Tr-mp Is Dismembering Democracy. What Are You Going To Do About It?

“The Russia-Tr-mp collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?”

—Donald J. T-mp, May 8, 2017

Most of us wouldn’t have the power to fire the person who is investigating us or our friends for wrongdoing. In fact, there is only one person in our system of justice who has that power. Normally he goes by the name of POTUS. In Tr-mp’s case, he holds that title illegitimately, but the power behind that title remains. Thus, Americans are waking up today to the fact that the checks and balances on executive power they always believed were part of our system are mostly not formal checks and balances. They are discovering that many meaningful restraints on such power are found in the personal intImage result for trump and comeyegrity of the person who holds, legitimately or not, the office of the President of the United States. And that is the problem.

Tr-mp, as has been obvious for years and years, has no personal integrity. He is a fraud. He is a low-class grifter who may have collaborated, either directly or through his aides or advisors, with a foreign adversary to achieve an office for which he is patently and painfully unfit. We know that last summer he begged the Russians for help. He is corrupt, but unfortunately his corruption does not end with himself. He corrupts what he touches. And since he has no regard for the integrity of the presidency or our democratic institutions, he has, to no one’s surprise, corrupted the office and is trying like hell to corrupt our justice system and the democracy dependent on it.

This morning I heard Condoleezza Rice, promoting her new book on democracy, say the following about the Comey firing—which, according to reports, happened just days after he “requested more money and personnel for the bureau’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election”:

I would caution everybody to step back, let our institutions work…I have confidence that we’re going to get to the bottom of whatever happened…

“Let our institutions work,” said the prominent Republican who refuses to admit that Russian interference had an effect on the outcome of the election. Well, okay. Let’s look at some of those institutions. At least one of them is working pretty well through this latest crisis. The press has done a decent job of not just reporting the facts behind the firing, but has featured a lot of outrage over what has happened. Such reporting and commentary, though, is necessary but not sufficient to save ourselves. Thus, let’s look at another one of Rice’s institutions, the Congress, especially the two parties that run it.

Let’s start with her Republican Party. If that institution is the only thing standing between our experiment with self-government and a rather rapid descent into the abyss of crippling cynicism regarding our political system, then we are the most miserable of people. So far, Tr-mp’s unseemly and classless and self-serving firing of FBI Director James Comey has been greeted with mostly mild criticism by mostly a handful of Republicans. GOP leadership seems to be just fine with it, no matter what message it sends to the country and the world. Republicans simply have too much invested in Tr-mp to place the country’s fortunes over their own. So, with all due respect to Ms. Rice, one institution that will not come to our rescue in these perilous times is her Republican Party.

Now on to the Democrats. In the House, they are mostly powerless. The House is not an institution that values the role of the minority, therefore Democrats can make a lot of noise but can’t make much happen. The Senate is different. The minority can play a role there, especially with 48 reliable votes and a handful of courageous Republicans. A good start would be to insist on, as Minority Leader Chuck Schumer diDems threaten to bring Senate to a crawl over FBI firingd today, some kind of special prosecutor to take over the Tr-mp-Russian investigation. But that’s not enough. Democrats should not do any legislative business, on any issue except Russian involvement in our last election, with Republicans until an independent investigator, with full powers to prosecute if necessary, is in place. Period. Nothing. Democrats can vote to keep the government lights on and continue to be part of investigations into Russian interference in our election process, but that’s it. Everyone should stop pretending that there isn’t a very dark cloud, that got darker with the Comey firing, hanging over this administration. The fact that the Russian foreign minister and Henry Kissinger both visited the White’s House today, of all days, is the perfect illustration of how dark the cloud is.

But, let’s be realistic. Democrats aren’t going to stop working with Republicans, at least they won’t stop doing it for long (they are using special Senate rules today to shut down committee meetings, but aren’t saying if they will continue to do so or employ other slow-walking tactics until Republicans relent). They will likely consider that to be too risky politically. But they will continue to try to use social media and television appearances to publicly pressure Republicans and the Deputy Attorney General at the Justice Department to do the right thing. Will that work? If it does, it will take some time. That’s where one other institution comes in. We The People, with the help of the press, will have to save our democracy.

Kellyanne Conway came out of hiding this morning and appeared on CNN. She told Chris Cuomo:

I don’t know why people are so surprised when Donald Tr-mp…who…has been a disruptor all of his life, when he comes to Washington and does the same, people express shock and awe.

A lot of folks voted for Tr-mp because they wanted him to blow up the system. With the Comey firing, no matter what you thought of Comey’s actions over the last year, Tr-mp has now blown a large hole in the confidence most of us had, such as it was, in our justice process. Tr-mp is a political system terrorist and he has a lot of people, jihadist-like cult followers, who are pleased with his work. In fact, some of them want more of it. More IED tweets. More rhetorical pipe bombs. More firings and bad hirings. More creation of destructive distrust of critical institutions. If they succeed, America, as we knew it just a year ago, will be a distant vision. If the people who want Tr-mp’s America are indeed a majority, are really a majority of We The People, then we are doomed and America, as an “idea” that the Condoleezza Rices rightly promote in books about our democracy, is a failed experiment in self-government.

But as we saw on election night last November, as we see in polling today, Tr-mp’s terrorists are not a majority. They act like it, but they’re not. And, like their leader, they specialize in bullying. They talk tough. They act like they’re in power to stay. And they will be in power to stay if the rest of us throw up our hands and give up. It’s up to us to fight back, and there has been, over the last several months, good signs that we are fighting back. Let’s keep it up. Contact Democrats in Congress, especially in the Senate, even if they don’t represent your district or state, and tell them not to do business with Republicans until a special prosecutor is in place with full decision-making powers. I once argued for a 9/11-like commission to look into all this. Not now. Tr-mp has shown, through his urgent eagerness to fire Comey, that he has something serious, and I mean serious, to hide. We don’t have time for what may be a years-long commission. We need an expedited, yet thorough and fair, investigation by someone Tr-mp can’t touch.

And we need it today.

________________

Here is a directory listing all House phone numbers:http://www.house.gov/representatives/

Here is a directory listing all Senate phone numbers:https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

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22 Comments

  1. Duane,

    I’ve been AWOL for a while on your blog. Busy doing other stuff. But, for whatever it’s worth, I’ll throw in my 2 cents worth here.

    First, and I know you’ve already addressed this many times, our democracy died some time ago and for many reasons. It has been replaced by a plutocracy – and since Trump became president, a quasi-fascist plutocracy.

    Hilary won the popular vote but then the Electoral College failed to do its job. That was the real constitutional crisis. (However, I’ve read where a number of states are changing the rules of their electoral colleges so that they would vote for whoever won the national popular vote. Ergo, no need for a constitutional amendment! Cool, no?)

    There are lots of reasons we are where we are today. But, we’ve got what we’ve got and that’s what we need to deal with.

    Beginning a few weeks before the inauguration, I believe a huge cover-up began. It definitely applies now to the White House. And it may also extend to a few key GOP members of Congress. Obstruction of justice is rampant. And outright treason is right behind.

    Unfortunately there are few remedies available. And many in Congress are just complete idiots, like the guy who said, “Nobody dies due a lack of health care.” That’s just one of many, many examples. And those who are not idiots have seemingly lost their testicles somewhere. So, we have a Congress with too many idiots and cowards to get anything done.
    Virtually all of Trump’s policies – domestic and foreign – are anti-American, or at least contrary to the values I grew up with. And that was in a strong Republican household in a strong Republican community.

    So, we’re left to wonder how long before the collapse. What will be the method used in the suicide. O course, this can be avoided by declaring a national emergency. But that can only be done by the powers that be, who are apparently willing to cause even more mischief.

    Depressing. Anyone got any workable ideas how we can get our country back?

    Herb

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    • Anyone got any workable ideas how we can get our country back?

      As Duane pleads, the answer has to be some way to spur to action the 45% of eligible voters who failed to vote. The challenge to doing that is greater than ever before because the media and the internet have become polarized. A primary part of the problem is Fox “News” which presents the go-to alternative to traditional sources. Few people subscribe any more to newspapers and serious magazines. It’s significant, and ironic, that Tr;mp’s principal communications mechanism is one limited to 140 characters at a time.

      The future looks bleak now, but I agree with Duane that persistence and resistance is the way out of the dilemma. The reality of Tr;mp’s ineptitude will surely become evident to the 45%, if it hasn’t already. The test will come in a year and a half, if we can survive it.

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      • My problem with the increase in voters – the 45% MIA – is that it would likely produce higher numbers but the same result. Consider that last November, 98% of voters returned the incumbents to Congress. And that’s not far off the average of 94% since the end of WWII. Contrast that with the 18% approval rating (according to Gallup) of Congress in the October before the election. That’s the absurdity wrapped in a paradox that needs to be resolved.

        So, an increased voter turnout would probably not help much, if at all. It’s voters who are informed that need to go to the polls. I haven’t researched it, but I’m willing to bet that the profile of the average voter in 2016 is a hell of a lot different than average voter in the 1790’s.

        For some time now, I’ve thought that the right to vote should not extend to all citizens. To me, that right carries with it a responsibility to be informed and to understand that there are consequences to this extremely limited exercise in democracy – once every two years!
        However, I would trust the judgment of those in the voting booth who have gone through the rigors of becoming a naturalized citizen and passed the Naturalization Test. Maybe we should require that test for all would-be voters.

        And yes, the news media in all its forms is no help. But my guess is that if you added up the readers and viewers and blog followers who primarily track and opine on politics, you would still not come close to the actual number of voters. There were 126 million votes cast in the 2016 election. The average viewership of Fact-Free Fox News in Monday-Friday primetime was 3.83 million viewers, compared to CNN’s 1.83 million and MSNBC’s 1.65 million. Newspaper circulation is about 33 million and who knows how many subscribers there are to online “news” sites. Then, of course, there is the overlap – the double counting problem.

        No, I think the biggest influence on voters is the ads by the candidates. And that means money and who’s got the most to spend. The ads don’t always work of course, but the lack of money for ads – and for the campaign itself — is a huge disadvantage for contenders. So, the plutocrats come into play along with the PACS, the industry associations, etc.

        Therefore, without any meaningful campaign finance reform, this condition will persist. And being elected to office, at least at the national level, is a pretty lucrative gig.

        Some say we might look at a few other advanced democracies and maybe adopt such ideas as the U. K. in limiting the length of campaigning to a few weeks, or preventing news coverage for a period of time before the election as France does. Unfortunately, we are locked in by our constitution and those ideas will never fly.

        Well, I’ve gone on too long. Bottom line is we have millions and millions of uneducated voters, too many of whom are easily manipulated and do what they are told. And we’ve got a society that holds money up as its most important value. And that leads back to my original dilemma: How do we fix our very broken political system?

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        • Thanks for your studied reply, Herb. I really appreciate your research. The notion of requiring the naturalization test is amusing, but I can see that easily turning into a Jim Crow law. It is a real conundrum. As for ads and money, I couldn’t agree more.

          You have reminded me of another point which I could have made, i.e., likeability. If there’s any one lesson we ought to take from 2016, and from 2012 for that matter, it is that personality matters. A lot. Ronald Reagan pretty much bumbled his way through 8 years and remains the GOP’s icon. So, who can we run in 2020? Al Franken? Nah, not serious enough. Warren? I’m worried about the gender problem. Most white women voters rejected HRC. Where’s a JFK when you need him?

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    • Herb,

      Haven’t had time to reply. Hope time will permit tomorrow. Thanks.

      Duane

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  2. ansonburlingame

     /  May 17, 2017

    I will reply to Herb and Jim, now, after trying to absorb all the “new” news over the last several days, couple of weeks. I was taunted to reply on the more recent blog related to calling, again, for impeachment. This is my reply to both blogs by Duane and in particular to try to answer Herb’s question about “what to do?”

    In order to govern compromise is essential. Simply, right and I keep saying it. Even when the President himself acts like a damned fool, in order to TRY to govern, both sides must seek compromise over legislation, not if the president is or is not a damn fool, where there is no compromise choice. That can’t happen today, legislators seeking compromise. We have a Congress made up of Hatfields and McCoys today and we the people put them there.

    Duane sides with one side, “Hatfields” maybe and calls for political death for all “McCoys”. I oppose that, legislatively, as best I can.

    So my answer, Herb, is argue about how to compromise, not how to “kill” the other side.

    Now for “chaos”, how to live in a country when the President of same is a damn fool.

    Trump has egg on his face every time he opens his mouth or fires off another tweet. Shut the fuck up Donald has been my wish. Let the men and women you have appointed speak on your behalf. Only speak yourself on reasonably rare occasions and then only with carefully crafted, but honest, speeches and a few press conferences after you have taken a few valium??? Won ‘t happen. Trump actually believes “only I (he) can do it”. And here we go.

    Muller as special counsel or prosecutor for the “Russian thing”? Yes time to do it. That should ultimately resolve the “facts” around “collusion”, etc. But more is needed, the forward looking investigation asking “how to prevent this again”. 9/11 Commission (type) is right way to go. Let Muller, FBI, and both intelligence committees decide if collusion happened and indict those that colluded. But remember you cannot indict a sitting President. If HE colluded and both House and Senate and Muller believe he did, then Impeach him and try him in Senate for same and ultimately remove him from office and THEN indict his ass. We won’t know the facts to support such conclusions until investigations are completed. So WAIT to see what happens.

    BUT NOW we have what COULD BE obstruction of justice charges against the President over the whole “Comey deal”. That should now be fully investigated by a Special Prosecutor with full power to make Trump “an indicted co-conspirator” (just like Nixon). Do it and do it NOW is my call. But keep that investigation separate from Muller.

    THEN (actually NOW) there is the issue of the possible use of intelligence agencies for political purposes. To me that is as serious as OOJ by a sitting President. That too must be settled, this whole unmasking business, etc.

    Bottom line is I have lost all faith in Trump. He needs to go as soon as we can legally do so.

    But in the meantime, how is America to be governed? If that doesn’t worry you and all you are trying to do is score political points, well ………..

    Anson

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  3. @ Anson,

    I’m pleased to see you agree that Tr;mp is a danger to the country, and that even though he, unlike his predecessor, did not need to be taught how to salute. However, I submit that your call for “compromise” is impractical, more because of Conservative intransigence than Progressive. Just consider, for the sake of argument, the major issues, as I see them anyway,

    Abortion

    C: Life begins at conception and any interference with the “natural” process during the fetal process or even contraception is murder.
    P: Science is clear, evolution is real, contraception works, and fetuses in the first trimester resemble animals more than humans. 50% of abortions are natural. Finally, history is consistent that when abortions are illegal, they still happen, but unsafely, and often result in injury or death of the mother. Unwanted children add greatly to societal ills

    Gun Control

    C: The only solution to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Government can not be trusted.
    P: Despite the world’s loosest gun laws, very few armed civilians prevent crimes. Cops do. Government, with checks and balances, and the democratic process, can be trusted.

    Voting Rights

    C: Only well-educated and financially-secure people ought to vote.
    P: Every person in a representative democracy deserves the dignity of having a say in governance.

    Healthcare

    C: America has the best healthcare in the world and that’s why it costs double. Competition keeps standards up.
    P: Every other industrial nation provides single-payer healthcare at about half the cost of ours and achieves similar outcomes of healing and mortality, some better.

    Defense

    C: High-tech armaments and a large standing armed force are necessary because America must be the default defender of Western Civilization and supplier of arms to it.
    P: America can be defended by a significant reduction in armaments and personnel while using the savings to improve vulnerable infrastructure. Endless war (Iraq, Afghanistan) is ineffective and promotes rather than defeats terrorism.

    I’m having trouble seeing room for compromise, but maybe you can. You go first for the Conservatives and I’ll try to match you.

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  4. ansonburlingame

     /  May 19, 2017

    This is easy, Jim as you touch on several points where we agree.

    Abortion should NEVER be legislated as murder of a human being. Given that constraint then Choice, personal choice is the best path forward. I don’t have a problem with any State deciding what restrictions to place on abortion but in the end that procedure must be safe, legal and as rare as the morals of the woman choosing to have the procedure. Dad (the father of the zygot) should get a say in the matter as well.

    Guns are legal as long as they are needed to maintain a well armed militia. If they are not needed for such, the government can restrict their distribution within a modern society. But they can only do so democratically, majority power. I will vote (or support those that do so) to outlaw any and all handguns in the State in which I live, for starters.

    Immigration must be reformed. Everyone that is currently residing in America illegally (overstayed visa, walked across the border illegally, etc.) must immediately register their presence in this country, legally. Give them all six months to do so. After that, when caught, deport them ASAP. For those so registered provide a legal process for them to make their case(s) why they should be allowed to remain in America and thus pursue a path forward to ultimate citizenship. Beef up immigration courts to allow that process to move forward expeditiously. While that process proceeds the illegal residents must be placed on probation and pay a bond that would be lost if they fail to follow immigration probation procedures, followed by immediate deportation, just for violating their probation. Of course strong control of borders must be implemented and sustained as well. NO federal funding for any “sanctuary places” within America as well. Follow the (damned) law, Mr. Mayor of San Francisco, Austin, TX, etc. or be subject to prosecution yourself.

    HC. Really a tough one. For starters the basic necessities of life are the responsibility of each and every citizen in America for themselves and their families. Food, clothing, shelter and now HC are individual responsibilities, for starters. Fail to provide for yourself and suffer the consequences. Government is NOT responsible for ones own bad choices.

    But of course there must be charity, resources given voluntarily for those that cannot help themselves. As well government can provide a very basic safety net that allows some minimum form of life that is relatively pain free. Want universal HC, fine, provide hospice care for any and all Americans. Provide soup kitchens for the hungry. Provide pup tents on government property for the homeless. Etc. I am a life long smoker. I have no “right” to demand that “you” pay for treatment for cancer related to smoking. All I would ask is a clean bed and enough morphine to keep me pain free until the disease runs its course. My knees hurt today at age 75. NO knee replacement surgery for me. Just tell me to walk 5 miles a day and lose about 40 lbs and my knees won’t hurt very much at all after I get in “shape”.

    If I want more than that I must pay for it (or the insurance to cover it) myself. And I should be able to buy that insurance from any vendor in America that I “trust”.

    Government is NOT responsible for my own well being. I am and if I make bad choices and have a “lousy life” it is my responsibility to resolve such conditions. IF you decide to voluntarily help me, that becomes your choice, not mine.

    Of course all the above on HC is my entering position. I will move towards you but you have to move in my direction as well. I submit there is room for compromise. But WHATEVER position we find “we” must be able to pay for it on a sustainable basis as well. So every position up for negotiation must have a price tag associated with it (you tell me what my taxes must be to support your position, etc.)

    My final point is of course related to money. Each and every “humanitarian” program (or ones for defense, etc.) envisioned for government must be sustainable and affordable to “we the people”. To ensure such prevails I insist on a balanced federal budget. The only compromise in that instance is some form of agreement on what exactly might be an “emergency” situation requiring short term debt to resolve.

    In that sense, the federal debt, it is like immigration. What do we do with or about the 12 million illegals in America right now/what to do with or about the $20 Trillion in debt right now? We must find a way to resolve those here illegally and a way to resolve the federal debt as well. We cannot deport 12 million or pay off $20 Trillion. But we sure as hell have to STOP taking in more illegals or more debt while we argue about resolution of such huge issues. Same with HC. If govenment must do it, provide HC, then government must find a way to pay for it, lock, stock and barrel and sustainably “forever”.

    By the way, Jim, the reason I became so disgusted with “the Navy” (actually it was the federal government) was “there was never a ninth inning”. Nothing was ever really settled or resolved. We just kept arguing, arguing, arguing (within the bowels of the Pentagon) and no decisions were ever truly final.

    Anson

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    • Well, Anson, it appears we pretty well agree on abortion and gun control. Gosh, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

      On immigration, I see that you are OK with a path to citizenship under certain conditions. If the GOP were to adopt this view, that would be a major step forward. As you know, such a compromise nearly happened a few years ago by the Gang of 8, but was quashed under a wave of Obama hatred by tea-partyers. I would be inclined to argue over the time table because of concern over resources and the effects on families, but it would be a start. Such immigrants constitute a valuable pool of cheap labor and ought not be treated harshly or unfairly.

      HC. Right, as one prominent pol put it recently, “who knew that healthcare was so complicated?” You consider healthcare and your own condition a personal responsibility. That’s fine, if you’re living in the 19th century, but not in the 21st. The fact is that modern medicine is capable of handling the population, including, for example, giving Jimmy Kimmel’s baby a heart valve, or perhaps even you a lung transplant. Canada, the U.K., Germany and Australia are proving it, and at half the cost we pay. I’ve got no problem paying to treat a smoker like you because hardly anyone makes completely good lifestyle choices, and also because it is practical to help everyone. A parent’s income ought not determine if a baby lives when the fix is available. In my view, good care, including preventive care, ought to be a human right along with the pursuit of happiness. It is immoral to have corporations and healthcare executives getting rich by selling services that are generally impractical to shop for competitively. I would like to see you try to move your position on this one. As for me, I agree that costs cannot be ignored and we must work to bring those down. A single-payer plan would do that and preventive care would also help.

      A balanced budget? That is a fine goal, and it is possible, but of course the devil is in the details. This can not be done quickly because, as you point out, we are deep in the hole $20T. I would like to point out that Obama decreased the deficit (as opposed to the debt) every year of his tenure after W. handed him debt in free-fall. I find it interesting that you mention illegal immigration in the context of debt. There is one study from the conservative Heritage Foundation concluding that illegal immigrants cost more in benefits than they contribute in taxes, but most other studies, including from the non-partisan CBO, conclude the opposite. Immigrants do work shunned by most Americans. For example,

      According to a 2010 report by the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, Georgia farmers suffered because of a state regulation requiring illegal immigrants to be reported and not hired. Georgia farmers lost more than 50% of labor and crops because of the limited labor force. — from Wikipedia

      Fix the debt? I’m all for it, I’m just advocating more sensible spending, away from the military industrial complex and for-profit healthcare and towards infrastructure. There have been signs of some appetite in Congress for infrastructure, albeit not away from gold-plated weapons systems. So much for the financial cliff that so terrified them in the Obama years. I don’t see any compromise in your stance on this, so I guess we will have to agree to disagree.

      I get what you mean about the Puzzle Palace. I never did have any desire to get in on that end of the Navy, knowing how the budget game is played. War has become something very different from what it was when we were young. Now it’ seems to be a sort of big business – the “forever war.”

      Jim

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  5. ansonburlingame

     /  May 20, 2017

    Jim,
    .
    See, there is room for reasonable discussion.

    I am currently reading McMaster’s book, Dereliction of Duty. What a travesty of horrors is reported therein. How many dead classmates did both of us endure and for what purpose?

    One clear lesson learned by the military after the travesty of Vietnam was when you fight, fight to win, period. That happened in the First Gulf War, thank you Colin Powell and again in the second one, thank you Tommy Frank. But in the latter case we ultimately lost, thank you David Petraus for TRYING to avert that disaster, because America remains unable to sustain nation building of any sort and thus should not even try to do so. Our current political leaders remain just like Johnson and McNamera, trying to win but only with incremental application of power.

    What I am getting out of McMaster’s book right now is when there is great divide within an administration, don’t do anything “powerful”. Fix the divide, first, within America, then either don’t fight, or fight to win with no holds barred, thus ending the fight in as short a time as possible. I don’t care how big one might be; NEVER go into a bar fight with one hand tied behind your back!!

    The other thing I am getting out of the book is Johnson’s paranoia, his intense desire to be “liked”. Sound familiar? He achieved that with McNamera’s help by keeping all the disagreement out of the room, total political isolation of the military from any decision process. Look what that got us in the end, in Vietnam. 20 years from now I see the distinct possibility of a similar result in the Middle East. We incrementally use force to play wack a mole with first Al-Quaeda and then ISIS. Stomp one down and another pops up.

    I expound on this issue of War and Peace to make a fundamental point with you. I agree that America can do far more with domestic issues if we put most of our eggs in that basket. By far the most expensive egg is HC, but it comes at the cost of national (world?) security. I have already asked how much my taxes must go up to satisfy your call for single payer HC. I admit there is a different question to ask. How many carrier battle groups or Army divisions or Air Force wings will be on hand after we move the eggs around?

    The clear answer to me is we will be left only with enough to defend our “beaches”, just as Western Europe has devolved (or is it evolved?) down (up?) to. You and I both know that NATO is a mere shell today, powerless to do much of anything (other than bluster) without American power. Is the world safe enough to degrade American power to the point that we defend (in fact, not words) just our own country and let the rest of the world take care of itself.

    Is it possible, if America decides to go the domestic only route, that my 10 year old grandchild will live in her 50’s with a nuclear armed caliphate bristling with radical Islamists and a continuing, intense desire of “death to America”? We withstood the onslaught of “radical communism” but only with an American shield against same for over 50 years (and $Trillions spent). Are we ready to say the world has learned a great lesson to let others live as they choose to live but keep such “living” only within their own borders??

    Communism died a natural death, by and large. Will radical Islam do the same? Any sane person will say yes it will. But at what cost I might ask. Look just at South Sudan today. Is the world ready to let the entire Middle East go through that tragedy for decades and “hope” the end result will be a peaceful world.

    Using Bernie’s words “The civilized world must DEMAND …….” Has the world reached the point where such demands (words) are enough?

    Despite all the wealth in America (but still the largest debtor nation in the world because……?) can government do everything needed? Of course not.

    Modern medicine is the greatest, life saving event every envisioned by mankind, no doubt about it and it will get better, no doubt. But it is very expensive. I close with the following anecdote.

    A soldier in Iraq is near death, mangled beyond all recognition by an IED. Yet modern medicine can save his life and provide life-long care as well. Should we the people pay for all that care?

    A habitual drunk hits a telephone pole while driving and comes out of the accident looking just like the soldier. Should we the people pay for all that care?

    Any humanitarian will say yes to both questions. Bernie will say don’t put the solider on roads with IEDs.

    At what cost I will ask and demand a clear answer. What must be our priorities if resources are limited, as they always must be. Remember, economics is the system used by humans to ration scare resources. Just like the laws of physics, it is not a humanitarian system. So it takes real leaders to enforce rationing, it seems to me. Even Christ left those choices to “Caesar”. HE, Christ, left the final rewards, completely humanitarian results, to Heaven.

    Yes, Jim, America CAN “do more”. Any country can. But what must take a back seat when “more” demands rationing somewhere else? Is that not the reason America, while the richest, is also to greatest debtor. Politicians refuse to make the hard choices to ration “something”. THAT is not sustainable, is it?

    Anson

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    • Anson,

      I am reading McMasters’ book as well and I agree with your take on its principal lesson. It is bringing back a lot of (bad) memories.

      Relative to the issues of HC and Defense budget, I believe you are viewing both as black/white whereas I see shades of gray.

      First Defense. Will you not agree that what Congress funds is often what the Pentagon neither wants nor needs? Further, there is a trend for complexity over reliability, examples being the Zumwalt class “destroyer” (currently costing five thousand times 1 million dollars for the 1st ship) and the F-35 fighter/bomber program (currently costing 400 thousand times 1 million dollars). I believe I see some fat in programs like this. It comes, I believe, from acting as the world’s policeman and sole superpower for 18 years. Do we need a strong military? Of course, but the Cold War is over. Russia’s fleet is a shadow of its former self and China’s new “aircraft carrier” is technologically 50 years dated. Is it unthinkable, just for example, to forego one strike carrier group and make do with only 10 of them? That alone would save an estimated $30 Billion, or about $100 for every person in the country.

      Second, HC. Can we afford top healthcare for both soldier and drunk? Yes we can if we cut HC costs in half with a single-payer system. I will concede that such is a very difficult plan politically, a tough cultural sell. But cultures do change. Who could have imagined, even 10 years ago, public acceptance of same-sex marriages?

      I agree with your last paragraph: “Politicians refuse to make the hard choices to ration “something”. THAT is not sustainable, is it?” No, it isn’t, but what they are rationing isn’t armaments, it’s HC.

      We agree that politicians are the problem. Since the system isn’t working, don’t you think we might have elected the wrong ones?

      Jim

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  6. ansonburlingame

     /  May 21, 2017

    Jim, This is the best “conversation” we have had in over ten years writing about such issues.

    As a first step, we find hardly any disagreement over “black and white”. Where we disagree is the shade of grade acceptable to both Hatfields and McCoys, my view of both major parties today. They both need to “start over” but of course I will never convince anyone herein on that point. I am arguing with Hatfields, if you will who want the shade of grade to be all white (or black, depending on your entering argument).

    I suppose I have always lived my life with the basic belief that no one else will take care of me unless I do my best to take care of myself. Remember the physical ed. program we endured for 4 years in college. It was not just running obstacle courses, swimming a mile, etc. The basis for that program that I still remember today is how to take care on your own physical health through diet, exercise, etc. I remember being taught “isometrics” that could be done, personally, on a submarine. “Do this every day, not matter where you are, and ……..” 4 years of college with one simple message (in physical ed.). Take care of yourself for the rest of your life for starters. Great lesson, one that I have NOT followed to the letter but have tried, more or less. So good genes and some exercise from time to time and ………

    So what about the guy with bad genes, through no fault of his own? More exercise is the entering direction from “USNA physical ed. department” starting in your formative years is my guess and continuing until …….. But what to do with people that completely ignore that edict, now weight 300 lbs, smoke and drink and suffer from diabetes? To me it is like the dying man with no life insurance policy that bemoans the fact his wife will “not have any money” so the government should give it to her instead?? Early bad choices create ……. and most call for government to fix that problem now.

    OK, so I just made another move to the left for HC. Government should fund (through K12 education) a physical ed. program just like we had at USNA, a rigorous and demanding 4 years of “obstacle courses” and good classes teaching every kid how to take care of himself, physically. Add another step of routine preventive care at full federal expense, once a year Dr. visits whether you want to do so or not!! How about that a government LAW that everyone must take a physical exam once a year!!! How many FUs would be heard at such an edict???

    We reverse fund HC right now. We spend the bulk of our HC government $ treating diseases and conditions that could have either been prevented or at least mitigated before they reached the “organ transplant” level of care. Why not just hospice for the old man in need of ….. and most of the $ on the 20 year old headed in the wrong direction, physically and mentally. Or can $ ever “fix” such a 20 year old? You can certainly “tell’em what to do” but enforce it, no way, unless you were a midshipman at a “military school”!!! Running laps became the “fix” with a Marine screaming at you while doing so. That was a “take care of yourself, or else” type system, and it worked, for you and me at least.

    Finally Jim, (and Duane if you are lurking) I am astounded and dismayed by Dereliction of Duty, the McMaster’s book. I never worked at the JCS level in Pentagon but even at my small role therein the same kind of crap took place every day. I just saw it at the 3 star level, not the one with 4 stars and very senior civilian officials. But reading the book, it was exactly the same kind of crap, dupliciousness, outright flasehoods, politics, you name it that I lived through for 2 terrible years, and quit, flat out left it, in my wake.

    That is still going on and is getting worse, no doubt in my mind. So when you propose government “do something about something”, my default position is government in American today can’t even do the basics (War and Peace), much less something as complicated a HC for all.

    We are in the midst of Hatfields and McCoys and as far as I am concerned they can both just blow themselves up and Western KY along with it!! We no longer need the coal for sure!!! Now tell me what to do with coal miners, please??

    Anson

    PS: Read Herb’s column in the Globe today. He repeats his call for “testing” voters to ensure they are smart enough to vote!!!! Or did I misread him?

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    • Anson,

      Thanks for the plug. What I was trying to get across was the idea that testing voters would insure, not that they were “smart” enough, but that they will be better informed about our system of government and therefore better able to understand the issues. Hopefully, that would get rid of the “deplorables”

      Anyway, something should be done about this absurdity of putting incumbents back in office 98% of the time, then disapproving of the job they are doing in Congress with other incumbents 82% of the time. Then again, as Lincoln said, maybe they’re OK with sitting on their blisters.

      Herb

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    • Anson,

      I share your frustration about people who damage their health with self-indulgence. Every time I go to Walmart I see obesity, missing teeth and prematurely-lined faces. I notice many people smoking in their cars as we pass them on the streets. What is easy not to notice are the many needy people who do not stand out, the single working mother trying to be both parents to children, the little old widow counting her pennies for the week’s groceries, the financially-strapped parents of the mentally disabled, and those with serious medical conditions who have no insurance.

      I have been, in my time, an advocate of universal military training, a program which would inculcate in the nation’s youth healthy habits and self-discipline. But, the reason it worked at USNA is that we were a group screened and distilled by attrition. (My class, selected from top applicants as was yours, entered with 1,200 men and graduated 802.) We were motivated by ambition and a strong sense of being part of something greater than ourselves. There is no feeling like it, but as you know, trying that in the general population is not the same thing. I believe the Hitler Youth program was successful at UMT, but that is not who we are.

      It’s interesting that you said,

      Add another step of routine preventive care at full federal expense, once a year Dr. visits whether you want to do so or not!! How about that a government LAW that everyone must take a physical exam once a year!!! How many FUs would be heard at such an edict???

      Are you aware that the ACA provides free annual checkups for seniors? They’re not mandatory of course, but many take advantage of them. Just promoting the basics can do enormous good: healthy eating, keeping blood pressure down, detecting diabetes before it’s out of control, colorectal exams. Another part of the ACA was incentivizing hospitals keep infections down and minimizing re-admissions. It is working. A major defect in the ACA is its nickname, but the principal problem is its mandatory nature, enforced through the tax code with modest penalties for non-participation. That runs counter to American culture and it didn’t help that a black man was behind it. Racism need not be overt to be a factor.

      What to do with the coal miners? Damn good question. That, to my mind, is the central issue that the Democratic Party needs to answer before 2018. Once a person is into their 30’s they are hard to re-train, but it’s not impossible. They need attention and retraining programs because those rote, repetitious manufacturing and industrial jobs are not coming back. Trump was malicious to promise that they would. Shameful. I wish there were a vaccine for demagoguery.

      I read Herb’s column. As he commented, he wasn’t advocating tests for intelligence, but for basic civics knowledge. I like the idea, but how do you prevent such tests from becoming a political tool? The idea should be explored. (This is my compromise.)

      Jim

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  7. ansonburlingame

     /  May 22, 2017

    Herb,

    I share your concern about uninformed voters. I also believe we have millions that seek information only to confirm their own bias, bias confirmation. This site is filled with just such comments. Why is it, I wonder, that I remain the lone conservative routinely engaging herein? I do not enjoy all the name calling. But I do have a sense of a responsibility to respond to this constant drumbeat of diatribe against things (not Trump) that I believe must be a part of the American political discussion.

    Trump is a terrible president, no doubt. I was willing to give him a chance but he has blown it almost every time and I refuse to defend him. But I will still defend our “system”. Trump should only be removed legally, not run out of town on a rail trailing tar and feathers. To make the needed legal case for impeachment will take time, probably at least a year if not two, or more, and actually maybe never unless we get a majority in both Houses of Congress in 2018. Then we can have a purely partisan impeachment, for crying out loud and God Help America!!!

    But this blog and many like it will not stop there. Duane has already announced intentions to “unpresident Pence” as well. He and his supporters won’t stop until we have, again, single Democrat party power and even THAT will not be enough. Wait until 2020 and I can already imagine the anti-filibuster diatribe herein, again!!

    Had we acted like this, politically, during the Cold War, Putin would be governing Germany, etc. today or an even worse clone of Stalin. Bernie and Duane would be standing in the Fulda Gap screaming “the civilized world demands all those tanks turn around and head East”.

    As you may have notice, Herb, Jim and I are both reading McMaster’s book, Dereliction of Duty. In my opinion the same kind of crap is going on today, a President (Obama) not allowing dissenters into the Oval Office with someone like McNamera guarding the door to keep them out. From the death of JFK Vietnam decisions were driven by domestic political decisions entirely. Several members of JCS said, in writing in 1964, that to win in Vietnam would take 500,000 men and 5 years or more to do so, IF we decided to make it an American War. The big mistake in that prediction was no understanding that even with that effort what it would have taken to “govern after “winning””, if you get my drift. Ultimately we would have still “lost”.

    Hell it only took 3 weeks to “win” in Iraq in 2003. It was what came next that continues to baffle America as it tries always to “make the world safe for democracy”.

    Hell, Herb, I agree with you. America today is not “safe for democracy” given the antics of voters in America today. We elect Trump today, Bernie tomorrow and what do we get? I continue to believe we haven’t gotten it right in our voting since 9/11 and I see no end in sight given the constant whims and uncertainties of American voters.

    What is a democracy to do when the only choices are either Hatfields or McCoys? Educating voters better won’t solve that problem, now will it, Herb???

    Anson

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  8. ansonburlingame

     /  May 23, 2017

    Herb and Jim, again,

    Some of these comments are evidently crossing in the mail, so to speak. Despite such it has been a good discussion, one without rants and diatribes from either side. Of course we are addressing a series of very complex issues as well, ranging from how to pay for HC, how to get people to vote only after studying such complex issues, etc. Such are the challenges of democracy in a very complex world.

    I believe it was Tip O’Neil that once said “All politics is local”. To some degree at least it is true. Consider the anger, confusion, frustration seen in this blog over national issues. Then consider the same levels of diatribes over local issues which are rarely addressed herein. Just today the front page of the Globe raises a local issue that reflects a national issue of “rich vs. the not-so-rich”. It would be very easy to jump to one side or the other.

    A church and local homeowner allege that TAMKO sold them a “defective product”, shingles for their buildings. A local and one federal appeals court agreed to let them proceed with the lawsuit. TAMKO, a tremendous source of wealth in Joplin wanted the issue settled by arbitration. Now SCOTUS has allowed the suit to move forward and the owner of TAMKO is now, according to the Globe, threatening to move his company out of Missouri because of alleged bias in the court system in Missouri. He claims another “unneeded lawsuit”.

    All three of us may well be dead before this issue is ultimately settled. Can a local homeowner and one church bear the cost of a multi-year process to settle the issue in a court of law? I make no claim as to who is right or wrong in this matter but I do know it will cost a fortune to settle the claim, one way or the other. Is that “fair”? Not at all but it sure is legal.

    How would any of us like to be working in the WH right now, trying to be good public servants but now forced to “lawyer up” to do our jobs as best we can. Is that “fair”, or even “right”?

    Again in today’s Globe Robert Reich advises all how to now get Trump out of office. In doing so he shows that he is absolutely convinced that, no argument allowed, Trump should first be impeached and then removed from office by a trial in the Senate. He echoes Duane’s appeal in that regard. No due process, no both sides standing before a jury to argue their respective cases, just a “he did it and this is now how to get him out of office”. Again, to hell with due process. His ultimate solution is a political one, not a legal one and he alludes to something I wrote above.

    Do either of you want a strictly partisan political solution to the actual removal from office of a sitting president. Yet if the Democrats regain control, by one vote, in each House in Congress in 2018 we might well see that happen. Or the opposite, a convincing PUBLIC (no anonymous leaks) case is made but the GOP may NEVER move to impeach Trump.

    Yet that kind of historic decision would depend on the “voters” we all seem to agree might well vote for “anything” in the passions of the moment.

    The genius of American government was founded, perhaps for the first time in world history, on “wise” voters selecting REPRESENTATIVES to govern on their behalf. That last thing the Founders wanted to see was the chaos of the contemporary French Revolution as well, rule by a revolutionary mob. Divided government and the rule of law were correllaries to their approach of a Republic, NOT a pure democracy, as well.

    But in today’s information age now one has the patience and endurance to allow the rule of law to proceed. One of the hinderences of that process is the lack of “speedy trials”. Can the homeowner and church withstand the delays that will be put in place by the wealthy TAMKO as the above process plays out? On the other hand will this country “sit still” long enough for the legal process to play out, one way or the other, to remove Trump (or not) from office?

    Reich won’t, Duane won’t. Where I ask is the IMPARTIAL judge and jury that in fact will do so in the case of Trump?

    In the meantime, I again ask, how do we govern America in the midst of this revolutionary chaos?

    Anson

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    • Anson,
      So much verbiage here, I’m getting dizzy. I’ll try to be brief.

      1. On Health Care – I don’t know why it is that we Americans always have to reinvent the wheel. We are the only country in the civilized world without a decent health care system. We could do what Japan did a couple of decades ago – look at all the programs in other countries, pick the best features, and dump the rest. They also put limits on the big Pharma. In the end, they got a single payer system that didn’t bankrupt the country or leave the poor sitting on the curb. You many not get to choose your doctor and you may have to wait a while, but you will get care. Those who can afford it can opt for more extensive coverage. Done and done.

      2. On Educating Voters – I won’t repeat what I said in the Op-Ed. And as a practical matter neither of our major parties would never allow it anyway. But I would argue that an adequate education is the key to solving most of our problems. As Franklin D. Roosevelt put it, “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.” (Didn’t have room for that in the Op-Ed.)

      3. On TAMKO – I did read the article this a.m., first I’d ever heard of it. Joplin would be totally devastated if TAMKO left. Let’s hope they prevail.

      4. On Robert Reich’s op-ed – First, the “op” in op-ed stands for opinion. Reich is pretty good at expressing his. You don’t like his opinion, fine. Next topic.

      5. On Trump’s Impeachment – Lots of smoke there. I’m betting the fire will soon follow. And Robert Mueller will show us how bad it is. There are so many problems with Trump it’s hard to know where to start. He’s obviously inept and incapable doing the job. Maybe Pence will be better, maybe not. He’s an extreme evangelical with a nasty wish list. In any case, the country needs to stop this existential angst ASAP.

      6. On Governance – As I’ve said many times before, we are not a democracy, we are a plutocracy. And if Trump’s budget proposal gets through, we will be a kleptocracy. Hell, we don’t even have the best Congress money can buy! Those folks get an F minus for there performance. The voters have been asleep at the wheel. And they are getting the representation they voted for. But even if they wake up, it may be too late.

      I’m not an optimist. I see nothing on the horizon that’s encouraging. There will be a final straw drop but there is no way of knowing what it’ll be – debt, war, drought, loss of the ecosystem, etc. On that note, I’ll repeat another quote that I seem to be using all too often these days, “History shows that great nations rise and great nations fall, but the autopsy of history is that all great nations commit suicide.” – British Historian Arnold Toynbee

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  9. Ben Field

     /  May 23, 2017

    Just to comment on the TAMKO issue, if it were to leave or burn down tomorrow, Joplin would not be devastated. An EF5 tornado couldn’t do it, and David Humphreys sure as hell can not. People are resilient, you find a way to overcome as residents have proven. Humphreys has spent over $5 million dollars buying the Missouri legislature, to bring “Right to Freeload” to Missouri. The right to work for a union company and not pay dues, and if you bust unions, you don’t have to worry about paying a fair wage to employees. Humphreys can settle the case and not spend millions defending his inferior product by settling with the homeowner and church.

    Humphreys inferior product fails after 5 years although the warranty is for 30 years and guess what happens. He will pro-rate and replaced damage shingles, but you are responsible to hire qualified roofers to remove the crap, and replace it with similar crap that he replaces for you. Then you have fresh crap on your home. I have no sympathy at all for Humphreys, he isn’t going to move TAMKO somewhere else. Where in hell in the US is he going to find cheaper labor, centralized shipping in a trucking community, or politicians so cheap that cater to his wishes? TAMKO can kick rocks down the road, and Joplin will be just fine, we now have Owens-Corning here, and they make a far superior product.

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  10. ansonburlingame

     /  May 24, 2017

    Herb,

    Yes there has been significant back and forth herein, verbiage if you like, but some reasonable thinking as well, without name calling. Not too bad considering ………

    My closing remark on HC. “Show me”. Construct whatever single payer system you like then tell me how much it costs for the government to pay for it. $1 Trillion per year, $2 Trillion, whatever. Then “show me” how much taxes must go up OR cuts to other programs (defense in particular) OR some combination of the two. Then make a choice and vote for it in Congress. Don’t like the Congressional vote then wait two years, vote for a new Congress and vote again for “it”.

    Yes, Europe does “it”, Japan does “it”, etc. If we the people want to do “it”, fine, BUT then pay for the damn thing, lock, stock and barrel, each and every year, no defict for HC allowed, period. Raise mandated premiums each year (taxes?) if needed but, again, pay for it every year. No free lunch America where we have been providing free lunches far to long as it is.

    Then take another step back from just HC. The administration has now produced a dead on arrival budget that balances the budget in 10 years, IF you believe the growth numbers used to fudge that claim. Everyone, even most in GOP say “we can’t cut that”. Some even say “we can’t grow that fast (3% as I recall)”.

    Now you tell me if America can continue with multi-billion dollar deficits for the indefinite future with occasional excursions back up to $ Trillion deficits, while growth continues in the 2% (or less) range for the same future. We grow or we die, economically.

    Everything you, Duane, etc call for demands significant tax increases to prevent “cutting that”. Great, tell me again just how much of my money America needs and then let’s vote on that single issue, a popular vote for a huge tax increase. Take taxes back up to the point(or higher) that JFK decided to cut them down in order to grow the country in the early 60’s.

    I share your pessimism Herb. I just don’t know for now what will “get us first”, Global Warming or economic collapse. I just can’t imagine, now, the world my grandchildren must live within!!

    Anson

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  11. ansonburlingame

     /  May 26, 2017

    Herb,

    I read the link provided. Why I am not so sure as anything coming from “the resistance” is obviously biased, in this case making a lame case for single pay HC. First I read the headline, claiming CA could reduce the cost of HC by 1/3rd in one fell swoop. OK, that implies we can reduce the national cost of HC by 1/3rd (from about $2.5 Trillion to about $1.5 or so Trillion). Then I asked myself, where does the federal government come up with just that sum of money, $1.5 Trillion per year “extra” to do as claimed. You can imagine where my mind went from there, how to institute another massive program, this time at a cost in the $Trillions, not $100’s of Billions. Short answer – “Oh Yeah?” skeptic that I am.

    But then I became constructive in my questions. “Great” I said to myself. Let CA do it alone and see how it works out. Certainly if the 6th largest “nation” in the world can do it, then so can the most wealthy nation “do it”.

    So I agree with the columnist Herb. Let CA give it a try, we wait 5 years to see how it goes and then we might have a blueprint to follow, nationally, for America. Can you and Duane wait that long, let CA give it their best shot and THEN maybe the rest of the states might try it.

    Is that fair? Oh by the way, whatever CA does decide to do for HC remember no federal largess allowed to help them along. America won’t find funds outside of America to fund single payer HC so why should CA receive funds beyond the state border to help them do the same??

    Anson

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