Thursday, December 13, 2018

Response to Idiot’s Delight

(See: Just Above Sunset: Idiot's Delight)

Here’s Colby Itkowitz, in the Washington Post:

Over 10 minutes of a surreal public sparring match in the Oval Office, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi tried mightily to rise above the bluster and ego that erupted between the men in the room.
But Pelosi (D-Calif.) instead had to listen as President Trump mansplained to her the legislative process and her role in the debate, while Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer talked over her to trade barbs mano a mano with Trump.
I think playing up this “mansplaining” view — that the men talked over the woman — may have missed the point:

Both Chuck and Nancy conspired to play Trump, tricking him into owning any government shutdown. After all, she knew exactly what she was doing when she tried to move the debate into private session to discuss any upcoming “Trump Shutdown”, goading Trump into talking about it, during which Chuck then forced the overly-cocky Donald to “proudly” take ownership.

And while her “manhood” comment afterward is certainly memorable for whatever belittling effect it might have on Trump when he reads it, I also hope that her mentioning that she felt like she had been in “a tinkle contest with a skunk” gets some future mention, maybe in some debate, just to let a little air out of his balloon.

I’m convinced one reason for Trump’s undeserved reputation for success in battle is that, because he always pretty much controls the setting, and because he usually only engages with news reporters who he knows, for professional reasons, can’t fight back, he's never really seen getting into any face-to-face confrontations with anyone who disagrees with him, and who are more than willing to talk back to him in front of cameras. It was, as CNN's bemused resident Brit Richard Quest noted afterward, the closest thing he'd seen to Wednesday Question Time in Britain's Parliament, during which the Prime Minister is compelled to debate her opposition.

In any event, I’m sure Trump will think twice before he decides to trap these two with a bait-and-switch photo-op. And Pelosi is no dummy! She’s got my vote.

In fact — and this occurred to me just now — Nancy Pelosi is, as of this moment, my top choice of Democrats to face Donald Trump in 2020!

Thursday, November 22, 2018

(See: Just Above Sunset: Imagining The Worst)

Trump is, almost literally, a real world representation of those three monkeys that see no evil, etc. What he is doing is exactly the behavior that the metaphor was invented to mock.

Donald Trump:
"The world is a very dangerous place!”
And thanks to his efforts, it seems to be getting more so every day!

Conservatives tend to be afraid of the world, claiming it’s more dangerous than it really is, and tend to lack the courage to deal with it the way it is. Previous presidents, not nearly as conservative, and therefore less fearful than Trump, would have a better idea of how to deal with this situation. If the world is dangerous, it’s because too many world leaders lack the guts and brains to deal with it.

What is it about Trump that made the Saudis think they could slip this one by America?

For one thing, they probably sense, like MBS has told people, that they got us "in their pocket”. It’s no wonder, since our Artist of the Deal tends to tip his hand in dealing with them. They can easily smell fear when Trump tells everyone, 'Hey, who knows if they did it? The important thing is they’ve promised to buy a gazillion dollars worth of weapons from us!’

True! They’ve already given us fourteen billion, and they promise the check for the rest is in the mail!

I’m old enough to remember when WE held arms sales over THEIR heads, instead of the other way around. But maybe that was back when we had leaders who were better at making deals, and who were also infused with good old American moral values that kept them from baldly looking the other way when an ally murdered someone. That’s why an American leader with the necessary skills could extend the soft power that made America a respected leader in the world.

Donald Trump lacks both the smarts and the courage to be very good at any of this, and he’s apparently not smart enough to see it, and even if he could see it, he’d lie and say it’s not happening. I’m getting to the point of thinking we need, under the threat of impeachment, to make a deal with him to get him out of there, like we did with Nixon and Agnew.

I’d been holding off on that because I was afraid of what might happen to us under “President Pence”, and thinking maybe after 2020 the problem would go away on its own, but things are getting too bad and the harm he’s done to our stature in the world may already be irreparable.

Maybe the time has come to seriously consider that a president taking it upon himself to do harm to his country is grounds for removal. Odd that our founders overlooked that eventuality.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Response to Trump Change

(See: Just Above Sunset: Trump Change)

If the truth be told, it’s was not all that difficult to figure out what to do.

When we — or at least those of us who understand that words do matter — acknowledge out loud that Dr. Christine Ford was a “credible witness”, we need to understand that this means she’s “believable” — which is just another way of saying, “Yes! Yes! We believe her!”

And no, not only was Brett Kavanau’s performance not believable, it was, in itself, disqualifying for the job, at least to most people who watched it, including many who are experts at law and the Constitution. To anyone with good judgement, it was unforgivable and irreversible: You can’t just undo it by admitting the next day that you said some things you probably shouldn’t have said, but you promise to be good from now on.

(Okay, behave yourself from now on, but how about doing it somewhere else than in the Supreme Court of the United States?)

And who knew that Trump would get the FBI to join his cabal! One problem with the investigation is that nobody was sure what the FBI was looking for — evidence that Dr. Ford was telling the truth? Evidence that Kavanaugh was lying? Both? The veracity of the woman he allegedly exposed himself to at Yale? We may never know, but it’s hard not to suspect the whole FBI thing was faked.

And this whole idea of finding anyone who remembers being at that party? Try this yourself: Do you remember ever being at a high school party in which something was going on upstairs that you were not aware of?

Of course not! If you weren’t aware of what was going on at some party, why would you remember the party? And if you do remember, it’s probably because you were the one doing what was going on, in which case you won’t want to admit it. The whole thing was silly.

And because we really don’t want to talk about sex anyway, there may be another reason to be in denial about the event at the party: Even if it did happen, what’s the big deal, you may ask? After all, it’s only sex! Sex happens all the time, people of both genders will admit, and much of it by girls who change their minds later about wanting to do it in the first place. But it's certainly not something that should ruin the life of a good man who we desperately need to get onto the Supreme Court.

And, in fact, in this case, it’s not even sex, it was only attempted sex! And what if it had actually been rape? What’s the big deal! Once again, I’m sure there are still plenty of people who believe, as my neighbor suggested the other day, that “Rape is just having sex with someone you don’t like!"

So the truth be told? But that’s just it: For obvious reasons, the truth is not going to be told, at least not by Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate Republican Booster Club, and what each and every one of them won’t tell you is, they spent all that time and energy looking for a credible “Yes”, and were not going to settle for “No", which is why the Republicans arranged to keep the discussion in the realm of “He said, she said”, which “he” always seems to win by default.

Here’s where Susan Collins’s logic went off the tracks in her Senate speech
"Some argue that because this is a lifetime appointment to our highest court, the public interest requires that doubts be resolved against the nominee. 
Others see the public interest as embodied in our long-established tradition of affording to those accused of misconduct a presumption of innocence. In cases in which the facts are unclear, they would argue that the question should be resolved in favor of the nominee."
A more specific statement of the American version of this “presumption of innocence” is, in this country, people are presumed innocent until proven guilty  in a court of law!

And to integrate that into something that has been mentioned by those on both sides in the last two weeks, what has been going on in the Senate is not a court trial, it’s a job interview, and while there may be a presumption of innocence in a courtroom, there is none when you’re interviewing for a job.

An example:

Suppose you’re a middle manager, looking to hire a specific person for your company, and you hear several rumors he was let go from his previous job after being under suspicion of molesting some of the children in the company-run daycare center.

So you call his previous employer and ask someone in the HR department about the rumors, and are told they’ve been advised by the legal department to not discuss this person at all, and you ask why, and you’re told “We just don’t want to get involved in any legal disputes.”

So you ask the applicant about the rumors, and this is his angry reply:

“First of all, I was in the top of my class in school! I was also captain of the football team and basketball team! Let me tell you, I worked my friggin’ ass off!”

Okay, you say, but what I’m asking is, what can you tell me about the rumors? And his answer is, “Okay, they have absolutely no evidence I did any of that! Zero! None!"

So what do you do? You have no evidence that the applicant did anything wrong, and so you ask yourself, shouldn’t I give this guy the benefit of the doubt?

Answer: Maybe, but not necessarily. If you think he’s most likely not guilty, you might decide to take a chance on him. On the other hand, if you get the feeling he’s probably guilty, feel free to cut him loose. So you do.

And that’s that? Not so fast.

Because then, after you tell the guy no, you get a call from your upper management, maybe your boss’s boss, who informs you the applicant is the son of a good friend, and so he tells you to call the guy back in and hire him. So then you tell the high-up mucky-muck about the daycare rumors, and that you can’t, in good conscience, hire some child molester.

Then he says, hmm, oh yeah, that would look pretty bad, but then he orders you to find a way to hire the guy anyway. In other words, make the problem go away, and then hire the guy.

So you do. After all, you tell yourself — and anybody else that asks — that, here in America, you’re presumed innocent until proven guilty, and since we have no actual evidence of any wrongdoing…

You then call the guy back and give him the good news!

“That’s great!”, the guy says.

But just before you both hang up, the guy says, “Oh, by the way, one more question?”

“Sure. What?”

“Does the company have onsite daycare?"

Now for the big question: Did you do the right thing?

Maybe, maybe not. But whichever, just remember to make sure you send your daughter elsewhere for daycare.

Will there be an upside to all that Kavanaugh crap we just went through?

Yes, I do believe that it only helps Democrats to realize that, no matter what they lead you believe time and time again, Republicans like Jeff Flake and Susan Collins will always be like Lucy with the football, and that when it comes to doing the right thing, we Democrats will need to find some way to do that ourselves.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Response to And They Laughed

(See: Just Above Sunset: And They Laughed)

As for that U.N. "laughing fit" at Trump, his surprise at hearing it reminds us that President Trump is — except when giving his State of the Union address — virtually never faced with a crowd that would even consider laughing at him, because he spends his life walking around inside a little climate-controlled bubble of his own making!

It’s mostly only inside the United Nations General Assembly hall, in which neither he nor his friends are allowed to determine who is allowed into the room, where we find anyone free to giggle or guffaw at the naked emperor to their heart’s content.

And this highlights a big problem we have with our political system, being that a president the likes of Donald Trump is able to manipulate it in such a way that he’s never subject to cross-examination from his opponents, and so is never held accountable to anyone but his somewhat, shall we say, "off-the-beaten-path" minority base. I think Congress needs something like the Wednesday noon “Prime Minister’s Questions" in the British House of Commons, where the president would be required to answer questions from real-world elected officials who disagree either with him or his knuckle-headed policies.

But an even more dangerous shortcoming of our system is that our president — even one who might, such as Donald Trump did, get elected by accident — is granted extraordinary unilateral powers to change the official opinions of the whole country, even if most citizens of the country disagree with him. If, for some reason, the United States decides it wants to change course and go it alone, leaving the rest of the world to fend for itself, it should only happen with the specific consent of the governed.

And if we citizens never get the power to make that happen, we at least need some constitutional way to stop him in his tracks, short of having to wait for elections every four years or initiating impeachment proceedings, especially if a minority opposition stands in our way, as is the case right now. I’m thinking of something along the lines of recalling him, and simultaneously putting someone else in there, sort of like how Californians back in 2003 were able to replace Governor Gray Davis with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In other words, forget about "Making America Great Again", what we need is to find a way to make America work again.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Response to The Return of the Fabians

(See: Just Above Sunset: The Return of the Fabians)

As for this Ford-Kavanaugh discussion, what we all need to decide is, which side is just playing “politics”, and which side has “truth” on its side?

In fact, there are indeed two separate and distinct parts of this fight; there’s “politics” and there's “truth”. And, the truth be known, it must first be admitted that both sides are playing politics:
(a) The Republicans — who don’t really mind everyone hearing what Dr. Ford has to say, but just as long as it remains a question of "he-said, she-said", and doesn’t seriously jeopardize the confirmation of their Supreme Court candidate, Bret Kavanaugh — obviously would like to get their guy onto the court before the midterms, since there is just that chance they will lose their Senate majority during the elections, and along with it, their ability to confirm Kavanaugh;
(b) Likewise, the Democrats — who also don’t really mind everyone hearing what Dr. Ford has to say, just as long as everyone also hears the results of an independent investigation into her allegations, keeping the hearing from becoming a question of “he-said, she-said”, in which the accused would, by default, be presumed innocent — would, in addition, not mind terribly if the whole process got delayed, hopefully long enough to keep the Republicans from getting their guy on the court, since there’s just that chance they can do to the Republicans what the Republicans did to them with Merrick Garland, which, they think, would be both political and poetic justice.
But as for the “truth” part?

There really is a good reason to believe that Judge Kavanaugh was guilty of attempted rape when he was in high school, and apparently got away with it, so does either side really want to see someone like that get a lifetime appointment to the highest court, making decisions about, among other things, women’s sex lives? With just a little investigation by the FBI, we should get a pretty good idea if Dr. Ford’s claims are true, no matter the delay.

So while both sides have strong political reasons to take the stands they do, the Democrats have the advantage of also having truth on their side, despite the politics.

So our big dilemma now is, which will win out — raw politics, or raw truth — in this, the Era of Trump? We shall see.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Response to Nuts

(See: Just Above Sunset: Nuts)

What the hell is Carl Bernstein thinking?

"Congressional hearings"? Really? Maybe he also thinks we should make Devin Nunes the Chairman?

One problem is, everybody seems to think we’re headed for a “constitutional crisis”, rather than our already being in one! A constitutional crisis could be defined as a very serious problem of governing for which our Constitution offers no remedy, which is where we are right now!

They keep suggesting our "constitutional remedy" is impeachment, but if so, why aren’t we trying that? For very practical reasons:
(1) the Republicans running congress really don’t want to get rid of a president who, to their surprise, is pretty much delivering on the Republican agenda, and especially don't want to do it over some wishy-washy claims that he’s “unfit”; and...
(2) because to many of us Democrats, myself included, there are few scarier two words in the English language than “President Pence”.
Same for that 25th Amendment thing, which has the added disadvantage of never having ever been tried, so we have no real clue on how to go about it.

The solution? Not a lot of options right now.

In the meantime, all we can do is leave the “Anonymous” crowd alone and let them try to protect the country in whatever way they can to keep the president from blowing up the world until a better plan comes along, simply because the rest of us can't think of how to do that, and stop talking about how “unconstitutional” that is, since, if the constitution doesn’t like it, the constitution should offer up its own solutions — and real solutions, not just theoretical ones like impeachment or the 25th Amendment.

The gridlock we’re in is exactly why the founders didn’t want us messing around with political parties in the first place. Unfortunately, they couldn’t find any good way to avoid "factions", as they called them, they just took a chance that, when problems like this would pop up, future Americans would muster the intelligence and mutual good will to solve them. In other words, they trusted us.

Silly founders!

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Response to Needless Cruelty as Policy

(See: Just Above Sunset: Needless Cruelty as Policy)

What I find frustrating about all of this kidnapping of children business is that, if you or I did it, there would be legal consequences, as there would, and ought to be, for anyone who does this — unless, apparently, if you work for the government.

But Adam Serwer brings up an interesting point:
People who would do this to children would do anything to anyone.
And not just to any old “anyone”, maybe even to their own children!

This leads us to the question of whether we shouldn’t take the children away from anyone who, for instance, institutes a public policy that kidnaps children away from immigrants as a way of scaring them away from even thinking of coming across our borders.

For example, I wonder if the DC Department of Children and Protective Services, or whatever it’s called there, is exploring the thought that Baron Trump might be in danger, and, given the fact that the father of that family put in force a program to permanently separate children from their parents, whether the boy ought to be removed from the toxic family environment in the White House.

And what happens if the government were to lose track of him? No worries! The president can always call the ACLU for help in finding him.

Who knows? Maybe they’ll find him somewhere in the slums of El Salvador.