January 20, 12:00pm Is Here. And The Dead And Wounded Are Everywhere.

The Tr-mp attack on America, which began on June 16, 2015, is now at full force, as almost all Republicans have joined in the effort.

Here is a partial list of the wounded so far and their current medical condition:

♦ Democracy—critical, but conscious
Journalism—serious, but slowly, very slowy, stabilizing
♦ Truth and facts—critical, vital signs unstable, Dr. Breitbart attending
Ethics in government—critical, unconscious, and not responding to treatment
Executive Branch competence—critical, brain in vegetative state
Legislative Branch oversight—paralyzed on one side, signs of movement on the other
The Emoluments Clause—undetermined, but appears lifeless
The Intelligence Community—critical, cerebral hemorrhage
NATO—serious and unstable
Respect for women and reproductive freedom—comatose
Voting Rights—serious, with Dr. Jim Crow attending
American Muslims—undetermined, but experiencing extreme discomfort
DACA “DREAMERS”—undetermined, but showing signs of shock
♦ Social Security/Medicare—critical, unfavorable indicators
Obamacare—Father Paul Ryan is administering last rites, more deaths expected
♦ Public schools—critical, Sister Betsy DeVos praying for painless end
♦ Diversity
—serious, very male and pale
♦ Wall Street reform—scheduled for euthanasia
Reagan/Bush voodoo economics—good, expecting a full recovery

Here is a partial list of the dead and their date of departure:

♦ Presidential dignity and class—1/20/17, 12:00:01 pm EST.
Financial disclosure norms—after an agonizing illness, finally passed away 1/11/17
Merrick Garland’s seat on the Supreme Courtcirca 3/16/16
♦ GOP Jesus and the moral legitimacy of the Religious Right
circa 10/7/16
♦ GOP’s respect for “wounded warriors”
circa 7/18/16
♦ GOP’s respect for “our fallen heroes”
circa 7/30/16
GOP’s respect for the militarycirca 9/7/16
♦ GOP’s exclusive claims on patriotism
circa 10/07/16
Republican “superiority” on national security issuescirca 1/11/17
♦ America dealing with climate change1/20/17
Left-winger Jill Stein’s integrity—the disease began on 12/10/2015 and the end came on 10/13/16

But all the news isn’t about the dead and wounded. Some notable births and rebirths:

♦ Republican respect for Russia and its murderous president
♦ New norm of GOP presidential candidate pleading for Russian espionage
♦ New norm of GOP presidential candidate threatening to jail his opponent
♦ New norm of GOP presidential candidate inciting violence at rallies
♦ New norm of GOP presidential candidate knowing nothing about the job
Socially acceptable white nationalism/racism
♦ Socially acceptable grifting

Socially acceptable misogyny
Socially acceptable bigotry
Socially acceptable xenophobia
Socially acceptable sexual assault
Socially acceptable bragging about sexual assault
Socially acceptable mocking of the disabled
Socially acceptable “Fake News” (father: Rush Limbaugh’s national radio show in 1988)
The 3/5-of-a-man clause in the Constitution (rebirth, since the Scary Negro in the White’s House wasn’t allowed to appoint a Supreme Court justice he was entitled to appoint—Antonin Scalia died on February 13, 2016, almost a year ago, people)
Trolling for Rubles
♦ Gaslighting (rebirth)
The Russian-friendly alt-left (rebirth)
Growing appreciation for Obamacare
A strong “Resist Tr-mp” movement

Start Swimming

OBAMA OVER.jpg

My Farewell To O.

Thanks, Mr. President. I guess that’s where I should start. Oh, and sorry. You deserved so much better than to be forced to hand off the country to what’s-his-name and to have to give us a pep talk on democracy, as you did during your farewell address. But enough about all that. I’ve been writing this blog pretty much as long as you have been president, and I have genuine thanks to offer to you.

I don’t just mean thanks for helping to put the country’s economy back together again, after Humpty-Dumpty Republican economic policies mucked it up. Of course, I and millions of other Americans appreciate you for doing that, especially since you had to fight with Republican saboteurs most of the way. You left things in pretty good shape, considering where we were. Your successor will, it appears, once again turn to nursery-rhyme economics, and we will, in due time, be in need of a Democratic rescue.

And I don’t merely mean thanks for trying to get millions of often-forgotten Americans health insurance, and, thus, healthcare, an effort that is now threatened by Republican control of the government. You know as well as I that there are so many people out there who are alive and healthier now because of the Affordable Care Act, as imperfect an instrument for distributing humanity as that law is. God only knows what will eventually happen to the uninsured under Ryan and the Republican’s Randian scheme. But you, along with other Democrats—some of whom knowingly sacrificed their political futures to get the law passed—gave it your best shot under the circumstances.

The truth is that these and other achievements during your administration are not what I will appreciate the most about your time in office. I think you know where I’m going.

In 1966, Dr. King, noting the progress made in the civil rights movement throughout the decade or so before, scrawled at the bottom of a typed speech he was to deliver in South Carolina,

The greatest victory of this period was what it did to the psyc[h]e of the Negro. New dignity and destiny. We came out of this period only slightly integrated in the external society, but powerfully integrated within. We armed ourselves with dignity and self-respect, and our adversaries tasted the gall of defeat.

He mentioned “dignity” twice. He joined dignity with destiny. And he joined dignity with self-respect. You, Mr. President, embody those two combinations. You lived out your destiny as president with such incomparable dignity—especially considering the disrespect and slander and character assassination you endured. You armed yourself with dignity by properly assuming that you deserved regard first as a man and then as our elected leader. You armed yourself with self-respect by assuming your own personal regard. The former was an external expectation; the latter was an internal one. That was what King meant when he differentiated between the two.

As King suggested, and as it became obvious over the course of your presidency, your integrated personality is what led your “adversaries” to taste “the gall of defeat.” That’s what made them so hostile to you. That’s what drove them crazy. All that uppity-ness, which was nothing more than the behavior of a man who was “powerfully integrated within.” I suspect that a significant amount of energy behind Trumpism is tied to such gall. In 1966, King knew the civil rights movement “did not defeat the monster of racism,” and, alas, we see the monster still has some life left in it today, some of that life due to your merely being president, some of it due to your being the president you were.

Don’t get me wrong. There were times when even I would get frustrated with you, with your coolness when the situation seemed to demand heat, and with your compromises when the situation seemed to demand digging in. And there were things I wish you would have emphasized and fought for more than you did—unions and the power of collective Image result for michelle and barackbargaining, for instance. But at this moment I am thinking mostly about how you, and your equally dignified and personality-integrated wife, conducted yourselves as the first African-Americans to live in what was for all of our history the White’s House. Neither of you stepped away from your dignity for a moment, although there were times you had to tiptoe around certain issues that, in a still race-sensitive society, would have only stirred up the wrong passions at the wrong time, if you would have expressed righteous anger at some of the indignities you both saw and experienced.

Related to what I am trying to say, I’m glad you did that interview with The New York Times’ chief book critic. As a reader and writer myself, it helped me to understand you better. You said you loved reading as a kid because you traveled so much, which sometimes made you feel “displaced” and the “outsider.” You said it appealed to you that books were portable worlds “that were yours, you could enter into.” You later “rediscovered” reading and writing early in college:

I was hermetic — it really is true. I had one plate, one towel, and I’d buy clothes from thrift shops. And I was very intense, and sort of humorless. But it reintroduced me to the power of words as a way to figure out who you are and what you think, and what you believe, and what’s important, and to sort through and interpret this swirl of events that is happening around you every minute.

After graduation you began to write in your journal and write short stories, mostly about the people you met in your community organizing work. You rejected the “Jack Kerouac, open-road, young kid on the make discovering stuff” in favor of something “more melancholy and reflective.” And that’s where I get back to the idea of your integrated personality. You were asked, “Was writing partly a way to figure out your identity?” to which you replied:

Yes, I think so. For me, particularly at that time, writing was the way I sorted through a lot of crosscurrents in my life — race, class, family. And I genuinely believe that it was part of the way in which I was able to integrate all these pieces of myself into something relatively whole.

People now remark on this notion of me being very cool, or composed. And what is true is that I generally have a pretty good sense of place and who I am, and what’s important to me. And I trace a lot of that back to that process of writing.

In this 140-character world, that’s the perfect tribute to the power of real writing, which is a way some of us sort through our experiences, trying to make sense of them—and ourselves. The way you put it, “to integrate all these pieces of myself into something relatively whole,” said it all.

Image result for obama and little boy hairAnd that, again, is what I want to thank you for the most. For being an integrated human being, comfortable in your own skin, color and all—all your skin color meant for some people, those who looked at you with a patriotic appreciation for the promise of this country, and those who looked at you with MLK’s  “gall of defeat.”

So, to finish up, thanks for being the man you worked hard to be and for being the kind of integrated person all of us should work hard to be. Considering the way you were treated during your presidency by some on the right, and with that hard slap in the face on November 8, you had every right to become cynical. But yielding to cynicism would betray that personality you worked so hard to integrate. You said during your very last press conference on Wednesday that, despite the fact that some people think you are hiding your true feelings about what happened in November, you were truly optimistic:

I believe in this country. I believe in the American people. I believe that people are more good than bad. I believe tragic things happen. I think there’s evil in the world. But I think that at the end of the day, if we work hard, and if we’re true to those things in us that feel true and feel right, that the world gets a little better each time. That’s what this presidency’s tried to be about.

Your beautiful and talented wife said it better than I ever could: “Being president doesn’t change who you are. It reveals who you are.” Over eight years, we saw you get grayer. We saw you get wiser. But we never saw you lose your sense of dignity and destiny, dignity and self-respect.

Thanks and Godspeed, Mr. President.

 

Dear Hillary, Please Don’t Go To The Inauguration.

Dear Hillary,

A plea: Don’t go. Don’t go to the inauguration on Friday.

Oh, I know Bill has to go. There is something essential and meaningful in the notion of “a peaceful transfer of power,” even if the power is being transferred to someone you rightly said “is temperamentally unfit and totally unqualified to be commander in chief.” You made that statement on September 8. Three weeks later, you said it again, after Trump tweeted an attack against the former Miss Universe:

I mean, his latest Twitter meltdown is unhinged, even for him. It proves, yet again, that that he is temperamentally unfit to be president and commander-in-chief. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, a man who can be provoked by a tweet should not be anywhere near the nuclear codes.

Has anything happened since the election to change your assessment? Of course not. The man is worse now than ever. He’s scaring people here and all over the world. And I know you know that. So, why go? Why validate him? You don’t have to. You’re not a former president. You can use your absence to send a very strong message not just to your voters and earnest supporters—I defended you against people on the left and the right—but to all of the nation’s children. They must not, in any way, conclude that Donald Trump is fit to be our president, even if the technicalities of our electoral system demand he assume the office. Your appeaImage result for donald trump mocking reporterrance at his inauguration will help send the wrong message—that he is fit—a message that contradicts what you said about him during the campaign. If what you said had any meaning outside a political campaign, you must not go. At the very least you can’t normalize him in the eyes of our kids. And our kids will be watching.

Instead, there is an event the next day. The Women’s March on Washington will begin at 10 a.m. Such marches will take place all over the country. You, by virtue the of the role you played in the past election, need to be at that big march in Washington. You have to. Organizers are expecting 200,000 people, women and men, to attend. You need to march with them. We need you to march with them.

The event’s mission statement includes something that should sound very familiar to you:

Image result for women's march on washington 2017The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.

That’s your message, Hillary. That’s what you said you stood for, when you stood against the man who attacked Mexicans and Muslims and mocked a disabled reporter. That’s what you said motivated you when you were running against a sexual predator, a man who thrImage result for hillary clintoneatened to put you in jail, as if the Republicans had nominated a petty would-be dictator of a backwards third-world country. That message is what you championed against a man who openly begged the Russians for help to defeat you, who praised a Kremlin killer before the election and has only grown fonder of him since.

So, respectfully, Hillary—Mrs. Clinton—I ask you to send a much needed message to our country and, just as important, to the world. That message needs to be loud enough to deny Trump and Trumpism any moral legitimacy, even if there is nothing to be done about his undemocratic Electoral College victory. You, better than anyone else, can send that message by staying home on Friday and putting on your sneakers on Saturday and marching.

Join a growing number of Democrats—still way too few—who are boycotting the inauguration. Join John Lewis, who courageously took a stand against the legitimization of Trump. He said, “You cannot be at home with something that you feel that is wrong.”  Can you, Hillary? Can you feel at home with something you know is so wrong, so morally illegitimate, so disturbing and dangerous? If you attend that inaugural ceremony, you will Image result for john lewis and bloodyat least appear to be at home with it. We can’t see into your heart. But those of us who supported you continue to believe that your heart was always in the right place. This Friday, please show us we were right. Show us you meant it when you said Trump was “totally unqualified” to be our president. You said totally. Totally.

I know such a bold move would bring you much grief. It would be controversial. It would make a lot of people, including Trump, angry. He would lash out at you on Twitter and may even threaten to jail you again. And I know such a move would contradict something you said about Trump on that sad election night. You told us that, “We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.” Well, he will get his chance to lead. The Constitution guarantees that. But after what we saw before, during and after the election, we do not owe him an open mind. You’re wrong about that. G. K. Chesterton once said that,

The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.

Trump has given us plenty of solid reasons to close our minds to the moral legitimacy of his presidency. And you also gave us something solid, after your defeat on November 8:

Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power and we don’t just respect that, we cherish it. It also enshrines other things; the rule of law, the principle that we are all equal in rights and dignity, freedom of worship and expression. We respect and cherish these values too and we must defend them.

The peaceful transfer of power is one thing. We’re all with you on that. We must respect and cherish it. But in order to respect and cherish and, more important, “defend” the values of equal rights and equal dignity and free expression, we cannot honor and normalize a man such as Donald J. Trump and what he represents. Your appearance on Friday would certainly honor him, and it will go some distance in normalizing him. Again, don’t do it. Don’t be a part of it.

President Obama has to pass on to Trump the power of the office. Your husband and George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter are right to be a part of that ceremonial peaceful transfer. But your situation is much different. You have played a unique role in our history. Please consider playing a unique role in our future by sending the message that bigotry and racism and misogyny and xenophobia are unacceptable under any circumstances, by sending the message that a bigoted and demagogic man who openly courts an authoritarian thug, who invited him to interfere in our democracy, is, truly, totally unqualified to hold the office we are, out of an anachronistic constitutional necessity, bound to give him.

In defending his own refusal to legitimate Trump, John Lewis said, “when you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation to do something.” Mrs. Clinton, you know that Trump’s conduct was not right, fair, or just. You know how reckless and ignorant and dangerous he is, how he is even now upsetting our friends in the world while comforting Vladimir Putin. You fought Trump and beat him in the last election, as far as We The People were concerned. Thus, at this crucial moment, there is no one better situated to meet her “moral obligation to do something” than you. Your personal refusal to attend the inauguration will do something no one else can do with the same force and effect.

In short, please help those of us in the Resistance to, at the very least, morally unpresident Trump.

Sincerely,

A friend.

__________________________________

 

We Need An 11/8 Commission Before Obama Leaves Office—But Don’t Hold Your Breath

Late in November of 2002, George W. Bush signed into existence what was officially called The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. We, of course, know it as the 9/11 Commission. Created by Congress, the commission was officially “chartered to prepare a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding Image result for 9/11 commission reportthe September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, including preparedness for and the immediate response to the attacks.” It was “also mandated to provide recommendations designed to guard against future attacks.” 

Last week, Democrats introduced a bill in both the House and Senate that would establish a 9/11-like commission, bipartisan and with subpoena power, to examine the 2016 election and Russia’s role in it. So far, though, no Republicans have signed on. It is imperative they do so before next Friday—January 20—and it is imperative that President Obama sign such a commission into existence. We need an 11/8 commission. But I wouldn’t bet any money on getting one.

News related to the 2016 election is coming out fast and furious. On Friday, FBI Director James Comey and other intelligence officials gave Congress a classified briefing on Russian cyberattacks and election interference. But the issue quickly became, for Democrats at least, Comey’s own strange election interference, especially his inexplicable and unprecedented eagerness to publicly discuss and criticize Hillary Clinton’s email-server missteps, while refusing to say whether the FBI was, simultaneously or subsequently, also looking into allegations that members of Trump’s election team were in contact with and colluding with the Russians to sabotage Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. Democrats were, after the briefing, visibly upset.

Evidence is piling up that the FBI director and his agency did not properly handle either of the election-sensitive issues involving Clinton and Trump. As far as the former, the Justice Department’s inspector general has opened up aRelated imagen investigation into Comey and his handling of the Clinton email issue, which caused The Wall Street Journal and others to call for his resignation.  As for the latter, just this morning, the left-leaning British online newspaper, The Independent, published a depressing story: “Former MI6 agent Christopher Steele’s frustration as FBI sat on Donald Trump Russia file for months.” The story tells us that Mr. Steele, who is considered a reliable source by intelligence officials and who put together the now famous dossier that suggests Donald Trump has been compromised by the Russians,

became increasingly frustrated that the FBI was failing to take action on the intelligence from others as well as him. He came to believe there was a cover-up, that a cabal within the Bureau blocked a thorough inquiry into Mr Trump, focusing instead on the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Steele and a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal, who both worked for a firm hired by Republican opponents of Mr. Trump to do opposition research, were so concerned that no action was being taken that they “continued with the Trump case without being paid.” According to The Independent, the concern was that in July of 2016,

Mr Steele produced a memo, which went to the  FBI, stating that Mr Trump’s campaign team had agreed to a Russian request to dilute attention on Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine. Four days later Mr Trump stated that he would recognise Moscow’s annexation of Crimea. A month later officials involved in his campaign asked the Republican party’s election platform to remove a pledge for military assistance to the Ukrainian government against separatist rebels in the east of the country.

Mr Steele claimed that the Trump campaign was taking this path because it was aware that the Russians were hacking Democratic Party emails. No evidence of this has been made public, but the same day that Mr Trump spoke about Crimea he called on the Kremlin to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails.

By late July and early August MI6 was also receiving information about Mr Trump. By September, information to the FBI began to grow in volume: Mr Steele compiled a set of his memos into one document and passed it to his contacts at the FBI. But there seemed to be little progress in a proper inquiry into Mr Trump. The Bureau, instead, seemed to be devoting their resources in the pursuit of Hillary Clinton’s email transgressions.

It’s important to note that it was on July 5 that Director Comey announced the results of his Clinton email investigation and offered rather scathing commentary along with his recommendation not to prosecute her. It was around this time, The Independent story says, that Christopher Steele’s memo—a collection of which at some point turned into that dossier published by BuzzFeed—was in the hands of the FBI. If this is true, it is more than a little disturbing.

The Independent story goes on in detail about the New York field office of the FBI, which “appeared to be on a crusade against Ms Clinton.” Rudy Giuliani, a close friend of Trump’s and a member of his campaign, “had a long working relationship” with the New York office, and Giuliani seemed to have insider information that, he bragged, “should turn things around.” At that time—late October—Trump’s campaign was trending rather poorly in the polls. Two days after Giuliani’s curious cheeriness about Trump’s future electoral prospects, Comey sent his now infamous letter to Congress saying he was reopening his probe into Clinton because of some potential new evidence found, as we now know, on Anthony Weiner’s laptop. And, as we now know, and as many predicted at the time, there was no new evidence. Again, it is disturbing that not only did Giuliani appear to know what the FBI director was doing, but the director was doing it while pretty obviously knowing what people like Christopher Steele were saying about the Trump campaign’s collusion with the Russians.

Although the Obama administration, on October 7, formally and publicly accused Russia of interfering in our election, the story never caught fire. Many people now blame President Obama for not responding to the story more forcefully. Obviously, looking back now, he should have. But that wasn’t an easy call at the time. Clinton was leading in the polls and most of the experts and pundits expected her to win. A strong and loud reaction by Obama would have been greeted with charges that he was attempting to hack the election, especially if he publicly suggested a Russian-Trump alliance. Obama would likely have become the story, whether Clinton went on to win or lose.

In any case, according to The Independent, Steele became “frustrated and demoralised” at the lack of FBI action. While in New York in October, he reluctantly spilled the beans to David Corn, of Mother Jones. Corn published a story on Monday, October 31, eight days before the election. According to Corn’s subsequent account of his meeting with Steele, the former British spy said the FBI’s response to the information he provided them on Trump and the Russians was “shock and horror.” Despite that, there wasn’t any public comments by Comey at any time, which, you may remember, triggered a response from now-former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. On October 30, Reid wrote to Comey, accusing him of “a disturbing double standard for the treatment of sensitive information” and suggesting through his “partisan actions” that Comey “may have broken the law.” Reid continued:

In my communications with you and other top officials in the national security community, it  has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government – a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Trump praises at every opportunity. I wrote to you months ago calling for this information to be released to the public…and yet, you continue to resist calls to inform the public of this critical information.

Like the October 7 story announcing the Obama administration’s accusations against Russia, Reid’s written outburst on October 30 and Corn’s October 31 story didn’t receive a sufficiently serious reaction from the wider press. Why? The biggest reason was because Comey’s reopening of the Clinton email probe, which was revealed on Friday, October 28, was dominating all the headlines. The press had always seen Clinton’s email-server story as the biggest of the campaign and would not let it go, even for much more serious allegations that the Russians were openly trying to get Trump elected, and Trump, on July 27, had openly asked them for help. Thus it is that the national press, especially cable news—which enjoyed record ratings and profits by promoting Trump almost endlessly—must share in the blame for what happened on November 8 and for what happens after January 20. And perhaps that is why, now that it is much too late, the national press is aggressively pursuing the Putin-Trump story. Maybe there is some collective guilt at work.

But despite an aggressive, if tardy, press, the only way this whole disgusting issue—Russian influence, Trump’s and his campaign’s level of collusion with the Russians, and the FBI’s handling of all of it—can be resolved for all time is via an independent, bipartisan commission. But, I hate to admit, it is fairly clear that this almost certainly will not happen before the inauguration next Friday, and it is even more certain it won’t happen after Trump is in control. He obviously has a lot to hide since he is not shy about hiding it.

We know, through stories featuring revelations from Christopher Steele, as well as through some earlier reporting, that the FBI has actually been investigating the Russian-Trump election issue for some time. And we know, by reading between the lines of Comey’s appearance before Congress last week and through other revelations, that the FBI has some classified information that would help Americans understand more of what happened during our election. Atop-secrett the very least, as Democrats have formally requested, President Obama should declassify some of this information. Short of a bipartisan commission, it would be our best chance to see for ourselves just what the Russians, with or without Trump’s collusion, did to us and what we can do to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

 

John Lewis Went There. And I’m With Him.

JoImage result for john lewis on meet the presshn Lewis, civil rights icon and congressman from Georgia, took a beating as part of the non-violent Freedom Rides in 1961. He had his skull fractured by white Alabama state troopers—government agents—in 1965, after he crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge as part of a voting rights march from Selma, Alabama.

Today he said of Trump:

I don’t see the President-elect as a legitimate president.

John Lewis has earned the right to speak the truth, even if a lot of people don’t want to hear it.

And I’m with John Lewis.

Et Tu, Democrats?

Roughly, we now know the ratio of compromised Senate Democrats to compromised Senate Republicans, when it comes to “Big Pharma.” It’s 3 to 1 in favor of compromised Republicans. And although that sounds pretty good, it isn’t good enough. In fact, it’s pretty damned pathetic.

Now, I expect the big business-friendly GOP to be corrupted by an industry that enjoys high profit margins, the highest of all industries. And I expect a few Democrats to be influenced by lobbyists and industry money, money from an industry that keeps substantially raising drug prices every year. That’s just human nature. But I confess I thought such corruption would be rather limited among members of a party that purports to be on the side of the “little guy.”

Image result for prescription drugsOn a budget resolution advanced by Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar, one crafted to allow cheaper prescription drugs from other countries, where drugs are less costly, to be imported into the U.S. so consumers could benefit from the lower prices, 13 Democrats sided with 39 Republicans to kill it. That’s 13 Democrats—27% of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

There were plenty of excuses from tainted Democrats—future presidential hopeful Corey Booker (laughingly) said he opposed it because of a lack of “safety standards,” as if other countries don’t give a damn whether prescription drugs kill people—but the bottom line is that the damn thing would have passed if a few more Democrats would have found it within themselves to ignore the powerful tug of corporate power and signed on to a sensible resolution, even if only for the symbolism. They didn’t. And here is who didn’t:

Corey Booker (NJ)
Bob Menendez (NJ)
Chris Coons (DE)
Tom Carper (DE)
Bob Casey (PA)
Maria Cantwell (WA)
Patty Murray (WA)
Heidi Heitkamp (ND)
Joe Donnelly (IN)
Michael Bennett (CO)
Martin Heinrich (NM)
Jon Tester (MT)
Mark Warner (VA)

Kudos to Missouri’s Claire McCaskill—who is as vulnerable as any red-state Democrat in the country—for voting in favor of all of us who rely on prescription medicine. And to hell with Missouri’s Roy Blunt, who doesn’t give a damn about us, as this vote confirms, as well as his notorious support for Big Tobacco.

Trump’s Birth Certificate Moment

The story is all over the place now. What began in July, with Trump begging the Russians to help him beat Hillary Clinton, and continued through October with the Obama administration formally accusing the Russians of hacking the Democrats and Mother Jones’ David Corn publishing a story about the possibility that the Russians have for years been trying to “co-opt and assist Trump,” finally hit the big time yesterday when CNN did a tardy “breaking news” story:

Classified documents presented last week to President Obama and President-elect Trump included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump, multiple US officials with direct knowledge of the briefings tell CNN.

By now, if you have been paying attention, you know what the “compromising personal” information might be, but in case you don’t, here is the PG version from Newsweek:

The story began making the rounds at Washington dinner parties late last summer: Donald Trump had been caught in a compromising sexual position by Russian intelligence agents during a business trip to Moscow. According to one version, told by a high-ranking Obama administration diplomat, Russian intelligence services, acting on Trump’s well-known obsession with sex, had arranged an evening for him with a bevy of hookers, with hidden cameras and microphones recording all the action. The jaw-dropping detail that topped the story? Trump had somehow engaged in “golden showers,” sex acts involving urine.

Now, I don’t personally give a damn whether an entire brothel full of hookers pissed on his orange coif, his tiny hands, or any other part of his anatomy. The fact that he admitted to sexual assault on that infamous pussy tape is much more damaging than any revelation, true or not, that he got a urine bath in Moscow. That pussy tape is a thousand times more revealing of who he is than any pissy tape.

What does bother me about this issue, and what should bother all Americans, is the potential “compromising…financial information” the Russians, or others, may have related to Trump. As I write this, the Russian-Trump story is still developing. The latest, reported on MSNBC and NBC, is that Trump was not told in an intelligence briefing about the potential compromising information, nor were any documents presented to him indicating as much. Who knows at this point. But here’s something we know for sure: Trump trusts the Russians more than he trusts his own government. He tweeted this morning:

Russia just said the unverified report paid for by political opponents is “A COMPLETE AND TOTAL FABRICATION, UTTER NONSENSE.” Very unfair!

“Russia just said,” Trump madly tweeted. Think about that. This man will soon be in the White’s House. But he didn’t stop there. An hour later, he said:

I win an election easily, a great “movement” is verified, and crooked opponents try to belittle our victory with FAKE NEWS. A sorry state!

Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to “leak” into the public. One last shot at me.Are we living in Nazi Germany?

Besides having fascism on his mind, clearly Trump thinks the present U.S. government is out to get him and he finds it okay to cite the Russian government as a reliable source.

But Trump tweeted something else that should be the focus of all journalists, and all investigative agencies:

Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!

There is no ambiguity in that SHOUTED declaration. It is absolutely clear. And because it is so specific and so clear, it can be proved or disproved. And Trump has all the information, including his tax returns, that can prove or disprove it.

Back in 2011, after President Obama released the long form of his birth certificate because he was tired of all the stupidity surrounding “papers please” birtherism, Donald Trump took credit for his “big role” in the release. “I am really proud, I am really honored,” the race-baiter said. The next year he tweeted:

An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama‘s birth certificate is a fraud.

Well, today an “extremely credible source”—a former British spy who American intelligence officials apparently have some confidence in—has suggested that the Russians have compromising financial information that they can use to play Trump, and which would explain his creepy cheerleading for Putin. In short, Trump is a fraud, if what the British operative was told is true.

Thus, unlike the birthers, we have very good reasons to suspect Trump is hiding vital information. All he has to do is show us his financial birth certificate. Show us his papers. Prove to us who he is, that he is telling the truth about his lack of Russian connections.

He will have a chance to begin clearing this up as early as this morning during his first press conference since that infamous one last July. Every journalist who gets to ask a question should not move on to something else until Trump agrees to release all his financial information—including his tax returns going back many years—until he backs up what he tweeted this morning. Journalist after journalist, question after question, should focus on this one, vitally important, issue.

Because if Trump has been compromised by the Russians, we are in a world of trouble.

The Huffington Post’s Bad Headline, Entitlement “Reform,” And A Theory Of Trump’s Potential Impeachment

Every now and then, contrary to the 140-character Zeitgeist, I like to go into the weeds. So, let’s start with the headline itself:

Reince Priebus: Donald Trump Won’t ‘Meddle’ With Social Security And Medicare

The story, written by Daniel Marans, began this way:

Incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus appeared to confirm that President-elect Donald Trump would stand by his campaign promise not to cut Social Security and Medicare.

Notice that word “appeared.” It wasn’t in the headline, which clearly claimed that Priebus said Trump “won’t” meddle with Social Security and Medicare. But Priebus didn’t say that, as the lead clarifies. Also notice that word “confirm” in the lead. Priebus “appeared to confirm Trump’s campaign “promise.” Think about that one. We are asked to believe that Priebus, one of Trump’s many obfuscators, not only appeared to confirm” Trump’s promise, but that Priebus actually possesses the ability to confirm it. We know, though, that no one, including Priebus, actually can confirm anything Trump has said or will say. We know that because Trump is both a pathological liar and a pathological denier, and the trump-ss-cardword “promise” has no real applicability to him. Trump can’t even confirm something he himself said. What he promised yesterday, what he promises today, Trump can, and will, deny tomorrow. And his surrogates will follow suit.

That’s why journalists and headline writers have to be careful. They have to stop playing by the old journalistic rules, which no longer apply. Social media-obsessed people, as we all know, skim headlines as a shortcut to understanding what’s going on in the news. And that HuffPo headline—an outlet that ought to know better—is particularly harmful to the public’s understanding of what is going on, or, more to the point, what might happen in the months to come, in terms of Social Security and Medicare and, before it’s over, Medicaid.

Let’s look at the transcript of what Priebus said on CBS’s Face the Nation:

JOHN DICKERSON: Quick question on replace. Donald Trump has campaigned on the idea of not touching Medicare. That’ll be his position still?

REINCE PRIEBUS: Yeah. I mean, I don’t think President-elect Trump wants to meddle with Medicare or Social Security. He made a promise in the campaign that that was something that he didn’t want to do. But what he wants to do is grow the economy, help shore up Medicare and Social Security for future generations. And if we can get three to five, 6% growth, we’ll do that. And we’ll explode the economy, and bring jobs back, and make trade more fair across the world, lower rates for everyone, and I think hopefully get businesses going again so people can put more money in their pocket.

Notice a couple of things. First, why is John Dickerson only asking a “quick question” about “touching Medicare”? Doesn’t the possibility of Trump joining Paul Ryan and the reactionaries in his party, in their effort to destroy Medicare as we know it, deserve more than a quick question? Of course it does. But apparently TV journalism has its priorities, and understanding whether Trump intends on preserving Social Security and Medicare doesn’t happen to be one of them. So, because Dickerson did not follow up on Priebus’ assertions, we will at least examine his words ourselves:

1. Note that Dickerson did not specifically ask Priebus about Social Security (even though he should have). Priebus brought up Social Security on his own. Why? We can guess it’s because Priebus knows “entitlement reform” is a big deal to Paul Ryan and his Houseful of reactionaries, and that Ryan’s so-called reform includes mucking with Social Security in ways that will screw needy beneficiaries, many of whom voted for Trump. Thus, the “Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance” program—which is what we rubes know as Social Security— was on his mind.

2. Priebus said “I don’t think” Trump “wants to meddle with Medicare and Social Security.” He didn’t say “I am certain.” He didn’t say “I am absolutely confident.” He merely said he didn’t think Trump would renege. He was speculating not asserting. He was, purposely, leaving room for future betrayal. Because, as noted, no one can confidently assert anything regarding any statement Trump has made—or will make.

3. Priebus’ weak speculation that Trump won’t bother Social Security and Medicare is based on certain assumptions, like Trump bringing us explosive economic growth, bringing back manufacturing jobs, negotiating and renegotiating trade deals, and lowering tax rates, which “hopefully get businesses going again so people can put more money in their pocket.” The problem is that businesses are already going again, people have more money in their pockets, and there aren’t many economists this side of Sean Hannity who believe in all that standard Reagan-era voodoo magic. Thus, the premise for suggesting that Trump will not mess with entitlements is based on art-of-the-deal and supply-side fantasies.

4. Now look at these two sentences: “He made a promise in the campaign that that was something that he didn’t want to do. But what he wants to do is grow the economy, help shore up Medicare and Social Security for future generations.” Priebus said that Trump’s messing with the two big entitlement programs “was something that he didn’t want to do,” like having to spank an unruly child. The way that sentence is constructed leaves a lot of room for meddling, especially when coupled with the second sentence. One can imagine a future appearance on Face the Nation in which Priebus will say Trump didn’t want to sign Social Security and Medicare “reform” bills, but it was necessary to “shore up” the programs because economic growth lagged behind projections due to Democratic Party interference. “Things were much worse than he imagined during the campaign, and Democrats have conspired to make them worse in order to hurt Trump,” this future Priebus can say about Trump’s broken promise. Or Priebus—feel free to substitute your surrogate of choice—can point to something Trump said to the AARP:

If we are able to sustain growth rates in GDP that we had as a result of the Kennedy and Reagan tax reforms, we will be able to secure Social Security for the future. As our demography changes, a prudent administration would begin to examine what changes might be necessary for future generations. Our goal is to keep the promises made to  Americans through our Social Security program.”

There is a giant “if” in that statement: “If we are able to sustain growth rates in GDP that we had as a result of the Kennedy and Reagan tax reform.”  I hate to till over-farmed ground, but people need to be reminded of the facts. First, Kennedy did reduce the top marginal tax rate from 91% to 70%. But today’s highest rate is just less than 40%. Any effect of lowering taxes for people in the highest bracket today will not have much, if any, salutary economic effect. Second, Kennedy targeted earners who would spend their tax breaks and thus stimulate the economy. There isn’t a GOP plan out there today anything like that. Most of the proposed tax cuts would go to top-bracket people who will simply bank the money, not go out and buy a new Chevy Cruze made—by union workers—in Lordstown, Ohio.

As for Reagan, the myth lives on. The truth is that although he reduced marginal income tax rates, he raised other taxes and closed large loopholes. The net effect wasn’t significant, except in terms of normalizing large budget deficits because of his increase in military spending (which deficits, weirdly, have been blamed on Democrats ever since). Thus, Trump’s “if” statement—which I am sure is the product of some nutty supply-side economist and not his own creation—will not bear the burden of protecting Social Security, or Medicare, or any entitlement, in the future.

Then there is, “As our demography changes, a prudent administration would begin to examine what changes might be necessary for future generations.” The political ambiguity in that phrase, again the product of someone other than Trump—who wouldn’t know anything about “demography” unless it was a dues-paying member of Mar-a-Lago—is wide enough to drive an Ayn Rand tractor-trailer through. A Ryan-friendly Trump, if it came to it, could easily cite demographic changes that his “prudent administration” could use to make “necessary” reformsall in the name of “future generations.” That’s right out of the Paul Ryan-Pete Peterson playbook.

In any case, there is one thing we know with absolute certainty: Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House, is determined to implement his once-in-a-lifetime, one-party-rule offense according to his ideological playbook. He is hellbent on privatizing Medicare and reducing Social Security benefits. If you don’t believe me, try Forbes or, uh, Forbes. And there are only two things, right now, that stand between Ryan and his goal. One is the Senate Democratic Caucus, which features several wobbly-kneed Democrats from red states—and keep in mind that Senate Democrats only have power if the filibuster remains, not exactly a certainty in these strange times. The other obstacle for Ryan is Trump. And Ryan will soon have some important leverage over the Orange Grifter: the threat of impeachment.
impeachRyan’s dream of destroying—or failing that, weakening—New Deal ideology can obviously only come to pass if Trump signs onto the effort and openly defends it. Ryan dare not advance his Randian agenda without the backing of Trumpers, who have proven they will follow Trump no matter what he does. And it is my rather wild theory that Ryan may use the threat of impeachment—which has to originate in the House—to get Trump to sign on and defend his assent. This impeachment threat would not, at first, be advanced openly. As time passes, it would be—if it hasn’t been already—quietly passed on to Trump associates, like Reince Priebus, who will inform Trump that insurance against impeachment will come at the price of “meddling” with entitlements (something that Priebus, as a political and personal friend of Ryan, is inclined to do anyway). Such a quiet threat could have its intended effect without an open display of hostility toward Trump on the part of House Republicans.

I won’t pretend this is a likely scenario. The ultimate manifestation of the developing dynamics of the next administration’s relationship with a Republican Congress is anyone’s guess. But since impeachment will be part of the general conversation the minute Trump takes office (see: Emoluments Clause, for instance), and will continue to dog him throughout his presidency, it is not entirely nuts to think something like my scenario could happen. With Trump, just the hint that he could go down in history as an impeached president may itself be enough to find enough room in his AARP statement, “As our demography changes, a prudent administration would begin to examine what changes might be necessary for future generations,” to accommodate substantial changes in entitlement programs.

After all, Trump has never given a damn about working-class people except as a means to his narcissistic ends, and why should he stick his presidential neck out for them, especially when he has a legion of spinners who can sell his treachery to his followers?

All this is just something to keep in mind, as we slowly descend into the abyss of the Trump presidency. Stay tuned.

One Last Post On How To Fight Trumpism

I want to post part of some friendly reactions I received relative to my recent post on cynicism and what to do about Trump and what he represents. My responses below will be the last time I post on this topic for a while. Trump’s inauguration is coming and a strange new time will Image result for boycott trump logosoon be upon us. Thus, our focus has to be on actively and forcefully resisting Trumpism and defeating it at every turn, including defeating the Republican policy agenda that will use Trumpism to turn America into Sam Brownback’s Kansas.

Blogger Jim Wheeler pointed out how the “fine distinction between cynicism and skepticism” is often lost on people, to the point that even dictionaries “seem to view the two as synonyms.” Since I find cynicism dangerous to our democracy, I wanted to use Jim’s point to clarify what I’m saying, even though I risk beating a dead horse:

Perhaps I should have made the distinction clearer, as the two terms are often, as you suggest, used as synonyms. I have always seen the two this way: skepticism is an essential analytical tool; pessimism is akin to faith, albeit a negative faith. I like to quote C.S. Lewis, “to see through everything is the same as not seeing.” Pessimism is a way of not seeing anything. It is a crippling anti-faith. Blindness.

I went on to suggest to Jim that Democrats in Congress need to make it as difficult as possible for Republicans to pass Brownbackian policies and to use my old home state of Kansas as an example of what will happen if Republicans have their way. But it’s not just up to our representatives in Congress:

As for the rest of us not in positions of power, we need to keep building on what is turning out to be a robust grassroots rejection of Trump and, more important, Trumpism. This is not an ordinary candidate, and what he represents is not, and cannot be allowed to become, within the norms of American politics.

Michael Gaden cautioned us that when it comes to Trumpism, “how we resist is equally as important as whether we resist.” Rather than resorting “to the same tactics that Trump and his ilk use,” he said, “we must resist by modeling the behavior we want others to emulate.” Michael also made this point:

The majority of people, when confronted with suffering or danger or injustice occurring directly in their sensory range, will respond in a helpful manner….Unsympathetic people are not necessarily evil or cold, they just do not see what more observant people see. We should figure out ways to help them see, not an easy task, I admit, but I believe the most effective one.

I agree with Michael’s view on how people generally react to “suffering or danger or injustice.” The more distant and abstract such things are, the colder the response tends to be. For example, it’s easy for some churched folks to invoke the Bible’s condemnation of homosexual behavior, but it is hard for decent people to look someone in the eye who is suffering from AIDS and tell them they deserve their fate because God hates homosexuality. We do, therefore, need to find ways to make the abstract more real to people who observe only from a detached distance.

Along these lines, Jodie Fund quoted the liberal chef Anthony Bourdain:

There are a hell of a lot of nice people out there, who are doing what everyone else in this world is trying to do: the best they can to get by, and take care of themselves and the people they love. When we deny them their basic humanity and legitimacy of their views, however different they may be than ours, when we mock them at every turn, and treat them with contempt, we do no one any good.

Again, I have sympathy with this view. There are “a lot of nice people out there” who don’t see things the way we see them. They don’t deserve our contempt. They deserve our Image result for the deplorablesbest efforts to show them why we think they are wrong and we are right, which necessarily involves listening to them. This is all good, so long as we recognize that there some people out there who are not nice people, who lack empathy under any circumstances, who are beyond the reach of reason and understanding. A lot of Trump supporters, and we can argue how many there are, fall into this latter category. Hillary labeled them “deplorables.” While politically unwise, I can’t argue with her characterization in a lot of cases. You can meet them on Twitter anytime you feel like venturing into the sewer. They have contempt for all those who don’t celebrate Trump, and they most certainly deserve our contempt right back. And from me they will get it.

A commenter calling himself “thgeneralist” hoped that my hope for our democracy is not misplaced and “that we may weather this disaster and the wreckage of democracy it will leave in its path.” He rightly pointed out that, “Much of the international community is already looking at us as traitors to our responsibility as a beacon of justice, fairness and hope.” He also wrote this:

The lazy, poorly informed, American voter has signed his own death warrant. The amazing success of voter suppression in Wisconsin and North Carolina will become the model for the new normal. I offer ZERO slack for the stupidity of people who can’t add 2+2 and realize how often their willingness to so obviously vote against their own self-interest is also a vote against their neighbor and against civility.

As I pointed out before, I understand this reaction. Voters, deplorable or otherwise, who supported Trump are responsible for what we have seen since he was elected and what we will see after he is in office. I just can’t allow my disgust with what happened on November 8 to devolve into a paralyzing pessimism or a crippling cynicism. Such a reaction, it appears to me, would seal our doom. Below is my response to thgeneralist, which pretty much sums up what I think is the best way to move forward in these strange and dangerous times:

In politics, in our national life, hope is essentially worthless in individual isolation, or if it is limited to a handful of folks. Hope has to infect a wider swath of people, you might say the critical masses. It has to be part of any large and effective movement against Trump and Trumpism. Collectively, we have to hope democracy isn’t, in the end, self-destructive, as so many in history have predicted, and then we have to mobilize on the basis of that hope.

We can agree on at least one thing when it comes to evaluating the American voter. Many are “lazy” and “poorly informed.” I’m not the biggest Noam Chomsky fan out there, but he got it right when he said Americans, ordinary people, don’t generally suffer from a lack of intelligence and analytical skills. They demonstrate such abilities in things like sports, where some people have a wealth of knowledge that boggles the mind and can analyze in considerable detail the many in-game complexities. Thus, for so many people, there is no excuse for their facile understanding of politics and political issues. They are poorly informed because they spend no time, in relation to the time they spend on sports analysis or celebrity worship or other things they are interested in, acquainting themselves with the issues and policy prescriptions that make for a healthy democracy.

All of that is a mile away from stupidity, as far as I’m concerned. Yes, there are plenty of people who lack the cognitive skills to vote as informed citizens, I’ll grant you that. Those folks always have been and always will be part of a broad electorate in a democracy. But mostly people are cognitively capable of making good and decent political judgments. They are, though, often focused on other things because, for reasons I can’t fathom, they don’t think politics is important enough to invest much time in. They get lazy and rely solely or significantly on their pastors, their parents, their spouses, their labor unions, their bosses, their friends, their political parties, trends and feeds on social media, and so on. Probably more important than all that, they rely, as Jim Wheeler and others have suggested, on their guts, their uncritical impressions about this or that candidate. We can, if we are smart about it, use the ill effects of Trumpism as a way of getting more people to focus on the importance of being good citizens by paying closer attention to politics and getting better informed. Social media will be a big part of this effort. 

Thus, if we are to save our democracy, I don’t believe it is productive to focus on “stupid” voters or to broadly label those in the electorate who voted for Trump as having a “dark ages mentality.” We need to, as part of a “resistance” movement that understands how voters make decisions, keep working at appealing to both their guts and their minds. Some we will never convince, for sure. But some we will win over by feelings, by trying to understand their rational anxieties without excusing the irrational ones. Some we will win over by presenting policies and analysis, without claiming we have all the answers. It has to be a multi-front effort to fix what’s wrong with American democracy, and I confess it won’t be easy. Hell, it may be impossible. But we have to infect as many people as we can with the virtue of hope, and then get them involved in the resistance to Trumpism, clearly explaining that what Trump represents is incompatible with a healthy, thriving democracy and that Republicans in Congress are cynically using him to enact an agenda that will hurt ordinary, working-class Americans and the poor. Otherwise we know how this will end.

Duane

 

 

%d bloggers like this: