Friday, September 20, 2019

Response to A Government of One

(See: Just Above Sunset: A Government of One)

Some things that we are missing here:

Although it may have already been widely known before this whistleblower blew the whistle, it seems that by promising to release Congressional funds to Ukraine in exchange for help “getting” Biden — if, indeed, that is happening — Trump is attempting to bribe Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

That may not seem like a big deal but it is bigger than merely breaking election laws (which is something else he is doing), since “bribery”, aside from being a “high crime or misdemeanor” in itself, in that it is wrong-doing specific to Trump’s high position in the government — that is, something you or I would not be capable of committing due to our not having that power — it is also the second of two specific grounds for impeachment listed in the Constitution:
The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
Also, the fact that he may be involved, through “his" justice department, in blocking the Intelligence Inspector General from releasing information to Congress, and thus impeding its Constitutional responsibility of investigating the executive branch, means he may also be obstructing justice.

And when you think about it, remember the Mueller team looking into whether Donald Trump committed “collusion” with a foreign government to interfere in America's elections? If it turns out he indeed prodded Ukraine into damaging the electoral chances of candidate Joe Biden, as suspected, then it’ll be pretty hard for him to get away with that “No Obstruction, No Collusion” stuff this time, since that will be obvious to all that this is exactly what he’d be doing.

And by the way, something that is also not being much talked about is the fact that Trump seems to be reluctant to fulfill our traditional role as “protective umbrella” of oil in the Gulf, such as in the Saudi raids, which may be sending a message to Russia that we will also not fill the similar role, under NATO, of protector of former Soviet members from being reclaimed by Russia. If this too happens, we will have even more evidence of Trump’s collusion, “after the fact”, with Putin.

It seems amazing that the founders hadn't anticipated what we should to do with a president like this one, but apparently the 1787 Constitutional Convention was dragging on into an unusually uncomfortable summer, and in the hot hall, with the windows shut to keep curious outsiders from hearing what was going on, rather than work any longer on creating an office of the chief executive, everyone just decided to go back home.

Still, at some point in our not-too-distant future, we need to somehow find a way to make changes to the Constitution, in order to provide ways to prevent any American president — especially one ignorant of how America came to be the way it is, but is still determined to rid it of its distinguished history — from flushing his country down the crapper.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Response to Constructive Disbelief

(See: Just Above Sunset: Constructive Disbelief)

I like your theory, that Donald Trump is asking Americans for their "willful suspension of disbelief" in exchange for him supplying them with more excitement than they’re used to receiving from their supreme leader.

Of course, he’s gotten used to his audiences doing that, having performed in so-called "reality television", and while it probably did work on those people out there who chose to watch his show, he forgets that for most of us out here didn’t watch it. He’s relying on a deal made with a receptive but relatively small audience, forgetting that it’s an agreement that doesn’t come with the unwritten social contract implied in Democratic governance, which is the contract that most of us have with him.

In short, the American people didn’t hire him to entertain us, we hired him to execute the policies that we, the majority, through our elective representatives, want him to do.

He seems to be making the mistake that virtually all his predecessors had the decency to avoid, which is playing to the peanut gallery that elected him instead of using the opportunity provided by his accidental victory to build on his base and to govern for all Americans, even those who didn’t vote for him. And if he thinks that pleasing the minority instead of the majority of the country is the proper thing to do in this situation, he should stop and examine how he’s destroying the country, and then do the decent thing by just resigning.

And while he’s up and reexamining his abilities, he should stifle that silliness about him being an “artist” at making "great deals” — a reputation apparently birthed from somewhere inside his own skull and popularized by his former alter ego spokesman, “John Barron”, back in his New York City days — since it’s becoming more and more evident to everybody that his deal-making skills rival, say, those of the late Yasser Arafat, which is to say, "Lots of whiz-bang excitement, but in the end, nothing worth bragging about.”

He may think the public doesn’t mind his constant bullshitting, but he’s wrong; we do. All he need do is ask us.


Thursday, September 5, 2019

Response to The Fog of Doubt

(See: Just Above Sunset: The Fog of Doubt)

So in the original “The Emperor’s New Clothes” story, nobody in the empire had the guts to tell him he’s naked, but in our version  that is, the one the planet is being forced to endure presently  EVERYONE is telling him what he needs to hear, but he just refuses to hear us!

And so what’s the moral of this version?

The lesson here is, President Fruitcake — who not only imagined someone told him Dorian would probably hit Alabama, but is now imagining that he heard the so-called “fake” news media apologize for doubting his word! — is even more delusional than we originally thought! Maybe someone should start dusting off those “25th Amendment Remedies”. 

Have you noticed that just about everything everyone has been observing lately about Trump only serves as evidence that he’s suffering from some mental disorder? For example, those words of Barbara Res: "To him, all the watching TV and tweeting is work, so he believes he’s on the clock 24-7, 365.”

Do totally bonkers people even know they’re bonkers?

He seems to never be in touch with reality. He seems to act on the assumption that there is no actual reality until he himself creates it, such as the whole business that all the experts were 95% sure the hurricane would hit Alabama. Doesn’t he realize that this sort of thing can be checked out? No, he doesn’t, because in his mind, all that’s needed is for him to say all these people were saying this back then, and Presto! They were saying it!

No joke, this guy is seriously ill!

But you know, his mental health notwithstanding (I don't like the idea of picking on mentally ill people), I might be persuaded to favor the nuking of those hurricanes, but only if it could be guaranteed hat Trump himself would be personally hand-delivering the bombs.

And as for the great stock market that Trump is riding to victory in 2020?

I’m surprised that nobody's talking about today’s economy as being a huge bubble, kept afloat by speculators who are misplacing their faith on all these Trump-supporting Tinkerbells who naively believe, for example, that coal is coming back, and so is manufacturing, and that Donald Trump, being a highly experienced businessman, not to mention a “stable genius”, will WIN the trade war he's waging on the rest of the planet!!

Our fate, once again, totally depends on the Wall Street Bubble People! We’d like to think they don’t know what they’re doing, but they do! The Bubble People only pretend to be ignorant of the fact that they’re invested in a bubble that will sooner or later burst. In truth, they are only gambling that they’ll know how to time it so they can sell out before the high prices come tumbling down.

As for me? It’s the same thing! I’m just hoping that our financial guy, the man in whose hands my family's investments are trusted, will know what to do once that long-overdue Apocalypse finally comes to town.


Thursday, August 8, 2019

Response to Not Wanted

(See: Just Above Sunset: Not Wanted)

I hear what Charles Blow is saying here, but have to kind of disagree.

He implies that if you’re not a minority, you have a choice that minority folks don’t have about whether to either look the other way, or even to get into line to follow Donald Trump. But that would assume everyone values only their own skin and the skin of their own kind.

My deep-seated beef with Trump and his followers is that he and they are trying to destroy my country, to which I have no choice but to fight him, and to make sure that either it doesn’t happen or I go down fighting.

If it feels inevitable, and doesn’t at all seem like a choice I get to make, then in effect, it isn’t one.

In fact, I can’t help but suspect that most of those complaining about an "Hispanic Invasion”, including the El Paso shooter and those like him, come from families who arrived here in the 1800s or later, which would make them the real invaders, not the Latinos.

And even from the perspective of myself, someone whose family arrived here in the early 1600s, a decade or so after the Mayflower, I myself might regard not only the shooter but the whole Trump family and administration, from the president on down — and certainly all the cretins who show up at his rallies to cheer and sneer — as recent invaders of my country who, rather than understanding and appreciating the American values that greeted them on their arrival, are threatening to abrogate them, without serious consideration of the history of their new-found home, and they all wear stupid red hats to prove it.

In  short, maybe all these late-coming whiners should just pack up their silly hats and go back to their own miserable countries!
----

But other than that, Blow is outraged by the same things that I am: 
It is still unfathomable to me that the federal government took children away from their parents without a system for reunification, that some of those children may never see their parents again. 
Even if this were only one child it would be outrageous and egregious. Unfortunately, it is more than one.
Ironically, Trump started his hideous "family-separation policy” — which is, at the very least, Nazi-like — down in El Paso:

From July to October 2017, the Trump administration ran what the DHS called a "pilot program" for zero tolerance in El Paso. Families were separated, including families that were seeking asylum, and children were then reclassified as "unaccompanied" and sent into a network of shelters with no system created to reunite them with their parents.
If that doesn’t shock you, maybe you need to read it again. Here, let me help you:

The United States, under this president, ran an unpublicized program of kidnapping children from Immigrants trying to cross the southern border, at least some of them legally seeking asylum, then deliberately changing the status of the children to hide the fact that they had parents, and then hiding the kids in a "network of shelters with no system created to reunite them with their parents.”

The intent seemed to be scare the crap out of any invaders from the south into staying away from us, and especially not to bring their children, at least if they wanted to ever see them again.

And by the way, how’d that “deterrence” theory work out?
Government data from 2018 suggests that the family separation policy did little to deter migrants from crossing the US border illegally.
Yet it's still going on today, whether by pretended or actual incompetence.

And where does it all stand now? How many kids remain un-reunited with their families?
A followup government report released in January 2019, revealed that while HHS had previously said that the total number of children separated from their parents was 2,737, a new investigation revealed that the actual number of separated children was several thousand higher, with the exact number unknown due to poor record keeping. 
HHS is not able to identify or count children who were released from the government’s custody before officials started identifying separated families. 
Following a court ruling in 2019, government officials stated that identifying all children would require a joint effort of 12 to 24 months duration led by a team of officials representing HSS, ICE and CBP.
In other words, nobody seems to know right now how many kids were separated, but they promise to have the answer within maybe a year or two.

I guess the people who need to be outraged about this, the people who, one would think, would be demanding heads roll, are out sick, suffering from Trump Fatigue. Score Trump 1, and the rest of us 0.

Meanwhile, what is the administration doing about it in response to critics?

We’ll start with one such critic, Elijah Cummings, Democratic chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, blasting Kevin McAleenan, Trump’s Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, about living conditions of migrant mothers and children in border camps:
Outlining additional areas where McAleenan has offered a different account than government watchdogs, Cummings said he was troubled to hear DHS painting a rosier picture of its work at the border. 
“And therefore, I guess — you feel like you’re doing a great job, right?” Cummings asked. 
McAleenan responded his department was “doing our level best,” before being cut off again. 
“What does that mean? What does that mean? When a child is sitting in their own feces, can’t take a shower?” Cummings said, his voice shaking. “Come on man. What’s that about? None of us would have our children in that position.”
Then, on Saturday morning, Fox News Channel attempted to change the subject by countering Cummings's rage with a “what-aboutism” report from some young woman appearing to be a Baltimore local “citizen’s journalist” who showed us a video of trash outside and inside an abandoned apartment in Cummings’s home district.

Trump happened to be watching, and his resulting tweet was the start of his campaign against Cummings, apparently calculated to weaken the influence of one of his main congressional critics.

All of which should remind us of what Trump wanted us to forget, that all the damage from the White House’s family separation policy is still out there!

Thanks to Trump and his evil minions, some kidnapped kids are still sitting in their own feces and being denied a shower, while others have been placed in American foster homes, and while others, for all we know, are being rented out by human traffickers.

Yet, not only did the criminals say it may take one to two years to find out how many kids they sucked into their clutches — meaning, some of the kids they stole are gone for good, whether through simple incompetence or evil intent, and nobody seems to be seriously considering putting the bastards behind this in prison.

Maybe we need to — right now, while we’re thinking about it — take the names of any government employees who were involved in the commission of these crimes (who are possibly assuming they will get away with it on the grounds that "they were just following orders”) for use in whatever trials will be held after this crowd of thugs eventually loses power.


Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Response to The Man’s Word

(See: Just Above Sunset: The Man's Word)

“The cognitive linguist George Lakoff said the word 'invasion' was a potent one for Mr. Trump to use because of what it allowed him to communicate. 'If you’re invaded, you’re invaded by an enemy,' he said. 'An invasion says that you can be taken over inside your own country and harmed…'”

The weird thing is, we think of “invaders” as people who want to break into the country to do it some harm, whereas, in this case, the invaders are apparently families, coming here to improve their lives and contribute to the country’s well-being, while the people who are doing harm to the country are already living here. (And you know who you are!)

Daryl Johnson is right about Trump, as was Charles Blow in yesterday’s column. You can demand that Trump stop talking about “invaders” and such, but trying to convince him to be more careful of what he says kind of misses the point.

For one thing, I actually don’t want Trump to wake up some morning and become a good guy, since everybody will still know he got to be president of the United States by being both a lamebrain and a self-centered jerk, so-to-speak, and that will set a bad example for future generations, who need to know that you shouldn’t expect that doing bad stuff is the best way to get good stuff done.

And, in fact, it’s not necessarily Trump's rhetoric that keeps the alt-right active, it’s his very existence!

Since the very day after his election, American white power has found an environment much more welcoming to them, the most blatant example being news stories of white school students suddenly aware of the overnight change in America, openly harassing kids of color, shouting they should go back to where you came from.

White Supremacists now know they have a substantially friendlier audience for trying stuff they wouldn’t have been as likely to have tried under Obama.

But did Donald Trump make force them to be that way? I think that Charles Blow’s viewpoint covers this — that these two malevolent forces have been traveling on parallel roads, each just happening to look over and derive encouragement from seeing the other. To paraphrase the poet, neither of them needed a weatherman to tell them which way the wind was blowing.

Racists and the other deplorables are, for their own survival, a duplicitous group and so they easily overlook an equally disingenuous  president Trump occasionally disparaging them as he reads robotically from a teleprompter (so much so as to suggest that he’s mocking), since they know he’s being forced by circumstances to lie. If that weren’t the case, Trump wouldn’t do it, since it would risk losing his base. This is how evil survives in a world that’s mostly hostile to them.

Is Trump actually a racist? And am I suggesting that he’s a closet racist?

Sure. Why not. All we need to make that call is to remember one example of many.

Back in May of 1989, when he lived in New York City, Donald Trump took out a full-page ad in all four of the cities major newspapers, calling for the return of the death penalty after five minority teenagers, none of whom he knew from Adam, were accused of raping and badly beating a female jogger in Central Park:
"Mayor Koch has stated that hate and rancor should be removed from our hearts. I do not think so. I want to hate these muggers and murderers. They should be forced to suffer ... Yes, Mayor Koch, I want to hate these murderers and I always will. ... How can our great society tolerate the continued brutalization of its citizens by crazed misfits? Criminals must be told that their CIVIL LIBERTIES END WHEN AN ATTACK ON OUR SAFETY BEGINS!"
Maybe partly because of Trump’s ad, the five African Americans and Latinos were found guilty and served several years in jail, but twenty years later, were all exonerated by DNA evidence after another man confessed. They then sued the city, and settled for millions.

Was Trump ready to apologize? Nope. In fact, he doubled down, calling the settlement "a disgrace." "Speak to the detectives on the case and try listening to the facts”, he wrote. "These young men do not exactly have the pasts of angels.”

Has he ever apologized in the years since? No. If you add up all the cases like that one showing his attitude about minorities, you’re justified in concluding that Trump is indeed a racist, and whatever he says, with or without TelePrompter, doesn’t really matter. What matters is what he believes and what he is while in office, which is a racist, and if he’s trying to convince America he’s otherwise, he’s not doing a very good job.

And as for the trade war, I find it hard not to side with China.

Yes, they’ve been getting away with their shit for years, but I hate to reward our leadership for thinking that being an asshole is a way for our country to deal with it.

It just goes to show you, and it never occurs to you until it happens, that when you live under a tyrant, it's hard to know who your friends are.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Response to Extraordinary Loyalty to a Malicious Man

(See: Just Above Sunset: Extraordinary Loyalty to a Malicious Man)

Really, why does Donald Trump act like such a jerk?

He apparently does it on purpose. There's actually a whole philosophy about this, that the bigger an asshole you are, the more successful you’ll be, and Trump has openly hinted at believing in it. He may be the first card-carrying proponent of “assholeism" to ever be elected president of the United States, but he’s not the first human being ever to think that pissing people off is the most effective way to make them do what you want.

For example, maybe Mexico would, without any prompting at all from anybody, work a little harder at keeping refugees from coming to the United States, but why not threaten them with a possible border closure, just to make sure? Just think of the quote, “You can get much farther with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone”, which either originated with Al Capone or possibly Professor Irwin Corey, nobody knows for sure.

But an even better question is, why do all these Republicans, with all their piety and talk of morality, allow Trump to get away with being such a jerk?

I think the answer is, mostly, they’re afraid of the dark. And when I say “the dark”, I mean they’re afraid of the unknown. Trump may be a big arrogant brat — very sure of himself, although near-totally clueless — but these Republicans, although equally clueless, are all stumbling around, while somewhere in the dark, they seem to have lost possession of their moral compasses.

Although they may have learned as kids, maybe in Sunday school or even from Hollywood movies, that "you should always do the right thing”, once they grew up and found that doing the right thing was rarely a winning strategy, they learned to improvise — which, often as not, meant not being a goddam “goody-goody”. Nobody likes good people. Nobody wants to admit it, but good people are weak, and nobody is afraid of them, because they’re too nice. As famous tough guy Niccolo Machiavelli once said, "It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.” And you can’t.

When it comes to political discourse, I think of it as having two levels:

The best known of these is what some call “the horserace”, but what I prefer to call “the game”, since the object of the game is to win, and when it comes to elections, everybody seems to think that winning is all that matters.

That’s one of the reasons you pretty much only hear “the game” being discussed on TV, rather than serious seminars on history or civics, or even science. After all, it’s safer to form an opinion about who will win an election, and what it takes to do it, than to opine about, say, whether we should raise the minimum wage, based on whether it would be good for the economy or not.

Which brings us to that other level, which is, “The way things ought to be”. (I need to find a pithy one- or two-word description for this level, but for the time being, this is all I got.)

And the most important thing to remember is something sort of surprising, and this is that the second level — “the way things should be” — is the top level, and "the game" discussion belongs below it.

An example?

What would happen if, say, in an NFL game, one player took out a gun and just shot to death the opposing quarterback?

First of all, is there anything in the NFL rulebook that says he can’t do that? Maybe “unnecessary roughness”? I’ve seen the rules on this ("Penalty: For unnecessary roughness: Loss of 15 yards. The player may be disqualified if the action is judged by the official(s) to be flagrant”), and take my word for it, there’s nothing there about not being allowed to shoot another player to death.

But, of course, it doesn’t really matter. The refs don’t need to get in a huddle to discuss what to do about this, since the cops will eventually come in and arrest the guy. And this is as it should be. You can't get away with saying that all that matters is the game, and that “the way things ought to be” doesn’t figure into it at all.

So if you believe in morality, or maybe even in some God that determines right from wrong and how humans should behave, then doesn’t that take priority over the rules of some stupid game?

We need to give conservatives something to think about. But still, what if they still don’t come around and help us do something about America’s only (to date) asshole president?

Well, then screw it! In that case, we just crush ‘em!

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Response to A Constitutional Reality Show

(See: Just Above Sunset: A Constitutional Reality Show)

I think the secret password that Chief Justice John Roberts is asking the administration to figure out before he’ll let them include the citizenship question on the census form is, “Open, Sesame!!!”

But to make sure it works, they’ll need to say it really, REALLY LOUD!!!

(Or was it “ Rumplestiltskin”? I forget.)

My problem with this SCOTUS decision is that Roberts has turned a court case into some sort of children’s fairy tale.

Instead of giving the White House another chance at coming up with a more believable rationale, he should just be saying “No!”, followed by, “You have failed to explain why this thing should be done — and by the way, there is at least one obvious reason it should not be done. End of story. Go away.”

Their argument needed, from the get-go, to include both (a) an explanation of the problem that they seek to solve, and (b) an explanation of their proposed solution to the problem.

Furthermore, these two things need to be presented concurrently! — not making the solution independent of some non-existent, random, last-minute, thunk-up-out-of-thin-air problem — or maybe some possible unconnected explanation that some parallel White House might have accidentally concocted in an alternative universe. The Chief Justice shouldn’t be hinting that he might be open to changing his mind, depending on whether Trump's team can come back in a few days after having captured some wicked witch’s broom.

Another meme for what Roberts is doing — as if one is needed — might be that of the headmaster of the local university, in a quiet room, reluctantly retesting the star football player on his botany final, hoping, along with the whole student body, that this clueless thug, who happens to have bean-dip where his brains ought to be, can finally pass the course, thus allowing him to play in, and indeed win, the state championship game this coming Saturday, and by so doing, also saving the institution from the wrecking ball.

As engaging as all of this is, I’m tired of living in a drawn out Hollywood fantasy. Can’t we just go back to the boring old days of not having to pay so much attention to all this crap?