and consistency, and do not get sucked down the rabbit hole of his mendacious framing.

 

P.S. Some sources on political lying and response thereto:

George Lakoff twitter feed and framelab.us; also his book, Whose Freedom?

Greg Sargent, Plum Line blog, Washington Post–on political persuasion “saturated with bad faith”; also Brian Beutler, Crooked.com and twitter, and Daniel Dale twitter

Augustine, On Lying (De Mendacio)

Hannah Arendt, “Lying in Politics”

It’s Very Biblical To Heed Biblical Warnings About People Like Trump

If we are going to talk about zero tolerance policies, let’s talk about zero tolerance for unbiblical cruelty toward our neighbor.

It may be very Biblical to enforce the law (though Sarah Huckabee Sanders deceitfully implied that the president is simply enforcing a law passed by Democrats requiring separation of families applying for asylum, while in fact he is using his discretion over border policy–Democrats passed no law requiring what Trump is doing; moreover those families are not illegal immigrants, they are doing something perfectly lawful–applying for refuge–though they may or may not win their cases).  And Jeff Sessions may believe that quoting Romans 13:1 settles everything (“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God”).

But it is very biblical, even more biblical, to heed the warnings of scriptural witnesses.  In the book of First Samuel, the people clamor for a king to rule over them.  Samuel the aged judge goes to the Lord, who instructs Samuel to give the people what they want, but to solemnly warn them first about “the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”  Samuel does exactly that (chapter 8): “he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen…he will appoint for himself commanders… and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots.  He will take your daughters to be performers and cooks and bakers.  He will take the best of your fields and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers….he will take…the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work…you shall be his slaves.  And in that day you will cry out because of your king, who you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer in that day.  But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said, ‘No! but we are determined to have a king over us, so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.”  Battles against the disrespectful elites, no doubt.  So that we also may be like Russia and China and North Korea.  With courtiers like Scott Pruitt and Tom Price and Betsy DeVos.

Scripture also warns us (Proverbs 24): “do not envy the wicked, nor desire to be with them; for their minds devise violence, and their lips talk of mischief.”  Authority is a tricky thing, Mr. Attorney General.  Have you noticed in your study of the scriptures that some rulers are evil, not godly, in the end not legitimate, and come to bad ends?

And Sarah Sanders, have you read Isaiah 10 lately: “Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, who write oppressive statutes, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of their right…what will you do on the day of punishment…to whom will you flee for help, and where will you leave your wealth?”

And Vice President Pence, have you considered the opening chapter of the book of the prophet Isaiah: “Your princes are rebels and companions of thieves.  Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts.  They do not defend the orphan and the widow’s cause does not come before them….Therefore says the Lord of hosts…I will turn my hand against you…those who forsake the Lord shall be consumed…you shall be like an oak whose leaf withers, and like a garden without water.  The strong shall become like tinder, and their work like a spark; they and their work shall burn together with no one to quench them.”

 

Yes, I Am Sitting Up At Attention, Mr. President–From Now Until Election Day Tuesday November 6

I am quite willing to sit up at attention, Mr. Trump sir.  And plan to do so until we voters toss you overboard on Tuesday, November 6, 2018.  Yes, I know that you cannot be tossed literally overboard on November 6, 2018.  But on Tuesday, November 6, 2018, election day, we the people will have our first chance, nationwide–or constitutional-republic-wide, I should say–to restore real oversight by the legislative branch over your many abuses of power, starting with the Emoluments Clause and obstruction of justice but not limited to those low-hanging and obvious high crimes and misdemeanor lying in plain sight.  I place no trust at all in any members of the Republican Party to preserve, protect, or defend our Constitution.  And so, while I would normally like to choose the best possible person for political office without regard to political party affiliation. your abuse of your office obliges me to vote all Democratic all the time until there is a Democratic Congressional majority to oversee you.  I really don’t care if you tell me that you were kidding or that it was just sarcasm and I should be smart enough to not take you literally.  Bye Donald.

When And Why Was “Trump Street” In The City Of London Renamed “Russia Row”? Answer Me That!

Walking near London’s Guildhall the other day, looking for remnants of the London Wall, I expected to see “Trump Street” but was amazed to see a sign for “Russia Row” instead.  What remarkable foresight these Londoners have, thought I.  No wonder they were such a great imperial power.  But when? and how? and why–the renaming, that is.  You’re welcome:

https://theprintnews.co.uk/2017/11/story-behind-trump-street-russia-row/

https://www.london-walking-tours.co.uk/secret-london/trump-street.htm

https://www.citymetric.com/politics/city-london-russia-row-leads-directly-trump-street-2821

 

As Churchill reputedly said, a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.  Justin Trudeau, did you know that at the west end of Russia Row/Trump Street it intersects Milk Street?

Are We “Shining In The Space Of Appearances” Yet?

Hannah Arendt said (at a 1972 Toronto conference, published in Thinking Without a Banister, p. 451) that “glory” in the political realm is “shining in the space of appearances.”  W.H. Auden asked (and then answered) “does God ever judge us by appearances? I suspect that he does” (epigraph to chapter 1 of Arendt’s posthumous book, The Life of the Mind).  We in the US have a potentate named Donald Trump who is so consumed by how he appears and is perceived and judged that he seems to have weakened our country by misjudging, or not taking the trouble to study, or not being capable of judging, his counterparts on the world stage–and not only Kim Jong Un or Xi Jinping.  The root of this misjudgment, I suppose, is that Trump is, perhaps seemingly paradoxically, not Machiavellian enough.  As Arendt remarked in Toronto, Machiavelli said, “‘I love my country, Florence, more than I love my eternal salvation.’  That doesn’t mean that he didn’t believe in an afterlife.  But it means that the world as such was of greater interest to him than himself.”  She elaborated: “The moment I act politically I’m not concerned with me, but with the world….whether the criterion is glory–shining in the space of appearances–or whether the criterion is justice…the decisive thing is whether your own motivation is clear: for the world or for yourself.”  Donald Trump actually understands this quite well, in that he pays lip service to the noble motivation of acting on behalf of the world instead of just himself.  But there is quite a lot of reason to doubt that his stated aspirations are stronger than his lifelong habits of venality, cupidity, mendacity, and thuggishness.  He did acknowledge in the campaign that becoming president was his only shot at getting into heaven.  Sadly he seems to forget about that–or else he is even more of a miserable tyrant than I have so far imagined.

P.S. In other breaking news from the works of Hannah Arendt:

“normal men do not know that everything is possible” (quoting David Rousset)

“nothing is more characteristic of the totalitarian movements in general and of the quality of fame of their leaders in particular than the startling swiftness with which they are forgotten and the startling ease with which they can be replaced” (Origins, p. 305)

“only the mob and the elite can be attracted by the momentum of totalitarianism itself; the masses have to be won by propaganda” (Origins, 341)

“the delusion of an already existing Jewish world domination formed the basis for the illusion of future German world domination” (Origins, p. 360)

“it is in the moment of defeat that the inherent weakness of totalitarian propaganda becomes visible….the moment the movement, that is, the fictitious world which sheltered them, is destroyed, the masses revert to their old status as isolated individuals who either happily accept a new function in a changed world or sink back into their old desperate superfluousness…[the former members] will quietly give up the movement as a bad bet and look around for another promising fiction or wait until the former fiction regains enough strength to establish another mass movement” (Origins, 363)

“a mixture of gullibility and cynicism had been an outstanding characteristic of mob mentality before it became phenomenon of masses. In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true….mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow.  The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness” (Origins, p. 382)

“we are not in the nursery! Real political action arises as a group act…whatever you do on your own, you do not as an actor but as an anarchist” (Banister, p. 450)

 

 

 

Justice Gorsuch Spikes Football By Adding Middle English Footnote Upholding 1351 Statute Of Laborers Act

As if it wasn’t enough for ruling-class warrior Neil Gorsuch to gut the National Labor Relations Act by placing the supposed intent of the 1925 Federal Arbitration Act over and above the New Deal legislation that addressed obvious asymmetries of bargaining power, Justice Gorsuch spiked the football on workers today in his 5-4 opinion by including a footnote, in Middle English no less, upholding the 1351 Statute of Laborers Act.  Let me explain.  After the Black Death (part one of it, at any rate) the ruling classes had far less bargaining power over the surviving peasants.  All pretense of “voluntary mutual agreements” was abandoned by the ruling class when Parliament passed the 1351 law stipulating that workers were not allowed to leave their employers (the landowners or business owners) to seek better wages.  Neil Gorsuch follows up in his pre-Chaucer footnote when he states (I hereby translate his words into 21st-century idiom) that “all that free market stuff was just a smokescreen, suckers.  Serfs gonna stay serfs, cuz you can’t possibly afford to go to court one by one.  Ain’t gonna happen.  Sit yourselves down or we’ll put you in the private prison and you’ll dream of the good times when you could eat generic hamburger helper.  Same as it was in 1351, same as it’s gonna be from here on out.  Get Congress to change it, bwahahaha.”

Catching Up On “Collusion With The Rest Of The World” Reading

Did Donald Trump just admit that he was ready and willing to conspire in the 2016 election campaign not just with Russians but with “the rest of the world”?  He did not confirm but neither did he deny that his son and others associated with the Trump campaign (such as Erik Prince, brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos) plotted and took bribes from Gulf Arab countries as well as Israel–during the presidential campaign, quite aside from the reported violations of the Emoluments Clause after Trump became president.

To prepare for Trump’s next political and legal moves, I am thinking about what might be relevant background reading:

Zephyr Teachout, Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin’s Snuffbox to Citizens United, especially chapter 5, “Is Bribery Without a Remedy?”

Maria Konnikova, The Confidence Game: Why We Fall For It…Every Time

Timothy Snyder, The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America

Ramsay MacMullen, Corruption And The Decline Of Rome

Seth Hettena, Trump/Russia: A Definitive History

Hannah Arendt, Thinking Without A Banister: Essays in Understanding 1953-1975

Albert O. Hirschman, The Rhetoric of Reaction: Perversity, Futility, Jeopardy (also pertinent to the gun debate)

Cass R. Sunstein, Legal Reasoning and Political Conflict, especially chapter 4, “Understanding (and Misunderstanding) the Rule of Law

Peter Brown, Power and Persuasion in Late Antiquity: Towards a Christian Empire

Philip Kurland, ed., The Founders’ Constitution

Peter Gay, The Cultivation of Hatred (The Bourgeois Experience: Victoria to Freud, vol. 3)

Woody Holton, Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution

John T. Noonan Jr., Bribes: the intellectual history of a moral idea

 

Provocative? Moi?

Just who does North Korea think they are?  They think that they can accuse the US of “provocation”?  Just because of some military drills?  Kim the Excellent is going to find himself becoming Little Rocket Man again in no time flat.  Doesn’t he know that only people like Jared Kushner have the right to define who is “provocative”?  That only Donald J. Trump has the extraterritorial privilege to say who can laugh, and when, and how loudly?  Trump is not going to apologize to Senator John McCain just because a staffer called McCain a dead man walking, but is he going to kowtow to Mr. Kim?  Trump seems to be powerfully attracted to the notion that he too could get a Nobel Peace Prize, so I wouldn’t want to predict the future at all, except to say Kim is definitely not crazy and his PR team is not leaking.

P.S. NY Times headline: “North Korea Postpones Talks With South Korea; Decision Is Surprise.”  Not really, unless the Times thought that everything was going to go smoothly between Trump and Kim.  They are maneuvering to see who can define the other as unstable and themselves as stable and serious and not “provocative” or “defiant.”

Glad I Didn’t Sell Big Pharma Stocks Short Thinking Trump Was Actually Going To Help Lower Drug Prices (Regulatory Capture Is Alive And Well In DC)

President Trump promised in 2016 that he would do great things to lower drug prices for senior citizens and all Americans.  He promised “on day one,” yadda yadda, my welfare state (for my cult followers, anyway, wink wink) is going to be the greatest welfare state.  Cheaper stuff for everybody wearing a MAGA hat and making the secret handshake.  Sorry, suckers, and in fact everybody on Medicare, whether we supported Trump or not.  Drug company stocks, including Novartis, went down briefly today before the Rose Garden drug price speech, and then, ta-da, up they went during and after the speech. And why wouldn’t drug stocks go up, because Trump did not do the one thing that would most likely push drug prices down, which is to let CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) negotiate prices with drug companies.  CMS isn’t the only buyer of drugs, but they are so huge that they could be the market leader, the quasi-monopsony buyer with power to get prices down across the board.  The current law, signed by George W. Bush, provided a benefit to senior citizens, but at an unnecessarily high cost. I would like to be surprised, but I do not see much yet in what HHS Secretary Azar or Trump said that would actually push drug prices down.  Regulatory capture–aka the Swamp–is alive and well in Trump’s Washington.

Is The Real Dick Cheney Being Displayed In A Human Zoo? If Not, Why Not?

Some version of “Dick Cheney” has popped up and endorsed re-upping on “enhanced interrogation,” AKA torture.  But is this real news?  “Dick Cheney” coming out in favor of torturing suspected terrorists and “enemy combatants” does have the ring of verisimilitude, but in these changing times, I have my suspicions.  Could the real Dick Cheney already be on display–preferably with Mike Pence–in an ethnographic exhibit, AKA a human zoo?  And if not, isn’t it about time?  Human zoos were quite popular in my grandparents’ day, even in my parents’ lifetime, and even continued into my own time, e.g. the Brussels world’s fair of 1958.  It is true that political correctness is sometimes simply courtesy, and yet is it too much to hope that Cheney and others of his ilk, could be properly displayed in a habitat clearly native to them?  Issues of the validity of extraterrritorial jurisdiction, frankly, should not even come into play if the exhibition were done sensitively.  For example, it would be very misguided if Rachel Maddow were allowed to fulfill her longstanding dream by interviewing Mr. Cheney in a zoo.

Not Negative, Not Fake, No Way! Yes Collusion, Yes Puppet, Yes Smoking Gun With Blood Everywhere

OK, maybe just a teeny tiny little bit of collusion might have happened, mistakes were made, and it looks like an open crime scene with so much evidence and blood and hair everywhere that I do not know where to start.  I was worried that Mueller was the whole ball game–but now the SDNY has so much to sort through that I feel there’s more than enough guilt to go around in multiple jurisdictions.  Not to mention the next Attorney General of the great state of New York, the Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton!  Well, maybe that wouldn’t be the best idea.  How about Sally Yates?  Or Zephyr Teachout?  Can Preet Bharara handle the truth?  Probably he could.  And the acting AG, Barbara Underwood, looks just fine, and if NY state can close up the loophole regarding federal/state overlap and pardons, I feel much more confident than I did a week ago that the justice system has a fighting chance to bring the evildoers and crooks to account, whoever they may be.  And glad to read that Robert Mueller was onto the Vekselberg-Michael Cohen payments months ago.

So Long Schneiderman, Hello Sally Yates…Or Zephyr Teachout…Or Hi There Hillary NY Attorney General!

There are some awesomely qualified candidates to serve as the next New York Attorney General.  She or he, especially if New York state law is tightened up to prevent federal evildoers and criminals to escape state-level justice in NY, will have the opportunity and in fact the obligation to enforce state laws against money laundering, financial fraud, witness tampering, obstruction of justice, and all the other crimes mob bosses commit.  If those laws happen to apply to public servants, or former public servants, so be it.

The NY State Assembly, from what I read, has the authority to appoint the next AG, and might well choose one of their own.  But if they choose to go with someone who has a higher profile than an assemblyperson, may I suggest Sally Yates, former (ever so briefly) Acting Attorney General; or Zephyr Teachout, former candidate for governor and author of the fine book, Corruption in AmericaFrom Benjamin Franklin’s Snuffbox to Citizens United.

But of course the awesomest choice, a choice that might well send the president even more over the edge than he is already, is staring the Assembly in the face: Hillary.

P.S. Have read mixed reviews on Preet Bharara as a choice for NY AG.  He certainly got lots of good press for going after insider trading, but did he persecute purveyors of financial fraudulence actively and assertively?  I don’t know.  Why not let Chief Judge Colleen McMahon of the Southern District NY appoint him as US Attorney when the Trump administration lets a deadline for appointing their own candidate slide through negligence?  Yes it could happen.

“Nobody Wants To Speak More Than Me”–Was That a) Vincent ‘The Chin’ Gigante or b) Trump?

Answer: it will not be long before President Donald J. Trump adopts the Gigante defense.  That is, although we may really really want to be able to look at a president as a trustworthy noble heroic leader, we wake up every day with the president we actually have.  Donald Trump will do anything and everything to avoid being blamed or taking the fall under any circumstances.  He is trying to make the web of lies and contradictions re obstruction of justice and collusion and conspiracy with Russians become too complicated for mere mortals to deal with.  He would love for all of us to throw up our hands and say “they all do it” and “we better stay out of this” if not “he is our god-emperor and I love all the trolling of snobby snowflakes.”  But if that doesn’t work, and Trump finds himself becoming a figure of ridicule as the lies become too obvious to ignore, I figure his next move will be to emulate Vincent “The Chin” Gigante, who pretended to be insane and/or infirm–and got away with it for decades.  One can hope that this president does not have decades of that kind of maskirovka left in him–and that we the people will be able to resist the gaslighting better than–fancy that–New York prosecutor Rudy Giuliani (see story and court case below!).

https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/rudy-giuliani-and-the-desperate-campaign-to-protect-the-president

https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/FSupp/996/194/1625500/

Update: The President, many people say, is expected to announce “in a very short period of time” that Rudy Giuliani is an “enemy of the people” and as such will be removed from the White House legal team and reassigned to a labor camp on Long Island.  The “struggle session” will be available on pay-per-view.

NYT: “Trump Assails Justice Dept., Siding With Conservatives”–No, That’s Way Off The Mark

The top story on the NY Times webpage right now is by Eileen Sullivan and Nicholas Fandos, who probably did not write the headline, “Trump Assails Justice Dept., Siding With Conservatives.”  I wish that the Times would stop letting unprincipled, power-mad radicals get the benefit of the respectable label “conservative.”  The point of the “indivisible” resistance to Trumpism is that we can and should have debates on the proper size and shape of government, but we should be united and indivisible when it comes to preserving, protecting, and defending the rule of law as codified in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the habits and practices of free speech and citizenship.  Mr. Trump could give a fig for freedom or the rule of law.

Sullivan and Fandos also have it backwards when they write that Mr. Trump plunged today into a “simmering dispute” between Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein and the “small group of House Republicans who are loyal to Mr. Trump” (whatever is meant by that, by the way? are Paul Ryan and most of the Republican House members disloyal to Trump? I wish, but I haven’t seen much but subservience and see-no-evil so far).  I believe the truly important conflict right now is between the president and the regular, drab, workaday state–not the so-called Deep State–that is working diligently in the person of Robert Mueller to ensure that this president is not immune from gross violations of the loyalty oath Trump took on inauguration day to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.  The self-styled “Freedom Caucus,” led by Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows, are simply trying to set up Mr. Trump with a spinnable excuse to remove Mr. Rosenstein and Mr. Mueller.  Trump is not–contra the NYT–“giving voice to the complaints” of Jordan and Meadows.  Rather, they are in the same club as Fox & Friends and Hannity and the Schlapps–instruments of the president’s will to power.  The NYT story today tells a story that could be true, in some other universe, but I believe their framing gets causes and effects backwards, and in a pernicious way that gives cover to the authoritarian purposes of this president.

If Kanye Really Hates Monolithic Thought, He Will Run For President As A Whig. Or If He Is Having A Bad Day, As A Know-Nothing.

As a former high school teacher (US History, World History, Afro-American History–as we called it then) on the South Side of Chicago during the 1990s, I deny having any responsibility for Kanye West’s lack of perspective on the political party system.  In brief, the political parties have changed their platforms quite a few times in the last 200 or so years.  The Democratic Party of the 21st century is not the same as the party of Andrew Jackson, whom President Trump seems to adore.  The Republican Party of 1854 did not begin by fetishizing lower corporate tax rates.  The anti-immigrant party of the day wasn’t the Republicans, it was the Know-Nothings.  The “bad” immigrants of the 1850s were Catholics, just as they are now, but they were Irish, not Mexican.  I wonder if John Kelly (since he is not, unlike his boss, an “idiot”) knows that?

Anyway, Kanye West went to a high school in southwest suburban Oak Lawn, Illinois, whereas I taught in southeast Chicago, so I never taught his history class.  I wonder if he is aware that, on his good days, he has Whiggish tendencies.  With his social media reach he could probably reanimate the Whig Party in no time.  An alternative scenario: we do not yet have a 21st-century political party bold and honest enough to come out publicly as the Know-Nothing Party.  But if anyone could rebrand Know-Nothingism, it is Kanye–excuse me, the Honorable Mr. President Kanye.

 

Could We See Some “Dragon Energy” That Actually Improves Lives?

Even if Kanye West has a point in calling Trump his “dragon energy” brother, is it too much to ask that the people with dragon energy to spare use it to improve our world?  I suppose Michelle Wolf brought plenty of dragon energy to her White House Correspondents’ Dinner speech, and probably boosted her career, but her profanity distracted from her sometimes accurate jabs, did nothing to help principled resistance to the president, and only served to make Trump’s pose of solidarity with regular folks a little more plausible.  Oh well—if I wait another few hours the conversation will move on.

Trump’s Revenge On Macron: He’s Going To Fix The French Language Once And For All

The Times (of London, not the times-come-lately in NYC) says today in a headline that “Trump will visit the UK in July.” The second sentence of the story hedges a bit: “the Us president is thought to be planning” to go to London after meetings in Brussels on July 11-12.

I hate to tell the British that they are kidding themselves, but let me put it this way: President Trump does not plan, at least not in such a way that lesser beings can fathom his actions in advance.  That being said, I have some inside information.  Trump will in fact travel from Brussels to Paris for his second Bastille Day military parade.  After that he will, without doubt, make a special appearance at the Academie Francaise to lecture the 40 Immortals on “My Clear And Very Distinct Ideas.”  He will finally fulfill, in fact, after almost 499 years, the original mission of the Academie, which was founded by Cardinal Richelieu in 1635.  In the United States, President Trump has accomplished so very many things that no president before him even attempted.  And in Paris, at the French Academy, Trump will finally “fix the French language, giving it rules, making it pure and comprehensible for all.”  Warm-up act for Mr. Trump will be noted philosopher and linguist Kanye West, speaking on “Proper Terminology and Neology.”

Regulation Is Good For Me But Maybe Not For Thee: Excrementitious Matter (Finally) Gone From Parrish, Alabama

The contents of the poop train in Parrish, Alabama have finally been moved to a nearby landfill, after more than two months.  Erin Shaw Street of the Washington Post reports the good news for Parrish today, adding that “little Parrish is left with the sting of feeling as if no one cared that all of this excrement was left on its doorstep.  The town had become purgatory in a little-known pipeline that imports materials no one wants, for profit–big-city waste from the North that heads to landfills in the rural South.  ‘It sounds like a joke, like the poop emoji,’ said Michelle Buford…’It felt like the Northerners were trying to pile up messes on the Southerners.'”

Sorry to say, but that kind of framing may just perpetuate the problem.  The mayor, Heather Hall, is quoted saying that “as soon as I found out, I was on the phone to Montgomery [the state capital], to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, even to the president…they all said it was out of their hands.”  And they were probably right: as the article reports, the trains “remained in Parrish until the city council voted to deny a business license to Big Sky.”  Heaven help towns like Parrish if business interests (whether “up north” or in Birmingham) get the Alabama state legislature to do what North Carolina and other Republican-dominated legislatures have done and outlaw local ordinances that regulate nuisances like the poop train.

The lesson I take from this is that some evil people are telling us that regulation is great if it protects me and my gated swamp, but very bad if it limits my profiteering and protects you from any and all excrementitious matter.  If the people of Parrish, and towns like it, breathe their (temporarily) free air and decide they really like breathing freely, I hope they can identify their plight as an effect of the Republican mania for deregulation.  Scott Pruitt is not draining any swamps.  He and his enablers do not seem to worry that they are ever going to be sentenced to a life sentence of prison time at hard labor on a poop train.  I hope they are wrong, and I also really hope the people of small towns inundated with poop start voting for politicians who might care a little about regulations that protect our environment, because there’s no gated community that’s going to protect most of us from the degradation Scott Pruitt and his cronies are imposing on us.  Big-city elite liberals from New York may be convenient bogeymen, and they probably don’t care as much about Parrish, Alabama as they could, but it might be worth a try to kick out the current crew of deregulators.  They are not on our side, and they don’t give a fig for “freedom” if it means freedom not to breathe poop all day.

When It Comes To Trump, “Report Is [Always] Changeable. ‘Tis [Always] Time To Look About”

In Shakespeare’s King Lear, act 4, scene 7, a Gentleman informs the Earl of Kent that “they say Edgar, [Lear’s] banished son, is with the Earl of Kent in Germany.”  The Earl of Kent (incognito) replies drily: “Report is changeable. ‘Tis time to look about.”  Those of us trying to parse the news, especially the news reports that “the White House plans” to do such and such, ought by now to have learned the basic lesson that “report is changeable.”  Yet headlines in papers from yesterday stated as fact that the United States was poised to announce further economic sanctions on Russia today.  These reports cited what Nikki Haley said on a Sunday morning TV show.  We ought to know by know that Nikki Haley is not the decider.  Maybe we have reached the point where Cabinet members are just putting things out there and hoping Trump never hears about them, or cares so little that he does nothing to veto them.  But please, media, a few more words in practically every article would be much more accurate, like so: “[chief of staff; or VP; or Secretary of Defense; or …] said this and that today, but who the hell knows what the president will do if he ever hears about it.”  While Trump is king, whirl is king.

I Never Asked Trump For Personal Loyalty. I Hardly Know The Guy–But I Did Sorta Hope He Would Preserve, Protect, And Defend The Constitution

I have never asked Trump for Personal Loyalty.  I hardly know the guy.  But was it too much to hope that he would at least make a stab at fulfilling his oath of office, to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.”  Yes it was.

Do James Comey’s imperfections and manifold blind spots do anything to negate or even mitigate his characterization of the president as a mob boss.  No they don’t.

Comey’s favorite theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, wrote that “the only empirically verifiable doctrine of Christian faith is original sin.”  Does it matter that Comey may or may not realize that Niebuhr’s dictum applies to Comey himself?  Not much.

Is Karen Tumulty, former reporter and now opinion writer for the Washington Post, right in her view that “Donald Trump is contagious… He turns everyone he touches into Donald Trump”?  Maybe, and maybe Rick Wilson is onto something with his slogan that “everything Trump touches dies.”  But I would say that the self-selection process works both ways, and that Trump and his agents latch onto one another, wittingly or unwittingly.

As I said, I hardly know the guy, but I am concerned that he hasn’t bottomed out yet.  His problem isn’t the Deep State, as Trump himself is probably quite aware.  It’s the regular old drab ponderous state that is getting ready to spit him back out.  It’s a classic emic vs. etic situation, though that understates Trump’s extreme deviance.  Here’s hoping the system “works,” though in the best case it’s going to be very messy.

 

Trump Assails Comey’s “Very Superficial Understanding Of Reinhold Niebuhr”

Gotta give it up to the president today for his extremely accurate takedown of James Comey on the core issue at stake.  I refer of course to Comey’s “very superficial” and “hermeneutically naive,” as the president put it, interpretation of Moral Man and Immoral Society.  The 45th president correctly noted on social media that Reinhold Niebuhr himself said his book ought to have been titled “Immoral Man and Even More Immoral Society,” a fact that Comey had inexplicably overlooked–especially given Comey’s purportedly 24/7 access to the most up-to-speed Deep State algorithms.  Moreover, Comey utterly failed to consider the role in Niebuhr’s spiritual development of his journal of pastoral work in Detroit, published under the rubric of Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic.  Trump knows tamed cynic like nobody’s business, and Comey clearly does not.  “Untruthful slimeball” is really far better than Comey deserved to be labelled in these circumstances.  And as of Friday morning April 13th Comey has so far failed utterly to defend his reputation as either a reliable witness or a thoughtful moral theologian.

“Don’t Say We Already Do What GDPR Requires”–Mr. Zuckerberg’s Last Talking Point

The last of Mark Zuckerberg’s written talking points for his Senate testimony today–which I know about not because of my power to scrape any data, but because Zuckerberg left his notes open on the table during a break and I looked at a photo–refers to the European General Data Protection Regulation, which takes effect next month.  So far, he needn’t have worried about having to defend Facebook against calls from Congress to copy and paste the European plan into the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations.  Why not?  (Other than the sheer cluelessness of the well-aged Senators)

We as a country might do well to adopt laws, like the new EU plan, that actually take data protection and privacy rights seriously.  But if we copied and pasted their rules we would have a tougher time crowing about our great, special, exceptional Americanness, wouldn’t we?  Tant pis for us, as the French might say.

https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/law-topic/data-protection/data-protection-eu_en

What Exactly Is “Defiant Trump” Defying?

Noted media critic Donald Trump complained this morning that a Washington Post headline framed his defiance in a misleadling way.  Today’s top right headline of the Post‘s print edition reads “Trump Defiant as China adds trade penalties.”  I should probably be grateful that the president is supporting Jeff Bezos by subscribing to the print edition, but I digress.  He, Trump, like him or not, knows exactly how headlines about “defiance” ought to be presented.  Trump possesses agency, others are mere instruments of his will.  Trump is the subject, everybody else is the object.  In his world, it’s “Trump Defiant as U.S. Adds Trade Penalties, Will End Barriers And Massive I.P. Theft.”  I could quibble that his rewritten headline is a terribly run-on sentence; also why capitalize every single word except “as,” or I could be more charitable and say that as a president, the president is a pretty terrific copy editor.

Does it even make any sense, moreover, to speak of a U.S. president as “defiant”?  Not if we are the world’s only superpower and the president is really in charge of the executive branch.  That Trump did not dispute the framing that he could be “defiant” at all is telling.  Trump wants to cash in on what he gains from being seen as a “defiant” outsider toiling heroically to drain the swamp.  A lot of us are not convinced, to say the least, but Trump is determined to hold onto the loyalty of his camp followers, so “defiant” is still very useful, as if Hillary is somehow calling shots and taking away jobs and failing to prevent mayhem–and Donald Trump is still the “defiant” swamp-draining champion of the forgotten man.

What are the odds, by the way, that Xi Jinping will be gaslit by Trump?  Or that Trump’s manly addition of yet more “trade penalties” will result in ending trade barriers?  Some people say that President-for-Life Xi is not likely to bow down to the mighty Trump.  Who is in a better position to impose real pain on their citizens?  Probably the country where the people are not really citizens–that would be, for the time being, China.  To whip up his political base, Trump is turning to not-easily-won trade wars and not-easily-funded-by-Mexico border walls.  He probably won’t have great success unless he is willing to risk big failure by actually fabricating an emergency, the shape of which we can imagine in outline if not in detail.  Carl Schmitt wrote almost a hundred years ago that he who can create “the exception” is sovereign.  Trump’s feelings seem in sync with Schmitt’s theories of politics, but our president has so far taken only half-measures.  If he feels truly “unchained” and “unleashed” and goes all in on the “exception” and emergency, who or what will stop him?  I wouldn’t want to bet much on the courage of Republican majorities in Congress or on the Roberts-Alito-Thomas-Kennedy-Gorsuch majority on the Supreme Court.  I do hope that Trump’s own strong aversion to being blamed for anything will restrain him.  If he felt he could gaslight enough of us to evade blame, though, he might do almost anything.

 

Why Is Mark Zuckerberg Hating On Tim Cook’s “Extreme Glibness”?

In an interview with Ezra Klein of Vox, Mark Zuckerberg rattled global markets with the prima facie laughable assertion that Tim Cook is “extremely glib.”  If Tim Cook is extremely glib, what was Steve Jobs?  Now that was “glib” personified.  Tim Cook and “reality distortion field,” do they really go together?  Don’t think so.  Technically, Zuckerberg didn’t call Cook himself extremely glib, just what he said about Facebook–that Cook wouldn’t have gotten himself into Facebook’s pickle in the first place, because Apple builds great products and sell them to customers and that that’s a sounder business model than Facebook’s flim-flam.

Zuckerberg denied that the business model of “monetizing user attention” is an intractable problem.  His response to Klein was deflective, though: “you know, I find that argument, that if you’re not paying that somehow we can’t care about you, to be extremely glib and not at all aligned with the truth.”  Zuckerberg then tried to align himself with truth, with mixed success at best.  His snippish remark that “it’s important that we don’t all get Stockholm syndrome and let the companies that work hard to charge you more convince you that they actually care more about you.”  I found this a little bit plausible, until I read Josh Barro’s retort on Twitter that “Apple is a company that works hard to charge you more.  Amazon is a company that works hard to charge you less.  Facebook is a company that works hard to charge someone else more for access to you.”  That seems a much fairer summary of where we are than Zuckerberg’s self-serving doublespeak.

I don’t imagine that Zuckerberg is enjoying his tour of media outlets, or the downward trajectory of Facebook stock, even less his impending Congressional testimony (or the backlash if he continues to refuse to testify in the UK about Cambridge Analytica).  Zuckerberg’s goal in speaking publicly, I assume, is to shape any future government regulations in the US and Europe and, perhaps just as importantly, across other hemispheres.

I do hope the 99%, of whom I am one, can afford to enjoy the oligarch vs. oligarch trashtalking that may be coming  Not sure that they will achieve the heights of Little Rocket Man vs. The Dotard, but one can hope.  I would like to savor an Apple vs. Facebook vs. Google circular firing squad, kayfabe or real, while waiting for the autumn elections to provide us with the possibility of real oversight of both political authoritarianism and corruption and tech oligarch abuses.  Of course neither political party is immune to capture by the tech giants, but the president’s recent attacks on Amazon are transparently abusive and ominous.  Disclosure: I have never joined Facebook, and only completed one under-$20 Amazon purchase about ten years ago and never again, I hope.  It is inconvenient, though, for many of us to even try to disentangle from our new tech overlords–and I do use Google and Apple daily.

P.S. Have duly noted that Facebook’s motto/mission statement was once “move fast and break things” and is now “bring the world closer together.”

 

What If Our Slacker Totalitarian Starts Eating Kale And Exercising?

Theorists of tyranny have compiled taxonomies: aristocracy (and its shadow side, oligarchy), democracy (and ochlocracy, or mob rule), and monarchy (and tyranny).  Plato’s interlocutors in Republic book 8 discuss the various types of regime but Book 9 dives deep into the most dangerous form of government, tyranny.  Aristotle was seemingly more sanguine in his Politics, giving more equal time to each type.  Madison and Hamilton, in the Federalist Papers, defended the possibility of energetic yet non-monarchical and non-tyrannical government via separated powers and checks and balances (see #47 and #51).  Twentieth-century totalitarianism (see Hannah Arendt’s Origins) appeared to be a new type of regime, in its erasure of any boundary between private and public life; also in that, unlike the pairs democracy/mob rule, aristocracy/oligarchy, and monarchy/tyranny, totalitarian rule has no “neutral” or non-abusive twin.

If American voters manage to check Trump’s power while there is still time to limit the damage, it may be because they sense that with his relentless tweeting and headline-grabbing, he is just not going to leave us alone and let us ignore him for awhile while we pursue our own happiness.  If the Republicans, in spite of all their gerrymandering and efforts to suppress voter turnout, do lose control of one or both houses of Congress, it may be because enough of us have gotten irritated and embarrassed enough to bother to vote in a midterm for a change, and limit the damage from the presidential bull-with-his-very-own-china-shop-all-the-time.

So far I believe we have been fairly lucky that our slacker totalitarian president apparently spends a great deal of his time sitting around eating unhealthy food and tweeting at his TV, though he and his minions have made plenty of messes by  sabotaging healthcare, environmental regulation, etc.  But what if he (trigger alert, plug ears, la la la la la) has a learning curve?  What if he actually reads article II of the Constitution and realizes just how much more he can do, and takes Admiral Ronny Jackson’s advice to adopt healthier lifestyle choices?  Where will we be able to hide then?

 

It’s Time For Sumptuary Laws To Regulate Facebook And Make Us Truly Happy And Free

I am old enough to remember the utopian hopes for the internet.  Sadly, the era of friendly little chat rooms (I exaggerate a bit) has given way to the era of dystopian fears: of Big Social Media, of the Deep State, and of our semi-voluntary servitude to the cookies and trackers.

I have a fine solution to all of our problems!  Bring back the sumptuary laws that served for many centuries and on multiple continents to enforce norms and hierarchies and proper social behavior.  If we had held onto rigorous sumptuary laws, Facebook’s motto, “move fast and break things,” would have put Zuckerberg in the stocks years ago.  Would that have been a bad thing?

Do not be fooled by whatever damage control statements Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg put out today and in the coming days.  They can raise the trifling objection that what happened with Cambridge Analytica was not technically a data breach.  They can promise to work closely with regulatory agencies.  They can abase themselves all they like.  Actually, their self-abasement is a sort of voluntary admission that some kind of sumptuary law to control their behavior is needed.

The hard part of this is that we need to regulate not only the destructively transgressive behaviors of Silicon Valley elites.  It’s not just that the people who are indulging themselves by consuming “cartons of multi-colored eggs pooped out of rare, expensive chickens who have been raised on diets of organic watermelon and steak” (according to Willamette Week and Washington Post) need to be shamed and then imprisoned.  The really hard part is that we, the people–we the relatively privileged people–need to accept that we cannot control ourselves.  We must impose binding regulations on ourselves.  This may be particularly difficult with a President who desperately needs and even more desperately resists sumptuary restrictions on his very own self.  Not to mention a Congress in thrall to the fantasy that deregulation always and everywhere means true freedom.  The way forward is clear.  As distasteful as it may be to many, we need a new leader right away.  A leader who understands the true value of sumptuary regulations.  A man who feels deeply the evils of bad habits and the danger of ruffles and silks and extravagance and deviance.  I refer of course to our next president, Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions.  Or Mike Pence, if you like.

Sarah Sanders: “Russia Will Have To Decide Whether To Be A Good Actor Or A Bad Actor”; Russia Clings To Maskirovka, Defying Sanders’ False Binary

Sarah Sanders said yesterday that the US “stands in solidarity with its closest ally, the United Kingdom.”  Today she put on her most resolute voice and stated that Russia will have to decide whether it wants to be a good actor or a bad actor.  Meanwhile, the president has said little to nothing publicly about the Salisbury poisoning, which sickened dozens of British citizens, not just the former Russian spy and his daughter.  (Of course some say you can never quit being a Chekist, just as there are no true ex-Catholics.)

I expect Russians will laugh and think: heck no we are not about to choose between being bad or good; the whole point of maskirovska is to sow FUD.  Meanwhile, Trump boasts of making up trade deficits with Canada.  Justin Trudeau knew Trump was wrong, Trump knew he had no idea whether he was speaking the truth, and Trudeau and every other foreign leader already knew Trump is talking smack 99% of the time.

American presidents have not always told the truth in public or private, but Trump is not the master of maskirovka that Putin is, even though he can still befuddle the mainstream media some of the time.  Most of us here in the US have become embarrassed by our transparently lying leader, discount every word he says as dubious, and I expect it’ll show in the elections coming up soon.

Is Secretary Mattis About To Get His Shot To Protect The Constitution And Our Way Of Life?

Secretary of Defense James Mattis (I don’t say “General” because he has retired from active duty and is a civilian employee of the U.S. government) has done a better job of maintaining his dignity than most other Cabinet officers this past year.  Mattis has said more than once that his job is to “protect the Constitution and our way of life.”  Well, he is likely to get a chance to prove himself soon, if reports that the president is about to get rid of Attorney General Sessions are true.  Trump is apparently starting to realize that he actually can ignore the so-called adults in the room and do all kinds of not-normal and very likely illegal and unconstitutional things that he has been itching to do.  The Constitution, as Trump may be realizing, is a dead letter if it isn’t enforced by Congress or the courts.  And if pushback from free assembly and free speech aren’t enough to convince those other branches to restrain the president, the Constitution won’t save us.

If the president removes Sessions, installs (for example) Scott Pruitt, and Pruitt removes Mueller, then we are on the edge of constitutional crisis (I say “edge” advisedly because I don’t believe a president can succeed in trashing our freedoms unless we acquiesce).  Congress could intervene by passing, with veto-proof majorities, a new independent counsel statute; alternatively, Congressional committees could actually get serious about enforcing subpoenas against Trump and his minions; or, of course, the House could impeach.  What does Mattis have to do with any of this?  If Trump does move to shut down Mueller’s investigation, Mattis’s only honorable move, in my opinion, will be to resign and furthermore tell us why he will not be a party to subversion of our Constitution and our traditions of freedom.  If Mattis can’t move the needle of public opinion among Trump supporters and on-the-fence Americans, we are in trouble.  But he will have done what he can to preserve what he says he cares about most.

Will Kim Jong Un Succeed In Legitimizing The President?

“Why would the US president ever want to legitimize a brutal dictator” is, in all seriousness, no longer the question on the table.  Maybe W was a bonehead to say he had “looked into Putin’s eyes” and gotten a sense of his soul.  Maybe Obama should have been less eager to press “reset” with Russia, and more willing to walk away from the Iran deal.  And Trump is unlikely to know as much as he thinks he does about Kim Jong Un and North Korea.  Do we even have an ambassador to South Korea in place?  Has Trump learned anything at all about Korea that he wasn’t spoonfed by Xi Jinping when they met in Beijing last year?

Trump’s rush to announce a meeting with Kim may yet be countermanded or undermined or sabotaged by the “Deep State.”  And I don’t blame the Deep Staters.  They are concerned, perhaps beside themselves, for good reason.  At this point, sad and almost unthinkable to say, Trump looks more desperate to meet with Kim than Kim is to meet with Trump.  Is it too much to ask an American president to stop trying to prove that he is bigger and better than all other presidents?

Of Course The President Doesn’t Believe In Free Trade–He Doesn’t Believe In Freedom, Period.

Wake up, Paul Ryan!  Of course Trump doesn’t believe in free trade.  Can you imagine?  In fact he doesn’t believe in freedom at all.  Except for himself, to be president-for-life like Mr. Xi.

Ever since grade-school-Trump was reportedly caught throwing rocks into the crib of a toddler next door in Queens, he has been, shall we see, less than fully committed to freedom in any sense normal people can recognize.  Paul Ryan, meanwhile, has not troubled himself to condemn Trump’s many other assaults on American freedom and rule of law, but is suddenly horrified that the president shows no respect for free trade.  Really?  Will Paul Ryan sit Trump down and read aloud to him from David Ricardo’s writings on “comparative advantage”?  Will Paul Ryan persuade our president that global trade is a win-win proposition in which voluntary mutually beneficial transactions shine the light of freedom into every corner of America (and the rest of the world)?

No, he won’t, because Donald J. Trump understands better than Paul Ryan that what America great in the first place was not the fantasy spontaneous-order world of Hayek and Mises.  Nope, it was the zero-sum world of baksheesh and Ndrangheta and omerta and Maskirovka and grease.  The whole point of the art of the deal is to fool and screw somebody else, not to find mutually beneficial transactions.  (The complex truth is other than either of these simple options; another post another day).

And if Trump appointed a “religious freedom” ambassador, that was for the “evangelical” suckers.  If he speaks of “God,” it is a God of wrath and vengeance, not the God who promises and brings good news of Christian freedom.  If he ever butters up members of the press in private, it’s only so as to catch them off guard when he calls them “enemies of the people” in public and tweets violent anti-CNN images to rile up his loyalists.

Paul, admit it: your president and ours doesn’t give a fig for “freedom.”  You at least make a big show out of promoting “freedom,” even if it is, IMO, a dystopian kind of freedom disconnected from the actual experiences of millions of hard-working and economically and otherwise not-completely-secure Americans–Americans who might want to look into FDR’s Second Bill of Rights to discover a version of freedom that might make a positive difference. If you want to know what the president really thinks of freedom, just look at his envious praise of Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin and Rodrigo Duterte and Erdogan and–you get the idea, Paul.

Imputable Me? No, Imputable You!

Why am I not surprised that “due process” was never a priority for this president?  I am a little sad for the sad trombone snowflakes commenting on Breitbart.com that their Trump votes are now hanging by a thread!  A thread having nothing whatsoever to do with due process, of course, but everything to do with happiness always being a warm gun.

Under no circumstances, in his own mind, will the president ever be blamed for anything.  He is not a puppet of the NRA–but you are, even if you are a Republican Senator who stuck your neck out to challenge the NRA.  He does not have conflicts of interest.  He cannot be bought.  Correction: he won’t stay bought.  Further update: we’re not quite sure if he can stay bought, stay tuned.

But by all means he will never be the subject of imputation.  There may or may not be collusion.  In fact collusion might turn out to be awesome.  But imputability, that’s never ever gonna happen.

Will The Supreme Court Get Tough On Unions And Reinstate The 1351 “Statute Of Laborers”?

The Supreme Court looks ready to crush public-sector unions with their upcoming decision in Janus v. AFSCME.  Anthony Kennedy, to his credit, decided in Obergefell that “animus” against same-sex relationships was unconstitutional (though he did not, in my judgment, get to the heart of the matter by declaring that bans on gay marriage violate the 14th Amendment due process guarantee) but in the oral argument Monday in Janus he showed open animus against collective bargaining as such.  Kennedy asked whether unions would have less political influence if they lose the case.  Hearing “yes,” he said, “isn’t that the end of the case?”  Yes, it probably is the end of this case.  I hadn’t expected Justice Kennedy to go so feudalistic on us in public, but it’s a new day in Washington.

But Tony–and Neil, Clarence, John, and Sam–why not set your sights higher?  The 1351 Statute of Laborers beckons.  Don’t be so low energy, just trying to demolish the New Deal and return to the days of William McKinley.  After the “Black Death” of 1347-1351, the workers who survived realized they had unaccustomed bargaining power.  As the 1351 Statute of Laborers acknowledged, this caused “grave inconveniences” for the lords and ladies and ruling classes of the time.  And so King Edward declared that “cherishing” laborers “in their sloth” was unacceptable.  His Statute declared that workers could no longer move to other towns in search of better conditions, but had to stay put and keep working for pre-plague wages.  (More anti-worker-freedom, anti-voluntary-transactions laws were passed in subsequent years, as the 1351 statute was hard to enforce–supply and demand, you know).

Consider yourself on notice now, Justice Kennedy.  When your hometown of Sacramento, and the rest of the Central Valley, floods and then sinks and then burns and the nation’s food supply dries up and anarchy really breaks out–are you ready to set things right by bringing us back to the glory days of 1351?  You won’t go squishy and start cherishing sloth, will you?  But you do know, don’t you, that all your empty talk about “voluntary transactions” and “freedom” is headed for the dumpster.

Should Our Least Racist President Have Admitted That The Second Amendment Had A Lot To Do With Slave Patrols?

If our president were really the biggest, best supporter of the 2nd Amendment, would he really have mentioned at the CPAC convention in National Harbor, Maryland today that, even for Give-me-liberty-or-give-me-death-Patrick-Henry, the militias referenced in the 2nd Amendment were often engaged in slave patrols?  Could it be that the president did not actually get into such nitty-gritty historical details because he is utterly innocent of any knowledge of American history?  He might not know the details, but he and his good buddy Wayne LaPierre know full well that Philando Castile did not have full 2nd Amendment privileges.

 

https://lawreview.law.ucdavis.edu/issues/31/2/Articles/DavisVol31No2_Bogus.pdf

 

 

 

“I Like Students Who Don’t Get Shot…Just Like I Like Soldiers Who Don’t Get Captured”

The President did not “order [a] ban on bump stocks” today (Washington Examiner).  He did not “move to ban ‘bump stocks'” (CNN Politics).  Nor did he “take executive action to ban bump stocks” (USA Today).  He did not “say he signed [a] memo to ban bump stocks” (Bloomberg).  In fact he directed Attorney General Sessions to propose regulations on bump stocks, in other words he ordered up a commission to study the issue, with no deadline for action.  Maybe it will come to something, but very likely not.  For some reason, headline writers from CNN to Bloomberg to USA Today–as mainstream as it gets–are still giving President Trump more than the benefit of the doubt.  They are jumping far beyond what he actually announced, which is not helpful to anyone hoping for actual changes in laws.  The misleading headlines might even be unfair to NRA executives hoping for a good night’s sleep, because the president, as far as I can tell, gave them no real reason to toss and turn.

 

Update: Shame on the NY Times, which now has this as their top website headline: “Trump Calls For Ban on Bump Stocks.”  The news story itself makes clear that he did not do that.

An Update On Opacity And Inauthenticity At Facebook

Rob Goldman, VP for ads @ Facebook, has weighed in on the Mueller indictments, media coverage thereof, and Facebook’s glorious “No Collusion! No Puppet!” role before, during, and after our 2016 election.  Rob, you protest too much.  Facebook is not the only bad actor and guilty party, no doubt.  I am sure you are right that plenty of media coverage of Facebook’s role in the last election was less than 100% accurate.  But did Facebook really share proprietary information on Russian ads with Mueller’s investigators out of a pure-hearted desire to “help the public understand how the Russians abused our system”?  Your company is in large part the social media system.  Mark Zuckerberg said after the election that the accusations against Facebook were all “crazy talk.”  Are you old enough to remember that?  You can say all you want that “swaying the election was *NOT* the main goal” of Russia, but sorry to say your words are far from “definitive.”  Your point is apparently that disrupting and weakening our democracy was their main goal, thus the election was just a little detail.  That’s a truly silly argument.  Of course the cultivation of Trump, and Jill Stein, were means to an end, not ends in themselves.  But if you think that excuses Facebook’s inattention and laxity, you are way off the mark.

P.S. Mr. Goldman does have a point that Finland, Sweden et al work hard at promoting a well-informed citizenry to keep Russian disinformation at bay.  In the US we reacted to the breakup of the USSR by exhaling and fooling ourselves that Russia was a far-off problem we didn’t have to worry about anymore.  Unless we lived in Alaska, we couldn’t see Russia from our window.  Facebook or no Facebook, maybe we have learned better now.  But critical thinking might still not be one of our national strong points, alas.  Mr. Goldman writes “there are easy ways to fight [Russian trolls and bots].  Disinformation is ineffective against a well educated citizenry.”  Education is “easy”?  Really?  Facebook and other Silicon Valley titans do promote better education in some ways, but are Facebook and Apple and Google willing to pay more taxes to support better education for all young people?  Mr. Goldman links to an article referencing Finland’s “strong public education system.”  Does Facebook support strong public education in the USA?

Sessions Praises “Anglo-American Heritage” Of Policing, Trump Fires Back

President Trump immediately fired back today at Attorney General Sessions, who praised sheriffs this morning for upholding the “Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement.”  The president, walking toward his Official Presidential Limousine en route to give a lecture at the failing Newseum on “Macht, Herrschaft, and the Greatness of The Rule of Trump,”  demanded that General Sessions apologize for his comments and acknowledge the greatness of his favorite traditions of sheriffing and policing, namely the Germanic and Prussian.  At first blush the president’s rebuke of Sessions seemed to contradict his tweet over the weekend in support of “due process.”  Trump derided that objection as picayune and also treasonous, saying “I don’t need no stinking Magna Carta.”  At last check CNN, the AP, and the failing NY Times and fake-Amazon-Washington Post were all seeking writs of habeas corpus for their imprisoned reporters.

Remind Us Again How The Irish Became White, John Kelly

John Kelly, like all of us, is descended from some people who were “too afraid” and others who were “too lazy to get off their asses” to get their paperwork in order.  And I am sure he and we are also descended from some kings and queens and lords and ladies.

But tell us again, Kelly, in light of your insulting remarks about DACA people now wondering what’s next: how exactly did the Irish become white?  Did some Irish-Americans “become white” by adopting the anti-black racism of white American Protestants?  Noel Ignatiev’s book, How The Irish Became White, quotes Frederick Douglass, who said in 1853, “The Irish, who, at home, readily sympathize with the oppressed everywhere, are instantly taught when they step upon our soil to hate and despise the Negro….the Irish-American will one day find out his mistake.”  The becoming-white of the Irish in the United States of America is a long, complex story, which John Kelly and Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly and all of us would do well to study today,  with a more empathetic eye than I can detect from them so far.  If Democrats don’t want to take the deal that John Kelly says is so incredibly generous, so be it, maybe they are fools–but it sure seems like Kelly’s trash talk and Trump’s trash talk is designed more to avoid blame than to find a deal that can get through Congress.  Is that leadership?  We have a president who says he would “love a [government] shutdown” over the Dreamer/immigration issue: is that leadership, or passing the buck and trying to shift the blame?  It is probably going to be up to McConnell and Ryan and Democratic leadership to work out some kind of deal, probably temporary, and hope for better days down the road.  Dreamers will be left in more or less the same uncertainty they’re in now.  Kelly is truly out of line to question the motivations or reasoning or actions of people in a situation he can’t seem to imagine himself facing.  I do not want to become the victim of anybody, legal resident or illegal immigrant, and I expect my government to make some effort to preserve public order and keep me safe from evildoers, but none of that means I have any right to heap gratuitous insults on young people whose only real home is the US but who are still in legal limbo.

John Kelly and Donald Trump are just “joking” and “negotiating” toward a deal, some say.  Negotiating is great, and a sense of humor is a worth a lot (as Joe Biden said today, the president sure is a joke, all right).  And I say a president whose mother and father got here by way of chain migration, whose mother did not speak English as her first language and who arrived in the US with no skills, whose grandfather got here by evading the German draft and who got five draft deferments himself–a guy like that who talks the way he does about immigrants is a vicious little man who has no memory of where he came from or who he really is.  His chief of staff, John Kelly, ought to know better too, but it seems he’s too lazy to study it.  (Speaking of lazy, Kelly was asked if Trump had read the Schiff memo, which is about 10 pages: “no, no, it’s quite lengthy.”)  And when Kelly talks smack about Dreamers because maybe they don’t trust Donald Trump is dealing with them in good faith, he’s really lost it.

P.S. Meanwhile the annual trade deficit with China: $370 billion–is that still a problem now that Trump is our president?  And the annual US government budget deficit is headed toward a trillion dollars–problem or no problem?

Why Does Our President Hate Freedom So Much?

Today in Cincinnati the president accused Democrats who wouldn’t clap for his applause lines at the State of the Union address “treasonous.”  He throws out a lot of un-American garbage, day in and day out.  This was one of the more ignorant and trifling accusations he’s made.  Did it have anything to do with the Dow Jones down over 1000 points?  Did it have anything to do with the Nunes memo being exposed as a dud (at least if you think about it for more than 5 seconds, which the president hopes you won’t do)?  Did he toss out “treasonous” because he is feeling the walls of the Mueller investigation closing in?  It’s not good at all to have such an infantile person heading up the executive branch of our government.  He has no feeling at all for the freedoms that make our country as great as it is.

There’s no getting around the pickle we’re in, though many people protect themselves by tuning out most of the time and saying things like “politics has gotten all topsy turvy.”  True enough–but why?   One lazy, comfortable approach is to take the many cues from mainstream media that both sides are at fault.  I agree that both political parties are full of pompous and irritating people, but just a few moments reflection will tell you we are way beyond honest disagreements over the size and shape of government.  We have rolled the dice, bless our hearts, and elected a 71-year-old who acts like a 4-year-old, and not just any 4-year-old but an evil and malicious one.  Just because the only verifiable Christian doctrine is (as Reinhold Niebuhr said) original sin does not mean that “both sides” are equally to blame in American politics today.  We have chosen, heaven help us, a guy who demands that everyone clap for him and love him and bow down before him.  Democrats have some very real shortcomings, but if they are the only available vehicle in 2018 to check and control an out-of-control president, so be it.  Grown-ups, whatever their party affiliation, are obliged to face our dangerous political situation, hold their noses if necessary, and try to make it better as soon as possible, to keep our freedoms safe from the threat of our rogue president.

RIP Gene Sharp, Author Who Analyzed Strategy And Tactics Of Nonviolent Action

Gene Sharp, who died a few days ago, wrote the books on nonviolent political struggle.  In Waging Nonviolent Struggle (Boston: Extending Horizons Books, 2005) and his three-volume work onThe Politics of Nonviolent Action (Boston: Extending Horizons Books, 1973), Sharp dealt with nonviolent action as a potentially effective means of political struggle.  He did not presuppose that nonviolent action is a second-best method for those too weak to employ violence.  Nor did he assume that the high ground of nonviolence is an end in itself.  Nonviolence is a strategy, a means to an end, in Gene Sharp’s writings, and as Nobel-Prize-winning theorist of nuclear strategy Thomas Schelling noted in his introduction to volume one of The Politics of Nonviolent Action, “violent actions and the nonviolent are different methods of trying to make it unrewarding for people to do certain things, and safe or rewarding to do other things….Discipline, command and control; intelligence about the adversary; careful choice of weapons, targets, terrain and time of day; and, especially, avoiding impetuous recourse to provoked or purposeless violence, are critical to success in violent as in nonviolent action.  Most of what are usually called the ‘principles of war’ are…about as appropriate to the study of nonviolent action as to the violent….What Gene Sharp’s book does at every step is to relate the methods of nonviolent action, and the organizational requirements, the logistics and the leadership and the discipline, the recruitment of members and the choice of targets, to political purpose.”

 

https://www.aeinstein.org/nonviolentaction/198-methods-of-nonviolent-action/

http://www.wbur.org/news/2018/01/30/gene-sharp-obit

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/30/gene-sharp-dead-arab-spring-political-scientist

If Paul Ryan And Mitch McConnell Really Cared About Civil Liberties And Didn’t Want To Become The Franz von Papens Of The USA…

Re what Paul Ryan had to say in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia today: if the GOP really wants to seize the high ground on civil liberties, how about defending “one person, one vote” by defending America against partisan gerrymandering?  How about defending America against vote suppression?  How about defending America against the carnage happening every day by appropriating some real money to reduce opioid addiction and deaths–and pass some laws that regulate the ability of drug companies to push crazy amounts of opiates into little towns all over Appalachia and California and Florida and New Hampshire?  How about defending the respect for rule of law that was a big part of what actually made the United States of America as great as it is?

Mr. Ryan and Mr. McConnell: have you read the memoirs of Franz von Papen lately?  Do you care at all about defending our liberal democracy (small “l” and small “d”) from illiberal would-be tyrants?  Yes you do know exactly what I am talking about.  Franz von Papen and his fellow “conservative” aristocrats enabled extreme radicalism in Germany by convincing themselves that they could easily manipulate the vulgar and clownish Hitler.  Yes, Nazi analogies are alarmist and hazardous, but you, Ryan and McConnell, know very well what you’re up to, you know you’re enabling Trump when you tolerate and tacitly encourage people like Devin Nunes.  You know that when Senator Richard Burr, Republican of North Carolina, is not allowed to look at the Nunes memo, something rotten is going on.  You don’t want to be lumped in with Breitbart and Alex Jones, but that’s where you are now.

The State Of Our Unreliable Narrator Is Ugly And Malicious

The phrase “unreliable narrator” was coined by Wayne Booth, University of Chicago English professor, in his 1961 book The Rhetoric of Fiction.  James Phelan of Ohio State University, in a 2007 journal article, parsed two types of unreliable narration: “Estranging Unreliability, Bonding Unreliability, and the Ethics of ‘Lolita.'”

I fervently hope that the instant TV analysts of tonight’s State of the Union Address focus not on the laughable question,  “did he become presidential yet?” but rather on the far more fascinating issue, “what kind of unreliable narration are we dealing with tonight?”  For example, can the president do “estranging unreliability” and “bonding unreliability” at the same time?  Will he thus succeed in disorienting enough people, including media influencers and elites, to get away with the obstructions that he himself foretold would amount to an openly visible crime scene (sub 1600 Penn Ave for Fifth Avenue).   I assume (based on experience at this point, not prejudgment; yes, I gave him a chance, time’s up) malicious unreliability from this president, and am happy that many if not most Americans are quite aware of the maliciousness and the unreliability and are already tired enough of it to overcome GOP gerrymandering this November and place an Article One check on presidential abuse of power.  But it is a dangerous harrowing time for America’s constitutional democratic republic.

 

James Phelan article:

https://www.jstor.org/stable/30219252?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

From Distention To Intention (2018)

If there was ever a year when people all over need to move from “distentio animi” (the soul stretched out of shape and distracted) to “intentio animi” (roughly, concentration) and from discordance to concordance, it’s now, 2018.  Of course Americans are not united, but I expect even those who figured what the heck let’s roll the dice in 2016, not necessarily from evil intent but in many cases out of real frustration, many if not most such people are worried and troubled by what they saw in 2017.  Every president has the capacity to initiate events, for better or worse.  But there is now an election in view, and it is now possible for those Americans who want to check and balance this president to focus on doing so.  Yes he can try to get us to pay attention to shiny objects and yes we may get fooled into diving down one or two rabbit holes, but there is hope for “intention” this year, intention for the sake of protecting our constitutional rights and our way of life (imperfect though it is).  We need to insist on sane and responsible representation this November.  We voted (via the electoral college, bless its quasi-democratic heart) to take a risky path a year and a half ago, but we have a chance to repair, I hope, much of the damage this fall.  Any politician, in spite of possibly honorable past service, who is subservient to our current president is not serving freedom and democracy well at this point.  If that sounds oblivious to the many flaws of the Democratic Party or “the left,” so be it.  Differences over the proper size and shape of the federal government are one thing.  Protecting freedom and the Constitution is a higher imperative at this moment.

P.S. For a seemingly abstract (though in Augustine, book 11, strikingly concrete) take on “distention” and intention, see the following sources (Augustine’s Confessions as translated recently by Sarah Ruden; Peter Brown’s review of Ruden’s version; and Paul Ricoeur’s interpretation of Augustine):

https://books.google.com/books?id=GyDODgAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=augustine++confessions+sarah+ruden++distended&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjDuPbP38HYAhVnrlQKHQCZANkQ6AEIKTAA#v=onepage&q=stretched%20out%20of%20shape&f=false

 

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2017/10/26/sarah-ruden-augustine-dialogue-god/

 

https://books.google.com/books?id=5h9lJLdjoBwC&pg=PA231&dq=augustine+confessions+distentio+intentio&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiy8pmP38HYAhXqqlQKHQZ2AdwQ6AEIQjAE#v=onepage&q=%20distentio%20intentio&f=false

57 Gorilla Channels And Nothing On

I admit that I found the “gorilla channel” parody of Michael Wolff’s Fire And Fury book plausible for a brief shining moment.  Seventeen hours a day seemed a bit much, but who am I to judge a man with the single-minded focus of our president?

Does the Wolff book tell us anything we didn’t already know or suspect? Not really.  Do we need any more incriminating stories from the Washington Post or New York Times or Buzzfeed or (credit where due, despite their editorial stance, which is pure flying-monkey style agitprop) Wall Street Journal?  I imagine Robert Mueller’s team, if not removed by agents of the Trump regime, will disclose a lot more detail, but we have been able to read enough already about meetings with Russians and alleged money laundering, not to mention the obvious Emoluments Clause violations, to judge for ourselves that the current executive in Washington is utterly corrupt and unfit.  Josh Marshall is right to call what we are seeing an “active crime scene.”  There is plenty of evidence of turpitude, for those with ears to hear and eyes to read.

We the people–preferably in the person of our elected representatives, but also in the form of First Amendment-authorized peaceable assembly–just need to move from the “distention” of 2017 (I felt stretched out of shape, anyway) to the “intention” of 2018.  The next election is now in sight.  Even though this president, like any president, has plenty of power to initiate events and cause unnecessary trouble, we Americans have the capacity now to focus our energy on checking his power in just a few months’ time.

A Bodyguard Of Lies, All The Way Down

As the new movie “Darkest Hour” ends, Lord Halifax acknowledges that Winston Churchill has taken the English language and sent it into battle.  We are not yet in our darkest hour in the U.S., but we too have a political leader who sends the English language into battle.  Too bad he does not do it in service of any cause nobler than enriching himself and his Mar-a-Lago customers, whom he told Friday night that they are about to “get a whole lot richer.”

Churchill said that “in war-time, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.”  He had a very noble purpose, turning back Nazi domination of Europe (sullied by his simultaneously vicious and oblivious imperialism).  In 2017, the president protects himself, or tries to, with nearly incessant razzle-dazzle, aka lies–but not, as far as I can tell, in service of any noble cause at all.  It’s just a bodyguard of lies all the way down, with no bottom in sight yet.

Paul Ryan Says “My Minute Will Last As Long As I Want It To Last”–True, Until Next November, Then He’s On Borrowed Time

Paul Ryan said a minute or two ago on the House floor in DC that his “minute” can last as long as he wants it to.  Ryan, as Speaker, can, indeed, make his “minute” last as long as he likes in today’s House debate on the corporate tax cut bill.  But he is on borrowed time–and he probably knows it, as his hints at retirement show.  People who oppose Ryan’s agenda, and McConnell’s agenda (as for Trump…”agenda” is too dignified a word for it, I think) have a goal in view now–toss them out next November.

Not To Worry About A ‘Coup’ In America–After All, Case Officer Putin Has Trump Under Control

If there is a “coup” going on in America, from what direction is it coming?  Is Robert Mueller, long-time Republican and Marine veteran, leading a leftist coup to oust Trump?  Or is Fox News colluding with Vladimir Putin to destabilize our American democracy?  Much closer to door #2, I would say.  I am not sure exactly who is calling the tune, but Trump, Fox News, and most Republicans (or, as some say, Republirussians) are sure singing from the same nasty hymnbook.  The rightwing noise machine is a feedback loop of attacks on Robert Mueller these days.

If Trump’s lawyers really think emails from the transition period between November 9, 2016 and January 20, 2017 were seized illegally by Mueller’s team, they have a remedy: file a motion with a Federal judge in DC.  If they had any kind of valid legal case, they would have done that already.

If Robert Mueller were really trying to engineer a coup by relying on a team of corrupt pro-Hillary partisans, why did he get rid of the FBI agent who wrote those 2 am texts?  Mueller got rid of the indiscreet and dubious agent.  So what exactly is the problem?  Senator Cornyn of Texas had no good answer when asked that question yesterday, though he did clear his throat and harrumph a while.

Republicans tried and pretty much succeeded in delegitimizing Lawrence Walsh’s investigation into the Iran-Contra scandal in the late nineteen-eighties (hat tip Charlie Pierce).  Will Trump succeed in delegitimizing Mueller?  Trump has something Reagan didn’t: Fox.  He also has majorities in both houses of Congress, for now.  Will Mueller turn out to have more conclusive evidence (and time to present it) than Walsh did?  I think yes and who knows.  Three days from now, if the tax bill passes, as seems likely, and Congress and the country get ready for Christmas and New Year’s, the situation becomes more volatile between Mueller and Trump.  I would be very surprised if Trump went away quietly, but I also think Republicans in Congress would much rather have Pence as president.

When Putin calls Trump, does he give direct marching orders?  Or is it more subtle and refined?  What are the safe words?  The safe words that may have been worked out in their hourlong meeting with no US translator or official present, in Europe, a few months ago, that was not disclosed by any US official but by Buzzfeed?  And do they talk every few days?  We have heard more about their phone calls from the Kremlin than from the State Department.  Is Fox News looking into this?  Putin is mighty white, which appeals to some people, but do the patriots who voted for Trump believe that our constitutional republic is in good hands with Putin as Trump’s case officer (as James Clapper said recently, and I don’t trust Clapper a whole lot, but he seems to have assessed Putin-Trump accurately)?  Trump’s “national security strategy,” which he just presented on TV, does call out Russia and China to some extent, but Trump read those sections of the strategy report like a zombie, skipped some parts critical of Russia altogether, and only became animated when he spoke of collaboration with Putin.  Collaboration is not necessarily collusion or criminal conspiracy, but sometimes smelling a whole lot of smoke ought to be enough evidence to flee the crime scene, eh?

Alabama, A Light Unto The Gentiles (Just Not The Way Roy Thought)

The jaded and cynical Nathaniel asked (Gospel of John 1:46) “can any good thing come out of Nazareth?”  Jaded and cynical people in 2017 America wondered, can any good thing come out of Alabama?  Sure can!  I was surely apprehensive that Alabama might send Roy Moore to the Senate, but it sent Doug Jones instead, and great credit goes to him for running an excellent campaign.  Last year in Massachusetts, 91 out of the 351 towns and cities in Massachusetts gave more votes to Trump than Clinton.  So maybe Malcolm X was not so off-base when said that if you are south of the Canadian border, you’re South–but thank goodness the elections of 2017 have shown surprising signs of Democratic and progressive renewal all over the United States.  Not in the way that Roy Moore figured, Alabama today has become, so to speak, a light and a witness to the nations (see Isaiah 49:6).  I expect Alabama’s election of Doug Jones will inspire hundreds and maybe thousands of Democrats and progressives to get over the wailing and gnashing of teeth and prepare for political battle in 2018 in all 50 states.  (Or sooner, if Trump manages to fire Mueller and/or the GOP passes their tax cut for corporations and pass-throughs/healthcare sabotage bill.)  The GOP and Trump still have the power, if unified, to initiate giveaways to the robber barons of the 21st century, install horridly unqualified judges, and maybe worse.  But the wind is not at their back right now, and Democrats can and should press their advantages, looking toward next November’s elections.  Trump may tweet “I was right” (but of course) and blame everybody else about what happened last night, but he has suffered multiple political bubble punctures now, and everybody knows it.  Doug Jones said today that Alabama’s issues are the same as the issues across the country, jobs, education, health care–and he is really right.

Breaking News Via Revelation Chapter 9: The Oval Office Is A Bottomless Pit

If you were thinking that the president bottomed out today with his sexual innuendo about Democratic US Senator Gillibrand, think again.  As First Lady Michelle Obama said last year, the presidency does not change who you are, it reveals who you are.  For this president, there is not likely to be any soundable bottom.  We could look more closely at the paradoxical geometry of bottomless pits in a finite universe.  We could ask whether a rock dropped in the Oval Office would ever bounce off the bottom, but why not look instead to the Scriptures.  As the book of Revelation predicted, the president is the “king of the bottomless pit.”  That’s from Revelation chapter 9, “then the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit….from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened….then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth….they have tails and stings like scorpions, and their power to hurt people for five months is in their tails.  They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit.  His name in Hebrew is Abaddon.”  Or, in Old High German, “Trump.”  At least many people say so.  Also, I regret to report, and even though it may hurt the feelings of those who believe Scripture is without error, the scorpions have been stinging us for more than five months.

Update December 13: USA Today’s editorial today, “Will Trump’s Lows Ever Hit Rock Bottom?” says, shockingly but fairly, that Trump is unfit to clean the toilets of Obama’s presidential library or to shine George W. Bush’s shoes!

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/12/12/trump-lows-ever-hit-rock-bottom-editorials-debates/945947001/