Monday, February 20, 2017

America First! America First!

Fella came by the other day, said he was makin’ one of them polls.  “You still support Trump,” he ast me. “In spite of all what’s happened since the ‘lection?”

Well, I’m gonna tell you, I gave that sumbitch a piece of my mind.  I believe in America First, I told him.  And that’s why I believe in President Trump.  He’s got the balls to stand up for this-here country.  At last.

Now, ICE-ISS went and sunk the Maine at Bowling Green, Obama didn’t do a friggin’ thing.  Look back at yer lyin’ newspapers, You see anything there about killin’ any radical Islam for that massacre?  Not on your life.  Damned Kenyan didn’t do a friggin’ thing.  Turned the other cheek, is what he did.

Now this same fella came around last year, right after the TV showed Mr. Trump gettin’ off the bus, talkin’ about what it is women really want.  Said he was makin’ a poll, would my wife vote for Trump after what he said gettin’ off that bus?

Well, I said, I speak for her and I can tell you, she grew up around shops like the one I run right here, and she has heard far worse words than “pussy” back there and not be shocked, that’s the way guys talk, you know? Now, you had Bill Clinton gettin’ blow jobs right there in the Oval Office, and you had Crooked Hillary standing up for him, so now you’re goin’ after Trump because he talked about women wantin’ “it?”  A woman needs a real man, a man who’s got what it takes down south of his belt, if you get what I’m speakin’ about. That’s just natural and nothin’ to get offended about, if you look at it the right way, which is God made men and women different and so He created marriage to be between one man and one woman so that they could do what comes naturally. So I sent this poll guy a-packin’ back then, and I sent him packin’ when he came round again.  Some people got no common sense.

I’m sick of the damn media and their lies, even the so-called funny guys like on the late night shows, which I don’t really watch that much ‘cause the old cowboy shows on the other channel are much better.  John Wayne and Audie Murphy and guys like that, standin’ off the blood-thirsty red savages, you can bet they wouldn’t put up with these radical Muslims today.  President Trump won’t stand for ‘em either which is why I stand with him on that wall and on his order to keep the Muslims out of this country.  Now you got some so-called Judges thinkin’ they can take the law into their own hands, defy our President, and keep the door open to radical Islam terrorists to come into Orlando and San Bernardino like they went  into Sweden, killin’ everybody in sight for their Allah Gee-Had or their Koran or whatever.  We can’t let that shit into our country no more, and if the so-called judges don’t like it, let them find another country.

Somebody had to stand up to those judges which they were out of control, and shut up the lyin’ media, which they are also way out of control. We needed a strong man, who proved his strength by becoming a successful billionaire in business, to take the damned government socialism out of our lives.  I mean I put up my house and everything I had to get the loan to start up this little business of mine, and I got six employees back there in the shop what are makin’ good wages, and now Obama comes along and says I gotta buy health insurance for them?  Let them get a loan like I did.  Besides, we pay our hard-earned dollars to the insurance people and they use it to pay the doctor bills of your Nigrahs, and your Mexican rapists, and your ragheads.  Now I’m not sayin’ all blacks is too lazy and shiftless to go out and get a job and pay their own health care, but, hey, just look at the lines for the unemployment checks, look in the welfare office lobbies, look at what color you see, or what languages you hear bein’ talked, and you know what I mean.  I’m tired of payin’ the way for them so I’m with President Trump.  All the way.  Now some people say well, he’s too cozy with Russia, but you know what?  Russians are white, like us, and they pay their own way, not like the old Europeans, who also is white but not white like us, and if they don’t wanna pull their own weight, well, then, fuck NATO and fuck Europe, is all I can say.  We saved their sorry asses in two goddam world wars and we ain’t gonna save ‘em again.

So I sent that poll faggot a-packin’ and I bet he won’t come around here again.  He’s like all those tree-huggers and libtards and whiners and losers.  They just don’t know what it takes to make America great again.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Honest Abe? Not in THEIR Back Yard!

On this President’s Day weekend, isn’t it ironic to realize that our greatest President almost certainly could not win election in this day and age?

Abraham Lincoln’s status as “greatest” was recently reaffirmed in a poll of presidential historians.  The criteria for “greatness,” of course, vary, even among historians.  Despite the occasional revisionist history exposing his human flaws, Lincoln’s “greatness” remains a great American constant.  

Imagine, however, if the Lincoln of history were to seek the presidency today.

Could he be nominated?  If so, by which party?  Would today’s Republican party accept as its nominee the man who turned loose all those black people?  Would the wall-builders and Muslim-haters accept a guy who called for this nation to act “with malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, . . . to bind up the nation's wounds.”  And most assuredly, the union-busting GOP would never today nominate so eloquent a pro-labor spokesman as Lincoln.

His pro-labor stance alone might have endeared him as a candidate to the old Democratic party, but would be a millstone around the neck of anyone seeking favor among today’s corporate-beholden Democrats.  Lincoln was a master politician, skilled at building coalitions and temporary alliances to achieve his goals.  Even he would have great difficulty today seizing the nomination of a party controlled by neoliberal hawks and paid partisans of Wall Street.

But even assuming that he might somehow be able today to win nomination by one of the major parties, how would he fare in a general election with the electorate that voted in November of last year?

Not well.

Lincoln’s command of language and brilliant legal mind reduced complex issues to their essence, but not to simplicities and relative absurdities.  Read the texts of his debates with Douglas.  While they resonate with famous quotations, they cannot be reduced to sound bytes.  “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” may be easy for schoolchildren to remember, but it was only the beginning of a tightly-reasoned appeal to the border states to resist the siren call to secession.  Lincoln saw his paramount duty to be the preservation of the union.  The Douglas debates — and the analyses of Lincoln’s positions by the nation’s thought leaders and men of letters — shaped the national understanding of the man it elected in its darkest hour.

Such complexities are beyond the ken of the people who decided the 2016 presidential election.  They were moved by slogans, sound bytes, Barnum blarney and lies. The American political scene in Lincoln’s day was not without such boorish antics. There were those on each side who spoke only in epithets, who could understand only demagoguery.  But they never carried the day.  When a batch of pro-Douglas ruffians shouted obscenities in front of the dais when Lincoln prepared to speak at Freeport, a key adviser whispered in his ear, “Ignore them, Lincoln.  They only damage the other side.”

“Gorilla” was among the kinder epithets his enemies shouted at campaign rallies when he ran for president.  His prairie accent, his high-pitched voice, his humble beginnings — all begat scorn and slander from people who opposed him.  

Their 2016 equivalents — “Lock her up!” . . . “Crooked Hillary” . . . “Build the Wall” and worse — won the election for a racist, cheating narcissist.  Imagine what they’d have done to a decent man like Lincoln.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Big Places, Big Beauty -- and a Big Lie

As the lies fly from the White House in the matter of Flynn-Russia-election sabotage, it is worth noting that outright deceit is not solely the province of the executive branch.

Republican congressmen are masters of the art, as well.

Here is a blatant case in point:

On Jan. 24, Jason Chaffetz, the Republican who represents Utah’s Third congressional District, re-introduced a thinly-disguised effort to hijack national park, national monument and other public land for the benefit of the Mormon church and the development and extraction industries.  Its official name is H.R. 621, entitled “To direct the Secretary of the Interior to sell certain Federal lands in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming, previously identified as suitable for disposal, and for other purposes.”

Also known as the “Disposal of Excess Federal Lands Act of 2017,”  it usurps an old, discredited federal study of land values in the Everglades to misrepresent vast parcels of park and recreational land as “excess.”  

Environmentalists, historians, scientists, native Americans and just plain citizens noticed the deception and mobilized against the bill.

On Feb. 2, Chaffetz posted the following notice on Instagram:

I am withdrawing HR 621. I'm a proud gun owner, hunter and love our public lands. The bill would have disposed of small parcels of lands Pres. Clinton identified as serving no public purpose but groups I support and care about fear it sends the wrong message. The bill was originally introduced several years ago. I look forward to working with you. I hear you and HR 621 dies tomorrow. 

The opposition rejoiced.  Too soon, it turns out.

On Feb. 10, HR 621, far from being “withdrawn,” was referred to the House Subcommittee on Federal Lands, where it reposes today, still very much alive.

We have a president who is a serial liar.  One of his chief advisers has just been exposed as a liar and has resigned in disgrace.  Everywhere, people who have been elected to represent us actually betray our interests and then lie to us.

Jason Chaffetz is just one of countless serpents in the swamp.  

His duplicity has been exposed on more than one website dedicated to the respectful use of and protection of our public lands.  People will object.  But it remains to be seen if the people hold any power at all in this sorry, sorry land.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

One in the Net. More Fishing in the Swamp.

Has Pandora’s box been opened?  Now that Mike Flynn has had to resign because of his Russian contacts, will the ripples spread across the swamp?  Will the full Russia story finally leak out, dribble by dribble, or all at once in a big splash?

Melissa Spicer did its best to put lipstick on that pig, insisting that Flynn did nothing illegal but that he lost the president’s trust by not telling Mike Spence the whole truth, and so he had to resign.

Quite a few Senators, including even some Republicans, aren’t buying that spin.  They want to investigate; start by putting Flynn under oath and grilling him.  What did the president know and when did he know it?  That sort of thing.

A real investigation would quickly divulge that the complaints about Russian interference in the recent election are considerably more substantive than political sour grapes. Serious conflicts of interest, serious wrongdoing probably smolder somewhere beneath all the smoke.

Somebody needs to dig up the president’s tax returns.  If, as he claims, they would simply demonstrate how smart he is in business, then an ego as big as his would be expected to leap at the opportunity to prove the point.  He’s keeping them hidden for a reason.  Bet the farm, if you can, that the reason is Russia.  Loans? Potential blackmail?  Shady or even illegal backdoor deals?  All of the above?

Never underestimate the Trumpian capacity for bullshit and crooked deals.  

Congress should badger him to release the returns.  The media should badger him to release the returns.  The voters should badger him to release the returns.

Resourceful journalists should turn over every rock in and around Washington until they find the guy — a friend says he wears a green-eyeshade and a pocket protector and works deep in the bowels of the IRS — who can access them and leak them.  

After years of reversals in courts in China, the Trump businesses have suddenly begun to win their lawsuits about proprietorship of their brand, with a potential windfall ultimately of more than $200 million.   What a coincidence that this  comes just as the president reverses his course 180 degrees and declares himself committed to a one-China policy after all.

But 200 mill is probably peanuts compared to the stakes in Russia.  We already know that Wall Street and other sources of really big money cut off his credit after his fifth or sixth bankruptcy.  But somebody bailed him out and now he’s swimming in cash.  

Pressed to divest so there would be no conflict of interest when he took over the government, he refused, setting up a leaky sham that supposedly would divorce him from the octopodian business empire while his kids would run it.  That situation, too, demands rigorous investigation.

There’s smoke everywhere, but the Russia stuff is the blackest, smelliest cloud of all.  The tax returns have to be made public, one way or another.  And the screws have to be tightened on former general Flynn.

The ancient Logan Act, which forbids exactly what he did when he talked to the Russian ambassador, has never been used against anyone, and many legal experts think its very antiquity renders it useless in this case.  But at some point in all of the Russia flap, Flynn was questioned by the FBI, and if he lied to them, it’s a felony.  The threat of a long vacation in Leavenworth might really loosen his lips.

It took only 23 days to trap the first swamp salamander among the Trumpian Team of Reptiles.  Could the Big Carp himself be next?  Stay tuned.

* * *

Bulletin

Andrew Puzder, the anti-labor nominee to be Secretary of Labor, has withdrawn from consideration. He's a fast-food billionaire who built his fortune on the backs of underpaid workers.  He also was accused of wife-beating. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Caution: Wrecking Crew at Work

The science guys in government agencies are quietly sending their data to private computers so that it won’t be lost forever when — not “if” — their government hard drives are wiped clean by the Trumpengestapo.

They’re using the Internet, although some of them are telling friends they’ll smuggle out thumb drives in their anuses if need be.

Such is life in Trumpistan.

Department of Agriculture computers have already put electronic locks on data that used to be free to the public about puppy mills, animal cruelty and other violations.  Now you can no longer check out conditions at the puppy farm that’s selling the French bulldog your little girl is crazy about.

Cute bulldogs are one thing.  Decades of critical climate science data are quite another: the future of life on this planet is at stake.

Last week the EPA rushed out a video for employees in which its acting administrator, Catherine R. McCabe, appeared to reassure everyone about the climate science data.  “I would like to allay fears and rumors that scientific data and information are being deleted,” she said.  “That is not the case."

The lady doth protest too much, methinks.  She knows perfectly well that the regime has already ordered the agency to delete the climate science page from its website; that orders went  our to provide the White House with names of scientists doing climate research, and the nature of their projects; that EPA scientists, like National Park environmental scientists, have been ordered not to say anything in public about their work.

The National Park directive has birthed a plethora of rogue National Park sites online, which broadcast all manner of vetted, peer-reviewed science that the regime doesn’t want citizens to know.

Not just the scientists, but most of the civil servants in Washington and environs are running scared these days.There are some 2 million of them and their oath is to the Constitution and the public, not to any particular president or administration.

The New York Times reported:

At the Treasury Department, civil servants are quietly gathering information about whistle-blower protections as they polish their résumés.

At the United States Digital Service — the youthful cadre of employees who left jobs at Google, Facebook or Microsoft to join the Obama administration — workers are debating how to stop Mr. Trump should he want to use the databases they made more efficient to target specific immigrant groups.“It’s almost a sense of dread, as in, what will happen to us,” said Gabrielle Martin, a trial lawyer and 30-year veteran at the Denver office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, where colleagues now share daily, grim predictions about the fate of their jobs under Mr. Trump’s leadership.

“It’s like the movie music when the shark is coming,” Ms. Martin said, referring to “Jaws,” the 1975 thriller. “People are just wary — is the shark going to come up out of the water?”“What do you do,” asked Representative Gerald E. Connolly, Democrat of Virginia, if you work at a place where the leader “avowedly renounces the work of that agency?”

Now it turns out that there’s an added dark element to the firing of Sally Q. Yates, the acting attorney general who was first asked to stay on during the transition to Trumpistan, then was axed when she refused to endorse the regime’s Muslim travel ban.  James Clapper, Obama’s spy chief, was given transcripts of intercepted conversations between retired Gen. Michael Flynn, then a top adviser to the president-elect, and a Russian diplomat.  Compromising discussions of U.S.foreign policy, including sanctions against Russia were on the recordings, which were given to Yates who told the Trump gang about them even before Flynn was officially named national security adviser. Flynn could be blackmailed, she warned.

Rather than acting then, they had Vice President Mike Pence reel off one more Big Lie to the American People, denying that there was anything untoward about Flynn’s conversations.

The excrement hit the fan and while all of Washington twittered and tweeted late last night, Flynn resigned. He was the first on Trumpistan's Team of Reptiles to fall victim to truth.  
Surely others must follow, for this is a government of serial liars, incompetents and bullies who think they’re above the law. 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Do We Love Them Not Because of Their Race, But in Spite of It?

Next will come the armbands, then the cattle cars.

It happened so fast.  We live in Trumpistan.

Here, less than 30 miles from where he says he will build his wall, nearly every other resident walks in fear, if not for herself, then for a close friend or relative.

The ICE blackshirts have been sweeping through the cities for a week now, rounding up deportees and shipping them off to Mexico.

“(T)he . . . executive order allows all undocumented immigrants to be categorized as criminals and requires increased enforcement in communities, rather than prioritizing dangerous criminals," California Sen. Dianne Feinstein said .  The blackshirts targeted low-priority undocumented immigrants, including family men and women.

Maria (not her real name) got a ticket the other day, for not wearing a seat belt while driving to her job cleaning the houses of rich Gringos.  Now she’s afraid to leave her room in her cousins’ house in a nearby colonia.  Some of her cousins, dreading a middle-of-the-night pounding on the door, want her to go back to Mexico.  Back to the poverty and the drug wars and the random killings.  Everyone in the overcrowded little house is weeping.  The children are afraid to go to school, afraid that when they come home Momma will be gone.

"ICE Fugitive Operations teams are out every day as part of routine, targeted enforcement operations," said acting press secretary Gillian Christensen of Homeland Security. "These are existing, established fugitive operations teams.”

Ja wol.

In 1936, in Berlin, SS Officer Werner Best, the new head of legal affairs for the Gestapo, said, “As long as the police carries out the will of the leadership, it is acting legally.”

Last Wednesday night, in Phoenix,  Guadalupe García de Rayos, 36, a decades-long resident and mother of two, was  arrested and hauled away in a deportation van while her kids, 12 and 14, wept and pleaded for justice.

But there is no justice in Trumpistan.  ”We're living in a new era now, an era of war on immigrants," said Ray A. Ybarra Maldonado, Rayos's lawyer.

Her friends and neighbors and her two children tried to block the van.  One man even tied himself to a wheel.  With clubs and epithets, the blackshirts drove them away.

Jacqueline Rayos, 14, said: “It's not fair that my mom might be taken away for providing for my family. Working should not be a crime... I'm not scared of [Trump,] I'm going to keep fighting to have justice and my mom back."

Hers is a lonely quest.  “Liberal” America, such as it is, abjectly accepted the brutish stifling of Elizabeth Warren on the Senate floor; it raised its voice for a brief shining moment in the women’s march, then went back to its rose garden to mutter “tsk tsk” while Rachel Maddow waxed wroth on the TV.  

In 1938, in her best-selling novella “Address Unknown,” Kressmann Taylor’s German character Schulse wrote to his former business partner in the United States:

A liberal is a man who does not believe in doing anything. He is a talker about the rights of man, but just a talker. He likes to make a big noise about freedom of speech, and what is freedom of speech? Just the chance to sit firmly on the backside and say that whatever is being done by the active men is wrong. What is so futile as the liberal? I know him well because I have been one. He condemns the passive government because it makes no change. But let a powerful man arise, let an active man start to make a change, then where is your liberal? He is against it. To the liberal any change is the wrong one.

Schulse describes Hitler as being "like an electric shock.”  He writes to his friend:

As for the stern measures that so distress you, I myself did not like them at first, but I have come to see their painful necessity. The Jewish race is a sore spot to any nation that harbors it. I have never hated the individual Jew — yourself I have always cherished as a friend, but you will know that I speak in all honesty when I say I have loved you, not because of your race but in spite of it.

Jewish?  Hispanic?  Muslim? Whatever.

We have ignored history.  Now we repeat it. Ja wol.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Padded Cell Amendment

While the rejected Muslim travel ban rattles around the judicial system, and a humiliated president considers his options, something bigger lurks deep in the background.

That something is the 25th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.  It provides that when “the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.”

One could argue that in his brief time in office, Donald J. Trump has already demonstrated that he is incompetent and unfit to discharge those powers and duties.  But the law uses the word “unable.”

If he were found to have a serious mental illness, would that render him “unable” to continue in office?  The amendment puts that decision in the hands of “the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide.”  In Trumpistan, those are themselves some pretty wifty people.

There have been public expressions of concern about the new president’s symptoms of narcissism, megalomania and even sociopathy — the utter absence of any feelings of guilt.  

Symptoms of mental illness need not be blatant, obvious even to laymen, for experts in psychiatric medicine to diagnose serious mental illness in an individual.  Many such experts would look at certain aspects of the president’s behavior — the seemingly compulsive late-night tweeting, for example  — and say that such behavior on its face could be symptomatic of mental illness.  

Bizarre as the man’s behavior has been, Vice-President Pence, the members of the cabinet who have been confirmed or are likely to be confirmed soon, and the senior Republicans in Congress would not, of course,  at this point give the slightest consideration to using the 25th Amendment.

But the president’s critics are another matter. What would they do if he were to go really bonkers?

When he built his golf course in Scotland, a farmer who owns adjoining land refused to sell it to Trump’s organization.  Trump launched tirades against the farmer comparable in nastiness to what he’s been saying as president about judges and anyone else who doesn’t give him his way in his chaotic efforts at government. 

With each escalation of the rhetoric in Scotland, the farmer responded with some new annoyance to Trump: signs on the border between the two properties that infuriated him; piles of unsightly trash within plain view of the tees; that sort of thing. The farmer’s friends in the pubs and cobblestoned village streets hooted and howled and called the outsider nasty names.  Trump went more berserk.

The presidential campaign put the hostilities in Scotland on hold.

But the farmer had this advice for Trump’s political adversaries in this country: “Keep pissing him off.  He’ll crack up — and he’ll end up in a padded cell.”

A Journalist at Twilight

A superb journalist and teacher of journalism, Wayne Edgar King, lies seriously ill today — perhaps dying — at his beloved farm in North Carolina.

King wrote rigorously-reported and enchantingly-phrased prose for the Detroit Free Press and the New York Times.  He covered civil rights in the south in the '70s and was perhaps the first journalist to profile an obscure Georgia governor and peanut farmer in terms of a possible presidency.  Like all of his longer form journalism, King’s New York Times Magazine profile of James Earl Carter was sprinkled with wry wit and profound observations tossed off with writerly nonchalance.

After leaving  The Times, Wayne taught journalism in the English department at Wake Forest University.  Early in his tenure, the university found itself without an instructor for a freshman class on the Bill of Rights.  It had served as stocking-stuffer of sorts, a credit for a handful of young students still not certain what their major would be.  Nobody on the faculty seemed to want to teach this academic stepchild, so Wayne volunteered.  Ere long there were queues down the hallway and out the door for the class, and Mr. King’s reputation as sage and wit spread throughout the campus. He became an expert not just on the Bill of Rights, but on the Supreme Court, as well, capable of delivering spontaneous analyses of important decisions that were highly seasoned with an often acerbic and usually deadpan wit.

For decades he battled multiple sclerosis, fending off its ravages with strong medicine, stronger will and relentless humor and grace.  He survived a stroke in 2014 and after some time in a rehabilitation center he returned home to the farm where once he found peace and happiness by simply driving around in a tractor.  Wayne loved driving.   When he wrote the “Our Towns” column for The Times, it required him to spend many hours driving in suburban and exurban New York.  It also provided a perfect showcase for his drolllery.

When the owner of a New Jersey deli defied an obscure state law to provide cheaper milk to his customers, Wayne rfecognized his kind of story.  Milk was a price-controlled substance and the deli owner knew it but thought the law was wrong. Wayne wrote:

“There is no criminal penalty for Mr. Gabriele's renegade conduct - selling milk on the cheap. If there were, he could be accused of trying to break into prison.“

For a piece on the suburban town that was testing the first versions of caller ID, Wayne found and interviewed one of its first and most avid users, a Roman Catholic priest who had twice been fooled by fraudulent late-night calls to give last rites to perfectly healthy people.

Wayne ferreted out an obscure program that rescued impoverished and embattled urban teenagers, helping them to become educated and find meaningful life pursuits.  He described one of the kids: “Small, pale and frail-looking, she holds up her arms in a Rocky-like gesture of triumph, smiles her little-girl smile and the little room where she is talking suddenly seems very big and sunny.”

I was privileged to edit thousands of the words Wayne King wrote for the Detroit Free Press and the New York Times.  Not that they needed much editing.  Occasionally, however, a bit of shepherding was required to get the original words into print.

Wayne was on the scene when a motorcycle gang took over a suburban Detroit town and terrorized many of its citizens.  In his first-person account, King wrote about walking among the bikers to ask why they were doing this.  One of the men handed him a goatskin vessel and commanded him “have a drink.”  Wayne sipped, gagged and gasped, “What IS that stuff?”  “Piss,” the biker said. I told Wayne the word might not pass muster with the copy desk and guardians of good taste.  “If they object,” Wayne replied, “Tell them what he really said.”  “What was that?” I asked.  “Panther piss,” he said. And that's what appeared in the paper.
.
He wrote an anecdote lede for a story on the Great Chili Cook-Off in Texas that was scheduled to appear on Page One of the Sunday Times.  It contained the phrase, “Son of a Bitch Stew,” a real and popular name for a particularly fiery kind of chili that is popular in Texas.  “Not on Page One!” the good taste patrol ruled.  I had to appeal all the way to the papacy, the office of Abe Rosenthal himself, but “Son of a Bitch Stew” did appear in print in the Old Gray Lady.  

Wayne Edgar King suffered a severe bout of pneumonia recently.  “His health is failing,” his wife, Paula Duggan King, wrote the other day to a former colleague.  “He is weary now . . . he doesn't speak much these days, “

But of course he is not silent.  His words still live in the archives of the Free Press and Times. You could look it up.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

No More Palaver! Act!

The signs of the country’s descent into fascist dictatorship are clear and unmistakeable.

There are only three forces that might stop it and no one in itself is powerful enough to do so,  They must work somewhat in concert.

The three forces are the courts, an opposition party and massive citizen resistance.

With the very fate of the republic in the balance, we await a decision by the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that is far larger than the narrow issue that is before it: whether to continue a district judge’s restraining order against the minority president’s Muslim travel ban decree. The larger issue, of course, is the constitutional separation of powers.  

In his very first days in office, the would-be dictator has made clear his intentions to usurp the law-making powers of of Congress and turn it into a rubber stamp for his whims and tweets.  At the same time, he has dismissed the judiciary as a witless gaggle of “so-called” judges who are "so political.  Sad."  Consequently, the Ninth Circuit must affirm the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary.  The case would then go to the Supreme Court. There, Justices Alito and Thomas are probably beyond hope, but the Chief Justice and Justice Kennedy might recognize the constitutional threat and join in a 6-2  decision upholding the Ninth and Judge Robart’s original TRO. These are reasonable hopes at a time of crisis of such magnitude — but they are mere hopes, not even probabilities.

By such a thread our republic hangs.

The second force that might possibly block the path to dictatorship is an opposition party.  The closest thing we have to an opposition party is the Democrats.  They are an undisciplined ragtag of spineless wimps and paid-for dupes of the corporate oligarchy.  But they’re all we have.  Yesterday, they  stood by as the Republican thugs in the Senate stifled debate on a nomination to a key cabinet post.  This was a case of jackbooted Naziism on the part of McConnell and his fellow bullies.  The Democrats have got to begin using the feeble strategies available to them to stand up to the regime.  If they filibuster, the regime will answer with a parliamentary maneuver called the “nuclear option.”  So be it.  At least they will have mounted an opposition.  They should attempt quorum calls to block nominations of unfit rich people to cabinet posts.  Yes, the Republicans have enough votes — barely — to establish a quorum in the Senate.  But the calls would at least delay the nominations.  And who knows?  Maybe some better angel will smite a Republican or two with the sword of enlightenment, and they will be denied a quorum.  This is not even a hope.  It is desperate prayer, a Hail Mary from 99 yards away with one second on the clock.

By such threads our republic hangs.

The last of the forces that might thwart the would-be dictator is massive citizen resistance.

Increasingly, in the weeks since the minority regime took over, the will for such resistance has been evident.  It was particularly visible in the recent women’s march, which drew large crowds even in bastions of right-wing sentiment.  It continues to seethe, ready to erupt.  Someone called for a general strike on Feb. 17, the Friday before the President’s Day holiday.  Someone else called for a big demonstration on March 8.  Now another someone is calling for a massive economic boycott (a good ideal) on President’s day itself, Feb. 20.

Stop playing games!  The resistance needs leadership, a semblance of organization.  Countless well-organized groups have vital stakes in opposing this despotic regime: Planned Parenthood, Code Pink, the environmental groups . . the list is “yuge,” to quote its favorite politician of the moment.  Can’t they fer gawd’s sakes talk to one another?  Pick a date — soon — and define a simple, mass effort  — economic boycott ought to be part of it — and issue a call to action.

Now!

The fate of the republic hangs in the balance.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

About That Violence in Berkeley . . .

I join today with the most distinguished public policy mind of our lifetime in a conspiracy theory that should not be dismissed out of hand.  People do conspire, often for ignoble motives.

Robert Reich and I both smelled a rat when violence erupted on campus, causing the University of California at Berkeley to cancel a speaking appearance by Milo Yiannopoulos (nee Hanrahan), a U.K.-born writer, speaker and employee of the Breitbart propaganda organization whose ex-CEO, Steve Bannon, is the alt-Pres. of Trumpistan.

The cancellation gave Trumpistan’s titular leader an opportunity to tweet gibberish about “free speech” and threaten to cut off the university’s federal funding.  Berkeley is perhaps the nation’s foremost bastion of free speech.  Trumpistan’s absurd accusations are as authentic as if Margot St. James, the founder of the COYOTE union for prostitutes, were to advocate for universal celibacy. (This is not rpt not to denigrate Ms. St. James, whom I have met and who is a gracious, charming and intelligent woman, quite a contrast to the aforementioned titular head of Trumpistan. But I digress)

What began as perfectly proper nonviolent protest at Berkeley erupted into violence with the appearance of a cadre of black-clad, black-masked agitators who began setting fires and throwing things around, appearing to cause some injuries to bystanders and peaceful protesters. 

Reich (a former presidential cabinet officer and now a distinguished educator and author) was there; I was not.  But when my wife described to me the scenes she had seen on television, I immediately remarked that it sounded like a false flag operation.  Reich thought the same thing and wrote about it, connecting dots as follows:

(1) Yinnopoulos writes for Breitbart News, which Steve Bannon -- Trump's strategy director -- ran before joining Trump.
(2) Before Yiannopoulos speaks at Berkeley, Breitbart publishes an article saying that Yiannopoulos will call for the withdrawal of federal grants and the prosecution of university officials who endanger their students with their policies.
(3) Berkeley opens its doors to Yiannopoulos, but campus police have to cancel the event because of masked agitators.
(4) Hours later, Trump issues a misleading tweet, accusing the university of not allowing free speech and promoting violence against innocent people with different views, and threatening to withhold federal funds.
(5) The next night, Yiannopoulos on Fox News says the incident proves that universities like Berkeley don't deserve federal grants by cracking down on free speech.
(6) That same night, on CNN, I raise the possibility that Yiannopoulos and Breitbart could have been collaborating with the agitators -- saying "I wouldn't bet against it." This generates a belligerent column in Breitbart with a misleading headline calling me a liar for claiming that Breitbart News organized the riots.

False flag collaborations to advance right-wing causes are not unprecedented.   Two are famously associated with Nazi Germany: 1. Operation Himmler was an elaborate hoax staged by the Nazis to create the appearance of Polish aggression against Germany, which was used to “justify” the invasion of Poland.  2. Many historians believe that the February, 1933 Reichstag fire, Hitler’s springboard to power, was set by Nazi collaborators.

I wonder if we are perhaps witnessing the evolution of a vast new American underworld, political as well as criminal, secretly financed  by such outfits as the Donors Trust.  The Trump foundation is among the known donors to this murky right-wing outfit, which promises to "keep your charitable giving private, especially gifts funding sensitive or controversial issues."

Donors Trust has financed many of the escapades of James O’Keefe, another right-wing sleaze once associated with Breitbart.  It was O’Keefe who created the trumped-up secret videos that enabled Republican congressmen to defund the voter-registration organization, Acorn, and Planned Parenthood.  His doctored videos led to a libel suit by a former Acorn worker; O’Keefe settled out of court for more than $100,000.

In a sauce-for-the-goose maneuver, someone secretly filmed an O’Keefe colleague trying to bribe a lefty protester to commit violence at the Trumpistan inauguration ceremonies.

From black commandos to Milos Yiannopoulos to James O’Keefe to Alt-Pres. Bannon doesn’t seem like a crooked journey at all.  Or does it?

Maybe it’s just me.  And Robert Reich.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

A Nation of Law. We Hope.

The fight is far, far from over but the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has struck one clear blow for the Constitutional separation of powers at a time when a minority president and his Rasputin are trying to establish a dictatorship.

The issue, as virtually every citizen knows, is the Bannon-Trump ban on Muslim entry and travel in this country and its accompanying favoritism of Christian people.

A horde of legal experts say the titular president’s executive order is unconstitutional on its face, in violation of the Establishment clause of the First Amendment.  All but one of the federal district judges hearing legal objections to the ban have ruled against it and one, Judge James Robart of the state of Washington, has issued a ruling against it that applies nationally.

It is this ruling that the Trumnpistan Department of Justice appealed to the Ninth Circuit.  The Ninth Circuit denied the DOJ request for immediate relief.  It has ordered the lawyers for the states of Washington and Minnesota, which brought the case before Robart, to file legal briefs by the wee hours of Monday morning.  The government will then have until Monday evening to file its written rejoinders.  After that the Ninth Circuit panel will evaluate the legal filings and make its final adjudication.

Meanwhile, Bannon-Trump’s nominee for the vacant ninth seat on the United States Supreme Court awaits his fate in the Senate, whose constitutional duty is to hold hearings and then vote to confirm or not confirm his appointment.  That nominee, Neil Gorusch, is a right-wing ideologue with a deep personal grudge against even centrist elements of government because he believes his mother, an official in the Reagan administration, was made a sacrificial lamb in a political battle 30 years ago.

Democrats in the Senate already had a moral and legal obligation to obstruct the Gorusch nomination. Now, with a constitutional crisis looming ever larger, the focus on the Ninth Circuit and on the Gorusch nomination becomes even more critical to the future of the republic.

They are opposite poles of the judicial spectrum.  Gorusch is to the right even of Antonin Scalia, who is his judicial idol and whose seat he would fill if confirmed.  The Ninth Circuit is conventionally referred to as the most liberal court in the country, although close scrutiny of its rulings beside those of say, the Second (New York)  or the Third (Philadelphia) mark the conventional wisdom as no more than an idea whose validity rests in the frequency with which the ill-informed repeat it.

It is true, as critics contend, that the Ninth’s rulings have been slightly more frequently reversed by the Supreme Court than those of other circuits.  It is also true that most of those reversals have been at the hands of the Scalia-Thomas-Roberts-Kennedy-Alito “gang of five.”  It is also true that the Ninth, being the largest of the circuits, hears more cases than any other — 12,000-15,000 per year.

All of this is trivial, however, by comparison with the great constitutional issue at stake today.  The very essence of the democratic republic established by the Constitution of the United States is its tripartite government — separate but equal branches called the Congress, the Judiciary  and the Executive. In the age of Trumpistan, it is important to note that the Constitution requires the Executive -- the President -- to "faithfully" execute the laws passed by the Congress and interpreted as constitutional by the Judiciary.  

The Bannon-Trump government considers itself to be above the other branches; indeed, above the law itself.  We as citizens should be grateful to the district judges who have reminded them otherwise.  We should be especially grateful to the Ninth Circuit panel if in its final decision it remains true to the course it seems to have set in this case.

Meanwhile, the Democrats in the Senate must unite and stand firm, resisting with every legal resource they have the Trumpistan nominee to SCOTUS.  If the Ninth Circuit rules as it should in the Muslim ban case, and the government appeals to the highest court in the land, the last, best hopes of a democratic republic rest on that appeal being heard by the eight justices now sitting.  The likely result would be a 4-4 split, sending the case back to the Ninth, in effect affirming Judge Robart’s brave and correct judgement.

The alternative, with Gorusch added to the court, is unthinkable.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

A National Speak-Out! Go For It!


It is possible that Feb. 17 could become a milestone in the history of popular democracy.

It is also possible that the national strike suggested for that date will fizzle and flop.

I asked a circle of friends, family and acquaintances for suggestions on how to observe the day.  Many hadn’t heard about it; most hadn’t thought about it.  Not a promising start.  The overall success, or failure, of the idea will depend upon participation outside the liberal enclaves on the coasts.  One of my responders noted that a strike by retirees like us wouldn’t be very effective.  We’ve got to find other, practical ways to express our dissent.

We should send a loud, clear message to the dangerous new regime that the American people disapprove of everything it has done since taking power, and everything it intends to do.  After all, in the recent election, voters by a margin of more than 10 million cast their ballots for someone other than the unfit person who occupies the Oval Office because of the quirks of the Electoral College.

Ten million is a lot of voices.  Add to that number the countless Republicans who voted out of party loyalty and now, like federal Judge James Robart  of the state of Washington, recognize that the new regime is a threat to the tripartite form of government mandated by the Constitution.  Robart, appointed by President George W. Bush and unanimously approved by the Senate fin 2004, is the sort of jurist who belongs on the Supreme Court. He issued the order that has temporarily halted the new regime’s Muslim travel ban. Of course, the titular head of the Bannon-Trump government publicly insulted him on an internet social medium. 

Titular Pres.
Such behavior is just one more small part of the reason why it is important for the national strike and protest on Feb. 17 to be an overwhelming success.  Sheer numbers on the streets have changed national politics before.  The Vietnam war protests are perhaps the brightest, shining example of this.  But the Bannon-Trump gang dismisses enormous crowds of dissidents with alternative-facts.  Rigorous intellectual arguments, truth, great ideas, history, precedent to them are mere bagatelles, trifles that they shrug off with a sneer and a bigger new lie.

But (and I thank my daughter, Laura, for arguing this point so forcefully) there is one language these rich and greedy crooks understand and react to, and that is the language of money.

Alt-Pres.
And so, here are some suggestions for Feb. 17 actions that, if enough people participate, will not only make good television (big crowds on the streets with protest signs) but also have a powerful economic impact:

—Take the day off.  It’s the start of the Presidents’ Day weekend.  Or call in sick.

—Make it “Don’t Spend One Thin Dime” day.  Don’t buy that morning cup of coffee or donut.  Wait another day to top off the gas tank.  Eat leftovers and go to the grocery store some other day.  Don't eat out.  Pick up the dry cleaning a few days later.  The bars won’t go out of business if you have a beer at home, or a cocktail, or teetotal for a day.  Don’t do any banking.  Pay your bills on Thursday the 16th or the followingTuesday.    Don’t travel anywhere.  Hit the streets on foot  instead — but bring your own bottle of tap water so you don’t have to buy any. If millions of people spend absolutely nothing for 24 hours it will be an enormous monkey wrench in the gears of the oligarchs' economy.  That'll wake 'em up.

—Use your day off to compose brief, thoughtful messages protesting executive or legislative actions, completed or proposed, that you don’t like.  One issue per postcard.  Get it all off your chest. Mail them to the White House, the Congress, state legislators, government agencies.  Postcards are the most effective way to get your message across.  Telephone calls are good, but switchboards get jammed or ringtones in offices get turned off.  Letters are good, but many are held up in dark security rooms until they can be checked for dangerous substances.  Postcards get dumped on desks.

—Hold meetings.  Call like-minded friends and acquaintances to come to your house to sit around airing gripes and thinking up practical forms of activism that you’ll actually do. It would be great if every such meeting yielded a list of local people who would make good candidates for local public office: city council, county board of supervisors, judgeships, school board.  The right wing took over this country by starting local.  Fight back the same way.

—Stage group call-ins to right wing radio talk shows.  Speak truth to them.  It’s their Kryptonite.  Truth is the one thing — other than losing money— these people cannot stand.  Carefully marshal and rehearse your facts.  Some of these guys are slicky tricky.  Stand your ground.  Repeat your facts.  

—Devote at least one hour of the day — more if you can — to an act of visible public protest.  The women’s march was “yuge.”  Make this one even bigger. Crowd size does matter, even more than hand size.

This country as we knew it is being dismantled before our very eyes.  Let’s tell the scumbags to stop.