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?


Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Response to The Enterprises of Ambition

(See Just Above Sunset: The Enterprises of Ambition)

I guess most people, including Donald Trump, never wondered why there has been so little previous celebration of American military might in our observances of July 4th, 1776, a day when leaders of the American colonies (most, if not all of them unarmed!) finally met in a room somewhere to jointly declare those colonies no longer colonies of Britain.

Except for sometimes having a few old war veterans march down Main Street of our hometown, this holiday has traditionally skipped over all the military stuff and correctly focused on the independence stuff. In fact, Washington’s army probably had less to do with winning independence than our militia, who, unlike the regular army, rarely seemed to lose their battles.

Although I doubt that’s why we don’t do all the tanks and flyover stuff on the 4th. It may have more to do with such hardware display reminding people of such dog-and-pony shows as Moscow’s Red Square on May Day, with its huge ICBMs on wheels and giant portraits of the current top mucky-muck of the party, the kind of foolishness that most of us tend to giggle at when we see it on the news, but with which Trump is apparently infatuated — which is sort of ironic because of that whole bone-spurs thing.

But if Trump says one goddam thing in his speech that’s partisan, we need to send a bill for the whole shebang to the RNC. I always wonder, come to think of it, if we are charging him for his use of Air Force One, et al, every time he flies off to a rally in some gymnasium where he mocks everyone who disagrees with him, which he seems to do often. We should.

And maybe for next year's Independence Day, America could collect dimes and pennies to rent a secret venue somewhere to celebrate the 4th the old fashioned way  with music and fireworks, but no Sherman tanks and no military flyovers  and best of all, we don't invite Donald Trump.


Thursday, May 30, 2019

Response to Trusting the Truth

(See Just Above Sunset: Trusting the Truth)

Contrary to popular opinion, I think Bob Mueller did, in his vague and taciturn way and through logical deduction, clarify what at least Trump opponents needed clarified. In fact, unless Congress decides there is more it needs him to say about certain classified matters behind closed doors, I no longer see the necessity of subpoenaing him.

What Mueller clarified:

(1) First, something I wish Mueller had stated out loud, for everybody to hear, back before his investigation got started — that, because of DOJ policy prohibiting an indictment of a sitting president, we should not anticipate that this probe will end up charging Trump with any crimes, even in a sealed indictment that would be unsealed after he leaves office. Had Mueller made that clear from the beginning, he would have made it impossible for Trump to claim the report vindicated him.

(2) And second, if they thought they had evidence that definitely cleared him, they would have said so, and since they didn’t do that, it’s just possible Trump is guilty of something that they can’t charge him with.

(3) And yes, the ”legal" authorities don't have jurisdiction over whatever wrongdoing Trump did, if anything, (and this runs counter to so-called White House thinking, such as it is) but the “political" authorities in Congress, under the Constitution, do have jurisdiction!


And as for the “legal” matters, this all leaves open the question of what might happen to Trump after he leaves office. For that, we’ll just have to wait and see.

As for some saying Mueller’s statement is a "referral to impeach”?

Yes, it is, but that doesn’t mean Congress has an obligation to do it if they don’t think they have the votes in the Senate to convict.

Too often, we tend to confuse the “political horse race” with “political principles”, usually by our yielding priority to the horse race, but this is one of those rare cases where many are arguing that we should stand by our principles, whether or not that does damage to whatever cause it is we’re fighting for.

In this case, maybe Congress should consider making the point that the president is playing loosey-goosey with America’s values by censuring him, but only if they think they can get the votes in the Senate. Maybe later, if he hasn't gotten the message (and assuming we have the votes), we can always impeach.

I do sort of favor the idea of just launching “inquiries” into impeachment, if that would help enforce subpoenas, but in any event, it's Congress's call if they think it would do more harm than good, and on this, I trust Nancy Pelosi’s judgment more than that of those who would rush to impeach, such as the Trump campaign, Charles Blow, and dare I say it, even my wife. (Please don’t tell her I said that.)

But there’s one more thing we have learned from all of these recent events, possibly without yet realizing it:

You know that phrase we often hear, that “In America, nobody is above the law, even the president”?

It's just not true. The president of the United States, at least when he’s in office, is untouchable by the law. The law can’t charge him with a crime, can’t arrest him, apparently can’t stop him from doing anything he feels like doing, and the law can’t remove him from office.

Someday, when we get around to it, we’ll have to find the time to do something about that.

Rick


Monday, April 1, 2019

Response to Punishing Times

(See: Just Above Sunset: Punishing Times)

"Just a few more weeks of this and the nation may regret” electing Trump, you say?

I suspect that those who will, already do. But if history is a guide, those who don’t regret it will continue not regretting it.

Ask any Iowa farmer who voted for Trump and they’ll admit that the Trade War, if continued much longer, will probably kill their careers, but do they absolutely still stand behind Trump? Absolutely!

Yes, there will be news stories reported about it, but will most people feel it? No. Most Americans don’t really seem to look to the news media for information they need to live their daily lives. And if I’m wrong, Trump will just change his mind and somehow claim victory, and those who don’t like him won’t believe him, and those who do, will continue to believe him.

The more news there is out there, the less we take seriously. Write that down. That actually happens.

Oh, and one more thing:

Do you think there’s a chance that Trump, by nicknaming Adam Schiff “pencil-neck”, may finally be guilty of overreach?

First of all, maybe he’s mistaking Schiff for someone else, since Schiff’s neck is not shaped like a pencil. Also, go to the following link, look at the guy on your right, and than ask yourself if someone shaped like that should be insulting anyone else’s physical features:


And this view of him isn’t even as unflattering as the view from his other side! Every time I see that, it occurs to me that God may be punishing this hypocrite by letting him be born with a name that rhymes with “Rump”.


Monday, March 25, 2019

Response to To Deepen the Pain and Antagonism

(See: Just Above Sunset: To Deepen the Pain and Antagonism)

If you think about it, the fact that Donald Trump, in claiming "It was a complete and total exoneration!”, directly stole the word from Robert Mueller’s phrase that specifically says his report “does not exonerate him”, might in normal times be a source of world-wide hilarity that could have had us mocking the president for a good week or so, but I guess it’s the exposure to two or three years of relentless Trumpyisms that has finally eroded our appreciation of the man’s incidental ironies.

In other words, the next two years — or, God help us, six — will be even less fun than we had previously anticipated.

Okay, so now the war begins, the war between, on one side, Trump’s TV “sock puppet army”, and on the other, anyone of either party (or neither), disturbed enough by all those things on David Frum’s wonderful list of Trumpian offenses against the nation, to seek out measures to take against a president that they see as “Enemy of America”.

Do I accept Barr’s findings?

As for punting on obstruction of Justice, it does seem strange that they all didn't see his firing of Comey, and then telling everyone he did it with the Russia probe on his mind, as pretty much a slam dunk on obstruction, not to mention his constantly complaining that Jeff Sessions never told him ahead of time that he would recuse himself. (I wish some reporter had asked Trump, "Okay, well, what would you have done if he had not recused himself? Would you order him to close down the so-called 'witch-hunt'?") I have a feeling this obstruction question isn't gone for good.

How about "Collusion"?

Technically? Yes, I accept that, assuming Barr's accurately reflecting Mueller’s report, specifically that, after many attempts, they found no actual evidence of coordination between Trump and the Russian attackers. And I trust Mueller did his job.

Still, it should be noted that, while “price-fixing”, for example, is an illegal form of collusion, to be found guilty of it does not always require being caught actually colluding with anyone. See this legal advice from the Art Publisher’s Association to its membership (“Be Careful About Antitrust Law!”) back in February of 2000:
"To be unlawful, the agreement does not have to be in writing or even expressed verbally. Countless courts have found that unspoken agreements to fix prices exist, based on the parties' conduct. An example would be where an industry leader announces its prices, and all the rest of the industry then adopts identical pricing.”
And so maybe the battle-cry of our side in the coming war should be, “EXONERATION? NO WAY! BUT COLLUSION? ACTUALLY, PROBABLY YES!” (Okay, this bumper sticker obviously needs some work.)

I suppose it might have been too much to ask the Special Counsel’s team to look for this “de-facto” type of collusion, but if they had, they would have found several examples of it — Trump and Putin saying all those nice things about each other; Trump refusing to agree with our intelligence services that Russia and not some 400-pound kid in New Jersey was behind the election meddling; and probably even Trump’s “jokingly” asking Russia in a live news conference to try to find Hillary’s missing emails, something the Russians apparently tried to do the first thing the next morning.

And yes, there may also be evidence in his taking positions that Putin would like, and that Americans and our allies would not — Trump’s attacks on our European and Canadian allies; Trump’s attempts to weaken NATO; Trump’s attempts to weaken the EU; Trump’s seeming praise and admiration of authoritarian leaders; Trump’s having America step down from its role of world leadership; Trump's blatant diminution of free media (if you believe in Democracy, you don't disrespect the free press); and Trump's weakening of the world economy with his declaration of a world-wide trade war, raising tariffs on Chinese purchasers of American soy beans and on the Iowa farmers that sell them to them, on everyone on the planet with the possible exception of Antartica.

And then there’s that goofy Trumpian narrow-minded ignorance that can’t be expected to ever do anything good for his country, but can only turn out well for its foes.

But did Russia and Trump ever really coordinate? I’m thinking probably not, but certainly not because of Trump’s moral scurples.

I think Putin originally intended to screw up our elections, as he does in lots of countries, and only later realized he might be able to scuttle his nemesis, Hillary Clinton’s campaign, at the same time helping Donald Trump, who’s political aims, he had by this time discovered, seemed to jibe with his own. Neither party really needed to coordinate with the other, since they were already naturally in synch.

Which I would think, in a normal world, wouldn’t really say much for Donald Trump, would it? But apparently, being praised by one of our nation’s foes didn’t turn out to be a problem for him after all. Go figure.

But what about Manafort’s polling data, given to that Russian oligarch? Although I think the data probably came in handy to the Russians, I never got the idea Manafort realized that he was helping Russia’s election shenanigans — I think he was just intending to help out someone he did business with — and I think his lack-of-criminal intent may help him here. But we’ll see.

And I think the same dim-wittedness was present in that Trump Jr. meeting in Trump Tower.

My feeling is, they had no idea why they all found themselves in a meeting that was supposed to be about getting dirt on Hillary, but in which the topic turned to “adoption of Russian children”, of all things. I can see them all looking at each other with puzzled looks — (“Do any of you guys know what the hell they’re talking about?”) — and when it became clear they weren’t going to be getting Clinton dirt, they all just split. I’m sure the Russians, on leaving, concluded that they had overestimated the intelligence of these Bozos.

Had anybody with the least awareness of what the Russians want been there, they would know immediately the Russians were saying to the Trump people, “Look, maybe we can help each other out here. You help us get us something we want —  like, oh, getting rid of those sanctions — and we’ll give you something you guys want — like, for example, cancelling our prohibition of Americans adopting Russian orphans" — a law Russia had enacted to punish America when it put sanctions on Russia — "and okay, perhaps we might also dig up stuff on Hillary Clinton for you!”

I’m pretty sure the Trump people hadn’t a clue what all this nonsense was about, but seeing nothing in it for them, they just bailed. And all that dirt old man Trump promised America was coming? Just another broken Trump campaign promise fades away without a trace.

And so America is, once again, accidentally rescued by our resident nit-wittery, but through no real efforts of our own!

God Bless America! Huzzah! Huzzah!


Friday, March 22, 2019

Response to Off the Deep End

(See: Just Above Sunset: Off the Deep End)

What is it with Trump’s hatred of the press? I have a theory:

Back before he ran for president, back when he was a local character in New York City, Trump used to manipulate his own news coverage — calling them up while pretending to be his own spokesperson to praise his “boss” behind his back, spilling the beans on “Mr. Trump’s” sex life, or arguing that he’s actually much richer than everyone thinks (which, of course, he wasn’t) — he was talking mostly with tabloid page-six editors and gossip columnists, all of them desperate for salacious material, the kind of “journalist” who wouldn't dig so deeply into his story in a way that might kill it, since their very livelihood depended on keeping the “billionaire playboy Trump” myth alive — not so much Woodwards and Bernsteins; more like the paparazzi bikers who chased Princess Di into that tunnel.

But once he got into dealing with national political reporters, he found himself out of his league — a different class of journalist who doesn’t really care about the comings-and-goings of the local New York village idiot, but one more likely to dig into a candidate’s background to see how much of it is total bullshit. National media have little incentive to play along with his silliness, and he doesn’t like that.

But even though he’s now playing with journalists who aren’t so likely to play into his fantasies, he still knows enough about how media works to be pretty much able to manipulate what will be the big news of any given day. Reporters and editors and producers already know the rules; they have little choice about what to report on if Trump decides, for example, to insult a famous dead American war hero or the husband of one of his closest advisers. It’s not that there aren’t more important American issues to delve into, such as why it is that so many unarmed black people seem to get killed by cops, but it’s hard to even start discussing that stuff when the president of the nation is so busy trying to trash the reputation of the late John McCain.

The fact is, however, that other presidents had to have known how to play that game, too — it doesn’t take a genius to know how to do this. But the difference is none of them chose to do it, since none of them (with the possible exception of President Richard Nixon, and probably also President Andrew Johnson) suffered from a particular type of Personality Disorder  although it may be worth noting, according to the Mayo Clinic, that "Many people with one personality disorder also have signs and symptoms of at least one additional personality disorder”, and that "It's not necessary to exhibit all the signs and symptoms listed for a disorder to be diagnosed."

Just saying.


Friday, March 1, 2019

Response to The Man Who Broke the World

(See: Just Above Sunset: The Man who Broke the World)

There are times when everything I see in the news reminds me of one of those “what-if” alternative history books that get published every few years:

"Can you imagine what might have happened to the country, and probably the world, had Donald Trump actually won the 2016 elections?”

(Oh, wait! He did win! Okay, never mind.)

Or how about an Andy Borowitz column from the New Yorker:

HITLER MEETS WITH TRUMP
DENIES INVADING POLAND

“Seriously, I asked Mr. Hitler about it, right to his face, and he swore to me he knew nothing about any invasion at the time, and in fact, he didn’t even hear about it at all until several weeks later!”, the president said in an interview with a Fox reporter. “He told me he didn’t do it, and I believe him.”

When the reporter told Trump that would be impossible, since Hitler has been dead since 1945, Trump answered, “Whatever! This guy swore to me that he was Hitler,” adding, “and I believe him.”


Monday, February 25, 2019

Response to Just Saying Things

(See: Just Above Sunset: Just Saying Things)

"'If not for me, we would now be at War with North Korea!’, Trump tweeted last summer. He seems to see his legacy in part as the great peacemaker of the Korean Peninsula and recently boasted that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Oh, for Christ’s sake! Please! Does this man seriously think all of his self-centered jibber-jabber did anybody any good?

I hate to rain on his award ceremony, but this is just another example of the rooster trying to take credit for the sunrise. Here’s the real history of Trump and North Korea, in a nutshell:

Back in 1994, according to the non-partisan Arms Control Association, President Bill Clinton made a deal with North Korea called the Agreed Framework, "calling upon Pyongyang to freeze operation and construction of nuclear reactors suspected of being part of a covert nuclear weapons program in exchange for two proliferation-resistant nuclear power reactors. The agreement also called upon the United States to supply North Korea with fuel oil pending construction of the reactors”, seemingly with the goal that North Korea might eventually integrate into the world community as a non-nuclear citizen nation. The only alternative to the Framework, for North Korea, would be to build enough nuclear weaponry that could eventually hit all of the United States.

The “Framework" worked fine until the George W Bush administration came into power, determined to undo anything Bill Clinton had done, and let the North Koreans know that things would be different around here from now on. This prompted North Korea, possibly immediately, to start secretly enriching uranium, something the Bush people found out about in late 2002.
Rather than confront the North Koreans and demand they halt their efforts to create a uranium enrichment capability, the intelligence findings gave those in the Bush administration who opposed the Agreed Framework a reason to abandon it. John Bolton, then-undersecretary of state for arms control and international security under President Bush, later wrote that “this was the hammer I had been looking for to shatter the Agreed Framework.”
Bolton may have had other plans, but all that really mattered at that point was North Korea’s Plan B — that is, to get back to building enough nuclear weapons capable of hitting all of the United States, from sea to shining sea. That’s what they did, and that's where we are now.

Anything that anybody, including the president of the United States, did during the time it took North Korea to accomplish their goal was superfluous. All of those bombastic threats, followed by all the nice-nice "love" talk from both sides? Just part of the show.

And the truth is — something only Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats seems to have the guts to allude to out loud — all the United States can do now is learn to live with a nuclear North Korea.

Forget Nobel Peace Prizes for either of those two, which indeed they both might actually get, but not because either comes close to deserving it — Trump, because he’s been nothing but a feckless bit player in a pas de deux completely choreographed by the Kims for all of these years; and Kim, because he’s now made the world a more dangerous place.

Although yes, there’s still the possibility that Trump could screw this up, pretty much by doing just about anything at all — withdrawing troops from South Korea, for example. We might just come off okay out of all this if Trump could learn to just sit on his hands, keep whatever he’s thinking inside his head, and otherwise do nothing at all.

Just leave things the way they are. They’re not going to get better, but with luck, and maybe a bit of presidential will power, they won’t get worse.


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Response to The Joy of Egomaniacal Ignorance

(See: Just Above Sunset: The Joy of Egomaniacal Ignorance)

I always forget this guy’s name and just think of him as “that Starbucks guy”, which points to his problem: Other than having been successful in business, what of relevance has Howard Schultz got going for himself?

And that assumes having been successful at business really counts for much, which I think it doesn’t. And that’s exactly what was wrong with Trump: (1) Not only does having the so-called skills to be a successful businessman not transfer well to politics, (2) Donald Trump, who we’d probably never have heard of had his family not been filthy rich, wasn’t really even all that good at business anyway.

(But yes, to give Schultz his due, although not that it matters — unlike Trump, at least Howard Schultz really was a successful businessman.)

But Starbucks guy also checks the box that, for some reason, too many liberals think they need to, which is...

“I’m socially liberal, but fiscally conservative!”:
Fiscal conservatism is a political-economic philosophy regarding fiscal policy and fiscal responsibility advocating low taxes, reduced government spending and minimal government debt. Free tradederegulation of the economy, lower taxes, and privatization are the defining qualities of fiscal conservatism.
So if being “fiscally conservative”, in principle, means being in favor of exercising "fiscal responsibility, advocating low taxes, reduced government spending and minimal government debt", doesn’t that actually, in practice, mean reducing the amount of money for any safety net for poor people? And if so, then how can one really be “fiscally conservative” and “socially liberal” at the same time?

Personally, I think we need to first philosophically (and I suppose also “morally” or “ethically”) decide what we want our government to do, and let the tax and spending levels follow from that. For example, if we decide we want to give free college to all students with B averages or above, we need to be willing to pay for it, and then to raise the revenue to pay for it, and that’s how we figure out how much taxes we want to raise.

Like Daddy Starbucks, I used to call myself a political centrist, but also like him, I think I based that on seeing polls that showed most Americans agree with my political views. Of course, that conveniently ignored the fact that my views aren't actually “centrist”, they’re “liberal”, which is why I now consider myself a “liberal Democrat” — which, by definition, would be in the mainstream. But being “mainstream” is not the same as being in the “center” of the stream, it just means being where most of the water is.

But to get back to Starbucks man, instead of presenting himself as the guy behind Starbucks who has, for some reason, decided he’s running for president, maybe he should go talk to the Democrats in his state and ask them to help him learn the trade of politics from the bottom up, and maybe he’ll run for some public office some day — like mayor of some big city, or maybe governor.

In fact, maybe he shouldn’t even mention Starbucks, which is really not that relevant — although I suppose what might help him get his foot in the door is if he mentions that he has lots and lots of money, since that might be considered relevant indeed.

Rick

Friday, January 11, 2019

Response to Lit by Gas

(See: Just Above Sunset: Lit by Gas)

I presume that what Trump means is, Mexico will be paying for the wall through his fancy new NAFTO 2.0 that will go into effect in 2020, and that Congress has yet to approve, to be disbursed out of U.S. tax revenues that will come from an anticipated reduction of our trade deficit with Mexico?

But that would only be true if tax revenues rise because of that happening, assuming it will, which apparently economists are not so sure will. But if it does, it could be argued that he got Mexico and Canada to pay for it! Oh, well, we may never know if that ever happens, which probably suits Trump just fine.

But a more important issue that we all should be talking about right now, during this shutdown while Americans are paying attention, is that all Americans need to agree that these government shutdowns need to just stop.

They not only needlessly hurt our government employees, they also deprive access to crucial government services that citizens depend on, they hurt the economy, they end up costing us rather than saving us money (which too many Americans erroneously believe), and probably the most significant of all, the fact that some politicians think it’s okay to blackmail the country into passing bills that the country can’t seem to pass the normal way — because Americans are not in favor of them — is a symptom of the failure of America and its constitution.

And while, in fact, any one of these arguments ought to be enough reason to stop the practice, it’s especially true of the first one, which wreaks serious and sometimes irreparable havoc on the lives of people we hire to do our work. We treat this issue casually, but in truth, it’s a serious case of wrongdoing on our part, and it needs to stop.

Although there’s probably no way to outright outlaw government shutdowns — google the "Antideficiency Act" of 1884, which says it’s against the law to spend government money that hasn’t yet been allocated, and which is what supplies the legal groundwork for all these shutdowns — we might at least try to make it unacceptable in the collective brain of Americans to do so.

How?

We Americans need to insist that both parties make sure whatever our government buys or rents is fully paid for in advance. This means that well before these deadlines arrive, neither side puts any “poison pills” (that is, nothing that the other party would refuse to vote for) into the spending bills. In other words, keep the controversy out of these last-minute appropriation bills, safely put off to the side to be discussed at a later date.

Nobody should “proudly” own a shutdown, and everybody should shame anybody else who forces into any bill a poison-pill rider that they know will be rejected by the other side.

Another way of looking at it:

Do not lard appropriation bills with those riders that wouldn’t pass Congress without the extortionate cloud of a government shutdown hanging over it.

Why?

Because shutdowns were not part of the design of the founders. The people who invented this country back in to 18th century came up with a way to govern it that relied on the good will of all to vote for or against bills in ways that reflected the collective will of the governed, without having to resort to such gimmicks as threatening to shut everything down if the minority doesn’t get its way, as a way of overruling the will of the people.

Yeah, you say, but that’s never going to happen.

Okay, I’m not predicting that it will happen, only arguing that it should. I’m pretty sure the founders were not so stupid as to think the system of governance they designed would be automatically protected by an all-powerful God, but instead knew it was a design that, by necessity, would only survive if future generations (that’s us!) understood how fragile it is, and would have the common sense to make sure it did not fall apart.

In short, all these government closings that we have blithely been accepting as business-as-usual politics, are really just a sign that we have forgotten how to govern ourselves according to the original plan. Starting right now, we all need to just stop allowing these shutdowns to happen.

Pass it on.